June 10th, 2014
02:40 PM ET

Meet the atheist ... who believes in God

Opinion by Frank Schaeffer, special to CNN

(CNN) - All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night.

They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.

The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty.

What exactly is a “believer?” And for that matter what is an “atheist?” Who is the objective observer to define these terms?

Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.

Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.

Let me explain.

I believe that life evolved by natural selection. I believe that evolutionary psychology explains away altruism and debunks love, and that brain chemistry undermines the illusion of free will and personhood.

I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator.

It seems to me that there is an offstage and an onstage quality to my existence. I live onstage, but I sense another crew working offstage. Sometimes I hear their voices “singing” in a way that’s as eerily beautiful as the offstage chorus in an opera.

My youngest grandchildren Lucy (5) and Jack (3) are still comfortable with this paradoxical way of seeing reality.

Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK. But Lucy and Jack seem to accept that something may never have happened but can still be true.

For instance they take Bible stories we read at face value, and yet I see a flicker in their eyes that tells me that they already know the stories are not true in the same way boiling water is true and can be tested—it’s hot!

It's like that mind-bending discovery from quantum mechanics that tiny objects like electrons can actually be in two places at once and act simultaneously like a particle and a wave.

Maybe my grandchildren will embrace quantum theory, and won't look for ways to make the irrational rational by hiding behind words like “mystery” in order to sustain their faith in science or God.

Or maybe they'll embrace apophatic theology, the theology of not knowing.

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

But it's not the easiest thing to do.

Our brains are not highly evolved enough to reconcile our hunger for both absolute certainty and transcendent, inexplicable experiences.

Nor can I reconcile these ideas: “I know that the only thing that exists is this material universe,” and “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

Depending on the day you ask me, both statements seem true. And I don't think I'm alone in that.

Behold, the six types of atheists

We’re all in the closet, so to speak. We barely come out to ourselves and never completely to others. I have met people who claim a label - evangelical or atheist - until you really get to know them.

Then, things get more complicated.

Many of us, even the devout, have many more questions than answers about God and religion.

In other words, people just like me: atheists who pray and eloquent preachers who secretly harbor doubts.

I believe that we’re all of at least two minds. We play a role and define that role as “me” because labels and membership in a tribe make the world feel a little safer.

When I was raising my children, I pretended to be grownup daddy. But alone with my thoughts, I was still just me. I’m older now, and some younger people may think I know something.

I do: I know how much I can never know.

Many Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians inherited their faith because of where they were born. If you are an atheist, you hold those beliefs because of a book or two you read, or who your parents were and the century in which you were born.

Don’t delude yourself: There are no ultimate reasons for anything, just circumstances.

If you want to be sure you have "the truth" about yourself and our universe, then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular.

You will always be more than one person. You will always embody contradiction.

You—like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book is "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace." The views expressed in this column belong to Schaeffer. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Culture & Science • Faith • God • Nones • Opinion

soundoff (2,372 Responses)
  1. tveche25

    This might be the worst thing i've ever read. Holding contradictory beliefs doesn't make you wise, it makes you illogical. I am really disappointed to see that CNN allowed this to be posted.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
    • mcfx

      I'm with you man. This is basically someone who really doesn't know what to believe in telling everyone else they are a little dumb for knowing what they believe in.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm |
  2. bostontola

    "Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book is "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace."
    Another advertisement for a book.

    Mr. Schaeffer seems to assume that atheists are sure that there is no God. "Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK." I doubt that statement is true, but if it is, it should come with evidence. I never met an atheist that 'knows' there is no God.

    Mr. Schaeffer talks about a paradox that may or may not actually exist. Just because we don't understand something doesn't mean there is a paradox. Drawing analogies to Quantum physics isn't evidence.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
  3. mcfx

    What an artful and kind way to say, "I don't know WHAT I believe" then point the finger of ignorance to those who KNOW and live what they believe yet have "questions" and "doubts". Let's put it this way. Those that believe in God and "doubt" on occasion will still take a bullet for their God despite that occasional doubt. Those, like the author, that have live their lives in doubt wont take a bullet for anything....except of course, to save their lives.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm |
    • Doris

      "will still take a bullet for their God "

      The Abrahamic God? Under what condition would such a god need some lowly human to take a bullet for "Him"?

