My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
The Bible presents us with an evolving story, writes John Shelby Spong.
December 29th, 2011
09:10 AM ET

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World."

By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN

The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.

To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.

First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.

The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

Actually, that's not in the Bible

Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written - that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John - we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.

My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality

Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.

The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?

The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.

The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.

It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.

The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.

It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.

One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.

The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.

That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (6,068 Responses)
  1. cbinal

    Trying to justify something there Shelby?

    January 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Debra Martinez @ marisol

    Marosol!! I cant even understand what you have written maybe your gods are with you, Woe to the them and to you!!! Get back Satan!!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Rick

      Wow. This is either a spoof, or we have an incredibly twisted woman here

      January 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Mirosal

      She's a little of both actually. She can't even spell my screen name properly.

      January 7, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  3. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    1Enoch 98:15 “Woe unto you who write down false words and words of wickedness. For they write down their lies so that they (the people) may commit wicked acts, and they cause others to commit wicked acts.”
    Written down in 2012 AD, 5000 years later for your eyes to read: http://www.squidoo.com/apostles-today-and-apostolic-governance

    January 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  4. tony

    Any belief in God physically acting inside our known Universe requires the suspension of cause and effect for that action. I.e. breaking the Laws of Physics to get a different effect from the one expected. So far (13 Billion years or so), there doesn't appear to be any evidence of such actions.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  5. Martin

    *too weak. I actually do know how to spell!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  6. Martin

    @ Chuckles (and the forum as a whole)

    I apologize if I misrepresent Doc Vestibule, but if I may be so bold, I would like to reply to you on two counts:

    (1) You simply made the exact argument I am refuting. The historian Charles Taylor talks about what he calls "subtraction theories"–i.e. theories that try to explain away religion by providing "alternative explanations" for the way the world "works", thus mitigating the "need" for religion. To use such an argument at all is to assume religion is merely about explaining things we don't understand. That is a very 18th and 19th century understanding of religion, and one that wholly misses the point, at least from my experience as a theist. I am not a theist because we haven't yet explained the dual nature of light or provided a "theory of everything". I'd still be a theist even if we had. Many atheists seem to completely misunderstand the motives for belief, undoubtedly because, like religious fundamentalists, they are too busy caricaturing their opponents as intellectual midgets and charlatans who can barely tie their own shoes, let alone understand philosophy or the hard sciences. Nor am I a theist (nor are most theists I have meant) because I am to weak to face reality. If most of you would take the time to actually read religious authors, you would see that we often find religion as a great source of affliction and trial, as well as comfort. Religion is a hard road, and not one laid out simply for those who want to be coddled. I am a theist because I honestly do find it intellectually compelling, not because I can't face death or because I don't understand chemistry or cosmology.

    (2) You state that most of Doc's examples are from the recent past (or present), where men of intellect no longer are burdened with dogma and can see clearly. Wasn't my point that there are recent men of intellect (Lewis, Taylor, Craig, Cunningham, Montgomery, etc.) who come to their faith, in some cases as former atheists, by means of reason and the tools of logic? I have no interest in providing lists of names so as to prove who has the most names behind their argument. It may very well be that atheists do. The point was simply that reason and faith are not in conflict, and that very contemporary men have used reason to go from atheism to theism, just as much as others have gone the opposite direction. If this were an issue to easily be settled by turning to reason and the tools of logic, I would think it would have been settled long ago in the academy. It has not, and to imply that the only reason for this is that some intellectuals are allowing their intellects to be blinded by religious dogma is both unfair and unhelpful to the debate. Until we actually start taking each other seriously, rather than spiraling down into the petty and shameful name-calling and caricaturing (I may have made that word up) I see in this "forum", nothing will ever be settled. I personally doubt anything will ever be settled definitively one way or the other anyway (the world is hardly so tidy), but at least let us treat each other with respect. There are brilliant, rational atheists just as their are brilliant, rational theists. If the question were really quite so simply as many imply it to be, it would have been settled a long time ago! No one's going to prove or disprove the existence of God in this forum any more than they could have in ancient Greece, in medieval or post-Enlightenment Europe, or in the "modern" age. Swallow your pride, whether you be a theist or an atheist, admit you might be wrong, and start looking at things with a dose of humility.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland


      See, I told you someone more astute than you would come along and explain the subtext of my postings. If you just wait long enough, something will happen. That said, I can see not much worthwhile happens on this site.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Well thought out and I will give you an answer though I would first like to address that I thought I did answer your post as respectfully as possible nor did I resort to name calling or making crass charicutures of religious scientists. If that last part was to the forum as a whole, then ok, but make no mistake that I will normally make at least one or two remarks in good faith to anyone who wants to discuss the finer points of theology before resorting to defamation of a person's intelligence (though if they're like fred here, he's proven time and time again to be a fool so it's not defamation as much as statement of fact)

      To answer your first point: When religion is used to answer scientific questions, then not only is it fair to offer alternative solutions, but in most cases it answers questions that religion didn't answer sufficiently. Part of the issue here is your stance to choose to be a theist in the face of everything pointing against your point of view ( I make this statement based off your quote, "..I'd still be a theist even if we had"). One of the highest qualities I think should be valued by everyone is being able to admit when you are wrong and changing your opinion based on new reputable information. To stare new findings in the face and refuse to change and then try to pass it off as a virtue of faith (not you specifically, but as a culture as a whole, though maybe you as well, I don't know) is one of my biggest issues with theism in general. In my previous post I still stand by the statement that to be a christian and believe in scientific method and theory means that you have to take a very liberal view of your own religion or suspend scientific thinking in order to embrace christian theology at its word. That's the doublethink process that has been going on for quite a while and there should be a change in that reasoning in my opinion.

