Religion is good for America, authors argue
December 17th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Religion is good for America, authors argue

By Richard Greene and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

How can the United States be devout, diverse and tolerant?

David Campbell pondered this question at a lunchtime forum at the Pew Research Center on a blustery Thursday in Washington. How could a country that is more devout than Iran (at least in terms of worship service attendance) get along so well?

Campbell, a professor at Notre Dame, and Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard, sought to find the answers to those questions through an exhaustive examination for their recent book, "American Grace: How faith Divides and Unites Us."

The authors conducted the Faith Matters survey of 3,000 people in 2006 and then came back to many of them again in 2007 to see how things may have changed. They combined that with snapshots of a dozen distinctly different congregations spread out across the country and just about every recent survey done on religion in America to try to get the fullest picture possible of religion in America.

"The U.S. actually does present a very unusual environment for religion," Campbell said while manning the Power Point presentation solo (his co-author was stuck on a runway in New York).

The fact that America is devout and diverse might lead to the conclusion (that) as a country it would be less tolerant. But their research showed the opposite.

In their book, Putnam and Campbell aim to rise above the recent decades of mistrust and even hostility that have marked relations between religious and nonreligious Americans - and, not coincidentally, the country's political right and left.

Relax, they say. Religion is good for America, and mostly, things are working out fine.

They're not the first to argue that church/state separation combined with an entrepreneurial spirit has produced a decidedly tolerant religious culture in the United States. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist magazine advanced much the same thesis in "God is Back" last year, going so far as to argue that other countries should decouple religious and state institutions in order to get similar results.

But Putnam and Campbell drill much deeper into the data to demonstrate their case, cramming charts, graphs and tables into the massive tome.

Putnam and Campbell argue that several specific factors contribute to what, in the book's closing line, they grandly call "America's Grace."

Campbell said on Thursday it is surprising, but "Americans are quite accepting of people of other faiths, which is a remarkable thing given that so many Americans themselves are not only religious in a nominal sense, that they have a religious affiliation, but they're also quite serious about their religion."

First, as is well documented, the United States is filled with people professing deep religious faith. Even given the rapid recent rise in those who say they have no religion - what students of religion call the "nones" - Americans are far more religious than people in just about any other industrialized country.

And the "nones," Putnam and Campbell remind readers, are not necessarily atheists or agnostics. In fact, most say they are not, and even those who disavow any belief in God know much more about religion than their counterparts in Europe.

Secondly, because Americans change their religion with relative ease, they have friends and even family members of different faiths.

Not quite one in five Americans had converted to a different religion at the beginning of the 20th century, they say - but by the end of the century it was more than one in four.

Marrying people of another faith became so commonly accepted that Gallup stopped polling how people felt about intermarriage in 1982.

In fact, it's partly the willingness of Americans to change religions that led to the alignment between faith and politics that seems such an ironclad fact of American life now. Younger readers may be surprised to find that it's only about a generation old.

Putnam and Campbell found, to their surprise, that when an American's religion and politics don't "match" - an evangelical votes Democratic, or a Republican hails from a family with no religion, for example - they're more likely to change their religion than their politics.

The result of this mixing and mingling is that Americans tend to have pretty positive feelings about people of other religions, the authors argue.

Nearly half of all Americans, for example, report they have never in their lives heard someone make a negative comment about their religion.

Conversely, those religions Americans feel least positively towards - Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims - may suffer at least partly because their communities are relatively insular, with less intermarriage and interfaith friendship, the authors speculate.

The third and final piece of the puzzle is that, by and large, Americans don't think their friends and family are damned if they belong to other religions - or none.

Putnam and Campbell call this the "Aunt Susan principle." In a country with so much religious mixing within families, many Americans have a relative who they are sure is going to heaven, even though they're of a different religion.

"Aunt Susan is that relative we all have. She is the sweetest, kindest, nicest person you know. She's the one who brings the casseroles to people when they're sick. She's the one you call when you're in trouble," Campbell explained at the forum.

"But your Aunt Susan is of another religion, and your religion you know teaches you theologically she's not supposed to go to heaven. But you know if there's anyone who is destined for heaven, it's Aunt Susan," he said.

Even among evangelical Christians, more than half believe that a good person of another faith can go to heaven - although even the most liberal Christian denominations officially say otherwise.

Putnam and Campbell summarize their theory in a not terribly catchy formula: devotion plus diversity, minus damnation, equals comity.

They also argue that religion itself produces many practical benefits for American society.

Religious people are more likely than nonreligious people to do good deeds in 10 out of 15 categories they surveyed, such as donate blood, help someone find a job or allow a stranger to cut in front of them in line. And they're no less likely than nonreligious people to help out in the other five categories, like giving directions to a stranger.

They volunteer more time and donate more money than nonreligious people - both to religious and to secular organizations.

And it doesn't seem to matter what religion they practice, the authors find, or even what they believe.

They found no correlation between what they call "good neighborliness" and belief that the Bible is literally true, for example. What matters is actually going to church and having lots of friends there, they say, concluding that religious networks "supercharge" neighborliness.

Putnam and Campbell are not simply cheerleaders for religion, though.

They find that religious people are less supportive of civil liberties than their nonreligious counterparts.

And religious and nonreligious people do not have positive feelings about one another. Each group tends to see the other as intolerant and selfish, while viewing their own kind as tolerant and selfless.

But overall, Americans see religion as a good influence on national life - and despite the apparent ambivalence of their subtitle, "How Religion Divides and Unites Us" - Putnam and Campbell clearly do, too.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Interfaith issues • United States

soundoff (535 Responses)
  1. Bob

    > Your first comment: Belief is who a person is. I believe in exercise and so does Arnold Schwarzenegger. I look like Pee Wee Herman. The results from what both of us believe is displayed in our life. If I met you personally I would not see your belief visually but when we begin to talk it will come out. You believe in your reasoning, logic and speculation.

    First things first. Belief is a concept accepted without faith. There is tons of information about exercise, you've done it, you've seen results and can actually see that it works for some people. That's not belief. But it's not limited to exercise, there are lots of other things that are not beliefs. For example, the fact of gravity. You drop something, it's going to fall. Fact and demonstratable. Not a belief.

    What you are doing is attempting to make the word "belief" so watered down and meaningless that it applies to everything, then seeking to say I have a belief in Jesus, so that's as valid as your belief in logic.

    It's not. Logic is not a belief. Reasoning based on logic is not a belief. It's a fact. For example. Nothing in this universe can exist and not exist at the same time. That's not a belief. It's a fact. My reasoning then that a God either exists or doesn't exist isn't a belief either. It's a fact.

    I use logic to critically assess the claims made by the bible. When they're lacking and/or contradict known facts, then the bible is clearly wrong. And when it's shown to be wrong, it's not a belief.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  2. David Houston, TX

    Christianity has been divisive from the very begining. Ever hear of the Gnostic Christians? They believed very different things than all of modern Christianity and were killed for their beliefs and their gospels destroyed.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:50 am |
    • AGeek

      Saying "Christianity has been diverse" is like saying "It runs the gamut from A to B". You're purposefully leaving out C-Z, and that, sir, is an Evil Thing.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  3. Danny

    The root of all religion that teaches one to be a decent and good human being, living in peace, helping each other, being tolerant, etc. That is the part of religion all countries need. Anything else and especially when it is in your face, violent, or espousing to be an only way for everyone and therefore forced on everyone is the parts of religion no one needs.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Unfrozen Caveman

      "The root of all religion that teaches one to be a decent and good human being, living in peace, helping each other, being tolerant, etc.

      You need to re-read your scriptures. What is good about stoning, slavery, martyrdom, infanticide? Tolerance is temporary as long as your religion is either the top dog or unable to mount an adequate attack on those in power.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      I confess, you made me chuckle. I may do so wrongly, but it just seems to me that you claim that humans need humanity instead of religion.