      June 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
      • mcfx

        Under the condition that some idiot puts a gun to his head and makes him refute his God.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
        • Doris

          I see. And I have to assume then that the God of Abraham would put his subject in this situation to start with simply to test him, correct? You know, like a pop [life or death] quiz....

          June 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
        • mcfx

          And how exactly is that "prop" or a "test"? Had it not been for generation after generation of a people that would rather die than denounce their God, the God of Abraham would have been lost in the pages of history and become nothing more than myth and legend along with Zeus, Baal, the Pharoas, and Xerxes. Yet, because the few would rather die then denounce this God they lived through the exile in Babylon, survived even the brutality of the Roman Empire, and thrived in spite of those like Hitler. Tell me another god in all of mankinds history that has continued to be worshipped like the God of Abraham.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:46 pm |
        • otoh2


          The belief in the Hindu gods predates your Hebrews - and are still worshipped today quite devoutly & sincerely by over a billion people.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
        • mcfx

          Wrong. This is a common misconception. Saying "Hindu-gods" is like saying "Wiccan gods" or "pagan gods". Do your research. There is no one Hindu god that is worshipped like our God. In fact, the word Hindu itself is very generic and non-specific. And even given the ENTIRE Hindu spectrum to choose from, name me one of the "Hindu-gods" that has been worshipped in unification like the God of Abraham.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm |
        • nojinx

          It is easy to score when you yourself set the goal posts.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
        • otoh2


          So what's so good about – or proven about – ONE god? The Hindus seem to think that MORE is BETTER.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
  4. rickcor2014

    It's amazing to see how badly people want to right on this subject, but the problem is that humans have been disagreeing about religion since the time we became smart enough to have these thoughts. And most of the statements made by people are are unfortunately not falsifiable.

    However, you can't be an atheist and believe in god, just like you can't be a vegetarian and eat meat. Atheists have arrived to the conclusion that none of the gods invented by humans during the last thousands of years can be proved to exist, and that is our main ammunition in this debate.

    For atheists like me, that remains a fact that is proven true everyday. No human god has ever made any verifiable claim to be god, and therefore, for me there is no god. Religions tells us that these all-powerful gods care about humans, and interact with us, but no religion can show that this is true by something that is verifiable and irrefutable.

    That is the main problem with religions; that when you prove that one of their premises is wrong, they dismiss it and claim that you have not proved that the rest of the belief is wrong. It's kind of like saying, "some eggs have a yolk made of gold"! If you tell them, "hey, I just broke an egg, and and it does not have a golden yolk, then they tell you that you haven't broken every egg in the planet."

    Since believers assume this position, then atheists take comfort on the fact that it is up to the the believer to prove that they are not lying.

    Could there be a superior being out there that could qualify to be a god when compared to us? Maybe, but it is highly unlikely, and even if that being existed, it is obviously not one of the gods humans worship. No religion I know of has claimed that their god is not the creator, and it is indifferent to human existence.

    So until the believers show me the golden yolk, I will continue to believe it does not exist.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
    • mcfx

      Surely, it's hardly fair that you make up your own analogy that you're able to refute (golden eggs) and call that intelligence. That's like making your own IQ test to prove you're a genius. What if you were from another planet with no chickens and I took that same egg and told you something BETTER than gold would come out of it...LIFE! Well, then I'd look like some kind of God in about 3 weeks. Science can explain WHAT'S happening but only God can explain WHY it happened.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
      • otoh2

        " only God can explain WHY it happened."

        Do you think that a god has actually done that explaining? Which one(s)? The one(s) fantasized about by early Israelis... or the one fantasized about by Saudi Arabians... or by some religious voters in Nicaea, or by Joseph Smith, or by Hindus long before those folks.... etc.?

