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. Felix Sinclair

    Can't atheists play the game of saying "He's not a real atheist" like religious hypocrites do?

    September 17, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Hell and destruction are never full

      No, they don't have the capacity. Dead is dead.

      September 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  2. GodFreeNow

    Just mildly curious...have any other atheists written (not that he reads them) Dawkins to tell him that his remarks were inappropriate and that perhaps he did more damage by saying them, then good?

    Lots of people are debating good and evil on here. What Dawkins said, well it wasn't good. You can paint it anyway you like, but it still comes out sounding a teensy-bit like pedophilia being a good thing. Yuck.

    Forget what christians do. They don't make sense anyhow. Period. But why not try to heal the atheist community?

    September 17, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • jens gessner

      Judging by your comment, it is quite possible that you have not read Dawkins remarks about his own childhood experience, otherwise you would not likely maintain that his comment was 'inappropriate'. However, if – after actually reading it – you are still irritated by it, you can read his clarifying remarks, all available publicly.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      I don't find his comment about his own experiences to be inappropriate or pro pedophilia at all. Frankly, I am rather astonished that anyone could find them so. Are we really such a victim worshipping culture that not being destroyed by the actions of others is a bad message?

      September 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        You sound reasonable but imagine for a moment that someone made these types of remarks regarding Catholic priests. How tolerant would you be in that scenario?

        September 17, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • tallulah13

          I would always take the word of a person who experienced thing first hand over the words of an outsider trying to create controversy.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • ME II

          To build on what @tallulah13 said, if the victim of a Catholic priest said those things, I'm not sure how many would condemn them.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:24 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          Bill, The priest would be talking as the abuser, Dawkins is talking as the "abused".

          September 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
        • Ellen

          Your comparison is not a good one anyway, Bill. Priests are in an official role wherein they are supposed to be setting a higher standard for behavior. That even one of them did just the opposite is horrible. Furthermore, Dawkins is not suspected of doing acts to children such as certain priests are established to have done.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • Ellen

          Thanks, Santa. You must have posted while I was typing.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:52 am |
        • doobzz

          Consider who you're talking to.

          Boof Deacon is a known liar and pedophile apologist who has repeatedly stated that priests who raped children weren't priests, but were "disguised as priests". He also called the RCCs continuing conspiracy to hide the crimes these priests committed a "judgement call".

          September 17, 2013 at 11:01 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Santa, I didn't mention who would be making the comment. You erroneously read into it that it would be a priest. But I can tell by the other comments that there are a good number who hold a double standard depending on who the abuser is. Thank you all.

          September 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • doobzz

          "But I can tell by the other comments that there are a good number who hold a double standard depending on who the abuser is."


          What would "Blessed" Teresa of Calcutta have to say about it, Boof? Something along the lines of "Getting raped by a priest is but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.”, I suppose.

          September 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • I wonder

          Bill Deacon,

          You may call it a "double standard", but are you going to say that a child who is groped by a blotto, drunk stranger would be as affected as when he is groped by a person that he has been taught to hold in deepest respect (a "God" representative)?

          Of course the child would be grossed out (and damaged) by the drunk, but even a child knows the difference.

          September 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • doobzz


          I know you're a big fan of "Saint" Teresa of Avila. I do like this one attributed to her:

          "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”

          September 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
        • ME II

          this one is interesting:

          "I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself."

          September 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Bill, Do you mean that the priests were abused and then became abusers?

          September 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
        • Sara

          His error was in generalizing his own experience to others molested by the same man (not fully quoted in the article). There are some people who aren't affected by the death of their parents, but it doesn't make it the norm. Generalizing from one's own experience in light of affects we know are generally pretty aweful, and regarding a crime he himself describes elsewhere are 'horrendous' was irresponsible.

          It doesn't mean he shouldn't comment on his own experience, but without the expertise needed to understand the affects on others, in other similar, but more serious situations, and on society as a whole, he should just stay off the topic as any sort of arguing point.

          September 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
        • Sara


          I'm just not seeing this at all. Almost everyone things pe.dophilia is pretty awful. People pay more attention to the church because it protected these priests in a way not accepted in other insti.tutions. Have got an example of actual people defending pe.dophiles but then condemning the priests? Has Dawkins done this?

          September 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Yeah, I love that one too doobz

          September 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
      • Hamsa Rosenberg

        Yet you would be the first to revel in Catholic Church bashing. Talk about hypocrite....

        September 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Hamsa seems to understand what I'm saying. I can't really understand why others are confused. Maybe too much science?

