home
RSS
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
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(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.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

“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. The Idiot

    Most everybody "KNOWS" the bible is not true?

    Really? It is the all time #1 best selling book in more languages than all other books combined and as of today NO ONE can disprove a single account.

    Not saying it is true but has anyone that has commented negatively about this ever actually read the book?

    Most scientist that dedicate their life work at disproving any, even one story, of the bible BECOME CHRISTIANS before 50 years old. Why is that?

    IT TRULY IS THE GREATEST TEXT EVER WRITTEN AND THAT IS INDISPUTABLE!

    March 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Tea Clown

      Super Man comic books were best sellers too. Just aayin'...

      March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Indesputable? It's a bunch af fairy tales that contradictis itself all over the place.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      "Most scientist that dedicate their life work at disproving any, even one story, of the bible BECOME CHRISTIANS before 50 years old. Why is that?"

      What information is this based on? Back that up with a reference please.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      "...AND THAT IS INDISPUTABLE!"

      and yet it's being robustly disputed right before your eyes. Seems like maybe your judgment is not the sharpest.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Science

      Looks like your handle fits. good reading for FACTS !

      Dover Trial Transcripts

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 3, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • taco

      No one have proven the Harry Potter books aren't true. They are some of the best-selling books ever.

      So, what's your point?

      It's impossible to disprove somethings existence. Logic isn't your strong suit is it?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • lol??

      What's with Harry and the swine motif?? Bob Evans might not like it.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      My wife is a believer but she believes the bible is not the total, factual unerring word of god but a book of parables and stories that need to be taken in context.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • lol??

      BTW, God claimed to be the potter before Harry showed up for his 15 minutes.........."Jer 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."

      "

      March 3, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  2. hisgoodteenr

    "Worship me so I can save you from the bad things I will do to you if you don't worship me!"... God

    March 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  3. lol??

    Finding character actors for the demon possessed shouldn't be any pwoblem. Just skim the CNN belief blogs. The volunteers are coc-ked, locked, and ready to rock.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Tea Clown

      ...sanctimonious much?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  4. thinker

    The Bible, written by man, altered by man, and profited off of through the manipulation of man, by man. Yes, I can believe that is truly God's work. Not.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  5. Tea Clown

    The Christian greed-mongers have finally reduced Jesus to a reality TV show. And the gullible will flock to watch it.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  6. Atheists are Out Early Today

    Well, nothing wakes up an atheist like a story about religion or faith. Just wondering why so many of you posters care? Those of us who believe aren't moved by your arguments. Eventually one or the other of us will be proven right. We all die. If there's nothing hereafter, I'm none the worse off. Can you say the same thing?

    March 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Tea Clown

      ...and the self-righteous, sanctimonious Bible thumpers are right behind them. 😉

      March 3, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Rehash of pascals wager...the worst reason ever to believe.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • One one

      Life after death is a myth. I prefer to have a firm grasp on facts and reality in the only life I know I have.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Sam

      Tea clown...you should think about coming up with a new response. This one doesn't answer any questions or prove any legitimate points. It does highlight your emotional opinions though.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • TD

      AMEN BROTHER!

      March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @Sam, why should Tea come up with a different response when you rise to this bait every single time?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Bonnie

      "So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for He gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him." James 1:5 in the Bible.
      Belief without proof is fantasy. Unless you are actually communicating with our wonderful God, and getting responses from Him, you do not know Him or know that He is a living God, who does indeed love those who respect Him. For you to say that "one of us will be wrong" clearly demonstrates that you do not know God at all, and that you choose to believe in a god unknown to you. Please heed the warning, speak to God with all your heart, and study the word of God as presented by Jesus in the book of John so that you will gain the truth that God wants you to KNOW.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  7. Desperate unbelief

    How desperate are we really!
    One of the charges of contradiction brought by skeptics against the Bible is the surface appearance of contradiction between Matthew’s genealogical list (1:1-17) and the one provided by Luke (3:23-38). As is always the case, the charge of contradiction is premature and reflects an immature appraisal of the extant evidence. In every case of alleged contradiction, further investigation has yielded additional evidence that exonerates the Bible and further verifies its inerrancy. The alleged discrepancies pertaining to Matthew and Luke’s genealogies were explained and answered long ago (e.g., Haley, 1977, pp. 325-326; McGarvey, 1910, pp. 344-346; McGarvey, 1974, pp. 51-55; cf. Lyons, 2003)

    March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      Quite true. I never look to flaming opponents of something for a critique of that same something. People who deny the existence of God and Jesus are ill equipped to criticize scripture because they just don't understand it, assuming they have even read it beyond a cursory perusal to find talking points.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      So you just 'flamed opponents' by making sweeping generalizations.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  8. tkp353

