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September 1st, 2011
10:24 AM ET

My Faith: Rep. Keith Ellison, from Catholic to Muslim

By Chris Welch, CNN

Minneapolis, Minnesota (CNN) -Prior to 2006, few people even knew that then-Minnesota state legislator Keith Ellison was a Muslim. Because of his English name, he said, no one thought to ask.

But five years ago, when he ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives - a race he would go on to win - word of his religious affiliation began to spread.

“When I started running for Congress it actually took me by surprise that so many people were fascinated with me being the first Muslim in Congress,” said Ellison, a Democrat now serving his third term in the House.

“But someone said to me, ‘Look Keith, think of a person of Japanese origin running for Congress six years after Pearl Harbor–this might be a news story.’”

Though Ellison's status as the first Muslim elected to Congress is widely known, fewer are aware that he was born into a Catholic family in Detroit and was brought up attending Catholic schools.

But he said he was never comfortable with that faith.

“I just felt it was ritual and dogma,” Ellison said. “Of course, that’s not the reality of Catholicism, but it’s the reality I lived. So I just kind of lost interest and stopped going to Mass unless I was required to.”

It wasn’t until he was a student at Wayne State University in Detroit when Ellison began, “looking for other things.”

He doesn’t have an elaborate explanation of what led him to convert to Islam in college, though he said he was “drawn to the multi-national congregation.”

“I would really like to hear somebody who is really articulate about the elements of their faith conversion. I'm not,” he said. "I investigated it, it worked for me, and it made me have a sense of inspiration and wonder, and I became a Muslim. It's been working for me ever since.”

Ellison's political opponents have made his faith an issue in his congressional campaigns.

“I would caution [opponents] that it doesn't work. People are not hateful like that," he said. "If you come up saying, ‘Vote for me because Ellison is a Muslim and I’m not,’ nine out of ten voters are going to see that as the silliness that it is.”

“It doesn't hurt my feelings at all," he said. "In fact I actually feel sorry for these people.”

And he said he has never had a second thought about converting.

“My faith and my identity as a Muslim - I never saw it as something that made my job harder," he said. "It’s just an aspect of who I am. It's the time that we live in. We have to respond to the realities of the world we’re in.”

But Ellison acknowledges that his faith has given him something of a national profile, not always in ways that are welcome.

In March, he testified in nationally televised congressional hearings, called by Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, to explore what King said was radicalization in American Muslim communities.

At the hearing, Ellison choked up as he described the sacrifices of Muslim Americans who tried to save others in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Without any of my choosing or desire I became somewhat of a symbolic figure," Ellison said. "And I urge anyone to avoid becoming a symbolic figure if you can. But I ended up in that position, so I just figured why not talk about it? Why not help try to bring people together with it?”

“Faith really should be a bridge, not a wall," Ellison said. "Because at the end of the day we should be focusing on what you believe, not what your religion is.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Islam

soundoff (1,073 Responses)
  1. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    It's funny to see how when there's a religious article about someone other than a Christian, the atheists aren't out in full force bashing the beleivers. Yea there's still some, but not nearly like there are in articles about Christians.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Laughing

      Because the majority of bashing is actually coming from the Christians, and its a lot funnier to point out this bashing as a) hypocritical considering you both believe in the same god (which is ridiculous in of itself) and that b) christians are the ones always complaing about being bullied and persecuted because of their beliefs and turn around and are the biggest bullies there, especially when it comes to Islam.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      It probably has something to do with the fact that Christians don't show up in force to an article like this one defending any sort of beliefs of their own, so the atheists have no foils for their barbs.

      In spite of that, it seems like a few of the regulars are already here. I imagine a few more will be on their way shortly...

      September 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      @laughing – Actually if you go to the Christian articles and look at all the comments ~80% are from atheists bashing Christians. Thanks for playing.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Laughing

      Ooooo Bruce, I hope you consider me a regular!

      @Alfonzo: I think you are either willfully ignoring or really don't understand when a christian is going after an atheist. I won't say atheists on this board are only reactionary or only do a small amount of christian bashing, but to pretend its a 80/20 split means you have to do some mental gymnastics to see through all the christian insult and get insulted by atheist posts that weren't meant to be insulting in the first place

      ya geddit?

