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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. Bootyfunk

    i'm an atheist. when i saw the catebury cathedral in england, it literally took my breath away. though built for religious purposes, i believe it a testament to humankind that we can create something so beautiful. look to your brothers and sisters for inspiration, not non-existent deities.

    December 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Particle accelerators and all the new telescopes and devices in space and on earth that probe the Universe are expensive things that may also have no practical purpose. Unlike cathedrals, they inspire us with things that might be true.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Man is ingenious.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Bootyfunk and Tom Tom, you are Man and you are ingenious. All you Christians are quite ingenious. All of us, Man Kind, are ingenious. Basic truism.

        December 7, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Thank you AB, but no. Actually I'm a small nocturnal mammal not unlike a bushbaby.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Well I'll be a son of bitch.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Justice

      Oh, we try... most would rather bellyache and complain. Americans, in general, take their freedom for granted.

      I served in the Peace Corp as a young adult and must say some of the poorest people in the world are rich when it comes to caring for their families, their neighbors and their brothers. The most important things in lifr are free.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • coby7016

      All religious teach their faithful to let go the worldly processions, yet all faith waste huge amount of resource to glorify their faith. Make you wonder their followers..........

      December 7, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
      • Justice

        No... I've seen both sides. Poor people are usually born generation after generation in what most would consider poverty and they share what little they have. The rich rarely share alghough there are a few very wealthy people who have my utmost respect.

        Athiest, means nothing to me because whether they believe or not, there is always something about them to love.

        Be kind to one another. Life is too short to spend it looking for one's faults. Besides we all have them.

        December 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  2. bob sherman

    I thought this piece was very well done – thoughtful, reflective, respectful.

    December 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    Across the threshold;

    A tiny crumble then a cascade of plaster;

    Jesus is not pleased with my intrusion!

    I care not for I have come only to sing tenor in the choir;

    They have a female tenor and she is singing sharp.

    I did not choose this life; it was thrust upon me.

    I will not wave my hand in the air with the arrogance of the sopranos for I am not welcome here in this house;

    Soon this will be a heap and the children will be saved!

    As long as the choir sings in tune I can leave this wretched place and seek solace in a New Age shop the sells good Indian incense.

    Sorry about the ceiling.

    December 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    we are all born as atheists

    it's in buildings like these that children are systematically mentally abused as parents and priests brainwash them with bronze age fairy stories and the threat of eternal fire and torment if they don't believe.

    these grand buildings are places that retard the progress of the human race.

    December 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      We are all born needy, then we develop to where we can do things for ourselves. This usually leads to thinking that we are smarter than those who provided our needs. Finally, if full developement is reached we realize others have value as well as ourselves. Peace doG.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
      • ooo

        RB,
        How does this address what Dog wrote? I don't see a very strong connection. Maybe you can be more direct?

        December 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          It has been too long so I'm not sure if that is sociology or psychology. Put in simplest terms, I'm not ok-you're ok, I'm ok-you're not ok, I'm ok-you're ok. doG's post indicates he may still be at I'm ok-you're not.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
        • ooo

          Ummmmm. OK. if that is as direct as you can get. I'll move on.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        How does address the original comment?

        December 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Robert, admit that you are a child abuser. Go on, do it.

        December 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Plus churches smell like old people.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        And they have really bad music. No place that sings out of hymnals can be right. God would have better taste in music. Where is the jazz? Gospel is as close as we get.

        December 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          And they have those huge stupid PowerPoint presentation of all the great work they are doing in Costa Rica. Yuck.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Oh and also they are full of stupid people. Not a good environment for children, what with all the brain washing and child abuse.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Churches also have that icky fabric on the pews that make your teeth hurt.

        December 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          I am not allowed in a church anyway for fear the ceiling will cave in. That has actually been said to me.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
        • Rett

          I just posted so you would not be the only one to respond to your rant.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Thanks man, I was sweatn' that one, all wet with perspiration and what not.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Now what I gotta do?

