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March 9th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Chris Tomlin, king of the sing-along

By Eric Marrapodi and Tom Foreman, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief'] [twitter-follow screen_name='tomforemancnn']

Baltimore (CNN) - The capacity crowd at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore is bouncing in unison to the most widely sung music on the planet today. The catwalk above the arena is shaking.

Chris Tomlin grabs the microphone and asks the crowd if they’re ready.

"I feel alive, on God's great dance floor!" He leads the packed venue in singing and jumping.

Tomlin is out touring the country with his latest studio album, “Burning Lights.” In January, it topped the Billboard 200 charts. But unlike those who've enjoyed performances by Beyonce, Johnny Cash and a host of others who've played this Baltimore hall, after these fans stream out the doors they will have ample opportunity to sing Tomlin's songs again, as one.

That is the secret to Tomlin’s success – the stage, the lights, the band - aren’t about him. As lively as his shows are, the point is not to get you inside the doors. The point is to get you singing in church.

“I strive for trying to write something that people can sing, that people want to sing, and that people need to sing,” Tomlin explained before the show.

Tomlin is the undisputed king of worship music, a genre of Christian music sung on Sunday mornings all across the world and increasingly played on Christian radio stations. The music is simple, devotional and easy on the ears.

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“We would say that Chris is the most prolific songwriter in the United States now, in this past decade,” said Howard Rachinski, CEO of Christian Copyright Licensing International, the company that tracks what music is used in churches around the world.

In 2012, CCLI paid out $40 million to artists and musicians, and Tomlin got a healthy slice of that pie. Churches around the world used 128 songs he wrote or co-wrote last year, Rachinski said.

CCLI estimates that every Sunday in the United States, between 60,000 and 120,000 churches are singing Tomlin’s songs. By extrapolating that data, Rachinski says, “our best guess would be in the United States on any given Sunday, 20 to 30 million people would be singing Chris Tomlin's songs.”

In their last two reporting periods, Tomlin had the No. 1 most-sung song and five of the top 25.

Search YouTube for "How Great is Our God" or "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)." Black, white, Asian, big churches, small ones are all belting out Tomlin songs. A lot.

For perspective, consider Tomlin’s musical success against one secular counterpart. In 2012, Katy Perry's record sales dwarfed Tomlin’s, but Billboard reported her songs were played 1.4 million times on the radio. Using CCLI’s low-end calculation, Tomlin’s songs were played 3.12 million times in churches.

Growing up Tomlin

Chris Tomlin was reared in Grand Saline, Texas, heavily influenced by country music. His dad taught him to play the guitar.

“I learned all country music - Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, all those kind of guys. Those are what my dad played and I played. And I played at my church as well,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin went to college to study sports medicine. “I just didn't know the music would take me here. I loved it and I was getting opportunities to go play, and when I say go play I was starting to write songs of worship even (as) a young kid. I didn't know really what worship music was, what a worship leader was, any of that. I didn't know any of those terms,” he said.

Today, at 40 years old, he is the artist most associated with worship music.

While in college he began singing and writing in earnest. As a senior, he said, he was getting invitations to lead the music for Christian conferences with 10,000 students.

He knew his music was resonating with crowds when he got a call from EMI Publishing after his song “We Fall Down,” which was released in 1998, starting being  played in churches.

“I was just writing songs for the church and from there they just started taking off.”

The compositions are considerably different from pop music. They are simpler, and he takes pains to write them that way.

“I'm thinking as that comes out of my heart as a song of response, I'm trying to think, how can I form this so that everybody, people who are tone deaf, who can't clap on two and four, how can I form this song so they can sing it, so that it is singable?”

Part of that process comes from his love of country music, the simplicity of that music and the stories those songs tell. His goal is to write songs that communicate what people would like to say to God.

“Now, that doesn't happen all the time. I mean, I write so many songs that you never hear because they are not any good.”

