My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville
December 24th, 2011
03:00 AM ET

My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. This article is adapted from his book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.”

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN) - My favorite Christmas movie is, unquestionably, Frank Capra’s 1946 feel-good flick "It’s a Wonderful Life." Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed play George and Mary Bailey, a happy couple living a life of genteel poverty in the small American town of Bedford Falls.

George is a kind and generous man. He is active in his community and in the war effort. Most importantly, George is all that stands between the town’s mean old man, Mr. Potter, and the demise of all that is good in Bedford Falls.

As financial pressures crowd in on poor George, he begins to question his value to the community. So much so, that he wishes he had never been born. To demonstrate to George the folly of his wish, an angel is sent to give him a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would look like if that wish were granted. In Dickensian fashion, the angel takes him from one scene in that small town to another. The difference is stark. Indeed, Bedford Falls isn’t even Bedford Falls anymore, but a place called Pottersville. The town’s main street is a red-light district, crime is rampant, and life there is coarsened.

When George, in desperation, turns to the angel, seeking an explanation for these drastic changes, the angel says, “Why, George, it’s because you were never born!”

According to a recent poll conducted by The Hill, 69% of voters think America is in decline, and 83% say they are worried about the country’s future. And that has generated a lot of finger-pointing: Republicans blame President Obama; Obama blames Republicans; environmentalists blame industrialization; the “Occupy” people blame everybody who isn’t occupying something - most of us agree that there is a problem, but efforts to identify the source of it are incomplete, misguided or downright evil.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

The problems of human society are the problems of human nature, wrote "Lord of the Flies" author William Golding. Indeed. This was the discovery of the monastics. Seeking to escape the evil of the world, they found instead a doctrine central to Christianity: that evil is innate to us all. History tells us that a given philosophy, creed or religion will either restrain our darker impulses or exacerbate them, but escape them we cannot. Not in this life, anyway.

So what will save us from ourselves and preserve human dignity and life in the societies we create? Democracy? Socialism? Stitching up the ozone?

These days, there is a lot of talk about religion - Christianity in particular - and its role in public life. Whether it is protesting Nativities, the debate over “In God We Trust” as our country’s motto or the controversy surrounding the public faith of Tim Tebow, a national discussion is taking place on what the present and future role of Christianity in America should be. The consensus among the secular elites seems to be that it is a bit like smoking: It is harmful, but if you must do it, do it in the designated areas only. Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist and atheist provocateur, calls Christianity a “mental virus” that should be eradicated.

The professor should be more careful in what he wishes for. Like many others, he grossly underestimates the degree to which his own moral and intellectual sensibilities have been informed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.

"It’s a Wonderful Life" is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief. Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society. The data bears this out. According to the research of The Barna Group, Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed - “the least of these,” as Jesus called them. (This is precisely what Nietzsche, and Hitler after him, hated about Christianity.)

But Christian influence goes well beyond benevolence: Our laws, art, literature and institutions find meaning in a rich Christian heritage. In his new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest," Harvard historian Niall Ferguson argues that the decline of the West can, in part, be attributed to the decline of a robust Christian presence in Western culture. Ferguson’s point is largely an economic one, but the inference that Christianity has served to strengthen the fabric of life in the West as we have known it is unmistakable. T.S. Eliot made a similar observation: “If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”

That is just another way of saying that the difference between a nation with meaningful Christian influence and a nation without it is the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Church and state

soundoff (3,025 Responses)
  1. AS

    I am a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Ukraine. I don't need religion to tell me to do good things. I do it because I am human.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)


      Your good deeds are obviously a trick by the devil to test the faith of the believers.

      See ... there's a nonsense response to everything in Christianity.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • Mom of Three

      I couldn't agree more. I am an atheist and I made 6 fleece scarves and gave them to a Mormon family who was needy. I donate numerous hours per year to the animal shelter, we give to food drives, my daughter's friend is very poor and we made sure she had a Christmas, my older daughter's friend's mother lost her job before Christmas, and we just delivered 20 gifts to their home, and they are fundamentalists. But we love them, because they are good people, and we want them to be happy. And, by the way, we are not rich. There's a hole in our roof. Our cars are clunkers. But we would rather give if we can manage it than keep it for ourselves. No god threatens us to do this, no church mandates it or guilts us into it. We do it because we are compassionate, and we are grateful for these people who are in our lives–no matter what they believe.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • RealityCheker

      Must be why 78.4% of Americans are Christians and less than 1/1000th of 1% of the American people are in the Peace Corps.

