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My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism
Misunderstandings about secularists and secularism do a disservice to America, says Jacques Berlinerblau.
October 6th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism

By Jacques Berlinerblau, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His book, How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom has just been released.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, President Barack Obama is secularism’s go-to guy in Washington. Newt Gingrich refers to him as a “secular-socialist.” Mitt Romney charges that his opponent advocates a “secular agenda.” And Rick Santorum frets that Obama is imposing “secular values” on “people of faith.”

The president, however, seems not to have received the whole him-being-a-secularist memo. American secularists have thrown up their hands in frustration over his supersizing of George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. They roll their eyes at his God talk. As for his recent call for days of “prayer and remembrance” to commemorate 9/11, well, would the late Rev. Jerry Falwell have done it any differently?

After spending years trying to sequence the genome of American secularism, I have arrived at a sobering conclusion: no -ism is as misunderstood as this one. All of which is bad for secularists, secularism and America. Let’s look at some of the biggest misconceptions out there:

1. Secularist: Just another word for atheist: Not true! But that doesn’t mean there is any thing wrong with nonbelievers. Nor does it mean that secularists and atheists don’t share scads of objectives in common (e.g., opposing religious establishment, securing freedom from religion, defending free expression).

American secularism’s roots can be traced to Christian political philosophy (yes, you read that correctly). Its main architects were Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, Roger Williams, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

What evolved was a political worldview deeply suspicious of entanglements between what these gentlemen called “the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.” They asked: “How can we configure our government so that citizens of different religious groups may all live in equality, peace and order?”

Atheists, by contrast, posit the nonexistence of God(s) and proceed to explore the implications of that intriguing premise. Let’s put it this way: While nearly all atheists in America are secularists, not all secularists are atheists. In fact most secularists are not atheists — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

2. Secularism simply means total separation of church and state: Separationism is, undeniably, a form of secularism. But not the only form. Secularists need to accept this, if only because more and more state and federal governments are giving separationism the old heave-ho.

As conservative Christians like to point out, the Constitution never mentions separationism. That idea surfaces in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he lauded “a wall of separation between Church & State.” It was not, however, until about a century and a half later that the wall was actually built. This occurred in a series of stunning Supreme Court decisions that briskly evicted religion from public schools and spaces.

The separationist worldview crested in the 1960s and 1970s. When John F. Kennedy talked about a country where the “separation of church and state is absolute,” he articulated post-World War II liberalism’s dream. Or delusion. Even Supreme Court justices whose decisions helped erect  Jefferson’s Wall conceded that total separation is impossible to attain.

That is because the United States is historically and culturally Christian. We rest on Sundays. We close federal offices on Christmas. We put the word “God” on our coinage. Most citizens are believers. The state cannot logically “separate” from them. As Justice William Douglas - no foe of secularism - once remarked, total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”

Government and religious citizenry are entangled. This doesn’t mean we should endorse those entanglements. Rather, we must recognize separationist secularism as something extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

3. Secularism is for Democrats: This was increasingly true with each passing decade from the 1960s forward. But after John Kerry’s debilitating loss to George W. Bush in 2004, all of that changed. Party strategists now recognized the power of the so-called “values voters” — the conservative Christians whose energy and activism propelled the incumbent to his second term.

A few months before Kerry’s defeat, an obscure state senator named Barack Obama blew the roof off the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he intoned: “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.” It was a harbinger of things to come. By the 2006 midterms, stories leaked about Democratic consultants who advised candidates never to say “separation of church and state” on the stump.

By 2008, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were Bible-thumpin’ with aplomb. Presidential candidate Obama, for his part, was promising to renovate George W. Bush’s faith-based Office. Separationist secularism, long in decline, was about to be rolled. What replaced it? Read on.

4. Secularists don’t make accommodations: Although few have noticed it, the Democrats have pivoted from “separation” to “accommodation.” This means the government can fund or assist religion; it just can’t play favorites. Thus, all religions are equal in the eyes of the faith-friendly state.

Is this approach secular? The jury is still out. Accommodation does respect the First Amendment principle of refraining from federal establishment of religion.

Consider the White House faith-based office. In theory, it funds all religious groups who provide social services (hence no establishment). In practice, however, things have not worked out so well (see complaints against both the Bush and Obama offices). Further, accommodation doesn’t really accommodate or take into account nonbelieving citizens.

5. Secularists are anti-religious: In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves “secular.” Yet the idea that believers cannot be secular is incorrect and politically disastrous.

