My Take: Why religious leaders are so scandal prone
November 2nd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My Take: Why religious leaders are so scandal prone

Editor's Note: Mark Barger Elliott is Senior Pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and author of Creative Styles of Preaching. His blog Faith in the World identifies stories of hope from around the world and places where religion intersects everyday life.

By Mark Barger Elliott, Special to CNN

The clergy have been under the glare of the news media’s klieg lights recently and the sight has been jarring to say the least.

For Americans, the most high-profile example of unwanted media attention is of course Rev. Eddie Long, pastor of a 25,000-member Atlanta church, though he vigorously denies the allegations against him.

Some recently scandalized European religious leaders have gotten less attention in the U.S.

Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball and The Big Short) wrote in Vanity Fair about a trip he took to research the financial collapse of Greece. In his travels he stopped by the famed Vatopaidi Monastery and was amazed to discover the financial slight of hand of Fathers Arsenios and Ephraim, two monks who he says displayed all the cunning of Enron’s Jeff Skilling and Kenneth Lay.

The two apparently duped the Greek Ministry of Finance out of a millions of dollars.

In April, Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, resigned after admitting to child sex abuse.

As a Christian pastor, I am troubled and embarrassed.

I wonder what opinions those outside my tradition must have of our clergy.

Does an agnostic house painter in New Orleans who was considering returning to the church decide now to stay away because of the accusations against Eddie Long? Does a Hindu cab driver in Athens believe Father Aresenios is the face of the church? Does a Muslim short order cook in Brussels watch the story of Roger Vangheluwe on Al Jazeera and conclude all clergy are pedophiles?

Closer to home, do church members in my congregation wonder what I am hiding?

How can we clergy explain such egregious transgressions?

I have thought of two possible culprits: the work and the person.

As a pastor I identify with the pitfalls of "the work." Fifteen years ago I took vows "to love God, my neighbor, and to serve the people of God with energy, intelligence and imagination."

Today, however, my job description reads like the director of a mid-size non-profit. A million dollar budget needs to be raised and a monthly payroll of 12 employees met. To tread the churning waters of shrinking resources and demands for excellent programs, I take classes on strategic planning as often as classes on the Bible.

I'm not proud of this. But I suspect that many clergy face the same temptation to view the church more as a business than a spiritual community.

What to do?

One option is to intentionally separate the clergy from the church's financial matters. Teaching people about God’s love while shaking a fundraiser’s tin cup seems to ultimately undermine one’s credibility. People suspect a bait and switch.

On the other hand, as Harvard professor Robert Coles wrote in a famous essay addressing a crisis in the field of psychiatry, "I think our most pressing concern is less the matter of our work than the manner of ourselves."

This is where the second possible culprit, the person, comes in.

Yes, the work of ministry pulls clergy in a million directions but cooking the balance sheet and sexual crimes point to a disease of the spirit and soul.

This is "the manner of ourselves."

How do we explain the moral transgressions of a profession charged to teach morality?

In my years as a pastor I have witnessed marriage vows made and betrayed. I have visited those in prison and those trapped in a prison they have made for themselves. I’ve prayed with the lost and the found, watched fortunes flow and ebb.

"Broken" is a word that describes many of the people I have been privileged to walk alongside as a pastor.

I have also spent a great deal of time with other clergy; from preaching stars who soak up acclaim for their oratory gifts to pastors in inner-city churches barely making ends meet.

Here's my observation. Clergy typically fall into one of two camps.

Those who, in the face of the brokenness that surrounds them, come to identify their own brokenness and in humility choose to "live with the questions," to borrow the poet Rilke's phrase. This person is reluctant to offer quick answers to the hard questions of life.

The other camp is clergy who choose instead to offer confident solutions to life’s struggles. The clergy I have watched transgress their ordination vows typically fall into the second camp. The temptation is to shift from speaking about God to speaking for God. When that line blurs in a pastor’s mind, all bets are off.

What can Christian clergy offer to the agnostic house painter in New Orleans, the Hindu cab driver, the Muslim short order cook?

The Jewish prophet Micah once wrote how people of faith are to "act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God." That is as succinct a definition I know of what it means to call oneself a Christian.