        June 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm |
        • mcfx

          Yes I do. The One True God. The God that created the universe. The God that created in His image after His own likeness. The God that you prove exists by the simple fact that you, unlike the animals, have the free will to accept or deny Him.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm |
  5. rogerwolsey

    Frank, "Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account."

    Frank, have you honestly never heard of pan-en-theism? It's what many of us who identify as progressive Christians believe.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
  6. Dalahäst

    "I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God." -Abraham Lincoln

    June 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • ldavid69

      I can and I will. There is no god. Science explains everything.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Scientism? That is great if it works for you. The vast majority of people, including most scientists, disagree with you on that philosophy.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Because science isn't a philosophy, it is a methodology.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Yea, scientism.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn


          You need to jump in that nifty time machine of yours and join us back here in the 21st century. You quote a 19th century figure as if that century's prevailing view is applicable in the here and now.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          “A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world.”

          –Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., who received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the first known binary pulsar, and for his work which supported the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
        • nojinx

          Does everyone now understand that being a brilliant scientist does not mean you are free of cognitive dissonance?

          June 10, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Yes. And being a person who imagines they only know what they know because of science is not free of cognitive dissonance. That is why I question those who preach scientism. It doesn't work for me.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
        • nojinx

          The methodology of science is free of cognitive dissonance. Humans, on the other hand, are victims of their own neural processes.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Our neural processes often lead to advances in science. Sometimes ignoring the methodology of science is beneficial.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          “It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion.”

          –Physicist Paul Davies, the winner of the 2001 Kelvin Medal issued by the Inst.itute of Physics and the winner of the 2002 Faraday Prize issued by the Royal Society (amongst other awards)

          June 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          I see plenty of evidence of people from the 21st century that believe in God who demonstrate logical and rational thinking at a high level.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
        • nojinx

          That does not mean their thoughts on gods demonstrated logical or rational thinking. Had it been so, we would probably be studying those also.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          People do study it. Science has yet to prove God does not exist. For me science does prove God exists, but that is an opinion. Not everyone feels that way. My religion fully embraces, encourages and supports science.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
        • nojinx

          Could you, then provide one of these pieces on gods by the aforementioned Nobel Laureate that is studied today?

          I commend you for embracing science, whatever the reason. Science has yet to even hypothesize about gods, as there is nothing from which to do so.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          There are none. God, who authored the science we marvel at, is spirit. There is a good reason why science can't detect God – but any human being can.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
        • nojinx

          "There is a good reason why science can’t detect God – but any human being can."

          That is a logical impossibility.

          June 10, 2014 at 8:39 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          No, it is not. It is possible for something to exist that science can not detect. There is no scientific proof that science is the only way of knowing something. It is a very good and reliable way to obtain knowledge. But not the only way.

          Human beings are not solely logical creatures. We have an imaginative and creative side to our brain for a purpose. We are duel natured.

          June 10, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
        • ggsimmonds

          "There is no scientific proof that science is the only way of knowing something."
          what? Quite the paradox you constructed there. Bravo

          June 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
        • nojinx

          "It is possible for something to exist that science can not detect. "

          This, by the definition of science, is false. It may be that we cannot detect a particular phenomenon yet, but we have no examples of things that exist that science cannot detect.

          June 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          I'm not limited by science. God transcends science – He authored it.

          June 10, 2014 at 10:48 pm |
        • nojinx

          "Dual nature"

          We have an imaginative and creative side, yes. That does not mean we should use them to determine truth.

          June 10, 2014 at 9:11 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          We do. Even scientists do this.

          June 10, 2014 at 10:46 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          Sam Harris made an excellent point. he said that it is possible to be so well educated that one could construct a nuclear weapon and STILL think that he's going to get 72 virgins upon his martyrdom.

          Being religious is fine if you are a scientist – letting your religion interfere with your findings is another matter entirely.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Or if you aren't religious – and letting your radical atheist beliefs (like Harris holds) interfere with your findings in frowned upon, too.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:45 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          What findings is Harris ignoring because of his 'radical' atheism?

