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May 24th, 2014
06:00 PM ET

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) – Back home, they erase their Internet histories, look over their shoulders before cracking jokes and nod politely when co-workers talk about church.

But in a hotel ballroom here on a recent weekend, more than 220 atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers let it all hang out.

The convention was called “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt,” and it was part celebration of skepticism and part strategy session about surviving in the country’s most religious region.

They sang songs about the futility of faith, shared stories about “coming out” as nonbelievers and bought books about the Bible – critical ones, of course.

“Isn’t it great to be in a room where you can say whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of anyone criticizing you for being unorthodox?” asked Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as he opened the two-day convention.

The Wisconsin-based foundation co-sponsored the event with the Triangle Freethought Society, which draws its members from this state’s tech-heavy Research Triangle.

The nonbelievers came from as far afield as Ireland and France, but most described themselves as refugees from the heart of the South - atheist anomalies amid fiercely devout friends, family and neighbors.

We wanted to know what it’s like to be a nonbeliever in the Bible Belt, so over the course of the weekend we asked some of the folks here to share their secrets.

They had a lot to say, and some of their advice overlapped, but we came away with eight top tips. Some said they wished they’d had something like this list when they began their foray into religious infidelity.

So, without further ado, here’s a “survival guide” to being an atheist in the Bible Belt:

You may be lonely, but you aren’t alone

Not so long ago, every other letter sent to the Freedom From Religion Foundation would begin something like, “I’m the only atheist in Nebraska … “

It’s still lonely being an atheist in rural America, says Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-president, but there are plenty of skeptics and nonbelievers in God’s Country – if you know how to find them.

Even the most religious states like Mississippi and Alabama have secular meetup groups, although many keep quiet and require long drives to attend.

Gaylor’s favorite story about the secretive lives of Bible Belt atheists involves two neighbors in Georgia whose jaws dropped when they saw each other at an atheist gathering. Each had assumed that the other was a good, God-fearing Baptist.

“They were afraid to speak out," she says, "because they didn’t want to be stigmatized.”

Gaylor recommends looking online for atheist support groups in your area; and be sure to search for related terms as well: agnostic, freethought, skeptic and nonbeliever.

It’s no fun debating fundamentalists

Bart Ehrman doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who backs down from a fight.

The University of North Carolina scholar often seeks them out, regularly debating the Bible and early Christianity with evangelicals and other experts.

But Ehrman told the atheists gathered in Raleigh not to bother arguing with fundamentalists.

“You can’t convince a fundamentalist that he or she is wrong,” he says.

Their theology is a closed system, according to Ehrman, and their social bonds with fellow fundamentalists are too tightly knit to admit any wiggle room.

“You can point to any contradiction in the Bible and it just doesn’t matter. They will either find some way to reconcile it or say that even if they don’t understand it, God does.”

Technically, the term fundamentalist refers to a movement of 20th-century Protestants who rejected modernity and clung to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

But Ehrman has a different definition: “Someone who is no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.”

People will think you worship Satan

Many Americans don’t actually know any professed atheists, according to surveys - which means they often seem to assume the worst about them.

Fewer than half of Americans say they’d vote for an atheist politician; a similar number say they wouldn’t want their children to marry a nonbeliever.

A recent study also showed that businesses in the South are more likely to discriminate against atheist job candidates.

“I don’t know what they think we are, Satanists or baby eaters or who knows what,” activist Todd Stiefel told the atheists gathered in Raleigh, “but it’s kind of scary."

A recent survey conducted for Stiefel's new “Openly Secular” campaign found that 20% of Americans can’t even define atheism. Far more don’t know what “humanist,” “freethinker” or “agnostic” means.

Behold, the six types of atheists

Based on “It Gets Better” and other gay rights campaigns, “Openly Secular” hopes to counter that ignorance by asking atheists to share stories online about their lives and beliefs.

“What we’re really trying to do is humanize us,” Stiefel says. “Frankly, most of the hate and distrust comes from misunderstanding about who we are.”

You don’t have to convince your friends, family and neighbors to accept all of your views, the atheist activist says. You just have to get them to accept you.

Sometimes it’s better to stay in the closet

After secular conferences like the one here Raleigh, many nonbelievers get so jazzed that they rush home and blurt out … "Guess, what? I’m an ATHEIST!!!"

That can be a really bad idea, says Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering From Religion.

It may help the atheist movement as a whole to share your lack of faith with friends and family. But it’s not always the best - or the safest - move for you, she says.

Recovering From Religion’s online support groups are filled with stories about people who lost their jobs, their kids or their spouses after coming out as atheist, Morehead says.

“It’s heartbreaking. People don’t realize how big a difference expressing their nonbelief can make.”

Recovering From Religion recommends having a plan in place before coming out as atheist.

“If you decide you’re a nonbeliever,” Morehead says, “you’re still going to be a nonbeliever in a year."

The group’s own 10.5-step plan includes creating a support network, declining to get into debates and preparing yourself for a “religious breakup” with friends and family. (The half-step assures budding nonbelievers they don’t have to be experts on atheism and points them toward educational resources.)

Don’t be the ‘office atheist’

Candace Gorham says her close family is accepting of her atheism - but she’s not completely “out” at work yet, and doesn’t know if she wants to be.

Gorham, who was raised in the black church, says religion is deeply embedded in the lives of many Southern African-Americans, and the borders between private and public spirituality often blur.

“I work for a black-owned company, and most of my supervisors are black females, and it’s just sort of OK for everybody to talk about God, or offer to pray for you,” says Gorham.

The 33-year-old is author of a new book called “The Ebony Exodus Project,” about black women leaving the church, which has pushed Gorham herself to become more public about being an atheist.

Recently, a co-worker told Gorham she had seen her talking about being an atheist on Roland Martin’s television show.

“I was like, Oh my God, shhh don’t tell anybody!”

A mental-health counselor who works with children, Gorham worries that people will stop referring clients to her once they find out she’s a nonbeliever.

According to a survey Stiefel presented in Raleigh, more than 50% of Americans believe atheist teachers and day-care employees - people who, like Gorham, work with children - are likely to face discrimination at work.

She knows it's only a matter of time until more of her office mates find out.

“It’s getting to a place where I don’t have a choice. I’m just going to have to be comfortable with it - but it does concern me.”

The Internet is your frenemy

A co-worker isn’t the only person who saw Gorham talking about atheism on television.

Her aunt read about the Roland Martin interview online, which led Gorham’s mother to call and ask if she is really an atheist.

The conversation went well, Gorham says, and her mother understands and respects her beliefs.

But the unexpected disclosure shows why many atheists cover their Internet tracks, even as they increasingly look for like-minded communities online.

Gorham says she used to delete her browsing history on her laptop after watching atheist debates and lectures online lest her husband or other family members find out her faith was wavering.

“I was still early in my deconversion and I wasn’t sure how he would perceive it,” says the Greensboro, North Carolina, native.

Others here for the conference said they keep two separate Facebook pages, one for friends and family and one for their secular communities.

“Facebook is my happy place,” says one middle-aged woman who made a nearly seven-hour drive to Raleigh from Crossville, Tennessee.

The woman, who didn't want to be identified, teaches at public schools. She says most of her neighbors and co-workers are Christians.

“Crossville is a small Bible Belt community with churches on every corner,” she said, “and everything shuts down on Sunday except for Wal-Mart and the hospital.”

Most co-workers assume she’s Christian, but she joins as many atheist groups online as she can and keeps an anonymous Facebook page called “Within Reason.”

One recent post asks people to click “like” if they’ve ever been unfriended because of an atheism-themed status update.

Some people take Bible-thumping literally

Adults may face more real-life repercussions for coming out as atheist in the Bible Belt, but that doesn’t mean kids have an easy ride.

Kalei Wilson, 15, says she lost friends after trying to start a secular student club at Pisgah High School in Canton, North Carolina; and someone used a Bible to destroy her science project, leaving the holy book on her smashed model of the universe.

