July 18th, 2013
03:14 PM ET
`Six Types of Atheists' study wakes a sleeping giant
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - They were trying to prove a simple point: That nonbelievers are a bigger and more diverse group than previously imagined.
"We sort of woke a sleeping giant," says Christopher F. Silver, a researcher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We're a bit overwhelmed actually."
Silver and his project manager, Thomas Coleman, recently released a study proposing six different types of nonbelievers - from strident atheists to people who observe religious rituals while doubting the divine.
The study clearly struck a chord, particularly among triumphal atheists and uneasy believers. Articles appeared in in Polish, German, Russian and Portuguese, Silver said.
Here on CNN.com, our story "Behold, the Six Types of Atheists" garnered about 3.14 gazillion hits and thousands of comments.
Half the fun seemed to lie in atheists applying the categories to themselves, kind of like a personality test.
"I guess I'm a 1-2-4 atheist," ran a typical comment.
Other commenters questioned the study's categories, methods, and even the religious beliefs of its authors.
Silver and Coleman agreed to answer our readers' questions via email from Tennessee. Some of their answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Several readers asked how you came up with your six categories of atheists?
A: In a sense we let the participants inform our theory.
The categories were devised from a series of 59 interviews conducted with people nationwide who don’t believe in God. Participants were asked to define various terms of nonbelief as well as their own religious views.
We also asked participants to tell us their stories and how their religious views have changed over time. We found the most commonly repeated stories and descriptions and formed them into types.
We then used those types in the survey portion of the project. Each of the six categories proved to be statistically unique in a wide array of psychological measures.
Q: @PaulTK asks: Are atheists limited to the six categories your study proposes?
A: We suspect that further research exploring people who don't believe in God will certainly expand the number of categories and fill in more details about the six we've named.
For example, we found that the Intellectual Academic Atheist type may produce a 7th type reflecting those who are more "philosophically orientated" versus those who are more "scientifically orientated."
Our study also gives some evidence that individuals may not believe in God but still identify with religion or spirituality in some way.
Q: @JessBertapelle asks: Can people fit into more than one category?
A: The typology of nonbelief is fluid. Based on our interviews, we suspect people transverse the various types over the course of their lives. Since we did not conduct a longitudinal design (a study conducted over time tracking the same people) we are unable to validate this assumption.
For those of you who found yourselves agreeing with multiple positions, you may find characteristics that you identify with in all types but there is likely one type which is your preference.
Q: @Melissa asks: Why isn't there a category for "closet atheists"?
A: This is an excellent question. Many of our interviews were done in strict confidence where the participant’s own parents, spouses, or children had no idea they were participating in the study. One participant hid in the back of her closet because she did not want her parents to discover she is an atheist.
But while there were plenty of “closeted” participants, they didn't agree in how they describe their religious views. That is, they ranged across a variety of our six types.
Q: stew4248 asks: How is this any different than religious divisiveness?
A: There is vast diversity among religious believers, but it's unclear if such diversity exists within nonbelief.
We do know that the Antitheist category has much in common with religious fundamentalism. Likewise the Intellectual atheism/Agnosticism type has a lot in common with intellectual theology, although they are clearly not the same.
Q: How did you find the participants for the study?
Participants were recruited through nonbelief communities across the country. They were recruited face-to-face, through snowball sampling (participants sharing the study with friends), and through the Internet.
Project manager Thomas J. Coleman III is well known in the atheist community because he is suing the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Commission for their involvement in divisive sectarian prayer at meetings. His reputation helped locate “closeted” atheists to participate.
The regional breakdown of participants is presented on the project website.
Q: A number of readers have also asked about your own religious affiliations, if you don't mind.
Christopher F. Silver answers:
I was born and raised in the rural South to a deeply religious Methodist family. In my hometown everyone was Christian. As was the case for many in our study, during college I was introduced to people from different cultures and ideologies. I was interested in studying different faith traditions and why people believe.
In many respects, research for this was a selfish enterprise for me. There is nothing more transformative than sitting with someone as they share their life story with you. Today I consider myself an agnostic in the real philosophical sense. The more I learn, the more I recognize the extensiveness of my ignorance.
Thomas J Coleman III answers:
My mother has been active in the Methodist church as a choir member and pianist for most of her life. My grandparents were very active in the church and went every Sunday. Growing up, I would often go as well.
But for me, “religion” was always something that other people did. I prefer to identify as a secular humanist.
Silver and Coleman would like to point out that their study was supported and conducted in collaboration with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of Psychology and the Doctorate in Learning and Leadership.
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.
@Austin: "You have a tone that brings respect. buit, when you do go far enough to make a judgment and you say something is deluded you go over the line of prejudice and act out at and one a person."
I don't coddle people. I think you've deluded yourself. Look, either people can delude themselves or they can't. If they can, almost by definition they cannot discern between what is and isn't real with respect to that event or experience. Since I assume you're a person, you are capable of being deluded, and if that were to happen, you wouldn't be able to recognize it.
Similarly, people who have been brainwashed never recognize they've been brainwashed. If they did the brainwashing didn't work. So with respect to these two conditions, self-assessments are meaningless.
"That person will always be plural when you talk to someone who walks with the omnipresent spirit of God."
Yeah, pretty much, since I think anyone who believes this is deluding himself.
Once again it appears the people running this blog have purged a large block of comments. I find that to be obnoxious and reprehensible. When people take the time to compose and post reasonable, thoughtful comments here they should not be trashed for no reason. Shame on whoever is doing that.
Yes, skytag, the purgings are troublesome, for more reasons than one. This blog has become quite uncomfortable to navigate and to participate in.
I wish that you, as such an excellent writer and presenter of fact, would try to communicate with the blog Editor, Daniel Burke. He's the one who has recently been active here.
If you have a spare few minutes you can reach him either at:
p.s. Daniel has said that he *wants* feedback, so you will not be imposing on him. It's his job.
p.p.s. This plea also goes out to any and all of the other able posters.
