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Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.

But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.

The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.

Stephens and co-plaintiff Susan Galloway have challenged the policy, saying virtually all of those invited to offer legislative prayers over the years were Christians.

"It's very divisive when you bring government into religion," Stephens told CNN from her home.

"I don't believe in God, and Susan is Jewish, so to hear these ministers talk about Jesus and even have some of them who personally question our motives, it's just not appropriate."

The town of about 94,000 residents counters that after concerns from the two women and others, it sought diverse voices, including a Wiccan priestess, to offer invocations. Officials say they do not review the content of the remarks, nor censor any language.

"The faith of the prayer giver does not matter at all," said John Auberger, Greece's board supervisor, who began the practice shortly after taking office 1998. "We accept anyone who wants to come in and volunteer to give the prayer to open up our town meetings."

A federal appeals court in New York found the board's policy to be an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which forbids any government "endorsement" of religion.

Those judges said it had the effect of "affiliating the town with Christianity."

"To the extent that the state cannot make demands regarding the content of legislative prayers," said Judge Guido Calabresi, "municipalities have few means to forestall the prayer-giver who cannot resist the urge to proselytize. These difficulties may well prompt municipalities to pause and think carefully before adopting legislative prayer, but they are not grounds on which to preclude its practice."

Some legal experts say while the high court has allowed public prayers in general, it has not set boundaries on when they might become too sectarian in nature.

"The case involves a test between two different kinds of legal rules," said Thomas Goldstein, SCOTUSblog.com publisher and a leading Washington attorney.

"The Supreme Court has broadly approved legislative prayer without asking too many questions. But in other cases where the government is involved with religion, it has looked at lots of different circumstances. So we just don't know whether this court will be completely approving of legislative prayers in this instance."

The justices are now being asked to offer more firm guidelines over when and if such public prayers are constitutionally acceptable.

Felt marginalized

Galloway and Stephens say the elected board of the community outside Rochester almost always invited Christian clergy to open the meetings, usually with sectarian prayers. And they say they felt "marginalized" by the practice.

"When we tried to speak with the town, we were told basically if we didn't like the prayers, we didn't have to listen," said Stephens, "or could stand out in the hallway while they were going on."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Washington-based group that is representing the two women, cited records showing that between 1999 and 2010, approximately two-thirds of the invocations contained the words "Jesus Christ," Jesus," Holy Spirit," or "Your Son."

And the lawsuit claims that from 1999 through 2007, every meeting had a Christian-only invocation. Following the complaints from the plaintiffs, four other faiths were invited in 2008, including a Baha'i leader and a Jewish lay person.

The plaintiffs say the Christian-only invocations resumed from January 2009 through June 2010. They claim those invited to the monthly meetings were selected by a city employee from a local guide that had no non-Christian faiths listed.

"Politics and religion simply don't mix, and they certainly don't mix in the local context of the Greece town council," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, AUSCS executive director.

"The town seems to take the position that because once or twice over a decade, it hears from someone of a different religion, that somehow is inclusive. It trivializes what's going here - a local government that should be willing and interested in participation of all its citizens, it wants those citizens to participate in an almost inevitably Christian prayer, in order to begin doing their business."

Different rulings

While the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against Greece's policy, other courts around the country have found such invocations - if inclusive and limited in scope - to be permissible.

Congress regularly opens its sessions with a prayer. Wednesday's invocation by House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy began: "Eternal God, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Once again, we come to ask wisdom, patience, peace, and understanding for the members of this people's House."

Nearly 120 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, along with several state attorneys general have filed supporting legal briefs backing the city. So has the Obama administration.

"The history of prayers offered in connection with legislative deliberation in this country makes clear that a legislative body need not affirmatively solicit a court-mandated variety of different religious faiths– from inside and outside the borders governed by the legislative body– in order to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause," said Justice Department lawyers' in their amicus brief.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Greece Town Board, saying the Supreme Court has upheld the practice of government bodies "to acknowledge America's religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."

"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the group. "Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God's blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn't suddenly be deemed unconstitutional."

Stephens realizes the stakes are high for her community and for the law as a whole. But on a personal level, this legal fight has been tough.

"I've received something of a backlash, both Susan and me," the retired librarian said. "Threatening letters, some vandalism to my property, things like that. The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."

