Joel Osteen takes on his critics
Is Joel Osteen underestimated? One religious scholar says yes.
October 7th, 2011
12:26 PM ET

Joel Osteen takes on his critics

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - He peddles “gospel lite," a watered-down Christianity that mixes prosperity with piety.

That's how critics have described Joel Osteen's message. The televangelist may be the pastor of the largest church in America, but he still doesn't get respect in many parts of the religious community.

Osteen, a college dropout who never attended seminary, has built a huge international audience with inspirational messages that blend positive thinking and personal transformation. But is he preaching "gospel lite" messages devoid of any mention of sin and hard choices?

Osteen rejects that charge with the same honey-toned voice and unflappability he displays in the pulpit at Lakewood Church in Houston. There's no hint of defensiveness.

“I deal every day with life issues and sin in our church every week,” he says. “I deal with people who have cancer, talk to people about how to forgive when they’ve been hurt. I don’t think that’s light. That’s everyday issues.”

Osteen is promoting his latest book, “Every Day a Friday,” in which he shows readers “how to be happier seven days a week.” The book dispenses much of the same pulpit advice Osteen has given to the tens of thousands of members of his Texas church.

Much of that advice centers on attitude. Some samples: Playfulness is as important as sleep. After you climb, reach back. Give up your comfort to comfort others.

It’s not the traditional “turn or burn” pulpit message, and Osteen is OK with that.

“I don’t beat people down,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of condemnation in my message. I don’t believe that we’re supposed to be depressed and broke and poor and suffering. God wants us to be happy and to be a blessing to people.”

Osteen’s phrase “God doesn’t want us to be broke” sets off theological alarm bells for some critics who say that's code for preaching the prosperity message. Critics of that message – that God promises wealth to the faithful – say it transforms Jesus from a prophet to a financial adviser.

Go online, and there are plenty of pastors and scholars who go into detail about Osteen’s message. One of them is the Rev. Gary Gilley, senior pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Illinois.

Gilley says Osteen preaches a “gospel lite” message that avoids anything controversial such as judgment or sin.

He says Osteen also preaches that wealth is a sign of God’s pleasure. There are plenty of heroes in the Bible, such as the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk, who were poor, Gilley says.

“Someone might counter that David and Solomon were wealthy, but this was not the case for Jeremiah and Habakkuk, both godly men who lost everything,” Gilley says. “So where does Osteen come up with the idea that 'God wants to increase us financially'? Of course, millions of examples throughout the world and throughout history could be given of godly people living in poverty.”

Osteen doesn't deny preaching about prosperity, but he defines it in broader terms than do his critics.

“When they say prosperity, that’s some guy on TV asking for money,” he says. “Our ministry is not about that. We’re about helping people. When I hear prosperity, it means to have good relationships, to be a blessing to people, to have peace in your mind.”

Shayne Lee, a sociologist at the University of Houston, says Osteen has been misunderstood. Lee has been a blunt critic of televangelists. In his book “Holy Mavericks,” he examines how Osteen and other televangelists use branding to sell themselves to a mass audience. Lee spent a year studying Osteen's church.

He came away impressed.

“He’s underestimated,” Lee says of Osteen. “He’s got tremendous skills that people will never give him credit for.”

Osteen’s skills quickly became apparent when he took over from his father, John Osteen, Lakewood's founder and longtime pastor. Joel Osteen had run the media department for his father, Lee says.

Osteen had to give his first sermon a week after watching his father die, Lee said.

“Few thought that he was up to the task, and some thought the church would fall apart,” Lee wrote in “Holy Mavericks.”

Lakewood now has 45,000 members, Osteen preaches to sold-out arenas across the country, and his television ministry draws millions of weekly viewers.

Lee cites three factors for Osteen’s success:

Marketing: He says Osteen’s previous work behind the camera taught him how to brand a ministry and create a visually appealing and quickly moving worship service.

Timing: When Osteen hit the pulpit in 1999, people had already grown tired of the smooth-talking televangelists who were often caught up in scandal. Osteen was the boyish-looking pastor who exuded sincerity and never pretended he had all the answers, Lee says.

Preaching: Osteen may not have the grasp of theology and church history that some pastors have, but he knows how to connect with ordinary Americans through a therapeutic message that draws heavily from pop culture, Lee says.

