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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. JW

    Give me a proof of something left unattended evolves to something complex and and organized?

    December 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Colin

      Where do all the different breeds of dog (over 600) come from?

      December 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
      • JW

        We're did black, white, asian,come from?

        December 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Colin

          From the evolution of differing skin types to cope with the differing exposures to solar radiation as one nears the equator.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • bostontola

          Whites came from a reduced need to filter UV light. The melanin is expensive to the body. With a population having varying amounts of melanin, the people with less were at an advantage in an environment that didn't need it (northern lati tudes). They were more likely to leave ancestors.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
        • JW

          Black people, asian, and white are not different species. All of us are all humans. Or are all these races different species??

          December 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          JW
          The differences you see in peoples from around the world are the reactions of the populations reacting to the varying environments. It is an example of evolution. Take a group of people from say Central Africa...dark skinned, dark eyes...now have some migrate to the far north, this group migrates to the east, some to the west....after MANY< MANY generations, the subtle changes between these groups become evident.

          Those in the far north benefit from having less light come in to their retina's, especially during times of snow...another example is the inuit people who naturally create a type of antifreeze in their blood...developed over centuries of a populous that is far more resistant to cold.

          The different peoples? No , not a different species, but clearly shows the varience within a species, which given enough time, can create a different species. It is clear evidence of evolution, especially when you examine both the genetics and more inportantly epigenetics.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Actually, dogs are a good example. Most characteristics of dogs come from variants of three genes. Combinatorics on all the variants of the three genes is behind the apparent complexity.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          characteristics of dogs' coats

          December 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • ooo

      You have a problem with evolution?

      December 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
      • JW

        Evolution is nice fairy tail. Have you seen proof of evolution?

        December 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
        • Bob Bobson

          Evolution is only the most tested and proved scientific theory on the planet.

          You should try opening a book other than the Bible some time.

          Then you might have some clue of what you are talking about.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • Jan

          Fairies don't have tails. Do you mean tale?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • Colin

          JW, let me get your logic straight. You honestly believe that you have scientific proof that the most widely accepted explanation for biological diversity in the World, which is supported by overwhelming evidence in the Worldwide fossil record, completely independently verified and validated by genetic mapping and taught in every college and University in the World – is wrong.

          The greatest, most esteemed biologists in the World have been wrong for the last 160 years and the true, correct explanation for biological diversity can be found in a late Bronze Age book of Jewish mythology.

          You honestly believe this?

          Well, I would suggest that you immediately publish a scientific paper with your findings because you are certain to win a Nobel Prize. This would be the most remarkable event in all of scientific history.

          Evolution is taught in every major university and college biology program in the World. Not 99% of them, but EVERY one. Universities with extensive evolutionary biology departments include Oxford University, Cambridge University and the Imperial College in England, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Germany, the École Normale Supérieure and École Polythecnique in France and Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Swiss Federal Insti.tute of Technology in Switzerland. This is just a sample. ALL university and colleges in Europe teach evolution as a fundamental component of biology.

          The number of universities and colleges in Europe with a creation science department: ZERO. The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

          In the United States, the following Universities have extensive evolutionary biology departments staffed by thousands of the most gifted biologists in the World; Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Colombia, Duke, the Massachusetts Insti.tute of Technology, Brown, Stanford, Berkley, and the University of Chicago. These are just some of the more prestigious examples. Again, ALL university and colleges in the USA with tertiary level biology classes teach evolution as a fundamental component of biology.

          The number of universities and colleges in the United States with a creation science department: ZERO The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

          In Australia and Asia, the following universities and colleges have extensive evolutionary biology departments manned by more of the most gifted biological scientists in the World; Monash University in Melbourne, The University of New South Wales, Kyoto University in Ja.pan, Peking University in China, Seoul University in Korea, the University of Singapore, National Taiwan University, The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Sydney.

