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Who hears #PrayersForOklahoma?
May 21st, 2013
04:45 PM ET

Who hears #PrayersForOklahoma?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - God may not notice the thousands of prayers tweeted for victims of Oklahoma’s devastating tornado - but Ricky Gervais sure has. And he is not pleased.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people have used the hashtag #PrayForOklahoma, including pop starlets, pastors and politicians, according to Topsy.com, a trend-monitoring site.

For example, the White House tweeted,

But the hashtag and the sentiments it promotes prompted a fierce backlash on social media, led by Gervais, a British comedian, and other prominent nonbelievers.

And while one Oklahoma City pastor says he appreciates the Twitter prayers, some religious scholars say devout petitions require more than moving your hands across a keyboard.

"A prayer is supposed to have a consequence for you," said Elizabeth Drescher, a lecturer at Santa Clara University in California. "It's not an act of magic."

Gervais, an ardent foe of organized religion, was more caustic.

After MTV tweeted that pop stars Beyonce, Rihanna and Katy Perry are sending their prayers to Oklahoma, Gervais responded, “I feel like an idiot now … I only sent money.”

Gervais and other atheists also kick-started a counter-trend, using the hashtag #ActuallyDoSomethingForOklahoma.

“If all people are doing is praying, it is worthless,” Hemant Mehta, an Illinois math teacher who writes the blog “Friendly Atheist,” told CNN. “If they are praying and donating to the Red Cross, that’s more like it.”

Mehta is promoting a group called Foundation Beyond Belief that aims to provide a humanist response to crises like the Oklahoma tornado.

The prayer debate spilled into other social media sites as well, with commenters on CNN’s Facebook page sparring over God’s role in Monday’s destructive whirlwind.

According to Oklahoma officials, 24 people have died, many more are injured, and once-orderly streets look likes foretastes of the apocalypse.

In response to a woman who said she was praying for the victims, Facebook commenter Peter Tongue replied, “If prayer works, there wouldn’t be a disaster like this in the first place .... so please keep your religion to yourself.”

But believers had their say as well.

“God is still in control!” said Wilbur Dugger, a commenter on CNN’s Facebook page. “Everything (God) does is to get our attention. … My sympathy and prayers go out to those who get caught up in his demonstrations of (God) ruling the world.”

The social-media sparring over prayer and God’s will reflect a culture in which traditional notions of religion - and the places where people talk about faith - are changing faster than a Twitter feed, said Drescher, the Santa Clara lecturer.

“We’re watching people re-articulate what it means to be spiritual and religious,” she said.

Just a few years ago, for example, no one knew what a hashtag was. Now the “#PrayFor...” meme appears after almost every national and international tragedy.

But what exactly does it mean? Is the tweeting multitude really folding its hands in prayer, or is it a fleeting expression of existential angst? Or maybe just a trendy thing to say?

“It seems to express hope and anxiety, and maybe even helplessness,” Drescher said.

“At the same time, it evokes this strong response from people who see it as a cop-out, a way of claiming some kind of spiritual space that doesn’t actually have any meaning to the people who are posting the meme or the community they are addressing.”

Traditionally, prayer has required something of the pray-er: an orientation toward reverence, a readiness to act, Drescher continued. “You are meant to do something - and that something may not be an easy thing.”

Slapping a hashtag at the end of a tweet doesn’t meet that standard, the scholar said.

The Rev. David Johnson of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City said the prayerful tweets mean something to him - even if he’s been too busy to read them.

Since Monday, St. Andrew’s has become a Red Cross command post and reunion site for families to find loved ones caught in the tornado’s path. The tragedy has also touched the congregation itself, with homes, and some lives, lost on Tuesday, Johnson said.

Told of the Twitter prayers, Johnson said, “that’s awesome.”

“People feel helpless - like God called them to do something but they don’t know what. That’s where prayer comes in.”

Johnson said his church appreciates the many material donations coming its way: the generator sent by a lady from Arkansas, the food and water sent from neighboring towns. But they also solicit, and are happy to receive, the many prayers recited - or tweeted - on their behalf, he said.