      December 24, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Reality_Checker_Checker

      And religion is losing more and more people everyday when they realize how utterly ridiculous it is.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Terry

      Good Post! Why is it that many people try to weave religion into anything that is viewed to be good, and they call on the devil to accept blame for everything that is bad?

      December 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • The Truth Hurts

      You do it because you want to be perceived as "good" by the majority of people in your society, who happen to be religious. If that is not the case, then you do it for selfish reasons, "it makes me feel good" or "if I help someone, it will come back to me".

      December 24, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Mike

      Hats off to you, sir or ma'am.

      December 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      AS, I suppose you believe that infants can feed, clothes, take care of themselves as soon as they are birthed? Obviously, loving caring parents insure you are feed, clothed, roof over your head. Therefore, your parents raised you with Christian values.


      December 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Kafir

      Tell me that HeavenSent is joking. That simply CAN'T be a serious response.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:57 am |
  2. John

    Dear author,

    The studies don't suggest Christians are more likely to give to the poor ect... than non-Christians. They suggest those who believe in something are more likely to do those things than those who don't believe in anything. Stop taking good research and putting into poor context.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • George

      Christian believe in something ... so they are more likely to give than someone that believes in nothing!

      December 24, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • John

      George –

      Of course but religious Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and people of other faiths also give more to the poor than those that are not religious. Oddly enough people who are raised to believe that giving to the poor is an ethical responsibility also give to the poor as often as those who are religious, even if they are not religious. Should we ignore the common thread and pretend it is just the followers of a specific faith that do these things?

      December 24, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • Mom of Three

      Once again, I am an atheist and I made 6 fleece scarves and gave them to a Mormon family who was needy. I donate numerous hours per year to the animal shelter, we give to food drives, my daughter's friend is very poor and we made sure she had a Christmas, my older daughter's friend's mother lost her job before Christmas, and we just delivered 20 gifts to their home, and they are fundamentalists. But we love them, because they are good people, and we want them to be happy. And, by the way, we are not rich. There's a hole in our roof. Our cars are clunkers. But we would rather give if we can manage it than keep it for ourselves. No god threatens us to do this, no church mandates it or guilts us into it. We do it because we are compassionate, and we are grateful for these people who are in our lives–no matter what they believe.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • RealityCheker

      Must have been an accident by John to FAIL to provide ANY proof of his claims.

      December 24, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Real Deal

      Mom of Three,

      Thank you!

      December 24, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • mswool

      Another atheist here... who gives openly and generously to charity, gives openly and generously of her time to her community, who is striving to raise socially aware, fair-minded, open-hearted children. And I've never been involved in any religion. Never needed a god or any other figure head, be it ghandi or warren buffet or brad pitt to motivate me to do what I know needs doing.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • thegadfly

      As an atheist, let me paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow: If I happen to run into anyone who doesn't believe in anything, I shall certainly let you know.

      When I was an agnostic, I had to take a great leap of faith to become an atheist.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • HeavenSent

      John, Christians stand for ALL of Jesus' truth. You being a non-believer stand for nothing.


      December 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Fizzylift

      Heaven Scent, you obviously think that believing in nonsense from 2000 years ago makes you good. I propose that those of us who don't buy into that rubbish are better because we do good for good's sake to help out our society and the planet and not because of the fear that if we don't do good we will be cast off into fire for a long-ass time. Religion doesn't make people do anything good for the sake of it, only for the self reward or fear of hell. And, all living things do good for their own clans otherwise they wouldn't survive. We have empathy in our brains which guide us. Don't attribute it to Santa Claus watching you. You're not a child anymore.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:24 am |
  3. Nicholas

    Imagine all the wonderful things we can do when we end religion. No more religious wars, no more wasting time listening to hateful sermons in church- instead help the poor NOT because you want to win them over for your personal religious team, but because they are human beings. Build beautiful and useful things for the love of humanity, not for your own personal imaginary friend. Religion is a scourge and preys on the weak. Let's end it now.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:49 am |
    • Jim