          The number of universities and colleges in Australia and Asia with a creation science department: ZERO The number of tenured or even paid professors who teach creation science at any of these universities or colleges: ZERO

          The most prestigious scientific publications in the Western World generally accessible to the public include: The Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, Scientific American, Science, New Scientist, Cosmos and Live Science.

          Every month, one or more of them publishes a peer reviewed article highlighting the latest developments in evolution. The amount of any creationist science articles published in ANY of these prestigious publications; ZERO.

          I could repeat the above exercise for the following disciplines, all of which would have to be turned on their heads to accommodate creation science – paleontology, archeology, geology, botany, marine biology, astronomy, medicine, cosmology and historical linguistics.

          Nearly every scientific society, representing hundreds of thousands of scientists, have issued statements rejecting intelligent design and a peti.tion supporting the teaching of evolutionary biology was endorsed by 72 US Nobel Prize winners.

          Number of creation science Nobel Prize winners: ZERO

          The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with more than 130,000 members and over 262 affiliated societies and academies of science including over 10 million individuals, has made several statements and issued several press releases in support of evolution.

          Number made in support of creation science: ZERO

          According to The International Federation of Biologists, there are more than 3 million biological scientists globally who rely on the 5 laws of Darwinian evolution for their jobs every single day.

          There appears to be three possible explanations for all this:

          (i) there is a worldwide conspiracy of corporations, research insti.tutes, universities, colleges and academic publications, including all their tens of thousands of scientists, professors, editors, reviewers, and support staff, to deny creation science;

          (ii) you, JW, have a startling new piece of evidence that was right before our eyes that will turn accepted biological science and about 10 other sciences on their heads if ONLY people would listen to you, no doubt earning you a Nobel Prize and a place in history beside the likes of Darwin, Newton and Einstein; or

          (iii) you are a complete blowhard who has never studied one subject of university level biology, never been on an archeological dig, never studied a thing about paleontology, geology, astronomy, linguistics or archeology, but feel perfectly sure that you know more than the best biologists, archeologists, paleontologists, doctors, astronomers botanists and linguists in the World because your mommy and daddy taught you some comforting stories from Bronze Age Palestine as a child.

          I know which alternative my money is on. -:)

          December 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
        • JW

          Bob- have you seen an animal evolve to another animal.. Have you seen a chimp transform into a human.. ??

          December 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
        • TJ

          JW... you would be correct. Sadly, the "science" we have today is in its embryonic infancy – yet to be born. It is still screaming "the world is flat", in its own way... and its proponents cannot fathom anything other than their precious yet extremely fallible "science".

          Here is another view from two well-known (yet atheist) scientists: "Another major problem for the chemical evolutionist is the origin of the information that is found in living systems. There are various claims about the amount of information that is found in the human genome, but it can be conservatively estimated as being equivalent to a few thousand books, each several hundred pages long. Where did this information come from? Chance does not generate information. This observation caused the late Professor Sir Fred Hoyle and his colleague, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, to conclude that the evolutionist is asking us to believe that a tornado can pass through a junk yard and assemble a jumbo jet."

          December 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
        • Sale

          In 100 years we will be learning whywhat used to be taught as evolutionary fact in 2013 in all the top universities is now considered wrong. Sure, it appeared to be right. Just like the world appeared to be flat in the minds of top scientists at one point in human history.
          It is just a really good theory. No way to prove it 100% right unless you go back in time and observe life changing for millions of years.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @sale, yet one thing is certain, nearly all things once attributed to supernatural cause have been determined to be of natural origins. the realm on the supernatural is simply a placeholder of ignorance waiting for the determination of that natural cause.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • bushgirlsgonewild

          Yes. Next question.

          December 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • bushgirlsgonewild

          Evoloution is a fact. But even if out we proved wrong, how does that prove a good exists? It didn't, because there is no evidence for the existence of any supernatural claim: ghosts, demons, aliens, spirits, angels, or gods.