“His lack of seminary training is part of his appeal,” Lee says. “He’s not saying big words he learned from seminary. He’s speaking in a language that contemporary Americans understand.”

Lee says Osteen’s church is also underestimated. He says that Lakewood arguably has the most diverse congregation in the nation in terms of race, income and age, and that it does a lot for the poor.

Critics who complain that Osteen waters down the gospel are suspicious because of his “lack of rigid dogmatism,” Lee says.

Yet Lee says Osteen’s preaching honors the example of Jesus, who told stories more than he issued dogma. He says many of Osteen’s sermons are built on insights extracted from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

“Jesus used parables to speak in a compelling way that his contemporaries could understand,” Lee said. “Osteen is speaking the language of the people in the same way that Jesus did.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Celebrity • Christianity • Church • Faith • Pastors

soundoff (1,331 Responses)
  1. Margarita Romero

    if this man is giving people hope and helping them some how...... why the hate...leave him alone...

    October 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Colin

      That's the point. The hope is false, and therefore he is not helping them. He is perpetrating an enduring Bronze Age myth for personal gain.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • mark

      He's been using donations to pay for male partners.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • CenScrut

      This is one creepy dude. He just fleeces away with that big grin on his face and why not? There is a sucker born every minute.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  2. wisdom4u2

    You go Joel Osteen!! Who gives a crap about critics? Heck, even Jesus had and still have critics; And let’s go even further, our Heavenly Father had and still have critics, like we all do. No one is going to agree with us all of the time, and it’s not our purpose to get everyone to agree with us.
    There’s reasons why Joel has an enormous following, but the main one is this; sinners know when they’re sinning, but we need to hear about a loving and forgiving God who loves and accepts us even though….
    And once we understand that sin has separated us from our Heavenly Father, but He has erected the bridge (Jesus) leading us to Himself, and it is then we come to realize we can have that communion with Him which was lost so long ago.
    So….Rock on Joel Osteen and may God continue to bless you and yours!!

    October 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Bennett

      No wisdom from you: Sleazy Joel has a following only because people like you are stupid and gullible, and he's a good con man. Get over yourself. And at least do a background check on him.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Noooo! You can swallow my kitty litter clumps! You don't have a clue with your stinkin hateful self!! How you gonna bash someone who's making an impact in people's lives when your hate shines through like a freaking laser beam??
      You sound like the adversary, your father, the devil!! Get thee behind Joel, Satan!

      October 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bennett

      Joel gets behind you a lot. How much is he paying you?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      @ Bennet

      It's so obvious who's behind you, Beelzebub!
      I bet you don't have any friends other than your group of God Haters….what a hopeless life!!
      Peeyoo, you stink, I can smell you from here!

      October 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |


    October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • mark

      He's a phony who drives around in a rolls royce and limosines thanks to donations from suckers.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  4. jazzygirl

    it says you should be a blessing to others and he certainly is

    October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • CenScrut

      You didn't finish your sentence.....


      "it says you should be a blessing to others and he certainly is...NOT"

      Who is your favorite Jazz musician Jazzy?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  5. mark

    He's just another phony con artist who's an entertainer in it for the money and the high class lifestyle.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  6. my name is joshua god damn it!!!

    you will all die alone waiting for me and i'm so not coming...well, not for you anyway 🙂

    October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • steveinmo

      I pity you.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • CenScrut

      Why do you pity that Joshua fellow?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  7. Barry G.

    Landon Saunders once asked his audience: Is Robert Schuller (of the Crystal Cathedral fame) a perfume salesman, or is he selling the aroma of Christ?

    Christians familiar with the Scripture immediately recognize the reference to the Apostle Paul, who wrote about "the aroma of Christ".

    Surely the aroma of Christ must be analogous to the verses in the Old Testament, where the Scripture speaks of Noah or one of the other saints offering a sacrifice, and it being a pleasing aroma in God's nostrils.

    Those how serve, suffer and lay down their lives, as Jesus did, surely are similarly doing what is pleasing to the Lord.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  8. CenScrut

    Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • steveinmo

      Though I'll agree with the "rarely" I don't agree with "if ever". My Lord is certainly greater, more patient, more loving, and more-longsuffering than I. And more powerful, able to do, heal, fix, and solve all things without man's intervention. Usually, man only gets in the way when he(or she) "thinks" they are helping without being led from the heart.

