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Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?
Ryan Bell's "year without God" experiment has drawn a wealth of comments, from scornful to supportive.
January 14th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Ryan Bell, a one-time Christian pastor, says he didn't expect his yearlong experiment with atheism to get much attention.

"This wasn't intended to be an international journey that was done in public," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin last Wednesday.

But what began as Bell's personal project has now been covered by NPR, the BBC, Religion News Service, and, of course, here at CNN.

READ MORE: Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

It's not just the mainstream media that are along for the ride, either. Dozens of blogs and columnists have weighed in on Bell's "Year Without God," with responses ranging from support to skepticism to scorn.

Sikivu Hutchinson, a writer who has criticized the lack of racial diversity in the the atheist community, called Bell's foray into atheism "secular tourism."

"Bell joins a jam-packed, largely white, mostly Christian cottage industry of religious leaders who are capitalizing off of untapped reserves of atheist dollars, adulation and publicity by jumping onto the 'maverick ex-pastor' bandwagon," Hutchinson wrote in a recent blog post.

PZ Myers, an American scientist and prolific blogger on atheism, echoed Hutchinson's comments, and called Bell's experiment "simply ridiculous."

"It’s not a set of superficial practices, it’s a mindset," Myers said of atheism. "What’s he going to do at the end of the year, erase his brain?"

Since the responses have been so varied - and so interesting - we wanted to know what other thinkers and scholars have to say about Bell's experiment with atheism.

In short, we asked a whole bunch of smart folks if it's really possible to "try" atheism for a year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we got a wide variety of answers (The old adage about "three rabbis, four opinions" seems to apply to atheists as well.)

Some of these submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

Catherine Dunphy, executive director of The Clergy Project 

It would be accurate to say that some of our members tried similar experiments, though in a much less public fashion and for a shorter period of time before leaving their faith.

For myself, it was in stages. First, I decided to just stop praying and see what would happen.  Then I stopped going to church, and finally I decided that the idea of God just didn't make sense.

It was like learning to swim with "water wings." Eventually I realized I could float all by myself.

Testing the atheism waters, is in many ways an intellectual process but it is also intrinsically linked to emotion. God is often seen as a surrogate parent, a protector, a supporter. Untangling oneself from this type of over arching narrative is never easy.

Bell should be applauded for his attempt to ask the hard questions. Whether he'll be a theist or atheist on the other side of this journey, I don't know. But it is a good thing that he is wondering.

Penny Edgell, sociology professor, University of Minnesota 

What Bell is doing makes a sense if you remember that it is through daily practice that we become the people we are.  Meditation, daily prayers and devotions ... these are how people become Christian, Muslim, a believer of any kind.

And it's not just religion; there are all kinds of practical, self-help guides to being a better mom, a better husband, a more passionate lover, etc., all of which focus on doing the things that a better mom, husband, or lover would do until you a) feel more momly, husbandly, loverly feelings and b) it becomes a habit to act in the appropriate role-enhancing way.

So there is no reason to be skeptical about Bell's experiment.  Quite the opposite - it may work, and more profoundly than he anticipates.  A year is a long time, and if he really spends that year doing the things an atheist would do, he may not only act like an atheist, but feel like one, and in that union of action and feeling, find that he has become one.

Paul Fidalgo, spokesman, Center for Inquiry 

I think there is at least potential for profound personal and political implications to the discoveries Bell may make in his experiment.

Many people in times of crisis put a great deal of hope in the idea that God will come through, or execute a plan that makes sense of it all. But what happens when the mental and emotional energy that goes into prayer and wishing were put toward something more concrete?

Bell’s experiment won’t settle the religion-versus-nonreligion debate by any stretch of the imagination.

But he might help us to understand what powers we sacrifice when we spend less of ourselves on entreaties to an unknowable being, and direct those energies toward dealing with the real world, as it is, right now.

Dale McGowan, author of "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Atheism for Dummies"

Trying atheism is not only possible, it’s a very common step out of religious belief. The comedian and author Julia Sweeney called it “putting on the No-God glasses” to see what the world looks like when you stop assuming a god is running things.

A lot depends on how serious and honest someone is in the experiment. There’s a tendency to scramble back to old explanations at the first snap of a twig or the first feeling of wonder.

But those whose will to know is stronger than the will to believe usually find their way out. And when they do, the most common emotion they describe isn’t the anguish and despair they were told to expect — it’s freedom and relief.

Dave Muscato, spokesman, American Atheists 

I think what Ryan Bell is doing is a great thing. It's important to try to see other points of view so that you can have a better understanding of why other people don't believe the same things that you do. I don't think it's quite possible to try on the absence of belief the way he's intending to, though.

If Bell has made the choice to drop faith in superstition in favor of what the evidence shows, then he can understand the atheist experience. If he is holding on, he's not doing what an atheist does. He's simply not practicing his religion. I would say that a better name for this would be a lapsed Christian, not an atheist.

An atheist is an active role, not a passive one. We don't simply stop reading the Bible and stop praying and stop going to church. We love the process of learning and exploring answers.

Instead of resorting to "God did it," atheists are comfortable saying "I don't know, but I'm going to find out." That's where the fun starts; it means we're on the right path to finding the real answers to our questions.

David Myers, professor of psychology, Hope College 

In my book, "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists," I quote the Christian author C. S. Lewis:

"Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seems obvious that this material world is the only reality; disbelieve in Him and you must face hours when this material world seems to shout at you that it is not all. No conviction, religious or irreligious, will, of itself, end once and for all [these doubts] in the soul. Only the practice of Faith resulting in the habit of Faith will gradually do that.”

Indeed, psychological science confirms that attitudes and beliefs tend to follow behavior.  Act as if you believe—or don’t—and in time your beliefs may shift toward your actions.

Mitchell Stephens, author, "Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World"

I admit to being uncomfortable with the notion of “trying” atheism.

Can you try to have a conviction? And atheism, unlike religion, is not something that is simply accepted on faith. It presumes to be the result of reasoning and investigation. Limiting the experiment to a year also seems a bit artificial: that reasoning and investigation should never end.

Perhaps by “trying,” however, Bell means allowing yourself to be open to arguments that challenge your convictions. That certainly is noble. And the reading list of atheists and some of the West’s great questioners Bell has assigned himself is impressive. I would hope that nonbelievers would be as eager to confront the ideas of Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky.

Doubt, too, is noble. Surely, there is enough of it recorded in the gospels. Bell deserves credit for exploring rather than suppressing his doubts. He seems a thoughtful and courageous man. It is easy to imagine this being a rich and rewarding year – or lifetime.

It is a shame that some of Bell’s co-religionists are not better able to tolerate this exercise in openness and doubt. Perhaps that is one of the limitations of resting convictions upon faith rather than reasoning and investigation.

Merold Westphal, philosophy professor, Fordham University 

I think it is possible to "try" either atheistic unbelief or theistic belief to see if it "fits" in the sense of doing the practices that go with the position - praying or not praying, going to church or not going to church, reading the Bible or not reading the Bible, etc.

But I very much doubt that it is possible to suspend belief in the sense Bell suggested.

We do get caught up in the world of a movie and feel, for example, real anxiety. But then someone coughs or talks and we remember that what we are watching and hearing is fiction and the real world is the one where I'm sitting in a theater. We haven't ceased to believe, and the sense in which we have temporarily suspended belief (for an hour or two, not for a year) depends on powerful external  aids.  I'm not sure ceasing the practices of faith can have the same result, especially over so long a time.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, spokesperson, Secular Coalition for America  

I'm not exactly sure how you would "try" it, because atheism is not a religion with rituals and obligations (attending church, fasting, not eating pork, etc).

Either you believe or don't believe. If you're on the fence, I would say you're an agnostic, not "trying" atheism.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality

soundoff (3,260 Responses)
  1. bostontola

    I have commented here before that I think atheists and religious people populate the intelligence spectrum roughly the same.
    So there are smart atheists and religious people at the same percentages. Same for below average intelligence.