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

      Otherwise stated as: There was nothing, and nothing happened to nothing, then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically arranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating matter which then turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • Not so

        As usual, you have it wrong. You are referring to singularity theory (which is not in favor anymore) in which the universe was a single point. It's not that science said there was nothing before, it's that with a singularity time stops and there is no before. The matter/energy was always there. However, even Hawkings came to realize that it was a near singularity and not a true singularity.

        So no, science does not say there was nothing and then something. That simple-simon misunderstanding is the work of agenda-pushing dingbats who refuse to bother with actually understanding what is being theorized.

        December 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
        • igaftr

          well said

          December 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • bushgirlsgonewild

        Who said there was ever nothing? What existed before your god? Who made him? Why did he make dinosaurs? Why did he make them extinct? Where they his mistake? Why did he make some people with the ability to think and others not so well? Lol.

        December 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • Magic Backatcha

        TJ,

        Christianity:
        The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...

        December 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Conway's Game of Life is a simple system that provides such examples, JW.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • Mitch

        TJ.... I agree with everything you wrote.... it is not your delivery that is the issue, it is the current state of JW's mindset. I once challenged an atheist in college with the same argument...."i've never seen a monkey evolve...blah blah blah". As with evolution, it is a process. A process and a journey that some find through opening their minds and eyes and seeking answers rather than accepting gospel. I appreciate your attempt to open JW's mind, but as you know, it's not like he is going to read what you wrote and go....."oh....you know what, that makes more sense than what I was thinking"..... Someday hopefully, but not today!

        December 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Mitch

          Meant Colin....not TJ... TJ is at the same small-minded level as JW

          December 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Agreed. Just watch the Game of Life run a while, and be sure you understand it, and this should be a non-issue.

        December 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • elliott carlin

      Here! Here! Will have no common sense injected into this conversation.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Street Epistemologist In Training

      JW, why do you believe what you believe? How do you know it is the truth? What would it take to change your belief in god.

      December 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • JW

        Why do I believe in God? Te complexity and organization of things show me that their has to be a Creater...
        What would make me not believe in God? Nothing. Nature gives me enough proofs!

        December 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • snowboarder

          that is not an honest answer. why do you believe in the god that you believe in? almost certainly family, community and tradition.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • Street Epistemologist In Training

          So, you are not open to changes in your beliefs but you want others to be open to change. How do you know your version is the one true one? Are you pretending to know things you don't?

          December 9, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      Define "complex". All life is complex – evolution doesn't produce "more complex" versions of life.

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

      JW
      How about the planets? They all formed from the floating debris that is our solar sytem, which likely is made up of previous solar systems. We continue to gather meteors, comets, dust from space. There a thousands upon thousands of objects floating around, inside our solar system (meteor belt) and outside (Oort cloud). The sun just became a tiny amount bigger, and the solar system just became a tiny bit less cluttered when comet Ison came out of the oort cloud and was nearly completely destroyed by the sun. Entropy, when acted upon by external forces, such as gravity, will allow smaller mass to coalesce into more complex and larger objects. As long as things in the universe move, and their movement affects and reacts to other objects around them, you will continue to see more and more complex things coming from less complex things. The scars of bombardment are on everyplanet, proving that they have become larger and more cohesive over time.

      December 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  2. Paul Preiswerck

    What I would like to know is why CNN says that "This Gallery Has Expired" when it shows that it was posted in CNN today Dec 7th? Oh, did the itty bitty feeling of the christians get hurt again, and they all flagged this a offensive?

    December 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • jbcal

      You give yourself waay to much credit, you're not strong enough to hurt anyone's feelings.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
      • Jan

        Then why is it expired?

        December 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • elliott carlin

          Much like your brain, it only has so much shelf-life.
          Time to put it to bed.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
        • Jan

          Answer the question.
          Did you complain?

          December 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Don't be so curious. Just have a moment of silence.

      December 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  3. JW

    What makes you think that the organization and complexity of our planet and universe, was created by random forces?
    Leave your house with no maintenance for a very long time... Would the house degrade or evolve to something complex and organized?

    December 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • ooo

      See response to your duplicated statemen below...

