May 19th, 2011
03:00 PM ET
My Take: Doomsdayers show what’s wrong with all religion
Editor's Note: David Silverman, an atheist since age 6, is president of American Atheists.
By David Silverman, Special to CNN
Let nobody doubt that religion hurts people. Good, intelligent, caring people suffer every day and everywhere at the hands of religion, the happy lie.
Religion is used by dishonest people who claim to know the way to the one thing humans want most: immortality. To combat fear of death, religious people ignore their intellect, believe the lie, and follow the preacher, usually blindly and sometimes to the point of insanity.
We are witnessing one very good example of this right now, as a group led by Christian ministry leader Harold Camping prepares for the end of the world this Saturday, May 21.
Of course, the weekend will pass without incident and thousands of Camping's followers, having spent or donated huge amounts of money on his behalf, will be gravely disappointed. Victims will be broken. Families will be damaged. Lives will be ruined. All because someone made a good pitch, and followers believed.
Opinion: May 21 Doomsday movement harms Christianity
I am not sure if Camping is a liar, but I think so. He realized that religion is a great way to make tax-free money off the backs of well-meaning people, through donations to his ministry, all without fearing eternal damnation. You see, I suspect that he, like many others of his ilk, doesn’t believe in God at all.
It may seem odd that I would accuse this man of being an atheist like me, but rest assured that he is nothing like me.
Like most atheists, I’m a pretty nice person and would never scam someone out of his or her life savings or convince someone to quit a job just to line my pockets. The truth is that religion and ethics are completely independent of one another.
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Consider how Newt Gingrich could campaign against President Bill Clinton's adultery as the darling of the Religious Right while actually being an adulterer himself. Consider how evangelical superstar Ted Haggard could preach against homosexuality, in God’s name, while hiding a gay lover. And consider Camping, who can get donors to cough up what appears to be a lot of money in God’s name while ruining his followers’ real lives on Earth.
These are not people who fear God or hell. In my opinion, they know very well that gods are myths. They are just bad people. Atheists have bad people, too, the worst of whom feign religion for their own personal gain.
Next week, Camping’s victims will ask our forgiveness for being so foolish, and we will forgive them, because we’ve all done stupid things. They will ask for money and we will help them, because most people are charitable.
And then Camping victims will ask us to forget all about this whole ugly scam. That is something we must never do.
We must remember that Camping, atheist or not, is no different from any other preacher. Religion thrives on fear–the constant threat of any-time-now Judgment Day coupled with eternal punishment in hell for those who don’t believe strongly enough.
Since rational minds question irrational things, believers constantly have doubts, and therefore fear that they don't have enough faith to pass muster during the eventual Rapture, when the righteous will be saved and the unrighteous will be damned. Fear of hell makes believers desperate to ease those doubts so they can be sure to get into heaven. It’s a recipe for fear-based obedience, which is exactly what religion craves.
It’s the method used by Camping, and by the rest of Christianity, too.
If we forget about Camping, this apocalyptic madness will happen again. Next year is 2012 and, just as was supposed to happen in 2011, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1994 and other years that the world is supposed to end, according to one religion or another.
What will we do in 2012? Will we sit still while preachers take advantage of the gullible again? Will we refrain from confronting the fools and continue to revere religion? Or will we, as a society, demand that people use their intellect and pay attention to their preachers, priests, rabbis or mullahs and see them as the scammers they really are?
This weekend, preachers from coast to coast will talk about why they are right and Camping is wrong, and I ask you all to listen closely. They will try to justify why one interpretation of the Bible (theirs) is right while the others are wrong. In the end, they are all interpreting the “perfect word of God” in their own imperfect way so that God agrees with their own agenda. It’s obvious if you look for it; no preacher ever says "God disagrees with me."
Yes, this weekend we will giggle at the fools who follow the preachers that earn their living spreading happy lies. Religion will have been proven wrong yet again.
But we all must remember that people have been hurt this weekend. We hope the victims of this year’s end-of-the-world will lift themselves back up, dust themselves off, and come out of this as better, less gullible people. Hopefully, they will use their experience to help others avoid future scams by shouting loudly at tomorrow’s victims, without fear of being irreverent about something which deserves no reverence at all.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Silverman.
