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September 14th, 2013
08:01 AM ET

Hey atheists, let’s make a deal

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN

(CNN) - Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has been rightfully criticized this week for saying the “mild pedophilia” he and other English children experienced in the 1950s “didn’t cause any lasting harm.”

This comes after an August tweet in which Dawkins declared that “all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Dawkins is known for pushing his provocative rhetorical style too far, providing ample ammunition for his critics, and already I’ve seen my fellow Christians seize the opportunity to rail against the evils of atheism.

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole.

So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

Now I’m not saying we just let these destructive words and actions go—not at all. It’s important for both believers and atheists to decry irresponsible views and hateful rhetoric, especially from within our own communities.

(Believe me. There are plenty of Christians who raise hell every time Robertson says something homophobic or a celebrity pastor somewhere says something misogynistic.)

READ MORE: Why millennials are leaving the church

But what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?

What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?

Only then can we avoid these shallow ad hominem attacks and instead engage in substantive debates that bring our true differences and our true commonalities to light.

It’s harder to go this route, and it takes more work and patience, but I’m convinced that both Christians and atheists are interested in the truth and in searching for it with integrity, without taking the easy way out.

Pope Francis took a step in that direction this week with a letter in a Rome newspaper responding directly to questions posed by its atheist director and inviting respectful open dialog between nonbelievers and Christians.

READ MORE: Why millennials need the church

So, yes, Richard Dawkins is an atheist. But so are authors Greg Epstein and Susan Jacoby. So is my friend and fellow blogger Hemant Mehta. So is Sir Ian McKellen. So is ethicist Peter Singer, who may or may not be the best example.

And yes, Pat Robertson is a Christian. But so is Nelson Mandela. So is acclaimed geneticist Francis Collins. So is Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. So is Barack Obama. So is Stephen Colbert.

And I'm willing to bet that the same collective groan emitted by millions of Christians each time Pat Robertson says something embarrassing on TV sounds a lot like the collective groan emitted by millions of atheists when Richard Dawkins rants on Twitter.

Still, in the end, it’s not about who has the most charismatic or generous personalities in their roster, nor about who has the most “crazies.” It’s about the truth.

So let’s talk about the truth, and with the people who most consistently and graciously point us toward it.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" and "Evolving in Monkey Town." Evans blogs at rachelheldevans.com, and the views expressed in this column belong to her.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity • Faith

soundoff (5,916 Responses)
  1. Bill

    I'll agree to stop complaining about religion when you agree to stop shoving it in our faces. Agree?

    September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Hunter

      ^This

      September 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • David Nelson

      Where the hell do you live? I honestly haven't seen this in my 34 years of existence.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • donna

        You haven't seen religion shoved into people's faces? Where do you live? Do people vote there?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • MakingSense

          Not as much as hearing atheists crying every single say.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • David Nelson

          I live in Minnesota. I'm agnostic, and I'm involved in the community. The only time I ever see "religion" shoved in my face is when I listen to "enlightened" atheists posting something on Facebook. I literally NEVER hear anyone talking about religion unless they are atheist.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • Robert

          Maybe not in Minnesota but here in Florida the whining about how humanists oppress xians is like a siren. Poor oppressed xians....

          September 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
      • donna

        David, as Minnesota is part of this country, you are lying if you claim you haven't seen anyone try to shove religion in other's faces. Every time a political argument is made based on religion, that's what's being done. I think you're a liar.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
        • David Nelson

          I guess I'm smart enough to see politics as politics and nothing more.

          If you consider political commercials "shoving it in my face" then the number of things being "shoved in my face" is endless, and religion doesn't even register in the top 25.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • donna

          You aren't smart of you don't understand that laws affect real live people. You are denial about religion, I don't think you're being honest with yourself or others.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Lol, OK. You've gone full troll now.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • donna

        Not only do you not know what the word "system" means, you clearly don't know what "troll" means, David.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Atheism: 1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

          Doctrine: 3. a body or SYSTEM of teachings relating to a particular subject: the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

          I hope you are rational enough to feel awkward.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • donna

          David, you're lying- a doctrine can either be a SINGLE belief or a set of beliefs.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • David Nelson

          You are adorable =)

          September 15, 2013 at 1:26 am |
  2. lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    The educratists don't mind animal s*e*x*. Google Neal Erickson and note the support from the industry he received.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Hunter

    Us Atheists will gladly accept this deal with one contingency from the Christians. No more prothletising from you. Done. Deal.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • MakingSense

      And you promise to stop crying and whining every day?

      September 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • Robert

        Crying? Whining? Pot...kettle...black...

