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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. kristofobeek

    nowadays it's cool to be gay and hate christians.

    As the Romans would say "The good old days are back".

    July 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      Psh. It never stopped being cool to be gay and hate christians. It's just gotten easier, with less danger of being tortured or murdered.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
      • sam

        R'amen.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      the romans thought it was cool to be gay?

      you poor, poor, persecuted christians. what are you, 80% of the nation?

      July 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • JR

      It's always so pathetic when the majority who's been bullying the minority scream persecution when the minority dare raise their bloodied heads and request the same liberties.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • niknak

      It was a Roman who made your silly myth even possible.
      But go ahead and feel persecuted, I know how much you fundies love taking that angle.

      NEVER leave you home, everyone not like YOU is out to get you!!!

      July 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Chris

      It's not cool...it's progress. There's no reason for full grown adults to believe in something they can't see...or anything for that matter. Belief requires faith...faith is believing in something without evidence. Why would you go through your day using logic and reason then throw it out the window when it comes to a big question? We just ask that people read and learn before they discuss things. You'll find that most scholars are atheists....which is funny because we make up the smallest group in the country. There's also been studies that showed the more religious you were the lower your IQ. I'll pick the team that's right, not that has numbers.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • JesusSuperHero

      > As the Romans would say "The good old days are back".

      The Romans (Constantine), created/organized modern Christianity and renamed pagan holidays to Christian ones.

      July 31, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  2. k

    It's true that Christianity hasn't done a good job at catechizing it's members and it's also true that atheists have done a great job using the new media. But what I think has really done the trick is the approach many new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, and Co.) have taken to attack religion. They don't use the careful, reasoned arguments of traditional atheists (think Feuerbach, Sartre, Camus, etc.). Instead, they shout their complaints and belittle their opponents ... in an attempt to gloss over any reasoned argument that could or should be made on either side of the argument. And, of course, people pick this up. Just look at a lot of the comments here – on both sides of the debate. It's all about belittling the other guy and shouting him down. It's a sad statement about the state of reasoned debate in our society.

    July 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      You're wrong, sorry. There are plenty of well-reasoned, polite writings by Dawkins and Hitchens. Dawkins' "God Delusion" in no way attacks or belittles people. But I'm guessing you haven't actually read it.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • niknak

        Special K probably has not read the bible either, but that won't stop it from making dumb comments.

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

      And when one has no reasonable argument, they tend to complain that reasonable debate is non-existent!

      July 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Steven

    I stopped going not because of disbelief, doctrine, or anything like that. My biggest issue was getting dressed, I'd rather go in shorts and flip flops, I've seen that there are now "casual" churches and stuff, but too lazy to go.

    July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I'd say that qualifies you as an "apatheist".

      July 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      That goes to one of the branches on Pascal's Wager, the one that says believing in God costs you nothing. Wrong! I really LIKE being able sleep in on Sunday morning. And I'd rather buy beer and chips for the Packer game than fritter my money away on some dumb church and its parasite minister.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The reason you'd rather sleep in, or watch football or even go in flip flops is because you have not come to grips with the incredible sacrifice that was made so that you can do those things. If you had and if you thought about it, you'd put on some decent clothes and spend a little time with Him.

      July 31, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • WASP

        @BILL: i would prefer spending it with my kid, showing him the wonders of the world and exciting his mind toward studying science and having a hunger for knowledge.........................instead of giving them nightmares due to some crazy old frack shouting about hellfire and eternal damnation.

        thanks but no thanks, ask your god to perform same as he did for elijah, then we can talk. 🙂

        July 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          That's ok with me wasp. I suspect Steven is probably too lazy to do that either though. He probably doesn't have sufficient appreciation for the wonders of science. What he said is he's too lazy to get dressed.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am |
      • Saraswati

        I've never got this "incredible sacrifice" claim. If you and/or your son (depending on interpretation) live eternally, how does anything occuring over some 30 odd years even begin to count as a sacrifice? It's the blink of an eye.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
        • HotAirAce

          And given the number of religious shamans caught lying, how do we know jesus was some god's only son?