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.
Doomsday prophecies are...?
A: Absolutely true.
B: Utter nonsense.
C: Cannot wait for the next one!
D: What day is it again?
Vote here: http : // reaganator . com » misc » poll
To me, the idea that God created man in his own image is the ultimate vanity and a clear deception. Man created God in man's image. This God has been written as a demanding, dominant punishing father, who knows your thoughts and will pass an ultimate judgment upon you ("just wait til your father gets home"). It is too often used as a tool to control.
Yes, there are good teachings of good values in many religions, but I believe it is possible to live by a set of solid values, without all the fairy tales and fear.
I am an athiest, but I am a normal, flawed person with (what I believe to be) good values. I embrace knowledge, learning and personal growth that was denied to me under the childhood teachings of someone else's God. This article makes a strong logical argument, in my opinion. I have set aside fear and still have hope, as well as a sober outlook on what is required of me in this lifetime. I don't have to fear hell to value my own conscience.
Anyone who believes in religon is at best, weak and foolish. At worst, an out right monster. Inflicting your point of view on others, with no evidance is wrong, and we need to stop the tax free status for all religons.
@mickey... I must agree on the tax-free status.... unless these organizations can prove real charity outside their own circle of interest, without discrimination and without mind-bending conversions.
Robert, Good deeds are done by good people. Sure there are (some) good people that attend church where the good people of the church do good deeds. But, there are also (some) good people outside of the church where the good people outside of the church do good deeds. Your focal point is a bit off! It reminds me of all those miracles where modern medicine and/or a doctor/hospital saved a patient. Yet, the medicine, doctor and/or hospital is not thanked rather a invisible god is...
My focal point was that only extremists are reported on, for either side. Many great things are done by people with differing beliefs but only those with an agenda to cram their beliefs down others throats get press. I'm talking about both sides. Even you are generalizing saying God is always thanked instead of the doctor. I seriously doubt that is always the case for religious people. The people that believe it was the hand of God and not modern medicine at work are outliers on the spectrum of faith. Don't mistake those people for being representative of an entire faith. I'm not very religious, but I think good things are overlooked by ALL sides in the name of shock journalism which simply fuels polarization, narrow thinking, and creates more problems than solutions.
God is coming soon and she is not happy.
If you believe that, please do the world a favor. 1, go to a gun store and make a good shotgun purchise. 2, waite 2 weeks, 3, end your life so inteligent athiests can live and prosper without your bs
You sure are right that when this weekend passes, it will disprove this group of people who's Judgment Day has passed. In fact, everyone who continues to make up these specific Judgment Days will have their foolishness disproven. However, to make a blanket statement that these failed Judgment Days disprove all religion is ridiculous. Did you forget how many people who believe in a god also think that Harold Camping and everyone like him are as ridiculous as you believe him to be? I know that as president of such a group as the American Atheists you obviously have a much greater knowledge of religion than this article would lead a reader to believe. You just do not show it here. 1. "The truth is that religion and ethics are completely independent of one another." - Of course someone can have ethics without being religious but can you show me that the origin of your ethics are not based in any religion? I'm sure you can, but you didn't show it here, and with that being such a broad statement, you need some kind of evidence behind it. 2. Since when are all religious leaders scammers? I think that you are way to hung up on the Jim Jones-type figure. That is an entirely incorrect statement to assert that all preachers are knowingly swindling people out of money. Do you really think that all preachers have absolutely no faith and have their position only to cheat people out of money? What are you, some type of conspiracy theorists? This is another poorly explained claim that you make. 3. There are many other religions other than Christianity. However, your article only discusses these Judgment Day believers in America. Guess what? They are practically all Christian. David, this argument you make here really requires that you make a more in-depth analysis. As clear as this all seems in your own mind, you must bring in some more evidence, or even sound reasoning, before you can fill your work with all of the radical claims you make here.
If you believe in the christianity of the bible, you MUST take the bible as literal truth. Since EVERY FACT PUT FORTH IN THE BIBLE can be disproven, then it is false. Monothiesm is the single most hurtful force in the world today.
