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November 5th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Rick Perry’s long faith journey culminates in presidential run

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

Austin, Texas (CNN) – Rick Perry’s new church is not like his old church.

At his new church, several hundred worshippers showed up in jeans on a recent Sunday to listen to high-decibel Christian rock from plush stadium-style seats.

The crowd, mostly under the age of 40, raised their hands to Jesus in between sips of freshly brewed coffee from the java hut in the lobby.

Outside Lake Hills Church – situated on 40 acres about half an hour’s drive from downtown Austin – a dozen sheriff’s deputies managed the Sunday morning traffic rush.

Back in town at Perry’s old church, a graying, neatly dressed crowd of several dozen gathered for services in a stately sanctuary, singing old hymns and reciting communal prayers from hard wooden pews.

There is no java hut at Tarrytown United Methodist Church – and not nearly enough traffic to justify sheriff’s deputies.

Perry’s jump from Tarrytown to Lake Hills mirrors some of the big recent changes in American Christianity: From cities to suburbs, from a formal mainline worship style that relies on liturgy to a more casual evangelical approach that’s all about connecting to Jesus.

The Republican presidential candidate’s 2007 church switch also may mirror something much more personal: The culmination of Perry’s journey from a mainline Protestant upbringing to an evangelical-flavored faith built on close relationships with Baptist preachers and giving public testimony about God.

How Mormonism helped shape Mitt Romney

Politically, his faith evolution creates an opportunity for Perry to connect with the evangelical voters who constitute the Republican Party’s base at a time when some say he’s the only candidate who stands any chance of derailing Mitt Romney’s bid for the GOP nomination, even as he has fallen behind Romney and Herman Cain in the polls.

Perry speaking at an Iowa Faith and Freedom Forum in October.

The Texas governor has made his faith a centerpiece of his presidential campaign in ways both overt and subtle – hardly the first time he has enthusiastically mixed religion and politics.

At a time when Americans have grown accustomed to hearing public officials invoke a kind of generic national religion that’s sensitive to diverse faith traditions and nonbelievers alike, Perry has often gone a big step further, telegraphing a distinctly Christian message.

For instance, when Perry lent his signature to a Texas ballot initiative to constitutionally ban gay marriage – an effort that didn’t even require the governor’s endorsement – he did so on a Sunday from inside an evangelical Christian school.

Opinion: Why Perry needs Palin

And the four-term governor often speaks of a culture war between the nation’s Christians and secular humanists, who he says are trying to stamp religion out of the public square.

“America is going to be guided by some set of values - the question is going to be whose values,” Perry said in a speech at Virginia’s Liberty University in September. “I would suggest … it is those Christian values that this country was based upon.”

Now, as he wages an uphill battle for the Republican nomination, Perry is emphasizing his Christian commitment even more than in the past, trying to line up support from conservative Christian leaders and religious voters nationwide.

Some friends of the governor say he sees his presidential quest as a kind of mission from God.

Rick Perry talks to CNN's John King

“He said he didn’t want to do it, but he felt the Lord was calling him,” says Kelly Shackelford, who recently heard Perry discuss his campaign with religious activists.

“His wife and him were both reluctant,” says Shackelford, an influential conservative activist in Texas. “But as Christians, when you know you’re called to do something, there is no doubt, no hesitation. You just do it.”

“In those days, the churches were full”

Rick Perry grew up in tiny, isolated Paint Creek, an unincorporated farming community on the dusty plains of central Texas.

Paint Creek “was on a farm to market road where they had this Methodist church on one end and a Baptist church on the other and the school in the middle,” Perry’s wife, Anita Perry, told CNN.

For Rick Perry, “life revolved around school, church and – for most boys – the Boy Scouts,” he wrote in his 2008 book, “On My Honor.”

Paint Creek’s Baptists dominated local government and imposed a strict moral code, prohibiting school dances and Halloween carnivals, reasoning that carnival games were tantamount to gambling.

“The school board was nearly all Baptist, and they drew up a dress code every year that was very concerned with hair and short pants and exposing too much skin,” says Wallar Overton, a childhood friend and Perry’s neighbor in Paint Creek.

Overton’s parents, who were Methodists, once held a prom in their house to get around the school’s ban on dancing.

Wallar Overton, Perry’s childhood neighbor from Paint Creek, Texas, says Baptists dominated local government and imposed a strict moral code.

Bud Adkins, the current pastor at the community’s Baptist church, calls such bans “pretty characteristic. That’s how everyone in the area grew up.”

“A lot of parents just felt that dances were where bad things took place,” Adkins says. “Drinking and fighting and carousing and things you shouldn’t be doing.”

Perry said his family was active in both churches when he grew up in Paint Creek in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Perry’s campaign declined interview requests, but his religious friends say his early exposure to both Methodists and Baptists initiated him into the two main branches of American Protestantism – mainline and evangelical.

Mainline Methodists tend to stress good works, while evangelical Baptists focus on personal relationships with God.

“It’s a mix of looking out and looking in,” says David Barton, a Texas-based evangelical activist who has been close to the governor for 20 years. “And it’s why [Perry’s] comfortable in so many different settings, whether it’s a Catholic or a Hispanic or a black church.”

When Perry was growing up in Paint Creek, there was a Methodist and a Baptist church. Only the Baptist congregation survives.

Perry has spoken in scores of Texas churches since becoming governor in 2000, including visits to black churches for Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the arrival of news that President Lincoln's had ended slavery.

Perry’s ties to Texas’ black and Hispanic communities are largely built around faith-related issues such as abortion and gay marriage, on which polls show minorities tend to be more conservative than whites.

Though Perry attended the occasional Baptist revival in Paint Creek and appears to identify as an evangelical today, Overton says the governor was raised squarely in the Methodist church, attending Methodist services and Sunday school, taught by Overton’s mother, every week.

“Baptists taught doctrine,” Overton says. “My mom taught Christianity. ... Her God was a loving God.”

