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. GO_GOP

    Me and my pastor( a man with a deep relationship with our Lord in heaven) were discussing militant atheism and we both agreed that atheism is a mental disorder. Otherwise how could one explain the fact that atheists cling to absurd facts and theories like Quantum Theory and Evolution theory to explain their atheist? For example Quantum theory refers to everything as being both a wave and a particle. It appears that quantum theorists cannot make up their mind and so they sit on the fence of the wave or particle debate!!. How absurd and two faced is that? And yet atheists refer to it as a holy grail. Next Evolution. Evolution states that we humans came from Gorrilas, but cannot explain how one fine morning a Gorilla turned into human. We do not have a single instance where it was recorded that a Gorilla turned to human. And yet mentally deficient atheists claim these very theories as their proof of there being no God. Me and my pastor had a good laugh at them and am laughing now too.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • QS

      LMAO! You're silly.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • Observer


      You are totally CLUELESS what a true mental disorder is. Do some reading.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • clarity

      I am assuming this is a poe.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • Colin

      That has gotta be a Poe. Nobody is actually that dumb... Right? ....right?....

      April 19, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Observer


      April 19, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Colin's response makes me laugh. That's a typical atheist's response. When they cannot answer someone they choose to ignore/ridicule him. Just proves my point about atheists.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      When Christians start trying to get all science and talk about string theory and quantum mechanics and Laws of Thermodynamics, you just know you are in for the same brilliance that brought us atheist nightmare bananas.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Okey

      Your pastor sounds like Jethro Bodine.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Observer


      Your attempt to link atheism with mental disorders is laughable and ignorant.

      Try again.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • willielinn

      Your closed-minded dogma speaks volumes. I suggest you study the"theory" of evolution. Gorilla to human? Whoever said that? Your argument lacks not only substance, but most of all smacks of ignorance.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Ralphco

      nice try but I smell a liberal

      April 19, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • lol??

      God makes the claim of creating adam and eve and their procreatin' did the rest. Is not evolution a much more diffi-cult process because you have to have a male from one tribe and a female from another gaggle evolve exactly the same way at the same time at the same place and then LIKE each other? You don't have the wiggle room of 100,000 years either. What kinda of magic are you feeding the public with that magic banana? They would have at least made the newspapers and maybe won one of them peace prizes, too. Free tickets to the county fair for everybody, on the house!

      April 19, 2013 at 2:05 am |
    • NavinJay

      You talk about people not being able to make up their minds. There have been over 4000 different gods since man began to invent them and make them up. There are over 38,00 sects of Christianity alone. Sound like YOu guys are the ones that can't make up your minds. Now THAT is a mental illness!

      April 19, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • NavinJay

      You talk about people not being able to make up their minds. There have been over 4000 different gods since man began to invent them and make them up. There are over 38,000 sects of Christianity alone. Sound like YOu guys are the ones that can't make up your minds. Now THAT is a mental illness!

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

      I am astonished that people still try to reason with this individual. S/He makes outrageous statements, statements intended to raise ire or anger, and take him/her seriously. If you look through GO_GOP's history of comments they are indicative of what is commonly referred to as a Troll. And as anyone who regularly comments know, please don't feed the trolls.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Good for you, GO_GOP: Was your head in his lap at the time? After all, since your pastor is soooo close to The Man himself, you can be taking it all in. Don't let any drip down your cheek, though

      April 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Which God?

      Go_Goop is a trolling Poe.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Science

      might be chad ? is that you Chad?

      April 21, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Me and my pastor( a man with a deep relationship with our Lord in heaven) were discussing militant atheism and we both agreed that atheism is a mental disorder. Otherwise how could one explain the fact that atheists cling to absurd facts and theories like Quantum Theory and Evolution theory to explain their atheist?"

      Someone who writes drivel like this isn't educated enough to understand evolutionary theory or much else. Idiot.

      April 21, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  2. Truth

    When discussing religion with people who do not believe in God, I usually come away feeling attacked for my beliefs (that I share with most of the world). The US was built by people who, almost exclusively, believed in God - who have ensure our rights to have this open discussion. Why attack me for my belief in God?

    April 19, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • Observer


      Everyone is allowed their beliefs on the meaning of life. The problems occur when they try to use their beliefs to deprive others of rights like when Christians hypocritically pick on gays or Christians pick on pro-choice people by pretending the Bible mentions abortion.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • The Real World

      A. Your religion used to kill atheists. You religion seeks to oppress other groups like gays. Your religion tries to force religion into everyone's schools. Your religion has a long ugly history of war and oppression. That is why we kick back, hard.

      B. This country was specifically created as secular by men who knew well that religion is toxic to liberty – they well knew what the Puritans did when they seized power in England the century before.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • Raider

      Wow, religious person complaining that his beliefs are being attacked. You should try being a known atheist. You think you have it bad...

      April 19, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Nitwit

      Truth, I believe it's because non-believers often feel that they are criticized or bashed for not believing as you do. From reading various replies to different articles about faith the attacks seem to go both ways.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • QS

      See my comment below.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Ralphco

      it's a minority of people who are very self righteous and loud about getting their feelings hurt if they have to hear others express their faith. I ignore them – it's a trendy thing right now – hope they find their way.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • the creationist

      you atheists make me laugh. you are so certain in your arrogance that you forget that you are in the minority. furthermore, for people that pride themselves on logic, you believe in a most illogical concept. the world was not the result of a freak accident. the world did not originate from a tiny speck of dust. just turn your eyes towards the sky, the trees, and the grass. water literally falls from the sky and food literally rises from the ground. in a world of such perfection; how can anyone argue that it was all haphazardly formed? science once argued that black people were inferior to white people because of the color of their skin. science is imperfect but G-d is not.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:30 am |
  3. QS

    Thank you Greg for that honest, frank and touching piece. While an Atheist myself, I've never really been a "join the club" person either. I find what your group is doing to be extremely admirable and wish you the best in your endeavors helping as many people as you can...religious or not.

    I do have to agree with your analysis that most people are so uninformed about and/or unaware of us that their nonchalance about how they express their own beliefs does come across, more often than not, as arrogance and self-righteousness rather than how they believe it is intended.

    Most, if not all, non-religious people and Atheists know "the look" all too well when we tell religious people that we do not in fact believe in any god...the "I feel so sorry for you" look.

    They probably don't even realize they're doing it to be completely honest, but that they don't just makes it that much more intolerable.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  4. tony

    Religious collection plates should have 100% of cash in them burned so the smoke ascends as a true sacrifice to god, just like it says to do in the bible. Which would of course turn all mega-churches into cheap tents or lean-to's.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  5. imabadteammate

    People who do not believe in Santa are mourning too.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • biggles

      I believe in Hitler's god. The one true god. Hitler was a devout man.

