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Reality TV Goliath takes up Bible miniseries challenge, hopes for better outcome
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on the set of "The Bible," the 10-hour miniseries Burnett produced and directed.
March 2nd, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Reality TV Goliath takes up Bible miniseries challenge, hopes for better outcome

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN) - Mark Burnett is the king of reality television. His shows and spinoffs command hours of prime-time television real estate. The seal of his production company One Three Media appears at the end of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Job” and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”

He will tell you each show was No. 1 in the time slot. He will tell you he will take on all comers in his bare-knuckle, ratings-driven world and beat them. He will tell you on any given day he has 150 video-editing systems churning through edits on his dossier, which spans the three major broadcast networks.

But if you suggest he may not have the chops to take on a massive scripted dramatic presentation of the Bible as a 10-hour miniseries, his eyes will tell you he wants to throttle you.

My bad.

Burnett and wife, Roma Downey, have been barnstorming the country like roving preachers on horseback trying to evangelize the West. Their gospel is spreading the news of “The Bible” - their ambitious project that aims to tell the story of the Bible in 10 installments. It begins its weeklong premiere on the History Channel Sunday night.

We met in the lobby of the Washington Hilton the night before last month’s National Prayer Breakfast. They were in town to speak to Washington journalists and show clips from their project.

Burnett and Downey’s project tackles the narrative of the Bible, a story woven through 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament. It’s a story revered by billions as divine revelation – and one they’ve compressed into 10 hours of television. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot.

Many have taken aim at dramatizing the stories of the Bible. Few of those productions stood the test of time. They knew all that going in 3 1/2 years ago when “the light bulb went off,” as Downey puts it.

“It’s been a great fun journey right, Roma?” Burnett said to his wife of nearly six years.

“And we’re still talking to each other,” Downey said, smiling.

Both Downey and Burnett were raised Catholic, Burnett in England and Downey in Ireland. They still regularly attend Mass in Los Angeles. Growing up, both watched the classic Biblical films that the Hollywood of yesteryear churned out, like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

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“In Ireland, we used to sit up and wait for John Wayne to say, ‘Surely that man was the Son of God,’ at the end of 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' every Easter,” Downey said, with her thick Irish brogue dipping into a delightfully terrible John Wayne impersonation.

After showing their kids "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston, their three teenagers had one request for the Bible project. They told their parents, “Please don’t make it lame.”

Making it work

The project is personal for Burnett and Downey, coming from a deep spiritual desire for more people to see and experience the stories of their faith. As Europeans, now naturalized U.S. citizens, they are stunned the Bible is not taught in public schools.

“It was time for an updating. Adding fresh visual life to a sacred text,” Burnett said.

“People have great hearts and great knowledge but no experience of filmmaking and no budgets,” Burnett said of past telling of the stories on film and television.

“Or the resources,” Downey chimed in. “We wanted to create something that was gritty and authentic. We certainly didn’t want everyone to look like they stepped out of the dry cleaners.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wir4fH6hUxw&list=UUt_Q-xP9pUFpalCF-e_ZhtA&index=18]

Burnett and Downey may not have been high on the list of many studios as producers and directors to put a massive scripted project like this together. "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" starring Donald Trump and Gary Busey is not exactly" Ben-Hur," and Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green spinning in chairs on the singing competition "The Voice" isn’t often (or ever) compared to the "Ten Commandments."

When I asked Burnett about this, he seemed genuinely insulted.

“Based on viewership, maybe I should be giving a few lessons to the people who are doing stories. Because we have five nights of No. 1 wins on prime-time television,” he started. “As a family we’ve made over 2,000 hours of American television and 8,000 worldwide.”

As he cooled down, ticking off a list of reasons why he and his wife were best suited for the job, he delved into how this project was made.

The production, he insisted, was a lot more like the production that goes into "Survivor" than nearly any feature film or television show in production.

"Survivor" typically includes a cast and crew of 400 people in a remote location with multiple helicopters and boats.

To film the Bible series, they set off for the southern tip of Morocco in Africa with a similar-size crew and hundreds of extras. Not to mention the chariots and horses.

“It was epic,” Downey said.

“Our experience with large-scale productions was very, very important,” Burnett said.

