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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. bagger

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
    Epicurus 341BC

    December 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • hippypoet

      ah, i haven't heard that in a long time.. thank you. It brings back memories.

      quote from me, the hippypoet –
      "You will never find such wisdom as those that came before."

      December 7, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • RFBJR

      On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
      Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
      What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

      Apostle Paul

      December 7, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  2. hippypoet

    Matt – i'm not sure if you will check this on the other page, so i will repost it here – i think this speaks volumes – but for anyone who is just replying to his post, it has to do with not needing a church at all.

    matt, i'm not mad or angry, i just don't care for those that do things without knowing even why they do them. I have studied religion for a very long time and most likely won't stop but some things i have found preach totally different things and yet are more christian if you will then how you folks seem to behave nowadays... for instance, in the gospel of judas, there is a passage that reads – lift a stone and i am there, split a plank of wood and you will find me. this is the reason why the church banned the gospel, it preaches that god is everywhere and everywhere is where you should worship. Infact it states that having a church and a building with any image of christ is against what jesus supposedly preached! But most christians are raised to believe that judaswas the betrayer when infact he may have only done what he was told by jesus – according to the gospel of judis that is. Your thoughts?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  3. CJ

    This CNN article is very very wrong. Here's the real story: http://choiceindying.com/2011/12/05/elaine-ecklunds-militant-campaign/

    Elaine Howard Ecklund and her Templeton funders have a long history of supporting intellectually dishonest research.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      Good eye CJ. Others here have pointed out the flaws in the research, too.

      CNN throws up this crap every so often because these articles generate a helluva lot of comments. Cause we like to argue. 😉

      December 7, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Nonimus

      Interesting article. It seems to be a bit reactionary, but interesting. The article above seems fairly benign, with the exception of the following non-sequitor:

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

      I don't think it demonstrates that at all.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  4. Pebanks2

    What hypocrites you people are. You don't believe in God, but go to church, and on top of that, you justify the reason why you attend. Did any experiment you scientists and athiests developed ever prove that you can create a living thing out of flying rocks and thin air? I didn't think so!

    December 7, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • mikemazzla@yahoo.com

      Actually there have been plenty of experiments and studies related to that bone head. But let me know when you have done a study on a guy in the clouds creating the world in 7 days. Idiot

      December 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Seanm

      They are not hipocrits. A Scientist is someone in the search of truth. That means allowing people especially their children to find their own way. This is a testimate to just how moral these people are. They dont belive in religion mainly bc of the evangelicals crusade of bad information and lies. But they still want their children to make up their own mind. They are educators every last one of them. As a catholic and a man who loves theology and scient I applaud them for upholding their moral values and not giving into the rederick and out and out lieing like the Hovinds of the world.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • if horses had Gods ...

      Actually yes, scientists have combined chemicals, heat & light that create life from lifeless particles.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • if horses had Gods ...

      mikemazzla .. excellent point!

      December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • allanhowls

      Your words belie your ignorance of both science AND the teachings of Christ. You are far more angry, proud and hateful than the one you are to emulate.

      As your post contains no content that displays actual understanding of the topics at hand, the specifics of your posting are below comment. If you want actual answers, you can find them out and understand why your question is faulty on its face (it's akin to asking "If god doesn't exist, why are there numbers?!?" in that it makes no actual sense in the framework of knowledge.

      Furthermore, you've proven the actual point of the article, which is that non-believers are more open and receptive to ideas than their sectarian counterparts. In short, they're willing to let their children take in all the information and decide for themselves...something that Christians seem far to afraid to do, since they can't compete on a level playing field.

