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. David Nichols

    How would any of these principles not apply to any belief system, religious or otherwise? There have been plenty of bloodily dangerous non-religious groups in history.

    April 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I don't believe he's saying it wouldn't. Religion is just the topic of the article and the issue relevant to recent events.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  2. Blaine Gabbert

    This is clearly written by some media stooge who just gives his liberally-biased regurgitation of what he perceives Christianity to be.

    Some highlights:
    "taught that abortion was legalized murder."
    You know who else teaches this? God. And He teaches that because it is.
    Simple logic to follow: 1) Abortion ends a life. 2) Ending anothers life is murder. 3) Abortion is legal. 4) Abortion is legalized murder.
    The author says it is dangerous when religions claim the following:
    "I know the truth, and you don’t."

    Every person with any conviction at all holds this to be true. Everyone operates under the presupposition of absolute truth. In fact its hypocritical of the author to write this because HE is making truth claims in his article. He in fact makes a truth claim in the previous statement "taught that abortion was legalized murder" since he is asserting it as truth that abortion is not murder. Of course people think they know truth otherwise the world would become nonsensical. In fact, every response to this very comment will be a strong truth claim but liberals for some reason can't see their hypocrisy.

    April 28, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Answer

      "Everyone operates under the presupposition of absolute truth. "

      -And you have actually asked the whole world's population on that?

      You're way too fvcking stupid. Go generalize some where else.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Jesus ftreaker

      You know who else teaches this? God. And He teaches that because it is.

      You know has killed more children than anyone on the planet? God. The Bible tells us so.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Saraswati

      " 1) Abortion ends a life."

      So does swatting a mosquito, which has a more complex nervous system than the initial fertilized lump of undifferentiated cells that religious pro-lifers want to consider equal to born persons. Even weeks in you're looking at something less complex than what you killed (and likely had suffer badly) for your hamburger.

      "2) Ending anothers life is murder."

      Unless you bring religion into it, "murder" is a legal construct we create. When you kill accidentally it isn't murder. When you kill in self defense it isn't murder. When you kill an ape, much more complex than an embryo, it isn't murder. And as we define murder her in the US, abortion isn't murder.

      "3) Abortion is legal."


      "4) Abortion is legalized murder"

      No, because it isn't murder unless you take as a premise that God defined it that way.

      Regarding the rest of your comment I don't think you understand the point being made here. First, there is a major difference between the degree of certaintly under which different people operate. Second, there is great variation in the number of beliefs different people hold with high certainty. There's a ton of research in this area if you're interested. Some people act with high levels of certainty abouth many things, some with that kind of certainty about only a few. The issue with religions is that they can encourage people to operate with higher levels of certainty, and to lose the tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. The results are exactly what we see in the cases described.

      One serious problem in explaining this to people is that the people at the most extreme end of the certainty spectrum often don't see that there is a spectrum at all, because they have never run into people more certain about the world than themselves.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • The real Tom

      There is no such thing as "legalized murder." It's an oxymoron, moron. "Murder" is a legal term for "unlawful killing." Abortion is legal, therefore it is not unlawful and is not murder. And even when it was illegal, you dolt, it was never "murder."

      You don't like abortion, fine. Don't have one. What women choose to do about a pregnancy is none of your business and never will be. Get over it.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I still want one of these anti-abortion people to explain what horrible thing their god has in store for these embyos and fetuses that they get so worked up. From what i've heard so far most Christians think these things, even the blobs of a few cells, have souls that suddenly get a free pass to heaven with an abortion – skipping the whole risk of hell thing altogether. So what exactly is the horror here?

      April 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • The real Tom

      They're distracted by the juicy idea that the pregnant woman must suffer the consequences of having had s#x. That matters more to them than where the fetus's soul goes.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • jboom

      "Abortion is legal, therefore it is not unlawful and is not murder."

      But, does government define truth? Does government's definition of the legality of abortion define truth?
      Government finally recognized slavery as wrong. Perhaps a day will come when government and its media 'partners' (CNN, ABC, etc.) will recognize abortion for what it is. Even the feminists might one day recognize it from their secular perspective that it has long lasting destructive effects on those poor mothers who undergo one.

      Murder? Legal? Its semantics. Consider the OP's larger point.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • jboom

      "So what exactly is the horror here?" – Saraswati

      The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and American Orthodox church (oca.org) would consider them as saints as they do the Holy Innocents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_the_Innocents

      April 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • The real Tom

      The OP is making the claim that abortion is murder. Murder is a legal term. Our laws determine what is murder and what is not. Your religious beliefs are irrelevant where laws are concerned.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, and stop repeating the canard that women who have abortions suffer for life. They don't. There was quite a large study that showed women who have an abortion are no more likely to suffer mental illness/depression than those who decide not to have an abortion.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      It's very simple: If you don't want an abortion, don't have one. The one person able to make the choice to have an abortion is the person who finds herself pregnant. She is the only one who fully understands the circumstance of her life, the only one who knows if she is capable of being a mother or of even bearing a fetus to term.

