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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. TOMG

    LET TALKING ABOUT HUMAN FORM AND ANIMAL FORM OF WASTE BABY AND LET TALKING ABOUT URINE BABY , NO HUMAN FORM BEING THAT DOES NOT HAVE THE SMELL ON THEM FROM THE INSIDE OUT , JUST BY LOOKING AT THE HUMAN BLOOD ARE THEY STING AND SO DOES THE HUMAN WASTE ARE THEY SMELL BAD AND SO DOES THE HUMAN URINE ARE NOT THEY SMELLING BAD OR WHAT THEM , HELL AND HEAVENLY PLACES ARE NO WHERE TO BE GOING AROUND THE WORLD TO SEARCHING FOR BUT IT LOCATING JUST UNDER OUR OWNSELF HEART THAT ALL , AMEN ,
    WE ALL GOT TO LEARN HOW TO TALKING MORE OF ABOUT HOW TO INHALE AND EXHALE OFTENLY NOW A DAY SO ONE OWNSELF MIND REALLY DO NOT GETTING LOSS IN THE WOOD OR IN THE JUNGLE THAN BY THAT TIME ARE TOO LATE TO COMING BACK HOME TO THE HEAVENLY PLACES , AMEN

    December 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
    • Truthwillsetyoufree

      There has to be hallucinogens being used here....

      December 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  2. TOMG

    AND SO DOES GODLY HUMAN FORM BEING ALBERT EINSTEIN HAVE ALSO BEING MENTION ABOOUT THE REAL RELIGIOUS ARE THE BUDDHISTISM . LOL ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,CAN ANY ONE CLICK IT LOL .........................................

    December 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  3. TOMG

    IN THE MORNING ONE GOT TO LEARN THAT NEED NOT TO JUDGING NOBODY , AND THE EVENING ONE GOT TO LEARN NEED NOT TO JUDGING THE DEVIL MIND OR THE EVIL MIND , AND SADLY MOST OF THE HUMAN FORM MIND NOW A DAY ARE HAVING WITHIN THEMSELF OF THINKING EVIL AND THINKING DEVIL , BECAUSE ALL THIS THINGS ARE CAUSE BY THE KARMA KARMA KARMA , IS IT WHAT COME AROUND AND MUST GOING BACK TO THE ANAL AROUND , IS JUST LOOKING LIKE THE SUN ARE ROUND AND SO DOES THE MOON ARE ROUND AND SO DOES THE MOTHER OF ALL OUT PLANET EARTH ARE ALSO ROUND , SO DOES THE HELL AND HEAVENLY PLACES ARE ROUND ALSO , AMEN

    December 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  4. Matt M

    And 85 percent of all modern scientists in America seem to have a quite different view of religion. So who would have more wisdom on this issue, David Campbell, or Albert Einstein?

    December 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      That's a matter of expertise, not intelligence. The one with the most wisdom is the one who has studied the topic most. Einstein devoted a lot of time to the Manhatan [sic] Project. While I don't know who David Campbell is, I'm infering he is a strong theist... maybe a pirest/pastor/religious leader. If such is the case, I could imagine that a religious leader has studied religion in general more than a brilliant scientist. Wouldn't an artist paint better pictures than a musician? Considering their expertise, most likely, the artist would win that contest.

      You would need two people with similar (and hopefully expert) knowledge of the topic, but with different perspectives.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  5. TOMG

