Americans are polarized on religion but agreeable about it, authors say
Two authors describe Americans' ability to get along with people of different religions as the 'Aunt Susan effect.'
February 23rd, 2012
03:17 PM ET

Americans are polarized on religion but agreeable about it, authors say

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio interview with Robert Putnam and David Campbell, authors "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us":

By Katie Glaeser and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

Forget the economy. Debate about contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, even Satan, has attracted just as much attention on the presidential campaign trail in recent weeks.

While culture war issues make headlines galore, an exhaustive study of Americans' religious attitudes shows the public as a whole might not find the debate so enticing.

Robert Putnam and David Campbell are authors of the recent book "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us" and say that Americans have a knack for being able to disagree about hot button issues without being disagreeable.

"America is very unusual in being able to live comfortably with the people we disagree with," says Putnam, a Harvard University professor who also wrote the book "Bowling Alone."

Putnam and Campbell, of Notre Dame University, spent several years surveying thousands of Americans, seeking to understand how voters deal with religious differences.

Their portrait of the American faithful does reveal some rising tension. Putnam and Campbell found that the nation has grown increasingly polarized as more people either strongly identify with a particular religion or avoid organized religion altogether. But this polarization doesn't always mean conflict.

"If you only read the newspapers, you'd think that Americans really were at each others throats when it comes to religion" Campbell says.

To explain how Americans avoid fighting over the hot button issues that attract major heat at the national level, the authors point to what they call the "Aunt Susan effect.”

"That's the person in your family whom you know is destined for heaven even though she's of a different faith than you," Campell says. Americans tend to become more tolerant about different ideologies and religions when they know someone who subscribes to them.

Putnam says that this mingling has increased through friendships and marriage "so there are a lot of Aunt Susans around, more than there used to be and that in a way has offset this debate we're having in the public arena about religion."

Through their survey of roughly 4,000 randomly selected Americans, the two found that views of specific religious groups have shifted. "It turns out that the most popular religious groups in the U.S. today are Jews, followed by Catholics, which is amazing," Campbell said. "Fifty to 100 years ago those groups would've been near the bottom of that ranking."

When John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for president a half-century ago, he faced voters whose opinions on his religion ran from uncertain to hostile. Today, many Americans harbor similar feelings toward Muslims and Mormons. The authors say those views help explain the relative silence from candidate Mitt Romney on his Mormon upbringing and faith.

CNN Radio's John Lisk asked Putnam and Campbell about another presidential contender, Richard Nixon, who appealed to the right during the primary but won the general election by winning many moderate voters. Applying that model to the current race, Campbell says devout Catholic Rick Santorum may have overplayed his hand in voicing strong conservative positions on social issues.

"Young people are way more liberal on homosexuality and contraception," Putnam says. "That's where Santorum is in trouble."

The authors found the nation has increasingly tolerant views with regard to homosexuality and Putnam says that "Santorum has put himself in a small minority" with some of his incendiary statements about gays.

At the same time, Putnam and Campbell say they found a new strain of conservatism emerging in the country. "Supporters of the Tea Party not only want to shrink government, but it's a group who has a particular view of how government and religion are intertwined," Campbell said. "That's historically unusual."

It's also unpopular, the authors say. The alliance between one political party and organized religion has provoked many believers to walk away from religious institutions, Putnam says. "They are fleeing the church because they are so opposed to this merger," Putnam said.

At the same time, the authors say more religious leaders are deciding to back away from politics. By halting "political sermonizing," the authors say faith leaders hope to draw and retain congregants.

But don't expect culture war issues to fade in the GOP primaries.

The GOP base rewards candidates for moving "toward the most conservative end of the spectrum religiously, all competing to be the most conservative on those issues," Putnam said. "That defines the primary campaign."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Books

soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Reality

    The brutal effects of stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    February 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  2. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 25, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  3. momoya

    Of course people of different religious tones get along; they don't have any reliable method to settle the question of who is right and who is wrong. They know that it's all just unprovable opinion, and that they can't answer for their belief with logic–they're all using faith which is equally useful/useless for any myth.