          September 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
        • doobzz

          LOL! Yeah, I'm sure that's it, Boof.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  3. montemanm1


    September 17, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  4. Shane

    So there's a bit of a difference here.

    Dawkins was speaking personally, and about himself with reference to the 'Mild Pedophelia' line. Okay, yeah that pushes some gross out buttons for most people.

    His comment about Nobel Prizes are simply factual. They point to larger, more complicated issues, some are religiously inspired some are not. But ultimately, it is correct that Cambridge has more Nobel Prizes than the collective body of Muslims.

    So, when Pat Robertson, inspired by a book you hold holy and important, says 'This book tells us to act this way'. We criticize because you also hold that book in high esteem, and more than a few of your own adherents agree with his insanity, how else would his television program survive and his series not be removed from being broadcast?

    So, while Dawkins may be a bit callous, and may say things that are hurtful, they are at least, factually, correct. He does not point to a book that all atheists, by definition, would point to and say 'That's the rule book for life'. We simply agree with the premise that we do not believe in a god or many gods.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  5. Sane Person

    The difference is that all Christians hold immoral and divisive beliefs, because that's what their religion is based on.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      You should never use absolute modifiers. They are always too restrictive.

      September 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • JustUsBikers

        @ Bill Deacon Don't you have a job or something else to keep you entertained?
        Just asking! LOL

        September 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Doing just fine Biker. Thanks for asking.

          September 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  6. beneggert233

    Except for Dawkin's offensive comments are rooted in evidence and reason, while Robertson's are rooted in ignorance and bigotry. NOT the same thing.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Jesus' Beloved

      So you're excusing the remarks Dawkins made...that pedophiles in the past, should not be judged by today's standards?

      September 17, 2013 at 9:21 am |
      • jens gessner

        His remarks need to be understood, rather than 'excused'.

        Is it not weird that those who should have learned about forgiveness in their rule book are evidently the least likely to 'forgive? When I was still a Christian, I learned that God would not forgive my 'trespasses' until I was ready to forgive others. Where were you when they taught you that in Sunday school?

        September 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • tallulah13

        Your judgment of Dawkins is colored by your hatred of him and what he represents. Who are you to judge his personal experiences? Didn't Christ say something about judging others? Not much of a christian, are you? Judgmental, unwilling to forgive... But I bet you still think you should go to heaven, despite the fact you aren't willing to do the hard stuff earn it.

        September 17, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  7. karlheins

    Ms Evan
    pray to your god.. see if that helps

    September 17, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  8. Brother Maynard

    Ms Evans
    Do you actually think that the statement by Dawkins,
    “ ... all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”,

    is in the same category as Robertson's about the earth quake in Haiti?
    "they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the French, true story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal' ... right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."

    Sorry not even close ... no deal

    September 17, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Sister Myrna

      Stealing a 100 bucks doesn't make you lesser thief than those who stole 1000s.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:55 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Now all you have to do is show Dawkins stole anything. . .

        September 17, 2013 at 9:02 am |
        • ColdWindQueen

          OMG! Is 'analogy' foreign to you, sweetie?!!!

          September 17, 2013 at 9:25 am |
        • ME II

          That wasn't an analogy, darling, it was a misrepresentation.
          The difference between the two statements was not just a matter of degree.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:28 am |
        • U 1V

          ME 11

          That was the lamest counter argument I've ever read so far.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Both Pat Robertson and Richard Dawkins make public statements that are deliberately contentious.
        The difference between them is that Dawkins tends to cite references you can check whereas Robertson tends to rely on hyperbole to get a rise from people.
        "Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the ho.mose.xuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
        –Pat Robertson

        I invite the Robertson apologists to find a Dawkins quote that is so egregiously overblown.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:03 am |
        • Jesus' Beloved


          September 17, 2013 at 9:22 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

          With Christianity in decline in Europe, Dawkins is coming to realize that Islam has no intention of joining the Left’s multi-culti coalition as junior partner. The Left uses Islam as just another tool in their multicultural quest to “divide and rule” over a de-christianized Western society because they believe Islam can be controlled with the promise of a few bennies, just as they do all their other little ethnic pets. But they are severely mistaken if they think for one second that Islam can be so easily seduced. Or perhaps the Left believes when the time is ripe they can isolate and destroy Islam just as they attempt with Christianity. What a rude awakening they are in for when they realize the dragon they have been riding has no such intentions of going quietly into the night.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:24 am |
        • Ey, doc!