      If you want to stop abortions, then you should fight to make birth control affordable and available. You should fight to make reproductive education available to children before they become sexually active. You should fight to make health care and education available to ALL members of society; after all, what is the point of stopping abortion if the resulting children can't have healthy, productive lives?

      It's funny, how so many people are against abortions, but so few are willing to take the steps that make them unnecessary. It's funny, how so many of the people who are against abortions stop caring about the fetus once it's born.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  3. Steven

    All 4 rules apply to every religion on the planet.

    April 28, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Akira

      I think that was the intent.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Saraswati

      No they do not. Most religions, for instance, do not claim an end of any sort is near. Many have no concept of and end at all.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  4. Godoflunaticscreation


    April 28, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  5. i_know_everything

    God is man's worst invention

    April 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Jesus ftreaker

      You can assume that you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      If "God is man's worst invention", then please explain to us how man could invent that which created him? To do so is not possible. But obviously you didn't know that. So obviously you "don't" know everything...

      April 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • cantorman

      Imagine your surprise on the Last Day when you realize that God actually exists.

      The Christian Scriptures are the most heavily researched and criticized historical texts in the history of man. You would do well to believe them if they recorded that a man was raised from the dead.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Answer


      When will the christards ever understand "Pascal's Wager"?


      April 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Cantorman, he'll be surprised long before then. He's have the surprise of his life as soon as he dies and drops into hell. He will know in that moment that God truly exists...

      April 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Jesus ftreaker

      You would do well to believe them if they recorded that a man was raised from the dead.

      It's a piece of literature, not a history book.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  6. Reality

    From the topic:

    "The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism."

    (Only for the new members of this blog as older members are "in the know"-

    The peaceful, simple and easy solution:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinker bells? etc.) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm |

      hinduism, absurdity of a hindu secular, self centered by faith.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Answer

      I, slam, filth. Wait, for, boom. Good riddance.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      @IFAC, when are you going to stop being incoherent?
      I hope you don't talk to your friends the way you write on this blog.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      The funny thing is that no one comments on his posts because they don't make any sense and this guy still hasn't figured that out yet. Even his video's contradict the point he is trying to make. I've never seen anything like it. My guess is he is a muslim who hates hindus...showing us yet again the virtues of the religious.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      Only problem with your "supposed facts" is that Buddhism is NOT a religion it is an ideology.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

      hinduism, stupidity of hindu secular s, ignorant self centered, other wise known as dumb, deaf and blinded.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • mzh

      I agree with FreeFromTheism about IFAC...


      April 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Answer

      When,I, slam, go, boom. Fun, to, see. They, all, boom. Even better.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • mzh

      I think one should mind his own business... i wouldn't hate anyone or spread the haterade among the mankind and this is not teaching of Islam...

      April 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  7. heh

    We wouldnt have terrorists if we didnt have FBI, DHS, CIA training, arming and funding these wackjobs. Also our globalist view of "policing the world" has come back to bite us.

    Case in point of terrorists being trained by the CIA and FBI : Osama Bin Laden.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm |

      You reap what you sow, simple, but very hard for hindu atheist, self centered, sunk in hindu secular ism, self center ism to understand.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Inachu

      Fact check: America never would be bombed by Muslims if we shut our ears to end time cults who want to bring about the events of the bible. Evil end time cult evangelicals are to blame 100%

      April 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  8. Colin

    A good way to check whether your religion is bullsh.it. Take the quiz below.

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the religion of:

    (a) The ancient Celts;

    (b) Bronze Age Egyptians;

    (c) Pre-Colombian Aztecs; or

    (d) Modern Christians

    Q. 2 You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are:

    (a) a reptile handler who has severe mental issues;

    (b) a five year old boy who just read a fairytale;

    (c) a scientific fraud; or

    (d) a Christian

    Q. 3 I believe that an all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies, watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" like protect myself from disease with a condom. I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions; or

    (d) A Christian

    Q.4 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist; or

    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    Q5. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    Q6. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.7 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.8 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from Christianity:

    (a) Christianity tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Christianity can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas Christianity is regional and a person’s Christianity, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than geographical upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.9 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.10 Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) the mafia

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) any given Christian church

    Q.11 What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:

    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;

    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;

    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.12 The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:

    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;

    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;

    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions as “boots on the ground” to distribute condoms; or

    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    Q.13 The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:

    (a) Circular reasoning at its most obvious;

    (b) The reason 99% of Christians believe what they do;

    (c) Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.14 Probably the most fundamental tenet of Christian faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Christian should:

    (a) Honestly and courageously question this and any other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.

