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. Howie

    Religion is EVIL. Period. If I believed in a God and Devil, I would be positive that the creation of religion was the Devil's finest work. All of the greatest evils throughout history have been caused by religion. Intolerant? You bet I am! I have ZERO tolerance for stupidity, ignorance, faith, and other baser aspects of man. Religion is NOT good for America. This article makes a one sentence reference to a fact that should have thrown their entire presentation out the window – more people identify themselves as 'NO RELIGION" than any denomination. Finally reason is starting to prevail. Ten years from now we will all be laughing over the quaint beliefs ignorant people once held.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • FixTheDebt

      If only tossing religion out was that easy 🙁

      December 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Can't wait until that day comes. But I'll believe it when I see it.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • Muneef

      "Believing only when seeing,"? Wouldn't it be then too late to repent and do the good deeds scores??

      December 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  2. Caleb

    If they are saying religious is good for the USA, they may have a point. Think about it. With "religion" (especially Protestants) their moral beliefs are pure. When the majority of morale religious people are american, then the americans are somewhat morale. Whats the point of morale if there is no end result. I don't see how atheist can live a good life if all of there deeds are pointless. We make most of our decisions for the future. But what future lies ahead if you die to nothing. Thats why most people don't care if they lie or steal. Thats the point this article is trying to make.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • Howie

      An Atheist lives a good life simply out of the desire to live a good life. We don't need the threat of eternal damnation to do what is right. In fact, any religious person who lives a good life in order to please God has done nothing good at all. Read some Kant – The Categorical Imperative is absolutely correct. The only unadulterated good is the will to do good without any threat or reward. Atheists (that live good lives, not all of us do) are the only truly moral people out there.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • FixTheDebt

      We see life as finite, not like religious believers who believe in an afterlife. That is why I'm an atheist and a humanist. This makes me push more to do more things to try and change things in the world. We don't get another life after this one. It doesn't make us care any less. In fact, I would think we care more, because we don't believe things are controlled by "God's Will." Oh and by the way, less than 2% of the prison population is Atheist. Most Atheists are out discovering cures for diseases, making new mathematical theorems, involved in Physics, or working on sending astronauts to the moon. Most theists, well...need I say more?

      December 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jay

      Nonsense. Most people don't want to lie or steal (unless they are sociopaths), and there are plenty of reasons to think your deeds have a point if you don't believe in God, you just have to believe in something other than yourself: like your kids, or your field of study, or the environment, or society as a whole.

      The bottom line is: If the belief in a magical sky fairy is the only thing that makes you think twice about lying or stealing, you were not moral to begin with, regardless of how moral you claim to be.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • Muneef

      Al-Isra sura 17:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      They say: "What! when we are reduced to bones and dust, should we really be raised up (to be) a new creation?" (49) Say: "(Nay!) be ye stones or iron, (50) "Or created matter which, in your minds, is hardest (to be raised up)–(yet shall ye be raised up)!" Then will they say: "Who will cause us to return?" Say: "He Who created you first!" Then will they wag their heads towards thee, and say "When will that be?" Say "May be it will be quite soon! (51) "It will be on a Day when He will call you, and ye will answer (His call) with (words of) His praise, and ye will think that ye tarried but a little while!" (52) Say to My servants that they should (only) say those things that are best: for Satan doth sow dissensions among them: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy. (53) It is your Lord that knoweth you best: if He please, He granteth you Mercy, or if He please, punishment: We have not sent thee to be a disposer of their affairs for them. (54) And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some Prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms. (55) Say: "Call on those― besides Him― whom ye fancy: they have neither the power to remove your troubles from you nor to change them." (56) Those whom they call upon do desire (for themselves) means of access to their Lord even those who are nearest: they hope for His Mercy and fear His Wrath: for the Wrath of thy Lord is something to take heed of. (57) There is not a population but We shall destroy it before the Day of Judgment or punish it with a dreadful Penalty: That is written in the (eternal) Record. (58) And We refrain from sending the Signs, only because the men of former generations treated them as false: We sent the She-camel: to the Thamud― to open their eyes, but they treated her wrongfully: We only send the Signs by way of terror (and warning from evil). (59) Behold! We told thee that thy Lord doth encompass mankind round about: We granted the Vision which We showed thee, but as a trial for men as also the Cursed Tree (mentioned) in the Qur'an: We put terror (and warning) into them, but it only increases their inordinate transgression! (60).

