Godless mom strikes a chord with parents
A CNN iReport essay on raising kids without God draws record-breaking number of comments.
January 18th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

Godless mom strikes a chord with parents

By Daphne Sashin, CNN

Deborah Mitchell remembers the time, when her boys were younger, and another mom asked her about her religious beliefs.

Mitchell was raised Catholic but moved away from religion in her early 20s. She told the other mother that she didn’t go to church and didn’t even really believe in God.

Then, she says, the recruiting started.

“She used to call my house and tell me she was praying for me. She’d leave me messages and leave cards in my mailbox with scripture,” Mitchell says. “I do realize that she meant well, but at the same time, I know my views were seen as wrong. I needed to be ‘saved.’”

Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers in Texas who feels “immersed in Christianity,” started a blog about raising her children without religion because she felt frustrated and marginalized. She didn’t want to feel so alone, she says.

This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she's not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform.

It starts:

When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.

For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.

Mitchell posted the essay detailing her seven reasons for raising her children without God on CNN iReport because she felt there wasn’t anyone else speaking for women or moms like her. As she sees it, children should learn to do the right things because they will feel better about themselves, not because God is watching. She asks questions like: If there was a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God, why would he allow murders, child abuse and torture?

Lots of people disagreed with her. Tons. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her. Take, for instance, a Methodist dad, who said faith can be hard to nail down, but “not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don't completely understand is silly.”

Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.

“Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers - well-educated, compassionate, liberal folk, Christian and non-Christian alike - who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world, or without lying to their children about their understanding of these complexities,” wrote commenter RMooradian. “I'll be raising my children with God, but I understand those who cannot!”

But Mitchell’s essay also struck a chord with hundreds of like-minded parents raising children in a world where lack of belief puts them in the minority, often even in their own family.

“Thank you for writing this. I agree with everything you say, but I’m not brave enough to tell everyone I know this is how I feel,” a woman who called herself an “agnostic mommy of two in Alabama” posted in the comments. “Thank you for your bravery and letting me know I’m not alone.”

It’s a growing group. One in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion, and that number has grown by 25% in the past five years, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Of that group, 88% said they were not looking for religion, although 68% of the unaffiliated said they believe in God. 

Brittany Branyon, an American graduate student and substitute teacher living in Germany, was also compelled to express her thanks to Mitchell. Branyon was raised Southern Baptist in Georgia and Alabama. In high school, when she began to question the theory of creation and befriended gay and lesbian students, she says her mother tried to perform an exorcism.

“She opened all the windows and doors in the house, brought me to the door, held my shoulders and shook me while screaming, ‘Satan, get out of this child!’, ‘Satan, leave this child alone!’.”

After moving away from the South, she and her husband “became more comfortable in our secular ways,” but still take criticism from family members. They are now expecting their first child.

“Though we are elated to welcome our child into the world, we can’t help but dread the religious uproar that is to come from our families,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Such an uproar is familiar to Carol Phillips, a stay-at-home mother in northern Virginia. When she gave birth to her first child, she said her family was shocked that the baby wasn’t baptized. She said her mother-in-law cried and told her the little girl’s soul would not go to heaven.

Then there are the comments from strangers. Last year, Phillips said she and her daughter were at a birthday party when a tornado warning sounded.

“We were all in the basement keeping safe. A little girl was saying baby Jesus will keep us safe. My daughter asked who Jesus was. The rest of the time was spent hearing ‘I'll pray for you sweetie, we can take you to church with us if you want,’” Phillips told CNN.

Commenting on Mitchell’s iReport, Phillips said, “To live out loud and to speak freely about my beliefs brings many clucking tongues. I would think it’s easier to come out as gay than atheist.”

Mitchell said she spent years studying the history of religion and does believe it has “an important place in our community.” She has told her children that she’ll be fine if they decide to join a church when they are older.

She ended her essay:

I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

After her post ran on CNN, Mitchell said she was encouraged by the number of people who agreed with her, or who disagreed but wanted to have a respectful discussion.

“I’m not saying that everybody should think how I do. I’m saying the people that do should have a place in our society and have acceptance and respect,” she said. “I just want to have children grow up and be able to not be afraid to say ‘I don’t believe that,’ or ‘I’m not part of that.’” 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • iReport

soundoff (15,081 Responses)
  1. M D Cain

    I too have always had a problem with the bible and the belief that goes with a collection of stories. I am 70 years old and my husband and I are of the same thought. Religion has been the source of wars from man's beginning and continues to this day. How can that be good?

