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October 5th, 2010
03:11 PM ET

My Take: Atheists not so smart after all

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.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life went viral last week.

According to Luis Lugo, the Pew Forum's director, over a million people have taken the online quiz associated with the survey, and the Forum “has had unprecedented Web traffic since the survey was launched, nearly crashing its servers on the day of release.”

Driving this traffic was the headline that atheists outperformed Christians and other religious groups in this first-ever national survey of U.S. religious knowledge. Or, as I put it in an earlier Belief Blog piece, "the big story here" was "that those who think religion is a con know more about it than those who think it is God's gift to humanity."

A closer look at the data, however, reveals that nonbelievers might not have the religious literacy bragging rights after all.

In a New York Times blog, Ross Douthat notes that Pew created two nonbeliever categories instead of one: the much publicized atheist/agnostic category (which got 21 out of 32 religious knowledge questions right) and a much larger category of respondents who described their religion as “nothing in particular” (which got only 15 right — a bit below the national average of 16 correct answers).

Douthat makes a common but nonetheless glaring error when he conflates the religiously unaffiliated with nonbelievers. According to a 2006 Baylor University study, for example, almost two-thirds - 63 percent - of Americans who claim no religious affiliation believe in God.

Still, Douthat got me thinking, so I emailed the Pew Forum for more information. As it turns out, the category of U.S. adults who do not believe in the divine is much larger than the category of those who describe themselves as either atheists or agnostics (likely because of the stigma associated with these terms).

So how did this larger group of nonbelievers do in Pew’s religious literacy survey?  According to the Pew Forum's Scott Clement, respondents who answered “no” when asked “Do you believe in God or a universal spirit” got 18.7 questions right, well below the 20.9 questions answered correctly by self-identified atheists and agnostics.

So if we mean by "atheists" not just those who self-identify as such but those who say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit, atheists got an average of 18.5 questions right. That is well above the national average of 16 questions right, and better than white evangelicals (17.6 correct), but well below both Jews (with 20.5 correct answers on average) and Mormons (with 20.3).

So in this first-ever religious literacy Olympics, Jews earned a gold medal, Mormons a silver and atheists a bronze.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Opinion

soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. Tobey

    I like how nobody has commented on how Stevie had to separate evangelicals by race to beat out Atheists. Did nobody notice that he said "better than white evangelicals". So racists christians are smarter about jesus stuff than Atheists? Wow!!!

    October 5, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
    • Neil

      And you are not racist by assuming that all white evangelicals are racist? Actually, you are simply ignorant. He creates the category "white evangelicals" because it doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is a difference between "white evangelical churches" and "black evangelical churches". They are simply different cultures. Although there are whites in the black churches and blacks in the white churches. That is why they separate the two.

      Can anyone explain to me why atheists are aloud to practice intolerance? That is what I see on so many message boards all over the internet. So many of the atheists I find online act just like the Westboro Baptist Church members. Both speak hateful speech. It would be great if one day athiests and Christians would be able to talk with one another without calling the other an idiot or unintelligent. By the way, the reason the Christian pool may show lower intelligent levels is because they have a much larger pool to average out.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:44 am |
    • >:

      "By the way, the reason the Christian pool may show lower intelligent levels is because they have a much larger pool to average out."

      That doesnt make any sense.

      October 6, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • Jimmy

      lol @ Neil. Yea, dude. It would be great if one day atheists could talk to christians without calling them dumb... if only one day christians were, on average, more relatively undeserving of said distinction... you can dream 🙂

      October 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  2. NL

    Maybe this is a good analogy. The world is divided between skinny and obese people. Most of the skinny were always skinny, or stumbled upon a healthy lifestyle early on, but a tiny minority were once obese themselves. At some point they choose to change their lifestyle to live at a healthier weight. Now, of the obese, the always skinny or the obese turned skinny which group would you assume developed the greatest, broadest knowledge of foods, diets, exercise, and all things related to gaining and losing weight? Most of us atheists were once obese, metaphorically speaking, and we made the decision to rid ourselves of this unhealthy lifestyle.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • peace2all

      @NL

      Well said as usual. I think I shall crown you ...'king of the superior analogies'..!

