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June 14th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

My Take: More doubts about God doesn't mean religion is weakening

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

When it comes to doubt, sometimes a little skepticism is in order.

As CNN's Dan Merica reported earlier this week, a recent Pew Research Center survey sees doubt rising sharply inside the millennial generation. Between 2007 and 2012, this survey says, the portion of young Americans (those 30 and uner) who say they never doubt the existence of God dropped sharply between 2007 and 2012, from 83% to 68%.

This report has stirred up a chatstorm in the blogosphere, with 2600 comments and counting on Merica's Belief Blog post alone. But does this data really say what many atheists want it to say? Is American religion really heading for a fall?

Look carefully at the survey question. What this data is tracking is the percentage of young people for whom doubt has never creeped into their faith. I don’t know about you, but most of the religious people I know experience both doubt and faith over the course of their spiritual lives. So the fact that more than two-thirds of young people say they have never doubted God’s existence seems to me evidence of America's extraordinary religiosity, not its disbelief.

That suspicion is supported by the fact that this same Pew survey found that millennials who identify with a religion is not declining. Moreover, according to Pew's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, only 3% of millennials are atheists.

The takeaway, it seems to me, is not that religion is declining in America but that it is changing. Or, to paraphrase my Boston University colleague and sociologist of religion Peter Berger, what is shifting here is the how of religion. In short, doubt is a part of the spiritual lives of more young people than it has been in the past.

I have been spending way too much time lately with Google’s Ngram Viewer. This website allows you to see how prominent certain key words are in books published in various languages from 1800 forward. It’s also possible to see how these key words match up against one another over time.

I searched the Ngram database for the words “faith” and “doubt” in American English from 1800 to 2008. Here’s what I found:

For much of the nineteenth century, “faith” won out over “doubt.” But as Biblical criticism, evolutionary theory, and comparative religions started to chip away at traditional understandings of Christianity, “doubt” ran past faith in the late 1880s. For roughly the next century, the two terms tracked rather closely. During the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, however, faith bypassed doubt.

What matters here is not the horse race. More significant is the fact that, since the late Victorian period, doubt has become part of the landscape of faith in America. To see doubt as a denial of faith is to misunderstand how most Americans live their religious lives.

The fact that doubt is now a part of faith for a significant minority of American believers strikes me at least as a sign of faith’s maturity, not its demise. Perhaps, like the millennials themselves, American religion is growing up.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Faith • Polls • Trends • United States

soundoff (1,804 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and the supernatural, of any kind, is simply not supported by proof. The power is learning and real understanding as provided through the scientific method and empirical evidence are much more profound than simple belief.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • chrism

      “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.”

      June 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • CT24

      What is the proof that the empirical assumptions underlying observational hypothesis testing are true?

      If your answer seems easy to you, then you probably aren't a practicing scientist or have never actually wrestled with the issue.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      Chrism – Wrong! Proof is possible. That is the difference between your line of thinking and mine. There is nothing that could happen to make you change you mind. For me, evidence would change my mind. If any valid and scientifically substantiated evidence was presented to me, I would immediately evaluate my convictions and adjust them accordingly.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • polemicist

      Reasonable, indirect evidence proves God's existence. See: Rees's 6 constants and the fact that the universe existing to be able to form life is less than 1 x 10^36 odds.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      Pole – low probability events occurring are not proof of anything. All outcomes are possible. Some are more likely than others. That doesn't not mean the likely ones don't occur given enough time and space. All the outcomes will occur eventually.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Neko Shousui

      Believer = I don't need to see it to believe it
      Agnostic = I'll believe it when I see it
      Atheist = I'll see it when I believe it

      June 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      re: CT24

      "What is the proof that the empirical assumptions underlying observational hypothesis testing are true?

      If your answer seems easy to you, then you probably aren't a practicing scientist or have never actually wrestled with the issue."

      Proof of empirical assumptions...... For starters, I'm going to go out on a limb that you are not a practicing scientist. This is primarily because assumptions are not empirical, you create a hypothesis With assumptions which you prove or disprove via testing. It is through empirical testing that you eliminate or validate those assumptions. (I do appreciate that you used hypothesis correctly instead of Theory)

      What I assume you are trying to convey is that you are worried that we assume that what we can see/hear/smell/taste/touch is not really everything that is occurring in our world, and therefore we cannot really trust all of those senses to give us the full story. Bowing to that line of thinking you may as well concede that you cannot test anything, and that nothing you can see/hear/smell/taste/touch is true or holds any value.

      You have to as a scientist accept at least the basic assumption that the world is in-fact real, and that you can learn about it. After that there isn't too much that you have to assume, most things in this world are testable in some fashion or another.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Dave

      ReasonableXX, no you are wron .. you would NOT believe the evidence if it were given. You could see Jesus walk on water, you'd say it was a trick. You's see Jesus bring a dead man to life and again, you'd say a trick or someone was mistaken that he was dead to begin with. You could see Jesus command the sun to remain still in the sky for 24 hours, and again, you'd deny God, you's say there was a scientific explanation that we just don't know of yet.