      And when, exactly, in the entirety of human history, has that ever happened, that you are so confident it is the inevitable outcome of ridding ourselves of religion, especially Judaism or Christianity? Let me answer that for you: never. It has never happened, and yet, you are convinced that it is because we haven't tried hard enough. What nonsense. Secularism is ultimately an philosophical epic fail, in that refuses to acknowledge that human nature is indelibly corrupt. That error in thought is the source of every social and policy failure attempted by every government that has ever existed, and eventually, secular government always leads to tyranny, because if there is no God to appeal to restrain human corruption on the individual level, there is only power to do it on a society-wide level. In this, Nietzsche was absolutely correct.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:01 am |
    • o.k.

      If you honestly believe that war will go away when religion goes away, you are a fool.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • dougaussie

      have you even sat thru one of those 'hateful' sermons. i would say i have sat thru over a thousand sermons and i can't recall any that were hateful. mostly they were about how God loves me and sent His son to tell me about everything and allowed atheist to kill him to prove His love. God has appointed only the name of Jesus as the name of salvation. But back to your original statement, 'imagine all the wonderful things you could do without christianity. or even the other religions. You could paint yourselves with tatoo"s, take drugs, dance around naked in the full moon sacrificing things to your ignorance. You could imagine your science is at its peak of understanding, please, they are still ignorant. 'love of humanity, what a joke that is, without religions things on earth would be 10 times worse.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Nicholas

      Doug, imagine what you could have done with the time you wasted sitting through over a thousand sermons. You could have done some really wonderful things.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:41 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)


      I know this may be difficult for a religious person to comprehend, but the poster didn't claim war will cease to exist when religion goes away. He only posited that religious wars will end, which is kind of true, by definition.

      There will still be wars over oil, borders, and the fate of the Galactic Republic, but religion will no longer be a reason to hate each other, because my views are fundamentally in conflict with yours, and the nature of religion means that we can never talk it out. Religion shuns logic, and promotes faith (aka gullibility) and therefore, two religions with opposing views will always be incompatible.

      Got it?

      December 24, 2011 at 4:59 am |
    • RealityCheker

      And it would result in nothing for Nicholas to use as a scapegoat for his own failings in life.

      Keep living the pipedream..... atheist is no more popular today than it was 50 years ago.

      December 24, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Blackened6677

      dougaussie, WTH are you talking about???

      have you even sat thru one of those 'hateful' sermons. i would say i have sat thru over a thousand sermons and i can't recall any that were hateful. mostly they were about how God loves me and sent His son to tell me about everything and allowed atheist to kill him to prove His love.

      – OK, it was allegedly the Jews that killed Jesus, NOT atheists.

      God has appointed only the name of Jesus as the name of salvation. But back to your original statement, 'imagine all the wonderful things you could do without christianity. or even the other religions. You could paint yourselves with tatoo"s, take drugs, dance around naked in the full moon sacrificing things to your ignorance.

      – Last I knew there were plenty of tattooed christians out there with drinking, drug and wife beating problems and since you are so knowledgeable about it, would you please tell us which religion dances around the moon sacrificing things to their ignorance?

      You could imagine your science is at its peak of understanding, please, they are still ignorant. 'love of humanity, what a joke that is

      – Science is still in it's infancy, and I am pretty sure if you asked someone who is actually IN the scientific community they would probably tell you the same thing. At least science attempts to look at facts instead of fiction to determine their answers before spewing them all over the place. Are they always right? No. But at least they get it right some of the time which is far more than I can say about religion.

      without religions things on earth would be 10 times worse.

      Really? And how awesome would it be without the science religion so desperately tried to snuff out by claiming anyone who doesn't follow along with their particular train of thought? Where would we be had religion not been allowed to interfere with progress?

