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October 25th, 2011
10:10 PM ET

Survey: U.S. Catholics going to church less frequently

By Dan Merica, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new survey paints a picture of a less-strict American Catholic community, with 86% of respondents stating they believe a Catholic "can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church."

Among the most devout, older Catholics, Mass attendance has fallen from 64% in 1999 to just over 50% in 2011, according to a new survey of American Catholics.

And as those older Catholics die, they are replaced by a millennial generation that questions some of the church's social beliefs and attend church less often than older worshipers.

"Catholics in the past 25 years have become more autonomous when making decisions about important moral issues; less reliant on official teaching in reaching those decisions; and less deferential to the authority of the Vatican and individual bishops," stated the report's introduction.

"Catholics in America: Persistence and change in the Catholic landscape," was published Monday by the National Catholic Reporter and is the fifth installment in a survey that has been conducted every six years.

Even as attendance is down, the survey discovered that "foundational theological beliefs and the sacraments are at the heart of what American Catholics see as core to their Catholic identity."

For example, 73% and 64% of respondents respectively said it was very important that Catholics believe in "Jesus' resurrection from the dead" and that Mary was the mother of God.

According to Professor William D'Antonio of Catholic University, the man who led the study, these numbers have remained consistent.

At the same time, 66% of American Catholics said the Vatican's teaching authority is either somewhat or not important, a number D'Antonio said is higher than in the past.

The results of the survey were published on the National Catholic Reporter website in 13 essays ranging from, "Different generations in the church," to "The struggles of young Hispanic Catholics." USA Today was the first to report on this survey.

D'Antonio said the numbers point to a growing number of what he called "cafeteria Catholics" - churchgoers who tend to only follow aspects of the Catholic church with which they agree, but he disagreed that the numbers show the Catholic Church changing from religion to culture in America.

"Everyone is a cafeteria Catholic - so what," said D'Antonio. "I would consider a cultural Catholic as someone who never goes to Mass, but they still identity with the religion. That isn't the majority."

Around 50% of the 1,442 Catholics surveyed went to church at least once a month. D'Antonio, who is also a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Catholic University, said this is the church's new norm.

One reason for this dip in attendance may be a diversion in social beliefs, said the study. Even though the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have made it a point to be clear on the church's opposition to abortion, less than half ofthe Catholics surveyed - 40% - said the church's opinion was very important.

Those numbers go down on the issue of same-sex marriage, where 35% said the church's opinion was very important, to 29% on the death penalty issue.

"What more and more Catholics are saying is that my lived experiences are different than what the church is saying," said D'Antonio.

A major factor in this shift is the growing youth and diversity in the Catholic church, said the survey. Today, 45% of millennial Catholics are Hispanic.

"Many Catholic Hispanic millennials and their friends and relatives are poor," said the study. "Poverty is not an abstract concept - it is a fact of their lives and it is reflected in the way Hispanics conceive of themselves as Catholics, in what they expect of the church in its ministry and use of its influence for public policy."

Though young Hispanic Catholics are more observant in terms of marriage and abortion when compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts, they put more of an emphasis - 70% - on helping the poor than the 56% of non-Hispanic worshipers who think helping the poor is important.

But even then, "on matters like going to Mass every Sunday or using contraceptive birth control methods, large majorities of both groups see these moral issues as personal matters subject to their right to freedom of conscience," said the study.

A unique challenge comes with this growing diversity, said D'Antonio. He worries that the church is not ready to address the different needs that Hispanics bring to the pews.

"What concerns me is that the church structure is much weaker than when I was young," D'Antonio said. "We do not have a parish structure that is able bring these people fully into the church. It is a different church from the 1930s to 60s."

The survey was conducted online from April 25 to May 2 in both English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church

soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. J.W

    I guess what confuses me is why identify with a particular church if you do not attend the church and also do not believe in its teachings.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  2. gaucho420

    Most catholics I know and under 35 have all become Athiests or Agnostic.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  3. really?

    Actually, Catholics have so many masses throughout the week.

    They are the only ardent followers that have masses on Christmas day.