          August 1, 2013 at 9:35 am |
        • Saraswati

          No idea...humans are strange creatures.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:40 am |
        • joe

          It's way worse than that. If Jesus were immortal, dying and coming back to life is no sacrifice at all. It's something akin to running down to the donut store and back or a slight of hand trick by a magician.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  4. It's not real

    After carefully reading the bible I have decided that I don't believe in it. That is my firmly held belief. I feel like religious people get extremely defensive about their religion and tend to take even the slightest bit of dissent as an all out assault on their belief system. Apparantly live and let live wasn't in the bible.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Kenneth

      It was, most people just missed it.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Kenneth

    When someone can rationally explain what was happening the microsecond before a quantum singularity burst forth and expanded into what we laughingly view as reality, I will abandon my belief that you are all figments of my imagination brought about by the failure of the imaginary meds my imaginary doctor prescribed.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • ME II

      Why would I care about your imagination if you are but a figment of mine?

      July 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • AE

      We are figments of God's imagination.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • UncleBenny

        And vice versa. Sort of an endless loop.

        July 31, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • denver

      Ah solipsism. Well... good luck with that.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  6. Jeff E.

    Science is brought up often in arguments against God... as a scientist I have to say that's a pretty flimsy platform to stand on. Science and mathematics are creations of the human mind. They rely on our ability to either observe something with one of our limited senses or quantify something with our limited system of calculations. It requires great faith to say that we could understand it all one day and even greater faith (likely delusion) to say that we already do. There's nothing wrong with trying of course, granted for me personally, knowing how many estimated miles or light-years it is across the universe as we understand it is pretty meaningless and provides for me no answers to the whys of life.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Creations of the human mind? So you are saying that being able to go to the room (a scientific achievement) is a creation of ones mind? Sure people already believed in going to the moon, but the creation of the machines to get to the moon weren't a creation of ones mind through math and science.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        moon.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • Jeff E.

        What does going to the moon have to do with God?

        July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Going to the moon has nothing to do with god, it has to do with science. You brought up science as an invention of men's minds and were reminded of some of the very real tangible effects we get from the certainty and predictability of the models offered by science. God belief doesn't do anything that can't be done with a belief in a different god but with math and chemistry, you've got to get it right or it doesn't work. You can't fly to the moon with faith.

          July 31, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • denver

      As a scientist, you ought to know that "why" is philosophical nonsense. And science has no place discussing religion any more than religion is suited for conjecture about the physical world.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • AE

        “If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.”

        –Lord William Kelvin
        (an actual scientist)

        July 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • denver

          I don't know what you think these quotes prove. Kelvin lived in 19th century Ireland. Does it surprise you that he found god in religion?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • AE

          This guy is a modern scientist. Does it surprise you?

          “Let me say that I don’t see any conflict between science and religion. I go to church as many other scientists do. I share with most religious people a sense of mystery and wonder at the universe and I want to participate in religious ritual and practices because they’re something that all humans can share.”

          –Sir Martin Rees

          July 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • AE

          Non-19th Century scientist

          “We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it. So there is a chance that the best of all possible mathematics will be created out of physicists’ attempts to describe nature.”

          –Alexander Polyakov

          July 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • denver

          Do me a favor: Paste the quote where I denied that scientists can be religious or drop this line... You like copying and pasting stuff; get on with it.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
        • AE

          –And science has no place discussing religion any more than religion is suited for conjecture about the physical world.–

          I'm posting scientists talking about science and God – and how they do go together.

          These actual scientists seem to be saying studying science brings them closer to God.

          Contrary to what you imply.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • denver

          Really, all you're doing is citing the opinions of religious scientists. And, like I've said about ten times now, if you can personally conceptualize a god that is not at odds with our empirically derived knowledge of the world via science, more power to you.

          I'm not even kidding. If you look at the CMBR and feel closer to god, that's great. That's your wonderful, spiritual, and utterly subjective experience. Good for you.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
        • AE

          " if you can personally conceptualize a god that is not at odds with our empirically derived knowledge of the world via science, more power to you."

          I can conceptualize a being that is not limited by your empirically derived knowledge of how the universe operates.

