July 15th, 2013
02:50 PM ET

Behold, the six types of atheists

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

(CNN) - How many ways are there to disbelieve in God?

At least six, according to a new study.

Two researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that atheists and agnostics run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who still observe some religious traditions.

“The main observation is that nonbelief is an ontologically diverse community,” write doctoral student Christopher Silver and undergraduate student Thomas Coleman.

“These categories are a first stab at this," Silver told the website Raw Story. "In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types.”

Silver and Coleman derived their six types of nonbelievers from 59 interviews. We're pretty sure we've spotted all six in our comments section.

1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic

This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism.

They like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites.


They're also well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently.

2) Activist

These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise.

They tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals.

3) Seeker-agnostic

This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.

Silver and Coleman describe this group as people who regularly question their own beliefs and “do not hold a firm ideological position.”

That doesn't mean this group is confused, the researchers say. They just embrace uncertainty.

4) Anti-theist

This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as “diametrically opposed to religious ideology,” Silver and Coleman wrote.

“Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental,” the researchers wrote. “The Anti-Theist has a clear and – in their view, superior – understanding of the limitations and danger of religions.”

Anti-theists are outspoken, devoted and – at times – confrontational about their disbelief. They believe that "obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be aggressively addressed in some form or another.”

5) Non-theist

The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.

In many cases, this comes across as apathy or disinterest.

“A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “Religion plays no role or issue in one’s consciousness or worldview; nor does a Non- Theist have concern for the atheist or agnostic movement.”

They continue: “They simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religion in any form from their mental space.”

6) Ritual atheist

They don't believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.

“They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “For example, these individuals may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions.”

For many of these nonbelievers, their adherence to ritual may stem from family traditions. For others, its a personal connection to, or respect for, the "profound symbolism" inherent within religious rituals, beliefs and ceremonies, according the researchers.


The authors of this study have graciously agreed to field questions from our commenters. If you're interested, please post your question below or tweet it to us at @CNNBelief. 

We'll take the best questions to the authors and the Q&A will be posted in a follow-up article. 

Please try to keep your questions related to the study itself.

Daniel Burke

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Holidays • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality • Trends • United States

soundoff (9,518 Responses)
  1. egg

    einstein pursued his life's work born out of a passion to know the thoughts of god

    July 28, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      If you understood Einstein's motivations and how he used the word "god," you would not have made such a stupid comment.

      July 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
      • Maani

        And if YOU understood more about Einstein and his various comments, and why he made them, you would not have been so quick to jump on Egg.

        August 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    GOD is absolutely Real.

    Here is the absolute Evidence:


    July 28, 2013 at 4:41 am |
    • observer

      hitler was innocent

      July 28, 2013 at 6:05 am |
  3. Mario Alleckna

    To be an atheist, believing there is no God, you would have to be all-knowing, which would make you god. Hmmm...

    July 28, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • chrisnfolsom

      >To be an atheist, believing there is no God, you would have to be all-knowing, which would make you god. Hmmm…
      – There is the fallacy – Atheists decision is based on what we can see and prove as per the existing religions, their explanations and any evidence of a deity – there is none. As Bill Mahr says if I was at a baseball game and Jesus descended from the sky and said "I am Jesus" I would believe. All statements of belief can only reference what they know and based on the lack of evidence now available there is no God – period.

      July 28, 2013 at 5:31 am |
      • sueu

        soon, the lawsuit will clear things up, don't cha think, al qaeda?

        July 28, 2013 at 6:17 am |
        • chrisnfolsom


          July 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
      • Gauderio

        what is you belief based on? faith? an old book written by some smart folks who didn't even know the American continent existed? you believe in fiction stories, not different from Santa Claus and Star Wars.

        July 28, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • chrisnfolsom

          Who are you replying too?

          July 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
      • Kindoalkun

        The puzzling issue for a lot of folks is that nearly every atheist has a different definition of what they think atheism is. Much like, if not EXACTLY like, a lot of religions do.

        What is atheism? It depends on the atheist you ask LOL.

