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September 14th, 2011
10:58 AM ET

My Take: Don’t be fooled by candidates’ God talk

Editor’s note: Brian T. Kaylor is assistant professor of communication studies at James Madison University and author of “Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics.”

By Brian T. Kaylor, Special to CNN

Rick Perry’s Wednesday visit to Liberty University marks only the latest effort by the Texas governor to reach the White House by confessing his faith.

Even in an election cycle dominated by economic concerns, Perry and several of his Republican presidential opponents have spent the last few months trying to out-God-talk one another in hopes of attaining salvation at the ballot box.

While debate moderators and election commentators focus on economic issues, the religious rhetoric of the presidential candidates appears to go mostly unnoticed - except by the key Republican voting bloc being courted. After being a Republican, the best predictor of someone being a Tea Party supporter is whether a person has a desire to see religion significantly impact politics.

This type of confessional politics, in which candidates invoke God and cite Scripture to win elections, has unfortunately dominated U.S. politics for three decades. Ever since Bible-quoting Sunday school teacher Jimmy Carter won the White House in 1976, presidential candidates have followed his example of using religious rhetoric that is testimonial, partisan, sectarian and liturgical.

Exemplifying the confessional political style, Perry said he felt “called” by God to run for president. He kicked off his campaign with brazen confessional gusto, bringing tens of thousands together in an NFL stadium for a day of prayer and fasting.

In June, Perry secretly met a group of nearly 80 conservative Christian leaders at a gathering organized by evangelist James Robison. The Texas evangelist led a similar secret meeting in 1979 to plot Jimmy Carter's defeat.

That earlier effort culminated in an August 1980 religious-political rally with Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan that helped Reagan mobilize conservative pastors for his victory. At the event, Reagan famously used a line suggested by Robison to win over the crowd: “I know you can’t endorse me … but I want you to know that I endorse you and what you are doing.”

Perry isn’t the only candidate who believes the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue runs down the church aisle.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has also said she felt God was “calling” her to run, won the Iowa Straw Poll last month in large part because of support from conservative evangelicals. Her campaign strategy includes speaking in churches and garnering pastor endorsements.

Now that Perry has entered the race with a similar strategy, Bachmann’s poll numbers are in free fall. As Jesus warned, those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

Even candidates who might not be expected to try their hands at confessional politics have orchestrated come-to-Jesus moments.

Libertarian-leaning Ron Paul may idolize thinker Ayn Rand (even naming his son after her) but he is rejecting her atheistic worldview as he hopes to become the GOP’s standard-bearer. In July, Paul’s campaign launched its “Evangelicals for Ron Paul”  initiative.

The website for the effort prominently features a quote from Paul: “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I endeavor every day to follow Him in all that I do in every position I advocate.”

Even Mormon candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, whose faith makes them suspicious to many evangelicals, work references to Jesus into their speeches.

In the last presidential campaign,  Romney proudly confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the Savior of mankind.”

At the June Faith & Freedom Conference run by former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed, Huntsman attempted to endear himself to the evangelical audience by crediting Jesus with bringing his adopted Chinese daughter into his family.

These candidates may not have the same natural religious swagger as Perry, but they're clearly seeking faith-based voters in hopes of not being left behind.

Romney has spoken at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, as has Paul, while Bachmann is speaking there in a couple weeks. Then-presidential candidate John McCain spoke there in 2008, even after labeling Falwell an “agent of intolerance.”

Sometimes the political conversion experience on the way to Washington seems even more dramatic than the spiritual conversion of the biblical Paul on the way to Damascus.

Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama also employs the confessional political style. During the 2008 campaign he spoke of God and cited Scripture with more eloquence and ease than McCain. Obama continues to weave biblical themes and divine references into his speeches, including in remarks last weekend at the September 11 anniversary event in New York.

Voters should ignore attempts by candidates to out-confess one another and instead focus on what really matters.

John F. Kennedy declared in a speech to Protestant pastors in Houston: “I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign … the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms - an America with too many slums, with too few schools.”

These same issues demand our attention today. When religious confessions crowd out critical issues, we all lose. We are not electing an evangelist-in-chief.

When political elections come down to who can claim to love God the most, we all lose. Religious devotion and piety does not inherently equal governing competence.

When religion becomes merely another political trick, we all lose. The politicization of faith profanes the sacred.

My prayer is that candidates and voters will move away from confessional politics. As a committed Christian and former Baptist pastor, I do not wish to see religion excluded from the public square. However, giving religious beliefs too much weight in electoral decisions undermines the basic democratic values that have guided our nation for over two centuries.

The expectation that candidates talk about God and their personal religious beliefs shifts attention away from critical policy concerns, creates a de facto religious test for office and essentially disenfranchises those of minority faiths or who have no faith. Confession may be good for the soul, but it is not always good for democracy.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian T. Kaylor.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,643 Responses)
  1. coy4one

    One of the best written articles I have seen. Full of common sense and truth. Should be mandatory reading for all voters!

    September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  2. Marx

    Religion is the opium of the masses.
    Karl Marx

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
    Groucho Marx

    September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • chad

      Remind me, how did that whole Marxist thing work out anyway?

      🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      The Marxist thing may not have worked out well, but Jefferson's ideals have done fairly well. Here's some nuggets of wisdom from one of our most respected founding fathers:

      -Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.

      -I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.

      -I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself.

      -This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

      -The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it:

      -In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.

      -And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most vene.rated reformer of human errors.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • chad

      You mean this Jefferson?

      – "I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition...it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is...a fabricator of all things."

      – "In private letters, Jefferson refers to himself as "Christian" (1803): "To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence....["

      you are cherry picking in an attempt [in vain] to make a point.. tut tut..

      September 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Chad, let me know when China surpasses the USA.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • chad

      You're appealing to China as a preferred society within which to live? Really? Or you somehow think that the growth in their economy is somehow linked to the communist abhorrence of religion as opposed to their embracing market socialism?

      September 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  3. mrkusn

    As a person of faith, I am troubled that politicians are using religion to hijack votes – to garner support for their own aims. On the surface, one may claim that the Right predominately does this. Upon further review, both parties do this and not just with Christianity. Faith is important to its adherents, but using it for political aims only destroys the intent and meaning of it. That is why Jesus didn't run for office (not that he had to, he is already sovereign). Face it: all persons have a point of view that guides their thinking whether it is theistic or non-theist or something in between. For those of faith, don't be duped by the rhetoric. Look at the issues. Analyze them according to what the Scripture actually says (as opposed to an uncredible interpretation such as "the Bible supports 'limited government' or something like it", etc.). For those of you who don't practice a religion, just know that you also have a claim and stake on ideas and that you too are in a position to be duped also. You don't have a superior position.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • BeamMeUpScotty

      It is not the politicians fault.

      It is the fault of the population who still hold 4000 y/o fairy-tales as truths. Politicians are simply catering to this target audience.

