Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion
Construction workers move steel beam pulled from ground zero rubble into its permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
September 3rd, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - David O'Brien couldn't help himself. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he became obsessed.

O'Brien read the stories of 9/11 victims over and over, stunned by what he was discovering.

He read about the firefighters who marched up the smoke-choked stairwells of the World Trade Center, though many knew they could die; the beloved priest killed while giving last rites as the twin towers collapsed; the passengers on hijacked planes who called their families one last time to say, "I love you."

"I was obsessed with these stories," says O'Brien, a Catholic historian at the University of Dayton in Ohio. "There were so many stories of self-sacrifice, not just by the first responders, but by people fleeing the building. There was this revelation of goodness."

O'Brien saw an Easter message in 9/11 - good rising out of the ashes of evil. Yet there were other religious messages sent that day, and afterward, that are more troubling, religious leaders and scholars say.

September 11 didn't just change America, they say. It changed the nation's attitude toward religion. Here are four ways:

1: A chosen nation becomes a humbled one.

One man died because he arrived early to work. A woman died because she decided to take a later flight. The arbitrary nature of some of the deaths on 9/11 still sticks with many Americans today.

Yet this is what life is like for billions of people on the planet today, some religious leaders say. A random event - a car bomb, a stray bullet - can end their lives at any minute.

Most Americans had not lived with this vulnerability until 9/11, says Mathew Schmalz, a religion professor at the College of the Holy Cross  in Massachusetts, who once lived in Karachi, Pakistan.

"We had this sense of specialness and invulnerability that 9/11 shattered," he says. "Given that a large section of the world's population deals with random violence every day, one of the outcomes of 9/11 should be a greater feeling of solidarity with people who live in cities like Karachi in which violence is a part of everyday life."

Recognizing that vulnerability, though, is difficult for some Americans because of how they see their country, Schmalz and others say.

They say Americans have long had a triumphalist view of their place in history. Certain beliefs have been engrained: Tomorrow will always be better; we're number one. The term "American" even reflects a certain arrogance. It casually discounts millions of people living in Central and Latin America.

The 9/11 attacks, though, forced many Americans to confront their limitations, says Rev. Thomas Long, a nationally known pastor who has been active in post 9/11 interfaith efforts.

"We're losing the power of the American empire and becoming more a nation among nations," says Long, a religion professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "The world is a much more dangerous and fragile place economically."

How Americans cope with their loss of power is ultimately a theological question, Long says. It's the same question the ancient Hebrews confronted in the Old and New Testaments when they faced national calamities.

The chosen people had to learn how to be humble people, Long says. Americans face the same test today.

"The challenge for every faith tradition is going to be helping people grieve the loss of an image of America that they once had," he says, "and acquire a modern understanding of ourselves on the world's stage."

2: The re-emergence of "Christo-Americanism."

Before 9/11, if you asked the average American about Ramadan or sharia law, they probably would have given you a blank look.

Not anymore. The 9/11 attacks prompted more Americans to learn about Islam. Books on the subject became best-sellers. Colleges started offering more courses on Islam. Every cable news show suddenly had their stable of "Muslim experts."

More Americans know about Islam than ever before, but that hasn't stopped the post-9/11 Muslim backlash. The outrage over plans to build an Islamic prayer and community center near ground zero; the pastor who threatened to burn the Quran; conservative Christian leaders who called Islam evil - all occurred as knowledge of Islam spread throughout America, scholars says.

"One of the sobering lessons of the decade since 9/11 is that religious prejudice is not always rooted in raw ignorance," says Thomas Kidd, author of "American Christians and Islam."

"Some of America's most vociferous anti-Muslim critics know quite a lot about Muslim beliefs, but they often use their knowledge to construe Islam in the worst possible light."

Many of these public attacks against Islam were encouraged by conservative Christian leaders such as Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, who called Islam "wicked," and Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster who declared that "Islam is not a religion," says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Kammer says Graham and Robertson helped fuel the rise of "Christo-Americanism," a distorted form of Christianity that blends nationalism, conservative paranoia and Christian rhetoric.

"A segment of the religious community in the United States has been at the forefront of an anti-Islamic crusade that has helped to generate a climate of hatred and distrust toward all Muslims," says Kammer.

Other strains of Christo-Americanism have swept through America before.

After 9/11, some political leaders said terrorists hated the U.S. because of "our freedoms." But America's record on granting those freedoms to its citizens is mixed, says Lynn Neal, co-editor of the book, "Religious Intolerance in America."

In the 19th century, the U.S government passed numerous laws preventing Native American tribes from practicing their religion. Mormons were persecuted. Roman Catholics were once described as disloyal, sexual deviants, Neal says.

"Religious intolerance is not a new feature of the American landscape. Despite being the most religiously diverse nation on earth, despite having a first amendment that protects religious rights...we as a nation and as citizens have often failed to live up to those ideas."

3: Interfaith becomes cool.

Interfaith dialogue - it's not the type of term that makes the heart beat faster.

Before 9/11, interfaith efforts were dismissed as feel-good affairs that rarely got media coverage. The 9/11 attacks changed that.

