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. rh

    How about the "National Day of Common Sense"?

    Or the "National Day of Civility"?

    November 3, 2013 at 2:24 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      How about "A moment of science"?

      November 3, 2013 at 2:38 am |
  2. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    I Stand at the Door

    By Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group)

    I stand by the door.
    I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
    The door is the most important door in the world –
    It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
    There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
    When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
    Crave to know where the door is.
    And all that so many ever find
    Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
    They creep along the wall like blind men,
    With outstretched, groping hands,
    Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
    Yet they never find it.
    So I stand by the door.

    The most tremendous thing in the world
    Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
    The most important thing that any man can do
    Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
    And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
    And opens to the man's own touch.

    Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
    On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
    Die for want of what is within their grasp.
    They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

    Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
    And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
    So I stand by the door.

    Go in great saints; go all the way in –
    Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
    And way up into the spacious attics.
    It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
    Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
    Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
    Some must inhabit those inner rooms
    And know the depths and heights of God,
    And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
    Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
    Sometimes venture in a little farther,
    But my place seems closer to the opening.
    So I stand by the door.

    There is another reason why I stand there.
    Some people get part way in and become afraid
    Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
    For God is so very great and asks all of us.
    And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
    And want to get out. 'Let me out!' they cry.
    And the people way inside only terrify them more.
    Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
    For the old life, they have seen too much:
    One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
    Somebody must be watching for the frightened
    Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
    To tell them how much better it is inside.
    The people too far in do not see how near these are
    To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
    Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
    But would like to run away. So for them too,
    I stand by the door.

    I admire the people who go way in.
    But I wish they would not forget how it was
    Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
    The people who have not yet even found the door.
    Or the people who want to run away again from God.
    You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
    And forget the people outside the door.
    As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
    Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
    But not so far from men as not to hear them,
    And remember they are there too.

    Where? Outside the door –
    Thousands of them. Millions of them.
    But – more important for me –
    One of them, two of them, ten of them.
    Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
    So I shall stand by the door and wait
    For those who seek it.

    'I had rather be a door-keeper
    So I stand by the door.

    November 3, 2013 at 2:11 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Too long.

      November 3, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • rh

      How can you run away from Someone who is omniscient and omnipotent?

      Or is He made up?

      November 3, 2013 at 2:24 am |
      • DaBudaMasta

        If gOd does not exist, then it will be necessary to invent a gOd

        November 3, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • berryrat

      Nice poem, although it assumes there is only one door (path) to divinity. Look around and you might see that many have found other doors.

      November 3, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  3. Peteyroo

    If you want government to sponsor/be supported by religion, move to Iran. It's a very religious country. You can see how religion has made them kind, generous, and open to diversity.

    November 3, 2013 at 2:03 am |
    • Andy

      Wrong. Christianity is one of the only religions that tolerates others. You are a proof of that.

      November 3, 2013 at 2:56 am |
      • lerianis

        Wrong. Islam has tolerance of all religions and even Atheism in it, the problem is that you have some radical Mullahs trying to bull that "Islam wants you to kill the infidels!"

        November 3, 2013 at 3:03 am |
      • Cynthia Avishegnath

        Have you read Church and European History lately. "Church and European History" is a whole branch of history that spans 1900 years of the development of the Church and in parallel to Europe.

        In it are details of Church doctrinal differences, the Christians killing each other and killing others. Inquisition is a major bookmark in this branch of history. I am so surprised you don't know this.

        November 3, 2013 at 3:13 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Really??? Tell that to LGBT.

        November 3, 2013 at 3:17 am |
      • berryrat

        If Christians are so tolerant, how do you explain the Witchcraft Act of 1604 by King James. Later, even King James didn't support this law; however, it was not struck down. This was used to burn, kill, and murder anyone suspected of practicing witchcraft, including countless innocents. Heck, they even hung a dog for witchcraft one time. This same law was used in Salem to murder suspected witches.

        No, Christianity is not the religion of tolerance. Even today, as a Wiccan, I deal with people who without a bit of research, declare me to be a worshipper of Satan, even though most WIccans do not believe in Satan.