      September 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Christians can and do dish it out as much as the athiests. Both sides are guilty. The fights just get a lot worse when it's about a Christian article.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Laughing

      I think a lot of people ignore the fact that atheists and christians have and do also have plenty of civil debates, with no name calling or belittling as well

      For instance I feel Damian, JW and I have all built a solid repport with one another.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Laughing,

      What are you talking about? I hate you, you godless heathen. Die in a car crash. 🙂

      September 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Damian

      Now how are you going to feel when god kills me in a car crash on my way home from work today? Guess I'll just have to drive EXTRA slow today.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Oh Lord. Please don't. I'll get stuck behind you because you'll be doing 35 in the fast lane and inevitably want to kill you. Hey, I said I was Christian, not a saint. 🙂

      September 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Damian

      Fair enough, though if you see me driving 35 miles an hour in the fast lane, it's because I have a flat tire. I'm told by many I have a lead foot, which probably doesn't help my "trying to live" thing.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Give us time, we'll get round to them. Its always funny how so-called Christians have such a victim mentality, when they always rant how they despise it in others. I don't hate Islam or any other faith, I just view it as unimportant and a waste of a good day off, be it Friday, Sunday, or whatever day somebody choses to put themselves on public display to try win some sort of piety contest. The ones who actually live some of the tenents of their faith are overshadowed by the small, vocal percentage of loons who feel they have the Lord ( or whatever) on speed dial and want to beat the world into subission so they can feel superior.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Frogist

      True, he got me at first, hook, line and sinker, but it was sort of funny that through that Damian and I could work together to clarify his glaring mistakes. It does help to at least know the "groundrules" when debating with others because as Damian put it above, you have to accept that the bible is the word of god before going further in discussing theology. Clearly I don't, but I accept that he accepts that it is, which I think is enough.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  2. Bo

    ========= I should have added 'Reallity' to the list above.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Bo

    ============I have a question for Demuth, Rainer, Truefax and some others: All of you seem to be intelligent people, so why do you need to be so sarcastic when refering to other's beliefs and faith and the deities they worship? This is something I would expect from an ignorant uneducated school drop-out, but not a sophisticated person. It is so boorish.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Laughing

      Its fun with the cover of anonmyity, it gets responses and when someone writes when they're angry they're liable to almost prove your point for you.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • William Demuth

      @ BO – See my post below. I'm a high school dropout and am smarter then you punk.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bruce

      I'm not sure how they "seem intelligent" to you, unless you are putting the bar way too low.

      The fact is they suffer from the exact same intellectual problems as the allegedly-religious people they rail against, because neither the vocal atheists nor their religious foils have any remote understanding of theology, and both sides regard theology as basically useless when contemplating the truth or untruth of a question such as "does God exist?"

      Both sides pretend that science not only can answer questions like this, but that science actually supports their arguments.

      What makes me scratch my head, Bo, is why you are so concerned with their manners? Why would their abuse even affect you, let alone offend you?

      September 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • A Theist

      I don't think Bo's offended. He's curious, like I am, as to why people feel the need to berate instead of simply engage in discussion and consider all sides of an argument–sans the insults, which add nothing to the debate.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Laughing

      Well to answer your question A Theist

      Read over Bruces reply again. He's pointed out that a) apparently some of the bigger chatacters on this board aren't intelligent, do not know theology (because the theology they know doesn't align with his own)

      He also discounts the idea that god and religion can in fact be proven false by science (to a degree) and dismisses anything that would be used to prove god wrong.

      Like I said above, the harsher and ruder things from most atheists are really just to elicit a response. William Demuth is the exception beacuse hes not really trying to argue or discuss theology and get into a nitty gritty debate, he just wants to troll around and basically be an atheist version of Adelina/CrystalRiver/FairGarden and so on.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing:

      LOL you know so little about theology that you probably think I'm not an atheist but I'm here defending my beliefs in Christianity.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Bruce

      To be honest, yes, I'm confused how a) you can claim that people on this board don't understand theology b) how you've decided I don't know and can't hold my own in a theological debate because of one post that has nothing to with theological content c) you truely disagree that science is unable to prove god false.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I very much believe science can prove god false.
      I actually believe it already has proven enough things false that a learned person would come to the conclusion that there is no god given all the facts.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing:

      a&b) Because I've seen you argue the question of God's existence, and not only do you think that science is an appropriate tool for this question, you see it as more-appropriate than theology. This alone shows your complete ignorance of what theology is and why it is the ONLY appropriate tool for this question. (My guess is that, if pressed, you would characterize theology in "number of angels dancing on the head of a pin" terms.)

      c) Because "does God exist?" is a theological question, not a question for science. To use science in an attempt to answer this theological question is a category error.

      Your kind of atheist doesn't even understand that which you claim you don't believe. You think flying spaghetti monsters are relevant to the discussion.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Laughing

      Oh Brucey,

      When you have such a ridiculous notion like that of god, of course a Flying Spadhetti Monster becomes relevant, so do, as you've seen, Unicorns, Leprachauns and other fictional creatures and characters.