Actually you are very far off. Those Christians who believe in the Bible word for word are Fundamentalists. Where did you pull that fact from?
all i know is that when these religious fools wake up on the morning of may 22nd 2011 ..........imma be laughing !!!!! they deserve to loose all there things for being stupid ......helllllooooo.......use that brain that so called GOD gave ya !!!!
I'm pretty agnostic but you are wrong that Judaism is the same as Christianity. Judaism does not require any particular beliefs and there is no idea of hell hung over people's heads to make Jews fear death or fear not believing. That is certainly in a lot of Christianity but rabbis do not do that, at least none of the types of Judaism to which I have been exposed in my life (three different types - none did that.) I think the fear of hell is put into children so young that many grow up and are afraid to question or quit Christianity. I think they also have Christmas with presents and Easter with candy to make people want to stay Christian. I mean, presents and candy don't have a thing to do with the real Christian religion but are tacked on, like gateway drugs. I think as an outsider it seems totally insane. I have pretty near no beliefs and a lot of questions and I wish there were more like me.
Sorry, YOU ARE WRONG. The ten comandments are jewish, so ya they believe in hell, and they believe that if you do not praise worship and follow there evil hateful YHVH, then you are condemed to hell.
So this atheist named Camping has convienced his followers the world is coming to an end Saturday. In turn they donate huge sums of money in his name and or honor. They also do not pay their rents, house payments, light bills, or buy food to last beyond Saturday. Now what do they say or do when, on Sunday morning they awaken, only to find they are still walking, many of them now pennyless, among the living? Do they start calling creditors to ask for extensions on their bills because the world did not come to an end on time? Do they call Camping and ask that their moneis be returned if they can find him? I don't know what his followers would do but I suspect some of them would consider sending him on a journey to see if there is a GOD or in his case a DEVIL. And what about all their money? As sad as it is, a man once said: "A man and his money are soon parted". They had better hope and pray they have understanding creditors that will work with them. OOOoooooops, they do that because they already don't believe in GOD.
I'm pretty sure that one of the main signs for the apocalypse will be if the NFL season gets canceled.
there is no god; there are no aliens; but i once danced with the devil in the pale moonlight.
Stole that line for tim berton
Hey to all of whom are you are trying to bash the Christains, it is ok, because I understand your thinking point of views and I know you are afraid, because EVERYONE in the World has let you down, but Jesus will NEVER let you down, and you know what else just like you guys out there I do not have to to shup up, this is my GOD GIVEN RIGHT as a person and a Christain to speak my mind, and I will do so, if you are so afraid, you better be, because your fear is going to lead you to a hot place. I honestly feel sorry for you, you guys if you can not be nice, then do not speak UGLY, because God is REAL, this my opinion, and I have a right to it! The devil is a lier and a snake, I hope you don't follow his lies to hell, God had the APOSTLE'S write the BIBLE for a purpose, and you can got to where the sun does not shine, and I am sorry that you are offended but so am I when you talk about my Jesus! But I do have one interesting question for all whom were born in a cave, if you should die tonight, and God asks you why should I let into my HEAVEN, what would say? Well, I am just wondering because you have all the answers, as well as this hatred, so where does all this anger come from? Simply over religion? Are you kidding, it is not just religion, it is a realationship with Christ, and as sad as this is, I really hope you guys find JESUS, before it is too late, because you mark my words, he will be here soon, no one does know when, but you just remember if do not get saved on this earth, you will bow when he comes through the clouds, and he is coming, tell satan to get behind you because he can not wait for you guys to join him in hell! It is ok, I know you truely do not understand, but one day you will, and I feel sorry for you, I am only trying to help you, why else would I care? Because we all are God's children and loves us all the same, but when you know the truth, then you need to express and I do not care what America says, you guys are the ones being fooled, because I know that I know that I am saved, and yes, I know that because I read my BIBLE, and John 3:16 says " For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that who so ever believe upon me not perish but have everlasting life", no one could ever made up a story like this, it is real, and I Will always express my opinions how I feel because like I have said, I know that I know, I am SAVED! Hey, I have a great idea, why don't you guys repeat this prayer after me, "Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, I know that you died for my sins, and I ask that you forgive me of my sins, I invite you to come into my heart as Lord and Savior of my life," when you do that you will see a difference, but then again you guys don't like anything/anyone whom is different right? So, all we are suppose to be the same? Well, not me, the world will never give me the peace and love nor happiness that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can give me! Well, have a blessed night, remember Jesus loves you and so do I !So, if you have nothing else nice to say please do not say it, because I do not have to agree with you either, and I will never stop talking about my Jesus, if this offends you, then here is a thought for you, change it! You people do not realize that WE CHRISTAINS did not the HOLY BIBLE, GOD DID!, we know the truth hurts, but it is what it is, you see a different color and so do we.