        November 3, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • DaBudaMasta

      Very true. It applies to all Islamic Republics or Islamic Monarchy. Just try to go there and tell them you want to lead a Christian prayer in their meeting, that is any meetings which has nothing to do with government business. I doubt if you can live another minute. They will skin you alive for sure.

      November 3, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Dandintac

      My stepbrother is Iranian. Iran IS diverse. He's actually a Christian. Many of his family are Muslim. My sister went with him to Iran to visit his family this past year. She found that the people WERE kind, and generous, and tolerant of diversity. The image you and so many others have come as a result of a biased media, as well as a big swath of our population and politicians who still can't get past the Iran Hostage Crisis. Although most of the people really like Americans, and are pro western, the government was structured so that only the religious elite can hold power.

      Iran is a textbook example of what happens when the people give in to the promises and sweet talk of religion–"TRUST US. Let US take power. It is God's will! Really!" And when theocracy becomes the spearhead of a revolution, it's always the most extreme, most fundamentalist factions that float to the top in the turmoil that follows. Once religion takes hold of a country's government, the only way it will let go is when you pry its cold dead hands from the levers of power. The irony is the Christians in this country actually have more to fear, in terms of religious oppression and subjugation, from their fellow theists than they do from atheists. And religion can be very patient, and is quite willing to start small and work their way up, slowly accreting power.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  4. Cynthia Avishegnath

    Koine Greek means old street language or market language Greek. It was the language used to write the Greek parts of the Christian gospels and the various epistles. In those days, the word "synagogue" means "town hall" and had no religious connotation, except as a place mostly in the market area for Jews of the town to settle their business and complaints. When the temple was destroyed, the synagogue became increasingly central to Jewish religion.

    During the time of Jesus, the "synagogue" was a purely secular/non-religious place. Therefore, bibles should translate that word to "town hall". Here is a passage which Jesus is said to have said in Matthew 6:5.

    "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the townhalls and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

    So Christians deliberately refuse to translate that word to "townhall" in their bibles, so that they could have the excuse to continue praying or teebowing at public meetings, even though Jesus clearly forbade it.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • miscreantsall

      Hmmmmmmm……Cynthia, your explanation is slightly off as is your rationale.

      You might want to revisit some of what you say. Jesus had major objections with the synagogues BecausE of their commercial nature (they were supposed to be a place of worship, hence his strong objection).

      Now as far as the original meaning of synagogue (even before the time of Jesus)? I will have to research that.

      Back to the article:

      I'm not an atheist but I just don't get why this constant drive to mix one's faith in government, schools, business, sports, etc. One's spirituality should be personal and private with one's "superior" power.

      It just never stops, as if the more one insists on imposing one's faith on others and bringing one's god into everything like sports, government, war, politics, school, etc. is going to give you a better relationship with your god and make you a btter person. Bull s__t! You all are sadly mistaken. Your intent in this activity is not spiritual, it is about control and power over others. And ThaT is not going to get YoU in your heaven. You will see………….the joke will be on you.

      Religion is man made and quite disgusting with the history to prove it.

      There are very few people that are truly spiritual because that entails having a personal and private relationship with your "maker".

      November 3, 2013 at 2:22 am |
      • Cynthia Avishegnath

        I went to Christian Bible school for a year and studied Koine Greek. Ask bible scholars and they would agree with me.

        November 3, 2013 at 2:35 am |
      • Cynthia Avishegnath

        You confuse between overturning of the money changers' table in the TEMPLE with the secular mentions of synagogue by Jesus. You need to read your bible properly, at least using Strong's.

        November 3, 2013 at 2:38 am |
  5. Journey

    Ted Cruz 2016

    November 3, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      Hehe... we can only hope.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Observer

      Democrats sure hope he will run for the Republicans. It's like having Palin, Bachmann and Perry running.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:57 am |
      • glennrobert

        Cruz for dog catcher.

        November 3, 2013 at 3:47 am |
    • Andy

      Ted Cruz 2016! Dems think that they can make CNN and other media portrait him as crazy. But I think people are fed up with Obama and libs and will not believe their media any more. I hope at least.