      to answer your second point: You are right that it's rather pointless to try and put up a list of scientists who are and aren't atheists/theists. Even though there are clearly many more atheists in the sciences, to make your decision based on that alone is a fallacy in itself and doesn't make anything less or more right simply because more people agree or disagree, though it definitly does beg the question of "why are so many scientists also atheists?" (<– This is more of a rhetorical question and in no way is trying to prove a point but is just a legitamate question. I do not want to be accused of committing the begging the question fallacy). In the meat of your paragraph, part of the issue why this all hasn't been settled using tools of logic is because of your stance in point one. Many people are still theists regardless of evidence presented to them that would point otherwise. I don't come onto this forum to "settle" anything or disprove god, I mostly come to this forum to challenge other theists to defend their faith and understand what it is they actually believe in and not the watered down version they do in their heads. Reading other religious writers is incredibly frustrating for me (and yes, I"ve done my fair share of reading) because many of these men who have penned their journey's from atheism to theism do so as a personal journey and ascribe to only certain aspects of religious practice when religion implies that once you accept it, you accept all parts. You may think it's unfair to say that, but dogma and theism are rigid in that regard and if you start following your own brand of a specific religion instead of the stated customs, rituals and philosophies then you are as much of as a heretic as I am (Heck, look how mormons are viewed by the rest of christianity).

      January 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Considering you can't defend or even articulate a specific point, your words mean nothing. You may as well be a computer drone. Until you can stop piggybacking on other people's posts and claiming them as your "subtext", you're nothing more than a drone, incapable of producing your own ideas. It may sound harsh, but considering all you've done so far is list dead guys from the 13-17th centuries and then claim to have all this subtext as if that's just as good, the truth is sometimes harsh.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      Chuck – you come across as an inteligent man, and you write well. However, you also come across as bitter, antagonistic, and uncharitble. I guess they don't emphasis the virtues in atheist schools.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • -----

      "Chuck – you come across as an inteligent man, and you write well. However, you also come across as bitter, antagonistic, and uncharitble. I guess they don't emphasis the virtues in atheist schools."

      pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot

      By the way it would have helped if you had checked your spelling first.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Chuckles


      I've never heard of an atheist schools, but generally I an neither bitter or antagonistic. At times I become very frustrated and vent that frustration and a lot of times when I point out falsehoods or contradtictions in church doctrine, people take that as antagonism at the person and not the doctrine. I can't really do much to change that.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      Chuck – would you say, then, that you ARE uncharitable?

      Anyway – I don't think there are a lot of inconsistencies in Martin's post. He said in prose, what I said by bulletin board, and that is, faith and reason are complimentary. The Church is not anti-science (not mine, anyway), nor anti-logic.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Chuckles


      First, me being uncharitable? You know what they say about when you as.sume right?

      Secondly, you haven't "said" anything up till now. If someone asked you to state a position on civil rights saying "Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B Anthony, Malcolm X, etc..." isn't a statement nor is there subtext. That doesn't fly as an argument and the same principal is applied here. This most recent post at least now as some of your own words in it.

      "[F]aith and reason are complimentary. The Church is not anti-science (not mine, anyway), nor anti-logic." When you couple this with the scientists you have named, then you start generating an argument

      Now, moving on to it, The church doesn't have the official stance of being "anti-logic", but anyone who can say they believe god created the world according to genesis and in the same breath say they accept big bang theory IS anti-logic. You don't have to make the statement of "being" something if you espouse the definition of it. Next, Faith and Reason are actually polar opposites, you have faith IN SPITE of reason.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      That's why I'm happy to report that my church neither reads the Genesis story as literal history – AND – it was a Catholic priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory. If you scroll down to, and actually read, one of my earlier posts, rather than ignoring it, you'll see that! In fact, I invite you to read some of those mini bios I posted, and tell me what conclusion you draw about science and the Catholic Church. (hint the priests name was Monsignor George Lamaitre)

      January 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • OhPlz

      "it was a Catholic priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory"

      It was based off of Einsteins work.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Then I'm more than happy to report that A) Since you don't read the genesis as literal history that you've perfectly espoused my point of both believing in the bible and then suspending that belief (or taking very liberal interpretations) in order to believe the science behind it AND that according to church doctrine you and your church are heretics!
      b) like OhPlz has stated, Lamaitre took the idea from Einstein, as well as just because a concept came from a scientist who was a christian doesn't mean it aligns with christian doctrine. Of course it doesn't To accept that the universe is close to 14 billion years old and started from rapid exapnsion from a singularity is to deny that god created the world in 6 days 5800 years ago and created the earth and plants before the sun.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      " Lamaitre took the idea from Einstein"

      No he didn't Chuckles...Einstein didn't believe in a growing universe.

      Not to mention how silly you all are being. Did Einstein grow up in a vacuum? Who taught him? Where did he get his ideas?
      Sure Lemaitre used some of Einstein's ideas and expanded on that. That is how good science is done.

      But the point that seems to irk ppl is that Lemaitre was a Christian and religious and it didn't hinder his ability to think in scientific terms at all. Atheists seem to hate that.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Chuckles


      You make valid points, but you're detracting from the greater issue at large here, namely that to accept the big bang theory means you either suspend all or most belief in genesis and either say it's totally ficticious or to take very liberal implications like saying "day" doesn't mean day but something else, and that the sun existed after the earth is just allegory. Regardless of who proposed the big bang theory, whether Laimaitre used ideas from einstein or if einstein used earlier christian concepts is irrelevant, because the final outcome of the theory points towards Genesis being completely wrong from an origin standpoint.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      Hey Chuck – there's no need to tell the Catholic Church how it OUGHT to be interpreting the Bible, e.g. either you interpreti it like a fundamentalist, or you really don't believe in it. Why don't you let the Church decide how to apply scripture, since you don't believe in it.

