home
RSS
Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.

But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.

The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.

Stephens and co-plaintiff Susan Galloway have challenged the policy, saying virtually all of those invited to offer legislative prayers over the years were Christians.

"It's very divisive when you bring government into religion," Stephens told CNN from her home.

"I don't believe in God, and Susan is Jewish, so to hear these ministers talk about Jesus and even have some of them who personally question our motives, it's just not appropriate."

The town of about 94,000 residents counters that after concerns from the two women and others, it sought diverse voices, including a Wiccan priestess, to offer invocations. Officials say they do not review the content of the remarks, nor censor any language.

"The faith of the prayer giver does not matter at all," said John Auberger, Greece's board supervisor, who began the practice shortly after taking office 1998. "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings."

A federal appeals court in New York found the board's policy to be an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids any government "endorsement" of religion.

Those judges said it had the effect of "affiliating the town with Christianity."

"To the extent that the state cannot make demands regarding the content of legislative prayers," said Judge Guido Calabresi, "municipalities have few means to forestall the prayer-giver who cannot resist the urge to proselytize. These difficulties may well prompt municipalities to pause and think carefully before adopting legislative prayer, but they are not grounds on which to preclude its practice."

Some legal experts say while the high court has allowed public prayers in general, it has not set boundaries on when they might become too sectarian in nature.

"The case involves a test between two different kinds of legal rules," said Thomas Goldstein, SCOTUSblog.com publisher and a leading Washington attorney.

"The Supreme Court has broadly approved legislative prayer without asking too many questions. But in other cases where the government is involved with religion, it has looked at lots of different circumstances. So we just don't know whether this court will be completely approving of legislative prayers in this instance."

The justices are now being asked to offer more firm guidelines over when and if such public prayers are constitutionally acceptable.

Felt marginalized

Galloway and Stephens say the elected board of the community outside Rochester almost always invited Christian clergy to open the meetings, usually with sectarian prayers. And they say they felt "marginalized" by the practice.

"When we tried to speak with the town, we were told basically if we didn't like the prayers, we didn't have to listen," said Stephens, "or could stand out in the hallway while they were going on."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Washington-based group that is representing the two women, cited records showing that between 1999 and 2010, approximately two-thirds of the invocations contained the words "Jesus Christ," Jesus," Holy Spirit," or "Your Son."

And the lawsuit claims that from 1999 through 2007, every meeting had a Christian-only invocation. Following the complaints from the plaintiffs, four other faiths were invited in 2008, including a Baha'i leader and a Jewish lay person.

The plaintiffs say the Christian-only invocations resumed from January 2009 through June 2010. They claim those invited to the monthly meetings were selected by a city employee from a local guide that had no non-Christian faiths listed.

"Politics and religion simply don't mix, and they certainly don't mix in the local context of the Greece town council," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, AUSCS executive director.

"The town seems to take the position that because once or twice over a decade, it hears from someone of a different religion, that somehow is inclusive. It trivializes what's going here - a local government that should be willing and interested in participation of all its citizens, it wants those citizens to participate in an almost inevitably Christian prayer, in order to begin doing their business."

Different rulings

While the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against Greece's policy, other courts around the country have found such invocations - if inclusive and limited in scope - to be permissible.

Congress regularly opens its sessions with a prayer. Wednesday's invocation by House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy began: "Eternal God, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Once again, we come to ask wisdom, patience, peace, and understanding for the members of this people's House."

Nearly 120 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, along with several state attorneys general have filed supporting legal briefs backing the city. So has the Obama administration.

"The history of prayers offered in connection with legislative deliberation in this country makes clear that a legislative body need not affirmatively solicit a court-mandated variety of different religious faiths– from inside and outside the borders governed by the legislative body– in order to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause," said Justice Department lawyers' in their amicus brief.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Greece Town Board, saying the Supreme Court has upheld the practice of government bodies "to acknowledge America's religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."

"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the group. "Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God's blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn't suddenly be deemed unconstitutional."

