Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online
They are the same cast of characters that surface during every online debate about religion. Do you know a "Holy Troller?"
October 5th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) –"Yo mama..."

Whenever I heard those two words while growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I knew something bad was about to happen. Trading insults was a childhood ritual. But everyone understood that one subject was off-limits. You didn’t talk about anybody’s momma unless you were prepared to start swinging.

Now that I’m all grown-up, I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.

When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.

I don’t wonder anymore.

When I look at the comment section now, I see a whole lot of “yo mamas” being tossed about. Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.

You might even recognize yourself.

The Street Corner Prophet

When the Belief Blog ran a recent article on a television host who declared that atheists “don’t have to live here,” a commenter identified as “Karie” got into a heated exchange with someone who called themselves “Bible Clown.”

Karie called Bible Clown a “disgusting, deviant perverted virus,” and a “Bozo,” before ending with this prediction:

Hell is coming for you love. Special dungeon just for u and u won’t be able to die. LOL.LOL.”

The street corner prophets often act as if they’re deeply concerned about the fate of souls they disagree with, but you can tell that they relish the prospect of eternal torment for their online enemies.

Some don’t even try to hide their true motives:

“I hope you like worms because you will have your own personal worm to feed off your fat drippings in hell for all eternity…”

That’s what a commenter called “HeavenSent” said to another following an article on evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. HeavenSent ended his malediction with one word: “Amen.”

Okay, so that’s the wrong way to argue about religion online if you’re a street corner prophet. Now, here’s the right way:

Not everyone who disagrees with you deserves eternal torment. People rarely listen to someone who is in perpetual attack mode.

“We change no one’s mind by attacking,” said Charles Camosy, an ethics professor at Fordham University in New York City.

Camosy has made a career out of bridging religious differences. He’s part of a “Contending Modernites” group, which finds common ground between Christians and Muslims. He’s also the co-founder of a website devoted to dialing down the heat in religious arguments entitled, “Catholic Moral Theology.”

Camosy says that online discussions about religion are difficult because they are not in person. Tone and nuance gets lost online.

“You can’t look them in the face,” he said. “You can’t shake their hand or give a hug. You find it very difficult to have that sort of embodied trust.”

The Provoker

There isn’t any notion of “embodied trust” with the next online character: The provoker.

The provoker doesn’t even pretend to care about the final destination for someone’s soul. They come out punching, and they love to say things that they probably wouldn’t say to someone in person.

In the recent article on Warren, a reader who went by the surname of “Just the Facts Ma’am,” tells another:

“Thanks for once again confirming how vulgar, uneducated and delusional you are Meredith.”

In an article about millennials leaving the church, a reader who identified herself as “Jenna,” tells another: “Jesus never said any of that mess. You are a false prophet if I’ve ever seen one.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a provoker:

No one will listen to you if they don’t like you, said Joe Carter, an evangelical blogger and author of “How to Argue like Jesus,” a book that explores how Jesus verbally tangled with his enemies and persuaded his friends.

Carter said Jesus was such an excellent communicator because he told stories that provoked emotions, took surprising twists and forced people to draw their own conclusions. But he also connected with people because of a simple reason: he cared about them.

“When people know that you care about them, they’re more likely to be persuaded by you,” Carter said. “We tend to be persuaded by people we like and trust. Jesus had that in spades.”

The Atheist

One of my best friends was an atheist. Whenever we ran into one other, we’d launch into these long, philosophical discussions about religion.  I loved it. Like many atheists I subsequently met, I discovered that he knew more about the Bible than most people who claimed to be religious.

It’s too bad that many of the exchanges between atheists and people of faith in our comments section don’t follow the same script. In fact, they have some of the nastiest religious arguments I’ve witnessed online.

A sample:

In a recent Belief Blog article about atheism, a reader identifying himself as “Sam Stone” says to another: “Free people do not need a savior, Kate. Only slaves need saviors.”

Another reader who identifies himself as “CamDEn1” tells a Christian, “You are an uneducated fool. Ever you heard of Richard Dawkins? Sam Harris? Atheists have more respected scholars than Christianity…”

I get the source of frustration for some atheists. They have longed been caricatured by people of faith as moral degenerates who don’t care about morality. Some of them, in turn, have caricatured people of faith as weak-minded hypocrites who believe in fairy tales.

