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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. MMM

    Her last comment is what I question: "The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."

    My question to her is why should her view count more than everyone else in the town? Especially if the majority of the people in the town want the prayer. In her argument, if you have 100 people and 99 of them are comfortable with the prayer, but 1 isn't, we should make the other 99 now uncomfortable so the 1 can feel like she 'counts'.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Doris

      If the issue were not already covered under law, I would agree with you. But it is covered, and it's unconsti-tutional.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        Doris, The establishment clause states that the GOVERNMENT shall establish no religion. How is holding a moment of prayer, an act of a group of CITIZENS, establishing a religion?

        November 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • G to the T

          Because it shows the government favor towards a particular religious view (at the least, theism, though usually specifically christianity). Most are only OK with it as is because they happen to be part of that majority. But in order for religious freedom to apply to everyone equally, the government (and it's representatives) must be nuetral (NOT hostile) to religious views. I'm sure that if Muslims became the majority in our country you would have kind of an issue with prayers to allah being done before meetings. Religions freedom protects EVERYONE.

          November 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      it's not about majority rule, it's about rights, it's about equality
      rights and equality are not things that can be traded because of the tyranny of the majority
      what you're referring to is an observation, she was just stating the way she felt, she was not trying to make an argument out of it (i don't think), but even if she was, it's irrelevant

      November 3, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        What rights did the Christians infringe upon? How is a group sharing a moment of prayer violating an Atheists rights? BTW, no one has a right to not be offended. Would you prefer that everyone be exactly the same so no one could possibly be offended? We could all walk around like the bio-robots you think we are, how exciting would that be?

        November 3, 2013 at 10:37 am |
        • FreeFromTheism

          how about separation of church and state and freedom of religion? Do you think such things to be nonsense?

          November 3, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • PerceivedReality

        The establishment clause dictates that the GOVERNMENT shall not establish a religion. How does a moment of prayer practiced by CITIZENS establish a religion?

        November 3, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • john

      When in Rome do as the Romans do?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • sarah

        Do tourists go to government meetings?

        November 3, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Exactly! Why should Christians have to change everything they do to make a few Atheists happy? Why can't the Atheists just think about Einstein while the prayers are happening? If God is imaginary, then what is the harm that these poor, sensitive Atheists have to endure? Are Atheists upset when someone mentions Bugs Bunny? I know they get upset because they know in their consious that God is real! It breaks their eggshell worldview when someone mentions the truth of reality. How Atheists can look upon all that has been made, and then believe it is all random design from utter chaos hurled forth by absolute nothingness makes me wonder how they consider themselves logical and the apex of reason. To each his own, I am not offended when an Atheist expresses his belief that there is no God, I feel sorry for them, and that I will never get to share eternity getting to know, and enjoy them.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • FreeFromTheism

        there's a lot to comb through in your post, but I'll try to get to the point
        you simply do not understand what atheists think

        November 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • Doris

        Because it's an issue about separation of church and state and is already law and is there for a reason.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • Doris

        Because it's an issue about separation of church and state and is already law and it is there for a reason.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        You aren't being asked to change anything. You are being told that if you want to have a successful diverse society you have to leave off promoting your faith in public forums. You are being told that the Constitution of your nation requires it. And it's not just to suit atheists. It is to allow everyone in your society who is not of your faith to have an equal place to the one you hold.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:49 am |
        • G to the T

          I'm constantly amazed that most christians don't see how we're actually on the side of religious liberty in these cases. It's like they think religious liberty means "free to be a chrisitan".

          November 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Igaftr

      MMM.
      Let me show you why majority rule does not trump civil rights.

      A town of 10000...10% are minority. The majority says that no services are to be given to the minority groups.

      90% of the town agrees. Is it right to deny the 10% their rights, because the majority said so?

      Using the majority to trample others rights...your post says you are all for it...would you like to rethink that position?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • NSL

        Very well said! Very well said indeed!

        November 3, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Retired Soldier

      Ridiculous statement. The lack of a government endorsement of prayer, in a public meeting, should not make anyone feel uncomfortable. However, to systematically endorse a specific religion, as demonstrated over the past decade by Greece, definitely could make those of other religious beliefs, or no religious belief, feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

      Individuals are free to pray however they wish, yet cannot use a governmental body to show favoritism to one belief or non-belief. Remaining secular is not atheistic (no matter what some claim), after all they are not actively stating that there is no god. It is simply remaining neutral.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • 1man

      What don't you idiot religious freaks understand about separation of church and state? Lord Jesus save me from your followers!