      Then you have the MASTERS who are pulling the strings behind all these puppets. You know, the ones who stand to lose power and wealth if people wised up and abandon these fairy-tales.

      The US is losing economically and politically because over half the electorate still thinks "Jesus" is coming back and will fix everything for them. No need in investment in education, research, health-care, and new innovations that will allow the US to compete globally. Why bother, when all you have to do is *pray* to a imaginary Jewish daddy in the sky?

      When politicians only have to cater to the lowest dominator of intelligence in the population, then politicians do not need to come up with intelligent solutions.

      So blame the population and the religious masters pulling the strings.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Colin

    Once again, the evangelicals are like a big, dumb troll on a bridge that each Republican Primary candidate must pay homage to in order to pass. Once they get past the simpletons, however, they concentrate on more important things than pleasing non-existent Bronze Age sky gods.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • mkeblues

      God bless you anyway.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • mkeblues

      I'm not judging you. God will do that.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Colin

      Oh, of course he will. Your all loving god will send me to burn for all eternity due to my skepticism of evangelicals.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • BeamMeUpScotty

      @mke

      WTH is this *thingy* you label "God"?!

      If your answer does not make sense, then guess what ... you are an ATHEIST!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • mkeblues

      I never said he was all loving. Don't put false words in my mouth. He can be a revengeful God.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Thinker...

      "Bronze Age Sky God's" LMAO but so true! This will never happen in my lifetime but hopefully one day religion will be out of politics altogether as it has no place there. I am sorry but I don't want the leader of one of the greatest nations in the world stating he/she attacked another country because 'God' told him to do so or that it was ok. We still live in a country and world that believes there is a magic being up in the sky making decisions on a daily basis...ARE KIDDING ME!?!?! Scary if you ask me. I honestly don't care what you do in your home, on Sunday's, etc; but please keep your Dark Age thinking out of the decisions of this great country. Any person that believes in any type of magical being scares me to death! Remember, there was a time in history where the church ruled everything. Does it surprise you that this time was referred to as the Dark Ages. "If you give man fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. If you give/teach man religion, he will die praying for fish."

      September 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • mkeblues

      It'll never happen THINKER. Not till the end of time as know it.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Saboth

      @mke "revengefull"? What's he taking revenge on? I've never done a thing to the guy!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      2 Peter 1:20-21

      20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
      21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

      Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Many shall reject God's wisdom and come to a willing ignorance and overthrow brought about because of their own rejection of the Holy One and His written Word, the Bible:

      Amos 8:11-12

      11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
      12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

      Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Soporifix

      It's hilarious to watch people try to prove scripture by quoting scripture. God is real because the book he wrote says so!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Miss Apprehensions

      RE: "...What's [gawwwwwwd] taking revenge on? I've never done a thing to the guy! "
      What do you call a supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful creator who, able by definition to create anything he wants and know ahead of time how it will turn out, creates a creature "in his image" but then is so disappointed that he destroys it in a fit of rage with a global flood? A sociopath.

      September 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  5. glyder

    problem is,some of you have a god called politicians,media and celebreties.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  6. mkeblues

    I feel sorry for you non-believers. Your lack of faith leaves a deep hole in the scheme of life. Just look around you and maybe you can see.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • HellBent

      That you assume that atheists have a "deep hole in the scheme of life" only illustrates you ignorance about atheists, a limited world view, and your reliance upon religion. I've far happier and more fulfilled now that I've shed my religious beliefs.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      dont feel sorry for me, i'm perfectly content that my eyes are open to the truth.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      i feel sorry for you that you've wasted your whole life praying to something that doesnt exist. you have been thoroughly duped by your "leaders" forcing you to give them your money and devote your life to growing their religion only to make them more money. in the end, we will all be wormfood, but i wouldnt have wasted my time and money in church.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • mkeblues

      God bless you.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Hemlock

      Do not judge lest you be judged.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Josh

      We're doing just fine, thanks.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • max

      funny how you 'loving christians' spew hate of Obama, muslims, the poor, minorities, pray for war, cheer the death of the poor (tea-publican debate) cheer capital punishment, let the hungry go hungry and stuff your pockets with greed like the tax collectors of the bible ... YOU are the hypocrites. The God I grew up with was a God of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, not a god of political association ... tea-publicans learned much from the fascist, racist uprising of the Nazi party of the 20's and 30's ... scare people into lockstep

      September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Russell Hammond, Hollywood

      "Non believers" has nothing to do with it. Keep religion out of government, period. You want religion in US government? Then better plan on including Islam and a host of other religions. Christianity doesn't have a lock on anything.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Scientificpoetry

      Don't feel sorry for non-believers. Non-believers are quite happy "non-believing" in something that doesn't exist.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • mkeblues

      As well taught in the university of your choice.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • BeamMeUpScotty

      When you realize that the only *life* that you are guaranteed is the one that you currently have, you tend to live your life more like its your *only one*.

      So yeah, if you want to believe there is a Jewish heaven waiting for you, where you can spend all your time worshipping a Jewish-Daddy, then go ahead ... and waste your life living according to your Jewish fairy-tales.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • stv

      You are right.I spent the last 5 years studying all religions. I have come to the conclusion I am a agnostic. I wish I could believe but if you spend the time looking at it with a open mind, it is to hard to believe if you have common sense. All religions have one thing in common, You will never die. That is a nice way to go through life. Take my advice and do not think to hard. Ignorance is bliss. Good luck

      September 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Ezra

      I would rather have a deep hole to explore than just fill it with useless nonsense.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • sortakinda

      EZRA–

      Alas, the hole is in your head.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Soporifix

      I'd say the "deep hole" exists in the lives of people who act according to fairy tales rather than reality, who seek comfort in security blankets and and teddy bears instead of rational adult thought, and who make themselves feel important by imaging some future "vengeance" on everyone who doesn't think like they do. It's really the persistence the toddler mindset in fully grown humans.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  7. sickofit

    If we really want to fix the problems we face we should try electing an athiest. At least they know how to think for themselves........

