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. Humanist11

    One of my favorite quotes.

    "Without religion, we'd have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Stephen Weinburg

    April 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • lol??

      Which is a lie, of course.

      "Mar 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God."

      April 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • ed

      LOL – Mark proves your point? You can't even say exactly who authored Mark, nitwit.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • JJ

      Psalm 137:9 – Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Is it a lie the lies HS is spewing, lollyp00p?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • kenny

      that is an absolute truth that no one can deny.... NO ONE ...

      April 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "like the lies HS is spewing."

      April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Rev. Tim Lovejoy

      I'd like you to remember Matthew 7:26. "The foolish man who built his house upon the sand."

      April 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • jboom

      Mao Zedung?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Humanist11

      I'm truly grateful Christians are able to discern the good bible verses from the evil ones most of the time, otherwise I'd have been killed long ago.

      If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, "You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord." When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through. (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)

      April 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      As a Pagan leaning secular humanist, I have been told I should be burned or killed by Christians quoting the Bible. I have never threatened them. I have never threatened Muslim's, Jews, Hindu's, Buddhists etc. The doctrines I follow and believe are from a mix of religions and I find them to be true for ALL men and require little financially from me to make the world a better place for all. Still, extremists exists inside the Christian Baptists, Evangelicals, and Orthodox groups. Science and fact usually make religons take notice that their OLD Truths are no longer viable. Science will prove we are all connected through a higher power, which we are part of and can influence. Science has also proven their is NO hell or punisment for disobedience of holy scripture with the acception of the consequences we give ourselves. I believe we are good and bad and until we want to be more good than bad and work at it we will do both. Learning or teaching of absolutes which exclude or blame groups, behaviors or thoughts for the wrongs of humanity or sins against a diety are responsible for all evil actions included during genocide, The Crusades, The Reformations to name a few larger actions. We need to believe in ourselves and at the end of the day it is we who create and expand sacred behavior through our deeds not through prosletizing or punishment or brainwashing.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  2. JJ

    Religion becomes evil when you start thinking that the creator of the universe is speaking to you. Once this delusion takes hold you then have to determine what are just thoughts in your head and what is the voice of your sky god.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • faith

      behold, i have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it

      no. god would never communicate with his kids

      April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Faith. What you think is God talking to you is really your own inner voice. My inner voice talks to me still (conscious thinking), but "God" stopped talking to me about the time I realized Santa Clause wasn't real.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  3. Kip Oliver

    These four things can be applied to Alex Jones and all Conspiracy Theorists:
    1. I know the Truth and you don't – ever try to counter-point any one of InfoWars followers? This is pretty much their mantra. You provide proof that their statement is incorrect and they call you a sheeple. They call you blind and stupid. They say your proof is part of the conspiracy. They don't want to hear another viewpoint, they don't want to see proof they are wrong. They know the truth – and YOU don't.
    2. Jones is a very charasmatic leader
    3. InfoWars and PrisonPlanet are always predicting end times: Jones himself has predicted End Times at least twice a year for the past ten years.
    4. The Ends Justfiy the Means – Some of Jones's more radical listeners have already applied this theory. As for the other 3 million gun owners he boasts as followers – well, that's an unnerving thought indeed.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Tamsyn

      I find that Alex Jones is one of the greatest threats to rational-thinking people ever...he is so lucky he is protected by the 1st Amendment. He is just awful. It is amazing at the number of gullible people who actually take him seriously, and use him as the only source for their information.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Rev. Tim Lovejoy

      Somebody should tell Jones that once something has been approved by the Government, it’s no longer immoral.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Dave

    5. Never trust a Republican selling you his morals.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Christian_Grey

      Or a democrat coming out of the closet

      April 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Tamsyn

      Or the Republican who exited the closet right after him.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  5. Darlene Buckingham

    The two most dangerous religions in the the world today are Al Quada and the CIA.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  6. oneSTARman

    IMAGINE if You were told your 'Enemy' was EVIL because he had Scary Evil Weapons that could 'Kill US All' and really HATED us; so you KIDNAPPED and TORTURED people and BOMBED them killing Hundreds of Thousands and INVADED their Country for no Particular Reason and DESTROYED it.
    Would THOSE Beliefs and THOSE People be EVIL?

