Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online
They are the same cast of characters that surface during every online debate about religion. Do you know a "Holy Troller?"
October 5th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) –"Yo mama..."

Whenever I heard those two words while growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I knew something bad was about to happen. Trading insults was a childhood ritual. But everyone understood that one subject was off-limits. You didn’t talk about anybody’s momma unless you were prepared to start swinging.

Now that I’m all grown-up, I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.

When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.

I don’t wonder anymore.

When I look at the comment section now, I see a whole lot of “yo mamas” being tossed about. Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.

You might even recognize yourself.

The Street Corner Prophet

When the Belief Blog ran a recent article on a television host who declared that atheists “don’t have to live here,” a commenter identified as “Karie” got into a heated exchange with someone who called themselves “Bible Clown.”

Karie called Bible Clown a “disgusting, deviant perverted virus,” and a “Bozo,” before ending with this prediction:

Hell is coming for you love. Special dungeon just for u and u won’t be able to die. LOL.LOL.”

The street corner prophets often act as if they’re deeply concerned about the fate of souls they disagree with, but you can tell that they relish the prospect of eternal torment for their online enemies.

Some don’t even try to hide their true motives:

“I hope you like worms because you will have your own personal worm to feed off your fat drippings in hell for all eternity…”

That’s what a commenter called “HeavenSent” said to another following an article on evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. HeavenSent ended his malediction with one word: “Amen.”

Okay, so that’s the wrong way to argue about religion online if you’re a street corner prophet. Now, here’s the right way:

Not everyone who disagrees with you deserves eternal torment. People rarely listen to someone who is in perpetual attack mode.

“We change no one’s mind by attacking,” said Charles Camosy, an ethics professor at Fordham University in New York City.

Camosy has made a career out of bridging religious differences. He’s part of a “Contending Modernites” group, which finds common ground between Christians and Muslims. He’s also the co-founder of a website devoted to dialing down the heat in religious arguments entitled, “Catholic Moral Theology.”

Camosy says that online discussions about religion are difficult because they are not in person. Tone and nuance gets lost online.

“You can’t look them in the face,” he said. “You can’t shake their hand or give a hug. You find it very difficult to have that sort of embodied trust.”

The Provoker

There isn’t any notion of “embodied trust” with the next online character: The provoker.

The provoker doesn’t even pretend to care about the final destination for someone’s soul. They come out punching, and they love to say things that they probably wouldn’t say to someone in person.

In the recent article on Warren, a reader who went by the surname of “Just the Facts Ma’am,” tells another:

“Thanks for once again confirming how vulgar, uneducated and delusional you are Meredith.”

In an article about millennials leaving the church, a reader who identified herself as “Jenna,” tells another: “Jesus never said any of that mess. You are a false prophet if I’ve ever seen one.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a provoker:

No one will listen to you if they don’t like you, said Joe Carter, an evangelical blogger and author of “How to Argue like Jesus,” a book that explores how Jesus verbally tangled with his enemies and persuaded his friends.

Carter said Jesus was such an excellent communicator because he told stories that provoked emotions, took surprising twists and forced people to draw their own conclusions. But he also connected with people because of a simple reason: he cared about them.

“When people know that you care about them, they’re more likely to be persuaded by you,” Carter said. “We tend to be persuaded by people we like and trust. Jesus had that in spades.”

The Atheist

One of my best friends was an atheist. Whenever we ran into one other, we’d launch into these long, philosophical discussions about religion.  I loved it. Like many atheists I subsequently met, I discovered that he knew more about the Bible than most people who claimed to be religious.

It’s too bad that many of the exchanges between atheists and people of faith in our comments section don’t follow the same script. In fact, they have some of the nastiest religious arguments I’ve witnessed online.

A sample:

In a recent Belief Blog article about atheism, a reader identifying himself as “Sam Stone” says to another: “Free people do not need a savior, Kate. Only slaves need saviors.”

