October 16th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

What Oprah gets wrong about atheism

Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='ChrisDStedman']

(CNN) - To some, Oprah Winfrey appears to have an almost godlike status. Her talents are well recognized, and her endorsement can turn almost any product into an overnight bestseller.

This godlike perception is fitting, since in recent years Winfrey’s work has increasingly emphasized spirituality, including programs like her own "Super Soul Sunday."

But what happens when an atheist enters the mix?

A few days ago Winfrey interviewed long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad on Super Soul Sunday. Nyad identified herself as an atheist who experiences awe and wonder at the natural world and humanity.

Nyad, 64, who swam from Cuba to Key West last month, said “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt.”

Winfrey responded, “Well I don’t call you an atheist then.”

Winfrey went on, “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery then that is what God is… It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

Nyad clarified that she doesn’t use the word God because it implies a “presence… a creator or an overseer.”

Winfrey’s response may have been well intended, but it erased Nyad’s atheist identity and suggested something entirely untrue and, to many atheists like me, offensive: that atheists don’t experience awe and wonder.

MORE ON CNN: Diana Nyad completes historic Cuba-to-Florida swim

The exchange between Winfrey and Nyad reminds me of a conversation I once had with a Catholic scholar.

The professor once asked me: “When I talk about God, I mean love and justice and reconciliation, not a man in the sky. You talk about love and justice and reconciliation. Why can’t you just call that God?”

I replied: “Why must you call that God? Why not just call it what it is: love and justice and reconciliation?”

Though we started off with this disagreement, we came to better understand one another’s points of view through patient, honest dialogue.

Conversations like that are greatly needed today, as atheists are broadly misunderstood.

MORE ON CNN: Behold, the six types of atheists

When I visit college and university campuses around the United States, I frequently ask students what words are commonly associated with atheists. Their responses nearly always include words like “negative,” “selfish,” “nihilistic” and “closed-minded.”

When I ask how many of them actually have a relationship with an atheist, few raise their hands.

Relationships can be transformative. The Pew Research Center found that among the 14% of Americans who changed their mind from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it in the last decade, the top reason given was having “friends, family, acquaintances who are gay/lesbian.”

Knowing someone of a different identity can increase understanding. This has been true for me as a queer person and as an atheist. I have met people who initially think I can’t actually be an atheist when they learn that I experience awe and am committed to service and social justice.

But when I explain that atheism is central to my worldview — that I am in awe of the natural world and that I believe it is up to human beings, instead of a divine force, to strive to address our problems — they often better understand my views, even if we don’t agree.

While theists can learn by listening to atheists more, atheists themselves can foster greater understanding by not just emphasizing the “no” of atheism — our disagreement over the existence of any gods — but also the “yes” of atheism and secular humanism, which recognizes the amazing potential within human beings.

Carl Sagan, the agnostic astronomer and author, would have agreed with Nyad’s claim that you can be an atheist, agnostic or nonreligious person and consider yourself “spiritual.”

As Sagan wrote in "The Demon-Haunted World,":

"When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

Nyad told Winfrey that she feels a similar sense of awe:

“I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it,” she said. “But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.”

MORE ON CNN:  'Atheist' isn’t a dirty word, congresswoman

I experience that same awe when I see people of different beliefs coming together across lines of religious difference to recognize that we are all human — that we all love and hurt.

Perhaps Winfrey, who could use her influence to shatter stereotypes about atheists rather than reinforce them, would have benefited from listening to Nyad just a bit more closely and from talking to more atheists about awe and wonder.

I know many who would be up to the task.

Chris Stedman is the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, coordinator of humanist life for the Yale Humanist Community and author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Celebrity • Ethics • Faith • God • Inspiration • Nones • Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (4,964 Responses)
  1. Philip L

    If there is no God or Gods then what is morality based on? Religion is the basis of all human morality and if that is false then what is to prevent humans from robbing, stealing, and murdering all in the name of survival of the fittest?

    October 18, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Sara

      Innate human empathy couples with the power of social agreed upon law. If you don't feel that empathy yourself this may be difficult to understand, but fortunately for society a lack of such empathy makes you less likely to reproduce.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:07 am |
      • richard

        I prefer to live in a caring, orderly society. I behave that way to help foster that society.

