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October 13th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Hitchens brothers debate if civilization can survive without God

Editor's Note: CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi files this report from Washington, DC.

Brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens squared off Tuesday in a debate over whether civilization can survive without God. Christopher, the older of the two, is a renowned atheist thinker and author. Peter, the lesser known of the two, is a practicing Christian and also a well-regarded author.

Christopher Hitchens is going through a very public battle with cancer, a subject that came up often during the debate. Michael Cromartie from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, moderated the debate and mentioned Christopher, who lives in the District of Columbia, was attending in between doctor appointments. Peter Hitchens had flown in from England specifically for the lunchtime debate.

Christopher Hitchens arrived with a white straw Panama hat. Beneath the hat he has no hair, lost from cancer treatments. Though noticeably thinner, Hitchens did not seem to suffer any intellectual consequences from his treatment.

He argued civilization could survive without God and in many cases is surviving without God.

“There used to be a word which could be used unironically,” he said. “People meant what they said when they said the word Christendom. There was a Christian world. Partly evolved, partly carved out by the sword, partly defended by the sword, giving way and expanding at times. But it was a meaningful name for a community of belief and value that endured for many, many centuries. It had many splendors to its name, but it’s all gone now.”

He said that today, in “huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue that they lead conspicuously less civilized lives than their predecessor generations.”

He added, “I don’t think it’s really true to say that we live less civilized a life than those of our predecessors, who believed there was a genuine religious authority who spoke with power.”

To further his point he added examples from his own life of interacting with people of faith.

“If you go around the provincial halls and public theaters as I do, whenever I can, and engage in belief and the believers you’ll find to an extraordinary extent an ethical humanism with a vague spiritual content. It’s extremely commonplace.”

He specifically pointed to two American examples: Reform Judaism and self-described American “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose aspects of their faith they find appealing. That, he argued, proved God, and to a larger extent organized religion, are unnecessary to continuing civilization.

His brother Peter took the opposite side. He was quick to clarify later in the event he was arguing from the perspective of Christianity and not from the perspective of all religions.

In Peter Hitchens’ remarks he described his time as a journalist covering the fall of Mogadishu and the crumbling of his boyhood neighborhood in England to roving thugs. He said both examples showed a massive decline of civilization, and he said the civilization we see today could disappear.

“The behavior of human beings towards one another has sunk to levels not far from the Stone Age,” he said.

In addressing his specific boyhood neighborhood, he asked, “How has this decline come about in civilization?”

“Well I think it has come about, a least partly, and I’m not a single-cause type of person, but at least partly there is no longer in the hearts of the English people the restraints of the Christian religion that used to prevent this type of behavior. I think it would be completely idle to image the two things are not related.”

He continued and drew a parallel to his argument with American and British society. “The extraordinary combination which you in this country and I in mine used to enjoy, and may for some time continue, of liberty and order, seem to me to only occur where people take into their hearts the very, very, powerful messages of self-restraint without mutual advantage, which is central to the Christian religion.”

While the two were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the role and place of God in civilization, they did find unique common ground on Christopher Hitchens' cancer.

During the question-and-answer session, NPR Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty asked Christopher about the prayers of support he had received from Christians.

Hitchens responded, “Obviously expressions of solidarity are welcome and very touching to me. And whatever form they take.”

But he continued, “I do resent, always have resented, the thought it should in some way be assumed now that you [with a potentially fatal illness] may be terrified, or that is to say, miserable. Or as it might be depressed. Surely now it would be the ideal time to abandon the principles of a lifetime. I’ve always thought this to be a rather repulsive approach.”

His brother Peter jumped in right after in a show of support and said, “I also think it would be quite grotesque to imagine someone would have to get cancer to see the merits of religion. It’s just an absurd idea. I don’t know why anyone imagines it should be certain.”