          December 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          take a deep breath AB. 🙂

          December 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Thanks man.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • RangerDOS

      That's a narrow view of history, short term or long term. Just like the evangelists you choose to pick little sections of the total to make a baseless point. The history of the effects of religion are an order of magnitude broader in scope. I can't say the same for atheism. It has had almost no effect seeing that it is very self centered and anti-social. Before you use history as a weapon maybe you should read the manual first.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • Noel

        Not that short sighted, because, according to many (probably counting you among them ranger), the world is only 5,000 or so years old...no, wait, make that about 3,500 years ago because god pushed the reset button with the whole ark/flood thing..... So considering the bronze age was approximately 3,000bc (or, about 5,000 years ago), I'd say his "scope" is pretty broad and far reaching........at least in relation to your belief in the world only being thought up and brought into creation around the same time.

        To address the self centered thing, I think you may have that one flipped around. Atheists aren't the one who believe it is an absolute necessity that in order to be moral, one must be afraid of the consequences of being naughty. We tend to be moral for the sake of being moral to our fellow man, not because we're afraid of the repercussions. We don't gather weekly and encourage each other to actively go out, seek someone who doesn't believe exactly as we do, tell them they're wrong and that they're going to pay dearly one day for it, then try to change the way they think. Honestly, I could really just keep going on and on, but it's not new territory, I know how even if you replied back with the best responses I've ever seen from a theist (which I really doubt) to the truths I've laid before you, your argument would still be backed up only with "faith" as the final, end all be all response, where as I've at least given you two things in the reply above that are true, verifiable fact. That's two more than you could ever give me, so I'll just save my time and stop here.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Toms7265

      I guess it's time to attack "whateveryoublievein" then as well.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Jorge Santos

    Highest form of spiritism.Deceive ad being decieved.

    December 7, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  6. bostontola

    If there is no God, why live? Why do the right thing?

    I respect other people and want all of us to share this world with a chance of a comfortable life. I want to bequeath a chance at a comfortable life to our children. Why isn't that reason enough?

    I find an eternal existence to be a selfish motivation. It feels like a carrot dangled to primitive people that were struggling with basic subsistence, with little hope of a comfortable life in this world.

    December 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I agree boston, but I would add that if the only thing that motivates a believer to do the 'right thing' is that person's belief in a god, I sincerely hope they keep believing...sad as that would be.

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

        Good point BatC.

        December 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • JJ

      Upon a Christian hearing that I am an atheist, he came up to me and asked me very seriously what keeps me from raping and murdering. I begged him to never lose his faith.

      December 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        I like the answer

        "I have alreaded r@ped and murdered all the people I have ever wanted to.....none"

        December 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
        • Orygunduck

          So your premise is that you are some sort of perfect human being??

          December 7, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          No, my premise is I don't want to r@pe or murder anyone.

          In what universe does that equate to claiming I am perfect?

          December 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          @Orygunduck
          how could you ever come to that conclusion from what BatC said? with flawed logic and comprehension like that it's no wonder you believe in the bible

          December 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
      • :-)

        What a dumb question to ask! The prisons are FULL of murderers who are Christian! You handled it perfectly!

        December 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
        • Orygunduck

          How could one not come to that conclusion? There are a lot of atheists walking around who think they are somehow morally superior because why, they aren't killing or raping people. And they don't function out of some fear of punishment. Yet most people have some sort of weakness. Some are worse than others. How 'rational' is it to think your life has never caused harm to others?

          December 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @ory, are you really going to pretend that it is the atheists walking around feeling morally superior? are you really that unfamiliar with the religious?

          December 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • ooo

          @ory,
          Just because there "may be a lot of athiests out there who feel morally superior" as you state (but I do not adhere to), doesn't mean you can draw that conclusion from what BatC wrote. I still don't see it. Sounds more like you have something to say and are just using this occasion to say it, whether it applies or not.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
        • :-)

          Because it is wholly untrue and you know it, Ory. Plus, the prison populations says otherwise, sport. Being Christian obviously didn't stop THEM.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
        • Orygunduck

          Prison populations?? Do you know this from first hand experience? Spent much time in one?

