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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. garypsmith321

    I know the exact biological series of events that brought my son into this world and oddly enough, it is any less of a miracle to me. I don't hold any grudge against people that refuse to see the enormous amount of miracles thrown before them daily basis. I was raised to respect the views of others and to let them find salvation in their own time, and to offer my thoughts when asked. I merely expect them same considerations and feel non-believers are incapable of such.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
    • kenzo400

      You are only providing more fuel to the fire. The vast majority of atheists could care less about these ideological battles. Don't let the media fool you into thinking that majority of the population of atheists (or any population) can be represented in these particular ways. If anything, this article, along with the majority of the ones published on CNN and the general media misrepresent populations.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
      • garypsmith321

        Believe me, I know exactly who and what Mr. Zucker is all about. I just feel the need to share my thought on all topics the he feels is "News Worthy". If I help even one person find their way from his spew, I've done my job.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      First, what miracles are you talking about?
      Second, what you don't know is that many atheists probably let your comments pass on a daily basis and are therefore very "capable of the same". I'd guess that you are just unaware of both how often you invoke God or your religious beliefs and how many atheist just ignore it without comment.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
    • igaftr

      " that refuse to see the enormous amount of miracles thrown before them daily "

      NO...we are concerned with people who claim to see miracles all around them, when there is no evidence of any such thing.
      Simply accepting "it is a miracle" is lazy, since there is always a perfectly RATIONAL explaination, though it may not be readily apparent.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  2. elsieprice

    One major problem is this:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/uakmz/7_states_which_ban_atheists_from_holding_public/

    which is illegal, but these laws still exist.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
  3. desireebpc

    Reblogged this on A Wordsmith's Affirmation and commented:
    Here's to being an Atheist in the Bible Belt. I'm an NC Atheist Wiccan.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      You're Wiccan which means you have a belief in gods and goddesses, thus making you a Theist...not an Atheist (without belief in a god or gods).

      May 25, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
  4. kenzo400

    survival guide? This article should be called "How middle to upper middle class bored Americans" try to find meaning in their lives. Yes your views of disbelief are not shared the majority in the community you live in. What is most absurd is that its not a belief in itself.

    Why don't these people just call themselves anti-theists and get it over with. At this point the label of atheism is a meaningless label to their actual position. There is no battle here just a media fabricated ideology slowly being created. The battle against the church and state has been happening for a long time before new-atheism came to the scene and there is no need to pretend it is a new battle. If anything this whole new scene is really just blurring the real battle, which is not about competing ideologies but against the larger hold that ideological positions have in public policy.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      "The battle against the church and state has been happening for a long time ..."

      I'm curious do you see the two as one thing? or do you mean the battle between church and state?

      May 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
      • kenzo400

        Sorry that was a mistake in my writing. I have a minor form of dyslexia. I meant battle between the church and state. More specifically with ideological positions and public policy.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
    • mariosphere

      I pity your ignorance. Atheism has a long history, it was not fabricated by the media.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
      • kenzo400

        new atheism is a media construction. Of course atheism itself has a long history, as does anti-theism. You completely missed the point.

        May 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
  5. livi74

    I work with a wonderful co-worker who is agnostic...love him, I am a fallen catholic but I believe in God and have a strong faith. I respect his views as he does mine it's just that simple.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
    • igaftr

      It is not that simple.

      Do you agree with the laws restricting an atheist from holding office in some states?
      Do you agree with the lie that is printed on our money?
      Do you think it was appropriate for the christians to take the Pledge of Allegience away from any who don't believe in any gods?
      Do you think it is OK for North Carolina to have a state religion, as was recently proposed?

      You see many are not live and let live so we must remain vigilant.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
  6. Doris

    Letting go of superstition

    from "50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yceHh5khkXo

    "[after discussing inevitable galactic & terrestrial destructive forces–things out there that want to kill us]..none of this is a sign that there is a benevolent anything out there…" –Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist

    "..but to me saying that there was a designer does not help at all.." –Alan Guth, MIT professor of physics

    "..I'm not militant by nature – and if people want to believe, well then that's their business; I mean what concerns me is when belief is used to influence and corrupt education or politics. And it seems to me monstrous that Creationism or so-called intelligent design is taught next to evolution or instead of it. And I do think that it is almost as a form of madness." –Oliver Sacks, World-Renowned Neurologist, Columbia University

    "M-Theory doesn't disprove God, but it does make him unnecessary. It predicts that the universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing without the need for a creator." –Stephen Hawking, Cambridge theoretical physicist

    May 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
  7. justme1n1

    Is this WordPress forum working?