        I do not behave that way due to fear of hell or hope of heaven. If someone acts in an ethical fashion based only on religion...that person is a potential threat to society should they lose that motivator.

        October 18, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • G to the T

      Actually, attaching a moral dimension to religious views was not a common attribute in the ancient world, that was the realm of philosophy. Besides any society would have to develop moral components (at least towards others of the same group) or it wouldn't last. In addition, we can see a clear development in the moral character of El/Yahweh over the course of the OT/NT's being written. All of these (plus a WHOLE bunch of evolutionary biology/sociology/anthropology evidence) point to morality ("ethics") evolving over time.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Realist

      keep in mind that it is secular society which sets right from wrong.. Religions just can't get it right.

      Thankfully in the USA,, USA law trumps religious ones. In fact religious laws and rules are no different than kid's tree house ones. In fact they are mutually the same with their spectacular stories.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Not all morality is based on God's words.
      The ancient Babylonians left behind various moral codices, the earliest of which is the Code of Urukagina from around 2400 BCE.
      These codes, which also include The Code of Hammurabi and the Code of Ur Nammu, were royal edicts that dealt with everything from religion to rilitary service to rrade and slavery. They outlined duties of workers, gave the people a written code of conduct and described the laws of the Kingdom, perhaps the most famous of which is echoed in the Old Testament view of justice – "If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out."

      October 18, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Not all morality is based on God's words.
      The ancient Babylonians left behind various moral codices, the earliest of which is the Code of Urukagina from around 2400 BCE, fully 1000 years before the Old Testament.
      These codes, which also include The Code of Hammurabi and the Code of Ur Nammu, were royal edicts that dealt with everything from religion to rilitary service to rrade and slavery. They outlined duties of workers, gave the people a written code of conduct and described the laws of the Kingdom, perhaps the most famous of which is echoed in the Old Testament view of justice – "If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out."

      October 18, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • zampaz

      We are social primates. Our behavior in society and how humans judge "right" and "wrong" is based in the culture in which we are raised. The conjecture that Morality is based upon "a higher authority" is not seen in the various cultural moral conflicts of humanity. If there were a "higher authority" then the views of right and wrong would be consistent geographically and throughout time. In modern society slavery, or women being the property of a father/husband is seen as morally wrong, yet these beliefs are supported as moral by the OT/NT. Although the texts of the teachings don't change much, societies interpretation of ancient texts evolves as social awareness and social consciousness evolves.

      October 18, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  2. Bob

    Much ado about nothing. Literally.

    October 18, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  3. Joshua

    Majority of Atheists don't understand the purpose of religion, while on the other side most religious people don't understand their religion. Most individuals incorrectly identify with atheism when they are agnostic. No on can prove currently if there is or isn't a god. History tells us that Gods have been worshiped since the beginning of recorded history. Which says something for both sides. But the big thing for me is the belief in hope, miracles, and the impossible. There are things that can't be explained in the world that have nothing to do with religion. Why certain things work how things operate. Science is the progress of us attempting to understand how things work. We don't have all the answers. To say you are an Atheist means you don't believe in God, even as a possibility. Human evolution isn't fully understood yet. We have fragments, but not the whole story. You also have to look at the time the Bible was written to present day. We don't exactly have an updated version and are following words from a society that was different in nearly all aspects except one, setting codes of conduct. Many other aspects as well (Catholics don't use contraceptives cause it's a sin? no, you want to make your tribe the biggest and most powerful). So I agree with Oprah, if you are a true Atheist, you can't believe in the mysteries as they are on par with what is considered God like. But of course our lack of knowledge of this universe is infinite because every time we learn something dozens of more questions emerge

    October 18, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • drjuliusstrangepork

      I disagree on some points. Atheism is just a position on a proposition of the existence of a god or gods. If you are Christian you are atheistic to Zeus and every other god. Buddhism is a religion with no god, would you say that conforms to your general classification of all things?

      To say atheists don't understand the purpose of religion is a very broad statement to make. One could argue that atheists understand religion all to well, and that is why they are atheist. My transformation to atheist from believer started on my path the understand religion.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:51 am |
      • Truth

        " If you are Christian you are atheistic to Zeus and every other god."

