January 8th, 2013
07:00 AM ET

My take: 'Atheist' isn’t a dirty word, congresswoman

Editor’s note: Chris Stedman is the author of "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious" and the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDStedman.

By Chris Stedman, Special to CNN

(CNN)—This year, Congress welcomed the first Buddhist senator and first Hindu elected to either chamber of Congress, and the Pew Forum noted that this “gradual increase in religious diversity … mirrors trends in the country as a whole.”

But Pew also noted one glaring deficiency: Religious “nones” were largely left outside the halls of Congress, despite one in five Americans now saying they don’t affiliate with a religion.

There is, however, one newly elected “none” — but she seems to think "atheist" is a dirty word.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, was sworn in a few days ago without a Bible, and she is the first member of Congress to openly describe her religious affiliation as “none.” Although 10 other members don’t specify a religious affiliation — up from six members in the previous Congress — Sinema is the only to officially declare “none.”

This has gotten Sinema a fair amount of attention from the media. Many identified her as an atheist during her congressional campaign, and after she won, sources touted her as a nontheist. Even this past weekend, Politico declared in a headline: “Non-believers on rise in Congress.”

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But there’s a slight issue: Sinema doesn’t actually appears to be a nonbeliever. In response to news stories identifying her as an atheist, her campaign released this statement shortly after her victory: “(Rep. Sinema) believes the terms non-theist, atheist or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

As a nontheist, atheist and nonbeliever (take your pick), I find this statement deeply problematic.

It is perfectly fine, of course, if Sinema isn’t a nontheist, and it is understandable that she would want to clarify misinformation about her personal beliefs. But to say that these terms are “not befitting of her life’s work or personal character” is offensive because it implies there is something unbefitting about the lives and characters of atheists or nonbelievers.

Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion

Try substituting a religious group of your choice in place of atheist if you don’t agree: “[Rep. Sinema] believes the term Muslim is not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” Does that sound right? It shouldn’t.

Of course, many do view Muslims as unfit for political office. In that respect, political opponents have regularly misidentified President Obama as a Muslim. Many have defended the president from such attacks by noting that Obama is a Christian.

But former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell rightly pointed out the pernicious underlying message such a defense sends:

The correct answer is: He is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No, that’s not America.’ Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Just as Muslim is used as a political smear, politicians seem to avoid "atheist."

This is probably because the American electorate views both Muslims and atheists more unfavorably than they do other groups: According to a Gallup poll released in June, only 58% of Americans would vote for a “generally well-qualified” Muslim candidate, and only 54% would vote for an atheist. (This is the first time that number has been above 50% for an atheist candidate.)  By contrast, 91% would vote for a Jewish candidate, 94% for a Catholic and 80% for a Mormon.

There seems to be a greater general tolerance for, or blindness to, comments that marginalize or diminish atheists than those aimed at other groups.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Prominent individuals like Powell rightfully decry anti-Muslim fear-mongering in politics, but few speak out against those who wield accusations of atheism as a political weapon.

Whether people don’t see it or simply aren’t bothered isn’t clear, but it remains a problem.

I respect Sinema’s right to self-identify as she chooses, and I don’t wish to speculate about her religious beliefs. But while I celebrate that she is comfortable enough to openly identify as bisexual, I find her response to being labeled an atheist troubling.

Why not instead say that she’s not an atheist, but so what if she was?

The 113th Congress is rich with diversity. As an interfaith activist, I am glad to see the religious composition of Congress more closely reflect the diversity of America. As a queer person, I’m glad that LGBT Americans are seeing greater representation in Washington.

But as a proud atheist and humanist, I’m disheartened that the only member of Congress who openly identifies as nonreligious has forcefully distanced herself from atheism in a way that puts down those of us who do not believe in God.

We are Americans of good character, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chris Stedman.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (3,637 Responses)
  1. John P. Tarver

    Atiiest is the label of the spiritually impoverished.

    January 9, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • shipwreck73

      Can you provide evidence of this spirit you speak of?