      It's all about perception isn't it? If you give theology the credence that many believe it deserves, namely that its real and it's very nuanced, then yes, trying to use science as a method to prove or disprove it becomes a category error. But Brucey, dear brucey, theology is fun to discuss in purely fictional terms but when brought into the physical world, it IS subject to scientific skepticism and experimentation. How do you prove god exists without science I wonder? Theology is based on the premise that god does exist, so to ask if god exists and then try to answer it with only theology is a useless exercise with only one outcome. If you can show me, theologically without using any physical evidence that god can be disproven, I'd love to hear it.

      On a side note, what exactly do I not understand at which I claim to believe? If you are arguing if I'm an expert at the subject material, then yes, you are correct, most of "my kind" of atheist are not experts in the fields of cosmology, biology, chemistry, etc.... but at one point have I shown that I do not understand it at all?

      September 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • RJ

      @Best

      A learned person can take the same "facts" and come to the conclusion that there is a God. It's all perspective and based on what you "believe" in as you just said. My ultimate belief is that God's existence cannot be proven true or false.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • J.W

      I think I know why it is Bo. Us Christians are cool dudes getting all the girls and these atheists are all nerds in their laboratory studying evolution. They are so jealous.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ RJ
      As for right now I do believe it's all perspective, but I also believe that eventually science will get to a point where it's obvious and god is proven to be false. It may not be within the next few years, but eventually science will prove one way or the other.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Laughing

      Too True JW

      Nerd envy is a terrible terrible thing, but have you seen some of the scientists chicks? Behind those lab coats, googles and pony tails is a party just waiting to happen, and with the shi.t you can mix in a lab nowadays......

      September 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • J.W

      Come to think of it Laughing I have seen that girl on CSI or NCIS or whatever with the pigtails. We need to have a Christian/Science nerd beauty contest.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing: "When you have such a ridiculous notion like that of god, of course a Flying Spadhetti Monster becomes relevant, so do, as you've seen, Unicorns, Leprachauns and other fictional creatures and characters. "

      Thank you for so graciously proving my point for me.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @JW,

      If that's the contest, I want to submit the girl who plays Bernadette on Big Bang Theory.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Bruce

      No problem and thank YOU for ducking out of a debate and not answering any of my questions. It's still pretty evident in my view that god is as fictional as a unicorn, so why exactly do I need to treat it as if it might exist and only use the literature that is produced on the premise that god does exist to try and ultimately fail at disproving god exists?

      Any helpful advice would be great, I mean, since you so clearly are a master in all the sciences AND theology, this should be cake for you, right?

      September 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing: "so why exactly do I need to treat it as if it might exist and only use the literature that is produced on the premise that god does exist to try and ultimately fail at disproving god exists?"

      You must first come to some understanding of what "God exists" might mean before you can go on your way believing or disbelieving such a claim. You probably can't even grasp what "intentional inexistence" might mean as a contrast to "existence" and how it is different from "nonexistence."

      These are not easy tasks. They take a lot of time reading through very dense material that doesn't easily yield itself to understanding.

      I don't expect you to endeavor to do anything. You obviously lack any sense of curiosity in this matter.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      If the discussion is one of theology, a few ground rules need to be established. So if I am going to debate Christianity with someone, we would have to agree that the Bible is the Word of God. If we can't even agree on that, then we can't have the discussion because the whole backing of Christianity is based on the Bible.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Bruce

      "So if I am going to debate Christianity with someone, we would have to agree that the Bible is the Word of God. If we can't even agree on that, then we can't have the discussion because the whole backing of Christianity is based on the Bible."

      1) No. We don't have to agree that "the Bible is the Word of God." You don't even know what you mean by that. Scriptures were written and arranged by people. The content can be judged as-is, on its own merits. We do not need to bring the Authority of God into the picture to derail the whole discussion from the get-go.

      2) No. The Church did not come from the Bible. The Bible came from the Church. The Bible is NOT the basis for Christianity. Not in the least. The Bible didn't even exist until about the 4th century, some 300 years after the ministry of Jesus.

      Scripture is certainly a useful tool in theology, however its proper place is not as you describe.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Laughing

      Oh but Bruce, that isn't playing fair now is it? If you want to discuss the exi.stance of a divine creator more akin to deism, that's a different ball park. I guess this issue here is that when I say god, I normally mean and most people understand it to me the Judeo-Christian god. Unfortunately god is too much of an overa.rching word that it can sometimes refer to a very specific character and other times is incred.ibly va.gue. Most people on this board will say "God exi.sts" and very clearly mean the one in the NT. As you can see from Damian's point, to debate theocracy concerning christianity he believes, among others, that you first HAVE to believe that the bible is the word of god, so how could I then use this to prove that god doesn't exist?

      You're right though, I clearly show I'm intel.lectually lazy and don't like to read but just like to go on these boards and pla.garize other atheists posts. Sadly, you are one of the very people that believes that atheism is only for the intellectually e.lite and anyone who doesn't pros.cribe to atheism, and your specific type of atheism at that, is stupid and can't even grasp concepts.