    God obviously doesn't care, either; one assumes that he could have made his nature as obvious as the principles of mathematics. He didn't do that, so he must want all this contention and bickering over his nature.

    February 24, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • catholic engineer

      Interesting observation. But the same thing applies to science. Galileo was the first person to see certain things in the cosmos. Other astronomers refused to look through his telescope because they already had their minds made up what they would see – they couldn't face having to change their minds.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • catholic engineer

      "He didn't do that, so he must want all this contention and bickering over his nature." That sounds like something a finite being would do. But over the ages, God has been seen as infinitely deep and high and broad, with infinite love, perfectly knowing His/Her creation. Human minds are finite. People can perfectly agree on something that humans have invented. But with God, our reach exceeds our grasp. Natually, there's disagreement about God.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      catholic engineer
      "Modern science owes its present flourishing state to a new scientific method which was fashioned by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)" Morris Kline
      If Galileo invented the scientific method then it shouldn't be terribly surprising that his peers weren't adhering to it yet. Besides, considering how Galileo was treated for his discovery, could you blame them for not wanting to stick their necks out?

      February 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • momoya

      @catholic engineer

      If all knowledge was wiped clean and we had to start from scratch, it wouldn't take long for folks to realize that 1+1=2, and from there on to the higher mathematical concepts. Math may not be simple, but it's obvious, and you can't assert mathematical principles that don't work. It's rather obvious which mathematical principles are valid and which aren't, because math and reality provide a method to affirm each principle.

      Compare that to the thousands and thousands of different gods and forms of worship believed around the world. Why isn't god as obvious and verifiable as math or chemistry? Why can people believe so many different and contradictory ideas about god, but cannot do so for math? God sucks at communicating his will; it's obvious by the sheer number of ideas that people believe.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @ momoya and Oh Yeah Scientists are every bit as dogmatic and jealous as religion ever was. And it took fewer years to prove it. Consider Georg Cantor, the mathematics pioneer who introduced the idea of infinite sets. He was ridiculed into a nervous breakdown by his scientific peers – not by the church.
      Galileo seems to be the standard martyr that atheists hold up in the church's face. Any others?

      What did Galileo believe? :

      ""I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries."
      - Galileo Galilei

      February 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Galileo knew that if he didnt pretent to believe in god that nothing that he wrote would be published. Only makes sense to believe in that hogwash like most xtians fo anyway.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @momoya "Compare that to the thousands and thousands of different gods and forms of worship believed around the world. Why isn't god as obvious and verifiable as math or chemistry? " Aldous Huxley (an atheist, I believe) wrote about the Perennial Philosophy – the basic religous impulse showing up in humans at all times and places. People are going to respond to this impulse using whatever means is available to them – cultural, linguistic, philosophical, etc. The same basic impulse produces various expressions. The impulse is the important thing. There is another type of knowledge that can't be derived or observed: intuition. Intuition is "knowing" wiithout knowing "why" we know. I think that's where the idea of God comes from.Naturally, this is not acceptable to the materialist who relies only on data.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @JimTanker "Galileo knew that if he didnt pretent to believe in god that nothing that he wrote would be published. Only makes sense to believe in that hogwash like most xtians fo anyway." Making his beliefs known is what caused Galileo to clash with Pope Urban and be placed under house arrest. This wouldn't have happened if he was keeping up a pretense.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • momoya

      @catholic engineer

      No, you're completely wrong. Science corrects its own mistake by the protocols of its own discipline. That's why theories get modified according to incoming data, and it's why new theories that explain the data better replace old theories that don't explain the data as completely. Science is competi.tive, and some cronyism exists, but better theories eventually win the day. And don't be silly in reference to Galileo; you know your history better than that. You should be ashamed.

