'Where was God in Aurora?' comments show Internet as church for atheists
Some atheists may ask questions on the Internet that they wouldn't have asked in church.
August 1st, 2012
12:03 PM ET

'Where was God in Aurora?' comments show Internet as church for atheists

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The Internet has become the de facto global church for atheists, agnostics and other doubters of God, who of course don’t have bricks-and-mortar churches in which to congregate.

We see this phenomenon in motion every day on the CNN Belief Blog, where atheists/agnostics/humanists are among the most zealous commenters.

Recent string of posts around the question of “Where was God in Aurora?” (such as this and this) drew especially large waves of comments that show atheists are using the Internet to commune with one another and to confront religious believers in ways that they don’t usually do in church.

Atheists and other secularists have offline organizations that stage in-person meetings - the Secular Student Alliance has seen its number of campus chapters quadruple in the last five years, to 368 - but the Internet has probably played a bigger role in the rise of the so-called New Atheism. The movement’s adherents evangelize their godlessness, just as many religious folks evangelize their God, often taking to the Belief Blog to do so.

“A lot of millennials who are coming of age have found that the Internet is a fantastic place to talk about their doubt,” says Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance. “Before the Internet, there was no place for young people to do that. The only place to go was really church, and that wasn’t always a welcoming place.

“But they can go online and discuss these ideas without being judged by friends and families,” Galef says.

For closeted atheists, the Internet’s anonymity is a big draw. A coalition of national atheist groups recently launched a program to transition doubting clergy to lives of open atheism by first having ministers come out anonymously in a closed online community.

Plenty of other atheists, though, are using the Internet to connect with real, named people through Facebook and other online social networks.

“It’s the ability to access a larger community, particularly for people growing up in religiously conservative areas,” Galef says. “There is nobody they can point to to discuss their atheism or their doubts about the Bible or their morality, and the Internet provides that.”

On Sunday, a guest piece from a Colorado pastor argued that it’s possible to reconcile the idea of a sovereign God with the existence of evil and tragedy. The post has drawn 4,239 comments as of Wednesday morning, largely from atheists.

One of those comments - a letter from God penned by an atheist commenter named Colin - caught fire online. Here’s how his letter opens:

"Dear Christians:

"God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in world history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.

"You see, I do not exist. I never have. Did it really make sense to you that I would create an entire universe with billions of billions of planets and wait about 13,700,000,000 years just so I could focus on a few Jews from Palestine about 2,000 years ago while ignoring the rest of the 200,000,000 people on the planet at the time? Did I make those few Jews or did those few Jews make me?"

The letter has been posted on reddit, where it attracted another 1,000-plus comments. (Warning: The reddit comments includes foul language.)

The vast majority of comments come from sympathetic atheists and other secularists (the discussion is reddit's atheism thread), a striking example of such folks doing church without God online. Many of those comments are deeply personal, confessional and poignant.

Here are five of the best ones. Some respond to Colin’s letter from God, others to the Colorado pastor who wrote for the Belief Blog last weekend.

1. CarbonEmitter

"I grew up religious and decided to be agnostic (as an) undergraduate. Even though I am now in my late 20s, I still feel slightly guilty because my parents try to ram religion down my throat. My mom converted to my dad's religion (from Christianity to Islam) right before having a double lung transplant in 1995. They are now super-religious and attribute her miraculous recovery to her conversion.

"Reading posts like these remind me of how ridiculous religion is and help relieve my guilt. Thank you /r/athiesm."

2. tazadar

"I like what Carl Sagan said about reassuring fables.

" 'The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.' "

3. RyGuy2012

"You know, it really irks me to no end to read the article from the pastor, as he claims to not have an answer for why God didn't prevent the Aurora shooting, but then claims to know for sure that God is there when people come to lend their support and sympathies for the shooting victims.

"I just can't wrap my mind around this logic. Like, the pastor must find some other explanation why people are good and do good things. It can't be that people can just be good on their own. Because, apparently (our) natural normal state is to be completely uncaring and disregarding? It's just such a very sad and low opinion to have of your fellow man.

