'Soul Surfer' opens after fights over depicting faith
"Soul Surfer" is a feature film about Bethany Hamilton being attacked by a shark and getting back in the water
April 12th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

'Soul Surfer' opens after fights over depicting faith

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

"Soul Surfer," the feature film based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton being attacked by a shark and her journey back to surfing, opened last weekend in the fourth spot on the box office charts - partly a testament to its appealing family-friendly message and a marketing campaign that heavily targeted religious groups.

But even though Hamilton and her family's faith plays a key role in the film, many audiences would be surprised to learn that the question of how to show their religion in the film caused huge debate on set.

"I think to get anything in the film was a battle," said Sarah Hill, Hamilton's youth group leader at North Shore Christian Church, who was played by Carrie Underwood in the movie.

"Basically, what you're doing is you have all these people who want to make a movie about Bethany and they don't know the Lord and they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. For what we have in the movie it was such a battle."

In one scene, Hill's character is shown counseling Hamilton as she struggles with living as an amputee. She reads from Jeremiah 29:11 " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

The morning they went to shoot that scene, said Hill, who was on set often, "Twelve producers, me and the director were all sitting at the table and they all are just adamant about the Scripture not being in the movie. And they were saying at least let's not have the reference in it."

"For me it was a hill worth dying on to keep God in the movie," she said.

Tom Hamilton, Bethany’s father, said, “In my heart of hearts I wanted as many Christians as we could get to play parts in the movie. They just have a different spirit about them. ... Craig T. Nelson, who is a really strong Christian and goes to our church in Kauai, I called him and begged him to be in the movie.

“A lot of the producers didn’t want to go too overboard because they thought Christianity doesn’t always sell well,” Tom Hamilton said.

Kevin Sorbo, who plays Holt Blanchard, the father of Hamilton's best friend, said, "Sony (Pictures, the film's producer) was afraid to throw in the word Jesus. They said you can have God but not Jesus. They were worried about that.

"The studios, you can't really fight them," he said. "Hollywood screams for freedom of speech but only if you agree with them. It's a very two-faced industry."

Sorbo said Sony wanted to take out another scene in which Bethany Hamilton wakes up in the hospital. Her father, played by Dennis Quaid, is shown reading a Bible. He reads to her from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

Tom Hamilton said the studio rented a house for the family during the filming so they could be on set every day.

“They changed the script a lot,” Hamilton said. “Dennis Quaid would come up to say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t sound right, we need a Scripture here.’ The script was in constant motion, it changed on the set even.”

“They listened to us. We had some pretty heated discussions. Everyone saw how passionate about it we were, getting the message we wanted out there,” he said.

Rich Peluso, the vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures, said the studio made no efforts to whitewash the Hamilton family's faith for the movie. He points out that Jesus is mentioned twice in the film and that the family's faith is central to the plot.

On set, he said, "There were certainly lots of discussions," specifically about the inclusion of Hill's character quoting Jeremiah.

"There were some that voiced the opinion that may have made it sound too faith-focused," Peluso said. "The counter-argument was, 'Well, if her character uses those words and doesn't attribute them to the Bible it seems like she's stealing them.' We came to the agreement the best thing to do was to use the Scripture there."

The biggest question the movie's producers were trying to determine was, "How do we have it come off (in a way) that is authentic to the family's faith and doesn't push it too far so that it appears to the viewer to be forced in?" he said. "We didn't want it to appear we were pushing in faith to appeal to the faith community."

The studio made a big push to attract faith leaders to the project, setting up screenings for pastors and ministry leaders. But it's hard to characterize "Soul Surfer" as a Christian movie.

Like the hit movie "The Blind Side," though, the characters in "Soul Surfer" are decidedly Christian.  The movie opens with Bethany Hamilton rushing into a beachside church service because the Sunday morning waves were just too good to pass up.

"It's not that it's a Christian movie, it's an American movie," Peluso said.

In 2003, when a tiger shark attacked the 14-year-old Hamilton near Kauai, Hawaii, the story gripped the nation. Just three weeks after the attack, Hamilton was back in the water learning how to surf with one arm. A year later, she won a national surfing title.

Battles over how to portray religious themes in movies are becoming more common, as Hollywood becomes more open to addressing faith and marketing movies to religious audiences but worries about alienating nonreligious audiences or viewers from other traditions.

