October 16th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

What Oprah gets wrong about atheism

Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN

(CNN) - To some, Oprah Winfrey appears to have an almost godlike status. Her talents are well recognized, and her endorsement can turn almost any product into an overnight bestseller.

This godlike perception is fitting, since in recent years Winfrey’s work has increasingly emphasized spirituality, including programs like her own "Super Soul Sunday."

But what happens when an atheist enters the mix?

A few days ago Winfrey interviewed long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad on Super Soul Sunday. Nyad identified herself as an atheist who experiences awe and wonder at the natural world and humanity.

Nyad, 64, who swam from Cuba to Key West last month, said “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt.”

Winfrey responded, “Well I don’t call you an atheist then.”

Winfrey went on, “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery then that is what God is… It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

Nyad clarified that she doesn’t use the word God because it implies a “presence… a creator or an overseer.”

Winfrey’s response may have been well intended, but it erased Nyad’s atheist identity and suggested something entirely untrue and, to many atheists like me, offensive: that atheists don’t experience awe and wonder.

MORE ON CNN: Diana Nyad completes historic Cuba-to-Florida swim

The exchange between Winfrey and Nyad reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Catholic scholar.

The professor once asked me: “When I talk about God, I mean love and justice and reconciliation, not a man in the sky. You talk about love and justice and reconciliation. Why can’t you just call that God?”

I replied: “Why must you call that God? Why not just call it what it is: love and justice and reconciliation?”

Though we started off with this disagreement, we came to better understand one another’s points of view through patient, honest dialogue.

Conversations like that are greatly needed today, as atheists are broadly misunderstood.

MORE ON CNN: Behold, the six types of atheists

When I visit college and university campuses around the United States, I frequently ask students what words are commonly associated with atheists. Their responses nearly always include words like “negative,” “selfish,” “nihilistic” and “closed-minded.”

When I ask how many of them actually have a relationship with an atheist, few raise their hands.

Relationships can be transformative. The Pew Research Center found that among the 14% of Americans who changed their mind from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it in the last decade, the top reason given was having “friends, family, acquaintances who are gay/lesbian.”

Knowing someone of a different identity can increase understanding. This has been true for me as a queer person and as an atheist. I have met people who initially think I can’t actually be an atheist when they learn that I experience awe and am committed to service and social justice.

But when I explain that atheism is central to my worldview — that I am in awe of the natural world and that I believe it is up to human beings, instead of a divine force, to strive to address our problems — they often better understand my views, even if we don’t agree.

While theists can learn by listening to atheists more, atheists themselves can foster greater understanding by not just emphasizing the “no” of atheism — our disagreement over the existence of any gods — but also the “yes” of atheism and secular humanism, which recognizes the amazing potential within human beings.

Carl Sagan, the agnostic astronomer and author, would have agreed with Nyad’s claim that you can be an atheist, agnostic or nonreligious person and consider yourself “spiritual.”

As Sagan wrote in "The Demon-Haunted World,":

"When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

Nyad told Winfrey that she feels a similar sense of awe:

“I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it,” she said. “But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.”

MORE ON CNN:  'Atheist' isn’t a dirty word, congresswoman

I experience that same awe when I see people of different beliefs coming together across lines of religious difference to recognize that we are all human — that we all love and hurt.

Perhaps Winfrey, who could use her influence to shatter stereotypes about atheists rather than reinforce them, would have benefited from listening to Nyad just a bit more closely and from talking to more atheists about awe and wonder.

I know many who would be up to the task.

Chris Stedman is the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, coordinator of humanist life for the Yale Humanist Community and author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Celebrity • Ethics • Faith • God • Inspiration • Nones • Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (4,964 Responses)
  1. Sean Lynch

    Reblogged this on Zampaz's Blog and commented:
    How many believe Eternal Torture is a justifiable punishment for those who do not believe in Jesus/God.

    October 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  2. To the belief blog editors

    Not sure if you are aware of an on going problem with this blog, but many comments are being deleted.

    Not sure if this is a
    a) bug within Word press that allows commenters to misuse the "report abuse" link or,
    b) someone(he/she) to whom you have granted the "Moderator" access to moderate posts is misusing this privilege.

    We can understand that "spam" must be deleted, but what we observe is otherwise–
    in most cases scripture verses posted on faith articles that are relevant to the topic under discussion are getting deleted.
    Also, few Christian posters who have responded to comments see their posts vanish. On the other hand You tube videos such as
    "12 tribes of Israel", "Neil De grasse", "Hamster wheel", "Benny Hinn" videos, barrage of Scripture verses from "Bob", lengthy posts from "Colin"
    that are totally irrelevent to the opinion piece/articles is allowed to stand and is not touched.

    Based on this observation, it appears that most Christian posts are getting deleted.

    Most of us enjoy reading articles posted on the belief blog and like to share our thoughts and views, but in the absence of tighter controls over comment deletion,
    this message board is becoming unpleasant to deal with.

    Can you please look into this?

    Thank you!

    October 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Sean Lynch

      This is truly a problem for believers and non-believers alike. Many of my posts have been deleted and reports come from both sides. I think we'll have to work together to resolve the issue by contacting CNN directly or wordpress if you have a paid account.
      Wordpress provides support for paying members:
      CNN doesn't seem to have a comment link for the blogs, but here is a link for technical errors:

      October 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        We've all had posts disappear – it's not a conspiracy. Indeed, I want people on the sidelines to read the logic presented by many of the believers; the willing ignorance of scientific facts merely because they are inconvenient to a believed history, the rationalization of immoralities. I want people to see this.

        October 23, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          NDGT: It is indeed sad that the problems persists with no answer as to cause and no respite from the error or vandalism.
          I gave up for a while, but came back because I enjoy reading thoughtful and not so thoughtful commentary.
          Especially appreciated are your comments regarding the rise of scientific repression caused by a doctrine of ignorance.
          Keep up the good work, America is scientifically illiterate and willful ignorance is no excuse.

          October 23, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Douglas

      There has always been a pro-gay, anti-Christian. bias on the part of the CNN moderators.

      If enough atheists or gays click the report abuse button, your post will disappear.

      Gays and atheists can make personal attacks on posters and the Christian faith on this blog and the posts are never removed.

      The bias reflects typical mainstream media cynicism and rejection of morality and religious ethics.

      October 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
      • Observer


        Skip the hypocrisy. You're the hypocrite that keeps posting about wanting to help gays.

        October 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • JWT

        Gays are moral Douglas. No doubt about it.

        October 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
      • sam stone

        come out of the closet doogie

        it will end your self-loathing need for salvation

        and it will not scare the kids as much

        October 21, 2013 at 3:28 am |
  3. Observer


    I have NEVER complained about any of your comments by using "Report abuse". The initial response is from a fake Observer.