The blue-haired, nose-pierced freshman says she’s not the only atheist at her high school, but most of them are closeted.

“I didn’t want to come out at first,” Wilson says, “but in order to start the club I had to.”

In exchange for her openness, Wilson says, some students mutter "Jesus loves you” as she walks down the hall, and she regularly receives text messages with the greeting, “Hey, Satan.”

“I’ve lost friends because of it,” the teenager says of her atheism, “but they’re not real friends if that’s what they do.”

Have a sense of humor

For all the heartbreaking stories, if was there was a soundtrack to the conference in Raleigh, it would include a lot of laughter.

It seemed as if the atheists and freethinkers here had been storing their sharpest religion jokes for weeks, preparing for the day when they would find an appreciative audience at last.

“I’ve been living in the South for 13 years,” says Pat Meller, who came to Raleigh from nearby Greensboro, “and I’ve had to watch my tongue for just as long.”

So for two days, Meller and her kindred spirits cut loose.

They quipped about the folly of prayer, bought bumper-stickers calling the Bible a “Grim Fairy Tale,” and wore T-shirts proclaiming their belief in life before death.

Harry Shaughnessy, president of the Triangle Freethought Society, played the cut-up emcee for much of the weekend.

“For every activist-oriented event we have, we want to have three to five things that are just fun,” says Shaughnessy, whose group holds regular “Heathen Happy Hours” and meets for barbecues in each other’s homes.

At one point, the youthful 44-year-old donned a crown and a form-fitting, skin-colored costume to bestow Freedom From Religion’s “Emperor Has No Clothes” award on Steifel for his activism.

Perhaps appropriately for an atheist event, Shaughnessy’s get-up left little to the imagination.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Black issues • Church and state • Culture wars • Discrimination • Internet • Lost faith • Nones • North Carolina • Prejudice • Religious liberty

soundoff (4,807 Responses)
  1. cljohnston108

    Oh, it's not just the Bible Belt.
    When I lived in West L.A., I came back to my apartment from work one day, and the neighbors' kids are playing in the courtyard. One of them comes running up to me and shouts, "Hey, Chris! What secrets do YOU keep from God?"
    I was rather tired, so I unthinkingly replied, "Oh, sorry Josh, I don't believe in that stuff," and I went inside to rest up.
    About three minutes later, the kid's father comes pounding on my door, screaming my name, "DAMN YOU, CHRIS! I'm trying to teach my son, and I don't need you trying to corrupt my child... !"
    I've seldom been more afraid for my life.

    Of course, I always love it when somebody asks me, "Hey, Chris! Do you believe in God?" and I say "Nope," and their follow-up is "Well, then, WHO created the Universe?" (Because it apparently has to be some other GUY!) So I just reply, "Moe Lefkowitz?"

    May 25, 2014 at 9:55 am |
  2. mvaughn75601

    I believe in God Concept, not God Person. I guess that makes me an atheist, too. So what? I love you all anyway. Peace.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:52 am |
    • doginwoods

      No, sounds closer to you being agnostic, not atheist.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:55 am |
      • igaftr

        dogin
        One can be both agnostic and atheist.
        I do not believe in ANY of the thousands of gods men have worshipped.
        I am open to the possibility that there may be something that loosely fits the concept of a "god".

        May 25, 2014 at 10:11 am |
      • G to the T

        Sounds like a theist to me. I only establishes a belief in the "concept" of "god", and has nothing to say about the properties of that concept.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:18 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        No, he/she makes it clear that he/she believes in some form of god, making this person a Theist. Agnostic only defines lack of knowledge, not belief in a god or gods.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:19 am |
    • MidwestKen

      mvaughn,
      I'm not sure what that makes you. Explain how you can believe in the concept, but not the enti.ty (if that's what you mean by person).
      I would guess that if you believe in the concept of a god then you're probably a theist of some sort. Unless you're saying that you 'understand' the concept but don't believe one exists.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:19 am |
    • macauguy

      You are a deist, you believe in something but not a specific god. I would hope that you don't espouse knowledge or certainty of this, thus you are an agnostic deist.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:38 pm |
  3. nemo0037

    I started a Freethought society in North Carolina about 12 years ago, and it was great to discover and meet many local atheists and agnostics. But of course, our very existence offended some local fundamentalist jerks that couldn't stand the thought that atheists might feel it necessary to get together and become friends. They spent months trying to make the group miserable, and eventually, folks stopped coming out to participate. This myth that if everyone follows the One True Religion, then God will make everything just peachy... I think THAT has caused more misery for humanity than any other myth out there.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:49 am |
    • Suzanne Stewart

      NC is seriously void of groups like the one you created. I have been looking for spiritual groups in the eastern part of the state and I have found very little.

      I don't know how anyone can find true faith without questioning and exploring other beliefs. How do you know what you believe unless you question it and find answers for yourself. In my eyes, a true relationship with God does not come from blindly following what you have been raised with.

      In my journey, I found Christianity was not the path for me. It has been the root of too many wars, and too much intolerance and misery and it is just not something I feel I can to be a part of. I was raised Catholic and Methodist, and married in a Southern Free Will Baptist church and the more I see, the more a realize its about control and its not something I can be a part of.

      If you have truly made the journey from what you have been taught to what you really believe and Christianity is where you found your place, then wonderful. I respect that. All I ask is that you do the same.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am |
  4. vesuvio1967

    I empathize with the organization's members feeling of being persecuted in the bible belt. Nobody likes to be persecuted for their beliefs. On the other hand, conducting an event to persecute the beliefs of the very community where your event is hosted is poor taste and disrespectful. Give respect, get respect.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:49 am |
    • nemo0037

      I disagree. I think that some Christians, after reading about how God will bless those that get persecuted, feel a great desire to FIND ways to say they have been persecuted, even when no one has even DREAMED of bothering them.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:52 am |
      • Doris

        "If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England."

        –Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772)

        May 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • harlow13

      What gibberish. It does not "persecute" the beliefs in the community where it was held.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:58 am |
    • G to the T

      "conducting an event to persecute the beliefs of the very community where your event is hosted is poor taste and disrespectful."

      Your definition of "persecute" seems a bit shallow to my mind. What I see are people coming together to express that they aren't alone in what they believe (or don't). When you are a minority, it's natural to seek out others of your kind, when your "kind" isn't a visible trait though (gay, atheist, etc.) it can feel very much like you are living a double life.

      What you see as persecution, I see as boisterous response to knowing you aren't alone.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:22 am |
    • MidwestKen

      @vesuvio,
      Excellent example of assumption of superiority.

      They did hold the convention in a church and the "community" they are in is NOT a "Christian" community, but a community in the US, i.e. secular. You seem to be associating the majority religion with the identi.ty of the community itself. This very assumption shows the need for conventions exactly like this.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:27 am |
    • turtleposer2014

      How is it persecution for atheists to gather together?

      Your statement is just another way to keep atheists isolated & shut them up. We have just as much right to gather with like-minded people as you do.

