October 16th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

What Oprah gets wrong about atheism

Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN
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(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. xn

    eh religious people just cannot see beyond their little myopic view of the world can they.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  2. Waitnonasunnyday

    Chris is sooo lovely!!! (Sarcasm)

    The funnier part is the religious who give up free will and the nonreligious who use govt as their God. Give up God and Govt and be FREE!

    October 17, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Thanks for the segue!
      Since I was talking about Greg Graffin earlier:

      October 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  3. Vern Sawyer

    I'm an atheist and I don't experience awe or wonder at anything unless I use certain prohibited substances. I've also had clinical depression since I was about 12, though. I'll be going on a walk with one of my friends or family members (solely as exercise so my body doesn't wither and die) and they'll say something like "Aren't the fall colors beautiful?", and I have absolutely no clue what they're talking about. The colors are just there. I feel jealous of this Nyad person. I need therapy. Also Oprah sucks.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • tallulah13

      You sound like you do need therapy, because you are missing out on a lot of wonderful things. But yes, I can't understand the fascination people have with Oprah and her massive ego.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Lisa

      Better be careful around open flame, your straw stuffing is really showing! 😉

      October 17, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Peter

      Oprah aside, whenever an ideology is based on a negation, it is always a challange to sustain it. Atheism is a denial of the existance of God.... for whatever reason. Deep down in tyhe life of ecery preofessed and unprofessed atheist, there is something, a power, that "disturbs" their thinking. Vern knows it although may not publicly admit. That is God! Deny it or not, atheists and all who believe in God will be judged by God! Better prepare your defence!

      October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • snowboarder

        of course, none of what you posted is true.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • tom

          It starts with his very first premise which is false. Atheism is not a "denial" it is merely a lack of belief. We are not convinced that there is a god. It is not a denial, it is the null hypothesis.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • gary

        Can I get ahold of you some how .. I have a lot of stuff for sale. You know ocean front property in New Mexico. Cheap too

        October 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
      • Ben

        It's not a denial of God, as though everyone knows that God is real, but some of us are just declaring ourselves independent. No, it's a denial of all claims of there being an actual god, or gods, mostly based on a lack of evidence, or the illogical definition of said god(s). Look at it this way, we both probably refuse to believe in actual vampires, right? We can't prove that actual vampires don't exist, but we refuse to believe in them because there isn't any actual evidence to support they're being real, and it sounds most likely like just another monster out of folklore.

        Should corpses drained of all their blood start appearing in houses locked up from the inside with authenticated sightings and videos of people walking around, confirmed to have died and been buried, who now cast no shadow, we both might start to think there's something to this vampire thing, but now is not the time to actually believe in vampires, just as now is not the time to actually believe in gods. They might exist somewhere, but we have no sound reason to think that they actually exist here, right now.

        October 17, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  4. rob.ellis

    The religious are closed minded, plain and simple. There's really not much difference between racists and the enlightened.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • bsitg

      This is one of the most ridiculous things I read today. Why not just say, "all woman are bad drivers". In any group, religion, community, government, etc. there are extremists. But judging the entire group by the extremists is short-sighted and closed minded.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • Alias

        Too bad rob is right.

        Just because there are a few rare exceptions, it is still valid to make generalizations.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • rob.ellis

        An Allstate commercial cleared up that "women are bad drivers" myth. Never met an elightened perosn who doesn't "feel sorry for me".

        October 17, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Waitnonasunnyday

      Profile and Stereotype people much? The non religious can be closed minded too. Your last sentence makes even less sense...

      October 17, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Sara

      I know plenty of religious people who'd never say anything this silly.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  5. Naota

    Magic Goo religion again ? (aka evolution)

    Matter that came from nowhere started spinning for no reason. . . . .

    Then – in frictionless space no less – the spinning action made the matter get hot and explode. . . . The exploding matter formed planets and stars that magically spun in different directions in violation of the laws of physics. . . . .

    Then – magic rain from nowhere created magic goo on one of the planets . . .