Another reader who identifies himself as “CamDEn1” tells a Christian, “You are an uneducated fool. Ever you heard of Richard Dawkins? Sam Harris? Atheists have more respected scholars than Christianity…”

I get the source of frustration for some atheists. They have longed been caricatured by people of faith as moral degenerates who don’t care about morality. Some of them, in turn, have caricatured people of faith as weak-minded hypocrites who believe in fairy tales.

Here’s how to argue over religion if you’re an atheist:

Get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with a person of faith. And if you’re a person of faith, do the same with an atheist. You might be surprised.

That’s what happened when Camosy, the Fordham University ethics professor, embarked on a speaking tour with the renowned atheist and philosopher, Peter Singer, who is seen by many as the founder of the animal rights movement.

Camosy said the speaking tour forced him to read and pay attention to Singer’s arguments. He discovered that they share concerns over global poverty. He saw Singer as a person of good will.

“That created the space for us to have an honest, open and fruitful exchange with one another rather than exchanging barbs,” Camosy said.

It also created the space for personal transformation.

“Actually reading him converted me to being a vegetarian,” Camosy said. “But it was only being open to his arguments that made me see.”

The Scholar

I have a friend who is smart – scary smart.  He’s a genial, funny guy who happens to be a theology professor. I try to hang with him when we talk religion, but there’s always a point in the conversation when he loses me. I compare that moment to watching the starship Enterprise go into warp drive. He just goes into hyperspace and my brain just isn’t big enough to follow.

There a lot of big brains in our blog’s comment sections. I call these readers “the scholars.”

Some of them are self-appointed biblical experts. They talk as if they have God’s cell phone number: God has revealed great mysteries to them. They know the divine plan.

In a recent article I wrote about contemporary Christians feeling as if they were persecuted, a reader identified as “Tom Skylark” let me know what all this persecution was really about.

 Skylark said:

“Christians will face continued persecution then 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 will happen right before the 7 year tribulation when Israel burns Russia’s weapons for 7 years. (Ezekiel 39:9). Those who are not taken in the rapture will have the opportunity to receive Christ during the 7 year tribulation but will be beheaded for their testimony. (Revelation 20:4). How far is Russia towards its prophetic position which means the rapture (! Thessalonians 4:16-17) is even closer?

Actually, I did not know that, and I’m still not sure what it means.

Sometimes the scholar is someone who believes all religion is hopelessly derivative: it’s all based on something that came before.

A reader by the name of “Seyedibar” responded to my article on Christian persecution with this:

“A little study of history and comparative religion goes a long way. Abraham is based on an Egyptian figure. His god was Ptah, not El, and his vision was of Memphis, not Israel. Jesus was likely based on a Merkabah mystic, one of a hairdresser and carpenter. .. And if you back a little further, Uguritic archaeology shows us that the book of Genesis is based on the ancestor kings of the Canaanites. Most Christians and Jews aren’t aware that the creator of the Garden of Eden, El, is recorded to have died of a wild boar attack.”

 Like I said, hyperspace. I just can’t go where “Seyedibar” has gone before. I love the scholar’s passion for religion, but some of them lose me when they try to deploy all their knowledge of history and religion in any effort to change someone else’ beliefs.

How to argue about religion if you’re a scholar:

Accept that there is a limit to knowledge. I’ve never seen anyone say in response to a religious argument: “You are right. Your argument is irrefutable. I’m going to jettison a lifetime of beliefs on the spot right now because I obviously have no coherent reply.”

It just doesn’t happen.

Gordon Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, said most people change religious beliefs “not because of one argument” but only after long conversations and intimate exposure to another faith.

“Logical arguments are nice but they're not going to change someone’s life,” Newby said. “We’re way too complicated for that. We’re not programmed machines. We have this whole limbic system of emotions and appetites and everything else.”

The Peacemaker

There are some readers who give me hope when I go to the comment section. They are the “peacemakers,” and they surely bless me with their attitudes.

Peacemakers try to keep arguments from getting personal. They are the online referees.  They turn the other cheek.

An exchange between someone called “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” shows a peacemaker in action.

“Bootyfunk”  gets upset with “KatieRose” because she says  “we must respect all ideas in the world, no matter how crazy.”

