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August 2nd, 2010
08:20 AM ET

My Take: Why I support Anne Rice but am still a Christian

Editor's Note: Brian McLaren, a pastor and speaker, is author of "A New Kind of Christianity."

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

Novelist Anne Rice recently made an important announcement: She has “quit Christianity.” Her choice and the reasoning behind it are far too interesting to simply be praised or blamed, agreed with or quarreled with.

Anne was raised Catholic, left the faith at 18, described herself as an atheist for most of her adult life, returned to Catholicism in her fifties, and then last week announced—via Facebook—that she is no longer a Christian.

She has concluded that she will never truly belong to the “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group” known as Christians unless she becomes “anti-gay … anti-feminist … anti-artificial birth control … anti-Democrat … anti-secular humanism … anti-science … anti-life.”

That cost of membership simply isn’t worth it. So she’s opting out.

Tell that much of the story, and you have the sort of thing the news media love to report – another celebrity break-up, if you will. But this time, the celebrity is divorcing God.

But that’s not the whole story. Really, it’s not the story at all. Anne explains that, “My faith in Christ is central to my life.” She is still “an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God.” “But,” she says, “following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

And so, she concludes, “In the name of Christ… I quit Christianity and being Christian.”

Her brief announcement raises lots of fascinating questions. For example, when a person quits Christianity in the name of Christ, what do you call that person? If Christianity means “following Christ’s followers,” what do you call someone who wants to skip the middlemen?

Some might say you call such a person a Protestant: Anne’s reasons for leaving Catholicism aren’t terribly different from those of Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago.

But speaking from personal experience, being a Protestant doesn’t solve the problem. You can find as many “quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous” Protestants as Catholics, if not more, and they enforce the same list of “antis” as boundary markers. To more and more of us, the differences between standard Catholic and Protestant Christianity seem to pale in comparison to the differences between either of them and what many of us perceive as the radically compassionate way of Christ.

I reached a conclusion very close to Anne’s in my book A New Kind of Christianity: “I do not believe in Christianity the way I believe in Jesus. I am a Christian who does not believe in Christianity as I used to, but who believes in Christ with all my heart, more than ever.”

So I do not condemn or criticize Anne in any way. I’m glad she has followed her conscience and articulated the reasons for doing so. That’s good for her, and it may be good for the church, too. Sometimes, powerful people only listen when they see enough people voting with their feet.

I haven’t taken that step myself, though I think about it quite often. (As recently as last week when I heard about the pastor planning to burn Qurans on September 11. Sheesh.)

I hang in there for several reasons. First, if I want to be affiliated with any group of human beings, sooner or later I will be associated with bigotry, intolerance, violence, stupidity, and pride. In fact, even if I stand alone, distancing myself from every other group, I know that within me there are the seeds of all these things. So there’s no escaping the human condition.

Second, if I were to leave to join some new religion that claims to have – at last! – perfected the way of being pristine and genuine through and through, we all know where that’s going to lead. There’s one thing worse than a failed old religion: a naïve and arrogant new one. In that light, maybe only religions that have acknowledged and learned from their failures have much to offer.

Third, I’ve decided that if I’m going to have solidarity with one failed religion, I might as well have solidarity with them all. So rather than surrendering my identity as a Christian, I’ve redefined it so it doesn’t mean that I feel superior to anybody. Instead, it means that as a failed member of a failed religion, and I’m in solidarity with all other failed members of failed religions … and with people who have dropped out of failed religions as well.

Perhaps it’s this truly catholic (small-c) solidarity in failure that really counts most, for Catholics, Protestants, and everybody else. Those who leave religion and those who stay can work to expand that gracious space of solidarity, which, I think, is what Jesus called “the kingdom of God.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    Oh Mark from Middle River, (any relation to the man from Snowy River) you are so wise. The way you lecture poor Orthodox church Ryan is like that of a kindly but firm Father. Thank you for your invaluable contributions.

    August 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  2. Saganhill

    Since there is actually no proof the stories in the bible are true, they are only stories and as such everyone spewing out on verse after another is moot–no meaning in the "real world". I feel sorry for people who have to make up supernatural beings to make their lives "feel" full and their "spirits" guided. Makes no sence unless you find it hard to think for yourself and do not want to take respnibility for anything and just say "it's in gods hands".

