April 18th, 2013
10:45 AM ET

My Take: Godless in Boston mourn, too

Editor’s note: Greg M. Epstein is the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of the New York Times best-seller "Good Without God." He directs the Humanist Community Project, a national think tank helping to study and build communities for the nonreligious.

By Greg M. Epstein, Special to CNN

Cambridge, Massachusetts (CNN) — After two days of holding back my own feelings to focus on the needs of a community in mourning, what finally split my heart in two was scrolling through the list of donations to the fund-raising page for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter among the tragically injured at the Boston Marathon.

Celeste, the mother, has volunteered for my congregation. She’s basically an aunt to a senior member of our staff. So I cried for the two-sidedness: A member of our community lost her legs below the knees, and nearly lost her daughter. And, in one day, nearly 4,000 people donated more than $250,000 to support them. They seemed to be saying, through their gifts, “Please do this for me too if anything should ever happen to me or my family.”

AC360: Mother lost legs, daughter nearly died in bombing

As a chaplain, I’m struggling to make sense of this tragedy just like any other member of the clergy. And like faith communities across the country, the thousands of people I work with are doing what needs to be done when tragedy strikes close to home. We’re offering one another comfort. We’re calling around to the point of exhaustion, trying to figure out who needs help and how we can provide it.

The only difference is, we are a community of atheists — a congregation of Humanists.

You’ve probably read the statistics: With 18% of the nation’s population now nonreligious, America is less religious today than ever before. This especially applies to young Americans, up to a third of whom now have no religion. That number may be closer to half on many of the college campuses throughout Boston, like the one where I work.

What you may not have noticed, however, is that in addition to the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones” as sociologists have taken to calling them, a new and very significant group of Americans has been emerging — the nonreligiously affiliated. Relatively quietly, many thousands of mostly young Americans who identify as atheists and agnostics have been coming together to form civically active, thoughtful secular community groups that now dot nearly our whole nation.

Sometimes you hear about the debates these groups hold with religious leaders. But while Richard Dawkins and the like are eloquent and controversial speakers on behalf of atheism, most such debates are actually organized by religious organizations. The vast majority of what Humanist and secular communities do is positive, uncontroversial and entirely American. We serve. We meet throughout the year. We help one another raise good kids. We celebrate life, and we grieve death.

So I don’t relish the opportunity — or the need — to say that right now, our community is grieving too, just like any other Boston-area congregation. Boston, in fact, is home to one of the biggest secular/Humanist/atheist/nonreligious communities in the world. (Sure, we don’t know what to call ourselves. But then again neither does the LGBT — or is it GLBT? — or LGBTQ? — community, and that hasn’t stopped them from thriving.) We meet every week. We’re getting ready to open up a large community center. We sponsor service programs where we invite interfaith groups to help us package thousands of meals for hungry kids. You can even join us this Sunday: We’ll be marking our losses together in a memorial gathering.

What is so disappointing to see people do, then, is blame the horrific and traumatizing events of this Monday on the godless, or on godlessness, as way too many on Twitter and elsewhere have been doing. As one young woman in our community said to me, “It’s hard enough to deal with senseless grief, but when people write things like 'Why do people have to be so godless to want to kill innocent people?' it makes me feel like I’m not safe either, like we’re being singled out for prejudice.”

Obviously when people say “I’ll pray for you” or “May God grant you strength,” they’re only expressing their own sincere convictions. But while not everyone holds those same beliefs, we all want to be acknowledged in a way that feels right to us.

And when political leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick or President Obama try to make sense of these moments by assembling interfaith services, it is admirable — far better for a politician to bring different religions together than to only recognize one religion’s view of loss as valid. But for goodness' sake, must the nonreligious continue to be excluded from such gatherings? I’ve seen Humanists knock on the door recently at the interfaith celebrations of political conventions, or after tragedies like Hurricane Sandy or Newtown. We wanted to help and were turned away. I hope this is where people realize: We are part of the community too. We care and want to offer our support just as much as anyone. We, too, are in shock and grief.