      It's ok if I have a twisted sense of humor. I'm laughing, I know I'm happy.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Danny, I agree. There are beautiful ideas within religion that most would like to throw out because there are horrible parts as well. The concept that we would come upon these ideals ourselves while it is true, is no justification for ignoring beauty where you find it.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  4. Frank

    Feh. "Your comment is awaiting moderation." Let's try this again:

    One might suggest that the authors approached the subject with certain presuppositions that aren't entirely based in reality. The bottom line is that we are in many respects a secular society, not a religious one, and in fact as secularism has become more common, so has tolerance. This has been shown in the civil rights movement in the 60s, in the improvement of equality between the se_xes and in the current progress of gay rights. It might be said that the tolerance the authors praise has happened in spite of the presence of religion rather than because of it.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • David Houston, TX

      I agree 100 percent. Christianity has been dragged kicking and screaming into every advancement by the secular society in America. If not for secularist thinking Christians would still be burning women as witches at the stake.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Bruce

      Frank and David,

      While you two are patting each other on the back let me interject something. Secularism has only advanced because of the lack of the Christian taking responsibility. Too much freedom and liberalism contaminates Christianity. When the tide turns as you have indicated Christianity will take notice. When persecution of the Christian begins, that is when the true Christians will have to stand for faith; Not like Muslims, but like Jesus did. Christians will remain peaceful while continuing to build the Ark until the rain begins.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      "It might be said that the tolerance the authors praise has happened in spite of the presence of religion rather than because of it."

      Fantastic! I actually hadn't thought of that, but it does seem plausible, after a few moments of consideration. While it would surely be innaccurate to claim that religion impedes civil freedom, it is not incorrect to state that pious citizens have strived to halt such progress. Case in point, the Westboro Baptist Church. They cannot be stripped of opinion, and have the consttutional right to assembly (well... at least Congress is not allowed to make laws saying they can't), but there have been devout members of many religons who both fervently denied aforementioned progress, and those who spear-headed such progress. The most obvious possibly being Martin Luther King Jr..

      That is a wonderful possibility you have introduced to me, Frank. Thank you.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Frank

      Come on. "The lack of the Christian taking responsibility?" "Too much freedom and liberalism contaminates Christianity?" Such arrogance! The simple fact of the matter is that as human knowledge has increased, the role of religion has become more and more marginal. Rather than providing simple explanations to ignorant people living in a frightening and confusing world, it now provides glib and grossly oversimplified "explanations" that directly contradict what we know to be true. Increasing freedom has come about because more people are more well-informed than ever before in human history; this has been true for the last century, in fact, and it's only increasing. It's easy to denigrate and condemn someone you've never met but when you are informed that the person you're condemning is your neighbor, your cousin or your sibling, well, that's different. (As, by the way, the authors point out.) The point is that it is increasing human knowledge and the communication of same that has lead to people being so informed. You and those like you, however, seem intent on clinging to ignorance and supersti_tion, especially when faced with fact that you find discomforting.

      I might also point out that your condemnation of "too much freedom" seems to directly contradict the principles upon which the United States was founded. Principles which were and continue to be entirely secular in nature, as it happens.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bruce


      Unfortunately, atheist and everyone else have different definitions for words like – freedom, toleration, reason, logic and such. Even Catholics and Charismatics have a different definition for common words than most Protestants. Once we know what each are saying we can have better communication. Right now it is like playing chess on a multi-level playing board.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Frank

      Nice way of sidestepping the my point entirely. "My definitions of those words are different from yours." No, they aren't, you're just being dishonest to avoid having to take what I wrote seriously. As I have come to expect from people like you.

      December 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  5. Barking Alien

    Separation of church and state was a wise decision by our founding fathers. Religion has had a poisonous effect on politics and public policy. Just look back over the last 30 years with the rise of evangelicals in politics. Washington was not nearly as partisan before their rise to power. Jesus said my kingdom is not of this earth. The problems arise when we try to create his kingdom on earth.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Shilohgl

      Read the Pramble to the Declaration of Independence

      December 18, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  6. B

    You are kidding me, right?

    Religion=the methaphetamine of the masses (all apologies to Marx)

    Show me a 'religious' person, and I'll show you a hypocrite.

    I'll take confused agnostics and people who are humble enough to refer to themselves as people of conscience, thank you. Those other crazies honestly believe the manure they spout.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Bruce


      You said, "Show me a 'religious' person, and I'll show you a hypocrite."

      You would have your answer if you defined hypocrite. I'll help you – "an actor, not genuine"

      So, you base all of what you believe about religion on "fake" evidence. How do you walk through life with that reasoning?

      December 17, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  7. Jeannette

    I'm an Atheist. What I "believe" (since so many Theist's are determined to use that word) is that the Bible was written by man, which is reason enough for me to not believe anything it contains. Second, that people that need to believe in a religion are people that are not strong enough to believe in themselves as the highest determining power in their own lives. I make my decisions based on common sense of right and wrong. Treat others they way you want to be treated. You don't need to be religious to have morals.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • Brian

      Could not have been said any better. Reminds me of the Atheist billboards I see during the holidays. "Be good... For goodness' sake".

      December 17, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Jim

      Exactly! The Bible was writen by sinning fallen men, some of whom were absolutely psychotic (Paul, Leviticus). Sorry, until god speaks directly to me, I will never, ever take the word of another sinning, fallen man 'claiming' to speak for god. I have no problem respecting my born again friends....their faith helps them cope with the stresses of everyday life. I know we're all going to the same place at the end of our lives, back into the earth we came from. One good sized comet or asteroid strike and man (like the dinosaurs) will be gone and so will the idea of god..along with his most wonderful creation...man (according to the MEN that wrote the bible). Who knows how many times the earth has been wiped clean of life by these events?

      December 17, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • Shilohgl


      You are a terrible Atheist! You say the bible was written by man and that is reason enough for you not to believe? Well i submit the same about the big bang theory, evololution etc. wasnt all of those things you do believe in in fact written by man? Did you do your own research into the big bang, evololution etc to come to your believable conclusion? I doubt it. But you take on faith what a scientist has written EVEN THO they still havent gotten it straight as to what has really occured throughtout history...

      I see you piggie-back what she wrote too. Last any checked the guys that thought up the big bang, etc werent saints either. How would you know if God is speeking thru you IF you dont know His voice? He can be talking to you everyday but you wouldnt know that cuz your mind and heart is closed off to Him. LOL An asteroid killed the dinosaurs? Really? Last I checked science STILL doesnt know conclusivally knows what killed the dionsaurs. Did I miss something is science class?
      I love the last sentence of your post...it is so Matrix like.

      December 18, 2010 at 4:46 am |
    • Jeannette

      When did I say that I believe in the Big Bang Theory or Evolution? I didn't.
      As far as "not being able to hear God because I'm not open to him"....Atheists don't believe "he" exists so why would we be trying to hear him?
      If the idea of a Big Bad Boogie Man in the sky makes you sleep better at night, so be it.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • Shilohgl

      Now I know you are confused becuz as an non-believer of God creating the world, you believe it was created how?

