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July 30th, 2013
02:17 PM ET

Why are millennials leaving church? Try atheism

Opinion by Hemant Mehta, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Articles and books about why millennials are leaving Christianity often focus on what churches are doing "wrong."

They're anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education and anti-doubt, 
to name a few of the most common criticisms.

I don't disagree with those critiques, but there's another side to the story.

While Christians have played sloppy defense, secular Americans have been showing off some impressive offense, giving young Christians plenty of reasons to lose faith in organized religion.

For instance, atheists dominate the Internet, rallying to thriving websites and online communities in lieu of physical meeting spaces.

Even a writer for the evangelical magazine Relevant admitted that “While Christianity enjoys a robust online presence, the edge still seems to belong to its unbelievers.”

Atheists outnumber Christians on popular discussion forums like Reddit, where subscribers to the atheism section number more than 2 million. The Christianity section is not even 5% of that.

The Internet-based Foundation Beyond Belief, which encourages atheists to donate to charitable organizations, just celebrated raising $1 million for worthwhile causes. (Disclosure: I serve on its board of directors.)

Moreover, blogs and websites espousing non-religious viewpoints and criticizing Christianity draw tons of Internet traffic these days. For every Christian apologist's argument, it seems, there's an equal and opposite rebuttal to be found online. I call that "Hitchens' Third Law.”

READ MORE: Why millennials are leaving the church 

Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can't protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.

If there's an open comment thread to be found on a Christian's YouTube video or opinion piece online, there's inevitably going to be pushback from atheists.

There has also been a push by atheists to get non-religious individuals to "come out of the closet" and let people know that they don't believe in God.

Among other things, this proves that anti-atheist stereotypes aren't accurate and, just as important, that atheists aren’t alone in their communities.

There's the Richard Dawkins Foundation's Out Campaign, with its Scarlet A badges.

There are atheist-encouraging billboards in 33 states financed by groups like the United Coalition of Reason.

There's even going to be an 1-800 hot line for people "recovering" from religion.

READ MORE: Atheists to start 1-800 hot line for doubters

And last year, an estimated 20,000 atheists turned out for the Reason Rally in Washington, a tenfold increase from the previous atheist rally in 2002.

But more than anything else, atheism's best advertisements may be the words of Christian leaders themselves.

When Pastor Mark Driscoll belittles women, Rick Warren argues against same-sex rights or Rob Bell equivocates on the concept of hell, we amplify those messages for them - and it helps us make our point.

(It goes without saying that the pairing of Pat Robertson and YouTube has been great for atheists.)

Pastors are no longer the final authority on the truth, and millennials know it.

Even if they hold Jesus' message in high esteem, the Bible as it has traditionally been preached by many evangelical pastors is becoming less and less attractive to them.

A 2012 study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PDF) showed that many Christians aged 18-24 felt that Christianity was hypocritical (49%), judgmental (54%) and anti-gay (58%).

In addition, Christianity Today reported last year that fewer than half of born-again Christians under 35 opposed same-sex marriage.

When millennials' pastors and hearts are going in different directions, church leaders should be worried.

Can churches win back the youth?

Barring a complete shift in beliefs, that may not be possible. Some of the proposed solutions seem ludicrous to millennial atheists like myself.

For instance, there's been talk of finding a better way to reconcile science and religion. Whenever that battle takes place, religion loses.

There are some questions we may never know the answer to, but for the ones we can eventually answer, the scientific explanation will devour the religious one. Mixing science and religion requires a distortion of one or the other.

READ MORE: Behold, the six tribes of atheism 

What about focusing on the message and life of Jesus?

While this sounds good philosophically, the myth surrounding Jesus is part of the problem with Christianity.

To believe in Jesus means believing that he was born of a virgin, rose from the dead and performed a number of miracles.

There's no proof of any of that ever happened, and atheists place those stories in the same box as "young Earth creationism" and Noah's Great Flood.

To be sure, if Christians followed the positive ideas Jesus had, we'd all be better off, but it's very hard to separate the myth from the reality.

In short, there are many reasons the percentage of millennials who say they've never doubted God's existence is at a record low, and nearly a quarter of adults under 30 no longer affiliate with a faith.

The church has pushed young people away, yes, but there are also forces actively pulling them in the other direction.

It appears that atheists and Christians are finally working together on the same task: getting millennials to leave the church.

Hemant Mehta blogs at The Friendly Atheist. The views expressed in this column belong to Mehta. 

Photos: Famous atheists and their beliefs

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Culture & Science • Faith • Internet • Nones • Opinion • Science • United States

soundoff (5,653 Responses)
  1. JB

    Y'know, I'm becoming more comfortable with saying the words "I am an atheist," but I have no interest in recruiting others or debate. Actually, a well-versed believer would probably debate me under the table. But I still won't believe what he or she believes, no matter how firm their argument. I just can't in my gut bring myself to believe it. We're all annoyed as hell by Christians who feel they're called to convert (and annoy the crap out of) us, so why would we do the same? We're not called to make disciples. Let's do good things for humanity while we're here, and yes, let's fight any movements toward theocracy or blurring of church and state, but honestly, I don't care what the back of my dollar bill says.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • ml

      It always strikes me as interesting that it is the Christian who is categorized as "closed minded" and not someone who doesn't believe and states that they will not believe no matter how firm the argument might be.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • Kris

