My Take: Reactions to Cain, Paterno point to a not-so-Christian nation
Penn State students rally around a cut-out of football coach Joe Paterno after he was fired.
November 12th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

My Take: Reactions to Cain, Paterno point to a not-so-Christian nation

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

In the never-ending debate over whether the United States is a Christian nation, recent events support the nay-sayers. I am referring to the troubles of Herman Cain and Joe Paterno.

How we respond to ethical conundrums often boils down to empathy. In the abortion debate, do you identify with the woman who wants an abortion or with the fetus? Concerning the federal deficit, do you identify with the wealthy person who might see his taxes rise or with the poor person who might see her unemployment benefits extended?

One purpose of the world's great religions is to widen our circle of empathy beyond ourselves and our families to others in our community, and in the wider world. Christianity, for example, has long taught that we should empathize with “the least of these,” and particularly with the poor and oppressed (see Luke 4:18).

The morality plays we are now witnessing—the sexual harassment allegations swirling around Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and the sexual assault charges swirling around the Penn State football program headed by former coach Joe Paterno — provide an opportunity to assess just where our collective empathy lies.

When we look as a nation at the Herman Cain campaign, do our hearts go out to the wealthy businessman and White House contender or do they go out to the women who are accusing him of sexual improprieties? In pondering this case, and trying to determine where we stand, how do we approach the evidence? To whom do we give the benefit of the doubt? To the “least of these”? Or to the most powerful?

When we turn our gaze to Penn State, do our hearts go out to the boys, some as young as 10, who were allegedly sodomized or otherwise sexually assaulted by a former assistant coach under Paterno? Or do we empathize with Paterno, the closest State College, Pennsylvania, gets to a graven image?

I know there are many unanswered questions in both cases. So I am not commenting here on whether Cain is telling the truth or whether Paterno did all that he was obligated to do when he first heard allegations of a sexual assault in his locker room.

I am talking about where are hearts instinctively go in these situations.

When I turn on the television and see “family values” conservatives jumping to Cain’s defense within hours of the first charges surfacing, or Penn State students rioting over the decision of their university’s Board of Trustees to fire Paterno, I have to ask myself, “What has happened to this supposedly Christian nation"?

I know that in the United States defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. But I am not talking about the law here. I am talking about where our hearts incline, and whether they incline in a Christian direction.

I do not know whether Jesus is a Penn State football fan. He may well be. But if he were here today, would he be laying flowers at the front door of Paterno’s house (as many students have done), or would he be seeking out the boys whose lives have allegedly been so irreparably damaged?

Would he be standing alongside Cain’s lawyer as he issues not-so-veiled threats against accusers who have not yet gone public with their stories, or would he be standing by their side?

In your heart of hearts, I think you know the answer.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Herman Cain • Pennsylvania • Politics • Sexuality

soundoff (2,118 Responses)
  1. Sensible Joe

    Like it or not, Prothero hits the nail on the head.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  2. Jon

    The thoughtless position that Christianity (or any supernatural belief system) somehow magically creates 'good' is a childish position. Using this thinking, we would need to conclude that all non-Christians are either good simply by accident... or due to some kind of magical Christian value bleed-over. This thinking is wrong from start to finish and exists because religions of all stripes attempt to place themselves as the only 'true' source of good.

    The concept of what is 'good' today (equal rights and gender equality) would be seen as the exact opposite only a hundred years ago. The idea of 'good' is based on our collective experience and what can be seen to improve the lives of others... not magical thinking and supernatural beings.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Bob

      Wonderful post, Jon. Made my day already.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • nate

      Jon as Christian I agree. I know many "Christians" that are terrible people. Just saying you believe or even truly believing and thinking you are now a magically better person is a load. People have free will and I am sure there are great people that don't believe as well. It all starts at home with how you are raised.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Fracuss

      Well said Jon.
      When I became an adult, I put away my childish ways, that being my belief in the Christian propaganda laid on me as a child. I also grew out of my belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
      Are zombies real...I'm a little concerned about that.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • ktisis

      The primary fallacy of your argument, Jon, is that Christianity is not fundamentally about "making people good." The issue of goodness or of "badness" is a relativistic quagmire further complicated by the human tendency to rationalize any desired behavior. The fundamental issue of Christianity is in being made right with God, the Creator. As the wise sage asked long ago: "How can one be made right with God?" In terms of ultimate reality, this is the only question that has enduring value. This is the central issue of Christianity. It is not about made some people "better" than others, it is about making sinners forgiven and holy in the eyes of our Creator.

