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March 16th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The pope's four biggest challenges

By John L. Allen, Jr., CNN

Editor's note: John L. Allen Jr. is CNN’s senior Vatican analyst and a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Rome (CNN) - Every new leader gets a honeymoon period, and Pope Francis is smack dab in the middle of his. His gestures of simplicity and humility, set against the traditional grandeur of the papacy, have captured the imagination of the world.

Frankly, a whole team of PR wizards couldn’t have scripted a better start to his papacy.

At some point, however, charm alone won’t be enough, because Francis will have to turn to the heavy lifting of actually governing the world’s largest and most centrally organized religious body. Taking stock of where Catholicism stands today, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Four challenges loom especially large for the new pope.

First, two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet today live in the Southern Hemisphere, a share projected to reach three-quarters by mid-century. If Catholicism was once a Western faith, associated with institutional power and privilege, its center of gravity is now in the developing world and its membership is strongest among the poor.

As the first pope from Latin America, and the first pope from outside Europe in more than 1,000 years, Francis carries the aspirations and expectations of all those non-Western Catholics with him into the papacy. They will expect him to be a tribune for their concerns: the inequities of a globalized economy, the carnage of war and violence, environmental degradation, and the perception that international affairs are stacked against the interests of smaller and poorer nations.

Sooner or later, a heart that's in the right place won’t be enough for those folks. They’ll expect Pope Francis to revive the diplomatic and political capital of the papacy, perceived to have diminished during the Benedict XVI years, in order to move the ball on their agenda.

It remains to be seen whether a 76-year-old intellectual, perceived to have had a rocky relationship with Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, will be able to fulfill those expectations. It’s obviously unreasonable to expect one man, even a pope, to solve deep-seated maladies such as poverty and violence by himself, but the growing share of Catholics suffering the burden of these inequities at least expect him to try.

5 things to know about the new pope

Second, the most harrowing Christian storyline of the early 21st century is the rising tide of anti-Christian violence and persecution in various global hotspots. From the Middle East to Sub-Saharan Africa, from India to Eritrea, Christians today often find themselves in the firing line, and they’ll expect the new pope to have their backs.

The statistics are staggering. According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. According to the Pew Forum in Washington, Christians face some form of harassment in 137 nations, two-thirds of all countries on earth.

In the most bone-chilling assertion of all, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary claims that an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed for the faith each year for the past 10 years. That works out to 11 new Christian martyrs every hour of every day for the past decade.

Some experts believe that estimate to be inflated, but no one disputes the big picture. In Europe and the United States, a threat to your religious freedom means you might get sued. For scores of Christians in other parts of the world, it means you might get shot, which obviously rates higher on the urgency meter.

Christians under threat will expect Pope Francis to act on their behalf. Many believe that Benedict said the right things but never mobilized the resources of the Catholic Church to make an effective difference on the ground.

The first test for the new pope is likely to come in Syria, where Christian leaders are terrified that they’ll be the next Iraq, meaning the next country where Christians are the primary victims of the chaos and rising Islamic militancy that follows the collapse of a police state. Last fall Benedict XVI tried to dispatch a high-level delegation of five cardinals to Syria to appeal for peace, but it fell apart amid confusion about its mission.

A complete outsider to the world of the Vatican, Francis will be challenged to get his hands around its diplomatic apparatus quickly and to use it effectively.

Third, Francis inherits the unfinished business of the clerical sexual abuse scandals, which represent the greatest blow to the moral authority of the Catholic Church in centuries. In many ways, Benedict XVI was a reformer on the scandals, meeting with victims, apologizing for their suffering and embracing a “zero tolerance” policy for abuser priests.

Bergoglio's journey to the top of the Church

Critics, however, believe the process of reform has a long way to go, beginning with accountability not just for the priests who abuse but for the bishops who cover it up. The world will be waiting for a clear signal from Francis that his legendary “closeness to the people” includes compassion for abuse victims, and that prelates who mishandle abuse complaints will pay a price.

He’ll also have to make hard decisions on other unresolved questions about the abuse scandals, such as whether to impose a “mandatory reporter” policy on all bishops worldwide, requiring them to relay all allegations to civil police and prosecutors, and whether to order dioceses to release their files on accused priests.