Secularism, as noted above, was born of Christian thought. Historically, its greatest champions have been those opposed to state support of one church or religious institution, such as Baptists, Protestant dissenters, and minorities including Jews, Catholics, Sikhs and others.

Secularism’s mission is to maximize freedom of and freedom from religion. But unless we start speaking of it in precise terms, and bringing secular believers and nonbelievers into coalition, it won’t be able to render this service to America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacques Berlinerblau.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Church and state • Courts • Politics

soundoff (1,517 Responses)
  1. Martin

    To see the effects of a lack of secularism, all you have to do is look at the Middle East, which is embroiled in conflict and has not advanced culturally, scientifically, economically or politically. The U.S. is fortunate to have been founded during the Enlightenment, when secular values were strong.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Realist

      well stated

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Chmee

      Exactly.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Peikovi

      Yes, absolutely.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • coyote

      yeah, but why did we just kill the secularists in the ME?

      October 7, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  2. Kate

    I'm one of those 'spiritual but not religious' people, and I liked this article. I don't want someone else's religious beliefs to shape the laws of this country. And I don't think the founders of this country did either. I don't mind anyone's being religious...so long as they don't push their beliefs onto me or cause them to interfere with the way I live my life. I'm also tired of hearing religious people make comments that atheists and agnostics aren't moral or ethical. I've found most nonreligious people to be very ethical and usually quite moral as well. More so, I might add, than many religious minded people I know.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Michael

      Thanks Kate. My sentiments exactly.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  3. JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

    Let me sum it up for everyone. There is no god. He's right there with Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny...

    October 7, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • nope

      @jes...
      nope

      October 7, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Realist

      Looks like nope agrees with you.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Mad at Nothing

      ...yep. Once you found out about Santa Claus, everything should have gone up to question. I'm sorry you didn't break free from the brainwash that started when you were born. Religion is a ball and chain attached to the advancement of human civilization. Go away.

      ...and on day 1, man made god.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  4. Michael

    A most excellent article. Finally an article that discusses the history and ideology of this issue. I am a believer and not a total secularist, but one that celebrates separation and longs for religious freedom for all, believers and non-believers. This discussion is not about whether atheism or agnosticism is "better", but why we should seek to have as little interference in faith issues as possible for all people of faith, including Muslims in our country, and for those who choose not to believe. Berlinerblau is correct. These ideas were born out of religious persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries. They actually go back to the 16th century and many Radical Anabaptists in Europe, facing persecution from "protestant" reformers. No excessive entanglement is a wonderful term.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  5. Dave

    Out of nothing, came something. What caused it and how? Some are intensely interested in these fundamental questions. Many believe they have an answer that feels true to them. Many do not, but still seek. Others don't care about the questions. I find those in the third category the most difficult to understand and yet we must be tolerant of all.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • nope

      @dave
      nope

      October 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Realist

      Hey Dave,, that is why we desperately need a de-programming agency to deprogram christians and help them become good and caring people.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. timothyclee

    Many modern Christians seem to now reject the founding fathers deep distrust of organized religion and their obvious secularism. I seems what these neo religious really want, to quote Arthur Miller, is "an Ayatollah" – and we can see how wonderful those models have worked out in the world.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  7. David S

    The author writes: "In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves “secular.” ...

    What is an "extreme atheist group" anyway? Can the author name such a group? Atheists don't believe in god, but I'm not sure how you could extremely not believe. I wonder if the author is just imagining that there is an extreme atheist group out there. If the group calls itself 'secular' and is extreme in some other way - such as extreme soccer fans - then its not extreme atheist, it is an "extreme soccer fan group" that just happens to be secular and atheist. I don't know of any such groups, though.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • snowboarder

      dave – there are activist atheist groups, but i always laugh at the "militant" atheist group label.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  8. Realist

    What is desperately needed today is a national organization to help de-program christians and to help them become good and caring people. I'm not excluding muslim, just far fewer here. In the end, there is no difference between christian and muslim, making the de-programming a needed resource for both.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • HeavenSent

      How would atheists know about what is good and what is caring? Oh, that's right, it's due to Jesus Christ's teachings that you want to abolish. Why? Because you didn't think of it yourself. Pride is your downfall. You hate Jesus for knowing all. Face the facts. Christians have. God created all.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • snowboarder

      Sent – you always trot out these tired old fallacies. morality, the concept of good and bad are constructs of civil society. stop pretending they did not exist prior to the invention of your religion.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Chmee

      Exactly right. HeavenSent is a case in point.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Doug

