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Study: Some atheists with children attend religious services
December 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Study: Some atheists with children attend religious services

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Nearly one in five atheist scientists with children involve their families with religious institutions, even if they personally do not agree with the institutions teachings, a recent study says.

The study, conducted by Rice University and the University at Buffalo, found that these scientists affiliate with churches for both social and personal reasons. Additionally, the scientists indicated a strong desire to prepare their children to make educated decisions about their personal religious preference.

“This was so surprising to us just because of all of the public discussion about the ways in which scientists are very against religions people,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice. “When in fact, those we might most expect to be against religious people are sitting alongside them.”

Study participants also indicated they were involved in a religious institution because of the religious preferences of a spouse or partner.

One of the most interesting findings, according to Ecklund, was that some atheist scientists want to expose their children to religion due to scientific reasoning.

"We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true," Ecklund said. "They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge."

Ecklund said there were cases in which survey respondents identified that not only did they introduce their children to one church, but they also attended other religious services in the hope that the children would better understand each denomination.

"I think that understanding how nonreligious scientists utilize religion in family life demonstrates the important function they have in the U.S.," Ecklund said.

Sociologist Kristen Schultz Lee of University of Buffalo co-authored the study, which can be found in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The data was pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured or tenure-track faculty at 21 U.S. research universities. Around half of survey respondents identified a form of religious identity, while the other half did not.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Church • Culture & Science

soundoff (2,129 Responses)
  1. Dr. S

    I'm a scientist and I go to religious services because I think they benefit my wife who is a Christian. Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I discourage others from believing and its been shown that belief in and practice of religion has beneficial effects. As long as the church I attend isn't teaching bigoted or non-inclusive practices, I say why not?

    December 7, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      Religion has no beneficial effects. Look at any study about it without Templeton influence, and it will be obviously clear.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • dudeuloose

      Why is it scientists/atheists will attend church and then go to the extent of courts to remove the ten commandments and other religious symbols if they are so affended? I'd say those that attend are hypocrytes!!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • closetiguana

      dudeuloose – Are the ones that are attending churches the same ones requesting separation from church and state?

      December 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  2. closetiguana

    I'm an atheist and I'm not gong to influence my child by bringing him into a specific religion. When he's older, if he wishes to believe in gods then it's up to him.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  3. Annatala

    This is more than balanced out by all the religious people who sleep in on Sundays...

    December 7, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  4. Snorlax

    Every athiest I know is a retard.
    Every one.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      Kind of how all the cars are going the wrong way on the road, right?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • BAC

      How very religious of you to say.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • scottwc33

      and all those who follow the bronze age sky fairy fantasy completely mental......weak minded. gullible. so yes all beliefs are crazy.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Toby

      Even if that were truly your personal experience with non-supernaturalists, that STILL would not mean that any particular religion is true or that there is a god out there.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Karen

      Are your parents cousins????

      December 7, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Based on your comment, you're obviously a young teenager. So the atheists you've probably met are some of your young schoolmates. Since most teenagers' baby brains have already dropped out, and their adult brains haven't grown in yet, I'm not surprised that you have a negative impression of any of your friends.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Montanan

      I'd say YOU are the retard, but that would be an insult to retarded people.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Commenter

      Enjaysea - "most teenagers' baby brains have already dropped out, and their adult brains haven't grown in yet"

      Very good 🙂

      December 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • closetiguana

      You are the company you keep.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      "Retard" – you mean a person who cannot spell "ATHEIST" even with the help of Google, spellcheck, and the entire resources of the internet at hand?

      December 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  5. Steve393

    Ecklund makes the mistake of assuming that religion is a source of knowledge.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      Her first mistake was to become a sociologist.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • collins61

      Its OK, we made the same assumption about you.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Paul

      Um, that's because religion IS a source of knowledge. Not a very intelligent statement by you, friend.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      Well, nowhere in the definition of knowledge is there a statement requiring knowledge to be correct.