    September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  8. christianity is garbage

    Whenever I hear the god non sense I just want to throw up.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • mkeblues

      Good! You should.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      Christianity is about love and forgiveness. Helping and accepting people as they are. Unfortunately the only Christians who get publicity are those who generally don't represent that, but don't let it take away from what it's true message is. Hope your day gets better 🙂

      September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      All of the positive messages from a religion could more easily be accepted if they were separated from all of the evil messages and action of a religion. The religion part is unnecessary.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • mkeblues

      No one ever said life is perfect. Religion has it's own faults. But look around you.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Please don't sit next to, in front of or behind me. In fact, wear a sign , so I will take the next bus, plane or train.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Gretchen

    I totally agree. Whatever happened to "separation of church and state"? It goes both ways.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • mkeblues

      There is no separrtion of church and state. Only that government doesn't select a national religion. Grow up please.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • BRC

      @mkeblues,
      Out of curiosity, how is that not seperation of church and state?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Hemlock

      mkblues, It goes beyond that. The government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Establishment can be read two ways.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • mkeblues

      In other countries, like England and Ireland, a national religion was selected. America chose not to do this.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  10. NoReligion

    The GOP is obviously not concerned about winning the White House. Let them keep pandering to the lunatic right-wing fringe; it all but guarantees an Obama re-election.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I'm a republican when it comes to a lot of things, there are some democratic things I like as well, but I would consider myself overall republican. But these people running for GOP are just awful. If any of these religious crazies get the GOP nomination I'm going to vote for Obama, even though I don't like his party as much.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I used to be a no-winger, middle of the middle sort of person, but the far right has disgusted me so much I've become very much left-wing on social issues though still middle on economic issues. Even the middle feels left-wing by comparison to the nuts on the far-right.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  11. Frank

    Decisions should be based on intelligence and experience, not religious faith.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • mkeblues

      All mans laws are based on the ten commandments. Anything further is vanity.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      mkeblues – what laws are based on the first two commandments? Or adultery? Or lying – at least outside of legal matters? Pretty much every other code of laws and ethics stem from principles that some biblical teachings share, but by know means are limited to or originated from the bible. Try reading a history book sometime.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • mkeblues

      You have to read things for yourself. I will never be able to convince you alone.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      The majority of the ten commandments are unconsti.tutional so they can be completely ignored.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually 6, 7 & 9 are about the only enforceable commandments. And breaking number 10 is the entire basis of modern society.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • mkeblues

      Man makes his own vanity laws.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Ezra

      mkeblues

      Man makes his own vanity laws
      ----------

      You are correct and they put them in a book called them the Bible

      September 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Dave

    If Republicans were real Christians their platform would be filled with ideas for how to help the poor. Instead, it is filled with ideas for how to hurt the poor. My hope is that hell exists because some people deserve to be sent there.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • mkeblues

      Don't you give what you can to the poor? I do sometimes as most people.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Dave

      Indeed, I do give what I can do the poor. I work at a non-profit that helps the American worker. Having this job keeps ME poor. But I am spiritually fulfilled knowing I'm doing the right thing.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  13. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    Perry sucks. He's obviously an opportunist who only says what he thinks will get him elected. This tactic is dishonest and shows his true character.

    And I'm a Christian myself.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    To all of you professing a belief in the Christian god...

    GOD's HEALTH PLAN
    Why do you spend any money on medical care? You have the promise of god:

    Mark 11:24: Jesus speaking
    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

    John 14:14: Jesus speaking
    If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

    Mark 16: Jesus speaking
    16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

    James 5:15:
    And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.
    Believers babble on about faith and belief and how the bible is the inerrant word of god.
    Yet, most ignore His word, and buy health insurance and seek the knowledge of man.
    They are tweaking the nose of god!

    Some, have actually believed what the bible tells them. They prayed for their child, trusting in the word of god, and withheld medical care. The child died. OOOooopsie!
    Not to fret! This was part of god's plan for the young'in.?
    A true believer would never set foot in a doctor's office!

    But, they do. They seek medical care, because they don't believe the promises of god. They know, that in the real world, prayer rarely works (exception: coincidence / random chance).

    Believers attempt to smooth this over by saying a little prayer, receiving medical treatment and then giving the credit to their god, if they get well... Hmm...

    The bible says: " Sick people are oppressed by the devil. Acts 10:38
    If this is true, then how can medical care be effective? A shot of penicillin would have no effect on demonic oppression. LOL

    Christians do not believe in Christianity because it is true. To them Christianity is true because they believe it.

    IF YOU CAN'T COUNT ON JESUS TO KEEP HIS PROMISES IN THIS LIFE, HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BELIEVE HIM ABOUT AN AFTERLIFE?

    Cheers!

    September 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • A Theist

      David, you should do a more thorough investigation of the verses you quoted. The first two have been taken out of context (I addressed this with another poster but I can bring it up again with you). The third one arguably is embellishment (the earliest manuscripts end after Mark 16:9), but even if it is not, you have to take the verse in context. And the last one is again a contextual issue (see one explanation of the meaning of James 5 on prayer here: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Jas/Instead-Pray).

      Scholars have poured their lives over the text and have a better grasp on the concepts than most readers, who likely will read it in a language other than the one it was written in–already setting up the potential for error.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Edwin

      Prayer DOES help, when someone is sick. It offers comfort and guidance, and it definitely helps people to better accept the situation. Even confirmed atheists will sometimes pray when times are desperate. Why? Because there is a human need for it.

      There is also anecdotal evidence that prayer actually has beneficial affects on the outcome of the situation. It may seem obvious to the believer, ludicrous to the non-believer, but to dismiss it as impossible is arrogance. A better option would be to study it formally, with good scientific principles.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • sortakinda

      When I was in school we learned about people who were self-centered enough to think they had all of the answers. They are called narcissists. Ever notice how atheists think they have all of the answers, including the definitive way to interpret the Bible? Not only do they proess not to believe in God, but some even have the audacity to use Scriptures about a God they don't believe in to prove their case. They smugly think themselves smarter than the rest of us, the believing majority in the U.S.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • kynchiiin

      BRAVO!!!!!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • nightsun2k7

      to David Johnson
      very, very, very well put.....cheers to you!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      @A Theist – Well said! I agree with everything you said about context. In addition, since the oldest manuscripts end at Mark16:9, it is most likely a later addition and not the words of Jesus.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • HellBent

      "Prayer DOES help, when someone is sick. It offers comfort and guidance, and it definitely helps people to better accept the situation. Even confirmed atheists will sometimes pray when times are desperate. Why? Because there is a human need for it."

      Meditation does the exact same thing without the need for any deity or supernatural force. Formal scientific studies have shown that prayer has zero supernatural effect.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • GH

      There's also a line in the Bible that reads: "That shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." I too believe in God, but I also believe in the legal responsibility of parents to care for their child if the child is sick. That includes taking the child to a doctor.

      I also strongly believe in not trying to force one's religion upon another, which is what these fundamentalist Christians, especially those who are politicians, try to do all the time. The same people who claim they want less government, will try t invade others' bedrooms with their morality, and label atheists as evil sinners. Please. I agree with the writer - the GOP (a/k/a the "Get Obama Party") needs to knock off the God talk before it alienates us independent middle-of-the-road voters more than it already has. Your religion is your own business, not mine - keep it out of my bedroom, and away from my civil rights. I, too, am an American - "don't tread on ME!"

      September 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • nightsun2k7

      to sortakinda

      You're kidding right?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "They are called narcissists. Ever notice how atheists think they have all of the answers, including the definitive way to interpret the Bible?"