      Ignoring the statements about deprogramming Christians, the Christian and Muslim faiths have a fundamental difference. Each believes the other is doomed to hell (or eternal separation from God) due to either: rejection of Jesus as the Messiah/way to salvation (Christains), or belief that Jesus is the Messiah/God & failure to recognize that Allah is the only aspect of God (Muslim). To say that there is no fundamental difference insults both faiths, either through ignorance of their core beliefs or intentional rejection of both belief sets. Some Christians and Muslims may also feel that there is no fundamental difference – those people are likely either nominal/cultural members of the faith, or subscribe to a sect that the majority also reject. But that enters a whole 'nother set of arguments.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • HeavenSent

      That's all you atheists do is whine and complain. That's another great point for Jesus.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  9. Luis Wu

    Wow, finally an article (and a journalist), I actually agree with, writing in the Belief Blog. About time they addressed this issue.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  10. BJ

    Judgment Before the Great White Throne

    Revelation 20: 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Agree with God that you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness and repent of your sins.
    Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins and was resurrected on the third day.
    Commit your life to Him and begin the wonderful journey that He has planned for you from before the beginning.

    BJ

    October 7, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Chmee

      Go peddle your ancient mythology and silly superst!tions somewhere else.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • snowboarder

      bj – there is no reason to believe any of that to be true.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • NoTheism

      "Agree with God that you are a sinner"
      Which god are you talking about, exactly? I know of many.
      And, how do you know I am a "sinner" and what is a sinner anyway?
      Thanks.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Great post BJ.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Stupid post B J.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • fastball

      "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
      “A person's a person, no matter how small.”
      "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

      See, I've just quoted great lines from Dr. Seuss. Which ones make more sense??

      October 7, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Jingles28

      Wow...now that's a scary story. Perfect for Halloween!!!

      October 7, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  11. Frank

    To talk of separation of church and state is to talk about placing government before all other influence in the hearts and minds of the people to be governed . Atheism is a religion in every way , it is just one that allows the government to play the role of god .

    October 7, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • snowboarder

      frank – baseless nonsense. keeping government out of religion allows the citizens to make their own decisions. that is what this country was founded upon.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Zach

      Sorry Frank but you obviously cannot comprehend not having religious beliefs. Having no religious belief does not automatically place emphasis on government, no reason it would. You seem to think that no matter what someone has to have a "god" to worship whether it be your god, the jewis god, muslim god, or the "god" of government. Just not how it works.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Frank, atheists will provide any excuse for being lazy, never to learn His wisdom.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  12. acheptler

    Religious people are mostly retraded.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Realist

      Likely not retarded any more than the rest of the population, but clearly they allow delusions based on fears.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • inga

      retraded? wow!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Fear of the Lord is the beginning of learning His wisdom. Atheists learn nothing but, babble, speak nothing but babble, will be blotted out so Christians don't have to put up with their arrogance for eternity.

      Praise God. He is great.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • snowboarder

      sent – you sound like a troll trying to be a bad parody of a fundamental christian. it is difficult to believe anyone could be so brainwashed.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • HeavenSent

      snowboarder, come out of the closet of your phony handle, then we'll posts. Until then ... skip.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  13. El Flaco

    Nothing that was believed before 1500 AD turned out to be true. All of the facts that we now recognize as truth were known to the founders of our religions. They didn't know about bacteria, stars, DNA, gravity, nothing.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Realist

      Even the vatican declared the pope was the center of the Universe.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • HeavenSent

      More fools that learn nothing because they don't know how to read the bible. Everything you lied about in your post is written in the Bible. Go find the scriptures on gravity, it's there.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • snowboarder

      sent – the bible, like the texts of all religions, is a collection of myths.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Go find the scriptures on gravity, it's there."""

      You're the supposed expert on scripture, Ms Sent. How about YOU give a source for your claim?

