June 30th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Despite fights about its merits, idea of American exceptionalism a powerful force through history

This is the first in a series exploring the concept of American exceptionalism. On Monday, we examine areas in which other countries lead the way.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – It’s safe to say the first European arrivals to New England wouldn’t recognize today’s debate over whether America is exceptional.

Though the United States wouldn’t be born for another century and a half, the Puritans arriving in the early 1600s on the shores of what would become Massachusetts firmly believed they were on a mission from God.

In other words, they had the exceptional part down pat.

Fleeing what they saw as the earthly and corrupt Church of England, the Puritans fancied themselves the world’s last, best hope for purifying Christianity - and for saving the world.

The Puritans never used the word “exceptionalism.” But they came to see Boston as the new Jerusalem, a divinely ordained “city upon a hill,” a phrase Massachusetts Bay Colony founder John Winthrop used in a sermon at sea en route from England in 1630.

“They were reinterpreting themselves as God’s new Israel,” Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero said. “They were essentially playing out the biblical story.”

To modern ears, that literal exceptionalist thinking could sound at once both exotic and quaint, which makes the idea’s staying power and influence throughout American history all the more remarkable.

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Nearly four centuries after Winthrop uttered the words “city on a hill,” President Barack Obama finds himself responding to charges from Republican challenger Mitt Romney that he has insufficient faith in American exceptionalism.

“Our president doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do,” Romney said at a campaign stop this year. “You have an opportunity to vote and take the next step in bringing back that special nature of being American.”

Obama has pushed back on that claim, saying in a recent speech that “the character of our country … has always made us exceptional.”

Though the particulars surrounding the idea have changed, the bedrock belief that America is exceptional when measured against the arc of history and against all other nations has helped forge the nation’s defining moments, from the American Revolution and the country’s dramatic expansion west to the Civil War and both World Wars.

More recently, arguments about American exceptionalism have helped elect and unseat presidents – and have fed a debate about whether the phrase still has any meaning.

'An asylum for mankind'

For New England’s Puritans, exceptionalism was a religious idea with big political repercussions.

They thought the Protestant Reformation, which had been set into motion a century before, hadn’t gone nearly far enough in rooting out the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.

Puritans saw the pomp and hierarchy of the Protestant Church of England as too much like another papacy.

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In New England, Winthrop and his fellow travelers established a theocracy that they hoped would be a model for English Christianity.

“They had to succeed to bring about this promised apocalyptic history that would culminate in the second coming of Christ, hopefully to New England,” said Deborah Madsen, an American studies professor at the University of Geneva.

“To fail would be to fail the world on this grand, transcendent scale,” said Madsen, who has studied the idea of American exceptionalism throughout U.S. history.

With the stakes thought to be so high, there was intense social pressure among Puritans to adhere to a strict moral code.

Everyone looked for signs that they were among the elect destined for heaven and kept a watchful eye out for neighbors who might be backsliding. The starkest example: the Salem witch trials of 1692, in which 19 people were hanged in Massachusetts for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

“If the members of the community fulfilled their part in the work of sacred history, not only would the individuals find salvation, but the whole community would be saved,” Madsen said, summarizing Puritan thinking. “But if any individual failed to live up to this grand destiny, the entire community would be denied salvation.”

Being God’s chosen people, it turned out, wasn’t all roses.

America exceptional? Not by the numbers

As new arrivals and subsequent generations enlarged colonial America, the Puritans’ faith-based ideas were gradually secularized.

By 1660, it had become clear to the Massachusetts theocrats that they wouldn’t be exporting their ideas abroad anytime soon. That was the year the British monarchy was restored after a decade of rule by the Cromwells, putting an end to Puritan rule in England and re-establishing the Church of England as a political power.

And with new Enlightenment ideas making their way from Europe about a rational universe knowable through reason, the Puritans’ quest for perfect religious institutions gave way to a colonial quest for perfect political institutions.

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The democratic ideas that made up this new political exceptionalism owed plenty to Winthrop & Co.