          December 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          duck,

          I think you need to go back and re-read the thread from the top. The point seems to have evaded you.

          The assertion from SOME christians is they can't understand why those of us who don't believe in a god don't just r@pe and murder till the cows come home. The point is we don't need a belief in a deity to not want to. That doesn't make us superior in behavior, it means our motivations for refraining from such behavior is beyond their comprehension....which in turn is amusing to us. My motivation is I have empathy for other people and don't enjoy seeing people suffer. Their argument seems to imply they don't share that empathy...they are ultimately worried about being punished, in the end I don't truly believe they don't share the same empathy, but it is funny that is a logical conclusion to make from their position.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
        • Orygunduck

          Not that the point has evaded me. I was trying to offer a different perspective which seems to have evaded you. In the population as a whole, there aren't that many murderers or rapists anyway. The numbers vary by culture. Some places like Sweden that are generally agnostic still have crime rates.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          So I missed your point that violent crime varies from culture to culture....I missed a point that you did not make until now...umm okay.

          Violent crime has little to no coorelation that I have seen with regard to belief in a god, pro or con. I never argued that it did. Nor did I argue that atheists are morally superior or do not commit violent crimes, despite your straw man argument to the contrary.

          December 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
        • :-)

          I read the data. I take it you haven't.
          Okay.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Firsto lasto

      Why do the right thing?

      Because it's the right thing. If the only reason you do the right thing is the fear of punishment or because an imaginary sky wizard told you to, you're not really that good a person.

      December 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • Portland tony

      Perhaps you have the meaning of God confused with the survival of the species. If humans had an inate understanding of their creator at birth there would be no need for religious teachers to interpret holy scriptures now would there. Religious belief and thought is learned. And as far as primitive people's suffering, there wasn't much of what you called suffering before they came face to face with civilization.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • coby7016

      You don't need god to be a better person. I'm a post war baby boomer. we were designated to rebuild the world. We live and work, so our next generation will do better than my generation..

      December 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
  7. Justice

    No matter our origin, we all experience some form of hope, faith, joy, happiness and awe. How could we not? We are the most complex form of life as we know it, on earth. For that, alone we should be grateful. I know I am.

    December 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Dandintac

      I agree with every word of what you say–except for one. "Faith". This is something that not only do we not need, but it is harmful. It is the word invoked by people when they have no evidence to justify why they believe what they do. It is an excuse to abandon reason, and accept fantasies as reality. Other than that, you are spot-on.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Some people are still clingin' to Freud and his complexes.
      lol??
      At this point in time of Mob Power rules, Christians need to go underground and model the early churches so they aren't such easy targets for the zombies.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      snowboarder
      I see the "christian persecution complex" is still alive and well.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  8. Jennifer

    If looking for the answer to the "mystery of faith" a structure is only meeting ground. Faith is found in the the heart. The church is the body of Christ. You can take away the building and if the people still assemble to praise God and support one another in the name of Jesus, THAT is the power of the Lord. Love is not God, but God is love.

    December 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Matthew 18:20
      For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • ooo

      You can attribute these things to the power of the lord if you like. But that doesn't make it fact. More likely is is just the way we have evolved to think and behave as social animals with high intelligence.

      December 7, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        Humans are unique animals in that we have religion. Do you think this is a result of our superior intelligence?

        December 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
        • ooo

          Yes, I do think it is due to our intelligence Robert.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • sam stone

          indirectly, yes

          not that it is intelligent to believe in a god, but our intelligence makes us uniquely aware of our own mortality. this leads to religion as a way of dealing with it

          December 7, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
        • G to the T

          Wolves howl at the moon...

          December 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  9. JW

    If you believe in evolution, think about the meaning behind it:

    If we all came by evolution, do you think our existence makes any sense? What's the purpose of living then? This this even make any sense?