Bootyfunk says people don’t have to respect all ideas, and tells Katie Rose she shouldn't tell people not to debate religion on a blog about religion.

What does KatieRose say in response? She doesn’t go to war. She makes the peace:

“Okay! That works for me,” KatieRose said. “I’m sorry if it sounded like I was ordering people not to talk about an issue: I just disagreed with the focus of the discussion.”

“Bootyfunk” ends the discussion with a smiley-face symbol and a “smooches, Katie.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a peacemaker:

Keep on doing what you’re doing.

If only the rest of the comment section had more peacemakers. I actually e-mailed readers like “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” to get their perspective, but all I got was silence. Not one commenter wanted to talk on the record for this story. Only one person – an atheist – responded to my invitations to chat, and he didn’t want his name used.

But I have a feeling I’ll hear again from these holy trollers when I scan the comment section of Belief Blog. So will you, even if you don’t read that much about religion. These holy trollers show up in our lives and our workplaces. Many of them will sit next to us at the dinner table when families and friends get together for the upcoming holidays.

When the conversation turns to religion, you may meet your holy troller, and you will have to make a choice.

Do I make the peace, or do I go the war?

What kind of holy troller will you be?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Ethics • Internet • News media • Nones

soundoff (3,856 Responses)
  1. Shawshank

    All of the trolls are provokers. Some are atheists posing as christians and vice versa. HeavenSent is a prime example. She's not really a christian.

    Want to clean up the mess of these idiots? Force commenters to use their facebook accounts to log in for the purpose of posting comments.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Mopery

      Yes, reveal the blasphemers in public so we can burn them at the stake like we used to!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • GAW

        You get an A in missing the point.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • GOO

          You get an A for missing the next point.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Pfft

      Idiots? Another person who doesn't follow Jesus' tenets. Jesus surrounded himself with idiots, not people like you. People like you made him angry. I don't doubt you would call someone an idiot using a facebook account. To someones face is a different story, I bet.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Pfft

      Btw, stop pointing fingers at others, claiming they aren't real Christians, when you clearly don't follow Jesus' teachings either. Hypocrite. Stop judging, turn the other cheek, show some tolerance, love your neighbors (the sinners), and stop throwing stones in glass houses. I'll tell you that on Facebook or to your face, if you like. You're no real Christian.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  2. HeavenSent

    I hope you atheists like worms because you will have your own personal worm feeding off your fat drippings for all of eternity. My12-year-old daughter smokes at the table in front of her kids, Find Jesus and find paradise.


    October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Relictus

      Obligatory response to weak troll

      October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • Ungodly Discipline

        Obligatory response to weak blogger.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • Relictus

          Cheap "Ad hominem" about poster's parents and hygiene, spelled badly with CAPS for effect!

          November 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  3. Fundies Gone Wild! They are upset!


    October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  4. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Is there a difference between the holy water and toilet water?

    October 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Relictus

      Why, but of course! One is wasted water, and the other is waste water.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Shawshank



      October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  5. Amalia N

    Some of you should probably go back and read the article again...

    October 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • GAW

      Most haven't even read the article in the first place.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Food fight

      What did you find to inspire you into such an attack?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • Amalia N

        I don't understand the question and I won't respond to it.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
        • Relictus

          You directed others to go an reread the article, which is a natural passive-aggressive female response.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • Amalia N


          October 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  6. Ramon F Herrera

    There are THREE kinds of Republicans:

    (1) One group is busy spreading hatred

    (2) Another group is busy denying that the first group exists

    (3) The 3rd. group is Colin Powell

    Don't believe me? Check by yourself: Just scroll up & down. Go to ANY Internet forum.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ramon F Herrera

      (1a) A group uses religion to justify their hatred (Palin, etc).
      (1b) Another group is intellectually honest: they are overt haters. No need for religion.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  7. Light of Purest, Most Radiant Truth

    People writing comments here are still trying to make excuses for smearing His glorious name and for trying to explain away their own defeciencies as human beings. It is obvious they are still the same vile Satanist fornicators that are trying every which way possible to destroy our Blessed land. Mark my words. The mark has been put upon the land and these vile creatures would fall to their knees begging for mercy if they only knew His return is near! It's a simple choice. Either accept His divine Love or burn in agonizing pain forever. Amen.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Ramon F Herrera

      "Either accept His divine Love or burn in agonizing pain forever."

