When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs
The Branch Davidians, a religious sect led by David Koresh, clashed with federal agents in 1993 in Waco, Texas.
April 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.

Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.

But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.

“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Yet there are ways to tell that a person’s faith has drifted into fanaticism if you know what to look and listen for, say scholars who have studied some of history’s most horrific cases of religious violence.

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“There are a lot of warning signs all around us, but we usually learn about them after a Jim Jones or a David Koresh,” said Charles Kimball, author of “When Religion Becomes Evil.”

Here are four warning signs:

1. I know the truth, and you don’t.

On the morning of July 29, 1994, the Rev. Paul Hill walked up to John Britton outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, and shot the doctor to death. Hill was part of a Christian extremist group called the Army of God, which taught that abortion was legalized murder.

Hill’s actions were motivated by a claim that virtually all religions espouse: We have the truth that others lack.

Those claims can turn deadly when they become absolute and there is no room for interpretation, Kimball says.

“Absolute claims can quickly move into a justification of violence against someone who rejects that claim,” Kimball said. “It’s often a short step.”

Healthy religions acknowledge that sincere people can disagree about even basic truths, Kimball says.

The history of religion is filled with examples of truths that were once considered beyond questioning but are no longer accepted by all followers: inerrancy of sacred scripture, for example, or the subjugation of women and sanctioning of slavery.

If someone like Hall believes that they know God’s truth and they cannot be wrong, watch out, Kimball says.

“Authentic religious truth claims are never as inflexible as zealous adherents insist,” he writes in “When Religion Becomes Evil.”

Yet there’s a flip side to warnings about claiming absolute truth: Much of religion couldn’t exist without them, scholars say.

Many of history’s greatest religious figures – Moses, Jesus, the Prophet Mohammed – all believed that they had discovered some truth, scholars say.

Ordinary people inflamed with a sense of self-righteousness have made the same claim and done good throughout history, says Carl Raschke, a theology professor at the University of Denver in Colorado.

The Protestant Reformation was sparked by an angry German monk who thought he had the truth, Raschke says.

“Martin Luther’s disgust at the worldliness of the papacy in the early 1500s inspired him to become a radical revolutionary whose ideas overturned the entire political structure in Europe,” Raschke said.

So how do you tell the difference between the healthy claims of absolute truth and the deadly? Scholars say to look at the results: When people start hurting others in the name of their religious truth, they’ve crossed the line.

2. Beware the charismatic leader.

It was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Japanese history. In March 1995, a religious sect called Aum Shinrikyo released a deadly nerve gas in a Tokyo subway station, leaving 12 people dead and 5,000 injured.

Two months later, Japanese police found Shoko Asahara, the sect’s founder, hiding in a room filled with cash and gold bars. Kimball, who tells the story of the sect in “When Religion Becomes Evil,” says Asahara had poisoned the minds of his followers years before.

Asahara demanded unquestioned devotion from members of his sect and isolated followers in communities where they were told that they no longer needed to think for themselves, Kimball says.

Any religion that limits the intellectual freedom of its followers, he says, has become dangerous. “When you start to get individuals who are the sole interpreters of truth, you get people who follow them blindly."

Charismatic leaders, though, often don’t start off being cruel. Jim Jones, who led the mass suicide of his followers in South America, was a gifted speaker who built an interracial church in San Francisco that did much good in the community. Few people at the beginning of his ministry could predict what he would become.

As time went on, though, his charisma turned cruel as he tolerated no questions to his authority and became delusional.

“Charismatic leadership is important, but in healthy religions, there’s always a process where questions are encouraged,” Kimball said.

Weaning followers away from corrupt charismatic leaders and bad religion can take years, but it can be done if one knows how to speak their language, says Ed Husain, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt will often deploy imams to reach out to young men in prison who have adopted “Islamism,” or extreme forms of Islam sanctioning violence against civilians, says Husain, who has written about Muslim extremism.

These Muslim clerics know the Quran better than the extremists and can use their knowledge to reach extremists in a place that logic and outsiders cannot penetrate, Husain said.

“The antidote to extremism is religion itself,” Husain said. “The problem is not to take Islam out of the debate but to use Islam to counter Islamism.”

