December 7th, 2013
09:16 AM ET

An atheist photographer focuses on faith

Opinion by Mark Schacter, special to CNN

(CNN) - I don’t believe in a divine presence, nor do I subscribe to any organized religion.

And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith.

With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that faith exerts over so many people's lives.

As a photographer approaching this mystery, I am confronted by what might seem like a contradiction: Photographs capture what can be seen, and yet faith is often invisible.

But even if personal faith can't be seen directly, there are some tangible traces of its existence, and that's where I point my camera.

In particular, I photograph houses of worship, whose bricks and clapboard, stained glass and steel are often the largest and most visible manifestations of religious faith.

I've photographed Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Baha'i sanctuaries in the United States and Canada.

I've also interviewed Christian ministers, a rabbi, a imam and a Buddhist scholar about the significance of their spiritual homes, pressing them to explain how they reconcile their sometimes opulent houses of worship with the fact that religion is ultimately about transcending worldly things.

Often, they answered that the magnificent building is of little consequence. It serves a valuable purpose only if, through its grandeur, it transports worshipers to a spiritual state of mind.

“The point of the building is to leave people feeling awestruck,” said the Rev. Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.

But is it the building itself that gives the space a sacred quality, or is holiness derived from the devotions of worshipers, present and past, who have occupied the space?

I don't pretend to know the answer to that question. But I do know this: Even an ardent atheist can look at a house of worship and see the signs of an invisible human longing that is common to us all, believer and unbeliever alike.

Mark Schacter is a photographer based in Ottawa, Canada. Mark's newest book of photography, Houses of Worship, has just been published. It's available now in Canada and will be released internationally soon. His website is www.luxetveritas.net.

The opinions expressed in this commentary belong to Mark Schacter.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Buddhism • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Houses of worship • Islam • Judaism • Mosque • Opinion • Sikh • United States

soundoff (2,235 Responses)
  1. JW

    Could some impersonal force create complexity, organization and design? Could a hurricane a tornado, or an explosion create something complex, organized and with design?

    December 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I know you are focussing on artifacts, JW, but it is quite common to evolve solutions to complex and seemingly intractable mathematical problems. This is done by using many features of evolutionary dynamics in mathematical algorithms. Who would think that a complex problem could be solved through evolution? Impossible?

      December 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • JW

        You can develop a regular atom to something more complex.. Though, that one atom had to be formed.. Or did it come out of nothing?

        December 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          JW, You keep saying "out of nothing" as though it is impossible and on the other hand claim that it is only possible for your god, but logic dictates that if a god can just exist, so can a singularity. Gaps in our knowledge is not evidence of a god.

          December 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • igaftr

      No design is required. What is required is entropy ( including the ability for matter to move within dimensions) and the natural forces that exist (tendancies for chemicals to make certain reactions over others, gravity, and the many other forms energy takes.)

      You keep asking question after question that have flawed premises.

      December 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • JW

        In order to use matter and other elements, they would have been created... Still there needs to an equilibrium on the usage of those elements..

        December 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          And who created your god?

          December 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Ignorance has created gods, but it has never proven their existence. You are no different from the ancient Greek giving thanks to Zeus for sparing him after observing lightning striking a tree.

          December 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
        • JW

          Reality- where do numbers start and where do they end?

          December 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
        • Answer

          When do you die?

          December 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • JW

          Answer- I can die, today, tommorrow of at 100 years...just like you and any other human, our life is not secure. Though God promises bringing back to life all those In his memory.

          December 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • Answer

          You'll make sure to comfort yourself with the "good ole heaven" .. so you won't lose your grip on sanity.

          Keep that cage wrapped tight around your mind. You freaks are so annoying with your bubbles of insecurity. You have to spread your disease just so you can gain the smallest measure of comfort. So sad.

          December 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • JW

          God doesn't promise heaven for the majority. He promises bringing people back to life into a paradise earth. Meanwhile the death are sleeping, waiting for their prize.

          December 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Jw, And that makes sense to you. None of the foundational parts of the bible have any supporting evidence, and the evidence we do have points away from a personal god, so those promises are unverifiable and when you're worm food it wil be too late.

