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August 5th, 2010
08:09 AM ET

Thoughts before debating Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (right) with author Mark Danner in 2004.

Editor's Note: 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. CNN's Anderson Cooper interviews Christopher Hitchens tonight at 10 ET on "AC360."

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

After professional provocateur Christopher Hitchens announced that he had come down with cancer, legions lined up to pray for him. I have been known to lapse into prayer on occasion, but I did not pray for Hitchens, and I don't expect I will.

I understand why Mormons want to baptize the dead and, on the theory of "no harm, no foul," I don't object to it in most cases. But praying to God for the Great Unbeliever seems like something akin to sacrilege (and not against the divine).

Not so ripping into him. In a scathing review of Hitchens' "God is Not Great" published in the Washington Post, I wrote that I had "never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject."  I also wrote, however, that "there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading."

I stand by both statements. This post is prompted by the latter.

I teach a course at Boston University called "Death and Immortality," and in it we read remarkable work about the "undiscovered country" of death and whatever (if anything) lies beyond.  Hitchens wrote this week in a piece in Vanity Fair of "the unfamiliar country" of people with cancer, and his reflections rank up there with the best writing I know on that sickness unto death.

The Provincetown poet Mary Oliver has written of prayer as paying attention. And so she does - to the humpback whales and peonies and red-tailed hawks that animate her native Cape Cod (and mine). Hitchens pays equally attention to literary and political things, and writes down what he sees with care and courage.

It would be more Hitchenesque of me to body slam him while he is down. This is, after all, the man who called televangelist Jerry Falwell "an ugly little charlatan" just hours after his death, adding that "if you give Falwell an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox."  But I don't have it in me, and not because I am a better man.

Hitchens and I are scheduled to square off for the first time for a panel on the Ten Commandments with David Hazony in New York City on November 4, and I am fairly certain that if that event comes to pass he will have me for lunch, dinner, or whatever else is being served that day.

I am rooting for him nonetheless. We need people like Hitchens in our debates over God and war and torture and adultery and literature and other things that actually matter. We also need his writing, to remind us what passion sounds like.

"In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be," Hitchens writes in his Vanity Fair piece, "I have very abruptly become a finalist." I hope this finalist has a lot more laps in him, even if that means he will run headlong into me in New York City in November.

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

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Culture & Science • Opinion • Prayer

soundoff (526 Responses)
  1. wonderingmom

    Ok, I've been wondering when the time would come that I could ask this question. It seems that maybe it is here. I may be wrong so if I am, just ignore me. But, I am the mother of a soon to be 18 year old daughter. I was brought up as a christian in a baptist church. I grew up, never doubted my faith, but didn't attend church either. We had a devastating fire one night. She was 4 years old. She had not once been to church and to the best of my knowledge, no one had spoken to her about God, angels, etc... However, she nearly died that night. Actually, according to the records, she did. And the EMT's brought her back. When she woke, nearly the first thing she did was describe to the doctors (it is in writing) that she had flown over the house as it burned, saw herself lying on the ground, described going to heaven and being shown various things and told "don't worry, you mama will be ok." She wanted to stay, "they" told her it wasn't time. Since then, I have wrestled with how this could have happened. I have questioned my own faith but no matter what I do, I cannot deny that this child of mine did what she did and said what she said and none of us can explain how she could do so without experiencing it. So...what does a person do? If you know without a doubt as we do that she was not exposed to religion prior to...what do we do? Tell her she is lying? I can't do that.
    I'm not writing this to start a fight...just wondering what some of you may think about it. How you would deal with it yourselves.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Personal accounts are not evidence because they cannot be demonstrated. Plus, they can't even be objectively looked at.

      I have dreams all the time where I fly over my home. Why couldn't her experience be like a dream? A brain starving for oxygen and hallucinating?

      I'm not discounting that it may be an afterlife. All I'm saying is that I dont' think that is the most likely explanation. 🙂

      August 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • Melissa

      ... Its called "television". You have watched it, haven't you?

      Last night I had the oddest dream. It seemed so real to me at the time.