Interfaith events spread across the country. Mosques and temples held joint worship services. Every college campus seemed to have an interfaith dialogue. The Obama White House launched a college interfaith program.

Becoming an interfaith leader is now hip, some say.

"A generation of students is saying that they want to be interfaith leaders, just like previous generations said they wanted to be human rights activists or environmentalists," says Eboo Patel, who founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 2002.

Patel says at least 250 colleges have signed up for the White House interfaith program, which he helped design. The program encourages students of different faiths to work together on service projects.

"These young leaders will make interfaith cooperation a social norm in America, similar to multiculturalism and volunteerism," Patel says.

These new leaders include people like Sarrah Shahawy, a Muslim-American medical student at Harvard University and the daughter of Egyptian immigrants.

After 9/11, Shahawy says she felt the responsibility to educate people about Islam. She became an interfaith leader at the University of Southern California,  where she noticed a steady increase in student participation in the years after the attacks.

Shahawy says her generation is drawn to interfaith efforts because 9/11 showed the destructive potential of any exclusive claims to religious truth. The 9/11 hijackers carried out their attacks in the name of Islam, but Muslim religious leaders and scholars said that the terrorists' actions did not reflect Islamic teachings.

"For one religious group to claim a monopoly on truth should be obsolete," she says. The interfaith movement doesn't teach people that all religions are the same, she says.

Shahawy calls herself a proud Muslim. "But for me, there's beauty and truth to be found in many different religions."

4: Atheists come out of the closet.

There's one group, however, that sees little beauty in any religion.

Before 9/11, many atheists kept a low profile. Something changed, though, after 9/11. They got loud.

Atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith," wrote best-selling books. Atheist groups launched national media campaigns with bold billboard messages such as "Christmas is a myth."

The pugnacious journalist Christopher Hitchens became the public face of a more combative form of atheism as he went on talk shows and lectures to defend not believing in God.

Criticism of all religion, not just fanatical cults, was no longer taboo after 9/11, says Daniel Dennett, a philosophy professor with Tufts University in Massachusetts.

"Atheist-bashing is now, like gay-bashing, no longer an activity that can be indulged in with impunity by politicians or commentators," Dennett says.

Atheists were driven to become more vocal because of the 9/11 attacks and America's reaction, says David Silverman, president of American Atheists. He says many atheists were disgusted when President George W. Bush and leaders in the religious right reacted to the attack by invoking "God is on our side" rhetoric while launching a "war on terror."

They adopted one form of religious extremism while condemning another, he says.

"It really showed atheists why religion should not be in power. Religion is dangerous, even our own religion," Silverman says.

Atheists are still the most disparaged group in America, but there's less stigma attached to being one, he says.

"The more noise that we make, the easier it us to accept us," Silverman says. "Most people know atheists now. They knew them before, but didn't know they were atheists."

Many Americans knew the people who perished on 9/11 as well, but they didn't know they were heroes until later, says David O'Brien, the Catholic historian who compulsively read the 9/11 obituaries.

O'Brien was so moved by the stories he read that he decided to write an essay for America magazine, a national Catholic weekly, entitled, "9/11 Then and Now."

He wrote: On 9/11, "Our people, my people, were tested and, for a shining moment ... they were found worthy."

He said many 9/11 victims didn't panic as their end drew near. They "thought not of themselves, but others ... when the chips were down." They saw themselves not as individuals, but as members of a "single human family."

So should we, he says, as we face new challenges 10 years later. The 9/11 victims aren't just heroes; they're our guides for the future, he says.

"The story is not over, not by a long shot," O'Brien wrote. "Look at all the love that day. Love can still write another chapter and keep hope alive for a better future. The meaning of 9/11 lies ahead, and it's in our hands, and maybe in our hearts.'

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 9/11 • Atheism • Christianity • Faith • Interfaith issues

soundoff (2,180 Responses)
  1. RichardSRussell

    "People Who Don’t Want Their Beliefs Laughed at Shouldn’t Have Such Funny Beliefs" —bumper sticker

    September 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  2. Marilyn LaCourt

    A poem by By Marilyn LaCourt

    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I hope to die before I wake
    Cause, I already ate my cake
    No pie in the sky
    From which to partake

    I’ve had my fill. I feel no hunger
    No desire to be much younger.
    Been there, done that, and now I wish...
    No longer to exit....
    Yes, no longer to exist.

    Don’t feel bad. It’s okay
    No more to do, no reason to stay
    I’ve loved you all along the way
    You loved me too
    You fed me cake
    I tasted your frosting sweet and true

    I’m not greedy, had my fill
    Had my cake and ate it too
    When death comes to make its call
    As it will for us all
    I can say life tasted good
    I ate it all. I’ve had my fill

    Make a difference? Thought I could
    I used to think perhaps I would....
    I can’t do busy. It makes me dizzy
    And now I’m boring even me.

    Wiser folks than me
    Left an awesome legacy
    But no one ever lives forever
    Even if they once were clever
    Dementia knows no boundaries
    Staying too long is just plain wrong

    Bodies give out like well-worn shoes
    Minds go to mush like left over stews
    Loved ones are tasked with the care
    Of empty shells with no one there
    To linger too long would be a mistake
    One I hope not to make

    Conscience guides me
    Don’t get greedy
    Best to leave before I’m needy
    I’ve had a long run. It’s been good
    I want to go now. It’s time... I should

    September 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      I have a poem too...