The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696). A ruling is expected by early summer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (6,237 Responses)
  1. G24U

    How simple can it be; get religion, lobbyists and corporations out of politics and give the power back to the people.

    November 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  2. James L

    So once again if your Christian you must give up everything you believe in so that someone else can get their way. I love all the post talking about how Christians force there beliefs on people. I force nothing all I ask is that I am allowed to say a prayer. If you do not wish to pray then don't. Who cares if I pray or not. If I went to an event that you and your group were putting on for atheists I would never expect you to start with pray nor would I demand that you do because I believe there should be prayer. Duck Dynasty aired on tv and non-Christians started screaming that it should be removed because it promotes Christianity and pushes it on people. How about you just pick up your remote and turn the channel and don't watch it. I don't watch metal music on MTV because I don't like it. I don't demand they remove it.

    November 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      So do the Wiccans give up all they believe in because they cannot perform a Pagan ceremony at the opening of goverment functions?

      Your argument is assinine.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • Lee McBride

        Blessed are the cheesemakers? – No more asinine than your argument is disingenuous.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          What is disingenuous about my argument?

          My name is disingenuous...so what

          November 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • ME II

      "If I went to an event that you and your group were putting on for atheists I would never expect you to start with pray..."

      Case in point! A town meeting is NOT "put on" by Christians, it is a government function. The very fact that you make this association lends support to exactly what the Atheists are claiming. That they are being marginalised.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Stenbolt

      You could just as easily pray in silence and not give anything up. How about just a noncomittal moment of silence?

      November 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Lynn s

      James, the disturbing statement you make is that if you were going to an event that the Atheist wee putting on that you would not expect a prayer. This implies that city council meetings are put on by a church. This is the heart of the matter. City council should not be just for believers and no one should expect their personal beliefs to be honored in that setting.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
      • James L

        No the disturbing part of this entre thread is the utter disrespect and disgusting comments of all. America is in the position that it is in because of all the people in this thread and all those outside of the thread that act in the same manner. I am Christian and I will pray wherever and when ever I wish. My initial comment was not intended to say that the council meeting is ran by Christians. My initial comment is to simply say can people just live their lives as believers or not regardless of the religion. I have no problem with Muslims as long as they are not killing everyone who is not Muslim. I have no problem with Christians as long as we are not sacrificing our children and animals in the street. The ignorant people in this entire thread from beginning to end want to crucify everyone that does not believe in what they believe in . As a Christian I have friends who are gay, I have friends how do not believe in God. I have friends who have been married and divorced many times over, I have friends who are not married and have never been married yet have 4 kids. whether or not anyone here cares to believe it or not most Christians are not trying to force their beliefs on you and make everyone bow to Jesus. We accepted him and we choose to but to come to Jesus you come on your own not made by others. I have read a lot of the comments in this article and I am disgusted by the way human beings are talking about how much they hate Christians or hate whatever fill in the blank. It makes it easier to understand why the country is in the shape it is in.

        November 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
        • a reasonable atheist

          Feel free to pray wherever and whenever you wish. The issue here is not about a person having the personal freedom to pray. It is about a prayer being an official procedural step in a government meeting. That breaks the establishment clause.

          November 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • sam stone.

      poor, poor, put upon christian

      November 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • tkkarma

      "give up everything"? Are you serious? If not saying a prayer before a public town meeting equates to you giving up everything, you never had much to being with...... are you not allowed to go to church on sunday? Are you not allowed to put your pagan symbols up around December 25? Are you not allowed to say grace over your food? Are you not allowed to say your bedtime prayers? Of course you can do all of these things....so how are you giving up everything?

      November 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
      • James L

        Because my kid can not say prayer at school before he eats lunch for fear it may offend someone who thinks he is somehow forcing his religion on them. My neighbors complain because they have to look at all the crazy Christian crap at my house and they are offended by it. Because if I use God and the bible to say we shouldn't have abortion I am a whack job but if you use the belief that there is no God and we should kill whenever we want to your a saint. Because If I have a cross on my desk at work I am against HR laws for forcing my beliefs on peoples. Tell someone who is a Muslim that they can not pray to meca during school hours and we are racist that hate all religions but if a Christian wants to say a prayer , you better not they will take you to court for forcing your religion on them. what a disgusting thread of hatred and intolerance from a bunch of ignorant people who believe all Christians are just trying to make everyone bow. Its not ok to tell the people to step out while we pray but everybody on here is perfectly ok with telling a Christian to go find some place else to pray to their fact fairy tale friend in the sky before coming. How about everybody just clam it up and believe what you believe and leave everybody else alone. Everybody talks about Christians forcing their beliefs on others and I feel as if atheist push their beliefs on everybody just as bad if not forcibly by running to the lawyer. I have learned a lot about people in reading this list of comments.