    August 2, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • Guest

      "The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism."-G K Chesterton

      August 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Kate

      Well let's face it. Your fiction is boring.

      August 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  3. Mark from Middle River

    McCluck – I can respect what you post at the same time I do not feel that there is anyone, who actually reads blogs such as these, whose minds can be changed. If we had a therapist come and test most of us here and write a report on each of us and our personalities. If that same report were absent our political and religious views I highly believe that most of us would test almost identical. Our mannerisms and emotional triggers would, I believe be very close. Equally close would be our ability to dig in and draw a line in the sand.

    Religous influences on society arguement we could never settle in a hit and run style blog but I would love to discuss if there can be some kind of balance in society between those of faith and those who are not? Is it total sterilization and erasure of the other side with the choices only being one or the other? Someone spoke of "black or white" way of looking at things.

    As a person of faith I can honestly say that Faith is a major aspect of my life but at the same time I can understand that it might not be a major point in others. I do not feel that my faith should influence your life if you wish for it not to but at the same time I do not want another's non-faith to effect mine. Honestly it is another of those radical extremist views on all sides, even those who are atheist have those among them.

    There are sections of your post that were almost word for word with folks such as the Taliban and other extremist persons of faith. "Defending yourself" ...a few years ago Bin Laden's general said they were "defending" themselves from the unjustified influences of the west on Islam. At the end of his video clip he too claimed that if the west and enemies of Islam would change and detach then they, they alquida, would have nothing against them. Your ending about how so few care about such reminded me of Bin Laden speeches.

    In the end, we are here at CNN, ...heck I am a Foxnews Republican and I am here. Just to see if maybe CNN can offer a forum where folks can come together and not agree but, a place where folks can move towards finding balance and understanding. I don't want to change your mind as much as I want to convince you that many persons of faith are just as smart and self determined as you are while at the same time are not automatically your blood enemies because we disagree with you.

    August 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • McCluck

      Show me evidence and my mind will change. Since no one ever has any, my mind is never changed. Show a Christian evidence and they deny it if they already disagree. My stance is not set in stone as others’ are.
      Non faith is justified. Faith is not. Non-faith influence are justified as long as they reflect what logic reason and evidence suggest.
      The influence of the west is not comparable to influence from religion. Thanks for that awful and insulting comparison. They are “defending themselves” from actions that could arguably be justified or not justified. In other words, justification of the west’s actions is possible and arguably for the greater good.-so there is a reason (not saying I agree that it is indeed justified). That is another argument that I will not get into. Unless you think that god can be proven, then by definition religious influence is unjustified. Another difference: I won’t go killing people in the name of a deity.
      When I look at a ball of fertilized cells I see potential for saving lives and improving quality of life for countless individuals. Others see murder. Prove to me that there is a soul and I will appose to stem cell research (which I play a part in). -Just an example to illustrate what I mean and I know that we make stem cells in many ways now.
      I hope you don’t see anger in my posts b/c that is not my intent. I’m going home from work now and will check tomorrow for a response if you want to continue when I have a little more time. Have a good evening.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  4. McCluck

    I am defending myself from nonsense so you may call it competing for a winner. I may be judgmental to those who believe in fairytales and then try to force their fairytale values on me. Politicians make laws based on their (sometimes religious) beliefs, as well as cater to the religious. Our laws reflect those religious values even though they are unjustified in my opinion. I ould prefer to call it defensive since i am only defending myself from the unjustified religious influence on my life. If religion had no influence outside of spirituality and was truly separate from all other aspects of life, I would have nothing against them. Till then i will do what little i can to try to change peoples minds. Too bad few care about evidence and reason.

    "I try to deny myself any Illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps ent!tles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves." – Christopher Hitchens

    August 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • McCluck

      That post was intended in response to Mark from Middle River

      August 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Guest

      When a Man stops believing in God he doesn¹t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.– G K CHESTERTON

      August 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • OBOLARO

      Guest,you hit it exactly!
      All her beliefs, all her religions are conflicting so she rejects the least worldly, rejects the hardest one to explain, rejects the one that requires the most faith and understanding, rejects the most fashionable one to so broadly disclaim. It's not unusual to take potshots at Christians and Jews there are 2000 years+ of history to prove it. She isn't the first and won't be the last.