      January 9, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Tod

      More like the label of the unsuperst_itious, rational-thinking.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      I could only offer Love Hope and Faith as proof of spiritual wealth, but those are also delusions to the Atheist.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Pete

      Another lying Christian – 7

      January 9, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Yes

      And unicorn impoverished, and UFO impoverished, and bigfoot impoverished…

      January 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Atiiest is the label of the spiritually impoverished." Oh, goodie. Well, if I ever meet someone who styles himself an "Atiiest," I'll be properly cautious. How DOES it feel to be thick as a brick?

      January 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • fintastic

      John P Tarver is the label of a moron

      January 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "I could only offer Love Hope and Faith as proof of spiritual wealth, but those are also delusions to the Atheist."

      I am the parent of a handicapped child. I bet I know more about Love, Hope, and Faith than you, you name-calling simpleton.

      January 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  2. Sweenbass

    I worship no one & nothing.
    In every one of the books that are regarded as holy (bible, koran, gita etc.),

    Are there interesting stories? Some are. Some are not.
    Are there philosophies there that one can reflect on & apply to your life in order to live better & help your fellow human beings? YES & those can be found in all of those books.

    But on the questions of spirituality, (a deity, creation, afterlife, soul, and the like), all of those books can do nothing but speculate

    Some choose to hang their spiritual hat on speculation. I do not

    Is there a spiritual component to the universe? I don't know.

    I have not read anything in any of those books that convinces me that any of those speculations about the spiritual are anything more than that.

    To paraphrase a statement that is attributed to Buddha “Believe nothing no mater where you read it or who has said it unless it agrees with your own reason & your own common sense”

    That is why I am an agnostic.

    January 9, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  3. gary

    Not believing in ancient myth and folklore that has been morphed and mangled for centuries is using one's intelligence. The far right has made the word "atheist" on par with "communist", and seemingly totally unAmerican. America has ugly history of religious persecution of anyone non Xtian.

    January 9, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  4. Bible Clown©

    One thing for sure, and that's that a bunch of name-calling yahoos don't represent for the Israelite they claim to venerate. He told them not to cast the first stone, or bear false witness against their fellow men, and to keep their hearts filled with love for their fellow men. If they actually did these things, we wouldn't be afraid of them.

    January 9, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Tod

      Since the entire creationist criticism of evolution depends upon lying about, and otherwise misrepresenting, evolution then there really can't be any actual Christians amongst them, right?

      January 9, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "entire creationist criticism of evolution depends upon lying" I keep pointing out that life is what it is, and if we're evolved animals then that's who your god made his offer of salvation to. If He made us, He made us out of lower life forms, and he didn't scorn to incarnate as one of us. So just hush and believe and stop trying to pretend there's no such thing as DNA.

      January 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  5. the AnViL

    I am an anti-theist.

    right now in the united states, xians work overtime to secularize their idiotic theology, spending tremendous sums of money to insert ID into public school science classes. throngs of self-righteous, delusional xians push hard to nullify equality for a cross-section of americans who they believe are immoral. – enough is enough.

    religion impoverishes humanity. religion creates more division in a world already divided.
    religion is predicate on ignorance.

    tolerance of religious idiocy is worse than religious idiocy.

    anyone who fails to see the destructive nature of ignorant religiosity is stunting the progression of humanity.

    if you're atheist – that's not enough... you need to be vocal.

    get active in your local freedom from religion foundation groups, and if you can't get active, at least donate.


    January 9, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Poppa

      Perfect example of why i choose NOT to be called an atheist. All points of view, all belief systems have both a beneficial and destructive side. Religion is not all bad as you wouild have people believe. Many people rely on the strength (False or not) they percieve they receive from their faith. Why destroy that?

      I know not everyone wil be as smart as me. They will not be as creative as i am. I cannot force them to rely on personnal inner-strength as much as i believe that it will free them. It's a losing battle.

      I think tax dollars spent are pretty small compared to the abuses that are rampant. No, that doesn't justify ignoring them, but focusing on them are way out of whack to other areas.

      I an not Anti-theist. I am simply not a believer in any sort of god.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Tod

      Is there really a positive side to any superst_ition? Is there a positive side to the killing of rhinos just for their horns?