Here’s how to argue over religion if you’re an atheist:

Get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with a person of faith. And if you’re a person of faith, do the same with an atheist. You might be surprised.

That’s what happened when Camosy, the Fordham University ethics professor, embarked on a speaking tour with the renowned atheist and philosopher, Peter Singer, who is seen by many as the founder of the animal rights movement.

Camosy said the speaking tour forced him to read and pay attention to Singer’s arguments. He discovered that they share concerns over global poverty. He saw Singer as a person of good will.

“That created the space for us to have an honest, open and fruitful exchange with one another rather than exchanging barbs,” Camosy said.

It also created the space for personal transformation.

“Actually reading him converted me to being a vegetarian,” Camosy said. “But it was only being open to his arguments that made me see.”

The Scholar

I have a friend who is smart – scary smart.  He’s a genial, funny guy who happens to be a theology professor. I try to hang with him when we talk religion, but there’s always a point in the conversation when he loses me. I compare that moment to watching the starship Enterprise go into warp drive. He just goes into hyperspace and my brain just isn’t big enough to follow.

There a lot of big brains in our blog’s comment sections. I call these readers “the scholars.”

Some of them are self-appointed biblical experts. They talk as if they have God’s cell phone number: God has revealed great mysteries to them. They know the divine plan.

In a recent article I wrote about contemporary Christians feeling as if they were persecuted, a reader identified as “Tom Skylark” let me know what all this persecution was really about.

 Skylark said:

“Christians will face continued persecution then 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 will happen right before the 7 year tribulation when Israel burns Russia’s weapons for 7 years. (Ezekiel 39:9). Those who are not taken in the rapture will have the opportunity to receive Christ during the 7 year tribulation but will be beheaded for their testimony. (Revelation 20:4). How far is Russia towards its prophetic position which means the rapture (! Thessalonians 4:16-17) is even closer?

Actually, I did not know that, and I’m still not sure what it means.

Sometimes the scholar is someone who believes all religion is hopelessly derivative: it’s all based on something that came before.

A reader by the name of “Seyedibar” responded to my article on Christian persecution with this:

“A little study of history and comparative religion goes a long way. Abraham is based on an Egyptian figure. His god was Ptah, not El, and his vision was of Memphis, not Israel. Jesus was likely based on a Merkabah mystic, one of a hairdresser and carpenter. .. And if you back a little further, Uguritic archaeology shows us that the book of Genesis is based on the ancestor kings of the Canaanites. Most Christians and Jews aren’t aware that the creator of the Garden of Eden, El, is recorded to have died of a wild boar attack.”

 Like I said, hyperspace. I just can’t go where “Seyedibar” has gone before. I love the scholar’s passion for religion, but some of them lose me when they try to deploy all their knowledge of history and religion in any effort to change someone else’ beliefs.

How to argue about religion if you’re a scholar:

Accept that there is a limit to knowledge. I’ve never seen anyone say in response to a religious argument: “You are right. Your argument is irrefutable. I’m going to jettison a lifetime of beliefs on the spot right now because I obviously have no coherent reply.”

It just doesn’t happen.

Gordon Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, said most people change religious beliefs “not because of one argument” but only after long conversations and intimate exposure to another faith.

“Logical arguments are nice but they're not going to change someone’s life,” Newby said. “We’re way too complicated for that. We’re not programmed machines. We have this whole limbic system of emotions and appetites and everything else.”

The Peacemaker

There are some readers who give me hope when I go to the comment section. They are the “peacemakers,” and they surely bless me with their attitudes.

Peacemakers try to keep arguments from getting personal. They are the online referees.  They turn the other cheek.

An exchange between someone called “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” shows a peacemaker in action.

“Bootyfunk”  gets upset with “KatieRose” because she says  “we must respect all ideas in the world, no matter how crazy.”

Bootyfunk says people don’t have to respect all ideas, and tells Katie Rose she shouldn't tell people not to debate religion on a blog about religion.

What does KatieRose say in response? She doesn’t go to war. She makes the peace:

“Okay! That works for me,” KatieRose said. “I’m sorry if it sounded like I was ordering people not to talk about an issue: I just disagreed with the focus of the discussion.”

