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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. ugly truth

    I'm an atheist, so not trying to be mean but...those pictures seem really amateurish. I get an atheist photographer trying to "capture" the essence of faith...but this pictures seemed staged and...like a newbie did them.

    I don't think he captured faith/myths/nonsense, nor do I think he should be attempting to when clearly he doesn't understand what truth faith is or how to make a natural looking picture. Two thumbs down.

    December 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Dandintac

      I'm struck by how they are mainly architectural. I'm an atheist too, but I recognize that "faith" is mainly about people. If one is taking pictures of faith, that's what the main subject should be for the photographer. People.

      December 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
      • bushgirlsgonewild

        Absolutely – I was thinking the same thing. How does a building, empty of people, reflect "faith"? For real "faith" photos, he should have taken photos of people jumping out of airplanes without parachutes.

        December 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      agreed.

      December 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
      • Veronica

        I'm sorry you feel that way. Read the Bible in the NIV version and if don't see the prophecies written over 2000 years ago coming to pass in this day and age then look closer. The proof is accurate fulfillment of prophecies and changed lives. If you saw a demon and prayed real hard and saw an angel right beside you, you would believe too!!

        December 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  2. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Some more of these pictures would have been nice.

    December 9, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  3. ME II

    @Live4Him,

    "Amendment 14 addressed citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws – namely for former black slaves. So, it doesn't have anything to do with religious views."

    The 14th amendment extends such protections to all citizens, regardless of which state they live in. (Note: I said the Eqaul Proctection clause, but it is apparently the Due Process Clause also in the 14th Amendment.)

    While Epperson v BOE was held to not be a violation of the Establishment Clause, it did however establish the connection via the 14th to all citizens:

    Held:
    1. The expenditure of tax raised funds thus authorized was for a public purpose, and did not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 330 U. S. 5-8.
    2. The statute and resolution did not violate the provision of the First Amendment (made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment) prohibiting any "law respecting an establishment of religion." Pp. 330 U. S. 8-18.
    133 N.J.L. 350, 44 A.2d 333, affirmed.

    (http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/330/1/case.html)

    December 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  4. OO oO

    i think the testimonies of hundreds of millions of people should be dismissed. we don't let witnesses testify in court.

    December 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  5. OO oO

    that's y jimmy carter believes. everyone who ever has lost a limb asked him to pray and everyone grew back his limbs. not bad

    December 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  6. OO oO

    Get Real
    Jesus Beloved,
    " A simple prayer of "God, if you are real and out there, please reveal yourself to me"

    And what other being that you don't believe in do you talk to?
    You know, sometimes I almost wish that this "God" character did exist. I'm real good at following rules and would love to turn over some of the decisions I constantly have to make. I was a believer for over 40 years, and have been a non-believer for almost 20 now. There is not a whit of difference regarding what talking to this "God" accomplished contrasted with not talking to "Him".

    Dandintac
    They have actually done many studies on intercessory prayer, to see if it works. It does not. They had people pray for medical outcomes, and there was no difference from the control group.
    Anyone who claims prayer works, let's line up a bunch of amputees, or people with medical conditions that serious medical problems that never go into remission on their own, and are known to be incurable and untreatable. Have every believer in the world pray for them to heal

    so, amputees not growing their limbs back, even though prayers were offered, is proof god isn't real.

    that is nonsense

    December 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Dandintac

      If God DID actually answer prayers, this would be proof of it–would it not? This would be a golden opportunity for god to prove himself and show that he is a good god.

      It IS evidence that a god who answers prayers does not exist. We can repeat this experiment over and over again. If there is a god, he apparently does not answer prayers.

      December 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • fred

        Clearly you do not understand prayer
        Your amputee argument is empty. Prayer with an amputee is about much more than legs and arms. I am sorry you have suffered so that you respond with such posts. You might be surprised what a little time with God can produce. You do not need to go it alone. Find a group that understands so can get out of this dark world you see all around you.

        December 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          But prayer with amputees never does get around to restoring what was lost. Doesn't that suggest something to you, fred? We can talk and talk. Our hearts can change. We can come to Jesus. But that leg...

          December 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
        • fred

          Tom Tom
          I think you are beginning to understand prayer.
          I had an amputee ask me why I never prayed for her legs to grow back. I told her I needed a good reason to stop by. At one point we thought it was because of lack of faith on our part. Realization was that effective prayer is led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seems focused on all the spiritual aspects associated with the loss of legs. Reality was that those were the pressing issues. Yes, those issues would not be there if the legs were. In the end we have different suffering in life. The blessing is having someone pray with you through those times. I don't know why but it works every time.