      You see, I'm very happily married and I love my husband more than anything in the world. But I had the strangest thing happen to me. There was a dark haired man in my dream that I was very attracted to. He was beautiful and captivating and most definitely not my husband because he was also very thin with long black hair, part of which was over his face. And at one point, I begged him to kiss me. When I woke up, I felt horrified because I would never do such a thing to the man that I left my own country to join. Never ever would I hurt him so because he means the world to me. And then I thought about it... who is this man in my dream? Well... I've been watching reruns of the tv show Lexx recently, so it hit me.. its Kai. I was dreaming of Kai. The main assassin character in the show. See... it was a dream. Just because it felt real doesn't mean it was.

      That one not blow your skirt up? Ok, how about this one. I was in a car accident in 2004 where I nearly died. I was hit by a car crossing the street. I had bleeding in my brain in two places, a skull fracture, a spleen injury, and my left tibia/fibia were broken straight through. I could have sworn my mother was holding my hand.

      You know what I found out later after I had recovered a bit? The women that was holding my hand? It was the lady that worked at the 7/11 near my house. She had dark hair just like my mother. And she stood by my side and protected me from bystanders, and called the police and an ambulance. I owe that woman a great deal for what she did. I think she's the reason I can still walk because she refused to let people move me from the road just in case my back was damaged. About 6 months later, I went to that 7/11. I gave her a hug and thanked her for all she did. I will never forget her.

      Trauma and dreams do alot of things to the brain. That doesn't mean what you see in them is real.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • chunkbrother

      You support her belief. Don't ridicule her or be cynical about it. Teach her to stand by her beliefs but keep them personal. That is the best way for her to draw strength from the experience.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • chunkbrother

      Melissa – The experiences that you describe were based on prior knowledge that you had entering those dream states. This lady told you that the girl had no prior knowledge. That is different.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • Luke

      wonderingmom – there's no way of really knowing, even as her mother, whether or not she had knowledge of Yahweh or not. There are too many outside influences on the human mind. TV, playmates, an aunt or uncle, etc. I suppose my first question is – why do you immediately assume "they" were angles as described in the Christian faith? What was this heaven she described? Are you sure it wasn't Nirvana? Could it have been paradise as described in the Islamic faith? Why do you, concretely, just jump into the Christian camp so easily when this little gap opens and inject this entire soup, so to speak? My father did a lot of writing on the human mind before he died. While it would take hours and plenty of writing to explain his full range of thoughts, a quick summary sounds something like this: The human brain sees and hears much more than our senses observe. That is, when you enter a room, your brain sees all of it, but your eyes only see 10% of it. When you are in a crowded restaurant with dozens of conversations going on around you, you cannot follow any particular one. But your brain hears all of it. So a person 5 table away might be talking about theoretical physics, and you begin to talk about the documentary you saw on dark matter the night before at your table without any knowledge whatsoever of the conversation going on not far from you. In other words, your daughter could not have been fully shielded from the idea of god and the Christian faith unless she grew up on a secluded island in the South Pacific.

      That being said, in times of great trauma, the human body is capable of amazing things, particularly inside the brain. It has been proven that when oxygen is deprived from the brain, we hallucinate. Things go white and we see lights. That isn't heaven. That's your brain shutting down. Dreams can be very real because the brain can stimulate your senses as if they were really happening. Ever woken up scared and breathing heavy and no idea why? I personally dreamed I was dying once and I actually felt the life leaving my body. I woke up in a state not describable with words. My brain made it real. So in the end, your daughter, whether you believe it or not, subconsciously or directly, must have had some exposure to religion and the ideas of deities. Furthermore, what she described could have been anything, not the specific ideas of the Christian doctrine. That's just you being ethnocentric. If we were in 1920s Poland, you would claim the Jewish faith saved her. If we were in Greece a few thousand years ago, you would think Zeus saved her. If we were in present day Afghanistan, Allah saved her and if in Japan, you'd have little idea of the deities and probably just be happy she's alive to be a part of your life today.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Wonderingmom,

      I believe something like this is a gift to you.

      You had little faith, so accept this as a blessing that your daughter could tell you this! Both of you can grow in faith and you will see that your love and hope will grow right along with it.

