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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. gary

    there is NO reason to believe in any deities, demons, ghosts, etc. It's all ancient folklore and myth. Like dragons and unicorns, leprechauns and fairies.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Thank you Gary. We didn't know what to believe until your post!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  2. AverageJoe76

    I hope religion does mature. As well as some of the narrow viewpoints on life. And if the 'faithful' wouldn't get all bent outta shape on topics that question their faith.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Scientificwildassguess

    "But does this data really say what many atheists want it to say?"

    It's these data, not this data. Data is plural.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • patrick

      The author of this article is no scientist.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      I really don't give a rat's patootie what this/these data say ('these data' sounds off to me). Religion was here long before me and will be here long after me... it doesn't mean I have to fall for it (and I wouldn't know which one to begin with anyway!)

      June 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  4. realityville

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • gary

      Brilliant and well written. Peace. (retired science teacher)

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      11. You would rather you children grow up in a world full of filth, and go to school with no moral compass. All for for the expense of a fight with people who believe in something you don't.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • sam

      Rob...religion and god are not needed to obtain a moral compass. That's ridiculous. And your idea of filth is likely behind the times.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Nitrogen

      BRILLIANT. I'm stealing this.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Brent

      I find it interesting you speak to morality, when if you are truly a devout atheist you would realize how completely irrelevant morality is without an afterlife. Why should you give 2 cents about anything or anybody if the sum total of your life experiences and those of every other living creature equals 0 in the long run? I'm more scared of that than of dying and finding a purpose to my existence in an afterlife. When you look at a bank and decide if you should rob it, by your own belief system, the decision should not come down to right or wrong but how likely you are to get away with it.

      I also find it interesting that you find beauty in the universe. What is beauty when, as you believe, there is no purpose, intent, design, or function to the universe or anything in it.

      I happen to be a theist and break many of your rules for the atheist regarding knowledge of the world, my own religion, and other religions. You make a claim that your superior viewpoint allows you to become this essentially better adjusted person but at the same time you support a belief that would dictate there is absolutely no purpose to achieving this enlightenment you have apparently achieved.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • dman

      Brent you are a simpleton. Religion and morality are not mutually exclusive.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Brent

      Dman – you look more like the simpleton. First because I didn't say religion and morality are mutually exclusive... I was speaking to the relationship between ATHEISM and morality. I also didn't state they were mutually exclusive but rather incompatible belief systems (there is a difference since a person can choose to believe both even if it doesn't make sense).

      In addition, you didn't even bother to try and support your statement...

      June 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • imrepostingthis

      @Brent – "When you look at a bank and decide if you should rob it, by your own belief system, the decision should not come down to right or wrong but how likely you are to get away with it."

      So all atheist are secretly trying to get away with stuff, I know at least one reason why I don't rob a bank is because I would not want my money to be stolen.

      "Why should you give 2 cents about anything or anybody if the sum total of your life experiences and those of every other living creature equals 0 in the long run?"

      Really, Sounds like obsession to me.

      You are following something so you will be "saved".
      Do have a thought of your own?

      why would you have to believe in an afterlife to care about anything or anyone?

      June 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  5. polemicist

    For atheists: if you look at the indirect evidence for God (the universe being created at all, the fact that it overcame 1 x 10^36 odds of creating the building blocks for life) and producing life (1 in over 100 billion), it requires MORE faith to think your existence is a cosmic 1 in a trillion, trillion, trillion accident than believing that maybe, JUST MAYBE, there is a creator. Direct evidence for God = God is not eternal, thus not God. Indirect evidence, which is used in courtrooms and in science all the time, proves the universe has a creator.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • nope

      Nope. Not applicable, good try however.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      @Nope...you are wrong.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • D

      Given the number of stars in the Universe, 1:100B is actually really good odds. Thank you, drive thru!

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

      @nope, rather than stating opinion, why not state facts since (obviously) you are so enlightened by reason?