      Thats Jesus, God in the flesh ...

      Let's take GOD himself ...

      again, you'd deny with claims of trickery ot scientic explanation that we just don't know of yet.

      They say no man can see God without going bling (his holiness and glory is THAT intense). You would come before God, go blind and MAYBE believe for a short while. Unless you believe merely by faith, eventually you would doubt again and shrug the experience of as coincidence that you happen to go blind at the same time, something in the air.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • chrism

      ReasonableXX, nope, the difference between you and I is reading comprehension. Tell you what, I'll give you a million dollars if you can find in my post what you claim I said, that no proof is possible 😉

      I'll reiterate, no proof is necessary for many believers. And here's more to the point – they already have proof. I have it. I think your issue is you just don't understand science. As a scientifically minded person, I know a lot about it. I know science has limits – limits including what it can observe. Also limits in terms of what it can repeat. You see, even if Jesus Christ came right down on this earth and talked to you right now, you couldn't publish it. And it wouldn't be scientific proof. Because you couldn't provide a test, a repeatable test that could prove it to others. Again, sir, I have proof. And other gifts from God. I thank God for them. God chose to reveal Himself to me. I have SEEN. I have heard God. I have no idea sometimes with people like you if you're just a liar, if you know God and say you don't, if you're looking for an argument because you're too lazy to find some other way to sharpen your brain, or if you're really so distracted in your life that you've forgotten you know God. Maybe it is the latter. But no. There isn't a person on this planet who needs a published scientific paper to tell them that God exists. All know God. And if you want to talk about natural science, about the existence of the universe, well as Einstein said, either everything is a miracle or nothing is. Answer, everything is. The natural is supernatural. The ordinary is extraordinary.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • jason

      Actually the scientific method is a logical fallacy – if you prove it is correct – affirming the consequent, and if you disprove it is called denying the antecedent – look up some formal logic

      June 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      "even if Jesus Christ came right down on this earth and talked to you right now, you couldn't publish it. And it wouldn't be scientific proof."

      Well you would have to prove a couple of different things:

      1. I assume you mean this is the same Jesus of the bible, who likely was an actual real person, that died a long time ago. If we could somehow prove it was the same person that would be compelling evidence that your god existed.

      2. Jesus was well known for doing all sorts of neat stuff, like walking on water, turning water into wine, making fish... come out of the water. So we could test this by showing him some water and seeing if he could make wine/fish/or if he could float on it. Proving that he could still do all of that stuff would be compelling evidence that your god existed.

      3. Perhaps he could ask his dad, you know the guy who sent him here previously to be tortured and murdered (nice guy right?) if he could do some of those miracles I've heard so much about. Especially if he could repeat those miracles on demand. That would be compelling evidence that your god existed.

      I could go on, but I think that covers it sufficiently.

      Oh and on you million dollar challenge. You posted that if you do not believe no proof is possible, the implication being that someone who doesn't already believe cannot be swayed regardless of how much evidence is presented them. The problem with your statement is that there is currently no evidence for your claim, which was what ReasonableXX was saying, so really your reading comprehension could use a little work. If you could provide proof of your god that wasn't explainable by natural causes, I would change my mind. On the other hand, I am going to guess that any number of physical, or logical proof I could provide you would not sway you.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  2. chrism

    Bingo ! I think the first time I have agreed whole-heartedly with Stephen Prothero. He could hardly be more correct. It is truly telling that an atheist would try to twist the data. Doubts ARE experienced by religious people of sincere faith. And religious people know this so really no more needs to be said. If you are a young person whose experienced doubts, you're not alone, you're just being honest and seeking the truth. "Lord I believe. Help my unbelief." - St. Peter

    June 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • CT24

      Well said!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      Most people are born into families with religion. Brought up during their childhood with religion. Socially programmed to associate themselves with religion throughout most of their lives. If what religion had to give us was actually true, wouldn't there be a no doubts, wouldn't it be immediately apparent to every single person on the planet that religion had it right, without doubts?

      The simple fact that not everyone shares your specific religion, and that there are people who do not follow religion at all gives weight to the argument that all religions are human creations.

      Although the writer of the article is probably a very nice person, his argument is filled with holes, and filled with ideas that do not make any sense. How is the number of times faith shows up in books versus how much doubt shows up in books relevant to the level of religion in the world?