      Yes, the god impulse is obvious; god's nature isn't. That's the point. A sensible god who wanted true worship would be as obvious as chemistry, or at least math. That he allows so many wrong methods of belief shows how little he cares about being worshiped according to his true nature. That he is completely invisible and undetectable by any means at all tells us all we need to know. We should honor his unwillingness to appear obvious and real and treat him according to the evidence–as if he does not exist. It's childish mentality that seeks a human-like higher power and comfort; we all do it as babies, and it makes sense to desire that sense of parenthood even though we have no evidence of a "higher power, parent-like being." Wishing something were true does not make it so.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @momoya, JimTanker, and Oh Yeah

      Do you guys realize what just happened !! We exchanged a whole series of disagreeing posts and nobody showed any rancor. Congratulations to us !!

      February 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Wait, wait, wait! Are you all finished with this discussion? Because I'd be happy to insert some rancor.

      I just love rancor.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      I too often feel embarrassed at the crudeness of some of my fellow non-believers. With the wealth of arguments we have at our disposal there really isn't any need to let the debate lower to such levels. Besides, I really think that is what these Christians want anyway. By playing into their hands, and displaying meanness, these believers actually feel vindicated because the scriptures forewarn that many people would treat them hostilely. They take it as a sign that they're actually right, and it gives them license to just ignore what we say.

      So I advise all non-believers not to give them the satisfaction of getting angry, calling them names, and making crude remarks about Jesus who, had he actually lived, probably doesn't deserve to be ridiculed because of the tall tales people started telling about him. They have this image of us being bad people (because we reject what they believe, and they see themselves as "good" so, simplistically, we MUST be bad) so acting disrespectful just plays into their hands.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • momoya

      @Oh Yeah

      I agree. I really do wish that we atheists would "self-police" those who share our disbelief but express it in immature and hateful rhetoric. I tried it once, but it didn't work out. We do have the better arguments, so there's no need to be vile.

      February 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      There is nothing to suggest that Galileo was a non-believer, but the Church at that time was as afraid of any ideas that contradicted what the Bible said then as fundamentalists are today. Except for any discussion about when human life actually begins, the RCC is light years ahead of fundamentalists in accepting scientific truth nowadays.

      Perhaps the god impulse is like the artistic impulse where every culture, and every generation within that culture, has a different interpretation of what is pleasing. People have different interpretations of what pleases them in a god too. That's why the character of "God" changes so dramatically in the Bible, from mean, tribal and anthropomorphic to increasingly universal to the deity that Jesus liked to call "Father." Since Jesus' time every generation of Christians has had a different view of who God is. Either "God" is an ever evolving concept, matching people's needs through pure invention, or God is a real being that nobody has ever, or likely will ever, conceptualize correctly. Either way, it's safe to say that the believers are deluding themselves when they claim to "know" God.

      February 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Oh Yeah

      Yes, I hope many of the atheists on these discussions get your message, one way or another. I personally go over each of my comments carefully before clicking the Post button to make sure I don't have any language that sounds like an attack, or that might be insulting, or uses name-calling.

      You absolutely can make any reply to any post, no matter how outrageous the original poster was, using neutral, level-headed, tempered language.

      February 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      Your Attention, Please. Catholic Engineer has left the building.

      February 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  4. catholic engineer

    "If you only read the newspapers, you'd think that Americans really were at each others throats when it comes to religion" Campbell says."

    If a person reads all the news, CNN or otherwise, he can discover for himself all the insane, mean-spirited, petty things people do all by themselves with no help from religion. Then readers come to the faith blog and blaim every evil on religion.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Most of the insane, mean-spirited, petty things are being done by people following some religion, and some of those things are actually being done at the prompting of some religious direction, which is testament to how effective these systems are at instilling morality.