      December 18, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  8. Jason

    I think Religion is a good thing for those that need it. For many, it provides a moral "code of conduct" that they would never have come up with on their own. What seems common sense to one, may need to be explained to someone else- or vice versa. I think Religion is an explanation, for some, as to why we should just be good people. Some folks need a reason to be good, and the idea of a higher power keeping a keen eye on their affairs isn't a horrible notion. Sort of: whatever works. At the end of the day, if we're all more-or-less good people, isn't that enough?
    For those that question the validity of the results of this research: there are 50 states in the Nation....while you might find a ton of Atheists in a few larger cities/towns, don't forget that the vast majority of the remaining cities/towns are super-religious. For every 10 Atheists you can point me to, I can direct you to 10,000 Christians/Catholics, in each state, in less than 5 minutes. Atheism is the smallest of minority "beliefs", and the fact that many Atheists are congregating in an effort to disbelieve as a United group, makes them even more religious than your average Christian. You end up being so wrapped up in your lack of belief, that you don't realize that Atheism has become a religion itself. If you do not believe, what is there to talk about? You shouldn't, and couldn't possibly have a case for not believing, because there is nothing (in your mind) to defend. You just don't believe. Trying to convince others that you are correct, is exactly what your average Christian does when they try to convince you that you are wrong. Welcome to the Religion game, Atheists. Try not to ruffle any feathers during your ritualistic non-worship....together....as a group of people sharing the same belief....in one place.....on a specific day......Nah, Atheists aren't religious at all!!

    December 17, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Jeannette

      Religion also apparently gives the believers the right to segregate and judge non-believers since they can't seem to understand what their own religion teaches them.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Frank

      Jason, atheists will stop challenging the religious just as soon as the religious stop shoving their beliefs in our faces. Tell me, how often have you had an atheist "witness" to you, offer you a tract or knock on your door with the sole purpose of trying to "convert" you? Speaking for myself, I'm very, very tired of being told to shut up just because I don't share the dominant religious view. Which is exactly what you're doing. This, by the way, is pretty much exactly what the authors refer to as the intolerance that they claim religion helps mitigate.

      It also appears that there are many more atheists and agnostics than you imagine.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • AGeek

      As I said below- if you need some imaginary punishment to act as a guide for moral & ethical behavior, you're technically a sociopath. If the claim were true, then the human species would have died out from a lack of cooperation for the common advancement long before we got to the point of requiring a belief system. So, with all due respect, pack up your truckload of tripe and sell it somewhere else.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Atheists do not go door to door offering their religion because they know it would sound foolish to say, “I would like to offer you something to consider in place of your religion…have faith in ‘nothing’.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • ALMA

      Catholic Mom,

      They don't offer "nothing," they offer a world where real truth and facts can illuminate "great mysteries" for their true nature. "Why is the sky blue"? asks the child, Christian answer, "because God made it that way" (how very intelligent, these answers help breed a generation of ppl who don't ask 'why'? like GW Bush). The real answer? Because the wavelength of blue light travels the farthest of the wavelengths of light that are perceptible to the human eye.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • John

      Logic 101. I'm sure you can find a community college course to take, please.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie


      To be fair, most civilizations do have IMPLIED punishment to act as a guide for moral & ethical behavior. By which, I mean the judiciary systems that imply one will be punished for what said system deems immoral. For instance, if you kill another person, there is no guarantee you will be punished. You can expect, you can try to run from it, you can even hope you receive it, but it is not guaranteed until you are incarcerated and punished (a.k.a., dead and judged).

      Though I believe we should all should deliver good and kind things into our lives, I think that religious doctrine should not be the main or only reason to. I believe that is the point you implied, but I pick on semantics.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Frank

      You're right that it would be foolish to ask people to "have faith in nothing," but of course as Alma implies this is not what atheists believe. In fact atheists don't "believe" anything, in a religious sense. Atheism is simply a lack of belief, usually having to do with a divine being or beings but which may also extend to any belief in the supernatural. Were I to try to convince you, I would point out that there is no evidence whatsoever for any of the supernatural events detailed in the Christian Bible, that in fact it is riddled with errors, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods, that history doesn't support any of the events of the New Testament and that it's quite likely that the person referred to as "Jesus" in fact never existed but was made up after the fact. And then I would produce evidence to support each of my statements, or in certain cases point out the lack of evidence to support Biblical events as an indirect indication that those events probably didn't occur (because if they had, some Roman would almost certainly have written about it; the Romans kept scrupulous records, none of which mention any of the notable events of the New Testament).

      So. Atheism is not "belief in nothing." It's simply lack of belief in a god or gods and it's virtually indistinguishable from your lack of belief in, say, Ahura Mazda or Spider Grandmother. What replaces such belief is simply confidence in the ability of natural explanations to explain the natural world. Unfortunately for those who adhere to your kind of belief system, those natural explanations leave essentially no room for gods or the supernatural.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Try not to ruffle any feathers during your ritualistic non-worship....together....as a group of people sharing the same belief....in one place.....on a specific day......Nah, Atheists aren't religious at all!!'
      And they do this when exactly?

      December 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • Emmett

      Well you complain about atheists, then atheists get mad because then you cram it down our throats. We are not trying to destroy lives and put you down were just going about or daily lives, but when the church doesn't want gay marriage then we get mad and want to do the good thing and support gay marriage. We are not evil people trying to destroy your religion we just don't want other religions telling us what to do.

      December 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  9. johnnyleen

    "Nearly half of all Americans, for example, report they have never in their lives heard someone make a negative comment about their religion. "

    Then they must live in an isolated community of like-minded people.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • NL

      Perhaps most religious people do or, more likely I think, they only feel comfortable talking about religion amongst like-minded people. Everyone usually agrees to keep the subject out of workplace and social discussions because it is so divisive. I think the authors of this study completely ignore these social mores.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • David

      "I think the authors of this study completely ignore these social mores."

      Well, feel free to read their book and actually find out before making judgements. It sounds like they put a good amount of effort into it. For now, all the article is doing is repeating what the authors found based on studies. Whether they go on further to analyze that is simply not mentioned here.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  10. Maxfield in Canada

    ....said the atheist.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  11. Maxfield in Canada

    Back in the day, it was religious leaders who lead the charge for socialized healthcare, socialized prescription drug access, a progressive tax system and all things considered "socialism" in the U.S. The terms "liberal" and "socialism" are not pejoratives in Canada. They came from good intentions from religious people. It's sure working here in Manitoba.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  12. Sane

    Religion is a cancer on civilization, and like other cancers you can not negotiate with it, try to contain it or ignore it or it will kill the patient, in this case civilization.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • Bruce


      The principle that says, "It takes one to know one" is really true. You have to see religion through the same eyes as you have identified religion. You have exposed your heart in this matter.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • Sane



      The principle that says, "It takes one to know one" is really true. You have to see religion through the same eyes as you have identified religion. You have exposed your heart in this matter."

      More incoherent babble from the ranks of the mentally ill...

      December 17, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Bruce


      When I use accurate logic and reasoning and you throw it aside and called me names it confirms what I previously said. You had no reply to the truth so you began a pillow fight. Show us what you know.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • Sane



      When I use accurate logic and reasoning and you throw it aside and called me names it confirms what I previously said. You had no reply to the truth so you began a pillow fight. Show us what you know."

      Wow, you really do need to see a mental health professional if you think that your reply contained anything resembling logic or reasoning.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Bruce


      Then make a statement with some substance so people can discuss it with you. You are still calling people names based upon your prejudices and nothing else.

      There had to be more of a reason for you to click on "Religion and belief". To come here to throw darts is no reason to come here.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • ScottK

      @Bruce – "The principle that says, "It takes one to know one" is really true. You have to see religion through the same eyes as you have identified religion. You have exposed your heart in this matter."

      Im going to have to agree with Sane on this one, your statement makes no sense. He mentions the cancer that is organized religion and you say "it takes one to know one" as if thats supposed to counter his accusation. When you say to see religion through the "same eyes" I can only assume you mean to say if he were religious he wouldnt see it as a cancer? And if thats true then why have there been so many who have come out of religion (like myself) and can still see Sane's point. The problem is that those like yourself are looking out from these cancerous religions and viewing the rest of the ailing human condition and coming to the diagnosis that the body needs MORE cancer. "The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" – Einstein

      December 17, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Bruce


      Sane simply made a statement as he sees religion through his own eyes. What he saw in religion that was so clear is what he truly is. That is how they came up with the phrase "It takes one to know one". Because Sane views religion bitterly it basically says what he is. If I was a theif I would define others actions that, to me, are similar to a theif and think they were or accuse them of being a theif. I would base my thinking on what I know to be true that I have done. I would be assuming their characteristics based upon my own characteristics. IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE.