          Knowledge of a being that is not limited by my understanding of how the universe operates is a good thing to know about.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • ME II

          Quoting scientists about non-science is still just an opinion. Why bother?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • denver

          Great! Assume the existence of anything you want! Science can't touch it!

          Just remember that that thing has never taught us anything about the physical world. Not one thing. It can't. God- as you rightly point out- is outside of science. There's no objective study to be done there. It only makes sense that information can't flow the other way, right? Science can't study god and god can't inform science.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
        • AE

          Knowledge from God is better.

          Our bodies – and all of science – will die some day.

          Our spirits – which are eternal – will not die.

          God is more concerned about our spirits – our hearts.

          That is why we have the Bible, which shows us how to love.

          We have science manuals to learn about other things.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • denver

          It's true that we'll die and, indeed, that everything we know may be forgotten.

          That said, there's no reason to believe "spirits"- eternal or not- exist; you're assuming they exist because you want to. And there's no reason to believe god exists; you're assuming because you want to. And there's no way to be sure Shiva isn't the real god; you're assuming you have the right god because you want to. And people innately know how to love; the Bible has nothing to do with it. People all over the world love and many of them have never seen a Bible.

          We have science to discover the workings of existence. We have religion to assume knowledge of metaphysics.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Jeff E.

        Science most definitely needs whys... if it weren't for whys science wouldn't exist. But I completely agree with your second statement.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • ME II

          I think they meant why in the sense of question of meaning "why are we here?", not questions of mechanism "why is the sky blue?"

          July 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • denver

          What ME II said. I was addressing profound "What does it all mean!?" why and not, "That apple fell down instead of up...", why.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • AE

      People are shocked when I tell them about how my church supports science. My church actually teaches us about it.

      I was surprised.

      And then I started to meet people in the congregation that were actual scientists.

      I decided I needed to have a truly open-mind.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • bostontola

        Do they teach that evolution is a fact? Science does.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
        • Jeff E.

          Science teaches evolution is our best standing theory.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • bostontola

          Jeff,
          As a scientist, you should be able to distinguish evolution the phenomenon (fact), from the various theories of evolution.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • AE

          Evolution appears to be a fact.

          But:

          "...what is accepted at any one time as valid scientific knowledge and theory can be either added to or corrected by further scientific investigation and better theories to explain the phenomena we see in the world."

          July 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • denver

          AE, regarding this:
          "what is accepted at any one time as valid scientific knowledge and theory can be either added to or corrected by further scientific investigation"

          Read Isaac Asimov's paper on "The Relativity of Wrong." I think you'll find it instructive.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • bostontola

          AE, I agree.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Jake

        Religion and science are mutually exclusive.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • k

          I disagree. Both seek truth. Science seeks physical truths and religion seeks ultimate truth (i.e., God). But there can't be mutually exclusive truths ... that we somehow have to compartmentalize. All truths must, in some way, be harmonious ... or it undermines the notion that truth is unchanging, if it had to give way to other/different truths when you hit the waters edge.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • Jake

          Here is a truth: Science concludes that it's impossible to walk on water. Religion tells us it happened. They can not both be correct.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • AE

          To the best of our knowledge, science says we can't walk on water.

          We don't know everything there is to know about science.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • Lebowski

          Science doesn't deal in absolutes. That is religion's job.

          July 31, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • QS

      Guess what else are creations of the human mind? Yep, religion and "god". Guess which of those two is the more flimsy platform to stand on.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  7. Sivasailam Thiagarajan

    Would somebody please my religion (Hinduism) for a change. I feel left out.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I think your verb feels left out, too. "Trash"? "Praise"? "Rationally evaluate"? "Mention"? "Notice"?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • denver

      You know, it's funny. I've been asking people in this comment thread all day why they decided to be Christian instead of Hindu.

      So... why'd you decide to be Hindu instead of Christian?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Ned

      If you're feeling left out, why don't you talk with someone from one of your former lives?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • laststonecarver

      As per your request – Please Hinduism –

      July 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Sivasailam Thiagarajan

        Would somebody please attack my religion (Hinduism). Shiva must have made me mistype my previous comment.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • denver

          Umm... let's see... how about this: Ganesh is a silly elephant man and the concept of social caste is outdated and unethical!

