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'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:

rumpelstiltskin1

"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. wasted breath

    this is a millenial old argument. basically there are two types of people. lost and saved. the end.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • sam

      In your worldview, yes. Keep your black and white thinking it where it belongs – in your own little world.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • mandarax

      There's another millennium-old argument that illness is caused by dwarves living in your stomach – that one was ridiculously wrong, too.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • sam

      Dude, the day I crap out a dwarf, I am out of here.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • what?

      there is another saying evolve or die, from the statistics of christians and the increase of atheism around the world I would say you shoul stop following 1000 year old doctrines and teaching that have no bearing on modern society.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • BRC

      New phrase for number 2-
      "Back in a minute, gotta go drown some dwarves"

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Michael comer

      we are all lost
      how are you so sure your god is the one true good?
      Have you ever considered the possibility that you are
      worshiping the wrong God

      August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Thinker

    The only thing these articles show is how disrespectful and intolerant we are.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Being intolerant of stupidity is a good thing.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  3. Ton

    This is part of the agenda (common sense). They want to make you all stop beliving in God then they want you to turn in to a man that takes penis in the butt. Aethiest scare me for both of those reasons thats dirty

    August 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • sam

      Is this wishful thinking on your part? 'Atheists made me do it'.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  4. Major

    Massacres like this should have absolutely no bearing on the discussion as to whether there is a God or not. Most Christians believe in free will, just as most atheists clearly believe in it' secular equivalent. In other words, most people on both sides believe that people have the freedom to execute their own will and are thus responsible for its consequences as they affect the person as well as those around him.

    This was an individual who chose to commit a massacre. It's not a question of God doing anything. He is irrelevant to the discussion, with His effect only entering the discussion on a higher, more important level. Whether someone dies at 18 of a bullet wound while watching a movie or at 90 of old age, it's really all the same and irrelevant if you look at the big picture. The ONLY thing that matters is whether that person is ready to face his death. If he believes in God, has he accepted his Savior and prepared himself to enter the Kingdom? If he doesn't believe, is he ready to face the consequences of that choice, whatever they may be?

    August 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Christians believing in free will is contradictory, as they also believe in a divine plan. There can't be both.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Major

      No contradiction at all. Free will is one of the most important ways in which human beings are created in God's image. Appropriate for the children of a God who defines himself with a statement of individual self : "I am that I am". The individual's free choice to accept salvation or not is fundamental to most (but not all) Christian doctrines.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Timothy C

      You have a very good point, but usually it seems that serious theological questions don't rise to the fore until we see clear evidence of "good" vs "evil" in mass murders, terrorism, etc.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The contradiction is evident.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • TR6

      So if god does not interfere with man’s free will then prayer is useless and god chooses to be impotent (or simply does not exist)

      August 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Kathic

      For those who argue free will and a just god are compatible I must ask a simple question. If you see a baby drowning in a pool and you refuse to act are you not evil? If it would take an insignificant amount of effort to save lives without harming free will wouldn't a just person do so? Stopping a massacre does not need to mean the end of free will.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Major

      That is sick. Truly sick, and on so many levels that I must actually question your sanity.

      Either you really have no idea what you are implying, or your belief system indicates a profound underlying mental illness.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Major

      Hi -Major...

      You Said: " It's not a question of God doing anything. He is irrelevant to the discussion, with His effect only entering the discussion on a higher, more important level. "

      That is 'unverified speculation'. And... just your 'opinion.'

      You Said: " The ONLY thing that matters is whether that person is ready to face his death. If he believes in God, has he accepted his Savior and prepared himself to enter the Kingdom? If he doesn't believe, is he ready to face the consequences of that choice, whatever they may be? "

      An 'Ad Baculum' type argument... a-s-s umes the 'inferred' threat of potential fear and punishment. 😯

      Also, a-s-s umes that your Christian narrative is *the* truth.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Major

      6yr-old Veronica Moser died from a bullet lodged in her throat put there by a Christian madman (raised a devout Presbyterian) who thought he was a cartoon villain.

      Her mother, who was also shot in the throat and also the back watched her bleed to death on a popcorn littered movie theater floor. Her Mother also lost a child in utero, and shall be paralyzed for life.