      You are so self-centered that you think that when other people get the same privilege as YOU do you think it's persecution.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:01 am |
    • ohioatheist

      A like-minded group organizing to discuss shared ideas is not persecution. Not even close.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:02 am |
    • macauguy

      But religions haven't earned any respect. I don't respect people who espouse lies and knowledge of something which I am unable to supposedly understand.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
  5. Lazlo

    I spent a great deal of time as an agnostic (I dislike the term atheist – it implies a knowledge that is impossible to acquire, and it's arguments have the same flaws as theists) before I found my faith again. To me the whole debate is senseless. I think it is offensive for anyone to be in someone else's face about something as personal as belief – or the lack thereof. I found it easy to be agnostic. I was respectful of everyone's beliefs and simply didn't participate in religious activities. I did not feel the urge to debunk religion. The only time I argued was when someone proselytized to me directly and needed reasons why I refused. This was usually done through questions and a statement of unreadiness to buy their spiel. Even at the time I had no patience for the militant non-believers who wanted to put an end to all religious symbolism in our culture. Be who you want to be, and give others the same privilege. It's easy, really, unless you need the attention and adversity the radical militant lifestyle brings – and if that is the case, quit crying about it. You sound like a Christian martyr.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:44 am |
    • moxrox84

      FYI, atheists don't claim to "know" that God (or gods) don't exist, they simply don't believe in it. Any atheist who claims to know is no better than a theist who says they know their deity exists. The majority of atheists will admit they don't know, but that they don't believe.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:47 am |
      • doginwoods

        But, atheist are more determined to be aggressive against the church, than agnostics. We simply don't care what they believe in. They aren't dragging me to church, to force me to sit in a pew, though my parents did as a child. The Christians are passionate about their beliefs, so who are we to judge them for it? You sound like you have been the victim of some heavy church abuse, or your just angry.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:54 am |
        • moxrox84

          I'm not sure what in my post gave you the idea that I'm "angry". I simply said that atheists don't claim to know, as fact, whether or not deities exist. We simply don't believe that they do, but we don't go around making the claim that it's fact, like many religious organizations do. Religions, on the other hand, absolutely try and claim they "know" the truth, and work hard to try and convert as many others as possible.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |
        • harlow13

          It is interesting how you projected anger onto such an innocuous statement.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:02 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Definitions seem difficult for some people. Atheist only defines disbelief in god(s), it doesn't define knowledge. I'm an Agnostic Atheist...I admit that I can't be 100% sure that a god doesn't exist, making me Agnostic but I do not see evidence to support the belief in a god or gods, making me Atheist.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am |
        • doginwoods

          My point exactly "Truth"

          May 25, 2014 at 10:09 am |
        • moxrox84

          Technically speaking, we're all agnostic...regardless of belief in God or atheistic in our beliefs. No one knows for sure as fact, so it's down to belief.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:11 am |
      • doginwoods

        moxrox, don't mean to bump heads with you, because I have read many of your posts. I read one or so that seemed you might have been victimized in the past, but I've read more of your posts now and have a better understanding of what your saying... in other words, it just seems your very passionate about your idea's, that's all.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:12 am |
      • mickmastergeneral

        I've never understood that point of view. If you're sitting on the fence, that's one thing. But if you firmly BELIEVE there's no god, why not just say you KNOW there's no god? I don't believe leprechauns exist...if someone asked me if I KNOW leprechauns don't exist, I'd say "yes". I wouldn't feel a need to temper it with something like "Well, I don't see any evidence for them, but I can't really claim to know definitively". Same with the God thing. I KNOW he doesn't exist. Absolutely no doubt in my mind...I have the same degree of certainty that I do with regard to leprechauns.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:22 am |
        • G to the T

          "I have the same degree of certainty that I do with regard to leprechauns."

          That's fine and a good way to look at it (degrees of certainty) but we cannot PROVE there are no leprechauns, so to say we absolutely know there aren't any is disingenuous in my mind.

          Atheism is more of a behavioral stance in my mind. I am agnostic in that I am not arrogant enough to say I can prove a negative, but my day to day actions and motivations are premised by a lack of belief in a deity.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:27 am |
    • Doris

      "and give others the same privilege."

      Yes, every liberty comes with a responsibility. More Christians should practice that simple idea.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:51 am |
    • doginwoods

      Wow, so well spoken. As an agnostic, who has children and a wife that attend church, my first questions about the Bible always started with, "if everyone believes in God, how come we have so many different denominations?" There is only one bible, so how come there isn't just "1" denomination?

      May 25, 2014 at 9:51 am |
      • moxrox84

        41000 denominations. Yeah...41 THOUSAND. So, not only do you have to pick the right religion out of about 4000, then you have to pick the right denomination.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:53 am |
        • kermit4jc

          no you don't....most denominations agree on the most important issues..Jesus is God....That salvation is NOT by your own deeds..but by the saving grace of God thru Jesus death....and that all are sinners.....those are the most important issues...

          May 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
    • nemo0037

      Lazlo, your knowledge of the English Language needs help. Theism is a BELIEF in God, so how could "atheism" be a statement of knowledge? It sounds to me that you shun the term out of fear of the negative connotations society foists on it through ignorance. Good one.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |
      • doginwoods

        Symantec's... the message was understood.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:07 am |
    • macauguy

      It is sad that you 100% mixed up terms. Gnosticism is a knowledge claim (agnostic is not a stance on anything, you cannot be an agnostic only). Whereas Theism is a belief claim.

      I am an agnostic atheist, but there are gnostic atheists, and agnostic theists and gnostic theists (the worse ones).

      May 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm |
  6. Suzanne Stewart

    I am not an atheist but I am not a Christian either. I don’t believe that one religion has all the answers…and I live in a small city near the coast of NC, and yes it can be lonely. On top of that, I work for a nonprofit Christian organization. While the organization is Christian based, it supposedly accepts all people, no matter their faith. However, the local chapter is very different.

    When I first started working there, I kept my beliefs to myself. Comments were often made about atheists (In my coworkers’ eyes, if you are not a Christian you are an atheist.) Even a quote by Gandhi on our FB page was frowned at. One day I had enough and I looked at my boss and said, “I am not a Christian. I have a tremendous faith in God but do not follow the Christian faith.” At first I got comments like “I am praying for you.” And “We will get you to come around.” Then, it seemed to quiet down. My boss still thinks I am headed for hell but the subject has quieted down.
    I didn’t have the heart. to tell him, that it was the people here in the bible belt that gave me the final push away from Christianity. I have lived in the area for over 25 years and I have seen so much hypocrisy and judgment from “Christians,” that I want nothing to do with it. I respect and love all people and feel that God is in everything, but since I don’t go to the right church or read the right book, I am damned.

    Don’t get me wrong, if Christianity or another religion helps you find a relationship with God, then I completely respect that. All I ask is that you give me the same respect and understanding and if you are going to talk the talk you need to walk the walk all the time, not just when it’s convenient or makes you feel you have the upper hand.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      You believe in a god...which one?

      May 25, 2014 at 10:01 am |
  7. david87106

    The problem with christians is that they are generally intolerant and bigotted. They do NOT respect the first amendment of the consittuition, which guarantees me the right to ANY religion, or NO religion. In fact they argue this amendment ONLY gives you the right to be a practicing Christian. This religion has done so much damage in the world – expecially the Catholics. They have started purges and wars, and persecuted people in the name of their mythical god. They have such huge political power that the Catholics can routinely prey on children and get away with it. No wonder then that we atheists have to hide int he shadows.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • Doris

      "They do NOT respect the first amendment of the consittuition"

      Indeed – one only need look at all the different SC cases – the constant attempts to tear down the wall of separation.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:43 am |
  8. doginwoods

    I really enjoyed reading this article, just because it's refreshing to see that people like me exist. Yes, I live in the deep south of Alabama, where I was thrust into the Assembly of God church's at a young age. But, by my teen years, I started to have feelings that something was really wrong with the people that surrounded me. I told my pastor I didn't understand the "speaking of tongues". He said that I shouldn't worry, that it was normal to not understand it, that I would as time went on. No, I did not. As time went on, I only had more questions, but because my pastor had an open door, and seemed to have an open ear, I sought him out regularly to answer questions about the Bible, I didn't understand. Then, I guess he finally had enough of my questions and said that I had to only love Jesus, fear God and be reborn to enter the gates of Heaven. He said to question the Bible was wrong, that I just had to have blind faith. Again, I had a problem with that, because I began to wonder, did that mean, if I was driving my car, I could close my eyes and let God steer it for me?

    I'm married now and have two children. My wife plays bells in church, that I only attend basically twice a year; Easter and Christmas. I have a good job, making upwards of $100k, and have to work most Sundays, so have a convenient excuse, but I think some, know why I don't come. My oldest daughter (13) has already come to me, talking about being "atheist". I have tried to reason with her, to make sure she understands her feelings, and it seems she does. I think 13 is a bit young to fully understand that, but as I get older, it seems kids learn more things now, that took me to be older to learn. I think of myself as a free thinking agnostic. I don't want to say there is NO creator, just that it's difficult to think the Bible is the way to the Creator, when it's filled with so much contradiction.