“Puritans had mapped out the relationship between church and the community that included the seed of democratic participation,” said Madsen. “The idea was that everyone had rights but also responsibilities.

“By fulfilling their responsibilities and respecting the rights of others, they would achieve happiness through the social contract.”

That egalitarianism helped lay the groundwork for the American Revolution, though Madsen notes that “the terms of reference had changed from salvation to democracy.”

America’s revolutionaries were keenly aware that their calls for democratic government in the face of English rule were exceptional for their time.

“Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression,” Thomas Paine wrote in 1776 in “Common Sense,” which helped galvanize colonists toward the Revolutionary War.

“Freedom hath been hunted round the globe,” Paine wrote. “Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger. … O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.”

The Puritan vision of America as world’s godly beacon had been replaced by the image of the nation as the world’s workshop for political and social progress. America’s founders wanted to break with what they saw as the corruption of European politics and society, where a person’s status was mostly a matter of inheritance.

By contrast, the founders proposed in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

While other republics had come and gone, many of the founders who signed the Declaration - and, later, the Constitution - wanted the American Republic to endure forever.

This was city on a hill 2.0.

Manifest destiny

Reading the founders’ paeans to American exceptionalism - about aspiring to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” as the Constitution puts it - can put a lump in your throat.

But their vision excluded huge swaths of the population, like women and slaves. And other applications of the idea had their own dark sides.

Take Manifest Destiny.

As the nascent United States strove to expand westward in the 1800s, its leaders faced major problems, including how to justify taking land that belonged to Europe or that was occupied by Native Americans.

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Manifest Destiny – the idea that it was God’s will for the U.S. government to occupy North America or all of the Americas – offered a big part of the answer.

“A civilization that has the sanction of God is always the ultimate justification,” said the University of Geneva’s Madsen. “The idea was that God had made it manifest that the U.S. should expand. … It’s not much different than the idea of American exceptionalism.”

Like many facets of exceptionalism, the notion of Manifest Destiny wasn’t entirely new.

In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth of England had established herself as a divinely ordained monarch whose reign had been presaged by the Bible. That mythology, which inspired Puritan exceptionalism, had helped English plantation owners justify forays into what is now Northern Ireland.

In the same way, Manifest Destiny helped justify the United States as it laid claim to European land and forcibly removed tens of thousands of American Indians. Many asserted that the campaign was meant to civilize or Christianize the natives, making good on America’s “chosenness.”

And the American image of a continent brimming with virgin land – which denied the presence of American Indians there – synched nicely with long-held exceptionalist visions of an unspoiled and utopian New World.

“Our manifest destiny (is) to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions,” American newspaper editor John S. O’Sullivan wrote in 1845, arguing for the annexation of Texas, in what is believed to be history’s first mention of Manifest Destiny.

It’s hard to know how much America’s leaders truly believed in the idea versus how much they employed it for purely political ends. Manifest Destiny certainly had high-profile critics, including Mark Twain, who declared himself an “anti-imperialist.”

“If you’re a cynical person and you see something like the Mexican-American War as a land grab, you can say this idea of Manifest Destiny was construed to create a moral tissue for a war of aggression,” Boston University international relations professor Andrew Bacevich said.

The westward expansion was driven largely by Southerners who wanted to farm the land and expand American slavery.

But abolitionists like Frederick Douglass also appropriated American exceptionalism, arguing that the nation’s “peculiar institution” was evidence that America was falling short of its Christian mandate.

That abolitionist line foreshadowed a key argument of 20th-century liberals: If America is exceptional, it’s because of the decisions we make around justice, not because of innate “chosenness.”

By Douglass’ time, American exceptionalism was so deeply entrenched in the American psyche that it transcended religion. Abraham Lincoln, often described as a deist - believing in a distant, uninvolved God - was nonetheless a hearty exceptionalist.

“He believed that America was leading the way in history toward democracy and equality,” said Dorothy Ross, a history professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. “At that time, Europe is still steeped in monarchs and failed revolutions, and America was still the only mass democracy in the Western world and believed that it was leading the historical way.”

Even the relatively unreligious Lincoln came to see the hand of God actively participating in American history through the Civil War.

