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Doomsdays throughout time
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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity • End times

soundoff (1,927 Responses)
  1. Jonathan

    Silly adult people. Every child knows the world ends when you go to sleep. And begins anew the next morning with your kid brother or sister tickling you awake.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • smarter human

      Creepy!

      May 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  2. M Burke

    Silvermann was obliterated in a debate against Dr. James White. I recommend you watch it.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Robert

      Why? Did Silverman say something you don't agree with? Silverman is an athiest and therefore does not believe in God and while I believe there is something, I am not religious. So, while Silverman and I believe differently, I do not disagree to anything he said and applaud his saying it. And how losing a debate, which isn't conceded, has anything to do with this article I cannot grasp. Which means you are trying to draw the topic to something besides this article. Which implies you don't agree with this article but cannot dispute it so you are attacking the speaker, Silverman. Shameless... What religion are you then? LOL (I know you yourself won't get the humor in that, but others will)

      May 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  3. teepee

    New Atheism = going to hell when you die!

    May 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • teepee

      Old atheism = going to hell when you die!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Ritti

      Old Religious = Go in the ground when you die.
      New Religious = Go in the ground when you die.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • JAberg123

      Please provide evidence for this "Hell" you mention. Note: references to very old books written by ignorant peasants who thought that the world was flat and that you could make your neighbor ill by cursing them, are not allowed.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Danny

      Let's just say for grins that god does exist. The belief that god would send people to hell based upon them not believing in him even if they led a just and righteous life and send people to heaven even if they led a life full of corruption and hate just because they confess their sins, ask for forgiveness, and believe in him is offensive.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Perspective B

      People have always wanted to have an explanation for things. Back in the day when science was at the "Round stone" level... People used stories to explain what was happening around them. The earth was flat, you could sail off of it, the universe and sun revolved around the earth and Gods created everything.

      Many beliefs in many gods evolved into early governing powers realizing the usefulness of religion as a tool to get people to do what they wanted. "Hell" was introduced as a motivating factor. You are all going to hell if you don't do what I say. People lost sight of the origins of religion, and many believed, but government and churcches still "found" new scriptures everytime they coincidentally wanted something to happen, or needed to reign in people.

      Time passed, religion got ugly and started to burn people or feed them to the lions if they didn't believe the way they wanted. (Not much as changed, except people use explosives to rend others of different beliefs)

      Science has finally broken through in the last 100 years. People are able to say what they feel, and increasingly more are admitting the idea of the divine creation is more myth than fact.. Still many hold on. Why? Fear? What if they were wrong, what does that mean?
      Fear of how they will fit into their religious family if they admit to themselves they don't believe.
      Fear has always been the tool of religion though.
      Up until 1000 AD it was hell and brimstone, you were going to be miserable for all eternity if you weren't religious, 1000 AD was going to be the end of the world! It came and passed, people started to leave the church when they relized that the end wasn't coming. Then they changed to following "the mother mary" figure. This change was a conscience decision to appeal to women, who for the most part, were stuck at home all the time. Putting the power of belief into the hands of women meant that the men would fall in line as well and voila, another 1000 years of peace in the belief mill.

      Then the 20th century.
      Belief shattered literally into thousands of religions, interpretations. For whatever you want. You can believe that god speaks through a dog to you. There's a religion that will have your entire congregation fall to the ground in rapture from the spark of god at every sermon, there is literally a religion for everyone, why? Because we make it up as we go along.
      We tailor it to suit us, we make it make money for us. It's easy to tell stories once a week for a paycheck. Nice cheque too at 10 % of everyone's income (depending on what flavour your religion is.)

      So... what does "You are going to hell" mean to someone who doesn't believe in hell?
      Not a whole lot. Hell simply isn't my flavour.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Nightwyn

      JAberg123 – What would you like to know, I can tell you all about hell, was married for 5 years. And he tripped out and told me he was possessed by Satan. I think that qualifies...

      May 24, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • GetReal

      We don't believe in Helll you dolt. Get it?

      May 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  4. teepee

    People, most Christians don't believe in this date setting stuff...don't put us all in that boat...

    May 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • ........

      I SECOND that!

      May 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Because the world ending is a much sillier thing to believe than a man born of a virgin, or a talking snake, or a boat holding two of every species, and a being that creates his own nemesis, locks him away in a pit of fire (instead of just destroying him altogether, because that would make sense) then punishes mankind for eternity because one of the first idiots he made ate fruit from a tree, also created by said being. Yes, only the Christians that believe in the end of the world are silly.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      i don't understand this world ending dismissing idea, Whether or not you believe in creationism, you have to believe in the nuclear bomb, asteroids, terrorist, war....pollution the ever increasing population.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  5. smarter human

    Religion people = Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs!