4. funfetti_cookies

"Of course, he says that. You have to scare the people before giving them a reason to listen - "I held her hand as she died." What a great way to start your article. Also don't forget to mention Columbine so people remember that tragedy as well, but then go on to explain why God still exists and this is all part of his plan. Religion is nothing more but a scare tactic to control the masses.

5. ConstipatedNinja

"I don't share this much, but I was raped twice by my pastor when I was 6. And by I don't share this much, I mean that even my own parents don't know (as a side note, he's long since dead, so there's no sense in bringing it up). I had to sit in the same room (with) him for three hours every Sunday while he told everyone - including me - how a decent human being should act. I had to for four entire years before my family moved to a different state.

"When it first happened, I had no idea what was done. I was too young to understand. ... It's indescribable. You're told all this time about this ever-loving being that made you and has planned out your entire life. You're told that he'll protect you when you need it. You're told that if you're good, then he'll be good to you. So obviously, I wasn't good. I wasn't good enough. I was created and the creator of all things looked down upon me and decided that I was a bad egg. Do you know how rough that is for a 7-year-old? I still have problems with self-esteem. …"

That comment, which has been truncated above, provoked an outpouring of sympathy and support on reddit, including this comment:


"This stuff is why I love Reddit. Yeah we are a room full of strangers but when it comes down to it we're a community. I love reading the stories of others and reading the heartfelt replies. I love that anyone can express themselves honestly and it will be well-received here (usually). And although this one is a little cheeky, I love that I can learn valuable life lessons of self-acceptance and being able to move on from a guy named ConstipatedNinja. Thank you for sharing your story, and I admire the willingness to share such a personal story; it's truly inspirational."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Colorado • Violence

soundoff (4,699 Responses)
  1. Honey Bee

    For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

    But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

    August 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Honey Bee's been in the nectar again. Before you quote Babble verses, you have to get the quotee to agree with it's authority.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  2. erasmus

    Dear firefly,
    You once again proved my point, I ask a question for a definite/ defined answer, an all I get is an opinion, all starting with " ...what good means to me...", equivalent to I THINK, or IT MAY BE.
    Why do unbelievers always answer with " I " or "he,or,she said", and never say it is? Surely there is a definition ( I emphasize defini..) of good, NOT BASED ON AN OPINION! ( capitals only for emphasis, not screaming), can an "atheist define GOOD? Please?

    August 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Wow, you don't seem to understand what I mean by "black and white thinking." It is what you are doing. Please seek the definition of that phrase along with the word "subjective." If I argue that the meaning of "good" is subjective, then I am also arguing that an objective definition is not possible.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      I've got to go, so I am not intentionally ignoring any reply you might have. But, seriously and respectfully, the place where I think you are stuck is that you aren't clear on what subjective means.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Good is doing no harm.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Agree with @Firefly... you didn't really understand what he was saying, did you? This is what happens when you try to reason with unreasonable people.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  3. Achilles

    A thiest, in the broadest sense, can embrace, believe if you will, in the existence of the divine, no matter how far removed the nature of that divinity is from the anthropomorphic concept of the traditional Judeo-Christian belief system. An Athiest cannot. He closes the door on the possiblity of the divine no matter how abstruse or unconventional the nature of that divinity.

    August 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      He [the atheist – notice correct spelling] closes the door on the possiblity[sic] of the divine no matter how abstruse or unconventional the nature of that divinity.

      Some do. Most don't.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      * I forgot to put @Achilles' statement in quotes – sorry (it can get confusing that way)

      August 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  4. Aaron

    The existence of an atheist proves God exists... enough said. You try to discredit Him because you can't see, touch, feel, or hear Him. That's the concept of faith... believing something you cannot see. I'm guessing you all believe in the THEORY of evolution.. did any human actually see it happen? Don't get me wrong, I'm a science oriented person and I love the chemistry, biology, physics, etc. I took in college... which puts more emphasis on the fact that we cannot fathom how complex our world is... that it all just "fell together" perfectly. I feel like you are some of His best supporters, because atheists work so hard to make people disbelieve... and He's proving you wrong with every new day....all leading back to my opening sentence. I'll make sure to keep you all in my prayers.

