Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy
Rob Bell is under fire for his latest book before it even hits the shelves.
March 1st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Rob Bell, a pastor and author who has achieved rock star status in the Christian world, is preaching a false gospel, his critics say. And some of those critics are Christian rock stars in their own right.

The pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bell has authored a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a firestorm of controversy over the weekend, weeks before it arrives in bookstores.

On Saturday, in a blog post on the popular Christian website The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor blasted Bell's new book, out March 29, for teaching "false doctrine":

I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay [sic] his cards on the table about universalism. It seems that this is not just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.

Universalism, in its broadest terms, preaches that everyone goes to heaven and that there is no hell. Critics say it represents a break from traditional Christianity, which they say holds that heaven and hell are very real places. In most Christian circles, universalism is a dirty word.

Taylor's post was quickly tweeted by several prominent pastors, including John Piper and Mark Driscoll, connected to the Gospel Coalition, a coalition of theologically conservative evangelical churches, and a full-blown theological controversy was on. By Monday, Taylor's response post had racked up a quarter million hits.

Other bloggers, meanwhile, are calling Bell an outright heretic.

Bell is not the first prominent Christian pastor to be recently accused of wading into theologically troubled waters. Bishop Carlton Pearson, once a mentee of famed Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, has been run out of two churches and branded a heretic for preaching what he says is a gospel of inclusion with broad universalist themes.

Last year, Brian McLaren - a popular Christian author and a former pastor - was accused of breaking with Christian orthodoxy and delving headlong into universalism in his book A New Kind of Christianity.

But it's rare that theological arguments become top ten trending topics on Twitter, as Rob Bell did on Saturday.

“To be honest, it was a pretty rough weekend,” Taylor said in a phone interview. The 34-year-old heads the editorial content for Crossway, a Christian publishing company in Wheaton, Illinois.  Taylor he says his blog expresses his personal opinion not the opinion of the coalition.

"We’re talking about the big things here, things that have been historically defined as orthodox, " he said. "I have a high degree of confidence in what God is saying and what we can understand."

Though many things that separate Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, “this isn’t one of them," Taylor said. "We’ve historically agreed on many things, the person of Christ, heaven and hell. This isn’t a peripheral academic debate. What Rob Bell is talking about gets to the heart of Christianity.”

Taylor has not read Bell's forthcoming book in its entirety. His blog post was in response to the description released by Bell publisher HarperOne and a promotional video that features Bell.

"Rob Bell hasn’t sinned against me personally,” Taylor said, which is why he did not go to Bell before making his comments public. Instead, Taylor said, Bell's book represents a clear example of false teaching.

In the promotional video Bell refers to the nonviolent Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, and asks, "Gandhi's in hell? He is?"

"And someone knows this for sure?" Bell continues. "Will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that's the case how do you become one of the few? "

The video follows a trend in Bell's career as a pastor: he has long asked tough theological questions and challenged traditional answers. The short promotional video raises lots of questions without offering definitive answers.

"What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like," Bell says in it. " The good news is that love wins."

Those lines raised eyebrows for Taylor and others. "It is not preaching the gospel as found in the New Testament," Taylor said. "The New Testament is pretty clear if someone preaches a false gospel… that we are to reject that and have nothing to do with them."

For all his hipster leanings - including black rimmed glasses - Bell has a traditional pedigree. He went to Wheaton College, the Harvard of Christian schools, and later graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity.

But the Mars Hill Bible Church, which Bell founded, is not attached to any denomination. Were it attached to one - the Presbyterian or Catholic church, say - his book and video could raise eyebrows in the hierarchy and might lead to a church trial that could result in Bell's expulsion.

"A larger denomination would take his credentials and excommunicate him like they did to me,” Bishop Pearson told CNN.

By Sunday evening, Pearson was getting sent articles about the Bell flap. He said it reminded him of his days as a charismatic leader of a big church in the largest Pentecostal denomination. His questioning of hell from the pulpit led to his ouster.

"What happened to me is happening to Rob Bell," Pearson said. "If you denounce hell, it's like you are denouncing God. You’re going to be called a heretic."