Secular people place our faith in the human ability to value life over death. We believe in committing ourselves to love and care and help as indiscriminately as possible, because that is what makes our lives worthwhile. We try our best, despite our doubt, to ensure that the good will that comes from tragedy will ultimately exceed the bad.

All that said, I don’t have a clue what Celeste’s beliefs are, and I don’t care. I just hope she and Sydney and everyone else injured get well. After all, would you believe for a second that every Christian pastor knows whether or not every visitor to his or her congregation truly believes in the Ascension? Nor should they. The point of a congregation, to me, is just to care about the people in it, and better yet, to help bring people together to care about one another. Our community is including everyone, religious or not, in our thoughts and hopes at this tough time. It would mean a lot to us if others do the same.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (3,411 Responses)
  1. TopCat

    blind faith must trample underfoot, all reason , sense and understanding. – Martin Luther

    April 18, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  2. FreeFromTheism

    I don't understand what the obsession with trying to "prove" atheism to be a religion is.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      It's not a religion. At least I don't look at it that way.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  3. Olaf Big

    Mama, who are atheists? They are people who can spell, son... Count how many times atheist is spelled athiest in this thread...

    April 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      They are people who can spell, son...

      The nerve to talk about spelling.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      Hmm? Am I missing something?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Don't you mean can't, instead of can.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Olaf Big

      Ken, you lost me.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      When you wrote your original statement, were you being sarcastic? You wrote:

      "They are people who can spell, son."

      I think you meant: "They are people who can't spell, son"

      April 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Viggo

      And your point relative to the subject at hand is ......?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  4. Hmmmmmmmmmm

    Well, they have pictures now, young dark complexion Middle-Eastern looking guys.

    Anyone surprised?

    April 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Observer

      So you think religious fanatics are responsible for the bombing?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Look at the pictures more closely. They don't look all that dark. Especially the one in the white hat.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • liquidassets

      Hmm I can't say for sure that they are Middle Eastern. They look male and caucasian (which is basically everybody except black and East Asian), and beyond that it's anyone's guess what their ethnicity is.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  5. Colin

    10 countries that regularly show up on the top of lists of the most religious contries in the World

    Suadi Arabia
    Sri Lanka

    10 that regularly show up on lists of the most atheist

    New Zealand

    Says it all....

    April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Tom

      Oh my gosh, are you saying we are in religious purgatory in the states?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • liquidassets

      I want to make sure that I understand before I comment; what are you proposing that these lists are telling us??

      April 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Colin

      That the less a given population believes in a god or gods, the more succesful it tends to be, the higher standard of living it offers its people and the freer it is, among other benefits. The correlation is actually surprisingly strong.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Colin.......You are going to mess things up with facts. Please stop before someone gets hurt.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Brockton

      -aren't these countries also on their way to being 'assimilated' (non-white) by immigrants, especially high-birthrate muslims?

      April 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Racism rears it's ugly head.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • BacBac

      Overconfidence from riches often leads to pride. A lack of humility is a first step to atheism (not reason or logic).

      April 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • .

      " A lack of humility is a first step to atheism (not reason or logic)."

      That's why those countries that were listed have some of the healthiest and happiest people and it has nothing to do with greed.

      April 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • BacBac

      most likely ignorance (= to ignore) then

      April 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  6. Tom

    Ever wonder what it must feel like being an author of one of these ....columns? Work so hard to sound intelligent and try so hard to get to people and change their outlooks only to watch the comments section grow without care or concern for what was written? What a bummer! 🙂

    April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Brockton

      I agree, and his viewpoint was interesting, but something was off, this seems a SELF-Serving Movement (as many religious 'helping' is, and note many more are sincere acts of kindness)

      Why not just HELP Sandy victims? Why need them (the City Gov't?) to Acknowledge and Accept your group's name/agenda???
      This kind of "helping for recognition' is always a bad sign.

      'Why do people have to be so godless to want to kill innocent people?' it makes me feel like I’m not safe either, like we’re being singled out for prejudice.”

