June 8th, 2010
04:21 PM ET

The White House gets religion

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Religion isn’t just for Republicans any more.

One key to President Obama’s 2008 election victory was his willingness to speak openly about his personal faith and to connect the dots between his public policies and biblical values. 

In his inaugural address, he famously described the United States not as a secular nation or a Christian nation but "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."

Yesterday that patchwork nation was on display at the White House in an event on interfaith and community service on college campuses co-sponsored by the Obama administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and its Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

I spoke at this event about the necessity of moving out of the rut of Interfaith 1.0, which all too often made interfaith gatherings look like clubs of like-minded liberals patting themselves on the back for viewing all religions as different paths up the same mountain.

I am happy to report that Interfaith 2.0 was very much on display yesterday at the White House. Joshua DuBois, executive director of Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, spoke repeatedly about the need for “authenticity” in interreligious work — of welcoming theological liberals and conservatives alike into the conversation and not insisting on a “syncretism” where all religions are presumed to be essentially the same.

But the animating spirit behind the meeting was Eboo Patel, a 30-something Muslim American, a Rhodes scholar, and the charismatic dynamo behind the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core.

Patel, who worked with Mara Vanderslice of Obama's faith-based office to pull this event together, spoke of transforming interfaith service into a mass movement—of moving it “from niche to norm." We require high school students to dissect a frog, he said. Why can’t we see understanding the world’s religions as part of what it means to be an educated citizen?

Rejecting Samuel Huntington’s controversial thesis that the Christian and Muslim worlds are fated to clash, Patel said that religious people can build either bombs or bridges. And college campuses are uniquely poised to model what interreligious bridge-building can look like.

This event, which included Buddhists and Jains alongside Christians and Jews, provided the strongest signal yet that for this administration “faith-based” is not a code word for “Christian” or even “Judeo-Christian.” I sat with a Hindu to my right and a secular humanist to my left, and the speakers repeatedly followed President Obama in folding non-believers into the rhetorical mix. In this White House, it seems, secular humanists are one faith among many.

This creative new approach is bad news for those who don’t want to see the government get into bed with faith-based organizations, because it co-opts the two constitutional criticisms of the faith-based initiatives of President George W. Bush — that they favored Christianity over other religions, and that they favored religion over irreligion. If Bush's initiatives were suspect on constitutional grounds (as I believe they were), Obama’s more inclusive approach will in my view withstand any legal challenges.

Meanwhile, the many young people who attended this event will go back to their campuses and communities with an even greater commitment not only to talking and learning about the world's religions but also to doing service in the name of God, Allah, Krishna, and none of the above.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. G.P.

    Interfaithism is the danger. It says no belief or faith is more right or important than any other. To those who don't believe, this may seem wise but to those who know that there is One, True God it only confirms that the time of the end is near – a time when one-world government and one-world religion will combine to oppress and rule over the world. Both the Old and New Testaments predict that there will be another attempt to destroy the nation of Israel. But this time, El `Elyon – the most high – himself will intervene and keep safe his elect – his chosen ones. And this doesn't mean that all Jews or Christians are safe – only those who are truly God's people, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. Jews and Christians unite – we share the same God – the God of Abraham Avram (Abraham,) Yitzchak (Isaac) and Ya'akov (Jacob.) Isaiah 53. Psalm 22.

    July 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Gary

      G.P. organized religion is the danger. mixing religion in American politics will create division and more violence. One of the great things about america is freedom of religion. As an agnostic I see how religion has caused more hate,harm and destruction all over earth.

      July 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  2. psychclass

    All of you-you are in my prayers. Jesus said in the end times that there would be people who will not believe, who will not accept him. Jesus is the only one who lowered himself down to a human level. In the case of other religions, it is man trying to raise himself up to a G-d's level. He did this so he would know our temptations, and our troubles and weaknesses. The bible is the only book written over 2000 years ago that has predicted accurately past, current and I believe future events. Jesus has not asked us to do anything except believe in him and believe that he died on the cross for our sins. He even prayed for all of us (future generations) while he was in the garden awaiting his execution.

    June 30, 2010 at 3:25 am |
  3. Reality

    Henry VIII as a founder of a religion??

    June 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  4. Kevin

    @Stephen Prothero: Secularism 'runs' the world. 0/8 of your purported religions do. Keep selling garbage to idiots.