          July 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • laststonecarver

          @Siva,
          Shiva, Shiva, what have you done to your child Sivasailam?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • fight the stupids

      We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. – Dawkins

      So let's go further and include Brahman et al. 🙂

      July 31, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  8. Paula

    Blogs, websites, online communities, foundations, rallies.... and thus we see how a new religion is born....

    July 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Charles

      Atheism isn't a religion; it's the rational conclusion that religions that have a supernatural figure at their center don't have any evidence to support their claims.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • sybaris

        or.........it's a person in default mode who has found no compelling reason to believe otherwise. We are all born without the belief in any god(s)

        July 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • denver

        Ding,ding, ding!

        ...I mean, I get why theists want to drag atheists down into the dogmatic muck with them but it just isn't so!

        July 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • AE

        Maybe atheists need to study science.

        “I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.”

        – Lord William Kelvin

        July 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • denver

          Who is suggesting that scientists can't be theists?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • AE

          A lot of posters on this site express that religious people are anti-science.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • denver

          A lot of religious people ARE anti-science. Not all of them, of course, but plenty. See Creationism.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
        • AE

          I know.

          I am a Christian who appreciates and supports science. I take a stand against those who speak against this.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • AE

      No fellowship, no charity, no goodwill. A cult of self.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • denver

        No charity? Did you read the article?

        No fellowship? No goodwill? Keep your assumptions to yourself, pal.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
        • AE

          There are no groups like the Christian groups that meet in my area.

          They meet, sing together, eat together, help others together.

          There was not really anything offered like that to me when I was an atheist. Go to a bar? Go to a college (as long as you pay lots of money)? Go to a doctor and get medication? Those seemed like my only other options.

          The church I go to in my community provides me with a way to do good for other people.

          July 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • denver

          You really didn't try very hard if you couldn't find a secular social outlet apart from the bar, college, or the doctor's office.

          But If you've defined "community" as "congregating to sing hymns" then religion is probably the right outlet for you. That said, your generalizations about the disparate collection of people who happen to be atheists are foolish and wrong.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
        • QS

          One of the saddest commentaries about the religious – they actually believe they need religion or their church to find a way to do good for others.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • AE

          There is action in place and requests for people to help those in need.

          I'm actually helping people today. Before I just used to talk about how I could without a church.

          But I didn't do nearly as much as I do now.

          Where else do people gather weekly to sing songs together in our society?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • denver

          Re: "Where else do people gather weekly to sing songs together in our society?"

          ...again, if you've chosen this as your definition for community then religion is right for you! You might as well say, "What other groups sit in a large room with stain glass windows and listen to theological discourse every week?"

          July 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • AE

          Gathering to sing... cam be a beautiful thing.

          Not necessarily rational or logical.

          But so beautiful.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        My football buddies — the most religious of whom MAY qualify as an agnostic on his more gullible days — have plenty of fellowship. We just don't organize it around the foolish faith of the imaginary sky daddy. We organize it around the triumphant, rationally based, wholly justified faith in the Green Bay Packers as the greatest sports team of all time.

        We ARE humorless, tho.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
        • AE

          Can I join your fellowship?

          July 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
        • My Dog is a jealous Dog

          You will have to wait for the next time the Packers sell stock. I got mine in the 80's.

          GO PACK GO!

          I grew up outside of Green Bay and we like to say you are more likely to change religion than football teams. I actually believe this is true – even in conservative Wisconsin.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • AE

          Do domestic abuse crimes still go up after the ol' football team fails to carry the ball as well as the other team?

          July 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • sam

        If it makes you feel better to think that, well, have at it, but none of that is true. Why do you even care, anyway?

        July 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • fight the stupids

        You don't get to advertise all the good that your religion does without first scrupulously subtracting all the harm it does and considering seriously the question of whether some other religion, or no religion at all, does better.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        Is the Red Cross christian? How about Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF? You might want to check your facts.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • NeuterTheStupid

        If you were to return to the content of the article, you would find reference to charity and good will ["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.)] as well as fellowship [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.].