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

      If there is a creator, Christianity and every other religion will still be as wrong as it was before we knew there was a creator.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • sam

      Your logic is substandard – and I use the term logic very loosely. That's not 'proof'.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • polemicist

      D, what about the 1 x 10^36 odds of the universe being able to produce life at all? If I covered the entire state of Texas with 2 feet of quarters, painted one of them, blindfolded you and asked you to go in and pick up one, you'd have a better chance of getting the painted quarter than the universe producing life. Drive through? How about refuting statistics first?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      If there is a God, he ain't trying to be found, so let it be.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • polemicist

      Sam, you do realize that indirect evidence (you know, DNA evidence) is considered extremely reliable, right?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • The Pope likes TWINKS

      polemicist

      You are stating assumption. There is equal evidence of Unicorns. Keep wishing and playing in this thing called life.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • gary

      psst .... god is just pretend

      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • sam

      Please – you're going solely by the idea that the immensity of existence in general (and I don't know where you made up your statistics) is proof that there's a creator. Just because you can't grasp it yourself doesn't prove a thing.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • polemicist

      Pope, I'm not stating assumptions. I am stating what science has stated numerous times. If you don't like it, don't believe it, but don't say I'm making things up. Read Rees's 6 constants, or even Hawkings' "A Brief History . . ." if you don't believe me.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • polemicist

      Sam, I am not making anything up. I actually found out about these startling SCIENTIFIC statistics while reading Dawkins's "The God Delusion" and became convinced that there is a creator.

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

      So, you decide what is evidence and indirect evidence of a god and then point to this evidence as proof your god exists? That's like saying rain is caused by fairies and then when it rains you say there's your proof of fairies.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Jose bernardo

      Your argument makes no sense. The probability of something happening after the fact that it has happened is meaningless. If you were to believe in God, then who created him? If your answer is no one he always existed, then why does your god get the benefit of the doubt of not needing someone to create him just to exist, while the universe does not?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • sam

      Keep trying to force facts to suit your ideas instead of the other way around – it's adorable. I'm embarassed for you, but it is entertaining.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • patrick

      So the chances of a universe with life in it is slim? Then the chances of a universe with life in it and a god is even slimmer.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • polemicist

      So the fact that DNA evidence can be used because it's statistically reliable is okay, but when you apply statistics to the cosmos because evidence conflicts with your pre-assumed beliefs that there is no God, you want to throw it out? Mr. Kettle, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Pot.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Riddle me this D!
      When science improves technology so we can see planets, science says there must be thousands of earth like planets. Then a couple of years pass and science says opps, it seems to be really rare that there are any earth like planets of the right size, distance from a sun, with a moon or moons to keep the planet from the wobble effect, etc. etc. We think we are so smart with all our current technology. Yet we don't even know very much about the information that ancient man had or even our great grandparents. We are very ignorant of our own planet much less the billions of planets in our galaxy. We are as ignorant as a 2 year old trying to discuss the declaration of independence.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jose bernardo

      No you are welcome to use a statistical argument, but you have to understand how to apply it. Its like if I randomly shot an arrow. The chance of me hitting any one point in continuous space is zero. Yet I will undoubtedly hit something. If when I hit it I say "LOOK how I hit this one spot, what are the chances, what aim I have!!" you would think I was a charlatan. Its the same thing when you apply a statistical likelihood to an event that we can all stipulate has already occurred.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • polemicist

      And these, ladies and gentlemen, are those that rely upon science and mathematics to shape their beliefs, when when the science and math conflict with their beliefs, they are the ones that feign ignorance rather than refute the evidence.