“We’ve seen quite a lot of trauma in the last day,” Johnson said. “Obviously, people are going to ask why God allows tornadoes to happen. That’s just part of this world. God doesn’t promise us that bad things won’t happen, he promises to help us get through it. That’s what prayer helps us do.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • United States

soundoff (3,515 Responses)
  1. Steve

    You can do more than pray after you've prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you've prayed.

    May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Utter nonsense

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Darw1n

      Yes, and praying is literally the least you can do. Literally.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Common Sense

      " but you cannot do more than pray until you've prayed."

      Why not?

      TV: "Alert Alert, Tornado coming!! Get to safety! Get underground! Leave the area!"

      Christian: "Oh No! What do I do! I know! I'll pray for a few minutes for God's guidence!"

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  2. centeredpiece

    It seems that the atheists don't understand what prayer is all about. It is NOT an ATM machine. We pray for the strength to get us through these situations. And yes, a benevolent God did create a universe in which disasters happen – weather, disease, natural disasters do occur. But this does not disprove the existence of God. God is there with those who are suffering, God strengthens those who come in to help. If not for God, why would anyone care about what happened in OK except those who live there? If there is no God, why do people rush in to help whenever there's a disaster? One can explain selfishness, but without a God, who can explain why people help strangers?

    May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Ivan Libya

      You don't need god to be a good person and know that helping someone who is suffering is the right thing to do. I don't believe in god, I didn't send prayers, but I did send money.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • tony

      So the red sea parting was just natural, and the whole bible is wrong?

      May 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Common Sense

      "It is NOT an ATM machine. We pray for the strength to get us through these situations."

      So it is an ATM machine and the currency is personal strength.

      " If not for God, why would anyone care about what happened in OK except those who live there?" Oh, I don't know, maybe because they are humans just like us and we share the trait of empathy with 95% of the rest of the world. Sure 5% don't care and do not respond to empathetic stimulus, but that doesn't mean the rest of us feel that way.

      "If there is no God, why do people rush in to help whenever there's a disaster?" Again, empathy.

      "One can explain selfishness, but without a God, who can explain why people help strangers?" It's called selflessness and can be found in many humans who do not believe in any Gods.

      May 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Paul

      Yes, much of the bible is obviously wrong. It has a few historical markers right so it doesn't get thrown out as easily, but other than that, the bible is mostly erroneous nonsense. You'd have to be pretty stupid to believe in what it claims, in the modern world.

      May 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Greg

    Wow... what an incredibly inflamatory way to sratr off an article.

    May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  4. sly

    BORING BORING BORING.

    Here is what it sounds like:

    "The Red Sox are the best team ever"
    "No, the Yankees are the best team ever"
    "No, the Red Sox are the best team ever"
    "No, the Yankees are the best team ever"
    "No, the Red Sox are the best team ever"
    "No, the Yankees are the best team ever"
    "No, the Red Sox are the best team ever"
    "No, the Yankees are the best team ever"
    "No, the Red Sox are the best team ever"

    ad naseum ... y'all, godsters, enjoy your church and praying. Non Godsters, enjoy your life and not praying.

    May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • waterman

      LOL. Still, it is interesting that atheists/agnostics are being much more assertive. A decade or two ago, there was basically just one 'team'. Now there are two to argue about. That's progress.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  5. Richard

    Funny how the nonbeliever sure do get all upset for someone else's beliefs. Someone famous says their prayres are with those peole and they are bashed. Get a life. You may not believe but fault those that do for following their beliefs. You act like you have the right to make people be quiet. I suggest you shut up about not believing because trying to force that on me is just as bad as me trying to force it on you. should I send a prayer out to someone it's not a bad thing, no more than if I told you to have a good day. Get over the fact that people that belive will follow their beliefs.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ivan Libya

      You totally missed his point, he didn't say you can't believe, he simply said the power of prayer, without actually doing anything more, like sending money, is pointless, just like if you did tell me to have a nice day, makes zero difference in my life. Want me to have a nice day, do something that will actually make it nicer, get it?

      May 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Joe

    Completely distasteful article...