      I have never met Ms Marilyn LaCourt,
      But her poems are very long and crappy.
      And I dont want her wasting too much space,
      Because poems are a waste of time.
      Please go feed your cats and water your rock garden.
      I hate you.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      I support physician-as_sisted suicide.

      September 5, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  3. MarciaMarcia

    The concept of God is an evolutionary adaptation. Ironic, right?

    September 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      But the concept of evolution was inveted by god! I just blew your mind!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • MarciaMarcia

      You blew something.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      I will leave you alone now because you are obviously hot. You are the opposite of Yoko Ono.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • MarciaMarcia

      For a really ugly Asian woman Yoko Ono was quite beautiful.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Not as beautiful as you are. I never post nice things either. You are the most beautiful person I have never seen or met.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • MarciaMarcia

      Your acting was really great In Oceans 11. I didn't believe that you were a spoiled Hollywood dooshe at all.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      It's not my actual name. I don't normally tell people my real name but it is Ben Affleck. No, no not the famous one. You are awesome and I must date you.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • MarciaMarcia

      Ben Affleck? You were great in the Town. No, not the movie, but the town you were in. Then you left, and now you're not so great.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      He doesn't know who he is. All he has is a safety deposit box full of... money and six passports and a gun.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  4. julianpenrod

    Three times I tried to place a commen about atheists on. The first time failed to be placed immediately and any subsequen attempt I made, the website reminded me I had already tried to place the comment. The comment contained no personal attacks, it contained no exhortations to violence, it contained no reference to other people placing ocmments, it contained no vulgarity. But, apparently, there are things about the atheism movement CNN doesn't want said.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      You have to press the "Post" button.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Maybe it wasn't god's will that it appear. Pray some more faithhead.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      No one is censoring your attempted posting. If you use words that have word fragments that might be in "naughty" words, your post won't make it past a lost piece of software. A couple of common fragments are c.um and t.it.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • LinCA

      @julianpenrod and other having trouble posting,

      If your post doesn't show, it was censored. Previously it would be visible to you only with a header saying "Your comment is awaiting moderation.".

      CNN uses automated censoring that looks for words, or fragments of words, that are considered offensive. My guess is that your post had had a forbidden word in it.

      Posts that are too long, or contain too many URLs will also get rejected.

      The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
      arse as in Arsenal
      cock as in cockatiel
      coon as in cocoon
      cum as in circumstance
      homo as in homosexual
      poo as in spooked
      sex as in homosexual
      tit as in constitution

      To fix that you can break up the word by putting extra characters in, like consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").

      September 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      I think the word "julianpenrod" is also banned.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Good rule of thumb: Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by simple incompetence.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • julianpenrod

      For those who suggested that I didn't do what needed to be done to place the comment on atheism, remember, I said said that I received a message saying that I was trying to place the same message on twice. That means CNN had the previous message. Too, I posted earlire at 4:15 p.m., and replies, to say nothing of the fact that I managed to post this message. But, if someone is determined to insult you, the truth can't be expected to matter to them. And, as for the suggestions as to what could get a comment flagged, there were no URL's at all in the comment and I have placed comments that were of similar length before. Too, it didn't contain any of the words mentioned. It does raise the question, however, if those words will cause a comment not to be placed, how did LinCA manage to get their comment placed?

      September 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • LinCA


      Please do a little experiment. Type in a comment containing only one of those words. Take for instance constitution. See what happens. I predict, it will not get posted.

      Now take the exact same word, but put an extra character in the banned word fragment. So, try consti.tution, and I bet it will post.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      CNN doesn't want people spamming the list with multiple postings of the exact same thing, which is what would happen if you typed text in the message box, hit "Post", and then hit "Post" a 2nd time without changing anything. Trying to do so triggers a VISIBLE error message, which is a different condition than what LinCA was describing.
      Chances are your original text had one of the forbidden words innocently embedded in another word. By far the most frequent offender in this regard is the character string T-I-T, which shows up (or, more accurately, DOESN'T show up) in such words as "lati tude", "enti tled", and "consti tution".

      September 5, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • julianpenrod

      LinCA says to try an experiment trying to get a comment with a wod from the list they provided in it placed on the blog, suggesting the comment on a4theism CNN refused to place was held back for that reason. LinCA suggests that comments containing words that have questionable terms within them are held back. That doesn't explain, though, how LinCA was able to place a comment conaining a list of the words that supposedly keep a comment from being placed! And, so far, no seems to want to try to answer that question! But, in the end, the comment I tried to place about atheism had nothing like that in it. It was evidently facts CNN doesn't want to braodcast about atheism that kept the comment from being placed.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      LinCA is an atheist, or least not a theist, therefore is of above average intelligence and able to use a bit of HTML magic to beat CNN's software.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • i get it


      LinCA knows how to do some special characters around those words <> (or something) to make them show up... for me it's just quicker to type a . or –

      There is NO live moderator here. Your post contains a word or word fragment which is flagged by the automatic filter. If you post it once and it is rejected, and then try to post it again without changing anything, it is considered a repeat.

