The White House vs. Westboro Baptist Church
Shirley Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church protests. Despite disagreeing with the church, the White House says it can't label Westboro a hate group.
July 3rd, 2013
05:56 PM ET

The White House vs. Westboro Baptist Church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(CNN) –The Obama administration will not label Westboro Baptist Church a hate group, saying it's not the government's practice to apply the designation.

More than 367,000 petitioners had called on the White House to "Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group." For months the Westboro petition was the top petition on the White House's "We The People" website.

Four related petitions, including one calling for the Internal Revenue Service to revoke Westboro's tax exemption, also garnered more than 300,000 signatures.

A White House official, speaking on background, told CNN that petitions that cross the threshold of 100,000 signatures are reviewed by policy staff and receive a response.

On Tuesday, the White House posted its response to the Westboro petitions.

Officially, the response to the requested hate group designation was "no comment."

"As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups," the White House said.

Instead, labeling hate groups is the job of private groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, the White House said.

But the administration did comment on other aspects of the petitions, agreeing that protesting at military funerals - one of Westboro's favorite practices - is "reprehensible." An animated map posted online shows what the White House says is opposition to the church spreading across the country.

"We agree that practices such as protesting at the funerals of men and women who died in service to this country and preventing their families from mourning peacefully are reprehensible - a point that President Obama has made for years," the White House said.

In response to Westboro, Congress and Obama enacted a law in 2012 restricting protesters' time at, and proximity to, military funerals. The law followed a 2011 Supreme Court decision upholding Westboro's free speech rights to protest at funerals.

Led by its pastor, Fred Phelps, Westboro says soldiers' deaths are part of God's punishment on the United States for "the sin of homosexuality."

Members have traveled the country shouting at grieving families at funerals and displaying such signs as "Thank God for dead soldiers," "God blew up the troops" and "AIDS cures fags."

Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with a broader Baptist denomination. The autonomous church has 50 members, many of whom are members of the Phelps family.  The church says they have picketed more than 50,000 events.

A GIF map created by the White House highlights the ZIP codes of the people who signed the anti-Westboro petitions.  

The map shows heavy concentration of signers in Kansas and Connecticut, "two places that have unique insight into the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church," the White House said. The church is based in Topeka, Kansas. As for Connecticut, the Obama administration suggests the anti-Westboro animus stems from the church's threats to protest the funerals of students killed in December's Sandy Hook School shooting.

Gif Created on Make A Gif

Westboro responded to the petition on social media.

"About to swoon with glee! @whitehouse @barackobama telling the world about @WBCSays preachments!" they wrote, adding a picture of the president with horns and the title "AntiChrist Obama."


CNN's Bill Mears and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (973 Responses)
  1. Len

    The more I see of Westboro, the more I'm beginning to suspect that they're just trying to be satirical. Either that, or they really are the most practical example of why POE's Law is true. You simply couldn't create a more obvious strawman of a Conservative church even if you tried.

    July 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  2. Anne

    For those of us who ARE frustrated with WBC: keep your opinions to yourself. You certainly may vent about them. But by passing legislation you would give them attention. Concrete evidence that they have gotten to you. By keeping your opinions to yourself or discussing it in private they have less control. Who knows maybe they might thus back away and disappear. I admit it's a longshot, but we might get lucky!

    July 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • MaryM

      True, they want the attention. But they will die off soon because of their inbreeding

      July 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  3. MaryM

    Someone bought a house across the street from one of the WBC members and painted the house the Rainbow colors of the LGBT flag

    July 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  4. hey

    some one please throw some diarrhea on them as you drive by.

    July 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  5. Fred Phelps

    I sure do love me some penis

    July 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  6. Cpt. Obvious

    Does anyone here, believer or atheist, appreciate the input of member "Lol?"

    July 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm |

      No, we all wish he would go away adn never post again.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bostontola

      I like lol?? being here, its good to know where the spectrum reaches.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  7. GD


    The've probably driven public support towards the LGBT community, and away from their cause.