      Tell your daughter that God loves her and don’t try to kill this miracle of faith.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
    • Maria

      Your daughter had an experience with her guardian angel. I have had several experiences similar to that. They defy explanation other than an angelic one. You will find no support or encouragment for that line of thought on this thread, but no matter, it sounds as if that's what happened.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
    • BradLW

      We too often don't give young children credit for being as aware as they actually are. While we sincerely believe that they have not had exposure to different things at or by a particular age, it is amazing what they actually have been exposed to w/o us being aware of it.

      You indicate that your daughter was born in or around 1992 and that, while you may not have attended a lot of church, I suspect that your daughter was probably the recipient of all the usual stories that most of us in the US were when we were young: i.e. things like santa, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy, the xmas story, etc. In addition, I would be almost willing to bet that not only did you have television in your home, but that you most probably also had one or more computers in your home.

      How much did you read to her by the time she was 4? How much did grand parents read to her before she was 4? Did you have her in day care before she was 4? Did/does she have older siblings? You get the idea.

      The human brain is a marvelous, marvelous piece of evolution and we learn more and more about it on a daily basis and it can and does play tricks on us; even at very early ages.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • verify

      wonderingmom: How about just saying something like, "That was certainly a strange experience. We don't know what caused it. Maybe someday we will discover the reason." Attributing it to gods, angels or saints is not a satisfactory answer.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • Luke

      Maria – evidence please? I'm going to reach into my magic fish bowl and.....I'm going with Krishna. Wonderingmong, Krishna saved your kid. I think you should move to India.

      August 6, 2010 at 8:44 am |
    • Melissa

      chunkbrothe, of course she had prior knowledge. You'd be amazed what children pay attention to. I have a 7 year old nephew. My sister has often told me "I don't know how he knows about stuff. He just suddenly seems to know it". You do realize they're like sponges and absorb the things they hear people talking about and see on tv in ways we can't even imagine, right?

      I stand by what I said. She HAD prior knowledge. Her mother just didn't think she did.

      August 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Gigi

    Just live people. Enjoy your lives. We all have free will and we all make choices for our lives. Keep on living until your last day on earth until you breathe your last breath and your soul and spirit are ejected from your body. No biggy, you will just have to give an account of what you did with your life on earth. Just accept your fate. It's your life. Just remember "Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord." Oh, enternity is a long time by the way.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Written by sheep herders 2000 years ago with little to no education.

      MUST BE ACCEPTED AS ABSOLUTE FACT.

      LOL.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  3. Tom

    Fascinating! But ultimately a wash. It makes no difference which side of the argument you come down on when it comes to proof. Whether there is or is not a "God" isn't possible to a verifiable certainty. So it's simply becomes food for thought and a value judgement. I do HOPE Mr. Hithcens fights the good fight and doesn't have to suffer. I always enjoy his interviews and writing.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Actually proof for God could exist. Provided that God gives it.

      Proof for God NOT existing cannot exist.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • BradLW

      Bob:

      Please furnish your god's proof that he/she/it exists.

      There's a little thing called "probability science" into which you (and those like you) probably should look.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  4. Todd

    When I die, don't pray for my soul. There's no reason to. When life ends, that's it – the end. To believe there is a heaven or some great afterlife is epitome of self absorbed arrogance. No one deserves to live forever. No matter who you are, you're not that special.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Jus Me

      Its called FAITH ..........look it up

      August 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Melissa

      "Faith" is the refuge of the weak minded and the lazy.

      I agree, its a waste of breath to pray for the dead. They don't care and there's no other being out there that would.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jus Me

      Were you created or did you EVOLVE from a Cockroach .....u choose

      August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Forgiven-NotPerfect

      You are so very right, no one deserves to live forever. That's why God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live a sinless life and to die a horrendous death in punishment for our sin. Jesus took our sin upon Himself so we wouldn't face eternal damnation and an eternity separated from Him. All we have to do is admit we are sinners, turn from our sin and accept His gracious, freely-given offer of salvation.

      When asked by the religious leaders of His time about the greatest commandment, Jesus stated that it is to love one another as He loves us and that by that simple act, others would know we are followers of Christ. It is a shame that everything turns into a shouting match between those who believe and those who do not, but Jesus said that He would be stumbling block to those who choose not to accept Him, so this type of behavior is not surprising.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Todd,
      Jesus thought you are that special....