“I thought my people loved me and would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me, but they didn’t,” Pearson said.

Bell's church did not respond to requests for an interview. His Twitter feed has been silent since he posted about writing a piece for CNN's Belief Blog a few weeks ago. His publicist at HarperOne said he would not be doing publicity until his book hits shelves.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Leaders • Michigan • United States

soundoff (2,200 Responses)
  1. ASSASSINews

    The heaven and hell debate always seems hollow to me because people rarely internalize what eternity is. We live for about 80 years, if we're lucky. Comparatively, a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years comes *nowhere close* to representing eternity. So for a religion barely 2000 years old to claim that your actions in your 80 or so years on this planet will result in an *eternity* of either blissful paradise or merciless torture... is comparatively absurd.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  2. Kevin

    Bell doesn't denounce hell. He simply asks the questions that everyone else is simply too afraid to think about. Good for him.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  3. Dana

    Please don't judge "religion" until you've read the bible front to back (really read it). This book that I hold in my hand now is the most anti-religion book you'll ever read. It's not about religion. It's about a God who sent himself in the form of a man to die in our place...so we would'nt have to experience the second death of hell. The bible is very clear about hell...it's talked about many more times than heaven by Christ himself. Any man of the cloth that would teach his followers that there's no threat of hell if they don't accept the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.....is NOT a follower of Jesus Christ. I didn't make that up...it's in the bible too.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  4. KVanB50

    It's sort of ironic that Rob Bell is getting all of this free pub based on conjecture and supposition. I don't believe anyone has seen the galley proofs or even read and advanced copy of his book. Theological questions of this nature need to be defined and discussed in great detail before judgements are made. I have listened to Rob Bell and Mars Hill messages for a couple of years now and as a bible believing Christian who has more than the average 3rd grade understanding of the basis of my faith, I have found nothing in his theology that is unbiblical. His style and his messages are not your usual Sunday sermon, but I have found his messages to be healing and life giving in a way that draws listeners closer to our Lord.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Jeffery

      Agreed, thank you

      March 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  5. Luch

    wow CNN i am really impressed two days running and you highlight the writings of another Christian apostate...when the story of John Dominic Crossan was posted yesterday, I asked ever so politely that you give equal time to an orthodox Christian scholar and his/her writings about the true Jesus and his true Gospel as found in the Holy Bible, being the fair and objective news organization without any anti-Christian bias that you are, I thought you would oblige but...instead you give us this, like I said yesterday it must be getting close to Easter for the media attack on Christianity begins, whihc as predictable as the longer daylight hours and the melting snow of springtime

    March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Observer

      CNN presents this story as concerning a book whose author may be guilty of heresy. So you find this as anti-religious? If a Christian website presented this story and said that the author may be guilty of heresy, would you claim they were anti-religious too? Not much of an attempt to be fair and objective.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • KVanB50

      Amen and Amen. It will soon be time for the latest Newsweek and Time magazine articles to come out spouting the claims of the Dominic Crossens and the Bart Ehrmans with their liberal interpretations of the meaning of Easter. Never a word from the mainstream Christians like Ben Witherington III and his well reasoned and academically based discussions on the truth of the Gospel and the life of Christ. Oh, that's right. It's all about circulation; not the truth.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      While I would debate about what is the "true" Jesus I do agree with you about CNN Belief Blog always throwing up a article about any guy or girl that gets a book published about any view that challenges orthodox faith while never posting anything that has a orthodox view.

      Truthfully, I look at it like this Luch. Maybe one of our atheist brothers and sisters here will see the book. Thinks that the book is there to attack and tear down the Christian church, and then buys it. Starts reading it and maybe finds their way to God. We see post from Atheist who think that all Christian churchs are "lockstep" in their doctrine, maybe from a church they attended as kids. Maybe books like these can show them what folks have known since Martin Luther posted on the door.... there is no "lockstep". Maybe they can then find their place then.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • concerned in Muncie

      You mean your version of the truth

      March 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Frogist

    I think those are very good questions that Mr Bell asks. Is Ghandi in hell? If there is any justice in the universe, no, he is not. And neither is anyone who can behave well towards their fellowman, live a good, kind, smart life, whether they believe in heaven and hell or Jesus or not. It should be our actions that define us. Not our prejudices. And condemning someone to hell because they are of a different faith, is a prejudice. Personally, my view is any god that is prejudiced, deserves not worship, but to be ignored.