        September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  4. lwkite

    "It’s important for both believers and atheists to decry irresponsible views and hateful rhetoric, especially from within our own communities."

    This infers that there is some kind of organized atheist community,THERE IS NOT, we are free thinkers not influenced by others! In religious communities there are leaders, followers, dogma, liturgical materials, places of worship and an un-provable deity. To compare one outspoken individual in the atheist non-community to outspoken representatives of the RELIGOUS COMMUNITY is very disingenuous.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • David Nelson

      Atheists are not free thinkers... agnostics are. Atheism is just another method of closing your mind.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • Jake

        David, you misunderstand what atheism is. Atheists don't believe there is a god, but that doesn't mean we claim to know with 100% certainty. I also don't know with 100% certainty that I won't wake up tomorrow and be able to fly, but I don't believe I can fly. If I can fly tomorrow, I'll change my view.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • donna

        You don't understand the words you are using. Dawkins is an agnostic atheist. Agnosticism refers to understanding that we cannot prove or disprove the mystical. It does not mean anything about belief of the existence of a deity.

        What I think you're trying to say is that you value people who can't form their own beliefs? You think it's better for people to not form their own judgements? Is that it?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Theist – agnostic theist – agnostic – agnostic atheist – atheist

          Just use Google for God's sake 😉

          But seriously, I'm tired of proving you the fool. I'm going to find someone more worthy.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
      • lwkite

        The atheists I know are amazing free thinkers. They are all capable of taking in information/evidence from all matter of sources to make informed decisions. The fact is religion is faith based, by definition it lacks any facts. If you were to backup any religious claims with facts the atheist I know would gladly embrace your religion, but the fact remains you have no proof whatsoever, your claims are all anecdotal and hearsay.

        September 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Then your friends aren't truly atheists.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Stephen

      Well said.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  5. Jake

    Here is the deal I would accept:

    1) Remove religion from public forums. This means schools, courts, currency, etc.
    2) Require people to be 18 years or older before they are allowed to attend church. Adults can do whatever they want, but childhood indoctrination is a form of mental abuse that needs to be stopped.

    Do those two things, and will agree to live and let live. Until then, I will continue to point out the flaws and evils of religion.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Now that's reasonable, sensible and fair. Keep the religion .. just lose the indoctrination.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • David Nelson

        Out of curiosity, which religion has human gods?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          The Gods of humans are anthropomorphic. But for more information look up Xenophanes who penned the quote I've used. Xenophanes was a theologian and philosopher who predated Christ by 500 years.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Anthropomorphic does not actually make a god human...

          Anthropomorphize – to ascribe human form or attributes to (an animal, plant, material object, etc.).

          English is hard.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • David Nelson

      Seems like a waste of time to any rational human being. But hey, I guess irrational atheism is no better than irrational theism.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • Jake

        What seems like a waste of time?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
      •  

        Godless Vagabond
        Atheism is far more rational than religion.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • David Nelson

          And an elephant is clearly larger than a buffalo , but neither is as large as a blue whale.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        How is that "irrational"? If this God(s) is "real" it certainly should withstand the loss of psychological conditioning.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
        • David Nelson

          Seeking to disprove something which can not be disproved is a waste of time.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
        • Jake

          No one is spending any time trying to disprove that there is a god. We're just wondering why anyone would think there is a god (or insert literally anything else here) without any evidence. It's just strange that anyone thinks the burden of proof is on anyone other than the ones who presented the hypothesis.

          September 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • David Nelson

          That is exactly what you are doing... I thought you were "enlightened"!

          September 15, 2013 at 1:27 am |
      • Robert

        What? Demanding that government not be a forum for religious indoctrination is "irrational"? Only an irrational nut would say that...

        September 14, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
        • David Nelson

          You don't seem to understand how politics works. But hey, keep fighting on cnn.com!

          September 15, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • Christian

      Here is the deal I would accept in response to such an idiotic post

      – Be able to scientifically prove the Big bang and the whole system of evolution or get it out of schools
      – Finally admit that if evolution and Darwin was right then you do agree with Adolph Hitlers idea to create a "pure race"
      – Evolution not be taught to anyone under the age of 18 because its a brainwashing technique that leads to more violence and degradation of mankind.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • Jake

        You call my post idiotic and then post that? Hmm. I can say in all honestly, I feel sorry for you if you think anything you just wrote makes sense. It's scary to think what religion is capable of doing to the human mind and you provide a perfect example of the dangers of childhood indoctrination.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • Pest

        Sorry, evolution is a scientific theory based on a mountain of evidence. Comparing teaching it to brainwashing kids with mythological nonsense based on an old book (i.e., no legitimate evidence) is absurd.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • FarScout

          I see no problem with teach micro-evolution. However, we have found no observable evidence of macro-evolution. Finches turning into other finches and bacteria turning bacteria is proven based on the scientific method. Cannot argue there.