      By their own standards, atheists are idiots.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • polemicist

      Jose, if you randomly shot an arrow and presumed you'd hit *something*, that is not beating the odds.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Sue

      polemicist, you might want to look up the anthropic principle, since it is related to what you are trying to describe. What you describe is not evidence or support for a creator, and probability does not come in to the picture. Essentially, the observing of the universe and the existence of it from within must be compatible with the observing entity. It is not remarkable then, that we exist, and can observe the universe and ourselves; rather, that is actually exactly what would be expected and in fact required for universe and its observer(s), and is not evidence for a creator in any way.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Just Sayin'

      The universe is not very hospitable to life. All of it will pretty much kill you instantly except for about a third of a tiny planet that is a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of it. Seems more accidental than built for us.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jose bernardo

      You really shouldnt blanketly insult us. I'm not insulting you, I'm just engaging you in an argument about a claim you made.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • sam

      I'm going to go find a box of rocks and teach it logic instead – I think that'll be easier.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @polemicist –

      Shame on you for dishonestly invoking the works of Hawking. The following quote from Hawking in 2010 puts the lie to your dishonest assertion:

      "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing." "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to ... set the Universe going."

      June 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Sue

      And I think Jose's post/example of the arrow is an excellent one.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jose bernardo

      I'm not presuming I'd hit something. It is a fact I will hit something, the point is I can make a claim on my aim even though my shot was random, only after the fact of the outcome, and then make it seem as though it were by design. There are plenty of more cogent arguments to support the existence of God, just don't use reverse logic on probability, because it is by nature a game of uncertainty.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Nitrogen

      Personally, I like to refute this type of creationist nonsense by pointing out that God is just as unlikely, and probably more so, as a spontaneous universe. Spontaneous appearance of complex things is less probable than simple things. Complex things cannot be made from simpler things (assuming the standard creationist logic). So God must be more complex than the universe for him to have created it. And therefore God's appearance is less likely than the spontaneous appearance of the universe. In other words, god is statistically unnecessary. Your probabilistic argument in favor of god reduces to a game of chance as well.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • polemicist

      Sue, expost-facto reasoning does not rule out God. "It already happened, so we can assume it must have happened this way" despite the odds of it not happening is circular reasoning.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • lordshipmayhem

      Science has so far uncovered no evidence, direct or indirect, of the existence of supernatural power. None. Not even the least powerful level of supernatural power.

      And without supernatural power, supernatural beings, even of the lowest wattage of power of beings, cannot exist. And yet, that is exactly what all the gods we've worshipped over the past few thousand centuries are: supernatural beings, some the ultimate power level of supernatural beings, like Zeus, Yahweh and Ra, cannot possibly exist.

      So while you can say that you don't believe in the other gods because of a lack of supporting evidence – remember, there's just as much evidence supporting the existence of yours.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • polemicist

      Jose, your assumption that you would hit something is why your reasoning fails regarding the statistical creation of the universe. There is never a guarantee that anything should happen the way it does without pre-ordained conditions to allow it to happen.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • polemicist

      Lord, if science refutes God or does not provide direct or indirect evidence God in any way, why do many scientists believe in God?

      June 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • OldSchool

      The entire concept of a deity is a human construct dating back to a time when man didn't have the means to explain the unexplainable. It is an entirely unscientific assertion, essentially scientifically lazy.... the equivalent of stopping halfway through an investigation, wringing your hands, and saying "well, I dunno, it must have been god". As opposed to the current path of research and investigation into tracing evolution back to it's starting point – which is an indisputable reality, given the large number of transitional fossils, evidence of ancient organic matter in the form of oil buried deep in the earths crust and our ability to estimate when it was deposited there based on our understanding of geological formations, etc.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • isolate

      Since you don't list your sources, it's impossible to refute your claims with more authoritative ones. Anyone can grab probabilities out of thin air. I wonder who calculated the chances of this particular universe existing, or the formation of living things as we know them, since both were, so far as we know, one-of-a-kind events within this universe.

      My problem with True Believers of any stripe is that they accept anything which appears to support their belief system, regardless of the quality of the source. Science doesn't work that way. If you read scientific journals, the first thing you notice is the number of challenges to any new hypothesis. For a fact to be accepted into the scientific canon, it must be far more vigorously tested and proven than in any other arena.

