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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. nikosan

    wth?

    October 5, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  2. truthsayer

    Religion is evil

    October 5, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Darwin was right

      Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. But for good people to do bad things YOU NEED RELIGION!

      October 5, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Fabiola

        😉

        October 5, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • RickP

        "Only God is good" - Jesus Christ

        October 5, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • truthsayer

          God is indifferent

          October 5, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Fabiola

      Anything that kills more people than Marijuana is evil.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  3. GAW

    But then again this is the internet. People often loose their inhibitions when they are online. The dynamics of interpersonal conversations change once you hide behind the veil of anonymity and cant see in real time the person you are talking to. think it;s called John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fwad Theory.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  4. Minkowski

    Step One: get educated. Most christians don't know their own source material, much less the vast history that created it. Once you see how the religion evolved from pantheism and ancestor worship, while spreading and changing, it's pretty much impossible to trust the modern day versions of the mythology.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Bob

      This is why people "argue" instead of "discuss". This person is doing what most do, just copy/paste because he has not actual original thought. So sad.

      October 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  5. Peter

    John,

    I think you are wrong here. It is pointless to argue about religion, so there is no "right" way to do that. You can argue about scientific facts, methods, etc. Religion is something people believe in for various reasons, but never because they got there by reasoning and rational thinking. You just believe or not. As someone said, you cannot reason someone out of something they did not reason themselves into.
    So, online "discussions" about religion(s) are really just about venting and self-confirmation.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  6. Wecho

    Well said bro. I like this quote, " no ones is going to care how much you know until they know how much you care." I think Jesus lived that out in His life. He gave us the golden rule. Do unto others as you'd have them do to you. God bless you and you're family John Blake. Numbers 6:24-26

    October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • truthsayer

      That rule existed long before Jesus...

      October 5, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Kevin

      That quote was stolen from Hillel the Elder long before Jesus purportedly walked the earth.

      Hillel stole it from the common sense that got our species off the ground in the first place.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • LivinginVA

      EVERY major religion has a version of the Golden Rule – most of which existed before they ever interacted with Christianity.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  7. SAM

    Hey John – Thanks so much for taking time to think about and write about this article. You've obviously thought about this and it shows in the insight and recommendations you've made for us to have a productive discourse here. Ultimately, I feel very few people will be changed by one person's post because, as you pointed out the quote by Gordon Newby, " most people change religious beliefs “not because of one argument” but only after long conversations and intimate exposure to another faith." To convince anyone of anything takes relationship, and knowing that the other person cares about you. I think Jesus' way is the best way.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  8. Reality check

    God is an imaginary friend for adults. Go ahead and "call me out", lol.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • lagergeld

      I'm not calling you out, but how did we get here? This basic fact keeps me agnostic as opposed to atheist.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • G to the T

        The 2 are not exclusive. I don't believe "god" can be proved either way (agnostic) but tend to not believe any described concepts of gods exists because of their low probability.

        It's only people that are certain of their position that are the problem. Once you are certain, you are no longer open to new knowledge.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  9. CharlieSeattle

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”

    Epicurus (ancient Greek philosopher)

    October 5, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • RickP

      There is another case he did not state. Is God wise and have a good reason to let evils things happen for a greater good beyond man's abilty to understand?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        If that is the case, then god should understand that logical people will opt for the more sensible "answer" to the Epicurean riddle. What is unjust about god is his judgment of people who he has hidden himself from by not providing verifiable measurement toward belief. We should argue about god as much, and in the same way, as we argue about the fine points of math or chemistry. Application proves their worth and "existence" in the same way, everytime, everywhere.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • nikosan

      I love Seattlites. You folks are the among the most intellectual and logical people in North America outside Canada. cheers!

      October 5, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • lagergeld

      Seattle. Isn't Marx a more revered figure in your neck of the woods?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  10. bostontola

    This article is written from the position that both sides have equal claim to validity. I don't agree. While the religious have internal feelings evidence and numbers, atheists have real world evidence.