Sick and tired of saying that atheists are "nonbelievers". If the comparison is to Christianity, then you better roll in all non-Christians as nonbelievers as well.
I believe in a lot of things, but I don't believe in a God. You have no right in making the judgement call that my beliefs are non-existent.
Yes, they should say non-god-believers if that's what they mean.
Looking at the comments on the belief blog I can see some general patterns. These general patterns don't apply to any individual.
Atheists are often intellectual bullies, but I rarely see them making up things to support their points. Insults are common.
Religious posters often make up outrageous things to make their points, they often ignore facts that are difficult to square with their truth. Insults are common.
That combination makes a civil, reasoned discussion quite a challenge.
Don't know why so many people feel the need to generalize – all Christians are this way, all atheists are that way, all whites are this way, all blacks are that way, all women are this way, all men are that way, etc.
If someone is offending you, that's not cool. Religion and politics are two subjects that civilized people don't talk about unless they know the person well, and know how far to go. The problem that many atheists have, whether they are vocal or not, is that religion is continually thrust upon us (Federal holidays that are Christian only for example), and it gets really really tiring explaining to our children what is truly the US and what is Christian infiltration of our government.
I think it's great if you are religious. I don't think it is great that there are militant atheists, but then again, I don't like that there are militant people of any religion. Most Christians don't think the Westboro Baptist Church speaks for them. But the Westboro Baptist Church thinks they speak for God and all Christians. I suppose atheism has "made it" if there are now militant atheists.
A general observation does not mean you think all are that way.
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Your facts are the scientific type?? facts/2??
A NASA physicist uses 3 dimensional analysis on the Shroud of Turin to prove it is not a fake, a T A&M botany professor prove through pollen and other botanical research that the Shroud was from the time of Jesus, Roman, Greek, and Jewish records attest to Jesus. You cannot ignore the fact that Christ was real. You may think he was not the Son of God, if so I ask you this, would you be willing to be crucified for a "parlor trick"? Would you be willing to be stoned to death or crucified for a lie, prank or practical joke? Of course any reasoning person would not, those of you who would argue this are only, at this point ad hominem or ad argumentum. Those of you with functioning frontal lobes will realize that the denial of Jesus is fallacious paranoia. You must, since you know he is real, know his works are real . The idea alone of Jesus as God made man for our redemption is too radical for a sin soaked worldly mind to handle. All sin and fall short, all our good works are as menstral rags. Jesus is also the embodiment of God's love for us. Through a personal relationship with Christ, God is our refuge. Life rings have been thrown out to you time and time again, but you are free to continue to choose to drown in this ocean of death. I will pray for all those not coming to Christ for whatever reason, and that God's love, mercy, and grace will open the eyes of your heart, awaken the intellect of your mind, and fire your spirit to accept His blessings.
john paul wright,
Tests by laboratories at the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Inst-itute of Technology, placed the shroud as from about 1,200 to 1,350 years AFTER Jesus died.
Please try to do more complete research in the future.
Actually, there is not a single contemporary account of Jesus or any of the miracles of the bible. You are making claims that are nothing more than lies. You should really do your homework before breaking commandments. Unless, of course, you think that you know better than your god.
I haven't researched what's known about the shroud as it's not relevant. Even if Jesus existed it doesn't prove any of the supernatural claims made about him. I am certainly open to the idea that they New Testament contains a lot of fairytales about a man who actually existed.
It's relatively clear that Jesus was real. And it's also obvious that all of the miracles attributed to him were lies. Why? Because people wrote the gospels; people lie; and the "miracles" in the Bible have all been repeated by modern magicians, hucksters, and frauds.
Just because he existed, it doesn't follow that he performed miracles.
I wouldn't say it's that clear. I suspect that there was a real person or real persons that the myth of Jesus was based upon, but that's just my opinion. There is no actual evidence.
"Those of you with functioning frontal lobes will realize that the denial of Jesus is fallacious paranoia."
Such big words to say so little.
Hmmm. I am neither a nihilist nor an atheist. I believe in the principles of religion but abhor the practice. I can not imagine there is not something 'greater' than ourselves in the universe but do not call it God. There is no such thing as prophets or predestiny. Religion, to me, seems to be a tool for the lost and the weak. The lost, searching for everyday answers of life, choose to searching outward, towards something that makes sense, rather than searching inward. If th9is brings them peace and causes them to do acts of goodwill then fine. It is a great thing! If it causes them to commit acts of hatred and prejudice, then it is nothing more than a cultish perversion.
For the fearful it seems to be a tool to quell the natural, innate fear of death. What happens to our consciousness after this body dies? Will those who do evil be held accountable and will those who do good be rewarded? It's a natural fear and one that is easily understood. From this come two types of leaders – those who wish to bring pace and solstice to the fearful and those who wish to gain from them. I keep saying religion is a tool and I mean this literally. Like a hammer, if used properly it can build strong and lasting foundations, walls and a roof to keep you safe. Used improperly, it can be used to destroy, demolish and kill. It is far too easily abused in the name of righteousness.
With this in mind I happily consider myself an Agnostic rather than an Atheist. Religion is a funny thing. it is no longer synonymous with faith. Faith exists in everyone, whether it is in something as grandiose as a mythical being of awesome power or that the sun will simply rise in the morning and fall at night. Faith in your partner, your spouse and yourself. Faith exists without religion to confine or define it. However, religion can not exist without faith.
Even my Atheists friends have faith – a faith that no god-like being exists. After all, if they did not have faith they would not be able to cling onto any belief (or non-belief) whatsoever. once you separate faith from religion, everything starts to become more clear.
It actually doesn't take faith to not believe in something for which there is no evidence. What is required is common sense.
Very well. But the belief that you are right is considered a type of faith. If there is no evidence to prove something then there is no evidence to disprove it, either. The faith that you have that God doesn't exist is equal to the faith believers have that He DOES exist.