    January 19, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Lemaitre

      So are mothers and mothers-in-law the source for so much suffering in the world. How can that be good?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • truth be told

      More innocent people have been tortured and murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than in all previous centuries. Look closely at those wars and rumors of wars you reference and you will find the stench of atheism behind them. Remember all atheists lie all the time.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • SImran

      Lemaitre – Mothers a source of suffering???
      What happened to make you think so?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Lemaitre

      And families are the source of incest, ergo they can't be good either!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • saggyroy

      @Truth, So what you are saying is that it took this long for atheists to catch up to you who kill in the name of your "religion".

      January 19, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • SImran

      You a loner then?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Lemaitre

      And people who blog are the source of spewing more CO2 into the atmosphere (coal to electricity), so that can't be good either? You see, M D, you don't get to escape your sanctimonious judgements either.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • truth be told

      No once again an atheist lies, if you examine or even take the time to read what was said you will see that all wars have atheism behind them. Not just those times in which atheists have committed mass murders. Thanks to all for adding proof to my comments.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Pete

      "was said you will see that all wars have atheism behind them. Not just those times in which atheists have committed mass murders"

      Religion has killed more people than atheism. You can't go to war because of atheism but you can for greed of power and totalitarianism. More lies from the xtians – 1118!

      January 19, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • maraut

      At your age you really need to seek the Lord! He stands at the door knocking. Are you going to answer? God cannot be intellectualized. It's by faith that you must receive him!

      January 19, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • M D Cain

      I never thought that my little posting would be received in such a hateful way. When I was a small girl I was taught through good Methodist teachings, that God is within you, therefore, I am my own God and I an accountable to myself! To me this has nothing to do with the bible. You are responsible for yourself and you are responsible for your own actions. What this has to do with mothers-in-law I cannot fathom.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • tallulah13

      This isn't a very nice blog, M D, and some of the least nice people here call themselves "christian". Personally, I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the topic. Too many people believe blindly.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  2. It is Called

    It is Called

    Aduio book S-3B

    Putting it mildly" – Chapter I of Christopher Hitchens' phenomenally scathing and erudite critique of religion, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

    I do not own any of the audio or visual content of this video.

    N.B. If you find the content of this book stimulating, then I enjoin you to please consider buying a hard copy. Hitchens bangs out, as it were, a lot of information in this critique, and not only would a hard copy be useful for references (for you fellow analysts out there, or maybe if you didn't catch a name or two) or look good on your book shelf or a gift for another, but it would help my conscience out a bit – as I'm giving it to you here for free. I know that having audio on YouTube will undoubtedly give this message to people who would never have a chance of reading it, but still. If you have the money why not get a copy from Amazon or, as Christopher Hitchens himself often quips, from any "fine book store anywhere".

    January 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • just wondering

      Isn't hitchens the blasphemous drunk whose throat rotted out of him at an early age? Why is it doing your thinking for you? Can't you afford your own booze?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • It is Called

      Just one of the sources many more on this tread. National Geographic is another if you look.
      Have not had a drink in 35 yers peace.

      DNA works best. Go take a simple blood test.

      Published on Jan 15, 2013

      Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans—people physically identical to us today—left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundred of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? Did we make love or war? That question has tantalized generations of scholars and seized the popular imagination. Then, in 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Paabo announced stunning news. Not only had they reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome—an extraordinary technical feat that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago—but their analysis showed that "we" modern humans had interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a small but consistent signature of Neanderthal genes behind in everyone outside Africa today. In "Decoding Neanderthals," NOVA explores the implications of this exciting discovery. In the traditional view, Neanderthals differed from "us" in behavior and capabilities as well as anatomy. But were they really mentally inferior, as inexpressive and clumsy as the cartoon caveman they inspired? NOVA explores a range of intriguing new evidence for Neanderthal self-expression and language, all pointing to the fact that we may have seriously underestimated our mysterious, long-vanished human cousins.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • It is Called

      @just Do not have to any more OK. How it happened !!!
      It is Called

      S-3B This is what started it for us. Grandfather's place that was homesteded in late 1800's is full of stoney iron meteorites.
      That is where we are fly to today.
      Geology and climate have shaped the development of life tremendously. This has occurred in the form of processes such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere, mass extinctions, tectonic drift, and disasters such as floods and volcanic eruptions. Life, particularly bacteria, has also been able to impact the geological makeup of the planet through metabolic processes.

