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Why Vermont is not Godless
Only 22% of Vermonters polled called themselves "very religious." But Jay Parini says many in his state are still spiritual seekers.
March 19th, 2014
08:31 AM ET

Why Vermont is not Godless

Editor's note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College. He has just published "Jesus: the Human Face of God," a biography of Jesus.

(CNN) - Once again a new Gallup Poll has reported that Vermont is the least religious state in the country, with only 22% of the people willing to call themselves "very religious." On the other side of the poll, there is Mississippi, where a whopping 61% of citizens lay claim to that self-description. But what does it really mean to be "very religious" and not just spiritual?

I've been living in Vermont for much of my adult life, adding up to nearly four decades. And I've been keenly interested in the question of religion, having written a biography of Jesus and practiced Christianity as best I can for much of my life. I've also traveled in the South quite often, and understand where that 61% comes from: Not long ago I drove across Mississippi, and I couldn't find a secular radio station on the dial. It was all preachers, all sounding alike. Repent, repent, repent. Billboards everywhere shouted religious slogans. It seemed there was a church on every street corner in every town I passed through.

So what's going on here? Do Mississippians have a direct line to the divine? Don't the majority of people of Vermont also have an interest in religion or belief in God? Is this why Vermont was the first state in the union to allow for civil unions? And does secularism run rampant here?

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Opinion • United States

soundoff (403 Responses)
  1. new-man

    1 Cor. 1:18-

    There is earthly wisdom, and there is Godly, spiritual BINAH wisdom. All Paul is saying is that the world (worldly – lust after the eye, the flesh, and pride of life) even through its earthly wisdom does not know God.

    why – "for the Jews request a sign & the Greeks seek after (earthly) wisdom.
    However, we preach Christ crucified – which to the Jew is a stumbling block & to the Greeks it's foolishness.

    But, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, and the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men.

    March 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
    • igaftr

      "But, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, and the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men."

      That's funny since your foolish god was created by even more foolish and ignorant men, and everything you imagine about god is real (in your mind) since it is all imaginary anyway.

      March 20, 2014 at 8:46 am |
  2. Theo Phileo

    Man, through his own wisdom cannot come to know God – therefore anyone who says something like they are “spiritual but not religious” are truly neither one… (See 1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

    March 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      Thank goodness for the rest of us that you don't do our thinking for us.

      March 19, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
    • igaftr

      That's because it is not wise to believe in things there is no evidence for.
      see reality.

      March 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      Philo, no philo you don't get to make the rules about who is or is not religious or spiritual, thats' between the person and God.

      March 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
      • Theo Phileo

        I know I don't make the rules, God does. That's why I listed a reference.

        March 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • Doris

          Can you demonstrate that the reference is the word of your god, Theo?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          Like many christians, I believe you are confusing the word of god with the words of Paul.

          Just try this sometime – approach a theological issue and DON'T quote anything after the 4 gospels. See how far you get...

          March 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          the0g0to0the0t,
          So are you saying that Paul's letters in the canon are not inspired writing?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          Doris,
          Yes, the Pauline epistles are well established as canonical and inspired text. Furthermore, Peter authenticated Paul's writings in 2 Peter 3:15-16. But I'm guessing that's not what you meant.

          If you want the clouds to part, and God to say "Yes, that is my word," sorry, that's probably not going to happen for you now.

          March 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • Doris

          What exactly do you mean by "inspired", Theo?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • Doris

          For instance, Theo – I think the guy that sells Miracle Spring Water late at night on TV feels "inspired". Should be believe his water will bring us wealth?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
        • Doris

          But see, Theo, you've already gone pretty far with your claim by insinuating that Paul knew what God's rules are. That's, I think, what we're after here. How did you determine Paul was correct?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          "Inspired" is the word "theopneustos." Literally that means "God-breathed."

          John 16:12-15 – “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

          This statement, given by Jesus to His Apostles, affirms to them who would become the writers of the New Covenant that He will bring to remembrance all that Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry

          The apostles were God's instrument through which He would communicate the New Covenant.

           Let’s say there is a brilliant potter who makes absolutely beautiful jars and vases out of clay. You look at the finished product and just marvel at the intricacy and detail contained within the finished design. Then you look at the clay that he uses to make the pottery from. It was simply dug up out of his own back yard and there is absolutely nothing beautiful about it; it has no form, no function, it is dirty, filled with stones, there are worms crawling around in it. And yet the potter is still able to take this rough material and turn it into something beautiful out of his own design, and specifically for his own purpose. It is still the same dirt that was dug out of his back yard, but solely due to the master’s hand, it now has form, function, and beauty. You wouldn’t say that the pottery came from the dirt. No, the pottery came from the master, he merely used the dirt to make the pottery.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
        • Doris

          Well that's all fine and dandy, Theo, but it's all just part of the story. Is there anything close to consensus on who authored John, Theo?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          Doris,
          The early church father Irenaeus (130-200AD) was a disciple of Polycarp (70-160AD), who was a disciple of the Apostle John, and he testified on Polycarp's authority that John wrote the gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia Minor when he was advanced in age.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
        • Doris

          I'm hearing a bunch of hearsay suddenly, Theo. Exactly how do we know that Polycarp was a disciple of John? Because someone later claimed it so? How do we really know?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • Rynomite

          Why hasn't god inspired anyone to write any more message over the last 2000 years?

          Oh wait. He just told me the entire Bible is garbage written for political purpose. Furthermore He says to be nice to each other and to help each other. He also says there is no Hell, but mean people have to do all the chores in the afterlife.

          WOAH! I cannot believe that just happened! God just spoke through me!!! I was divinely inspired. And NOW you have my testament! Please provide evidence that my testament is less valid than Paul's. I dare you.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
        • ausphor

          All hail, the Apostle Rynomite and his epiphany, All hail. You didn't have a plane ticket to Damascus, per chance?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
        • Rynomite

          Ahh brother Ausphor, I see you have born witness to my testimony! Please go forth and spread the good news! Then I can one up Jesus by having one more contemporary writing about my testimony than he did!

          March 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
        • ausphor

          I grovel before you and heed your teachings, are you OK for cash?

          March 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • joey3467

          At least a couple of Paul's writings in the Bible are thought to not have even been written by Paul, so no I would say they are not inspired.

          March 20, 2014 at 10:07 am |
    • Doris

      Why pay any attention Paul? You may as well follow Joseph Smith as follow the motor-mouthed Saul of Tarsus. Do you have anything to plug up all the holes in that story? Can you really tell us who authored the writings that would support Paul's claims? What else is there outside of some hearsay "historians"?

      March 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        Couldn't have said it better. I'm constantly amazed at the amount of faith people have in Paul.

        March 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
      • Theo Phileo

        Paul authored the letters to Corinth. His authorship of the letters cannot seriously be questioned. Pauline authorship has been iniversally accepted by the church since the 1st century when 1 Corinthians was penned. Internally, the apostle claimed to have written the epistle (1:1, 13, 3:4-6, 4:15, 16:21). Externally, this correspondence has been acknowledged as genuine since 95AD by Clement of Rome, who was writing to the Corinthian church. Other early Christian leaders who authenticated Paul as author include Ignatius (110AD), Polycarp (135AD), and Terrullian (200AD).

        March 19, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          Think you missed the point there Theo. The contention wasn't whether or not Paul wrote Corinthians (that's a separate issue). The question was why listen to Paul at all?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • Doris

          Theo: "Paul authored the letters to Corinth."