To help further bring the story to life, they brought in Lola, an Oscar-winning CGI team from London who created similar scenes for the film "Gladiator."

They went with an international ensemble for the cast because they didn’t want to distract the audience with recognizable celebrities.

Jesus was played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado. Many other actors came from the Theatre District in London.

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus in 'The Bible' miniseries

The most recognizable face to most in North America will be Downey herself, who stepped into the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary is portrayed in the series as a young woman at the Nativity, then later in life.

“It was a privilege to play it,” Downey said. For nine seasons, Downey starred in the CBS show “Touched by an Angel,” then went on to star in a number of TV movies.

“The scripts at one point just said Young Mary, and then as the scripts progressed it said Old Mary. I said, ‘OK, we have to change that right now.’ The last thing I need to see is ‘Old Mary’ played by Roma Downey,” she said with a laugh. “So we changed it to Mother Mary.”

The budget for the 10 hours was under $22 million, Burnett said, a small price tag for a production on such a grand scale. (NBC paid $4 million per episode for the show “Smash” this season, according to an estimate by the New York Times)

“It’s not easy, even for us, to sell and get placed on prime time television, 10 hours – Genesis to Revelation,” Burnett said. “Do we wish we had 25 or 100 [hours], yes but we got 10. We got a great budget. It looks like it’s a $200 million movie. Of course it’s not. It’s just our combined experiences, our hearts and efforts that make it look like that.”

Getting it right

As they considered which parts of the Bible to shoot, they had to pare down hundreds of stories.

“The first decision was, it’s one story,” Burnett said. “It’s not a series of unconnected stories, it’s one grand narrative.”

“You could call it the meta narrative.”

The series encompasses five hours of the Old Testament and five hours of the New Testament.

They took many artistic liberties to compress the story lines while hoping to remain true to the story.

A public relations manager for the project described the liberties to me as “extra-biblical but not contra-biblical.”

For instance, in the series opener, the Book of Genesis stories of Adam and Eve and Noah unfold together. Noah and his family are already on the ark while the flood waters batter their boat. To calm his family, Noah tells them the story of creation: “In the beginning! ... ” Noah bellows as he runs around plugging leaks and comforting his family and the animals.

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

An actor portrays an Egyptian slave driver in 'The Bible' miniseries

Similarly, in the story of David and Goliath, when David heads out to face the giant Philistine foe, he clutches his sling and quietly begins to recite the 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” David is considered the author of the psalm, but nowhere in the text of the David and Goliath story does it address what he said as he walked out to battle and slay Goliath.

The dialogue in much of the story is similarly constructed along the lines of the bare-bones text. When Jesus calls Peter to be his disciple, Peter asks, “What are we going to do?” Jesus answers, “We’re going to change the world.” Those lines never appear in the Gospel accounts, but Burnett and Downey insist it is consistent with the text.

“Every step of the way we’ve had scholars and theologians working with us,” Downey said.

Burnett and Downey consulted a wide range of pastors and academics, including a major evangelical leader and a Catholic cardinal.

Their advisory panel consisted of many people from varied backgrounds familiar with sharing the stories of the Bible rather than of a "who’s who" of Biblical academics.

Joel Osteen, a popular television preacher and pastor of the 30,000-member Lakewood church in Houston, was among those consulted. Osteen and Burnett are friends and were developing a television series together that went on the back burner during the production of this series. Osteen even took his family to Morocco during some of the filming.

“[Burnett] would send scripts our way and ask doctrinal or Bible questions about it, but a lot of it was a friendship and an advisory role,” Osteen said.

CNN Belief: Five things we learned from Joel Osteen's visit

Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.

His encouragement to Burnett was to “use your creativity to fill in between the lines.”

Another consultant was Rabbi Joshua Garroway, an assistant professor at the Hebrew Union College and an expert on early Christianity and the Second Jewish commonwealth (circa 530 B.C. to 70 A.D.) Judaism. He was a paid consultant on the project.

“One of the issues that came up frequently in the comments was the goal of the production was to remain faithful, or at least as faithful as possible, to the narrative and text of the Bible, as opposed to a historical critical approach,” he said.

“The series is not meant to be a historical feature but as a representation of the biblical narrative which is at times historical and at times not,” Garroway said.