      According to you bigoted and sick philosophy, at least one and possibly both of the dead children shall go to hell. That is evil sick and unworthy of even basic contempt

      If this is the madness your so called savior wants to bring us as “salvation”, then please advise him that if he returns, I will personally crucify him again, and then bury his corpse in the same hole we dig for the shooter.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  5. someone

    It all boils down to "free will". We all have the freedom to choose and sometimes those choices affect other people, good or bad.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      I agree. That is proof there is no god.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Eric

      We really don't have free will because there are consequences. Would you think that free will existed if I asked you this question:

      "You can have a sandwich or a salad for lunch. Only if you pick the sandwich, I will blow your brains out. What is your choise, you have free will to decide?"
      Naturally, you will have salad for lunch, and this is not free will.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Major

      @ Eric. You don't want free will. You want a release from consequences. That is an entirely different thing. ALL things in life have consequences. Accepting them is a part of being a healthy adult.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Drinky Crow

      Yeah, "free will", which means that god gives us the freedom to decide whether or not he exists, but if we choose the wrong answer he tortures us for all of eternity once we die. Some concept you christians have there, pal.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Eric

      @ Major, Don't speak for me. Don't insinuate that athiests are trying to free themselves from consequences either. If ones belief in god is based solely on the threat of the consequences, then that is a very weak foundation to that philosophy.
      There are consequences imposed on society only, or upon oneself for the lifestyle one leads, but they exist in this world only and in this life only. There have been millions and millions of gods in the world for any religious fanatic to be certain that they will be free of consequence in the end.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Eric

      @ Major, I also think that having invisible friends, talking to said friend, and hanging around with other individuals who have the same invisible friend is behavior not indicative of being a healthy adult.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  6. ThePrankster

    I am just tired of the lack of disrespect and reverence on everyone's part. Both parties (Christians and Atheists) on the internet are ridiculously obnoxious. And, they justify their lack of manners and respect by pointing the finger at the other person and saying they started it. "An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind." – Gandhi.

    CHRISTIANS, I appeal to you this way: What would Jesus do? Is this how he would really react and behave? Grow up and start acting like Christ. The biggest reason why Christianity is failing in America, is because people absolutely refuse to act like Jesus. Instead they are hypocrits, and twist his words for their own means.

    ATHEISTS: If I was to judge my opinion on the lot of you from your posts, I'd have nothing to do with you. Its like listening to people with rabies based on how angry you are. Chill out. If you are really appealing to people with Logic, science, etc. Then state your case and be gone. Hateful words towards peoples God's coated in bile isn't going to win anyone over.

    Both parties get ticked off at the followers for doing this, or doing that. But here is an idea. You don't judge a philosophy by its adherents. You judge it by its founder and what he writes, says, and does. Because the followers will always fail, will always twist, will always screw up, or will always sin.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • .

      pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • LinCA

      Lemme guess, you're a believer?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  7. longtooth

    If you think about it, it is as foolish to be sure there is a god as it is to be sure there is no god. One of my best friends died yesterday morning. He knows whether god exists. We won't know until we die. I can wait.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • What

      Do you need a gun? I can lend it to you, do what you have to do, to go see god

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • longtooth

      @ What- I said I can wait. Read before you post.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • what?

      it is never foolish to believe facts over opinion.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      longtooth: Reality is that your friend won't be able to tell you one way or the other, so no-one will know. Sorry for your loss.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • What IF

      longtooth,

      Condolences and sympathy to you for your friend's death. It is sad.

      In the event that something has neither been proven nor disproven, the default stance is to withhold belief, tfn.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • what?

      lol and people actually believe that this guys best friend died yesterday and he is posting messages instead of grieving with friends and family LOL

      August 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • metch

      Actually it's not JUST as foolish to believe or not believe. There isn't a 50% percent probability that God does or doesn't exist. We can study the evidence, and come to a reasonable conclusion. Of course, technically we can't be 100% certain of anything, but only a fool would throw her arms up and halt their pursuit of truth and knowledge for this reason. God is as likely to exist as fairies, ghosts, leprechauns, and bigfoot. There is as much evidence for the existence of gods as there is for all other mythological creatures. None. Considering the absence of evidence for god, and the abundance of evidence showing that the universe can create itself naturally, the logical position to take is that God does not exist.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  8. HeavenSent

    Satan is death. You athiests are fooling yourself if you don't tell non-believers they will suffer and be tortured for eternity. I hoard cats. You athiests are pathetic for blaming it on the Christians for having the guts to tell idiots God's truth.