      Here's a quote from the current pope on the Gensis story:

      All of this is well and good, one might say, but is it not ultimately disproved by our scientific knowledge of how the human being evolved from the animal kingdom? Now, more reflective spirits have long been aware that there is no either-or here. We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the "project" of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary - rather than mutually exclusive - realities.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Chris


      Very, very well said. I couldn't have said it better myself, and it's of comfort to know that there are other theists out there that not only have traversed the same intellectual heights (and depths?) but are able to adequately and eloquently represent them. Keep speaking your truth as you know it, fellow journeyman.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Chuckles


      No wonder you chose that handle. First and foremost, I'm free to comment anyway I want on how other people interpret the bible based on a historical perspective. More importantly however, the quote you provided is the perfect anecdote to wrap up my point once and for all. Even the pope himself thinks that genesis is rather silly when taken literally and he approaches the genesis story as a philisophcal question rather than a practical and literal one.He is more than able to look at the philisophical implications of the "why are we here" nature, but to try and prove that the bible recites true events to a T (like jesus's birth, life and death, the exodus, etc...) at the same time again, and hopefully for the last time, shows the suspension of reason and logic when trying to reconcile scientific findings and biblical stories. You can take the approach I've seen some posters take (ie DamianKnight and JW) that use the book as a signpost, a way to understand what god wants and doesn't want without having to follow every little detail – but doing so goes against church doctrine and makes you a heretic. You see the issue here? Being a fundementalist christian doesn't sit well with me but at least they understand that by accepting an alternative version can nullify their current version.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      So, according to you, you have to be either a fundamentalist Christian – a amillenium and 8/10ths later sub-derivative of the Catholic Church – or you're not really a Christian at all. Why, you sound just like them! And I leave the two of you to hammer that out on here until the cows come home. Good luck!

      January 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Shucks and here I thought I was actually reaching you. No, thats actually not what I said at all, but thanks for completely missing the point. Just because I think when someone is interpretating the bible the wrong way, does not mean that they aren't a christian. If that were the case then the thousands of sects out there wouldn't be counted at all, they would be religions unto themselves. The only thing you need to be a christian is to accept Jesus as your lord and savior, thats really the only thing you need to say in order to become part of the club, after that, how you interpret the bible is what sorts you into a sect. What I pointed out is that fundementalist christians are the only ones who take the bible as the literal word of god and so don't have to go through the mental gymnastics of trying to reconcile scientific theory with their religion, they just reject the science outright, which love em or hate em, they at least stick to their guns. My only hope is that you understand what I'm pointing out here and at least admit to yourself that there is a contradiction here that you simply have to ignore in order to believe in both. It won't make you any less of a christian, it just uncovers what I as an atheist see in almost all christians now a days and why christianity, as well as every other religion, needs to understand this point and start making changes.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  7. rev.spike

    I think it is a misconception that this man has anything to say about the Bible that is worth considering.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Rick

      then you are free to pass it by, rev

      January 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  8. Debra Martinez

    For this man has NO knowledge on the history of Jesus Disciples or who was Timothy, a highly assistant to the apostle Paul ! Timothy was a son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother and been raised in Lystra. His mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois .. Paul spoked Greek and to say he did not , well you should have done some soul searching!!!
    For it is written! That God Is Love! 1 John 4:8,9,10...
    The Bible author is God Word.. That is why we have his word in the BIBLE . Thje bible stands for (B) Basic (I) instruction (B)Bring (L)Living (E) Everlasting.. So My God is not of Lowness , He's a God that Loves all his children ! And he is a protector when it comes to those that Follow the right way!! 1John5:18,19.. Everyone should get to know Him , read the Bible everyday and He will give you his power of his holy spirit.
    He will direct you to places that is full of peace!! What we can learn here if you read the bible more often and pray before you read and ponder , and ask the Father to show you, the meaning and he and you will understant it better!! and for those who think is complicated , well its becaused the holy bible its holy, holy and it was inspired by God, and the writters where men of GOD, not man of this world!! Racing to sell thier own thought and promisses ..That why for it is written "men fall short of the glory of God"!
    You can have a relationship with the Almighty and he can make your path straight!! For it is written!! There taking in Knowledge of me!!!
    Get your answers form God not for man caused man , "For it is written" they just cant walk straight , and weren't given approval to direct thier own steps !! Follow what the Fine Shepherd does searches for all of his flock!!!

    January 6, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Rick

      "The Bible author is God Word.. That is why we have his word in the BIBLE"

      Wow. Thanks for straightening THAT out

      January 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • junkerjorg

      I'm a Christian and disagree COMPLETELY with Spong here but when I read responses to Spong like this one I can see why skeptics and the like think Christians are anti-intellectual baboons. So many of us write and think like it!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      wow debra, lost some brain cells reading the crap you posted. thanks for that.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Martin

    Also, you imply, Doc Vestibule, that no one has ever come to faith because of reason. This is such a grand charge as to be (1) unprovable (I thought you liked evidence) and (2) completely unfair. Look at such examples as C.S. Lewis and, more recently, the Oxford don Alistair McGrath, for obvious examples to the contrary. You create a false dichotomy between reason and faith.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Chuckles

      If I may be so bold

      That is NOT what the good Doctor is implying, it's what you are as.suming and your as.sumption is wrong. Part of what Doc is showing is that there have been many celebrated scientists who have made world-changing discoveries and are also not weighed down by religious doctirne that clouds results.

      He also makes the point that not too long ago, the Church had a monopoly using power and money on people who could read and do science in all forms. You can form some opinions however from the lists of people who have added to science in Doc's post vs. Confused, namely that Doc's list shows people who are still alive, live in free democracies and can use all the information available to them to make informed opinions about faith. @Confused's list of people not only are most dead, but also lived in a time where "magic" was thought to be the norm and forming illogical opinions seemed logical at the time.