There may well be good reasons for not taking those steps, at least as a matter of binding global policy. There are some corners of the world, for instance, where police and prosecutors don’t always have the best interests of justice at heart, and a policy of automatic cooperation could be tantamount to a suicide pact. At minimum, however, Pope Francis will have to explain the logic for his choices in a transparent fashion, in order to convince the world that the Catholic Church has turned a corner.

As history’s first Latin American pope, Francis is especially conscious that so far the sex abuse crisis really hasn’t exploded across the developing world as it has in Europe and North America. That may impose extra pressure to get ahead of the curve, sparing the Church in his part of the world the painful experiences of Catholics in the West.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

Fourth, Pope Francis also inherits a Church in Europe and North America that appears to be increasingly at odds with the surrounding secular culture.

In the United States, the Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders are still wrestling with the Obama administration over contraception mandates issued as part of health care reform, with the specter of prolonged litigation and nasty public fights. In the United Kingdom, several Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down after the 2010 “Equality Act” made it illegal for them to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, considered the leading intellectual light among the American bishops, issued an ominous forecast in 2010: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

These tensions with the broader culture are exacerbated by divisions within the Church. A Pew Forum poll taken shortly after Benedict XVI announced his resignation found that 46 percent of American Catholics wanted the next pope to move Catholicism in a more progressive direction, while 51 percent wanted him to maintain its traditional teachings. That’s a fair reflection of the deep left/right divide within the Church.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus famously says that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” In many ways, the Catholic Church across the West is just such a house divided, plagued by tensions among competing tribes – pro-life Catholics versus the peace-and-justice crowd, liturgical traditionalists against innovators, dissident theologians against hard-line bishops, not to mention the free-for-all of the Catholic blogosphere, where no spleen ever goes unvented.

Francis will be expected to reach across those fault lines, reminding Catholics of what they have in common rather than what divides them, and working out a modus vivendi with an increasingly skeptical secular world.

Despite being a staunch theological conservative, Francis has a lifetime of experience within the Jesuit religious order, where the center of gravity tends to be more to the left. Perhaps that background will give him a leg up on trying to heal fractures within the Church, and in its relationships with the wider world.

So far, Pope Francis hasn’t made many substantive moves to address these challenges, but he has gone some distance towards reframing the debate.

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

Traditionally, critics accuse the Catholic leadership of being out of touch and drunk on its own power. That’s likely to be a harder case to make against a pontiff who shuns his limousine in favor of taking the bus, who packs his own bags and pays his own bills, and who makes his own phone calls.

Those may be small touches, but popes teach as much with their deeds as with their words, and so far Francis’ gestures have spoken to a humbler, simpler style of leadership.

Gestures alone won’t spare the pope tough choices. They may, however, incline the world to give the pope making them a greater benefit of the doubt. For a Church that’s long had an image problem, this alone can’t help but seem an awfully promising start.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. kenrick Benjamin

    We all know that Energy is neither created or destroyed, with that being said because Energy is eternal, Nothing had to be created. Then how did God come to be? God came to be when they were only 3 things that existed, Je, Ho, Vah. I will call them elements for the sake of such, much is the same way as Man is made up predominantly of Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen but not exclusive to other elements. So it was the elements of Je, Ho, Vah that came to be JEHOVAH God. So it was JEHOVAH God that cause JEHOVAH God to come to be. Just a reminder he is the First and as such will be the last. This is my interpretation from the Bible book of John chapter 1; verse 1 and i quote In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      The Tri-Force!

      March 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      ...except your god never came to be. Odd. Why would you think such a silly thing as the existence of an imaginary sky fairy?

      March 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      End Religion- Because they had to be a first cause.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    I get offline now. My advice for the coming week:

    Dispose of your TV, and think about a little about God's Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ. You may also pray and fast a little. Maybe God will give you a great reward.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why do you feel anyone should heed your advice, herr fuhrer?