    Amen.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • What

      Amen my A ss

      August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      HeavenSent: Maybe, just maybe, if you would learn to respect others you'd see a change in how we react to you. However you do not portray your belief in a positive manner when all you do is judge people and use the threat of eternal torture. There are many gods that people believe in and that I dismiss as being complete fallacies. How are you so certain you have the correct god? Why is it you feel compelled to stay stuck in the past? There is so much information that refutes your buybull and yet you remain stuck in the bubble. It seems to me that you deserve being called out for your ignorance and disrespect to those of us who have left the bubble. You have no right to judge other people...not one of us has done anything personal to you to merit that. Carl Sagan said it well-Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Bak up what you say with actual evidence and please for the love of this planet, stop making dumb-ass assumptions about us...we no more believe in your imaginary friend god than we do its imaginary arch enemy satan. You're not a good moral person and you do not merit our respect.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Eric

      This is the type of stuff that has caused more wars in the world, and is why athiests are angry.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      @TruthPrevails

      You're a putz, cough fool and a liar against His truth. You prideful athiests don't abide in Jesus' truth. I am coughing up blood. Stay on the wrong side of the gulf until you are blotted out for eternity.

      Amen.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • sam

      HS, you forgot to accuse Truth of secretly being Tommie Tom.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • adam l

      easy heavensent.. I understand where you come from, but is it not how it is written? did we not hear that in the end it would come against us? That many are to die for his names sake, to be persecuted. in that time, strengthen YOUR faith, even unto death. "Who can stand that day? it will be great, it will be dreadful."

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Drinky Crow

      That's the most idiotic and hateful pantload of pudding that I have ever heard. You delusional fool, I picture you in robes, your face painted in sickly colors and frothing at the mouth. Go back to your mother's basement and preach to the walls.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  9. John

    The scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Either someone created something out of nothing (the Christian view), or no one created something out of nothing (the atheistic view). Which view is more reasonable? The Christian view. Which view requires more faith? The atheistic view, sorry but I don't have that much faith!

    August 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Derek

      No, the scientific evidence is not "overwhelming" that the universe started out from nothing (by the way, I'm an atheist). The evidence only suggests right now that THIS universe had a beginning. We know nothing about what existed before it or what started it. THAT's what religious folk don't get. Just because we don't *currently* understand something doesn't mean it's some impossibly complex and mystical force (aka God) that did it. It just means we have more to learn still. Religious history is filled with examples of real world, non-miraculous events with perfectly normal explanations occurring and being attributed to gods simply because humans didn't yet understand them.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Eric

      There is no faith in athiesm. There is evidence that the universe exploded, it is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. No model of the universe can exist without it. You can go to school to learn about stuff like this if you want, which is the difference between evidence based observation about the universe and guesses based on bronze age mythology.
      Why not learn the definition of faith?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Just shows how little you understand about the Big Bang Theory.
      Just for kicks please enlighten us on what "nothing" is? And by that I mean the nothing that you think was there before the universe came into existence. Hmmmm?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Agnostic bordering Atheist

      Even though I'm a scientist, I'm not so sure how much we can infer from light generated potentially billions of years ago. We have no idea whether or not all of the fundamental constants have been truly constant over that time period. I'm much more inclined to believe the universe has always existed or is cyclical.

      Where the universe came from is irrelevant to our lives on earth... the only 'plane of existence' we have a shred of proof about its existence – we should live our lives for the greater good of everyone, now and in the future, here on earth, not some probably non-existent afterlife we have zero proof of existence.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Edward001

      Atheism is JUST lacking a belief in Gods or deities. Nothing else. We find their is no justified evidence for gods or other religious deities. That's it!!! People hook on baggage to the word atheism like they assume were all evolutionists or accept the big bang or whatever.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • what?

      lol, you guys do know that string theory has shown how the universe came from what the layman claims to be nothing (its not really nothing but it isnt something either) which creates a multiverse, there is even evidence of another universe pressing on our own,

      August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  10. Dr Sinila

    Ask the Atheist, Tom Leykis!!! He will tear this pastor a new one..... Take me out Jesus style!!!!!