The event was put on by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It was billed as a conversation between the brothers and the press. As a result, no winner of the debate was announced.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. JOHN

    Religion is a cancer on society. Religion is the root cause of all that is evil.
    Anyone using the expression god/jesus/etc has absolutely no basis whatsoever in fact.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Ho-mo Sapiens are a social creature. Our survival depends on co-operation. We are also selfish – our base instinct is to do that which is least painful to ourselves.
    In order to reconcile these conflicting drives, we require artifical constructs that bind us into communities.
    Religion is perhaps the oldest and arguably the most effective of these constructs.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      I'll give credit where credit is due. religion has done some good. I just don't need it, myself.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  3. Beef Sandwich

    Perhaps everyone that has no doubt that God exists should also have no doubt that the Tooth Fairy exists given the fact that there is an equivalent amount of evidence for the existence of both. All hail the Tooth Fairy, creator of the heavens and earth. Personally, if there is a God, I don't think I like him/her much in light of the morbid nature of reality. The guy clearly has a sick sense of humor creating living creatures in such a way that they need to eat each other in order to survive. And so I pray to the Tooth Fairy for in its infinite wisdom and kindness, it leaves me a dollar for every tooth I lose.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Fundies believe, that animals didn't eat each other before man ate the fruit. But once that fruit was in their mouths, the animals changed. Their teeth and digestive systems changed. They grew claws. Because man disobeyed god, animals began to prey on each other.

      I guess god also whipped up a batch of ticks, fleas, tape worms, diseases, floods and famine and birth defects etc. at the same time.

      Damn! You talk about tough love. And all for a mouthful of fruit. But he loves us, as Carlin would say.

      Now, science will tell us animals have always eaten other animals. Evolution explains how the diseases and nasty creatures came to be. But I guess the creation story is the one we should pick as being true. LOL

      October 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @David Johnson: "Fundies believe, that animals didn't eat each other before man ate the fruit." Seriously? *face palm*

      October 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  4. keith

    It is always rather befuddling to me how many hoops atheists have to jump through to stand firm to their viewpoint. Atheists will readily point out that many of their adherents are intellectuals, well one would almost have to be to come up with all the perplexing arguments to convince oneself of atheism. In other words, it takes a bright man to make an argument against logic. Nonetheless though, I am yet to meet an atheist whose core opposition to theism is simply intellectual, there is always something a little more deep and emotionally rooted...

    October 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • John

      ...

      October 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • nord

      The only emotional content I've noticed in atheists is their reaction the the vitriol they receive from theists. Most atheists are reluctant to identify themselves as such, due to the prejudice they face. Being identified as an atheist can lose you your job. Small wonder some of them get pretty exercised..

      October 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • IceT

      You have yet to meet this type of Atheist because you choose not to meet them. Your thinly disguised fear and contempt for Atheists does not seem to follow a christian preached love for your fellow man. I do not believe in God simply because, although I understand the concept of God(s), the belief doesn't make logical (intellectual) sense in reallity.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • keith

      I have no disguised fear, but I do have a contempt for a viewpoint that appears to be a logical fallacy. As for not meeting meeting many atheists...I have met and am friends with many, and consistently there is some point where the church hurt them, or they felt as if God did not come through for them, or some type of personal issue. This is even true in the writings of Hitchens as well. Their logic is tainted by their desired outcome

      October 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • keith

      Also you show your bias against Christianity by automatically lumping me in with Christendom when i mentioned no such thing

      October 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • HA25

      Nice to meet you, Keith. Now you've met one. It's simply intellectual. I see that the Christian book doesn't hold water and therefore oppose it. Now, I "actively" oppose it for two reasons: One – I believe it is wrong and since one of it's principles is to spread the word, well – I was always taught to uphold truth so I don't like seeing people being sold a false bill of wares.
      Two – I'm not a big fan of hypocrites. Priests putting themselves above others and taking their money and time and in some cases demanding confessions and other quid-pro-quo arrangements in order to perform a "sacrament". I would say it was a trip to Vatican City that confirmed this for me. Now, I'm not saying there aren't other people who do the same thing – I'm no worshipper of Capitalism either and look forward to the day it is replaced by something better. But at least businesspeople don't often claim to be "holy" men.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Keith

      I think most atheists just don't see any evidence for there being a god. I have searched. I have come up empty handed. Show me the evidence and I will be on my knees this very day. I jump through no hoops. But I am not going to accept on faith, that which is absurd. Cheers!