      December 24, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Nick

      Nicholas, not sure you have ever listed to a sermon, but rather judge from afar. The Christian faith and culture has set in place so many good things that without them you would not have the rights you have today. Hope to see you in church Sunday. Have a lovely day.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • The Truth Hurts

      Religion cannot be "ended". If it were, however, one would see the same wars, because the root of the wars is not necessarily religion but the "core beliefs" of a culture. Wars will be fought over the type of atheism or the "core beliefs" of a group of atheists, among many other things. There will also be oppression and suppression of religion, obviously... All one has to do is look at the failed communist-atheist experiments to see just how bad it would be.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh yes Nicholas, let chaos run supreme in the streets. You lazy non-believers are so lazy and foolish, it's beyond ridiculous what you think, believe and have the audacity to write. Just once, I would like to read a well thought out to completion thought of any of your arguments that you complain about, but, through the blood, sweat and tears of former generations, were handed to you on a silver platter. To say that all of you non-believer are ingrates, is an understatement.


      December 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Fizzylift

      Hey, if you are going to call yourself "Reality Checker" then you should at least check some out before writing. Atheism is more popular now than 50 years ago. Look it up. I'll wait. In fact, do yourself a favor and look up the most atheistic countries on earth. Did you find them? Pretty great places: Finland, Sweden, Netherlands. They also tend to be rich and happy. Now, just for fun, look up the least religious states in America. Hmmm. They tend to be the richest, most educated and ones with better standards of living. Now, look up the most religious states. Looks like the deep South wins. Case rested. Reality Checker, Checked.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  4. polycarp pio

    Go ahead and spout off you antichrist fools, have fun with your athestic snobbery. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that your foolish words will come back to haunt you and one day you will bow your rebel knee to the LORD JESUS CHRIST. I hope you will turn and repent of your foolishness before it is to late. PP

    December 24, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • Mirosal

      So, just to be clear on this .. your 'god' wants us to bow, kneel and submit before it. Sounds like your 'god' has a MASSIVE inferiority complex, and needs SERIOUS therapy. Your god isn't much different than any other dictator that has roamed and rava.ged this planet throughout its history.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • kwcin10

      Sounds like someone needs to lay off the meds...

      December 24, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Todd

      Yeah, sounds like a guy I should worship, for if I don't, he'll send me to hell. But he loves me...

      December 24, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • dougaussie

      AMEN, america has withdrawn from the middle east, it has grown tired and weak, now the way is open for the antichrist. War is coming., and Christ is reading His horse for battle. Perhaps we have 10 years maybe 20.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Well, since you put Jesus's name in ALL CAPS, I guess it must be true.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • Mom of Three

      Look, if your belief helps you deal with life, then I'm all for it. But that's what it is–a coping mechanism, a comfort, a mental Binkie, if you will. I have NO problem that you believe what you do. I know I can't change your mind, ever. I won't try. But you can't change mine, either.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • Blackened6677

      THIS is the funniest thing I have read all day.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Jesus

      WOW! Another delusional poster who believes that a guy who lived in a whale, a deity who comes down to Earth to diddle a married woman, the guy who builds a ship and loads it with all the creatures on the planet, folks who live 600 to 900 years etc. These so-called "words of God" are too ridiculous to even be a children's book and yet we have some who actually believe this Bronze Age nonsense. Amazing!

      December 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • darindavis21

      Kneel, son of Joe-el. Kneel before Zod!!

      December 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • newton

      practice christian values rather than worshipping an idol, and then you have a good case

      December 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Gordon

      "Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you." -George Carlin

      December 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Fizzylift

      I can't wait to meet Jesus after I die. It would be much better than just rotting in the earth. Too bad it's nonsense. But, I hope to meet the Easter Bunny one day.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:33 am |
  5. Tracy

    I loved the movie so I read the article... That is where my respect for this essay ends
    . Part of what made George great was his connection to the people in his community. not the bit about bells and Angels... George was a beautiful soul who gave until it hurt... The angel was there to remind him that he did matter.
    In this article You brush off a lot of sincere people in your rush towards God. Occupy people beaten and pepper sprayed for daring to protest America's National Potteville problems mean so little ...but a football player's very public prayer pose is so inspiring. You threw out the meat and swallowed the genetically modified corn....whole. I think George Bailey would have been a bit more open minded.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • Lars J

      I agree. The problem with this article is that it lives unto itself and those that share his "world view". When Christianity had its full power and cultural influence in the Middle Ages, that was more a Pottersville than Pottersville. And prosperous countries like Finland and Sweden, where life expectancy, suicide, birth rates, educational scores, et al are higher than the US – are they Pottersville, too, in the author's mind. No, this article rings right not because it agrees with Scripture or reality but because it rings true to those of the "us and them" US nominal Christian culture.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:53 am |
  6. Paul Brown

    So is Mr. Taunton saying that Christianity eliminates red light districts and crime? Only in Frank Capra movies. His assertion that evil is innate in us all is expressed by the Christian teaching of Original Sin, meaning that all children are born in sin. Talk about your innate evil. There is also the God who threatens small children (and adults) with eternal suffering in the fires of hell if they commit a sin. Now, who couldn't love a God like that?

