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May 24th, 2014
06:00 PM ET

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) – Back home, they erase their Internet histories, look over their shoulders before cracking jokes and nod politely when co-workers talk about church.

But in a hotel ballroom here on a recent weekend, more than 220 atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers let it all hang out.

The convention was called “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt,” and it was part celebration of skepticism and part strategy session about surviving in the country’s most religious region.

They sang songs about the futility of faith, shared stories about “coming out” as nonbelievers and bought books about the Bible – critical ones, of course.

“Isn’t it great to be in a room where you can say whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of anyone criticizing you for being unorthodox?” asked Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as he opened the two-day convention.

The Wisconsin-based foundation co-sponsored the event with the Triangle Freethought Society, which draws its members from this state’s tech-heavy Research Triangle.

The nonbelievers came from as far afield as Ireland and France, but most described themselves as refugees from the heart of the South - atheist anomalies amid fiercely devout friends, family and neighbors.

We wanted to know what it’s like to be a nonbeliever in the Bible Belt, so over the course of the weekend we asked some of the folks here to share their secrets.

They had a lot to say, and some of their advice overlapped, but we came away with eight top tips. Some said they wished they’d had something like this list when they began their foray into religious infidelity.

So, without further ado, here’s a “survival guide” to being an atheist in the Bible Belt:

You may be lonely, but you aren’t alone

Not so long ago, every other letter sent to the Freedom From Religion Foundation would begin something like, “I’m the only atheist in Nebraska … “

It’s still lonely being an atheist in rural America, says Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-president, but there are plenty of skeptics and nonbelievers in God’s Country – if you know how to find them.

Even the most religious states like Mississippi and Alabama have secular meetup groups, although many keep quiet and require long drives to attend.

Gaylor’s favorite story about the secretive lives of Bible Belt atheists involves two neighbors in Georgia whose jaws dropped when they saw each other at an atheist gathering. Each had assumed that the other was a good, God-fearing Baptist.

“They were afraid to speak out," she says, "because they didn’t want to be stigmatized.”

Gaylor recommends looking online for atheist support groups in your area; and be sure to search for related terms as well: agnostic, freethought, skeptic and nonbeliever.

It’s no fun debating fundamentalists

Bart Ehrman doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who backs down from a fight.

The University of North Carolina scholar often seeks them out, regularly debating the Bible and early Christianity with evangelicals and other experts.

But Ehrman told the atheists gathered in Raleigh not to bother arguing with fundamentalists.

“You can’t convince a fundamentalist that he or she is wrong,” he says.

Their theology is a closed system, according to Ehrman, and their social bonds with fellow fundamentalists are too tightly knit to admit any wiggle room.

“You can point to any contradiction in the Bible and it just doesn’t matter. They will either find some way to reconcile it or say that even if they don’t understand it, God does.”

Technically, the term fundamentalist refers to a movement of 20th-century Protestants who rejected modernity and clung to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

But Ehrman has a different definition: “Someone who is no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.”

People will think you worship Satan

Many Americans don’t actually know any professed atheists, according to surveys - which means they often seem to assume the worst about them.

Fewer than half of Americans say they’d vote for an atheist politician; a similar number say they wouldn’t want their children to marry a nonbeliever.

A recent study also showed that businesses in the South are more likely to discriminate against atheist job candidates.

“I don’t know what they think we are, Satanists or baby eaters or who knows what,” activist Todd Stiefel told the atheists gathered in Raleigh, “but it’s kind of scary."

A recent survey conducted for Stiefel's new “Openly Secular” campaign found that 20% of Americans can’t even define atheism. Far more don’t know what “humanist,” “freethinker” or “agnostic” means.

Behold, the six types of atheists

Based on “It Gets Better” and other gay rights campaigns, “Openly Secular” hopes to counter that ignorance by asking atheists to share stories online about their lives and beliefs.

“What we’re really trying to do is humanize us,” Stiefel says. “Frankly, most of the hate and distrust comes from misunderstanding about who we are.”

You don’t have to convince your friends, family and neighbors to accept all of your views, the atheist activist says. You just have to get them to accept you.

Sometimes it’s better to stay in the closet

After secular conferences like the one here Raleigh, many nonbelievers get so jazzed that they rush home and blurt out … "Guess, what? I’m an ATHEIST!!!"

That can be a really bad idea, says Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering From Religion.

It may help the atheist movement as a whole to share your lack of faith with friends and family. But it’s not always the best - or the safest - move for you, she says.