    And doesn't it tell you something psychologically about the people who embrace Hell so fervently that they would throw good people into it without question just because they are different? Is it really all about exclusivity and feeling special? I hope not. But it does smell like that's a factor. Are these Christians so scared that they are up in arms over one guys interpretation of religion that they must rise up against this one dude? That seems fearful and petty. True, it questions something Christians apparently love about their faith – hell. But does that warrant this kind of reaction? Seems to me they got their panties in a twist because they cannot excommunicate him out of their faith. That's also what's fueling this fire. But that's how Christianity works. Each sect has their own interpretation. And they are just that. Not solid universal truth. Just their interpretations. A little humility might remind them of that, and cut this guy some slack.

    It brings me back to the article yesterday about Mr Crossan. We shouldn't be so scared of innovative thought and information that we tell others to stay away from learning something different. Thank goodness we don't burn people at the stake anymore. But it's a wonder from this kind of ridiculous overreaction, that they don't bring it back.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  7. votarus4

    Why is it that when a pastor opens the doors of discussion AND the doors of his church, the RELIGIOUS leaders go on full attack. ...God and Jesus (died for ALL our sins) are truly for EVERYONE. Stop excluding and deriding those who question God. He is big enough to handle it and appreciates that He's on our minds. Faith without testing and questions is a very dead faith–it is noise. Again, I am so very very ashamed of these "Christians"...Christlike? I don't think so. You are the very ones he'd be going after today. Pharisees!

    March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  8. sampsen

    "No hell? then how do you explain the tea party?"

    Thank you for your humor! It really made my day! Whether I am religious or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we should be propping up Mr. Bell because at least he is trying to send a message of inclusion and love, unlike his counterparts, who claim to preach love but then bash anyone who isn't worthy in their eyes of God. The sad part is, Historical context, if it were aloud to enter, would prove that the Fundamentalist mindset is not so fundamentalist after all, as they claim to return to the "accurate" scripProxy-Connection: keep-alive
    Cache-Control: max-age=0

    res, which would be impossible because of simple issues like translation errors and lack of historical context, as none of us were there to see what really happened. Fundamentalism has become a message of hate because it relies on assumption of context and interpretation of translation.....dangerous and primed for messages of hate if you ask me. I think you really summed up so many points in one stroke of gentle humor! Thanks again BLB!

    March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  9. the Wumpus

    They are both wrong! All praise to the Flying Spaghetti Monster... I once was lost, but now Ive been touched by his noodly appendage.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Captain Noble

      Show us on the doll where the FSM touched you.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • David

      My friend, if you dont repent and turn to Jesus, you will see who's really running things.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Tommy Jonq

    if my neighbor isn't going to hell, then why would i want to go to heaven?

    March 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • David

      hardy har har. Dont be foolish, you dont want to go to hell. Trust in Jesus

      March 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  11. JD

    Sorry, the correct answer was: the MORMONS. The MORMONS was the correct answer.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Face

      One of the best SP episodes!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  12. Kyle

    More grown adults arguing over their imaginary friends. Awesome.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • David

      More atheists commenting on Christian issues. Awesome. Turn to Jesus.

      March 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  13. Drewg

    When judgement and condemnation overtake love – all is lost – including any credibility as a Christian. That is the root of the brokenness of the church that alienates and creates disillusion for many, and what Jesus so ardently and passionately speaks against. Keep up the great work Rob Bell.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Jeffery

      the Greatest Commandment starts with L O V E . Until we accomplish this all else is vanity. Thanks for the comment

      March 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  14. Templar1

    Most people, regretably, have no idea what is being discussed here. If you have studied theology, and most particularly systematic theology, you have little academic preparation let alone scholastic insight into the issues being discussed here.
    So far as hell goes, this is a subject as old as the Greek and Latin church Fathers. More recently it is included in the the Christology of Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian. Barth, when asked by a student if he believed in hell said,"yes, I do, I just do not believe there is anyone in it." The question must, inevitably include: Righteousness, Grace, Mercy, and a host of other
    parts. You have an opinion, good, on what is your conclusion based?