      January 9, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "if you're atheist – that's not enough... you need to be vocal. " What you are saying is that "unbelief" is a religion to you, and you'd like some help proselytizing. That's fine, everyone needs a hobby, but not believing in things shouldn't be a crusade. Please don't assure these suggestible and hysterical Christians that everyone who doesn't believe in god is as militant and fervent as you. I don't need them burning a cross on my lawn. I also don't believe in flying saucers or the Velikovsky theory, and I don't care to go door to door explaining my views.

      January 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  6. Lisa

    Why is "live and let live" so difficult? I could care less what religion anyone belongs to, or whether they belong to any religion, or even whether they believe in a god at all, so long as they are decent people who respect my right to believe the way I respect theirs. Just don't shove your religion or atheism in my face. Simple, no?

    January 9, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Salvatore

      Shoving their non belief is exactly what atheist do.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Franklin

      You're judging that by the responses here, at a discussion board for religious belief? That's like labelling all Christians by what they say on their boards and, believe me because I read them, what they say on those is about as nasty as you can imagine. Same goes for SOME of their church signs that parallel the infamous atheist billboards. Some of those actually say that all nonChristians will go to hell, and deserve to as well. That's hardly showing any religious tolerance, now is it?

      January 9, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Poppa

      Franklin... the one point i'd like to make is this: Why would i care if some religion says i will go to hell? I am not mortified when someone tells me that if i fail to place a tooth under my pillow taht i will not be rewarded. I see no difference. I can ignore ignorance unless it causes some real harm.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • End Religion

      my atheism is a result of your religion being in my face

      January 9, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Poppa

      Exactly how is it in your face everyday? And why don't you take a step or two to the side?

      January 9, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Poppa – I could care less about what theists say. The problems arise when they try and get their religious myths codified into law and taught in our schools as science and history.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • End Religion


      Embarrassingly, appeals to imaginary creatures as a basis for righteousness exist:
      – in the full lyrics to our national anthem
      – where belatedly added to the pledge to our country
      – where belatedly added to national currency

      Some continue to fight efforts to have religion inserted into our legislation.
      Some continue to fight efforts to have completely false religious concepts taught as "an alternative to evolution". Imagine if we had to fight legislation that "2+2=elephant" in our children's English classes – it's equally absurd. I have a child learning Evolution in high school right now and she has a church-going science teacher: this is very in my face at the moment.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • End Religion

      "where" should be "were"...

      January 9, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • ksocreative

      because Xians try to legislate their values over everyone else's. if you preach equality, practice it.

      January 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • 2000 years of shoving

      I think you will find a lot more Christians doing a lot more shoving than atheists. Until very recently (last 100 years) you will find theists were the only ones doing the shoving (also whipping and burning at the stake). Atheists have simply started to resist and push back

      January 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  7. Bible Clown©

    You say "atheist," but the brainwashed masses hear "evil devil worshiper." They have been taught to fear anything which threatens the grip religion has on their wallets. Say what you like, they are not allowed to understand you.

    January 9, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • are122

      Voluntary giving seems to me a bit different then forced giving. I was forced to add my tax dollars to record-high $542 million for 333,964 abortions in 2011. I pay higher taxes now because of errors made by people I don't know. If you have a problem with "wallets" at least separate voluntary from force giving.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Franklin

      There are churches that teach that actual Christians are to donate a tenth of your income to them and, since all nonChristians go to hell, it's really about as voluntary as either paying the mob, or street gangs "protection" money, or not.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Poppa

      I also pay for the mistake of the drunk driver that runs down teh kids on the bike, and the kid who falls off the tarzan swing, and the housewife that slice her finger cutting carrots. Are you adamant that payment for tose be stopped? How about the kid that comes down with polio because his parents were too ignorant to see the child had the vaccine?