    May 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
    • cowboybobs

      poorly

      May 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
  8. Mr. D.

    "Atheists in the Bible Belt: a survival guide"

    Not just Atheist, and not just the "Bible Belt" Any non-Christian religion, anywhere. Christians treat us the way most people treated blacks during segregation.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • bostontola

      And they used the bible to justify slavery back then.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      I don't know your experience but comparisons to segregation seem hyperbolic on their face, unless you had to attend a separate school.
      No persecution or discrimination is justified, but diminishing the injustice of segregation doesn't accomplish much.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • cowboybobs

      the Soviet union was your time and what did you do to people?

      May 25, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
      • Doris

        Nonsense. "Your time"? Get real.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        @cowboybobs,
        The Soviet Union was a Communist country and, with a few possible exceptions, it was no American's country.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
      • Akira

        Communism isn't religion.
        I didn't get that Mr. D was from the former USSR.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
    • igaftr

      When we have presidents that think of atheists in this way, you know there are many more in power that "think" the same way. This was from an interview he did in 1987. Sherman is the reporter asking the questions.

      "Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

      Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

      That is really what he thinks of atheists, not even citizens, and apparently , even though I am a veteran, I am not a patriot.

      When you have that kind of blind ignorance at the highest level on the planet...well lets just say eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
    • Science Works

      Hey Mr. D.
      "Atheists in the Bible Belt: a survival guide" –

      The best thing I noticed that worked well when In the bible belt back in the 70's
      was to have a plastic (10 cent hardware store) Jesus in the glove box of the 67 GT Mustang – that you could stick on the dash for many reasons.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
  9. toydrum

    If I were a business owner, I would not hire someone that openly professed atheism at a job interview and would tell them to be quiet if they tried to start "discussions" about their beliefs at work. I would do the exact same with a fundamentalist. My problem would not be the religion or lack thereof, but the attempts at activism in the workplace.

    If someone politely and in a well-meaning way wishes them blessings, that is fine and accepted as genuine good feeling, no matter what my own personal beliefs. However, if someone uses adamant religion or athiesm as a club to beat other people with, they need to be gone from my workplace. As a manager, there is a duty to both work towards the goals of the business without unnecessary distraction or drama AND to protect all the employees from the workplace becoming uncomfortable and contentious from any direction. This is called respect for others and the extremists on both ends sometimes have a problem with that.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      I agree that, in most cases, religion or lack thereof should be kept out of the workplace and I think that was part of the problem described in the article, that it wasn't kept out.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • bvilleyellowdog

      Very few atheists flog their beliefs. Fundies on the other hand can't stop.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      What's the name of your business? People like you deserve to lose for not respecting the country you reside in!

      May 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Sorry, missed the 'if'

        May 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        Trolling or sarcasm? It's hard to tell.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        I think "openly professed" in this case means proselytizing, which I'd agree doesn't belong in most businesses.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          I agree but the OP stated he/she wouldn't hire them based solely on that is a little wrong in my opinion. However, I would hope that most people are smart enough to know that bringing that up is inappropriate in such a situation.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          Agreed, it wasn't really clear and you are correct that denying employment simply for being atheist is incredibly wrong and illegal.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • kenzo400

      They should stop hiding under the label of atheism. They should just call themselves anti-theists. This article is absurd. One could easily write an article about the marginalization of atheists who love religion and cannot get their view to be accepted by certain segments in mainstream society.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • Akira

        Bigotry and intolerance should never be applauded. It doesn't matter what source it comes from.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • kenzo400

          Not sure why my comment was erased. Perhaps I just replied under the wrong section. Anyway, I completely agree. Perhaps they should publish an article talking about that. But I guess it would be too general and not specific enough. You need to catch peoples attention and promote the use of labels to generalize about whole populations of people.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • otoh2

          kenzo,

          Was your post really "erased" or did it just not show up?

          WordPress uses a word-fragment filter here that flags silly things like the t.it in const.itution and the c.um in doc.ument... and a whole long list of other "contaminated" words.