    July 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  8. Bostontola

    As an atheist, I actually support religion. Diversity of thought is good for humanity. A purely rational thinking society would do a lot of good, but perhaps less greatness. Humans thinking outside the box (even so outside its not real) have stimulated great things in the box. Great fictional literature, outrageous art, religion, etc. is probably good for us. I just wish there was a way to define and control the lunatic fringe.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      "Lunatic fringe (fringe...fringe...) I know you're out there (out there...out there..)"

      Couldn't resist.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Religion occurs when thought, often irrational thought, crystallizes and becomes resistant to criticism or change. Diversity is a good thing. People abandoning original thought and self-criticism for the convenience of fossilized ideas is not.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Red Rider, good stuff. Apropos as well, about antisemitism.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Hmm....Is it possible to have religion without dogma? Thought experiment: Could atheists design a religion that was "appropriate" for people to believe and participate in?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Tom, there is a lot of unoriginal thinking across the board, not just in religion. There has been a lot of original ideas that have come from religious thinkers mulling our future. I value it, and mostly ignore the mundane.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bostontola

      I think there will be. I still like the diversity that a supernatural being brings, it forces a completely different thought process that occasionally stimulates ideas otherwise inaccessible.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Both the WH and the Radical Church are hate groups.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Akira


      July 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • eqgold

      Bzzzzt. Sorry, thank you for playing though.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • David

      You are a silly, silly, silly person

      July 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  10. wirklich

    Die Moderatoren dieser Blog nun in Zensur von Ideen zu engagieren. Dies ist eine ganz andere Sache, von Beschränkung von profane Sprache und persönliche Angriffe. Ich vermute, Daniel leidet Napoleon-Komplex.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  11. Bostontola

    Morality predates religion and mans belief in god. Bonobos have an evolved moral system and an evolved sense of fairness.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Bostontola

      It is hard to know when mercy should be applied.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  12. Eric EKstrom

    Westboro church is a hate org. It does not provide links to what God wants from us, and by that very fact, it is then a hate group. Obama just doesn't want to tangle with a religion ... that is interpreted as to hate people. It's too touchy of a subject.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Colin

      What "God wants for us" is exactly what the person who believes in god says he wants. Gods are figments of our imagination and we project upon them our own hopes, dreams and prejudices. In this respect, a gay-hating, soldier-killing god is no more or less plausible than a kind, loving, forgiving god. Gods, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • AE

      We can know God on a person level. That access is available to all of us.

      Ask, and He will give you so much evidence, you won't be able to deny Him.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Len

      So, you totally disagree with everything that Westboro stands for, and openly accept gays and all?

      July 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Len

      So, if you believe in God first then you will get whatever "evidence" for believing in God you want? Wouldn't that work equally well for any god, or even things like UFO aliens and Bigfoot?

      July 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Colin

      AE has been claiming he has evidence but has not produced it despite numerous requests. I think it is fair to say that he has mnothing more than voices in his head or a warm, fuzzy feeling his sky-fairy belief gives him. But, AE, please feel free to prove me wrong.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      AE has also claimed that his church uses logic and reason over pure myth quotations, but his posts prove otherwise......or his church is doing a really terrible job when it comes to him, specifically.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • AE

      @ Len

      I don't know. Try humbly and selflessly praying to UFO aliens or Bigfoot and see what happens.

      @ Colin

      The evidence comes from GOD. Not me.

      There is a supreme intelligence in this universe... and it is not you (sorry).

      @ Cpt Obvious

      I did not say that. Please post my quotes where I said that. And don't just say what you imagine I said. Exact quotes please.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Len

      I think you know what I meant. Once you allow yourself to believe in UFO aliens and Bigfoot, then the "evidence" that's out there for them becomes convincing and compelling to you, where it wouldn't if you were looking at it with an open mind.

      That's how it works with "evidence" for God as well. Once you are convinced that he's real, and are taught to love him, then you are looking at the "evidence" through God-colored glasses and simply cannot allow yourself to see the faults, contradictions, and illogic of it all.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @AE – "I did not say that. Please post my quotes where I said that. And don't just say what you imagine I said. Exact quotes please."

