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. A. Commenter

    The majority of wars both past and current were or are being fought based on religious beliefs. Have you ever heard of a government leader who was atheist that decided to wage war to exterminate religion? Many will point to Adolph Hitler whom many noted psychiatrists have made diagnoses including sociopath, narcisism, and most recently borderline personality disorder. Those wars not fought of religious conviction are for power dominance based on controlling access to natural resources (aka the American Middle Eastern Conflict aka War on Terror). Morality is not dependent upon "God" or "Holy Christian Salvation", it is entirely possible to live a life full of moral conviction without suffering the wages of sin. We are human, we have flawed judgment that is related to biological chemistry (proven), therefore we make mistakes. Mistakes are not sins. Sin should be an acronym for Self Inflicted Nonsense – if a dog does wrong does he beat himself up for years on end praying that god will forgive him? No, within minutes of being disciplined by his human owner, he returns wagging his tail ready to play, no judgment, no self inflicted nonsense, just pure love and devotion. Only through repeated abuse will the dog become vicious. Make a mistake – learn from it – remember as best you can to learn from it (our brain chemistry is what plays a role in how we make mistakes remember) – and move on. No need to wait for a benevolent god to finally give you permission to live and enjoy your life.

    ~Everything is energy just different forms vibrating at different frequencies match your frequency to the vibration of what you wish to attain and it will be yours.~

    January 23, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • meifumado

      Hitler was a catholic and never denied that

      January 23, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • austin

      Is Christ the minister of sin? Certainly not.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Tod

      Hitler certainly believed that he was acting as a good Christian but, then again, does everyone who calls themselves a good Christian.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  2. chuckintampa

    If pro sti tution is the world's oldest prof ession, then reli gion is the world's oldest con game.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  3. hobbes1

    Deborah, your thoughts parallel my own. In my soon to be published book, "The Empathy Imperative," my main character writes:

    "The greatest fear of mankind is not an eternal Hell, but an indifferent universe. We fear that we are truly alone in a cosmos that cares not a whit for us. We fear that on a scale of cosmological time, we may be little more than a momentary growth of lichen on an outcrop of stone deep in the cold, northern regions, and that all of our prayers, tears, bobbing heads, and lamentations will not entice the universe to say, 'I am here, and I love you."

    The story goes on to elucidate, theologically, how a better world could come about. The single, most important ingredient, of course, is universal empathy. Theologically, we would have to acknowledge that we do not live in the "best of all possible worlds," and therefore, such a transition would require the best of all possible gods, which we do not have.

    Such a world may someday come about, but not through walls of sectarianism. How? We must tear down those walls, and replace them with the words of John Lennon's, "Imagine."

    Max T. Furr

    January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  4. Burt


    I would not be disappointed at all. That would be great!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Tod

      So you have no real sense of your faith being unique in any way, or any sense that Jesus was being serious when he said "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit"? Remember that I said that everyone would get in, despite their beliefs.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Burt

      Why do I want anyone to go to hell? I don't make my faith complicated. I believe that Jesus is the son of God and he died for my sins. If I believe in Him, I will go to heaven. What other people do is up to them. I think you are trying to hard to not believe. You seem like a rational person (which is rare here) who is searching for something. Otherwise, you would not know so much about all of this.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Bet

      When you are in heaven, will you be happy to know that some of your friends, perhaps family members, are in hell? In heaven there is no suffering, no pain. When you see that someone you loved is missing from the group, will that make you happy? Will you miss them, feel sorry for them? That isn't consistent with the "no pain, no suffering" idea. If you don't remember or think about your missing loved ones, are you still you without the knowledge or memories of those you once knew and cherished?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Tod

      What did I ever say that implied that I actually believe in heaven? I'm merely talking about hypotheticals. I know a lot about this stuff because I'm a rather stereotypical atheist. I have a keen interest in all things religious which is what led me to the conclusion that God does not actually exist. I can't prove that, but I've reached this conclusion after examining the claims that he exists and realizing that they did not make their case, in my opinion. Any "seeking" that I've done was to find the truth, and I believe that I have done so.