Stephens realizes the stakes are high for her community and for the law as a whole. But on a personal level, this legal fight has been tough.

"I've received something of a backlash, both Susan and me," the retired librarian said. "Threatening letters, some vandalism to my property, things like that. The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."

The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696). A ruling is expected by early summer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (6,237 Responses)
  1. snowboarder

    I don't mind prayers at public events. I simply ignore them and continue on with my conversation.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      You should mind. It's another example of religions trying to force their way into eveyone's lives, like teaching intelligent design in schools. We have to vigilant against that.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:26 am |
      • snowboarder

        i am only talking about prayer at public events. injecting religion into school curricula is a total no no.

        I understand humans are supersti tious animals and some of them need that little bit of comforting feeling they get from the act of prayer.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • Science Works

        Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Texas publishers say NO to creationism/ID in NEW text books !

        November 3, 2013 at 9:58 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Yeah, I hear you, but they are already trying to rebrand it as something else. I can't recall what the new representation was supposed to be.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  2. r schier

    Sounds like two very dissatisfied middle aged females searching for a life.....

    November 3, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Or two women who care about the future of the country.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  3. longhauler

    with 90% of the country being christian why do we have to cater to the ignorant few

    November 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      90% of the country is not Christian. You should check the results of the Pew survey.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Praisethelard

      Let me correct that for you: "with 90% of the country being thoroughly brainwashed..."

      November 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  4. tom LI

    Its always sad-funny that when questioned, challenged, etc, Xtians resort to threats and too often violence against the disagreeing parties. Where's the Xtian tenets of peace love and compassion? Oh right, those are reserved ONLY for a few of their own kind...cause even among themselves they resort to the same aggressive tactics.

    As an Atheist I find these prayer-moments like the one in this case a tad silly and rarely find them offensive. I look at them as as I would someone making a wish and blowing away a stray eyelash, like any other silly ritual or folklore-ish attempts to get special attention from the "magical POWERS out there"...shows me how sad the people who insists on them truly are, that they think they can summon Divine powers whenever and wherever they please.

    Plus in places where politics are involved – even if I believed in a God, its very clear to me there is no Divine Being giving any of our elected or appointed officials any help whatsoever. No way if a God was intervening these dolts would be working against the very people their Xtian God demands they pay attention to...there would have had to been a few incidents of REAL POLITICAL ACTION that led to some real and effective change.

    So I say let these Theists pray all they want, and when their policies fail – end in more power abuses and of course on the local levels nepotism and graft – hold them and their God accountable! Lets start calling them on their alleged divine inspirations! Cause so far, the results su/ck! Their God ain't paying them any attention!

    November 3, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • LLK

      I agree! And it's the same when people pray at sporting events.....so is your god better than their god so that you will win and they won't? "Thank you for this touchdown" seriously??

      November 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  5. Terry

    It's been fun gang. I've enjoyed the arguments but I have to go and get ready for church. It's Sunday.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Enjoy the wasted day listening to someone lie to you!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • Terry

        Turns out I still have a little time. Just think truthprevails1, if you're right we'll never know; no harm, no foul. If I'm right, you'll find out you were wrong and then it'll be too late. I'll be sure and add you to my prayer list. Even if you think it's a waste of time.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:28 am |
        • Igaftr

          And Pascals Wager makes it's way here once again.
          Why aren't you just as afraid of Ra being angry with you for not believeing in the correct god? Your stance does not contain logic.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Pascals Wager and it fails.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  6. Bob

    So sick of atheists shoving their religion down everyone's throat, seriously that's what it is now. You want to believe in nothing fine but leave the rest of us alone already.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • truthprevails1

      What? Not seeing evidence for gos does not mean we hold no beliefs, we just happen to care that what we believe is based on evidence and updated facts, too bad what you believe in was written 2000 years ago and can be debunked.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Gosh, that's actually what we're saying!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • tom LI

      Oh like Xtians leave everyone else alone? American Xtians are the biggest perpetrators of shoving beliefs in others faces...they are the perfect example of exactly what Jesus told his followers NOT TO DO! Proselytize incessantly, judge and claim power of eternal sentencing over others!