    April 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Be careful you are treading on the hallowed grounds of subjective morality.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Kip Oliver

      People are kind of doing that already – the Paranoid Conspiratists are convinced the Government is EVIL and has SCARY EVIL WEAPONS and are going to KILL US ALL or at least put us in FEMA camps.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Dick Cheney?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • ed

      Gee, Billy, "subjective morality"? It seems you failed to show any evidence for "objective morality" that you claimed "we" proved over and over again a page or so back. Looks like you're way behind on your evidence.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Ed, Starman's post is a direct example of subjective morality. It occurs to me you may not know what that term means. It's kind of like "right makes might" or "majority rules" "for the good of the many" "Der Fatherland". get it?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Billie pound sand.............about 2 billion christians............7.2 billion humans.............= 5.2 billion humans left !

      April 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • ed

      .... aaaannnd Bill evades providing any evidence for "objective morality" once again. nothing new here.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  7. Reality


    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    April 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  8. Humanist11

    Religion attempts to have answers for everything. When you start with the answers and look for evidence to support those answers, it becomes easy to focus on only those facts that seem to support your chosen point of view and discard those that do not. This is exactly what Christianity does in regard to evolution, the origins of the universe and even Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Satisfying answers come from the hard work of science and knowing there is evidence to back up the claims. Letting a religion fill your mind with unfounded nonsense is the biggest mistake a human can make.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, while the scenario you propose is tragic enough, the worst mistake one can make is to disregard the truths that religion does show simply because you don't like being told what to do.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      How about disregarding them because you find most of them ridiculous and impossible to believe?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • ed

      Bill's reply can be seen as supporting Humanist's assertion. Those that are uncomfortable without immediate answers are most likely also those that are uncomfortable not having anyone tell them what to do. Over the millennia they have created their own comfort zone.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That's an option tom. I suspect most people in the western world are more prone to blanket rejection out of sloth than from due diligence though. The tenets they reject are the very foundation of the society they live in which allows their dissent.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant, Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...and
      A self confessed murderer.
      "the truths that religion does show" What truths, what religions, what the hell are you talking about, hypocrite?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Ed, I certainly support Humans claim. There is only one thing is worse than a "Cultural Catholic who only attends mass mechanically or because they are forced to by parental or other pressure. That is someone who rejects the wisdom of faith out of hand simply from rebellion. I respect a well informed atheist more than I do an ill informed Christian. There just aren't as many well informed atheists as they think.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well demon, it should be obvious with the fervor by which you track my threads that the sanctiity of life is primary.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Bill. If a religion has any truth, it is because science has verified it and the religion simply guessed correctly or the religion simply adopted a known truth that already existed. One simply has to read the book of Genesis with a general education of basic science to know it is make believe. If Genesis is make believe then what does that say for the credibility for the rest of the bible? You can't change facts, only beliefs.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bill Deacon,
      "the worst mistake one can make is to disregard the truths that religion does show"

      What "truths" would that be exactly?

      "I suspect most people in the western world are more prone to blanket rejection out of sloth than from due diligence though."

      Not sure I'd disagree with this one.

      "The tenets they reject are the very foundation of the society they live in which allows their dissent."

      How do you figure this one though? The US anyway, was founded on freedom of religion among other things, but don't Christian tenets (assuming you meant Christian tenets) demand obedience to God's law? Doesn't the first amendment conflict with the first commandment?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...and
      A self confessed murderer.
      But Bill all you posts come down to that YOU know the truth and 'I' don't point one of the article. Tell how I got it wrong?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "The tenets they reject are the very foundation of the society they live in which allows their dissent."