    There is a lot of factual evidence of errors in the bible. Errors of commission and omission. The bible was written in the style of the time, grammar of the time, limited by the knowledge of the time, morals of the time. The gaps in scientific explanation of the universe are narrowing at an accelerating pace so the territory left for religion is evaporating. Even the moral territory is narrowing as societies mature. Many of the morals in the bible are unacceptable today.

    No, the 2 positions are not of equal validity, religions need to put up some tangible evidence of relevancy.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • SAM

      Actually, the author is simply expressing a better way to communicate points of view to one another without throwing insults at each other. No mention of validity.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • bostontola

        Validity does change what is an acceptable tone in a debate. "Better" is his opinion.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Peter

      Very correct. NOT EQUAL.
      Just look at what each one contributed to the world. The computers we use to "argue" about religion did not come into existence by someone praying for them...

      October 5, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Don

        They are not equal when considered scientifically, I cannot prove my experiences scientifically, and so I understand those those who do not share my experiences have every reason to doubt them. Still, my faith is real to me. There is no way for me to prove that it is real outside of my own mind, so the best I can do is try to explain to others why I believe what I do and try to understand why others believe what they do.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Puzzled in Peoria

      Religion has been, and always will be based on faith, not evidence and scientific proof. If the existence of God could be proven by scientific evidence, we wouldn't be having this argument right now.

      Nearly all legitimate Bible scholars–and many of them are atheists–agree that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical person who lived in Israel at a certain time. The question then becomes, "Was Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God, as he claimed, or not."

      What atheists rarely acknowledge is that Christianity, as taught by Jesus and not by fundamentalist haters, is an excellent way to live. Jesus promoted compassion, honesty, high morals, forgiveness, and a loving way of life. It's hard to disagree with that.

      What we disagree on is the question of whether God exists, and if he does, then he is offended by our sin. If you don't believe in God, then there is no sin, only crime.

      That makes the differences more clear but it does not resolve them.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • bostontola

        True, but debates are about evidence.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:31 am |
        • LivinginVA

          So one can't debate something that no evidence exists for? It's wrong to debate on whether there are genetic links to things unless we have evidence one way or the other? It's wrong to debate whether intelligent life exists on other planets?

          October 5, 2013 at 11:53 am |
        • bostontola

          No evidence, no debate. You can have an opinion based discussion about anything.

          October 5, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Don

      bostontola: I understand that faith does not present evidence that can be validated by the scientific method. Its a valid point. I also understand that the Bible (as well as other books of faith) contain apparent contradictions when interpreted literally. The Bible definitely contains ideas that I have a hard time understanding (for example: Why would a loving God allow hell to exist?) .
      Even so, I still have faith. Why? Because, even though I can't prove it, I have encountered something my experiences show to be real. Yes, these experiences are internal, and therefore not provable, but for me to deny them dishonest. As for the Bible, I struggle with its challenges all the time, but I find when I try my best to live by its teachings, my life is always better for it,
      I am not trying to convince or convert you, I am just trying to explain why I have faith, even though the points you made make faith seem illogical. Most of my friends who do not believe tell me I am most likely deluding myself, and I know I cannot offer proof to the contrary that they would accept. All I can say is that I must act according to my experiences. I believe in the value of science, and accept things that science has proven to be true, such as evolution. Still, I cannot discard my experiences simply because science cannot prove or disprove them. Its a hard thing to explain, but I hope I have offered at least a little clarity on why some of us see faith as valid.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Don

        That should read "for me to deny them would be dishonest",

        October 5, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • bostontola

        Don,
        That's great for you. Peace.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • Don

          Peace to you as well.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  11. jamessavik

    I live in Mississippi and have had more than I can stand of religious nuts, bigots and fanatics that do and say whatever THEY want and use the bible to justify their revolting behavior. They use religion to justify all sorts of disgusting things ranging from child abuse and racism to breath taking ignorance.