    I love physics, and understand the "Big Bang" theory. But, the problem I have with it is when you go back to that time, when everything came into being by the rapid expansion, who put that into motion? Who put that speck, smaller than an atom, into the void to create what we see now? Some say it was the expansion after a previous "crunch" and others say it's the beginning of only many "bubbles" of a universe and that there are many of them, on different planes. So, though I want to believe there is a being of higher intelligence than us, I'm not sure that he/she/it exists.

    But, living in the deep south, I can only ask my monitor these questions. Outside the door, I have to put on the fake smile and hat, or leave my children to fend off the attacks from the haters, without me to help her. It seems easier for the younger generation to talk more freely about it, than it was for me at her age. So, hopefully, the Southern Baptists will slowly decline and lose power on our region, and let all us free thinkers, decide our own fate without ridicule or hate. God Bless and ya'll have a great day!

    May 25, 2014 at 9:38 am |
    • moxrox84

      How everything came to being is a question we might never know the answer too. But, that's ok. Ignorance about something that occurred about 14 billion years ago is not an ingorance to be ashamed of. I've never understood why it's so important that we claim to know for sure how everything got started. There's really nothing wrong with saying, "I don't know". Fortunately, that's what science does...and so we keep searching for the answers.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:50 am |
      • doginwoods

        I agree, but don't you find it just a little bit weird, that we just came into "being". I'm inclined to believe that Earth was populated by an alien race, from elsewhere in our solar system, who we may one day meet. But, when you go back that 14 billion years, it does make you ask the question, "how did it all get started?"

        May 25, 2014 at 9:59 am |
        • dwhulk23

          Bahhaaa hahaha. If you lived 2,000 years ago, you would still think the earth was flat, you would be getting on your hands and knees, pray for rain to water your crops because you don't know where your next meal will come from. You would not even have these illusions of such caused by too much television or internet. People are becoming to educated in their own understanding. Wisdom is seeing thing through gods eyes. Where do we find it? In the Holy Bible (Gods Word) I don't care how many books you read, you may obtain knowledge.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:06 am |
        • moxrox84

          Of course we want to know...but that doesn't give us the right to claim that we do. We might never know...we might find out someday. A thousand years ago no one knew what it was like to walk on the moon. Fortunately, we didn't give up, and eventually we figured it out. That might happen with the origin of mankind. The thing is, it could be any possibility. It could be God. It could be Odin. It could be that we were planted here by a supreme race of beings, or that life on an asteroid was carried here. The possibilities are endless, because we simply don't have the ability to find out right now.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:09 am |
  9. thefinisher1

    I don't care that you're an atheist. Keep your pathetic atheistic religion to yourself.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:29 am |
    • Jeebusss

      Yeah atheists are really the ones out trying to convert people.........how many brainwashed Christian fools have shown up on my doorstop spreading their BS? Oh yeah, a ton! How many atheists have I ever had on my doorstep? Zero.

      Keep believing in your pathetic professional victimhood.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:31 am |
      • thefinisher1

        Atheists try and convert people by using the internet. In fact, atheists have started using billboards to try and convert people. Today's atheists are hypocrites and liars. Fact.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:34 am |
        • moxrox84

          How is it hypocritical or lying to not believe in something?

          May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
        • colinrasmussen

          How exactly are atheists hypocrites and liars. All they do is not believe in something that Christians cannot formally prove exists. And don't cite the Bible since its a circular argument.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:43 am |
        • doginwoods

          I don't think so. I do sometimes see people to use their brains, to use logic and try to prove what exists and what is contradictory, but not a direct request to throw your religion away. That's just it, those who are free thinkers, don't care that you believe, or if and how you want to worship, that' s your prerogative. But, they don't want to fend off the Bible thumpers from the doorsteps of our property on a daily basis. Leaving in the deep south of Alabama, I have to open my door and listen to the testimony of those who are doing door to door preaching, to get us to attend their church. I usually reply politely and say our family are members of a different church.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:46 am |
    • seedenbetter

      I don't care if you do not collect stamps. Keep your pathetic hobby of not collecting stamps to yourself.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • colinrasmussen

      Look in the dictionary. Atheism isn't a religion. But, by your standard it's okay for Christians to ram their beliefs down everyone else's throats, but not okay for atheists? When you're in the dictionary, also look up the word hypocrite, I think it has your picture next to it.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • moxrox84

      Only the ignorant think that atheism is a religion.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
      • snyphilis

        If someone is involved with a group, who is funded by the donations of the people who show up, and sing songs about a god or lack thereof. Attempt to convert people to their belief system. Attempt to instill their morals on others. I regret to inform you, you belong to a church and you have a religion.

        This does not mean ALL atheists are religious. But if you treat it as such, then it is what it is.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • minuano72

      What a kind and generous mindset. For the record, atheism is as much a "religion" as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:41 am |
    • Doris

      I do care that you may not be an atheist. Why you ask?

      Well you could be one of those types like Scott Lively who traveled to Africa with his team of evangelicals to incite the killing of people there – many of them other Christians. Of you might be one of those types who lets their kids die rather than seek medical care. Or you could be the type who thinks the Pope is an antichrist. Or you could be the type who encourages the spread of disease with an unrealistic stance on contraception. With over 40,000 different sects, who knows what you might be up to.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:42 am |
    • mickmastergeneral

      Atheism is no more a religion than baldness is a hair style.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:33 am |
    • ohioatheist

      Why you would think atheism is a religion is beyond me. Atheism would not meet any dictionary criteria of a religion.

      I find it comical that many people erroneously use the "tu quoque" fallacy, implying that atheism is a religion, is fundamentalist, requires faith, or some other ridiculousness, to suggest that atheism is just like religion, when it is quite the opposite.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:07 am |
  10. kenhbradshaw

    There are tools and methods – common – that are used in writing to gather sympathy for any point of view. They appeal to the American sense of fair play and justice. Make the party persecuted for their honest deeply held convictions. Show their goodness and kindness. Appeal the the American identification with the lone outsider, holding strong against great forces of tyranny

    In truth, atheism is not much under attack. It is currently carrying a perceived prestige of intelligence and enlightenment – soon to show the world the way to a better future.

    This author has set the story in the Bible Belt, where it is easiest to place the point of view into the role of a suffering minority.

    We live in a very plugged in world. I have real doubts that the atheist is hunted and and tormented in the deep south. Yes, I am sure you can show me instances – both North and South, East and West. And I can show you the opposite – in the same four corners.

    In truth, it is Christianity that is being most persecuted in all locations. This site should be truly be fair, rather than using tricks to push a quiet agenda.

    Now as to religion and God, I can tell you that when I read the scriptures, when I kneel and pray, I am sure I am communicating with a Heavenly Father.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:29 am |
    • moxrox84

      If you think Christianity is under attack, you're simply willfully ignorant about what Christianity has done to gays and atheists for the last 1700 years. Christians don't have the first idea about what real persecution is.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:42 am |
      • kenhbradshaw

        And of course, what you just did with its broad stereotype of what Christianity has done through the ages, was not an attack. It was a simple honest stating of the truth.

        My opinion. Bad is in the world. It creeps up even in religion (all of them). It creeps up in non-religious movements (communism, fascism). I do not believe that atheists are led to be more moral because they have shed the shackles of religion. Harm is done because of greed and selfishness, no matter how it is organized. But there are tenants of religion, love, kindness, uplifting the down trodden that people try to emulate. I do not believe those are overridden and/or made ineffective by the abuses. I believe the abuses to be far in the minority of the good done in the name of religion.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
    • joshocom

      "The author has set the story in the Bible Belt."

      No, the meeting took place in the Bible Belt. The author wrote about the meeting.

