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. bananas

    Love him back. Real simple

    October 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Johnny Smooth

      Who? Zeus, Odin Rodger Rabbit?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Christina

    How do atoms know that they are supposed to combine together to form DNA molecules and living things? Where do they get their instructions from?

    October 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • per se

      Whatever the answer may be, should we just say god did it and stop searching for the answer?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Christina

        No. We should keep asking questions and finding answers to the questions.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • per se

          Exactly. And so far no answers have pointed towards a deity.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
        • Christina

          Perhaps they do philosophically.
          Why would all of this exist without one?

          October 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Why, from you Christina, Obviously! Everything comes from you! You are on these boards all day and all night! The world revolves around you and your opinion! Why even ask? You're always right, everybody else is always wrong!


      October 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Lisa

      How does a river know to flow towards the sea, or how does a rock know to drop downwards off of a cliff?

      October 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
      • Christina

        Why is there matter?

        October 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          It is balanced by inverse-matter, so it's a wash. No worries.

          October 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  3. Vic

    An earlier discussion was deleted, to which I would like to say this:

    Socialism, just like communism, legislates oppression, and is quite happy to suppress the individual's freedom for its own ill-advised principles.

    October 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Sara

      Time Warner is a socialist front?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • Vic

        The United States Of America, may God bless thee, in NOT a socialist country!

        October 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • Vic

        The United States Of America, may God bless thee, in NOT a socialist country!

        October 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • Vic

        The United States Of America, may God bless thee, is NOT a socialist country!

        October 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Are the socialist goverments of Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Ireland. New Zealand amd Belgium oppressive regimes?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Vic

        God bless the United States Of America, the TRUE BRAND OF FREEDOM.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • per se

          America does not have true freedom. Gays can't get married, women make less money, millions of children don't have access to healthcare, and cops can stop and frisk anyone they feel like in some places.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          All communication is monitored.
          Say the wrong thing and you can be arrested without warrant and tossed indefinitely into a deep, dark hole in a foreign country.
          Thanks Patriot Act!

          If you'd like to know what American freedom is all about, talk to Kevin Mitnick.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
        • per se

          Freedom to ban certain marriages for no reason, freedom to demand ID'd at random, freedom to stop and frisk people, freedom to have your phones tapped.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          you didnt answer doc's question vic

          October 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Lisa

      On the opposite side of the spectrum lies fascism, which is what many people fear the Tea Party will lead America. I doubt that anyone who has ever lived under Hitler or Stalin could really tell much difference between levels of oppression. Wouldn't it be more prudent to call for a move towards hugging the center rather than just singling out socialism as a threat?

      October 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
      • Vic

        Any system not based on individual freedom is only a generic brand and not true freedom. Socialism, Communism, etc. are forms of fascism that undermines individual freedom. The United States Of America is the ONLY system in the world that is based on individual freedom.

        October 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • Lisa

          Boy, you are way out there. Communism is not fascism. Communism would be socialist ideology taken to the extreme where fascism is right-wing ideology taken to a similar extreme. Hitler's National Socialism never intended to establish social liberties to all Germans, but only to the elite. He saw Jews, Gypsies and others as foreign to his Germany, just as right-wing crackpots typically call for all non-Conervatives and non-Christians to be thrown out if they don't want to leave voluntarily. Tea Party types are edging towards fascism. The question for you is whether you actually prefer fascism to communism, or would you rather see the nation's political pendulum swing closer to the center?

          October 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
        • Vic


          October 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • Sara

          Yeah, Vic's either a troll or really needs a freshman poli sci class.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
        • Sara

          Vic, here's a quote from your link

          "On one side stood Hitler, fascism, the myth of German supremacy; on the other side stood Stalin, communism, and the international proletarian revolution. "

          Do you notice that that is a contrast? I'm really not trying to be mean here if you're serious, but you need to be aware that you're missing some very basic political concepts. If you can't take a class maybe try the library or something?

          October 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • Vic

          I take it you are being facetious. I gave you a bull's eye.

          October 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      socialism does no such thing. Grow up.

