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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. atheist are grimlins

    Comments show that internet as rain for atheists.

    August 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  2. sigset

    "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."

    I don't know about any other atheist, but I wouldn't step into a church at all, to debate with religious folks or not. I'd rather watch paint dry on the wall. Why the heck would an atheist go to a church to confront religious believers in a church ? They must be really low...

    August 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Frank

      When was the last time you ever heard anybody say that there was a DEBATE in church? There's no debate. The minister TELLS the congregation what to believe and they all say AMEN! Sure, they say that everyone can read the bible for themselves, but in church and even in bible study they still TELL you what the passages mean. Most of the time they don't even explain why something means something different than the literal. They just say it does. It's total BULL!

      August 6, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Well, that is on Sunday. I have seen Bible Studies that have almost come to fist fights over interpretation of scripture.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • sigset

      Re: "When was the last time you ever heard anybody say that there was a DEBATE in church?"

      Observe I said that I would never step in a church and never have. Also realize that I used the term debate loosely. Further, I wasn't talking about as a church goer, was I? No. I was talking about as an atheist, I would never go into church to discuss, listen, or otherwise hear them at all. I have nothing to do with them.

      In short, that part of your post (at least) missed what I was saying, by far.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Frank

      @Mark from Middle River
      First, that can't be called a "debate", and second who won the argument, one of the fighters, or did a pastor put their foot down?

      August 7, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  3. GodFreeNow

    b4bigbang,
    Re-posting this for you since the conversation has moved on to more pages since yesterday.
    You don't have to be a christian to believe that this world will end in an apocalyptic-proportion destruction. If super-viruses and asteroids don't wipe us out, the sun eventually will devour this planet. It's not a matter of if, but when. Should we find our future generations safely on a planet or other habitat far from earth's destruction, the dying of the light will eventually eliminate the possibility of life. No hand of god is required for this. It's merely the conditions of the universe we exist in and the laws of physics.

    The human mind always seeks to divide things into their smallest components to achieve understand, but true understand comes when all is one, as this can only be the complete truth. What I said about materialism applies both be being creatures of matter and expressions of materialism. To divide one from the other is just another dualistic human perspective. We are matter, therefore we materialize. Even certain sects of Buddhism and Hinduism understand this and so in regards to se.xuality they practice tantra, which is basically "mindfulness" in the act of pleasure. (another perspective is meditation through se.x) What they understand implicitly is that to deny the flesh, is to deny reality. Therefore, it is better to bring consciousness to the things of the flesh than to act without mindfulness. People often wonder how the samurai of old could both kill and be deeply Buddhist(whose precepts are founded in non-violence). The practice was and expression of meditation [-do, i.e., kendo, judo, kyudo, sado... (道-the kanji for 'way' or 'path' which is the same from the Chinese Tao... Taoism). The overly explained point here is that mindfulness supersedes action. To focus on morality from a point of construct, i.e., materialism, misses the underlying enlightened truth of Being, over doing. Sorry if that's overly esoteric.

    August 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      b4bigbang, Following up on the history comment. History comes in many forms. One of them is the written word of man. But, history can be interpreted from all kinds of sources around us, including geology, climate measurements, etc.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Tony

      @godfree:

      I remember you because yesterday you made the statement that: "satori was easy enough to achieve"...

      Since so many spend much of their lives in pursuit of it–including Siddartha Gautama–please enlighten us as to how you achieve it so easily and from whence it springs? Are you suggesting that it is a priori knowledge?

      August 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Tony, if people had the power to enlighten other people, then the world would be a much more peaceful place to live, yeah?

      I can however share some common techniques that people employ to help free themselves from the incessant mental activity that distracts them from the simplicity of satori.

      1) Meditation. Find a good teacher, and take the time to discipline and dedicate yourself to a daily practice. At first, you will get brief glimpses of this moment devoid of thought, labels and interpretations.

      2) Stop, or I like to say, "give up." Stop looking for the thing that is with you at all times and closer than you ever think to look. Different words include, "surrender" or "let go"... all are pointing to the same thing.

      3) Listen. But listen without labeling. Sounds arise and sounds go. Why do you need to interpret them? Thoughts come and go, why do you need to analyze them?

      Those are just some basic techniques people use. In time the brief experiences will give way to longer periods of emptiness. As I said, it's easy... just accept what is. The hard time people have seeing this is they refuse to let go of who they think they are.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Tony

      I became Buddhist in 1984 after encountering it in relation to the philosopy of Schopenhauer. i have practiced mindfulness medittion since that time and have experienced several levels of absorption. You failed to answer my question. Do I need to repeat it?