      With the knowledge base we've built up now and most things that were attributed to god and magic have since been proven to natural phenomenon without needing a god, logic concludes that most things aren't divinely inspired or need a god to work. Furthermore, there are christian, and other religious scientists out there who still hold faith despite the overwhelming evidence, but even they know that they must suspend their logic in order to reconcile their belief, or at the very least take a very liberal view of their religion and go way off book.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Chuckles


      Apologies to the doctor if I put any words in his mouth that he may disagree with.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • fred

      You said "even they know that they must suspend their logic in order to reconcile their belief"
      =>You have no basis to back that up, just wishful thinking. Scientists do not need to suspend their logic to reconcile belief as they recognize faith explains that which cannot be seen and science explains that which can.
      You have become the serpent of 2012 by appealing to the vanity of man. Keep it up and you may just succeed in your goal of establishing the greatest experiment of all time. A total godless society has never been tried. An experiment conducted for your own vanity and against all known history. Stalin, Mao and Poll Pot never succeeded in eradicating the world of Christians and Hitler failed in his attempts. Now the serpent retreats to the trick of the beginning times. "Did God really say that?" "taste and you will be wise like God" "so she found the fruit desirable for wisdom"
      You are the one who suspends logic. It was your people that throughout scripture would reject God and reject God’s blessings. It was your people that put Christ on trial. Now 2012 rolls in and Chuckles continues to put Christ on trial, reject God and lead others to follow their own way. Just how many more times will you and your generations repeat the same dead end rejection of truth in favor of your own way? What is your logic in repeating the same error of your fathers? How big a sign does God need to hang around you, how many more examples of stiff necked peoples do you need? You are a very illogical people indeed. Even after being freed from Egypt you looked back and longed for slavery over the manna provided by God knowing from your own scripture what put you into slavery. Your rejection sent you to Babylon. Today you reject the freedom offered by Christ and demand a godless world run by atheists. As in the desert you long to be under the slavery of man rather than serve a loving God.
      What kind of logic do you need to suspend to suggest a godless world run by godless men would show love towards their subjects. Please give me some proof you have found in the last 5,000 years on just how kind godless men are.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • J.W

      Chuckles is a serpent. He always tries to get me to eat the apple of logic and reason, or since I am a man does that make Chuckles Eve?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Chuckles


      There was an awful lot of accusation in that last post, There were a lot of words, but very little content. Let's address the beginning part of the post. You are right that I have no way to back that up......except of course for a scientist to accept say, the big bang or evolution, they HAVE to suspend belief in god to the degree that the bible defines it, or like I said, take a very liberal view of the bible and take lots of liberties to reconcile it.

      Secondly, and getting into the bones of your post. Your accusations are pretty unfounded and the arrogance in which you scream of jewish self-centeredness is appalling to say the least. We've gone over this a lot so I won't write a book, but basically fred, regardless of what YOU think of as truth, jewish people have indeed learned from our mistakes and the world has shaped us to finally not trust the world as they have not trusted, tortured and murdered us for years simply because we are gods chosen. Jesus wasn't the first messianic figure to claim to be the jewish messiah nor was he the last. To take him at his word is the height of stupidity, as is reading the bible as if it's completely factual in every aspect.

      You want to know a godless nation run by godless men showing love to their subjects – confucianism for one. Look at the far east and the teachings of Confucius, the main foundational point being relationships only work with perfect obediance and perfect benevolance. Confucianism being a philosophy and not a religion uses humanist values without any supernatural deity to come to this conclusion and it's the reason why the Chinese have been able to survive and flourish (Mao and communism not withstanding, which if anything hurt the chinese more than it helped),

      I also don't "demand" anything of the sort of a godless world run by atheists, I only hope that one day we'll have another enlightenment where we can cast off the chains of religions and select the best parts of the philosophy and move forward sans god. It can't and won't happen overnight nor can you force anyone to do this, it's only through hope and education that people will finally see what a beautiful world we could live in if everyone took the blame for their actions and didn't leave it to an imaginary god.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • fred

      The serpent went after the weak link which brought down man. The serpent uses logic and reason to break down faith and trust in God. One cannot find God through mans logic and reason.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Chuckles hit the nail on the head.
      Confused kept spouting lists of theistic scientists from eras where science could only be practiced with church approval.
      My lists were long, fairly modern examples of scientists who are/were self-professed atheists.
      As for nobody coming to religion based on logic – all I have to say is that faith is the ant.ithesis of logic.
      Belief without evidence is the suspension of rational thought, not an extension of it.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • fred

      “to accept say, the big bang or evolution, they HAVE to suspend belief in god to the degree that the bible defines it,”
      =>No, you do not need to toss your brains in the trash as to accept evolution. Even the Bible makes a distinction between “God creating” and “then God made man from what was”. It was a small minority of evolutionist or materialists that attempted to use evolution to disprove God. It is the tools of the materialist that do not work as to the things of God not the other way around. It is by faith we understand God created that which is seen from that which cannot be seen. You and other big bangers have the same principle only prefer the term first cause.
      “you scream of jewish self-centeredness is appalling to say the least.”
      =>Good gosh Chuckles the entire Old Testament is about the Hebrew / Israel / the chosen ones. It is your history as it was or would you prefer to rewrite it like they just did with Huck Finn.
      “ jewish people have indeed learned from our mistakes and the world has shaped us to finally not trust the world as they have not trusted, tortured and murdered us for years simply because we are gods chosen.”
      =>Why have your people been the scapegoats? Ignore the Jesus entanglements. Was it not because of failure to love God, was it not because you chose the desires of this world over the promise of God?
      “ To take him [Jesus] at his word is the height of stupidity, as is reading the bible as if it's completely factual in every aspect. “
      =>as Pilate said" what is truth".
      “ teachings of Confucius, the main foundational point being relationships only work with perfect obediance and perfect benevolance.”
      =>Sounds of Jesus and sounds of the Garden of Eden.
      In short you would like to everyone to be like Jesus or Confucius yet, reject God. So Jesus was right you cannot have two masters for you will love the one and reject the other. You have chosen to reject God

      January 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Chuckles


      And there it is, the suspension of logic and reason. I didn't say you had to throw the brain down the trash chute to believe in evolution, however if you look at genesis and read the creation story and think to yourself that this was the way earth and life on it came into existance, and then at the same time believe that evolution, where everything came from single celled organisms (hence everything coming from "what was") you're holding two disparate and contradictary notions in your head and you have to suspend the belief in one to accept the other. In this case you really can't have your cake and eat it two no matter how much you wish it to be so.

