My Faith: 2011 year in review
A Muslim convert, an unlikely patriot, a U.S. senator, an atheist recovering alcoholic, and a labyrinth walker all share "My Faith."
December 26th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

My Faith: 2011 year in review

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)–This year, here at the Belief Blog, one of our most popular features was My Faith. It was a chance for people to explore and explain their faith - or faithlessness.

There were submissions from across the religious spectrum and a host of comments from our loyal readers.

Our top five stories for 2011, in no particular order, focused on a U.S. senator, a Muslim congressman, a recovering alcoholic who's an atheist, a labyrinth walker, and an unlikely patriot.

My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA
There was a sense this piece was going to do well because it was so well written and an interesting take, but we were stunned it did as well as it did.  Comments and social network shares went crazy when this piece hit, as it clearly struck a nerve with readers.  Marya Hornbacher was able to capture her awkwardness at the religiosity at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; regardless of where you stand on the religious spectrum, you could relate that feeling.

My Faith: How walking the labyrinth changed my life
This piece featured Sally Quinn from The Washington Post's On Faith section.  CNN photojournalist Jeremy Moorehead interviewed and filmed Quinn as she walked, and lay down in, the labyrinth she had built at her summer home.  The piece was almost derailed by triple-digit temperatures on the day of the shoot, but Quinn and Moorehead powered through.

My Faith: Sen. Joe Lieberman embraces "the gift of the Sabbath"
There was something surreal about filming this in Sen. Joe Lieberman's Washington home. We knew he had a book coming out on the topic of the Sabbath and thought it would be different to go and see how he and his wife prepared for the Sabbath.  The entire time the crew and I were there, Hadassah Lieberman kept calling the senator "Joey."

My Faith: Why I don't sing "The Star-Spangled Banner"
When Mark Schloneger, a Mennonite pastor from Waynesboro, Virginia, wrote this piece, it stirred a hornet's nest of civil religion.  Commenters questioned his patriotism when he explained, "I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus alone."  Schloneger even took to CNN TV to explain his views.

My Faith: Rep. Keith Ellison, from Catholic to Muslim
Rep Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, was the first Muslim elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.  We had covered several of his events in Washington and worked with his staff for a long time to make this happen.  The congressman allowed CNN all-platform journalist Chris Welch to follow him for a day in Minneapolis for this surprising and intimate look at his faith.

Other notable My Faith stories included Pastor Rob Bell on suffering, a priest who spent Christmas at the South Pole, and Leeana Tankersley on life as the wife of a Navy SEAL trying your faith.

What do you think - did we get the top five right? What were your favorites?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. The Truth shall set you free

    All of you need an accurate knowledge of the Bible, May I suggest a bible study with the JW's Last chance before your time runs out.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Jesus

      Is that the infamous Jehovah's Witness group? That "religion" or cult was started by that FELON (NY conviction) Charles Taze Russell. Between his felony conviction and his selling "magic wheat", one would have thought that his scamming wouldn't amount to much. Go figure.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      "accurate knowledge of the Bible"

      Now there's an oxymoron if I ever saw one.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Truth: "The truth shall set you free" (Jn.8:32). In that same chapter of John, Jesus so clearly states he is God (v.57-59) that the Jews pick up stones to kill him. Jesus' point: he is the Truth (God) who will set you free.

      That tends to be something the JWs don't like to talk about – especially since they don't believe Jesus claimed to be God.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  2. Jesus

    A year of irrationality, myth, and ignorance wrapped up in a condensed column. How special!

    December 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Jim J

    If God isn't real, how did he create man in his own image? Checkmate atheists!

    December 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Jesus

      WOW! Now that is the height of illogical thinking! You really need to donate that brain of yours to some medical school.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • UncelM

      I think you mean: god is made up because man created him in his own image.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      So God is a hairless ape?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      so god has hairy balls , a fat a$$ and stinkin' arm pits just like you ?

      December 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • CT

      Well that's an easy one to answer. Man was not created in God's image because God isn't real, therefore God did not create man. Man created organized religion ruled by a God that was created by man in man's image.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      "If God isn't real, how did he create man in his own image? Checkmate atheists!"

      Why do theists do this? No-one can really be that stupid, can they?

      Jim, there is no checkmate about it. All your question does is make you look stupid. It is really the dumbest question a theist can ask (amongst the many stupid questions). Prove your god exists...checkmate! In proving this you can not refer to the buybull or scripture or an theologian.

      December 27, 2011 at 4:43 am |
    • JohnR

      That was actually a self mate.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • rick

      I think Jim J was being sarcastic. I hope he was being sarcastic

      December 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  4. john

    mr lieberman is an amzing person and full of faith and will sacrifice everything for heil belief and religion, may god bless him.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Jesus

      Lieberman is an embarrassment to nonpracticing Jews everywhere.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • JohnR

      For HEIL belief? Heil who?

      December 27, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  5. The Central Scrutinizer

    I know where God dwells. El Pollo Norteno in Oxnard, CA. You can't o say I am wrong until you have been there. I win.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Jesus

      ...and I always thought he had a place in Malibu.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  6. The Central Scrutinizer


    Sharp, dangerous edges

    An army waiting to be attacked

    The wind an interruption as the blades spring back

    This army of green

    Alive, taught, stiff and ready

    What devils will try to destroy these perfect solders today.

    What hope do they have?


    December 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm |


    December 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  8. mike from iowa

    @Russ wrote "put it in objecting to religion: good people in. bad people out (religion is bad in this case)." which is the way a religious perosn sees it, but which is not correct. Religious people force their belief on everyone else, through politics, education, peer pressure. Atheists are people with enough courage to say "leave me alone", and religious people try to interpret that as some kind of an attack on them. And that is an example of how religious people are prone to martyism.

    You are deranged. Religion is a mental disease, religious people are psychopaths. Religion has been ruining lives and causing wars for 2,000+ years. Religion will lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the world's destruciton, you whackos will blow up the world so you can prove your scriptures and prophecies are true. Hopefully the next intelligent species won't fall prey to the fear and politics that inspire the invention of religion.

    Take the issue of science. Religoin is extremely fearful of science because of the possibility of exposing the religious BS. Science is simply the act of observing the universe and trying to explain the cause & effect without resorting to saying "God did it", because once you do that, then there is no hope of explaining it, of understanding it, and of being able to manipulate our own environment. in stead of trying to suppress science, religion shoudl be performing the most intense science, since you believe *god* created everything, the best way to know god is to study his creation, rigght ("by their actions you shall know them" – Jesus). The fact that the religious leadership is against science and tries to suppress it proves that the Church and all religion is a cult.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Mike: I love science. As a matter of fact, I'm thankful for it...

      I think you're illustrating my point, though. If I'm hearing you correctly:
      "religion is bad. Bad people are the problem. Bad people out. Good people in." That's your solution to our problems.

      My point was: that's what most religions say:
      "Bad people are the problem. Good people are the answer. Be good enough & get in."

      Christianity says something radically different:
      "There are no good people. God dies for bad people like me. Incredible, unmerited love saves me from myself."
      Again, here is the only worldview that gives hope to bad people like me. I'm a totally loved moral failure.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Mike, you really should put in some modifiers like "some" when talking about large groups.
      Russ, if you are immoral, unworthy, evil, and a moral failure, why the HELL are you here trying to argue anything since you clearly have no business saying anything to anyone? You have no business telling others how to live their lives if you are a "moral failure" so just go to a Christian website where they love to hear you wail and moan about your foolishness, okay?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • allfaith

      Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist...., all human.
      We see what we see. Is it right to think less of individuals with beliefs other than our own?

      December 27, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Russ

      @ Ironicus: you're assuming I'm the only one that is true of. The cross tells us that is true of everyone.

      The cross tells us two things:
      1) Death was necessary to pay for my mess (it's worse than I want to admit).
      2) God was willing to take the justice we deserve in our place (it's better than I ever could have imagined).
      He makes the place of my greatest shame into the place of my greatest joy.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Russ

      @ Allfaith: the insult is to listen to people espousing directly contradictory statements & tell them they are saying the same thing. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Sikh, atheist... saying very different things about the nature of existence and the answer to our problems.

      Saying we're all human is an insult to those attempting honest dialogue. If the problem were so easily solved, then we really must all be idiots.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      Russ, you say you have done bad things. Have you apologized and made the effort to atone to those you have hurt? Have you changed your life so that you will no longer hurt others? If you have done so, you don't need any supernatural forgiveness. You are doing what needs to be done to right your wrongs. You can't change the past, but true remorse can change the future.

      If you simply became a christian instead of actively trying to repay those you have hurt, then you have done absolutely nothing to make the situation right. Far too many christians think it's okay to ask god for forgiveness instead of their victims. That is a self-serving and shameful cop-out of the worst kind.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Ironicus

      Russ, I understand how you feel because I used to be a Christian with a very strong faith.
      I am not "assuming" anything if I can help it.
      You are the one saying you are bad. Your "god" loves you. Fine.
      But your arguments are full of holes. I don't have time to waste on people who refuse to listen to reason.
      That's why I suggest that you go elsewhere, like a Christian website.
      There you can discuss things with people like yourself who make the same mistakes and suffer the same lack of reasoning ability as yourself.
      Maybe if you all get together you can come up with a good argument for once. Just once I'd like to see a good argument without any holes in it. But religious people are already handicapped in that area, so I'm not holding my breath.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • JohnR

      My grandmother was very religious and she was not a psychopath. WHen will atheists learn to stick to meritorious arguments and quit the bloated rhetoric that just makes them look like the next flavor of wild-eyed true believer?