    There are people who can't do anything about it. People who live far away, they can donate but that is it. What the hell is wrong with them praying for the victims? There is nothing wrong with keeping those people in their thoughts... give me a break... Atheist morons need to get over them selves.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Interesting that you find the entire article distasteful. It seems you learned some valuable information from the facts it contained.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  7. ceg10

    God allows tragedies too! People think that because there is a God, that bad things will never happen. Really??? When in fact that Jesus Son of the living God was allowed to be crucified for the greater good. And you think that we can go through our lives living scott free? The greater good was for all the sins you have committed God did not kill you for. Before Christ that's what happened.

    Again people please get good Bible lessons from a good Bible teacher. God put them here just for people like you. People really get Biblically educated then questions like the one above will become less and less. I'm not saying it will be easy to accept; but the pain becomes easier to carry.

    Thank you and have a Blessed day, and remember God loves you even when you don't know or love Him.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ivan Libya

      So you honestly believe that a super being like God, with his infinite knowledge, his best plan for the so called salvation of people are to crucify his own son? Sounds like the act of a crazed parent, not an all knowing, all loving being. Today, we'd send you to the chair if you did that to your children, think before you post.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joe

      Do you have any idea what your talking about? God gave us freedom to do whatever we want to do, which is how we can deem what is evil, because some people do and say the wrong things. Weather should not be blamed on anyone, unless someone caused it to happen on purpose. Some people consider tornadoes, "The Devils Finger" in which the devil is trying to cause as much hell as possible, and ironically... tornado ally is the bible belt of America where most people are not biased towards religion.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • tony

      Please show some evidence of god's love over the past few billion years, that isn't the same odds as chance.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Matt

      "and remember God loves you even when you don't know or love Him."

      Yepp, your god loves me so much that he created hell just in case I don't love him back.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  8. The Liu Family

    We'll pray for Ricky Gervais now too! May God reveal Himself to Ricky and may Ricky experience His incredible love!

    May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  9. LP

    Why does this have to be a point of contention? People are acting as though prayer is the only help offered to the victims. Different people express sentiment and offer support in different ways. Humans have differing belief sets. For atheists to dismiss the notion of a higher power as nonsense, then get so involved in debate seems absurd. In any case, this is not a religious issue. This is not a political issue. The people of Oklahoma have experienced extreme loss and I can tell you as a resident of Tuscaloosa, AL (which was hit by a massive tornado approximately two years ago) that any positive outreach or influence or well-wishing will be very welcome by the people of the affected community. If you don't believe that prayer helps, do something that you deem constructive and keep your mouth shut regarding the efforts of others. I've known for a while that Gervais isn't funny in the least, but I now have confirmation that he's nothing more than a pathetic individual with nothing better to do than stir trouble.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  10. centeredpiece

    WOW! Actually DO something for the people suffering in OK? Who would have thought of THAT? Thousands of Christians and Jewish congregations, actually. Gervais' (whoever he is) is a doofus if he never noticed that whenever there is a disaster it's the religious groups who join together to donate money, food, water, blankets, and whatever other material goods are needed. Just because people say "pray for OK" that does not mean this is all they do. And Gervais probably doesn't understand the comfort that prayer can offer – he's too full of himself and his supposed "humor."

    May 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Religion is not required, but it is dangerous

      Helping is a human act, not a religious one. These tweets are lazy and pointless. If you want to help, go to OK, or send money.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  11. Rob B

    They may or may not have a point that prayer is less useful than actual action. However, atheist proselytizing is every bit as irritating as the proselytizing of believers you don't agree with. Do your part but I don't want to hear your self-praise.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Darw1n

      "atheist proselytizing is every bit as irritating as the proselytizing of believers you don't agree with"

      Exactly. Do you get the point now?

      May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  12. tony

    Parting the Red Sea got sooooo much bronze age publicity, he/she/it keeps on doing it . . . . . Tsunamis, tornadoes, whatever makes news and converts all us disbelievers that there is such a loving god.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      So, that so many made it out alive from such a massive storm .... I guess you have not given us persons of Faith enough to turn away from God.

      May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • tony

      250,000 innocents were loved to death in the last two recent Tsunamis. Are you incapable of registering facts?

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  13. JeremyWolf

    Maybe those who are slamming Gervais & others criticizing the #PrayersFor Oklahoma tweets fail to see the hypocracy in that statement: "If we pray hard enough, nothing bad will happen. But if something bad did happen, it's because you didn't pray hard enough to God!"