      If you identify as an atheist, do you believe in god? Co.ntrary to what you might think, I can understand the diff.erence between the atheism that rejects religion AND the notion of god and atheism that simply rejects religion.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Laughing

      I think a picture is coming together.

      So you want to discuss the merits of the bible, what is has to offer and what it doesn't, the same way you would a classic novel in literature. Trying to prove existance, veracity or a number of things that lead up to discussing this book, to you, is irrelevant. To a degree I can see you're line of reasoning and to discuss the bible in that regard, then you are right, whether god exists/does not exists, whether jesus or was or not is inconsequential. What YOU fail to grasp sir is that if you look at the bible in that way, it should have no bearing on a persons life the way it does for billions of christians around the globe. If the bible is proven to just be a book written as a way to teach morals through stories then it can be easily be proven fallible and thus should not have any bearing on policy. You sir, need to widen your range a little bit and realize it's actually an incrediblly important point whether god (from the bible) exists, whether jesus actually lived and so on, or else we might as well argue the finer points of The Brothers Karamazof

      Savvy?

      September 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Bruce –

      "1) No. We don't have to agree that "the Bible is the Word of God." You don't even know what you mean by that. Scriptures were written and arranged by people. The content can be judged as-is, on its own merits. We do not need to bring the Authority of God into the picture to derail the whole discussion from the get-go.

      2) No. The Church did not come from the Bible. The Bible came from the Church. The Bible is NOT the basis for Christianity. Not in the least. The Bible didn't even exist until about the 4th century, some 300 years after the ministry of Jesus.

      Scripture is certainly a useful tool in theology, however its proper place is not as you describe."

      Any church, claming to be Christian, yet does not follow the Bible, is not a Christian church. I don't know of a single denomination of Christianity that doesn't claim that the Bible is the Word of God.

      Further, Merriam-Webster tends to disagree with you as to the definition of Christianity.

      Definition of CHRISTIANITY
      1: the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies "

      Further, the only written works we have of what Jesus may or may not have said, that I am aware of, is the Bible. Since Christian literally means "Christ Follower", and they aren't using the Bible to follow His words, what are they following?

      September 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing:

      "As you can see from Damian's point, to debate theocracy concerning christianity he believes, among others, that you first HAVE to believe that the bible is the word of god, so how could I then use this to prove that god doesn't exist?"

      As you probably don't understand because you haven't bothered to look into it, Christianity is not founded upon the Bible, or upon the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. If you think about this, its utter ridiculousness shows itself. You have to imagine a world with no religion and a Bible floating down, perhaps out of a spaceship, and being picked up by someone with no former knowledge of it, reading it, and basing a religion off of it. That is not what history tells us about Christianity.

      Further, since you like to compare God to things like Santa Claus, at least you might understand this: Given that neither of us believe in Santa and both of us agree that Santa is completely fictional, what CAN we do with regards to discussing Santa? The fact is that, in spite of Santa's nonexistence, we CAN reliably identify when someone is WRONG about Santa. For example, if someone says Santa is skinny, dresses in predominantly green tones, never laughs, has black hair and no beard, and slaps old ladies in the face instead of giving presents to children, we can confidently say that whatever this person is talking about is most-certainly NOT Santa Claus. We can say they are doing Santa-theology INCORRECTLY, and we would be right.

      Likewise, when someone says something so-obviously wrong about the Bible, we can confidently state that they are WRONG, and whatever it is they are talking about is most-certainly NOT Christianity.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bruce

      DamianKnight:

      1. Using the dictionary to "prove" a point is lamest of lame. Further, what you quoted does not say that the Bible is "the Word of God" but rather "sacred scripture." HUGE difference there.

      2. "Using the Bible to follow [Jesus'] words" and regarding the Bible as "the Word of God" are two completely different things.

      3. You don't have to be a Christian in order to engage in Christian theology. In fact, very few Christians engage in anything remotely resembling theology.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Laughing

      So you think that the Bible being the literal word of god is utter and complete ridiculousness, but when it comes to jesus raising the dead, or walking on water, that's worthy of discussion? For a guy claiming to understand theology you really have a tough time a) understanding that most denominations of christianity heartily disagree with you (along with jewish ones as well) and that you think christianity came about before the bible is ridiculousness unto itself.

      You might get away with basic, infant christianity was around before the bible, the christianity that you so sorely want to discuss is directly from the bible, no if, ands or buts about that. If you don't believe me, ask any believer here, I'm very certain they'll back me up.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      "As you probably don't understand because you haven't bothered to look into it, Christianity is not founded upon the Bible, or upon the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. If you think about this, its utter ridiculousness shows itself. You have to imagine a world with no religion and a Bible floating down, perhaps out of a spaceship, and being picked up by someone with no former knowledge of it, reading it, and basing a religion off of it. That is not what history tells us about Christianity."