“He gives to both North and South this terrible war,” Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, referring to God. “American slavery,” Lincoln said, was something that “He now wills to remove.”

The first president to say it

Despite its centuries-old influence, the term "American exceptionalism" didn’t emerge until sometime in the past 100 years.

Some historians say it’s unclear who coined the phrase, while others credit Joseph Stalin with doing so in 1929, when he admonished American communists for suggesting that the United States’ unique history could make it immune to Marxism.

In his reprimand, the Soviet leader decried “the heresy of American exceptionalism.”

Ironically, American intellectuals and eventually the broader public came to embrace the term, especially in the years following World War II, even after communists used the Great Depression as evidence of Stalin’s alleged "heresy.”

Just like President Woodrow Wilson had done in World War I, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman justified American involvement in World War II largely on the basis that the country had been chosen to lead and transform the world.

After the Second World War, “the United States had emerged as the strongest country,” said Johns Hopkins’ Ross. “Social scientists began studying things like national character and what makes America unique.”

American affection for the idea grew during the Cold War, as the U.S. attempted to distinguish itself from the “godless” Soviet Union.

“Our governments, in every branch ... must be as a city upon a hill,” John F. Kennedy said in a Boston speech just before his inauguration in 1961, citing John Winthrop by name.

In the ’60s and ’70s, however, American scholars and others began challenging the idea of American exceptionalism, mostly from the left and especially after the Vietnam War, which liberals criticized as a costly exercise in American hubris.

Historians began to see exceptionalism as a scholarly construct, a way of interpreting American history rather than as accepted fact.

Ronald Reagan illustrated the partisan gap around the idea, speaking of America as a “city on a hill” and attacking President Jimmy Carter for allegedly showing weakness on the world stage, including in the Iran hostage crisis.

“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so,” Reagan told the first annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 1974. “We are today the last best hope of man on Earth.”

President George W. Bush employed similar rhetoric in his global “freedom agenda,” even after initially pledging a “humble” foreign policy.

Despite greater Republican than Democratic support for the idea (91% vs. 70%) , a 2010 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans subscribed to the notion that the U.S. has a “unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.”

Boston University’s Prothero criticizes that definition of American exceptionalism, which he says is how most American politicians use the term today.

For John Winthrop, the shining city was an aspiration that depended on the righteous behavior of the Puritans, Prothero says, part of the social contract that laid the groundwork for democracy. Whether the city would in fact shine was an open question.

If the Puritans dealt falsely with their God, Winthrop had said in his 1630 sermon, there will be “curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.”

In contemporary American politics, by contrast, Prothero says the idea of exceptionalism has been stripped of its conditionalism, becoming “a kind of brag.”

“Today, it’s ‘of course God blesses America,’ ” he said. “It’s presumptuous.”

Others have attacked the idea as little more than the kind of nationalism felt by citizens of countries all over the world.

“I believe in American exceptionalism,” President Obama said in France in 2009, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

But the president has since sounded a different tune. In his Air Force Academy commencement speech in May, Obama repeatedly expressed support for American exceptionalism.

“The United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs,” Obama said. “It's one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.”

In fact, Obama appears to be the first sitting president to publicly use those words, political experts say. Given their place in the modern American political lexicon, nearly 400 years after Winthrop first gave voice to the idea, he is unlikely to be the last.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christianity • Europe • Mitt Romney • Politics • Protestant • Religious liberty • United Kingdom • United States

soundoff (3,068 Responses)
  1. JackPumpkin

    One thing I've noticed: Belief in American exceptionalism tends to correlate with ignorance about the rest of the world. People who think the US is undeniably the best country in the world just haven't done the research about the actual situation elsewhere. If you travel a little, or at least talk to our visitors from other countries, you'll find that the Americans do well in some areas, the Germans do better in others, the Canadians have the right idea on other issues, etc. Even the Chinese, with their lack of civil rights and poor environmental practices, have a lot to teach us about responsibility to our families.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Joe

      Well said, but jesus was american you know... 😉

      July 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Very true JackPumpkin ... The problem is evidenced in the fact that this is even in the belief blog section of CNN. The real problem is "Righteous Indignation".

