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Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government
November 6th, 2013
12:18 PM ET

Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government

By Bill Mears and Daniel Burke, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Should prayers to God open government meetings?

That's the controversial question a divided Supreme Court debated on Wednesday.

At oral arguments about whether public prayers at a New York town's board meetings are permissible, the high court took a broad look at the country's church-state history and even the Supreme Court's own traditions.

Two local women sued officials in Greece, New York, objecting that monthly Town Board public sessions have opened with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian.

But the case's implications extend far beyond upstate New York and could have widespread consequences, according to constitutional scholars.

"This is going to affect communities across the country," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.

The frequent court battles over public prayers, Ten Commandment memorials and holiday displays might strike some Americans as silly, but they touch on deep questions about national identity to reach back to the Founding Fathers, Haynes said.

"It's a long struggle in our country about self-definition and what our country was founded to be. That's why we keep circling back to these emotional and highly divisive questions."

At Wednesday's oral arguments, the court's conservative majority appeared to have the votes to allow the public prayers to continue in some form, but both sides expressed concerns about the level of judicial and government oversight over prayers presented by members of a particular faith.

"We are a very religiously diverse country," said Justice Samuel Alito, who worried about the town officials setting up binding guidelines. "All should be treated equally. So I can't see how you can compose a prayer that is acceptable to all these" religions.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried about the effect on local citizens who choose not to stand and bow their heads when asked during a public prayer. "You think any of those people wouldn't feel coerced to stand?"

MORE ON CNN: Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

The high court began its public session Wednesday as it has for decades, with the marshal invoking a traditional statement that ends, "God save the United States and this honorable court."

The town outside Rochester began allowing prayers to start its meetings in 1999, after years of having a moment of silence.

Co-plaintiffs Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway challenged the revised policy, saying officials repeatedly ignored their requests to modify or eliminate the practice, or at least make it more inclusive.

"It's very divisive when you bring government into religion," Stephens said.

"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 hearing concerns from the two women and others, it sought diverse voices, including a Wiccan priestess, to offer invocations.

Officials said 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."

Congress and state legislatures regularly open their sessions with prayers.

One question before the Supreme Court is whether local government bodies are different, in that there might be more active involvement with local citizens, who may want to personally petition the town in zoning, tax, and other matters.

MORE ON CNN: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna

Justice Elena Kagan explored the limits of permissible government action by using the Supreme Court as an example.

She asked whether the court could suddenly invite a Christian minister to invoke the following prayer, inside the ornate marbled courtroom: "We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross." "Would that be permissible?" asked Kagan.

Attorney Thomas Hungar, attorney for the town of Greece, suggested courts were different, and that the national legislature had had similar prayers since the nation's founding.

"Whatever line might be drawn between nonlegislative bodies and legislative bodies," Hungar said, "it would be incongruous, if Congress could have legislative prayers and the states couldn't."

But the lawyer for the plaintiffs, supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said unlike legislatures, Greece had no official policy on prayers.

"The policy should give guidelines to chaplains that say, 'Stay away from points in which believers are known to disagree,'" said Douglas Laycock, who represented the two women objecting to the prayers. "And we think the town should do what it can to ameliorate coercion. It should tell the clergy: 'Don't ask people to physically participate.' That's the most important thing."

But some justices on the high court expressed doubts about the extent to which lawmakers - and later courts - should advise various faiths about what to say, and parse what is sectarian or not.

"Give me an example of a prayer that is acceptable to all of the groups that I mentioned," said Alito, whose list included Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists.

When Laycock suggested something like, "The prayers to the almighty, prayers to the creator," Alito and others were unconvinced, saying polytheists might object.

"What about devil worshippers?" asked Justice Antonin Scalia, bringing laughter to the courtroom.

"Well, if devil worshippers believe the devil is the almighty, they might be OK with it," responded Laycock, smiling.

"Who was supposed to make these determinations? Is there supposed to be an officer of the town council that will review?" asked Chief Justice John Roberts. "Do prayers have to be reviewed for his approval in advance?"

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may prove to be the swing vote in his petition, was especially vocal.

"It just seems to me that enforcing that standard involves the state very heavily in the censorship and the approval or disapproval of prayers," he said. "I'm serious about this. This involves government very heavily in religion."

He also suggested small towns deserve as much right to allow a brief prayer in public sessions as federal and state bodies.