Recovering From Religion’s online support groups are filled with stories about people who lost their jobs, their kids or their spouses after coming out as atheist, Morehead says.

“It’s heartbreaking. People don’t realize how big a difference expressing their nonbelief can make.”

Recovering From Religion recommends having a plan in place before coming out as atheist.

“If you decide you’re a nonbeliever,” Morehead says, “you’re still going to be a nonbeliever in a year."

The group’s own 10.5-step plan includes creating a support network, declining to get into debates and preparing yourself for a “religious breakup” with friends and family. (The half-step assures budding nonbelievers they don’t have to be experts on atheism and points them toward educational resources.)

Don’t be the ‘office atheist’

Candace Gorham says her close family is accepting of her atheism - but she’s not completely “out” at work yet, and doesn’t know if she wants to be.

Gorham, who was raised in the black church, says religion is deeply embedded in the lives of many Southern African-Americans, and the borders between private and public spirituality often blur.

“I work for a black-owned company, and most of my supervisors are black females, and it’s just sort of OK for everybody to talk about God, or offer to pray for you,” says Gorham.

The 33-year-old is author of a new book called “The Ebony Exodus Project,” about black women leaving the church, which has pushed Gorham herself to become more public about being an atheist.

Recently, a co-worker told Gorham she had seen her talking about being an atheist on Roland Martin’s television show.

“I was like, Oh my God, shhh don’t tell anybody!”

A mental-health counselor who works with children, Gorham worries that people will stop referring clients to her once they find out she’s a nonbeliever.

According to a survey Stiefel presented in Raleigh, more than 50% of Americans believe atheist teachers and day-care employees - people who, like Gorham, work with children - are likely to face discrimination at work.

She knows it's only a matter of time until more of her office mates find out.

“It’s getting to a place where I don’t have a choice. I’m just going to have to be comfortable with it - but it does concern me.”

The Internet is your frenemy

A co-worker isn’t the only person who saw Gorham talking about atheism on television.

Her aunt read about the Roland Martin interview online, which led Gorham’s mother to call and ask if she is really an atheist.

The conversation went well, Gorham says, and her mother understands and respects her beliefs.

But the unexpected disclosure shows why many atheists cover their Internet tracks, even as they increasingly look for like-minded communities online.

Gorham says she used to delete her browsing history on her laptop after watching atheist debates and lectures online lest her husband or other family members find out her faith was wavering.

“I was still early in my deconversion and I wasn’t sure how he would perceive it,” says the Greensboro, North Carolina, native.

Others here for the conference said they keep two separate Facebook pages, one for friends and family and one for their secular communities.

“Facebook is my happy place,” says one middle-aged woman who made a nearly seven-hour drive to Raleigh from Crossville, Tennessee.

The woman, who didn't want to be identified, teaches at public schools. She says most of her neighbors and co-workers are Christians.

“Crossville is a small Bible Belt community with churches on every corner,” she said, “and everything shuts down on Sunday except for Wal-Mart and the hospital.”

Most co-workers assume she’s Christian, but she joins as many atheist groups online as she can and keeps an anonymous Facebook page called “Within Reason.”

One recent post asks people to click “like” if they’ve ever been unfriended because of an atheism-themed status update.

Some people take Bible-thumping literally

Adults may face more real-life repercussions for coming out as atheist in the Bible Belt, but that doesn’t mean kids have an easy ride.

Kalei Wilson, 15, says she lost friends after trying to start a secular student club at Pisgah High School in Canton, North Carolina; and someone used a Bible to destroy her science project, leaving the holy book on her smashed model of the universe.

The blue-haired, nose-pierced freshman says she’s not the only atheist at her high school, but most of them are closeted.

“I didn’t want to come out at first,” Wilson says, “but in order to start the club I had to.”

In exchange for her openness, Wilson says, some students mutter "Jesus loves you” as she walks down the hall, and she regularly receives text messages with the greeting, “Hey, Satan.”

“I’ve lost friends because of it,” the teenager says of her atheism, “but they’re not real friends if that’s what they do.”

Have a sense of humor

For all the heartbreaking stories, if was there was a soundtrack to the conference in Raleigh, it would include a lot of laughter.

It seemed as if the atheists and freethinkers here had been storing their sharpest religion jokes for weeks, preparing for the day when they would find an appreciative audience at last.

“I’ve been living in the South for 13 years,” says Pat Meller, who came to Raleigh from nearby Greensboro, “and I’ve had to watch my tongue for just as long.”