      On the contrary, nearly every atheist I know does not claim to know absolute truth. Though some believers I know do. Most atheists have a solid understanding of the scientific process by which theories are always subject to revisions. Many believers I know reject evidence due to preconceived notions of the universe. And what could possibly be more self-centered and narcissistic than a belief that the universe was created just for us.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • kynchiiin

      Edwin – In other words, meditation, no? You're absolutely right that there is nothing wrong with using your own brain's power to affect your body. But prayer that ends up a healing result is nothing more than that – using your brain to affect chemicals & functions in your body (or it could also just be a coincidence). Why then give the credit to someone else (Jesus/God/Allah etc)? It just seems a silly and primitive to think that some other "higher power" had something to do with it. We even feel the need to "Thank God" when good things happen, but when things go wrong, he gets off scott free...

      September 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Irving Scar

      In the real world ALL people die, therefore all peolple are sinning and then you want a politician who relates to the people who doesn't communicate about forgiveness. I suppose I shouldn't for give you for thinking that way.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Know What

      sortakinda,

      "Ever notice how atheists think they have all of the answers..."

      - No, atheists are quite able to say, "We don't know (yet)" about certain things. It is believers who are SO freaked out by the unknown and the unexplained that they fill in the blanks with nebulous supernatural answers.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "you should do a more thorough investigation of the verses you quoted. The first two have been taken out of context (I addressed this with another poster but I can bring it up again with you)."

      Believer's Rule of Thumb: If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally. If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernable by humans; or is just plain magic.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      There is no evidence, outside the bible, that Jesus ever actually existed.

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Normon

      @Irving Scar,
      "...ALL people die, therefore all peolple [sic] are sinning..."
      That does not follow. How exactly does "sin" cause death?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • A Theist

      David my good man, both secular and religious scholars accept the notion that Jesus was–in the very least–a historical figure. Have you ever heard of one Josephus, a non Biblical author who told of Christ's existence in the Roman Empire at the very time the Bible places him? You must also not believe that Julius Caesar existed, David, because the historical evidence for Julius Caesar pales in comparison to the historical evidence of Jesus, the historical figure.

      Now on to your "rule of thumb." That's a cute little rhetorical tactic. It's called straw man, and what you're doing is attempting to "discredit" Christians by showing us their "flawed thinking." I can pull the exact same move: Atheists rule of thumb, listen to evidence only when it coincides with their current beliefs.

      It's pointless and ineffective to anyone who has the brains to recognize it.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @sortakinda

      You said: " Ever notice how atheists think they have all of the answers, including the definitive way to interpret the Bible? "

      While I have been posting on this blog, I have met at least 100 believers who have been absolutely sure, their interpretation of the bible is the correct one. But if the bible was constructed / inspired by an all loving, all knowing, all powerful god...then why are there different interpretations? Couldn't your god provide a bible that is not ambiguous? There are 38,000 different denominations of Christianity in the world. *sigh*

      The Christian god is very unlikely to exist.

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "both secular and religious scholars accept the notion that Jesus was–in the very least–a historical figure. "

      There were no eyewitness accounts of Jesus. The Gospels were written by god knows who in the third person. The Gospels were written with an agenda i.e., Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.

      We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
      -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

      The bottom line is we really don't know for sure who wrote the Gospels.
      -Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

      Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
      -C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)

      There are no known secular writings about Jesus, that aren't forgeries, later insertions, or hearsay. NONE!

      Most of the supposed authors lived AFTER Jesus was dead. Can you say hearsay?

      Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD) a contemporary Jewish historian, never wrote a word about Jesus. This is odd, since Philo wrote broadly on the politics and theologies around the Mediterranean.

      Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca. 4 BCE – 65 CE) A.K.A. Seneca the Younger. A contemporary of Jesus wrote extensively on many subjects and people. But he didn't write a word about a Jesus.

      Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 AD – August 25, 79 AD), better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher. Plinius wrote "Naturalis Historia", an encyclopedia into which he collected much of the knowledge of his time. There is no mention of a Jesus.

      We don't even have a wooden shelf that Jesus might have built. Or anything written by Jesus. God incarnate, and we don't even have a Mother's day card signed by Him.

      The Dead Sea Scrolls did not mention Jesus or have any New Testament scripture.

      Jesus, if he existed, was not considered important enough to write about by any contemporary person. The myth hadn't had a chance to flourish.

      Paul's writings were the first, about Jesus. But, Paul's writing was done 25 to 30 years after Jesus was dead. In a primitive, ultra-supersti_tious society, 25 years is a lot of time for a myth to grow. Twenty-five years was most of the average person's lifespan in the 1st Century.

      Some people feel that Paul, not Jesus, is the real father of what most Christians believe today (Pauline Christianity).
      Paul never actually met Jesus. His knowledge and faith was the result of hearsay and an epileptic "vision".

      Questions on the Crucifixion story:

      "Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save." Mark 15:31

      "Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe..." Mark 15:32

      It would appear, that the chief priests are admitting that Jesus "saved" others. If they knew this, then there is no reason for them to demand that Jesus descend from the cross, in order for them to believe. They already admitted to knowing of Jesus' "miracles".

      This is just an embellishment by Mark. A work of fiction possibly constructed to make it appear that some Old Testament "prediction" was fulfilled. Many of the events written about in the Gospels were written solely to show Jesus fulfilled some prophesy. And stated as such.

      Here is some more:

      According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."

      Yet not a single secular mention of a three hour ecliptic event got recorded. 'Cause it didn't happen!

      Mathew 27 51:53
      51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
      How come nobody wrote about zombies running through the cities? 'Cause it is all b.s.

      An interesting note:

      "The same phenomena and portents of the sudden darkness at the sixth hour, a strong earthquake, rent stones, a temple entrance broken in two, and the rising of the dead have been reported by multiple ancient writers for the death of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC." – Sources Wikipedia (John T. Ramsey & A. Lewis Licht, The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar's Funeral Games, Atlanta 1997, p. 99–107

      Hmmm...
      If you can't even believe the crucifixion story how likely is the resurrection account to be true? In a book that is a mix of fiction and "fact", how do you know which is which? Especially, since all of the bible seems very unlikely and does not fit with the reality we see around us.?

      If Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, who died for man's redemption, then this would be the most important event in the history of man.

      Having gone to the trouble of impregnating a human and being born god incarnate and dying for mankind's sins, why wouldn't god have ensured there was tons of evidence that this was true? Multiple Writings by contemporary eyewitnesses – Jews and Romans.

      You are going to want to say that there IS lots of evidence, but look at reality: There are way more people, in the world, who are not Christians (67%) than who are (33%). Obviously, the evidence is not adequate to convince even a majority of the world's people.

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "Have you ever heard of one Josephus, a non Biblical author who told of Christ's existence in the Roman Empire at the very time the Bible places him? You must also not believe that Julius Caesar existed, David, because the historical evidence for Julius Caesar pales in comparison to the historical evidence of Jesus, the historical figure."

      Josephus' birth in 37 C.E. (well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus), puts him out of range of an eyewitness account.

      No, Caesar has coins with his image, statues, other writings (Egyptian) etc. We have no description of what Jesus even looked like.

      Christians must defend their bible. They do use Theological Gymnastics to "show" the bible is always in keeping with their beliefs.