"In a way it sounds quite elitist to say, 'Well, now, we can do this in Washington and Sacramento and Austin, Texas, but you people up there in Greece can't do that.'"

Several members of Congress were in attendance at the argument, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.

"Every day before the Senate meets, the Senate chaplain comes out and gives a prayer, and that's important to us," Rubio told CNN just after arguments ended.

"It's part of our country's tradition; it's also our constitutional right, to be able to exercise that. And I thought it was important to defend that here today."

Nearly 120 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, along with 18 state attorneys general, have filed supporting legal briefs backing the city. The Obama administration is doing the same.

Stephens and Galloway, the two plaintiffs, said they have faced harassment from their community and even vandalism of their property.

"The pastors face the people (in the meetings), they don't face the town government, so it's like they're praying over us," Galloway told CNN after the argument.

"When they all stood and I sat, and I have a hundred eyes looking at me, and questioning what's going on, they think I'm being disrespectful. It does put a lot of pressure on you and it makes you very uncomfortable. It singles you out, and that shouldn't be in my town government, and it shouldn't be anywhere."

The high court has generally taken a case-by-case approach on determining just when the state intrudes unconstitutionally into religion, while generally allowing faith to be acknowledged in a limited basis in public forums.

"In God We Trust" remains on currency; the Pledge of Allegiance and oaths of office mention a divine creator; and menorah and crèche displays are permitted in local parks.

But the justices acknowledge the tricky line they must walk - politically, socially and legally - when deciding church-state cases.

"It's hard because the (Supreme) Court lays down these rules, and everybody thinks that the court is being hostile to religion, and people get unhappy and angry and agitated," said Kagan near the end of Wednesday's oral arguments.

"Part of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multireligious society in a peaceful and harmonious way. And every time the court gets involved in things like this, it seems to make the problem worse rather than better."

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 • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Discrimination • Interfaith issues • Prayer • Religious liberty • Traditions

soundoff (1,319 Responses)
  1. Colin

    No doubt, as belief in the pagan gods of Rome began to seriously subside in the Fourth Century, many Romans rued the growing denial of their sky fairies too. Christianity is just this Century's superst.ition, and as statistics are increasingly showing, is destined for the scrap heap of history. The sooner the better.

    I wish the Supreme Court had the balls to call a spade a spade and declare this silly faith a complete waste of time.

    November 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      To be fair, judging the merits of religion shouldn't be the job of any court. I'd be happy with them enforcing the First Amendment.

      November 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
      • Fred

        Do the justices need to enforce their own rulings?
        Do they carry guns with them wherever they go?

        November 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          You've been reading too much Judge Dredd.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Fred

          Suppose I'm on a streetcorner in Orlando, Florida, standing on a soapbox, addressing a crowd of people. Some punk doesn't like what I have to say and chases me away, thus violating my rights. Can I put out "bat signal" to the Supreme Court, and will they come to my rescue in defense of my First Amendment rights?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          If you're in Florida, why not stand your ground and bust a cap in his ass?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
        • Fred

          Then I'd have to go through the same kind of ordeal that George Zimmerman went through. It isn't worth it.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          The crowd will back you up.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • ?

          Fred
          Really go to bed or play some video games, you are not contributing to a rational discussion.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
      • Colin

        I'm not saying ban it, they counldn't do that, but, in deciding the case, they are free to make factual observations. The only way to drive Christianity down to a managable minority is education.

        November 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  2. Fred

    Some citizens want to live by their own rules, anyway, or what they think the rules should be instead of what they really are, or by their own unwritten rules of the jungle. Supreme Court decisions are irrelevant to them. They have their own Supreme Court inside of their heads.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Roger that

      There are fines and sometimes free room and board for citizens such as that.

      November 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Roger that

      Why I am getting the feeling that without church and the Bible, you would be running around like an escaped convict?

      November 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  3. Fred

    Separation of powers? Man, that's old hat.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      So is oxygen. I like it though.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Fred

    If the Supreme Court decided that whites are free to use racial slurs willy-nilly without being punished,
    would this stop minorities from wanting to pulverize them anway?
    They would ignore the ruling.
    Would they stop and say "I have a strong, primal desire to pulverize you, but I must respect the Supreme Court's decision."

    November 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  5. Fred

    Why do we even have a Supreme Court?
    Does anyone really abide by what old people in black robes say anyway?