      "We have an educational hour, where experts from different fields come and talk to us. We ask questions and they answer. We have people from different faith backgrounds and even people of no faith speak.

      Similar to Cpt. Obvious's claim?

      July 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      July 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • AE

      "We have an educational hour..."

      How is that a claim the my church uses logic and reason over pure myth quotations?

      I am saying that we are open-minded to new ideas.

      We think God wants us to learn. We actually support science, medical and technological advances.

      We do more than just talk about it.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • AE

      How do you think I was convinced he was real? And how do you think I was taught how to love him?

      God revealed himself as real to me. Very real.

      I was lead to a community of people that help others. They just don't talk about it on the internet. And they don't put-down others with insults.

      No matter who you are, what you believe or how you act, they will help you.

      I've met real scientist that are a part of this community.

      Instead of writing up cute little stories about their dream press release that Reuters will publish in 10 years, they are actually making a difference.

      They do a lot more than sit on the internet and complain.

      They are not full of it.

      I am new, but I am loving this new group. They are so open-minded and loving. Nothing like I have been in my life. 2 years ago I would be arguing right along with you, Captain O and Colin.

      But I know have access to God's knowledge through prayer and meditation.

      God's knowledge is way bigger than Captain O and Colin's. And it is available to them, too.

      GOD IS GOOD!

      July 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @AE – "We actually support science, medical and technological advances."

      Do you and your church accept the fact of evolution of the hominids? Do you and your church accept that epigenetics can influence and determine sexual orientation?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      AE, your sentiment is not expressed in a single quotation, but rather across several posts in a conversation we held yesterday where you continually refused to address the issues I raised with your points in favor of continuing to throw red herrings in our path. Whether or not you ever admit that you intended the statement is irrelevant to the FACT that you expressed it in an admittedly round about way.


      July 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And AE passes up another opportunity to come clean about the evidence the claimed he has. He can't even bring himself to admit he "misspoke," has no actual evidence but believes in unfounded myths anyway.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Cpt. Obvious

      I can think of few human endeavors that don't utilize logic to a great extent. Religions and cults use it because they must if they are to be practical in running their organizations and managing their time and resources.....they just don't use it to determine veracity of "truth."

      July 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |


      "Religions and cults use it [logic] because they must if they are to be practical in running their organizations and managing their time and resources.....they just don't use it to determine veracity of "truth.""

      My church doesn't operate this way.

      I know others that don't either.

      July 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |

      In other words, AE, in the post of yours I quote above, you claim that your church uses logic to determine truth (it's veracity) instead of the statements in your myth/holy book. Can you deny that this is what you intended?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • AE

      Cpt Obvious.

      You claimed I was brainwashed, yet failed explain how.

      I claimed I belong to a group that is open minded.

      And I am free to come and go as I wish.

      They ask if I want to help out with a group like "Habitat for Humanity", but don't demand I do it.

      So I tried to explain what my group is like.

      Since you have not been to my group, you have no idea.

      You must rely on your faith of what a religious group looks like.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • AE

      Cpt Obvious

      "Religions and cults use it [logic] because they must if they are to be practical in running their organizations and managing their time and resources.....they just don't use it to determine veracity of "truth.""

      No. We want to know the truth.

      We probably actually do more to support and encourage science and medical advances than you personally do.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • AE

      You can consider this my church's stance:

      "Traditional religious creation stories and evolution are complementary. Science and religion together can weave a rich tapestry of new meaning for our age."

      – Philip Hefner, Ph.D.

      We encourage an open dialogue at my church.

      What is great that, unlike talking with you, they don't insist that their view is the best view. That is evidence to me of something great.

      July 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @AE – "You can consider this my church's stance"

      No offense intended, AE, but that sounds like a dodge. I asked two specific questions that really can be answered with a "yes" or "no". Would you mind being a bit more direct?

      July 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And AE continues to dig his hole. . .

      Misses yet another opportunity to deliver his evidence for his god, or admit that he was wrong. Chastises the good captain for making statements without knowledge. But then goes on to make a claim about his cult relative to the captain without any actual knowledge of the captain (although he was careful to use a conditional). I see lots of deflection to avoid coming clean about the lack of evidence. . .

