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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. Lisa

    Well then,

    Christians had almost 2000 years of dominance. They had their turn. Perhaps some things are better because of Christianity, but some things were definitely made worse.

    In the last 200 years, almost every time something positive in the world has happened, a new medical technique, a new scientific discovery, the advancement of human rights, it did NOT come from a church. These things happened because of the growth of education and literacy and the humanities and science, not because any church made them happen.

    You can believe in God or not. I have no idea if there is a higher power or not, but I will say that demonizing anyone who does not belong to a religion is ridiculous.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      Lisa, you are a little off course in your assertions. Many many of the advances in science in the last two hundred years were helped by the church. So many universities, schools, hospitals, and libraries were founded by Christians. If you are not a person of faith, that's ok. But to deny Christians contributions toward western society would be akin to denying Muslims contributions to their society. And it may seem that Christianity's day is done, but it isn't. It is still the largest faith group in the world and despite appearances locally, it is still growing. I am all for throwing away the straw man arguments of both Christians and atheists but have zero expectation of that happening on this blog. The straw man is the hobby horse for too many on here.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
      • G to the T

        I think you may be confusing the actions of humans who happen to be christian with christianity itself. Christiantiy didn't discover radium, Madame Curie did. She may have been christian, but by what standard would you argue that her discoveries were because she was a christian?

        September 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  2. Chris

    I dispute your thesis that only "the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity" attack atheists. If they are such a minority, why do there seem to be so many of them. Look at these comments for an example or twelve. I also dispute that indignant "real" Christians get up in arms every time some other Christian like Robertson spouts bigotry and hate. Mostly what I hear is silence from the other Christians. Is that a silent agreement, or just indifference?

    September 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  3. BRod

    Just believe what you believe and let others believe what they believe. Must we keep writing articles and books about it? Most people don't put as much thought into beliefs as Robertson or Dawkins. Most people just want to live their lives in peace.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Forgetaboutatleast

      Not true. Most wars are fought over religion. Take out religion and cut down on wars.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
      • Mark

        why do you hate so much? just love and be happy

        September 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
        • Forgetaboutatleast

          I hate wars. Therefore, not all hate is bad.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
        • skytag

          Religion makes people stupid, and then that stupidity spills out into other areas of their existence, such as politics where it hurts all of us.

          September 15, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • Scholar

      Organized religion and other groups exist because people like the tribal aspects of belonging to a group where they have others who hold beliefs or preferences in common. People may be finding they are religious but do not like organized religion because of the appearance of grandeur that has nothing to do with piety. Perhaps they are reading Matthew 6:6 and finding the hypocrites in organized religion.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Forgetaboutatleast

    No deal. Xtians must be accountable for promoting myths as truth and consequences.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  5. FormerChristian

    Only if you stop taking words out of context.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Eddie Nugroho

    Why not just respect each other's opinion and love each other as fellow human beings ? We are one species in one world.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Forgetaboutatleast

      Xtian opinions cannot be respected because they promote fables as a means of control over people.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
      • Mark

        why not just love? why the hate?

        September 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
        • Forgetaboutatleast

          That's a question you need to ask amongst the warmongering religious types.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
        • skytag

          This is the comment of a simpleton.

          September 15, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • skytag

      Religious beliefs are not "opinions." Religion makes people stupid. That's the main reason I oppose it.

      September 15, 2013 at 12:19 am |
  7. Mark

    I was raised an atheist by my parents and had no belief system for 45 years. But after watching my dad die a slow death without any meaning, I thought, "what's the point of it all?" Since then I've begun to seek out God. He is the only one that can provide ultimate meaning in life and death.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Forgetaboutatleast

      Emotional baggage does not prove the existence of god. Go have an adult beverage instead.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
      • Orygun Duck

        Adult beverages are overrated. I've had a few.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • BRod

      So if you and your family had been religious, would your dad dying a slow death have had any meaning then? I would think it would have made you question god about why your dad had to suffer.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
      • Mark

        It absolutely did. I believe God's response to death of a loved one and suffering in general is the crucifixion of Christ. The crucifixion, though, is not the final word. Their is the resurrection

        September 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
        • skytag

          Nothing but fairytales. The only reason you've ended up believing the Christian narrative is that you live in a country where Christianity is overwhelmingly the dominant religion. If you lived in Saudi Arabia you'd have embraced the Muslim narrative, and if you'd been born in India the Hindu narrative.