          June 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Like most scientists who happen to believe in God and follow a religion – probably none. But it is possible.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Oh, FYI, you can't prove with science that science explains everything. Your statement isn't even a scientific fact.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm |
      • mcfx

        Science. The god that changes every 25 years or so and is replaced with a smarter god. In 200 years you're current Science god will look like a bumbling idiot and the current god will laugh at your god of 1990 that thought the universe was slowing and Saturn only had 3 rings.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
        • Akira

          Putting your theological aspect aside, you sincerely think that science should stop making advances because it could change what was formerly known?

          June 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
        • mcfx

          Can you point to the sentence that even hints that I believe that "science should stop making advances"? What a distortion of what I've said so far. But, to sit on sceince as the proof that God does NOT exist is ignorance. Since, time and time again mankind shows that his knowledge is infallible and incomplete and therefore so are the results of mankind's science.

          June 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
        • Akira

          I did. Sorry you didn't understand the question in your hurry to compose your snarky answer.

          June 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing universe, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy.
      - Carl Sagan

      June 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        "Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God." – Heywood Broun

        June 10, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Lincoln was a great man and yet I disagree with this statement. I see nothing in the sky and beyond that points to god(s). Perhaps if Abe knew what we know now he might disagree also.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Uh, yea. I'm sure lots of people imagine his beliefs would align with their personal beliefs today.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          Please don't put words in my mouth. I was talking about a specific statement, not claiming Lincoln would agree with my personal beliefs.

          June 10, 2014 at 9:13 pm |
    • neondancer

      It's oh so easy! I look up to the sky and am instantly amazed. The answer of "god did it" is vastly too simple and just ruins all that beauty and wonder for me. There's so much to look at, so much to be mesmerized by, not just the beauty, but the science of it. Can you not see how incredible it is that the iron in our blood was forged in far distant dying stars? Do you not see how amazing it it that there's a diamond 4 thousand kilometers across up there in Centaurus in the from of a crystallized white dwarf? Are you not astonished by the fact that there's pulsars out there that can keep time more accurately than our best atomic clocks? What a terrible write off it would be to simply shrug and say god did it all! It's just throwing away so much we've already learned and the huge things we've yet to discover.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        It is not like people look in the sky and lazily say "God did it" and just leave it at that. Believers in God have contributed too much to the advancement to technological, scientific and medical fields to imagine that.

        I definitely do not shrug it off like you imagine. Nope.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    "I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator."
    +++ sorry, you are not an atheist. atheism means one thing: no belief in god(s). you can't be an atheist if you believe in a deity. you can be an atheist and believe in bigfoot, the tooth fairy or aliens, but not if you believe in god. those things are unlikely, as atheists usually don't believe in unsubstantiated claims, but 'atheism' is solely a descriptor for someone that does not believe in god(s). the author of this article sounds more like a deist that trusts in the scientific method.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  8. MidwestKen

    I don't think I addressed the author at all.
    I don't know what you said.

    P.s. I applaud Mr. Burke's effort, but am afraid he has chosen a difficult if not impossible task.

    June 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Reality

    For the new members of this blog:

    The Apostles'/Atheists' Creed 2014: (updated 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

    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.

    (references used are those previously noted and a number of others)

    June 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  10. MidwestKen

    If you want to be sure you have “the truth” about [this article], then prepare to go mad.

    (Hope that's not Ad Hominen)

    June 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
  11. radar8

    An Atheist that believes in god is either a liar or is not an Atheist. This guy is like a fat person calling himself skinny. He can call himself "skinny" all he wants, but he's still fat.

    This guy believes in God so, by definition, he is not an Atheist.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Umm... "fat" and "skinny" are relative, so your analogy does not work. "Obese" might be applicable.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm |
    • esaggese

      Correct. He also claims that atheists call themselves atheists because of feelings, not because of facts. That is exactly the opposite of what atheism is.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
      • readerpan

        "not because of facts."
        Because of a LACK of facts.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  12. perilous

    Not an atheist. Not an atheist. Not an atheist. A / theist = no gods. No gods. We do not believe gods, any gods, no matter what, exist. That is an atheist. Agnostic – that is what you are. You do not know, but you feel there must be *something*. And that is perfectly acceptable if that is your jam.