      August 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I believe question 1 was answered quite thoroughly. If not please redefine the parameters of your question. There is a response implicit in my answer to question 2 as well. If you find it unsatisfactory, please rephrase the question in a more direct way so I can provide a more direct answer.

      August 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Tony

      I can only assume that you are using the term satori to mean the state of "quiet mind" or simply the state of bare awareness. .Since you state that it is easy to achieve, this seems likely. Do you define Nirvana as simply the absence of discriminating thought?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Tony,
      Satori:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satori

      Nirvana:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana

      August 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Tony

      I am not a follower of Zen. I am not suggesting that satori–which I assume to be the same as the "enlightenment" realized by the historicla Buddha–and Nirvana are synonomous. I was simply making a jump to discuss the obvious a priori nature of the realization of Buddha nature. Unless you are saying what is experienced is simply Nihilo.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Mitchell McDonald

    Is it really all that crazy to want Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists, and Hindus (and any other religion that nobody knows or cares about) to actually take some time to question ALL of the beliefs retaining to their religion?

    August 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      It is interesting. On the Sunday morning talk shows you have Republican politicians stating that if Democrat politicians would stop fighting and just re-examine their wrong views that they would realize they are wrong and change their views to be more in line with Republicans. You hear the same said by Democrats.

      Now we come to a message board/blog where pretty much everyone..Atheist, Faithful and the Bi-se'xuals of the Faith debate ..the Agnostics... is set in their views, examined their views up one side of the wall and down the other and most important, they have heard every argument.

      Mitchell, you are in a area where each side has heard all the counter arguments to their views. What you are asking, maybe could work somewhere else, in society.. but not for people on a blog such as this.

      I will challenge you on this.... Would you be ok and respect their outcome if they examined their views and decided to remain in the Faith(s)?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  5. Mitchell McDonald

    Inappropriate jokes about recent Sikh temple shooting by an athiest (me):

    A shooting in a temple?! What kind of Sikh joke is this?!

    I feel so bad for all the muslims who died in this massacre.

    At least because of their faith they will be reincarnated, so not all is sad.

    August 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  6. Mitchell McDonald

    Theists? In OUR Internet?

    August 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  7. Clement of Alexandra

    Could God wipe out all evil instantly? Yes, but who among us would be left? None! The gift of free-will carries with it the possibility that people will do real evil and we do! Would you prefer to be a robot? Those are the options and you know we are not robots!

    August 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Mitchell McDonald

      Emotion = Religion
      Reason = Atheism

      August 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Cq

      That's fine, Clement, but do we really have free will? Sure, you can argue that God only knows what is going to happen and that he does nothing to change what we do, but that would be wrong if miracles are real. If God knows what's going to happen, and changes the natural outcome to favor someone, then he is tampering in free will by removing choices that people could have made had he not tampered. So, if you believe in free will, then you have to concede that miracles cannot be real.

      August 6, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Clement of Alexandra

      Cq
      You may have free-will and throw a punch at me. I can block your punch if I am fast and strong enough. But my blocking your punch does not take away your free-will.

      August 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Cq

      Clement of Alexandra
      No, but if I leave my house to confront you with an inclination on possibly punching you when I see you, only to have some weird circ.umstance prevent me from actually confronting you, a circ.umstance that I come to see that as God's way of sending me a sign to believe in him rather than let my violent tendencies take control of me. A sign that I thank God for sending because I believe that I would have probably hit you, or worse, if he hadn't intervened. Then wouldn't God have interfered in my free will by not allowing me to make the decision whether or not to actually attack you once I confronted you?

      August 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  8. BuleriaChk

    Science suggests that after the Big Bang, god smoked a cigarette, rolled over, went to sleep, and hasn't been heard from since.
    However, the Bibble teaches that he woke up, knocked up a poor carpenter's fiance, convinced the locals that it was a virgin birth, and then threw his illegitimate son under the bus when he turned out to be a liberal. The locals testfied that the son appeared to them after his death, a story that perserveres to this day, often as images on the crusts of toasted cheese sandwiches

    August 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • BuleriaChk

      The point is that god apparently has good strong Republican core values.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Mitchell McDonald

      That first sentence just made this atheist's day lol

      August 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @BuleriaCHK

      LOL 😀

      Peace...

