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. Nii Croffie

    called hmm Victor, right? Then I went back to my desk n started studying again but I was too shocked to talk. I heard the guys in the opp. room call me back. The guy told me indeed He was called Victor but he used either his middle name or his nickname in school. The Univ. had no record of his

    January 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  2. Nii Croffie

    While studying Eng Maths one fine evening I overheard someone in the opp. room in my hostel making fun off modern day prophets and i laughed along with him however in my heart. Then he said that they say,' Hmm ur name is ...'. Suddenly I felt an anger or passion I went into the room and said u r

    January 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  3. Nii Croffie

    If u want to debate the existence of God so much y r u now claiming the non necessity of defending the atheist position now after obviously reading LinCA's post to me. There is no debate here. I have had the experience that I needed. If u didn't was it pride or any other fruit of the flesh? check u

    January 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  4. Nii Croffie

    Momoya my web connection is bad n thats y I gave up posting. Of course u know u do not understand the concepts I introduce. That is y Lemaitre got under ur skin like that. I will not attack so u feel free to do so. I love u as myself.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • momoya

      Lemaitre did not get under my skin, he continued to lie and refused to even acknowledge his mistakes, much less correct them. I'm pretty sure he was an atheist trying to make christians look bad.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Runner 23

    I am sorry but Mr. Spong is wrong on many points. First off there were only 22 generations inbetween Abraham and David, much less between Abraham and Moses. Also Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, they were not written 300 years later. Also J.esus and the Disciples did know Greek, it was the universal language at the time and they could have learned how to write through Paul who was educated. And if you read the Bible carefully in Greek it does not tell women to be obedient to men, only men get the imperative verb to care for their wives. And the slavery that the bible talks about was more like indentured servants, not the slavery of an entire race like what was going on in America. These are just a few of the several points that Mr. Spong should check up on.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • CoCoDol52

      Runner 23, I agree with all of the points that you caught from Mr. Spong as being deluded or misconceived of the bible. But the one of jesus is inaccurate for in my opinion the NT (not true) does not fulfill the OT not at all. This is why Mr. Spong is confused with what he calls misconceptions. For many of what is said in the NT is changed from what the Creator YHWH says and teaches in the OT, as warned to us from Moses through YHWH in Deut.32v17 of newly strange gods that will come in the latter days. For YHWH left us with his last prophet in Malachi 3v6 that He changes NOT, nothing of His law or His Word but over in the NT there are too many changes and these are not of our Creator Savior and Redeemer YHWH in Isa.43v3,11, and 60v16 also 49v26, YHWH confirms He is the Savior and in Isa.43v13 the Father YHWH says no man can be delivered from out of His hands. Our sins have been forgiven and redeemed as said in Isaiah 44v22 all YHWH wants is for us to return. The only son and firstborn that our Creator has is in Exodus 4v22,23 of the chosen children 'ISRAEL' there cannot be two firstborns. So this is why Mr. Spong is confused because YHWH would never say love your enemy, this is not said in the OT, YHWH does not want us to be a fool nor let anyone harm us as He says in Isaiah 66v6 of His enemies. And the book that many call the bible is truly called by YHWH the book of remembrance in Malachi 3v16, in short the book of life for YHWHs law and covenant is our Life.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  6. Confused in Cleveland

    The atheist can appeal to nothing absolute, nothing objectively true for all people, it is just mere opinion enforced by might. The Christian appeals to a standard outside himself/herself in which truth and qualitative values can be made sense of.
    Peter Huff

    A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
    C.S. Lewis

    January 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • momoya

      Atheism merely denies an existing claim. Atheism has no obligation to discuss or reply to other positions not related to "there is a god." Atheists are also not interested in "diminishing god's glory," just as grown ups are not interested in "stealing Santa's red coat."

      January 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • northern light

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

      There is actually only a" single misconception" ......it is the entire book from cover to cover.....pure imaginings from beginning to end.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • jorob

      Do you have any independent thoughts or opinion? This is not a quotation contest.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • TRH

      YOU are definitely confused sir. Atheists are not.

      Take some time and read the responses to this article. I've been doing it for hours. I'll tell you who's confused....the THEISTS...and the vast majority of the posts and comments are coming from them. They take issue with the article, then take issue with each other even to the point of threatening eternal damnation and name-calling. It's PATHETIC!