      So, with that in mind, religion is a source of knowledge.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • RFBJR

      Ya, looking back in history, alot of the education (particularly reading) came from Christain monks. Nations where Christianity existed were far more advanced in invention and the technology of the times. They pretty much still are, don't you think?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • MarkinFL

      That was religious people discovering new knowledge, not knowledge from their religion. Monks are not a religion, they are people and at certain times in our history they were some of the most educated people.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • MarkinFL

      BTW, you might want to look a little deeper at the history of Muslim nations as well since quite a bit of great learning came from there as well. Its about education, not religion.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Oh yeah, and China, and , and, and

      December 8, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  6. vel

    For more about this "research", here: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/elaine-ecklund-continues-to-whitewash-the-atheism-of-scientists/

    December 7, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  7. Jake

    They're just being...scientists. I'm agnostic, but I go to church because there's a lot of things I learn from the experience and the just the overall dynamics during church. Outside church however, these "Christians" are totally different from any teaching I've ever learned in church. Scientists and open-minded folks don't exclude themselves from knowledge and experience, even those they disagree with. It-is conservaive religious folks who are restrictive to what they experience and fear being around things they disagree with, because they don't have the intellect to counter challenges in a logical meaningful way without being flustered and spouting off random verses from the Bible in their defense. Consevative Christians don't want to expose their children to other philosophies and perceptions because they fear of being seduced to the alternative perspective, but that's just an indicator of weak faith based on fear not true belief.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  8. Lola

    I am a Christian. I do not attend church services. If the only thing I teach my child is to love the Lord with all his heart, than I have done my job as a parent. God gave us a free will and to each his own (decisions and consequences belong to the individual).

    December 7, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • vel

      nice new religion you've created. I see you've ignored the parts in Romans 9 which says we have no choice in beleiveing (including JC saying it repeatedly in the gospels on why he uses parables) and those inconvenient parts where God has no problem forcing peole to do things, the Pharoah, Judas (where would we be if JC didn't die?), etc.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • BR

      It sounds nice, Lola, but how do you determine god's wishes...even to the point that he wants your love muchless whether he actually exists? The answer is that you're doing exactly what religious leaders have done for thousands of years. You're accepting or omitting things based on your perception of right and wrong.

      So if you're making those decisions anyway...what use is there to pretend there is a god?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • JMS

      @vel – your interpretation of Romans 9 is your own, but is not shared by the vast majority of the Christian church. While there would have been value in pointing out the importance the gospels and letter placed on being a member of the church, or the body of Christ in some other form, your ideas of calvinism are not mainstream, and Lola's religion is not "new."

      December 7, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Correct; you are not required by the Bible to attend churches which didn't exist in Biblical times.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  9. MDigerat

    I was born/raised Methodist in Michigan. I went to many denominations growing up. I also had many friends... Jewish, Atheist, Christian. Now I have Muslim, Islam and Buddhist in there as well. Currently I am non-denominational... I am more for the relationship... not the Religion... Just as other religions/relationships to other God(s) and Atheists expect tolerance and respect from me - please in return I expect the same respect and tolerance as well.

    Peace to all no matter what beliefs... ;-D

    December 7, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • vel

      It would be nice if everyone were tolerant, however, we have Christians constantly trying to force their beliefs of their narrow religious sects on everyone. Each theist thinks that they have some magical divine approval for their beliefs, and none of them have any proof that these gods exist at all. What nonsense.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  10. Michaeltantino

    @montyross

    That's not a choice. ETERNAL PUNISHMENT in Hell or ETERNAL BLISS in Heaven. That is not a choice at all. It's not like you're given equal options here. If you didn't want to eat pie and I held a gun to the heads of your children and said "You will eat it or they will die" would anyone logically conclude that I gave you a choice? No.