      August 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • Jojobead

      I'm not inclined to believe anything blindly. Believing in a 'deity' is superstition. Revering a 'book' is nonsense–be it a bible, or other unprovable claptrap such as Scientology, return of aliens and UFO's etc etc. While we're at it, much of fashion is silly. Starving yourself, wearing uncomfortable shoes, generally following what 'authorities' deem 'correct'. Why not believe in: Facts. Proof. Common sense. Morality as an imperative, of and for itself.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  5. Ryan David

    This post, much like every other on CNN's belief blog, shows no concern for Orthodox Christianity. Every point of view offered is either Roman Catholic or Protestant, which are indeed two sides of the same coin. It is a tragedy of our modern western culture that we know nothing of the Orthodox Church.

    August 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Ryan – Are you a member of the Orthodox Church? If so, then with all respect the fault lies with post like yours. Do not take this as being mean or flaming but, what are you waiting for. This is for the most part , a free and open discussion board. Do you need CNN or another media outlet to do the job of discussing the Orthodox church?

      Ryan, my friend if you are saying that all other points of view are being offered, then the silence coming from those of the Orthodox faith comes from whing post about how they are left out instead of relating this story's subject to those of the Orthodox faith.

      So, please instead of worrying about why CNN is not covering the Orthodox church can you tell us how this threads subject can relate in some part to those in the Orthodox faith. Don't wait for another to carry your banner...pick it up and go forth.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    Gary – Thank you. There is no glory on being middle but at the same time the middle can be just as extreme as either polar opposite. There are those that are in the middle whose language can on occasion sounds as militant as the others.

    The thing see on a bunch of these blog responses are people coming in with their previous prejudices and fears. They post feeling that no one here reading that holds opposing views are as grounded and well versed as they are. The problem is what I want to grab and shake Reality and like from all sides is that none of us came into this section of CNN with a view that we are planing to walk out of this blog changed or in any way dropped.

    What I would love to see is someone posting saying not, that they have changed their views or beliefs but that they have met the opposing side , another who shares different views and at the end of the day they do not feel like burying a ax in that persons skull or bombing the others home. I did see it a few weeks back on the blog about the moderate Muslims. It started with the troublemakers pitting one side against the other, folks Reality came in and said all sides were wrong ..blah blah blah. Then after all left true discussion began and folks began to talk.

    Are we here posting to find a winner, to see whose views reign supreme or are we suppose to try to find understanding and the freedom of the erasure of fear of those different than ourselves?

    August 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  7. Amy

    Failed religion and its failed followers = plain old reliable heathernism, and there's nothing wrong with that...I like being a Heathern because it's honest. 🙂 I also like the comment in the article about radical compassion...I think if Jesus walked today, no one would follow him because of this concept...the idea that there's no "us" versus "them" and to embrace all with understanding, respect and love. I can't even imagine that ever being our collective conscious.

    August 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Amy

      Good post....

      Peace..

      August 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • Guest

      When the lights go out...how deep is the darkness?

      August 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • Eric

      Heathernism? Is that where we all bow down and worship the mighty Heather 🙂

      August 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  8. let's be real

    @ Bonita..... You couldn't have said it better. That is the simple truth..God bless.

    August 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  9. OBOLARO

    I am amazed that Anne Rice could do the easy, fashionable, and cowardly thing by rejecting the entirety of “Christianity” and “being Christian.” My “Christian” church and belief in “Christianity” welcomes feminist, gays, science, humanist, and even Democrats. Maybe her problem is with strict Catholicism; maybe she has just lost her faith. She is a hypocrite to say she rejects “Christianity” but embraces being a Democrat. It is like saying, “I don’t want any dirt on me but I love living in a cesspool.” Agendas take on a life of their own and I would expect most of the media will applaued her "decision."

    August 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • peace2all

      @OBOLARO

      Seems extremely harsh considering she has come to the conclusion that christianity and a lot of their front-burner agendas and beliefs absolutely do not match what is right for her, nor what she believes Christ is about.

      Peace....

      August 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Alfred

      Obolero, thats why she rejects your kind of Christianity . You say that you accept democrats but then you turn around and equate them with being dirty and living in a cesspool. In other words you judge all people who vote democrat as being somehow less moral and less `clean' than you. Game set and match.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • OBOLARO

      Alfred, Thank you for proving my point, game set & match to Anne Rice. I was refering to her judging Democrats as more palatable than "Christians." What a poor joke. She is the one judging, and after what the political parties represent and continue to do to this country. We all must make judgements everyday to survive. Her choice was incredibly ironic. I presented no such comment on any Democrat as less moral or clean. I only stand by the facts of deceit, corruption, waste, and bondage the political parties foster. I am asking, is that what she can better identify with? Alfred, look at the bigger picture, beyond the agenda, including your own.