      As someone raised in an evangelical background, may your god have mercy on your soul.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  5. Atheist, not anti-theist

    I find the comments of the researchers to be rather ignorant. Atheism is a lack of belief in God, not the repudiation of religion. As many have already commented, religion offers many positives including a clear moral code, sense of community and charity. It also must be stated that many negative things have sprung from poor interpretations of religious texts. That being said, anyone who repudiates religion and finds no positive from it, i.e. Marx, should be labeled an anti-theist, not an atheist.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Calvin

      Uh, most of the atheist I know are very aggressively repudiate religion and faith in God. They are basically forming their own religion and going after, in particular, Christians. What you describe is more of an agnosticism. Atheism is a faith in and of itself these days.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Atheist, not anti-theist

      Sorry Calvin, agnostics are those who express a doubt in the existence of a supreme being. Your comment goes to my point. All those "atheists" you know who bad-mouth religion are better described as anti-theists.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I am an atheist and anti-proselytizing, anti-religion in my gov't and personal life. Other than that you are welcome to believe any little thing that comes into your head. Atheism is not a club or org. There are orgs made up of atheists, but they represent only themselves.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  6. Nick

    I'd also take my kid to the zoo, but they still couldn't come home with any of the animals.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Ironicus

      lol

      December 7, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Nonimus

      Excellent analogy!
      It's like an anthropology field trip.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  7. James

    Imagine that, athiest want their kids to make educated decisions of how they live thier lives....how many christains would allow their kids to exposed to athiest views and let them make up their own minds? That's what I thought.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • smartaz

      Pretty much every one of them since that is what you get in public education, no?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually my sister's friend started to be home schooled this year because her mother didnt want her exposed to any ideas like evolution and such.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Exactly, that is one of the prime motivators for home-schooling.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Nonimus

      I don't see Atheism taught in public schools at all. If you are referring to Evolution, that is science which has nothing to with belief and faith and everything to do with evidence and logic.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. A4mrtheist

    I hope this leads to a more in depth study. It looks like atheists are more open. Of course it did not take a study to show us that.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Nick

      Probably because Atheists don't have some magic man in the sky encouraging them to convert or kill people.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • xyx25

      Romans 1:20-23 "20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."

      Psalm 53:1 "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good."

      December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Ooooh that must have been difficult.....write in a book of your faith how people that dont believe are fools and then claim it as some kind of unearthly wisdom, lol.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • RFBJR

      Looks like Cedar Rapids must be one of those fools. I'm just sayin'.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • MrHanson

      Um Nick this is an article about Christianity not Islam. It's just amazing how Atheists generalize.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  9. Epidi

    My husband's Catholic & I'm Pagan (opposites do attract). They were both baptized (I cared not a whit – it satisfied his family), and were exposed to both "religions". They enjoyed having both in their lives and now that they are adults they lean towards their Native Am background. When my son was in the hospital preping for surgery the nurse asked him if he wanted a clergy there. I think the meds were taking effect – he asked – "Whaaat?" She asked if he was concerned about his soul. He said of course he was. He looked over at me and I brought out a dreamcatcher and put it over his bed and assured him his ancestors & the Great Spirit & Mother were watching over him. He said later he felt relieved that I had done so and thanked me. But he celebrates Christmas. It's an odd blend I guess but something an individual has to reconcile for themselves given the choices they make.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  10. Tomcat

    Regarding how Catholics view the story of Genesis, creation, and evolution, you are confusing Catholicism with the Young Earth Creationism/Biblical literalism of certain fundamentalist sects.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  11. Brad

    Uggghhhh, who cares. Do what you want, believe what you want, Share it if asked, otherwise just shut up about your beliefs, no one REALLY cares. Aeithiest talk about how religiouse people are sheep and blah blah blah, so then why do they have websites telling you what to say if asked this question or that question by a relgiouse person? They are just another organisation, that I hope to avoid like the religiose organisations. Why is it people HAVE to belong in a group, why can't we just be human and get along. STUPID STUPID STUPID!!!

    December 7, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  12. David

    No, (if horses) you are wrong. Scripture talks about God being there before time began. God has always existed. He is not created by human hands or a god that has no beginning and no end. HE IS the Beginning and the End. The Alpha and Omega. Prince of Peace and Lord of lords. His name is Jesus.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Concern

      David, you're missing it. The point is: it's fallacious for a person to say "something didn't come from nothing, there had to be a creator" and in the next breath say "that creator came from nothing." It's a logical contradiction.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • JohnQuest

      David, that is a circular argument and therefor invalid and unsound.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Vulcan