          Oh – no that isn't what I was questioning, Theo. I'll repeat with some clarification:

          Do you have anything to plug up all the holes in that story [of Jesus' divinity that Paul professes]? Can you really tell us who authored the writings that would support Paul's claims [the Gospels and Peter, for instance]? What else is there outside of some hearsay "historians"?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          "Do you have anything to plug up all the holes in that story [of Jesus' divinity that Paul professes]?"
          ---------–
          Not sure what "holes" you are referring to.

          "Can you really tell us who authored the writings that would support Paul's claims [the Gospels and Peter, for instance]? What else is there outside of some hearsay "historians"?"
          ------------
          Peter was written by Peter... We can see that in the opening verses. We can also see that in internal evidences such as the definite resemblances to his messages in the book of Acts. (See 1 Peter 2:7-8, Acts 4:10-11) and (1 Peter 1:17, Acts 10:34). And there are many other similarities in that regard. It is also noteworthy that the early Christians universally recognized this letter as the work of Peter.

          As to the others... Do you really want me to get into seminary 101?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
        • Doris

          It is not agreed that Peter was authored by Peter.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • Doris

          "early Christians universally recognized"

          Early Christians wrote some interesting things that should cause one to stop and think.

          What about diabolic mimicry that Justin Martyr wrote about – what do you think about that, Theo?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          Doris,
          Nimrod (the great grandson of Noah, and founder of Babylon) was well aquainted with the accounts of creation, and knew who the true God was, and his promise of the one who would "crush the serpent's head." But Nimrod rebelled, and he began a slew of pagan ideas collectively known as the "Babylonian Mystery Religions." All of them contained some ideas of the truth, since that was what he was most familiar with. When the Tower of Babel fell, and all the people were scattered, they took their pagan beliefs with them, and embelished them.

          That is why pagan religions contain some similarities to the Bible account, even though they may predate it's writing.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • Doris

          Well that's all very interesting, Theo, but I wouldn't consider much of that likely to be real history. But regarding the "diabolic mimicry", what's interesting isn't so much the evidence against fables similar to the Gospels, but rather the reaction from the early apologists. Wouldn't you think Martyr and the other early Christian apologists would be able to come up with a better excuse to refute earlier stories similar to the Gospels than to say that Satan had performed plagiarism in reverse time order? That just sounds REALLY fishy to me...

          March 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          "That just sounds REALLY fishy to me..."
          ---------
          Well, I can't speak for Martyr as to why he chose the wording that he did, but if the wording bothers you, call it a chicken. It is the intent that is important in this case. And the intent was truthful enough in that where the falsehood started (Nimrod) there was knowledge of the truth, so in paganism, there is some semblance of the true gospel, but only enough to be deceiving.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
        • Doris

          Evidently there were a number of similar stories floating around. And it wasn't just Martyr that refuted them that was – there were several early apologists that used that excuse. Nothing like scaring common folk into buying into something as illogical as that as the threat of Satan's involvement...

          March 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
        • fintronics

          Theo talks about mythology as if it were real........ pure comedy...

          I agree that fiction can be fun.....

          March 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
        • Doris

          (refuted them that way ...)

          March 19, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
        • ausphor

          It amazes me that major university still have a Doctor of Divinity degree and yet there is not even a Masters degree in shovelling bull sh!t.

          March 19, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • Alias

      If that's true, then anyone who is not given a bible will burn in hell for eternity.
      More than half of everyone who ever lived will be condemned by your loving, fair, just god.

      March 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      @Theo Phileo,
      You say Paul was authenticated by 2 Peter and then validate Peter by 1 Peter, but who autenticates 2 Peter?

      March 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
      • Rynomite

        I believe Jenna Jameson has authenticated 2 peter.

        March 19, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
        • Anthony Crispino

          I think you may be right about that. I'll have to ask my wife's groin doctor if that's really on the up-and-up.

          March 19, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
  3. Salero21

    Whaaat!!! That he wrote a "biography" of Jesus!! :-D :-D :-D JAJAJA... oops... I meant HAHAHA. Man oh man what an air head, give me a break!! Some people really have some gall to say things like that. My tummy hurts of so much laughter. Is he trying to have me die of laughter? Somebody call 911 please I'm dying!! :-P

    He must be an idolater from the RCC. See, because of all of this non-sense in this Blog, is why I must keep saying that Idolatry like atheism and evolutionism are all Total stupidity. Nothing to learn about Jesus here either. Nothing to learn really about Vermont, you'll learn more in Google Street View.

    March 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      nuts

      March 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
      • Salero21

        :-P :-P Idolatry like atheism and evolutionism is Total stupidity. The Bible says so!! ;-)

        March 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          Where does the bible say that evolution is stupid? Where does it lay out the evidence of the man made fully-formed from mud and a woman made fully-formed from the rib of that man? The bible makes no sense. Unless you have any evidence you're not really making any substantive point.

          March 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
        • Salero21

          If you trust in Santa (Satan), why not you go to his place and ask him?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          Santa is Satan? And you have nothing to back up your nonsense.

          March 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • Salero21

          Do you have anything to disprove refute what I said? Not a claim BTW! Can your read above 4th. grade level?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • fintronics

          Salero, does mommy know you're using her computer?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
        • sam stone

          Come on, Salero, one click from the old 12 gauge and you could be on your knees, pleasing the savior in very lewinsky way....don't hesitate

          March 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
    • Akira

      Why would you say that? How is he wrong for writing a book about Jesus?

      March 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • Salero21

        Can you read above 4th grade level?

        March 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          "4th grade level"

          Can you? Or is your only defense to lapse into name calling like some kid on the playground?

          You NEVER actually say what problem you have with him writing a biography about Jesus. So how about it?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
        • fintronics

          Can you think above the 4th grade level?

          March 19, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
        • Akira

          If one wants to be technical about it, the Gospels can be defined as biographies about Jesus.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      there's a troll called Salero21
      who raved about a god and his son
      with his arguments blurred
      and his logic absurd
      verbal diarrhea from his chin it did run

      March 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    A large percentage of Christians are in it as a social club. In their hearts they know there's probably not a god or jesus and that the bible is really just a bronze age story book, but they identify themselves as Christians because all their friends and family do and because they can socialize at church. They know that admitting to non-belief would see them ostracized by family and friends as is typical in cults like christianity.

    March 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
    • Salero21

      Well like my old man used to say; "You have to take what is being said according to who is talking.". The fact that atheists are extremely hypocritical, compulsive and pathological liars and that atheism is Total stupidity just gives me an idea how to take what dyslexicdog said.

      March 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        and we all know where you take it ...

        March 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • Salero21

          You all know? :-D

          March 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
      • fintronics

        Oh Salero, you pathetic troll..... you must enjoy people laughing at you.

        March 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yes, I think this is borne out in the data.

      56.4% of Vermonters identify as "not religious".
      23.1% of Vermonters identify as having "no religious preference".

      That leaves about 31.3% of Vermonters who identify with an organized religion, Protestant, Catholic, or whatever, but do not consider themselves to be at all religious. When these people attend church one has to assume that for many of them is just for social or customary reasons, and not related in any way to faith.

      March 19, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
  5. unsername1

    Churches are becoming Godless, not Vermont is going down or Mississippi is going up. Churches are controlled by banks, lawyers, and insurance companies.