“After all the back and forth - and there’s always back and forth - it’s always best to err on the side of authenticity,” said Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media, which has helped produced the Chronicles of Narnia franchise and other Christian-themes movies.

“It actually is not in your commercial interest to secularize something like that, people will reject it,” he said of “Soul Surfer.” “People think they are making these decisions to broaden their audience but what they end up doing is narrowing it.”

But Flaherty said he thought “Soul Surfer” struck the right balance. “To see a movie where she wasn’t talking about her faith … it would have flopped,” he said. “It’s silly to narrow (the family’s faith). It’s like someone saying, ‘Let’s make a movie about Bethany but not talk about surfing.’”

Today, Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer. In 2010 she was ranked 23rd in the world. "The shy kid has gone on to have a legit pro surf career despite her massive physical impairment," Joel Patterson recently wrote in Surfer Magazine, "and, in the process, she's inspired uncountable people struggling against cruel twists of fate."

Hamilton has long been outspoken about her Christian faith and the positive role it played in her recovery.

"We work with a lot of films, but the Hamiltons have to live with this for the rest of their lives, so that balance was important to us," AFFIRM's Peluso said. "I think we threaded the needle after a lot of work."

Tom Hamilton said Peluso constantly went to bat for the family with the movie, adding, "There was some give and take, but everything that was very important for us to portray ended up in the movie. We were very happy over all with the movie. We just wanted the real story told.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Movies • United States

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soundoff (2,051 Responses)
  1. Danni

    *Sigh* Hollywood is worried about alienating non-religious audiences with the handful of Christian themed movies they put out every decade or so, yet I doubt they lose one second of sleep from alienating Christians with the veritable mountain of garbage it churns out every year. And they call us hypocrites.

    April 30, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  2. Lycidas

    🙂 In a two week period of time, the movie now has cleared it's investments and is making profits. Not bad for a "religious" film eh?

    April 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  3. CarrieCNN


    April 16, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  4. Mediator

    Honestly, I can't see why we keep arguing over this. Those have a religion will not heed anything said by a non-believer; they are fools. An atheist will not heed anything said by one who follows a religion; they are insane. We can argue for months, years even. It has happened before. But it's just as useful and practical as repeatedly bashing your head against a wall. If you are set in your beliefs, there is no way you will be swayed. This discussion has, in my opinion, moved beyond anything about Soul Surfer. It has become yet another battle against beliefs, another battle that will never end. Until the day that one religion (or non-religion as the case may be) proves itself to be indisputably "right", I believe there is no point in fighting about this. Of course, who cares what I believe; I'm an insane Christian.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  5. Logan

    Christianity = The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...


    April 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  6. sojourner

    Patriarchal dogma has brought our planet to the brink of destruction. Enough is enough. I don't want anyone pushing their religion on anyone, and I certainly will not go to see this film, now that I'm aware of this controversy.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  7. Bye Bye Evil Atheism

    When is atheism going to go away? The best of thinkers down through the generations have rejected atheism for its distinct lack of morality, and even if atheism could find some overarching morality they'd have nothing to enforce it. Atheism, as it is today, has turned into a tool for blind egotists to spout off about reason that the majority of them lack.

    I assume there are a few ignorant Atheists laughing at my claim that the best of thinkers down through the generations have rejected atheism, so it is time for them to learn a little:

    Francis Bacon, founder of modern scientific method:
    "It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."

    April 14, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • culchiewoman

      Thats all we get is one example? A pederast who was charged with 23 counts of corruption by the British Parliament? And atheists are 'evil'? Why, what a "christian" thing to say! I'm sure Jesus would be proud.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Smite Me

      "When is atheism going to go away?"

      I guess when "God" wants it to, eh?

      "He" could end the debate in a millisecond, but either cannot or will not.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Smite Me- Or a third option...if man is unwilling to believe, facts would do no good.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Smite Me


      No, that is not really a 3rd option. An all-knowing "God" would know how to make its existence incontrovertibly known to everyone. Now, whether everyone would choose to like "him" is a different story.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  8. TLB

    Ms. Hamiltons story is a testiment to the resiliency of the human spirit. It's her faith that she would one day get back on the surfboard that kept her going. She's an inspiration. Faith has alot to do with human instinct and the will to survive. Inspirational quotes from the bible helped her through that process. It's not like she's using her faith to oppress anyone or to cause harm to anyone else. She seems like a good hearted lady. The shark has instincts too. He probably bit off her arm because his instincts told him that she was food. God didn't send the shark to bite off her arm. He was already there. He probably mistook her for a seal.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  9. Steev


    April 14, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Steev

      just testing, sorry.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  10. Trinity

    i am not the least bit religious, quite the opposite, BUT this film is a bio-pic aka a true story, so if the people it portrays are religious, i have no problem with that being shown because it's about their real lives and how they live them. it's not whether i, or anyone else, disagrees with religion – and i do – but about the reality for the people the movie is about. it's possible to do it tastefully, so why not?