As I said, religion and faith are no longer synonymous. The world, I think, is waking up to that realization.
So is not believing in leprechauns a great leap of faith for you?
So there is Pascal's Wager, which works for those people who feel a chill when they realize that there might be leprechauns after all.
Humans have worshiped literally thousands of gods throughout history. Those gods have ALWAYS reflected the morals and the aesthetics of the cultures that invented them. Most of those gods represented natural phenomena that our relatively primitive ancestors had no way of understanding. Why else would so many disparate cultures have gods of thunder? It is no coincidence that there is no need for thunder gods now that we understand the mechanisms of lighting. Gods are/were a way of appealing to and controlling the unknown.
No single specific god ever developed simultaneously in two unrelated regions. No god has ever gone where humans did not take them. It took the christian god 1500 years to do something so simple as cross an ocean. He had to wait for humans to take him to the New World.
I'm not even touching on the scientific reasons not to believe in gods. Do you honestly think that it takes faith not to believe in something that is so blatantly a human invention?
Hey, Tom. I wouldn't mess with those little bastards. Not for all the green beer in Boston.
tallulah13, if you really want to bend the debate to the extreme, I can play with you.
Have you ever seen a leprechaun? I don't think so, but you insist, adamantly, that they do not exist because they have not been proven to exist. This is, as you say, common sense, and I appreciate that fully. In fact, I am not arguing that point whatsoever. What I am saying is that your common sense gives you faith in your conviction about leprechauns, unicorns and God. You know you are right because everything inside of you tells you that you are right.
That's faith, regardless of what you want to call it. Once you strip away the mysticism of (F)aith and begin to contemplate (f)aith things just make more sense. It happens all the time in the scientific fields. Scientists develop a hypothesis based upon certain known and unknowns. They pursue this hypothesis until it can be confirmed or denied. Their belief in their knowledge and understanding of the universe, combined with the wonder and curiosity which propels them forward, is faith.
Remove faith from religion and that religion crumbled into dust. Faith, on the other hand, persists, whether we believe in something or in nothing, that God exists or He doesn't, that the world will still be here when you wake tomorrow... that's all faith. We all share it. We just perceive it differently from each other.
" Do you honestly think that it takes faith not to believe in something that is so blatantly a human invention?"
That is EXACTLY what I am saying. Any time you feel conviction in your belief, regardless of what that belief is, you are exhibiting faith. Not for some deity or practice, but faith in your knowledge and your understanding of the world and the universe.
PDXSerric: Let me reiterate. It takes absolutely no faith at all to not believe in something for which there is no proof. There is no proof that any god exists. Therefore any faith required would be on the part of those who insist on believing in fantasy, despite the facts.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." That's faith as defined by one of the NT writers. Another kind of faith, you may call it that if you want, is the substance of things that have substance and the evidence of things we know and of things that have worked for us in the past. The biblical kind is wishful thinking.
tallulah, there's some ambiguity in your statement about "not believing" in gods. Do you mean:
1. It takes no faith to lack belief in gods, or
2. It takes no faith to believe that there exist no gods
Actually, Sara, what I mean is that faith doesn't even come into play. When one looks at the complete lack of evidence to support the existence of any god, common sense is the deciding factor.
There is nothing wrong with faith based on reason and historical evidence. I have faith the sun will come up tomorrow because it has come up every day of my life. I have faith in people I know to act in ways consistent with their past behaviors.
If you want to call my belief there is no God faith I don't care. At least it's a belief that's consistent with the facts and doesn't require an elaborate web of unsupported theories and claims to justify it.
taurus is in the stars. it is also a car. they are different.
That's a goofy thing to say that people who are atheist must have faith to not believe something. It doesn't make sense. We all 'not believe' lots of things, it's not a matter of faith.
Faith is not a religious term. I have faith in my fellow man, I have faith in the people I trust. Belief is not a religious term either; I have never been to the Galapagos, I have not read Darwin's original works, but I believe in evolution.
It has multiple meanings
1) complete trust or confidence
2) strong belief in a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof
3) a system of religious belief
@Rachel: "I am 23 years old and was raised Catholic, and my convictions stand firm."
I'm 58 and have never seen any evidence that what you believe is true. Religions brainwashed people, and people who have been brainwashed cling to what they've been conditioned to believe even when there is no reason to believe it. And frankly, given the Catholic church's history I'd say their credibility is about as low as it gets in the realm of Christianity. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, excommunicating Galileo for saying the Earth revolved around the sun, forgiving sins for money through the selling of indulgences, pedophile priest, it's really not a pretty picture. Most of Hitler's followers were Catholics.
You're a Catholic because you were raised Catholic. If you'd been born in India you'd almost certain stand firm in the convictions of Hinduism. If you'd been born in Saudi Arabia you'd stand firm in the convictions of Islam. Standing firm in your convictions is not evidence what you believe is true, only that the brainwashing process was thorough.
"Even some atheists agree that religion is good to instill values, if just for that. So who cares if I believe in God."
Some of us believe the truth is better than delusions, even when it's less pleasant.
"Jesus’ main message was to love one another, regardless of whether they are atheist or from another religion. Who cares if I try to live based on what Jesus taught? Why are you so desperate to change that?"
Because I believe truth is better than fiction. You are free to disagree.
"I would imagine that it would get tiring to constantly argue that there is no God."
I spent four decades of my life as a Christian. Trust me, it's far more work trying to justify a delusion and rationalizing why what you believe isn't consistent with what you see in the real world than having one answer for all the questions you people flail about trying to answer and be able to rely on simple logic and facts to conclude there is no god.
"Wouldn’t your time better be spent helping humanity rather than putting up atheist monuments near Christian ones? Or are you simply still looking for an answer? I really do not understand it."
I would never suggest that everything atheists do makes sense or is good, just as I hope you wouldn't try to claim everything Christians do makes sense or is good. For example, aren't there better ways to help humanity than protesting soldiers' funerals as the Westboro Baptist Church people do?