      July 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  2. Yep!

    “A civilization that has the sanction of God is always the ultimate justification,” said the University of Geneva’s Madsen.

    "The cavalries charged
    The Indians died...
    ...But I learned to accept it
    Accept it with pride
    For you don't count the dead
    When God's on your side."

    Bob Dylan

    July 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  3. Another Old Dude

    Been around long time, been everywhere in the world except Antarctica. Love the debate, because that is what makes the USA different and unique. Every American generation fights like cats and dogs over government policy, social values, religion, you name it. But when the republic is threatened, suddenly Americans rally together and overcome. I am optimistic because the current social crisis in America is the fourth one I've seen in 70 years. We'll get through it together, and then we'll fight about something else. But when an outsider screws with us, they will find they are facing a unified nation that they thought was weak and scattered from its family squabbles. Ain't so. The republic is strong, debate makes us stronger, and tomorrow will be better than today. At least, that's what I've seen.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  4. hippypoet

    just go thru history and you will see that nearly every country has held power at one point and been viewed as the best, the place to be, and evil.....and all fell!

    newton basically said it – gravity.....what goes up must come down!

    July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  5. HenryMiller

    "President Barack Obama finds himself responding to charges from Republican challenger Mitt Romney that he has insufficient faith in American exceptionalism."

    To have an exceptional country, you have to have exceptional people and, as far as Obama is concerned, if everyone can't be "exceptional," no one should be allowed to be exceptional–that just wouldn't be "fair."

    July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  6. servantofTHEWORD

    Blessed is the nation...that blesses God.You betcha America is exceptional...don't believe me...just ask the Americans who kissed the ground when they returned back to America after leaving it.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      America blesses God. That is exceptional.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Joe

      I travel overseas 5-6 times a year, returning to the US is the biggest pain in the a$$, I dont want to kiss the ground I want to slug a TSA goon.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • JackPumpkin

      I suppose some Americans kiss the ground when they return. But I've returned from Europe via commercial jet six times since 2004, and I have yet to see any of my fellow passengers do that.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Joe

      After a 10 hour flight I just want to take a dump.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  7. Joe

    I would say Spain was rather exceptional yesterday....

    July 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes. Yes they were.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  8. Russ

    And then, in AD 410, Alaric sacked Rome.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  9. Bob

    You Know theres a problem when Spanish is a required subject in Schools now.....Go back to were you can from ,,,,,this is America

    July 2, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • hippypoet

      you mean america, the melting pot of the world that boasts every world culture and language?
      this land BY THE WAY was first housed by siberian natives that came over the land bridge, we call these folks today as NATIVE AMERICANS ....gee, i wonder what they spoke? do you speak any one of their many tongues?
      Next to live here was the spanish – the enlish didn't live here till after spain had let the news leak that there was gold in them there new land. english was WAYYYYY late to claim the tongue of the land!

      your an idiot!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • hippypoet

      i guess i was a tad focused on the language aspect – but you just said spainish....so i could also have said ITS FRIGGIN WORLD HISTORY – they did play a part in that....columbus – he was funded by the king and queen of spain! not saying i even like the man – but he did get the whole european movement to colonize here soooooooo.....moron

      July 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Agreed Bob

      The minimum requirement for coming to America should be the ability to speak English. Spanish requirement is the government pandering to mostly ILLEGAL immigrants.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • hippypoet

      columbus was also italian....nothing to do with the english folks yet – in fact the first proper english colony died off with no evidence...where the spainish colony of St. Augustine is now the longest living settlement....it is also the place in the americas that has housed a human population for the longest time....by native peoples not europeans and including the flu bringers as well.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Joe

      Foreign language has been required in schools for decades, kids are learning mandarin much more now.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • JackPumpkin

      Someone complaining about foreign language instruction hasn't learned to punctuate correctly. Gee, how surprising.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  10. Ira Goldfarb

    it's always endearing to others when a particular group or individual cites how much more special they are than everyone else.