    April 14, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • bobbi

      Good movie about a young woman who had a passion for life and surfing and a strength of will to create the life she wanted despite this incredible road block. I say the ends justify the means – – in other words . . if it was her faith in God that helped her get through this ordeal and rebuild her life – – that is great!! I would suggest she also has a strong, determined personality as well, and obviously a very strong support group of family and friends, because lots of young 14 year old Christian girls would not have done the same as her despite their faith.

      April 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  11. Steven

    There is no such thing as an atheist, there are only skeptics. And there are 2 types of skeptics: honest and dishonest. Dishonest skeptics cannot find God for the same reason theives cannot find policeman. Honest skeptics cannot find God because they've never made an honest investigation into the facts of the Bible and what it does and does not say.

    If atheism were really true, they sure do spend a lot of time, energy, money, and vigor arguing against something that "doesn't exist." Talk about a wasted life. What do you call someone sitting in a chair in an empty room talking to non-existent unicorns? Umm, crazy as crazy gets. What do you call someone who spends their entire life arguing against and trying to disprove something that supposedly doesn't even exist in the first place? Well, I think you know the answer to that....

    April 14, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  12. Dorothy

    1. Christianity is Not a religion, its a relationship with God the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. 2. You don't have to believe God exists, but that doesn't mean He doesn't exist. 3. You can hate Christians, that's your choice. 4.Just because you don't see God, still doesn't mean He doesn't exist. 5.Even though the Bible was written over a period of 1500-1600 years by 40 different authors and theme is still the same from Genesis to Revelations; and you don't believe what it says, that's okay, it's still your choice. 5. The Bible is still the #1 Book sold all over the world, but so many haven't ever studied it let alone read it, still your choice. 6. You can believe think what you want, it's your choice. You see the God that I know, I know Him with my heart, not with a finite mind. You see, it's all about your heart. So, believe what you will, because it's your choice, God has given all of us the choice to choose. Peace

    April 14, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  13. Brian

    Funny how some people try to bring down Christianity by saying that it is a lie. There have been many that tried to prove this so called lie, only to find truth in it, and to actuallyconvert to Christianity. Some Atheist try to group all religions in to one, saying that all religion is bad, but they neglect to see that the most destructive societies in history have been godless societies. Mao's China have killed an estimate of 50 to 90 million of it's own people when Mao came to power, Hitler, who was an avid believer in Darwinism (An important belief in Atheism), was inspired to believed that the Arian Race was the most advanced in evolution, and looked upon other races as lesser humans. Kim Jung ill, Stalin, Mousolini, Pol Pot, etc, were all of a godless persuasion that looked at themselves as gods in their own right, who had the power to do anything they wanted to.

    April 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  14. captnavenger

    Movies are made to sell to the widest common denominator. They are meant to be inclusive. When you turn them into a commercial for your personal faith, you lose that ability.

    Hollywood is not evil for not wanting to make a movie that is inclusive only to the people on whom it is based and a few of their personal friends. That would be bad business. They are doing what they do best: making a movie sellable to, and that will reach the most people possible. That's what they do. You don't spend millions on a flick you intend to be showable only to a room full of a certain denomination.

    If the people involved in the story wanted this to be an instructional film for their particular Christian sect, that would be fine, too. Sell the rights to a small film company specializing in that.

    But don't go to Hollywood, play Hollywood's game, then complain about the rules after you've been paid. That's either patently ignorant or downright dishonest.

    April 13, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  15. Steve

    To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. – St. Thomas Aquinas

    April 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I like to copy n paste quotes too. It makes people think Im smart. Where do you find yours?


      April 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Hi, HeavenSent
      like the one that says: Some see God in everything, even in the smallest things... Some don't see Him in anything, even though He left His fingerprints on everything that exists! I don't know if that was some one's quote or not, but that 's something I always ponder in my heart!

      I hope you had a blessed day! It's a beautiful Springtime here in mountains of Va! God's presence is everywhere!