3. The end is near.

In 1970, an unknown pastor from Texas wrote a book called “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” The book, which linked biblical prophecy with political events like Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, predicted the imminent return of an antichrist and the end of the world.

Author Hal Lindsey’s book has sold an estimated 15 million copies and spawned a genre of books like the “Left Behind” series. Many people are fascinated by the idea that the heavens will open soon because the end is near.

That end-times theology can turn lethal, though, when a follower decides that he or she will speed up that end-time by conducting some dramatic or violent act, says John Alverson, chairman of the theology department at Carlow University in Pittsburgh.

“A religious terrorist mistakenly believes that God has ordained or called him or her to establish the will of God on Earth now, not gradually and not according to the slow and finicky free will of other humans,” Alverson said.

Yet this impulse to see God’s intervention in human affairs now and not in some distant future can also be good, he says.

There are vibrant religious communities that teach that political and economic injustice must be addressed now. Liberation theology, for example, was a movement among pastors and theologians in Latin America that called for justice for the poor now, not in some future apocalyptic event, Alverson says.

“Hope is a good breakfast but not much of a supper,” Alverson said. “We can’t just live on the hope that justice will happen; we have to actually experience justice from time to time so that our hope can continue.”

4. The end justifies the means.

It was one of the biggest scandals the Roman Catholic Church ever faced, and the repercussions are still being felt today.

In January 2002, the Boston Globe published a story about Father John Geoghan, a priest who had been moved around various parishes after Catholic leaders learned that he had abused children. It was later revealed that Catholic officials had quietly paid at least $10 million to settle lawsuits against Geoghan.

Kimball says the Catholic scandal revealed another sign that a faith has turned toxic: Religious figures start justifying doing something wrong for a higher good.

 “The common theme was trying to protect the integrity of the church,” Kimball said of some Catholic leaders who covered up the crimes. “You get all of these rationalizations that we can’t let this scandal bring the whole church down, so we have to pay off this family and send the priests off to rehab.”

Religion is supposed to be a force for good. Still, it’s common that everyone from suicide bombers to venal church figures finds ways to justify their behavior in the name of some higher good.

Those rationalizations are so pervasive that religious movements that avoid them stand out, scholars say.

Jacobsen, the theology professor from Messiah College, cited the civil rights movement. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow activists renounced violence, even as they were attacked and sometimes murdered.

“They were willing to lay down their lives for what they believed in, but what’s incredible is, they practiced not retaliating when they suffered violence,” he said. “Those people really believed that God created everyone equal, and they were committed to the point of death.”

In some ways, it’s easy to say we would never adopt a form of religion that’s evil. But when we use the word “evil” to describe those who kill in the name of their faith, we’re already mimicking what we condemn, Jacobsen says.

In his new book, “No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education,” Jacobson writes that calling a religion evil is dangerous because “bad or wrong actions can be corrected, but typically evil needs to be destroyed.”

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

“To label someone or something as evil is to demonize it, putting it in a category of otherness where the rules of normal life do not apply, where the end often justifies almost any means,” Jacobson writes.

And when we do that, we don’t have to read about radical imams or look at angry YouTube videos to see how easy it is for someone to drift toward religious extremism, he says.

We need only look at ourselves.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Catholic Church • Christianity • Courts • Culture wars • Egypt • Fundamentalism • History • Islam • Jesus • Leaders • Moses • Muslim • Quran

soundoff (3,810 Responses)
  1. J.R.

    Yes. There are things to look for. So thank you for not hiring the worst religious extremist of them all, on the Christian side that is, Rick Santorum. Thank you for sending him back to the 50's where he came from.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  2. Guest

    In some ways, it’s easy to say we would never adopt a form of religion that’s evil. But when we use the word “evil” to describe those who kill in the name of their faith, we’re already mimicking what we condemn.
    This is a truth that both believers and none believers will deny.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Potato

      You just went full potato. And I should know.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  3. MagicPanties

    #1 is basic to _every_ religion.
    Too funny.