    December 24, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • dougaussie

      have you not heard of the great flood. God destroyed men, women, children, pregnant women, old men, old women, young men about to get married, dogs, cats, people who just built their first house, people who just retired, rich poor, great small. All he devoured with flood except noah. You imagine God is just like you, that your somehow equal or 'special'. He has labelled YOU sinner, unfit for heaven, to be devoured by the fires of hell, he made only one doorway into heaven...Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Don't imagine it won't happen to you, it will, you WILL stand on the sea of judgement with all humanity.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Dogoy

      So just to do a basic count here doug,how many times has mans numbers risen from insest?
      Leave it to a christian to be ok with nailing his sister or cousin.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Fizzylift

      Be nice to Doug, he still thinks the great flood was a true story and not a parable. 1. the Noah story makes no sense on so many levels that to list them all would give me Carpal Tunnel. But let's point out a big plot hole. Most living things live under water. How would a flood be anything but a plus for them?

      December 25, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Kafir

      Hard to believe there are adults who believe in the flood story.

      December 25, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • king

      Doug, you are right on the money. I am astonished at the misinformation on these posts. There is only one way to heaven and that is by confessing that Jesus is the son of God and that he died for our sins. It doesn't matter how much good you do in this world, it won't get you there. It doesn't matter how many times you sin, that won't keep you from there. Make no mistake about it you will have to give an account to God for your life when you get there. So as Christians, people should see God's love through our good deeds and love for each other. I without a doubt know there is a God and his holy spirit lives within me. I can only pray and hope that others on here will experience his love one day.

      December 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  7. j

    The most beautiful thing which could happen to the world would be the disappearance of organized religion.

    During this holiday season, take a moment to remember how much blood has been spilled for fake Gods, fake prophets, and holier-than-thou zealotry.

    How much of that are you responsible for? How much of that are you complacent in?

    If you answered none, then you're a fool.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • o.k.

      @j-people kill for many reasons. You don't need religion to find a good war. Say hello to Stalin and Pol Pot for us.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Stalin was an atheist, but he wasn't killing people in the name of atheism. You really don't do anything in the name of atheism (other than maybe resent stuff like In God We Trust being plastered everywhere). Atheism doesn't "teach" you to do stuff. It's not another religion. Atheism is the ABSENCE of religion.

      Stalin's power depended significantly on his alliance with the Orthodox church. Any dictator is always enabled by having obedient subjects, and nothing breeds obedience like religion. Atheists learn to think for themselves, despite the massive peer pressure to conform in this country (and most others where the majority are religious). Also, in no way was his government an atheist organization, even though he was. See, we atheists don't feel the need to go peeing on everything we're near to mark our territory, like Christians do.

      The other difference I see is that atheists don't defend Stalin. He was an evil dude, and we don't consider ourselves a team like you do. Christians, however, do defend warmongers like George W. Bush, who start wars with their faith as guiding influences.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:07 am |
    • Kafir

      Well said, Nate.

      December 25, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • John

      Nate, it's very impressive the way you can spin like a top. Perhaps you should have been a figure skater.

      December 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  8. Peikovianii

    The problem is that George Bailey's life of self-sacrifice is only rewarded by divine intervention. Remove the faith, and people will replace Church with Party. Their training in self sacrifice will continue. Instead of Heaven, they will sacrifice for the Revolution. Just like Heaven, it will never come, and they will have sacrificed for nothing. How much self-sacrifice is needed? What if no one was sacrificed? That is what the free market is intended to do. Men trade with one another without force or sacrifice.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • MissusPowell

      IF NOONE SACRIFICED: to start off, simply, you probably would not be here today as you probably would have died trying to live on your own at only a few days old. Maybe that is enough. lol I just couldn't believe you said that!! LIFE IS NOT WALL STREET!! Many have sacrificed much for you long before you were ever born. And YOU have noone to thank, right?
      You did it all on your own. THINK AGAIN.