    Besides, I didn't CHOOSE to not have a belief in God. Could you sit here and choose to believe in Thor? Is it so easy as saying; "Well I choose to believe this." and have it become true? No. I don't have a choice. I have viewed the evidence and heard the arguments and I simply do not believe. I cannot believe. I can't sit here and convince myself that it's true. There is no choice.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • dudeuloose

      The bible says, this day you will choose whome you will serve, its clear you made your decision. You have the free will to reject grace or accept it!

      December 7, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • BR

      dudeuloose – you really don't want to get into a simple 'the bible says' scrimmage do you?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Michaeltantino

      I know what your doctrine says, but it's simply not true. I cannot chose what I believe. I cannot choose to believe Santa Claus is real, I cannot chose to believe in Thor. I cannot choose to believe in Krishna and I cannot choose to believe in Jesus. It's not a choice I made. That alone demonstrates how your doctrine is full of it. I can PRETEND to believe, but that wouldn't fool an Almighty Being would it? So the only alternative if what you suggest is true about the punishment for not believing is that your God is EVIL. A God who doesn't allow someone a choice but them punishes them for ETERNITY for it is EVIL and there is no way around it.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • dudeuloose

      Its called faith for a reason. If there is a slightest chance there is a God, and what is written about eternity is true, I'd be willing to take those odds. What else can you put your hope in? Obviously nothing or no one here on earth!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • BR

      dudeuloose – Look up Pascal's wager. If you're wrong, you've spent your life cowtowing and reciting incantations to a mirage. Not to mention the genuine harm that is caused by religion...harm that you willingly take part in by suspending disbelief in things that defy logic and have zero tangible evidence. Do you check your receipt and count your change at the grocery store? You owe yourself at least that much reassurance about the cosmos.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Michaeltantino

      dudeyoulose,

      continuing on with Pascal's Wager, you don't even know if the God you picked is the right one out of the infinite number of Gods out there. Your wager doesn't work any which way you cut it.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Michael M.

    “This was so surprising to us just because of all of the public discussion about the ways in which scientists are very against religions people,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice. “When in fact, those we might most expect to be against religious people are sitting alongside them.”
    ---------------

    ... Wow, really? Seriously?

    I must've missed the last Scientific American issue where we made fun of the Pope, or the last PLoS where Jesus had his genome reconstructed and turned out to be a Neanderthal.

    Scientists aren't against religion or religious people. Scientists are simply for the most logical (often the simplest) explanation.

    Maybe Ecklund will take some time to understand Science the next time he meets a Scientist... like his Doctor, his Pharmacist, Physical Therapist, Dentist, Meteorologist, Architect, Engineer, Biologist, Chemist - ah, forget it.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  12. 13Directors

    They ought to seek out a Unity Church.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  13. brett

    The number of atheists in the world is vastly under reported. I would wager that nearly half of those who affiliate as Christians are truly closet atheists who only go through the motions of church attendance to please family and friends. It's a social motive. They no more believe in Jesus than they do Santa Claus. But the social stigma that Christians have successfully perpetrated for centuries is disappearing thanks to scandals in the Church and 9/11. That is why non-believers are the fastest growing belief group in the world.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Lola

      No, it's not surprising. The path is narrow and non-believers vastly outnumber believers.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  14. Babooph

    Even some of the agnostics there are not delusional...

    December 7, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  15. richunix

    I’m not against anyone who believes in some sort of “deity”, it is part of their lives and they wish to share it. But when they trout it off as “Truth”, then I have issue. The “Bible” has been re-written, added to, subtracted from so many times that you are unable to separate truth from fantasy. No one is challenging that the Nazarene could have existed or there was a sect within ancient Judaism that wanted to believe as the Greeks/Romans did “Reincarnation”. It just the story has a life of its own, written in a time when stories didn’t require any proof or even basic scientific exam and if you did question the truth. The Elders, answered with confinement or death. So for your time of year, please enjoy it with your friends and family.