      Atheists respond to evidence. Empirical evidence and logic are the two best tools to determine how the universe actually works. Theists have only their faith and an ambiguous holy book.

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      Show me some more "evidence" outside the New Testament, that an actual Jesus existed.

      I like you! Your easy, like my first girl friend, when I was 13.

      Cheers!

      P.S. – I may not answer right away. I'm posting from work and I have a meeting (don't know how long), shortly. But, I promise to get back to you.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      David Johnson, the Kenites (off springs of satan) denied Jesus in the days He walked on the earth, persecuted Him back then as they do today and you atheists fall into their deception, hook, line and sinker because they stroke your egos, making you believe you're intelligent. Just because they call you sunny, doesn't make you bright. Besides, if you don't care about your soul, neither will Jesus.

      You're not choosing wisely ... can lead a mule to water, but, you can't make them drink.

      Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • sortakinda

      David Johnson

      How do you know YOU exist? If you're not the Dave Johnson managing the Washington Nationals, I suspect that you are a misdirected blot of imperfect artifical intelligence.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Seeing your extended posts, I can't help but wonder if you are a prisoner in solitary confinement, used to talking at great length with yourself. Do you think ANYONE would read ONE entire posting of yours? Only the fellow atheists who believe in YOU.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • A Theist

      David, Just Wiki Jesus of Nazareth, and you will find:
      "Most critical historians agree that Jesus existed and regard events such as his baptism and his crucifixion as historical." Wiki it.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • A Theist

      I can submit quotes from other people who speak in favor of the Bible:
      "I know of no finding in archaeology that’s properly confirmed which is in opposition to the Scriptures. The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has ever seen." –Dr. Clifford Wilson, former director of the Australian Inst_itute of Archaeology

      "The reader may rest assured that nothing has been found [by archaeologists] to disturb a reasonable faith, and nothing has been discovered which can disprove a single theological doctrine. We no longer trouble ourselves with attempts to 'harmonize' religion and science, or to 'prove' the Bible. The Bible can stand for itself." –Dr. William F. Albright (and look, he had access to the Dead Sea Scrolls!).

      Concerning Josephus, he was born roughly within a decade of the crucifixion of Christ. I guess that means we should throw out all historical doc-uments that tell of people who died before any eye-witness accounts were written. You are aware, David, how stupid that sounds, aren't you? Considering this was recorded in an era where most people didn't write, and word of mouth was a strict and credible process, it makes sense that even if all the authors were not eye-witness accounts, that their stories can still be credible.

      Consider this, since you are applying logic to a scenario of history that neither of us can observe directly. If Jesus was fake, how did his movement spread so quickly, and in areas where the Scriptures claimed He existed? Wouldn't it take just a few outspoken nay-sayers (like the Pharisees, who possessed a significant amount of power) to stifle the movement altogether? No faith has spread more quickly and with as much fervor, in spite of opposition, than the Christian faith. To me, at least from what I see from people who already have a set of beliefs, it doesn't make sense that so many were willing to accept a figure that didn't even exist!

      It would appear, that the chief priests are admitting that Jesus "saved" others. If they knew this, then there is no reason for them to demand that Jesus descend from the cross, in order for them to believe. They already admitted to knowing of Jesus' "miracles".

      I guess you've never heard of mockery before. It's comments like these that really shed light to your inability to look at evidence objectively. I never claim to know with certainty that the Bible is true, but that the evidence seems to indicate that it is. Consult experts from both sides of the argument and you will see that there is still an active debate going on, but that the general consensus is at least that Jesus was a historical figure. I mean, for crying out loud, just read the Wik!pedia page on him and you'll see that most historians even have a pretty good idea about what Jesus's character was like.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • A Theist

      David, here's a little icing on the cake :

      "Professor of Divinity James Dunn describes the mythical Jesus theory as a ‘thoroughly dead thesis’"–that would be your "mythical Jesus theory," my friend.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Nightsun2k7–

      Kidding about what? You know, this blog was supposed to be a reaction to the faux religiosity of political candidates, a la Elmer Gantry, knowing what sells. But, as usual, it is taken as an opportunity for the unenlightened atheists to parade their absolute certainty that God does not exist. And for those who say that they are not absolutley certain, pals, you're Agnostics. When was the last time you saw that word in the dialogue?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • sortakinda

      NEWS FLASH: DAVID JOHNSON HAS A JOB

      Probably works for the American Bible Society or the Watchtower.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @sortakinda

      You asked: "How do you know YOU exist?"

      Umm... I think, therefore I am. ?

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "I can submit quotes from other people who speak in favor of the Bible"

      Yeah, me to. Only not so favorable. I listed a number of them in my earlier post. The problem with yours, is that they are in the "business". They are believers. They are biased.

      I also listed a number of historians that were contemporaries of Jesus, who did not write about Him. I guess they weren't impressed. Probably, they hadn't heard the umm...stories.

      This is odd since the bible says there were lots of people who followed Jesus. And then there was that tantrum in the temple... Surely one of the historians would have heard or noticed. *sigh*

      Seriously, why did none write about Jesus? Why is there no mention of Jesus being executed by the Romans? Other so called Messiahs were crucified and were recorded as such. But not a fellow named Jesus. ?

      You cherry pick! You are not addressing any of my arguments against there being an actual Christ. You harp on Josephus... yet, he was born after Jesus was in His grave.

      You said: "Concerning Josephus, he was born roughly within a decade of the crucifixion of Christ. I guess that means we should throw out all historical doc-uments that tell of people who died before any eye-witness accounts were written. You are aware, David, how stupid that sounds, aren't you? Considering this was recorded in an era where most people didn't write, and word of mouth was a strict and credible process, it makes sense that even if all the authors were not eye-witness accounts, that their stories can still be credible."

      The area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records. Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And nothing about the Jesus. Nada! Nothing even spray painted on a wall.

      Many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius).
      Josephus wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels were written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay. Like me reading Moby Dick and then writing about a white whale. LOL

      Hearsay is not an acceptable form of evidence. Especially, when no one bothered to record where the 2nd hand (at best) information, came from. It could have been pulled from their...imagination.

      "One is used to thinking of hearsay as simply repeating something someone else has said. In that way, hearsay is similar to ordinary gossip. This is generally viewed in a negative light for a number of good reasons, not the least of which is that second-hand information is often unreliable.
      For example, the original speaker could have been misquoted, either accidentally or intentionally. Furthermore, the listener, being at least one step removed from the original speaker, cannot witness his or her mannerisms, voice inflections or body language and thus cannot judge the original speaker's credibility. This inherent tendency for unreliability is one reason why hearsay is generally excluded from evidence in civil and criminal trials." – suzanne-bechard.suite101.com

      You asked: "If Jesus was fake, how did his movement spread so quickly, and in areas where the Scriptures claimed He existed? "

      Mormonism and Islam both spread "quickly" Doesn't make either of them the one true faith. Right?