      November 3, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  2. gr8sk8r

    What happened to separation of church and state? There is no reason prayers should be held at board meetings and the like. If you're wondering, I was raised to be a Christian but have not been to church in many, many years.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • john

      Me too. I started to do something called THINKING!

      November 3, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  3. steven

    religion is based on belief and faith.....one cannot be hung on the belief that they are guilty...guilt must be proven not believed in....so far there has never been any real proof of the existence of a supreme being....nuff said.....

    November 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  4. SuZieCoyote

    I do believe that humanity needs our God(s). Without belief, life has no meaning for most of us. But we need something other than religions that promote enslaving or conquering others and emphasize making money rather than helping people find faith and care for one another. There is a huge history of religions – all of them – repressing groups of people and justifying this repression through their hierarchies and books. Frequently, this repression has been beyond cruel. There are still many pockets of Christianity where the adherents will tell you that slavery is justified within in the bible. Pretty much *all* of the sects either overtly or subtly teach that women are lesser beings who are not capable and should not be given self-sovereignty. I believe in God, but not the God they feed me.

    November 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      There is a very interesting discussion about that at the conference "Beyond Belief," held in 2006. Personally, I think that it is harmful to have one's focus on an afterlife, because those kind of folks don't pay as much attention to the problems of the here-and-now. We all have to pitch in so this is a better place for today's and tomorrow's kids.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
      • john

        I agree. This is the life.The one and only. So grab on. Hold on. Live, love and laugh!

        November 3, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  5. Wonder why people hate you?

    Jew typically complaining about anything about Christianity..... Then they wonder why the world hates them!

    November 3, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • snowboarder

      well, considering that christianity is the bas tardization of the jewish faith, you can hardly blame them. same goes for muslims.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        the catholic church hated jews before and during the holocaust. Hitler was doing his christian job..

        Hitler even claimed he was christian, in writing and video, up to his death. Yes, he was a good christian.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  6. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    religion is the last group anyone should listen to for a moral compass.

    Thankfully it has been secular society which founded the USA with laws to keep religions in their place.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • justageek

      So an Atheist has never done such? The only thing this proves is a 'person' was crazy. To condemn a whole group based on an individual is insane.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

        thankfully secular society has kept christians and muslims tamed in the free world.

        Hadn't they, it'd be like the middle east here today,, except with christians.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  7. Shills

    So can I get to Supreme Court and let them know of the inequity and injustice I've experienced?

    November 3, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • snowboarder

      you certainly can. get cracking it takes a while.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • justageek

      Why wouldn't you be able to?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  8. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    ..religion allowed child ra– pe and so–d-om-to to go unpunished in the free world.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      Had this been a national day care center, the pope, bishops and cardinals would be si-tting in jails today.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:55 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        There's a reason the Catholic church has not apologized broadly, as they would then become broadly culpable.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Enough

      Those who were r-aped by clergy members were mostly boys.. They were r-aped by gay pedophiles. Don't hate the whole world because you can't identify the real guilty people.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Wow, do you ever stop with the ignorance? Most pedophiles are not gay. Pedophilia takes on a whole different level. Pedophiles do not care if it is male or female, only that they are fulfilling their sick desire toe be with a child. Pedophiles are also hetero and come from all walks of life.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • justageek

          "Most pedophiles are not gay" – He didn't say or imply that.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  9. Not undersanding atheism

    A.) Religion is the act of expressing something imaginary. (so far so good)

    B.) Religion is the use of symbols and songs to express an imaginary things(so far so good)

    C.) Religion should be outlawed (Ummm)

    D.) The use of symbols/songs/words to express imaginary things should be outlawed (?!?!?)

    What symbols? What songs? What words? More importantly how?

    November 3, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

      religion does sound rather childish.. Its roots have the same foundation as kids tree house rules and stories.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Not undersanding atheism

      I am sorry for your ptsd. It makes sense why you would protest.