      Fvcking SS closet queen

      March 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  3. Mass Deletions

    There were mass deletions again last night of innocuous posts on the article that has been having problems. Seems like the whole article is locked up now. Looks like the last ones posting very late were Bethany and Austin.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  4. Ron

    "Every baptized man has died and resurrected together"

    Life events shared by Jesus and another god-man:

    There are numerous god-men in the ancient Mediterranean area and Middle East. There are many stories that appear both in Jesus' biography and in the legends of another god-man:

    – Mother's pregnancy: It was a common belief among early Christians that Mary was pregnant for only seven months. This legend is preserved in the Gospel of the Hebrews. Although this gospel was widely used by early Christians, it was never accepted into the official canon. Semele, mother of Dionysus, was also believed to have had a 7 month pregnancy.

    – Virgin birth: Author William Harwood has written that Jesus' "equation in Greek eyes with the resurrected savior-god Dionysos led an interpolator to insert a virgin-birth myth into the gospel now known as Matthew." 1

    – Birth Witnesses:

    – The gospel of Matthew records that Jesus was visited by an unknown number of wise men, called Magi.

    – Authors Freke & Gandy identify them as followers of the god man Mithras from Persia. 4

    – Most other sources believe that they were Zoroastrian priests from Persia who were experts in astrology. There is a Zoroastrian belief "that a son of Zoroaster will be born many years after his death by a virgin...This son will apparantly [sic] raise the dead and crush the forces of evil. Later Christians got rather excited about this apparant [sic] pagan prophecy of the coming of the Messiah..." 2

    – The gospel of Luke records that Jesus was visited by three shepherds. Mithra the god man from Persia was also visited shortly after birth by three shepherds.

    – The magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. A Pagan belief from the 6th century BCE states that these are the precise materials to use when worshiping God.

    – Healing: Jesus is recorded throughout the gospels as healing the sick and restoring the dead to life. So was Asclepius, a Greek god man. Pagans and early Christians debated who was the more effective healer.

    – Ministry: Jesus appeared as a wandering holy man who is later transfigured in the presence of some of his disciples. Dionysus was portrayed in the same manner in Euripides' play The Bacchae, written in 410 BCE.

    – Miracles:

    – Both Jesus and Empedocles were recorded as teaching spiritual truths, curing illness, foretelling the future, controlling the wind and rain, and raising people from the dead.

    – Both Mithra and Jesus performed many healings of the sick and mentally ill; both raised the dead. 3

    – Mark, chapter 5 describes Jesus driving demons from a man into a herd of about 2,000 pigs who rushed over a cliff and drowned. In Eleusis, about 2,000 initiates would bathe in the sea. Each had a young pig to which the believers' sins would be transferred. The pigs were then chased over a chasm and killed.

    – Fishing: John 21:11 records that Jesus performed a miracle which enabled Simon Peter to catch exactly 153 fish. The Pagan Pythagoras considered 153 a sacred number. The ratio of 153 to 265 was referred to by the Pagan Archimedes as "the measure of the fish." That ratio is used to generate a fish-like shape using two circles. The sign of the fish was used by the early Christians as their main symbol.

    – Arrest:

    – Both Dionysus and Jesus celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples before his death.

    – Dionysus is described in Euripides' play The Bacchae as bringing a new religion to the people, being plotted against by the leaders, being arrested and appearing before the political ruler. Dionysus said to his captors "You know not what you are doing..," almost replicating Jesus' words at the cross. He was unjustly accused and executed. All of these themes are seen in the Gospels.

    – Crucifixion & resurrection:

    – Jesus' body was wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh and aloe. Osiris was also said to have been wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh.

    Again, the god men myths had been circulating well before Jesus birth. The Christians would have copied earlier Pagan material, not vice-versa.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Owl.E

      There are similarities between Biblical literature and Native American mythology... did they sail over before Christophe Columbus and plagiarize their stories, too?

      March 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Mythology addresses the same themes the world over because the mind of man addresses the same themes over and over. Joseph Campbell is your man, here.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      Thanks for the roundup of suspects. Mithras is still my fave.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Bob