      You can try posting it one sentence at a time, if you wish... until you find the "hot" word. You can see that all of your other posts show up just fine.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • LinCA


      Any character placed within the banned words will allow it to get past the filters. I simply use a sequence of characters that doesn't print. This breaks up the word for the filter, but puts it back together when it is displayed. I find that it makes the posts easier to read. The drawback is that it requires extra work to create the post.

      There is no conspiracy, there are no moderators. There is only automated filtering.

      September 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • i get it

      HotAirAce: 🙂

      September 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  5. Matt Damon

    Do you prefer Richard or Dick? I like dick. But not in my mouth.

    September 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Where do you like it then?

      September 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Wherever Richard Russel wants to give it to me.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      That's hot.

      September 5, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  6. alma1313

    richard shut up!

    September 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Don't let this go to your head, but that's the cleverest argument you've come up with all night.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Another religious nutter erupts, surely violence will follow. Go pray for internal peace Alma,

      September 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • alma1313

      Richard I believe in science as well to a point but sicentist can't even agree. Geez I guess human intelligence is limited. Which is fine. I know the atheist on this site paint believers with this broad brush of "they all belong in looney bins". There are all levels of faith and beliefs. Im sorry, I do feel lucky to have an enlightenment that you say you don't. After listening for hours, all of the atheist just sound self absorbed and hollow and not very kind. You just don't have that spirit that shines thru. I have never in my life frightened a child. But there are evil humans out there that torture children, and humans and animals because they only care about themselves.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Amistavia

      So Alma, your enlightenment comes from believing in things without any evidence (faith)? Sure, you're not crazy, Lol.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • alma1313

      amstavia you must go back and read all my post before you can address me at all.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Alma- I don't need your permission to address you, you nutter. There is no defense for faith- it is errant thinking and an undesirable mental condition. Your mind is diseased.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Alma, I recommend that you google the story of 11-year-old Kara Neumann, dead from untreated (but perfectly treatable) diabetes, then come back here and tell us again how evil science and unbelievers are, and how sincere religious motivations lead to nothing but good things for children.
      BTW, still waiting to hear from you whether you'd rely on prayer rather than 911 if your house were on fire. In other words, would you rather be known as stupid or as hypocritical?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • alma1313

      Trust me maybe somone will come on here for you to throw out your lame comments to. The atheist are here in force patting each other on the back. For hours not one atheist has said anything worthwhile.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Atheists have posted plenty of worthwhile comments. For example, the one Richard just posted on this thread. You simply have no answers for them because you and your faith are intellectually barren. As far as the Atheists being out in force, our numbers are growing, and your kind is no longer allowed to burn us at the stake- better get used to having your crazy claims challenged.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • LinCA

      Stupid and hypocritical are not mutually exclusive. We should consider the very real possibility that alma1313 is both.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • alma1313

      Richard I did answer that. We were talking about people who had to jump from the burning trade center. I would do everything in my power to save myself and family and would like to trust my fellow man would help me if possible I would help. But after tonite I wouldn't want to divulge my beliefs there might be prejudice. You do know on the collective you all sound like you are going to revive Nazi concentration camps.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Oh,cry me a river. You're one of those 2 billion poor, persecuted and discriminated against Christians.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • alma1313

      Richard if you read my post I don't believe God plays with the earth and man like paper dolls and a dollhouse. I believe man is responsible for all his actions on earth and the weather on our environment. I was a first grade teaching assistant and one of the sweetest children was shot dead at a birthday party. A drive by rival drug gang. Selfish grown men war on each other for money, drugs and power.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • i wonder

      "...one of the sweetest children was shot dead at a birthday party."

      Oh, that is so tragic and heartbreaking. I can't even imagine the horror of it.

      I wonder if this child's parents did not say the correct prayers, so that "God" would have protected their child.

      I wonder if any of the parents of the unkilled children at that party thanked "God" for sparing their little one?

      Any god which permits this kind of horror, but expects to be groveled to and praised for any good thing that happens in life, is not one that I could, in good conscience, have anything to do with.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • alma1313

      i wonder, Spoken like a good atheist. Typical lack of empathy, just enough dripping with sarcasm. You really "got me" with that God doesn't care bit. Sorry I only care about the godless atheist ba$tard$ that shot her!

      September 5, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • i wonder


      I have tremendous empathy. I just don't think that your "God" is anything that you purport it to be.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • Amistavia

      Alma need therapy or deprogramming.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      What about the 40,000 dead children who starved to death in Somalia this year ? They were evil ? Right.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • alma1313

      in wonder, with all due respect that is another typical atheist response. I have not mentioned much about my beliefs in God for you to even analize. What fascinates me are you atheist. Most throw in their empathy at one point in time to make yourselves sound more likeable. I wonder if it is a kinda freudian slip.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • tallulah13

      alma, you are judging all atheists by the ones that you found offensive. Perhaps those atheists who say all christians are crazy are doing the exact same thing. If you read the comments, you will find that christians are not shy about telling us how evil and immoral we are, despite the fact they don't know us at all and have no idea if that is true or not. There are good people and bad people; religion does little or nothing to alter an individual's basic character.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I'm sorry, Alma. When I asked what you'd do if YOUR HOME were on fire, I didn't realize you lived in the World Trade Center.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • dg

      Alma1313, "enlightenment" is not a definitive end to opening ones mind it is only one step up a ladder of neverending steps. Enlightenment is a neverending process because if you stop the process at one step one starts the process of dogma.