      My point is this. Symbols pictures and words have no meaning other than the ones people collectively assign to them. There is no set list for this communication route either.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  10. waterman

    Good to see atheists stand up against dominance of religion in public sphere. They need to be more assertive. You can prey silently all you want, all day. It has no business in government proceedings, be it for one or many religions. Have a moment of silence if you must, and you can prey or not prey to whoever you want.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Nah, I like the public prayer sessions. It invokes a feeling of unity among Christians. Since the vast maority of any randomly assembled group will be Christian, it only makes sense to utilize prayer to bring a sense of unity to the group. If there are people of other faiths attanding, they can simply use the time to pray to their God. If a member has no god, they can simply remain silent.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Sarah

        Nah, it's just time stolen. And it's unconstitutional.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • waterman

        Ah, tyranny of the majority. If you are not the majority, you simply don't matter. You will have majority rituals showed upon you. Then, surely, you wouldn't mind if in any gathering if the majority were atheists or agnostics, then for them to denounce god, or if majority were muslims, for them to prey to allah? Or if majority were women then do feminine stuff, you know, to "bring a sense of unity" to the females and to exclude men?

        November 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Howdy1836

    of, not from

    November 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  12. Severe PTSD as a result of ra-pe by clergy

    tribes use to pray to their volcano gods, no different than christians and muslims. today,, wish they'd evolve.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      So you are more evolved? What benefit has your evolution played in your outward behaviors? How are you, as an Atheist, more advanced than me, a Christian? Please do tell.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  13. Dave - Phx

    LOL just make disruptive fart noises and whatnot while people are praying. If it's on my time and you didn't ask for my permission, don't expect me to participate and don't be offended when I do not. Respect for everyone would be that you pray at home before arriving at the stupid town hall.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Billy

      Excellent idea.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        No. Grow up.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Childish behavior from such an evolved mind of reason? Say it isn't so!

      November 3, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  14. Doris

    Ratifying the Consti-tution is one thing. Starting to really abide by it has taken quite some time. This is nothing more than progress towards that end.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      You have not a clue as to the spirituality of our founding fathers, it is obvious from you post.

      November 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • Doris

        Well it's difficult to determine the spirituality of anyone. Obviously this goes for historical figures as well. But some are have been quite prolific in their writings. Of more importance to this case though is the intent to separate church from state in the government. The key framers were quite clear on this.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  15. Jenny

    Why are stories concerning atheism always shuffled off to this Belief(ugh) Blog(ugh)?
    I never knowingly click on this "Belief" section (why encourage it in any way?) but that's usually what you get. Quit it, CNN!

    November 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • gary

      Truth hurts doesn't it...

      November 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
      • BigBankTheory

        Belief is not the truth, by definition. Look it up.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • BigBankTheory

      They should call it "Irrational Belief Blog" and keep the atheist related articles out of it.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Is it specified somewhere that Atheists are not to comment???

      November 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  16. BigBankTheory

    Now is the optimal time the world needs to stand firmly behind the complete elimination of fraud called religion, educate people and set up new cultural values based entirely on solid reasoning and science.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Fraud? So, to say this universe was created by Yah is a fraud? Its a belief, not a fraud. So these meetings are attending by an overwhelming majority of Christians who enjoy the prayers. A few lilly soft Athiests find the prayers offensive, and so we should just change everything o make them happy? No friend, you and your kind are the fraud. You people lie and say this country was not founded on Christian principles. 99% of the people who established and built this country were Christians, no denying that fact chum. America is the only country to be founded on Christian principles, it also has been the most successful at providing its citizens the most freedom and liberty. I guess you would call that a coincidence.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • Andrew

        The founders of this country were largely Deists and Masons and had very little in common with the Christian Theism that is practiced today. Thomas Jefferson for one, had all of the "miraculous" elements removed from his personal Bible.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
        • snowboarder

          I went one better. I removed the bible.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:58 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          No. Some of the founders were Christians, but the most prominent ones were deist. You are misrepresenting history.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • Doris

        "America is the only country to be founded on Christian principles"

        You may find that principles in the Consti-tution and Christianity share some common ideals, but certainly Christianity does not own such ideals.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • Doris

        "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

        Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind." –John Adams

        November 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • rafael

        They were deists. Consider the inaccuracy of your statement–would you like the country to be run according to deist principles? They were all men. Consider the irrationality of your statement–would you like the countrty to be run according to the desires of men? We are a democracy. Would you prefer middle-eastern style government?

        November 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • justageek

      You don't believe in free will do you?

      November 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  17. P.R.