      December 27, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • JohnR

      Oh god, now Russ is having conversations with talking crosses.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  9. The Central Scrutinizer

    Ok, so this blog is about a Muslim who converted to a football fan, became a U.S. Senater which naturally led to alcoholism and then he passed out, correct?

    Sounds like a typical American story of love, betrayal, excess and rock bottom.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Jesus

      I think that story has been redone a thousand times in the theater, movies, and TV.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  10. Darlene

    If God is not real, why fight so hard to prove him wrong?

    December 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Ben

      Because people who believe in weird stories about god still get to vote. Same people believe wild stuff without any proof, and still do so even when the god stories don't make sense (they never do).

      December 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Because all you people who do believe in god want everybody else to play by your gods rules.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      Because it is damaging and dangerous to have a society guided by insane beliefs. Not only is it unproductive, but it inspires discrimination, violence, war and ignorance.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Ben / Steve / Mike: so your problem is that Christians are telling others what they can & can't believe, and that's why you're telling Christians what they can & can't believe?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Jesus

      I'm not really fighting at all. Just confronting your myths with reality. It just seems so overwhelmingly powerful to you.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      I don't care what they believe. I simply don't want to be told what to do or think based on their beliefs. They believe I'm destined for hell by denying God. They tell me so. They believe my gay or lesbian friends are sinners. They tell me so. If they kept their faith to themselves and within their churches we wouldn't have a problem. But no...they're knocking at my door to spew their garbage. When was the last time an atheist knocked at your door to try to get you to free your mind?

      December 26, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Steve: my point was that you are upset with them for doing the exact same thing you are are doing to them.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Russ: No that is not what he is doing at all (and yes I can speak for Steve here...I live with him to know what he thinks). All Steve is doing, just like myself and many others, is pointing out that if you are going to put so much in to something and expect it to be upheld, you damn well better have some solid evidence to back it especially when it comes to bringing it into politics, the public or the education system. They can have their beliefs, no matter how much we know they are wrong in them (without evidence to back them they stand no ground) but they need to keep it in the church and their home.
      If your child lied to you, you would be upset, theists are lying to people also....so why accept it?

      December 27, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • captain america

      Both steve and "truth" are canadians. We also only have their word that they are who they sat they are for all we know they could be one guy , two guys or something else. As such their opinions are not worth doodly squat in America. They are attempting to influence American opinion with the same sickness that has enveloped canada. We do not accept their opinions and warn all good Americans to avoid them. There's your sign

      December 27, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "my point was that you are upset with them for doing the exact same thing you are are doing to them."

      The intrusion of religion in the public sphere is akin to second hand smoke. While people are free to cause damage to their own health by smoking, they are not free to cause it to others. In the same vein, people are free to believe and worship as they see fit. They don't have the freedom to impose any of it on the rest of us.

      I don't care if a kid prays in school. I don't care if there are prayer groups at school. I don't even care if the school provides a room for that group to assemble in, as long as they provide equal access for all groups. I do care when prayer is done as part of any official school event.

      I don't care if you run billboard ads or fly banners behind an airplane promoting your church or religion. I do care if you try to restrict others from doing the same.

      I don't care if you organize a gathering to pray for rain or an end to economic malaise. I do care if it is done by an elected official in his capacity as that elected official.

      I don't care if you don't like same sex marriage. You don't have to enter into one. I do care if you wish to restrict others from entering into one based on your religion.

      If we don't have freedom of (including from) religion, who is to say that your particular flavor is the one being enforced? So, unless you are willing to accept your daughters from being excluded from education, your sons from being forced to pray to Allah in school, women being second class citizens, women being sent to prison for adultery after being raped, etc., you may want to consider what it truly means to have freedom of religion.

      For everyone to be able to enjoy freedom of religion, yours has to stay out of the lives of everyone else. That is the only way to ensure that theirs stays out of your life.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • rick

      How does one prove mythology (including Christian mythology) wrong?

      December 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Bob

      LinCA, "The intrusion of religion in the public sphere is akin to second hand smoke." -brilliant analogy. Thanks. I'll remember that one.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • captain canuck eh

      captain america, re "As such their opinions are not worth doodly squat in America." Ha. Our biological airforce is squatting out doodlies all over your lawns, eh, even at the White House. No matter how powerful you think you are, you still step in our doodly and you still want our oil.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      rick, it is impossible to prove that myths are untrue, but that does not mean they are true. It is up to the claimants to prove that their claims are true, else, at the very least, they are not proven, and most likely, given that they have not provided proof in over 2,000+ years, they are not true.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  11. mike from iowa

    Religion is a mental deisease. Religious people are pyschopaths.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Jman

      So you don't believe in life after death? I feel sorry for you. Goodluck when it's your time to go, while dwelling in the thought of blackness forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Fleeced Navidad

      hey mikey from Iowa,
      When you grow up and go to school, you may learn that even in the world of "beliebers", after they die, they pass out of this universe, and they leave behind the dimension of time. Your "forever" is meaningless, and even your beliebers would never say that 1st grade crap. Have you ever considered thinking like a grown up ?

      December 27, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • claybigsby

      "So you don't believe in life after death? I feel sorry for you."

      so the only reason you believe in religion is because you are afraid of death and need to make up stories to make yourself feel better about dying? I feel sorry for you.

      December 27, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • rick

      jman: empty proxy threats are laughable and those who issue them are imbeciles

      December 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  12. mickey1313

    I find it strange that the "libral" cnn devotes so much into stories of faith. By haveing these stories cnn just throws more light on these crackpots. Thiesm is distroying our nation.

    December 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Storn

      Miss typign is destryoing your pstos.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  13. gupsphoo

    If you insist to believe something that doesn't exist or appear to exist, you gotta have faith.

    December 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Russ

      that begs all sorts of philosophical questions, though. how do you know there are any other rational minds than your own? or for that matter, that you exist at all? (Per Kant: transcendental unity of apperception) How can you know you are experiencing the thing in itself at all?

      In other words, your argument is too effective. you take everything 'on faith' when it comes to the question of objective reality.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Whatever

      Russ fails to comprehend what was said and bumbles off into a really lame attempt at solipcism, then faceplants by saying that objective reality must be taken on faith. Faith by definition is "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." There is nothing but proof for objective reality – it exists whether or not you have faith or not.

      Pretty lame.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ whatever: I gather your not a fan of philosophy then. Atheists & theists alike understand the quandary here. It is the shallow appeal to science as an answer to metaphysics that face-plants.

      As Nietzsche himself said: "it is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science" (the Gay Science). If you appeal to subjective human observation as an answer for metaphysical questions (especially as a way to mock the classic discipline of metaphysics), you are guilty of your own criticisms. It's the pot calling the kettle black. Self-refuting.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • tallulah13


      The thing about christianity is that it creates a club, wherein the members are rewarded and the non-members are punished. It gives you a sense that you are somehow special, that there is an ultimate being who somehow is watching to see if you say the right things and make the right gestures. If you jump through the proper hoops, then you can spend forever in a special paradise, while those that don't jump through those hoops will suffer forever.

      Why in the world would an adult believe a story like that without a single shred of proof that any of it is true? You might as well believe in fairies and start clapping to save Tinkerbell.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Whatever

      Once again you blither off into the trees. The original poster was not using science to comprehend metaphysics. You perverted the discussion into solipcism, then again into a bizarre version of metaphysics.

      Enough of your sophistry.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Whatever: the original post is making a metaphysical statement. That's the point. 'Faith is for the stuff you can't see." That was the general stuff. My whole point: faith is for the stuff you can see, too – especially when you start asking "why?"

      I was using solipsism as a tool, not a defensible position. And you're not answering the points, you're dodging the discussion by simply saying I'm off topic – which I'm not. Dodging without engaging: that is sophistry.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Talullah: you described the anti-thesis of Xnty – which is why I'm a Christian. The end of 'clubs.'

      Every other religion says something along these lines: follow the rules & you get in. Don't, you're left out.
      Or as even atheism put it in objecting to religion: good people in. bad people out (religion is bad in this case).
      Xnty says: no one can follow the rules. at a base level, we don't want to (that's what's so offensive – admitting that). X dies for enemies to make them family.

      Or to put it differently: here is the only faith that says "only the bad people get in." as a Xn, I am anything but "good enough for God" by following his rules. It's the opposite: I'm a totally loved moral failure.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • goddog

      Russ, You can try to make your point in any fantastic or "rational" way you want. The fact is that when you have an illness you will take a pill that science created. When you fly on an airplane it's not because you prayed it would fly. The faithful like to make all kids of statements about how flawed science is while benefiting from it and RELYING on it in every facet of their lives. Science really has nothing to say about religion except that there is no evidence for it that cannot be explained through science. Get over it.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • goddog

      And as for philosophy, Yea, that's some fun stuff but it really is just a game for the mind. You could easily make a philosophic argument for the existence or nonexistence of anything.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • JohnR

      Russ misuses the phrase "beg the question" and that's the least of his intellectual deficits.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Andrew

      Russ, you could apply the skeptical hypothesis to really anything. It's really not hard to argue 'what if we don't really know anything at all'. Well, I still find that a poor reason for faith in any god. I know my epistimological foundations, they're rather simple.