      And the ones who choose to take issue with a non-believer resort to arrogance, condescension, and the same Christian rhetoric that I've been hearing since childhood. YOUR response here being a fine example. "one on one"....please!!!!

      January 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  7. Confused in Cleveland

    If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.

    JBS Haldane

    January 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • momoya

      You do realize that all your quotes aren't doing anything all on their own like that, don't you? Just because we don't have all the details on the operation of consciousness does not prove or disprove anything about any sort of "god." Get together with NiiCrofie and see if between the two of you you can't make some sort of coherent argument one way or the other.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Confused in Cleveland

    "Religion. Opium of the people? A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged."
    — Czesław Miłosz, former communist and atheist

    January 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      I couldn't possibly disagree more. If you rely on justice happening after death, you will be less compelled to strive for justice and to fix wrongs in the present.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • momoya

      Your moniker is apropos.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Jaszbo Christus

      When does Justice end?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • northern light

      Dear Confused,

      Seems you are in the mood for quotation...

      "Einstein penned a letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.

      Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.

      In Einstein's letter, he states:
      "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

      Your faith book consists of pages and pages of non nonsensical verbal drivel and a brilliant brain dissects your faith in the space of two sentences

      January 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  9. atheos27

    Why then does this book merit any religious following? If almost none of it is actually true, why call it holy? Lets just reject the whole thing and just try to live a good enough life without being a dick to your neighbors.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      Atheos27, you nailed it!!! I think this is an accurate and obvious conclusion. I agree with you atheos27 wholeheartedly. And yet, I'm a believer. The reason I agree with you is that this writer who is a "former" bishop and poses with a collar to apparently give some legitimacy to his opinion as representing the "faithful" has actually admitted his own unbelief in the Bible as the authoritative Word of the living God. Sure, I could go on and on to tackle each one of his observations with some great counters. But you summed it up perfectly and in very concise use of words. If it's all a myth – then stop wasting your time. If, however, it's true, then stop wasting your time and get busy in the service of the living God. If I were in the unbelieving camp, I would at least want to cover my bases by reading it myself. Why take all these other people's opinions? Read it yourself.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • CoCoDol52

      Very good idea, but unfortunately people need law and an order of rules as the Commandments, they are simple and good, thou shall not covet anything of another man's or your neighbor. For instance every Sunday your neighbor borrows your lawn mower non stop. This is coveting and it creates resentment and see many may say just say no but the neighbor will only find another neighbor to bother. This is why we need the law of righteousness and peace and to care and do the right thing s by one another no matter the skin no in difference. Thou shall not steal or lie or bare false witness against one's neighbor, and honor one's parents now what is wrong with these but people ran from the law and now we have mayhem. Our health is bad for people left the dietary to stop diseases cancer and diabetes and others, that YHWH gave to us in Deut.14 and Leviticus 11 He knows what we need clean meats and not GMOs this is what's driving the kids crazy today there are no neutritions going to their brains. Come back to the Truth from Genesis – Malachi the OT book of life for as Moses prophesied in Deut.32v45-47 the law is our prolonged life to righteousness and peace together.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  10. William Stoklosa

    Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. The account of Jesus appearing to his disciples after he rose from the dead was not something added by the the other Gospel writers after Mark. 1 Corinthians was almost certainly written before Mark and it is very clear that Jesus appeared to Peter, the rest of the disciples, James, and then much later to Paul. Also there is no evidence whatsoever that the idea of Jesus as a miracle worker was added later to the stories about his life. We have no account of his life that does not include him working miracles and they are a central compoinent to the accounts we do have, which reflects the fact that he actually did peform them.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ben

      Then you must love Greek mythology because that is filled with stories that only contain supernatural elements.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      I'm loving the atheists on this site. And I mean that. You guys are what the Bible would call "men with whom there is no guile." Ben's reply "then you must love Greek mythology" regarding the supernatural account in the Bible. You're right Ben. If this account is mythology, then lump it with all the others. If Christ didn't perform the miracles that the Bible says He did, then He can make no claim at all to being God in the flesh. And if He didn't rise from the dead as the Bible says He did, then the entire Christian faith is worthless. In order for Christians to have legitimate claim to salvation, Jesus must be who He says He was, and He must of did what they say He did. Anything less is pointless. Remember there was an empty tomb, and several of his followers returned to their prior occupations, hiding from the masses, until they saw Jesus resurrected. Then all of a sudden they got so bold to proclaim this gospel and give their only lives up for it. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't go through the torture they did just to perpetuate a myth. Think about that for awhile.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • jimtanker