So for two days, Meller and her kindred spirits cut loose.

They quipped about the folly of prayer, bought bumper-stickers calling the Bible a “Grim Fairy Tale,” and wore T-shirts proclaiming their belief in life before death.

Harry Shaughnessy, president of the Triangle Freethought Society, played the cut-up emcee for much of the weekend.

“For every activist-oriented event we have, we want to have three to five things that are just fun,” says Shaughnessy, whose group holds regular “Heathen Happy Hours” and meets for barbecues in each other’s homes.

At one point, the youthful 44-year-old donned a crown and a form-fitting, skin-colored costume to bestow Freedom From Religion’s “Emperor Has No Clothes” award on Steifel for his activism.

Perhaps appropriately for an atheist event, Shaughnessy’s get-up left little to the imagination.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Black issues • Church and state • Culture wars • Discrimination • Internet • Lost faith • Nones • North Carolina • Prejudice • Religious liberty

soundoff (4,807 Responses)
  1. smartlawyerloquitor

    The great thing about this debate is that, eventually, we're all going to find out what is true and what is a lie. And if Hell is real and is in fact a place that is reserved for those who reject God's love, then atheists will get in eternity exactly what they bargained for in this life: an existence forever removed from the presence of God. Since God is love, peace, joy and light (Galatians 5:22), an eternity spent devoid of these things is what atheists are really asking for.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:27 am |
    • doobzz

      You sound pretty excited at the thought that those who disagree with you will someday "pay" for it. Kind of like that kid in Santa Barbara. It's creepy.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:36 am |
      • smartlawyerloquitor

        You're the one who said "pay for it", not I. Like you do with the Bible, it seems you're content to project onto my post your own guilt.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • doobzz

          " then atheists will get in eternity exactly what they bargained for in this life: an existence forever removed from the presence of God."

          Like I said, you seem pretty excited that atheists will pay for their disbelief someday.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
        • saneandreasonable

          Actually most Christians grieve that any person goes to hell, if they really know gods heart. Those that reject outright due to their own arrogance will be very surprised on the other side of death.

          Love God with all you heart soul and mind, and love you neighbor as yourself. Two greatest commandments from Jesus.

          May 26, 2014 at 10:06 am |
    • freefromtheism

      look up Pascal's wager
      cheers

      May 25, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • deejaysimp

      "...God is love, peace, joy and light..."
      Oh, and I'm gonna fry you for all eternity if you don't do what my crazy followers tell you to do.
      Some peace, joy, and light. No thank you.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:38 am |
      • smartlawyerloquitor

        Your post displays your ignorance of the Bible. It's not about what you "do", it's about what you believe. Since you choose not to believe, your choice is rewarded exactly how you asked: you get to spend eternity apart from peace, love, joy and light.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
        • igaftr

          baseless nonsense. Just because you belive it does not make it true. Too much of the bible has been proven wrong to blindly accept the rest.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Jesus loves you....and he created hell just in case you don't love him back.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:52 am |
      • smartlawyerloquitor

        ....and the above posts show just how intellectually immature non-belief is. When you boil it down, non-belief is nothing more than moral rebellion.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • igaftr

          your statement is absurd and clearly comes from ignorance.

          Our humanity is where our morality came from, evolved from our social animal ancestors. That was written into your book, as it was written into many religious and non-religious texts.
          No one has shown any gods to exist, so is it really a maturity thing to not believe, or, like belief in Santa Claus, baseless belief is for children.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Your Christian belief is the opposite of morality. You worship a non-existent dictator. I do rebel against belief of your type...because it is immoral and dangerous.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • saneandreasonable

          And there is the radical atheist mind think. What will you do with that philosophy . That worries me. Christian persecution is a logical follow to people thinking like you do.

          May 26, 2014 at 10:09 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Sounds like Battered Spouse syndrome..."Do as I say or else" except in the case of your god it's "Believe in me or else"

      May 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
    • Akira

      Do you know what atheism is?

      May 25, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
  2. albell2014

    Don't forget the follow up story: Christians surviving in atheist New York City.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • Akira

      I assume that's tongue-in-cheek, lol.