      November 3, 2013 at 2:59 am |
      • truthprevails1

        He is crazy. Maybe you don't see it because you're in his camp..ignorance does love bliss! Leave the trailer park little boy and get an education, then you'll comprehend how pathetic Cruz is!

        November 3, 2013 at 3:19 am |
      • glennrobert

        The Tea Party cost the Republicans a chance in the last two elections and are on course to cost them the next two.

        November 3, 2013 at 3:50 am |
  6. Tom

    Atheism = lame excuse.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Pseudotriton

      excuse for what? If anything, religion is the lazy way out for every question and problem in life.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  7. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    in 2007 there were 22,879,720 crimes in the united states. if each criminal, tried and found guilty in a court of law, had his right hand chopped off as punishment, would you expect the number of crimes to increase or decrease the next year?

    November 3, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Scott

      Irrelevant question. But, baed on evidence, it would have no effect on crime.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:17 am |
  8. Erik

    "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."


    Proof positive that there is no God (either that or he/she just isn't listening).

    November 3, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • Doris

      Maybe this case will lead to the abolishment of that position. Madison would approve.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  9. Bootyfunk

    pray before you get to work. it's really that simple. pray after. you just don't get to pray during.

    pray at home.
    pray at church.
    pray in a park.
    but you don't get to have state sponsored prayer in a gov't building.

    christians, no one is attacking your religion. you have had a special status in this country. it's going away. your religious beliefs will soon be equal to other people's beliefs - deal with it.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • Henry CA

      If you don't like it, you can move to another country.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:16 am |
      • Observer


        Can we count on your leaving if the SCOTUS doesn't vote the way you want?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:18 am |
      • Pseudotriton

        Why is that "leave the country" always the knee jerk reaction from the neo-cons? Why can't you move to another country then? Maybe you want to move a theocratic country where prayer is standard in everything?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:21 am |
      • OldSchool

        Like the Founders?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • mountainlady

      Thank you. That's exactly what this country is moving toward. Christianity has had its day as ruling the US. The religious freedom that the founding fathers thought they were buying ended up being "in God we trust" and "under God" despite their determination to separate church and state. If Americans truly respect freedom of religion, then a time for prayer should be left to the individual and NOT announced. If you believe.... believe. Stop forcing that idea on the rest of us.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:39 am |
  10. Hans

    I was an atheist at one time. Though I kept my mind open to understand truth, to look upon the universe with an open mind and heart and try to understand it in the way that the universe wanted to be understood, and not have my personal beliefs or perspective try to dictate truth, and I found God, and Jesus Christ. Having an open mind and seeing the evidence is enough, but then to dig deeper and notice the prophecies, and the rest of the evidence...this isn't about religion, but about creation, truth, who we are, and our purpose here. It's about having a spiritual relationship, a communion with God who lives within us, wanting so bad for us to listen to Him. I pray that your hearts and minds are opened that you accept what God is revealing.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i don't think you know what the word "evidence" means.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • sRj

      Thats fine if that's how you feel but the issue here is keeping government and religion separated.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • pencilz

      That's lovely for you. Really. It makes me glad when others are happy and fulfilled. Problem is, it has absolutely nothing to do with the case here about prayer before a government meeting. Which is the point.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • mountainlady

      Good for you. I'm happy for you... truly. But don't impose your personal belief decisions on the rest of us.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:40 am |
  11. Kenrick Benjamin

    Atheist don't believe in Gods amen. Glory be to JEHOVAH God.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      Praise be to Thor, the mighty thunder god, destroyer of the frost giants!

      November 3, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Cynthia Avishegnath

      One of the reasons why Jewish fundamentalists do not like praying with Christians is the concept of the almighty NAME.

      The NAME is a multidimensional name, of infinite dimensions. That means the pronunciation is beyond verbal. Even in the verbal, you need to understand the Hebrew grammar in order to pronounce every paradigmatic permutation possible that the name can be inflected in Hebrew. And then the NAME has to be pronounced by your living of your life, by your intense gathering of knowledge of His creation, by your every righteous mode, even the impossible modes.