    LIFE AND RELIGIOUS GOT TO LIVING TOGETHER IN THE HUMAN FORM MIND , IF NOT THE HUMAN FORM MIND WILL EVENTUALLY THINKING LIKE AN ANIMAL WAY AND ACTING LIKE AN ANIMAL ALL THOSE HAVE BEEN PROVEN SINCE THE EYPTIAN STARTING TO BUILD UP THE BESTEST MOTHER OF ALL OUT PYRAMIDE , LOL ...................................... THE SUN AND THE MOON AND THE MOTHER OF HELL AND HEAVENLY PLACES CALL HOME EARTH PLANET , THE CLOUD NINE , THE WIND , THE RAIN , THE CLOUD , THE WATER , THE AIR , THE TREES BIG AND SMALL , THE SUPERSONIC SOUND , THE HERE VOICES , THE LIGHTNING , THE HURRICANE , THE EARTHQUAKE , THE SUENAMIE , THE WASTE , THE URINE , FIRST ONE EAT THAN LATER ONE OWNSELF GOT TO GO GIVE BACK OUT THE HUMAN WASTE EIGHT LATER TOBE ACCURATE TIME , THE INHALE , THE EXHALE , THE BREATHING , THE MOUNTAIN , THE OCEAN IS NOT ALL THIS ARE GOD OR WHAT , AMEN

    December 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  6. CHELLSO

    MAN HAS KILLED IN THE NAME OF RELIGION......MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE !!!
    ALL ORGANIZED RELIGIONS MAKE ME SICK !!

    December 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      I can don a "John Smith" nametag and steal a child's toy. Doesn't mean Mr. Smith wanted that toy.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  7. JonathanL

    Do you think there is possible conflict of interest with the Faith Matters (is that not telling you what kind of answers they want to hear?) study being done by the Pew Research Center? Hmmm. They conclude that religion is probably a good thing? Is it at all surprising? I saw a major study published in the Wall St. Journal that showed there was a direct positive correlation between how often you attended church and "rate of aloholism" "illegitimate births", domestic violence, and violent crimes such as murder. But maybe they decided not to include those categories in their survey? They start with a result, and then design the survey to support the result. Thus the Faith Matters. How about logic? Does reason count? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence

    December 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • realistic

      correlation is not causaul, EI everyone who drinks water, dies

      December 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  8. TOMG

    THE WASTE THE URINE THE SMELL WHO DOES HAVE ALL THIS TYPE OF SMELL , AND ONLY THE FISH DOES , LOL...............................THE HELL PLACE ARE TOO SMELL , BUT NOT FOR THE HEAVENLY PLACES ARE REALLY A BLESS PLACE TO STAY GUYS

    December 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  9. realistic

    Why should we suport religions that lie, distort the truth and can not eve prove the actual existance of god? Look at Christmas, Jesus was NOT born on christmas day, and it was not all about the birth of christ, On the 25th of December in Rome was the Feast of Saturn, and Babylon had the Festival of Bacchus. During this time there was temporary emancipation of slaves, drunkenness and all sorts of perversion.

    Now how many wars were not because of religion? If God wanted someone dead, I am sure he does not need us to do his own killing, and these people that claim god has spoken to them, meds can cure that.

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

      Remember, He works in mysterious ways. How many times has an Atheist been sent by Him to help His devout servant?

      Though the Atheist was just being kind, doing "what anyone would have done", the servant will never deny that God is responsible for what the servant has gained or not lost.

      This is a big reason for why Atheism is almost impossible to prove, and God almost impossible to disprove. (Not saying the Bible, priests, the homeless guy with the armageddon sign... are all correct.)

      December 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  10. Greg G

    While there are parts of the article that I agree with and parts that I don't agree with, it ultimately is an article promoting a book. The reality here comes from all of the comments. It is sad that there are so many people who have no reason to have hope and can ultiamtely have no purpose to their lives because they don't believe in anything other than things that make them feel good.

    There can only be one truth, period. Either God (God of the Bible) created the world or He didn't. I believe He did. I believe that because of the things that I see all around me. I believe that because when I read the Bible, it is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. I believe it because I know in my heart that I want to have a purpose on this earth. I was born with that desire, we all were. I believe it bcause when you dive into Christianity, you cannot prove it wrong yet there is proof all around that it is true.