      August 2, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • Ron

      Is Jesus is a Republican?

      August 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Ron

      Sorry about the typo. I meant to say...Are Jesus is a Republican? 🙂

      August 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • OBOLARO

      Ron, That's a good one.
      Read on, Read on!

      August 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • Kate

      Really? You think your Jesus fits the Republican mold better than the Democrat?

      Yes, its a telling point, don't you think?

      August 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • OBOLARO

      Kate,
      You missed my point. Read further on, and don't be so denfensive.
      Jesus would find BOTH major political parties in America as something much less deserving
      yours, mine, and Anne Rice's support than his contemporaries the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
      And we know how he felt about those folks. Besides, the typical church in "Christianity" does way,
      way more good than any self-serving political "party" who's ONLY purpose is to maintain power.

      August 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  10. Bonita

    Religion is man made Jesus taught love. When ask what was the two most important commandents Jesus said to love God with all our heart our soul and our mind 2nd love other like our selfs. Everthing else will fall in place.

    August 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Kat

      That is exactly right.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Reality

      Bonita,

      The Golden Rule predates Jesus by many centuries. Might want to Google, Bing or Yahoo the origins of said rule.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  11. Birdwatcher1

    How interesting that leaving the Catholic church be equated – or put on a par – with leaving Christianity. Many Bible believing Christians disagree with several practices and tenets of the Catholic church. They have practices that are not based in biblical writings at all, such as the adoration of Mary, to name one. They can be downright cult-like. The Catholic church (and MANY Protestant churches) pass judgement on all kinds of lifestyle issues. As a regular church goer, I can say that one of the most productive things I ever did in my faith walk was to leave the Catholic church.

    August 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • NL

      Pot, meet kettle.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mark

      Birdwatcher1, I'm not sticking up for Catholicism, but don't forget that many of their beliefs are based on Apostolic tradition which pre-dates some of the New Testament. The "not in the Bible" argument has been used to attach Catholics for awhile but what it doesn't take into account is that the Bible was compiled by those from what was then the Catholic Church and the Tradition argument. The larger issue for me however, is the reliability of the Bible as a literal accurate account. This has not yet been proven.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • ShawnStCloud

      Roman Catholics honor Mary because she is the mother of God. Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is a Blical basis for this honor: Luke 1:48 is "For he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call me blessed."

      August 3, 2010 at 3:40 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Birdwatcher1

      Luke 1:48 [Mary]… “all generations will call me blessed”. Luke 1:28, 30 [angel]… “full of grace, found favor with God”.

      God was the first to call her blessed….He sent an angel to tell her. Are you going to be the last one to call Mary blessed or are you going to hold out to the bitter end....

      What lifestyle issues have been judged? Lets discuss it because we need to see WHO is doing the judging….

      August 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  12. Mark from Middle River

    When I read both of the blogs on Anne Rice I thought about how I have known folks who left one church to join another. I can remember one relative who grew up Baptist but at the same time she grew to come out to being gay. She felt uncomfortable at her home church so she joined a LGBT church in New York. She has moved and found a open church in her new home town.

    The point is that they are making news of a B or C list actor that has not said anything about cutting her relationship with God but is doing what many do each day in just plainly leaving her home Church. Obama cut ties with Rev Wrights church because he claims the views and such were out of step with his. Did he leave Christianity? Did Rice when she still claims Christ?

    I like CNN and lately I felt they are waking up and trying to attempt to claim the middle. I wonder though if each time a failing celeb who cant find a job or media attention wants to say anything negative about religion if CNN is going to post it as a major story. It does cause a lot of fun here. Folks like Reality get a chance to use myth and such and then in comes us folks of faith riding in to beat him down again and again....over and over .... the cycle never ends. Reality, at which point will see that all that is happening just to keep us at each other. Folks that read blogs like this, never change their views so your post and our views are just entertaining someone , some others ....

