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My Take: With Olympics, we yearn to be like gods
August 11th, 2012
11:00 PM ET

My Take: With Olympics, we yearn to be like gods

Editor's Note: Joseph Loconte, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at the King’s College in New York City and the author of The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt.

By Joseph Loconte, Special to CNN

(CNN) The ancient Greeks, especially the frugal Spartans, would probably balk at the commercialism that saturates our modern Olympic Games. And it’s doubtful that either badminton or beach volleyball would satisfy their appetite for blood-and-guts competition.

Yet we share something with the Greeks every time we assemble for this great athletic contest: a desire to transcend the politics of the moment and reach beyond the ordinary limits of human achievement. That desire has been on full display during the London Summer Games.

Begun in 776 BC, the Olympic Games soon became so important to Greek life that conflicts between participating Greek city-states, which were constantly squabbling with one another, would be suspended until after the games. The great historian Thucydides described one such scene in his classic history of the Peloponnesian War.

“The whole gathering at the festival was terrified that the Spartans might arrive under arms…and it was thought that there would be a crisis,” he wrote. “The Spartans, though, fell quiet and let the festival pass without incident.”

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So, too, today, as nations put aside their political differences to compete in London. Why? And what makes us interrupt our daily routines to join this provocative world of triumph and tragedy?

Surely it’s not merely to see records shattered, which happened plenty this year, including Michael Phelps’ record for the most number of medals won by a single athlete.

The competitors who capture our hearts are those who achieve greatness because of their sacrifice, humility, and what the Greeks called arête, or heroic courage. No Greek Olympian achieved honor either by shrinking from adversity or by feeding his personal vanity. Then and now, glory seems the proper reward for the Olympian who embodies the classical virtues.

Think of the triumph of American sprinter Jesse Owens at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Nazi Germany, deep in the grip of racist ideology, directed its hatreds not only at Jews, but at all non-Aryans. Imagine the shock to Nazi Party elites when a black American, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of slaves, stared down fascist propaganda, bested his rivals and took home four gold medals.

Hitler was furious, but tens of thousands of ordinary Germans at the stadium that day cheered him on.

Although just a boy at the time, I remember how a 17-year-old Russian gymnast named Olga Korbut captured the world’s affections at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Cold War tensions were simmering, but the “sparrow from Minsk” enthralled the West not only with raw talent, but with charisma, innocence and contagious joy.

Olga Korbut almost singlehandedly shattered the Western stereotype of the Soviets as stoic, unfeeling automatons.

Or think of Manteo Mitchell, the American sprinter in London last week who said he was just “doing my job” when he completed a 400-meter relay knowing he had broken his leg long before the finish line. He couldn’t bear the thought of letting his teammates down; he soldiered on. “The only way he would have stopped,” said Coach Danny Williamson, “is if the leg had fallen off.”

This is why the Olympic Games retain such a powerful hold on our moral imagination: We get to see what human nature is capable of in its nobler moments. We witness something so remarkable that it shakes us loose from our preoccupations and prejudices.

Such moments reveal what Christian writer C.S. Lewis called “our inconsolable secret,” our universal longing to bridge a gulf between our ordinary lives and this extraordinary life set before us.

What is this longing, this nostalgia for a world that exists outside of our actual experience?

Recall that the original Olympics were awash in religious imagery. The games were dedicated to Zeus, the chief of the Greek gods. Priests were on hand at every event, offering sacrifices and benedictions. Victory wreaths were made from olive trees, considered sacred.

In the minds of the Greeks, the heights of human achievement were somehow linked to the divine: when athletes won glory, they stood in the presence of the gods.

It is easy for us, as sophisticated and secular people, to dismiss this thinking as the childish projections of a superstitious age. But perhaps the Greeks were onto something.

Perhaps, in all their striving, they revealed a stubborn truth about the human predicament. For there seems to be something common to societies and civilizations everywhere, lodged in our DNA, that reaches anxiously for another world: a community defined by strength, courage, justice, and love.

As Plato described it in The Republic: “The city we have founded, if we have built rightly, will be good in the fullest sense of the word.”

The Olympic Games help awaken in us the desire for this city, what Christian thinkers such as Augustine called “the city of God.” In the Christian story, the tragedy of the human condition is that each of us is forced to live outside of this celestial home.

We are cut off from the grace and beauty and love of God. We may view his city from afar, but we cannot enter. We may think we belong there, but we are treated as strangers.

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This sense of alienation and longing is hinted at in other religious traditions: in Buddhism’s attempt to escape the cycle of suffering, for example, or in Islam’s description of paradise, where the righteous “shall have all that they desire.” Each admits that something has gone terribly wrong in our world.

In the Christian hope, man’s tragic plight is overcome by God himself. We are given a promise that God would take on human frailty and make a way back to his sacred city. “I will bring them back to this land,” God announced through the prophet Jeremiah. “They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Is it possible that every time we rise to applaud our Olympic champions, we anticipate this final homecoming?