      By simply pronouncing "yahweh" or "jehovah", you have taken the NAME in vain. You have ignored all other dimensions required to pronounce the NAME. You have committed perjury and treated the NAME pejoratively. The English word pejorative means – like calling your Chinese friend a chink. By pronouncing "yahweh", you have treated the NAME with disrespect.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • Scott

      Praise be to the flying spaghetti monster.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Kenrick Benjamin

      The Bible stated they would be Atheist.

      November 3, 2013 at 3:13 am |
  12. Cynthia Avishegnath

    Being Jewish, I am not in favour of prayer in public meetings. Mainly, those "prayer sessions" are a masquerade of praying to Jesus. When they pray "dear Lord", I know they are praying to Jesus. Or when they pray "dear father in heaven", I know they are referring to Jesus as "the son".

    Many times, we are suckered into practicing idolatry by praying to Jesus. It is in their mind right – I shouldn't be bothered. NO, I will not pray to Jesus, nor to Krhishna, nor to Buddha, in every way possible. So leave praying out of public meetings so that I would not be thrown into the lion's den to idolatry of Jesus.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'm an atheist. i support you and your religious rights not to have someone else's religion pushed on you.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Hans

      Jesus is the messiah, foretold by the prophets. He shall return again, and we both shall rejoice that messiah has come!! (BTW – Jesus is Jewish as well.)

      November 3, 2013 at 1:54 am |
      • Cynthia Avishegnath

        Jesus is not, has never been and never will be the king of Jews nor our messiah.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:56 am |
        • Hans

          Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Moses all prophesied it. Our desires or feelings doesn't change the truth. Read and understand the Torah and you will see Christ revealed in it. The Old Testament has become my favorite for that reason.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:04 am |
        • Bootyfunk

          my favorite bible prophecy is when jesus said he'd come back before all his disciples died. he didn't.

          bible = fail

          November 3, 2013 at 1:09 am |
        • Doris

          "prophesied it."

          Well you shouldn't expect them to have gained traction with new club members unless the new screenplay fit nicely with the popular belief of that time.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:11 am |
        • Hans

          When you look at prophecy it states that Damascus would no longer be a city, that the Third Temple would be built, and Christ mentioned the reader before the Word was written. You speak of what you don't know from a hardened heart attacking the pure love of Jesus Christ. He did nothing but want to set us free, and love us unconditionally and teach us to do the same for one another, yet even today he is spit upon, beaten, lied about. Forgive this country Lord for our disbelief.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:15 am |
        • Observer


          The problem with the Bible is the things his father did.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:17 am |
        • pencilz

          bootyfunk–obviously, one or more of the disciples is still around. That's the only thing that makes sense, right? Vampire, zombie, or just in general immortal.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:17 am |
        • Hans

          His Father?? God did nothing but our of love and necessity to a created being He gave free will to. We chose are destiny. Cities he had to destroy for they became like a cancer spreading evil to the rest of mankind. Would you not cut out cancer from your body? Would you call that wrong? Yet we argue with God for doing the same from our world?

          November 3, 2013 at 1:37 am |
        • Observer


          When God got done, he only found EIGHT people worth saving in the entire world and people he created. Trump would have fired him.

          He wiped out every child, baby and fetus on the face of the earth. Not one Christian can name ONE SIN they committed.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:42 am |
        • Hans

          From the flood?? Read Genesis 6. There was so much sin, violence and abominations.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:25 am |
      • Bootyfunk

        if jesus did live, he was either a liar or crazy. he certainly wasn't the son of a deity. he wasn't born of a virgin. he didn't do any of the magic he's credited with in the bible. so, did he believe he was the son of a god? if he did, he was crazy. if he knew he wasn't the son of a god and told everyone he was, then he was a liar. jesus - liar or crazy?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:00 am |
        • Hans

          If you're not open that the Messiah exists or that we are in need of a Messiah then you won't see him coming. Jesus did nothing but love everyone that even upon that cross, bleeding and dying, he forgave, saying "Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing!" That's more than crazy my friend, that's divine love, for no one commenting here can express such sentiment. The Messiah has come!! Soften your hearts and experience this joy, for the time is short!!