      August 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Cq

      You'd think that an omniscient God would know that smoking cigarettes wasn't healthy, but it would explain the way the mid-morning sky looks over L.A..

      August 6, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • jim

      L.O.L! That's funny! It would be an understatement to say you're angry at God or about God, yet you don't believe he exists. It seems you know the story well enough to mock it, but, on the bright side, you don't even have to know any of the story, or know any correct answers at all to such questions as the age of the universe to make a choice for eternal life, because of something called Grace. If you think you can merit Grace in any way by such things as knowing supposedly relevant and correct facts, or by church attendance, or by being a 'good person', (whatever that is) then you don't know what Grace is. It's a puzzling and, as you attest here, at times a very frustrating concept, the Christian faith, but, if you want to care of business in the next life, it's worth letting the paradigm shift happen.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  9. samstubbs

    I really can understand this so-called "New Atheism." It's very much like the culture and music revolutions of the 60s and 70s. People have felt stifled under ultra-conservativism inherited from the puritan past of American Christianity. Unfortunately, I'm a little worried of the over-zealousness of these "New Atheists." I fear it's merely the same beast, just of another color. The pendulum swinging the other way so to speak...

    August 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Super point. New converts to any ideology tend to extremism and have caused enormous harm in the past.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Assuming that atheism is ideology. I'd say that's a rather extreme position to take. Rather, the atheist I know have an experience that is more akin to awakening to reality. What exactly is the extreme of reality and how can we overdose on it?

      August 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I am an atheist because there is no proof that any god exists. It really has nothing to do with culture.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Cq

      samstubbs
      Actually, the pendulum is swinging away from the ultra-conservative evangelicals who began their current counterculture alongside the hippies when they took to the streets, handing out New Testaments, and were referred to as "Jesus Freaks." We "New Atheists" are just on the upswing, along with the children of these conservatives who are tired of all the controversy over gay marriage and evolution. The future looks bright! 🙂

      August 6, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  10. jim

    ...'Theism is bronze age myths, outright lies, and religious division and mental and physical brutality.'

    So is the long-running TV series 'Dallas'. Oh, but wait, they didn't have any bronze-age myths... or did they? If they had any theism in the series, then they had that too. Wonder why they were so popular then? Certainly more popular than religion. I mean, churches, synagogues, whatever would be packed every Sunday or worship day if they have the same 'ingredients' as Dallas. Could it be that perhaps theism is not about what you claim it is? Just say'in.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Cq

      Well, if you'd watched the original Dallas you might come away thinking that huge shoulder pads were attractive on women. If that wasn't a myth ...

      August 6, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  11. jim

    One day, 2,000 years from now, an archeologist will uncover that today, Sunday, August 5th, CBC.ca/news was reporting 7 people dead in the Sikh temple shooting, NY Times was reporting 6, as well as CNN who also were reporting 6 dead. 'Therefore,' says the archeologist, 'I'm going to completely discount this story as a myth: there are too many discrepancies in the accounts of the so-called, eye witnesses'. And many followers of the archeologist will say, 'That makes perfect sense; you're so right I won't even look into it for myself. Those poor, dumb sheeple that believe this story to be true in the face of such glaring error'.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Unless humankind smartens up, and really quickly, 20 centuries from now the only people remaining will be living in caves in the tropics and subsisting on roots and berries.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Giovanni

      Jim, the errors in the bible are the equivalent of CNN reporting that there were UFO shooting lasers at the police outside the Wisconsin temple and 300 people were abducted to the sky and they made into sushi.. and so on for a 1500 pages article full of crap like this. Then you would get a modern day equivalent of the bible.

      August 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • jim

      Giovanni, care to put up some evidence of that or are you just quoting someone who couldn't care less about your eternal destiny?

      August 6, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Cq

      jim
      Except that they would likely be able to also uncover dozens of other reports on the same event, from different news outlets all over the world, with video, related stories, and updates over months to come. This is in no way analogous to the canonical gospels, right? That would be more like their discovering some story from the North Korean state news outlet describing the wonderful works of their president. That would be just like the canonical gospels, claiming events not reported by anyone else anywhere in the world.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • jim

      @Cq: "This is in no way analogous to the canonical gospels, right?"