          Let me ask you one question. Does the statement of Robertson enough to take away the fact that Dawkins' statement was "deliberate and contentious"?

          September 17, 2013 at 9:40 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          What Robertson says doesn't change what Dawkins says.
          They're both deliberately contentious, but Robertson is more prone to hyperbolic rhetoric.
          For example, both speakers have referenced the holocaust.
          "The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust."
          – Dawkins
          The professor makes this statement becuase he is an expert in evolutionary biology and has reams of data to back up his assertion.

          Robertson, on the other hand, tries to compare the treatment of Christians in a predominantly Christian nation to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people. I don't see evidence of American Christians being shipped off to concentration camps.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          Doc, are you aware of the movement to have religious belief classified as a mental illness? There is also a movement to begin treating criminal behavior as a mental disorder. If those two streams of public policy are implemented you will have laid the ground work for the incarceration of Christians. All for our own good of course.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          I hadn't heard of that one.
          Is it a particularly popular movement supported by powerful lobby groups who influence government policies?
          Do you seriously believe it to be the herald of a genocide?

          September 17, 2013 at 10:23 am |
        • midwest rail

          " Do you seriously believe it to be the herald of a genocide? "
          Anything to bolster the persecution complex he's so heavily invested in.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:26 am |
        • heehee

          @Bill Deacon: I have not heard of such a movement, although I have heard the sentiment expressed that religion is a mental illness. I disagree with it, and do so explicitly and state my reasons fairly often when I hear it.

          I know quite a few atheists. No one I know wants to incarcerate Christians for being Christians. I find the idea repugnant and would oppose it strenuously if it ever became a serious possibility.

          If you look online to try to identify symptoms, you'll find all kinds of frightening things. May I suggest that something similar has happened to you, while looking for examples of persecution? I mean this kindly, whatever I may have posted before. No one – I repeat, no one – wants to imprison you for your religious beliefs. (so long as those beliefs do not include, say, that you should stone me to death for being atheist – in which case I would defend your right to believe that, but not your right to carry it out. Of course, I assume you don't believe that, because I've never met any one who does).

          September 17, 2013 at 11:43 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          All you have to do is visit the CNN articles on Rick Warrens son and see the numbers of people clamoring that religion is an addiction or mental disorder. Public policy is actually shifting towards the disease model as opposed to the punishment model for criminal activities. The DSDM does not currently list religious belief as a mental illness but there are psychologists and behavioral scientist who belief that it should be. The convergence of these trends doesn't bode well, in my opinion. To those who claim I suffer from a persecution complex, I would deny that I do. But at the same time, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:54 am |
        • doobzz

          @ Boof Deacon

          Are you aware that there is a movement that considers Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, a divine being, the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit and brother of John Frum?

          Are you aware that there is a movement that refers to Catholic priests as "vampires" and "Draculas" and talks of Catholic priests sucking semen out of male children's genitals like vampires suck blood from their victims?

          Are you aware that there are movements that seeks to deny First Amendment rights to Americans?

          Are you aware that there is a movement to place LGBT persons in concentration camps?

          September 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          doobz three of your four examples are not relevant to the discussion. But the actions of the IRS concerning the first amendment certainly could be seen in that light.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
        • doobzz

          @ Boof,

          Of course they are relevant. There are ridiculous, stupid "movements" all the time. The two you claim exist belong in the same group as the four actual and laughable "religious movements" I mentioned.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
        • Ey, doc!

          Try again.. it's answerable by a 'yes' or a 'no'.

          September 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Nice try Brotha!

      But you need to try harder. LOL!

      September 17, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  9. Trey

    Except Dawkins was pointing out the current state of the middle east vs. how it was the fountainhead of knowledge prior to religious wars and extremism sweeping the area post-800's AD. He, and others, use that as an example where the more religious a populous becomes, the more bigoted and cloistered they become.

    Religion does two things. It promises the everyman eternal paradise for his hard work here, and it separates YOU from THEM. Historically, all religions have one thing in common. It is used to keep certain folks in check. But hey, I'm sure if you think long enough you can come up with some reason why the bottom of the socioeconomic barrel are more religious and give more money away to charities.

    One day people will see that.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Agreed, religion that promises eternal paradise for hard work is wrong.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:34 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        What about those that offer eternal salvation for the low low price of engaging in ritualalized drowning and/or cannibalism?

        September 17, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • Robert Brown

          That kind of takes baptisim and the lords supper to the extreme, don't you think?