      Now, the evidence of being made right with God, in terms of changed lives, will be evident, no doubt. But "goodness" or "badness" as spoken here in these postings is a man-centered, slippery continuum of uncertainty. Jesus died for our sins, not to make some people "better" but to allow any person to be holy (righteous in the eyes of God).

      November 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  3. paul

    This article is nothing more than shrewd leftist propaganda. I recgonized the anti-Christian theme after only reading a few sentences.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Bob

      Yeah, paul, we're all out to get you. So put that p0rn magazine away and close your window blinds.

      Actually, I'm a conservative, capitalist atheist. I don't believe your Christian nonsense. Your problem is that you are just stupid and deluded.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TommyTT

      You should have read more. The article is not anti-Christian. But it is anti- those people who wrap themselves in one particular religion and claim the moral high ground for themselves, which happens frequently within America's Christian Right.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      I'm surprised that you read that far. Now, go read your comic book BUY BULL.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • steve

      Did he say anything false? Did he judge anyone? He just asked a question that should show a lot about each of us. Are you judging?

      November 12, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Mr. Sensible

      Paul, try actually reading it- it's a sign of immaturity to make a rash judgement over a sentence or two and angrily walk away. Its not anti-christian at all. It's saying that if we are a "christian nation" why do exhibit theses odd habits of empathy toward the powerful and accused rather than to the potential victims

      November 12, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Fracuss

      I guess that makes you shrewed...or screwed.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  4. SynHolliday

    Let's see, we drifted away from slavery, segregation, interracial marriage laws, and drifted towards women's rights and less religion. Since the general public doesn't know what really happened in the case of Cain, the topic can't be a reliable gage for how Christian our nation is. The women's accusations could be false, or Cain could be the liar. Since we don't know, I would think the Christian (and sensible thing) would be not to draw conclusions and start taking sides by showing sympathy for one or the other.

    In the case of Penn State, again, there is no real indicator because the only thing we see is media hype. So it seems it could be a good gage of how Christian the Mainstream Media is perhaps, but not the People. No average decent American, Christian or otherwise, will lack sympathy for the abused.

    Basically, Prothero's only gage really is the reaction of the Mainstream Media. Not a fair gage of the People. Sorry Stephen, your article hardly convinces me of anything.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Dave

      That's the problem with being stupid. You can't see anyone's point of view, but your own.

      November 12, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  5. KC

    The Christian Right hates to be reminded that Jesus was a liberal.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Bob

      They hate even more when you point out another obvious fact, that being that Jesus wasn't a divine being.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Nique_mil

      Bob: We are all divine beings, including those who are temporarily in spiritual ignorance.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  6. Brad

    First, this nation has been a Christian nation in the past. It is no longer.

    Second, hearts should most certainly go out to the victims of Sandusky. Less importantly, for sure, people should ask themselves whether Paterno and the President of Penn State became scapegoats for anger at the horrible situation or were actually culpable for anything. In this case, are "the least of these" the "anger of the mob" or the people who are assumed to have "surely known something".

    Third, who is really the "least of these" with respect to Herman Cain? Is it really Cain, or is it the wealthy women who appear to have strong connections to the Democratic political steamroller hell-bent on destroying a threat?

    Prothero might want to analyze the situation a little deeper and try to think from a perspective other than his own.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      Strong connections? Yes, brought to you by the strong connections of Rupert Murdoch, et al.

      Your comment is blatantly partisan, and as such does not deserve consideration.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • KC

      Perhaps YOU'd like to analyze the situation a little further. Cain's accuser is a conservative Republican. Hardly likely that she'd want the Democratic candidate to win. Do you really think these women made complaints, filed charges, pursued lawsuits 20 years ago because they knew at some point the King of Pizza would run for President? As usual, the timelines and facts derail conservative paranoia - your guy's own behavior is sinking him, not Democrats.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • If...

      you look at the category this article is in you will see it says Opinion and therefore shouldn't be held to the same standard as say, a "World" report.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Dave

      ...and lastly....this nation NEVER was christian in the past. The founding fathers did NOT mean for it to be that way and only you far right freaks seem to cling to the delusion that this was ever the case.Go back to school and take a class in American History rather than trying to rewrite it in your own twisted image.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  7. susan