          September 15, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Scholar

      An aunt said she wanted to be cremated and her ashes tilled into the soil of her beloved rose garden so she could fulfill her great desire to have beautiful roses fed by her remains, so she found a purpose in life, besides the children she had.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • skytag

      As I have said countless times, every religion is nothing more than a fictional narrative people choose to believe because they like it better than the alternative.

      Just because you want there to be some kind of "meaning" in death is no reason to believe there is. What you describe is why all through history people have chosen to make up gods in whom they can believe. Nothing about your father's death gave you any reason to believe in a god, just a need to believe in a god.

      September 15, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  8. isprosperityteachingbiblical

    Even when Jesus did come to earth in person there were some that still refused to believe. All historians and Jews, Muslims agree Jesus existed, they just don't all believe He was was the son of God. Yet people accept Cleopatra and other historical figures existed without question. Jesus walked the earth, many witnessed his miracles, his ascension yet some still chose to reject him, there will never be wnough proof for those who do not want to believe.

    September 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Mark

      I'm no physicist. So when they tell me light travels 299,792,458 per sec, I take them at their word. The scientist has witnessed to what they know. Jesus and the apostles have witnessed to what they have seen and know. Let the scientist witness to the things of science and let Jesus witness to the things of God.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        But Jesus didn't "witness" to anything. He did not write one word of what he thought. Others wrote it. You don't trust "jesus" so much as you trust what anonymous people wrote about him.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
      • skytag

        "So when they tell me light travels 299,792,458 per sec, I take them at their word. The scientist has witnessed to what they know."

        This is something that can be confirmed at any time. We don't have to take the word of a few people who knew each other and lived 2000 years ago, unable to objectively confirm it.

        "Jesus and the apostles have witnessed to what they have seen and know. Let the scientist witness to the things of science and let Jesus witness to the things of God."

        None of this can be objectively confirmed. You have some stories about a God you know can't be confirmed or substantiated by any evidence whatsoever. Not one bit of it. You have simply chosen to believe it because it makes you feel better.

        September 15, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Forgetaboutatleast

      That is correct. There will never be enough proof. Actually, there is zero proof that Jesus is god.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
      • isprosperityteachingbiblical

        Just like there is zero proof he isn't.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
        • Forgetaboutatleast

          Trying to prove a negative is called – epic fail.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
        • Truth hurts

          what a stupid reply!

          September 14, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
        • skytag

          Pathetic response. Where's your proof vampires don't exist?

          September 14, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • BRod

      I feel like if Christianity is truth, then god could have done better to convince humans of it. All we have is a book based on the words of people we know nothing about, and yet we are supposed to trust it? Nobody trusts anybody else that much in life – and yet we somehow should make an exception for bronze age shepherds?

      September 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • skytag

      I accept that there was a person named Jesus. I'm not aware of any evidence he was anything more than a man or that any of accounts of supernatural events described in the Bible are true.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  9. cosmicc

    Why is it that the author chose to make it about Christians and atheists? What about all of the other deists? Don't they count? Eliminate the atheists and this author still doesn't see the non-Christian world. Even if you remove the question of the existence of god from the picture, you still see the problem caused by the us-and-them mentality of most religions (I'm willing to leave Unitarian Universalists and Sikhs out of this).

    September 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  10. A Candid Look

    Thomas Jefferson said that this country needed to support Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Religion.. It is apparent that neither side can support this. thus this great experiment is doomed to fail due to the short sighted and ignorant behavior of both.