Tomlin is the worship pastor at Passion City Church in Atlanta. He leads worship there twice a month and beta tests all his new songs on the congregation. Tomlin is also a major draw as the worship leader of the Passion Conferences, a series of Christian conferences around the world. In January, the conference packed out the Georgia Dome in Atlanta with 60,000 college-age students. Billboard magazine noted the conference helped push up pre-sales of Tomlin’s latest CD.

His songs are so sought-after that, even before they're released on CD, they start showing up in CCLI’s online database.

“His songs have probably had the most immediate impact on churches that we have seen in history,” Rachinski said. “Even before you get to street release [of a CD], churches are already networked and engaged with his songs.”

Don’t look for a crossover

Other contemporary Christian musicians, as the music industry designates them, have crossed over to mainstream pop with some success. Tomlin said he has no designs on making that leap.

He also doesn’t need the money. Over the course of his career he’s sold 4.2 million albums, had 6 million digital downloads, a number of sold-out tours, and of course, the copyright royalties.

Tomlin said money isn't what motivates him to write and perform.

“I feel like I have a responsibility,  that God has given me a gift to write songs for his church that people listen to and that people are coming to expect now,” he said. “When I make a record I feel that responsibility that worship leaders, churches are going to say, 'Hey, are these some new songs we can sing in our church?' And I don't take that lightly, and I don't go, ‘Oh let's go do something else fun.’”

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“I haven't invented any new instruments, I haven't created new chords that no one has ever played. I play the same chord that every band plays, we play the same instruments up there, the melodies are melodies. The difference to me in the music is that I ask that God's presence be on it and that people, when they sing these songs, sense that God does something.”

The spotlight is on Tomlin even more than ever after starting the year a top the Billboard charts. As he tours the country at bigger and bigger venues, he would prefer to step out of the spotlight, away from the microphone, and let everyone else sing.

“People would be mad that they paid for a ticket for that. So I do that just occasionally, but that is what I love.”

He said the night before, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, he took as much time as he could to step back and let everyone else sing.

“It was just so beautiful, because I feel like it says something. It's not just like, ‘Hey, listen to me sing.’ This is all of us together. I think when you step back from the mic and it is not about you - and yeah, the light may be on you, but this is about all of us singing. This is about a bigger story, it's about a greater story. It's about a greater name than my name. My name is on the ticket, but this is about a greater name.”

CNN's Oliver Janney, Chris Turner, and Dan Merica contributed to this post.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Music

soundoff (1,754 Responses)
  1. Colin D

    Today I will offer my Sunday mass up for Damocles, he/she doesn't want it, won't appreciate it, may even be angry over it, but someday might help him/her, so here it goes

    March 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Damocles

      Awww and I'll dedicate the next 20 books I read to you, friend.

      I see you use this approach as opposed to engaging in discussion. Curious.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  2. GO_GOP

    hello

    March 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  3. Unintelligent Designer

    Man, if I still believed, I'd totally be into Chris Tomlin.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  4. A dose of realtiy

    Faith that could stand up to any form of reason is long gone. Our knowledge of the world from 2000 years ago to what we now know about the world has irrevocably changed the need for religion. We do not need God to explain things; and religion becomes obsolete as an explanation when it becomes optional or one among many different beliefs. We now see that the leap of faith is not just one leap; it is a leap repeatedly made, and a leap that becomes more difficult to take the more it is taken, reaching its pinnacle in blind allegiance and active denial and rejection of any other possibilities. At that point, the credibility of the faithful is entirely lost.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • lol??

      The black hole has a hold on you, darlin'"

      March 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  5. Nietodarwin

    “A man without reason is no better than a mad dog, and mad dogs must be put down for the good of everyone.”
    _ James L. Sutter, Death's Heretic
    “The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence.”
    _ William Harwood, Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology

    March 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • gdouglaso

      Kind of have to wonder about what motivates people like you. Do you go to Vegan stories and slam them? Hang outside of mosques, temples and churches yelling obscenities at them? You are obviously filled with a lot of anger that you need to lash out to people about what they believe and try to make compelling, but errant, arguments based on other people's quotes. I do wish you well Nietodarwin.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • lol??