    August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  11. In the name of God

    WHY ANYONE WOULD TAKE A CHANCE AND NOT BELIEVE IN GOD IS BEYOND ME. THINK ABOUT IT . IF YOU BELIEVE IN GOD YOU HAVE A CHANCE ON PARADISE. IF YOU DONT HELLFIRE AWAITS YOU. WHY TAKE THAT CHANCE. WHAT IS IT GOING TO COST YOU TO BELIEVE IN GOD AND DO GOOD DEEDS?????

    August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • LinCA

      @In the name of God

      Pascal's Wager fail.

      Pascal's Wager:
      In effect, Pascal's wager states that while we can't know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

      It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the "belief" position.

      Why Pascal's Wager is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.
      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.

      Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

      In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

      Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

      The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

      A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

      In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Alex

      Since 80% of the people in America believe in a God, it's proof your system does not work. Our society is full of greed, the poor keep getting poorer, the homeless rate has grown, children are left in foster care, we have some of fattest people on the planet (gluttony).. Your belief systems has proven at least in America it's bad for society.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • jungleboo

      So you like playing the lottery in your god's face? You don't think this lord and master who knows all doesn't have contempt for your selfish little insurance policy. This mind set of yours speaks loud and clear about the inherent dishonesty of your religion. You are welcome to it, because it suits you to a T.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      How disingenuous.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • longtooth

      I don't know if there is a god. I do good deeds because I want to.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Edward001

      What if the Muslims are right? What if the Jews are right? What if the Hindus are right? What if the Buddists are right? Then all Christians are punished just because they weren't born in the right family.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Timothy C

      LinCa here says it all. It's not an either/or proposition. It may even be possible that if a God exists, he/she doesn't want us to pray to him. If he/she wants us to take more time to help others instead of worshiping him/her, we could receive "damnation" for our belief, and "salvation" for being agnostic or atheist.

      That may seem silly, but it goes to show that it's not either/or.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • SMSB

      Do you have to believe in God to be a good person? I am an atheist, but dedicate my life to doing cancer research to help improve other people's lives without the need for a higher power to tell me to do so. If there really is a God, I believe he would put me in heaven before those terrible, selfish religious people who spew hate everywhere, but sit by their bed every night and tell God how much they love him. If there is a God that would accept them before me, I'll join the party in Hell by choice.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Acendar

      I've heard that if you bold + cap all your words it makes a stronger impact. Also, you are dumb.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Derek

      So you're basically just believing in god for the purpose of hedging your bets? How foolish and insincere.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Michael comer

      Pascal’s wager=It posits that there's more to be gained from wagering on the existence of a CHRISTAN God than from atheism, and that a rational person should live as though a CHRISTAN God exists, even though the truth of the matter cannot actually be known.

      How many gods don't you believe in?
      1: You don't believe in Zeus, the most powerful of the gods according to the Ancient Greeks, you don't believe in any of the other gods, goddesses, spirits etc of the Greco-Roman pantheon.
      2: You don't believe in Odin the most powerful god for the Nordic religion or in the rest of that pantheon.
      3: You don't believe in the ancient Celtic gods and goddesses who required human sacrifice.
      4: You don't believe in the ancient Aztec and other South American gods/goddesses who required human sacrifice.

      Those above are just a small sample of gods and goddesses you don't believe in.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Eric

      Pascal's Wager.....if the lure of paradise or fear of eternal damnation is the sole foundation of your faith in god then what does that say about you or god?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • pchman

      Assuming there is a God: God would not require you to believe in him/her to justify going to Heavan, God gave us a brain, God, it seems, would want us to use it. To NOT use it should be a sin! And believing in the existence of a "God" has nothing to do with whether you are a good person, or have virtuous morals. If the only reason you are a good person is because you fear going to hell, then you have bigger problems.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • John

      Because I choose to use L-O-G-I-C.

      And, if your "God" is as great as you claim, I'll get into heaven without waiting in line. I covered all bases by "asking Jesus into my heart."

      So if he's real, he's in there, but I still don't believe in "Him".

      Ticket to Heaven = purchased

      You can always beat the system, even "His"!

      August 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • fred

      You bought into the lie, huh? Think for yourself and stop being trapped by fear tactics. Take a look around and try to name one miracle that wouldn't have happened by accident. Does god have a plan for the starving children in africa or does he just like watching the misery he created? Tsunami in Indonesia? What did those people do to NOT have god stop it? Show me an amputee that regrows a limb and I'll believe in a god and miracles.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  12. There. Are. No. Gods!