      Now, I asked how you would feel if you discovered that everyone ended up in heaven whether they believed in Jesus, or not. I hope that you are not being intentionally evasive.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Burt

      I am happy to see you are interested in what heaven will be like. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." This tells me all that I need to know. Now keep in mind, if you don't believe the Bible is the word of God then this won't impact you.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Burt

      Sorry, I forgot to address that. My answer to that question is kind of hard to explain. I really don't know what to say because I believe there is only one way to get to heaven so the situation is not real to me. Don't get me wrong, I want everyone to go to heaven but it needs to be by the blood of Jesus.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Bet

      You didn't answer my question. In a perfect place, with no suffering or pain, how will you feel when you see that your mother, your child or your best friend isn't there and is presumably in hell for eternity? You don't need the bible to answer that. All you need to do is imagine how you will feel knowing your loved one is in hell.

      Now keep in mind, if you don't use critical thinking skills when you read the bible, then inconsistencies like this won't occur to you.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Burt

      To believe in anything takes faith. I have faith in God. I don't worry about things that I don't understand. I Corinthians 13 tells me that now I see through a glass darkly but later will understand all things. If God revealed himself to us with the proof you are seeking, you wouldn't need faith to believe. Again, as long as you don't want to believe in Him, there is nothing I can ever say that will change your mind. And, He give us that choice to make.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • austin

      by the way, even the disciples having seen all the miracles didnt have the strength and faith to get things right. they repeatedly screwed up. Jesus told peter, "upon this rock i will build my church" and 4 verses later he told peter "get behind me Satan" because Peter wasnt submitting to the Lordship of Christs word. WE are all desperate and incapable of producing faith. but through the grace and mercy of God who is patient, and faithful in love, looks past or complete insufficiency. every day. we go from death to life an inherit an eternal kingdom. our flesh doesnt fully grasp the glory and honor involved in this.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Bet

      You are still dodging my question. When you get to heaven and see that your child isn't there, how will you feel? Happy that they are getting their just punishment?

      "I don't worry about things I don't understand". Really? How did you learn to read, to add and subtract, to write, then? You once didn't understand these either, but you learned them. Why wouldn't you want to learn more about the book you put so much faith in?

      "Now I see through a glass darkly" "you must believe on faith" and all the other "you'll understand when you get to heaven" quotes in the bible are the ultimate cop out/loophole. Why would your loving god make these important "truths" so mysterious and contradictory that you can't understand them until you are dead? Is your god so insecure that he requires you to completely disengage the brain he supposedly gave you?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Tod

      It's a hypothetical. If it turns out that God would not punish nonChristians then would the value of your commitment to being a Christian be diminished in any way? Would you reject a God who would welcome all, or even just all relatively good people into heaven? A God that welcomes the good, but who rejects the bad at least I could understand, even if I don't think he exists, but one who would throw good people into hell just because they didn't "bend knee" to him just sounds tyrannical, see what I mean?

      If it helps, try answering the question in this way: how would you feel if you died and discovered that Hitler was in heaven with you? Let's say that he had found Jesus in the bunker just before he died, but that his Jewish Holocaust victims were all condemned, and were burning once again in hell. How would that make you feel?

      Again, we're talking hypotheticals here, so no saying that you simply don't believe that Hitler would have converted. He most likely died believing that he was a good Christian, after all. His own writings confirm this belief, but let's say that he died after just going through the evangelical conversion process that you think is the only way into heaven. Does he deserve heaven more than his many victims?

      January 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • austin

      It is not Gods character to have you go there forever. That place was for the angels who fell, and people choose the god of this world who is satan, and reject God. not an accident, a choice. you simply cant be in heaven in a Holy place without the sanctifying blood of Christ . so it isnt an accident. children have an age of accountability and dont go there. Gods will is not for you to be there. and He doesnt make decisions for you.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Tod

      Children have an" age of accountability" because they are innocent, I presume? By that argument, those South American native peoples who still haven't had contact with civilization are also "innocent" and deserve not to be excluded from heaven, right? Extend that even further and all of the Israelites who hadn't been yet born to hear Jesus' message didn't deserve to end up in Hell, but tradition has it that Jesus went there specifically to save them, so your whole argument about innocence being an excuse seems to be faulty.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  5. austin