        August 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
        • photografr7

          atheist = not believing that God exists (any God exists)
          Which part don't you understand?

          August 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          Well, Atheism IS "not believing in a deity", but the issue is why, or on what do you base this on...
          Of course if you ask a "theist" what they base their belief on they won't have a better answer generally – although many people here have opinions 😉

          August 4, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • sam stone

      Not necessarily, Mario. Belief does not imply perfect knowledge, whether the belief is that there is a god or is not a god. Try again.

      July 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  4. Rosh

    Is it possible for one to be an Intellectual Ritual Seeker Agnostic?

    July 28, 2013 at 1:01 am |
  5. NavinJay

    Christians are atheists that don't believe in one less god.

    July 28, 2013 at 12:52 am |
  6. mhklein

    Regarding the six groups of atheism, what is difference between the activists and the anti-theists?

    July 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • ALVIN

      MHKlein, I was wondering the exact same thing?

      July 28, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  7. Here's a question

    How do we know when something exists? If we experience it? If we and one other person experience it? If more than five people experience it? At what point can we safely say "That exists"?

    July 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Justin

      We can't know anything for sure(read anything on epistemology) but we can have varying degrees of certainty on what really exists.

      July 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  8. marygrace

    It was my childhood of forced ezposure to Catholicism that had me an atheist as young as 12 years old, but fear of rejection and ridicule kept me from expressing my feelings. Now that I am older, I realize that I am a Humanist, and say so when the appropriate time presents itself. I do not think about atheism unless people start to prosletize (sp?) about their own beliefs; then I engage in major discussions. What people find most weird is that I do believe in an afterlife. It is not bery important to me to decide what number I am; I just am!

    July 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Evangeline

      God touches each of us individually....no one can "make someone else believe". .I'm sorry you were "forced" into religion like that. It obviously made you dig your heels in even more, and want to run away from it.

      If you believe in an afterlife, yet also believe Humanist philosophy....that Humans are masters of their own destiny, have you decided how you will get to the afterlife? Do you have the power to accomplish that? If you make it, send me some sort of sign....okay? Many people actually believe in that happens. I call it a fairytale. But the real question is....do you?

      July 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
      • NavinJay

        If God touches me in my no-no place, can I call the authorities?

        July 28, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • birdie

      it was my forced belief that religion is evil until i was 21 that led me to the truth

      July 28, 2013 at 5:42 am |
      • chrisnfolsom

        "Forcing" anything is to a certain extent wrong – even if it's the truth... Teaching is about imparting information through stories with reason and letting the person have a choice while indoctrination is imparting your information in anyway possible with no options or chance for rebuttal – deception in my case as the truth is always a bit malleable as is evidenced by 1000 versions of Christianity/God when all are supposedly in contact with him, many claiming to have a personal relationship.....

        July 28, 2013 at 6:12 am |
        • sueu

          thanks. i needed the laugh

          July 28, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  9. Tacitus Talks

    There are as many type of atheists as there are atheists. This Sociological tendency to categorize people in simplistic buckets is "pseudo science". They do it with African Americans, except they categorize them into 2 buckets. "Real" African Americans who are life long Democrats and the "phony" uncle Toms that are Conservatives. It is insulting to the individual and simply pointlessly exalts the sociologist and wastes space in newspapers and websites.

    July 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • The Truth


      July 28, 2013 at 1:40 am |
      • chrisnfolsom

        Agreed, although to analyze a situation you need to make some generalizations and judging from the reaction more work needs to be done here – perhaps a good start???

        July 28, 2013 at 5:23 am |
  10. Something to think about

    A letter is not a number.

    If x = 3+5; then x =8

    The statement x =8 is both true and false at the same time.

    July 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Fairwin

      How is this false?

      July 28, 2013 at 10:21 am |
      • Maani

        It is false in the "literal" sense that "x" can only ever equal "x" and nothing else; likewise "8" can only equal "8" and nothing else. The formula "x=8" is REPRESENTATIVE, not literal. Thus, it is both true and false at the same time. This is Logic 101.