    The folly of man, is the fool that lies within each of us…… Richard

    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.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  16. JHT

    A word about language: It is important to make a distinction between disagreeing with someone and being against someone. Not the same thing at all. I would guess that most of these people disagree, but that doesn't mean they are against.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  17. C. Smith

    “This was so surprising to us just because of all of the public discussion about the ways in which scientists are very against religions people,”
    If this is their assumption, I question their statistics conclusions. Many scientists I know (at NASA) are religious believers. Religion and science being diametrically opposed is a figment of the modern media's imagination. I worship the God who created the scientific laws we try to understand and use. In studying them, I watch the hand of the Master, as well as listening to His voice.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      The "laws" of Physics leave no room for a creator.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • S Smith

      Exactly! Thank you for stating it so clearly.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • BR

      God of the gaps...infinite regression. Pick you falacy.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Riiight.

      That's why it was common practice to spit on wounds as a healing method around the time the bible was written... Sounds VERY rational and scientific. Tell me, if the all-knowing, all-powerful creator is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he/she still allow men to interpret the book that he/she allegedly directly influenced, for their own personal and usually corrupt agenda? Sounds pretty flawed to me.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Rob

      Oh really? how do you figure? You have no idea how an infinite being would go about creating a universe so don't think that humans have it all figured out. Not even close. This entire discussion is pointless because we simply don't know. There is no room to make assumptions about the universe at this point...

      December 7, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Dennis Michael

      I agree with you that if they were shocked and surprised by their findings, if nothing else, it shows that they approached their work with a very strong bias...... not very scientific of them I would say.

      I am agnostic......You know what they say about agnostics? They are atheists hedging their bets. 🙂 ...... but I hold nothing against anyone that follows a religion or belief system as long as it helps them to be a more compassionate, caring, loving person...... which I think, or at least I hope, I am.

      Their findings that 'atheist' scientists encourage their families to participate in organized religion should hardly be a revelation. Similarly, I have not and never will discourage my children from participating. An intelligent and informed society is to the benefit of all.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Riiight.

      And one last thing ... God cannot be a being since beings occupy physical space so saying that God is an being is incorrect. Lastly, humans are not able to wrap our tiny little heads around something as big as an infinite thing... saying that God is infinite is no better than saying God is an obtuse angle... our mind can only think what we already know and since we have no clue what infinite looks like, we are limited to figures and sizes that we do know. The Infinite God idea is flawed. Very flawed.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Rob

      @Riiight, this isnt the movies. God interfering with our actions would defeat the purpose of being alive. We would learn nothing if God were to stop us from doing anything wrong. You may ask yourself, if there is a God, why doesn't he provide proof existence? Well thats not really that hard to answer. If we had PROOF of God, then living a righteous life would lose its value. You would KNOW, not believe, that there are consequences to the bad choices we make.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Rob

      Also, what if god is simply an incredibly technologically advanced "computer programmer" and we are just part of an equally advanced "Second Life" game? Then the whole taking up physical space goes out the window from our perspective.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Rob, you said, "If we had PROOF of God, then living a righteous life would lose its value. You would KNOW, not believe, that there are consequences to the bad choices we make."

      You are pulling that out of your ass. There is no reason that proof could not be provided if there was a god regardless of your fallacious reasoning.
      And there is no reason to think any life would suddenly lose it's meaning just because proof was provided.
      What you're essentially saying is that you do not want to provide proof because you not only have none, you've been indoctrinated into thinking proof would be bad. This is just the sort of thing any con-artist would say. But it'll go right over your head just like everything else we say here, so go on with your life and keep your religious "values" out of politics and we might be able to coexist in some sort of peace.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Riiight.

      @Rob – You're joking, right? That's the problem with "believers"... despite the fact that you're probably all decent people, you live in this magical fantasy world where anything is possible accept for tested and observed scientific facts. We don't live in the matrix ... life is boring, get over it.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  18. iminim

    I do not understand the animosity expressed between believers & nonbelievers in these blogs. Many of the posts focus on the "We are more persecuted than you are!" theme. Everyone can find reasons to believe they are persecuted if they look hard enough. Also, everyone can find others who are persecuted more than they are, if they are so inclined. Being "persecuted" does not lend any special credence to your point of view. This line of arguing only results in nonproductive bantering and polarization. We do not need any more religion/anti-religion polarization in our world. We have plenty already, often with violent consequences.