      My favorite quote to illustrate the difference between faith and science can be found in the unknown author of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." ~ Heb 11:1(KJV) Science is precisely the opposite, the substance of things Known and repeatedly proven to be true, and the evidence that supports hypotheses until they are accepted as established theories/laws.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jose bernardo

      All you need to define creating a universe is to create one something out of some nothing. If, in fact, the universe was created it must have happened this way, unless there were materials prior, in which case a universe was not created, just a subregion of a previously existing universe. So we have to assume, because it is really beyond the point of argument, that if you made an act of creation, that creation would soon follow. Sure its an assumption, but it allows us to get at the heart of the argument, I don't think our point of argument is really whether or not an act outside of this universe would or would not lead to creation. If so, we are arguing past each other.

      Maybe a better example would be some small-to-medium sized decision you made when you were a child. Which, in the end had significant consequences on the shape of your life. You can trace some causality, but you cannot say you made that choice knowing this would be the outcome. Although we all knew that there would inevitably be some outcome, whatever it was. Think of that as the arrow hitting 'something' – just 'some outcome'.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'polemicist' is an instance of the common fallacy of denying the antecedent.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      June 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • polemicist

      I should also offer an apology. I enjoy pointing out of faulty logic of "science" disproving a creator when it actually provides a great deal of evidence for God based upon what we know about cosmology.

      My proof for God? The kid in youth group that had a broken arm (x-rays taken), we prayed for him, and his arm was healed.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @polemicist –

      The "odds" you cite are posited by creationists, apologists, and discredited "scientists" (Rees, Denton, Quastler, etc.). You are either too obtuse to understand that or are simply being dishonest. Do you attend the same "study groups" as Chad?

      June 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • polemicist

      Isolate, I did list my sources, maybe you should read more carefully? I said I discovered about the statistics regarding cosmology in Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion".

      June 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @polemicist – "The kid in youth group that had a broken arm (x-rays taken), we prayed for him, and his arm was healed."

      That outs you as an idiot, liar or both. I vote for both.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • polemicist

      Really-O, I just said: the statistics are quoted by Dawkins (an atheist) referring to Martin Rees's (an agnostic/atheist) 6 constants. Read my posts, rather than skimming them next time?

      June 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Really-O?,
      So the law of gravity existed before the universe and that explains everything. Really?
      Since gravity depends on the movement of planets, suns, solar systems and the universe, what was the effect of the law of gravity before the universe?
      We didn't think anything could move faster than the speed of light. We know that an object approaching the speed of light will actually slow down as though it will never actually reach the speed of light.
      Yet know with quantum physics we know that there are sub atomic particles that are linked in orbit and can be from millions of miles away. It’s a way for information to move faster than the speed of light.
      Again we are ignorant of our own planet, knowledge lost to mankind, and our galaxy, much less the universe.

      Many people used to believe the Immaculate Conception with impossible and just fairy tale fiction from religion. Now doctors perform artificial intimation every day. So sad that we think we are so smart. They hardest think for mankind to do is pass down knowledge. The one think that was so important to pass down, many today scoff at as fairy tales. Maybe it’s time to think again.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • polemicist

      Really, if I am an idiot by your standards, I'm not insulted in the least. Being called an idiot by someone that cannot read is like being called ugly by a blind person.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @polemicist –

      More BS – you did not indicate you were referencing Dawkins' quote of Rees until a later response to "The pope TWINKS". Your original assertion, in reply to Sam, was –

      "I am not making anything up. I actually found out about these startling SCIENTIFIC statistics while reading Dawkins's "The God Delusion" and became convinced that there is a creator."

      That either means you were trying to appeal, dishonestly, to Dawkins' authority or are just to stupid to realize your reference is meaningless. Idiot.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Rob- Texas –

      It's called discovery and progress. You know, like we now understand where the sun goes at night, germ theory, that the earth is not flat, electromagnetism, etc. – about which your books of Bronze and Iron Age myth are completely ignorant.

      ...and what the hell is "artificial intimation? If you meant artificial insemination, it's not the same thing as immaculate conception...any high school freshman should know that.