    May 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • teepee

      let's see you say that on your death bed pal...

      May 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Robert

      Your wife told me I was god a bunch of times the other night. I'm confused religious nut.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • smarter human

      I'm not your pal teepeepee.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @teepee:
      "Llet's see you say that on your death bed pal.."
      -
      This would simply suggest that religion is a crutch used for those afraid of death.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  6. teepee

    Ask the Dinosars...the world can come to an end...

    May 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Robert

      I just asked my pet crocodile and he said you were wrong piehole.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Super Fantastic

      Well genius, actually it did not end but astronomers have discovered that suns, planets, solar systems, and galaxies do eventually "die." Yet people like you constantly apply the wrong reasons (usually fairy tales) to why things happened and somehow it makes sense to you. What does your bible say about the dinosaurs, cosmos and the microbial world? Oh that's right, the writers had no idea those things existed so it was impossible to make the final draft. People like you are complacent and instead of contributing to human advancements you sit in the corner and waste your time praying. The world can be a harsh frightening place but I'd rather face reality then hide behind a reassuring fable.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Leprakawn

      Actually, their world did not end as it is still spinning around to this very day. It's just that the dust and chemical elements killed them off after the meteor hit this tiny speck of dust floating in the Virgo Cluster.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Perspective B

      Well, as my daughter pointed out. They technically DIDN'T go extinct. You have heard of Crocodiles? Birds? They are evolved dinosaurs.

      Noah must have lost the ensign who was assigned to bring in the two T-Rex's

      😉

      May 20, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Nightwyn

      What fascinates me is how these inferior people built the pyramids, which we have not figured out.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  7. Amber87

    A person has a right to choice, and with those choices we make right ones and wrong ones all day long every day of our existence. Not all religions are used by people trying to 'take advantage of the week minded'. Nor are all religions completely full of scam artists out for money. I know pastor after pastor and ministry leader after ministry leader who were very poor and had hardly no money, but with all their hearts they wanted to do what they were doing and for the Lord, so I know first hand they were not in it for money. My faith in God consumes me, my life is based around him. And I have met one extraordinary person after the other (including my own husband) who believes that very same way and so many of them are strong, intellectual persons full of dignity and confidence. How dare anyone ever say that they are week minded, or being taken advantage of by scammers or to even call us scammers. It's the person themself that is the scammer, not the religion. Yes, there are some people out there who go into a religion with only one goal and that is to take advantage of folks, but that is surely not all. In fact, that person who is scamming isn't religious at all, they are just deceitful scammers, they take their faith into money, not God....so they are not of any sort religious or whatever that religion may be. When one person does something bad, that doesn't mean that everyone who believes like them or whatever is bad or like that person.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • PureReligiousFreedom

      You nailed it!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Patrick

      Good post. Sounds like you agree with the author's general points.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • ........

      I couldn't have said it better myself, personally i think the reason for this dissing of religions is because this author might have had a very unhappy child hood....

      May 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • GAW

      As I have said ad nausium I find that many of the new atheists sound so very much like their opponents. For them the only right position is to be an atheist. All others are morons or unenlightened. All religions are evil all all religious people are deceivers. Can we admit that Ideologies are only as good as those who practice it? Somehow the new atheists cannot acknowledge this. Most of them spend their time intimidating others because they believe they are right just like their fundamentalist religious counterparts. If the movement wants to persuade others Its failing. Now its only preaching to the choir.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Leprakawn

      *weak minded

      May 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Sarah

      Personally, I am atheist and when I read that part of the article it made my stomach turn. Ministers are by no means rich and are doing what they believe in. It is not my place to force my non belief on others and i DEFINITELY wouldn't call them dishonest!

      This guy is giving atheists a bad name just as much as the doomsday sayers are making those who believe in religion look crazy! Those of us who are sane in our beliefs don't want to be associated with the extremists.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Nightwyn

      I agree isn't the point of enlightenment for all to stop discrimination, and look past it and evaluate people based on their own merits.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  8. PureReligiousFreedom

    I've seen A LOT of things that are wrong with atheism. I have debated with atheists several times, and they are the most hate-filled people in the world.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • smarter human

      We're not hate-filled, we're just sick and tired of religious nutjobs jamming their ideology down everyone's throats, whether they want it or not. No other group comes knocking on you door and return even after being asked to leave (e.g. Jeh.Wits.) We don't want your brand of nonsense so keep it to yourself. Period.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Hate Filled?