    A person who uses the names; "Atheism is a Religion",or "The Earth is 6000 Years Old" is more likely to be

    A) Above average intelligence.
    B) Below average intelligence.

    January 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
    • Sungrazer

      C) a troll.

      I don't like making that accusation. But it seems justified by the behavior I've seen over the last couple of weeks I've been here. The addition of "No proof needed" to his current handle is part of my justification.

      January 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
      • bostontola

        True, may be a troll, but is still either A or B.

        January 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
        • Pete

          A troll with way below average intelligence.

          January 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          I don't know that it has to do with intelligence. Certainly it has to do with reason. People of high intelligence believe irrational things. It probably also has to do with an inability (or unwillingness) to make cogent arguments. His preferred method seems to be to attack atheists (their characters, not their logic), thinking that is helping his cause.

          January 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
      • Exactly

        That troll is totally trolling others into his trollfest. Don't feed him.

        January 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
        • bostontola

          I think this person actually believes the tripe it is posting. It clearly is provocative, but I think it believes the underlying things. It also happens to have poor argumentative and critical thinking skills so it gets caught up in its own underwear.

          January 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
        • Which God?

          @bostonola. I have to agree with . As for the qusstion of intelligence, it has to be below average. The person cannot formulate a coherent thought, let alone sustain an any points of fact. Such people have to attack as they have no rational means to argu with, their debating skills are nil, as you have stated..

          January 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
    • Piccolo

      Obviously A. Denial of modern science and proven facts shows brilliance!

      January 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm |
  2. bostontola

    Atheist, agnostic, deist.
    Which of these terms best covers the following:

    Doesn't know if the universe is totally absent of God(s) but believes that to be true, and is certain that all religions are false and all the God characters described by those religions are false.

    January 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • M.White.

      What kind of atheist: a libertarian atheist, Marxist atheist, scientific determinist atheist, existentialist atheist, humanist atheist, Nietzschean atheist?

      January 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
      • bostontola

        Your choice.i

        January 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
        • M.White.

          I would have to describe myself as an atheist, but friendly toward religion. I'm not certain that all religions are false. That sounds more like arrogance than knowledge.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
        • bostontola

          Maybe its arrogance. I think there is evidence for the falsehood of all God based religions that have been devised so far.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
        • M.White.

          I agree. But I just can not say I am certain they are false or wrong.

          January 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
        • tony

          If that is a neutral position, then the reverse should be true.

          Describing oneself as a religious person, but friendly toward atheism. Being not certain that atheism is false.

          Somehow I can't imagine that view being accepted by any religious leader. It seems to undermine religion compleytely and certainly was not tolerated historically.

          Interesting in that it seems to replicate up the author's "tryout" of atheism

          January 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
        • bostontola

          That's cool. For me, there have been thousands of Gods imagined by humans. The religions around them are filled with assertions that are testable. None of them has passed the test. That provides certainty. Who knows, some new one may come with testable assertions and pass.

          January 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
        • tony

          The earth is proven not to be 6000 years old.

          If it were the case, the Sun's light that we see with on Earth would be absent for another 1,000,000 years or so.

          We know that because of what we have learned since the 1920's about nuclear fission and fusion. Nuclear power stations and atomic bombs work here on earth,. If the atomic theory was wrong, they wouldn't.

          January 17, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • TomJames

      bostontola
      My atheism is like my disbelief in alien abductions. I don't know that they never happen, but I'm completely unimpressed by all the claims of them having happened, and alternative explanations like sleep paralysis make more sense to me than the need of advanced civilizations to travel light years just to crudely probe people's orifices.

      God could exist, but if he needed to sacrifice himself to himself in order to bring himself to forgive us for a nature he supposedly created us with, then I just find that too ridiculous a thing to take at all seriously, sorry!

      January 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
  3. tony

    When Christianity replaces education and morality:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25772828

    January 17, 2014 at 11:41 am |
  4. marksworn

    The human default setting is atheist. Being an atheist for a year is meaningless as a concept. In essence you act exactly the same in everyday life, but without all the nonsense fairy tales and without being perpetually beholden to some supremely jealous imaginary friend.

    January 17, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • NOT & NO, scripture twisters!

      ..........$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      January 17, 2014 at 10:14 am |
    • Jonah

      I can't help thinking how clever the atheists think they are! I know God lives! He answers my prayers in miraculous ways and I feel his spirit almost daily. Any man, woman, or child can know this in the same way Peter knew it. Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16) and Christ said that it wasn't flesh and blood that had revealed that to him, but his Father which is in Heaven. Then Christ declared that upon this principle (revelation) he would found his true church! If anyone is sincere and wants to know the truth for himself, he can pursue it at mormon.org!

      January 17, 2014 at 10:47 am |
      • King of Darkness

        Actually Satan's been the one answering your prayers. Show me evidence to suggest otherwise.

        January 17, 2014 at 10:55 am |
      • marksworn

        You mean you know god lives because a book written by humans says he does, and you know its true because the same book says its true? Excellent. Good for you.

        January 17, 2014 at 11:01 am |
        • Jonah

          Mark, just admit it. Knowing God takes work and effort and you are just too lazy!

          January 17, 2014 at 11:26 am |
        • marksworn

          I like how all of your responses are basically you putting words in people's mouths. If it takes that much work with no obvious benefit, then what is the point? It's not about being lazy, it's about making the decision not to expend my energy on something I see no additional value, merit or truth in. I can be a good human and do all of the good actions mentioned in the bible without being in the slightest bit religious.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:39 am |
        • Jonah

          Thank-you for admitting it – you're just too lazy. Everything worthwhile takes effort.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • King of Darkness

          "Mark, just admit it. Knowing God takes work and effort and you are just too lazy!"

          Bahahahaha. I hope this is a troll post because this is pure comedy gold right here. Yeah, you people are all lazy for not blindly believing ancient texts written by humans! How lazy of you for following and contributing to science that helps make our lives better instead of hiding your head in the sand from it. The textbook definition of lazy is attributing your personal beliefs and inner feelings to a god that is already laid out for you. What work is involved? You don't discover anything for yourself, you just believe it because somebody said it was true. What's lazier? Assuming you know the truth; or admitting you don't know the answer and trying to find out?

          January 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
    • TheBBLT

      The human default position is also not being potty trained, illiterate and completely self-centered.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:11 am |
      • doobzz

        So? Teaching a child how to use the bathroom, how to read and to follow the golden rule are not the same as teaching them that there's a big mean boogie man in the sky who thinks they are worthless and depraved, watches them constantly, waiting to catch them doing something "bad" like touching their privates and will torture them forever for it.

        Using the bathroom, reading and having empathy don't require a deity to either teach or learn.

        January 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
    • Roger that

      Give an example of verifiable evidence that your god answers your prayers. I'll check back in about 15 years to see if you've come up with anything.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • Jonah

        Most of the universe is unverifiable. If you are asking for verification, you are denying most of the universe.

        January 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • doobzz

          Weak dodge.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
        • Former Xtian

          Not only weak, but highly illogical.

          January 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
  5. Jake

    It is sort of fun posting on these boards just to confirm that no one has any good reason for believing in a god / gods. However, the other reason I do it is because I want to help people who have been raised with religion (brain-washed in my view) and have a hard time breaking away from it. I don't think I've ever seen anyone on these boards change their view one way or the other. However, I hope there are some people who read some of this and think, "I'm not alone. There are lots of people who think religion is as ridiculous as I do. I don't have to keep pretending."

    If anyone has changed their view in any way in either direction from reading any of the posts on these boards, I'd really be interested in hearing about it.