      Onto israelite history – The Torah isn't the complete and only record of jewish history freddie nor does it show what happens when the israelites decided to reject god as being the only time they were punished, executed and pillaged. Not to mention, during the holocaust, the most pious people were murdered.....why would god kill jews when they didn't reject him at all? If you're talking history fred, you have to look past the old testement and take it in as a whole.
      Why are jews scapegoats? It's simple and actually has very little to do with christ. Up until around the 20th century, jews have made it a very serious point to separate themselves from the communties at large as well as hold the firm belief they are chosen and everyone else is not. There's also the added bonus of jews not having usury prohibitions the way other religions did so they were given control of finances early on so other cultures could get around their own laws. Distrust built up when people were not allowed to join jewish custom and were rejected, xenophobia, disinformation. We were hoisted by our own petard, we got what we wanted by excluding everyone but we didn't realize the far reaching implications.
      Christ was only brought in as part of the disinformation propaganda machine from a christian angle to legitimize the xenophobia and ingrained hate towards jews, it's not the root cause.

      Next, and last. Confucianism and Confucis had already lived and died before the supposed "genesis" and Adam and the garden of eden. To say that confucianism is equated to that is missing the point entirely and cherry picking (which a lot of christians are superb at). Like I pointed out, relationships between subjects and masters requires perfect obedience from below and perfect benevolence from above. Considering god was not benevolant, but incredibly vengeful, in the OT, these are two entirely different ideas. Jesus might have heard of confucianism, buddhism, zoroastrianism, hinduism and other eastern philosophies and religions in the years between the birth and his preaching days and incorporated them into his sermons, but don't for one second think that is was the other way around, that's idiotic in the extreme and another example of you specifically staring logic and reason straight in the face and choosing the exact opposite idea in order to reconcile your belief in jesus.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • fred


      “ single celled organisms (hence everything coming from "what was")”
      =>Raca!, this is why the Bible clearly uses God created the heavens and the earth …..then.....God made man from “what was”. Where is the contradiction we have the process of creation from what could not be seen to what can be seen and then God made man from what was. Seems you are the one disparate to find contradiction.
      =>Thank you for excellent insight to Israelite history, and who said only fools can hear serpents talk.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Chuckles


      If by desparate you mean astounded that people can ignore glaring contradiction....then yes. From fossil records and the evidence we've accrued up to this point, it shoes that the genesis story has it down wrong, it's not mistranslation, it's not misinterpration, we know the earth could not have been created before the sun, we know plant life didn't get created before the sun and yet genesis the sun wasn't created till day 4!

      As for israelite/jewish history – it's a lot more nuanced (as is most things) than the church would have you believe. Try taking a course sometime, you might then understand why the coming of jesus wasn't exactly a big deal to the jewish community other than the later effects after his death and what his followers did to jewish people in jesus's name.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • fred

      I have heard many explanations as to the order in Genesis and am most impressed with people who seem to have great insight into the writing style of Moses and what the real Hebrew words meant 3,400 years ago coupled with a symbolic picture style of expression. Although impressed I hardly know enough about linguistics past or present to ask an intelligent question. It seems crazy to focus on Sun first v.s. earth first when God spoke them into existence to begin with. God did not even use a wand or wave his hands in powerful motion.
      Personally I think it is a trap for those who want to prove God right or wrong while using the mind of man to do so. God created by speaking, let there be and there was, was a testament to the power in the Word of God. Even Jesus was referred to as Logos and in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. It is Gods word and the perspective is God first and always comes first then the creation. Get this wrong and you can never find God.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Chuckles


      It would be foolish in the extreme to try and discuss what powers god has and doesn't have when a) I don't believe god exists and b) if he's supposed to be omnipotent, then I have to as.sume that creation from words is a breeze. There's also much jewish thought, more myth and "facts" of not only god being able to create with words, but man as well if they use the RIGHT words. Ever heard of the Golem of Prague? I think focusing on order is more important the the extent of gods power because we're told right up front god is the most powerful being ever, and yet he still gets the order wrong? You might try and say "no, we have the order wrong" but you really expect me to believe that the material for planet earth came into existance before the origin of that material? get real!

      Nice touch with the whole "mind of man" thing, always a nice fall back for christian apologetist, it really takes the onus off of you for thinking because you can just say "well god is waaaay smarter so even if I don't understand it or can explain it, I'm still right and you're still wrong because my erroneous book says so", It must be nice sloughing off that whole "thinking" thing, must really put your mind at ease.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  10. Martin

    Some people have asked for examples of where Mr. Spong is going wrong in this article. Without going into detail regarding every point in the article, I'm happy to point out a few of Mr. Spong's own misconceptions.