    If there is a God, then life does make sense, we know that God has a purpose for this earth and for all humanity. Therefore our life will make sense, since God promisses eternal life on earth for all who obey him as ruler.

    December 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jamieson

      I find it sad that you can see no other reason to live without being subservient to an imaginary tyrrant.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • JM

      Oh for goodness sake, why do you resist the idea that someone who doesn't believe exactly as you can't find purpose, beauty, and wonder in their daily existence?

      December 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • JW

      If evolution is a fact the lets do like Paul said in 1 Cor 15:32: " If the dead are not to be raised up, “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.”
      What's the purpose of having goals in life , of having a family, of trying to do good??...

      December 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • JM

        If you doing it for future reward, you're not doing it for the right reasons.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
        • JW

          It's still better to do something for a future reward, then to do something for nothing. Don't you agree?

          December 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • JM

          What’s the purpose of having goals in life , of having a family, of trying to do good??…

          Does one have to believe in a god to have goals?
          Dies one have to believe in gods to procreate? Or love them?
          Dies one have to believe in gods to do good?

          No.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • JM

          I keep writing dies instead of does. Sorry.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
        • JW

          Jm/ ME- everyone make their own purpose, but it doesn't make much sense to have a purpose, then to live 70, 80 and die or die young and that's it.. Doesn't make much sense to me.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • JM

          And conversely, what you believe doesn't make much sense to them, either.

          Do what makes sense for you.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
        • sam stone

          something for nothing, JW? i don't think people do anything for nothing

          the reward of doing good is immediate. it makes you feel good.

          if you are doing it so "god" will look upon you with favor, then you are just another servile sycophant

          December 7, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
      • ME II

        We determine the purpose.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • Not All Docs Play Golf

        JW, as a secular humanist, we pride ourselves on the idea that we are "good for nothing." It's a funny slogan, but it means we do things because it is simply the right thing to do. If someone sees someone in a burning car, do they stop and drag them out because they'll get to "heaven"? No, they do it instinctively because it is the right thing to do. So I take issue with your contention that "doing something for nothing" is inferior to doing something for a religious reasons.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Negotiating possible "purpose" for various ventures and doing "good" and having "family" is all fun. Why wouldn't I, an atheist, do those things?

        December 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
      • JW

        It's good to do good every time regardless... But it just doesn't make much sense when we only live maybe until 80 and that's it...

        December 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          And why does it have to make sense? The Universe is indifferent to what you want it to be.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
        • Ponyboy Garfunkel

          It makes sense because we can only play the hand we have been dealt. Surely you see that it is more admirable to do good with no expectation of reward. And rather selfishly, it makes me feel good to do so.

          December 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Many, many facts are counterintuitive. So, so, so much about this universe "doesn't make sense." Things "not making sense" have never had much to do with anything.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
        • JW

          Cpt- maybe things don't make sense to you, but for me that I study the bible, things do make sense.. The bible explains why we suffer, what's gods purpose for all of us... Etc.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Precisely my point. Just because something "makes sense to me" doesn't mean that it is true. Many facts are counterintuitive. Reality doesn't seem to care if it makes sense or not. You're wrong, but you think everything makes sense. It sounds comforting, but then you're living a lie, too.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Liz the First

      Why are the belief in evolution and a higher power incompatible? you go to church to learn Who created the universe and to school to learn how it happened. why is it so hard to believe that evolution is the system the Divine set up to create? the biblical story of creation was written by men with no scientific training whatsoever. we have grown in wisdom an knowledge since then, at least most of us have. but learning how the universe actually came to be shouldn't in any diminish one's faith in the Divinity that set the process in motion.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • JW

        Liz- the theory of evolution is not compatible with the bible... The genesis account says that God created everything according to its own species. Now in between those species there are variations.... Like us humans can produce , people's of all races and features!