      From the dictionary:

      The person who expressed criticism has similar faults to the person being criticized. This classic retort to an insult dates from the early 1900s. For example, You say she's a terrible cook? It takes one to know one! For a synonym, see pot calling the kettle black. A near equivalent is the proverbial it takes a thief to catch a thief , meaning "no one is better at finding a wrongdoer than another wrongdoer." First recorded in 1665, it remains current.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Bruce: I think "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" might have been a more easily understood analogy. As for the rest of your post, it is rather confusing. I've noticed in a lot of posts it's difficult to understand what you are trying to say from what you are actually saying. "It takes one to know one" is generally used when someone is directing their comments at you personally. Just trying to help with the confusion.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • ScottK

      @Bruce – I guess I see a little clearer what you meant about "it takes one to know one" but your explanation seems imply Sane must be a cancer for him to see religion as a cancer. If thats the message its still not refuting Sanes position that religion is a cancer, its just adding him to the cancer list.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Bruce


      I can tell who is educated when I read other people's writing. I have been told that I write like I talk. My parents had no formal education and I was in the lower classes in school. Some of my choices in life have not benefited me from an education standpoint. English was not a subject this ADD mind was able to focus on. However, in some of your reasoning I can see how you come to your conclusions. Your last comment was smile worthy but I think you know exactly where I am coming from. Hopefully, you and others on this comment stream will be able to use your education to read between my lines to get the jest of what I say. I think I do make sense if you are so focused on reason. I will be a little more careful when I make my comments so everyone can understand a little more clearly.

      December 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  13. cbozey

    Religion and church is only good for the following reasons.

    Teaches good moral lessons to children and adults. Church is a place to collaborate with other people in a peaceful manner. And for those who do believe it provides them with a sense of support when they are in trouble(with the feeling of god and others prayer on their side).

    That is all it is good for......The good things that religion brings is present in Christmas and Santa. The rest is just blah. Christmas is a time to be with family and friends in a peaceful manner, just like church. Santa gives purpose for kids to be good, just like religion teaches you not to sin. Comparable they both have the good aspects. It is all the other stuff that makes religion and church so unattractive to me, which also makes the basis of Christmas unattractive as well. But, I dont deal with the jesus part of Christmas, because my family is not to religious. I just wish preachers and pastors would stop being so loud about it. I hate the typical sermon type church, it just seems annoying. And I have heard it all....quote a chapter..relate it to todays society...quote a chapter...relate it to todays society..sing a song...quote a chapter.....it is all to boring. Be a good person and live a happy life.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • BuddyKowalsk

      Good moral lessons? So you would consider genocide, infanticide, child abuse and all the other things in the bible good moral lessons? Jesus was criticized by the pharisees & saducees because they thought he was trying to undo mosaic law, but he replied that he was there to ADD to them.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • John

      "Good moral lessons" as defined by the person teaching them. Someone else's moral lessons are not necessarily the same as everyone else's.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Kelly Garrett


      Morality and such are relative. The poster merely accepts that the morals in his bible are morally superior to the godless ways of the humanity they seperated themselves from when they accepted their covenant. The poster merely believes that those that do not submit to their god deserve what their bible promises for them. For them, it is just and righteous that the gay abomination should change their ways or burn in hell for eternity. For them, it is just and righteous that their christ will return and exterminate all the godless non-christians, and that they should burn in hell forever for their satanic acts. To them, these are the good moral values that their god has given them.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • ScottK

      "Santa gives purpose for kids to be good, just like religion teaches you not to sin." LOL

      The story of Santa actually teaches children TO sin, by telling them its OK to tell "white lies" about an imaginary fat man who can fit down chimneys and has been spying on them all year. If any of you Christians out there gave this any thought you would see that the bible clearly says that Satan is the father of lies and that no lies were ever acceptable to the God of the bible, thus Santa is far more likely to be Satans servant than that of Jesus. Not that I believe any of that c r a p anyway, but I find it amusing that so many Christians want to claim moral supperiority and yet are telling outright lies to their own children.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • cbozey

      Meh, I think you guys are thinking to much about what I said. When you are in sunday school they do not preach genocide and all the bad crap that is in the bible. They dumb it down and talk about the basic stuff that is logical. But, adult sermons I am sure get more involved in the bad stuff. That is why I was comparing going to church to santa....its ways to keep your children in line...and as I stated that and just the fact that church brings people together is about the only thing good about it. The rest is as you all are describing...dark and silly.

      And Scott....if you have kids you know you use the santa trick....be good or you wont get any presents. That is all I was saying........as I stated the religious basis of christmas is a load of crap.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • cbozey

      and hell I have not been to church in 15yrs so maybe they changed a bit 😛 maybe they do teach apocalypse and stuff hah....about the darkest thing i was told was jesus being hung on a cross...the rest was dont sin and lets plan the next youth party...

      December 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
    • Frogist

      @cbozey: I think most people hold the same opinion you do. They think of belief in the very lightest terms. No hellfire or brimstone. They genuinely just took the good stuff and threw out the bad. It was an unconscious decision born out of convenience and the reality of how much divisive religious conviction really matters anymore. Unfortunately the minority religious fanatics have taken the anger and superiority complex out of the same material you had. I was very much like you, not really thinking about it. But I currently consider myself an agnostic. I've realized that despite being told of the goodness of Christianity, there are some rather terrible parts.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  14. thorrsman

    "Nearly half of all Americans, for example, report they have never in their lives heard someone make a negative comment about their religion. "

    They must not talk with Atheists much.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:01 am |
    • Todd

      You haven't talked to many gay people. You'd be surprised (or not) at the number of churches that consider us abominations for the sin of existing.

      Christ eaters are so loving.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:23 am |
    • ALMA

      Funny, growing up, the only people who attacked my religion (I grew up Catholic) were fundamentalist Christians and Baptists (most of who are fundamentalist anyway)

      December 17, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • CatholicMom


      Here is what the Catholic Church says about hom-os3xuality….


      December 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • NL

      Now, you're likely to be criticized by fundamentalist Catholics too. Know any?

      December 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • ALMA

      Catholic Mom,

      So you just believe what you see in a church video? How very intelligent.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • ALMA


      My point being that I know more Christians that attack other Christians beliefs than I do atheists.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Kelly Garrett


      It is irrelevent how many churches say we are abominations to their god. What is relevent is, the christian god despises us. The hatred and intolerance rest with the christian god and his bible. Christianity is not defined by the followers, it is defined by their god and documented in their bible. Those of other faiths also know the true nature of christianity, and don't fall for their thin lie that they "love" them anyway. They know their christ is supposed to return and kill them all. That is part of being christian. When they accept the coventant they agree that the slaughter of the godless on the return of their christ is just and righteous. They agree that it is just and righteous that the followers of those false gods should burn for all eternity in their gods hell where he burns his human garbage...and, of course, they agreed that the same thing should happen to us. They like to side-step the details of what they agreed to.

      "When nature, herself, decides there should be only one kind of flower, only one kind of bird and only one kind of human being will I believe there is only one true god above all others, and there is only one true way to worship."

      December 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Greg

      They may not have talked to many atheists, but a MUCH more likely cause is that they haven't talked to people from a religion other than their own.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Greg


      It's worse than believing what a 'church video' says. It's believing a video from a self professed speaker for the 'true' Catholic church who specifically says what America really needs is a Catholic Monarchy.