    March 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • John Richardson

      What arrogance! Only those immersed in what other people may have thought and written on the subject from within the world of Christian theology have a right to an opinion?

      March 1, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Paulette

      You're so wrong I don't know where to start. Looks like you need to do more research.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  15. Ashley

    If Mr. Bell is a heretic , what about all the those fake televangelist, they disgust me with all that I can heal you mumbo jumbo. I turn the channel when I see them coming, if you don't like his philosophy, don't buy his videos or books. Since the word heretic was hurled at so many europeans in the 16th and 17th , are we now going to burn him at the stake? I think not

    March 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  16. Hopfrog

    I'm not terribly religious myself, but I find it odd when adults cannot engage in a conversation about philosophy, belief, or mythology without relying on snark.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  17. Simon

    Have any of you read the book? No, cause it comes out at the end of March.

    Has the blogger who started this read the book? No, cause it comes out at the end of March

    Has my "(Simon) you're going to hell because you're not a Calvinist like me" friend read the book? No cause it comes out in March

    As a strong, committed, bible believing Christian I did have some questions about this book after watching the video about it. But my Christian friends and my fellow non-christian friends, let us not brand this man a heretic before we watch it. Maybe the purpose of the video is to get people questioning, and thus reading his book bringing them closer to God.

    I don't know if that is true- but let us wait and see, read it ourselves, and make conclusions from that.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Simon

      before we read it*

      March 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Linda

      That's so typical of the conservative Christian, condemn, sream heretic....amd they haven't even read the book.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Szabo

      Great points Simon. The video (like all Bell video's) is going to be used as a conversation starter. I can't wait to read it. Bell is a great author, and YES he is controversial at times. He talks a lot about challenging people. Don't jsut accept what they are saying because they are; a Christian, a Pastor, a Elder, a Deacon ... challenge it and work to understand their views then you can base your decision biblically on what they have said (or feel).

      Too bad there aren't more out like him who would challenge things instead of accepting them.

      Too bad the blogger didn't approach Bell first before shooting this out. Again ... read the book first before making comments like these.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Jeffery

      Excellent thoughts Simon. Yes, if we are Christians what are we afraid of? We have the absolute soverign Truth in the Bible. What should we fear if we know the Bible. whether it is my Pastor, Rob Bell, or some TV evangelist I think I was told to "Study myself to show thai am approved, rightly dividing the Word of God" in Timothy. I have no fear of Rob Bell whether it is truth or heresy. My guess is that it is truth seeking to define itself. But, I'm not sure. I haven't read the book."It doesn't come out till March" Thanks Simon

      March 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  18. Mindmeld444

    "Hell is a dump outside of Jerusalem where trash was burned and not a place for damned souls. God loves all his children and would not do that to any of them. Jesus, after seeing how poor in spirit man was, said if he could he would cast the unenlightened into it forever. Out of this came the story of 'if you do not follow God's law, you will go to hell.' Fear will make the disobedient flock of a church obey."

    What about the devil?

    "Satan is someone Moses made up in the Book of Genesis only to explain the power of God. Man, in his great wisdom, found it useful to blame an unseen force rather than take responsibility for the things he did. Man thinks in terms of greater than or lesser than, as though there is a hierarchy, when in fact there is only God as everything."

    March 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • unmind

      buddy, you are SO wrong. if you studied your Bible with an open heart and with an earnest search for truth, you would see that hell is a real place. heaven is a real place. Jesus is a real person and His love to save humanity from hell is real. all that is required from us is that you accept Jesus death on the cross as a sacrifice He made for our sins – accept it and be transformed by it and live a life that reflects true Christian virtue as defined by His Word ... the Living Bible.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  19. Skegee

    Well, Rob Bell makes the assumption that according to the Bible "billions of people are in Hell". The Bible doesn't say how many people are in Hell- just that it exists. Jesus gave a description of Hell and in Revelation, those who reject Christ are thrown into the "lake of fire". We don't know if it's allegorical in its description, but the actual place of Hell exists.