      And not one of those tenets is unique to Christianity.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Me II, I see the American experiment as the culmination of a historical striving for freedom that mankind has sought since the days of Caesar. Various despots throughout history, some religious others not, have attempted to govern mankind by political and technological prowess. All have failed because man is made to be free. This is something the founders recognized as divinely accorded to us simply by virtue of our relationship to our creator. The beauty of America is that we, at least historically, have acknowledged our dependance on a Supreme Being as providential to our guidance but at the same time allowed each member and each group to express that, or not as they see fit.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      demon, I know the truth ,for me, as I have found it. For me, Jesus Christ is the truth. He doesn't describe the truth or point to the truth, He is the truth. By his life, death and resurrection, he spoke truth to power, resisted evil unto death and triumphed over his enemy.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Marie

      That's sad

      April 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  9. Richard Cranium

    Religion +guns
    That is not true. If you look around the world you sill find that those countires who have strict gun control laws have less issues involving gun violence. The problem in america is the romantic, nostalgic view about guns, and their availablity.

    compare us to the world...less guns= less gun violence.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Thats three times I used reply and it created a new thread....time to clear IE cache.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      google "less guns, less violence" and you will see that multiple studies show contradiictory findings. But by all means, keep telling us how smart you are.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • SeeThruIt2

      Less guns does not equal less violence. Fewer guns equals less GUN violence. Other forms of violence continue or increase if you take all guns.

      When was the last riot at a soccer (or football) game in the U.S.? And how often does the U.K. have riots at soccer matches?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Dill Beacon
      Ja pan, sweden, finland, all reporting far less gun violence than america per capita.

      They are far more secular, and have strict gun control laws.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      true, but limited. People in those countries simply use different devices and often have higher rates of violence. Your statement is technically correct but has a limited focus.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You are forgetting the differnce between violence and deadly violence. It is very rare for an innocent bystander to be hurt by a melee weapon. Guns will rip through the indended target and continue on for a great distance. Even expert marksmen miss, but the bullet continues to travel.

      Its like comparing normal traffic to the autobahn. The Autobahn has less accidents per driver, but the accidents are far more deadly.

      Apples and oranges Bill.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...and
      A self confessed murderer.
      Richard, if Billy finds a survey he agrees with that he can milk for all it is worth to try and cover the tracks of his belief system, he does just that. Point out surveys that show that secular nations actually have larger per capita aid donations and less gun violence because of the strict gun control laws and Billy goes mute.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  10. no more lollypops from priests

    Religion is poison. it furthers theology and myth above fact. the greatest threat to humanity is religion.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Odd, I could have sworn it was any number of other things:

      Demise of families
      Lack of clean water
      Seexualization of children

      or their root causes:

      Pride, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Sloth, Greed and Gluttony

      Religion points these out, Science proves it.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Science

      Now it is time to pound sand Billie

      April 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Bill, Why do you think an omnipotent and omniscient god would allow those conditions to occur and/or not fix those conditions?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Paul

      Because god loves us so much he lets people starve to death. It makes perfect sense if you don't think about it.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Do you mean like "poof" now it's better? You don't want a savior, you want a valet.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll..and
      Is a self confessed murderer.
      Wonder how all those fat bishops and cardinals got that way, greed gluttony and sloth maybe and the pedophile priests into lust perhaps. As for pride and ego Billy you are kiding, read the crap you post you pompous asz.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Bill, Another sidestep. The religious claim that their omnipotent and omniscient god created the universe and everything in it and that prayer to said god can change things. So why would said god allow those conditions to occur and/or not fix those conditions? No need for the "we don't know god's mind" argument – that went out the window when the religious say they do know god and what it wants.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Christian_Grey

      And the greatest threat to morality is no religion.
      Read the posts here Mark at 11:43 today has an insightful view of religion and is attacked by the self righteous non believers. Calling him a halfwit and loser… now who is the radical person in the post?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Christian grey
      That is preposterous.

      We get our morals from our animal ancestors. They were social animals just like us. You are bron with much in your DNA, and then taught by society beyond that. No gods required.