If so, then Olympic glory is a faint picture of divine glory: to be welcomed back into the heart of God, accepted, approved, honored and blessed.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joseph Loconte.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: God • Opinion • Sports

soundoff (606 Responses)
  1. Puzzled in Peoria

    When this guy pulled a C.S. Lewis quote out of context, he lost his credibility. Take these athletes off the training routine for a year and they won't be able to do any of this. Let them age a few years and they'll look like fools trying these feats.

    Do any of these accomplishments actually HELP humanity with its worst problem, sin? No. Do they help with suffering, poverty, disease, aging, and death? No.

    We aspire to be gods more when we are proud, selfish, cruel, greedy, lustful and arrogant. Not because that's how God is, but because we want to make our own rules. That's what aspiring to be God is about.

    The Olympics is just a bunch of half-naked people doing things that have no bearing on the real world and hoping to turn it into money later. The host city hopes to make a ton of tourist money and TV rights cost plenty, along with commercials that sell for a lot of money.

    This writer needs to get out of his ivory tower. What a goofy article.

    August 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      actually they do help wth suffering as many of these athletes go on to professional sport careers, which bolster the economy and provide jobs.

      as for "sin", that is a just a religious concept of "good and bad" and not real.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • ttwp

      "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." 1 John 1:8

      August 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  2. Answer

    @Lynaldea

    I've heard this spiel of being "happy" from ages ago..

    "You are not as happy when you are without god." <<– this sentence is your whole b-a-s-i-s for "n-e-c-e-s-s-i-t-y". Because you can't tolerate the happiness without a god. The concept eludes you – because your thought process is always convinced that you need a god to be happy. A falsehood.

    –quote–
    "Answer, yes, you are correct, no sarcasm necessary. Human belief in god or a gods is as normal and necessary as our bodies needing water and our lungs needing oxygen. Good, you're getting it now..."

    To hear you recite that "you are correct" - only confirms the indoctrination.

    "Once a sheep – always a sheep."

    August 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Answer

      @Lynaldea

      It is your rationale for a better word to equate your blundering viewpoint as a truth for the mere words which you want to voice. Happiness is a subjective matter. The subject that you contend to make you 'most happy' comes from your belief that you want your god to be truth. Equating thusly that everyone should feel the same way you do. Always the raw empty useless emotions of the religious...

      You've been thoroughly indoctrinated – the poison of religion of what you've consumed – now you want others to share in drinking poison. Everyone should know the poison for poison.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Answer, I never have claimed that everyone should believe in what I believe, never, not even a hint. Further, the happiness I find within believing god is not because I need god to be happy, but rather I choose to believe in god, and it creates happiness. You've got it wrong as far as how and why I believe in a god. Bother somebody else.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Answer

      "and it creates happiness."

      LOL

      Sweet talk to me some more. I love to hear how you were emotionally coerced to your religion.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  3. Radar

    No wonder I've been feeling like a Mormon since the games started....

    August 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  4. Answer

    "Oh look I think I can win if I proclaim that people are trolled."

    Hilarious.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  5. King

    atheism is poison for humans in this planet

    August 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Does this conjecture come with evidence or is it just your opinion?

      August 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      No, you fool, not humans – those are called C.H.U.D.s that some people think live IN the planet. And they would require some make-believe stuff to keep them going – it gets pretty dark down there. But people that live on the surface of the planet can do just fine without all that stuff that other people made up. But they have to be strong-minded and take responsibility for their own lives to be atheists so that they can assist with the more weaker-minded of their species – it's a big job.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Keith

      And religion ISN'T
      You poor fool.

      August 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  6. !

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler (denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders who killed religious people because of their religious cult!
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most atheists are uneducated... No atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are atheists/agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a † nation and will always be. You know it's true and stop being ignorant and arrogant!
    (Take a look at our federal/state holidays, 99% of our presidents, blue laws in parts of the nation, the majority of people, some laws, calendar, culture, etc.).
    http://rightremedy.org/tracts/7

    August 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Observer

      Ignorant, thoughtless drivel.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      Such wonderful logic! I think I'll use it.

      So, since you don't know the origins of the universe, therefore invisible, pink unicorns must exist!
      This is awesome!

      August 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Yeah, never mind that the country was founded on a concept of "separation of church and state" and has a history of enforcing such.

      1) Atheism is not a religion, it is a point of view.
      2) Federal state holidays? Like... Memorial Day... Labor Day.... President's Day....Independence Day? Heck, we don't even get Easter off in this country.
      3) I won't even bother commenting on the rest of your "opinions"....only a fool argues with an idiot.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • King

      Christmas Day is a federal and state holidays.

      Easter falls on a Sunday, which is a non-working day anyway (Malls and many places open on regular Sundays are closed for Easter)

      Good Friday is a holiday in 13 states

      August 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "**Only 2-3% of the U.S. are atheists/agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**"

      Matthew 7:14
      Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

      You realize you're not really doing christians a service right? Keep up the great work!