        As an atheist, I'd say both sides need to remain open minded. However, it can hardly be ignored that one side tends to IGNORE scientific evidence and data or simply shove God into an even tighter gap.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • JB

        I used to believe because I was taught from a young age. Now that I'm not a young age, the more I contemplate, the more I don't believe, no matter how I try. I weighed both sides and came down on one. If that makes me close-minded, so be it. I'm not trying to win believers over to my side, so I don't really care how open-minded you all are, either.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  2. Dave

    The most evil people on this earth always have a religious motivation behind them. For every Martin Luther there are a thousand Richard Topcliffes.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      CORRECT

      July 31, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • Buck

        Hitler wasn't a practicing christian. In fact he was known to be more anti-church than anything.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:34 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Hitler was anti-church?

          "The fact that the Curia is now making its peace with Fascism shows that the Vatican trusts the new political realities far more than did the former liberal democracy with which it could not come to terms. ...The fact that the Catholic Church has come to an agreement with Fascist Italy ...proves beyond doubt that the Fascist world of ideas is closer to Christianity than those of Jewish liberalism or even atheistic Marxism..."
          – Adolf Hitler in an article in the Völkischer Beobachter, February 29, 1929, on the new Lateran Treaty between Mussolini's fascist government and the Vatican

          "By its decision to carry out the political and moral cleansing of our public life, the Government is creating and securing the conditions for a really deep and inner religious life. The advantages for the individual which may be derived from compromises with atheistic organizations do not compare in any way with the consequences which are visible in the destruction of our common religious and ethical values. The national Government sees in both Christian denominations the most important factor for the maintenance of our society. ..."
          – Adolf Hitler, speech before the Reichstag, March 23, 1933, just before the Enabling Act is passed.

          "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out".
          The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, Oxford University Press, 1942

          July 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • ml

      I have to agree with you, Dave. All evil is religiously motivated. It's origin is from Satan himself.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • devin

      You mean like Mussolini, Mao and Stalin, those pillars of the faith?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  3. Puzzled in Peoria

    For the 10 millionth time, God cannot be proved or disproved by logic and reason. God can only be known by faith.

    Trying to prove God by reason is like having a mathematician try to explain love.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      YEAH. LOVE CAN BE MORE ACCURATELY DESCRIBED UNDER THE SCIENCE OF BIOLOGY. STUPID MATH IDIOTS.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Ben

      Uh Love is explained by science. Take a look at an oxytocin molecule.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • sybaris

      Then don't hate on the pink unicorn in my closet

      July 31, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Ann

      Mathematicians may not be able to explain love... but scientists sure can!

      July 31, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • thomas

      wrong God can be understood by science ... by understanding humans

      god is merely the mis-application of human's social ability – namely to infer intent and expectations of others – to try to explain the natural world.

      when we can't explain nature, we create a being and talk about intent and expectations of that being

      faith is just an extension of your belief that you can discern god's intent and expectations ...

      July 31, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Solving in Chicago

      If you think it seems strange for a mathematician to explain love, then you get it. The story I mean. Why would anyone, especially nowadays accept the words of a religious leader on subjects that science has already disproven?(earth is 6000 years old?) Also the scientific community overall shares common stances even on theories whereas religions are all at war and think their version is correct.

      But the funny thing is, love can be explained, there are physiological and psychological responses that can be mapped. Love is something everyone can experience. It can almost always be explained, aaaaand love exists.I have no problem saying there is no god. I can also say I love my daughter. I love my wife. I love my dog.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    Religion was born to serve the same purpose as science; it answered questions about the world and how it worked. Of course, when we required religion as a psychic salve science was unable to answer such questions; science didn't even exist except as a "hey, stop pushing me into the water or I'll get wet" practical exercise. Religion was the first symptom of our sentience, of our consciousness and of our acknowledgement of our own subjectivity.
    When early man, his little brain bent upon survival at all costs, discovered that the world worked independly from how he thought it worked, (or at least how he had hoped it worked), early man was frightened and scared. That can't be! said early man to other early men. There must be some explanation, nature can't just be arbitrary!
    Unaware of such mystical things as provability and objectivity, figured that somebody just like him, but a little smarter, must be responsible for how and why the world worked like it did. And since it was like him, it must be fickle, greedy, and childlike.
    Religion is now the safe haven of people who don't take their reality straight up, who don't like to think about some things while thinking about other things at the same time. Religion is an impossiblity our mind allows because it makes us feel safe, the ultimate goal of earlyman survival; religion is the ability, honed by our parents in our youth by the impatient hushing of our incessant "why?"s, to completely fail to learn how to reconcile some parts of one's knowledge with other parts into a coherent worldview. Religion happens when people aren't paying attention. Religion is the emotion that precedes thought.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  5. beth

    There were 3 million young people from all over the world on a beach in Brazil on Sunday to hear the Pope's message. When young people open their heads and their hearts to God he listens and guides them. It's okay to question and it's okay to believe. Atheism will always be around but it is an empty and meaningless message.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Personal responsibility is a meaningless message?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • beth

        God's message is one of free will and personal responsibility.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:27 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          God's message is one of obsequious submission to a petty, jealous deity prone to fits of rage like a petulant toddler.
          Who is more moral?
          The person who does good of their own volition simply to be good, or the one who does good to please their master and avoid punishment?