      Those who preach the Jesus you talk about, that have the same failings and weaknesses as men, and the one that makes us rich monetarily, are preaching that other Jesus – the one named the devil.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • CenScrut

      There most likely was no Jesus and if there was he is dead. There most certainly is no Devil, that is just silly. If there is a God, we certainly don't need a Devil. God is cruel and evil enough.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • steveinmo

      Then you had your chance and opportunity and will have to remember that when you one day stand before Him.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • CenScrut

      Stand before who?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  9. Trwer3

    Wealth is not limited to money. You can be rich with love for life, family, friends, compassion, creativity, intelligence, drive, etc. etc. Wow, I just described Steve Jobs R.I.P.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. my name is joshua god damn it!!!

    hi, you morons think i am jesus and that i will come back to bring you to heaven. WRONG! my name is not jesus, and i already rose form the dead, 3 days after i was killed – remember! so your all dumb and going to die sad, lonely lives... enjoy the time now, cause tomorrow comes faster then you think!!

    October 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  11. jazzygirl

    I just love Joel, people can say what they want but he gives his all every week giving me what i need...and that's all i got to say about that...

    October 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  12. Greg s

    Hes a cotton Candy Pastor!

    October 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  13. JR

    I will never forget Joel and his wife on Fifth Ave. loaded down with shopping bags and big smiles. I guess shopping at Bergdorf is part of God's plan. Keep the money coming in folks!

    October 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  14. Schmooze with curls

    "Osteen is speaking the language of the people in the same way that Jesus did" Yes, Osteen preaches the "gospel of prosperity", just like Jesus who favored money, the rich and powerful.
    And why not? Osteen could retire tomorrow and live a lush life to the end of his days while his followers are still praying for enough dough to pay the next rent or the next Lexus. Amen to that.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  15. hippypoet

    can anyone come forth with proof of "god"?

    October 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • hippypoet

      having no proof is evidence to the latter side of the arguement, just so ya know...so if i believed as hardy as some do, i think i would search the earth untill i found some kind of proof! have fun!

      October 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • ???

      Can you prove that there is no God?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • steveinmo

      No, because we don't need to. The very definition of Faith, true Faith, received through Salvatiom is:
      – The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      True believers don't need to go looking for proof because we already have it, and it's written in our hearts. We don't need a man to say we're "okay" or "it's real" because no one can.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Barry G.


      I prefer to think of it as evidence.

      My transformed life is probably the greatest evidence I could give you. Ask anyone who knew me before and knows me now, and they'll say: Wow!

      Of course there are the eyewitness accounts, which were given by people who hated lies and were committed to truth and honesty. Incidentally many of these eyewitnesses were willing to be tortured and some executed, as they maintained that Jesus was the son of God.

      There was a wonderful episode of All In The Family, where Edith Bunker realizes that her son-in-law is an atheist. Shocked she says to him: You mean believe their aint no God?

      Mike responds humbly: Mom, I don't know if there's a God; but, if I ever do believe that there is a God, it will be because of good people like you.

      The evidence of these transformed lives remains one of the greatest evidences of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      Amen Barry G 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Ogre

      "Can you prove that there is no God?"

      Can you prove that there are no pixies flying around the room? No, you cant. Well, that must mean that they are real then?!

      October 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Ogre- can you prove that a person created the concept of God?

      October 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Ogre


      Can you prove that a person created the concept of pixies?

      October 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Ogre- In some cases...yes: Cottingley Fairies is an example. There is evidence where they said they made them up.

      Again I ask, can you prove that a person created the concept of God?

      Don't fell threatened by answering no. It just means you are no better that those you make fun of when they can't prove something to you.

      October 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Ogre

      Lycidas, Interesting tack. My initial response was to the poster who demanded, "prove that there is no God". Plz inform your cohorts to quit making that inane demand. It's quite shallow and childish.

      Anyway, the answer is that an intangible cannot be disproved. It does not matter one whit who dreamed up the god scenarios or the pixie stories or the boogie man ones. If one makes a claim that an intangible being *does* or *says* things, the claimant must provide the proof. In the event of lack of proof, the default / fallback belief is not that they are true. Believe whatever you like, just don't proclaim that it is the one and only truth.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "If one makes a claim that an intangible being *does* or *says* things, the claimant must provide the proof. In the event of lack of proof, the default / fallback belief is not that they are true. Believe whatever you like, just don't proclaim that it is the one and only truth."