          However, it is a matter of faith to believe one kind of animal has evolved into another kind. Even Darwin himself admitted that. Also, the theory of evolution cannot even scientifically account for the beginning of life. It is nice to concoct ideas, but to masquerade them falsely as science is insulting to all of us that are actually in that profession.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        As is typical you lack the part about proof. There is more than sufficient reason to accept evolution since it is a fact. The big bang is an accepted evidence based idea (no it is not proven) and should be taught as such. But when it comes to religion .. where's the evidence or even reason to believe it? Which religion or God(s) should be taught? I agree religion should be part of education, not as a fact of our reality but as a part of our history .. and taught as a belief not a fact or theory. There's a difference to teaching about religions and teaching to believe A religion. Teach ALL religions equally but not on a par with reading, math or science.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Christian

        Here's my proof of God. Lucky Charms are magically delicious.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • Jake

          Congratulations. That post is slightly more intelligent that your last one. You’re moving in the right direction! At this rate, you just might be an atheist in about 50 years.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Oh my, where did you get your education...in barnyard perhaps?
        Without getting in to too much detail because your post is proof of your lack of knowledge. Evolution and the Big Bang have been shown by science to be accurate, there is sufficient evidence for both of these. Evolution can be taught in schools based on the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting it. Creationism/ID can't be taught in schools due to the complete lack of evidence for it. Your inability to accept the facts doesn't make them false.
        The Scopes Monkey Trial put the issue or should have put the issue of evolution vs id in schools to rest. So you have already lost that one. http://www.themonkeytrial.com/

        September 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
      • Robert

        Christians would be the experts on degradation and violence.

        September 14, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Counter

      Go pound sand.

      I will continue to teach my kids the truth of the gospel. Who are you to tell me otherwise?

      September 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
      • Jake

        And if you were beating your children, should I sit idly by and allow that as well? Teaching your children about religion when they are way too young to comprehend such a complex topic leads to adults who believe in wild fantasies. It is a form of child abuse. Sorry, no, you should not be allowed to do that. But go ahead, keep abusing your children since there's no law to stop you. It's disgusting.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Brandon

    This article is funny. Hey Atheists, don't give us Christians a hard time for our figure heads making goofs and accidentally divulging embarrassing viewpoints? Your article unfortunately misses the entire point. Atheism is based for most on the fact that after careful consideration, we find there to be no theistic god and/or we don't believe in a god and are so turned off by all religion of any sort, that it's really just a non-belief. This isn't about a famous atheist versus a famous Christian. It's about living in a society that feels the need to constantly shove your fairy tale story down our throats. I don't care about what celebrity atheist or Christian quips about. That's another point of atheism. We don't follow under a leader or go by their terms, thus a single person's viewpoint on other worldy issues doesn't mean a thing. I find it funny that religious people can remind everyone else about their god and who is damned and who is not and then have the guts to make an entire article that is basically a *wink* at the atheists that the Christians got one on us now? That's certainly not the case. Atheism, a belief in nothing and it goes especially for atheist speakers, we don't blindly follow their other worldly beliefs. Acting as if there's now something to give non-believers a hard time about is a laugh. We don't shove our non-belief in society's face, so there's no type of *gotcha* point in this argument. This only proves further the mindset of most people, always trying to one up or attack each other, even in a "Let's make a deal" situation, it's still obviously a thinly veiled call-out to atheists, like "hey, we have embarrassing figures, now you do too, so leave us alone!". Fail. Try again.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • I believe in me

      Well said. Plus there is no atheist "bible" that you can base your anti-atheist views on so you go after individuals that speak their atheist views. Like I said they are individuals and I couldn't give a rats ass about Pat Robertson or any other mega Christian money taker. We base our views on your bible. You know that book that you base your life on? Yeah that one.
      Get over yourself and you first need to understand what an atheist is before you speak.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • haaa

      A non-belief is a belief. Anything having to do with the spiritual realm, including how it's defined or whether it actually exists, is strictly a belief. We simply don't have the technology/understanding to determine if it exists mathematically, let alone measure and map it. Scientifically, the best we can do at this point in time is say that we have no evidence to prove its existence, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Atheism is just another religion, and Dawkins is it's Pope. And there is nothing wrong with it. Personally, I'm Christian. Yet there are many other Christians out there that would likely consider me a heathen, and I'm fine with that. What's important is that our society remain absolutely secular, and people can choose whatever religion they wish, or no religion at all.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Cricket

        A non-belief is only a belief in the broadest sense – "I believe I don't believe in You may also believe something definitely does *not* exist, but not believing in something is not a belief in itself.