        November 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
        • G to the T

          I think you may be confusing the terms "secularism" with "atheism". Nobody is asking anyone to be atheistic, they are asking that the government stay secular however, as it's the only way to truly ensure equal treatment.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:02 am |
        • Sara

          Please show me the public school rules that prohibit private prayer during school time or any atheist claim that people should be allowed to kill whenever they want? I don't know what pushed you over the edge, it may have been some real issue, but you have lost all perspective and sense of reality.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:09 am |
      • James L

        Ha you said I am allowed to go to church on Sunday. Thanks so much. How about I just go whenever I would like.

        November 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
        • Sara

          You can go to church whenever you like, pray whenever you like so long as it doesn't disturb others and you get your work done. Unless you live in a condo with rules, you can decorate your home as you want and teach your kids what you want. No one has tried to stop you doing these things. If you can't handle people critiquing your beliefs, get a backbone. We are free to criticize one another's political, scientific and religious beliefs, and it is through that freedom that we grow as individuals and as a culture.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:12 am |
      • doobzz

        " Because if I use God and the bible to say we shouldn't have abortion I am a whack job but if you use the belief that there is no God and we should kill whenever we want to your a saint. "

        The bible doesn't mention abortion, but since you brought it up, the overwhelming majority of women in the USA who do get abortions are Christians.

        Where did you get the idea that atheists think we should kill whenever we want to? Did your pastor tell you that lie or did you make up the lie yourself?

        Also, it's "you're", not "your".

        November 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
        • Big Willz

          proof? You repeat the claim over and over again that the majority of women getting abortions are Christians. Please cite your source

          November 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Search for abortion stats by Guttmacher (sp?). Both sides of the abortion debate use them. Can't remember if christians have most abortions in USA but certainly believers do – 70+%.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • shangrila

      Would you accept a muslim saying his prayers next to you or a buddhist lighting his prayersticks or a native american chanting? I doubt it, for most am.christians especially in politics don't like to share their space when it comes to their belief. Just because people don't believe in a god, doesn't make them less of a human being and that is often the problem with people that call themselves christians!

      November 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  3. JFC

    By the way, Hitler was a Christian and he himself said that he was doing the work of God when exterminating Jews. But, was not Jesus a Jew?

    November 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • ME II

      And the Godwin award goes to....

      November 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  4. D

    this is not about freedom from religion but freedom of religion. this case in the essence is freedom from religion nothing more nothing less. personal liberties does not grant the authority to stomp on someone else's. If some out there don't like someone praying, then they are free to leave and return. If some criticize that person's decision then they are in the wrong. PERIOD.

    November 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So mormons should be allowed to practice polygamy? I think they should, as long as it is truly consensual and no harm is done, but would most in the USA tolerate that amount of religious freedom?

      November 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
      • Bruce McClure

        And they support all their kids, which is not the case in many polygamous outposts now.

        November 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      freedom of religion IS freedom from religion
      but that is irrelevant, because this is about government and religion

      November 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ann

      NO ONE should have to leave or put up with sectarian prayer. Just remove prayer from the proceedings and no one has to stay or leave in order to participate in civic functions. If someone wants to pray they can do it silently, at home or at one of the kazillion churches that are on every street corner. The shoving of religion down everybody's throat on the taxpayers' nickel is the most offensive thing about it.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
      • James L

        What an idiot. So it would be wrong to ask them to leave or come back after prayer but you are perfectly fine with telling me to have my stupid prayer at home before I come. do you know what the word hypocrite means. Ah that's right probably not. The lib nation has a hard time with anything other than give me something free and take it from someone else.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • ME II

          Is the purpose of the meeting to pray or discuss government affairs?

          November 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
        • doobzz

          I think you're the one who needs to look up the definition of "hypocrite". It doesn't apply here.