      I agree that people saying they have doubts does not directly translate into number of people looking to jump ship on religion. But it does hint that culturally we are more open to question in public what we do not understand, which I can say with confidence is good for everyone.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  3. God is a cvnt

    If your god existed he would be an evil cvnt. Look at all the horrible sh•t he allows to go on. He must be the most impotent god ever. He hasn't given any reason to believe in him in over 2000 years, lazy fvcker.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • NUMBNUT

      I'm an atheist and I'm offended not only at your moniker, but you're whole foul language-like opinion.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Everyone's Crazy

      Then don't read it, ya numb nuts.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  4. No Diggity No Doubt

    I have 100% faith in me doubting there is a God.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • CT24

      How would you really know that? Have you ever put your "doubt" to the test? If not, how do you know that you're not just posturing?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  5. New Gawker

    religion isn't getting weaker, people are just waking up and realizing the Church is evil.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Bravo! *golf clap

      June 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • jason

      and continuing to make self into a God

      June 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  6. Johnny L

    Almost everyone who claims to be an atheist is so because of mostly subjective reasons, not objective ones. They may claim to be atheists because of objective reasons, speaking of evolution and quoting the book, "The God who is not there", but if you really press them, they are almost always people who have had bad experiences with religion or religious people. For example, my Dad got mad at God at around age 6 when he felt prayers went unanswered when he broke his arm and it was set wrong and swelled up in the cast and caused terrible pain and a deformed arm. Besides unanswered prayers, others were mistreated by a pastor, priest, supposed Christian, etc. "They are all hypocrites", they claim. But whether supposed religious people are hypocrites or not has nothing to do with whether God exists or not. Because you don't understand why your prayer was not answered also has nothing to do as to whether he exists. When people don't believe in God, they also don't believe in the devil ,and when you remove both of them from the things going on in the background of this world, you end up with a really screwed up world view. Like a judge who is bound by law, God is also bound by both his love and his justice. The devil is the devil's advocate, and so when mercy is shunned, justice reigns. All sins can be forgiven, but when the way to that forgiveness is rejected, justice takes over, just as it is supposed to do in our own society. God is there, but don't be fooled. There are things God cannot do. He cannot sin. He cannot act out of accordance with His attributes. Not accepting his offer of salvation leaves Him with little choice as to how to deal with those who reject Him. He basically gives them over to the one they are really following. the devil.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • God is a cvnt

      Didn't read!!! LOL!!!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Which god? god is bound only by the human author's imagination (much like any other fictional story).. your post = Fail

      June 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • kent

      johnny l. your garble was the biggest waste of my time, since i don't know how long. i could have read blah, blah, blah for 20 lines and got more out of it. good luck in your world. say hi to the god between your ears.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      This is just horrendous logic and bad stereotyping. You are very wrong on your assumptions about most athiests and not a single point you tried to make is valid.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      That's odd how you claim to know how almost all atheists think. I know a few atheists, me included. And we have all become atheists through study and logic, not hate. One of the nicest people I know is a Christian. Despite what you think, most atheists become atheists because they have really thought about religion, and it just didn't make since.

      Also, most atheists will admit that there is a possibility of god being real (any and all gods), just that the probability is so low it can be ignored. And that if one did exist, it probably isn't one that has ever been thought up before.

      I recommend talking to more atheists, get a better idea of what we believe and why we believe it.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jim P.

      This is a tired old argument. I do not believe in your god or any others because I have yet see convincing proof of any such thing and indeed often see proof to the contrary.

      Seen any hungry people get fed from stuff falling out of the sky sent by any gods lately? "If a son ask his father for bread, will he be given a stone? How much more will your Father in Heaven give you if asked?"

      If you pray hard enough and long enough it will indeed rain, even if you have to pray for years. That does not mean a god caused the rain.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Well written Johnny L,

      ...and may add this: Many people who feel God has not answered their prayers, in fact might be missing the point...that GOD has answered their prayer. Perhaps the answer is a 'NO' or a 'WAIT and BE PATIENT'. And sometimes it is a direct YES. It's when we don't get what we want that trumps our belief and faith in Him who does the providing. Kind of childish you might say. My kids do this to me all the time. They ask for something and if I don't see fit to give it to them, they get angry at me for a while. This goes to show how humanity is towards God. It's a perfect model and scenario.

      I'm a classic example of God answering my prayers without me even knowing it. And I thank Him for doing it this way because I have to say, the wait was worth it, as it built me up with patience. I have been praying for my dad's salvation for over 20 years. When I would think he had no hope into ever being saved, God was in the works. It took my daughter's death to make my father go, "Ok, Lord. You got me. I'm so sorry for being stubborn rejecting Your grace. Here I am Lord, and create in me a new and clean heart."

      My father came to know and accept the Lord at the weakest and desperate point in his life, for he so dearly loved my little girl. And it's kinda like how anyone who is a Christian has come to know the Lord, at their weakest point in life. It makes sense, because when you think you are at your strongest point, you obviously feel and believe you do not need Him. You see, God can't give you grace to anyone who is not willing to TAKE IT. And you can't win it, earn it nor buy it, as God's grace is free. It is to be taken by faith, received only to give back the Glory to God.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      ...And now that I think of it, it could've gone both ways with my father. Either he could've said, "You see why I didn't believe in God, because He never comes through and now my granddaughter is gone!!!" But instead he said, "My daughter might have been here with us today if I had trusted God and prayed so she may still be here with us. I will follow Christ from now on" THAT's HUMILITY my friends. And without it, you cannot be reached by God.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • doughnuts