          December 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • Saraswati

          "In the end we have different suffering in life. The blessing is having someone pray with you through those times. I don't know why but it works every time."

          You really can't think of any situation where this doesn't work?

          December 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
        • fred

          Saraswati
          If it is someone I don't know I always ask if they would like me to pray with them. Sometimes I get very hostile response

          December 9, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
        • Dandintac

          But Fred–What does it mean to say a prayer has been "answered" if there is never a way to verify it and measure it to make sure it's not the sort of thing that would have happened just as easily without the prayer? With all due respect, it seems like you are making excuses for the failure of prayer to work.
          Thanks for the reply.

          December 15, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  7. Reality # 2

    Photography unfortunately was not available in the first century CE so we must rely on rigorous historic and archeological testing: One result as noted many times:

    Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors (e.g.Notre Dame, Catholic U, Georgetown) of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

    p.4

    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    December 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      For more on the infamous Resurrection con, see Professor Gerd Ludemann's review in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, (Mark 16) and also http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb275.html.

      For more on the infamous Ascension con, see the same book, Luke 24:50-53 and http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb480.html

      December 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  8. Live4Him

    @ME II : I would think that a faith-based belief would only be susceptible to a faith-based skepticism.

    Then you must admit that those so-called atheists on this forum are a form of 'faith-based skepticism'.

    December 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Some Antics

      I do not have faith that Care Bears do not exist, but since there is no evidence that they do I do not believe in them. But Care Bear apologists say that evidence is everywhere, how can you say there is no Love-a-Lot Bear when there is so much love shown around the world? How can there be so many friends without Friend Bear? And how can there be no Wish Bear with so many peoples wishes? It must take a lot of faith not to believe the care bears are the cause of all those feelings, right?

      December 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • ME II

      @Live4Him,
      "Then you must admit that those so-called atheists on this forum are a form of 'faith-based skepticism'."

      I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Atheists don't have faith-based belief. However they can still attempt a reason-based argument whether or not the faith-based belief is susceptible to such or not.

      In other words, 'you can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into in the first place.'

      December 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Live4Him

    @cedar rapids : sorry but I dont reject god, i dont believe he exists.

    Upon WHAT do you base that belief upon?

    December 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • K-switch

      In the original context of the discussion, what does it matter?

      December 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
      • Get Real

        Careful, K-switch, L4H will chastise you for "forcibly inserting yourself into the conversation"! Ve haf rules, here, ya know.

        December 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      I don't 'base that belief' on anything.
      I have seen nothing to suggest I move from the default position of there being no god.

      December 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  10. Live4Him

    @ME II : Many point to the 14th and its equal protection clause, but many also point to Article 6's 'no religious test' clause also.

    Article 6 is part of the original Consititution. why would ANY state pass this article if it was going to invalidate their state consititution, unless they immediately changed it (which they didn't). Thus, this article, so it fails to justify the request.

    Amendment 14 addressed citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws – namely for former black slaves. So, it doesn't have anything to do with religious views.

    December 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Jem

      The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land. State Constituitions are important, but take a back seat to the US Constitution. I am surprised you didn't know this.

      December 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • ME II

      @Live4Him,
      reply at end.

      December 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  11. oo OO

    PLato said,"Look to the perfection of the heavens for truth,"

    December 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • oo oo

      2.08282953 × 10-6 joules or 14 trillion volts of power to generate the velocity of protons racing thru 17 miles of an underground tube from opposite directions, controlled by magnets to collide into one another to create conditions of the universe 1/1 millionth of a second after the big bang at lhc.

      GOD

      December 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  12. oo OO

    Scientists say they have proven the existence of the Higgs boson - a never-before-seen subatomic particle long thought to be a fundamental building block of the universe.

    December 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  13. Dr. Luke

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBSZJ8CYUEs&w=640&h=360]

    December 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    I understand exactly where this photographer is coming from.
    For those of us who lack religious faith, trying to understand it can be difficult.
    It is, arguably, the most powerful of human emotions. The cognitive dissonance it inspires brings out the best and the worst of human nature – a concept that is flabbergasting to Naturalists as religious faith, by its very definition is unquantifiable, unprovable and totally subjectice.
    Debates centered around faith are generally exercises in futility as there can be no rational answer to an emotional argument. (I am aware of the irony of this statement coming from a regular contributor to this blog)
    The great problem with religious faith is that any proposition predicated on dogmatic acceptance of unprovable supernatural postulates can and will be manipulated by the unscrupulous for their own gain.
    Its just far too easy to manipulate those who are willing to suspend critical thinking and accept something without evidence.
    In this day and age, sociological evolution is leading us away from religion. Not because Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc are negative in and of themselves, but becuase they are necessarily divisive.