      You cant use a story from the bible to prove that story from the bible is true. Try again with real evidence, if you can find any.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      Jim Tanker – good point. I can't use the Bible to prove the Bible, anymore than you can use some fossils in the ground to prove we all came from a crystal. This whole discussion deals with beliefs. You cannot scientifically prove evolution. Nor can you scientifically believe Christianity. There's plenty of science to wrestle with but nothing substantial enough to prove either. Takes faith. But you, me, and everyone else do tons of things everyday based on faith or trust in someone or something all the time and we take that for granted. We take someone's word that a product is worth buying and we buy it. Our own currency is fiat. We agree to accept our currency as trade for items we buy even though nothing backs it up except 'trust.'

      January 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      Jim, I appreciate your candid response. There are quite a few sources out there to sort out the evidence for belief – I haven't produced any myself. You might check this out http://joshmcdowellmedia.org/FreeBooks/ReasonsSkepticsShouldConsiderChristianity.pdf though I'm not necessarily endorsing it. But it does seem to uproot some presuppositions. That's what I find. I've actually found some other sources pretty interesting but this one may get you started if you're interested. Many 'believers' in evolution guard their presuppositions like it was the holy grail. I will frankly admit, faith is required to believe the Bible is true. Yet somehow we're expected to swallow the idea that a universe with design and intelligence came from nothing for no purpose. Time, space, and matter coming together at once and giving us this with no intelligence behind it whatsoever. The physical laws of nature. The conscience. Man's constant wrestling with the meaning of life - all from random chance? From a cause that does not exist? C'mon, seriously? Do you really believe that? Now, Darwin's observation of variation within kinds, yes. I agree, we have variation within kinds. The Bible isn't opposed to that at all. It just says that kinds produce after themselves. Evolution says we have something in common with a tree or a hood ornament. Creation says a designer made it all. Dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats, trees produce trees after their own 'kinds.' That's from the Bible. Seems to be pretty logical. In fact, the very first book of the Bible in 10 words sums up the Creationist view. Give me the evolutionist view in 10 words or less and see if it makes any sense.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • RBN

      Theophilus7 – You might want to talk to a guy named Copernicus. He's been suggesting the Earth is NOT the center of the universe like the church demands. Can you imagine the nerve! It's a good thing you and I know science was given to us by God as joke on the unbelievers!! The Earth not the center of the universe, ha ha ha haaaaaaaaa. Good luck proving that! I think they're gonna throw him in jail unless he retracts that statement. I guess we'll just have to wait to see how that one turns out........... d'oh!

      January 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • RBN

      Theophilus7 – Let me see if I have this straight. You believe the universe is too complex to exist on it's own, but you accept that an infinitely more complex being CAN exist on it's own to create the less complex universe. C'mon, seriously? You don't really believe that. Or has God kept that thought from your mind? Don't think about it too much or your head might explode. If that single revelation doesn't do it for you, you can't be reasoned with. You sound like you'd believe the church if it told you up was down. Can't totally blame you though. All religions are cults that demand money, loyalty and no questioning the leaders.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      RBN, thanks for your responses. Where in the Bible does it say anything about the earth being the center of the universe? What church did you attend? If they're teaching this to you, then I would run away from them as fast as possible. If you're justifying the Christian faith on the decisions, actions, and history of the so called Church then you will never escape your disdain. Much of church history is like political history – men seeking power over others. I don't believe that's what the Bible teaches and I can quote Scripture after Scripture. Is Scripture somehow wrong because men have perverted it? That's like saying the BMW is a crappy car because you've seen a few people crash them. It's not the BMW, it's the driver.

      Btw... over 2000 years before Galileo discovered the earth was round, consider what the prophet Isaiah, a very non-scientific guy, wrote in Isaiah 40:22 "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:" Note a couple things: earth described as a circle and heavens described as stretching out (expanding). Interesting that such concepts were written by such ignorant religious nuts long before the brilliant minds came on scene.