    August 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      If your understanding of natural explanations is that it all just "fell together perfectly," then you are not the science-oriented person you think you are. I suspect your ideas of scientific explanations are primarily what religious teachers have described to you.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "The existence of an atheist proves God exists."
      And in exactly the same manner the existence of non-believers in the Tooth Fairy prove that the Tooth Fairy exists.

      You said, "enough said."
      It is truly amazing how much such a ridiculous statement says about believers who fall for crap like that.

      You said, "You try to discredit Him because you can't see, touch, feel, or hear Him."
      Without evidence for its existence there simply is no reason to believe it exists. Is that really so hard to grasp?

      You said, "That's the concept of faith... believing something you cannot see."
      Well, duh.

      You said, "I'm guessing you all believe in the THEORY of evolution."
      Completely unrelated. Being an atheist only means you don't believe there to be any gods. Nothing more, nothing less.

      You said, "He's proving you wrong with every new day."
      How does it do that, exactly? Didn't you earlier acknowledge that there isn't any evidence?

      You said, "I'll make sure to keep you all in my prayers."
      You keep praying, we'll keep thinking.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      I have faith that you are a weak-willed sheep, even though there is no proof you exist.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  5. erasmus

    Mr firefly, you never answer directly, always enigmatic, I said why do bad things happen to good people, you state because bad things happen to everybody, I mean Really? That's your best answer, then you agree later on with "heubert" that good and bad are human constructs,?
    So my answer to your " huh" is simply what your definition of GOOD?

    August 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • One one

      Krispy Cream doughnuts.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      I agree that words such as "good" are subjective human constructs. As a subjective human, what good means to me is those things that benefit me, the ones I love, the ones whose "side" I find myself on, humanity in general, and those other things that I hold in high regard. I would argue that deep down that is what lies behind what most of us consider "good."

      Why is that subjective and human? Two (admittedly silly) examples: To me, the avoidable death of a human is not good. To the countless organisms that count on a decaying body to nourish themselves and their future generations, if they were capable of abstract thought, it might be considered good indeed. Another way of looking at it: 1,000 cooked chickens donated to a homeless shelter is clearly good right? If you are a chicken it is the holocaust. To someone who considers the life of a human more important than the life of a chicken (as most humans understandably do), it is "good."

      August 2, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      So, my confusion regarding your suggestion that atheists must believe "bad things happen because there is no good" is that it involves a black and white view of reality that doesn't make sense to me.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Simply put a universal description for good would be, doing no harm.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • One one

      What is "good" is purely subjective and situational.

      A rain storm is good to a farmer who is stricken with a drought.

      It is bad for folks attending an outdoor event, like a wedding.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • sam

      Uh oh, Voice. erasmus' next question: "What is harm?"

      August 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • One one

      Example of relativity of good / bad from the bible:

      "thou shalt not kill" Exodus 20:13

      “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death." Deuteronomy 13:6.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • One one

      Is it moral for the innocent to pay for the " sins" of the "guilty" ?

      According to the story, Jesus was innocent but his dad had him killed to pay for the "sins" of the "guilty".

      What kind of morality is that ?

      August 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  6. erasmus

    "Huebert", you stated there is no "fair",
    So an easy answer for the "atheist" is bad things happen because there is no good?

    August 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Not to speak for Huebert, but ... huh?

      August 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • ME II

      As someone else stated "fair", "good", and "bad" are subjective judgments. Things happen, whether they are "good" or "bad" may depend on one's perspective.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  7. georgex

    When a plane has a terrible crash and there are only a few survivors are those selectively good people? No, the physics just happened to protect them in that impact. But there will still be thanks to God.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Worse yet, most people will overlook the engineers who built the safest plane possible given current technology, the pilots who guided the plane down as best they could, the first responders that put the fire out and dragged the survivors to safety, the doctors and nurses who patched them up, and most importantly the generations of teaching and scientific knowledge behind every one of those things...and will then say "it was a miracle!"

      August 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Qwert

      Yes, I thanks science as it uses the observation of the natural world, and uses it's laws to create bombs and weapons that hurt people everyday. It is horrifying to see the way some violent people in history justify racism by applying the theory of evolution.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Chad

      You think it is wrong to thank God when He spares someone?