      Yeah, right. The Dark Ages were such a happy time for all.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • civilioutside

      So according to the video... the reason ho-mose-xuals are made miserable by Catholic doctrine is because they are supposed to be miserable for god's greater glory? And that doesn't strike you as sick in any way?

      December 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • thorrsman

      Your personal self-loathing and paranoia have nothing to do with my comment. TRY to focus.

      December 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  15. Bruce

    The article says...

    "The third and final piece of the puzzle is that, by and large, Americans don't think their friends and family are damned if they belong to other religions – or none."

    It is difficult to make the comment I am about to make simply because it will sound very condemning but it is not. If the religion the article focused on was Protestant or even Catholic, both of their dogma's would beg to differ. True, many want to think everyone is going to heaven, but they are not. It is not we who draw the line, it is God. We want to keep moving the damnation line back to a level a little more tolerable and that is what is hurting America's religion and influencing its morals. Atheist on the other hand are very strict in what they believe and from some of the comments in this "Religion and belief" section (odd that they are here) you could say that they are very intolerant to religion's misbelief, ignorance, delusion.

    America's religion is going in the direction of the Tower of Babel. There seems to be an unhealthy tolerance that stems from the thought that there is no condemnation. We think that not being bad is good enough to go to heaven. If a person claims to be religious and his or her preference is the religion that uses the Bible they need to look a little closer to the God side of the Bible and not what man thinks about God when he doesn't read the Bible. The less I read the Bible the less I view sin as God views sin.

    These comments are basically for them who claim Christianity and use atheistic reasoning to conclude that God will not throw someone in Hell. Feel free to condemn me but then go read your Bible and tell God what you think of Him.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:52 am |
    • Bob

      > Atheist on the other hand are very strict in what they believe

      What is it that we believe?

      December 17, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Bob

      > These comments are basically for them who claim Christianity and use atheistic reasoning to conclude that God will not throw someone in Hell. Feel free to condemn me but then go read your Bible and tell God what you think of Him.

      You act as if the bible is 100% true. It is not. It has been shown to be wrong about many things.

      My question to you is this. If a book has been proven to contain errors, how can you reasonably accept what it says simply because it says so? How do you logically come to this conclusion?

      December 17, 2010 at 9:35 am |
    • Jebus Christ

      You just gotta have faith. Excuse me, I have to vomit because I just said that.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • Bruce


      Your first comment: Belief is who a person is. I believe in exercise and so does Arnold Schwarzenegger. I look like Pee Wee Herman. The results from what both of us believe is displayed in our life. If I met you personally I would not see your belief visually but when we begin to talk it will come out. You believe in your reasoning, logic and speculation.

      Your second comment: Thank you for being so observant about my belief in biblical scripture. I know of the many errors many claim and point out. However, there is one area that there is no error and that is the fact that Jesus did live. From that, the purpose of His life is accurately spelled out in scripture and His mission was accomplished. I have no visible proof or first hand witness report that Jesus rose from the dead but one think I have is what He claimed I would have if I placed the faith He gave me in His finished work on the cross. I am different and the difference became effective at that point in time and I have not and do not plan on changing otherwise. The thing you and many other atheist try to force a Christian to use is logic and that doesn't work. We do not use things that fit into your logic. It is the difference between time & space and eternal things. When I speak of eternal things it becomes distorted to you and we have a difficulty communicating. Then you call me names. Why do you do that? I do not consider myself better than you. I just think and reason with two (2) different areas of existance. You just don't accept one of my areas. Please be tolerant.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • Bruce


      I never said "You just gotta have faith". That is a misjudgement on your part of what the Bible really says. The majority of Christianity says that too but it is not true. To be biblically accurate:

      "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

      The faith you refer to is an assent to something. The faith that God measures to the believer is different. Now you know.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:26 am |
    • Bob

      Bruce, my response to your comment is listed below. Reply button broke somehow. Apologies.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Bob

      > The thing you and many other atheist try to force a Christian to use is logic and that doesn't work. We do not use things that fit into your logic.

      I agree entirely. I'm not trying to convince people who actively avoid trying to think. I'm trying to convince people who are interested in figuring out what's going on.

      As I've said before, it can be proven that faith leads many different people to different conclusions about God. Given that they're all not based on logic and the person's own subjective analysis, there is no way it could be shown to be true.

      But better yet, if faith is unreliable for discovering the truth, any person who uses faith has to acknowledge that they might be wrong. And better still, because one religion could be wrong because of faith, then all religions could be wrong because of faith.

      You can't deny that faith has led people to the wrong conclusions, ergo you have to admit that your faith might be wrong, if you're intellectually honest with yourself. So how do you convince yourself that you're right?

      December 17, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • Bruce


      You used this reasoning: "And better still, because one religion could be wrong because of faith, then all religions could be wrong because of faith."

      What you said would be true if the "faith" all used was equal. That would fall more in the lines of your kind of reasoning. My understanding of faith is not the same as what is commonly known as faith to many in Christiandom. I provided a verse found in Romans 12:3 that stated "as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith". It is that faith that comes from the eternal and it is something you do not believe in. If you allowed this faith into your reasoning it would make your statement less true because there would be a different faith out there from God which would make only one faith acceptable and true.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • jesus

      Religion is about as good for society as a malignant brain cancer is to the individual. It saps productive energy, distorts the ability to rationally think, and causes untimely deaths. If it were all up to me, I'd tax the ministers, Priests, and churches at a high rate. require the auditing of their books, and prosecute religion hucksters for fraud if they get money for promises that they don't keep (Remember Jim Bakker?)

      December 17, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • NL

      I think you're not accounting for just how wide the Protestant, Catholic or even atheist umbrellas actually are. Not all Protestants and Catholics are so judgmental and dogmatic, and not all atheists are unwilling to live in harmony with believers. They all see increased tolerance as being good for society, whereas you seem to think that there is far too much tolerance, which again only works as long as people are being tolerant towards your beliefs, right?

      Most atheists I've ever talked to aren't interested in any tolerance that shields them from being criticized for what they believe, nor do they feel that any belief ought to be exempt from criticism. They welcome the debate, in fact, because they have confidence in their position. Most fundamentalists and hard line Catholics I've spoken to don't welcome the debate, and would rather keep the subject of religious truth taboo. They want to use 'tolerance' as a shield against their beliefs being criticized, but do not believe in extending 'tolerance' to beliefs and religions they wish to freely criticize. That's an important difference between the two, wouldn't you say?

      December 17, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • Bob

      > What you said would be true if the "faith" all used was equal.

      Faith IS all equal. Faith is the belief in a concept without proof. No religion in existence has proof for it's supernatural claims. It's a belief in something that has not been proven to exist. The core point is that faith, because it's not based on facts or evidnece, relies on the subjective interpretation of the person. And relying on the "imperfectness" of man is dangerous work.

      Now, you say "faith isn't the same" substantively. Qualitatively, all faith is the same. So the only difference between the religions must be the number of things that are believed and their subject. However, more things that could be wrong does not make things more credible.

      Does 8,000 myths around UFO's make UFO's more real then if there were only 100 myths?

      December 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • NL

      "If a book has been proven to contain errors, how can you reasonably accept what it says simply because it says so? How do you logically come to this conclusion?"

      Fundamentalists often argue that science is too often proved wrong to be of any use as a measure of 'truth', however old science texts are sidelined when new discoveries render them obsolete. They were the 'best answer' in their time, but are no longer recognized as such. Whereas, the bible ...