      From didyouknow.org:
      New York is also a religious city: 83% of New Yorkers are affiliated to some organized religion. This is a rate of adherents larger than that of the state, New York State (75%), and one of the highest in the entire United States.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
  3. supham02

    This is normally where the I-support-your-right-to-be-atheist-BUT comment comes in, but not this time. I am a born-again Christian, I fully believe in the Bible, and I also support the right to be atheist. Debating the point and preaching to someone who is not willing to listen are not things that Jesus taught. This is America and anyone has the right to be atheist without being harassed or pressured.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • deejaysimp

      Thank you for your approval.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:35 am |
    • doobzz

      Now if you guys would just stop trying to encode your beliefs in civil law, get your beliefs off our money and off our public buildings, stop trying to get your beliefs taught as truth in science classes in public schools, stop oppressing women, LGBTs and other minorities, and take your deity out of the Pledge, we might actually believe you.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  4. priesthunter

    t

    May 25, 2014 at 11:23 am |
  5. imoenoftelengard

    If you don't believe in God, maybe you should die and meet Him personally? Just say'n.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:22 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Wishing an Atheist dead...how very Christian of you! I'll pass on your death wish and hope you live a happy life given that this is the only one you're guaranteed of.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:27 am |
    • nepawoods

      Do you believe in Thor?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:28 am |
    • bostontola

      Interesting religion you have where you wish people die rather than not believe.

      Just say'n, that's what my 12 year olds used to say.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:29 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And what kind of god requires belief in order to reward or punish....

      May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am |
  6. billbl

    Telling a Baptist that the six day creation story has been proven false may not convince him/her, but he might think about it latter. People rarely win arguments immediately. He may not have heard this contrary idea before. That is, your planting a seed for thought.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:22 am |
    • albell2014

      Telling an atheist that the 6 day creation story is about faith may not change their mind but it may make them realize it's OK to think differently and to have tolerance of others.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:28 am |
      • billbl

        That is a good way to put it.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:57 am |
      • G to the T

        It may be about faith, but it's whether your faith says it literally happened, or was a description of something else (birth of "humanity" say).

        If you are saying it literally happened, your faith is built upon ignorance of the world and how things work.

        While I can support faith, I cannot support willful ignorance.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  7. cwrailroad

    Here in Texas a man was standing in the middle of a road trying to flag down passing cars. The three cars ahead of me actually had to drive around the man to keep from hitting him in his desperate attempt to flag down the cars. I stopped to see if I could help. His suburban had run out of gas on a cold February night with his wife and 2 month old baby in the car and he needed a ride back to a friends house to get some gas. I gave him a ride for the 3-4 miles back to his friends house and offered to take him back to his vehicle. He declined doing that but did say "God bless you" as he left the vehicle. I returned by saying "but I'm an Atheist". Now being in rural Texas on a cold night where I had spent the evening listing to a whole bunch of people claim the recent spat of earthquakes in the area where God's design or judgement. made me think. Here is a desperate man in the middle of the road trying to get a good Christian soul to stop and help him but instead they drive around him. But, myself pulls over and give him help and does what he ask without question. Make you think who really would make a difference in the world

    May 25, 2014 at 11:10 am |
    • primatica

      Ultimately we only have each other..

      May 25, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • billbl

      Surely doing good deeds like that will get you into heaven.
      Surely, I jest.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • drufusonfyre

      Your story reminds me of a conversation I had with a Christian person who asked what would prevent people from murdering each other if they did not believe in a deity. They also asked what reason people would have to wake up in the morning or to live a productive life. It doesn't make sense.

      People are capable of understanding what works for society and for their personal well-being without it being spelled out to them by religion. in fact, having to sort through the parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, that still either merit attention or that have become archaic and unacceptable, is more challenging than simply following your own moral compass and learning from your mistakes.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:28 am |
      • billbl

        People have an innate potential for empathy also. Given a chance to develop they will be good citizens and persons

        May 25, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  8. wstaeblein

    If you tell a friend you do not believe in god and this person turns away from you bacause of that. he or she was never really your friend, Just move on, you did not loose anything.

    I have no religion and do not believe in god, still I have quite a few religious friends. It works if there is respect. I can hear their arguments on od as long as they hear mine against it. Friendship has to be larger than that otherwise it is not friendship at all.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:08 am |
    • bostontola

      Matthew would disagree with you:

      "37The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

      Friends are nothing compared to family. This commanded by their God.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:13 am |
      • wstaeblein

        Sorry my friend but for me bible is make believe, is like I would quote harry potter to prove a philosophical point. You may believe it and I respect that, but it is not factual and, like harry potter, was written by men.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
  9. primatica

    These Atheist meeting should not just against deities. They should be meeting places to plan humanities future and ways of implementing them. Creating a code based on human knowledge that can change and living towards the long view of existence .It is the we not the I from here till our wits run dry.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:06 am |
    • MidwestKen

      Some would say that Secular Humanism is the place for that; Atheism not being a philosophy.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:15 am |
      • primatica

        I think they go hand in hand ultimately...