      Consider: Mormonism and Islam and Christianity, all fell on fertile ground. People were ready for a change.

      It could easily be asked, as I did in my first post, why, if Christianity is true, can't god convince even a majority of the world of it? Why didn't god ensure that vast amounts of writings, by the Romans, Jews and Greeks told about Jesus? Any arguments you make about no one could write, etc, are of no value. You are talking about an all knowing all powerful god. You would expect him to find someone a pencil and paper. You believers all tend to do that. God is superlative until you need to get Him out of a jam. Think about it, Sparky. This was the greatest thing to happen EVER! Where is the evidence of this miracle??

      Why didn't even one of the Gospel writers tell what Jesus looked like? Why are the Gospels written in the 3rd person? All eyewitness accounts are written in the first person... I went to the temple with Jesus. I listened to Jesus' sermon. ?

      Christianity spread in these areas, because it was home to the hype. It would have indeed been odd, if Christianity had spread in say, China. LOL
      Constantine was the real mover and shaker of Christianity. If not for him, Christianity may well have not survived.

      nay-Sayers? Dude, Nero lit Christians on fire, to illuminate his parties. Much as we do now, with our tiki torches.

      Don't try to make this a case for there being a Jesus. Dying for a belief, doesn't make the belief true. Think about the Muslim terrorists and belief in 72 virgins. Or David Koresh's bunch. etc.

      You Cherry Picked: "It would appear, that the chief priests are admitting that Jesus "saved" others. If they knew this, then there is no reason for them to demand that Jesus descend from the cross, in order for them to believe. They already admitted to knowing of Jesus' "miracles"."

      And then you said: "I guess you've never heard of mockery before. It's comments like these that really shed light to your inability to look at evidence objectively. I never claim to know with certainty that the Bible is true, but that the evidence seems to indicate that it is."

      It would depend on whether they actually believed He saved others or not. I think Mark included this, to show that yet another prophesy was fulfilled:

      "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting." – Isaiah 50:6

      But, what about the Zombies? What about the darkening of the skies?

      Why was this same thing written about Caesar, at least 40 years before the birth of Christ? Actually, this sort of story was written about the deaths of other kings etc. It was common.

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist
      David, here's a little icing on the cake :

      You said: " here's a little icing on the cake :
      "Professor of Divinity James Dunn describes the mythical Jesus theory as a ‘thoroughly dead thesis’"–that would be your 'mythical Jesus theory', my friend."

      Yep. An opinion given by a Professor of Divinity. Biased much? LOL

      Check these out:

      "Before the Gospels were adopted as history, no record exists that he was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all– or anywhere else on earth."
      -Earl Doherty, "The Jesus Puzzle," p.141

      "It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last."
      -Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Inst_itute (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 260)

      "The gospels are not eyewitness accounts"
      -Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

      "The Synoptic Gospels employ techniques that we today associate with fiction."
      -Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

      And since the Gospels are the only "evidence" that exists, this sort of points to a hard candy Christmas, don't it? LOL

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • A Theist

      @David
      You're telling me that you'll discredit any historian's account simply because they believe in God? Newsflash: EVERYONE is biased. Apparently you are also. I'm telling you that BOTH secular and religious historians firmly believe in a historical Jesus. You only seem to accept sources that are on the fringes of society–and not in a good way. If you really believe that one's personal belief system will infringe on the ability to read evidence fairly to a degree that it cannot be accurate, then you've basically just discredited all historians ever, because EVERYBODY has a slant.
      One day you'll learn that secular =/= more objective than religious. The beauty of the Scientific Method is that it disallows for personal beliefs to factor in. So David, stop questioning the authenticity of the VAST majority of scholars, and instead just look at the evidence. You'll see that your claim really makes very little sense.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • A Theist

      And David, Mormonism and Islam were able to spread so quickly because Mohammed and Joseph Smith were REAL people. Do you not see the irony in your statement? Golly, I guess Christianity spread faster than these faiths despite the fact that they didn't even have a real character! Now that makes lots of sense!

      Just because an argument can fit together in a way that appears infallible does not mean that it is suddenly Truth. Use some logic, and understand that most people really are skeptical of the things they are told. That's why many books of the Bible were rejected from the Canon, and why nobody even in that day–according to the Bible–even believed what Mary said when she went to Christ's grave. Even back then, David, people were skeptical.

      By your flawed reasoning, I could say that Evolution is a farce because most Evolutionists study Evolution from the belief that it really is how life formed. That's just plain stupid. Beliefs do not dictate one's ability to look at evidence–they may have influence, but only to the degree that the evidence can be interpreted and that the viewer allows for.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • A Theist

      And finally, David, you ask rather stupid questions at times. "Why didn't anyone write about what Jesus looked like?" Well, did anyone write about what Caesar looked like? How about Mohammed? Plato? The point is, most people didn't bother writing about physical descriptions, especially since I would imagine Jesus looked rather much like every other Jew around. The Bible described John the Baptist, was he fake also? And if he wasn't why was he talking about an imaginary person that he will eventually dip in water?

      Look a little more objectively at this David, I get the feeling you're coming in with a strong bias to want to disbelieve. By and large, secular and biblical scholars believe a historical Jesus existed.

      September 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "You're telling me that you'll discredit any historian's account simply because they believe in God? Newsflash: EVERYONE is biased. Apparently you are also. I'm telling you that BOTH secular and religious historians firmly believe in a historical Jesus. You only seem to accept sources that are on the fringes of society–and not in a good way. If you really believe that one's personal belief system will infringe on the ability to read evidence fairly to a degree that it cannot be accurate, then you've basically just discredited all historians ever, because EVERYBODY has a slant."

      I listed both atheist and Christians, who disagree with your "experts". I understand bias.

      You said: "One day you'll learn that secular =/= more objective than religious... "

      Religion is faith based. No evidence required. Faith is worthless when looking for the truth. The scientific method is based on empirical evidence. Empirical evidence and logic are the best ways to determine how the universe really works. What is real and what is make-believe.

      You argue only from authority. You say: This expert says "A" about a historical Jesus. Therefore, "A" is correct.

      Except, maybe not. As I pointed out. Many experts with just as good of credentials, disagree.

      Apologist scholars are biased. They are likely to accept evidence of very low quality.... Like hearsay.

      If you wish to debate the actual arguments I made in my original post, then please do. Otherwise, we are done.

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      I asked: "Why didn't anyone write about what Jesus looked like?"

      You replied: "Well, did anyone write about what Caesar looked like? How about Mohammed? Plato? "

      Caesar – Coins from the era bear his likeness, busts:
      100falcons.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/what-did-caesar-look-like

      Plato – Bust; Portraits from the bust.
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato

      Mohammed – It is a death sentence to show an image (real or imagined) of Mohammed.

      An excerpt from the book ent_itled "The Message of Mohammad," by Athar Husain.