    October 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Sean Lynch

      Please take the following action to contact CNN:
      There seems to be a technical issue with comments on the CNN wordpress blog:

      Many are reporting hundreds of comments are going missing on the blog above. Too many comments are missing to attribute the problem to individuals abusing the "report abuse" feature.
      We are unable to contact wordpress to resolve the issue.
      We are using this link:
      to report the issue.
      Please route this issue to the appropriate wordpress support and IT security personnel.
      Thank you for your attention in this matter.

      October 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • FYI


        You can also send a copy of the problem to the Co-Editor, daniel.burke@CNN.com

        Hard to fathom that he doesn't already know about it, though...

        October 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          Thank you FYI, will do! Let's get this issue resolved so that we can enjoy engaging each other in polite discourse!

          October 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • FYI


        You can also send a copy of the problem to the Co-Editor, daniel.burke@CNN.com and/or eric.marripodi@CNN.com, and heck, you can even tweet to the author, Chris Stedman if you have Twitter.

        Hard to believe that they don't already know about it, though...

        October 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
        • FYI

          sorry for the duplicate post - it took a long time for it to appear. Oh well, I added some more stuff anyway.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • FYI

          Correction: make that eric.marrapodi@CNN.com (not marripodi, sorry)

          October 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  4. Observer


    "Of course they do. If they believe the universe and everything in it is just a product of undesigned, undirected process, then why not make up your own rules?"

    A common Christian fallacy is falsely claiming that nonbelievers think they have all the answers. Atheists ONLY believe that there is no God or gods. The world could be a "directed process" from an infinite number of other sources. We could all be avatars in a giant cosmic video game for all we know. "I don't know" is a valid answer.

    Stick with facts and not wishful thinking.

    October 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      In point of fact, atheists don't even think we have all the answers on god. We're saying what we believe. You don't have to have proof that something doesn't exist not to believe in it – I have no proof there is no Loch Ness monster, nor do I have proof that there aren't martians well hidden on mars. But I don't believe in them – I have no evidence, no reason to believe, and I don't.

      I don't know is a good answer to questions, as is, "All the evidence points to this answer, so I go with that answer until there is a better one". To do otherwise, to say, "I don't know, therefore god" is to worship the god of the gaps in our knowledge – the same god that people worshipped as the god of thunder, before we understood where thunder came from. Not knowing something, yet, doesn't mean that god is the only answer.

      October 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • Sean Lynch

        Indeed Susan; to answer any question with "god did it" is to close the door to the imagination of "how is this possible?"
        I appreciate an honest theist who says "I have faith because I want to have faith." and revile those that refute science and discovery because knowledge and understanding threaten their limited world view. Reality is what it is regardless of our opinion and it requires imagination to understand it.

        October 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  5. Ryan

    It is not that the (introspective) Christian believes the atheist to lack honest feelings or sentiments. It is that we recognize the implication that arises in a purely material system: that such emotions lack any sort of metaphysical grounding. They are, in essence, chemical reactions wholly explicable within an evolutionary paradigm.

    If you want to "call things what they are," then you must be willing to accept that "love" is merely a biochemical process that is a (mechanistic) response to certain stimuli, and it is ultimately predicated on the prime directive of all biological life: to persist.

    It is theism that better explains the emotions we have. Thus it is, in my opinion, a better theory.

    October 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Sean Lynch

      That sense of awe and wonder, the thrill of seeing a thing which makes you feel humble in your smallness...this is a part of the human experience. To desire to help those who suffer and are in need of help, to be kind, to love our parents, dogs, cats and teddy bears is part of the human experience. To understand that all personal human experience, consciousness and mind is the result of incredibly complex patterns of neural activity in the brain takes nothing away from that experience.
      This understanding affords an opportunity for even more awe and wonder, and for many a desire to ask the question: How is this possible?
      Reality is what it is. If you were to ask me: "How is it possible that the sky is blue?" I could easily give you the answer but if you were to ask; "Why is the sky blue?" I have no answer, because "why" requires a justification.
      Those who seek justification and absolutes pursue theology.
      Those who seek understanding pursue science.

      October 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • David Allred

      The biochemical process is however a feedback loop that receives information from culture, language, beliefs, etc. It creates a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. To say that love is merely a biochemical process is akin to saying that a car mechanic, because of her intimate knowledge of car parts, is the best qualified to speak of traffic patterns. While it might be true that if you remove a fuel injector you could theoretically eliminate traffic, you still haven't said anything really useful about traffic. You've simply dressed a tautology and put it out to market.

      October 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      But theism isn't a theory. You're saying you'd PREFER to believe in something that suits you emotionally, even though it has no evidence. That's not a theory.

      And just because you can understand some of the biochemistry and evolutionary roots of our behavior and emotions, does not make them meaningless. You should try stepping outside of your point of view – as you ask others to – and consider that knowing that Santa is your parents doesn't eliminate the magic of Santa, it enhances it.

      October 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  6. aallen333

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse

    (Romans 1:19-20)

    October 20, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  7. Michael

    Psalm 14 Fools say in their hearts there is no God. Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt, not one of them does what is right. Not believing is evil. Jesus said the most important thing to do was to love God with your whole heart,mind soul, second was loving your neighbor. He also explained if you are not with him you are against him, which is why atheism and satanism are so similar. Can atheists be good people no they cannot, can they change yes they can and they can be forgiven and turn to God, it happens more than we realize.

    October 20, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Self affirming garbage.

      Odd that a religion that is supposedly teaching love for your fellow man, name calls any who do not believe the wild ( many proven false) claims of the bible.

      Standard brainwashing/indoctrination technique.

      October 20, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      and by the way, I am an atheist and I am a good person. To say otherwise, especially since you do not know me, is bearing false witness...one of your top 10 no-no's.

      October 20, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Paul

        Yes, atheists can be good but they have no logical reason to be so. To prove my point: How do you define good? How do you define right and wrong?

        October 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
        • Paul

          "The atheists KNOW that the Bible supports slavery because they have read it. Obviously you haven't."

          I have read the Bible. But since you're the one claiming to be the expert on the Bible and slavery, the onus is on you to provide the evidence. I'm thinking you're just repeating what other atheists who misunderstand the Bible are saying.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
        • Observer


          The Bible says WHO you can use as slaves, WHERE you can get them, HOW LONG you can have them, how to treat them as PROPERTY and how badly you can HURT them.

          Read a Bible.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          God's behavior is morally disgusting and his morality is definitely subjective. He breaks his own commandments whenever he wants to because he is the most powerful; might makes right and subjective morality. In essence, you're worshiping a sadistic tyrant.

          I don't see why Observer or any other atheist is surprised when Christians lie about the contents of the bible. (Such as god supporting slavery as he did the entire way through the bible). Of course they're going to lie. They think it's okay as long as it's lying for jesus. God gets to break his own commandments, so they think that they get to do the same thing. For all their talk about justice and morality, they all behave just like their god does–pretty much the opposite of his commandments. LOL

          October 20, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Observer, why are you trying to use logic when your opponent doesn't give a sh!t about reasoning or the truth? He knows that his bible supports slavery all the way through. He's lying. Talk past the fvcker...or over him. Once your debate opponent has proved he doesn't care a thing about honest interaction, speak directly to the readers of the thread. They can spot his bvllsh!t.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
        • Read This

          Leviticus 25 – And the "Lord" spoke to Moses and said:

          44 “ you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you.
          45 You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property,
          46 passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way."