      But, being a believer that you're personally communicating with the "Heavenly Father" and being a fan of the Bible, you're therefore a fan of twisting words to conform to your beliefs. So there's nothing to be expected from you except deception...and self-deception.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:56 am |
      • doginwoods

        It is seen as a circle, no doubt. But, from a young age, I was taught to have "blind faith". That is the pretext to being a good Christian. Not to question the Bible, to only believe that it is true, that Jesus is the son of God, and that we will go to Heaven if we only have that blind faith and be as Christ like as we possibly can. Though, we were born sinners and will never be as good as Jesus, we're suppose to have that type faith. That is why I had to break out of the Church. I couldn't support doing anything blindly, and had to have concert answers to my questions. Most, still go unanswered, except for what I have figured out on my own.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am |
        • kcanderson2014

          What Christian hasn't had a crisis of Faith at one time or another? Part of Faith is taking responsibility to reflect and decide if what you were raised to believe IS in fact what you do believe. But where God is sought he will be found and I worked my way back to Faith. But no, I don't agree with everything I was brought up to believe either. But the basic tenets of Christianity are solid for me.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:35 am |
    • igaftr

      ken
      "In truth, atheism is not much under attack"

      In Arkansas, there is still a law on the books preventing an atheist from testifying in court.
      In several states, there are still laws on the book preventing an atheist from holding public office.
      The PoA was hijacked, and changed to exclude atheists, and the national motto was also hijacked, and replaced with a lie referencing a belief.
      Recently, a NC state rep proposed legislature to give NC a state religion, which in effect would turn atheists into second class citizens.

      Tell me, how are atheists not under attack in America again?

      May 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
  11. kcanderson2014

    I created an account just because I found the premise of this article to be so offensive. As a Gen X Protestant who grew up in the south and works in the RTP, I can assure you that outside of (maybe) your own family,no one gives a damn whether you believe or not and it's none of your business that I do believe. And I can assure you, as an HR professional, I would never talk about religion at work and I don't know anyone who does. And Mr. Ehrman and others like you, the reason you were unable to convince me in college, not that you didn't try, is because it's called FAITH, not Deductive Reasoning. You're the argumentative jerk of an atheist who gives the rest of them a bad name.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:24 am |
    • igaftr

      " I can assure you that outside of (maybe) your own family,no one gives a damn whether you believe or not and it's none of your business that I do believe. And I can assure you, as an HR professional, I would never talk about religion at work and I don't know anyone who does."

      Gosh...YOUR assurances do not change the uncont!tutional laws that single out atheists, the PoA, and the lie of a motto they put on our money, nor the blue laws, not the laws preventing atheists from holding office.

      Let me assure YOU... people care. Your assurances are based on ignorance. Those things are real, and they are real because people DO CARE what others think.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:33 am |
      • Doris

        Indeed, igaftr. I think if the people were still alive that were slaughtered as a result of Scott Lively and his team of evangelicals traveling to Africa and spread the word through hysteria, they would obviously care.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:36 am |
      • kcanderson2014

        That big chip on your shoulder must get very heavy. Must suck to be you.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:26 am |
        • igaftr

          no it does not suck to be me , and the "chip" on my shoulder is UNCONST!TUTIONAL LAWS and violation of my rights.

          Why would you post such an ignorant thing telling me I have a chip and it sucks to be me? Is that some form of your christian beliefs?

          Yeah, black people had a chip on their shoulder about segregation. Women had a chip on their shoulder about not having the right to vote, right? How ignorant and dismissive can one guy get?

          May 25, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Faith is defined as belief without evidence...so basically you're telling us you have it all figured out and don't care. Willful ignorance at best.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:37 am |
      • kcanderson2014

        I do have it all figured out. Christ died for my sins. I don't need to be ugly about it because I'm secure in my beliefs. I wish atheists could display some of the same courtesy.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:16 am |
        • igaftr

          Atheists have not passed laws violating your rights.
          Atheists did not hijack the national motto and get a LIE printed on our money.
          Atheists did not hijack the PoA, excluding atheists froman oath that was meant for ALL citizens.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:21 am |
    • hawkechik

      As a Baby Boomer who was bred, born, and raised in the South (Alabama) and has lived here all her life, I can assure you it *does* matter.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • mplibrarian

      As somebody who lived in Crossville TN for a few years (no relation to the woman mentioned in the article), I can tell you that it is very much a big deal to be anything besides a Southern Baptist or related sect. A Catholic is "weird." I had classmates openly saying "I hate Jews" or "I hate atheists".

      It does depend on the circles you move in; the retired Yankees and some enlightened locals are more tolerant of religious diversity. But most natives are so locked into their Baptist mindset, just being outside of that culture causes problems. You feel oppressed and smothered. You might say "Well move!" but not everybody can ... especially if you're still a kid.

      oh and HR? In smaller establishments the boss is HR. If you're in a small community desperate for a job, you have to deal with that.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:42 am |
      • kcanderson2014

        Anything other than Baptist is considered weird???? I'm a Lutheran and I've never heard a negative word about it. At most I've had to explain why both we have "Confirmation," which many people seem to associate exclusively with Roman Catholics. If you have a problem, it's because of that chip on your shoulder. No one besides you cares. Everyone else is too self involved to care. I find it funny that you atheists actually believe people take enough notice or time to persecute you. No wonder atheism is the religion of the Millennials. How narcissistic do you have to be to imagine that everyone is focused on your lack of belief in God?

        May 25, 2014 at 11:23 am |
        • igaftr

          Thank you for showing the depths of your ignorance.

          Atheists had the Pleedge of Allegience taken away from them by christians who changed it from the ALL INCLUSIVE version written by a pastor, and added a reference to THEIR beliefs.

          Atheists had the national motto taken away , and it was replaced by christians referenceing THEIR beleifs, and now have a lie printed on our money.

          Atheists are prevented by some state laws from holding public office.
          Atheists are not allowed to testify in court in Arkansas.

          If you had laws being passed that take away the rights of christians, and only christians, would you have such a cavalier at!tude?

          Do you agree with all of the laws that violate atheists rights, do you agree with printing a lie on everyones money, or excluding non-believers from the PoA?

          May 25, 2014 at 11:49 am |
    • idliketobeac

      What could possibly be offensive about the premise of this article? Atheists congregating because they feel like they don't belong? People in HR have been trained to avoid creating a hostile work environment but people create them all of the time ... if you work in HR long enough you will see it. This is quite believable because evangelization is a goal for many religions.

      In some ways, this evangelization defines atheism. Nobody cares whether or not a coworker believes in the tooth fairy – but if there were some tooth fairy religion with a focus on evangelizing and converting, all the non-believers would suddenly be a group. If there were no evangelizing religious organizations, maybe atheists would not feel the need to converge into support groups.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:10 am |
  12. danab1234

    I wish I had known about the convention.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:22 am |
  13. brainwashedinchurch

    Almost all religious people are that way for one of two reasons: brainwashing as a child, or being born again. Born Again is like reverse denial. It's a psychological survival mechanism alternative to suicide. Have you ever met a mentally healthy person who became born again? All most all Born Agains were about ready to kill themselves due to prison, drugs, alcohol, depression, etc when they "hit bottom" and "Found Jesus"

    May 25, 2014 at 9:18 am |
  14. danab1234

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

    ― Penn Jillette

    May 25, 2014 at 9:13 am |
  15. colin31714

    To understand how it can feel to be an atheist in the Bible Belt, I would like to extrapolate on a theme I once heard Sam Harris use in a debate. Imagine if you lived in the Dark Ages when most people believed in witches. A good deal of daily life was spent engaged in rituals to fend off withes and every Sunday morning most of the town gathered together in a ceremony related to witchcraft. Further, all diseases were believed to be caused by witches; storms, failed crops and other natural events were attributed to the nefarious machinations of witches and mental illness was invariably diagnosed as possession by witches.

    Now imagine if you were part of a small group of the population that did not believe in witches. Instead, you believed that disease was caused by an unknown, but entirely natural agent and that the rituals performed every day or week by your community was not able to alter natural events (such as bringing the rains or preventing disease) nor did they ward off witches.