    1Samual 16:7 Man measures the outward appearance, but God knows the heart. Each of us must choose...it is God's permissable will instead of His perfect will. I would rather live my life happy and believing in God than the carnal alternative of not, and having a "whoops" moment at the time of my death. He is waiting for each of us to make our choice. May He bless all of you as He has blessed me with His peace.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Another one restating pascals wager. Do so many of these alleged christians only believe because of the threat? How sad.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  9. Bonnie

    One can be certain that actual history, true historical events and the very word of God will be twisted into absolute fantasy by this "epic" film. No devout Catholic actually knows our wonderful God, because in order to truly know God, one must have respect for truth and live in obedience to it. Gaining enormous wealth from peddling the word of God is outrageous.

    Also, as with a well-known hollywood actor, earning milliions of dollars using the word of God to get rich is the ultimate in disrespect for God and His Son, Jesus Christ. "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." ~Jesus Christ at Mark 10:25 in the Bible.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Tea Clown

      Is it fun being a self-righteous, sanctimonious twit?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • One one

      " Gaining enormous wealth from peddling the word of God is outrageous."

      Sounds pretty much like the Catholic Church, mega churches, televangelists, and the entire religion business for that matter.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      And the problem with Christianity is its massive intolerance of its own flock. You're most likely quite wrong when you say these two Catholic producers will twist scripture because they don't know your interpretation of the Bible. There is more there in common than that which sets us apart. I'm not Catholic. In fact, I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). And I can guess how you feel about me and my co-religionists. But we bear no one any ill will. I dare say I study the Bible as much as you. If they stay with the KJV, they'll be fine. And you should find some tolerance in your heart for people who don't quite believe exactly as you do.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Bonnie

      TRUTH has no interpretations. You either accept it or you don't. ALL of man's "religions" have now failed our wonderful Almighty God and the only way to truly know Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, is to read God's own word in the Bible. And if we understand that God is genuine and a living God, all-powerful, we also understand that He would never allow mankind to change His truthful word to the point where we would not be able to know the truth about Him.

      Ecclesiastes 12:13, "The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is :"Fear (respect) the true God and keep His commandments. For this is the whole obligation of mankind."

      Also, an example of the fruitage of LDS is the Travis Alexander story. Jesus told us a "good tree cannot bear bad fruit." Matthew 7:20. NONE of mankind's "religions" are functioning in truth and therefore are bearing bad fruit.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  10. palintwit

    We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes.
    We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
    We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our earlobes.
    We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White house lawn.
    We eat Chick-fil-A and wash it down with Everclear.
    We are Sarah Palin's real Americans.
    We love the baby jesus but we love to boink our cousins even more.
    We believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs.
    We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
    We are the birthers. We are tea party patriots.
    We are bigots and inbreds. We are morons and we are proud.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Tea Clown

      LOL – the t-bagger anthem.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      You have a very close to accurate handle. It should be plaintwit not palintwit.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  11. hawkeye

    How does anyone with half a brain believe in any religion? Apply the smallest amount amount critical thinking to any religion and it can be torn apart like tissue paper. Time and time again science pokes holes all over religious claims.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Jason

      Why does someone with half a brain come to articles like this and cry about religion? Get over yourself...

      March 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • End Religion

      Fear and ignorance are a powerful cocktail. Throw in social clan desires and it is quite a force to overcome. We are, it's just tediously slow.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • One one

      Fear of death and wish to live forever in paradise.

      If religion were regulated like other consumer products, it would be prosecuted for making false and misleading claims.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      Although you would no doubt disagree, there are long lists of people with more than half a brain that believe in religion. Would you have us believe that everyone who has made a contribution to society is an atheist? Really, now, you must be too smart to believe that. Why, anybody with half a brain...

      March 3, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  12. mm

    Looks about as fake as Ben Hur.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • End Religion

      Ben Hur is a damn fine movie! I am watching The Greatest Story Ever Told for the first time right now on TCM. I'm enjoying it from a "movie lover" perspective.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  13. Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

    Another example of how to get rich by being disrespectful and malicious.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Tea Clown

      What church isn't full of money changers? The real god is money.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      Another straw man argument. Not that there aren't people preaching for gain, but look beyond that. My church has no paid ministry and gives millions in aid around the world to people of all religions and the non-religious alike.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  14. LeFlaite

    But the paradox is that science has proved Galileo wrong and the Church with its holy bible right.By now we have looked though millions of light years into space and haven't found a single miserable bacteria out there.For all practical purposes we are the center of the universe ! I dare to say also that as far as I'm concerned and as I 'm walking to the park that this earth is completely and absolutely flat.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • a dose of reality

      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 9:34 am |
  15. topdecker577

    Let the moronic masses have their fantasy presented to them as fact. If you don't like it, don't watch it. I plan on tuning into Game of Thrones, True Blood, and Boardwalk Empire.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • JMEF

      You are as.suming they are not going to include all the blood lu.st and se.x explicit stories, ya, you are probably right.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      What an uplifting list of things to watch. You must be so proud of your intellect. You'd do better reading a Good Book.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  16. Sam

    Funny how opponents to Christ come here to dispute religion yet never provide a statement to what they do believe with evidence to back it up. But hey, some people love to love while most people love to hate.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • End Religion

      We're awaiting your empirical evidence for the existence of whatever you believe in. It feels like we've been waiting for 2000+ years for this...