    (b) Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.

    (c) Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat; or

    (d) Hold on to the myth because it makes them feel good.

    Q.15 Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    (a) Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    (b) When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    (c) You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.

    (d) A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    Q16. If you are worried that your children, who you love very much, will not believe something you tell them, such as "smoking is bad for you," would you:

    (a) have your family doctor explain to them the various ill effects of smoking;

    (b) show them a film produced by the National Insti.tute for Health on the topic;

    (c) set a good example for them by not smoking; or

    (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist that they rely entirely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if you ever catch them smoking?

    And, as a bonus question, what would you think of an "all loving Father" who chose option (d)?

    April 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • stephenayers42

      It's all too much to wrap your head around, isn't it? You have no understanding.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Answer


      You're the one with the complete understanding then. Well isn't that nice. You'll be the pope that will see future driveling christards to that understanding – that you solely have been able to comprehend – right.

      Look everyone – stephenayers42 – has the true understanding of his religion. He is the man. LOL

      April 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Dan

      That was so gay

      April 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Awesome post! Im stealing this!

      April 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • AtheistSteve


      Is that your rebuttal? Lame. Maybe you should try refuting each of Colin's points to show us where the errors are.
      We could all use a good laugh at your level of "understanding".

      April 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Jesus is the truth

      I'm praying for you colin!

      April 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      You can pray for us and we will think for you.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Jesus is the truth

      Pray for Colin eh? Funny but I can't think of any less effective action to affect change. In fact telling someone you're going to pray for them is like saying "I'm gonna do as little as I can to help you". Way to put yourself out there. Don't sprain anything.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      My religious convictions are not ordinary ones. The Triune Manifestations of Spatial Cosmologies is where I put my faith in. All things dare come to an end, even our visions of Godly Imperialisms. No one is an island and yet we are Gods' lifeboats. Together with the Godly beings inside us upon the cellular cosmologies, we will someday voyage away from our earthly realm before the sun ends up broiling this world. Hell knows no fury then that of stellar destructiveness.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • throckie

      You are more gifted as a humorist than as a serious thinker. None of your positions give a profound answer to the many important and relevant questions that confront either mankind or the world of religion. They are simply the standard collage of shallow humanist notions. But thanks for the comic relief.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      lionlylamb is a modern day alchemist. Pseudo-scientific terminology mixed with mystical interpretations used to make hilarious (and utterly false) conclusions.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • AtheistSteve


      If Christians didn't actually believe the things Colin points out then you might have a point.
      But thanks for playing.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Shayna

      This is my favorite: (d) A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

      And then he turned his followers into cannibals!


      April 28, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Further religion doesn't give a profound answer to the many important and relevant questions that confront either mankind or the world of religion. Believers merely think it does. At every intersection of question verses answer the "god did it" response is not an answer but an evasion. That's the point where you stop seeking answers and succumb to ignorance.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  9. lionlylamb

    Just a few 'absolute truths' to be considered;

    1. The atomized cosmos was and is the first cosmologic order of spatial relativity.

    2. The celestial cosmos is the accu mulation of all atomized cosmologies..

    3. The cellular cosmos is the finality of cosmological orders.

    Thusly, the cosmologies of structuralized endowments are the manifestations brought about by Gods' rationalisms within the divine cosmological orders of spatial relevance. Divided by spatial grids of 3 cosmologies are we found living upon the celestial cosmos and built of the atomized cosmos into becoming cellular cosmologies of the generational ambiences created and made manifest by the graces of Godliness.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      you say "thus" as if you were concluding an argument
      that's not an argument, you're just making a series of assertions where your conclusion is a non-sequitur
      so, my question is, how do you go from, there is a natural cosmos, to, there is a divine cosmos?
      How is it that the former requires the latter?
      I'm sorry, I just don't see any connection, and saying things like "therefore" don't grant your claims any special status.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      Did I say "natural or divine' cosmos? Where did I say such a thing? I just inferred that there are 3 cosmologies to consider. The first made cosmology is of the atomized cosmos. The second cosmology made is the celestial cosmos while the third is the cellular cosmology. These three cosmologies are of triune manifestation. The Godly cosmos is lain amid the cellular cosmos of all celestial ent ities being in manifestations of all that is Life here amid this earthly vestige.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      my point still holds

      April 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Free, I don't know how you can even figure out what LL is trying to say. There are so many non-words and malaprops in his posts, they're impenetrable.