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

      @Polemicist – The problem with your argument is that you are supplanting the improbability of life begining in the universe with something even more improbable and far more complex (e.g. that God created everything). You can quote quote the probability that life begins in the universe without God. Can you quote the probability that life started because of God?

      June 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Really-O?

      erratum – Martin Rees is not a creationists, apologists or discredited scientist.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  6. Rick

    So more people doubt the existence of a "God" yet this guy tries to spin that into being good for religion? Well, I guess if you can believe in and worship an omnipotent, omniscient deity without any proof whatsoever that it exists, then you can believe in anything!

    June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      Proof is relative. What proves one thing to a person may not to another.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • The Pope likes TWINKS

      Ecclesiastes 7:17

      Proof is relative. What proves one thing to a person may not to another.

      -

      Don't confuse actual proof and evidence with as sumption.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Austin Athiest #2

    I am continually disappointed by the frailty of the human mind. The fact that humans seem to be hardwired for the belief in a God or a group of Gods is ever so disappointing. Greek Gods, Roman Gods, Viking Gods, Hindu Gods, Christian God, etc.

    Does anyone know of scientific research that has explored "why" humans gravitate towards the belief of a deity? What is so messed up with their brains that they would grasp at such ludicrous belief systems? I used to think it was an IQ thing, e.g. opium of the masses and all that. I do know some profoundly gifted people who still cling to their God though. Granted, many have been through trauma and are using it as a coping mechanism. Such weakness. Such delusion. I weep...

    June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      What arrogance...you seem to be judging humanity as if you were not a part of it.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • realityville

      Read Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion'. He does some pretty good explaning why humans fall into the god trap so easy

      June 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      You mean that book that is filled with straw men?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Manomer

      And I weep for you. God Bless.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Austin Athiest #2

      I am removed from 99.99% of the population. And yes, it is lonely where I live, but it also gives me a fairly unique perspective.

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

      ancient myth and folklore from Whacky Land ( middle east) from millennia ago is not evidence of, or reason to believe in, a a deity. Try reading "A Universe from Nothing" by Krauss.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Your judgement may be a bit short-sighted. I'm not one of faith, myself.... but I've seen/heard people doing amazing things with the concept of God helping them as a driver. I have no problem with a belief in God, the dellusion comes when you believe you know what God wants. That's what I find absolutely laughable. "so you know what the creator of the universe wants?" .............funny little people

      June 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • SillyMan

      Yup. Lots of research. Looks like religion can be a very powerful stabilizing and organizational force in communities, which of course allows those communities/ groups to better compete. This is actually pretty basic, so it looks like your mind is definitely on the frail side.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Austin Athiest #2

      AverageJoe, SillyMan, People should do what is best for their family and community independent of what their religion tells them. Morality should be taught to children independent of a deity. Let's take the ten commandments. They are useful tenants for living in a civilized society. People should be taught these lessons without regard to God.

      It is important for everyone to understand that they are in control of their own lives. Realize your weaknesses, work to your strengths, and always strive to improve yourself. God has nothing to do with it. Religion holds people back. It prevents people from reaching their full potential.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • SillyMan

      How exactly are you removed from the majority? Certainly not from an intelligence point of view. And not from an opinion point of view either, since you sound like every other high schooner that just discovered the existentials. Jeezzz.. try an original thought...

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

      @Eccliastes I'm in the same boat as Austin Atheist #2 (0.02% of the population based on intelligence) and I have always felt removed and alienated from the vast majority of humans. I'm not saying that we're a different species, but we really do not belong and little attempt is made to make us feel included (nor is our subgroup properly appreciated for our usefulness and disproportionately large contribution to the advancement of the species). Whenever I dwell too long on the group behavior of most humans I become deeply sad, confused, and often, very creeped out. In short, you all are weird and alien to us.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Austin Athiest #2

      Thanks hawaiikaos, reading your note meant a lot. I think I'm done here...