      1) I assume the universe exists. Big assumption, I know, but without making this assumption I have an entirely untenable philosophy, a useless one that lets me do nothing. "Ok... so the universe doesn't exist... then... what? If this is all a big lie, what do I do with that information? Continue pretending it's all real? Ok, then why don't I just assume it's real, and acknowledge the possibility it's not as a sorta useless possibility?"

      2) That the universe behaves by consistent rules, in the sense that I assume induction is possible. Also a big assumption, but again, the alternative is rather untenable. "So while the universe behaves normally today, it's possible that tomorrow a giant asteroid will hit the earth if I don't run out naked singing 'I'm in love with my car' while wearing a fake moustache, because who knows if the laws of physics which old today hold tomorrow, it could be magic".
      Yes, it's entirely epistemologically possible, but if we omit the need for consistency in the universe, ANYTHING is possible, to where you're left with the same problem. So if you don't assume the laws of physics will hold the next day... what do you do? Should I go out naked into the street? It is certainly possible if I don't, the entire world will end tomorrow. But from experience, I am far more likely to believe that the universe is consistent enough to where that would be silly. So I make the assumption because the alternative is still untenable.

      3) If the universe is consistent, then some methodology which seeks to find consistent rules in the universe is the only mechanism that has the ability to arrive at those rules. Hence why I currently study physics. If I were to not assume this, then I'm saying essentially that truthiness is as valid a way to arrive at consistent rules as is actual empirical observation, which would go against the second assumption I made for consistent rules, because inconsistent mechanisms cannot generate consistent predictions, otherwise they're consistent in some form, and by definition not inconsistant.

      I see no need for god there, which doesn't add anything to my epistemology, and the lack of god, or the existence of god changes nothing. It doesn't seem necessary for my consistent picture of the universe to exist, it's a pointless postulate. Epistemologically I can't say a god doesn't exist, but the need for faith in the idea of a god seems a silly extra step to take. What does it yield? How is it any different from assuming that tomorrow an asteroid will hit if I don't sing outside naked?

      December 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • goddog

      Yes, so many do. "Raises so many questions" is what he meant to say. Most intelligent people like to study philosophy and discuss it in the appropriate circles but they don't try to apply it to questions of science. I don't know how Russ can even wake up in the morning for fear something might definitely possibly but surely almost not happen.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • goddog

      Andrew... LOL... That has to be the most original use of Queen in any conversation I have ever heard.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Andrew Classic post. If there is ever a "best of belief blog posts", this one gotta go in!

      December 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Keith

      You atheists should listen to yourselves sometime. Let's say you tell someone from the 1800's that the "crab nebula" is in outer space. They say "is not", "prove it", "show it to me", "you're crazy". Blah, blah, blah. Now, along comes the Hubble telescope. Your arguements against the existence of God are really laughable. Some day another "Hubble telescope" will come along and you will have egg on your face. Or you will just die like your pal Hitchens, and like him, realize your folly.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • goddog

      Keith... The Crab Nebula was discovered in 1731. Hahahahahahahah! Hahahahahahah!

      December 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Andrew

      Keith, I'd be happy to accept evidence of something after it is shown to be true, but not before.

      If I were an individual in, say, ancient Greece and someone told me about how gluons interact with quarks to bind quarks together, and all you could say is 'take it on faith', I'd call you insane for believing in it even if it's true. There are an infinite number of things which MIGHT be true, so assuming it is true without evidence is silly. You can say "well, maybe we can't show god exists now", but until you CAN, why should I believe you?

      December 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Keith So god is localized in space somewhere that we simply haven't looked, or been able to look, and will one day be seen as clearly as the crab nebula? That's pretty whacky!!!

      Anyway, the crab nebula was spotted long before the Hubble telescope. Just thought you should know.

      Oh, and another thing: No one claims that the speak for the crab nebula or that the crab nebula judges people. Kind of an important difference between the clearly existent crab nebula vs the merely hypothetical god.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • goddog

      Keith, you are speaking of an event that is known because of evidence. There is know knowledge or evidence of a god. If there were, maybe we could have a different conversation.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Keith

      Okay, so bad example, but I think you know what I mean.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Keith

      So how is it that fulfilled Bible prophecy is disregarded?

      December 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Andrew & others:

      I never said I'm against science. I believe science as a discipline of subjective human observation to be a great thing. The problem is when it is applied objectively – something it cannot do **by it's own definition.** It is observation. Observation from a subjective position.

      When you apply science as an answer to the metaphysical, you have crossed over from science to scientism. And again, I quote Nietzsche on that very point: "it is a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science" (the Gay Science). Point being: using science against the metaphysical underpinnings of faith is asking science to do something beyond its categories – thereby you have moved from science as a discipline to science as a faith. And now your criticisms are self refuting.

      Andrew, all of your assumptions do "beg the question" by the definition of the fallacy. You are making faith leaps about the nature of existence, when it is the nature of existence that is being questioned & discussed.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Russ It's a "leap of faith" to believe that the universe really exists? It's a "leap of faith" to believe that the laws governing the universe are consistent and, under proper conditions, discernible? Define "leap".

      December 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Keith Supposed cases of fulfilled prophecy aren't disregarded, but subjected to scrutiny. But one thing you have to be careful of is claiming that some prophecy is fulfilled just because some claim is made in the bible, eg the virgin birth. The day when this extraordinary claim could have been proven is long gone.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Andrew

      Russ, it'd be begging the question only if I were to argue that my assumptions are true. I'm aware I didn't justify my premises, I stated that rather explicitly. It's not considered begging the question when you state your assumptions and explain that "I cannot show these to be true".

      Instead, all I have done is show that it is not pragmatic to consider them false. My epistemological foundations may very well be false, but that is the case for ANY epistemology because you can use the skeptical hypothesis on ANYTHING. I know you're questioning the nature of existence, and I'm saying, 'question that all you want, but explain to me what pragmatic use can be derived from the brain in a vat hypothesis'. What the fu k could I do with that? Even if true, how could that possibly impact my perception of the universe if by definition I cannot know that.

      I assume the world behaves tomorrow like it did today. I know this is a big assumption, I know any conclusions derived from this are based on the impossible to show foundation. However, if I abandon this, explain to me why I shouldn't run out naked into the streets singing Queen songs or else we're all doomed. I'm not saying my epistimological foundations are right, I'm saying, considering them wrong is entirely useless, so why should I bother? I acknowledge the possibility... then what? Tell me what the hell I'm supposed to consider if my epistemology is flawed. Actually go one step beyond 'applying the skeptical hypothesis' to 'evaluating an actual philosophical foundation'. It sounds like you're suffering from the same philosophical problem the Pyrrhonians did. Frankly, I'm comfortable with my assumptions because they're useful. God is not.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Andrew: therein lies the entire argument. I don't disagree with your assessment about the 'brain in a vat' hypothesis. The problem comes with where we go from there. At that point, two things you are admitting:
      1) you have made a huge leap of faith (which is what so many criticize about faith/religion/metaphysical discussions).
      2) you have made subjective pragmatism the primary test of objective reality

      If there is a God, those are two huge, problematic assumptions to make. Especially if he has revealed himself (as I believe he has) in Jesus. As Kierkegaard said (paraphrase): the unthinkable has happened. God has bridged the infinite, qualitative difference between God & humanity. Faith, then (in his exact words), refers to "coming into existence." In particular, God (the objective) entering into our (subjective existence).

      If it (Christmas) really happened, it changes everything – especially your two primary leaps (in my estimation, "of faith") above.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Russ

      @ JohnR: no, it's not a leap of faith to say *that* the universe exists. It's a leap of faith to say *why* it exists. And its mere existence (yes, I intend the literal fallacy here) begs the question.

      As I said above, it's a leap from science (as a disciple of subjective human observation) to scientism (putting metaphysical faith in science).

      December 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Andrew

      Russ, I still can't help but feel you've made the same assumptions I have, and then seem to go 'well, if I've already made these three, why don't I just make a forth that faith means something'. It's possible, but I'm happy with my empirical epistimology, god doesn't do anything extra for me. It's certainly possible god exists, but seems an irrelevant possibility.

      I would imagine you concede the universe exists.... and that it was created by god. You rather clearly state you believe jesus exists, so you clearly feel that the universe is consistent enough to record past events in some manner, and I'd go so far as to say you believe the universe abides by rules and that those rules were put in place by god.

      I doubt you really take issue with any of my base assumptions, but you still seem to inject the additional "god", despite a fully consistent picture easily being viewed without it. You CAN, and clearly do, construct a philosophy with a god, but I still don't see god as a necessary component to the universe in the way that assuming the universe exists, and assuming it is reasonably well behaved is necessary.

      Remember I'm a physics major, I'm going to ALWAYS value pragmatism over a faith based philosophy. If your god is true, faith is useful, if your god is false, faith is not useful. But if my assumptions about the universe are false, then NOTHING is useful because the universe isn't consistent enough to really examine at any level. There is nothing to talk about, you're reduced to a 'brain in a vat' scenario where there's nothing to offer. If your idea of god is false, it means yes faith is pointless, but that's about it.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Andrew: Nietzsche's accusation (as I cited above: "it is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science") is that you are using physics as a faith-based philosophy. And notably, that science's central presuppositions cannot carry that weight.