        July 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • sam stone

        I'd say it is preferable to the desert death cult that is christianity

        July 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • QS

      The fanatical zealots are so desperate to hold on to their delusions that they have to project their delusions onto others in order to rationalize other viewpoints that they can't understand.

      Sad, but not surprising.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        Yeah – its hard to believe that the Green Bay Packers haven't won every Superbowl.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  9. fight the stupids

    The odd thing is, if you follow Christianity through to it's logical conclusion, heaven is a socialist totalitarian regime (go 'head, look it up). I can just see how all the right wing conservatives can't wait to get there.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      I really don't understand why there aren't more right-wing atheists and more left-win Christians.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Wing.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Dave, I think eventually it will work out that way, but right now the phrase "right wing" sounds far too much like "fundamentalist fruitcake," and "left wing" sounds to much like "people are individuals who should have freedoms that don't bother other people and their freedoms." I know that the facts and policies don't really bear that out, but that's the perception. However, some of the most intelligent atheists I've known have been quite "right wing" or at least libertarian.

        Also, I tend to think that an atheist is much more likely to vote a split ticket, or cross party lines when the reasoning is sound. I don't think atheists are as polarized as most people would assume.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Charles

      Nope, it's a autocratic totalitarian regime with Jesus as the king, right? Once he returns (cough, cough 😉 ) he will conquer the whole planet through force, end all democracy, and rule as absolute monarch with an iron hand. How freedom-loving Americans can actually dream of that day coming is beyond me. They sure can't be very patriotic!

      July 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • lol??

        Beats the girlie socie matriocracy the Masters are livin' under now. Guess some guys never get over lookin' up skirts.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • QS

      We are finite creatures, not meant to live for eternity. Why anybody would want to is beyond me....how boring would that get after a few millenia of the same thing?

      The fact that billions from among our population fear this notion so much that they're willing to set aside reason and logic for superst.ition and conjecture is not "proof" of anything other than of how our species is easily manipulated into believing irrational things through our own fear of mortality.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • Brother Maynard

        I totally agree. The concept of eternity was a key factor in my conversion to non-belief
        Take a google ( 1 followed by 100 zeros ) of years. That is not even close to 1 googleth ( 1 over 1 followed by 100 zeros) to eternity. Why would you want to exist that long doing the same thing?
        Additionally ... how can you have eternal bliss? Bliss is measured against suffering. So today you maybe blissful but tomorrow would have to more blissful than today otherwise your stagnate ... not experienceing bliss.

        July 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  10. Excitizen

    Please search yahoo for the song "Hymn for an Agnostic" (Ivan Judd) – it's beautiful. The lead singer is an atheist although he is the most Christian like person I've ever met.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  11. dwight

    Atheism is based in selfish desire, so it is no wonder that atheism is growing. People are more concerned with self and the pursuit of self. History has shown that religion grows when times get bad, because self isn't enough.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • sam

      Religion grows when times get bad because people like to leave things up to some deity rather than take responsibility and make things better.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Charles

      And wanting to live forever, dictate what's legal in our society and have a close, personal relationship with the most powerful being that ever sprung from human imagination aren't selfish desires, I suppose?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Athy

      Religion grows when times get bad because people like to have someone else to blame for their problems.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      'A' = lack of.
      "Theism" = belief in gods.
      "A" + "Theism" = lack of belief in gods.
      The term is a negative statement that describes only what one doesn't believe.
      It implies no behaviours, morals, beliefs or other characteristics whatsoever.
      It is akin to describing the singer in a band as an "a-instrumentalist". It accurately describes what they don't do, but says nothing about their positive contribution.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • RichardSRussell

        I prefer "absence" rather than "lack", because "lack" contains an implicit moral judgment — something that you SHOULD have, like good manners or business ethics — whereas "absence" is merely an observation.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • Jerry N. Wesner

        Doc, I agree with your point. Most atheists who use the term do so for clarity, or even shock value. I much prefer Humanist; it's what I call myself. We are non-theists (atheists and agnostics) who hold ourselves to a higher standard than just not believing. We don't have a creed or book of rules; we just try to make the world around us better by our presence and actions. Because we often work through various agencies and organizations, it's easy to think that we don't do anything. Our local humanist group (Albuquerque) surveyed and found that we support dozens of charities and volunteer for dozens of worthwhile organizations. One thing more: Many atheists reached that conclusion by listening, reading, thinking, and deciding nothing else made sense. The only Christians who reached Christianity through original thought are the ones who made it up in the first place.