    January 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
    • AE

      I wasn't raised in religion or the victim of brain washing. But my belief in God is important to me. I do learn new things from other people and it seems we all, mostly, want the best for others. I don't know everything there is to know about Jesus, God, religion, The Bible, etc (I've been a Christian for just a little over 3 years) and I have learned new things on those subjects on this board from non-Christians and Christians over other denominations and understanding than me.

      January 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
      • Jake

        Thank you for your response AE. Very interesting. There are very few people who weren't raised with religion who end up believing in a god. Can you please explain how you went from not believing in a god to believing in one?

        January 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
        • AE

          I don't know exactly why. It did not happen overnight or suddenly.

          January 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
      • urnotathinkerareu

        You have had 3 years of adult indoctrination which is much different than a child being indoctrinated. If you don't think you've been indoctrinated then why did you suddenly find this important to you in adulthood? Why? Because of your personal issues that's why. Then religion comes along and in your negative feelings someone tells you that you need god. Sometimes people dont show they have negative feelings and issues but the magic seems to overide common sense...been there done that....Ive seen friends of mine who didnt get out and after 40 years many of them are basket cases....ever try to have a REAL conversation with an indoctrinated over 60 person? It's almost impossible...

        January 16, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
        • AE

          How do you imagine I've been indoctrinated? And by whom?

          January 16, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
        • sam stone

          AE: how did you come to the conclusion that man is sinful and in need of redemption?

          January 17, 2014 at 6:19 am |
        • WASP

          @AE: that would be "self indoctrination."

          humans amoung animals have a marvelous ability...........we can lie to ourselves and believe it. hypocondriaks do it daily; they tell themselves they are sick with something and the body goes along with it.

          if a religious person "wants" to feel the holy ghost their mind will send the information to the body that it "has been invaded" by the holy ghost and then you will have a physical response.

          January 17, 2014 at 8:41 am |
        • AE

          sam stone

          I experienced it to be true for myself.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:03 am |
        • TomJames

          There's a complete Christian society, complete with it's own movies, books, and TV, that plays a pretty substantial in the indoctrination process. AE may never have been directly taught to see the world through a Christian lens by individuals, but there's enough stuff out there all supporting this world view for him to basically fall under the spell anyway.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:06 am |
        • AE

          WASP

          My belief in God is not a disorder like hypochondria. What do you imagine happens when I feel the holy spirit? What kind of physical response do you imagine I have?

          January 17, 2014 at 10:10 am |
        • AE

          TomJames

          How does this complete society operate? Can you give me some examples of the movies, books and tv shows that may have aided in my indoctrination process? Does the fact that I've seriously considered other viewpoints play a factor? Christians have actually encouraged me to do so. And why do I not agree with all Christians?

          Are you sure you haven't been indoctrinated by atheist agenda websites, videos, books and TV shows to think all Christians are dramatically different from atheists?

          January 17, 2014 at 10:17 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          Are you saying that you've never read any books from Christian authors and apologists, never heard any William Lane Craig debates, or seen any of the Left Behind movies? Never watched any Sunday Christian TV, listened to any Christian music, or watched the Bible mini-series on TV?

          Christian programming is very prevalent in our greater society, but there are large pockets deep in the Bible Belt where you really are sheltered from anything but the Christian message.

          Would you say that it's possible for kids to develop a belief in Santa just from the media and culture, without having to be taught to believe in him?

          Personally, I've been a non-believer since I was drafted just after high school, long before the internet.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:31 am |
        • AE

          TomJames

          I have read Christian literature. And atheist literature. And a lot in between. I have never watched any Left Behind movies. I don't care for Sunday Christian TV. I listen to some Christian music, but not a lot. I watched some of the Bible mini-series.

          I live in the Bible Belt. I went to public school and there was no religious messages allowed. School programs are very secular in the public realm.

          Sure, some of the media and culture supports the Santa character as real for the sake of children.

          I was a non-believer in high school. And there was plenty of alternate viewpoints to consider back then, a few years before the internet took off.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:42 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          I've read a lot of stuff from both sides too. I've recently gone through some CS Lewis stuff that was hanging around the house that I remember reading a long time back. I can remember it once making sense, but it just does't anymore.

          Apart from either of our personal experiences then, what do you think about all the home-schooled kids brought up in closed Christian communities? Are they being indoctrinated?

          January 17, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • AE

          TomJames

          Yea, not everyone likes CS Lewis.

          What are some atheist writers you like? Whoever, you'll find hundreds of criticisms and debunkings on what they write.

          Nobody seems to have all the answers.

          Are "closed Christian community" kinds being indoctrinated? Maybe some are. Maybe some are not. I don't know. I don't belong to a closed Christian community. I'm in an open and free Christian community.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:40 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          I don't actually like many atheist writers. I liked some of Dawkins' purely scientific stuff, but not his atheist rants. I never bothered to read anything from Hitchens. I saw him a couple of times on the news and knew that I didn't like him much. I'm sure that a lot of his actual arguments make sense, but I just didn't like his atti.tude. I've seen criticisms of atheist arguments, but no "debunkings". Can you give an example of one?

          What I do enjoy are episodes of "The Atheist Experience" on YouTube. The language doesn't get too explicit, and the hosts generally are quite respectful to their serious theist callers.

          By a "closed Christian community" I mean one where every care is taken to limit secular viewpoints.

          I doubt that many atheists claim to have all the answers. There really isn't anything wrong with admitting that we just don't know what caused the Big Bang, for instance. Religion seems keen to take advantage in holes in our knowledge to claim to know the answers to everything, but that's just unfounded, isn't it?

          Again, talk to you later. Been a pleasure.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:59 am |
        • AE

          I thnk that is painting religion with broad strokes.

          I certainly know Chritians who do not take advantage of holes in our knowledge to claim to know all the answers to everything. It would seem we would have no elite scientists who happned to be Christian or critical thinkers who happened to be Christian if that was the case.

          Sure, maybe in closed religious communities that happens. But Christianity does not require one to be in a closed community.

          In fact my pastor has told me it is quite the opposite. We are called to serve others in the whole world. She also told me our church I was looking into has made some big mistakes in the past and they don't know all the answers.

          Anybody on here claiming I've been indoctrinated or brainwashed doesn't know what they are talking about. They just are imagining things.

          Nice talking with you. I appreciate it. Whoa, I've been online too long.

          --

          There are all kinds of examples of criticism against Dawkins, Hitchens and other atheists. By their fellow atheists.

          http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8839081/call-off-the-faith-wars/

          January 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
        • TomJames

          AE
          I don't know of any elite ones, but there are scientists who are also Christian. Sure, but if they believe in God, and they see him not only filling in the blanks, but likely manifest in plain sight as well, why aren't they writing scientific papers articulating what they experience? If their belief lies outside of anything they can offer as a professional conclusion, why should I be impressed that they're scientists? I'll accept Stephen Hawking's opinions on space-time, but I wouldn't give much mind to his opinion on baseball, for example.

          Since I've yet to hear a clear, logical argument for accepting Christian beliefs as true, I'm forced to conclude that any Christian critical thinkers aren't applying this method to their beliefs, or have, but choose to rely upon their faith being correct despite what their critical thinking concludes. Is faith always a surefire road to truth? I can't think of a single religion that doesn't require faith in accepting it, and they can't all be true, but they sure can all be false.

          Could your church be making any big mistakes right now?

          Again, would you necessarily know that you've been brainwashed, or indoctrinated? I've heard several atheists say that they never knew until they were able to see their faith from the outside.

          January 17, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
        • AE

          There are elite scientists that believe in God. There are elite scientists that are atheists. I think it shows religious people are just as skeptical and in search for more knowledge as non-religious people.

          – "Could your church be making any big mistakes right now?"

          Yes.

          – "Again, would you necessarily know that you've been brainwashed, or indoctrinated? I've heard several atheists say that they never knew until they were able to see their faith from the outside."