        July 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  11. Nicolo Dona dalle Rose

    Really bad piece.

    Over-simplifying everything. CNN get it together.

    July 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  12. Tom Sawyer

    CNN –

    You've really messed up the belief blog message board somehow. It now seems practically impossible to post something and get it past the filters, even when the post contains nothing remotely inappropriate. And if you are lucky enough to get a post through, bookmarking it in order to check for responses often doesn't work any more, either–you get directed to a different page. It's very irritating–I would appreciate it if someone would look into it.

    July 27, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • chrisnfolsom

      ditto!! This is very confusing – the email interface does not work well, and on my iphone the links in the email do not work when replying. Very strange as it should be a simple link – selfless advertisement – send me an email if you need help with this as I have worked on many blogs and comment systems...

      July 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  13. NoComparison

    God's existence is irrelevant. Stop the BS and moose along.

    July 26, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Gretchen Niver

      I don't think the described categories are at all useful. I can see myself in several of them, and I believe that most of my fellow non-believers would alsol. Few, if any, of us could be classes in only one of those groups.

      July 26, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  14. Evil Church

    Most atheists are really anti religion. I do think there is a higher power but that religion is mainly invented caca.

    July 25, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Can you list any characteristics related to this higher power? While I understand why it would make one feel good to believe in a higher power, if they cannot list any characteristics isn’t that folly?

      July 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • chrisnfolsom

        It is not folly – I am an Atheist, and as such I have respect for Evolution and history and you cannot discount Religious beliefs from humanity – you don't have to have a deity for that though. Having something in believe in beyond yourself and to consider the whole in all you do is helped by using a Religious belief – although not the only way. I can start you thinking about your community much earlier – as a child – than you would if you just used logic. Humans have a long history of story telling for many reasons, and a long history of religions for again, many reasons. I am an Atheist, but I believe you would have to be a fool to remove such a long standing tool of humanity without thinking about replacing some of the aspects of that tool that have allowed humanity to become what it has – or perhaps it will be a step back in evolution – social evolution.

        July 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Tom Wilson

      You think there is a higher power ? I think there is no higher power ? Which of us is right ? Can you prove your side or do you have to use Faith ?

      July 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  15. Ace

    Agnostics and Non-theists are not athiests. Agnostics are struggling to discover truth, non-thiests simply dont care. Neither group claims there is no god.

    July 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Well I define myself as agnostic but I'm not seeking truth. Why? Well because I believe if there are any 'truths' as it relates to things like a so called god or afterlife, that these truths will not be revealed to us until after our death (again, if there are such truths).

      Therefore it is folly to seek truths that will never be revealed. While I find the discussion of what might be fun and interesting to me this is like dreaming about a date with Ava Gardner.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If you believe in God – you are a theist.

      If you don't believe in God – you are an atheist.

      Everything else is semantics. The semantics are relevant in appreciating that like the beliefs of theists, atheists are not monolithic in their unbelief.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        If you're "not sure if you believe in God" then by any reasonable interpretation, you really don't.

        July 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          Just because you are not sure does not mean you have made a decision. You can be in the process of making a decision – as we all are, even ardent atheists as IF there was proof of a deity then you would believe, but in the absence of proof when tied into the long history of fake deities why should one believe?
          That does not mean that your should not believe in the importance of religion in human society over the years, but has only to do with the deity, or any deity. I think most of us would like to be immortal in some way, although most of us have issues with a higher power that allows such tragedy and heart-ache in our current world, and are tired of hearing about "mysterious ways"...

          July 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  16. Jon

    I find my religious beliefs quite rational, but I can understand why others would not agree and my view has always been live and let live. After all, religion cannot be proven with a scientific experiment. In fact the only proof can be found in dying, so I am in no hurry to find out who's ultimately right.

    July 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • porthos01

      Religion can be proven. It is a human construct. A god is hard to prove because it is a negative. How do you prove something exists when it can't be observed? The big question is why do people believe in things that can't be observed when there are many beautiful things in life to believe in instead?