It’s also reminder of the standard we clergy must claim and cling to if we are to restore trust and once again bring honor to our sacred calling.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Barger Elliott.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Leaders • Opinion

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Gary

    why are all religious leaders full of scandals? Religion is bunk. Its a money scam, A control scam a power scam and plenty of ignorant weak minded followers who send them money. Just like late night informercials

    November 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
    • michael

      Religion is bunk. I totally agree. God is not asking anyone of us to perform "religion". He is ASKING for a relationship with each of us. The possibility to be best friends with the guy who made ... everything... awesome. I read so many posts anti – God etc and I can empathize and relate to most as this was my mindset some years back... maybe not as virulent as some but definitly NO GOD. All I can truthfully attest to is that I am no longer the sorry good for nothing, selfish wannabe that I used to be. He can and will make ALL the difference. He wants a relationship with you as much as He does with me or B. Graham or anyone else you can think of. BUT... God forces no one... He commands no one to worship Him. He does point out consequences etc... after all it ALL does really belong to Him. The "system" runs on His rules. You can live in the "system" any way you choose.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Those who do such acts are most probably see them selves as Gods or above God or otherwise have no faith at all but after money,fame and power.

    November 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  3. Moi

    Hey, let's all sell our daughters into slavery, or give them to strangers knocking at our door during the night so they'll quit bothering us! Yeah, and let's put to death any man who touches the skin of a pig! There go the football players! C'mon, waddaya say??? After all, it's Divine Wisdom, right???

    November 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  4. David Johnson

    I hope your prayer is answered. It is time that gays get their rights and that I can begin planning my own garden of "herbs"!

    November 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  5. MadPanda

    Dear god,

    Please tell your followers to get off my back because i like to smoke a few joints now and then to relieve stress. Sc-ummy, sc-ummy, fear embracing, evidence denying, hypocrite followers they are indeed. Please let prop 19 pass. Please let prop 19 be the first domino. Thanks god, you didnt say "no" so that must mean yes. Oh, and tell them to be nicer to gays and let them get married. Later god, *fist bump*

    November 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  6. Wingnut

    Religion is the big whammy, a big brain-wash. After 25 years of being brought up brain-washed I freed myself and now I look at all clergy as the most corrupt members of society. It does not surprise me one bit that they abuse children and steal money. The pastor in the article is every bit as corrupt as the "second group" he blames. Teaching little children from a young age about heaven and hell is child abuse in itself. Guilting the flock into giving 10% of their income (before taxes) is stealing just like elder abuse. Note that the pastor who wrote that article does not have to pay federal income tax, so he has paid for nothing. Instead give our soldiers their pay tax-free, at least they stand on that wall with their rifle and say "nothing is going to hurt you tonight" and then back it up by dedicating their lives to the service of our country.

    November 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Darn – a self-professed wingnut I have to agree with. The only thing I would add to your post and others dismissing religion for the sham it is, is that I believe once you have deluded yourself to the point that you can stand up in front of a crowd and spew the insanity of religion, moving on to financial or s-ex-ual impropriety is very very easy. And I especially like the comment about noone, not even their supernatural being, telling them it's wrong, so it must be right.

      November 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  7. JohnQuest

    Sum Dude, David Johnson, please don't put too much "faith" in the Dems, they are afterall still politicians.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @JohnQuest – don't worry, I kept my fingers crossed the whole time. 😛

      November 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • David Johnson

      I would not be voting for the Dems, if the Republicans weren't the puppets of the Religious Right. I do not want to live in a theocracy. Gays should have the right to marry, Women to choose. I don't believe in Jesus and don't want him to be king.

      To vote for independents, is to waste a vote. A vote that is vitally needed, to keep the Republicans from taking over congress.

      November 2, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • CW

      @ David Johnson,

      Okay you may not want Jesus to be KING...BUT HE WILL BE...PREIOD. No its not right for Gays to be able to marry. Keep on giving God your rational....for not believing. you will get your chance to explain....I just pray for you...b/c Hell will be HOT. I hope you change your ways....come to know Jesus....have a personal relationship with GOD. The good news is that you have the choice....Believe....live a life for God...Go to heaven...or....keep the way your going.....and endure the results FOREVER.