      A man-god is highly illogical. You'll look with disdain upon Greek and Norse mythology, but you think your own makes more sense? It makes sense that somethng more intelligent than humans is out there somewhere. I don't think the universe just popped up on its own. However, I don't think a man-god did it.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • A4mrtheist

      Prove that to someone who does not believe in the bible.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Tyler

      According to uneducated desert wondering nomads ..... Would you believe them today? I thought so.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • c free

      David you're right. what Concern doesn't seem to understand and maybe it's because Christians don't do a good enough job ;explaining is...God is eternal. That's why he wasn't created and it's still not a contradiction. The universe i s not eternal so when someone says it was created they are saying something entirely different. To lump the true Christian God in with everything else is to totally misunderstand who you are talking about.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Dr. Logic

      Claims made with no evidence, can be dismissed with no evidence.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • RFBJR

      If you believe that God always existed or if you believe in the big bang and matter was formed from nothingness, both are "unproveable". I've always believed it is not your beginning you should be so concerned with, but your end. Death is coming and you cannot escape it. What will happen to you when you die?

      December 7, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Concern

      c free, I understand that you would like to skate the issue, but it is a contradiction.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  13. God2

    Contrary to this sociologist's assertion, I've never met the atheist who was against "religious people". Against religion, sure, but only out of concern for the welfare of everyone including its followers.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Well said.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Larry L

      As an atheist I understand what you're saying but may agree less now than a few years ago. The evangelical Christians here in Texas have worked hard to impose their religious dogma on our State, especially in the area of education. I've become far more sensitive to it when I see them attempt to alter history and science to supplant knowledge with mythology. They're using Christianity as a political tool to get elected and to influence the power-brokers in the State. In a time when our deficits are soaring we allow enormous mega-chruches tax deductions and exemptions. Religious people can divert the money others pay into feseral income coffers – straight to the church. For these reasons (and others) I'm beginning to feel more hostility toward religious people, who make the choices and create the environment I've described above.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Skip

      Please....dude spare me. Get over yourself.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Ryan

      I'm an atheist, and I'm against all kinds of religious folks that wish to persecute or legislate against people different from themselves. Take gay marriage for example. Religious folks want to legislate against equality, because of a few lines of their stupid book that they decide they want to believe (yet they throw the stuff that they aren't interested in out).

      December 7, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  14. Mark

    Very interesting. Even as a Christian I find that interesting and I should say that I'm pretty impressed that they would do so.

    A question to any athiest. What happens if the child comes to a different conclusion about the existence of God?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • bagger

      once a sound base of scientific knowledge is in place then it would generally acceptable to let them go hear about all these invisible all powerfull super heros that no one can proves exists. Anyone can use the scientific method at that point to come to the conclusion that there never was such a thing. Why would they allow these religions to have any affect on their kids prior to true education on facts?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • cmc

      If you introduce your children to the world of religion in hopes they'll make their own decision, then that decision (whatever it ends up being) should be respected. It certainly wouldn't be the first thing parents and kids didn't agree on.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I'd still love her just the same. I'm sure there are many things we will not agree on during our lifetimes. If she gets overly fundy preachy then their may be a bit of conflict, but it will have to be up to her work that out since there is about a 0 chance of getting me to believe in one of these fantasies. My oldest, very best friend in the world has recently found religion but he respects me enough to not even hint at trying to convince me and I like and respect him enough to be quite happy with his positive relationship with his church ( an unusually liberal variety).

      December 7, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Mark

      bagger...

      I see your line of reasoning, but I get confused on one point. There are a lot of career scientists, very intelligent people, trained in the sciences who believe in God. Are you saying that those people don't have a sound base in scientific knowledge?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • CNN

      I expect anyone who has any sort of viewpoint on the matter to be able to articulate why they believe what they do and a basis for it. If my (non existant ) child were to come to a conclusion that god is real, jesus was his son and there's a ghost around here somewhere, I would expect him/her to be able to elaborate on that more than just, "because father john says so"

      December 7, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Mark

      A scientist believing in god is of course not unheard of, but as I see it, many comparmentalize, rationalize or apologize for different parts of their religion. There are many scientists out there who have a belief in god and read their bibles, but when it comes to doing their work, they leave religion by the wayside. A scientist that uses their beliefs as a basis in their experiments are doing so at their own peril and just asking to be proven wrong by their peers.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Mike