          Hint: The "oh, they were really voluntary indentured gardeners, cooks and and nannies" schtick has already been tried and failed.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
        • Observer


          "Yes, atheists can be good but they have no logical reason to be so. To prove my point: How do you define good? How do you define right and wrong?'

          You define right and wrong by the standards of the society you are in and your own experiece.

          That's why so MANY Christians don't believe the Bible when it comes to slavery and discriminations.

          Use some logic in the future.

          October 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
        • Fallacy Spotting 101

          Post by 'Paul' presents a Straw Man argument.


          October 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Good: of greatest sustainable benefit to the most people, where benefit is reduction of suffering and, at the same time, enhancement of the possibility that people can achieve their common and individual goals

          Is it logical to work towards, or in favor of, good? Yes. I assert that it is of benefit to me to do so.

          October 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Nice flip plop paul.
          " Can atheists be good people no they cannot"
          "Yes, atheists can be good but they have no logical reason to be so"

          Credibility gone.

          And the second statement is false. We are social animals. Study any social animal, do thye have a logical reason to work together for the common good...of course they do. You have not thought this through.

          Come back when you have a cogent argument.

          October 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Lisa

          Isn't it logical to expect people to treat you fairly if you build your own reputation for doing so? As a social species we depend on establishing trust with others, and evolution would support the forming of moral systems that help in doing that.

          October 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • Paul

          You confused my statement with Michael's. No filp flop

          October 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • Paul

          "You define right and wrong by the standards of the society you are in and your own experience."

          Do you deny that justice exists? Do you deny that fairness exists? No, you don't. Any neither does a society with different ideas about what is is right and wrong. The standard is objective. The only difference is how that standard is applied. Both societies are appealing to a standard outside themselves in the hopes that they'll be justified. But since we don't like to be wrong, we try to justify ourselves in other ways like "morals are relative." But moral relativity is logically bankrupt.

          October 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • Paul

          "Study any social animal, do thye have a logical reason to work together for the common good...of course they do. You have not thought this through." – Richard Cranium

          So do you always look to the animal kingdom to justify your actions? Are you saying that if it happens among animals that it's OK for humans to do it?

          October 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • Doris

          Paul: "Do you deny that justice exists? Do you deny that fairness exists? No, you don't. "

          As some kind of objective ent-ity separate from nature and the ability it has afforded us to have consensus and communal instincts on such concepts? No I don't believe such a purely objective ent-ity exists. If you can demonstrate such objectivity without subjectivity, I'd love to hear it.

          October 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
        • Doris

          Paul (Twist-It4Him): "So do you always look to the animal kingdom to justify your actions?"

          It doesn't take a rocket scientist, Paul, for us to see ourselves at the top of the ladder in the brain-power on this planet currently. But I believe we can just as easily see that if we ignore the obvious developmental similarities and abilities we have with our fellow creatures on this planet, we easily can let our heads become larger than they really are so to speak. We start coming up with such notions as "the universe was made with us in mind".

          October 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
        • Doris

          ( in the brain-power department )

          October 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
        • Paul

          " But I believe we can just as easily see that if we ignore the obvious developmental similarities and abilities we have with our fellow creatures on this planet,..."

          I'm not ignoring the similarities. The similarities point to a common designer.

          October 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
        • Doris

          Common designer as an expression to fit the bill for evolution and things beyond still out of our grasp, Paul? What about that purely objective enti-ty like "justice"? Still having trouble demonstrating that without subjectivitiy/consensus?

          October 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Observer


          Where do you and other Christians get your morals from when you decide that the Bible is immoral in how it supports slavery and other discriminations?

          October 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
        • Paul

          "Where do you and other Christians get your morals from when you decide that the Bible is immoral in how it supports slavery and other discriminations?"

          Nice try. You're assuming that that's what I think. It's the atheists that think the Bible is immoral. It's the atheists that think the Bible supports slavery.

          October 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
        • Observer


          "It's the atheists that think the Bible is immoral. It's the atheists that think the Bible supports slavery."

          The atheists KNOW that the Bible supports slavery because they have read it. Obviously you haven't. Please do so in order to have a clue. Come back after you've actually read a Bible.

          October 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • bananas

        U suck dodo/Lisa/alqeada/observer/stonegirl/merediths

        October 21, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Observer


      "Can atheists be good people no they cannot'

      Thoughtless ignorance.

      October 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Paul

        I've never met an atheist that wasn't a moral relativist. Since they create there own definitions of what's right and wrong, they do what is right in their own eyes.

        October 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
        • Paul

          "They can figure that out without needing a 2,000-year-old book to do their thinking for them."

          How would they do that? They can observe what someone's morals ARE, but they can't observe whether something SHOULD or SHOULDN'T be done. That would be an is-ought fallacy.

          October 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
        • rick

          paul: how is this different than christians doing what they feel is right?

          at least atheists attribute it to their own sense of right and wrong, rather than proclamations from a dubious authority

          October 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
        • Paul

          "paul: how is this different than christians doing what they feel is right?"

          That's a 2 wrongs make a right fallacy. I didn't say all Christians live up to God's standard all of the time. That would be impossible and that's why we need Jesus. But sadly, sometimes Christians do think that they no better than God.

          "at least atheists attribute it to their own sense of right and wrong, rather than proclamations from a dubious authority"

          Of course they do. If they believe the universe and everything in it is just a product of undesigned, undirected process, then why not make up your own rules?

          October 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • rick

          nonsense answer, paul.

          "god's standard's" IS a dubious authority

          we all do what we feel is right. some of us have the honesty to attribute it to our own sense of values

          October 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • rick

          deterimining for yourself what is right and wrong is the only legitimate moral stance that one can take. otherwise, you are no more making a moral decision than a dog who doesn't hop up on the couch because he has been told not to

          October 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • Paul

          And where did your values come from?

          October 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Our values, morals come to us from our animal ancestors. There are many social animals on the planet. They don't have gods and they manage to co-operate, create language and culture...without YOUR god.
          The morals and values people possesed were written into the bible and then attributed to a god, but there is no reason to think that any god instilled these ( since there is no evidence of any god).
          Men make gods...that we know....thousands of them. You don't believe in the other thousands, why do you think yours is real?

          October 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
        • rick

          i agree with what richard said. in addition, my morals come from a rational realization of how my choices effect others

          October 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
        • Paul

          "Our values, morals come to us from our animal ancestors."

          And where did our animal ancestors get them from?

          October 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • Paul

          Correction: And where did your animal ancestors get them from?

          October 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • Observer


          Christians aren't nearly as stupid as you apparently think. For instance, like everyone else, most are bright enough to figure out it's not a good idea to go around killing everyone since it will likely come back on you.