    Kudos catholics, will see you on Christmas day!

    October 26, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  4. evangelist

    Jim, you need to get your facts straight. The Catholic Church is the fastest growing church in the world. It is growing by about fifteen million people a year. In the U..S., it is growing by about half a million annually. And no, most of the growth is not from immigrants, but from a record number of Protestant conversions and former Catholics reverting back to the faith. In the same survey, a whopping 56% of Catholics in the U.S. said that they would never leave the Catholic Church, no matter what. That translates to nearly forty million people.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • gaucho420

      Catholicism is growing due to low income people who don't have a good education. Once they do (see Europe) they leave in droves. This will happen in the US as well. If you go to Europe, go to a church in Paris on any given sunday and you will be shocked at how empty they are...think 20% full on a good day.

      October 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • HellBent

      One third of people raised catholic no longer consider themselves to be so. That means that 10% of our nation considers themselves to be ex catholic. Only 2.6% of the adult population since 1972 has actually converted to Catholicism. The offset of losses is made up almost entirely by immigrants – the percentage of Catholics in this country has flat-lined for the last four decades. Fastest growing church in the US? Hardly.

      http://pewresearch.org/pubs/743/united-states-religion

      October 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  5. evangelist

    Jim, you need to get your facts straight. The Catholic Church is the fastest growing church in the world. It has a net gain of about fifteen million people a year. In the U.S., it is growing by half a million a year. And no, the growth is not mostly from immigrants. Record numbers of Protestants are now converting to Catholicism and former Catholics are reverting back to the church. In Asia and Africa, they can't build Catholic churches fast enough to meet the demand. Also, this biased piece, from CNN, didn't mention the fact that a whopping 56% of Catholics in the U.S. said that they would never leave the Catholic Church, no matter what. That translates to nearly forty million people. Also, most people on this site are reading this survey incorrectly. Churchgoers attending mass less frequently does not necessarily equal people believing in the church any less. Due to the poor economy, many people are working two and three jobs, and money is tight. Yes, this is bad news for all the atheists on this site, but at least you have the facts now.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @evangelist
      According to National Councll of Churches, in 2009 the Catholic Church in America grew by 1.49%, which does not put in the category of the fastest growing.
      The Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses both are outpacing the RSS in terms of growth, clocking in at 1.71 and 2% respectively.

      October 26, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • J.W

      Seventh Day Adventists are Mormons right? Everything I see when I searched said Seventh day adventist is the fastest growing.

      October 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • HellBent

      "In the U.S., it is growing by half a million a year."

      Please cite your sources. Research by the Pew insti.tute directly contradi.cts this. Plus, 'new' RCC members in the US are due almost entirely to immigration.

      October 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  6. J.W

    This is bad news for atheists. Atheists like Catholics.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  7. Little Jimmy

    I don't like going to church because I don't like getting molested.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  8. hippy christian

    When someone says "open your mind" be careful that they are wanting you to open it up so they can dump a load of garbage therein.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  9. Colin

    To all young Catholics out there – do not believe it when people tell you it is wrong or immoral to question, doubt and think for yourself! It is not. It is vital. That is the only way to distinguish nonsense from reality. On this note, here are some fundamental problems with Catholicism.

    1. The original teaching that the World began 6,000 years ago with a man a woman and a talking snake has been blown to smithereens. Don’t kid yourself, this was mandated as a belief by the Catholic Church for almost 2,000 years. It wasn’t until modern science proved it to be totally implausible that Catholic “truth” had to morph into a begrudging acceptance of evolution. A perusal of the official Catholic catechism still finds it littered with references to this Bronze Age mythology.

    2. The fact that there was no original sin means the theory dreamed up by early Christians for why Jesus “had to” die on the cross has been totally undermined. Nevertheless, this fiction is maintained by the Catholic Church, with seeming oblivious disregard to the blatant contradiction it raises. Even the original, discredited justification for his death is riddled with a plethora of logical inconsistencies. It’s God. It makes the rules. Why did it “have to” go through the barbaric act of the crucifixion to forgive us? Why not just forgive us? Why did we even need forgiving for eve’s act? Holding us accountable for things that happened before we were born is ludicrously unjust.