      00:00 – Chapter 1. Introduction
      02:16 – Chapter 2. The Oxygenation of the Atmosphere
      09:08 – Chapter 3. Evidence of Climate Change
      17:36 – Chapter 4. Geological Impact on Life
      29:37 – Chapter 5. Mass Extinctions
      42:19 – Chapter 6. Earthquakes, Eruptions, and Floods
      46:38 – Chapter 7. Conclusion
      Information is key !
      Thanks again Mikie

      January 19, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • M D Cain

      I MUST get a copy of Hitchens book. I used to read him in The New Yorker Magazine (best on the market by the way). This will be my last postings EVER on these blogs. There are too many strange people that I do not wish to enrage with my thoughts.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  3. stillwondering

    sorry, I meant "with closed minds'

    January 19, 2013 at 8:08 am |
  4. saggyroy

    I was born and raised in a Catholic family, and left the religion years ago. It came after studying the bible, and the history of Catholicism in my late 40's. I don't have any profound reason for not adhering to any religion, or believing in God, except that neither one makes any sense to me, so I choose to ignore God and religion. I have no respect for religion, only the right that people have to believe in it if they want to. Some people in my family know I am an atheist, and some don't, I am not sure it would easier if I was gay.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Lemaitre

      I'll bet you stopped believing long before your forties. In your forties you simply tried to find reasons and rationales for your new found faith!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • saggyroy

      Sort, I am just the type that asks the awkward questions. My goal with the studying and going to church, and volunteering at the church activities was to be a good Catholic and be a sort of apologist for it. It turned out quite the opposite.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Lemaitre


      I have a feeling that if your grew up atheist and spent a lot of time hanging around atheists groups, and saw their inner workings, and their hypocrisy, and their petty humanness, you'd find a reason to flee from them too.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • saggyroy

      I find those traits far more common in believers than atheists. Remember I have experience with both.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Lemaitre

      It's interesting that people who leave one group or tribe and embrace another cannot see the same flaws in the new group.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Zon

      I was born a Mormon and left at 25. Believed my whole life to that point that the world was 2100 years old, was made in 7 days and god was watching and measuring everything you did. I had no idea until then it was all because I was afraid. And the people that made me that way were profiting handsomely from it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Dan

      Roger, you and I are from the same mold apparently. I grew up attending a Catholic school. At one point when I was an alter boy at my church I thought about becoming a priest when I grew up. As I grew older I started to question many things the church taught me. Getting no satisfactory answers from those I asked I studied the bible looking for answers. In time, after much soul searching, study and asking questions of anyone who would listen, I came to admire the bible. Not as the word of god but as a wonderful history text book, nothing more.

      I want to thank Deborah Mitchell for expressing some of the very thoughts I had when I was a young man some 50 years ago. I raised my children in the same vein as she. I let them decide for themselves. I did not force my religion, or lack of, on them. I did not ridicule religion or tell them that god was a myth in order to force my belief on them. I made it clear to them, even at a young age, the day would come when they would decide for themselves. They would learn in their own way which path to follow. When they became adults one decided on church life matching that of his bride and her family. A decision which made me very proud as he arrived at it with thought, study and questioning all. His belief is not mine but that is alright with me. the other remains church free yet believes there is a God. When their children ask me about god I treat them the same as I did their parents. I do not try to foister my belief on them. Learn for yourself and decide I tell them. Remember always your decision will affect your entire life one way or another. Do not make it lightly.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  5. bassmaster22

    There is a reason such things are called "beliefs" and not facts. The people who are supposedly the most enlightened are also the most critical of those who don't fit neatly in their world view. Once, just once, I'd love to see a "believer" write that they were accepting of others' views but, alas, they must turn it in to a "teaching moment" by making a statement of belief followed by a bible footnote.
    I'm an athiest and I have little interest in trying to convince others to share my view yet I am constantly surrounded by people who feel its their mission in life to prove me wrong or convince me otherwise. Like anything else, enjoy what you believe in your own life and keep it there.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  6. Zon

    I came out as a Atheist 20 years ago and you would have thought I just told all my loved ones I was admitting to mass murder. The fact of the matter is we scare people. They can't imagine someone living their lives or raising their children without the crutch of a deity. Since the religious NEED a god to get them through the day, someone who doesn't is considered less than human. Either that or they think you either need to be saved or punished, depending on how they themselves consider the nature of their god.