    Thank GOD this is just a opinion..... Witch burning would probably be approved for the sake of the christian community in the writers views....
    I was appalled, I have morals, nor do I believe the Christian faith dictates my life or decisions. But there is a reason why we must suspend belief.. Time is needed for Cain... Public trial is what you start by 'speculating' about our hearts and values.
    I dont need to scream and pull my hair out to prove I'm a fine individual upset by todays news.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Jason's Gay Lover

      You can't thank that which does not exist.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • richunix

      So how do you equate " no morals = no religion" What was your lintus test? Seeing Jesus in a potato chip?. The rain startting falling......Please tell me, my mind awaits to hear that I have no morals becuase I'm a Atheist.....

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Vicki

      Thank god I'm an atheist!!

      November 12, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Shel In Ga

      Susan, did you actually read and understand what the writer was saying? Your comment says you did not.

      November 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  8. nate

    I think defending these people is the Christian thing to do. Is not forgiveness preached? Frankly, I am sick of so called allegations being brought up anytime someone has the opportunity to do something great. Why do they wait till then? Why then is it the right time to tell? Look at Obama. Even he had his Church and affiliations scandal when he was getting elected. Everyone wants someone to be knocked down. Just like the hypothetical tax situation you used. Let's blame the rich because I am having a tough go of it right now. As a religious scholar I would hope you understand that the Bible says you should go to family first when in trouble and not to the government. Everyone in this country relies on handouts from the government now. How long can we sustain that? A local school in the area (a nice area) had 47% of the students getting lunches free from the state. Do they all need it? Doubtful, but people love to use and gain anything they can. So to respond to your allegations that this is not a Christian nation, I guess you are right, but I think this is more the outcome of those that don't believe and those that abuse this nation. They are doing everything they can to make sure this is the case.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Bob

      Sacrificing a sheep for god weekly is also the Christian thing to do, according to your bible. So have you done that yet? Didn't think so. (And yes, Jesus said that those OT laws still apply. So don't try that one.)

      Look, we've moved on from a lot of what's in your Christian fairy tales. Eventually your god supersti-tions will join the rest of the thousands of god myths before them. The process is already underway. You can either live in the past, or get over your sick god stories and join the modern world. It's that simple.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • nate

      Bob, thanks for that reply. Not sure why you comment on something you don't believe in. Who are you trying to convince of that? I don't think you read my whole post by the way, otherwise you would have seen where I went with it. Typical. Anything I don't understand I can't believe. So I will just ridicule those that do.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      Nate mindlessly posted the following nonsense:

      "Anything I don't understand I can't believe."

      I believe something that has substance (your comic book character does not). You make the false assumption that people who do not believe do not understand, when it is you who lack the intellect to understand.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • nate

      Wow Anita. Very pointed comment there. I apologize for questioning the great intellect of those non believers. How silly of me. You sound like a very caring, helpful and happy person. Good luck with that.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Bob

      Wow, nate. You really are that stupid.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • nate

      Bob, I am going to say a prayer for you. I do not know you, but I do hope you have the best week of your life. I wish nothing but the best for you. You can make fun of me and do whatever you feel you need to do, but I will still do this.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Shawn

      Nate- your statements match perfectly with the them of the article. You purport 47% of of school age children age 4-18 receive free lunch. You read that statistic and think: wow, what a bunch of thieves. I read that statistic and think systemically there must be huge problems with with hunger and food acquisition. Notice how you immediately empathized with those with enough food; you did this by calling out the hungry as thieves. Notice how my position empathizes with the hungry, and statistics show 1 in 7 Americans are on food stamps because of food insecurity not because they are thieves, therefore 47% of children needing food in your district seems to align with census data showing our nation is filled with people who are food insecure, job insecure, health insecure, housing insecure, and flat out insecure. It's unAmerican to have so many of my neighbors down trodden. I certainly don't side with those who have enough. Recent data also shows our nation has fallen by a 1/3 on the International Empathy Scale, meaning we're simply less empathic than we used to be. If you want to rally behind those lacking compassion, you're certainly doing a good job.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • nate