      March 3, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gosh, ER, I knew you were *old*, but I had no idea!

      JK 😉

      March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Sam

      Thanks for proving my point.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not making the claims, Sam. You are. The onus is on you.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      First...I am an atheist...not an opponent of christ. I do not believe the stories about him in the bible are true, but If the man ever existed, I would not have had a problem with Jesus, the man.

      Secondly, I have stated my beliefs and the reasons behind them many times.

      You are bearing false witness.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Sam

      Tom, you still haven't stated what you believe with 100% evidence.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • mark

      Hey End..give me the "empiricle" knowledge that Caesar existed.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sam, what part of this do you not grasp? I see no evidence for a god. I don't know that there isn't one, but I don't see you providing a shred of evidence that there is.

      Now, you're making a claim that there is a god. The burden of proof is on you–not me.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      The irony being Sam is that your own post is a 'hate' post, not a 'love' one

      March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "empirical." End even spelled it for you.

      Did End ever claim that Caesar existed? I don't see any post that says so.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • JMEF

      Sam lack of belief in a premise, please explain how you would prove that? Not knowing how deluded you are, but if you do not believe in santa, please provide the evidence, 100%, why you don't?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Atheists are Out Early Today

      If we needed empirical evidence for everything we do or say, we'd be very restricted in our activities. Rationalism is fine in many cases, but it doesn't fit the needs of the entire human experience.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • mark

      Right Tom my fault on the spelling I am infallible. Just asked the question, because most atheist believe Caesar existed, not sure they have empirical evidence though.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Evidence as to why I disbelieve your claims that have no evidence? Oh I think I just did that.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Mark, you want evidence for Caesar.

      Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) was almost an exact contemporary of Julius Caesar.

      In Caesar's struggle with Pompey, Cicero, governor of Cilicia, sided with Pompey but was subsequently pardoned by Caesar.

      In March of 44 BC Cicero was a witness to Caesar's murder, though he was not a part of the conspiracy.

      Following the assassination, Cicero made a series of speeches known as the "Philippics" which called on the Senate to support Octavian against Mark Antony. Cicero's "Second Phillipics" was an eulogy of Caesar's conquest of Gaul.

      Unfortunately for Cicero Octavian reached a temporary rapprochement with Antony, who then ordered Cicero's murder.

      Among some 900 preserved letters to and from Cicero are correspondence both about and with Caesar.

      "... if Caesar does lose his head all the same, Pompey feels only the deepest contempt for him, trusting in his own and the state's troops ..."

      – Cicero to Atticus, 7.8, 50BC.

      I will gladly accept anything close to that for Jesus. I'll be waiting.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • mark

      Rabid....Around 34 A.D., one year after the crucifixion of Jesus, Stephen was thrown out of Jerusalem and stoned to death. Approximately 2,000 Christians suffered martyrdom in Jerusalem during this period. About 10 years later, James, the son of Zebedee and the elder brother of John, was killed when Herod Agrippa arrived as governor of Judea. Agrippa detested the Christian sect of Jews, and many early disciples were martyred under his rule, including Timon and Parmenas. Around 54 A.D., Philip, a disciple from Bethsaida, in Galilee, suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified. About six years later, Matthew, the tax-collector from Nazareth who wrote his gospel in Hebrew, was preaching in Ethiopia when he suffered martyrdom by the sword. James, the brother of Jesus, administered the early church in Jerusalem and was the author of an Epistle by his name. At age 94, he was beat and stoned, and finally had his brains bashed out with a fuller's club. Matthias was the apostle who filled the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded. Andrew was the brother of Peter who preached the gospel throughout Asia. On his arrival at Edessa, he was arrested and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground (this is where we get the term, St. Andrew's Cross). Mark was converted to Christianity by Peter, and then transcribed Peter’s account of Jesus in his Gospel. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria in front of Serapis, their pagan idol. It appears Peter was condemned to death and crucified at Rome. Jerome holds that Peter was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he said he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. Paul suffered in the first persecution under Nero. –

      From a true empirical sense these people walked with Jesus watched his acts of healing, watched him crucified, and witnessed him risen.