      September 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  7. Roelof

    I think it's more Atheism that likes to attack all religion, with every terrorist attack done by Islam. That drives other religions to protect their right of their freedom expressing theirs. 17.670 terrorist attacks took place after 9/11 all done by Islam. I think it would be rational when Islam would be considered to be dangerous and that freedom of religion should exist. Atheists forget that we're living in a culture that's based on Judaism/Christianity/Modern Humanism (invented by a Christian) and old Greek norms an values. So our western culture (with all the luxury, inventions) is created by those ideologies. The Islamic culture has not invented one thing, only coffee and they stole a lot of knowledge by conquering Alexandria for instance. Also the quran copied a lot of science from the Greek, for instance that of Galen (embryology contains the exact same mistakes .. like sura 23:12-14). The point with Atheism is, that it creates nothing. For creation, you need believe. Believe – action – result. Atheism doesn't have that. When you look at our natural form. Human have canine teeth. Means a strong hang for hierarchy and human are spiritual beings. So with Atheism and no believe in a God, you'll end up with something like... what North Korea has. They believe their leaders are gods, Kim Yong Il. Dawkins wasn't write about that everything exists out of nothing. Because both exist on the same time. Therefor Atheism is something like blaming the unemployment on the people who work. Because when someone finally did something, the rest became unemployed. Before that the word work didn't exist and so there couldn't be any unemployment. But believe .. creates. My opinion is, that Atheists have a big mouth and that Islam is dictatorship.

    By the way dictatorship has an subscription on civil wars. When the west does business with the ME, we support dictatorship, when we want to change it, we're accused of crusades. Democracy isn't possible there as long the majority there is Islamic. Otherwise they turn into a theocracy within no-time.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Martin T

      You, sir, are one confused individual and I really feel sorry that you have to live in your world and in your head. Such a sad place it must be...

      September 4, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Isn't there a word limit on these posts? My god people its not a thesis.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • dg

      Your argument is built on so many fallacies, it would take me hours to dispute them all. Let's just say your argument has no worth and is nothing but an ignorant opinion.

      As a secular humanist I have no problem with people practicing their own religion, just don't mix your religious ideals with govt thereby forcing them on people like me that do not have the same beliefs or other people with differing religious beliefs. That is the true American way and it is surprising how many people don't get it.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      While the WORST (IE, most deaths) terrorist attacks have been by Islamic extremists
      (Source: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/globalterrorism1.html),
      the MOST terrorist attacks (a bunch of small ones) came from the Tamil Tigers (inventors of the suicide belt), an ethnic group fighting for independence in Sri Lanka.
      (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_attributed_to_the_LTTE)
      But it's worth noting that "terrorism" is a word that refers to surprise attacks by small, out-of-power groups. When an entire nation blows the living daylights out of another people, it's not called "terrorism", it's called "war", and I guess that's supposed to make it all OK. Anyway, we're all being conditioned to dread the former and acquiesce in the latter.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      @dg- You are a "secular humanist"? Somebody has an herb garden.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Martin T

      @dg, Finally a voice of reason... well said.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Stupid non-believer

      Actually, most of our "luxuries and inventions" you mention were invented due to science, not religious idiology. It's not rocket science, which speaking of, also has nothing to do with religion.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      @DG- come on, really? You don't know the difference between war and terrorism? Ok let me break it down for you in a language you will understand. War is like dodgeball. Terrorism is like playing dodgeball and then throwing the ball at a bunch of children on the sideline.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • dg

      Herb garden hardly. It is probably the most rational and logical identified belief system that allows for changing beliefs as evidence proves something is different than one previusly believed. Intelligent agnostic would basically be the same thing. What philosophy comes closest to what you subscribe to?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • dg

      Matt Damon, I don't know how you manage to come up with me not knowing the difference between war and terrorism when I did not mention anything about either. You have failed as a troll, but not surprising for a wannabe such as yourself. Trolling really ends up being an exercise in ma.st.ur.ba.tion... you enjoy yourself bu.t is boring and usually disgusting for anyone to do it in public.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  8. RichardSRussell

    As a man, I welcome the equality of women in society. As a white guy, I am overjoyed that white people will soon be just another racial minority in America, not the dominant or default or "assumed to be" skin color. And as an atheist, I very much look forward to the day when there are a ton of NON-Christian religions and philosophies undermining the dominant paradigm in this country. That's why I occasionally find myself, somewhat perversely, rooting for minority religions like Mormonism, Scientology, 9/11 Truthism, Objectivism, Hare Krishnas, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism — because the more variety there is, the more MINORITIES there are, the less likely that there will be any religious MAJORITY to oppress everyone who doesn't think just like them.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      You just used "minority" and "mormon" in the same sentence. Are you listening to yourself?