    I have to admit I have noticed over the few days of watching this forum that there are some people with extremely educated and talented vocabularies. and all of the arguments and pleas for why God is responsible for evil, and why the agnostic athiest families are extremely sincere, moral and loving, caring, and have put in considerate thought as to why God isnt fair. if you think about it , apparently maybe 5-10 percent of "the christian" way of life, would be redeemed. that doesnt seem very fair. But i am here to tell you that there is a super natural person of the Holy Spirit, and a redeemer. and the reality is that God knows your heart, and the 95 percent of people who might be on the outside of redemption, have heard the truth and rejected it. I struggle with being the one sometimes, who experienced the miracle, and witnessed demonic activity, and to have to stand in front of eighty people, alone, and inform them against all of their well intended self moralization and educated rejection of the truth. The blood of Jesus Christ atones for the soul. He died for mankind. And this is a fallen world. God is Holy. and the Holy Spirit is a sacntifying spirit that bears the truth of Gods word within a person who understands their desperation. their total depravity. if you dont understand your total depravity then that is your first area of self deceit and pride. I am here to love you with the gospel truth. Because it was given to me by the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Believe in the name of Jesus, and His sacrificial blood.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Bet

      "talented vocabulary" ??

      January 23, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • meifumado

      Still waiting for something intelligent from you.
      That religious crap does not cut it.
      Your entire religious belief system is a lie and your a fool for following it.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • juliejones

      Huh? MAGICAL THINKING will get you no where. Instead take action and think positive.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • chuckintampa

      Someone has been "drinking the kool aid". They say that if you want to understand why a child misbehaves, look at what is achieved (attention?). With religion, it is all about power and control of others. "Don't do this because I say to, do it because God says to" What a load....

      January 23, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • hobbes1

      If your god, "loves all the world," then how do you reconcile that statement in light of the ethnic cleansing of Canaan in the Book of Joshua, and many other unjust assaults on the innocent described in the OT?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Tod

      We may have heard the claims of a loving God who sent his son to earth to redeem human kind, but your calling them "the truth" is just your opinion. In a way, you are trying to sell people something and, like all salespeople, you make certain claims as to the value of your product. A lot of people are convinced by these claims and the pitch, but not all of us. Sorry, but if you want to bring everyone to Jesus then it's up to you to try harder to win over the unconvinced. It's not up to us to suppress our skepticism; it's up to you to answer it.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • austin

      I could sit here and tell you about the experiences i had, and you would decide that my experience isnt trust worthy. but here is how it works for all believers. If for some reason you understand, or believe the word sin, if you wonder about if it is true or not. then you ask God for faith, you ask the Holy Spirit for His spirit, and you ask Jesus for forgiveness. and plead for help with faith. you have to understand your desperate condition, and trust Him for faith. also , you would want to water the seed with the Word of God and pray for communion as you slowly read.
      as far Joshua and the "ethnic cleansing" , if you have ganggreen do you cut the arm off and save the body. do you prune dead branches off of a tree to bolster the fruit on the tree? he flooded the world because the thoughts of men had become only evil continually. how bad were the people that died? they must have deserved it. point is, everyone here is justified. noone is condemned, unless you choose to reject God. thats scary! the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God does not cater to your opinions. He is Holy. Holy does not even appeal to your lusting flesh and mind. With out the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you cant humanly come to faith with your logic. by grace through faith.

      But God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That if you confess with you mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Bet

      Still can't spell gangrene?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  6. Burt

    As a Christian I am going to weigh in on this. Personally, I feel a responsibility to spread the gospel. If you decide to reject it, that is up to you. I won't hound you or "stalk" you about this. It is only because God instructs me to love my neighbor as I love myself that I do this. I will be in heaven one day and I want everyone else to be there too. I have no hate or disdain for anyone who thinks otherwise. People who go too far are not good for the cause. Sorry for bad experiences with those kind of Christians because there are a lot of us who just don't want to see you have eternal regrets. God is love and I need to be a reflection of that.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Thoth

      You feel the need to spread the word? Words of men from 2000 years ago?

      So in the same regard, you should be ok with an atheist spreading objective, and often factual information to your children? I mean if it's ok for you to approach me, or my children and spew drivel rooted in tradition and conjecture, I should be able to in turn point out the fallicies and lack of credibility from which you speak...right?

      January 23, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Otto1923

      The only place you find guarantees for these promises, is in your book. This book also describes a flood, an exodus, and a genocidal joshuan rampage which science tells us never happened.

