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. 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 |
  2. 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 |
  3. 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

        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 |
      • lulu


        October 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  4. 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 |
  5. 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 |
  6. 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 |
  7. 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 |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    it's hard for atheists to argue with Christians because of the other Golden Rule: "You can never argue with an idiot ... they'll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience."

    October 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • you can say that about anyone you hate

      it's hard for Christians to argue with CNN Belief Blog atheists because of the other Golden Rule: "You can never argue with an idiot ... they'll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience."

      October 8, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  9. What did the street prophet actually say?

    Heaven and Hell are real . Repent of your sins before it's too late for you.

    October 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • An atheist looking for drama twisting the words of the street prophet

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

      October 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
      • An atheist looking for drama twisting the words of the street prophet

        Or, a melodramatic atheist would say:

        "Hell is coming for u love. Special dungeon just for u love... LOL LOL"

        October 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
        • Akira

          Except the two examples you used weren't atheists. They were Christians. So, I guess the melodrama belongs to Karie and HeavenSent.

          October 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
        • Craig

          You are either too naive or extremely deceitful to claim those were posted by Christians.

          October 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • What did the street prophet actually say?

      In other words, an atheist hearing about "heaven" and "hell" is freaking out , and in his/her own mind tries to down play the thought of "hell" and comes up with a melodramatic statement as above.

      October 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  10. I wonder

    I'm just checking this article periodically to see if John Blake ever responds to @Bootyfunk's repeated requests for contact.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i just got on to check it again, too.

      i've written to CNN - but they only have a general dropbox for emails, so it's doubtful it will make it's way to Mr. Blake. i've check my email, but have received nothing yet. i would very much like to debate Mr. Blake about his article. he calls others trolls while trolling himself.

      October 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • I wonder

        I don't know if CNN's email name scheme is consistent for everyone, but Daniel Burke has listed his as: daniel.burke@CNN.com

        You might try that with John Blake's name...? (don't miss the dot in the middle there) Or, if worse comes to worst, you could contact Daniel.

        October 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          great idea. i'm gonna try it now. thanks!

          October 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          it worked!!!
          he gave me his phone number, so we will be talking.
          i have an appointment to go to, but i'll call him when i get back.
          i'll keep you guys informed. :)

          October 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • I wonder


          October 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          you rock, I Wonder!

          October 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
        • I wonder

          Best wishes for an interesting and fruitful conversation with Mr. Blake, Bootyfunk.

          October 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Bootyfunk, you are a legend!

          October 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  11. gollywinkies

    If someone hears voices these days, we call it schizophrenia. In the days when people had no explanations for such a thing they made up some pretty far-fetched explanations. When out-of-work salesmen realized they could profit from prophets, religion became big business. When religions are finally outlawed like snake-oil merchants of our recent past, we will be better off... no more millions need to die in religious wars.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  12. ELMO

    Keep up it up guys. Stay thirsty and distracted.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  13. Will


    October 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  14. How the story of Jesus differs from the ancient myths

    The differences between Jesus and ancient myths[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

    October 8, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Hope this helps

      5:27 - Jesus was not born on Dec 25. Please read the text

      Horus- Not born of a virgin
      Mithras - was never referred to as a great teacher or the lite.

      Fact do matter people.


      October 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Hope this helps

        Mithras – was never referred to as a great teacher or the light

        Facts do matter people.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
        • How the story of Jesus differs from the ancient myths

          Yeah, they placed Jesus' birth on the pagan holiday, and then they tried to rewrite the pagan history of that ritual with Jesus. It's amazing how much the story of Jesus has the appearance of being made up.

          October 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • Hope this helps

          By "them" you mean the Papacy in the 1400.

          What does that have to do with the accuracy of the historical gospels?

          October 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • What

          accuracy? LOL

          October 8, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
        • Hope this helps

          Accuracy, over 5000 manuscripts that agree to a infinitesimal degree.

          Please add substance to your post, it will benefit the discussion

          October 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • Hope this helps

          Accuracy, over 5000 manuscripts that agree to a infinitesimal degree. Far more than anyother historical document for that time period.