        December 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
        • ME II

          Only if you take the Bible literally. But if it's taken literally then the Bible is demonstrably wrong.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      God, 6 days. Evolution, 4.57 billion years. There seems to be a little difference.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
      • JW

        In the bible when it talks about "Day" generally it means "a period of time" so if the earth took millions of years, that doesn't contradict the bible at all 6 days of creations took millions , probably billions of years in between each "day".

        December 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Evening & morning sounds like literal days.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • JW

          Rob- in each day everyday had evening and morning. For billions of years..

          December 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • JM

          So why didn't it say a period of time rather than a night and a day?
          People writing the Bible knew a night and a day equals full day JW.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Would it change your faith if it turned out to be 6 literal days?

          December 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Steve brinkman

      See, the thing is, the universe doesn't have an opinion; it doesn't care; it has a 'benign indifference' to you. and cares nothing about your need for the human construction of a 'purpose'. You assume there is a purpose outside of what you make it. I am truly sorry the simple truth is so astonishing to you.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dandintac

      There is something profoundly sad about those people who say there is no purpose without God, and we may as well die and all that. It is the most wrong-headed thinking I have heard about life.

      If we get only one life, and this is it–that makes it precious. It's our one shot. There is no perfect afterworld awaiting us where we will live forever. That would cheapen THIS life tremendously. There is no perfect justice–we have to do our best here. But the good thing is–we get to decide our purpose for ourselves. There is no celestial father-figure to do it for us. I always have to resist a face-palm to hear Christians claim "FREE WILL", and then on the other hand moan that there is no purpose without God. If God is giving you YOUR purpose, how in the world is that free will??

      I really have to pity people who feel they need a mythical figure to give them purpose. I mean this–it is really sad.

      This is YOUR life. YOU choose your purpose! YOU are in charge! When you realize that, it is tremendously liberating. So that means it has enormous value, and it means you are also free. Go out, and be bold! But be brave, and not afraid of the dark.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • sam stone

      why do you feel there must be a purpose?

      December 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  10. Warning: Atheism is a Religion

    .

    December 7, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Not So

      Fallacy of equivocation

      December 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Silliness: Not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      December 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Topher

      True, I wouldn't call atheism a religion just like Christianity isn't. But atheism is a belief-system and worldview.

      December 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • That's pretty absurd

        Not believing in Zeus is a belief system and a worldview?

        December 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
        • Topher

          Do you not BELIEVE that there are no gods? Does your atheistic worldview not make you disagree on legal matters and other things with those of faith?

          December 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Topher, "atheism" describes people who do not believe a SINGLE question. Do you believe in god–yes or no. If it's no–you're an atheist. There's no "system" there at all.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Topher, I'm not aware of legal differences between theists and atheists except where theists attempt to have their beliefs enshrined in law.

          December 7, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
      • sam stone

        wrong again, gopher

        atheism is not a world view

        it is a single response to a single claim

        try again

        it is fun watching your cowardice

        December 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
        • Irwin Graulich

          Your response shows that you do not understand English very well. I guess your parents didn't do such a good job. And since I am such a coward, how about coming to my office on Monday morning at 11:00am and telling me that to my face. Bloch Graulich Whelan Inc., 333 Park Avenue South, New York (between East 24th and East 25th street). See you on Monday–Mr. Hero.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  11. snowboarder

    when touring the vatican I was appalled at the opulence and luxury of the religious oligarchy built upon the backs of the faithful.

    December 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Alda

      A lot of what is in the Vatican museums was given by conquerers who had basically stolen it through their wars. Which the Vatican expected as tribute for its support.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • snowboarder

        but the edifices themselves were built by the oligarchy for their own legacies.

        December 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • Alda

          Agreed. The people who manipulate and exploit you worst are the ones you side with, not the other side.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • JM

      Does that make it any less beautiful? Or does that make Protestantism make more sense?

      December 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • Larry J.

        Can something built on greed, exploitation, and the desire to intimidate be truly beautiful?

        December 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • JM

          Yes, if you don't follow that ideology.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Dandintac

      Did you know St. Peter's Basilica was built largely with the sales of "Indulgences"?