      October 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • keith

      Fair enough. But you see, retorting against hypocrisy is in essence just what I was speaking about, it is not a logical stance, but an experiential stance....You see the swindlers in the church and want nothing to do with it...just because their are swindlers does not have anything to do with existence, more of a personal disliking...

      October 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • keith

      For thousands of years the great minds of the ages have had no problem finding the evidence for God...I challenge you to seek unbiased truth, just as I have openly read hitchens, russel, dawkins, harris, loftus, barker, and others I challenge all to read the other side as well and openly seek truth without pinning your result before the journey starts..

      October 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • brad

      What interests me about atheists is their drum-beat insistance on the supremacy of reason. You don't even have to examine their ideas. When you scrutinize themselves, they collapse immediately into emotion (sarcasm, anger, ridicule) which then eclipses their reason. Not all atheists are so unstable, but are we really going to better off when these folks are leading the way w/o religion?

      October 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @keith

      You said, "You see the swindlers in the church and want nothing to do with it...just because their are swindlers does not have anything to do with existence, more of a personal disliking..."

      Keith, you are arguing about a statement I never made. I am not an Atheist because I see corruption in religion. I am an atheist because I see no evidence for there being a god. I have read all the arguments for there being a god. I have then read all the criticisms of those arguments. The "cons", in my opinion, win.

      I have had people tell me to just stop thinking. To accept it on faith. Hmmm...

      October 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Derek

      Brad, your logic is flawed. atheists do not need to prove that god does not exist. When I get into a debate on the subject and ask questions to someones belief, the answers are always about having blind faith. There is no facts, no proof, no reason, nothing to back up the existence of God. I always like to discuss the bible.. People believe that the bible is the actual world of God and take it word for word.. even when you discuss how the modern bible was created and how there is no way that what is written 1900 years ago could be the same as today.. the answer is that God guided people in it's translations and copying etc.. God always has this huge hand in ensuring his word is written correctly, but appear absent for the millions of children who have starved to death over the last 100 years, or the jews who died in ww2.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • civilioutside

      Well, keith, prepare to be amazed. I am an atheist. I have had a pretty pleasant life – raised by loving parents, never went hungry a day in my life, was never abused by anyone in (or out of) the church, no disease or disasters ever shattered my life, and the only untimely death of anyone close to me occurred years after I was already firmly established in my atheistic beliefs. My wife, also an atheist, has had much the same experience. Heck, she even enjoyed going to church because she liked the music. Neither of us could, by any reasonable measure, be said to have been "hurt," by the church, or disappointed by some glaring "failure" of God. We simply see no need to believe in and/or worship something that we have seen no compelling logical reason to believe is anything more than a fantasy.

      October 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Chris

    In the end you either believe in God, or you don't. And no one should have the other's ideology forced on them. Everyone is free to come to their own conclusion. Religion is the foundation for a lot of wars and killing all throughout time which is sad. If you believe in God, Allah, Buddah, Mohammed, or any other religious authority figure then that is fine. If you believe there is NO grand authority figure, then that's fine too. Live life the best you can, help others when you can, and contribute to community when you can. We'd all be much better off if we went around making sure no one was cold, hungry, or sick rather than trying to force each other to believe one thing over another.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  6. john

    I agree with David Johnson
    " I think religion still offers comfort to people. Linus's blanket gave contentment. Yes?
    Yes your right and you don't see Charlie Brown in the pumpkin patch worshiping Linus' blanket

