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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. v2787

    As a recovering Southern Baptist who grew up in the heart of the bible belt, i know exactly how these people feel. Fundamentalist Christians are some of the most obnoxious, arrogant, elitist, ill-mannered people on the planet. As the 21st century moves along and technology creates a way for people to become more informed about issues of spirituality, I look forward to the day when religion dies a much-deserved death. I'm a big fan of personal spirituality, but I've seen firsthand the damage that religion can do.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • gu52

      That's why God tell us in the Bible to flee from churches and congregations today! But not to join a chorus of people who are in great disbelief, like atheists. Believe me, God is very patience!!

      May 25, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
  2. ThorGoLucky

    "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.”"

    Oh the irony of crucifix-clad death cultists who ritually consume the flesh and blood of their savior. Project much? Enjoy your virtual daemon worship; I'll have nothing of it.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • G to the T

      In my experience, bigotry like this in children is usually inherited from their parents.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  3. ghowe2014

    I guess some people are just bound and determined to make something out of nothing. I've lived in the very heart of the bible belt for the past 20 years and while I've had some pretty good debates because of my atheist or agnostic beliefs ( depending on what day of the week it is) I've never felt scared, lonely, discriminated against or any of the other negative consequences people are trying to claim here. It's just simply peoples own individual perceptions and others trying to capitalize on that. Foundation, Society or anything else you care to call it is nothing more than people trying to build their own church around your beliefs by planting seeds of separatism from others in your own mind which makes them no better than than the evangelist stuffing money into his own britches.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • elsieprice

      When I lived in the bible belt for a couple years, my neighbors did not allow their kids to play with mine because mine were going to hell. What great neighbors to have!

      May 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  4. copernicus222

    Christ Yeshua was a Shaman who used cannabis (in the anointing oil) and Ergot wine.
    The republican/church GOP version of "Jesus" is absolutely false..........

    May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  5. ablewitness

    Being a member of a non-Christian religion, I have experienced prejudice from some Christians; however, it is but a minority of them who engage in such behavior. I have experienced just as much anger from members of the Materialist religion which is also profoundly widespread in this country. Materialists believe in the essential infallibility of human perception, thus the universe is defined by that which humans can experience and understand - even though quantum physics would incline one to see our world as a subset of many dimensions. The true practice of following the teachings of the Christ leads to unity, peace, and preparation for when we pass from this plane of existence. I personally include the teachings of all of the Prophets (Muhammad, the Buddha, ...) into my education in this world and in preparation for the next.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • bostontola

      True, most Christians don't discriminate harmfully. When there are so many Christians, even 5% can do great harm.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
  6. gu52

    It is all about Love!! If The God that you said "I don't believe in Him" don't love you, even if you go to the churches and profess your faith toward Him or your disbelief out of the churches, that means you are going to die as an animal and will be forgotten forever. The commandments of God in the Bible explicitly commands the true believer to get out of churches and congregations, including those who belongs to the congregations of disbelief, and Obey His spirituals commandments. The law of God is spiritual as it stated in Romans 7;14. Can you see or hear His spirituals commandments? If not, you are still blind and deaf, and can't see where you go and hear the spirituals trues, even if you go to a church, can't understand how to eat and to drink of Jesus blood and flesh (spiritual language). By the grace of God, only those who are separated by Him and for Him, are able to see and accept the spiritual true of the Bible.

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

      What about the lake of fire?

      May 25, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
      • gu52

        The "The Lake of Fire" is a spiritual language, meaning that those who are't chosen will be destroyed forever, they will not be remembered no more.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
        • bostontola

          But many Christians interpret that differently, why do you think your interpretation is right?

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

          It is all about Love!!

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

      Well I'm sure for many it is all about love. But the reality of the situation is that it's also about divisiveness and disenfranchisement. The team of evangelicals that traveled to Africa to incite the killing and jailing of certain people there most likely also believed Paul had the right message for them – they just took it a different way. This is one of the reasons separation of church and state is so important, imho.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
      • gu52

        Nobody can make themselves true believers, only God. Look in the bible about what happens with Paul. He was persecuting those who belongs to God's church, and then, God who had previously chosen Paul, made him a believer.