      September 4, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Matt, I don't live in Utah. In the rest of the country, Mormons ARE a minority.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Well Duh! Believe in something that ridiculious and you aren't going to run up the charts like a Justin Bieber single. But seriously, bad choice of words. A bunch of clean cut white boys playing board games while drinking decaf coffee doesn't excactly cry out for the minority card.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Only if you think that "minority" must refer to RACIAL minority and can never have any other meaning.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Lets just say. Oh how do I put it.... NOBODY GIVES A SH%T ABOUT MORMONS. Damn you are right you are a minority. Just a really lame minority that nobody would ever ever call a minority. Do you think if a mormon was elected president, Americans would be parading around saying " our second minority president was just elected, hoooray!!" Uh, no.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You're right, they wouldn't use that phrase. They'd be specific, as in "JFK was our first CATHOLIC president" and "Barack Obama was our first BLACK president". But, in both cases, the reason they'd make the remark at all was because of the minority status of the electee. Nobody ever says "Hey, look, Ronald Reagan was a white Protestant and we elected HIM president.", because there was nothing at all unusual about it.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      @ Richard. Nothing unusual about President Regan? Ok now you are f$%king with me. He starred in a movie with a monkey as the co-star.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  9. alma1313

    kimsland this is a blog about religion. There are some crazy sounding religious people but there are also some crazy sounding atheist. Your post just brought an image of you trampling on the backs of people high heels and all to save you beautiful self.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • kimsland

      Religion is PATHETIC, the world needs to clear about this.
      Normal people will not stand for this religious rubbish any longer.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      May I penetrate your mouth with some knowledge? ALL people are fu&%ing retarded. We are animals with overdeveloped communication skills and our unique awaraness of the world around us has forced us to cope using various mechanisms.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Amistavia

      Please. Religion is inherently evil and those who believe it are all stupid, with some of them being evil as well. Why don't you try to pray the Atheists away, or is that more than your faith can accomplish?

      September 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • kimsland

      Matt Damon, that's reasonable.
      But I still see a world without religion soon

      September 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      @kimsland- I despise religion, but how is eliminating religion different than wanting to eiliminate all Jews? Kind of nazi-ish. Although jews sure are f$%$ing annoying. Conflict is a constant equation in our universe. Nothing grows or changes without it. Eliminate the enemy and boredom sets in.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Martin T

      I do not see kimsland as saying WE should eliminate religion, but that science and reason will eventually replace the need for gods. I fear that then science and reason may replace religion, who knows what might happen then.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • alma1313

      God help us if you consider yourself in the normal category. You sound mean, self absorbed narcissistic and capable of God knows what. I truly pity your children. After dark the devil comes out to play.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ alma, as an Atheist, myself, I have met many "normal" people who have had a healthy dislike for religion. Just because everyone doesn't believe as you do, does not make them any less normal than you are, for believing unlike we do.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I feel sorry for any kids whose parents terrorize them with threats of the devil and hell.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • alma1313

      Yes Martin "normal" atheist healthy dislike for religion. Normal "Kimsland" wants to create her own world, one world order no religion. she is mean, degrading and sounds extremely narcissistic. Just not the kinda normal I want to be surrounded by. They are "normally" our criminal element.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, as to that "one world order" thing, I would like to see a world where EVERYBODY believed that the Earth was spherical and revolved around the Sun. I'd like a world where EVERYBODY understood that diseases are caused by germs and not sin, witchcraft, or imbalances of the vital bodily humors. I'd like a world where EVERYBODY used the metric system. I'd like a world where EVERYBODY appreciated the scientific method. And I'm working for all of those things. I'm also working for a world free of religion, for pretty much the exact same reason that I favor all of the foregoing objectives — dedication to reality as preferable to fantasy.
      Of course, as a science-fiction fan, I also appreciate a good fantasy, as long as everyone recognizes that it's FICTION — sort of like the Bible, only better written.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  10. chetthejet

    religious fanatics" every religion has them. As a departed friend said recently before he died when everyone was crying. He told them he was going on the greatest adventure ever. who knows.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  11. gkingii

    Atheists are like bullies in the middle school playground. They like to beat up on people who believe differently than they do and know there's not a lot the targets will, or can, do about it. But atheists could not be more wrong if they went around beating up on children.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • kimsland

      Only religious people abuse young children

      September 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Amistavia

      At least we don't burn people at the stake and bugger alterboys.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Martin T

      May I ask what evidence you present to support your position? I know many atheists who can simply care less about religous people, and want nothing more than to be simply left alone to live their lives without some onslaught from the Religious Right. I challenge you to present said evidence to support your notion.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Do you mean that atheists PHYSICALLY "beat up" other people? And that they're motivated to do so BY their atheism? Man, I'd like to see some source citations on that whopper!
      But perhaps you mean that atheists like to trot out intellectual arguments in which they bemoan the mental inferiority of believers in religion. Well, to the extent that we atheists do that sort of thing (and I acknowledge that it does happen), it's regrettable. I wish that ALL of us would just confine ourselves to discussing facts and ideas, rather than personalities, but you'll notice from your own example above that it's all too human to denigrate entire groups of people simply because you disagree with SOME of them about SOME things.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Stupid non-believer


      Wow, if that ain't a case of the Christian calling the hypocrite a hypocrite.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @gkingii: We like to beat you people up with baseball bats made of knowledge and steel knuckles made of logic. And you're right, there's not a lot the "targets will, or can, do about it".