      October 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Paige

    Shattering stereotypes takes more courage than media ratings will allow. This an exercise in understanding that few will ever attempt. The article highlights Truths that would require us to abandon the shallow waters of religion and enter the deeper waters of spiritual growth. If we would do that we will find that Jesus Himself was all about breaking stereotypes ...and never had to convert a non-believer with His words or doctrine. Then again maybe He cared more about truthfully understanding the soul and knowing one's heart than winning the "religious salvation" or even, for that matter having to be right.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Reality # 2

      Summarizing the life of the fellow named Jesus based on the last 200 years of thorough studies by many NT scholars:

      Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      October 18, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • Paige

        Does the study of anything make it true? It only complicates the truth, even if that is founded to only be 30% authentic or true. However, you cannot measure, track, or study Spirit. Spirit moves through all, including an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations. Spirit even moves through atheists and believers alike and aren't we fortunate that wisdom grants us permission to choose what to believe or not believe. To Reality#2 may whatever you believe in bless you fully.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          A spiritual update:

          The Apostles' Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT 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 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 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
      • Paige

        One thing is certain and proven...no matter what creed we utter, create, or claim to believe...more people over the centuries (including the 200 years of NT historians and theologians studies you lean upon) will remember...seek, find, and trust in a risen Jesus (the illiterate peasant carpenter) than will ever know you and I ... let alone sing our praises. So you have to at least give credit to the longevity and power of the story, even if you don't believe in the details.

        October 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

          From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

          Even now Catholic/Christian professors (e.g.Notre Dame, Catholic U, Georgetown) of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

          To wit;

          From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

          "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
          Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

          Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

          Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

          The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

          Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

          The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

          "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

          The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

          With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

          An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


          "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

          p.168. by Ted Peters:

          Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

          So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

          October 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Christina

    Why can atheists be so dogmatic: "There's a right way to think, and there's a wrong way. If you think the wrong way, we will attack you for it, instead of tolerating you and letting you enjoy freedom of conscience."


    October 18, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • per se

      Same reason religion does it, people try to enforce their beliefs on others. The biggest difference is that when the religious do it, it's always based in faith and not fact.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Christina

        So then it's okay to be dogmatic if the dogma is supported by facts?

        October 18, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • per se

          Of course it is. For example, gay marriage should be legal unless someone can provide proof of why it shouldn't be, but a man marrying a child should be illegal because we have facts backing that up.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • Christina

          But what if there's a case where what seemed factual at the time turned out, over time, not to be so factual.
          There's a lot of opposition to the orthodoxy of political correctness based on many good, scientifically-valid counter-facts.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:56 am |
        • per se

          Then we evolve, as we have for centuries.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          "But what if there's a case where what seemed factual at the time turned out, over time, not to be so factual."

          There is a case!! We know more about how our universe functions now than we did 2000 years ago. It's really not difficult to comprehend!! As we have developed as a species, we have gained the ability to further research and in so many cases that research leads to answers.
          When christianity, as with many belief systems before it, started people lived in tribal like communities. When something happened that they didn't understand they would attribute to it to a higher being-Thor, Odin, Sun Gods, etc are prime examples. As science developed, it was learned that what they once thought to be true no longer was-the earth was once thought to be flat, we know it isn't so.
          Science is an on-going process. We are where we are today due to science, no god needed-man's intellect (man gets the credit here, not some god that can't be shown to exist).
          Much research leads to much more research...christianity and a belief in a god kind of stop that. Otherwise not many christians would remain so fixated on their bible as a moral guideline.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Lisa

      State atheism is very different than personal atheism. I'd probably reject any effort by the state to dictate what I can think more than the average believer use to being told what to think by authority.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Deep Thoughts

      It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.

      Sir Arthur C. Clark

      October 18, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        That was Robert Heinlein speaking through his character Lazarus Long in the book "Time Enough for Love".