      It has been shown.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Anything left unattended grows wild and all manner of flora and fauna move in to fill every available niche. To those species, it is changing in a positive direction and improving.

      Additionally if you are using the bible as a resource you are already in quicksand.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        It would most definitely become organized as nature ran it's course and symbiotic relationships developed along with predator / prey relationships among both plants and animals. In time there would be only nature and no human house.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • tony

      Cause and effect surrounds us in this world and we deduce the same for the rest of the universe, based on our limited observations. Any Supernatural events on the other hand, have not been recorded and verified.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
      • JW

        Tony – so organization and complexity are possible if thing are left unattended??

        December 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
        • Colin

          With an energy source, yes.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
        • tony

          From astronomical observatioss, we see that stars form from dust clouds and gravity. Then, or at the same time, planets, such as Earth, in definite, logical orbits. Crystalline rocks form and water and the atmosphere separate out. And so on.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          You might google "self-organization" and "emergent" in conjunction with complexity, behaviour, and mathematics, JW. Also "critical behaviour".

          December 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Saraswati

      JW, if you don't get the basic concept of evolution, which I'm afraid you do not, I recommend you first read about and then download Conway's Game of Life. You don't have to agree with the principles of biological evolution after learning this stuff, but you will at least see why you house example is so far off the mark. Making really fundamental errors
      like this house comparison doesn't help your case and just makes you look kind of clueless.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • bostontola

      JW,
      I'm an engineer. We engineers design things to meet a narrow set of requirements. The designs get optimized over time. That makes the product relatively fragile. Evolution balances a complex set of demands (requirements) with broad, adaptable solutions. Man does use algorithms similar to evolution to design robust solutions to certain problems. They are usually poor with regard to a particular requirement, but address a broad range of needs well. It doesn't make good sense to compare direct design to evolution.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      Ah, your posts are the best evidence that god doesn't exist. A omnipresent, intelligent force would never have created something so sadly stupid.

      December 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • G to the T

      Because gravity isn't random. Because electro-chemical bonding isn't random. Because natural selection isn't random.

      When the waves on a beach sort the rocks into bands based on size, is that god or just natural forces? Does god have to craft every snowflake?

      December 9, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  4. tony

    Why don't churches have portraits of god hanging over their altars? Perhaps because they can't?

    All the discussions with god mentioned in the BInble, yet none conatins a decent description???

    December 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Colin

      Good point. Which is exactly why the Bible is utterly riddled with contradictions about the nature of God and why there is NOT ONE mention of the Christian god, the Holy Trinity, in the entire Bible. None. Zero. 99% of Christians are so naive and ignorant of their own faith that they don't even know that the god they worship wasn't even invented until about 300 C.E., well after the last book of the Bible was written

      December 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Vic

        That's a common misconception. The Bible's New Testament clearly describes God the Father, the Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit, in so many separate verses. The word "Trinity" is the "articulation" of the Form of God, just like the word "Rapture" describes the event of the believers being caught up together in the clouds with the Lord Jesus Christ.

        Also, Christians all along, from the first century, believed in the Triune God, and what happened in 300 AD was making it official.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • AE

          Isn't the trinity just the 3 ways God has revealed Himself to us? Like there is more to God than that, but that hasn't been revealed?

          And Jesus is a new revelation of God? Very few references to God as "Father", but after Jesus it became more common place.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
        • G to the T

          Trinity is an example of retro-theology. It was developed in response to the theological challenges from other early christian churches. To counter these "heresies" there could only be one god, but Jesus had to also be god, and the mentions of the "holy spirit" (originally a doucetic concept – there were 2 beings, jesus the man and "the christ") had to be reconciled. Solution – there is only one god, jesus is his son who is also god and the holy spirit is one way god manifests itself on earth. Put them together and do some minor editing and you have the concept of the trinity.

          December 9, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Saraswati

      Internal contradictions aside, most Christians I know or know of don't imagine god as material or subject to representative art.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • G to the T

        I would agree – the more modern view of god is much less anthropomorphic than in the past (in general) though many signs of his more "mythic" past can still be found in bible if you know where to look.