    June 19, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  5. mschramm

    Every time I see one of these faith-blogs pop up in the mainstream it makes me cringe. CNN, I know you're hurting for ratings right now, but helping sell out humanity to ignorance isn't the right choice to make.

    June 16, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  6. Noble9

    I have followed the path of Asatru for several years now. I walk with and honor the old Gods of my people: Odin, Thor, Freyr, Freyja, and many others. Religion provides me with a code for living day to day and an outlet for the awe I feel at being alive. The desert god of the christians and jews has never spoken to me. I don't understand why anyone whose bloodlines are from the northlands would follow the sterile jewish god. But I have dated christians, catholics, and muslims and get along with them fairly well.

    June 16, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  7. Luke

    I'll fight to the death for your right to be an ignorant idiot who believes in complete foolishness. You are just another example of someone who refuses to debate Walt Brown on purely scientific grounds. All he asks is you leave religion and religous texts out of the debate. It is you and your evangelical evolutionism that is masquerading as science. The pendulum has swung to the opposite side of the spectrum and the anti-religous crowd is now the ones doing the persecuting and witch hunting. Creation is not a belief system it is science. There is evidence of intelligence creating complex machinery everywhere no where is there evidence of complex machinery forming from nothing in fact it's a scientific impossibility.

    June 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Luke, This is just more of the same.

      1) You are resorting to gratuitous verbal abuse/name-calling and trying to appeal to emotion rather than intellect by doing so (Ad Hominem)
      2) You keep putting forward the same Strawman argument. Straw Man: the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition's best argument. You have been trying to put words in my mouth by stating that "no where is there evidence of complex machinery forming from nothing" which is not an argument that I have made.
      3) You have erroneously claimed that secular humanism is a religion and that the science of evolution is a magical belief system.
      4) You used the phrase "evangelical evolutionism" in an attempt to equate evidence-based science with a primarily-religious term.
      5) You have called me a bigot and an internet troll.
      6) You have repeatedly avoided answering my question "do you think that most religious people (in other words, most of the world) are eager to learn about other religions or not?"
      7) I was willing to view the creationist website you recommended but you took great offense to my thoughts on the site and Walt Brown. Have you ever visited skeptic dot com?
      8) I have been willing to admit that there are many questions which I do not know the answers to....such as how the cosmos originated. I also pointed out that no one else knows (including you).
      9) I refuted your "life is a masterpiece of engineering" claim (including wisdom teeth = larger brains) and you have made no further effort to counter.
      10) I challenged you to look at the overwhelming amount of evidence for the age of the earth and as far as I can tell, you have decided not to.
      11) You keep committing the same logical Fallacy of Explanation, namely Untestability–the theory which explains cannot be tested. Your theory (intelligent designer) cannot be tested and is therefore not a scientific theory. Just because you and Walt Brown want to believe differently does not change the fact that it is not science. It is religion.
      12) You are trying to appeal to pity when you claim that I am "doing the persecuting and witch hunting".
      13) I refuted your description of natural selection and your response was silence. For that matter, I have essentially refuted every point you have made (unless I agreed) and yet you keep resorting to the same tactics (name-calling, logical fallacies).
      14) So creationism is science and not a religious belief system? Well if things go your way, the U.S. education system will definitely continue its downward spiral. I wonder if that is something you care about. I imagine that you would like to see children praying every day at school (to your god, not a Muslim or Hindu god). Maybe we could have children spend a couple of hours a day at school reading the Good Book (The Bible, of course....not the Koran or Vedas!). Maybe it would lead to the conversion of more people to your religion so they could be with you in heaven and not with me....wherever I may be when this life is over? I don't know where that is....but you do, don't you?

      June 15, 2010 at 3:05 am |
    • Noble9

      It's hard to "persecute" a religion that claims over 78% of the US population. "Evangelical evolutionism"...what are you talking about? You might want to study a little. It's hard to learn when you already think you know all the answers.