          Right. Can you necessarily know that you've been brainwashed or indoctrinated, either?

          That is why I was asking, how do you imagine I've been brainwashed or indoctrinated? How come some atheists say religion does not necessarily involve brainwashing or indoctrination? And that it is absurd to make that notion?

          I'm familiar with brainwashing, indoctrination and coercive techniques to convert people to believe something. Why doesn't my church practice such things? Why do they encourage me to associate with other people? Why do they allow people from different faiths to preach in our church? Why do they allow people from no faith teach in our church? Why do we allow people in our secular neighborhood to use our building for community purposes?

          January 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
      • sam stone

        ae, if you have faith, wonderful

        your faith is not conincing to others

        January 17, 2014 at 6:17 am |
        • AE

          It is not convincing to you. And that is all you are really qualified to say. To say it is not convincing to others... is a matter of faith on you point.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:06 am |
        • TomJames

          It's not convincing to me either.

          Shall we invite a poll?

          January 17, 2014 at 10:07 am |
        • AE

          I'm sure most of the people who post on here are not convinced. That is why they choose to not be Christian.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:28 am |
        • marksworn

          The human default is to be atheist, you don't choose not to believe in god, you just decide that you aren't convinced by a single book that tells you that you have to believe in one specific god or you'll spend eternity regretting it.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:36 am |
        • AE

          marksworn

          I'm sorry I don't believe I have to believe in one specific god or I'll spend and eternity regretting it. And I don't think The Bible, a collection of books, says that either.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:46 am |
        • marksworn

          ae – Actually the 10 commandments makes it very clear which god is supposedly the true god. And yes the semantics of the bible being a collection of books, rather than one book, still doesn't detract from the message that if you deny the christian god, you will pay the price:

          2 Chronicles 15:12-13
          Deuteronomy 7:3-4
          Revelation 20:11-15
          Matthew 25:31–46

          January 17, 2014 at 11:18 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          If they're anything like me, they didn't "choose" to not be Christian; it just doesn't make any sense to become a Christian. You probably know a little bit about reincarnation and Buddhism, right? Did you choose not to become a Buddhist, or was it even a serious option? After I became an atheist, Christianity stopped being a serious option. Sorry, but I just can't take those beliefs serious any more.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:27 am |
        • AE

          None of those verses say you will spend eternity regretting it. It says God will destroy evil. The wages of sin are death, not spending eternity regretting evil ways.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:30 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          Revelation 20:10-15 says

          "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gaveup the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

          So, are you saying that non-believers will be thrown into a different lake of fire, or that they'll just not suffer like the Devil, the beast, and the false prophet after being thrown into the same lake?

          To me, and obviously to a whole lot of Christians, the Bible seems to clearly imply that non-believers will suffer the same fate as the three big Evil guys first mentioned. This would be odd, because it claims that we will be "deceived" by them, but we generally see people who have been deceived by someone as victims, not criminals deserving punishment.

          Gotta go for now, very nice talking to you.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:46 am |
        • AE

          TomJames

          Revelations is a dream. It is apocalyptic literature and draws heavily on poetic and allegorical metaphors.

          Some people say hell is eternal torment. A life in agony. Some say it is complete annihilation. Death.

          I believe the wages of sin is DEATH. But the gift of God [is] eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
        • TomJames

          AE
          You believe one reading of Revelation, many other Christians believe another. If eternal torture of unbelievers doesn't fit with your personal view of God and his judgment then isn't it possible that you're just projecting what you want God to be onto him?

          Aren't you just the least bit skeptical about a belief system that is so easily malleable to people's personal desires and tastes?

          January 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • AE

          Christians have different viewpoints. So does every other belief system.

          Of course I'm skeptical. No, I don't belong to a belief system that is about meeting my personal desires and tastes. The message I usually here is that is exactly not the point of following Jesus.

          January 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • Sue

        AE
        How many people actually realize when they've been brainwashed? Sure, some of the more notorious cults have been shown to take brainwashing to extremes, but isn't it fair to say that more popular religions also use many of these same techniques?

        January 17, 2014 at 10:14 am |
        • AE

          No, I don't think that is fair to say that. What systematic or forcible pressure do you think I faced to believe in God?

          January 17, 2014 at 10:21 am |
        • Ted

          The threats of eternal torture if you don't believe, as presented in the blood-red book of Christianity, one of the most violent religions, are pretty serious coercion.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • AE

          But I don't believe there is a threat of eternal torture, at least according to the Bible. The church I belong to and the Christians I know are non-violent. And do not support coercion of others.

          January 17, 2014 at 10:57 am |
        • TomJames

          AE
          If you don't respond to the stick, do you respond to the carrot? Do all the promises of eternal reward, and the positive media image of Christians being charitable and defenders of morality draw you in? Scientologists believe that they have the most positive impact on the world and that only their program can "save" people too.

          As they say, you can catch more flies with honey ...

          January 17, 2014 at 11:33 am |
        • AE

          Tom,

          No, those things you imagine don't draw me in.

          What promises of eternal reward? I've never been promised such a thing.

          What media do you imagine influences what I believe?

          Where does Jackie Pullinger, Peter Gomes, NPR, Regina Spektor, The Clash, ESPN, reruns of The Office, movies like Anchor Man 2 and Gravity portray Christians as being all charitable and defenders of morality?

          Those are some examples of media I've chosen to be exposed to in the last 2 weeks.

          How about this, can you show me where on this faith and belief blog the paid Christian writers (like Rachel Held-Evans, Daniel Burke) portray Christians as being all charitable and defenders of morality?

          January 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • TomJames

          AE
          Why are you a Christian then? Do you get anything out of it, or does it just "make sense" to you like my atheism does to me?

          January 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
        • AE

          I believe we live in a world that has not achieved its ideals. An imperfect world. The scriptures refer to it as a fallen world.

          We are all struggling and moving toward those ideals as best we can. A variety of ideals have been set before us. The person of Jesus Christ, for me, is one of those ideals. Yes, it makes sense to me.

          If it didn't make sense, I would honestly be an agnostic or atheist. Or maybe a Buddhist.

          January 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • AE

      Christians OF other denominations

      January 16, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
    • bostontola

      Jake,
      I have definitely refined my stance on God from interacting on this blog, probably explains why i am still here. I started as a garden variety atheist, i.e. I simply didn't believe in God. The arguments from believers in God actually led me to a new position, I believe all religion is man made and hence all religions thus far are false. I started with some va.gue arguments, and the interaction here sharpened my thinking thanks to the good questions of some of the religious commentators. It has made me more secure in my beliefs. That is worthwhile to me.

      January 16, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
      • Jake

        Cool, thanks for the response. Makes sense and I sort of feel the same. Having to answer good questions from believers (although I honestly find them to be rare), solidifies my position as well.

        January 16, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
    • Dandintac

      The CNN Belief blog hasn't made much difference for me–perhaps sharpened my thinking a bit in terms of arguments on either side–but I haven't been on here long. I actually have argued more on YouTube. I stumbled on to Christopher Hitchens on YT several years ago, and both he and Sam Harris exposed me to a lot of arguments that I had never thought of before, and ways of thinking about this whole issue that never occurred to me, because culturally, we are so used to applying a double-standard to religion, particularly Christianity, and granting this ideology a lot more slack than we grant any other belief system. Out of cultural habit, we just don't apply the same skepticism to the God claim that we apply to anything else.

      I've also come to believe that religion is harmful, sometimes even dangerous in this day and age. At one time I thought religion was mostly benign, often good–or that the good outweighed the bad, even though I didn't really believe in any gods myself. I used to call myself "agnostic" and if asked I would have told you I admired people who were sincere and observant with their faith. I no longer think that way now.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
    • Alias

      Ths blog has shown me just how insecure some people are
      It amazes me how far some people will go to avoid tough questions.
      It amuses me when the bible lovers resort to lying and taking their own book out of context instead of having honest conversation. I openly admit to pushing their buttons to read the BS explanations.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
      • AE

        One way to push an atheist's button is to insist atheism is a religion. I've noticed somebody keeps trying to do that and it seems to work.