      August 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Observer

      ! doesn't set this up quite right. It doesn't have that glow of authenticity. Brass, not gold.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Answer

      And computers and technology are all atheists' inventions. XD

      August 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      oh, someone finally learned to use cut and paste. too bad they grabbed a set of unfounded lies to use as practice material.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • David V

      At least this is an improvement over the usual drivel you post.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What a silly statement, David. The post is completely idiotic, and the moron who posted it can't even manage to spell the words it uses. "Atheists have a goth lifestyle"? And you think this is not drivel?

      August 12, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The only statement where I agree wiht this troll is the one where he says the

      "USA is a +(size) nation". We really do have an obesity problem. Too much 'prepared' starchy fatty foods. Portions are too large to justify a charging a higher price with better restaurant profits etc.

      August 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Keith

      This guy must live under a rock, " Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind"
      He obviously has never watched any of the religious channels on a Sunday morning or any other morning for that matter. If he had he would have heard the priests in their pulpits screaming and drooling with stupidity, anger, hatred and loathing, and he has the sheer audacity to say that atheists are ANGRY.
      Sorry I just fell off my chair laughing, or was that crying.

      August 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @King (and Reality Check)

      Federal holidays, OK, which of these are Christian?
      New Year's Day .................. nope
      Martin Luther King Jr. Day .... nope
      Presidents' Day .................... nope
      Memorial Day ........................ nope
      Columbus Day ....................... nope
      Veterans' Day ...................... nope
      Independence Day ............... nope
      Labor Day ............................. nope
      Thanksgiving ......................... no, not really*
      Christmas Day ...................... bing! bing! One out of 10! That proves it for sure!

      * How many Americans go to church on Thanksgiving or do they eat turkey and watch football?

      Applying logic when, you say that 13 states have Good Friday as a holiday, then the US is only 26% Christian.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Simran.M

      Only 2-3% of Americans are atheists – And yet they threaten you so much that you have to find 100% true reasons to say their claims are right???

      Just thinking out loud here?

      Well actually, according to a 2009 report by the American Religious Identification Survey, people claiming to adhere to "no religion" made up 15% of the population in the US.

      I just read the dictionary definition of Atheism " Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities."
      Atheism is accepted within some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopagan movements such as Wicca, and nontheistic religions. Jainism and some forms of Buddhism do not advocate belief in gods, whereas Hinduism holds atheism to be valid, but some schools view the path of an atheist to be difficult to follow in matters of spirituality.

      Now, Jainism and Budhism essentially practice non-violence (I say essentially bcoz u might want to bring up Thailand and Sri Lanka, even though the violence there has nothing to do with religion).

      August 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Of course France, that notoriously "non-value based" country, has the following holidays:

      Which of these are Christian holidays?
      New Years Day .......... depends (this is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics)
      Easter Monday ............ yes
      Labour Day ................. yes
      1945 Victory Day ........ no
      Ascension .................. yes
      Pentecost .................... yes
      Bastille Day ................. yes
      Maria Day .................... yes (Assumption of tbe Blessed Virgin)
      All Saints Day .............. yes
      1918 Armistice Day ..... no
      Christmas Day ............. yes

      So 10% or 20%* of US Federal holidays are Christian, but 82% of French public holidays are in fact Christian. So by this logic, France is at least 4X more Christian than the United States.

      * If you count New Years Day as religious, which I would argue.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Simran.M,

      these stats are pretty clear:
      http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

      Unafilliated total: ........ 16.1%
      Atheist: ....................... 1.4%
      Agnostic: .................... 2.4%
      Secular unafilliated .... 6.3%
      Religious unafilliated ... 5.8%

      A significant number of the unafilliated believe in some kind of non-specific God, or consider themselves as 'spiritual but not religious'.

      The Wiccans, Jainists etc are counted separately.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ooops, obviously Labor Day and Basille Day are not religious. I rushed the post and missed that in the little edit box.

      Make that 64% of French holidays!

      My apologies for my error.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  7. TH

    God is within the eyes of the beholder. To people that came before us, we are Gods (or witches). Our scientific advancements would appear like magic in their eyes.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  8. oldguy

    IMO the olympics demonstrate how shallow we are. A century ago, it was about sport – mostly track and field. Now we have softball, tennis, soccer cycling and any other thing that can prolong the event so more and collect more advertising revenue

    August 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Timmy

      Today, I was watching groups of young girls doing tricks with volley balls and this is actually an event...Lol....

      August 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      Yes, and we also didn't have cars or tv or internet.
      Things change.
      Sheesh. And by the way, there wasn't any god back then either.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  9. disgustedvet

    Here fishy-fishy . Heh,heh,heh, haters are so easy to hook.They rise to the bait EVERYTIME. Here fishy-fishy .

    August 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      No hate, just disbelief. Why does that make you so angry?

      August 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Timmy

      What's a "hater". Someone who does not share your delusions?