    Now imagine further if the 90% of the population that believed in witchcraft also believed it was immoral or at least highly suspect not to believe in witches, that "In Wizards We Trust," was printed on your money, that community leaders made regular allusions to witches in their speeches and that you were regarded as “angry,” or “bitter,” or at least a little odd for being skeptical of the whole witchcraft thing.

    Imagine further that, when you looked around, you noticed that the better educated a person was, the less likely they were to believe in witches. That those villages with a greater proportion of nonbelievers tended to be controlling their economy and environment better and flourishing a little more than those where virtually everybody believed in witches. You also noticed that about 60% of those who believed in witches thought the Earth was designed to be flat and was less than 10,000 years old, and wanted to teach that in schools as “Intelligent Design” and that it was almost always those who believed in witches who wanted to deny people the right to marry people of the same star sign.

    Finally, imagine that you noticed many abuses caused by the belief in witches, such as people giving 10% of their crops to highly suspect priests to ward off witches, belief in witches and elves being used to deny the pollution you noticed building up in your village and laws being passed controlling how a woman must act during menstruation based on witchcraft.

    Think, as a nonbeliever, how much you would want to oppose the belief in witches and witchcraft. Think of how you would view witchcraft as a retarding influence on society and how you would long for the day when the shining light of science and reason would illuminate your village and the majority of the population would adopt reason and logic to govern their lives, rather than laboring under the stultifying effects of their belief in witches, pixies and elves.

    Well, to some extent, that is how it sometimes feels to be a person who does not believe in gods, saints, miracles, and angels in large parts of the Bible Belt today.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:11 am |
    • doginwoods

      Good write up. The first thing I thought of when I began reading it, was the Puritans seeking out the New World to escape the religious persecution in England, or so I had been taught. We all know this to be untrue now, but none the less, good story.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:20 am |
  16. dwhulk23

    "Who need Atheist when we have Christians like you?" Ever heard the saying? We live in a society today with many hypocrites, many churches who claim to represent Christ. They treat non believers and in some cases believers like an outcast. They turn people away. There are bad apples in every bunch time to time. But there is not enough reason here to not read the bible and seek the truth for yourself. There is only one thing in this like for granted and that's death. I know where I am going when the time comes.

    May 25, 2014 at 9:11 am |
    • Doris

      "They treat non believers and in some cases believers"

      Because of the number of drastically-differing sects and the ratio of believers to non-believers I would say "and in most bases believers".

      "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth." –Thomas Jefferson

      May 25, 2014 at 9:15 am |
      • Doris

        (most cases, not most bases)

        May 25, 2014 at 9:16 am |
    • incredulousmark

      Reading the bible is the best way to become an atheist.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:50 am |
    • igaftr

      The truth of the bible? Here is the truth I found when readng the bible.
      It was written by men, much of the bible is clearly false, and there is no verifiable base for the supernatural claims.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:58 am |
  17. jswanson1991

    I don't care what you believe and you should not care that I believe in god.

    May 25, 2014 at 8:51 am |
    • Doris

      I can't help but be curious why you would believe in a god with a lowercase name. Maybe it was a capital "G", but now it's like the Wizard of Oz, when the witch is in mid-melt.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:59 am |
      • dwhulk23

        does it matter if I type atheist or Atheist?? I didn't think so. Still and atheist, god is still GOD

        May 25, 2014 at 9:30 am |
      • dwhulk23

        Does it matter if I type atheist or Atheist?? I didn't think so. Still and atheist

        May 25, 2014 at 9:34 am |
        • G to the T

          "God" historically in the west has almost always been equated to the Abrahamic god Yahweh. "god" is usually seen as a more generic descriptive (i.e. the god Apollo) rather than a proper name.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
        • dwhulk23

          That my friend does not effect my salvation. lol

          May 25, 2014 at 11:08 am |
        • dwhulk23

          Thank you for your insight. Your comments are always welcomed.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:09 am |
    • danab1234

      I won't care as long as you keep your imaginary friend and all of that absurd, magical nonsense to yourself.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:06 am |
    • kinaalvarez

      I don't care what you believe either and I don't care that you have a conference to disseminate the nonsense either. This is a boring story!!!

      May 25, 2014 at 9:10 am |
    • samsstones

      jswan.....
      Which god be specific? There are some gods that are much more believable than the Christian lot; three, three, three gods in one, one the nasty brutal vindictive bas-tard, the magician his son and the sp00ky ghostly thing, pretty ridiculous stuff. Hope you picked a better god than that.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:19 am |
    • incredulousmark

      Unfortunately, beliefs influence one's actions and Christian beliefs, based as they are upon the arbitrary dicta of a capricious god from a ridiculous book of myth, too often make people act like cruel jerks.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:52 am |
    • ohioatheist

      Personally, I don't care about your beliefs. I care about the actions that stem from those beliefs. When people's beliefs cause harm to others, then we have a problem.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:10 am |
  18. kosta682014

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoam4q5yTWg&w=640&h=360]

    May 25, 2014 at 8:43 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      This one is based on actual evidence.
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m39g7Aceoo8&w=640&h=360]

      May 25, 2014 at 8:53 am |
      • kosta682014

        Surprised that he doesn't deny the existence of Christ. The fact that he doesn't is more telling than anything he states. Does it REALLY matter if some places in the Bible have been taken incorrectly by Christian followers? No. What truly matters is that Christ existed, taught, died, and rose from the dead and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:00 am |
        • samsstones

          kosta...
          That is just silly, but if you believe it why not hurry up and join Him? Get back to us after you have passed and tell Houdini we are still waiting.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:06 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          James Randi is not a Christian nor a believer...sorry to disappoint you.
          This video is a good...Matt is an ex-Baptist who attended seminary and is better versed in this than you could wish to be.
          [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAVZdUbgY_o&w=640&h=360]

          May 25, 2014 at 9:13 am |
    • danab1234

      Please don't reproduce.

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU&w=640&h=360]

      May 25, 2014 at 9:07 am |
      • kosta682014

        Thank you for you highly educated response.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:11 am |
        • danab1234

          Please give me one shred of evidence for your invisible man theory.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:15 am |
        • kosta682014

          I could but it wouldn't matter, you will reject every one of them. Beside your mind is already set, remember that's what Satan is good at deceiving people.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:20 am |
        • kosta682014

          [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XEVS4SUZWY&w=640&h=360]

          May 25, 2014 at 9:24 am |
        • danab1234

          Oh no. I am really scared now.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:25 am |
        • kosta682014

          I don't understand what should you be scared of?

          May 25, 2014 at 9:27 am |
        • Doris

          My favorite ridiculous Satan deception is what several early prominent Christian apologists claimed early on with the notion of "diabolic mimicry". They claimed that Satan performed plagiarism in reverse time order. This was their main defense against the timeline of the Gospels against other accounts. If Satan is real and was able to use such a technique, maybe he tricked Christians to a much greater extent than they realize. How do they know he didn't get their whole story started?

          May 25, 2014 at 9:25 am |
        • Doris

          Justin Martyr was just one of the apologists that made such a claim that I mentioned in my last post.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:26 am |
    • Buck Rutledge

      Very interesting. It should be pointed out that the other ancient texts listed in the chart do not claim to be the divine and infallible word of God; so whether they agree in texts or were written centuries afterward is less relevant to the objections. Also, the Bible is not, and was not meant to be, an objective historical collection of works, but rather the events described served a greater purpose for the writers. In short, the Bible is propaganda, but then, to some degree, so are the works of Tacitus who was a Roman senator with a dim view of emperors.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:24 am |
    • denkidemuerto

      The oldest piece of new testament is a credit card sized piece of John from the 120 CE. Then there are a couple of fragmentary pieces from the third century. So within 2 centuries of the events are incomplete copies of events. Even if you say we found the originals (no way we would know they would be originals, in fact the originals might be really different than the versions we have today) the originals are third person Greek stories written decades after the events.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:21 am |
  19. necrotia

    First off, screw word press or whatever this is making me ANOTHER account just to make a comment. You bible thumpers are a JOKE. You never heard anything about religion before some other human told it to you. It is a VIRUS with a HUGE mortality rate, as religion has killed more people than anything in the history of us, besides aging! Don't you dare BLESS me, as that's like spitting in the face of logic. LOGIC. SCIENCE. LIFE. Forget DEATH, IMAGINARY FRIENDS, AND an EXCUSE for everything you do.