        January 16, 2014 at 10:26 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          That comment says more about you than atheists or atheism. Did you mean to expose yourself like that?

          January 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
        • AE

          No, my point was that it looks like someone is trying to push atheist's buttons. That's all.

          January 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm |
        • TomJames

          AE
          There appears to be quite a few Christians who feel the need to say that their faith isn't a "religion" either, but some kind of relationship with Christ.

          January 17, 2014 at 12:34 am |
        • Former Xtian

          Not really. When people say that they get laughed because it's hilariously wrong.

          January 17, 2014 at 11:18 am |
    • Former Xtian

      I was indoctrinated into Christianity starting as an infant and when through the whole thing with the sacraments, Sunday school, weekly church rituals etc. When I was young I never questioned it, I believed it with all my heart and swore that it was the only way while other religions were all wrong. I remember as a kid, asking my mom why Jewish people exist. Since Jesus Christ was obviously the son of god, and we all KNEW this, why would anyone believe otherwise? Maybe that was my first step to recovery. After I turned 18, I began reading up on other religions.

      Obviously these blogs aren't what changed my view. It was research into science, reading the bible with an open mind (without the predisposition that god is a deity), and studying other faiths. There are literally hundreds of ways you can interpret the bible. I've found reason to suggest that God & Satan are merely 2 sides fighting within yourself, essentially the yin and yang. Satan = your inhibitions/indulgences and God = the benevolent/empathetic side. The bible constantly talks about giving into temptation. The temptation is not the devil, it is YOU.

      One person isn't going to change your view, although they can help nudge in the right direction. Ultimately people must break the cycle themselves, and the easiest way is to read about science and evolution, as well as read about other god myths around the world. There's a ton of them and no reason to believe any one of them is any more right than another. They are all on equal footing. Many have been spread through the sword and threats of torture & death. Any religion with a history like that immediate goes to the bottom of my "likely to be true" list. I'm an agnostic atheist now.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:15 am |
      • Jake

        Interesting, thanks for sharing!

        January 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • Sungrazer

      I have wondered the same. I think it is more likely that it is the lurker who might be swayed.

      By the way, I think you are a fantastic representative of the skeptic/rationalist side.

      January 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
      • Jake

        Wow, that's quite a compliment. Thank you!

        January 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  6. Invisobuddies

    In my case I know he isn't there. He hasn't been there for years. He wasn't here again today and I don't necessarily want him to go away.

    January 16, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
    • Invisobuddies

      I've spent my whole life wondering why I care so much about someone who isn't there. I can only assume religious people get it, but it might not be the same thing at all

      January 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
  7. Invisobuddies

    I can still picture him in my minds eye. I always figured I'd die, there he'd be and we'd go wherever and no kidding I never thought of him as my religion in spite of this. But I hoped that because of religion that maybe he was real, because people die, he could be a ghost or what not. As if the idea of not seeing him isn't bad enough, now that I'm older there are plenty of real people who died talk about desperation. How do you make yourself give up? When do you finally let go?

    January 16, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
    • Invisobuddies

      If I look to the right I can get a vivid image of him in my mind. He had the sweetest smile, he liked going barefoot, kept his hair tied back and had a mole just above his naval. Usually wore white shirt with knickers. Never said a word, just smiled and pointed mostly. Over and over and over and over. I draw his face all the time. I don't know much about him but I can tell you he liked to laugh. When I'm gone then he will be gone and that's the worst of it. OK I'll shut up now.

      January 16, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
    • JonasB

      Hey there!
      I really appreciate your story and I can totally understand that this is one of the hard parts to overcome as an atheist and that while I don't think that I can offer some first hand help as I never lost anybody very important to me, maybe this speech may be able to console you and it rang more hope in me than any speech about an afterlive, ever. So here it goes:

      "
      You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.
      You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

      And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

      And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

      And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.
      "
      This was by Aaron Freeman.

      I hope I may have been able to help you.
      I only wish you the best; and also a nice rest of your current day 🙂

      January 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
  8. bostontola

    The International Flat Earth Society had thousands of members as recently as 1972. There are still some today.

    January 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
    • Doris

      Gosh – I wonder if any of them have ever flown across the international date line and observed the date suddenly changing...

      January 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
    • Alias

      Most Flat Earthers just want the certificate to hang on the wall.
      It would be kind of funny.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:08 pm |
    • King of Darkness

      I have the feeling that the flat earth society has been taken over by nothing but trolls. It's comical when arguing with them, I think they just do it for arguments sake. The view is absurd, and just as silly as young earth creationism.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  9. Science Works

    A Stem Cell Universe By Stephen Hawking coming soon.

    January 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
  10. MadeFromDirt

    Atheists' problem is not that they don't believe in God, it's that they hate the God that they know exists. An honest atheist will admit that, but all the others are only fooling themselves. Just look at their desperate half-logic, and their panicky rage.

    January 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Wow ....you are quite the vapid intellectual...how could anyone argue with your ignorant conclusion...it must be true.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
    • Jake

      It's surprising how difficult it is for some people to understand what the word "atheist" means. It means no belief in a god or gods. So, perhaps you think those who claim to be atheists are all lying, in which case, they wouldn't be atheists. No matter how you look at it, your post was idiotic.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
    • bostontola

      I don't hate God, I don't hate Lex Luthor either.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
      • Happy Atheist

        I hate the Kevin Spacey Lex Luther but love the Gene Hackman Lex Luther...

        January 16, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
        • bostontola

          Hackman was the best.

          January 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
        • WASP

          i agree hackman made a far better lex.

          LEX FOR PRESIDENT! too bad he's make believe. lmao

          January 17, 2014 at 8:59 am |
    • Dandintac

      Dirt,

      if I "hated God"–that would have to mean I believed in this being, in which case I would not be an atheist–right? So anyone who hates God is not an atheist. And if an "honest atheist" tells you this, then he is not honest–he's lying if he calls himself an atheist.

      Your last sentence is just a condescending stereotype–something I encounter all too frequently from humble Christians. Maybe this will help. Think how easy it is for you to not believe in Vishnu, Ra, Mithra, or any of the other gods you don't believe in. It would be pretty stupid for a Hindu to claim you are "angry at Vishnu"–wouldn't it? The ease in which you dismiss the other gods is the same ease I feel in dismissing your God too.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:16 pm |
      • marksworn

        I am stealing your explanation for whenever I next get confronted with stupidity of this magnitude, thanks!

        January 17, 2014 at 10:18 am |
      • MadeFromDirt

        I should have put atheist in quotes in my post. Truly, an atheist is a denier of God (and a denier of logic), not an unbeliever. Everyone knows a perfect God exists, but the proud and the self-righteous repress that knowledge in different ways, usually under the guise of unbelief. Do you really believe your existence came from nothing? Is your awareness of good and evil an illusion? Does something complex come from something simple? Of course not. You can call yourself an "atheist" until your last breath, you can hide your hate of God by denying that He created you, but as I said, you are fooling only yourself, and you fulfill the Scriptures that tell us God hands over to a debased mind those who reject Him.

        January 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • Piccolo

          Can you prove anything you just said? You are essentially just preaching, you are saying anything factual, yet you are stating it as fact. Why do you have to lie to promote your religion? I don't understand it. Jesus couldn't have possibly wanted people to do that even if the whole religion that was compiled decades after his death was true.

          January 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
        • Piccolo

          *aren't saying anything factual*

          my bad.

          January 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • Chikkipop

          "Truly, an atheist is a denier of God (and a denier of logic), not an unbeliever."

          False

          "Everyone knows a perfect God exists"

          False. In fact, NO ONE knows.