    August 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Gary

      Mark from Middle River , you are a smart fellow and very open minded unlike most of the other religious folks.....Most religious folks see it as black or white. No middle ground.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Reality

      Mark,

      Scroll up to review the reference NT passages cited by Tim and the response thereto. The response was posted August 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm. Bottom line, every line of the NT has been examined closely by many contemporary NT exegetes and 70% of said passages are judged to be not authentic Jesus as per the examinations i.e. we have been conned.

      And note the other 30% was borrowed or plagiarized from earlier writers and thinkers who lived long before the simple preacher man. So who should we believe, those who have reviewed the documents or those preachers, priests and evangelists who are trapped in the bible box of inerrancy?

      August 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  13. Liutgard

    I've been flirting with agnosticism for many years- because I think that it is not possible to really 'know', and I found that the more someone insists that they 'know' God and his will, the less likely they are to actually behave like Jesus said they should.

    But the past couple of months I've been attending an Episcopal church- it appeals to my sense of ritual and tradition, but also to by desire to see faith really in action. Food banks, homeless shelters, etc- Episcopalians don't run them so as to have an avenue to preach at people, but because it is a way to reach out to the community and obey the teachings of Christ. I still don't 'know', but they are happy to see me when I walk in the door, and I can worship or not as fits my comfort level. Certainly nothing like the Pentecostal churches I grew up in.

    August 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • David H.

      As a life-long Episcopalian, welcome! You seem to "get it" about us. The Episcopal Church isn't about Orthodoxy (right belief or right thought), it's about Orthopraxy (right practice – i.e. how we do our liturgy).

      Remember, as the old joke goes, "Wherever two or more Episcopalians are gathered in His name, there will be three or more opinions." 😉

      August 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Mike

    Amen Patricia J.......preach it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  15. Patricia Juliano

    When I look at the scope of things – and I look at the scope at the life of Christ and the New Covenant that was made thru him. His life was very much against the established "RELIGION" of his time –
    I would prefer to see people as a Body of Believers versus the denominational differences that separate most of use. Jesus delclated, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light! NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THRU ME".
    It's not about Religion, it's about a personal
    Relationshi – does that mean I don't belong to a church,- I've been a member for almost the past 20 yrs.
    We are so quick as "CHRISTIANS" to jump and critize those not walking our same path, worship the same way we do or the sane day.
    If it's a 'bout religion – no, I am not a religious person but it's individual, PERSONAL cuz
    it is about relationship with Jesus.
    When judgement comes, it's not gonna be me, my parents, my pastor, my therapist and my best friend standing there trying to convince God of my worthiness – it's me and my Lord Jesus Christ. That's all-that's it!
    Associations are just that ... ASSOCIATIONS. What it comes down to how you conduct yourself whether someone is watching you or not ... As I raise my two young sons, it ultimately has come down to RED LETTER LIVING – what would Jesus do?
    Do we attend church regularly, yes! Do we support it's works out in the community – yes! Am I willing to blindly follow -"No"
    I am a New Testament Christian, bought by the New Covenant of Jesus, I follow His teaching, and Am humbled to serve Him as my Lord & Saviour.

    August 2, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • mif991

      exactly!

      August 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • E.L.

      I really like the phrase "Red Letter Living" and what you have to say. I believe it is all about about your relationship with Jesus Christ, Church is simply there for the fellowship and to provide an outlet for praise and worship. People who are not Christians want to lump all of us who are together because it is simpler for them. I to often say to myself and to friends (both within my church and outside) that Jesus is the way, and the only way. Thank you.

      August 2, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
    • Reality

      Patricia,

      You are trapped in the bible box of myths and semi-fictional accounts of a simple, preacher man whose body still lies a-mouldering in the ground. As with all us current or former Christians, we have been conned by Paul et al.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Patricia Juliano,

      I would prefer to see people as a Body of Believers….you said.

      We are members of the Body of Christ [with the Sacrament of Baptism, we become members]. Each person is a member and no one can say they are more important than some other member--an eye cannot say it is more important than an ear, an ear cannot say it is more important than an arm, etc., and so we are the Family of God. Family members pray for each other and have the highest aspirations for them. When one suffers or has abundant joy, each member shares in the suffering or the joy.

      Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body of Christ. He said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light! NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THRU ME".[copied your quote]. He is the one Way, the one Truth, and the one Light. There is but one path that leads to the Father; this path is narrow and there are not many on it due to each person going off on his/her own path…leaving the narrow path because it ‘feels right’ to them to take some other path.