      August 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • disgustedvet

      TOO EASY. Not even sporting . Hook some TWICE in the same day. Now that's a sucker. Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha...................ha.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • ttwp

      "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil." - Jesus Christ

      August 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  10. sn0wb0arder

    sometime in the not too distant future it will be determined that religious "spirituality" is just another of the many traits which make up an individual. some part nature. some part nurture. that instills in a person that "feeling" of spiritual connection. probably not significantly different than the individual trait which causes a person to be attracted to a member of their own gender.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  11. sn0wb0arder

    one thing is absolutely certain given the innumerable deities, religions and doctrines today and throughout history. man is every adept at creating god.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  12. hank

    we ARE Gods ! WE land a rover on Mars, WE control our destinies. WE don't need another hero, WE ARE GODS !

    August 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      nah. we are no more gods than were the men who created god.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      well you know hank, i don't want to scare people by having them try to taste the gumbo before it has finished simmering, but we are all gods in a big way. We are only scratching the surface as far as our mental potential goes.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  13. Reality

    And as the gods close their games: Then there are gods of doping from believe it or not strycnine (Smithsonian's review of Olympic doping) to the latest, gene manipulation. Gods indeed!!!

    August 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  14. tallulah13

    Do they ever post a "My Take" that is written by someone who ISN"T trying to sell a book?

    August 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  15. pockets

    Religion is a cancer on the planet.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  16. Jim Murphy

    It says a lot about the faith of these winners when they stop at the finish line and look upwards to thank the Almighty.
    Congratulations to all those winners that bring honor and glory to God.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      Yes, they are giving praise to Zeus.
      May his lightning bolt strike you if you dare not believe.

      What? That's not the god you were talking about? Not that it makes any difference.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Lynaldea

    TheVocalAtheist, yes I have studied the history, science and philosophies of religion, and do you know what I found? People, man, talking and believing in many different gods, writing bibles, and many books upon books; sacrificing, learning, about these gods. And do you know what else? I am a human being, I am a part of mankind, and I do have a brain. And with this same brain, my ancestors, our ancestors, have believed in such beings, since the beginning of time. You are claiming these beliefs are false and not real, in reality, these beliefs are real, these are people believing, not some creature we are not familiar with. Your claims mean nothing to history when history itself is writing itself; we are all a part of this. What do you have on millions of years of mankind? Nothing.

    Further, I do not press my beliefs of god, or gods upon anyone or anybody. I merely am a defender of the inevitable fact that mankind believes in many things, including gods. These gods are just as real as the air that I cannot see in front of me. Or, dark matter that which science has little clue about, yet chooses to believe it is there themselves. If science can believe in something they cannot see, why can't you? Or in better terms, as Ive said before. What is wrong with humanity believing in gods, or a god? What logical reason is sound enough to dispute the fact that some people believe, and have been for years and years?

    August 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What you are doing, Lynaldea, is defending what you want to believe. Have you noticed the steep drop off in the number of gods worshiped that directly corresponds with the knowledge humanity has gained about the natural world? Ancient humans needed gods to explain the unknown. What's your excuse?

      August 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      tallulah, please, as if science explains the unknown. As you've said before, it is ever changing, adaptable. How can something that is ever changing, be concrete evidence of anything? Sure there are things that science has explained that is near concrete, such as gravities effect on us, or perhaps our creation of numbers in this world, ect, however, for any man to claim that science will ultimately one day achieve its goal, which is to explain, with concrete evidence, all the unknowns of this universe, is absurd. Ever hear the phrase "chasing the magic dragon", or the "mad scientist"? Same concept applies to the scientific realm; the more steps we take towards understanding the universe, the further the universe runs away from our conscious and understanding; the more we think we know, the less we know, the more we understand we dont know anything.

      You claim I believe because I want to want to believe. I claim I believe because I do believe. You claim I believe because my past ancestors believed. I claim I believe because I am human, and that's what humans do. You claim I believe because you think I think I feel lost, and I that I need something to believe in, to lie to myself, to tell me everything will be okay. I claim I believe because I know nothing is perfect, yet within this perfect world I can find something that no one can take away from me.

      I believe because I choose to believe. I believe because the complexity of mother nature if far greater than anything science can ever attempt to explain to me. I believe because there are unknowns that will never be known to us through studies. I believe because I am allowed to believe; I am given the choice to do so.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • cicadasystem

      Lyn, the main issue is that religion is an old system designed to answer questions beyond or capability of understanding at the time. They were created by people who had much less knowledge than the people of today and these beliefs were always taken at face value without anyone doing serious research. Today we are able to explain an abundant of things that were once unknown to us. As a species who learn and study, we should realize that much of these old beliefs are invalid and outdated. The problem is that many people have not learned from our discoveries and still cling to such outdated and false beliefs.

      We know about the molecules in air and have used solid science to suggest dark matter exists. If new research suggests that old beliefs in science were wrong, revisions occur. This is unlike religion where revisions based on research does not occur. It may be scary and hard emotionally, but people need to eventually let go of religion and outdated beliefs.