      June 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • isolate

      "I am continually disappointed by the frailty of the human mind. The fact that humans seem to be hardwired for the belief in a God or a group of Gods is ever so disappointing."

      To me, it's not mental frailty– witness the difference between present-day lifestyles and those of cave-dwellers long ago– but the nagging sense that there is something "out there," be it divinities, UFOs or Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

      My own explanation is that we're missing a sense or two, the way a person born blind intuits there's a thing called "vision," which presents a whole different world to seers than the one he/she perceives. It may be we lack fully developed 6th, 7th, and 8th senses. We sense there's something we're missing, the way a blind person can sense the Sun's heat without ever coming to a full perception of the characteristics of the Sun.

      ps/ It's "atheist."

      June 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Jack

    If you have some time, please visit my web site... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  9. rcd1160

    The 3% of the Atheist do all the trash talking on news websites. World Religion is growing. It is Christianity that is struglling because the United States has raised a bunch of whinny as* young know it alls. The World is becoming Muslim...like or not. And if you think this nation will be spared then you are in denial. Better enjoy your freedom to spout off about how stupid people are becasue by the time you are my age... this country will cease to be your wailing wall.

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

      rcd, you can keep on rearranging those deck chairs, but your religion is still sinking. And it deserves to.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  10. PaulieJ

    Interesting use of Ngram ... I suppose with lack of any real evidence you turn to a baseless stat that seemingly supports your argument? Sort of like a person wanting to tap a nail into a wall to hang a picture and lacking an actual hammer to use, grabs some other weighty, solid object. Wasn't the proper tool for the job but it sufficed as a means to an end.
    Try putting in "organized religion" into Ngram. By the graph that results you would think that we're far more a religious society than we were in the 1800s. Similar climb, to a lesser degree, of the word "nonbeliever".
    The appearance of a word means simply that it's being used and not HOW i'ts being used. Example: A book with the sentence in it, "Faith based religions are a load of garbage." is going to register as the word "faith" being used without any of the context.
    And I have as much "doubt" in the alleged research of the blogger responsible for the tripe that is this article as I do in the alleged supreme beings of the world's various organized religions.
    "I don't have faith in faith. I don't believe in beliefs. You can call me faithless. But, I still cling to hope. And I believe in love. And that's faith enough for me."

    June 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      And you don't? Yesterday's article with only 10 years of data on age group was used to portray the next generation as a bunch of athiests. So you can dish it out but you can't take it. Sounds like the normal athiest behavior that I have observed.

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

      No Rob in TX, I simply saw what the author was trying to use to sway opinion in THIS blog article and took exception to how inaccurate HIS basis what for HIS argument. Regardless whether I think believing in an organized religion is foolish or not, I honestly do not care if a greater percentage of society is faith-based in their views or agnostic/atheist. What I do care about is the religious zealots trying to legislate their beliefs for all. One of the things our forefathers here in the US fled from was religious persecution and one of the first things our country rebelled against was taxation without representation. Now, we have representation without taxation due to religious indoctrination since all the acknowledged churches are tax exempt.
      As for "taking it" ... statistics are just numbers. nothing more, nothing less. They don't become anything more than an item of data until someone with an agenda attaches their spin to them. And that's all the author of the blog article was doing ... found a stat about occurrences of two words, "faith" and "doubt", with nothing about the context of those words in those occurrences, and made all sorts of assumptions on that to try to prove a point. Only point he proved is what they say about those who assume.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  11. patrick

    If the god of the bible is all powerful, why does he become angry?

    June 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ron

      Patrick... can you BLAME him for being angry????!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • gary

      perhaps Holy Constipation? Actually, god is just pretend.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • trevor

      How does all powerful not include anger at those that he created outright rejecting him? How many countless times has man "spit" on God and yet we're still here...grace beyond our own mind's comprehension. A father gets angry all the time at his children's disobedience yet he still loves them, gives them a lifetime to love him. Though some that reject him their entire live on earth, he will always love them. God never turns his back on his greatest creation, its man that turns his back on God and he gives us that choice to make.