    The lifeless goo magically became alive – – with ready made DNA – – , and turned into kitty cats, pine trees and Lady Gaga – without leaving any fossil trails for any of the "evolutionary" phases. . . . . because – as everyone knows – magic doesn't leave evidence. . . .

    The religion of evolution (magic goo theory) – is one of the funniest religions ever invented.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • tallulah13

      Perhaps you should actually know what evolution is before you start disparaging it. You sound like you took all you science classes at the Kirk Cameron Jesus Camp, which is rather like taking driving lessons from a blind poodle.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • atl

      You need a science class as your problem isn't with evolution but cosmology.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • tom

      Get an education. Your post is ridiculous, and the bulk of it does not even address evolution, it seems you do not even know what it is.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      I'd say that if you spent as much time studying science as you do the Bible, you'd be saved in a much better way!

      October 17, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Rick

      "no fossil trail..." Are you kidding me? Have you even studied evolution? The answer seems very obvious! No! You haven't! There is massive amounts of fossil evidence which supports evolution. Read up and study before making silly statements you are totally clueless about. You want to talk about "magic goo"? Then read up on the mythology of religion. THAT is where true fantasy resides!!

      October 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • tom

        If anything is to be considered "magic goo" then it would be the mud that god supposedly created Adam from.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • HamsterDancer

      There are logical reasoning behind all the phenomena and events you made fun of by calling them magic. Science is created by objective observation and repeatable experiments. If one scientist speculates that a chemical reaction took place in the oceans of ancient earth that eventually created substances that replicated themselves, he can't just say "I believe this so it happened." He has to make numerous observations and experiments to test his ideas. Then he publishes them. Then many, many, many scientists have to do the same observations and experiments and get the same results. Then that has to be done over many years and still get the same results. This is to make sure somebody just doesn't want it to be true. Enough different people with completely different beliefs and prejudices will still get the same results no matter what they personally feel.
      This fellows article is about have friendly dialogues with people with different ideas and treat them like people and not ideas you just hate because they are different. They are good thoughts and perhaps you should try to them. It would be nice for everybody.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Lisa

      You seem to be projecting insecurities about your own ideas of creation. There is no "magic" in the scientific theories surrounding the Big Bang, abiogenesis and evolution, but believers in creationism as compelled to believe in a great deal of magic. God supposedly magically has always existed without ever having parents. He is said to have magically "poofed" everything into existence out of absolutely nothing where science never claims that the universe developed from nothing. Maybe you mistyped, and you meant to say "Magic God" instead?

      October 17, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • RequiredName

      1) Provable laws of quantum mechanics (strong and weak nuclear forces) caused basic matter to become attracted and form atoms, which then attracted to form molecules, which attract and can form larger chunks of matter (or clouds of gas). Provable laws of gravity caused these larger chunks of matter to become attracted to each other and form even larger chunks of matter (rocks, planets, stars). Provable physical forces of Angular Momentum caused these interacting particles to start spinning as they began to collide. High school/undergraduate Physics 101 + Chemistry 101.
      2) The "spinning action" doesn't cause matter to "get hot and explode", the gravitational forces attracting clouds of hydrogen gas causes it to compress and heat up to the point where hydrogen fuses into helium, releasing energy... like a star does. Nuclear fusion. High school/undergraduate Physics 101 + Chemistry 101.
      3) Not sure what "magic goo" you're referring to, but if you're talking about a mixture of amino acids and other elements that eventually formed early life, it's not necessarily magic, but the formation (not the reason) can be explained in high school/undergraduate Chemistry 101.
      4) Fossil evidence of evolutionary phases is readily available if you cared to learn about them. It's not secret knowledge. High school/undergraduate Biology 101.

      Of course the "Magic Goo religion" can look completely made up when you've made everything up yourself. I'm sure you're just trolling, but for anyone who actually believes anything you've typed, paying attention in high school would fix that problem.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • jrcomo35713


      October 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  6. Michael Cook

    I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings. Like Confucius of old, I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and the angels.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Waitnonasunnyday

      You're saying you have faith in strangers? Isn't that blind faith?