      I guess Bin Laden wrote the above post BEFORE he died???

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Hawk

      Sounds very loving. "Love me, or I will torture you forever!" I can do without that kind of "love".

      October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Ramon F Herrera

      Speaking of Hatred (which is mostly carried and spread by Conservatives):


      October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Pfft

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

      You love to throw stones, don't you?

      This is the type of person the author wrote about. They secretly relish want to see us burn and suffer. A perfect example of a Christian who doesn't follow Jesus' tenets.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • Doris

        Tenets? Let's see – over 40,000 sects of Christianity and of course each person within each sect often do not agree with one another as well. As one person put it:

        "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. " –Thomas Jefferson

        October 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Doris

      Like Hawk said.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Food fight

    Religious exploiters start food fights to hide the egg on their face.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • FreeStateDoug

      Ahhh...The Provoker.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  9. AhhhhhZombies!

    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours" – Stephan Roberts

    October 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Blake

    Arguing about religion is like peeing into the wind.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Mopery

      I tend to pee on bibles, they're more absorbent.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • Relictus

        Sadly, not true. The paper is rolled (smoothed), which makes them less absorbant. And they stink when burned.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  11. Colleen Meegan

    I am interested in what atheists have to say, person-to-person. But when a religious article is on the web, I wish they would just keep quiet. If an article on atheism were published, I would not push Catholicism or Jesus as my Savior. That's just rude.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Relictus

      The author of this article has a whole section where he tells Atheists how to argue. I guess that it was lost on him that Atheists do not enjoy having someone religious tell them what to do.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • Shawshank

        Religious people argue with the intent to deflect. That is why we choose not to use the method of religious people to argue a point.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I have no problem with people believing what they want. However, there are people who are trying force their religion into the laws and school systems of this secular nation. The option of silence is no longer available.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Sherron Teal

        I agree with you. I don't push being an atheist on you, so don't push your religion on me!

        October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I disagree. If I post something that shows a lack of reasoning or an incorrect application of critical thought, I want my mistake to be pointed out to me. I am doing to others what I would have them do to me when I highlight their specific point of cognitive dissonance.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Sherron Teal

      You may not but a lot of people do!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  12. Ramon F Herrera

    11th. Commandment:


    (Too bad the likes of Mrs. Palin, Bachmann, Cruz, etc never learned that one in Bible School)

    October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  13. SmartLawyer

    Why should I expect anything different here? Jesus, the actual undeniable historical figure, raised people from the dead. Healed the blind, the deaf, and the lame. And despite this, there were people who witnessed these things who still not to believe. Not because it was irrational or unacademic to believe, but because they did not want to believe. As the Bible says, "the fool says in his heart there is no God." There is no intellectual basis for unbelief, its an emotional decision that's from the heart.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Michael

      You know what's funny about people like this? They shun all logic when it comes to Jesus, but if anyone were to bring up any of the other religious figures that are ALSO said to be historical and ALSO supposedly had witnesses to their miracles, the logic portion of this person's brain would suddenly turn on and (s)he'd start picking apart the fallacies in the claims of the OTHER religion.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Mopery

        It's called having a double-standard.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Pfft

        The clue was the SMART part of his username. It's strange, but whenever you see someone who self proclaims in their username to be intelligent or have common sense, you usually end up with anything but.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Pfft

      "There is no intellectual basis for unbelief, its an emotional decision that's from the heart."

      There isn't an acronym that can describe how hard I laughed over this ludicrous comment. Thanks for that!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, there is no indisputable evidence that Christ existed. There is no evidence at all that any of the miracles of the bible took place. There is no evidence that the "witnesses" listed in the bible even existed. There is no more evidence for your god than there is for any of the thousands of other gods that humans have worshipped.

      And you call yourself "smart".

