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Can the Christian crusade against pornography bear fruit?
After avoiding talk about sex from the pulpit for years, pastors are now speaking out against porn.
August 21st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Can the Christian crusade against pornography bear fruit?

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - He is a good Christian, Michael is telling his two therapists. He goes to church most Sundays. He’s a devoted husband and father of two daughters.

“But when I would leave on business trips,” he says, “I knew I was going to get to be someone else.”

“Prostitutes, porn - I took anything I wanted.”

Sitting on a comfortable, worn couch, Michael glances out the window and sees a reflection of himself set against the parking lot of this suburban Atlanta office building. He fidgets, runs his fingers over his closely cropped blond hair and straightens his green tennis polo. He clears his throat.

Above his head hangs a poster covered in words describing feelings - angry, anxious, sad. On it is a big yellow cross.

Therapists Richard Blankenship and Mark Richardson wear solemn but empathetic expressions. Certified counselors and Christian ministers, they tell him they know how to listen and nod for him to continue.

“I’ve had a record of purity since March when I confessed to my wife,” says Michael, whose name has been changed by CNN.com to protect his privacy. “No porn, no masturbation.”

“Awesome,” Richardson says, leaning forward in his chair. “God knows you’re trying.”

This is Michael’s second week at “Faithful and True – Atlanta” a 16-week counseling program that, like dozens of others like it around the country, combines traditional psychotherapy with the Bible in an attempt to treat addictive behavior.

Blankenship, a devout Christian who once struggled with sexual abuse, says his own ordeal has helped him to treat and “graduate” nearly 500 Christian men and women with similar addictions in the last five years.

He says he has helped people achieve what he calls “sobriety,” which means resisting porn and lustful thoughts.

Though controversial in secular circles, much of the evangelical Christian world has been cheering this relatively new kind of therapy. Many believers, including many Christian leaders, consider it a powerful tool for fighting what they say is one of the modern church’s biggest problems: porn addiction.

A crusade is born

Not long ago, it was unheard of for a pastor to talk about sex from the pulpit.

Today, clergy are talking about porn.

Many evangelical pastors say they don’t have a choice. The Internet has made porn unavoidable; it’s everywhere. And porn, they say, leads to a lack of intimacy in marriage, threatening the biblical mandate to get and stay married.

In the past few years, Christian leaders have established online ministries to tackle the problem, hosting anti-porn podcast sermons and Web chats. The popular evangelical blog Crosswalk.com recently ran an article headlined “How many porn addicts are in your church?”

Christian publishers, meanwhile, have produced a wave of recent books on the subject, including popular titles like “Porn-Again Christian,” “Secret Sexual Sins: Understanding a Christian's Desire for Pornography” and “Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You.”

Evangelical pastor Jeremy Gyorke recently came forward to talk about how porn has affected him. In July, the 32-year-old confessed his porn addiction in a sermon at Wyandotte Family Church, just outside Detroit.

“I’m part of a generation of Christians who grew up keeping your mouth shut about your personal life,” he says. “Goodness no, we didn’t talk about sex.”

“But now that we have a little say in the attitude of the church, we’re taking a different approach,” Gyorke continues. “We’re putting it all out there, saying you don’t have to keep secrets. Come forward and admit that you’ve made a mistake, and you can be healed.”

Gyorke said he confessed to his congregation after his wife caught him looking at porn and told him it made her feel inadequate. She wanted him to seek help and to be transparent as a man of God.

Gyorke ultimately decided that viewing any porn, even once or twice, is a problem for believers.

“It’s like a gateway drug,” he says. “You can’t just have a little look. If you look at porn, you’ve already given your heart and spirit away to someone who isn’t your wife.”

As he wrote his sermon on the matter, Gyorke felt tremendous anxiety. “I thought it would make or break me to them as their pastor,” he says.

But his flock reacted with empathy and support. Several congregants approached him afterward to say that they, too, felt that they’d acted against God by looking at porn.

Different interpretations

Though the words “porn” and “masturbation” don’t appear in the Bible, Gyorke believes the biblical verdict is clear. “Sexual immorality is mentioned a lot in the Bible, and that is what porn is,” he says.

He quotes the Gospel of Matthew: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“Porn is lust, and lust is a sin,” the pastor said.

Many religious scholars say that such a view reflects just one of many interpretations.

“One school of biblical study says that desire is a problem and needs to be monitored as a serious threat to salvation,” says Boston University theology professor Jennifer Wright Knust.

But Knust points to scriptural passages that appear to endorse sexual desire, including the Song of Solomon, a poem that some scholars say depicts two lovers graphically describing each other’s anatomy in an ode to unmarried sex.

“This is not new. It’s a cherry-picking of scripture used to address what’s happening right now in popular culture,” says Knust, author of the recent book “Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions on Sex and Desire.” “The new thing is that it’s being used by so-called Christian therapists.”

Knust says the anti-porn trend in Christian therapy reflects new questions in broader society about what constitutes an appropriate relationship, about gender roles and rules, and about what marriage really means.

“People are concerned and confused, and want to know if God is speaking to us in our sexual roles,” she says. “Can we find answers in divine revelation? People have always hoped that there can be certainty in the Bible.

“There is no certainty,” she says. “It’s interpretation.”

XXX churches

A few weeks after delivering his confessional sermon, Gyorke organized a Sunday event at his church intended to help keep congregants away from pornography.