      October 17, 2013 at 9:35 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        "Faith in your partner, your fellow men, your friends, is very important, because without it there's no mutual component to your relationship, and relationships are important. So faith plays an important role, but faith in people you don't know, faith in religious or political leaders or even people on stages, people who are popular in the public eye, you shouldn't have faith in those people. You should listen to what they have to say and use it. It might give you some ideas on how to view the world, but ultimately you have to base your views on evidence. Evidence comes from your own eyes and ears."
        – Dr. Greg Graffin

        October 17, 2013 at 9:42 am |
        • HamsterDancer

          Wow, I like that. I'll have to look up more on the fellow you quoted.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:06 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Dr. Graffin is a professor of Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University as well as the lead singer for the punk band Bad Religion. I frequently cite his PHD thesis " Monism, atheism, and the naturalist worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology".
          He also wrote a book recently, "Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God" which is a nice autobiographical tome of how his worldview developed over the decades.
          Preston Jones, a history professor at a Christian college, also published his discussions with Graffin about science and evolution in a book called "Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity."

          October 17, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • Lisa

        Not "strangers", but in people who have earned your trust through past dealings. Religious faith usually involves taking a "leap", meaning blindly trusting in God and what clerics say about him first, and then accepting whatever they tell you is in fulfillment of that trust, which is completely ridiculous, of course. Trust is earned, not given away to someone who gets to dictate what you can define your trust in them.

        October 17, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  7. ImvotingforHillary

    I find it fascinating that people won't believe in God, yet flock to shows and movies about ghosts and demonic influences. It seems people find it easier to believe in the devil than God. Well God exists. He is 100% real and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. You may laugh and make fun of Him and those who believe all you want, but the laughing will cease on the day you stand before Him and you see for yourself that He is real. What will you say then? Snarky comments? They won't help you at all. It is time to repent of our sins, get down on our knees and lift up His Holy Name in praise. It is time to acept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Time is short.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Someone Reasonable

      You can spend your life on your knees if you want. I would rather enjoy my life.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • snowboarder

      of course, there is no legitimate reason to actually believe any of what you wrote.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • tom

      You are aware that people who go to see movies about ghosts and devil's and whatnot do not for the most part actually believe they are real right?

      October 17, 2013 at 9:43 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        .... unless your last name is "Scalia."

        October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Howard

      "if God is real, he will continue to be real even if every last human on Earth insists there is no God. If God isn't real, all the humans on Earth proclaiming his reality won't make him one bit more real.

      My point is, a real God doesn't need humans to affirm his reality. Once you accept that, it's no stretch to realize that a real God capable of creating this vast Universe probably isn't the least bit concerned with the happenings on this infinitely tiny and insignificant part of his creation.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • nairebis

      I watch stories about wizards and magic, that doesn't mean I believe in literal magic. Of course many people like the fantasy of someone watching out for us and having something after death. But it's a fantasy just like wizards and elves.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Madtown

      one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
      You can believe in God, but why christianity? Religion is a creation of man, you don't need it to believe in God. "God" is not synonymous with the God of christianity, there are other equally relevant/irrelevant variations.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • tallulah13

      If there were verifyable evidence for the existence of any one of the thousands of gods humans have ever believed in, then I would believe that gods were possible. But there is no evidence. Just empty claims and threats based on cultural indoctrination or family habit. Gods, as far as I can tell, are merely the human attempt to put a familiar face on the unknown in order to bargain with or control it.

      For the record, I don't believe in ghosts or the supernatural, either.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • HamsterDancer

      They aren't necessarily going to those types of movies because they believe in demons and monsters. They are fun escapist movies and adventures. You don't have to believe in ghost to enjoy a good fright from Paranormal Activity, or vampires and enjoy a Dracula movie, or fairies and enjoy Peter Pan, or viking gods and watch Thor.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Larry

      Forcing people to their knees in supplication is what tyrant kings do. I'm a proud American and we fought a war of Independence so that we might not bow to anyone ever again. It just amazes me when people living in the land of the Free fantasize about the invasion of king Jesus who will end our democratic rule. I see no patriotism in that, whatsoever.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  8. Whatever

    Get over yourself...