      I readily admit I believe in God & that such an assertion is "faith-based" (yet not reduced simply to that). I'm not "adding a fourth." I've cited Nietzsche (as one atheist to another) to point out what I think you just confirmed (call me out if I'm misunderstanding you here): "Russ, I don't need your faith-based philosophy. Faith-based philosophies are unnecessary and/or obsolete. I can operate without that... by treating science as a faith-based philosophy."

      Help me out. How is that not self-refuting? And maybe worse, misusing science?

      December 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • mickey1313

      russ, um to put stock in nietchie is lame, he also said that might makes right, and ment it. Even though a look at history shows that the mighty are rarely in the right. Further more, to discount what is detected by the sences is absurd. To say that reality does not exist because you cant prove it is a false argument. And it is just a feble atempt to give religon some form of credability.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Russ

      @ mickey: as a Christian, I don't agree with Nietzsche, but I find it worthwhile to read people with whom I disagree – especially ones as intelligent & influential as him. And I'd encourage you to re-read the thread: you're assigning positions to me which I don't hold.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Fleeced Navidad

      No one is going to "just die like your pal Hitchens, and like him, realize your folly". When you die, (and YOU are GOING to die too, just as surely as anyone with NO belief), your consciousness ends, and you will "realize nothing". Your chance to "realize" anything will be gone.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So Russ, you call yourself a moral failure, but you're okay with that because a mythological character loves you? So that is the point of christianity? So bad people can feel good about themselves?

      I am an atheist. I am also a moral success. So much for the benefits of religion.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ tallulah: no, the point is not mythical self-affirmation. the point is Objective reality stepped into the subjective. everything else is secondary. it just so happens that the manner in which the Objective revealed himself happens to be incredibly benevolent.

      "I am a moral success." As an atheist, why would you even feel the need to express that? Isn't that an entirely irrelevant discussion if there is no objective standard?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Andrew

      Russ, it's not that I don't need faith based philosophy, it's that I don't need the ADDITION of god as well as the assumptions I already made. It's that the assumptions I made are necessary, as you cannot have a tenable philosophy without them. There is no reasonable philosophy without assuming the universe exists or that it abides by consistent rules. Yes you can construct epistemology without assuming those, but they're reduced to utter nonsense of the "I need to run out into the rain singing queen to save the world" variety.

      However, god does not add anything to the table, it is in no way necessary for a coherent epistemology. I know I make a couple rather large leaps, but I see no reason why I need to make the additional leap of "god too".

      Again, if your epistemology is flawed... it basically reduces to mine, unless you were to go further and deny that the universe exists or behaves consistently, but since you're making those assumptions when you assume god exists, that rejecting them if you don't assume god exists seems silly. If my epistimology is flawed, I'll still have to behave exactly as though if it were right, because that is what a brain in a vat would be forced to do. I acknowledge my assumptions are based on faith, but at least I make as few faith based unjustifiable assumptions as is humanly possible.

      You can further argue "well, maybe magic is real, you just need faith", but maybe it's not, and if it isn't, the universe appears unchanged from my original assumptions. Same with god, it's a superfluous conjecture, entirely unnecessary.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Andrew: I'm saying (along with Nietzsche) the leap you are making in your basic assumptions is your 'god.' God is not an addition to the discussion. Such a faith-based belief in science is religion (scientism, not science) – and science (by its own definition) cannot support that weight.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • tallulah13

      Russ. You really don't understand atheism. I'm not sure if you are ignorant or obtuse.

      There are standards of behavior that the majority of the population must adhere to if any society is to survive. I base my morals on one very simple rule, one that is far older than you bible and far more successful: Treat others as you would be treated.

      I don't lie, I don't steal, I don't harm others, I don't discriminate against others. I give what I can to those who truly need it. Heck, I feed stray cats and don't even kill insects unless I have to, except ants, moths and fruit flies. (You give those guys an inch, they take a mile.)

      You have taken as your moral compass a book written in the bronze age, a book that is not opposed to slavery, but IS opposed to equal rights for women. It advocates discrimination against gays, something christians have embraced, despite the fact that there is more evidence that being gay is innate than there is proof that any god has ever existed. At the same time, christians are blithely ignoring biblical injunctions they find inconvenient, such as laws that forbid eating pork or seafood. I have encountered several christians who post on this blog who are flat out liars. Wasn't there a commandment about that?

      Your bible has been used to support conquest and slaughter. It has been used as an excuse to convict people of heresy and witchcraft, which carried a sentence of death. What exactly is moral about burning someone alive again?

      You may be proud of your "moral failure" and be happy that you have a supernatural friend to take care of your 'sins' but I was raised to understand that my actions have consequences, and that I am responsible for them. I would pick my morality over yours, any day.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Andrew

      Russ I still don't see where I'm making a leap for science that isn't still necessary with or without a belief in god.

      My 'faith' in science stems from my epistemology. I would imagine you agree with my three assumptions about the nature of the universe because again denial of them leaves nothing to discuss about, well, anything. Science exclusively stems from those three assumptions, it's a natural consequence because science is a methodology which exclusively attempts to approach consistent models. In a consistent universe, a consistent methodology yields consistent results.

      If you're arguing that 'no, my faith in science is independent of my three assumptions about the nature of the universe', by all means explain how, but you've just stated I have faith in it rather than explain how science would not be related to my epistemological assumptions.

      God is a decidedly different concept, and is, again, not a necessary conclusion from the assumptions I already made, nor does my epistemology preclude god... it's just not really relevant.

      Since you seem to have a hard time understanding what I'm saying, let me reduce it to a semblance of FOL.
      Lets call my 3 assumptions P1 P2 and P3
      Science, S, that is, "consistent methodology" is implied by P1, P2, and P3 in that
      If P1, P2, and P3, then S.
      Thus, if not S, then not P1, or P2, or P3.

      However, god, G, is NOT implied by P1, P2, and P3, So if not G, then P1, P2, and P3 are still possible. If G, P1, P2, and P3 are still valid.

      God's existence doesn't impact the relevance of my assumptions, but science's existence DOES. As long as I accept the universe, I must accept science, while I do not need to accept god under ANY reasonable epistemology. It's not that I don't believe I'm not making a faith based assumption, it's that my faith based assumptions are simply necessary to make for a consistent world-view, and that the addition of god wouldn't change my basic assumptions anyway. It's an entirely unnecessary assumption, much like assuming 'magic exists'. Sure, it's possible, but I still fail to see why I should care. It doesn't give me anything of value, and it being false doesn't change anything either.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Ironicus

      While I enjoy Andrew's willingness to take a side-route in arguing against Russ's lack of logic, I enjoy even more Tallulah13's simple refutation of the more central points. Thank you both....and no thanks to the troll named Russ.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Russ

      @ tallulah: i'm not being obtuse or ignorant. what evolutionary value is there to the "Golden Rule?" Why do you feel the need for ethics at all? Why is it so important to you that your ethical system affirms you if there is no greater purpose to existence?

      The point I'm making is this: those things are immaterial to an existence lacking an objective moral reality... unless you sense there should be one. But that is the very thing you are criticizing me for having.

      Secondly, and more directly: imagine you've had an invisible recorder planted in your head. Forget the 10 Commandments. If someone played back the recording just of the standards that you have placed upon others (the way you've spoken of them, the standards to which you've held them), would you have upheld the same standards? Is that what you mean by 'moral success?'

      Or would you – like most others on the planet – recognize that you have failed even by your own standards?

      December 27, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Andrew

      First, because I really dislike anyone stating the 10 commandments are anything akin to a good moral standard.... lets actually look at them from an atheist's perspective, shall we?

      1) You shall have no other gods before me.
      I hardly see how this is in any way important for being a good human being. It seems kinda pointlessly religious and dogmatic.

      2) You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

      This one just seems creepy, and again, I fail to see how it relates to a strong moral compass.

      3) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

      Same, why should we care if someone says 'god dammit', should that really be the third commandment, well before even 'thou shalt not kill'? Really? This is your moral compass?

      4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

      Lots of even religious people break this one, and frankly, I don't find it very important. If people don't want to worship on the sabbath, that makes them bad people? Again not really a good indicator for strong morals.

      5) Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

      I suppose this is a good rule to keep, provided your parents are worthy of your respect and honor. There are certainly cases where parents are vile people. Quite a lot of parents kick their children out their house for coming out as gay, should their children honor their bigoted and rather cruel parents?

      6) You shall not murder.

      I wholly support this, it is a good indicator of a strong moral compass. Murdering is bad.

      7) You shall not commit adultery.

      While I actually like the idea of open relationships, I still support honest relationships, so I take this to mean 'if you are in a relationship where you're expected not to cheat, don't cheat'. We're up to two and a half commandments I believe are good rules to follow.

      8) You shall not steal.
      Three and a half, but I'm a bit iffy because frankly I like the idea of Robin Hood as a strong moral figure. I don't consider theft really that bad when you're stealing from crooks.