      August 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Why bother thanking an imaginary being?

      August 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      "You think it is wrong to thank God when He spares someone?"

      If by "wrong" you mean "erroneous", then yes, it is "wrong", since there is no evidence that any god did any sparing.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Jen

      Absolutely it is wrong. Unless you are also going to curse him for killing everyone else on the plane.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chad

      @ 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls "Why bother thanking an imaginary being?"
      @ Keeping It Real "...there is no evidence that any god did any sparing"
      @Jen "Absolutely it is wrong. Unless you are also going to curse him for killing everyone else on the plane."

      @Chad "A. the God of Abraham exists
      B. Since He is sovereign, He was the one that spared
      C. Shall we accept only good from God?

      August 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  8. georgex

    Why bad things happen to good people? (Well, bad things happen to bad people also.) This is a question which is difficult to answer for Christians who always want to find some grace in tragedy. There is no grace there and this was simply a horrible event. But I think it is wonderful that the Internet allows many doubters to express their views here as we become a more open society. In the past they didn't have the chance to meet or discuss their views and felt a bit isolated. Today there are organizations for non-believers such as http://www.secular.org that have meetings and interesting projects and just good conversation..
    Personally, I don't think we can blame God for these killings anymore than we should give him credit for the survivors. He seems to stay out of almost every human event. He doesn't do much that I am aware of.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Jen

      Absolutely true. Something good happens and it is a miracle; something bad happens and the same person calls it freewill, as if those two concepts could possibly go together.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • sls103

      It is written there is none who are good accept God alone.The rest of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I have experienced the anger and the tendency to blame God when something bad happens. I try to remind myself that the time that we spend on earth is small in comparison to eternity that I hope to spend with God in heaven. We tend to forget that we can't see the whole picture as God can. We only see in part. You say God doesn't do much as you see it. You forget that for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. You may ask where was God when so and so was murdered or when so and so happened. My response is this- He was in the same place he was when his only begotten son was murdered. God is more focused on where we spend eternity then on these momentary and horrific troubles. If people know God though Jesus then even if they lose their life they are not dead, they only sleep in Jesus. We need to make sure we all know him for he is the way.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Huebert

    All events are neutral. Good and bad are subjective human constructs.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly


      August 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • georgex

      The concept of supernatural world has shrunk drastically since the Enlightenment and science began to flourish.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Agreed as well.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  10. erasmus

    Sorry, don' t fillow if life has no rules, how can there be a "fair"!?

    August 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Huebert

      their isn't a fair.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • ME II

      Do you not see the "reply" button?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • lou

      Good-Bad, Just-unjust, god-devil....all human constructs.....that is why I believe if we most praise anything let of praise humanity as a whole and starve to do no harm against each other

      August 3, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  11. J.W

    That is it! We need to just quit all of this squabbling and agree that God exists.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "That is it! We need to just quit all of this squabbling and agree that God exists."
      Agreed. They exist, but only in the minds of the feeble.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  12. erasmus

    Dear "atheist",

    Why do bad things happen to good people?

    August 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • ME II

      because life is not fair.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      It's the same reason people eat scrambled eggs. Life comes in many varieties.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • ME II

      Crap! my mistake...
      I must remember, Don't feed the trolls!

      August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      because bad things happen to all people.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  13. Really?

    So Achilles, when you get over your obsession with dead languages, will you provide proof positive that Apollo doesn't exist?

    August 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Achilles

      I would never attempt to prove or disprove the existence of anyone's conception of god logically. 3000 years of philosopy and theology by folks a lot brighter than myself have convinced me of its futility. As a matter of fact, if a being decended from the sky tomorrow on the wings of "angels" and declared the Rapture, there would be no way that anyone could prove that this being was god...no matter what powers he might wield....no matter waht knowledge he might display....the problem of explaining the root cause of cosmological existence is not easy...just ask your nearest physicist.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  14. AverageJoe76

    Satan is really a dumb character. He sat in God's presence, intimately saw the power he wielded, and still rebelled. That makes him the first idiot to exist.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Abroham, Broses, and Brohammed

      I think Satan was more idealistic than anyone gives credit. He saw a vain, childish, genocidal tyrant ruling over heaven and thought he could do better. Of course Satan and God dont really exist, but I feel like the story of the Fall can be read in many ways. Better to reign in hell than serve a anti-social demiurge.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • sam

      Either god should not have made him...or we haven't heard the real story.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Right back at ya pal. By the way... I'm gonna burn you for all eternity for that.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  15. erasmus

    Funny no one said Satan doesn't exist? Proves my point, no true atheist!