      June 16, 2010 at 1:33 am |
  8. thes33k3r

    8) 8) 8)

    June 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Luke

    thes33k3r, s33k harder. Seriously how do you purpose the first form of life appeared or for that matter how could a strand of dna form. All of evolution is one big belief system based on nothing somehow magically creating something. Your points 1-6 prove that life is in a state of decay from a previously higher organized state. This state of decay is proof for de-evolution lets make note of point 5 wisdom teeth, humans previously had larger jaws with larger heads and larger brains. Natural selection prevents any possibililty of evolution as any mutation would be quickly weeded out. You obviously did not study or comprehend Brown's textbook in a couple days. His credentials as a scientist also far out way the majority of the world. The man has a doctorate! How ignorant can you be to claim he is not a scientist based simply on his personal beliefs. I also stated he is a christian theist who's textbook can be USED to support any worldview. I know what worldview he uses his evidences for. Also you say his debate offer is dubious? Well then go ahead and debate him. What are the proclaimed worldviews of Lenin and Pol pot? Whats the body count of atheism versus any other religion probably to large to count imo. All belief systems have been used to kill and help humanity. The major religion of the world is the belief in eating and sleeping. To make a blanket statement on what the majority of religous people do is stereotyping, next step prejudice and bigotry.

    June 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Luke, this is getting ridiculous.

      1) You want me to seek harder....until I believe in your notion of "god".
      2) I don't know how the first life formed and neither do you...no one does. It's just a dishonest cop out to say "I know how life formed.....god did it."
      3) Evolution is not about the origin of the cosmos or the origin of life. It is about what happens to life on earth after it is already here.
      4) Evolution is not a belief system. It is science.
      5) Wisdom teeth are the result of larger jaws however there is no evidence to support your claim that our ancestors had larger heads and larger brains. You're just making stuff up.
      6) If you believe that de-evolution is possible, aren't you admitting that evolution has occurred?
      7) You have never studied natural selection, have you? A mutation can confer either an advantage, a disadvantage or neither. When a mutation confers an advantage to a life form, that mutation will more likely be passed on to the next generation....thus natural selection.
      8) Brown is not loyal to the scientific method. He is masquerading as a scientist with the sole purpose of supporting and spreading his religious beliefs. His hydroplate theory has been thoroughly debunked.
      9) So what if he has a doctorate? So do I. Just because someone has a doctorate does not mean that anything they put forward and call science is legit.
      10) He doesn't want to debate anyone. He wants people like you to think that he's ready debate anytime, anywhere. Look for info about him on other sites besides his own.
      11) Eating and sleeping are activities that we all must do to survive....not a major religion.

      You mentioned Lenin and Pol Pot and "the body count of atheism". You're Strawmanning again (look it up).

      Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China, Nazi Germany and Lenin's/Stalin's Russia are not cases of Reason getting out of control. All are examples of political religion and all were very bad ideas embraced by the people. In all of these cases the people saw their leader as a god and were willing to believe destructive nonsense against all evidence....similar to the destructive religious nonsense people believed during the witch trials, crusades, and inquisition.

      It's well past time for people like you to stop with the weak attempt at associating people like me (who criticize religion while upholding reason, logic, science, human morality, and critical thinking as noble) with political religions such as Communism. If you would just do a modest amount of research on these regimes, you would surely hesitate to make such an empty claim.

      June 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  10. Luke

    thes33k3r, Secular Humanism's supernatural being is non sentient time, space and matter. Secular Humanism claims this 3in1 can organise itself, defying all known logic and physics, into the engineering masterpieces that is life. Secular humanism has a "childish belief"(sounds like name calling to me, but I'll say it's entertaining expression) that the afterlife is merely a less organized state of matter, following the second law the of thermodynamics. If you truly are open minded read creationscience.com it's a scientific textbook site written by a christian theist, however it is purely scientific and can be used to support any worldview. Also look up the definition of "internet troll" for me would you and see which one if not both of us fits under this name. I believe the majority of the world is concerned about feeding and sheltering themselves and are more than willing to learn about the different ways of doing so.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      This is clearly a Strawman argument. What you are describing are supposed tenets of science/astrophysics and not secular humanism. And how in the world can you claim that this is somehow a "supernatural being"? Let me be clear about something: I am a secular humanist and an atheist and I don't know how the cosmos originated and I know that I don't fully understand the intricacies of time, space and matter. Please think about this. This is one of the most important distinctions between me and someone who is religious....namely, that I don't pretend that I absolutely know how the cosmos came into being...in other words, "the god I believe in did it". I am okay with not knowing the answer to this particular question. I will keep searching and studying and I refuse to take the easy way out.