    But no, atheists do not and can not, by the very nature of atheism, by the definition of the actual word and ideology, believe in god, because atheists do not believe that any such thing as *any* gods of *any* kind exist. That is what atheism is. Really. You can argue and try to redefine it according to whatever woo you think you have that nobody else does (which is a delusion of another kind, though related), but that does not mean you are right.

    If you believe in a god, any god, or if you even think one may exist, then you are NOT. AN. ATHEIST. That's all there is to it.

    I am SO tired of this argument.

    Repeat after me: I will read the dictionary and make absolutely sure I know what I'm talking before I write things with the intent of publishing them.

    Good boy.

    CNN, it is INTENSELY irritating that you allow garbage like this to be posted. If you're going to go for the clickbait Fox News route of journalism, at least make the effort, for cryin' out loud. An atheist who believes in god? Really? Are you that hard up for decent things to talk about?

    June 10, 2014 at 5:49 pm |
  13. Doris

    Maybe Frank is a Spinozatheist. OK, I did just make that word up...

    Well, since he claims to be an atheist he may have a strong feeling that there might not be a discrete deity. But since he has some feeling that there is some force that may influence or guide him, maybe he' more open to the possibility that such a force isn't necessarily discrete – certainly not something that we are in the image of. Maybe he's open to the idea that such a force could be some yet undiscovered universal element and/or condition (or a particular sum of specific elements/conditions that we already know about) in which our universe is awashed.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      I think you're onto something there.

      June 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm |
      • Doris

        I'm trying to remember the name of the poster who started posting all the videos about marijuana legalization – he used to comment all the time about everything from the innermost to the outermost matter all being spiritually connected. He reminded me in that way of Spinoza.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
        • Akira

          Ah, Doris, how could you forget LionlyLamb?

          June 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
        • Doris

          ah – thanks, Akira. Good grief, yes, how could I forget that one..lol..

          June 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • Doris

      Maybe so. Although – From Wikipedia: "Some modern deists have modified this classical view and believe that humanity's relationship with God is transpersonal, which means that God transcends the personal/impersonal duality and moves beyond such human terms. Also, this means that it makes no sense to state that God intervenes or does not intervene, as that is a human characteristic which God does not contain. "

      The author's line "I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator." seems pretty strong on the "personal god" issue for deism.

      June 10, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  14. chgn66

    The author doesn't have some unique and hard-to-describe believe system. He hasn't stumbled upon some new way of thinking that needs to be shared with the world.


    He's a deist.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
  15. ddeevviinn

    Franky couldn't hold a candle to his dad, but I'm guessing he is more than aware of that.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
    • Akira

      I'm thinking Franky is tired of hearing comparisons between his father and himself and is struggling to establish his own identity.
      Perhaps unfair comparisons started him on his journey.

      June 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
      • ddeevviinn

        Perhaps. In retrospect my comment wasn't the kindest, although it was meant within a theological/philosophical context.

        June 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
  16. zhilla1980wasp

    ok seeing how boring this article is, I wonder why they puled the article on " do jews, muslims and Christians have the same god?"

    that one was fun.........given most folks were totally off topic with evolution debate or just plainly trolling.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
    • otoh2

      What makes you think that article was pulled? I just checked and it looks like it's still open and is getting posts. The new post links don't work because it's such an old article - you have to page back one from where the links take you.

      June 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
  17. mornelithe

    Atheist, from latin, translates to:
    A – without
    Theos – A God

    Agnostic is a variant of the latin Agnotos meaning:
    Not known, incapable of being known

    TX Huxley is credited with coining the phrase Agnostic in 1869, however, he combined Agnotos with Gnostikos, which means pertaining to knowledge. Ergo, Agnostic literally translates to without knowledge. And since there's no actual proof of any God ever existing, everyone should be Agnostic...but well, here we are. Sam Harris had a pretty salient point to make regarding the term Atheist, where he said the term is simply inappropriate, as it's like having a term for a non-astrologer.