    I mean, after all, look at god's other chosen people, the Jews. They're loved by everybody and nobody's ever tried to do them harm. :-/

    July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  11. Spencer

    enough about god being or not being or prayer having anything to do with this. why don't we 'praise' the firefighters who've saved as many homes as they could. that is where the thanks and praises are deserved.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Joe

      I praise the guys on Deadliest Catch for risking their lived to provide me with fresh crab meat.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  12. OhBrother

    You have to love a country founded on literal genocide and built by literal slaves claiming to be a bastion for "freedom." It's also endlessly hilarious to hear americans bleat about how they live in the "best country in the world" when at least 70% of them don't even have passports, so how would they know? They haven't even been on a one-week cruise, much less spent any real time in one of the countries with a higher average standard of living – Sweden, The Netherlands, Switzerland, to name a few. On top of which, this country has been riding the coattails of World War II for 60 years. What do you people do that is "exceptional?" You're exceptionally fat – we know that. Your reading level drops every year – that's exceptional in a world where people are becoming MORE literate. You have more children living in poverty than any other western nation – wow, that's special! A nation that won't care for CHILDREN. No, wait, a CHRISTIAN nation that won't care for children. Yes, you are exceptional. One could only hope to live long enough to watch Chinese exceptionalism crush and dominate you, since you're so "exceptionally" stupid, you actually allowed your ruling elite to ship millions of excellent jobs over there to turn the most oppressive nation on the planet into the superpower that will destroy you. Yes, wish I'd live long enough to see the looks on your xenophobic faces. Xenophobic, for the large percentage of you who are functionally illiterate, means you fear and/or hate that which is foreign.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Lilith

      Your angry post says more about your state of mind than it does the US lifestyle you're attacking. The US is not perfect but your envy screams loudly. When you feel the need to define a word "for us" it only shows that you are trying to convince yourself that "you" actually understand it.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  13. wizzzard in the sky

    "American Exceptionalism" .....Just words in political speeches...I think they once applied years ago.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  14. JTcnnday

    The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. Easy answer.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Definitely agreed.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • James PDX

      Sure, as long as you can tell the difference between those who will not and those who cannot. The greedy tend to see them as the same.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There's no difference. Also, greed is good. Greed and egotism drive human endeavor.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • James PDX

      So you think there is no difference between someone healthy who chooses to be on welfare and someone who is crippled in a car accident or acquires cerebral palsy? That would make you an idiot.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      OK, I'll agree. Disability and old age are the exceptions. Otherwise, that's it, people shouldn't expect handouts.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  15. Truthbetold

    The United States has done many exceptional things. Its not a license to go around bragging or being ridiculous about it but the country continues to be gold standard by which others are measured. Name one other country that has the number people fleeing to its borders that the U.S. does....that quite simply says it all. If the U.S. was average, these people wouldn't come. But the exceptionalism comes from ideals (freedom, opportunity, safety, etc.) not religion. Religion is not what makes the country great, the freedom is what makes the U.S. great.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • JackPumpkin

      Europe has the same immigration issues with regard to Africa as we do with regard to Mexico.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Joe

      I would say on a percentage basis several European countries take in more immigrants.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  16. tkindsm

    America is the best country in the world. Not sure why Liberals hate America so much and like to point out the ngatives in he past. The presant is what matters. What we do now is what counts the most. Most mistakes America has made in the past could not happen in todays world. America has had growing pains, America has made mistakes in the past, no country out there has not. But we have transformed into the greatest free society in the history of the planet. No where else in the world do you have the oppertunities you have in America.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I can't bang prost.itutes (except in Nevada). I can't take drugs. I can't swear on network television. Also, every week, the government steals a sizeable amount of my wages. That's not true freedom (although we're still better off than most).