      9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

      I'd prefer if this said 'you shall not bear false witness.' a lot more. I mean a lot lot more. Still, we'll give it to them. 4 and a half/

      10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

      Our entire economic system would fail without the idea of envying what other people have. That's kinda important for capitalism. "Your new car is amazing, I want one!" "I got it from X, you should get one".

      Since the first ones are pretty much exclusively religious, I fail to see the 10 commandments as that big a deal. They can be boiled down to
      'don't lie, steal, kill, or cheat on people'. Considering virtually every religion and society throughout time has had those rules as fairly fundamental within their society itself, since Bonobos, and other apes tend to exhibit those same rules... I hardly feel you need the 10 commandments to follow those moral guidelines.

      Morality makes sense for social creatures like humans, as long as we live in a society, we need to behave with some common decency to each other. Just because I don't fear eternal torment doesn't mean I want to hurt anyone, anyone with those feelings who needs religion to keep their behaviour in check is possibly a sociopath.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Russ

      @ Andrew: your interpretation of the 10 Commandments is symptomatic of our discussion. That's why you don't connect with the "First Table of the Law" (which is all about our relationship with God), but you gravitate to the Second Table.

      An analogy on our broader discussion: fearing judgment is not a primary reason for considering the reality of God's existence. (I raised that point because of tallulah's confidence that she was a "moral success.") Instead, if there is a Creator, he is the source of life. If so, walking away from the source would be like being a lamp & unplugging yourself. By virtue of your own action, you have condemned/separated yourself from the life you were made for.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Andrew

      Yes, rus, if god exists, and it is your god, and I refuse to believe, then you are right, denial of those first commandments is a serious problem for my soul. But if god doesn't exist, and I refuse to believe in god... denial of those first commandments is not a serious problem for my soul.

      How is that different, philosophically speaking, from "if an asteroid exists that is about to collide into the earth, not singing queen naked in the streets will cause the end of earth. If an asteroid doesn't exist that is about to collide to the earth, not singing queen naked in the streets will do nothing."

      It seems kinda a non-issue. I don't accept your starting premise of god. I've given you my starting premises, and stated that science explicitly follows from them. You seem unwilling to challenge my starting premises because you yourself, for your 'god', need to agree with them in the first place. (Thereby, you also must cede some value to the importance of science as well)

      So explain to me why I should have faith in your god above and beyond my faith already placed in the existence of the universe. It seems as unnecessary and silly as 'I need to run out singing queen'.

      December 27, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Ironicus

      Russ, you are just wasting everyone's time in bringing forth a lumpy Pascal's Wager at this late date. Seriously.
      And I can't help but notice that you are assuming your "god's" existence and basing your arguments on this baseless assumption.
      Prove your god exists and then your assumptions will not be baseless. You are just using a circular argument when all the bs is boiled away.
      But you can't prove your god exists, and you never will. All your arguments rely upon "his" existence, don't they? Yep.
      That's called "putting the cart before the horse."

      December 27, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • Russ

      @ Ironicus: my point was not to recreate Pascal's wager. My point was that everyone has a philosophical point of departure (i.e., begins with circular logic as a springboard, a leap of faith). That alone does not prove God, but much of the criticisms levied here against faith & religion are folks thinking they don't do the same thing. Once admitted, the problem (which I've been pressing on Andrew) is recognizing that you are putting objective weight on an exp.licitly subjective discipline. It subst.itutes for religion while claiming not to be one, because to admit that it is means you are admitting that you are no longer doing science, but metaphysics (and thereby making the very 'leap' being criticized in opponents).

      In terms of evidence, I am a Christian because I believe the eyewitness testimony given in the Bible. I believe that God does not give an airtight philosophical premise, he gave himself (a watertight person, if you want to carry out the literary point). That Jesus came is the clear proof – historically speaking – of God's existence. The Objective didn't just speak into the subjective, he stepped into it historically. And that changes everything.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • Andrew

      Russ, I find it strange how someone who proports to be so interested in philosophy could read anything I've said and say I put objective weight on subjective methodology.

      I don't. I just put more weight on postulates which I deem necessary for a coherent epistemology than postulates which I deem entirely irrelevant for a coherent epistemology.

      By "a coherent epistemology" I mean one that allows further conclusions to be drawn. "The universe does not exist", for example, does not allow further conclusions to be drawn, so I assume "the universe exists" otherwise I cannot hold a coherent epistemology.
      That does not then say "I consider the universe's existence to be objectively true". I'm somewhat amazed you can't grasp that.

      God does not meet that criteria, as you can have a coherent epistemology without god, as I have demonstrated. God to me sounds a lot like saying "magic", or "Harry Potter is real", I cannot objectively state these are true or not, but denying them does not change the structure of my epistemology. I have no more reason to consider "harry potter and magic are real" than "god is real", they're in no way necessary things to believe to have a philosophy that makes sense.

      On the contrary, no philosophy would make sense without my base assumptions, which then directly implies the validity of science. That's NOT IN ANY SENSE SAYING MY EPISTEMOLOGY IS OBJECTIVELY TRUE! I cannot make that more apparent. But it IS saying that your "god" is an extra step that seems entirely useless and irrelevant, a pointless addition to an already coherent epistemology.

      You've failed to demonstrate how it is anything but a useless proposal, you've failed to show why I should consider god any more than I should consider I am a brain in a vat. Yes, it is possible, but it doesn't yield anything very fruitful from either a scientific or philosophic viewpoint. It's a waste of an assumption, you can assume harry potter is real too, but why bother?

      December 27, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Ironicus

      Now THAT'S the Andrew I like to see! I can't add anything to that but my thanks for writing that where I could see it and enjoy it.

      December 27, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • JohnR

      Russ, Russ, Russs. (1) Learn to admit a mistake. (2) Learn what 'begging the question' means. (3) Understand that what you are saying would be true if anyone were claiming that science PROVES that god does not exist. I can't say that no one has ever said that, but even as belligerent an "aggressive atheist" as Richard Dawkins has repeatedly DISAVOWED any such claim. The point rather is that there is no scientific evidence of the existence of any god, let alone specifically the Christian god, and then the question is why would you believe in something for which there is no evidence? And this is where it really is important to consider all the other gods that anyone ever thought existed. There is no scientific evidence for them, either. If one doesn't believe in them, why should one change the rules and believe in Jehovah?

      December 27, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • rick

      Keith: And then you will still be on your knees, begging your petty punk god for forgiveness. Go home and get your shinebox, boy

      December 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  14. BoldGeorge

    Here's something to consider about the very-flawed theory of evolution:

    Civilization has advanced from utter primitiveness to incredible mind-boggling achievements in just less than 200 years. So why didn't mankind discover any of this stuff 100,000,000 years ago, or 10,000 or even just a mere 5,000 years ago for that matter? This is very thought-provoking even if you are not religious–planes, cars, computers, refrigerators, even electricity, and the telephone, heck...cameras/snapshots were invented at the turn of the century, or a million other modern technological inventions. It has been just a mere 170 years that man (and woman) has seen or invented anything other than the wheel.

    December 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Bold George is a common form of the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy.


      December 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      If there were modern humans 100,000,000 years ago then you get the Nobel Prize once you present your peer reviewed evidence. My God You are stupid.

      December 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Follow up to BG
      Actually not a bad point, where the hell is God when he should be pushing science forrward? Playing golf?

      December 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Why have their been so many gods in the history of humanity? Why should christianity be considered any more "true" than any of the other religions that have been cast aside along the way? As there is no proof that any god has ever existed, what is rational about believing that yours is special?

      As for scientific advancement, there is an excellent series call "What the Ancients Knew" on the Science Channel. It provides an excellent overview of the rather advanced knowledge and inventions of ancient cultures. It's a great jumping off point for investigating your question. Just because the history of christianity is marked by long stretches of intellectual repression, it doesn't mean the rest of the world was standing still.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So I guess Isaac Newton or Leonardo Da Vinci or many, many others did not make a single discovery or advancement worth talking about.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Hilikus00

      BoldGeorge...your post shows a complete lack of understanding in evolution, and a frightening ignorance of history...human or otherwise.

      December 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • JohnR

      My god, BoldGeorge, all inventions save for the wheel only in the last 170 years???

      The question of why technological and scientific achievement has been increasing at an increasing rate is an interesting one, But anyone who wants to discuss it better get their fact is at least some semblance of order. There was a similar spectacular advance in technological achievement ca 30,000BP. But there've been inventions and advances galore throughout human history and we may indeed have been far, far more advanced than we are if Christianity and Islam didn't do so much damage to the nascent science in Greece and the Middle East.

      December 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Technological advancement is proceeding at an ever accelerating pace, but highlighted by several game changing events that spurred wild explosions in new discoveries. Harnessing and making fire, the wheel, lever, harnessing electricity, the production line, the computer and most recently the www. If you think the last 70 years were frenetic, be prepared to be blown away by what's coming.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      God is pouring out revelation and knowledge on His creation In the last days. Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. Not too bad for being foretold thousands of years ago. Can't excuse those ones away.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Prophesy in The Bible is no more credible than those by Nostradamis. Obscure passages can be interpreted to mean whatever one wishes. Nothing of consequence was predicted by the Bible. Even things that did come to pass were self-fulfilling like the Jews forming the state of Israel. That was the result of the Zionist agenda. Men made that happen by actively pursuing a desired goal...not god. Religion was their motivation. If they had failed to reach their objective or establishing Israel as prophesized they would still be working to fulfill it. That's how dogma and doctrine work.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      Lets review Biblical prophecy. There are approximately 2500 prophecies in the Holy Bible. Of the 2500, 2000 have been fulfilled to the letter exactly as given. Approximately 500 remain to be completed. The odds of that happening are astronomical, the facts speak for themselves.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      You have no facts. Prophesy from one half of a book predicting something in another half of the same book isn't some kind of magical fortune telling...it's prose.
      Look in Matthew the birth of Jesus is told to be prophecy from Isaiah.