Years later, when Gov. Perry actively supported the death penalty and cuts in government programs for the poor - positions that clashed with the more progressive stances of the United Methodist Church - some fellow Methodists speculated that Paint Creek’s cultural conservatism shaped the governor more than his church did.

“This was a pretty good Bible Belt when we grew up,” says Adkins, who is a few years older than Perry and grew up in Rochester, about 30 miles away. “In those days, the churches were full and the parents were really conservative.”

Going evangelical

When Perry landed back in Paint Creek in the late 1970s, after college at Texas A&M and a four-year stint as an Air Force pilot, its small-town ways helped provoke an identity crisis for the future governor.

Then 27, Perry had been around the world flying huge C-130 cargo planes for the military. But in 1977, he found himself back on the family farm helping his dad.

After a lifetime of structure – Boy Scouts, the Corps of Cadets (a Texas A&M program similar to ROTC), the Air Force – Perry was adrift, struggling to find a path in the face of a wide-open future.

“I was lost, spiritually and emotionally, and I didn’t know how to fix it,” he told Liberty University students in his September appearance there.

Anita Perry, who was dating Perry at the time, said he “came home and all of a sudden he kind of had this world of independence.”

“He went to farm with his dad, who had been farming successfully for many, many years,” she says. “He didn’t really need Rick to come in and tell him how to do the farming.”

For someone who had served as an aircraft commander, the move home felt like a demotion.

“I came back into my old room. I swear to God I know mother cleaned it, but it looked exactly like it did the day I left,” Perry said at a May fundraising event for a Christian prayer rally he helped organize.

“It had my football number on the door, and it had the all-star football game program still stuck on the bulletin board,” he said. “It was an eerie moment for me to move back home.”

Perry says that he found resolution, while still 27, by turning to God.

“My faith journey is not the story of someone who turned to God because I wanted to,” he told students at Liberty, in what has become a mainstay of his speeches to Christian audiences. “It was because I had nowhere else to turn.

“I spent many a night pondering my purpose, talking to God, wondering what to do with this one life among the billions that were on the planet. What I learned as I wrestled with God is that I didn’t have to have all the answers, that they would be revealed to me in due time and that I needed to trust him.”

At other public appearances, Perry has said his soul-searching ended when he realized “I’d been called to the ministry.”

But that turned out to be a call to enter politics. “I’ve just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was going to have,” he said at the May fundraiser. “I truly believe with all my heart that God has put me in this place at this time to do his will.”

While being “born again” is considered an important milestone for many evangelicals, Perry isn’t known to describe his experience in 1977 Paint Creek in such terms.

As his wife puts it, “He’d already found Jesus because he had been baptized.”

“I don’t know really how to classify it,” she says of her husband’s experience. “I wasn’t in on that with him. … But I think he found the answer he needed.”

Church with the Bushes

Despite the evangelical overtones of Perry’s life-changing encounter with God, he and his wife joined a Methodist church when they landed in Austin in the mid-1980s, continuing his mainline childhood tradition.

Perry had been elected a state representative as a Democrat from a rural West Texas district in 1985. He was following in the political footsteps of his father, who was a county commissioner at the time.

In 1990, after switching to the Republican Party, Perry was elected agricultural commissioner, his first statewide office. Later, one of the capital’s other prominent families – the Bushes – joined the Perrys at Austin’s Tarrytown United Methodist Church.

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The Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, where the Perrys attended until 2007.

George W. Bush was elected Texas governor in 1994, and he, Laura and their two daughters began attending Tarrytown.

By that time, Tarrytown had gained a reputation as a conservative alternative to Austin’s First United Methodist Church, which is right next door to the state Capitol and boasted high-profile Democratic attendees like Ann Richards, the governor of Texas from 1990 to 1994.

During the 1990s, the Perrys and Bushes were among the worshippers who made a tradition of distributing Holy Communion during Tarrytown’s Christmas Eve services. The Perrys also helped lead confirmation classes as their two children prepared to be confirmed in the church.

Perry was elected lieutenant governor of Texas in 1998, inheriting the governor’s office two years later when Bush left Austin for the White House.

Jim Mayfield, senior pastor at Tarrytown from 1988 to 2006, says the Perrys generally kept a low profile at the church.

“We weren’t close, but it was very cordial,” he says. “They attended worship, and that’s about all they did.”

Perry and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush attended the same Methodist church in Austin.

At the same time, Perry was forming close relationships with evangelical pastors across the state.

“I’ve known the governor in a personal way for 20 years, since he was agricultural commissioner,” says Ed Young, a prominent Baptist preacher based in Houston. “I see God’s hand leading him and working in his life.

“He has grown in his faith,” says Young, who regularly talks and visits with Perry. “During crises, we look in every direction, and more and more the governor has looked up. Not in some pious God-told-me way, but in humility.”

In 2007, when the Perrys moved to a rented house in West Austin during a governor’s mansion renovation, Young encouraged them to check out an evangelical-style church a protégé had started nearby.

That congregation, Lake Hills, has been Perry’s church home ever since.

For some of Perry’s evangelical friends and supporters, his jump from a mainline to an evangelical church was a sign of spiritual growth.

“Lake Hills is a very strong church, and I’ve seen him get stronger in his faith,” says Shackelford, the conservative Texas activist. “Methodist churches are all over the spectrum. One could be really strong and conservative and the next one could be liberal.”

Anita Perry, meanwhile, says she misses her old church, Tarrytown.

“I miss those traditional hymns,” she told CNN during a recent campaign visit to Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school in South Carolina.

“The contemporary music [at Lake Hills], you know I hear it and I hear the beat. I hear the words, but I don’t know the words,” she says. “I didn’t grow up in that church; I grew in a traditional church.

“So that transformation for me was hard,” she says. “But I’m truly able to bring something back from the message [at Lake Hills] when I walk out of there.”

Pastors and presidential politics

In late 2004 as Election Day approached, polls showed the country about evenly divided between Perry’s political ally, President Bush, and Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Perry was worried. He headed to a dry creek bed somewhere outside Austin and called his friend James Robison, a Dallas-based televangelist.