Look, you're 23. Realistically you didn't even start really thinking about the weighty issues of this life until a few years ago. Don't be so arrogant as to believe that at 23 you have everything so figured out that if you don't understand it it can't possibly make sense. If you don't understand something, all you can say for sure is that you don't understand it.
In order to be christian you have to experience the truth for yourself. It's no use believing in something because a church told you to or because your parents taught you to, you have to experience it for yourself to truly believe.
History is overflowing with examples of things people truly believed that weren't true. If you think Christians are the only people who have religious "experiences" you are truly naive.
Every true believer of every one of the thousands of gods that humanity has worshiped throughout history "experienced" the truth about their gods. They all had conviction as strong as any christian that their god was real. What every true believer of every god (even your god) lacked/lacks is evidence that that god exists. You can believe as hard as you want. It doesn't make your god real.
Atheism is a very new concept. It doesn't have thousands of years of history to back it up yet.
Certainly atheism has been a very dangerous position in a world dominated by religion. I doubt we'll ever know how many atheists have ever existed, because pretending belief was a lot safer in a world where not believing could get you killed for heresy.
Skytag: "Religions brainwashed people, and people who have been brainwashed cling to what they've been conditioned to believe even when there is no reason to believe it." What about the millions of Christians who were not "indoctrinated" as children, but came to faith in young adulthood, middle age, older age, etc.? And keep in mind that not all of these people came to faith as the result of some sort of psycho-emotional or other "need." Your error here is in presuming that all people of faith, or even most, are believers because they grew up in religious households. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mark from Middle River; I just don't see how anyone can say a person of faith are open minded. If one has faith they feel they have the answers. That they know things I believe mankind can NOT know in this lifetime. How is that being open minded? I assume you mean they are open to there being a god. That isn’t being opened minded unless they are open to there NOT being a god.
I’m agnostic. I’m open to there being a god. I just need some actual evidence. I just believe that there are questions science cannot answer. One isn’t open minded by just accepting answers (believes) because they have been passed on from generation to generation.
What if the only evidence you're going to get is to be told that everything you see was created, and what if that becomes embarrassingly obvious when you get to the afterlife?
Well then I have to hope that 'god' is a loving god and not the Christian god that care more about being worshiped than the character of his subjects.
Anyhow, you appear to be taking the old; well what does it hurt to pretend I believe and worship a god just to be safe POV. I find that POV to be folly, since a god should be able to spot a phony.
Being told something is not evidence, especially when the person telling you is just repeating what someone else told him, and that person is just repeating what someone else told him, and so one for dozens of generations. Rational people call such things myths and legends.
That rebuttal was amazingly well reasoned and correctly succinct, jazz. Props.
Re comparative open-mindedness, it is simple. There is more room for science and empiricism in the worldview of many believers than there is room for the believer's worldview in the mindset of most atheists. That makes many believers more open-minded than many atheists.
More religions nonsense. I am an atheist, but I am more than willing to believe in God if you can give me any objective reason to believe one exists. That makes me open-minded. The fact that I'm not willing to just take your word for something, which conflicts with the word of a Muslim, and both conflict with the word of a Buddhist, is not evidence I am closed-minded. It only means I'm not naive and gullible.
More religions nonsense. I am an atheist, but I am more than willing to believe in God if you can give me any objective reason to believe one exists. That makes me open-minded.
Hmm... when faced with something that logic can not explain, are you open to the possibility that it is God or Gods? Heck, could it be Santa Claus, could it be spirits of your past ancestors?
@Mark from Middle River: "Hmm... when faced with something that logic can not explain, are you open to the possibility that it is God or Gods? Heck, could it be Santa Claus, could it be spirits of your past ancestors?"
It's more than something logic cannot explain, it's something there simply is no rational reason to believe. There is no objective evidence for it whatsoever, and far too many seeming contradictions.
Occam's razor ... is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in logic and problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. — Wikipedia
When faced with a multitude of questions — such as why is there no evidence God exists? Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common? If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's? If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions? and countless others — the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions by far is: There is no God.
Sorry, but all things considered the only rational conclusion is that there is no God. The only reason to believe in God is that you prefer a comforting fairytale over harsh realities.
Mark, Open to the possibility but realistically would we even consider a god a possibility if our ancestors hadn't interpreted natural phenomena as signs from gods. Science has a reasonable explanation back to Big Bang. If there was a pre-Big Bang that's where a god could fit in. I don't know so but none of us know.
Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common?
I will say that the manifestation of God or Gods does have it similarities in many aspects but I am of the belief that they all are possibly the same God. Or just the simple thought of since God did not create all of us to look and talk the same, he or she has a greater joy for diversity than a Hillary Clinton supporter. Not to put common human thought into God or Gods, can you imagine if all the houses of worship were the same? Maybe God likes to see the various forms of Religion.
If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's?
I am open to hear scripture on this statement. I won't be able to respond until later though, but I am not remembering God changing a persons heart. I do remember it was up to us, to change our own heart. You are dancing around the Free WIll debate.
If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions? and countless others
Since I believe that all life is precious, I can not single out the unborn or aborted from the 95 year old setting on his or her death bed. People die, babies to old souls who have lived a full life. If this is you proof that there is no God, because people die, you will now understand why it respectful is a weak excuse.
Harsh realities is that God never told us that we will not die a earthly death or not suffer here on Earth.
Ok, movie time. L'Chaim skytag.
@Mark from Middle River: Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common?
"I will say that the manifestation of God or Gods does have it similarities in many aspects"
Not really. What does the God of Christianity have in common with the gods of Norse mythology? In point of fact, the most fundamental belief in all of Christianity is one unique to Christianity.
"but I am of the belief that they all are possibly the same God. Or just the simple thought of since God did not create all of us to look and talk the same, he or she has a greater joy for diversity than a Hillary Clinton supporter. Not to put common human thought into God or Gods, can you imagine if all the houses of worship were the same? Maybe God likes to see the various forms of Religion."
