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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. Rainer Braendlein

    I would suggest that everybody on this blog should be allowed to comment only if he uses his real name and not a pseudonym.

    Alone this habit of using pseudonyms here on this blog reduces this blog to a meaningless comedy.

    We should take serious matters which concern our soul's health or the soul's health of other people.

    The only joke of the New Testament I am aware is when Nikodemus told Jesus if a man should go back into the womb of his mother, and get born again. Yet, I guess that this was not a joke but Nikodemus suffered from Jewish stupidity (I am not a racist). Because of their ongoing disbelief the Jewish leaders seemingly faced a high degree of dulling of mind; that has nothing to do with the Jewish race but is a matter of their misconduct.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    I am here on this blog because I seek for people which have my opinion, furthermore I like discussion, I want to share the true gospel of Jesus, and finally I seek advertising for my English website which is non-commercial.

    Does anybody know a serious blog about faith matters???

    A general criticism concerning the depiction of the Roman Catholic Church on this blog:

    I find that the RCC is depicted too positive on this blog – tendentious. Simply ask some secular historians from different universities, and they will confirm that the RCC has committed a lot of crimes in her history. For example the "Donation of Constantine" was considered as a true docu-ment during the dark age. It claimed that emperor Constantine the Great had given the whole Europe to the RCC as a present because a certain pope had cured him from a disease. However, after some centuries (!) independent scientists could prove that this docu-ment was forged. Any further questions about the RCC? What a club is that? Which reasonable man can honor such a club?

    Further criticism: For centuries rebaptism was prohibited in the whole West, and still Bonhoeffer spoke out for prohibition of rebaptism. This issue must be clarified at any rate. There are very many Anabaptists today.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • magicpanties

      I suggest Rainer pull the crucifix out of his butt.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
      • Chris

        What? Are you on a middle school debate team or something similar?

        October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Moogirl

        Wow, why even bother to comment if that is the best you have to add to this conversation.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      I never existed you fool. Grow up.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Chris

        Same comment.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • fumota68

        bigots

        October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Little Timmy

      Mr Rainer, sir. Is it true that you live in a gingerbread house far away from any other people. Some one told me that.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • Chris

        Wow this is easy....same comment

        October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Food fight

      Vengeance belongs to the Lord.
      So why are you so interested in it?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Poor Rainy

      People make fun of Rainer because he advertises so much on the B Blog. It is also quite amusing when he tries to go into detail about how certain groups of Christians don't baptize people correctly.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        Our soul's health depends on correct baptism. This is not a matter of fun.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • ironman59

          Guess what, I and millions like me don't believe in that nonsense. We do not need you to pray for us, worry about our "soul" or try to force your beliefs into our lives. Live your own life and fantasies. because you have no right to interfere in someone else's life or "claim their soul for your religion". We are born, we live, we die – that is all that happens.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • sam stone

          you cannot establish that there is a god, or a soul, rainy

          so, you are just bloviating to impress yourself

          October 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • ironman59

      I find that your religion in all flavors continues to invade my secular government & personal life. Until it stops, you will be challenged and confronted at every turn. Keep your fantasies to yourself and stop trying to push them on the rest of the world.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  2. fumota68

    every time there is a discussion about religion, all i see is angry BIGOTS, bitter haters, blindfolded by the prince of darkness, devil is a liar.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Food fight

      And then the anti religion trolls join in.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • fumota68

        that, being you?

        October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Chris

          He's leading by example. Or is he blindly following? Its hard to differentiate.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • magicpanties

      Yeah, just like adults that stopped believing in Santa Claus are now BIGOTS.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • fumota68

        sounds like you:)

        October 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • wrob

      Seriously, I wonder which news forum the author is talking about.

      Here and CNN and any others that I follow, it's always open season on anybody who dares profess any aliegence to Christianity.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        Do you have specific examples?

        October 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Jesus F. Christ

      Stop it with the name calling. You seem angry.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  3. Peter

    Two people can look at the Sun "moving" from East to West and argue (debate) about whether the Sun spins around the Earth, or if Earth rotates around its axis. They can argue about that, at least until there is more evidence for one or the other.
    Another person comes into this debate saying that Sun revolves around the Earth because Steve the medicine man told him.
    At that point the debate, argument, discussion (call it whatever) stops and becomes pointless.
    Those are not equal viewpoints.
    You can believe what you want, but you vote by your actions. You accept science and scientific method by going to a doctor when you get sick, put your seat belt on, fly in an airplane, keep your food in the fridge...

