Church without God - by design
Members of an atheist congregation at Harvard listen to music during a recent gathering.
June 22nd, 2013
11:25 AM ET

Church without God - by design

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Boston (CNN)-– It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.

A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.

Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.

If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.

Sunday’s congregation in Cambridge is a meeting of the Humanist Community at Harvard University and the brainchild of Greg Epstein, the school’s Humanist chaplain.

A longtime advocate for community building, Epstein and his group of atheists have begun to build their Cambridge community and solemnize its Sunday meetings to resemble a traditional religious service.

To Epstein, religion is not all bad, and there is no reason to reject its helpful aspects.

“My point to my fellow atheists is, why do we need to paint things with such a broad brush? We can learn from the positive while learning how to get rid of the negative," he said.

Godless congregations

For Epstein, who started community-building at Harvard nearly 10 years ago, the idea of a godless congregation is not an oxymoron.

“We decided recently that we want to use the word congregation more and more often because that is a word that strongly evokes a certain kind of community - a really close knit, strong community that can make strong change happen in the world,” he said.

“It doesn’t require and it doesn't even imply a specific set of beliefs about anything.”

Epstein is not alone in his endeavor. Jerry DeWitt, who became an atheist and left his job as an evangelical minister, is using his pastoral experience to building an atheist church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This Sunday, DeWitt's congregation will hold its first meeting as a "Community Mission Chapel."

"When you become a part of this congregation, this community, you are going to become part of a family," DeWitt told CNN. "There is an infrastructure there for you to land in. There is going to be someone there to do weddings and to do, unfortunately, the funerals."

READ MORE: Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists

Sunday school for atheists

As members of the Cambridge congregation file into a wood-paneled classroom at Harvard, singer Shelley Segal greets them with a few songs from her latest recording, called simply, “An Atheist Album.”

Taking a hint from the theme of the event, Segal strums on her guitar and belts her song, “Gratitude.”

“I don't believe in a great power to say thank you to,” Segal sings. “But that won’t take away from my gratitude.”

Harvard's humanist chaplain Greg Epstein leads an atheist gathering.

After the music, Epstein offers a few words of greeting before the meeting gets to its heart: a discussion about compassion.

A four academics and a journalist discuss the effects of religion on raising children and their ideas about compassion. Congregants listen intently, some even taking notes.

Each service has a message – compassion, evolution or acceptance - after which congregants engage in a lengthy discussion.

Before the main event, kids are invited to what some parents refer to as “Sunday school,” where Tony Debono, a biologist Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teaches the youngsters about evolution, DNA and cells.

There's little talk about organized religion, positive or negative.

Likewise, down in Louisiana, said his atheist services will not be anti-religion.

"What we are looking at doing is different," DeWitt said. "If you are a religionist and you come and sit in our pew, the only way you can leave offended is because of what you don’t hear and what you don’t see. We won’t be there to make a stance against religion or against God."

Coming out of the closet

In the last few years, the number of “nones” – those who don’t associate with any organized religion – has grown at a rate faster than any other group. Nones now represent one in five Americans, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll.

Although the number of atheists has grown, too, there are still a large number of “nones” that choose not to associate with the label “atheist.”

Some at Harvard’s Humanist congregation fall into this category.

“I don’t particularly have a religion,” said Anil Nyer, a neurologist who brought his daughter to Humanist Sunday school. But Nyer also said he didn’t want to label himself as an atheist.

One reason to shy away from the atheist label: Many Americans hold a negative impression of nonbelievers.

According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe that atheists are changing American culture for the worse.

“Whenever we put atheists on a list like this and we compare them to other groups, atheists tend to come in towards the bottom of that list,” said Robert P. Jones is the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

“Americans tend to hold a lot of reservations about atheists.”

Epstein hopes his congregation can change that.

By formalizing meetings and building a strong community, the Harvard group hopes it can be a model for other atheist congregations forming around the country.

A group meets during an atheist gathering in Boston.

