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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. omeany

    The meaning of free speech is the also ability to voice your non-belief of whatever society considers the norm.

    I disagree with most Christian beliefs and certainly the recent GOP war on the poor where they claim they want to give the "gift of work" to the poor without actually giving them jobs but taking away their social programs instead but still they are free to espouse any nonsense they wish and I am free to vote against it.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  2. siggis94

    I can only half agree with what this person is doing. I am totally against forcing religion down peoples' throats, however, I fully support religious freedom under 'acceptable' levels, (i.e. islamic extremism, satanism, Westboro Baptist Church are absolutely unacceptable and disgusting). I give atheists credit on one thing, they are the ones solving many of the problems in the world, and so are those who are religious. However, both sides are doing things that are bad, (gay marriage/discrimination, trying to eliminate all religious freedom, forcing beliefs onto others) I am a very open-minded Christian in support of science and the advancement of humanity and I think all things regarding church vs state should be ruled as optional, not banned or forced. Then each side is even and no one is discriminated. Banning prayers in the Supreme Court could be ruled as discriminatory and forcing it goes the other way. In-between is the best way to go.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Morgan

      Who is trying to "eliminate all religious freedom"? Point them out. As dangerous and ill-advised as many of us find most religions, I have never yet met the fellow atheist who is out to kill religious freedom. This is America; freedom of religion is something we practice here. However, that freedom is one to practice personally: one does not have the right to inject religious beliefs into government, thereby affecting others around you. Government shouldn't be in the god business.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
      • Marla

        Ever heard of Richard Dawkins? He says he wants to destroy religion and make church attendance illegal for children.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Dawkins is more dangerous than Hitler and Stalin and Mao all together. Jonestown 2 is more likely a Dawkins vision.

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

          You cannot rationally argue that religion is anything but mental illness. People who believe in things that cannot be scientifically demonstrated to exist are mentally ill. If I ran around saying that a giant red dragon told me to kill everyone, you'd lock me away. The only reason why most religious people aren't locked away is because such a large group of people share the same delusion. The distinction is only arbitrary. If a large enough group of people believed in that giant red dragon, they wouldn't be locked away either.

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

          Dawkins has not advocated killing anyone. Why is he dangerous? The only people I can think of who should be concerned about Dawkins are those clinging to their myths and those afraid of losing power, usually over women and children.

          November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    Christians please stop whining and claiming religious persecution!

    Preventing you from forcing others into following your deluded rules is not persecution. Preventing you from making religious laws, is not persecution. Preventing you from injecting your fantasies into public schools, is not persecution. You have churches on every street corner in America. You have 100% representation in government. You have your motto imprinted on every dollar bill and uttered at every baseball game. You are the persecutor, not the persecuted. You confuse "not being in charge" with persecution.

    - SP

    November 2, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Yup.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Well said 🙂

      November 2, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Such a whiner Dyslexic...

      Your persecuting literary against a God-fearing Christian-loving humanoid such as myself does nothing to ease the social tensions between the peace-loving commoners of Atheism and Christendom...

      November 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Maddy

        Point of the post is that you aren't persecuted, but have zero problem persecuting those who don't Godstep. It appears you are the whiner here.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Conceived and Sired Maddy...

          Who are you to sidestep the initial ranting of Dyslexic and promote the secondary with little regards toward the first..?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Good point Maddy.

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

      Our rights come from our Creator. The Declaration of Independence says so! Without that foundation we could all be killed at the hands of Mao and Stalin

      November 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        While an interesting doc.ument, the DofI has no legal standing.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Your rights come from an agreement that we all make that we should endow each other with certain rights. Sorry, God is not evident and is certainly no conferring rights on people.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • sam stone.

        which creator, marla?

        November 2, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Marla

      Printing "In God we trust" is real persecution? Sounds awful. Talk about persecution, how about Mao and Stalin. These two atheists killed more people than all wars combined throughout history.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • Jim Enderson

        Well, Hitler was a Christian, why not bring him up? He alone was responsible for millions of innocent people being gassed and murdered for nothing more than having been born different than he was. If you want to bring up evil atheists, then give equal time to the evl believers as well.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
        • Marla

          He was atheist.

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

          No, Maria, he wasn't an atheist. Look up "Gott Mit Uns".