One reason Garroway thought he was brought in was because in parts of the New Testament, “there are less than generous depictions of Jews, Jewish leaders and Jewish traditions.”

One of several Jewish scholars involved, his role as a New Testament scholar was to help the production stay faithful to the text but also “diminish as much as possible scenes or statements that could be construed as overly negative toward Jews and Jewish judgment.”

While he thinks the project has an overall Christian orientation, “I think they did well.”

“I don’t think it will run into the same problems that Mel Gibson’s movie ("The Passion of the Christ") did because the producers have been somewhat conscientious about forestalling some of the things that could produce that effect in the Jewish community,” he said, referring to perceptions of anti-Semitism from the 2004 film.

Osteen thinks the project will have a lasting impact in churches. He plans to use pieces of the project in his services to help illustrate points he’ll make in his sermons.

“I know I’m biased because I’m their friend, but I think it’ll be something that will live on for generations because it’s done with excellence, not knocking anything else, it’s just this is production 50 years past where some of the other films were made,” he said.

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

Burnett and Downey also think this project will be their most lasting and most viewed.

Burnett said the couple have deferred all their fees for the project. They probably don’t need the money anyway. Forbes lists Burnett as among its 100 highest-earning celebrities with an estimated income of $55 million in 2012.

While the History Channel owns the exclusive North American rights to the project, Burnett and Downey own the rights to global distribution and theatrical airings, which are in the works. There is also a book tie-in, games and apps attached to the project.

For the couple, the project was not about turning a profit, though they likely will. Instead, it was about bringing new life to the stories of their faith for a new audience.

“Will it be screened in movie theaters? Yes, for sure. "Already been approached. Arenas, churches, every way you can imagine,” Burnett said.

Burnett ticked through the shows he and Downey have put together over the years. “Over the next 25 years," he said, "more people will see this than all the others combined.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Entertainment • TV

soundoff (2,068 Responses)
  1. Jim

    This Burnett guy...just because he brags and brags about how much money he makes, how many people watch his..."shows"...doesn't mean crap, considering that's what his shows are...crap. What an egotistical idiot.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Roscoe Chait

      Even God would be bored with yet another remake of the Bible, the most vicious, violent book ever written. It's so violent, it could be a bestselling video game.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • pockets

      It will bomb, the story of a Messiah has been told and retold by endless society's on the planet......its all garbage. There is no god, you live and you die....end of story....enjoy your life. Help others, especially the animals on the planet that we are wiping out.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  2. Buck Rogers

    This story is interesting as well....

    http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/IFS.htm

    March 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  3. informedknowledge

    ThronedOne
    "So another words your faith and belief in science is better then my faith and belief in God"

    Absolutely, yes. Science is reproducible and demonstrable,

    awesome logic guess this is why we no longer believe the earth is round ...but yet there were many great scientific minds even Aristole who believed it was. ......If you are so correct then I do not think we would be revising our science say every 50 years ......at one time mankind had never even heard of a quark ...did it not exist then ?

    March 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  4. ArthurP

    Person 1: God is always watching over you.
    Person 2: Even when we are having se.x.
    Person 1: Especially when you are having se.x.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      child ..should you not be off playing call of duty black ops ?

      March 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      Paranoid are we, just a little bit?

      March 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  5. CrzyChristianBlver

    So another words your faith and belief in science is better then my faith and belief in God? I should believe what you believe because thats what you believe? I'm crazy because I don't believe what you believe? Awesome! I will continue to believe what I believe and you can continue to believe what you believe. After you and I die I will see you and we can go over our previous notes of who believes what. I will be happy in my death, I hope you will be too. Have a great day.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • ThronedOne

      "So another words your faith and belief in science is better then my faith and belief in God"

      Absolutely, yes. Science is reproducible and demonstrable, it requires no faith. Faith is, by definition, acceptance in absence of proof.

      To paraphrase your sentence into what it really says:
      "So another words your demonstrable, falsifiable and provable science is better then my blind belief in God in absence of proof"

      Yes sir, it is. Faith is what you need when you have no way to establish something as fact. Science admits that it does not know most things. Faith lies and tells you it has knowledge of everything.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Topher

      ThronedOne

      So at what percentage would you say we have of all knoweable knowledge? Maybe an incredible 1 percent? What do you think?