      1) You have spoken with atheists? So you know all of them (I don't think we've had the pleasure of meeting)?
      2) "They" are the most hate-filled people in the world? As an atheist, I wouldn't classify myself as hate-filled, and would never pass judgment on to an entire group of people.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • PureReligiousFreedom

      Dude, you couldn't breathe "if" someone shoved things down your throat. Also, that statement is bullsheist. This is AMERICA! Land of the "free." You've shoved your unbelief down more throats than every other religion. This article is the tip of the iceberg. Shame on CNN.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Miguel

      Hardly, in my experience there is more hate and intolerance in the "faithful" than the atheists. The "faithful" just can't handle the fact that they are no longer the sole source of hate, fear and intolerance.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Artist

      PureReligiousFreedom

      Dude, you couldn't breathe "if" someone shoved things down your throat. Also, that statement is bullsheist. This is AMERICA! Land of the "free." You've shoved your unbelief down more throats than every other religion. This article is the tip of the iceberg. Shame on CNN.
      -----
      And speaking of aggressive christian. lol Let me guess, you feel there is a war on christians?

      May 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Ritti

      Incorrect Sir, the intellectual community frowns upon your conclusion.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Joe D.

      SmarterHuman, you have obvioulsy never been on the receiving end of constant doorbell ringing by those TruGreen lawn folks. Talk about relentless!

      May 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • James

      "To generalize is to be an idiot." – William Blake

      May 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Perspective B

      Jinkies. We're not hateful! We may get a little irritated when some religious zelot looks down their nose at everyone else who isn't religious because they are "Eternally damned"

      I know a lot of religious and non religious people. All great people. We all get along. No one's hateful, and the subject of relgion very seldom comes up.

      But if you are a door to door salesman for heaven, who leaves pamphlets or books on doors and asks if people have heard the news? Well.... That is enough to sour anyone's milk.

      People who are religous are fine. It's when people start to go out and convert it becomes abusive.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Not all of anyone is anything, but yes I have seen it also, check out the comments. How many times has it been said that what Creationist believe is a fairy-tale and that we are idiots for believing it. No one likes their beliefs called that. Believing in a God is not weak, its just what I choose to do. Not because someone told me to but I really haven't found another idea that has answers that makes sense to me. Not only that I have seen comments saying religious people should do everyone a favor and kill themselves because we were not raptured.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  9. LogicGuru

    Ho-hum. Usual stuff.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  10. Peter

    actually there has been an end to the world already, Noah's flood! this is parroted by the Maya from ancient records, also many other historic references from Asia...Humanity is disposable! they are mere mammals, who grow too big for their britches, and start messing with the creation, and the creator snuffs them out! how the proud and haughty fall!

    May 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • alex

      Your either a troll or just plain stupid...

      May 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • CreamDream

      Thats because most great civilization start along rivers, historically speaking. Thusly, it is no wonder that most civilizations have river flooding myths and legends. In fact, many believe the story of Noah's ark is in fact plagiarized from an older Persian legend about a King who survived a great flood by building an ark. Remember, correlation does not equal causation.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Wes

      So you actually believe that BILLIONS of species fit onto a big boat? Where did Noah fit all of the food for them? How did he restore them all to their proper habitats? Why are we not all inbred retards since we're all descended from Noah since only he and his family survived?

      Can you please show me the supposed proof that the world was covered in a flood? I'm pretty sure the story of Noah is meant to be a metaphor.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Ritti

      Peter, Peter Peter. The only thing these events have to do with God is the fact that people like you assume they have something to do with God.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  11. Reality

    Once again:

    What we know:

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to whiz by us daily.

    3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Most contemporary NT scholars do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  12. Fidei Coticula Crux

    My Take: New Atheism (The Anti-Religion/Anti-Christian Secular Movement)

    All that David Silverman has done here is to put a new twist to Steven Weinberg’s quote “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    In the past, an atheist was just someone who didn’t believe in a god(s). However, today there is a new growing movement of atheism. This New atheism is a more aggressive and anti-religious form of atheism that presupposes the validity of scientific theories and reason, and applies them to religious phenomena in an attempt to disprove God exists and that religion is dangerous.