    It just shocks me to think how much of my fellow Humanity still buys all this make-believe, dogmatic, control-measure crap...you know, here in the 21st Century and all. How much of your time, money, fear, guilt, shame, life have you devoted to your deity? And it's been worth it for you? The transaction has been equal?? While you have missed out on so much of living ACTUAL Human life??? //sigh//

    Take a little responsibility for YOURSELF for a change instead of hiding behind your mythical Sky Father and all his lying, self-serving servants and slaves and their dusty tomes of hypocritical, bigoted, cruel, Iron Age level mysticism, lies, and fables.

    Jeebus...are we REALLY still arguing about this nonsense???? The WORST Human export IMAGINABLE once we head out into the stars would be religion - what a curse that would be for us to unleash upon an unsuspecting Universe. "God" forbid, right? (natch)

    Wake up. Throw off the shackles of dogma, unveil your eyes from the controls of your CHOSEN (remember, just like EVERY religious Human who has gone before you regardless of their deity/deities, you CHOSE to follow your "God") faith...come join the remainder of us here in reality. Trust me, it isn't NEARLY as scary or bad as your "God" wants you to believe...

    November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • rick

      If you spent as much time fixing your own life as you do disrespecting the Christian way of life, you would be a fine upstanding citizen of your community. When you die, end of story. When we die, maybe, just maybe we will live forever because we believe in eternal life. Wouldn't it be better to believe you will live forever rather than die tomorrow or the next day of a heart attack of something else? If we are wrong then we are just like you. If we are right, think about what you could have had.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
      • snowboarder

        "live forever"

        what a pretty fantasy. how does anyone fall for that malarkey?

        November 3, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Billy

        When we die, maybe, just maybe you might go to Valhalla; but you might go to Aegir's.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Andrew

        Believing in something doesnt make it real. Just because it is pleasing to believe in eternal life does not make it so. You are just using it as a form of therapy for the realization that your life will one day end and there is nothing you can do about it. I personally want ice cream in the mail but... not happening either.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • justageek

          And not believing doesn't make something real or not real.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
        • G to the T

          Justageek – true, but I like to go where the evidence leads. So far, I've seen nothing to make me believe there is such a being.

          November 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
      • PerceivedReality

        Rick, Unfortunately Atheist think they are the most intelligent and logical people. They believe that everything came from nothing and all of creation is just a random apparition of an unknown reality. Somehow, they think that their intellect is superior. How hard is it to take the position that you will only believe in what your five senses can detect. Why even continue to advance science, since obviously the only things that can exist must have the ability to be perceived by our limited faculties? Atheists are boring and dim in my opinion. I believe in the God of Abraham because from what I can perceive, he is the most likely explanation for my existence. I love science, and wish for it to always advance. Some of the best scientists in history were Christian. Atheists are not more logical or reasoning, why would you completely rule out a possibility simply because you do not like its implications? Why are Atheists so against people who want to join together and pray for wisdom when conducting matters that effect their fellow citizens? If Yah is only make believe, why are Atheists so offended when people pray to him? I would figure an Atheist would simply giggle inside and then join the discussion once it began. But no! They have to act like little sissy spoiled children and run for a lawyer! Well, I will tell you, it makes Atheist look like thugs, divisive and childish.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • snowboarder

          nearly all things once attributed to supernatural origins have been determined to be of natural cause. the realm of the supernatural and religion is nothing more than a placeholder of ignorance, waiting for the discovery of the natural cause.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I have to ask – are you just uneducated when it comes to science, or are just willfully ignoring it?

          November 3, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • justageek

          "nearly all things" – When we get to ALL then we can reconvene.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • snowboarder

          @justageed, I know. people will hold onto their religious fantasy no matter how irrational they are and how incredibly unlikely they really are.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:19 am |
      • Lisa

        I too cringe when I see attacks on the faithful and yet I don't think they realize how much disrespect comes from BOTH directions. The problem with faith is that people get to interpret The Word themselves and, once they do, they use it to harm others in the name of their deity. The harm comes in all flavors, big and small, psychological and physical, and there is now some backlash that is resulting in the disrespect you see.

        I don't know what can be done about it. You may belong to a small kind faction that does more good than harm – some churches fit that bill but there is a perception (right or wrong) that most don't.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • rafael

        Pascal's wager is for people who think like children. Just be prepared for when the real god punishes you for worshiping a different one.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • justageek

          "Pascal's wager is for people who think like children" – Really? So you have no insurance policies...because you know for sure you will not get sick or get into an accident or...