      I can agree with you that life is amazing and the fact that we exist is an awesome thing to consider (I'm being serious). However, I could never say that life is a masterpiece of engineering. Here are just a few reasons why:
      1) Genetic birth defects (such as heart on outside of body, two heads etc.)
      2) Stillbirths and spontaneous abortions
      3) Down Syndrome among other conditions
      4) Animals born without the ability to survive on their own and eventually starving to death
      5) Wisdom teeth, Appendixes, Sinus problems, Back problems, C-section births (all understandable through the study of evolutionary biology)
      6) Ichneumonidae wasps who paralyze (instead of kill) larger larvae of other insects by stinging each set of nerves up the length of the body then lay their own larvae inside so they can eat the larger paralyzed larvae from the inside out

      June 12, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • thes33k3r

      I took your advice and checked out creationscience dot com. I know of many prominent creationists but I was not familiar with Walt Brown and I have spent a considerable amount of time on the site and other sites as well. I know you don't want to hear this but Brown is not a scientist. Why? Because it is clear that his primary goal is to make sure that his science corresponds with the Biblical Flood/Genesis. That is not how the scientific process works (whether the scientist is religious or not).

      June 12, 2010 at 2:42 am |
    • thes33k3r

      You stated that his site is purely scientific and supports any worldview. This is not true either. In his book, he references specific passages from the bible to support the idea of a "leviathan".

      June 12, 2010 at 2:52 am |
    • thes33k3r

      Even on the home page, we find that he has a newer work by the name of "Christian Men of Science".

      June 12, 2010 at 2:58 am |
    • thes33k3r

      Anyone that browses his site would quickly become aware that he is out to bolster a particular worldview.....Christianity. And Brown's claim that no scientist will debate him is dubious (to put it nicely). All Young Earth Creationists are in a state of denial about what the evidence shows. If the scientific evidence, spanning multiple disciplines of science, overwhelmingly showed that the earth is only 10,000 years old (instead of 4.5 billion years old), I would be the first to accept it. I know that you and I disagree on many points but I implore you to please research this and see what the evidence shows. A person can still be religious while accepting the actual age of the earth.

      June 12, 2010 at 2:59 am |
    • thes33k3r

      I also took your advice and looked up the internet troll term. I do not think this term applies to either of us. From a definition I found it states that a troll would submit "a provocative posting to a news group intended to produce a large volume of frivolous responses. The content of a “troll” posting generally falls into several areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish contradiction or common knowledge, a deliberately offensive insult to the readers of the news group or a broad request for trivial follow-up postings." I am not trying to elicit trivial or frivolous responses nor posting foolish contradictions or common knowledge. As a matter of fact, I want to elicit thoughtful and challenging responses.

      Yes, I will occasionally employ ridicule (such as toward John above) because I agree with Thomas Jefferson when he said that "ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

      You intentionally did not answer my query about whether most religious people are eager to learn about other religions or not. I think you know as well as I do that the answer is, generally, a resounding "no". And this brings us full circle to my original comment on this blog...that is that religious thinking itself is an impediment to learning about and understanding other religions. The perceived threat of such an education looms heavy over the religious mind.

      June 12, 2010 at 3:00 am |
    • thes33k3r

      Sorry about so many separate comments. I originally typed it as one comment but it wouldn't post so I had to figure out why. It was apparently because I used the phrase about something new a person might buy and read. I changed it to "newer work by the name of" and it posted.

      June 12, 2010 at 3:19 am |
  11. John

    Democrats can have religion. Jesus told the Religiuos leaders of his day, of his Ftaher's religion, that they were of their father, the Devil. Religion sends people to hell, unless one comes to the Father, through the Son, they shall not have life. Jesus said so. Why? He paid the price and made The Way with his own blood. BTW, God himself sais he was one. It does not matter how many gods man creates in their head, there is one true and living God. Just as there is one of you. Settling on many ways to see God through different religions, eases your sting of hell. There is only one truth, and his nme is Jesus.

    June 11, 2010 at 7:11 am |
    • thes33k3r

      I bet you have a picture of Jesus on your refrigerator, don't you? Was he a white man with a tan, perfect beard, long clean hair, a strong jaw, and not even a mole or freckle in sight?

      June 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  12. thes33k3r

    Dan Gilgoff or Eric Marrapodi,
    Can you please help me to understand why my comments/replies are not being displayed? Please feel free to email me at my personal email address.

    June 10, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  13. thes33k3r

    Well, I've attempted to respond with a comment several times and apparently if my comment is longer than one sentence it doesn't get posted?

    June 10, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  14. Trey

    I'll be happy to answer your question thes33k3r. The answer is this: he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me(Luke 10:16, incase you want a point of reference for my answer) Very simple my friend, eternal life is this: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent(John 17:3).