    September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • skytag

      Why would you say atheists can't support that? I'm an atheist and I support it.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Observer

      As an agnostic, I would certainly support Thomas Jefferson.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Scott

      Actually, I don't think Jefferson ever said any such thing, although I appreciate the sentiment. I think Jefferson was on the side of freedom from religion.

      Still, I think atheists are the ones who most live up to the ideal of freedom of and from religion. Atheists fight against the majority Christian view. They are the ones who fight to keep religion out of politics and government. Period. Don't be fooled by those who say that atheism is a religion of its own–it is simply not. It is the view that no deity exists, and so no policy should be created that enforces the views of those who believe in ANY deity.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  11. pothead

    bla bla blabla bla bla

    September 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  12. dennis

    ATHEIST AND ALL OTHERS DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD, AND IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

    ARE BEYOND STUPID

    stu·pid ˈst(y)o͞opid/
    adjective: stupid; comparative adjective: stupider; superlative adjective: stupidest

    1. lacking intelligence or common sense.
    synonyms: unintelligent, ignorant, dense, foolish, dull-witted, slow, simpleminded, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, imbecilic, imbecile, obtuse, doltish;

    Why do I call them stupid.

    #1 WHERE DID LIFE COME FROM?
    nobody actually knows. All scientist have are theories, and their theories are empty.
    not one theory can be proven. Yet you have people who declare that GOD DOES NOT EXIST.
    They know nothing about how, and where life began, YET, declare that people who believe in GOD are foolish.

    #2 To believe that the intellectual design that went into all of creation, from the human body, to universe, to the air we breathe, to the millions of creatures and plants, and so on just happened by chance, shows a level of stupidity and ignorance that is remarkable.

    #3 But whats worse, they can't even read, and understand that it is impossible for a book to that was written 2000 to 4000 years, by men who never talked to each, to make the same predictions about events that would happen 2000 to 4000 years after they were no longer on the earth, and their predictions are coming true.

    People can call the bible fake, and say that GOD does not exist, but the book is coming true.

    #4 People are bei8ng healed of disease by the faith they have in this book. I had heart disease removed from my body by my faith in JESUS/YESHUA. I avoided quadruple heart bypass surgery. People are healed of cancer, and many other diseases, but this atheist group, and others, refuse to say their may be a GOD, or say we don't know, but continually declare there is no GOD.

    WOW!!!!!!

    September 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    •  

      Godless Vagabond
      Can your idiot god give you next week's lotto numbers?

      September 14, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • archimedes109

      I do not see in your unlettered list of nonsense a single fact. It is a perfect confession of ignorance.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Observer

      dennis,

      Speaking of stupid, please tell us all about unicorns, talking serpents, and dragons.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Jinn

      Why not go a step further and ask the question, "Who created God?"

      September 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Athy

      Dennis, your post is a lot of nothing. Totally devoid of facts.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • JimW

      Science has determined through DNA testing that the ‘Y’ chromosome present in all current living males evolved some 180,000 to 200,000 years ago, meanwhile the church wants us to believe that the existence of mankind started approximately 6,000 years ago with the creation of Adam and Eve, parents of two sons, Cain and Able. Later, at 130 years of age, Adam had a third son with Eve who they named Seth, he lived to the ripe old age of 912, now that’s amazing, on both counts. Still, surprisingly, the human race managed to evolve from this family of all male offspring. My grades 4 to 6 health and science teachers taught me differently and insisted that all mammals require the existence of both ‘males and females’ in order to reproduce. I fear for the safety of those educators when the church learns of their teachings, has them labeled as heretics, and then burned at the stake.
      And don’t go calling me an Atheist and shaming me because I don’t believe everything that is written in the bible, for I believe that the bible truly is one of the greatest collections of stories ever written. Just don’t lose touch with reality and think that it is anything more.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      WOW....are YOU stupid.