    Another theme is the "I'm right & you are wrong.....and st upid! " theme. No one can prove their choice of religion or nonreligion is correct. That is why they call it "faith". There is no one-size-fits-all faith. Faith is an individual journey. You cannot badger someone into, or out of, true faith.

    When it comes to matters of religion, anger & hate do more to deter others than to convince them to accept your belief/nonbelief as their own. That is an important lesson we can learn from the parents in this article. They choose to teach their kids to explore options and find what fits their faith needs for themselves. They are not afraid that their child will find spiritual fulfillment in a different faith pathway than they chose for themselves. Likewise, we should not be afraid of, or condemn, others who are on different faith journeys from ours simply because they believe differently.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • JA

      Right on iminim !

      December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • twiddly

      The burden of proof is on the theist.
      No one can prove a negative.
      The issue really is simple – you cannot prove god exists, therefore there is no reason to believe in god.
      To do otherwise is no different than believing in santa claus and unicorns; it's just plain silly.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • JA

      Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe

      December 7, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • BR

      If sitting on that astronomically high fence actually prevented theists from imposing their beliefs when making public policy, I'd jump right up there with you. Meantime, down here on the ground there is a genuine struggle to take bronze age myths and forge binding laws which infringe on my rights. Or are you OK with the millions of people who have died of AIDS thanks to the Vatican? Blind belief in demonstrably false dogma has a tangible effect on the world.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Michaeltantino

      JA, what is so blessed about believing in something "just because"? You just justified the belief in anything that cannot be supported by evidence and reason.

      Faith is intellectual laziness. NO ONE praises the use of faith in anything BUT religion. If you invited me over for dinner in your next post and then asked if I wanted directions and my response to you was; "No need, I will faith my way to your house" you'd think I was an idiot. No, the RIGHT way to finding the truth of your location would be to gather evidence. I would get your address from you. I could enter that address into mapquest, I could ask for street markers, I could get your name and do a search, I could ask someone who has been there before, I could test it for myself once complete to verifiy the evidence I gathered. THAT is how I would generate an actual result. If I tried to faith my way there with no evidence for which to guide me to the truth of your location, I'd never find you.

      This whole notion that "faith" is a good thing is an excuse. There is nothing good about faith. And no, faith in science is not the same. Faith that the Sun will be there tomorrow is not the same as faith that tomorrow the Sun will be replaced by a glowing dragon. Evidence supports probability, and we accomplish things in this world based upon calculations of probabilty. That's how EVERYTHING is accomplished.

      There is a saying that two hands working accomplish more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • JA

      Michaeltantino,

      "You just justified the belief in anything that cannot be supported by evidence and reason."

      Actually, i just quoted from the book of John. Thanks for the tutorial on how to use mapquest though. I use a GPS.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Yo!

      "Actually, i just quoted from the book of John.'

      LMAO – you can't use the bible to prove what is written in the bible is true. Talk about stupidity.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • JA

      But truthfully,
      Faith for me, has driven me to a peacefulness outside the confines of this world. It cannot be proven by physical evidence nor reason. It can only be experienced.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • JA

      Yo!
      I wasnt trying to prove anything. thanks for the insult though. it wasnt needed.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Yo!

      "Faith for me, has driven me to a peacefulness outside the confines of this world. It cannot be proven by physical evidence nor reason. It can only be experienced."