          November 3, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • snowboarder

          @justageek, yours is a logical fallacy. we all have experience with illness and catastrophe, hence the existence of insurance. there is absolutely not one person alive that has experience or knowledge of the situation post death and the religious assertions are simply absurd and obviously the invention of men afraid of death.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:25 am |
        • justageek

          My grandparents term life expired and they didn't. They lost the bet but still took it...just in case. Hardly a child's game. My grandfather has never been in a car accident...but had insurance...just in case. He doesn't drive any more so he lost again. My logic is fine thank you.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Not undersanding atheism

      It's strange to me that you think you are in control of what is inside someone else's head.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  18. Copenshaw

    Two Jewish women with a chip on their shoulders. Their problem is the name 'Jesus'.

    These ignorant atheists attack Christianity, and try to weaken it. Why do not these Holier-than-thou people try to speak out against suppression of others in Muslim countries? Nah, too chicken.

    These Atheists and liberals weaken Christianity, the effects of which is that the vacuum is filled by Sharia.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • P.R.

      Honestly, that has to be the most ignorant and incorrect statement I have read in quite some time. Congrats there...that took some effort.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:35 am |
      • Jeff Williams

        """that has to be the most ignorant and incorrect statement I have read in quite some time. Congrats there...that took some effort."""

        hah! I beg to differ – it was likely quite effortless.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am |
        • P.R.

          HAHAHAHA!!!

          November 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • snowboarder

      yes, because all these muslim countries were previously christian, but were undermined by atheists, which led to the muslim majority.

      lol!

      November 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
      • P.R.

        snowboarder gets it. 🙂

        November 3, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • Copenshaw

        Who talked about Muslim countries. I was talking about US and Europe.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:41 am |
        • snowboarder

          sharia in u.s.

          seriously?

          November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am |
        • P.R.

          And you think that XTIAN COUNTRIES are somehow BETTER???

          That is RICH. Typical self-centered, ego-driven, misguided Xtian feelings of superiority. Xtian countries have been some of the WORST in the world historically (the Crusades, the Inquisition, Holy Civil Wars, witch burnings, etc etc) - and to think that a modern American Xtian theocracy would be ANYthing but heinous and apocalyptic just shows stupidity or willful ignorance..

          If you are going to whine and cry about a guiding philosophy being detrimentally undermined, try to pick one a little better than your tragically flawed and fallacious Xtianity.

          Xtian countries better than Muslim ones...HA!!!!! Thanks for all the giggles this morning...you are on a roll!!!

          November 3, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Doris

      It has nothing to do with attacking anything. It's about the separation of church and state. Christians in the U.S. do have a persecution complex – that is obvious.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Santa-Clause

      Simple minds seem to always have the answers. People, there is no god. If you want to know the true story of Jesus, go here... http://www.peradventures.com/truth-about-jesus-christ.htm

      November 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • justageek

        It's on the Internets so it must be true...pfft.

        November 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  19. Ken

    I'm tired of a vocal minority of the population leading public policy around by the nose. If the town wants to open their meetings with prayer then let them. If you are an atheist and think it's a waste of time, then so be it. When you die, hopefully the atheist won't suddenly realize prayer wasn't a waste of time.

    November 3, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • sam stone.

      if the majority wants to violate the const-i-tution, should they be allowed?

      as far as finding out that prayer wasn't a waste of time, what if there is a god that is not the one you envision?

      November 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
      • Ken

        Separation of Church and State was designed to keep Religion from running the government, not to remove Religion from the people.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
        • snowboarder

          and, of course, not subjecting the entire populace to religious proceedings at government meetings does not in any way remove religion from the people.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • VirulentShadow

          How on Earth is that removing religion from people? All it's doing is saying, "Please refrain from allowing your personal religion - which is different from person to person - to influence politics and how our country is run." No one is taking away your religion. Maybe it's the long sentences that are giving you trouble... You. Still. Have. Freedom. Of. Religion.

          November 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Rufus

      I read your 1st sentence, and thought immediately of the Tea party.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • P.R.

      How would YOU feel if a Satanist led the prayer???