    August 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      We have seen your "the biggest lie that Satan ever told..." schtick, therefore we don't fall for your little game.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Wow, you were unable to comprehend that that is what just about every response was saying? Maybe you really are just a kid.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Hi Atheist Hunter. Your .22 is jammed. You will have to get in line. Perhaps you might want to make an appointment.
      Today I am very busy proving there is no 1959 Chevy orbiting Pluto, and it's taking slightly longer than expected. Then I have an emergency "proof" to do over ta the pasta factory.
      (See where I'm goin' with that ?)

      August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Huebert

      Neither Satan nor God exist. Nor do Zeus, Mars (the Roman god not the planet), Thor or gremlins. Are their any other mythical creatures you would like me to refute?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      We didn't say you exist. That proves you don't. Now please go away.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  16. Really?

    I can name one philosopher who claimed she knew with total certainty that there was no god. Her name was Ayn Rand. The one worshipped by the uber religious Tea Party.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Huebert

      I did not know she said that. I knew that she was an atheist and that statement is consistent with her philosophy. Cool, I learned something new today.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      When did she achieve certainty?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  17. erasmus

    Does Satan believe in God?

    August 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      does santa claus believe in the tooth fairy?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Higher than a kite

      Please troll. Give us something better or we will ignore you totally.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Adam

      "Atheism is merely clearing the space for better questions."

      ~Sam Harris

      August 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      I had not read that Sam Harris quote before. I like it.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Does Hades believe in Zeus?

      Does Gargamel believe in Papa Smurf?

      Does Lex Luthor believe in Superman?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Adam

      Thanks Rufus, I hope that it's right–I only heard it recently in a video from the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Australia. Check it out here: [youtube dot] com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums

      August 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Thanks, Adam. I will.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  18. Really?

    Achilles, you are wrong. Atheists by and large do not profess to KNOW for sure that God doesn't exist. Even Richard Dawkins hasn't made that claim. On the other hand he does want the god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to be subjected to the same rules of evidence that apply to all other gods. The ones everyone admits are myths.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog


      August 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Achilles

      @Really: The definitions of the terms Agnostic and Athiest are available online for your perusal...if you have any acquaintance with Latin, the etymology of the terms may be readilly apparent. Basic subject verb agreement in your discourse would improve the chances that someone might actually take you seriously.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  19. Achilles

    You might want to trade your Athiesm for Agnosticism because one is a vaild philosophical position and the other is a "belief system". If god does not exist it is a logical fallacy to attempt to disprove him because a negative cannot be disproved logically. Therefore an Athiest does not KNOW that god does not exist...it is logically impossibe...he BELIEVES that god does not exist...he becomes a man of faith...isn't it interesting that both professed Athiests and religious fundamentalists overwhelmingly display such vehement intolerance towards anyone who disagrees with their beliefs? They have a lot more in common than either side would like to admit.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      As there is absolutely no proof that a swarm of 50 tonne, 3 headed, 8 legged, pink and purple fluffy elephant like creatures live in my attic, I suppose that technically I "believe" that they are not there, but I really feel that, with all scientific evidence backing me up, I KNOW that they are not there.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • OOO

      No. No faith there because there is not a belief there. He does NOT believe that god exists. No belief there. None at all. Therefore no faith.

      Got it?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Adam

      I think your definitions are off, and the gulf between Atheism and Agnsoticism is a false one, and is crossed easily with humility and honesty. An Atheist need not make any external claim about the nature of the universe (as the Theist must). To be an Atheist one must simply reflect the fact that one's best, most honest representation of how the universe actually IS, does not contain a supernatural agent. This is all. The Atheist need not say "there is no God," only "it is supremely unlikely there is a God, and so I live my life–until given reason otherwise–under the assumption that one does not exist."