    May 25, 2014 at 8:36 am |
    • cactus521

      Organized religion certainly has caused a lot of turmoil in this world–depending on the theology. Evidence is growing stronger that our world is spiritually connected in some way, as scientists pursue thought provoking experiments that actually reveal what a person is thinking about. Have you ever felt in a bad mood and someone walks in and just brightens up the day without saying a word? There's something going on. I think Atheism is just another form of spirituality. Spirituality is people of like mind getting up and speaking about themselves, about their persecution and about some rather sad efforts to penetrate their spirits thru religious oppression. I also think Atheism is driven by some obvious examples of religious blind thinking, such as the way the world was perceived (and handled thru atrocities) in darker times. Yet I hope Atheists find a spiritual connection at some point in their lives–something that touches them in such a profound way that they understand there is an intelligence that is helping them when the times get dark in our lives–from my point of view all I can say, is if you have a near death experience or loss of a close loved one who was spiritual , you will understand. I've found that thru religious "gentleness" that coursed thru my life in later years after years of living under a heavy handed interpretation of the Bible.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:49 am |
      • nepawoods

        "Evidence is growing stronger that our world is spiritually connected in some way, as scientists pursue thought provoking experiments that actually reveal what a person is thinking about."

        There is no evidence of anything "spiritual" having any real existence. Feelings have their basis in the matter that makes up our brains behaving according to the laws of physics.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:13 am |
  20. shehar39

    Christians guide to surviving in a Christianphobia America.. Stand strong.. show love.. and don't back down.. and put on the full Armour of God everyday

    May 25, 2014 at 8:31 am |
    • G to the T

      "Christianphobia America"

      Amazing isn't it how Christians can be the majority in this country and still consider themselves persecuted?

      May 25, 2014 at 8:35 am |
      • shehar39

        "Protestants no longer majority in U.S., study finds"
        OCTOBER 10, 2012
        LA Times

        May 25, 2014 at 8:36 am |
        • marine5484

          Yeah, because they have become evangelical. The VAST majority are christian in the U.S. and you manipulating that poll just shows how weak your position really is.

          May 25, 2014 at 8:41 am |
        • FranticRed

          Suddenly Protestants are the only brand of Christian out there? Since when?

          May 25, 2014 at 8:47 am |
        • jsharp861

          Your post reveals why you are a believer and not so smart.
          Protestants are not the only christian cult in the U.S.

          But keep making our point for us.

          May 25, 2014 at 8:51 am |
        • ohioatheist

          Nice job moving the goalposts. Are we talking about Christians or Protestants? One is a subset of the other.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • dwhulk23

        This country was founded In God We Trust. Atheist should be happy living in China. They don't allow bibles, they dictate how many children you can have, etc... I could go on and on. Move to China and stop destroying our country. I'm sure they will accept you over there.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:45 am |
        • moxrox84

          What makes you think "In God We Trust" has anything to do with the founding of this country?

          May 25, 2014 at 10:15 am |
        • zelda1975

          Please learn some facts before trying to say that this is or ever was a religious nation. This country was founded with a goal of separating church and state by a great many atheists, agnostics and religious alike.

          "In God we trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956"

          "At the suggestion of a correspondent, Representative Louis C. Rabaut (D-Mich.),of Michigan sponsored a resolution to add the words "under God" to the Pledge in 1953.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:16 am |
        • dwhulk23

          You had to google that didn't you? Lol. This is what I am talking about. The brilliant minds of this country could not have written the Bible today, with the power of google, which you rely on so much. The fact that they have not been able to disprove the word of god and has withstood all this time........ Atheist??? Bahahahaha

          May 25, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • G to the T

          "The fact that they have not been able to disprove the word of god and has withstood all this time..."

          Not to your satisfaction I would imagine, but certainly to mine and many others.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • dwhulk23

          3Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."

          Scientist say DNA will only live 120 years. Do your homework and get back to me

          May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am |
        • dwhulk23

          The bible states the earth was a sphere before the time people though the world was flat. So now you have google earth and although the land appears flat as far as your eye balls can see, you know its round because we have google earth, or because Columbus. However I am certain you get my the point.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:54 am |
        • igaftr

          "This country was founded In God We Trust"....completely false...why do you think that?

          That "motto" is a flat out lie, and it was only in the 1950's that the christians hijacked the motto and started printing that lie on our money.
          Take some history lessons BEFORE posting.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • otoh2

          dwhulk,

          While "In God We Trust" was added to some U.S. coins in the mid-1800s, it was not on paper currency until 1957.

          "IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate."
          http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx

          May 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
        • sam stone

          In God We Trust did not make into our currency until the mid 1950's

          What this country was founded on was slavery

          May 25, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
        • dwhulk23

          I am very aware of who put "In God We Trust" part of the Freemasons. Although Masons had several signers (around 9 of 56) of the Declaration of Independence, they where all escaping religious freedom. Meaning they were escaping persecution of Christians, taxes, and lack of freedom to own a gun to protect themselves. That sums it up, completely backward from where we are today. We went from a godly nation to a satanic nation. Believe it, you don't like Christianity, you sure won't like it if and when we are under the modern dictatorship, dollar collapse.

          BTW you danced all around the truth of what I stated about the bible. You atheist will make up whatever you please to to justify your non belief. I am aware that god could have made us all perfect, so why the bloodshed and why the separation between people? Because YOU are ungrateful. Americans live to richly to believe in god, too much pride. What is your definition of rich? hmm.....Americans don't have to walk miles for water, food, etc.... face a dictator government....yet. Our homeless people here in America have it good. You all have too much you take for granted. The truth is ugly, not me.

          May 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • igaftr

          dw
          " We went from a godly nation to a satanic nation."

          Since you cannot show this "god" of yours or your "satan" character to exist, your statement is just as baseless as your belief.

          This is not now nor has it ever been a "christian" nation.

          May 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
        • thingsyouhaventthought

          God/bible haven't been disproven because those things can't be proven in the first place. They are irrational and do not rely on reason to exist. You may as well try to prove that everything outside of yourself is a dream or that you are really just a figment of someone's imagination.

          By the way, the bible referred to the earth as a circle, not a sphere. Circles are flat.

          May 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • thingsyouhaventthought

          If you think a theocracy is right for you, maybe you should take your own advice and leave a secular nation for a hyper-religious one, like Iran. Go ahead. You'll love it.

          May 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • mattalodeon

      Why do atheists spend so much time and energy carrying on about something they don't believe in the first place? I call it it hypocrisy.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:36 am |
      • shehar39

        They have to ridicule anything they don't believe to justify their unbelief

        May 25, 2014 at 8:37 am |
        • jsharp861

          Come on let's be honest, some of the stuff you people claim is so silly it deserves ridicule.

          May 25, 2014 at 8:56 am |
        • MidwestKen

          @shehar39,
          Is that you ridiculing Atheists?

          May 25, 2014 at 9:14 am |
        • fintronics

          So much nonsense from believers.... for instance the Christian preacher that I hear on shortwave radio telling the world that "there were no dinosaurs.... those were animal bones they found".....

          May 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Have you once considered that it might be due to the fact that Christians are the ones imposing their belief in the public sn they have zero right to and violate the constitution in doing so? Stop trying to impose your beliefs in to the public school system or anything funded by tax payer dollar; LGBT rights; secular rights; women's rights and maybe you'll see a difference but until you learn to give the respect you demand, you won't get it in return.

        May 25, 2014 at 8:46 am |
      • samsstones

        matt...
        In order to have a true secular society it is required that we keep the influence of religion out of making legislation based on religious bias, any religion. What with Christians believing it is their duty to proselytize, why would you object to atheists expressing their views or objections to religions? Double standard and or tyranny of the majority, that is why the const!tution was written the way it was by the founding fathers.