      April 18, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Brockton

      'Why do people have to be so godless to want to kill innocent people?' it makes me feel like I’m not safe either, like we’re being singled out for prejudice.”......

      (didn't finish post)....This is more an expression, and spot on considering many terrorists CLAIM to be Believers, but don;t act it.

      This man just cleverly, and intellectually, but none-the-less immorally, USED BOSTON VICTIMS TO FURTHER HIS ONW AGENDA, WORSE CRIED FEAR?? They Wish they mattered enough to be anyone's target!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  7. Austin

    God reveals Himself. and so there are people who admit it, and are proud of it. Proud that there is a God who is awesome.

    Personally, if there were no life after death, some of you would be better of. I feel sorry for you. and I know how it is to hate what is the truth. But now all I can do is assure you that God is supernatural, and there is life after death.

    No doubt about it.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Observer

      If there was "no doubt", this wouldn't be an issue.

      Wishful thinking does not make for "no doubt".

      April 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You don't "know" anything of the sort, Austin. Stop lying about it. Or get a dictionary and look up the words "believe" and "know" and figure out the difference. They do not mean the same thing.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Colin

      I think Dawkins said it best, " I will convert for evidence."

      April 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Gadflie

      I suspect you wouldn't know the truth if it bit you on the keister.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Austin

      I know . I know that I experienced God who reveals Himself for His own reasons. and I am an undeserving recipient of a supernatural event that was the unveiling of spiritual power, translated into physical and mental situations that God controlled to reveal himself to me.

      God went allowed me to see what the spiritual world is capable of. Some kid dreamed what I was thinking about. I dreamed about a blue print that sheldon had drawn earlier that day. and he showed it to me after I wrote this dream down.

      And there were about ten other instances where i was dreaming about specific things that I had no clue were going to be related directly to biblical unfolding of information.

      This was a supernatural display of Gods hand in circ.umstance, and God's control of peoples dreams.

      Exactly how Nebuchadnezzar had dreams and Daniel interpreted them. Joseph interpreting Pharoahs dreams. these were events that God used to glorify His presence.

      I experienced something 99 percent of people never will. and I am not a great person.

      But I can absolutely tell you that it is true, that I know that you have eyes and ears to see and hear.

      2 Corinthians 4:6
      New International Version (NIV)
      6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • .

      Guilt makes a person do/feel funny things, Austin. It'll rot your mind. You're reacting to your free will decision to plow your truck into the church. The subconscious is tricky. Seek help.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Austin...................When those bombs went off in Boston, what did god reveal himself as? At a time when people needed him to protect them, HE FAILED. I'm sure some of those killed or severely injured believed in god. When they needed him the most, what did he do for their worship and devotion? NOTHING. So keep believing. I just hope you're not in need because as we've seen, when others needed him. HE WASN'T THERE.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Alex

      You may have no doubt. But personally when you say you feel sorry for athiests and know what it is to hate the truth, I think you need to look in the mirror. The truth is not that there is a magical being that could have prevented these woman and child from being killed, but chose not to. The truth that you hate is the athiests who know morality and right from wrong without having to be threatened with eternal damnation or bribed with ethernal bliss.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Mark

      So here we have a column, written by an athiest, extolling the virtues of the non-religious. Telling us we need to accept and include them in our society. Yet when one person mentions his sprirituality or shares the strength of his personal beliefs, he is belittled, berated and mocked. It hardly seems as if athiests are willing to give the same level of tolerance and acceptance that they are demanding. Tolerance is not a one way street. If you wish to be accepted for what you do or do not believe, you must afford that same level of acceptance to your neighbor. Otherwise you are not good or moral, you are just closed minded and ignorant.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      if there were no life after death, some of you would be better off.

      Yes but that would be boring for the loving, merciful, and evil dictator known as God.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @mark...............It works both ways. In addition religious whack jobs are trying to get laws written based on their beliefs. Anti abortion being one example. Atheists don't go around talking about being atheists, because there is nothin' to talk about. religious people talk religion all the time. (Especially on the subway)

      April 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Ticktockman

      Maybe you are certain of life after death. I fail to understand why, as there is absolutely no evidence for it. Even if there is, so what?