    March 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • Salero21

      Really!! OMG, OMG, many lawyers are Jewish, many Banks and Insurance companies are also controlled by Jews, Jesus was a Jew!! OMG OMG the first church was mostly jewish OMG :-P

      March 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • Salero21

      Many american evangelicals/conservatives/protestants claim to be Judeo-Christians!! Which is a very big claim/pretense. OMG that's why they take Saturdays and Sundays off. ;-)

      March 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  6. Vic

    I also would like to note that there is a common misconception about the "non-religious." Non-religious DOES NOT mean 'non-believing.' There are so many people who are non-religious yet Christian believers.

    March 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      Then I would say we disagree on the defintion of "religious".

      March 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • ausphor

      Vic
      Explain please. I assume that people have to get knowledge from the Christian religions tome the bible in order to declare themselves Christian. So I think it behoves you to describe what you mean by a non religious Christian?

      March 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • Vic

      A Christian is one who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation is by the Grace of God through Faith ALONE in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

      Now, whatever the Christian observes from the Law is up to him AND IS NOT required to be a Christian, AND IS NOT required to be saved. To some, it is even a 'fall form Grace' to seek or associate the works of the Law for redemption.

      Now, whatever good the Christian believer does in general, and not for seeking self-redemption, is but the fruit of Faith by the Power of the Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit baptizes and indwells the Christian believer upon acceptance of/belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

      Jesus Christ's "Ultimate Sacrifice" is BUT ONE AND FOR ALL.

      There is one thing the Christian believer can pursue, however, that is the rewards that are granted at the "Judgement Seat of Christ." It is imperative to discern that those rewards are NOT related to Salvation. Salvation is but a "Free Gift," an "Unmerited Favor."

      March 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
      • ausphor

        If you learn all you have said above from a "religious" book the bible how can you discard the term religious? You are declaring that you are a believer but are also non religious that is not logical. Under your proposition there are not just 41,000 Christian religious sects but each person can have their own version of Christianity.

        March 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • Vic

          Belief/Faith and Religion definitions have evolved. They are not the same anymore.

          Christianity is FAITH (BELIEF) in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as opposed to Religion (Mosaic/other Law.)

          March 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
        • ausphor

          Vic
          According to you, have you made up your own dictionary to go along with your beliefs, how convenient, how apologetic. I don't suppose you would like to post these new definitions with a reference or two to an accredited dictionary.

          March 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
        • ausphor

          Vic
          No response, pity. Even if the definitions have changed that would not be remarkable since the word of "God" has changed so often over the millennium.

          March 19, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      Vic, do you mean believers but not church goers?

      March 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
      • Vic

        Non-Law observers.

        March 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
        • Akira

          So one MUST attend a church if they believe?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  7. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    A couple of other observations.

    Firstly regarding the heading: "Why Vermont is not Godless". This heading may not be attributable to the author. We have seen the belief blog editors make snappier headlines than the authors would have originally proposed.

    But even if we go with it, this question cannot be answered with survey data on religiosity. Low religiosity in Vermont certainly suggests higher levels of disbelief, but what it materially says is that Vermonters care less about organized religion than the rest of the US, a point which is consistent with the author's position.

    The Godlessness question can only be addressed by survey data that contain answers to the question "Do you believe in God?" which is a question that most of these surveys seem to avoid.

    Answers to the question "Do you believe in God" will be different to answers to questions like "Do you self-identify as an atheist?" for various mostly emotional reasons.

    March 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      It is largely clustered in Deism country.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
  8. Central Scrutinizer

    Some lyrics from my upcoming musical, "The Book of Something"

    ~~

    We are atheists
    Take it from me we’re atheists
    Blogging the words you are needing to hear!

    We are atheists
    We fix the Christians, atheists
    So grab your laptop, and lose your fear!

    Atheists
    Atheists
    Atheists here to help the religious see…

    Atheists
    Atheists
    Atheists, believe in nothing, that’s the key...

    We are atheists
    Typing and fighting, atheists
    It’s time to come out and let them see!

    We are atheists
    Smarter than you are atheists
    A-the-is-m is the new Chi….so follow me!

    Yeah follow me!
    (Atheists)

    Yeah follow me!
    (Atheists)

    Yeah follow me!
    (Atheists)

    Yeah follow…me…

    March 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
    • fintronics

      The "Central Scrutinizer" is a character from a Frank Zappa song..... here's a quote from Zappa;

      "My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can."
      - Frank Zappa

      March 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
      • Central Scrutinizer

        Yes I love and miss Frank. Saw him in 1979, great show!!

        March 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
  9. lookatuniverse

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.” Quran [17:70]

    “O children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among you, and recite My revelations to you, those who take heed and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” Quran [7:35]

    “O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe.” Quran [7:27]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    March 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      Your post has nothing to do with the topic and ends in an ad for a website. You do your beliefs no justice by violating the terms of service on this blog.

      Please go away and come back when you actually have something pertient to say.

      March 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
  10. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    I liked this article, though I would look at the data slightly differently.

    The author states:
    Once again a new Gallup Poll has reported that Vermont is the least religious state in the country, with only 22% of the people willing to call themselves "very religious."

    This is accurate, and if you determine the "least religious state" by the highest percentage of people who are willing to call themselves "not religious", Vermont comes in at 56.4% with other New England states close behind.

    Curiously though, Oregon edges out Vermont on the question of religious preference with 27.3% of Oregonians expressing no-religious preference compared with 25.3% of Vermonters.

    That tells me that 31.1% of Vermonters do have a religious affilliation, but do not consider themselves religious. It doesn't say anything really about belief or disbelief, but it does say that a lot of Vermonters distance themselves from organized religion.

    Spot checking data, it seems consistent that the numbers of people who answer "not religious" to the religiosity question is higher than the number of people who answer "none" on the religious preference question.

    March 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
  11. Bootyfunk

    "And does secularism run rampant here?"
    +++ can you just imagine secularism running rampant? sure sounds scary, people making logical decisions and all...

    March 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • igaftr

      oh my... secularism running rampant...we can't have all these people living in the real world, now can we?

      March 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
    • ausphor

      Booty
      Secularism running amuck, such as a politician running for office and declaring they are a non believer and, gasp, actually winning.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
      • midwest rail

        He ran amok, but he ran a good mok.

        March 19, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • Akira

      "Godzilla!"

      March 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • Rynomite

      That sounds horrible! How else would us rich people be able to manipulate the poor into voting for us?

      March 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
  12. Central Scrutinizer

    What is the difference between “religious” and “very religious”?

    March 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
    • Alias

      I think there is a god vs. I know there is a god and you're a fool if you don't?

      March 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
      • Central Scrutinizer

        I don't see a difference there. "I think there is a god" "I know there is a god" "I believe there is a god" "My heart tells me there is a god" Sounds all the same.

        March 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
        • ausphor

          CS
          How about, easily duped and very easily duped.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • the0g0to0the0t

          I see them as different levels of certainty:

          Believe = fairly certain.
          Think = pretty certain.
          Know = completely certain.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • Central Scrutinizer

          I suppose if I compare it with: "weird" vs. "VERY weird" I can understand it better.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The alternatives in the Gallup survey question on religiosity are "not religious", "somewhat religious" and "very religious".

      The results to the survey are not surprising and they have evident political correlations. The states reporting high religiosity are southern "red" states and the states reporting low religiosity are mostly "blue" states.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Religiosity is a different question from "Do you believe in God?"

      Which is essentially the author's whole point in the story.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
      • Central Scrutinizer

        That is not how I took it due to the questions in the poll he is writing about.

        March 19, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        The author construes that while Vermonters may not be very religious, they are still spiritual seekers. He presents no hard data to support this claim.