        I think that some people – and I can understand this – have a hard time believing that something that is so important to them as their god (whichever one that might be) is a matter of irrelevance to others. Others that don't believe either way (which is being a *non* believer – because to be a believer you have to be positively pro-existence of that god). For the most important being in someone's existence, to be a matter of "Meh, whatever." to others, is hard to grasp, but it can, indeed, be so.

        I don't think there is a god, but I'm not sure – not sure we can be sure – but I don't necessarily believe strongly there is none... just don't much care. That can only be described as a belief by really, really stretching the definition.

        September 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • Cricket

          Hmmm – did something to screw up the HTML – should read "I believe I don't believe in – insert belief here -"

          September 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Jake

        I guess I am a very religious person then since there are lots of things I don't believe in, such as unicorns, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, etc. Do you honestly think not believing in the Tooth Fairy is a religion? Such a strange way of thinking....

        September 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Jack518

    Never gonna happen.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Kenneth

    Nothing brings out the radicals like mentioning religion.
    The sad thing is, the author is calling for a reasonable dialogue among people who, by their very nature, are unreasonable – evangelicals and militant atheists.
    Funny, in its own way.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Jake

      What exactly is a militant atheist anyway? That almost seems like an oxymoron.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • niknak

      First of all, what is a militant atheist?
      Because some atheists have gone past the point of caring if they offend the believer and call them on their lack of evidence in their supposed creator?

      No atheist has ever tried to push their non belief on anyone, Dawkins included.
      We non believers are tired of the farce of respecting your delusion and some, like Dawkins, have a platform to publically confront the believer on his/her lack of proof.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • Jake

        Ha, same question I had. 🙂 "Militant atheist"...just seems weird. All we want is to get religion out of our public forums and laws. Nothing militant about that.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • donna

          I can't reply to your other comment, so I'l put it here.

          Well, I disagree that's it's not a view. Even the lack of a belief is the view that you don't hold the belief. We are not talking about people who have an absence of exposure of the concept when we are talking about people who identify themselves as atheists.

          I don't know why you say you can't push a non belief on someone. If you convince someone there is no god, then you are pushing the non belief of god. You are encouraging them to change their view and to stop believing god is real.

          Dawkins is not just wanting to keep people from indoctrinating children or new people. He actively wants to change people's minds. He is open about that. The God Delusion was not written for atheists, it was written for people who might change their minds.

          September 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
      • Kenneth

        No atheist has ever tried to push their view on anyone else? Really?
        What world do you live on?
        Here's a thought. Until people like Rick Perry try to legislate their belief onto everyone, don't friggin' worry what other people choose to believe. It's really that simple.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • Jake

          UNTIL Rick Perry tries to legislate his beliefs on everyone?! Until?! Um, what world are YOU living "on" (in)? They actually treat creationism in public schools in Texas. That's right.

          September 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
      • donna

        Dawkins disagrees with you. He actively tries to spread atheism through education. He makes no attempt to hide that. "The God Delusion" was written explicitly to target people who might feel undecided to sway them to reject the belief in a deity.

        He feels very strongly that it is in society's and individual's best interests to reject magical thinking and he actively works towards that.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
        • Jake

          I sort of agree with you, but technically, atheism isn't a view, it's simply a disbelief in god(s). So technically, you can't push a non-belief on people. But yes, I, as an atheist, do feel that it's important to work towards preventing people from indoctrinating children, which is mental abuse. Adults, on the other hand, can go on believing whatever the want, as long as they keep it out of public forums.

          September 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Robert

      It is militant to NOT want religion to be part of government? But then again Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were militants so maybe that is a good thing to be accused....

      September 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  9. Lionly Lamb

    Have you been diagnosed as having cancer..? Do you know that the pharmacological drug cure rate of cancer is morbidly low..? Do you have muscular dystrophy..? Is your child having uncontrollable seizures and pharmacological drugs seem useless..? I could tell you about many other ongoing human illnesses that current day pharmacologists or medical doctors cannot cure anyone thru their prescriptions of pharmaceutical drugs... There is a herbal cure for most all of civilizations sicknesses and diseases... This herb is known by many names but its proper name is cannabis sativa... The herbal medicine of cannabis is becoming known as hemp oil... If you would want to know more about hemp oils curative powers for all manner of human sickness then Google "Rick Simpson and hemp oil"...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=xOecYtNqV5Y

    September 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Observer

      Still CLUELESS about the topic of this blog. Well done.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Kelly

      Can you go post your spam on The Chart Blog where it belongs, or are you such an attention whore that you need constant affirmation on who silly your continued spamming is?