      Beats believing in dodo.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Skippy

      I believe in peanut butter. And unlike God, peanut butter actually exists!

      April 19, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • joe

      this confusing interfaith men all memeber f religion at-least major 4 religion not to mention atheist agnostic , should have been present there after all there all about human tragedy resilience, endurance and in the end expression support. so why reporter are not talking? i am sure there people of many faith ran in this marathon and people of all faith watched and horror as it unfolded. are we forgetting English or they are trying to redefine what interfaith means. they should have called this gathering an Abrahamic Gathering since faith that represented this gathering is just that. somebody needts to talk about it. this is not at all an interfaith gathering. rather this more like a political.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Henry

      ESL classes are highly recommended, joe.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  6. Andie

    It doesn't matter if you are a believer in God or not, it is a matter of being human and seeing the suffering around you, outpouring the compassion from your soul. Why do we need to make this tragedy about the differences in beliefs?? Can't we just feel for the lost ones' families, and the pain endured by those who suffered and agree on that? The first thing CNN always does regarding happenings such as these is write articles to spark religious controversy–guess people just LOVE to argue!

    April 19, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  7. Humanist11

    Christian: "I can't believe you don't believe in God. How does that feel?"

    Atheist: "Do you believe in Allah?"

    Christian: "No"

    Atheist: "Like that."

    April 19, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Similarly

      Q: "Why don't you believe in Buddhism?"

      Christian: "It's obviously an invented myth, and there is no evidence."

      Q: "Why don't you believe in Islam?"

      Christian: "It's obviously an invented myth, and there is no evidence."

      Q: "Why don't you believe in Mormonism?"

      Christian: "It's obviously an invented myth, and there is no evidence."

      Q: "Why do you believe in Christianity?"

      Christian: "It's obviously true."

      April 19, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • BATUTA

      you must believe in God!

      April 19, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  8. Chris Ostrowski

    STOP IT!!!!!!! All of you.
    This is an article about the pain and suffering of the people in Boston!
    Not place for a game of "My God is better then your God."
    Is this what your Lord and Savior taught you? To ridicule those that are different then you? To put yourselves before the pain of others?
    Shame on all of you!!!!!!! I hope you all think about this the next time you look in the mirror.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Lenny and the Squigtones.

      Anytime some event happens, there are always people who run in and say you can't talk anymore, that free speech is somehow unacceptable. However, the Bostonians involved really aren't reading this, so we may as well discuss whatever we like. Nobody is hurt, it is a discussion, and I just don't see why you feel stifling communications is so necessary.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • biggles

      Shut up sambo and go back to hell

      April 19, 2013 at 4:04 am |
  9. Dan

    Of course. This goes without saying. You don't need to believe in fairy tales to be deeply affected by this tragedy.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • The Man

      Not according to Chad and Topher. They have no clue why a human could feel compassion without their particular god to terrorize them into obedience.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  10. jhin

    Perhaps because you could never really define god, that you have trouble finding one.

    April 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • YBP

      Don't tell me. Christian, right? You seem more like a Pharisee.

      Judge not.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:19 am |
  11. Irony

    I can understand agnostics and non-believers who simply do not follow a religion and do not practice spirituality because they do not know if there is a creator or not. What I have a hard time understanding is Atheists.

    Atheists claim there is no God / Creator, yet they cannot cite any scientific theory or evidence that disproves Creation as a viable possibility for the origin of the universe. They require tangible proof that the universe was created before even believing in the possibility of God, yet they will entertain other possible origins of the universe without requiring this same standard of proof.

    Furthermore, if any evidence were to surface to support creation / God / life after death, these same individuals would be motivated to dismiss it immediately because it does not align with their belief God doesn't exist. A perfect example are NDE's. I read an article on here from a "scientist" who is studying NDEs and he set out to test the NDE theory by measuring the intensity of one's memories. Essentially, his research shows that dreams or non-real human experiences have much less lasting impressions on our memories / ability to recall them, whereas actual events in our lives have the inverse effect.

    So he does his research with the stated goal to disprove NDEs by measuring NDE'rs memories of their events. But, instead, he finds that the NDE for each individual resonated more than ANY other memory he has measured – more so than his prior chart allowed for. And, it did not matter if it was 1 year ago or 50 years ago, the NDE was more prominent and lasting than any other memory in their lives. So, he set out to disprove NDE's with his own methodology, and even though it backfired, he still dismissed his own findings out of hand by saying: "NDE's are caused by the brain...I am a scientist..."

    Its as if he associated being a scientist with not ever believing in the possibility of Creation or life after death. When really I would think science should be the pursuit of the truth, no matter what that truth is – even if its Life After Death.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • xmxm

      Your argument has been beaten to death numerous times. Just because you cannot disprove that life was created by a flying spaghetti monster does not mean the life was created by a flying spaghetti monster. Just because you cannot disprove that life was created by a rock does not mean the life was created by a rock. I'm sorry but we are not interested in disproving something for which we cannot collect evidence, and the lack of ability to collect evidence does not automatically prove you prove you correct.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Sane Person

      An atheist and a non-believer are the same thing, and most atheists are agnostic, so your point is invalid

      April 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Colin

      I would give NDEs a bit of credibility if Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and/or atheists ever experienced the Christian heaven or god, but they don't. They experience their own, many different beliefs when under great physical or mental stress. NDS are clearly nothing more than cultural manifestations.

      David Koresh and Charles Manson had innumerable personal experiences telling them they were the messiah, while Mark Chapman had experiences telling him he was Holden Caulfield ("that made me want to puke"). Thousands of people also believe they have had personal experiences with angels, sprits, “presences” or ghosts, with aliens who abduct them or with devils that torment them. The internal, subjective experiences people honestly believe they have, including NDEs are not at all probative of external reality.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Understanding a lack of belief in a god is easier than understanding belief that a guy named Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a whale. Non-theists don't create pop-up books to animate their beliefs.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Obviously

      NDE research is pseudoscience. Pseudo, as in fake.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • tadashidavis

      Question; I as an atheist will accept there is a god if the proof can be replicated BY FACTS (the bible is not proof FYI); however if I can prove there is no god could you accept that?