      July 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
      • Maani

        Do you believe in neutrinos? Black holes? Dark matter? None of these can be "observed" – only their EFFECTS are observable. For believers, it is the EFFECTS of God that are "observable" (i.e., felt and/or seen).

        July 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Observer


          The only tangible "effects" we have from God is supposedly his book and that's where the problem is.

          July 25, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
        • Tom Wilson

          A ton of things can be proved to exist and yet you can not see them. Electricity, zaps the crap out of you but you can't see it. You can see the spark it makes, but you can't see the electricity. All kinds of radiation can even kill you but you can't see it. Time can not be seen, but after enough time, you can see the effects of it.

          July 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          The deciding factor is not "visibility" but "testability." We can measure neutrinos and electrons and by experiment we know their nature and behavior. There is nothing to measure in order to make ANY observations about god's nature and behavior.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
        • Evangeline

          "Nothing to measure"??? What about the innumerable (probably millions) of witnesses who have lived beyond Bible times, even up to this day; in addition to the great crowd of witnesses whose lives were depicted in detail throughout the Bible's pages? That measure has withstood the test of time....unlike "scientific theories" proven wrong time after time.

          July 26, 2013 at 10:29 am |
        • chrisnfolsom

          Cpt. Obvious is living up to his name, but obviously he is wrong.

          >What about the innumerable (probably millions) of witnesses who have lived beyond Bible times, even up to this day
          1. Because a number of people believe something does not make it true.
          2. Christianity 2-2.2 Billion followers, Islam 1.57-1.65 billion followers, Hinduism – 825-1000 millions followers ect. If Christians are right then there are 4 Billion who don't believe them – there is NO religion that has the majority of the planet so you cannot judge by numbers alone – you need more.
          >in addition to the great crowd of witnesses whose lives were depicted in detail throughout the Bible’s pages?
          -There are billions who believe in Islam and other religions, and no one is saying that the bible does not have some historical relevance, but that does not mean that talking snakes exist, or the world is only 6000 years old.
          >That measure has withstood the test of time….
          -Time is not a measure as there are older religions that people still believe. The TEST as we now realize is the scientific method and peer review – can you repeat anything from the bible, can you repeat ANYTHING related to a miracle?
          >unlike “scientific theories” proven wrong time after time.
          -Religion is tested constantly and people still die of cancer, children or illness – no matter who you are, or what you do your chances of dying are based on statistical data and show no divine interaction. Reg science – it is based on trying, failing, trying again and never makes claims of being perfect so cannot be held to that standard.

          July 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • Evangeline

          Science may SAY it "doesn't claim to be perfect", but when it's "theories" are taught as "fact" isn't that exactly what they ARE saying? PBS portrays evolution exactly that way....as though it were "gospel" (as our great-grandparents used to say). Same with classroom texts. There is no discussion, no weighing of the evidence, it's an undisputed fact (a lie), believe what we say.

          I think you're also confusing God with religion. God never promised to say "yes" to everything we ask for....did He? Some religions continue to misrepresent Him, which has confused us to no end. So we want no part of God, we certainly don't want to read about Him. Shame on the ones who've slandered Him! I think if you went directly to the source, you'd begin to like Him. He is really worth knowing!

          And, lastly....if God has no power why do some of the best surgeons (& their teams) ask Him right into the operating rooms....praying for His help during surgery? Placing the outcome in His hands, recognizing that our every breath depends on Him....especially our last one!

          July 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
        • Evangeline

          BTY... That "measurement" is a perfect "observation of both His character & nature".....He says He is "unchanging" (nature) and the truthfulness of His statement shows His (character).

          July 26, 2013 at 10:40 am |
        • chrisnfolsom

          >Do you believe in neutrinos? Black holes? Dark matter? None of these can be “observed” – only their EFFECTS are observable. For believers, it is the EFFECTS of God that are “observable” (i.e., felt and/or seen).