        October 18, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  6. AE

    I don't think I've met a single atheist on this board. Just agnostics. Agnostics with a lot of faith to call themselves atheists.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • per se

      With that logic, we are all agnostic since there is no proof of a god or proof that there is no god.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • Vic

        That can only be true if faith did not exist! Faith, which is a matter of the spirit, exists, hence a person is to his/her faith.

        October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • per se

          Faith just means trusting something without evidence or fact.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • Mark Twain

          Faith is believing what you know ain't so.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • AE

          Faith is what you place your trust and confidence in.

          All people use faith. Imagine life without faith! You have to imagine, because life is full of faith. Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn't be life.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
        • Paul

          @per se and Mark Twain

          You're creating a straw man argument with that definition of faith. Try talking to people and finding out what they believe and why instead of trying to force your view onto them.

          That's the wrong definition of faith when it comes to Christianity. Faith means to have trust and confidence in something. Do I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow? Yes, I do. Do I have trust and confidence in Jesus? Yes, I do.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • ?

          "Do I have trust and confidence in Jesus? Yes, I do."


          October 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'That's the wrong definition of faith when it comes to Christianity. Faith means to have trust and confidence in something. Do I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow? Yes, I do. Do I have trust and confidence in Jesus? Yes, I do'

          Those are 2 different sorts of faith. Faith that the sun will rise is a different faith of a belief in a deity.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • AE

        I know a lot of Christians that can admit to being agnostic about things.

        Peter Gomes says agnosticism is healthier than certainty in some cases. Because certainty can lead to arrogance.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
        • Madtown

          I agree with this 100%. I'd say we are all truly agnostic. Some of us define ourselves differently, and yes this can lead to arrogance. In the end, no one really knows.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • AE

          There is a lot of mystery that neither science nor religion has answered.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • bananas

        Y lie?

        October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Lisa

      The way I see it, if you aren't actually convinced that a real god, or gods exist, then you're an atheist. If you're open to the possibility of gods being real somewhere in the universe, then you're agnostic. You can be both, and most atheists are, but you can't be an agnostic theist.

      Some gods are just too illogical or too full of contradictions to be taken as even a remote possibility. The Christian god is one of those. If he exists then it's beyond all reason, and if he takes offence in my not realizing his unreasonable existence, then that's his problem, not mine.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • Vic

        Actually, "there is no God" is what's beyond all reason!

        October 18, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • per se

          Prove it Vic. That's all we ask. Just prove god exists.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
        • AE

          I used to cynically dissect spiritual beliefs and practices. Especially Christianity. And then I realized that many spiritually-minded persons were actually demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which I should have sought myself.

          There is a lot of evidence of that on this board, too.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Lisa

          The typical Christian definition of God as an all-powerful being who allows evil and suffering cannot also be "good". At best, he could be considered neutral, but rulers who choose to keep their enemies around to cause their subjects to cling to them out of fear are not "good" rulers. The Christian god is a logical fallacy, which is why I'm pretty confident that it cannot actually exist. If it does exist, then Christians are wrong about it's being "good", which still breaks the definition.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
        • Lisa

          Many, but far from all. Many, especially here in the USA, are selfish enough to want to limit everyone's options because it conflicts with what they would choose for themselves. Atheists may criticize religious practices, but few would outlaw them altogether.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • AE

          I used to do that, too! Say many others were selfish, yet I was a selfish creature, too.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • Lisa

          Is it selfish to want good reasons to believe in something? I understand that many people would find it fantastic if gods and superheroes were really around to save us from disaster, but the time to actually believe in such things is when the evidence supports it, not before.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'Actually, "there is no God" is what's beyond all reason!'

          Not when you actually take a look at reality, and the claims made for a god that supposedly created it all it isnt.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Explain your logic?

      An atheist doesn't believe there is a god. Any god.
      An agnostic doesn't know if there is a god. Any god.

      There are many on this board who do not believe there is a god. How can you say that there aren't? Do you have some method of knowing what they believe better than they do?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
      • AE

        Are you an atheist who says there is no God?

        October 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          No, I am not.

          I am not even an atheist.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • AE

          Ok, I have yet to met a person on this board that doesn't use faith to believe they are an atheist. They tell me this in their own words.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          AE, that is because atheism is a BELIEF.