      July 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, re: science and religion being compatible, complementary or not in conflict, please cite one published and generally accepted scholarly scientific article that concludes with "some god did it."

      July 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • AE


      I didn't see your questions, that post was to Cpt. O

      + Do you and your church accept the fact of evolution of the hominids?

      Well, it has not been proven as a fact. But it appears to be true.

      + Do you and your church accept that epigenetics can influence and determine s.xual orientation?


      July 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • AE


      Ok, I'll start looking for that article.


      “God is Truth. There is no incompatibility between science and religion. Both are seeking the same truth. Science shows that God exists.”

      “The observations and experiments of science are so wonderful that the truth that they establish can surely be accepted as another manifestation of God. God shows himself by allowing man to establish truth.”

      –Sir Derek Barton, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, as quoted in Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and H.mo sapiens.

      July 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, I think we have conclusively established that you have no evidence for any god. Does Barton have any, or are you just throwing out another quote and dodging behind yet another unfounded claim?

      July 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • AE

      I agree that you seem to think that.

      I'm showing you a quote from a man that actually works in science.

      I'm going to trust him over you on this matter.

      July 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @AE – "I didn't see your questions..."

      Thanks for the candid response, AE. Enjoy your holiday.


      July 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, I haven't made any unsupported claims so you don't have to trust me. Why don't you just admit that you, or any other believer, do not have any actual evidence for any god. All that you have is a deep seated belief in 2,000+ year old myths. In other words, you have blind faith in an alleged supernatural being, but nothing more.

      July 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • AE

      I can't deny that God is real.

      I would be lying if I did so.

      July 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • G to the T


      I can't deny that "I BELIEVE" God is real.

      I would be lying if I did so.

      – There you go – thought I'd fix that for you. If you believe that's fine, it means you've made a descision based on findings (emotional or logical).... but it's still just a belief. Certainty of a position is the end of knowledge, not being "open minded".

      July 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  13. Colin

    I wonder how long it will tale for my dream below to be realized.


    Reuters AAP – The last place of worship the USA officially closed its doors yesterday. The Church of Christ Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama held its last service at 10:00 on Sunday morning and was promptly shuttered by its pastor. “While I will be sorry to see a tradition pas.s, I guess it was time to move on,” declared Pastor Kevin Smith, “It saddens me a little, but I can no longer preach things I no longer believe in myself. Also, given that my congregation is elderly and poor, donations are down to a spasmodic trickle.”

    The closure marks the culmination of a dramatic surge in secularism in the USA following the Catholic Church scandals of the early 21st Century. After litigation and investigations revealed that every Pope since 1950 and virtually all American Archbishops were acutely aware of the depth of the pedophilia problem, sweeping new policies were implemented under President Gibbs’ administration (2040-2048).

    Under his “No Mind Left Behind” policy, children were taught science, history, psychology and critical thinking from their first year of school. It was not until they were in their early teens and had a grounding in healthy skepticism and independent thought, that any supernatural belief, such as astrology or religion was allowed to be presented to them. Such beliefs were, of course, almost universally rejected by them as silly nonsense.

    As interest in the supernatural has dwindled, the vacated churches, synagogues and mosques in the USA were sold off and the proceeds invested in a fund which, under the XXV Amendment to the US Const.itution, could only be used to further scientific education and environmental awareness and protection. Already the fund has been responsible for returning vast swaths of land to their natural state, in the USA and elsewhere and has largely been credited for ensuring the survival of the tiger, cheetah and mountain gorilla.

    Bibles and The Book of Mormon, which once graced virtually every hotel room in the USA, were replaced with Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.”

    As people have increasingly realized there is no sky-being looking out for us, donations to the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation, the Red Heart (f/k/a “Red Cross”) and Doctors Without Borders are at an all time high. “Looking back, it’s weird to think of some of the nonsense people believed as late as the early 21st Century,” commented Pastor Smith, as he locked the doors and walked nonchalantly from his church. “I guess you can’t judge them too harshly, though. When you’re taught it from such an early age and then told it’s immoral to even question it, I guess you are easy prey.”