      October 7, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • HeavenSent

      snowboarder, how's it feel to be a lump of clay that was molded by other atheists before you? Oh, and you believed you thought to be a fool all on your own. LOL.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  14. John "JC" Copeland

    As long as CNN continues to retain "prejudical" staff, articles like this will contnue to flourish and try to confuce the American people. The "separation of church and state" was established in this counrty due to the influence effected by the government through the church and back again on the people who fled from England to establish thisedict. Secularism does not exclude Religion, It simplty states that religion has no part in politice (government) Christians will argue that point much as the Muslims and Jews do, but the simple, note SIMPLE fact is that this country was extablished to ensure we would not have another King upon the "throne" who felt he was also God. when will this country finally begin to unite under the concept that our Government is here to preserve our freedom of religion (Yes, Atheists, in believing there is no "superior being, have a religion) and its separation from the operation of our Government. Look around the World today as we know it and note how many "religions" dictate the policy of that country. Why should we go back across the waters to Engliand and adapt the same philosophy that we ran from in 1600? Answer me this Batman, Is it true that each policital candidate reaches out for the "evangelical" vote because those numbers will ensure a place in the White House? Give me a break and get out of town. Much as Obama has used the failing Unions of this country to support his initial shoe-in as presoident, are we that hungry to the point that the religious communities, e.g. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, etc. are now what we rely upon to run the United States of America? If so, I guess it is time for me to pack, after 70 years here, and go back to Scotland......

    October 7, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • NoTheism

      @John, "Yes, Atheists, in believing there is no "superior being, have a religion" amazing! You have just turned me into a believer.... i guess
      I suppose you're part of the non-unicorn believers religion too? What about the the group of non-alchemists, are you part of that religion also? Is every non-belief a religion?
      I agree with some of the things you said, but claiming that atheism is a religion is absurd.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Chmee

      How utterly ridiculous.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Peikovi

      Atheists are not religious. Bald is not a hair color.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • HeavenSent

      NoTheism. post all the lies you want. Former atheists before you crawled out from under your rock had atheism declared a religion by the Supreme Court. Then you atheists violated the first amendment and had your religion forced upon the American public.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • coyote

      What you are saying is that humans are not perfect – even with the crutch of religion. If we accept your view then anything can be used in the same manor to corrupt the public. ism et al. I might agree with you but I would first have to consult the bones.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  15. Jon

    People, even Atheists practice Athieism to some form or another.

    To complete separate yourselves from religion, call yourselves Agnostic instead.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Ken

      You are incorrect Jon. Almost all Atheists are classified as "Agnostic Atheist. It is a "strong" Atheist who makes the claim that there is absolutely no God.

      October 7, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • snowboarder

      jon – not really. there is no particular reason to believe that any deities exist. the evidence is quite compelling that man is the creator of our many and varied religions.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Mint Mochachino

      How does one practice atheism?
      I am an atheist and I can't think of a single way I can "practice it" any more than I can practice being a non-musician.
      I simply don't believe something just like I don't play musical instruments. There is no "practice" I don't do anything to not do either of these things. My thoughts and time are simply filled with other things.
      You are very confused about what atheism is.
      ALSO I suspect you are confused about what agnosticism is,

      Atheism is in relation to what you believe.......Agnosticism is in relation to what you know.
      look at the latin roots of the words.
      Many people are agonistic atheists and many are agnostic theists. The two terms are not mutually exclusive and can overlap.
      This of it like being Israeli and being Jewish. They can be the same person but they can also not be. The two terms are not mutually exclusive while still both are identifiers.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Mint Mochachino

      ken you beat me to it 🙂

      October 7, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Mint Mochachino

      snowboarder....i'd separate belief in a higher power from religions.

      I don;t believe in either but while todays religious are obviously bunk with positive evidence to the fact that they were man made. The idea of a higher power simply lacks any evidence.....the lack of evidence suggests to me no reason to believe but at least unlike the case of today;s religions there is not a large body to the contrary of their truth.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Realist

      Sorry,, atheism is not a practice. In fact it's not even a belief and far from it. Atheism and Realism, are both seeking out facts which are provable.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • 0Patrick0

      There you guys go again. Atheism is not a religion. Nor is it to be confused with agnosticism. I am an atheist, affirmatively believing there is no God, but that is all I mean by that. I do not, like an agnostic, have doubts one way or the other about it, such that I cannot affirm God's existence. Being an agnostic would be so much more comforting, being just one step closer to belief in God, which would make life so much more easy. But as an atheist I must make it through life all on my own.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • snowboarder

      mint – how is a lack of evidence support for the existence of a higher power?

      nearly all things once attributed to supernatural cause have been determined to be natural in origin. there is no particular reason to believe that trend will miraculously reverse.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Troy

      I do! I "believe" that it is all unknowable. Humanity is what is real.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Zach

      Jon- I have no religious beliefs of any kind. I don't stop and pray to some deity when I am in need of moral support; I don't sit around philosophizing "what would Jesus do?" or if what I am doing or not doing is what some man made deity would want me to. I don't go to a religious leader and rely on what they "interpret" as the right thing to do. I use my own judgement on what I do is morally right or wrong- and those morals are the same ones that have been in existence way before the various religions were made up thousands or in some cases just hundreds of years ago.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Troy