      This is an asinine argument. Of course the Bible didn't just -poof- into reality. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God because the authors were divinely inspired. Similar to, how in Exodus, when Moses gets the 10 Commandments. Moses wrote them but God dictated them to him. We would still call that "The Word of God."

      September 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Laughing

      I will say though it's neat that you've goaded me and Damian to actually be on the same side with one another, which I didn't think was really possible when discussing theology. Kudos to you for that.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Laughing,

      He's arguing minutiae. Yes, the Christian church was founded long before the Bible was compiled. But, the Old Testament (which is more or less, Jewish writings) was compiled long before Jesus (as Jesus frequently references it in the New Testament.)

      Constantine put together a bunch of scholars and they all decided on what was considered "holy scripture" and what wasn't. Modern day Christianity is absolutely based off of the Bible because it is considered the Word of God. Therefore, it is the highest authority on all things Christian. The Bible is to Christianity what the Consti.tution is to the United States.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Laughing

      @Damian,

      Completely agree. Obviously christ followers were around before the bible, but Bruce equates followers of christ with christianity as if they are the same thing, which we both know is false. It's the same as trying to equate israelites and jews, they're based off the same thing, but so warped from one another they're almost two different religions for the most part. This is no way means I BELIEVE in any of this, but I do in fact understand that these are factors that have to be known as truth in order to move forward discussing christianity, but I guess according to Bruce, you and I don't understand theology at all. Guess I got to go back to school huh?

      September 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • J.W

      I see what Bruce is trying to do now. He is trying to bring Christians and atheists together.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • J.W

      I see what Bruce is trying to do now. He is trying to bring Christians and atheists together

      September 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Laughing: "If you don't believe me, ask any believer here, I'm very certain they'll back me up."

      Right, which is what I said in the beginning of this thread, which is that most believers here are as curious as you when it comes to theology and the question of "does God exist." Both you AND them have the same intellectual problems, both you AND them are not even beginning to debate the issue whatsoever.

      @DamianKnight: "Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God because the authors were divinely inspired."

      That's not the tone you took with your 2-part Billy Graham style prerequisites for doing theology. You are backpedaling now.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Laughing,

      Here's the thing. If one is establishing themselves as a "Follower of Christ" one must either one of two seperate things. 1) They must have heard Christ speak and therefore understand what He said or 2) Have written accounts of what He said so as to follow. Since, Christ lived roughly 2,000 years ago, I believe it is a fair thing to say that are no living people who actually met Christ in the flesh and heard Him speak. Therefore, all Christ Followers must have a record of what He said. Christians can't believe in a vaccuum.

      Further, Christians ascribe the Bible to be the Word of God. Since most mainstream denominations believe Christ was God in the form of man, and if we believe the Bible are the words that Christ spoke, then since Christ was God, it is the Word of God. If the Bible is not the Word of God, and if it is not considered to be the ultimate authority, why does every sermon I know of, have in it passages from the Bible?

      September 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Bruce,

      In the words of a true scholar, Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Only in your mind, my very young apprentice." I have not backpedaled once. Christians believe, the works of the Bible were divinely inspired and are the Words of God. It's similar to quoting (as I did just above). Mainstream denominations believe that the Bible is the Word of God, divinely inspired and written down by man. There is a distinct difference between "backpedaling" and "clarifying."

      September 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @DamianKnight & Laughing: Why are you bothering with Bruce? He seems to only want to pick fights and then act like he's oh so smart that he doesn't have to explain his point of view. He's the worst kind of atheist. At least you guys will engage in civil debate and back up what you have to say. Bruce refuses to do even that. I wouldn't let him provoke you. He just doesn't seem worth it.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Frogist,

      Ummmmm...I'm a glutton for punishment? 🙂

      September 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • J.W

      I was wondering that too Frogist. What is Bruce's point of view?

      September 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Laughing

      Fair enough,

      Personally I sort of like using trolls as jumping off points, it helps me hone my own point of view and really flesh out details that sometimes I do know i say without neces.sarily having good back-up ev.idence.

      @Damian

      Being a follower of christ in the classic sense and a follower of christ now are two separate things. Now, when someone says they are a follower of christ it generally means they only have the bible to work off of in order to make that statement. Since its pretty standard (I'm disregarding Mormonism now, but technically they still fall in this category) the bible teaches the words of Jesus and people take with it what they will.

      Being a christ follower before the council of nic.ea and when the canon was officially closed was very different than christianity now. They got their info mostly from roaming holy men and letters, like what Paul wrote, except there was much more misinformation.