      July 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • KC

      "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
      -George Santayana

      July 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Ben

      What the heck are you talking about? How do liberals hate America? What liberals just point out the bad things in our past? Like someone else said, it's important to remember and learn from the past, so you don't repeat the same mistakes. And I would say that no one just looks at the problems from the past. Most people are concerned with the present problems.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • BJM

      Yeah, I agree what we do now is what matters. Although I think if we don't remember and regret our mistakes nothing good will come from it. But even today, we have to be a nation that supports torture even if we don't conduct it ourselves. Our lifestyle requires subjugation of the lower class of other countries. Our self need to destroy ourselves and also to then protect those people who would destroy themselves with drugs destroys other countries. We do not have the self control to live within our means. We have an arrogance that allows us to believe and enforce our ideology on the world. We have a mental sloth that blocks even a slight ability for critical thinking and has essentially led to a religious dark decade for the country. Our ignorance even allows us to propose the above question, while we are slothful, glutenous and self deception. When I look around myself in this countries the only thing I can argue as being exceptional about us as a people is to believe we are in anyway better than anyone else.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • JohnQuest

      The two wars we are fighting is not in the past. If you have a good reason why we are in Iraq or Afghanistan please let me know.
      We are the biggest gun runner and illegal drug distributor on the planet. We have more crooks and thieves per capita then any nation on the planet (my opinion).
      The divide between the have and have nots is growing. The state is killing it's citizens, I could go on and on. I'm just saying the country could be better.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Joe

      As a liberal I dont hate the US, but I am rational enough to know like most other countries, the US has its good points and not so good points.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  17. James PDX

    The idea of American Exceptionalism is a lot like every youth's dream when they're growing up that somehow they are special. Then they join the work force and take their place in society and find out they're just like everybody else. Somehow Americans still have this dream that they're special. If this country ever was, it has long since ceased to be, thanks to all of the corruption and ineptness in our 2 party governmental system. To return to being special, we must become a true democracy so we have some real power to influence our country and to rid ourselves of the leeches who refer to themselves as politicians. No more republic. No more (false) representation. 1 person, 1 vote in the 21st century.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • penguinr90

      Even with the ineptness of our government we still are the most exceptional country in the world. I have been to the middle east and africa where I have seen people who are truely poor and oppressed. We are a country of complainers because we have never had it that bad. We complain about 8% unemployment when other modern countries have double that. We complain about having no freedom yet if you even say or POST something online that is bad about the king in Bahrain you get placed in jail where you are beat until you confess then your family is arrested to spend time in jail for the things that you have done wrong. We need to stop being a country of complainers and accept that we do have an amazing life and amazing country compared to almost every other country in the world. Some people need to stop just reading stuff that people write and go see the world themselves and sorry going to western European countries is not seeing how the most of the world lives.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  18. JohnDo


    You're right about one thing ... it's still a theory. Which means there isn't a shred of evidence to back it up. The best you've got it "we THINK this is how it happens."

    "Which of course means that they believe GOD must be supervising and directing each physical and chemical interaction in the Universe and therefore removes the predictability of those reactions."

    Wait a minute. The reason we can predict an outcome is because God designed things a certain way. If we're just a random happenstance, we couldn't predict things because, well, you wouldn't have order.


    Do you retard not know what a theory in science is? This is why the USA has gone to crap. Stupid uneducated people like yourself.

    How do you know god designed it? You don't. You just "believe" it. When you prove it then we'll talk.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hear, hear.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      People like that are scary because they don't even realize how ignorant of reality they are ... then they type something, sit back and smirk at their ingenuity thinking they've done a service for God(s) and gained brownie points in the process.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • JohnDo

      prayer changes nothing. go pray for a bridge bro. go pray for a spaceshuttle to the moon.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • James PDX

      You know what changes things? God's temper tantrums. Like when he realized he did a terrible job creating mankind and sent a flood to kill every man, woman, child, and fetus except for Noah and his incestuous family. That changed things. Of course, I wouldn't go around bragging that my ancestors were putting their sisters to the test, although I'm thinking this is still common practice in your family.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • just sayin

      Those prayers have been answered already. God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Joe's brain

      Yeah, it changes you from a rational human being to an idiot.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • just sayin

      By the time of Noah people were diversified, so Noahs sons and daughters in law were not necessarily close relatives although no matter what theory you subscribe to we all come from common ancestors or as you put it incest. Incest was not even considered a problem on the earth and forbidden until many generations after Noah.
      There is nothing wrong with a loving God passing judgement on a guilty people any more so than there is something wrong with a human judge passing judgement on a convicted criminal today. Don't like the verdict? Tough, that is justice. God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      just sayin


      July 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      @ just sayin' ... having a "common ancestor" is not incest. You're subscribing a theological myth to the reality of evolution to answer nothing.