          – Sorry, we can observer the reaction of these particles in accelerators – contrary to popular media we have never observed a God Particle – only a Higs Boson which has nothing to do with God.
          Do you believe in light, magnetics, sound? You can't see those either (literally), but you can see their effects. I have never seen a pebble moved, a child saved, a cancer cured.

          I would love to believe in such things, and I am sure there are some incredible stories that can be attributed to a God, in the scientific method you don't get to say something is a fact until you can repeat it and I have never seen a repeatable "miracle" although I have seen incredible coincidences.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • Lawrence

          Evangeline – Every religion has its "witnesses"; how do you explain that?

          July 26, 2013 at 10:46 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The age of a story has nothing to do with its accuracy.
          Beowulf is an ancient saga and the songs of his valour in the golden halls of Heorot have been sung for centuries.
          Is that proof of the existence of Grendels?
          The Epic of Gilgamesh pre-dates the Bible. The Kingdom of Uruk was a real place – its great walls as described in the Epic have been unearthed by modern archeologists. Gilgamesh was a real king who ruled over thousands of people.
          That doesn't mean he was actually a demi-god who took a trip to the underworld.

          July 26, 2013 at 10:50 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          But the effects that you attribute to a god cannot be proven to be that, whereas electricity etc. can be identified as that.

          July 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
        • Maani

          Observer: Who said anything about "tangible?" I never said it, nor suggested it. In fact, neither did Porthos01 in his original post. As for the rest of you (other than Evangeline, who I am hopelessly in love with...), you obviously did not "get" either the original post or my response. Porthos01 asked, "Why do people believe in things that can't be observed?"; clearly a reference to God. I was merely pointing out that there are PLENTY of things we believe in that cannot be observed. Thus, I agree with all of the things mentioned (electricity, etc.). My question is: are atheists always so "dense," or can they not help themselves vis-a-vis reading what they WANT to read, rather than what is actually written? LOL.

          July 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Evangeline

          I'm blushing! Is this Christian Mingle? 😉

          July 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • Maani

          Evangeline: LOL. Actually, judging from what I see, it is closer to "Atheist Mingle." LOL. Agape, Maani.

          July 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Evangeline

          So true! Maybe we'll hear some wedding bells! That thought makes me curious....since Believers consider marriage a very "sacred" ceremony (promises made in God's presence & bound by Him), what does it mean to an atheist? Wouldn't it be ironic if their marriages were held inside churches built to worship the very God they believe is a fairytale? The whole idea seems ludicrous. Doesn't it?

          July 29, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Lawrence

          Evangeline – Good to see you've been back, but I'm disappointed you haven't answered my question yet. Any thoughts?

          August 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
        • Evangeline

          Sorry, must have missed your question.....was it pertaining to "black holes" & the like??? I believe blogs must be related to black holes....they can suck you right in & steal your "real life" altogether if you don't distance yourself occasionally. ;-D

          August 5, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          We can ALL agree on this!

          August 5, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      No, we will not get the facts about any religion when we die. You're wrong, Jon.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
      • Maani

        Capt. Obvious: "You're wrong." As Yoda might say, "So certain are you?" How in God's name (or, in your case, Pete's sake) can you make such a statement? Have you died and come back with knowledge from the other side? Are are you privy to that knowledge in some other way? Your arrogance is breathtaking!

        July 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  17. sarcausticCritic

    Reading theological comment debates is always extremely entertaining...
    Just out of curiosity, what is wrong with just accepting other people's beliefs? You don't have to believe in God to leave the people alone who do. You don't have to be an atheist to be pleasant and kind towards the people who are. Why are there so many people in the world who are incapable of tolerance?
    I guess it's just an eternal problem of the human race in general.

    July 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Consider these quotes, and how you might feel if you lived in a country where these sentiments were mainstream:

      “Our leader was not elected…he was appointed by Allah.”
      “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of Allah…must be denied citizenship."
      “I, your Provincial Governor, do hereby proclaim… a day of prayer and fasting for our country.”
      “Allah called me to this government position…my family fasted for three days to make sure it was true.”
      “"I would not put a Christian among my advisors, or in my government."
      “(our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on Allah of the Qur’an and Sharia Law, it’s pretty simple.”
      “I hope I will live to see the day when…we won't have any public schools. The Mosques will have taken over them over again and Imams will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
      “There will never be world peace until Allah's house and Allah's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world."