      As for the bible being the word of god. That's an interesting way to put it. I was thought it was more like the quotes are direct quotations from jesus' lips onto the page, but it's not just what jesus says, it's the words are divinely inspired by god, EVERY word.

      September 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Frogist

      @DamianKnight: Somehow I knew that about you. 😉 Esp if you hang around here...
      @JW: I don't know what Bruce's pov is. From what he's said it sounds like he's an atheist whose views are so complex that our tiny minds would never comprehend.
      @Laughing: I know it's important to figure out why you believe what you believe. But Bruce's posts seem more worthy of a good bop from the troll hammer that you often wield so gracefully.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Laughing

      @Frogist

      True, he got me at first, hook, line and sinker, but it was sort of funny that through that Damian and I could work together to clarify his glaring mistakes. It does help to at least know the "groundrules" when debating with others because as Damian put it above, you have to accept that the bible is the word of god before going further in discussing theology. Clearly I don't, but I accept that he accepts that it is, which I think is enough.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • J.W

      Damian doesnt a Christian who comes on this blog have to be a glutton for punishment? lol

      September 2, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • SPA Knight

      @Bruce,
      Amen brother. There are so many misconceptions that the Bible came before the Church. As if it was hidden under a rock and someone discovered it. The fact is as you pointed out that it was the Church (Catholics) that assembled what was to be known as the Bible.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  4. CrystalRiver

    My god's better than your god.
    My god's better than yours.
    My god's better 'cause he eats Kennel Ration.
    My god's better than yours.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  5. William Demuth

    I dropped out of high school bc of religious fanatics. They dont know nothing and i can teach myself what i want. im better off that way and my intelligence has skyrocketed way beyond those of any believer.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Giancaro

      And you are showing it with your impeccable grammer

      September 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Bruce

      You know, Giancaro, if you are going to criticize someone's grammar, you should deign to take 5-seconds to learn how to spell the word, and another half a second to end your sentence with some form of punctuation. It also helps to avoid words like "and" as the first word of a sentence.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • RJ

      Religion or not, just admit that you were too stupid to finish something as easy as high school.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      ...that explains so much.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  6. Reality

    Dear Rep. Ellison,

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
    alone."
    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    September 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  7. Bo

    =========== This article presents a very good scenario. I want to be hypthetical for a moment. Islam, which is really the name of the sect to which Moslims belong, is also a very nationalistic religion, controled by the government(s), of several near east countries, were to declare war on the U.S. (Not the other way around such as the U.S. declared war on Iraq, and don't consider the terriorist groups,) how would Ellison's faith be affected? I know that many would say it shouldn't be affeced, but if he were a fighting man he would be fighting his own "brethern". How does nationalistic feelings affect Muslims that make the U.S. their home. Their 'brethern' live in a different country. Who are they most loyal to? That is a question I have with nationalized Muslims.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Brian

      When we fought for independence we were fighting people with the same religous back ground some where even fighting their own family members. People who kill, tourture or bring harm to others regardless of belief are still bad people. Just because they have one similarity does not mean they have the same morals. Big difference between morals and religion.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Bruce

      "Islam, which is really the name of the sect to which Moslims belong, is also a very nationalistic religion, controled by the government(s), of several near east countries"

      Actually, it is inaccurate to regard Islam as controlled by national governments. While certainly we can find many Muslims who are also nationalists, any form of Islamic orthodoxy does not take place in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. In fact, the Muslims who favor some form of nationalism are largely heterodox.

      Only in secular nations, where there is a separation of Church and State, can something like orthodoxy thrive. Turkey and the United States are good examples of this. It is only in such places where orthodox theologians can gather and have the critical conversations regarding their theology without being manipulated and distracted by political issues like those who also must find a way to organize a government in addition to regulating the hermeneutics of sacred scriptures.

      So no, it is not at all accurate to describe Islam as a nationalistic religion where orthodoxy is controlled by the governments of certain nations. Only in a heterodox environment can theology be subsumed and degraded to the needs of politics, such as we find in Tehran.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nils

      That is the same argument used before JFK was President because he was Catholic. The general idea was that as a Catholic JFK was more loyal to the pope than the United States. History has shown, I would argue, that JFK was an exceptional President and an exceptional American. One of the things that has been unchanging in American history is the preponderance for Americans to consider themselves AMERICANS before anything else.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  8. DAD

    "As long as your faith makes you a better person, then it's right for you". That's my rule of thumb, and I believe that Rep. Ellison is doing well by his faith – he's not spouting hatred toward anyone.