          They can figure that out without needing a 2,000-year-old book to do their thinking for them. Give them credit for some intelligence.

          October 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • Observer


          "How would they do that? They can observe what someone's morals ARE, but they can't observe whether something SHOULD or SHOULDN'T be done. That would be an is-ought fallacy."

          Okay. If you want to argue that Christians are too stupid to logically figure out what would happen if everyone went around killing everyone else, I won't argue with you. Fortunately, there are many nonbelievers who are bright enough to figure that out. We can get into a discussion of why you think Christians have no logic at another time.

          How's the Bible reading coming along? Read about slaves yet?

          October 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      "Psalm 14 Fools say in their hearts there is no God."

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      October 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Observer

        Great reply. The Emperor Who Had No Clothes comes to mind.

        October 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Lisa

      Maybe that was a good argument back in the ancient days before science could explain nature. What other answer could anyone offer? But things are way different now, and it's completely reasonable to not believe in any gods because there's nothing to have to believe in gods for.

      October 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
      • Paul

        "Maybe that was a good argument back in the ancient days before science could explain nature"

        Science is a tool we use to observe and evaluate the world around us. You don't think people were observing things in ancient times?

        October 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Paul, Of course they were observing: they thought phenomena such as meteor strikes, shooting stars, eclipses, rainbows, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. were signs from gods. We know better now so why continue with the superstitions of ancient peoples?

          October 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Sean Lynch

      It is sad that you feel others are evil, not because of any harmful act they perform, but simply because of the opinion they have.
      Matthew (KJV) 7:5-6
      5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
      6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

      October 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • rick

      wow, michael...way to phone in a quote!

      October 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Same line as every con and every cult ever. "They'll call you fools – but we know the truth, they'll be the ones who are sorry, when the comet comes and our religion is proven the truth!"

      October 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  8. bananas

    Murdock, u got nothing new? Come on babe. Throw in some FSM
    Or Santa bull

    October 20, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  9. annemarie

    I was very encouraged to read about the exchange between Professor Scalfari and Pope Benedict. Professor Scalfari is an atheist and pope Francis is the leader of a large church, yet each treated the other with courtesy and respect and each took the other's views seriously. Are there any other places where atheists and believers meet for similar dialogues? I certainly hope so!

    October 20, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Sean Lynch

      annemarie; There are many enlightening discussions on YT where theologians discuss religion and science with various atheist scientists including Richard Dawkins.
      YT search: "Richard Dawkins" cardinal OR bishop OR minister OR pastor OR preacher
      I respect theologians that understand the histories of the OT/NT, and see the teachings as allegorical.
      Those whose recognize and affirm their sole argument for having faith is faith itself.
      This position is honest and doesn't attempt to refute natural science.
      Theology was humanity's first attempt at understanding our relationship with the universe and led to advances in science.
      Honest theologians welcome discussion with atheists. No amount of science will sway their faith and they do not resort to dishonest tactics such as "creation science" to affirm their beliefs.
      I encourage all honest discovery, exploration and understanding of our relationship to the universe and to each other.
      I see no need to invoke deity or the supernatural as a means of explanation of reality. Reality is what it is.

      October 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  10. David Allred

    The sacred isn't about self. Assigning vocabulary to it based on what we want awe and wonder to be is an act of self and the whackos on either end of the atheist/theist divide are hell-bent on seeing it their way. Awe and wonder are meant to be experienced, and awe and wonder don't much care what YOU decide they truly are.

    October 20, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • James S. David

      Too Bad, David: The sacred is about self ... and anything else that an individual or collective assign it to be about. If you really think that you are not sacred ... then I suppose that you would be intimate with just any and everyone (in whatever manner it is that you do define intimacy), right?

      The real question is: do we need to have anything that is sacred in our society? That is, is there any utility in the idea of sacredness/holiness? Is it what separates us from animals?

      October 20, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Sean Lynch

      When I use the words "sacred responsibility" by sacred I mean highly valued and important.
      The word has no implied meaning of deity to me.
      Sacred (m-w) 5b: highly valued and important

      October 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  11. Harriet Brown

    Well, I pray for all of you that don't believe God exists. It's good that you can see and feel the awesomeness of the things he has created with and without believing in him. It's ok to not understand a Father who loves, cares for, died for, cherishes and also discipline, but just think if there really is life after death and you spend all you life living in this world with the freedom to freely have your own beliefs and then the day comes and you actually have to stand before God and he ask you why should I let you in My Heaven, just think about that, because just how you feel that you answer is right, I think my answer, Jesus is the only way to enter in is right. Having said that one of us is Right and one of us is wrong. And as strongly as you feel about there not being a God, Just imagine dieing and lifting up you eyes in Hell, eternally. Yes God is Love and he don't wat any of us to perish, but he has given us free will to choose Him or to choose Hell.

    October 20, 2013 at 5:29 am |
    • newsrell

      Religion that is based on threat to survive is an ugly religion. Comparable to Hitler or Stalin who used the same method to keep the population in check. Your words are soothing at the beginning, but the threat is evident at the end. So you yourself follow the same ugly tactic. Ask yourself if your religion did you any good by teaching to think and act this way.

      October 20, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • Mirosal

      Out of the 10,000 + gods worshiped by man throughout history, what makes you think YOURS is the right one? Also, your concept of "free will" is moot. Since your god is, by doctrine, omniscient, then our outcomes are already known to it. Your god is a sadist if it allows us to be born, live, die, then spent the rest of eternity in perpetual pain torture anguish and suffering, when it knew before we were born where we would end up. And yet "he loves us" .. Your faith is hypocritical.

      October 20, 2013 at 6:32 am |
      • Paul

        "Out of the 10,000 + gods worshiped by man throughout history, what makes you think YOURS is the right one?"

        From using logic and reason. From studying disciplines like science and history. It's really not that hard to figure out which one is actually real.

        October 20, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          Paul, There is no evidence that any are real so no logic can differentiate the one you consider real. The religions are all basically the same – our god(s) are real, they created the universe and everything in it, believe in our god(s) and you will be rewarded in the afterlife (patent pending), in the meantime there is a tithe; the marketing is different but you'd expect that else there would be few ways to differentiate the religions.

          October 20, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • Lisa

          Can you explain your reasoning in thinking that any of them are actually real? No "feelings" now, your actual logical, scientific reasoning.

          October 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Paul

          I'll give you 20.


          October 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
        • Susan StoHelit

          Yeah, you and every believer in every other god says the same thing. Yours is no different from theirs. Personally – the Jews are more consistent (the OT god and NT god are nothing alike, to claim them the same says your god figured out he was wrong in the OT, which eliminates omniscience), and the Muslims have the advantage in gaining converts, and the Hindus is older.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
        • Paul

          "Yeah, you and every believer in every other god says the same thing."

          No they don't. I think you're getting confused because they use similar terminology. While the vocabulary is similar, the dictionaries are different. You need to be more discerning.