    Whenever I hear someone say "Jesus said", I'm sure that I'm about to hear something worthy of a cartoon... a bad cartoon.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • truthsayer

      For some reason in Mississippi and other southern states the sin of gluttony is ignored.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  12. Wayne McClellan

    Religion has become what man says it is. Man has made up almost all the rituals, people worship what man says God is, they quote what other men say and all this means they worship other men. What does God want –the only way to know seems to be to find out from a man who God talked with or sent a message to or believe that some men are equal to God. Look at how old some belief systems are–less than 200 yrs. One conflict in the religion is who has the true religion and everyone believes their leader is the true leader. Even if it goes back to the BCE period.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  13. Strotman from Hermosa

    I really like this artile. I also have become amazed at how any discussion of anything becomes reduced to attacks. I find it amazing that those who would believe that a God who loves and reaches out to the lost would be very happy with His followers hating those who He is trying to love. If we believe that God is reaching out to those who are lost, does that not mean that they are valued to Him? Are they to you? If we believe that God has patience and compassion for those who are lost, how can we justify our lack of patience and compassion? If we believe God is alive and working with us, why do we believe that He isn't working with "Them"? If the message of religion is change, does that not mean that God knows that change is possible? If so, why do we act and treat others like they are unable to change? " Back in the day", we had a saying: "Please be patient with me, God is not done with me yet". Is that true of you? Why do we act and talk like it is not true of others? Why do we think God likes me but He doesn't like anyone else? That is really why too often people of belief act like they don't believe.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  14. Jim

    Bah, religion is all a scam. You have to be nuts to believe some book man wrote to control the public. The freaks that follow that crap is usually messed up and directionless.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Clover Girl

      Haha, Jim, that's great! What a fantastic way to illustrate one of the author's points! I thought at first you were trolling, then realized you were just making a clever attempt to show us just what he meant. Good work 🙂

      October 5, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  15. Al

    You named this article as if it were about religious discussion, but, you only address Christianity.

    I am a "Christian", protestant sector, Baptist denomination. Even I know that my faith is not the only "religion" out there and is not the center of all discussion, unless, it is the only religion ever posted.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Magister

      Well we all know what vicious SOBs you Baptists are, what with Baptists never having flown jets into buildings like those wonderful Muslims who kill like it's their hobby.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  16. Deborah Mitchell

    I have found a lot of blogs where the commenters on both sides are respectful. If you truly want a site where people have a productive dialogue and no name calling, then you will have to state that and enforce rules. If a site doesn't believe in moderating and approving comments, then there are some folks who can and will say whatever they want.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Magister

      The problem here on this site, Deborah, is that CNN only moderates comments that go against their extreme leftist stance. It's not even moderation. It's censorship. Watch how this comment disappears!

      October 5, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • LivinginVA

        CNN only deletes comments that people complain about enough. I've seen plenty of comments on both sides go down due to just plain nastiness.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  17. Zayah V

    This is a stupid article because it implies that a holy troller is somehow a different kind of troll. Trolls say whatever they have to in any kind of conversation to get a rise out of you, thats how they determine victory. So grats, you just enabled a troll and granted him the prestige of being on a news site *applause*.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  18. Richard

    I learned years ago to not argue about religion. Those who seek out religion are doing so because they are incompetent to face life without it – or, think they are. Religion is for those who would have others tell them how they should act, think, feel, and believe. What is the point in arguing with such a person? It's not like their views are going to be based on anything other than someone else's ideas. And, those who came up with those ideas are dead – so, you can't argue with them.

    So, rather than argue with them, I laugh at them and ridicule them for being so pathetic that they needed dead men to tell them how to live their lives. And, this approach is likely to be more effective than attempting to reason them out of their insanity, too. Most people believe in religions because of peer pressure. The people around them are pretending to believe that garbage, so they do, too, to avoid being ostracized and rejected by their peers.