        Not true. I think we would be more of an agnostic to other god(s). We cant say for certain that there are no other god(s). Even God of the Bible says not to worship other gods. So that could mean there are other god-like beings. I would just assume they are not as powerful.

        October 18, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Actually most Atheists do understand religion. You are confusing terminology. Atheist/Theist only refer to disbelief/belief. Agnostic/Gnostic refer to knowledge. To say you are agnostic does not define if you believe in a god or not, it only says you are not certain one way or the other. No honest person can ever be sure of anything.
      Lack of knowledge about something does not lead in to god.
      Evolution whether it is fully understood or not has enough data and evidence based on the Scientific Method to make it acceptable and to toss the creation myth in the bin of fallacies.
      "Science is questions that may never be answered, Religion is answers that may never be questioned."

      October 18, 2013 at 6:54 am |
      • Joshua

        Science is the process of understanding things. I stand by what I said. Most atheists don't understand religion. The focus in on one portion of it and claim the whole thing hogwash, when they themselves have been practicing religion whether they want to admit it or not. Christmas is prime example. Santa isn't viewed as a creator, but he's considered a supreme being who can judge us for right or wrong and our actions will decide whether we are awarded or punished. Same principal. Whether you believe in Santa now is irrelevant if the idea was implanted into you. You can apply that same principle to many other factions if you never celebrated Christmas or Santa, the ideas hold true.
        Atheist = you don't believe in god and don't believe in the possibility
        Agnostic = you don't believe in god, but don't dismiss the possibility

        October 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
        • Sara

          Cute, Joshua exhibits the same error as Oprah in his inability to imagine that others are different from him. I believe in God, so I will redefine the world so that everyone does and I'm not threatened. I'm religious so I'll alter the language to make everyone religious and I'm not threatened.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
        • Joshua

          I'm not altering the language of any religion. I'm just pointing out that facets of religion are used in many aspects of growing up to teach morality and right from wrong and teach a society behavior. Your personal beliefs don't phase me or concern me. But to be blind to understand when you were a child that you were taught to believe in things to influence your decision making without certainty was a control mechanism.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Sara

          Certainly things I was taught influence my decision making. But I was taught a lot of things, and that does not make all of them religion. If that were the case all belief would be religion making that term effectively useless.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Wrong again! Atheist is strictly defining a disbelief, it does not rule out the possibility...Anti-Theist does rule out the possibility. Look up the definitions next time instead of making them up.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Rationalist

      You don't understand what the words "atheist" or "agnostic" mean. If you did you'd know that one can be both an atheist AND an agnostic. The two answer different questions. One is the answer to belief in gods, with the answer "no". The other is the answer to knowledge of existence of gods, with the answer "I don't know". One can have no belief in gods while being uncertain whether or not they exist. The same way I don't believe in unicorns, but have no proof that they do not exist, so I can't be certain of their non-existence.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:56 am |
      • Joshua

        As far as unicorns go, that's agnostic.

        Atheists don't go, well "Maybe unicorns existed". They are very firm with the whole "Unicorns never existed" front. Hence the whole "there is no God" situation.

        October 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
        • Sara

          Huh...unless you're talking about unicorn gods, atheists have no position on unicorns.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Sara

      OED definition of atheist

      disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

      The word can be used either way. I agree this adds confusion which is why many "atheists" refer to themselves as non-theists, but that does not make those who are uncertain and use the term wrong.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • newsrell

      Well, i am an atheist and I don't believe in anything mysterious. But that doesn't prevent me from being in aw of the grandiose of nature, of the universe. To me, there is nothing mysterious about it. It was created by itself, some scientists do have explanation about that, even if we don't it's just a matter of time. So , again, nothing is mysterious, but we can be equally (if not MORE) be in aw and be seduced by the grandiose of nature. The point the swimmer made was exactly that: Atheist certainly can enjoy that feeling as much as any religious type.

      October 18, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  4. elliott carlin

    C. Dick Dawkins thanks mild pedophilia is ok and that the Roman Catholic Church is perhaps getting a bad rap. Lawrence Krauss had trouble starting incest was immoral.