          October 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Sean Lynch

          Paul, I affirm your right to have faith.
          I believe that religion does more harm than good because various doctrines divide humanity.
          Some religions would even refute science-the only thing that all humans can test for themselves and agree upon or refute through an agreed upon methodology.
          How is it possible that we cherish mythology over the true fact based understanding of nature that science affords?

          October 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
        • redzoa

          I left a 20-point response to Paul's video earlier in this thread, but apparently it was among those that have mysteriously been removed. Having already wasted enough time with the video, I'll just list some responses from memory although the order is likely now different from their presentation in the video:

          1. Design/Fine-Tuning: ID is akin to arguing the rain water which fills a pothole was "clearly" designed because it so perfectly fits the shape/volume of the pothole. Fine-tuning inversely argues the pothole was "clearly" designed because any slight modification and it would no longer hold that precise shape/volume of rain water. ID had a perfect opportunity to present it's "evidence" at Kitzmiller v. Dover, but crashed and burned. Behe's paper attempting to argue for irreducible complexity in protein-protein interactions showed that evolutionary processes could still produce the target protein-protein interactions despite the fact that he and his co-author contrived to exclude a number of well-known evolutionary mechanisms. Dembski has conceded that his design filter cannot distinguish between "actual" design and "apparent" design; this is because natural selection is itself a non-conscious designer. Examples of evolutionary mechanisms producing novel functionality include Lenski's E. coli, RNA aptamers, the Pod Mrcaru lizards, etc, etc. ID and Fine Tuning = Apophenia. When we look at the human genome, it does not suggest an intelligent designer; quite the contrary. From our defunct gene for egg-yolk production to our 2nd chromosome's superfluous telomeres/centromere to the code and developmental pathways which produce male nip-ples, our genomes are a beautiful mess.

          2. Bible historicity, consistency, prophecy, archaeology: Historical fiction which includes actual historical people, places, events, is still fiction. The Bible is not consistent, evident in the many "doublets" which apologists argue "explain" the prior texts (e.g. creation in Gen 1 v. Gen 2). There are too many discrepancies in what should be clearly agreed upon facts (presuming divine inspiration) throughout the Gospels. Nostradamus, Dionne Warwick's "Psychic Hotline," numerous fortune cookies, and weekly horoscopes have had many of their predictions confirmed. Furthermore, it's rather easy to conform to a prediction when you know it what requires. If prophecy were as reliable as claimed, then why the need for categories like "futurist," "historist," "idealist" and "preterist"? Regarding archeology, after centuries of desperate searches, no evidence for the exodus out of Egypt.

          3. Biblical copying, timing: Fidelity in copying does not equal validity of the copied stories. If spatial/temporal proximity were a valid indicator of reliability, then the spatial/temporal proximity of Joseph Smith's 11 Witnesses and their affirmations suggest the Book of Mormon is more reliable than the NT.

          4. Biblical inclusion of unflattering parts: 25% of those exonerated via Innocence Project DNA testing made incriminating statements, pled guilty, or outright confessed. A statement against one's interest is not inherently more reliable than a statement favoring one's interest.

          5. "Dying for a lie": The 9/11 terrorists, Branch Dividians, Heaven's Gate, etc, etc, all died for their beliefs. Willingness to die for one's belief does not translate into validity of the beliefs.

          6. Emergent Church, converts, "countless testimonies": Many religions/churches all believing they were correct. Many people adopt comforting beliefs which have no basis in reality and are conveniently beyond direct confirmation. This is particularly true when people are susceptible to promises of eternal rewards juxtaposed against threats of eternal punishment. "Countless testimonies" = Argumentum ad populum.

          7. The rest were self-referencing claims with no extrinsic support.

          October 21, 2013 at 12:53 am |
      • James S. David

        Mirosal - It does seem hypocritical, doesn't it? I have tried to go beyond what I know. What if God truly did and does love humanity? Yet, because the relationship started in the wrong way, what we have is a dysfunctional relationship of cosmic proportions What if GOD keeps trying and much of Humanity does, too - but much of Humanity has also decided that the relationship is just no longer worth it - i.e., the relationship is non-functioning?
        I guess the question we all gotta ask ourselves is: is there any redeeming quality or purpose for us (Humanity as a collective or even as individuals) in the idea or belief in GOD in any way, shape, or form?
        According to my understanding, even atheists will say that the relationships between/among people are transformative and help us all to grow in love (that is, trust & respect). This does not seem so bad since that is after all what Christianity's goal is for humanity, too. (Jesus said that the greatest commandment is that we love one another.)
        So ... why wait to get to Heaven to have everything all "peachy" ... why not work with one another to make heaven on earth?
        Good luck Atheists! God is with you (whether you believe it or not! ;-) )

        October 20, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • rick

      harriet: i neither seek heaven nor fear hell

      October 20, 2013 at 6:49 am |
      • Paul

        Why not, rick?

        October 20, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
        • Paul

          Why don't you think those places exist?

          October 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
        • rick

          paul: because i do not think either of those places exist

          October 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
        • sam stone

          i do not see any evidence for it

          why do you believe they do exist?

          October 21, 2013 at 3:29 am |
    • rick

      actually, harriet, we can both be wrong

      October 20, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Sean Lynch

      Would you torture your child for all eternity because he disobeyed you and would you do this out of love for your child?
      Would it be better to burn a child with a torch so that they know the agony that awaits them in hell if they don't believe in Jesus? You realize that there are people that justify abusing children to teach them about the eternal pains of hell right?
      What's love got to do with torture?

      October 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • bananas


        October 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
        • Crom

          Are you this "snake" I keep seeing references to? Do you live in the US?

          October 21, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  12. Topaz

    Why is it so hard for people to believe in Jesus? He loves every single one of us tremondously yet so many reject him. The bible foretold that men will try to create elaborate empty arguments against the gospel that will appeal only to unspiritual men. The gospel is the only thing that can save you. Believing in the death for our sins, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what will give you eternal life.... please think about this because if we are wrong we lose nothing but if you are wrong you lose everything.

    October 20, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • Lisa

      It isn't too difficult to believe that Jesus was a real guy, but it's very difficult to believe that he was some kind of god who had to die for me to escape something that he caused to begin with.

      October 20, 2013 at 3:51 am |
      • James S. David

        Jesus' humanity is not questionable - agreed. Jesus' divinity is a matter of debate - and has been for a long time. There are lots of "theories and beliefs" (including: that God entered Jesus at his baptism and left him at his death on the cross, that Jesus was paradoxically wholly human and wholly divine, that Jesus was not divine at all but rather a very good man, among countless other ideas, I am sure). Yet, I feel that what is important is the attempt that GOD had made to work with humanity to right the wrongs and misgivings and misunderstandings between GOD and Humanity. GOD never stops trying to reconcile - unfortunately, we humans all too often engage in policies of judgmentalism and/or non-cooperation. I do wish you well on your journey, Lisa.