    As far as I'm concerned, they're like scared children unwilling to come to terms with their place in the Cosmos.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • saggyroy

      I found that coming to terms with the Cosmos to be the most spiritually fulfilling experience. People who don't, have excluded themselves from it, or put themselves above it. How arrogant and shallow.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Justdad

      Talk about bias and hate and ego. The vast majority of people I know who go to church go out of their way to support and helptheir neighbors and volunteer in the community. They personally run the food banks, council the depressed or suicidal, build habitat houses and fly to Haiti to use their nursing skills to help an impoverished nation. The vast number of progressed athiests that I know consistantly use drugs, are divorced, are covered with tattoos and run down people who are actually doing the most good. It is no surprise to me to see Cnn support atheism, nearly every article about faith they run is negative.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • sam stone

      justadad: you need to get out more

      January 19, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • sam stone

      justadad: so, you judge people based on tattoos or drug use? sounds really christian to me

      January 19, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      Justadad: You are judging from a position of ignorance. Your prejudice has blinded you to the reality that atheists come from all walks of life. You have simply chosen to embrace a lie because it comforts you and makes you feel superior.

      Is this the morality one gets from christianity? If so, I am more than happy to be an atheist.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  7. staci

    Thank you CNN for presenting this side of the religion issue. I appreciate living in a country where this kind of point of view is tolerated. That being said, I am very comfortable with eliminating CNN from my favorites list and as a source of news. It just doesn't fit with my needs. I picked up ABC news to replace you. Hopefully I will not have be subjected to the religous ireports that are of no interest to me.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Moses Diaz

      The religious report really interested you, that's the reason you're eliminating CNN from your favorites, because you, as a believer don't conceived someone not being like you.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      If you don't want religious reports that are of no interest to you, why do you click on them? Silly girl.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  8. Bible Belt Momma

    I agree that religion is a personal choice. It is no one's business what another's religous disposition entails. With that we have come to point in this Country where those with a faith system are prohibited from publicly practicing those views. Now, I'm not talking about evangelizing, nor am I talking about requiring prayer or pledging your allegiance to a "god".I'm talking about the right to wear a shirt with a scripture on it, or a cross necklace or even to use your own free time to say a prayer in a public school. If we want people of all walks to be accpeted then we cannot negate the rights and freedoms of others. It's a fine line and i don't know what the correct answer is other than to say this: Tolerance only comes from exposure. If you truly want to raise tolerant, well rounded children then do what you want at home but don't rally to squash others because it's not what you blieve or it makes you uncomfortable. Teach your children and yourself to be thankful that another person cares enough to "pray" for you and teach your children courtesy, respect and TOLERANCE...it's a two way street. The world is an uncomfortable place and probably 75% of the time a "Christian" offers to pray for you or take your kid to church it's a empty statement...roll with it.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • JWT

      I agree to roll with it -0 just keep on going about life and just ignore then.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • sick of christian phonies

      It's always funny when people of faith- the vast majority of the populace, if you can believe polls- feel they are the one being picked on. Who can't wear a cross? or a shirt with a religious saying? Or can't pray in their own free time at school? Maybe they can't stand up and proselytize, but isn't that what those "moments of silence" are for?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • Bible Belt Momma

      Looked a public school dress code lately. Those rules do exist. Not every community has adopted them, but I for one can attest that one school system in FL prohibits wearing religiously themed t-shirts or clothing so as to not create a hostile school environment. It's easy to say that those things aren't happening, but they are. And it is usually those who are uncomfortable with religion because they don't have tolerance for it that claim it doesn't happen. Why? Because they don't see it-its a narrow-minded view of our society. All I'm saying is it's a two way street and we'd all get a long A LOT better if BOTH sides would quit trying to make their view the "only accepted view" and learned to be polite and respectful- "thank you for thinking of me." PERIOD NO one's saying you have to engage in prayer with them, no one's saying you have to go to church with them. USE MANNERS and say thank you but no thank you!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • FranklyMyDear1

      I agree with this. Tolerance is a 2-way street.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • tallulah13

      I actually agree that it is offensive to not allow children to wear simple symbols of their faith at schools. If it's a t-shirt proclaiming that "god hates gays" or something, then yeah, it shouldn't be allowed, but a cross, or star of david or something of that nature is not offensive. We still live in a land where we are free to worship or not worship as we choose.