      Darwin is ticked because the new whipper snapper scientists threw his racist views away. Actually he should be happy with this so he is not held accountable for their sins that he caused. This observation, however could be premature with new forms of racism, mutating and evolving to fit the crowd and times.

      sin keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  6. jojo

    How dare you call me an atheist

    i'm no atheist!

    I a anti-theist. I'm glad there is no evidence whatsoever that

    there are gods.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  7. Nietodarwin

    “I don't try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the
    structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.”
    _ Albert Einstein

    “The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is because vampires are allergic to bullspit.”
    _ Richard Pryor
    If god created man in his own image, how come I'm not invisible?”
    _ David Powers

    March 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  8. Melissa

    There are entirely too many religious articles that make the front page of CNN. Look... it doesn't matter if you're religious, but these things are not news. Religion needs to stay off the front page unless it's something that's actually important, like the changing of the pope, war, death, etc.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :)

      Religious articles on a BELIEF Blog...SHOCKER-NOT!!!

      March 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • gdouglaso

      I understand what you are saying...but if it is relevant to 20 to 30 million Americans as the story claims, it probably merits due consideration.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Melissa

      I know it's a religious blog, you five year old. I don't care if the religious blog exists. Frankly, sometimes its rather interesting (like when a pope dies). What I care about is that it's the main story on the front page of CNN. Surely they have more important things to talk about than fictional characters. Heck, even the pope stepping down would have been a better thing to put as the main story on CNN than an opinion piece created to make religious people feel superior.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Melissa

      gdouglaso, yes, and so are many other things. Like the current jobs outlook, war around the world, etc. Heck, we are starting to get closer to easter. Even though that's religious, it would still have been better to put on the front page than a religious opinion piece about some singer.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      While I'm sure CNN appreciates your feedback. there are many other news sources out there that pretty much report the same stuff, minus the Belief post every Sunday. Just a tip.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • jesuguru

      If you believed your own words, you wouldn't be dignifying this supposedly inappropriate front-page story with your (numerous) comments. The fact that you're responding shows it's important to you in one way or another. Otherwise, just don't click and carry on.

      March 10, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Melissa

      Yes, its important to me. Because you religious won't butt out. It's so bad that we have to see news articles about your religion when it isn't news. The death or change of a pope is news. A new religion becoming popular (like Wicca) is news. Some singer being popular in an opinion piece? ISNT.

      March 10, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  9. A dose of realtiy

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Kate

      that's me I think.. I read the bible and studied it 3X because I felt like I SHOULD be a better believer being indoctrinated into the catholic church at birth. 🙂

      I fear death for pain, but as you say, I wasn't here before and I won't be here after. And sitting around eating say good ice cream forever would be boring.. I do hope I send out positive vibes though which in turn may make someone else happy and they in turn pass happiness. that's all we can do. we should not force others into something that isn't right for them. 🙂

      March 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Melissa

      This was absolutely brilliant, Dose of Reality.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Colin D

      Dose "quit trying to jam your religion down our throats"-every atheist to every believer ever

      March 10, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      Some great,memorable,usable points...well done.DON"T STOP-DISBELEIVING !!

      March 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  10. Unintelligent Designer

    Is this guy really any different than the people that market and sell us lies in any other form? We spend money on all kinds of crap we don't need. He's an entrepreneur, making money off a demographic. It's the American way, got to give the guy some credit.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      I agree, I'm an atheist songwriter and one starving artist. I've never even recorded my song "In Control"
      Write a line while you're in bed, read a passage while you sup
      Learn to love in languages, be an animal lifted up
      From the lot of all the living things
      We're not most noble nor the best
      To ants and bees all's community
      Comminication is our test.
      "We're really just another species
      Long on brains, and full of feces
      A hopeful bunch of brainy beasties
      And we are in control ? (I'm still MUCH HAPPIER AS A POOR ATHEIST than before when I "believed")

      March 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Pretty cool lyrics. I play guitar myself and if I had an ounce of creativity, I'd write atheist songs.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  11. palintwit

    Here's what Europeans think of Sarah Palin...