    Time to stop believing in fairy tales.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • JJ

      lol...you're right, #1 is why there are thousands of Christian denominations.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • John

      Not my religion. Everyone is encouraged to search for their own truth and meaning. Look up Unitarian Universalists.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Nabob

      Isn't "stop believing in fairy tales" yet another way of saying, "I know the truth and you don't"?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  4. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    “Michael Shermer, in The Science of Good and Evil, calls it a debate stopper. If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would ‘commit robbery, raṗe, and murder’, you reveal yourself as an immoral person, ‘and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you’. If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim that God is necessary for us to be good. I suspect that quite a lot of religious people do think religion is what motivates them to be good, especially if they belong to one of those faiths that systematically exploits personal guilt.”
    -Richard Dawkins quoting Michael Shermer in "The God Delusion"

    April 28, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Austin

      “There is no one righteous, not even one;
      11there is no one who understands;
      there is no one who seeks God.
      12All have turned away,
      they have together become worthless;
      there is no one who does good,
      not even one.”b
      13“Their throats are open graves;
      their tongues practice deceit.”c
      “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”d
      14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”e
      15“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
      16ruin and misery mark their ways,
      17and the way of peace they do not know.”f
      18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”g

      April 28, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • tsoho

      There is a difference between KNOWING good, ACTING good, and BEING good.

      In the absence of God, we all know good (even a serial killer knows that he is behaving badly). In the absence of God, society still imposes its morality upon its members and the vast majority of people behave well.

      The real question is: In the absence of God, is it possible for us to really be good?

      There is a difference between acting and being. For example: I can give all sorts of money to charity but still be a greedy person. I can be polite to others and still be a selfish person.

      Can a person, in the absence of God, really change his nature from the self-centered one he grew up with into a truly loving one so that his good behavior flows naturally, rather than as an unnatural obligation to his society?

      April 28, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Frankie

      @tsoho. It's irrelevant why you behave well. Nobody cares why you're not killing and raping just so long as you're not. I don't care if you feel evil so long as you don't do evil.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  5. Reflecting Pool

    Put simply – Religion that has been "dogmatized" (politicized) is then no longer a 'religion' but is instead a "political faction" with a political mission.

    It's worth noting that Christ's teaching was Compassion. There was no other teaching. There was no dogma in his teachings. Christ was a staunch anti-dogmatist. His teaching was Compassion and there was no other teaching, no other agenda, no other 'secret' message. He taught Compassion and he taught by example.

    The Sufi faith, for example, is the spiritual (mystical) branch of Islam and they teach nothing but Compassion. And that is why they have been so virulently and viciously attacked and persecuted by the fanatic, politicized, right-wing Islamic extremist factions – the dogmatists and Gestapo police of the Islamic fanatic right. Islamic extremists – Christian extremists – Mormon extremists – Jewish extremists – Hindu extremists - these fanatic sociopaths have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with true 'religion' and have everything to do with the politics of psychotic violence and tyranny.

    Religion today is being hijacked by violent political fanatics with a malicious, psychopathic, tyrannical extortionist mission to enforce an ultimatum – "Covert to our ideology or be killed and maimed." Hence this topic belongs in the 'politics' section, NOT the religious section.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • joao

      This is all very Zen; Jesus did teach compassion. However, he lambasted the hypocritical religious leaders of his day; called them snakes. He threw the corrupt money changers out of his father's temple. He was a man of action and judgement, as well.

      He taught that the Kingdom of God is the answer to our problems and that MOST people will not make it there. Please consider Matthew chapter 7.

      If you are sincere, you will read Jesus words more often than you will read a critique of what he was all about. You will see for yourself.

      Remember, it was Pontius Pilate that sarcastically said "What is truth?" When Jesus said that he came to bear witness to the truth, just before he handed Christ over to be impaled.

      Don't be a snark, simply read the Bible to find out what it is about, not just a blog. Get some character.

      Enjoy your day.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Brian

      Christ taught that when beating your slaves you should not beat them so vigourously that you put there eyes out. How compassionate is that?

      April 28, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Factoidlover

      To contextually read all of Jesus' statements, even from the orthodox canon, and claim they teach only compassion is either blind hope or outright lying.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  6. Rob

    The implication behind that pic is disgusting.