      On the other hand, I have heard that religious symbols have been appropriated by gang members in certain cities, and if that's the case, then not allowing them in school is simply logical.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  9. Reality

    Some 21st century nitty-gritty:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life without the need of some god or gods. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  10. PC

    There is no god. Get over it.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • cstahnke

      Most people in most cultures throughout history have believed in God or many gods or, as in Hiduism, one God with many manifestations. Many have had direct experience of the Divine however it is labelled. Now you, all-knowing, declare these billions of people are all what? Crazy? Deluded? Frauds? Lying?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • sam stone

      direct experience with the divine?

      i suppose i have, but it normally involves hallucinogens

      January 19, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • tallulah13

      Gods were invented to explain the unknown. For instance, before we knew the natural reasons for lightning, there were many thunder gods. Now that science has explained it, those gods have faded away to myth. Gods were man's way of "controlling" nature: Appease the gods, then they won't hurt you with their storms or floods or volcanoes. Now that we have a better understanding of natural processes, don't you think it's time to put the stories away?

      January 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  11. MagicPanties

    Acceptance of atheism/agnosticism seems about where gay rights were a decade ago.
    More and more people are speaking out and "coming out".
    This is good thing and it gives me hope for the next generation.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  12. Chuck Sowers

    " If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
    ― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

    January 19, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      January 19, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • HotAirAce

      And there is no objective, independent, verifiable or factual evidence that anyone has ever risen from the dead or for any god(s).

      January 19, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • finallywise

      Depends on one's interpretation of the Gospels and what Jesus said.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • cstahnke

      You are being literal. As a Christian I believe it is possible but I don't feel it is necessary to believe he literally rose bodily from the dead because I know that the Bible is not literally "true" in the sense an instruction manual is true. Sadly many if not most Christians in this country believe it not knowing that ancient stories were meant to be read at several levels and were more poetic rather than literal. I did have the experience of myself rising from the dead through Jesus and that's enough for me.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • abraxasworld

      This quote has no place here. There is no proof that christ rose from the dead (i'm not even convinced he ever existed). To believe that he did rise from the dead is a matter that you believe in the bible, not evidence or history.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  13. Patrick

    Hopefully she will be accepting if her children do elect to become religious regardless of her own personal effects. How interesting would that be? I notice she didn't make any mention of that. Would she take them to a mosque or church and drop them off?

    January 19, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • JWT

      Why wouldn't she ? I took one of mine to church when he was interested and read the satanic bible with another when he was interested in that.

      January 19, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Angelique

      Have you read the article???? That's exactly what she said... "She has told her children that she’ll be fine if they decide to join a church when they are older." The article is about being accepting of people no matter what they believe or not believe. That was exactly her point!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  14. Chris H

    I think a huge number of people who are not religious but still claim a belief in a god of sorts, are deluding themselves based on tradition, childhood programming, fear of being shunned, etc. I suspect that many (most?) have a view of a god as Einstein did – the universe as a whole, not an omniscient being who is making each leaf fall and who listens to prayers. The sooner they can break from this last delusion, this belief in god, the happier they will become.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • George

      Happier? It's not a matter of seeking happiness. A person of faith would argue just the opposite to you.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • cstahnke

      Many people throughout the world and throughout history have had deep and sometimes ecstatic visions of God. That has been my own experience. God is a living presence in my life and I doubt I would have been alive without it–the song Amazing Grace could well have been about me.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  15. Benjamin

    When I was religious, I was depressed, lonely, suicidal, violent, short tempered, and self abusive.

    Once I realized there was no god up there mad at me every time I lied or took the lord's name in vain, just about all of those symptoms went away. I still get lonely and depressed sometimes, but not outside of the scope of normalcy. I am happier without religion and a god in my life, and I thank those who don't feel the need to pray for me because I'm lost.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • George

      Benjamin, you should not have used God as your disciplinarian. Religion does provide structure (laws so to speak), but if you delved deeper you would have found that christianity is a religion that provides a path for forgiveness. Sounds to my like you just wont forgive yourself, which are a different set of issues. Something was driving you to feel guilty. It seems to me it was you. If you belive it was God then you are, by default, placing blame on Him. Perhaps you believe and are just choosing to ignore Him

      January 19, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  16. truth be told

    Remember that any post from any atheist is a lie, knowing this puts their undermining filth in a proper perspective.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Remember that my invisible pink unicorn is praying that you get a clue.