      April 19, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • Irony

      First off, I challenge each and every free thinking individual to do their OWN research on NDE's, and I discourage you from believing anything from the first guy you see wearing a white lab coat. This is EXACTLY what I am talking about with a lot of Atheists / non-believers. I guarantee the vast majority of people commenting on here haven't done any of their own research on NDEs and instead are relying on toeing the "company" line of dismissing anything supernatural, not because they know it as fact, but instead because it does not align with their beliefs. Sound familiar? That's right. Atheism is most definitely a religion.

      For the commenter who said racial and cultural bias play into NDEs, you could not be more incorrect in that statement and it shows your ignorance. A Dr. / PHD (does this give it more credability? he does wear a lab coat) has collected more NDEs than anyone else on the planet, and his findings are the exact opposite of your statement.

      Just ask yourself some very logical questions. If your brain was dying / going through intense trauma, would it really conjure up congruent imagery that makes more sense than the life you lived prior to the event? Would your brain really only conjure up meetings with people who have already passed away instead of the many people still in your life having immediate impact on your memories?

      Heck, most dreams make no sense whatsoever and that is when your body is at complete rest; so why the heck would an NDE under brain death, heart stoppage, and intense drama / life threatening events conjure such perfect imagery / experiences? Experiences that have changed these same peoples lives forever. Experiences they remember more readily than any other experience in their lives.

      Oh its the brain... I am a scientist.

      How convenient.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Irony

      XmXm –

      I understand why you think that was the point I was making, because many do say that, but that is NOT the point I am making. I am not claiming God exists because Atheists cannot disprove it. I am pointing out the hypocrisy of an Atheist who requires tangible proof of the origin of the universe being created by a God yet will accept any prevailiing theory by a guy wearing white lab coat withot requiring the same standard of proof.

      Here is an example. I can utilize today's prevailing scientific theories on the origin of the universe and make a logical case for Creation, but Atheists would likely dismiss it immediately. Yet this same individual has no problem considering / believing other new scientific theories that also simply infer supposition from prevailing scientific theories.

      It is only when we get to this point does it beg the question, why dismiss the possibility of a superior intellect creating the universe, which makes perfectly good sense with argument and inference from prevailing scientific theories, but instead consider other inferences that lack the same level of tangible proof.

      THIS is the hypocrisy. THIS is proof that some will die before being wrong or entertaining the idea of Creation.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Righteo

      I can find Ph.D.s who study alien abductions and ghosts, but that doesn't make them plausible either.

      You are trying to build your castle in the swamp. It's going to sink, your son will break into song, and Sir Lancelot will slaughter the wedding party. Because you are daft. Now go away, or I will taunt you a second time.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • tony

      Any religion is proved false by its needing collection plates.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • joey

      I consider myself agnostic because I feel it is just as arrogant to completely dismiss a higher being as it is to claim that a higher being definitely exists. That said, I see no way in which you can logically claim God exists. The reason people are readily accepting of scientific theories is because scientific theories are under immense amounts of scrutiny from not only the general public but their peers. Even if the general public accepts an incorrect scientific theory as law, it will be corrected within a short time (with todays technology and capabilities).

      April 19, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • Henry

      Joey, you might consider how the first sentence you wrote is completely negated by everything else you said. It's like you are an atheist in denial.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Irony

      Tony, we are not talking about religion, we are talking about the plausisiblity of our universe being created by a superior intellect.

      However, since you brought it up, despite all of the negative press a lot of religions receive, there are an immense amount of churches that are helping the poor and needy with the collection plate tidings. Most churches help others via their financial gains. To state otherwise is ignorant.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • joey

      I stated that I don't make claims as to whether or not God exists. Then I went on to say I am not sure how you can logically argue that God does exist. Please explain to me how my first statement negated the rest.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • Me

      @ tony
      "Any religion is proved false by its needing collection plates."


      April 19, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Irony

      Joey, your first sentence is why I can understand an agnostic point of view. However, to refute the rest of your passage, there is no scientific proof of the origin of the universe prior to the big bang. Therefore, its a plausible, and to me more believable, to consider our universe was created by a superior being than it is to believe the universe popped into existence from nothing.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Henry

      I said your first sentence was negated by the rest, not the other way around.

      Basically, you are saying it is foolish to take a stance that there cannot be a god, then you argued that there is no way anyone can logically argue god exists.

      It's okay to accept that you are an atheist.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • joey

      I'm not well-versed in theories as to how the world came to be, but it seems that your acceptance of a higher being creating the universe comes from our inability as humans to come up with an exact answer. I personally have no problem with it, and no one should care if I did have a problem with that point of view, but it isn't exactly derived from logic. But as I said, I really have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to the big bang and all that.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • joey

      @Henry Yessir, I caught that but didn't want to post just to correct myself. Seeing as were talking about a supernatural being, maybe logic doesn't come into play? I'm just saying that no one really knows for sure until we die. My views are atheistic but I'm not going to claim that I know the workings of the universe.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      Irony, it is not at all more plausible to believe your totally unevidenced version. It's rather silly, actually. The reality is that due to the extreme difficulty of knowing what happened so many billion years ago (as well as some very difficult physics), no one really knows. However, the assertion "An invisible super magic guy did it" is really preposterous, devoid of the slightest evidence, and just ridiculous.

      And you think so too if the name is wrong. If I said Allah created the universe back then, or Quetzlcoatl did, or Thor, you too would respond with the same laughing dismissal we atheists do for your ridiculous assertion. Because you too are an atheist about thousands of gods.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Irony


      Again, your position makes much more sense to me than to outright dismiss the posibilty of a Creator. This is the question I pose to Atheists, and they always answer in the same way: "I cannot prove the giant spaghetti monster but that doesnt mean it exists.." The problem is I am not asking them to prove it, I am asking them to prove why Creation is not possible. What scientific proof is there that refutes the possibility of creation?

      I will spare you the time to look it up. There is none.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • Henry

      If there is no god, you won't know when you die either.

      No insult intended to you. I just found it interesting that you logically are certain but you don't believe in saying you are certain.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • Irony

      Larry, you have not answered the question I have proposed. What scientific theory or proof refutes the possibility of Creation? Just because you personally think its absurd does not make it irrelevant or implausible. I think if you're being honest, and base your opinion on what we know of the universe, you too could see the plausibility of Creation over a theory that suggests the universe popped into existence from nothing.