    3. The ritual of communion. Once again, stripped of its self-serving nomenclature and called out for what it is, this ritual is quite bizarre. Eating bread and wine and pretending it is a dead man’s flesh and blood! That is downright gothic and quite sick, if you focus on it. The priest supposedly as the magic power (or “sacred power” if you prefer a more euphemistic term for exactly the same thing) to turn grocery store bread and wine into the actual (not symbolic) flesh and blood of Jesus. A quick look at the bread and wine after it is consecrated shows it hasn’t changed at all, but Catholics maintain it has. Apparently there is some magic never-never land between reality and fiction where the bread and wine does not change at all, but it is the flesh and blood of Jesus – and it’s not symbolic. Go figure.

    4. Praying. There are 7,000,000,000 people on the planet. Even if only 1% pray in any given day, that is 70,000,000 prayers being “heard” and processed by god every day. Meanwhile he is also processing the 100,000 people who die every day between heaven and hell. He is also, apparently, monitoring the thoughts of all 7,000,000,000 of us 24 hours a day. How does he hear prayers? Well, he apparently can read our minds. How else? Once again, when you stop giving it a free pass and actually think about it, the whole concept reveals itself to be nonsense.

    5. The whole idea of hell is weird if, once again, you stop taking what you have been taught since you were a child for granted and have the temerity to think it through. About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell. Some must have already been burning for thousands of years.

    But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!

    No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of this. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, hell, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is refuse to believe in the Christian god and it will impose a penalty on me an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And it loves me.

    6. 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 Koresh at Waco – 35 years after the fact.

    7. When backed into a corner, the Catholic Church 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 certainly is not) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Catholic 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?

    8. 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 somewhat excusable, as it reflects the prevailing social norms 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 humans, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    So, my young catholic friends, might I suggest a bit of a courageous self-audit? Go ahead. Put your beliefs under a bit of scrutiny for once. You won’t be punished, I promise you. No sky-dwelling thought police are monitoring your brain, eager to rat you out to their cosmic boss the minute you dare question his existence.

    Probe your beliefs, poke them and see how they hold up. Subject them to the same exacting standard you do any other extraordinary claims, or claims against your faith and see how they do. Don't make excuses for them or give them the free pass you have been told you must. In this respect, and once again, do not believe what the religious leaders tell you. It is NEVER wrong to question, to doubt and to think for yourself. If your beliefs hold up, fine, you can have a little more confidence in them. If they don't, they were well worth shedding.

    October 26, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • hippy christian

      So I take it you're not a Christian.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Savoy

      Your point #3: My question is when does it stop being the body and blood of jesus? Is he forever stranded at the waste treatment plant? Is the pope against condoms because they wind up at the wast treatment plant too?

      October 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • HellBent

      @Savoy – maybe you've finally discovered the useful role of the appendix! Maybe it de-deifies god's blood back into normal old wine.

      October 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Guest

      Cut & Paste, Cut & Paste, Cut & Paste

      October 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  10. Colin

    The core issue is that the Catholic Church requires a belief in supernatural nonsense that thinking Millenials with access to the internet are much less likely to swallow than their uncritical parents.

    The core belief simply makes no sense! The idea is that a being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, all with billions of stars and planets watches all 7,000,000,000 human beings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and even monitors their thoughts, so he can hear their prayers and ultimately decide which of those humans will have eternal life and which he will burn forever. I'm sorry, but this is supersti.tous nonsense that never should have made it out of the Dark Ages.

    Those brought up in an environment where it was somehow "naughty" or "immoral" to question such a belief may cling to it, but few today buy into such an Orwellian prohibition on thought and open enquiry, and most thinking people are therefore virtually destined to reject Christianity.