      This is NOT a dogmatic statement. This is an agnostic statement, and as such I consider Agnostics as "de facto Atheists."

      I hope you can concede this. Just as I can concede that one who says "I KNOW that there exists NO supernatural agent" is in fact taking an invalid position. The goal in toward reason, and making unjustified and unverifiable assertions about the nature of the universe is is unreasonable, and pernicious to this project we call civilization, regardless of what side they are on...

      August 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • TR6

      Typical Troll, picking at nits. So you are also agnostic as to the existence of the Easter bunny, Santa Clause, the invisible pink unicorn and the flying spaghetti monster? They all have about the same amount of evidence for their existence.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      So the question is, will you be able clear you a'ss of sh1t, when your an'al retentive need to get everyone lined up in the correct lines for recess, is finally satisfied, when and if everyone is in their correct little box ?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Achilles

      @ooo...Sorry, your reply is unintelligible so I can't address it
      @ Dyslexic: You equate all possibilites of the divine with a swarm of bees in your attic? If you would live a little you might come to understand that not everyone believes that "god" is the old man in the sky of the Judeo-Christian tradition...try wrapping your mind around the concept of Nirvana in Theravada Buddhism or consider the possibilities of the god of Spinoza or Epicurius...Hindu's believe that Shiva dances in order that the godhead may in someway become cognizant of his very existance...

      August 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • OOO

      Quoting you...
      "Therefore an Athiest does not KNOW that god does not exist...it is logically impossibe...he BELIEVES that god does not exist...he becomes a man of faith"

      You say atheists have faith. My response is then:

      "No. No faith there because there is not a belief there. He (atheist) does NOT believe that god exists. No belief there. None at all. Therefore no faith.
      Got it?"

      Does that help?

      August 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • TR6

      I am not “vehemently intolerant towards anyone who disagrees with their beliefs” I am vehemently intolerant towards anyone that tries to impose their beliefs on others. I don’t care if you don’t eat shellfish because your god says it’s an abomination, but if you try to get between me and my fried clams I’m going to be extremely intolerant

      August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Adam

      @Achilles: I would love to hear your response to my post. Thank you.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Achilles

      It does not. it is obvious that you are familiar with the concept...the "idea" of god. You choose not believe in this concept. That is cool. You are still, by definition a believer because it is a concept with which you are familiar, yet reject. You believe it not to be true.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • OOO

      Even when I'm not a believer I'm a believer (I feel a song coming on here).
      Can't argue against that. I guess you are right and therefore there must be a god. All atheists must now conceed...

      August 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Adam – I'm willing to pick up where Achilles left off. I appreciate your honesty regarding the spectrum of belief/certainty, if I may label it that. You and I reach the same point when it comes to what man may know. You choose to wait for further evidence, I choose to take the path of faith. Either option is viable, in my opinion. I wish two things; I wish more non-believers would recognize and accept the distinctions you make and, I wish those who are capable of delineating their thought processes were as vigilant against the ignorant on their side of the argument as they are against believers who may be less than eloquent in their statements. I hear ignorance and vitriole from both sides

      August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Achilles

      @ooo: The logic of your last statement eludes me. I never stated it and it is absurd. It is just a cop out..

      August 2, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Adam

      Thanks for your response, Bill. I agree with your two wishes. Dogma can certainly exist on both sides of the divide. And I agree that both sides are done a disservice by the profane, belligerent, and dishonest voices in their ranks.

      That said, I don't believe that "choosing faith" from a position of uncertainty makes any sense. And I think it is actively dangerous. To me there is a great transformation that has to happen to get one from the sort of agnosticism we seem to agree on, to "faith," which I am assuming here to be some sort of Theism (I'm not going to pick on Deists here).

      If we are both standing on a platform of uncertainty, with similar epidemiological positions, then to get to the point where you actually believe that a God exists–that you have "faith" one exists–takes a profound leap of unreason. To me it breaks the word "belief," in that the only change that has occurred is that you have allowed yourself to believe in a God where reason had before prevented you.