        May 26, 2014 at 3:27 am |
  10. airraidd

    why live in the bible belt at all??? come join us in the atheist belt aka Alberta! Like texas only with snowballs. We will welcome you with open rational arms.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:03 am |
    • bostontola

      Tempting...

      May 25, 2014 at 11:07 am |
  11. primatica

    For people who's treasure are in heaven they sure do want to control things down here also....

    May 25, 2014 at 11:03 am |
    • benhoody

      You should talk.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:29 am |
      • G to the T

        What does that even mean?

        May 25, 2014 at 11:58 am |
      • primatica

        What do you mean? You think I want to control things? I am in control of my things...

        May 26, 2014 at 3:29 am |
  12. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    The debate about creationism versus atheism is thoroughly boring.

    Why?

    That debate simply misses the point. Creationism versus atheism is actually no issue at all. This debate doesn't really exist.

    It is not the point, if there is a God or not, but the issue is how we can live as faithul Christians in a thoroughly secular world.

    There are very little true believers in God today having the faith of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the Apostles. Most so-called Christians are just nominal Christians, and very many people are members of sects, cults and false churches. Strictly speaking, all that people belong to the secular world, and have nothing to do with the Lord, the eternal God who has made heaven and earth. They have never entered the Kingdom of God through the Rebirth.

    My workmates are secularized Catholics, devout or less devout Muslims, Jehova's Witnesses, Greek Orthodox, etc. I really have to struggle to come through there without denying my faith in Jesus. I want to practice unbiased love. My workmates certainly are not unbiased. Finally I will make the following experience I often made on this blog here: All my workmates will characterize me as the bigoted a-ss. I more and more understand what Jesus, the most loveable man ever lived on earth, had to endure. The religious dudes hate the true believers (the Jewish leaders hated Jesus). That is the real issue, a severe issue.

    It is really true what Jesus said: Everybody wanting to follow me has to endure rejection and suffering (to bear the cross of Jesus).

    Only people having endured rejection by the secularworld without denying Jesus Christ, will once get into heaven. When we endure rejection and suffering, we keep the faith in Jesus, and Jesus gives us the power to withstand.

    Be honest: It is not about, if there is a God or not, but you are simply too coward to accept the drawbacks which you had to face, if you would confess faith in Jesus Christ. Be aware that you will not get eternal reward beyond, if you were not ready to suffer here for the Lord's sake.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • Doris

      Hard Helmut is a regular poster on the Belief Blog who regularly posts his boring bigoted "my way or the highway" type posts. (See the article "Pope Francis in the Holy Land: 5 things to know") for his repeated posts in just the past couple of days.)

      May 25, 2014 at 11:03 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        I don't give it a damn!

        You would better wash your dishes.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:07 am |
        • Akira

          I see we can add "sexist misogynist" to the list of RHB's bigotry.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:35 am |
      • Doris

        Example from yesterday: "The RCC has become a pi-sspot of heresies". Now being an atheist, I have many issues with the RCC. But the Rainman takes the cake when it comes to Christian know-it-all-ism. I do think on many occasion here on the Blog, Rainy has made little baby Jesus cry so to speak....

        May 25, 2014 at 11:09 am |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          It is thousand times better to be a believing infant than an unbelieving adult.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:11 am |
        • Doris

          "It is thousand times better to be a believing infant than an unbelieving adult."

          lol. Let me guess, Rainy – you picked that one up in a bargain bin at the Lutheran Fortune Cookie Company.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:32 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Good morning our favorite bigot, How's that hate-filled heart of yours today? Should you not be breaking the Sabbath and in turn running along to your little cult meeting instead of spewing your delusions on the internet?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:05 am |
    • nepawoods

      No, it's really about whether or not a god or gods exist. So far, we've found no evidence for such. Intelligent beings require a physical body and physical brain to implement their intelligence. Incorporeal intelligence ... we've no evidence, nor have we any concept of how it could be possible.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:07 am |
    • observer

      Rainer Helmut Braendlein

      "All my workmates will characterize me as the bigoted a-ss"

      It's really pathetic that you don't realize that they are likely right. When everyone else recognizes your problem and you ignorantly think everyone is wrong but you, you have a real problem.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:13 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        God confirms my way of life.

        That sounds Islamic bigoted, but it isn't.