      A Muslim could have written the same post with Allah injected instead of God...and would be just as valid.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • skytag

      Believers, including Christians, have a long history of positing supernatural explanations for real world phenomenon, from thunder and lightning caused by Thor's hammer to seizures caused by demonic possessions. Almost all of them have been debunked by science. Stupid is continuing to believe religion can explain stuff given it's consistent record of being wrong.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Scott

      #1. It is no more foolish to assert that God does not exist than to assert that he does. So, this argument applies equally to you.

      #2. This is purely circular/question-begging. You presume intelligent design, for which there is zero evidence.

      #3. You are extremely, unwarrantedly overgenerous here. The Bible is full of contradictions, and there are no clear predictions that "are becoming true" by any stretch of the imagination.

      #4. Complete nonsense. There is no evidence that "God" heals anyone. For every believer who is "healed" as you claim to be, there is an equal believer who wasn't. Likewise for nonbelievers. This is a "god of the gaps" argument in disguise: if we can't explain a phenomenon (like the disappearance of terminal cancer), we assume god must be responsible. It is more reasonable to argue that there are some things that have a perfectly non-supernatural explanation of which we are just unaware (but will be in the future).

      Basically, you need to contemplate the definition of "stupid" very carefully while looking in the mirror.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
      • Hey! You!

        Way to go Scott, you just made Dennis' head explode. Hope you're happy.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
        • Scott

          I'm sure his god will fix it!

          September 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • skytag

      In one post you've offered more evidence religion makes people stupid and acting like such a jerk shows us what a fraud Christianity really is.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • athiest

      What is so wrong with loving Earth more than a bible? earth started life it provides means to support life. Bible does not do any of that, all it does is give hope and theories of what some man said hundreds of years ago.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • secular

      Hallucination is a known disease my friend and I suggest some medication….

      Before you offend and call all the open minded people on this earth Stupid I will first suggest to look at yourself and your belief system first, let me tell you what is stupid:

      1- Just because humans don’t know the exact origins of things does not mean we have to drop to our knees and worship the unknown deity that you are so intoxicated with

      2- Explaining the whole Universe by the creationists "Let There Be Light" is outright comical, absurd and in your own word outright Stupid.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • MysticYat

      Dennis – Thank you so much for taking the time to write your interesting diatribe on fundamentalist christian tripe about their superiority to everything and everyone else.

      Your rant is the perfect example of why people with open, tolerant minds are contemptuous of "christians" like you. Perhaps you should try re-reading the story of Jesus of Nazareth and how HIS message was actually focused on acceptance, tolerance and love.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Jose

      Hello Dennis,
      Your response to this article is an excellent example of why so many are leaving organized religion. Your logic relative to the “rightfulness” of believing in some sort of deity is gibberish representative of pre-scientific thinking and religious intolerance. Good luck dealing with the 21 St. Century. You probably are having a miserable time living in your delusional self-made world of ignorance and magical type thinking when confronted with differing cosmological, religious, or philosophical opinions. I feel sorry for you and your type. I’m surprised you use a computer as that was developed as a result of a long technological / scientific process. Do you own a phone, watch, or benefit from modern medicine? If you do, you are then a hypocrite who uses the products of science while apparently not understanding the scientific process while at the same time denouncing it. Look up the word science as you appear fixated on definitions. Your apparent intolerance is a sad reminder of the past. Good luck dealing with reality. J.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • skytag

      stu·pid ˈst(y)o͞opid/
      adjective: stupid; comparative adjective: stupider; superlative adjective: stupidest

      1. dennis

      September 14, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  13. wakeup333

    Mass murdering people you disagree with is a HUMAN failing. People of all faiths have done it. It's arrogant to say one group never has. ALL groups have: Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, you name it, all have slaughtered those they didn't like.

    Religious people do it because "god" - an invisible, imaginary being - tells them to. Or says they can because they're "chosen."

    Unlike religion, atheism isn't an ideology. It says NOTHING about what people should do.

    If atheists kill, it's because they follow ideologies like communism, which call for the dictatorship of the proletariate (and the murder of those who oppose it).

    While most communists are atheists, most atheists are not communists!