      March 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • are122

      You're right. Many physicists have concluded there had to be a creator considering rocks and gas balls couldn't logically have created the laws of mathematics and physics that govern the universe. Science in my opinion is quite right.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  6. mason

    Myths, fairy tales, ghosts, vampires are sitll popular with some humans.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      You can tell you do not even posses a scientific mind

      March 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  7. mykroft

    Reality TV and the Bible are a perfect fit. Both consisting of scripted events passed off as reality. In reality TV however, nobody gets burned at the stake for not believing the stories....

    March 3, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      foolish little one who probably does not even own a history book ..........it was man not God or even the belief in God that burned people at the stake ...and if you knew anything of human history instead of just having the ability to make such simplistic little statements you somehow fool yourself into believing are profound ...you would know that most of those atrocities mostly had political reasons at their core.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  8. informedknowledge

    Most of you amuse me so much by your comments ...comments from what Neitzche called the worm instead of the superman...Doesn't really matter what you believe or do not believe ...But who are you tiny little speck to tell any of us what is and is not ? Who are you to cast truth and say it is so ...when you control so little ..Who are you but tiny children who gaze at the heavens and know not all the answers, but yet you profess to act as if you do. You amuse me , as you surely in your true hearts amuse yourself with your unfounded vanity.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • mykroft

      The difference here is that I know the areas that I'm ignorant in, and try to remedy that for those topics that interest me. Since most forms of science interest me, this takes up a lot of time.

      The average Christian however smugly assumes they know all they need to know about the universe, and wears their ignorance about science (and other cultures) almost as a badge of pride.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • ThronedOne

      For the record, if heaven does exist (which there is no proof for anyway), then you are certainly not going there – a condescending, rude and judgmental troll calling people worms. Think about it. The bible instructs you not to judge – yet you sit here judging. You're guilty of the number one crime.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  9. Don't ask me who I am I am who I am

    IS IT GONNA BE FOR FREE?

    March 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  10. ThronedOne

    As an agnostic, I find the preview clip humorous because it reveals that the bible is no more than an early Game of Thrones. The special effects and insinuations that god cares about which city you live in, and which peoples are "favored" and which are not, etc. will reveal the bible is even more so high fantasy. This show will sit well along side Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules. The best part is that most Christians don't really know what is in the bible – when the content is fully brought to light, it is very hard to swallow. Now I can only hope for a version of the series that includes the Gnostic gospels, the stories that were strategically hidden away by the Niceans because they are even more ridiculous.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • mason

      how dare you deal in reality 🙂 it's true, Jehovah character is worse than Hitler, and his son is a schizo thug..

      March 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      You have just shown you know very little of both the bible and science. God made man from the dust of the ground ...are not all living life forms made from carbon ? If you explored a little more than to assume you know anything at all ..you might just find some of the answers you seek ...Or you can make the assumptions that religions purpose to know all the answers ...If you knew anything at all you would already know there are several cardinals even in the Vatican who believe in the idea of a possible big bang theory. You should take heed to more seek and ye shall find ...you might just learn something then.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      LOL ThronedOne
      For the record, if heaven does exist (which there is no proof for anyway), then you are certainly not going there – a condescending, rude and judgmental troll calling people worms. Think about it. The bible instructs you not to judge – yet you sit here judging. You're guilty of the number one crime.

      This proves you probably have never even opened a bible .....judge not for you be judged ...has to do with morality of actions or degree of faith not intelligence ........Is it to judge to say your hair is longer than his or hers ....If you are a worm in your thinking instead of a superman then I am only judging you in man's sense of judgement not the Bibles .....maybe you should try reading it , and the Koran , and the Talumd , the Apcrophya ect ....then maybe you too would be a better judge of things.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  11. us_1776

    "god" has been relegated to the same place as the "flat earth society".

    Get over it.

    .

    March 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      foolish little person ..you can keep believing you are just but a worm all your life I guess ..maybe you should it would be easier than say putting away your silly pride and admitting you do not have even half the answers

      March 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • ThronedOne

      "would be easier than say putting away your silly pride and admitting you do not have even half the answers"

      Wait, the Christians are the ones who claim they have all the answers. (god did it, jesus taught us the rules, etc.) So what you are saying is completely contradictory. Science says it has NOT all of the answers – religion says it DOES have the answers.