    Some of the best known "new atheists" are Sam Harris, who published a book called "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason." He also wrote "Letter to a Christian Nation" in 2006 which was an attack on Christianity specifically. Another popular writer in the new atheism movement is Richard Dawkins, who published the bestseller "The God Delusion." Another avid and vocal anti-theist is Christopher Hitchens, wrote "God is Not Great" in 2007. He does debates and gives lectures against religion, Christianity in particular. There are others who write against the existence of God on a popular level, but these are the ones who've become most recognized.

    The new atheists promote rationality and science over belief. They seek to elevate science as the final determiner of truth and see religion as being harmful and dangerous. They subject the idea of God, Biblical claims, etc., to the scientific method and reason and seek to demonstrate that God cannot exist.

    I have read "The God Delusion" and "A Letter to a Christian Nation." Both books, though popular, were not very well written. In each case, the view of the Christian God was a misrepresentation. Very often a single attribute of the Christian God would be elevated as a representation of God and then that representation was attacked. This is an invalid way of discussing any topic. Many things were attributed to the God of Christianity that were not biblical. Invalid inferences were drawn, and conclusions were made that did not follow the logic presented.

    I remember very clearly my opinion of the book 'The God Delusion" by Dawkins. It was obvious to me that Mr. Dawkins had not done his homework concerning Christian theology. It was quite evident that he consulted no Christian experts and did little research on the topic. To my dismay I concluded that those who do not understand Christianity might consider Dawkins work to be competent. I found it to be anything but competent.

    Whichever the case, this new atheism is a growing movement that is becoming more aggressive, more demanding, and less tolerant of anything other than itself.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • JohnR

      Given that religions like Christianity and Islam have been forcefully proselytized for centuries, often literally forced upon people, it's frankly about time that an opposing force be brought to bear against them. I'm not an atheist, but I applaud the New Atheists for their courage and decency.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Neeneko

      Yeah.. ever notice how the most vocal atheists are ex-christians? They are just keeping up Christian habits....

      May 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Cool

      The so-called "new-atheists" or whatever atheists are out there are just mis-informed and seeking to escape responsibility.
      It is intellectually DISHONEST to actually consider oneself to able to know of a God that doesn't necessarily want to be "seen".
      It seems a much better bet to live a life believing there is a god and serving him than proclaiming there isn't one and finding out your were wrong.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Artist

      This New atheism is a more aggressive and anti-religious form of atheism that presupposes the validity of scientific theories and reason, and applies them to religious phenomena in an attempt to disprove God exists and that religion is dangerous.
      -------------
      I wonder if there is a relationship or response to the rise in aggressive christianity that started back in the late 60's early 70's if I remember right. If there is a relationship perhaps some people are simply fed up and are responding. Seems they waited a very long time to counter the aggressive christians.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Herp Derp

      Are you ignorant or just delusional? How often do you hear of an atheist bombing an abortion clinic? How often do you hear of suicide bombers who are atheist? How often do you hear about atheist killing each other just because they are in a different section of the same belief (I'm referring to Ireland and the catholics and protestants)? How often do you hear of atheist taking land from people and claiming a divine right? Still thinking...? As you should be do you know what all of these events have in common? THEY ALL HAPPEN IN THE NAME OF A NON EXISTENT GOD. Until people see that there is no flying spaghetti monster in the sky humanity will doom itself to extinction.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Artist

      Cool

      The so-called "new-atheists" or whatever atheists are out there are just mis-informed and seeking to escape responsibility.
      It is intellectually DISHONEST to actually consider oneself to able to know of a God that doesn't necessarily want to be "seen".
      It seems a much better bet to live a life believing there is a god and serving him than proclaiming there isn't one and finding out your were wrong.
      ------
      These kind of statements are the most pathetic. Listen to yourself. You are being dishonest with yoruself thinking you are playing the odds because you really do not truly believe.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Stewart

      "The so-called "new-atheists" or whatever atheists are out there are just mis-informed and seeking to escape responsibility."

      Escape responsibility from what? Believe in a fairy tale of a God that is cruel and mean if you don't obey, that supposedly runs your life through fear of going to a h3ll that doesn't exist. No thanks!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      As someone who considers himself a staunch agnostic, I too have to take some exception to the author's implied tone if not also his explicit statements. It's simply not appropriate to judge religion as a rational line of inquiry when it isn't. There's nothing wrong with the fact that religion isn't rational.. That's sort of the point. The idea that logic and reason are the only paths to Truth is a little limiting. By the same token, theists who attempt to "prove" God by rational means are setting themselves up for failure. The idea that one could prove something that is, by definition, not remotely definable knowable, is a little ridiculous. Man up and own your faith. You choose to believe in God in the absence of knowing. It's not rational and it doesn't necessarily need to be. Science seeks to understand how while religion tries to understand why.