    October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • bostontola

      Spot on.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mike

      Just so I understand you...are you actually suggesting that any religious person who goes to the doctor is a hypocrite?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • bostontola

        Not all religious people have a conflict with science, the OP didn't suggest that either.

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

      Excellent point. The irony however, is that scientifically speaking, the sun and earth question is a matter of perspective. It just depends on your point of reference, akin to the theory of relativity.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • bostontola

        It's funny that you state that like its a fact.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • oliver

          It is a fact. Naturally, it is easier mathematically and mechanically speaking to design the solar system with the sun at the center. But don't forget that the sun is also itself hurtling through space and time. There is no true center of infinite space. Conceivably you could design the universe with earth at its center, and prove it mathematically to be true, which scientist did until Copernicus replaced their models with a heliocentric one. His math proved more accurate and simple then his predecessors, and in a complex world, simplicity is the holy grail of astronomy.

          If you really want to get philosophical, there is always the additional argument that the Sun and Earth themselves don't exist objectively at all. Everything you experience is within your mind. If you adopt this viewpoint, you are in a sense the center of the universe and the Sun and Earth revolve around you. Bit vain perhaps, but whatever floats your boat. I'm guessing Kanye would dig it.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • bostontola

          It's not a fact. The relativity in Einstein's theory is not akin to what you are referring to. Also, if the earth wasn't spinning, how do you explain the magnetic field around our planet that protects us from solar wind, how would you explain the auroras, etc?

          October 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          There is no perspective that one might take in the visible universe that would invalidate the basic principles of the theory of relativity. But yes, you could philosophically decide that a certain perspective is the most pleasing even if you consider reality to be purely a construct of the mind and therefore purely subjective idea within subjectivity itself. But it's an amazing theory that holds true regardless of any perspective you hold that honestly evaluates the data and resolves its implications fairly. Yay, science.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
        • bostontola

          When there are 2 models describing nature with equal explanatory and predictive power and 1 is simpler, science calls that one the right one. Any model with the sun orbiting the earth is ridiculously complex and opaque. This is silly philosophy, not science.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
        • oliver

          In terms of the theory of relativity, I mean only to say that Einstein described a world in which space-time itself was based upon the position of your perspective. You are obviously correct that of the two models, the sun centered is a more useful and intuitive one. As you say, its simpler and therefore justifiably considered better then other models. But that doesn't make it "right" so to speak. There is no objective perspective of the universe, it can't be viewed from the outside.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
        • bostontola

          Oliver,
          Not in the view of science, the simpler IS better. In philosophy there is an argument. I know of no theory where you can explain all phenomena with the earth static and the sun orbiting it. Like I asked, how do you explain the earth's magnetic field if it didn't have a spinning molten iron core?

          October 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  4. SusieKJ

    I enjoyed your article John Blake. (compliment!) =)

    I believe the reason we see all different types of emotions when discussing religion is because there are phases similar to those of coping with death. It does not pardon name calling, but sometimes when I see that, I think it's the defense mechanism for the phase they're in.

    Having said that, the peacemaker role of saying "let's not argue, let's just all respect each other", does a disservice. I think that can be a cop out that leads to no real discussion. Thinking, learning about others, and possibly changing your own world view, can sometimes require a good argument.

    Lastly, I am thankful that atheists speak up and come out of the closet. I was raised in a household that went to church. I never understood religion and constantly was questioning my parents, Sunday school teachers, and many adult family friends. "This seems to contradict that, why would someone do this, why don't we see these things anymore, etc" When I was 14, someone opened a new door for me by saying "you know, you don't HAVE to believe in a god." I had been unaware that choice existed. This is why I think it is important for atheists, like myself, to speak out, educate ourselves, and live an ethical life by choice.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Food fight

    Those among you without sin cast the first mashed potato.