          September 17, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          How else would you describe the eucharist?
          The doctrine of transsubstantiation clearly says that the wafer and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ.
          Baptism symbolizes one's rebirth in Christ – and in order to be re-born, one must first die.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:06 am |
      • Ken

        So, what Christianity teaches us is that hard work is for suc kers, and the only way to get the boss's favor is to stroke his ego by telling him how great he is?

        Hmmm... Maybe Christianity is more pragmatic than I first thought?

        September 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • Robert Brown

          Trust and obey.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
        • jens gessner

          Suppose 'obedience' was even a reasonable expectation:

          When I was in the military I learned that one MUST NOT obey unless the order was clearly understood. Otherwise one might become complicit in a crime without knowing it. Furthermore, it was the responsibility of superiors to clarify their orders.

          Similarily, god (if such a deity even existed) would have to clarify his decrees – even to ardent sceptics – before he can expect 'obedience'. The deity that you believe in fails.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:50 am |
        • Robert Brown


          That is why trust is first. You can't obey without trusting him as your savior first, because you don't have the holy spirit to help you understand.

          September 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Oh, I understand. The need for a saviour is a theistic concept that makes no sense to atheists.

          Much like authority, 'trust' is given and earned. I trust imaginary deities about as much as I trust Cinderella.

          September 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Correct, you have no reason to trust without faith. You can obtain faith by hearing the word of God. So, we were really about 3 or 4 steps in talking about trust.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
        • jens gessner

          Wrong again. I have no trust without evidence.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          You can have all the evidence you want, if you
          Be drawn
          Be convicted

          Or, you could continue to deny & wait for a Saul of Tarsus type of experience.

          September 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
        • sam stone

          "You can't obey without trusting him as your savior first, because you don't have the holy spirit to help you understand."

          You can't obey without turning off your critical thinking. That is why it appeals to sheep

          September 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
        • sam stone

          "You can obtain faith by hearing the word of God"

          Which god, robbie?

          The hindu one?

          The ancient nature gods?

          is it A god, or THE god?

          September 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
        • Ken

          You forgot the "or else" that comes after "trust and obey". I've heard Christians say that God invented people with free will because he didn't want unthinking robots, but what you're describing doesn't seem too far from that actually. You are basically saying that one must just follow the prescribed programming after becoming a Christian. Sorry, but if I wanted to give up lucid thinking I'd take up drugs, or something more fun than what you're describing.

          September 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • sam stone

          faith IS a drug, and robbie here is a jeebus junkie

          September 18, 2013 at 5:06 am |
      • sam stone

        "religion that promises eternal paradise for hard work is wrong"

        you know this how?

        someone told you?

        you read it in a book?

        September 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
      • sam stone

        "religion that promises eternal paradise for hard work is wrong."

        lucky we have you to tell us what the right religion is, robbie

        September 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • thom

      and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye,

      and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot,

      September 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  10. ATheists Christian

    Can we all get along with?

    September 17, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • logic

      Intelligence and guillability doesn't mix.

      September 17, 2013 at 7:53 am |
      • Rational Fools

        Oh, the wiser than thou.

        September 17, 2013 at 8:20 am |
      • TypicAtheist

        How TYPICAL!

        September 17, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      No... Religion is a pestilence that infects humanity... those of us not infected with it... are duty bound to prevent it from spreading further if we are able...

      September 17, 2013 at 7:59 am |
      • No need to point it out in ur moniker

        You really are "Lucifer's Evil Twin". Your post had it clear.

        September 17, 2013 at 8:29 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          It's just a handle fool... only a dumbass would think it has any significance beyond being a funny play on words...

          September 17, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • Ana fillate

        You and "logic" are the types that hesitated people like me to join your group and and made us doubtful about your cause.

        @the original poster.

        We are open for possibilities.

        September 17, 2013 at 8:42 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I'm sorry weak people like you got 'hesitated' because of a forthright statement... also, there was nothing illogical about my statement... maybe if you replaced 'religion' with 'zombies' you would have a better understanding of my comment...

          September 17, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  11. Mike

    "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."

    Nothing like a paragraph of ad hominem attacks followed by saying we shouldn't use ad hominem attacks. "We don't need to engage with X's ideas because he's an extremist" is an ad hominem.

    September 17, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • Ken

      Problem is, there aren't very many atheists who will find it "reasonable" for anyone to believe anything without solid evidence for it, and not too many other folks who wouldn't find it "reasonable" to just accept outrageous religious claims as long as they make you happy. The two different ideas about what's reasonable is what's fueling this debate.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
      • Robert Brown

        I think there is another problem also. Some people demand evidence and when given specific instruction on how to obtain faith, a specific result, they refuse. They deny it is possible, but they won't follow the specific instructions. Go figure.