          That is kind of the point. A belief is something we base on our life experiences and accumulated knowledge. If we are wise, it grows and changes with us as we grow and change. But it is still a belief.

          Does an atheist KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no god? No, no more than a theist KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's ALL belief.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
        • AE

          Yes, I agree. I'm just realizing atheists use a lot of faith. Most I've encountered on this board won't admit it. But they do. All of us have faith in something.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Lisa

          It's not faith that there are no gods, it's just a realization that there hasn't been a proven god yet. Who knows, they might exist somewhere, but I see no reason to actually believe that they do exist. I would need evidence for that, good evidence and none of that subjective fluff that believers pass around.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'All of us have faith in something.'

          sure but there are different forms of faith. I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow because it has risen and set every day of my life so far so I see no reason to think that would change. But that is different to a faith in a magical supreme being.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Lisa

        I don't know that there are no gods anywhere in the universe, however I do not find any of the claims of gods here on Earth compelling enough to accept as factual. This makes me an agnostic atheist, open to the idea of there being gods somewhere, but not believing any of the claims of gods people have made.

        Look at it this way: Cold fusion may be possible, but it isn't a fact until somebody can demonstrate it, right? Gods may also be possible, but they are not fact until someone can demonstrate one. The only issue here is what const itutes valid "proof" of a god, and we atheists reject the notion that subjective experiences qualify as such.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          Oh, I wasn't questioning you, Lisa. I get your point very well. I was talking to the original poster who made a claim that wasn't substantiated.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      It is possible to be an agnostic atheist as they mean different things.

      October 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  7. Agnostickids

    Does anybody else find the amount of censorship on here disturbing? Why is CNN allowing comments, while picking and choosing which ones can stay?


    October 18, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Reality # 2

      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

      • Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

      Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      Zeb’s alphabetical listing

      o “bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN "awaiting moderation" filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in Car-se, etc.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
      Allowed words / not blocked at all:
      raping (ra-pe is not ok)
      shat (sh-@t is not ok)

      The CNN / WordPress filter also filters your EMAIL address and NAME as well – so you might want to check those.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Agnostickids

        Thank you!

        October 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  8. Johnny Smooth

    "Why would matter come into existence all by itself for no good reason?"

    Some things can be just brute fact without explanation. It might be just a simple brute fact that matter came into existence for no good reason. However, it is also possible that matter always existed. Certain outcomes of Einstein's relativistic physics suggest that the past is not gone and the future already exists. In that case, what would give us the illusion that things come into being is that we can only see one "time-slice" at a time. Google "Brian Greene illusion of time" for more about that. "The Illusion of Time" is an episode of physicist Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos" series.

    "Why would stupid, inorganic atoms combine themselves to form DNA molecules?"

    We have examples of various "stupid" systems that result in complexity. The Mandelbrot set is one such system. Mandelbrot images are produced by taking a simple equation, plugging in a number and then taking the result and plugging it back into the simple equation. By this simple, dumb process, apparently infinitely complex designs result. Google "Mandelbrot zoom" for videos that illustrate the immense complexity of design that simple, dumb processes can produce.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Reality # 2

      Or 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 chaotic, stochastic, 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 v-agaries of its local star.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  9. Deep Thoughts

    You are never dedicated to do something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

    Robert M. Pirsig

    October 18, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Or maybe the subject matter deeply affects their lives?

      Assuming that passion indicates doubt is a pretty huge leap.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:40 am |
      • per se

        The sun rising deeply affects all of our lives, as we would die without it.

        October 18, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • myweightinwords

          True enough, though I'm not sure it bears much on the conversation....

          October 18, 2013 at 11:47 am |
        • myweightinwords

          By which I mean, there is little we can actually do to affect the rising of the sun, therefore shouting about it or railing against it has little effect.

          Meanwhile, in discussions regarding things we can change, things we can affect can lead to solution.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • per se

      I've also wondered why so many are terrified in the face of imminent death, why are people so scared if they know they are just going to be meeting their creator in heaven?