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  3. Supremo Lagarto

    This article is rude and juvenile. Atheists are not a collective with exactly the same IQ levels. Neither are Christians. It is rude to paint an entire group of people with the same brush.

    October 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • Kuba

      That is the nature of statistics. It finds trends and isn't meant to brush everyone within those groups with a broad brush.

      October 5, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • Tim Dilbeck

      well said

      January 2, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  4. Ahmed Hosein

    anybody who looks at nature and concludes there is no creator behind it, is ultimately not very bright aferall. you don't need a PhD to figure that out!

    October 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • NL

      Why?

      October 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • >:

      Anyone who thinks what you think certainly doesnt bother to educate themselves regarding modern physics. Also you may want to look up the anthropic principal.

      October 6, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Yammo

      "anybody who looks at nature and concludes there is no creator behind it, is ultimately not very bright aferall. you don't need a PhD to figure that out!"

      I'm willing to bet my existance that once upon a time someone have said the same about [Sun/Tides/Lightning/Vulcano/Weather/Sicknesses/etc].

      Fortunately, scientists have slowly but without fail, made gods like [Ra/Asherah/Thor/Hephaestus/Freyr/Morbus/etc] obsolete... The few gods that are still given room, have had their claims to science disproven and ridiculed.

      Explaining the Creation of everything may take a while longer, but however long it takes, science will prevail. The only way it can be prevented, would be for the malevolent Christian god to once again step down and interfere as it did in Babylon.

      September 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  5. NL

    Like I keep saying, you don't have to be above average in intelligence to understand and accept the atheist position. All you need is the curiosity and the willingness to analyze the case for religious beliefs objectively, like you would do other things.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  6. Rich

    What is funny is that Steve is an agnostic so some of you atheists are overeacting.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
    • >:

      Um, you are confused about the definithion of agnostic i think. One can be an agnostic and believe in god. It simply means that you dont believe one could know.

      October 6, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  7. Reality

    "Professor" Prothero is simply trying to protect his turf. Once most humans realize the con of religion, he will be out of a job or maybe he will simply change his ti-tle to Professor of Myths and Stretched History, Judaism to Mormonism and Everything in Between?

    October 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Reality

      LOL...!

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • False reality

      @Reality

      So once humans realize the con of religion, they will no longer study. I beg to differ. Prothero is not a cleric, he studies religion. A cultural and social construction that has lasted more than two millennia will not be just abandoned at a moments whim.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  8. JohnQuest

    This seems like a self evident argument, of course Non-Believers, Atheist and Agnostics know more about religion. Why do you think they are Atheist, Agnostic, and Non-Believing, they (we) studied the material and came to our own conclusion.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  9. Ayame

    Very funny. Atheists ARE strong thinkers, because we do not leave it up to God to do the thinking for us. "Why do trees grow?" Because God did it. "Why are there stars in space?" Because God did it. NO! Because we think about the actual reasons, we are able to leave the box that "God" has provided us. "I'm afraid of dying. I'm afraid of losing my memories forever." Haha, well, don't worry Jimmy, heaven is there for you. As long as you prostrate yourself to God all your life. And donate to the Church. Oh, and if you don't, our all-merciful savior will send you to the depths of hell.
    Wait, what?! I asked my friends and my family to take the test. They are all atheists. Because we study the world around us, including ways to dispove religion, we scored higher than anyone else. I scored 9/10 on the compressed test, my mother scored 29/32 on the complete test. We all scored very high.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • John

      "we study the world around us, including ways to disprove religion"

      Confirmation bias much?

