10 things the Belief Blog learned in its first year
June 8th, 2011
01:01 PM ET

10 things the Belief Blog learned in its first year

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - In case you were wondering about all the balloons and cake: CNN’s Belief Blog has just marked its first birthday.

After publishing 1,840 posts and sifting through 452,603 comments (OK, we may have missed one or two) the Belief Blog feels older than its 12 months would suggest. But it also feels wiser, having followed the faith angles of big news stories, commissioned lots of commentary and, yes, paid attention to all those reader comments for a solid year.

10 things we've learned:

1. Every big news story has a faith angle. Even the ordeal of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months. Even the attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Even March Madness. Even - well, you get the point.

2. Atheists are the most fervent commenters on matters religious. This became apparent immediately after the Belief Blog's first official post last May, which quickly drew such comments as:

Can we have a fairy tale blog too?

This is nothing but America moving away from its wondrous spirit of Apollo 11 into a mindset of the perpetually intellectually challenged.
I think there was some news today about scientists having created the first artificial cell. That should have been a HUGE story. And yet, what do we get? A faith blog. Pathetic.

This blog is terrifying. It's amazing how much power the radical religious right is amassing in our country right now. If I can't have some legislation, can I at least have some news that does not cater to zealots?

Those early comments presaged an avalanche of alternately humorous and outraged atheist responses on virtually everything the Belief Blog publishes. They're more evidence that atheists are coming out of the closet to trumpet their disbelief, argue with the faithful and evangelize their godlessness. (It's worth noting that the Belief Blog does plenty of atheism stories.)

3. People are still intensely curious about the Bible, its meaning and its origins.

It's an ancient tome, but more than any other book in the Western tradition (with the Quran being the lone exception), the Bible still fascinates us. And it still feeds our most heated debates. In February, a guest post here arguing that the Bible is more ambiguous on homosexuality than traditionally thought elicited more than 4,000 comments. A response post insisting that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality brought in an equal number of comments - and was the most popular story on CNN.com on the day it was published.

Other Belief Blog pieces about biblical scholarship - including a recent offering about biblical misquotations - have also caught fire. More of us may be reading it on iPhones these days, but the Good Book still matters a lot more than the popular culture lets on.

4.   Most Americans are religiously illiterate. Despite the appetite for stories and commentary about the Bible, most Americans know little about it. A huge Pew survey released in September found that most Americans scored 50 percent or less on a quiz measuring knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion in public life. Ironically, atheists and agnostics scored best. How did you do on the quiz?

5. It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion. Why did the Egyptian revolution happen on a Friday? Why was Osama bin Laden's body buried so quickly after he was killed? Why did Afghan rioters kill seven United Nations workers in April? You simply can't answer those questions without bringing in religion.

6.  Regardless of where they fit on the spectrum, people want others to understand what they believe. That goes for pagans, fundamentalist Mormons, Native Americans, atheists - everyone.

7. Americans still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. Nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks provoked many Americans to pay attention to Islam for the first time, much of the country is still somewhat uncomfortable about the religion, which counts 1.5 billion followers worldwide.

The biggest domestic religion story in the Belief Blog's young life was probably last year's opposition to a proposed Islamic Center and mosque near New York's ground zero. And with the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, domestic tensions around Islam may flare again. The Arab Spring, meanwhile is raising weighty questions about Islam's role in post-autocratic regimes, guaranteeing the religion - and its relationship with the U.S. - will be one of the world's big stories for years to come.

8. God may not prevent natural disasters, but religion is always a big part of the response. We see it play out every time Mother Nature delivers a punishing blow, from March's Japan earthquake and tsunami to the recent tornado that flattened much of Joplin, Missouri.

9. Apocalyptic movements come and go. The May 21st doomsdayers drew loads of interest, largely thanks to a massive ad campaign, but they're hardly original.

10. Most Americans don't know that President Barack Obama is a Christian. It's ironic, since church-based community organizing led him to politics and since his close relationship with a pastor almost sunk his presidential campaign, but that's what a Pew poll found last year.

Only about a third of Americans correctly identified Obama's religion, while nearly one in five said he's a Muslim. Another irony: The longer Obama's been in office, the smaller the proportion of Americans who can correctly name his faith. As the 2012 presidential race approaches, this story bears watching, since views of candidates' religion influence voting patterns.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Comments • Technology • Trends

soundoff (1,520 Responses)
  1. John


    July 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • .....