          Please add substance to your post, it will benefit the discussion

          October 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Hope this helps

      23:09Which reference is a forgery Book 18 or book 20? Unfortunately this poor argument as persisted for many years. People, without context, agree with the minority that the references were inserted after (often referring only to Book 18 and not touching the one in 20). However, the internal consistency of the document provides evidence that this minority may be incorrect.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
      Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
      Had 12 companions or disciples
      Promised his followers immortality
      Performed miracles
      Sacrificed himself for world peace
      Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
      Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
      Was called "the Good Shepherd"
      Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
      Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
      Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
      Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"

      October 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • Hope this helps

        Was considered a great traveling teacher and master

        Then quote the text.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Hope this helps

        Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds– even though the text state he was born before all creation

        Was considered a great traveling teacher and master– no text states this

        Had 12 companions or disciples - this was never claim except to find Mithras is surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac.

        Promised his followers immortality– Mithraism taught the immortality of the human soul (so did Judaism which preceded Mithraism)

        Performed miracles - none

        Sacrificed himself for world peace - none

        Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again - The only reference I could find to this was every year during the winter solstice, he
        was supposedly reborn out of a rock

        Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)– see above

        Was called "the Good Shepherd" - Skeptics try to use the depiction of Mithras holding the sacrificed bull over his shoulders as evidence but
        this is absurd as the bull is slaughtered! Furthermore, the Old Testament references lambs and shepherds long before Mithraism ever

        Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion– see above

        Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah." - Mithras is never referred to any of these. Why would he be since he never served such a purpose? Messiah is also a Hebrew word which makes one wonder what the source is for this allegation.

        Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day - This appears to be correct,

        Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"– R There are two reliefs which show Mithras celebrating a banquet. The first relief shows Mithras and
        Helios dining together after the sacrifice of the bull. The other depicts Mithras dining with the sun before ascending
        into paradise with the other gods. But for some reason the tale becomes distorted with Mithras saying to his
        (imaginary) disciples, "He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and
        I with him, shall not be saved." Yet this quote was added centuries later during the middle ages and is not even
        attributed to Mithras!

        1/13 = 7% = F-

        October 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Robert Brown


          October 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • Hope this helps

        Just to add, the one fact you got correct about Mithras has nothing to do with Judaism or Christianity.

        So there is zero comparison to the historical gospels of Jesus Christ.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
        • Atheist, me?

          Ouch! I do not want to be Booty right now!

          October 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  15. aldewacs2

    Can Religious People and Atheists be Friends?
    Yes, they can. Many of my friends are religious, in varying degrees between strong and weak. Only a few have ever started proselytizing with me, and they took the cold shoulder that was offered with courtesy. If there had been persistence, I’d think that harsh words would follow, and the friendship might be in peril if that continued. (see ‘tolerance’ above – if one party wants to push their agenda to the max, the relationship would be strained, unless the ‘intolerance’ was expected and accommodated).

    I have several atheist friends, but not a single one that I would imagine would ever start a conversation with a believer with the intent to convince or convert, let alone discuss beliefs at all. It’s just not important to atheists I know, except where required to prevent negative outcomes, such as when silence might signal acquiescence to potentially harmful religious interference in secular or personal affairs. For instance, when my grandchildren’s OTHER grandparents want to indoctrinate my child’s child with religious beliefs, no matter how well intended, I am not so made that I can be silent, and I offer the opposing view, apparently much to the chagrin of the aforementioned other grandparents who view my actions as interfering, while their actions are wholesome and protected somehow.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • tallulah13

      I agree with most of your posts, but there are athiests out there who will happily try to "convert" christians. One of my friends loves to take on the street preachers in the city where I live. He loves to challenge them. Of course, he spent most of his life as an evangelical missionary before he realized that his religion was complete nonsense, so he

      October 8, 2013 at 9:23 am |
      • tallulah13

        Foo. I accidentally hit post too soon.