    To hope, to care, to love. We have all experienced these powerful, fundamental feelings. They help define what it is to be human. These important elements of a fulfilling human life are experienced by religious and nonreligious people alike.
    There are some common myths about the nonreligious—atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists. One popular myth is that the nonreligious are immoral, or at least that they can’t be relied upon to be as good as those with religious beliefs. If you know any nonreligious people (and almost everyone does—see below), you already know this is not true. Human decency does not depend on religious belief. There are good believers and good nonbelievers; there are wicked believers and wicked nonbelievers. You can’t predict a person’s moral character just from knowing his or her metaphysical beliefs.
    Another prevalent myth is that the lives of the nonreligious are empty, meaningless, and dominated by despair. This, too, is false. The nonreligious experience the same range of emotions, sentiments, and sensations as the religious. They are joyful and sad; they feel sympathy and disgust; they experience pain and pleasure. They have aspirations; they are concerned about others. They love and are loved.
    One reason this myth persists is many religious believers see their god or their faith as the basis for emotions such as hope, caring, and love. We don’t deny that the religious may find inspiration in their beliefs—but our religious friends should not presume that accepting their beliefs is necessary for a fulfilling life.
    We who are nonreligious lead meaningful lives without reliance on the supernatural. Moreover, we believe anyone can find meaning in a life that is human-centered and focused on the here and now instead of the hereafter.
    Some people have parted ways with traditional god beliefs intellectually but hesitate to give up their faith because they’re afraid of what life might be like without the beliefs and practices they have found so comforting. They’ve heard myths about the nonreligious, and they may think these myths are all they have to go on.
    But today, one American out of every six has no religious affiliation. You almost certainly have friends, acquaintances, and colleagues—even family members—who already live without religion. If you’ve asked tough questions about your faith and aren’t sure where to go next, we invite you to consider how many people have already found that living without religion provides a foundation for a life that is rich, rewarding, and complete.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  6. gregbentall

    ttp://gregbentall.com/2013/03/09/the-roman-chur…rital-intimacy/

    The above post deals with the ludicrous disconnect between Roman Church teachings and contemporary western culture. As the Roman Church continues its relentless march back to the 15th Century, it is becoming more and more irrelevant to the modern world.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Bostontola

      If you want to promote your website, you should learn how to copy and paste a link.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  7. Oer 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
    ========

    March 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Jim C

    "Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it, you'd have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion" – Steven Weinberg.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      The great problem is that we always tinker our own religious doctrines, inclined to justify our sin by any means, instead of simply accepting the true divine doctrine.

      The most cunning misinterpration of the Gospel for instance is when we say: "Jesus has yet payed the bill, now I can sin, and don't need to worry, I am saved."

      The true interpretation of the Gospel is that it shall improve our lifes but this we will only experience when we get through the wardrobe which is the sacramental baptism. Jesus said: You need to be born out of Water and Spirit, he meant baptism.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • William

      "inclined to justify our sin by any means, instead of simply accepting the true divine doctrine."

      From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. William Foxwell Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the "archeological revolution." Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that's very disturbing to some people.

      Today I think most archeologists would argue that there is no direct archeological proof that Abraham, for instance, ever lived. We do know a lot about pastoral nomads, we know about the Amorites' migrations from Mesopotamia to Canaan, and it's possible to see in that an Abraham-like figure somewhere around 1800 B.C.E. But there's no direct connection.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ:

    God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus, for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    If we simply believe that, and get sacramentally baptized, we become righteous. If we have yet received infant baptims, we mustn't be baptized again but can simply refer to our infant baptism, and live a rightous life in the power of Jesus' death and resurrection. Through Jesus power we can overcome the lust of our body or simply ourselves, and love God and our fellow human beings independent from their faith, colour, status, nationality, etc..

    What is the mystery of baptism?

    Because of our corrupted nature we are inclined to misinterprete the Gospel as if we could increase sinning instead of reducing it when we are believers. We argue that Jesus has already payed the bill. Yet, this reasoning is satanic, and comes/originates from our fallen nature. In order to help us, God has therefore insti-tuted the sacramental baptism which helps us to believe in Jesus in a correct way. Through the power of baptism we become able to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and this is the real faith. Jesus said: we should adore God in Spirit and in Truth; this is when we overcome the lust of our body through the power of Jesus sacrifice, and the holy baptism through which we are metaphysically connected with Christ's sacrifice.

    If we appriciate Christ's sacrifice in that way, it is also an atonement for our sins.