      October 18, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  10. Test


    October 18, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  11. Peter Q Wolfe

    Could you please define what you mean by "concenting" for me? If you mean allowing parents to handle snakes, deny scientific health-care to their children, disallow contraception to women, disallow women leadership roles, promoting illiteracy by promoting creationalism, and etc then I am against that definition of "concenting" lol.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  12. Apple Bush

    There are two kinds of Christians. The go getters, nice people that have big hearts, and the liars. In my experience, the majority are of the latter variety. I can live with the decent people despite their mass delusion, but the liars, cheats and snake oil salesman are bad people.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Perhaps you should figure out why you have more negative experiences with christians than good experiences.

      Christian: What's in a name?

      October 18, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  13. Mark Twain

    Faith is believing what you know ain't so.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Paul

      That's the wrong definition of faith when it comes to Christianity. Faith means to have trust and confidence in something. Do I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow? Yes, I do. Do I have trust and confidence in Jesus? Yes, I do.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Religious faith is belief despite evidence (or a lack of it).
        Faith that the sun will rise is more of a resonable expectation than a belief despite evidence – there is a precedent set based on long observation by not only the person making the belief statement, but also by everybody else in the world (except maybe the Inuit).

        October 18, 2013 at 11:52 am |
        • Paul

          "Religious faith is belief despite evidence (or a lack of it)."

          You're creating a straw man argument with that definition. Try talking to people and finding out what they believe and why instead of trying to force your view onto them.

          October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          doc is correct in what he says. In fact having faith is touted as being a noble attribute simply because there is no proof.......I cannot prove it but I have faith.....a common response to questions.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
      • Lisa

        Difference is, everyone knows that the sun actually does come up every morning, across every culture and in every corner of the globe. Jesus is just a belief shared by a fraction of the world's population, and there are thousands of conflicting opinions about him even amongst his strongest believers. It is still just possible to make a clear argument that Jesus never actually existed at all. Everything that anybody solidly believes about Jesus has to come from pure faith.

        October 18, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  14. Topher

    Austin, is that me?

    October 18, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  15. Peter Q Wolfe

    What really gets me with Christians is the brimstone fire speeches. Maybe just maybe Hell would be better than the life that I have in my past and present. I am perhaps tired of republicans and democrats threatening cuts to me cause of being blind and not finding work and no cooperation on the private company side to hire me.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Lisa

      Yup, if they left out the hell bit for nonbelievers and just went around talking about how their god will reward them for their believing in him, I doubt that many atheists would care enough to try correcting them. But hell is a personal attack on all of us nonChristians. How Christians cannot see that, and understand the backlash, is beyond me.

      October 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  16. Apple Bush

    What is so great about being "perfect". I don't need anyone to "save" me or die for my sins. I feel sorry for Jesus.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Paul

      Do you think you can save yourself from your own sins?

      October 18, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Lisa

        People do bad things. If they don't get caught and forced to pay for what they've done it's up to their conscience to turn themselves in and try to repay society, or their victims directly. I don't see any place for magical rites to cleanse one's conscience when we have the ability to clear it ourselves.

        October 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        What is sin and saved from what?

        October 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Sara

      The times were a lot more desperate then. I suspect what limited power one had to modify personal behaviors allowed for some small sense of control in a world where poverty and disease were everywhere and life expectancy was around 40. Shut behaviors still offer people that same sense, whether they are religious adherence, following unusual diets, political radicalism or compulsive exercise routines.

      October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    Matter pops in and out of existence. To me, this suggests there is something behind the curtain. Even if there were a god, it is quite impossible to know what it's role is.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • tpbco

      Ok. Good for you. To others, it's different. Why do you keep posting the same things over and over if you believe in your faith so strongly?

      Doubt much?

      October 18, 2013 at 11:04 am |
      • Apple Bush

        I don't understand what your question is. Faith? When have I ever made this statement? Have I offended you?

        October 18, 2013 at 11:08 am |
        • Apple Bush

          You lost me.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • Apple Bush

          I think you have me confused with someone else.