      One of the problems with those who focus on life after death is that the fanatics do not fully appreciate life before death, and quite often cause just plain death.

      I value the life I have, and cherish my loved ones, largely because this is the only life of which I am certain. Best not to waste it. To me, worrying constantly about a possible afterlife is a waste of time and energy.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Ken Margo


      April 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Austin

      So if you had what others needed more than anything, a fountain of everlasting waters of life, you would not share with those thirsting to death?

      And if God revealed Himself to you, what would this life count for when it comes to God and eternity knowing that He died and arose.

      The issue in life is sin and redemption.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      April 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @austin...............What is your point?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  8. 1word

    We need more Jesus! Jesus is the Way!

    April 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Austin


      April 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Gadflie

      LOL! The way to what? Wishes and happy thoughts?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Bruce

      We need more cowbell.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • BOC

      Bruce: Don't fear the reaper. More cowbell. I laughed so hard I wet myself. LOL.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • GetToTheMiddle

      THANK YOU @bruce!!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  9. Colin

    To my Christian/Jewish/Muslim friends out there. You’ll find that most atheists don’t believe in God/Allah/Yahweh for one or more of the following reasons:

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

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

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

    Throwing the three together into one being cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    April 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • lol??

      "..............acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology............." It's mere hubris to make your claim. The cause is unknown but inbreeding is being looked at closely to find your problem.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Eric

      You can say all that to make yourself feel better so you have no accountability or responsibility, but it does mean it is true. I see utterly amazing and intelligent design all around me. The proof of a creator is in my hand, in nature and everywhere you look. There is simply no possible way that a single atom came into being by itself, let alone a field mouse. If you seek the truth you will find it is out there. Every one of your points can be totally debunked with sound and logical reasoning. Seek truth while it may yet be found.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Colin

      Reallr Eric. Complexity necessitates a designer does it? Well how designed your god, because it would presumably be a very complex being?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Dannyboy

      Another boring atheist on tonight's liberal CNN crapola pulpit...

      April 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • .

      Lol?? speaking of inbreeding when she is Lot's daughter is freaking hilarious. Fuck off, Christian whore.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • BacBac

      Colin you seem fairly proud yourself. Easy buddy…
      Christian apologists like William Craig easily pick apart each of your arguments and regularly tame over-confident Atheists. You should listen to or watch some of his debates. What you fail to understand is that Christianity stands up to rugged scrutiny. Reason and logic also work very well with Christianity and although the masses might fall for your weak arguments, most know better. I do agree that “I don’t know” is one of your better arguments. You did in fact get that right.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Observer


      The Bible contains many good morals, but it is also full of errors, contradictions, hypocrisy and nonsense. Apologists can only pretend that words don't mean what we know them to mean in order to make excuses.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Colin

      Great BacBac – pick a point I made and refute it. Quote from Mr. Craig if u wish.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Austin

      You talking about the living word? Every bit of it is the language of love. His Word is Holy and alive.

      I love the bible!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Russell

      Colin, how does an atheist determine what is moral? Other atheists on the comments have said that it is moral to not kill, not steal, and do unto to others as you would have them do unto you . . . how did atheists decide these principles are morally acceptable?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Raider

      Fantastic post Colin, I've saved it to read again later when I'm being bothered by the nutters. I notice that the posts following yours didn't really bother to refute any of what you typed and instead chose to ignore it. As usual.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • Raider

      " how did atheists decide these principles are morally acceptable?"

      Russell, we used our brains.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • G to the T

      @ Austin – You talking about the living word? Every bit of it is the language of love. His Word is Holy and alive. I love the bible!

      Which one? I've got 6 different ones at home that I use for comparisons...