    Every baptized man has died and resurrected together with Jesus, if he believes it. We have died for the sin, and resurrected in him. In Christ we can live a life of practical righteousness and love.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • clarity

      When challenged that the anonymous gospel writers plagiarized, all that several early Christian apologists could come up with as an excuse was that the devil had set up things to look bad. They claimed that he disseminated the fake pagan stories to come before the "real" gospel stories. They may have just as well had said "Don't look at that man behind the curtain, we are OZ!" wink wink

      Read about 'plagiarism in anticipation' (Justin Martyr and others).

      March 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • End Religion

      Step 1: prove there is a god.
      Step 2: get back to me for further steps.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Owl.E

      @Rainer

      Thank God.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity


    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Jim C

    "The Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation...claims...the "Whole substance" of the wine is converted into the blood of Christ,; the appearance of wine that remains is "merely accidental", "inhering in no substance". Transubstantiation is colloquially taught as meaning that the wine "literally" turns into the blood of Christ. Whether in its obfuscatory Aristotelian or its franker colloquial form, the claim of transubstantiation can be made only if we do serious violence to the normal meanings of words like 'substance' and 'literally'."

    March 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  12. Another View

    Are we allowed to test God? Elijah didn't have a problem with it apparently...

    20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

    Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

    25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:20-40

    Why exactly did it work then but not today? Was God more concerned with proving himself to a relatively small tribe? Or was Elijah playing to the crowd and that wasn't really water that soaked the logs? We'll never know but one thing is for sure, the bible presents Elijah as a prophet of the true God and he was allowed to test God, but now we are told testing God is wrong, but I believe that's only because except for Elijah, he's never answered another request. ..

    March 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

    • .. ..

      March 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

    • . . .

      March 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

    • . . . .

      March 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

    • .

      March 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  13. Try Logic Instead

    "He told me there was no God and all men have morals and their own laws. So I began to think and watch how rude he was to people and how unhappy he was but I said if there is no God then I really don't have to worry and started to do the things to him that he was doing to others, but he said it wasn't right. I said who got to decide that?"

    I'm sorry but you have to admit, this idiot is pretty funny. I don't think they intended it but I love where they say all men "have their own laws" then almost immediately says the supposed atheist is "doing things" to others as if they already forgot that the atheist just told them they were still bound by "morals" and "laws".

    Maybe if we speak to them like three year olds they will understand. Here we go.

    Here are some basic laws that people decided upon to make their lives better:

    Do not murder.
    Do not steal.
    Do not r a p e.

    Why should all humans follow those laws? Is it because if they don't they will have some intangible soul sent to a place of eternal torment? Is it for the reward of an eternity in bliss?

    If either of those are why you obey those laws, then you are a terrible person who doesn't deserve the live they have been given, because if the only reason you are not a murdering, thieving r a p i s t is because you have been bribed or scared into obedience, then you are not worth the kb it takes to store these letters on CNN's server.

    I choose to obey those laws because I love my fellow man as I love myself which is a simple principle to live by that outdates the bible by nearly 800 years as it was included in the code of Hammurabi. Yes, there were exceptions they made at the time to allow them to abuse their slaves and people they didn't like, but the principle was there long before Abraham or Moses or Jesus were ever a sparkle in their parents eyes.

    The bible did not invent morality, humans did. All the bible did was take those good principles and couple them with a bunch of other laws which gave them loopholes on how and when they didn't have to follow those principles.

    again and again

    re-posting:
    Is it nasty to tell a Big Foot aficionado that you don't believe them and don't think Big Foot is real? Is it nasty to infer something about the intelligence of one who believes in Big Foot? Would saying anything like that reveal anything about yourself other than the fact that it takes more than some 1970's footage of a large hairy creature to make you a believer?

    Sadly, there is far more evidence for Big Foot than for a divine superbeing Christ returning to save (some of) mankind.

    I have no idea why anyone would think my posts are so powerful and moving to have to try to delete them over and over. There's nothing even remotely offensive in these posts, though i will admit I have posted some that might not pass a clean filter...

    I wonder if the person trying to play thought police knows all they are doing is getting my and others posts re-posted so they constantly stay in the recently posted and tend to get viewed more than a post that was simply forgotten. Silly Wabbit...

    I guess they do know and just really really like my stuff....

    Mass Debater
    Are we allowed to test God? Elijah didn't have a problem with it apparently...