    It doesn't matter if you believe in the Muslim/Christian/Jewish god or the Roman gods or the Spaghetti Monster or humanity or just yourself – as long as it makes you a better person.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Stevie7

      If only the voting public thought as rationally as you do.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I'm an atheist and I approve this message.
      ...The problem comes when people have different perspective on what a good person actually is.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Nils

      Well put

      September 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Frogist

    Oftentimes you can tell a lot about a person by how they say something rather than what they say. And I like that Mr Ellison seems respectful and open-minded.
    I love this:"Without any of my choosing or desire I became somewhat of a symbolic figure, ... And I urge anyone to avoid becoming a symbolic figure if you can. But I ended up in that position, so I figured why not talk about it? Why not help try to bring people together with it?"
    Contrast that with like a Sarah Palin who seeks out the spotlight whereever she goes and uses it to divide rather than unite.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    Everybody, who voluntarily joins Islam, needs a medical examination of his head!

    Muhammad: He preached and killed.

    Jesus Christ: He preached and cured.

    Seemingly, there is a small distinction between Islam and Christianity.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yeah

      And the Huls smashes.

      And Strawberry Shostcake has pony tails that smell like fruit

      And the Flying Spaghetti Monster has Noodly Appendages.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Truefax

      There's also a distinction between Learning Disablities and Mental Retardation, but either way you're still "Special".

      September 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  11. Rainer Braendlein

    Your friends attend a mosque?

    Keep on loving them, but don't be too naive!

    Al-Quds Mosque, Hamburg

    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Al Quds Masjid, Hamburg

    Basic information:

    Location St. Georg, Hamburg,

    Hamburg, Germany

    Geographic coordinates 53°33′25″N 10°01′10″E / 53.55694°N 10.01944°E / 53.55694; 10.01944 Coordinates: 53°33′25″N 10°01′10″E / 53.55694°N 10.01944°E / 53.55694; 10.01944

    Affiliation: Islam

    Architectural description:

    Architectural type: Mosque

    Architectural style: backyard

    Completed: 1993

    Al-Quds Mosque Hamburg (Arabic: مسجد القدس, meaning "Jerusalem", or Masjid Taiba مسجد طيبة) was a mosque in Hamburg, Germany that preached a radical form of Sunni Islam. Al-Quds is where some of the September 11 attackers including Mohamed Atta, attended and met one another, forming the Hamburg cell.[1]

    History: The mosque opened in 1993, and was run by the Taiba German-Arab Cultural Association.[2] It occupied a three-story building near the Hauptbahnhof rail station in a red-light district, in the St. Georg section of Hamburg.[3]

    Unlike many other mosques in Hamburg which cater to Persians and the Turkish population, al-Quds served Hamburg's smaller Arab population.[4] Under leadership of Iman Mohammed al Fizazi, the mosque preached a radical version of Sunni Islam.[3] Other leaders at the mosque have included Sheik Azid al Kirani.[3]

    The prayer room for men is carpeted, located on the first floor, and can accommodate up to 400. It is one of the Masjids with a radical interpretation of Islam and its practice, namely the way of the Salaf As-Salih.[3]. On Fridays, the mosque usually had around 250 in attendance.[5]

    2010 shut down

    The mosque was shut down by German security officials in August 2010 amid suspi-cion that the mosque was again being used as a meeting place for Islamic extremists involved in the 2010 European terror plot.[6] [7][8] German authorities discovered that 10 members of the mosque had traveled to the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Shahab D., an Iranian at the mosque, had joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.[5]

    September 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  12. William Depoop

    Ahhhh so nice to see Mrs. Demuth has joined us again today to spout her ramblings. Must be that time of the month for her, actually nvm, that troll is angry at the world 24/7

    September 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Not angry at all.

      Actually quite cheerfull.

      Its seems your Christian enclaves are being over run.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    The false Prophet Muhammad would say that Mohamed Atta will surely get into heaven, because he did the most honorable deed, a Muslim can do: He killed some thousand wicked infidels (Jews and Christians).

    Mohamed Atta

    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Mohamed Atta:

    Born Mohamed Atta
    (in Arabic: محمد عطا)
    September 1, 1968(1968-09-01)
    Kafr el-Sheikh, Egypt
    Died September 11, 2001(2001-09-11) (aged 33)
    Manhattan, New York, United States

    Alma mater: Cairo University, Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg

    Religion: Sunni Islam

    Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta (Arabic: محمد محمد الأمير عوض السيد عطا‎, Muḥammad Muḥammad al-Āmir ‘Awaḍ as-Sayyid ‘Aṭā) (September 1, 1968 – September 11, 2001) was one of the masterminds and the ringleader of the September 11 attacks who served as the hijacker-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, crashing the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center as part of the coordinated attacks.[1][2][3][4]

    Born in 1968 in a small town in Egypt's Nile Delta, Atta moved with his family to the Abdeen section of Cairo at the age of 10. Atta studied architecture at Cairo University, graduating in 1990, and continued his studies in Hamburg, Germany at the Technical University of Hamburg. In Hamburg, Atta became involved with the al-Quds Mosque, where he met Marwan al-Shehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Ziad Jarrah, together forming the Hamburg cell. Atta disappeared from Germany for periods of time, spending some time in Afghanistan, including several months in late 1999 and early 2000 when he met Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders. Atta and the other Hamburg cell members were recruited by bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for the "planes operation" in the United States. Atta returned to Hamburg in February 2000, and began inquiring about flight training in the United States.