        July 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • snowboarder

      religion grows during bad times because people wish to have reasons for the unreasonable and religion gives them those.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Excitizen

      Dwight – you can keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better, but actually and factually atheists just don't believe in god; they do however do charity work and give of themselves to others, etc. just like christians, however they do it to make themselves feel better and to make the world a better place rather than earn brownie points with some made-up god. I know atheists who would never judge others or picket at funerals, etc. or tell anyone that they're going to hell for what they think or feel. Much better way of life and promotes peace instead of hatred and war.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • mindless lackey # 473

      Agree, we should line up and let the clergy use us as they wish, We are not capable of choosing for ourselves how we should live our own lives. The men in funny hats are more than mere mortals, they are the spokesmen for God and have never abused their positions and the trust of the adherents.

      Atheists need to learn their place and bow before the church- your lives do not belong to you!

      (*sarcasm off*)

      July 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • mike

      the only reason Christians believe in Jesus, is to save their own sorry asses from landing in hell... it is written in the Bible that the only way to get to heaven is through believing in Jesus... so, logically it then is also the only reason for believing.... we Christians need that Carrot on a stick, else there is no reason for doing so... a selfish self-centered materialistic concept if ever there was one... don't you think...

      July 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Selfish?

      Religion is the pretty fairy tale I'd love to believe – were it true. There's a wonderful, loving, all powerful guy out there who makes sure everything is OK in the end. Oh, and you don't really die, you just go to Disneyland for all eternity! With all your friends and kids and grandparents! Yay!

      Being an atheist is because it's what you believe to be true. It's not the easier choice, it's the harder one.

      If someone tried to tell me there's no calories in food anymore if I say "rabbit" three times fast before eating, that'd be a great idea too. I'd love to believe in it. But – pretending to believe wouldn't change reality.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • QS

      You just described conservatism, not Atheism.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      Atheism is based in selfish desires? As opposed to christians who desire to spend eternity with god in heaven?

      July 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Valmiro

    I, a Christian, respectfully believe that most atheists fall in some of the categories described below. This is based on my own experiences and by no means represent the view of all Christians:
    1) Very intelligent people who can not come to a scientific explanation of of our own existence. They're trying to rationalize "creation" and they can't. They can not prove that God doesn't exist either. They follow the rules of society and don't need a reason to behave in a socially ordered manner. I commend them and wish them a long earthly life.
    2) Enbittered and resentful people whose lives have been miserable and they blame God for their misfortunes. Some of them had made no effort to progress in life and God is the easy way out to justify their life style. This group includes some people who were believers and due to a bad experience in life turn against God.
    3) The last group are ignorants who don't know which way to go and they go along with the trend.
    As an attorney, I recognized the First Amendment and respect everybody's opinion. Including the one to be an atheist and we also have the right to spread the Gospel, if we so choose. Blessings to everybody.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Another person who doesn't know the difference between a misotheist and an atheist.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "This group includes some people who were believers and due to a bad experience in life turn against God." I think a more accurate line would be "This group includes some people who were believers and due to a bad experience in life turn against a supposed Gods advocates."

      However, many were believers and did not have bad experiences but just could not rationally accept the conduct of these religious groups as divinely ordained.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • QS

      Ahh, I love the smell of religious self-righteousness in the morning!

      July 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      An atheist doesn't believe in god – how can they be bitter towards god or think that god did anything to them?

      Are you refusing to believe in Shiva because you're bitter towards him?

      There is a small bitter contingent – believers who claim atheism when they're mad at god – but they're not atheists if they are mad at god, any more than I am a Christian if I believe that Christ never existed.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • EmpiricalPierce

      It's impossible to disprove all god concepts, yes. But the god concept of Yahweh and Jesus detailed in the Bible conflicts too often and too sharply with reality to merit believing. There's no more reason to believe in Yahweh than there is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, invisible pink unicorns, or Santa Claus.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  13. Carl

    When the church leaders ask, "how can we get more members", what they are really asking is, "How can we get people to believe crazy things, other than by offering good arguments which we don't have?"