      I'm also not fond that he lumps all religions together when they're quite different. Heck, practices and beliefs within single religions vary. I think these so-called New Atheists are just confused about why they're mad. It's not so much that they think you shouldn't believe in God–if they do think that, they're hypocrites for asserting there is no God–. It's more that they're annoyed that some theists feel the need to use inappropriate modes of proof as a way of gaining credibility.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • alex

      At least athiests dont MURDER you if you dont accept thier beliefs. They are simply trying to promote reason and logic in a world filled with delusion and self-satisfying ideology.. Definantly cant say the same in regards to christianity.. i.e. the crusades.....

      May 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Daniel Wentworth

      Fidei – thank you for your response to David Silverman. I too have noticed this new atheism which is much more aggressively anti-religion, anti-Christian in particular.

      Your thoughts were smart and extremely well articulated. Thank you.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Patrick

      It is more accurate to say they "promote rationality and science over religious doctrine". Belief is a core aspect of all those things. The atheist believes in science – he puts his faith in science and logic – while the deist puts his in the doctrine to some degree, though even most deists believe in science and logic to some degree.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Patrick

      Cool, the problem is there are thousands upon thousands of faiths and gods. How are we to know which one to put our faith into? How did you intellectually and honestly select yours? Please describe the process.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • alex

      Somthing else to add to this discussion... in terms of athiesm.. and that is GET USED TO IT.. every respected philosopher in the world agrees that athiesm will be the "end theory" in terms of what the human population will ultimately believe going forward.. The fact is that religion has served its purpose and now its science's turn to explain the universe... and I, for one, am soooo happy about that.. I would much rather believe in something that has gone through the scrutiny of the scientific process then believe what the guy up at the church tells me to believe.. Logic.. Reason.. Evidence.. How can you possibly pass these things up!?!?

      May 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ Anotheralt,

      Science seeks to understand who, what, where, when, why and how. There is no limit to what science seeks to know.

      Also, lumping a group together when you are an outsider is natural. Deists are simply that. There is nothing inappropriate about using a standard term for a group of people. We know there is great variety in the religions of the worlds. Thousands upon thousands have come and gone and will continue to come and go. We just need a way to refer to deists that identifies them as a whole.

      Are you opposed to using atheist or agnostic as terms because they group such large, diverse groups?

      May 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • ........

      The "new atheists" you speak of johnr do not have an ounce of courage nor decency. Their own fears and stereotypical beliefs about religion is the reason why they are now more vocal about their opinions. I feel sorry for those that are atheists that they will probably never be truly happy in their lives and that they think they are solely in charge of their futures and have not an ounce of hope when their life ends.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Stewart

      "The "new atheists" you speak of johnr do not have an ounce of courage nor decency. Their own fears and stereotypical beliefs about religion is the reason why they are now more vocal about their opinions. I feel sorry for those that are atheists that they will probably never be truly happy in their lives and that they think they are solely in charge of their futures and have not an ounce of hope when their life ends."

      Your arrogance is appalling. What you can't realize is there are people who are incredibly happy and don't need to have a god to be that way. You are also assuming that these people haven't read the bible, many of them have, several times and still came to the conclusion it's fiction filled with contradictions.

      What fears do you think we have? Or are you just making that up so you can feel better about yourself.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Anotheralt

      @Patrick
      "Science seeks to understand who, what, where, when, why and how. There is no limit to what science seeks to know. "

      Science limits itself by the parameters of our understanding. I suppose you're right if we assume that everything is within the realm of human understanding. I don't know that I'm comfortable with that assumption, but you might be right.

      "Are you opposed to using atheist or agnostic as terms because they group such large, diverse groups?"

      Yes, I am opposed to it...when someone starts forming arguments based on assumptions that all religions operate in similar ways. One might accurately observe a Western and an Eastern religion operate under different, incompatible paradigms. Lumping them together based on metaphysics hardly seems rational. I take exception to the author because he's wildly imprecise about who and what he disagrees with.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • JAberg123

      @Fidei Coticula Crux."I have read "The God Delusion" and "A Letter to a Christian Nation." Both books, though popular, were not very well written"

      I have read 'The bible'. This book, though popular, is not very well written.

      Why did god make Shakespeare a better writer than himself?