      What ppl are saying when they say there is no God is that a tangible being has done or said a certain thing. They should be more able to offer proof than one that tries to provide evidence of an intangible being.
      I can agree with that thought, but the lack of evidence cannot be taken as evidence to the contrary. Meaning, that an atheist can't say that because of a lack of evidence, it just proves they are right. That would be incorrect as well.
      I have yet to proclaim anything in the line of faith.

      October 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Pondering...

      Argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or "appeal to ignorance", is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to satisfactorily prove the proposition to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four, (1) true, (2) false, (3) unknown between true or false, and (4) being unknowable (among the first three). In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used to shift the burden of proof.

      Argument from ignorance may be used as a rationalization by a person who realizes that he has no reason for holding the belief that he does.

      The fallaciousness of arguments from ignorance does not mean that one can never possess good reasons for thinking that something does not exist, an idea captured by philosopher Bertrand Russell's teapot, a hypothetical china teapot revolving about the sun between Earth and Mars; however this would fall more duly under the arena of pragmatism, wherein a position must be demonstrated or proven in order to be upheld, and therefore the burden of proof is on the argument's proponent.

      October 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  16. October10s

    This guy is innocuous. He gives people hope and makes them feel good. That's pretty much it. It really doesn't matter if he is a theologian. I would take a thousand Joel Osteens over even one hypocritical poser like Eddie Long. All those fire and brimstone idiots who claim they speak for God and promote hate, ignorance and bigotry are far more incidious.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Tony Formaggio

    Joel Orsteen -the greasy hair, the squinty eyes, the cheesy smile and the fake white teeth, where have I seen that before???

    Ah yes, that sleazy used car lot in East Boston.

    Joelly, little man, how's it going? Nice new gig you got. You can give the money you owe to us now. You don't need to worry about your old friends Big Willy and Guido. They're just here to make sure.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Colin

    The fundamental objections I have to Olsen are the same objections I have to Christianity in general. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, sad, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, understand that I would love to believe I will live happily ever after I die, its just totally implausible to me, given what we now know. I cannot regard any of the following objections as unreasonable or motivated by anything other than common sense.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago, sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years, waited for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.omo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle east. While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This “all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 6 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers, so as to know if they think bad thoughts, so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages. This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant, sheep-like gullibility.

    4. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions about the transparently silly aspects of the faith(s).

    5. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Korsesh at Waco – 35 years after the fact.

    6. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something, which it most certainly is not, one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices? Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal that the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    7. The Bible is literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    8. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is be honestly not believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    October 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      @Colin – You ask some very good questions, questions which I have also asked myself. Responding to all those posts will simply take too long, may I suggest a book which I think provides lots of good solid answers? It's called "Evidence For Christianity" by Josh McDowell. I think it provides some great insights. In addition, evolution is not incompatible with Christianity. May you contine your journey sir, and I can assure you that there are legitimate answers to all your questions. Watch out for some wacky answers though because they're certainly out there as well (As a Christian, I'm telling you that many Christian websites provide inadequate, antiquated responses, but don't let that drive you away from the truth). Cheers 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Colin

      Thanks Alfonzo, I might just do that.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Dan


      God loves people who have 'honest' questions and doubts, not close-minded, defensive arguments. Seriously are you open minded? David in the bible was always questioning God and he was described as 'a man after God's heart" God loves honest seekers – christain or not.

      No one is born a christain, people become christains when they become convinced and belief the gospel. That however does not mean that the questioning/seeking stops. In fact God enjoins christain to seek/question/search for him and become even more convinced....if you seek and that is a big if, you shall find, after which a person has to decide, do i want to believe or not?

      So my advise is, go on a honest search, forget what others have told you or written, search for your self, look for collaborating historical accounts outside of the bible....does it have to be 100%, no errors etc before you connect the dots?...you will have to decide that. But go on a honest quest and see what you will find. You owe that to yourself.

      Thanks, Dan

      October 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      Sounds good Colin. I know he's written some others (I believe a couple have been higher on the best sellers list) but I can't personally comment on those since I haven't read them, I'd imagine they're pretty good though. Analyze both and all sides with an open mind and I hope you find what you're looking for. Cheers and have a good weekend 🙂

      October 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • steveinmo

      Colin, I'm coming to attack or rant on you. I did read your summary and one thing came to mind. It causes me endless wonder that non-believers don't believe in God, or his powers, or his personal touch (as you call telepathy), or his foreknowledge (as you all call ESP). You all don't believe because you can't touch it.