    July 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • OldSchool

      LOL succinct analysis...

      July 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
      • dwight

        Funny, but this is what the athiest says also.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • sam

          Since when?

          July 31, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          The atheist argument wins every time because it merely questions the veracity of the god-belief claim for which there is no evidence. How easy is it to prove that math and chemistry are correct? Not hard at all. But yet chemists and mathematicians believe in any god they wish because no god belief can be proved or disproved. If there's nothing to measure, then there's no way to test the claim. If one side is solely dependent upon faith, then the other "side" will always win.

          There are good and bad arguments for "atheism," but there are only bad arguments for theism: Proven.

          July 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Sidewinder

      And ultimately, they are asking "How can we get more money?" Organized religion is one giant money sucking machine.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  14. scanboy

    I have long puzzled over those who profess a "love" of Jesus, God, or any other religious figure. I understand love for my spouse, my children, parents, extended family, and dear friends. But my love extends up the family tree only so far as I had real-world experiences with the "leaves." I appreciate my great-great-great grandparents but I don't feel anything remotely like love.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      In your opinion, what is the most significant expression of love?

      July 31, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  15. Tara

    What on earth does rejecting dumb comments by certain pastors have to do with believing or not believing in God?

    July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Charles

      Plenty, when it's the pastors who are teaching people to believe in God.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Logic

    Religion is the biggest confidence game going. Pay now and you will get untold riches later, Sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me...

    July 31, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Hey, a little respect for Charles Ponzi. He DID pay off at least SOME of his investors.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Ken

      Yup, religion and ponzi schemes both rely on marks taking promises on faith and being too greedy to let common sense warn them. Christians are greedy for both eternal life and a close relationship with the most powerful being imaginable. They want these things so much that they don't question them enough.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Athy

        They don't question them because they may not like the answers.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Yakobi

    Remember, there are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  18. RF

    It's too bad there are articles like this. One could easily label this as an attack on Christianity. Senseless, ignorant and guess who is in for one big surprise if they are wrong!

    July 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • sybaris

      Here! I can make up something too:

      What did the christian say a split second after its last breath?

      "Oh crap! It's Mohammed!"

      July 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        They 72 virgins for Christians are IT consultants.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • RichardSRussell

          Actually, the 72nd Islamic suicide bomber just got to paradise the other day, whereupon Muhammad heaved a huge sigh of relief and said "NOW we've got our full complement of virgins and can fulfill our promise. Have at it, boys!"

          July 31, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • Madtown

        LOL!!

        July 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Former undisputed heavyweight champion George Holmes?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Sorry, Larry Holmes.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • QS

      You sound like you're trying to defend religion...by using an illogical spin-off of Pascal's Wager!

      And people keep asking why I find it so easy to mock the religious. LMAO!

      July 31, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      If people who expressed sentiments like "It's too bad there are articles like this one" were still in charge, the "big surprise" would come along real soon in the form of the rack or the stake. There WAS a time when religion ruled the world, you know. We call it the Dark Ages for a reason.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Kristina

      It isn't an attack on Christianity to offer a different view, a different option. It's called pluralism. We live in a pluralistic society. Time to open your eyes and stop getting your panties in a twist every time someone disagrees with you.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Charles

      Why do you think that it's not valid to criticize Christianity? Christians criticize other religions every time they insist that Jesus is the ONLY way. Why be hypocritical?

      July 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  19. Jack

    That’s why it’s call faith. Because you chose to believe, without any proof. If there is proof, then you don’t believe, rather you understand and accept the proof. Proof implies no other option. Having to choose is very inconvenient because choice implies accountability for ones choice. In the end that is what religion comes down to, did you choose to believe or not.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • sybaris

      Actually religion is more about social conditioning than choosing.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • QS

      I'll never understand why religious people think that faith is a good thing when all it does is muddle an already indoctrinated mind.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Jack

        Actually I was a staunch atheist for the majority of my life. Though the more I thought about it the more it made sense to believe. It was not a “Born again” moment, just a gradual realization that I chose to believe…

        July 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          When you chose to believe, did you believe in the god most worshiped and revered by your country and culture, or did you pick a god from some place or point in history?