    Is Ghandi in Hell? If he was a human being who had ever once sinned and thus fallen short of God's standard, then he was Hell-bound as WE ALL are. The only hope of man is in Christ because He raises us to the standard by giving us His righteousness. It's not discriminatory- His invitation is open to all even though none of us deserve it.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • ellid

      Um, you need to check your punctuation, because your passage as written implies that Jesus gave a description of hell in Revelation. This is impossible since Jesus didn't write Revelation, which wasn't written until almost a century after his death.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Jack

      Revelation is an allegory, based largely on Hebrew scripture. It almost didn't make it into the canon, since there were so many similar apocalyptic books at the time. Frankly, I kind of wish it hadn't. It's so misunderstood.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • symbolism

      When the bible mentions hell, it refers to the common grave of all mankind. The hebrew word Sheol and the greek word Hades are both translated as Hell in many translations.

      Solomon said there is no remembrance in Sheol, the place where you are going. He also said that the dead are conscious of nothing at all. Thus Sheol (or hell) refers simply to death. It is not a fiery place where people keep existing just to suffer.

      The Lake of Fire mentioned in Revelation is symbolic and represents eternal destruction. If you throw a book into a fire, it burns up and is gone forever. Likewise when you cremate a body, it turns to ashes and is gone for ever.

      The greek

      March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Jeffery

      Well Said!!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • leomen

      Your comments prove why Christians would have a problem with Universalism and hell not existing. Christians believe that there way is the only way as you say "The only hope of man is in Christ". There are several problems with that believe 1. it dismisses all other religions and anyone that's not Christian, 2. The believe that if you do it my way all sins can be forgiven, is arrogant and hypocritical.

      There has to be a hell otherwise the Christian believe system does not work. Scare the hell out of them and they will follow.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • kso

      "the actual place hell exists"

      Yes, it's a club in Atlanta. otherwise, it's a mythological belief meaning it's only real in your mind. If you have the GPS coordinates of hell, maybe you could share them with us!!!!!

      March 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  20. Jane Doe

    I live in a highly educated, college community. There is a big emphasis on science and technology. Because of this, I have a large number of friends who are atheist and who are, by the worlds standards, geniuses. Often times, we get into honest and respectful discussions about religion, mainly Jesus, Christianity, and God. While they have "interesting" arguments for the non-existence of a higher power, I always ask, "Can you show me, with evidence that is 100% provable, that God does NOT exist. I am talking about evidence, that if you laid it before the entire world would eliminate the idea of God forever?" They always try to respond with a long-winded, educated answer, but when I say, "Just give me a 'yes' or a 'no'" they always respond with a "no." Why? Because it isn't possible to "prove" that God does not or does exist. That is why it is called faith for a believer and whatever you want to call it for an atheist when it comes to his unbelief. Like a former atheist turned Christian once said, "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

    March 1, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • JD

      If the existence of God were anywhere near as obvious as the existence of the Sun, that last comment would make sense.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Jane Doe,
      JD makes sense.

      Also, your argument works just as well for Zeus, Odin, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Public Enemy Number 2

      I'm surprised your highly-education friends didn't blast you for trying to make them prove a negative. I'd've countered with "Prove to me that SCIENCE doesn't exist. Just one scrap of proof." You can't explain that.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Face

      The claims that something exists is in the court of the "claimee" If I claim something exists then I must have evidence to support it.
      Faith is NOT a reason to believe in something, otherwise anyone can claim anything, and then chaos ensues, and people start to debate how many angels dance on a pin head, or how long its wings are....
      and EVERY SINGLE claim of some kind of deity or supernatural claim is VALID and deserves EQUAL MERIT....(but you don't think that do you...?)

      Oh and the reason your friends have "long winded" explanations is because it is a very complex and deep philosophical subject. Most religious people tend to like short and simple explanations for everything.....

      March 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Linda

      The funny thing is, you have it backwards. The burden is on the believer to prove God does exist. Imagine if I woke up tomorrow and asserted a giant teapot existed in the sky, and insisted you prove it WASN'T there....get it now?