      October 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
      • Renae

        There actually is historical evidence that many of the people in the Bible existed. There is much scientific evidence that humans really don't know know much at all about the nature of the universe. Check out some quantum physics, which will surely at least show you some awesome mysteries of this universe. By the way, Einstein believed in Christ & also believe that he did rise from the dead & ascend to heaven & he was Jewish & generally known as an atheist. His logic as to this belief about Christ was based on the, somewhat credible when researched, account that those who claimed to have witnessed Christ's ascension were willing to be be stoned to death rather than deny what they had seen. Funny that so many atheists assume all people of faith are stupid or uneducated when you learn this about Einstein. There seems to be a basic human need for spirituality & it certainly does not all come from fear of death or need for a belief in the afterlife, some of us just want to be better people. I'm no Republican & I despise the notions of those who would force religion on all, especially those who would have our country become a Theocracy. There are, indeed, many ignorant religious people. Lately, there seem to be just as many ignorant atheists. As for hell, many of us believe "hell" to simply be a separation from God. The Catholic Church has even accepted evolution & many of us see no conflict at all between science & religion as we realize that we do not know everything & refuse to put such limits on God. Nor do we spend our life reading one book over & over, well not all of us anyway, lol. By the way, the Bible is made of many, many books. I don't believe all of it literally, but I do see that it is a collection of ancient books with much wisdom & guidance for people of any time b/c some questions & problems are simply timeless.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Pfft

          "By the way, Einstein believed in Christ & also believe that he did rise from the dead & ascend to heaven"

          You are either lying or trolling. Either way, you're full of it.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Please cite your evidence, because there are no contemporary non-biblical accounts of the life of Christ. None.

          There are no contemporary non-biblical accounts of the miracles attributed to Christ. None.

          And Einstein was an agnostic jew who is often quote-mined by christian apologists who happily lie in the name of their god.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Laszlo1

      SmartLawyer must know how effective eyewitness testimony 40 years after the fact is.

      He's a "smart lawyer" after all.

      No, he's not smart, and not a lawyer.

      A lawyer might actually know these facts.

      October 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
      • SmartLawyer

        There are 17 non christian, extra biblical accounts of Christ.

        17 extra-biblical, non-christian (meaning, not the 4 Gospels, Pauline letters, James, John, Peter, Jude or the writer of Hebrews): that testify as to the life, death, claims and resurrection of Jesus:
        2. Suetonious
        3. Josephus
        4. Thallus
        5. Pliny the Younger
        6. Trajan
        7. Hadrian
        8. Akiba
        9. Toledoth Jesu
        10. Lucian
        11. Mara-Bar Serapion
        12. Valentinus
        13.Acts of Pontius Pilate
        14. Phlegon
        15. [Gnostic] Gospel of Thomas
        16. [Gnostic] Treatise of Resurrection
        17. Julius Africanus

        October 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Which ones on the above list had first hand knowledge of, as in actually met and spoke with, the demented desert dweller known as jesus?

          October 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Read widely. Read critically. Don't suspend your reasoning ability for the sake of things hoped for and unseen.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  14. TImolthy Guile

    In the end encounters between believers and non-believers are reverenced best when we keep in mind: persons are most important in the world; and, second in importance, the relationship between persons.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Ramon F Herrera

      "encounters between believers and non-believers"

      That is a minor confrontation – The REALLY serious problem (one that is about to kill the Republican Party) is the encounter between:

      – HATERS, RACISTS, etc. (who may be believers or not)

      – TOLERANT FOLKS (who may be believers or not)

      October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Relictus

      The relationship of believers to non-believers has changed due to the emancipation of the non-believers in recent decades.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Ramon F Herrera

    Hate-spreading (practiced by Ms. Palin, Bachmann, Cruz, etc)... Is it a US-phenomenon only?