          December 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Noel

      Yes. Why do you ask?

      December 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Dandintac

      "Could some impersonal force create complexity, organization and design? Could a hurricane a tornado, or an explosion create something complex, organized and with design?"

      "Organized and with design?" No. I would say intelligence is required for organization and design. BUT–this is not what we see in the universe. What we really see is disorganization.

      Let me use an analogy. A big stack of files falls from my desk to the floor and they scatter all over. Would you agree that they are disorganized? That there is no order to that bit scattered pile of files?

      If we look at the universe, this is how the galaxies are. They are scattered. Some are edge-on to us, others at an angle. Some big, some small. Many are colliding. Many are near misses. The larger Andromeda galaxy is on a direct collision course for our own Galaxy, the Milky Way.

      If the universe were "organized". How would it look? Think back to my files. How would you expect they would look if they were "organized"? Maybe largest to smallest, alphabetical, or at least stacked in piles.

      So, if the universe were truly "organized" where it was clearly designed, I would expect the galaxies to be in rows. Maybe facing the same direction. Close to the same distance apart. Perhaps ranged from largest to smallest. THAT–would be a strong indication of intelligent organization. At the very least, they would not be smashing into each other as they fly apart like a giant game of billiards.

      Being intelligent beings ourselves, that's where our bias is. We assume intelligent agency routinely. This is why people at one time assumed the sun was a God. What other explanation was there? It HAD to be a god.

      December 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
      • Noel

        See, what JW isn't getting is that just because "we're here", that somehow there is glorious perfection and design in it. Not even close. Not only is the universe not perfect as you said, but humans are FAR from perfect, either in their behavior or in their physical "design". We get sick, we die...not only do we die, it can take something very minor to kill us. Trip on the sidewalk, hit your head just right, that could be it for you. No, what we are is a product of chance and our environment. Where JW sees "creation" as the only reason we're able to breath oxygen "Like, OMG! What are the odds that out of all the elements in the entire universe, we would be on a planet that has air, when air is exactly what our body needs to survive! IT MUST BE CREATION!" Obviously, anyone with an IQ over 100 knows that if our atmosphere was made of carbon dioxide, and life wanted to find a way, we would simply have developed to utilize carbon dioxide instead. Maybe we'd have filtering "gill" type things on our necks to help purify it a little before it hit our lungs. Who knows? But just like your files, many different designs of "man" fell to the floor. We just happened to be the only one in the bunch who was just thin/thick enough, just heavy/light enough, just came at the right time, that out of all the files you dropped onto the floor, we were the one who slipped into the heat register on the floor. Lol. A combination of environmental factors and their own limitations kept any of the other files from doing the same thing. Does that mean when you dropped your files on the floor you had always intended..."designed" for that one folder to do that? Nope.

        So, go ahead JW, see what you want to see. I'll continue to abide by Occam's Razor. "All things being equal, the simplest explanation, with the least unknown variables, tends to be the right one"

        December 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
      • Answer

        The religious freak's mind is simple: convince themselves what they want to see and hear. It's part of that security bubble they want to protect. It's so fragile that they need to have any conflicting information filtered out to their liking.

        December 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  2. oo oo

    Blessed r the pure in heart lept off the page and burned in my heart. There was revolution and magic in the air

    December 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  3. oo oo

    U c, the problem is, he said he was god, over and over and over and he proved it constantly. But it wasn't until he showed up after u murdered him, that his boys started to catch on. The greatest story ever told.

    December 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Noel

      Well....it is a good story...not sure if it's the greatest though. What is for sure however is that it has to be the longest running lie in the history of mankind. A 2,000 year and running practical joke (at least since the start of the Zombie Jesus part of the story). Finally however, I think more and more people are starting to realize something doesn't smell right. I've heard predictions based on trends that range from 15 years to 40 years (I think 25 years sounds about right) where atheists will outnumber Christians in this country. Theism in America is dying.