      7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

      The prophecy given in Is.7:14 referred not to a virgin but to a young woman, living at the time of the prophecy. And Jesus, of course, was called Jesus - and is not called Emmanuel in any verse in the New Testament. The author of the gospel of Matthew knew of this OT passage and used it to weave mystique into his tale of Jesus. An intentional lie, deliberately mis-translated or shall we say just creative license. In any case this isn't prophesy...not by a long shot and worse it completely undermines Christianity to the core because it reveals Mary wasn't a virgin. Thus not divinely impregnated and Jesus is just a man. Nothing more.
      And that's just one example. But a doozy that topples your house of cards. Any prophecy between the OT and NT is the product of intentional construction to confound and impress muddleheads like you.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Felix, please provide a list of unequivocally fulfilled prophecies and unfulfilled prophecies. I've asked for one before (not from you) and no-one has ever been able to provide same.

      December 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      hotairace I know you are mentally challenged but the source material is already given. Try to follow this for one last time.
      The ... Prophecies ... In ... Question ... Are ... In ... (are you still with me?) ... The ... Holy ... Bible. I am not going to list all 2500 prophecies for you.

      December 27, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Felix, if you cannot come up with a simple list of prophecies and their status then you are spouting bull crap, are lying or most likely, both. Just as you have no proof for the existence of any god, I suspect you have no proof for any of the ridiculous things believer's believe.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Felix, I have read The Babble and determined it to be bad fiction, not worthy of being read again. You made a claim you cannot support – you lose.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Felix, esther writing in http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/28/in-brooklyn-a-hasidic-walking-tour-opens-ultra-orthodox-jewish-life-to-outsiders/ does a great job of destroying the basis for christianity – please go set her straight.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  15. The Central Scrutinizer

    My year in review: Nothing has Changed: Religious People still Delusional

    When you look at different religions, they usually contain "magic." For example:

    • The Mormon religion contains the magical golden plates, the magical angel, the magical seer stones, the magical ascension of the plates into heaven, etc.

    • The Muslim faith contains the magical angel, the magical flying horse, the magical voices, the magical prophet, etc.

    • The Christian faith contains the magical insemination, the magical star, the magical dreams, the magical miracles, the magical resurrection, the magical ascension and so on.

    The presence of "magic" is a clear marker for "imaginary." For example, how do we know that Santa is imaginary? Because (among other things) he has eight magical flying reindeer. How do we know that Jack and the Beanstalk is a fairy tale? Because (among other things) the story contains magical seeds. In the same way, how do we know that God is make believe? Because God is surrounded by magic.

    According to believers, God is an all-powerful being who has the divine, magical power to do anything. How do we know that this belief is a fairy tale? One way to know is to try to invoke God's magical power. For example, the Bible tells us in many places that God answers prayers. However, whenever we try to pray, we notice that nothing happens That tells us that God is completely imaginary. The magical powers ascribed to him are a fairy tale.

    Another way to know is to read the stories of magical events in the Bible. There is the magical flood, yet we know with certainty that the flood never happened. There are the magical miracles of Jesus, but (predictably) none of these miracles left behind any tangible There is the magical resurrection, yet there is zero evidence that it ever occurred and no reason to believe it.
    God is identical to Leprechauns, mermaids and Santa. God is a magical fairy tale creature.

    The magic surrounding God tells us that God is imaginary.

    December 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: in a universe of entropy, nonetheless, complex life exists. sounds pretty magical to me...

      December 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • I love it when religious people try to use science to explain their illusions

      Well Russ, you probably should consider all the laws of thermodynamics, not just the second, as well as a lot of other laws of physics and chemistry and others. Otherwise you come to very distorted conclusions like the one you just gave.

      No magic. Just the system operating according to perfectly explainable scientific processes.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Russ

      @ illusions: so I gather you think science is self-explanatory? even though it fails it's own presuppositions? I'm all for science as a discipline of subjective human observation, but such appeals to science as an answer to metaphysics is inherently flawed (scientism).

      start @ 1:19. Here's 5 "magical" faith-leaps of scientism (which, by the way, is not the same as science).


      December 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Reality

      Continuing the magic theme:

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

      December 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • .........

      continuing the better theme hit report abuse on all reality garbage

      December 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • JohnR

      No axiomatic system strong enough to capture the facts about the addition and multiplication of whole numbers can prove its own consistency. Therefore, god exists. What? Obvious nonsequitor, you say? Well, this is about on a par with what Christianity's leading pseudo-intellectual William Lane Craig is trying to get away with.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • JohnR

      @....... Do you really have nothing better to do than shadow Reality all day every day?

      December 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Reality: "most contemporary NT experts"... that is about as huge an overstatement as you can make.

      As i've pointed out before, your reliance on Crossan & other Jesus Seminar folks forgets that they are – at most – a minority group among scholars. Even wikipedia (as weak a resource as that is) has a decent list of their flaws (including their composition of members):

      more importantly, majority alone would not be a worthwhile argument for historicity either. Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses" thoroughly demonstrates how modern scholarship cannot but deduce the biblical accounts were from first & second-hand eyewitnesses.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      John, it is HeavenSent following Reality around all day ever day. And no, she has nothing else to do besides sitting in her pig sty letting her dogs eat out of her mouth and being miserable in her lonlilnes. Sad but true. And the stench.....oy.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      The 70's called, they want their Christian apologist back. And his hair cut.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: yes, better to make fun of his appearance than admit his logic.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Russ

      @ JohnR: missed your comment before. Your "non sequitur" objection misses his point. As I said to C.S. in an earlier thread here:

      Lane Craig's arguments were not mean to force you to believe Christianity. They were pointing out that so often people appeal to science in a metaphysical way, as though science can answer those questions – which it cannot. I don't believe you can "prove" faith to people – but it is something worthwhile to help folks realize that often they are putting 'faith' in something that was never designed to hold such weight (existentially speaking).

      December 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Russ Who makes metaphysical appeals to science and what are those appeals? And it plainly wouldn't matter one way or the other to a buffoon like Lane Craig unless he sought to bolster not just religion's, but Christianity's case by pointing out that the scientific method is based – ohmygosh – on certain philosophical precepts.

      Somewhere, some guy said that one would know them by their fruits. Religion bears so few fruits. Science has been nothing less than amazing in its achievements. So even of the philosophical precepts underlying science may turn out to need some tweaking, they seem to capture the essence of things pretty damn well!

      December 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ JohnR: yes, Jesus said you shall know them by their fruits. And he meant particularly in distinguishing those who claimed to be following God but aren't really from those who really are – a very humbling thing for Christians like me to hear in our many, many failings.

      Nonetheless, it is a vast overstatement to say Christians have accomplished so little. I would not want to make a commensurately short-sighted statement about atheists. Much has been accomplished by both. And science & faith are not mutually exclusive fields: many Christians also happen to be scientists/philosophers/etc. And many advancements have been made BOTH by atheist & Christian scientists. A discussion will be fruitless if there's not an honest assessment on both sides.

      But the greater point in the immediate discussion is the issue of "leaps of faith." Lane Craig's whole point is that an appeal to science as a way to claim one is not making a leap of faith is self-deluding. He gives 5 examples of how science cannot do that. Which points out: where are these scientific principles coming from? Assumptions. A leap of faith. The very thing being criticized.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Reality

      The Jesus Seminarians:

      Contemporary NT exegetes specializing in historic Jesus studies. Requirements to join, typically a PhD in Religious History or Religion with a proven record of scholarship through reviews of first to third century CE scripture and related doc-uments.

      "The ground-breaking work of the Jesus Seminar appears in two texts: The Five
      Gospels (1993) and Acts of Jesus (1998), both published by Polebridge Press.

      The Jesus Seminar is a group of biblical scholars chaired by the late Robert Funk, PhD.,
      who took the unprecedented step of voting as a group on the authenticity of the
      teachings and acts of Jesus. The following observations are taken from the
      introductory chapters of 5G and AOJ.

      Every individual saying and action was examined and rated by the Seminar as to
      whether Jesus actually said it or did it, or whether it was primarily the
      product of the author of the gospel. Building on the earlier work of individual
      scholars, the Seminar's research represents an unprecedented cooperative effort
      to separate what Jesus really said and did from what gets added on over time in
      the story telling and writing process.

      In addition to the four Gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, that we have
      known for two thousand years, the Seminar also included the Gospel of Thomas in
      their considerations. Thomas consists of sayings of Jesus that were discovered
      at Nag Hamadi, along with hundreds of other ancient texts, in a major
      archeological discovery in 1945. Thomas is not in story form, but it is a
      series of sayings. Many of the sayings are very similar to what appear in the
      other four gospels, and it was used by the Seminar as an independent report of
      what Jesus said.