        I meant to say that he comes by it naturally.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      we can be friends. but i've also had the unpleasant experience of christians refusing to be my friend once they are aware i'm an atheist. was working on a project for a few months. saw a nurse walking down the street the same way i drove home every day. asked if she wanted a ride. gave her rides for about 3 months. then she brought up god and jesus. i told her i didn't believe in god or jesus. when she got out of the car that day, she told me she would no longer accept rides from me because i'm godless. i was very upset. we got along great, nice lady. but because i'm an atheist, she wanted nothing to do with me.

      i've never heard an atheist tell someone that because they are religious they will not speak with them, but i've heard plenty of religious people say so.

      October 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
      • Shadowflash1522

        FWIW, I have heard athiests do pretty much the same thing. "You can't be reasoned with on the god issue, therefore you can't be reasoned with on anything, therefore I will simply not speak to you at all. Ever." Voila, friendship rescinded. Perhaps not as common as it's religious counterpart, but then non-believers in general are less common too.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • Atheist, me?

        There is the case of Ted Turner and Jane Fonda's divorce. I thought u heard about it!

        October 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  16. aldewacs2

    Is religion necessary to be Moral?
    Many words have been spoken and written on this. My own take is this: has any religion ever assured that its adherents behave morally? Enough said.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  17. aldewacs2

    Convincing the Other Side
    I maintain that atheists are the easiest group in the universe to convert. We are fact junkies, and facts carry all the weight. Just bring proof of any god(s), and we’ll convert in a nanosecond. I think I speak for any serious atheists here, although I admit not having ‘approval’ from any, since we don’t meet in a ritual gathering, place or time.
    Religious believers on the other hand, probably cannot be converted with external reason, simply because it was not reason that brought them to their position. It was faith that did that. Faith that their parents told them the ‘truth’, faith that it’s safer to believe than not believe, faith that (.. fill in your own excuse here..). If a religious person is to convert, it will be through a loss of faith, and a coming to the position of reason. Other than providing reasonable explanations and facts, atheists cannot convert believers.
    Conversely, religious people can convert atheists only by making reasonable explanations go away.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Agree. And for those who believe in intelligent design, we'll need two proofs: first, you'll need to prove that God exists, and then you'll need to prove that God designed the universe. The "watchmaker analogy" has been rejected by a number of philosophers and scientists, and is really just a claim. Another issue with the intelligent design community is that by acknowledging and accepting the various physical constants of the universe, like the same ones that took us to the moon, gave us computers, and has made available wondrous medical technology like MRI machines, you necessarily are stuck with the reality that the science which lead to those discoveries and advances also led to the discoveries that the earth is billions of years old and that we evolved from simpler lifeforms. Compare a chimpanzee's ear to a human's – if we were made in God's image, then so were they.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • Nicodemus Legend

        Well, unfortunately I have heard from some that evidence that shows the Earth is billions of years old and that it took billions of years for distant light from other galaxies to reach us is actually a ploy by God to test us. If we fall for it its supposed to prove our faith in the literal word of Bible is not enough.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • How the story of Jesus differs from the ancient myths

          Great – I can go with the "earth appearing to be billions of years old" ploy by God, if you can prove to me that God exists, and then prove to me that it's a ploy by God – that's two proofs. Science has already provided many proofs, but so far the religious folks have not provided any.

          October 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Atheist, me?

      Somehow I think u aldewac think Atheism is a rational position. That is your faith and not a reasonable point. You believe that there is no God but it is what it is, belief! Right now you made sweeping general statements about other religions u do not understand. So how intelligent was that! We can all do that. Learn to respect other religions. I respect yours and I love you as myself.

      October 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  18. aldewacs2

    God, Satan, Heaven, Hell, The Afterlife, Need to be Saved, Original Sin.
    All of these are religious inventions. They do not affect atheists’ decisions, nor do they occupy non-believers’ minds. It is ineffective for believers to quote bible passages, threaten a horrible after-life fate, pass off their holy-book-based beliefs as ‘morals’, demand that non believers heed the ‘word of god’ etc. The fact that atheists do not accept that there is any proof of any gods, by extension negates the acceptance of a satan, hell, heaven, sin, and all associated paraphernalia. We don’t need to be saved except perhaps from overly zealous believers.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  19. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    Kudos to Karie for getting an in-article mention. That must be like an Academy Award for trolls.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • midwest rail

      Hell, even the fake HeavenSent got one. Kinda makes ya wonder just how out of touch with these comment sections Blake really is.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:28 am |
      • tallulah13

        The author demonstrates some of the worst traits of the christians on this blog. He simply paints athiests with a broad brush and dismisses statements he personally doesn't like as "trolling". Because Sam Stone was right. Free people don't need a savior.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          As soon as you produce a receipt for payment of your debt, I'll believe you are free.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:53 am |
        • tallulah13

          What debt is that?