As a religious person, I am nice to everybody. I do not believe to this nonsense since nobody knows when the Day of Judgement will happen. However, I want to reflect to one of the David's points. He writes ... "Like most atheists, I’m a pretty nice person and would never scam someone ..." Well as a matter of fact, like many religious people, I am nice too and would never scam or insult anybody like David did in his article. Billions of people believe in God in one way or the other. To suggest that only atheists are nice is preposterous and very insulting. Statements like this just tells me what kind of person he is. I do respect his point of view as everybody has a right to have one. But, if you give examples and only choose these particular cases, it is only one sided view. I would say 99% of other religious people do not believe in these statements above and never would. This is what atheist will never understand. We are humans just like them. We just have our own believe and I would never insult atheists just because they believe in what they believe. Statements by Daniel should not have been published in this form. Mr. Daniel, do your homework before you write something like this, since pretty much any statement you write I can find counter argument with the proof. As for the belief in God, argument that we cannot prove that God exists can be countered that atheist cannot prove that God does not exists. Going back and forth is pointless and let people believe in what they want to believe. Any other statement is discriminatory ... which is exactly what David did ... job well done sir ....
"To suggest that only atheists are nice is preposterous and very insulting. Statements like this just tells me what kind of person he is."
Where did he say that?
You are reading in things that aren't there. When he said like most atheists he is a nice person there is no implication that only atheists are nice! That's you projecting. He doesn't say that at all. Also, you are wrong to think that religious people do not give atheists a hard time. I'm glad YOU don't but plenty do. Atheists get hassled and harassed a lot! An atheist could not ever get elected president of the USA if he or she were honest about being an atheist as well. It's well and good that you have religion that you feel benefits you. Live and let live.
"To suggest that only atheists are nice is preposterous"
To say that he suggested that only atheists are nice is disingenuous at best, a blatant lie at worst. You don't seem like a very nice person to make up such lies.
"Atheists have bad people, too, the worst of whom feign religion for their own personal gain."-David
Yeah, I think you read too much into his statement. I believe his intent was to disabuse some religious people of their notion that all atheists are immoral heathens, not that religious people are bad while atheists are not.
Everyone who has faith in religon, is working directly for the distruction of the human race. Only by aknowladging that we are all the same, and that we are natural beings that evolved over billions of years, can we put the hate anf greed behinde us. religon is the baine of civilization.
Thank you Amir, job well done.
Out of all these comments, there are few from either camp that are either open-minded or non-judgmental. This is more proof that extremism in any form, religious or atheist, is bad and must be avoided at all costs, in spite of how avidly its proponents defend it. There are very few bad things that can be done in moderation. As for the accusation that all Christians are duplicitous money-hungry bigots, I find it very difficult to believe, just as it is impossible to characterize every atheist as anti-social or downright evil. Every person does and receives evil, and those that believe similar things should not be judged by the merits of their fellow believers.
Sir, that was the smartest thing i have ever read on any CNN comment section. It's too bad that many of the comments on CNN result in some religious debate, with both having an extremist tone on the topic. I also find it hilarious that atheists will comment on how "Zealous" believers can be when at the same time they go about telling everyone that God doesn't exist. Thanks you for posting that. People need respect others belief or dis-beliefs.
Jesus said "Only my Father knows when the end will come." If anybody were to figure it out it would make Jesus a lair. So how is it evrybody thinks they figured it out.
"As for the accusation that all Christians are duplicitous money-hungry bigots"
Who made that accusation? Where? Are you making up straw men?