      January 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  9. Kevin

    Now that the watchdog agency (Hitchens) has been disbanded, Mr. Taunton seems to think he can just spout off on all the arguments he got killed on in the past.

    Not happening, pal.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • Jesus

      Hitch's writings live on as does the writings of so many LOGICAL thinkers

      December 24, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Exactly my reaction too! And what is with "... Corruption of Unbelief" – how "loaded" is that?

      December 24, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • captain america

      canadian opinion is way out of focus on this one, none of their f'n business.There's your sign

      December 24, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  10. nigel


    The Barna group is an evangelical organization. They are not qualified to carry out a poll of this sort because they have a conflict of interest and are inherenty unscientific.

    Richard Dawkins could argue this guy under the table.

    The west is not declining. By suggesting it is, you are undermining your own argument.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:37 am |
  11. Joshua Norton

    Because benevolence and altruism are strictly Judeo-Christian traiits, humanity is inherently evil, and a life without Jesus is a life with Hitler.

    This article isn't very good.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Jesus

      You are the pinnacle of gross stuipidity. No doubt you will cast your vote in 2012 for some GOP stooge

      December 24, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  12. guest

    Christ. Where is Hitchens when we need him.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Mom of Three

      In the ground, rotting, like everyone else who has ever died. That's it.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:05 am |
    • Jesus

      He is decomposing as we all we someday do.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • mswool

      it was rather impolite of him to croak on us.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  13. Bigmouth

    "Occupy" people who blame everyone who's not occupying anything ... downright evil

    Hmmm, I kinda see where his thinking is at. Jesus must hate the 99%...

    The Christian faith is not mental virus, that's too extreme. Secularists rarely go that far. But Christian values itself can be problematic to our history. How many people in the history of mankind that were slaughtered in the name of God?

    December 24, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • o.k.

      I don't know...how many? Its real easy to make the claim, but a little harder to back it up–that is the inference that Christianity is responsible for so many deaths. You're free to pull out those oldies but goodies (crurades and inquistion), but the truth is those events were led by power hungery people using illiterate masses to do their dirty work. If you look at the modern era (which I would describe as post-Guttenberg), where people had the opportunity to read for themselvces what Christ demanded from us (love your enemy), you'll start to see a dramatic shift in who is killling who–and why. Consider, for instance, the U.S. It unequivocally has a Christian backgournd. Under your theory, we should be killing everyone in God's name. But history proves otherwise: I defy you to find one war in which this country has advanced because we believe Jesus expected us to kill others–Revolution? No that was about taxation and slavery. 1812? No, lingering issues over the revolution and add naval impressment. Mexican-American war? We just wanted more territory. Civil War? Slavery and Union preservation. WW I? Sorry, not a jihad. WW II? Hitler and Pearl Harbor. Korea, Vietnam, Greneda? Political ideology. Gulf Wars? Other side might have seen this as a religious war–we wanted to preserve the flow oil. In the mean time, the atheistic communists (Stalin and Pol Pot anyone?) were wipping out entire populations.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)


      Of course, Jesus didn't tell Christians to start wars. But, Christians today absolutely interpret their faith as justification for being warmongers. Example? Wow, I guess I have to go all the way back to .... right now.

      As of a few months ago, we were in wars in six (6) Islamic nations at once: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. The biggest reason was religion. Does oil play a role? Sure, some. But Afghanistan has no oil whatsoever. But, boy howdy, it's got some Muslims there. And the Judeo-Christians sure do love killin' Muslims.

      That doesn't even count the fact that while Jesus didn't advocate war, per se, he did establish a religion where no other god is allowed to be recognized, and those who don't abide in him are supposed to burn. So, when you teach your minions that, you make it pretty hard for them to tolerate people of other faiths, or of no faith. That kind of intolerance leads to war.

      Got any other easy questions you'd like answers to?

      December 24, 2011 at 5:13 am |
    • Kafir


      "Manifest Destiny" (westward expansion) was driving by the notion of America being the so called "city on the hill", divinely ordained, and as you know, wiped out most of the indigenous tribes of North America. "Christian Reconstructionism" played a role as well. Look it up.