        September 17, 2013 at 8:41 am |
        • Andy

          Emotionally compromise myself, stop questioning the tales of magic, fairies, and silliness of bronze-aged sand-wanderers, and otherwise surrender my mature and responsible self to an imaginary best friend? Your darned right, I won't "follow the instructions".

          September 17, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • Robert Brown


          This is your view of faith from a position of unbelief. If you follow the instructions your opinion of what faith is will change.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          How does one obtain faith?
          Mostly what I've heard boils down to "if you just decide that you want to believe, then you will believe".
          Reliigous faith requires the willing suspension of rational inquiry in order to accept dogmatic, supernatural propositions.
          Once a proposition has been accepted on faith, it is no longer amenable to examination by reason.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:14 am |
        • Ken

          Robert Brown
          Wouldn't you be able to convince yourself that anything works if you follow the Christian instruction on how to obtain faith? If I allowed myself to have faith in astrology, for example, then wouldn't I only see the results that support my faith in it? Sorry, but that's not a very rational way of evaluating the effectiveness of something. How many Christians really allow themselves to see the number of times when their faith doesn't actually work?

          September 17, 2013 at 10:16 am |
        • Robert Brown

          I don't think, even if you could make yourself believe, that it would last Doc. Faith comes from God. What do you think this means? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • Ken

          Robert Brown
          Every person who was ever scammed lost their money because they had faith in something that their common sense ought to have warned them against. Why should anyone trust faith over common sense then?

          September 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Faith is a conclusion arrived at in the absence of evidence. If I ask for evidence, and you reply with: "How about no evidence instead?" I will think that you are either insane, severely mentally handicapped, or that you did not comprehend the question.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  12. Fact Hard

    Dealing with atheists is like having a pact with the devils.

    September 17, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Ken

      If the devil merely symbolizes the truth and logic that leads people away from ancient superst ition, then yes.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "devilS" – plural?
      I thought there was only one Prince of Darkness.
      Or is He also somehow three different yet identical incarnations?
      The satyr, the anthropod and the unholy ghost perhaps?

      September 17, 2013 at 8:38 am |
      • Ken

        I've often wondered if images of mythical, half-man/half-animal creatures like the satyr, mermaid and centaur aren't what creationists are utilizing? Remember Ray Comfort's Crocoduck? They're forcing some idea of there having to be an intermediate species that's exactly half one thing and half another which is, of course, ridiculous.

        September 17, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    Listen. 2 + 2 ≠ 5

    It never has, it doesn't now, and it never will. YOU come along and say that 2 + 2 = 5. I say it does not. You say it does, I say it equals 4. You say it doesn't – I say 2 + 2 ≠ 5. You say it does, I say it doesn't. The argument/war goes on for years.

    NOW you come along and say "Let's COMPROMISE!"

    Ya know what? 2 + 2 ≠ 5

    And ya know what else? Your "compromise" of 2 + 2 = 4½ doesn't work, either.

    2 + 2 ≠ 5 It doesn't, and I don't have to RESPECT your belief that it does. You're wrong, I'm SAYING you're wrong, I'm telling you to your FACE you're wrong, and if you teach it to your children, it should be considered child abuse. You're wrong, you should be shamed for believing it, and I'm willing to do it. I'm calling you an idiot and you are if you believe it.

    2 + 2 ≠ 5

    September 17, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      *for large values of 2

      September 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  14. Haa

    Hey fool, here's the deal: You don't get to make some sort of false equivalency fallacy between delusional people (like you) and non-delusional people (like me). We are not equal. You are schizophrenic. I suffer from having people like you everywhere I go.

    September 17, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Are you paranoid? How can you expect anyone to deal with that?

      September 17, 2013 at 9:15 am |
      • sam stone

        right. paranoia. like believing there is an all knowing judge watching and reading the minds of everyone on the planet simultaneously?

        September 18, 2013 at 5:12 am |
  15. lol

    What a silly post.

    "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?"

    LOL how about no. When Richard Dawkins says god is killing people for being gay, let me know and I will rally against him as well. Richard Dawkins has never said anything even remotely as ignorant and hateful.