    Wow! Look at how fast that fight started.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  6. Renae

    I have respect for any person who tries to be a moral & decent human being. Their religious beliefs are just that, their own beliefs. I am concerned with those politicians & political groups who intend to force their religious beliefs upon every person in this country. I am concerned when I see our schools unable to teach fully teach science in our public schools because some religious people have such fear that science will offend God. There is simply no need for this behavior & it is offensive to me as an American because it violates our oh so important separation of church & state. That being said, I used to have more respect for atheists, in general, but lately I see more ignorant & hateful people insulting all people of faith constantly. In fact, their "evangelizing" & hateful insults have becomes as annoying & hateful as of the religious people that they constantly complain about. The assumption that all people of faith believe in a "sky fairy" is just one of the ignorant insults I see daily. In the past it was not unusual to see many people of faith make ignorant & hateful remarks to atheists. Sadly, there are now just as many people, who call themselves atheists, who make ignorant & hateful remarks to people of faith. I know that there are many intelligent & well balanced people who are atheists, just as there are many intelligent & well balanced people of faith. There are educated & deep thinking people of all types. Its a shame that those with "issues", whether they be religious or atheist who apparently have a need to convert others to their belief system or who just enjoy being bullies online.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  7. Gawd

    There is nothing to argue about until the religious nuts produce one shred of evidence for their absurd magical religious nonsense.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Chris

      Religious nuts....nice. You lose the right to a productive discussion when you take that kind of disrespectful stance. No wonder you don't have answers.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Mike

      How is being a bigot working out for you?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Renae

      You presume that all people of faith believe certain things, but you couldn't be more wrong. Not all of us take the Bible literally. We certainly don't all believe there is "sky fairy" as one person commented. Some of us have choose to have faith because we wish to follow the teachings of, in my case, Christ & whether you believe he existed is not important to us, the words attributed to him are what some of us value. Also, some of us are science minded & have looked at things in quantum physics, DNA research & many other scientific areas & we find wonder that affirms our faith that there is more than humans understand in this world. We've even read about ancient religions, that so many seem to think were the "real" source of much of the stuff in the Bible. There are so many different faiths in this world & that is yet another thing that confirms my belief in the human soul. I've not discovered one group of people on this earth in all of history that did not have some sort of belief in the human spirit & other spirits as well. So, lumping all of us into some fundamental, uneducated group is quite bigoted. I certainly don't lump all atheists into the same group, particularly the childish & emotionally damaged group who come out to troll with such hatred & malice as we see so often on the internet. And oh yeah, many of we people of faith are every bit as angry, disgusted & frightened by these right wing extremists who would knock down the wall of separation of church and state & who seem intent on pushing us back into the Dark Ages because their minds cannot accept science. They must not have much faith in God if they put such a limits on Him. (No, we don't all believe God is a Him, its just convenient to use that pronoun).

      October 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • oliver

        As an athiest, I think referring to the bible as a fairy tale is a compliment. This is often misconstrued by religious peoples. What we are in essence saying is that the bible is a book of stories designed to teach people about morality. In this I think both you and I agree. Where I draw the line is when people attribute truth to those stories. They argue the Adam and Eve story actually happened as its told exactly. This is a large group of people mind you, there are far many more of them then atheists, for example and atheists are persecuted bitterly by them. I can understand the frustration of an atheist wanting to scream: LOOK AT THE FACTS. What I can't understand is the frustration of believers who scream back instead of actually, you know, looking at the facts. Maybe I'm a terrible person, I don't know.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • G to the T

        I think you confuse a predisposition to assume agency with the existence of the soul. What if I could provide a completely logical and natural reason why most people believe in the soul and/our "spirit world"?

        That's the problem, until your beliefs are challenged, you will always assume you know what's "true", that's part of how our brains work.

        If there's a natural explanation, I see no need for a supernatural one. If there's no natural explanation, I find an answer of "I don't know" to be much more honest than trying to posit a supernatural explanation.

        October 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Chris

    Show me a respectful and tolerant atheist and I will show you some oceanfront property in Iowa.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Food fight

      Leading by example?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Renae

      I've known many, many respectful and tolerant atheists. I believe we're seeing many ignorant & hateful people jump on the atheist bandwagon right now & they're just not the "cream of the crop". lol In the past, most atheists were deep thinking & moral people, but now they have just as many hateful & ignorant types calling themselves atheists & going online to insult people as there has been an upsurge in American politics of ignorant & hateful people calling themselves Christian who go online or worse, make themselves prominent in politics, for a decade or more. Both types of hateful & ignorant people are doing no favors to those who are intelligent, rational & moral, whether religious or atheist.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Chaos2Night