He gave out study guides with scriptural verses related to lust and showed a slick video from XXXChurch, the main Web-based group for the Christian anti-porn movement.

The video opens with a mock-pharmaceutical infomercial for a product called “Lustivin.” It raves about how wonderful the drug can make you feel in the short term but then lists some major side effects: premature relational difficulty, divorce, shallow relationships.

Craig Gross, a young pastor from California, co-founded XXXChurch.com in 2001. Its URL was meant to snag people who were surfing the Web for dirty pictures.

“Ten years ago, when I wanted to bring the church up to date, everyone was like, ‘This won’t work. People will be confused about what you’re doing,’ ” Gross says.

“It was controversial at the time, but the church is always behind the times,” he says. “We should have had a XXXChurch.com in the late 1990s if we really wanted to get ahead of this problem.”

The site was slow to catch on for its first few years, but now gets millions of clicks a day from IP addresses around the globe, Gross said.

This year, XXXChurch sponsored Porn Sunday, a national anti-porn event that included hundreds of churches across the country screening a video starring Matt Hasselbeck, who's now quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and other Christian NFL stars.

Soundbites from the players speak to the struggle between porn and faith.

“Sex is an awesome thing that God designed,” Hasselbeck says in the video.

Jon Kitna, a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, talks about surfing the Web and getting deeper into porn sites. “[You] see this [link] and it leads you to a link to this … ” he says. “And pretty soon, I’m into a world that I never really knew existed.”

For $7 a month, XXXChurch offers porn-detection software that fires off automatic e-mail alerts to a subscriber and his or her chosen “faith buddy,” a kind of whistle-blowing system designed to keep Christians from going astray.

Achieving “sobriety”

But some Christians have gone much further in their attempts to tackle porn addictions, literally rearranging their lives.

When Jeff Colon, a self-described recovering porn addict in Kentucky, confessed his addiction to his wife, she told him to get help or find a divorce attorney.

It was the early 1990s. Christian sex addition counseling was unheard of. But Colon’s pastor - to whom he’d also confided - called other church leaders and learned of a Christian counseling retreat called Pure Life Ministries, a kind of Christian compound that includes a chapel and all-male dormitory on 44 acres in western Kentucky.

Today, Colon is the president of Pure Life, which he credits with saving his marriage.

He says the program has cured thousands of men of their porn addictions through a six- to 12-month program of one-on-one or group therapy sessions.

The live-in program costs $175 a week. Men must move to the campus and live alone, with wives having the option of talking to Pure Life counselors by phone. Most insurance plans don’t cover Pure Life - a moot concern, really, because most program participants quit their jobs to relocate.

That’s what Colon, who was working as an elevator repairman, did. “I don’t regret it for a second,” he says. “It was a hard time not because I lost my job or had to move from my family. It was a tough time because I had nearly lost my connection with God. That is what’s most important in life.”

Pure Life’s curriculum relies heavily on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which stresses that if one lives “by the Spirit,” he will not “gratify the desires of the flesh.”

The scripture goes on to say that those who gratify the flesh “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Women are not allowed on campus during the initial phase of treatment.

“People who don’t follow Christ aren’t going to get what I’m saying, but it was like intense Bible study that helped me understand how selfish I am as a sinner,” Colon says. “Basically, you have time to talk to God, and for him to show you the way to sobriety. And I’ve been sober for 17 years.”

For Colon, sobriety means abstaining from looking at porn, masturbating and performing any other sex act not involving his spouse.

“You learn that lust is just a state of mind,” he says. “If you lust for someone other than your wife, what you do is replace that lust with prayer. And you have a heart change.”

Indeed, Colon says that God was central to his recovery.

“I know secular people don’t get it,” he says. “But if I had a sponsor who was just another person, a person who is fallible, telling me to stay clean, it’s just not as powerful as God telling me that.”

“Women … drowning in this addiction”

Men aren’t the only ones who have started thinking that way about porn.

According to the creator of accountability2you, a Web-based service that dumps all the pornographic material someone surfs into his or her spouse’s e-mail inbox, roughly half of his 10,000 monthly subscribers are women.

“The Christian Church has started to realize that we’re sexual, too, and we are just as visually stimulated as men and we look at porn,” said Crystal Renaud, author of the recent book “Dirty Girls Come Clean,” a memoir about her own addiction to porn.

For the past year, the 26-year-old with punky-streaked hair has led Christian women’s porn addiction counseling sessions. Her Dirty Girls Ministries website has 450 members.

“I’ve met women who will lock themselves in a room and look at porn all day, ignoring their kids or their jobs,” she says. “I feel like I can relate because that’s all I cared about, getting my high. There are so many more women out there drowning in this addiction, you have no idea.”

Though there are few statistics to support Renaud’s claims about the extent of the problem, Christian media outlets like Today’s Christian Woman have recently run stories about women consuming porn, often theorizing that the habit starts with explicit romance novels.

Renaud has received a sexual addiction counseling certification from the American Association of Christian Counselors, though she is not licensed by secular organizations like the American Psychological Association. She promotes a five-step program she’s devised called SCARS - Surrender, Confessional, Accountability, Responsibility, Sharing - which encourages women to confess to each other about their desire to look at porn as a means of saying no to it.

In her memoir, Renaud writes about becoming a chronic masturbator and porn addict at age 10, after stumbling upon a dirty magazine in her brother’s room. It was a confusing, scary experience, she writes.