    October 26, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • kimsland

      Offtopic

      Hi Colin.
      Just in regards to 'naughty' and immoral.
      I notice that the US still believes in hitting the child when they are 'naughty'.
      Note, this is not universal, actually its FULLY against the law where I'm from. The reasoning is that after research it was found that hitting did not teach the child, but actually had reverse effects, ie The child became abusive themselves later in life. Actually in my mind it seems obvious that hitting a child can never be good whatever the scenario, and 'discipline' is about how to guide and lead by example etc.

      I notice that christians as per the bible, are fully FOR this physical abuse, And in that, the US generally also believes this is a good thing. I wonder if that's because the US politics still allow churches and religious views to be respected (?) that there are many absurdities in the US that have never been spoke of before?

      Anyway, today i just saw the cnn video on an adopted child who was hit (sp@nked) to death, by their 'religious' parents, and I'm starting to think that this religious nonsense is far worse than I thought (in the US) And for that reason, I'm quite sure that my comments are falling on very ignorant deaf ears, ie a VERY up hill battle.

      Religion in the US disturbs me (and rightly so) but the abuse of children (in the name of religion) is FAR worse.
      This is a political matter, and its the future of the US. Religion will NOT survive, if your children are being constantly (legally) abused.

      October 26, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • hippy christian

      Colin: So I take it you're not a Christian too.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  11. Reality

    Please post this PowerPoint presentation on your refrigerator doors:

    SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:
    THERE NEVER WERE AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR LIKE 9/11.

    SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
    THERE WERE NEVER ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY, NO PAPACY

    SAVING 15.5 MILLION FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
    ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

    Added details upon request.

    October 26, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Bold declarations of faith... now in all caps

      October 26, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Reality

      For those who like lower case:

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
      There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no gabriel, no islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror like 9/11.

      Saving 2 billion lost christians:
      There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. no easter, no christianity, no papacy

      Saving 15.5 million followers of judaism:
      Abraham and moses probably never existed

      October 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Guest

      More of your stupid cut and paste, cut and paste, cut and paste. Dont' you get tired of your own stupidity? The rest of us do.

      October 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  12. JustMe

    I left the catholic religion because I do not agree with its practices, canon law and money demands. I didn't go into another religion upon leaving. I don't practice religion in my daily life. I gave my children the freedom of choice on what they want to believe spiritually.

    October 26, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Me Too

      Good man. Just be a decent person. That's all there really is to it.

      October 26, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  13. jOE

    Parents don't want to risk having a priest sod omise thier young boys. There is no better way to have your skin crawl than be near a priest

    October 26, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  14. Brandon

    Catholics disgust me.

    October 26, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  15. WOT

    As in the days of Noah so will be in the Last days! A great falling away from the church and GOD'S Word!

    October 26, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Rick

      Ah, the old "last days" schtick. Tell me how you feel you have the authority to know what God wants?

      October 26, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Rick by the same authority you have, reading his word.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  16. Night of the Living Dead Jesus

    Going to church less frequently. Excellent trend!

    October 26, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  17. kimsland

    U.S. Atheists (previously catholics) going to church less frequently?
    Funny about that.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  18. Enema Bandit

    Based on today's activities, I have decided to just refer to Christians as Co-ckroaches. As soon as you turn the light on, they scramble and have nothing to say.

    October 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  19. Reality

    The nitty gritty of the RCC, its founders and necessary accessories:

    Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white, aging hierarchy, atonement theology, bodily resurrections, ascensions, assumptionsm, bloody sacrifices and original sin!!!!

    October 25, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Brandon

      Perhaps you should just give summaries of your opinions and those of your sources rather than type up a whole essay. That way more people will read it. Good day to you sir!

      October 26, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • jOE

      No need Brando baby , you read it

      October 26, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • hippy christian

      This guy "Reality" was there when Jesus walked the earth. So I guess he knows.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection/Easter Con:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      October 26, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Guest

      You sure like to grind out more of your stupid cut and paste, cut and paste, cut and paste. Dont' you get tired of your own stupidity? The rest of us sure do.