    I wouldn't be worrying about the Old Testament if I were you.

    October 18, 2013 at 6:04 am |
    • Realist

      the catholic church wins over the children and their destroyed lives,, we can thank religion in this country to helping in the destruction. If the catholic church were an international day care center,, the pope, cardinals and bishops would be in jails today.

      But heck,, children victims are an inconvenience.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:07 am |
    • TheBob

      I see the toothless imbeciles from the deep South are out in force tonight.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Sara

      Elliott, no, he doesn't. He refers to ped.o..philia as reprehensible but did in at least on interview makes statements that understated the damage done to others based on his own experience. He has accepted that that it was wrong to assume others were as little impacted as he was.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  5. milzy

    what is difficult about being an atheist is the assumption that there is a
    lack of morality or empathy. I don't need to conjure up an intelligent
    designer to know the difference between right and wrong.

    October 18, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • Jo

      true...I have had this debate before. But if you look at the bible and how christians use it by picking out what parts they agree with and dismissing the horror of it as "cultural of the times" it says to me that their sense of right and wrong is more evolved than the book they claim is the final authority of right and wrong. One's personal religion is subjective to one's per-existing moral compass.

      October 18, 2013 at 7:06 am |
      • Jo

        auto corrected ....pre-existing

        October 18, 2013 at 7:08 am |
        • milzy

          Jo, if you're talking about the ten commandments then yes, in history they
          have proven to be mere suggestions. morality should come from a natural
          sense of right or wrong, not from a deity.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  6. elliott carlin

    Don't worry atheists, the Big O doesn't know any more about the Lord than you do.
    She's like Madonna when it comes to playing religion to her advantage.

    October 18, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • Realist

      and of course you're smart.

      Show us your god or shut up.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:03 am |
  7. No one

    If one wants to give credit of the marvels of the universe to a so called being god, they must also blame god for the atrocities the universe imparts upon those that suffer throughout it. The trillions of lifeforms that have gone extinct before us, the billions of humans that have died, are dying, and will die in pain and agony.
    To assume your so called god is the omnipotent being yet is impotent at the same time would be laughable, except that with that excuse many take action with the belief that it is impotent and needs them to deal out its omnipotent power.

    If I were to give a slightly abstract example:
    Hitler was a saint, because he created thousands of heroic figures from the allied forces that reacted to his actions. In a similar way to how god is supposed to be the good being that flooded the world and killed everyone but Noah's family.

    Is your so called god actually there at all? If he is, is he even worthy of being worshiped?

    The next freak accident or disaster, when you thank god there are survivors, will you also curse god for killing the victims? What happens when there are no survivors? Does god work in mysterious ways?

    When you say the dead have been called to god, or they are now in heaven, are you admitting it was a good thing they were killed?

    If sinners are doomed to an eternity in hell, why does it matter what punishment they receive in their brief period of time on earth?

    Why are none of the GOP candidates that claimed god told them to run in the White House? Why are they not publicly shunned for failing to carry out god's will?

    October 18, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • saggyroy

      Excellent post.

      October 18, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • Realist

      please don't spoil their fantasy. They spend 90% of their time making up excuses for their god,, like an absent parent to a child.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:04 am |
  8. Joe

    I think people who are atheist should leave people who are religious the fk alone for once and mind your "god" damn business. No one is forcing anyone to be religious and since you obviously cannot understand religion, you have no business speaking about it. Its all nice and fun to pretend that perhaps a meteor strike caused life to begin but you still fail to tell me who created that meteor, who created everything that was needed for life to exist... really... that had to of been a start to it all somewhere and I would love to see an atheist stumble on explaining only "what they claim to know" while refusing to believe what they don't know and can't see.

    October 18, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • HotAirAce

      It's simple. Practice your superst!tions in your home or your cult's clubhouse – no problem. Trot them out in public – expect to be challenged.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:56 am |
      • elliott carlin

        Expect to be challenged? Woo, that sounds like a keyboard tuff guy there. lol

        October 18, 2013 at 5:57 am |
    • michaelbacon187

      Hah., what do you call people trolling door to door peddling god?? I've never had an Atheist come to my door trying to sell me Atheism. I get these god peddlers almost every weekend from one church or another.