        October 20, 2013 at 9:18 am |
        • Lisa

          Why not the simplest answer, that Jesus wasn't ever a god? Maybe he thought he was, his followers did, or the idea just evolved over time, but what makes you discount that possibility? People are sometimes deluded, right?

          October 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • James S. David

      Sorry, Topaz ... Sounds like your "belief" is not genuine. That is it just sounds like your belief is in name only because you are only 'believing" because it is a "safe bet." So your real belief system is less like a Christian belief system and more like the belief system of the soldiers who cast lots for Jesus' garments at the foot of the cross. May be its time to re-evaluate what you really believe before you start passing any more judgment against people who may be genuine in their search.

      October 20, 2013 at 9:25 am |
      • weeklyradiance

        James, you said this: "According to my understanding, even atheists will say that the relationships between/among people are transformative and help us all to grow in love (that is, trust & respect). This does not seem so bad since that is after all what Christianity's goal is for humanity, too. (Jesus said that the greatest commandment is that we love one another.)
        So ... why wait to get to Heaven to have everything all "peachy" ... why not work with one another to make heaven on earth?"
        James – If you agree with your own statement above – especially the parts where we "should love one another and work with one another to make heaven on earth", then you should respect other's belief systems as well. What everyone chooses to believe is extremely personal and reflects their own spiritual evolution at the moment.

        Think of explaining the process of fire to a kindergarten class, it would be a simple explanation, and on only one level; however if you were explaining it to a college chemistry class then you could discuss it on a deeper level, talking about the complexity of the chemical structures, etc.

        I think spiritual thinking is similar to this – and you should not criticize others for being at a certain level, nor think because you are thinking at a different level, that this means that you are "higher" – what it means is that you are thinking at a different level, which is not "better" or "higher"; it is simply thinking at a different level.

        James, I think that you should follow your own advice to follow the principles of treating other people with love, trust, and respect, and not attack others for their own personal belief system. As you yourself said, "Jesus' greatest commandment is that we love one another".

        Topaz sounds genuinely concerned for others' spiritual welfare and this is the expression that I would discuss with her, not whether or not you agree with her definition of Heaven and Hell.

        Topaz – no one else can tell you what you believe or exactly what to believe. I believe that God loves us all, whatever we believe or wherever we are on our own personal spiritual journey. Just remember that, and walk your own spiritual journey. God bless.

        October 20, 2013 at 11:08 am |
        • James S. David

          I agree ... Let me be more explicit. Topaz's belief system is her own, I am certainly not one to be critical or Judgmental - as long as her beliefs are not the cause of hardship upon any one else. Yet, I would hope that Topaz be honest - first with herself, in understanding her own beliefs before she sets out to "save" others. If the gamble on Christianity makes her feel comfortable - great, but by my experience, the vast majority of folk who do seek religion or spirituality as a source of salvation or reconciliation or peace need way more than to "roll the dice" on these things. Again, Topaz if its good enough for you - Great! Yet, I do urge you to just try to grow a bit more in your relationship the Divine. It can be a beautiful journey filled with a great amount of zeal. Where people often do go wrong is when they feel that the zealousness in their belief needs to shared. What really needs to be shared is not the belief system, per se, rather, the values that the belief system informs.
          You are quite right weeklyradiance. If I did come across as disrespectful - this was clearly not my intention. I am sorry. I do seek to help folk grow into good relations with GOD and each other.

          October 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
        • Crom

          Wow, I may puke. You guys should get a room and do what comes naturally to you and quit groveling to each other in public.

          October 21, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Pascal's wager again.

      You should reconsider Odin – what if you are wrong – don't want to go to Hades, just because you couldn't be bothered to sacrifice a dove.

      And Vishnu – there's a god that holds a grudge – let's not neglect to worship him.

      Have you considered the state of your karma? Wouldn't want a bad reincarnation.

      Jesus – OK, your god makes rules that doom most everyone to hell, decides he made a mistake, and rather than just change the rules, creates a new body to live in to make some type of sacrifice? Have you really thought that through? If god makes the rules, no need for a sacrifice (and what a bloody and insane thing for a god to want in any case) to change the rules.

      October 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • bananas

        Rules? Lol

        October 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
      • Crom

        I demand no sacrifices from those that follow me. I am Crom.

        October 21, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  13. Sean Lynch

    How is it possible that the number of pages of comments are rapidly decreasing as the number of posts increase?

    October 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      There is a nothing troll that likes to post garbage under several different names, steal others names and make posts they would not make, and it deletes anything it feels like.

      CNN has proven they cannot police their own blog.

      October 20, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Paul

      Observer and/or Cpt. Obvious went on a rampage last night and requested that my posts be deleted. That's what they do when you refute their arguments.

      October 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Check

        What is your verified evidence for this claim, Paul?

        I read that discussion. IMHO those posters and others refuted you quite well. Why would they want to have their own great posts removed? We could just as well accuse you of somehow plotting and 'rampaging' to get the whole conversation removed. I think it's a crying shame, whatever the reason, though.

        October 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • tallulah13

          A lot of posts get deleted. Sometimes posts get deleted even as I am responding to them, which deletes my post as well. I don't take it personally, nor do I believe in conspiracy theories about my posts being deleted. I leave that sort of thinking to people who really, really want to pretend that they are being persecuted.

          October 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • bananas

          Amen! Tell em check

          October 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • Paul

          Reasonable susp.icion. It was only my posts that were requested to be deleted (consequently, the responses to my post were also deleted).
          If they refuted my posts so well, they should have been left up there, right?

          October 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
        • Paul

          "What is your verified evidence for this claim, Paul?"

          That's exactly why skeptics don't even pass their own skeptic tests. They say they always want verified evidence. They're looking for 100% certainty. But in fact, many things they believe don't come anywhere close to that level of certainty. Hopefully, they'll realize this now that I pointed it out to them

          October 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
        • Check

          There are other possibilities for the removal, Paul. I won't elaborate, though, because I don't want to get banned.

          October 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • Paul

          I didn't say there weren't other possibilities. I gave my reasons for suspecting Observer and Cpt. Obvious.

          October 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
        • Observer

          Paul, your posts were deleted because you were found to be masquerading as someone else repeatedly. Notice that AE's posts were deleted too. Think about it.

          October 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
        • Check


          You did not say, "I suspect" or "maybe", nor did you even imply it. You stated it as a fact.

          October 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
        • Check


          To be fair – do you have verified evidence for that statement?

          October 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
        • Observer


          The comment was NOT from me. Apparently, the fake Observer is on here demonstrating again their total lack of honesty and integrity.

          October 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • Observer


        I am the Observer that comments on here all the time.

        Don't be so brainless as to accuse someone of something you have NO PROOF of.

        I have never tried to censor your comments since you haven't yet offered PROOF that any of my comments were wrong.

        I have NEVER used "report abuse" on ANY of your comments.

        I await your apology.