More atheists may come of the closet if they know a congregation will be there to support them, Epstein said,

“Being an atheist is something we want people to come out and be,” said the Humanist chaplain. “There are so many people, probably millions, who are humanists or atheists or nonreligious in private and nobody knows."

Epstein said he gets e-mails daily from people founding atheist meet-up groups.

“Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Carolina; London; Vancouver, Canada; Houston, Texas,” Epstein said, listing the sources of the most recent e-mails.

“One part of what we are saying is come on out and let your neighbors know” about your disbelief, he said. “It is not going to make you worse of a person, it is going to make you a better person to be more open about who you are.”

Rituals for the irreligious

For the last few years, the Humanist Community at Harvard has operated out of a small three-floor walk-up off the bustling streets of Harvard Square. The walls are littered with posters about atheism – tributes to famed atheists Eddie Izzard, Seth MacFarlane and Stephen Fry.

Because of the scattered furniture and the Harvard dorm feel, Epstein jokingly describes the space as “college broke chic.” That’s being generous – but it's also about to change.

Starting in the fall, the Humanist Community at Harvard will begin meeting in a nearly 3,000-square-foot community center with an event space for nearly 100 people.

Although the plan is to use the space at the group’s headquarters, it will also serve as a broader community center for the group that Epstein and others are trying to build in the Boston area.

“What we really would like to see is a community center where people can come by at anytime and to use it as a space to study or have a meeting for various committee,” said Chris Stedman, the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard.

Stedman said he sees the new building as a place for people to gather, not only to become part of a humanist community, but to also become more engaged with the world.

When he talks about his plans for the future, Epstein appears to long for a time when the new community center could mimic aspects of church - a place for baby-naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

The success of an atheist church will depend on walking the thin line between too much and too little ritual, Epstein said.

Humanists boast a proud freethinking streak, and some at the Harvard event said they don’t want to be associated with any sort of dogma or belief system - or even a system based on disbelief.

Anyway, Esptein said his congregation will be less a group of people united by beliefs - or disbelief - and more like an opera, or a painting.

“Our community is like a work of art," he said. "Hopefully people will respond to that work of art and it will garner controversy and discussion like a work of art."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (6,897 Responses)
  1. required

    An empty building and people wanting to love nothing for no reason. That is NOT rational.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      What is not rational is putting your "faith" into something that there is no reason to think is there. In order to have faith, you must ignore logic and reason. That is the very definition of irrational.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • bhv

      There's plenty to love and plenty of reasons. Some of us are good without god.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  2. kla

    I "love" the comment that all Christians or believers in God are not educated enough or are not willing to overcome the social pressure of believing in God. So we stay "dumbed down". The trouble with this belief that there is no God is that it is based on scientific belief only. Not scientific belief and Ancient writings. I suggest that you read There is a God by Sanjay Patel and then shoot down the belief in God. So many Professors today shoot down the belief in Christianity and/or God based on their scientific knowledge. They don't have Ancient history knowledge which is so crucial in proving there is a God. Before you discount this, just read the book. It answers every doubt or question you might have and reads like a college textbook. This isn't a book saying I saw heaven. This is actual facts. Check it out and I would love to see what you would say then.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      I don't think you know what a college textbook "reads like."

      June 23, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • bhv

      I studied the bible extensively before concluding that it's a collection of works by persons desiring to hold power over others. They concocted religious dogma to manipulate and control others. Religion is mind control. Free your mind.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • JMEF

      Of course there are gods, they developed when mankind began to ask the eternal question WHY. So every primitive civilization came up with a creation myth and gods, thousands of them and they all reside in the story books written by mankind. BTW if you are referring to the judeo-christian religions, did Sanjay produce a talking snake, cure the sick, raise someone from the dead, etc. or just tell some stories to justify the supernatural?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • mrbadkitty

      so you want me to read a book, written by man that says god is real. And other then the bible, there is no proof that 1/2 the crap that is said in there is real. Furthermore, even the Jews who wrote the bible, say its a collection of fables and not to be taken as literal truth, and you expect me to take your word over the authors?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I have read this work, and many others by this author. He makes many, many a$$umptions, and fills in the rest with speculation. AN excerpt:
      There Is A God … If God Is Incomprehensible
      By Sanjay C Patel on May 4, 2013

      There is a God …
      if the Being is incomprehensible and beyond the human intellect.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is universal – not narrow, partial, and petty.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is beyond the narrow dogma of churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is the source of all the universe, nature, and natural laws.