        I don't interprete the Bible according to my sinful heart, but I agree with all recognized teachers of the Christian Church or Early Church. I adhere to the doctrine of the Christian Church. I do not make-up anything like delusional Muhammad.

        Little Rainer, the sinful monk.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:18 am |
        • dcobranchi

          God confirms my way of life.

          Lots of assumptions there, don't you think?

          There is no evidence for the existence of god(s). Zero. Zip. Nada. So assuming that your likely imaginary imaginary god endorses your lifestyle is just plain funny.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          All people, no matter which religion (except genuine faith in Jesus) they adhere, suffer from extreme egoism. Egoism is the basic burden of the mankind.

          We will all agree that the religion would be to favour which would really improve people or give them power to overcome their natural egoism, and to become loving people, loving God and their fellow human beings.

          Exactly this religion is genuine Christianity.

          It is only that today many people call themselves Christians, but in fact they are just nominal Christians or members of false churches.

          We have to rediscover the good old doctrine of the genuine Church.

          Egoism is so strong that the power who is able to set us free from our selfishness must be a divine person. That is a kind of proof of God.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • observer

          Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          "God confirms my way of life. I don't interprete the Bible according to my sinful heart"

          "God confirms my way of life" is also the argument that crazy people use when they say that God has told them to kill their family.

          God says to treat others as you'd like to be treated. You are DELUSIONAL to IGNORE that.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          You are so blind. I am not alone, but agree with other interpreters of the Bible.

          The boy you mean, is Muhammad. He indeed made-up his own moronic nonsense coming out of his sinful heart. Muhammad did not refer to any old faithful teacher.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:42 am |
        • Doris

          "the genuine Church."

          LOL. It would be funnier if you weren't such a pompous azzhat.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:42 am |
        • G to the T

          Have you ever considered that believing you will exist for all time is maybe just a bit based on egotism?

          I would recommend Buddhism as a philosophy. It deals directly with the idea of egotism.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • Doris

      "Be aware that you will not get eternal reward beyond, if you were not ready to suffer here for the Lord's sake."

      It's all about that alleged free toy in the big box of Christian Crispies cereal one is supposed to receive at the end of their life, isn't it?

      Keep your suffering to yourself. Maybe if you self-flagellate, it'll help you reduce the urge to vomit all over this blog in such a vile manner. (Again, readers, see the posts under the article "Pope Francis in the Holy Land: 5 things to know".)

      May 25, 2014 at 11:30 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Boredom! Only worth of eternal fire.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:39 am |
        • G to the T

          I guess I get it now. Coming on here is like wearing a hair shirt for you?

          May 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • ohioatheist

          You're short on substance and long on petty insults and threats.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
  13. awood4929awood4929

    I guess I'm confused? You "live in fear" of not being able to say you're an Atheist? Why would you say it at all. Anyone that slips in "I'm a Christian" in a conversation irritates me too. I DON'T CARE.

    If someone is at work is talking about church, or Atheism for that matter.....or sports, or anything NOT WORK, then they don't have enough to do. And, having to look over your should before telling a joke? Seriously? How does it start, "So I'm climbing a hill and come across a crowd and 3 guys carrying a cross." Cause if it does, you should be looking over your shoulder.....it's called tasteless, and has nothing to do with being an Atheist. And I doubt if you did say it around Christians that you would find yourself doused in Holy Water....Ooooo, you might get an angry stare though.

    I lived in Virginia for more than 20 years, and never once was I asked, "Do you believe in God", except by our children. Nor were there any church conversation that were directed in toward me because I answered that I didn't go......NEVER ONCE.

    OH, and if you're worried about losing your job because of it.....get another job, because that one sucks. There are millions of jobs open for placement, devoid of blah blah blah bible-thumpers and enemy Atheists having to lurk in the shadows. But I'd hate to hire ya, if you have to go to meetings to validation, you probably have greater issues that need attention.

    BTW, has anyone heard of any Bass Player meetings? I just hate how everyone thinks it is such an easy instrument to play, and I need a hug.

    Move on with yourselves. Welcome to America – You're free.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • awood4929awood4929

      Funny side note: WordPress said bible-thumpers was spelled wrong. For fun I right clicked it for spelling alternatives, and it offered up "Bible-Trumpeters". I believe WordPress has proven your point. LOL

      May 25, 2014 at 11:03 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        It might have been the letter combination in thumper of the h.u.m.p.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:09 am |
    • bostontola

      There is no supermajority that looks down on and discriminates against bass players. I have seen atheists get passed over promotion for their beliefs, I haven't seen that happen for bass players.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:06 am |
      • G to the T

        "There is no supermajority that looks down on and discriminates against bass players."