“I’m out here in the middle of nowhere, a place so remote I'm surprised I get a cell signal,” Perry said, according to Robison. “I’m sitting down by myself, and I want to pray about the direction of the country.”

Robison had been friends with Presidents Reagan and Bush and had fielded many calls from Gov. Perry. The Baptist preacher said he was moved to learn his state’s chief executive was spending a day alone in the wilderness, praying.

For Robison, the call was “strictly spiritual.” But it could also be seen as evidence of Perry’s effortless fusion of faith and politics.

Perry, center, at a memorial for the crew of the space shuttle Columbia in Lufkin, Texas, in 2003.

In Austin, Perry’s political fans and foes alike say that fusion is best reflected in his track record on abortion.

Since taking office in 2000, Perry has signed laws mandating parental consent for minor girls who want an abortion, slashing state funds for Planned Parenthood and requiring a woman seeking an abortion to first view a sonogram of her fetus. (A federal judge recently issued an injunction effectively blocking that law’s enforcement.)

Supporters say the record testifies to Perry’s faith-based commitment to life.

“He has passed 20-odd pieces of pro-life legislation,” Shackelford says. “He was vilified by the media for it, and he didn’t stand his ground [just] because it was a good policy position. It really all emanated from his faith.”

Critics say the governor has overstepped, compromising women’s basic health care in the name of ideology.

They note that state funding for Planned Parenthood was barred from going to abortions even before he cut it. And they say the sonogram law Perry signed requires doctors to read biased information to women seeking abortions.

“As governor of Texas, Rick Perry has pursued a single-minded agenda: Take away women's health care, destroy Planned Parenthood, and block women's access to safe abortion care,” the Planned Parenthood Action fund wrote in a recent petition drive.

More recently, Perry has become an outspoken advocate for religion in the public square and a vocal opponent of those who don’t believe in God.

“The life of the secular humanist has a depressing end,” Perry writes in “On My Honor.”

“All their possessions will be left behind, and the only thing that will matter is what God thinks of their life in the face of eternity.”

Elsewhere in the book, which tracks what Perry calls a secular war against the Boy Scouts, he characterizes evolution as an inherently atheistic idea.

“Even if one goes along with the atheists’ argument that life evolved from previous forms,” Perry writes, “where did the previous forms come from?”

Many scientists and believers would no doubt disagree with the governor. Polls show that tens of millions of Americans back evolution and also believe in God.

Perhaps Perry’s most audacious religious gesture as governor came in August, when he organized a prayer rally in the stadium where the NFL’s Houston Texans play. The event came a few months after Perry had proclaimed three days of prayer for rain in Texas amid the state’s long drought.

Robison, who helped launch the Christian Right in 1980 when he organized a meeting between then-candidate Reagan and pastors in Houston, says he approached Perry with the idea for the rally late last year to confront what Robison said was a national moral crisis.

“I simply said that we don’t seem to call for prayer anymore, and I referenced the biblical book of Joel, when he calls a solemn assembly after locusts had stripped the crops,” Robison says. “I said to the governor, ‘No one’s called a solemn assembly.’

“I was surprised when he called one,” Robison says. “There just are not many leaders who do that.”

The August prayer event, called “The Response,” was financed by the conservative evangelical American Family Association and was intended to acknowledge that, in Perry’s words, “America is in crisis.”

Perry at The Response prayer rally in Houston.

"We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism and a multitude of natural disasters," Perry said in the run-up to the rally, which organizers said drew 30,000 people.

Billed as a “day of prayer and fasting,” it also involved dozens of conservative Christian leaders whose support is coveted by most of the Republican White House hopefuls.

But Perry's aides insisted The Response had nothing to do with presidential ambitious.

Aides say that calls for Perry to consider a White House run came only after other big-name Republicans, like Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour, announced they would not run. And that happened after Response planning was already well under way.

Skeptics argue that Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, had to be at least pondering a White House run since late last year.

Either way, the prayer event created a major political opportunity for Perry. Intense media coverage allowed him to broadcast his Christian commitment to a national audience just one week before formally launching his presidential campaign.

Perry’s Christian messaging could be especially important because Romney, the perceived Republican frontrunner, is a Mormon. Many evangelicals don’t consider Mormons to be Christian, and flaunting his faith could be a way for Perry to distinguish himself.

Last month, a Baptist pastor who introduced Perry at a major conservative gathering stirred controversy by calling Mormonism a cult. Perry has said he disagrees.

Hours with the faithful

In the months since The Response, Perry’s courtship of national Christian leaders has intensified. With Romney locking up support from much of the Republican establishment, Perry is working overtime to shore up his party’s socially conservative base.

Just a few weeks after the Houston prayer rally, roughly 200 religious leaders from across the country, mostly evangelicals, descended on a San Antonio-area ranch for the chance to meet Perry and his wife.

Over the course of a Friday afternoon and a Saturday morning, Rick and Anita Perry talked up the governor’s record and took questions from the audience. James Dobson, founder of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, served as moderator.

Robison, one of the attendees, said the Perrys talked to them for six or seven hours.

“People who were there were stunned,” Robison said. “I’ve spent time with lots of candidates, and I’ve never seen one take that much time.”

Another attendee, Christian activist David Lane, said one audience member asked Anita Perry what people would be most surprised to learn about her husband.

“He’s more spiritual than you probably think,” Texas’ first lady responded, according to Lane. “He reads the Bible every day.”

For the Texas-based pastors and activists in attendance, that was hardly news. But to scores of others who were just getting to know Perry, it was reassuring information.

“As governor, people are not asking you, ‘Tell me when you came to the Lord,’” says Shackelford, who has known Perry for more than a decade. “The people you hang out with every day already know.

“But now he’s running for president,” Shackelford says, “and all of a sudden there are these Christian leaders meeting him for the first time, and they want to know: How did you come to know the Lord? What was your journey?”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Leaders • Politics • Rick Perry

soundoff (3,096 Responses)
  1. scott

    Dear politicians, You can't all be on a mission from God to be president. Besides the fact that only one of you an be president, I'm sure God has much more important things to worry about.