    Yeah, Koresh was "evil," so let's incinerate him, and his followers, for good measure.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  7. Two Signs you are wasting our time

    "4 signs". Yeah, right. Gotta have the vapid People magazine angle for those clueless religious idiots who will ironically ignore this article anyway. Four is too small of a number. This is about mental health, we don't need this quickie checklist for airheads. With some of them you can see it in their eyes, hear it and see it as they move around. Crazy is crazy.
    "Use Islam to fix Islam" – Notice there is no removal of the delusion intended or planned. Keep the victim in the cult at all costs.
    The easiest way for an imam to quiet down a radical is to counsel lots of patience – to procrastinate their violence because of special plans or something. It's all made up anyway. They can say whatever they want and keep the radical under their thumb until it is time to call a fatwa or some other violence.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  8. shannon

    True christians are neutral in worldy affairs and politics "my Kingdom is no part of this world"(John 18:36). Jesus, (the founder of Christianity), said. He also stated there was one outstanding mark which true christians.
    “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—JOHN 13:34, 35

    What religion adheres to this one command?

    April 28, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      And those are words of men...nothing more.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Potato

      If you're religious, you are delusional. Religion = delusion. If this is too complicated for you, let me know.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Dee

      Shannon, here's the kicker: Just by reading your comment, I already know what religion you are. Heard the same thing given from "the platform" (recognize the phrase?) for years. At the very least, you should have re-arranged the words...

      April 28, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • JJ

      lol...another Christian claiming to be and telling us all what a True Christian® reallly is.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Damia Savon

      Definitely not most Christians or Christianity, too many of those who supposedly follow Jesus manage to talk and act exactly opposite of what their faith requires and then they vilify others for doing the same. It is a fact that Christianity is strongest in the West, where secular, democratic type government took hold after all the inter-Christian violence of the Middle Ages. Inter-Christian wars and violence were suppressed. In countries where Christians are the minority, engaging in violence is counter productive. However the anger and desire for violence in the name of their "God" is always there. Just read the boards to hear the underlying hate that boils in the Christian heart. Given all the differing Christian sects, all of which know the "true" teachings of the Bible, if you let the leash loose, they will be at each others' throats in short order. Violent confrontations between Christian sects occurs elsewhere in the world.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  9. centeredpiece

    Interesting article, especially when you consider the same "four factors" can be applied to politics! Who says "I know the truth and you don.t"? Who has a charismatic leader? Who says the "end (of American culture as we know it) is near"? And who believes that the ends justify the means? That's right – BOTH parties at the extremes have all the markings of a "religion" that has crossed the line from good into evil! Read 'em and weep, folks. Maybe they are right and the end IS near!

    April 28, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  10. coderjones

    when god is on both sides of the holy war – maybe its god who wants you dead ...... if there was one

    religion is the worst invention of mankind – history proves, it degrades the human condition, stifles progress, and creates divide between humans

    how many religions have been created before and after the mono-theism approach?

    even mono-theism had to create the character of the devil – so people had a place to put the bad things that happen in life.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • centeredpiece

      That's right, religion brought us compassion and charity and loving one's brother/sister as oneself. It has encouraged a philosophy of tikkun loam (acting in a way to bring healing to the world). It feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless. Just think how "wonderful" the world would be without it!?! And, by the way, once you're done your anti-religious screed, spend some time doing a body count on all the people slaughtered by atheistic leaders like Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hitler was not an Atheist .. and Stalin had a religious education as well. Apparently you need to take a political science class or two once you finish that 6th year of high school. You confuse a lack of belief in a deity to that of poltical paranoia. Try reading some history, and have an adult help you with the words that have more than three letters.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Hitler was raised Catholic and quite obviously was exercising his own renegade version of it when trying to exterminate Jews. Why don't YOU look at all the wars/conquests and deaths thereof that have resulted from religious fervor. Islam conquest of India, European conquest of the Americas are but scratching the surface.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Damia Savon

      centeredpiece – All religion or your religion? Either way you are quite wrong. Humans have always existed in groups, we are social animals. For a social group to remain cohesive then members must be caring and compassionate toward each other. Humans never needed religion to act in the ways you describe. If we did not, then we would have killed each other off long ago. Religion actually made it easier for people to start dividing into groups and to instill and justify the desire to care only about those in their group and ignore the rest. Christians who totally emphasize self-responsibility and self-reliance to the point where they hate and vilify anyone they feel does not live up to their standards is the ultimate example of this.