      December 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
      • oo oo

        O my poor beloved noel, the lie has nothing to do with him. And don't u worry, honey, u outnumber Christians and always have. Very few there b that enter in, for the way is tough and narrow and rough and ain't hardly nobody gonna go his way. That is a given. Silly goose. U bought all the superficial outward lies your daddy been tellin since Sunday. member Sunday? He thought it was all over, and when he still hadn't fixed the "problem" he done like u and focused attention on the outsides.

        December 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
        • oo oo

          athies r masters of the obvious. they r particularly self indulgent and consumed with "gotcha didn't i" primping puffs of pride.

          it has all been done before.

          and no matter their latest discovery, they cannot c him because they r way too good

          he came for sinners

          December 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb


    December 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  5. JW

    Is it designed?

    THE American house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) produces a web with adhesion that can be strong enough to stick to a wall or weak enough to detach from the ground and thus act as a spring-loaded trap for walking prey. How does the spider produce both strong and weak anchors for its web with a single type of glue?

    Consider: The spider anchors its web to a wall, a ceiling, or a similar surface by weaving highly adhesive patches of silk called scaffolding discs, which are strong enough to withstand the impact of flying prey. Researchers at the University of Akron, Ohio, U.S.A., have discovered that, on the other hand, the patches of silk that are attached to the ground—called gumfoot discs—have an entirely different architecture, or construction. With far fewer attachment points than scaffolding discs, gumfoot discs allow the web to detach with ease and yank off the ground any prey that has walked into it.

    According to a news release from the University of Akron, the researchers who uncovered this wonder of nature “are already working toward developing a synthetic adhesive that mimics this intelligent design strategy employed by the house spider.” Scientists hope to create an adhesive that can be used both for common bandages and for treating bone fractures.

    What do you think? Did the house spider’s ability to produce weak and strong anchors with the same glue come about by evolution? Or was it designed?

    December 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One


      December 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      everything in the natural world, like spiders and their webs, are 'natural'. there is nothing supernatural about webbing. it's amazing, yes, but nothing about points to a designer. as with all species on this planet, spiders evolved. offering up explanations of 'magic' takes us farther from the truth.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • igaftr

      evolution, since there is no evidence of a "designer", and huge amounts of evidence for evolution, why is someone from the 21st century asking such a question?

      December 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Alias

      Obviously evolution.
      If you want to make that arguemnet, try learing something about the chemical reactions that go on in your brain.
      Of course as a Witness, you may want to use an average brain instead – but whatever.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Evolution, of course.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • JW

      In each things, building, car, paint,.. Etc... Theres a human designer... Would it be logical for something so complex as a living being, animal, humans.. Not to have a designer behind it? Very difficult!

      December 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • Alias

        You only destroy what little credibility you have when you show your ignorance in these posts.

        December 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • igaftr

        Then your god, a complex as he is, would require a designer.

        It is false logic you are trying to use...do you see why it fails?

        December 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        JW, just because something is cool, doesn't mean it was designed with intent. The patterns of colors in the aurora are complex and beautiful; the south pole of Saturn is intricate and precise and violent and dynamic; the electromagnetic currents that twist and warp through and within and without the sun inspire awe and wonder, yet these are all due to natural processes. There is no clear "designer."

        Is there anything not designed for us to compare to the ultra-design you claim is everywhere in our universe?

        December 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        I see that something like a fine watch must be assembled by something distinct from the watch that knows how it goes to together. That something knows how it goes to together suggests that it was designed. I see living organisms emerge from single cells without something intelligent outside of them directing the process.

        December 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Perhaps develop is a better term than emerge. It is emergent complexity in evolution, but I was referring to development.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • Dandintac

        What do you mean by "complex"? Where is the line drawn beyond which we must assume something is too complex and must have been designed? Are you aware that complex is not necessarily smarter? A levy is very simple–just a wall, but it's definitely smart to prevent flooding. The wildly tangled dried up riverbeds of Mars are definitely complex, but can you see how they were created through natural processes?

        Why does complexity necessarily imply design? Why?

        December 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
        • igaftr

          He's trying to find a logical reason for his belief, which there is none...hence the need for faith.

          I do like the fact he asks questions...unfortunately those questions show no critical thinking.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
        • Joey

          The line would have to be right before god. Since god doesn't need a designer he can't be very complex.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
      • Science Works


        Humans can and do lose thumb nails (whole nail) and it does grow back.