          July 31, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • Johnny

          How is letting Jesus take your punishment a form of personal responsibility?

          July 31, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • watergirl

      And Brazil has some of the highest crime rates in the world. You can preach religion all you want, but most Christians are only christian for an hour on Sundays.
      3 million is nothing, btw. That is a 1/3 of the population of NYC.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Punchmaster

      Latin cultures have always been very gullible and complete suckers for Catholicism, The Pope, and all of the nonsense attached with both. It's unfortunate, 'cause condoms could do the economies of those cultures a world of good.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        I'd say move broad brush you're painting with a little to the left but I think you're about as far left as you can get.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It is not an empty and meaningless message, it is not a message at all. That's like saying that not believing in the Loch Ness monster is a message. It simply is disbelief in deities that no one can show the slightest indication of their existance.
      Also the number of people who believe is irrelevant since the number of believers adds nothing to the credibility of the belief.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  6. phillipatomus

    My favorite thing about religious people is that with no 'actual' evidence they believe is God/The Spirit/Mohamed/ The Buda/whatever but will not believe in Aliens/bigfoot/unicorns/dragons/leprechauns/elves/fairies/werewolves/vampires/etc.....

    All of which have the exact same scientific 'evidence' as that of the existence of some magic man in the sky.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  7. Darw1n

    As a GenX atheist, I am feeling a lot less lonely these days. Thank you Millennials.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • JusDav

      I too am not feeling as lonely as an anti-theist and I am well over 50. IT IS ABOUT TIME you all caught up.. hehe

      cheers
      JusDav

      July 31, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        I've got bad news for you, you're just as alone as you ever were.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  8. GodFearingMan

    These trends are no surprise to true believers. The Bible predicts that in the last days, there will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the faith. However, God will preserve his elect and keep them from being deceived.

    Other believers reading this should take heart, and remember that Christianity thrives when it is in the minority in terms of belief groups, especially when accompanied by persecution. God uses persecution to purify his church and to remove the tares from among the wheat.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Andrew

      Pack light, the Rapture is coming

      July 31, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      LOL @ THE BIBLE AND THE END DAYS

      GO BACK AND READ JESUS' ANSWER TO THE DISCIPLES WHEN THE ASKED ABOUT THE SO CALLED END DAYS

      HE TOLD THEM HIS SECOND COMING WOULD HAPPEN BEFORE THEIR GENERATION DIED

      YOU PEOPLE NEED TO STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND DEAL WITH SOME REALITY

      THE BIBLE IS A COLLECTION OF FABRICATED MYTHS

      July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • jwt

      What persecution ?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • GodFearingMan

        There's not much here in the US (for now), but there are hate speech laws in Europe and pastors are getting put in jail for preaching. Of course, in the third world, Christians are being killed everyday for their faith (Africa, middle East, Red China, etc.).

        July 31, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      REPENT! For the ancient prophesies are coming to pass!
      " The age of evil has come to the world . Everyone steals and hoards great wealth, and sensual sin rules the day. The end of the world is at hand – yet men are hard and cruel, and listen not to the doom that is coming . No one heeds the cries of his neighbour, or lifts a hand to save. '

      To survive the End of Days, you must give yourself over to the King of Gods, for only Odin will save you from Ragnarok.

      The End is always nigh for the religious.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Marky Merlot

      Your name says it all: fear makes you believe; fear has always been the greatest motivator for religion. When you stop fearing, you have an opportunity to investigate, discover and innovate. Fear prevents one from being open minded.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  9. jenniferyaniz

    Facts are finally seeing through the veil that is religion and putting humanity on the right path, moving towards a future where religion no longer dictates how we judge and treat our fellow man. Revelations about wide spread cults that exploit, crazy religious acts performed by maniacal believers & world wide corruption in the highest of religious courts have brought people to the conclusion that religions and gods were created by man to control man, that the faithful are the openly exploited and true believers tend to lose everything.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  10. Avery

    Congratulations Mehta, you have created an argument filled with circular reasoning and numerous other fallacies which come together to make an assertion that is as old as religion itself, that there is no God. You cite examples of religious leaders of the day and try to use that as proof of the "close-mindedness" of faith in God. However, assume for a moment that their is a God who created everything, and that He, after establishing the universe and the laws which govern it, established a set of rules for his followers to adhere to? Then is follow God's commands any more "close-minded" than a scientist who strictly adheres to the laws of science? Also, still assuming there is a God, consider the ramifications of your disbelief in Him. Eternity of torment in a place where the joys and wonders of the things God created do not exist: Hell. You see, atheism isn't a new idea or a radical movement. Ever since God created the Earth and the humans that exist on it (side note: it is much easier to believe in a God who created anything than it is to believe that some incredibly improbable explosion created everything we know; when was the last time you saw an explosion that was constructive, as opposed to destructive, in nature?), more people have disbelieved in God than those of us who believe: and those people who disbelieved face an eternity of separation from Him in Hell. Atheist fall directly within what the Bible clearly states "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction," "but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life."