      It describes a great davidic kingdom which never existed. What makes you think the god who described these things exists, and further, would grant your wishes or give you immortality just because you asked?

      Don't you think this is a little unrealistic?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • james

      hey guys; thought I would check back in and so refreshing to see burt's comment after dealing with so many negative people yesterday. why don't we see if we can play nice today and burt I hope you appreciate me now because you are about to be attacked by a few out of work clowns, comics and dare I say real morons but you have to love them all since that is what Jesus taught and he did live, die and live again to complete a process that so many just will not except but the dev is serious and we see it in full here. so thanks for the great start and keep up the good work. j

      January 23, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • BU2B

      Get real. If your "God is love", "he" would let any decent person into heaven. Not just those who kiss his @$$ every Sunday.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • james

      bu2b; not the way it works but if you really care check out Matthew 7:21-23 for a little clarity on the subject.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Tod

      How would you feel if you discovered that everyone did end up in heaven with you, irregardless of what they believed in life? I know that you probably don't think that this would happen, but just suppose that it did. Would this disappoint you?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Burt

      I'm not going to debate you on Christianity. It is totally your decision. I agree that you should have the same rights that I feel I have to share your opinions. I'm sorry you are bitter about Christians trying to share their faith. Not sure what the problem is but it sounds like it is one. The only thing I will say is that until you fully commit your life to God, you won't feel his presence in your life and won't understand. I'm NOT calling you ignorant...don't take it that way. I just need to say that.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • BU2B

      Hi James. Yes I can quote books as well. The only true god is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It must be true, because I read it in His Book. May we all be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • james

      bu2b, just sharing what I read and hope we all can play nice today but you will have to fill me in on your monster's book since I have not read that one .

      January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Otto1923

      "that until you fully commit your life to God, you won’t feel his presence in your life and won’t understand."

      -Yes and as we know, faith is belief DESPITE evidence. Evidence says that your epiphany is physiological. Any god can evoke this feeling. And some drugs for that matter.

      The desire to retain this feeling compels you to suspend your reason. As with some drugs. Evidence tells us this is an addiction.

      Evidence tells us the god of your books doesn't exist, but this certainly doesn't compare with how he makes you FEEL does it? Reality can make you feel just as good.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Burt

      I have a question for all of you agnostics/aethiests. Why are you so angry? Why do you care if I believe in God? At Christmas, do you get on message boards and rip Santa for not being real? I would say not. I think the reason that you are so passionate is that if you can fully convince yourselves that there is no God, then you won't have to worry about an eternity in hell. Sounds like an ostrich to me.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Bet

      Once again, you are confusing "stating a different viewpoint" with "anger". It's a common, childish reaction when christians face difficult questions about their beliefs.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • james

      burt; refer to my first comment? see what I mean? but if you stick it out there are those who really want to know what the bible really teaches and sift through the chaff and it will be worth it.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Tod

      The anger many people have in this regard is similar to the anger people have towards aggressive telemarketers, if telemarketers actually told you to your face that you were an idiot for not buying what they're selling. I've had Christians tell me that, to my face, in front of my children. Point their fingers at me and scream that I'm a horrible parent for not taking my kids to church. The people of faith may not act like this in your area, but they do in others. It is sad, but true.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Burt

      Actually, I think angry is the right word. Why must you call me childish? I will not call you names or belittle your beliefs. I follow a loving God who wants me to reflect His light. Name calling is at least a form of anger in my book. I often find people who resort to name calling are venting frustration/anger. Why can't we have conversations in a rational way? God loves you whether you love Him or not.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Burt

      I am sorry that has happened to you. That is not what God wants anyone to do. Any truly believing Christian will not behave that way.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • meifumado


      Yes some atheists are angry and they have every right to be angry, for hundreds of years we have been thought of as evil or worse, just as it upsets you that we are lost souls we are upset that you are delusional and still believe in fairy tales.