    You whine over Christian's taking offense to you but this is the kind of drivel you complain about...

    Grow up.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Kind of how some Christians whine that banners saying "Happy Holidays" are evidence of the "war on Christianity"?

      October 17, 2013 at 9:23 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        Not really, because we get our word "Holiday" from the original "Holy Day." So when you say "Happy Holidays!" I know that it's origin is from "Happy Holydays!"

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

          Sure, holy days like the winter solstice.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:34 am |
        • tallulah13

          Or Saturnalia.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:37 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Holy Day – but not necessarily Christian holy days.
          Many of the populat Christmas traditions are stolen from earlier Pagan celebrations – including the date on which it is celebrated.
          Do you have a Christmas tree in your house?
          This is what THE LORD says:
          “Do not learn the ways of the nations
          or be terrified by signs in the sky,
          though the nations are terrified by them.
          For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
          they cut a tree out of the forest,
          and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
          They adorn it with silver and gold;
          they fasten it with hammer and nails
          so it will not totter."

          – 10 Jeremiah

          October 17, 2013 at 9:38 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Yeah, I know all of that, of course. Personally, my family chooses this time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I know that it most likely wasn't on December 25th, but since we know it did happen, and the church has accepted this date, we celebrate it. We don't get caught up in the secularism of it all though... It has always seemed bankrupt of meaning, especially since my mother died just before Christmas a number of years ago.

          Actually, it's really interesting to look up the word "easter" and where that comes from. One thing we DON'T do is get caught up in the "weeping for Tammuz" celebrations known as lent... We call it for what it is: Ressurection Day, and that is what we celebrate.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:44 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          And incidentally, Jeremiah was speaking of an idol. Not a so called "Christmas Tree."

          October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          In my youth, Christmas was celebrated in much the same way.
          The story of Christ's birth was the first Bible story taught to me.
          My kid is 7 now and for the last couple of years, we've talked about what Christmas means for us.
          We give one gift from Santa, which has been explained as a way of giving anonymously – not to expect thanks other than bringing happiness to someone else.
          This year, my family is spending Christmas Eve at a local soup kitchen serving meals to the less fortunate.
          In other words, we're trying to instill "Christian" virtues like charity and humility, but without the supernatural frippery...

          October 17, 2013 at 10:00 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          "We give one gift from Santa, which has been explained as a way of giving anonymously – not to expect thanks other than bringing happiness to someone else. This year, my family is spending Christmas Eve at a local soup kitchen serving meals to the less fortunate."

          Very good, we do something very similar to all of that.

          And without assuming this is YOUR belief, many people today think that they can be "good without God." Well, they can do good things without God, for sure, but that's not what the Bible is all about. If all that the Bible taught was to love your neighbor as yourself, but went no farther, then all it would do is make this world a nicer place to go to hell from.

          We can surely serve at the kitchens on Christmas, but aren't we being the biggest hypocrites of all if Christmas is the ONLY time that we serve? After all, the hungry are always with us. We recognize that, as well as the fact that there is a hunger that goes deeper than the stomach – a spiritual hunger – and only God can satisfy that need. That explains our mission.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Waitnonasunnyday

        Should you be participating in Christmas rituals? Is that intellectually honest?

        October 17, 2013 at 9:30 am |
        • snowboarder

          we celebrate a secular christmas.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:40 am |
        • Sean

          Most christmas rituals have their roots in paganism. Winter solstice, yule tide log, gift giving, evergreen trees. I mean, you know Jesus (the historical figure) wasn't born in the middle of winter, right? The real question is, is it intellectually honest for YOU to be celebrating christmas?