        December 9, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • tony

      So why all the statues and renaissance pictures?

      December 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Could you give an example? However, if you are referring to old god images it is because the theories have changed, particularly as held by the now predominantly literate religious masses.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • tony

          I thought god was pictured somewhere in the Sistine Chapel

          December 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Always beggin', never receivin'??

      tony
      You gotta wonder why a real god needs any churches?

      And as to church leaders and collection plates. . . . . . . . .

      December 7, 2013 at 11:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      What do you mean by "church"??

      Christians are the temple. Sumpin musta got lost in their discernment..

      December 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
      • lolCAT2000

        @lol?? slow down – you are giving 'them' what they want:

        "critics of atheism are rude and like to insult people because there is no other way to defend their baseless claims" -> dogma of atheism

        December 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  5. Apple Bush

    Choice not;
    Want not.

    Listen to the man;
    Save some truth as long as you can.

    A crazy insane and delusional ruse;
    A platform built to use and abuse.

    Children chained and preached up cold;
    Dysfunctional adults as they grow old.

    A world of timeless lies and affliction;
    Religion is the world’s addiction.

    December 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  6. JW

    There are many thing that exist but we cannot see.. Like particles of oxygen or the forces that regulate our planet and universe.. Etc..
    Would you think that God does not exist just because you cannot see him??

    December 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • bostontola

      JW,
      We can detect oxygen with physical means, just like microbes and radio waves. There is no way to detect any supernatural and/or god being in an objective way.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I don't think that's quite it, JW. I would ask for evidence of God that consists of something that can point to nothing other than God. No one has shown that anything like God has left such evidence of itself.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
      • Vic

        Not exactly!

        Many people confuse empirical evidence with ALL evidence. God's finger print is His creation, that is circumstantial evidence through which He reveals Himself, aka Natural Revelation. And, it is very logical.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Saraswati took some of us to task for excluding some types of evidence. I'm open to evidence of various sorts, but I stiil want evidence, including any mass of circumstantial evidence, to be such that if God were false, the evidence could not show logically that God is true and, if God is true, the evidence cannot show that God is false.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • Vic

          Simple!

          First Cause that is outside the beginning as well as finiteness of this universe, hence is metaphysical, infinite and eternal, is a logical must.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          How so, Vic?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Vic

          Since the visible universe has been proven to be physical and is expanding, it means it had a beginning and is finite. Therefore, for this universe to exist, there has to be a First Cause that is outside the beginning of this universe and its finiteness, hence outside of its realm. Hence, that First Cause can ONLY be metaphysical & infinite/eternal.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Let's imagine a Universe that is on the surface of spinning sphere. Time means you are on an infinitesimal slice of the surface parallel to lines of lattitude. Slices are ordered sequentially from the North Pole (which is on the sphere, of course) and what happens in one sice is dependent on what happened in the slice that precedes it (in an infinitesimal sense the preceding slice is closer to the North Pole). If you go back in time eventually you approach the North Pole, which is part of the sphere. If you go forward, assuming you haven't reached the equator, your Universe is expanding. I see this Universe as having a beginning, it's expanding, finite, etc. What is the external and metaphysical cause you refer to?

          December 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Vic,

          1. Nothing has been proven about the universe. Proofs are for math and logic.
          2. You assume that our time dimension is the only meaningful way to talk about time. Rather, it is quite possible that our time dimension is just a minor dimension in a more meaningful or larger dimension, the shape of which we don't know.
          3. Just because something is outside our unvierse or known dimensions does not make it metaphysical.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
        • Smuckers

          It is scientifically proven that matter or energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, there is no "beginning" to this universe. The universe has "always" existed.

          December 8, 2013 at 2:36 am |
        • Irwin Graulich

          That is a scientifically incorrect statement. The universe came into being according to Einstein and almost every other scientist.