        Now that is cool no designer needed !

        December 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
        • JW

          Someone still designed it to be that way. If it was product of nothing probably it would never grow back.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • Science Works


          It is a product of our claws that evolution cretated – needed for pulling sliver/log out of eye/finger

          December 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Fan2C


      Do you have any idea how many types of spiders have gone extinct over the MILLIONS of years that they have been around? Did this "God" character just keep tinkering with 'his' "designs" and throw huge bunches of them on the scrap heap (duh, not knowing the best designs ahead of time?)? Or did tiny mutations work out, and then more tiny mutations worked and what worked worked and what didn't work died out?

      December 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Answer

      The religious freak will make up any excuse to deceive their own mind.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      "In each things, building, car, paint,.. Etc... Theres a human designer... Would it be logical for something so complex as a living being, animal, humans.. Not to have a designer behind it? Very difficult!"

      Basically, JW only sees through a human filter. He does not understand the natural processes that have shaped the universe around him, so he must invent a "super-human", aka "god" to be the cause. JW cannot accept the humans are part of the process and not in control of the process.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • JW

      All you guys can think whatever you want... Though the design in everything created is not work of nothing... Just like everything in this world a car , a robot, a painting, everything has an intelligent human behind its design. The fact that every building, car, etc has a designer and engineer behind it, it's a Fact... It's undeniable! Who would agree that something like a building would appear from nothing and evolve to something complex with design?? Impossible.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Not impossible. I suppose we might mimic development of organisms in self-assembling artifacts one day. Why not?

        December 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • JW

          I really hope scientists mimic those living beings. But those scientists would need to study the process, develop it , in order to become something of benefit for all of us. They cannot just stand there and wait for it to evolve, in order to become something beneficial.

          December 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
      • igaftr

        Those things you mention...designed yes...but not everytihing.

        A rock...a huge one is what the Island of manhattan sits on.....designed?...no evidence it was, yet there it is....when you look at it, it in fact was not designed, but it was laid down over millions of years... a sedimentary rock...the rock was not designed...maybe the PROCESSES that made the rock were desined....not really...gravity makes water flow into the lowest ares and when the water moves more slowly, sediment is dropped, forming rock....Still not seeing a designer.....what about water.....simple chmistry there, designed? unlikely ...just as likely as MANY other hypotheses

        Would you like me to continue? I know how that rock was formed...no designer required...so your ENTIRE argument disappears since EVERYTHING was not designed....as far as any can see.

        Your argumnet falls flat on its face...the first claiming there needs to be a designer since it is so complex, which would then need a designer for the designer, then a designer for the designer of the designer...etc.etc.etc...and then claiming all these things exist that REQUIRED a designer...not acknowledging there are many many things that exist that there is no sign a designer was present.

        I hope you didn't pay for your "education" in this....if you did...get you money back.

        December 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • tallulah13

        JW's argument boils down to this: JW doesn't understand, therefore it must be god. Furthermore, JW wants it to be his god, therefore it IS his god.

        It is an emotional argument that does not change or challenge reality. There is ample, irrefutable proof that evolution has taken place for millions of years and continues to take place now. There isn't a single shred of evidence to support the existence of any of the thousands of gods that humans have ever worshiped.

        December 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        What "designed" your god? I know you'll carve out an exception there. but if a god can be or evolve, a singularity can be and life can evolve without a god.

        December 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
      • Joey

        I know some very unintelligent painters, they are great at what they do but I don't consider them to be all that intelligent.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  6. Vic

    God Bless The United States Of America

    December 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • igaftr

      Why do people demand their god bless anything?...and if you're going to do one country, why not the world?

      December 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        It's Sunday – they top up on god juice.

        December 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  7. tony

    The US has a mixed economy.

    Small government handouts to low income humans are called "socialism", while large governmemt handouts to large wealthy companies and virtual monopolies are called capitalism".