      January 19, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Dorian

      So it's your way or the highway? What you believe is right, if people disagree with you they must be wrong?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • cstahnke

      I have believed in God most of my life and I have no doubts because I've been fortunate to have religious experiences. I also know people have very different views of God. I fee that those who disbelieve are not that different and most non-believers I know are good people and views like yours give God a bad name among them.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • truth be told

      Thanks to the replies which have added proof to my original comment.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • truth be told

      Ps to dorian you are wrong, lying is always wrong.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Monica

      Christian's were dubbed "atheist" at the outset because they refused to worship the emperor and the pagan gods. Athenagoras of Athens (known as one of the Patristic fathers of the faith) wrote a lengthy apologetic letter to the emperors in 177 refuting this claim. People like you always chose to close your ears to things you just don't like. Atheists lie no more than Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, cops and robbers. Grow up.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • tallulah13

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  17. Chuck Sowers

    Therefore, though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair.

    Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God (pp. 25-26). Riverhead Trade. Kindle Edition.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Sensible

      i wouldn't consider not having religion as "bitterness and despair". it's more of looking at a situation through the lens of reality. relgion comforts someone through a trial by having them believe that there's someone looking out for them, that it's out of their hands, that'll it's someone's will. it's the placebo effect

      January 19, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  18. Name*David Horgrow

    Thank you. I have been saying something along these lines for a while now.

    It is wonderful that people are finally open their eyes a.d mouths.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  19. Chuck Sowers

    How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?

    Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God (p. 7). Riverhead Trade. Kindle Edition.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Matt

      "How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?"

      Show me one religion with no supernatural elements and then I might get on board.

      January 19, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  20. Ric

    I have a belief in God that has been there for as long as I can remember. I was not raised with religion thankfully, but my belief in God is just there. But I have no faith at all in organized religion and view the bible as a book written by the Catholics to control the masses. You can believe and have faith in God without following a specific religion.

    January 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Faith

      I agree. You can believe in God and Jesus Christ without religiion, because the message is the same to all.

      January 19, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • stillwondering

      Whether we believe in god or not, there is no doubt that the bible is a tome that is the product of the hand of men, not a god. I wonder why the bible tells of God speaking to different people and directing them and why that isn't the case today. It's true that the bible is a book whose chapters have been chosen because the church deemed them the appropriate ones to further religion and that many chapters presently sit in the library of the Vatican, unused. I realize that some folks need religion to calm their fears of death, but I also question a God who would allow the death and destruction present in our world and society. Perhaps we may be a creation allowed to progress to our own destruction. Lately I have been wondering if death is simply a progression to another scientifically explained level of existence. There is no heaven, but a kind of scientific metamorphosis to another level. That would explain many "afterlife experiences". It is proven that Jesus was but one of many "prophets" of the time, but he had the questionable good luck to be the most popular and hence "the chosen one". I have no quarrel with those who choose to follow religion, but I do question those who follow it blindly without closed minds and who look down on those who do question or choose not to believe. After all, we will all discover the truth in the end. Death will either be a revelation or 'the big sleep". So, we should all be content enough in our own convictions to allow everyone else to enjoy thiers, whether it be a belief in divinity or a belief in uncertainty.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • stillwondering

      sorry, i meant 'with closed minds'

      January 19, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Sensible


      it seems to me, to be religious is to be closed minded. it teaches to not evaluate what is being told to you, but rather to listen and follow blindly. the ones who don't conform and begin to look at these things with an open mind, tend to lose religion and think for themselves

      January 19, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Monica

      You should check out The Believing Brain. Humans are very inclined to such, coupled with mom, dad and grandparents telling you there is a god it's not a surprise that you just "know he's there". I did too. I wasn't raised in a church but we wholeheartedly believed.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Sensible

      i think even as adults, the mind has a hard time NOT believing what it's told. the media is a perfect example of that. i could imagine it's even harder as a child

      January 19, 2013 at 8:56 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.