          November 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
      • cbtx67

        So let's get some Satanists in there, and see how long they last in this arena.Then they would be saying, "no, religion doesn't belong here". Wicca is innocuous enough and when worded right can sound more new agie. Get some hard hitters of every religion, make it truly diverse, including having an atheist speak up there, THEN it will be okay for prayer to happen there.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          christain/muslim/satanist.. all the same voodoo

          November 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • Bruce McClure

          A good live sacrifice would surely the the gods' to look down favorably on the meeting, to be sure!

          November 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I haven't seen anything that suggests people want to prohibit other people from praying. A prayer called for by public officials in a public forum is actually an invocation of a God quite a few people don't believe in and an endorsement of religious ideas many people don't hold with. Under the Constitution that is a fundamentally improper use of power that ultimately derives from the Constitution.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • James L

        Our president improperly uses his power on a daily basis so we just thought we could bend the rules to fit our needs as well.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
        • Flappy

          I don't believe your statement is true but for the sake of argument assuming it was... do you really believe that someone else acting inappropriately is justification for you acting inappropriately?

          November 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
        • doobzz

          Ah, the old "but he did it first" argument. Very mature.

          November 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Yes, we have freedom FROM religion being imposed by and during government functions...that does not stop anyone from praticing religion on their own time...that is the difference.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      No GOD or any religious prayer or invocation belongs in our politics, congress, courts, schools, money, community meetings, etc.; if you want to speak about your delusions or your invisible wizard in the sky, do it in your place of worship or your home... in all public forums this is just a very transparent endorsement of Christianity.

      Every time religion invades we are dumbed down and made a more fantasy nation...

      November 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Sara

      People have work and family responsibilities. Town meetings are for getting the town taken care of...other junk just wastes time. If you want to pray, do it before the meeting. How is that a hardship?

      November 6, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  5. Bryan

    This should be very simple....if an event involves government then there should be nothing resembling religion permitted. There is a reason this nation sought to separate church and state.

    November 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Yes! Too easy.

      November 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  6. are122

    Those judges said it had the effect of "affiliating the town with Christianity." <~~ How silly. Time they do like schools and many other towns in the news...affiliate with guns!

    November 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  7. Friend of Brian H.

    Why can't those organizations just eliminate a beginning prayer? Or just have a moment of silence? Each seems like a logical answer to the problem. But, as an agnostic myself, I believe that "majority rules." If there's going to be a prayer and most of the participants are Christian, then have it be a Christian prayer. If most are agnostic (which probably wouldn't happen), then have no prayer at all. I know I am going to get shrieked at. Well, shriek away...

    November 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      so if slavery in a small town is OK by the majority, we should allow it there?

      November 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
      • Skarphace

        Exactly. This is why the US is not a democracy, but rather a democratic republic. We would not need a supreme court if majority ruled. We would just vote on every issue. Such a practice would lead to a theocracy, which is what most Christians want, but is not what our founding fathers envisioned.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • skytag

      "Majority rules" is a poor and even dangerous alternative to doing the right thing.

      "Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote. Those rights are spelled out in the Bill of Rights and in our California Constitution. Voters and politicians alike would do well to take a look at the rights we each hold, which must never be chipped away by the whim of the majority." — Marvin Simkin

      November 2, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  8. Gabe

    I'm an atheist and thank god this town has nothing more to worry about than prayers....

    November 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      I use to live in that town.. most are not religious. However christian witchcraft is still the choice among others.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Dan J

    A few things about this.
    She won't win her case. If congress opens up every day with a prayer, and a prayer is done at almost every political national event, this is going to be almost impossible to fight.
    Assuming this prayer is optional, it makes it that more difficult.
    Prayer can be a form of meditation, and you can pray to the human spirit, as many atheists do, so assuming people have the option of offering a prayer that doesn't apply to a specific faith, its a bit hard to argue, even if the majority of people who end up leading the prayer are doing Christian prayers. My guess is that 99% of the population identifies themselves as Christian, so it wouldn't be surprising if 99% of the prayers represented that faith.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      99% not likely. christian is on the way out..

      November 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Skarphace

      Once again, as long as you are open to Muslims worshiping alongside Christians then you have a case. However, Christians usually want their religion to have certain benefits, but not other religions. Just as when a mosque was set to open near the site of 9-11. You can bet these Christians would not have been upset if a Christian church were to open near the site. Hypocrites is what most Christians are.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • fmblog

      2012 Pew poll 73% of americans self identified as Christian, so no, not 99%, no matter what you guess.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • On the other. hand...