      Don't get me wrong. I think that most religious people wouldn't say a mean thing about a person of another faith, picket a family planning clinic, or pick on a gay kid no matter what their cleric tells them because they listen to their conscience. I think these people would be basically good if they were religious or not. There are also a few people who would probably be real menaces to society without religion to give their lives direction away from those impulses, but there are many more, it seems, who take the opportunity to be judgmental to heart and relish in being able to hurt people in a socially acceptable way.

      So, think of religion as a cure for some people, but one that has very damaging side effects for others.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @Oh Yeah. Well, I pretty much agree. Without the actions of ordinary good people, religious or not, the world would be in worse shape than it already is. I have known many Christians who should not broadcast it; their behaviour ( and mine too at times !) is too embarassing.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      catholic engineer
      Yes, let us hope that Jesus' words were indeed prophetic in that the meek will eventually inherit the earth. I doubt that he actually meant that Christians should be as assertive and political as many have been lately. Come to think about it, these same Christians don't seem to put much value on being merciful, poor, or a peacemaker either it seems.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 24, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • AGuest9

      2006 Harvard Prayer Study – faith and prayer are delusions.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Or it's just another form of self-talk, but because you are "speaking" to another, albeit invisible, being you don't feel like you're actually comforting yourself, or thinking things through for yourself. We are use to communicating with others, so sometimes the intimacy of the subject makes this too difficult to do with an actual, real live person who could make you feel uncomfortable. So, you "talk" to God, who you believe is always understands and is forgiving. Other prayers, the pleading kind, are just hopes articulated.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Prayer changes things. That is, as soon as you get up off your knees and make the changes yourself.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Anon

    There are over 30,000 christian denominations and each one has it's differences, yet all of them have something in common. They're nothing but a farce.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  7. stanchaz

    In this Holy War on Religion, of Religion, and by Religion – I SURRENDER! 
    ‘Cause I’m a lover, not a fighter.  
    Instead...I’m gonna start my OWN religion, and get in on the good stuff: tax exemptions, and lots of taxpayer money to do what I want, all in the name of religious liberty. AWESOME! 
    Hey NEWT -wanna join? We’re gonna have open marriages and multiple wives and all SORTS of neat stuff that you’re just gonna love! But don’t you worry Newt: we’ll have no – I repeat – NO nasty stoning of adulterers in OUR religion. None of that stuff. I Promise! As for SANTORUM, he just LOVES to tell other people how they should live. He’ll make us a REAL fine preacher-man. In fact, if he joins we’ll make him Saint Santorum....AND fix his Google search results! As for Mr. Obama, it’s obvious that we’ll need to (severely) demonize him, even further than now!  Last but not least: MITT and RON. Hmmm... Hey, I know. Just for you two guys and the rest of the 1%: we’ll insist on NO TAXES AT ALL for our members…AND human sacrifice of illegal aliens. Tear out their hearts! Televise it live! WHAT A COUNTRY!  🙂
    By the way, 
    the fact that Mitt Romney’s DAD was born in Mexico is quite relevant here. The reason is that Mitt’s Mormon GRAND-dad LEFT the United States and went to Mexico in the 1880‘s because  laws against polygamy were passed in the U.S.; And being a Mormon back then, Mitt’s grand-dad just wanted to keep his multiple wives. Hey, who wouldn’t? Therefore, IF we follow the “logic” of the people crying crocodile tears about a non-existent “war on religion”, THEN the U.S. should have allowed polygamy back then (and religious racial discrimination, and who knows what else) – just because a particular religion claimed it as their cherished belief. GIVE ME A BREAK! Or better yet... give me a TAX-break...for my new religion!
    Seriously: The bottom line is that absolutely NO ONE is coming into our Churches or places of worship and telling believers what to believe.....or forcing them to use contraception. BUT If the Bishops (and other denominations) want to continue running businesses outside of their places of worship...businesses that employ millions of people of varying faiths -or no "faith" at all- THEN they must play by the same rules and rights that other workers live by and enjoy (especially if their businesses use our tax dollars, and skip paying taxes, in the process). If the Jehovah's Witnesses church hires me, can they alter my health insurance to exclude blood transfusions? Even worse- what if they operated a hospital by their “rules”? 
    This is not a “war on religion”. Never was. However, it IS a war BY some religions... on women and men who simply want to plan their families, to control their futures, to keep their jobs, and to have health insurance that allows them to do that. The churches (or the IRS) need to decide whether these churches are  going to be political organizations proclaiming partisan politics from the pulpit...or....tax-exempt places of WORSHIP.  Not both. 
    p. s. I come from a religious background. I know that their are many good people out there in various faiths (AND outside of those faiths)...many good people searching for answers, searching for community, searching for a way....in this all-too-harsh world. There's only one thing I can say to you: think for yourself, be yourself, trust yourself. Don't just accept something because it comes from a "voice of authority". For ultimately YOU are responsible for your life, and how you try to live it. That’s why you have a conscience: to choose, not just to follow....