      Plus when challenged American Xtians act like children who are being picked on! Because apparently American Xtians dont gain any maturity or ability to enter mature and reasonable debates with others when they SELF-Proclaim their salvation! Something goes hay-wire in the modern American Xtians ability to behave and act like a real and mature adult!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • magicpanties

      So sick of Christians shoving their religion down everyone's throat, seriously that's what it is now. You want to believe in imaginary beings fine but leave the rest of us alone already.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Jshank

      Bob, do you realize how silly you sound? Atheists have no religion. Atheists, by the very definition, don't believe in a divine power. So, how could an atheist be accused of shoving their beliefs down your throat? The fact that legislative prayer is sanctioned, is a violation of the establishment clause. Opening it to all religions, still endorses religion and discriminates against non-theists.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Billy

      IDid you just put atheist and religion in the same sentence? I'm not shoving anything down your throat sir, as I have nothing to shove. I don't have a problem with you and others saying your little wishes. I say little wishes too. It's just that I know my wishes are just that, wishes.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:27 am |
      • wayken

        well said.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:41 am |
      • justageek

        The poster means the armchair Atheists who keep shoving non-belief as hard as hard core Theists shove belief.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Diana

      Interesting – you feel atheists are "shoving their religion down everyone's throat" That is funny when you know that atheists don't have a religion. I go to a city sponsored Bingo night at the Senior Center and there is always someone praying to Jesus for the Pot Luck dinner we are about to eat, although I have sat next to a Jew, a Hindu and a Buddhist at one time or another. It is offensive to us that YOUR religion is shoved down our throats. By the way, study your religion instead of just your bible. You might be enlightened.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Treebeard

      So sick of Christians shoving their religion down everyone's throat......

      Fixed that for ya.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  7. Jim

    Geez, I wonder why anyone would mind if the people making decisions on our behalf ask for guidance from their imaginary friends?

    November 3, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • justageek

      So no right decisions can be made when someone does that? Pfft.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • BigBankTheory

        Well, it's hard to believe and lunatic that believes nonsense will make the right decisions.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:22 am |
        • justageek

          Hmmm. General Patton comes to mind. Crazy...but arguably the best general ever and without his right decisions this could very well be a whole different world and not for the better.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:25 am |
        • BigBankTheory

          The world needs to stand firmly behind the complete elimination of fraud called religion, educate people and set up new cultural values based entirely on solid reasoning and science.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
        • justageek

          Can't stick to the facts...can you? Have to go to a broad nonfactual statement. Pfft

          November 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • wakeup333

      Because when they do that in governmental bodies it violates the First Amendment forbidding government establishment of religion. There's no such thing as non-religious prayer. All prayer involves the belief in an imaginary, invisible listener. Government can't force that belief on rational people. What you believe in private is your own business. But government violates the First Amendment when it allows prayer in Congress, on our money, in our pledge and in state & municipal government houses.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:22 am |
      • justageek

        A that has a negative effect on you how exactly? You think that if it is not done a believer still won't take those beliefs into consideration when making a decision? Pfft.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:27 am |
        • wakeup333

          How does it bother me? It violates the First Amendment! I don't like watching Congress open with a preacher! I don't go to church, don't believe in invisible beings and don't want Congress preaching submission to invisible beings from the House that makes laws I must obey!

          November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
        • justageek

          OK. So that's how it bothers you. I get it. But I asked how does it affect you? Remove any mention of God from any Congress session and I guarantee you that everyone will still vote the same. The laws you must follow would still be the same.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:38 am |
        • wakeup333

          Rest assured I'll never vote for fundamentalist politicians! How does it affect me? Because it marginalizes non-believers in the political arena. It's free air time for medievals to propagandize on my dime! If that's allowed, non-believers should get equal time, every day, in both chambers of Congress! An atheist to follow a believer, each day, opening sessions!