      As for the other examples, (Hitler being a Christian aside) none of them were dogmatic atheists, killed in the name of atheism or to convert others to atheism. The reason that communism pushed atheism is that Marx and Engles saw religion as a source of violence that kept people apart instead of together and a tool used by the powerful to keep everyone else under control. They saw the belief that one must accept their lot in life, are not to question and just follow what their religious leaders tell them in exchange for paradise after death as a perfect example of this control. Communism which was practiced and espoused in the 20th century is not what Marx and Engles wrote about. Marx and Engles were clear that they believed Communism would arise out of the abuses of industrial capitalism. Lenin changed with his belief that an agricultural society could transition to Communism with the necessary industrial component promoted and managed fairly by the state. The dictatorship and suppression of freedom is not a central part of Communism. Rather it is a symptom of where Communism first came to power. Russia, China and other counties were corrupt, authoritarian dictatorships before Communist take overs. The new leaders just employed the same tactics and policies they were used to to control the populace.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • cnc

      If we simply had not even had an religion.We would have created something that mirrors it.We would still be killing one another over something else.We simply must kill. I wish that we could just get along.But I know better,last 5000 years of man's idea's of hope and peaceful living has been nothing but war.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  11. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    “Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them – given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by – to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades…..Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.”

    -Richard Dawkins

    April 28, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Unlike politics, right?

      April 28, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  12. gg

    Abortion IS legalized murder.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      So is war and capital punishment, but I bet you cheer for all that like it's a ball game.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Assuming you're a man, what would you do if your wife had an ectopic pregnancy (that is, a fetus that forms outside the uterus, has no way of developing into a full grown fetus, and usually threatens the life of the mother)? Is that MURDER to abort the fetus? Or rather, is it murder to just let the mistake of a fetus kill the mother? Please try to argue that even still, this ectopic fetus has Constítutional rights! PLEASE!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Many, many pregnancies end with miscarriage. Why does your god murder so many babies?

      April 28, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Richard: Gregory Paul did an excellent write up on this called The Holocaust of the Children. You can find it here: http://gregspaul.webs.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf

      April 28, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  13. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    "I know the truth, and you don't..."
    "The end is near..."

    All religions based on Judaism (and more than that, but mainly just Judaism) make these ridiculous claims, so all followers of these religions (e.g., Christianity, Islam, Moronism) are terrorists.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • gg

      That's nonsense!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      GZK's claim has merit. You are threateed with hell for non compliance. That is using fear as a tactic, which is what terrorism is. As a tactic, they are the same, the only difference is the degree of the fear.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Rob

      Judaism is the only "racist" religion, the others being fundamentally universalist.

      Christinsanity, in particular, can be twisted to justify practically anything. Nowadays, it's white self-destruction.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Jews and Christians are terrorists? Interesting story. When's the last time Christians flew planes into buildings full of civilians? Or Jews strapped on suicide vests or threw pressure cooker bombs at 7 year olds? But that's OK, don't let the facts stand in the way of your prejudices or intrude on your fairy tale, make-believe world.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      The fact that Jews and Christians have flagrant terrorism written (again and again) in their histories is quite enough. It doesn't matter when the last time was. The potential is still there because of the static nature of the text that these sheep read to gain their so-called insight into their so-called god.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Damia Savon

      centeredpiece – Radical Christians used bombs in the 80s and 90s against their perceived enemies. The backlash of public opinion and 9/11 suppressed this type of violence in the U.S. As for Jewish terrorism, look at the activities and actions of extremist Jews in Israel. Some of their actions are terrorist in nature. Just because it is not commonplace in the U.S. does not mean it does not exist.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  14. chanel

    The Christian god is responsible for more murders then any other religion. 2 hands working can accomplish more then a 1000 clasp in prayer.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • gg