    Atheism means "no god(s)." It doesn't mean "no morals." Atheists believe in the golden rule. Without supernatural threats. Which is a better reason to be moral than fearing you'll burn in hell if you're not! Atheists debate, but don't kill to convert.

    Ideologies (religious & political) tell followers to attack and kill non-believers. That's the difference.

    September 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • really

      whoa Nelly. As an atheist, I disagree with your statement we all believe in the golden rule. We believe what we want – just we all agree there is no God.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
      • wakeup333

        really - You really don't believe in the golden rule? You don't believe you should treat others as you would have them treat you? That's all that separates us from the jungle!

        September 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • JimW

      Man kind has to take the responsibility upon yourself to know the difference between right and wrong, don't use the bible as a crutch. And if you have a bad day or tragedy strikes, don't go saying “Why did God let this happen to me!”, sometimes 'sh!t' just happens, and if ‘you’ couldn't control it, then neither can this god that you seem to think has control over everything. When bad things happen to me I call it a 'reality check', and the sooner ‘you’ can accept reality, the better off you will be.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • intelectable

      It is not consistent to declare "Atheists believe in the Golden Rule but not because of God!" while at the same time declaring "Atheism is not an ideology that can lead them to do bad!" You can't have it both ways. Either atheism posits no beliefs that lead anyone to do anything, in which case atheism doesn't motivate atheists to murder but also doesn't motivate them to do good either, or else atheism is part of ideologies (just as theism is) that lead to both good and evil.

      People have killed on behalf of what they thought God wanted and people have killed out of hostility to religion too.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • wakeup333

        intelectable – I'm trying to show you that you don't need religion to be moral! I'm an atheist, yet I believe in the golden rule. Humans are responsible for all ideas on earth, good & bad. You don't need fairy tales to believe in good. You just have to have a compassionate heart.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
      • Scott

        I think you mistake religion for morality and atheism for _a_morality (amorality). This is just a false dichotomy. One can be a moral realist without being religious. I prefer to think of myself as an agnostic. Not a lazy one, but one who truly believes that God's existence/nonexistence cannot be known. As a scientist, if I had to come down on one side or the other, I'd say I'm an atheist, because there is absolutely zero evidence supporting the proposition that god exists, and it is much simpler to believe that one doesn't. That doesn't make me immoral nor amoral. I can (and do) have an alternate basis that justifies a morality. Namely, we have one life to live, and when that's over, that's it. Thus, what's "right" to do is that which promotes life–or helping others maximize the value of their life. I don't need a god to tell me murder is wrong: it shortens life, and that's inherently bad. I don't need a god to tell me that theft is wrong: it reduces the quality of life of my fellows. We can build an entire moral philosophy consistent with Christianity that doesn't involve a god. And, more importantly, it doesn't allow for dogma that justifies exploitation and subjugation of those who don't believe in the same god.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Angry Arab

      Why do you generalize that religious people kill to convert? Yeah, that goes on in the world, but you know what else goes on in this same world? People kill people because they're violent, not necessarily because they have misguided conviction. Why do we look at Christians and blame them as the ones leading the charge in killing people for lack of belief? Is that really a wide spread pandemic? So many ignorant atheists out there just repeating the same rhetoric like it's their mantra. It's almost like the "black community" in the United States. Angry at everyone because of an ancestry of slavery and social inequality. You know, those days are over and behind us. I don't know anyone today who was a former slave owner or spent their spare time riding horses and garbed in white robes in the evenings looking to prey on innocent minorities. Yes, it's sad that we have a blemished history in our country, but it's in the past and I think we've all moved on. Quit digging it back up. The horse is dead, no need to keep beating it.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
      • wakeup333

        Angry Arab – I never said Christians today were leading the charge killing to convert, Islam is now the most violent faith, worldwide. Muslims throughout Africa and the Mid-East are burning churches, forcing Christians to flee. As an atheist, I see no end to it unless people wake up and realize invisible beings don't exist.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  14. archimedes109

    Deal; with one minor adjustment...As an atheist, I promise not to use my lack of belief in your religion as the basis for public policy. You must likewise agree not to use your religion as the basis for public policy. Do we have a deal?