        October 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
        • bananas


          obvious is divine, or hadn't u noticed?

          learn to love yourself dm. then, u might find a few who can tolerate u

          October 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
      • Sean Lynch

        As a huge number of comments are being deleted from both sides of the issue I don't believe the issue is random abuse of the "report" feature.
        FYI has provided contact resources to resolve the issue. Join us in contacting CNN.
        It may be a security glitch.

        October 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • sam stone

          I am furious that CNN allows people to make threatening comments about governors! I am fed up. I really am

          October 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • Observer

          I hope they can do something to eliminate people stealing other people's handle. We all know who the biggest liar is. The CNN policy is clear on this. Unfortunately, some people show they are unworthy of CNN's (or anyone's) trust in them being an honest person.

          October 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  14. Doris

    President Bush after 9/11: "Our God is the God who named the stars".
    How erroneous. Two-thirds of star names have Arabic names. They came from Islam's fertile period (AD 800-1100.) During that time Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world, open to people of all or no faiths. During that time were some of the greatest advances known to mankind: engineering, biology, medicine, mathematics, celestial navigation; this is the time and place that gave us numerals we use, terms like algebra and algorithm.

    Enter Imam Hamid al-Ghazali in the 12th century. The fundamentally religious period of Islam begins, and so begins the steady decline of free intellectual expression in that area of the world. Some would argue that it has since never recovered.

    As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains, throughout history most of the great minds give virtually no mention to any god for their discoveries and explanations. (Ptolemy, Isaac Newton, Laplace, Huygens, Galileo.) That is, until they reach the problem they feel they cannot and will never fully tackle. Dr. Tyson demonstrates this with writings from the great minds in his talk "The Perimeter of Ignorance".

    Perhaps that is all God has ever been – a placeholder for discomfort or frustration over the unknown; an excuse of last resort when, for one reason or another, one gives up investigation. It is at that point of discomfort over the unknown when one should remember what humanity has already witnessed: that today's scientific explanations were often yesterday's gods.


    October 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Paul

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      That argument doesn't hold any water. It's because of the things we do know that give us reasons to believe in God. We don't use God as a "placeholder for discomfort or frustration over the unknown".

      October 20, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • tallulah13

        The numbers of gods worshipped significantly decreased as humans learned more about the mechanisms of the natural world. The better educated people are, the less use we have for gods. You cling to your for emotional reasons, because there are no rational ones.

        October 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changed nothing today. Sorry.

    October 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Robert Brown

    It is true, you do have to believe to believe. You can't really seek God if you are convinced he doesn't exist. This is your responsibility and your first choice. This isn't a saving faith, just a start.

    October 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Lisa

      But once you're in love with an idea like "God" how impartial can anyone be in judging that character's motives, or even reality? Especially when people are taught that God dislikes it when they let doubt enter their minds, that atheists are "evil" and that any criticism of Christianity is part of a satanic plot. Once you're hooked it takes an awful lot to break down those firewalls to the point where you can make a honest evaluation of one's reasons for believing. I know because I went through it myself. It was harder than quitting smoking.

      October 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • Atheists are wrong about Jesus and ancient religion

        As a former Christian, I agree completely with the way you have expressed it.

        October 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • Steve

        God doesn't dislike doubt. He will reveal himself to you and give you proof to believe. He does not demand blind faith. The bible does not say Atheists are "evil." It says all men are evil. Criticism of Christianity as a plot of Satan? If you don't believe Satan exists, this is a moot point isn't it?

        October 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • Lisa

          He will "reveal" himself to people after they take the blind leap of faith and allow themselves to believe first, right? That's when you get to create your own "proof" that he exists.

          October 20, 2013 at 3:48 am |
      • Robert Brown


        Based only on your post, it appears you made it to step one. You believed in God. I don't see anything in your statements that makes me think you made it to step 2. Jesus said you have to be born again. This is faith God gives, saving faith. Oh, you can refuse to accept this faith. You can reject the offer, but once accepted there is literally no turning back.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          That's why there are so many people who deny the existence of gravity, too, just like god. You really have to believe in order to believe in gravity. It just can't be proved to exist unless you start to try to begin to have a small belief in it first.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Good example Capt. You can drop a ball and see gravity in action. You can seek God and experience him.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • Paul

          Yes, gravity is an excellent example. So is the wind. You can't see it, but you can see the effects of the wind (the moving grass and trees.) Yup, God is the same way: You can't see Him, but you can see all the marvelous things He has done.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • Robert Brown


          What can you say to someone who refuses to drop the ball?

          October 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          How stupid can you get, fellas?

          Gravity and wind can be PROVED beyond any doubt by simple measurement. They can be proved DESPITE any opinion to the contrary. They cannot be denied. Measurement of physical reality proves them.

          What can be measured to prove that your god exists in relation to all other ideas that might fit the phenomenon? Nothing.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Robert, you moron, to someone who won't drop the ball, you drop your ball, or you ask them what is holding them to the earth. Gravity doesn't work for only believers in it, it works for everyone.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          You believe in gravity and wind because you have personally experienced both, you can detect and measure them, and they are available to everyone. God is available to everyone and can be detected and experienced. Just as you can't measure wind speed without an instrument, you can't experience God without faith. What can you say to someone who refuses to use the correct instrument?

          October 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
        • Lisa

          I use to be born again too, and I never really gave my belief in God any serious consideration for a long time, but then I realized that my reasons for believing were all pretty lame and weak. What you're probably referring to is falling in love with the idea of God being a part of your life, and being so in love with that thought that you never really question that love. I guess that works with a lot of folks, but once I examined my reasons for believing in God that love just went away. How can you love something that you realize just isn't real?

          October 20, 2013 at 4:06 am |
        • Sean Lynch

          Lisa; My core programming was damaged by religious indoctrination. For some it is a real struggle to overcome the teaching (programming) we receive as children.

          What drove me to become vocal about my lack of belief was the petty denial of science and the state of scientific illiteracy in the US.
          Many people believe in god is because they are certain there is a hell and they believe infinite torture is somehow justified.
          No crime justifies infinite torture as punishment. Six million lifetimes for Hitler? Perhaps, but not infinite. Even in his case I would plead for mercy from Evil God. Of course, I'll be in the same eternal prison-because I don't believe in god(s).
          I am curious how many Americans truly believe eternal torture is justified based upon someone lacking a particular belief.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • Lisa

          From my experience, the kinds of things that people claim are indications of "God" are either completely ordinary natural things, or experiences that can also easily be seen as indications of any other god, ghosts, aliens, past lives, or they can be just simple coincidences, or unusual events. After you leap into believing blindly it's all just confirmation bias after that. You "see" God in everything after you come to expect seeing him in everything.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:19 am |
      • Paul

        Doubt isn't the opposite of faith, unbelief is. Doubt is the state you're in when you have two contradictory ideas. What do you do in that situation? Examine each of them critically. Have I experienced doubt? Of course I have. I've been told lies like "science and religion contradict each other" But after critical examination, that statement was simply untrue.
        Doubt is nothing to be ashamed of.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Doubt is something to be proud of. Honest criticism is how a general theory is more specifically defined. A theory that "fits" with the evidence is proposed, and then we try to find fault in any way possible. As the theory is proved wrong in some areas and correct in others by honest critique, the "shape" is more and more refined to become more and more accurate. Quite simply, that is how evolution and quantum mechanics have become so soundly proved.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Lisa

          Under my careful examination the statement became obviously true. Science can only exist alongside belief in God as long as you don't believe that God "does" anything but simply exist somewhere, keeping to himself. Science reveals a natural universe that gets along just fine without any God.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:23 am |
      • bananas

        Your myriad excuses and gimmicks and diversions and rants and ravings convince no one of anything except you are a moron, a fool, someone who has never grown up, a little spoiled brat with delusions of grandeur

        October 20, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      But if I'm dead in my transgressions, how can this dead person believe?