    February 24, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  8. nothing new here

    It is just going to be up to people of temperate faith, or no faith, to come together to unite this country.
    Whether people are straight, gay, black, white, male, female, rich, poor, etc., we are ALL AMERICANS.
    We need to keep this in mind, we are a nation of "different strokes for different folks".
    Nothing wrong with that. But let us not destroy each other with extreme hatred and bigotry.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      For people of temperate, or no faith to rise up and unite this country it will take strong leadership and a willingness to be led. Problem is, we are neither shepherds, nor sheep. Any movement towards goal would require a unified message. If you unify a message enough it becomes dogma and, pretty soon, we end up being indistinguishable from the force we are trying to counter.

      February 24, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  9. Thomas

    On Earth as is in Heven !

    Say's it all !

    February 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Bobby

      But is it true?

      February 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • sarahH

      "On Earth as it is in Heaven" refers to Armageddon. It's not what humans are suppose to do. It's what God will do.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Bobby

      So you believe, but that doesn't mean that it's actually true, right?

      February 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  10. Prayer Troll is actually just sayin

    Uh huh

    February 23, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  11. nothing new here

    The average, religious person is usually a good citizen of this country.
    However, the problem is this – the good are suffering BIG TIME for the bad. It is the extremists and angry, bigoted religious zealots that are giving religion, and people of faith, a very bad name.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      It's always important to keep that distinction. I am an atheist, and I usually don't have any problems around my religious friends. I find no fault in being religious, it is the zealots, the extremists, and the self-righteous that I cannot stand.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Tally Ho!

      As an atheist, I tend to agree with you, though I would say that the extremists are successfully radicalizing your average religious person, pushing the group in general towards what you define as "bad."

      February 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Tally Ho!

      Thank you for your thoughts.
      Agree, and I will keep this in mind.
      Have a good weekend!

      February 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      The moderates are not fighters either. They usually will not challenge the zealots trying to hijack their faith, so it's left to us atheists to fight their battles for them. If I had one wish it would be for them to push back, and reclaim their voice in the culture war.

      February 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  12. norma jean.


    February 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Anon

      Ram a bible up your @$$.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Hey norma, I think you're cat might be sleeping on your caps lock.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  13. Fila

    The spanish conquistadores with the blessing of the Cathlic Church KILLED millions of natives in Mexico, central and south america, and the caribean.

    I was raised catholic and practiced catholicism for several years, until I obercame church brainwashing, and became my own thinker. The truth can't be found at the shadow of a chappel, mosque, or temple

    February 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  14. joesixpackjr

    I have been reading Sound Off comments for several months and have been surprised by the CNNers' prevalent antipathy toward organized religion, particularly the Catholic church. Also most of the coverage of religion is negative; very little of the positive accomplishments of churches and religions is reported. Attacks on religions are often reported by CNN without presenting the other side of the story . However, much effort is devoted to defending any attack on Pres. Obama. My guess is that CNN does not want to offend the CNNers by favorably reporting anything about religion – other than the holy Obama church.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by joesixpackjr contains the Biased Generalizing fallacy and is also an example of Misplaced Vividness.