    December 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Paul

      Divisive people are divisive. With or without religion.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Religion breeds tribalism.
        The Jews are God's chosen people!
        But then in Part II, God chose everybody who would listen.
        But then the people who would listen splintered into warring tribes – thousands upon thousands of them and each one smugly assured of the correctness of their creed.

        The most wonderful thing about citing God as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove and He is never around to correct you.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
        • Paul

          That is not what I'm doing. Just what you imagine. And your imagination is more divisive than religion.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • fred

      "becuase they are necessarily divisive"
      =>To which Jesus said: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
      =>Perhaps you subscribe to Stalin who found worship divisive and best removed so the State sits at the top.
      =>Recall the danger of one party rule when Nimrod and everyone was scattered because united man is the greatest threat to our existence.
      =>Interesting how the necessity of that tree of good and evil makes more and more sense.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al. simply formed their own religions – or cults of personality to be more accurate.
        They directed the people's faith away from mythological gods and onto themselves, effectively having put themselves in the godhead position.
        The "tree of good and evil" is a metaphor, nor more literally true that Odin's tree of wisdom.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Yggdrasil

          December 9, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • Jesus' Beloved

        Well said.
        It's just so interesting to see so many partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (espousing their Intellect, Self-Will, and Emotions).... making a mockery of those partaking of the tree of life (Conscience, Wisdom, and Communion) trying to reduce God to the logic of man.
        It would be laughable if it weren't so serious.

        God Bless

        December 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • Madtown

          trying to reduce God to the logic of man
          ------
          This is what man has done in creating the bible.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • ME II

        @fred,
        "Interesting how the necessity of that tree of good and evil makes more and more sense."

        How so?

        December 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • fred

          ME II
          Outside of the presence of God is the knowledge of good and evil. Man was warned that he would surly die outside of Gods presence. Death is the absence of eternal life and eternal life is only that which exists in Christ (in the presence of God).
          The existence of good and evil in our selves and our world goes without saying and is a constant excuse from atheists to give God a black eye. What Doc calls cognitive dissonance is actually what reality looks like when someone is outside the presence of God or when one does not have a full commitment to follow Christ. Christians end up beating themselves up like Martin Luther did until they are overcome with grace from God while non believers trapped in denial twist science thinking it answers the question of why I am here. Cognitive dissonance is using the excuse I don't know or there is no God while reality is gnawing at their self awareness.
          Simplistic as the Bible is the contrast between good and evil makes the choices clear. The constant failures or lack of good is designed such that we realize we are sinners. Unable to save ourselves we finally call out to God which begins the process of redemption. A few actually follow Christ and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That joy of being rescued opens our vision so we can see the presence of God and the true reality beyond the natural (tree, good and evil) which includes God

          December 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
        • Madtown

          when one does not have a full commitment to follow Christ.
          -----–
          What's it called when one has just never heard of Christ, because God set it up that way?

          December 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
        • ME II

          @fred,
          "Outside of the presence of God is the knowledge of good and evil."

          How is it outside the presence of God?
          Did God not supposedly put the tree in the Garden and therefore in His presence?
          Or are you saying that a supposedly all-knowing God does not have "knowledge of good and evil"?

          December 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
        • fred

          Madtown
          That is called a blessing. We are only held accountable for what we were given.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • fred

          ME II
          "And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life"
          -so, yes God knows good and evil.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
        • ME II

          @Vic,
          So, again, How is it outside the presence of God?

          December 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
        • fred

          To be in the presence of God is to be in Christ. All things work to the good of those in Christ. Regardless if good or evil hits us we are confident in Christ as this world will pass away but we will not.
          Outside the presence of God good and evil hit but without assurance if it to any benefit.

          December 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
        • fred

          ME II
          Ok, poor terms. God is often referred to as omnipresent. God's relative position has not changed we have. Instead of being dependent on God, trusting God, obedient to God (do not touch that tree) we have moved outside of that "presence". It could be better phrased as being in the will of God.

          December 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
        • ME II

          @fred,
          "It could be better phrased as being in the will of God."

          Fair enough.
          Just to be clear though, being outside the "will of God" apparently also requires being outside of certain knowledge.

          December 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
        • fred

          ME II
          Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John the Baptist. How could that be as John from before birth was on target to proclaim the need for repentance and coming of Christ. He did not drink, eat wrong foods or shave in total obedience. Yet, John was beheaded before The Cross (atonement for sin) and Pentecost (indwelling of the Holy Spirit). So he did not have the knowledge we have concerning Christ and the Spirit.
          We do not know if Adam and Eve (real or representative matters not) fully knew the consequence of the knowledge of good and evil (leaving God will for them) when they disobeyed. They knew it after the fact. I also have done what I thought was in the will of God only to find out I was doing it for the wrong reason.