      August 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • BradLW

      Forgiven-NotPerfect:

      That's why God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ . . .

      Please explain the trinity to us: how did your god manage to kill and then resurrect him/her/it -self?

      August 5, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  5. Jus Me

    Tell this dude not to pack a cover with him in his coffin..............cause its HOT where he is going...........unless he finds HIM !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
    • RodneyG

      No doubt

      August 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Who? The Walkin' Man? The Man in Black? The Peach Fedora?

      You sicken me,

      August 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Melissa

      Him who? Krishna? Buddha? Set? They're all just as much of a bunch of bull as jehovah.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
    • MuttMom

      It's amusing to me, and a little sad, that people are so freaked out by the mere truth of you live and then you die, that they insist you have to "go somewhere" after death. Just live and enjoy your lives, try to leave a positive, loving legacy behind you, and accept that when you're dead, the game is over.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Yeah, and some of us are just as certain that you should not do certain body functions into the wind.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
    • BradLW

      Bob:

      Yeah: particularly pray! (It's a "bodily function" since it is a use of the brain as is everything we manage to do)

      August 5, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  6. RodneyG

    I believe that millions of people are lost and I pray that God will have mercy on their souls. John 3:16

    August 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Brought to you by the letter S for Sacrifice and C for Children.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Melissa

      Believe what you want. Just keep those beliefs to yourself. I don't go bragging about being an atheist or expecting some kind of special treatment for it, so don't you go bragging about your religion or expect some special treatment for it.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  7. Dave

    what a bunch of self congratularoty nonsense prothero. To, within the same sentence claim the higher ground while simultaneously doing exactly what you are claiming not to do (bodyslamming someone whilst they were down), is the height of cynicism and hypocricy. Weak act Prothero. Bravo not at all.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      All about righteousness and the infidels.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      Well said, Dave.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  8. WTF

    Religion is a personal choice and we all have our reasons for either following or not. I would not want someone tryignt o cram somehting I didn't believe down my throat and neither would anyone else. Some people see things as big picture while others focus on whats important to them. Religion is flawed like any of man's endeavors and if this guyu wants no part in it I can understand. To say you know God exist is ridiculous. Religion isn't about knowing, its about faith, about believeing in something. We only have a limited understanding of God by whats been passed downa nd how that has been interpreted by those who came before us so make your own decision and run with it.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Dale

    It's been my experience that most people who are dismissive of religion are, as Prothero claims Hitchens is, relatively lacking in knowledge of it. There's probably an argument to be made that hostility toward atheism/agnosticism is based on an analogous ignorance on the part of the faithful.. Although it is a separate question from whether there is a God, I do wonder what a predominantly secular world would be like. I'm not convinced it would be better than a world in which most people are religious believers of some kind or another. I'm open to the idea, but fully unconvinced at this point. I also wonder if religion is ultimately really the cause of as much of the strife in the world as it appears to be. Maybe there is something fundamental in human beings that make them prone to war and hatred and religion is a sort of template that is used to justify violence and hatred. In any case, I'm confident that if religion magically went away, people would find plenty of other causes to wage war and to hate each other.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • Jim

      Goose stepping "Christian" informs us of the party line.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      At least then they would be "real" wrongs or slights to kill each other over instead of the unprovable and warped in such a gross and massive scale.

      To suggest religion is the least of the evils is wrong. It is like saying that somebody is a "little bit" dead.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Melissa

      Then you haven't been paying attention Dale. Religion is a curse on this planet.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • WTF

      I do not see it that way at all. Maybe some people have no clue but others such as myself use life experiences as the reason I do not believe in a higher power as described by Modern Religion (at least not whats been forced upon me). I've read the bible, the quran and despite small differences they are the same. The exact same stories were used by the Egyptians and the Sumerians that are used in the Bible so maybe you have no clue. Just b/c you choose to believe in somehting else or if you don't believe doesn't make you not as smart as the next guy.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Jim

    Stephen Prothero = Evil

    August 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  11. MuttMom

    "I understand why Mormons want to baptize the dead and, on the theory of 'no harm, no foul,' I don't object to it in most cases."