      October 6, 2010 at 8:55 am |
    • meemee

      False Reality: IF you study the two thousand year period you claim for Christian tradition, you will find that you made a hugely incorrect statement. It required over a thousand years for Christianity to arrive as the dominant cultural tradition in Europe. It was done at some points with persuasion, most of the time through political intriguing, rewriting of previous traditional beliefs I.e. Beowulf, Asatru, but more often with dungeon, fire, and sword. The Inquisition spread terror all over Europe for hundreds of years. There was even a crusade into Southern France to exterminate a "heretical" form of Christianity. IN that crusade, when Simon de Montfort asked the Pope how he was to ID the heretics he said, "Kill them all, God will know his own." That was in the 13th century. Here's what Fredrick the Great had to say about Christianity; An old metaphysical fiction, stuffed with miracles, contradictions, and absurdities, which was spawned in the fevered imaginations of the Orientals and then spread to our Europe, where some fanatics espoused it, some intriguers pretended to be convinced by it, and some imbeciles actually believed it."

      The reality of the historical dominance of Christianity is only partly true, but it was violent, and it certainly isn't a two thousand years old. story of peace on earth and good will towards men.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  10. smart?

    If respondents who answered “no” when asked “Do you believe in God or a universal spirit” got 18.7 questions right, and self declared atheists and agnostics got 20.9 questions right, how do we arrive at a figure of 18.5 correct answers for the union of these groups?

    October 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • NL

      The declared atheist and agnostic group is a lot smaller than the other group. Many in the other group may not have ever been raised in a faith where I think most declared atheists were, and came to their atheistic conclusion because they did their research. Getting someone to become an atheist is dead easy. Simply don't teach them that there is a God, and they won't ever believe there is one to begin with.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • Kuba

      I was going to ask the same thing. How do you get 18.5 from averaging/combining 18.7 and 20.9??????????????

      October 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • Joe B.

      So... what hes saying is... if you change the definition of atheist/agnostic, from someone who advocates not believing in god... to, or lack of belief in organized religion, to someone who marked 'other' on the test, then atheist/agnostic got a lower score... what? People who marked atheist/agnostic still got 21 out of 32, the group that got 15 was 'other', you can't combine data, that would be like me combining Christians and Catholics data... and guess what... they would -still- have scored lower then the atheist/agnostic group. Makes sense that a religion professor can't properly carry out the scientific method, and tries to change the data by combining clearly separated groups.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • averageJoe

      The point that "smart?" and "Kuba" make is simple mathematics; it is impossible to combine two groups, each with a score greater than 18.5 (group A = 18.7 and group B = 20.9) and obtain a group with a score equal to 18.5. The relative sizes of the groups is immaterial; it only affects the relative weighting of the score of that group when forming the average. The lower bound that the aggregate can approach is 18.7.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • NL

      Wow! I can't believe I missed what those numbers meant. Did this guy learn how to crunch numbers by doing taxes for televangelists, or something?

      October 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • meemee

      I would like to see the questions on the test he gave. I am going to guess that there were specific Biblical questions that could result in a one and a half point difference because atheists/nonbelievers (like me) may be fairly familiar with the Bible from examining it for content and form, but not memorizing verses and events to the extent Jews, Mormons, and Christians in general. Most atheists did a great deal of philosophical research, religious reading and like me, are still fascinated with the phenomena of belief and its affect on history. This returns us to sources like the Bible in study. I would love to see how believers would do on straight historical fact quiz that tend to embarrass them? Theologian Bart Erhman has written a few books, based on already extant scholarship that illustrates the history of forgery and additions by copyists who created the NT, for example. The West might be Arian Christians today if Arius, who Constantine supported wasn't poisoned by Pauline Christians. If a quiz contained items based on this sort of recorded history, I bet the Atheists would do best and Christians, Mormons, Jews do terribly.

      December 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  11. TheRationale

    Either way, you have to give atheists some credit for not believing in fairy tales. I mean, right there you've got a clear margin of difference.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • peace2all

      @TheRationale

      Agreed...

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • Proud to be the way I was created.

      i think to not believe in anything, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other religion you should research and study it first. If you are not going to believe, you should at least know what you are not believing in. While it may take a life time of study, it is well worth it. I am working my way through the religions myself, and yes it takes a lot of time, but I can say that I am not Atheist out of ignorance.