      There is a God …
      if the Being loves all its creatures in the universe, not just a select few people on earth.

      There is a God …
      if the Being can appear as Jesus, Buddha, or other forms.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is infinitely more intelligent than we.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is infinitely more compassionate than we.

      There is a God …
      if the Being is infinite love.

      There is a God …
      if one listens to wise sages, not angry atheists.

      There is a God …
      prove ancient Biblical and Yoga texts that connect with modern scientific discoveries.

      You see, he is just speculating, nothing more, except for the shot at athesists....I really have not met any "angry atheists". Most are quite rational and level headed. We do often get frustrated with those who like to regurgitate the bible at us, but not angry.

      In short, he philosophizes, but offers no facts of any gods...nice try. Keep trying to educate yourself.

      There is a God. There is a God. There is a God.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      oops...the "there is a god repaeted over and over as if to make himself believe it by repet!tion was supposed to be a part of the excerpt, and not part of the comment following.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • PC

      Some of us believe there is a supreme power of some sort, but I can guarantee that it isn't that mean, jealous, vindictive, immoral, uncaring, reprehensible whatever-it-is that is in your Bible.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Saraswati

      kla, you can't shoot down the theoretical concept of gods based on science. What you can do is shoot down specific gods and almost every religion ever created.

      So, no, not all god-believers are ignorant or in denial, but the majority are missing, willfully or not, some pretty big chunks of information that would knock their particular outdated religion out of the running.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  3. Ed

    Not every atheist goes to a church service on Sunday mornings, most congregate here to languish. What a pitiful state to live in.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • The real Tom

      Then why are you joining them?

      June 23, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Ed

      As we congregate let's sing together,
      'Imagine', imagination is all we've got for now.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • The real Tom

      Do believers have anything more? Doesn't look like it.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • JMEF

      Yes you would know, you are here after all.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • rick

      as opposed to believing that you were born as an affront to god, eddie?

      June 23, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  4. Colin

    Saying "you can't prove God does or does not exist" is to create a false equivalenece between the two positions. Think it throught.

    There is no evidence God exists. Correct.

    There is also "no evidence God does not exist." What "evidence" could there be? Think about it. What possible evidence of non-existence can there be? By definition, there is no evidence of a negative. What evidence is there that Santa Claus does not exist? What evidence is there that the Hindu god Shiva does not exist?

    That is the fundamental difference between there being no proof of a fact and there being "no evidence of a non-fact." The latter is meaningless.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • The real Tom

      I hope Mark will read your post slowly and carefully.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • required

      The bible is filled with evidence of God existing.

      God exists, it is a fact.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, nonsense. The bible isn't evidence of the existence of a god. It's evidence only that some people believed in one and wrote stories about it. Nothing more.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • required

      The bible is big time evidence, huge, universal in size. Real people saying what God did and said.

      You get nothing, with nothing, in an empty building with people wondering what to do to get nothing happy enough to tell them anything at all, ever, over all history. Not one person has said nothing told them anything about making anything.

      That's sad.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • The real Tom

      You can repeat the same nonsense about the bible but that won't change a thing. The bible is not evidence that a god exists.

      You don't have any idea what people "saw," only what somebody wrote decades and centuries later.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  5. Science

    No fairy in the sky needed jboom ?

    How will the Supreme Court decide the Culture Wars?

    By John Avlon, CNN Contributor

    updated 12:31 PM EDT, Sat June 22, 2013


    June 23, 2013 at 7:35 am |
  6. a dose reality

    There are many Atheists however who look down upon Christians as being inferior however because they have not made the leap of common sense and logic to understand that their God is a long perpetrated myth. In a sense it is akin to looking at a child who believes in Santa Clause. As adults we know full well he does not exist. The child hasn't grown up enough to shrug off the silly fantasy that has been fed to him/her to placate them. We see ourselves as the new grown-ups and you as the children placated by your Santa. We are urging you to grow out of that myth.