      May 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • ........

      first, its not arrogance, its fact, second those that are incredibly happy because they feel they can just do whatever they want with little and for some no morals its sad. Everyone sooner or later questions why they were put here and what their purpose is, with no values, no spiritual guidance, i suppose it could make life a little depressing. And third this article and some bloggers on here are just disgusting with the way they feel they are superior to others because they think their own logic and reasoning just "has" to be right, your human, your never going to be right, but yet, you think you know it all.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      Thanks for that series of unsupported statements. These new atheists scare ya, huh ?
      Stephen Hawking, two days ago : "Religion is fairy tale for those afraid of the dark".

      May 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • ........

      OK thanks for your unintelligent statement "finger puppet" you must be a pervert huh?

      May 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Notbuyingit

      @Patrick
      "Science seeks to understand who, what, where, when, why and how. There is no limit to what science seeks to know. "

      Science limits itself by the parameters of our understanding. I suppose you're right if we assume that everything is within the realm of human understanding. I don't know that I'm comfortable with that assumption, but you might be right.

      ___________________________________________________________________________________________

      Science limits itself by the parameters of our understanding? Are you serious? Ever heard the term scientific breakthrough? Are you seriously suggesting that science hasn't and doesn't lead to new discoveries out "the parameters of our understanding" all the time?

      By the way, it's religious people that limit themselves by refusing to believe in anything other than a book cobbled together thousands of years ago by a bunch of different fableists.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Patrick

      Anotheralt,
      @Patrick
      "Science limits itself by the parameters of our understanding. I suppose you're right if we assume that everything is within the realm of human understanding. I don't know that I'm comfortable with that assumption, but you might be right."

      I am not comfortable with the assumption of limits on our metal faculties and ability to comprehend our world.

      "Yes, I am opposed to it...when someone starts forming arguments based on assumptions that all religions operate in similar ways. One might accurately observe a Western and an Eastern religion operate under different, incompatible paradigms. Lumping them together based on metaphysics hardly seems rational. I take exception to the author because he's wildly imprecise about who and what he disagrees with."

      Good point on lumping. I am surprised on your metaphysical comment. The author, to me, cares nothing about the metaphysical side. His concern is purely with the mundane, the practical dangers of subscription to ideologies based on imagined notions. I use "imagined" in the sense of empirical vs. imagined – that which is not empirical can only be imagined.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Believer in God AND Science

      Herp Derp - "Are you ignorant or just delusional? How often do you hear of an atheist bombing an abortion clinic? How often do you hear of suicide bombers who are atheist? How often do you hear about atheist killing each other just because they are in a different section of the same belief (I'm referring to Ireland and the catholics and protestants)? How often do you hear of atheist taking land from people and claiming a divine right? Still thinking? "

      Nope - barely blinked - ever hear of a group called the Bolsheviks - well they may not have destroyed any abortion clinics (because there probably weren't many of those in Russia in 1917), and I don't recall reading about many (if any) suicide bombings (but it wouldn't surprise me a bit). These were militant atheists who forced their beliefs on the entire nation of Russia. Furthermore, we then saw the descent of the "Iron Curtain" on Eastern Europe - sounds to me like you've never heard of some of the experiments and genuine psychological brainwashing that took place in Romania and Albania. Yes indeed Herp Derp - there have most definitely been atheists that were not simply willing to kill for beliefs they actually did kill - that's why the Russian Orthodox Church considers Tzar Nicholas II and his family "Royal Martyrs" - Oh, that's right, what about all of those martyrs throughout history killed by atheists, simply out of intolerance of belief in Jesus Christ as God the Son of God the Eternal Father, who sends God the Holy Spirit on us. Amen.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  13. Roger

    Religion that departs from the teaching of scripture is nothing more than a show in the flesh. We are able to see this in Hollywood and teachers teaching things not in scripture. This article fails to highlight this and erroneously uses the term religion without clarification of readers definition. Assumes that those who practice atheism are without broken homes and assorted sins.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Roger: People do not "practice atheism". Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Are you saying that teachers should only teach what is in scripture? What about mathmatics, science, literature and the arts?

      May 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Joe D.