    Certainly, I believe the gospel of Jesus without a doubt, but I know what is usually meant by those these days that don't believe the Gospel that want to "debate" with those that do, they mean what is your opinion(belief). There's no debate to be had. The one absolute truth is this: this world is fallen, man is depraved, unable to redeem himself from the plight that he currently exists in, we stand in desperate need of a Savior, that Person is Jesus of Nazereth. And unless you and everyone else who does not obey the Gospel repents, you all will spend an eternity seperated from the Father. And let me make it even more plain to you thes33k3r, I'm not arguing that we christians are just as deluded as non-believers. Those that name the name of Jesus should be proclaiming that you're not merely deluded, but that you are indeed totally depraved, in need of the Eternal Son of God, that is, Jesus.

    His authority and not mine, any responses are welcome, good day to all.

    June 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      You said that you would be happy to answer my question....

      June 11, 2010 at 1:58 am |
    • thes33k3r

      ......So, once again, where will we be if we are not with "the Father"? The fact that you wouldn't directly answer the question the first time around is informative and shows that the needle on your moral compass is trying to move in multiple directions.

      June 11, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • John

      Jesus himself spoke of hell maore than anyone else in the Bible. That is why he went to the cross, because he loves us. He said many would perish. Wide is the way of destruction, and many go there. He paid the price, he satisified our death penalty. Wether it be a Muslim, Hindu or a sigle American reprobate parents, the children suffer at the sins of their ancesters. They chose that way. That is why it is our job to go to the whole world and give them the good news, that he that hath the Son hath life. He that hath not the Son, hath not life.

      June 11, 2010 at 7:17 am |
    • thes33k3r

      If I were going to summarize the problems with your comments I would simply say that you are pretending to know things that you cannot possibly know such as:
      1) The bible is authentic (written by the authors whose names are assigned to the books–clearly not true for every book)
      2) The bible is true (a dubious claim, to put it very mildly)
      3) The bible was written by or "inspired" by an anthropomorphic supernatural creator of the universe
      4) A god exists (essentially all evidence suggests that the idea of god is man-made)
      5) Jesus actually made all of the statements attributed to him in the bible (highly doubtful)

      June 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Trey, You obviously think that all other religions are false and that Christianity is the one true path. What criteria did you use to come to this conclusion? How did you rule out the other religions of the world? Have you read the Koran, Upanishads, Vedas, Talmud or any other religious texts besides the bible? For that matter have you read the entire bible? If not, why not?

      You referenced the bible as if it should be considered the final word. Your mistake is in assuming that the bible is an authority on the subject...and it is not. I have read the bible...cover to cover. I used to be a Christian but I continued to search for answers and I was willing to search outside the scope of my religion. Apparently, you are not....and this is one of the many disastrous results stemming from the pervasive influence of religious thinking on the human mind.

      June 11, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Trey, You contradicted yourself in stating that "there is no debate to be had". Your comments demonstrate your willingness to take part in the debate that you say isn't to be had. The case is not closed even though your religious mind wants it be.

      You stated that "we stand in desperate need of a Savior". What most humans have is the psychological need for illusion. This is why religion is still such a powerful force in 2010....unfortunately. Your particular favorite brand (Christianity) is only one of many competing belief systems around the world.

      The effect of religion on the brain is enormous as you aptly demonstrate. Only could a religious zealot mired in blind faith and religious tunnel vision utter such a pious proclamation as "you're not merely deluded, you are indeed totally depraved, in need of the Eternal Son of God, that is, Jesus."

      June 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      To John:
      The biblical notion of children suffering from the "sins" of their ancestors is itself immoral and is just one more reason we should discard most of the bible and move on to dealing with problems in the world without consulting a book written by desert tribesman during the bronze age.

      You also assume that the words attributed to Jesus in the bible were actually spoken by him which is highly suspect.

      June 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  15. muchogroucho

    Jesus said : "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the FATHER except through ME".

    In proverbs it says:

    "There is a way that SEEMS right to a man. But its way ends in death".

    All religions, like aspirin are not alike.

    June 9, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • thes33k3r

      What do you believe happens to the thousands of people that die each day who do not share your beliefs (Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.)? Does their 'soul' exist somewhere else after this life ends? And if so, where?