      Our fellow animals share, care for each other, work toward common goals, develop language and culture. All without gods...just like we do.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Which God?

      No valet, BD, but a supreme, omoipotent and all knowing god that doesn't condemn us at birth. Wouldn't your god, so powerful, having us created in it's (perfect) image, have as perfect as it? We are born defective form the outset? If we are it's children , and loved by the "parent" god, why does it forsake it's offspring to condemnation? The whole concept is so ridiculous as to be more than laughable, it is to be scorned. Those who preach such should be scorned as well. You as a sad apologist, BD. so sad indeed.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  11. Gloria

    I don't think Christian Churches all think that they know the truth and you don't. Fundamentalist Christians may or may not, but some are more likely to. Christian Churches such as Lutherans, Episcopal, Catholic, say here is our truths as we believe them. The Bible even tells you Nobody knows the mind of God. If you accept this, rational religions know that there is always the possibility of human error in translation, and interpretation.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Correct! Thank you!

      April 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gloria, So if no one knows the mind of god, what exactly is religion about?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • AG


      April 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Which God?

      @AG. Love? really? did god personally tell you that, or did you read it in some book? Do you believer everything you read? Fail.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  12. Gloria

    Excellent signs to beware of in this article. The trouble is a lot of people have these tenets in their Churches and they know without a doubt that they are not evil or have toxic ideas of belief. In other words," they know the truth and you don't", as in #l. I'm Christian by the way.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  13. The Demon Deacon

    Bill Deacon
    1. I know the truth and you don't.
    Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...and
    Stated...A criminal might subvert this sacrament but that would make him a criminal not a priest and would result in immediate ex-communication.
    Bill's wisdom...The truth is the truth whether everyone believes it or no one believes it. Bill knows the truth?
    Is a criminal...Me a murderer? The truth is yes.
    Not hard to see how Billy can overlook the crimes of the church when he needs that crutch to live with himself. Billy is quite delusional.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Didn't I whip your azz last week boy? Can't get enough?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...etc.
      HAHA, the only asz you probably ever whipped is some poor altar boy's, if you are capable of murder what other crimes have you done, Billy?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Science

      Bill you still playing in the sand box ?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm guilty of them all demon. Thank God I am redeemed.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Marie

      You guys need to settle down – be real men, and don't just say things that are nasty to each other because you are only typing it anonymously. You are probably both loving sons, maybe dads and good friends with others. Work it out!

      April 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Which God?

      Sorry BD, but but the perjorative used is quite unbecoming, "boy."

      April 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • The Demon Deacon

      Bill Deacon
      Is irrelevant. Billy is an obsequious papal apologist troll...and
      Is a self confessed murderer.
      So you are redeemed and I am sure the priest that went through the Servants of the Paraclete were also redeemed and allowed to go out and commit their crimes again. Redeemed may not mean rehabilitated, have you quit sinning Billy or do you depend on the crutch of confession.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  14. Brooke

    "I know the truth and you don't" is the BASIS of all religions! THAT is one of the biggest problems in our world today, The "us and them" mentality is the core of religious belief.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • tepeters

      You are absolutely correct. The core belief of all relgions is that they alone hold the truth and therefore those who belong to that religion are chosen people above all others. It is what makes religion, the charitable acts of individuals who say that they are inspired by their religion notwithstanding, so insidious. Such fatalism is what makes these individuals believe they are doing God's will when they perpetrate such acts. And even if that is only a few who go to such extrmes the belief in the absolute truth of what a religion teaches is what justifies in their mind their prejudices. It is ironic that the biblical myth of the fall is insightful into this part of human nature. Contrary to what churches and the pious teach, it is not a story about disobedience; it is a story about the fact that human beings have presumed knowledge of good and evil. And because each and everyone believes they know what is good and evil, what should be and what should not; that is what puts people in conflict and is the cause of our divisions, our hatreds, our prejudices and our inhumanity. Men need symbols to inspire them, when they lack those symbols they invent gods. So we need to choose symbols that represent what is right and true, that is what is real.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      My wife considers herself a "militant agnostic" – her mantra is "I don't know and neither do you – so STFU!"