      October 7, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  12. Greg

    This guy is an idiot. Not believing in a universal spirit doesn't mean you don't believe in gods, or multiple spirits like Shinto. I can guess where this guy scored on the test lol......

    October 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  13. DA

    But Atheists are 3rd – still smarter than most Americans. WHAT IS YOUR POINT?!!!!!

    October 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • peace2all

      @DA

      My guess, which is just that.... Is that there was such a 'back lash' and arguments on this blog when the atheists were considered smarter and did better on the quiz.

      Now, to continue more debate, and keep the arguments going, he 'may have' felt the need to stir the pot once again.

      Just my take on Professor Prothero's intentions. Plus, it allows him to keep promoting and sell his 'books.'

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  14. Phil

    Non believers could also be Buddist, Hindu, American Indian, or any of another 100 or so religions that do not recognize a singular god.

    Fail.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Phil

      I didn't go over all of the breakdowns of how they sorted out the categories for the statistical analysis.

      Since, it seems like maybe you did, ..... did the study make a distinction between 'non-believers' being Buddhist, Hindu, Ai, meaning a distinction as they would fall into the 'non-believer' category... if they didn't believe in a... as you said ..."singular god..?"

      Again, your post caught my eye, and I am very curious...

      Thanks....

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I think the article specified "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" as the author's determining factor. A 'No' indicating what he considered a non-believer.
      Would a Buddhist answer that 'No'?

      October 7, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  15. peace2all

    While I adamantly stated on the other article concerning the need to teach a 'secular' course on comparative religions, which by the way *is* allowed by law..i.e...SCOTUS. And I believe that this research poll does spell out the need for such education, as how can we really understand our world, without the effects that world religions have played into our world:

    History, Economics, Politics, Sociology, Psychology, and Multi-Cultural understanding. In this case 'ignorance may be bliss, but is absolutely *not* helpful nor useful to our world at large.

    However, understanding world religions and making sure we educate ourselves on said topics, has no bearing on actual *facts.* What I mean is we can should have an understanding 'about' the practices, cultures, rituals, 'beliefs' of these religions, 'but'... we must remember they are based purely on *faith*. Religions are *not* science.

    So, regardless of whether atheists/agnostics, mormons or jews knew more, we *all* should learn more. While keeping in mind, we are not learning about *fact* in relationship to the natural world. The beliefs of all of these religions, again, are not verifiable provable science. i.e.... there *is* a god. Noooooo. Not a fact.

    And that is a very 'big' difference.

    Peace...

    October 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  16. Bob

    Actually Stephen, if you watch a few lectures by Richard Dawkins, he directly addresses this. Out of 50 studies, all but 4 showed an inversely proportal relationship between religious belief and intelligence.

    So, yes Stephen. It's been proven. Atheists in general are smarter.

    That's not to say there aren't smart Christians, just that their average intelligence is lower.

    Funny thing though, Christians by % commit more crimes too. Probably also tied to the intelligence thing.

    So, your opinion is moot at this point.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Bob

      I have pretty much always shared those same thoughts about believers vs. non-believers or atheists.

      I know quite a few believers of the christian, islam, jewish, hindu, etc... faiths, and it seems that while a lot of them are extremely bright, their 'choice' or inability to include and change given the latest science findings, while continuing to hold on to the teachings of the Qur'an, or Bible,etc.. as *absolute fact* is 'astonishing.'

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • John

      The main evolutionary difference between man and animal is religion. People who are unable to grasp faith are less evolved; a lower form of life than human beings who have the cognitive ability to believe in a non-tangible concept. Primitive men did not understand science because you can't see science. You can't see gravity. I have never seen an elephant in my pajamas. How an elephant would fit in my pajamas, I don't know. Maybe there are no elephants?

      December 26, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  17. Mike from Atlanta

    You speculate that non-believers are not self-identifying as atheists because of the stigma, but you don't consider any other reasons and use that as an excuse to lump them together? Perhaps those that identify as being atheists are more convinced there are no supernatural beings with super powers than a simple lack of belief.