          December 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I have visited many ancient cathedrals while stationed in Germany, and I have also visited Westminster Abbey while TDY to JAC Molesworth before my deployment to Bosnia... very cool places.... you can feel the weight of time and the effort it took to construct that impressive Gothic structure. But none of those 'holy' places made me believe in the Christian God... only that humans are capable of building some lovely structures when they put their mind to it...

      December 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        @LET
        I too was awed by the grandeur of many European cathedrals, especially those in Germany.
        Where were you stationed?
        I was at HQEUCOM (Patch) in Vahingen.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I was a nuclear missile guy with the 56th Command (Pershing) at Schwabish Gmund 1986-1990

          December 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          We fell directly under SACEUR

          December 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          I wonder if AFN still shows stuff like this:
          [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fft4te3pRb8&w=640&h=360]

          December 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Doc,

      Do you think there could be any believers who are also skeptics.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        @Robert
        Once a given proposition has been accepted on faith, said proposition is no longer amenable to examination by reason.
        Religious faith is willing suspension of disbelief.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
      • ME II

        I would think that a faith-based belief would only be susceptible to a faith-based skepticism.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • ME II

      Well said.
      One of the reasons that non-believers discuss religion is simple curiosity.

      December 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
      • ME II

        That was @Doc Vestibule.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
      • fred

        No, it is because God is self evident even within you. You were made in the image of God with a purpose onto God so you look for it because it's in your DNA. Just like salmon that swim up a certain stream without awareness that there is more you, limited by naturalism, also are looking for homebase.

        What you want to know is why can't you see the kingdom Jesus spoke about, the promise Abraham saw clearly. Just like the salmon you will die without hope and with the same meaning and purpose for existence. It is sad that you cannot see how such an ending does not feel (for lack of better word) right. This is why you seek and answer

        December 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          If God is self-evident, why does He need prophets and missionaries to spread His word?

          December 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
        • ME II

          @fred,
          "You were made in the image of God with a purpose onto God so you look for it because it's in your DNA. "

          While I'll admit that there is Guanine in DNA, I see no neucleobases for the O and the D.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • fred

          Doc
          God speaks to us through creation. Prophets and missionaries are part of the creation as are all created things that we observe in the physical world. Prophets, missionaries, houses of worship, universes, beauty, the eye, etc. all proclaim what is self evident. God does not need to use missionaries or Prophets "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
          Prophets and missionaries are servants of God, even Jesus came not to be served but to serve. The Word of God is presented very simply as people can understand it. Who best to pass on the Word of God but someone like you.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • fred

          ME II
          Guanine is paired with cytosine this is why we send young missionaries out 2×2.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • Ted

          fred, seriously, why does your creature who has or can make anything, need service such as you describe, from anyone? Sounds like a vain b-tard to me, not a god.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          frd, does god have a navel?

          December 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • fred

          In Santa We Trust
          Probably as Noah is a graduate of His Naval Academy

          December 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
        • fred

          Ted
          "why does your creature who has or can make anything, need service such as you desc"
          =>God is not in need of anything. Existence is an "expression" of God with creation being a short line on Gods eternal landscape. Creation as we know it exhibits a wonder and awe we can barely take in not to mention our place in it. The plan of creation is to bring about souls that will join the eternal life. It is simply a blessing upon mankind. I suspect one could argue if there is a God a cold impersonal existence is a possibility. Problem is that we experience the opposite as we express our creativity, love, beauty etc. In that light we would not be in God image.
          The godless religion has us to believe existence is one improbable accident after another improbable accident without purpose or meaning ending in a dark abyss. That is the most negative downer of a disposition imaginable.

          December 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          fred, So where is god's mother?

          December 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
        • fred

          In Santa We trust
          No mother as God does not consist of created matter. God simply is or when Moses asked whom shall I tell them sent me God replied "tell them I AM" sent you. God does not have a past, present or future as such segmentation of time is relative to our known existence.
          Jesus had a mother because Jesus was born of Mary miraculously through the Holy Spirit.

          December 10, 2013 at 1:23 am |
        • Ted

          fred, you've indicated that your god does need service, so please answer my question. No more dodges. Get on it.

          fred, seriously, why does your creature who has or can make anything, need service such as you describe, from anyone? Sounds like a vain b-tard to me, not a god.