Thank you, Karen. David Silverman did indeed use Camping, among others, as an example of Christian hypocrisy and greed, but his observation was implicit and did apply to all religions equally. So I still say, as for the accusation that all religious persons are duplicitous, money-hungry bigots.....
All religions are nothing more than a pack mentality. People have gone on for years telling outright lies that they are so endowed that they know the architect of time and space. That in itself is a total lie. The amount of effort that is put into this is staggering. No one really believes every pray is heard by god. I would expect that any clear headed normal person that has not been brainwashed will see that the tensions in the world are directly related to the religious stupidity that exists to this day. You do not have an imaginary friend that I or anyone else should fear. The basis of control is to convince the other party that they are doomed and only ill rational beliefs are the answer.How stupid is that!
Granted the article does attack Christianity as a whole; but you also have to see it from his point of view as well. I have been an Agnostic from a very young age. I had religion forced upon me (Baptist, Christian, Catholic, etc...) and came to realize that I wanted to make my own choice. Everyone makes their own choice in what they believe. I have lived by saying "to each their own...." and in that respect I won't force my "non-believing ways" on you if you don't force-preach your religion on me.
roflol!!!!!!!lmao!!!!! what you all doing dieing.........so funny
"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."
-Sir Stephen Henry Roberts
I, being of the human race, do not believe or disbelieve in any faith. This does not mean I am to be classified with any religion or non-religious group. I prefer to 'believe' as I choose, refuse to push my beliefs or non beliefs onto anyone, do not believe in a 'dooms day' except for in the future when the sun finally goes out, choose to try to be respectful of other humans unless they are disrespectful to me, and just want to live a good life.
Good answer. I feel the same way.
Now that would be a great oath to take as an atheist....
Well said. Reminds me of Thomas Paine: "The World is my country, all man and women are my brothers and sisters, and to do good is my religion."
But, what you are leaving out, is that when the religous fools start spouting there hate, they are eroding the fabric of moral socity, so it is not harmless for them to be left to spout.
Another self-righteous guy complaining about self-righteous people. Yawn. Back to netflix.
your an idiot! Did you even read the story?
to chris, no, no he didnt
"your an idiot!"
Speaking of idiots, it should be, "You are an idiot," or in your case, "You're."
Sure, these fanatics are silly folks who think they know something which they don't know. Strangely enough, CNN doesn't let them write opinion pieces here. This raises the question, why did CNN let this guy write a piece? And why the lady who thought the Bible on mobile phones would revolutionize things because everyone would have access to a Bible now? I say, give this doomsday pastor an opinion piece and he'll fit right in with the other loons writing for CNN.
I am sorry that the truth about Christ and waht he DID FOR MAN KIND offends America, no, we do not know the date or appointed time of Christ return, but I will gaurentee that you can count on HIS RETURN. Yes, the Christians will be raptured because for the simple fact that they believe, did you guys come form a rock? Do you think that the big bang therory actually happened? Well, I feel sorry for you guys that actually believe in the worldly observation of things. JESUS CHRIST is REAlL he did die for your sins, and like I have said before,no one knows when he coming, BUT TRUST ME, HE IS COMING, so instead of MOCKING THE BIBLE, find out who JESUS, is and what he did for you. Because when he does return my friends, EVERY KNEEE SHALL BOW, AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT HE IS LORD, and NO ONE, BUT NO ONE CAN EVER SAVE YOU BUT HIM, no, not all your money, not all your wordly advice or your column, he is real, and he does live. I have never seen a u-hual behind a hurst, have any of YOU? Well, Jesus loves, so I too will love just as he did, but I really hope for your sakes, if we THE CHRISTIANS are not WRONG, that you open a BIBLE, and ask for forgiveness, and search your hearts, because God does not punish man kind, they do that by their own foolish decisions. Now, you can believe anything you want to that is up to you, however, if we are right, what are you going to do? I am sorry you guys hate Christians because that is to be expected, after all, they hated Christ too, and is because of fear, so, if you ae not afraid, then good for you, but if you not saved, I would be very afraid, because HELL does exist it is real, and those believe upon him shall have ever lasting life, those that do not will not, simple as that. So, go ahead, laugh, that is ok, because we Christians know better. And by the way, we do not follow the pastor, but WE DO FOLLOW THE WORDS OF CHRIST, so next time get it right! I hope you get saved, because I do not want you guys to go to a very hot place, and the pits of Hell, is REAL as well!