      When Jesus looked at the people He encountered, it was with Love; He came to establish a new covenant with people because of His Love. His prayer was that we would all be ONE in Him. How can that happen if each seeks out a different path than the ONE He established?

      Jesus Christ’s Way establishes the close relationship with each of us through His Sacraments which keep us in His Love. We don’t get ‘off the path’ to find this closeness…that is just a good way to get lost.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  16. Jim

    It's impossible to know what Ms. Rice means by her statement of allegiance to Christ, perhaps the mythology of the master Christian story perhaps not, but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't all get the chance to read about it in her next book. Christianity has always been a religion that embraces suffering and sorrow and now, according to Mclaren, failure. If failure is the best religion can do, then I doubt it will attract many new converts and both flavors of Christian organizations are likely to re-reject McLaren's point of view.

    August 2, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  17. Mary

    "...maybe only religions that have acknowledged and learned from their failures have much to offer." Would that we could find such religions these days. Thanks to both Rice and McLaren for a dialogue (and a wake-up call to organized religion) long overdue.

    August 2, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • mif991

      Agree. Its a wake up call.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  18. ODIrony

    Reality without some form of faith (which all athiests have in their own way via deification of science) is meaningless.

    As to Ms Rice; it seems all she has ultimately done is proclaim herself a Protestant. At its root, Protestantism is Christianity as adjuged by the individual believer.

    August 2, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • Reality

      Definitions are important

      Atheism vs. Agnosticism vs. Logical positivism

      Critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or divine beings. Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial. It is rooted in an array of philosophical systems. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Democritus and Epicurus argued for it in the context of materialism. In the 18th century David Hume and Immanuel Kant, though not atheists, argued against traditional proofs for God's existence, making belief a matter of faith alone. Atheists such as Ludwig Feuerbach held that God was a projection of human ideals and that recognizing this fiction made self-realization possible. Marxism exemplified modern materialism. Beginning with Friedrich Nietzsche, existentialist atheism proclaimed the death of God and the human freedom to determine value and meaning. Logical positivism holds that propositions concerning the existence or nonexistence of God are nonsensical or meaningless.

      August 2, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • MarkinFL

      How do you deify a process? How do you deify something that may or may not be correct and will change over time? Some people just can't imagine living without some kind of blind faith. That is a personal problem for them to deal with. Science is not magic and is only capitalized at the beginning of sentences. Science is simply useful, nothing else.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • McCluck

      Nonsense. I have no faith in science. It requires none. I have to forgo no logic. I can change my opinion when presented with new evidence. I allow for a chance that new evidence will arise to change my mind. This is why I am not positive god does not exist but rather I will not believe in god until there is evidence. If I were to say "I am 100 percent certain that there is no god" then I would have faith that god does not exist since I have no evidence to support that idea. Quit trying to push your logical mishaps onto the logical thinkers. If you’re telling me that I have “faith” that direct evidence holds any value than I am telling that you're argument is a lame attempt to bring others down to your level of naïveté.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • McCluck

      oops. That should read "im telling you that YOUR argument"

      August 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • McCluck

      I think Mr Hitchens did a better job than me.

      “Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake."
      — Christopher Hitchens

      August 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Guest

      "The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man." – Introduction to the Book of Job, 1907

      August 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • Kate

      A-theism – latin for without belief in gods Agnosticism – latin for without knowledge of gods.

      Atheism is about belief, agnosticism is about knowledge and the morality of claiming such. This is not the same thing. You can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist.

      A theist is far more hard atheist than any atheist is. A theist must actively deny the existence of all gods other than the one they believe in. The atheist simply does not believe in any of them.

      August 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  19. Rev JDSpears

    Anne looked up from her position in the pews and asked "Is this what Christ wanted?" Her answer is no! She has not abandoned God, but had to abandon a institution that she felt powerless to heal. Brian, like many, has decided that he could possibly heal that institution. Are either wrong, are either right? Yes to both! Spiritual belief is only genuine if it is deeply held, as both Brian and Anne clearly do.

    What is more important than healing the institution is healing the individual, congrat to both you two!

    August 2, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • wonkyheartmom

      thank-you so much for posting this comment. you took the words right out of my mouth.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  20. Reality

    As with Anne R, Brian M also suffers from the myths of Christianity aka "Mythianity"!!! e.g. the resurrection and deification of the simple preacher man and atonement theology.