          May 25, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
  10. mythicalbeast95531

    Interesting that some religious people think atheists are Satan worshipers. If we don't believe in God, what makes them think we believe in Satan? I've been an atheist all my life and I've rarely been discriminated against, probably because I live on the left coast.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • bostontola

      It's so silly, it's like saying atheists believe in Lex Luthor. Many Christians are so biased they assume everyone really believes in their fictional characters.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
  11. RichardSRussell

    My fellow atheists, take a page from the successful playbook of our lesbian sisters and gay brothers. Even lifelong bigots turned their heads 140-180° when they discovered that good people whom they already liked — in many cases loved — were gay. It's hard to discriminate against a whole class of people when you can put an actual name and face on some of them.

    So my advice to y'all is "Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

    You yourself may be surprised at who all else is coming out along with you.

    And have a solemn and reflective Memorial Day.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
  12. mkseger

    It should be Freedom of Religion, not Freedom from Religion. You have a right to speak your atheistic views in the presence of Christians but they have those same rights and should a group of atheists be speaking and a Christian walks up and doesn't feel comfortable they have a right to walk away and go do something else. You can do the same. If Christians are harassing or belittling you for being atheists that isn't very "christian" of them but it sounds more like you are wanting them to curb their conversations and existence to please you when people should be free to discuss whatever they please. It is a two way street.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
    • elsieprice

      I doubt that any of us would object to that. The problem is when people of one religion are allowed to speak, the rest of us are expected to listen attentively and cannot walk out.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Say that when they take "Allahu Akbar" off the money... oh wait.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      No we're waiting for them to respect that everyone is equal-keep it out of the public square, don't try to use it to make laws or to tell LGBT how to live or women what they can and can't do with their bodies; don't try to impose it on the public school system. That respect you speak of really does go both ways and it is Freedom of and from Religion...everyone is equal. Christians scream persecution and yet they are 76% of the population; they also are the ones how have special holidays for their brand of beliefs-doesn't sound so horribly persecuted...grow up!

      May 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You can't have Freedom of Religion without Freedom from Religion.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
  13. lookatuniverse

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “Does the human being not see that we created him from a tiny drop, then he turns into an ardent enemy?” [36:77]

    “He raises a question to us – while forgetting his initial creation – "Who can resurrect the bones after they had rotted?" [36:78]

    “Say, "The One who initiated them in the first place will resurrect them. He is fully aware of every creation." [36:79]

    “Is not the One who created the heavens and the earth able to recreate the same? Yes indeed; He is the Creator, the Omniscient.” [36:81]

    “All He needs to do to carry out any command is to say to it, "Be," and it is.” [36:82]

    “O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued.” [22:73]

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [19:35]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      If you are going to spam scripture then you might as well make it relevant.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      Someone once posted the following on this blog and it bears repeating:

      I read everything I need to know about Islam on September 12, 2001.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

      Muhammad shed oceans of INNOCENT blood. Therefore he was no divine prophet but a messenger of Satan.

      At Jugement Day our Lord and God Jesus Christ will send Muhammad and all his followers to the eternal lake of fire where they will get punished for the multi-tude of sins they committed.

      Hardly anything else has caused such great damage for the mankind like Islam.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • Akira

        What is your definition of innocent blood?
        And how is that any different than the innocent blood shed by Christians?

        May 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          You mean innocent blood shed by Catholics.

          A true Christian doesn't shed innocent blood. Human life is holy.

          The Christian doctrine doesn't include jihad (war against the infidels), but Christianity always means unbiased love, even if the people don't accept the gospel.

          The Christian Church doesn't kill and behead the stubborn sinners (infidels), but just excludes them. Actually no real or severe punishment compared with Islamic punishment.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • Akira

          You seem to forget the persecution of Catholics (who are Christian, btw) by the Protestants (who are also Christian) in Ireland.
          As well as people suspected of being witches being burned by Christians even today.
          And the people hung for suspected witches here in the US's past were hung by...Protestants.

          Your "no true Scotsman" is false.
          Christianity has blood on it's hands, and NO person should be put to death because they believe differently than you.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
      • gulliblenomore

        Weren't there many, many innocent children killed in Noah's flood? Who was behind that again?

        May 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          God is allowed to kill everybody. God doesn't have to justify his acts. He is much higher than we are.

          It is only that we should not presume that we would be allowed to judge and kill and execute in God's name like Muhammad did it. In fact Muhammad had got neither a right to judge nor to execute anybody. He will face a rude awakening at Judgement Day.