          November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
        • justageek

          "non-believers should get equal time" – Ummm...they do. They can use their floor time for whatever they choose. Pfft.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:52 am |
        • wakeup333

          You dodged! Opening sessions is different from comments after business starts. Opening sessions speaks for the whole house. Comments later are by individuals. Preachers have no right to speak for the whole house, since that house represents the country's people, 1/5 of whom don't follow any organized faith!

          November 3, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  8. Ruby Russell

    I call myself a Spiritual person. I get shot down for being Black, Female, 57 years old, my views don't get any of the attention that the female Atheist is receiving. I believe in God and I do not force my religious beliefs on ANYONE! and I do practice treating ALL persons like I would like to be treated.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Good for you – we could use more of that in the world.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • BigBankTheory

      Inform yourself. Being dumb and happy is no excuse.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:13 am |
      • justageek

        Why are you so angry? Take the wrong pills today?

        November 3, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • BigBankTheory

          Why would you say that? I'm not angry, just to the point.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:17 am |
        • justageek

          Your point. That's my point. Someone is happy and not pushing an agenda on anyone and you want to belittle them??? Wrong dude...wrong.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:21 am |
        • BigBankTheory

          Like I said, it's expected that an intelligent human being will attempt to inform themselves of facts. Being dumb and ignorant is no excuse.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:25 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          @BigBankTheory – You should go on Youtube and watch the 2 minute video where Dr. Tyson rebukes Dr. Dawkins. See "Dawkins vs. Tyson." You'll learn something.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
        • justageek

          So all the smart folks who start out with a non factual theory...should really never do it because they may or may not be proven correct. Since you cannot disprove the existence of a God then perhaps a believer is still in the process of proving the theory. Is there a time limit? Should Einstein have stopped his famous theory after say 3 years? You speak as if you know for sure you have all the facts and that is a sign of ignorance.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Enough

      You seem to be a very nice person Ruby.

      And BigBankTheory you seem to have a lot of problems. You should consult a psy.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  9. BigBankTheory

    People, not being perfect, have a tough time getting things right using science. We definitely don't need the stupidity of religion added into the mix.

    http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

    November 3, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  10. PeopleAreLame

    I guess these sorts of pursuits are an inevitable backlash of life with little to no struggle. People always find some sort of nemesis. Atheists seem to be mostly "Anti-Christians" choosing to fight the more predictable foe. Animal rights activists do the same thing.. I would identify as an atheist if the majority of atheists weren't so obnoxious and misguided. I think I have the greatest respect for the agnostic... he doesn't propagate any brand of ignorance..he just doesn't know.. Admitting you don't know is the first step to admitting you don't care.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • BigBankTheory

      Standing up for what's obviously right is the way to be. That's moral.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      I identify as an atheist just to show that not all atheists are as you have noted.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Dave

      Most Agnostics are Atheists, the terms are not mutually exclusive. Theism/Atheism deals with what you believe, Agnosticism/Gnosticism deals with what you claim to know.

      Theism is the belief that a deity exists, whereas Atheism is the position taken by someone who does not have that belief. Atheism is not a position of certainty, it's a simple lack of Theistic belief.

      Someone could say they believe a God exists, but they can't know that for sure, and they would be an Agnostic Theist. However most people who identify as Agnostic do not have a solid belief a god exists, and therefore they are Agnostic Atheists.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:20 am |
      • justageek

        "Most Agnostics are Atheists, the terms are not mutually exclusive" – Not even close to being the same. Wow.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
        • G to the T

          Did you not understand the post? I'm an agnostic atheist – I don't believe it can be proven definitively (agnostic) but based on the available evidence, I have yet to be convinced that a god may exist (atheist).

          Some people claim agnosticism like it's some kind of superior position. Using "agnostic" without "atheist" just means you aren't willing to speak to what you actually believe about the avialble evidence (however conditional – and agnostic atheism is definitely conditional).

          November 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  11. Jim

    Religion is garbage and not one single form of religion has ever proved anything of that a being exists. Anyone that believes that stuff is just setting themselves up for a misdirected life and wasted all of their time bowing to a non-existent thing.