          December 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • fred

      "easy to manipulate those who are willing to suspend critical thinking and accept something without evidence"
      =>A very small percentage of Christians follow Christ. I would say the majority of people are easy to manipulate. Jesus said the way is narrow and few are on it but the gate is wide that leads to death.
      Who told you that evidence was superior to that which is self evident? Is reality what is or is reality what your critical mind, limited by evidence, can understand? Hint: reality is dominated by God where real or imagined is immaterial. Reality includes faith, it includes answered miracles, prayer and worship. Your compartmentalization of God reflects reality that is not an imagined event.

      December 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
      • Science Works

        Wow fred i will hand it to you that is a load of pickled peppers you just typed !

        December 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        But fred, that is only what's in your mind – that doesn't make it evident to anyone else.

        December 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • fred

          no, it is factually evident that Jesus changed the face of the world as we know it. It is factually evident that belief in God has dominated the way our world functions. Reality is indifferent to what you or I may think we see. Observation from a physical perspective most likely would reveal a very similar set of events. I see existence as spiritual going through a physical experience while you see a physical existence with insignificant or no spiritual attributes. There I would agree with you. Where I see a miracle in a healing you see an unknown or chance event.

          December 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          fred, If you mean evident that the world was changed because people believed in a god and believed that jesus was the son of that god then that's true. I meant that is not evident that there is a god or that that god created the universe. All evidence we have points away from personal gods.

          December 9, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  15. Paul

    Great article. Nice to see this man doing something awesome despite his difference in opinion with others.

    December 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      Awsome?You set the bar pretty low.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
      • Paul

        Compared to what others do here, he is being awesome.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
        • bushgirlsgonewild

          And the photos aren't even good.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Sol Invictus

    Ecce venit BUTIO!

    December 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  17. Live4Him

    @igaftr : The government buildings are a representation of , for and by the people

    Yes, but NOT your people – unless you claim to be from OK.

    @igaftr : why would it NOT outrage you that anyone is putting religious symbols on our SEPERATE government

    This is beyond plain ignorance, and more like willful ignorance. Almost every one of the original 13 colonies had/have a state-mandated religion. Only the Federal Government was prohibited from endorsing a given religion.

    December 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Alias

      We have advanced from the original 13 colonies.
      Those of us living in the present know that seperation of church and state applies to all levels of government.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
      • *

        Hey guys, it's "separate", not "seperate".

        December 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
        • Alias

          Absolutely correct.
          However, the coment box doesn't have spel check and I dont care asmuch about typo's as I do bout the massage peopel are crying to expess.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • *

          Mine has spell check (Firefox).

          It just sounds a bit sharper and smarter if one uses correct words. Sloppy presentation can signify sloppy thinking.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • Alias

          Only if one takes time to review their work.
          This is not a presentation to a CEO, it is a blog with several hypercritical schmucks, and a few reasonable people.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @Alias : We have advanced from the original 13 colonies. Those of us living in the present know that seperation of church and state applies to all levels of government.

        Which amendment was added to the US Constitiution that requires separation of Church and all levels of government?

        December 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          Many point to the 14th and its equal protection clause, but many also point to Article 6's 'no religious test' clause also.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      MAYBE when they were colonies, but not as the United States. People also, in their ignorance, burned or hung witches in Salem during colonial times. Still wrong and immoral, and they we following the immoral bible's laws. Now we followUS law. Much, much better.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @bushgirlsgonewild : MAYBE when they were colonies, but not as the United States.

        They didn't change their state constitutions when they became the United States.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          @Live4Him
          Tell that to the Mormons in Utah.
          They were denied statehood time and time again becuase they practiced what the US Gov't called "the twin relics of barbarism – slavery and polygamy".
          Laws against polygamy (Morill Laws) were made a requirement for entry into the Union and it was only then, after 5 failed attempts, that the LDS "prophets" had their divine revelation about polygamy being bad – but even then, it was reluctant.
          So the US Federal government got a state vying to entry into the Union to put aside their religious convictions.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • igaftr

      Lie4him
      Still can't get the hang of the reply button...another reeason to ignore you....you can't follow a thread when you keep restarting the quilt

      December 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @igaftr : Still can't get the hang of the reply button...another reeason to ignore you....you can't follow a thread when you keep restarting the quilt

        Sure I can. However, a thread is defined by topic AND the respondents. Since you were not part of the original discussion, but forcibly inserted yourself into the discussion, you started a new thread. why is this simple concept so difficult for those on this forum to understand?

        December 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
        • igaftr

          "but forcibly inserted yourself into the discussion" another lie

          You are aware you are on a public blog right?

          December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @igaftr : You are aware you are on a public blog right?

          You're aware that I have freedom to debate with you, ignore you OR to post to the top of the forum when responding to an off-topic post, aren't you? so, if this is a public blog, why are you complaining?