    There. Are. No. Gods. And you know it.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Ransom

      Prove it? Oh wait! That's just an opinion.You.Can't.Go.Get.Some.Real.Logic.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • what?

      ransom – your logic is flawed as you dont take into account the fact that you need to be able to prove the existance of something before han to disprove it, the easiest way to disprove god is the fact that there is no proof he exists in the first place.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  13. what?

    yea, who would of thought that people who are smart enough to use the internet are mainly atheists while those who can't fathom technology are not.
    the author is also another 1d10t who thinks atheism is a religion,

    August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Sweetheart, try, "Who would HAVE thought..?" It's called English, and there are good reasons to understand it as a mode of communication.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • what?

      ah man, you got me, I did not cap a word and used english slang instead of proper american, as proper english is completely different, because I am not in school nor am I being graded for this.
      If your only rebuttle is "learn english" you have already lost the argument.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    The truth is that there are nothing that cannot be eventually explained through some rational means. People revert to the supernatural out of cultural habit, because they are told they are incomplete if they lack faith: nonsense. They are incomplete because they deliberately shut off a path that can lead to understanding how the world really is, not according to what some heavily edited text written centuries ago tells us. If you want a viewpoint based in the Dark Ages, by all means, go to church/synagogue/temple/Mosque/bush/whatever. I prefer reason and science, because it allows for new information and new viewpoints. By all means pray to your imaginary friend if it makes you feel good, but I will go stargazing and embrace what a beautiful universe I live in. You will be stunted in your quest, I will grow. I will take growth any day.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  15. In the name of God

    Whether you are Christian, Jewish or Muslim it does not matter. Life is a TEST. You are suppose to live a life of good deeds. That means not only not doing what you are not suppose to do BUT also doing what you are suppose to do. Life is a test for the hereafter. If you pass the test you enter paradise. Life is not suppose to be fair. If it was there would be no purpose for the test. Everyone would be perfect and there would be no reward. Heaving said that God was there in Aurora, however so was Satan. Satan convinced Holmes to kill. God new of this. He could have stopped it but remember this is a test. We do not know whether or not those killed will enter paradise. There test is over. Some or maybe all will enter paradise. Perhaps not. Its Gods will. We will all die someday. Some of us easily some of us horribly. Some of us are filthy rich some of us are just plain filthy. But the bottom line is that God will reward those who deserve to be rewarded. And no one is more fair than God. Why someone would take a chance and not have faith in God is beyond me. Not doing so may mean eternity in hellfire. DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THAT CHANCE. NOT ME.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Zach

      I don't believe that I will spend eternity in hell. i believe we will all spend it in Oblivion, and that is far more terrifying than any notion of an eternity of pain and suffering.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      All I have is your word to go on: if I get an answer, that denies faith, so what would my "faith" be based on, since proof denies faith?

      August 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • what?

      it is always interesting when a christian thinks they can speak for god. LOL

      August 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • vgnsnr

      Yep. I happily take that "risk". A blackmailing "god" should feel free to send me to "hell fire". Only: there is no such thing. I can easily decide based on other value sets and common sense what is right and wrong and what to do with my life. That's all. I just don't believe in any higher spirits of any kind. Doesn't mean that I'd disagree with moral principles that our society has come up with. They often make sense, are logical and based on philosophical principles that work without supernatural beings.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Vic of New York

      Like the man said.... "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.' "

      Hey, maybe if you were a caveman you'd still be worshiping Fire – you know, why take a chance? Better cover ALL the bases.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • JasonFrmTampa

      Recently there were some people who tried to sell me vitamins based on the same reasoning. They cost $150 a month, but will make you live 20 years longer. Therefore, why would anyone not buy them? Why take the chance, you could live 20 more years taking these miracle pills. Dont you want to live 20 years longer? They had some line graphs and a book they called proof, but I suppose religion has a book too.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Timothy C

      So...by that logic, all Native Americans were saved (by virtue of their ignorance, in the manner of innocent children) until the Europeans brought along the concept of the Christian God and Satan. Then, and only then, were certain Native Americans condemned to hell because they knew about Christianity but rejected it. That means, in effect, the missionaries delivered eternal damnation to many, but did not bring any more to God since God would have saved those who had never heard his word (and so had no reason to be condemned for ignorance not of their own fault).