    Again, in the end there can only be one truth. Without tearing down other belief systems, ask yourself why you believe what you believe. You may not think so right now, but some day it will matter.

    http://www.live-simple.com

    December 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  11. TOMG

    THE SUN ARE THE REAL PROVEN TOBE GOD , SO DOES THE MOON ARE THE REAL PROVEN TOBE GOD , SO DOES THE MOTHER OF ALL OUT PLANET EARTH THAT TRANSFORM HELL PLACE AND HEAVENLY PLACES ARE HERE ALSO , ALL THE HUMAN WASTE AND URINE ARE ALREADY SMELL AND DO NOT EVEN MENTION ABOUT WHEN THE HUMAN FORM BEING THAT WAIT UNTIL PASSING AWAY AT AN OLD AGE OR IN THE TRAGIC DEAD THAN THOSE ARE EVEN MORE SMELL THAN EVER , AMEN . JESUS ARE GOD , WHEN JESUS STILL ALIVE JESUS IS A HUMAN BEING FORM TOO , AND SO DOES MOTHER THERESA AND THE HAPPY BUDDHA , WE CAN BECOME LIKE GOD FORM ONLY IF WE ALL AS A HUMAN FORM BEING CAN JUST FOCUSING MORE ON THE BREATHING OF INHALE AND FOCUSING MORE ON THE BREATHING OF EXHALE AND LIVING A LIFE LIKE THE ANTURE DO AND DOES THAN ONE WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE A BLESSING LIFESTYLE LIKE GOD DOES , AMEN

    December 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • Colleen

      I think someone's drool bucket needs emptying

      December 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • Truthwillsetyoufree

      whats the word?..... amorphous, nothing solid here to hold on to.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  12. Jeff

    Jay, I'm confident that you're wrong in your comments. Most churches condemn the acts of sin, not the sinner. If a thief or a adulterer or someone living a gay lifestyle came to church to praise God, they would not be turned away. Any church I've been to believes "Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord." That includes sinners like me and the pastor, and any convict that comes through the door. NO one is perfect an blameless. And as such, no one would be turned away from a church or put on the gallows as you suggest. I'm assuming you've seen some extremist "Chrsitian" group on the news and decided that's how relious people are. Far from it. Anyone who truly follows the example of Christ, acts out of compassion, even when you are voicing your disapproval. Those who go in the streets to rant and condemn and make headlines are not true Christian. Whether or no they themselves perceive to be doing right, I can't speak for them, but I can promise it is not the hand of God guiding those people.

    As for all the talk of "faith," I will say this, personally from my own journey. I grew up in a Chrstian home with my hidden conflict of being gay. I had too many issues and quietly left religion. I did still believe in God, but my predicament did not make sense. It wasn't until years later, when things were at a low point for me, and I began to pray and call out for help, that I discovered God was truly someone alive, that I could communicate with, not just someone to talk ABOUT. He changed my life in so many ways, to the point where God's existence is not based on "faith" anymore. I KNOW God is alive and well, because He's with me every step I take. Am i still gay? Yes, God did not change that aspect of my life, but I do have the strength now not to act on it. That is one choice I DO get to make. Yes, there's temptation. No, it's not easy, but the peace and comfort God gives me now are more than enough in place of answering sin's call. I don't advertise the fact, because it is not a major factor of my life, but when I've talked to different people at churches, and I tell them that I'm gay, their first response is always to comfort me. It's not a scowl or blame. And this is before I let them know that I choose not to live that lifestyle. If you go into a real church, you will not find anyone seeking to destroy other sinners. When true Christians see a sinner, they see themselves. We're the same, except that we know what God can do in our lives if we allow Him to. We don't hate those who do wrong. Far from it. if I saw some notorious convict about to be hit by a bus, I would easily jump in try to save him, because my soul is right with God and I would do anything to make sure that fellow human being did not die without the chance to do the same. There's no hate of others in my heart or those whom I know to be Christians.