      October 27, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  20. hippypoet

    this article was on cnn like 2 months ago... well while its back i guess i should say something – duh! of course people are going to church less... people are becoming smarter by the day and therefore have no need of empty promises or being openly lied to. granted some people still need and crave that load of bs, they will either die in time, or become as smart as the rest of us. ITS CALLED TIME MANNAGEMENT, AND CHURCH IS A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME!

    October 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Enema Bandit

      Hey HP,
      I hope people are getting smarter, but that last Gay and Lesbian article took Christianity back 2000 years. I don't know what to think. Pass the Dutchie bogarter....

      October 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Jim

      There is no grounds for using level of education to prove or disprove declining church attendance (by the way some denominations are growing while the Catholic church and many mainstream denominations have been declining for years due to compromising theologically). If your beef is with the Catholic church, have at it, but if it's with God, he is truly the living God and works in the lives of those who love him in a way that those who don't can't understand.

      October 26, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Jim: No Atheist has a beef with god...we're not angry with it; we simply do not accept anything without proof and evidence. There is no proof or evidence that a god exists and until you can provide that evidence you also have no way to be sure. We naturally have a beef with a church that is full of pedo.philes and protects them from criminal persecution. We have a beef when this religious group takes money but yet doesn't pay taxes. Anyone who supports this church is just as guilty as the leaders...it is like a big a$$ child po.rn ring that can't be stopped b/c the people behind it keep defending it. What a disgusting group of people!

      October 26, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • hippypoet

      Jim, there is indeed grounds for using level of education for the church attendence... see back in the good ole days the average person couldn't read or write and so couldn't read the bible. The church has no issue with this for all the bibles were printed in latin anyway. Then came an Educated man named Luther, he didn't care for the church all that much – loved god yes, the church no. So from this point on in history to the modern day your level of education has had an impact on why you believe, where you go to mass, and what you believe in. In todays world your level of education allows for deeper reading and understanding of the words in the bible and other lost books that pertain to the bible. Being a complete ignorant moron does make it a bit hard to truly understand much of what the bible has to tell us. And so the dumb who are brainwashed at an early age don't ever question what they were taught because they only know so much. While the more intelligent ask questions at every turn to more deeply understand what others have based there lives on. And the sick part here is most things to better your understanding of the bible are not found in the bible – hence why most believers are called ignorant by us non believers, because we have taken the time to do the research, find the answers, we seek truth by looking for it – you people wait to be proven right...a tad conceded don't ya think. Also all of you say that your god is beyond human understanding but yet know all these things about him – ever think if this creature you worship is just fuking with small minds such as us humans because it can and its fun to do so? The more intelligent one is the more ways one has to screw with the little people. The dumb don't know they are being played with like a toy. We are ants to your god in his farm, and you worship this hostage taker...sick and dumb is a bad combo...when we add conceded its just that much better.

      October 26, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Jim

      @hippypoet
      The reason I didn't go into details on why education is a bad test for religious belief is because I had a feeling you were going to prove me correct-it's more meaningful that way. Education has furthered the gospel. The Gutenberg press, which predates Luther, began the process of educating the layman. Luther, in his revival, renewed the church on a direction toward meaningful understanding of Scripture. The King James Version-no I'm not a KJV only kind of guy, but it is history and at one time it was the common language- brought the scriptures to the everyday man. A quick recap- Gutenberg furthered the teaching of the ability to read. Luther created an alternative to the Catholic problems of the day. The KJV and others furthered the spread of the Scriptures to everyday man. Now, education today has also helped further the spread of scripture. Schools in third world countries run by religious groups are a great example. The church is exploding in growth in many p- or countries. However, on the contrast to this, Christianity has grown by over 10% of the population of South Korea-the 4th highest rated IQ in the world far above the US. Now one of the most foolish things a person can do is assume the level of intelligence of the person they are debating with. I have my suspi.cions about you, but won't make that mistake. Don't make that mistake about me. I'll help you draw a real conclusion- I have studied the Bible. I have studied the archaeological evidence supporting the Bible. I have studied the archaeological evidence that poses problems for parts of the Bible. I don't accept everything on faith- some things I do, just as many in the secular scientific community do, they just call it assumption or hypothesis- I say I don't know, but based on the evidence and experience I know the Bible is historically authoritative, and trustworthy. God is not entirely beyond human understanding. He reveals himself through his Word and the Holy Spirit. Can we completely grasp everything about him? Now, you say that he might be some creature who is just messing with small minds, but I thought you didn't believe in God?