    For example, it is likely that Jesus, and undoubtedly some of his disciples, did speak Greek. The language of the common people of Galilee at the time was Aramaic, a hold-out language from the days of Assyrian domination (if I recall my studies correctly). As most of Jesus' followers were commoners, he undoubtedly spoke Aramaic. Also, as Jesus read the scrolls and disputed with Pharisees, he undoubtedly spoke and read Hebrew, since Hebrew was the language of religious disputation. But what about Greek? Well, unlike Mr. Spong, I will admit in humility that we can't be sure Jesus spoke Greek, any more than we can be sure he didn't. However, the evidence is good that He most likely did. For example, Jesus was a carpenter for most of his life. Greek was the language of commerce and governance in Galilee and the whole of modern-day Palestine and Israel. As a carpenter living in Nazareth, Jesus would have had to interact with customers, many of whom likely came from the near-by Greek-speaking settlement and major regional city Sepphoris. As a carpenter, Jesus, along with other Nazarene merchants, probably traveled regularly to Sepphoris to market his goods. Moreover, Jesus clearly talked with the Greek-speaking governor, Pilate (no translator is mentioned), as well as with the most-likely Greek and Latin-speaking centurion. It is highly unlikely that either the Roman governor or (especially) the Centurion would condescend to learn the local languages of every post they were given in the Roman empire. Moreover, for example, we see in such texts as John 12:20-21 that Greeks themselves came to speak to Jesus, in this particular case speaking first to Philip. At the very least, this would imply to a reasonable degree that Philip spoke Greek. Regarding his disciples and apostles, it is undoubtedly true that St. Paul spoke Greek, being a Roman citizen and tax collector in the eastern Roman Empire.

    In short, take what Mr. Spong is saying with a grain of salt. It ultimately doesn't matter to the truth or falsehood of Scriptural texts whether or not Jesus or his disciples spoke and wrote in Greek. However, I hope this shows that Mr. Spong is "making a mountain out of a molehill", and his case is not nearly as strong as he implies it is.

    Before posting this, however, I do have one other bone to pick with Mr. Spong. He seems to think that oral transmission of stories in such settings is really equivalent to nothing more than playing "phone" at a party. Nothing could be further from the truth. In traditional societies, information was almost always transmitted orally, unlike today where we need not utilize our memories to faithfully preserve records and traditions. In these societies, the emphasis was on faithful transmission precisely because stories were not written down. If anyone doubts this is possible, consider the fact that, in ancient Greece, Athenean senators could, following a speech from a fellow senator, stand up and recite that speech word-for-word. This is hard to imagine in a society where easy access to books, the internet, and media-storage devices are quite literally withering our memories, but always keep in mind when you read about or discuss the Biblical texts that we are talking about a different time and place.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Adam

      Very well said. And if I remember right, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was also widely used by this point, definitely the text of the synagogues in the further-spread areas of the Roman empire. Many of the writers of the New Testament (especially Paul) would have been very familiar with Greek, not only because of their audience but because of their Jewish heritage and their only access to their holy books at that time was usually in Greek. If indeed the Septuagint was already in use at that time in Israel, then any of Jesus's debates with the religious leaders or quotes from the Old Testament would've certainly been referencing a lot of Greek. That would mean he'd need at least a decent handle of the use of it.

      Finally, Luke wrote his Gospel to a Greek man with a Greek name: Theophilus. Why shouldn't it have been him writing the original text in Greek? It's absurd to suggest otherwise!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Debra Martinez

      Very well said!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Josh

      It is more likely, if Jesus spoke another language, it would be Roman, not Greek, because at Jesus's time, it was Rome what controlled the area, and that would have included commerce.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  11. ......

    Confused in Cleveland is confused about where to put his tiny dick when it's not in his hand.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  12. Debra Martinez


    You just cast judgement against YOUSELF .. For those who has no Truth remain in the Darkness and those Who Trust in Faith have light..

    January 6, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Maria

      IGNORANCE IS BLISS, ISN'T IT????????????

      January 6, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      25.A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.
      [Robert A. Heinlein, from "Friday"]

      January 6, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Debra Martinez

      No Ignorant is not bless!! not even stupid ! maybe dumb can be blessed , caused you can always correct a dumb one but not an ignorant or stupid one!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Debra Martinez

      For it is written there is more happiness in giving then receiving!!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Rick

      Wow, Debra, you sure straightened me out. Thank you for the words of wisdom. And, if you feel that this is sincere, you need to get your sarcasm detector a tune up.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Rick