        As a bass-player, I can assure you there is. They're called guitar players... lol

        Recent joke I heard – "What do you through a drowning bass-player? Their amp!"

        May 25, 2014 at 11:23 am |
        • awood4929awood4929

          LOL .... that's awesome!!!

          May 25, 2014 at 11:34 am |
        • bostontola

          Funny. Although my kids play guitar and bass (and any other instrument they can get their hands on).

          May 25, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • G to the T

          Tried (and failed) to learn guitar for years, but for some reason, the bass just "makes sense" to me. My dad's played guitar longer than I've been alive and thinks there's 2 kinds of bass-players – People who are bass-players (like me) and disgruntled guitar players "stuck" on bass because their band needed one.

          I'm glad to hear your kids are into music. I didn't really start until late in life and am only now coming to appreciate how much it can enrich your life.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • bostontola

          I'm a pianist and clarinetist myself. Music communicates things words can't. That is amazing. Enjoy!

          May 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Music is a part of who we are. It has brought people together since our very beginnings, allowed us to celebrate and allowed us to grieve.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I am glad your personal, singular experience is able to refute all others who have experienced something completely different.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:13 am |
      • awood4929awood4929

        And why might that be? When you go looking for trouble, you find it. Ya know what my co-workers know about me? I'm in the Information Security department. That's it.

        My neighbors? Don't know anything about them other than one couple has a girl and the other has no children. Enough for me. I don't even care enough to even remember their names.

        Find something that so involves your energy that they don't even have time to know if you believe or not. Either side of the coin, your or their belief is not a badge of honor to the other.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:25 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I didn't say it was. But your experience and situation does not negate others who may not have the same options or experience. In general I agree with you. But not everyone can do what you say wthout serious reprecussions and to belittle them just shows your ignorance. Many people live in small towns where they are tied there because of family. You have just completely over-simplified a complicated situation.

          May 25, 2014 at 11:45 am |
        • awood4929awood4929

          My last reply:

          And there it is. I'm the ignorant one. Spoken like a zealot....OH, wait.....I can't tell, are you God or no God"? There's not a lot of room for distinction.

          This really is a matter of perspective. To me, you are over-complicating a simple situation. And, I'm not belittling anyone. My original statement was that I am confused.

          If someone wants to be tied to a family, then there they are. They're not tied, they tied themselves ....and that's a "choice".

          Tell a 1st generation college student that they are breaking the family ties by changing their course. If someone WANTs something new, or different, or better, well then, they need to move themselves. Hundreds of thousands in Americans do so each year, and millions globally, and guess what – Most live.

          Conversely, I am not a family person. I have family....mom, sister, son, cousins, nephews, etc.....but MY choice is my career. The Fam is in NY, my son in Washington State (Army), and in 3 weeks I'm moving from Baltimore, MD to Oakland, CA for a new job.....because I want to try it out. It's not that I have money and therefore I can do so.....it is going to be tight, and hard, and I'm scared......but I'm going to do it.

          With all that is involved in this move, I do not have time to worry about other people's beliefs and if they care about mine....for me, it is all a distraction. And if it ends up being a disruption in my life – I will remove it, as everybody should.

          Ignorance is "incomprehension of, unawareness of, unconsciousness of, unfamiliarity with, inexperience with, lack of knowledge about, lack of information about". I understand that people use family as an excuse to remain cemented in place; it is familiar and safe.

          I'm just completely confused by it. Little is discovered by standing still.

          ....and there are more difficult things to be in the world than an Atheist. If that's your hardship .... OMG, that just made me laugh.

          May 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
  14. nepawoods

    If there was a creator, he was very careful to leave no evidence of his existence or his role in creating. I can only surmise if he exists, he wants us to carry on as if he doesn't. If he exists, you religious folk are just annoying him. You'll get yours for that.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:58 am |
    • primatica

      My problem is the audacity to calm to even now the name of such a being if it exist. Why are we the unfortunate ones to be stuck with such inept prophets?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:02 am |
  15. primatica

    Humanity needs martyrs, deities have had plenty for less reason....