    20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

    Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

    25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:20-40

    Why exactly did it work then but not today? Was God more concerned with proving himself to a relatively small tribe? Or was Elijah playing to the crowd and that wasn't really water that soaked the logs? We'll never know but one thing is for sure, the bible presents Elijah as a prophet of the true God and he was allowed to test God, but now we are told testing God is wrong, but I believe that's only because except for Elijah, he's never answered another request. ..

    March 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

    • ..

      March 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

    • ... .

      March 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Jim C

    "Such delusions of grandeur to think that a God with a hundred billion galaxies on his mind would give a tetany damn who you sleep with, or indeed whether you believe in him." – Richard Dawkins.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Owl.E

      God is greater than what RIchard Dawkins can imagine.

      The hundred billion galaxies were not created in God's image. We are.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      owl
      the other possibility , which is far more likely is that men made up god, a there really is no such thing.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Bostontola

      OwlE, are you talking about Zeus, Odin, Brahma, Jesus, or other?

      March 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Owl.E

      @Bostontola

      Our Creator, God.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Owl.E, thanks, Brahma was the creator.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has never been disproved, therefore He is the One True God and all others are false. Repent!

      March 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Owl
      So you don't believe in Zeus? Why not?

      Men created thousands of gods for himself. Yours is no different...created by men.
      If you answer the above question honestly , you should realize why you should not believe in any gods.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Owl.E

      So you don't believe in Zeus? Why not?

      I'm not an ancient Greek.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Owl.E, all else being equal, who would you feel more close to, a Hindu or and atheist?

      March 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Great reply. You don't believe in Zeus because you're not an ancient greek. You'd not believe in Christ were you not in this time period.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Owl.E

      @who would you feel more close to, a Hindu or and atheist?

      An atheist. I know and love a lot of atheists. I don't personally know any Hindus.

      @ You'd not believe in Christ were you not in this time period.

      No doubt.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  15. Collector

    Rainer
    You may want to rephrase that to good new Germany, old Germany was one bad mother of a place, remember.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  16. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some Protestants believe the Pope has characteristics of the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:53 am |

    • .. ...

      March 17, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

    Dear American, get some advanced knowledge from good old Germany!

    Frederic the Great, glorious King of Pruzzia, against the Roman Catholic Church

    (Antimachiavel, Chapter 11, by Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, Promoter of Enlightenment)

    (the book “Antimachiavel” refers to Machiavelli’s book “The Prince”, and is a refutation of “The Prince”)

    I have always found it very strange that these who call themselves successors of the apostles, I mean some poor men – preachers of humility and repentance – should possess great wealth, wallow in luxery, and fill posts more proper to satisfy the vanity of the age and the ostentation of the great than to occupy men who must meditate on the nothingness of human life and on the quest for salvation. However, the clergy of the Roman church is extremly rich. Bishops hold the rank of sovereign princes, and the temporal and spiritual power of the first bishop of Christendom renders him somehow the arbiter of kings(“arbiter of kings” means that the pope was higher than the Emperor, and thus the actual temporal ruler of the whole world) and the fourth person of the Divinity (“person of Divinity” means that the pope really presumes to be on a level with God).

    (Catholic) Clergymen and theologians separate the attributes of the body from those of the soul more scrupulously than anyone else, but their arguments might better be applied to the subject of their ambition. You, they could be told, whose ministry is restricted to the spiritual realm, how can you have so grossly confused it with the temporal? You who so subtly employ the distinguo when it comes to the mind, which you do not understand at all, and to matter, which you understand very little, how does it come that you reject these distinctions when it comes to your interest? It is because these gentlemen worry very little about the unintelligible jargon that they spout out and very much about the great revenues that they take in. It is because their fashion of reasoning must conform to orthodoxy and their fashion of action to their passions; and that the tangible objects of nature are as dominant over their intellect as the real happiness of this life is over the ideal happiness of the next world.

    The astonishing power of clergymen as well as everything which regards their temporal government is the subject of this chapter.

    Machiavelli finds that ecclesiastical princes are very happy because they have to fear neither the rebellion of their subjects nor the ambition of their neighbours (neighbouring princes). The respectable and impressive name of the Divinity shelters them from whatever could oppose their interest and greatness. The princes who attack them would fear the fate of T-itans (T-itans were thrown into the Tartarus, a kind of abyss, by the Greek god Zeus; the Catholic equivalent of Zeus is the pope) and the people who disobey them that of the sacrilegious. The pious policy of this kind of sovereign aims at persuading the world of what Despreaux expresses so well in the verse:

    “He who loves not Cotin loves neither God nor king.”