        It may be true, but it needs data to support it.

        Far better to use a survey that asks the question "Do you believe in God?"

        March 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • fintronics

      What is the difference between "christian" and "true christian" we certainly see that all the time.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
      • joey3467

        Whether or not the other person believes exactly what they believe.

        March 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  13. new-man

    Mr. Parini,

    My take on this is, first off why would anyone want to call themselves "very religious," especially if the person is a believer. Jesus was never religious and in fact we've seen time and again his harshest criticisms were directed at those who deemed themselves "very religious" – those who knew the word, but not The Word.

    The reality is that been "very religious" has very little to no bearing on whether one knows YHWH and cultivates a relationship with Him.
    As Kris V. would say: religion is what's left when the Holy Spirit has left "the building".

    So the fact that only 22% of Vermonters label themselves as "very religious" actually says nothing regarding their walk/relationship with YHWH, and like you, I would not conclude from this poll that they are godless.

    March 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • Alias

      Your first mistake is not seeing that you do not think like most people. Just because you don't like the 'very religious' answer does not mean other people generally share your opinion.
      2nd mistake – Jesus was a Rabbi. How could you say he was not very religious?
      3rd obvious error, christianity is not the only religion.

      March 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
      • ausphor

        Well newman sees himself as being special, far better than his fellow Christians, and far far better than a non believer. Of course newman maintains he loves us all even though he may diss us from time to time.

        March 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      newman, are you religious?

      March 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
      • new-man

        I am in-Christ.

        March 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
        • fintronics

          I am in Suzy,

          March 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
        • Alias

          So we are supposed to believe you are jesus are an item?

          March 19, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This question is not relevant to the author, but Gallup.

      Gallup is interested in religiosity. They ask people to describe how religious they are with three alternative answers:
      not religious, somewhat religious, or very religious.

      They have been tracking responses to these questions longitudinally since 2008.

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/167267/mississippi-religious-vermont-least-religious-state.aspx

      This is different from asking the question "Do you believe in God?"

      Someone may indeed believe in some kind of God, but not consider themselves religious and accurately answer "not religious".

      The people who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious" are a big part of the "nones" (being people who are not affilliated with a particular religion). It is even possible for some regular church-goers to consider themselves as "not religious" if their church attendance is for other reasons like social reasons.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • ausphor

        ...GOPer...
        newman has taken it upon himself to dictate what is religious, be patient with him, he is a force onto himself.

        March 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • new-man

        GOPer:
        well said.
        thank you.

        March 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
  14. the0g0to0the0t

    I think there's a common misconception that one must be a dualist to be "spiritual". Even the author assumes the "spirit" as his starting point and yet defines spiritual as "pondering the big questions", which should include the question of whether there is a "spirit" at all. By his definition, I would definitely be a "spiritual" person, but I don't believe the "spirit" exists (as commonly defined).

    March 19, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Spiritual" is such a poorly defined word as to be essentually meaningless.

      March 19, 2014 at 11:45 am |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        Agreed – though I do think "concerned with the big questions in life" is a pretty good approximation of what I mean by spiritual. More of a philosophical outlook than a religious one.

        March 19, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I understand what you mean because you were specific. But ask 10 people and we will likely get 10 very different definitions. It is typically defined personally. Definitions are useful only to the point that we can agree what words mean.

          March 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
  15. Alias

    Religion is a big part of the southern culture.
    As the article said, billboards, preachers dominating the media, etc.
    It is going to take a while before religion actually fades away in areas where you will be shunned for not conforming to the christian status quo, but that day is coming. Many people find comfort in their fantasies when reality sucks. It is not coincidence that the part of the country with the most poverty and least education is the most religious.

    March 19, 2014 at 10:51 am |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      I lived down Biloxi way for a little over a year. Could not WAIT to get out of that dive.

      March 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance
    – deGràsse Tyson

    March 19, 2014 at 10:47 am |
    • Russ

      @ Dyslexic: so how does science define good & evil?

      March 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
      • Alias

        Subjective man made terms.
        Just like good and bad.

        March 19, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias:
          1) now you're not talking about science. it does not operate with "subjectivity."

          DeGrasse might as well openly admit he doesn't delineate between science & philosophy, but it is a failure to recognize that he is doing naturalism rather than science – something science painstakingly avoids doing (methodological vs. philosophical naturalism).

          2) are you prepared to follow thru the implications of that philosophical (again, not scientific) claim? do you regard pedophilia, r.a.pe, genocide, racism & the like as merely "subjective" evils that could just as easily be 'good'?

          March 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
        • Alias

          You're an idiot.
          I didn't say science applied those terms to its methodology. You could, however, have good or bad results from an experiment.

          I never said everything was 100% totally subjective. Try reading what was posted and not reading whatever you want to argue into it.

          March 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "do you regard pedophilia, r.a.pe, genocide, racism & the like as merely "subjective" evils that could just as easily be 'good'?"

          I certainly don't but your Bible does.

          March 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias:
          you said: "Try reading what was posted and not reading whatever you want to argue into it."
          i was giving you the benefit of the doubt that your position was consistent. you have greater problems with the position you are now advocating.

          1) deGrasse is claiming science is *replacing* religion. that includes morality.
          but science *cannot* speak to morality by definition (since it *presupposes* it).

          you seem to want to seamlessly pass back & forth, but it doesn't admit there are different categories here.
          regardless, a metaphysical "good/bad" is not altogether different that a scientific result being "good/bad." it still begs the question: what is the plumb line by which such measures are appraised? especially if we add your qualifications & ask it *subjectively*...

          2) you said: "I never said everything was 100% totally subjective."
          yet you said before about good & evil: "Subjective man made terms. Just like good and bad."

          good & evil are *categorical* terms. you can't have it both ways.

          either you are purposefully making a metaphysical appeal (conflating the two) or you aren't aware that such categories logically *require* the appeal – and that's why you are making a critique that equally applies to your own position.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Russ,

          Is genocide always wrong?

          March 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
        • fintronics

          @russ... "1) deGrasse is claiming science is *replacing* religion. that includes morality."

          That would assume that morality requires religion which is absolutely not the case.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • joey3467

          Exactly if morals aren't subjective and you think the Holocaust was immoral than any time god ordered genocide in the Bible would also have to be immoral. Otherwise morality is actually subjective.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
        • Alias

          @Russ
          You should possibly google the terms 'noun', 'adjective', and 'adverb'.
          Good, bad, and evil describe things, they are not 'nouns'. They do not exist as 'nouns'.

          Religion does not include morality. You may base your morality on what your religion teaches, but that does not make it an absolute.

          Good & evil are NOT *categorical* terms. It can be good, bad, or evil to kill. It depends on the situation, the method, and the intentions. There is no absolute here.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
        • Doris

          If theists are incorrect, then it seems reasonable to think that their source and usage of "morality" is the same as for non-theists. That is, by subjective means. In other words, if they are incorrect, they think there is objectivity when really their source is misunderstood and they apply their moral judgment the same as everyone else – from themselves individually and in various social groupings (where there is no difference between a religious person or sect and some other grouping in society in how a moral concept is interpreted and applied).

          So, as others have pointed out time and again, for theists to be correct on this issue (and on free will, etc.), they need to reasonably demonstrate the source of such divine "truth" for their "truth" rules to be seriously considered by others.

          I would contend that the difference in interpretation pertaining to various moral judgment is, in itself, a sign that the basis for any Abrahamic belief is faulty. For Christianity especially, where the evidence at its foundation is so poor, the obvious conflict over moral particulars just makes the fishy smell even fishier.