      October 18, 2013 at 5:17 am |
      • Peace.

        Well said! Just leave everyone to their devices. I sure don't enjoy answering my door to someone trying sell god to me.

        October 18, 2013 at 5:32 am |
      • Daws

        Lol I love you... Nothing better points out the irony and blindness of that person's post.

        October 18, 2013 at 5:44 am |
      • newsrell

        Well said, to which I also add: What about the threat of Hell ? every religious type use this threat to sinners as well as unbelievers. Atheists are confident of their belief and NEVER threaten anyone outside their belief. Are religious so weak that they need threat in order to survive ? Can religion survive without threat ?

        October 18, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • newsrell

      You are talking about stumble ? It is not atheists, but actually religious types who stumble and will continue to stumble over 2000 years with explanations of the universe. Atheist align with science, which can not YET explain everything in the universe, but a great deal of it. While religious type stumbled all over the place, changing their stories all the time to fit with new scientific findings. If god is so powerful and knowledgeable, why the change ? Why the mention of creation of earth in 7 days ? Why persecution of Galileo when he was saying the truth that even the church HAS TO ACKNOWLEDGED today ? So the church was wrong before ? So it was not a powerful knowledgeable religion after all ? And you mentioned stumble ? wanna take it back ?

      October 18, 2013 at 5:33 am |
    • Jan

      Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

      Are you a Christian? If so, maybe you should spend less time bashing others and more time focused on improving your spiritual health. This includes actually practicing your religion and not just judging others who do not.

      October 18, 2013 at 5:42 am |
    • truthprevails1

      "since you obviously cannot understand religion, you have no business speaking about it."

      Wrong!! Most of us know it better than you do. Most of us were indoctrinated in to it and through whatever path have come to realize that there is no substantiating evidence supporting the claims made by religious people.
      We have every right to speak about it, just as you have the right to speak about us. You obviously know less about Atheists than we do about christians.
      Bottom line is this, keep it out of the public square; learn to respect others beliefs/disbeliefs; stop trying to tell LGBT they are wrong; stop trying to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies; stop trying to push bogus creationism crap (backed with zero evidence) on innocent children in the public school system; just stop pushing it outside your home or church. That respect you demand (and were never taught apparently) goes both ways.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:14 am |
      • Some Guy


        October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  9. James

    I was raised Roman Catholic, and now consider myself an atheist. I am not religious or spiritual, but I, like Nyad, can feel amazed by the human experience. Through natural selection we've attained the ability to introspect and communicate those thoughts–this to me is amazing. We generally like to be good to those we feel close to, as it protects our livelihoods–Some without reason will attribute this to God, I for one will consider it a wondrous byproduct of human development.

    October 18, 2013 at 4:19 am |
  10. The Central Scrutinizer / Apple Bush

    I think the Belief Blog is done. I'm out. Have a good one all.

    October 18, 2013 at 3:14 am |
    • Daws

      Don't let any doorknobs hit you on the way out 😛

      October 18, 2013 at 5:39 am |
  11. King George

    Why do you fools continue to worship an invisible pretend god when I stand here before you? I kill when I wish. I save when I wish. I love you but my desire for misery is too great. You will eat it and you will like it. And you will worship me.

    October 18, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Nobody

      Well said.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:19 am |
  12. THR

    Admittedly this particular thread is relatively tame compared to some I've seen, but I'm always amazed at the degree to which those who practice the religion known as "Atheism" feel a compulsion to foist their beliefs on others.
    Think about it.

    October 18, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Atheism is not a religion. Please try again.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:05 am |
      • THR

        Six of nine and half-dozen of the other at 3 am
        The meaning of the sentence is clear irregardless of the words I happened to use.
        And yes I already know that you think "irregardless" isn't a word. 😉

        October 18, 2013 at 3:12 am |
      • elliott carlin

        It is.

        The reason atheists don't care for God is they can't stand the fact someone out there is smarter than they are. It's called pride. It's why the world is the way it is.