“My mother made it very clear what the parameters were when it came to sex, and there wasn’t a discussion beyond that,” Renaud said. She describes her relationship with her father as rocky, but wouldn’t elaborate.

In high school, Renaud was a leader in her Christian youth group, but she was also interested in porn. “I felt so bad and I wanted to stop looking at porn because that wasn’t what the Bible instructed,” she says, “and I knew God didn’t want me doing that.”

When she was 18, Renaud arranged to have sex for the first time at a hotel with a person she met in a Christian chat room. She says she went to the hotel but broke down in tears in her room and left before meeting the man.

“That was my rock bottom,” she says. “I remember being there and sobbing, thinking, ‘What am I doing risking my life to meet someone at a hotel I don’t even know?’”

Renaud said that she depends on God to keep her clean and that God is a kind of sponsor or monitor. When she wants to look at porn or masturbate, she and God have a kind of conversation, and the desire passes.

A crusade’s critics

The father of Christian-based porn and sex addiction therapy has a word for this “pray-away” method of sobriety.

“Hooey.”

Dr. Mark Laaser pioneered the Christian response to porn and sex addiction in the 1980s and chides counseling centers like Pure Life for what he says is their near-total reliance on prayer.

“Alcoholics don’t wish really hard to not be addicted to alcohol,” he says in a phone interview from his busy therapeutic practice in suburban Minneapolis. “The field of addiction is much deeper than opening your Bible.”

He’s pleased that more Christians are openly talking about pornography and sex addiction, but Laaser says he’s concerned that some Christian leaders and therapists are confusing sexual sin with sex addiction.

“Men come dragging into my office because their wives have caught them masturbating and labeled them addicts, or they’ve had one affair and they are now looking to have their affair excused by addiction,” he says.

“One affair doesn’t mean you’re a porn addict,” Laaser says. “Looking at porn occasionally doesn’t make you a porn addict. Those may be poor decisions, but they are not necessarily caused by clinical addiction.”

Porn is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar industry in America alone, banking at least 10 times what it did in 1970, the first time the U.S. government evaluated the retail value of the nation’s then-fledgling hardcore film, television and retail market.

During that same decade, Laaser had become the porn industry’s ideal customer. He was constantly on the hunt for it.
As a devout Christian, he spent a lot of energy trying to keep his porn a secret, especially from his wife, Debbie. His guilt distanced him from her emotionally, he says, and began eroding their relationship.

At the time, there was virtually no established psychological research, or mainstream therapy, for sex addiction. So Laaser reached out to secular 12-step programs, using Alcoholics Anonymous’ framework as a guide to reaching what he called sexual “sobriety,” abstaining from sex outside of marriage and avoiding masturbation.

“I remember thinking I wish my problem were drinking because I could get help easier,” Laaser said.

By the late ’80s, Laaser says, he was on the road to sobriety, combining therapeutic methods he’d learned while pursuing a doctorate in psychology from the University of Iowa and a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

“It began to seem very evident to me that secular therapy does not work as effectively for Christians,” he said. “And that’s because the secular world … to us as Christians, seems less moral. Sex is everywhere in secular society - television, film, billboards. It’s just so much a part of life that it is excused.

“Christians just aren’t going to seek out a secular therapist - they won’t seek therapy at all if they don’t have some aspect of Christianity woven into their treatment.”

In 1992, Laaser authored the first book on Christian sexual addiction, titled “The Secret Sin.”

“The Christian church, both Protestant and Catholic, is experiencing tremendous turmoil in the area of sexuality,” it began. “The problem seems epidemic.”

It sold barely enough copies to stay in print.

In 2005, the publisher changed the title to “Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction,” and Laaser added chapters on Internet porn. It has sold 75,000 copies.

In Laaser’s care, a patient will undergo psychiatric evaluation, just as he would in the secular world. Laaser wants to know if the patient has any symptoms of depression, ADHD or anxiety. He says many sex addicts suffer from other mental health issues.

“You may need to go to a meeting every day, or connect with a sponsor; you may need to check in with this office once a day,” he said. “Every client is different, but we’re essentially helping them establish boundaries and restrictions.”

Some secular therapists have warmed to this kind of approach.

“The deeply religious were a group that were hard to reach years ago because they had extreme shame connected with their addiction,” says Tim Lee, a licensed social worker in New York with a specialty in sex and porn addiction treatment.

But Lee and Pennsylvania sex therapist Dr. John Giugliano, both members of the Society for Sexual Advancement - a national nonprofit think tank of licensed sex therapists - worry that therapy can become overly focused on dogma and ignore the patient’s real-life issues.

“If you spend your time in session talking about what God thinks and what the Bible says, you don’t get to understand what the patient thinks and what happened in their life up to that point that explains why,” Giugliano says.

Even within the world of Christian therapy, some counselors criticize the methods of other religious counselors.

Richard Blankenship, the Atlanta-based Christian therapist, studied under Laaser in the early 2000s. When Blankenship set up his practice in Atlanta to treat sex addicts, he used the same name as Laaser’s ministry, “Faithful and True,” adding only the word “Atlanta.”

But Laaser wants to make it clear that he has no association with Blankenship’s practice and doesn’t agree with some aspects of Blankenship’s program.