    Atta arrived in the United States, together with Marwan al-Shehhi, in June 2000. Both ended up in south Florida at Huffman Aviation where they entered the Accelerated Pilot Program. Atta and Shehhi obtained instrument ratings in November 2000, and continued training on simulators and flight training. Beginning in May 2001, Atta assisted with the arrival of the muscle hijackers. In July 2001, Atta traveled to Spain where he met with bin al-Shibh to exchange information and finalize the plot. In August, Atta traveled on surveillance flights to determine details on how the attacks could be carried out.

    In early September 2001, Atta traveled to Maryland, where fellow hijacker Hani Hanjour was at the time. Atta then traveled to Boston, and on September 10, with Abdulaziz al-Omari to Portland, Maine. On the morning of September 11, Atta and Omari traveled on Colgan Air back to Boston, where they boarded American Airlines Flight 11. Fifteen minutes into the flight, the team of hijackers attacked and Atta took over control of the aircraft. At 8:46 a.m., Atta crashed the Boeing 767 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.[5]

    September 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Conerned Citizen

      I guess then when all the christians killed the jews, rampaged around the world, enslaved, stole, killed everyone in the name of christianity was just a farce, right? nah.,... its all about curing and that's what they were doing. curing them, by shooting them. ignoranse is bliss

      September 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  14. William Demuth

    So in other words, he was worshiping a non exsistent God as a child, and he continues to do so today

    September 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Bruce

      "God is so great, He doesn't even need to exist!" Victor Weisskopf

      September 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  15. Physics-lite

    Quote:
    “Faith really should be a bridge, not a wall," Ellison said. "Because at the end of the day we should be focusing on what you believe, not what your religion is.”

    I agree 100% and God bless him.

    September 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  16. no

    that glorious day when silly willy and billy will up there praying 5 times a day facing mecca!!!!

    September 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • William Demuth

      Mecca will be torched right after the Vatican and Jerusalem.

      Muslims, Christians, Jews, you are all just symtoms of the same disease.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Truefax

      Actually Jew's and Muslims share the same disease; Christians are a whole other kind of wonderful. People forget that once you could buy forgiveness of sins from the church before you did them. Christianity lets you abdicate responsibility for you consequences of your actions by hiding behind Christ, at least jews ,muslims, hindus, buddists, taoist, etc believe in personal spiritual accountability.
      Again it’s like being learning disabled vs. mentally retarded, you really don’t want to be born that way but if you are it’s better to be LD.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  17. John Stefanyszyn

    "Because at the end of the day we should be focusing on what you believe, not what your religion is.”

    ...Mr. Ellison summarized well his primary core belief in the above statement from the interview. He is in fact acknowledging that there is a difference...in which the "belief" takes precedence over the "religion".

    The first core belief and way of life is the desire to live according to one's own freedoms and interests.
    As President Obama has spoken in the past speeches...the belief in freedom of rights, universal values, and inter faith cooperation.
    ....this way of life, however, is a religion in itself...a global belief embraced by all democracies...a belief that has caused the nations in the middle east to overthrow their rulers.
    ....it is the belief-religion above all other religions
    ....it is , as Daniel wrote...the god of fortresses.

    It is the way of life that protects and dictates that it is right and good to worship any god of your choosing, as long as you responsibly respect this same right to others for their "god/religion".

    This belief states that all "gods/religions" are equal to the Creator God and His Christ...which is a blasphemy, because there is Only One Creator God and there is Only One Way to Him (Christ, the Saviour).

    September 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • BRC

      It's a little tough to tell from you narrative, are you for or against what the Congressman said?

      September 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    @Brian

    I agree. And he even chose the correct party to serve.

    May god bless him!

    Cheers!

    September 1, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  19. Brian

    Good to see Americans elect a man who educated himself and made a decision for himself. Nobody cares about your religion just do what is in the best intrest of the country.

    September 1, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Brain

      Agreed.

      September 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Truefax

      As long as people don't try and legislate on the "beliefs" what they do in their off time is their business. But that is not the case! Too many christ nuts in congress need to be given the boot, I don't want policy built on belief's rather facts and physical evidence should rule the day. Keep your gods to yourselves and out of the public square.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Ralph

    First! Let the games begin

    September 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.