        October 18, 2013 at 5:59 am |
    • Roger that

      Atheism is a religion, and 7 is a color.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:08 am |
    • Nobody

      THR, it is you who must begin thinking if you are to find the higher truths.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:21 am |
    • Dave Green

      I don't know what it would mean to "practice the religion of atheism." but I have no desire to convince anyone of anything. Believe whatever you believe. It's your life. However, it would be nice if you could refrain from making broad assumptions about people you don't know anything about.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:24 am |
      • Peace.

        I agree. To each his own. We seem to be caught in a sincere desire to prove another's point or disprove it! How does it matter if I believe there is a god or there isn't..I still enjoy the breeze on my face, the sight of the setting sun, the smell of earth as it embraces the first shower of rain. Who can deny me that? Whether I see it as a privilege, an honor, a miracle or beauty or all of it is for me to decide. What's the big deal about deciding what an atheist is allowed to feel or not feel. It's their choice entirely. Who is anyone to allow.

        October 18, 2013 at 4:14 am |
    • newsrell

      Atheism" feel a compulsion to foist their beliefs on others ? Care to debate in the thread above you, which said: We've only seen religious types going door to door peddling their god. Atheists never seen doing such begging endeavors, they are confident in their belief they don't see the need to sell to anybody. Care to comment ? or your argument is so weak it's just a hit and run ?

      October 18, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • LakeRat1

      Whoa! I can't believe you said that! From where I stand, it's the "fairy tale believers" that are the ones who are trying to push their beliefs on others. That said, I do sometimes, feel the desire to make some of these people realize that they don't need fairy tales to enhance their life.
      Did you stop enjoying Christmas, when you realized that Santa Claus wasn't real?
      Reality really isn't bad.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  13. King George

    Only feeble peasants actually believe in and worship some spirit in the sky. I am your lord and you would do well to remember that!

    October 18, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • newsrell

      Religion THRIVED in those days (the middle age) when knowledge was minimal, and most of the pop was UNEDUCATED. It was a way to keep them in their place, willingly contribute their meager earning and enrich the minority lords and the church alongside. The scam was found to be so profitable and well organized that it persist until today.

      But the proof is in the big picture: In the old days, almost 100% of the pop was religious. Today ? 50% ? 40 % ? Lower ? anyway, it is decreasing for sure, and the church itself has acknowledged it. My conclusion ? Religion THRIVE only in uneducated population. Once they acquire knowledge, the scam is over.

      October 18, 2013 at 5:44 am |

    What I don't get is the big bang theory and the people who worship it as the big bang law. Here is what baffles me about it. First the part about THEORY people don't get. Second, the part where the big bang was a sudden outrush of energy out of nothing. This is in complete contradiction with the laws of physics which states that no energy can be formed out of nothing. But people embrace that so readily but mock God so easily. Finally, I can't see how people don't seem to understand that most "science" is speculation. Oh, there are proven aspects here and there, but heck there are proven aspects of religion here and there too. But science will say the egg yoke is good, no bad, no good, no bad again and no one sees the uncertainty of science? Now, I think religion is uncertainty too. How many contradictions, just like science, are out there in those realms too. But why are people so willing to dismiss an undeniable spiritual aspect of the human being yet so ready to embrace scientific THEORIES as fact. Is science wrong, not saying that. Is if NOT fact, absolutely not. They have some facts, but many educated and uneducated guesses. I am not saying cast of science. I am saying don't so readily cast of religion.

    October 18, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • King George

      "but heck there are proven aspects of religion"


      October 18, 2013 at 2:43 am |
    • Apple Bush

      This is one of the funniest posts I have ever read. Well done!

      October 18, 2013 at 2:44 am |
    • Apple Bush

      " I am not saying cast of science. I am saying don't so readily cast of religion.


      October 18, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Brad

      I'll help you out with what you don't understand: Big Bang is not theory any more then 2+2=4 is theory. It was theory decades ago, but has since been proven, in part by the existence of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), but also by astronomical observations and by particle accelerator experiments. The Big Bang can contradict laws of physics because those laws apply to the universe. The Big Bang was not in the universe, it created it (and please don't confuse that with a "creator"). Cosmologists have not determined what there was before the Big Bang, but maybe they will when the tools exist for doing so.