      She already won. It's Greece that is taking it to the SC.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • ed dugan

      Prayer can also be a form of belief in the tooth fairy, which is all the good it does anyway. As an athiest the only thing I ask christians to do is just SHUT UP! Go to your temples of hate on sunday, listen to the religious huckster tell you how to live your life, and go home. No problem with that at all. Just SHUT UP about your beliefs and I will do the same about mine.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  10. whatever

    Poor little aetheist didn't get their way. Waah waah waah! They sound like a bunch of spoiled children.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      you sound so mature

      November 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Steel On Target

      You sound like a Republican.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • D

        You sound like a Democrat

        November 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • skytag

          One doesn't have to be a Democrat to be tired of Republicans' obnoxious behavior. Many of us are former Republicans turned independent.

          November 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • sam stone.

      as opposed to the christians who sue at the drop of a hat?

      November 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Skarphace

      So you would be ok with Muslims throwing down mats and worshiping Alah beside these "prayer circles"? My guess is not. You want your religion to be seen as special and that is unconst.itutional.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • On the other. hand...

      Au contraire. The city of Greece is the one with the petition before the SC. I guess Christians lack reading comprehension.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • doobzz

      One of the plaintiffs is Jewish. I guess you don't have very good reading comprehension skills. Your spelling sucks, too.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  11. naturechaplain

    This case should never have to take the time of the Supreme Court in this secular nation. E Pluribus Unum was our longtime motto until "In (Our Best and Only) God We Trust" divided the one nation indivisible. I hope against hope the court upholds the appeals court ruling and sends the strong (and very American) message that citizens of all religions and no religions are fully welcomed in the public square. Publically supported evangelism must stop.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Skarphace

      Those who think that our country was founded on the principle you describe are ignorant. Here is the fact: "From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861."

      Our country was not founded in 1861. Try again.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
      • Skarphace

        Oh, I misunderstood your argument. Sorry. I will try again.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Petercha0001

    They need to use the Disqus format for this comment section. The current format is no good.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  13. The Thinker1958

    prayers are before you and your God. praying in a group just to be watch praying is a selfish act. Has nothing to do with religion. You can't pray in an office from the Government. Christian's wouldn't accept Muslim praying on their rugs so why anybody else accept Christian prayers. Is a 2 way street.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  14. catsighting

    Leftism is the greatest most dangerous religion. So every word out of her mouth when she is on government property should be censored as well. She should not be allowed to say anything because it is preaching her religion of Atheism.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's possible for atheists to have a religion, one that doesn't involve gods, but atheism is not itself a religion.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • Stefan

        Disagree. The foundation of Atheism is the faith that there is no and cannot be any spiritual being (god). Any movement that makes a faith-based, nonfactual idea regarding something spiritual their central theme is a religion in my book.

        November 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
        • G to the T

          It's not a faith based position. If I was asserting the certainty of their being nothing that could in any way be called "god", you may have a point. But what I (and most atheists I know) have is a degree of confindence in things, not a certainty.

          Based on all the evidence provided so far, I am unconvinced of(i.e. have a high level of confidence against) the existence of anything from the "supernatural" realm, but I am open to the possiblity that new arguments may change that position. It is because I lack "faith" that I don't currently believe that the concept of "god" is a valid one. Now if you want to start talking about a specific god, say El/Yahweh, that would be a different confidence level as we have more data that can be presented and/or evaluated. Again, I have found the evidence lacking. So I have a fairly high confidence level there is no god, and a very high confidence level that if there is one, it's probably not the one as portrayed in bibles.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
        • Sara

          Atheism is simply the lack of belief or disbelief in gods. That is the definition. Even if you take the stronger case of disbelief, that is no different than a disbelief in faeries or 5,000lb strawberries. Are those disbeliefs religions?

          November 6, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      never heard of that religion. Is that like not having a disease is a disease... or like bald is a hair color?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Skarphace

      So you actually believe that all Democrats are athiests? All "Leftists" are of the same "religion"? Athiesm is a religion? What you believe is called "justification", not "reality".