          October 17, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  9. Lainie11

    Natural reason brings us to the truth that a Creator higher than any human being brought the world and all the life within it to existence. No human being could have created the human body, or the workings of the universe with all its intricate working order, to continue on a daily basis. Those who would deny that there is no God, are deceiving themselves. Good and evil do exist also, one is of God, the other the Satan. Even the smallest child can get that.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Alias

      Except, of course, that no one seems to be claiming that humans created everything.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There was a Creator and His name was Pan Gu.
      In the beginning, Pan Gu escaped from the great universal egg by cracking it open with a broadaxe. The light part of the yolk floated up and became the heavens while the cold, hard part stayed below to form earth with Pan Gu standing between them like a pillar to keep the separated. When He died, His breath became the wind and clouds, His voice thunder, His eyes the sun and the moon, his beard and hair turned to the stars in the sky, His blood the water. His veins became roads and his muscles fertile land.

      But then again, for the Inuit It is said that Raven made the world. He is a man with a raven's beak. When the waters forced the ground up from the deep Raven stabbed it with his beak and fixed it into place. This first land was just big enough for the house that was on it. There were three people in the house. This was a family with a man, his wife and their little son Raven who had fixed the land. The father had a bladder hanging over his bed. After much pleading by Raven the father allowed the boy to play with it. While playing Raven damaged the bladder and light appeared. The father not wanting to have light always shining took the bladder from the boy before he could damage it further. And that is how day and night started over the land.

      Hang on for a moment – According to Ja.panese Shinto Mythology, at the beginning of time, the heavens and the earths were mixed together in a great cloud. Slowly, the clearer, lighter parts of the cloud rose up and became heaven. The heavier parts of the cloud descended and became an ocean of muddy water. Between the heavens and the earth, a pale green sprout began to grow. It grew swiftly and was extremely strong. When the plant’s flower burst open, the First God emerged. This First God then created Izanagi, is the god of all that is light and heavenly. Izanagi, whose name means "the male who invites", and his wife and sister Izanami, whose name means "the female who invites". The First God gave Izanagi the task of finishing the creation of the world.

      So many creation myths, so little time...

      October 17, 2013 at 9:20 am |
      • lcb

        Thank you so much for this lesson in creation myths! and for obviously 'getting the message' of this particular article.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Funny, as a child, I didn't get that, and still don't. I don't know does not equal any gods. You clearly do not understand what logic and reason are...if you did, you would not presume any gods did anything.

      You beleive stories from a book.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Topher

      Perhaps you should point out that nature cannot create itself. First Law of Thermodynamics.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:22 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Some questions for you:
        Do you believe in dog breeding?
        Why do humans have toenails?
        Why do dolphins have five finger bones, vestigial legs, and a blowhole that is essentially a modified nostril?

        And the most important question of all:
        If evolution is true, do you want to be proven that it is?

        October 17, 2013 at 9:29 am |
        • Topher

          Doc Vestibule

          "Do you believe in dog breeding?"

          Believe in it like do I believe it happens or believe in it like I'm for or against?

          "Why do humans have toenails?"

          No idea. And really, I don't care. I have more important things to study.

          "Why do dolphins have five finger bones, vestigial legs, and a blowhole that is essentially a modified nostril?"

          Vestigial legs ... like whales have vestigial legs? I think that's kinda been blown out of the water, so to speak. They aren't legs and they aren't vestigial.

          "And the most important question of all: If evolution is true, do you want to be proven that it is?"

          Kind of a straw man since it's not true ... at least Darwinian evolution isn't. Even science rejects it.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:35 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Science rejects it?
          The people at the Discovery Insti/tute aren't scientists, I'm afraid.

          Take a few minutes to look at this:

          October 17, 2013 at 9:40 am |
        • Topher

          Doc Vestibule

          "Science rejects it?"

          Yes, science rejects Darwinian evolution. It's not testable nor repeatable — the scientific method. Not only that, you don't have the smoking gun ... evidence of a change in kinds. I'll post a video in a moment that explains how it also can't happen because you'd need information to be added, which never happens. We only get losses of information.