          October 8, 2013 at 11:12 am |
        • doobzz

          'As soon as you produce a receipt for payment of your debt, I'll believe you are free."

          So says the one chained to the dogma of the RCC.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Have we passed $17 trillion yet? If not, a couple more days ought to do it. Not a chain doobz, more like a life line.

          October 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • Observer

          Our debt would be maybe $2,000,000,000,000 less if Bush and the Republicans hadn't started a war for false reasons.

          October 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
        • tallulah13

          You never answered my question, Bill. What debt is it that I personally owe?

          October 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          you want a receipt? where's the bill first? haha, so silly....

          October 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          The bills are in your wallet. They are a promissory note payable to the Federal Reserve System. Good luck when the ceiling gets limited.

          October 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Tallulah you're in the same boat as the rest of us. You live in a country that has borrowed more money collectively than it can repay. The bond holder doesn't care about you personally, Woodrow Wilson promised him you'd pay back in 1913 and every President since has sweetened the pot. They bought all kinds of neat stuff, like bridges and tanks, and hammers, and call girls. The good news is you don't even have to send a check for your portion, you just have to survive as the price of bread goes to $15.00 a loaf and gas gets to $50.00/gal. The monthly minimum payment is already calculated.

          October 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
        • doobzz

          @ Boof Deacon

          "Not a chain doobz, more like a life line."

          If it's your life line, why do you have to lie and apologize for it?

          October 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          I don't think you understand the difference between the words apologize and apologetics.

          October 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Bill: I do my share for the national debt. I pay my taxes. I have for 30 years. I voted against the President who started two wars (one righteous, one criminal) and made no provision to pay for either, but indeed voted to cut taxes instead.

          Whatever we owe now can be directly attributed to the economic free fall that the Bush Administration put us it, because the parachute to stop that fall wasn't free. It's funny how conservative types don't understand that you just can't wave a magic wand and make it all better. But then, a lot of you are religious, so maybe you do think that magic fixes everything.

          Anyway, to topic was not politics but religion. What debt do I owe that keep me from being free?

          October 8, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          It doesn't really matter you you blame it on or whether you voted for them or not. You still owe the money and if you think some one won't get religious over $17 trillion in debt, I think you are in for a rude awakening.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Yes, Bill, I know that the country owes a lot of money. Now, please get back on topic and stop trying to dodge the original question.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          You claim to be a free person who doesn't need a savior. I don't think you're even free of worldly debt, much less eternal. And you have the temerity to claim believers live in delusion.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • tallulah13

          That's weak, Bill. Even for you. We are all aware of the debt of this country. It's just not pertinent to this conversation.

          But anyway, since you are so concerned about the national debt, are you lobbying for the higher taxes it will require to pay down that debt? Are you fighting to clean up the waste in our bloated defense budget? Are you looking to cut corporate welfare to the big oil companies - the ones who are making record profits?

          Or are you simply using our economic woes as a means to change the subject after you realized that you couldn't support your original statement?

          October 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
        • ME II

          @Bill Deacon,
          1) debt does not equate to slavery anymore. Some may need debt counseling or bankruptcy advice, but not a savior.
          2) You can't produce a bill for my worldly debt, much less so-called eternal debt.

          October 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • sam stone

          bill: until you can prove we have this "eternal debt", it is just more christian blah, blah, blah.

          and, it is only convincing to those who already believe that mythology

          October 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
        • tallulah13

          And Bill, while my personal finances are none of your business, I am debt free. So what are you going to accuse me of next?

          October 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
        • Jed

          Bill Deacon, fuck off and die painfully.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
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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.