      But this is all moot anyway, because it isn't about how many people were murdered in the name of Christ. The point is that a religion which bills itself as a beacon of morality should not be responsible for a SINGLE death. And yet, we see the opposite throughout history, to an obscene degree.

      December 25, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  14. clearfog

    Pottersville sounds like more fun.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • Jesus

      Pottersville was the place that could have been if greedy money grubbing bankers had their way....wait a minute...our country TODAY IS POTTERSVILLE!!

      December 24, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  15. Eric Fierke

    the problem is that, these days, you have people calling themselves christian who are expousing absolutely nothing of Jesus's teachings, and you have tattoo'ed, long haired hippies who are content with sharing what little they have as they protest social injustice at Zucotti park – just as Jesus would have done. I see a lot more of Christ in the occupy protesters than I would ever look to see in the local megachurch. Jesus would be appalled and mortified at what is being done in His name today, while there are atheists who know far more about the teachings of Christ than any "prosperity gospel" preacher.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Synapse

      Brother Eric- BINGO!!! Merry Christmas from all of us here in the Pottersville of today.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Jim

      You're absolutely right. And if the teachings of Jesus were simply about doing good things, then that example would be enough to reject Christianity altogether. But, that's not the main point of Jesus' teachings. Having faith in God – a distinct, specific personal deity – is the main point of Jesus' teachings. Out of that faith – good deeds. The result may be the same, but the cause is different. Jesus had no use or tolerance for the faithless – whether they were religious folk or not.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  16. ab77

    Really? Did Taunton SERIOUSLY compare Nietzsche to HITLER? Wow, just wow. Clearly he likes to comment about authors whose work he hasn't read in depth. Absurdity at its best.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Settling In

      Nietzsche was the major philosphical influence on Hitler's ideology... study a bit of history and that comes through in spades. The whole idea of the "Super Man" and the atheistic society that Nietsche espoused was key to National Socialist (NSDP) thinking. Go beyond Google and Wikipedia, man... your mind and spirit will thank you for it.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:04 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Settling In.

      Uh, fail!

      The Nazis were not atheists. Hitler was a non-denominational Christian, and so were the vast majority of his German minions. Atheism has absolutely nothing to do with Nazism.

      Getting information from Wikipedia would obviously be a step forward for you. Your ignorant nonsense is straight off the Fox "News" Channel.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • Allen

      To believe in the hammer, andvil and and armor, but given no thought to the blacksmith, is a mistake. Only frighteningly small human minds could concieve themselves as the pinnacle of random creation in a universe of infinite proportion and possibility. There is a God. Not only is there a God, but BECAUSE there is a God, there is an endowment of inalienable rights. Liberty itself requires a reference outside of our physical existence to secure it's foundations.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Jesus

      Taunton is no intellectual. He is a rabble rouser and frankly, an idiot.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Kafir


      Go devise a scientific test for your god, carry out the test for your god, publish the results, get your results peer-reviewed and accepted, and THEN come back and talk about your "real" god.

      December 25, 2011 at 4:36 am |
  17. Beadles

    I refuse to accept that "evil is innate" in all of us. I also refuse to accept that the only "true" faith is Christianity. If someone's faith – in whatever religion – brings them peace, I am glad. But, do not tell me what to believe nor tell me that I am of less value because I do not follow your faith.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • dougaussie

      Jesus has said " I AM the door, NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me." No one, not hindu, not jew, not moslem, not buddism, not atheist, not the innocent, not hard workers, not good people. ONLY those who have accepted HIM as their LORD AND SAVIOR will be saved. ALL have sinned and there is only one way to wash away sin, the blood of JESUS.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:29 am |
    • Tim Lister

      By any chance are you a member of the Westboro Baptist Church dougaussie? You sure sound like it.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Bill S.

      @Tim Lister...Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven because he says so. Everything Jesus says is true because he is the Son of God!!!!! He's the Son of God because he says he's the Son of God and everything he says is true because he is the Son of God, which means everything he says is true, therefore he is the Son of God because he says he is the Son of God because everything he says is true because he is the Son of God........

      December 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • John

      Right Tim, anybody who believes in and follows Jesus Christ is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  18. Zoundsman

    Overly aggressive "anybody" with their ideology sucks. Anybody. Atheists, Christians, Muslims ...etc.
    Everything turns into "Amway."