      Shawn, You are right. Reading my post again, that is what it would appear I meant. I am more upset at the government and society as a whole. My family struggled when I was a small child and things did get better. My Father worked very hard to get to where he is today. In my opinion it is too easy to get handouts today. Some of these people have more than we ever had at that time. We didn't have cable, cell phones, three tvs, two cars, name brand clothes that were not hand me downs, etc... etc... Everyone expects to have these things today. Now I do understand that there are those that truly need the help and completely understand that, but can you not agree that it is quite possible that the system is flawed and that more people are getting handouts then ever should have? It is like Africa. We keep giving money to charities etc, but in the end it does not help them. We are not giving them the tools to stand up, just life lines to keep them on the bottom.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Shawn

      Wow! I've never had someone respond so reasonably before. Thank you. It shows we're both critically thinking about this issue.

      I, too, was raised in poverty. My parents each have less than a 9th grade education so they were never more than laborers, bless them. Even with both working full time, we still required food assistance, free school lunch, medical assistance, and the like. Today, I've done well for myself. My family, on the other hand, has stood still or worse. Not because they didn't try, but because life is really difficult for too many for reasons I cannot fully articulate. But I do know an empathic, advanced society like we purport having doesn't blame them for their failures and leave them behind.

      I've given the benefits situation of which you speak a great deal of thought. I think most people defer to benefits over jobs because minimum wage doesn't provide the same standard of living and quality of life; that is, many low skilled individuals on benefits have a higher quality of life than if they worked. As a nation, we need to make it so a full days work, what ever that is, is enough to support oneself. Americans are unwilling to be slaves. It is a slavery to make one work most hours and days of their life and still be food and housing insecure. With all we now no about motivation and the human condition, benefit programs could certainly be overhauled. I also think we start with making sure an honest days work earns and honest days pay. In America that means enough to meet housing, food, health care, energy, and transportation. Anything less motivates people to fill in the gaps with benefits from public assistance, then the rest of us support them through tax dollars because their jobs won't support them with enough pay. That is perverted to say the least.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Bob

      nate, thanks for nothing.

      No prayer has ever been answered by a divine ent-ity, ever. Get over your sky fairy blanket already and start facing reality.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Shawn

      There were times when Obama authorized tax cuts for the top 1% of highest earners but authorization was always a trade for something for the middle class. For example: The Republicans wouldn't supply the necessary votes to extend Unemployment benefits unless Obama extended the Bush Tax Cuts; so to keep millions of our neighbors with some resources to care for their families, Obama agreed to the $800 billion in tax cuts that went to only 2.5 tenths of one percent (0.25%) of earners (the richest among us). The cut demanded by the GOP cost more than the unemployment benefits as a whole that went to some 15 million Americans. That is to say, 400 wealthy people split $800 billion is taxes while 15 Million unemployed split $600 billion in benefits. That is perverse, un-American, and not democracy.

      Another example of the nation being held hostage for the rich and the few is when Senator Kyl from AZ only granted his vote to authorize a Nuclear weapons dismantling treaty with Russia upon Obama's agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for 2 additional years. That is the same say Kyl saying: we'll only vote for a World with less nukes if you pay 400 wealthy people tax cuts for 2 more years. Are those not hand outs? Is that not welfare for the wealthy? And, here our people, many in the working and middle class, focus their anger on those receiving food stamps and unemployment? It's absurd and harmful to the majority, considering few if any of us are in the 400 elite of which I keep speaking.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • ktisis

      Sorry Bob. Jesus said that He completely FULFILLED the Old Testament Law of offerings. The OT offerings were merely pictures, types of the One who was to come. He was the one final sacrifice for sins that would completely pay for the sins of mankind. Remember when John, the Baptist saw Jesus and said: "Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Also, the night before the crucifixion, Jesus met with his apostles and established the New Covenant (read His own words) which establishes salvation for any and all who will accept His final sacrifice for them.

      The apostle Paul said" "Christ is the END OF THE LAW for righteousness for every one who believes." And over 700 years BEFORE Jesus was born in this world, the prophet Isaiah prophesied of His coming and death (Isaiah chapter 53) and said: "And the Lord laid upon Him the sins of us all." Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT sacrifices and offerings, and He, once and for all, paid the price for our sins.

      No more sheep, Bob. Jesus is the final lamb.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Dave

      Actually, nate, studies have proven prayer to ineffectual and actually destructive in some cases. So, your praying Bob is on the same level as a death sentence. Thanks for being so caring, but please do not pray for me as if you have the hubris to believe you can do anything for me in that way. You are sick and need to find help...fast!