    November 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Separation of powers.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Jail time

      You do if you want to do things like drive, and avoid a brightly colored jump suit

      November 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • 007

      Really? This is a serious question? Get real.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
      • Fred

        Why can't it be a serious question? We can abolish it if we want.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          We could set up a fascist reich. But let's not.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • Fred

          I use to go to the Astronomy Tower to see stars, but now I can just look into your eyes!

          November 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          You flirt.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • ?

          It is past your bedtime, turn off the computer. Nitey-nite sonny.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  6. Apple Bush

    There is a song that permeates the universe. A song that tells the tale of creation, our past and our future. We must listen to it, not pretend it can be found in the books of mankind. Our faculties may not be robust enough to hear the music (yet) but if you are looking for heaven, learn to shut up and listen.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      That sounds like something said during the height of a hippy love-in.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Music = Vibrations

        Vibrations = String Theory

        String Theory = Listening for the music

        November 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Fair enough. I'm not sure about the term 'creation' though as it implies a creator.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB
          Interesting, if you go to the CERN website, they have found matter that changes to anti matter in a continuous cycle at an enormous speed but have captured what the oscillation would sound like if replicated and converted to sound waves in our hearing range. Amazing stuff, no god required.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          In the same way one creates a song, nothing comes from nothing. We just don't what is behind the curtain. It could be anything. Maybe there is a giant Mozart race that makes universes for fun. Imagination is a possibility because we have not lifted the veil to see what is there yet.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB
          Sonota in LHBc
          26 Aug 2013
          The sound of anti matter.
          CERN website.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          CQ
          Yes, it is amazing and anything and I do mean anything is possible.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Of course anything is possible. It's fairly pointless hypothesizing though without any evidence. That's what religionists do.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Have you ever read the Silmarillion? Tolkien expresses some amazing ideas about "creation" that blew me away when I read it 20 years ago.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          @I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Perhaps, but it is fun. Don't lose your imagination!

          November 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          No.

          Tolkien's beliefs were fairly standard Christianity though, weren't they?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          Dave
          Yes Tolkien was a Christian beyond any doubt and was Topher like in trying to get his fellows involved in the great deception, still he created a world where man was god, strange that.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Tolkien was a Christian but he was also a fiction writer and had amazing ideas. I admire his writing very much. One thing that he and C S Lewis did not see eye to eye on was the use of Christian preaching in Lewis' fiction. (Tolkien's biography)

          November 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Yeah, I was aware of that disagreement. The whole Narnia series is sanctimonious BS.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Tolkien's Middle Earth universe was a fairy tale world and there was never a god figure unless you count Gandalf, but was part of an order of other wizards which means this universe was hierarchical in nature, including the bad guys. One might think the elves went to "heaven" but they were immortal so that is not likely. It was simply the changing of an age.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Eru Ilúvatar is the creator god of Middle Earth and can directly influence it.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I don't remember that but it has been a long time!

          November 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eru_Il%C3%BAvatar

          November 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB and Dave
          But what is amazing that Christians can look at the worlds and fantasies that man can produce from Asimov to Tolkien to Wells and still think the writers of the bible were inspired by some supernatural being than just myth, imagination and folklore is quite amazing. God did it, the ultimate cop out.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Charm Quark,
          I went and listened to the music. It was awesome.

          November 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Ohm

      Look up "Ohm" similar concept

      November 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  7. Ron

    "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent." ....Jesus (John 6:29)

    November 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Ctrl + C - Ctrl + V

      Nice effort.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      "What can good men do against such reckless hate?"

      – Theodin King

      November 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Well Duh

      While we're on fiction, know any Harry Potter quotes?

      November 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Fred

        Girl, are you sure you're a muggle cause I'd swear that ass is magical!

        November 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Roger that

      We know the Bible is true because it says so.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • Ron

        Rog, "those who are of God hear God's words", Jesus said this to unbelievers in His day, and it is certainly true in our day.

        November 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • Well Duh

          So first you have to be of God, before you can hear His Words.

          Sounds like a, if you just believe, then you'll believe deal.

          Why not provide me with convincible evidence first, THEN I'll believe.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
        • Ron

          Duh, that would be the heavens and the earth.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Well Duh

          @Ron
          "Duh, that would be the heavens and the earth."