      Eric G – Mathematics, science, literature, and the arts are all a part of the Bible.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • James

      Atheism is not a belief system. It's like saying that not collecting stamps is a hobby. It's not a hobby, it's just not collecting stamps. Theism requires an active participation; atheism does not.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  14. Zaria

    No offence but Christ is the way, and i'ma laugh when all you athiest crap go to Hell. Naw I'm not saying it isnt to late to repent. And as a Christian i really dont think the world is going to end on Saturday. Because the bible tells us that no man will ever know the date so its obvisouly not soon. Good Luck In Burning in hell one day. Conternders

    May 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Artist

      "Because the bible tells us that no man will ever know the date so its obvisouly not soon."
      .
      Not to be nit picky but actually to be accurate, "Because the writings of men tells us that no man will ever know the date so its obvisouly not soon"

      May 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Zaria If no one knows the date, then it could be tomorrow, May 21st or sometime after the year 2929, genius. Oh, and laughing at people going to hell is a real nice touch. Back in my Young Life days, we used to sing a song with the refrain "And They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love". Um, not exactly ...

      May 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Ness1

      "and i'ma laugh when all you athiest crap go to Hell"

      That's not very Christian-like.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Artist

      Ness1

      "and i'ma laugh when all you athiest crap go to Hell"

      That's not very Christian-like.

      -------
      It sounds like heavensent. lol

      May 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • smarter human

      See you on May 22. I'll be the one laughing in your face, likely with a delicious margarita in my hand and a huge smile on my face.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • teepee

      Artist...obviously not known...it may indeed be soon...

      May 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Mike

      Zaria: Seems to me you had some fancy book learnin. You musta went to a Christian school. I wanna be just like you: angry and close minded. Maybe then I'll get to Heaven.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Teacher

      I think you need to open up your mind. Also, learning to write and spell would help.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Janet

      Thank you, Zaria, for proving his point.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • flowers

      So I love u cuz ur family in Christ, however, as family in Christ we are called to exhort each other. Those of u who follow Jesus and Love Jesus and are argue through this with atheist are not any more right than they are. We are called to love on them, which is what Jesus came down to do for us. We can not show Godly love by attacking. This is not right. As christians we should not be judging non believers, we r only to judge fellow christians. U cant expect someone who doesnt know Jesus or never even experienced Jesus to walk with Jesus. Like Jesus said on the cross "Forgive them for they know not what they do". And this is to people who crucified our king. These attacks break my heart and the Lords as well, according to scripture.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  15. jeff

    Why can't Christians see through this nonsense, God had a kid and he's coming to get you. LOL

    May 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • smarter human

      Because they blindly follow without a shred of skepticism.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @jeff

      You said: "Why can't Christians see through this nonsense, God had a kid and he's coming to get you. LOL"

      Yes, when I contemplate this, I actually have one of those moments where I sort of shudder... and a little bit of barf comes up in the back of my throat. Am I being born again?

      A god, creator of all things, takes advantage of a young human woman. It is obscene. An abomination. A crime! How can anyone believe it?

      God so loved the world, that He got Himself some! Yep!

      There are many gods that helped themselves to human women and fathered children by them. Odd how Christianity could not be more original. Odd how Mary never commented on it being supernatural or even good...

      Cheers!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  16. Harold

    "I have no idea what proof would convert non-believers. I never felt the need to try because my faith does not require it.

    Perhaps you could tell us what proof would make you believe? Is there any?"

    Regardless of what I was to ask for in proof you would have an answer as to why it can't be done. For example like turning water into blood, right now in all of our drinking glasses. Oh....that's right your god is to busy right now to answer your prayer.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Artist

      Lycidas never felt the need to prove anything but she has just enough to engage in this conversation. lol
      .
      As mentioned before there is a reason and basis for faith. Until there is direct evidence...actuall real evidence outside of as sumptions, faith will always be required. This is the source of all beliefs and magical things. Without faith, then there would be no believers.
      .
      I am not sure why she ignores this and wishes to dance around it.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Harold

      Faith is a challenging thing to work with in the human language. It meaning is based on the personal beliefs of that person. I have faith that everyone I meet is a good person, till they prove to me otherwise. Yes, it gets me in trouble but I will not drive by a person who is having car trouble just because there could be the possibility they want to rob me. I have faith when I pull ove that they just need help and are decent people.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Harold: I too choose to see the good in people, however faith has nothing to do with it.

      Science proves that light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear to be bright, until you hear them speak.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Harold

      "Science proves that light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear to be bright, until you hear them speak."

      Yes, appearance can be deceiving. Eric have you looked at the definition of faith? Part of the definition is "confidence or trust in a person "

      May 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • JT

      Will you ever believe again in the tooth fairy someday?