      I may not agree with all of them, and i surely wish there were less stupid people in the world, but the alternative may be worse than inaction.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • WASP

      @AR:SE122: you truly need to look up how much of americas taxes are spent taking care of injuried children born to CHRISTIAN FAMILIES that didn't want them, yet still had them due to their "faith".
      how about looking how much every year is spent on children abandoned to the state by CHRISTIAN FAMILIES because they couldn't afford them yet their "faith" doesn't permit them to use contriceptives.
      how about the money lost on children that run away from abusive CHRISTIAN FAMILIES because their parents don't understand "SPARE THE ROD SPOIL THE CHILD" isn't even in the bible and DON'T UNDERSTAND WHEN enough is enough.

      millions of dollars a year are wasted on having to fix problems that religion helps create with it's ignorance.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Tod

      The Catholic church presently is fighting the administration of the HPV vaccination for girls. It says that taking the vaccine promotes se_xual promiscuity. How many women will have to die from cervical cancer before they get why it's important?

      January 9, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  8. Poppa

    Too often Atheists take the exact same road of redicule that the Theists take. I also do not care to be called Atheist as that term often comes to mean Anti-Theist and not simply a non-believer in the concept of a deity. Many Atheists come across as rude and demeaning to those who find comfort in believing that they have access to help beyond what they feel they can personally can cope with.

    I have no problem with the belief in a god... if you need it. I enjoy discussing religion and have many religious friends. I do find that many who claim to believe simply do so for the comfort of not being wholly rersponsible for their own faults,, and not for the teachings that are encompassed in the religion.

    January 9, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  9. NorthVanCan

    Studies show that atheists know more about religion than religious people .
    No surprise to me, since I believe religion to be a product of ignorance .

    January 9, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Salvatore

      If this were true, then they wouldn't be so dumb. I have nothing to lose being a Christian. You have everything to lose Get it?

      January 9, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Lisa

      Atheists believe they have nothing to lose, as well. The key word there is BELIEVE. I think it's you who doesn't get it.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Salvatore

      Lisa. They you and the other Atheist are in for a very big surprise

      January 9, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Salvatore

      Let me simplify it for you Lisa. If I am wrong, which I'm not. I will never know it. If you are wrong, which you are. Then you will know it. Get it?

      January 9, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • WASP

      @SAL: sooooooo you're choosing to believe out of fear? yeah i'm certain your god can smell your fake faith from the cloud he is sitting on. lmfao

      here is the thing, when i die ;which i know will happen; i will eventually return to the state of all things.....................energy.
      everything in this universe is made from energy; me, you, the trees..................everything. matter is just energy in a solid state. being as such energy can cross from matter back to energy and back again.

      we all know from middle school science class that "energy CAN NOT be created nor destroyed".
      thus everything in this universe that we accept is just a passing fad and will eventually return to being energy where the process will begin again.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Poppa

      Sal... the logic of "playing it safe doesn't make sense'. I have made up a religion where it is important to eat the raw brains of a deceased loved one to ensure that they never really die but live on forever within us. Are you now going to play it safe?

      Are you palying it safe by leaving a plate of cookies for santa and a carrot for roudolph? Do you leave to tooth under your pillow? Please tell me why believing in life ever after is any different. I would seriously like to know.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Franklin

      If you are wrong, and I think that you are, then you served a despot and his minions your entire life. It's the Pol Pot's, Hitlers, Kims and Stalins of history who brutally torture those who do not toady to them. I'm an American; I don't bow down to anyone!

      January 9, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • End Religion

      Sal, you Pascal's Wager is uncreative, boring and immoral.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Primewonk

      Salvatore, what you posit is called Pascal's Gambit. It was refuted almost as soon as he published it. Can you spot the logical fallacy inherent in it?

      It assumes a one-off supposition – that is, it's your version of a god vs no god. But humans have invented tens of thousands of gods in the 200,000 years we have been modern humans. Your version is no more, nor no less special or real than any of the others.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Tod

      @ Salvatore
      All I know is that you all paid as much as 10 percent of your take home pay that was used to buy such "charitable" things as new pastor's cars and suits.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  10. Ned Flanders

    God Princess, your many comments here (which are probably crafted in satire for the sole purpose of cheesing off grammar nazis everywhere) make me want to put my head in a vice. Off to Irish-up my coffee......