    The original headline is right. Those that know the most about these myths identify themselves as not believing in them.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • BioBoy

      Your analysis is the correct one!

      October 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • Jennifer, also from Atlanta

      Right on Mike! Those who identify as Athiest/Agnostic have usually done their homework on religion before coming to that conclusion. I certainly have in trying to figure out what everyone else sees. I came up empty handed (and identify as an athiest – which is hard to do in the Bible belt where there is a fish on every car). Those who identify as nothing in particular simply haven't done their homework, pro or con, and are nothing in particular out of lack of effort instead of careful study.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  18. Hmmm...

    Let it go ... You've spent way to much time disecting statistics just to stir up controversy when it doesn't exist or even matter. Find something more productive to do, like helping to spread tolerance and peace.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Michael Sawyer

      Spreading tolerance and peace is not a very Christian thing to do these days.Hateful bigotry and condemning people to hell for the win!

      October 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Michael Sawyer

      I agree with you 'in general'..... But, I would be careful to ('over-generalize' )as it seems that possibly you have about christians. Not 'all' christians are that way, nor are 'all' muslims that way, while recognizing that certainly a lot of them are.

      Peace...

      October 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • nepawoods

      "Spreading tolerance and peace is not a very Christian thing to do these days" ... How ironic.

      January 1, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  19. NoGod

    Boy, a religious scholar say's atheists aren't that smart. What a shock.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Dave

      Huh? He said that only two relatively small segments of the population (Jews and Mormons) did better on this test than atheists, and backed it up with data. Seems like a complement to me.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bob

      Except it said SMART. Not "Religiously Informed".

      Smart is a quality of the mind, not knowledge. You can be smart and be completely ignorant of the world. Intelligent, quick, etc.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
    • Janie

      Noah's Arch pretty much did me in. I have a difficult time beliving that Noah could get 2 of each species, insects, reptiles,etc, I mean just bears along, did he get panda bears, brown bears, polar bears, grizzley bears, etc etc etc.. it's ridiculous! and impossible!

      October 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Janie.
      Hi. Did you know that Prophet Noah lived 950 years through part of which he has planted trees that reached age over 100 years, sawing building say in our present terms a floating Island that had to take Noah and follower believers with food ration and double of each type of animals and what's so ever you named that has existed there and then and out of which this diversity of these existing animals and what's so ever in which you call evolution that came through natural cross breed and other factors that man has lead and achieved in domestication and cross breeding animals such as horses,dogs,cats,cattle,sheep, goats still they are doing developing.
      Only the real question is was Noah Ark during dinsoaurous time or before or after extinction?
      Tell you what I bet it was one reason that caused their extinction and be covered buried to appear so deep under ground? Since no any God's creature lived after the flood other than those on the Ark of Noah.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
    • Rohan

      @Muneef.. do you even know how many species are there.There are thousands.. How did he save tigers which didn't even exist in that area? How did he save Koala bears that exist only in Australia. How about tiny microorganisms,. They are discovering new species everyday, that they didn't even know existed. Are these listed in your fairy tale?

      It's a stupid mythical story. You are a grown man. Don't embarass yourself.

      October 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      Muneef:

      We have myths and legends here in the U S too. Here's one:

      "Paul Bunyan's birth was strange, as are the births of many mythic heroes, as it took three storks to carry the infant (ordinarily, one stork could carry several babies and drop them off at their parents' homes). When he was old enough to clap and laugh, the vibration broke every window in the house. When he was seven months old, he sawed the legs off his parent's bed in the middle of the night.[11] Paul and Babe the Blue Ox, his companion, dug the Grand Canyon when he dragged his axe behind him. He created Mount Hood by piling rocks on top of his campfire to put it out.

      Babe the Blue Ox, Bunyan's companion, was a massive creature with exceptional strength.[12] Most imagery of Bunyan shows Babe the Blue Ox as being of proportionate size (meaning massive compared to everything else). Among other subjects, a myth about the formation of Great Lakes was centered around Babe: Paul Bunyan needed to create a watering hole large enough for Babe to drink from.[8] Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were said to give Babe to Paul Bunyan, because they were all "woodsey" pioneer types."