      Perhaps it is just that my truth is different than yours? Have you ever considered the mere possibility that you may be wrong?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    Sir Howard Dalton FRS (1944–2008): British microbiologist, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from March 2002 to September 2007.
    Richard Dawkins (1941–): British zoologist, biologist, creator of the concepts of the selfish gene and the meme; outspoken atheist and popularizer of science, author of The God Delusion and founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
    Arnaud Denjoy (1884–1974): French mathematician, noted for his contributions to harmonic analysis and differential equations.
    Paul Dirac (1902–1984): British theoretical physicist, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, predicted the existence of antimatter, and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933.
    Thomas Edison: American inventor, one of the best inventors of all time. During his career Edison patented more than 1,000 inventions, including the electric light, the phonograph, and the motion-picture camera.
    Albert Ellis (1913–2007): American psychologist who in 1955 developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
    Sandra Faber (1944–): American University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, also working at the Lick Observatory, who headed the team that discovered 'The Great Attractor.
    Leon Festinger (1919–1989): American social psychologist famous for his Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
    Richard Feynman (1918–1988): American theoretical physicist, best known for his work in renormalizing Quantum electrodynamics (QED) and his path integral formulation of quantum mechanics . He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.
    Sigmund Freud (1856–1939): Father of psychoanalysis.
    Erich Fromm (1900–1980): renowned Jewish-German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and humanistic philosopher, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.
    Christer Fuglesang (1957–): Swedish astronaut and physicist.
    Vitaly Ginzburg (1916–2009): Russian theoretical physicist and astrophysicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2003. He was also awarded the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1994/95.
    Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002): American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation.
    Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE (1950–): British scientist, writer and broadcaster, specialising in the physiology of the brain, who has worked to research and bring attention to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
    Jonathan Haidt (c.1964–): Associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, focusing on the psychological bases of morality across different cultures, and author of The Happiness Hypothesis.
    E. T. 'Teddy' Hall (1924–2001): English archaeological scientist, famous for exposing the Piltdown Man fraud and dating the Turin Shroud as a medieval fake.
    Sir James Hall (1761–1832): Scottish geologist and chemist, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.
    Beverly Halstead (1933–1991): British paleontologist and populariser of science.
    W. D. Hamilton (1936–2000): British evolutionary biologist, widely recognised as one of the greatest evolutionary theorists of the 20th century.
    G. H. Hardy (1877–1947): a prominent English mathematician, known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis.
    Stephen Hawking: arguably the world's pre-eminent scientist advocates atheism in The Grand Design
    Peter Higgs (1929–): British theoretical physicist, recipient of the Dirac Medal and Prize, known for his prediction of the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle".
    Lancelot Hogben (1895–1975): English experimental zoologist and medical statistician, now best known for his popularising books on science, mathematics and language.
    Nicholas Humphrey (1943–): British psychologist, working on consciousness and belief in the supernatural from a Darwinian perspective, and primatological research into Machiavellian intelligence theory.
    Sir Julian Huxley FRS (1887–1975): English evolutionary biologist, a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis, Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935–1942), the first Director of UNESCO, and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund.
    Frédéric Joliot-Curie (1900–1958): French physicist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1935.
    Steve Jones (1944–): British geneticist, Professor of genetics and head of the biology department at University College London, and television presenter and a prize-winning author on biology, especially evolution; one of the best known contemporary popular writers on evolution.
    Stuart Kauffman (1939-): American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher concerning the origin of life on Earth. He is best known for arguing that the complexity of biological systems and organisms might result as much from self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics as from Darwinian natural selection, as well as for applying models of Boolean networks to simplified genetic circuits.
    Lawrence Krauss (1954-): Professor of physics at Arizona State University and popularizer of science. Krauss speaks regularly at atheist conferences, like Beyond Belief and Atheist Alliance International.
    Harold Kroto (1939–): 1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.
    Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956): American biologist, se.xologist and professor of entomology and zoology
    Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749 –1827): French mathematician and astronomer whose work was pivotal to the development of mathematical astronomy and statistics, and anticipated the discovery of galaxies other than the Milky Way and the existence of black holes.
    Richard Leakey (1944–): Kenyan paleontologist, archaeologist and conservationist.
    Sir John Leslie (1766–1832): Scottish mathematician and physicist best remembered for his research into heat; he was the first person to artificially produce ice, and gave the first modern account of capillary action.
    H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins FRS (1923–2004): English theoretical chemist and a cognitive scientist.
    Samarendra Maulik (1881–1950): Indian entomologist specialising in the Coleoptera, who worked at the British Museum (Natural History) and a Professor of Zoology at the University of Calcutta.
    John Maynard Smith (1920–2004): British evolutionary biologist and geneticist, instrumental in the application of game theory to evolution, and noted theorizer on the evolution of sxex and signalling theory.
    Ernst Mayr (1904–2005): a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, historian of science, and naturalist. He was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists.
    John McCarthy (1927–2011): American computer scientist and cognitive scientist who received the Turing Award in 1971 for his major contributions to the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). He was responsible for the coining of the term "Artificial Intelligence" in his 1955 proposal for the 1956 Dartmouth Conference and was the inventor of the Lisp programming language.
    Sir Peter Medawar (1915–1987): Nobel Prize-winning British scientist best known for his work on how the immune system rejects or accepts tissue transplants.
    Jeff Medkeff (1968–2008): American astronomer, prominent science writer and educator, and designer of robotic telescopes.
    Jonathan Miller CBE (1934–): British physician, actor, theatre and opera director, and television presenter. Wrote and presented the 2004 television series, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, exploring the roots of his own atheism and investigating the history of atheism in the world.
    Peter D. Mitchell (1920–1992): 1978-Nobel-laureate British biochemist. His mother was an atheist and he himself became an atheist at the age of 15.
    Jacques Monod (1910–1976): French biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965 for discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis.
    Desmond Morris (1928–): English zoologist and ethologist, famous for describing human behaviour from a zoological perspective in his books The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo.
    Fritz Müller (1821–1897): German biologist who emigrated to Brazil, where he studied the natural history of the Amazon rainforest and was an early advocate of evolutionary theory.
    Hermann Joseph Muller (1890–1967): American geneticist and educator, best known for his work on the physiological and genetic effects of radiation (X-ray mutagenesis). He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1946.
    PZ Myers (1957–): American biology professor at the University of Minnesota and a blogger via his blog, Pharyngula.
    Paul Nurse (1949–): 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Confused in Cleveland
      Should I keep going?