      Even if your conviction is based upon scientific theory and findings, you cannot rule out Creation with any logical or scientific proof.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Try to get a grip

      The possibility of which you speak only exists due to the impossibility of disproving a negative, and as much as you hate to accept it, the possibility that Flying Spaghetti Monster's creation is exactly the same.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • clarity

      joey – I like the 1st sentence. I think I am in that same category. Perhaps what Henry sees that is troublesome is the phrase "no way that can" (with the emphasis on "can") indicating no possibility. I think you are actually OK, though because you used "I see" which brings in the agnostic notion that "no one has presented evidence to me that I can perceive to date". What Irony mentions is one view where they don't see an agnostic "non-answer" to the creation problem acceptable, whereas for many agnostics and atheists, "we don't know yet" is a valid answer as well as leaping to the specific Abrahamic God presents many more additional problems in terms of acceptable evidence.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • joey

      @Henry Well I suppose people will know if they were right or wrong if there is indeed an afterlife. No offense taken, you've been very civil. I suppose I am just very opposed to absolute statements. I have been wrong many times before and I could very well be wrong if I stated there is no god or any form of higher power.

      @Irony I'm not knowledgable enough in the subject to even attempt a reply to that. My opinion on some people's adament refusal on the possibility of creation is that more often than not, creation is equated with Christianity (or other religions). If there is a god, I would have a hard time believing that he is the god described by men. That is all conjecture though, of course.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      Simply put, the complete and utter lack of any and all evidence, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the vast expanses of space, for the existence of any god or the supernatural is extremely strong evidence that there is in fact none. This alone takes the probability of a diety to .00000000000000000001%. Then examine the various scriptures for credibility (as they are the only claimed support), and all reveal things like Jesus being wrong about prayer absolutely being answered as you ask it, including having a mountain throw itself into the sea, or Jesus being wrong that the End Times would occur in the lifetime of some of his audience, and you are stuck with a god who was repeatedly wrong, which cannot be.

      Now probability of a deity falls to .000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%

      It's called logic.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • Irony


      In my opinion the closest we have to proof of a superior being who created life and the afterlife is from those who have experienced NDEs. And, for the record, the vast majority of NDEs do not match either of the prominent religious descriptions of God. Instead, most describe their event as being overwhelmed by love and peace, many times from a perfect light / being, that they say we cannot experience or fathom here on earth.

      I understand why so many are turned off by organized religion. However, anyone's predisposition on religion does not translate to eliminating the possibility of Creation and life after death.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • El Duderino

      One dingbat thinks that NDEs are proof of god, another thinks that splat-kitty nightmares are . . . Christians just don't get the concept of evidence at all, do they?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • Irony

      I am sorry, Larry, I am still missing the proof that Creation is not a viable possibility for the origin of the universe. Nor am I reading any competing theories that make more sense that also refute the possibility of Creationism. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say Creationism is not possible because there is no proof while also not providing proof its not possible and failing to supply a competing theory grounded in proof.

      There is no scientific theory based on fact that proves the origin of the universe. Nor is there any scientific theory based on fact that refutes the possibility for Creationism. Yet, Atheism says there is no Creator.

      Furthermore, as I have mentioned before, is it not a logical inference to suggest the singularity, or universe seed, or whatever you believe began the universe's existence, was Created? Keep in mind the alternative is that it appeared from nothing.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • clarity

      oh yeah Duderino – and where their body is inverted during dreaming; lol.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Truth


      And yet scientific theories are always undergoing refinement, adjustments, or even debunking.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • clarity

      Did someone says impossible, Irony or improbable?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • joey

      @Truth "Even if the general public accepts an incorrect scientific theory as law, it will be corrected within a short time (with todays technology and capabilities)." Yea, I mentioned that, though articulation isn't one of my strong qualities. Guess I should have been more specific.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      Astronauts and pilots training at high Gs have reported experiences like NDEs. The brain is a complex organism. When it is in a physically stressful situation, it will react.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:38 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      I'm sorry you cannot fathom a clearly stated position. Pure conjecture devoid of any supporting evidence is just ludicrous, and frankly, you are just fooling yourself regarding the other theories.

      Put another way, whenever anything has been studied at any level or the universe, the finding has ALWAYS, without exception, been natural. Never ever has the slightest hint of anything supernatural ever been even hinted at. With that in mind, your supposition that such a situation stops being true and magic guy becomes the answer is truly ridiculous. No, whatever will be found is so massively more likely to be natural, just as everything else is, that your claim is just childishly foolish.

      It all comes down to the simple fact that you don't have evidence for anything. Even the scientific theories have a heavy basis in proven elements.

      You truly have the same credibility and evidence and likelihood of your god creating the universe as Leppo the Dancing God of Pop Tarts creating it out of an invisible toaster.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Irony


      "like" NDE's is the operative word. An actual NDE has to meet 10 pieces of criteria that has never been reproduced by pilots or in any lab. Next someone will post that stimulation of certain parts of the brain also elicits experiences "like" NDEs. However, if you do your own research, you will find the "like" to fall very short of an actual NDE.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Irony


      Can you supply a scientific theory based upon factual data that proves the universe popped into existence from nothing? Its a rhetorical question. My point is lost on you yet its very simple. No current science comes close to proving the origin of the universe. Therefore, to use the Atheist line, any current scientific theory is as relevant as using the giant spaghetti monster.

      I am okay admitting I cannot prove a Creator is responsible for the origin of the universe; what I have a hard time with is others, who come across very arrogant, who claim there is no possibility of a Creator.

      Atheism says there is no God. Therefore, I can only infer they are also stating its not possible for a Creator to be responsible for the origins of the universe. If it isn't possible, then prove it. If you cannot, then what prevents you from considering the possibility?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      You don't get it, "irony". The similarity indicates that these experiences are processes of the brain, caused by stress. That they are not identical probably stems from the fact that high-G training is not the same as a body shutting down for life-threatening traumatic reasons.

      The fact that that NDEs differ between religions and cultures show that this is a physical, not metaphysical process, filtered through personal perspectives.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • Oh Yeah!

      The ten "pieces of criteria" (which literate people call criteria, not "pieces of criteria") to be a true NDE:

      1. You must have visions of splattered kitties.
      2. You must fond hair on the sun.
      3. You must make a hobby of amateur midnight drive-through installation in churches
      4. You must obsess about locked-in triangles of days that only angels can unlock
      5. You must see Jesus in your melting waffle butter
      6. You must not be so near dying that your brain has actually begun to shut off, because you would have massive brain damage (hard to discern in Christians)
      7. You must get your information from badly designed websites run by incredibly stupid people
      8. You must be dumb enough to think Austin actually isn't insane.
      9. Number nine, number nine, number nine . . .
      10. You need an IQ well below "Gump".