      June 9, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  16. Luke

    Got an education, it's called a world-view everyone has one. Secular humanism is a world-view among the others that makes mutually exclusive claims about the nature of truth, life, death, god, an afterlife and religous texts. enoughisenough are u a christian theist mocking secular humanists or an agnostic deist mocking an existentialist your comments leave much to the imagination. Please state your world-view and the world-view you believe still has imaginary friends and needs to be educated. thes33kr you're making a blatantly bigoted statement when u say "most people (can we say... almost all?) who are religious do not want to learn about other religions..." blah blah blah blogging more bigotry.
    Blogs rule. So much freedom of speech fun.

    June 8, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      According to your logic, every single person on the face of the earth has an education (because everyone has a worldview). Apparently you do not understand the meaning of the word "education". By the way, where did you go to school to complete your PhD?

      I see that you decided to drag out the tired old argument that "secular humanism/atheism is a religion too!" which is basically another way to say "you guys are just as deluded as those of us who are religious!!" Secular humanism doesn't inform you that you (or others) will be spending an eternal afterlife roasting in hell if you don't have the right "world-view". Secular humanism does not require a person to pretend that there is an invisible supernatural being behind the formation of the entire cosmos nor does it require the childish belief in an afterlife in paradise (sitting at the right hand of Jesus?).

      After reading my comments, you ask if I am a Christian theist or an agnostic deist? Are you serious?

      You also resorted to name calling which is typical of someone who doesn't have much of merit to contribute to the debate. Instead of answering my argument you committed an Ad Hominem attack in an attempt to appeal to emotion rather than to intellect.

      bigot: –noun
      a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

      I think that the world needs to be taking part in a dialogue on religion. I am definitely not a bigot. I am open to discussion and want to hear the opinions of others....but just because someone is willing to give their opinion (such as you) does not mean that the opinion has just as much inherent value as any other opinion. If you disagree with me, then so be it (I'm all for freedom of speech too).

      I want to take you task on this point: do you think that most religious people (in other words, most of the world) are eager to learn about other religions or not?

      June 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Disregard my question "you ask if I am a Christian theist or an agnostic deist?" I see that you were directing that to enoughisenough.

      June 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  17. thes33k3r

    Patel was correct in stating "Why can’t we see understanding the world’s religions as part of what it means to be an educated citizen?" We can reasonably expect that the world would become a better place as more people learn that there are many competing religions out there.

    The problem with this idea, unfortunately, is that religion (which is religious thinking) itself overwhelmingly tends to have the opposite effect on the religious person. Most people (can we say...almost all?) who are religious do not want to learn about other religions because the mere process of learning that there are many other religious belief systems in the world is a threat to their own myopic belief system.

    Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism (among others) make mutually exclusive claims about the nature of truth, life, death, god, an afterlife and religious texts. They cannot all be correct. To paraphrase Bertrand Russell: from a purely statistical perspective, since there is no religion that consists of a majority, then anyone who is religious should expect to spend eternity in hell....just based on the odds.

    June 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  18. EnoughIsEnough

    Why is this worth reporting? Grown adults still having imaginary friends? Get an education.

    June 8, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • YeomanJohnson

      Gases are floating in space, until BOOM, they explode, creating matter. The matter expands out for a few billion years, and then decides one day to go ahead and spontaneously turn into an environment that can sustain life. Then, BOOM, a nonliving sample of rock decides to become alive. Then BOOM, that cell decides to split off in millions of different ways, creating plants and animals. The cells just happen to end up as complex systems like skin, eyes, brains, etc., and they all just happen to evolve at the exact same time. A few hundred more million years go by and BOOM, the animals become self aware. Here we are. So who is it that has the bigger fairy tale?

      In the beginning...

      June 9, 2010 at 8:29 am |
    • thes33k3r

      Yeamon Johnson,
      Your comment is an argument from ignorance. Basically, since there are questions about the universe that we (including you) do not have the answers to, you plug in your "god of the gaps". You might as well have said that "since the universe exists, god had to create it." You also erroneously impart consciousness on inanimate matter by stating that "matter and later rocks 'decide' to become something else."

      Have you ever made a thorough study of evolutionary biology? I have to assume that you haven't when you make statements such as "the cells just happen to end up as complex systems like skin, eyes, brains." What you have put forward here is the same old creationist argument that complexity equals intelligent design. I encourage you to watch the NOVA video on the 2005 Dover Trial.

      Skeptic56 was correct in pointing out that you created a Strawman argument so you could knock it down with the "who is it that has the bigger fairy tale?"

      June 9, 2010 at 11:12 am |
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