          July 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
        • Madtown

          Are you a christian? I tend to believe also, but I don't follow a particular religion. I think you can believe in "something else, beyond" without any man-made system. If you are, why christianity?

          July 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • Jack

          I’ll bite…

          Yes I am a Christian, obviously because of what I was exposed to. If I had been raised elsewhere I might have been Muslim or Hindi. Therefore, you can claim indoctrination. I can’t argue against that.

          For what it’s worth I don’t really believe that Muslim’s or Hindus are lost. While I think they got it wrong, their religion was all they were taught. They never really had a choice. So I don’t think God will punish them for that. I on the other had did get exposed to what I think is God, so I have the option to choose right or wrong. Since I have a choice I will be held accountable.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Cyle

      If you "chose to believe" you could jump off a roof and fly to Aruba, would you consider that somewhat insane?

      There are only three reasons to believe anything. You are compelled to do so by facts and evidence, You are indoctrinated into the belief from birth (this is why one would be a hindu vs a pentecostal). You have a schizotypal disorder which makes you more willing to believe in fantasy (ie. you're nuts).

      July 31, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • Jack

        I can't realy chose to believe I can fly of the roof because there is plenty of proof that I will fall. There is not choice in that matter, just facts.

        July 31, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • Cyle

          Correct... faith won't make you fly, even if you chose to believe it.
          Faith also doesn't make gods real.

          Sounds like we've established that you comprehend facts, evidence, and proof. Let's also presume that you aren't completely crazy. That leaves us with indoctrination. I know from experience it's hard to break, but once you've done so you may come to realize that choosing to believe in a fantasy is really a bit silly.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • Jack

          Clyde,

          You say it fantasy because I can’t provide differently. But there is plenty of stuff we can’t prove. What happens when you die? Is it like before birth? Is there a soul? Nobody knows because there is no proof. You can say you don’t know. I can say I believe in heaven. It’s a choice. Is there a God? You don’t really know. You believe there is not, I believe there is… Neither of us can prove anything on this matter…. We just have to take a position and believe in it…

          July 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Blind, religious faith is not a virtue.
      The willing suspension of critical thought in order to accept dogmatic, rote answers to difficult questions does a disservice to the species.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
      • Jack

        I hope I still have some critical thinking skills. I design the planes you fly in for a living….

        July 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          I'm not saying that all religious people are idiots or lack the ability for critical thought in all things.
          I am saying that once a given proposition has been acceptable on faith, said proposition is no longer able to be examined by reason.
          William Lyon Mackenzie King talked to his dead terriers, but he was still a good Prime Minister.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
        • sybaris

          Oh right, right, right. You make things that fly which to African bushmen is akin to magic therefore your superiority has led you to make the right choice.

          July 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • kermit white

        Im Sick and tired of people not knowing what we have faith IN. the BIBLE tells us we can have knowledge of God...so then where is faith? the Bible specifically talks of all our faith being inGods PROMISES. Hebrews 11 shows us this very clearly...of ALL the examples of the people of faith in this chapter, NONE of them was said to have faith in Gods EXISTANcE....but ALL of them showed about having faitnh in FOLLOWING God and His Promises

        July 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • AE

      The primary definition of faith is – complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

      I have faith in God. Complete trust.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • sam

        Good for you. Guess you're all set, then. Nothing to worry about. No reason to wander around in here complaining about pesky atheists, right?

        July 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
        • AE

          When I'm bored, here I am.

          Sometimes atheists give me lots of bible verses to read, it is educational.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          AE, If you post because you're bored, you must lead a very boring life. You post most of the day, maybe you could research and provide the evidence that is requested every time you say you have knowledge and evidence of a god.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  20. Ron

    If a guy told you that he spent a few days in the belly of a whale, you would say he is joking or crazy. Put it in a book and all the sudden it becomes truth.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
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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.