      February 23, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • It's like this

      The lack of positive accomplishments reported are more a factor of the lack of positive accomplishments rather than the reporting. Religion is a far less positive force in the world that religious people believe it is.

      Don't believe me? List some positive accomplishments that you are aware of, if you can, and you will find that they are small; they do not counterbalance the evils of political bullying and oppression and brutality and other nasty behaviors done by religions worldwide.

      It is only natural to ignore the bad of your belief system and emphasize the good, but you should know that to an outsider, that good is almost invisible but the bad is fairly pronounced and ugly.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Every positive achievement by religious zealots seems to be just an opportunity for them to gather an audience to try proselytizing. Pair that with their steadfast belief that what they are doing guarantees them a spot in heaven, and many people just see every good thing they do as actually being self-serving, the way celebrities who do charity or champion a cause appear self-promoting to some people.

      Simply put, it's sometimes not your deeds that repel us, but your motives in doing those deeds. "No free lunch" at the soup kitchen without having to sit through some sermon just reminds people of having to hear a sales pitch for time shares in order to have a round of golf.

      February 24, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • Oh yeah is oh no

      Its nothing of the sort . So someone that is poort and is getting a good meal has to hear about Jesus Christ. There are much worse things in the world than that, and it has nothing to do with a sales job. You just have a burr about your butt about people that believe,,that is the real story.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Oh yeah is oh no
      No, it's just the difference between secular and Christian charities. Secular charities are usually just out there to give people the help they need, with no other agenda attached. Many Christian charities are like the toys that come in Happy Meals; an enticement to get people hooked on the company's main product. Any help actually given is secondary to the main mission of spreading the word. Many Christian charities then are actually businesses whose goal is to proselytize, which is why so many people feel that they should be taxed like one.

      February 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  15. John Stefanyszyn

    It is not the "Aunt Susan effect"...
    ...it is because the primary core belief of people, in the USA, other democracies, and other changing nations, is freedom of rights, equality of rights, freedom of religions, freedom of lifestyle, etc.

    No matter what "traditional religion" one may follow as one's "personal faith", there is one belief that is above any these "religions"....and it is the belief (world religion) and way of life of self-rights, i.e. freedom of rights, universal values, equality of rights.

    This is the core belief that is not negotiable or compromise-able....all other secondary beliefs can be tolerated and worked around to find common ground via the belief in equality of rights.

    This also applies for "religion choice and diversity"..... via interfaith relations, universal values, reconciliation, common good, common "god".

    But there is ONLY One true Creator God who gave man existence and hope.
    ....there is ONLY ONE True Way of Life through His Son, the Christ
    ....and this is the reality that all those that love their self-rights will reject at His return.
    ....but there will not be any way out.

    To love the True God, through Christ, and to love your neighbor instead of loving your self-rights.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      John Stefanyszyn
      You said that "freedom of religions" is a core American belief, but then you waxed on your personal belief that Christianity is the ONE true faith. So, are you an American, or just a Christian?

      February 24, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  16. Reality

    Being nice to the reading challenged: (from a PowerPoint slide)




    February 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Atheist

      What does it change? Where is your evidence?

      February 23, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      Talking to something that doesn't exist doesn't change a thing (except classify you as off your rocker). It really is amazing that organized religion has been the direct or indirect cause of death of more people on this planet than all the wars and diseases combined. Now that's telling. No prayers needed.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Proven (no need to thank me)

      February 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      February 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • just sayin

      Jim in san mateo
      Religion has to go quite a ways to match the billions killed by atheists in the last 100 years alone. Stalin was responsible for over 25 million by himself.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'just sayin' is an instance of a Genetic fallacy.