      Bible was never intended to be a science book though you can find things about the hydrologic cycle (Psalm 135:7), relationship of electricity to rain (Jeremiah 10:13), earth's rotation (Job 38:29-30), light always moving (Job 38:19), evidence of dinosaurs (Job 40 and 41), glaciers (Job 38:29-30), sunlight's effect on winds (Job 38:24), electricity carrying messages (Job 38:35) – sure, some of these references are a stretch. But if you check them out yourself, interesting to see the correlation of these writings to our current understanding. At very least, if you're honest with yourself, it will make you go hmmm..... Once again, the Bible's purpose is not to be a science book. Apparently there was a more important message to deliver and if you never confront that important message, then you missed the purpose of the Bible altogether.

      On your second reply – I agree it takes faith for either position – believing there's a Creator or believing it all came from nothing. I don't fit your mold if you think I swallow what the Church teaches hook, line, and sinker. If you gather that from what I've written, then you haven't been reading my stuff carefully. I've suggested all along you read the Bible yourself. Question yes, keep questioning. I do all the time, and my faith in God hasn't wavered. Now on the complexity issue. I know this is an old argument, but it seems to consistently apply: if you see a watch on the sand, do you think it just evolved from the sand? Or is there even the remotest of possibilities – even remotest – that there may have been a watchmaker? What is illogical about that argument? And I love to reason with people so if you've given up then that's you not me.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      RBN, one more thing to think about - Jesus' strongest verbal attacks were on the religious leaders. He hated religion too. 'Religion' is man's organized attempt at exercising self righteousness and authoritative rule over men. Jesus called those religious leaders 'white-washed sepulchres' (grave stones). In another confrontation, He called them a brood of vipers. If you check Jesus out, you might discover you don't hate Him. Don't you want people to understand you? Not just what you say but who you are? Well then, do the same for Jesus, and read Him yourself. Get your hands on a KJV and start with the book of Mark, Luke, or John. My favorite is John. Matthew was predominantly written for the Jewish audience. But just start reading anyway. Do it privately if you feel embarrassed. It's not going to ruin you. God wants your heart and mind and soul – voluntarily – not coercion. And you don't have to divorce your mind or reason to embrace faith. If you've been sold that bill of goods, then chuck it in the garbage. I think the strongest skeptics make the best Christian believers because they're not afraid of knowledge. It's not the knowledge that destroys people, it's what they do with it.

      Jesus was a friend to the non-religious, people like you who can't stand phony, self important, greedy, and violent people. You don't see him verbally attacking any non-religious people. Check it out yourself. He doesn't. Instead He tried to speak to their hearts. So make sure you get your understanding of Jesus straight before you go on the offensive about the Church. When you start to listen to the things that mattered most to Jesus, then you will realize He addressed some of the most important things in your own life which He Himself claims He alone can satisfy. There's purpose to our misery. See Romans 9 for that. And God has a sense of humor in His recruitment of followers, see I Corinthians 1:27. God loves underdogs.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • RBN

      Theophilus7 – Wow, you can say a lot without addressing the actual question. Don't hate me because I'm capable of independant thought. Please explain how knowing a human created a watch you found on the beach explains how an infinitely complex god HAS to exist to create a less complex universe. According to your example, the watch maker must have also been responsible for creating the sand? I'm fairly certain the sand was there before the watch maker. And the watch maker didn't create the minerals from which the watch materials were made. But you conveniently left that part of the analysis out. That's how every religious discussion goes. When facts don't fit into the fairy tales, they're simply ignored. Instead of haranguing me, you could have just said you have no proof but you just believe it. That's your faith. My faith is that the universe had to exist before it could have possibly spawned a god. If the universe is too complex to exist on it's own, then by your own rules, an infinitely complex god would have stood even less of a chance of existing on it's own. Can you explain your reasoning to someone who doesn't believe in Santa anymore? Can you explain it without biblical quotes and complaints that people don't understand you. A clear concise, non-fluffed explanation would be appreciated. If you just post another diatribe I'll take it that you're just trolling and not really interested in the discussion. That would be on you, not me.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Theophilus7

      RBN- sorry if you misunderstood my argument. What I was saying is that if you see this universe filled with design, laws, complexity, then it is possible to come to the conclusion that there was an original Designer who created everything. That's what i was saying. I think others on this blog understood that.