      September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  10. Archeopteryx

    She want's to "make a deal" or in other words compromise by eliminating the most extreme voices on either side. She's implying that there are equal numbers of extremism and an equal footing for the validity of christian belief (or any religious belief) .. there is not. Religious belief is an indoctrinated belief, or we'd all believe in John Frumm or Ra or Zoroaster or any of thousands of others. Religious belief is not on an equal footing with atheism as it's all about probability. It is infinitely improbable that even one of these (or any of thousands) Gods exist or ever have.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Kenneth

      I think she's asking more for civil dialogue, regardless of the possible outcome.
      The fact is, no one can prove there are or are not powers in the universe that we have not seen.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        "Powers" in the universe and anthropomorphic beings worthy of worship are two completely different things. Powers in the universe, whether we've discovered them or not, remain the same while the Gods have evolved and changed as society and human ability for abstract thought has changed .. the human brain and God(s), there's the common denominator.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • usenergydata

      I am an atheist. I know I'm right, and those who believe in God are wrong, and that their beliefs are harmful. The problem is, they know exactly the same thing. I can't prove I'm right any more than any Christian, Muslim, and other monotheist. All I can really hope for is that those who believe in what I view as a myth are as tolerant of my as I am of them.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        Not having or being able to prove either case changes nothing except that atheism requires no proof as it makes no claim for the existence of something that cannot be proved. The default for any position for anything that cannot be proved would be non belief as there is no reason to believe it exists. There are infinite things I could believe in that don't require proof .. that does not make them legitimate, real or equal to not believing in them.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  11. Counter

    We all have a place at the political table and influencing policy

    Tough nuggies if you don't like it.
    Washington in his farewell address said the following

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

    September 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Although I agree with Washington's assertion that morality is necessary in the support of strong governments .. he must have been blind to the tyranny and bloodshed that theism inevitably brings upon it's subjects. Morality is a fluid understanding of what is "good" for all people and is a naturally evolving meme while religion is not. To think religion and morality are linked is absurd or you just haven't been paying attention.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      You may have a place at the political table as a person, it is your belief that doesn't have a place.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  12. niknak

    How about this deal instead;

    You Christians stop trying to pass off your "faith" as fact.
    And stop trying to force us non believers to go along with it.
    And stop trying to force your beliefs into our secular government, our courts, our medicine, our schools and our bedrooms.

    We atheists, in exchange, will stop coming to this board and mocking your for still believing in Santa Claus.

    Deal?

    Oh, and how about having your various houses of myth start paying their fair share of local property and income taxes.
    We atheists are tired of footing to bill for your deadbeat religions.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Counter

      No deal. Without Christian churches society would collapse under it own weight. You are simply a hater.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Pest

        Totally unsupported assertion

        September 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        You missed the point! He was getting at something called respect, he did not mention doing away with churches just that they should pay taxes.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • Counter

          You miss the point. Churches are paid for with after tax dollars and gifts from their congregates. They would be reduced if you had your way. That is your real goal.it will never happen however. You yahoos will always be a minority.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          No, I don't think churches should be destroyed. You have your right to your place of worship and on a side note, some of those buildings hold some amazing pieces of art within. At the same time, you reside in a Secular country, one that guarantee's everyone the freedom of and from religion. We won't always be the minority, the stats show that...there has been a steady incline in the number of people who admit disbelief, part of that incline is due to the information highway. As with everything, changes takes time and as people gain more knowledge, they tend to change their mind. It seems to me that in 1st World Countries where information travels at the touch of a button, it should be obvious as to what is slowly happening to christianity...it will eventually fade, just as a great many other belief systems have before it.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Robert

        Man does not need religion. How about this; we have allowed religion to be an integral part of society for a thousand years lets get equal time and not allow religion to participate in government for just half that time and lets see. The last thousand years have been a slaughter and planet destroying binge. Give us atheists a chance to turn it around.

        September 14, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Marco

      AMEN!

      September 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • tcyp11

      How about you stop trying to pass off your non-belief as fact.
      And stop trying to force us believers to go along with it.
      And stop trying to force your non-beliefs into our governments, our courts, our medicine, our schools, and our bedrooms.

      And we Christians, in exchange, will stop coming to this board and defending our faith.