      One does not need religion to be a good person

      January 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bet

      Poor persecuted Burt. I didn't call you childish. I said that claiming someone who disagrees with you an angry person is a childish reaction. And it is. It's an attempt to divert the focus off the questions being asked and to put the questioner on the defensive.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Burt

      You know, this debate could go on for years and I apologize if I offended anyone here. The bottom line is, I have a great life. Married for 20 years with 3 excellent children. I live a life according to the Bible and love every minute of it. Not sure if you guys think that this makes my life miserable or not but it certainly does not. If you are right and I am believing a fairy tale, so what? My like can't get better by living a life of indulgance and sin. I have to go to work now but thanks for the debate!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Zero

      Not all of us have difficulty presenting our way of thinking as others. Calling people names or insulting people is uncalled for from both sides of the discussion. Simply put, from my standpoint, it is not the people wanting to share their beliefs with me but those who become forceful when I do not wish to follow in those beliefs. I only have an issue when someone becomes hostile or persistant about their beliefs. I do not tell people my beliefs, case in point I have not even said what my belief is, unless they are very close to me at a point in which they should know. And even at that, they know and thats it. No more pursuing the subject. I am me, you are you.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Saddend

      I can appreciate that you feel that you found something that helps bring you a sense of peace and you just want to share that with your fellow man/woman. The fact that people like you care enough to attempt to share gives me hope. I also feel that my agnostic beliefs give me a sense of peace. I also feel compelled to share my beliefs with others however I feel a little apprehensive about doing it for a few reasons. One reason is that I get a little creeped-out and sometimes afraid when others have shared their beliefs with me and I don't want to come across that way myself. Another thing is that at the core of my beliefs is the idea that anything is possible and nobody knows for sure. I guess that is what faith is, believing without knowing. Since I really don't know for sure if my beliefs will work for someone else I keep them to myself because I would hate to lead someone down the wrong path.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Tod

      And the people who did that to me probably wouldn't consider your lesser enthusiasm in spreading the Word as truly Christian either, right? Thousands of versions of, supposedly, the same faith, with great degrees of disagreement in interpreting what it is to be a Christian even within the same versions. All claiming to be the "right" way, with most claiming to be the "only" right way, and often demonizing fellow Christians and people wonder why some of us have little confidence at all in Christianity?

      January 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  7. Cliff Wayne

    I want to thank Deborah Mitchell and CNN for this. I was born and grew up in the Bible Belt. I've always been a non believer but not openly unless I was asked. I believe Religion has no place in Government affairs as it is not based on reason and is the cause for much dissention and violence in the world today as it has been in the past.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  8. Otto1923

    Science tells us that the pivotal events of the OT didnt happen, that Jesus is identical to previous sungods, and that 11 books of the NT are forged.

    It tells us that the last 11 verses of mark, and the 'cast the first stone' parable, were added centuries after the books were written. It tells us that adulteration is the norm in all holy books.

    How can we believe in gods whose books are full of lies? Why do the books they wrote fail so miserably to describe the world they created?

    Why do the senses and brains they gave us tell us that these book gods cannot possibly exist??

    Ehrman – Dawkins – dennett – hitchens pbuh – religion poisons EVERYTHING.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Saraswati

      Only one of the 4 people you list believes that the majority of the NT was intentionally faked. If you make extremist statements like this it just backs the Christians up to a wall kicking.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Otto1923

      These aren't extremist statements. None of these gentlemen believes in your gods. All recognize the extreme danger that these beliefs place the world in.

      As Ehrman says, if you find even one significant mistake in a book written by god then you have suspect all of it.

      And there is not one, but hundreds of falsehoods (lies) in the bible, the Quran, and all the books. Because people wrote them for completely human reasons.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Tod

      In all fairness, the people who wrote scriptures probably felt that they were writing what God intended them to say, right? You may argue that they were deluded, but it would be hard to argue that they were just being con men.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Tod, One would like to think so but when you consider the wealth and power that comes with the established religion there would be plenty of temptation to do what gives an advantage. And if you think "holy" people are beyond reproach look at the child abuse ans subsequent coverup by the RCC.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Saraswati

      I agree that they don't believe in God. I don't agree that that you'd get buy-in on the comparrision of Jesus (as opposed to 'God') to the sun gods or on the word 'forged', at least in relation to the majority of the work.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Otto1923

      "the people who wrote scriptures probably felt that they were writing what God intended them to say, right?"

      -Religion had been used for millennia by Leaders to manage the people. One can trace the evolution of these state religions, a very real process of keeping what worked and discarding what didn't.

      Wish-granting, immortality, absolution of guilt, exclusivism, tribalism, aggressive reproduction... A direct lineage from Sumer to the Arabian peninsula.