      I'm not trolling, nor ignoring the issues. Yes, I agree with you that this is faith. But I'm trying to explain to you that your belief in Evolution is the same thing – faith. Science is about proving things empirically. Your belief in the origin of all things is not scientifically proven. It's a theory. A belief. If you haven't heard my view regarding Intelligent Design then you are new to this type of discussion. I've been reasoning with people on this for years – it's pretty much the same arguments on both sides of the issue.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • RBN

      Theophilus7 – Yes, I misunderstood. I thought you were saying that you believed a god had to create the universe because something so complex can't exist with help. I don't begrudge people whatever faith they choose, as long as it doesn't require violence. I do however take issue with people that assert agnostics are wrong for not choosing their god, and atheists are going to hell for the same reason. That happens a lot on thee boards. Not that you did, but I though for sure you were going that direction. It's not often I find someone willing to have a civil discussion about religion. I'm getting that you're actually open to possibilities. I'm used to people yelling "read the bible" and then running away because they don't want to confront other possible answers for their life. You've done that, so kudos to you – seriously. As for there being no scientific proof that evolution is real, I completely disagree. Genetic scientists are in fact able to track mutations. The picture of evolution may not be 100% complete but it's certainly not nonexistent either. Religion doesn't require fact, so there is no way to prove the reality of it one way or the other. I honestly beleive evolution will be accepted scientific fact before too much longer. I'm sure at that time, religions will simply attempt to claim they believed it all the time and then it will magically fits into all religions in general. A reinterpretation, if you will. And science will continue to march.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Believer

      Did you know that the 96% of DNA that scientists say we share with monkeys is actually just the DNA used to create proteins for life? Of course that would be very similar because we are both alive. However protein synthesis is only 1% of all DNA, most of the rest is ignored. Also just because humans and chimps have similarities in DNA that does not mean that we came from a common ancestor. It just means that we have similarities, correlation does not prove causation. The day you find the missing link let me know.

      January 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • RBN

      I just found it!

      January 27, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • TRH

      "This whole discussion deals with beliefs"

      Quite right. Many of us choose to have none.

      January 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  11. William Stoklosa

    There is no evidence whatsover that the story of Jesus' life was ever divorced from his miracles. All the narratives of Jesus we possess inidcate that they were a huge element of his ministry, and this reflects the fact that indeed they were. Also to say that Jesus' post-resurection appearences are a concoction of people writing after Mark is absurd. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 where Paul hands down something of first imoprtance, namely that Jesus appeared to Peter and the 12, and then to James, and then finally to Paul. 1 Corinthians almost certainly predates the Gospels.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      There is also no evidence what-so-ever that jesus did perform miracles other than conflicting hearsay accounts.

      there is also no evidence that the actions of Harry Potter were ever divorced from magic.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • CoCoDol52

      Should not the beginning of a book coincide with the end of it? Well, the OT is not fulfilled by the NT not at all. They may mimic some but mainly the NT(not true) has so many changes against the OT book. For one there is no mentioning of jesus,mary,deciples, the story of jesus his miracles, resurrection nothing is in the OT about these none at all. No one can die for anyone else's sins as said in Jeremiah 31v30 and Ezekiel 14v14 but the NT says jesus did (contradiction) For the Father says He Changes Not in Malachi 3v6 of none of His Word or law. And in the OT Isaiah has prophesied Cyrus the Great about 200 years before Cyrus so wouldn't anything from jesus be there in the OT especially if christians are calling him the son of the Creator YHWH(what many call God) the only son and firstborn that the Father YHWH mentions in the OT is in Exodus 4v22,23 of His chosen people 'ISRAEL' and there cannot be two firstborn sons. NT(not true) all lies from hellenistic jewish writers began in 200AD writing.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  12. Confused in Cleveland

    “There is no indisputable proof for the big bang," said Hollus. "And there is none for evolution. And yet you accept those. Why hold the question of whether there is a creator to a higher standard?”
    ― Robert J. Sawyer,

    "There can be no stronger proof of the impoverishment of our contemporary culture than the popular – though profoundly mistaken – definition of myth as falsehood."
    ~ Rollo May,

    January 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Confused in Cleveland

    As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilist interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definitive commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional.

    John Paul II

    January 24, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • TRH

      What he is saying here, in my opinion, in a very eloquent way I admit, is that without belief in a deity, life has no meaning or purpose. The definition of nihilism is "life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. "

      Well...I will speak only for my self, no presumption here: I greet each day with optimism. I like living. I believe (perhaps naively) that mankind is essentially good. I was put upon this earth nearly 64 years ago because two people in love decided to have a second child. I arrived here purely by chance....not with some divine plan concocted by an all-powerful all-knowing creator.