    November 7, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  2. Annatala

    I would hope that a candidate believing they are on a "mission from God" would be a frightening thing to most Americans, not a comforting one. If you can justify everything you decide to do because you believe you're receiving your marching orders from the Almighty, it's basically a free pass. The problem is not everyone hears the same voices...

    November 7, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • JT

      I agree. We already had 8 years of someone who hears voices from some invisible nonexistent sky spirit and look where that got us. The problem is that there are so many organized tax exempt evangelical churches who will get 100% of their vote out while the rest of the rational masses are just individuals trying to get through the day and do not vote as an organized block.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  3. coder

    as long as man thinks he knows the will of any god – humans are in danger

    November 7, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  4. slippery

    He sound more like one of those money-grabbing T-angelists. Who will be sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom and have free access to this country's vital information? A real dog and pony show.

    November 7, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  5. keith A. sillsbury

    it is those Christian values that this country was based upon perry said. WRONG nut job! this country was formed on FREEDOM! Freedom from religion not to it. you nut jobs need to stop twisting history like you do in that story book you hold so sacred. Five (5) presidents were atheists and others NON religious altogether. We dont want your religion in our politics and we wont have. you've lost already so go ahead and back out and return to your little third world backwards state.

    November 7, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • S.R.

      Could not agree more........ This is suppose to be a country of religious freedom. “I would suggest … it is those Christian values that this country was based upon.” That is whats wrong with you people. The only reason you don't like Obama is he is one, black and two he might not have been a "christian" his whole life. I live in the bible belt and let me tell you first hand working with these people you find out they are no better than anybody else. Most of the time they are the indviduals that have no REAL compassion or concern for others or doing the "right" thing. I see it everyday, we are not fooled anymore with your act!

      November 7, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  6. Rich

    Whats really sad is all the people that actually believe god actually talks to people ...And about politics no less...

    November 7, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • mortamus

      The last thing we need in politics is organized religion its a real no no

      November 7, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Johnnnn

      Not only does he "talk" to them, he "favors" them and "blesses" them and the worst part of all, he absolves them of their sins SO THEY CAN KEEP RIGHT ON SINNING....FREE FORGIVENESS AND NO (spiritual) CONSEQUENCES FOR DOING BAD STUFF....Ain't religion great??? NOT.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  7. Jonny P

    God will not save us from this crisis as he did not save us from our own wrong doings in the past 4000 years. WE can only save ourselves from the turmoil which we bring upon ourselves. Its stupid to pretend that a higher being will come down and make everything better, that we screwed up. Its our time to stop asking for aid in problems that we have to eradicate by ourselves.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  8. Rich

    Why is god talking to all these tea Party wannabe's ?All he has to do is listen to them and know something is wrong with them...
    All the tea party choices hear voices in their heads and of course blame god as they probably have no health insurance,...

    November 7, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  9. Tony

    Gimme that Ol time religion. Don't need know solutions to any problems, just put 'em in the hands of god. It's always worked right?

    November 7, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  10. anonymus

    rick is starting to look like a loon.
    keep religion out of politics.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  11. cecilia

    I cannot believe that we will have another president chosen by God. if this is true, we need to realize that God did not do such a great job with bush and He may be about to make the same mistake

    November 7, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  12. Reality

    Dear Governor Perry,

    Putting the final kibosh on religion:

    • There was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available.

    November 7, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • Nord Jim

      Jesus may have existed, but there is no historical proof of it. The one supposed mention of Jesus in Tacitus has been shown to be a forgery by a medieval monk.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Reality

      From Professors JD Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the left hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      November 7, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Reality

      continued from above:

      Then there are these references:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–
      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      joezias.com/HealthHealingLandIsrael.htm
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

      November 7, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  13. jdunc

    Praise be! Glad that God has chosen a man who doesn't believe in climate change, evolution, public education, pollution controls, medicaid, medicare, social security, any programs to help the poor or the separation of church and state. Can't wait for his election! You don't suppose that his closeness to evangelical leaders is just a political game and that he is really just a representative of Satan?

    November 7, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hey, if Romney wins, then we'll have the Moronic quorum of 12 running the country, and the new capital will be Salt Lake City. Either way, Perry or Romney, we're screwed

      November 7, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  14. Samsword

    The fierce debates continue. I'd just like to say, that Atheists are right, that there is no obvious cosmological evidence for God. On the same token, there is no obvious evidence to the contrary either. There's not really "obvious evidence" for anything. The further we get from ourselves in time and space, the more we rely on "working models," abstract equations, and just plain speculation. I'm willing to venture that the current sum of human knowledge is but a drop in the ocean. Our current model of cosmology provides some ingenious working models, but in all likelihood, they will be reworked as we discover new things.

    Instead, I would like to suggest that belief in theism resides in a more personal domain. Yes we can look at the world and marvel at the beauty and order of it, but ultimately, it is the profound sense of meaning and personal worth that drives me to theism.

    You may be surprised to hear, that I've actually struggled with theism before. I actually began to adopt an atheist mentality for a while. Sure, I'd go to church with my wife, and read my scriptures, etc. But mostly it was just going through the motions, in my mind I kept telling myself that I knew better, and that science had ruled out the need for God. One day however, something just "clicked" inside of me. It's difficult to express fully. I was sitting in my room just thinking. I started to wonder about the possibility of there being a God. I opened my heart, and decided to ask God if He was really there, and if He cared? A sudden feeling of peace washed over me, and I felt what I would call God's presence for the first time in a long time.

    I realize this anecdote is entirely subjective. But I'd like to ask, why shouldn't it be? Why is "objective reasoning" better than subjective experiences. Shouldn't I trust myself.. If I can't trust my own feelings, what CAN I trust?

    And so I'd throw this out to my atheist friends. You say there is no evidence for God, but have you looked for any? Have you sincerely tried to find out if He exists? I would suggest giving sincere prayer a chance, at least once.