    July 31, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      THE BIBLE IS FALSE BY ITS OWN ADMISSION

      YOU CAN'T USE A COLLECTION OF TEXTS THAT CONTRADICT THEMSELVES AND PROVE THEMSELVES TO BE MYTHS AS JUSTIFICATION FOR A DEBATE

      July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Broadway Bill

      "...assume for a moment that their is a God who created everything, and that He, after establishing the universe and the laws which govern it, established a set of rules for his followers to adhere to? Then is follow God's commands any more "close-minded" than a scientist who strictly adheres to the laws of science?"

      Well, yeah dummy. It is. See science has a little thing called proof. Religion only has assumptions.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • Avery

        Look around you, the proof is everywhere! Have you ever been amazed by the beauty of nature? Did all of that happen by chance? By some improbable explosion? All of the explosions I've ever seen caused destruction and devastation. Show me one, just one, fact from the Bible that has been disproved... I'll save you some time: you won't find one. The Bible was written over thousands of years and by numerous numerous people, yet it is cohesive and doesn't ever contradict itself. Be careful what you believe.. it will determine where you spend eternity.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Bats are not birds.
          Mustard seeds are not the smallest of all seeds.
          Then there's mention of unicorns (Isaiah 34:7), half man half goat beasts (Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14), flaming snakes (Numbers 21:6), seven headed dragons (Revelation 12:3) and serpents that can kill just by looking at you (Jeremiah 8:17).

          July 31, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • Avery

          Be careful reading everything as literal as many things in the Bible are clearly used metaphorical to line up with beliefs of the day.. And explain to me how one would find fossils of sea creatures at the tops of mountain ranges except by, maybe, a world wide flood caused by God? What about the Dead Sea Scrolls which also point directly to Jesus?

          July 31, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • GodFearingMan

          doc, these are common objections to the bible but have been repeatedly answered by Christian apologists. These objections only have any weight whatsoever if you've already made up your mind not to believe in the bible.

          The mustard seed is the smallest seed that the original 1st centure palestine person would know about. Jesus wasn't making an absolute statement. Again, to the ancients, anything that flew in the air was considered a bird. The bible uses phenomenological language sometimes (the sun rises, sets, etc.), and shouldn't be read in a literal sense in those cases. Also, you must distinguish between the various literary genres in the bible, such as apocalyptic. Revelation is apocalyptic, uses symbolism and shouldn't be read literally.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Darius

      I can point to so many things in the bible which are patently proved to be false. I can point to many things in the bible that are abhorent to anyone with any morals (slavery as a quick example). Why is it that when the Bible is discussed, these are glossed over?

      I can point to Christians saying how they miraculously survived by the hand of God, yet I can also point to a train driver who killed 78 people, gunman who killed children, ship captains drunk who destroy the enivorment, yet where was this hand of God then? Ah, a mystery of God is the answer.

      Perhaps I am meant to interpret those sections of the Bible which are in error or where the message is foul, a metaphor then, and not actual? But there's the rub. Which are facts? Which are metaphors? If it's left to interpretation, well, then defacto, it's all a metaphor. The Bible is supposed to be THE book. If one section of THE book is false, then it's all false. If one section is metphor, then it's ALL metaphor. Metaphors which Include God himself. This is what atheists are talking about when we spout on about facts.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • Avery

        Make sure you line up the things you call untrue or immoral with the practices of the time the Bible was written. For example, slavery was a way in which to pay back debt at the time and most slaves consented to being enslaved in order to avoid jail for what they owed.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:56 am |
        • Which God?

          Avery, your skills in critical thinking are lacking. There is a differnece in being and "indentured servant," and one who is bought that is, a slave. You are nothing but a xtian apologist, making up excuses as you go. Your book is either the litteral book from god, or irt is myth. which is it? Time to watch you dance around again.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • GodFearingMan

        You can't prove anything in the bible is false. Nobody's ever proven a contridiction in the Bible.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Genetics has proven that we did not descend from one gentic set, disproving the myth of Adam and Eve, which also destroys the myth of original sin, which then destroys the myth that god gave his only son to save us from that original sin.

          I have more places where the bible has been disproven, but it is unlikely you will listen to the facts.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • KD

      Just to clarify, the big bang is not described by scientists as an explosion. It is described as an expansion. The "explosion" metaphor was coined by Fred Hoyle to specifically be pejorative.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:42 am |
      • Avery

        So who created the material necessary for this "expansion?" Howd it get there?

        July 31, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          First you a$$ume there was a who, That is a bad a$$umption.
          The answer to your question is we do not know, which is far better thatn the hypothesis that god did it.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        Actually the big bang was not first described by a scientist. It was proposed by a priest.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          He also was a scientist. The whole Big Bang theory has nothing to do with the existance of a god or not. The Big Bang did happen, but as to the cause, we do not know....yet.
          It may be shown at some point that a god had something to do with it, it might be shown that no gods had anything to do with it, it does not address the existance or non existance of deities at all.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  11. Bolo for Christ

    I like the "lack of proof" argument atheists present. The problem I see is there is no proof that God doesn't exist either. That's why in Christianity/Religion there is that which is called "faith." So I suppose atheists have great faith in their "selves" and the choice they've made in deciding there is no god for lack of faith. So Christianity/Religion and atheism spawn from the same lack of proof, but the choice evolve in different directions about the lack of proof. So consequently, atheists set themselves up as their own god of their own world, being their own supreme ruler. (Notice how each group tells the other group how wrong each are, which is a sin in either camp). In either case, whether atheism and/or Christianity/Religion, a belief in some form of god prevails.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • thomas