          Only the authority of a state has a right to judge and execute. That is God's order.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          God is allowed to kill everybody? And you are perfectly fine with that idiotic statement?

          You are crazy.....

          May 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          God is allowed to kill everybody, but only the evildoers he will send to the eternal lake of fire. This is the second death, the eternal death.

          The physical death is harmless compared with the eternal death.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
        • observer

          Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          "God is allowed to kill everybody"

          Yes. God apparently has no morals.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
        • sam stone

          rainy, rainy, rainy

          you blathering nazi wannabe

          you are full of dung

          go meet jesus

          May 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • bostontola

      I do like many Islamic websites, they have great stuff debunking the bibles. Of course, there are other websites that debunk the Quran.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        The Koran is a heap of crap, that is right, but the Bible is the Holy Scripture inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.

        Don't compare apples and oranges!

        May 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Actually, the Koran is c-rap and the bible is s-hit, so he was really comparing c-rap vs s-hit. But...they are both BS, so it is a good comparison.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          It is still true:

          The lousy Koran is a heap of crap, made-up by the impostor and servant of the devil Muhammad.

          In contrast the Bible is a Holy Scripture written down by holy servants of the eternal God, and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God – thoroughly holy.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          Rainy.....prove it! Prove your bible was inspired by god and not just told to you that it was inspired by god.....

          May 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          Just read the Bible, and read the crummy Koran, and you will notice the difference.

          The Bible is self-evident. It is a perfect divine scripture, a work of the Most High.

          Just read it, and become wise.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
        • Akira

          People also think your Bible is a p o s.
          So?
          Stalemate.
          Move on.

          May 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          What rainman does not accept is that his bible could well have been inspired by Satan as his greatest trick ever.

          He will claim he knows it is not, but will have NOTHING to show that it is not satan inspired.

          Considering the violent destructive history of belief in the bible, it makes more sense.
          Considering that no two interpret it the same way, would tend to indicate a master of chaos at work.

          His claims that the quran is inspired by satan, is satan himself speaking through raimman, based on Satans book, the bible.

          He will claim all of this is not true, but it is just as likely to be true as his version....you just simply do not know either way...do you?

          May 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
  14. ohioatheist

    Reblogged this on ohioatheist and commented:
    Great article!

    May 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
  15. spacelasers

    You'd be surprised at how much damage not falling for society's prevalent dogma can do. One side of my family has split in half due to one side's inability to accept that my sister and I don't believe their nonsense. We've done nothing other than be different.

    Just be yourself. Be who you are and don't worry about what other people think. I'd rather have half my family hate me than live in fear of such a thing. If someone doesn't like who you truly are then you don't want to be around them anyway. UNLESS you are a minor who is dependent upon someone else, of course. You don't want your nutjob parents kicking you out on the streets (yes, some of Jesus's followers have actually done this to their children who reject their indoctrination, unfortunately).

    May 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
  16. potzrebie

    Atheists better be careful. There's not much difference between Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists. They will kill you for not believing and conforming.

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

      Fundies are a lot more dangerous around here because there are many more of them.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
  17. thermium

    “but they’re not real friends if that’s what they do.” Xians do those nasty things because atheists use reason to expose their delusions, therefore they are Christinsanity's mortal enemy and must be fought. They really weren't your friends to begin with, you were just walking around amidst the delusional zombies that, given the right provocation, would kill you because of your beliefs.

    May 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
  18. freethinker11

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

    That's ironic...an atheist using the name of the Christian deity in a way they find disparaging. So much for the mutual respect.

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

      It's an idiomatic expression, and hardly unique to atheists.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
    • bostontola

      Is God copywrited?

      May 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
      • Doris

        I don't know about copyrighted, but the TM type of trademark (not the circle with the R indicating registered) I think goes to the first claimer.

        God™

        OK, looks like it's mine.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • gulliblenomore

      I always say..."Thank god I'm an atheist"....and most people get the humor intended.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      It's part of our vocabulary and while I attempt not to say it, it happens. It's like many other catch-phrases in this world. I could be referring to Zeus or Odin when I say, you wouldn't know that.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • thermium

      And besides, as atheists, people who have religious delusions are mentally incapacitated and require medical attention. Why does that deserve respect? What, we have to respect every crazy lunatic that has delusions of grandeur? No. This is one of the silly conditions that religious delusionists have placed on the rest of us from antiquity, and I, for one, have no respect for any of that garbage.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
      • freethinker11

        Nope, no requirement for you to behave a certain way toward other people. I just think it's ironic that we atheists and freethinkers demand respect from the religious community but are often unwilling to give it in return.