“Bootyfunk” ends the discussion with a smiley-face symbol and a “smooches, Katie.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a peacemaker:

Keep on doing what you’re doing.

If only the rest of the comment section had more peacemakers. I actually e-mailed readers like “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” to get their perspective, but all I got was silence. Not one commenter wanted to talk on the record for this story. Only one person – an atheist – responded to my invitations to chat, and he didn’t want his name used.

But I have a feeling I’ll hear again from these holy trollers when I scan the comment section of Belief Blog. So will you, even if you don’t read that much about religion. These holy trollers show up in our lives and our workplaces. Many of them will sit next to us at the dinner table when families and friends get together for the upcoming holidays.

When the conversation turns to religion, you may meet your holy troller, and you will have to make a choice.

Do I make the peace, or do I go the war?

What kind of holy troller will you be?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Ethics • Internet • News media • Nones

soundoff (3,856 Responses)
  1. dewie

    We're gonna get those fast food moguls as well. point being – sorry to burst your bubble but cloning boneless chickns? can you say illegal?

    October 9, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Facetious

      Ok, we know your stance on cloning boneless chickens, but what about boning chickenless clowns?

      October 9, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • RC

        Now that's just dirty......

        October 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Akira

      Oh, my. This was debunked years ago.

      October 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  2. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I'm sorry. I didn't mean to post here. I mistook you for someone else.

    October 9, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  3. dewie

    She's just dying to meet you

    October 9, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Mick Jagger

      "We're gonna bring a case of wine
      Hey, let's go mess and fool around
      You know, like we used to"

      October 9, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  4. Richard Cranium

    Just because no one likes you, doesn't mean they endorse another. Silence does not mean endorsement.

    October 9, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  5. dewie

    Ain't it fun putting these filthy animals in their place?

    October 9, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Akira

      And yet you've done nothing to do that.

      October 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
      • sam stone

        i noticed that faith's comment about the multiple law firm suit has been taken down.

        poor,poor faith.....nothing but a little loudmouth troll

        October 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • Akira

          I notice that I haven't gotten my subpoena yet. You?

          October 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • sam stone

          akira: no. perhaps our fave-orr-ite troll is having jeebus serve people, rather than people serving jeebus.

          the savior is notoriously slow, near as i can figure at least 1900 years late

          October 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  6. dewie

    Dodo tests cigarettes all day. And coffee.

    October 9, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  7. dewie

    And they have jobs, too. They are a hard working lot.

    October 9, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  8. Reality # 2

    Only for the new members of this blog:


    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan) (As does Scalia) (As do 50+% of Congress and 67% of the general USA population)

    October 9, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Reality # 2

      And let us not forget that Muslims have their own satans et. al. called the jinn.

      October 9, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    beLIEf ... even in its spelling there is a lie at the very heart of your belief

    October 9, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      gLOVE... There it is! proof that protecting your hands is an emotional need.

      October 9, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There's no "I" in "team", but there is a "U" in "c.unt"

      October 9, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Atheist, me?

        Shame on u Doc.

        October 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  10. Proof that Jesus is real and not an ancient myth!!!

    Jesus is NOT a MYTH !!!![youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

    October 9, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      While there may be evidence that there was a man,( even the most learned will say he likely existed) there is no evidence that this man was anything other than a man.

      October 9, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Hope this helps

      Posting the video twice and not addressing the original conversation helps no one


      October 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Regina George

    This whole comment section is like my own private readable "mean girls" movie. You have your "plastics" and then you have everyone else. I've been reading for a while and it's like high school all over again.

    October 9, 2013 at 3:10 am |
  12. muslim2012

    1A wise shaykh explained what this means by saying, "Have you ever seen a candle made of pure wax, while it is lit in the dark? You can see the light of the flame illuminating the wax and you can see the wick showing through that pure wax, due to the illumination. It is something similar to this. It is very beautiful

    October 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      But then there is the ugliness of Islam:

      As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. Iraqi civilians killed as of 05/10/2013/, 113,249-123,978 mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

      o 24) Mon Jun 4, 2012 10:18am EDT
      BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi'ite Muslim office in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate.
      The bombing on a Shi'ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country's fractious Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal and spill into sectarian tensions."