    When Mormons baptize dead Jewish people who died in the Holocaust because they were Jewish, that is not only a foul, it is obscene. The writer may be a lot of things, but a scholar he is not.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Why'? It is just yet another example of the pure foolishness that religion in the real world represents

      August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
    • Melissa

      This I can totally agree with.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • Tyler

      He said "I don't object to it in MOST cases," (i.e., he objects in some circumstances); most people (including the author) are well aware of the episode in which holocaust were posthumously baptized.

      So I guess that means "a scholar you are not," whatever the hell that means. But nice try anyway.

      August 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  12. Melissa

    Religious people prey on the weak at the worst times in their lives hoping to gain converts to control them and turn them into slaves of their religion. Sorry, no sympathy here. I don't care if you pray for me or not, just so long as you don't prey on me. Learn to butt out, and that your religion belongs to you and you alone and that you should keep it to your home and places of worship, and we'll get along just fine. Don't and we will have a problem.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • MuttMom

      Well said.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • Jim

      Well said. Thank you!

      August 5, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  13. Shadtree

    I have a big NEWSFLASH there are people who do not believe in God that are still good people. It amazes me the anger it provokes in people when you say you don't believe in the fairy tales that are pushed down your throat. I believe in God but I respect people who do not...and that too seems to irk a lot of people. "Peace be with you Christopher"

    August 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • ABerdaine

      True and well said...

      I know a lot of folks who don't "believe" and are good, nice, decent, charitable people.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  14. Jim

    One thing religious freaks will never do is grow up. They have been trained into religion. They have been trained to not think for themselves but to recite rote. They have been trained that they are superior and that they can get away with the farce. The good transcend this hateful ideology, the Evil profit by it (yes I mean you Christian, Muslim, Jew, toe worshipper). Note to the trained religious – who cares.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Dale

      Well, you know, a comment that begins with "religious freaks" kind of tips one off that it's being written by an intolerant bigot. Just goes to show that religion hasn't cornered that market.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Religion has about 99% market share.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  15. Voig Nederlander

    We need more people who can separate their dislike for someone's point of view from the person themselves. It's a valuable ability most of us have lost. Bravo, Mr. Prothero, for being a fair and decent person.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  16. garc

    I will never understand how any human, as messed up as we all are, could honestly believe that he or she absolutely knows there is or is not a God, and if so, what his/her plans are, whom he/she approves of, etc. That goes both ways, though. I find that many atheists have actually made quite a religion out of disbelief in God. Pardon the pun, but how the hell do they know, personally? How many ideas throughout history that the greatest minds of all time have assumed were true because they had no scientific evidence otherwise (yet–at that time) have been disproven?

    August 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • Luke

      garc – Well, it's quite easy. The burden of proof is not mine to display. However, given the many claims of the Christian doctrine, we simply reject the ones that don't jive with reality. Since an absolutely incredible amount of claims, predictions and inaccurate pictures have history are within the pages of your texts, we very easily just take the next step and reject the entire idea. Most of us seek solace in accepting the unknown or continuing to conduct research that has evidential support. Furthermore, we very simply just look at dead religions that even the most strident Christian rejects. Do you believe in Thor? Zeus? Pan the Goat God? Poseidon? Congrats…you’re atheist to them. I just reject the god named Yahweh in the same way you reject Apollo. That is, of course, unless you truly think a god riding a flaming chariot ignites the sun each day, then I refuse to debate with you on principle.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • chunkbrother

      Atheism is a belief too. You can't prove that God does not exist. You can just believe that he does not exist because he doesn't prove that he does, which a being as powerful as God could easily do.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Luke

      chunkbrother – I hate that ill-informed argument that you clearly know nothing about. Atheism is merely the rejection of a specific deity and claims of the supernatural linked to deities. In other words, if I am not an astronomer, does that make me an a-astronomer? No. We don't need label for everything that people do not do. Furthermore, you are an atheist too. That is unless you believe in all gods and myths known to mankind. Do you worship Thor? Pan the Goat God? Congrats...your atheist to them. Welcome to the club, pal.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  17. SG

    For those that don't believe there is NO explanation, but for those that do believe no explanation is necessary.....