Blankenship doesn’t rely enough on psychological expertise, Laaser says. Laaser objects to a therapist telling a patient that an addiction may be patterns repeated through generations, as Blankenship does. And Laaser disagrees with Blankenship’s habit of connecting a patient’s addiction to a biblical character’s family tree.

Abraham’s family tree

For the rest of his therapy session at Faithful and True, Michael circles emotions from a list that Richardson and Blankenship have provided. He circles “anxious” and then describes a fight he had with his wife about his infidelity.

Blankenship responds to Michael’s description of the fight by saying that addiction is generational, mentioning the Kennedys and the Fondas.

Then Blankenship queues up a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop, showing Michael a family tree he has designed around the biblical story of Abraham.

It has a lot of boxes. There are several pages.

Abraham, Blankenship says, was a guy who committed some sexual transgressions, like fathering a child with Hagar while his wife was barren. Ultimately, God forgave him.

Michael starts talking about his own family. He describes a difficult upbringing with a father whom he said was philandering and verbally abusive. He says sex wasn’t talked about at his house when he was growing up.

Before the session ends, Michael is assured that there’s no reason to think that he won’t kick his addiction. He’ll be on a new path, Blankenship says, toward “sexual integrity.”

The 90-minute session comes to a close with a prayer.

Blankenship and his co-counselor Mark Richardson lower their heads.

Richardson asks that God look after Michael. He asks God to bless this therapy process. Michael is heading out into the world, he says, heading back into a culture of temptation and lust and ungodly ways.

Look after him, the therapist says, keep him on the right path.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Sex

soundoff (3,536 Responses)
  1. Damon

    Christians don't make laws...? Where have you been?

    August 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  2. Peter Rabbit

    that was way too long of an article that really said nothing new. i really don't care what christians or their leaders say or don't say we should or shouldn't be doing. i don't vote for them and they don't create laws...well not yet anyway.

    August 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • nwatcher

      So you knew all that info?
      The article is too long (meaning you most likely didn't read it)
      You don't care what Christians say
      WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • i LOVE peter rabbit

      God loves you, always did, always will. but the question is do you love God. or do you love yoursewithout God there is no chance of help, Satan will just play you pimpimg you out with one sin after another until an overdose or a self inflicted gun shot will do. Satan doent give a care a anything so any way he can get you he will. so dont be foolish dont run from the truth you have now been shown that Jesus loves you and is wants you to live forever with Him if you would just confess your sins ask for forgiveness, accept Jesus as your Lord, Savior. King! Then you will be free. Satan may attack you even more but No Fear, the battle has already been one. To live is Christ to dies is gain Come on dude what are you waiting for stop living like your dead, trolling jesus blogs and such with hate and loveless-ness, and get a life, with Christ, the only one worth living (and dying) for. Love bro

      August 22, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Andrew

      Peter Rabbit, you want to tell me to fear Voldemort next? Just because a book says something doesn't mean it's true.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Andrew

      And by peter rabbit, I mean the individual who loves petter rabbit.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  3. hank

    This is not one of Christian's biggest problems. Touching boys is.

    August 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Idiot, there are MANY sects to Christianity.
      YOU confuse the Roman Catholic Church with ALL Christians. SO, the protestants and Copts are also guilty?
      ALL Muslims are terrorists too?
      ALL Republicans are guilty of war crimes?
      ALL Democrats want slavery?
      Nope.
      You are an idiot, repeating what an idiot told you.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  4. GonzoG

    I don't mind when Christians preach against sin.

    I REFUSE, however, to give them Blessing to force Governments (mine especially) into Sin Interdiction.

    This is AMERICA–NOT IRAN. This is AMERICA–NOT SAUDI ARABIA. This is AMERICA–NOT PAKISTAN. THIS IS AMERICA AND IT WILL ONLY BE TURNED INTO ANOTHER THEOCRACY OVER MY DEAD BODY AND WILL COST DEARLY TO TAKE IT.

    With the Exception of Vatican City, I know of no MODERN Christian Theocracies. Or THEY would be listed also.

    There is NO EVIL GREATER THAN A GOVERNMENT THAT THINKS IT'S DOING GOD'S WILL

    August 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Damon

      Isn't it past your bedtime...?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • GonzoG

      Yes it is. I DO have to go to WORK tomorrow. Not that it's going to last much longer–I've been outsourced to somewhere they work for rice and am getting laid-off in two weeks.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Damon

      GonzoG, I'm sorry to hear about that, really. What'd ya do? maybe I can help. I have contacts in really high places 🙂

      August 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      GonzoG, I agree with you. This is NOT a theocracy. It will NOT become one. The first amendment prohibits it.
      I'll stand beside you in THAT battle. And if battle IS required, I can bring 10000 Special Forces veterans to support us. I'm sure we can get at least 20 times that in infantry and armor.
      We'll fight to the last drop of the other folks blood, if that is what they want to do.
      But, we WILL have freedom of belief in this nation. One way or the other.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  5. Jesus preaches Jihad

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PaAf_n37tc&w=640&h=390]

    August 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  6. truthandlies

    Thank god the world ended 2 months ago...........