      When I found out about Santa Claus, I applied the same line of reasoning to Jesus and became an atheist at 6 years of age.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      Johnny, I think you are resorting to delusional thinking in order to rationalize your presumptions about so-called "atheists"!
      First of all, atheism is NOT just another belief system or another flavor of religion! Atheism is the complete ABSENSE of belief and religion! It is NOT just "believing something a little different" than you! It is the complete LACK of belief in illogical, unprovable fantasy and myth! You want to paint atheists as religious people who have merely "lost their way" and became disallusioned with their religion because of some unfortunate disappointment that they just don't quite understand. And if they would simply beg God for forgiveness, then everything would be hunky-dory again, right? WRONG! You REALLY don't get it! Religion is mythical NONSENSE! There is NO logical support nor justification for ANY SINGLE PART of it! Atheist don't just have "different beliefs" – atheists HAVE NO BELIEF! PERIOD! Atheists don't waste their time even THINKING about religious dogma! It is ALL a moot point... Get it? No? I give up...

      June 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "But instead he said, "My daughter might have been here with us today if I had trusted God and prayed so she may still be here with us. I will follow Christ from now on" THAT's HUMILITY my friends. And without it, you cannot be reached by God."

      No, that is one serious unfounded guilt trip since your daughter was going to die and it had nothing to do with a god. Fear and guilt are one of the greatest selling tools. This is just one more example of it. Funny how your faith in your god didn't stop your daughter from dying and you allowed your father to take the blame.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      BoldGeorge – Most christians do not come to God at the weakest point of their lives...unless you consider childhood the weakest point of their lives. Christians are force fed religion from their parents starting at birth. Most do not have a special "come to god" moment.

      What you view as some miraculous answering of your prayers from your god, I view simply as your dad changing his mind during a tramatic experience. People change their mind all the time. It has nothing to do with miracles. Tramatic events can cause a drasitic change of mind. Again, not a miracle. While I am sorry for the loss of your daughter, your implication is that god answered your prayers of making your father a believer by causing this tragic event in your lives. Hardly seems like a loving and just god to me.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Adrien

      I think that people justify their disbelief in God with whatever stories they can muster because there ALWAYS has to be some tangible reason WHY in this world today. Your theory is false. I have studied the bible with three different christian sects (I was trying to find my faith and the truth) and I realized that I do not believe. I never believed. I was forcing myself to buy in to the idea of one supreme being. The supreme being described in the bible. I met some of the most amazing, compassionate, lovely people while studying the bible and I could have chosen to be a part of their world as they had open arms. But I could not live a lie. There was no horrible experience. No life shattering event.
      I experience the world every day without "god" and "the devil" and I find life beautiful and fascinating. There might be some omnipotent being out there, but I do not believe "he" or "it" is the one described in the bible. I actually find it hard to believe people still live with the same out dated beliefs in traditions and religion that they did hundreds of years ago, especially in this day and age. Anyway, I am an agnostic (I use this term because I feel like the term atheist gives the impression that I am actively not believing in God, which isn't really true because I never think about religion) and I am a very happy person with perspective and a bright future.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      @ ReasonableXX – "Christians are force fed religion from their parents starting at birth. "

      I guess you read my comment skipping the better lines. My father came to know and receive the Lord way later in life not as a baby or toddler nor teenager. And I cam e to know Christ in my mid 20's. And how about the people I talk to who are all adults and are coming to Christ? And yes, there are quite a lot of children at my church that are learning about God, thank God for that. They have it easier because the heart and mind of a child are easily led, not like us knuckle-headed adult brains. And what better leading than the way to God's kingdom.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      @ Adrien – "I experience the world every day without "god" and "the devil" and I find life beautiful and fascinating. There might be some omnipotent being out there, but I do not believe "he" or "it" is the one described in the bible."

      And the devil is ok with your lifestyle my friend. You see, the devil won't get upset at anyone who doesn't believe in him. He is ok with that. Because if you don't believe in the devil, he knows that you will not need to turn away from him and turn toward God. If you don't believe in the devil, you won't believe in that Someone who will rescue you from his grasp. And of course he's very a-ok with that.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "And the devil is ok with your lifestyle my friend. You see, the devil won't get upset at anyone who doesn't believe in him. He is ok with that. Because if you don't believe in the devil, he knows that you will not need to turn away from him and turn toward God. If you don't believe in the devil, you won't believe in that Someone who will rescue you from his grasp. And of course he's very a-ok with that."

      Knock, knock...hey Geroge, there is NO proof of your hell, and NO proof of the devil. It was written into your fantasy book in order to sell you their concept of this god. Fear is the greatest selling point on the planet, you just used it in your own post. Duh!

      June 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      @ YeahWrong

      I guess you don't read your Bible, and why would you? Yes, I fear...and not fearing God is but a fool's self-condemnation.

      Proverbs 1:7 – The FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Tim

      What a load of anecdotal garbage.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      I never really believed in religion, yet I grew up in a christian household. I was even an altar boy when I was younger, active in church activities, and a boy scout. I never really believed in the religion because it never made sense, as I matured and actually spent time thinking about religion as a whole, my religion specifically, and my own understanding of the world and the people that live in it, it because apparent to me that I never was religious in the first place, and I cast aside that label and never looked back. It was about being honest.