      These statements should rightfully alarm you. Now consider this, YOU DO live in that country, and these are not Taliban quotes. In the above quotes the religious references have been changed. They are quotes from prominent, politically powerful Americans who would establish religious control over America’s government. Here are the actual quotes:

      “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States, he was appointed by God.” –Lt. General William Boykin, US Army
      “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship." –Gary North, Inst.itute for Christian Economics
      “I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim August 6, 2011, to be A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation.” –Rick Perry, Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate
      “God called me to run for this office, and my husband fasted for 3 days to make sure it was true.” –Michelle Bachman, US Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate
      “"I would not put a Muslim in my cabinet, or in my administration." –Herman Cain, Republican Presidential Candidate
      “(Our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple.” –Sarah Palin
      I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken over them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" – Jerry Falwell
      There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world." –Pat Robertson

      These statements should be no more frightening in an Islamic or a Christian context – this kind of rhetoric is a serious threat no matter who it comes from. Theocracy is dangerous no matter whose God is invoked. We hear these things from pious politicians every day and are likely desensitized to them, but even momentary consideration reveals them to be un-American to the core. Religious fundamentalists make no secret of their goal of controlling our government and establishing their narrow beliefs as law. We must not let that happen – not here, not in our country.

      It happens in small steps – the Ten Commandments in courthouses, prayer and creationism (“Intelligent Design”) in schools, revising science, history, and civics textbooks in Texas, State-endorsed prayer rallies, faith-based initiatives, and on and on – and because these steps may individually seem harmless, many people underestimate their consequences. That is why we must stay alert and fight to keep church and state separate. We should shudder whenever a politician or policymaker alludes to his or her religious beliefs as a justification for public policy. We should be deeply suspi.cious of anyone who claims to be chosen by God to lead us. We should aggressively defend our free society against any religious group who would hope to gain control over it.

      July 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • chrisnfolsom

      I have no problem with "letting them be", but not if they won't let me be. The issues of global warming, evolution, stem cells, abortion rights, "leftist agenda's", liberal media, liberal education and hysteria for many other issues like a war against Christmas.... When we used to have separation of Church and state and respected our scientists who recommended things to our politicians who respected each other. NOW we have all this morality and do or die, win at no costs, or you are giving in. The same mentality you bring to a religion – what I believe, no compromises is great with religion, but our Founders kept religion away from politics for a reason as you HAVE to be able to compromise and you HAVE to be able to respect someone else EVEN if you don't like there politics – it is all grey, there are very few black and white positions. We now have politicians who make decisions on religious/moral "reasoning" which does not allow for compromise and is making us much weaker as a nation – I will fight tooth and nail to try and stop this.

      I respect ALL people whoever they are, and whatever they believe, and I give them the space and freedom to believe what they want and WILL help if I can and if asked, but we have to have to draw the line with people who will drag us into the dirt to because of their own Fear Uncertainty and Doubt.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Evangeline

        "NOW we have all this morality"???? Are you kidding me? Do you hear what you're saying? I get the feeling you're not old enough to know that we ALWAYS had morality, it's only the last few decades that it started to be washed away. The majority of us miss it! History has repeatedly shown that whenever morality dies, its nation quickly follows. Remember the mighty Roman Empire...where it is now? YOU are the new kid on the block....not the ideals of morality....they were here long before you were a twinkle in your Dad's eye!

        July 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The Mighty Roman Empire collapsed shortly after their adoption of Christianity.
          And when exactly were the "good old days" of uwavering morality?
          The mid 20th century when McCarthyism and inst/itutionalized racism were the norm?

          July 26, 2013 at 10:39 am |
        • Evangeline

          Communists were a very REAL threat to our country at that time, but it's much easier to find a scapegoat than face the giant....that takes courage. Morality ebbs & flows, but I think you forget that it was God-fearing people who finally saw the light & put an end to slavery, the same "morality" that's trying to put an end to it today....in other nations.