      There are differences in the four main 'reporters', version of events, recorded some years later by eye-witnesses Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that can be explained the same way as the differences in today's reporting of the number of casualties, or by differences in eye-witness accounts given under oath. Some have applied the logic to bible writings that since there is a difference in the reports then the whole report is bogus. For your standard that other news sources carry similar stories, have you considered life in the day these reports were made and the speed that news travelled in those times, the wars and destruction that have taken place since then and the possibility of reports of the news in other countries being lost? Furthermore, those who followed this faith were in danger of summary public execution and those who took it as credible and 'reported' it in whatever news that would stand the test of time would have been at risk. Sort of like if you have a beef with the police because there's corruption at the top, where would you go and who would support you publicly when they are known to kill opponents of their corruption? As far as being like the North Korean example you cite here, there's no comparison and I doubt the objectivity of your research in arriving at this concluson.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Cq

      jim
      There are reports that the emperor Vespasian preformed miracles too, so we do not always count the reportage of ancient witnesses as accurate. Also, you cannot argue that the gospels are as accurate as modern-day legal depositions. Oaths are sworn in the Odyssey, for example, and descriptions of eyewitness reports are a feature of any John Grisham novel.

      Since Rome won out against the Jews I don't see where you're going with the whole "lost battle" argument. If the Passion events occurred, Rome would have gotten wind of it. However, who was around to witness Jesus' trials? The apostles all fled. Who amongst his followers could have witnessed Herod's words to Jesus, the conversation Herod had with his wife, or other details like what was said between Jesus and the Devil in the desert?

      August 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      They walked with God, yet fled. Christ was not impressive enough that men who walked with him had no faith in him. They saw miracles but still fled out of fear.....evidence in the bible itself that it is simply lies after the fact by men who were not witnesses and had an agenda. Christ was a delusional/insane cultic leader and his followers fled when the party was over

      August 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Cq

      just sayin
      Yes, that would be the other big difference between modern news reportage and the gospels. Modern news reportage aims at being balanced and unbiased (Fox News being a huge exception) whereas the gospel writers were anything but. Their aim, after all, was to spread the "good news". They certainly were not reporting events objectively, so we can easily question the accuracy of what they contain. Looking to them for the truth about Jesus would be like consulting Justin Bieber's fan club for an objective view of the teen.

      August 7, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  12. martin

    Atheism is honesty, reason, reality, facts, science, honor. Theism is bronze age myths, outright lies, and religious division and mental and physical brutality.

    August 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Thus Spoke a Modest Proposer

      When you encounter someone who professes to be an Atheist, take the most personally advantageous action: eat him. Atheists are high in protein and a good source of B vitamins and amino acids. Do not allow yourself to be apprehended by the authorities until Atheists have been recgonized as a game animals by the state. Remember, you have nothing to fear except law enforcement as long as you have braised, roasted or broiled the Atheist to an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees. They are also good in casseroles and fricassees.
      Atheists are a small and weak minority who should be exploited.
      Make no mistake...I am an Atheist myself...but I will never reveal that to the world. It serves my interests to call myself a Christian.
      Do not bore me with notions of how I should obey my "inner moral sense". My moral sense is nothing but a genetic construct, a primitive survival advantage I have outgrown...much like I have outgrown the need for God. I can discard them both easily...they are worthless to me...After all, God Is Dead and the only good is what is good for ME. I am the Superman. I am Beyond Good and Evil.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Thus Spoke a Modest Proposer

      @martin:

      Please explain to me why honesy, reason and honor are necessary consequences of the absence of belief.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • jim

      If that were true, there would be many more followers of religion than there are now.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      In the arena of religion, we are in effect, jurors weighing the evidence. Some of us decided which way we would go even before we heard the evidence. Others decided after hearing only one side of the evidence, or some, but not all, of the evidence. And some of us are undecided with an open mind. But, can any of us be completely sure until we have heard all of the evidence?

      August 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • samstubbs

      @Arvoasitis

      I do believe you perhaps have some of the most reasonable comments on here. In my opinion anyway. =)

      August 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • God is a man made delusion