    August 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • GonzoG

      Only two months ago-Geesh, I'm SO behind on my paperwork.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  7. Cos

    Freaks.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  8. outawork

    I thought I seen some tacky pictures on CNN, but the one at the top of this story is #1.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Bill

      I agree, sullying a playboy with a bible.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, though it may be offensive to those who are not comfortable with their faith, it is an accurate depiction of what the story explains is a problem and its solution.
      Well, a solution for some.
      Not for myself or my wife of 30 years, this December.
      Our marriage has survived over 27 years of my military service, with its attendant frequent absences from home.
      It's survived 16 pregnancies, of which only two were live births and abortion of an ectopic pregnancy.
      Do we view dirty pictures and movies? Yep! Individually, together, either way. Do we fantasize about being with others? No, we're happy together and extremely comfortable with each other.
      Do we, even now, learn some new tricks? ABSOLUTELY. SOME of them, we can actually DO. Others are absurd for us to even consider, we'd end up in the hospital.
      So, it comes down to a few things:
      I gave my word to my wife and God to be faithful. It was my word of honor. My honor is too precious to me to give up.
      Ever. At all.
      Have I been tempted? Of course! But, I have sufficient honor to keep old blue in my pants, except with my wife.
      She feels the same way.
      So, we'll happily enjoy a movie or two when we're feeling frisky.
      And due to my intimate affiliation with the almighty, after sending so many of our enemies to meet him in person, I'm quite certain he understands.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Jesus a rabbid violent man

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEtBs6j7QgU&w=640&h=390]

    August 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • LUKE 19:27

      CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT THEIR JESUS SAID THIS LUKE 19:27 "But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and slaughter them in my presence."

      August 21, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Damon

      Yes, Jesus said this... "CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT THEIR JESUS SAID THIS LUKE 19:27 "But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and slaughter them in my presence." but you are taking it out of context. Jesus was telling a parable in the third person. This is not Jesus speaking as you are making it out. I could take just a piece of everything you say, everyday, and make it sound as though you meant something else. Thsi is a cowardly way, a fools way of speaking.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Jesus SPOKE OF JIHAD

      THIS IS VERY TRUE THAT Jesus SPOKE OF JIHAD

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k89fd-K25wk&w=640&h=390]

      August 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      This is rather interesting. This little incident from the gospels is THE reason the Roman occupation was convinced to get rid of this insurrectionist, by the Jewish authorities. The entire economy of the city of Jerusalem was built on temple activities, bathing before the offerings for a fee, dressing for going to the temple, for a fee, buying the offerings, for a fee, paying the priests, temple entrance fees, food prep fees, growing and feeding the animals for the sacrifices, being paid for them, in the thousands and thousands at festival times, ALL in Jewish currency only, which was required for their rituals, and most people used Roman currency for their civil affairs. S the money changers had a centrally important role. And here comes this itinerant preacher nut who was threatening the entire city's economy. Of course they got rid of him.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  10. bottom line

    religion hurts

    August 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  11. Daniel

    One of my absolute favorite quotes of all time: "I like your Christ, but I don't like your Christians. You're Christians are so unlike your Christ." – Ghandi

    Amazingly, disgustingly, hypocritically true. Most Christians on the planet right now bear little resemblance to the person for whom they seem to worship. Psychotic worshipping if you think about it... their actions are almost always exactly OPPOSITE of the original fundamental teachings of Jesus. They worship Christ yet day in and day out all they seem to be focused on is hate, bigotry, intollerance, judging others, violence, hypocrisy, brain washing.... the list goes on. Fortunately more and more people on this planet are understanding the stupidity and falacy of religion and becoming Atheists. There IS hope for the Human race if we can completely rid this planet of religion.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Torah does not condemn good looking women

      Jesus was a violent man. See Pastor Jones explaining that. Christians love violence but say they're not violent. They say they follow God Creator but don't follow Torah. They say lots of things but do whatever they want. Christians are barbarians

      August 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"They worship Christ yet day in and day out all they seem to be focused on is hate, bigotry, intolerance, judging others, violence, hypocrisy, brain washing.... the list goes on. "

      Yep, and all whites are hateful neo-nazis or trailer trash.

      All African Americans are drug dealers or wellfare queens.

      All Hispanics are in this country to sell drugs and steal our jobs.

      All Asians, can not drive. ....

      Sigh .... hate is stupid but yet it goes on and on. How do folks like you do it Daniel?

      August 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Damon

      Your comment of Ghandi saying ""I like your Christ, but I don't like your Christians. You're Christians are so unlike your Christ." is not a quote of Ghandi. It's actually a quote of someone who spoke to a reporter who said Ghandi said it. Get it? Plus it contradicts everything Ghandi has said about Christ in the past.., like "The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man..." – Ghandi.
      Stop getting your education from Google!

      August 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      Damon,

      There is nothing in your 2nd Gandhi quote which invalidates or contradicts the 1st quote.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Damon

      Yes it does. Let me translate it..., Ghandi didn't say it. Prove it by providing the quote and when and where he was.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Danny, we, in the United States of America, have this wonderful thing called the first amendment. You indeed, are using PART of it right now, the rest being separation of church and state, a wonderful thing that is being diluted recently AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Accept it and move on, you chase away more potential converts than you gather with your militant and inflammatory speech!

      Torah, I'll ignore that idiot Jones, he's as Christian as Genghis Khan, in his observation of faith and teachings. And YOU reject a prophet of your own faith, IF you, as your name here hints, are a Jew. Indeed, Jesus was referred to as Rabbi, something that, if he was not, would have literally been a stoning offense for those who called him that.