          July 26, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • Pete

          "I get the feeling you're not old enough to know that we ALWAYS had morality, it's only the last few decades that it started to be washed away. "

          You need to stop watching so much TV. The fact that Christians are finally apologizing to the Native Americans for stealing their land and killing their women and children is a step in the right direction. The fact that Christians finally apologized to African Americans for kidnapping and enslaving them, then giving them equal rights is a step in the right direction. The fact that women are no longer treated badly by Christians and have equal rights is a step in the right direction. The fact that Christians are now aware about the truth about gays and are slowly giving them their civil rights is a step in the right direction. This country has slowly gotten more moral not less.

          July 26, 2013 at 10:41 am |
        • Evangeline

          Excuse me, but the writer had stated that "morality" was getting in the way....I disagree entirely. When all those "wrongs" were done, it was because of a lack of "moral leadership", not because of it.

          July 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          It was God fearing people who supported slavery and segregation as well.
          Both sides used scripture to bolster their arguments.
          Wallie Criswell, a popular and influential minister called those Christians supporting desegregation "a bunch of infidels, dying from the neck up".
          In the 50's, the US overthrew the democratically elected governments of Guatemala (for fruit) and Iran (for oil).
          "The Modern Woman", a best selling book from the era, called feminism a "deep illness," labeled the idea of an independent woman a "contradiction in terms," and explained that women who wanted equal pay and equal educational opportunities were engaged in a "ritualistic castration" of men."
          Eugenic sterilization was supported by good, God fearing citizens.

          July 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • Evangeline

          Who were the African slaves purchased FROM??? Tribal wars have gone on for centuries in this country & abroad. You seem to feel that Christians (& the USA) are responsible for every evil deed that ever happened. That is less than truthful.

          How could you even compare the treatment of Christian wives with those of other religions? There is no comparison....so you didn't even attempt it. And the original "feminists" WERE a man-hating bunch who ridiculed any woman who had a mind of her own. It was not about equal pay at all....it was about dominating others.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
        • sam stone

          evangeline: what do you know of the treatment of wives under buddhism? or jainism?

          if you are going to yap yer trap, you should be able to back it up, no?

          July 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
        • Evangeline

          Those two religions I would not associate with the mistreatment of women (although I don't know personally), nor would I contend that Christian husbands are any less respectful of their wives....which the previous poster had accused them of. Sorry if I swept with too broad a brush.

          July 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
        • sam stone

          Communism was no threat to our country, Evangeline. McCarthy was just a blowhard drug addict who could rile people up.

          July 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Evangeline

          Then why did they try to infiltrate our govt? People who operate under darkness have nothing good in mind. Dig a little deeper & you'll find the truth. Namecalling only buries it deeper.

          July 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • sam stone

          everyone SHOULD come up with their own ideas of right and wrong. that is what morality is. morality does not come out of a book, no matter how divinely inspired you believe it to be. allowing others to take the punishment you feel you deserve is about the most immoral concept one could come up with. yet christians not only rush to do exactly that, they brag about it

          July 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
        • Evangeline

          God decided it was wrong to steal....oh, about 1,500 years ago...when He told me not to in Exodus 20:15. Your neighbor makes up his own mind about what's right & wrong. He sees nothing wrong with stealing....so he steals your new car. You got a problem with that now???

          July 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        "You seem to feel that Christians (& the USA) are responsible for every evil deed that ever happened."

        That is patently untrue. I'm just trying to illustrate that the golden past of Chrstian morality for which you seem so nostalgic did not exist. 20th century America wasn't all rainbows, sunshine, and kittens with all citizens singing hymns and loving their neighbours as themselves.
        Every era had its own evil. When a religion is the dominant force in a society, that evil is rationalized with religious arguments.
        Until very recently, Calvinist ethos held a serious edge on the protestant, American consciousness in regards to gender equality.
        Calvin described women as
        "... more guilty than the man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading all to perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."