      Can't deny history for the sake of argument.! Jesus lived and people witnessed him perform miracles. He was who he claimed he was, and he died for your sins and he loves you as much as he loves me. I just accept his love and his grace, and will see him in heaven. Period!! I hope you will too someday.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      @ Mark You got a source on that? And it had better not be the writing of Eusebius, and his invented history of Christianity.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  17. a dose of reality

    No matter how you dress it up, there are some fundamental difficulties with Christianity that are pretty hard to overcome.
    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.
    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.
    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.
    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.
    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.
    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.
    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).
    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.
    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.
    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.
    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.
    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.
    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?
    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • palintwit

      What a complete waste of time.

      Don't you have something better to do on Sunday morning? Like a girl friend?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Palintwit, I know you can't read, or are too lazy to do so. But, maybe you could TRY to educate yourself just a little.Here's a challenge for you, please REFUTE WITH FACTS anything in my post. Cn your little pea size brain even comprehend what I just challenged you with?

      March 3, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • palintwit

      Ha ha ha... I'm palintwit and I'm a nit wit!

      And I agree with everything you say!

      ha ha ha

      March 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • tgranite10

      WOW! You said it all..Yes..Isn't God Amazing!

      March 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Ex-Catholic Glo

      Couldn't have said it better myself – excellent!

      March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  18. palintwit

    Teabaggers believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs. Teabaggers believe that early man rode dinosaurs to church every Sunday.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • palintwit

      And I am the biggest idiot on this website today.

      You betcha!

      March 3, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • a dose of reality

      copying someone's Moniker and pretending to be them shows just what an idiot you r.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • a dose of reality

      I'm a big fat idiot, too!

      March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • a dose of reality

      As a matter of fakt, I am so stoopid, I can't even spell the word "are". I gots to use the letter.

      I is a tried and troo member of the ideeyokrasy.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • a dose of reality

      How old r u? Cause you behave like a little child.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Arrgggghhh!! Now I is argyooing with my self!

      I'm a big fool.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  19. Bob

    And out come the haters. Interesting that Christianity is the only belief system that can be attacked and still be politically correct.

    March 3, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it isn't, you moron. It's the one being written about here. And people like you and your lying pal, Doogie, are part of the reason your belief system is being ridiculed. You earned it with your hatred of gays and your denial of others' rights. Suck on it.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • End Religion

      Mankind's entire pantheon, including Jesus son of god and the Abrahamic god itself, never existed. All religion is a fraud. Calling beliefs "unaffiliated spirituality" or other hogwash, while still holding out for some sort of pseudo-christian being or afterlife, does not help one dodge this bullet. If you suffer from a brand of the delusion that holds any of it as "reality," it is no less crazy than any other. Feel free to include Islam, Scientology or whatever else in here to make yourself feel better but then that may not satiate your pathetic persecution complex...

      March 3, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Sam

      Tom...you sound like a guy in need of love...Christ's love.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • mark

      Bob, people hate what they don't know. That's why we had to have a civil rights movement.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Jeff

      Bob, the problem is that in the U.S., Christianity is the religion most often held up as the so-called basis of our nation's founding, it is the religion whose followers most vociferously denounce groups who are not like them (gays, non-Christians), and it is continually used an un-official litmus test for our leaders. Accordingly, it should be open to the same level of rigorous, scientific, historical scrutiny as anything else. The same is true of any other religion, but in the U.S., Christianity remains by far the religion most often advance by its followers as the basis for public policy. Unfortunately, the religious are quick to demand that their views guide public policy (for Christians and non-Christians, alike), while screaming discrimination, intolerance, etc. every time their views are scientifically and historically examined.

      I appreciate that the Burnetts have acknowledged that this mini-series is not a history lesson, but when the realism of cinema special effects is brought to bear, many Chrisitan religious groups will offer it to their kids as a history lesson nonetheless, which is a real shame.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  20. jonat

    How liberals hate anything to do with Christianity...but muslims get a pass. What a bunch of unhappy pathetic people they are on the inside

    March 3, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • End Religion

      Mankind's entire pantheon, including Jesus son of god and the Abrahamic god itself, never existed. All religion is a fraud. Calling beliefs "unaffiliated spirituality" or other hogwash, while still holding out for some sort of pseudo-christian being or afterlife, does not help one dodge this bullet. If you suffer from a brand of the delusion that holds any of it as "reality," it is no less crazy than any other. Feel free to include Islam in here to make yourself feel better.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Tea Clown

      ...speaking of pathetic forms of jealousy and sanctimony

      March 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      If this article was about Islamic beliefs then we would still post.

      March 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Advertisement
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.