    Give me a break! Also, the White House/government shouldn't be "sending out prayers" to anyone – (something called Separation of Church & State). A better response would have been "Our thoughts are with those affected and we stand together to offer assistance in any way we can. #UnitedForOklahoma"

    May 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Steve

      Read Colins post please

      May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  14. Shelly

    Why does God allow earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, cyclones, mudslides, wildfires, and other natural disasters? Tragedies cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is distressing that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature (Genesis 1:1). Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

    The Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ holds all of nature together (Colossians 1:16-17). Could God prevent natural disasters? Absolutely! Does God sometimes influence the weather? Yes, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:17 and James 5:17. Numbers 16:30-34 shows us that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgment against sin. The book of Revelation describes many events which could definitely be described as natural disasters (Revelation chapters 6, 8, and 16). Is every natural disaster a punishment from God? Absolutely not.

    In much the same way that God allows evil people to commit evil acts, God allows the earth to reflect the consequences sin has had on creation. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The fall of humanity into sin had effects on everything, including the world we inhabit. Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” Sin is the ultimate cause of natural disasters just as it is the cause of death, disease, and suffering.

    We can understand why natural disasters occur. What we do not understand is why God allows them to occur. Why did God allow the tsunami to kill over 225,000 people in Asia? Why did God allow Hurricane Katrina to destroy the homes of thousands of people? For one thing, such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant. What we do know is this: God is good! Many amazing miracles occurred during the course of natural disasters that prevented even greater loss of life. Natural disasters cause millions of people to reevaluate their priorities in life. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is sent to help the people who are suffering. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to saving faith in Christ! God can, and does, bring great good out of terrible tragedies (Romans 8:28).

    Jesus Christ, the Son of God and greatest prophet who ever lived, warned us about the condition of the world at the end of this age. He foretold that conditions would worsen to the point where all nations would be affected—well beyond mere isolated catastrophes affecting a few. To grasp the magnitude of what this might be like, consider World War I and World War II, both of which engulfed many nations. Yet Bible prophecy tells us that the scope of end-time events will be even greater.

    The local conflicts that in the past affected only their immediate areas now affect the entire world. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, has at times impacted the economy of the entire world. For decades now it has drawn the major powers into efforts to find a solution. Similarly, the war on terrorism and the subsequent war in Iraq have polarized the nations. The Balkan wars in the last decade involved many countries. Nothing is done in a corner anymore.

    And now, for the first time in modern history, a natural disaster has impacted a dozen nations bordering the Indian Ocean. And there is hardly a country in the world that hasn't come to the aid of those nations. Jesus understood the reach of conditions that would exist at the end of the age. The prophesied events of which He spoke would impact every nation in the world. The multinational scope of the tsunami ought to tell us that we are fast approaching the end of this age as spelled out in Jesus Christ's prophecies.

    Jesus spoke of calamities increasing in frequency and intensity, building to a terrible climax—a time of great tribulation so severe that no flesh would live beyond it unless God personally intervened (Matthew 24:21-22

    ). Yet God promises that He will intervene in human affairs at a time when man is about to destroy himself.

    We are also assured that God will send Jesus Christ a second time as King of Kings to rule over mankind and do what man couldn't do for himself. And that is to transform the very nature of man so that he won't continue killing himself with man-made disasters. And when humankind finally reaches the point of wanting God to be actively involved in our lives, the Old Testament prophets speak of that time as a world in which natural disasters such as this will no longer plague mankind.
    Do we blame God?

    This brings us to the question about the time we live in before this new age arrives. Where was God in the tsunami? Why did He allow it? It is the same question that was asked in all natural disasters of the past, and certainly asked in the last century by the Jewish people: "Where was God in the Holocaust?"

    Religion today sees God as involved now, present everywhere, and doing His work to save human beings. This worldview would make Him ultimately responsible for everything that happens to us—which is not an easy position to accept or defend.

    Rather than asking, "Where was God in the Holocaust?," we ought to ask: "Where was man in the Holocaust?" Indeed, what was mankind's responsibility in two world wars, or in our many killing fields, or in our many other self-inflicted horrors?