      January 6, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    Peter Atkins (1940–): English chemist, Professor of chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford in England.
    Julius Axelrod (1912–2004): American Nobel Prize winning biochemist, noted for his work on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters and major contributions to the understanding of the pineal gland and how it is regulated during the sleep-wake cycle.
    Sir Edward Battersby Bailey FRS (1881–1965): British geologist, director of the British Geological Survey.
    Sir Patrick Bateson FRS (1938–): English biologist and science writer, Emeritus Professor of ethology at Cambridge University and president of the Zoological Society of London.
    William Bateson (1861–1926): British geneticist, a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, where he eventually became Master. He was the first person to use the term genetics to describe the study of heredity and biological inheritance, and the chief populariser of the ideas of Gregor Mendel following their rediscovery.
    Patrick Blackett OM, CH, FRS (1897–1974): Nobel Prize winning English experimental physicist known for his work on cloud chambers, cosmic rays, and paleomagnetism.
    Susan Blackmore (1951–): English psychologist and memeticist, best known for her book The Meme Machine
    Sir Hermann Bondi KCB, FRS (1919–2005): Anglo-Austrian mathematician and cosmologist, best known for co-developing the steady-state theory of the universe and important contributions to the theory of general relativity.
    Paul D. Boyer (1918–): American biochemist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1997
    Calvin Bridges (1889–1938): American geneticist, known especially for his work on fruit fly genetics.
    Sheldon Brown (1944–2008): Bicycle mechanic and technical authority on almost every aspect of bicycles.
    Ruth Mack Brunswick (1897–1946): American psychologist, a close confidant of and collaborator with Sigmund Freud.
    Sean M. Carroll (1966–): American cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.
    Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910–1995): Indian American astrophysicist known for his theoretical work on the structure and evolution of stars. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.
    William Kingdon Clifford FRS (1845–1879): English mathematician and philosopher, co-introducer of geometric algebra, the first to suggest that gravitation might be a manifestation of an underlying geometry, and coiner of the expression "mind-stuff".
    Frank Close OBE (1945–): British particle physicist, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, known for his lectures and writings making science intelligible to a wider audience, for which he was awarded the Inst.itute of Physics's Kelvin Medal and Prize.
    Brian Cox OBE (1968–): English particle physicist, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Professor at the University of Manchester. Best known as a presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC. He also had some fame in the 1990s as the keyboard player for the pop band D:Ream.
    Jerry Coyne (1949–): American professor of biology, known for his books on evolution and commentary on the intelligent design debate.
    Francis Crick (1916–2004): English molecular biologist, physicist, and neuroscientist; noted for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.[

    January 6, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  15. Confused in Cleveland

    Pope Sylvester II (c. 946–1003) – Prolific scholar who endorsed and promoted Arabic knowledge of arithmetic, mathematics, and astronomy in Europe, reintroducing the abacus and armillary sphere which had been lost to Europe since the end of the Greco-Roman era

    January 6, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  16. Confused in Cleveland

    Lorenz Hengler (b. Reichenhofen, Württemberg, 3 Feb., 1806; d. Tigerfeld, 1858) was a Catholic priest who is often credited as the inventor of the horizontal pendulum.

    André Tacquet (1612–1660) – Jesuit mathematician whose work laid the groundwork for the eventual discovery of calculus

    January 6, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  17. Confused in Cleveland

    Father Gabriel Mouton (1618–1694) – Mathematician, astronomer, and early proponent of the metric system

    Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) – Cardinal, philosopher, jurist, mathematician, and astronomer; one of the great geniuses and polymaths of the 15th century

    Andrew Gordon (Benedictine) (1712–1751) – Benedictine monk, physicist, and inventor who made the first electric motor

    January 6, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Chuckles

      Do you care to actually make a point or are you just going to name some more people?

      January 6, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      Christopher Clavius (1538–1612) – Respected Jesuit Astronomer and mathematician who headed the commission that yielded the Gregorian calendar; wrote influential astronomical textbook.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Chuckles

      So.... that's a no? OK, keep naming people, I guess you don't have anything else to do. Cleveland is a terrible place, full of misery and its main export being depression. No wonder you mention so many astronomers, if I was in Cleveland I'd be looking as far away from the place as I could.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      And what's your point, Chuck?

      January 6, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Chuckles

      What do you mean what's my point? I ask why you keep naming people and you just keep naming more. Make an argument or be relegated to crazy guy who's caught on a broken record.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Confused in Cleveland
      Clergymen were historically contributors to science because they were a privileged class.
      Because shamanism is generally free of work in the sweaty, toiling sense – priests, monks etc. were some of the few people with the time and resources necessary to devote to esoteric pursuits. Everyone else was too busy trying to survive.
      In Europe at least, the Church controlled literacy. The average man was not literate in any meaningful sense – only those whose livelihoods were given to them by the masses (aristocracy and clergy) had the capacity to read and write.
      Once we start breaking into the 20th century, widespread literacy became the norm – and scientists have become increasingly open about their atheism.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      Chuck, I think the more astute will get my point. But if you need it spelled out for you, I'll let someone else take on the herculean task of connecting the dots for you. Hang in there, some kind soul will come by and draw the obvious conclusion for you.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Chuckles


      You're no fun! Let Confused here actually make a point instead of just naming people.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Chuckles


      Sorry champ, doesn't work like that. If you actually want to make a point, then state it. Would you go to a debate and just start naming people? I can draw all sorts of conclusions from what you've already posted but how am I to know what exactly it is you're trying to have me "figure out".

      ....Or you could keep naming people, confident in your ignorance. Either way works for me, I was just trying to help you out.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Debra Martinez

      I love it !! the point issue!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  18. Confused in Cleveland

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) – Jesuit paleontologist and geologist who took part in the discovery of Peking Man

    Theodoric of Freiberg (c. 1250 – c. 1310) – Dominican theologian and physicist who gave the first correct geometrical analysis of the rainbow

    Father George Mary Searle (1839–1918) – Paulist astronomer and professor who discovered six galaxies

    January 6, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  19. Confused in Cleveland

    Friar William of Ockham (c. 1288 – c. 1348) – Franciscan Scholastic who wrote significant works on logic, physics, and theology; known for Ockham's Razor

    Father Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita (1604–1660) – Astronomer and optrician who built Kepler's telescope

    Bishop Nicolas Steno (1638–1686) – Often called the father of geology and stratigraphy ("Steno's principles"); beatified by Pope John Paul II

    January 6, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  20. Confused in Cleveland

    Father Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618–1663) – Discovered the diffraction of light, and indeed coined the term "diffraction"; investigated the free fall of objects; built and used instruments to measure geological features on the moon

    Paul McNally (1890–1955) – Jesuit astronomer and director of Georgetown Observatory; the crater McNally on the Moon is named after him.

    Father Pierre Macq (1930– ) – Physicist who was awarded the Francqui Prize on Exact Sciences for his work on experimental nuclear physics

    January 6, 2012 at 8:50 am |
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About this blog

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