    October 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  7. IceT

    Religions have come and gone, yet the human race survives. Religion itself has come and gone & yet the human race survives. During these religious ups & downs the human race did not fall into chaos. The human race's steady and continuous growth has continued throughout history regardless of which religion, if any, existed at any given time. It makes perfect sense once you realize that Man created God not the other way around.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  8. Catie

    I cant live without God. Hurray for those who can

    October 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Duncan

      How would your life be different if it was proved God does not exist? i mean, other than emotional comfort, what do you get out of god?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • Anon

      The unfortunate answer for you is that there is no possible way to ever prove that God does not exist. God is my guiding light in every way: in the career I choose, the place I live, the people I come in contact with. It is He who gives me the words to speak when I don't know what to say. He allows that perfect job opportunity to come available at just the right time. God gives me love and patience for my fellow human being that I do not have on my own. God gave me a brain to shine His light for those like you.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Duncan

      I have known some very believing people who have never had the perfect job opportunity open up for them.

      How do you know that all those things would have happened anyway if God was not in your life?

      "there is no possible way to ever prove that God does not exist."
      That is like saying there is no way to prove that the tooth fairy does not exist. The proof is required to show that something which is no seen does exist, not the other way around.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Catie

      It is like any other 12 step program. First you must admit you have a problem...

      October 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • John

      It's wild, at that stuff you describe, Veles the God of the Underworld and of Water does for me. His example lights the way for me through life. When I hear the scary thunder outside, I take comfort that it's just Veles stealing the water from the Sky God Perun, and bringing it to earth to water the fields for the harvest and for his cattle.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'I cant live without God.'
      Really? Is he really that much of a crutch for you that you cannot live without him? Thats actually a pretty sad admission I think.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Teddy

      @Duncan: The burden of proof is not upon those who believe in God. 90% of the world believes in some higher power. If 10% claim there is no higher power, the burden of proof is on those in the significant minority to prove their point of view to the majority; not the other way around.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Catie: I too find it a sad statement that you cannot live without god. Your words are troubling. All I can ask is that you clarify what you mean. And explain why?

      October 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  9. Jude

    maintaining civilization, civilized: first mom and dad, then teacher, coach, principle, boss, cops, rangers, army and when those folks are missing, humanity needs the ultimate web cam to your actions and yes, your thoughts, god is watching at all times!!!! great way to control the masses.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  10. Duncan

    Rather than debate if God exists today.. I think it is better to discuss where the belief came from. Some events occurred which were witness by a few people. Those events were told to others and passed on.. eventually someone wrote them down. Those writings were translated and copied and translated and copied.. they were edited many times by people, they were eventually formed into a book.

    The church, which as we know, between the beginning and into the 19th century, were ruthless people who killed millions. Their interests lay in ensuring that their church and their religion survived. The Bible is a collection of books that have been picked by man. Those same men also decided to keep some books out and hidden from the world.

    So my issue with the whole God debate is that people are expected to put blind faith into the bible which probably bears zero resemblance to the original story.

    Personally, I believe that someone called Jesus did existing, but he was probably a modern day Red Cross worker who wanted to help people.

    To put faith in the bible considering it's history and into a religion that was brutal for 1500 years, is somewhat silly.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  11. JoeJoe9

    Can an Atheist argue morality? Can someone of religion argue morality? The answer is yes & no for both.
    If an atheist argues based on the logic and principles of philosophical ethical thought, then that is reasonable. The irony inherent in such an argument of context is that these principles are based on unmovable universal truths. These universal truths imply the existence of an unmoved mover or God. So they can argue the point, but it contradicts their atheistic beliefs. Atheism can't have universal truths that contradict relativism that there atheism is founded on.