      It doesn't add up.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Dear "In the name of God": For starters, please stop taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain. No, honey, that doesn't mean "Don't curse!!" It means using "God" in a VAIN way, as in, "I know what God wants, I speak for him". Cut the VANITY cr.p.

      Now, on to my point. Anyone who brainwashed you into thinking that you are taking "a Test" for some report card in the future, well that line of thinking is basically IDIOT CONTROL. OK, so most people are no too bright, are they? Bring on Religion, and convince them that this life is not the Real One. Take their money, their property, their kids, their minds, and have them bow their heads to you as they die. It's a WIN-WIN for anyone in power.

      Listen Bub, this life is SPECTACULAR, and this life needs no further reward system to make it more wonderful. You need to get your head out of the and and make this very moment the most important of your life, because EVERYTHING you have ever done has led up to this very point. If you're waiting for a payoff in another life, the joke's on you.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • TJ

      I don't believe in God but even I see that non-believers have just as much intolerance for those that do believe in a God as the religious have for us. I don't like religous people pushing God on me as much as they don't like the fact that I don't think any gods exist. If each group refrains from pushing their beliefs on others, there is really no reason to fight. What works for you works for you. What works for me works for me. I'm fine with whatever happens or doesn't happen when I die. I just don't want to live in fear that I will be punished if I don't live up to God's expectations. This is my cholce. This is my life. Let me live with my rewards or punishments. and I'll let you live with your golden gates and brimstone.

      August 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  16. New America

    question for the aethiest. have you people ever come accross a supernatural event? just curious

    August 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Camper

      nope

      August 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • tony

      Yes. The reported parting of the red sea by a loving god and the massacres of 100,000's of innocents of the recent tsunamis, by, of course, the same "loving" god.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • What

      Has not thing to do with god...Duh. Nice tried

      August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Skwisgaar Skwigelf

      No's you dipss.h.i.t, If its is happenings, then its is naturals.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Nope. Please tell us what happened when you had one with your imaginary friend, then provide proof that can be replicated and repeated.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • New America

      ok.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • What

      @Tony. LMFAO...............hahahah

      August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Cq

      There are events where we don't know what the answer is yet, but we resist the urge to just assume that something supernatural is afoot, especially since supernatural explanations tend to fall away upon closer examination.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • what?

      nope and neither have you or anyone else who claims to, everything is explainable.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • New America

      lol silly people. Jesus offers salvation to all. My part is done. Good day and God bless carry on... hahaha JAJAJA lol CNN ROCKS!

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • BRC

      No

      August 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Timothy C

      I'm agnostic, but a "supernatural" event wouldn't qualify as evidence for God. Something "supernatural" is just as likely to be something natural or artificial that is beyond our ability to understand (at present). For example, an iPad would have seemed supernatural to 4th century Romans. It may be that there are similar examples in the present world of natural phenomenon we don't yet understand, or (much less likely, but theoretically possible), advanced alien technology that we perceive as supernatural events.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • mandarax

      No, and I have serious doubts that anyone ever has. Things we don't understand are often explained as "supernatural" (outside of nature), but the fact is that we have a pretty limited understanding of nature in the first place. Our limited minds are eager to claim "magic!" for anything we can't immediately understand.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Agnostic bordering Atheist

      Yes, I have experienced things that I can not explain. I have had moments of premonitions (in the forms of dreams) coming true years later. Nothing life changing, just moments where I know I had dreams of that exact moment before. Just because I can't explain why it happened does not mean that I turn to the 'supernatural' to explain it. It just means there is more to the universe than we currently understand. I'll always put more faith in the human brain and imagination to discover the details of the universe.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • wakeup333

      Nope. I'm 63. If god was real, you'd think I'd have seen some proof by now. Not one invisible being (god, angel, devil, demon, spirit, etc) sighted in 63 years. Not one miracle. Just lots of people claiming those things exist, but none able to prove it either.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • abolish

      No one has ever witnessed a "supernatural" event. Transcendent, beautiful, amazing, moving, unlikely, but not supernatural. Just because the grreat majority of people are ignorant and willing to ascribe supernatural to explainable phenomenon does not make it so.
      The universe is amazingly amazingly amazingly explainable through natural processes alone. Please dont bring up non eye witnessed, decades delayed, and thoroughly translated (and mistranslated) and transcribed (again, many errors) books as "proof".
      Jesus would kneel before a 10 year old with an iPhone if time travel were possible.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • vgnsnr

      Never. Why?