    January 9, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • WASP

      @ned: 🙂 XD

      January 9, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  11. Jose

    I am an agnostic for two big reasons. There is one question that until the multiverse is discovered that scientists can't answer. Secondly, most atheists are jerks.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Agnostic/gnostic only define knowledge, not belief...there is a huge difference. Atheist/Theist define disbelief/belief in a god. So do you believe a god exists?
      To say most Atheists you know are jerks says little about you as a person...I would tend to disagree and instead say that most humans, regardless of belief, can have the potential to be jerks.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Most atheists I know are highly educated and successful. Way too many of the Christians are hateful. See most of the comments here from the followers of the god of love, such as "all atheists are stupid heads." They lie at the drop of a halo. You aren't willing to say you are atheist because you can't absolutely prove it, but the followers of Jesus will call you evil or stupid without a shred of proof. Now, you want to argue with people who won't take a shred of proof, you go ahead. I recommend telling them an angel sent you, or a prophetic dream.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • End Religion

      where "god" is defined as some non-specific creator...
      theist: believes in a god(s)
      atheist: believes in no god(s)
      gnostic: feels certain a god(s) exist(s)
      agnostic: is not certain if a god(s) exist(s)

      One may be an agnostic atheist.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Poppa

      I am not prepared to disagree that without proof of no god, one may exist.Yet i am tempted to resond that i have no proof of the non-existance of Santa Clause and i find myself a non-believer in him.

      The fact that we have not yet been able to answer all the questions of the multiverse should not confirm the existance of a god any more than the ancients were correct in worshipping the gods of olympus simply because they didn't understand the workings of thunder.

      Not all Athiests are jerks and i daresay that "most" isn't even close, any motre than most christians are dysfunctional.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • fintastic

      Most people named Jose are jerks...... see how stupid that is?

      January 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  12. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:-->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    From the topic commentary-

    "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No,....."

    Actually, there is something very wrong with being a Muslim anywhere. And why is that?

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, mohammed's book of death for all infidels and muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

    See p. 9 for added details.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • Rabble Rouser

      Are you willing to remove the passages of the Bible, New and Old Testament that offend those of other faiths or that have caused countless "Christians" to murder non-believers in the past, especially since those "Christians" were out to destroy all infidels and have Christian domination of the world by any means?
      And a Christian espousing a Gabiel myth sounds like a bit of hypocrisy. "Joseph, I'm pregnant and the marriage isn't until next month." "Oh no, they'll stone you. I know, I know, the angel Gabriel visited and told you it was a child of God."

      January 9, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Actually, there is something very wrong with being a Muslim anywhere." Dude, that's just effed up. It's like saying every Christian is a white supremacist. What are you, a high school kid? Learn some facts,

      January 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Reality

      Conservative Jews in the USA have rewritten the Torah to reflect the myths therein.

      Thomas Jefferson did an analogous rewrite of the NT. Ditto for the rewrite of the NT by the Jesus Seminarians, Professor JD Crossan in his over 20 books on the historical Jesus and related subjects and Professor Gerd Ludeman in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 694-695.


      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      January 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Reality

      And because the koran has not been rewritten, we have the following examples of the terror that is Islam:

      As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

      o 24) Mon Jun 4, 2012 10:18am EDT
      BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi'ite Muslim office in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate.
      The bombing on a Shi'ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country's fractious Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal and spill into sectarian tensions."

      25) BURGAS, Bulgaria | Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:27am EDT

      (Reuters) – A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.

      26 ) September 12, 2012
      Envoy to Libya dies in rocket blast

      January 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  13. Colin

    Ten Ways You Know you are an Atheist.

    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Jew or Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to understand human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.

    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.

    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.

    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.

    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions accelerate their decline in popularity.

    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump off a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.

    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend against any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar, Darwin-u akbar”.

    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.

    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.

    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,720,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to feel pain, or to regret or fear itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope from Bronze Age Palestine that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Atheism is just another belief system

      January 9, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      You have described me and my situation perfectly, without even knowing me. This comment is better than the article!