    On the other hand, the religious person can argue morality from a religious standpoint, but they have no basis for argument outside of their belief, and thus make their argument unusable to an atheist or to the legal system or to medical science (i.e. Abortion). If they wish to argue with anyone on moral issues, they must not argue from their religious belief standpoint, but rather from a pure logical and philosophy of ethics standpoint, void of partiality & opinion. The only advantage the religious person has is that they don't contradict their belief system while making the ethical argument not from a religious point of view, as both their religious beliefs and the universal truths necessary for understanding/arguing moral justification, hold that there is a higher power (God) that holds the existence of these unchanging truths. Like gravity...gravity is a part of God (an unmoved mover) which everything in 'our' universe was created from. It always existed at infinitum, and always will, no matter how many universes there are, have been, or will be. So too, universal moral truths are unchanged/unmoved, and always existed. We are just evolving to the point where we can come to understand them or at least know they exist.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • nord

      Atheism is not founded on relativism. It's not founded at all. It's a personal belief that there is no deity, and that's all it is. Beyond that, there are many, many differences in what a person uses as a moral compass. You can't make general statements.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Sure you can. People make false blanket statements all the time.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  12. Anon

    It is interesting to me how no matter the scientific argument, anyone who argues on behalf of the existence of God is labeled of lower intelligence than an atheist. Ironically, it is the atheists that have developed our culture into the intollerant state we now have. Those who believe in God are much more accepting of scientific results (rather than only choosing those arguments that benefit us) and understand that results almost always lead to subjective (not objective) conclusions. The theory of evolution lacks evidence to prove that it exists, yet that theory is somehow more acceptable than the theory of intelligent design, which many would argue has much more proof on its side. One cannot be open-minded without be open to all other ideas (including religious ones).

    October 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • John

      Evolution has evidence to support its existence. Among them, mitochondrial DNA commonalities, and an abundance of transitional fossils.

      Here is the evidence to support intelligent design, evidence that a very powerful being created the world:
      [ ]

      October 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Anon

      Your evidence, mitochondrial DNA commonalities, brings into question the main issue with evolution. DNA similarities do not prove evolution, they simply prove a relationship between organisms. I would present this question, if you were creating a world, would you not use the same materials to create them all? Just as this piece of evidence can be used to support evolution, it is equally supportive of intelligent design.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Q

      The counter argument for the common design elements can be found in convergent evolution. Take new world and old world vultures which are morphologically very, very similar but quite distinct genetically tracing their individual evolutions to separate groups of bird ancestors. Additional arguments can be found in shared and distinct endogenous retroviruses, as well as pseudogenes, other transitional molecular fossils like the human gene SETMAR, human chromosome 2, etc.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
    • John

      It supports evolution, and unintelligent design by a flawed creator. Look at how often DNA screws up. If DNA was the creation of an all-knowing and all-powerful being, then there wouldn't be anything wrong with it. If instead DNA is the cause and result of generations of evolution, then yeah, some changes would be beneficial, some would be harmful, and sometimes the code would just plain get corrupted.

      If you can get Christians to assert that DNA is evidence of an imperfect and flawed Creator, then I'll sign on to intelligent design in a heartbeat.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Anon

      Man has the genes for a fully functional tail.

      Whales have the genes for making legs
      Chickens have the genes for teeth

      These genes are simply not activated.

      Yep, we evolved. We have genes that are vestiges from previous more primitive organisms.

      If god created all organisms one time, why would there be these vestiges?

      They are easily explained through the evolutionary process. Cheers!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
  13. John

    Societies require religion as a means to control the people, to manipulate them into accepting the rule of the State and the necessity of moral law as interpreted by the State.

    There is a role for organized religion in human society, but only if we are so immature as a species as to require a fictional parental figure, and a system of afterlife reward and punishment, to motivate us to maintain the social order.

    If one requires the teachings of an ancient book to be a moral person, if without the 10 commandments or the threat of damnation they'd be out there killin' and rapin', are they a moral person to begin with? If you're that messed up in the head, will a book stop you?

    October 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • David Johnson

      I think what you said is totally true. But I would like to point out, that if a portion of society controlls the rest of society, controls the rest of society then it is a nightmare.