Lots of speculation, no answer. My answer is much simpler: There is no God. Since there is no god, there was no god guiding the development of any religion. Whatever the people imagined when they created their god or gods was not limited in any way to what anyone in some other part of the world imagined when he created his god.
It's not like a thousand eyewitness accounts of an event, where they'd vary in the details but generally agree on the most important aspects, it's more like a thousand people who were asked to right a short story about anything they wanted.
If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's?
"I am open to hear scripture on this statement. I won't be able to respond until later though, but I am not remembering God changing a persons heart. I do remember it was up to us, to change our own heart. You are dancing around the Free WIll debate."
You are dancing around reality. The simplest, most obvious answer is: There is no God.
And if Christians believe God can't or won't change someone's heart, why do so many Christians pray for God to change the heart of a wayward child, friend, or relative?
If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions?
"Since I believe that all life is precious, I can not single out the unborn or aborted from the 95 year old setting on his or her death bed. People die, babies to old souls who have lived a full life."
This is reasonable, but it begs another question, which is why create millions of lives that will never be born? Does God need more folks to work the fields in Heaven?
The point that I was making though, which apparently God failed to help you grasp, is not that Christians don't have answers for these kinds of questions. On the contrary, they generally have well-rehearsed answers. The point is that Christians need so many answers, none of which is supported by any evidence at all, whereas the atheist only needs one answer for all of them: There is no God. Basically, what you have is a conspiracy theory.
@Mark from Middle River: "Harsh realities is that God never told us that we will not die a earthly death or not suffer here on Earth."
You must thrive on saying stupid stuff. The harsh realities are things like death is the end. You don't exist after it, you won't see your loved ones again, and they aren't going to a better place when they die. They just cease to exist.
Another important one is that life isn't fair. There is no afterlife in which God will correct the injustices of this life. The serial killer who is never caught will not face God in the afterlife because there is no God and no afterlife.
You don't have an all-power friend who watches over you or your children or controls the forces of nature for your benefit.
These are the harsh realities from which people hide in their religions.
Not really. Believing in a particular fantasy isn't being open-minded. It's simply choosing to believe a particular fantasy because you like it more than reality.
The real world is full of amazing things, things that would not have been discovered if humanity had limited itself to "god did it".
Imagine if everyone accepted the idea that evil spirits cause disease so no one bothered to discover bacteria or viruses.
Mark from Middle River; I just don't see how anyone can say a person of faith are open minded.
Our mind is open to the option that miracles can happen and that God be a viable option. The Atheist has to close and limit themselves that it can be anything but God or Gods. That is being closed minded.
If one has faith they feel they have the answers.
Maybe the 700 club types or the extremist go through life saying that they have all the answers to what is God and that their interpretation is the only truth. Most of do wonder at God's actions good or bad. Sometimes it is that unanswered prayers or a simple "Why God did this...."
That isn't being opened minded unless they are open to there NOT being a God.
You are straying into turning away from personal Faith, not in the application of analayzing a positive or negative incident. But, I do aknowledge your point which just goes to further prove my point. As a person of Faith, I can accept all options, where as an Atheist is forbidden to accept all options. Such is why being a Atheist is, I feel, limiting oneself.
I’m agnostic. I’m open to there being a God. I just need some actual evidence.
Uggh... Agnostics, the bi-se'xuals of the CNN Belief Blog. Choose a side or both Atheist and the Faithful will take turns punching you in the arms until you can no longer type post. 🙂
Well Mark we can agree to disagree here, but you appear to be an A-OK person. Yea, I'm known for sitting on the fence. Both libs and Cons also punch me in the arm! Take care, got to go.
L'chaim my friend. Same here, I have a few movies to watch in my last night off from work.
@Mark from Middle River: "Our mind is open to the option that miracles can happen and that God be a viable option. The Atheist has to close and limit themselves that it can be anything but God or Gods. That is being closed minded."
This is a dishonest assessment. You aren't just open to those options, you actually accept them as reality. That's the problem. As an atheist I'm willing to believe those things if you can give me an objective reason to believe them. That is not being closed-minded. That's being sensible and rational.
The claim that requiring evidence shows someone is closed-minded is just pure BS. Rubbish. If you were on a jury you'd be expected to be open-minded and open to the possibility the defendant is guilty, but not return a verdict unless the evidence supported it. You're approach to all this is like returning a guilty verdict even though there is no evidence to support it. You've been brainwashed to believe that's a superior way of reasoning, but not everyone agrees with that way of thinking.
"where as an Atheist is forbidden to accept all options"
This is an idiotic claim. It is simply not true. Your need to believe this kind of nonsense and spread these kinds of lies only makes it clear you're desperate to prop up your delusions.
@Rachel: "Or is that not important to you? Parents let their kids be “who they want to be” which basically means “they are too busy to lead them in the right direction.” Where else will these kids obtain morals and values?"
I hope you don't think all the kids with problems have atheists for parents and that all Christians are good Christians. That would go beyond naive and into delusional. The percentage of the population who are atheists is significantly smaller than the percentage who are having sex outside of marriage, drink, gamble, watch porn, cheat on their spouses, and so on. Bristol Palin got pregnant as an unmarried teenager and her mom is a Christian fanatic. Welcome to the 21st century.
Look, I agree that one of the good things that has come from religion is giving people an incentive to be good citizens. That's one of the most important reasons religions exist, to control the population. But that doesn't mean what they teach about God is true, people just need to believe it.
You can get kids to behave telling them Santa Claus will bring them presents if they're good and coal if they aren't. You can scare kids into staying in bed telling them there are monsters under the bed. Something doesn't have to be true to motivate good behavior, people just have to believe it's true.
"As many times as you can say that kids do not need the Bible to have values, I will say is that it helps."
I agree, or at least it's a lot easier to rely on simple myths than trying to explain the real reasons to a child. My only point is that it's no more true than stories about Santa Claus.