      And Atheism is a religion. You believe something you CANNOT know, and that is just as egotistical as "knowing" your religion is the correct one. No one can know the truth at this time.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Zach

      There's the rub. Most people who have no religious beliefs like me- we don't "CALL" ourselves anything. We simply don't have any religious beliefs. It is the religious that want to label us as "Atheist" or "Agnostic" or claim that "there are no atheists in foxholes". But most of us who are enlightened to the fallacies of religion and religious belief also recognize that most people have their minds made up as to what they think, and unfortunately, what other people should also think. Most religions are based on the concept that the teachers/preachers/priests/ministers/clerics et al tell the populace what to think and what to believe and use the appropriate religious texts to justify what they say. So most of us nonbelievers/nonreligious/sinners/atheists/going to hell people don't try and argue or even discuss religion with someone who is essentially locked in to what they have been told to believe. Not worth the effort or the headache.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mint Mochachino

      I didn't say the lack of evidence was support...I was just pointing out that it is different from positive proof against something.

      There is positive proof against Scientology. Many of it's historical claims are demonstrable false. L.R. Hubbard was not a war hero and didn't cure his vision. We have the military records.
      likewise there is positive proof against Christianity, Islam, Mormonism etc etc.

      Whereas with the more fuzzy concept of a higher power we have no proof to support it but it has no positive evidence against it.

      I am just pointing out the difference. You seemed to call religion and belief in a higher power the same thing and it is not.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Bryant Lister

      Agnostic means without knowledge, in other words, ignorant. Atheism means a lack of belief in supernatural dieties and has nothing to 'practice'. If someone claims to be agnostic, they need to answer a simple question 'do you believe in supernatural deities?' If the answer is yes, then they are a deist. If they answer no, then they are an atheist. The imaginary middle ground between deist and atheist, that people inject agnosticism into, just doesn't exist. You either believe in the myths and fairy tales of religious cults or you don't.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • snowboarder

      troy – not believing in something is not a "belief". there is no evidence to suggest the existence of any deities and the evidence that the popular religions of the day are invented by man is overwhelming, therefore i have no reason to believe in any gods.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Boo hoo, atheists didn't like my original post of Jesus summed up the atheists and claimed them to be fools.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • HeavenSent

      I love when atheists argue against God. Proves He exists. If He didn't. You wouldn't know what to argue against. LOL.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Troy

      @snowboarder. We can agree to disagree I guess. Atheists believe their worldview is correct. That is the similarity.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • fastball

      Brian Lister wrote...Agnostic means without knowledge, in other words, ignorant.

      I beg to differ. To me, an agnostic is someone who is SKEPTICAL or QUESTIONS the concept of the existence or non-existence of a deity. I cannot prove there is a God, nor can I prove there is NO god. Therefore I accept that there are some questions that I cannot categorically answer. So I choose to live my life in such a way that if there IS a god, I can meet him/her with a clear conscience.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Troy

      @fastball. I agree, Brians assertion that one must beleive or not believe simply means he has not been exposed to the notion that one can accept that there is currently no answer. Skepticism does exist.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  16. Otasawian

    How an individual behaves is the true determination of the quality of an individual. not what he or she happens to believe. What you believe is a product of upbringing and how your mind interprets the world. The problem arises when a particular belief system, whether religious or non-religious, perceives itself superior to other belief systems. Secularism is a way to allow different belief systems to co-exist without one becoming totally dominant. Secularism also allows science to become a logical and factual way of interpreting the universe. We can all believe what we want to believe, but facts,critical thinking, and the questioning of established beliefs through experimentation, the collection of data, and collective interpretation through peer review is how society moves forward. If you are part of a belief system that demonizes those who believe differently, and teaches that people need to be converted to your way of thinking in order to be "saved", it's time to take a long hard look at what you believe in.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • snowboarder

      amen

      unforunately "conversion" is ingrained in many theologies and there is a constant struggle to maintain the secular basis of our society from the religious attempting to codify their beliefs into law or imposing it on societies children via indoctrination in public education.