      Also, mankind has not been around for millions of years or since the beginning of time. Science has proven that and as someone who claims to learn from history and science, it is time to discard incorrect beliefs.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      cicadasystem I understand everything you are saying, and I disagree with your main point that religion was used as a measure, or medium, to explain the "physical things" or "unknowns" in this universe because religion is not meant to do such things. Religion does not care of numbers, or of quantum physics, physiology, it is really a philosophical and psychological measure of mankind; in that it attempts to give mankind purpose, the why, and it aims to sociologically explain how humans strive to believe, in general. How is this outdated? Do sports players not believe they can win a game? Do you not believe you will live another day? Do you not believe you will die someday; surely death is inevitable, it comes to us all? Similarly, mankind will always believe in something, whether it be as said above, or in a god. Science can't tell me that I will not die someday, although science strives to have humans become immortal (now thats another topic entirely). Science can explain to me what my purpose in life is, yet a belief in a god can perhaps provide oneself with that sort of knowledge, regardless of it being "created" by mankind. Anything the mind can possible perceives really starts within the mind. Further, our human brain is the most complex thing we can physically see currently, and if a created god comes from this mind, why and how could religion possibly be outdated; it is neverending; so long as our human minds exists, so will the believe in a god.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      Lynaldea- religion may have evolved to include purpose, but it began as a way of explaining the things which man was unable to explain.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • cicadasystem

      Lyn, there are millions of outdated beliefs. Everything from the shape of our world, to the cause of illness, and the origin of stars were once associated with incorrect beliefs. Religion tries to explain everything from the physical world to philosophical questions. Religion was created because people had questions about the world around them and about themselves. What made mountains? Why do I exist? How does fire work? They didn't have the knowledge or tools at the time to explain these questions so they did it the best they could. Yes, religion does try to explain unknowns.

      The idea of believing in something is not synonymous with what you believe in. For instance if a stranger tells me there is chicken noodle soup in an unmarked can, should I automatically take his word for it? If I believe that there is chicken noodle soup in the can, it does not make it so. We may have an extremely complex mind, but we have the ability to be wrong. The complexity of our minds does not make beliefs fact. No matter how old a belief is, it can still be wrong.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Through scientific searching, humans have discovered the causes of many of the natural phenomena we used to attribute to gods. We have learned the causes of diseases and the cures. We have learned how to look at other worlds and stars and to discern one type from another. We have discovered the building blocks of life, even created them in a lab. We have studied our past, and the past of the universe and found the bones of our very distant ancestors. We have mapped the journeys made by the Earth's land-masses throughout the millions of years before humanity emerged.

      All these things and more, yet scientific inquiry has been unable to discover a single shred of evidence to support the existence of any god. To me, that makes a very solid case against the existence of any god.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Justin H

      Lynaldea: the real problem with your position is it is inconsistent with the real world.

      You use air and dark matter as unseen things to support the belief in a god which is unseen. However, this is an incorrect conclusion. Air may not be visible. But it's affect is measurable. We can view the effect air has on other objects – via wind. We can measure the various elements which make up air. Air is not a secret or mysterious thing.

      Dark matter is a little different. At present it is a hypothesis. Scientists know there is something else in the universe, because they can measure it's effects. They know the known matter in the universe is insufficient to explain a number of natural phenomenon. But what dark matter is, remains a mystery at this time.

      The key point is the suggestion that what is unknown today is unknowable. Remember that it was less than 100 years ago we discovered there were galaxies beyond our own. It's only been 60 years since we understood DNA. These are things that have always existed, but we were only able to discover them with continued research and improved tools and technology. It's true that man may never fully unlock the secrets of the universe. But the more we learn, the more it appears there is a natural explanation for everything. Furthermore, the more we learn about the universe, the more we see a lack of evidence to support the idea of divine creation.

      The reality of religion and god myths is they come from tradition. These myths have been handed down from generation to generation from a time when "god" was the best available explanation for most things. Because people teach these myths to their children from the earliest age, it's not surprising that so many see them as truth. But if you start from a neutral position, it would be very difficult to make a case for any kind of god.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      What gain is there to try to debunk religion, or in the case I stress, a belief in a god? What do people that do not believe in a god, gain from debunking religion, and/or, telling people that there is no evidence? I mean, is there an ultimate agenda? Obviously, as weve discussed that the goal of science to attempt to explain the things around us. The goal of religion is to attempt to explain why were here and give us reasons to wake up in the morning, to sing to, to converse with a being whom we cannot see. I see nothing wrong with any man, or woman, to believe in any gods. Yet, there are many people who desperately try to "bring down", or "send word" that there are no such things as gods? As if believing in a god is non-intellect, or "not wise"? What and who does it hurt to believe in a god? That is something I do not understand. I say science and religion can and should exist peacefully hand in hand.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Justin H, I can't be blamed (not that you are blaming me, i mean this within context) for what my ancient ancestors believed in, nor can I blame you for the recent (100-200 years) discoveries that science has claimed. I understand this. My philosophies are very consistent with the real worlds, I am not alone, I know this for a fact. My position is based upon the fact, as ive said before, that any belief in any god is just as real as the air we breathe. The effect of these beliefs are evident within people; the good, the bad, the joy, the sorrow, and really the fact that these "unknowns" exists, that we will never fully understand these unknowns, the fact that nothing is perfect, yet aesthetically things can appear beautiful within this non perfect world. I suppose this unbalanced equation, with beauty present, and the knowledge that I will not know everything, humbles me, and puts me in my place. These reason, as well as other reasons, provide me with enough support to believe. I do not believe that I believe in the first place simply because my ancestors believes, like a big game of telephone, I believe because I choose to believe based upon my intellect and what I've studied.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Lynaldea
      "What gain is there to try to debunk religion, or in the case I stress, a belief in a god?"
      The simple answer is, "Truth".