      The Seminar's work assumes that for a period of some years the stories about
      Jesus were passed on by word of mouth as his followers practiced his teachings
      and some anxiously expected his return. Ten years may have gone by before
      teachings and actions began to be written down, and perhaps another ten years
      passed before they were put into larger collections like Thomas. These
      collections were probably taking place about the same time that Paul was writing
      letters (Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans) to various Christian communities.
      Eventually the materials were put together in story form, probably first by
      Mark, sometime around 70CE, followed by Matthew, John, and Luke/Acts, in that
      order. Some of the writing occurred as late as the first part to the middle of
      the second century CE.

      When the Seminar members voted, a red vote received 3 points, a pink vote
      received 2 points, a gray vote received 1 point, and a black vote received 0
      points. The colors were given the following definitions: Red = This statement
      is an accurate representation of what Jesus said or did. Pink = This statement
      very likely represents what Jesus said or did. Gray = This statement is most
      likely a formulation of the author, but the content is similar to what Jesus
      actually said or did. Black = This statement is purely a formulation of the
      author. A statement or event was given a final color code based on the
      following percentages: Red = .7501 or more of the scholars agreed that the
      teaching or event was authentic. Pink = .5001 to .7500 of the scholars agreed
      that the teaching or event was authentic. Gray = .2501 to .5000 of the scholars
      agreed that the teaching or event was authentic. Black = .0000 to .2500 of the
      scholars agreed that the teaching or event was authentic.

      THE SCHOLARS USED RULES to determine if Jesus really said or did something; for

      1. Primary assumption: Jesus was a reasonably well integrated person whose
      behavior was more or less congruent with his words.

      2. Certain categories, some much more than others, are common to the teaching
      and behavioral materials.

      (a) Itinerant

      (b) Family ties don't bind

      (c) Demon possession and exorcism

      (d) Social deviance

      (e) Association with undesirables

      (f) Embracing the unclean

      (g) Sabbath

      (h) Critics of Jesus

      (i) Healing

      3. Material that reflects knowledge of events after Jesus' death must be looked
      at cautiously.

      4. Material that appears in independent sources is older than the sources.

      5. Material that appears in independent contexts circulated on its own at an
      earlier time.

      6. Similar content that has taken on different forms had a prior life of its

      7. Oral memory best retains short, provocative, memorable material, like
      aphorisms and parables.

      8. It is more likely that the core or gist of a matter was recalled, rather than
      precise words.

      9. The writers likely put their own words in Jesus' mouth under the following

      (a) Story transitions: for example, "Let's go over to the other side." (Mk 4:35)

      (b) Summarizing the message: "The time is up. God's imperial rule is closing
      in." (Mk 1:15)

      (c) Anticipating the story: "The son of Adam is being turned over to his
      enemies, and they

      will end up killing him." (Mk 9:31)

      (d) Expressing the writer's view: "Why are you so cowardly? You still don't
      trust, do you?" (Mk 4:40)

      (e) Underscoring a narrative point: "He was unable to perform a single miracle
      there, except." (Mk 6:6)

      (f) Clarifying current practices: "The days will come when the groom is taken
      away from them, and then they will fast on that day." (Mk 2:20)

      (g) Eliciting a confessional point: "What about you, who do you say that I am?"
      (Mk 8:29)

      WHEN THE RULES ARE APPLIED an emerging pattern reinforces itself:

      (1) Talks distinctively, distinguishable from common lore.

      (2) Teaches against the social and religious grain.

      (3) Surprises and shocks by role reversal or frustration of ordinary

      (4) Uses characteristics of exaggeration, humor, and paradox.

      (5) Uses concrete and vivid images.

      (6) Uses metaphorical language without explicit application.

      (7) Seldom initiates dialogue, debate, or healing activity.

      (8) Rarely speaks about himself in the first person.

      (9) Makes no claim to be the Messiah.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Russ

      @ Reality: I am well aware of the Jesus Seminar. And you are illustrating Luke Timothy Johnson's point: they come with a preconceived notion to the text.

      The primary, repeated content of the accounts they overlook: that Jesus claimed to be God. [had a much lengthier entry written here, but CNN keeps blocking it; can't figure out the word that's a problem; here's the sum]

      1) Jesus forgives the sins of others (Mk.2:5-11; Lk.5:20-24). Only God could do that – as the Pharisees rightly note.

      2) Jesus claims to be the "I Am" (in at least 8 places in John, but most clearly in Jn.8:58) – a clear reference to God’s special name (Ex.3:14). Immediately, they pick up stones to kill him – the appropriate response only for someone claiming to be God.

      3) Not only that, but he claims to be eternal (Jn.8:57-8). He even says he saw Satan fall from heaven – an event before the creation of the universe (Lk.10:18).

      4) He claims to be one with "the Father" (Jn.10:29).

      5) He claimed he had seen God (Jn.6:46). Something no other faithful adherent of Judaism would dare claim.

      6) At the transfiguration, Moses & Elijah (both dead over 700 years each) appear & talk with him about how he will fulfill everything.

      In SUM: the Jesus Seminar chooses at the outset to eliminate things they have decided *before coming to the text* to be untenable. That is a fundamental flaw in all their scholarship, and the reason the Jesus they "deduce" looks like the Jesus they wanted when they started. It’s self-fulfilling methodology.

      December 27, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Ironicus

      Russ, your very apparent hypocrisy and the sheer irony of your argument is just breathtakingly bad.

      December 27, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • Reality

      With respect to John's Gospel and John' epistles, from Professor/Father Raymond Brown in his book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (The book has both a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Catholic Church),

      John's Gospel, Date- 80-110 CE, Traditional Attribution, (2nd Century), St. John, one of the Twelve,

      Author Detectable from the Contents, One who regards himself in the tradition of the disciple.

      First Epistle of John, Authenticity- Certainly by a writer in the Johannine tradition, probably NOT by the one responsible for most of the Gospel.

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......
      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/1john.html

      December 27, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  16. The Central Scrutinizer

    That drink looks good right now.

    December 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  17. Ironicus

    I'd have a hard time picking even one story from this blog. But that's because I am so cynical.
    Not a reflection on the hard work done by CNN staffers to put this stuff together.
    Just my own frustration and cynicism getting in the way as usual.
    Thanks for having a blog where I can vent, CNN!
    There's more evil in the world caused by religion than by any other single mindset.
    I don't recall if there was ever a story on that particular aspect of religion in the world, but it doesn't matter.
    I still have issues with how this blog works, however.............................!!!!

    December 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  18. JohnR

    Marrapodi can't possibly have read even a fair sampling of the comments on these articles, given how he characterizes them.

    December 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Ironicus

      That would be ironic, wouldn't it?

      December 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    December 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Christians are deluded

      Prove it.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Mirosal

      No, it doesn't. It's all in your head, nowhere else.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Mirosal

      Deluded ... you asked for proof .. the ONLY "proof" that will be offered will be bible quotes. The babble is NOT evidence. Even the courts won't let you use it as evidence. By the way, that guy using 'Atheism is not healthy' is also 'An Inconvenient Truth' on other blog pages. He just used that exact quote on the Israeli conflict blog.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Christians are deluded

      I know. He goes by a couple other names as well. He can't hide his angry style, so it is bviously him.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer


      What would happen if we get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:

      Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

      We pray sincerely, knowing that when God answers this completely heartfelt, unselfish, non-materialistic prayer, it will glorify God and help millions of people in remarkable ways.

      Will anything happen? No. Of course not.

      This is very odd. Jesus makes specific promises in the Bible about how prayer is supposed to work. Jesus says in many different places that he and God will answer your prayers. And Christians believe Jesus, "54% of American adults believe the Bible is literally true." In some areas of the country the number goes as high as 75%.

      If the Bible is literally true, then something is seriously amiss. Simply look at the facts. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
      Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

      If "every one who asks receives", then if we ask for cancer to be cured, it should be cured. Right? If "our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask him", then if we ask him to cure cancer, he should cure it. Right? And yet nothing happens.

      In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:

      For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

      If "nothing will be impossible to you", then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should disappear. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note that if we take the Bible less-than-literally here, the statement "nothing will be impossible to you" becomes "lots of things will be impossible to you," and that would mean that Jesus is lying.

      In Matthew 21:21:

      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

      If "you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer", then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should disappear. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note again that there is not a non-literal way to interpret "you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer", unless you replace "whatever" with "nothing" or "little."

      The message is reiterated Mark 11:24:

      Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
      If God says, "believe that you have received it, and it will be yours," and if we believe in God and his power, then what should happen if we pray to cure cancer tonight? It should be cured. Either that, or God is lying.

      In John chapter 14, verses 12 through 14, Jesus tells all of us just how easy prayer can be:

      "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

      Look at how direct this statement is: "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." This is the "Son of God" speaking. Have we taken him "too literally?" No. This is a simple, unambiguous statement. Have we taken his statement "out of context?" No – Jesus uses the word anyone. Yet Jesus' statement is obviously false. Because when we ask God to cure cancer tonight, nothing happens.

      We see the same thing over and over again...

      In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says:

      Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

      In James 5:15-16 the Bible says:

      And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

      In Mark 9:23:

      All things are possible to him who believes.

      In Luke 1:37:

      For with God nothing will be impossible.

      Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus' promises about prayer in the Bible. Yet, when we pray to eliminate cancer, nothing happens.