        May 25, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
    • G to the T

      You seem to be assuming that none of us were previously believers. In my experience, the majority of atheists formerly believed to some extent. I've only met a handful of "born and bred" atheists and most of them are more accurately "apatheists" (i.e. don't consider the question important or even relevant to their lives).

      May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "can't understand how to eat and to drink of Jesus blood and flesh (symbolic cannibalism)."

      **fixed**

      May 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • lewcypher

      If you had been born in central america 1000 years ago you'd be ranting about Quezacoatl.

      Grow up

      May 25, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
  7. mbutler91c

    Here's just a thought; how about BOTH sides show a bit of tolerance towards the others. I am a Christian, I believe in God, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I have several very good atheist friends. They know how I feel, I know how they feel. We treat each other with REPECT as all sides should. Same way I treat those who do not have my political beliefs, with respect.. It really is simple.

    The hate and venom I see being spewed form from both sides here is just...amazing.

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

      That would be nice. But there is a very large asymmetry in the relationship. Atheists are only 2% of the population in the US. If the religious wander from respect, they can quickly do great harm. If atheists wander from respect, they impact nothing.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • nepawoods

      So you don't believe your atheists friends will go to hell. You're not a typical American Christian then.

      Tolerance for people who preach that it's GOOD that people will suffer for eternity merely for being rational? No thanks.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • lewcypher

      Yes, that would be nice but when you have Presidents armed to the teeth invading other countries resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people because he believed his god told him it was the right thing to do.............well motivation to kill from a delusion just cannot be tolerated.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
  8. Reality

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

    May 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • sageonthepage

      You don't need to believe. People of all beliefs whether in a religion or not really just need to wait until they die to find out who's right and who's up a creek after this life. You should also understand how history is confirmed among scholars before making such claims against any religious figure. No need to mock other's beliefs. It's called respect. What do you think about Islam's revered prophet?

      May 25, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
      • Reality

        To be fair:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Added details available upon written request.

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

        e.g. Taoism

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

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

        May 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
  9. Vic

    [
    The convention was called “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt,” ...

    They sang songs about the futility of faith, ...

    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.
    ]

    That's the problem, that's all negative. How can someone's belief be just the opposition of another?! That's not bona fide.

    Also, the article mentions atheist activists and atheist activism events, that's an oxymoron, a paradox.

    Positive......Negative
    Normal.......Abnormal
    Active........Passive
    Present......Absent
    Belief.........Disbelief
    Theism.......Atheism

    The logical negative —which is a passive state— of Theism is Atheism. One can only be an atheist if he/she is passive. The moment you actively pursue the Atheism stance, it is automatically a belief system, hence non-Theism or anti-Theism.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Vic

      [
      dandintac

      Vic,

      A few questions for you.

      1) How is someone not believing in something "not bona fide"? I'm going to assume you do not believe in any sort of elf or fairy. Is this "not bona fide"? Is this just all "negative"?

      2) Why do you feel the need to make a distinction between "active" atheists and "passive? I've seen believers make distinctions like this before–and unfortunately, judging from the context and their various vitriolic comments about atheists, it seems to be an excuse to hate, or hold on to stereotypes.

      3) Isn't this a false distinction, given that human beings are seldom either/or, but are usually shades of gray in-between anyway?

      4) What exactly do you mean by "active" with regards to atheists? I struggle with this, because there are not actions one needs to take to be an atheist. It IS passive, because there are no rituals to observe, no actions one must do, etc. By "Active" do you mean just speaking out and saying we do not believe in God on forums like this? Are we supposed to just shut up about our opinions on religion, otherwise we are "active" and "negative" and "not bona fide?" Would it be okay if we held Christians to that standard also? That they should not be "active"?

      May 25, 2014 at 1:14 am | Reply
      ]

      1) Believing in something of content on its own merits is bona fide. That belief can happen to agree and/or disagree with something else. However, to have a belief that is made of just the opposition of another lacks genuineness and good faith, hence not bona fide.