    Religion was created a long time ago by bored old men with nothing to do in the desert to try and control a population. Men were self righteous with big claims and not one of them could prove anything other then their obvious need for control.

    Religion has not helped this world, it has hurt it more then anything else that has ever formed on this planet.

    If you reply to this saying that there is a god, then prove it or you are just showing to all that you are ignorant.

    Also, welcome to the Jim Jones family, more flavoraid anyone?

    November 3, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Religion was established as a means by which, lacking education, people could have a means by which to live and to explain the world around them.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • Jim

        Yes, that was a part of it too, but didn't want to post all of the reasons.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:57 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Who knows, it may have helped the fairly uncivilized world of that time, but we have moved beyond that.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • SandyC

        Lacking education? Have you ever studied the era of the romans and greeks?

        November 3, 2013 at 9:04 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I don't understand your question.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Jim

          Epic fail.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:07 am |
        • Sara

          Yes, most people lacked education and the religions they had were carried over from humdreds of years before their cultural peak. Only 10-15 % of the population was literate in ancient Rome and Greece.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • SandyC

          Use your computer and google the greeks and romans and all that they have contributed to their time. They were not uneducated, they survived thousands of years and didn't have the technology we have and we have only had it less than 200 years and we have destroyed this place.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:20 am |
        • Enough

          I agree with you Sandy that we have destroyed this place in less than 200 years, and i'm afraid it will continue to be so. Sciences have put life and existence in dangers many times over. And it will again.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:31 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          If you are trying to say that those civilizations, with technology, would not have done the same amount of damage, I would have to strongly disagree. They were based on conquest and had far less understanding of pollution, poverty, crime, etc., than we do. Technology in itself can't harm, it's the willful ignorance of problems that causes suffering.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
        • Enough

          Not exactly, they didn't had chemical pollution that we have today. They also didn't had nuclear power and nuclear bombs what we have today. And they surely didn't had Labs that are playing russian roulettes with dangerous viruses. And let's not forget they didn't had cars that were polluting a lot.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • BigBankTheory

        People, not being perfect, have a tough time getting things right using science. We definitely don't need the stupidity of religion added into the mix.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:06 am |
        • Enough

          We will never get things right with science. Take computers for examples, they've been sold to the public since the late 70's. Now we created damage by computer being dumped with the all plastic and chemicals involved in dumping them. Paints have been dumped and it contained mercury and all kind of chemicals that are polluting. Same thing with oils and also with tires. The list is long and probably too long to names them all. We are polluting the oceans with all kind of materials and that's not counting how many oil cargo transporting oils that leaked or sank.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • SandyC

      Glad you were there to see the bored old men. Now we have the facts.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • Jim

        Glad you were there to see the burning bush, the blind man that could see, the sea part and so on. My theory has more facts in it, then yours does. The only turht in that book is that it has paper and ink on it. Nothing more.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Enough

          Jim, what would you know about truth?

          November 3, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • PeopleAreLame

          Well Jim, I'm not a religious man...so i can see the point you're attempting to make. People said Troy was a myth too.. People are often bold to make claims that things don't exist for the same reasons other people claim they do... Proof is hard to come by either way... Let's imagine a being, so intelligent it could create the world we know.. It would be like the characters of a cartoon having the information they needed to unmask the artist. Being certain of such an awe inspiring uncertainty, speculating about things you can't prove in the lab... well that's the kind of ignorance that created this thing you despise.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Mark

      Here here! When we get more people in government with the same view than, we as a race, can get on with life. We all, as children, eventually are told we have to stop believing in our invisible friends, yet some people never seem to get that far. People need to work together as a race, not a religion or country, if we are ever going to rise above our petty animal fears and differences. ~Thank You~

      November 3, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • dude

      You are misguided. Religion evolved beside society, they are intertwined. It is part of the human evolutionary experience. I suggest you read up about the Papua New Guinea pygmies – since they were up to 1950s the most isolated society. It is very evident when studying a closed culture, something without outside Western influence (circa pre 1950s) and then compare it to the West. There's a reason why the West advanced and that was private enterprise which is based on in part the Christian idea that people own themselves, not the govt nor their leader.

      disagree? name one society that evolved without religious customs. Go ahead. We'll wait.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  12. magicpanties

    Would they let me say a prayer from The Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn?
    I have some great prayers.