      I live a life as best I can. If Pope John Paul would call that "without purpose", well....so be it I suppose. Intrinsic value? Well, I DO value my own life and I think that my family members value my life to some degree as I value theirs.

      Where is it written that all human life must seek a higher purpose other than just to live a decent, honest, existence?

      Maybe this is all too deep for my feeble brain but the bottom line is...I feel pretty good each day about my life and my plans for it....and I DO NOT need a religious philosophy or a fervent belief in a deity to fell this way.

      Now....if someone DOES need this belief to justify the great age old question of "why am I here?" then that's just fine. However, I would not personally like that kind of a life...I have better thigs to do.

      January 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  14. Confused in Cleveland

    It is human to err, but it is devilish to remain willfully in error.
    – Saint Augustine

    January 24, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  15. Nii Croffie

    I have read the Book of Mormon b4. I had my best friend in High Sch as an LDS. I think the doctrine of Trinity when rejected makes Jesus n YHWH not to fit. Moses n all the Prophets said they were One. I was born Mr Croffie's son but now I am Mr Croffie. Christ is God from God.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  16. Nii Croffie

    U still tend to interprete Scripture in a very unrestrained manner. I will advise that u use contextual analysis. The 'one verse, half-verse' style is typical of cultic interpretation. Scripture can speak and it can be understood. Read and analyse it by passages. I'm sure it will make more sense.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      The prophesies concerning Christ in Isaiah 9 for instance name the Baby as the Eternal Father. The OT were the only Scriptures in the Church till 290AD. So we used to read and interprete the OT and it was the basis for the NT books which were accepted. Christianity is essentially a Jewish sect.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Wrong...the verse in Isaiah was about a child about to be born to a pregnant young maiden(not virgin) in the time of Isaiah, not 600 years later. The writer of Matthew intentionally embellished this verse to promote the legend of Jesus as being more than human. Total fabrication.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Theophilus7

      RE: AtheistSteve – good to hear you're reading your Bible, stay with it. Not sure I see your point about the verse in Isaiah referencing a maiden. In the KJV, the verse reads: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Virgin is the term used not maiden. This was understood by the readers then to be a huge miracle, a sign that this was not another prophet, but God's Son. And there was no real market for propagating Jesus – his followers were ostracized, ridiculed, rejected, and tortured. No money in it either. Jesus seemed to want to turn people away by some of the things He said. So I'm not seeing any merit in your argument that Matthew intentionally embellished this verse to promote the legend of Jesus. What would his motivation be? To get laughed at, mocked, persecuted? Hmm... seems like the whole lot of them would be masochists if that was their motivation for propagating a 'legend.' There was really nothing for these guys to gain. That's what makes this gospel so intriguing to millions of followers, generation after generation.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      To AtheistSteve – good to hear you're reading your Bible, stay with it. Not sure I see your point about the verse in Isaiah referencing a maiden. In the KJV, the verse reads: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Virgin is the term used not maiden. This was understood by the readers then to be a huge miracle, a sign that this was not another prophet, but God's Son. And there was no real market for propagating Jesus – his followers were ostracized, ridiculed, rejected, and tortured. No money in it either. Jesus seemed to want to turn people away by some of the things He said. So I'm not seeing any merit in your argument that Matthew intentionally embellished this verse to promote the legend of Jesus. What would his motivation be? To get laughed at, mocked, persecuted? Hmm... seems like the whole lot of them would be masochists if that was their motivation for propagating a 'legend.' There was really nothing for these guys to gain. That's what makes this gospel so intriguing to millions of followers, generation after generation.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  17. arcandciel

    Nii Croffie is even more popular, a real idol. CNN loves them more than me I think!...

    January 24, 2012 at 4:42 am |
  18. arcandciel

    coco is vert popular hey!