        My experience has been that some, not all, atheists are fed up with being preached at constantly. Atheists just like religious people lash out when they are fed up.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • oliver

        In fairness, only about 10% of the US is athiest or agnostic. This number is growing, but to say things like, just as many and so forth is a large stretch. More accurate perhaps would be the statement, "there are trolls in all walks of life". A sad truth. Now, I am an atheist so perhaps I have a bias, but I typically find atheists to be, on the whole, less righteous then other groups. Its in our nature to ask why, to seek answers and along the way find modesty in the fact that there is much we don't know. I for one, have been humbled through that experience.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  9. vidyashanti

    Too long an article. to read and comment. Short to the point article makes it easy to read, comprehend and comment.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • ironman59

      Then maybe you need to go back and get more than a 5th grade education. The rest of us seem to have no problem comprehending the article or staying focused long enough to read the entire article. Don't blame the author, blame yourself.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
      • Mike

        How do you know the person has no more than a 5th grade education? Perhaps if you had a better upbringing, you'd know not to make broad generalizations about people. I blame your parents for being terrible at their job.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
        • G to the T

          Ridiculous comments deserve ridicule...

          October 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  10. Nietzsche

    God is dead.

    Caring for humanity and the Eart means to not support politicians that support policies that cause climate change. This also shows the best way to care for the Creator of Humanity, The True God.

    Notice how many people support politicians who are the adversary to humanity and Earth while being lovers of God.

    Whoever they follow is not the Creator of Humanity. It is a False God. God is dead!

    October 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • fumota68

      no, you will be dead not to long from now just like every human, limited to breathing, and God will still Be. XD devil is a liar.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • oliver

        Do you know the context of his statement? Nietzsche was a famous German philosopher. "His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary and his influence remains substantial, particularly in the continental philosophical tradition comprising existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism." He is most known for his statement and proof that "God is dead".

        October 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  11. Chaos2Night

    Ironically, I first heard this story from in a church sermon: http://www.jokesduniya.com/2995/dead-men-dont-bleed/

    People will believe what they want to believe and provide "rational" justification post hoc, rejecting premises that they had previously accepted. I a lot of research in psychology has supported this.

    So, basically, it i a total waste of time to argue with people over deeply held beliefs. I have never been about to persuade anyone to change their position on religion, abortion, death penalty, etc. Essentially, for believers, these issues are non-falsifiable so what is the point of arguing. People can change their opinion, but it is rare and it comes from the individual with the belief realizing it themselves. The harder someone argues against a belief someone else holds, the more the heels are dug in and the less likely you are going to be persuasive.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  12. Pockets

    Religion is one of those topics unfortunately, where logic and reason do not exist. It never has. I simply cannot and I guess I never will understand how otherwise intelligent people, can suddenly quote from a book that has been worked over over thousands of years to provide them with a moral compass. Burning bush, garden of Eden, a talking snake, wandering in the desert for forty years, a virgin birth, Noah's ark. Flooding the entire earth. Come on people, accept science, therein lays the answer. HUBBLE shows you "heaven".

    October 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • bostontola

      I'm looking forward to the day when brain science/psychology/evolution science will explain why logical people believe illogical things, it will reveal something fascinating about brain structure and why it evolved that way.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Have you done much research into the history of myth and how prominent a place mythology holds in the mind? We search for answers greater than ourselves, and we tell stories to fill the gaps in our knowledge.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Dan

      You forgot walking on water, a magical rib, and the invisible man in the sky.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Mopery

        The talking donkey, etc.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • CG

      Read between the lines. The bible was not made to make sense to those who try to pull any worldly sense out of it.

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

        I just Google your name and "theological degree" funny that nothing came up.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • fumota68

          it is true that as technology is getting smarter, men is getting lazier, fatter, and more ignorant, oh and don't forget more hateful and full of bigotry.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    I would suggest that everybody on this blog should be allowed to comment only if he uses his real name and not a pseudonym.

    Alone this habit of using pseudonyms here on this blog reduces this blog to a meaningless comedy.

    We should take serious matters which concern our soul's health or the soul's health of other people.