      April 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Saved

      Well said Steve!

      April 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Well said Steve!

      April 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Steev

      Without proof, there can be no explanations.

      April 14, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  16. HeavenSent

    The shark jumped her.


    April 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  17. JamesJust

    "In 2003, when a tiger shark attacked the 14-year-old Hamilton near Kauai, Hawaii, the story gripped the nation"

    News to me. Sorry it happened to the kid, must have been rough.

    I don't plan to see the movie. If talk around the water cooler starts on it (which I sincerely doubt), I'll excuse myself and walk away. Because unless christians want to talk about why god sent a shark to rip off a child's arm, I think talking about how god's plan was for this to somehow inspire others is way too much to stomach.

    April 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  18. Rick

    Dear God, If you really want to impress millions, put the arm back!

    April 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I have my doubts that anything God, or this young lady, will do would impress you.

      April 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Rick

      If god can raise the dead, a little arm isn't much to ask for.

      April 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      God is not man that HE would seek approval from His creation. Oh, How shallow this generation of arrogant and self absorbed people can be? .......God has no need of man's approval! He is the LORD!

      He tests and sifts the hearts of men(kind), and does according to His will! ....God's Kingdom is NOT a Democracy... majority does NOT rule! He is the LORD!

      As for this girl's arm... she knows that she will be made whole again. When Lord Jesus Christ returns, as it is written in the Scriptures, to establish His Kingdom on earth in His truth , justice and righteousness, she will have new body with both arms. This promise is her source comfort, and cause for rejoicing...

      So many live in despair , even with lesser disabilities. What if God chose to glorify His name through this girl's testimony, making her strong in character, to testify to others what He will do with a willing vessel who commits her life to Him?

      Do you know that to form someone character is of most importance to God, more then to make them happy, and comfortable? Do your know that most choicest fruit of someone's character are built through hardships and sufferings? That may not be human way of seeing things, and most certainly not of those who are so used to all comforts of life, but it is proven way, and in fact, the most faithful servants of God thru history have been the ones who suffered much hardships in life. It does something for the human character. Yet we see what the affluence, to much freedom and lack of want does to them also! Our own country is the true example of it! We see even on these blogs what it has produced..... ...So, friend, think about the things I've written here... Maybe you'll see now why God does not do certain things openly among the mankind... because He sees what's in their hearts!
      But it is written in God's Word:

      "Eyes have not seen, nor ears heard,nor has it entered into the heart of man t eh things that God has prepared for those who love Him" Bethany knows that those words are true, and her faith is not going to leave her disappointed. Her lessed Hope is worth waiting for! .....
      Blessed are those who put their trust in the LORD!

      April 13, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslim souls:
      There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam

      Saving 2 billion lost Christian souls:
      There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity

      Saving the souls of 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      Added details upon request

      April 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • SlavaBogu

      Rick, Jesus fed the 5,000 and right after that the people who witnessed it asked Him to show them a miracle. Sometimes miracles are not just in the dramatic healing but also in the survival. The difference in how we view peace is this. Christians see the possibility of peace in the midst of the problems not necessarily in the absence of problems. There is a song by Casting Crowns that addresses this. Praise You in this Storm.

      Praise You in This Storm
      words by Mark Hall/music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms

      I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
      and wiped our tears away,
      stepped in and saved the day.
      But once again, I say amen
      and it's still raining
      as the thunder rolls
      I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
      "I'm with you"
      and as Your mercy falls
      I raise my hands and praise
      the God who gives and takes away.

      And I'll praise you in this storm
      and I will lift my hands
      for You are who You are
      no matter where I am
      and every tear I've cried
      You hold in your hand
      You never left my side
      and though my heart is torn
      I will praise You in this storm

      I remember when I stumbled in the wind
      You heard my cry to You
      and raised me up again
      my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
      if I can't find You
      and as the thunder rolls
      I barely hear You whisper through the rain
      "I'm with you"
      and as Your mercy falls
      I raise my hands and praise
      the God who gives and takes away


      I lift my eyes onto the hills
      where does my help come from?
      My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
      I lift my eyes onto the hills
      where does my help come from?
      My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth


      April 14, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Yes, Slava Bogu na Njegovoj neizmjernoj ljubavi koju nam je dao u daru spasenja u svom Sinu, nasem Gspodu Isus Kristu!

      April 14, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Smeće na nekom drugom jeziku je još uvijek smeće...