      GOD does exist because we create it!!!!!

      god is merely the mis-application of human's social ability – namely to infer intent and expectations of others – to try to explain the natural world.

      when we can't explain nature, we create a being and talk about intent and expectations of that being

      God is whatever belief we choose

      that does not mean God created earth or there is a heaven you know.

      my imagination exists too and if any of you atheists suggest it does not, I will tell you a story about how God gave his only son and you will agree

      July 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Andrew

      Atheists use things like science, logic and reasoning to support conclusions. Christians et. al. mmmmmmmm not so much.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • Austin

        That's simply an unfair accusation. I'm a young Catholic who is filled with doubt, but the last thing I want is either "side" painted in a caricature. If we are really searching for the truth, then we would have no motivation to do this. Many early pioneers of scientific breakthroughs were monks and priests, who practiced science in order to see "God's order in the world." Some of the greatest philosophers in history spent much of their time wrestling with the scientific and logical proof of God.

        The Catholic Church, while it has faults, does not teach a literal interpretation of the bible (even if some "Catholics" claims it does). Are there faiths that do teach literal interpretation? Yes. But the failings of human beings hardly seems to be an argument against the existence of an objective truth, which plenty of people call God. As far as I can tell, the notion that science and religion, both properly defined, are hardly mutually exclusive. If people really want to find truth in the world, we need to stop simplifying the argument down to ad hominmen attacks and instead focus on finding the Truth everyone claims to seek, but most people are too afraid to.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:37 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          out of the mouths of babes.....

          July 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • mk

      "So consequently, atheists set themselves up as their own god of their own world, being their own supreme ruler."

      You can call me a goddess of my own world, or you can say that I am the master of my own destiny. Either way, it makes more sense than saying that you have free will, but it's orchestrated by a god who may or may not answer your prayer.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I am an athesist. I do not believe that any of the thousands of gods men have worshipped ever existed. I could be wrong.
      There is the possibility that god(s) do exist, but since there is not one shred of evidence , it is just a hypothesis. Just like, we are all in the matrix is another hypothesis, with just as much credibility.

      To have chosen one of the thoousands of gods as yours and to say it is the correct one, is just ignoring logic and reason, which really is the definition of faith, the ability to ignore facts, logic and reason and jump to unjustifiable conclusions.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • TransitDave

        Which came first, the chicken, or the egg? The point is that there is no answer to this question, it is unknowable. Just as the origins of God are unknowable. Religion is a never-ending quest to try to understand the un-knowable. Atheism in general is indifference to the aswer. Only as of late has it been a never ending quest to explain the unexplainable.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Poor analogy. The egg came first. There was an animal that was almost a chicken who's egg had a slight mutation that made it a chicken, but it started in the egg.

          The answer may be knowable, we just haven't found it yet.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
      • GodFearingMan

        That's like saying that because I don't see the builder of a building, then I have no evidence to believe he exists. The existing of a building is evidence that the builder existed.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:05 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Another poor analogy. We know builders exist, and we can watch them build buildings. The existance of the universe, is not the same since we do not know what happened before the Big Bang. It could have been a god, but it could be we exist in the matrix.
          You have ignored logic and jumped to an irrational conclusion.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Missed Connection

      " The problem I see is there is no proof that God doesn't exist either."

      You could break it down further. Are you a Christian? If so, why, when there's no proof Shiva doesn't exist? Or Odin? Or Santa Claus for thatmatter or any number of supernatural things humans have believed existed without evidence for millennis.

      When you pick one god, you are automatically rejecting thousands, if not millions of others, and saying they don't exist. Atheism just goes one god further.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • Avery

        But what if the "thousands or millions" of other Gods are just glimpses of the One True God?

        July 31, 2013 at 10:38 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Ahhh.starting with the what if's now....there is an infinite number of what ifs, not worth going down that path.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • NoProof

      "There is no proof God doesn't exist".....so he must exist...right

      By your reasoning, since there is no proof that unicorns and fire-breathing dragons don't exist, then they are definitely real!!

      July 31, 2013 at 10:35 am |
      • GodFearingMan

        There is a sufficient amount of evidence that God exists (the big bang needed a cause, fine-tuning of physical constants in the laws of physics, information in DNA implies an intelligent designer). The problem isn't that you can't believe, it's that you will not believe in spite of the evidence.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • dean

      So I don't think you'll find many atheists who say that there definitely no god – you can't disprove the existence of a supernatural being using physical means (and even if god is a physical being perhaps we haven't found evidence yet). That said, and atheist's disbelief in the Christian God is something similar to their disbelief in Zeus. We can't really disprove Zeus' existence but we are skeptical and feel pretty safe saying that he doesn't exist. Again that's a belief that can't I cant prove, but my feeling is is that the burden of proof falls upon the person making the claim – if I claim that I am a god and I made the universe you of course would not believe me because I have no physical proof to back it up. We live in a rational world and rationality is something that is inherent to human nature, it something that people from all cultures and backgrounds have some appreciation for. I don't think religion is like logic or reason as it required faith which is a learned behavior. Faith isn't something that can be appreciated by all humans. If having faith that a certain god exists is so important, I don't understand why it's something that isn't more prevalent and why it's not more like an instinct.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • Scott

        Perhaps the fact that every culture in the history of the earth had some form of belief in a creator demonstrates that it is instinctual. We all have a choice not to follow instinct.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  12. HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

    GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Probably not, but until it can be proven one way or another, the most accurate statement would be you believe god does not exist.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • Xavier Cane

        More accurate to say there is no evidence of God's existance

        July 31, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • Joshua

        Until you can prove that invisible pink unicorns do not exist, the most accurate statement you can make is that you believe that invisible pink unicorns do not exist.