      Deal?

      Oh and how about you stop shoving your immoral and "hey do whatever pleases you no matter who it effects" lifestyle down our throats, our schools, our government, our television and our music.
      We Christian are tired of having to explain to our kids that that is not an acceptable way to live.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Ken

    Richard Dawkins' comments sound as if they are coming from a survivor of abuse and in no way are associated with his lack of belief in a god. Am I missing something?

    Post script: I do think his words sound as if he 'survived' his ordeal. By minimizing it in this fashion, he is asserting that it in no way impacted who he became.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  14. Odo

    I'd rather strike a deal that begins with the Christians stopping their push to legislate their chosen beliefs on the rest of us, and allowing us the freedom to live our lives as we wish.

    September 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Christian

      After you

      September 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Carl

        Right, because your clever attempt at rhetoric totally isn't invalidated by the fact that atheists don't go around forcing people to have abortions or get married to gays.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • Pest

          "Christian" makes the typical idiotic mistake of thinking that not being allowed to force his religion upon you is somehow oppressing him/her. That's what happens when you have a worldview that is based on faith, rather than logic and evidence.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
        • Christian

          You force a "science" on our children that Cannot, I repeat Cannot be proven, when you take it down to its core, it violates at least 3 LAWS of science, not theories, but Laws.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • nojinx

          Science, by definition, cannot be proven. It is against the very purpose of science. Being able to adapt our previous theories when new information is discovered is essential.

          That is why there is no such thing as as "law of science".

          September 14, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  15. pazke

    Personally, I don't pay any attention to what either of them say. They are not worth my time.

    September 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • drivenb4u

      You fence-sitting patsies that think you are above it all are even more annoying than fundamentalist religious wingnuts or militant athiest jerks. At least they have a stand and try to back it up.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Joe

      Sure they are. One is attempting to spread the truth about the universe, how it is unfolding, and set peoples minds free. The other is attempting to hang on to ancient dogma with zero proof of any of it. Grown men believing in fairy tales foaming at the mouth, and doing terrible things to others in the name of their god. It really is an evil on this world. So you should be paying attention.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  16. jens gessner

    "Dawkins is known for pushing his provocative rhetorical style too far, providing ample ammunition for his critics, and already I’ve seen my fellow Christians seize the opportunity to rail against the evils of atheism."

    Curiously, 'atheism' is not really an '-ism' at all, but only a position on a very particular point. Atheists assert that there is not enough evidence to justify belief in a theistic god. Rachel should explain how that assertion is 'evil'.

    September 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • donna

      "Theistic god" is a bit redundant isn't it? ; )

      I would challenge your definition of atheism though, it doesn't require that one's belief on the matter is based on the evaluation of evidence. It simply means that there is no belief in a deity. The reasons for that lack of belief are irrelevant to the application of the term.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • A.Garcia

      What you described is not atheism (and "-ism" is just a suffix to categorize a set of beliefs so it is correct to call it atheism as we use it to speak of stoicism other systems of belief); it is agnosticism. Agnostics say that you can't know for absolute certainty or that there is not enough proof to believe in God or to not believe in God. Atheism claims that there is sufficient belief to say that there is no God.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • drivenb4u

        Not quite. Atheists claim that there is insufficient belief to say there is a God. Asserting a negative proposition is tricky business.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • donna

        You are mistaken on a couple of points.

        First, "-ism" absolutely does NOT mean there is a set of beliefs- not a bit. It often refers to a SINGLE principle. In the case of atheism, the -ism is simply used to denote the idea as a noun.

        Also,, Agnostic and Atheism/Deism are talking about different types of things and aren't interchangeable. You are not either agnostic or atheist, you can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic deist.

        Agnostic means you know you can't prove or disprove the existence of the mystical (it was invented to mean that, so we know clearly what the meaning is). It does not mean that you do or do not believe in the existence of a deity- just refers to what you think can be proven.

        Also, it's not true that atheism means you think there is proof- not a bit. Atheism only means you don't belief in a deity- and that could be for any reason.

        Richard Dawkins describes himself as agnostic and atheist. They are compatible descriptors and not mutually exclusive.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
        • jens gessner

          I realize, of course, that 'Atheism' is the label most commonly used for the lack of belief in God. But my dictionary describes '-ism' as 'the act, practice or process of doing something'. 'Atheism' is neither of those, because it only describes a single position on a very particular point.