      25) BURGAS, Bulgaria | Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:27am EDT

      (Reuters) – A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.

      26 ) September 12, 2012
      Envoy to Libya dies in rocket blast

      27) Boston Marathon horror – April 2013, four dead, hundreds injured and maimed for life.

      October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am |
      • dorianmattar

        Fantastic post!!

        Thank you!

        October 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  13. muslim2012

    God gives some description of Paradise in Suratul-Ghashiyah. Some of this description is that Paradise has running water that does not get contaminated like the water on Earth. Paradise has places to sit, made of gold decorated with different types of jewels, such as rubies and emeralds. These seats are high, except when the people of Paradise come to sit on them. When the person wants to sit on them, the seat comes down to the person. The seat will then go high so that the people that sit on them will see the wonders of Paradise.

    Paradise has goblets to drink from put next to the water. Paradise has pillows to lean comfortably against. Paradise has the finest carpets spread for the delight of the believers. Paradise has trees and every one has a trunk of gold.

    The Prophet said that in Paradise is a very wide tree. If one spent 100 years riding a quick horse, one will not leave its shade. From that magnificent tree, the clothes of the people of Paradise come. When the trees of Paradise sway, they give a beautiful sound, much more beautiful than music. The people will love this sound.

    Some people in Paradise will have such high chambers, that other people will point to their high chambers like we point to the stars of the sky. Each person in Paradise will have many servants who are delightful. The least person in Paradise will have 10,000 of these servants, carrying trays of gold and silver for serving. These servants are youths, who were not people of the Earth. They are very beautiful, like untouched pearls.

    The buildings of Paradise are made from gold and silver bricks. The mortar for these bricks is musk, with a very strong fragrance. Some homes are one gigantic hollowed pearl, 60 miles high and wide. The pebbles of Paradise are all precious stones and pearls. The combs are of gold. The incense burners contain al-^Ud, the most expensive fragrance. The ^Ud of Paradise does not need fire in order to release a scent. The perspiration of the people of Paradise is musk. Instead of urine and defecation, this is released after eating and drinking.

    The men of Paradise have at least two wives. They will be so beautiful and pure to the point that he can see the inside of the bones of their legs1. None of the people of Paradise dispute or hate each other. Their hearts are all like one heart, loving each other. Some men will have many more than two wives. The women have one husband and feel happy about that

    October 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Felix

      Lots of gold, silver, jewels, etc. in paradise, it seems. But such things have no importance to many people, so what's the attraction?

      October 9, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • Felix

        And where are those servants coming from? An eternity of servitude–not much of a paradise for them.

        October 9, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Thinker...

      I don't think I could really stand having 10,000 servants; I would much rather have equals. Gold and silver would get so tiring if that was all everything was made of too. Paradise sounds kind of dull actually.

      October 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        What do you need gold in paradise?

        Paradise by definition is not having to do anything you don't want. That means that a monetary system is NOT needed at all. Without the need of money, gold is USELESS.

        I would be used only as a means to decorate, but even then, there are other exotic materials that are above gold.

        The only reason these materials are mentioned is because that is what was precious to the people who wrote this lousy fairy tale.

        October 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Thinker...

          I am aware of that. I was more or less saying that that version of 'paradise' wouldn't be paradise for me. It would be rather uninteresting after the first few days. That is the big kicker with the whole idea of a 'perfect' afterlife; an eternity without anything to really do or accomplish would be extremely boring. I have always thought the idea of reincarnation more interesting than the idea of a perfect(ly dull) afterlife.

          Hmm, a combination of the two might be interesting: you die and go to some peaceful, perfect afterlife, then get bored and reincarnate. Of course you don't get to remember any of it, but still it is more interesting than the idea of heaven.

          October 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  14. muslim2012

    Paradise is already prepared and existing. Paradise was created by God, Who Willed that it will not be demolished. Prophet Adam first lived in Paradise, and then went to Earth. Hence, we know that Paradise has been existent for a long time. On the night of the Night Journey and Ascension, Prophet Muhammad said, “I entered Paradise and saw that most of its inhabitants will be the poor believing people.” Paradise is above the seventh heaven. Paradise is not connected to the seventh heaven. Part of al-^Arsh is its ceiling.