      April 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Tom

    There is a time for self-promotion and bickering and hurt feelings and whatever. We have been given more than sufficient time to address such since we were children. As adults, it would be nice that we could put this aside for a bit while others need us to come together. That would be the adult and moral thing to do. Yes, we believe differntly and we speak differently and we understand that so let's cut each other a break for a week or two before we revert back to our customary bickering. We will again be granted as much time as we need to attack one another again. For now, let's accept kindness and stop judging one another.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Jerry


      April 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom

      Go to your room Jerry! 🙂

      April 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Brockton

      seems this man just USED BOSTON VICTIMS for some shameless SELF-Promoting

      April 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Raider

      Omg Brockton, I bet the religious nutters have never done that!! Right?

      April 19, 2013 at 2:09 am |
  11. julie

    This article is self-serving and annoyingly professorial. The last line I think is a plea to stop victimizing his humanist group…? How self-absorbed can this person be at such a wrong moment? I can only hope that a few more years behind him (he seems quite young) will add some perspective and wisdom. This is not the time to bemoan the perceived victimization of atheists. Perhaps he could learn a little from faithful groups–serve others before yourself.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • ThatsRight

      Well said Julie.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Saraswati

      You didn't read the article apparently. People in the congregation were involved and the group was excluded from representation at the service. If this had been Mormons or Muslims or Buddhists or any other group there would have been an uproar.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Viggo

      Agree Julie. Self serving article to push an agenda unrelated to the events.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Brockton

      Well Said, (I posted similar before finding yours, apologies for repeated opinion)

      Saraswati -People have actually HEARD OF these other religions, and to leave one out, might be an oversight, or a deliberate slight.
      This guy does not even have a real meeting hall yet? He is claiming all agnostics or atheists as his followers by default?
      He wants a Cult Following, just like the intellectual egomaniacs of the Voice of the Faithful tried after the Boston Abuse Scandal.
      Using this tragedy to self-promote is SHAMEFUL.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Saraswati


      3 people were killed and less than 200 injured (last numbers I saw). Certainly every belief on earth wouldn't be represented but it would not have been hard to include the major beliefs of those impacted especially when requested.

      April 19, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  12. Anne

    This is a very nice article. It is encouraging to know that everyone and pull together at times like this.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      have you been reading this blog?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Did you read Julie above you?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • lol??

      Ken, FWIW, julie posted AFTER anne.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I know that. I wrote the reply after Julie posted it. My replies were not written at the same time.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  13. Colin

    Think how absurd and offensive it would be if the headline to thisarticle read, "Muslims in Boston mourn, too," or "Jews in Boston mourn, too."

    The idea that those of us who do not believe in the supernatural are somehow morally suspect or emotionally detatched is ridiculous. If anything, the atheists and secular humanists I know tend to be smarter and every bit as moral as the religious. In fact, the moral outlook of most atheists I know is indistinguishable from those of a liberal Christian.

    No religious group has a monopoly on morality and religion tends to retard the intellect.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • randomthoughtpattern

      Well said, Colin
      Those who rely on a higher being for direction look at non-believers as somehow unequal in morals. What a hypocrisy...

      April 18, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Colin: you said "no religious group has a monopoly on morality..."
      from what vantage point can you make such a claim? ironically, you are claiming for your "group" (religious or not is a separate discussion) a monopoly on morality properly understood. you are doing the very thing you claim others cannot do.

      or as it's classically put in the old blind men & the elephant analogy...
      "In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said no religion has."
      -Lesslie Newbigin

      April 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Colin

      Thanks RTP. I have always considered one who does not steal because he thinks he is being supervised by some all knowing sky fairy as a little less impressive than those who simply don't steal.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Colin

      Russ. "No group" means what I said – no group, including non-believers.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Colin: yet you are making just such an exclusive claim. it's self-refuting.
      or are you saying an individual can do what a group cannot?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Colin

      Pleae read what I posted and explain to me what claim I am making. I do not follow you. Nowhere do I say that atheists have a monopoly on morality. I said the opposite.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Tom


      April 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Russ

      @ RTP: read Colin's above piece. He himself even has a disclaimer here that his new 'morality' may be unidentifiable with the old sense of 'morality.' i'm assuming he's allowing that what is considered reprehensible today might be perfectly acceptable in the future... such as racism or pedophilia, etc.