    December 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yep. It's "unpatriotic" to use taxes to take care of your neighbors, but it's "good for the economy" to give billions to those who need it least. Tea Party America is very much like the old feudal system, where princes and priests had all, and everyone else existed at their tolerance.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  8. Alias

    I get tired of people throwing around ideals as if they actually existed, or could exist.
    Rush talking about Fascism was stupid. There are things Obama has said that are socialist in principle, but that absolutely does not mean he embraces all socialist ideas and wants to change our form of government.
    Posters who go on and on about the evils of capitalism are out of touch with the real world.
    Keep in mind that the RCC is as close to communism as the world has ever seen, and it is working fairly well for them.

    December 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil deGrasse Tsyon - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Capitalism does have evils – are you blind or living in a cave?

      December 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • Alias

        Where did I say it didn't?
        My point – which you obviously didn't want to see – was that it is not realistic to think any of these philsophical extreemes will ever happen. No pure capitolism, or pure socialism, ect. Not now, not ever.
        The way people keep using these terms is pointless and ignorant, and very annoying.

        December 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Sired Alias...

          Philosophically serviced social exponents are subjective racial relativisms pyramiding their ways across and beyond the lands' ends...

          December 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  9. oo oo

    Jimmy Carter, the fundamentalist hypocrite, believed the bible and forced his religion down the throats of all Americans and thus ruined this country. He banned all agnostics, atheists, gays, transies, lezboes, hunters, sheep ranchers, Mexicans, Irish, German, Lithuanian, Jew, girls, bulls, cupids, nomads and oil rich itailians.

    December 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • poe

      trolls are so obvi.

      December 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • oo oo

      Carter liked having in god we trust rammed down our throats. My 23 kids r all hospitalized from the trauma of seeing that on our currency. It breaks my heart. Imagine the nerve of that deluded, uneducated, useless, lazy, do-nothing MALE.

      December 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I am curious. According to Rainer, Islam does not have the advantage of support by a (large) worldly power. What worldly powers support Christianity? Who counts the US or Canada among them?

    December 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • faith

      The Force. And may it be with you.

      December 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Akira

      Surely people realize that the US and Canada are secular?

      December 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
      • Science Works

        There is a few states that would like to think it is not .

        December 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Vic

      It is imperative to discern that the United States is a Capitalist country while Canada is Socialist. That's a profound and crucial difference!

      December 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • igaftr

        Having spent extensive time in both countries...yours is a distinction without a difference.
        For the average person...both countries are just as much capitalist as they are anything else, and since no nation is completely one thing or another, again... a dsitinction without a difference.

        December 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • Vic

          The United States' Capitalism is the driving force, otherwise, North America would not be viable! Canada is totally dependent on the United States.

          December 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
        • igaftr

          Capitalism is the driving force of the world, not just America.
          Canada is just as capitalistic as the USA.
          They have a few social plans such as health care, but that does not make them socialist.

          If I took 50 Canadians and 50 Americans in a room, other than the accents and different references, you would not know the difference.

          I am concerned that Canada has amassed 75% of their population along our border though....prelude to invasion?

          December 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • tallulah13

          If there is any fear of invasion, it is probably on the side of the Canadians, as they battle the influx of Americans trying to get affordable pharmaceuticals.

          December 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
        • igaftr


          What is said there is out of the movie "Canadian Bacon" where Alan Alda plays the US president, up for an election and wants to be wa war time president, so whips up fury over the Canadians to rally support to him...Hilarious movie, including John Candy, Michael Moore, Rhea Perlman, Kevin Pollack, Rip Torn, Jim Belushi, Steven Wright, and many more...

          The funiest thing in the movie is the American actors play the Canadians, and the Canadian actors play the Americans... a must see.

          December 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
        • Vic

          The United States earned its "Independence" through the "Revolutionary War" following the "Declaration Of Independence" on July 4, 1776. The United States founded its system on "Individual Freedom" where the individual comes before the state, unless it is a matter of National Security. The United States fought the "War Of 1812" through which it found its "True American Identity." During the "War Of 1812," Francis Scott Key wrote the infamous "Star Spangled Banner." The United States founded its economic system on its Capitalism. The United States has the System of Checks and Balances.

          Canada on the other hand, is under the Queen of England, never earned independence, without presidency, and was until recently part of the British Commonwealth. Canada, is a Socialist country where the state comes before the individual, and does not have a system of checks and balances.