        Until you can prove that magic fairies do not exist, the most accurate statement you can make is that you believe that magic fairies do not exist.

        Can you spot the problem with this logic? Where should the burden of proof lie?

        July 31, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        Joshua
        The burdon of proof lies with the claimant.
        I have a problem with people who say god does exist or god does not exist. Since it cannot be proven at this time one way or another, both are false statements.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:42 am |
        • Avery

          But thats the whole point of faith in God... that you can't "prove" it in the way that we as humans would want to prove it. The whole point of faith is to acknowledge that we aren't all knowing and that we need a God who is. We trust Him that He is who He says He is in faith. I'd like to be able to prove it to everyone to show you that you need God and His son Jesus, but I can't do that. All I can say is look around you and ask yourself if everything you see happened by accident? Thats harder to reconcile with than believing there is an all powerful God with a plan for you and form me.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:53 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Avery
          Faith is the ability to ignore facts, logic and reason and jump to a completely unjustifiable conclusion.

          Why do you not have faith in Zeus, quetzlcoatl or any of the other thousands of gods.

          You and I are both atheists. I have just gone one god further than you.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:06 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          The proof is in the puddin'

          July 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Avery

      Hitler was not a Christian... He may have professed to be a Christian, but that doesn't make him one. I could say I am an astronaut, but does that make me one?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:16 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        The No True Scotsman fallacy does not work. Hitler was a christian. I'm not certain how that is surprising...he killed in large numbers, the christian god killed in large numbers...christians like murder!

        July 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • Avery

          How do you know Hitler was a true, faith-in-God Christian? Did you converse with him about it? Admittedly people professing to be believers of God have committed many atrocities in his name, but that doesn't mean the people committing those acts truly are Christians. Only God and I know whether or not I truly believe in Him, so for you or anyone else to say who truly is a Christian is assuming a little too much, don't you think?

          July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am |
        • TransitDave

          In fact, Hitler was raised a catholic, and was quoted as saying that he would be a Catholic until the day he died, of course, these comments were made during his political ascent, and so like many promises of Politicians, it has to be taken with a large grain of salt. Judging by his actions, persecuting many Christian Clergy who opposed him, and finally revealing his own grandiose plans for a Nazi religion symbolized by the swastika and the sword, would lead most people to think that he was in fact an atheist, and certainly not a practicing Christian by any measure. He was a meglomaniac, you see; and thought he was a God, to speak of.........And certainly most of not all of his henchmen worshiped him like one.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:38 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Avery
          Nice back peddling, but since you opened the thread by saying Hitler was not a christian, you are the one who has judged him.

          Hitler was a christian, believed in the christian almighty, and justified his actions frequently through his (and your ) god.
          He also considered all atheists to be immoral, since you needed a belief in god to be moral, he futher saw atheism as a form of mental illness, and had many killed with the jews and others that he saw as defects to society.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        One can debate the sincerity of Hitler's Catholicism until the cows come home, but you cannot deny that he used Chrstian arguments to whip his predominantly Christian citizenry into a frenzy of hate.
        Having been exposed to religious methods of persuasion in school at a Benedictine cloister, Hitler recognized religion’s power to keep the people compliant.
        This is why Nazi uniform belt buckles were emblazoned with the slogan “Gott mit uns” (God is with us).

        And lest we forget, he was an avowed enemy of atheists.

        "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out".
        The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, Oxford University Press, 1942

        July 31, 2013 at 10:23 am |
        • Avery

          But was God truly with them? Evidently not, Germany was ultimately defeated. And yes, religion is very powerful because of the power of the God behind it and the fear of eternity.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:35 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Avery
          " but was god truly with them?"

          I would say since there is absolutely no evidence that any gods ever existing, I would say god was with them just as much as god is with anyone, and it is likely that no god has ever been with anyone.

          July 31, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • Johnny

        It really doesn't matter if Hitler was a Christian or not. What does matter is that he was able to convince millions of German Christians that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews. Or are you going to argue that no Nazis were Christian?

        July 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • TransitDave

      If God doesn't exist, why are you so fixated on spreading the message of his non-existance? Like radical gays, radical atheists behave like the puritans of old, not merely demanding tolerance, but approval of, and adherence to their beliefs by everyone else. No body gives a d*mn whether you believe in God or not. You need other forms of affirmation than non-belief, why not do something positive, like feed the poor, or open a charity hospital? Then maybe we'll care.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:29 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        I am an atheist who volunteers at a local chemical dependancy clinic, so don't a$$ume that atheists are not charitable.

        Discussing matters of philosophy has been going on for millenia, so why do you want it to suddenly stop?

        What I do want is for the christians to remove the god that has been forced upon us. From changing the national motto that is the lie "in god we trust", and changing the pledge of allegience to exclude all who do not believe in your particular god in the 1950's in response to the "godless communists"
        And how about all of the states that still have laws excluding atheists from holding office, or in Arkansas where there is a law preventing atheists from testifying in court.