      November 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Dusty

      Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial laws but also said that not a single law should be changed. Hope you do not like shellfish or wearing mixed linens.

      November 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Colin

    Dear Stephen Prothero:

    God here.

    First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the Centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who withheld all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifth, I would not care who you do or how you “do it”. I really wouldn’t. This would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Oh, the egos.

    Sixth, I would have smited all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.


    November 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Christopher

      Very well said! Thank you!

      November 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Gomo

      This. This is an epic win. /article

      November 12, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • David Hoffman

      Great analysis.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Vicki

      Dear God,


      That is the best posting I have ever read!!

      Thanks for clearing all that up.


      November 12, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • cc

      Simply excellent.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • ktisis

      Colin–no disrespect here, but having seen this exact same post in other blogs over the news and blogosphere, I hope that you are not merely copying and pasting others works. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
      Regardless, each of your points is based primarily on emotional, not logical arguments. "If I were God I would not have done such and so..." or "How could God do such and so..." Neither of these types of challenges is valid in terms of logic.

      The super intellect (that astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle like to say) that could design DNA (which took us over 20 years with supercomputers and thousands of researches to even begin to decode), create a big bang singularity, create consciousness, intelligence, self-awareness-all of these facts easily overcome a library full of your emotional appeals. Einstein disagreed with you, CS Lewis, Hoyle, (yes even) Darwin, and former atheist Anthony Flew. Flew (one of the most staunch and celebrated atheists of the 20th century), after studying the evidence and rationale of a creator forsook atheism and wrote "There is a god" shortly before his recent death.

      Since agnosticism and atheism account for less than 7% of the population, and that a recent study showed that there is an identical percentage of the general populace who acknowledge a Creator that matches within the "scientific" (ehh, intellectual?) community, the case that only uneducated people fall for the "God" myth is statistically and experientially false.

      Einstein (the great champion of theoretical physics) and Darwin (the great champion of biology) at the end of their lives both wrote that they were NOT atheists, both said that they were THEISTS (Einstein even clarified his position to stop his critics from claiming that he was a PANtheist).

      Read some Anthony Flew, Alvin Plantinga, CS Lewis, William Lane Craig (of whom Dawkins fears to debate). It might shock you to see that it is indeed very reasonable to acknowledge a Creator powerful enough to create the DNA that you use in order to attempt to deny His existence. How funny. Also look into abiogenesis, the fossil record (which heavily favors the creation-stasis-extinction model, rather than common descent), hyper inflation, universal fine tuning, information theory, and chemical probabilities (Behe). Mathematics and probability alone, when studied in light of chemistry and biology, forbid any fantasies concerning naturalistic mechanisms for life/evolution.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. faberm

    The author says he wonders where the Christian "ethos" is when seeing "family values" conservatives jumping to Cain's defense. Could it not be that they are TRUTH seekers and have become sickened by being lied to by people like this author who is on the CNN website. The are on guard to defend themselves from the people, often socialist democrats, who will "WIN AT ANY COST" even if it includes the personal destruction of their political enemies.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  11. Craig

    Wow, I've read so many really distorted things on this thread. First of all, to respond to the author, the focus of Christianity is not "the least of these". That is highly speculative generalization on the authors part. I think that many people get their false understanding of Christianity from supposed authorities on our faith sounding off in a wild emotional conjecture like this. The core root of Chrisianity isn't some particular people group, it is TRUTH. So, in these allegations, it's not about having a certain sentiment for the victims or the perpetrators, it's about what is truth? As we are just beginning to learn the truth about these victimizations, it is somewhat premature, but I would assure you that if it were in a Christians power to help any of these they would.
    I saw a lot of vitriole in here about Christianity being a tool to control the masses, and a man made religion, etc. Well, being a former atheist, I'd have to disagree. Christianity isn't something that man would make up, because it doesn't exalt man, it's exalts God which goes completely against our nature. All other world religions are designed to somehow provide a path of "enlightenment" wherein the individual can work to "achieve" some end result. Followers of Jesus, conversely, but the entire emphasis on the finished work of Jesus Christ and his death, resurrecion, and atonement. It is by faith in what He did that we are saved. In fact, government have historically hated and tried to shut down Christianity from the times of the Romans, all the way up until to day. All of the countries that by Colin in this thread as being the most "religious" and worse of because of it, are all actually completely intolerant of any "religion" that they don't directly control. Christians in Burma, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran and many others are tortured for their faith. I'd hardly call this a "religious" nation. Secularists and atheists don't realize that they are just as religious as anyone else, they just have a religion that revolves around making themselves God and seeking to squash out anything that comes into conflict with that, kind of like Stalin. Yes, Christianty when correctly understood brings about SELF control, and therefore could be misinterpreted as a religion of control, but that is not the case. it's the absence of a personal God who sees all, and a moral code to live by that leaves man in a state of isolation with himself and his fellow man. In that situation, a "government" (which is by definition a system of control) must be the one to apply control to a population. So, you and God either learn to govern yourself, or you can have a government that will control you with the whip. Which do you prefer?