      August 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • silmaril

      I've never seen one. I'm curious if you have and if you have will you describe it?

      August 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Steve C.

      I saw a UFO with about 60 others. And then all of the others disappeared and I was alone in the desert with no name. god = damn that pusher man!

      August 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  17. TF

    Gun lobby seems to keep harping that massacres happen when people get very angry or psychotic! How come angry people in Taiwan or South Korea do not seem to causing such mayhem when they really lose it on a bad day? Angry humans exist in all countries! Civilized nations simply make sure that guns are not available for anyone, except police and military. I guess we are far from being civilized! Thanks to CNN for keeping the gun debates going! As long as we keep gun-nuts busy indoors replying to ever single comment on such forums, there will be fewer bullets flying in our national parks and cities! Gang violence happens in predictable areas. White men massacres cannot be pin-pointed! And when they get angry, they kill plenty!

    August 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Cq

      What's more dangerous, an angry person with just their bare hands, an angry person with a knife, an angry person with a gun, an angry person with a bomb, ... ? The angry remains the same, but the tool that he uses to convey that anger gets more efficient. Limiting the efficiency of the tools available does limit the amount of damage a psychotic can do. Simple.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • vgnsnr

      I disagree on several points:

      a) this has not much to do with guns. Crazy people looking for their moment on CNN (think about that implication for a second) will always find a way. Are we going to ban cars, box cutters and fertilizer as well?

      b) Some of the most civilized countries in the world not only allow weapons – they distribute them! Why is it we only have this discussion anything something terrible happens here in the US? Why not in Switzerland, Norway, Austria or Canada?

      c) I don't like guns. Certainly not in the hands of idiots. But you know what? I went and got myself a license to carry. Not for hunting or for self defense of the home (pepper spray is much better and safer for that) – no, but because I came to realize what the 2nd amendment is really about and what's at stake once the government goes bad. They have to fear us. And I'm not one of the conspiracy theory whackjobs who is expecting anything bad to happen anytime soon.

      d) They can have the bibles but not the guns...

      August 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  18. saint

    More like stirs CNN.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  19. Camper

    They told me to use the brain that God gave me. So I did...and now I am an athiest.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • someone

      Apparently not.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • What

      LOL....

      August 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • New America

      First comes the aethiest, then they will turn you into a Gay. Im good im straight im christian. Go on with your butt taking self lol

      August 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Camper

      Funny. Well here is the thing. I am happily married to a woman and educated. I was brought up catholic (attended religion classes every sunday, followed by mass) and was confirmed in the 10th grade. Never missed a sunday school session. learned all the do's and don'ts of religion, read the bible and all the other hokey things. Graduated H.S. and went on to college where I majored in the sciences (B.S. and M.S). Sat through the biology, zoology, botany, chemistry, and physics classes. Read Darwins take on natural selection and weighed both sides of the story before making my decision. At least I can say that I made a conscious effort to weigh both sides of the issue. Most (religious and non-religious alike) dont. They just go on believeing what someone tells them to do.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      New America: Gay is natural...your ignorance is due to inbreeding. Get back to the sand box now little one, the adults are talking and you add nothing substantial to the conversation. Come back when you have put away that giant book of fables and learned to think for yourself.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  20. Zach

    I have no issue with religion, people can believe whatever they want to believe, as long as they keep it to themselves. Going on television, or the internet, and claiming that all of our issues are being caused because not enough Americans love "God" is pure idiocy.

    If there is a god, which I cannot claim to know or not know, but it seems to me that it is insanely prideful to claim that humanity, alone of all the species in a universe so large as to be beyond our comprehension, are the personfication of It. And fruther, any being capable of willing an entire universe into existence would likewise be far beyond our ability to understand.

    That's just my two cents on all of this.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Ok

      you are so plentiful with words very many good long time love. very good

      August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • someone

      Exactly. For some it seems, humans are the end all be all to intelligence in this universe. I agree in that our pride gets in the way that there is a possibility of a supreme being with power and intelligence beyond our wildest comprehension.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:31 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.