    August 2, 2010 at 8:32 am |
    • Gary

      Reality , well put.

      August 2, 2010 at 9:20 am |
    • Dimitri

      C.S. Lewis argued it best: Jesus did not leave us any room to consider him a "teacher" or "simple preacher man" - anything other than the Son of God. That is who he always said that he was. So you can either reject everything he said wholesale as the words of a complete madman (this is nothing new - for this he was crucified), or you can accept what he taught wholesale, but there is no room to pick and choose and call him a preacher or a teacher of morality..

      August 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • OhioOrrin

      no dimitri. jews believe we're ALL sons n daughters of God. and the Catholic church itself has "picked n chosen" by editing the bible.

      August 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Dimitri

      Actually, Jews believe that they are the chosen people, favored sons of God, whom God ordered to go out and commit genocide against other tribes, including their children - presumably less favored sons of God than the Jews.

      "So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon." Joshua 10:40-41

      August 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • TruthIs

      @OhioOrrin U should check and verify ur statement. Jews do not believe we are all sons and daughters of God and the Catholic church is not the author of bible.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Tim

      Except this Jew claimed more than being a son of God.
      – He claimed the ability to forgive sin (Mk 2:5-11 & Lk 5:20-24).
      – He claimed to be eternal, or at least around before Abraham was (Jn 8:57-58).
      – The charge against him for execution was blasphemy, and he was almost stoned for it prior to the crucifixion (note John 10:31-33)

      If you're going to argue that the text of the New Testament, in particular the Gospels has been "picked and chosen" – hopefully you have some sources a little more reliable than the DaVinci Code... The "other gospels" (or missing gospels) tend to paint a super-hero / magician Jesus as even more divine than the New Testament texts (which emphasize much of Christ's humanity)

      I'm not defending catholicism against the charges in this article (I'm not even catholic) – but let's at least engage this discussion on an intellectual level rather than an idiological one. If you're going to make claims, especially about historical figures as important as Jesus, let's back them up at least.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • Mark in the Heartland

      No TIm, not quite right.
      1) It was the Romans that put Jesus to death.
      2) Rome did not have the death penalty for blasphemy against the Jewish God.
      3) Jesus was actually put to death by the Romans for claiming to be a king and enticing people to follow him. This was undermining the authority of Rome – or subversion.

      August 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • Ron

      I noticed that you have a tendency to redirect the conversation towards hateful soapbox blab. Surely there is an episode of Family Guy on that you can roll back in your chair and yell out "This show is genius!"

      We get it, you think the idea of God is absurd! Why argue about it? Join the ranks of real atheist that do not even bother with the silliness of the subject! When are you going to talk about the Crusades??? I can't wait!!!

      August 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Mark

      MarkinHeartland, this is a bit of a minor point but didn't the Jews bring up the charge against Jesus in the first place? Didn't they choose Jesus to be crucified rather than the other prisoner (forget his name)? Didn't they shout out that He should be crucified? To say that the Romans crucified Jesus is a silly technicality.

      August 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • Reality

      Tim,

      Let us put the NT passages so cited to the test of history via required attestations and timing as many contemporary NT and historical Jesus exegetes have done.,

      Some of their conclusions: Matt 2: 5-11

      The genealogies of Jesus are legitimating fictions.

      There was a census of Jews while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

      Jesus was not of davidic descent.

      After Jesus was born, no magi guided by a star or some other astral phenomenon sought and visited him.

      Jesus was not born during a universal Roman census.

      Gerd Luedemann

      Luedemann (Jesus, 280f) finds the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke to be theological creations with no historical basis. In similar vein he finds no historical value in the dispute over the davidic lineage of the Messiah (Mark 12:35-37 and parallels), finding it instead to be the product of "a learned scribal" effort to demonstrate that Jesus is "more than son of David, namely son of God." (Jesus, 87)

      John P. Meier

      Meier [Marginal Jew I,216-219] notes that the "affirmation of Jesus' descent from David might easily be placed alongside his birth at Bethlehem as a theologoumenon (a theological insight narrated as a historical event) if it were not for the fact that numerous and diverse streams of NT tradition also affirm Jesus' Davidic lineage." Meier suggests that the belief that Jesus was "son of David" may have been held by Jesus' followers prior to his death, with his resurrection then being understood as a form of enthronement. However, he notes that such messianic views, whatever their provenance, cannot prove Jesus was "literally, biologically of Davidic stock."