          "The people at the Discovery Insti/tute aren't scientists, I'm afraid."

          I'm not familiar with the Discovery Insti.tute. I hope you're not one of those who say no Creationists are scientists and thus we can't use their work. Creation sites are just as valid.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:59 am |
        • Topher


          October 17, 2013 at 9:59 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I laugh when creationists say scientist can find the missing links. Scientist have proven the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria, .... and then the creationists say what??? God created those too? Hmmmm....when did God reveal that to them??? In another dream?

          October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The 5 laws of Darwinian evolution are applied every single day by thousands of scientists in dozens of disciplines.
          Understanding and application of modern evolutionary synthesis is integral to the quality of our lives.
          The Discovery Inst'itute are also known as The Center for Science and Culture – the folk responsible for the "Answers In Genesis" website and for the propagation of the pseudo-scientific concept of intelligent design.
          They openly admit that their goal isn't to teach what they think is fact.
          "to defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies".
          They want to use Intelligent Design as a wedge to separate science from its allegiance to "atheistic naturalism".
          In other words, they fear that teaching FACTS to children will drive them away from religion.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • Topher

          Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Perimeter of Ignorance

          "I laugh when creationists say scientist can find the missing links."

          If you know of a demonstration of a change in kinds, you should put it out there. You'd make a lot of money.

          "Scientist have proven the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria, .... and then the creationists say what???"

          The Creationists say, "And the bacteria evolved into what?" Answer: bacteria. So bacteria "giving birth" to bacteria is evidence of evolution? Not hardly.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • Topher

          What did you think of the video?

          October 17, 2013 at 10:26 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          I LOVE those "Debunked" videos! Great post.

          October 17, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • tallulah13

        So who created god, Topher? Christians never give a real answer to that one. They just list fantasy excuses.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:35 am |
        • Topher


          "So who created god, Topher? Christians never give a real answer to that one. They just list fantasy excuses."

          That's an easy one. Nobody did. The Bible is very clear that God is from everlasting to everlasting.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:37 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          The question sneaks in the false assumption that God came from somewhere and then asks where that might be. The answer is that the question does not even make sense. It is like asking, “What does blue smell like?” Blue is not in the category of things that have a smell, so the question itself is flawed. In the same way, God is not in the category of things that are created or caused. God is uncaused and uncreated—He simply exists.

          October 17, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • tallulah13

          And there is the fantasy excuse. Poor Topher. It's also abundantly clear that the bible was written by humans and thus is not viable evidence. If you dispute the origins of the universe with scientific principles, then you use the same criterion to prove the origins of your god. Anything else is hypocritical.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • tallulah13

          At least you don't even try, Larry. You openly admit that you believe in god because you are not interested in honest, verifiable answers.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:05 am |
        • Topher

          This question is often followed up with, "Well, if God can be eternal, why can't the universe?"

          First, because natural laws would have to be broken. Second Law of Thermodynamics says everything is in a state of decay. If the universe were "eternal" it would have long since run out of gas.

          Second, because we know time had a beginning. To create time, and for that matter nature, you'd have to have something outside of time and nature to create it. And since God exists outside of time, He wouldn't need a beginning Himself.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics applies only to closed systems.

          October 17, 2013 at 10:16 am |
        • Topher

          Doc Vestibule

          "The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics applies only to closed systems."


          October 17, 2013 at 10:18 am |
        • Larry

          If I may?

          The Earth is not a closed system because we receive a steady flow of new energy from the sun.

          If you are talking about the universe then chaos may bring it to it's "end" someday, whatever that actually means, but that would have nothing to do with life developing until that time.

          October 17, 2013 at 11:01 am |
        • tallulah13

          Of course we're talking about the universe, Larry, and we really dom't know if it's a closed system or not. How about you give people a chance to find out before you declare it a done deal?