          All in short.

          December 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
        • igaftr

          You must be overlooking the fact that Canada was the FRENCH colonies.

          December 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • igaftr

          You see Vic, it is the french influence that drives the more socialistic aspects. They were under british rule, but that doens't mean the same as they were British.

          Similar to the feeling of the southern british and Dutch colonies.

          Either way, that rule ended LONG ago and really has little to do with current day Canada.
          As I said before...they are capitalistic, they are socialistic, they are communistic etc., etc, etc.

          You CANNOT pin one label on them or any other nation, since there is no "pure" capitalism, nor socialism etc....just certain ideas within those looseley constructed frames.

          December 8, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Vic is just another liar for Jesus.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • Dandintac

        Vic, have you ever actually BEEN to Canada? If you have, you would easily see, unless you're an utter dolt, that they are as capitalistic as we are. True, their medicine is socialized, but they have better health outcomes as a result. I find they also have a somewhat higher standard of living, and their overall tax burden is about the same as ours. The biggest socialist enterprise on the planet over the years has been the Pentagon and US Department of Defense. Yet the right-wingers love the US military.

        Vic–do yourself a favor. Stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck and other right-wing demagogues. Try to forget anything you've ever heard from them. Get an actual education and open your mind. Listen to evidence, not slogans. You CAN regain your sanity.

        December 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  11. Merry Christmas from Bad Religion


    December 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • O'Reilly Blames Gays, Abortion For The 'War On Christmas'


      December 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  12. pete

    Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing!

    December 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  13. Doris

    On January 24, 2013, the traveling exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible opened at the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University.

    The keynote talk for the opening: "What Kind of a Text is the King James Bible? Manuscripts, Translation, and the Legacy of the KJV" was presented by agnostic author Dr. Bart Ehrman.


    Dr. Ehrman, author of over 25 books including three college text books, received his PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary (magna cum laude). He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Dr. Erhman just concluded an all-day seminar entitled "The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus Outside the New Testament" which was held Dec. 7 at Smithsonian Institution's S. Dillon Ripley Center on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil deGrasse Tsyon - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Thanks for posting these, Doris; a few of these are on topics I had not heard of previously.

      December 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  14. Guinness

    Guinness 1:1 In the beginning, man created the brewery and the beer.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • igaftr

      No, no, no.....You missed the entire book devoted to beer....He Brews.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • bostontola

        He Brews and you live. Brewing beer killed the bad microbes.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • igaftr

          and a few brain cells...

          December 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb


          December 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Cynthia

      Lol @ both comments.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Doris

      I might have become very devout
      had I been born near a Belgian abbey.
      Whether it be light or whether it be stout,
      I'm sure my outlook would be happy.

      December 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Concerning Islam:

    Despite 9/11 Islam is not the actual threat of the Western World but Capitalism and Materialism.

    The Islamic terrorist assaults of today are the last convulsions of an actually dead body, the Caliphate. The last great Caliphate was the Ottoman Empire which was finally destroyed by Russia and European powers. Especially the Islam is a religion which cannot really unfold without the support of a worldly power. As there is no more such a power, the Islam is reduced to only a ghost, blowing out a lamp sometimes.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Cynthia

      You think the jihadists are impotent? ROTFLMAO! Do you live in a bunker?

      You really have no idea what's going on in the world, do you??

      December 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • bostontola

      What is better than capitalism?

      December 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Cynthia

        His obvious answer would be his version of Christianity.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • bostontola

          I know of no society that ran their economy with Christianity.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
        • Cynthia

          Neither do I, but I get the feeling that Rain is just parroting the Pope, who he decries on a regular basis.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • bostontola

          Even the pope didn't say capitalism is man's biggest enemy.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • Cynthia

          I know that. I am just speculating where RB may be coming from.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • bostontola

          I didn't mean to imply that. I'm stunned that someone protected by the U S would say capitalism is the enemy, never mind the biggest enemy. Stunned.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Cynthia

          Well, that's our Rainier for ya...biting the hand that feeds ya, so to speak.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • igaftr

        lower case-ism?