      If the child comes to a different conclusion than the secular parent, then clearly the child is doomed to be tortured forever in a pit of fire.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I am endeavouring to teach my child to beware of shamans who charge a fee for salvation.
      However, so long as she obeys the one and only commandment in the Vestibule house – do no unnecessary harm – then she may follow any religion she chooses.
      Our library at home has a religion/spirituality section with everything from B'Hai to Buddhism.
      We read a lot of Scooby-Do and Tinkerbell books at bedtime..... does that count as exposure to the occult and celtic mythology?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • bagger

      The conflicting beliefs of these god believing scientists are rationalized (from what they have said) in the best way that they can, by not thinking about it too much, ignoring the vast imperfections of their religion and cherry picking the feel good parts, but mainly by not thinking about it too much.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Mark

      Chuckles...

      Yeah, I'll go along with that. The only reason I asked the question is because so many athiests cite science as they're reason for not believing, but yet a lot of scientists (granted not the majority) believe in God, and the Bible. How does one scientist believe and another not? It just confuses me, that's all.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Greg Shaffer

      I would engage in healthy and spirited debate with them as to the specifics of that faith, but would ultimately respect their right to choose their philosophy as they feel is best for them, and would not treat them any differently or think any lesser of them because of it.

      Not to belabor the point but this is in stark contrast to a great many examples I can think of from my own life, where children have chosen to abandon their religious beliefs and as a direct result have been flatly disowned by their religious parents. And yet somehow atheists are the "immoral" ones.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Mark

      I think it mainly comes down a lot of cherry picking a very deist interprestation of the bible and separating themselves from literalists at all costs. A scientist that believes in the god of abraham probably has a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to believing that gensis, exodus, numbers, etc.... is actual historical truth or if it's just stories told to give you insight into what god is and moral lessons. There are scientists out there who are literalists and will tell you that although they have not reconciled their own findings and genesis (or even worse, some will tell you they have) but by and large they don't get very far.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """There are a lot of career scientists, very intelligent people, trained in the sciences who believe in God. Are you saying that those people don't have a sound base in scientific knowledge?"""

      It's very difficult sometimes to shake beliefs which were drummed into you at an early age.

      I doubt that you will find many scientists who came to believe in god after they were educated.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • griz5106

      The fact that they are freely exposing their children to the church implies that they will be free to form their own opinion. A lot better approach than being forced to accept the dogma.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • ChrisL

      @Mark ... I do take my children to church even tho I am a non-believer and if one or all of my children (I have 4) choose a different idea on the existence of god (or gods) I feel that is their choice and I will be ok with it… in America we have freedom of/from religion and in truth none of us know if anyone is right or wrong on the mysteries of life after death or death in general…I feel that both sides of thought on the existence of god/s have their place and thru mutual respect both sides can live with one another without worry of judgment from the other… I have always said, I don’t believe in your god but that doesn’t make one of us wrong and the other right, it just means we have a different idea of what we should follow and nothing is wrong with that

      December 7, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • RFBJR

      @Mark:

      You are surely bringing up good points and I agree with your way of thinking.

      Putting religion aside, let's simply talk about God or no God. Either He exists or He doesn't. Believing in Him is not religion; it's just a matter of fact or fiction. That being said, the question is: Does our existence belong to a series of chance occurrences or is there a mind that has designed the universe? Without making a real argument here, I believe design to be there more logical conclusion. I know many that read this post will disagree and that is fine. We have had brilliant minds on both sides of the debate.

      There is one thing that hold true over time; men have not unlocked the mystery of life. What is life? How does a seed know what it is? Why can't we sustain our own life? Why do we die? If we can unlock the mystery of life, we can overcome death. However, man has failed to do that. Many believe that it will be figured out eventually. I believe that God gives life. Far-fetched? I don't think so. I see amazement in the the largeness of the universe all the way to the molecules of water. How do you take two highly flammable gases, fuse them together and create a substance that puts out fires? I don't think it is silly to believe that a very competent mind created that vs. it happening by chance.