    September 14, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • Steve

      ...i'd be curious how you do that. Everyone brings their own beliefs into the political arena. To say they don't is dishonest. I tire of people telling me I can't bring my beliefs into the public sphere while others bring theirs. Are you telling me you can deny who you are in public discourse? How is that possible, exactly. Please enlighten ,my ignorant, unenlightened Catholic self ( with several degrees I might add).

      September 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
      • archimedes109

        Okay...I don't demand that a list of atheist mythology be hanging in the public courthouse. I am not trying to have atheism incorporated into the public school curriculum. I am not lobbying my congressman to pass legislation aimed at closing public facilities, like planned parenthood, because they may disagree with my atheism. Shall I go on?

        September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
        • Atheistic Antítheist

          Good for you, Archie. Too bad all believers aren't like you.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
      • mike

        It's simple. Don't push religion, and don't denounce it either. Just talk or teach about it the same neutral way you discuss Roman or Egyptian history and their deities. Zeus, Ra, Yahweh, Vishnu, etc.

        Getting "god" out of school isn't atheist. Atheist would be teaching "there probably isn't a god". Simply not endorsing nor denouncing any particular religion's god is as neutral as you can get. As an atheist myself, all I want is that when the predominant religion's deities is referenced in school, it's done so in the same way Zeus or Ra is. That means praying is not okay, but learning about history and culture is.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
        • Angry Arab

          How is: "there probably isn't a god". Simply not endorsing nor denouncing any particular religion's god is as neutral as you can get.

          What if we changed that to: "there probably is a god". Would that still be not endorsing or denouncing it?

          September 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
      • Hey! You!

        Several degrees! WOW!!!

        September 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
      • skytag

        Feel free to bring your beliefs into public policy debates as long as they can be supported without appealing to your religious beliefs. In other words, find an objective argument supporting the idea that your position is in the best interest of society without appealing to your religion.

        For example, if you oppose gay marriage, come up with something better than "the Bible says it's wrong."

        September 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  15. kenny

    the difference is that all xtians have a craaap ton of rules they ALL are supposed to follow yet MOST don't and even those that do are selective in them. I'm sure there are plenty of decent xtians, yet when push comes to shove they chose the crazy xtian over the normal atheist most of the time. Doesn't even the most vile xtian get to be part of the club if he begs for forgiveness of his sins???? The best and only policy should be that your faith is kept secret. You don't proselytize, you don't base your arguments about ANYTHING from it, and you denounce the a s s clowns that claim to represent it for the rest of you... is there any human in between you and your path to god? then who's friggin business is it to know about it but you and god??????

    September 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  16. wilbie

    one thing regarding Colbert, Mandela, Obama, etc...Just because someone professes to be a christian does not necessarily mean that they believe in an afterlife or that their is some divine being who reigns over us all.

    They may simply mean that they adhere to christian principles or virtues, or at least the good ones: honesty, love, compassion, etc... And I am by no means saying that christians have cornered the market on these virtues that can be held and practiced by anyone, atheist, christian, jew, muslim, buddhist, hindu, etc.....

    September 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  17. Jake

    Is there anyone who has actually read Richard Dawkins who disagrees with atheism?

    September 14, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    •  

      Godless Vagabond
      Nobody with an IQ more than his shoe size.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
      • Steve

        ....atheists don't have the corner on intelligence. Some of the greatest minds that ever walked the earth were believers. Some were even (and are) believers ad scientists, gasp!