      December 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  3. Muneef

    Well no one speaks of wants of organized religion all we need is God to be in our hearts and worship him God only but not to follow the organized groups that we disagree with their mistic paths.. If we disagree with the direction of the church or mosque or a book we should not wipe God out of our hearts and life?

    We had few religious Muslims who one of them visited Paris 40's I think and he saw how mannarful they were and he said I food Islam in the country of the non Muslims but back home he said I found Muslims but couldn't find Islam?!
    The second one a Saudi respected religious man visited the USA do not know which state but he said said the same thing about finding Islamic morals, manners and freedom in this non Islamic state while he said back home meaning Saudi he found Muslims but couldn't find Islam at it's true form..!?
    Meaning of which all will be happy to come to you to find Islam since same was not found in their own countries...
    Such comments really made me feel like to go searching for Islam in your countries which might not be found in our countries... So the image of you in your countries as to your nation morals,mannars and freedoms gives that warmth of finding Islam in you... For which I say you are Islamists but not Muslims...it is all about adopting moral codes which was started with Ten Commandments to secure justice and peace between punishments and rewards keeping control and equality to all beliefs within those codes to enable them to live and integrate with each other in one unity as a nation under many religions rather than as a nation with one religion as many want it to be...

    December 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      Correction; found Islam in the country

      December 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Howie

      Wake up! There is no God. There were no Ten Commandments. There is only man in all his glory. Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, any other ism – all a pack of lies. These were tools created by early dictators to control the masses. There is no 'truth' other than what we can see with our eyes and prove with science. There is no such thing as morality. We have certain conventions which are necessary to have a functioning society, but there is no intrinsic right or wrong in these conventions. The sooner you come to reality, the sooner you can start living in this life rather than dreaming about something that does not exist.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Muneef

      Some secular countries heard of recently that have no morals codes to live by nor religious freedoms are suffering most as an example suffering from high rate of children kidnaping and in huge numbers which most goes for human trafficking and organs,parts or as for S-ex trade,witchcrafts trade and the worst heard of was of being consumed as a source of meat food for humans and pet animals consumption ? Just as they did/do with the stray cats and dogs after taking their skins the meat is made cooked and canned for humans and pets as ready cooked food?
      All these crimes are not seen or cared for since every body has made their minds that religions and particularly Islam as being the only enemy for saying God is one and that we should stick to the commandments and teachings and that all would become fine and to finding peace on earth... All is needed are True Justice and Eliminate Poverty rather than eliminating the poorest of the nations...God told us about Zakah and Sadaqa in addition to good deeds that we are to score through same but now even that became hard to do by Muslims in fear of being accused of financing ter-rorists?! Such will allow the growth of more poverty that will have bad reversed reactions of starvations,poverty that will be ab-used by any age-nda who can finance and supply we-apons..

      December 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      Your uneducated grammar and spelling will haunt any dreams I have for the next week.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Truthwillsetyoufree

    Anything that is used to separate people is not good. Religion in America is very separating. God is inclusive, you hairless apes have made it exclusive. Willing to fight everyone to make your point and rules. This is part of the GOP's issue now. self-Righteousness.... That was never taught by Jesus or an other prophet....

    December 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Jay

    Oh, please. If it were not for the more secular members of American society, the religious right would be hanging gay people, outlawing birth control, and forcing church attendance at the point of a gun.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • FixTheDebt

      I agree. Fundamentalists would run the country and there would be a "no diversity" type of policy. If you're different, then GTFO.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • Truthwillsetyoufree

      Fundamentalism is that same in every country. Has nothing directly to do with religion. Has more to do with control. Its someones personal definition of a tool that can be used for good or bad. Typically bad. But everyone needs something. Sucks not having any beliefs. But we have to get beyond belief into knowing. Unfortunately we are 100 years from that type of society.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Jason

      "Oh, please. If it were not for the more secular members of American society, the religious right would be hanging gay people, outlawing birth control, and forcing church attendance at the point of a gun."

      Oh, is that so? Hm, seems to me none of that ever happened during the vast majority (I say this b/c maybe a few gays were hanged in earlier American history, I don't know) of American history in which the majority of people and lawmakers were Christian. Nice theory. Got any more?

      December 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  6. LeeCMH

    Check-out the Freedom From Religion Foundation (ffrf). Seasons Greetings and Happy Solstice.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • Jason

      lol, 4chan down, troll?

      December 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie


      That's a Kia, right?