      March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • John Richardson

      Your friends don't seem all that smart. Prove to me that Ganesh doesn't exist. Prove to me that Allah won't toss all Christians into hell. Prove to me that Thor doesn't exist. You can't absolutely disprove the existence of any mythological being. But you CAN look at them ALL and say: These stories all contradict each other. Therefore they can't all be true. And I have no rational or empirical basis to choose from among them which one to believe. They CAN however ALL be false.

      Your attempt to create an illusion of equality between upholding the admittedly less than 100% provably correct reject of all supernatural belief and the adoption of one and only one of many, many elaborate mythologies as The Truth may impress your rocket science pals, but it doesn't impress me in the least.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • tony

      You should listen more to your friends. At least they make sense.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Jeffery

      Thank you Jane. And all Peoples will see His glory!

      March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Fabiola Ribeiro

      Agreed. It is not a win win situation though, for those who believe in Jesus and live happy trusting on him and his will and die knowing they will be with God in a better place, they did not lose anything even if God never existed. But for those who don't believe and then die and it turns out there is a God and there is a hell waiting for those unbelievers....that is too much to lose I think o.O we're talking about an eternity in pain

      March 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Fabiola Ribeiro,
      So you believe in God because the odds are better?
      Look up Pascal's Wager for more info.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • ASSASSINews

      Believing "just in case" is missing the point of believing. If God actually existed, I'm sure he could distinguish between real believers and fair-weather believers.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Elphaba

      I find it interesting that so many Christians "prove" the existence of God with the claim that non-belivers can't prove he doesn't exist, yet show only the bible, written by man, as evidence that He does exist. This is the first time I have heard a Christian has admitted that they can't prove he DOES exist. As a Christian with many questions. I find myself in the middle, and have no patience with neither athiests, who so adamently want to quash my right to believe, nor the evangelicals, who, in shoving God down every throat they can, have probably pushed more potential believers away than the athiests.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • indydave

      Ah, Fabiola – but what if you're wrong about WHICH god exists? Your particular mistake is such a common logical fallacy that it has its own name – Pascal's Wager. I commend you to a good search engine armed with that phrase and some time to do some reading.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Joe

      It's logically impossible to prove a negative. Can you prove to me 100% that fairies do not exist? No, you can't. And if someone said, "I believe in fairies because no one can prove they don't exist" people would think they were rediculous.

      March 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Face

      @Fab Rib.
      Pascals Wager huh?
      When you accept faith as a "reason" <-lol (oxymoron) to believe then you open yourself to a wide variety of bull and sketchy claims.
      Watch "Betting on Infinity" on youtube
      You are also ignoring ALL other claims to know the "true deity" when you "accept" the religion that you were raised in.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Elphaba

      @ Public Enemy Number 2. Your arguement doesn't hold water. Science is a process, a means by which we reach an end. The very product of that process is proof that science exists. This is a really bad example, but it works; while sitting in a chair, I have no proof that the ability to walk exists, but the process of using my legs to get to the chair in the first place is that proof, even though I sit, immoble.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Atheists who "...want to quash my right to believe..."
      I don't speak for atheists, but I would suggest that they are not trying to "quash [your] right to believe." They may enthusiastically debate your reason for believing, but I don't think any Atheist, in america anyway, would deny your right to believe as you want. They do however deny the government the right to support or endorse any one particular religion.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • indydave

      One last reply here, and this to the article more than to the parent poster. OF COURSE it upsets a lot of the Christian elite/leaders to think that people might come to not believe there's a hell. It takes away their main method of control and power – giving those they need to control something to be fear. Can't get them to behave and donate money if you can't convince them you're helping protect them from some bogeyman. Kinda hard to make the payments on those huge ivory towers if you can't keep the donors in line.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Dennis

      Your friends must get frustrated with your inability to think critically. They've probably tried to explain to you that proving the nonexistence of something is not necessary, and that it is the person who believes something exists who should have evidence. There are an infinite number of possible things, but you don't believe they exist simply because they haven't been shown not to.