          November 3, 2013 at 1:11 am |
        • Pseudotriton

          Jesus is coming! Are you gonna spit or swallow?

          November 3, 2013 at 1:17 am |
        • Hans

          Perversion is a sign of a dark and disturbed mind and soul which can be healed with the love of Jesus. We let ourselves be controlled by our base desires and lusts and we become slaves to it, rather than live with gentle and honest hearts. When you are in your darkest place know that Jesus is there and that he can heal you by trusting in Him, openly and honestly. It doesn't always happen over night, but by simply allowing it to happen, your heart will start to change and you will be reborn.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:24 am |
        • Observer


          Jesus NEVER said bad things about gays, but had MANY bad things to say about the s3x habits of heteros. Are you one of the HYPOCRITES who chooses to put gays down rather than choose the more important Golden Rule?

          November 3, 2013 at 1:26 am |
      • Pseudotriton

        Jesus is a fictional character.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:01 am |
  13. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    watson is the prototype brain cloned addition. jeopardy's best, awestruck by its intelligence, bowing to its superiority, recognized it remains a souless contraption of inanimate materials, pulses of electicity as zeroes and ones switching through tiny mazes at close to the speed of light and nothing more. it does nothing on its own. it cannot love or worshp

    November 3, 2013 at 1:39 am |
  14. rach

    I am sorry, it is getting really boring and uninteresting to see atheists just go after the same things over and over. So redundant. They all use the same verbiage, "Fairy tales, imaginary, etc" and disapprove of public prayer, holidays and certain books. Then the atheists want to talk down to anyone with a belief in God as though they are a lesser developed human that is incapable of thinking for themselves. Yawn.... so redundant. Nothing new to report here, wonder why I wasted time reading this article??? Just once could an atheist go criticize a vegan or something???

    November 3, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Answer

      "Ya go and pick on the muslims or something else.."

      "You are boring me with the same stuff."

      "I eat everyday and breathe the same kind of air. I need a new kind of air and new kinds of stuff to eat."

      ~whine and blah.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:45 am |
    • Doris

      Aren't there Christian vegans, rach?

      November 3, 2013 at 1:46 am |
    • Observer


      Get serious. Believers just want to repeat the same handful of quotes from the Bible over and over. The problem is that many of them only know that much about the Bible making them such hypocrites.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      you sure do show a one-sided story, rach. i've been told countless times that i'm going to burn in hell or that i'm an evil sinner, blah blah blah. it happens from your side, too. and want to talk about repeti.tive? you guys keep quoting from a single book!

      November 3, 2013 at 1:55 am |
      • Hans

        Its actually 66 books bound by some for convenience into one book. Hell is only the absence of God's presence. We aren't sent there, we chose to go there, because we have been given this choice today, that we either accept or deny. He gave us this choice and the time to chose out of love and free will.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:18 am |
        • Observer


          "Hell is only the absence of God's presence. We aren't sent there, we chose to go there, because we have been given this choice today, that we either accept or deny"

          Nope. We are sent there automatically if we lived in areas or times where no one ever heard of God.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:21 am |
        • Hans

          Not true. Romans 9:?? speaks of the Gentiles who had the "Word" inscribed upon their hearts as a matter of conscience, and that they will be judged accordingly. And that those who had the "Law" ie scriptures will be judged accordingly to the "Law" that they were given. Jesus then fulfilled the "Law" and freeing us from that judgement, salvation being granted based on our Faith. Yet our sins are to be accounted for in heaven in terms of our rewards in heaven.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:43 am |
        • Observer


          "And that those who had the "Law" ie scriptures will be judged accordingly to the "Law" that they were given."

          Nope. Billions of people never lived anywhere that had the Bible, Jesus, or God or "scriptures".

          You've missed the question on gays. Why?

          November 3, 2013 at 1:48 am |
        • Hans

          Sorry, it was Romans 2:14 – many who never heard of God are saved.

          November 3, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • Earthling

      You nailed it with "unable to think for themselves."