    UNICORNS 4:20
    "I am the weed and the smoke and the high life. No one bogarts that joint except through me."

    November 3, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • truthprevails1

      🙂 I think LL will like that. It does work better than the other stuff christians pray for.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:55 am |
      • SandyC

        Christians pray for people and their well being. Even ones that don't believe.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Yeah we get that and we also know that it is the lazy way of doing something when they're really not doing anything at all. Talking to ones self is a little crazy to begin with but when they do say it is to god they are speaking we call it religion.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Jim

      That is the funniest thing I have read all week! Very true too.

      I think I will designate a day to the pink unicorn, write a book and control people with my made up fantasies.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • Enough

        Why not, at least every atheists out there would buy it.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:58 am |
        • Charm Quark

          Enough
          Every person that does not believe or is not like me should be ________. Fill in the blank, be as honest as you can be now.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • Enough

          I don't need to fill the blank. Just read my comments, i'm honest and i speak my mind. I'm straight forward and have nothing to hide.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Dundone

      LMAO! That was truly funny!!!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • SandyC

      That is what makes our country great... you can pray to whom ever you like.... freedom of religion... have at it.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  13. PeopleAreLame

    Curious people, with questionable motives, fighting imaginary battles against things things that don't exist. Fascinating....

    November 3, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  14. D987654321

    The atheist doesn't stand a chance. Hell, there's a guy who reads prayers in Congress. "God" appears on our currency and was inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance. All of it violates the Establishment Clause and time after time, nothing happens to stop it.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • BigBankTheory

      Look at the gays. A little by little they kept at it, and now some consider them normal!

      November 3, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • Dwight SB

        Consider me one of the some. As Hitler routinely rounded up gays, you can rest assured in knowing that your views are also held by such elite company.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        The efforts of abolishionists are another example.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Change takes time. If a continuous, small force is applied, you can bend a cold glass rod into a pretzel. But it requires continuous force, continuous effort. Some change takes time – hundreds of years or longer. But the Pew research suggests people are becoming less religious as indicated by the growth of the "nones."

      November 3, 2013 at 8:44 am |
      • Enough

        Or the other party can get tired of it and start to ignore those complaints. That would be the end of atheism.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Indeed, that would be the end of democracy.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:54 am |
        • Charm Quark

          Enough
          It would be interesting to find out what religion you claim to have, are you willing to share? I am guessing something akin to the KKK more than a legitimate religious sect.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • Enough

          I have no problem telling you what my religion is. I have no religion, i just happen to believe in God and that's all. I follow no religion or any priests.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:18 am |
      • SandyC

        More than likely people think that God hands out stuff to people when they ask for it. Or maybe because we have a sick society of people killing and torturing each other without a care. Lets Blame God or believe He isn't real instead of saying we are a messed up bunch of people who only love money, power and fame. Lets blame people who believe in a creator who make our lives miserable. It's much easier that way. It is easier to say it's someone else fault than to say we screwed up.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • Enough

          Exactly my point.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Bruce McClure

      Maybe Congress needs a new chaplain, the one they have is not helping them get much divine guidance.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Sara

      Nothing happens until public sentiment changes, but that is precisely what is changing. Ellen, Qeer Eye and Willand Grace are what gave us gay rights, and the same will be true of non-Christian rights in this country. A couple of TV shows about non-theistic Buddhist and Unitarian families and people, even those living in Kansas, will start to get it. Most people just don't see any world that isn't landed in their livingroom.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:50 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        True. When people live cloistered lives of ignorance, how can they grow? Thank goodness for the internet.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • justageek