        Try lobbying to remove your religions fingerprints from OUR laws and you might start to gain some traction, until then I will be as vocal as I possibly can be.

        July 31, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  13. Buddy

    Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin. Perfect examples of what atheism does to societies.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Just Call Me Lucifer

      We're just getting started my uneducated friend.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      PARDON ME?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • thomas

      ...seems like there can be a problem with social groups...

      ...doesn't seem particularly limited to any one religion or way of thinking...

      ...not sure what your point was intended to be but this gets graded FAIL FOOL...

      July 31, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They weren't atheists – they were autotheists who put themselves in the Godhead position.
      They are proof of how unscrupulous, power-mongering madmen can re-direct their people's predilection for faith away from traditional religions and onto their own cults of personality.
      That is why faith is not a virtue. If you're willing to suspend critial thinking, someone is going to capitalize on that gullibility.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  14. Rick

    Dream on. It feels good for this particular atheist to think atheists are "winning the battle." That's far from the truth. The truth is this country is predominantly Christian, and many churches are growing. Fundamentalists are losing their members, and some do become atheists. Most, however, are simply transitioning to Catholicism and mainline Protestantism. And, yes, many popular online sites may boast a higher than average rate of atheism. Perhaps that's because and atheist is constantly looking to be gratified online instead of by serving his or her fellow human beings in the real world. Atheists are constantly looking to be included in a community (something they obviously do not get by belonging to a faith community), and how much easier is it than to join a community of nonbelievers online? That is not something to be celebrated, it's something to feel sad about. But as I said, if it helps you sleep at night to believe atheism is popular, go ahead. You need something in your lives.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • thomas

      god is merely the mis-application of human's social ability – namely to infer intent and expectations of others – to try to explain the natural world.

      when we can't explain nature, we create a being and talk about intent and expectations of that being

      I don't need anything but the truth ... you can have your misundertanding

      July 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

      LOL THANKS FOR THE LAUGH

      THE STINK OF YOUR HOLIER THAN THOU THOUGHT PROCESS IS QUITE PUNGENT

      July 31, 2013 at 10:15 am |
      • Gayle

        Hitler, while I agree with your stance, could you please stop shouting with all-caps? Thank you! 🙂

        July 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • UhOh

      Another xtian lying for their god.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • yeah, that's pretty generalized

      we can all make general statements about one group or another like they are actually true or that they fit that majority of the group, but the general statements you made don't really hold water with anyone who's actually an athiest or simply not religious. Thanks for repeating the stereotypes.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  15. Austin

    its going to keep happening. there is a reason.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Manner

      WORLD YOUTH DAY

      3 MILLION PEOPLE at MASS AND VIGIL: COPACOBANA BEACH

      NUFF SAID

      July 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • Austin

        Jehovah Nissi

        July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  16. Austin

    Jim Jones
    > :I have data and proof."

    Congratulations on being the only person in recorded history with either.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    Austin
    i can understand why you feel that way. i sat there thinking the same thing you all are thinking, where is the evidence?

    then the Holy Spirit gave it to me. can i ask you this, do you really think i had allready been writing my dreams down, for a few years at least, and then i get to jail and suddenly i have 8 visions and they involve other people, right before them, that this was no exactly how God works?

    You deserve HIs spirit too. He wants to give you your own proof. maybe he wont do it on a television, he does it in your heart.

    take the evil image out of your heart and mind. and Let the living God be your ligth. you are a receiver.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    Doc Vestibule
    Your prophetic visions of feline slaughter don't quality as objective evidence.
    Your "proof" is supernatural and that not subject to rational an.alysis.
    Why not docu/ment your dreams online as they occur? Then if/when they come true, you can show some kind of photographic evidence, corroborating testimony, etc.

    July 31, 2013 at 9:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
    Austin
    doc, this has ALLREADY BEEN DONE

    the snake dream, i woke up and wrote it down in front of Travis munden, talking to him i said, something will happen this is a vision. AND IT DID HAPPEN

    scott stayburger was like yall, and he threw trash all over me, and one day he lost his money, and when i found out, right then and there i pulled out a dream from a month ago that he lost his money. in jail.

    and then Sheldon Clay brought me a blue print, two days earlier i wrote the blueprint down in my dream, in words not picture, and i pulled it out right in front of him.

    and then also Danny Mahon and his cousin Shawn, were in for interstated trafficing 5 pounds of weed, and this unversed kid came up to me and had dreamed the parable that i had judged them with, mentally, not vocally, . the light in their eyes.

    it just went on and on and on. It was completely other worldly.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Austin
      You "proof" is all still anecdotal.
      If you're going to be in the prophesy game, you must make your magical visions public.
      If you say you dream of flouride laden destruction today and next week the Colgate plant burns down, you'll have some credibility.
      As it stands, it is your word against common sense.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  17. phillipatomus

    I think atheists and agnostics need to band together to fight against organized worship. Even atheists sometimes get a little silly with dismissing all 'greater' power. I am smart enough to know, that I don't know. So I call myself agnostic and not atheist. However, I agree with most that organized religion is 99% BS, but with usually good moral compassing.

    And lastly, ALL HAIL ODIN!!!