      December 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • Unfrozen Caveman

      NL said "Fundamentalists often argue that science is too often proved wrong to be of any use as a measure of 'truth', however old science texts are sidelined when new discoveries render them obsolete. They were the 'best answer' in their time, but are no longer recognized as such. Whereas, the bible ..."

      is apparently the perfect word of God (see slavery, subjugation of women, dashing the infants of your enemies on rocks, burning bushes, suicidal possessed pigs, etc). The bible isn't updated, tested, reviewed, and correct because its "perfect!"

      Christians are told to believe on Wednesday what they believed on Monday, regardless of what happened on Tuesday. (reference Stephen Colbert White House correspondents dinner), because the Bible is supposed to be the last word until Jesus' return.

      Yet, too many, as noted in the article have strayed from the perfect word. The tolerance they show is more from secular influence than anything in their "good book.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • John

      This is why it's impossible to have an intelligent discussion about religion. Someone will ultimately try to stop the discussion by claiming the he/she is right and everyone else is wrong because the Bible says so. The Bible was not written by God. In scholars don't even know who most of it was written by.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • ScottK

      @Bruce – First, its not odd that athiests are active on a belief blog because you know there would be plenty of "persons of faith" joining in if there was a "Non-Belief" blog where articles about science and evolution were discussed regularly.

      Second, your comment about fath was just too precious. "if the "faith" all used was equal. " comment proves Bob's point. You are saying that "your" faith is superior to all others because you "know" in your heart that its the truth and since you also believe that their can be only one truth, than any other faith is false and not worth researching to find out if it contains truth or not. With this kind of thinking we would all still believe we're living on a 6000 year old flat earth at the center of the universe and thinking sin caused disease instead of germs.

      People of faith are much like cartoon char's who have stepped off the cliff but havn't fallen because they havn't looked down yet. As long as they dont examine their own faith for flaws they wont ever fall, but one good objective look at scientific evidence, carbon dating, the fosil record and the 14 billion year old universe around us and its straight to the bottom of the canyon.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • civilioutside

      So Bruce's answer is that he knows he's right and every other religion is wrong because his faith is different from and superior to everyone else's faith?

      December 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'We want to keep moving the damnation line back to a level a little more tolerable and that is what is hurting America's religion and influencing its morals'
      The issue I have is that you seem to suggest that people need to be strict christians, or at least christians that believe the way you do, to have the 'correct' morals. And you seem to be suggesting that tolerance equals less morals.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Denizen Kate


      You're trying to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. Faith is an emotional thing; logic does not apply. It's like trying to apply reason to someone who is in love, and "romantic love is a form of temporary insanity designed to propogate the species" (I forget what philosopher said that). Devout religion is very similar to being in love and it is every bit as comforting to the person experiencing the emotion. Don't try to burst Bruce's bubble; it can't be done. If someone wants to believe something, they need very little in the way of evidence or proof. The flip side is that if someone doesn't want to believe something, all the hard evidence in the universe won't convince them.

      We are what we are. Let it be (I think Lennon/McCartney came up wit that one).

      December 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Bruce and Bob,

      I forgot to thank you both for the morning's entertainment. 😉

      December 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bruce


      My tolerance is defined as "patience", "charitable" and "unbigoted", not liberal, large minded or broad. When I use the word tolerance it will follow that line of characterist for my line of reasoning. It may be difficult to communicate between us if the language we use means something different to each other. Catholics and Protestants have the same problem. When we use grace, faith, communion, baptism and other religious words we have a difficult time agreeing because of the way each have defined them. I think I am seeing the same stream between atheist and protestant thinking, including faith.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • Bruce


      If you would stick to reason and not speculation we could have some good dialogue. I never said the word "superior", you did and it takes the thought the wrong way. Please do not make yourself look like the victim here. If you can add to your "reason" vocabulary a new definition for faith you would broaden your reasoning power and religion would be something you could discuss better that just calling people or groups silly names.

      If you think evolution is true and the valid proof is billions & billions of years I would have to say that there is a flaw in your reasoning. Two (2) things forbid my mind to go in the direction of evolution:

      1. Where did the big blob come from before the Big Bang?

      2. There is not even the slightest chance of the right combination out of the 118 elements in the right weight and proportion under the perfect conditions to come together by chance. Evolution is such a thin thread through all of the infinite combinations possibilities that no human can even think it through, much less, some guy that came up with the idea in the 1850. A super computer wouldn't be able to produce the chances much less, a man. (Maybe a woman)

      I will give you credit for the funny example you gave.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Bruce

      Denizen Kate,

      Your explaination has a point. Though faith isn't a feeling or emotion the result of faith may produce them. The example of love you gave would mean that there would be two (2) beings involved in the faith. Just extract the emotional and the feeling and you would be correct.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Jebus Christ:
      "You just gotta have faith."
      Wasn't that George Michael song?

      December 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • NL


      "My tolerance is defined as "patience", "charitable" and "unbigoted", not liberal, large minded or broad."

      So, you describe yourself as tolerant in that you tolerate other people having differing opinions and beliefs, not that you are accepting of those beliefs in any way?

      December 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Bruce


      That is correct.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bruce


      To say my faith is a superior faith would mean my faith is like the faith of others, but far better. I think I would have said it that way if that is the way I believed it, however, it is not. My faith is different, not in the same category. Not superior or less superior. Another type of faith. A faith that is not common with what others compare their faith to. It is the faith that Christians are suppose to have. We are not superior or inferior, better or worse. Just different.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • NL

      Unfrozen Caveman-
      Then we have the interesting position where the bible remains perfect and only the 'correct' interpretation becomes an issue of contention. That's where they take a topic like slavery and argue that it was, of course, a biblically 'incorrect' att.itude to own slaves all along, despite what people of faith said on the subject at the time. Somehow they are not willing to admit that modern interpretation replaces old in much the same way as modern science replaces older research.

      Instead of new evidence coming into play, however, Christianity evolves because of new social att.itudes and insights, like the one that allowed people to see blacks as human. Valued new att.itudes require a different interpretation of the bible to keep the faithful happy, but it's never characterized as a 'new' interpretation, only a more 'correct' one that is presented as better fitting the original intent.

      Thus Christians totally distance themselves from any accusation of ever being wrong as people who followed the incorrect interpretation were, or are, never real Christians to begin with. I've even heard one fundamentalist actually argue that they can trace their doctrine all the way back to the very first followers of Jesus in one unbroken line, separate from Catholicism and even the Reformation. Unbelievable!

      December 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • NL

      I'm tolerant in the same way actually. I believe that people can have differing opinions and beliefs. It's only when they choose to harm others that I become intolerant, of their actions, not their beliefs. Thus I feel you are free to believe in supernatural beings, the power of astrology, Bigfoot or what have you, but if you want to use these beliefs as reason to vote on issues that affect us all, then you had better be prepared to defend your beliefs in the public domain.

      December 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Reality

    What many contemporary religion exegetes and news events say about the five major religions which may or may not add to the tolerance of said religions in the USA:

    1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    "New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. "

    2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.
    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

    For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    4. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

    5. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

    Current problems:

    The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

    6. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."
    "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

    Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:17 am |
    • ton

      Hinduism is the most stupid religion among all and they worship even cow dung and hinduism promots castism.. upper clss Hindus abuse lower cast on the basis of thier color, family and welath they go towestern and become racist fear mongers..

      December 17, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • ton

      Hindu books are full of wars and blood shed and devil worship.. Now they act like peace lovers.. They are not fighting just because they cannot win. Islam is theocracy and never that religiion to modernize and all of thier religios leaders are voilent gang leaders.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:08 am |
    • JohnRJ08

      Geeze. And I thought my posts about Sarah Palin were long....

      December 17, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      That's not a comment, it's a very long-winded essay.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  17. Reality

    Once a day 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.

    Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

    Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation

    December 17, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  18. David Johnson

    From the article:
    "They're not the first to argue that church/state separation combined with an entrepreneurial spirit has produced a decidedly tolerant religious culture in the United States. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist magazine advanced much the same thesis in "God is Back" last year, going so far as to argue that other countries should decouple religious and state inst_itutions in order to get similar results."

    All of you Evangelicals that want to take away separation of church and state, take note. If you are successful, you could well destroy our country. Destroy it for a god that does not exist. That would be a shame.


    December 17, 2010 at 7:45 am |
    • NL

      Fact is, David, that the Evangelicals only support separation of church and state because they are confident that their brand of religion would surface as the State religion. If the Catholics, Mormons, Muslims or some other group were on the upswing in population and political activity in this country then the Evangelicals would be hard at work opposing the separation of church and state least they find themselves being the ones marginalized. Self-interest and power-seeking are all that is behind this, not any fundamental sense of putting the country back on it's foundations.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • Ozzi

      Evangelical is not a sect it's a group of sects that have banded together for political purposes.

      The stupid thing is Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists hate each. They each believe they are the "true Christian faith". And help us when the Catholics step up and call everyone heathens.

      Then there are the interdenominational battles within each sect. There are five to six sects within the Baptists (Northern, Southern, Independent, Primitive, etc.) that fight among themselves over whose doctrine is the "true doctrine".

      Christians are incredibly silly. Yet they demand to murder everyone who isn't a true believer and "a sinner".

      These sects emulate the Puritan Church which created laws that dominated the northern part of the country when the country in the early days of occupation. There were at least 200 laws that involved the death penalty. Many of the laws involved conduct and association.

      Interestingly enough the Puritan Church government basically ran everyone's lives. So it's ironic that the Christians scream the loudest that the government is creating a nanny state, yet a theological state does exactly the same thing by creating a nanny state through religious law.

      Guess it depends on who's in charge.

      December 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • bspurloc

      the more we realize the god stuff was just how our ancestors dealt with the unknown the more ignorant people are born denying and or unable to understand it.
      hey its hard to go against an upbringing of your parents slamming religion down your throat but once u get educated it isnt.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • caddiemurray

      Ozzi, where in heck do you get that about all Christians wanting to murder people who don't believe like them? Talk about a ridiculous generalization. I'm a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ IS God as well as the Son of God (that Trinity thing, yeah, I know, it's hard to get your mind around). I believe the Jesus is the only way to salvation, that it has nothing to do with "good works" or who is a "good person." I have never murdered anyone who didn't believe the same way I do. I have never even THOUGHT about murdering someone who doesn't believe as I do. In fact, the God I serve condemns murder. I believe in talking to others about Christ, in loving others the way He loves me, and hopefully they will come to believe the same way I do and experience for themselves the amazing love and grace of Jesus. However, if someone chooses not to follow Jesus, I don't advocate killing them, bullying them, whatever. That just doesn't mesh with the message of the New Testament.

      So, please stop making up this stuff about how horrible and murderous Christians are. I don't know a single Christian who fits what you described.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  19. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    We see how the Spirit of God is slicing up the Church to where more people will be open to His grace apart from denominational influence.http://apostlestoday.net/

    December 17, 2010 at 7:35 am |
    • Bob

      Is it the spirit of God or is it the perceptions of individuals and their subjective conclusions on matters of faith?

      December 17, 2010 at 7:57 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Apostle Eric vonAnderseck,

      John Chapter 17:20-23
      "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
      so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
      And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,
      I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

      How many times did Jesus use the word ‘ONE’ here? Do you still believe that the Holy Spirit is the One doing the slicing up of the Church?

      December 17, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • NL

      "How many times did Jesus use the word ‘ONE’ here?"

      I think you need only go to the Book of Acts to see where the first split occurred, thanks to Paul, correct?

      December 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
    • Frankly Speaking..


      Apostle Eric vonAnderseck,

      John Chapter 17:20-23
      "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

      million $ question, who was jesus praying to..isnt he supposed to be god himself ??

      December 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • bspurloc

      which god? I gotta know so that u dont try and banish/murder me

      December 17, 2010 at 2:29 pm |

      @Frankly Speaking..

      Jesus is the Son of God, not God.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Brandi May

      Thank God, now maybe more people can go to Heaven.He said in the last days that there would be a down pourin of His spirit on His peolpe. I am honored to be a part of the pourin of the Holy Spirit. "God rains, forget you'r umbrella on purpose."

      December 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  20. Let Us Prey

    "They find that religious people are less supportive of civil liberties than their nonreligious counterparts."
    How odd in that this country was founded, in part, upon the concept of a civil liberty for religious freedom. I'd be very interested to see how the authors qualified this.

    "And religious and nonreligious people do not have positive feelings about one another. Each group tends to see the other as intolerant and selfish, while viewing their own kind as tolerant and selfless." Nail on the head with that one though....

    December 17, 2010 at 7:22 am |
    • Bob

      So, leave the good deeds to the religious, leave the civil liberties to the atheists. Sounds good to me. Ie. Leave the thinking and structure of our society to the non-believers.

      I will never harbor any illl will to anyone who tries to make the world a better place. However, I will disagree with them due to the nature of the universe. Or rather, what they assert the universe is like. 🙂

      > Nail on the head on that though...
      I don't agree with the authors however when they state that atheists have positive feelings towards other atheists. I've seen some really stupid atheists that I've quarreled with and some really smart ones. But in all instances, I would never call another atheist "selfless". We're totally motivated by our own desires, be it for a better community or a brighter tomorrow.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:46 am |
    • Bob

      And I would also say the label of "Intolerant" does in fact fit the hand better of the theists then the atheists. I think it'd be fair to say that if there was 100% conclusive proof that the bible is the word of God, many atheists would switch over. However, I'd also say that if there was 100% proof that the bible was wrong, many theists would not switch over.

      This is because atheists don't reject God, only that they don't find sufficient reason to believe in one.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:56 am |
    • NL

      "And religious and nonreligious people do not have positive feelings about one another. Each group tends to see the other as intolerant and selfish, while viewing their own kind as tolerant and selfless." Nail on the head with that one though...."

      There are degrees to this, I think. Declared atheists seem to clash most with hard-line fundamentalists, and usually on issues related with biblical inerrancy. The great mass of moderate believers out there just don't get involved in this debate, which may account for their more positive feelings for each other. The people they have the most trouble with are too busy clashing with each other. All they need do is watch from the sidelines and secretly nod agreement with our respective good points.

      December 17, 2010 at 8:16 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL
      Agree – excellent observation.

      December 17, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • louis

      Back in the day, you are correct, people of faith led the way toward civil rights, but we are no longer living in the past. We now have people of faith intruding their belief system into law, thus denying many people automoy from religion, that is a guaranteed right of all Americans, to be both free religiously, to be free OF religion...depending upon our free will. As soon as people of faith go back to fighting the good fight rather than the bigoted fight which is purely anti christian and anti american

      December 17, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • Maxfield in Canada

      Thank "insert deity here" I live in Canada. I'm a U.S. citizen living in a tolerant, pluralistic country (my parents made my choice of where to live for me) where recent studies have shown a reduction in religious observance by Canadians. Hallelujah to that!

      December 17, 2010 at 10:09 am |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      Is it better to believe in a "dead god" than to believe in "no god" ?

      December 17, 2010 at 10:19 am |
    • Todd

      Non religious types aren't the ones who are keeping me from being allowed to marry or serve openly in the military. Non religious types aren't funding the Uganda "Kill the Gays" bill.

      Non religious types aren't the ones who justify the deaths of Mathew Shepard or the young man from Rutgers.

      Funny that.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • yavor Kapitanov

      It looks like in-spite of all the seriousness of the news articles and whatnot, marketing and product placement is more important than David Campbell and this Washington forum thingy.