      September 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • cm

      My father is an atheist and an abuser. So not believing in anything makes monsters too.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I agree with those who ask for your evidence. I think you are simply making things up because atheists make you nervous.

      cm, I'm sorry your father was a bad person, but I suspect that even if he had been a bible thumper, he still would have been a bad person. Some people are just built that way, or have lived lives that turn them into monsters.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:37 am |
  12. alma1313

    Kimsland: You are scary. Did you ever trample over anyone in a stampede?

    September 4, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • kimsland

      Religion does not belong on a public blog
      Go sit over in the corner, so we can laugh at your crazy beliefs
      Ha Ha Ha Ha

      September 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • harmonynoyes

      or get trampled?

      September 5, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • tallulah13


      September 5, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  13. QZ

    I think Republic party is good at conspiracy. (I did not vote for Democratic party.)

    September 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Matt Damon

      Are they dumb hicks from texas, or capable of orchestrating extremely complex conspiracies without any leaks whatsoever? Cant have it both ways.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  14. Kevin

    I don't think it's fair to say that atheists universally see "little beauty in any religion." There are many beautiful aspects of religions. Atheists simply find them beautiful independent of faith.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • kimsland

      There is absolutely NO beauty in religion.
      It disgusts me.
      Jesus and Allah sitting in a tree kissing
      Religion is ONLY there for normal people to laugh at

      September 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Martin T

      @ Kevin, I think you are partially right. As an atheist, I find value in the bible as a work of literature and I am facinated by the architecture of many of the churches of the world. But, I do find that in nearly EVERY religion there is a scary and darker side that promotes the destruction of any who do not believe as they do. Some are more overt than others, but the doctrine of most religions is one of exclusionism. Anything, be it religion, government, education, or just some "club" one belongs to, that seeks to control the membership is NOT something of beauty.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I am very fond of the physical manifestations of religion, like the art and architecture, and even some of the music, however I find practice itself to be somewhat sad and desperate.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  15. Patricksday

    Too bad Protestant and Evangelical Bibles have all had the chapter on Matthew removed because Jesus commands you to care for the poor and ignorant. They build their Kingdoms up on Earth and call it a Blessing when you take advantage of people to make a living. Jesus must be so proud.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. Mike P

    "Shahawy says...9/11 showed the destructive potential of any exclusive claims to religious truth....'For one religious group to claim a monopoly on truth should be obsolete,' she says."

    Utterly ridiculous. The only thing that religion has going for it is a claim to absolute truth that says, "Here is how to live your life, and here is why you know living your life this way is right." What separates religions is usually not their moral teachings but their truth claims. In the case of Christianity and Islam, Christianity proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, whereas Islam proclaims that God has no children (natural or adopted) and Jesus is just a virgin-born human prophet who escaped crucifixion and was raptured to heaven without dying. You can't have it both ways, for the Christian truth-claims about Jesus are the basis for the whole Christian faith, and if Islam is right, then Christianity is wrong, and likewise if Christianity is right, then Islam is wrong - even if their moral teachings are similar (though not identical).

    Religion doesn't just exist to tell you how to live. It also exists to communicate the truths to you that form the basis and reason for your new (hopefully holier, not homicidal) lifestyle. That is why any nonsense about "religion should not make exclusive claims to truth" should be recognized and rejected as just that: nonsense.

    September 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • UncelM

      And since their claims of absolute truth are nonsense, their reason for existence is negated.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm confused by your post. What I think you are saying is that no faith is the truth, but we should believe because it gives us rules to follow? Why not just be good for the sake of good and forget all the mystical mumbo jumbo? That sounds like the most logical action of all.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  17. Melody

    "After 9/11, some political leaders said terrorists hated the U.S. because of 'our freedoms.' "

    Highly doubtful. It seems more likely that the terrorists hated the U.S. because of the threat we represented to them.
    We then retaliated because of the threat they represented to us.

    Acts of war have always been acts of self-interest! And any and all attempts to wrap them in flags of "godly righteousness" are every bit the acts of self-interest.

    The day that we recognize that the well-being of ALL people is in our self-interest- regardless of race, religion or fortune –
    is the day that peace will be possible. .

    September 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Micha

      That should be "enlightened self-interest" we should be trying to do, but some are incapable of it. What do we do about them?

      September 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • dick

      the terrorists do hate our freedoms thats why they authored and installed the patriot act. another terrorist operation was fast and furious. designed to sell weapons to violent drug gangs in order to cause as much terror around the border in order to blame it on gun owning americans but they got caught. no terrorism is not an outside threat. it a real, viable, identifiable threat from within our own borders.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  18. dick

    "Ana raicha Al Qaeda" is colloquial for "I'm going to the toilet". A very common and widespread use of the word "Al-Qaeda" in different Arab countries in the public language is for the toilet bowl. This name comes from the Arabic verb "Qa'ada" which mean "to sit", pertinently, on the "Toilet Bowl". In most Arabs homes there are two kinds of toilets: "Al-Qaeda" also called the "Hamam Franji" or foreign toilet, and "Hamam Arabi" or "Arab toilet" which is a hole in the ground. Lest we forget it, the potty used by small children is called "Ma Qa'adia" or "Little Qaeda".