      "The atheist doesn't stand a chance" – A chance at what? All the Atheists I know in real life don't care what someone believes in and none feel imposed on during the course of a normal day. Only the armchair Atheists here wanting to try and mock someone from a keyboard seem to have imaginary issues that would magically disappear if everyone stopped having religious beliefs.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:50 am |
      • freefromtheism

        or it's possible that your atheist friends simply don't understand how people's beliefs have tangible impact on the world, so they think that it doesn't matter what people believe

        November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • Enough

        @JustAGeek

        You are the kind of atheist i like. I wish more atheist would be just like. Thumbs up.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • justageek

        I doubt it. I don't think they are that narrow minded to believe that. I'm pretty sure we all know that crazy people with power are just that. Crazy. The reason why is irrelevant at that point.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:02 am |
        • Enough

          Oh i totally agree with that.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:20 am |
      • SandyC

        And on sunday too....

        November 3, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  15. BigBankTheory

    The U.S. should not condone religion, any religion, as it is nothing but fraud that leads to sometimes violent, abhorrent behavior. As a nation, it's ridiculous to support fraud!

    That is enough to be ashamed of being an American!

    November 3, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • justageek

      Except that nagging little thing called 'freedom' (fraud as you equate it) prevents that. Move us to a police state first and then maybe it can be done.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  16. mleitzel42@hotmail.com

    As an agnostic, I don't care who worships what, where, when, why, how, or with whom!! If someone wants to bow down and pray to a car tire or erect an altar to a candy machine, I say let 'em. Why is it necessary to make it a formal part of the business at hand? This is a prime example of how I seem most religion in the first place. It's not enough that I practice it, I have to do it in a way that everyone sees it. WHY? The gov't isn't supposed to sanction any particular religious belief. How can we uphold that if we're constantly having it shoved in our face?

    November 3, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Are you and agnostic believer, or an agnostic non-believer? You sound like an agnostic atheist.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:40 am |
      • Sara

        Plenty of theists disagree with religion in the public sphere.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:51 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          True. They don't want someone else's brand of religion pushed upon them.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • Mattinator

        an Agnostic is neither Theist or Atheist. There is no "agnostic believer" or non-believer. An Agnostic see's a Christian and an Atheist in much the same way – BOTH have "concrete" beliefs with insufficient information to support their view.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • justageek

      Ahhh. Agnostic. Now there's a reasonable person. Atheists are no different than Theists. Both believe in something and want the other to believe. Crazy battle where neither side has enough ammo to win outright.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
      • Enough

        I totally agree with that.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  17. BigBankTheory

    Religiosity is a self-induced mental illness, just like drug addiction. Not much can be done until the affected people die off. Let's just make sure that our kids don't get the disease.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      I'm curious. Who do you think you are going to persuade with that argument?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:36 am |
      • BigBankTheory

        Sometimes the truth wins out!

        November 3, 2013 at 8:39 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          They why not just use the truth without the vitriol? Otherwise, your arguments appear sociopathic.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:41 am |
        • Enough

          Well that one surely won't.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:42 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Enough, Planting the seed, don't you know?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • Mike Juliet Whiskey

          Guess you won't be letting know how that turns out when your own light is extinguished since you'll just cease to exist. After the fact is too late and there are no mulligans.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:54 am |
        • Enough

          My response was for BigBankTheory

          November 3, 2013 at 9:03 am |
        • PeopleAreLame

          The scary thing is when someone's speculation turns into the "truth". The end result is millions of people waiting for the war of the worlds to kick off. Arrogance.... i believe that's the disease you're looking for.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  18. FreeFromTheism

    The double standard needs to end. People cannot force their religious practices on others. It's that simple.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Enough

      Paranoid much?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • SandyC

      How can they force something on you if you don't believe ? Why should people be forced not to believe?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • freefromtheism

        notice that I said "practices"

        November 3, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • Enough

        Well said Sandy.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • Mike Juliet Whiskey

        Perfect. Funny how the anti's only want things on their terms. Bring them down to reality. Their heads were like hot air balloons.