          How are they evidence of your god?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Ron

          Duh, when you see a painting do you say to yourself it had no painter? When you see a house do you say it had no builder? When you see a clock, do you say it had no maker? How much more when we see the heavens and the earth should such a statement be considered foolish? Indeed that would be a very foolish statement.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • Colin

          And who created the creator?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Well Duh

          @Ron

          Please, tell me about the creator of God.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Observer

          Ron

          So when you think of God do you say to yourself he had no maker. Oh! You do.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • Ron

          Duh, the Maker of the heavens and the earth is obviously far more powerful than we are. Man is NOT the measure of all things. Just because we have a beginning and and end in the physical sense, that does not mean that God does. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day: "Before Abraham was born, I AM". Indeed, God is self-existent. We are NOT. We, and all the universe are dependent on The Creator, and Author of all Life, who not only made all things, but sustains all things!

          November 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
        • Well Duh

          @Ron
          "Duh, the Maker of the heavens and the earth is obviously far more powerful than we are. Man is NOT the measure of all things."

          If there is a Maker, I would agree it would be far more powerful than we are. Never said man was the measure of all things, so don't know why you felt the need to point that out.

          "Just because we have a beginning and and end in the physical sense, that does not mean that God does."

          Why not? How would one provide evidence for that?

          And again, please tell me about your god's creator.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        Roger, here is the reason we believe the word of God is true,

        Romans 8:16
        The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

        November 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • Ron

          amen. The Holy Spirit and The Word bear witness of the Father. PTL

          November 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
        • fintastic

          Here is the reason we believe the word of Harry Potter is true;

          "Right, you've got a crooked sort of cross… (consulting "Unfogging the Future") That means you're going to have 'trials and suffering' - sorry about that - but there's a thing that could be a sun… hang on… that means 'great happiness'… so you're going to suffer but be very happy…"

          Harry Potter

          November 7, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  8. Reality # 2

    Dear Members of the US Supreme Court,

    The SCOTUS is supposed to have nine of the brightest. By now you should have determined the following and should note this in writing and vocally, once and for all ending the inanity of religion:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e. the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    November 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Fred

      I don't give a rat's ass.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • How about

        An altar boy's ass?

        November 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  9. Ron

    "The world is passing away., but he that does the will of God abides forever." ...I Jn. 2:17

    November 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ctrl + C - Ctrl + V

      Needs more emphasis on the paste.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Well Duh

      What does one do forever?

      November 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • Ron

        Well, we all live forever, for we are all made in the image of God. Its just a matter of where one will spend eternity.

        November 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
        • Well Duh

          @Ron
          "for we are all made in the image of God."

          Image of God how? What attributes of God do we have?

          "Its just a matter of where one will spend eternity."

          So let's say one goes to heaven for eternity, what does one do in heaven for eternity?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
        • Ron

          Well, being made in His image goes far beyond the physical image. It has more to do with our spirit. Animals do not lie beyond this life because they do not have a spirit. We communicate by speech, make moral decisions...etc. Most importantly, we will be accountable for our sins.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
        • Well Duh

          @Ron
          "We communicate by speech, make moral decisions...etc."

          So we have the ability to make our own moral decisions.

          "Most importantly, we will be accountable for our sins."

          How was this relevant to anything I asked?

          And again, what does one do forever in heave?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • Well Duh

          Doh, in heaven that is.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
        • Joey

          The really great part is that we aren't just being held accountable for our sins, but also for the sins of Adam.

          November 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Ron

    "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.?" ....Jesus (Mark 8:36)

    November 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Observer

      Ron,

      Nothing to do with the Supreme Court.

      Try VERY hard to stay on topic.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
      • Ron

        Observer, its all about THE SUPREME COURT! The disciiples were told to stop speaking in the Name of Jesus. They said: you decide if it is better for us to obey God or man, we will obey God, and they continued preaching in the Name of the Lord. PTL The disciples obeyed THE SUPREME COURT!

        November 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • Observer

          Ron,

          The Bible says to pray in private and cut out the public showcasing.

          In other words, skip the HYPOCRISY. Read the Bible.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
        • Ron

          Observer, indeed private prayer is critical! But in no way should any Christian ever feel intimidated by godless and faithless men who try to push them around. God is often honored publicly, by word and prayer, and ALWAYS WILL BE!

          November 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
        • Colin

          Well, actually Ron, that is not so. Human beings have been walking the Earth for about 200,000 years. Christianity is 2,000 years old. Thats 1%.

          There are currently billions of Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrans, Seikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and nonbelievers, not to mention the thousands of regional beliefs. Your sky-fairy is doing a shi.tty job at speading his word......