    In Latin America, BAD people (like the ones above mentioned) are simply that! They do not hide their hatred behind a crucifix.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • paul diers

      you really have to come back to earth there ramon. this is about religon...this has nothing to do about your hate for conservatives...fyi...dems are not without their hate as well. get a life and try comprehending an article before commenting on it.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • Renae

        She is quite correct in my opinion. Palin & other right wing extremists have made religion a political issue. Those of her ilk would love to have church and state become one. They are dangerous people. Some of us people of faith are liberal, science loving & steadfast in our belief that church & state must remain separate. When they become one it never ends well. This is not the fault of religion, this is the fault of evil humans. I will defend anyone's right to be an atheist or to be a person of faith, but I will not go along with the lie that there are no ignorant & backwards people in this country who are being manipulated by evil minded religious & political leaders to such a degree that they have become a threat to our freedom. I am a person of faith, but I am not a bigot or zealot & I'm sure that you may not be either of those things. However, to deny there are those out there poisoning all that is holy with corruption due their love of money & their urge to dominate others is just deceitful. I give you the "Domininists" proof of this & this ideology is spreading every day due to fear & panic perpetuated in the media & churches by downright evil political and religious leaders.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  16. Frank

    Trolling makes these articles bearable. Why should a news site even have a religion blog? Either write real news articles in main portion of the site, or just avoid the subject. It seems silly that every time there is a mention of a religion, it gets shoved back into this corner. I don't see an atheist blog at CNN or a climate change denier blog.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Thia

      But why wouldn't they have an article about religion? CNN has articles about blogs about everything from food to work-life balance to finding a job to tv shows, etc. If you don't like the article, why bother to read it?

      As to why this is up near the top, CNN has an automated portal and the more hits an article gets, it goes near the top of the headlines.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  17. Pfft

    Oh look, more people claiming to be Christians who are intolerant, still judging, still incapable of loving their neighbors, unforgiving, can't turn the other cheek, and still throwing stones in glass houses. Surprised? I'm not!

    This is why I don't take most Christians seriously (other than Moogirl.. kudos for not being an idiot). 99% of people who claim to be Christian don't even follow his most basic tenets. Those 'vile' sinners they rant about are the people Jesus chose to surround himself with, befriend, and teach.

    P.S. Indoctrinating children into a religion before they are mentally able to make an important, personal decision for themselves is immoral and nothing less than BRAINWASHING.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Rett

      What you said about Jesus is absolutely true. He liked being around people who were nothing like him and people who were nothing like him seemed to enjoy being around him....you don't see much of that any more.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • joe

        What you said about Jesus is absolutely true. He liked being around people who were nothing like him
        Your Jesus is a fictional character. Your argument about what Jesus liked already fails because first you have to prove your Jesus existed which you cannot do. End of debate.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • GAW

      I cant take most of the Christians and Atheists who comment here seriously. Both seem to be sliced from the same psychological block of cheese.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • Renae

        Absolutely agree with you! They both seem incapable of accepting that others do not have think exactly as they do & they both seem to enjoy insulting & demeaning others. I am constantly bombarded by evangelistic people of faith AND evangelistic atheists. Both seem emotionally immature & uneducated.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  18. FrenchChef

    Count on running into these "holy trollers" on any article concerning LGBT Americans, and expect them to reveal their own obsession with what loving, committed same gender American couples do in private.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  19. Reality # 2

    Only for the new visitors to this blog:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion and "holy trolling" in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • justageek

      And the leading scientific theory for everything being here is what? A big bang from nothing...LOL. Both sides of this argument are amazingly hard to believe whatever your choice is.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • Mopery

        Right, because god made your light bulbs, refrigerator, automobile, cell phone, microwave oven, laptop, television, GPS, vaccines, contact lenses, etc. Your argument lacks credibility.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • justageek

          "Your argument lacks credibility." – Really? So you can tell me without a doubt that God is real or that all we see came from nothing in a big bang? Please do share the proof because I don't know either is absolutely positively true although it seems you foolishly assumed I believed in a God.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
        • Mopery

          Just giving examples of some handy devices produced because of our understanding of the universe obtained through applied science. What have religions ever produced given their perfect understanding of the universe? Anything at all besides pain and suffering, wars and slavery, intolerance and greed? If you look at history, religions have had their chance for nearly 5000 years and squandered it, our modern world is built on a foundation of science and will collapse without it. Without religion, the middle east could be a desert oasis perfect for tourism instead of the hellhole it is now.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
        • justageek