      The argument of continuing to follow the paths of the ancestors is fine if you're also willing to continue believing the earth is a flat disk, illness comes from the gods and there for requires a blood sacrifice to heal, the stars are gods, we were born of a giant rainbow snake, etc.,

      "That is something I do not understand. I say science and religion can and should exist peacefully hand in hand."
      Explain how this is possible. You do not understand, not because you don't understand religion, but because you don't understand science.

      Science is about looking at or providing evidence to make it possible to either dismiss or accept theories. Theories which in turn can be built upon for practical use such as antibiotics, cell phones, refrigerators, vaccines... A belief in god does not.
      Science is about not jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. Religion states that it has the final answers already, so just accept it.
      Science is about making the story fit the facts. Religion is about making the facts fit the story.
      Science is about hard, uncomfortable questions. Religion is chock full of easy answers.
      Science feeds on knowledge and understanding. Religion preys on ignorance. (This is not the same things as saying religious people are stupid. I mean this simply as "not knowing," because it is only in the holes or gaps in our understanding that god appears.)

      Personally, I'm not interested in destroying your peace and happiness. My parents are near the end of their life and are deeply religious. I find no reason to disrupt their delusions just so I can make a point. However, in an open forum such as this, there are many of us who feel that ignorance is a hindrance to the development of the species and should be met with extreme opposition whenever possible. You are not my enemy. The ignorance the infects you is.

      You always have the option to reject help. No one can force you to see the light of truth. Any attempts to do so would be foolish. But I hope you will understand that many of us try to reach you with love in our hearts and understanding that reality in the end is a far better choice than fantasy.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      there is a common fallacy that people actually have a cognitive choice in their religion. it is no coincidence that 85% of americans identify with christianity or 99% of iranians identify with islam. from a young age children are indoctrinated into the local religion.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      GodFreeNow Your claim that I am ignorant? How selfish and immature. My believing in god is not ignorance, it is necessary and self chosen knowledge based upon human beliefs. You cannot destroy my peace and happiness whatsoever, so I am not concerned with that. However, I am concerned that there are people like you in this world that will claim that people like myself, who believe, live in ignorance to the truth (as i believe science is but a piece of the puzzle, just as i believe religion in general is another piece to that same puzzle of lie). No one knows full truth, I do not claim what I know to be ultimate truth, yet you yourself claim science is the ultimate truth, hypocrisy. I say both "semi-truths", religion and science, ought to work together to figure out what's going on. And I do understand science, I understand what its motives are, what it strives for. What I do not appreciate are people like yourself claiming people like me, live in ignorance.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Answer

      "it is necessary"

      Yes like water and oxygen. /sarcasm/

      August 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Answer

      When you are constantly on your knees and begging .. you are what you are – pitiful. That is the ignorant religious dolt who says "it is necessary, and with that – the help of my god – 'I am happy' " .. Delusional.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Answer, yes, you are correct, no sarcasm necessary. Human belief in god or a gods is as normal and necessary as our bodies needing water and our lungs needing oxygen. Good, you're getting it now...

      August 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Answer, I do not go on my knees and beg. Sure I may talk, and sing, and perhaps write to this god I believe, here and there. Delusion is science actually believing it can obtain everything it seeks for. There's no need to attack people like myself, it's immature.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Obviously it's not, Lyn; there are plenty of people who live without a belief in a god.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Lynaldea, unless you can prove any god exists, religion isn't even in the same stadium as science, much less on an even playing field. Science deals in FACTS. Religion deals in FANTASY. Do try to learn the difference.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      religion and science share no common ground.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Lynaldea,

      I claim that we are ALL ignorant including myself. As I said, ignorance is defined as a "lack of knowledge or information." Are you suggesting that you know everything and lack no information? What I claim is that science provides evidence which, like stepping stones, can provide us the means to step out of our darkness and into the light.

      I'm sorry that you take this personally. We should all approach ignorance with love and humility the way we do with children. We are all, after all, children of varying ages.