          So, Topher. What is your scientific evidence for the existence of god? So far all you have is "I don't know, so it must be god", and then your fantasy claim that god exists out of space and time. "Outside of space and time" is nothing more than the christian way of admitting that you don't have a clue.

          October 17, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • Topher


          "So, Topher. What is your scientific evidence for the existence of god?"

          I think the things we've already talked about this morning are evidence for God. We've debunked evolution and shown that things bring forth after their own kind, just like the Bible said we'd find. We've discovered that nature can't create itself and that something outside of it must be the cause. Again, just as the Bible claims. I know you guys want to reject it, but it's pretty difficult to get around how science and the Bible agree.

          "So far all you have is "I don't know, so it must be god", and then your fantasy claim that god exists out of space and time."

          That's not what I said at all. Please don't misrepresent me. What I've said is that science agrees with the Bible. And God DOES exist outside of space and time. That's a completely logical conclusion to make. A creator has to be more complex than its creation ... thus you can't be inside of time if you're the creator of it.

          ""Outside of space and time" is nothing more than the christian way of admitting that you don't have a clue."

          Nope. We have a clue. Science and the Bible agree.

          October 17, 2013 at 11:56 am |
        • Joey

          Topher, you have in no way debunked evolution. Evolution has happened and will continue to happen whether you admit it or not.

          October 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
        • Topher


          "Topher, you have in no way debunked evolution."

          Science agrees with me. Did you watch the video?

          "Evolution has happened and will continue to happen whether you admit it or not."

          Then you should be able to prove it. Please do. Show me the change in kinds. Show me how it's testable and repeatable.

          October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
        • Shadowflash1522

          Topher, you are blatantly misusing the Second Law.

          Firstly, the Second Law of Thermodynamics refers explicitly to entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder, not decay. Disorder, in turn, refers uncertainty about how a system is actually laid out/organized. In other words, a system with more permutations is said to be "more disordered".

          But even if it were to be referring to decay, you are forgetting a vital fact: everything which decays, decays into something. Organic matter decays into dirt; radioactive isotopes decay into other isotopes; stars decay into black holes, etc.

          Instead, I refer you to the one and only Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy, which states that matter and energy in the universe are neither created nor destroyed. Matter can be transformed into energy, and back again, but nothing is lost. So when a portion of the universe "decays" it doesn't cease to exist, it merely transforms into something else. If matter/energy (mattergy?) never leaves the universe, why would we think it ever entered?

          October 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, most small children with a decent education could explain evolution to you. Your thinking is more in line with the ancient Greek who saw lightning and prayed to Zeus than it is to the thinking of a modern, reasonably educated adult. Basically, you have chosen ignorance over knowledge.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • ohboy

      this is hilariously inaccurate, close-minded, and misinformed

      October 17, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • bsitg

      Natural reason does no such thing. Faith does. And atheists do not claim a human being created anyhing. What was your statement supposed to mean? Further "Those who would deny that there is no God" means that if you deny there is no God, you believe in God. What you meant is "those who would deny that there is a God". And lastly, "Good and evil do exist also, one is of God, the other the Satan. Even the smallest child can get that." the first half of your first sentence is correct. Your second sentence is correct. What is not obvious is your end to your first sentence. Many people would say "man" can be both good and evil. It's called free will. Which if you truly believe in God, then you should know He gave us that.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • snowboarder

      i see, so because you don't understand it that means god did it.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Sara

      "Natural reason"...LOL, is that another term for the "common sense" that once told everyone the earth was flat? Get over it...you haven't a clue, I haven't a clue....the universe is still mostly a big mystery.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Larry

      Children usually see things as either black or white, good or evil, but as they mature they come to realize that some things, while good for them personally, are actually bad for others, and vice versa. A lot of people, however, never grow out of the self-centered idea that, everything they find evil is evil for everyone, and what they find good is what everyone must also see as good.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  10. Steve

    An atheist chaplain? Isn't that an oxymoron? Why do you need to be called a chaplain?