    November 12, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Colin

      "Christianity isn't something that man would make up, because it doesn't exalt man, it's exalts God which goes completely against our nature." On the contrary, we as a specias have a natural tendency to supplicate oursleves to non-existent gods. Virtually every culture and society that has ever existed has done so.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Colin

      Secularists and atheists don't realize that they are just as religious as anyone else, they just have a religion that revolves around making themselves God and seeking to squash out anything that comes into conflict with that, kind of like Stalin.

      Again, not so. Here is a widely accepted list of guidelines by which atheists and scular humanists live

      1- Proclaim the natural dignity and inherent worth of all human beings.

      2- Respect the life and property of others.

      3- Practice tolerance and open-mindedness towards the choices and life styles of others.

      4- Share with those who are less fortunate and mutually assist those who are in need of help.

      5- Use neither lies, nor spiritual doctrine, nor temporal power to dominate and exploit others.

      6- Rely on reason, logic and science to understand the Universe and to solve life's problems.

      7- Conserve and improve the Earth's natural environment—land, soil, water, air and space—as humankind's common heritage.

      8- Resolve differences and conflicts cooperatively without resorting to violence or to wars.

      9- Organize public affairs according to individual freedom and responsibility, through political and economic democracy.

      10- Develop one's intelligence and talents through education and effort.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      "The core root of Chrisianity isn't some particular people group, it is TRUTH."

      No, it is not. It is dogma. You will know truth when it smacks you upside your empty head, because it will have proof, not faith.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Gotta love when a christian claims to once have been an Atheist. Any rational mind would never give up rational thinking for fairy tales without evidence to back it.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Craig

      Gee Colin,

      I really got you riled up didn't I? I like to say to people like you: a) do you know everything (of course not). b) do you know half of everything (well, you'd have to know everything to define what half was) c) maybe God exists in the half that you don't know.

      Now, as to your list of proclamations about atheists in general: really?

      -proclaim the dignity and inherent worth of all human beings? Is that what Stalin did, Pol Pot, Hitler, Mussolini, Kim Jong Il, Mao, Lenin, Milosovic? Yeah, they all really supported people dignity didn't they? Can you name me one atheist world leader who didn't brutalize his people?

      I don't even need to go into the rest of your list, because it's all ditto. It's a nice list you made though, too bad it's not grounded in any sort of reality.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Colin

      First, Hitler and Mussolini were Christians. A fomous Hitler quote is
      “"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. "

      Hitler hated atheists. He once said:

      "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 24, 1933


      "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people." Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933

      Mussolini signe the Lateran treaty establishing Vatican City and was publicly baptized. He openly supported and was supported by the Catholic Church.


      Stalin was an atheist, at least when he was older. He said so himself many times and scoffed religion. He actually started life as Eastern Orthodox and was even educated as an Orthodox Monk. He later rejected religion and saw the Church as a threat to his power. That is why he was so anti-theology. But let’s not be naive, if he thought it would have benefitted him, he would have held himself out as Orthodox Christian, or as a Wiccan for that matter. It was all about power. His atheist views were no more a motivator for his actions than were Hitler’s Christian views.

      As a curious aside, Hitler was not German (he was Austrian) Stalin was not Russian (he was Georgian – I have visited his birthplace) and Napoleon (an atheist who most theists miss when listing “evil atheist leaders” by the way) was not mainland French, he was Corsican, which was then under French rule.

      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].” That said, it seems religion was pretty irrelevant to the man.


      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 none of these cases 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.