    Aren't we really describing a world that has left God, rather than the other way around? God is not the issue here! The human condition is the real issue, and this is the message we should be receiving.

    Yet we continually resist this message. We can't go it alone and we need God a lot more than we are willing to admit.

    God in His wisdom knows that it will take many more reverses to reduce our stubborn independence and transform it into total reliance on Him. So Jesus Christ tells us in His prophecy of the end time that it will get worse before it gets better (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Frankly, we will come to the end of our rope. Then and only then will we be willing to humble ourselves and accept the involvement of a loving and compassionate God.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • tony

      God got your credit for parting the red sea, so you can hardly call a tornado a natural, god-less, event

      May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • WASP

      @shelly: "Yet God promises that He will intervene in human affairs at a time when man is about to destroy himself."

      good so that means we can launch nukes and "god will intervene" and stop them before they wipe out NYC? thanks for the heads up. 🙂

      May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • YouMissedThePoint

      Shelly...FYI noone is going to read that short novel you posted, i sure didnt. You get an A for effort but thanks to new media noone as the attention span for that nonsense. Cheers!

      May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Quoting a book proves nothing. All it shows is how truly gullible and lazy you are. Pick up a science book if you don't understand what causes natural disasters. Plugging an imaginary being in to something this horrible only makes your imaginary being less appealing, rather a vindictive prick-it did after all apparently allow 9 innocent children to die or did you not care about them???

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • YouMissedThePoint

      @tony @WASP...Haha wow you guys proved me wrong and actually read that, it must be an even slower day at the office for you guys than it is for me! Cheers!

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Naja

      Well said, Shelly, well said!

      May 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  15. cr

    Personally, I've only been praying the following. That God offer comfort to the friends and family of the lost, and that his will be done as HE sees fit. So Thanks, Ricky Gervais, for while you are an absolute ass? You are still doing God's work by giving money to His children in need. For the record, EVERY religious organization in my area of every creed is currently offering NOT only prayer vigils, but hosting blood drives and collections of goods and money for donation to the victims. Put your money where your mouth is and offer up more than a prayer is one thing ( I sincerely hope ALL of God's children walking in Jesus' way and helping their fellow man) But to be so ugly about it? Well... I think I'll say a prayer that God chooses to touch this man's heart. With such a high celebrity he'd be a fine general in God's army.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Gary S

      At best Religions are misguided people believing in Fairy Tales; at Worst the are ALL CULTS. Nothing in between.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  16. Colin

    You know, there are some pretty fundamental objections to praying and Christianity in general that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, an “angry atheist”, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections.

    If you have a disagreement with a point I make, post it. However, if you only object to the fact that I said it, please understand that I do not buy into the whole “it is immoral to be skeptical of the Christian religion” nonsense.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Shelly

      The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.1 Corinthians 1:18

      May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Simon

      Can't argue with that, Colin.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • tony

      #Shelly – I think you didn't read or think – your loss.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Valerie

      That was awesomely well said. Some things need perspective...

      May 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Shelley likes torture devices apparently.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Sean

      @Shelly
      Because quoting random passages from a book of fairy tales has any particular value or relevance to the point at hand, am I right?

      May 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  17. Beth

    Ricky,

    I loved The Office and An Idiot Abroad, but, I really don't care what you have to say on this matter. Stop turning a tragedy into a platform for an argument.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • tony

      The "our prayers go out" started this, not atheism.

      May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  18. helicohunter

    I'm an atheist, and I do get irritated when God gets the credit for saving a person's life (instead of a good samaritan, first responder, or doctor). At the same time, I do appreciate the sentiment behind "sending prayers". I have the same heartfelt desire to express my condolences and wish the survivors luck as they rebuild. Therefore, I'm not really offended by the president's words.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Shelly