      2) You cannot be two opposites at the same time.

      3) You can be a non-Theist as well as an anti-Theist; however, Theist and Atheist are logical opposites of each other, hence 2).

      4) An atheist is one who does not believe in the existence of God passively, he/she does not bother with anything else, that's the only true Atheism. When someone concerns him/herself with who believes in [a] God(s) is not passive, rather active with a certain belief. And yes, that includes speaking out, as well as protesting, opposing, demonstrating, advertising, reaching out, etc.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • Doris

        Nonsense on your point #4, Vic.

        Vic: "An atheist is one who does not believe in the existence of God passively, he/she does not bother with anything else, that's the only true Atheism. When someone concerns him/herself with who believes in [a] God(s) is not passive, rather active with a certain belief. And yes, that includes speaking out, as well as protesting, opposing, demonstrating, advertising, reaching out, etc."

        Many atheists speak out for the strengthening of the separation of church and state – views also shared by many theists. And they may simply want to express their views on creation of the universe, other scientific topics – often to express what they view as knowledge versus things not known. Such expression does not make them any less an atheist. I think you trying too hard to bucketize people too neatly.

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

        Vic you are a hoot
        Everyday you are on this blog preaching/proselytizing and you believe it is your DUTY as a Christian. When an atheist tells you to butt out because you want to influence our secular society you say they are aggressive. Tell you what SFU and maybe just maybe atheists will not confront you on your aggressive behaviour. Jesus Christ is a bad joke imposed on the gullible.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
      • dandintac

        1) I still don't get it. You seem to be saying that if someone doesn't believe in something, it's "not bona fide." Is your (presumed) non-belief in fairies not bona fide? I'm still struggling to wrap my head around your thought process here. How is not believing in something not bona fide? Maybe you have your own special definition of "bona fide"?

        2) But Vic, active and passive are not necessarily opposite extremes. The are adjectives that describe directions on a continuum, with all manner of gradations in between. In other words, they are relative terms. They are not like "black" and "white" or "on" and "off". Example: Person A can be more active than person B in their collection of Star Trek memorabilia, yet also less active (and therefore more passive) than person C. Bostonola is more active than me on the CNN Belief Blog, but I am active too–nowhere near as much though. There are other atheists that may speak out even more rarely. Where do you draw the line between "active" and "passive"? These are false distinctions–everyone is a shade of gray.

        3) No–I reject the notion that they are opposites, as explained above in 2.

        4) These are your definitions only. I have seen no authoritative definitions that lay this out as you do. This is solely your own notion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines atheism as the lack of belief in a god or gods. I think the OED is a more valid authority on the uses and meanings of words than you–no slander intended.

        May 29, 2014 at 12:56 am |
  10. tsnorris1965

    I wonder why there are never conventions for people who do not believe in a flat earth or in the flying spaghetti monster or Santa Claus.
    It is almost as if some atheists are more concerned with the beliefs of others than in their own "absence of belief".

    May 25, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • Reality

      The Creed of one atheist:

      ( by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      May 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • nepawoods

      Perhaps because we don't have a problem with large numbers of people living with delusions about a flying spaghetti monster and the like.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • dandintac

      "I wonder why there are never conventions for people who do not believe in a flat earth or in the flying spaghetti monster or Santa Claus."

      Let me use Santa Claus as an example. Our society is not dominated by people who believe in Santa Claus. Almost entirely, this is a delusion safely confined to many children, which they eventually learn is not true. However, people are not outgrowing the God delusion. It gets reinforced through their whole life. Those who don't believe are excoriated, ostracized, treated like filth.

      We do not have people demanding the government make our children pray to Santa Clause in the public schools. If there's a knock on our door, it's not going to be someone telling us the "good news" that Santa really exists.

      Those who do not believe in Santa are not barred from holding public office.

      Those who do not believe in Santa are in no danger of losing their jobs if found out, and do not need to worry about being kicked off the team, receiving death threats, or evicted from their homes due to their lack of belief in Santa.

      Senators and congressmen do not pass laws which they justify as something that Santa wants.