There was a case a while back in which a guy wrote a memoir people found very inspiring. Oprah recommended it. Then it came out it was all a lie. He'd made the whole thing up. Then Oprah was not happy and ripped into him. LOL But as long as people believed his story was true it inspired them. The Bible is the same way. It's not true, but as long as people believe it, it inspires them.
@Rachel: "Does the world seem to be heading in the right direction with the decreasing amount of Christians?"
Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "after this, therefore because of this," is a logical fallacy... Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection. — Wikipedia
Your argument is a post hoc fallacy.
The world and the societies in it are changing in far too many ways to discuss in detail here. It would be really dumb to ignore all of those factors and simply look at the percentage of us who are Christian. Any conclusion you would draw from as a result of ignoring so much important information would be meaningless.
For example, for most of human history people lived most or all of their lives in relatively small communities where everyone knew everyone and your livelihood and welfare depended on your reputation. If your neighbors didn't like you or trust you they'd be far less likely to hire you, do business with you, or help you when you were in need.
Today in America most people live in large urban centers, not small communities. People don't really know their neighbors and reputation offers far less incentive to be a good citizen. You don't need people to think you're a good person so they'll help you rebuild your house if it burns down because you have insurance. People are much ruder on the Internet than they are in person because of the anonymity it affords. Their behavior here will almost certainly not cost them friends or their job because those people have no idea what they're doing here.
And so, much of the social structure that provided an incentive to be good, moral, generous, honest, and so on in the past simply doesn't exist in society today. This isn't the whole argument, of course. That would require much more discussion, but hopefully you get the idea.
"I mean, God was taken out of schools years ago. Would you say that our children our heading towards a more meaningful and moral life?"
Post hoc argument. See above.
I just want to say that, Yes God does work in mysterious way to be cliche. But everything leads up to something.and there is a purpose for those things it may not have anything to do with you but maybe it does for the next person. And don't forget the devil is on your back telling you. Oh you have no proof of God therefore Hes not real. I would love to give more on this matter but I am leaving work now and i do not have a computer at home. But i will leave with this. All you people, Im sorry most of you people who do not believe seem to be cold and like to poke fun at people who believe and almost hate people who believe. Lighten up. I love you all believers, non believers sinners and saints. May God come in to all of your hearts and bless you. GN ; )
The people that need to lighten up are those that tell people that unless you worship the same so called god as them, you're going to a place they call hell to be tortured.
The people that need to lighten up are those that tell people that unless you worship the same so called god as them, you're going to a place they call hell to be tortured.
Always did not understand that. As a African American, I have been told a bunch of times in my life this or that from some White Supremacist group. Oddly, being a African American and a Republican, I have been told of much worst happening to me by other African Americans. After a while being called names such as Uncle Tom, I remember something from the movie Ghost of Mississippi.
When you hate, the only one that suffers is you because most of the people you hate don't know it and the rest don't care.
As a adult, why should you care what one of the Faithful say to you? When Atheist say negative things about Christians here, it does not effect the Faithful.
Heck, even the new Pope says yall might make it. 🙂
What people say is a foretelling of what they might do. It might not bother you if members of a white supremacist group insult or denigrate you, but if they drag you to death behind a pickup truck you might have a problem with that.
What Christians say doesn't bother me that much until they use it to pass laws limiting the rights of others thinking they're forcing everyone to please God. As an African-American you of all people should understand how thoughts can lead to actions.
What people say is a foretelling of what they might do.
The thing is that you did not say that they were saying that "they" would cast you into a burning lake of fire. You failed to mention even a Salem Witch trials threat of burning you at the stake. What you are seeking sympathy is that they are threatening your existance in a afterlife....which you do not believe to exist. If i am threatened by you or if I threaten you, this is a threat to do harm in this life... as in the present.
Basically, we are comparing:
"Skytag, I am going to kick you butt tomorrow down at the dunkin donuts after work tomorrow. "
"Skytag, when I see you at the pearly gates I am going to beat you senseless with a cherub."
Since, we both can agree that there are dunkin donuts, the first threat I can see you having a concern. Since you do not believe in Heaven, then where is the fear of me beating you over the head with a small Angel with rosy cheeks? 🙂 If a person declares that you as a Atheist will burn, then you should have no fear at all that you will burn.
@Mark from Middle River: "The thing is that you did not say that they were saying that "they" would cast you into a burning lake of fire. You failed to mention even a Salem Witch trials threat of burning you at the stake."
It was not my intention to write a dissertation on the subject.
"What you are seeking sympathy is that they are threatening your existance in a afterlife"
Rubbish. Your need to fabricate nonsense to support your position only makes you look weak. The rest of your comment is too stupid to even warrant a response. History offers many examples of laws and persecutions based on religious beliefs. I've you're afraid to discuss the issue honestly just don't respond.
What you consider "negative" on the part of atheists often amounts to just asking questions that the faithful find difficult to answer. That's a far cry from the message coming from many Christians, that anyone who doesn't believe what they do deserves to be tortured forever.
There is nothing to distinguish "god's mysterious ways" from the randomness and uncertainty inherent in the flux of life. Humans adapt and rationalize problems so it may seem that there was a reason something happened when it was just happenstance.
"And don't forget the devil is on your back telling you. Oh you have no proof of God therefore Hes not real."
Hey Aimee: There's no proof that the devil exists, either.
I find it sad that any adult would believe anything without considering the validity of what they are being asked to believe.
@Rachel: "Many atheists say that when they die, they hope to just leave a better world for those they leave behind. So, to the atheist, a better world is a world without a God."
These are the kinds of arguments that make Christians sound stupid. It is what it is. A world with a god might be better than a world without one, but if no such god exists that's just how it is. I think the world would be better with the transporters and matter replicators from Star Trek, but those don't exist either. Just because the world would be better if something were true doesn't make it true.
"Does preaching how God does not exist make you better?"