      There are NO proven aspects of religion, despite your claim. All religion comes down to the existence of God. If no god exists, then the religion doesn't mean anything. God does not exist. There is no shred of evidence to suggest that he/she/it does exist. People are indoctrinated to believe in religion by their parents and by society. It is no coincidence that virtually all believers have the same religious beliefs as their parents. It is well-known that toddlers believe everything adults tell them, especially their parents. If parents take their children to church and teach them to pray, the child believes all of it and it is highly unlikely the child will abandon the childish beliefs in adulthood. Besides, society continues the indoctrination by ridiculing those who don't believe, and the government participates with things like "In God We Trust", "one nation under God", God Bless America, etc.

      I would help you out some more with this, but it's past my bedtime. I hope I've given you something to think about.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:12 am |
      • Joshua

        2+2=4 is not a theory. It's a fact. It can be proven. The Big Bang is still a theory as it can not be tested and replicated. As stated in the post. It's a very good educated guess, but one of many. We can use logic to determine that some evolution and creation ideas are bogus. There was a time when people thought the world was flat without a doubt, maps were drawn to show that and were considered fact once. But it was proven wrong. Neither "God" or "The big bang" have been proven right or wrong, we have assumptions off the science that we have so far collected. I will say that it's very interesting though that civilizations that had zero contact with each other and on opposite continents found the desire to worship "god(s)" in similar fashions. Does that prove anything? No. But you can't dismiss possibilities or theories until they are proven wrong.

        October 18, 2013 at 6:48 am |
        • Jo

          you obviously dont know what a theory is.....a theory, in science, IS a proven fact and it has been proven again and again by many studies by many different scientists. what you are thinking of is a hypothesis...which is nether proven or unproven.
          The big bang theory is no longer a hypothesis...the evidence for it is overwhelming...it is a theory which is a fact.

          October 18, 2013 at 7:28 am |
        • Some Guy

          You should look into what a scientific theory is. It isn't a guess. Just google "scientific theory definition".

          The first sentence in Wikipedia: A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.

          So what is repeatedly confirmed? Well, the velocity and direction of galaxies moving away from one another. The numbers just keep getting refined to better and better precision. That's a pretty good start. So if all these things started together then (start of many hypothesis' here). Then those were tested through observation and experimentation.

          Will you be open to reason and fact or will you reject it because it challenges a belief of yours? That is what many religious people I have known do.

          October 18, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Joe

      Lets say that the Big Bang Theory is real... then who created the big bang theory? who made it happen? again... scientist and atheist will probably come up with some BS explanation but when it comes down to it... there is a beginning to everything... as well as an end. So... who created it.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:45 am |
      • HotAirAce

        It would be difficult to top the BS of The Babble.

        October 18, 2013 at 5:03 am |
      • elliott carlin

        Joe, I've had a disassembled watch on my table for 20 years now. Still waiting for it to just 'come together' and start working again, you know in a big bang sort of way. And they scoff at religion. Funny stuff these atheists...

        October 18, 2013 at 6:02 am |
        • Thrax

          Funny stuff these religious people... got all the time in the world to study the Bible, but too lazy to read about cosmology or take a science class.

          October 18, 2013 at 6:25 am |
      • Jo

        well one hypothesis is that there is a massive black hole in the center of the universe that all the universe revolves around...once it sucks the whole or most of the universe into it...it can no longer hold it all together and it explodes creating a big explosion which dwarfs supernovas scattering elements and matter everywhere...and this expansion and contraction of the universe goes on for infinity with no beginning and perhaps no end. The universe is far weirder than our imaginations' capacities.

        October 18, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • Some Guy

        If you quit denying the facts that support the big bang theory then you acknowledge that something like that happened. That means the Bible isn't exactly a literal account of how things came about. "The devil" didn't cause all the galaxies to move apart to plant seeds of doubt in mankind. So Genesis was a hypothesis that the facts dont seem to support, a loose play on words that can be sharpened up through observation and experimentation. So what! You can still find spirituality in it as you have. But you can't jump back and forth between knowing the facts and believing in a literal Bible.