      The Religious Right is attempting to do just that, through their puppets the Republican Party. The Religious Right wants to set up a theocracy, with Jesus as head of state. Only the Religious Right will be able to hear the voice of Jesus. They will tell us His will.

      Let's avoid this. Vote for the Dems in November.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  14. Sara

    There is actually some fascinating scientific research going on focusing on the idea that maybe religion is an evolutionary trait. I.e people are less likely to misbehave if they believe that "someone is watching them" and that there are consequences to their every action.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
    • Catie

      Funny how that works

      October 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Yes, I think you are referring to the "god module" A section of the brain some believe evolved to keep us from killing each other. Hmmm....

      It may be real proof that the idea of god, is all in our heads. LOL

      October 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Sara

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129528196

      This is a link to a story from NPR about the subject. It is interesting because they did a study with 3 groups of children and each were told a different scenario. The first was told that someone would be in the room watching them complete a task (to make sure they didn't cheat), the next group was told that no one would be watching them (and obviously this group had the highest rate of cheaters) and the third group was told that someone was sitting in the room with them but that the children could not see/touch/hear them but this person would be watching. The children in the 3rd group had cheating levels that matched children in the first group.
      So I guess kind of the hypothesis of the theory was that people are less like to do bad things when they believe someone is watching as I said before.

      The issue with religion though to me is, that we have these different religious figures who interpret their holy books and claim to know what "God" needs, wants, hates etc. The fact is that we will never REALLY know until we die. And I have a really hard time believing that if there is a god, he/she really gives a crap about half the stuff these snake-oil sales men bring up!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  15. Micah

    I find it funny that Peter Hitchens uses a constant magnetic north as an analogy for non shifting morals. Magnetic North has been always been moving, and even reversed it's self. All modern compasses take this into account when making their heading. Not a very good analogy anymore, is it?

    October 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      He is just making a point.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Frogist

      LOL@Micah! I caught that one too!

      October 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Micah

      Yes, that is 'technically accurate.' But... I think you and I both know, he was using a universal analogy that most can relate to, to make his point.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Yes, he was making a point, and a bad one at that. Almost no one uses compasses anymore for navigation! We use GPS, or other advanced technologies. So he was actually making his brother's point – civilization moves on and much of what we believe is relative.

      October 13, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • The Fodao

      Yeah, I saw that as well. And even if it were true, it's an analogy that still plays against him. After all, before the west had dominated navigation and set the standard, many cultures had their own methods of navigation. However did we find our way anywhere without the advent of compasses?

      And morals DO change; yet another poor argument. Look at issues such as serfdom, slavery, women's rights, or any other such injustices (which, I might add, Christian thought had insisted was not only right, but that anything else was the work of the devil.)

      Watching uninformed, arrogant Christians argue their cause is fun because they put as much thought behind their arguments as they do their belief systems, and they expect the stuff to stick. Just lose the spiritual insecurity and live with the fact that you don't rule the world anymore.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  16. brad

    What would be acceptable evidence that God exists?

    October 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • nord

      Besides the Cubs winning the Series, she's have to put in a personal appearance. You knew that. And still, some people would not believe it. Same applies the other way around - proof is not necessary to faith. That's why they call it faith.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Micah

      Scientifically testable proof. Sadly, every miracle has been dis-proven by science, and no amputee has every regrown a limb.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
    • Luke

      How about showing me how the bible and koran are actually true? Since the god of Abraham was so unskilled that he managed to get something as easy as slavery and genocide wrong, I'd say the idea of this god being infallable is highly unlikely, falsifying essentially everything else that is within his text. I'll even disregard some of the rather stupid teachings and claims of the bible right now and let you harp on the fact that your god, as perfect as he is supposed to be, could not get something so easy correct.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • John

      Any sufficiently advanced form of magic is indistinguishable from science. The reverse is also true.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Godless

      Showing up, for one. Doing something "god-like" in the presence of mass number sof people or in a way that could be recorded. If god is all powerful, surely this wouldn't be a problem. Send Jesus back, let him walk on water, turn water into wine, whatever. Fly without wings, make it rain on a sunny day, raise the dead, whatever.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • brad

      @LUKE I ask a question in a few words and it's "harping". Caution : quick conclusions like this betray emotion. Emotion tends to hamper reason.