      all theists are saying is: we're not talking about the same thing then. if it is wrong, it was always wrong – even in judging past 'interpretations' of our own religion.

      and that's the question for you: are there acts or views that are always wrong? if so, on what basis do you make such a claim (because it is certainly not supported by this view of existence)? if not, are you prepared to admit your morality is merely a temporary construct – something utterly identifiable for most (especially in light of the Boston marathon, etc.)?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Colin: re-read the Newbigin quote. you said "no religious group has a monopoly on morality..." but that in and of itself is an exclusive truth claim. you are doing the very thing you claim they can't do.

      or to put it as Tim Keller has:
      "To say, 'I don’t know which religion is true' is an act of humility. To say, 'none of the religions have truth, no one can be sure there’s a god' is actually to assume you have the kind of knowledge [which] you just said no other person... no other religion has. How dare you? See, it’s a kind of arrogant thing to say 'nobody can know the truth' because it’s a universal truth claim. To say, ‘Nobody can make universal truth claims.’ That is a universal truth claim. ‘Nobody can see the whole truth.’ You couldn’t know that unless you think you see the whole truth. And, therefore, you’re doing the very thing you say religious people shouldn’t do."

      larger context here:

      April 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Russ, many non-believers do look at all humanity as a group, the sustainable well being of which is of greatest importance. You are in that group, so am I. As all of us look to each other and learn what 'sustainable well being" means and what our place in making it work might be we learn to make morality a workable idea. You are and will be part of it, perhaps with your God in the background of everything you do. That's fine – eccentric, but harmless as long as it doesn't keep you from working together with people who are less encumbered.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Russ, exactly what is it you don't understand about "no group" and 'monopoly". Perhaps you should get some help with these tough concepts...

      April 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TTTOO: ironically, you are saying to me (basically): "your view of existence cannot lead you to disagree with my view of existence." what are you doing if not attempting me to convert to your view of existence (ESPECIALLY if my view necessarily & inherently compels me to push against your view)?

      the 'peace' you are offering is one in which you have dictated the terms, not exactly a 'peace'... if put in any other context (for example, political).

      April 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Viggo

      Pompous and arrogant.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Russ, I simply called your view of God as the source of morality eccentric and called on you to work with other people who are trying to make moral choices and act for the good of everyone. I acknowledge that your beliefs may not prevent you from making good choices or from working together with people who don't share your beliefs.

      Ironically, you suggest that I'm trying to convert you to unbelief when I've said quite a few times that religious belief may be something we want in a few people. Just as we encourage speakers of languages that are dying out, we should hold onto ideas and beliefs that were once powerful influences over almost all of us. Keep them going in a few true believers. I believe in diversity.

      April 19, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Russ

      @ TTTOO:

      1) you said "I believe in diversity," yet you want it on *your* terms ("as long as..."). note: those terms are unacceptable & require my faith to take an unrecognizable form (any God who has to submit to your terms ceases to be God).

      leave out the theological side of the discussion for a moment. philosophically: you are saying to me that i can only hold my position on *your* terms. that is not "diversity." insofar as you see the same sentiment in me you regard it rather as tyranny. you won't stand for it, yet somehow you think i should?

      2) furthermore, you speak of "workable morality" & "choosing good" – a clear reference to an underlying standard (if not outright admission of metaphysical presuppositions).

      a) "workable morality" presumes morality is ultimately subjective (when it is an essential tenet of my position that it is objective). in other words, your terminology itself imposes your position before the discussion has begun. you are front-loading the debate.

      b) "choosing good" & "act for the good of everyone" – I'd love for you to elucidate your basis for 'good' here (especially how it necessarily finds my view "enc.umbered", yet somehow without making you equally exclusionary & narrow-minded?). i think the entire discussion hinges on this. it's a microcosm of why you think you are somehow immune to your own critique despite doing the same basic thing philosophically.