      April 14, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Friend, I hate to see YOUR end when satan's demons come to greet you at YOUR death's door!

      April 14, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Jack

      If a miracle of GOD causes us to believe, then what about the false miracles of satan and his false religions? The LORD said, A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! What better testimony to the power of GOD, than a life overcoming tragedy, through faith in CHRIST. What a victory!

      April 14, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Nancy

      Dear Rick, God can put her arm back,,, but not everything God can do, He will do,,,
      God may b finding it best for her not to put her arm back,,, God has a broader & wider vision than me & u,,,
      1) For example, when God first created humans, He gave them Earth, plants & animals,,, God could have also created air conditioners, buildings, cars & airoplanes, but He didn't,,, coz He wanted Humans to "create with Him",,, "God does the things we cannot do, & let us do the things we can do",,, God created earth, humans & all creatures from nothing (which is something we can't do) & left us to develop what He created (which is something humans could do, & they did it :))
      2) Same example is in the Bible; when Jesus went to raise lazarus from the dead, He asked the men who were there to lift the stone that was on the tomb of Lazarus,,, why would Jesus ask them so?!! if someone can raise a person from the dead, certainly can lift a stone,,, but God likes to share with us his work,,, just like a carpenter building a chair, who would do all the hard work & let his young son put the last nail.
      3) Another example, Jesus & his desciples used to heal people who had leprocy in the first decades of Christianity, but after a few decades, God stopped granting Christians the gift of healing leprocy, & this is what made humans develop medicine & find a cure for it.
      God is not a geane who would do for us whatever we want, God is a father, who wants his children to grow up &, by time, depend on themselves,,, God won't do for us whatever we ask from Him, coz he doesn't want humans to be dependant persons, He wants us to be independant, even from Him,,,
      God has His wisdom,,, He created us & He knows whats best for us,,, even if we are unable to see it now...

      April 14, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Rick

      I just love stupid crap like this: "Rick, Jesus fed the 5,000 and right after that the people who witnessed it asked Him to show them a miracle. "

      It's sounds like to me, that your gods just got tired of preforming miracles and we should all settle for the ones written about in the bible. And how do we know they are true? Cause the bible confirms that the bible is true.

      My point was; if god had this 14yo girl's arm ripped off by a shark to bring people closer to him; then to really make a difference, have him put it back!

      Many christians say, "No, the gods who planned everything from the beginning, didn't plan on a shark attack." Hmmm, he planned everything... except for the bad things that happen to good people.

      You people are like a toy train; you go round and round and never get anywhere.

      April 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Well, Rick,
      maybe it is because people like you that God does NOT do any miracles to "prove" Himself.... HE is not the One who has to prove to us anything... We're the ones who are on testing ground....
      i'm so sorry you failed to understand the things addressed to you in those couple posts above....

      April 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "If god can raise the dead, a little arm isn't much to ask for."

      But you neglect to understand the why it would need to be done.

      April 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Rick

      I guess what you guys are missing is; your gods did all kinds of miracles in front of 1000's, yet the bible is the only record of that time that recorded those miracles. The bible cannot prove the bible.

      If you would, please reread 1 Kings 18. Read how Elijah taunted the high priest of baal! You may think that was funny, because Elijah made them look so foolish! Their god baal, could not or would not light the altar. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. I am laughing at you and your gods because your gods cannot start a fire for his follower.

      If any of you would like to try it, please let me know. I would love to see it and admit to the world that I was wrong.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      You've been told many wise and kind words on those couple posts above. You ignored them!
      Just maybe OG d who cares for you and wants you to know Him, by sending you people who would help you to understand... maybe HE will just leave you alone and not fug on your heart. Maybe He'll leave you alone till you see Him face to face, and then you'll remember your mean and sarcastic words! Just a thought to ponder.....

      April 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      I will repost the above post since I posted it without corrections to words:

      You've been told many wise and kind words on those couple of posts above. You ignored all of them.!
      Just maybe God, who cares for you and wants you to know Him, by sending you people who would help you to understand... maybe He will just leave you alone and not tug on your heart any longer....
      Maybe He will leave you alone till you see Him face to face, and then you'll remember your mean and sarcastic words you spouted today......
      When He said these words "Today, if you hear His voice harden not your heart" He meant them for you as for the others.

      Just a final thought, and you won't be bothered no longer!