    Paradise has levels, with the highest level being Al-Firdaws. The rivers of Paradise spring from Firdaws. Four of them are rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine that does not intoxicate. These are not the only rivers of Paradise.

    There are 100 levels of Paradise. The distance between each rank is like the distance between the Earth and the first heaven. Paradise is very wide. It is much wider than Hellfire. The Prophet said that there are a lot of gardens in Paradise. There are no ruins. In Paradise, there are two specific gardens. They have all the furniture and the containers that people need, all made of gold. There are two others with the things made of silver

    October 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  15. muslim2012

    Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, to Him belong the endowments and proper commendations. May Allah increase the honor of Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, raise his rank, and protect his nation from what he fears for it.

    Thereafter, it was said:

    The first to enter Paradise is Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam. Prophet Muhammad will take the ring of the door of Paradise, which is used for knocking. The Prophet will move that ring and the angel of the door will say, “You are the one for whom I was ordered to open. Not anyone will enter before you

    October 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  16. Lilly

    Though I support non belief in gods, I do not support targeting any one specific religious group for hateful comments.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Agree – a good number of the atheists here spew hateful comments. It's as if their ability to be civil has simply been switched off – by choice. I would say they are atheistic zealots.

      October 9, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      ...but you have to also understand that there is one individual who is going around making comments under other people's user names, and that person appears to be sociopathic or worse.

      October 9, 2013 at 7:12 am |
      • lulu


        October 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
      • lulu

        Call the police. It is a first degree felony to steal someone's internet name.

        October 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
      • lulu

        Call the police. It is a first degree felony to steal someone's internet name!

        October 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  17. Bootyfunk

    "Get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with a person of faith"
    +++ Blake doesn't seem to realize most atheists are raised in religious households. most of the people they have known have been people of faith. this is a basic argument from the faithful that is just a red herring. in short, the author is asserting that if only atheists knew people of faith they wouldn't have so much to disagree about. shows a lack of knowledge about atheists and how they are usually raised by religious parents.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Tardis

      Blake is a true fermented fuckwad. Why is he being read at all?

      October 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • nomis

      While I'm not 100% sure, I don't necessarily disagree that many atheists have been raised in a religious setting. But I'm not sure "the author is asserting that if only atheists knew people of faith they wouldn't have so much to disagree about". I think his point is more that 'you might disagree, but realise you can still be friends'. Or something like that. Do you agree?

      On a different topic, I'm often impressed to find that there are many brilliant minds (as well as simple ones) on both sides of the debate. I don't think ether an informed atheist or theist could conclude all people on the other side of the debate must be 'unreasonable morons'. Doesn't seem to fit with my observation.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
      • a reasonable atheist

        Regarding your first point, given the population distribution, it would be neigh-impossible for an atheist to not get along with believers. You simply cannot realistically live in the US without engaging with, interacting with, and cooperating with believers on a day-to-day basis. This, to me, is the root of frustration with the author's point and the reason people are calling it a red herring. Given that atheists are such a minority and are actively persecuted in certain regions, it is far more likely that the shoe is on the other foot.

        Regarding your second point, of course there is a distribution of intelligence levels in any given population. I think many people cite studies that show an inverse correlation between high measured IQ's and religious belief and surveys that show that the vast majority of scientists are not religious. Less educated people misinterpret these correlations as causal and end up at a "all believers are dumb" type of conclusion. The reality is of course much more complicated.

        October 9, 2013 at 7:39 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          From a believers perspective we could substiitute the word "sinful" for the words "civil" and "intelligent". By this I mean that often ideas and philosophies are sometimes impugned because some one trumpets the charge of "sinful" against an adherent of the idea. i.e. Christianity is false because a priest is a pedophile or some pastor was caught in a lie. Or, atheism is false because a scientist was evil or a politician was corrupt. Point being that the validity of an idea does not hinge on the qualifications of the adherent.

          October 9, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Moon landing

      I always wondered if it was something like that, people trying to be nothing like their parents were.

      October 9, 2013 at 4:27 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        I can't speak for others, but in my case I stopped believing because I critically examined the supernatural claims made by the religion I was raised in followed by the claims of other major religions. I found the evidence for such claims to be wanting to say the least. Further, once I questioned scripture as morality handed down from upon high, I critically examined the proscriptions & prescriptions within and found many of them to be nonsensical, contradictory, and in some cases downright destructive/evil. The combination of baseless claims with highly immoral dictates in organized religions led me to atheism. Logic has kept me there since.