      April 19, 2013 at 1:59 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      You can restate the same fallacy over and over, and you still have gibberish.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:04 am |
    • Irony


      If you read what I wrote in a prior post about racial and religious predispositions and how they have little to no bearging on actual NDEs you would know that its wrong to think each NDEr is influenced by them. Its actually the opposite. You can go to a very well known NDE site and read thousands and thousands of NDEs and the vast majority, no matter which country they were submitted from, share the same common experiences and were not influenced by cultural bias. Its the opposite. Very few of them actually report meeting any well known religious figures, and even in the case they say they did, they always say they "think" it was that person.

      Dismissing NDEs as pure brain phenomenon is akin to dismissing the possibility of a Creator being responsible for the origin of the universe. Neither phenomenon has actually been disproved, yet so many want to BELIEVE it to be true.

      I have read everything I can get my hands on from both sides of the argument, and what I came away with is that its actually more likely to be true. When you have doctors, scientists, and experts on the brain, who have NDEs and vehemently testify to the truth of the experience, its hard to refute.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • Irony


      No hard feelings. I am not nearly naive enough to believe I will change your opinion. Internet debates are not a test of one's intelligence but rather of one's endurance.

      If you're right, when we both die, we will never know because not another thought will occur; if however, I am correct, please look me up so I can tell you I told you so. 🙂

      April 19, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • G to the T

      NDE's – as I understand it, a VERY simple experiment can prove/disprove this concept – Put a coded message on top of something in the OR rooms, so that the ONLY way to see it would be from a point of view above.


      April 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  12. 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 11:37 pm |
    • Observer


      Are you smart enough to know it's not a good idea to go around randomly killing people or did you need a 2,000-year-old book to figure that out for you?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • xmxm

      You mean if I prove to you today God does not exist, you will start killing people and raping children just because your moral code does not have a divine figure behind it anymore? Morals are determined by the society collectively which is why the accepted moral code has been changing rapidly throughout history. Slavery was normal in America only 150 years back and today it is considered not so normal. In fact, it was more normal in the southern US where people were more religious. It did not take God to abolish slavery.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Colin

      As with everybody, we have a sense of right or wrong. We just don't attribute it to a supernatural supervisor. Why is that so difficult to understand?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Chad

      @Colin "As with everybody, we have a sense of right or wrong. We just don't attribute it to a supernatural supervisor. Why is that so difficult to understand?"

      =>you mean to say, you have an opinion.. you have things you like and dislike.. terms like "right" and "wrong" imply an objective standard by which an action can be measured.. Since you dont believe in any objective, absolute standard, all you have is opinion..


      April 18, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Observer


      Opinion is all you have. What is your point?

      April 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • Sane Person

      You mean you would kill people if the bible didn't command you not to? Oh lord!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Colin

      Chad, all moral judgments are, opinions. For e.g. is it right to kill a mudrerer? What if that murderer is 14? 10? Is it right to kill in war? It is always a personal opinion, both for the believer and atheist.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Jesus freaker


      You should pick up a Bible and read it sometime. The Bible says that ra ping a woman is just fine. It says that owning a slave is ok. You can sell your dughter as a slave. God is a "do as I say and not as I do" god considering he has murdered more innocent people than anyone. Our laws aren't based on the Bible. If they were we would be very uncivilized.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Eric

      Morality came to us through the evolution of intuitions which proved useful in forming and operating within groups of individuals. Atheist morality comes from the same place as the religious person's morality –their gut. The only difference is the rationalizations we offer on behalf of our intuitions. Morality is not following rules given by a voice in the sky. Morality is something much more complicated than that. You would have to have a developed understanding of natural selection, moral philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to even begin to make sense of it, but once you begin to, the whole dialogue between the religious and the non-religious begins to make some sort of sense.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Ticktockman

      Humans, like all animals, have programming built into our DNA. Our bone structure, gender, eye color, and much of our behavior are built into that programming. As an evolutionary adaptation, it makes sense that we have an ethical sense, as a completely murderous species would likely go extinct before too long. Where our genetic programming ends, our species has used its intelligence to craft laws and consequences to further influence our behavior, if not enhance our "moral" sense. One does not need a supernatural origin to explain our morals and ethics. It is a natural phenomenon, whether you can comprehend that or not, and no matter how many religious apologists self-servingly argue that we are "merely" experiencing chemical reactions. The christian bible describes a god that is deeply egocentric, capricious, arbitrary, cruel and murderous. Hardly what a rational person would consider to be "moral" qualities. Were we to follow Jehovah's example instead of our innate ethical sense, we would emulate those traits, and the world would be even worse than it currently is. All you need do is look at the actions of the "true believers" who kill in the name of their beliefs to verify that conclusion.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • redzoa

      "Since you dont believe in any objective, absolute standard, all you have is opinion."

      The choice of believing one alleged supernatural "objective" standard over the 900+ other alleged supernatural "objective" standards is similarly a matter of subjective "opinion."

      April 19, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • tadashidavis


      Ad homenim statements do not make your case. You make assumptions that you have no knowledge of. What is "right" and what is "wrong" does not require a pretend friend...

      April 19, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Russell

      Colin, it's difficult to understand because how do you know whether you've selected the "correct" set of moral principles?

      April 19, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Russell

      J. freaker, you misunderstand the Bible. Taking select verses from the Old Testament without considering the entirety of the text does not support your point. Rather, the Bible teaches not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to covet, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • Observer


      Are you smart enough to know it's not a good idea to go around randomly killing people or did you need a 2,000-year-old book to figure that out for you?


      April 19, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Chad

      @Colin "all moral judgments are, opinions. For e.g. is it right to kill a mudrerer? What if that murderer is 14? 10? Is it right to kill in war? It is always a personal opinion, both for the believer and atheist"

      =>"right" and "wrong" dont exist for the atheist, the do for the believer. "I dont think that is right" and "I dont think that is wrong" is all that the atheist has.

      Atheists, for example, dont consider child molestation objectively wrong (wrong in the sense that it is wrong regardless of your personal opinion regarding it).

      Since the atheist recognizes no omnipotent being to whom we are accountable, and whom establishes an objective right and wrong, opinion is all there is.

      your statement is clearly inaccurate, believers have an absolute standard. For the believer right and wrong is independent of the personal "opinion".

      April 19, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Russell

      Eric, Ticktockman, I agree correct moral principles are at least partially discoverable through one's conscience. But reasoning (and probably other tools) is also essential to discerning between right and wrong. Is it likely that the least intelligent among us (me, for example) will ascertain the correct set of moral principles? Even if you disagree that reasoning is important for discerning correct moral principles, it's common knowledge that there are a broad range of morals among humanity . . . how can you know whether you've selected the correct set of morals?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Observer


      Same question for you: Are you bright enough to know it's not a good idea to go around randomly killing people or did you need a 2,000-year-old book to figure that out for you?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • clarity

      Chad – "your statement is clearly inaccurate, believers have an absolute standard. For the believer right and wrong is independent of the personal "opinion"."