      December 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  12. DaveS

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

    Right. The religion ain't gonna do it, so hopefully the building will.

    December 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Zippy Zap

      Interstingly, kings, Nazis, Communists, and other unsavory people did the same thing for the same reason. Not exactly the humility they pretend, is it?

      December 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • mbh

      I cannot imagine any Christian pastor making this statement about their "building." The Bible is clear – that where 2 or more are gathered, there I will also be. Christianity and faith itself has absolutely nothing to do with any building. The Christian faith is about understanding and continueing to grow in the Word as proclaimed by Jesus Christ. I belong to a wonderful church in N. CA, with a large campus that provides a myriad of faith-based services throughout the community. The "building" is a tool to support ministries – both local and abroad. Those ministries range from helping the homeless, providing space for ministry classes, providing classes to people in the midst of job transition, place for youth to gather in a safe and supervised environment, the region's largest multi-week summer program for 1000+ children, to name just a few.

      As a photographer, you won't really find anwers to why people believe by the building they enter.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • Steve brinkman

        You can't believe a pastor would say the church building is meant to astonish? Have you been to Rome? Florence? That many religious buildings were meant to astonish is elf-evident. In Portland, OR, growing up I was always impressed that the most modern, cutting edge architechure appeared in Christian churches and Jewish synagogs.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  13. Colin

    What is the only thing capable of making 40% of the country utterly stupid enough to think the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake:

    (a) a horrid disease

    (b) a failed education system

    (c) a successful Al Qaeda plot; or

    (d) Christianity?

    December 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Alda

      I must disagree. They were already stupid. Religion just cashes in on that.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Liz the First

        Exactly! it's a shame that something that should be so good for people and make them better people has been used to manipulate people into supporting reactionary and intolerant groups who seek to keep people ignorant and under their thumb for money and power.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
      • Dandintac

        I'm not certain that it's an accurate statement that religious people are stupid. Most religious people were indoctrinated as children. Brainwashed in effect. As infants, our brains are like wet clay, and can be molded by parents and community. Religious have been practicing childhood indoctrination for centuries, and have it down to both a science and a fine art. They really know what they are doing. They tell children what they HAVE to believe, and children's brains at that young age can't help but believe what the adult says. This gets reinforced throughout their lives, and they are often sheltered from any dissenting views until it's too late–the clay has hardened. So I think it's more accurate to say that religion makes otherwise intelligent people believe stupid things.

        December 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  14. Reality # 2

    And now moving to the 21st century- for the new members of this blog:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues or pictures thereof !!!

    December 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  15. Autumn

    I'm sorry you don't have the longing that I have. There is a God whether you believe it or not and you will have to go somewhere after death. I have my own proof of his existence and religion isn't the answer. Only Jesus is the way to Heaven. Read the Bible and nothing else, it is the only truth! Please I love you all and it hurts me that you don't have the relationship with Jesus that I have. You deserve better! Don't take a chance on your eternity!!!!

    December 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Topher

      Amen!

      December 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @autumn, of course there is no legitimate reason to believe a single word of your post to be true.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Muslim

      But you have the wrong god and will be tormented for your ignorance. I weep because you do not have the relationship I have with Allah, only the illusion of one.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
      • DaveS

        Muslim and Autumn, I weep [figuratively] for both of you because you do not have the relationship I have with Reality, only the illusion of one.

        December 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
        • Muslim (not really)

          Actually, that was just a demonstration that people of virtually every religion say and believe the same thing, and are certain that everyone else is wrong, especially other religions. Without the slightest evidence of any kind beyond the self-deceptions of their imagination.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
        • Topher

          Muslim

          Could be wrong, but I don't believe Muslims claim any kind of "relationship" with Allah.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
        • Muslim (not really)

          Well Topher, try this on for size:

          http://insideislam.wisc.edu/2012/04/how-to-think-of-god/

          Read the first sentence there.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
        • Topher

          Keep reading. It's talking about a physical presence of being close, not really a personal relationship ... but even if they did believe that way, there's very little in common between Islam and Christianity.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
        • JM

          Why is religion so divisive?