      August 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Reality

      continued:

      Luke 5:24 is not historic.

      John 8:57-58 (New International Version)

      57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"

      58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

      As per most historical reviews on Abraham e.g. National Geographic and the US Conservative rabbis of the US, Abraham did not exist putting the kibosh to John 8: 57-58.

      John 10: 31-33 is a single attestation appearing no where else in the scriptures making said passage historically unreliable.

      August 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • OBOLARO

      Simple minds are quantitative and dismissive.
      The never-ending quest to better understand is true enlightenment.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • Reality Check

      "The highest of man... is to have probed what is knowable and quietly to revere what is unknowable." - Goethe

      "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern?... Although science may solve the problem of how a universe began, it cannot answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist? I don't know the answer to that." - Stephen Hawking

      Today's your lucky day Mr. Hawking - because @Reality, being a towering intellectual and man of profound humilty and wisdom that he / she is– is going to take advantage of this teaching moment and enlighten all of us by answering your question.

      You can take it from here @Reality.

      "I find it diffcult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. And there is certainly no scientific reason why God cannot retain the same relevance in our modern world the He held before we began probing His creation with telescope, cyclotron, and space vehicles." - Wernher von Braun

      August 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
    • Danny

      What took so long? She should have dumped all that b/s years ago. Christianity, Voo Doo, Other Religions, it's all a bunch of hooey.

      August 3, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Ed

      Jesus did not come to create a new "church". Jesus was a Jew, period. His sect operated within Judaism. His own brother James maintained that sect after his death...within Judaism. The whole thing got perverted when Paul took up the mantle, hijacked the message, and Romanized the message for popular consumption. The "church" we have today owes far more to Paul than Jesus...the ridiculous heirarchy of priests, the very human men who decided Jesus was divine and born of a virgin (reference Mithras,Tammuz or Osirus...dying and rising "saviour" gods born humbly in a stable to a virgin, made to suffer and die, only to be raised 3 days late...all predating Christ by centuries...r...sound familiar?) at the Coucil of Nicea. If you really believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were actually written by those disciples, you are sadly deluded. The more I study early Christianity, the more I see that Jesus' message was perverted by what became the "orthodox" Catholic church. They even slaughtered OTHER CHRISTIANS who did not follow Rome's model (the Abiginsian Crusade of the 13th century in Southern France). That was very Christ-like, wasn't it? Read any and all of Bart Ehrmann's books on early Christianity, and how men twisted Jesus to their own ends.

      August 3, 2010 at 9:04 am |
    • Nabob

      "John 10: 31-33 is a single attestation appearing no where else in the scriptures making said passage historically unreliable."
      Convenient. And when the Scriptures agree it means that the "earlier" version was simply copied by a later writer and therefore unreliable. When the Scriptures present the same story but with slightly different information it means that the Bible is contradictory and unreliable. Is there any possible way the Scriptures could be reliable in your view? Probably not.

      August 3, 2010 at 9:22 am |
    • Randy

      And you, Reality, suffer from the illusion that not believing in Christianity makes it OK for you to impose your unsolicited views on others. What's the difference between you and someone who posts that we should all believe in Christ? The ideas – that's all. The proselytizing dynamic and the hypocrisy are the same.

      Please, keep your sermons to yourself.

      August 3, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • luvuall

      These threads are far more interesting reading than Sunday School ever was. I'm out of my depth here so I'll just have to go study more before I can throw in my two cents. However I do have a question: is it possible that birth is not random as one post suggests but rather a choice before we are even born? Just curious.

      August 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      We should check out ' contemporary NT and historical Jesus exegetes', you say ......but you never quote any historical 'Church Fathers and Doctors', just contemporary people. Why is that?

      August 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Luvuall,
      Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you", that is why abortion is seen as attacking a being with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul.

      August 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Tivona

      The Way is how it is listed in the New Testament – not Christianity..... Those who follow Christ are of "the way".....

      August 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • Me

      It seems that all those who are spouting all of this wonderful information need to actually read the Bible. Much of this is false and is simply the need for those to reject Christ. I guess we'll see who's right in the end

      August 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
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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.