      The samis true of Milosovich. Kim Jong Il was actually quite superst.itious, believeing in astrology and numerology.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Craig: Attempt a new argument please. Hitler was not an Atheist and even if the others were it has nothing to do with what they did. Their misgivings in this world are based on other principles such as marxism. Atheism is simply a standpoint that there is no belief in god. We accept that we can't know everything unlike christians who use the god of the gaps to fill the unknown.
      You tend to forget that christians are responsible for the inquisition; the crusades and numerous other atrocities (burning of witches, etc).

      November 12, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • TRH

      "they just have a religion that revolves around making themselves God and seeking to squash out anything that comes into conflict with that, kind of like Stalin"

      You can't possibly be serious! I was almost taking your response as being interesting until I read this...you are delusional.

      November 12, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  12. Mike

    The idea that we are a Christian Nation is a political stunt and in no way shape or form based on reality. Either speaking of our founding fathers or anything that has happened since. Some people hold office and want to get re-elected, so they placate to the religious for the easy vote and start a fury over putting the 10 commandments here, or a cross there. There are no easier votes to get, than that from a religious person siding with his own religion. All politics and policies are irrelevant when you bring in religion. Case in point: Over 40% of the country will NOT vote for an Atheist president, far above any other category, including Muslim or Jew. Regardless of that candidates stances or politics, the fact that there is no religious common ground people will refuse to vote. The #1 reason most Republicans are uneasy with Romney is his belonging to the Church of Later-Day Saints. They agree 99% with his politics... but because of his faith, MANY people are willing to go with a lesser candidate as President of the United States. There is no other word for this entire mind set, besides STUPID.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • richunix

      Sadly the Christian can't(or won't see that there is really no difference between beliefs!

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  13. TommyTT

    What a silly topic. Of course we're not a "Christian nation." We're a democracy of many religions. And this has nothing to do with whether or not we behave well, as there have been non-Christian nations that do so and Christian nations that do not. Associating Christianity with good behavior is insulting to the rest of us.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  14. brad

    this is an absolutely retarded article.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Barnacle Bill

      Sorry brad, but you're an imbecile.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Reggie Domino

      I do not know whether Brad is an imbecile. He may well be. But he is right. This is an absolutely retarded article. Would Jesus write an article so utterly devoid of any actual content? Would he draw a connection between Herman Cain's accusers and the victims of Jerry Sandusky?

      I don't know where you're having this 'great debate' but it sounds pretty silly. I hope it's settled soon and you stop writing.

      CNN... seriously?

      November 12, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • brad

      exactly reggie. i didnt feel the need to elaborate since it should be clearly obvious how lame the article is.

      November 12, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  15. eldono

    In the US, the problem is far deeper than whether we show empathy or not. There cannot be empathy without responsibility. I may emphasize with someone, but am I willing to help them? Religion needs to be taken completely out of the discussion. We need to focus on whether we are acting in a rational or irrational manner.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  16. Foreigner

    For God's sake, please learn to distinguish between the words "our" and "are". They may sound the same but they are (not our) different. Apart from the USA being a Christian nation, it is also supposed to be a nation where English is the predominant language.
    "I am talking about where are hearts instinctively go in these situations."

    November 12, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • jeepzeke

      Seems OK to me. Try reading it the way it was written, not the way you wanted to read it

      November 12, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      read below...USA is not a christian nation...it is based on secular reasoning to allow for freedom of and from religion

      November 12, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • E

      That word definitely should be our, not are. If you do not know the difference between these two words (which are not pronounced exactly same) then please go back to second grade reading lessons.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  17. Jackie

    The principles by which this nation were founded were Judeo/Christian. The laws which have previously governed our nation were based on Judeo/Christian principles as well. The nature of sinful man has and will always be the true problem in any given nation. If a nation chooses to dismiss our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ from the scenario, that nation will bear the consequences of depraved minds choosing their own way, as evidenced by our current state of affairs (Romans 8:1). God's laws are not "God's suggestions for life" but rather fundamental principles by which man must live for his own good and for God's glory. The blasphemy spoken above will be dealt with by Christ at His second coming (Jude, Rev. 19), the signs of which all point to it, i.e. earthquakes, wars, rumors of war. With no true moral compass (Christianity), our country is lost. Please think about the Father giving His only Son for the likes of us (John 3:16) and turn your life to Him before He turns His wrath upon you when He comes again for your unbelief and rejection of His One and Only Son, Jesus.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Colin

      Jackie: (i) see quotes below re: Christian Nation; (ii) there are fewer wars now than ever in history and there are no more earthquakes. You are seeing a pattern based on your pre-conceived ideas; (iii) morality does not require a belief in the supernatural.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • richunix

      Hopefully oneday WE (as a Nation) will wakeup and throw off the shacles of the Judo/Christian beliefs and then be truly enlighten, instead of seeing the world through hateful glasses called Religion.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Barnacle Bill

      Not too bright, are you Jackie?