      Arvoasitis
      Speaking for myself, I was a baptist until I decided to take my minister's advice and read the bible. It was information that made me an ahteist, not the lack of it or any supposed hatred of god. I simply examined all the evidence and rejected that which made no sense.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      @God is a man made delusion
      I've walked the same road. At one point, I started out to read the Bible, cover to cover. I had various difficulties from the beginning but persevered until the murder of the Midianite women and children. At that point, I could no longer reconcile worship of such a monstrous event (even though I did not at the time realize that ra pe and torture were authorized by God to accompany the carnage). But that is to reject parts of the Old Testament, not God.
      So, I moved on to the New Testament, and new problems. specifically, the problem of an innocent Jesus being sacrificed for the sins of the world; add the preposterously unfair criteria used to decide who spends an eternity in eternal bliss or eternal torment. (And I don't even know what to make of praising God in eternal bliss.) But then I learned that each of the writers had an axe to grind and their testimony was slanted. It appears the only reliable testimony on the preaching and teaching of Jesus comes from his most devoted follower, Joseph of Arimathea, but the scribe who took his testimony was an officious military bumpkin who had little use for spirituality (or perhaps he was being cautious - Nero was emperor at that time); so the most crucial information that passes down to us is that Joseph told the story of Jesus with tears streaming down his aged cheeks. And that says more than all the scriptures I've read.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Arvoasitis,
      "But, can any of us be completely sure until we have heard all of the evidence?"
      So basically you wait for all evidence before doing anything in your life? What then tell me in your life do you have all of the evidence for?

      No, none of us can truly be completely sure of anything without All of the evidence but does such a thing exist? We don't have all of the evidence of gravity or the sun, yet we have enough to make reasoned conclusions and predictions. Rather we should wait for the smallest amount of evidence of a god, before we waste our time believing in one.

      August 5, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • jim

      @ God is a man made delusion & Avoasitis:
      There's a step I'm sure you missed that's very much like the one the computer geeks asks you on the phone when your computer won't work: 'Has it been turned on?" This quote is from Paul in the New Testament, KJV and compares: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Any Evangelical would be able to help you with that and it leads me to wonder how bad you really wanted it. That's another step: you have to want it so bad that if you had to 'pound on a judges door after midnight' and you get a 'Go away!' from behind a bolted and locked door you would still keep banging on the door. The results are guaranteed, so I know you have not gone that far on the 'God quest'. Sorry, I know you won't like reading this, but that's the truth of the matter.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @jim, I try to refrain from using the word, "silly" but it seems to keep coming up. Your hopes and fears are based on a man-made story (whether you believe it's inspired by a god or not). Therefore as you would expect, it is full of errors and inconsistencies. You can pretend for as long as you want and believe whatever fantasy you choose to subscribe to, but at the point you see the truth, you will likely agree... "silly"

      August 6, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Cq

      jim
      So, you have to want to believe in God before you start seeing signs of God? Wouldn't that just result in false positives? Your spiritual mentor tell you that God will send you a sign, so you find something that qualifies. Wouldn't a person anxious for God to give them their sign not just assign the most "sign-like" event in their lives as that sign? Everyone has a "good day" compared to their normal existence. If Charlie Brown ever managed to kick the football that Lucy placed for him some evangelical would be there to claim that that was his sign from God. 🙂

      August 6, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Cq, as usual, you said it much better than I.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      No sign of any gods on Mars so far.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • jim

      Yes, false positives; that happens, more often than not, sad to say. But 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' is also true in this endeavor. If you 'test the waters' you may be pleasantly surprised at how hard and how well your mind works to screen out any of the false positives; you can't put your mind on hold in the process as so many 'experts' advise. That will get you false positives for sure. Trying to believe something your mind hasn't 'cleared' in desperation to please their parents just as they did before puberty struck and to get on board with this faith is where a ton of pastors' kids have gone off. Trying to not believe something your inner being is tugging at you to look again at is a very similar process. As far as wanting to believe in God before something happens to confirm it, that's easier, in my experience, than trying hard not to believe in God and expecting all your ducks to line up with that.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • Cq

      jim
      How can any Christian be certain that what they experienced wasn't a false positive? There are no authenticated cases of actual contact with God in which to compare experiences. Even the experiences described in the Bible could all be false positives for all anyone knows, right?

      Trying hard "not to believe" in God is only difficult if you already do believe in God. You were taught to interpret the world as a place that has God as it's center, but such beliefs are not intuitive. It wouldn't be difficult at all for someone who never believed in God. I'm not saying that letting go of the idea that God exists isn't difficult. Escaping the certainty of death really is an attractive idea.

      August 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Thus Spoke a Modest Proposer

    Is it not delightful that the three most influential Atheists in history are, in no particular order:

    Lenin
    Stalin
    Nietzsche?

    Nietzsche: the philosophical godfather of Fascism.
    Lenin,: the creator of communism.
    Stalin: arch 20th century proponent of “humanistic principles”.

    The result of their “humanistic philosophies”?

    At LEAST 100 million dead.