          December 8, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Apple Bush

      JW, you are confusing science with fantasy. There is simply no evidence for any gods.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • ME II

      No, but He might be non-existent because we cannot detect Him in any way whatsoever.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • JW

      The bible says that is seen by means of the things we see all around us. Everything reflects organization, and complexity...
      Leave your house without maintenance for a very long time, would you think the house by its self will evolve to a more complex house, something more beautifull that then it was before?

      December 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Anything left unattended grows wild and all manner of flora and fauna move in to fill every available niche.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Additionally if you are using the bible as a resource you are already in quicksand.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
      • ooo

        You know the creationist argument has been dealt with already. Many biologists have already shown how complexity can and has evolved.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
      • ME II

        @JW,
        Houses are not alive and don't reproduce therefore do not evolve.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
        • JW

          Me- ok stop going to the docter, to the gym, and eat junk... See what happens!

          December 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
      • G to the T

        Houses don't reproduce and houses don't actively participate in their environment. Your analogy is simplistic and flawed.

        December 9, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • tony

      There are infinitly more "things" that you can't see that don't exist. Abstract "good" and abstract "evil" which can't exist as such, but are taliked about by the religious all the time.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  7. AE

    “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

    ― Nelson Mandela

    December 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • bostontola

      Great quote. No one was born with the belief in a god, that has to be taught also.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        ...and to take that a step further, learning to believe in a god leads to hate and mistrust.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
        • AE

          Ok, so Nelson Mandela had Christian parents who taught him to trust in God. And he demonstrated pretty well that belief in God doesn't lead to hate.

          He is talking about not hating people for their different belief systems in this quote. We can learn to love these different people, just like we learned to hate them.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I don't hate anybody.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
        • AE

          Great. You are a better man than me. I think Nelson Mandela demonstrated well how to not hate. And he believed in God. So maybe believing in God doesn't lead everyone to hate?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          No one argues (that I know of) that Mandela wasn't a great man, but he was not without hate. Read his life story.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
        • AE

          And you don't hate?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          No, I don't hate. There are people I dislike naturally.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • AE

          Yea, hate is toxic. It is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • G to the T

          Well put AE – hate and love are not opposites, they are both sides of the same coin. The opposite of love/hate is indifference.

          December 9, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Vic

      He passed away last Thursday, God bless his soul.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  8. ME II

    "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."

    This seems awfully va.gue.

    December 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • tony

      gloria ex excelsis

      December 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Ellen in CA

    Every year around this time certain atheists come out of hiding to bait the Christians. Why do you suppose this is true? In December Christians begin to celebrate their faith, each in his or her own way. This is our tradition and a joyful one whether rich or poor. We are not celebrating the gifts exchanged or the beautiful trees. Try to understand this has nothing to do with other faiths or those who have no faith. If atheists are receiving this message, they are mistaken. Please stop trying to defend your lack of faith, because it makes little or no sense. Just relax and ignore what Christians are doing for the next 3 weeks!

    December 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • bostontola

      Wait... Many Christians here ask why atheists are on the belief blog all year round. Now we crawl out for Christmas? Which is it?

      December 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
      • lol??

        lol??
        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        They coagulate wherever there are 2 or 3. Copykitties..

        December 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • ME II

      @Ellen,
      "Please stop trying to defend your lack of faith, because it makes little or no sense."

      Well, when you put it that way....

      ...nope, still not convincing.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      for the next 3 weeks Christians are celebrating the birth of a storybook character we don't even know existed, and celebrating it on a pagan festival because no-one knows when the character was born. the Christmas tree is also a pagan custom. the other thing Christians are celebrating is mammon.

      be happy Christians ... you are all frauds.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
      • Vic

        Traditions like Christmas are not detrimental to one's faith even if they were adopted and/or not exact, but the cause for celebration, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is the same. Just like food recipes for the holidays, they can be versatile, but the causes of the holidays are the same.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Come now, Vic. Don't you feel a little less Christ-like when you go to open your biggest present and it's all underwear and socks?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
        • Vic

          Not at all, even naughty stuff, LOL!