      January 9, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Joe

      Brilliant response! Just this morning I was telling a couple of my co-workers that I had taked in my Mother-in-Law when her husband passed away – she lived with us for 25 years before passing. I also related that I had taken in my wife's paraplegic sister when she became so ill she could not take care of herself. (Side note – In the short time she lived with us, she taught me more about life than any religion ever could) One of my co-workers made the statement that I had a huge heart for an atheist. He had no response when I asked why I had to be religious to be caring, gentle, charitable. Thank you.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Eddie

      And that's the way it is.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Poppa

      I'll agree with all but 5 & 7 and those two define for me why someone would shy away from being called an Atheist. Those two points give more credence to the perception that Atheists are Anit-Theists and less simply non-believers. I personally have no issue with what others believe.

      I don't care if they want a creche or minorah on the town common, as long as they respect my right to not bow before idols. I believe that religion is a great source for learning decent morals. It's just too bad that people don't often follow their own teachings.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "the statement that I had a huge heart for an atheist." He meant he thought you were lying. They judge us by their standards. The only way he would do something like that is if he felt god would cook him in a fire if he didn't.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • are122

      I am sure the physics, the laws that govern the universe came about because rocks floating in a vacuum deemed it necessary. But like Marx said, religion is the opiate of the masses.

      January 9, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • krt

      Beautifully written – I know they say organizing freethinkers is like herding cats, but we should try anyway! =)

      January 9, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Unsure

      Your post, while well written, quite clearly outlines problems, and similarities between theists, and non-theists.

      Meaning that both are positive beyond a shadow of a doubt that their vision is THE correct vision of the Universe. And that everyone else is a fool for believing otherwise.

      Both sides believe that their view is morally superior, and in the end, the others will be shown as fools for believing such silly nonsense in the face of their own "evidence".

      It's not that I find a great deal of what you say to be wrong. Quite the contrary, I would classify myself as a non-theist, one who does not believe that my path has been laid out, or been guided by an all-powerful being. My own sense of right and wrong would clash with what I have seen over my lifetime as to the innocent being harmed being part of what people claim is "God's Will". I don't accept that a just creator could possibly decide that a good person who made one mistake in their lives would go to hell, while an infinitely evil person can somehow repent of all of their sins on their deathbed, and be cleared for heaven, just because one is a believer, and the other is not.

      The difference is your post, rather than the blog, seems to point to theists and gloat. This is the main problem that a large number of theists have with non-theists, the percieved elation of a non-theist to put their own beliefs in the face of a believer, and laugh, being smug at their own "superiority", unaware of the total irony they show. Believing you are right is one thing, Believers do this as well. Believing the other side is wrong is another thing both sides do. But one thing that makes me laugh, as put in your own post, is the spewing of dogma as if there should be no other answer. At least Theists have the goal of spiritually redeeming a person when they talk to them about belief. Your post here was not to redeem others, or to save them, but rather belittle and demean them.

      You state that most non-theists were brought up in households where beliefs were held. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say this is probably true in your case as well. I'm going to assume, based upon your writings that all non-theists are have superior intelligence, that your thoughts clashed with the beliefs of your family, and you got tired of hearing about how their belief was the answer. So, in order to combat this, in order to show the world that the theists have it wrong, screaming to all that THEY want to listen about THEIR beliefs, and how those who don't believe the same as THEM are inferior, and will be proven wrong years and years from now, the idea is to turn around and scream to all YOU want to listen about YOUR beliefs, and all those who don't believe the same as YOU are inferiorand will be proven wrong years and years from now? And the difference is.....?

      January 9, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • End Religion

      unsure, the "other side" is wrong. It isn't enough for them to suppose a creator (which there may be) but when they give it unfounded, unknowable qualities then they slide from "maybe" into "lie." Worse, they then assign this lie a set of rules which not only disparage millions but indeed call for their deaths.

      I would think a higher percentage of the population could come together if they all managed to agree there is however minute a possibility of a creator and simply leave it there, with no fictionalized holy books and rules. We could all then choose our level of worship from zero to 100% and not suffer from any of the rules should we choose 0%.