      December 17, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  7. Colleen

    I think that so many more people are atheists or agnostics than ever reported. This country has such a rabid and outspoken religious minority that will vilify anyone who does not profess Christianity. Can you imagine what kind of foaming at the mouth would occur if someone ran for president that did not constantly reference god or faith, let alone a professed agnostic??

    We live in a pretty liberal town, and my elementary school daughter was tormented because she does not believe in god. I get so tired of "religious" people and their vicious enforcement of the idea that everyone MUST believe exactly the same as they do. Hey, guess what? There are thousands of religions, and most of them believe that they are the ONLY TRUE PATH, and everyone else is doomed. It is so silly and illogical, I mean-get a grip. I'm not telling you what you should believe, don't tell me either. Oh, and please keep your prayers for my poor doomed soul to yourself. I know you mean well, but it is so patronizing.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  8. LeeCMH

    Onward Christian soldiers marching right into Hell, with Your bombs for Jeeeeesus killing on before.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Oops I mis-stated. Onward Christian Soldiers, marching right into war, with Your bombs for Jeeeeesus killing on before. I am sure the Muslims were singing their version while flying planes into buildings.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Ya, atheists are a minority?

    There is nothing unique about being atheist....

    December 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      There is practically nothing unique about anyone except for the exact combination of nucleotides in their cells. Given enough people, even the uniqueness in that would disappear.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  10. Ya, atheists are a minority?

    Atheists are hardly a minority any more I'd say. I'm atheist, and look at the posts to this article, like 95% of them are from atheists with a few pro-religious posts scattered far and few between....

    Atheists certainly don't seem very minority-like anymore.....

    December 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      Im guessing that this is an extremely baised population to use in determining if atheists are a minority. Atheists, well myself anyway, come her to vent about religion because we cant do it in real life without being seen as amoral and being immediately judged. This is the only thing i can do to fight nonsense without putting things in my life at risk.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      And you are very wise. Christians are very cruel and vindictive.

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

      Consider a very significant variable: anonymity.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Colleen

    Moral & ethical behavior needs to be sought because it is in the best interests of all people, animals, planets, etc. Not because it is mandated by legislation, God/Gods or fear of punishment or hell. It's like being good or Santa won't bring you any presents.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  12. TheEtruscan

    Nothing is more foolish than believing in the myths of the Hebrew Bible yet millions do... And the Bible is the best seller book (at least in the English-speaking world) year after year.
    What is more incredible then the Biblical tales or those who believe in them?

    Did Jesus exist historically? And the proofs are? Not certainly the intercalations of the Third Century (in Flavius Josephus, etc...). A god based on Jewish little tales (Old Testament) and regurgitated in Stoic and Hellenistic key (New Testament) does not hold much water anymore. Especially after 60+ years of furious archaeology by the Jews squatting in Palestine has found nothing, zilch, nada about Abraham, Moses and slavery in Egypt (but the Papyrus of the Strike is at the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy). To say nothing of David, Solomon and Jesus Christ, nowhere to be found. While the Stele of Hammurabi is at the Louvre in Paris, France, the Papyrus of Ani (Book of the Dead with the 42 negative affirmations to Ma-at = The Ten Commandments) is at the British Museum in London, England and the MONOTHEISTIC Pharaoh Akhenaten rediscovered. Then why the Nazarene and not Osiris or Bacchus or Ati or Dionysus, etc. that preceded?

    December 17, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  13. T.

    That is a complete truth! America is God's country always was like that. GOD BLESS AMERICA !

    December 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Bill

      Yeah, for all of those thousnds of years the American Indians were chilling worshipping god before we killed them or tossed them out.


      December 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      Not according to General George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams... You know, them and their pals.

      General Washington was directly quoted stating that the United States of America was founded as a free republic (not a democracy) under no single or particular religion. Remember, Europe had ubiquitous persecution of just about anyone who wasn't Catholic. Martin Luther cued Protestant religions that suffered great injustices. The Irish Potato Famine is also well-known.

      America essentially had a "Come, be happy as who you are" policy.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'That is a complete truth! America is God's country always was like that. GOD BLESS AMERICA !'
      Even when they were slaughtering the native americans and condemning millions of blacks to slavery. Ah yes, blessed by god.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  14. James

    Organized religion is the biggest lie in history. The bible was written by men, not God, but yet, so many people believe it is the word of God. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing there are so many religious maniacs who would put thier life on the line for their religious beliefs and take down as many innocent victims as possible in the process. I am so tired of all the fighting over religion. The world would be a more peaceful place if organized religion did not exist.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Isn't it interesting that religious sacred texts are supposedly written by God, but only from "behind the curtain." In the case of the Mormons, John Smith had to be literally behind a curtain. Moses had to go up on the mountain and transmit what God said back to the people.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  15. Phil

    I'm an atheist. I choose to be an atheist because religion is nothing but power and control through fear...plus there's this magical man in the sky watching our every move.