          "Do you really believe your existence came from nothing?"

          Do you really believe the only alternative to "nothing" is "a god did it"!? Does your physics background enable you to understand the universe?

          "Is your awareness of good and evil an illusion?"

          Nope. It's a function of our brains.

          "Does something complex come from something simple?"

          Obviously, as has been abundantly observed! That anyone would doubt it is testament to their extreme ignorance.

          "you fulfill the Scriptures that tell us God hands over to a debased mind those who reject Him."

          It is breathtakingly naive of anyone to refer to the writings of those promoting a belief as confirmation of that belief. Would it not be the first tactic of frauds to warn you about doubters? "Don't look behind the curtain!", said the "wizard".

          It is arrogant in the extreme to claim knowledge without evidence; shame on you.

          January 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Nice job Chikki!

          The only thing I would add is this notion that complexity demands intelligence. Complexity is nothing more than a lot of simple. There is nothing whatsoever logical about complexity requiring intelligence, in fact, often more simple is more intelligent.

          January 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
        • a6packabud

          LOL – Truly, an a-mike-ist is a denier of Mike (and a denier of logic), not an unbeliever. Everyone knows a perfect Mike exists, but the proud and the self-righteous repress that knowledge in different ways, usually under the guise of unbelief. Do you really believe your existence came from nothing? Is your awareness of good and evil an illusion? Does something complex come from something simple? Of course not. You can call yourself an “a-mike-ist” until your last breath, you can hide your hate of Mike by denying that I created you, but as I said, you are fooling only yourself, and you fulfill my Scriptures that tell us Mike hands over to a debased mind those who reject Me. -- See my version makes just as much sense as your... none!

          January 17, 2014 at 7:14 pm |
        • MadeFromDirt

          Thanks to all you who posted above for confirming my points. (But I don't expect you to see how). Enjoy your weekend, and your lives, while you can.

          January 17, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
    • Former Xtian

      How do you hate something, you don't think exists? By definition an atheist cannot hate god, and that's being HONEST. Your statement is a lie. Could you please source me some of this half logic and panicky rage? It's funny how the people bashing atheists always use lies to do it. Obviously atheists get annoyed when they are generalized and pigeonholed by people that believe a complete guess to be the absolute truth about the universe and expect all others to blindly believe or else.

      With that said, you can very easily hate or disagree with a religious person. Atheists generally think that those people are deluded. It's nothing personal, it's just logic 101. If you can't prove something exists, by default it does not until evidence is presented.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • MadeFromDirt

        Parsing the definition of atheist is a fool's game. Our existence is all the proof of God that anyone needs. But a desire to live outside of God's authority causes denial, repression, and perversion of His revelations, and annoyance when someone reminds you of the truth.

        By the way, there is no such thing as a former Christian. God calls and saves who He chooses, He preserves them, and never makes mistakes. You may have called yourself a Christian, you may have felt a temporary emotional conversion, you may have gone to church every Sunday, but no doubt you heard a false gospel, a deception from Satan, and you were like the seed the sprouted in shallow soil and withered away in the heat of the day.

        January 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
        • Former Xtian

          " Our existence is all the proof of God that anyone needs."

          No it's not. Our existence proves that WE exist. Logic isn't your strong suit, is it?

          "But a desire to live outside of God's authority causes denial, repression, and perversion of His revelations, and annoyance when someone reminds you of the truth."
          Proof? It has nothing to do with desire. Living as an atheist, you can still have morals and values. Stop acting like people don't believe so they can live an evil life. It has to do with not believing something with NO evidence, not wanting to disobey this imaginary ent.ity.

          "By the way, there is no such thing as a former Christian."

          I was born and raised Christian. I no longer believe that. Therefor I'm a former Christian. I don't care what your bible or doctrine says about it. I don't believe that stuff.

          "you may have gone to church every Sunday, but no doubt you heard a false gospel, a deception from Satan, and you were like the seed the sprouted in shallow soil and withered away in the heat of the day."

          Prove it. Mr preacher. Prove that your bible isn't a deception of Satan. Prove that your religion is true while others are false. There is the same amount of evidence for god and Jesus as there is for Ra and Horus or Zeus and Apollo. All you have is ancient myths written by man. Essentially believing the bible is putting your faith in man, not god, despite the bible specifically saying you should NOT put your confidence in man, rather god.

          January 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • MadeFromDirt

          How is it logical to believe that this physical universe created itself? Only a power outside of the time and space of the universe could cause it and the laws that limit it to come into existence. If the universe created itself, why would it impose limits on itself, and assure itself of its own eventual demise? (Science has proven that it is expanding at an accelerating rate and ultimately will lose its ability to form new stars).

          How is it logical to believe that your soul created itself? What did you do to create yourself? Or do you deny that you even have a soul? If so, how do you explain your interest in following morals and values? Where do those morals come from, and what do you seek to gain from having "good morals"? It is an evil life to deny your Creator and His holiness, regardless of the morals you may espouse. No one has lived a perfect life according to God's law (except Jesus Christ). Have you lived a perfect life even according to your own morals? If so, what does it matter? In 100 years no one will care.

          No one is born a Christian. You may have been raised in a Christian family and gone through all the motions in your youth, but that does not make you a Christian. We are all born fallen and in enmity with God. God in His grace offers reconciliation to those He elects. But apart from that divine intervention, of course you will resist the truth, seek your self-glory, and hate God, being fallen.

          The God of the Bible is a perfect being, who always existed and always will, regardless of the existence or worship of humankind. The difference between God and those idols is clear. The characteristics of those false gods are all and only what man desires a god to be. The God of the Bible is far from what man's nature would prefer. (Just look at your own resistance to Him). God created all for His glory and only for His glory, and even Satan in all his cleverness would not devise a Gospel that confirms the glory. holiness, and absolute perfect eternal sovereignty of God. Satan seeks to distract man from that truth, which was written by men through the inspiration of, and preserved through the ages by God alone.

          January 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Dirt,

          That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. That enables me to keep this short. It's all bullsh-it.

          January 17, 2014 at 9:25 pm |
  11. Reality # 2

    And who again created your creator???? Or the next creator???

    January 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
    • Paul

      Why do you assume He needs a creator?

      January 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
      • Observer

        Paul,

        Christians insist that for anything to exist, something must have created it. That's one of their leading arguments against nonbelievers.

        January 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm |
      • sam stone

        Why do you a-s-s-u-m-e a creator is synonymous with a God?

        January 17, 2014 at 6:23 am |
    • dev

      in the Big Bang ,it is self creation,You can call Him God or any other name,the scientific fact is that it was pure energy,then when matter evolved,cosciousness also becomes a reality and after billions of years we arrived,and with our complex and sophisticated awareness and intelligence,We are part of that original energy,so we are part of Him.Atheist are humans and therefore they are part also of Him,They are now enlightened by God in todays era and reality to change our perception of Him by denying Him,so the delegation or transfer of implementing His will ,is with us humans,which still conforms with the basic belief.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        o Think infinity and recycling with the Big Bang expansion followed by the shrinking reversal called the Gib Gnab and recycling back to the Big Bang repeating the process on and on forever. Human life and Earth are simply a minute part of this cha-otic, sto-cha-stic, expanding, shrinking process disappearing in five billion years with the burn out of the Sun and maybe returning in another five billion years with different life forms but still subject to the va-ga-ries of its local star.

        Bottom line: In five billion years, we will all be back where we started i.e. in the dust of the stars.

        January 17, 2014 at 12:39 am |
  12. bostontola

    One thing I must say about Christianity, it accommodates an extraordinary range of believers/followers. They range from literal belief in the bible, to borderline deists. They all believe that Jesus will save their souls, but almost all the rest is up for grabs. No wonder it is the most popular religion in the world.