    I have no respect for the reasons people seek out religion, so I cannot respect their choice to embrace one. And, I won't pretend, otherwise, either.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Leigh

      There is no need to argue or to care what someone else believes in. I am not a religious person, but I have a very close friend who is. We never discuss it. I understand that her faith has helped her cope with unimaginable pain – the death of a child. What kind of human being would I be not to respect that?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am |
      • Richard

        If she were suffering from a disease that was not her fault, that might explain her choice. But, she isn't. She just isn't competent to handle life on its own terms. That's the truth of the matter. And, she sought out fairy tales to comfort her, just like a child. That is not a mark of a strong person. That is the mark of a weak person.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • Leigh

          But why do you care? If believing in something you don't believe in brings her happiness agin and gets her through life, so be it.

          October 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • taffylinden

      It's interesting that an article about religious-topic trolls elicited such inflammatory remarks. I can see you love to provoke people. Now you should try reading the article.

      Personally, I think CNN should have two comment sections: one for people who just want to snark and provoke, and one for people wanting serious, respectful discussions.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Richard

        I read the article. I just didn't agree with it entirely. Arguing about religion is pointless. Those who think they "know" something by "faith" aren't worth the frustration. And, feigning respect for ideas that do not deserve it sends the wrong message and I won't do it. This is 2013. Time to leave the Bronze Age garbage behind.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Thumper

      In the spirit of this discussion topic, I accept the bait, keeping in mind:
      Psalm 1-2, Matthew 7:6

      As a former Atheist, my personal experience of godlessness has been that people who reason like Richard believe themselves to be responsible for everything that happens to them, which makes themselves their own gods, and believing yourself to be in charge of everything doesn't work out too good for understanding how the Universe actually works. So, the Richards reject all gods of THEIR understanding, and so do I. The only difference between me and an Atheist is, that I reject ALL of the definitions of gods that they do, but in my efforts to prove or disprove the existence of God, I found one real god: The one that created and controls everything.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • Richard

        That was a load of arrogant drivel. You constructed a straw man "god" thingy for me to follow, then blast me for following it. Atheist, or theist, that is dishonest. And, I'm calling you out on it.

        You don't rattle around in my head, so you aren't qualified to tell me what I believe and what I don't believe, or why. As you accepted religion and "God" into your life, you also apparently became compulsively dishonest.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  19. Darwin was right

    Here are 5 criticisms of the Gospels that most Christians would object to and call INSULTING, even tho they reflect the same kind of skepticism that any juror would be required to have when listening to or reading court testimony: 1) JESUS didn't have a STENOGRAPHER following him around taking down exactly what he said. Therefore it's highly unlikely that the Gospels accurately record Jesus' words 2) The Gospels were written down at least 30 years after Jesus' death, again making accurate recording unlikely. 3) The Gospels were all written in GREEK, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples knew 4) None of the Gospels claim to be based on eyewitness accounts and do not cite any eyewitness accounts, even though some of the people who knew and heard Jesus were definitely alive at the time that the Gospels were first written down 5) None of the Gospels were written by Jesus' family members, the people most qualified to write about their famous relative. Therefore, one can conclude that the accuracy and veracity of the Gospels are highly doubtful. Of course, the Fundies claim that the Gospel writers were INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, making everything true and inerrant, including the demand by Jesus that you GOUGE YOUR EYE OUT if it causes you to sin. SURE, Jesus said that!

    October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Al

      Another VERY inportant fact.

      "JESUS" is an English word. The English language did not come into use until the 13th centuary. The letter "J" did not come into use till the 14th centuary. The word "JESUS" is not an translation of a Hebrew name, it is just a name that, somehow, got assigned to the one addrssed, by Christians, as the Messiah/Saviour.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • LivinginVA

      I know many Christians that would agree with you, including several ministers.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  20. nonyabidness

    There are better things than to argue with others over religion. Instead just Love your God and let him deal with those that spew hatred. Lifes too short not to be happy

    October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What are some of the "better things" we should be arguing about instead of religion?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:10 am |
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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.