        May 25, 2014 at 8:51 am |
        • areasonableatheist

          Hear, hear.

          May 25, 2014 at 8:55 am |
        • Doris

          Yes, thank you sam.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:06 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Well said!

          May 25, 2014 at 9:15 am |
        • mattalodeon

          Couldn't agree more about church and state Sam. However, this is the way this nation is set up. It is a young country, with a developing history, little at best, too much power to soon, with lots of cry babies. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in these interesting times. Sit back and enjoy the show.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am |
      • MidwestKen

        Because the religion and its believers, not the supposed God, affect the lives of Atheists through the laws that believers pass and the behaviors of believers in general.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:13 am |
        • moxrox84

          BTW, proper grammar excludes the capitalization of "atheist" and "atheism". Neither are proper nouns.

          May 25, 2014 at 10:17 am |
      • thingsyouhaventthought

        Discussing an idea that one doesn't believe in is hypocrisy? Do you have access to a dictionary because I think it would disagree. Atheists discuss religion because it is so prevalent and constantly pushes back at atheists who speak out against it. Just because doesn't religion doesn't want to be challenged doesn't mean it shouldn't be challenged. I hope you aren't professing to being open-minded because THAT would be hypocrisy.

        May 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
      • LinCA

        @mattalodeon

        You said, "Why do atheists spend so much time and energy carrying on about something they don't believe in the first place?"
        I argue against religion because of the cancer that it is on society. But it isn't the gods that are a cancer on society, it's the moronic actions of those that cling to beliefs in them.

        I don't care about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or any god. I don't care if anyone still clings to infantile beliefs in such creatures, even if they are adults. I do care if they use those silly beliefs to infringe upon the rights of others. I do care if those beliefs are used to retard society.

        May 28, 2014 at 10:23 am |
    • igaftr

      "full Armour of God everyday"

      This is also known as delusion, since no gods have been shown to exist.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:40 am |
      • Doris

        But I have to wonder about anyone who would post such. I wonder how much "divine morality" they share with Scott Lively and his team of evangelicals who traveled to Africa in recent years to incite the killing of others.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:07 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Phobia indicates fear and fortunately no-one has reason to fear Christians-your ilk can't get away with harming people for disbelief any more. You reside in a secular country, it is time for you to learn the meaning of the word respect and put it in to practice....don't expect respect for your belief, if you're not willing to give respect.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:41 am |
    • inkblot12014

      full armor of god? Seriously?

      Hilarious.

      May 25, 2014 at 8:47 am |
      • Doris

        jswanson1991's god on the next page has been reduced to a lowercase "g". He must have forgotten to Armor All his god.

        May 25, 2014 at 9:10 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Is it possibly just a typo?

          May 25, 2014 at 9:16 am |
        • thingsyouhaventthought

          God doesn't accept typo's. No, he's going to hell.

          May 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • jsharp861

      What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof

      May 25, 2014 at 8:50 am |
    • danab1234

      The last part sounds like total gibberish. How did you get out of your straightjacket?

      May 25, 2014 at 9:10 am |
    • dwhulk23

      Amen, Amen!!

      May 25, 2014 at 9:46 am |
    • moxrox84

      You were born an atheist, btw.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:16 am |
      • dwhulk23

        meaning you were born with decision. If I want to be gay, I can be gay. If I want to be atheist, I can be atheist. If I want to accept that jesus died on the cross for our sins and go to heaven. Well that is my choice. We all have choices to make. I am grateful that I grew up in the Land of opportunities. What if you were born in a land where you have to worship the dictator of your country and you are brainwashed from the time you were a little baby, that you were willing to risk your life for your master. Then you can tell my you were born that way. You have choices. That is a blessing.

        May 25, 2014 at 10:57 am |
        • G to the T

          "If I want to be gay, I can be gay. If I want to be atheist, I can be atheist."

          In my experience, neither are a choice. I never wanted to be an atheist (who the hell would!?!), atheism is where I found myself after I honestly questioned and searched for answers. I lost my faith kicking-and-screaming, it was NOT a choice.

          And if you can "choose" to be gay, can you confirm when you decided to be straight? Was it because you had a negative hom0se.xual experience?

          May 25, 2014 at 11:33 am |
        • dwhulk23

          You still have a choice. Things happen to people sometimes are a testimony for others. Being a christian does not mean that you won't have struggles or be persecuted... It happens all the time. I'm talking real persecution. Not because someone said something I did not like. Being a christian is following Christ. The bible is and can be a very solid foundation to your life. Finances to marital problems. Salvation is the most important thing that can be acquired by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • G to the T

          You're going to have to expand on that. How is it still a choice?

          May 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • seedenbetter

      LOL...that's like the Nazis claiming they were being persecuted in 1939 Germany.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:18 am |
      • dwhulk23

        The earth is an inch closer to the sun we burn, and inch away we would freeze. Our Scientist tell us that DNA strands can only live 120 years. Lets see what god tells us in his word: 3Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."

        Still don't believe?? I still love you guys/gals

        May 25, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • G to the T

          The Earth's orbit varies from 91.5 million miles to 94.5 million miles... sooooo... you're already wrong there. What other "facts" you hold dear aren't you questioning?

          May 25, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • thingsyouhaventthought

          lol This about the most hilarious thing I've read in this comment section. And that includes the other idiocies you've shared. You seriously think an inch one way or the other is the difference between life and death on the earth? Where do you get your information, the Creationist Museum? We are within a millions of miles wide zone where life exists just as it is. Why are there other planets in our solar system that don't support life? Why does anything exist beyond the Earth and our sun?

          DNA is replicated over and over again throughout generations. How do you explain DNA recovered from animals that have been dead for tens of thousands of years, and even recovered from the bodies of human beings that are 150 years old? Also, how do you explain the fact that some humans have survived longer than 120 years? Your biblical "science" is blatantly incorrect and easily proven wrong.

          May 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
        • dwhulk23

          And the DNA??? I want to hear your input??? Just as I thought. The bibles states earth as sphere before time of columbus??? How do you answer these two?? Atheist Bahahaha

          May 25, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
      • G to the T

        "Our Scientist tell us that DNA strands can only live 120 years."

        Then how are there animals/plants that live longer than 120 years?

        May 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
        • dwhulk23

          3Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."

          What part made you think that God was speaking to animals and plants?? Dead DNA strands can be discovered from several hundreds of years, so says the scientist. Ha, if you believe everything a scientist says. The scientist are only agreeing with god on that one, they don't have a choice, bahaha, humans don't live that long. Now if God said 80 years and you have people living 120 years, I could see your theory. Read it, believe it, you know I am right on this one. But there is way more to the bible than this petty nonsense. Much love to all my fellow Athiest, brothers, sisters, hope all is well.

          May 25, 2014 at 9:39 pm |
        • hotairace

          The lord allegedly said. . .

          May 25, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
        • G to the T

          " To date, the oldest person known to have ever lived was Jeanne Calment of France. She died at age 122, Guinness World Records reports. "

          Here's one that was over 120. I wouldn't be surprised if our's or our children's generation doesn't provide examples of over 150. I've also read an article that states that dying of old age may be a thing of the past as soon as our generation.

          What other "facts" aren't you questioning?

          May 28, 2014 at 10:03 am |
    • n2vegas

      Poor poor chirstians. They can dish out hate and discrimination but turn the tables and call them on it and all of the sudden you are persecuting them. As a Gay American Citizen I find this sad but amusing as hell. What hypocrites. Christianity is a choice, you're not born that way, you CHOOSE to be a narrow minded bigot who thinks your invisible magic monster in the sky is the absolute truth and you don't need any proof. Must be sad to be so intellectually inferior.

      May 25, 2014 at 10:50 am |
      • benhoody

        Says the gay athiest spewing his self righteous hate.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • priesthunter

      Thanks for sharing your weakness of mind and character.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:37 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.