    The time span:? 53 years between the death of Nietzsche and the death of Stalin.

    It would seem thst Atheist butchers are even more efficent than "Christian" ones at their handiwork

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

      Stalin = humanistic principles?

      You have got to be kidding. Yes, because torture, communism, and dictatorships are certainly critical features of a modern humanistic societies... Just look at countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway where these "humanistic principles" run amok!

      And I usually don't even bother replying to ridiculous claims that atrocities of 20th century are somehow the work of atheism. Maybe those guys (far from being the 3 most "influential" atheists) were just bad people doing bad things, none of which were in the name of atheism?

      Just a thought.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Thus Spoke a Modest Proposer

      Stalin, Lenin and Nietzsche were all avowed Atheists. It is historic fact. Atheists love to point out the atrocities of anyone one who has ever walked into a church, but they seem oblivious to the horrors perpetrated by the few avowed Atheists who have ever excercised control over the societies in which they live. They talk much about brotherly love and other "humanistic" faith concepts, but do not want to address the fact that following Atheist logic to its ultimate conclusion produces the Nietzcsheian Superman. The justification of the Nazi's for their "final solution" was not based on the Bible. It was based on the philosophy of Nietzsche.

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

      Your typical flawed theistic thinking would say everyone with mustache is a Nazi. LOL

      August 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Thus Spoke a Modest Proposer

      @martin:

      Why don't you answer the question, Marty? By the way, are you actually serious when you suggest the relative social stability of a handful of very wealthy Northern European states is predictive? It is easy to be an Atheist when you are sipping a latte at Starbucks and dabbling on your laptop

      August 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      I think you are putting too much blame on Nietzsche and Lenin. The slaughter became inevitable in the early hours of August 24, 1939, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed. It contained a secret clause dividing all of Europe between Stalin and Hitler. The division of Poland was to be the consummation of the pact (the remainder of the dividing line followed national boundaries). The attack on Poland began on September 1, 1939, when Germany opened its offensive; the Soviet Union followed suit on September 17, 1939, enabling consummation of the pact on September 24, 1939.
      As for the atheism of Stalin and Hitler, it is well to remember that while an adolescent Stalin was a seminarian and both took advantage of religious formulas to achieve god-like status. As one Nazi functionary put it, "What use have we of god when we have Adolph Hitler?" And the mayor of Hamburg was said to have declared, "Adolph Hitler is the Holy Ghost." And, anyone who fought on the Russian front, could tell you of the eerie sound of wounded and dying trapped on no-man's-land calling upon the name of Stalin in their agony.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • .

      Josef Stalin, (Joseph David Djugashvili)Djugashvili means "Jewison"

      Adolph Hitler (Rothschild), Father: Alois Hiedler. Jewish Grandfather: Barron Salomon Mayer Rothschild

      August 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • .

      Winston Churchill (Jacobson), Jewish Mother: Jenny (Jacobson) Jerome

      Franklin Roosevelt (Rosenvelt), 1st traceable Jewish ancestor: Claes Martenzan van Rosenvelt

      August 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • .

      The White Russians (Christians) were slaughtered by the jews as we everyone, world wide.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Beth

      The Khazars know darn well what the Russian front was all about. They lived above it and pretend that they are Jews and are not, but, got the Jews to follow them.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Mitchell McDonald

      Hitler was a Catholic. (not as bad as Stalin, but still)
      Saddam was a muslim.
      People killing eachother (over pointless crap) in wars today are 99% religious.

      Excuse me, but what was your point again?

      August 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Cq

      Mitchell
      We allied ourselves with Stalin to defeat Hitler. What does that say about us?

      August 7, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  14. martin

    Atheism is the only hope to save humanity from delusional theists, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, with their nuclear bombs

    August 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mitchell McDonald

      Hopefully, us Athiests will be all that is left after these "perfectly competant individuals" have their way with the world! 🙂

      August 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  15. jj

    Atheists Rule!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • jim

      Ahh, jj, that's pure poetry, just like this:

      I met a traveller from an antique land
      Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
      Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
      And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
      And on the pedestal these words appear:
      "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
      Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" (Or, in modern day English: I Rule!!)
      Nothing beside remains.
      Round the decay
      Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
      The lone and level sands stretch far away.
      – Percy Bysshe Shelley

      Now maybe if Atheists ruled mortality, you could say they rule. However, if Atheists ruled mortality, then they would have to believe in immortality. Alas, they don't want to do that, so they can only rule, if they rule at all, as Ozymandias ruled, a planet beset by death.