        September 14, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Josh

      but when pat robinson says things like 911 happened cause god is punishing the US for gays, people send him millions of dollars, when Benny Hinn says god wants you to send him money and you will be healed of cancer, people do it and then die for not taking their cancer treatments, when Dawkins says people are foolish for believing this stuff, we agree, when Dawkins says it is abusive to teach a child that if they don’t obey a invisible sky daddy they will burn in a pit of fire for all eternity, he is right, when Dawkins says that creationism is not science and doesn’t belong in the science classroom, again he is right. so i have a new deal for you christians, stop trying to teach my kid that a talking snake tricking a rib woman into eating a piece of fruit is the reason we have war and hunger and death, and stop teaching my kid that all the animals boarded a giant boat and god killed everyone else cause they were mean, and stop teaching my kid that your loving god had to have his own son tortured and murdered before he could forgive us for that same rib woman eating that fruit the talking snake talked into eating, and stop teaching my kid that everyone that don’t believe like you is gonna burn in torture for all eternity, when you stop doing all of that we will stop pointing out that you believe in an invisible skyman and act like we are the delusional ones.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
      • Angry Arab

        Be sure to teach your kid that it's ok to hate other kids who have religious beliefs and that it's ok to bully and persecute them because they are different from you.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
        • skytag

          Wow, that was childish. And for the record, children of Christians do that all the time.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Coleman

    I don't think that you understand what "atheist" means. You can't generalize people for their non belief in something. Atheism is not a belief system any more than not believing in unicorns is a belief system. Atheism is a term that I don't like, because it should not be a word any more than the word "aunicornism". You can however generalize religious people to a certain degree, because by definition being religious is the adherence to a predefined doctrine or set of concepts. Calling one's self an atheist does nothing to define what a person actually believes. A person could be an atheist and believe that all of our destinies are controlled by a 5 million year old man living inside mountain, while another atheist could believe that our sins are payed for by a reptilian bird pooping in a lake. Generalizing atheists is the same as generalizing people who don't believe in unicorns. On the other hand, two Christians standing next to each other both subscribe to the same doctrine, in which the god they worship commits and condones horrible atrocities.

    September 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • PK

      Thank you.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Thomas

      I think you are missing the point. It doesn't matter whether said atheists believes in old men in caves, unicorns, birds or whatever. That is irrelevant to the point she is making. It is when these varied people come together and unite against Christians in a concerted manner (such as taking out anti-Christian ad space on buses) that is troubling and needs to be spoken out against. As long as no one is harming another, if a group of people choose to believe in something, it shouldn't matter to another group that doesn't share the same beliefs.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
      • Carl

        Absurd beliefs which resemble mental illness, when held by voting adults, should be spoken out against.

        September 14, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Mark

        "(such as taking out anti-Christian ad space on buses) that is troubling..."
        No more troubling than seeing billbiards that say "Got Jesus". What's good for one group is good for another.
        Can't stand the competi.tion? Is your faith so shallow that you'd change your mind by seeing an ad on a bus? Who is harmed?

        September 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
        • skytag

          I think most of them don't really even believe what they claim to believe. They have an all-powerful God on their side but let some atheists oppose them and they get scared.

          September 14, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • skytag

        "It is when these varied people come together and unite against Christians in a concerted manner (such as taking out anti-Christian ad space on buses) that is troubling and needs to be spoken out against."

        Why? Christians have billboards, ad space on buses, organized missionary efforts and so on, all to spread beliefs for which there is no evidence.

        You're pathetic. I thought you had an all-powerful God on your side answering your prayers, protecting you, and so on but let some atheists do the same things you people do and you're "troubled." What's wrong, do even you realize deep down your God doesn't exist?

        "As long as no one is harming another, if a group of people choose to believe in something, it shouldn't matter to another group that doesn't share the same beliefs."

        I think filling people's heads with lies and fairytales is harmful. I think teaching people that belief/faith is a more reliable way to understand something than facts, evidence, logic and reason is harmful. Religion makes people stupid, and I think that's harmful.

        September 14, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • wilbie

      Don't like the word atheism either. Sounds like it's an alternative religion or something.

      One of my favorites: man is smart enough to believe in god, but not quite smart enough not to.