      And keep in mind that this is Jesus talking here. These are not the words of human beings. These are not the words of "inspired" human beings. These are supposedly the words of God himself, incarnated in a human body. Jesus is supposed to be a perfect, sinless being. And yet, it is obvious that Jesus is lying. What Jesus says is clearly incorrect.

      Jesus is supposed to be God. God is supposed to be perfect.
      When Jesus speaks, he should speak the truth.
      Yet when we look at what Jesus says about prayer,
      he is clearly lying.

      If you would like additional proof, gather a million faithful believers together into a giant prayer circle. Have them all pray together in Jesus' name that God cures every case of cancer on the planet tomorrow. Pray sincerely, knowing that when God answers this completely heartfelt, unselfish, non-materialistic prayer, it will glorify God and help millions of people in remarkable ways.

      Now, we certainly have two or more people gathered together, and they have asked in Jesus' name, and we have not one but a million faithful believers who, by definition, have faith and believe. We have fulfilled every one of Jesus' requirements.
      Will Jesus answer the prayer now? Of course not. Your prayer will go unanswered, in direct defiance to Jesus' promises in the Bible. In fact, if you pray for anything that is impossible, your prayer will always go unanswered.

      If you are an intelligent, rational human being, all of the examples mentioned above show you that the God of the Bible is imaginary. What Jesus says about prayer in the Bible clearly is not true.

      In fact, we have ample scientific evidence to demonstrate that the belief in prayer is nothing but pure superst-ition.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      prayer changes things
      accept it

      December 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • JohnR

      Prayed affects only the one praying, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes not.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I will tell you what changes things, I took the kids to Six Flags and on the way back SOMEBODY took off their shoes and socks. NOT pleasant. I prayed but the odor didn't leave the car for three days. Do prayers take 3 days? Hmmm maybe!

      December 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      So, in all seriousness "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      You do not beleive what the Bible says about prayer, so what is your religion? (or do you accept the Bible is wrong and on about your hypocritical life)?

      December 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: doesn't being literal include taking things in literary context?

      Jesus keeps saying pray anything **in His name.** Seems the whole discussion comes down to what that means, right?

      Considering how Jesus tells his disciples to pray when they ask (Lord's prayer: "Thy will be done," not "Hey Santa..."), and considering Jesus' own unanswered prayer ("Father, if it's at all possible, let this cup pass") in the Garden of Gethsemane, maybe you missed the primary literary context, as well as the main function/meaning of prayer.

      What if "in His name" means submitting to God's agenda to use unthinkable suffering (like the cross) to accomplish more than we could ever hope for? "He who did not spare his own son, but who gave him up for us all, how will he not also – along with Him – graciously give us all things?" (Rom.8:32) written by Paul... from prison... clearly believing even his suffering was included in that promise.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Reality

      The gifts of Free Will and Future are inherent to all the thinking beings in the Universe. This being the case, it is not possible to alter life with prayers. Statistically, your request might come true but it is simply the result of the variability/randomness of Nature..

      So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping/revering cows or bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the proper rules of your religion or any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings.

      December 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I don't claim to have any answers but I do think I have at least some common sense, so this is what I will say to you in no particular order relative to some of your above statements:

      1. If Fod is perfect, all powerful and the Father of Jesus (which makes no sense but I will move on) then why would ANYONE need to explain the Bible. I should be gloriious and perfect and explaint the wonders of creation and the univers and everything in it including us, and EXACTLY what our role is to play on the great scheme of life. Instead, it is the oposite. Impossible to understand, poorly written and contradictory. It was written by primitive men and you can tell. The Bible means ZERO.

      2. It is easier to make fun of your hero's logic than his appearance. I was doing you a favor. His very first premise is flawed, thus everything that follows is meaningless. "If there is somehting it had to come from somewher". I don't disagree. But where? How does the prove God?

      3. You are boring, I am done with you.

      December 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I meant to say "Fod" really I did! Ok, let me have it. I suck.

      December 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Reality: seems an omniscient & omnipotent God certainly could include our 'free will' in his plans. but it begs the question: what kind of God would that be? either crazy or incredibly benevolent...

      December 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: we all make mistakes. I can roll w/ "Fod."

      1) the simplicity of 'the Jesus Story' (Gospel) is exactly what has made it so culturally transcendent. Now, that is not to say it isn't equally preposterous at the outset, but if it's true... if God really became a baby & lived the life I couldn't & died the death I deserved & defeated death forever on my behalf... Well, then, as JRR Tolkien said to CS Lewis: it's not just another fairy tale. It's the truth underneath to which all the fairy tales point (& why they're so moving to us).

      2) His arguments were not mean to force you to believe Christianity. They were pointing out that so often people appeal to science in a metaphysical way, as though science can answer those questions – which it cannot. I don't believe you can "prove" faith to people – but it is something worthwhile to help folks realize that often they are putting 'faith' in something that was never designed to hold such weight (existentially speaking).

      3) I hope not. I'm enjoying the conversation. I hope you are as well.

      December 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Hey Russ, what is your definition of free will? I warn you in advance, the Bible does support that concept! Thanks for cutting me some slack on "FOD" lol

      December 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: yes, well noted. "Free will" in a Western enlightenment sense is not a biblical understanding. We aren't talking about choosing b/t A & B as equals. This is not a vanilla versus chocolate decision.

      Biblically speaking, freedom of the will is freedom from bondage to sin. Freedom in Christ is freedom from the slavery to sin – but it is not the autonomy of the individual. It is freedom to do that for which we were created. To use 'freedom' for self-destruction is not real freedom at all.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Accept it
      Take a moment to ask

      December 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Russ, does god know the moments when we will live and die? Does god have a plan for each of us?

      December 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: yes. I think the Bible clearly & repeatedly teaches that.

      And in anticipation of your next question: the bible teaches both that he is completely sovereign yet we are still completely responsible as rational agents... b/c:
      1) He created us good – and not in bondage to sin
      2) we actively chose to ruin ourselves
      3) in His grace he intervened at the cross.
      SUM: He is not obligated to save us, yet he did.

      We are responsible for what we do. God in unbelievable benevolence breaks in to free us from our willful self-slavery.

      December 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Accept it
      Take a moment to ask
      God to enter your life

      December 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Russ, you can't have it both ways. Either God dictates all OR we have free will. which is is it?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      BTW, the Bible states clearly that god knows everything hat will happen in advance. so where is the free will?

      December 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer is an insult to God's plan.

      December 26, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Russ

      @ C.S.: I'm not trying to have it both ways. As I said above, it's not a contradiction by the biblical definition. Only if you're imposing the Western "autonomy of the individual" ideal does it create a problem, but that is not the presupposition of the Bible.

      We are not robots. We are much greater than that. But the difference between us & God is greater than the difference between us & robots (a completely different category: Creator/creature, or as Kierkegaard put it – there's an "infinite, qualitative difference" between God & humanity). It is reductionist to make us either robots or autonomous demigods. But the complexity of the human psyche would be nothing to an omniscient being – including influencing and/or transforming.

      Consider this: what does the cross say about humanity's free will & God's sovereignty? That is the clearest picture of God's revelation of our condition & his intention.
      1) In our freedom, this is what is necessary to fix what we've done to ourselves (it's worse than we want to admit; we deserve death).
      2) In his sovereignty, he has demonstrated a love deeper than our slavery (it's better than we ever dared to imagine; he died in my place – to save me from myself).

      The cross holds these two things together: the problem of what we've done with our freedom (which is really not freedom, but self-destruction) & the real freedom he brings in his sovereignty (which allowed us to misuse our finitude [again, our fault, not his], yet woos us back from that misuse & saves us ultimately from that self-destruction).

      December 27, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Russ

      @ Jesus: the biblical Jesus said just the opposite. Prayer is actually a beautiful function of God's plan & statement of his intent: that he would use broken, foolish creatures like me as instruments of his healing of a fractured existence, including – but not limited to – my own.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Ironicus

      Prayers do nothing but fool you into thinking you've done something real instead of imaginary.

      December 27, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  20. Yawn

    If you are atheist, don't waste your time at AA. Do SMART or LifeRing. Actually, those systems are just plain better anyway, religious or not. AA is a stillborn failure of an approach that should have followed shock therapy into obscurity.

    Labyrinths? What a stupid story that was.

    Yup, there really is no true religious news. There are only stories of the truly ridiculous things that people believe, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Expect more religious absurdity in 2012. Expect Jesus not to return again. Expect more Islamic violence. Expect more cults and whack factions to do really mindless things in service to their invisible friend of choice.

    And expect the Belief Blog to be there, ready to plop these non-stories into your laps.

    December 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Wait, they have articles on this thing? No wonder I am always confused.

      December 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Felix, if you cannot come up with a simple list of prophecies and their status then you are spouting bull crap, are lying or both. Just as you have no proof for the existence of any god, I suspect you have no proof for any of the ridiculous things believer's believe.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Sorry – the above should have been posted elsewhere.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      The point is to search it out for yourself. You have been advised as to the source, I assume you can read, it appears you cannot understand but that is beyond my help. I have told you were to find the prophecies what more is there? I will not write out all 2500 for you. Get off your lazy butt and do it yourself or admit your stupidity and go on to something else.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:23 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.