          Prove that God first, then let's talk about his alleged wishes if someone can even come up with a straight answer in that regard. Pull out this alleged mountain of evidence supposedly supporting Saul and his buddy Luke and let's see if you can fill in any of the holes.

          March 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
        • Rynomite

          I'm curious. The religious assert God is the source of morals and good and evil. For a moment, let's pretend that there was actually proof that god did not exist so overwhelming that even the most rabid fundamentalist had to accept it. In that scenario, how would you religious live your lives differently? Would you suddenly start killing, maiming, robbing, & raping? Or would you still try and be good, kind people? (Don't answer that no such proof would never happen as that is a cop out for the hypothetical.)

          March 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          @Russ,
          Tyson is not saying that science is replacing God, he simply saying that if one's evidence for God's existence is those things which we cannot explain, THEN that God is a ever receding pocket of ignorance.

          March 19, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
        • Russ

          @ cheesemakers & joey:
          regarding the question of biblical genocide...
          http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/02/13/how-could-god-command-genocide-in-the-old-testament-2/

          March 19, 2014 at 10:14 pm |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:
          you said: "That would assume that morality requires religion which is absolutely not the case."

          no, while I could argue the opposite of your point here, that was not my point.
          does anyone (theist or non) think theists' morality is not dictated by their metaphysics?
          deGrasse is claiming science replaces that.

          again, does science dictate and/or decide good & evil?
          deGrasse's statement is claiming EITHER:
          a) science *already* decides morality
          b) science is replacing theistic morality

          problem: science necessarily cannot speak to morality.

          March 19, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Alias:
          1) you said: "Good, bad, and evil describe things, they are not 'nouns'. They do not exist as 'nouns'."
          this is demonstrably untrue grammatically, literarily, philosophically, theologically, etc.

          2) you said: "Religion does not include morality. You may base your morality on what your religion teaches, but that does not make it an absolute."

          metaphysics dictates morality – regardless of one's particular brand (naturalism, theism, etc.).

          3) you said: "Good & evil are NOT *categorical* terms."
          philosophically & theologically – yes, they are. again, this begs the underlying metaphysical question.

          4) you said: "There is no absolute here."
          this is ostensibly self-refuting. either your statement is *itself* an absolute (making it self-contradictory) or it is wrong.

          March 19, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Doris:
          1) your entire premise here doesn't address the issue that naturalism itself believes there is *still* an Objective reality (material existence). theism or non, science presupposes an Objective reality (even an Einstein-ian one that might be relative on a curve: b/c it still needs an anchor).

          as Nietzsche said: "it still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science."

          2) you said: "I would contend that the difference in interpretation pertaining to various moral judgment is, in itself, a sign that the basis for any Abrahamic belief is faulty."

          this fails to allow the theist's position to apply its own presuppositions. you are assuming that variance in subjective interpretations of the Objective truth invalidates objectivity. but that does not follow. you're assuming there is only subjective reality because there is subjective variance – but that was NOT the theistic basis for claiming Objective reality in the first place. it doesn't address the heart of the debate. it's a red herring.

          3) you said: "For Christianity especially, where the evidence at its foundation is so poor..."
          again, this is a throwaway line which doesn't even begin to address the entire field of biblical studies (which includes many theists & non-theists alike), much less admit that the bible is both the most read & most scrutinized book in history & yet it continues to have influence.

          for scholarly discussions on evidence on the biggest claims of the faith (Jesus' incarnation & resurrection), i'd give two recent books that are rather thorough:
          Richard Bauckham, "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"
          NT Wright, "The Resurrection of the Son of God"

          March 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Rynomite:
          you said: "Don't answer that no such proof would never happen as that is a cop out for the hypothetical."

          your counterfactual is just that. it begs the question.
          to accept your hypothetical is to decide the argument.
          to be blunt, if there was no god, there would be no existence, so your counterfactual is moot.

          March 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm |
        • Russ

          @ MidwestKen:
          1) i don't know the larger context, but that's NOT what the quote says.

          2) what you are describing is the fallacy of the God of the gaps – which is NOT what theists are claiming.

          for example, if metaphysical reality transcends & undergirds material existence (the position of most theists), deGrasse's entire position requires assuming the 'transcendent' is immanent (in this material world) – but that simply fails to hear the metaphysical claims of those he's criticizing. it's making a straw man. that's the fallacy.

          March 19, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
        • Doris

          Russ keeps trying to get me to read more NT Wright. Actually Wright is easy to read, but anyway, Russ, as I have asked before, try to fill in the blanks that I keep asking – beyond hearsay "historians" and Paul counting on his best bud Luke, what else is there to go on regarding verifying supernatural claims of the Gospels? There is no consensus on the authorship of Peter nor the Gospel authors, so I think if you had anything to fill in the blanks there you would have done so already.

          And regarding "spooky" physics, Russ – sure we could debate philosophy all day long, but the claims of the theist with regards to morals and their source are very specific. If you can't provide reasonable evidence for such source, then just say so.

          March 20, 2014 at 10:13 am |
        • Rynomite

          "you said: "Don't answer that no such proof would never happen as that is a cop out for the hypothetical."

          your counterfactual is just that. it begs the question.
          to accept your hypothetical is to decide the argument.
          to be blunt, if there was no god, there would be no existence, so your counterfactual is moot."

          And there we have it. The believers brain is so tiny that they cannot even ponder a fact as a hypothetical. If you ask a non-believer to consider the hypothetical of what we would do if it was proven a god actually exists, we can actually deliver an answer.

          March 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Rynomite:
          you said: "And there we have it. The believers brain is so tiny that they cannot even ponder a fact as a hypothetical."

          are you unfamiliar with the term "begging the question"? it's a logical fallacy. it's what you are doing here. you want me to engage a hypothetical that would require assuming the very debate we are having is already settled.

          let me see if i can make a practical analogy for you. you appear to be a materialist/naturalist (you believe there is nothing transcendent / material existence is all there is). your question to me might find a parallel in your understanding if i asked you a question along these lines: "what if there wasn't a material universe, what would your life be like?" it's a preposterous question. it requires ignoring your most basic assessment of existence. it's not about an inability to engage hypotheticals per se, but it's a nonsensical question within your paradigm of existence. it's a question that fails to actually understand your paradigm as a whole. that's what you are doing reciprocally.

          i have no problem with hypotheticals as such. the problem with your particular hypothetical is that it's:
          a) begging the question &
          b) fails to understand my paradigm.

          March 21, 2014 at 12:03 am |
        • Russ

          @ Doris:
          1) yes, i keep trying to get you to read NT Wright b/c you keep asking questions that he's answered rather thoroughly. he may be "easy to read," but you don't appear to be engaging any of his arguments and/or scholarship.

          2) similarly, Richard Bauckham rather thoroughly addresses your concerns regarding the Gospel sources & eyewitness accounts. he's not the first, but it's one of the most recent quality summations of the content.

          3) you seem to want to throw philosophy away out of hand here as though it's somehow irrelevant.
          a) why? on what basis?
          b) "spo.oky" physics? i said nothing of the sort. i gave you Nietzsche. he was anything but theistic, and he pressed the very same critique on his fellow atheists.

          OVERALL:
          you said: "but the claims of the theist with regards to morals and their source are very specific. If you can't provide reasonable evidence for such source, then just say so."

          this appears to be your theme, but i gave you two rather exhaustive scholarly resources. you discounted them out of hand – without a single reference to ANY of the content. even googling a decent scholarly review would have given you a brief overview with plenty of content.

          you're asking for examples. i'm giving them. but you're not actually engaging any of the content & you're still saying "give me an example."