          December 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • Topher

          JM

          What do you mean?

          December 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
        • JM

          I mean they are the same God, Topher. Only the books of faith are different.
          And yet, here you arguing one faith against the other.
          And that's all well and fine, I guess...except it is the "us vs them" mentality...which is divisive.
          I've seen Christians with this same mentality, the "no true Scotsman" mentality...which is divisive.
          For instance...you and JW. Both convinced your path is the correct way.
          Divisive.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
        • Topher

          JM

          "I mean they are the same God, Topher. Only the books of faith are different."

          NOOOOOOOO! No, they are not.

          "And that's all well and fine, I guess...except it is the "us vs them" mentality...which is divisive."

          If you simply mean we disagree, sure.

          "I've seen Christians with this same mentality, the "no true Scotsman" mentality...which is divisive."

          "No true Scotsman" doesn't really work when arguing religion. At least not well. If, for instance, Christ said if you do such-and-such you're not one of my followers, well, I think He has the authority to make that statement.

          "For instance...you and JW. Both convinced your path is the correct way."

          JW, unfortunately stands for heresies. So yeah, he and I have issues, but I don't think our discussions have been divisive. But for instance, I can disagree with a Lutheran on Baptism and we are still brothers in Christ. We agree on the essential issues.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • lol??

          JM, too bad you scorn divisive. The tower of Babel was quite an event.

          December 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
        • Topher

          Isn't atheism divisive with Christianity?

          December 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Not so divisive, Topher. I think of you as a human being, albeit one with a few ideas that I find peculiar.

          December 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      And now putting all of this foolishness to rest: (for the new members of this blog)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Added details available upon written request.

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

      e.g. Taoism

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

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

      December 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Charles

      Dont you take a chance on your eternity by not believing in all the other religions in world? How can you prove they are not true? Maybe the actual god is mad cause you dont worship, say, allah.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
      • Steve brinkman

        Sorry,
        Charles, that's not the way it works. The person making the claim has the burden of proving it – and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If someone wants to argue that god exists, he or she has the burden of proving it. I have absolutely no burden to prove that something doesn't exist. If it were otherwise, anyone could say anythig exists (Biblical unicorns, the Easter Bunny, etc.) and, what, they would unless someone disproved it? Read some logic and philosphy and any science.

        December 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  16. L

    I'm beginning to understand why so many atheists are hostile and hateful towards the religion they grew up with and left as adults. All other religions they don't even care for, just the one that they are most hateful and biased towards.

    December 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • snowboarder

      it would likely be because in our country and community we are constantly threatened and cajoled by one specific religion.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Not So

      The intensity of disdain increases with the direct impact of the religion in question upon the lives of non-believers, but your statement is patently false. Atheists do not care for any religion.

      If religious people would mind their own business and keep their faith strictly personal, then most atheists would not care. But when religious people attempt to codify nonsense into law or otherwise force their religion on others, then blowback is entirely to be expected.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • L

        So atheists do the same in return? That's not logical!!

        December 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • Not So

          Allow me to reiterate: "then blowback is entirely to be expected."

          December 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Karl Marx

          You could say that the founding fathers "did the same in return" because they tried to seperate religion and state. Or you could realize that not wanting to be discriminated against isn't the same as discrimination.

          December 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
        • lol??

          Kennedy clan for the libs and the libs for the Kennedy clan.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Dandintac

      L,

      You think we sound hateful because you don't like what we say. Believe me, I rarely feel any sort of hatefulness in the things I say. But what I find is that theists will routinely feel we are being hateful, no matter what we say. Let me give you an example.

      An atheist billboard went up somewhere, and a news channel was covering the reactions to Christians to it. They complained about how it was "hateful" and that we were "attacking Christians". You know what the billboard said??

      "Don't believe in God? You're not alone." And a phone number and website.