          The only thing that would be contrary is disbelief (no offense.)

          December 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
      • Tom

        Atheists have a childish view of God. They apparently picture God as a puppeteer and we are the puppets. God pulls one string and someone wins the lottery. Thank you,God! God pulls another string and someone gets terminal cancer. God, I'll never worship you again! Your concept of God is too small. God has given us free will, which means we can choose
        between right and wrong. All too frequently, we choose to do what is wrong. Don't blame God for the bad choices that people make. God could have made us happy robots, unable to disobey God. But God wants humans to respond freely to God's love, without compulsion. Atheists, you have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear. You had better read, mark, learn and inwardly digest rather than speak out of ignorance.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • tony

          When caught ina Tsunami, we are drowned unhappy robots with no free will. Just like the Egyptian soldiers (just obeying orders) when the red sea was un-parted.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • Saraswati

          "Free will" is just a nonsensical cop-out people use to justify the irrational behavior of their god towards his or her creations.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Apple Bush

    Drive-By Christian = Christian poster who makes one post and runs. There are a lot of them today. They don't stick around to debate.

    December 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      What's to debate? It's a dead end–you either believe or you don't. Do you really think anyone's going to persuade another to change their beliefs? Fat chance. Photos are beautiful. Very talented photographer.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        1. Yes I do believe that Christians leave this blog with a different perspective.
        2. Even if that is not the case, if you make a statement or ask a question, at least be polite enough to stick around for the reply.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
        • Fred

          The belief that our views change because you disagree is unfounded. It's amazing to us that atheists care so much what we believe. How does our belief matter to you? Most atheist belief Christians are crazy kooks who believe in fairy tales. That would put us in the same category as the insane. So following that line of reasoning, you don't waste time arguing with the insane so why waste is with us? We believe by faith. It is not our job to convince or argue with you. You believe or you don't. Just go about your life as if we our as non-existent as our "God".

          December 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Fred, I come on this blog to share with others. To me, that is what it is for. My complaint is with the Christians one-liners, cut and run. Just because I argue with you about religion does not mean I don't like you. It is a conversation. Sometimes heated which is all the more fun. This is a blog. I don't care for the hit and runs.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Apple Bush

    My thorns, now flies; buzzing around my gruesome head and face

    My wasted body finally brought down; breathe still in me just a whisper

    Nurtured and cleansed; bandaged and cared for

    Now I am risen to say my final farewell

    Do not worship me; do not mourn for me

    Do not build churches for me or profit from me

    I am a man, born of a woman from the seed of my father

    I am as you are; a man and a human being

    Learn from the sacrifices I have made; learn from the hypocrisy

    Remember me as a friend

    December 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  12. Apple Bush

    Logic Lost

    I saw a sunset and it was perfect.
    Why do you ask me to see another?
    For in waiting for the next sunset, I will endure much suffering!

    Perfection exists in the suffering too.
    Be thankful for the pain.

    Did I not thank you by loving you?

    December 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • bostontola

      Logic Lost, great call.

      There never was a Paradise to lose, nature has always been red in tooth. Man did create/discover logic. To lose it is inexcusable.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Vic

        Huge mistake! To create is to originate whereas to discover is simply to unveil what has already been originated.

        December 7, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          bostontola did not want to take a position on whether logic is discovered or created, I would guess, Vic. Discovery vs construction is certainly actively debated for mathematics and logic.

          December 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • bostontola

          TTtOO,
          Exactly right. It is a philosophical question that I lean towards discover but I have no way to be conclusive.

          December 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  13. Where is your God now?

    My mother hurled the bowl at his head. It connected and blood and spaghetti painted the wall like modern art. He was still; he was unconscious.

    “I have to go to work,” she said and was gone as she wiped a tear, hoping I didn’t see. The sun was setting.

    He came to in a few minutes, muttered something about killing someone and then staggered out the front door. The screen slamming with a jolting thud.