      November 12, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      "Please think about the Father giving His only Son for the likes of us (John 3:16) "

      Think hard about that please. What kind of creature would allow such a sacrifice? Rather poor parenting to say the least and more so a morbid creature.
      Most rational minded people are able to see that this god creature who has never been proven to exist except in the minds of those brainwashed (ie; you), is nothing more than a tyrannical; murdering; women abusing; child abusing; bigoted; hypocritical; hom.o.phobic monster.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Jason

      Jackie's spot on ... and Barnacle Bill ~~ aren't you the "judgemental" one ... According to CNN and other 'mainstream' media, only "Christian right wingers get to be that way 'don't ya know' 😉

      November 12, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Jason: How exactly is Jackie 'spot on'? She has provided no evidence outside of the buybull and you can't use that to back your claims. Please provide proof based on evidence for your/her claims without the use of scripture or theological reports (those all point back to the same thing).

      November 12, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • TRH

      "With no true moral compass (Christianity), our country is lost."

      Oh, this one again. Jackie, who brainwashed you?

      November 12, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  18. gary

    MOst Americans just want to be seen as Xtians to be normal and righteous. MOst are NOT Xtian nor know what it means to be Xtian. Most are Xtian wanna – be's. The only true Xtians I know of are Amish.

    November 12, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  19. NewsRaider

    Jesus would quote James 2:10, then he would say, "If you are an editorialist, now would be a good time to keep your opinion to yourself."

    November 12, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Quiet reader

      The best response I've read (so far) to any article on CNN! Love it!

      November 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Blurred Lines

      Godo advice NewsRaider

      November 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  20. TruthPrevails

    I came across a recent article of quotes from the founding fathers of the USA...this is a reasonably long read but it goes to prove that the USA is not a christian nation.

    1. "Christianity is the most per.verted system that ever shone on man"- Thomas Jefferson
    2. "The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs." -Thomas Jefferson
    3. "It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet the one is not three, and the three are not one- Thomas Jefferson
    4. "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be cla.ssed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors."- Thomas Jefferson
    5. "There is not one redeeming feature in our superst.ition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."- Thomas Jefferson
    6. "Lighthouses are more useful than churches."- Ben Franklin .
    7. "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."- Ben Franklin
    8. "I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no signs of them."- Ben Franklin
    9. "In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it."- Ben Franklin
    10. "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it"- John Adams
    11. "The New Testament, they tell us, is founded upon the prophecies of the Old; if so, it must follow the fate of its foundation.'- Thomas Paine
    12. "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."- Thomas Paine
    13. "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."- Thomas Paine
    14. "Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies."- Thomas Paine
    15. "All national inst.itutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."- Thomas Paine
    16. "It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene.”- Thomas Paine
    17. "Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."- George Washington
    18. "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession."- Abraham Lincoln
    19. "It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov't from interfence in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. Trespa.sses on its legal rights by others."- James Madison
    20. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."- James Madison

    November 12, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • richunix


      Problem will always be.....Too many people refuse to believe the truth. Nice points made.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is not a religion nor is it a belief

      November 12, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      Awesome. Still, those blinded by dogma will ignore these.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Barnacle Bill

      The founders were liberals. We need to hammer this into the heads of the dogmatic.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • John Kon

      Greatly said about christianity. In the name of charity, christianity engaged in conversions in counties like INDIA. Christian missionaries telling lies to poor Hindus and Buddists and doing forciing them to convert them into christianity. Once a Hindu or Buddist is converted their loualty is with Pope. American is supposed to be a super power but most of people here are so back ward with their christian idealogy.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @richunix: I'm not christian any more and haven't been for years.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Ford

      Thanks sir. As an atheist, this can be one of my 'holy' books.

      November 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
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About this blog

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