      November 3, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • Pseudotriton

      well, if Christians or other religions could come up with something new other than quoting from a fairy tale book, maybe atheists could come up with some new rebuttals then.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:05 am |
  15. Connor

    If SCOTUS does uphold the lower court's decision then I truly hope that the ruling goes down as a landmark decision that catalyzes a movement to remove "god" from our government meetings, money, and laws. Hopefully this will then help many Americans to realize that they don't need religion to conduct their personal lives.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Hans

      God created you. No intelligent being can self create, but must have a creator, like a computer cannot self program but must have a programmer. Law of entropy states all things progress to a state of disorder, meaning that we came from a more perfect past, rather than a less organized one. A more perfect past points towards intelligent design over random chaos. It's unfortunate that entropy is affecting this countries intellect as well. Forgive us Lord of this countries disrespect.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:52 am |
      • Observer


        Christian Hypocrisy:

        (1) For anything to exist, something must have created it
        (2) God exists
        (3) Nothing created God

        November 3, 2013 at 1:55 am |
        • Hans

          God resides outside of creation as creator. Our laws of nature, and our ability to understand and form logical assertions exist within creation. To compare what lies within creation to what lies on the outside is not good logic. The rules are different. It's like computers trying to understand the mind of man, who are they to argue, man programmed it. Same with God. Who are we to argue or ponder the nature of God, we simply cannot understand, as much as a computer can understand the mind of man outside it's program – just not possible.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:50 am |
        • Observer


          "God resides outside of creation as creator. Our laws of nature, and our ability to understand and form logical assertions exist within creation."

          Yep. So you can't know or comprehend what goes on up there. So there's no need to claim you can.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:53 am |
        • Hans

          I claim only what He has revealed to us by His input, not by my understanding or way of logic. We cannot know by definition everything, nor can we deduce by logic the matters of our heart, spirit, nor creation because of our very finite existence, which is why it takes faith.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:52 am |
        • Check

          "I claim only what He has revealed to us by His input,"

          Revealed? Like these?

          – You cure leprosy by having a dove killed, dipping a live one in its blood and having it fly around. Also, you have to anoint the toes of the suffer with the blood.–Leviticus 14

          – You discover unfaithful wives when their bellies swell and their thighs rot after they are made to drink some magical water. – Numbers 5

          – Prized striped goats are bred by having the mating parents stare at striped objects. –Genesis 30

          – You may buy, own, sell, and will slaves to your descendants (only foreigners for slaves, though, no Israelis) –Leviticus 25

          - “If two men are fighting, and the wife of one man tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the other man’s private parts, you must cut off her hand. Don’t have any mercy." Deuteronomy 25

          There are several other similar instances of absolute rubbish that this "God" purportedly "spoke", along with a bunch of other rules and laws that are obviously only from the minds of primitive men. How anyone can believe that this stuff came from an omniscient divine being is ludicrous.

          November 3, 2013 at 3:00 am |
        • Hans

          Check –

          You have misquoted and taken much out of context. Numb 5 does not say you discover an unfaithful women by her thigh's wasting away or her abdomen swell....you'll have to read it, I can't explain it all here. But it starts with jealously within the husband, which is a sin (jealousy) and the ritual that cleansed them of it. with the woman taking an oath...

          November 3, 2013 at 3:15 am |
        • Check

          Go ahead and read it, Hans. Sure it starts with male jealousy, but Moses declared that the "The Lord" TOLD him these precise instructions to discern the female's guilt in the matter.

          November 3, 2013 at 3:27 am |
      • Earthling

        Your lack of understanding of science and reality is appalling.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:58 am |
        • Hans

          As far as science goes. We are held to the scientific method, and must follow the steps of the method. Unfortunately when we look at evolution, there are assertions which are held so far in the theoretical past that the experiment cannot be conducted nor can it be repeated. Evolution by definition is just another religion. No one can prove or disprove it, it requires faith. One of the pillars of Evolution, the dating of the Earth, rock, etc... is flawed because it relies on the assumption that the atmosphere was constant, that the isotopes of whatever element they test for is constant today as it was in antiquity (or at the very least have a constant and predictable state of change.) Unfortunately this has not been proven, and there is much to say on the contrary, that the atmosphere has been far from constant. Mt. St. Helens after eruption with new rock dated to 100,000,000 years in the 1980's. It's flawed.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:56 am |
        • Observer