      April 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Rick

      I was 99.99% sure that no one would take up where Elijah left off. Why? Because the story of Elijah was just that; a story.

      I don't care what anyone believes. All that I ask for is; keep your religion out of public owned places. No ID in schools, no religious symbols on public land, don't try to force your beliefs on others; that includes putting the 10 commandments in public buildings. After that, I will defend, to the death, your right to believe.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Luigi

      Its true... maybe if God really wanted to get the attention of millions of lives He could just put the arm back. But do you realize how crazy that would be?? Most people would see it as a cult... as a trick... not everyone would truly believe it was God. I truly believe God could do it, but everybody would get scared cause arms don't just grow back. What would you do if you were a surfer and you lost your arm... you'd give up... simple as that. It takes a special kind of person to get back up and do it again even though they are gonna struggle. When you become a child of God, only God can empower someone to be able to get over the obstacles and get back up in life

      April 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Rick

      Luigi, Why did god take the arm? He planned our lives in complete detail, in the beginning. Some say, that he took the arm to bring people closer to him. If that were true, then putting the arm back would bring more!
      Can you imagine how crazy it would be to see someone turn water into wine, heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, to raise the dead? Could people, 2000 years ago, handle 'crazy' better than people today?
      You made a silly assumption; "what would I do, if I lost an arm?" People have been surviving, getting over obstacles, without a belief in your gods; all over the world! People are empowered by their will.

      April 15, 2011 at 5:04 am |
    • Maybe

      "I truly believe God could do it, but everybody would get scared cause arms don't just grow back."

      "God" is supposed to be a real smart cookie... he could figure out a way to keep us from being scared.

      "He" does this with starfish and certain lizards and salamanders... and they don't even pray (that I know of).

      April 15, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  19. pacoder

    After all of these years I am still completely baffled that hundreds of millions of people still cling to a lie. When one person believes in something completely unprovable (in other words they have faith) they call it crazy, but when a million do they call it religion. Then they take their faith and insist on viewing the rest of us through the prism of their insanity. The sooner organized religions die out the better off our species will be.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • SlavaBogu

      Pacoder, the sooner there is no religion, the sooner there is no species. The problem is that the religions clash. You can't have it all. It is impossible to believe in Jesus and embrace Islam, Buddhism, Baha'i, or many other religions. We live in a society where people are free to choose what they believe, which in my opinion is what God wanted. He didn't want a bunch of zombies who didn't choose but only followed orders without a choice. Have you ever wondered where you get your innate sense of right and wrong? I don't wonder. I do believe that you can't force anything on people. There is a quote that for some reason escapes me at this time but the point of the quote was that if you force somebody to agree with you they still don't agree with you. People have the right to choose. Without the influence of God how would we know the difference between good and bad?

      April 14, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • lmt2bsn

      @pacoder: Well Said!

      April 14, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • dan25ny

      I am always surprised when religious people refuse to believe that those who don't believe in God somehow cannot have morals. They go from one extreme to the other, if you're not religious and good, you must want anarchy and drug fueled evil life! This is ridiculous.
      I was always an atheist. I was raised Protestant, and growing up thought that Church was just a game adults played. When I found out that they actually believed it all, I was absolutely shocked that people could be so ignorant. I thought Sunday school was all just metaphors to teach morals. But apparently people take these things seriously which results in a terrible poisoning of the potential intelligence of our species. All most atheists wish for is that morals get taught in a context that is based in reality. It's sad to see religious belief hold back our species. There is absolutely no reason or evidence for the idea that God is necessary to have a moral society. The social connectivity of church is good, but can be easily be replaced by things that are real. I for instance go to a dojo and train martial arts, which helps me strive for perfection of body, mind and spirit. And no, there doesn't need to be a God or heaven and hell to have a sense of spirit. The punishment/reward structure taught by religion is also disturbing.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • sharon

      sad for you pacoder

      April 14, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • uos_spo6

      The only reason anyone clings to religious nonsense is because they are so emotionally invested in it and it's ties to their interpretation of the world that to abandon religion makes their whole fragile house of cards fall down. Religion is for the emotionally weak and it's proof in their own words because so many of you claim to need God for support, nonsense. Prayer has no power that simply "HOPE" does not have. That's all it is. There is no divine order to the universe, it is human nature to desire for it to be because of our developed thought processes, a consequence of our ability to wonder and think abstractly.