      **TROLL ALERT- don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  2. shel

    God is good and we are vermin;nothing good is in us.IN a society that thinks self esteem is god,we have thought to highly of ourselves.God is holy,high and Creator of all.He command people to repent and believe the gospel.The reject Him and He will not be mocked.Reading the bible is not enough.You must believe it and take up your cross and follow Jesus.That means listen to people mock you for being a christian.That means be persecuted and killed in Muslim countries.That means when people mock you and your God you stand on His written word,and just because we are sinners forgiven by a Holy God we do not join the world in the behaviors that God abhors.God is good all the time.He is sovreign.

    July 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Oh shel with the Faith of a mustard seed! Yours is absolute and is without any measure worthwile to Prognosticate Profusely upon without Harming the Word you hold ever so dearly in your mind's eyes! "May the GOD of all the Gods and every Goddess be ever kind to your availing quandaries regardless any outcome you avail yourself.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  3. stilo

    CNN belief?? Does CNN believe in anything but politics? No.

    I just had to read it once, but #10 was just too obvious propagandizing.

    Why don't you do your homework and try reading your Bible.

    July 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  4. James Black


    July 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • .....

      ****TROLL ALERT- don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link. ****

      July 21, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  5. Richard S Kaiser

    GOD allows all things and permits everything regardless of outcomes. We as mostly attaining Moral Relevance do in combinations of Lawfulness; permeate Exuberance that Apostatize and does Denigrate the Self. GOD became CREATION itself because ALL LIFE upon any Planet capable of Sustaining Life is maintained from within upon the Inside Dimension of Fractal Relativity, The Gods and Goddesses and their generations live out their Livelihoods deep within the cavernous waysides of Atomic Universes which are the first forms of what finalized as being our Celestial Universe which is the Embodiment, the GOD of CREATION. We are nothing more than Celestial Omnivores that deduces little without firstly going thru the Acts of Randomized Deductibility giving way to the Perplexedly Caustic Natures of Living a Life of Decadent Relations with the Otherly Fragmentations of Life.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Whatever you say.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Void

      You see, kids? This is why you should always say no to meth.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  6. LostNomad

    Here's one thing that I've always found interesting: people asking "Why did God let [...] happen?" or "Why didn't God prevent [...]?". I've never been able to figure out why God is supposed to be responsible for all the bad things that happen to people. Is God supposed to keep people in little bubbles where nothing could ever happen? In that case, Earth should just be a series of empty rooms with no doors or windows, one person to a room and no talking. Sometimes, bad things happen. Sometimes, good things happen. Sometimes, nothing happens. Why not just live instead of trying to push blame?

    July 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sam

      Good book to read" If God is Good, why do we hurt"

      July 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Void

      God is said to be three things, and with the problem of evil, at least one of them simply can not apply. These three attributes are omniscience (knowing everything that ever was and ever will be/knowledge without boundary), omnipotence (power without limitation of use, intensity, or form), and omnibenevolence (infinitely good, moral wisdom without boundary that always favors mercy and kindness).

      If some evil or tragedy takes place, (which it does), these attributes as assigned to god must prevent them.

      Omniscience means god knows the tragedy is taking place, and knew exactly when, where, and how it would happen.

      Omnibenevolence means that with this knowledge, it is his nature to prevent it.

      Omnipotence means that he has unlimited power to correct the action , if not simply willing it not to happen.

      However, when tragedy and injustice occur and god does not intervene, it means he either did not know (impossible if he's omniscient), or did know and chose not to intervene (meaning he's not omnibenevolent and is in fact rather cruel), or he did know and he did want to prevent it but did not have the power to do so (which means he's not omnipotent).

      The judeo-christian god is a difficult figure to defend in light of problems like these, but I'm sure you'll have a go at it.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • LostNomad

      @Sam: Thank you for the reading suggestion.
      @Void: I don't think I've heard of God being omnibenevolent; I'll have to research that. I have heard omnipresence attributed to God, which I don't think was in the list you mentioned. Without having looked up the prominence of omnibenevolence among Christian belief structures, I wonder if its absence would be an effort on the part of Christians to allow for bad things happening.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Nomad, GOD is no respector of the People and HE plays no Favorites against each other. It is Human Omnivorialism that denegrates the Human Condition. As Creatures of Habitualism we do daily endevours with little prospects in the Continuation of things. Christ Himself said, "This world is NOT HIS KINGDOM!" and He also said , "The Kingdom of GOD is INSIDE YOU!" \