        From the beginning of the US, while paying lip service to the lofty ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Const.itution, the pervasive mentality was obviously contrary to the "self evident truth that all men are created equal". White, Christian land owners may have been equals in at least an abstract, moralistic context but a slave based economy can hardly be considered egalitarian. The eventual abolition of slavery in a legal sense did very little to help the former slaves. Though denied the right to whip them thar ne.groes with impunity, the social elite were firmly established, milky white, “God fearing” and totally unwilling to alter the status quo in any meaningful way. No one save for the Mayflower descendents could realistically aspire to affluence or power. Some argue that this dichotomy still exists.

        You might believe that The Red Menace was an insidious, omnipresent threat to the US, at the height of McCarthist finger pointing at home, America was more concerned with securing oil interests in the middle east and South America.
        A few examples of middle eastern intervention in the mid 20th century:
        1944 – The Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement is signed by the US and Britain, dividing all the oil in the middle east between the two nations. President Roosevelt sketched out a map of the Middle East and told the British Ambassador, "Persian oil is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours."

        1949 – The US helps overthrow the democratically elected government in Syria and replaces it with a military dictatorship

        1953 – Iran tries to nationalize their own oil. America overthrows their government and puts the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi in power for a 25 year rule of terror.

        1958: The merger of Syria and Egypt into the "United Arab Republic," the overthrow of the pro-U.S. King Feisal II in Iraq by nationalist military officers, and the outbreak of anti-government/anti-U.S. rioting in Lebanon, where the CIA had helped install President Camille Caiman and keep him in power, leads the U.S. to dispatch 70 naval vessels, hundreds of aircraft and 14,000 Marines to Lebanon to preserve "stability." The U.S. threatens to use nuclear weapons if the Lebanese army resists

        1960 – The US tries to as.sas.sinate Iraq's leader, Abdul Karim Qassim

        Sociological evolution is leading us away from religion. Not because Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc are negative in and of themselves, but becuase they are necessarily divisive.
        Nobody has been able to build a truly universal God based consensus becuase religion, like people, has evolved based on the laws of Darwinian evolution in that different environments have brought about different religions.
        What it will take is democracy. True, participatory democracy based on what is the greatest good for the greatest number – globally.
        In the 21st century we have numerous examples of irreligious governments running successful societies, like Ja/pan, Switzerland and my home, Canada.
        Some of our elected officials may be religious, but we expect them to act as Humanists, not religionists.
        Ultimately, to survive we must reject tribalism.

        July 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • Evangeline

          Very well-written, but really....."milky white"???? Who's the true racist?

          As for nostalgia, I only know what I lived. The 50's weren't perfect, but people knew their neighbors & watched out for them, no one locked their doors at night. Remember "Father Knows Best" from the 50's? People always said it didn't reflect "real life", but that's the home I grew up in. Our house wasn't quite as charming, but the relationships were exactly that loving. I guess the Kardashian's are more "realistic".....but I'd stick with the old morals any day of the week. And if Calvin's followers weren't upset by his remarks, why would you be? He wasn't addressing you.

          It's been a long time since civics class, but seems to me you only mentioned the bad things our govt MAY have done. Is that realistic? Consider all the nations who have desired (and still desire) to rule the world. Isn't Canada grappling with religious groups right now? We are hardly the only nation to flex our muscles. The Mideast has been warring since time began.

          "The greatest good for the greatest number".....isn't that the philosophy that believes those in charge should decide who is a burden on society (like the infirm or elderly)? I hope not. If that statement were true, wouldn't that justify slavery because minorities would have had no rights? Hmmm....

          July 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Chiefwakabona

    Looks like one could just as easily assign the same catagories to believers in God, or for that matter, believers/non-believers in any subject.

    July 25, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  19. markj

    Dyslexic doG, that was classic mate.... but you should have added the idea that hank had this as his business !!!!!
    Who is more foolish? The fool? or the fool that follows him !!!!!

    July 25, 2013 at 5:04 am |
    • Dyslexic doG


      July 25, 2013 at 1:13 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.