      Once you believe in God, how is He defined? Who is He? What is He? Does He have a plan? This is where religion comes into the picture. Once again, without a real significant argument (I'll be typing all day), I choose Christianity. Actually, Christ chose me, but that is a different story. If you think that sounds weird, I do to, but it is what it is.) I am reaffirmed in my belief system time and time again, that Jesus has shown us the correct path. Here is the one thing that I know...the Bible is the only book in the history of time that tells the future in advance exactly as told 100% of the time to the split second. If you think that is garbage or overstated, ok, your choice. Have you really followed up on that belief? Is it founded? I encourage reading the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He has some other good books, too.

      Now, I'm wondering if the following posts will have any real meat or if they will just call me names?

      December 7, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Frankenmule

      @RFBJR

      No one knows the reason for the existence of life. But why look to antiquated, Bronze Age explanations for answers? Followers of scripture have evolved from a literatlist interpretation of the text to more of an allegorical interpretation–whereas the wildy untenable stories that used to be treated as fact are now meant to be boiled down to the moral essence. This is because Biblical teachings have been steadily chipped away and contradicted by scientific study. I don't feel that, because science has not yet, or maybe ever, answered some lofty questions, we should default back to dogma that has been largely debunked to fill the vacuum.

      So, instead of saying "I was created by God because I don't understand, and will never endeavor to understand, the complex universe in which I live," why not say "I don't know." Why is that so hard? It may be an unconfortable position not to profess to have all of the answers. And it may be an especially uncomfortable position not to know what happens to you after you die, but I'd rather be honest with my intellect than disingenuously follow a belief system that is baseless aside from a collection of allegories (check that, just baseless). The Scientific Method is the only truth-based way forward–not a religion, mind you. Just a path–the best path available.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • RFBJR

      @Frankenmule

      Sir, I realize you may think I'm wacky, but I do know that there is a God. I also know that I am going to heaven when I die. It is not a guess, it is a knowledge. It is called the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It can only be given to you by the Holy Spirit. Once you have it, you know. Some will certainly say that that is hilarious, ha, ha, ha ho, ho, ho, hee-hee, lol and so on, call me stupid and say I'm "touched". However, here is a simple question, how do you know I don't know? That assumption is mere speculation. As a matter of fact, we know thought exists, but how do you prove it exists through the scientific method?

      The good news is that this knowledge is available to anyone. I'm not special. Quite frankly I was very naive when I received this knowledge. If you would like to receive this knowledge, Google "Romans road to salvation" and follow the steps. If you do that with a sincere desire to have your heart changed, it will be. You may as well humble yourself to God now because it will happen eventually. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. So, your choice...here in this time or in hell later?

      December 8, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  15. The Jackdaw

    I am an atheist. I do not believe in any form of deity and as far as the Christian religions go, a quick glance at history shows you how it was forged from the leftovers of dozens of other faiths. Its hokum, and that’s all.

    That being said, I don’t think religion is something that should be done away with. I’m not suggesting that people should believe, I’m suggesting that all of the religions of the world having something to offer. Their wisdom is real, but its wisdom created by man, not by god. I believe religions are the amalgam of our collective subconscious’s search. Weather that is a search for some kind of “spiritual truth”, or just pattern recognition within an incredibly complex system, I don’t think it matters.

    There is clearly no God, but religion still has value.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Nietzsche

      Perhaps it would be easier to consider your perspective if you weren't so condescending, smug, arrogant and absolute about your own opinion. Learn to package your message respectfully and people may actually have an interest in what you have to say.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The reality is that there are a large number of people that will only be "good" out of fear of eternal punishment. As a society we need as many of THOSE people to believe as possible. That is the only measurable value I see that acts as a counterweight to the negative influences of religious belief. The positive messages of religion are all well and good. But so many people (not all of course) use their religious beliefs to excuse discrimination against people that do not fit their world view.
      There are times I feel quite good about religious influences, but their are times that I could wish religions never existed at all.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      I reread what I wrote and I dont see anything smug there. I guess thats a matter of opinion though, so sorry you took offense. If you took offense because I said there is no God, I think that highlights why it is so difficult to have this discussion with somebody who beleives.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      I agree with MarkinFL. If you need to beleive that a god is going to smite you in order to be a good person, then by all means, do NOT stop beleiving!