        October 9, 2013 at 7:50 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Your path seems typical of many non-believers. The path of inquiry you seem naturally drawn to by inclination invariably results in the kind of intellectual rejection you describe. That cannot be a suitable reason to dismiss the reliable witness of those who possess and nurture a relationship with Christ. What is your response however to people who have encountered the risen Christ in the midst of their personal revelation and conviction? From my side of the experience I can only say that I feel you have either been deprived of the opportunity of such an encounter, or lack the capacity to accept one. I also, respectfully submit, you are wasting time and effort in any empirical proof or disproof, if your purpose is to have that encounter. Conversely, if your intent is to ratify your logical and intellectual conclusion, you should remain bounded by those restrictions.

          October 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          Those EXACT same words are uttered by Muslims, Hindus and every other religious delusional fanatic.

          They FEEL the same ridiculous encounter with Allah, Mohamed, Buda or whatever, as do everyone who claims they've had a close encounter of the 3rd kind.

          Your claims are EMPTY claims that EVERY religious or crazy person testifies to.

          I don't accept the claims of unreasonable people, because doing so would open the flood gates of all the claims made by everyone that lives in an insane asylum.

          "I'm open minded, but not enough to watch my brain fallout".

          Why doesn't your Jesus just show up? I'm sure you have thousand EXCUSES.

          October 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  18. Anybody

    Anybody and everybody can point to a problem. Have you come up with a solution?

    October 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Mix a shot of rum with a can of cola. Excellent solution.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • Anybody

        Okay maybe I clarified...I did not mean the sort of solutions that can be dissolved in water. :-)

        October 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • Anybody

          "should have" clarified. sorry.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Then a solution for what? You should have been more specific with what you want a solution for.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
        • sam stone

          purple kush

          October 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Anybody

      It's a good rule of thumb, if you feel compelled to point out a problem that a solution be offered along with the complaint. It can apply to pretty much anything.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        good advice, but not always feasible.
        sometimes people can see a problem but don't know what to do about it.

        October 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      of course... you seem to be asking for a solution without posing an actual question. pretty much just as bad as what you're complaining about... perhaps worse.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • Regina George


        October 9, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    The Legend of King Arthur is not evidence for Merlin.
    The Greek Myths are not evidence for Heracles.
    The Epic of Beowulf is not evidence for Grendel.
    The American Folk Tradition is not evidence for Paul Bunyan.
    The New Testament is not evidence for Jesus.
    The Old Testament is not evidence for Yahweh.

    The miracles happened ... in the story.
    The prophesies were fulfilled ... in the story.
    The character was emotionally appealing and morally right ... in the story.

    Get out of your stories.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      brilliantly illustrates the fallacy of saying my fairy tale is real - yours is silly.
      they're all silly.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • a reasonable atheist

      WOMAN : Well, how did you become king then?
      ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, [angels start singing] her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
      DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
      ARTHUR: Be quiet!
      DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!
      ARTHUR: Shut up!
      DENNIS: I mean, if I went around saying, "I was an emperor just because some moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me" they'd put me away!
      ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
      DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
      ARTHUR: Shut up!
      DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
      ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
      DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you hear that, did you here that, eh? That's what I'm on about - did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn't you?

      October 9, 2013 at 7:53 am |
  20. Ryan

    How to argue about religion online?

    Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, 2 Timothy

    October 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Tony

      Good point :)

      October 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Tony

      Great scripture verse! :)

      October 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      why do you feel we should accept your claimed authority?

      October 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And also, you don't have any actual evidence that your god exists.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • OKfine

      This is the second day in a row that you post a quote purporting to be from Timothy 2 that does not exist in the bible. Why do you have to lie to get across your point? Oh right the Christian thing to do, twist the words to your advantage because you have no real evidence.

      October 9, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • OKfine

        My apology found the quote, almost verbatim, looked in the wrong place originally. Mea Maxima Culpa, watch the docu mentary, enlightening.
        2 Timothy 23, 24.

        October 9, 2013 at 7:44 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.