      I believe in Reason, I try to be kind to others, and I do my best to improve myself as I live my life. I may disagree with you on many things, but I don't hate you, your religion, or the religion that was thrust upon me when I was younger. I do value honesty, reason, and logic. So it is hard sometimes when I read posts like yours which are most likely your fantasies about people you don't really understand.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "I guess you don't read your Bible, and why would you? Yes, I fear...and not fearing God is but a fool's self-condemnation.

      Proverbs 1:7 – The FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

      LMAO – I've read the bible. But fear sells. Fear makes money. The countless companies and consultants in the business of protecting the fearful from whatever they may fear know it only too well. The more fear, the better the sales.. Fear is the afterbirth of reason and calculation. Fear has no brains; it is an idiot. Fear begins and ends with the desire to be secure; inward and outward security, with the desire to be certain, to have permanency. The continuity of permanence is sought in every direction, in virtue, in relationship, in action, in experience, in knowledge, in outward and inward things. To find security and be secure is the everlasting cry. It is this insistent demand that breeds fear.

      June 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  7. ME II

    @Stephen Prothero,
    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your conclusion, but one point seems off. Dan Merica's article was about a drop from 2007 to 2012, while your Religious Landscape link was for a 2008 survey.
    Wouldn't that "3% of millennials are atheists," be closer to Dan's beginning time frame, not the end?

    June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  8. StLoui

    Faith is belief without proof. Doubt questions faith. Those who say thay have NEVER questioned their faith are lying and deceiving themselves. I believe the increase in those admitting to having doubt is an increase in people being honest with themselves and others. The poll is meaningless, as most polls are, because the results are guided by the wording of the questions and what the respondants read into those questions.

    As far as faith goes, lack of proof is not proof. There is no way to prove there is no God. One can live their lives as if there is not, or one can live their lives as if there is. If I choose to have faith and I am wrong and there is no God, after my life it won't matter that I was wrong. If I choose not to believe in God and I'm wrong, after my life my soul is lost forever.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Scott

      Really? Those are the only 2 possible realities? How about a 3rd option: God exists, I am a rational doubting human being, and God welcomes me to his side because he is a loving forgiving being.

      Of the billions of people who have contemplated the nature of God (including you and me), I doubt any of us have guessed correctly.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jim P.

      This is the logical fallacy called "false dichotomy".

      It presumes there is only your god or none.

      The problem is, all the major and most minor religions have *very* severe penalties for choosing the wrong god. If you pick "A" over "B" and "B" is the right god, then you are in deep doodoo when you die every bit as bad as what happens to an atheist in the hands of a "loving" god.

      As many religions conflict sharply with each other over what pleases their invisible sky friend, you must indeed choose. There really does not seem to be a lot of room for a generic "I believe in God" in this system without specifying *which* god.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Jim P: Bravo! way to use that brain man.. you're going places!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Glorifundel

      "If I choose to have faith and I am wrong and there is no God, after my life it won't matter that I was wrong. If I choose not to believe in God and I'm wrong, after my life my soul is lost forever."

      See Pascal's Wager this is a well known logical fallacy. I'll pick my favorite reason why this statement makes no sense: If you choose to believe in god, not because you actually believe it, but because you are using it as an insurance policy against hell, wouldn't your god know you were lying selfishly and punish you accordingly?

      June 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  9. patrick

    Living beings may posess a consciousness to a matter of degree, but I find no evidence in nature that the universe itself has a concsiousness and I don't understand why anyone would think that it does – unless you were brainwashed as a child.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Boom! there it is in a nutshell...

      June 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  10. MOCaseA

    Best policy: Raise your kids to be open minded and to be able to make their own choice on their beliefs. Then SUPPORT them in their choices.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  11. God yes - Religion no

    I don't doubt God. But, I very much do doubt religion. They are not one in the same. To say the Bible is absolute truth is so wrong. The stories of the Bible are myths just like the stories of Mt. Olympus gods are myths. But, there was a time when those stories were believed as absolute truth. The fact is, no human being can understand the true nature of God and trying to frame an understand of God by creating religious dogma is a fools game. Believe in God, be a good person, and forget the silly rituals, myths, and zealots hysteria.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  12. JP

    I don't think I'll ever understand the atheist view. Looking at the universe and saying there's no God is like looking at the Mona Lisa and saying there's no painter. We can argue over things like natural processes, laws of physics, evolution, whether or not the creator is involved in our affairs and inspired our religious beliefs, but to suggest that there was no conscious act needed to bring the universe into existence at the very beginning is just... strange.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "but to suggest that there was no conscious act needed to bring the universe into existence at the very beginning is just... strange." I can't believe you are childish enough to put a human face on physics. I bet you named your car.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • patrick

      Why do you say "the creator" – why not two or more creators in collaboration?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Zeus

      Jp,

      It's very very easy, but most people want to anthropomorphize creating. Look beyond being human. Life doesn't require a reason.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bryan

      Yes but from the atheist perspective, its baffling how people can understand and accept the vastness of our universe, and believe that one supreme being created it.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • ksl

      Your analogy is wrong, saying there is no god is like looking at a rock and saying that there is no painter.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      Nice attempt at a clever analogy but it doesn't hold up one bit. You are comparing apples to oranges and they are not a bit related.