      This is egregious, in my mind. This completely destroys any similarity we might otherwise have shared. Moreover, this leap then opens up ANY and ALL beliefs, as it breaks the link between a belief, and one's best representation of the world.

      When I say I don't believe in a god, I am saying that my best representation of the world does not contain one. But if when you say that you believe in a god, that that's not because your best representation contains one, but that your exercise of "faith" allows one... well then I think that places you right alongside the fanatics. For taking that first step, from agnosticism (again, on either side) towards unjustified belief, is precisely the action that leads to people flying planes into buildings. Surely it is preposterous to think that if one unmakes oneself in a particular way, leading to the death of certain people, that one will receive the greatest gifts of God... but I think that if you can accept that it is ok to believe in God when one does have adequate reason to believe in God, then you have absolutely no position from which to criticize these fanatics–other than they jumped off ground of reason in the wrong direction.

      "Faith is merely the licence people give one another “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”
      ~ Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

      August 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Achilles

      @Adam: sorry, just saw your reply...I'm at work don't ya know...lol...

      The thiest need make no claims about the universe whatsoever. It is a false requirement . You are trying to gloss over a fundamental difference in the positions of the Agnostic and the Athiest by confusing one with the other. You can call yourself a Klingon if you want, but my assumption will remain that you are human.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Adam

      Achilles, I fear you are purposely abusing language here. Please stop.

      A Theist MUST believe in the existence of a god or gods. This is the DEFINITION of Theism! A belief MUST correlate to the actuality or validity of something (this is why we have words "wishful thinking" and "hope," which, while thoughts are NOT beliefs). This is the DEFINITION of belief!

      A Theist, therefore, is quite plainly making a statement regarding the nature of the universe: There exists a god or gods. Leave aside any talk if that statement is true of not, but you must agree that it is an external claim about the nature of reality!

      August 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • One one

      Well if atheism is a belief system, it transcends all others because it has stood the test of time while others fell by the wayside.

      Atheism was around long before Christianity and will still be around long after it has become extinct, like so many other religions.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Achilles

      Why must a thiest make an exterior claim to validate his belief? Does belief necessitate proselytization?

      August 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Achilles

      Maybe this will help: A thiest, in the broadest sense, can embrace, believe if you will, in the existence of the divine, no matter how far removed the nature of that divinity is from the traditional anthropomorphic concept espoused by traditional belief systems. An Athiest cannot. He closes the door on the possiblity of the divine no matter how abstruse or unconventional the nature of that divinity might be.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Adam

      Saying that you believe something, is, necessarily, saying that you believe that something to be true. The theist's belief IS the claim! This has absolutely nothing to do with proselytization.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Adam

      I am leaving my computer for the night. You have apparently not read my original response to your original post. In it you will find my answer to your last confusing effort. If you wish to respond, please do so with honest use of language, so that we can communicate more clearly with each other, and I will read it tomorrow morning. Thank you.

      August 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Achilles

      It mostly has to do with open mindedness and the realization that god might be something very strange and totally incomprehensible. Do you believe the universe is comprehensible by any means? Are you certain it is possible for the human intellect to peel back the layers of the cosmic onion until some fundamental "first cause" is revealed? Can you deny the possibilty that the cosmos might remain an eternal enigma?

      August 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Adam

      I do not suppose that the universe is completely comprehensible. I am not certain it is possible for the human intellect to understand the "first cause." I can not deny the possibility that the cosmos might remain an eternal enigma...

      ...and that is why I refuse to make unwarranted claims about it. And that is why the Theist–who claims to know for a fact the true nature of the universe including its creator–is not, to put it in your words, a "valid philosophical position." You are quick to point out this trait in Atheism, but seem unwilling to do so for Theism.

      Unless you are a disingenuous Theist who is just trying to discredit Atheism, it seems to me that your agnosticism is essentially the atheism that I proposed in my original post.

      August 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  20. Reality

    Only of the new members of this blog:

    Putting the final kibosh on religion :

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    Bottom line: Religion no longer matters, therefore this blog is no longer needed.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
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About this blog

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