    Anyway, I wish you all the best.

    November 7, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Mirosal

      Sorry, been there done that. I had over a decade of religious education .. oops I emant religious indoctrination. It's not philosophy. Philosophy is asking questions that may never have answers. Religion is all about their answers that you may NEVER question. When you do, they get MAD!!! Just ask Gallileo or Copernicus, or Martin Luther. The "church" even got mad at Henry VIII lol

      November 7, 2011 at 7:04 am |
    • Samsword

      You're talking about religious oppression, I'm talking about spiritual experience. Apples and oranges. I'm very sorry to hear that you were dominated over by religious authorities though. I agree that religious oppression is wrong in every way.

      But aside from your experience with the "church" what about your experience with God? Did you every personally seek HIm yourself? Or did you just follow what preachers told you what to believe?

      November 7, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • Mirosal

      I did not follow what they told me, I merely paid lip service. You just don't get it. Religion IS oppression. It's only a tool to keep the underlings in line by fear and intimidation. "if you don't follow what this book says you're going to suffer .... FOREVER HA HA HA HA HA" For thousands of years, religion was used to keep the masses in line with fear of punishments, reprisals, torture and death. So much for your loving caring god huh? yeah .. "follow me do what I say or I send you to a place of pain anguish torture and suffering". Hitler and Stalin and a host of others said that exact same thing.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • Kristi

      One word.....dinosaurs. There is the evidence you were looking for.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Samsword

      But have you ever sought God for yourself? I'm asking you directly, have YOU sought God all by yourself? Not through compelling, but by your own motivation?

      Also:
      "Religion IS oppression. It's only a tool to keep the underlings in line by fear and intimidation"

      By that same token "government" is evil then, because government only exists to "control the masses." Not all religion is oppressive. Once again, I'm sorry you had a bad experience with yours, but there are plenty of fish in the sea. Furthermore, your reasoning is typical "ad hominum" logic.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

      November 7, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • Samsword

      "One word.....dinosaurs. There is the evidence you were looking for"

      How does this disprove God? At best this suggests a non-literal interpretation of Genesis. Nobody reads Revelations literally, why should the account of creation?

      Furthermore, dinosaurs don't even begin to touch Buddhism, Daoism, and several other religions. I'm sorry, but your logic is flawed...

      November 7, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      Using Wikipedia as a reference really isn't the smartest play in the book lol. I don't believe that governments are evil. Laws are necessary to maintain some resemblence of peace in a society. Without it you'd have anarchy. A goverment exists to protect its citizenry. Nothing evil in that concept. It's human nature that makes it corrupt. Using religious texts AS your law is evil. Even using it as a base for your laws is evil. Lawmakers asking "WWJD" while writing or voting on laws to be passed just tells me they cannot think for themselves and can't take responsibility for their own actions. You asked if I looked for this "god". I'm sure I did at one time, but I would remember if I ever got an answer. Then puberty hit and I grew up.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • Samsword

      "You asked if I looked for this "god". I'm sure I did at one time, but I would remember if I ever got an answer."

      Yes I"m sure you would have remembered. Clearly you didn't ask.

      "Using Wikipedia as a reference really isn't the smartest play in the book"

      I used Wikipedia to explain what Ad Hominem logic is. Clearly you don't understand it.

      Person A is morally wrong.
      Person A does such-and-such
      therefore such-and-such is morally wrong.

      This is ad hominem logic, and is flawed.

      Group A persecuted Group B
      Group A are religious
      Therefore all religions are evil.

      This is a logical fallacy

      November 7, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Mirosal

      How do you know person "A" is morally wrong in the first place? Just because he might have a different upbringing than you, from a different society, "morals" can be subjective. To you, polygamy is immoral. But in some places in Africa, for example, it's EXPECTED that someone does this. To them it's the norm, to you it's immoral. You'd better find out more about person "A" before you judge them.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Mirosal

      Oh, and as far as that "answer"? .... Maybe it was a "NO"

      November 7, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Samsword

      You seriously don't listen or actually read to what anyone else says do you? You just completely supported what I was saying.

      "How do you know person "A" is morally wrong in the first place?"

      Exactly! You are doing the same thing. You said:
      "You just don't get it. Religion IS oppression. It's only a tool to keep the underlings in line by fear and intimidation."

      You had an oppressive experience with religion, therefore all religion is evil. Ad Hominem logic. You are absolutely right. You shouldn't judge Person A, because they may have had a different upbringing than you. But that is exactly what you are doing. You are just further proving my point.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • JT

      Give earnest prayer a chance? What you are really asking is for a rational person to jettison reason and imagine there's an invisible sky spirit somewhere who has telepathic powers with whome you can communicate. You're as crazy as the rest of them.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Samsword

      "Oh, and as far as that "answer"? .... Maybe it was a "NO" "

      Well since you can't remember if you did or not, you might as well try again? 😉 So harm in trying, right?

      November 7, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • Samsword

      "Give earnest prayer a chance? What you are really asking is for a rational person to jettison reason and imagine there's an invisible sky spirit somewhere who has telepathic powers with whome you can communicate. You're as crazy as the rest of them."

      What have you got to lose? If you're right, and there is no God, you have nothing to worry about. But if there is a God, and He answers you, you've gained quite a lot in my opinion?

      And as for "jettisoning reason," that's an entirely relative statement. If there IS a God, and you find Him, than clearly it was "reasonable" to pray.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Colin

      Samsword, here are a few of my fundamental objections to the theory of [the Christian] god.

      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 (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years 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 the 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 7 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.

      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. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” 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 gullibility.

      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. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! 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 and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

      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 than 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 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.

      9. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana and Dionysus (including the virgin birth, and turning water into wine).

      November 7, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Mirosal

      You'd better read a little history, and see just what a belief in sky-faires has done to civilizations for thousands of years. More people have been killed throughout human history for their beliefs, or lack thereof, than for any other reason. Gee what a comforting thought.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Dan

      @Samsword
      Bravo! Bravo! you deserve a standing O!