      Christianity is responsible for many good works. Wars are started by selfish people who really aren't very Christian.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • jag

      Religion the root and cause of all EVIL!!!!!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      ignorance...the root cause of religion.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Rob

      Christianity's b-stard daughter Marxism, a secular religion, was far more sanguinary.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Guest

      Very true; two hands working can accomplish more than a thousand hands in prayer if it is work that needs to be done, i.e. a Christian friend of mine dug in to help some people that were caught in a flood, working around the clock. She did much more than a church full of people (not far away) praying that things would be OK. She did what was needed—that’s Christianity.
      I disagree, it is not the Christian God that is responsible for murders; it is sinful people.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Really? So Stalin slaughtered 12 million in Jesus' name? Hitler gassed and/or starved 13 million for Jesus? What about Mao and Pol Pot? Don't let the facts bother you.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • JJ

      "She did what was needed—that’s Christianity". No, she's just a decent person who happens to call herself a Christian. I wonder how many non-Christians and even atheists were doing equally good works at the same time.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  15. stevie68a

    Religion is a lie used to control people.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • jag

      Religion the root and cause of all EVIL!!!!! Total Brain wash!!!!!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Unlike drugs that set you free, right? Yes religion is evil. Telling people to love one another, bless those who curse you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. Such terrorism!!!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • JJ

      And countless thousands of children are raped by priests while the Christian sheep continue to protect the rapists. The most horrible people I know are Christians.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      centeredpiece: Atheists do the same thing-UNICEF; OXFAM; Doctor's Without Borders; The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Red Cross...to name a few. Christianity is responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials; it is the underlying cause of bigotry and hate against gays; it supports rape (god raped and impregnated a child); it supports incest (Adam and Eve); it supports mass murder (Noahs Ark); it supports slavery; it constantly contradicts itself; it oppresses women and children; it intrudes on equal rights for all. So for all the good it may do, that stuff just covers the bad it is responsible for.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  16. JMEF

    Rating Chad
    1. Absolutely. A+
    2. Big fail here. F-. even his family can't stand him.
    3. Difficult to tell. C, could be right soon or another 2100 years, no Harold Camping is our Chad.
    4. Definitely. A+, any lie or deception to achieve his point is our Chad.

    About point 2. Chad may achieve a much higher grade if the survey was done in his own cult. Bill Deacon, Topher, fred, Douglas, Live4Him, HeavenSent, lol??, and many of the other christian crazies would probably grade Chad at A+.

    April 28, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Science

      Morning JMEF................or just award CHAD a poe ti-tle ?

      By the way lmao !

      Education does it work for the ones on the list ?

      April 28, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • JMEF

      Morning Science
      Education is an anathema if it goes beyond the dogma of the cult. For the RCC read your bible, learn the prayers and memorize the catechism, that is enough especially for the females. But for all of them thinking outside the box is a sin.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Science

      JMEF..................yea they really don't like being associated with the devil's CULT either.

      But the darn laws of association makes it religions !.............created by the pope's ?


      April 28, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  17. Atheism killed more people in human history than any war


    April 28, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "theism killed more people in human history than any war"-fixed it for you!

      April 28, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • riddly diddly

      Kudos to John strabismus Blake for writing another profound article on evil.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • wanna talk about evil? abortion kills human life

      Why do you advocate abortion?

      April 28, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Mirosal

      List your sources, and be prepared to show that Atheism was the root cause of those killings, and not some political ideal. In other words, show us where it was said or written that people were killed in the name of Atheism, and not in the name of some grand geopolitical scheme or dictatorial paranoia.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • .

      More innocent people have been brutally tortured and murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries. Given political power atheists have proved to be the most brutal mass murderers in history, without exception.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Why: Why do you advocate ignorance??? Abortion is not murder (if it is then your god is the greatest abortionist to ever exist).

      April 28, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Stop pretending you are good

      Blood is in the hands of every human being that took the life of another.(whether in the womb or outside)

      Blake, you want to talk about self-righteousness?