      LOL – you must be joking, Chad. Do I really need to dredge out my giant "over 40,000 denominations of insanity" post to show how conflicted just Christianity is on many issues?

      And "objective morality" only exists because of the theist claim. Since no one has proven a deity to date, then you also haven't proven "objective morality".

      April 19, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • redzoa

      @Russell – "J. freaker, you misunderstand the Bible. Taking select verses from the Old Testament without considering the entirety of the text does not support your point. Rather, the Bible teaches not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to covet, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

      I believe many non-believers look at the Bible in its entirety when rejecting claims of the Bible as an "objective" framework for morality, specifically with respect to the claim that the lamb of the NT is the incarnation of the harsh deity of the OT . The claim that the deity of both the NT and OT reflects some absolute standard of morality is confounded by this readily apparent dichotomy, e.g. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." and "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." v. "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." All the apologist rhetoric simply doesn't change the plain meaning of these discordant passages. I'm sure you have some convenient excuse for how forgiveness and empathy are somehow reflected in the order to slaughter children and infants, likely based on some additional requirement of a priori faith or the Holy Spirit as some necessary precursor to proper understanding, but trust me, I've heard them all and they all consistently fail minimal scrutiny.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:38 am |
    • redzoa

      "Atheists, for example, dont consider child molestation objectively wrong (wrong in the sense that it is wrong regardless of your personal opinion regarding it)."

      What if a terrorist has 100 children strapped with explosives and orders a person to molest a child or else they'll blow up the other 99? Any example of an "objective" standard of morality can be presented with a scenario where violation of the "objective" standard becomes the lesser of two evils and effectively transforms the "objective" standard into a subjective, situational standard.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • Chad

      @clarity "Do I really need to dredge out my giant "over 40,000 denominations of insanity" post to show how conflicted just Christianity is on many issues?"
      @Chad "The fact that Christians are conflicted as what the actual objective standard is, doesnt mean there isnt an objective standard 🙂
      Just as the fact that many of us dont understand the tax law doesnt mean there isnt a tax law.

      @redzoa "What if a terrorist has 100 children strapped with explosives and orders a person to molest a child or else they'll blow up the other 99? Any example of an "objective" standard of morality can be presented with a scenario where violation of the "objective" standard becomes the lesser of two evils and effectively transforms the "objective" standard into a subjective, situational standard."
      @Chad "you are completely missing the point.
      If a terrorist did such a thing, He/She would be the one at fault for blowing up the people, NOT the person who refused to molest a child.

      Cant understand why in the world you would blame a person for anothers actions? Doesnt make any sense.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • .


      Gospel of Chad:
      (Updated list derived from history of Chad conversations.)

      1. All atheists agree with everything Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins say, even if it is unrelated to atheism. Hawking and Dawkins disagree on free will, however, but you should ignore this conflict or any atheist who says they disagree.
      2. All atheists agree with one another on everything even if it has nothing to do with atheism. See # 1 for models from which you can derive all their beliefs.
      3. The definition of atheist includes anything that any atheist I disagree with believes or anything I feel like tossing in there. Ignore any definitions in pesky places like dictionaries and philosophical encyclopedias.
      4. If one atheist somewhere on the internet said something, then, since all atheists agree with him/her, I can use that randomly selected example as an argument to address all other atheists.
      5. The definition of atheism includes not just materialism but strict deterministic materialism. Non-believers who might be Buddhists, believe in probabilistic physics, see consciousness as prior to the physical world, believe in, say, witchcraft aren’t really atheists.

      Free will:
      6. All people who use the term “free will” really mean the same exact thing by that term, which matches my personal use of the term “free will” (unless backed into a corner, then I just declare all other meanings irrelevant)
      7. Fatalism and determinism are the same thing. It has been pointed out to me that historically these terms have been used with different meanings, but I find it more convenient to make up my own definitions, as with atheism and free will.

      In fact, I brilliantly argued “If a person is a determinist, how in the world does deterrence even come into the picture? Determinists believe in an ever marching set of deterministic outcomes based on an existing set of antecedent conditions. Those conditions march back to the origin of the universe, no way to change the past, so no way to change the future.”

      On April 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      After reading a bit more about fatalism and determinism I decided to change my tune to a claim that determinism leads to fatalism (and to pretend this was what I was saying all along). I’m sticking to reading easy pop philosophers, though, and selective websites on the topic as anything more complex makes my head hurt. I have read snippets from a couple of websites now so that ought to put me on par with people who’ve read dozens of books on the topic, understand neurobiology and have written on both the philosophical and cultural aspects of free will and people’s belief in the topic. Oh, yeah, I know what I’m talking about!

      Telling lies:
      8. It is ethical to lie so long as it promotes Christian beliefs.
      9. Speaking of telling lies, a really good way to do this is to rephrase what your opponent says and then keep repeating the misquote in hopes that he or she will get bored and leave your lie as the last statement. Then you win. You can do this either by rewording as a supposed paraphrase or pulling lines out of context and reordering them. God really loves this and gives you extra endurance to sit at the computer all day and keep repeating it.
      10. One way to use this super endurance to your advantage is to keep posting the same questions over and over again even after they’ve been answered 50 times. Just pretend they haven’t been answered and act self-righteous about it. It’s really cool if you can ask this same thing on multiple threads and then claim it was never answered forcing people to waste time on the same thing over and over and over. When they refuse to play your game or you don’t like the answer add some sarcasm, but use an emoticon to soften it so they’ll know your snide remarks are all in good fun.

      11. If one scientist says something that backs me, then I can assume all scientists agree with that statement.
      12. If atheist scientists say something, even if it is the view of the majority of people in that science, it should be ignored. See #8.
      13. Atheists are ruled by confirmation bias. I am free of it – it’s just great luck that everything I read and all the “data” around me confirm my strong religious convictions. See #12 on ignoring anything else.