    July 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      It won't happen and it will be a sad day if it ever does happen.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Colin

      Actually Dave, it would be a wonderful day, a real landmark in the intellectual development of our species. One of the World's leading countries finally and definitively throws off the shackles of organized superst.ition once and for all.

      A rejection of the supernatural does not mean a rejection of the morality espoused by mainstream Christianity. One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts or goblins and believeing in them does not, per se, make one moral.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bostontola

      A long time. The religion memes have been shown to be quite strong. The infection mechanism exploits the complete trust that has evolved among parents and children. Without that trust, the survival rate of human children would have been much less. The mind of a child easily believes impossible things, that has been proven in controlled experiments. Religion relies on this mechanism and it is strong, and likely to persist for a lomg time.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Thad

      Jesus Christ has always been, always will be. "the fool says in his heart, 'there is no God"

      July 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Len

      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that
      It won't result from Christianity being outlawed, or anything. One can only assume that when it happens there simply wouldn't be any interest in keeping the doors open anymore, and that people will be content with that.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      Good job, Colin, as usual. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the "Idiocracy" scenario is quite possible too.

      * tiny edit: It's "Melinda" Gates (not "Malinda")

      July 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Some people do good purely because of their religion. Many religious organisations are involved in feeding and educating the poor. Many people, who do good for Heaven Brownie points, will cease their good works.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I tend to think it would be a good thing, but it might not be. It's tough to say. My prediction is that new myths will arise in our culture that more carefully cover the known facts. Because these new "stories" will incorporate more completely what we know (from science) social Darwinism will cause them to "win out" over the less complete myths like Christianity and Islam and other religions/cults. Whether these new myths have the aspect of "religion" as we know it is harder to predict.

      The historical record supports this prediction.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Bostontola

      "the fool says in his heart, 'there is no God"

      What do you call a person that convinces their children that Santa Claus is real?

      July 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that


      Well that will not happen, not in the next 1,000 years at least.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Colin

      @Bostontola. Dawkins' view on it certainly has merit. The most interesting thing is that about 7% of adults who are members of the American Academy of Sciences still believe in a personal god. This is amazing. These are among the most elite scientists in America and a whopping 7% still believe their childhood superst.itions.

      The answer to what drives religion quite possible lies in the internal reconcilliation of this 7%.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • AE

      “A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world.”

      –Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., who received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the first known binary pulsar, and for his work which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @ I'm sorry that dave does that sort of thing

      I disagree. I think that the people who do "good" in their particular belief system will do "good" in another belief system. As in all cases, there's a few outliers, but even with the outliers, I think they'd be the ones prone to act poorly within their belief system in times of stress/crisis.

      The root post basically expresses a moral: that dogma based on myth is less efficient than reasoning based on fact. I agree with the underlying premise used.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Colin

      "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this." – Albert Einstein in a 1952 letter to Paul Gutkin.

      “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." – Stephen Hawkins, 2013.

      “First of all, I’m an atheist. The second thing I know is that the name was a kind of joke and not a very good one.” – Peter Higgs, the discoverer of the Higgs Boson, the so called “God particle,” commenting on how he wishes people would stop using the term to describe the particle.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • AE

      Not many scientists are hostile towards religion.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, does Taylor have any more evidence for "God" than you claim you do but are not willing to share? I think not and suspect you both are mentally ill, liars or both.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious


      You don't speak for all of Christianity, and most Christians (most of the population in the US) claim that there IS a discrepancy between science and religion. Do you realize the percentage of the US population that does not "believe" in evolution because of the stupid creation myths contained in the bible? It's really hard to blame them, and it's pretty easy to blame you since the "science claims" in the bible are laughably incorrect.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Really-O?

      “Religion is based primarily upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly as the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.”

      Bertrand Russell – philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. Nobel laureate.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • AE

      “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”

      “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon. I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.”

      –Albert Einstein

      “God [is] the author of the universe, and the free establisher of the laws of motion.”