    July 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Atheist and agnostic are not inclusive. Atheist defines belief or lack of, Agnostic defines knowledge. So do you or do you not believe a god or gods exist?

      July 31, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • phillipatomus

        when referencing religious belief atheist are sure there is no higher power (God if you like that word) while agnostics won't say there is or isn't but leave the option open because it's stupid to say you 'know' something that cannot be known. I myself think we are in the MATRIX 🙂

        July 31, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Scott

      Atheism and agnosticism are very different. Agnosticism says "I don't know" while atheist say "I know there is no God". Agnosticism I can understand. Atheism, being an active negative, I cannot understand. They act like science has proven God does not exist which it has not. They just misrepresent the science. God is the original scientist and science allows us to see the brush strokes of creation. Atheism is foolish. I'm sure the many atheist here will launch an attack, but, whatever. You guys will find out soon enough. It will seem really obvious after the fact. You will wonder how you could have come to such a foolish conclusion. Too "smart" for your own good.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • T

        Most atheists don't positively assert that there is no god. Atheism is a neutral position, simply lacking belief.

        There's a big difference in saying "I don't believe in god" (atheist) and "I believe there is no god" (anti-theist).

        July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am |
        • Scott

          That is counter to what I have understood about atheism. But I'm no atheist, so I may not be privy to the thinking of atheists. It sure seems that atheism pushes the "there is no God" narrative. Let me reword my statement to say that those who actively believe there is no God are foolish. Not being sure and having doubts is human nature, but "anti-theist" (which seems similar to a-theist) are just prideful in their ignorance and are kings of denial.

          July 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • T

        You're not alone in your thought, I'm just pointing it out.
        I would submit that the narrative being pushed is more like "there's no concrete reason to positively assert there is a god, so there's no reason to act like there is one." (For clarity, atheists lack a belief in every supernatural god, good, bad or otherwise.)
        For clarity though, are you assuming the anti-theist position (as I presented) is foolish simply because it makes an assertion that can't possibly be proven? If so, I offer two points.
        1) It's impossible to prove that something doesn't exist. One would have to explore literally everything to conclude that it does not and cannot exist. To that end, is it foolish to believe that unicorns do not exist?
        2) Isn't it equally foolish to believe in something (a god) that can't be definitively proven?

        July 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  18. ggogis

    wow – raised a whopping $1million for charities...LOL

    July 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  19. smith

    Okay, for all of you looney bigot hateful cult members out there who hide their bigotry behind the bible, get this. NOT EVERYONE LIVES THE CRAZY WAY YOU LIVE, SO STOP TRYING TO CRAM IT DOWN EVERYONES THROAT AND MAKE EVERYONE LIVE THE OPPRESSED WAY YOU LIVE. I AND MILLIONS OF OTHER AMERICANS DON'T CARE WHAT JESUS SAID OR THE BIBLE SAYS BECAUSE ITS A FICTIONAL FOLK TALE WRITTEN THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO BY INCREDIBLY STUPID FARMERS WHO COULD BARELY FIGURE OUT SHOES, AND THEN TRANSLATED HUNDREDS OF TIMES THROUGH DIFFERENT LANGUAGES, CHANGED COUNTLESS TIMES, AND REDACTED BY KINGS AND GOVERNMENTS TO KEEP THEIR SUBJECTS LOYAL, SO WE DON'T CARE!!!

    Sorry for digressing. When people post bible quotes, my eyes glaze over and I start to bark like a dog.

    We need to stop teaching children what to think, we need to teach them how to think. The Christian god, the hindu god, or any magical being at all has no place in that. Teaching children that they are loved by a magical sky man and his zombie son, but will burn for all eternity in the worst place imaginable if they do not them him back is cruel and stifling to their potential.

    Most christians do not give a crap about being a good person. They just mind their “p”s and “q”s and do not ask questions, acting like sheep, so hopefully they will get into their heaven when they die. Apparently all life is to them is tryouts for whatever comes next. Children do not know any better; they do not know enough to make a logical and conscious decision to be christian.

    The people they love the most force it on them. The vast majority of christians are christian because they grew up that way, not because they chose that path.

    How can you believe that you believe the right thing and everyone else believes the wrong thing, when you know for a fact that if you grew up with an Islamic faith just as you did a christian one, you would feel the exact same way about islam as you do christianity?

    Preaching a doctrine of fear is damaging to society and the evolution of human consciousness and intellect. Prayer does no good for anyone other than the person who is praying. A warehouse full of prayers is an empty warehouse. A warehouse full of food will feed the poor.

    What happened when tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma and all the christians prayed, there were more tornadoes and more deaths! All prayer is, is talking to yourself. This is called meditation.

    There are almost 4000 different religions in existence, and it is impossible to know which one is the right one. The most logical explanation is that they are all wrong. However, logic and evidence elude christians.

    It is a doctrine that defies all known facts and observations about the universe. Everything that we collectively know and see as a species, scientifically has not proven the existence of a god and disproves the most important parts of the bible. The greatest theological scholars know that most of the bible is nothing but forgery, designed by monarchical governments to oppress their people with fear.

    The great thing about science, is that it is right whether you believe in it or not. Morality does not come from god, morality comes from logic. I say this to you christians; the burden of proof is on the believer, not the skeptic.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • thomas

      Amen!

      July 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
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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.