      There are no terrorists killing people in the name of Santa Claus. No one is demanding that their belief in Santa be "respected."

      No one is telling me that I have only the freedom OF believing in Santa, that I don't get freedom FROM believing in Santa. I don't need to worry about going to my daughter's graduation and being subjected to a prayer to Santa, or to a town hall meeting, and told that I could easily wait outside or just not listen as prayers to Santa are read out loud.

      This is a short list. Will this do or shall I continue?

      May 27, 2014 at 12:24 am |
  11. ghost2012

    Show me a real god, not a living breathing human being. A god that is everlasting. One that is the creator of all. Show me this god, fact not fiction and I can promise you there will never be a another atheist.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • nepawoods

      Sorry, he's invisible.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  12. observer

    Rainer Helmut Braendlein,

    Treating others as you want to be treated "is what the law and the prophets is all about" according to JESUS.

    Until you start believing and practicing that, you are just a WORLD-CLASS HYPOCRITE.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • bostontola

      He's the gold metal holder.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:53 am |
  13. deism4me

    For those of you who don't subscribe to a "revealed religion", give Deism a look. We don't believe in man-made scripture, however, we Deists believe in a supreme architect. The designs (nature, animals, etc) suggest there is a designer (a universal God). We're not sure what this being is about, but we don't make it up. We simply admire and respect nature and apply human reason to all we think and say. What YOU believe may already have a name and you just haven't discovered it yet. Check out http://www.deism4me.com and http://www.deism.com

    May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • bostontola

      I'm very cool with Deism, but there is no suggestion of a designer. That is dogma. Life suggests no designer. There are design flaws. Life is constructed to evolve, to be flexible to environmental change. There may be a God that kick started the whole thing, but it didn't appear to design anything. It may be kicking back enjoying the never ending novelty of creation.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • nepawoods

      "The designs (nature, animals, etc) suggest there is a designer ..."

      Not when there are simpler explanations, and there are.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The Deistic god and the non-existent god share a lot of similarities...

      May 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
  14. 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.

    Get the real thing!

    Jesus, the Son of God, wants YOU!

    May 25, 2014 at 11:49 am |
    • bostontola

      You are quite impressed with your posts aren't you. They need to be repeated in case someone missed it.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Though you have posted some thousand meaningless comments on this blog here, you have no authority on this blog.

        Better you would wash up your dirty dishes, that would be more useful.

        I don't give it a damn what you write: Absurdity, futility, senselessness.

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

          Meaningless for sure, but not incessant repeats.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Doris

      What are you a Coke ad now?

      As per Akira's reply yesterday on the other article:

      Translation:

      "I'm a bigot, in case you didn't get that message the first 4 times I posted this on the same page."

      May 25, 2014 at 11:53 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 11:54 am |
  15. imoenoftelengard

    The United States of America is the greatest country in the world because God made it that way. If you are too ignorant to realize His power and the gifts He gave you, then maybe you should leave? Just say'n.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • bostontola

      That's funny, lol.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:43 am |
    • Reality

      Last time I checked the USA is a secular country where there is a separation of your ideas and the state's. And please submit some proof that your god had anything to do with the creation of the USA.

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

      On this Memorial Day weekend, let's remember all the soldiers who fought for nothing, because God did it all.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • freefromtheism

      It's the "greatest country in the world" uh?
      By whose standard?
      And on top of that, I thought that your deity did not intervene because of free will and all that other nonsense. Which is it?
      Wait, don't answer. I don't care.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • atroyfoster

      If you want to live in a country where people who don't accept and practice your religion are not welcome then perhaps you should consider moving to Iran....just sayin'

      May 25, 2014 at 11:49 am |
  16. magicpanties

    My invisible pink unicorn just couldn't deal with eating the flesh and drinking the blood.
    Just seemed so weird.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:34 am |
  17. jesuguru

    Tune in next week for CNN's special, "Believers in Liberal Universities: A Survival Guide". Because you know, CNN is all about balance.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • srichey321

      No creationism taught, plus the scientific method along with free critical thinking is used. So it must be liberal. Right?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:43 am |
    • samsstones

      jesu...
      Lets see, maybe one in fifty articles are about atheistism which really shows the bias of the CNN editors. Maybe you can talk Daniel into limiting any other than Christian related articles to one in a hundred, would that satisfy you?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:52 am |
  18. bebopman

    Interesting. While I don't live in the Bible Belt, I do live in the rural Great Plains area. I consider myself an agnostic rather than atheiest since no one has provided proof of the presence or lack of a god, and I don't care one way or the other.