      As for Ghandi's quote or non-quote, I'll actually AGREE with the quote, whether or not he said it. Of all humans on this planet, he is one that I honestly would have loved to meet in person. I'm certain that he and I would get along famously, even when we began to discuss his singular failure, what is now Pakistan. Indeed, were I there at the time, India would be at total peace AND larger, with all quite happy. But then, I'm rather good at negotiating such bizarre things.
      You can come talk to me when YOU have dined in a Bedouin tent and played with the host's children, with my wife and his wife present and exchanging recipes (I also participated, as did my host, revealing his mother's recipes).
      You can talk when you've dined in an Afghan home, this time without my wife, but still exchanging recipes and playing with the children.
      As a side note, BOTH groups LOVE a good off color joke. NEVER a crude one, that is offensive. But, a clever turn of phrase to impart the off color joke is greatly appreciated, as it is creative, suggestive and not explicit and people being people, humorous. 🙂
      Frankly, the HARDEST people to get along with are US citizens! CRAZY too judgmental and "superior". Utterly forgetting the lessons of our own nation and Christianity, NO ONE IS SUPERIOR TO ANOTHER, save in an employment position.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • barberie

      Damon – your quote simply reinforces the original statement that Gandhi spoke of the wisdom and peace of Christ, yet the violence, bigotry, arrogance, and hatred of other views at the heart of the Bible compiled many centuries after he lived and the implementation of the religion named after him throughout history and to today. Many people are very unevolved in all walks of life, but most do not force their primitive ways on others.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      Damon,

      No, you said, "Plus it contradicts everything Ghandi has said about Christ in the past."

      If you are using that as an argument that Gandhi never said it, you are way off.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • asrael

      What Gandhi (note spelling) apparently said was: "If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today". Not as pithy as the quote being debated, but the point seems quite clear...

      August 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Damon

      barberie,

      That is very true what you say. As humans we completely fail at living up to any ideals that are as worth wild as Jesus or Gandhi. Our emotions get completely in the way." Reason" is only partially there as we try and figure out what makes us so frustrated. Look, we all want the same things (or at least most of us), our problem is figuring out who's boss.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  12. Torah does not condemn good looking women
    August 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  13. EricKuma

    Christians dont know how to teach. They only know how to rule and subvert. Look at their history. Riddled with anti-truth, anti-science, the inquisition, burning people at the stake, condemning loving couples, cant eat this or that... these people only know one thing and that's control in the name of an immutable source whom they claim to have a monopoly. A monopoly that inevitably leads to war with other monopolies. Just get used to not knowing the answers to the greatest mystery in the Universe. Its ok not knowing. Get your hands out of my pocket, out of my head and out of my life. You dont represent God. You barely represent yourselves.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Get your hands out of my pocket, out of my head and out of my life. "

      Anyone have a Valium for Eric. Maybe there is another use por'n is to calm some folks down.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Eric, you foolishly confuse ALL Christianity with the Roman Catholic Church.
      EVERY offense to humanity that you described was courtesy of that particular church.
      Meanwhile, you ignore the Protestants, who DID have a few sins of their own and other groups, such as the Copts.
      So, throw the baby out with the bathwater much in your militant and extremist atheism? NOBODY FORCED YOU TO READ THE STORY. YOU forced US to read your tirade full of incorrect information.
      YOU are the villain here, not any religious group.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  14. doesn't matter

    Actually, the "Song of Songs" is a metaphorical passage involving married lovers. Is this mistake the fault of Jennifer Wight Knust or CNN? Please be more careful with your editing.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      CNN has a Contact Us page for a reason. They don't read these forums to find corrections or usually, at all. Save to troll for another story.
      On the Contact Us page is a factual error/grammar correction page.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • asrael

      One verifiable source for the "married lovers" notion will do: just one...

      August 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  15. Damon

    Ashley Fantz tries to invoke emotion from nuances that have no substance. To look around a room and express every whimsical detail in an effort to portray a vision in Ashley's mind that is as real as dust slowly fluttering as it falls on a lamp shade. To the rest of us, it's dust. I get it. Trying to be emotionally bravado, to stir the ones feelings, that's what writers want to do.

    I can imagine Ashley, looking at the wall, blurring vision and saying – "I will write a masterpiece." Something that sets me on a future trek, something my boss will read, and then gasp, and clasp his chin (or her) in amazement. But what you fail to realize is your fantasies may actually become realities to some, the truth to some, and horribly your mistake in the long run.

    Writers don't care who they hurt. Writers want to be writers..., but I'm not a writer, I'm just a guy. Reading another article that puts more effort into style then truth.

    Based on the comments I'm reading here, you garner the proper support.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Damon, it is YOU that makes assumptions and pretense, not the author of the story.
      While, longwinded, it reports on a therapy that works for some. Good for them! It beats broken marriages!
      I'll stipulate that it won't work for all. Indeed, there was mention of that concern in the story.
      Is it heavily slanted toward the religious view? Yes. But, THIS IS THE RELIGION BLOG, do you expect something DIFFERENT?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  16. Anthony

    Its funny. The reason atheists respond and get so angry and want to shut Christians up is because they are somewhat convicted by Christianity. They will never admit it but because of the Christian stronghold and influence in (American) society and the fact that nobody knows anything they know their is a small chance it could be true so to eliminate all fear and chance that it can be true they want to shut everyone up that proclaims its true and lives by it, etc. We are vastly influenced by what we hear! It is extremely difficult to shut something out as false in our minds because we know, using logic, their is still a (albeit very small) chance it could be true. We arent convicted by smaller religions or foreign religions but because Christianity is so popular it does something to our minds so the only way to truly eliminate that small fear is to put Christianity in same category as Islam, etc and relegate it to certain group of people, but Christianity continues to reach all nations and groups of people while christians risk their lives non-violently spreading it (unlike muslims) and atheists hate it! I am an agnostic person myself but atheism cracks me up. You don't know anything either. Sit down.