          November 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • sam stone.

        don't forget, marla, both were short with dark hair. obviously, it was that that drove their murderous spree, not the fact that they were totalitarian dictators

        November 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • Marla

          good point.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
      • Mathew

        Wasn't it a christian who dropped the bomb on hiroshima?

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

          Wasn't it an atheist scientist who build it?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Quite a few people built it, some atheist, some not. The political will and decision to use it: Christian all the way.

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

          an athesit scientist who built it? lol ok. i wish it were so i could ask you whats worse, making the gun, or shooting someone in the face with it?

          November 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb

    The problem I see with atheisms is their innateness desires to be objectively structured in negative proposals whenever any Christian attempts to give prayerful penance... The only good atheist is one who leaves the religious alone and vice versa... We all should live in harmony with our brethren and find no reasons for incitement against those who are different in thoughtful reasoning...

    November 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So we should roll back all civil rights and allow everyone to behave as their imaginary, unfounded supernatural buddy guides them to?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • tony

      Then shut down all the church billboards.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Observer

      Lionly Lamb,

      "We all should live in harmony with our brethren and find no reasons for incitement against those who are different in thoughtful reasoning"

      Amen. Please pass the word to the millions of Christian hypocrites who pick on gays and pro-choice supporters.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I can agree to living in harmony.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • tony

        It's too small. It's a few acres about 50 miles north of Morrow Bay on Highway 1.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          @Observer i was interested and agreed with your views about living in harmony, that was until you made reference to gay.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Observer

          HereWeGoAgain,

          Yep. Just decide who you want to discriminate against. So much for "everyone".

          November 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  5. baal

    "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.""

    and that right there is a violation of Separation of church and State.....

    Want to pray on Government property START PAYING TAXES like everybody else...

    November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • tony

      Amen

      November 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  6. Marla

    Remember, when you criticize theists, you are criticizing Obama!

    November 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • baal

      How so?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • Marla

        Obama is a Christian believer. He believes that Jesus died for your sins, was resurrected, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father, and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Fixed your post for you. You are welcome – no charge!

          Obama claims to be a Christian believer. He allegedly believes that some desert dweller allegedly called Jesus allegedly died for your alleged sins, was allegedly resurrected, allegedly ascended into an alleged heaven and allegedly sits at the right hand of an alleged God the alleged p Father, and that he allegedly will come again to judge the living and the dead.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So what? Is that banned somewhere? I constantly criticize Obama because I think he's an atheist without the guts to say so.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I guess someone has never heard of closet Atheists, kind of like closet LGBT...they're hiding behind a facade for fear of what the christian right or others may do to them.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  7. Robert

    As an Atheist I say to all you Christian Pastors that want to inject your religion into our Government, Fine! Show us all how much it really means by paying taxes like the rest of us. Yeah I thought not!

    November 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!

      November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Haime52

      Pastors pay taxes, denominations do not.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • G to the T

        Corporations pay taxes and so do their employees sooooooo... what was your point again?

        November 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  8. HereWeGoAgain

    Correction "For everyone will be dead from a vicious virus"

    November 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • tony

      Thayt would just confirm evolution (into a new virus) 😉

      November 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • HereWeGoAgain

        Tony is an aids virus lover?

        November 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
        • tony

          You've been watching too much "Name that Virus".

          November 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  9. cruzkit

    Religion is a very touchy subject. What I would hope is that this opens a dialog among people of all faiths to exchange points of view.

    If the content of town's business isn't effected by the prayer, then I do not see why these women cannot just enjoy that fact that some people gain pleasure from mere words. Often once you start making laws to stop something that request becomes a demand and then an order.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • G to the T

      Possibly – but this isn't about creating a new law. It's about enforcing the ones that already exist.

      November 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  10. Water to Whine

    Complete separation of church and state is crucial to a free society. Only a secular government can provide truly unbiased religious freedom for its people. Why can't goverment organizations just have "moments of slience" in which every person can silently say whatever they want? Public prayer is conceited liturgy anyway. No one needs to lead prayer for anyone else.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Marla

      China and the Soviet Union are good examples. Actually, Mao and Stalin killed more people than all wars combined throughout history. Of course Doestoyevsky said it best, "If there is no God, everything is permissible."