    Most of the church go-ers I see are those that are a generation or two older than I am, or from an extremely rural area where the church is also a catch-all social club. I work for a company of about 300 people, and there's maybe 4 or 5 that openly profess a religion, the don't seem to care. From the amount of conversations I hear about what people do on their weekends, it doesn't appear any of them attend Sunday services.

    I can certainly understand the high school issue. Herd mentality and everything different is to be ostracized. But my experience has been after more than a few months in the 'real world', nearly every casual Christian casts off the church.

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

      Do you have proof for everything you believe?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:40 am |
  19. HenryMiller

    Honestly, it baffles mewhy anyone takes religion seriously, but it's their business if they do. I just wish they'd afford the same tolerance to those of us who haven't any need for religion.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • nepawoods

      Fear and ignorance ... that's why they take it seriously. Nothing else.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:41 am |
  20. 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.

    Get the real thing!

    Jesus wants YOU!

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

      What are you a Coke ad now?

      As per Akira's reply yesterday on the other article:

      Translation:

      "I'm a bigot, in case you didn't get that message the first 4 times I posted this on the same page."

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

      You are right about there being no debate, but you still think you're on the right side when EVERYTHING we know about the world tells you the contrary.
      Way to spin the article and make it about you though.
      Look up "Pascal's wager".
      Cheers

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

      Rainy from yesterday on the Pope article: "The RCC has become a pi-sspot of heresies"."

      Ah the Christian love is blinding. (huge eyeroll)

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

      "Be honest: It is not about, if there is a God or not" ...

      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 it exists, nor have we any concept of how it could be possible.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:39 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Blah, blah, blah again!

        Your dirty dishes still wait to be washed.

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

          No rebuttal. Just insults.
          Before insulting others, examine your motives for needing to do so.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
        • ohioatheist

          Do you have any actual argument?

          May 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • drufusonfyre

      You might have an easier time as a Christian if you could truly embrace the idea of unconditional love toward your neighbors without the judgment you obviously apply toward everyone around you. Your faith is personal and your choice to be loving should have no stipulations.

      Perhaps if you could accept this as your truth, you would not feel threatened or critical of those who reject your system of belief. Your struggle for acceptance will become irrelevant when you have no need to justify your faith.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • Reality

      And RB continues to spout his bigoted brand of Lutheranism. Someone needs to post the following on his church's door:

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

      May 25, 2014 at 11:41 am |
      • saneandreasonable

        A bunch of pompous liberal theologians get together and fathom what was true in the bible and not true. Wow, and you believe them? You skeptics really are elitist ....never seen a more narcissistic bunch. The things you guys say, like raising kids to believe in god is child abuse... Wow.....would you also like to enact. A law to make that illegal, or teach kids to believe what you do about god in the secondary schools? You will never eradicate belief in god. Never.

        May 26, 2014 at 10:02 am |
    • Akira

      I'm going to quote Rainier's response to another poster verbatim:

      "blah, blah, blah, …., blah!"

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

      Your words condemn yourself.

      You are there to work.
      If you act in the same manner at your place of employment as you do here, their assessment of you is perfectly justified.
      No one wants to work alongside a bigoted asas.
      Your co-workers must have the patience of saints.

      May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Catholic blah, blah, blah. Pure boredom.

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

          Bigoted blah blah blah.
          Total and complete heresy.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Akira

          I wasn't referring to Catholic saints anyhow; I was referring to Biblical saints, such as in
          1 Corinthians 14:33

          For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

          Wow. Don't you know your KJV?

          May 25, 2014 at 12:23 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.