    January 16, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
    • ME II

      I suspect there is a direct correlation between the ambiguousness of a sacred scripture and its popularity.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
      • ME II

        and yes, ambiguity would be more correct.

        January 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
      • bostontola

        I think you're on to something.

        January 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Tis a matter of being Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the various forms of Christianity. Tis a tough syndrome to cure !!!

      January 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
    • Alias

      Let's have credit where credit is due.
      The bible has enough trith and wisdom to lure peopel in.
      There are anabundence of warm fuzzy feeling if you just believe without question.
      Lastly, there is just enough hate to keep the members united, without looking evil.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
      • Atheism is a religion

        Almost all characters in the bible at some point questioned God or had doubts. It's normal. Why do atheists including believers feel it's so wrong? Stupid troll.

        January 16, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
    • AE

      I seek that which brings me serenity and peace.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
      • bostontola

        Chopin works for me (among others).

        January 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
        • AE

          I only listen to Bach (devout Lutheran).

          January 16, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
        • bostontola

          lol

          January 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • sam stone

          John Prine works for me

          January 17, 2014 at 6:26 am |
    • Dandintac

      Boston,

      That is because they are no longer able to punish people for heresy (thought crimes). You would not have found such a diversity a thousand years ago.

      Modern Christians in the west customize their own religion. They cherry-pick things they like that conform to their western secular value system, such as the golden-rule, and ignore the rest, or interpret the whole in a way that fits. Then when asked, they'll tell you they get their morality from their religion.

      January 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm |
  13. lunchbreaker

    Live4Him

    @lunchbreaker : What rules are we to live by if we do not know which god is the correct one? Maybe there is a god that does not deal in eternal consequences.

    Your rules – of course. If there is no god, then the only rules that govern your life is societies rules. However, you could rebel against those rules. If you did, you have three possibilites – you get away with it, you're caught and are punished, and you avoid it by ending your life. So, you have a two out of three chance of avoiding any punishment. Even with option #2, your punishment could be commuted. So, people pretty much live by the rules that they set, with some heavy influence from society.

    <

    January 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Your original statment implied that although someone may not claim to be 100% sure there is no god, they live as if that were true. But how do you differentiate bewtween the lifestyle an atheist with 100% certainty or someone who thinks thier is a creator, but not sure of said creator's rules?

    January 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    Who is to say that Angus, Belenos, Brigid, dana, Lugh, Dagda, Epona, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Atehna, Demeter, Dionysus, Eris, Eos, Gaia, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, hermes, Hestia, Pan, Poseidon, Selene, Uranus, Zeus, Mathilde, Elves, Eostre, Frigg, Hretha, Saxnot, Shef, Thuno, Tir, Weyland, Woden, Alfar, Balder, Beyla, Bil, Bragi, Byggvir, Dagr, Disir, Eir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel, Hoenir, Idunn, Jord, Lofn, Loki, Mon, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, saga, Sif, Siofn, Skadi, Snotra, Sol, Syn, Ull, Thor, Tyr, Var, Vali, Vidar, Vor, Black Shuck, Herne, Jack in the Green, Holda, Nehalennia, Nerthus, endovelicus, Ataegina, Runesocesius, Apollo, Bacchus, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Pluto, Plutus, Proserpina, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Attis, Cybele, El-Gabal, Isis, Mithras, Sol Invictus, Endovelicus, Anubis, Aten, Atum, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Heget, Horus, Imhotep, Isis, Khepry, Khnum, Maahes, Ma’at, Menhit, Mont, Naunet, Neith, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, ra, Sekhmnet, Sobek, Set, Tefnut, Thoth, An, Anshar, Anu, Apsu, Ashur, Damkina, Ea, Enki, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Nunurta, Hadad, Inanna, Ishtar, Kingu, Kishar, Marduk, Mummu, Nabu, Nammu, Nanna, Nergal, Ninhursag, Ninlil, Nintu, Shamash, Sin, Tiamat, Utu, Mitra, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukiyomi, Inari, Tengu, Izanami, Izanagi, Daikoku, Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fu.kurokuju, Jurojin, Hotei, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Inti, Kon, Mama Cocha, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Viracoc.ha, or Zaramama aren't true gods?

    How can the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, New Testament, Quran, Sunnah, Nahjul Balagha, Avesta, Vedas, Upanisahds, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Tantras, Sutras, Vachanas, Adi Granth, Purvas, Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati, Tattvarthasutra, Pali Tripitaka, Jataka,, Visuddimagga, Tripitaka, Lotus Sutra, Garland Sutra, Analects; the Great Learning; the Doctrine of the Mean; the Mencius, Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, K-oki, Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Michi-no-Shiori, Johrei, Goseigen, Netarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Chun Boo Kyung, Kitab-i-Iqan, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, or Revelation X be dismissed as Holy Books since they all claim to be The Truth?

    If you're a Bible adherent, how do you know whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, oriental Orthodox, As.syrian, Byzantine, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Anabaptism, Brethren, Methodist, Pietism, Apostolic, Pentocostal, Charismatic, African Initiated, United, Quakers, Couthcotti.tism, Millerism, British-Isrealism, Latter Day Saints, Mennonite, 7th day Adventism, Kelleyism, Co.oneyism, Shakers, Methernitha, Strigolniki, Yehowism, Christadelphians, Christian Science, doukhobors, Iglesia ni Cristo, Makuya, Molokans, Subbotniks, Ebionism, Martinism, Rosicrucians, Rastafarianism, Santo Daime, or Umbanda is the REAL interpretation of your God's words?

    If the One True Deity, shaper of The Universe, wishes their words to be transmitted and adhered to, they should have been a bit less ambiguous. Expecting people to select The Truth out of limitless possibilities on faith alone seems a sloppy way to run things – especially if the punishment for a wrong choice is eternal torment.

    - Doc Vestibule

    January 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the Christian religion is just another birthday card at the walmart mega card section. One of hundreds that you can walk along and pick because it appeals to you. A moment of interest but it'll eventually end up in someone's recycle bin.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
      • Ponyboy Garfunkel

        If there is a creator, it may be nuts,

        January 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
  15. All you need is

    Se-x at the rift !

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek3FVkeB4Zo&w=640&h=360]

    January 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
  16. bostontola

    How would you order the following statements from least preposterous to most preposterous:

    a) No God, big bang, evolution.
    b) Muslim religious beliefs.
    c) Mormon religious beliefs.
    d) Zuni religious beliefs.

    January 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
    • Doris

      a, d, b, c.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • Doris

        I think if FSM was option e, I would have to go with that for second place.

        January 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      a,d,b,c

      January 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
      • Testing

        Sorry Dyslexic, but coming from you, should we interpret that as c,b,d,a?

        January 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          !fooW

          January 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
        • Testing

          !oot aixelsyd kaeps I

          January 16, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
    • Alias

      I see what's going on here.
      You just want us all to google 'Zuni' in the hopes we'll all convert.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
      • bostontola

        lol

        January 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
      • ME II

        lol best answer

        January 16, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
    • Jake

      a bcd

      January 16, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
      • Jake

        That was supposed to be:

        a_______________________________________________________________________________________bcd

        January 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          LOL

          January 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      a

      b,c and d are a wash.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
      • AtheistSteve

        Honestly bostontola that's like asking what type of toppings would you like on your vanilla ice cream from these choices.
        a) chocolate sauce
        b) motorcycles
        c) circular saws
        d) pool tables

        January 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
        • bostontola

          I was trying to get a broader set of responders. For some reason, I see no religious people responding. We're just having a conversation.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
        • ME II

          mmmm.... pool tables...

          January 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
        • AtheistSteve

          Sure thing bostontola and I wasn't busting your chops. You didn't include Jeebus on your list so all the fundies are seeing is a wash of all 4 items.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
        • AtheistSteve

          Actually amend that. Jesus is involved in both muslim and mormon religions but Xtians dismiss them as "doing it wrong".