      November 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    Here comes another Heinlein quote from your friendly neighbourhood Doctor.

    "The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man.
    But it's lovely work if you can stomach it."

    November 2, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  9. Reality

    Dear Pastor Elliott,

    In case you missed this the fourth time around:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, pastors, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues to include the Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  10. NL

    One thing I've noticed is that, when you question certain people about how they can be so certain that they are right, they will likely respond by accusing you of being deceived by Satan. As much as this is not an actual answer to an honest inquiry I'm sure it serves well to shut up any typical believer who would presume to question their right to speak for God. It's not just clergy that does this. Many lay people who interpret the bible for themselves seem to act as their own clergy, and are not shy about telling you what they think God thinks. Obviously, if you disagree with them, you must be deceived by the devil.

    Yet, even after you get their confirmation that Satan is indeed cleaver enough to deceive anyone, if you ask if they themselves could be the ones being deceived the answer is usually no. That's the kind of arrogance that I see spoiling many people's view of religion as a humble person would at least acknowledge the possibility that they could be wrong.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • Sum Dude

      Can I slobber on you? lol That's a great post. thx

      November 2, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It's kind of like going to a PTA meeting and asking the attendees how many of them think that kids are using drugs in their school – every parent will raise their hand.
      Then ask them how many think THEIR kids are using drugs and watch those hands fall like bricks.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • NL

      Sum Dude-
      Thanks, but I draw the line on the exchange of bodily fluids. 😉

      You asked me in another tread what I was like personally. Well, most of the things I regret having done in life I did as a religious person acting on faith that what I was doing wasn't really hurting people, but helping them. I was acting against my better judgment then, but I live naturally now with way fewer regrets. I never 'struggled' with my morality like almost every Christian I've ever met seems to. In fact, I've led a rather boring life compared to the many 'colorful' lives I've heard people testify about on Christian TV. No addictions, no violence, no overwhelming greed.

      So, I guess that would make me really worthless to other Christians should I ever have a change of heart and go back to a life of faith because I wouldn't have a good redemption story to share. Like the Amy Grant song goes they believe '"that being good is just a fable." A naturally meek and humble person who hardly ever hurt a fly in their entire life, who doesn't have to continually suppress the urge to hurt others, isn't someone who will be the darling of the Christian world. They want sinners who may backslide scandalously, but manage to return to the fold every time and with a new story they can tell like they've seen action in war. They don't want to be led by someone who isn't infected with temptation just as they are, and these pastors know that, are banking on it in fact.

      I'll make a prediction now that Katy Perry, the faith's favorite fallen daughter, will have no trouble whatsoever coming back stronger than ever in Christian music as a prodigal child once her pop career peters out. If I were more cynical I might even suspect that this was the plan all along. Market herself as a fallen child, work her youth for as long as she can, make some money and some 'fallen' cred within Christian circles and, after they've been praying a long time for her to return and she drifts into middle age eclipsed by younger singers, return humbled, but stronger than ever. They'll love her even more than before. What do you think?

      November 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • Tighe

      Can I, as a Christian, be humble and admit I might be wrong? The answer is no. I cannot admit that I am wrong just as I cannot admit that I am not thirsty in the desert or that i do not hunger when I have nothing to eat. I cannot deny a base part of myself.

      But I can admit that you will look at my life and see all the ways that I fail as a Christian. I will never obtain perfection and be free from sin. I will never live up to the example of Jesus living a sinless life. I cannot do so because I was born into original sin. I can only assure you that I will work my hardest to be free from crime, to prevent hunger and disease, to provide for and love my neighbors and to deny all the false prophets of the world.

      November 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • NL

      Maybe it's more like expecting dads never to admit to being scared, or to not knowing what to do. To never show weakness. I can see that kind of feeling weighing down on these pastors too.

      Now, nobody can become a perfect parent, and you may never obtain perfection from sin, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't try your best, does it? I suspect that many Christians don't try as hard to be good as they would if the redemption safety net were not there to catch them. Basically, most of you believe that the worst possible person imaginable would still be saved by Jesus should he accept him as their savior with their dying breath. Who knows, even Hitler may have found his way into heaven by playing this card at the last minute, right? According to the prodigal son principle, because his sins far outweigh those of almost every other Christian, he would now be amongst the most prized by the Lord, right? How would that make you feel?