      July 2, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • just sayin

      Proof of what? God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • just sayin

      Go back far enough in history and all people would be of the same family. That is what jamespdx mistakenly considers incest. God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      just sayin

      Jebus, Noah, Moses, etc.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • James PDX

      just sayin, so who did Noah's family procreate with? Are you serious? Even if his sons swapped wives, and their children slept with each other, at best you've got adultery and 1st cousins repopulating the world. How is that not incest? Does religion kill your ability to think rationally? And God killed EVERYBODY! Are you saying a perfect God did such a terrible job that everyone he created was deserving of death? I blame God then. A perfect God doesn't create something imperfect and then blame the creation. That only makes sense to someone who uses faith instead of reason to come to conclusions. And, I believe it was Leviticus where the laws of incest were recorded in great detail. Didn't Leviticus come before the flood? Correct me if I am wrong.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      @ Just sayin' ... and that's where your style of "logic" fails you. Evolution does NOT go back to one family ... that's exactly what I was pointing out to you.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • James PDX

      I will correct myself. Leviticus and its God who loved the smell of scorched flesh came after the flood. The rest standd. If you have parents, their children and wives and their children and you have to repopulate the planet, incest is necessary. Just because the bible doesn't talk about incest at that point doesn't make it not incest. A dog was a dog before man gave it a name.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • just sayin

      Never heard of Jebus, Noah was Abrahams grandfather, Abraham and the patriarchs are buried at Machpelah in Israel where the Bible says they were. Some evidences of the exodus and Moses have been found but not much yet, Joshuas altar for example on the Jordan river. Archaeology is making discoveries every day, considering the time frame, method of record keeping, we have quite a bit of evidences and we are not up to date on everything that is available but enough to be convinced of accuracy. God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • SHAME

      That's nice. SPAM is annoying.
      Any other irrelevant statements you would like to make?
      Perhaps the colour of your last excrement?

      July 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • just sayin

      You cannot apply modern standards to antidiluvian society, or even to other ancient civilizations with accuracy. God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      just sayin

      That's not evidence. Hail Satan.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • just sayin

      Who doesn't like the aroma of good bar-b – que? God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Just sayin' ... even proof of the existence of these folks in no way proves any connection with a supernatural or magical power. History is full of people and it is also full of folklore.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • just sayin

      If physical evidence and personal testimony are not evidence what do you go to court with? God bless

      July 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • HeavenSent

      James PDX, Oh, we're back to the atheists lack of understanding about Noah's flood? No surprise that atheists, using phony handles (again, or should I say, constantly), fall back to old arguments about what Is written in the Bible because they know they haven't anything new to complain about.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      just sayin

      Examples. Empirical research from secular organizations without agendas. Hail Satan.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Libertarian = new terminology for atheist because they hate their first definition = fools.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Just sayin' ... like I stated, there is no evidence/proof of the supernatural or magical aspects of these tales. People are proven to exist but folklore is still folklore .. do you understand now? BTW our court system is certainly no proof of your point, it is deeply flawed.

      July 2, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!!!

      July 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  20. ArthurP

    However, no one can "predict" what God wants. Therefore, everything, isn't predicatable. Just because I am a Christian doesn't mean I stopped studying science because "the result will be whatever God wants". I actually have a degree in engineering.
    So since nothing is predictable then why study the principles of engendering as they do not really exist. Why not just build the bridge and then pray to God that he allow it to stay up. Why wast all that money and time in school when it would be better spent praying.

    July 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • far out man

      you drive trains

      July 2, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • ArthurP

      your forgot the rim shot!!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
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About this blog

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