        November 3, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • freefromtheism

          the reality is that we have a separation of church and state and there is no good argument that anyone can offer to circu.mvent that

          November 3, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  19. oscar

    JOHN 14:6

    November 3, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Interesting. How do you feel about God destroying the infants and children in Sodom and Gomorra?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:37 am |
      • Enough

        How about the gay culture and the amount of drugs that are being consumed and which is destroying and killing kids these days? And also aids?

        November 3, 2013 at 8:45 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Drugs are everyone's problem. Aids came from monkeys and crossed over into humans. Who in their right mind looks to become infected or infect others?

          November 3, 2013 at 8:51 am |
        • Enough

          Agree, but gays are one of those drugs consumers. And for a group who keeps crying about equality, they have more problems created by themselves that they could start trying to fix rather than crying about religions for the time being.

          November 3, 2013 at 8:54 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I don't think you understand human se-xualtiy very well. Why would anyone choose a life style that would put them at odds with most of civilization and make it difficult for them to find a mate? It's not a choice, and it is natural.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • Enough

          I mostly agree with your views most of the time. But unfortunately not on the s e x u a l i t y choice they've made. There is a difference between being born in a way and having a s e x u a l perversion.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • patrick

      who the hell is john? what are you babbling about?

      November 3, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • magicpanties

      UNICORNS 4:20
      "I am the weed and the smoke and the high life. No one bogarts that joint except through me."

      November 3, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • Wasnt Mee

        Now I can remember that one. I'll have to check my bible for that gem. Is it in Revelations or maybe just a book that was conveniently left out. The Bazturds.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • SandyC

      They would rather believe there is no God and condone their every day lives and bad choices than to believe there will be repercussions for what they do.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:50 am |
      • Mike Juliet Whiskey

        Only God can change them. If they a rent receptive to His word they will continue to be deceived until the Judgment. Only then will they realize the error and magnitude of their own disbelief as they nash and wail.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:00 am |
        • Igaftr

          And you'll never get into Valhalla if you don't die in battle.
          Also, aren't you afraid that Ra will punish you for worshipping the wrong god?

          November 3, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • Dawn

          Religion -Fairy tales for adults.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:22 am |
      • Igaftr

        Incorrect.
        Atheists would generally like to know what is, not what others think is.
        To many of us, who have been not just exposed to religion, but had religions forced on us at an early age, we figured out that the bible is full of falsehoods, contradictions and impossibilities.
        We would rather admit we do not know, than claim to know when you cannot possibly. Religions make up stuff...most atheist reject unfounded claims and will accept what we ACTUALLY know, not what someone years ago told them to believe.
        You have much to learn about what atheists actually believe.
        First...we do not believe any of the gods men have defined are real, secondly...that's it as far as atheism. EVERYTHING after that, is the belief of the individual and lumping all atheists in any catagory after that is ill fitting.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:07 am |
      • SandyC

        lgaftr- cultures use different names to worship God and refer to heaven. Valhala (sp) was a vikings for heaven. I don't know where i am going when i die, Am i worthy? who knows, But that does not stop me from my religion and unless asked i don't "push" my religion on anyone. BUT i will defend God to anyone. Ra was the sun god, and was replaced by God as we know.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
        • Igaftr

          There are thousands of gods...are you suggesting that they are all the same god?
          Even the god that your Jesus character was based on, that also is your one god?
          It is far more likely that all gods were created by men, that any definition of any god is insifficient, and that none of mens defined gods is what is actually there. Men like to put their human characteristics into their definition of a god, snetient, emotional and especially ego...the christian god must have a huge ego that he requires all to worship him, and in the correct way, yet there are over 40,000 christian sects, all who think they are worshipping the "right" way. Which one is correct?...likely none, by the laws of probability.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  20. DaveR

    Please name a few of the very religious people who founded this country. I have not heard of them. I have heard lies about George Washington praying on his knees. From what I have been able to gather the Founders were pragmatists more than Baptists and very skeptical of the Supernatural.

    November 3, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • BigBankTheory

      Who cares? In the end, it doesn't matter at all what they believed.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:32 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43
Advertisement
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.