      November 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • michael

      There are many things about God that I can and may be wrong about. There is only 1 that is infallable and I ain't Him. However there are a few things that I do know about Him that I am not wrong about and no one can ever change my mind about... does that make me arrogant about them? I guess as B. Clinton said "that determines on how you define...". Listen, I KNOW that there is a God. I KNOW that He loves me and you. I KNOW that His son Jesus made a way for each of us to have a relationship with Him (God). Where does the arrogance come in??? Well... (as R. Reagen said) from your viewpoint... (and this I assume from experience) if you do not KNOW these things as well... then you ARE wrong. I do not say this to ruffle your feathers or hurt any feelings... it is a fact. Each person has a set amount of time (their "life') to choose these truths and others... these are foundational. If not, then when they enter the next perceivable "evolution" (word chosen on purpose) of their life; their understanding and position with the truth will be known. Alas the time of opportunity for choice is now past and they must for eternity live with the decision they made in those few short years of temporal living. How can I be so arrogant you ask... it is very simple... I am arrogant about the knowledge that without any protective aids; if I stick my hand into an open fire, I AM going to get burned. I was told this in advance by my parents. I disregarded this warning and experienced HOT for myself and I am now arrogant in my knowledge that it produces pain. Without any shadow of doubt I can and will say to you and every person that reads this... THUS SAITH THE LORD ALMIGHTY; "Hell is hot, don't go there". I wrote those words. But please believe them as if you actually heard God say them to you. I for one am not going to thrust my entire body into hellfire and brimstone just to experience the pain and to gain the arrogance of the knowledge that it hurts. It is a hurt that will never end. You say that a JUST and LOVING God would not require such a consequence... I say NO the real miracle is that a JUST and LOVING God provided a way of escaping this outcome. You have to open your mind and imagination up to the awesome perfection of who God really is and what His character is like. He is truly foreign to us in that He has NO darkness or iniquity of any kind in Himself. It is a wonderful thing that He could design a way to reconcile a fallen nature as ourselves to Himself. Integrate imperfection without causing that perfection to become inperfect. That way is amazingly simple yet profound and requires total trust... belief that He is... thru death you become alive... absolute contradiction but absolute truth. The concepts of life and death are not (only) what we have come to believe as human beings. The very first step... decide. This is the sum total of your "work" in receiving that relationship... decide to believe Him, not me. If there were ANY way for you work or be good enough to deserve a good relationship with the true God... then there would have been no reason for Jesus' death and resurrection. God is real and thru Jesus' actions He has proven that He is not "mad" at you... A good book to read is found in the bible... actually there are 66 good books to read there. However the one I have in mind is Romans. If you are truthful with yourself and want to settle this "thing" about God... read Romans and then I would suggest the Gospel of John... I can truthfully say (and I once thought as you and many others who post on these "religious" blogs)... I am so believing in this Jesus dude that I really can not imagine living my life without Him. As with the "fire" example; you really can't have that arrogant knowledge that we believers in Him have unless you stick your hand in the fire so to speak. There is a verse in the bible that says "taste the Lord and know that He is Good". Let go and let God.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Tighe


      Is it your contention the walking in the light creates a desire to commit sin? Or that somehow people of Faith commit more sin because their sin can be forgiven? I cannot offer any proof to the contrary and i do not wish to enter into conjecture.

      The scripture tells us that the only unpardonable sin is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. I am not (and will never be!) in a position to judge another human's soul but to me the scripture tells me that I cannot sin in a way that is against the Holy Spirit that fills my heart. What does this mean? Well it means that I cannot commit grevious acts of hatred against others or be self-serving in my sin. There are many things which fall into this category, including the accuesed sins of the pastor from GA.