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

      trevor, for such an omnipotent "loving" being, one would expect a better degree of consistency. That consistency just ain't there in the frequently nasty (actually also quite vindictive and vain) god that the Christian bible describes.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You seem to be judging anger, as an emotion, to be a negative thing.

      June 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  12. Noocrat

    I'd like to put forward a question – if your parents hadn't presented God to you until the age of 18, or 22 when you're more fully developed, how would you respond?

    This is not to say that people do not find religion later in life, I'm question whether one can truly argue against the impact of childhood indoctrination.

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

      *questioning

      June 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Manomer

      Interesting question, for me I grew up in a Christian home, went to church Wednesday night, Sunday AM and Sunday PM. I was saved as a teenager then moved out and didn't go to church for a while. I would never say I stopped believe in God, he just wasn't at the top of my list. As an adult in my 30's I found God again and I can honestly say I knew I was missing something. I am sorry that we have so many hateful judgemental Christians that spew hate as if they are perfect. It is really sad. I support the right to hapiness no matter what that falls under (assuming it is legal). I support that God says in the bible we are to love one another and I don't understand why other Christians have a hard time with that...instead they pick and choose what they want to use out of the bible. It is ok for them to sin but they have to call out others. I get it. I get why people are so against religion. But don't let THAT be the reason you don't want to believe in God. God has blessed me, I know this for a fact. It isn't luck. It is pure blessings.

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

      religion is a matter of custom and tradition, passed down thru generations. If not taught early and indoctrinated, young adults don't buy into it ... that's why there are Vacation Bible Schools", Sunday school, catechism, etc ... to get kids brainwashed early, before they start to think for themselves ... and to control them with the fear of Angry God and Evil Devil ... all so sick.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Gary, your argument doesn't hold water. Try reading this article.
      http://dignoscentia.com/2010/03/02/self-taught-girl-paints-heaven/

      June 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  13. money shot

    how come so many Republicans like Jesus? He was a freeloading bum who lived off the government, isn't that one thing they hate the most?

    June 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • JD Culp

      Actually Jesus was middle-class essentially. He interhited a business, carpentry, from his father.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Rob- Texas

      Seems like you know little about being a Repluican or about Jesus. Just sayin.... sure seems that way.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  14. Paul

    Atheists seem (if I may generalize) to think that if there is no evidence, then it does not exist. So take something as simple as a night time dream. There is no evidence (and no, REM is not evidence of the content of a dream) it is a subjective experience. Were one to describe the experience of a night time dream it might sound psychotic. Religious people on the other hand too often miss the larger and more important truth because they are mired in dogma and doctrine. Doubt is GOOD no matter what side of the arguement one is on. I would only suggest that we learn to forgive because we are ourselves forgiven. And don't even worry about forgiving someone like Hitler.....just start with that jerk at work who makes your life miserable.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • money shot

      Youu make life miserable Paul, you and your dipsh•t posts. No god, Paul, no god.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • D

      Uh, there's plenty of evidence for dreams. Just sayin

      June 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Paul

      To D: What evidence? Its all anecdotal and subjective. Science would have to reject that. To Money shot: Really? Why so intolerant of other people's opinions?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • gary

      I have no evidence of Leprechauns under my house, nor can I disprove it ... but that is not reason to believe they are there. There is no god, no demons, no dragons, no fairies, no ghosts, no unicorns, etc ... all myth and folklore. Atheism is myth understood.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Paul, is actual experience not evidence? If you have a dream, you were not exposed to it as a child and taught it was the truth (with no evidence) and/or you don't read a book presented as fact (with no evidence).
      What is the 'evidence' of any individual's singular experience?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  15. MandoZink

