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. syman pons

    Your body was given to each of you people to be a 'Temple' in which resides a 'holy spirit.' That is the design purpose for every human being. No one is exempt.

    Life is each person's opportunity to develop a character that will be acceptable in the presence of God, your creator. Eternity is a long time and God will not be assaulted and insulted by inconsiderate spiritual beings, (the beings God has created). God, your creator, will not allow inconsiderate spiritual beings in the highest heaven.

    You who mock religious people in particular and religion in general are unwittingly separating yourselves from God, your creator, and you are wasting precious time in which you could be perfecting your holiness and preparing yourselves to enter into God's presence for eternity.

    Jesus, the Christ of God, the Creator, tempered his spirit. In so doing, He became the first human being to be accepted into the presence of God, the Creator. He lived his life as an example for the rest of us. He gave His life and allowed His blood to be poured out, without resisting, that the sins of all men might be forgiven. Humble human beings accept His gift freely and with loving appreciation.

    Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, gentleness, self control and the tempering of one's passions, a desire to lift up, to forgive, to help, and to heal, these character traits are the evidence of an indwelling holy spirit.

    All human beings recognize a person in whom dwells true holiness. They radiate these things, because their human spirit is truly in harmony with God's Holy Spirit.

    Ask God to put a little of 'the comforter and the counselor' (the Holy Spirit) into your heart and experience a miracle for yourself! This little bit of God's spirit will change you and your understanding. He won't do it, unless you ask and give Him your permission.

    Jesus said," I will never leave you nor forsake you." This is a true saying, because the spirit of the resurrected and glorified Jesus, is 'the comforter and the counselor' (the Holy Spirit).

    Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, gentleness, self control and the tempering of one's passions, a desire to lift up, to forgive, to help, and to heal, these character traits are the evidence of an indwelling holy spirit.

    Your body was given to you to be filled in this way with holy spirit, that you might one day harmonize with the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God, your creator.

    Allowing yourself to be filled with and to harmonize with the Holy Spirit will please your Creator. It will begin the process of your spiritual rebirth, which will continue until the moment when you find yourself face to face with your Creator.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Ed F.

      You sound just like the crackpots we should be looking out for.

      There is ZERO evidence Jesus or god ever existed.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • anon7364

      You teach that women are second class citizens, that gays are going to h- and that slavery is just fine. It is you who has separated yourself from god and you're the one who will burn for all eternity.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • The Flamingo Kid

      Do you honestly think ANYONE will read your rambling past the first sentence?

      April 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • syman pons

      syman pons

      To: Ed F. ~Ask God to reveal Himself to you. You will be surprised by the result. But, it takes real courage to honestly do this.

      To; anon7364 ~I have never said that women are second class citizen's. Women are a precious gift to mankind. They are to be treated with all equity, respect, consideration, and kindness. They are the mothers of all our children, and men are to care for and protect them, so they can fulfill their responsibilities as human beings, wives, mothers and holy children of God. This applies to all the women on earth, regardless of they religious convictions.

      To; The Flamingo Kid ~ You did.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • syman pons

      We have been put on the Earth by the Creator to learn how to be loving and considerate toward the other spiritual beings (people), among whom we live. This is the purpose of our lives, plain and simple. Speaking contemptuously to one another is the exact opposite of what you are suppose to be practicing.

      Why don’t you people with bad feelings toward others know this?

      You are to treat each other with love, consideration and respect. This is what you were created to learn how to do during your short life here on planet Earth.

      April 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  2. virginia

    Atheism doesn't take a turn to evil its from the roots evil....it might depart to become good at one point but that's extremism for them...

    April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      That makes no sense whatsoever... Keep it up!!!

      April 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • The real Tom

      There's nothing at all "evil" about a lack of belief, idiot. Now where are your citations for the "atrocities" you claim atheists committed, virginia? Or are you just going to run away like the little troll you are?

      April 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm |

      Atheism, means nothing else but secular ism, self center ism of human, in denial of truth absolute, and cause of terrorism.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

    There's no reason or excuse in any religion for killing people who don't share your faith. It's stupid. Anyone that does it is a weak minded fool for listening to a preacher or cleric or anyone else who professes to know what God wants done. Muslims, Shia and Sunni kill each other over something as stupid as the idea of where the order of succession is in the lineage of the "Prophet". Christians were killing each other over Protestantism and Catholicism. TO this day I hear Protestants and Catholics saying the other Denomination is going to hell. STUPID!!!!! Same with the Muslim Religion and their mindless attacks on one another as well as on Christians, Jews and others. It's all idiotic nonsense.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |

      Choice to act is always of a person, none other, choice in secular ism, self center ism drives a person to atheism ism, terrorism and following of truth absolute makes a person of civility.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  4. sally

    Very intelligent, balanced discussion of religious fanaticism and how to combat it!