          The hard question is defining the beginning of everything because that is where there is either a God or some scientific explanation. Everything between that moment and now simply doesn't matter in a God versus science discussion.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        o Think infinity and recycling with the Big Bang expansion followed by the shrinking reversal called the Gib Gnab and recycling back to the Big Bang repeating the process on and on forever. Human life and Earth are simply a minute part of this cha-otic, sto-cha-stic, expanding, shrinking process disappearing in five billion years with the burn out of the Sun and maybe returning in another five billion years with different life forms but still subject to the va-ga-ries of its local star.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • justageek

          Those theories are nothing more than scientists avoiding the question of what was the true start of everything...blah. Quitters.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • Renae

          You might enjoy learning a bit about quantum physics. Its fascinating & it might reveal to you just how little we know about existence. We are all connected. You are connected to the computer in front of you & all that exists in this universe. Wonders abound & an open mind is a beautiful thing.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          o "In the 1930s, theoretical physicists, most notably Albert Einstein, considered the possibility of a cyclic model for the universe as an (everlasting) alternative to the model of an expanding universe. However, work by Richard C. Tolman in 1934 showed that these early attempts failed because of the entropy problem: according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy can only increase.[1] This implies that successive cycles grow longer and larger. Extrapolating back in time, cycles before the present one become shorter and smaller culminating again in a Big Bang and thus not replacing it. This puzzling situation remained for many decades until the early 21st century when the recently discovered dark energy component provided new hope for a consistent cyclic cosmology.[2] In 2011, a five-year survey of 200,000 galaxies and spanning 7 billion years of cosmic time confirmed that "dark energy is driving our universe apart at accelerating speeds."[3][4]

          One new cyclic model is a brane cosmology model of the creation of the universe, derived from the earlier ekpyrotic model. It was proposed in 2001 by Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Neil Turok of Cambridge University. The theory describes a universe exploding into existence not just once, but repeatedly over time.[5][6] The theory could potentially explain why a mysterious repulsive form of energy known as the "cosmological constant", and which is accelerating the expansion of the universe, is several orders of magnitude smaller than predicted by the standard Big Bang model."
          A different cyclic model relying on the notion of phantom energy was proposed in 2007 by Lauris Baum and Paul Frampton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[7]"

          October 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Nobody is saying that "the big bang came from nothing." We don't know.

        Quantum physics and an orbifold universe with multiple dimensions implies that the universe might have come from "nothing" (a la Lawrence Krauss), but really, we don't know.

        We do know that the big bang implies a small, dense state of existence that is expanding and cooling in what we feel is a dramatic way, but we do not know of anything outside of that existence. (There is no "before" the big bang because the big bang produced its own timeline, but perhaps there is an "outside" to this universe) We just don't know.

        Hope that helps.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • justageek

          "Hope that helps." – Doesn't help me...I already know we don't know. I do hope it helps those who think they are right on whatever side they take in the God versus no God debate. We simply lack data to prove one side or the other.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • maestra730

      You have too much time on your hands.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • OldSchool

      There is also no actual evidence to support the existence of the historical Jesus.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        Only for the new visitors to this blog:

        From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

        "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

        “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

        “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

        “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

        I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

        See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

        Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

        Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

        There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

        See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

        From ask.com,

        "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

        Then there are these scriptural references:

        Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

        Added suggested readings:

        o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.

        2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
        – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

        30-60 CE Passion Narrative
        40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
        50-60 1 Thessalonians
        50-60 Philippians
        50-60 Galatians
        50-60 1 Corinthians
        50-60 2 Corinthians
        50-60 Romans
        50-60 Philemon
        50-80 Colossians
        50-90 Signs Gospel
        50-95 Book of Hebrews
        50-120 Didache
        50-140 Gospel of Thomas
        50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
        50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
        65-80 Gospel of Mark
        70-100 Epistle of James
        70-120 Egerton Gospel
        70-160 Gospel of Peter
        70-160 Secret Mark
        70-200 Fayyum Fragment
        70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
        73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
        80-100 2 Thessalonians
        80-100 Ephesians
        80-100 Gospel of Matthew
        80-110 1 Peter
        80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
        80-130 Gospel of Luke
        80-130 Acts of the Apostles
        80-140 1 Clement
        80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
        80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
        80-250 Christian Sibyllines
        90-95 Apocalypse of John
        90-120 Gospel of John
        90-120 1 John
        90-120 2 John
        90-120 3 John
        90-120 Epistle of Jude
        93 Flavius Josephus
        100-150 1 Timothy
        100-150 2 Timothy
        100-150 T-itus
        100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
        100-150 Secret Book of James
        100-150 Preaching of Peter
        100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
        100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
        100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
        100-160 2 Peter