      April 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • lol??

      I coulda swore Jesus made it clear that it was "us" VS God.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  15. Ted Jones

    Its liek reading an article about "Chad aka Fred and others"

    April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  16. Tell the TRUTH

    Islam teaches violence. Mohammad practiced it. You cannot compare that with Christianity as New Testament does not allow violence and Jesus never killed anyone.
    Christian extremism means more love, peace, meek, showing the other cheek, etc..
    Please get the facts straight!!

    April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Christianity also teaches that your god created satan and turned him loose on the world. Which means your god is as evil as good, as hateful as loving.
      There is a great deal of death, torture, slavery, mistreatment of women. You have cherry picked your bible. Even Jesus said the OT was still valid.
      Read your bible if you want to try to talk about it, or better yet, put the bible down, and join us in reality.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • sam stone

      love, peace, turning the other cheek, denying gays their civil rights....

      April 29, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • biggles

      Chromedomous, your parents created a dork, an evil, stupid moron. Blame them, so, OK?

      So, odd that no one ever discusses the filthy witch who is most of the idiots posting for Satan. Dodo, why hide?

      April 29, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      My parents created 6 genius level IQ individuals, who all make major contributions to society. You arre just a lying troll. See the difference?

      April 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • biggles

      I see sambo, chromedomous, dodo, Tommi the moron are all busy working hard to provide for their families! I imagine trying to pass legislation is pretty expensive. Oh, I've seen their lobby on capital hill pressuring congress. God-hating angels in favor of equal rights. Powerful group

      April 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  17. DemFromSC

    The above 4 "signs" are typical of ANY religion. The conclusion is obvious!

    April 29, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  18. ironman59

    All religion IS EVIL. It makes up stories and uses them to control others. They use those stories to justify their violence in the name of stopping some other perceived evil. Yet when it comes to following their own rules about humanity and serving others they can't seem to remember what their book says. Religion in all forms simply needs to disappear forever.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Mark

      Buddy, lashing out at others with what are only PERCIEVED facts is evil. Faults exist in in all Religious hierarchy, just as they exist in any other hierarchy. It's weak people that cause the problems, whether through poor interpretation or flat out bigotry. Blaming a religion for the acts of a few zealots is foolish. Some of the greatest and most selfless acts in the world today are done by religious people and yes some of the most evil. Truely, MUCH more good is done than evil. Though your myopic mind can't see this, the loss of all religion would finish us.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Pockets

      MARK. Your a halfwit and a loser.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Brooke

      ironman59, you are dead on correct!

      April 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Somehow it feels too easy when a refutation of your statement comes from the articel you think you are commenting on:

      “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.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Pssst

      " Your a halfwit and a loser."

      Really, @Pockets, if you are going to call someone a "halfwit", you should at least make your presentation that of a non-halfwit!
      It's *you're* when you mean *you are*.

      April 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • lifelonghockeyfan

      Mark, "Truly, much more good is done than evil". This is typical of the made up truths that believers employ. Provide a source for that "fact" and the evidence to support it.

      April 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  19. lifelonghockeyfan

    How could you possibly write this with a straight face? Your criteria apply to every single believer out there except they may not be charismatic (hardly a reason to think someone has gone over the line.

    April 29, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Frigate

      Believers have faith in invisible, all powerful critters that are supposed to care what is going on, and then they push that faith on other people; That sounds pretty dangerous.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Humanist11

      Every single believer is in danger of falling over the edge because every religion is based on telling you what to think without regard to facts or evidence.

      April 29, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  20. Honey Badger Don't Care!

    The Jewish people could say the same thing about Christianity. Xtians bast.ardized the Jewish religion to create a new sect that just happened to take off thanks to it being normalized by the Romans.

    When are people going to wake up and realize that they're all myths?

    April 29, 2013 at 11:14 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.