    Go back thousands of years. Introduce a young civilization of people to aliens. Due to their superiority in technological advancements, they appear to the simple civilization as gods.

    If you went back and visited with cave men and pulled a BIC lighter out of your pocket and used it – they would fear you as you have something they lack the understanding of. Provided you could communicate with them you could probably concoct some story and have them worship you as a god.

    I don't claim that we've in fact been visited – but the evidence suggests that it was possible. We aren't the only life in the universe...that's just a total waste of space. There are other civilizations out there much older than ours who've advanced further than we have. It's possible that a couple of them have the capability to venture out beyond their star system and visit other planets.

    Do I think religion is losing ground in the United States? I sure hope so.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      The funny thing is, religious people would call YOU crazy. The fact that we are here, means that life exists in our universe. This makes it incredibly likely that there is life elsewhere too. The fact that our universe is comprised of physical laws that allow for life also makes it likely that there is life other places. The vast number of similar planets to ours makes life likely. So there is already more evidence for life elsewhere than for the truth of any religion. Though highly improbable, (I don’t know of any good evidence that suggests being visited) the idea of being visited, and that visit being the source of our ideas about god, is very much more likely than a magical, not-of-this-universe, being having created us.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      "...religion is nothing but power and control through fear..."

      Ah, terrorism that doesn't go "boom" is given much kinder names.

      However, I'm rather upset by "nothing but". So macabre. Not to mention the words "all", "none", "every", and so on, are quite possibly the quickest and surest ways to be incorrect.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • David

      "religion is nothing but power and control through fear"

      Well, right there that tells me you have either never actually experienced religion, or rather a very small and tinted window of it (I wonder, do you also believe that priests in general are nothing but child-molesting pedophiles). At any rate, keep in mind religion =/= faith & spirituality.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Phil

      @ David

      I was raised catholic. In my early adult life I started to question religion and the viability of the existence of a higher power. My studies and understanding in science lead me to believe in something else.

      Since the dawn of mankind, god has been a no show. Why put my time and energy trying to convince myself to believe in something that has no substance?

      December 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  16. Jonathan

    Really? Is teaching our kids they myths and lies of Chrisitianity good? I don't think so. 99.9% are completely ignorant of Christianity's origins and how the most corrupted and forged book was created. No I am not an athiest but religion is the cause of most of society's problems....that is fact, not opinion. It is never a good idea to teach our children lies and myths as fact. " Christianity is the Greatest Story Ever Sold"

    December 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  17. RT

    religion is a fu#$ing lie.
    There is no god, idiot.
    False belief is killing this country and the world.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      Opinions are nothing to be adamant about.

      "A penny for your thoughts" is the greatest margin of over-paying imaginable.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Jason

      Indeed, GrammarGnatsie.
      RT, go get a cloth, you're foaming at the mouth again.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
  18. Unknown

    Religion is a beautiful idea that produced ugly results

    December 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  19. mac


    i was actually hoping for an "i love you" in return so no comment..

    December 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Colleen

      Although I do not believe in god or prayer, I appreciate your goodwill.

      December 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • NL

      If you meant no judgment by your offering I'm sorry if I came off as snarky. I have love for all humanity too, including yourself.

      Most times, when believers make a point of praying for others who don't share their beliefs it sounds like they've calculated God's disapproval of us and are now saying that they are doing us the favor of trying to smooth things over with him. I wonder if they would offer prayers to folks who do share their beliefs in case they all happen to be wrong? Funny thing is I never hear believers say amongst themselves "I pray we aren't wrong, or that we're not the ones being deceived by Satan."

      It's acting on irrational beliefs that I take issue with, and I don't limit that to just religion. If somebody said that they spend more money than they can afford buying lotto tickets because they had a dream that some day they will win the jackpot I'd tell them to their face that what they're doing is harmful and really const.itutes a gambling problem. They may honestly not see it as being harmful, so out of my concern for fellow humans I am willing to 'act rudely' to try to make them understand.

      December 18, 2010 at 12:07 am |
  20. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Religion is nothing more than a tax free form of the entertainment business. You go each week and pay them to give you comfort and joy that entertains you.
    Bottom line it is a business in the business of making money.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.