    October 17, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  11. Brody in RI

    "An atheist who is "soft" on religious belief, and tolerant of even the worst intellectual and moral excesses of religion: atheist accommodationist."

    –We wish you the very best in your journey, Chris Stedman!!!

    Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you.

    October 17, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Abigail


      October 17, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  12. Chris Weiss

    Most atheists are "in the closet." Many attend church for social reasons such as not upsetting friends and family. The fact that so few people claim to have relationships with atheists is not surprising. I can almost guarantee it is simply because most atheists keep quiet about their beliefs. We're not all Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, who are active anti-theists.

    The last group it is safe to hate is atheists. Eventually this will be broken down, but I think it is easier to be gay than a public atheist.

    October 17, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Indeed. My Obama / Biden sticker attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Anything that might identify me as atheist and an Obama supporter would probably get me run out of 'Merica.

      October 17, 2013 at 8:25 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        If you get a chuckle out of "Texas English" then you'll LOVE the local color of where I'm from. It's called "High Tider..."
        You've got to see this video of some locals.


        October 17, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Topher

      Chris Weiss

      "Eventually this will be broken down, but I think it is easier to be gay than a public atheist."

      Right. Because you've got that Foxe's Book of Atheist Martyrs.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    And who is this "Chris Sted-Man" to question the Infallible Word of Lady Oprah, Regent and Commander of America's Housewives?
    He would be wise to hold his tongue, lest The Mighty Kingdom of Harpo unleash their horde of rabid book publishers upon hm.

    October 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  14. dimblar

    they love snake stone

    October 17, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  15. dimblar

    atheists have secret ambitions. they worship devils from ancient lands.

    October 17, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I don't believe in devils. I don't really know how to worship anything. There are probably more productive things to do than worship.

      October 17, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Yeah, but only on weekends.
      You'd be amazed at how Asmodeus rewards his faithful minions.

      October 17, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  16. Felix

    "Knowing someone of a different identi-ty can increase understanding."

    And to cause one to question one's own ideas. Christians recognize this and that's why they are always admonished not to be "unequally yoked" (not have significant relationships) with those of other faiths. Unfortunately, they don't seem to recognize it as the att-itude of weakness and fear that it is.

    October 17, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • Atheist, me?

      Note that St Paul explained that by unequally yoked he meant hypocritical Christians not unbelievers!

      October 17, 2013 at 9:12 am |
      • Felix

        Yeah, I know, but they misrepresent and misuse it all the time to mean something else.

        October 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  17. bananas

    I never knew what love was until I rejected the chokehold atheism had on me. Many atheists worship satan

    October 17, 2013 at 7:54 am |

    • nothing loves you

      October 17, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Felix

      That makes zero sense, of course. Atheists, by definition, don't worship any supernatural being.

      October 17, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Obvious troll

      Obviously trolling

      October 17, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Rick

      "bananas" A perfect moniker for you. You obviously are!

      October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  18. bananas

    Leaving the cesspool of atheism was the greatest thing ever to happen to me and my friends. Atheism was and is disgusting. The phony Birdbrains that pretend to be happy are paid from a secret fund established by illegal drug sales

    October 17, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Jim

      Still an obvious troll, but I was amused by the bit about the secret fund.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • Someone Reasonable

        Seriously, I didn't get my check last month. Any other atheists out there missing theirs as well? Somebody call payroll, we need to get this sorted out before our next ritualistic baby sacrifice.

        October 17, 2013 at 9:37 am |
        • G to the T

          Yeah! What's up with that? I've spent all day basting this baby and now I don't have money for the stuffing!

          October 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
        • Susan StoHelit

          Yeah, I'm missing my check too! Dang, what's the good of being the least respected minority in America, and the one so many are willing to openly bash, if I don't get my check?

          October 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • JLS639

      Wait, I have access to a secret fund? Where? Who do I contact about this?

      October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Shadowflash1522

        IT'S A SECRET!

        October 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Zoop

      I could be getting paid for this? Who do I call for the check?

      October 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
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About this blog

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