      And hats off to Andy Rooney and anyone else who declares themselves an atheist...anyone can hide among the masses but it takes real courage and independence to declare your atheism. I'd rather be part of the "most hated group in America" any day of the week than to be a fraud.

      And you can bet there are countless number of "believers" who go to church and play the game but who deep down know their prayers fall on deaf ears.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Emily

      There is a difference between atheism and Atheism. There is a cohesive Atheist community, which does have a firmly held "creed" which extends to things such as ethics, scientific inquiry, and creates an amazing amount of apologetics materials. Non-belief in the existence of something is different than the absolute belief in the non-existence of that thing. It is one thing to say that you have not seen evidence of a god, and so you don't believe in that existence. However, once you say that, with absolute certainty, such a thing cannot exist, you have entered the realm of a belief system. The fact that people write books filled with atheistic "dogma", and that there are forums and groups that exist for the sole purpose of creating orthodoxy within that "dogma," indicates a belief system that is just as fervently held as any theist faith. Using your example of unicorns, I personally don't believe they exist, but I have no personal stake in the matter, and if someone showed me a unicorn, I wouldn't lose any sleep over changing my stance. However, if I believe that unicorns cannot exist, I will resist evidence of their existence, even to the point of irrationality (because humans have difficulty handling cognitive dissonance within firmly held belief systems), and may feel threatened or begin to persecute those who are interested in unicorns. It is this cohesive atheist community that the letter is geared towards, rather than the myriad of belief systems that happen to dis-include a supreme being.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • skytag

      "On the other hand, two Christians standing next to each other both subscribe to the same doctrine, in which the god they worship commits and condones horrible atrocities."

      On the contrary, there are so many flavors of Christianity that there is very little all of believe.

      September 14, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    Ah Rachel. That article was some of the best comedy writing I have read in years. Very funny!

    September 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  20. Mark

    Atheism has been around awhile. Tell me, what soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, have been founded based upon atheism? I can't think of any off the top of my head. If you're atheistic, why not believe in social Darwinism. Let the weak perish, survival of the fittest. To help the weak and poor is to prevent the natural course of evolution. Aren't these people simple parasites upon the rest of humanity? Christianity, on the other hand, says we find Christ in the weak, poor and least upon us.

    September 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Mark

      You sound like a typical member of the Tea Party who wants to cut funding for SNAP and let uninsured people and vets die in the streets. Very Christian atti.tude, and a giganitc liar to boot. Lying about people because you actually don't know anyone who's an atheist is the height of dishonesty. G F Y.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • jens gessner

      Nonsense.

      Most food banks in my country are secular, as are many shelters.

      Atheism refers to a particular position on one single issue. Atheists assert that there is not enough evidence to justify a belief in a god. That does not mean that an Atheist HAS to accept evolutionary biology as fact, and it certainly does not mean that Atheists are any less compassionate than anyone else.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
      • donna

        For the record, Social Darwinism has nothing at all to do with evolutionary biology. Natural selection heavily favors helping people in humans.

        September 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
        • Carl

          Indeed, the micro-managed genocide known as "social darwinism" is a lot like the various murders recommended in the bible: kill those who don't act like you act. Evolution is merely a historical fact of nature, while biblical genocide was a policy and is still worshiped by people praying to printed books.

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

      All of those services have been partly funded by all of the nonbelievers who have paid higher taxes to compensate for those not paid by the churches.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • donna

      Social Darwinism isn't based on evolution. Research in evolutionary theory tells us that natural selection heavily favors helping others in humans. We benefit from that. We have adaptations to care about others because on average that increases our reproductive fitness.

      And regardless, natural selection is not an ideal. It's not a goal. It's just a factually, constantly occurring process. It's neither good nor bad. Not doing things doesn't make it happen any more or less. It just changes which behaviors it's acting on.

      Finally, as others have pointed out, being an atheist doesn't mean you care about or believe in evolution. It doesn't mean anything at all except you don't believe there is a deity. You could be a creationist and be an atheist as long as you don't think we were created by a deity.

      September 14, 2013 at 10:52 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.