          December 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • Get Real

          Live4Him,

          "... forcibly inserted yourself into the discussion..."

          Are you serious? Comments are open here.

          ______________________________________________________________

          iga,

          L4 thinks he/she is conducting his/her own little seminar here. This is a control freak par excellence. Sheesh, I'm so glad that he/she is not my parent, spouse, co-worker, or anyone that I'd have to deal with in real life!

          December 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
        • igaftr

          lie4him
          I was complianing ( and i thought i was clear) that you posted a RESPONSE to me by starting a new thread.

          Do you know how to use a blog? RESPONSES go under the same thread so someone can see the resonse. New thoughts start new threads.

          Why are you complaining that someone posted a remark on a public blog?

          December 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          That is a ridiculous standard. A commenter cannot specify who may respond. What is the point of commenting if you don't expect responses?

          December 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  18. Jesus' Beloved

    Live4Him:
    1Cor 4:20 says, the Kingdom of God is not in words (of men) but in Power.
    We're called to Live the Kingdom by loving each and every person as much as we love our selves (we demonstrate this by healing the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead, feed the poor etc.)
    Clearly it requires a renewed mind to do the above, because it is through the renewed mind that God has chosen to manifest His Kingdom.
    (All throughout Matthew we're told, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto....)

    I guess my question is do you believe the reason most don't accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob is because they have not really seen a manifestation of the Power of God in their lives and especially in the lives of those who believe.
    I know it's difficult to demonstrate the Power of God via the internet, but with God nothing is impossible, so I never doubt that it can and will happen.
    I'm not looking for a I'm right you're wrong debate, I just honestly want to hear the thought of someone else on the issue.

    December 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      you want to hear the thoughts of someone else in your cult?

      yes, that's really searching ...

      December 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Jesus' Beloved : do you believe the reason most don't accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob is because they have not really seen a manifestation of the Power of God in their lives and especially in the lives of those who believe.

      My belief is that people reject God, much like Satan rejected God. It isn't the lack of evidence, but that they WANT to believe that he has no authority over them. As such, any evidence that is presented will be twisted to negate its intended purpose. Like the serpent said 'Are you not prevented to touch the fruit' – when in fact they were prohibited to eat of it. By twisting the command ever so slightly, he blurred the lines of right and wrong. Likewise, non-believers will twist the evidence to suit their purpose – justifying their belief that they don't need to change.

      Likewise, I think many Christians don't really trust in God, so much as they go through the motions. As such, they will proclaim themselves as Christians, but act like non-believers. For some, it is just a lack of Christian maturity. For others, they willfully want to put on a show (like the Pharisees), but are unwilling to relinquish their throne to Christ.

      Just my thoughts on your question.

      December 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Religiois faith is the cave-man instinct that comes upon us when we're confronted by something we don't understand.
        It goes further. More than just keeping an imaginary friend around to make the world seem less bleak, some religious people DO understand some basic facts about objectivity and credibility, and attempt to prove religion, an ultimately unprovable hypothesis by its very belief-based nature. This gets funny, because "facts" become tools that must be selectively presented. This is a rigourous process of double-think, where some things are ignored or made smaller while others are made huge and important. The common thread, however, is the inability to reconcile some things with others: reality with aggrandizement, hope with reality, anecdote with fact, ideas with proof. Everything is fair game, even if some of it is basically assumed and other stuff is questioned so rhetorically as to lose all meaning. These people, the ones who might have been able to think, are the people who sadden me most.

        December 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        'My belief is that people reject God, much like Satan rejected God. It isn't the lack of evidence, but that they WANT to believe that he has no authority over them.'

        sorry but I dont reject god, i dont believe he exists. That is a big difference.
        and that difference means I dont go round thinking I dont want god to have authority over me, instead I go round thinking there is no god.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • Jesus' Beloved

          Even though you do not believe God exists, by placing all your faith and trust into yourself, you have made yourself your own god.
          So you do have a god, and so does everyone else. It may not be a conscious decision but it's one nonetheless.

          Stay Blessed. A simple prayer of "God, if you are real and out there, please reveal yourself to me". He will do. and that should clear up any questions or doubts you may having regarding His existence.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'by placing all your faith and trust into yourself, you have made yourself your own god.
          So you do have a god, and so does everyone else. It may not be a conscious decision but it's one nonetheless. '

          No, not really. I know you religious lot like to claim I have somehow made myself god but really that nonsense is just an emperor's new clothes saying. Either that or your notion of what a 'god' is is vastly different to mine.

          'A simple prayer of "God, if you are real and out there, please reveal yourself to me". He will do. and that should clear up any questions or doubts you may having regarding His existence.'