      November 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Leftism: belief that people can effect positive change through social and political means. Doesn't answer too many of the fundamental questions, so, admirable as it is, it's not a religion.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Leftism, a very dangerous, radical group trying to overthrow the dominant right-handed nature of the world?

      November 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  15. Guest

    How very encouraging to see all the rational postings on this site; so very unlike the religious outrage and ramblings so often found on the Yahoo news site whenever someone mentions keeping religion in its proper place . . . in the religious folks' home and in their churches.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  16. loudmusic

    2013, and we're still fighting the Scopes trial, huh? Go watch "Inherit The Wind", folks, and we'll talk again real soon.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  17. MandoZink

    It could be worse. They could use a Ouija board or "magic-8-ball" to make decisions at the town meetings. Very similar principal.

    These theists really should do their personal incantations before, or after, the meetings. They need to be in a rational state of mind, however, at the meeting itself.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      we should have never let them out of their caves

      November 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  18. al

    if atheists are right. then we must have evolved from a monkey as they believe. so then we are animals and we should not even have laws. any kind of laws we should just be able to go screw any female we like just like animals and not worry about loving them let the female raise those pups just like most wild animals, why have marriage at all. just be wild like animals.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Skarphace

      Evolution does not show that we evolved from monkeys. In fact, evolution shows that humans did not evolve from monkeys. All you are doing with your argument is showing your ignorance on the subject of evolution. Why don't you do some research and when you know a bit more about what you are talking about then get back to us.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        the poster is an embarrassment o human intelligence.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      wow.. I wouldn't post your name next the that post. Quite embarrassing piece.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • On the other. hand...

      Hmmmmm. More marriages that end in divorce are Christian.
      Slippery slope fallacy much?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
      • Skarphace

        Exactly. The irony of Christianity is that the followers of Christ only follow the tenants of God's Law when it suits their purposes.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        vast majority in jails are christian.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • yup

          I have it on good authority that Christ himself is locked up in prison for pedo crimes. I know this because every convict ever released has found him in prison.

          November 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • MandoZink

      It is frightening when Christians describe what they would do without the crutch of religion. We wish all people were capable of rational and moral thinking, but then they write stuff like this.

      Some religious folks may need serious psychiatric treatment before they are able to face reality. Please don't leave your church without it.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        one of the best comments yet

        November 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I wonder if believers cringe when fellow believers like "al" write the crap the do?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • ME II

      @al,
      1) Atheism does equate to evolution. Evolution is science.
      2) We did not evovle from monkeys; we evolved from a common ancesstor with all Apes.
      3) Why does being animals, which we are, mean that we shouldn't have laws?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • ME II

        <- "Atheism does [NOT] equate to evolution."

        November 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
      • are122

        I think it's a miracle that male and female evolved simultaneously! Of some 5 million species yet!

        November 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
        • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

          I find it expected..

          November 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • ME II

          "I think it's a miracle that male and female evolved simultaneously! "

          One of the silliest concepts ever to come out of Living Waters, Ray Comfort, et. al.. Except of course the Banana Proof of creationism.

          November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • skytag

          Why is this a miracle? Not all species have a gender and members of some species can change gender. Clownfish (the stars of Finding Nemo) are an example of a specie that can change gender.

          November 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bryan

      That made absolutely no sense....there is zero logic in your attempt to be logical

      November 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • skytag

      More evidence religion makes people stupid.

      November 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Walt

    Both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives offer prayers and even have Chaplains, all Christians, on their staff.

    How will this affect that?

    November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Guest

      Hopefully, it will prevent this incredibly expensive waste of time that we taxpayers are paying for.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        it is pretty sad they practice witchcraft and voodoo

        November 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • naturechaplain

      As a Chaplain for many years I have serious problems with any government-sponsored religious professional. In our current climate of preacher-politicians one question should be asked repeatedly: When do you have TIME to spend (and taxpayer money to spend) on promoting your self-righteous faith when you are paid to work hard for ALL the American people, faith or no faith?

      November 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Sara

      Hopefully it will bring an end to wasting time and money on such inappropriate activities.

      November 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  20. Skarphace

    To those advocating worship during governmental meetings, I ask the following: would it be ok by you if people would put down mats and give service to Allah during these meetings? If that is ok by you, then you have an argument. If not, you don't.

    November 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bob

      The Christians in the group would throw a fit if that happened.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
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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.