    December 24, 2011 at 3:27 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Wrong. Atheists never turn into Amway. Atheists aren't selling anything. There's no atheist churches collecting donations. No atheist televangelists soliciting contributions. No atheist theme parks, vacation spots, merchandise, bibles to buy, or commandments. They are saying "don't sell me your phony nonsense".

      Not the same.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • Fizzylift

      Hey Nate, don't you realize that your reasoning and logic only comes from you living in Seattle? It's a city of educated people with a high standard of living and very low religious belief. You are blindly yelling at fools. I, too enjoy the fun of it but there has to be a better way to show them the way. They won't read science findings, they won't listen to logic, they only quote what someone else told them because many haven't even read their holy books. I've tried and had better luck with my cat.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • John

      Right Fizzylift, we Christians just hate science. That's precisely why Galieo and Newton, two of the greatest scientists of all time, felt they were doing God's work by uncovering the mysteries of the universe. I don't know where you atheists get this notion that Christians are anti-science. But I guess if you spew out a lie over and over and over again, it soon becomes the truth. To the Christian, science is an opportunity to learn how the God we worship does things whereas to the atheist, Science IS his god. So if science is what you worship, perhaps you are not a true atheist.

      December 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  19. John C Waite

    This is all nothing new. Dr. Francis Schaeffer predicted and warned of the decline of Western civilization as a result of ignoring and removing the Christian base and foundation on which it began and was influenced by, most notably in his book, "How shall we then live?"

    December 24, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • Settling In

      Then you should have got off the boat more often and not just for "Beer on the Pier, shipmate."

      December 24, 2011 at 4:05 am |
    • Settling In

      Sorry about that... reply about the "Beer on the Pier" was meant for Mirosal below you...

      December 24, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Jesus

      Most thinkers write that clinging to Bronze Age nonsense will bring down our civilization. The myths of the 1st century need to be discarded before our species can confront the major issues of our day. Christianity and Islam are truly the malignant cancers of our society.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  20. Mirosal

    I don't believe too much of this article. This is the SAME guy who "eulogized" Christopher Hitchens. Norway and Sweden are listed at the top of the "Happiest countries on earth" list. Atheism is big there. He needs to get out and SEE the world. His opinion means as much as a priest giving marriage advice, or a nun telling you how to raise children.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:15 am |
    • Settling In

      I've been to Sweden and Norway and am currently working with a Norwegian in a coalition environment... Not too sure that you can say Athiesm is "big there." Perhaps it is you who should get out and SEE the world. In fact, do more than that... EXPERIENCE and OPEN your mind to the world and its' cultures, while actually living amongst its people (not vacationing, mind you), and you'll probably understand the point of this article better. Merry Christmas, Mr Potter.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      I did see the world, over and over. Courtesy of traveling on big gray ships with white numbers on them

      December 24, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • Nicholas

      You can't really see the world through a gun-sight.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:31 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Settling In,

      Yeah, actually it is. Compared to this country, there's vastly more non-believers in Scandinavia. Less than half of the population believes in a personal god. And those who are Christians are not as rabid and obnoxious as they are in the US.

      Maybe you can say that atheism isn't "big" anywhere, because there's no doctrine. No dogma. No churches. You're not going to drive through a town and see big venues where the atheists go to sing and listen to fairy tales on Sunday.

      Atheism has a small footprint. Christianity is "big" and offensive, and invasive. And Christian idiots like yourself tend to find each other, and assume that everyone else whose religious beliefs you can't identify, must also be Christians, too.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • Settling In

      Nate (Seattle)

      Fail, back at'cha. I'm Muslim.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Tim Lister

      Christianity, Islam, Judaism, whatever. The umbrella term for them all is Abrahamic, which is a lovely choice because Abraham was willing to kill his own child to make God happy. Morality? Religion has none.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • John

      No Nate, it actually isn't. A better description of many people in Scandinavia would be apathetic and not atheistic. In other words, they don't really care either way. They may not care so much about religion but neither are they so militantly against it like atheists here in the United States are. I also might add that they are not any where close to being as belligerent and obnoxious as atheists are here in the United States.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
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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.