    I called my best friend and asked him to come over as if nothing had just happened. He was on his way. I began cleaning up the mess.

    For every child that lives in a violent home, where is you God now?

    December 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • GAW

      Mommy is calling you up for lunch.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Jan

        Why don't you answer the question, chickenshit?

        December 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Matt

      You are right. The biggest problem theists have is the "problem of evil." Yet, the opposite is true also. The biggest problem atheists have is the "problem of goodness, beauty, truth, justice." Why not be balanced and also focus on the good of humanity. It might actually bring a smile to your face.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • tony

        Since most atheists seem to be strive to be good, as much as religious folk do, that doesn't seem like much of a problem.

        If atheists were less good that the religious, the prisions would be full of atheists. But they are not.

        December 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Where is your God now?

        Matt, I don't fully understand your response, but you are assuming things way beyond the point of my post.

        December 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Alien Orifice

    I am now esoteric in my feelings towards believers that are agnostic, however I do believe that they are, each one, atheist. However since I am a solipsist I know they are what I want them to be, and that is comforting.

    December 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  15. Apple Bush

    Go now and tell the fools the truth of their misplaced worship.
    Speak loudly that religion is the true great evil on this Earth.
    This Evil affects every plant and animal the Mother gave us.
    Tell them and care not if they are vulgar, for you are the light.

    December 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  16. SusanG

    We are imperfect. Faith is the hope of betterment while we work on it.

    December 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      That is not faith. That is you working on it.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        nice. 🙂

        December 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • ME II

      That kind of faith, I believe in.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  17. GAW

    I wonder how many comments here will directly relate to the specific topic of this article?

    December 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • JAMES OLIVER

      5-7%. Maybe 8-9% if you have very lenient criteria.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  18. Where is your God now?

    Tad Costin, 42, now faces four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. But investigators believe there are at least 15 victims, some as young as 4.
    Police say they have more than 100 photos and videos of Costin sexually assaulting the victims.

    December 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  19. Vic

    That's a good notion by this photographer. I have been always convinced that we are all sentient human beings with a natural instinct (built-in) for God just like we have natural instincts (built-in) for other things, like food, se, survival, morality, etc.

    December 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Vic

      "..like food, sex, survival, morality, etc."

      December 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Where is your God now?

      Incorrect.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Chris

      Fear of being alone and the fear of the alone are built in...the rest came from our imaginations. Think about it bud

      December 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
      • Chris

        *unknown

        December 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
      • Vic

        Actually, I do think about it constantly. We detect the physical existence of ourselves and the surroundings with our our physical senses, and we have built-in instincts for it; likewise, we detect spiritual existence through our spiritual senses, and we have built-in instincts for it

        December 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • ME II

          @Vic,
          What are spiritual senses?

          December 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • Vic

          Consciousness, sentience, mind, etc.

          December 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I can see how those things help people gather infromation from the natural world, but how could you show that they gather, rather than contrive, information from a supernatural world, Vic?

          December 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • ME II

          @Vic,
          How are those things spiritual?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • Vic

          God (Supernatural) communicates with us through Natural Revelation, aka Laws of Nature, and Special Revelation, aka Scripture.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
        • Vic

          Can you physically quantify consciousness, sentience, mind, etc.? They are spiritual.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
        • Street Epistemologist In Training

          Vic, why do you believe your god is talking to you via those means?

          December 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I can say what they are like, Vic. Programs running on a computer that have a lot of self-referential stuff built into them.

          December 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Fan2c

      Vic,

      Sentient beings with rich imaginations and strong emotions - who also came up with fire-breathing dragons, centaurs, griffins, pixies, gnomes, leprechauns, etc.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
      • Vic

        And we have logical senses to discern what's real from what's not, and what's possible form what's not.

        December 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  20. tony

    In our local church, the staute of our patron saint has toenails that grow a 0.1 millimeters on his feast day. Come and see for yourself.

    December 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      peddle your lies somewhere else.

      December 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
      • tony

        Satire 😉

        December 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.