    "If anything is a threat to the national security of the United States of America, it is this screaming, unrefined oaf with as much class as a searing release of flatulence followed by hysterical giggling at a state banquet. Is this what the people of the USA deserve?

    To attack the President of the country at a time when the USA needs to close ranks and stand together to consolidate the enormous strides his intelligent and respectful approach has achieved in building bridges, when her party's period in government bombed them, Sarah Palin comes across as a pitifully inadequate anachronism from the times of the Far West.

    The United States of America has evolved. She has not."

    March 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  12. gg

    The nonbelievers are really the ones denying reality. You are not just randomly in existence. Someone with conscious purpose had to set it all in motion. Even the universe had to have a beginning.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Mark Alan

      Right. So who set God in motion? What was his beginning? To say "he just always was" completely ignores the question and contradicts your basic point.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      You know this how? Brainwashed as a child. Now you spread this delusion.

      Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops.
      Richard Dawkins

      March 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Have you heard of B-Shock? Try watching his videos on yootoob. Christian rap. It's like a train wreck, you just have to watch.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Truth Prevails :)

      You're right. the universe(s) did have a beginning...it's better known as the Big Bang...no-one knows what caused it but unlike the biblical story, there is sufficient evidence to support it.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Melissa

      Really... so who created god? The idea that he created himself doesn't fly, sorry. Neither does the idea that he always existed. You just said that everything had a beginning so where did your god come from? And if humanity is so perfect, then what's the point of the appendix? And why do we have wisdom teeth that we need to get pulled? And frankly, what's the bright idea of having tes tica ls on the outside of the body when hitting them can take a man down to the ground in seconds and leave him rolling in the dirt completely defenseless? Why do men have nippl es when they don't use them? What's the point in creating other stars and planets? Just so they look pretty to us?

      No "Because god is perfect and he wanted things this way" is NOT an answer.

      Here's an idea... use your brain. Think, instead of allowing religion, or your politicians, to do your thinking for you. Your bible was not written by any god, no, not even the ten commandments, no matter what some try to claim. IF he's real, Moses went up the hill by himself and came down with them . He could easily have done it by himself in advance to take advantage of a gullible people and the gullible people fell for it. It was written by man, the idea that it was written by a god (rather than inspired by a god which is a different thing) has only started to be pushed for the last couple decades.

      Think. Really think. Just because it would be much easier to give in to your fear doesn't make your fears correct.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  13. sentence

    To A dose of reality, may you someday know the peace of the Lord and realize He loves you. Blessings.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • JJ

      And may you lose your delusion one day and find peace in living in reality and realizing there is no god that demands you worship him or burn for eternity.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Kate

      Blessings to you and may your 'god' stay in your own mind and you do not force your 'god' on those who could care less about living with a voice in their 'mind' telling them something.. there's a word for that 🙂 many good lucks and good juju your way..

      March 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Lordy, Lordy

      Why do you need an unproven invisible deity to love you?