    January 24, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  19. CoCoDol52

    Also, everyone the only son and firstborn of the Creator YHWH who many of you call God,Lord, is said by YHWH in Exodus 4v22,23 and its ISRAEL THE CHOSEN PEOPLE OF THE FATHER YHWH. not jc as a matter of fact there is nothing of jesus,mary,deciples the story of jesus nothing in the book of life the OT of any of these pagan strange gods and idols. But Isaiah has prophesied in Isa.45 the fate of Cyrus the Great 180 to 200 years before Cyrus was born so what does that tell you? Why could not jesus be in the OT for the NT should fulfill the OT right? It only mimics or changes the truth. Then Daniel knew of the books of Jeremiah in Daniel 9v2 see a related connection, this is how it should be as YHWH says it will in prophecy.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      I'm Anglican so I do not understand what it is like to be in a cult. I've been reading up on spiritual abuse n I hope u did not suffer it. Well religion is an introduction to spirituality and to me Christ is the best in terms of spiritual leadership. The NT is a reflection on the old.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • The Rest of the Story


      Good for you for figuring out the Joseph Smith con. You should keep going with your skepticism.

      For example:
      "But Isaiah has prophesied in Isa.45 the fate of Cyrus the Great 180 to 200 years before Cyrus was born so what does that tell you?"

      Did he [Isaiah] prophesy this? Really? Scholars regard the second half of Isaiah as having been written much later - AFTER Cyrus. Read more here, if you are truly interested in the whole story:

      January 24, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      After prophesying myself I do not see why there is no God. Whether Isaiah wrote his book or not cannot be discovered by textual criticism which is a literary art not a science. For science to be used to determine this there must be a CSI method used but alas there is no original of the book for this

      January 24, 2012 at 5:20 am |
    • Theophilus7

      Always consider the source. When the "Scholars" suggest something, what presuppositions do those scholars have? If I want to believe the sun is green, I just need some "scholars" who also 'want' to believe the sun is green then I've got my posse. Same can be said of the believing camp, of course. I can find people to support any position if I really want to. Remember, if the Bible is a fairy tale and all the stuff is made up, then those first century followers who martyred themselves for the cause wasted their only life for a myth. I like those who are honest skeptics seeking truth and verifying sources and their presuppositions. If you are intent on looking for the truth, i believe you will find it.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  20. CoCoDol52

    left the LDS, I found in the scripture of Jeremiah 10 that this joseph smith was a fool and that these plates and doctrines are all vanities told to Jeremiah by the Almighty Creator YHWH. According the the Creator YHWH all religions are IDOLATRY and He has never condone them for in Malachi 3v6 He says that He changes not, not His word or laws so the NT, or joseph smith are frauds its too much changing of the Creator's Words in them. For instance in Romans peter says the law is wrath but YHWH says do His law, then in john1v17 it says that jesus found grace in the Father, not, Moses found grace and the law in the Almighty YHWH in Exodus 32, 33. They change and lie in that NT. Just like YHWH says He is our savior and redeemer in Isaiah 43v3,11 and in Isaiah 44v22 but they in the NT says jesus is the savior just lies for YHWH remember changes not in Malachi 3v6 that means nothing of His Word.People need to get out of that NT its pagan they do unrelated holidays not of YHWH. Then in Daniel 11v36-45 it prophesieds that Christianity "The Good Ship Jesus' (look it up),legalized in 311 from Constantine and Islam from the east will both rule over many and divide the land for gain and are strange gods, pagan, wake up folks.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • Theophilus7

      Oh wow, this guy has got the whole thing fouled up. Make sure if you follow his references, you read the whole book. Anyone will tell you if they are worth their salt that context is everything. This reference he just made to "Good Ship Jesus" and Daniel 11..... the passage is not addressing Christ but the 'Anti-Christ.' That's what happens when you don't read carefully or you have a personal agenda – you distort the truth.
      Go to Daniel, but read the whole book; otherwise, you will be swallowing this guy's nonsense and getting nothing profitable in return.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Theophilus7

      Another note – if this guy is telling you to reject the entire New Testament then he is basically telling you to 'reject Christianity.' Because without the Savior, you have no hope of going to Heaven. The Old Testament is predicated on the Law of God which the Jews who did their best and worst could not fulfill. They had a high priest go each year to 'Atone' for the people. The NT describes Jesus at the one and only High Priest who Atoned once and for all by His sacrifice on the Cross. If you haven't read the Bible before, none of this will make sense to you. If you've been in a cult, then you've been screwed up pretty bad and have to get back to the basics. No one is without hope. Just read your Bible. KJV seems to be the most widely received and stands up to criticisms pretty well. Just go for it and read. Hard to make sense of it all until you've done your own due diligence. I could discuss the continuity of OT through NT and prove it to be consistent in message and character of God, but what use would that be if you don't do your own homework. Read.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:24 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.