      Appearance

      Muhammad (pbuh) was of a height a little above the average. He was of sturdy build with long muscular limbs and tapering fingers. The hair of his head was long and thick with some waves in them. His forehead was large and prominent, his eyelashes were long and thick, his nose was sloping, his mouth was somewhat large and his teeth were well set. His cheeks were spare and he had a pleasant smile. His eyes were large and black with a touch of brown. His beard was thick and at the time of his death, he had seventeen grey hairs in it. He had a thin line of fine hair over his neck and chest. He was fair of complexion and altogether was so handsome that Abu Bakr composed this couplet about him:
      "As there is no darkness in the moonlit night so is Mustafa, the well-wisher, bright."

      His gait was firm and he walked so fast that others found it difficult to keep pace with him. His face was genial but at times, when he was deep in thought, there there were long periods of silence, yet he always kept himself busy with something. He did not speak unnecessarily and what he said was always to the point and without any padding. At times he would make his meaning clear by slowly repeating what he had said. His laugh was mostly a smile. He kept his feelings under firm control – when annoyed, he would turn aside or keep silent, when pleased he would lower his eyes [Tirmidhi].

      You said: "The point is, most people didn't bother writing about physical descriptions... "

      The point is, you are wrong. almost all important historical people have, at least, descriptions of what they looked like.

      You asked: " The Bible described John the Baptist, was he fake also? And if he wasn't why was he talking about an imaginary person that he will eventually dip in water?"

      If Jesus was a myth... I believe the Gospels were written with the intent of establishing Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.

      Most of the events, written about were to fulfill some Old Testament prophesy. The author of Mathew even admits to this when he relates the story about "borrowing" the donkey.

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "Mormonism and Islam were able to spread so quickly because Mohammed and Joseph Smith were REAL people. Do you not see the irony in your statement? Golly, I guess Christianity spread faster than these faiths despite the fact that they didn't even have a real character! Now that makes lots of sense!"

      Are you simple? The people such as Paul and others who promoted this religion, were real. Jesus the demigod was not.
      Mohammed was real...like Paul. Allah is not. Like Jesus and His pappy. Joey Smith was real...Like Paul. His Jesus and god is not.

      Hundreds of ancient gods were not real...Yet people believed. They were made up. Check out Greek mythology.

      Cheers!

      September 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "By your flawed reasoning, I could say that Evolution is a farce because most Evolutionists study Evolution from the belief that it really is how life formed. That's just plain stupid. Beliefs do not dictate one's ability to look at evidence–they may have influence, but only to the degree that the evidence can be interpreted and that the viewer allows for."

      And there is tons and tons of evidence that evolution is responsible for all the different organisms on the planet. There is no evidence against it.

      There is no real evidence that Jesus ever actually existed.

      If there is, then please supply it.

      Cheers!

      September 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Colin

    When will people stop falling for the trick of packaging religion and morality together, as if they were one? I am an atheist. I totally reject the supernatural nonsense of religion, be it sky-gods periodically “beaming down” to Earth, h0mo sapiens surviving their own physical deaths or the Iron-Age mythological nonsense of Biblical fairytales.

    However, my moral outlook and that of most atheists, is virtually indistinguishable to that of the liberal Christian. We simply don’t predicate our morality upon the belief in sky-gods, nor require it to be maintained by the self-contradictory “carrot and stick” notions of living for all eternity with a merciful god or being roasted for all eternity by the same “all merciful” god.

    Dark Ages nonsense.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Edwin

      Short answer: never.

      Most people cannot imagine a world different from the one they have, the one they grew up in. They see a muslim or an atheist or a gay or a hispanic and all they see is something alien. So they get upset.

      For christians (and other religious groups), theology largely defines morality. Not completely, but it is an essential component in the definition. Most, therefore, cannot understand how someone with a different (or no) religious background can be moral, since for them morality stems FROM religion.

      It is a lack of imagination that the majority of humans suffer from, and it has further implications that simply religion. It is why people in America don't care about the suffering of people elsewhere, why people with a strong emotional support base consider depression to be weakness not illness, why liberals and conservatives are at each others' throats. They don't understand, and they don't WANT to understand.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ezra

      Well said Colin. It's amazing how religious people try to lay claim to human morality. If they knew the history of their own religions they would know that the morals they preached changed over time at the whims of human society. religion is man-made and has nothing to do with any devine beings.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh, right. Atheists invented the moral code of living (LOL). Just another rip off of Jesus' truth, but, as usual, too arrogant to admit it, change the name, and calling it their own invention.

      You atheists have done NOTHING in the world throughout the entire existence. With the exception of being moaners, complainers, rip off artists, causing chaos, to mention a few.

      Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • sortakinda

      Ezra

      I do find it funny how atheists fancy themselves "holier than thou," ignoring their own pretense, and hypocrisy, being soooo much better, wiser, moral and more intelligent than anyone who believes in God. This "devine" you speak of. Is that Andy Devine or the John Waters actor/actress?

      September 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • A Theist

      Colin, I'm just curious on where you derive your source of Morality. How do you settle disputes with others who share your beliefs, yet have a different interpretation on a particular moral stigma?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Sporkify

      "Oh, right. Atheists invented the moral code of living (LOL). Just another rip off of Jesus' truth, but, as usual, too arrogant to admit it, change the name, and calling it their own invention."

      You're so absurd you're almost a caricature of yourself. The Jesus myth is an amalgamation of many other creation stories that existed long before your particular mythology. The immaculate birth / resurrection story has been hashed and rehashed countless times throughout history. Sorry, but as David Johnson said above, Yeshua historically never existed.

      I know that nothing I say will convince you otherwise, Heavensent, because you're not right in the head. Maybe it will help others realize the lie they've been living in.

      "god bless"

      September 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • A Theist

      Sporkify, before making such bold claims with absolute certainty, please do a little research.

      Here's just a few quotes concerning your mythical Jesus belief:

      "Classicist Michael Grant stated that standard historical criteria prevent one from rejecting the existence of a historical Jesus.
      Professor of Divinity James Dunn describes the mythical Jesus theory as a ‘thoroughly dead thesis’.

      I'm not saying it's absolutely true that Jesus existed as a historical figure, but believe me when I say, by and large, the consensus is that Jesus of Nazareth existed as a historical figure. It takes a lot of faith to believe otherwise.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @HeavenSent

      You said: "Oh, right. Atheists invented the moral code of living (LOL). Just another rip off of Jesus' truth, but, as usual, too arrogant to admit it, change the name, and calling it their own invention."

      Actually, many atheists are Humanists and subscribe to the "Golden Rule". The Golden Rule, in various forms, preceded Jesus. The The Golden Rule (also called the ethic of reciprocity) was present in certain forms in the philosophies of ancient Babylon, Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Judea, and China.

      The Sage Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus (died when Jesus was about 6), formulated a negative form of the golden rule. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:
      "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

      So, Jesus' "truth" apparently was just a rehash of an already well known ethic.

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist
      @Sporkify

      A Theist said: " before making such bold claims with absolute certainty, please do a little research."