      Humorous that you can't even see that far.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  12. IvotedforObama

    I want to watch it, but will have to wait for reruns because I don't want to miss The Amazing race and The Walking Dead.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  13. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Ten hours???? Give us a break !!!

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

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

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

    March 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • vp123

      As far as anyone knows, your great- great- great- great grandparents never existed. Therefore you do not exist and are proven irrelevant. (I think I'm following your logic correctly.)

      March 3, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Reality

      From Professor Crossan's book, Who is Jesus:

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      : “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.
      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "
      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      March 3, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  14. Rachel

    Saw the promos by Pastor Warren. Look forward to watching it, hope it is true to the Biblical content and touches lives in a positive and uplifting way.
    Kudos to the Burnett's for taking up this mega challenge.

    March 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • .

      => Does that mean your inane ass won't be here to annoy us, Chadlyrache?

      March 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • ThronedOne

      "hope it is true to the Biblical content"

      Which version of the bible are you talking about specifically? KJV? New Life? How about the original scrolls we have uncovered that predate the Niceans edits in the modern bible?

      March 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Rachel

      I hope the key message is around God's love, his grace and forgiveness to all mankind.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Dippy

      Rachel, it's "Burnetts" (a plural), not "Burnett's" (a possessive). Why am I not surprised that you're a religie?

      March 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  15. Bob

    I will be watching the series with some popcorn sutton's

    March 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Religion is

      Superstition!

      I will take great pleasure in watching something more educational (or nothing at all). And I won't need popcorn "sutton's," whatever they are.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    Throwing the three together into one being cubes its implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 stars and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. Did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them, or even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

    To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, before you next proudly proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

    Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling before and supplicating yourself to something, at least make it something that exists.

    March 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Religion is

      Superstition!

      Well written post, doG. Unfortunately, the religies probably won't understand it and, even if they do, won't allow themselves to believe it.

      March 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Holysmokeandmirrors

      Great post! I now await the usual religious response of circular reasoning.

      March 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • informedknowledge

      such blatant ignorance in why this person does not believe ..I think they are trying to convince themselves more than us ....You can tell you probably do not believe in anything paranormal or say ghosts either ...because believer in nothing that would take too much effort for you.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Sherry

      If you ever have a child on their death bed, you will likely find yourself calling out to that "all powerful" being. We instinctively know that there is an almighty God without any proof. Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • sam stone

      sherry: it is not instinctive, it is cultural. as far as knees bowing, your blah, blah, blah warning ring hollow to those who do not accept the same things you do

      March 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • quoththeravennevermore

      You can say anything what you want to say– this is the US and we have a right to the freedom of speech. But don't you think that your words are bit offensive to those who do believe? There's really no need to slander Christianity's values merely because you think them to be incorrect.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Raven, the slander will stop when the believers stop trying to impose their belief on the rest of us. Christians don't want you to think as they do; they want you to do as they think.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  17. ah1_254@msn.com

    Another HOLLYWOOD version of the Bible?
    No thanks,

    March 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    March 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Dyslexic: so are you Colin or just plagiarizing Colin?

      March 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • ah1_254@msn.com

      Wow, someone is an angry lil boy, huh?

      March 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      @Russ: I'm just copying and pasting.

      It's like quoting a bible verse really. 😉

      March 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • quoththeravennevermore

      You seriously wasted this much time to write this stuff? Get a life.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Religion is

      Superstition!

      It makes oodles more sense than your post, raven.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  19. Blah

    How about...Survivor: Leper Colony

    March 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  20. Christian7

    ME II, You have faith in the pilot because the FAA qualifies pilots. That is a good reason to have faith in the pilots ability. You should not believe in God for no reason. Faith is not about His existence. The analogy was good.

    March 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • .

      Does the "reply" button function escape you?

      March 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • ams

      "Faith is not about His existence."
      Yes it is.

      "The analogy was good."
      No it wasn't.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • JJ

      Christian, this explains your delusions. You seem to be out of touch with reality. Having "faith" one's abilities is not the same as having faith and believing in the supernatural. You are so indoctrinated that you have lost all sense of reason and must perform all types of mental gymnastics to keep down the kool-aide. I pity you.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.