      –Physicist and chemist Robert Boyle, who is considered to be the founder of modern chemistry.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Bostontola

      There are huge prima facia discrepancies between religion and science. There is not currently any discrepancy between existence of god and science.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Sunshine33

      This is what the Soviet Union, communist China, and other repressive regimes have tried to do, by suppressing religious practice and teaching children that religious faith is "an ancient myth", that science somehow replaces God (ironic since so many scientists have been motivated by their faith in God to study the natural world), and that God does not exist. Those societies suffered so much darkness, until freedom opened doors again for faith and love to come in. But, as Jesus said metaphorically, if you try to silence the truth of the Gospel, "even the stones will cry out". You can't silence the truth forever. When people are allowed to openly love God and their neighbor, life flourishes.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Len

      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that
      "Some people do good purely because of their religion."

      And many do good despite their religion, or without any religious control at all, but what does that say about the people who need religion to do good? Are they just acting selfishly?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • AE

      “I’m not an atheist"

      Albert Einstein

      “If we need an atheist for a debate, we go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.”

      –Robert Griffiths, winner of the Heinemann Prize in mathematical physics.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Really-O?

      Leading scientists still reject God

      Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998)


      July 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Len

      How about the repressive regimes that allow religious belief to dictate how people live, like Iran and Saudi Arabia? Plenty of Conservative Christians would love to have the Bible dictate law here in the USA like the Koran does in those countries, ignoring the fact that people of other faiths, or no faith at all are also citizens. Either way, there is no freedom of religion, right?

      Why is it that we never hear of any game-changing discoveries from these believing scientists? They may personally believe in a god for personal reasons, but where are the scientists who can lay their professional careers on proving that some god exists?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Len


      "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." (Albert Einstein, 1954)

      July 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, instead of throwing out quotes by scientists, many of whiom lived in a time when not being a believer would likely end your scientific career (or life in an earlier time), especially the ones by Einstein that can be easily refuted with more of his own words, how about you deliver the evidence for your god that you claimed to have? Or do the honorable thing and admit you have no such evidence but believe unfounded myths anyway. Or admit that you are ill, a liar or both. But I suspect you will continue to abuse your own cult leaders's commandments about telling the truth.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • AE

      I used a quote from the 1990's.

      Colin used an Einstein quote, you didn't have a problem with him.

      But when I use it... it is suddenly old and contradictory. Nice.

      To the question, “What do you think should be the relationship between science and religion?” Walter Kohn replied: “Mutual respect. They are complementary important parts of the human experience.” (Kohn 2002).

      And to the inquiry, “What do you think about the existence of God?” Walter Kohn gave the following answer: “There are essential parts of the human experience about which science intrinsically has nothing to say. I a$sociate them with an ent.ty which I call God.” (Kohn 2002).

      –Walter Kohn was the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • AE


      Please explain to me how I have a cult leader who's commandments I follow.

      Tell me all about your theory.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, you appear to be a member of the dead jew zombie vampire death cult aka christianity. The alleged supernatural leaders of this cult (or group of cults) have several commandments, including the infamous Ten Commandments, including one about not lying. You appear to consistently lie about having evidence for your alleged good, therefore you are breaking your cult's leader's commandments. Where did I go wrong?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The great majority of scientists (esp. biologists) see no conflict between religion and evolution, not because they occupy different, noncompeting magisteria, but because they see religion as a natural product of human evolution. Sociologists and cultural anthropologists, in contrast, tend toward the hypothesis that cultural change alone produced religions, minus evolutionary change in humans. The overwhelming majority of scientists reject the basic tenets of religion, such as gods, life after death, incorporeal spirits or the supernatural. Yet they still hold a compatible view of religion and science.
      Src: (Greg Graffin and Will Provine, "American Scientist 95[4]:294-297, 2007.)

      July 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • AE


      + AE, you appear to be a member of the dead jew zombie vampire death cult aka christianity.

      Zombie is the living undead. Jesus Christ was resurrected alive. He proved He was not a zombie.

      But I am a Christian. Which means I am asked to love God and love others, like you.

      + The alleged supernatural leaders of this cult (or group of cults) have several commandments, including the infamous Ten Commandments, including one about not lying.