      Yet you all believe in ET and interdimensional beings and other stuff, and spend countless hours, days, even wasting years of your life and billions of our dollars looking for him. You believe yet you've never seen him and can't touch him either. You believe in something you can't touch or prove, but reject God and your only argument is because you can't touch Him or see Him physically? Kind of a perverse contradiction there isn't it?

      If you'd only believe, and be willing to step out on that belief – without proof – you'd know He does touch and talk to us, in our hearts, and it's the best and most peaceful place to be when we can get ourselves where we can hear him. ET won't give you that, I can guarantee. Why, because ET doesn't exist and can't touch your heart.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • steveinmo

      Sorry Colin, I meant to write – I'm NOT coming to attack or rant on you...

      October 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Lycidas

      1) You offer no facts but make as_sumptions with a little scientific theory mixed in with very little theological thought.

      2) No one ever said that an aspect of God was "all-loving" in the scriptures.

      3) Only a fool holds a ppl to the standards we feel are right. Why didn't the writers and ppl of that time hold a more skeptical nature about themselves like the 21st century Western culture does? Because they are not ppl of the 21st century or of western culture.

      4) Did you have a real point. You have morality..good. But you don't like Christian Morality. But there are some Christian Morality that you do like because it's a reflection of what you already feel and think. Wow...agreeing with those that think like you...that's open minded.

      5) Watch your straw man fallacies. Also...not knowing somehting does not equate evidence to the contrary. Just because you don't know what the writers were thinking does not instantly mean they were wrong.

      6)More absolutes and therfor you are in error. Just because one believes a certain way does not mean they always think the other person is wrong in all things faith oriented. There are those that have a faith and it's personal. In that...they aknowledge what there faith is might not jive with others and other ppl's faith doesn't worl for them. You keep as_suming an absolute judgmental state of mind for Christians that just doesn't exist.
      Also faith is the substance of things hoped for...not faith is hope or a wish.

      7) So? This argument only works on those that are literalists.

      8)Hmmm..seems like a variation of the True Scotsman fallacy. I am sorry Colin but you don't have the qualifications to speak for or even give an educated guess of any potential beain that is omnipotent

      October 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Barry G.

    "And Jesus said, 'If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'."

    And "'Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.'"

    The Gospel of Matthew

    October 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • hippypoet

      wow, very forgiving! and so full of love!

      October 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Oh yeah...

      Confucius said: Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Are you serious?

      Laying down your life for someone, as Jesus did; being willing to be scourged and crucified by the Romans, as Jesus was, is mighty forgiving; and, to pray as he's being crucified,"Father, fortive them, for they don't know what they're dong", I'd say that's exceedingly merciful.

      For God to be willing to forgive anyone of any sin, if they will only repent (turn from their sins) and allow his son Jesus's death to be the atonement for their sin, I'd say you're never going to see that kind of forgiveness and love again.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • JF

      Well, seriously

      No one knows how his death played out. No one there wrote it down. Nothing was written about it until decades later. Even the gospels can't agree on what happened. Read the gospels. They are all different in how it went down, what he said or didn't say as well as when it happened. He was just another person crucified by the Romans. The Romans crucified thousands. The stories about Jesus weren't created until decades later.

      October 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Barry G.


      What you said is true, the Romans crucified countless people, as did Alexander the Great, before them.

      The difference is, no one ever died willingly. The weapons the Romans used (like the various whips) were used to beat a person into subjection, if not into unconsciousness or death.

      Although the Gospel writers alter the details of the accounts, this is for literary and theological purposes. They are all in agreement that Jesus died and awful death and that he did so willingly. They are also in agreement that he rose from the dead.

      The differences in the details were not only accepted in the literary practice of the day, but they served an extremely important purpose.

      Sadly many conservative Christians don't understand this, and many skeptics and critics misunderstand this and use this with misguided zeal.

      October 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • JF

      Matthew 27 My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

      Not exactly the words of someone willing to die. In the three other gospels you are correct, but again none of these were written by someone who was actually there. You could write your own words for Jesus and may be closer to the truth than the four gospels.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  20. Danteg8son

    Give Joel some credit. In the business of selling empty cosmic promises, he's the slickest salesman to come along in decades.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:59 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.