      Not every sin is the same in God's eyes and Jesus reitereated this many times in the New Testament. Do not presume that every person that has been filled with the Holy Spririt will be in Heaven. Indeed, "Narrow in the Gate". I am sure that the Humanist community has it varying degrees of sinners. But I promise you that you will find no man or woman truly living by the Word of God that will commit horrific acts. But I think you know this already, as it is self evident in the words of the New testament brought to man through Christ.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  11. capnjammer

    I love how these posts keep coming in to defend religion from all the evils it's inflicting on the world. The simple truth of the matter is this: it's repression. You can't take a human being with natural urges and impulses and expect him to completely forego them. Something's gotta give, and more often than not, it's their notion of God. Yes, this means man's natural urges are more powerful than the fear of burning in H-ell forever or angering a God that can see you at any time and can do anything at all to you.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  12. TheRationale

    How about you should be smarter than to trust anyone who claims to know the mind of an omnipotent being that does not exist.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:56 am |
    • Sum Dude


      I would say that people shouldn't have to constantly fight off the lies in the first place. And people don't usually do the right thing.

      November 2, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  13. David Johnson

    I think religious leaders are prone to scandal, because there is no god to actually guide them.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:54 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      wow! You and JohnQuest are making me feel old. That is a good post also.
      Ah, well, at least I voted for as many Dems as I could yesterday.. Cheers! 😛

      November 2, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Sum Dude

      I voted for as many Dems as I could yesterday..

      God Bless and Keep You! I did the same this morning. I even took a personal day, tomorrow, so I can stay up late for the results.

      November 2, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  14. JohnQuest

    I have always thought this to be a rather simple answer (possibly because I am a simple minded person), absolute power corrupts absolutely. These people think that they only have to answer to is their fact itious God, since God doesn't say or do anything to them their action must be okay.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • Sum Dude


      That second sentence is definitely a keeper. I wish I had said it like that instead of making a huge pile too long to read. thx. 🙂

      November 2, 2010 at 10:00 am |
    • michael

      In regards to: absolute power... then God must be absolutly corrupt?

      November 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  15. Frogist

    "The Jewish prophet Micah once wrote how people of faith are to "act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God." That is as succinct a definition I know of what it means to call oneself a Christian."
    I wish more Christians would act the way he describes it. Not just clergy, but all who prescribe to the faith. Walking humbly with god would be a vast improvement to proclaiming it like a peac-ock. And I think there is a lot of truth in clergy thinking they are god or know god so well that they get to speak for him. That kind of arrogance could very well contribute to thinking and acting like they are "above the law". We see that with "christians" all the time who believe so strongly that they are privileged for being in the favor of their god that they no longer behave in a Christ-like way. But like I said in another article about preventing scandal, removing that aspect of arrogance in their leaders seems counter to what church is about. People go to church to feel better, to have someone to answer your questions, not give you more questions. That's a fundamental component of the culture that has to be changed for scandals to become rare. But how can we blame them? We treat them as if they are superhuman, they buy into the lie, and when they fall we are all shocked when we shouldn't be. Scandals won't ever disappear completely. We make them by expecting too much.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  16. Reality

    Warning for new commentators:

    The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    November 2, 2010 at 8:55 am |
    • Protonic

      Are you one of the moderators?

      November 2, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  17. Protonic

    Religion is a scandal itself. A web of lies deeply woven into human culture that drives insanity everywhere.

    Scandals are just a little bit of the truth escaping the web. The Bible and the other "holy" books are just "crib-notes" for the scam-artists and the deluded to cling to in their madness.

    Give us the truth or get the hell out of religion. Your lies paint you as one of the wolves. You know and do not admit it while hiding your crimes. You even mention them in your article, "pastor".

    Things are not that simple. Your "two camps" is just another smokescreen. Religion needs to be eradicated from human society. Too bad this is not likely to happen anytime soon. The madness is too deeply rooted. The sickness is too dear and too comforting to the twisted victims of religion.

    Black is the heart of "faith" to lead so many into the darkness while pretending that the words of men could be the words of God.
    Lies and misdirection only gain you time and greater condemnation, religious "leader". To betray the trust of the innocent is a black deed, yet that is what religion does everyday.
    Thousands of years of black, evil deeds.
    Religion is sick and twisted, as was and is intended by those who "minister" or guide it along its path.
    Where is the "leader" who rescues people from the madness we call religion?
    Who is going to free humanity from this insanity that has gone on for thousands of years?

    If it's Jesus and / or the Messiah, he can't get here quick enough to suit me. Why can't we get started before he gets here? Why should we rely upon someone who may never show up when we could be cleaning up this mess ourselves???????