      @NORD: People think of faith as blind acceptance of dogma. Here's a very poor,poor, metaphor. Imagine a very large magnet. We place a small piece of iron nearby. The magnet has an inner property that draws the iron to itself. The little piece of iron has an inner property that allows it to be drawn to the magnet. The iron is that way by its own nature, no "choice" involved. Faith is an exchange between God and people of faith similar to the magnet and the iron. Of course, move the iron far enough away, and the magnet becomes like the unbeliever. No attraction.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Duncan

      If God did exist and did return, he/she would have to perform something very spectacular for even the pope to believe them. With the advances in technology, it would have to be something major like making a pop noddle taste good..

      October 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • nord

      Brad, faith IS blind acceptance of something. Nothing wrong with it. You, for example, assume that every time you place the iron near the magnet, the attraction will take place. It's a form of faith, although one justified by repeated observation. But a god is not necessary to faith. All that is required is a mind that believes in that god, for whatever reason. Faith is not rational, and should not try to be. Certainly, it should not pretend that it is rational. We all have things we take on faith, no?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Having the baby Jesus hover over the United Nations building.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • brad

      @NORD

      You're right. Faith is not rational or irrational. It is a-rational.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Frogist

      @brad: So by your analogy, I have to think you are saying that we are predestined by something within us that draws us to our particular faith? And that non-believers are without that special something? And what of people who change their faith from christian to muslim? Am I understanding you correctly?

      October 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Frogist

      @brad: Also I'm with Nord on this about faith... Even if god put in a personal appearance, not everyone would believe a) it was god or b) it was everyone's god. I mean even when Jesus was around not everyone followed his lead. Otherwise, I suppose we would all be christian now.
      But I suppose what you're really asking is what is your personal defninition of god. I personally don't think there is anything s/he could do to prove him/herself. That's the quandry of being human. There is no answer to your question.
      Also brad, you ask some damm hard questions, you know that?! 🙂

      October 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Respondez

      brad,

      If this "God" is omniscient, then it would know 'precisely' what sufficient evidence would be for each one of us. It would not present us with a huge, guessing game and confusing trails of bread crumbs for us to follow, with the possibility of following that trail off a cliff. There would be no non-believers.

      October 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @brad

      Yes, you were *spot on* .... as you said ..." This is a very, very poor analogy." So, why use it at all...?

      October 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Pastor Evans

    Knowing the real, true, and living God, who is Jesus Christ, is very easy if an individual sincerely wants to know Him.
    He reveals Himself by His Spirit to the person who really wants to know Him!!! It is based on the condition of ones heart!!! Simple!!!

    October 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Pastor Evans, do you think God (or the belief in God) is a necessary factor for a healthy life, I'm asking, if a person can have a healthy, productive and happy life if they did not believe in God, then what is the point of God?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
    • John

      Got video of Jesus?

      You have as much proof of Jesus as I have proof that Perun, the thunder god, lives in the upper branches of the world tree, and Veles, the water god, lives in the underworld of its roots, and thunderstorms are a result of their battles. Veles revealed himself to me in spirit.

      Prove me wrong.

      The great Veles:

      October 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Pastor Evans

      But I am troubled Pastor. If there is only one god, then why are the people who are of other faiths happy? Why do they believe they feel their god, in their hearts, so strongly?

      Why does a person's belief seem to be mostly due to what faith his parents held and where he was raised?

      Help me to understand pastor...