    The thing is, if you had met an Adult who still believed in Santa you would most likely treat them similarly. Think there's something fundamentally wrong with their sense of reality and wish to explain to them how ridiculous it is. The large difference here is in the fact that Christianity as a whole isn't so innocent as Santa. Christianity is guilty of so very many evil deeds in the name of God and the believers in Christianity are guilty of ignorance. Pretend for a second that the majority of people believed in Santa as a true fact and tried to force you to believe, coerce you to believe and judge you for not believing. This of course being the LEAST of what religions have done to people who don't believe them. You know Santa is a farce. You would be annoyed, angry, and feel like common sense had flown the coop.

    That is what Atheists are dealing with.

    All the logic, science, education and clear and obvious data about the world is purposefully ignored by theists and you swallow lies your whole lives, closed off to the possibility that you are wrong. We are not closed off to the possibility that we are wrong.. In fact, that's how most of us got to this stage of sanity. I was a believer who dared to question the "truth" of the gospels. When the answer to my questions were "pray about it" and "have faith" I needed to keep looking.

    We would be less angry if religions kept to themselves and stopped trying to dictate how others lived. If it stayed out of politics, we wouldn't be angry. If it stopped trying to tell people who aren't followers how to live their lives, we wouldn't care what you believed. If religions didn't cause untold millions of deaths, we would just simply giggle at your silly faith. That is not the case at all.

    You don't see us making cases against people who believe in Pagan faiths, we don't typically touch on Buddhism either. Because they don't try to control others. They do their thing and enjoy their beliefs without causing harm. You will never hear any of us speak out against Jainism for example. Never. They have a simple rule "above all, do no harm" and they follow it very closely. If your religion had that as the tenet and nothing else, we would be happy for you.

    Now please, if you don't mind, this is an Atheist page. However you arrived at this page I welcome you to leave it to go to your Theist pages that there are plenty of. OR you can stick around and learn, but keep your judgement to yourself, because we are here to have fun, learn, and laugh.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • bigmicmusicmachine

      ..well said..

      June 23, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • OccD

      I am appalled by your statement that you are the grown-ups looking down at children playing with Santa Claus. How do you know you are right for sure? You speak of common sense and logic – have you done scientific studies and investigations? I have and I can tell you that the more we discover – the more we discover we don't know. Theist may not agree with you but that doesn't make you better than them.

      I've seen in this discussion forum (not you I think) people talking about things like the recurrent laryngeal nerve and other redundant physical traits that people have that are proof of evolution instead of intelligent design. How many of these people have taken a course in embryology? If you did, you would realize how complex things are you'd be amazed a living thing can even organize and form from an ova and a sperm.

      I've been to churches before and while there is a large number (but not majority) of individuals who are hypocritical, mindless followers and extremely annoying... there is a large number who are intellectual and enjoy science and reason.

      You blame Christianity for doing evil as if every Christian is evil... well there are many atheists who have done evil but we all know that there are also many atheists who are also good people (in this article). If I were to listen to you argument, I could then assume all atheists are like Stalin or Mao who murdered millions... face it – there are people who go to church who are terrible people but there are also many good people who go to church.

      You speak of logic, common sense and education. Well, if we were all to use common sense – most of the objects in your home were created right? Most are pretty hard to make – but given enough time you probably could make it. Well look at living things – I am sure they didn't just appear several thousand years ago – but I have a hard time believing that some lighting zapped a pond and some proteins decided to self perpetuate and then compete with other proteins and then billions of years later voila complex life on earth... what if I told you that your cup was formed randomly over time? What if I told you computer programs developed themselves and evolved over time? I mean right now they have programs that can write programs... so it must have started as a small computer program which evolved over time without external control right?