      October 26, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • hippypoet

      your IQ and my QI are not in question here... but i am willing to bet we are matches for eachother as i am sure this is the same Jim i have talked to before. Now as for the africian religious groups, that is brainwashing again....imagine learning your religion as a grown man...do you think it would still ring as true to your adult ears? As far as the press to make the bible widely avil. of course, but that didn't make it more easily read for the same people who were illiterate yesterday or as today. I try never to @ssume anything but when it comes to religion, i admitt i lose myself in unanswered questions. I am a very learned person, i have studied everything can find about the bible or stuff pertaining to the bible or biblical people. I don't believe in god, however i can never know for sure untill i die, but one of logic must admitt to the lunacy of belief in something to that end. It makes no sense in the realm of the world we live in. Now if ones arguement is that god is outside our understanding, well this logic pretty much says that there can be others that also live outside our understanding...and so god is just another creature in its realm of existence, and so – not so special...but all this is an attempt to understand what i don't believe anyway – something i did a long time ago. I use to play thought games with myself to test theories – Replace your god with anything and the story is the same therefore the IDEA of god is whats important, not the (if there is any) truth to god's existence. The fact that god as a creature of non existence is more powerful then a persons own brain is a sign of insanity. They are talking to nothing – equal to talking to the easter bunny, tooth fairy, santa... So whats the real, true purpose of believing if one has already sinned by simply being alive? if you are destined to burn or walk with god there is no real moral ground to stand on...a.k.a. do what you want! the message of joshua who everyone else ignorantly calls jesus was to love one another and treat others with respect. People say they follow his teachings yet fall to the bible for answers when jesus himself said to know the scriptures... more then half of all scriptures are not found in the bible so these people are not very good at following. The small minds are happy not knowing, and so the truth of whats not in the bible doesn't concern these people. Now, people such as yourself, i respect you, you have at least be some effort to learn about what you choose to believe. And the rewritting of the bible by monks for years has given us the most beautiful works of art ever, when the press came out, that ended – but the monks had there way too, if you read the early early bibles like that of Ethiopia they are the oldest and best sources for true biblical info...the bibles of even the middleages don't size up to it...they, the monks, have added and taken away from it what they deemed to be either too erotic, hertrical, or just plain crude...it can be seen in measuring each montastaries form of there bibles as they have rewritten them over the years. Ok, i guess what i am saying is that worshipping god from bible leaves too many questions, and worship the god from the OT but without the use of the bible leaves me to wonder what you base your beliefs off of. Oh and i don't consider the new tesitment the bible, only the OT because the NT is just stories of the supposed jesus, even thou in john the events differ a great deal.

      October 26, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Truth,
      Can you provide proof and evidence that unless something has proof and evidence it should not be accepted?

      Can you proof and evidence that this is not a bad dream that you and I or having?

      Or do you except, just like every court case, what the evidence points to and accept it from there

      http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/theisticarguments.html

      October 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Answer

      @Mike from CT

      "Can you provide proof and evidence?"

      Seriously? You are asking for proof? When so many times it has been asked of those who are religious to provide their proof first. Let me answer your question of proof in the same way that religious people have dodged their burden of proof.
      You have to take Truth's word on faith. That alone will suffice.

      I will restate that to clarify Truth's to providing evidence "Mark you have to take Truth's words in faith of the greatest magnitude that what he says is the truth." I think you can understand this philosophy well. It is after all your religious dogma's way of answering in kind.

      October 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      Seriously? Yes, the point went way over your head so let me try again. Every one that ask proof of God knows that nothing can be proven, as you avoided the question of is this a dream or not, are you conscious or not. The best anyone can do is appeal to the evidence provided.

      October 27, 2011 at 8:31 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.