      I suggest before he tells you to do research, that he answer my arguments on there being an actual Jesus.

      A Theist, like so many others, wants to be the "father figure". Correcting each of us with his knowledge of god and the bible. Pfui! Like all the rest, he is just expressing his opinion. He has no proof that his god exists or that he is correctly interpreting the will of this god.

      Or am I wrong? A Theist, do you have proof that what you say / believe is any more true than what the Muslims or any of the other 38,000 different Christian denominations believe?

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  16. chad

    "..., giving religious beliefs too much weight in electoral decisions undermines the basic democratic values that have guided our nation for over two centuries"

    I would definitely disagree with you there, as a Christian I want to know what a candidates view on Jesus Christ is. I don't think it's pandering for a politician to say he/she is saved, or that he/she felt God called them into public service, actually I feel they are courageous for doing so in today's secular climate. Would you want a believing candidate to play it down? Not talk to Christian groups? Doesnt every politician have the right to appeal to any group that he/she shares common ground with and have them mobilize to support their candidacy?

    Rhetoric is defined as "the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast", you seem to be classifying any mention of a candidates faith in Jesus Christ as rhetoric and in doing so leave no room for honestly held belief.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Edwin

      I think the author was more upset that candidates are saying things simply to help them get elected, not because they believe. It is one of the reasons an honest politician cannot make it - they HAVE to pander to the public, to special interest groups.

      As a non-believer, I do not mind if a candidate believes. I do not mind if they talk about religion. But most of the time they are simply trying to say something to impress, not something they believe. And I do mind that.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  17. Anton LaVey

    "Blessed are the destroyers of false hope, for they are the true Messiahs – Cursed are the god-adorers, for they shall be shorn sheep!"— Anton Szandor LaVey

    September 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  18. Brother Maynard

    "My prayer is that candidates and voters will move away from confessional politics. As a committed Christian and former Baptist pastor, I do not wish to see religion excluded from the public square. However, giving religious beliefs too much weight in electoral decisions undermines the basic democratic values that have guided our nation for over two centuries."

    OK this paragraph is contradictory on so many levels it makes my head spin

    "My prayer is that candidates and voters will move away from confessional politics."
    OK, first of all I'll bet my house that your prayer will work as well as Rick Perry's to end the Texas drought back in April.
    Now, you are praying to god that people DON'T listen to the word of god ? HUH? "Oh lord, please inspire people to NOT listen to examples of your goodness"

    "As a committed Christian and former Baptist pastor, I do not wish to see religion excluded from the public square."
    Which begs the question ... how much religion in the public square is enough? or NOT enough? A stone with the 10 commandments in City Park is good. A man claiming that he lives his life by said 10 commandments is good. A candidate telling his voters that the 10 commandments changed his life is bad ??

    "However, giving religious beliefs too much weight in electoral decisions undermines the basic democratic values that have guided our nation for over two centuries."
    So you are saying that the 'basic democratic values' outweigh the biblical ones? what kind of a pastor are you?
    Sounds like your faith is wavering ( which by the way I think is a good thing )

    September 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Brother Maynard

      You said: "My prayer is that candidates and voters will move away from confessional politics."

      Jesus speaking:

      "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." –Matthew 21:22 (NIV)

      "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." –Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

      "Ask and it will be given to you.... For everyone who asks receives." –Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)

      "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." –Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

      James 5:15 – And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

      Let's be honest. Don't be afraid to use critical thinking. Jesus said the above, about prayer. Is it true? Can you post back to me and claim what Jesus said is true?

      Why has there never been a doc_umented case of an amputated limb being restored? Do you think an amputee never prayed or had faith?

      Double blind experiments, have all shown that prayer has no effect on illness.

      Because people have believed the promises of the bible, they have withheld medical care for their children. They prayed instead. Evidently, god was not moved by their faith. Their children died. Modern medicine could have saved them. OOoopsie!

      Why aren't Jesus' words true? Can you think of any possibilities? If Jesus' words aren't true about prayer, then how can we depend on anything else Jesus said? Maybe if we could "test" the afterlife claims, they would be no more real than the claims about prayer.

      A fundie once told me, that god always answers prayers in one of three ways:
      1) God says, "yes". You get what you asked for immediately.
      2) God says, "to wait". You will get what you asked for at some future date.
      3) God says, "no". You will not get what you asked for.

      Hmmm.... But I can get the same success from the carton of milk I have sitting on the breakfast table.

      1) If I pray to my magic carton, some things will come true immediately, just by chance and coincidence.
      2) Some things will come true at some future date, for the same reasons.
      3) If I don't get what I want, then my magic carton said, "no".

      I think there is a problem, when there is no difference between praying to a god and praying to a milk carton.

      Having a prayer answered, appears to require only 3 things: belief, faith and to be totally sure, you need others to pray with you.

      Hmm...

      Remember the Gulf oil spill?
      Remember how a ton of people prayed for god to stop the gushing?
      I was spellbound! I watched the real time video of the oil spill. I expected to see it stop. It did not. Human technology eventually capped the well.

      Remember when Rick Perry rallied his state to pray for rain? He issued a proclamation that for 72 hours, the citizens of Texas would all pray for rain. I thought, surely god would hear their prayers and open the windows of Heaven!
      The "days of prayer" ended Sunday, April 24, 2011. Texas is still experiencing exceptional drought.

      Studies have shown prayer does not work. Any miracles or answered prayers are the result of random chance, coincidence and selective observation. Believers tend to remember the perceived positive outcome of prayers and forget the failed.

      Christians MUST contest this. They must rent their clothes and Shout: "Do not put the lord your god to the test!" LOL!

      God, either does not care or does not exist. Personally, I'm checking the second box. LOL.

      Cheers!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • A Theist

      David, Maynard was quoting the article.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • BeamMeUpScotty

      News Flash: The "Jesus" of the Bible is NOT real.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Mmmhhhhhhhh, written how many years ago? You atheists are too simple. Whatever complaint you spew today, His truth was already written in the Bible.

      2 Timothy 3:14-17

      14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
      15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
      16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
      17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

      Amen.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @A Theist

      You said: "David, Maynard was quoting the article."

      The point is, prayer is worthless.

      Cheers!

      September 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Hey

    I understand a profession of one's religion (if that's important to someone) just to declare where one stands morally but I think -unless any specific god endorses you- you shouldn't assume anything...

    September 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • JV

      I don't understand how a profession of one's religion declares anything about where they stand morally. I have met Christians, atheists, Muslims, and Buddhists of outstanding moral character, and I have also met people from all of those groups who behave as though they apparently have no morals at all. Religion does not automatically make you a good person, and being a good person does not require religion.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Albert

      JV – Right on!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  20. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    Christianity, destroying the republican party one Texan at a time.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Anton LaVey

      Bingo...when will the GOP wake up to the Christian Taliban agenda

      September 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • BeamMeUpScotty

      When what happened in Norway happens in the US as well.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.