      If Atheists can fix that major problem, right now, not off in never never land of the future, then I would agree with the statement made by jj: Atheists rule.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Cq

      jim
      Actually, Ozymandias reminds me of what the giant Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio might look to people living a thousand years from now.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  16. Inverse Buddha

    The only thing the Aurora shooter did " wrong" was get caught. Logic tells me that evil does not exist. If I feel "conscience", my intellect convinces me it is nothing more than a archaic, genetic survival advantage outmoded by rationality. The individual members of society have no objective value whatsoever. Individual ife is not precious. It is completey meaningless. When I choose to pick-off the old lady down the street in order to obtain her resources, it is far from "monsterous". I am simply harvesting a herd animal...much as a Native American might harvest a buffalo.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Inverse Buddha

      Here is a copy and paste from the writings of an esteemed Atheist regarding any proposed ethical dilemma confronted by Atheists:

      "Paul Kurtz, a truly great humanist philosopher, received the American Humanist Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007; this award was given to Paul at the AHA conference in Portland, Oregon, U.S. I would like to paraphrase briefly several of the humanist ethical values and principles that he offered in that truly impressive acceptance speech:

      1. Ethics is not derived from external commands but comes from human experience modified by human intelligence.
      2. Life, the here and now, is good for its own sake.
      3. We are confident we can solve our problems with reason, science, education and good will.
      4. We tolerate pluralistic lifestyles without necessarily agreeing with them.
      5. While seeking our own happiness, we are concerned with the rights of others sharing our planetary community.

      No wonder they need the internet as a church. They live their lives by articles of faith that are no more provable in object fact than the concept of “god”.

      But remember: if you choose to believe in some abstract form of divinity because it provides you emotional comfort and appeals to your sense of the unity and wonder of nature– you are a blithering moron–because that divinity is not logically provable nor, perhaps, logically necessary.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Anyone who needs supernatural threats and promises to be a decent human being is not a decent human being at all. I'm sorry that you can't take responsibility for your own actions. I'm even more sorry that you pretend that your lack of accountability is a virtue.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Inverse Buddha-

      I'm unclear on the intent of your posts. Would you mind providing some clarification?

      August 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Cq

      "Evil" exists, but it's a subjective term, not a constant defined by one culture and applying to all.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  17. Nietodarwin

    ATHEIST UNITE The picture accompanying this article proves that we are NOT getting our message out. (The article is somewhat correct, it is nice to state one's COMPLETE DISBELIEF of belief of any kind on the internet. It's better than running the risk of being murdered for it, as has been the case throughout much of history.)

    August 5, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  18. Julie

    I don't know much about what is even in the Bible. I've never even seen a Quran or a Torah. But I feel no need to say disparaging things about those who have read and sturided these books, or about the contents of those books.
    I've enjoyed many things from Lutheran and Jewish services to Wiccan gatherings to schools of thought at spiritualist camps.
    I've ENJOYED being a guest at the church of those who do not share my uncertanty.
    I find that respect goes a long way towards tollerance, and even a good time with friends who see the nature of their existance differently than I might and one day..I might come to a decision about all of it.
    Unti then I choose the path of respect.

    August 5, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • PAUL

      Internet is Evil!!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw_zVjLhzcU

      August 5, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • martin

      Julie, read the bible and koran and find out just how absurd and discusting they are. Reading the bible made me an Atheist http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

      August 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I find that respect is a two way street. I have good friends and close family members who are believers. I respect and get along very well with them, because they are respectful to me. On this blog, I have been called all sorts of malicious, untrue things. I have read all sorts of blatant lies put forth by believers in their effort to bolster their faith. People who behave like that are not deserving of respect.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  19. JackPumpkin

    The "church for atheists" headline is annoying. When stamp collectors interact online, we don't call that a "church." Still, I appreciate this post for treating non-acceptance of mythology as a reasonable option.