      As I already stated, I have no desire to disrupt your peace. But you must know that the foundation of your peace lies solely on trust and faith. When these are shaken, so is your peace. Should you ever wish to find a lasting peace and joy that requires no effort and no faith, it is available to you. Things which cannot be proven will constantly need to be fed with your energy to keep it alive.

      Consider gravity. How much energy do you spend everyday trying to convince yourself that gravity is real? Probably none. This is peace because there is no effort required. There is only acceptance. This is what's available to you when you stop trying to prove to yourself that which is unprovable.

      "No one knows full truth, I do not claim what I know to be ultimate truth, yet you yourself claim science is the ultimate truth"
      Science is not truth Lynaldea... Science is merely a method by which we fine and discern truth. Truth just is. It cannot be owned by a philosophy, person or method.

      "And I do understand science, I understand what its motives are, what it strives for."
      Help us understand you better. What, in your opinion, is its motives and what does it strive for?

      August 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "Delusion is science actually believing it can obtain everything it seeks for"

      Actually, no, delusion is a mental disorder like the one you have, believing someone or something is watching you.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Wow you people pick and choose words. If you read my sentences, the key point I made is to ME it is necessary, good lord. Moving on...

      tallulah, science is not fact, science is merely an observation of constant changes; it is semi-truth, not ultimate truth. Science is an attempt to explain the things that we can see, the "physical representation" of something. Religion is the science of attempting to explain the things we cannot see, the "spiritual representation", if you will. I will use humans as an example, more specifically the human brain. We can see it when we open up the skull, ect, we can see electric signals/synapses going to and from its respected areas of the brain, and viola, we can talk, we can see, we can think. A brain without a heart means nothing, it is a piece of meat. Oh, but for some reason, a brain with a heart beating blood, and oxygen supplying the lungs and brain give us humans life. All these things make us into something magnificent. We cannot see consciousness, it is just there. Where is the physical representation (via science) of a consciousness? Yet we all know it is there...

      August 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "Religion is the science of attempting to explain the things we cannot see,"

      Now that's precious! Bless your little heart. Now go write a letter to your God you delusional nut.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Answer

      "Can't you understand .. it is only ME." "And what I feel now I want to relate it to YOU".

      "Feel my passion and let me talk some more about my marvelous feelings and we can bond."

      "We'll share in god's word together and you'll come to like me and my god."

      "You'll be happier now that you are now accepting my feelings.. I hope you come around now and be saved."

      "You see now.. you are one of the blessed."

      "You are now saved."

      "Are you not glad you paid attention to me and my feelings?"

      August 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      lol, answer Ive lost connection to what you're trying to do now other than start something a part from the current discussion. Remember, you made up those quotes, and I did not say any of those things you quoted. I actually laughed at that one, nice.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Answer

      Empty useless emotions are as a matter of fact coming from the driveling religious.

      I've seen it all. Just relating the years of banter and useless drivel for others so that they can see where religion and what it is about. Feeling that an idiot wants to share.

      You want happiness.. look at your family. Value them. Value your friends and keep that relationship strong. God is useless and not necessary.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Lynaldea, speaking of picking and choosing words, I said science DEALS in fact, not that science was fact. In the realm of scientific inquiry, when something is found to be wrong, it is dismissed and the more correct version is put in place.

      On the other hand, religion is supernatural rationalization of what is not understood. It's an emotional reaction to the unknown. It deals in wishes and wants, not reality.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Lynaldea

      Answer, I am happy with my friends, my family, with music, art, philosophy, there are many things that make me happy. I do not see a problem with being happy by believing a god, nor do I wish to press my beliefs upon you nor anyone else. That's all there is to is.

      tallulah, I have no problem with you or anyone else not believing. I do however have issues with those that attack my beliefs just because they dont fall within the "scientific realm of reality". God is just as real to me as the keys that I type to write these words, nothing more, nothing less.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  18. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    IMPO, to be a god one would have to "know" them self ...and most humans don't have a clue as to what self knowledge is let alone practice it ... what commonly passes for knowledge and intellect is nothing more than trivial and superficial garbage. Einstein wasn't making clown faces in his photos ...he was laughing at you. "Basic Self Knowledge" Harry Benjamin, used $1. here's your sign start doing ->"the work".

    August 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  19. ekklesiarobb

    Be honest, atheist commentators, you're just as if not more religious as a Christian, and sometimes far more evangelical. You're so obsessed with this being you say doesn't exist that the non-thought of Him absolutely consumes all of your free time. Be honest, with all of your complaining about Christians shoving their beliefs down your throat, you hypocritically do the same thing, attempting to remove the doubt of God's non-existence so that you can make un-converts. Be honest, when you try to call Christians out for thinking their belief is superior, and yet you tread on others beliefs consistently as though they were beneath you. Be honest, Atheist, with yourself, about why you spend so much time on the CNN Belief blog.

    August 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "Be honest, atheist commentators, you're just as if not more religious as a Christian"

      This is one of the main reasons I come here. It is to try and educate you believers. Your statement is ludicrous yet you don't see it as. You are misinformed and hypocritical. I am not going to sit still and allow such utter nonsense to spread without giving another option to a reader or a poster. That's my right as well as yours.