      You can smoke pot you can get peacefulness doesn't mean there is a god. You can meditate and become relax to find peacefulness, doesn't mean there is a god. You can have awesome sex to find peacefulness and love, doesn't mean there is a god. You can believe in yourself, have true self love that brings about peacefulness, doesn't mean there is a god. Get the picture.... LOL!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • JA

      Yo!
      I'm sure you can get some sort of peace from what you speak of. But its boundaries cannot be more than physical.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Michaeltantino

      JA,

      You don't receive any peace beyond the physical properties of your body either. Everything you are is a product of your body including your consciousness which is an emergent phenomina of your brain function. Why else can brain damage completely alter who a person is? It can make a peaceful man angry all the time, it came make an aggressive person submissive, and so on, forever altering who that person is.

      You can claim all day long that you receive supernatural peace but you claims are baseless assertions lacking any evidence.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  19. Believe It

    The term atheist shouldn't even exist. There is no term for a non-astrologer, or non-alchemist. There is no term to describe people who still think Elvis is alive. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • C. Smith

      Atheism is commonly defined as the belief that gods don't exist (though this is debated by some, it is a useful definition as there is another term for the very different lack of belief either way). In this definition, atheism is no more logical or reasonable than religion. There is no proof of gods. The only logical conclusion that can be reached from that is that logic cannot prove or disprove gods, i.e. that no conclusions should be drawn.

      Saying gods don't exist because we can't prove they do is like saying the entire universe outside Earth is devoid of life because we (today) can't prove that life exists out there. Any reasonable scientist would scoff at that idea.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Infinite Horizons

      A just and loving God who wants people to believe that it exists would make it's existence obvious to rational people.

      I am a rational person, and I see no evidence that God exists.

      Therefore, God doesn't exist.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Bob

      Theism is a word. Since that word was created by man to denote the belief in a God, the word "Atheism" automatically would exist to denote not believing in God. There was no choice in the matter – it has to exist. As for God, to many the jury is still out, but, I would say God was created about the same time as the word "Theism", or something similar, came into existence.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • twiddly

      You miss the point entirely, C. Smith.
      Most atheists and agnostics simply say there is no reason to believe in god.
      No one can prove a negative and so no one is saying they can prove god does not exist.
      However, that does not lead, as you seem to think, to a belief in god being rational just because it can't be proven to be false.
      That's not how proof works.
      So I'll say I believe a pink unicorn is the creator of the universe. You can't "prove" I'm wrong; therefore, I must be right.
      My pink unicorn is just as valid (and as silly) as your god.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Derp

      Most atheists won't say that some kind of higher being (God) does not exist, but they will say that a particular version of a God does not exist. The popular religions have enough self-contradiction or implausibility to be demonstrably false (this is why most people pick and choose what to believe from a particular religion because many of these contradictions are quite blatant). For example, any religion that claims a God loves you unconditionally, yet sentences you to eternal torture for having the (God-given) audacity to not believe in him (even though he provides no proof of his existence) is demonstrably false.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • checkyofacts

      @Infinite Horizons
      "A just and loving God who wants people to believe that it exists would make it's existence obvious to rational people"

      You mean like coming directly to those people and saying "Hey, everybody! It's me, God. Don't believe me? Okay, I'll perform impossible miracles right in front of you and teach you things that no human could possibly know."

      How did that work out?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • BR

      C. Smith – Actually, most definitions place "disbelief of existence" or similar verbage as the first definition of atheism. Important difference there. The theist has a belief, and the atheist disbelieves or rejects that position. It is not a positive statement by the atheist, though there are exceptions who will claim to have certain knowledge that no gods exist.

      You purposefully chose the definition that allows you to make the claim that neither side is more or less logical.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Derp

      @Checkyofacts: You're right. A real God would have the ability to do actual miracles, today, and not rely on stories told 2000 years ago about so-called miracles as his sole proof for the modern populous. If that's the best he can do, then I'm very disappointed in our God.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  20. Peter E

    Atheists mostly come from religious backgrounds and are very knowledgable about religion and the Bible in particular.

    I wish us Christians did as good of a job actually reading the Bible as most atheists do. But so many self-proclaimed Christians only know the passages that are quoted to them by Fox News pundits, and couldn't even name more than four Commandments without having to turn to the internet.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:22 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.