          January 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      For a. did you mean No God, but there is the big bang and evolution or no God, no big bang and no evolution? Because that would make a difference in my listing.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
      • bostontola

        Good catch, I didn't notice the ambiguity. I meant No God, big bang and evolution are parts of the explanation of our presence.

        January 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i have decided to divide up a into three categories because their mutually exclusive except for evolution. you can even be a ancestral animistic, polytheist like my self and believe in evolution. but the big bang is still ludicrous to me. an no god is imposable i worship the sun as a god, and the sun exist, even a thought for deity like Yahweh exist in the heads of his followers.

      a-3
      d
      b
      c
      a-2
      a-1

      and I'm glad to say I'm the only one that did not have to Google the Zuni,.. i have a friend that's a Zuni priestess. we "Pagan" priest tend to stick to together

      January 16, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
    • toquide

      d.panthrotheism .God who self create through the big bang and who evolved Humanity for future implementor of His Wills

      January 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
      • marksworn

        So, not how god describes himself in the bible in the slightest? That's kinda convenient...

        January 17, 2014 at 10:01 am |
    • Drew

      a) No God, big bang, evolution.
      b) Muslim religious beliefs. c) Mormon religious beliefs .d) Zuni religious beliefs. (3 way tie)

      January 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Dale

    Why would I want to be a fool for a year? Do I want to be a court jester for a year? I don't think so. You have to be a 'special' person to go there. I know the Lord or better said, He knows me through faith in Jesus. PTL

    January 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
    • Skippy P. Nutbudder

      So you chose to be a fool for life.

      Total lack of evidence, must be true, eh?

      January 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
      • Dale

        Skip, let me help you out. "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Psalms 53:1 You have it backwards. Oh yea, your an atheist. lol

        January 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          why quote from a book written by people in the same cult as you? what does that prove?

          January 16, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
        • igaftr

          Nice religion you have there...love your neighbor, but call them fools and swine if they disagree with you.

          Just part of the self affirming nature of the brainwashing. Most children fall for that garbage.

          January 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
        • Dale

          gaff, God calls them fools. I agree with Him. My description of atheists wouldn't be nearly as polite.

          January 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
        • ME II

          @Dale,
          "...anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Mt 5:22)

          January 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
        • Dale

          Me II, 1) God can certainly say that, and does. I am quoting Him. 2)Do you believe the Bible, or do you just quote it when you think it helps you make your point, trying to defend atheism?

          January 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
        • igaftr

          "god" never said any such thing, especially considering the bible was created by men, and there is no evidence of gods.

          You clearly have not learned anything form you Jesus character if you so harshly judge others. The simple fact is, you don't know your god exists, you just have accepted the pablum that you have been fed. To bad you can't think for yourself, but you decided to accept as if it were true, that which there is no evidence for, from a book that is wrong in many, many places. A fool indeed.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • Observer

          Dale,

          Go ahead and call people fools, IGNORING what Jesus said. We are used to Christian HYPOCRITES.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
        • ME II

          @Dale,
          "1) God can certainly say that, and does. I am quoting Him."

          Do you think that exempts you, thinking it in your "heart"? Or do you think that God is condemning himself via Mt 5:22?

          " 2)Do you believe the Bible, or do you just quote it when you think it helps you make your point, trying to defend atheism?"

          Do you believe the Bible, or only those quotes you choose to believe?

          January 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
        • sam stone

          Wow, Dale, you can quote a book!

          Very impressive, indeed

          Jeebus is waiting

          Go meet him

          January 16, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
        • Dale

          Gaff, Obs., Funny when atheists try to quote the Bible. 1)God DOES call atheist fools, over and over again in scripture. Get over it! 2)The Bible also teaches us to "judge rightly". When someone says openly that "there is no God", it is obvious that such a person fits the description that God has given us. I am not judging anyone, just responding to foolish comments. The atheists are the ones making the foolish comments.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
        • Dandintac

          Dale,

          If other religions have similar passages that proclaim anyone who follows a different God a fool, would that impress you? I'm sure the Koran has verses that lay a similar condemnation on those who don't follow Allah. Other religions may well have "fool" verses also for those who don't believe them.

          Does this consti-tute proof that their religion must therefore be right, and you Christians (as well as we atheists) are therefore all fools for believing in the wrong religion?

          January 16, 2014 at 9:58 pm |
        • sam stone

          man said that, dale, not god

          pull the bible out of your backside

          jeebus is waiting for you

          January 17, 2014 at 6:33 am |
    • Observer

      Dale,

      He follows the Golden Rule when it comes to gays and the Christians got mad at him. Skip the ignorant "fool" talk.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
      • Dale

        Observer, your comment makes no sense. I'm not surprised.

        January 16, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
        • Observer

          Dale,

          He practiced the GOLDEN Rule and Christians didn't like it. So we see who the "fools" are.

          January 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
        • sam stone

          Dale, why do you think we should care about impressing you?

          January 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
        • Dale

          Sam, 1) I don't think you should care about impressing me. 2) Atheists may want to be aware however, how foolish they sound to most people.

          January 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
        • sam stone

          Why do you think you have the authority to speak for "most people"?

          Is is the same hubris to confidently claim that a book written, translated and edited by man speaks for god?

          January 17, 2014 at 6:39 am |
    • igaftr

      Dale
      Quetzlcoatl will be most upset with you for worshipping the wrong god all this time.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I know santa and he knows me. He watches over me all year and brings me presents when I am good. I know he is real because it says so in many books. Why would I want to believe that it is only the parents that give children presents.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
      • Dale

        Dys, you are a perfect example of what I wrote. You sound like a court jester.

        January 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          I rate your god on a level with Santa and the tooth fairy and the easter bunny.

          Most people believe in them as children because they are told the fairy story and assured by their parents that they are real. Then they grow up and are exposed to the real world and realize that it was all childish foolishness and no longer believe.

          Religious folk just don't grow up, or have such a talent for cognitive dissonance that they refuse to see the truth.

          Grow up Dale! Open your eyes Dale.

          January 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
        • Dale

          Dys, the more you say, the more foolish you sound. oy

          January 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          as mentioned, you have a talent for cognitive dissonance

          January 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
    • Topher

      Nothing wrong with being a Court Jester, it's actually a lot of fun.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
      • G to the T

        The "fool" was often the only one who could speak truth to the king...

        January 16, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Just curious: how much do you need to know about God to know that you have the right thing in mind when you say you love God?

    January 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • hearties

      Jesus Christ of Nazareth in the New Testament, is a good start.

      January 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
      • Skippy P. Nutbudder

        So you only gave one a chance and dismissed all others without any exploration at all?

        January 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
        • hearties

          Chance? Jesus Christ of Nazareth is like winning the lottery an infinite number of times. His friends made sure we'd know he was there and died for our sins. He loved us that much! Jesus is risen! He's the one, he's the expert on love.

          January 16, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
  19. bostontola

    I invite my Christian friends to answer this question from L4H:
    Given that big bang / evolution has a different sequence of events as the creation in Genesis, which do you accept as most likely to be true?

    It wouldn't mean you don't believe in God if you answer big bang/evolution, just not the literal bible creation story.

    January 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • Science Works

      The Catch 22 .

      January 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • Anthony Crispino

      Evilusion – of course! It's a no brainer! It's like the difference between those plate techtonics and this stuff:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlgydUufYX0&w=640&h=360]

      January 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
      • Anthony Crispino

        By the way, have any of you guys seen any of that breast feeding frenzy going on at your masses? I still haven't seen any of it going on and here I've wasted some good dough on these laser vision sunglasses – sheez.

        January 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • Tony

          Other than the new milking machine, no, no changes.

          January 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
    • Johnny

      Without a literal creation story including Adam and Eve and original sin what is the reason for the sacrifice of Jesus?

      January 16, 2014 at 4:39 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.