      April 28, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      oops should have been "wanna " not 'why' that it was directed at.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Saraswati

      For anyone wondering how Christians come to this bizarre claim which they love making over and over, here are the many leaps they make to get to it.

      First they neglect the vast difference between atheism and communism. I'm not sure if they don't know the difference or are just being willfully ignorant.

      Then they look at deaths not by actual killing but by including famine to get their numbers. Yep, "atheism" is responsible for poverty and famine.

      Finally, and most stunningly, they completely ignore the fact that China and the USSR were the largest states ever at the time of these famines so of course the numbers are bigger than other famines or political incidents. Again, i'm never sure if they really have as poor math skills as they have political knowledge or are just willing to pretend ignorance.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "Given political power atheists have proved to be the most brutal mass murderers in history, without exception."

      Really??? Where is the evidence for this load of crap??
      Shall we start listing the atrocities of belief in the supernatural? Shall we start with the buybull itself?

      April 28, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • ..

      If you ain't smart enough to spell Bible correctly why do you think anyone anywhere needs your bull sh it opinion?

      April 28, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • JMEF

      And they love to ignore the plague that the Crusaders brought back that killed off 30% of the population of Europe or the diseases they spread among the aboriginal populations as they were conquering them.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Mirosal

      Name one mass murderer.. just ONE ... who said "I killed them in the name of Atheism." Go ahead, name ONE.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • great intellect my ass

      Atheists kill because they are atheists not in the "name" of atheism you ass hole

      April 28, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • as always

      mirriorsally is wrong

      April 28, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Mirosal

      I see that simple logic and a concise answer escapes you. Go back and sit at the kids' table now, the grown-ups are talking. I'll rephrase ... Name ONE, just one mass murderer who killed and said the reason he killed was because he was an Atheist.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Science

      Hey.......Atheism killed more people in human history than any war.............is that you Cap't ?

      April 28, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      as always
      You claim mirosal is wrong, but there was no statement from him. He just asked you to prove the statement, which by the way, you will not be able to.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • JMEF

      Along the same line, name one atheist cult leader that talked his followers into mass suicide? Absolutely zero because they do not exist, but oh so many religious nut jobs. No atheist has murdered in the name of god.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      name an Atheist cult leader?? An Aheist cult, now THAT is a clever oxymoron!!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It's not that one isn't smart enough to spell the word correctly, it's simply what your book of myths is...it requires one to buy the bull crap that christianity is selling! No god needed or desired in this world for it to function.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Austin

      you are all in an atheist cult.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Science

      BOO austin !

      April 28, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      There is no such thing as an atheist cult. You again prove you do not understand what either of the words mean.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      Austin ... look up the definition of the word "cult", then tell us exactly HOW it applies to an Atheist. You'll find that by definition, ALL religions are cults. Then look up the word "religion". Atheism is not THAT.

      April 28, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Mirosal – try Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot!

      April 28, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Mirosal: Speaking to Austin and trying to rationalize with him is akin to speaking to a 5 year old-basic same mentality and both have imaginary friends.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • morgan

      one word: communism. it destroyed the free will of everyone under-authority, and communist politicians are in fact – atheist.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  18. Ahappyfarmer

    That day feels so long ago, but I remember it well

    April 28, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 28, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      No, it doesn't, and no, it cannot. Your own doctrines and beliefs confrim this.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • as always

      mirrorsal is wrong.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Science

      Prayer does not change things .............but evolution does !

      From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


      Does education work for you ?

      April 28, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Mirosal

      Explain how .. and be soecific.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Science

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things and as always ....................does education weork for you ?

      April 28, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • great intellect my ass

      mensa my ass "soecific" enough for you, you ass hole.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Science

      Oops..... work

      April 28, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Mirosal

      ok, I made a typo. It happens. Very well, be specific on how I am wrong.

      April 28, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • great intellect my ass

      you don't rate the time of day

      April 28, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Science

      Hey .............ass ..........and..... Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things..........you might want to check it out !

      Scientists Find Genes Linked to Human Neurological Disorders in Sea Lamprey Genome



      Facts work

      April 28, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  20. Al

    Fireup the popcorn. This should be good.

    April 28, 2013 at 7:03 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.