      The lack of consciousness in the universe is only "strange" as you put it if you have no understanding of modern physics, cosmology, and astronomy.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • JP

      I suppose the possibility of multiple creators is a valid one to consider, but the concept of God is that of a being without boundries, without the restrictions of matter and energy and time. Could multiple beings of that type coexist?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      If you want to take the outrageous and unfounded leap of faith to say that one exists, then sure, why not more than one?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      You do not understand the atheist point of view? let me show you how you are wrong... how many gods do you deny the existence of? Can there be only one, yours? Then you too are a denier of gods, and I only included yours in the same list that you use. See how easy it is?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • JP

      aarrgghh – I don't deny the belief that people have had in various named gods over the years. I happen to believe that many of the world's ancient gods were here with us, except that they were merely powerful creatures rather than legitimate gods. What I don't understand is the denial of the concept of an intelligence that exists beyond the scope of our universe, one which created this universe and the laws of physics which allow it to exist in such awe inspiring beauty and balance. I refer to a being capable of creating countless realities, each with their own laws of operation separate from the laws of time and physics that we understand, a power so absolute that it's unconstrained by any force because it brings those very forces in and out of existence. I don't mean a particular named god or one that has a direct relation to the religious beliefs that we have here on our relatively insignificant planet.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Adrien

      Although it would appear otherwise, I don't think this argument is about right or wrong. Atheists will always think you're wrong, and you'll always think atheists are wrong. Why are we so determined to make sure the world knows how we feel and what we believe in? To be honest, we're all probably wrong. Maybe our earth is but a cell inside of a cat and the universe is constantly folding in on itself. Who knows?? The thing is, we'll never know. You say you can't disprove God, but you can't prove his existence either. That's when you say, "well I feel" or "that's where faith comes in". What if I FEEL God doesn't exist? What if I have faith in his nonexistence? Do those words give me power too? God and religion are a personal choice. Just like someone choosing to wear a red shirt for the day. If you don't like red, you don't march up to the person and ridicule them for wearing red. Just like if you LOVE red and wear it all the time, you don't march up to strangers and preach about how amazing red is and force them to make it their favorite color. We need to start thinking about religion as a lifestyle CHOICE.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      A man without God is like a fish without a bicycle.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • nuance

      Why is it that atheists tend to sound so angry and condescending. You know you've got some ego issues when you start a sentence on such a topic with "Let me tell you why you're wrong". The fact is, no matter how arrogant and smug some may be we are all equal in our ignorance of what (if anything) lies beyond this life. Meanwhile, I'd much rather surround myself with humble, open minded people who don't feel the urge to correct others on their views and put them down to feel superior.

      June 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  13. BOb the Prairie Dog

    NO ONE knows what happens when we die and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a liar who probably wants your money. Please make a note of it.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • arthurrrr

      you are assuming you know everything. THOUSANDS of people have left their body, died and came back in. They all reported meeting God. Some went to Heaven, some to Hell some to both. ALL were permanently changed.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Some went to Heaven, some to Hell some to both." Your bible says heaven and hell are both standing empty, waiting for Judgement Day. Those are hallucinations, like the burning bush. Millions of people have hallucinated, and millions have claimed to be Jesus. So fricken what? Worship them all?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Artie, you don't know what those people saw. You only know what they SAY they saw.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • CT24

      You do understand that your rather militant claim of universal ignorance is itself an absolute claim of truth, thus contradicting your initial position.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      I died and came back and NEVER saw god or met anyone, period!! I was clinically dead for over 20 minutes with cadiac arrest. Your post is hogwash, as is your deity/.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  14. ReasonableXX

    I have 2 points:

    1. The Google Ngram Viewer search that the author speaks of doesn't really mean anything and if far from scientific in the context that the author would have you believe. The number of times a certain word or term pops up literature in a given time period on tells you that the term was being mention. It tells you nothing about context and whether or not the term was being used most often in a positive light or negative light.

    2. Currently, being a non believer is viewed as the most negative possible "belief" by all religious people and that is taught to their children from a very young age. The average christian thinks an athiest is as bad as it gets. They would rather you be any other religion except godless. It is evident by how many admitted athiests hold public office. We spend a lot of time preaching about religious tolerance in this country but not about preaching non religious tolerance. If everyone taught their children that non belief was just as valid a viewpoint as any other (and in reality more so) then you would without question start to see a jump in non believers within a few years. Many of those doubters would become outright non believers but society tells them they can't.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • patrick

      I asked one woman what is worse to her – anatheist or a convicted pedophilepriest and she said the athiest is worse.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Patrick: and then she continued oushing her shopping cart full of cats down under the viaduct?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  15. I Doubt It

    I don't doubt God. But, I very much do doubt religion. They are not one in the same. To say the Bible is absolute truth is so wrong. The stories of the Bible are myths just like the stories of Mt. Olympus god are myth. But, there was a time when those stories are believed as absolute truth. The fact is, no human being can understand the true nature of God and trying to frame an understand by creating religious dogma is a fools game. Believe in God, be a good person, and forget the silly rituals, myths, and zealots hysteria.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • jim

      You're almost there! Now you just need to realize that the concept of god is just as silly as the myths about him.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Believe in God, be a good person, and forget the silly rituals, myths, and zealots hysteria." IF there's a god, I doubt he likes people killing each other, so try not to murder anyone. You could also try not lying all the time, but I realize that's hard for you.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • doughnuts

      "Believe in God, be a good person, and forget the silly rituals, myths, and zealots hysteria."