      World without religion is a much more beautiful place. Any diety looming over mankind is an oppressor. By what right does God determine our futures or dictate right from wrong to us or separate those from salvation or damnation? He has none. Even if existing as a creator being, God's moral high ground is nill. He possess all knowledge and power in the universe, but allows suffering to persist as what? A test of mankind? A father figure does not need to test his children to love them, and you surely do not allow your children to suffer as a father if you can prevent it by any means. God fails as a father. He is a celestial sperm donor at best IF in fact such a being exists as a creator and mover.

      If god is responsible for all good than so to is he responsible for all evil in failing to prevent it. So the devil was weak enough for God to cast out of heaven but not destroy? Speaking of which, what'd the Fallen Angel Lucifer ever do other than question God's ultimate authority? Sounds a lot like what we call a Dictatorship and Facism here on Earth if you ask me.

      How do you know God isn't really rotten and simply has a great PR team and all the scripture about a Fair Just and Loving god is handed down as propaghanda? Perhaps in the dynamics of divine physics a God NEEDS praise to stay a god and survive, so God has to have people worshiping him to exist. You don't know. No body knows. But if you ignore the fact that emotionally you are attached to religion because it defines your glass house world for you, it's much easier to look at the question of spiritual truth in an unbias fashion, and any unbias approach towards religion begins with NO RELIGION because Religion is a claim that must be proven.

      Faith is synonymous with hope. That's all it is, hope your heart out because it wont change any empirical fact and if you need religion or God as an excuse to be good, than you are the one who's mind is broken.

      God can below me, along with any and all of his prophets. I don't recognize his right to govern. Celestial Totalatarians are about as appealing to me as Earthly ones. His subversive lazy shady methods cancel out his own righteousness. Use empthay to derive your morality, not garbage rhetoric pieced together by the always corrupted ranks of the clergy.

      They used to be the only ones outside of nobility who could read you know. Quite a position of power over the sheep like masses who still lap up the dogmatic crap these preachers and their precious tomes regurgitate. Religion is foul in it's lack of balance and justice, rich with hippocricy and bearing all the tell tale signs of a flawed concept conceived by man.

      I'm not saying the basis of religion is to oppress, it is an attempt to answer the spiritual question of mankind. But inadvertantly, that is what it does, oppresses the simpleton and weak minded individuals in to a blind mass of "Already Dead" corpses vying for divine favor and inable to confront the world with a true sense of their own mortality.

      Death to organized religion, concpets of god and it's shadow upon the intellectual capacity of man. Be good and kind because you care about others, not because your motivated for a reward after you die. If God had nothing to offer you after death, you wouldn't care what he said anyways.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Karen

      The truth is: It doesn't matter what anyone believes, it only matters what is true. If in fact this world, this galaxy, this universe was made by nothing exploding and making something so amazing and vast then anyone who doesn't believe in God is completly safe and this life was just a big waste. However if in fact this was all created by intelligent design and we have been created for a purpose and we totally ignore the creator well how sad. Since no one alive today was alive in the beginning how can we so easily dismiss the the argument for creation? If you look at the Christian philosophy it talks about loving your enemies, loving your neighbor as yourself, doing good to those who would like to harm you. It says not to steal, kill, gossip commit adultry. It also says not to judge others. If we live according to the spirit of Christ and Christianity than this world would in fact be a better place. As to the comment that Christians are weak minded and use Christ as a crutch I say YES YES YES. When someone finally realizes that they are weak and need the stability of a creator to hold them in His hand, to comfort them, to walk with them through trials, to direct them when they are lost the stronger they actually become. Is not a lame person stronger when he leans on a crutch? We all would like to think we are self sufficient and we need no help, but deep inside we know that is not true at all. We ache for help for our soul. Many of you will rip what I have said apart. However you know the truth that weighs on your spirit.

      April 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  20. SoulSurfer1997

    If you want to explore spirituality and surfing together, in a non denominational way, I wrote a book called Secrets of a Kahuna BodySurfer; A Spiritual Adventure Guide. I too, live on Kauai, and I wrote this book with Hawaiian Spiritual traditions in mind, and I am Jewish. Ibooks, Kindle, etc carry it.Shaloha- Shalom and Aloha!!

    April 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • HThomas

      Wonderful for you. Hope the hawaian traditions are working for you. I find it interesting that you pushed your writing on this blog... yes, interesting indeed. To GOD, the LORD of all! be the glory....all of it.

      April 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Logan


      April 15, 2011 at 4:11 am |
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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.