Yes, standing up for the truth makes me feel good.
"Does it make anyone better?"
That would depend on whether you think it's better to believe comforting fairytales to avoid dealing with harsh realities to accept reality for what it is, even when it's harsh.
It looks like she wants you to create a god. In a test tube maybe? Or by force of belief, Terry Pratchett style?
I know, "Why wouldn't you believe in god? It's such a great idea!" Religion makes people stupid.
Behold!!!!! I give ye the one TRUE God!!!!!!
All kneel before Him!!!!!
@Rachel: "Man will never prove or disprove the existence of God as long as they are alive. Christianity is based on faith."
We are well aware it's based on believing things for which there is no evidence. We just don't agree that believing something is enough to make it real.
"So what are you arguing for? Is it because science is more logical to you? Science does not disprove God."
Doesn't disprove unicorns either.
"We are evolving, and we are much smarter than we were centuries ago."
Not really. We are more technologically advance and know a lot more about the world around us, but our basic capacity for intelligence hasn't changed noticeably.
"No, I do not believe in the Adam in Eve story, I believe the OT was written as an effort to make primitive people understand that simply "God created man." I will not discredit those who believe it, however, because I have no proof of it. I wasn't there."
Atheists are less selective. They see all of it as a fairy tale.
That was some lengthy drivel there, sport.
That's a really childish response there, sport.
We are more technologically advance and know a lot more about the world around us,
I do not know, before I was born Man went to moon and back ... quite a few times. Now, we have a space program of robots and drones. Teleconferencing and the internet have shown us more of the world but only in the screens of our Dells, Apples, and various google tablets.
Also, with the drones, we are advanced to the point that the person in the car to the left of you just performed a hostile take over of a company on the other side of the planet. In the car to the right, that guy just flew a drone strike in the country next door.
I'm not sure that you realize this, Mark, but your lifetime is a very tiny slice of all the years of human history.
@Rachel: "Is it so wrong to want to believe that there is something else other than this?"
Of course not. But wanting something doesn't make it real. The danger in wanting something to be true is your desire causes you to lose your objectivity. You embrace evidence you believe supports what you want to believe and reject evidence that doesn't. You buy fallacious arguments supporting what you want to believe and reject valid arguments that don't. It's well known and history is full of examples showing that when people want to believe something badly enough they can almost always convince themselves it's true.
For the record, I think the Christian narrative sounds great. I have just never seen anything to suggest any of it is true.
"You argue that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus and unicorns. Yet your argument is flawed since those can be proven not to exist."
Sorry, but no, you can't prove they don't exist. Same for leprechauns and vampires. All you can say is no one has ever seen any evidence they exist, but that's easily countered by imbuing them with an appropriate supernatural power. For example, I can claim unicorns are magical creatures who only reveal themselves to people who truly believe in them.
This is what you do when you imbue God with such fantastic traits and powers he can circumvent all powers of detection. You can't see him; he's not bound by the laws of space, matter and time; he's all-powerful; all-knowing — by the time you folks are done with him you've created a being so unlimited you can make up any excuse you want to explain why there is no evidence of his existence and justify anything you want to believe about him.
The same thing can be done for Santa Claus and unicorns.
Now this was funny coming from Ron: You may have actually convinced yourself of your own self delusion.
I just cannot stop laughing!
"You guys constantly attack Christianity while arguing that we preach our beliefs on to you. Yet, it makes more sense to try to preach about God and salvation then to preach that there is nothing."
How does it makes sense to preach lies to dupe people into following false religions? It makes sense and seems much healthier to accept reality and learn to cope with it, even when it's less pleasant than fairytales that make a lot of promises there is no reason to believe.
We all know you folks have no evidence to support anything you preach. Nothing to show any god exists, and nothing to show that even if there is a god that the Christian understanding of him is correct. All you you have are unsupported, but comforting claims.
"What do you even stand for then?"
I stand for truth. I stand for advancing the human condition by opposing bigotry, oppression, partisan bickering that paralyzes government, ignorance, and promoting mutual respect, tackling the challenges of life with facts, logic and reason instead of beliefs and theories that ignore facts, logic and reason. Sorry if you think that means I don't stand for anything.
You covered it all right there!
We all know you folks have no evidence to support anything you preach. Nothing to show any god exists,
And we say the same when Atheist preach that there is not a God or Gods. But, since you just made the claim, I will wait for you to prove your belief.
Where was god on 9/11? He didn't prevent it. He knew it was going to happen and did nothing. No show, nada, nothing. I can safely say GOD WASN'T THERE! enough proof for ya?
Oh, Mark; Your so called logic has been addressed many times here with the Santa Claus paradigm. No one can prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist either. So are you saying you believe Santa Claus may exist? How about the tooth fairy? Be honest; if an adult told you that really believe Santa Claus exist, what would you think of them? Can you now understand how non-believers view those that say a so called ‘god’ exist?
Where was God on 9/11? He didn't prevent it. He knew it was going to happen and did nothing. No show, nada, nothing. I can safely say GOD WASN'T THERE! enough proof for ya?
9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument. From the stairs that led folks up to twin buildings collapsing on a morning where both towers were not even close to normal capacity. I would also point to So, one "where was God" can be easily countered but, I ask, did God ever tell us that such evils will not ever visit our doorstep?
JazzGuitarman. Trust me, I can understand logically how Atheist view God or Gods as being the same as Santa Claus but in the end the statement of non-belief is just as wide of a gorge as belief. The problem is, that it forces Atheist into forever explaining things that continue to remain un-explainable with theories alone. A further shackle is to declare it could absolutely anything but ..."fill in a deity". A person of Faith is open minded and not stifled into such a box. Some of the greatest thinkers and scientist have been able to carry both Faith and Science within them.
To be honest, I do not judge people on what they believe but in their character and how they work. There are countless people who have killed. Some have killed millions, who if they came up to you and said that they did not believe in Santa Claus.... what would you think of them JGM? Would their "lack of belief in Santa Claus" in any way change your opinion of them over a adult who comes up to you and declares that he or she believes there is a Santa Claus?