      That's it.

      On the other hand, I can't count the number of times Christians have declared that I am going to be burning in Hell for all eternity, and sometimes that they looked forward to it.

      No please tell–honestly–which is the more hostile and attacking?

      Choose the worst, most poorly mannered atheist out there. He will never tell you that you are going to burn forever for not seeing the world the same way, and that he looks forward to it.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Dandintac

      L,

      You think we sound hateful because you don't like what we say. Believe me, I rarely feel any sort of hatefulness in the things I say. But what I find is that theists will routinely feel we are being hateful, no matter what we say. Let me give you an example.

      An atheist billboard went up somewhere, and a news channel was covering the reactions to Christians to it. They complained about how it was "hateful" and that we were "attacking Christians". You know what the billboard said??

      "Don't believe in God? You're not alone." And a phone number and website.

      That's it.

      On the other hand, I can't count the number of times Christians have declared that I am going to be burning in Hell for all eternity, and sometimes that they looked forward to it.

      Now please tell–honestly–which is the more hostile and attacking?

      Choose the worst, most poorly mannered atheist out there. He will never tell you that you are going to burn forever for not seeing the world the same way, and that he looks forward to it.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  17. Red

    Yes, a well designed Mosque, Church or Synagogue is quite a fascinating sight. Especially on the inside.

    December 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • snowboarder

      as well as palaces, castles and mansions, as is their purpose.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  18. ed dugan

    According to MY bible, the one I subscribe to, Genesis 1:1 states: IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED EVOLUTION! End of argument.

    December 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • GAW

      Whatever you say dude!

      December 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • snowboarder

      theists will perform amazing feats of logical gymnastics to shoehorn their theology into reality.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Steel On Target

      You must be writing your own version of the bible now.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Topher

      So your version is a fairy tale. 😉

      December 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • lol??

      Ye ol' chitown sayin' is, "The fix is in!!"

      December 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Dandintac

      Ed, I'm glad you accept the fact of evolution–believe me I am. But when I hear some people say things like "my God isn't like that" and "well–I don't believe that in MY religion" and so on–and it's something that contradicts something in the Bible–I have to wonder–don't you realize you are basically just making up your own religion? What foundation do you get this from and still claim its your religion?

      Suggestion: Start by realizing that the Bible is just stories. Sure, there are some real places mentioned, even a few real people here and there. But it's mostly mythological and not true. Then realize that you get your understanding of evolution from science. It's very important to distinguish religion from science.

      December 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  19. Dandintac

    One thing I have to give religion credit for is beautiful architecture. I hope religion eventually goes the way of the Dodo, but if so I hope they can preserve many of these beautiful churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and cathedrals. I think tourism will help for some of the more famous ones. With others, I would like to see them converted into secular community centers. They would remain ideal for weddings and funerals, and could also serve well as town or neighborhood meeting places.

    December 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Steel On Target

      Some would make awesome bars and music venues.

      December 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      •  Archibald Smythe-Pennington, III

        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHZvMAJUN5g&w=640&h=360]

        December 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • Maddy

        I have actually have seen some deconsecrated churches used for that purpose; some have been made into private residences, as well.

        December 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Dandintac

        Great idea! Clear out the pews for a dance floor with plenty of tables around it. The bar could be in the back or side. The pulpit could be converted to a stage. You could even keep the organ for some bands.

        December 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • lol??

          The impulse to make refugees must run deep.

          December 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Yes indeed, the impulse to make refugees does indeed run deep, and religious people should know better than most. My sister worked with refugees for years, and the most frequent cause seemed to be religious strife.

          However, if you'd read my initial posting above, I am discussing a hypothetical whereby religion has already gone the way of the dodo, and that it would be a shame if all the beautiful architecture were to not find a new use. So no new refugees.

          December 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  20. Our Lady of Perpetual Maytag

    How could this author leave us out??

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EidpPRBgwg&w=640&h=360]

    December 7, 2013 at 4:43 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.