    August 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Gigi

      Short, sweet, and to the point....I couldn't have said it any better! ( :

      August 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  18. John B Hume

    I believe there are over 80Million Christians , most likely many more,In any given day a few Million are praying to God for help , For there Sins, assistance with problems , Personal problems ,sickness ,need of Money ;Etc, Etc I do hope God has many Computers to help him sort out the Millions of requests recieved daily ,and that John Smith recieves personal communication from God , indicating help is on the way. Mythology is Great!

    August 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  19. diesel

    As a believer of God and JC, I have nothing to lose. If I'm right, then I am saved. If I'm wrong, I had a more fulfilling life because of my belief, at least in my opinion of my own life.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
    • JT

      Google "Pascal's Wager". Why are you so arrogant to assume there are only two choices? To truly cover all the bases shouldn't you also throw your hat in with Muslems, Jews or Zeus?

      August 6, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  20. Tony

    @ luke the reporting about prayer and its foundings has to be the silliest thing I have EVER heard. You cant put a study on prayer, its like placing a study on faith. If by faith you were able to over come something or by your own will you were able to over come something can a study actually tell you whether that was something you accomplished on your own or by a higher power? no it cannot, the funniest thing about athiest is they cannot explain why is it people hold on to a faith they dont believe in, why a people are so passionate about thier faith. why people rely on it, use it, share it and rejoice for it. The reason they cant explain it is because they have yet to experience it. so you decide its wrong or not real and you bash it, you hate, you twist it. people of faith share something of themselves that cannot be explained by science or a test, or tendencies... its a personal relationship, experience and an awakening. no one is condeming you for your belief, at least im not. I just laugh when I see people who dont believe in HIM turn on him with such hate.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      I have experienced strong faith – and it can be a comfort, yes. But a shared belief is incredibly similar to a shared inside joke used for serious purposes.
      Let me share the faith I had and what it did for me....

      I prayed to the Lord with all my heart and faith to be given the truth...just that...the absolute unvarnished truth.....
      ..and I have the amazingly ironic result in that "god" answered my prayer by making me a secular humanist / severe agnostic / athiest.
      Amazingly ironic and I look forward to reading anyone's ideas on what happened to me....?

      August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Sanity Claws,

      August 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Sorry about the slip, Sanity Claws,
      Perhaps you were impatient. Keep asking for Faith, have hope, and endure!

      August 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      @CatholicMom :Your slip is showing, my dear.

      "perhaps" I was impatient? You don't get it, do you? My-prayers-were-answered-and-I-found-the-truth!
      It was ALL in "god's" hands at that point...I had a FULL confidence in getting the truth...and voila!
      Amazingly Ironic....it should be the name of a song......
      "perhaps" "god" WANTED me to realize the falseness of what you so ardently defend....if so, could you EVER explain it?
      ....'cause I really, really doubt it....
      Now I am a secular humanist-sort of person, and disillusionment is like a cross I wear to flash in the eyes of religious vampires who come thirsting after my money and soul.....kinda like you, actually....

      August 5, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      @CatholicMom : ...I should add that I did not pray for faith because I had it in abundance, my hope was in "god", and I was enduring just fine...I had a very strong faith at that time...

      And now let me add that I am completely convinced that "faith" is NOT a gift from "god", but something I can turn off and on at will – by myself!!!
      Consider the fact that I can turn my faith on and off! Is that not something to ask your priests about? Do you think they'll give you a straight answer? Because they would never do something like that unless there was something in it for them one way or another.
      Do you have a son? A cute small boy you could tempt them with? Maybe they'll tell you an "unofficial" truth if you pimp your young male child to your "Catholic" priesthood.

      (whew, I feel better now...)

      Before anyone asks...No, I am not, nor have I ever been a member, follower, etc. of the Catholic church....

      August 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Sanity Claws,

      The 'Claws' fit you fine....but the Sanity part....leaves me with some questions; mainly this one...if you can go 'in and out' of faith at will, why would a sane person ever go out?

      August 6, 2010 at 12:13 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.