      Therefore start with a magnifying glass and then a microscope and finally a telescope for one will come to the conclusion that the inside is exactly what the outside is coming to be.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  7. Richard S Kaiser

    Science turns roundabout the Corner of dichotomized relevancies with regards toward the understandings of Fractal Cosmology and the Kingdoms of the Gods and Goddesses onto being a True Relativism. Our Bodies or for that matter; Any Life Form or Life Fornation is made up of Cellular Sized Universes where within are the Gods and Goddesses and their passing generations. We are in subtleties pot-marked with Angularities ear-marked toward reconnoitering the humanities to reconsider the Gods and Goddesses Precepts indulging in lap-laundered bigotrousness of Non-Absolutes but rather Two Dichotomies existing within One Realm of Togetherness and each dichotomy pleasing the other with imaginations of postured relevance. GOD is CREATION and the Gods and Goddesses are the Creators of CREATION and all things Created within CREATION!

    July 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  8. Mike Rowland

    I too have been struck by the vitriolic tone of many of posts by "athiests" and "agnostics". The fact that they are surfing beliefnet indicates that they are not as comfortable in their convictions as they proclaim. They, like the rest of us, are seeking answers, and it may well be that God has brought them here for exposure to the message of love. Despite their protestations, we are assured that all will come to the Truth, and I am thankful that CNN has provided this forum so that these poor lost people can receive salvation.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • H8UPrimitives

      I hope the rapture happens so ludicrous individuals such as yourself will be gone from this planet, so the rest of us can create a good society without you. Atheist influence accomplished more in the last 100 years than the previous 1900 years of Christianity. Your faith is glorified sun worship and you are fools for believing it.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Mike Rowland

      I'm sorry you're in such pain. I'll be praying for you.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Peace be to you Mike. I am a Religious Alarmist when it comes to understanding GOD, God and god and even GODDESS, Goddess and goddess. The WORD does with subtle evasiveness expound of the Sons of GOD as if they the Sons of GOD are not Gods in their own accord. Also the Word says nothing about GODDESS which I find disheartening. I believe rather wholeheartedly in GOD's Gods and Goddesses as was once held by the Greeks and Romans of Multi-Theocratic emulatives. The Word revolving around there being but One GOD sets mankind up with a Pyramid Scheme of Ponzied malevolence.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Captain atheist

      We are just here to even up your brainwashing scam. That's all.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  9. Person of Faith

    "Views of candidates' religion influence voting patterns..." That's exactly why Obama claims to be a Christian despite the fact that he is actually a Muslim. Arab language publications refer to him as a Muslim. This proves that he has never renounced Islam.

    July 14, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • LinCA

      @Person of Faith

      You said ""Views of candidates' religion influence voting patterns..." That's exactly why Obama claims to be a Christian despite the fact that he is actually a Muslim. Arab language publications refer to him as a Muslim. This proves that he has never renounced Islam."

      Odds are that the President is actually an atheist. Considering the total absence of evidence for any gods, christian, muslim, or other(un)wise, any rational person will come to the inevitable conclusion that all gods and religions are man-made.

      He probably claims to be christian because it's impossible to get elected to the US presidency otherwise.

      He should renounce islam, as he should renounce christianity, and hinduism, and every other religion, since he represents everyone in the US.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  10. Kacy

    I have yet to see an article that supportd Christianity. I'm not sure if more articles that supported Christianity were on the Blog earlier in the year. However, the Blog feels onesided. I also want to would suggest an article that discusses the differences between what people do in the name of religion and what the actual religion teaches.

    July 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      Why should anyone support Christianity (except Christians themselves of course)?

      I would support the mysterious forces of Yin & Yang before I support Christianity.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  11. LostNomad

    I really enjoy religious debate and I like thinking about things I hadn't considered before. My main issue with religious argument is not what people believe but their rationale for believing it. What I hear most is (either essentially or literally), "Christianiy is right because the Bible says so," or "Atheism is right because you haven't proved I'm wrong." The former is circular logic and not very good reasoning. You might as well say, "Ducks float because they don't sink." The latter is not reasoning at all; it's a challenge that depends on others to be met. Whatever you believe is fine but you need to have a better reason for believing than "just 'cause" if you want to be taken seriously.