    April 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  5. OrygunDuck

    Jesus Christ was critical of the religious leaders of his time, fanatics really in their positions of power, and that got him killed.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Thomas

      Jesus Christ said: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again."

      April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  6. John Doe

    Wow atheists know more about the church history and the Bible than Christians. I laugh at that assertion.

    Atheism is the religion of no religion, and has more religious zealots than all christian churches combined, if left up to the atheists they would bring an inquisition and destroy all faith for there religions sake.

    I enjoy the fact that the religion you persecute most is Christianity.

    We knew that scoffers were coming and rejoice that we are persecuted and hated for his names sake and great will be our reward in Heaven.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • deadlyserious

      Why am I not surprised that you laugh at proven facts?

      Studies have shown that atheists are more knowledgeable about the Bible (and other religious texts) than religious people.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Hindu


      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      "Atheism is the religion of no religion, and has more religious zealots than all christian churches combined, if left up to the atheists they would bring an inquisition and destroy all faith for there religions sake." -- This statement alone made me LITERALLY laugh out loud. You're either trolling or you really are incredibly dense. Words have actual meanings. Atheism, by definition, CANNOT be a religion. Because it is NOT a religion, we do not have religious zealots. But you DID admit that Christians were zealots, so we're in agreement there.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  7. Michael

    All religion is is a tool to manipulate the gullible masses so that charismatic, but otherwise poor or politically/militarily weak leaders can enrich and empower themselves beyond what they would otherwise deserve. Now that the modern world condemns indiscriminate violence religious people feel the need to distance themselves from the earlier ideas and means that got them their influence in the first place.

    There is only one truth, and that's the truth we can all observe and measure and reproduce through our own observation and experimentation. There is one universal morality, and it stems from the fact that we are all human beings with similar basic needs and who should be free from harm.

    People who commit violence in the name of religion believe what their religion says about "god's absolute will" and just take the next logical step.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  8. Scott

    A person that believes rational thought is Atheism is a person that is doomed to fail.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • ..


      April 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • ..

      A person that believes rational thought is Christianity is a person that is doomed to fail.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      Yet, a strong majority of scientists are atheists... If it wasn't for scientists, the US would be a third-world country.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • JJ

      As opposed to rational thought equals believing in talking snakes, zombies, an invisible magic sky god?

      April 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Scott

      @ .. Been to the middle east lately? Christian can ridicule all they want, but it's only the grace of those that have chosen to throw away religious belief, and the insight they have brought, that separates the west from the east.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      Atheism, self center ism, denial of truth absolute is not of human, but way of animals, secular by nature. followed by followers of fabrication called Evolution from monkeys. secular s, self centered by nature.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Sonic10158

      You are a hypocrite.

      I've seen Atheists say things similar to that, and the religious people get mad, and then I've seen people like you say that. You can't have it both ways. We are all human, religious or not, can't we just respect other's opinions like adults should?

      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  9. the AnViL™

    it may be comical to many to insist that the bible and quran be heavily edited and modified...

    but it's either that, or eventually – religious idiocy will have to be dealt with violently.

    tolerance of religious idiocy has to end.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Jane Smith

    Understanding Khorasan and dar ul Harb is a good start to understanding Islamic violence. It is not fanaticism, it is governmental law, the same governmental law that still beheads, amputates, and uses torture for crime. Everyone isn't plural and accepting of other belief systems. Some religions require it's followers to fight and kill non-believers. This is LAW. This article by CNN is typical apologetic and misunderstanding of religions of the world. They only report Western views.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Well said. Very true.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      "...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..." -- How is this apologetic? The bombers DID adopt a radical version of Islam. That's just what happened. I don't see him saying all Islam is violent.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  11. Ed F.

    Sounds a lot like Fox News.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  12. Pantheist

    All four of those "warning signs" are applicable to members of the American cult known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! We dodged a bullet when Nitwit lost the Presidential election or we would be living under the Mormon church's illustrious prophet's delusions!

    April 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      The Mormon religion is full of ridiculous delusions... But they're no more ridiculous than the delusions perpetuated by the Christians.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  13. Troglodytes Entertaining All

    "When properly read, the bible is the most powerful proof of atheism ever conceived"

    Isaac Asimov

    April 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

      Religions are handy work of hindu atheist, self centered, have no doubt about it.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      "Religions are handy work of hindu atheist, self centered, have no doubt about it."