      These religions were Designed. Civilization is the Result. Evidence tells us that Greek scholars concocted the Xian religion to counter Jewish proselytism and unite euro pagans. It was Purpose-built. And wildly successful by Design.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Tod

      With the very likely exception of Scientology, where you see design, I see religion as having evolved more, or less naturally.

      January 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  9. Erik

    "children should learn to do the right things because they will feel better about themselves"

    Really? That's pretty sick if you ask me.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Grim

      I'll bite, why is that sick?

      January 23, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      There are two ways to read that statment:

      1) Children should learn that if they do the right things they will feel better about themselves.
      2) Children should be raised such that they feel better about themselves when they do the right thing.

      The word order is more similar to #1, but I believe the sentence means #2. The difference in these two interpretations seems to be causing some conflict.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • hrm

      I don't think you understand what she meant. She means to teach him to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and not for any other reason like pleasing an imaginary friend. Doing the right thing also has the side effect of making you feel good, if you aren't a sociopath, and that is what she meant.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  10. meifumado

    I think the lady who was making the phone calls and leaving letters should have been arrested for stalking

    January 23, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • hrm

      Yes, the words "Restraining Order" immediately spring to my mind. It is extremely disrespectful of other peoples' beliefs, and when it goes that far, it is harassment. I feel I would start getting pretty openly hostile, yes to the point of complaining to law enforcement, if someone did that to me. It is unwelcome and unwanted, as well as being a passive-aggressive insult, as if something is wrong with you for not having "faith". I don't go around telling people they should stop praying or go to church, and it's time to show atheists the same respect you would want yourself. I support The Golden Rule, but a lot of religious people really tend to selectively forget about actually practicing it when it comes to spreading their religion.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Tod

      As they say, "All's fair in love and war" and many Christians love Jesus so much that they would do just about anything in their war against sin. Consider how much (misinformation/lies) are spread by creationists against evolution science. Somehow, these people manage to justify making statements like there being no transitionary fossils when every new species lies in transition somewhere between two others in the record. It amazes me that people who consider lying a sin would either spread such statements, or accept them as truth.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  11. dilberth

    I am a believer. From the time that I was four years old, my mom stressed that there was someone who died for ours sins. That man was General George A. Custer who died for our sins at the Battle of Little Big Horn. My faith is strong on this article of faith.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  12. Saddend

    So god put me into an existence with hundreds of religions, an existence which does not last long enough for me to even scratch the surface of learning even one of them, and if I choose the wrong one I go to hell. Makes perfect sense.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      They don't all threaten you with hell for picking the wrong one.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Gori

      Yep. Better hope you are born in a western country or exposed to "missionaries" in your formative years or best case your soul goes "poof," worst case you "burn."

      January 23, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • crabbyolddad

      I was born to Catholicism but veered away by the time I was 18. I have called myself an Atheist ever since. My son was raised with no religion and is a practicing nothing as is his wife. They have a child who is going to be raised as a nothing as well. We have determined that "structured" religions are all based on a fear factor and nothing more. The defenses of religion are as absurd as the practices. When man, who created the religions in the first place, finally realizes that when you are dead, you are DEAD, religion will fade away, hopefully with the inane feeling of need for guns too.

      "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition"

      January 23, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  13. Pluto Animus

    "They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage."

    Know why we atheists never flag religious stories as inappropriate?

    Because we're not a bunch of sniveling cowards!

    January 23, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Tod

      I've posted on both Christian and atheist sites. Most of what you get on Christian sites is declarations of faith. People post articles, or offer "testimonies", seeking approval and vindication, I assume.

      I've seen people, and personally been, banned from Christian sites merely for asking questions. No fowl language, or even disrespect, but just for asking questions that people found too uncomfortable, I suppose. On atheist sites I've only seen people banned when they were really belligerent, vulgar, or merely preaching without any attempt at discussion.