      The 10 Commandments are God's suggestions on how we should treat other people.

      God loves these other people, like you, and wants me to love them, too.

      + You appear to consistently lie about having evidence for your alleged good, therefore you are breaking your cult's leader's commandments.

      I have evidence of God.

      If I didn't I wouldn't believe in God.


      If you want the evidence, I think you need to find it yourself. Ask humbly and selflessly.

      + Where did I go wrong?

      These are your opinions, not facts. Only a God can make his opinion a fact.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      AE, you continue to add to your lies. . .

      For example, The Babble claims numerous physical events happened at the time of the alleged resurrection. There is not a single independent confirmation for any of those alleged very significant events. It is highly unlikely the alleged resurrection took place as described, therefore it is not a fact. You believe things for which you have no evidence. "Evidence" that exists only in your head, or the head's of fellow cult members, is not true evidence. Most likely it is evidence of mental illness or chronic lying.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The evidence you have of God's existence.
      For a skeptic to experience this evidence, would they need a device capable of intercepting and decoding psychic message from a supernatural ent/ity?
      In other words, is this proof subjective or objective?

      July 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • AE

      @ Doc

      As a skeptic I would suggest being open to the idea of a God that is beyond your understanding as a good thing.
      A God that is not limited on our understanding of the universe is a helpful thing to have.

      July 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You didn't answer the question.

      Are you open to accepting every single assertion ever made, no matter how unprovable or unlikely?
      For example, one hypothesis about the origin of existence is pantheistic solipsism – basically every idea anybody has ever had creates its own reality. The world in which you find yourself could be a bit of underdone potato, like Marley's ghost.
      It would mean that every thought is manifest somehwere out there. Oz exists along with Heaven, Valhalla, and The Smurf's Village. Abraham's God is out there, as is Quetzlcoatl, Spider-Man and The Galactic Overlord Xenu...

      If you just open yourself to accepting The Truth of pantheistic solipsism, the evidence will present itself. Just not in any tangible, useful, repeatable or demonstrable way. Just like your God hypothesis.

      July 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • AE

      @ Doc

      I gave an answer to your question. I just didn't answer it the way you are trying to lead me.

      None of those things you mention have been revealed as true to me.

      Jesus Christ has.

      If you honestly want to know how a skeptical man can come to believe in Jesus Christ I can help you.

      If you just want to prove how you believe I am wrong based on your as.sumption and limited knowledge about me and my experiences... well join the club. I got a lot of people doing that to me today.

      July 4, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The question is simple:
      Is your proof subjective or objective.

      If the former, you cannot expect anyone else to take it at face value. If the latter, we would all like to know how it is tangible, testable, repeatable and demonstrable.

      July 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • AE

      Only a God is capable of knowing all that there is to know.

      My experience with God is greater than your undestanding of what knowledge is.

      God's knowledge is greater than human knowledge.

      It turned a life long skeptical atheist like me into a believer.

      I have tested this knowledge in a most spectacular and miraculous way: my life.

      I believe in miracles. I believe life is more than logic and reason. The beauty I hear in music surpasses all logic and reason. The only way to accurately describe music to me, is in poetry.

      We have a logical side of our brain.

      We have a creative side of our brain.

      I strive to use both sides. You can tap into a knowledge that surpasses scientific understanding.

      July 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Everybody has a logical and an emotional aspect to themselves and we all must choose how much we wish to develop them.
      Music is one of those rare things that develop both.
      You should read "This is Your Brain On Music – The Science of a Human Obsession" by Daniel Levitin.
      I am, like most, deeply moved by certain music, some if it unabashedly religious, like these guys:

      One of my favourite musicians is also a professor of evolutionary biology, and yet he has crafted some deeply spiritual songs.
      In this one, he puts himself in the shoes of Job as God and Satan settle their bet, but it speaks to the hope all people have of a peaceful world.