          Your repeated refusal to answer my question on gays, ACTUALLY did answer it. Just as I thought. Thanks. Good luck.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:01 am |
        • Hans

          I did answer a couple of times, but I didn't realize that the censor would cut out my message based on words I used. The answer is Love. Christ only mentioned s3xual immorality, but Paul clarified later, and the Old Testament says in many places that it is sin. But that hetero also sin, and sin is sin. Does this justify hate? No. Mary M. was going to be stoned, but Jesus stepped in and said "whoever has never sinned through the stone." Jesus could have, He never sinned, yet He told her I don't condemn you, now go and sin no more. He didn't say sin no more, and I won't condemn you. He doesn't condemn us, because of that Love.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:56 am |
      • Pseudotriton

        "No intelligent being can self create"

        Does that imply that dumb ones can? I see plenty of less sophisticated organisms creating their own offsprings. And a lot of dumb people do it too. Dumb people do it too much, in fact.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:09 am |
        • Hans

          Replication is not creation. We replicate because of very sophisticated DNA which was pre-programmed into us.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:59 am |
      • Thinker

        What proof do you have for this ? Other than "some religious guy wanted to sound scientific while still preaching the bible". There is no proof of your magic man in the sky. Astrology has shown everything in the universe is moving from a central point, leading to the Big Bang theory. That might not be exactly what happened but it's the best theory with the information available. I bet you think there were no dinosaurs either, that the bones were put there to test your faith.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:11 am |
        • Hans

          Big Bang fails within a few seconds of origination. Many other models also have merit, and it's flaws. Entropy is a scientific law that energy and matter disperse into a lesser state until equilibrium is reached. Lesser meaning less organized, and less organized meaning less dense. As a flame becomes less organized it becomes smaller and smaller and eventually burns out. The flame didn't disappear, it was just dispersed into the environment to such an extent that we can't see it. Like decay. From birth all things move towards death, it's part of entropy. We come from a more perfect past.

          November 3, 2013 at 2:10 am |
  16. wth

    why can't these people just pray to themselves before they go about their daily business? it is completely unnecessary to force a group prayer onto others, regardless of which god or nature spirit or whatever is being prayed to.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:38 am |
    • Brent

      Well, now. As a non-believer, I agree that it should not be REQUIRED to participate in such activities...but as someone who looks at the lives of vast majority, I understand that A: there are a large amount of Americans who pray, and B: Those individuals believe in unity during prayer... During all my years in the military, there have been several instances of prayer being a part of unit events, however I feel as though my stepping in would have only served to shut down a sense of unity. Is the practice of prayer in corporate events divisive? Only of A: it is REQUIRED, and B: If the nature of that prayer pits believers against non-believers. 7 years I've been on AD, in all that time I have NEVER felt discriminated against for not being a participant of prayer. It was a welcome invitation, not an order to participate...I will NOT step in-between the majority who hope for unity in prayer...Requiring all individuals participate and discriminating against those who don't adhere to Judaic Christian Ideas is one thing...but if they don't impede on my own personal rights...who am I to stop it? I feel as though incidents like this are being used to fuel a fire that doesn't need another dramatic log...

      November 3, 2013 at 1:49 am |
      • Bootyfunk

        if they truly believe in unity for prayer... why don't they meet together at one of their houses, or a church or at a park to pray BEFORE the gov't meeting? pray before you get to work. it's not infringing on anyone's rights to say pray before you get here. they clearly want to push their religion on others, want it to hold a special status. you're making excuses for them.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:57 am |
      • pencilz

        Except it's only unity of the Christians. Christian prayers deliberately exclude other religions and atheists/agnostics. If the point is to create unity of *Americans,* then how about singing the National Anthem? Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? "My Country 'Tis of Thee"? There are plenty of ways to create unity in a group of Americans without prayer–which only works if everyone there is religious, and religious in the "correct" way.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  17. Skeptic

    I pray to His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, daily.