          With respect to my use of the definition 'theistic god', I was trying to show a distinction between 'theism' and 'deism'. To me, 'deism' describes the concept of a deity that is far removed from our daily lives and does not interfere with our affairs. This concept is not relevant to us, and we can be agnostic about it. The concept of a theistic god, however, describes a deity that does interfere in our lives, makes decrees, punishes violations and rewards obedience of decrees. Adherence to such a concept requires compelling evidence. And there is none.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • donna

          Jens, it doesn't matter what your selected dictionary says, -ism is a suffix that does multiple things, one of which is to make a root a noun. That's a grammatical issue, and my guess is you are using a simplified dictionary. I'm sorry, but you can't get all the thousands of nuances about the English Language from a condensed dictionary.

          Are you really arguing that "atheism" isn't a real word????

          I can see from your second paragraph that you like to reinvent word meanings. The danger in that is that it makes it difficult to communicate with people who are using group recognized definitions.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Which of the words did I supposedly invent?

          September 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Sorry. Which of the word meanings did I invent?

          Deism is a concept from the 18th century, describing belief in a naturalistic god, while rejecting theistic, dogmatic elements of religion.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Theism refers to mono- or polytheistic concepts that describe the nature (or character) of its deity more specifically.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • jens gessner

          And finally, with respect to atheism, the term in itself (aside from the suffix) may well be redundant, because we don't otherwise define ourselves with words that describe our non-adherence to particular concepts or beliefs. Sam Harris actually explains it best when he reminds us that we would not call ourselves A-astrologers or A-alchemists, either.

          It seems to me that 'Atheism' is a label put on people as a derogatory term by a predominantly religious society.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • nojinx

        The two are not mutually exclusive. Gnosticism/agnosticism pertains to knowlwdgw (from the Greek "gnosis") while theism/atheism pertains to belief (Greek "theis").

        There are agnostic theists, gnostic theists, agnostic atheists and gnostic atheists. The two terms correspond to two different qualities.

        Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It says nothing about what the person claims to know.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • FarScout

      Atheism is a religion by definition. It takes an incredible amount of faith to be an atheist. I have become closer to God as I study science and history in college. Science teaches me that something can;t come from nothing, but my atheist coworker wants me to ignore science and have me believe that that is what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. That's an unjustifiable contradiction.

      Personally, I have found far more evidence for the argument that there is a God than not, but one has to look for the truth and go where the evidence takes you. Most importantly, you have to want to know the truth as opposed to wanting to have the truth that you prefer.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      •  

        Godless Vagabond
        Atheism is not a religion by its very definition. Look up the word in your dictionary.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • FarScout

          Wow. How about a rational convo without hate and vitriol? Is that so hard? I will cite a few sources, but I will not do all of the research for you.

          – Supreme Court decision that defined atheism with the legal status of a religion – Wallace vs. Jaffree 472 U.S. 38 (1985)
          – “Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.” ”Atheism”, in Craig. E Routledge, Ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York, 1998.
          – Also, there is the fact that there is a coalition of atheists in the military that are pushing to have atheist chaplains. I served 8 years in the Army and I think that might actually be a good idea. Although, I have no clue how an atheist chaplain might go about consoling someone over the loss of their friends.

          As long as the United States government defines atheism as a religion (as does most governments it seems) then that is what it will be treated as.

          Oh, and the "bald color" remark is from the mouth of Richard Dawkins. Not the man I would use as representation given that is the very person this news article is talking about. The opinion of Mr. Dawkins counts little against the numerous court decisions.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
      • Joe

        ALL the evidence says the universe unfolded from the big ban exactly how it appears today without any intervention from any god whatsoever. So you cling to ancient fairy tales and BS dogma simply because you can't get yourself to understand the big bang without a god, you invent one and then say "god made it go boom". Then you take that and tell yourself "therefore im a christian". LOL. Pathetic. WHat if Allah the muslim god made it go boom? What if Vishnu did it? You have no idea.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
        • FarScout

          I will ignore the name calling, but I will put out that I never said I was against the Big Bang Standard Model. In fact, I think its implications are remarkable. However, are you trying to tell me that it just popped from nothingness? That would fly in the face of reason. I am not willing to ignore reason in my pursuit of the truth.

          I never said the Big Bang proves that the Christian God exists, but I think it is strong evidence for a creator. Considering that Allah, the Muslim god is actually the same as the Christian god, I think your reasoning there is flawed. Vishnu purports that the universe is infinite and exists in cycles. This would not support the Big Bang model.

          In responses, please refrain from personal attacks and stick to rational conversation. You do not know me so personal attacks make little sense.