      August 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Cause it's fun to see you believers get all riled up when someone challenges your belief.

      Honestly, I started posting here because there was a headline on CNN that I found objectionable. I can't remember which one, it was that long ago. I stayed because so many christians were posting things here that were, I won't say always deliberate lies, but were factually wrong. I was raised to be honest, so I couldn't let those things stand.

      If believers kept their faith out of politics, if they told the truth instead of spreading false stories (see the article about David Barton) they want to believe, I doubt you'd see an atheist on this blog.

      August 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • ekklesiarobb

      How is it ludicrous, Vocal? You don't need a god in order to be religious in your time and your actions. You need an idea to which your entire life is submitted to, yours being the idea that God does not exist.

      Tallulah, attempt then to keep your atheism out of politics. Be objective for a moment. You're asking a Christian to do what you cannot do, separate your dominant beliefs from the outflow of actions based upon those beliefs. But I digress, this post had nothing to do with politics at all. I find it humorous, however, how you think it fun to see Christians riled up about when someone challenges their beliefs, but yet all someone needs to do is post an article that has a hint of Christian idealism and the comments are flooded with atheistic objection.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      How exactly am I forcing atheism into politics? By not approving of laws based on religion instead of fact? By insisting that real science be taught in school instead of pseudoscience? By voting for people on the basis of their qualifications instead of religion? Please, tell me exactly how I am forcing atheism into politics.

      And I was honest with you about why I keep coming back to this blog. Some of the christians here are the worst liars I have ever encountered. Aside from that, my opinion is just as valid as any other. Since this is a public forum, I will continue to post here as I choose.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      ekklesiarobb wrote some things. oh my, your assertions are ridiculous:

      "You're so obsessed with this being . . ."

      atheists are not obsessed with a being, this is the mental problem with believers; atheists are not obsessed, but must keep a watchful eye on the people who believe in things other men have made up, so that they don't cause in serious problems with everyone and so that they don't propagate too much weak thinking; much in the way a rancher might keep livestock away from certain poisonous root vegetables.

      "the non-thought of Him"

      atheists don't have non-thoughts; we have rational thoughts; and we don't think about "Him"; we think about real problems and solutions and try to help the people whose minds are kind of stuck on make-believe stuff. You know, sometimes peoples minds just need a jostle so they can continue to grow.

      "so that you can make un-converts"

      What in the world is an un-convert?? I think you're too hung up on trying to negate what religious people are and think that somehow that describes and atheist. That's not a good approach to understanding atheism.

      "and yet you tread on others beliefs consistently as though they were beneath you."

      beneath, above or below – it doesn't matter – atheists just recognize this particular type of weak thinking in others and make sure it doesn't lead to bad decision-making. And atheists recognize that even though some people have weak minds and make things up or want to cling to things other people have made up, doesn't mean they are complete imbeciles. The brain is very powerful and has strengths and weakness all at the same time.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Answer

      "Look at you atheists – you too have a religion." LOL

      Heard it ages ago.. still funny as it was back then.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  20. realbuckyball

    Too bad Loconte, in the embedded video, comments on the Road to Emmaus incorrectly. The Emmaus story, is a faith story, supporting the Christian cult, in asserting the "stranger" was Jesus, is some "risen" form.
    a. it is one of the reasons we can think that whatever they actually thought about the resurrection event", it certainly was NOT that a real, actual physical body was involved.
    b. the human attempt to "be like gods" in the Judeo-Christian tradition goes back to the appropriation of the Sumerian myth system, when they assembled Genesis, around 550-757 BCE, and used the Garden myth, in which the man and woman attempted to "become like gods", (encompassing BOTH good and evil), (Chaos). And obviously Loconte has completely missed the point of his own myth system. The point is, it is IMPOSSIBLE. The "temptation" is to "think" it IS possible, not that somehow the temptation validates the error. Sheesh. And these people actually teach this sh1t, and get paid to do so. Simply amazing.

    August 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Prayer changed my oil. Alleluia, amen.

      Exactly. He's saying the frequency of a delusion's occurrence validates the delusion, when in fact his supposed faith position tells his compatriots that the attempt to be like gods is actually futile. Augustine cooked up "original sin" for precisely this reason. Loconte can't really be a professor of religion. (And why do these people keep quoting C.S. Lewis ?)

      August 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      You said it better than I. The irony here, is the attempt to become "super human", involves a real risk. As Phelps has implied, he basically has given up a real/normal life in his quest for this level of athletic achievement. If that IS what REALLY is the REAL Phelps, then, the discipline, and path of choices, was "moral", as the choices promoted the "real" Phelps. Only he can make that judgement, and decide if they were worth what was given up. However, in the end, even with a "heroic" level of choices, he is still a human, and not a god. THAT is what the myths were trying to tell us, NOT that transformation to god status was possible, or desirable.

      August 12, 2012 at 6:42 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.