    November 3, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • pencilz

      We need more Pastafarians in government!

      November 3, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Pseudotriton


      November 3, 2013 at 1:11 am |
  18. pencilz

    All these women want is no prayer before official government business. They're not telling anyone what to believe, trying to prevent anyone from exercising their religion, they just want government business to be done without a Christian prayer. Which sounds reasonable to me, as this isn't a theocracy. So what happens? They get threatening letters and their property is vandalized. By Christians, presumably, since no one else is arguing for the right to pray before town meetings. It's not actually an insult to Christianity, but even if it were, what happened to "turning the other cheek" and "don't throw stones" and all that other stuff by the famous guy, what was his name? Oh yeah. Jesus. That guy. The one that y'all supposedly venerate so much, but who is probably banging his head against the wall right now. Figuratively, of course.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • BldrRepublican

      You don't get to hold someone else to a standard that you yourself do not follow. If you do not "turn the other cheek", then you have no right to expect others to.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:32 am |
      • pencilz

        When someone self-describes as a Christian, yes, I expect them to uphold the basic tenets of the religion. Not everything, of course, there's been 2,000 years of arguments and schisms. But the basic stuff, such as the very few things that were supposedly said by the guy that they named the religion after...yeah, I expect people to follow them. I'm not telling anyone what to do, THEY say they're Christians. Just apparently the kind that ignores what Jesus said. And he didn't say anything like "OK, don't worry, you don't have to be nice to the unbelievers, they're infidels, after all." Which is pretty much what you just said. Funny how the atheists I know are nearly always more ethical than most of the religious people in my acquaintance. And I said "most," not all, so don't misunderstand that.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:46 am |
      • DVDon3

        I don't hear of any atheists going around vandalizing the property of Christians who want prayer, so I'm not sure what "standards" you're talking about.

        Oh and while w're at it, yes they do - people get to hold themselves to whatever standards thy believe - that's how it works. His point was that Christians purport to "turn the other cheek" and conduct themselves like Jesus, but in reality they do not. That's just a simple fact, as illustrated by this article. If you call yourself a Christian, the rest of us should expect you to act like one, but you cannot expect those of us who are not to act like one because we are not one. How is that confusing to you?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:51 am |
      • Erik

        You do get to hold others to the standards they set for themselves and last I checked the teachings of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible are unequivocally and uncompromisingly against violence of any sort. Or does the New Testament have a section endorsing hypocrisy of which I'm unaware?

        November 3, 2013 at 1:58 am |
        • Observer

          The problem is that his father is responsible for the Old Testament.

          November 3, 2013 at 1:02 am |
      • Earthling

        I'm pretty sure they didn't go out and vandalize anyone's property.

        November 3, 2013 at 1:00 am |
        • pencilz

          The property vandalized itself? Or are you accusing these women of lying?

          November 3, 2013 at 1:06 am |
      • Scott

        The irony of your post is astounding. The very idea of turning the other cheek nullifies your argument. Are you so dense as to not see that?!

        November 3, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  19. Where is your God now?

    sweet smelling flowers roam the sidewalks
    while big bellied dandelions platoon;

    the spring rains are falling a funny tune at the expense
    of a funny man;

    stepping on and off the curb, looking a bit bored;
    eyes up and shoes flexed for the sprint

    suddenly bright sun elbows its way between two clouds;
    a funny man flaps his ready feat into a small puddle and smiles

    the sun was sweet;
    it tasted warm on his tongue and eye lids

    November 3, 2013 at 1:26 am |
    • Where is your God now?

      he looked to the heavens to say think you
      thunder and a bolt of lightening

      a funny man was struck down
      umbrella at the ready; lips still smiling

      November 3, 2013 at 1:27 am |
  20. EvinAR

    Every year that Jesus doesn't come back, or the end of the world according to Muslims doesn't come, and that science discovers something about the way the Universe works... one more Atheist is born.

    There is NOTHING you can do to stop it.

    November 3, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • Earthling

      More than one.

      November 3, 2013 at 1:00 am |
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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.