    Any actual scientifically minded person is going to be an agnostic, because there's simply no proof either way to the existence/non-existence of a God, let alone the one you believe in. Nevermind the fact that given how many religions there are and have been, the odds of the one you believing in are lower than your chances of winning the lottery (in a way, it is a lottery).

    Many of us also take note of the deplorable, reprehensible teachings of these faiths, and want nothing to do with whatever person(s) were responsible for mashing together the myths and legends of conquered cultures, to create something semi-tolerable for the masses. Virgin Birth, Great Flood, 12 Apostles, Grail Legend...all stolen from conquered civilizations.

    There's hope though, the times of believing in multiples Gods has come and gone, now people are down to believing in just one. We're getting closer and closer to the actual number everyday.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
  18. magicpanties

    Meet a vegetarian... who eats meat.

    Silliest article ever.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
  19. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    "I believe that we’re all of at least two minds. We play a role and define that role as “me” because labels and membership in a tribe make the world feel a little safer."
    This observation is interesting. Primates are certainly tribal and human primates no less so.

    I like the observation that "labels and membership in a tribe make the world a little safer". This would be a relevant theme for the article.

    The problem is that you can't unilaterally redefine the labels that are collectively used for self-identification with a particular tribe. This is a tribal taboo. Hence all the opprobrium here.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
  20. joshocom

    The author uses a thinly-veiled insult ("Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK"), which he believes elevates his own line of thinking. In fact, the vast majority of atheists will freely admit that there may be a god, or gods, or superior beings, but that the chance of any particular form or character humans ascribe to it (or them) as being accurate is infinitesimally small, just as there is an infinitesimally small chance that there is a teapot in orbit between Earth and Mars.

    I suppose CNN ran this because they believe it's rare to find an atheist who believes in God. The bigger story, of course, is the vast number of people who DON'T believe in God, but who say that they do publicly to avoid ostracism and discrimination.

    June 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
    • mariosphere

      I agree 50% there (yes on the thinly-veiled insult, which I consider a full-blown insult BTW). On what I disagree is that “the vast majority of atheists will freely admit that there may be a god, or gods, or superior beings.” I don't think so; they're not atheists, but deists or agnostics or a flavor thereof.

      The simple definition of atheism is the absence of belief in the supernatural, but there's room for disagreement, of course.

      June 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
      • WhatsamattaU

        Since we're playing with definitions here and molding them to our own agendas, perhaps I can join in. An atheist that doesn't believe in the possibility of a supernatural being or beings is just as misguided as those who believe in such things. Properly put, an atheist contends that, thus far, there is no evidence whatsoever for these supernatural beings, but stops well short of saying that the lack of evidence is proof of nonexistence. Some atheists believe that there are cultures in the universe that are so far advanced (their planets and solar systems were formed earlier and they've had more time to evolve) that were they to show an interest in our little patch of dirt and could get here, we couldn't distinguish them from the thousands of deities worshiped on Earth right now. The facts are that neither a true deity or highly advanced civilization has left any evidence of their existence, and a proper atheist will leave it at that. No proof yet, so don't bother me with your mythology until you have some.

        June 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
        • mariosphere

          Sorry, I can't concede to your definition. A proper atheist does not believe (nor does he/she have a need to believe) in a supernatural being (or beings) here or in other planets. Lack of evidence of the existence of a supernatural being or deity is not a fact. Thank you for your sophistry, though, it was fun reading.

          June 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        One can lack a belief while still acepting the possibility.
        See Dawkins' 6.9 out of 7 description ( not that he is an authority, just an example)

        June 10, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
        • mariosphere

          Well, I'm the kind of atheist who has no supernatural beliefs nor does he admits to the slightest possibility of there being a deity or supernatural being. It's not a matter of being dogmatic, though. I go for science and natural laws, not speculative beliefs.