      Your quote from the former atheist is especially dumb; comparing a magical being to that big warm ball in the sky as though both are equally obvious tells us this person believes things for bad reasons.

      The obvious disdain for educated opinions seems to be a requirement for most believers. Couple that with an emotional need to believe frequently seen in intelligent individuals and we can see how false beliefs abound.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • iveeno

      The child's retort, "Oh, yeah? PROVE it!" does not apply in this argument. What that short-sighted requirement does is place science as the judge over faith, since science is that which requires proof. It is the same as a professional boxer picking a fight with someone who is not a boxer, but maintaining that the disagreement can only be resolved by boxing. "Prove to me that asparagus tastes good," might be an equal question for which to require proof. I challenge anyone to show any ABSOLUTE proof that anything is as they perceive it. Is this person good-looking? Perceptions are as individual as the individual so nothing can be definitiely proven except in comparison with something else, like a law. Ever try to argue with someone who disagrees with you on abortion? Your side CAN'T be proven, no matter what.

      Jesus is real to Christians. They feel it, taste it, love and know it to be true, right and good. Your love for your mother, generally speaking, is also unprovable. I could do anything for her that you can, and it doesn't mean I love her, but it looks the same, and you cannot prove that I do not.

      Let people believe as they will. If they wish to believe that everyone, no matter how callous or heinous they act, or what mania of hate they constantly show, will be saved, let them. What is that to you? As a believer I believe that God has it figured out, and figured out according to what is true, right and good. Of course this is from my perspective.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Andrew.peter

      Glory to God! He lives apart from our own ability or willingness to comprehend.

      March 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Joe While I obviously concur with your specific point, your general point is wrong, widely made though it is. Logicians prove negatives all the time. One obvious and famous way: Assume some statement P and derive a contradiction (ie reductio ad absurdum). You thereby prove the negation of the assumed statement P.

      A more limited claim, ie the unprovability of the non-existence of things, also doesn't quite make it: Ascribe some property to a hypothetical number, eg the largest prime number, and derive a contradiction and you have proven that there is no largest prime number.

      You have to move the discussion into the empirical realm before you can say that the onus of proof is on those who claim existence, as existence can be proven by example, whereas non-existence can only even conceivably be proven by examining the entire universe in detail at whatever the relevant scale may be (on all scales, if need be) and knowing that you would for sure have detected whatever you are looking for if it is indeed out there.

      So, here's where we're out: Claims have been made that god's existence can be proven or disproven logically, but those claims have failed to convince more than a few enthusiasts who had already long since believed what the proof purports to prove. From a logical perspective then, god's existence may in principal be proven or disproven, but no generally accepted proof or disproof exists. It's also possible that god's existence may be "provably un(dis)provable". But no one's even gone there, as far as I know (though it actually has some intuitive appeal!).

      So we are left with god's existence as an empirical question. And in this case, yes, the onus is clearly on those who assert existence. And they have never even approximately met this onus.

      And I should add that attempts at logical proofs of god's existence and empirical arguments for god's existence have to do with some "uncaused cause", ie something very, very abstract and it is a LOOOOOOONG way from there to any one mythological conception of god that is anywhere near as specific as the biblical god. So even if the best theory of the universe finally one day does include some uncaused cause, you still don't have any reason to believe that, eg, Jesus is the son of that uncaused cause – indeed, the proposition that anyone could be the unique, biological, specificall human, earth borne son of the uncaused cause of all that exists strikes one as fairly screamingly preposterous, no?

      March 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Another Larry

      Atheists look at nothing and conclude there is nothing. People such as yourself look at nothing and for no rational reason choose to believe there is something. You believe what you believe because you can't accept the alternative, that this life is all there is, that there is no supernatural power making things fair and just in the final analysis, that you have no friend with superpowers to tilt the world in your favor.

      You choose to believe in God because you like that narrative better. The fact that no one can prove what you believe is a fairy tale just allows you to continue believing it. Can you prove Santa Claus doesn't exist?

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” — Stephen Roberts

      March 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Jane Doe

      Lord have mercy, it's a lose-lose situation with you people. You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't.

      March 1, 2011 at 6:49 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.