      But of course this is as much fantasy as is christianity. A part of the whole schtick is "being in a special club" and a club is not special if just anyone can be in it and if it has no rules by which to segregate.

      An atheist will always be "right" because atheism is an opinion, the answer "no" to "do you believe in any gods?" A christian will always be "wrong" because we know the bible is a fraud and an abrahamic god does not exist.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • lol??

      11. Your mommie was into abortions but by a miracle you were overlooked.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Pete

      Another lying Christian. – 9

      January 9, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • lol??

      "5. You relish your role as a religious minority........" Relish is for hot dogs. Athena DOES like to give a prize to all.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • lol??

      12. You thought the scientists had a wunnerful idea to clean up the catfish ponds with Asian carp. Somehow the carp's plan to take over was not heard or noticed.

      January 9, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Edward

      Very well said there.

      August 29, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  14. captnavenger

    Oh, Chris, thou protesteth too much. As Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris have all at one time pointed out, "Atheist" need not even be a word.

    One does not come up with a word for those who do not believe in the Easter Bunny. One does not come up with a word for those who do not believe Santa Claus lives with elves at the North Pole.

    The existence of the word is an insult to intelligence and common sense. It implies that those who do not believe in an invisible man in the sky are the ones who have the burden of proof. They do not.

    Perhaps this congresswoman is miles ahead of you, Chris Stedman, in terms of understanding she need not patronize to fools by labeling herself with a word that should not even need be. But then, you write for the most useless "news" blog in the sphere of mainstream and respectable news sources. One which I cannot post a single comment to without asking CNN again, to "take it down."

    Please, CNN. You have no business running a "faith" blog. Even the Atheists on it are patronizing ignoramuses. Remove it, before it sinks what fraction of respectability you have left.

    January 9, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      I was with you up until your last paragraph. CNN can put up any kind of blog it wants. You don't have to read it.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • Rabble Rouser

      About your first paragraph – They call those of us who don't believe Acuniculums. And we seem to get our houses egged every Easter. (ok, I made it up, but it seemed humorous.)

      January 9, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      ""Atheist" need not even be a word." Are you serious? How would they describe our crime when they burned us for it? Atheism is a death-penalty crime to every religion. That n-word they call blacks doesn't need to be a word either, but how would the KKK get along without it?

      January 9, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  15. Eddie

    I'm also without religious affiliation, but I would never say that I'm an atheist. I would rather call me an agnostic. What's the difference?
    Atheist = There is no God
    Agnostic = There may be a God, but I for myself haven't found a religion that has given me proof or that serves my belief in a God

    January 9, 2013 at 6:01 am |
    • P. Fish

      Atheist is formed as a-theist, meaning, non-theist. There's an absurd amount of ignorance about language shown when people take atheism to mean a claim that there can be no god(s). It literally just means non-theist. If people got this through their skulls, we'd not have absurd new terms like strong/weak-agnostic/atheist bandied about.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • End Religion

      where "god" is defined as some non-specific creator...
      theist: believes in a god(s)
      atheist: believes in no god(s)
      gnostic: feels certain a god(s) exist(s)
      agnostic: is not certain if a god(s) exist(s)

      One may be an agnostic atheist.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Technically, a-Gnostic means admitting you can never prove god's existence. How, in an infinite universe? He could be standing behind you and moving when you move. A-Theistic means you believe you have absolute proof of god's non-existence. Only agnosticism is actually defensible as a philosophy,
      I also don't believe in fried foods, gangsta rap, or Elvis being alive.

      January 9, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  16. Ron DiBerto

    Hitler was an Atheist. How much more dirty can you get???

    January 9, 2013 at 5:41 am |
    • sam stone

      He was a Catholic.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Colin

      Hitler was a Christian who did not like atheism.

      "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 24, 1933

      "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people." Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933

      And on Feburary 1, 1933 Hitler delivered a speech in which he promised to restore "family...honor and loyalty, Volk and Vaterland, culture and economy" and recover "the eternal foundation of our morality and our faith." Hitler further declares a "merciless war against spiritual, political, and cultural nihilism."