      SUM: you clearly have a set of presuppositions here, but fail to see how you are imposing them on the discussion. that oversight is why you continue to call me out for doing the very same things you are doing. that's self-refuting.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  14. Kenman

    It's not enough for the godless CNN to mock Christianity at every level, in every venue – now even in the "Belief blog" – now they start presenting the noble alternative!

    While the owners and management of CNN might consider themselves more international than American, don't try to assault the core of the American founders and the heritage of our great country with your godless goals and communist dictator idolatry and expect no backlash.

    Your are shameless and even more dangerous than the pathetically liberal MSNBC because you shroud yourselves in moderation, too cowardly to admit your true purposes, like most liberals, because it would outrage and offend most.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      So why are you here? Ignore them if CNN is so beneath you.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Colin

      "don't try to assault the core of the American founders and the heritage of our great country with your godless goals and communist dictator idolatry and expect no backlash".

      You mean things like separation of church and state for example?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Griffin

      Thanks for lumping me in with communists and liberals, just because I don't believe in your fantasy world. I'll bet it helps you sleep at night, seeing such a simple, black and white world. Good luck with that world-view.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Many of the founding intellectuals of America were not religious in a way you would accept. America's core values don't include unquestioning acceptance of conservative religious ideas. Far from it.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Andy

      Please, please keep posting. Paranoid ranting from the ignorant masses just push more of our youth towards intelligent introspection and a desire to lean towards science to learn the truth.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Ticktockman

      Paranoid and factually challenged. I hate to break it to you, but the founders did not establish a Christian nation. The US is – gasp! – a secular nation. Tolerant of religion, certainly, but not subservient to it.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  15. MandoZink

    Integrity, understanding, and empathy for the human condition are the hallmarks of character that enlightened beings come to realize. Those awakened to intelligent atheism understand that this recognition of human quality is essential to a sane, compassionate, and universally moral society. ALL good people, both atheists and theists, should realize this. It is frustrating to feel the prejudice that religious people often project when they misjudge atheists as amoral. Surprisingly to you, we are more committed to all of humanity as a higher purpose in life, as we have to answer to ourselves for our discretions. We atheists cannot rely on a supreme being to forgive us for not paying attention to our fellow man. "Do unto others..." is a commitment we share.

    April 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  16. BacBac

    There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'
    C. S. Lewis

    April 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Salero21

    Just another Friendly and loving reminder that atheism is stupidity in Full bloom. Atheists are so low they are below the baboons. Maybe this will get through to them!


    April 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Referring to you tube to prove god exists, wow. If god is soooo powerful I would think you could do better than a you tube video.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • How christian of you


      April 18, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Darwins Bulldog

      Atheists are, on average, significantly smarter than Christians or other religious people. That is a fact, not an opinion.

      17 different studies conducted since the 1800's have show that as IQ goes up, religious tendencies go down. At genius level IQ, the believers are a minority.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I don't want to say atheists are smarter, nor do I want to say Christians are dumber. I just wish when it comes to solving "man made" problems ALL people look to each other instead of looking in the sky. It's OK to believe, just keep your beliefs home or at your place of worship and you wont hear any criticism.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • rational thought

      What a horrible thing to say, I see your religiousity has taught you nothing about respecting your fellow man even when his or her beliefs differ from yours. Shame. Your god will be punishing you for this.

      As an atheist, I am responsible for my own actions, I don't need some mysterious metaphysical being to stand over me with a ruler in his hand ready to rap my knuckles. I live an ethical life, don't cheat, don't hate, don't steal, and all the rest that civilized people do. I have myself to answer to. I want to be a role model for others, so I think about my actions and I accept the consequences of my actions and don't blame others for my mistakes.

      If you insist on calling me lower than a baboon, I guess you have to do what you have to do to protect your beliefs.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Anne

      That video is sickening. Based on that and your comment I have to wonder if you are a racist.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • How far will they go?

      OMG that video is unbelievable – LOL. That's the last place I expected to hear the N word.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • BacBac

      I would recommend The Atheist Delusion by Phil Fernandes or Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz

      April 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  18. Irony

    I do not believe in Atheism. What proof do they have God doesn't exist?