    What is strange is that these princes find enough credulous dupes who adhere blindly to whatever they want them to believe. It is certain, however, that no country swarms with more beggars than one run by priests. There one can see a touching picture of all human miseries, not of those poor attrackted by the alms of sovereigns, or of those insects who attach themselves to the reach, but of starving beggars deprived of necessities by the “charity” of their bishops so as to prevent them from becoming corrupted by affluence.

    It is undoubtly upon the laws of Sparta where money was prohibited that the principles of these ecclesiastical governments are founded, with the difference that the prelates reserve for themselves the use of the wealth of which they most devoutly despoil their subjects. Blessed, they say, are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven! And since they want everybody to be saved, they make sure that everyone is poor. Oh, ecclesiastical piety, is there anything that escapes your wise foresight?

    Nothing should be more edifying than the story of the heads of the church or vicars of Jesus Christ. One expects to find examples of irreproachable und saintly morals there. However, it is just the contrary. There are only obscenities, abominations, and sources of scandal; and one cannot read the lifes of the popes without detesting their cruelty and perfidy.

    One sees there their immense ambition to augment their temporal power, their sordid avarice in transfering great wealth unjustly and dishonestly to their families in order to enrich their nephews, mistresses, or bast-ards.

    Those who reflect insufficiently find it peculiar that people suffer the oppression of this kind of sovereign with docility and patience, that they do not open their eyes to the vices and excesses of the clergymen who degrade them, and that they endure from a head that is shorn what they wold not suffer from a head crowned with laurels. This phenomenon appears less strange to those who know the power of superst-ition upon idiots and of fanaticism on the human mind. They know that religion is an old machine that will never wear out and that has always been used to insure the fidelity of people and put a brake on the restlessness of human reason. They knew that error can blind the most penetrating men and that there is nothing more triumphant than the policy of those who put heaven and hell, God and the devil into play in order to attain their designs. Even the true religion itself, the purest source of all our good, is most deplorably abused and often becomes the origin and principle of all our misfortunes.

    The author (Machiavelli) most judiciously notes what contributed to the elevation of the Holy See. Hee attributes it principally to the able conduct of Alexander VI, a pontiff who pushed cruelty to the extreme and who knew no justice but perfidy. One could not thus confuse the product of the ambition of this pontiff with the work of Divinity. Heaven could not have played any direct part in the elevation of this temporal greatness, which is only the work of a very vicious and depraved man. One could thus do no better than to distinguish carefully among clergy men betweeen the mark of God when they announce the divine orders and the corrupt man when they are thinking only of satisfying their passions.

    The eulogy of Leo X concludes this chapter, but his eulogy doesn’t carry much wight since Machiavelli was the contemporary of this pope. Any praise by a subject to his master or by an author to a prince appears, what ever one may say, as very close to flattery. Our life can only be judged by posterity, which judges without passions or interest. Machiavelli should have been the last to make an attempt at flattery, for he was not a competent judge of true merit, not even knowing what virtue was; and I don’t know if it is better to have been praised than blamed by him. I leave this question for the reader to judge.

    http://www.confessingchurch.worpdress.com

    March 17, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      First of all, America should NEVER listen to anything Germany says. Second of all, quit spamming your website. I DON'T LIKE BLOODY SPAM!

      March 17, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  18. Bostontola

    A very smart co-worker of mine is a devout Christian. We were joined by a Mormon and the discussion went to the Mormon tenets. After the Mormon left, my Christian friend was dumbfounded that a person could believe such nutty things that the Mormons do.

    Why can intelligent people so easily see the folly in every other religion but their own?

    March 17, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Brainwashed. Of course, we all are, so...

      March 17, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Bostontola

      MS, not all brainwashing is equal. Americans are all brainwashed that our system is best, but that is objectively arguable. Belief in the god is not objectively arguable.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  19. Hissy Christins

    I enjoy enabling paedophiles. It makes me fresh down there.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  20. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am :

      March 17, 2013 at 11:37 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.