    December 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • Colleen

      Your life is heartbreaking

      December 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      Your story is indeed heartbreaking. I think it’s absolutely awful that you have been convinced to be something you are not. Something that there is nothing wrong with being. There is no shame in being you. There is no shame in acting on your biological impulses. This type of story revitalizes me in my fight against religious nonsense and its negative affect on people’s lives. This is an example of how awful religion can be. It makes me sick that they feel righteous for this. I truly hope that one day you will have this burden lifted from your shoulders. That one day you will be free to enjoy your life as you are biologically programmed to do. There is nothing wrong with a gay lifestyle just because some delusional idiots say so!

      December 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • VC

      Your testimony truly attests to your salvation. Any true Christian will second your path to God, although the struggles might be different. We can only come to God if we are broken before Him. He gives us the strength to overcome. Christian walk means to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. God never gives up on us, to the very end he reaches out but the choice is ultimately ours. Reading some posts here filled me with great sadness. God clearly says, we shall reap what we sew.
      I just wanted to let you know that your testimony was a bright light that shone through the darkness of these posts.
      May God bless you and keep you near Him always.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      Exactly my point, VC your outlook on this is truly twisted and evil. The pain he is going through is for nothing, and you rejoice. This makes me want to throw up. DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AND DONT LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE WRONG FOR IT. I am fu–ing disgusted right now.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • JP

      God bless you Jeff, and may you be a light to all those around you. May God strenghten you and may you persevere always in the faith looking towards the finish line. You testimony is amazing and all glory to God. And to the guy who posted against religion. You will never understand the joy that there is in God. No matter what we leave behind, and what sin we stop doing. Our hope is greater than the pleasures on this earth. God bless you all

      December 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      Prove it. You are just saying that because thats what mommy and daddy told you when you were little.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jebus Christ

      If you are right, then your god is intentionally cruel.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Thomas

      See I don't get this, if there was truly a god, and you are truly made in his image, why would you be condemned for being you?

      December 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  13. Pachecosita

    Religious people are the most narrow minded people you will find. They think they have the "truth" and that you are wrong.

    December 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  14. Jeannot

    Religion is good for any country leader. It is one of the most powerful tool for controlling people and prevent the disease of self-thinking. There are rare cases like China where Religion became a threat for the leaders, at which point it was made it illegal.

    December 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  15. TOMG

    JUST BY LOOKING AT THE MIRROR THAN ONE OWNSELF WILL FOUND OUT WHO ARE THE LIVING GOD AT THE MOMENT OF TIME , OUR PARENT ARE THE REAL LIVING GOD THAT CREATING US OUT ONTO THIS WILDED WORLD FULL OF HELL PLACE AND HEAVENLY PLACES ARE JUST LOCATING RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR OWNSELF MIND GAME AND THOUGH AND THINKING TO GUIDING EACH AND EVERY ONE OF OUR OWNSELF HUMAN FORM TO EITHER HEADING TOWARD THE HELL AREA OR HEAING TOWARD THE HEAVENLY PEACEFUL PLACES THAT ARE CALL HEAVENLY PARADISE , AMEN , AND SO DOES THE SUN ARE THE REAL GOD THAT CREATING ALL PLANES AND ANIMAL FOR US AS THE HUMAN FORM TO CONSUMING IN , BUT SADLY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ERA OUR HUMAN FORM BEING ARE OVER LOADING ON TOO MUCH OF ALL KINDS OF DIFFERRANCES ANIMAL MEAT , THAN QUEST WHAT GONNA HAPPENING ON THE KARMA AFFECT ON ALL THE CAUSE , SUCH AS MENTAL PROBLEM ARE MORE AND MORE IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ERA , AMEN , AND SO DOES THE HUMAN FORM BEING ARE ACTING MORE LIKE AN ANIMAL WORLD AND THINKING MORE LIKE AN ANIMAL WORLD IS NOT ALL THOSE CAUSE ARE TRUE , WE ALL WILL FIND FROM THIS GIVEN DATE AND ON , AMEN

    December 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      STFU and stop commenting in all caps. It makes you look stupid. Which you are.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      PERIODS ARE FOR HEATHENS , HOORAY , CHRIST , STARTS , WITH , C , SO DOES , COMMAS PERIODS START , WITH P , SO DOES , PAGANS

      Hopefully, TOMG, we now both have a great urge to huck our monitors to the floor.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Colleen

      You know, I never read comments by people in all caps. They tend toward insanity, and rarely the amusing kind.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  16. Arnold Goth

    Thank you, Luis Wu!