        December 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Justice

      Tell that to the people of Syria, Zimbabwe,Turkey,South Africa, india, Nigeria and the countless other countries who are attacked on a daily basis.

      Terrorism... the rule of the machete and the trail of blood left behind is real.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        For our current political leaders a human life coúnts nearly nothing. They are only interested in their personal power, honor and profit. They milk the whole mankind like a cow. They cannot afford to get in too much contentions with the Islamic world because of economical interests, and that is the reason why they do not wipe out the Islamic terrorists from the earth immediately.

        Of course, they want to prevent events like 9/11 because such events could worst case hit themselves. But they don't give it a damn when a Christian "idiot" dies in Nigeria or elsewhere because of an Islamic assault.

        I would welcome a government which would wipe out the Islamic terrorists from the world within some days – that is of course possible, and only a matter of good will. May God give is such a devoted government.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • midwest rail

          " But they don't give it a damn when a Christian "idiot" dies in Nigeria or elsewhere because of an Islamic assault. "
          You DO live in a vacuum, don't you ?

          December 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
        • Rainer Braendlein

          Please tell me what Obama is doing for the Christians of Nigeria.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          What is God doing for the Christians of Nigeria? What are the Christian nations doing for them ( the United States is not one )?

          December 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
        • Cynthia

          I see you still want the US to be the world's policeman. I also see tag you espouse wiping out other religions off the face of the earth. Jeez, didn't you Germans learn anything from your "Final Solution" debacle? What is WRONG with you, Rainier??

          December 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
        • Rainer Braendlein

          I only refered to Islamic terrorists. Of course, I will love my ordinary Muslim neighbour. I already got to know some really kind Muslims. Nevertheless the Islam as a doctrine is a damnable heresy, maybe the worst heresy beside Catholicism (I don't hate Catholics).

          December 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
        • Cynthia

          So...what is Germany doing?

          December 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • Rainer Braendlein

          The will of Britain and the US because we have lost WWII. There are still Anglo-Saxon soldiers on German territory – that says it all.

          December 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Cynthia

          Well? What is Germany doing?

          Since you feel that the US efforts aren't enough.

          December 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
        • Rainer Braendlein

          Germany is not independent or sovereign. We have to do the will of the US, Britain and maybe France.

          December 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • Cynthia

          Yeah, that whole war thing messed you up good, didn't it?
          Are you aware the US is secular?

          December 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
        • Rainer Braendlein

          The allies freed Germany from Nazi rule. That release was very good; thank you dear allies.

          However, there were some powers in Germany which were neither Nazis nor very pro Anglo-Saxon. They saw the dangers of the capitalistic Anglo-Saxon system in Britain and the US.

          It is a shame for the allies that seemingly together with the bad Nazis that good anticapitalistic/prochristian forces were annihilated. The outcome is today Germany, a once highly civilized country degenerated to a mere factory with very unhappay people. Poor Germany who can help you?

          December 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Let's be sure to see to it that Germany becomes a sovereign nation again. It's just an oversight, Rainer, I'm sure of it.

          December 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
        • Justice

          Rainier, I agree. We have a weak President and disasterous foreign policies that are just as you describe. There has been a total moral breakdown in this country and we have become like so many other nations who don't give a damn about people and support big business over its own workforce. The big picture is disturbing as we have failed, even, at our own standards.

          Viva la France!

          December 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Just how exactly would our government "wipe out the Islamic terrorists from the world within some days"? And if it has such power, why stop with Islamic terrorists? Why not take out the Christian terrorists too? And any others? Also–how do you define "terrorist"? And how do you discern who all is or will be a terrorist? Please share.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          The majority of christians killed in the last few decades has been by other christians, so be accurate in your condemnation.

          December 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • ME II

      Isn't Islam one of the fastest growing religions in the world?

      December 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Islam grows, even in the West, while Lutheranism contracts year after year. Poor Rainer should face facts. Here is the shahada for when he is ready:

        There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        May be but they lack a central worldly power supporting them.

        December 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • Cynthia

          Like Germany?

          December 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
        • Justice

          Russia does a lot to support radical Islamists as does China.