    So, if you were forming a terrorist group, would you call yourself, "The Toilet"?

    September 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, my nickname is also "Dick", and my dad was named "John", so I infer that some people are more sensitive to context than you seem to be.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • dick

      Hahahaha! Have a good day sir.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  19. dick

    911 was an inside job. CIA + Mossad + MI5 = AlQueada 911 was committed by the elite of the world trying to reorganize them a new base of power while turning the populations of the world into slaves for them and they are doing this through our countries clandestine operators. thats why all our presidents are cia guys, the leaders we put as the head of other countries are all cia guys head of corporations, etc. todays world is what it looks and smells like when we have unwarrented influence from the military industrial complex.

    September 4, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Sassan

      As an atheist, I give you the "idiot of the year award".

      September 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • dick

      Atheism is a terrible religion. Tell me. How does it make sense that there is no God, but that the universe came from nothing and all life on the planet comes from it raining on rocks?

      September 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • harmonynoyes

      for a minute there, or maybe about 30 seconds, I might have believed that could possibly be true.

      But looking at the whole story, and all the players, I doubt that your oversimplified conspiracy theory could be true-
      you believe what you want to believe, but hey, aren't you leaving out a lot of relevant details - answer- yes you are

      September 4, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  20. curious

    How does an atheist console the bereaved?

    September 4, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • bai ling

      All dressed up and nowhere to go.

      September 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Craig

      In a way that doesn't involve telling them that this was all part of some Great Sky Wizard's plan.

      September 4, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • kimsland

      We celebrate LIFE not death. That's how

      September 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Stupid non-believer

      Just like anyone else, with compassion and undersranding.

      Do you think lack of God in ones life means lack of care or empathy for another human? No, it does not. Belief in God, or lack of, has absolutely nothing to do with ones ability to console another.

      Ironically, athiests I know, including
      myself, tend to be much more caring and accepting of their fellow man than the many religious folks I know who would rather look down their noses at someone who doesn't conform to their beliefs.

      September 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • likewhoa

      just wondering, if heaven is so awesome why isn't everyone happy when someone dies? why do we try so hard to prolong death? if its so great we should celebrate their death.

      September 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Abe

      oh, noes! You asked a perfectly reasonable question!

      That means a good answer is not likely to appear. Sorries!

      September 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, I'm an atheist, and I'm terrible at funerals. I just don't know WHAT to say. Anything I can come up with seems so inadequate, so I'm left muttering plati-tudes like "I'm so sorry" — kind of like the now-standard line on TV cop shows "I'm sorry for your loss", which can be spoken without a smidgen of sincerity, so long as the forms are observed.

      One thing I do NOT do, however, is come up with some supposedly "comforting" lie like "Oh, we know she's in a better place now." If I really believed that, I'd be happy for the deceased, and I'd expect the grieving survivors to be happy as well, and that's just sick.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • likewhoa

      so i guess you think all non believers are heathens? we cant have morals without the great word. humans had morals before religion hijacked them!

      September 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Abe

      that was to "likewhoa".

      as for "curious", each person and each situation is different. Are you a robot that just makes the same noises every time someone dies? No. We all act differently under different circmstances. Your question, "curious" is not a good question as it only shows that you were not thinking of people as individuals but only as some group that doesn't even exist.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • likewhoa

      you will be the same person you were a billion years ago. nothing. and a billion years from now. nothing.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • bai ling


      They only celebrate life not death, so they go to b'days not funerals.

      For those atheists that make it look at the casket and say poor uncle charlie he looks so handsome in that casket all dressed up but nowhere to go...

      September 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • dick

      kimsland atheism is a religion of death you should read your evolution bible a little more

      September 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • dg

      Atheism is not a religion as it has no mythological past, mysticism, God, or gods. Though I have heard the buddhist Allan Watts make a fairly good argument for the dogmatism of atheists. One of the reasons I find agnosticism or secular humanism as much more rational and logical.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • tallulah13

      I console them as best as I can. Every situation is different. Like RichardRussell, I don't tell them comforting lies. I do say that the person is not feeling pain anymore, if the decedent was suffering before passing, because at least that is true.

      September 5, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • ya

      I pinch and they don't twinge, see I proved there is no pain! I can offer some profound insights and meaningful comfort in your loss.

      Before I told you, you didn't know that in death there was no pain.

      September 5, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • tallulah13

      ya, there is no proof of heaven or hell, there is only proof of death. I won't lie and tell a pretty story about angels and Jesus if I don't believe it. I lost three people that I loved very much to horrible, lingering diseases. I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that they no longer suffer. It's not profound, it's not world shattering, but at least it's true. I'm sorry you find it something to laugh about.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:40 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.