          March 21, 2014 at 12:19 am |
        • Doris

          well goodness, Russ, if there's something in Wright that explains anything to fill in the holes (that would verify supernatural events in the Gospels), then just say it here. It should be easy for me to cross-check a reference. But I don't believe you have anything to add in that regard. Like I said, if there was something compelling, people today would take notice. I don't see that happening so much (outside of places where fear is still being used to bring in converts or keep them).

          March 21, 2014 at 12:30 am |
        • Russ

          @ Doris:
          1) again you object without substantive argument.
          a) you're asking me to sum it up for you, but you discounted it from the outset as though you were already aware.
          b) i gave you a 900 page scholarly work as a resource with a lot of evidences. it's rather hard to just state it succinctly, but i'll post a video as a taste below.

          2) NT Wright's arguments have been drawing notice in the academy. that's why i referenced it. do you consider the academy a place where "fear is still being used to bring in converts or keep them"?

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVhgAiGihoA&w=640&h=390]

          March 21, 2014 at 1:16 am |
        • Doris

          Russ – I watched the Wright video you posted. I don't find anything wrong with his arguments. He does show in various ways that among themselves, the stories are sensible. I remember finding this other book I read by him in a similar vein such – it wasn't the one you're touting now. I also read one I think he did with Borg unless I'm thinking of a different author. The problem I have is that to me, where ever conveniently possible, Christianity has a gap where good evidence should be. As soon as you jump from lack of authorship to the next claim or supposed support for a claim, then the problem is too few people, etc. It the evidence were there, it should be easy to explain right here. Aside from the hearsay historians, and aside from those where there is considerable disagreement today on authorship, who can support Paul's claims besides his best bud/physician/secretary? What is there that would support the earliest part of the unique movement that Wright claims existed that doesn't come through Paul or someone later that is only hearsay?

          March 21, 2014 at 10:27 am |
        • Doris

          in the middle: " If the evidence were there"

          Also, to be clear, I mention problems with authorship. Oh the one hand, I'm referring to Peter, that many might view as yet another hearsay historian (possibly even a disciple of Peter that was writing in his honor); and on the other hand the Gospels themselves. But in both cases these authorship problems in relation to my point above where the need to fill in the gaps is not met in my view.

          March 21, 2014 at 10:32 am |
        • Russ

          @ Doris:
          NT Wright's book deals primarily with the evidence for the resurrection – and so only tangentially with your authorship questions... which is why i pointed you *also* to Bauckham, who deals directly with them.

          March 21, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        "Good" and "Evil" are philosophical terms. They are concepts created by humans about humans.

        I don't believe science is the proper tool to use in this case (unless one is trying to determine how we define/create the beliefs in "good" or "evil" at the biological level).

        March 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          1) you said: ""Good" and "Evil" are philosophical terms. They are concepts created by humans about humans."
          a) that's the debate in question. you are begging the question.
          b) from Plato alone, your second sentence is a denial of historical facts. even a radical naturalist should be able to admit that Platonic philosophy was claiming these concepts were anything but anthropocentric.

          2) you said: "I don't believe science is the proper tool to use in this case."
          i agree whole-heartedly here. but that's the very problem with the original quote.

          March 19, 2014 at 11:12 pm |
      • fintronics

        How does religion define good & evil? Ridiculous rules from a book of mythology?

        March 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:
          1) that's a radical over-simplification of the wide array of theistic & religious claims.

          2) you said: "Ridiculous rules from a book of mythology"

          a) "ridiculous rules"
          this is an example of my first point. as a Christian (a group to which it sounds like you are mistakenly addressing this critique), i'd point out that Christianity explicitly claims to be the opposite. virtually every other religion on the planet claims something like this: "follow the rules, get in/love/etc.." but Christianity says: Jesus followed the rules because moral failures like me never could. in other words, love came first. it's not about the rules but the rescue/relationship.

          b) "a book of mythology"
          here's a scholarly essay from a myth expert on why Christianity does not fit the literary category of myth.
          http://orthodox-web.tripod.com/papers/fern_seed.html

          sample quote:
          "I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read."

          March 19, 2014 at 11:21 pm |
        • fintronics

          Why do most modern scholars reject a reading of the Bible as history much less as literal fact?

          1. In an age of science and technology, too much of the Bible is simply unbelievable to today's mind and turns people away from the underlying messages. From a scientific standpoint, many of the "facts" in the Bible are simply wrong. One of many examples: according to Genesis, the universe is just over 6000 years old. According to physics, the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.

          2. Many of the stories are also scientifically impossible, like the tale of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky. This story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe. We simply know this to be false. Second, for the sun to stop would mean that the earth would have to cease rotating on its axis - an event which would destroy the planet.

          3. For many of the miracle stories, natural explanations exist. The authors of these stories lived in an age when people believed that solar eclipses were divine omens, disease was divine punishment, and mental illness was caused by demon possession. In the case of Jesus, healing was an important part of his ministry. However, today we can find faith healers in Haiti who practice voodoo and in tribal Africa who practice witchcraft. Many of these modern-day faith healers have patients who are actually healed by these practices. Doctors call this the placebo effect, an effect so powerful that drugs must undergo double blind experiments.

          4. Some of the mythological stories in the Bible are not original, but were borrowed from other traditions. The Epic of Gilgamesh - a Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries - contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah.

          5. The other world religions also contain rich histories of mythology and fantastical sounding (to us) stories. On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy? The mythology surrounding the Buddha, who lived 500 years before Jesus, includes tales of how he healed the sick, walked on water, and flew through the air. His birth was foretold by a spirit (a white elephant rather than the angel Gabriel) who then entered his mother's womb! At his birth, wise men predicted that he would become a great religious leader. Twentieth-century scholars Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell wrote that certain archetypal religious myths are found across cultures, histories, and religions. Examples include the Cosmic Tree, the Virgin BIrth, and The Resurrection.

          March 20, 2014 at 8:27 am |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:
          you said: "Why do most modern scholars reject a reading of the Bible as history much less as literal fact?"
          your premise is flawed. a quick perusal of the American Academy of religion debunks your claim.

          for example, Bart Ehrman is one of the most liberal NT scholars on the planet (in other words, if there was a scholar in the field who might support your contention here, it'd be him), but note well what he says in the foreword to his book "Did Jesus Exist?" (which is entirely built around the discussion of history in light of the Bible):
          http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/30/the-historical-evidence-of-the-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth/
          [you can read it in 90 seconds]

          1) you said: "From a scientific standpoint, many of the "facts" in the Bible are simply wrong. One of many examples: according to Genesis, the universe is just over 6000 years old."

          at no point does the Bible make that claim. you are assuming that because of a vocal minority of scholars ("young earth creationists").

          relevant example:
          http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf

          2) Joshua & the sun stopping in the sky
          a) the text does not assume the earth is flat or a geocentric theory
          b) you appear here to discount a singular miraculous event *despite* the opening claim of the Bible that existence ITSELF is a miracle (Gen.1:1). if God can merely *speak* existence into being, why discount divine intervention on singular day within that contingent miracle of history/time/space?