      March 10, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  14. Lordy, Lordy

    Does Tomlin, do some of the old timey stuff or just his own? Onward christian soldiers, onward onto war; would come in handy at an army base chapel. Them old war hymns have always been so hypocrtical. Amen

    March 10, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  15. A dose of realtiy

    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 10, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Colin D

      I skipped through all the bs test, but I did catch the last one, if everybody had one partner, instead of 30, EVERY STD would die out in 60 years, we could have been the generation to kill every STI ever, but it is just too hard, pout

      March 10, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Kate

      Do not ask well thought our, reasoned questions, best to stick to superhumanflyguy type questions.. is it women's fault that Eve ate the apple and now we are all stuck in hell or earth or whatever? those types of questions... people who can hear 'god' in their minds can't are not to be reasoned with.. best to live our lives in peace, harmony and fairness and let them go around 'hearing things'. 🙂

      March 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Damocles

      Hell, just don't ask questions.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  16. henbeatsfox

    Reading the comments here and on other articles about faith makes me laugh. All you have to do is mention God and it's like Gene Wilder as Young Frankenstein saying "Blücher." All the horses begin neighing (or in this case, "nay-ing") in a kind of startled reflex.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  17. Scott

    I find it amazing that people take every opportunity possible to rip on Christians. Its an article about a musician who is Christian. If you don't like Christianity or Christians, don't read the stories about them. Obviously most of you are simply looking to express your hate for religion. Save it for somewhere else.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      As a non-believer, I agree. I mean, this is really no different than going to a concert where people are moved by the music and lyrics of another band. But I'm sure the conversation here will take a quick turn into yet another debate about evolution/creation, or Bible bashing *deadhorse*

      March 10, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • deez

      Christ......

      March 10, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • James Berry

      The problem is there are no CHRISTIANS in today's world. None who follow Jesus word.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      James Berry, I have to agree. The elusive "Real Christian". I would consider Amish as close as they get.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  18. mark

    I don't care if your Christian. Some of my best friends are Christian. It's the way people are Christian in public and can't keep their religion where nobody else has to see or hear it. It's like you can't live in peace and harmony without someone spreading their Christian agenda and forcing you to accept who they are.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Perhaps, but it's not like people drive down the street with Christian beats blasting from their car. Well, unless you're B-Shock. I find it much more offensive when people, regardless of music type, do such a thing.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • C J Peck

      That is what people say about people same-gender marriages and couples. So do you think we should stop letting Christians get married too? They should keep that in their own house right? Tolerance goes both ways, we have to be open-minded.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • jesuguru

      "I don't care if your __________. Some of my best friends are _________. It's the way people are ________ in public and can't keep their ________ where nobody else has to see or hear it."

      You could fill in the blank with all sorts of things. People feel free to wear their politics or musical tastes etc on their proverbial sleeve, but somehow religion has to be an exception to the free speech/free expression principle? Seems that's where this country may be headed, but hopefully not in my lifetime at least.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  19. A dose of realtiy

    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 10, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Kate

      True. It's not that I hate Christians or their religion (alright I do feel a bit sad for them to believe in such muck) it's self help of the worst or best kind.. it' sad that one would need a superhuman thingy to keep them in line.. what about just being nice and minding your own business? No can do.. not them. Although I will say most Christians won't read your thoughts, it's way too long for them. 🙂 thank you for thoughts.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • andrealp43

      How many words do you type a minute? God Bless 😉

      March 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Thank Goodness

      Thank Goodness we are all allowed to express our opinion in this great country. It was founded upon freedom of religion, speech, and other liberties that we all take for granted. I'm also thankful to know that when I die, my spirit continues. This is my belief, and I fully embrace your belief that your spirit will exist no more.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • treblemaker

      Actually, your blog name should be changed to a dose of self-righteousness, along with every other non-believer. Oh, I'm sorry, that description includes me, too. And that's the difference between you and me, because I know it, and so I turn my life and will over to the unseen, eternal God as I know him-and because I do, He gives me the greatest gift of all-peace of heart, peace of mind, and peace of soul. Most atheists/agnostics/humanists try to define God's moral code in their terms, in essence, to re-write the book of life to suit their agenda, when in fact, only one agenda counts-GOD'S. Let's see how your beliefs hold up when it's time for you to present yourself to the Lord when your journey on earth has come to an end.