      Anyways, I'm not saying I know the answer – but you certainly have a lot of prejudice and probably too much arrogance. I respect some Atheists – just not you..

      June 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Ron from New Jersey

    So the difference between religion and secular humanism is......you worship.............uh................a concept?
    Sound more like anti God than pro anything. Didn't this same version of non religion religion happen during the French Revolution.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Saraswati

      From their website:

      "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."

      June 23, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      There isn't any worshiping at all. From what I have read, it is mostly philosophical and naturalist discussions on how to make to the world a better place.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  8. Caihlyn

    Nothing brings out the trolls faster than a debate on religion or the lack thereof. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • atheism is

      the ability to say nothing unless something is said to it first.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  9. A dose of Reality

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  10. atheism is

    not synonymous with "mailbox".

    June 23, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • atheism is

      not synonymous with female box

      June 23, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • atheism is

      good for plants.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  11. atheism is

    a word that has 3 vowels and 4 consonants.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • atheism is

      a handle that is being co-opted

      June 23, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • atheism is

      a handle that is not copyrighted.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      A handle? Are your blog posts being transcribed from a conversation over CB radio?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  12. happy sunday morning

    hey atheist

    happy sunday service. please share your homilies with us

    June 23, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  13. A dose of Reality

    To all you religious posters here:PLease prove that Zeus and Apollo do not exist and then we atheists will use your method to prove your gawd does not exist. Up for the challenge? We're all waiting!!!!

    June 23, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Ron from New Jersey

      The source..............their is no real written source from them that claims there own existance.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • Mark

      Hey Dose..please prove that Jesus who claimed to be God and walked sinless, didn't do so, and his claims aren't true. God loves you Dose, please don't cut and paste.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      Hey, Marko, please figure out that you can't prove there isn't a Beanie Baby otter circling Uranus.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Mark

      Tommy boy...Your'e funny. Had a real person who was an anti beanie baby reported seeing it on a number of occasions, it may be true....Josephus historian.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      Marky does not know how to punctuate sentence. Marky make little sense and less funny.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Mark

      Little Tommy..it was not meant to be funny, just trying to put it in terms you might be able to grasp.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      Platitudes are meaningless. If that's all you have, and I have seen nothing in your posts to indicate otherwise, don't bother.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      Josephus was born seven years after the reported death of jesus. How did he "see" it?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • G to the T

      OMG (irony intended) I'm sick of people bringing up Josephus. If it wasn't a forgery (and there is evidence it might be), the entry only proves there were Christians, it doesn't prove ANYTHING about the veracity of what they believed...

      June 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  14. atheism is

    a word used far too often by believers.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  15. Mark

    Truth P_Your angst and hatred toward Christians is evidence of the net result of your disbelief, but I know down deep inside you have a heart waiting to believe. Not nice to call people names it shows your angst. Jesus is the way please apply all of your negative remarks toward his life and see if they apply. Not all atheist are horrible people just as not all Christians are as you describe. You will come back before you perish. God Love ya!

    June 23, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • the real Tom

      What a big bowl of nonsense that was!

      June 23, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • A dose of Reality

      Billions of people on planet earth disagree with you. Religion is man made horse doo doo. You are just too lazy fearfull and ignorant to figure it out for yourself.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Mark

      Dose- you shouldn't say mean things like that it shows your atheism. A truly theistic person following the teachings of Jesus shouldn't either. God Loves you Dose.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Mark

      Real Tom...Liar liar pants on fire is for third graders. I trust you are smarter that that.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      I trust you don't run any of the atomic weapons sites for a living, Marko.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Mark

      No I don't , I don't believe in weapons of mass destruction. I believe we should love on another instead. I do run my own company though, and I teach my employees to do their best but more importantly love on another. Funny an atheist would use
      atom smashing as an insult. Rings so true, based on your lack of belief. Go loves you anyway Tommy boy.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • The real Tom

      If your employees "love on another" frequently, you are going to have some complaints about sexual harassment very soon.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Mark

      Go and God loves you! So let go and let Jesus.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • The real Tom

      Could you possibly spout more meaningless pap?