    April 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      What proof do you have that he does? Atheists cannot prove god doesn't exist because NO ONE can prove a negative. Since you say god performs miracles, you must have proof of him/her performing these "miracles".

      April 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I am an atheist. I am real. I can feel me and others can see and feel me. I am much more real than your "god," I win; you lose.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Austin

      i have proof and I dont have to prove it to you to still have proof. You are inclined to believe otherwise anyway. Belief in God is a gift to those who need it.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • .

      Austin has *dreams*. Those are his proof.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @austin....................Your belief in god has you blogging. I would think a man as "blessed" as you are would find something better to do with his time.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • MandoZink

      And what proof do you possibly have that Zeus, Apollo, or even Batman don't exist? Exact same problem.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Colin

      I don't accept those who don't believe in Santa Claus. What proof do they have that he does not exist?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • BacBac

      God doesn't believe in atheists

      April 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • Tantra_i

      You dont have to believe in Atheism.. you just figure it out with critical thought...How does one prove the non existence of a non being..(invisible, unknown)..?.. if you can figure that one out... may your lord be with you..

      April 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Let us know when you have a recording of god saying so, Bac Wac.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Observer


      "God doesn't believe in atheists". That's strange. God talks about atheists frequently in the Bible.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      Christians are ever held in bondage to Life's makers, the brethren of God the creator of all things once created and everything created ever since creation, begat by God and was evolutionally fulfilled. Christ Jesus is said to be the King of all God's brethren. As a Christian, I am lost in Life and am found in need of substantiation. Each day I live, the closer is my ending and in knowing, am I at a weakness. Trusting naught in no one and keeping those in knowing ever close to my ear, I will continue onward into Light till days end and Darkness till Light's beginnings.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Brockton


      I just can't stand their self-righteous indignation -at least the public and vocal ones.

      This is the first time I've ever heard one use a fake 'fear of persecution' to score points.
      He is simply not that important to be targeted. Sorry to disappoint.

      When that 1 or 2 Tweet of 'godless act' posted, it was calling out how 'believers' don;t walk the talk, not a call to 'go get the atheists next!".

      This guy is smart enough to know that -and to use it.
      I trust him no more than a Boston Bishop.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Raider

      If god doesn't believe in atheists, and yet here we are, then the "all-knowing" god apparently isn't "all-knowing" which kind of doesn't make sense. But of course I know that won't bother the believers one bit.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:18 am |
  19. David

    James J. Martin, a well-known and respected Catholic theologian, uttered the following words when he appeared on the Colbert Report a couple years ago:

    "Religion does not have a monopoly on morality."

    Truer words have never been spoken.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • .


      April 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Brockton

      I agree.

      The way Greg Epstein just cleverly used this tragedy to promote his little movement is quite immoral.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  20. No God? No hope.

    Our New Religion
    From “Gaily the Troubadour”

    by Arthur Guiterman
    First dentistry was painless.
    Then bicycles were chainless,
    Carriages were horseless,
    And many laws enforceless.

    Next cookery was fireless,
    Telegraphy was wireless,
    Cigars were nicotineless,
    And coffee caffeineless.

    Soon oranges were seedless,
    The putting green was weedless,
    The college boy was hatless,
    The proper diet fatless.

    New motor roads are dustless,
    The latest steel is rustless,
    Our tennis courts are sodless,
    Our new religion — godless.

    April 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      religion and godless are a contradiction in terms.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • No God? No hope.

      Skeptic- from your posts, it appears that you feel lost and out of touch with God. What is it? What's the angst? speak to me..

      April 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Observer

      No God? No hope.

      People can only feel "out of touch" with things they believe exist.

      Do you feel out of touch with the Easter bunny?

      April 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • No God? No hope.


      April 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • liquidassets

      Most of the things in that poem represent good progress. Many of the newer religions also represent progress, too. But there are no religions that are godless unless you are talking about metaphorical religions and gods like money, power, celebrities, capitalism, etc. But those "religions" and "gods" are practiced and worshiped by many that believe in supernatural gods as well.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:23 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.