    A few months ago we had several bouts of tornadoes which tore up much our area. I happen to be an atheist who's luck in life follows the statistical curves of math and science. Those who believe in god think it was a miracle that they survived. If I believed in god, I would be wondering why god tried to kill me and missed. I guess my point is that being atheist saves you the emotional wreckage of having to reconcile the unpredictable actions of a magical mystery being instead of simply understanding what nature is. As a man of science, I know the randomness of events is always just statistical reality.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. Kevin Barbieux

    You don't need a god to have a religion.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  17. The Pope likes TWINKS

    There were those that were on the Ti tanic that thought the ship wasn't sinking. Decay of a religion the size of Christianity takes time. As more rational and sound minded people move into position of power you will see less of the influence of the Zombie cult. Of course I don't think the world will be a better place with Islam in position to gain more ground. Let us hope the ME implodes on itself sending them further back to the stone age

    June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Noocrat

      "Of course I don't think the world will be a better place with Islam in position to gain more ground. Let us hope the ME implodes on itself sending them further back to the stone age."

      +1. Even secular people such as myself who do not agree with Christianity can see that Islam is inherently worse. To try and be politically correct and say they're all the same creates a false equivalency and dumbs down the conversation.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • The Pope likes TWINKS

      I agree, Islam is more dangerous to freedoms. But this doesn't mean we stand idle while the Christian Taliban wish to gain power and control. We had a decent sandbox (not perfect) before the Christian nuts really started pushing for power beyond the churches. The way I see it the Christians seeking power are weakening our country. So be it.....let Rome burn.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  18. Jesus Saves With Coupons

    I am a teenager. When I turned twelve and took biology, I first started doubting it. At thirteen, I did research and listened to arguments by prominent atheists. Now fourteen, I can confidently say I am an atheist. I highly doubt god exists.

    As more and more people are educated, religion will slowly die out. We have already seen this happen over the centuries. Before, religion was everything. Now, it is more in the background, something fanatics use to justify irrational and bigoted behavior and politicians use to get elected. Hopefully, by the time my generation reaches voting age, religion will cease being a requirement in the social and political sphere.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ron

      You, sir, are an idiot.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      "When I turned twelve and took biology"

      This is the big AHA! moment. If you have a worldview through teachings of our secular school system, of course you will come to the most obvious of conclusions, that there is no God...and that is because you cannot find nor study God in public schools.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • TooManyIdiots

      So, you're hoping that in 4 years everyone will be educated enough to believe that they should not believe in God?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Ignore Ron, he is apparently a 'Christian'. When I was a young atheist they weren't so mean, but I've cone to realize they see the writing on the wall and they are fighting there slow demise with all they've got.
      Sad.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • gary

      wise words ... religion will die, science and reason will rein, and we can make progress toward a hopeful future. Atheism is myth understood.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @BoldGerorge... Thank God for our Founding Fathers to have the presence of mind to keep faith out of our Goverment and therefore our public education. You want your kids to learn about YOUR religion, then take them to YOUR Church. I don't want my kid learning about YOUR religion at OUR school. If I want my kid to learn religion, I'll take them to MY Church (Why is this concept so hard to understand?!?)

      June 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • dman

      I figured it out at the same age. Good for you!

      June 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      There are many things about which we are certain at some point in our age, intellectual development or spiritual growth only to find ourselves reversing opinions when new information arrives, and most of these postings are that opinions. You hang in there though kid. Things will be just fine.

      June 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  19. money shot

    I used to be religious then my uncle molested me using a cross, then I knew Jesus was a liar.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If that's true, no wonder you are so damaged. If it's not, you're still damaged. Get help.

      June 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    the sooner god takes a final dump the better

    June 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • money shot

      God sh•Ts!? What's he wipe with?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ron

      Let's put it this way, money shot... I wouldn't bother wearing clean shirts...

      June 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Ooooohhhhh... .Money Shot, Ron said God is comin' after you to wipe his butt with your shirt.... then you'll burn in Hell and never go to Heaven, because Ron says.
      In my experience, Ron.... 'God' may just as well wipe his butt wi5t hyour hat as Money shot's shirt. Quit being a holier than thou pri%#....

      June 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
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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.