    The only joke of the New Testament I am aware is when Nikodemus told Jesus if a man should go back into the womb of his mother, and get born again. Yet, I guess that this was not a joke but Nikodemus suffered from Jewish stupidity (I am not a racist). Because of their ongoing disbelief the Jewish leaders seemingly faced a high degree of dulling of mind; that has nothing to do with the Jewish race but is a matter of their misconduct.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    I am here on this blog because I seek for people which have my opinion, furthermore I like discussion, I want to share the true gospel of Jesus, and finally I seek advertising for my English website which is non-commercial.

    Does anybody know a serious blog about faith matters???

    A general criticism concerning the depiction of the Roman Catholic Church on this blog:

    I find that the RCC is depicted too positive on this blog – tendentious. Simply ask some secular historians from different universities, and they will confirm that the RCC has committed a lot of crimes in her history. For example the "Donation of Constantine" was considered as a true docu-ment during the dark age. It claimed that emperor Constantine the Great had given the whole Europe to the RCC as a present because a certain pope had cured him from a disease. However, after some centuries (!) independent scientists could prove that this docu-ment was forged. Any further questions about the RCC? What a club is that? Which reasonable man can honor such a club?

    October 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • bostontola

      You must have a very high opinion of your own posts, you keep repeating them.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
      • Jez

        Thank you!!

        October 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        I would suggest that everybody on this blog should be allowed to comment only if he uses his real name and not a pseudonym.

        Alone this habit of using pseudonyms here on this blog reduces this blog to a meaningless comedy.

        We should take serious matters which concern our soul's health or the soul's health of other people.

        The only joke of the New Testament I am aware is when Nikodemus told Jesus if a man should go back into the womb of his mother, and get born again. Yet, I guess that this was not a joke but Nikodemus suffered from Jewish stupidity (I am not a racist). Because of their ongoing disbelief the Jewish leaders seemingly faced a high degree of dulling of mind; that has nothing to do with the Jewish race but is a matter of their misconduct.

        http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

        I am here on this blog because I seek for people which have my opinion, furthermore I like discussion, I want to share the true gospel of Jesus, and finally I seek advertising for my English website which is non-commercial.

        Does anybody know a serious blog about faith matters???

        A general criticism concerning the depiction of the Roman Catholic Church on this blog:

        I find that the RCC is depicted too positive on this blog – tendentious. Simply ask some secular historians from different universities, and they will confirm that the RCC has committed a lot of crimes in her history. For example the "Donation of Constantine" was considered as a true docu-ment during the dark age. It claimed that emperor Constantine the Great had given the whole Europe to the RCC as a present because a certain pope had cured him from a disease. However, after some centuries (!) independent scientists could prove that this docu-ment was forged. Any further questions about the RCC? What a club is that? Which reasonable man can honor such a club?

        What is cheap grace – also a neglected issue today. What is costly grace?

        October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
        • sam stone

          jesus is waiting for you, rainy

          what are you doing down here?

          October 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Does anyone bother to read them?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Chaos2Night

      Personally, I try to judge a comment on the content of the post & not the author. Unduly taking the source of a comment as gospel can easily lead to "argumentum ad auctoritatem" or poisoning the well (a type of "argumentum ad hominem"–both fallacious thinking. Hitler may have said that apple pie is tasty, but I would not conclude that is untrue solely on his having said this. My doctor may give me advice on stocks, but I judge the advice solely on its merit and not give it more weight because a respected doctor said so.

      With that said, I realize that doing this is a lot harder than saying it. Our per-conceived notions are often hard to overcome and giving experts more weight outside their area of expertize and giving opinions of people we dislike or disagree less is very, very hard. Hey, no one said that critical thinking skills were easy to apply.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • visitor

      Speaking of trolls, this dude is trolling for hits on his blog.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  14. Chris

    I wonder if the author reads the comments regarding the Catholic Church here at CNN...anytime their is an article regarding Catholics, no matter the subject, the online commentators fixate on the abuse of children by priests, without regard for facts. The weapon is in their hands and they use it without thinking.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The church was guilty of protecting pedophiles, yet it still denies full culpability. Why shouldn't this be used to highlight the flaws of the system?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mopery

      Q: How do you separate the men from the boys at seminary?