    July 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Common Sense

      I have never in my life heard someone seriously use the "Because the Bible says so" argument. I think it is a pseudo-argument created by atheists.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said "What I hear most is (either essentially or literally), "Christianiy is right because the Bible says so," or "Atheism is right because you haven't proved I'm wrong." The former is circular logic and not very good reasoning. You might as well say, "Ducks float because they don't sink." The latter is not reasoning at all; it's a challenge that depends on others to be met. Whatever you believe is fine but you need to have a better reason for believing than "just 'cause" if you want to be taken seriously."

      You seem to be misunderstanding the position from which most atheists reason.

      Unless there is, at the very least, some evidence to support that something exists, it is unreasonable to assume it does. Claiming there is a god is unreasonable, unless it is supported by some form of evidence. Anyone can believe whatever they want, but unless they come up with some verifiable test results, it is merely their opinion, not fact.

      These opinions have equal merit as "Santa Claus exists", or "There are Pink Unicorns". They have significantly less merit than "Loch Ness contains a Monster" or "Bigfoot exists", as there is at least some evidence supporting those claims. It is the responsibility of the person making the claim to provide the evidence in support.

      When rationally evaluating the attributes most commonly assigned to these gods, a very strong case can be made to dismiss them altogether. Mutually exclusive traits will lead to immediate dismissal of that particular version of a god. A god as often described by christians is impossible and therefor doesn't exist (a god can't be both omniscient and omnipotent). Believing in that god is therefore irrational.

      By the way, ducks float because they have less mass than the water they displace when fully submerged. When placed in a less dense liquid, they will sink. Experimentation will verify this.

      July 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • LostNomad

      And that's the sort of thing I push for: clear reasoning that doesn't rely on itself to be accurate. I was intrigued by Gerald Schroeder's "The Science of God" although I won't pretend to have understood all of it. I'm not sure of my beliefs yet but I'm trying to figure it out. Maybe that in itself is the problem, trying to force logic to bend one way or another.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  12. madiesmith

    I love belief blog. Keep up the good work! Nice to see so many different angles and get lots of people from different backgrounds commenting.

    July 12, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  13. Johnintally

    Atheists are opinionated because it is in their nature. The atheist says there is no god. To defend that statement, one has to claim exceptional knowledge, otherwise god could exist in the sphere of knowledge beyond what that person knows. So, to claim such an absolute as true, the atheist has to fervently believe in his own superior power of reasoning. He is actually claiming for himself a form of omniscience. The funny thing about that is this: In so doing, he is claiming himself to be a little god, the very thing which he denies exists. I love irony!

    July 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • T-bone


      First: you must be an atheist, opinionated one. Your hyprocrisy is irony and the purest of comedy.

      Secondly: you know not what you speak. I'm 99% sure of it. But, if I claimed to be 100% sure, you'd proclaim that I viewed myself as a god. The irony is that your statement claims you know everything. Get over yourself and me.

      Love Wins.

      July 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Johnintally

      Ummm, no T-bone. I am a serious Christian and a long term student of the Bible. I have read it throughout several times, taught it and try to live it daily. Nevertheless, I also know how little I know. That was the point of my post. I hope that some of these folks will come to realize how little they know also and accept that God may be out there somewhere beyond their scope of knowledge. If they seek Him, they will find Him. That IS in the Bible.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • John Bob


      We atheists do not claim to know anything other than that which is readily observable, empirically provable, and logically reconcilable. Example: prove gravity – throw up an apple, it falls – gravity proven. Now, prove god...... silence ensues......

      My point here is not that it is impossible for god to exist (although I definitely could make that argument if you like), but that, given the actual evidence (not anecdotal subjective experiences but REAL, OBSERVABLE evidence), it is very unlikely that god – especially an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent god such as espoused in the Christian bible – exists. If there were evidence that god did exist, then I'd believe in god. There's not, so I don't.

      Perhaps you could help me actually because what I don't understand is why the task of proving the non-existence of god falls to the skeptics/ atheists. In nearly every other line of reasoning, it is standard for those making the positive assertion to provide the evidence. Except for god... Why is that?

      July 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Reply

      To John Bob:

      You say:
      We atheists do not claim to know anything other than that which is readily observable, empirically provable, and logically reconcilable. Example: prove gravity – throw up an apple, it falls – gravity proven. Now, prove god...... silence ensues......