      Its scary to think that morality has been hijacked by religion. Good should be done for the betterment of the group and therefore the individual. That should be enough, but i'm afraid that you are right and it is often not. Humans want a quick pay-off. Greed beats out goodness quite often.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Ryan

      To those of you that claim that some people need to fear eternal damnation in order to not act upon their implied evilness, I'd like to cite a bit of research. Check out wikipedia's entry on "Demographics of Atheism." You'll see that many countries in the EU have very high rates (sometimes 1/3 of the population) of non-believers, yet very low rates of violent crime. Interesting to note: the areas of the world with the most fundamental / puritanical religious tendencies are also those with the highest crime rates. Case in point: The US and the Middle East.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Ryan – you are perfectly right about that. I agreed that some individuals need religion to be good people, but I was not touching on the fact that more people have been killed in the name of "god" than for any other reason. I think religion does more damage than good, for the most part. Nothing halts progress like religion.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  16. Zalhanan

    I am an Atheist and I attend church regularly. I like church folk and I enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and community involvement. Most church folk are just good people. I sometimes disagree with the sermon but it always makes me think. Life is quite boring when you surround yourself with ONLY people that agree with you on every point.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Hemlock

      That's why atheists are more interesting, we think.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  17. JohnQuest

    No surprises here, I have never been a believer but I go to church and pay ti-thes. None of my children are believer but they were raised in Church and for the most part still attend. The Church is a central part of our community, I believe a lot of their mission is good (feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, fighting for human rights and the like). I have also found that a good percentage of the congregation do not believe, they think like I do that the Church is a good idea but they do not buy into all the "supernatural" stuff like the "Burning Bush" or "Walking on Water", I would say they are no more Christian than I am.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  18. bc

    I'm an evolutionary biologist at a top five research program and would like to make a couple of points. I just read this article and it isn't very compelling. The article is published in a low impact factor journal (i.e., how journals are rated). The authors don't provide any data beyond one table of descriptive 'statistics', and provide no formal analysis of the data. They make statements such as, "Seventeen percent of atheists with children had attended a religious service more than once in the past year, compared to 10 percent of nonparent atheists, results that are statistically significant at conventional levels". I for one would like to know what they define as 'conventional'. Further, they discuss individual responses rather than patterns of large effect size in these data. So on a basic level this is crummy science. With proper analysis a researcher could begin to tease apart those attending because they want to introduce their children to religion per se and those that want to introduce their children to their culture (e.g., Jewish traditions). Without proper analysis this is just another paper published in another low tier journal that is not rigorous enough for CNN to be citing.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • JohnQuest

      With all that said (I have no reason to fault your assessment of the science), do you agree with the premise that Atheist attend religious services for one reason or another, and do you think it is a good idea or a bad idea?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • bagger

      the article is rather poorly written. several spots of verb confusion or missing words.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • bc

      @JohnQuest – Sure, atheists attend religious services. The question is do they attend more than what we might expect randomly and if so, why? I'm guessing it is because their spouse is religious, or to introduce their children to the culture associated with their religion. I don't think however that many atheist scientists do this to show their children all of the 'options'. An atheist scientist is not generally going to think there is any reason to pretend as though there is equal support for each proposed religion or idea. Rather, they would introduce their children to each idea weighted by the amount of support there is for each.

      I should provide full disclosure and state I am an atheist and do not attend religious services. I do however come from a family where my wife and I are the only atheists and most relatives are very religious (including extended family).

      December 7, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I would certainly not be surprised if this is quite true. I do not bring my children to church, but I do try to teach them about the major religions and expose them to many Christian and Jewish traditions ( our family history includes both). Our society is significantly influenced by these religions and the more they understand them, the better for them.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  19. Kenny Blair

    Which makes more logical sense. Everything we see around us sprang from nothing or was created by a higher intelligence (ie God) ?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • if horses had Gods ...