    August 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • jonathan

      Convicted?

      August 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Scott

      "while christians risk their lives non-violently spreading it (unlike muslims) "

      Only an idiot who knows nothing about the history of their religion could make a ridiculously inaccurate statement like this. Christians spread Christianity at the point of a sword for the majority of the last two millennia and it is only in about the last hundred years that they have reframed from doing so. Christianity as a religion is almost entirely the opposite of what Christ preached and most Christians are ignorant of both the major tenants of their religion and the bloody history associated with it.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Convicted? No not yet, although I have been consigned to hell on more than one occasion by you compassionate christians.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And Anthony? Read a few history books about how christians "converted" non-believers before you make silly claims.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Damon

      Scott, ...you're an idiot! (Christ forgive me.)

      August 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • barberie

      The failure of your worldview, Anthony, is that you believe there are believers in God (who you think are all Christian) and non-believers (who you think are all Atheists). You miss the vast middle ground. You miss the mystics of all traditions who are far closer to the teachings and path of Christ than anyone who simply follows a book written by man centuries after he lived. An Islamic Sufi follows the path of Christ far more than a fundamentalist Christian simply because that Sufi is more evolved on that path and no longer in the infantile stages of development.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Ignoring your ignorance of what convicted is, which is disgusting, your parents and school have failed you horribly.
      Ignoring your ignorance of there, their and they're, see the above.
      Ignoring the fact that you are barely literate, as even evidenced by your ignorance of HISTORY.
      Let's review facts:
      Over a dozen crusades, conversion by the sword mandatory.
      Several inquisitions, conversion by torture to death.
      Religious warfare throughout Europe, killing close to 1/3 of the population.
      The dark ages, courtesy of the church and its book burning and suppression of science and medicine.
      Religious warfare in the streets of this very nation that required the US Army to patrol multiple US cities.
      Abortion clinic bombings.
      That is a LOUSY record!
      One that disgusts THIS Christian!
      But, I also learned that God respects TRUTH above lies.
      And I've been deployed to multiple Muslim nations, one even sponsored and build Christian churches for expat workers!
      What is funny is, Catholic nuns taught me about all of the above, except the religious wars in our streets, that was learned later.
      And to ADD to it, the FACT that our founding fathers DID NOT WANT THIS TO BE ANY TYPE OF RELIGIOUS BASTION, but to be a SECULAR nation, something ELSE that the semi-illiterate are unable to learn, as that would require READING diaries and journals, you even wish to disparage our first amendment.
      Know WHO to thank for our first and second amendments? Thomas Jefferson, who was out of the country when the const i tution was written. When he read it, he INSTANTLY wrote about the two amendments, made a case for them and it stuck.
      Start LEARNING FOR YOURSELF, not what some other person TELLS you is said and true. For then, you've fallen into the same trap that the Taliban's followers did.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  17. gizmoidi

    Why are Christians constantly butting into other people's lives?

    August 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      They have too much time on their hands while they wait for their non-existent imaginary and invisible friends to put in an appearance?

      August 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Why are politicians butting into others' lives?
      Why are cops.....?
      Why are mother-in-laws......?
      parents?
      and so on......
      Answer: Maybe because they all have 1 thing in common – they're all people.
      PS: Not all Christians, Cops, mother-in-laws, parents, etc butt into others' lives. The jury's still out on politicians however....

      August 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Go back and read the article. The group is focusing in on those who are of the Christian Faith.

      I know, yall believe that Christianity is out to get you but stop acting to the point of fear that we can tell you did not read the article.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Fred

      I guess you missed the part where it talks about people seeking help (which is a far cry from
      people seeking someone's life to control as you seem to think the article is about).
      Next time, try to read for COMPREHENSION. It will rock your world.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      So, now, in YOUR little world, people asking a religious group for help is that group butting in?
      So, if a tornado obliterates my town, if I ask FEMA for help, they're butting in?
      If I'm in a bad accident and call 911, the paramedics are butting in when they stop me from bleeding to death?
      HELP WAS ASKED FOR. Not forced upon them.
      As opposed to the atheists, who willingly opened a story about religion and forced THEIR views upon others.
      I *NEVER* force my views upon others. Indeed, I can number the TRUE number of people who KNOW my full views on one hand and have fingers left over.
      Note the difference between myself, who did NOT post anything like what you or the "religious" have posted. Only RESPONDED to provocation with reason.
      Now, kindly stop being stupid. You're not good at it.
      ALL OF YOU!
      You can be SO much better than this. Try DOING better.
      What was outlined in the story works for some. Good for them. It won't work for others, hopefully THEY will get help.
      It's useless for myself and my wife. We're comfortable with our lives and marriage enough to enjoy such materiel together. We'll also be married for 30 years, this December.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  18. jason

    OMG I am laughing my hiney off- these people could never be anything more than sheep...