      Your example of proving gravity does not prove there is no God of the Bible. It is evident that when you throw up an apple into the air, it falls. But, look at it this way, gravity is an invisible force that cannot be seen yet we believe it exists, same thing goes with the air we breathe, we cannot see it but we know it exists! God's creation including the laws of nature, etc. prove that God is real, the Bible also says this. Look into it further and learn what the Bible really teaches. All the best!

      July 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Mike

      Johnintally's logic is both amusing and frustrating. At least it perfectly illustrates the lack of clear thinking that leads to religious belief in the first place. He is blind to the fallacy he espouses. Johnintally take into your heart and brain this fact: atheism makes no claim at all, nevermind claim of omniscience. It is nothing that even exists other than as a response to YOUR untenable claim.

      By the way, one way to learn what atheists think in believe is to make an effort to find out. Or do you just want to make up your own explanations for us?

      I don't know, fellow secularists, but are arguments like John's not becoming so frustratingly tedious.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Common Sense

      John Bob, you cannot prove gravity's existence. However, you can observe it's effects.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Void


      Often is the case that "debate" with the faithful is an exercise in tedium and futility. I'm not sure it's anything new. Occasionally you might find that rare theist that will philosophically and scientifically engage you in discussion, but your run-of-the-mill believer will offer no such civil discussion and in all likelihood (and statistically speaking) knows much less about the bible than the infidel he curses.

      July 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  14. Erin

    I love belief blog. Keep up the good work! Nice to see so many different angles and get lots of people from different backgrounds commenting.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Logine

    Mother nature serving a "punishing blow". So much about scientific literacy and the religious mindset.

    July 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Common Sense


      July 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  16. atomD21

    Happy Birthday Belief Blog!

    July 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  17. Pam

    If most of the world (with you in the minority) believed in leprechauns and that belief in leprechauns was a prerequisite to being hired for jobs, elected to office and being welcomed as the new spouse of your adult child, would you be "fervent" in your opinions or more relaxed in your views about this system? I suppose Black Americans were more strident and/or fervent in their opinions that White Americans in the sixties, too. Why should this be a surprise and why should this cast a negative look at atheists? Au contraire, it should point them out as specially brave Americans.

    July 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • dachs_dude

      Um, where is it exactly that you can't get a job unless you believe in God?

      Seriously, unless you're applying for a position as a minister/iman/rabbi (and it's not such a requirement in the rabbi part from what I hear), where have you been turned down for a job because you're an atheist?

      If you can't cite an example, I call left-wing BS.

      July 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Steven

      Seriously? You are actually arguing that there are NOT Christian run businesses in this country that would refuse to hire a know atheist? Or course, they would never publicly admit that because they'd be legally challenged over it. They would find another excuse. My first job was working in a drug store fountain for a Christian couple and they would never have hired me if I had been an atheist at the time. Religion was a regular topic at work and they did not tolerate dissent.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Are you suggesting that a significant portion of atheists have been turned away from jobs that they wanted because they were not Christians? Please.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • JW

      You dont have to tell whether you belong to any religion on a job application. They cant even legally ask you that.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  18. AvdBerg

    The CNN Belief Blog contains no wisdom and knowledtge that will remove the veil that is upon people's heart. For more information what mankind must do to be reunited with God we invite you to read all the pages and articles of the website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    July 9, 2011 at 6:40 am |
  19. Michael

    "Those who hate Truth and fear Goodness are not far from the kingdom of God. They are fighting against it, and yet they know theirs is a losing battle. The more violently men hate truth, the more they think about it; the more they fear the goodness that demands perfection, the more they know it is what they really seek." -Fulton J. Sheen

    July 9, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  20. 14Mickey

    #2 states the obvious; Atheists are rabid, evangelical fundamentalist fanatics, with the mentality of Taliban. Fortunately, they don't have the intelligence to do any damage to faith. The only threats to faith are bigots and hate mongers who falsely claim to be Christians.

    July 9, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Deckard

      You sound extremely intelligent, 14Mickey. In fact, you're probably so smart that you also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Maybe someday we can all be as enlightened as you and believe in things with zero evidence to support their existence. Wouldn't that be great? Keep up the good work.

      July 9, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • thesagan

      I can't tell if you're serious or if you're trolling. Poe's law at work right here, people.

      July 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Steven

      You mean bigots such as yourself, as evidenced by your attack on atheists?

      July 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Coming from a guy named Common Sense, this dude is trolling.

      Don't lose your tempers.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
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About this blog

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