      December 17, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • NL

      Let Us Prey-
      I guess the only real conflict is the public one between the 'radical' elements on either side. Between 'radical' Christians who feel obligated to act on God's behalf to shape society according to what they feel He wants it to be, and 'radical' nonbelievers, who are basically people willing to declare their non belief both openly and with some confidence, who feel obligated to challenge this effort.

      Or it's the atheist effort to secularize a Christian country, if you look at it from the other point of view. Either way, the majority of citizens are 'moderates' who are usually more than willing to 'live and let live', which is to say that they are content as long as the status quo is being maintained. Should things slide dramatically in favor of either side in the public debate, meaning society becomes radically more secular, or fundamentalist, then they may wish that they had joined the discussion earlier, but by that time the balance may likely have tipped beyond recovery.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • JohnRJ08

      This country was founded on the premise that the government needs to be protected from the tyranny of religion. You have it exactly backwards. As long as religion is kept out of government, there can be no oppressive state religion. Unfortunately, we have many members of Congress today who would love to turn the United States into a theocracy, where their personal value system and beliefs would operate just like Sharia does in Iran.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • NJ Bob

      I don't see how something as irrational as religion can be good for anything except self-delusion. There is no evidence there is a god (or gods), the bible has been shown to be historically false and riddled with contradictions and complete nonsense, and science is much better at explaining for the world we live in. That so many people in this country still embrace religion is a national embarrassment.

      December 17, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • NL

      Yes, there are those who would love to turn the United States into a theocracy, as long as it is a theocracy where their beliefs have absolute control. Funny how these same people appear to be the loudest critics of 'other' theocracies. I wonder if they can actually imagine how miserable they would be if forced to live under religious law that they themselves don't agree with?

      December 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • Witchdoctor

      As I am a Wiccan, and have decided to come out and not hide the fact. I have found that the only thing to change from the 15th and 16th centuries is that no Christian can kill us without repercussions. Other than that I still get verbally attacked about my religion and called a satan worshiper. Which is not true at all, we wiccans are nature spirit worshipers. Witchcraft is not evil, witchcraft is all about using the energies of the earth along with your own energy to help others if they so accept. Christians always attack us with no good reason yet we just ignore the attacks and and continue on our way. The constant attacks by christians is why we still are secretive about the things we do. There are 2 rules/laws we follow: First, An Ye harm none, do what ye will ( as long as you harm no one (spiritually, mintally, or physically; as to say help everyone not harm) perform your spells (prayers) rituals (masses). Second, Ever mind the rule of three, what ye give out come back to thee, times three (no matter good or bad what ever you do will come back to you threefold).

      December 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • bspurloc

      separation of church and state is what is needed to be adhered to. get your bibles out of my face.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jen

      "...those religions Americans feel least positively towards – Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims – ..."
      Why Buddhists? Buddhists are so...harmless.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • ummm

      Bob...you are confusing Atheists with Agnostics....I think ever Christian sees the world the same as you...if you don't believe in the Christians God then you are an Atheist which is absolutely not true...stop throwing out the term Atheist with every religious article...please look up what Atheism, Agnosticism and Deist stand for...then the religious will have a better idea of what they are arguing about....

      December 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bob

      > Bob...you are confusing Atheists with Agnostics....

      That statement alone shows that you don't know what an atheist and an agnostic is. I'm atheist and agnostic. Maybe you should look up the word.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Jen: I was wondering that myself... I've never actually heard anyone be as angry or dismissive about Buddhism as the other two. I would think maybe pagans would round out that thre-esome in which religion is least liked. If we are counting the non-religious then atheists would def be top three.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • José Goikoetxea

      @Maxfield in Canada:
      I am an American who also believes Canada is the promised land.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
    • Rob Macrae

      Yes, how did they qualify what sounds highly unqualifiable?. How can a a fundamentalist, religiously inflexible (no compromises on God issues) theocracy even pretend to function, participatorially, in a diverse, secular, democracy? They can't! Creationists on schoolboards, , pro life terrorists unchecked by their own churches, anti research fanatics, anti climate change – on and on. they can only see narrowly their own, politically corrupted view of modern life. .

      December 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • The Irony

      I have studied, and currently still do study different religions, including the new age non-sense alot of these people believe in nowadays. Everything from buddhism to 2012, I've got it covered. And guess what?? Every single time it has brought me right back to the truth in Christ. There is no other, no match, and no proof given to one for his or her faith as there is in CHRIST JESUS. He came here for a REAL reason and it's just too bad so many of you are being misled by heresy, false religions, and false doctrine. There is so much BS on the internet that people either don't know what to believe, or don't believe in anything at all (besides themselves). All I can say to you non-believers is this: I was once JUST LIKE YOU. I did not have a relationship with God and did not want one. By chance, I decided to take the first step and seek Him instead of listening to other men who doubt. Seek and you WILL find, I promise you that. But remember, building a relationship with anyone, including God, takes a little time. However, you will not be disappointed in the One you find.

      One more thing: I've noticed that politics, particularly the far right, carry some responsibility for turning people away from God. The enemy's #1 weapon is DIVISION and he will use anything, including government, media, and political issues, to keep us divided. Please do not let these ignoramuses steer you away from your Creator. Don't allow them to steal your life or your faith because they have abused theirs. You have to see through the fog and realize what is happening and what really matters. This life is temporary, there is so much more ahead of you. Yes, there are Christians who do not practice Christ, and there are real Christians, who love God, their fellow man, and strive for unity. However, we can not sit dormant and allow our non-believing brothers and sisters to miss out on what we found. This thing is real, and you have to wrap your head and your heart around this statement before it is too late. SEEK HIM AND YOU WILL FIND HIM

      December 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Conner

      @ TheIrony...

      What makes your beliefs so much better than this "new-age nonsense" you are talking about... Your belief in a diety you have never seen and of which the only proof lies in your mind, are so much better than everybody elses opinion? Your wall of text just proves some of these other folks' points... The deeply religious are incapable of accepting other forms of belief...

      December 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Josh

      OK, I'll bite here on the Canada thing. I'm an American that currently lives in Canada; Vancouver, British Columbia to be exact. Now, while I have nothing against Canada on the whole, the place is hardly the promised land. It has its own BS and political sacred cows. I like Canadians and Canada, we can learn a number of things from them. But give over already, their way of doing things is not a universal panacea. They can also learn from us.

      December 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • Matt. P

      Very eloquently worded Bob. I do agree

      December 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • fsmgroupie


      December 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
    • TimCub

      @The Irony

      ...and one marvels at the authors' assertion that the religious and the non-religious can't stand one another. I'm here to testify that religion really doesn't work. I was just as religious as you when I was younger, but when I realized I was gay, it was revealed to me firsthand that those who'd call themselves Christians aren't particularly as forgiving as they would have you believe. And believe me, Jesus won't save you from being gay, nor does he need to. My boyfriend loves me, and my parents love my boyfriend. As I became atheist, I noticed that I had never been happier in my entire life, especially when I acknowledged that hell is made up, and without hell, what, exactly, is one to be saved from? I've noticed that proselytizing really does have an ironic effect, in that most people are put off by it. Thanks for your offer, but I've found that nothing saves one's soul like atheism.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
    • Mary

      America can not be a HOG for "GOSPEL"
      The "PIMPS" are NOT in USA JAILS! (Roman Catholics repented, but Christadelphians who do not to WAR, VOTE, Married the girl children unless girls can have the powers to convert a man in America to Christadelphianism, refused to repent. They are still claiming "No Priest, therefore no crime", when they are 100% and the Catholics are less than 1% crime rate.)
      The Pimps are in the ....Their victims are in USA mental health declared "MAD"
      This is where the American "LAWS are mad".

      December 20, 2010 at 8:46 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.