Mark from Middle River
"9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument."
So it was a miracle that God ONLY watched nearly 4,000 innocent Americans die? A miracle would have been if the terrorists FAILED. Certainly no miracle about that.
9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument.
So god performed miracles BEFORE the attack when miracles weren't needed. Then performed miracles AFTER the attack. I guess for the Christians that believed in god and were killed on impact. Screw em. You make god sound like a coward. When he was needed the most. Zippo.
So it was a miracle that God ONLY watched nearly 4,000 innocent Americans die?
There are estimated an 146,357 deaths each day, with 6098 people dying each hour, is you believe Ask.com. The CDC is claiming a death ever 14 seconds. Is it that the best Atheist response simply boils down is to ask why do we die? Sorry but folks do die. In the rest of the world they suffer terrorist attacks daily, us hardly ever. Think about it, the last time we were hit, like 9/11 was Pearl Harbor.
Let me ask this question...since you are defining innocent lives. Where the 150,000–246,000 killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ja'pan also innocent?
So God performed miracles BEFORE the attack when miracles weren't needed.
Miracles could be interpreted as simple as the countless people who were not in the towers at that time. The terrorist who did not make it on to the plane in Boston. That after the attack the building held so long before collapsing.
I guess for the Christians that believed in God and were killed on impact. Screw em.
No, not even "screw em" the Muslims, Jews, and Atheist who died that day. All life is precious Ken. 🙂
PS: you can italicize by putting .... lacking the space between the . That way it looks like:
I am a Atheist and I love 700 Club Christians 🙂
Wow, thought the code would not work with the spaces.
What you want italize
"Let me ask this question...since you are defining innocent lives. Where the 150,000–246,000 killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ja'pan also innocent?"
I'm sure a lot of them were. Most of the Ja.panese troops weren't hiding in the middle of the 2 cities. By the time Bush became president, we were already welcoming with open arms, many thousands of Ja.panese tourists. Guess maybe they weren't ALL bad after all. Bush thought enough of them to leave Washington to welcome their leader to Graceland.
A few weeks ago GW Bush was rebuilding hospitals in Africa. Obama just went to South Africa ...in case Mandela passed, he could be there to photo-op.
But this week Obama is back in Martha's Vineyard....while Chicago is drowning in gun violence and Detroit is sinking into the great lakes.
Mark from Middle River,
Obama isn't remotely close to Bush's total of vacation days when he shattered the previous record set by Ronald Reagan.
Speaking of 9/11, Bush was already on vacation for most of the month leading up to 9/11.
@Mark...................When all else fails attack the president. Old republican tactic. Running out of answers huh?
@Mark from Middle River: "A few weeks ago GW Bush was rebuilding hospitals in Africa. Obama just went to South Africa ...in case Mandela passed, he could be there to photo-op.
But this week Obama is back in Martha's Vineyard....while Chicago is drowning in gun violence and Detroit is sinking into the great lakes."
Why am I not surprised you're a brainwashed right-winger? Nothing you say here disparages Obama to anyone still capable of thinking for himself. All presidents do these things. Whining about Obama taking a vacation just makes you look like an even bigger fool than your other comments.
The amount of time Obama has spent on vacation is not out of line with that spent by other presidents. Bush holds the record by a wide margin. He spent more time on vacation than FDR, and FDR served three terms. Only fools brainwashed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh try to make an issue of Obama's vacations.
As for what is happening in Chicago and Detroit, those are not national issues, and the president — every president — can do his job from wherever he is. There really is no such thing as a vacation for the president in the sense that the rest of us think of a vacation.
I'll prove God doesn't exist as soon as you prove Santa Claus, leprechauns, vampires, and the Loch Ness monster don't exist.
That argument only makes you look stupid. If god exists there should be some kind of indication. If not, why would any rational person "seek God" anymore than he'd seek leprechauns? You can claim anything. Just because you can claim God exists is not a reason for me to believe it. People who are willing to believe without evidence believe all kind of nonsense, and have since the beginning of time.
What, you don't think that God knew you were going to be born? And he did it because He knows we are human not a superior being, so we are not going to be perfect. He designed us with the free will to think for ourselves. Otherwise we would be robots. He died for you because he wants you to come to His kingdom and live in paradise. He loves you as you would your own child, if not more.
Will I get the virgins like the Muslims?
All standard Christian platitudes. No objective reason to believe any of it.
What you dont think that God knew you were going to be born
The issue isn't what a so called 'god' may or may not know, but if said god does anything to impact what happens on this earth. For those that believe god does impact things e.g. causes fires, cures some blind people but of course not the majority etc. One has to address why this god is so selective and why 99% of the time he takes no action.
If one believes in man's free will than what purpose does god serve (expect if there is an afterlife which is a whole other can of worms).
Believers really need to think about their god.... Omniscient and Omnipresent, meaning this has already ended for him and it hasn't begun yet. When you have those two abilities, why would you need to play anything out?
Btw – you can really have fun with this stuff.....eternal, existing at every point in time and every possible place.....even for a 'god' this situation would be beyond absurd.
God didn't know YOU were going to be born. So i guess god gives children autism? Cancer? Drug addicted parents? Yet this great person can't prevent the common cold!
If religious people were to refer to god ONLY AFTER someone passes away they probably wouldn't get the resistance they get. But when people say god knows all, sees all and smells all of people that are still alive. When we can obviously see god has no influence on our lives, that's a little hard to take.
What you mention is the issue that was covered well in the AZ Firemen death forum. In that forum even some Christians had to admit the folly that a so called 'god' was in control since they didn't wish to admit that this god killed those heros (or just looked the other way why they were killed).
The concept that a so called god helps some but not others, when both equally worship said god, causes Christians to change the subject!
I'm surprised they didn't say "god works in mysterious ways"