          But I don't have any doubts. I see absolutely nothing to suggest there is a god in the first place, no matter what the religion is that is attempting to claim the existence of one.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Joey

          That is just silly, not believing in god doesn't mean that people have turned themselves into their own god.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
        • Get Real

          Jesus Beloved,
          " A simple prayer of "God, if you are real and out there, please reveal yourself to me"

          And what other being that you don't believe in do you talk to?

          You know, sometimes I almost wish that this "God" character did exist. I'm real good at following rules and would love to turn over some of the decisions I constantly have to make. I was a believer for over 40 years, and have been a non-believer for almost 20 now. There is not a whit of difference regarding what talking to this "God" accomplished contrasted with not talking to "Him".

          December 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • Dandintac

          They have actually done many studies on intercessory prayer, to see if it works. It does not. They had people pray for medical outcomes, and there was no difference from the control group.

          Anyone who claims prayer works, let's line up a bunch of amputees, or people with medical conditions that serious medical problems that never go into remission on their own, and are known to be incurable and untreatable. Have every believer in the world pray for them to heal, and let's have cameras there to view the outcome, with scientists and James Randi on hand to make sure there's no trickery.

          This is actual testable evidence that a God who listens to and answers prayers does not exist.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
      • Jesus' Beloved

        I understand very well how one can be easily deceived by half-truths. That's one of the things I was pointing out to someone who read a book on necromancy (long island medium) and was totally sold on everything the author wrote and was now at "peace" from reading about the endless cycles of death – i.e. soul coming back as such...dying then coming back again as another.

        I told this person, the devil never tells a full lie, he uses half-truths to deceive people.
        I said every born again believer has the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead living on the inside of them, and therefore had no need to be contacting the spirits of the dead.
        Ro 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

        Don't know if what I said was received... but I thought not saying anything was tantamount to knowing a bridge was washed out and not warning oncoming vehicles of what lies ahead.

        The point of all this was to say- why was it so easy to accept something written by this author when the Bible covers this topic (re: Saul visiting the witch of Endor) and everything else.
        People will read a book that says How to decrease stress etc. and think they've fallen into some new ideas/discoveries When the Bible tells us..."take no thought, saying"... "fear not" (365 times), "as a man thinks, so he is".... etc.
        And I've seen this in every area of life. (Cannot elaborate for lack of time)

        December 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Jesus' Beloved :why was it so easy to accept something written by this author when the Bible covers this topic (re: Saul visiting the witch of Endor) and everything else.

          Put yourself into that person's shoes for a moment. He/she knows there are issues with absolute atheism, but abhors the truth of God/Final Judgement. So, he/she is sold a bill of goods by the deceiver that addresses his/her area of concern and never probes for the truth further.

          So, what's the Christian to do? There are only two solutions – give them reasons to reject the false truth while opening the path to real truth (1 Peter 3:15 – always give a reason {apologea}) and kick the dust off your feet and move on. If you gave some solid reasons why this necromancy is false, then the rest is up to God. You're NOT responsible for his/her salvation. You're only responsible for giving logical reasons for your belief in Christ. Let the rest up to Jesus.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
        • Fan2C

          Jesus' Beloved,
          " the devil never tells a full lie, he uses half-truths to deceive people."

          Ah, well then maybe this "Satan" is the one who wrote or inspired your Bible. Master Deceiver, ya know. Throw in some schtick about love, kindness and eternal bliss to hook 'em, and sit back and cackle at the centuries of dissension and strife that it has caused!

          December 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • Jesus' Beloved

          @Live4Him: If you gave some solid reasons why this necromancy is false, then the rest is up to God. You're NOT responsible for his/her salvation. You're only responsible for giving logical reasons for your belief in Christ. Let the rest up to Jesus.

          Thanks for this. I've been wondering whether or not my message was received by this individual because I never got a response. And even though I told myself to leave it alone because I did what I could, I still thought about it (which I also saw as another attack to keep my mind out of rest).

          God Bless.

          December 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
        • Noel

          "If you gave some solid reasons why this necromancy is false," and "You're only responsible for giving logical reasons for your belief in Christ."

          L4H Really? You know, at least I have respect for theists who just say, "you know, to hell with facts and proof, I believe what I believe because I just do. I have faith" I look those people in the eye and shake their hand. At least, it tells me that they at least have the mental faculties to understand that numbers, facts, science, and proof aren't on their side, there's no point in disputing it, but there's also no point in trying to change their mind. Then I read lines like you wrote above. What, you have proof instantly and necromancy isn't real but given 2,000 years you can't produce one....just one, for your own cause?