      November 7, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • Samsword

      @Colin. Yes i've heard all these arguments before. And I can pick them apart one-by-one. But that isn't going to get us anywhere is it? Even if I went through each of your arguments, what is the likelihood of me actually convincing you of anything? So rather than attack argument for argument, I'm simply suggesting one thing: Seek Him yourself. That is the only way you can find out for sure anyway. I don't want anyone to "just believe" my words or anyone else's words, I hope that all people can find God personally as I have done. Like I said, it can't hurt to try can it?

      So you get down on your knees in sincere prayer... and then nothing happens. What have you lost? But suppose He answers you? What have you gained?

      November 7, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Mirosal

      "down on your knees" ... see... even that in itself is an act of oppression. Putting yourself in a submissive posture for some "thing" that people claim rules the universe.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Samsword

      @Dan Thank you, I'm just trying to help others see from my perspective.

      @Mirosal Mao, Pol Pot and countless other dictatorships have persecuted and slaughtered believers. So by your reasoning, atheism is also evil then right?

      You are being judgmental and unfair.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Mirosal

      Personaly, I'd like to see Samsword pick apart Colin's post one by one. But I'd love to see him do it without using the bible as his ONLY reference. If all you're going to do is throw bible quotes around, it isn't worth it. Just because that book says it's true, doesn't make it so.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Colin

      Samsworld, one might fairly conlude that you have no response. As to prayer, it is very, very easy to test it.

      We make school prayer mandatory.

      We set up a very simple physics or chemistry experiment. Say, a strip of blue litmus paper with a test tube of an acidic solution poised above it. We have all the students in class pray to god that it will not turn red when the test tube is upended and the acid pours on it. We then upturn the test tube and see what happens.

      It will, of course, turn red.

      We do this experiment every day, sometimes substi.tuting red litmus paper for blue litmus paper and an alkali solution for the acid solution – with the appropriate change in the prayer. We can also do other simple experiments – two identical poles of a magnet always being repulsive, with the students praying that they will attract.

      We do these experiments every day of every year for their entire high school experience, with the children praying each day that the result will be different. As we know, their prayers to their gods will fail every day of every week of every year. Every single time, without doubt and 100% guaranteed.

      After a few months of repeated failures, the students are invited to bring along their priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, and other religious authority figures to lead their prayers. They can all pray, chant, implore and bob to their various sky-deities that the litmus paper does not turn red. We can also bring in some gulf War veterans who lost limbs, and they can pray for their recovery.

      We even have special “open” days where they are invited to bring along the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dalia Lama, head of the Orthodox Church, the USA’s most sacred rabbi etc., etc. to join their prayers.

      As we know, their prayers to their gods will still fail every day of every week of every year. Every single time, without doubt and 100% guaranteed. A couple of practical realities we would have to guard are the occasional “flop” where, for example, a bad batch of acid has been delivered and the litmus paper does not change color (we don’t want anybody to claim that a prayer was answered) or intentional sabotage by those with a religious agenda, but that is no different to the risks of any other science experiment.

      In this manner, prayer can “put up or shut up.” It is preferable to me that we expose the children to prayer in their formative years and let them see for themselves how utterly worthless it is, rather than try to keep prayer from them. The constant radio silence from above and the stoic indifference with which their prayers are met every day will help the students understand:

      (i) that there is no god listening and that praying is a futile exercise when the results can REALLY be tested;

      (ii) the complete superiority of the scientific method over religious supersti.tions, as science accurately predicts the results of each experiment every time;

      (iii) the silliness of still believing in Bronze Age sky-fairies in the 21st Century;

      (iii) the frailties of their religious leaders as they scurry for excuses –“god won’t be tested”, “god moves in mysterious ways” etc; and

      (iv) the weakness of human nature as the religious right moves to shut the experiments down.

      For once Rick Perry is correct. Children would learn a lot from praying in school.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Samsword

      ' "down on your knees" ... see... even that in itself is an act of oppression. Putting yourself in a submissive posture for some "thing" that people claim rules the universe. '

      Humility does not equate to oppression. If you are doing it out of your own volition, it's not "oppression" technically.

      Honestly, I think we are just arguing semantics at this point. If you really want to find out if God exists, you can. It's up to you, mate. I can't force you to accept or believe anything. I can share with you my experiences, and can point out how you can have similar experiences if you want to. but in the end you have to make your own choice about it. I just think that there's no harm in trying... Like I said, if you try it, and nothing happens, you haven't really lost anything. But you stand to gain a lot. Seems like a pretty good wager to me.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      No, we aren't evil. Pol Pot, Mao and others all had political agendas. Their beliefs were seen as a threat to their poltical power. It wasn't personal, it was business. I live in a country whose most basic of laws allows for the freedom to practice or NOT practice, with no reprisals from the government. Our most basic of laws prohibits a national faith and compulsory worship. I will not hate you for praying, but do NOT use those prayers to run MY governemt and country.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Colin

      Samsworld – At least you didn't bring up Hitler – I suspect because you know he was a true Christian. So to clarify with Pol Pot and Mao

      Pol Pot

      Pol Pot Started life in a Buddhist household, but was later sent to a French Catholic school in Phnom Penh. His religious views were rarely articulated, although I have read that he considered himself a Buddhist. According to one Pol Pot biographer, Dr. Ian Harris, a Reader in Religious Studies at the University College of St. Martin: "In one of his early writings Pol Pot wrote approvingly that the 'democratic regime will bring back the Buddhist moralism because our great leader Buddha was the first to have taught [democracy].”

      However, as with Hitler, Stalin and Napoleon, there is no evidence that his Buddhism (or his brief stint with Catholicism) motivated his actions. Religion seems to have been irrelevant to the man.

      Mao

      As with Pol Pot, religion seemed to have been generally irrelevant to the man. If one reads his Little Red Book – which is remarkably forward thinking on a few things, by the way, including equality of the $exes – he seems to have been a generally agnostic, philosophical type, with views akin to Buddhism, but with no real defined views on religion or the afterlife.