      It seems to me that Christians are only really interested in reinforcing their own beliefs where atheists are usually interested in discussing their beliefs. I find that very telling.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  14. Sabrina

    I am a Christian but I don't think it's necessary go out and try to shove things down the throats of others. God gave us all a free will to decide what we believe or don't believe. If someone asks me, then yes I will share my faith but otherwise I leave up to others to seek. One shouldn't become a Christian (or an adherent to any religion) simply out of peer pressure. I should be from a true heart conviction, that they believe that Christ is the Savior. To me, prosyltizing (whether for or against religion) is an affront, and is an indicator that the prosyltizer isn't as secure in their belief (or lack of belief) as they are trying to demonstrate.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  15. Gori

    While I consider myself an agnostic, my problems are not with any "God" per-se, but with dogma. For example, I find it hard to reconcile that an old "God" would all of a sudden decide that Jews were doing it all wrong, and if they wanted to "heaven" now, they must follow Jesus Christ. A rabbi being denied a place in "heaven" simply because he was Jewish? Really? Or even Mohatmas Gandhi because he was Hindu? My thinking is that if you live by the golden rule, and there happens to be a "God," you are pretty much good to go. No religion neccesary.

    Religions simply turn us into groups of "others" when we should really all be joined by our common humanity.

    I was raised Catholic, have sent my children to Catholic schools (one still goes to HS), and took them to church, but eventually let my them decide upon their own path.

    I have found that Buddhist philosophy best aligns with my views.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Cato

      Gori, this is brilliant, to-the-point and well said. I (a lifelong Jew) share your thoughts entirely. I admit that I chuckled when I scrolled down and read your parting reference to Buddhism, which has been my path as well. Buddhism, of course, is a life philosophy that contains most, if not all, of the precepts we consider admirable in our organized religions, but presents them for their own goodness and not by imposing the abstract concept we call a "god".

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Tod

      It's debatable whether or not Jews of Jesus' time really thought much about heaven, or hell. By the time of the rabbis there were ideas either based upon Greek or Persian models. Jesus was from a very Gentile area and likely was more Greek influenced in his thinking. Greek myth invented the idea of those who wronged the gods being tortured in the afterlife. The Christian model is based on this one, it seems.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  16. Science

    Supreme Court to Decide if Human Genes Can Be ... – Reason Online


    Nov 30, 2012 – The justices' decision will likely resolve an ongoing battle between scientists who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies that argue that a patent is a reward ...

    January 23, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  17. Dennis

    You just encountered the CNN automatic word fragment filter. Maybe some nice person will provide you a list of banned words.

    For example, "superstition" is blocked because it contains "tit". There are many other banned words.

    Also, the Report abuse link mostly does nothing.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  18. Verdigris

    God does exist and it is MAN! It is spoken of in the beginning of the old testament and it is a message that the Christ proclaimmed but was eventually distorted by greed and peoples fear of death.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Dennis

      Your brain sort of exists but it's BROKEN.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      So you are saying god exists because men wrote it in a book. Don't believe evrything you read.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • meifumado

      Prove it!

      January 23, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  19. Kathryn Hill

    I agree with this mother's position. My husband and I are free thinkers as are a lot of our friends. We know the difference between right and wrong and don't feel that doing "right" is the "right thing to do" so we can get into heaven, it's just "the right thing to do" as a human being. Personal beliefs are just that, personal, and they should stay where they belong, in the home, or in church, but not where other people are forced to share them or participate in them. If you really believe in God, does he really need to hear you pray out loud at any time or any place? Why couldn't you share your piety with him from your heart or soul?

    January 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Barnum Effect

      More people need to read this and consider this comment, free of pre-existing bias about the nature of morality.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  20. namerequired

    You have over 12,000 comments to this article, so why did you not post my previous comment?

    January 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • namerequired

      I have reported this comment for abuse. Thanks for the reply.

      January 23, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "You have over 12,000 comments to this article, so why did you not post my previous comment?"

      CNN uses WordPress blogs for their opinion pieces, and they use automated censoring that looks for words, or fragments of words, that are considered offensive. If your post doesn't show up, it most likely had a forbidden word in it.

      On the Belief Blog, repeat posts, even those that were previously censored and not displayed, will show a message stating that you posted it before.

      The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
            arse             as in Arsenal
            cock           as in cockatiel
            coon           as in cocoon
            cum             as in circumstance
            homo         as in homosexual
            rape         as in grape
            sex           as in homosexual
            spic         as in despicable
            tit               as in constitution or title
            vag           as in vague
            wonderful us

      To circumvent the filters you can break up the words by putting an extra character in, like: consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").

      January 23, 2013 at 10:26 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.