          3) it's clear that you are simply discounting the miraculous out of hand.
          a) on what basis?
          b) you are attributing merely cultural assumptions to the authors of Scripture when the very content of the Bible COUNTERS the cultural claims of its own context.
          c) naturalistic explanations do not discount divine agency in events.
          d) creation (something out of nothing) & resurrection of a 3 day dead man do not have naturalistic explanations. these are the CENTRAL miracles of the Bible.
          e) the multi.tude of flood accounts actual confirms there was such an event. but again, the text does not necessarily claim a world-wide flood. the Hebrew does not require that reading.

          5) fantastical stories are not the basis of Christianity.
          a) that's like comparing Homer's Odyssey to the Bible (which presses the point of the essay I linked in the last post). no, Christianity explicitly and repeatedly claims to be an historical fact – especially the Gospel accounts. again, the quote i posted above presses that point. there was NO OTHER GENRE like that prior to OR for another 1700 years after. that's a fact of literature.

          b) the Gospel accounts & Paul all were well within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Buddha's legends arose hundreds of years after the fact. the earliest *extant* NT manuscripts/fragments are w/in 70 years of Jesus' death. by contrast, the earliest Buddhist manuscripts are over 500 years after the fact. that's incredibly important for accountability, corroboration, and – of course – accuracy.

          c) in addition to the prior link (which speaks directly to several things you've asserted here, especially regarding the category of "myth"), i'd give you two other scholarly resources (which I gave Doris above):
          Richard Bauckham, "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"
          NT Wright, "The Resurrection of the Son of God"

          March 21, 2014 at 1:08 am |
        • fintronics

          @russ..... "3) it's clear that you are simply discounting the miraculous out of hand.
          a) on what basis?

          Where is the evidence of these supposed miracles outside of the bible?.... Scholar or not, using the bible as evidence to prove the bible as fact is dishonest not to mention ridiculous..

          and I would like to sugget some reading for you... "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

          March 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • fintronics

          ") creation (something out of nothing) & resurrection of a 3 day dead man do not have naturalistic explanations. these are the CENTRAL miracles of the Bible."

          Of which there is ZERO evidence outside the bible.....

          March 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
        • fintronics

          Genesis – God created the heavens and the earth, but there was no one there to witness and record the event, god doesn't personally write about things he does, remember?? He only inspires to humans what he wants them to write, like dictation, or outsourcing his comments.

          God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, yet islands are still forming in the Pacific?

          The bible god supposedly created the heavens and the earth in just six days, but yet it took him forty days and nights to write The Ten Commandments???

          Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed Man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

          Humans are said to be made of 75% water, shouldn't humans be 75% dirt and 25% water since we were supposed to be made from dust?

          Genesis 6:6 And it repented the Lord that he had created man on Earth and it greived him at his heart. The perfect god, but yet with regrets?

          But it is nowhere written in the bible that god regretted creating or allowing an evil being called Satan to exist and to reign over the earth, the reason people are so wicked in the first place, according to the bible. The God with the short memory.

          Genesis 6 : 9 Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

          John 1:18 No man hath seen God, at any time. How did Noah know he was walking with God?

          Noah was perfect in his generations, so for his thanks to God he got drunk, Genesis 9:21 And Noah drank of the wine and was drunken.

          Genesis 7:12 And the rain was upon the Earth for forty days and nights. So God caused a great flood, to filter out the wicked and the unrighteous. And soon came Sodom and Gomorrah the wicked city the choice of preachers to compare us to today. Genesis 19: 34-36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their fathers. Incest is just fine no problem, not wicked?

          If the Bible is true, then these conditions are real and verifiable outside of the Bible:

          March 25, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • fintronics

          fallacy: webster's dictionary – 1. A false notion. 2. A statement or argument based on a false or invalid inference.

          There's your bible Russ, nothing but a fallacy, mythology, fiction. The self proclaimed scholars you mention are nothing more than spin doctors, making claims without hard evidence.

          March 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:
          1) the miraculous

          a) many (following Hume & others) discount the miraculous out of hand simply because they claim miracles are improbable. scientifically speaking, that has become an increasingly untenable position due to quantum physics & chaos theory (which depend on improbability). if you are going to dismiss the miraculous on those grounds, it requires equally dismissing the last 30 years in science.

          b) you asked for evidence outside the Bible.
          i) is there ANY other field in which you would ask for evidence & discount the earliest, most attested sources?
          ii) creation – we exist. we didn't make ourselves.
          iii) resurrection – i gave you a 900 page scholarly work on the resurrection that is chocked full of evidences. just google a scholarly review of it if you are unwilling to peruse it yourself. i'm not going to attempt to sum it up here. along those lines, note the Dawkins response below...

          2) the "God Delusion's" critics abound – not just theistic, but atheists as well. Dawkins' central attack is not a sound philosophical argument – even by his peers' standards. here's a summary I've posted elsewhere today...

          note well the discussion of Dawkins' argument beginning around the 1:45 mark...

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK0mjVcmcIo&w=640&h=390]

          March 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:
          1) your exposition of the various passages you cite in Genesis & John – aside from being particularly (if not purposefully) shallow – demonstrate a general lack of awareness of the field of biblical scholarship. with thousands of years of scholarship of the most read and most scrutinized book in history, you are either *purposefully* misrepresenting the meaning or *purposefully* avoiding pursuing the actual meaning in context.

          in sum, it's literature 101. do you want to know the authorial intent? or is your agenda to put your own meaning into the text?

          2) in light of your approach to the Bible – even if merely from a literary standpoint – i hope you can readily see how your own cited definition of fallacy applies to your falsely injected inferences & non-sequiturs from these texts.

          you are using an incredibly broad brush to wipe away the entire field of biblical scholars over several millennia, many of which were even NOT believers in the Bible. i am not promoting "self-proclaimed" scholars, but peer-reviewed scholars who are members of the international academy (which includes theists & non-theists alike). if you are unwilling to hear from fellow *atheists* who have studied the text more rigorously than yourself, who ARE you willing to hear from?

          March 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
        • fintronics

          No Russ, it's science 101. For any claim to be valid, it must be verified OUTSIDE the source of that claim. It's really that simple. Again, there is no verifiable evidence outside the bible to verify the supernatural claims in the bible. The book says the book is fact.... The bible is nothing more than mythology.

          March 26, 2014 at 10:07 am |
        • fintronics

          The bible in itself, is not proof that the bible is fact.

          March 26, 2014 at 10:09 am |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:

          1) i gave you sources and examples. you chose not to engage ANY of them or ANY of my arguments.
          a) i pointed out your argument surrounding miracles was logically flawed
          b) i pointed out that science itself has moved to embrace the improbable
          c) i gave you several scholarly works with rather exhaustive material. not only did you fail to engage ANY of the content (you could have even just googled a decent review of those works!), but you dismissed the entire field of scholars – which includes agnostics and atheists.
          d) in light of (c), it's not surprising that you also are ignoring evidences that even agnostic & atheistic scholars agree is legitimate.

          2) i gave you a rather pointed critical response to Dawkins' logic – one which has been levied by theists & non-theists alike. you simply ignored that.

          3) i pointed out that – along with ignoring the entire field of biblical scholarship (which AGAIN: includes several millennia of scholarship from theists & non-theists alike) – you weren't even concerned with authorial intent. that's not only intrinsic to ANY basic literary study, but even to scientific ones. it's a refusal even to *want* to hear what the author is actually claiming.

          SUM: ironically, you fail the criteria of your own 'science 101' response. evidently, you are unwilling to hear from anyone outside yourself or engage any other arguments than your own preconceived notions. as i said before, if you won't hear from experts in the field (which includes people on BOTH sides of our debate here), to WHOM will you listen OUTSIDE yourself?