      People just love their superheroes!

      October 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • John

      You misspelled "NOGOOD"

      December 26, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  20. mythoughts76

    Your statistics mean nothing to me, and they won't make any difference 1 year from now. . I'm spiritual and not religious. Yes I believe in God and Angels. I don't study the Bible because it was written by man who is noted for making errors in writing and copying and translating. I think of the Bible as a historical text and delight when proof of it is uncovered in an archeological dig. How do we even know that when God talked to man on earth that it was written correctly? Other than the 10 commandment? Did God really etch the 10 commandments on a stone like in the movie?
    I also believe in reincarnation because it makes more sense to come back to earth to learn those lessons we failed at in previous lives. Isn't letting our souls burn in Hell forever a waste of a good redeemable soul? Why can't a soul repent in hell and still go to Heaven? Jesus said "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say; "Lo, here it is!" or; "There!" For behold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
    So the Jewish people only believe in the first 5 books of the Bible, but the Christians believe it is outdated but they still preach about it.. I still am upset about the books left out of the Bible.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • JPeavey

      If you look at the Catholic Bible, ALL books are present and accounted for. Also; it has been transcribed by ONLY THE DEDICATED FEW that have done nothing but serve God. Yes, humans err and I'm sure that there are errors with the +25 versions of the bible, (of which are tailored to suite different denomonations by non-dedicated, mostly underqualified translators that use the King James as the start). The Catholic Churhc and the Vatican use the most ORIGINAL trancripts, that are held sacred and holy (and date back hundreds of years) to make revisions very seldomly. Don't discount or discredit all bibles without addressing them all ;O)

      October 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • Mike

      I am confused you believe in God based on, what exactly?

      You believe in reincarnation because it makes sense to you?

      What is the highest authority of truth for you that you are relying on?

      So you want me to ignore 6000 years of history for your feelings which you can not reference or reconstruct?

      October 5, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • claybigsby

      jpeavey: no not all of the books in the original bible are accounted for in the christian version. There are quite a few books that never made it to the christian version of the bible because the people who ran the church didnt agree with them. Plenty of evidence out there to support my claim so you go ahead and research. The fact that the bible stories have been written by more than 30 different MEN over 1500 years doesn't bother you at all? you mean to tell me you put your trust in MAN not to write and rewrite scripture to fit their personal agenda? you mean to tell me god went back and fourth over 1500 years to dictate and contradict itself numerous times? Im sorry but with all of the contradiction in just christianity, let alone all religions, I am skeptical of the validity of your claim that the book was dictated by god and transcribed by man. more like it was dictated by man and transcribed, edited, and rewritten by man.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • ICEMAN

      @ JPeavey lol you are funny, you believe that brainwash. Look Research, and when you do you will see that the RCC has terroized this world. Man i can go about the Rcc but Claybigsby did it well," oh and lol at your name" WHITE POWER!!! LOL but yea i'm a christian and Men will lie to you this is said but people don't want to pick up a book other than that one of their faith.....their are more books of the bible "ALOT MORE".......

      October 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • neoritter

      @claybigsby – The books that made it into the New Testament were chosen because they generally the oldest accounts and written by first or second hand writers (i.e. Mark was a disciple of Peter). Books like the Gospel according to Mary were written about the time that the Church was putting the New Testament together, or some like the Gospel according to Judas were too inconsistent with the other books. Also, generally speaking books created by the Gnostics were held to not be authentic. No one can with certainty say whether the books were correctly chosen, but given the facts presented they're a good bet.