    November 2, 2010 at 8:53 am |
    • Sum Dude


      I think I love you! 😀

      November 2, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • Protonic

      I guess you like my post. thankyou. Just don't slobber on me, dude, and we'll get along just fine. Stay on topic or argue with me.
      I don't like constant agreement. It give me hives.
      Protonic out.

      November 2, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Peace2All


      There 'are' those of us, in our own way, who are speaking out and taking actions to help 'clean up this mess.'


      November 2, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • Sum Dude

      Don't worry. Slobber doesn't translate well in a blog. Over and under and out! (salutes a certain way) Roger and over! lol

      November 2, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Luke

      Well said, indeed.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • jon

      Pathetic that, in your entire post, you seem to only indict Christianity yet you paint all religions with the same brush.

      You clearly know very little of Christianity or any other world religion for that matter. I'd suggest getting a stronger education, and perhaps some more cultural understanding and perspective.

      You don't like constant agreement? I guess that's why you're posting such a silly, anti-Christian post on CNN's Belief blog. Perhaps, behind a screen, it's easier to spread such drivel without consequence; surely, after posting that mess, you must feel at least a little bigoted?

      November 2, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Luke

      jon – I'll be the first to say that they are all scammy in a sense, some just more than others. Atop that list, or at least fighting for first place, is Christianity and all of its various sects. Since it is hugely financed and clearly the richest of the world's religions, it only makes sense that it is clearly the largest scam within the religious sector.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Jen

      I hope this doesn't give you hives, but consider yourself slobbered on by me. That was a brilliant post and thank science there are people like you in the world. Is it just me, or is our "side" becoming more and more vocal on the internets?

      November 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  18. NL

    I actually like what this guy has to say. His message is very similar to rabbi Hartman in a previous article. The danger for clerics of all stripes really is when they presume to speak for God. Religion doesn't have the answer to life's tough questions, and the world would be a whole lot better if clerics admitted that instead of deciding themselves upon an answer that God would give. Giving advice instead of direction. Commanding as if they themselves were a prophet whose message deserved to be scripture.

    November 2, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  19. doctore0

    Religion is scam, thats why

    November 2, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  20. Sum Dude

    To rely upon another human being to such an extent is the height of folly, and religion has never been honorable except by proxy and illusion. Defiled by definition, religion is not sacred and should not be given a free pass EVER.

    Too many evil deeds are given free reign when religion is involved.
    And since religion is a delusional belief system that relies upon indoctrination to gull followers into believing without question, why would anyone be surprised that scandals happen at all?

    They are absolutely guaranteed to happen.

    November 2, 2010 at 8:28 am |
    • LetoAtreides

      Who is committing the scandal? The religiion or the person? Religion is a human-constructed organization to bring believers of a particular faith together. This is noble and appropriate. I'm a Christian but fully respect the need for religious structure with any religion. Beyond the "religion" you need to look at what is true and how that belief is practiced. If you hope to find any belief that is practiced perfectly, you won't. As long as human beings are involved, there will be no such perfection. Would you condemn all physicians if you saw a doctor commit malpractice? Why do this with religion? In the name of virtually anything noble and good, people throughout history have done evil things. Their heinous actions don't negate the good in this world nor what is true. I encourage you to look more closely at what the belief itself is. As a Christian, I know that your only true choice is the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. His message is the toughest one to hear of them all, but it holds the only hope for all of us.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      Religion is delusional. It's not hard to stretch a delusion to cover those things, is it?
      Delusional thinking has the highest probablility of causing the most damage to the world, all the people living here, our future existence on this planet, and to all humanity.

      Religion is also the biggest source for delusional thinking and delusional expressions of same, - otherwise I would not be here posting this – to you, a person doomed to irrational thinking and behavior thanks to your "religion".

      I'm not saying you or other deluded people can't be nice, but I need you to do it in a rational way using common sense, logic, and reason to the best of your abilities for the sake of everyone on this planet including yourselves.

      But you can't have a religious scandal without religion, either. You cannot escape the delusional aspects of religion. They exist. They are real.

      They are also evidence.

      November 4, 2010 at 11:51 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.