No, it's not. You have been brain-washed. Pretty simple really. There is no God, never was and never will be. Oblivion is what awaits you when you die, and that is fine with me
You know all of this is fact because it says so in the Bible, and you know the Bible is fact because it says so in the Bible. God called me, he said the Bible was written by the Devil, and you've been a sucker.
ROFL, You're dumb... read a book!
Susan I understand your viewpoint, and I'm glad you have faith, but can you honestly tell me you've never had doubts? No, you can't, so STFU
A truly superior being wouldn't offer salvation to someone who believed in him absolutely and unquestioningly. A truly superior being would understand that believing in something with no evidence and no rational explanation would be very difficult for an intelligent person, and he would not hold this against them. I suspect a truly superior being would prefer being hesitatingly believed by a person with profound doubt (which indicates at least some deep thought into the matter) than being blindly followed by a simpleton whose entire belief system is based on being told to believe.
Who are you trying to convince?
It's people like you that want to keep this world IN THE DARK AGES.
God is so much bigger than any religion. I hope Christians can someday accept that they do not have the corner of the market on God and Heaven.
When I was 8 my aunt said the same thing to me, then she dunked me in water and I thought she was trying to drown me because she was so angry. Turns out she was baptizing me. You gave me a flash back. o_0
Respectfully, you only believe all this because you have been brainwashed. If you had grown up in a culture that believe in another religion and didn't have access to this religion you would not believe any of this. If you grew up in pre-Christian times you would not believe in any of this. You can't prove any of this but insist you have the one right way. You seem crazy to an outsider and nothing you write is even a bit convincing. You are trying to scare people into thinking what you think but I can't make myself believe in something that I don't believe. Try it yourself. Think of something you don't believe and try making yourself believe. It won't work. Honestly, you are doing a disservice to your religion because you aren't going to convince anyone. You only see odd from an outsiders point of view.
You said some thing that is the wisest of all here...."God is so much bigger than any religion".....
We Muslims say the same when we say "Allah Akber" or "Allah Kabeer" meaning God is bigger than any thing else...God is not the religion but the religion is for God....you can be a follower of God in heart by remembering him and doing good deeds helping others and no need for religion to follow if not convinced with it...
That was a serious bunch of crazy. And religious folk wonder why people think they are just a little off.
And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death – Exodus 21:15. So I assume that your children have been properly punished in the eyes of Jesus?
"EVERY KNEEE SHALL BOW, AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT HE IS LORD, and NO ONE, BUT NO ONE CAN EVER SAVE YOU BUT HIM,"
These are the words and wishes and demands of a hideous egotistical monster - not any loving "God".
FYI: You can thank Paul of Tarsus for thinking up that slogan. Paul - the ranting, raving, misogynistic, misanthropic first century zealot who hijacked a budding new religion.
I have a problem with any religion where it says that if one is a non believer, s/he will in some way pay for it...by either going to hell or not getting a place in paradise etc etc. One would think all religions preach forgiveness so why isnt God forgiving the non believers? I thoughts/he (God) taught everyone to forgive or do those rules only apply to us humans??? Doesn't make sense!
Susan, just wanted to say well said! There is *SO MUCH* evidence for God. I think it takes more faith not to believe in a God than it does to believe. The gospel is offensive! We are what?! Sinners!!! Yes, that is what the Bible says. That is why we need Jesus! Their are so many fulfilled prophecies concerning his first coming and we are seeing so many happening now concerning His second. It is just mind blowing! The Bible says no man can know the day or hour but we should all know the season. How can we know that we are the generation that sees Jesus return. His prophecy about the rebirth of Israel. Am i setting a date NO! Will Jesus come -absolutely! Waiting for Him!!! Some of reviews are ridiculous! Science proves the Bible true again and again. anyway just wanted to say i am with you sister! 🙂 Can't tell you what Jesus did for me!: or what He means to me! God is SO GOOD! How could CNN run this article???