      November 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Since God is not evident, it has always been the responsibility of societies to decide what is permitted.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Societies to decide what's good for us huh? Making wars based on lies to take advantage of the situation to put more money in your pocket is a good example of how good we are at deciding whats good for us.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          What is there that will do a better job of it?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Stop trying to change the world is a good starting point.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
      • Water to Whine

        China and the Soviet Union did not have religious freedom. And what's with this constant contest over who has killed more people, atheists or religious folks? Is that the real litmus test for who is right? Is god keeping a scoreboard, and who ever kills less wins? But just to humor you, there have been far, far more religious people throughout history than atheists, so they have done more of everything...good or bad.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • tony

        The probelm with religion is also serious.

        If you have religious teaching replacing conscience, then any wicked belief is conscienable. Just ask Boko Haram.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        If you can't understand the difference between "separation of church and state" and "elimination of all religion" then you must be a mentally ill delusional believer with a persecution complex.

        November 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  11. cj

    What a monumental waste of time and money...and I blame the municipality. They know her argument is on solid legal ground and rater than finding a work around, such as having your religions guests meet with those interested before board meetings and off 'campus', they decide to indigently fight it.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  12. Maani

    There is an error in the article. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit an "endorsement" of religion; it prohibits an "establishment" of religion. (Hence the name of the clause). This is not semantics. One can endorse something without establishing it.

    In any event, historically, the clause has always been interpreted as if it read, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of ANY SPECIFIC RELIGION," since the "Free Exercise Clause" which immediately follows the "Establishment Clause" says, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

    As with all First Amendment rights, Freedom of Religion is not "absolute." The only question relevant to this case is: is a town meeting a legal and appropriate venue for the free exercise of religion vis-à-vis prayer. As the article states, from its very founding, all federal legislative sessions (and many state and city legislative sessions) have begun with a prayer – though they simply mention "God," without referencing the doctrine or dogma of any particular faith community.

    Based on this, and other precedents, I am guessing the SC will either rule against the plaintiffs, or will return it to the lower court.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  13. HereWeGoAgain

    Here we go again with those atheists morons. Soon we will have to stop the world from turning for a single unhappy atheist. Boy this world is going banana lately.

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

      You are the problem.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • HereWeGoAgain

        This was never a problem before you started to show up.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
        • tony

          But all babies are born as atheiests. It take a fairy story teller to make them religious

          November 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Hahahaha Tony, are you serious, all babies are born atheist. If this is true, then you will also admit that there are hetero pedophiles and also gay pedophile.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
        • tony

          It's an obvious fact that you seem to to not be able to comprehend . Otherwiise all the Xtians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Shintu's,' would have to have their babies "converted' from an inborn "universal" religion before they could be taught their parents one.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          That is exactly right. Everyone is born atheist. Only lies change that.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          North american indians before being exposed to people from europe believed in some Gods. Even the egyptians did too. Every cultures way before christianity believed on some Gods. Don't come telling me that we are all born atheists.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Children are born without any beliefs, including religious beliefs, therefore they are born atheist. It's only through indoctrination by their delusional parents and current societal pressures that some (too many!) become infected by religion. And yes, there are hetero and non-hetero pedophiles, but so what?

          November 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Marla

    Is there such a thing as "free will." In a purely material world everything is "determined." Why judge theists that only believe because their chemical / electrical signals in their brain tell them to believe. Are any of us truly responsible for our beliefs? Why judge them? Now if we have a free will, if we have a soul, then we have responsibility and actions and beliefs can be judged.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  15. allenwoll

    Theism AND Atheism are BOTH faith-based belief systems, regardless of what either may claim : There is no objective proof available for either set of beliefs so they BOTH have no other option but to fall back and "have faith" in their views. . Ironic ! !

    November 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • tony

      I can bring a chemical rection into court. No faith there.

      Try that with your "god". And please stop making up storeies about atheism. Your bias is too obvious and it breaks your 9th commandment.

      November 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Maddy

      You do know that atheism isn't disbelief, it's NO belief, right? How is no belief a belief system?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • HereWeGoAgain

        Atheists is a belief system, every atheists have faith in what they believe in. That's called faith.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I believe in reliable things.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Then you have faith in what you believe in.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I do have faith. There are different kinds of faith. What sort are you referring to?