      Skip the first phrase, and follow the others.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. J in FL

    The young should be showed life both ways...with a belief in god and a belief not in god. It's not bad to believe in god and it's not bad to not believe in god. It is a choice you decide as an adult. Being a good, honorable person with integrity is what is most important. That is what should be stressed.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Michael Hunt Esq.

      Exactly. It is not right to indoctrinate children one way or another. Preaching certainty of any kind on the subject is just dishonest. The honest and moral approach is to explain that nobody knows the exact origins of life, but that there are various different ideas, and then explain what those ideas are. Teach them to ask questions and think critically and logically, educate them on the available explanations, and let them make up their own mind. If they like the Greek explanation better than the Christian one, so be it (as a child I always found the polytheistic mythologies to be far more interesting than the monotheistic ones). When they reach adulthood they'll be much better off than if you forced a single idea on them and declared that it was absolute fact.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  17. orly?

    your parents once you told you about santa, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and jesus christ. you found out that the first three are fictional, but the fourth is real?? seriously world, get over it. religion kills. stop believing in fairy tales. kthxbye

    June 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Zeus

      they generate sales, but if Jesus is not real the money stops for the pews. Church will need to concentrate on a more generic spiritual experience in the future. People will not buy mythology forever.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Santa is a way of letting you down easy. If you still believe after you learn about Santa, you are one of the True Believers. Line up and put your money in the dish, True Believers! Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Atheism is the biggest fairy tale of them all... to believe that nothing all of sudden happened out of nowhere is stupid. If I were to tell someone that my car wasn't produced but magically appeared because of an explosion in my garage, they would lock me up... however, the human being is trillions more times more complex than a car but yet we all of a sudden popped and evolved out of nowhere....now THAT is a fairytale.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "yet we all of a sudden popped and evolved out of nowhere" Nobody could believe that, and nobody does. What you are saying is an insulting lie, and yet no doubt its filthy stench is pleasing to the nostrils of the god you worship. Atheists believe that in the same way that Christians believe a book made Jerusalem overnight out of burning bushes. It's as accurate as saying Christians sacrifice their first-born children to a pharaoh in order to get a free trip to Israel to see a camel's eye. What a hateful person you must be!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Agnostic

      You say that we could not have "popped out of nowhere" but somewhere down the line something or someone had to have. If God does exist and created us then you have to ask yourself where god came from. Did he magically appear one day? Was he created by an even higher power? and if so where did that higher power come from? You see...at some point down the line of whatever you believe in, something popped out of nowhere and evolved into something a lot bigger. So you saying that it couldnt happen with the universe has completely voided your beliefs because if it can't happen with the universe it can't happen with your god

      June 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Skunco

    God rules but SantaClaus delivers!

    June 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  19. No Doubt

    I have no doubt whatsoever about the existence of God. I am absolutely certain that the whole thing is a myth, a lie, a misinformation. I have no doubt that God does not exist.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • arthurrrr

      sorry- you are 100% wrong.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Dan

      Prove it Arthurr.

      Statistically speaking, No Doubt is far more likely to have a superior level of intelligence than you are. And that CAN be proven, if one has a background in statistical analysis, which you don't.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • mattblythe

      Speaking of statistics, which I do know about, it is a mathematical impossibility for evolution to have happened. For even the most simple cell organism to form by accident is well beyond the 1 in 1 x 10 to the 10,381 odds. Math supports Creation. Atheism and Evolutionism require much more faith than Christianity which has historical facts from live witnesses. Even minimal research would show you this.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • jim

      @mattblythe No one with any expertise in statistics would make a statement as silly as yours! Get off the computer before your mom gets home!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Matt: much like your favorite work of fiction you state that you have knowledge without offering any basis for your claim.. you obviously know nothing about statistics or evolution (which we have all but proven) your post wreaks of zealotry and factual ignorance.. try again on some theological site and maybe some idiots will buy what you are selling.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • deidramt