      I've never hear of Chris Tomlin or his songs until today. I just hope that he doesn't collect royalties on "My Chains Are Gone", because if he does, that's wrong. Otherwise, he's got some nice music and deserves his accolades.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Lesley

      You are quite a scholar ,and 100% correct on all things religious .Try relationship instead ,it's the one degree difference .You see ,man really did invent religion , and all the doubts you have are really well thought out and normal , the one thing your 're missing though is love ...and that's what this "God " thing is all about .Keep searching , God respects your questions , and like so many of us who have had the very same doubts , will soon become clear to you in a way that ONLY you can understand.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • hominid

      At least you marshal the counterarguments intelligently and effectively (although some of your data is off – e.g. earth is older than 3.7B). I, however, know every bit of this - and how string theory harmonizes general relativity with quantum mechanics - but am still a Christian 🙂 We'll see. The belief in non-religious story is a pretty incredible tail as well. (yes, i know, "but's its based on observed reality" (or our evolving perception thereof), but that is pretty flimsy too) Might want to at least consider applying a rational cost/benefit approach to the subject .. 🙂

      March 10, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Damocles

      @hominid

      What cost/benefit approach are you talking about?

      March 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • lol??

      Destiny looks like a thing to consider for one's own spirit.

      March 10, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • hominid

      damocles, its seems to me that if there is even the slightest possibility of the religious reality, one has to ascribe enormous benefit to "adherence" therewith (i mean, 1 percent times infinity is a pretty big number) .. and the "cost" of REASONABLY AND RATIONALLY embracing the basic tenets of Chrisitanity need not be so great ... (i mean, you gotta care something about other people, etc). perhaps that's not truth "faith" or even belief, but a major theme of the new testament seems to be that "hey, no one's gonna have true faith ...you're gonna have doubts .. but be the son who in the end does the right thing nonetheless" ... just a thought

      March 10, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  20. Linda

    This is a great story. Chris Tomlin is a great writer, and writes songs that ARE loved & sung at my large church. We have students from around the world who attend our church (college students), and music especially, is a common way for people from around the world to worship. These hate comments are just that ~ hate. You have no idea what you're talking about, and it's sad for you that you haven't made an effort to even listen to one of these songs on You-Tube before you write such rude comments. Shame on you! THANK YOU CNN for writing this article. I'm off to get ready for church now, and I'm sure we'll be singing at least ONE of Chris Tomlin songs.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Kate

      Shame on you for not being Christian enough to embrace, love and care about ALL people, even those who quite intelligently don't believe in a superhumanflyguy. Your post is an example of why 'christians' are not christ like.

      March 10, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Damocles

      @linda

      Can't help it, I simply dislike boring music. Same reason why I don't care for country music. Doesn't mean I hate the guy. Why is a simple negative comment hateful?

      March 10, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Ryan

      @Kate
      And all of these Christianity-bashing posts are examples of the hypocrasy evident in Atheists telling Christians not to shove faith down their throats and then subsequently attacking that very faith when it isn't being shoved down a throat.

      @Damocles
      Agreed. Not all Christian music is boring, but a lot of mainstream worship music does not have much melodic variation, but that's to make it as easy as possible for even tone-deaf people to sing along. The entire purpose of worship music is to encourage participation and engagement, as the purpose with other music is for entertainment.
      Also, There would be nothing wrong with negative comments if they didn't always turn into attacks on faith. If we are going to have rational conversations about respecting beliefs, then in the same way Christians should respect an Atheist's views, so should an Atheist respect a Christians. Yet, time after time in comment threads like this, Atheists cry outrage about having faith shoved down their throat because an article or video was posted on a "neutral" playing field. So it's front page of CNN, doesn't mean it is trying to make anyone BELIEVE in God, it's just analyzing the growth of one of Evangelical Christianity's most famous songwriters.

      If we are going to respect each others' views, let's not just cry outrage at how the other doesn't, let's actually just do it. Let's be the change we keep begging to see and let bygones be bygones. Deal? 🙂

      March 11, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
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About this blog

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