      October 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Derek

      If God exists, why has he allowed millions of people to be killed in his name? Why did he allow the church to brutally murder millions of people and to be one of the most corrupted groups on the planet? Why has he allowed so many children to be brutally beaten and killed by those who preach his name?

      Why is the answer to these questions always that God does not direct us or events.. and if so, what good is he? you would think that maybe, at some point, he would have said, 'wow, I really screwed this up, I need to stop these killings in my name' ..

      God offers us nothing today and I long for the day that the religious nut jobs stop being the dominate factor in the running on this country.

      Also, why are religious people in the US some of the meanest, unforgiving and un-accepting people alive?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      I guess Pastor Evans got scared and ran off to pray for guidance in the face of challenges to his faith.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • John

      Mighty Veles respects not the weak!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @JohnQuest

      You said, "I guess Pastor Evans got scared and ran off to pray for guidance in the face of challenges to his faith."

      Hmm... That makes me sad. I was looking for guidance. *sigh*

      October 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  18. Dude

    Since we don't really know what happens when we die people turn to religion, Gods, deities etc to make themselves feel comforted and not afraid. I'm not saying there isn't a God. I am sure something made this universe and all of its contents. However with the record of the Church and for that matter the record of man and how both lie for selfish motives, I believe that what ever was left behind for us was either kept by a select few or destroyed in wars over religions. I could create a Church today anounce that some special deity made contact with me and I have been given direct orders to do something and there would be people that would follow. We have the means to record voices and take pictures,, but I have yet to see a picture of God or hear his recorded voice. There are more UFO pictures than that of God. So what does that say?? Possibly the creator is either camera shy or people that claim to have divine intervention are not being truthful.. Which by the way is a sin.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Luke

      Quite the contrary. We know very well what happens when we die – it is identical to what it was like before you were born/conceived. I ask you – what was it like for the 13.6 billion years before you were born? In any event, at the atomic level, your body will decay into the individual atoms that compose you and they will recycle into the earth again. From there, they will bond with other atoms and become new elements that compose water molecules, carbon and perhaps even breathable oxygen. Perhaps some of your atoms will become a glass of drinking water for another human in the not so distant future. Maybe some of your other atoms will bond with carbon atoms to become a new life form! That's how it works in reality. Everything that composes the universe has always been around, it just gets recycled over time. In fact, most everything that composed early earth is still here too. That is, when you breathe in, you are sucking in bits of dinosaurs and parts of Shakespeare. The same goes for you.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • nord

      The humorous folksong "In Dead Earnest" by Lee Hayes and Pete Seeger says the same thing, only a bit less scientifically. In honor of this tune, Lee's last wishes were honored and his ashes were mixed into a compost pile.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Respondez

      Luke,
      "at the atomic level, your body will decay into the individual atoms that compose you and they will recycle into the earth again."

      Yes. And add, though, that this process happens all of our lives. We shed skin cells, hair and lots of other stuff with our personal DNA in it all the time. I suppose there can be a metaphysical angle to that too, but I'm not proposing one right now. Just adding a fact.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Luke: "when you breathe in, you are sucking in bits of dinosaurs and parts of Shakespeare"... Effin' poetry, man! I love it! peace2all was right. We need to start a fan club. (hate this cnn filter..)

      October 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Luke

      Frogist – If you are as intuative as I think you may be, you should be able to track me down. Try it.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  19. Eivor

    I find it very difficult to believe in "God" on a personal level. The bible indicates that the Hebrews (or Jews) were his chosen people. Look at their suffering throughout the ages and particularly during WWII. Also, consider Stalin's mass purges, Cambodia and other mass murders too numerous to mention. Yes, all of these are considered man's inhumanity to man and "God" is not responsible. None of it makes sense.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      Read the book of John. That will clear it up.

      October 14, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  20. yankee cowboy

    What's to debate? There are no gods or goddesses any more than there's a Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy.

    Religion is an invention by man used to control the ignorant masses.

    October 13, 2010 at 11:59 am |
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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.