          March 26, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • fintronics

          Russ

          "1) i gave you sources and examples. you chose not to engage ANY of them or ANY of my arguments."

          The sources and examples you gave are all from the bible, again, using the book to prove the book is a fail

          "i pointed out your argument surrounding miracles was logically flawed"

          Quite the opposite, your agruments supporting the miracles are logically flawed because again, you have no evidence to support them

          "i pointed out that science itself has moved to embrace the improbable"

          Science many time says "we don't know" which is an honest stance. Again, no scientific evidence for god or miracles reported in the bible.

          " i gave you several scholarly works with rather exhaustive material. not only did you fail to engage ANY of the content (you could have even just googled a decent review of those works!), but you dismissed the entire field of scholars – which includes agnostics and atheists."

          Yet with all those examples you fail to site a single one that providse any proof outside the bible that supports supernatural claims.

          "i gave you a rather pointed critical response to Dawkins' logic – one which has been levied by theists & non-theists alike. you simply ignored that."

          Where is that?.... in this thread?

          "i pointed out that – along with ignoring the entire field of biblical scholarship (which AGAIN: includes several millennia of scholarship from theists & non-theists alike) – you weren't even concerned with authorial intent. that's not only intrinsic to ANY basic literary study, but even to scientific ones. it's a refusal even to *want* to hear what the author is actually claiming."

          I'm not ignoring anything..... you are twisting words, something I've noticed believers seem to very good at.
          I hear exactly what the author is claiming, there is just no reason to believe claims without provided evidence.

          "SUM: ironically, you fail the criteria of your own 'science 101' response. evidently, you are unwilling to hear from anyone outside yourself or engage any other arguments than your own preconceived notions. as i said before, if you won't hear from experts in the field (which includes people on BOTH sides of our debate here), to WHOM will you listen OUTSIDE yourself?"

          How so Russ? I asked you to to provide scientific evidence OUTSIDE the bible to validate the supernatural claims of the bible and all you can do is ramble on about "biblical scholarship" and "scholarly works"

          Where is your scientific evidence to support the supernatural claims in the bible?? You fail to directly answer this one simple question... so much for the "debate"

          March 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
        • Russ

          @ fintronics:

          1) you said: "The sources and examples you gave are all from the bible, again, using the book to prove the book is a fail."
          this is simply a denial of the facts. a quick perusal of what i've written above gives MULTIPLE sources outside the bible. you basically object to those scholarly sources below, so i don't know why you deny this.

          2) you said: "your arguments supporting the miracles are logically flawed because again, you have no evidence to support them" and then you also said "Science many time says "we don't know" which is an honest stance. Again, no scientific evidence for god or miracles reported in the bible."

          you can't have it both ways. science has moved to embrace the improbable in chaos theory & quantum physics. Hume's critique of miracles (rejecting them b/c they are improbable) is the primary argument of most naturalists who reject the possibility of the miraculous. unless you are making another one (which you have not stated), that objection equally applies to chaos theory & quantum physics. do you reject those on the same grounds?

          3) in response to the scholarly works cited (external sources you notably denied that i offered above), you said: "Yet with all those examples you fail to site a single one that providse any proof outside the bible that supports supernatural claims."

          again, you appear not to be reading what i'm writing – much less fact checking the resources i'm giving. i've said TWICE now, even a quick googling of scholarly reviews of these sources would give you some overviews. they are rather exhaustive scholarly works (Bauckham's is 500 pages, Wright's is 900 pages). you are dismissing them out of hand as having no evidence w/o even engaging the rather comprehensive content (which INCLUDES archeological, cultural, and historical evidences outside the Bible as well as from within the text itself).

          4) the Dawkins' critique is in the video. it's only 6 minutes. i referenced the argument in the text that directly precedes it & even gave you the time stamp of where to start. again, you're not reading or listening to the sources i'm giving you – and yet you are claiming i'm not giving you examples.

          5) you said: "I'm not ignoring anything..... you are twisting words, something I've noticed believers seem to very good at. I hear exactly what the author is claiming, there is just no reason to believe claims without provided evidence."

          this claim is at odds with what you've said & evidenced above. you haven't been willing to check the scholarship or even engaged the content i've been giving you. you are unwilling to hear even from scholars who SHARE your naturalistic views. that is FAR from "knowing" what the author intends – that is refusing to hear anything but your own opinion.

          6) it is not "rambling" about biblical scholarship when it is the MOST germane evidence to discuss on this topic. you added the adjective "scientific" here (which sounds like you are moving the goalposts), but it is a false dichotomy to speak as though biblical scholarship is not based upon historical, archeological & even scientific tools that verify those findings.

          SUM: i didn't "fail to directly answer this one simple question." you refuse to HEAR any answer. i've given you MANY, but you haven't engaged ONE of them – and then you claim i haven't even given an answer. just review the thread. you didn't even notice I'd referenced Dawkins. how many other things might you have missed?

          March 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
  17. ausphor

    Not surprising that the area of the country that has the most ignorant and bigoted people would see themselves as very religious.

    March 19, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And higher rated of divorce and teen pregnancy.

      March 19, 2014 at 11:47 am |
  18. Jim

    These polling questions are misleading. Most people don't wear their religion on their sleeves. The question are you deeply religious is going to evoke the response it does as most people would tend to answer the question in the negative without going into the specifics of why or why not.

    Agree with the author of this article, nicely written!

    This scripture verse comes very close to answering those spiritual seekers – " For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)

    March 19, 2014 at 10:16 am |
    • Ed

      Jim, the main point is that the same question asked in those 2 different states gets very different results. Drink some more coffee, dummy.

      Quoting text from a book that isn't even in agreement with itself is pretty weak too.

      March 19, 2014 at 10:29 am |
    • Mick

      What is the meaning of Kingdom of God?

      March 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
      • Jim

        The original reference was to Luke 17:21 which is as follows: " nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."

        So, what does "kingdom of God is within you", mean?

        — People were looking for the kingdom of God in a physical sense, but It was a spiritual kingdom, set up in the heart by the power of Divine grace.
        "for behold the kingdom of God is within you": in the elect of God among the people, in their hearts; it being of a spiritual nature, and lying in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; in the putting down of the old man, sin, with its deceitful lusts, from the throne; and in setting up a principle of grace, as a governing one; and so escapes the observation of natural men, and cannot be pointed at as here, or there in a physical sense: hence it appears, that it is an internal thing; it is wrought in the hearts of men; and is therefore called the inner, and the hidden man: it does not lie in words, in an outward profession of religion: but it is an inward principle of holiness in the soul, or spirit of man, produced there by the Spirit of God, and is therefore called by his name.The reign of God is "in the heart." It does not come with pomp and splendor, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external "actions" and strike the senses of people with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions,and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

        March 19, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
      • Jim

        When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you have the kingdom of God residing within you with manifestation of that kingdom as described above!

        March 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
    • fintronics

      Means as much as a quote from Harry Potter.

      March 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
  19. Central Scrutinizer

    "He has just published "Jesus: the Human Face of God," a biography of Jesus."

    I wonder what Canine Face of God looks like. Or the Alien Face of God. Shrimp face of God....

    March 19, 2014 at 9:19 am |
  20. fintronics

    Only 22%? that's good! the numbers are dropping as people wise up.

    March 19, 2014 at 9:16 am |
    • Doris

      It'll take a while, but eventually sensibility will spread all the way to the bottom knocking off the barnacles.

      March 19, 2014 at 9:26 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.