      May 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Free

    Anything taken in moderation is less likely to cause problems than anything taken to a fanatical level, including religion.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • smarter human

      Except vegetables.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • James

      Take everything in moderation. Including moderation

      May 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  18. Artist

    Lycidas

    @Artist- Let's first be clear that no benchmark has been established because no one is able to do that. Plz admit that at least. You are wanting to examine the infinite when you are quite finite. Let us just say that we all are below that pay grade.

    "I will give you a hint, your faith is based on zero evidence, this is why you have to have faith."

    I guess you ignore the historical records and archaeological finds. My faith is built upon reason, study and evidence both supporting and to the contrary of my faith. Though I would assume you are basing your judgement of my faith on your limited understanding of religion and trying to shoehorn a general perception to me...an individual.
    .
    You are dancing. Historical records do not establish the magical god. As for the archaeological finds I would be interested in reviewing those that prove the existance of a magical god. Did they find his shoe? There is a line between as sumptions vs direct evidence. Example, the Earth's location and the complexity of the human body does not prove the existence of a magical god, that would be an as sumption. I think what you are saying is through your research and study on what you have found, you assume. That moment when you said that has to be, not that is.
    .
    Are you going to dance some more?
    .

    May 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Artist

      In addition to clarify where I am coming from. Used to be deeply religious and now consider myself agnostic. Other than historic record, I don't give much weight to what man has written when it pertains to a "word from a god". Could there be a creator? Of course that is always a possibility. Is it a magical creator like we see in religions, having a hard time swallowing that. I think a person has to keep in mind when something was recorded and keep it in that perspective.
      .
      So my faith in writings of men thousands of years ago is zero. I want to see the physical. Heck the physical evidence of any god in man's record would be nice.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Cool

      "New-atheists" or whatever atheists are out there are just mis-informed and seeking to escape responsibility.
      It is intellectually DISHONEST to actually consider oneself to able to know of a God that doesn't necessarily want to be "seen".
      It seems a much better bet to live a life believing there is a god and serving him than proclaiming there isn't one and finding out your were wrong.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  19. Colin

    When someone is said to have faith in something, this generally means they have confidence that it is true. This to me is very different to the Christian idea of faith – accepting something as true out of pure emotion and with blind indifference to, or even a tacit acknowledgement of the absence of evidence to support it. That is not faith, it is a poor surrogate for faith. In fact, it is often an absence of real confidence in the belief that causes the initial “leap of faith” or closing of the mind in the first place.

    Indeed, if one says they made a leap of faith to their belief, can they really be said to believe in their chosen god(s) at all? The mere fact that they had to leap to believe in the means they, at some level acknowledge the absence of evidence. Their “belief” is really more in the nature of a hope or wish, than a true belief. They more “hope” for a god or “wish” for a god than they do truly believe in a god.

    Bridging the gap between where the evidence stops and their chosen end belief (God, Allah, Krishna, reincarnation etc.) by wistfully leaping over the credibility gap that lay in between may be satisfying to the believer. However, if you think it through, once you accept that making a leap of faith is a valid foundation for arriving any particular belief, you are effectively declaring yourself an agnostic.

    This is because you have to accept that any other religious view arrived at by a similar leap from the precipice of where the evidence stops is as valid as yours. One cannot seriously argue, to the effect, “well, I was justified in unhinging myself from the evidence and going off in this theological direction, but your going over there toward that deity is flawed.” In a dark room without features, any groping guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the next. Spin the wheel and see what god it stops on. Kock-a-doodle do, kock-a-doodle-do, any god will do!

    Actually, taken a step further, if you accept the proposition that any religious view arrived at by the leap of faith is valid, this would presumably include those (many) faiths that reject your own chosen god. You have effectively committed theological suicide and leapt to your own atheism! More seriously, this simple reflection highlights the fundamental inanity of accepting the leap of faith as a valid basis for any belief, be it religious, financial, scientific or otherwise. In no other endeavor would such nonsense be entertained. In the Great Pretend of Christianity, it is not only accepted, it is proudly proclaimed as an admirable step to take.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  20. Tesamei

    People should play R.E.M.'s End of The World Song when Judgement day has come and taken place (NOT). Of course play again later on this year for the October 21st 2011 and again for the December 21th 2012 people, (funny end of the world date is usually the 21st of any given month) Heck why not always play it hours after a failed end of the world prediction happens.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Reality

      Play that music my brothers and sisters:

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to whiz by us daily.

      3. One large hit and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT scholars do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Super Fantastic

      Don't confuse a fictional stories primitive prediction with modern facts. The Earth will eventually end but it has nothing to do with a creation myth.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.