      But while music can combine emotion and logic,crafting evocative sound with mathematical precision, one still cannot base rationality on feelings.
      Faith is perhaps the most powerful of all emotions. It inspires the best and worst in those who embrace it.
      But faith is not reasonable.
      Religious faith, by its very nature, is unquantifiable.
      Faith is the emotion that precedes reason.
      And therein lies its weakness. Once a proposition has been accepted on faith, it cannot thereafter be examined by reason.
      If I have one article of faith, it would be that while many things are unknown, nothing is ultimately unknowable.

      July 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Len

      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Is that a prophecy? We all know how well those stick to set schedules, don't we? 😉

      July 5, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  14. omeany

    This is a prime example of what tribal religion. Tribal religion is when you "god" is used to justify whatever hatred/predjudice you have by simply stating "god is against it so I am against it" when in fact just the opposite is true. That is clearly what is going on here.

    Tribal religion is also used to force the tribes rules on those who not only don't believe in what the tribe does but want no part of the tribe. We see this when red states ram anti abortion laws through their state house and senate when it is clear that in most cases the majority of the people they claim to represent don't want this. But they invoke the name of the tribal god and say they are doing what's right in the name of this god when in fact they are doing for entirely personal reasons.

    I believe in God but at the end of the day it is just that, my belief. None of us really know God's agenda and using him to further your own is done at your own peril.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • tony

      You are well along the logic path to realizing there actually isn't a god. Just the global projection of tribal thinking.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Errogant2

      It's actually an example of the evil that can be done by a persuasive, abusive, mentally ill father. Mr. Phelps is truly deranged.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Eli Christman

      You should check out "When Religion Becomes Evil" by Charles Kimball. This relates to what you are saying here, he just expresses it a little differently. Blind Obedience is the largest warning sign at the WBC. However, I'm not convinced it was ever about gays or soldiers... those are simply hot button topics used to instigate the public. It's simply – and only – about publicity for the WBC. At least for the leader; the rest just blindly follow him.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  15. yo!

    the media plays into theirs hands by publicizing their stunts ... both expressions of free speech

    July 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • PennyK

      No more than the media supports the crazy vitriol of pastors like Pat Robertson.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  16. Colin

    Who was it who said "You can be pretty sure you created god in your image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do." ?

    July 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Bostontola

    There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Austin Powers' faja.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • tony

      Because of all their dikes?

      July 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  18. tony

    The bible is an outstanding collection of evidence of the non-existence of any gods.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  19. TAJW

    Westboro Baptist Church calls themselves a church, but they are not. They are not part of any organized religion. You anti-God people can just stop right there.

    If you want to know who the WBC really are, visit the Patriot Guard Riders website (patriotguard.org) and look at the section 'Our History' The Patriot Guard, now hundreds of thousands of members, typically (but not necessarily) ex-military was formed to keep the deviants from WBC from picketing funerals of military members killed in the line of duty.

    The in-bred lunatics of WBC are NOT by any means Christians. So again, don't even start.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      No True Scotsman

      July 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • PennyK

      There are plenty of "liberal" Christians who see every church that protests gay equality the same way you view the Westboro church, and they may actually outnumber you. Should we put it to a vote?

      July 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      We're not anti-god. We just want some proof of his/her/its existence. The creators of this religion created this god and got people like you to believe he exists under the threat of eternal hellfire and torture. All of that's very interesting but please give us some evidence. In the meantime, we're not anti your imaginary friend. We would, however, like to see you get past this infantile stage.

      July 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      You don't have to belong to a larger religious group to be a church. Plenty of churches are free standing. I have friends who belong to an independent Baptist church. There are no US or state policies as far as I know that require a church to be a certain size for any legal rights or benefits and I would assume that all new religious movements start small.

      I think these folks are a real church, just a dispi.cable little one and I am certianly glad there are both religious and secular groups who oppose them.

      July 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  20. HenryMiller

    Once upon a time, a legal status of "outlawry" could be used against "unpleasant" people–it basically meant that those made "outlaws" were no longer given legal protection against being, for example, killed. That's the "dead" part of "Wanted: Dead or Alive."

    Looks to me that this would be a good time for that legal status to be applied...

    July 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Thankfully, expressing opinions isn't a punishable offence... yet.

      July 4, 2013 at 12:11 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.