      October 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • mybeliefs

      The good news is, there is no hell. It is true that translaters got things wrong. Case in point, the teaching of hell. If you really take the time to research how that teaching came about, you will see how religious doctrine has mislead people. Many even teach the Trinity doctrine but the Bible does not teach such. To show you that the Bible indeed carries Gods thoughts are the scriptures that long ago accurately stated that the earth is a sphere and that it is hanging upon nothing. Also why other nations had it wrong by using poop in medicine, ancient Israel was told to bury the poop and wash hands. The were also instructed to bathe if they came in contact with a dead body. History shows that many nations were not aware that diseases could be transmitted by just touching a dead body or using poop in medicine. Why is it that ancient Israel new all these things while the nations that claimed to be so advanced didn't. I urge you to search for the truth, I know you will not find it in todays religions that for sure.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • Shivya

      Mythoughts76, Reincarnation makes more sense as soul cannot be destroyed. Instead it needs to evolve to reach God. God is nothing but the whole universe.

      October 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • A Matter of FAITH

      When debating whether the Bible was written by men or by the hand of God it's always interesting to see the faithless responses and those that deny the simple fact that God is more powerful than man. If you have faith in all that the bible says then you believe that God is powerful enough to inspire men to write what He wants them to and then to influence the whole excersize of selecting what "Christ Centered" books are to be included in the Bible He has ordained and breathed into man. Yes therewere many books written in ancient history...but just because some guy back in the day picked up a pen and wrote some stuff down does not make it part of the Bible....duh!!! If you actually look at the miraculous way in which the Bible speaks to the past and current human condition down to the root...then you can start to see that there is no way any man could have done it without being inspired by God. We are accustomed to saying things like...God inspired me to write this song" and that is easy to believe.....or "the devil made me do it" Yet when it comes to the one place where we can learn about our creator..we deny His power by saying He couldn't possibly inspire man to write anything and He couldn't possibly control the content of His word that is forever settled in the heavens and the earth....It is however...a matter of faith!

      October 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • NL

      A Matter of FAITH-
      Yes, we atheists are without faith, but the important question to ask yourself is why we are without faith?
      Where do you ultimately get the idea that faith is required in order to actually believe what the Bible says? From the Bible itself, of course! With this you see that the Bible acts as runner and umpire all in one. Would you trust a runner who called his own plays, or a businessman who wrote reviews for his own product, or a scientist who peer reviewed his own research, or anything else that served as it's own guarantor?

      We atheists have realized that this and the many other illogical, unsubstantiated, and downright immoral aspects of the God belief ultimately disqualify it as being very probable.

      October 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • Anusha

      @Mike. reincarnation is an eastern concept. There is no authority as to to how anyone should beleive in God. People can do it as they see fit. They all dont have to follow a single book.

      October 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      A Matter of FAITH:

      "...the miraculous way in which the Bible speaks to the past and current human condition down to the root..."

      Basic human nature has not changed since biblical times (or times before that) - sometimes mean, greedy, lustful, stupid, etc. and sometimes kind, generous, wise and heroic. The writers of the Bible simply took note of these tendencies. There is nothing 'miraculous' there at all.

      Just because there are some pearls of wisdom for bettering human behavior in the Bible, doesn't mean that it is supernaturally inspired.

      October 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • chris

      Thankfully, most atheists and "believers" can agree that "spiritual but not religious" is a canard. At least, it's one less thing for us to wrangle over.

      October 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • Proud to be the way I was created.

      Finally i find a third person on earth that holds a similar thought to mine and my partner's on the bible.

      October 7, 2010 at 12:59 am |
    • Mike not from above

      @mybeliefs
      really the topic that Jesus talked more about then Heaven doesn't exist

      The Bible doesn't teach the Trinity?
      Gen 1:26, 3:22, 11:7
      the Hebrew plural noun "Elohim" is used

      mATTHEW 22:43-45
      Matthew 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14

      and on and on.

      (oh you meant doesn't use the word, that is correct)

      October 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jesus Delgado

      You are a sensible man and your explanation of the bible is correct in the sense that it contains many errorrs, but you still have the spirituality as you beleive in. but have no proof of its existance, outside of the product of your thinking and imagination of your own brain. Nonetheless, I perceive you as a good thinker. Congrats ! ! ! ! !

      January 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
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About this blog

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.