      Atheism is the lack of self-centeredness... Believing your religion is superior to all others is the epitome of self-centeredness.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Thomas

      Isaac Asimov is probably not an atheist anymore.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • The real Tom

      More conjecture, Thomas? Apparently, you haven't figured out that it doesn't work when you can't prove what you claim.

      Isaac Asimov isn't anything anymore. He's dead. And you will be, too. That's all there is.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      "Isaac Asimov is probably not an atheist anymore"

      He's dead... So he's not anything anymore.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Correct, Thomas. Dead people aren't believers or atheists. They don't have thoughts at all. Or so says Ecclesiastes 9:5

      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |

    Human atheism self center ism is cause of secular ism, self center ism of a person, why? a human has a choice to follow truth absolute GOD, and be in civility, or follow his hindu soul desire and be in hindrance to truth absolute GOD and be a criminal, secular. self centered.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • ..


      April 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • STFU

      BS or no BS, do not click on filthy atheist Report Abuse button, secular s

      April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  15. Emm

    John Blake, so you apparently think you know the truth, and we don't? I guess we should start to suspect you and think you might be a violent, evil person. This is an idiotic piece, and CNN should be ashamed for hiring you.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I think exactly the opposite.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • sally

      The writer is offering insights into the fanatical mind...he is trying to help and certainly isn't telling us all that we are all stupid!

      April 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  16. darknesscrown

    Blaming God for terrorism is like blaming housefires on unicorns. Things that aren't real can't be blamed for real events/problems because doing so is utterly insane. People are the reason life on this planet sucks sometimes. 100% people. Islam and Christianity are two of the most RIDICULOUS religions ever in terms of their philosophies (seriously, you CANNOT claim to have free will if you believe God GAVE it to you...that is impossible), but the overwhelming majority of both religions are peaceful people. Facts are just facts. I still think religion is a mental illness, but as long as they keep to themselves and don't impose their faith on me I have no problem with them. That being said, if you belong to a terrorist organization (of ANY kind...militias, white supremecist groups, nationalists, religious fanatics, or anything else), I think you should be hunted down and killed systematically. Everyone else should be left alone.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |

      No one can control of truth absolute over every thing in existence, proven by science, one has to be a blinded in his atheism, denial of truth absolute to claim there is no truth absolute GOD.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      You're the one making the claim that God is the absolute truth and that he exists. It's your job to prove that God is real, not my job to prove he doesn't. Or am I just supposed to take your word for it???

      April 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Fun Facts!

    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

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

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

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

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

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

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

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.

    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      You can present fact after fact to these dominionist imbeciles and they will reject every single one. I don't even bother any more. You could unequivocally prove anything to them and, unless they WANT it to be true, it's false...or propaganda...or whatever.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jane Smith

      God Bless America. May we be safe from those who intend to harm us in the name of religion and the coming of the Madhi. These religious people want the Madhi to return so everyone in the West will die, that's their belief and they will carry out steps to assure their beliefs will happen. As for the numbers of folllowers of the Khorasan? Start with the two Cheynans who blew the legs off people in Boston. There are millions more with the same beliefs. They will carry out their beliefs but not under the "signs" listed in the article.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  18. Joan Wheeler

    Extreme religious beliefs have always been hard on nearby non-believers. Even strong relligious beliefs can take a toll on those outside the circle. Religious extremism belongs in the 12th century,not the 21st century. People who hold extreme religious views should keep their ideas to themselves and their practices in their church, temple or mosque; this kind of thinking does not belong on the street or in modern society. It most certainly does not belong in POLITICS or GOVERNMENT!!!

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • lol??

      Name 10 things the gubmint god doesn't control.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Science

      Go pound sand again lol??

      April 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  19. Religious hate accomplishes nothing

    The surviving terrorist of the Boston attack said he and his brother carried out their attacks because they wanted to defend Islam. Its time to ban Islam!

    April 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      That makes no sense.

      April 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jane Smith

      I totally agree. The Boston bombers are a small fraction of the believers in Khorasan and the return of the Levant. Iran has nukes and will use them for religious purposes!

      April 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  20. sunder

    Not sure why the discussion here is turning into which religion has killed more people or atheism is responsible for many lives. It is more of introspection and use ones one intellect to judge themselves to make a better human out of ourselves.

    April 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
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About this blog

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