          I'm not here to prove you right or wrong. What you suggest is that an atheist can reject the idea of time travel but at the same time believe that, well, maybe there is a possibility of actual time travel to visit dinosaurs, Abraham Lincoln, etc. Faulty reasoning.

          June 10, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          What you descibe might be considered a strong or positive atheist which I think is just as much a belief as what beleiver's have , unless you have strong evidence of the impossibility of god(s) that is.

          Also, I'm not sure that time travel has been ruled out completely either.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
        • nojinx

          What term would you use for someone who lacks any beliefs or concepts of gods? Like, say, a young child?

          June 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          Are you asking me?
          A weak atheist or agnostic. Why?

          June 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
      • donna0072

        You are mistaken. Atheist means that you lack a belief in a deity, it does not mean that you believe that can be known as an absolute fact. Joshocom is absolutely correct.

        Agnostic is not an alternative to atheism or belief in a deity. It addresses the belief about *proof* not a belief about *existence.*
        For example, I believe that Santa Claus does not exist, however I do not claim that I can prove that as a fact.

        June 10, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
        • mariosphere

          Agnostics consider existence and proof. An agnostic will say “I don't believe there is a god because his/her existence cannot be proven or disproven.” An atheist will say: “I don't believe in a deity because a) it cannot exist (because it is illogical and goes against the laws of nature) and b) its existence is a moot point given a) before. At least, that's the atheism I subscribe to.

          June 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
        • nojinx

          Are you familiar with the term Igtheist, or Ignostic? They may be up your alley, check them out.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          "Agnostic is not an alternative to atheism or belief in a deity. It addresses the belief about *proof* not a belief about *existence.*
          Agnostic (as a noun) can fairly be used for those who are truly unable to answer the question "do you believe in God(s)" with a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

          When using agnostic as an adjective, then yes, I agree with your statement.

          June 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm |
        • donna0072

          Mariosphere: "Agnostics consider existence and proof." The word "agnostic" refers to the measure of proof, not the belief about the existence. The fact that people who are agnostic also hold opinions about existence, doesn't change the definition of agnostic.

          You can say you subscribe to whatever atheism you want, but you don't get to make up word definitions. Atheist ONLY means that you lack the belief in a deity. You have already agreed with that in our other conversation, so I don't know why you're changing that now.

          The word "atheist" does not define WHY you lack a belief in a deity. That's different for all atheists. What you aren't seeming to understand is that the word atheism refers to a SINGLE thing and nothing else, at all.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
        • donna0072

          I'm not a GOPer:
          "Agnostic (as a noun) can fairly be used for those who are truly unable to answer the question "do you believe in God(s)" with a 'yes' or 'no' answer."

          It can be because it's been hijacked by people who want a label for not making a decision, that doesn't mean it's what the word actually means. It was created for a purpose and that purpose was to address the issue of proof/knowing not believing. There is no mystery about where the word comes from, it was a recent invention and written about rather extensively. Huxley made it clear that agnosticism was not a creed but a method. It doesn't describe a belief.

          June 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • susanhelit

      Yeah, there's no veil on that insult, it's a classic "I'm so superior that only I and those few like me can perceive this". Nice boost for the ego, but hardly true, and hardly a way to communicate.

      June 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I suppose CNN ran this because they believe it's rare to find an atheist who believes in God.
      CNN ran the story because it created clicks. That's what they do.

      The bigger story, of course, is the vast number of people who DON'T believe in God, but who say that they do publicly to avoid ostracism and discrimination.
      I used to think this might be the case, but under-reporting of atheism in surveys does not appear the same way that over-reporting of things like affiliation and church attendance does.

      There's probably a lot of people who affiliate as believers but have very serious doubts that do not admit their doubts.

      Except for those brought up as atheists (growing in Millenials) I think a lot of people who self-identify as atheists went though a lot of (what for want of a better term I'll call) soul searching before deciding that they did not believe in God(s).

      June 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.