          November 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          There is no such thing as 2500 defintions of the word Faith. Faith is faith. You atheists also having faith, you simply having faith in a different matter, but it's still faith and also a belief system. If we are to stop all religions then we should also stop atheism.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • IslandAtheist

          Lacking god belief is not is not a belief system.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Not believing in God but believing about something else is still a belief system.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          To me, faith is essentially a synonym for trust. So I have faith in things that are reliable. You may mean the faith of religion. Perhaps one or more of these:

          the ‘purely affective’ model: faith as a feeling of existential confidence
          the ‘special knowledge’ model: faith as knowledge of specific truths, revealed by God
          the ‘belief’ model: faith as belief that God exists
          the ‘trust’ model: faith as belief in (trust in) God
          the ‘doxastic venture’ model: faith as practical commitment beyond the evidence to one's belief that God exists
          the ‘sub-doxastic venture’ model: faith as practical commitment without belief
          the ‘hope’ model: faith as hoping—or acting in the hope that—the God who saves exists.

          SEP

          November 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Also, you seem to think that an atheist will object to the term 'belief system'. A system of justified beliefs that is internally consistent would be a great thing to have, particularly if the beliefs are also true.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Haime52

        No belief? That must be an awful existence! To believe in nothing is quite a hard thing to "not believe".

        November 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
        • tony

          "Yes, we have no bananas" is a valid and pefectly understandable statement 🙂

          November 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Kay

      The fatal flaw in your argument is that you are assuming that all atheists "believe" there is no God. That we all actively "have faith" and, apparently, wish to convince others that "there is no god".

      But you're wrong. "Atheism" is no more a one-size-fits-all view of the world than is, say, Christianity. Indeed, there are numerous conceptions of atheism.

      For many of us, a belief in the existence of deities just isn't in us. It's not a matter of actively believing...of having faith...that there is no God. Not at all. It's simply a matter of an *absence* of belief that any deities exist. Nothing more.

      So please don't lump all atheists into one group, because you'd be wrong to do so.

      November 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  16. albie

    this woman is my hero – I wish there were more people (myself included) who were brave enough to stand up to religious oppression (that word represents all of the ways religion forces itself on people)

    November 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  17. Des Perado

    Ummmm…let’s see…if Greece…Greece…is completely bankrupt…guess it’s fitting sport
    Let’s let Greece, New York go to Hell in a hand-basket like the John Roberts Obama…Court !!!

    November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  18. tony

    I fear what this "conservatie (i.e. religious) leaning" Supreme Joke will come up with this time, after "companies are people too".

    We've just seen what Putin did to The Pussey Riot babes. t's not that far from being able to happen here.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  19. annemarie

    As citizens, we fulfill our duties as persons, not as pieces of persons. What each of us believes is an integral part of each person and to exclude the expression of our beliefs, whether they are religious or philosophical (and I understand atheism to be a philosophy) is to destroy our own integrity and the integrity of others. Our beliefs are the basis for our respect of others, and this is true for religion and for atheism. To exclude the basis of mutual respect is to exclude the mutual respect we owe one another. Rather than exclude beliefs from the exercise of government, we should learn to dialogue with one another. Admittedly, dialogue is demanding: I need to know clearly what I myself believe is good for my fellow citizens, and I need to know why I believe it, and I need to respect the other person with their beliefs, both religious and/or philosophical. The exchange of letters between Professor Scalfari and Pope Francis is a good example of dialogue.

    November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • allenwoll

      Theism and Atheism are BOTH faith-based. . To claim one is a religion and the other a philosophy is a looooong stretch !

      November 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • tony

        I think you just showed that having faith and being uninformed are both traits of religion.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Atheists believe in their views about how life and individuals should be, that's called having faith and also a belief system.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
        • tony

          No. I currently believe you are a fool based on your posts. I don't have blind faith that that is the case.

          November 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
        • HereWeGoAgain

          Tony, the blind person here is you, you say you are an atheist and believe in atheism. That is called a belief system and also having faith in that system of yours.

          November 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  20. berniecat@outlook.com

    yes , those two women need to watch our from the fairy god believers . we have seen just how violent Christians are and murderers they are ,,, the gop has broken this law many times with their peaching and personnel beliefs that they try and force on others ! believe me a Christian will kill , bomb and destroy anything they believe is not their way ! and that's a republican fascist for you . separation of church and state works BOTH ways !

    November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I've never heard of Christians killing atheists because they don't believe in god. Why are you typing these lies? Do you hate Christians that much?

      November 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • HereWeGoAgain

        One thing about atheists is they're lying all the time. We can't change them, it's part of their nature.

        November 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • tony

          Hey we sit up too. . .

          November 2, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
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About this blog

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