      But in neither case can it fairly be said that their religion, or lack thereof, motivated them. It was as irrelevant as their star signs. Power and faulty economic policies were the reason they killed so many.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Samsword

      @Colin... So based off of your experiment. What do you say about my result. I prayed, and felt a powerful response to that prayer. Please also keep in mind, that I was fairly atheistic prior to this experiment. It wasn't just a feeling, it literally felt like a presence entered the room.

      So then, what would you conclude about that prayer? Was it simply coincidence? ...possibly. Psychosis? ...possibly but that seems like a pretty big stretch. I've never shown any other signs of mental abnormalities... so it would seem pretty bizarre for this one to come out of no-where.

      Further you speak of praying in school? Once again, that is a compelled action... not what I would call sincere seeking.

      Also I'd just like to ask one thing: Suppose you are right, and there is no God. Let's suppose all of my "miracle" and prayer experiences are simply elevated emotions at best. (which I don't believe they are.) What have I actually lost in believing them to be true? To quote the famous Chinese philosopher Mozi: "If you tear down one idea, you had better replace it with something superior?" So I'm asking you, if my worldview and belief is so "petty" and "primitive," do you have something better to replace it with?

      November 7, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Samsword

      @Colin Concerning Mao and Pol Pot. Yes! That's my point exactly. It WASN'T about religion. Some of the worst crimes ever committed on this planet were done in the name of politics. So, based on Mirosal's reasoning, governments are therefore evil too. It's a logical fallacy.

      Have horrible things been done in the name of religion? Absolutely, and it makes me very sad. Clearly the Christians of the crusades and the inquisition didn't really understand their religion. Because Christ explicitly taught to love "your neighbor," to "pray for your enemies," etc. It just frustrates me when people blame religion for all the bad things, but fail to recognize that many good things have come from religion too.

      November 7, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Colin

      Samsworld.

      As to your, no doubt, honest and heartfelt personal experiences, I accept that people have personal experiences with what they believe is a god. Hindus tend to have them with Vishnu or Krishna, Muslims with Allah, Buddhists tend to have reincarnation experiences and Christians see angels, Mary, etc. If I were to accept these personal experiences as evidence, I would believe in a lot of deities. I would also believe in the various spirits of Native Americans, the Dreamtime deities of the Australian Aboriginals, the gods of the Aztecs and Incas along with a couple of hundred others.

      You get my point.

      Every culture has its gods and a proportion of its population will always claim personal experiences. It might be evidence if we all had the same experience across faiths. If Buddhists, Hindus and Jains regularly experienced Jesus or Mary. They don’t. Only young Christian women seem to experience Mary. The other faiths are busy experiencing reincarnation or their own deity(ies). Christianity does not have a monopoly on religious experiences.

      It might also be evidence if a bystander ever witnessed the “experience,” but they tend to always be internal.

      David Koresh and Charles Manson had innumerable personal experiences telling them they were the messiah, while Mark Chapman had experiences telling him he was Holden Caulfield ("that made me want to puke"). Thousands of people also believe they have had personal experiences with angels, sprits, “presences” or ghosts, with aliens who abduct them or with devils that torment them. I am not attempting to be pejorative here, nor to put all such experiences on the same level. My point is simply that the internal, subjective experiences people honestly believe they have are not at all probative of external reality.

      So, my answer is no. your personal experiences are not at all convincing to me. I can’t help but think that personal experiences tend to be more “personal” than “experiences”.

      As to what we "replace" religion with? Nothing. We confront our inevitable deaths as adults and our limitations as a species with the objectivity such an important issue deserves. Look, burying our heads and pretending we are immortal gets us nowhere. We need to grow up and stop being blanket cuddling, Bible cuddling children.

      November 7, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • diggydirt

      Samsword, first I would like to say that I am not educated in religion at all. I was not brought up in a religious family or in a religious community for that matter. Only recently have I stumbled on to this great debate between the existense and non existense of God. Only recently have I read the Bible as well as the Q'uran, Hadith, and what I could understand Hindu texts (but there is ALOT of those). I have also read the intellectual musings of Hobbes, Spinoza, Khayyam and the like, it seems to me that God if there is one or many; should be personal and doesn't have to exist in the natural or supernatural world, He/she/it/them only need to exist in the mind of the believer that needs to believe. I think there can be faith without an organized religion in the picture. If someone finds solace in believing or having faith in a God or Gods then who am I to tell them they are wrong? On the other hand those of us that have no need to believe should not be berated or called names or have religion shoved down our throats because of our lack of faith in a personal deity. I'm not saying faith doesn't exist nor am I saying God doesn't exist, I just don't think he exists in the way that organized religion would have you think he/she/it/them does. If it brings you peace I say believe in whatever you want, I don't understand what the problem is with believing or not believing it's all free will, relax and enjoy the splendor of whatever you believe in as a faithfull person or rejoice in the beauty of nature and the cosmos, whatever makes you happy.

      Peace to all,

      p.s. I am talking about normal people here, not people who clearly have a mental disorder. So please don't make the argument "well what if this persons god tells them to kill people or set babies on fire and say god told them to do it" I think we all know there are crazies out there.

      November 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  15. Chuck

    So who won the latest Illinois Republican straw poll? It's not news worthy because Ron Paul won! Wake up CNN!!!!!!!

    November 7, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  16. Izael

    Religion masquerading as politics is not the true religion or politics – is a theocracy in waiting. This charade of the power grab in the name of God must be exposed and destroyed.

    November 7, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • Claire

      We'll be the flip side of the Middle Eastern theocracies we claim to deplore. Why don't people see this? Because our God is better than their God? It's a holy war in the making. Back to the Middle Ages we go!!!

      November 7, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  17. Barking Alien

    Oh Jesus, another religious nut case for president. We need to change the motto to "One nation under gods tyranny, with liberty and justice for none".

    November 7, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  18. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Did his diety tell him to swiftboat Uncle Ben Cain?