          October 18, 2013 at 11:19 am |
        • Apple Bush

          Ok, now I am laughing. lol

          October 18, 2013 at 11:22 am |
        • Agnostickids

          Are you having some odd conversation with yourself that we're missing out on?

          October 18, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • JimT

      Actually matter doesn't pop in and out. It is more or less generally accepted that matter/energy is indestructible. When you burn a chunk of wood it doesn't disappear – part of it (tiny) turns into heat, the rest into ashes and other elements that dissolve in the air or drop to the ground. So there is no need for a mysterious "something or someone" that yanks the matter out of existence or puts it back in.

      October 18, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Paul

      "Matter pops in and out of existence."

      Really? What happened to the scientific law that says matter cannot be created or destroyed?

      October 18, 2013 at 11:47 am |
      • zampaz

        We have strict conservation of energy, not a strict conservation of matter...as in "matter can neither be created nor destroyed(because it can in particle annihilation)" . Perhaps Einstein had something to do with changing the concept of conservation of matter?
        How can something come from nothing? It can and it does and it can be measured.
        To understand the answer to your question you need to know a little something about the cosmological constant, vacuum energy and virtual particles. When you understand these things the answer to your question will be self evident.
        Google is your friend. Go forth, learn and prosper!

        October 18, 2013 at 11:59 am |
        • scientist/believer

          I look forward to seeing you win the Nobel Prize for having overturned the Laws of Thermodynamics, Entropy and Conservation of Mass and Energy. What you are suggesting is rediculous.

          October 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
        • zampaz

          I won't win a prize for knowing high school physics scientist/believer.
          Matter is a poorly defined term in science. It merely means something of substance.
          The idea that "Matter could neither be created or destroyed." was formulated by Lavoisier in 1789.
          It stuck around but is not a proper statement of modern conservation law.

          There are no units associated with "matter."
          That is specifically why we use conservation of mass and energy in physics. I alluded to particle annihilation and Einstein both.

          I refer you to wiki answers q: Matter_can_neither_be_created_nor_destroyed
          Educate yourself.

          October 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
        • Paul

          "How can something come from nothing? It can and it does and it can be measured.
          To understand the answer to your question you need to know a little something about the cosmological constant, vacuum energy and virtual particles."

          What do you mean by "nothing"? Do you mean literally nothing? Or by "nothing" do you mean vacuum energy?

          October 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • zampaz

          Very good point Paul, I was referring to vacuum energy as opposed to a nothing which is a null state of spacetime,

          October 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Lisa

      Or it could just be the natural way of things. Since we have no confirmed examples of anything supernatural I'm inclined to believe that the answer will turn out to be a completely natural one. I could end up being wrong, but it seems like a sucker bet to lay your money on something that has never been known to actually happen.

      October 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  18. tpbco

    christina has left the building....back to faux news for her!

    October 18, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  19. tpbco

    God loves you SO much that he created H*ll....

    just in case you don't love him back....

    October 18, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • KGuldin

      That's not accurate.

      October 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • cedar rapids


        October 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  20. tpbco

    Christians: If you're so sure of your religion, why should it bother you that I doubt it?

    October 18, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • bananas

      Y do u ask?

      October 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
      • sananab

        y u ask?

        October 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • scientist/believer

      Because our faith teaches that all humans are related, and thus family. True Christians should feel love and concern for all people, especially those that mock God. Some Christians try to 'beat' religion into non-believers through various pressures... that is wrong. We should simply stand ready to give witness to why we believe, if someone asks. For those of you happy in atheism, I grieve inside, just as God does... I stand ready to politely debate, but I honor your choice to be an atheist... just as God does.

      October 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        " Some Christians try to 'beat' religion into non-believers through various pressures... that is wrong."
        Well, my friend, all children are born FREE of religion, so religion is pumped into all of them .. typically at a young age where they are defenseless.
        It's a lot harder, nearly impossible, to infect people with religious stories AFTER they have reached the age of reason.

        October 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
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.