      Every person in this world is rite where they are suppose to be at this very moment....There is a reason for everything that happens. My brother, sister-in law and nephews live on Moore OK and in the their front yard .. it looks like a bomb went off...people are dead and we don;t understand why one made it while the other did not. But I turn to God and trust in Him. God foreknew us and He chose us in Christ BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. He has chosen YOU and it was HE that formed you and gave you the shape that you have. As with all His works, you are WONDERFUL too. He was personally engaged in your formation and He saw your body before it was formed. All the days planned for you were written in His book while nothing of them had still happened. You are not accidental in this world. You are not part of a crowd but a wonderful creation of God. You are a child of God chosen from Him before the world began. God is with you, hedging you behind and before and there is no place that you are and He is not. God loves YOU, PERSONALLY, my friend, and He loves you so much that nothing can separate you from His love. His thoughts for you are countless. They outnumber any number. His presence is not a matter of feelings but an unchanged reality. God is not with you when you feel it and He disappears when you do not feel it. He is with you either you feel it or not. He loves you either you feel worthy of His love or not. You are His child regardless of how much you feel it. This is what God´s Word, the TRUTH, says and truth is independent of feelings. He has given you eternal life and you are going to be with Him forever! Though others may just flow in the stream of life, aimlessly and without purpose, you have a purpose: TO DO THE WILL OF YOUR FATHER. TO DO WHAT IT PLEASES HIM. To run the race consistently concentrating not on the things of this earth, but on the things of above from where your savior, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, is coming. There you belong, and there you will be forever.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • KRReagan

      Agreed, but god then also deserves the blame for all the bad things he creates... tsunamis, earthquakes, diseases, pedophiles... You can't give an omnipotent being credit for the good without giving it credit for all the bad!
      KRR

      May 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  19. RFD

    First of all, it's not Ricky Gervais' business how other people practice their religion, or even whether or not they have religion. In this country, at least, we're supposed to be able to do that without interference.

    Secondly, money IS pouring in to help the victims, but writing a check is not exactly going out of one's way. It cost Gervais very little effort to send money. Why not join the efforts made by the Red Cross, go donate blood, become a volunteer to help these people. Get out and do something that gives of yourself, not just your wallet. That's what you do if you want to make a big difference.

    Thirdly, some people don't have money to send, and prayer is the best they can do. They haven't got the income Gervais has, and for those who give even though it hurts their budget, they are doing more than the ones who can write a big check and not even feel it.

    And, fourthly, I don't know about anyone else, but when I pray, it's not to ask God to stop tornadoes or keep people from dying. Tornadoes happen, and if you build your home in a place where there are lots of them, then it's a risk you are willing to take to be there. I live in a place like that, though not as tornado active as the Midwest, and have been through three of them. And people die...everyone does eventually, so praying to not die is sort of pointless, isn't it?

    I pray for God to help me and others find the strength to carry one after tragedies, to be able to somehow pick up daily life and make every moment you have count as something good and useful. I believe prayer is not about "God, save me," but about "God, help me make it through whatever comes."

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Gervais.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • ME II

      " And people die...everyone does eventually, so praying to not die is sort of pointless, isn't it?"

      "...so praying ... is sort of pointless, isn't it?"

      May 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Still Christian

      So well put RFD.

      God gives us life; one second, one minute, one hour, one day – often more. But that by itself is enough to be thankful for. God doesn't owe us anything though some people seem to have that impression.

      May 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • John

      That was, RFD, about as well stated as one can be on this topic without completely attacking one side or the other.

      May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • tony

      Parting the red sea undoes all your argument

      May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Still Christian

      ME II

      One of the main things I pray is to give thanks for the life I have already had, for just the opportunity to be part of this awesome world for a little while. To have a chance to make something of it until it is over.

      When believers pray, they feel connected to God. That's wonderful and powerful.

      You should dwell on that a bit. Prayer isn't pointless at all.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mary

      Very well said, RFD. ALL of it. Thank you.
      And I pray for all the victims of this tragedy also. God Bless.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Actually the Red Cross do not accept the blood of anyone who lived in the UK during the "mad cow" episodes. What is wrong with Gervais giving money not time when there are many prepared to give the time which his money helps fund?

      May 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  20. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    Interesting how God(s) use tornadoes in tornado prone areas .. same for hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides, tsunamis, etc.. Apparently God(s) is limited by natural forces.

    May 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • WASP

      @HORSES: XD

      long time no see. 🙂

      May 22, 2013 at 2:04 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.