      General truths about the CNN belief blog:
      14. All non-believers are, by definition, idiots so you can use illogical arguments and they’ll just fall for it.
      15. If I post a quote that has a few key words in it from our discussion I can claim it backs my point even if it actually says the exact opposite thing from what I’m claiming. Atheists, as mentioned above, are too dumb to notice.
      16. There is a huge mass of fence sitters out there who are eagerly reading CNN blog comments in order to decide whether or not to believe in God.
      17. I will personally save all those mentioned in number 16 because I; Chad, am super smart. I know this because I get away with all the above mentioned lies and manipulations. Sometimes people think they are pointing these things out but they really aren’t. Or the stupid atheist masses aren’t reading them anyway.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Science



      April 19, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Huh?

      ""right" and "wrong" dont exist for the atheist, the do for the believer. "I dont think that is right" and "I dont think that is wrong" is all that the atheist has"

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • G to the T

      @Chad – Cant understand why in the world you would blame a person for anothers actions? Doesnt make any sense.

      LOL... says someone who believes in original sin...

      April 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • redzoa

      "If a terrorist did such a thing, He/She would be the one at fault for blowing up the people, NOT the person who refused to molest a child.

      Cant understand why in the world you would blame a person for anothers actions? Doesnt make any sense."

      When the person chooses to or not to conform to the demand, the choice becomes their own and they become personally culpable for both the choice and foreseeable outcomes. You simply didn't respond to the issue presented, likely because you immediately recognized the "objective" standard of "never molest a child" is subject to the exception, "unless this would result in the violation of another, higher ranking 'objective' standard" (here, "act within one's capability to prevent unnecessary death/suffering"). In other words, the "objective" standard becomes relative and subject to other competing and conflicting "objective" standards.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Chad

      @redzoa "What if a terrorist has 100 children strapped with explosives and orders a person to molest a child or else they'll blow up the other 99? Any example of an "objective" standard of morality can be presented with a scenario where violation of the "objective" standard becomes the lesser of two evils and effectively transforms the "objective" standard into a subjective, situational standard."
      @Chad "you are completely missing the point.
      If a terrorist did such a thing, He/She would be the one at fault for blowing up the people, NOT the person who refused to molest a child. Cant understand why in the world you would blame a person for anothers actions? Doesnt make any sense.

      @redzoa "When the person chooses to or not to conform to the demand, the choice becomes their own and they become personally culpable for both the choice and foreseeable outcomes."

      @Chad "really?

      well, that's unfortunate, as I have decided to beat my dog every time I see you posting on this forum.

      Since you feel you would be personally responsible for that death, you'll never be able to post here again, or you'll have that beaten dog on your conscience every post..

      of course, I am just kidding. I would never hurt my dog.
      But, the illustration proves your claim is utter nonsense, and even you dont believe it.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • redzoa

      @Chad – You're evading without responding to my point: Every alleged "objective" moral standard can be defeated with an exception.

      Nonetheless, if I actually knew for a fact that you would beat your dog, I continued to post with this knowledge, and then, in response to my posting, you actually beat your dog, we would both bear responsibility, you directly and me as the proximal cause. Similarly, the hypo I provided above is be read as if one or the other outcomes will actually happen and that the person forced to choose knows this. So I'll make it simple:

      In the scenario above, should the person: A) do as commanded and save 100 children's lives, or B) follow the "objective" standard for molestation and allow 99 children to die? A or B and, if you'd like, why that choice is not just subjectively "better," but why it is empirically, objectively the correct choice.

      April 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Chad

      It's very simple 🙂

      We are each responsible for our own actions.

      You can not coerce me to be responsible for yours.

      oh, and Fido is very upset with you for posting..

      April 21, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • The real Tom

      Chard, you have yet to show exactly what const itutes "objective morality" and precisely how it differs from any other "morality." What are the morals your bible requires you to live by-and don't yammer about what "god requires." Be specific. You have yet to explain, as usual, why your brand of morality is better for society than the system of laws we have now. When are you going to do that, you gutless wonder? Or are you just going to keep right on evading and swishing around as you always do?

      April 21, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • redzoa

      I'll take your second evasive non-answer as your concession on the issue.

      April 22, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  13. Zo

    If you were really godless you would not be able to logically rationalize good and evil acts and thus death, pain and suffering really wouldnt matter. If there is no God, then there is no source of authority, no source of what is really right and wrong, no laws of logic to rationalize thoughts or communicate, no desire for justice and no feeling for death. Because if there is no God then we are all just random unguided unorganized chemical reactions in which we can all do as we want and and there is no right and wrong.

    But because you do mourn, you can logically think and communicate, you do desire to help hungry kids, you do know right from wrong, you do claim yourself to be good, and thus believe in good and evil.....you are actually being inconsistent to your so called godless beliefs and are actually borrowing from the Christian worldview. Therefore, there has to be a God because of the impossibility of the contrary. If there was no God we couldnt have this conversation, you wouldnt feel the way you do about good and evil and ultimately we wouldnt exist.

    If you are going to claim godlessness, then dont you dare claim to be good without God. All goodness comes from God and the goodness you claim is by the grace of God, as you shake your fist in His face and will utlimately have to give an account of your foolish life to Him one day.

    The fool has said in his heart there is no God. Ps 14:1

    Repent and believe in Christ and quit suppressing the truth of God.

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


      So do you need the Bible to tell you the difference between right and wrong because you couldn't figure it out for yourself?

      You must think Chrisitans aren't too bright.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Why don't you really act like a "Christian" and just respect this good man and hear what good things he has to say. Why do you have to deride him and try to prove he is wrong? You have no monoploy on ethics just because you belive in the things written by men in the bronze age that form the basis of your belief in a god.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • Can atheist

      Your argument is nonsensical, whether or not one believes in a god or fairies or batman has absolutely nothing to do with the good or evil people are capable of. I don't need god to tell me not to kill nor do I need Jesus to tell me to accept others as they are. You obviously missed that part. REPENT!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Zo I'm sorry that you need god to tell you what is right and wrong, it must suck having no conscience!

      April 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Humanist11

      Atheists do good things because it feels wonderful to know we have helped others. It is a good boost to our confidence and egos to know somebody is better off because of our actions. Adding positively to our community is a logical and rational thing to do and benefits us as much those benefiting from our actions. These are human feelings and are not exclusive to religious people. I think you should reexamine your paradigms about people who do not believe in a supernatural being.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • tadashidavis

      You make this so easy..... you need to read Matthew; you know that one passage about being careful who you call a fool? And being subject to hell fire.....just saying.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • joey

      I'd like to leave a more constructive comment but all I have to say is that you are a moron.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Me

      So only us Athiest have killed people and people of religion, sorry "Christian" only people have never killed.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • Raider

      humanist11 – "Atheists do good things because it feels wonderful to know we have helped others. It is a good boost to our confidence and egos to know somebody is better off because of our actions. Adding positively to our community is a logical and rational thing to do and benefits us as much those benefiting from our actions. These are human feelings and are not exclusive to religious people. I think you should reexamine your paradigms about people who do not believe in a supernatural being."