      February 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Prayer Troll is a fop

      Actually, "just sayin", all great mass-murders of the last 100 years were committed by men with black hair. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Turks in the Armenian Genocide, and so on. The had black hair, and they wiped out millions upon millions. Therefore, all people with black hair are mass murderers.

      Now you might say that their black hair had little to do with their desire to murder and had almost nothing to do with their victims, but that would be as silly as the saying the vast vast majority of the victims of Stalin you list were killed not for religious reasons, but instead because of political reasons and Stalin's obsessive fear of any and all sources of power that might conceivably threaten him. Totally ridiculous concept!

      February 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Chad

      @Fallacy Spotting 101 "Post by 'just sayin' is an instance of a Genetic fallacy"

      =>you need to find a new hobby, I dont recall you ever once spotting a fallacy accurately 🙂

      The genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context.

      example: "You're not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don't you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands? I would not have thought you would be a party to such a sexist practice."
      There may be reasons why people may not wish to wear wedding rings, but it would be logically inappropriate for a couple to reject the notion of exchanging wedding rings on the sole grounds of its sexist origins.

      and, here's the fun part about this particular "fallacy" of yours.

      You identify "fallacies" solely based on the point of view of the poster, time after time, you attempt to assign some fallacy label to a creationist/religious person, solely due to their stance, not the data they are presenting.

      which, ironically, makes your miss-identification of that post as a "Genetic fallacy", a fine example of what a genetic fallacy actually is!

      well done sir!

      February 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Prayer Troll is a fop

      Actually Chad, the definition you supplied looks to fit just saying's bizarre assertion.

      "A conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context." The origin being presented by just saying: Stalin. The relevance of Stalin to modern atheism? Virtually none, as Stalin did not murder because he was an atheist; he murdered because he was paranoid of any rivals, communism in general was completely intolerant of any alternate viewpoints and by dogma eliminated them, no matter how slight the difference, and he just plain enjoyed it (none of which are defining characteristics of atheists).

      "This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context." Earlier context: Stalin. Present context: the heavily atheist countries of the world, especially Western Europe, are not engaged in mass murder at all and are not at any risk of doing so. In reeality, they are the places with the lowest major crime and highest prosperity.

      Sorry Chad, but fallacy guy is correct here.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Chad

      @Prayer Troll is a fop "Actually Chad, the definition you supplied looks to fit just saying's bizarre assertion."

      no..If you (incorrectly) believe that atheism had no causal relationship with his murders, then you would accuse that poster of "Correlation implies causation" or "Spurious relationship" fallacies.

      A genetic fallacy in the current context would be something like "Stalin killed everyone because he's from Georgia"

      genetic fallacy: A conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin

      February 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      If praying is just a form of self-talk then you can talk yourself into all kinds of confidence, or through any kind of difficulty with it, without a god "doing" something to help you. Even atheists can express hope.

      February 24, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • UncleBenny

      "Prayer changes things."

      Good. I'm praying that you go away.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  18. Alien Orifice

    Since HeavenSent is not here, let me do the honors.

    You must accept Jesus' truth.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Rick

      That was carnal.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      Ignorance refused.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Embrace ignorance!

      February 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Flying Spaghetti Monster!!

      February 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." John F. Kennedy

      I'm feeling really insecure these days, how about you guys?

      February 24, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      Thank you for the laugh.

      February 24, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  19. Sammie

    This polling information clearly shows that extremists like Santorum are out of touch with most Americans on religion. Americans want a everyones' President, not an Ayatollah for one religious group.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      I just want to get the wacky tobacky legalized.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  20. nvanative

    the rightists always claim to be for less government and less government intrusion, but they are always pushing more government to control and interference into what citizens do – in your bedroom, who you love, who can adopt children, in your doctor's office, at your job, whether you go to church, who you pray to, when you do or don't pray, etc. and always it's the GOP/right-wingers!!

    February 23, 2012 at 5:48 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.