      October 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • Paul

        Your dead spiritually, not physically.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          You're stupid if you believe there is some magical and invisible force called a "spirit."

          October 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
        • bananas

          God is spirit. Everyone who believes there is nothing out there greater than she is, is a fool

          October 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
      • Robert Brown


        Don't put to much pressure on yourself. The belief that makes you alive, that removes your past, present, and future transgressions is the work of God. Your responsibility is to seek him with the faith you are capable of. The faith you can muster won't save you, it just gets you to the point where you can be found.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm |

          pitiful rationalization – just pitiful

          October 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • bananas

      You can seek god and find him knowing w/o a doubt he doesn't exist.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      robert: spend a lot of time begging? good for you. god wants slaves

      October 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
      • JDorty

        Haven't read your covenant. He doesn't want slaves, He wants kings (King of kings)–sons to be co-rulers and co-creators. We are supposed to have Authority, power, and rulership with Him. But instead of humbling ourselves under the training, and believing and receiving and growing in the power, you are shaking your fists and spitting in His face and doing stupid crap like this!

        October 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  17. annemarie

    Someone once said, "The faith of those who live their faith is a serene faith." I am struck by the lack of serenity in many of the comments here. Andrei Sakarov was an atheist and a hero for human rights. He lived his beliefs to the point of nearly losing his mind in the solitary confinement of a Soviet prison. Teresa of Calcutta was a believer who gave love and help and hope to millions of people around the world. Both of them serenely lived what they believed in spite of tremendous obstacles. May both believers and atheists follow their examples.

    October 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Robert J.W.

      Teresa was a terrible person who exploited belief to make millions for the Catholic church and the people she claimed to care for died in agony without medical attention. She is one of the worst people in human history.

      October 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Cam

      Teresa's motives have come under fire lately. Not much of the millions she raised seems to have been spent on actually helping people in India. Lots of convents minting nuns of her order have popped up though, and the Church found plenty of money to buy off abuse victims.

      October 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
      • annemarie

        Dear Cam, Then if you are a believer I hope you are more honest than she was. And if you are not a believer, I still hope that you are more honest than she was. I think you probably are a very honest and caring person.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  18. Larry Peterson

    From Christopher Hitchens:Name one thing that a believer can do that a nonbeliever can't.

    October 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Robert Brown


      October 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • Lisa

        We can believe in things. It's just that we're more careful in what we believe. Believing based on blind faith is a great way to get conned.

        October 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
        • Paul

          That's why believers in God don't have a blind faith. That's a common straw man argument given by atheists. "Faith" means to have trust and confidence in God. We believe in God because we have a logical reason to do so. We believe because of the evidence, not in spite of it.

          October 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Paul, your "evidence" isn't because it cannot differentiate and demonstrate. Believers of other gods use the same evidence for their god. And none of your evidence amounts to proof. So, what you're really saying is that you are convinced for yourself and so you consider some things to be evidence that you shouldn't.

          There is not one measurement that can be made that will show how any god must be true and all others false. The difference between believers and atheists is that the believer considers various states of emotion to be "evidence." What can be measured to either show god definitely exists or does not exist? None. Null hypothesis.

          October 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • Paul

          @Cpt. Obvious
          "Believers of other gods use the same evidence for their god. "

          Why do think that? I don't think they do, but since you made the claim please support it.

          "And none of your evidence amounts to proof."

          So what you're actually saying is that the evidence doesn't convince you. But yet you take leaps of faith to believe in other things that are not 100% certain.

          October 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          No, Paul. Again, just like last night. Your trouble is that you are not paying attention. You are in such a hurry to get to your perspective that you fail to take the time to understand the position being expressed TO you.

          You have no evidence that is exclusive. None of your evidence can determine that your god is real and other gods are not real. Your lame 'evidence' amounts to nothing more than similar opinions that other believers of other gods share.

          As to your other discussion points, we can certainly discuss those when you figure out how to communicate honestly instead of throw silly strawmen and red herrings around the place. Got it?

          October 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I wonder if Paul might be able to explain why math and chemistry are believed in the same way by believers of all gods, yet anybody can believe anything about "their" god?

          October 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
        • Paul

          Cpt. Obvious
          "You have no evidence that is exclusive."

          We all live on the same planet in the same solar system in the same universe. The evidence you and I have is exactly the same. The difference is in the interpretation of the evidence. The idea that I need to provide exclusive is an error in reasoning on your part.

          October 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Yes, Paul, we are all on earth experiencing the same physical laws of the universe. That's how we can prove gravity or wind. Exclusive evidence provides proof. If the evidence is not exclusive, then it can be used for multiple hypotheses. Are you asking me to believe in multiple hypotheses or just one? I had thought it was just one hypothesis: Your god's existence. And yes, if you are trying to show how you have sufficient evidence for your god's existence, you need to provide evidence that excludes the possibility that it might be something other than your god.

          For example, the existence of our universe. There are, seemingly, an infinite number of possible ways that it could have occurred, and we do not have enough evidence to narrow down the search for a possible answer; therefore, the correct answer is "We don't know" because it allows for any of the possible methods to be accurate when we get better information. To say that it must be "blind chance" or "biblegod who allows people to be tortured forever and ever if they don't chant his magic spells correctly" is pure stupidity. We don't know. We have no exclusive evidence.

          Try logical and critical thinking for a change, and see how that helps.

          October 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • Lisa

          It starts off with blind faith. People are told to just believe in God and he will reveal himself to you. Well, what happens is that you make up your own "proof" of God once you convince yourself that he's real. That's what happened to me, and that's what happens to pretty much every other Christian who wasn't completely indoctrinated as a child, as far as I can tell.

          October 20, 2013 at 4:28 am |
      • Atheists are wrong about Jesus and ancient religion

        Actually, the Hitchens challenge is: Name a moral act that a believer can perform that a non-believer cannot. Hitchens also followed this with the question to think of an immoral act which a believer has committed, which is all to easy to do, starting with Hitler.

        October 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • sam stone

        subservient slave

        October 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Paul


      October 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Paul

      Have trust and confidence in God.

      October 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • james

      know where he or she is going.

      October 19, 2013 at 3:20 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.