      October 7, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • BobSampleman

      I love your Post-Modern view point! I agree completely, since I'm stronger and healthier than you I should destroy you and take all you possess. See I grew up disadvantaged but with all I've learned and how I've evolved I believe that I'm an improvement over you and that I should survive while you should not. See science empirically shows, I'm stronger, smarter, more attractive, and genetically less defective! I should finish you off so that I can continue to thrive and produce more of me, at least until someone better comes along. Thank God we have Judeo-Christian Laws which exhibit compassion and forgiveness that would prevent people from doing whatever they "believed" in justified by their own contrived values.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • snowboarder

      bob – stop pretending there were no laws before your religion. morality is a construct of civil society and evolves just like everything else.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Secularism is a way of life for making it OK to sit on your butt to have the right to keep your bad behavior.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Otasawian

      Heavensent – "Secularism is a way of life for making it OK to sit on your butt to have the right to keep your bad behavior."

      I'll counter with:

      "Religion is a way of life making it OK to sit on your butt and have the right to "keep and continue your own bad behavior" so long as you ask for forgiveness and repent from time to time."

      Secularism allows people to have their own set of beliefs, without having to conform to another persons set of beliefs. Religions that "need" to convert others to their way of thinking are fostering intolerance and bigotry.

      This is why secularism was adopted as a way of protecting society from "religious interference and intrusion " and the desire by some to "convert" people to a particular belief system that perceives itself superior to others.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  17. Adam

    f.u.c_k C_N.N

    October 7, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • snowboarder

      adam – that is an odd comment. if you have issue with the article, possibly you could articulate it.

      October 7, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • El Flaco

      The instinctive reaction of religious people to those who question their faith is to silence the questioner, not to answer the questions.

      October 7, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Zach

      Adam, that was real "christian" of you. If your language means you "condemn" CNN, you are therefore saying YOU have judged an entire corporation made up of thousands of people with thousands of different personalities and individual beliefs as "bad". Just proved why we have government. To keep the radicals from the left or the right of common sense from threatening the security and safety of the majority.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Wildside9

      what a brilliant comment! Did your Mommy approve it or did you make it up all by yourself?

      October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • HeavenSent

      snowboarder, why pretend (cough, lie) that you didn't post under Adam, then respond to your own post? Could it be. Yes, it could. There is no ethics or morals to your belief system.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • snowboarder

      sent – funny, but untrue. believe what you want, you are still wrong.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  18. kahn keller

    ..Those of us who do not believe in the myths and farrie tales of religions ...have had them forced down our throats and up our a**es for thousands and thousands of years... it is time to put religion... all religion ... where it belongs ... in the place
    of worship and in the believers home... any place beyond this should be met with total war to stop it... religion has done more harm to mankind than all the wars fought in all of history... religion should be extinguished but alas... even if it were some
    one would create a new one because people can not accept responsibility for the decisions they make and how they live their lives.... until that happens... there will be religion.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Chaos has run it' course on society. I'd say that your religious belief of atheism has taken over. Therefore, correction. It's atheists that shove their beliefs down society's throat calling it Politically Correct.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  19. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Putting the final kibosh on religion and therefore putting an end to the word "secularism" .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

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

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

    October 7, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Goodfellow

      Buddhism and Taoism are philosophies, not religions. No Taoist worships Lao Tse, no Buddhist worships Buddha.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Ken

      How does this put an end to the word secularism?

      October 7, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality. When Jesus returns He will shut you up.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Reality

      No religion, no need to have words like secularism or blasphemy.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Reality

      American Heritage Dictionary:

      "Bud·dhism
      (bū'dĭz'əm, bʊd'ĭz'-)
      n. 1. The teaching of Buddha that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct, wisdom, and meditation releases one from desire, suffering, and rebirth.
      2. The religion represented by the many groups, especially numerous in Asia, that profess varying forms of this doctrine and that venerate Buddha."

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/buddhism#ixzz28coz4oAy

      October 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Reality

      "secularism
      1. a view that religion and religious considerations should be ignored or excluded from social and political matters.
      2. an ethical system asserting that moral judgments should be made without reference to religious doctrine, as reward or punishment in an afterlife. — secularist, n., adj. — secularistic, adj.
      "

      ref: The Free Dictionary

      October 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Reality

      "Tao·ism (douzm, tou-)
      n.
      A principal philosophy and system of religion of China based on the teachings of Lao-tzu in the sixth century b.c. and on subsequent revelations. It advocates preserving and restoring the Tao in the body and the cosmos."

      ref: The Free Dictionary

      October 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  20. Jt_flyer

    Just keep you stupid books, prehistoric brainwashing and your imaginary friend in the sky out of my life and polictics and we'll all get along just fine.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • HeavenSent

      You write like a fool. I'd say that Jesus is not in your life.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:46 am |
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About this blog

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