          November 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • Ron

          Colin, it seems you have been wasting your time reading godless theories. Your only off by 194,000 years.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Colin

          Oh, of course, I forgot about the Christian theory that the entire Universe was created in six days, about 6,000 years ago with a man, a woman and a talking snake. And you wonder why we atheists think your faith is childish and silly.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • Ron

          Colin, no, I don't wonder why the godless are wondering around in the dark. Having rejected God and His revealed truth, they give themselves over to lies.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Ctrl + C - Ctrl + V

      Don't forget to dust your keyboard.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Ron

    "Mn shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God." ....Jesus (Mathew 4:4) Moses (Deut. 8:3)

    November 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • 007

      Bad Ronald! You're back! Yeah hey!

      November 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Ctrl + C - Ctrl + V

      If you need to, go ahead and use the File Menu.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  12. Ron

    Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away." ....Jesus (Mark 13:31)

    November 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Ctrl + C - Ctrl + V

      Wipe your palms.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  13. bostontola

    "Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle."

    –Galileo Galilei

    But birds have hollow bones and feathers that are as light as a...feather. Funny how God can be so rational and pragmatic when it comes to things you can touch, and then so irrational with much of the rest.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Christ he was ahead of his time. He basically theorized natural selection in that statement.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • bostontola

        Our time would be a lot better if all Christians thought like Galileo (a good Christian).

        November 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          It's very likely he wasn't a Christian, considering not being a Christian at that time usually resulted in a serious case of deadness.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I don't believe he was a Christian at all.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
        • bostontola

          I haven't found any good evidence that he was not a Christian. Almost everyone was in that area. Many Christian scientists subscribed to their own version of NOMA.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  14. Apple Bush

    Christians have a book. There are many books, but their book is magical, so I have heard.

    I have this book. It is on my book shelf next to "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and "Illusions" by Richard Bach. Both of which are better books.

    All three books are in the fiction section. I have not experienced any magic from any of these books, except that magic of the imagination.

    Christians, take a crack at experiencing reality. It is really fun and in my humble opinion, for more exciting than you book.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Please forgive my typos.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  15. Ken Colwell

    atheist must have ADHD....they lack attention big time...so sad it is.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Observer

      Yep. It keeps them from believing in unicorns, talking non-humans and dragons like in the Bible.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Who is atheist? I have not had the pleasure.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        Are you now or have you ever been an atheist? Joe McCarthy would love this. When you were six years old did you deny the existence of jesus christ?

        November 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB
          You would have been blacklisted back in the day, but you have so much back up now that we will probably get a publisher for the "Hidel". Praise whatever.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        I have never believed in God or Jesus that I can remember. I do remember hating church with a passion.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Except the free booze and cardboard bread.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I have always been creeped out by churches.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Psych 101

          It's your mortality I'd guess. Why you are afraid of churches.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • sly

      Yes, Ken, it's so sad. Simply a tragedy. I cry almost 24 hours a day since I don't believe in your God.

      I also cry daily that I don't follow your baseball team, or that I don't have the same favorite color as you.

      Gosh, being an athiest is so sad. What with my cute girlfriend, my $200,000/yr salary. I'm forced to go to the beach almost every day, and play a whole bunch of basketball.

      I also really cry a lot about my lack of God when I'm watching my Niners decimate your team, or my Giants win 2 World Series. And don't get me started about my Warriors, as I think they have a chance to be #1.

      But, I digress ... all that fun stuff ain't nothing right, cause I don't spend all my life worshipping Ken's idol.

      So sad ... boo hoo hoo ... ok, time to go smoke a fat Northern Cal goodie ... I'm over it.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        God made the Lakers and Dodgers to please us.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          And the Falcons to infuriate us.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
      • 007

        Don't forget your part-time job as an international man of mystery. As in, you're a big fat liar.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes, stay thirsty my friend.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • 007

          I don't often drink beer, but when I do, drink Dos Equis.
          Sorry, I don't believe a word sly said.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Squirrel!

      Ken Colwell,

      Where was your attention span in the 3rd grade when they taught you that the plural of the -ist words is -ists - like atheists, scientists, biologists, etc.?

      November 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      The talking snake says, "boo".

      November 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  16. Cpt. Obvious

    How can we know for certain that there is a big invisible sky wizard who can conjure up universes with magic spells? Because the universe exists!!