        June 24, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
  19. 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!

    "Am I right or am I right?"

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

      @Rainer Helmut Braendlein,

      Respectful discussions about religion and philosophy are not boring. That term would be more fittingly applied to your illogical and hypocritical rants.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
      • gulliblenomore

        drufus....I have found that the so-called Christians on this site are very far removed from what their leader has proposed for them. They tend to be pompous, obnoxious, boring, and downright nutty most all of the time. They have no idea how to have discussions with non-believers. They scoff when we ask for proof of their beliefs, and most of them tend towards the "you'll never find god if you don't search for him" mentality instead of offering positive answers to legitimately asked questions.

        It would be quite refreshing if any of them happened to say "I don't know" when asked about god and the seemingly exhausting questionability of his existence. But, they always pull the bible out, read some silly verse that is supposed to make us say "oh, I get it now....and I've seen the light", which in and of itself is quite ridiculous. To try and quote from a book that all atheists believe is just a bunch of fairy tales is neither helpful nor practical.

        I came on this blog hoping to have some intelligent, well thought out discussions about religion and philosophy, and instead am constantly bombarded with hypocritical talking points about context, personal relationships with god, and the fact that they, and only they, know the real truth! As a result, I may find myself bolting from here and trying a more mature website, where the supposed Christians are just a little bit more thoughtful in their conversations and can at least attempt to understand why atheists think as they do. All we as for really, is some evidential proof, or at the very least, a logical attempt to discover what is real and what is man made.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Daniel Burke: Could you please stop this man's repetitive posting of the same thing numerous times over? It seems he got his point across the first time.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        When I remember the infinite number of futile posts of yours, I wonder why you want my posts to get deleted.

        Ain't I right that we have the same rights?

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

          Has anyone else been mindlessly copying and pasting as you have?

          May 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
        • bostontola

          It's funny that you think you have rights on a blog provided by a corporate enti.ty.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          You seem to have a case of broken record syndrome and while I understand that you may think you're that important that your copying and pasting needs to be upfront and the latest comment on every page, you fail to comprehend that all it does is waste blog space and makes you look like an even bigger raving loon.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
        • bostontola

          A self important raving loon.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
        • otoh2

          Rainer is sometimes quite useful. Otherwise, non-believers might be accused of building a straw man regarding some of the outrageous things he claims; but here he is, right in plain sight.

          May 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • Akira

          Nobody wants your posts deleted; just the duplicate ones...it is just futile to post the same post 5 times on the same page.
          If CNN posts the same story on the same blog twice, they delete one, as it said the same exact thing as the other.

          As you would phrase it, "blah blah blah...boring!"

          May 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
    • bostontola

      Rainer, Are you sure you're not from the Notre Dame school with this incessant droning?

      May 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Please prove your intelligence by commenting the article above.

        If you can only comment comments, you are a scrub.

        Cook your original meal yourself, but don't complain about others people way to cook.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • bostontola

          Better check, I have multiple OP on this article and others. What now?

          May 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • Doris

      What are you a Coke ad now?

      Translation of RB's post:

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

      Example from yesterday on the Pope article: "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 12:42 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        At the moment the Holy Rat interferes in politics again (Israel-Palestine conflict).

        I am right indeed that the pope is not just a heretic, but even a forerunner of the Antichrist.

        This man is highly dangerous.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
    • nepawoods

      "Creationism versus atheism is actually no issue at all. This debate doesn't really exist."

      Depends on what you mean by 'debate". If you mean rationalization and evidence provided by both sides, you are correct.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • shingoex

      "Only people having endured rejection by the secularworld without denying Jesus Christ, will once get into heaven." I've never understood the concept of "unconditional love with conditions".

      May 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        In fact the whole world consists of billions of little sects, if you include all associations, clubs, companies, etc., every association of any people.

        Very often such associations pursue selfish purposes or at least their leaders. Because of cowardness ordinary members don't dare to resist the misbehaviour of their leaders.

        Now, when you as a Christian want to practice unbiased love against everybody without pursuing selfish aims for the sake of a selfish leader, you will be a disturbing factor.