      Now, now, logic and rationality are a couple of words that have no business in a religious nuts life!

      April 19, 2013 at 1:51 am |
  14. Ticktockman

    If public officials are to lead us in mourning, they should lead all of us, not just the religious among us. The President is supposed to represent everyone, as American citizens. The "interfaith service" could have just as easily been a "memorial service" that could have included the entire community. The author's point there is well taken.

    April 18, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • YBP

      The only time that I never believe what the POTUS is saying is when he turns all preacher-man on us. He is way too brilliant to believe in any of that tripe.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  15. Austin

    So if you had what others needed more than anything, an 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 |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Observer

      If God revealed himself, then his "punishments" would be valid. Sending people to hell because they never had a chance to even hear of God is totally HEARTLESS and barbaric.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm |


      April 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Lamppost

      Austin, the apostles shared the truth, what they knew of Jesus. It is as they said it is.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • tadashidavis

      @Austin, a few things here.... God did not give his son (How can you give something you already have?).....yada....yada....you see he came back to life. Did you miss that part... (that is if we are taking the bible for fact for the sake of arguement)? Lastly, if there were a Jesus who walked this earth this VERY second YOU would not believe it! Furthermore if Jesus was a parent and walk the earth TODAY he would be in jail for so many crimes against humanity. Sad thing is you know that but you ignore it nonetheless......

      April 19, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Matt

      Yes I would. But having the fountain of everlasting life and believing you have the fountain are two very different things. And unless God reveals himself to me, you will never convince me that you have it... Only that you believe you do.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • tallulah13

      Austin, exactly what good do you do when you offer a thirsty person pretend water? You cannot substantiate the reality of what you offer, therefore you are little more than a child playing tea party, pouring invisible tea from a plastic pot.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Raider

      tadashidavis, there's lot of Jesus' walking around the earth this very second!

      April 19, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  16. deb

    Extreme Atheists are just as adamant that "they are right" as Extreme religious people are sure of their "rightness". I feel that we cannot really KNOW what is "out there" so I lean towards being agnostic. Having been brought up in the Christian faith (although not very strongly) it is hard for me to think that there may not be a God of some kind (fear, indoctrination, call it what you will) so I call myself an agnostic who thinks/hopes their is a supreme being of some kind and an afterlife because I want it to be so. Too many religious people seem to think that they alone are the "good", caring, empathetic, compassionate people of the world and that just isn't true at all. I know many non-religious people are are loving, caring, non-judgmental, wonderful people. We all just need to accept one another and get along. Why is that so hard for humans? Maybe that's what we should be asking ourselves.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • VastConspirator

      Amen Deb!

      April 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Andie

      Because humans just love to argue that THEIR particular belief–atheistic or godfearing–is the absolute and correct one. Makes them feel more important, I think.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • tadashidavis

      Hedging your bets eh? Again as I say to believers.....PROVE IT! There are answers out there that habe yet to be answered. However I am one for facts....the truth can be replicated...I can replicate the probability that there is no god. You cannot replicate that there is....it is not "extreme" to come to a conclusion there is no god. If I told you the sky is GREEN would you believe that? No, you would probably ask me to prove it. You would also ask me to bring some other proof (that can be replicated) to support my statement. However when it comes to believers in a deity those same requirements go out of the window; for believers have a safety net called FAITH). To date, we have no credible evidence that a Christian Jesus walked the earth. NONE. That is a topic you can go to my blog for further detail. Again, no one has the answers and Atheist do not claim to. An Atheist believes there is a HIGH probability there is not omnipotent tooth-fairy type character and thus our lives do not evolve around a pretend friend. Lastly, it is real easy to shut an Atheist up; PROVE IT simple as that....

      April 19, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  17. JM

    We are all Americans. We are all sons, daughters, brothers, sistes, neighbors, friends, classmates, coworkers.

    "No more hurting people." – in word or deed; wouldn't it be great if we all got to that place?

    God bless us, one and all (if there is a God, which I believe and hope). If there isn't, may we love one another anyway.

    April 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  18. From a frog to a prince

    The way an atheist deals with tragedy is to stand up and go and make as much money as u can. Live, eat and sleep because ur only here for a short time (70 or 80 years). Live like a cold blooded animal and only worry about yourself. Put all your faith in science and politics. Survival of the fittest

    April 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Congrats, you have shown you know nothing about atheists, and have absolutely no thought for basic humanity. Pathetic.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes. Just pathetic.

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

      @hawaiiguest said it perfectly.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You should call yourself From a prince to a frog.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Ticktockman

      This frog wants us to believe he is a prince, but alas, he is still just a frog.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • "From a frog to a prince" is just another fairy tale

      Funny how the more secular a country, the lower the crime and higher the general prosperity and equality. Yeah, funny how the real world shows the absolute opposite of your bigoted bile.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • tadashidavis


      You saved a bunch of typing for me; well stated.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  19. Liz

    Does it matter what any one of us believes if we act with compassion and respect toward others?

    April 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Akira

      No, I don't think so, Liz.

      April 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • briawinde

      Thank you! We (humans) all have a moral and caring background..(those of us who are psychologically sound that is). In fact, it has been shown repeatably that Animals do as well..are they Christians? I think not. . What we believe is totally rrelevant. How we act and treat What we do..what we feel is relevant.... To claim only Christians have morals is ridiculously and delusional. The Jesus and God I was raised by would be embarrassed and disgusted by such comments. As a Christian I am too. We ALL Care and we ALL feel..except those that are emotionally disturbed. Shame on those who state otherwise!!

      April 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • tadashidavis

      We are all Atheist; I just believe in one less god than you......:)

      April 19, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  20. Bostontola

    Who is godless? If someone believes in a god you don't recognize as the true god, aren't they godless?

    April 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Only if there's no one else to vilify or discriminate against, then the religions will start turning against each other.

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

      We are all godless. Some of us just don't realize it.

      April 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • briawinde

      I have to agree with Al, especially after reading what some are saying....

      April 19, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Dan

      I am godless and so are you.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Ken

      Saying we are all godless is like saying all those Barbie dolls are just plastic dolls that don't really have personalities.

      April 19, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • lol??

      "Jhn 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" So no, you are not godless.

      April 19, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • lol??

      That's the default position. You can read about it in, "Gods for Dummies".

      April 19, 2013 at 1:42 am |
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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.