      June 23, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  16. atheism is

    a word containing no Zs.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  17. atheism is

    a word that does not rhyme with sasquatch

    June 23, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • atheism is

      a word that does not rhyme with anything else, either.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  18. atheism is

    a word containing few, if any, Q's

    June 23, 2013 at 7:10 am |
  19. John Vance

    Neither religion nor atheism has ever rung true for me. Both are statements that one is a possessor of absolute truth but they are not. They are statements of BELIEF that one is a possessor of absolute truth. There exists no compelling, unequivocal evidence that either position is correct.
    Truth stands by itself and is as vast and magnificent as the cosmos. Believing to the depth, breadth and width of ones heart and soul cannot create, destroy or in any way alter truth.
    To have the capacity and opportunity to pursue truth is a wondrous gift for humanity, but we cannot know if we will ever reach that goal and must accept that all our efforts may be in vain. But to stop the pursuit in the interest of soothing ones personal emotional needs is a waste of the short time we have available to search.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Atheism is the rejection of theist claims. Nothing more. I'm an atheist because I find the claims of theists unreliable. I make no claims of absolute knowledge. That would be dishonest.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Saraswati

      Both are right because both are current uses of the term atheism. And I think the atheists need to own up to trying to use a single word to cover both positive and negative belief in gods. Most of the English speaking world calls those with negative belief agnostics, but the claim is this word is rejected for philosophical or etymological reasons. Certainly so, problem is that no alternate is offered and the word agnostic in its every day use, etymology aside, has a perfectly useful role to most people.

      As a non-god-believer, my issue is that I would rather dissociate from this term than be lumped with those who feel certainty about god's non-existence, which is more atheists than many admit to. People who cling to the term atheist tend to fluctuate between expressing positive and negative belief in an ingenuous way that is convenient to the moment. And some seem to think having this large umbrella ups the atheist count.

      Worse, people use the term in contrast to things like Christianity. Atheism isn't a contrast to Christianity, Buddhism, Humanism, Unitarianism or Judaism are. Atheism is just a contrast to theism, which isn't particularly useful outside a few academic discussions.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Jon

      Atheist Steve: Then what is the difference between your `belief status' and an agnostic?

      June 23, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Colin

      Saying "you can't prove God does or does not exist" is to create a false equivalenece between the two positions. Think it throught.

      There is no evidence God exists. Correct.

      There is also "no evidence God does not exist." What "evidence" could there be? Think about it. What possible evidence of non-existence can there be? By definition, there is no evidence of a negative. What evidence is there that Santa Claus does not exist? What evidence is there that the Hindu god Shiva does not exist?

      That is the fundamental difference between there being no proof of a fact and there being "no evidence of a non-fact." The latter is meaningless.

      June 23, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • AtheistSteve


      Both apply. My atheism speaks to my belief. I'm situationally agnostic with regard to knowledge. I've had this discussion with saraswati before and we agree to disagree. In every case where I am confronted by a "theist" they invariably are speaking about a "specific" god. Their god. Based on the claims they are making and the arguments they use to support their belief the strength of my atheism differs. Thus I'm a weak or agnostic atheist with regard to a non-interfering deistic first cause god because such a being is indistinguishable from a non-existent god. But for the Christian god my view shifts to strong or gnostic atheism because of logical contradictions. The 3 Omni's are self-refuting. The tales of a garden of Eden, Noah's flood, virgin birth, resurrection, miracles, power of prayer, souls and an afterlife and a host of other claims that are all physically impossible, have zero evidence and must be accepted on faith alone. To make claims of tangible manifestations by an actively involved god without a shred of actual proof beyond the testimony of adherents who "feel" his presence can be dismissed as imaginary out of hand.

      June 23, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  20. floyd scrodinger

    It's a shame that those who worship a god are not capable of understanding that there are people, good people, who do not worship a god. The believers refuse to understand that non-believers are not anti god. To the believers, others are just destined for hell, end of discussion. Don't confuse them with the facts.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:06 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.