    May 25, 2014 at 10:58 am |
  16. NickA

    There are so many generalizations in these comments, it's rather annoying. It's simply not possible to address 'all fundamentalists' or 'all atheists'. When the comparisons are made between fundamentalists and atheists, the conversation quickly heads south (no pun intended). Atheism is simply actively not believing in a deity. It doesn't involve malice or any other negative trait often attributed by *some* religious folks. Conversely, all fundamentalists don't fight to push religion down everyone's throats. Agnostics watch the action from the sidelines while enjoying an iced tea (sweetened if you're in the south).

    May 25, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • G to the T

      I think you have an odd definition of "atheist" and "agnostic".

      I am an agnostic atheist. Who you seem to be against are the "gnostics" – those that claim to have absolute knowledge one way or the other (gnostic theist are gnostic atheists).

      May 25, 2014 at 11:26 am |
  17. inventix

    Why would Atheists go to meetings just to say that they don't believe. I am somewhat an atheist in that I partially believe that there is something out there but I absolutely KNOW it isn't anything to do with organized religion. Having said that I respect everyone's opinion and their faiths.

    If someone asks me about my beliefs even in Mississippi or Texas, I respond that I am spiritual and that I believe that there is someone out there but I don't believe in organized religions. With that most people leave me alone and the ones that don't are the fruitcakes to begin with.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:56 am |
    • primatica

      It just should not be against god, It should be a place to plan for the future of humanity as a whole.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      To say there is something out there defines you as Theist. Atheist merely means disbelief in a god or gods, once you plus an unknown deity of any form in to it you are Theist.
      The meetings are not to discuss lack of belief, they are to share common idea's and more a social gathering. Sorry if that offends you but no-ones forcing you to attend.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • bostontola

      Why do some atheists seek meetings with other atheists? Humans are social animals.

      You sound like a deist, not an atheist.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • inventix

      After looking at the definitions I will have to say I am a weak agnostic. I believe that there isn't any scientific data to prove or disprove religion figures but I also believe that there is no way everything was created for a insignificant species on a tiny rock in middle of universe that are just one tiny meteorite away from extinction.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:11 am |
      • MidwestKen

        " I am spiritual and that I believe that there is someone out there..."

        That doesn't seem to be agnostic. It sounds to me like you are a theist, but just don't know the details.
        IMO

        May 25, 2014 at 11:20 am |
      • bostontola

        I do agree that religions are just absurd, where simple belief in a God is merely unsupported.

        May 25, 2014 at 11:20 am |
  18. bostontola

    Some posters on this blog are equating strident atheists and religious fundamentalists. They are not in the same boat at all.

    Atheists are less than 2% of the US population. Christians are more than 75% of the US population. Christians are a supermajority, atheists are a tiny minority. Christians have the ability to do harm via political means (and some do, tampering with school curricula, limiting minority rights, etc.). Atheists have no such ability to harm religion.

    Atheists have been discriminated against at a much higher rate than religious. They are defensive because they have been attacked. That is rational. The religious are like the NY Yankees, feeling like they are enti.tled to do as they please.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:54 am |
    • Doris

      Hear hear!

      May 25, 2014 at 10:56 am |
    • NickA

      It's worth noting that it's against federal regulations for religious groups to take part in political lobbying, but they find loopholes and do so anyway, all while continuing to enjoy tax exempt status. Yet Christians have declared that their rights are under siege.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • inventix

      Once faith and religion are involved then no common sense can be applied and there can be no discussions about anything. There has been so many wars in the name of religion but if you look at the high up leaders of said religions you notice that even they know it is BS but they like and want to keep the power...

      May 25, 2014 at 11:00 am |
    • macauguy

      The actual ratio of atheists is likely around 25-30%. Most atheists do not identify as such because they are afraid of social repercussions, which is understandable and other atheists would say the same thing. Do not speak your mind if you will lose your job/family/friends/social structure as that is detrimental. It is a sad reality, but that is how it is.

      May 26, 2014 at 12:18 am |
      • saneandreasonable

        There is no way to substantiate your assertion of 20 to 30. Pct. You are conjecturing.

        May 26, 2014 at 10:21 am |
  19. primatica

    Ask yourselves....Are you for deities or humanity?

    May 25, 2014 at 10:48 am |
    • MidwestKen

      Excellent question!

      May 25, 2014 at 11:16 am |
  20. Reality

    Nothing like getting a Belief topic featured on CNN Headline News to get the juices flowing on a Sunday morning.

    So to keep the discussion alive and well, time to put the kybosh on all religions in less than ten seconds. Mind boggling how easy this is and it indeed is 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.

    May 25, 2014 at 10:47 am |
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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.