          The second sentence.....I'd be joking if I said "I bet if you look in the dictionary under Oxymoron that's what would be written there"......but I wouldn't be joking by much. It's quite possible that two hundred years from now, some literary editor at Websters is going to stumble across this thread, that sentence, and it will be used as an example under "Oxymoron" going forward.

          December 11, 2013 at 2:12 am |
      • K-switch

        "My BELIEF is that people reject God", Funny that L4H talks about twisting of facts when she begins the argument with a statement based on personal opinion. How about you just replace "My belief" with "I assume" and prove an old cliche correct.

        December 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  19. Youtube video - "Context!!!!!!"

    This makes me laugh!

    ----------–

    Last year Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled state legislature set off a national controversy when they approved placing a giant stone statue of the Ten Commandments on the statehouse steps. The monument was privately funded, but violating the separation of church and state doesn’t get much more explicit than placing the Ten Commandments at the entrance to the statehouse.

    The ACLU and those opposed to America slipping slowly but surely into a theocracy reacted by suing the Oklahoma state legislature and trying to get the religious iconography removed from the government building.

    But a more effective form of protest was launched recently by the Satanic Temple. Though based in New York, the Satanic Temple contacted Oklahoma’s Capitol Preservation Commission with an offer to donate a beautifully crafted Satanic statue to the statehouse steps. As long as Oklahoma’s legislature was welcoming religious statues, they figured this should be welcomed.

    Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, submitted two proposals for designs, each which would cost about $20,000 and easily rival the $10,000 Ten Commandments in grandeur. Greaves said the designs included “a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children.”

    “We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in his letter to Oklahoma officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”

    Greaves also credited Rep. Mike Ritze, who led the effort to place the Ten Commandments on the statehouse steps, with the opportunity to raise the profile of Satanism. “He’s helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could,” said Greaves. “You don’t walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that’s when you’re going to see us.”

    December 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Live4Him

      How much are you going to contribute for this monument?

      December 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • Youtube video - "Context!!!!!!"

        I don't believe in any of your or their nonsense! LOL! I'm donating zippo, but will thoroughly enjoy watching the conservatives enforce our religious liberties! Way too funny!

        December 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Youtube video – "Context!!!!!!" : I don't believe in any of your or their nonsense!

          Oh, so you're just trolling. Okay, then I can ignore you.

          December 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • Youtube video - "Context!!!!!!"

          Well, yes, and no! I love a discussion on controversial subjects. I think it'll be just a day or two when CNN posts this as well.

          But, you have no one but yourselves to look to for this one. When you twist our freedoms, these are the kinds of things that happen. Be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it (and some other things as well).

          Laughing at the willful ignorance,

          YT

          December 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • Akira

          YouTube, they just posted the story.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
        • Youtube video - "Context!!!!!!"

          Akira, Thanks! Here we go – fun time!

          December 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Akira

      I read this yesterday when tallulah13 posted the link; the OK Legislature opened the door. Now they have to let everybody in.
      Hope they'll be happy with the view.

      December 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @Akira : Hope they'll be happy with the view.

        Why?

        December 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
        • Akira

          Because they opened the door in the first place.

          December 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Akira : Because they opened the door in the first place

          Why should it make any difference to you who places monuments? And what difference does it make whether they opened the door or not?

          December 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • Akira

          Why do you want to know?

          December 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • igaftr

          Lie4him
          Why care?
          The government buildings are a representation of , for and by the people, a people who believe in seperating church from state....why would it NOT outrage you that anyone is putting religious symbols on our SEPERATE government...it is highly inappropriate for ANY of it to be there....this will show that problem quite vividly.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Akira : Why do you want to know?

          Dont' be defensive now. I'm just trying to understand what is motivating you here. Why would a self-avowed atheist/agnostic CARE whether two opposing religions are placing monuments in OK, given that you don't live there and neither is your religion.

          Right now, it appears that you're less of an atheist/agnostic and more of a Christian hater. But, that isn't what I've seen in your past posts either. Very puzzling.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
        • Akira

          Where have I indicated defensiveness?
          When have I ever stated I an a self-avowed atheist/agnostic?

          December 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • Joey

          I don't think either group should get a monument on government property, however, if the Christians get to put up a monument then any other religious group that wants should get to put up one as well.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • Akira

          Yes, Joey.
          That was the gist of my original response to the OP, and to tallulah13 when she posted the link yesterday.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
        • Youtube video - "Context!!!!!!"

          Religious freedoms are more equal for some than for others ... until now!

          December 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
        • Jem

          Where has Akira indicated from her brief posts that she hates Christians, Live4Him? Weird leap.

          December 9, 2013 at 1:44 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.