        October 18, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  15. swipedcard

    Nyad was actually just being too polite. What she really should have told Oprah: As an atheist I have far more appreciation and awe of the world and beauty around us, because I can understand the immeasurable number of years to bring us to this moment and the rare privilege of being a conscious being at this moment to experience it. For a believer, it's a lot simpler: God created this beautiful thing, why thank you very much, give me something more.

    October 18, 2013 at 2:13 am |
    • newsrell

      Well said. It's the thing that you realize when you think about it deep enough. Even religious type, subconsciously would agree with this observation, they're just not honest enough to admit it.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:18 am |
  16. dimblar

    wordpress, cnn and several posters r in for a big surprise. snake is going to prison and alqeada, alqaeda, alqaeda won't be happy. for a long time

    October 18, 2013 at 1:56 am |
  17. postedbygeorge

    According to the christian bible, the christian god is a rapist. He did not have the decency to ask a young woman to marry him nor to make a baby, he sent a messenger to tell her he was going to do a one nighter and he did not stay to raise the child, he enlisted another person to raise his baby, a real nice baby daddy. No wonder so many men are raping women and young girls, they are following the acts of a christian god

    October 18, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • THR

      A common misrepresentation of the meaning and purpose of the Old Testament.

      October 18, 2013 at 2:56 am |
  18. Carla

    I have to agree. I am also an atheist. I volunteer at a soup kitchen weekly as well as festivals and anywhere I can lend a hand. Not having religion and not believing in god doesn't mean I have no soul, am any more a sinner than anyone else, or that I don't do great things for people all the time, and that I'm not constantly in awe of how amazing the world is. An understanding of good and evil doesn't just come from religion, it comes from being human.

    October 18, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • Lisa

      Do you mean "soul" in the traditional sense, as the immortal ent ity that houses your personality, or do you mean just your personality, which will end when your brain dies completely?

      October 18, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • THR

      The thing you may not understand is that your so-called "good deeds" may very well actually be doing great harm over the long run without the guidance of God. And yes that includes physically handing soup to someone at a soup kitchen who would have received similar (but not exactly identical) soup within the same time frame.

      October 18, 2013 at 2:58 am |
      • THR

        Without the guidance of God, for all you know, while you were driving from the soup kitchen one day, you one day caused someone to stop at a traffic light – the timing of that person's driving was then thrown off such that they were in a terrible accident later that day – and it snowballed from there, and you therefore caused GREAT harm in the world.
        Just think about it, that's all I'm saying.

        October 18, 2013 at 2:59 am |
        • THR

          Your "good deeds" may give YOU satisfaction – but does that mean their *long-term* effects are actually beneficial to the entire world? You don't *know,* and yet you don't care; you continue to do them anyway merely because they cause *you* to feel good.

          October 18, 2013 at 3:01 am |
        • HotAirAce

          So all the bad things are caused by atheists messing up your unproven but all powerful god's timing? Interesting . . . Mentally ill, but interesting . . .

          October 18, 2013 at 5:08 am |
        • Jo

          riiiiiiiiiight! I am in awe and wonder that such a powerful god can have such babbling dolts to represent him.

          October 18, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  19. Ken Messer

    Everyone is going almost nauseatingly off topic. The author of this blog is confusing himself. Diana Nyad is to be forgiven for her hazy response, after all she is one of the greatest swimmers in the world not a philosopher but Christ Stedeman you should know better. Diana's response to Oprah is straight out of Buddhism. Buddhism is properly considered a Nontheist Religion" Buddhists believe in the "Ground of all Being", the awe of nature, karma. They do not believe in a personal deity that physically delivers human beings. The Buddha does not deliver...he offers an example for others to deliver themselves by Atheists are Radical Materialists. They DO NOT believe in any universal principles outside of Scientific Laws. Chris Stedman, if you don't believe in a deity but still feel a moral compass and wish to share it with others,become a Buddhist (nontheist) or start your own religion which would be by necessity a very close copy. If you have no awe, moral compass or similar leanings hanging you up read Nietzsche for laughs alternating with Sam Harris

    October 18, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Lisa

      Buddhists believe in reincarnation, right? How does that match any known natural law?

      October 18, 2013 at 1:38 am |
  20. Angry Lice

    What did she get wrong about atheist? The definition.

    October 18, 2013 at 1:30 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
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.