         4. Jesus Database, http://www.faithfutures.o-rg/JDB/intro.html –"The JESUS DATABASE is an online a-nnotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
        5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bis-sar24.htm
        6. The Jesus Seminar, http://en.wikipedia.o-rg/wiki/Jesus_Seminar
        7. http://www.biblicalartifacts.com/items/785509/item785509biblicalartifacts.html – books on the health and illness during the time of the NT
        8. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
        9.The Gn-ostic Jesus
        (Part One in a Two-Part Series on A-ncient and Modern G-nosticism)
        by Douglas Gro-othuis: http://www.equip.o-rg/articles/g-nosticism-and-the-g-nostic-jesus/
        10. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
        Presented on March 18, 1994
        11. The Jesus Database- newer site:
        12. Jesus Database with the example of S-u-pper and Eucharist:
        13. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
        13. http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/jesus.htmm- Historical Jesus Studies
        14. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/
        15. D-iseases in the Bible:

        16. Religion on Line (6000 articles on the history of religion, churches, theologies,
        theologians, ethics, etc.

         17. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/
        18. Writing the New Testament- e-xisting copies, o-ral tradition etc.
        19. JD Crossan's c-onclusions about the a-uthencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the c-onclusions of other NT e-xege-tes in the last 200 years:
        20. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by t-itle with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html
        21. Luke and Josephus- was there a c-onnection?
        22. NT and beyond time line:
        23. St. Paul's Time line with discussion of important events:
        24. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan's books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.
        25. Father Edward Schillebeeckx's words of wisdom as found in his books.
        27. The books of the following : Professors Gerd Ludemann, Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.
        28. Father Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.
        29. Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus

        October 5, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
        • Renae

          Thanks. I saved your post, great list of references. 🙂

          October 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
      • chiefsadler

        Save yourself a word and just say Jesus – we'll know who you are talking about... And yes there is...tons of writings from different areas should do that. if you can't accept them, then I guess there is proof George Washington existed nor will there be any proof you ever existed a hundred years from now. Maybe George was a myth and are you... Even if they found a sketch of Jesus Christ, that is carbon dated to 34 AD and the back of it says, Jesus Christ, you still wouldn't believe that He is the Son of God. Nothing will change the mind of a non-believer except a personal revelation from God – and that usually only comes after seriously seeking to know if He exists – but sadly most non-believers don't want to do that – they just want to non-believe....

        October 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          Based on the above references:

          The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

          Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
          and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
          human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

          I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
          preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
          named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
          girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

          Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
          the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

          He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
          a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

          Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
          many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
          and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
          Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
          grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
          and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
          called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

          (references used are available upon request)

          October 6, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • GAW

      That only leaves us with the Church of the SubGenius

      October 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • FreeStateDoug

      Cool!! a new species of holy troller: The Pseudo Scholar.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Relictus

      I will carry the banner for Buddhism and Taoism, here. At least one famous zen buddhist burned wooden Buddha statues for warmth when he was cold, and he was unapologetic about it. Tao, the great tenet of Taoism, means "The way". Two lines of real wisdom.

      I have not reached satori. My journey is ongoing. It went without needing to be said so many times, and so much.

      October 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  20. JhonDaAnalyst

    Wow,I can only imagine the comments after this......

    October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Food fight

      That is the problem with religion. Too much imagining and too little reading.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Mopery

        Spending your whole life reading the same book over and over again does not make one literate.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
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About this blog

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