    August 5, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • PAUL

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dliYX-DHntg&feature=plcp

      August 5, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  20. GotMiracle

    The article points out the way the internet has become a prosthelytization channel, for some radical atheists. It is a shame that derision & mockery of religions have often become the norm for these internet anti-religion posters. Hijacking tragedies for exploitation by these atheist evangelists (particularly those directly caused by a human being like the shooting in Colorado) is a particularly noxious habit IMHO. Asking for proof of God that will never be accepted by them, or even acknowledged as inexplicable, by the closed minded questioner seems like simply baiting people who have a faith.
    I would happily discuss my beliefs with anyone who maintains an open mind along with their different viewpoint. It saddens me that civil posts on the Belief blog so often attracts name calling like "you are stupid for believing in fairy tales" rather than an intelligent discussion.
    I quite enjoy reading the posts from moderates of all beliefs who are exchanging viewpoints. I am not unaware of the fact that all religions have their contradictions & there are facets of my own that are extremely antiquated. Most religions are a slowly evolving dynamic, no matter how much they may claim to be unchanging.
    I would like to see more discussions. I have lots of questions to pose with moderate atheists willing to compare lifestyles.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • Salero21's god

      get me my violin. 2000 years of theocratic bullying, repression and killing and now, because people dare doubt the existence of the sky fairy openly, the religious feel mocked?

      Hilarious. Remember: guns don't kill people; your fake god kills people.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Cq

      GotMiracle
      Would you call it "mockery" of your faith if I simply mention that I don't believe in "miracles"? For every so-called miracle there is an equally abnormal tragedy. For every patient who pulled through a near impossible accident there is some poor shlep who died on the table getting his love handles su.cked out. People just want to celebrate the good without seeing the big picture, see?

      Many Christians claim to have an open mind, but how many are actually willing to admit that they could be wrong? They like to point out that scientists haven't looked everywhere for God, but tend to deny that we can say the same thing about Zeus, or any other god who may be hiding. If you truly want to open an intelligent discussion on this topic you need to drop the att.itude that you KNOW that God exists and everyone else is simply denying it. There is no proof of this, unlike some scientific theories that the religious deny.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I ask for proof because I seek the truth. I have duly investigated every claim of proof made by a christian, but sadly, they have provided nothing more than emotional appeals, hearsay and scientific research artificially distorted in an effort to make it prove something it does not. If real proof surfaces, I will believe. Until then, I will refrain from believing in a god who is little more than wishful thinking.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • jim

      tallulah13: I've searched for God with an open mind and heart and I struck gold in 1977. Now, after more and more convincing proofs, nothing will convince me otherwise, but these are proofs that do very little for someone not really open to God's existence and God has set it up so you can't find him with 'scientific, hard' evidence you can be proud of yourself for finding. But the evidence I have been given is just as if when you witnessed, say, a car accident and you remember vividly who did what and can recall it on a witness stand no matter what the defense says to protect an errant driver. But in this age, unlike the age to come, God only reveals himself to those who genuinely seek. 'Draw nigh to me and I will draw nigh to you', as it says in the O.T., is so true. Likewise, it says in the New Testament, 'But if any man love God, the same is known of him'. I've found that can be taken either way: the one seeking also knows God more and more intimately over the years, but hating God before you start looking for him, as some do, is irrational and won't get good results. I say irrational because how can you possibly hate something you truly (or maybe not so truly) don't believe exists? And if you eventually come to doubt God doesn't exist and become more open minded in researching God's existence, why would you jump to hatred without researching the whole matter thoroughly? I'm not saying this is the case with you, but, for one, a feeling of deep-seated rejection, of not measuring up, probably as a result of erroneous 'preaching', will bring on hatred for God and if you can't move on past that, sadly, God will remain invisible to you.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @jim,
      "but these are proofs that do very little for someone not really open to God's existence and God has set it up so you can't find him with 'scientific, hard' evidence you can be proud of yourself for finding."

      So basically, it's only proof if you choose to believe it's proof. Very, very convincing and I might add... convenient. Sounds similar to the experience of watching a magician. We all know the as.sistant didn't really disappear. What makes it magic is our belief that it is.

      August 6, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • tallulah13

      Jim, to believe, I require of god the same quality of evidence that I would for any other supernatural being: multiple reliable witnesses and tangible, testable evidence that could not possibly come from another source, or a personal encounter that is unmistakeable in nature (and even then, I would prefer tangible evidence, lest I was victim of a hoax). Why should I require less of god than I would bigfoot?

      August 6, 2012 at 2:55 am |
    • jim

      @GodFreeNow,

      "So basically, it's only proof if you choose to believe it's proof."

      No. You want to believe there is no God and that is entirely your prerogative. To find God you have to want to find God. You don't want to find God. It's your life. Your choice.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @jim, You've got it backward. Believing in god requires effort and desire. Not believing requires none. Do you "want" to not believe in Zeus or fairies? Think about it.

      August 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.