      There are 80-100 galaxies that we can see. Our galaxy has an estimated 2 billion earth-like planets. Even for a statistician, that's a pretty easy guess that we're just that likely to "happen" accidentally.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Red Weasel

      mattblythe, I like how you threw out a made up number "1 in 1 x 10 to the 10,381 odds" without showing how you came up with it. And I would LOVE to see your "historical facts" for christianity. Always a hoot.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      aarrgghh
      All that has been proven is that everything evolves. However, science will tell you that we could not have evolved from Apes because the length of time is to short. There would have had to be a huge quantum leap in the evolutionary cycle that we have not seen in any form of life on this planet. So does evolution exist? Certainly and many Christians believe that as fact and do not dispute that all life evolves. The idea that we evolved from Apes, not proven.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      Matt – This absurd presumption that the bible contains testimony from so-called "witnesses" may well be THE BIGGEST falacy of religious DOGMA! First of all, there is NOT ONE SINGLE, SOLITARY "EYE-WITNESS" account of ANYTHING, ANYWHERE in all of the books of the Bible! The "Bible" is not even a single coherently conceived nor coherently written "book" AT ALL! The Bible is a HEAVILY edited collection of random letters written by many different UNKNOWN persons and addressed to some intended groups of people over a long period of time! The vast MAJORITY of these "letters" that had existed and were in circulation throughout the Judeo-Pre-Christian world were mostly BANNED, DESTROYED and REMOVED from existence by the Roman authority of Emperor Constantine. In an attempt to maintain his empire and prevent a religious civil war in Rome, Constantine and his "Council of Nicea" poured over these existing "letters" and picked out the ones that portrayed Jesus as a deity, then proclaimed them to be the definitive "gospels" (new testament), then banned and destroyed the numerous remaining letters that portrayed Jesus as a mere mortal man. They also made some additions and deletions to the "old" Hebrew Torah and Tanach, thereby creating the "old testament". The Emperor then proclaimed this "book" to be the official religious source and official religion of Rome! These books were later translated, rewritten and re-interpreted numerous times over the years and King James later commissioned his own edited version where he added various new text and removed some old text. Each and every one of these original "letters" were written many generations and hundreds of years after the events that are supposedly described in each one. This is one of the many reasons that none of the "books" of the bible entirely agree on all details of each biblical story! Not one of these stories was wriiten by ANY actual WITNESSES!

      June 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things, You do not know that these people were not witnesses. You give shortened selected versions of the present bible. Sounds more like a CBS after school special version. Many Christians are not happy to just read the cannon today and study the other books that are not included in the cannon bible today. One thing that would sharply disprove the idea that the Old Testament was rewritten is that when the Dead Sea schools were founds, the books that were complete were word for word versions of the current bible. Did Constantine go back in time and re write the Dead Sea scrolls, nope. It seems pretty obvious that you do not believe that Jesus existed or rose from the dead. If you do think there was a man named Jesus that died on a cross but is still buried in Jerusalem today, that is your belief. It does not mean that there were no witnesses or that it did not happen. In spite of Rome and Constantine.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Religion is not healthy for children and other living things: By your position if we found letters from concentration camp victims and they do not all match up, they must be false and the holocaust did not happen. You point that just because the bible books are not linear and they quote books that are no longer in the modern version of the bible, does not mean they could not be witnesses. Your point is the one that is Absurd!

      June 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Really-O?

      Rob- Texas – "The idea that we evolved from Apes, not proven."

      You're partly right...we didn't evolve FROM apes, we ARE apes (we, and other extant apes, evolved from a common ancestor). Why do creationists (yes, that also means those who subscribe to "creation science") STILL get that wrong? It really doesn't strengthen your position.

      June 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Rob- Texas – regarding your "concentration camp" analogy.

      Both sides of a contradiction cannot be true. Both the old and new testaments are rife with contradictions; this certainly brings their veracity into question.

      June 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  20. profjds

    We don't know whether there are invisible fairies in the garden,although some may believe them to be there. But since they are not relevant to our lives, there is no reason to pay any attention to the question. If any readers can show me why I should devote any time to the question of fairies, please do so. Similarly for god(s).

    June 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • arthurrrr

      life is short. you will meet God when you die, and you will have to give an account of what you did here. He will show you every second of your life and how you made other people feel. You see every word you ever spoke. He will ask you why you did not seek Him and find Him. Is that enough????

      June 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Believing in evolution is the biggest hoax perpertrated on ignorant humans....you might as well believe in the tooth fairy and big foot.... I don't have enough faith to believe in evolution.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Get Real

      arthurrrr,

      And your verified evidence for this is...?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dan

      stanknasty,

      So the scientific evidence backing up the tooth fairy and bigfoot is comparable to the scientific evidence backing up evolution? Please explain.

      I'm all for scientific debate, it just has to be about science. Creationism is not science, anyone with an SAT score over the 90th percentile(which is not saying much, frankly) can tell you that.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "you might as well believe in the tooth fairy and big foot...." instead of an invisible sky man who made everything but needs money? The bible says your computer won't work, so stop emailing us.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "life is short. you will meet God when you die," Liar. I won't meet God, Elvis, or Bigfoot when I die, because I'll be dead. What part of that isn't clear?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      hey artie mczealot pants.... which god will I meet exactly? of the many thousands of them written about, which one will I get??? you deny only one less than I do smarty and at least I didn't pick sides if we stand before a different one than yours... I win!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:34 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.