    November 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      I don't follow your logic.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        There is no logic to follow. It does not take in to account what we don't know, and we know virtually nothing about how the universe came to be and what is on the other side. Our words most likely can't even describe the truth.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'm aware of all that. I still don't get the original statement.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          You and me both.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Roger that

        Don't worry, there's a bunny.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'm more of a cat person.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          For more helpful information about bunnies, please visit:

          http://www.wikipoops.com

          November 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB
          Shockingly the only resourceful bunnies are now found only in Ja,pan, Hugh Hefner would be distraught.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I can't disagree. My bunny Daisy is a brick shy.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • bostontola

      That's the best explanation I've heard yet.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  17. Stating The Obvious

    Jesus was against public prayers too. No treasure for those who do it. He specifically said you are to pray alone in a private place.

    No treasure for Christians. Their boss's specific orders have been violated.

    He made some other rules that Christians conveniently ignore or invent weaselly tangled rationalizations about how what he said isn't what he said, like being wealthy is bad, give away your possessions, the end in the lifetime of his listeners, all prayers will be answered, including mountains jumping into the sea, and all the Old Testament rules still being in place.

    It's a darn good thing there is no God, because his "followers" would be in a LOT of trouble if there was.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      Look ma, another atheist befuddled by context.

      The point Jesus was making was that one should not pray in public if the intent was to obtain the favor and acceptance of men–i.e. showing off. There are plenty of examples of Jesus praying in public–but, obviously, because the context establishes it, not for this own selfish reasons. (Indeed, praying in a church would be praying in public.)

      November 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        "The point Jesus was making was that one should not pray in public if the intent was to obtain the favor and acceptance of men"

        Which is exactly what praying in public is for.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          You are truly god-like–what with your ability to assign motivation to each prayer uttered in public.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Yep, bow down and worship Me!

          November 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • 007

        Oh please, don't give me that. The majority of Christians don't act like Jesus AT ALL.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          You've determined this statistically have you? Or are you just employing a little hyperbole?

          November 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Observer

          Responding to the Pride,

          Most Christians say they are sinners. Maybe you're an exception if you are a Christian.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          Observer....I would suggest to you that EVERY christian would say they are a sinner (as is consistent with Biblical teaching). If I was without sin, I wouldn't need Jesus.

          November 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
      • Christians confuse mythology with reality

        "Look ma, another atheist befuddled by context."

        Look ma, another deluded christian claiming this means that.

        November 7, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    Yesterday morning there was a knock at my door. A pleasant and enthusiastic young couple were there.

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the Desk of Karl
    1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't use alcohol.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."

    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

    Me: "But...oh, never mind.

    from Jhuger.com

    November 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Madtown

      "This is silly."

      – Topher

      November 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
      • Fan2C

        It's really pretty funny if you take the time to read it. It is a bit long... but nowhere as long as any of those fantasy Bible chapters.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      The fool in his heart says "there is no Hank." What's wrong with nonbelievers? Can't they see the universe? Isn't that proof of Hank?!?!? C'mon. How easy can Hank make it for you to believe?

      November 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • bostontola

      John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

      That's my favorite part.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Good stuff.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  19. bostontola

    Proof that the USA is not a Christian nation:

    Slavery is illegal in the USA.
    Women have equal rights/status as men in the USA.

    November 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Madtown

      And, Red Lobster is allowed to stay in business.

      November 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      And you are not commanded to slaughter people.....wait skip that.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  20. Apple Bush

    @Charm Quark

    You will be excited to know I am making great progress on the OT and NT re-writes. I just bought a ream of paper. Also I have renamed the bible to a more manageable, "Hide!"

    November 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      how do you make such good progress when you have to stop so frequently in gales of laughter to wipe tears from your eyes?

      November 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Excellent question D-doG. I guess I will find out when I actually open the ream of paper.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          AB
          A whole ream, how ambitious but I assume there will be some waste. I was trying to come up with some contributions vis a vis the Song of Songs, but they came out well po.rna.....sort of crude.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I intend to focus on the sex and violence. Gotta keep sales up. Nothing better than bible porn.

      November 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • CommonSensed

        Don't forget the salt.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        Ab
        Very true t!ts and ass have always important in the commercial world. Some thoughts Genesis could be reduced to, sh!t happened and Revelations to sh!t is going to happen, brevity is the key.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
      • Spectrophiliac

        Chapter one should be better than Twilight.

        November 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.