    August 21, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • John

      Lol @ christian ethics

      August 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Foolish, foolish child. You neglect to consider that humans are, by nature and necessity, both pack and herd animals.
      Alone in the world, they're essentially doomed. NO creature is weaker, has less sharp teeth, can't outrun, outfight or out sense a human. TOGETHER is how the species managed to survive.
      So, THESE people (in the story), found, in THEIR GROUP, help for their marriage and something that became a major problem in life.
      But, you, in your foolishness and wish to force others to your own views, ignore that fact and disparage that which WORKED. Indeed, had you shown something ELSE that worked BETTER, you'd not be foolish. But, you failed to do so.
      Further proving Sam Clemens adage, "Better to remain silent and be thought the fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
      You successfully have removed all doubt.
      As for the atheists and "mega" Christians posting, read the above and apply it to yourselves. For the OTHER religion fellow, you know who you are, Torah, see the above as well. I also have a copy of Jewish religious texts, Islamic texts and a few other faiths texts and can speak intelligently with the devout of any of them and have done so.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  19. Andrew

    According to the work produced by David B. Barrett's religious statistics organisation (FYI, the man was a Christian no less) atheists number more than Jews, Sikh's, Shintos, Baha'is, Jains, combined, and if you want to consider all "non-religious/secular/agnostic/atheist" together, since the whole "non-religion" movement is kinda riddled with people who find conontations of words like 'atheist' to be bad enough to not want to declare themselves atheist, you'll find the number of that non-religious group also amounts more than those religions plus buddhism, and taoism or even Confucianism. Overall, the number of non-religious individuals is quite on the rise.

    See, the more we have free range of information, the more we begin to understand as a whole how silly religions are. What makes your religious beliefs any more valid than a Hindu?

    August 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Andrew

      That post was supposed to be meant as a response to herbert juarez on the previous page, but apparently CNN decided it didn't want to work that way.

      CNN, you sure you don't want to hire me for some coding? I'm not the most proficient, but I can certainly debug better than this.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @Andrew: Wow, i see! Certainly a lot of non-religious! Indulging the old Bandwagon Fallacy eh?

      August 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Andrew

      b4bigbang, as I said, it was meant as a response to someone on the previous page who had said, and I quote,

      "herbert juarez

      Atheists are such a small minority ,that when there is a forum such as this they all turn out.They are here being abusive to create the illusion that there is a lot of them.Nothing could be farther from the truth.This is the world wide web,7 billion people on the planet and atheists muster at best a few dozen?They are more to be pitied for their self deceptions than debated."

      There is a minor bandwagon fallacy thrown in my post, but I feel the fallacy is a stronger case to highlight why juarez is wrong as opposed to the "just because people believe something doesn't mean it's right", because, as is evidently the case, juarez does not subscribe to keeping in tune with logic. So if juarez believes a bandwagon fallacy is an appropriate argument, then all I did was flip the side of the coin. I'm not an atheist because other people are atheist, but I'm certainly not above tossing out the fact that our numbers are decidedly on the rise to those who insinuate "atheists are a tiny irrelevant minority".

      August 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Herbie is the current "make stupid claim then run and hide when challenged" king. He has faith but no brains. He will soon cover his ears and run away mumbling "bad atheist, bad atheist, please don't question me about my silly beliefs..."

      August 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Andrew: At least hinduism is older than judaisim and christianity. That gives it seniority, as far as I'm concerned.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Andrew, I could debug this code DRUNK, KICKED IN THE HEAD BY A HORSE AND SUFFERING FROM CO POISONING, BETTER THAN THE MORONS WHO WROTE IT.
      And I'm NOT good at programming. But, I learn REAL quick and instinctively see bad code somehow.
      On second thought, drop an anvil on my head on top of all of the above and still do better... I've gone through 100000 lines of code in a language that I'm lousy at and found the bugs.

      THAT said, let's have a bit of math fun, shall we?
      OK, nearly 7 billion people infesting the planet.
      Out of them, 1.2 billion are Muslim (many, if not most being "good Catholics").
      Out of the rest:
      Let's have fun, it's Saint Flatulous of the Methanicous on the Sulfidicus River's day, double that for Christians for 2.4 billion (ALSO "good Catholics", overall).
      Now, for fun, we'll make India of the billion (OK, REAL close), Hindu and Buddhist.
      That is 4.6 billion. BEING charitable for a couple of faiths.
      The remainder is either atheist or another faith. Let's be charitable again for a quarter.
      That's STILL a lot of atheists, but nowhere NEAR a majority.
      Take away the charity, it's STILL not a majority.
      Only what it was originally, a peer. 🙂
      Beware the educated believer in something. 😉
      WE know math, physics and chemistry. 😀
      Good night. My wife demands my attention...

      August 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  20. DWT

    Story got too long, so I started masturbating.

    August 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • PeeDrinker

      I cannot stop drinking pee, I need help someone please.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I think you can download R.Kelly albums from iTunes 🙂

      August 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Alottafugina

      That was f'ing awesome. Still laughing. Article way too long. Particularly for such an inane topic. Hold please – masturbating. I'm back. I cannot get any work done.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Alotta, at least DWT didn't come back instantly. That implies that DWT has a POTENTIAL to breed successfully, unlike you.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
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About this blog

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