      April 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  10. Rosstrex

    Once again CNN attacks Christianity by dusting of the 0.00000000001% of "Christians" who are terrorists. Meanwhile Islamists are literally slaughtering: Hindu, Buddhists, Ahamadi, fellow Muslims, atheists and anyone else that gets in the way. So instead of writing articles about the VICTIMS we write this tripe.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      you're the only one making such a generalization

      April 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Saraswati

      0.00000000001%? Really, you want to stick with that number? I agree it's pretty low, but...no.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  11. JIm McKinley

    Religion did not become evil at the compound. The ATF did. They burned those women and children alive. I saw it. End of story,

    April 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  12. faith

    perfect love casts out fear

    April 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Is that what you tell the altar boys before you "lay your hands" on them?

      April 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  13. faith

    hitler said he followed christ. therefore, hitler was a christian.

    jesus said i am god, therefore jesus is...?

    using advanced logic proffered by the demon atheists, the answer is god.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Simple logic for the simple minded.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation


      April 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      Hitler was a politician. Do you really believe that George W. Bush is a Christian too?

      April 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • .

      Hitler was a Christian, and faith is a Christian. Therefore, using the same logic as faith, faith = Hitler.

      April 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  14. Jesus is the truth

    All these people condemning the teaching of Jesus are not even worth the time to comment on.
    They will stand in awe when the lord does return and yes the TIME IS NEAR it will happen.
    Repent and dedicate your life to Jesus and he will take you with him.
    He is the truth and the light.
    There will be a day. Jesus loves you!!!

    April 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Oh blah blah blah. When you find out Thor is the true god you will be in a lot of trouble.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Colin

      Yawn. another Christian threat about what happens after death. i.e. incapable of proffo or disproof.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dippy

      Wasn't this supposed to happen several times before? Ho hum.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Earthling147

      Dream on, pal. It's only real in your imagination.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  15. John

    Wow CNN, how original, you probably did'nt realize three of the four examples were of people from the Christian Faith. Your bias is completely unoriginal...

    April 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  16. Ghostriver Studios

    Reblogged this on Ghost River Studios Blog.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Answer

      "Please everyone come to my sad and lonely blog. I see your comments and I want traffic for my own pitiful blog."

      April 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  17. Tim

    The problem with your four facts is that Truth is Truth, and it never changes.
    Just because a person believes in the return of Christ, does not make them some how ready to kill others.
    Also people who do not understand an others faith tends to feel that person is some how crazy or hates others.
    Our Government would not know evil considering that they are in fact evil themselves.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  18. Christianity is just like North Korea

    In North Korea :
    You are afraid of offending the all-powerful ruler because of what he could do to you.
    They tell you which thoughts are good and which thoughts are bad
    They tell you every other kind of Communism is bad and non-communists are evil in carnet. They tell you that their words are THE TRUTH and because of that, you must believe what they tell you and to question it is a CRIME AGAINST THE STATE!
    They tell you that you will be horribly punished for the rest of your life if you don’t do what they tell you, believe what they say or think wrong thoughts

    In Christianity:
    You are afraid of offending the all-powerful god because of what he could do to you.
    They tell you which thoughts are good and which thoughts are bad
    They tell you every other kind of christianity is bad and non christians are evil in carnet.
    They tell you that their words are THE TRUTH and because of that you must believe what they tell you and to question it is a SIN AGAINST GOD!
    They tell you that you will be horribly punished for the rest of eternity if you don’t do what they tell you, believe what they say or think wrong thoughts

    April 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "incarnate."

      April 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Colin

    Here are 10 principles of rational thought that, if we taught them to our children, would prevent any religion from peverting peoples' lives and would probably ensure the death of all religions within a generation or two.

    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must. There is no "duty" to believe Anything. Credibility, like love, respect and admiration, must be earned.

    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.

    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.

    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.

    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.

    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.

    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?

    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?

    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.

    April 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Athy

      Good comment, Colin. Agree 100%.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm |

      No one perverts any one, but hindu secular ism, self center ism drives a person to act in his hindu atheism criminal self center ism, Do not act in hindu atheism self center ism, denial of truth absolute, constant, or it may prompt some one to act in hindu atheism , self center ism in retaliation. Bottom line, no one else is responsible for human atheism, terrorism, but human themselves.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  20. Marchosias

    What do you mean 'When' religions become evil? They ARE evil by definition by virtue of the fact that all of them shun reason and evidence and cling to emotion and faith as their 'proof.'

    April 28, 2013 at 9:05 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.