      A: With a crowbar!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • visitor

      Did the Pope apologize for the well-known church practice of transferring child abusers from parish to parish to protect the abusers? No. These weren't just occasional child abusers nor unknown abusers. These were KNOWN and then the church plopped these abusers right in new parishes so they can harvest fresh victims. The catholic church, which I respect in a lot of ways, deserves every pedo comment it gets.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  15. NE

    When I was growing up I was told by my elders there were 3 things not to discuss: (1) how much money one had or made, (2) religious views and (3) political views. These topics were considered personal and private. Hmmm, how time has changed thanks to the internet.

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

      Funny, because America was founded by rebellious men drinking ale in pubs while discussing economics, politics, and religion. Seems to have worked out pretty good so far.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Chris

        You conveniently left out that they all believed in God and founded our country under Christian principles.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
        • oliver

          You conveniently leave out that they didn't all believe in god or Christ in the way you do. The vast majority were Deists, which is really just a skip away from atheism.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
        • oliver

          Because one you're wrong isn't enough in this case:

          "Deism (diː.ɪzəm/[1][2] or /ˈdeɪ.ɪzəm/) is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge.[3][4][5][6][7] Deism gained prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries during the Age of Enlightenment—especially in Britain, France, Germany, and in the United States—among intellectuals raised as Christians who believed in one god, but found fault with organized religion and did not believe in supernatural events such as miracles, the inerrancy of scriptures, or the Trinity.[8]"

          October 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Commenter

      NE,

      Ok on the personal money one, but there certainly is (and was) a time and place to discuss the other ones.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  16. ironman59

    It's not complicated. When religion leave secular people alone, we will stop confronting them. When religion stays our to secular government, schools, business, etc we will leave them alone. Believe in all the fairytales you want, hang out where you want on Sunday mornings. Simple fact is that more people are realizing those fairytales are just that and religion is dying. However they still want to run our government our schools & even our Pledge. A pledge which by the way never had "gawd" in it until the "Red Scare" of the 50's when religion added it to the original text.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  17. Kaathy - AZ

    You can't argue with religious nuts. They have no sensible rationale for anything they say. They live inside a fairytale.

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

      Sigh, you lose your right to a productive discussion when you disrespect like that. Isn't it ironic that most atheists do not have the ability to extend tolerance and respect but it is exactly those two things they demand?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  18. observer1776

    I'm not a "holy troller".just a person that tries to clarify with logic, reason and apparent evidence.
    The writer is too glibly trying for a simple compartmentalization.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  19. Ravensong

    People are free to believe whatever they want to believe without being persecuted in any way shape or form. I would just like to mention that if you are of the religions that like to go door to door to spread your word, if you are told by the person at the home that they are Native American......please turn around and leave. Most just look at your dumbfounded like what does that have to do with anything. Well obviously they may be a fan of the secular text but they don't really know the countries history or they would have realized that their book did not exist here and the Native American people got along just fine with their own beliefs and ways. Don t judge our people or feel pity because we don't buy into your book. Sure you may run into some native peoples that have had the wool pulled over their eyes and have forsaken their own values to follow something that was never their own but I just ask that if you speak with someone and mention your book and you hear the response that they are Native American.....they are trying to be polite to you and trust me....they want nothing to do with your religious beliefs.

    October 5, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  20. Mr. Zootgeist

    Not a lot of point in discussing religion. Period. As a child growing up in a fundamentalist church that called itself Methodist, the contradictions and unexplainables began dawning on me at an early age. By my later teen years, I had pretty much completed my transition to atheism, even though at the time the word might as well have been spelled with four letters. (Not that different now, really.) I don't join atheist groups because that one point of commonality doesn't seem to correlate to and abundance of other mutual interests or beliefs. Atheists seem to be as Republican as they are Democratic and as much gun lovers as they are advocates of background checks.

    I think the source of religion and our capacity to create and enjoy fiction are one and the same. I also think religion grows out of several fundamental human impulses: the need to deny the finiteness of our existence, the need to explain the otherwise unknowable, and he need for hope and "redemption" from dire straits. (Research shows it is correlated with financial uncertainties.) It is no mere happenstance that we refer to the Christian deity as "Father" when life's uncertainties make us long for the comfort and safety of our childhood home.

    But I'm not going to try to convince a crusading evangelical of all that. His or her need to believe is much, much stronger than my ability to persuade. And when someone's needs are that desperate, when their faith is all that separates them from utter despair, who am I to take away what is perhaps their only source of comfort and hope?

    October 5, 2013 at 11:58 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.