    Rationalism & tolerance are the answer, not more divisive be-LIE-f....

    December 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  17. Thomas

    I myself am more agnostic. While I would love to believe in an all powerful being ruling over our world I can't in good faith have faith in man kind. Why would I trust a book of words, stories and scriptures written by failable people who go through periods of depression, anxiety, persecution, anger? Or the people who have re-writen them over time?

    Religion in America is terrible for the same reasons that the current governmental system is terrible. The average american is ignorant to change and offended by contradiction to their beliefs. Religion in america just provides an alternative outlet for close minded predjudice.

    Then again, regardless of religion, the world would still be a terrible place. There would still be as much persecution and hate... although maybe for an alternative reason.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Colleen

      Ah, so you truly are a Doubting Thomas! 🙂 Seriously, though-get yourself some vitamin D, I think you are depressed.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      That's an easy one, Thomas.

      Hypothetically, with all religion abolished, man would conduct himself under the doctrine of #2: himself. He would be cruel for himself and gain his own "power". With that, when contradicted, he now says "because I said so!" instead of "because that is what He said to do."

      Of the many things religion has become, it is a near-perfect scapegoat for our fortune and our cruelty.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Thomas

      I'm not depressed, actually I felt much more relieved when not trying to justify something I can't bring myself to believe. I also believe that even without religion (atleast some) trying to teach an appropriate morale code, people would have come to agree with a standard law for living in a civil society. But I do agree that religion is being used as a scapegoat far too often, spanning all religions, not just one.

      Regardless, I still stand by my point. I don't believe in any religion, not just a specific one. I can't in good conscience argue one over another while there literally has been no proof of existence or proof of non-existence.

      I figure if I can live a life that I am happy with and makes positive impressions on those around, if there is a higher power at the end of it all, who is he to negatively judge me for doing so?

      Be good to everyone folks!

      December 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • GrammarGnatsie

      "I figure if I can live a life that I am happy with and makes positive impressions on those around, if there is a higher power at the end of it all, who is he to negatively judge me for doing so?"
      -Thomas

      Well, apparently he's a higher power. Sounds like he has every right.

      Just sayin'.

      December 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
    • Thomas

      Just sayin' that sounds pretty dumb.

      December 18, 2010 at 5:21 am |
  18. David

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the effort put into the study/analysis/commentary, Cambell and Putnam!

    December 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  19. Luis Wu

    So...believing in invisible, supernatural beings in the sky is a good thing? Living in a fairytale fantasy world is good? Funny, I've seen just the opposite from what this guy is claiming. I've found that a lot of religious people are extremely intollerant. Especially of Muslims, Jews and atheists.

    Maybe believing in fairytales might be considered good because people are too afraid of being tortured forever in a burning hell to participate in anti-social behavior. So it's good for the government and for the churches. What a pathetic bunch of deluded sheep Americans are.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bob

      You're a moderately good troll, I'll give you that.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  20. TheEtruscan

    What type of place is this Next World so uch sought after and part and parcel of religion attraction? A place of perpetually stoned souls high on the drug called "Connecting to God"? An individualistic or a shared virtual reality wonderland? A classless, benign communist heaven or one where the priests/rabbis still dictate rules and regulations? Do souls get free will in heaven or is it an orchestrated lovefest for YHWH’s groupies? Do souls automatically get I.Q.’s over 140 and an infusion of knowledge in Paradise?

    December 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Good question. I've often thought that reincarnation might be real and that the reason for life is simply to avoid eternal boredom.

      December 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
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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.