          December 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        I am curious. What central worldly powers support Christianity? Do you count the US or Canada among them?

        December 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
      • Dandintac

        It is. So those Christians who are so eager to break down the wall of separation between church and state would be well-adivsed to rethink their positions. They actually have more to fear from their fellow theists than they do from atheists. They could easily wake up one day, and at the town hall meeting, they are told to turn and face Mecca, and bow and pray to Allah. Or their kids at school. And they could be told that we now a "Muslim Nation" instead of a "Christian Nation". If I were a Christian, I would be working vigorously to keep the government - local, state and Federal–permanently secular!

        December 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  16. Justice

    A temple has come to represent a refuge.

    I pray for the people of the Central African Republic. May Yahweh protect His people and those sent to help them.


    December 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • lourie

      It is important to think about the persecuted. In Africa today, as has been the case in other parts of the world over history, Christians have are being persecuted, but in some cases are persecutors.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • lourie

        Of course same with Islamists, and in other places, the same with Jews.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • bostontola

      And may Odin protect all the other people Yahweh doesn't.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  17. David

    The god of the bible is an immoral mafia boss: pay homage to me or I'll torture you forever.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • bostontola

      But if you do follow me, you can have slaves, and I'll kill your enemies in mass genocides.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    What causes the great discrepancy between Sunday and Monday today, if we consider an ordinary Christian?

    The problem is the Capitalism and the Materialism of the society as a whole today. To put it simply: Today everybody is ready to do anything for a Dollar or Euro, no matter, if he is a Christian or not.

    We spend extremly much time with earning money – too much time. The problem is not only the riches which we pile up, and withheld needy people, but also the vast amount of time and physical energy which we sacrifice for Mammon, the God of Materialism.

    Of course, work is a divine mandate, we are supposed to work in order to earn our llivelihood. Don't get me wrong. I am not an opponent of moderate work. I only refuse the extreme entanglement of the individual with the work or job today. The job has become too high a priority to today (work is important but not as important as we assume today).

    Therefore a faithful church should support her members in finding a balance between working and time of contemplation. At any rate we need more time of contemplation where we pray, fast, study the Bible, befriend other believers, etc..

    This issue is a real challenge for everybody wanting to be a faithful Christian.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Actually

      The real challenge is to rid yourself of superstition and start accepting the real world for what it is.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • bostontola

      I hope you didn't mean to come across as arrogant as your text. Do you really want to tell people how to allocate their time? Some people choose to work because they like it, some need the money to better their children's chances, there are many other reasons as well. Don't you think good people should be able to make this choice without others telling them it's wrong?

      December 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  19. Doris

    A speech by Bart Ehrman at the Getty Center in Los Angeles – 9/22/2011.

    Illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages are significant for the literary texts they preserve. But they are also important, historically and culturally, for their illustrations of the life of Christ. These artistic representations tell tales of their own, and the visual stories are not always found in the corresponding texts. A careful examination of these images shows clearly and convincingly that medieval artists were not only familiar with the stories of the canonical Gospels, but also with many noncanonical apocryphal tales of Jesus. The apocryphal stories, in some instances, were understood to be "Gospel truth" on par with accounts found in Scripture.


    Dr. Ehrman, author of over 25 books including three college text books, received his PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary (magna cum laude). He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Dr. Erhman just concluded an all-day seminar entitled "The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus Outside the New Testament" which was held Dec. 7 at Smithsonian Institution's S. Dillon Ripley Center on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Spam Alert


      December 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
      • Guiness

        Brilliant. Doris is actually Dr Ehrman himself. Kudos.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
        • Doris

          LOL. I wish I was – he's probably getting some good money for all these talks. Actually, I would not want that job. I couldn't even stand an hour teleconference back before I retired.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Gottas love Erhman! I hope that one day I have the option of wearing an old t-shirt and bathrobe to speak at a conference with as much knowledge and aplomb. Kudos to him.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • David

      Lol. His next series will be about how Christmas cards prove the existence of Santa Clause.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • *

        Claus (not Clause) - dang that movie!

        December 8, 2013 at 12:49 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.