      Hitler was a real Christian.

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. " Hitler, April 12, 1922

      The denomination of Christianity he belonged to was Catholicism.

      "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."
      – Adolf Hitler, to General Gerhard Engel, 1941

      January 9, 2013 at 5:50 am |
    • Ronald McDonald

      There's not a single jihadist that is an atheist.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      You need to go back to History class. Or maybe read a book. Hitler mentioned God and Christianity in every speech.

      January 9, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • End Religion

      Debunked and refuted about 10 times a day... we know you wanted to add Hitler, but it isn't just Hitler that makes you look silly. Hitler was a Christian who felt his actions honoured god.

      The actions of Mao and Stalin (who attended seminary) were totalitarian. They sought total authority, which means getting rid of religions which would compete with that authority. The pursuit of atheism was not the cause for the bloodshed; it was the pursuit of control over a people.


      Hitler was raised Catholic. In his book Mein Kampf and in public speeches he made statements affirming a belief in Christianity. He called the purge of Jews "positive Christianity." While there is debate over his actual private feelings about the faith, he was a publicly practicing Christian. There exists no known evidence that Hitler was an atheist or agnostic. Again: evidence he was Christian; no evidence he was otherwise.

      Hitler said: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

      The Reichskonkordat was a treaty signed on 20 July 1933 between the Holy See (Catholic Church) and Nazi Germany, that guaranteed the rights of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, giving moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime soon after Hitler had acquired dictatorial powers, and placing constraints on Catholic critics of the regime, leading to a muted response by the Church to Nazi policies.

      January 9, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Hiram

      Hitler was a rather devout Catholic.

      January 9, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Hitler was an Atheist. How much more dirty can you get???"

      Well, lying about facts in an argument meant to support your God is probably nearly as dirty as scatological blasphemy.

      January 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm |

    Small 'c': thank u:-) But, now I am confused small 'c'.... What do you mean when you r referring " when people call those who don't believe as they do names?" N believe me small ' c' would never wish fir anyone to go 2 Hell!:-(. Thank you for your kindness:-) When I text in caps,usually for me it means excitement!.Not raising my voice or I am getn angry

    January 9, 2013 at 5:02 am |
    • Real Deal


      There is not a shred of verified evidence that anyone has ever gone, or will ever go, to "Hell"... nor that anyone has ever gone, or will ever go, to "Heaven". You are free to live under this fantasy, but you can't claim that it is true.

      January 9, 2013 at 5:21 am |
    • Salvatore

      look up NDE on youtube. Heaven and Hell. You will find your answer. Yes. There are both

      January 9, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "look up NDE on youtube" Right; ignore both science and theology and just go straight to YouTube. Become a prophet in your spare time! Impress your friends and earn big bucks! Best of all, it's FREE!!!

      January 9, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Franklin

      It doesn't matter whether, or not heaven and hell are actually real; it's the implication that nonChristians deserve to be tortured forever that reeks of bigotry and elitism. In this way Christians who take pains to point this out are acting every bit as superior as white supremacists.

      January 9, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. utalkintome

    what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.....hitchens

    January 9, 2013 at 4:23 am |

    I do seriously apologize for the last part of my last comment when I was being sarcastic.(asking if I passed the test and etc.)

    January 9, 2013 at 4:11 am |

    Small 'c'. So it is considered bullying now when a person responds to a person who
    Is stating and asking a question? IS THAT "ALL" BETTER NOW GUYS? (my spelling)
    Is it proper enough?
    Did I pass the test?

    January 9, 2013 at 4:07 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Wow- that's a big improvement. Props for that. But some other statements leave me worried for the future, esp when people call those who do not believe as they do names. It's amazing to me how many folks who call themselves Christians would rather see folks like me burn in H-E-double toothpix than be tolerant of our beliefs, which simply are our own beliefs, not theirs.

      I ask questions, I point out poor logic, I invite folks to read publications outside of those "endorsed" by their church. Very rarely do I put my own beliefs out there, yet I am still derided for daring to suggest that there may be something 'else' out there...

      January 9, 2013 at 4:24 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.