    September 17, 2013 at 3:10 am |
  16. j blando

    I came to God in faith,maybe even blind faith so to speak,but I stayed for all the fulfilled prophecy I have researched,the Fact that the universe did not and could not have just thrown itself together. Millions of galaxies,all the needed factors just to make life on earth everyday,water,food,minerals,lightning,rain,iron ore. A creative God created a creating creation. Science has nothing (that makes any sense) to change that.

    September 17, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Dippy

      Ever hear of a space between words, Brando? It's the really long key at the bottom middle of your keyboard.

      September 17, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • jens gessner

      It seems you did not research very well. Lawrence Krauss does a wonderful job explaining how our universe could have come from nothing. Oops, there goes the cosmological argument for god.

      “God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on.” (Neil DeGrasse Tyson)

      The 'god of the gaps' is getting smaller. If you rely on him, and encounter facts that make him disappear, you have limited choices:

      1.) Accept the evidence, learn from it, change your world view and live happily ever after;
      2.) Deny that that the new evidence exists;
      3.) Try hard to(mis-)interpret the new evidence to make it fit with your skewed perception of the world; or
      4.) Try to discredit the source.

      Take a wild guess which of the four least likely occurs among religious folk.

      September 17, 2013 at 1:35 am |
    • sam stone

      how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a God?

      September 17, 2013 at 5:36 am |
    • sam stone

      Also, the fact that you capitalize "Fact" tells us all we need to know about you

      September 17, 2013 at 5:38 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      if everything must have a creator then who or what created your god?

      if you say that your god is infinite, then why can't the universe just be infinite?

      September 17, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Ken

      j blando
      You've declared what you believe. Now, there will be those who will just accept your words without being bothered that you have no evidence to support them, and there will be those of us who will not. We call the first group "gullible", and the second group "reasonable".

      September 17, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      FYI, the universe blew itself apart (and is still doing so) rather than threw itself together.

      September 17, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  17. Reality # 2

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, pope, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    September 17, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  18. Fargon

    You want the truth? The truth is there no evidence of any God and if you lived in Pakistan, you wouldn't be a Christian. Fargon

    September 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  19. thom

    Then there are us Gnostics. We don't believe in God. WE KNOW there is One.

    The Faithful and True Witnesses. The Beginning of the 'Creation' of God.

    And being made perfect... He became the author of
    Eternal Salvation unto all them that obey 'Him'.

    And He said unto them..."Go ye...and tell that fox. Behold... I cast out devils, and I do cures... today... tomorrow...and the third day I shall be perfected."

    "Building the Perfect Beast" by Don Henely

    "The Power of reason... the top of the heap. We're the ones who kill the things... we don't eat. Sharper than a serpants tongue... tighter than a bongo drum.
    Quicker than a one night stand... slicker than a mambo band.
    And now the day is come... soon 'He' will be released.
    Glory Hallelujah...! We're building the Perfect Beast!
    It's Olympus this time...POOlympus or bust.
    For we have met the enemy... and he is us.
    And now the day is come... soon 'he' will be released.
    Glory Hallelujah!
    Ever since we crawled out of the ocean... and stood upright on land.
    There are some things that we just don't understand.
    Relieve all pain and suffering... and lift us out of the dark.
    Turn us all into Methuselah.... but where are we gonna park?
    The secrets of eternity... we've found the lock... and turned the key.
    We're shakin' up those building blocks.
    Going deeper into that box......(Pandora wouldn't like it....)
    And now the day is come... soon 'he' will be released.
    Glory Hallelujah...! We're building the Perfect Beast!
    All the way to Malibu... from the Land of the Talking Drum.
    Just look how far... look how far... we've come."

    September 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • thom

      Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples,
      "These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom."

      They said to him, "Shall we then, ....as children, enter the kingdom?"

      Jesus said to them,
      "When you make the two one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMzK6iz6uVs
      and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside,

      and the above like the below, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8DV7WFdTw8

      and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment

      and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye,

      and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot,

      and a likeness in place of a likeness;

      ...........then will you enter the kingdom."

      September 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • Eyeroll

        Oh, for fux sake.

        September 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
      • GodFreeNow

        "These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom."

        This pretty much sums up my experience with Christians. They are like children. Totally devoid of independent thought or action. They believe everything they are told by their parents. They pitch fits when things don't go their way. They fantasize about magical fairy lands. They cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. They have yet to "become a man and put away childish things."

        September 16, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
        • thom

          and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye,

          and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot,

          September 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Andy Klein

      No one cares what your bronze-aged tribal sand n****rs have to say about life.

      September 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
      • Haa

        pot meet kettle

        September 17, 2013 at 6:25 am |
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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.