      November 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • LibsWinInTheLongRun

      I'll tell you who leads this country around by the nose: the Christians. They're the fuel behind the bug eyed fanaticism of the teapartiers. When this cult fades into the dustbin of history like all the others, I hope there's nothing like it to take its place. They have proven that even a religion that has a lot of peaceful elements and a central figure that is pretty likeable can be twisted into the usual vicious nonsense by vicious people who will always exist in the underbelly of humanity.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Ken

        This country was much better off, when Christian values were the basis of our decisions.

        November 3, 2013 at 9:48 am |
        • snowboarder

          there are no values that are uniquely christian.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:00 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          @Ken,

          Do you mean like slavery and the KKK? Those were "Christian" values.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:10 am |
        • Linda

          When was that? When misogyny and racism was the law? That was super, when men could do what ever they wanted to women as long as they married them because "... the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." And it was also an awesome time when white people could hunt down black boys who whistled at pretty women and kill them with the approval of the entire community. Yeah...those were the good old days alright.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • Santa-Clause

          Christian values?!!! Are you crazy? Have you read even the first book of the bible??!!! Death and destruction, penis cutting, son-killing, and some story about all of us coming from Adam and Eve, whose sons were Cain and Abel. Oh, and remember, Cain supposedly killed Abel. So G-man sent Cain off where he "knew" a women. Where in Hell did she come from???!!! Nothing but b.s. stories about imaginary diety, god, or whatever. In fact, there were plenty of as@ holes before jc that were born to a virgin mother, walked among the poor preaching salvation, healing the sick, raising the dead, making the blind see, getting crucified, resurrecting, and extending to "heaven". Give me a break. Christianity is a pathetic fairy tale for idiots. The dumbest among us need something to believe in. For what?? Hope? Right. Pray for this. Pray for that. Pray here. Pray there. Pray now. Pray later. Give me a break!!! What if I wanted to open my town hall meetings with the requirement for everyone to stick their thumbs up their as@'s and pull out a plum?! Would you jesus freaks follow me and do the same? Why not? Because you don't believe in my right to stick in my thumb and pull out a plumb? Get a life. I want to live for the physical life I know is real, not for the possibility of an afterlife. Oh, and NO! We are not in "end days". j.c. is not returning soon. I hear this all the damned time from the illiterates of the bible belt. Stupid.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • VirulentShadow

          Previously subtle troll is now obvious troll.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:22 am |
        • Santa-Clause

          Another little nugget of info for you bible thumpers... if you are hearing an imaginary or otherwise "real" person making voices in your head – i.e. "talking to you" – then you have psychotic episodes. Right? Isn't that one of the definitions for a psycho?

          November 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
        • Andrew

          The founders of this country were Deists and Masons and had little in common with the Christian Theism that is practiced today. Jefferson had all of the miraculous elements removed from his personal Bible. They were smart enough to see that people turning into salt and living inside sea monsters was just not real.

          November 3, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • VirulentShadow

      "...vocal minority of the population leading public policy" Wow, you do know what the first amendment is, right? And what it was designed for? Dissent is what America is based on, and if you don't believe that, support that, and fight for that, you're a traitor. America isn't about mob rule.

      "If the town wants to open their meetings with prayer then let them." So you would be okay with the state government allowing Wiccans to perform a ritual on government property (like your local legislative branch's house)? You would be okay with government officials praying to Allah? You would be cool with Pentecostal and Catholic preachers verbally dueling across a courtroom? The fairest, easiest, cheapest, least contentious, and most effective policy is for the church and state to be separate, so one does not favor any specific other. Why is this concept so hard for people to understand?

      "When you die, hopefully the atheist won't suddenly realize prayer wasn't a waste of time." And you end here with a clumsy, double-negatived little threat. Appeals to Pascal's wager - that everyone would be better off believing in God, because "look at the consequences if you don't!" - completely fails any test. It ignores all other religions, gods, hells, and heavens (it assumes the Christian God is the only, and correct, one); it's an appeal to ignorance, which is never a basis for any belief; it's a "cover your butt" tactic that any real god should be able to see through; it makes another false assumption that "we lose nothing if we dedicate our lives to God in this life" when that's completely false (time, money, how beliefs inform actions, etc.); it's an appeal to consequences, pity, shame, popularity, begging the question, and so on. Understand the things you talk about a bit more before you make silly threats.

      November 3, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  20. cathryn binu

    Ain't this a crock of you now what!!! here is a clue lady if you don't believe in it don't participate!!!!

    November 3, 2013 at 9:28 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.