      For me it makes more sense to spring from nothing since at some point even a God had to spring from nothing .. so it's the only thing that makes sense.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • A4mrtheist

      Does it make sense that an "intelligent being" would create a life form that is so susceptible to disease and require complex combinations of proteins, minerals and vitamins as we? Would an "intelligent being" make a an insect (mosquito) that produces a coagulant in it system so it can suck blood?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Mike

      Creation ex nihilio is a religious concept, not a scientific one.

      Conservation of mass/energy (E^2)= (M^2)*(C^4)+(P^2)*(C^2) which reduces to E = MC2 under non-relatvistic conditions, has never been observed to be violated. Thus creation ex nihilio is REJECTED by science.

      If you study some cosmology, you'd be aware of the broad array of pre-big bang hypotheses and you would know that NONE of them posit creation ex nihilio.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Greg Shaffer

      That's a false dichotomy as atheistic philosophy does not require that the universe "sprung from nothing." People sometimes interpret the Big Bang in this way, but understand that our perception of the Big Bang is just that, our perception. Consider looking at it this way: the universe has always existed and will always exist, and the Big Bang is simply the moment in time where the universe transitioned from something incomprehensible to humans to something comprehensible to humans.

      But regardless of the false dichotomy, there is abundant scientific evidence for the Big Bang (however one describes the specifics of it) and absolutely no scientific evidence that the Universe was created by a self-aware being, so quite obviously it is far more logical to accept the Big Bang than special creation at the hands of a god.

      It's worth noting that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive in theory, but in practice most religious stories (usually meant to be interpreted as factual) are in direct conflict with observable facts, including the big bang.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Dr. Logic

      What's logical about 'knowing' something based on no evidence other than your gut feeling?

      December 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Nonimus

      It is, as someone else said, a false dichotomy.
      Having said that, it still makes more sense that everything "sprang from nothing", because I have yet to see any evidence of a being with such powers.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Nonimus

      ... mind you, I said, "more" sense, not that it makes "sense" either way.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Shadowflash1522

      um, according to your Bible, everything "sprang from nothing" anyway: "In the beginning, there was nothing." Or "the void", depending on your translation of choice. Then God (terribly uncreative name, I must say. It's like naming your dog "Dog") sprang from nothing, then he created everything else from nothing. As opposed to everything just springing from nothing by itself.

      Your point is completely moot.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Madtown

      Interesting responses. If this all sprang from nothing, or transitioned to a form we're more able to understand, how come we haven't observed more items "springing from nothing"? Have astronomers been able to observe other universes be spontaneously created? Even if this universe spontaneously created, how did the area/box/volume of space that it was created within come into being? Just hypotheticals I wonder about.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Hmmm, a supernatural being with magical powers that has always and will always exist, is all powerful and all knowing, yet apparently wasnt aware of the future downfall of man when he put a tree in a garden and then said now dont eat that fruit, who created everything for some unknown purpose, and set up a strange system of life whereby you live to see where you go when you die for some bizarre reason.

      hmm, lets see, which is more logical? no, no, dont prompt me, let me see if i can work this out myself.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Have astronomers been able to observe other universes be spontaneously created?"

      er, well for starters we couldnt spot more universes being created because we are in the universe.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Madtown

      er, well for starters we couldnt spot more universes being created because we are in the universe.
      -----–
      err, umm.......thanks. I meant galaxies, but thanks for the sarcasm!

      December 7, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Ryan

      What makes more sense? Everything around us came to be (stop using the word created, please) or was created by a being that is somehow immune to the rules of "it exists, it must have been created" - the only argument that creationists have is one of faith, because the word faith negates all rules, evidence, or arguments to the contrary.

      Fact – believing in something doesn't make it true.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  20. IceT

    Try going to different religious ceremonies .. stand back & see the forest for the trees. It's kind of funny & creepy at the same time ... but very eye opening.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Try going to different religious ceremonies .. stand back & see the forest for the trees. It's kind of funny & creepy at the same time ... but very eye opening."""

      That's an odd quirk about religions. All but your own look quite bizarre.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:40 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.