          September 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • Robert

        Bzzzt what definition? Calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a color. You have found "so much evidence" and yet provide none. Typical religiot.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • donna

        Do you know what the phrase "by definition" means?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • Cricket

        Okay, this is not the first time I have heard the assertion that it takes a great amount of faith to not believe in god (and I still think it's as silly as it sounded the first time). Does it take a great amount of faith to not believe in pink unicorns in my back yard? In a benevolent fairy godmother that is going to deliver me a winning lottery ticket? No, I do not have the slightest difficulty not believing in either of those things, and a god is no different. What possible reason is there for such a statement? I've always wanted an answer to that, and never gotten one.

        September 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • donna

      Jens. I can't reply to your other comment about word meanings.

      I"m sorry, I stand corrected, I didn't understand those were widespread meanings used today.

      (Not on the atheism part though- I am certain that I am correct there.)

      September 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • donna

      "And finally, with respect to atheism, the term in itself (aside from the suffix) may well be redundant, because we don't otherwise define ourselves with words that describe our non-adherence to particular concepts or beliefs."

      We actually do- it's the prefix "a" in atheism that mean "not" or "anti" and it's quiet common.

      "Sam Harris actually explains it best when he reminds us that we would not call ourselves A-astrologers or A-alchemists, either."

      I like him but I think that's a poor argument. He ignores all the words like: "apolitical, anarchy, anonymous, apathy, aphasia, anemia..." Just search for the prefix "a" to find more.

      "It seems to me that 'Atheism' is a label put on people as a derogatory term by a predominantly religious society."

      I think it originated as a negative description, but connotations change over time and it's a word people that is used by people proudly.

      September 14, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • jens gessner

        Anarchy, apathy and anonymous are words that use prefixes? See, I never stop learning.

        – But say, what is the meaning of 'narchy', 'pathy' and 'nonymous'?

        September 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • donna

          All of these words, including atheist are Greek. Also, the prefix "a" is the same as "an" and which one depends on whether they are modifying a vowel or a consonant.

          So:
          Archy= greek for rule or government
          Pathy= greek for feeling or suffering and disease.
          Onym- greek for name

          September 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • David Nelson

          What does "shole" translate to?

          September 15, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  17. lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    What's the deal gonna look like after the socie pharisees get done with the covenant??

    September 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  18. TopCat

    Blind faith must trample underfoot, all reason, sense and understanding. – Martin Luther

    September 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  19. Jp

    Hold whoever you want against me. Just stop trying to enslave me to your religion with laws in a country where I'm guaranteed the right to be free of it.

    September 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Kelly

      Who's trying to enslave you? How freaking absurd!

      September 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Ben Goodridge

        Great! I'm gay. Can I marry that guy?

        September 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • Cricket

        Blue laws. "Morality" laws not based on an actual harm done. Other than those (of which there are thousands), not much. "Enslave" may be a tad strong, but definitely cause serious inconvenience to, and, if arrested or otherwise punished for totally victimless crimes... yeah – not too far from "enslaved", I guess.

        September 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
        • kati

          Try a godless dump and see how it goes

          September 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Michael

      Amen! (or whatever equivalent you prefer...)

      September 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      You're already a slave, so stop worryin'.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • MakingSense

      Problem with atheists is, they all are paranoid, feeling persecuted while no one is attacking them. Paranoia is a mental problem and the root of all atheists problems.

      September 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Not paranoid, not persecuted. You have added an A where none is needed, what you described is the typical Theist.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      •  

        Godless Vagabond
        I'm an atheist and I'm most certainly not paranoid. So your statement is false.

        September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
        • MakingSense

          So far i have not seen one atheist that is not paranoid.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • Robert

          Don't confuse recognition of the evil done in the name of religion and the intrusiveness of laws created in the name of xianity as paranoid. It is called awareness to your nonsense....

          September 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
        • tallulah13

          All gods certainly have human behaviors and reflect the values of the culture that invented them. For example, the christian god: Sure they claim he's all-powerful and all-knowing, but if you boil it all down he's just an abusive parent who sets unattainable expectations for his kids, then punishes them forever when they fail. The only way to subvert the punishment is to agree to total obedience. The whole blood sacrifice theme is common in religion - an offering of something valuable to placate a stronger being. Christ is just another variation on the theme.

          It's apparent that gods are just superpowered versions of the humans that worship them, if you stop to consider.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Wrong place. Every time someone posts a video my iPad goes wonky.

          September 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  20. william

    The author talks about bridging the gap between atheists and Christians, as if those were the only choices. There are thousands of religions, multiple "major" religions, and people who are atheists, deists, agnostics, and everywhere in between, so there are many more choices than the aothor would like to discuss.

    September 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.