        That is the reason why unbiased love will cause rejection and suffering for the Christian. In fact the Christian participates in the daily intergalactic war between good and evil. That is the hard side of Christianity.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
        • gulliblenomore

          I disagree.....the hard side of Christianity is believing something with absolutely no proof.

          May 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • Akira

      If your fellow employees think of you as a bigoted ass, it is because this is how you portray yourself.
      You are there to do a job, not proselytize and condemn others for not adhering to your particular version of Christianity.
      You are also stealing time from your employer when you focus your attention from your job. This isn't fair to your employer. After all:

      Mathew 22:21 [...]Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

      In this case, Caesar is your employer.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      jesus wants you, rainy.

      jump in front of a speeding truck and go meet him

      May 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Dear Sam,

        it is very encouraging that you always want me to commit suicide.

        Is there Internet in the hell?

        Where do you live Samy?

        May 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
        • sam stone

          You look at it as suicide, you bigoted fvck

          i am looking at as encouraging you to take your place next to jesus

          May 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • mariosphere

      Go preach elsewhere with your high-and-mighty brand of religion. If I were a Christian, I would find your comments offensive in the vein of “I'm better-than-thou”

      May 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Your American brand of Christianity, in fact a distortion of true Christianity, is nearly as harmful as Islam.

        May 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
        • sam stone

          of course, rainy fuhrersucker here is the one to determine what const-i-t-utes True Christianity (TM)

          rainy and theo corn pone

          rainy, theo corn pone and gopher

          rainy, theo corn pone, gopher and vic

          rainy, theo corn pone, gopher, vic and robert brown

          etc etc et-fvcking-c

          May 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
        • Akira

          You are unqualified to speak of anything concerning the United States.
          I pray you concern yourself with what happened the last time religion was used in Germany to control the masses, and learn not to advocate repeating the same pattern.

          May 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
        • mariosphere

          Ha, I'm not a Christian. Don't lump me with my fellow Americans who happen to be Christian and I won't lump you with other people under some misinformed stereotype.

          May 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
  20. thisisplanetearth

    so many people speak as if this is the only place in the universe/multiverse where people live, probably because we have no proof of life on other planets, nor of god/gods. if a race of aliens far more intelligent than humans visited earth, then all of our religions would have to reassess because these aliens wouldn't have to participate in the bible story or any other religion. or would they?

    May 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • igaftr

      Te christians would do what they always have done. Reinterpret the bible in a way that shows the bible predicted the aliens visiting...probably something from ezekial.

      May 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • G to the T

      It would be pretty amazing if they showed up and believed in one or more of our cultural gods (Egyptian, Jewish, Greek, etc.)

      I also wonder how long it would take religions to adapt or if they would implode in the face of a more advanced culture? Keep in mind, almost every encounter between cultures of vastly different technological capacity have not ended well for the "primitives"...

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

        The new world cultures developed their own Gods, hundreds of them. None of them resemble the Abrahamic God.

        May 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
        • G to the T

          True, but that's kind of the point. You don't see a lot of the natives or their regions around anymore. The more technologically "advanced" culture (and it's gods) have supplanted the old ones (for the most part).

          May 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
        • bostontola

          Yup, I was just re emphasizing your point.

          May 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      @earth, the aliens would probably have their own history and their own bible story,even though it wouldn't be called the bible . whatever the name ,it would contain a history of their people or whatever they were called. Our history would only matter to them in the sense of their wanting to know more about us.

      May 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
      • dandintac

        Ing,

        Does Jesus' sacrifice count for alien Christians as well? Does their Bible have the same story–except, that it all happened on a planet called "earth"? Or did Jesus have to live, get condemned, and nailed to the cross on each planet as one of them in order to transfer their guilt on to him?

        Given that there are many, many billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, most of which have planets–if even a tiny fraction of these harbor intelligent life–no doubt sinful since they are less than perfect as is God–then that would still amount to millions of intelligent species across the universe at any given time, meaning that Jesus would have to be nailed to the cross over and over and over and over and over again–millions of times.

        May 26, 2014 at 2:28 am |
    • billbl

      Carl Sagan in Cosmos put it this way. There are billions and billions of planets in the universe and so the odds are very high that some of them are suitable for evolution of life. Furthermore, since many of these were formed much earlier than Earth the life on some had much more time to evolve and therefore it could be much more advanced than humans and more intelligent.

      May 25, 2014 at 9:21 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.