    November 7, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  19. kimsland

    Look I understand that some people have their faith in the Prophet Allah, its their choice. If they feel that when they die they get 6 virgins (even though their body is decaying underground?) so be it; I mean it would be good to look forward to and everything.

    Wait, what? christianity? Oh you've got to be fckin crazy, that's just utter bullsh!t. You religious people make me sick, all of you.

    I want to be very clear to everyone here. Religious belief is nuts, I mean even this insane dude thinks god told him to be president, and he's one of the stronger religious freaks. Yay to hope for that, I bet you can't wait. Freaks.
    Someone needs to tell religious people the truth, and I'm overly happy to do that. I'm not about to quote all the common sense intelligent arguments to these fools, they just need to be told straight out. Religion is ONLY for the weak and stupid.

    November 7, 2011 at 6:13 am |
    • Mirosal

      psst ... let me whisper in your ear 🙂 ... Allah wasn't a prophet. Mohammed was. Allah is simply the Arabic word for "god", like "Dios" in Spanish .. "Dieu" in French .. "Gott" in German ... It is the same god for all 3 religions. Even though all 3, and any others, are whacko

      November 7, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • kimsland

      Hmm, prophets OF Allah then.
      Anyway you caught me out, I'm not islamic either :/

      November 7, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      Neither am I lol ... I have a Quran, courtesy of a co-worker who IS Muslim lol .. I also have a bible .. let me tell you, both make great coasters for my beer steins on the coffee table!!

      November 7, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • kimsland

      You know I said Prophet Muhammad a million times, but I've been saying Prophet Allah for a little while now.
      Damn!
      Oh well like the atheist I am, I'm going back to read more, I must be getting rusty lol

      November 7, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Lol...Mirosal, seems we use our buybull's for the same purpose oh and of course my book of moron oops I mean mormon. Proof once again that Atheists know what a buybull is or at least what it is good for.

      November 7, 2011 at 6:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      Good Morning Truth .. nice to see a friendly name on here along with Kimsland 🙂 Scroll back to pages 55 and 56, we had a fun night lol I guess I gotta get me a Moron book, but I don't want to be on their mailing lists. HS fails to see that since it made the claims, it has to provide the evidence. "It" doesn't understand the concept of "burden of proof". I think IT is one step away from quoting that book of fairy tales in a science class

      November 7, 2011 at 6:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: We were looking for a copy of the buybull one day and when we couldn't locate one amongst AtheistSteve's parents stuff I decided to go to the Moron (oops Mormon's). They showed up with a copy of the book and a buybull, sat down and discussed briefly their beliefs and walked away asking if there was any work around the house they could do for us. They've shown up once since with another offer to help....next summer if they show up I think I'm going to offer them the lawn mower and let them cut our massive lawn for us. 🙂 The ones that seem scared off are the Jehovah's...we sat with them and listened to them spew on about their own version of fiction and when we refuted every word they said they left and never returned.

      November 7, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: Wow, amazing how much HS continues to make itself look like a bigger dumba$$ with every post. I'm not commenting on the Rick Perry issue b/c as a Canadian citizen it is fortunately not my country that will go up in the burning flames of delusions and oppression if Perry gets elected. I do believe that the USA is doomed if the christian moron gets in and probably to a worse degree than it was with the Bush administration. However, feel free to come and have a beer with us if you ever make it our way...we welcome our Atheist friends with open hearts and minds.

      November 7, 2011 at 7:08 am |
    • Mirosal

      Yeah, when the Morons came a-knocking, I told them I was an Atheist. They then proceeded to LITERALLY place a book of Morons in my face, told me I was going to hell if I didn't read THEIR book, and of course to go to their propaganda website moron dot org. When I told the 2 youngsters with nametags that said "elder" on them, they got mad when I said that NO teenager would ever be MY "elder", that's when they finally walked away, taking their moron book with them. When I told the Witnesses I am an Atheist, their eyes got big and wide, they gasped and left on the spot. Maybe they figured I had a goat's head hanging in my living room or pentagrams on my walls?? lol

      November 7, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  20. Mirosal

    HS, How can I follow something I don't believe in? There is no god, and ther eis no satan. I fear neither of these "things", and in fact, your fairies should be afraid of humans, for it is within all of us to kill off these "gods" and "demons". All it takes is a dash of reason, a pinch of logic, and a small dose of common sense. Pretty simple recipe. It worked on every "god" of the ancient world, and it will work on yours as well. I follow the laws of my land. For example, murder is against our laws, therefore Idon't do it. It is not against any law in this country to

    November 7, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • Mirosal

      not believe in any diety. You are right though. It is my choice. It is MY free will. There are no reprisals by choosing to believe or not to believe. I spent over a decade trapped within the confines of "religious" education. I know what your book says, and your fairy tales only serve to instill fear among those who don't know any better. So talk to your "god", if he really is omniscient, he'll know where i live. have him stop on by. I'll wait. It wil be a LONG wait though, because your god will arrive at the same time as the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. Maybe they can carpool?

      November 7, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      HS figures if it uses the threats long enough they will have some impact on us. It (I refuse to refer to HS as human b/c it lacks the brain size for the normal human), thinks that it has this right. It refuses to acknowledge that it has no proof for the existence of god. It keeps demanding we provide proof for non-existence of its god but fails to understand that what we state as true can be validated with updated facts and evidence. I don't believe it has ever read a book outside of the buybull or some other christian propaganda that happens to spew the same scripture that the buybull does (rather ironic that they use the buybull to defend the buybull).
      HS you seriously need to locate what brain cell you have left and use it for the betterment of society instead of wasting your ONLY known existence waiting for death to take you to HeLL (the only place you hypocrites end up when you believe in the bull). Someone once said 'it's you hell, you go there'. Enjoy...the rest of us will enjoy our lives without the buybull and we'll act as adults taking responsibility for our actions and giving credit where credit is due-ourselves and our fellow man (excluding you).

      November 7, 2011 at 6:31 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.