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. phoesarah

    And I'm a vegetarian that eats meat.

    June 11, 2014 at 4:25 am |
    • saggyroy

      And I'm a stamp collector who doesn't collect stamps.

      June 11, 2014 at 5:18 am |
      • orilliaatheist

        And I'm a politician who doesn't lie.

        June 11, 2014 at 7:04 am |
    • nojinx

      Hi there! I am a grown man who is unconvinced the Tooth Fairy isn't going to come pick up my collection of baby teeth I've been keeping under my pillow all these years.

      June 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
  2. RichardSRussell

    "... what is an “atheist?” Who is the objective observer to define these terms?"

    Not you.

    By definition, an atheist is a person without god beliefs. Claiming to be an atheist who believes in God is like claiming to be a married bachelor or an adult infant.

    I bet it got you paid for this article, tho.

    June 11, 2014 at 4:00 am |
    • otoh2

      Heh, he's got a whole book that he's promoting, with the provocative ti.tle: "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace."

      June 11, 2014 at 4:12 am |
  3. vinrohm

    The word "ATHEIST" comes from the Greek "ATHEOS" which means, quite simply, "godless." Believing in evolution is the rational thing to do, since, well, evolution is a fact of reality. But it doesn't make someone an atheist. In fact, most theists believe in evolution. They just think it is guided by god. Some of our greatest scientists in the field of evolutionary biology are theists...Ken Miller, for example, is a Catholic and a scientist in the field of Evolution.

    I haven't a clue as to why the author doesn't realize that he's no atheist. Ignorance of the meaning of the word, perhaps?

    June 11, 2014 at 2:28 am |
    • phonxus

      You are being far too kind to him. perhaps leaving it at, "ignorance perhaps?" is enough.

      June 11, 2014 at 2:39 am |
  4. Jose Jaren

    It is simple. No matter how deep science investigates and answers "mysteries" there will always remain one point of origin, an enigma too large for the minds of that which emerged from it. This is GOD, and a belief in the mystery itself is reason enough to discount any claims by
    atheists that the universe is free from purpose and direction. As for religions, a human need no different from science, but stagnant in tradition. Atheism is more absurd than the religious belief systems established by man, for it claims the truth to a stance which discounts the obvious mystery no universal civilization will ever grasp.

    June 11, 2014 at 2:04 am |
    • Doris

      "Atheism is more absurd than the religious belief systems established by man, for it claims the truth to a stance which discounts the obvious mystery no universal civilization will ever grasp."

      Jose, I don't think you have a good understanding of mainstream atheism. Most atheists today are highly agnostic in that they don't hold a belief in deities for a lack of evidence. I think you'll find that many atheists would tell you they would become believers if some decent evidence was presented to them. Therefore, this part of your statement "it claims the truth to a stance which discounts" does not at all well represent most atheists today, who are not explicit, positive atheists.

      On the other hand, I think you'll find many more theists who are certain of the existence of a god and certain of many of its characteristics. That is the position that I find more absurd.

      June 11, 2014 at 3:57 am |
    • hotairace

      Looks like Jose is having a Dr. Woo Woo moment. . .

      June 11, 2014 at 4:02 am |
    • orilliaatheist

      @ Jose: simply replace "God" in your original post with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Invisible Flying Purple Sentient Teapot, or any other mythical creation you imbue with whatever mythical powers you want. Does it now sound nonsensical?

      Have the intellectual honesty to simply say, hell yes, the universe is huge and mysterious, and we've learned a bit about it, and we continue to learn, but we certainly don't know everything about it. AND LEAVE IT AT THAT. Moving on to "Therefore God" is simply wishing.

      June 11, 2014 at 7:08 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Wow, have you ever used a dictionary? All Atheist refers to is a disbelief in a god or gods, it doesn't tell you anything more than that. You too are an Atheist...you deny all other gods but the Christian god.
      As for the origins crap, using the god of the gaps is a lot less honest than merely admitting to not knowing. We only make the claim that we don't see sufficient evidence to support a god, it doesn't mean we're not open to changing our opinions if evidence is provided. However, it is extremely unlikely that IF a god exists it would be the immoral god of the Christian belief system-that god is simply one of the most vindictive ever imagined by man.

      June 11, 2014 at 7:25 am |
    • macauguy

      Typical theist, when your definition of God is challenged, and debunked, you switch it to some other unknown and claim knowledge and certainty of it.

      As for your absurd claims, origin of the universe is a big fat "We don't know" but claiming the origin is "God" makes no sense whatsoever, since you now have to prove your claim. Which God, why? Show your proof.

      Atheism is a lack of belief in a single claim. Theists say, "I believe there is a God", Atheists say, "I do not believe there is a god". That is it.

      June 12, 2014 at 9:40 am |
  5. phonxus

    As a writer you would think Schaeffer would have picked up a dictionary and looked up the word atheist before writing a book and an opinion piece that is nonsensical because it ignores the definition. What a load this is.

    June 11, 2014 at 1:22 am |
    • clouseau2

      My thoughts exactly. An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in god(s). Now, every atheist I've ever encountered is also an agnostic, admitting such a thing is really unknowable, so that if enough evidence was presented to prove the existence of a god or gods, they would believe it; I'm in that camp as well. That contrasts to almost all theists I've ever encountered, who not only believe in their god(s), but say they KNOW these god(s) exist, and no amount of evidence will change their beliefs.

      June 11, 2014 at 1:48 am |
      • RichardSRussell

        I will grant that the concept of the superhero god — Zeus, Thor, Quetzlcoatl, Gitchee Manitou, Osiris, etc. — is subject to agnosticism, because they are simply human beings with extraordinary powers, and it's possible to imagine such critters actually existing (tho there is no evidence that they ever actually did or do).

        But it's a different story when you come to the monotheistic deity of the Abrahamic religions, for whom it is claimed that it is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent. These are 4 separate ultimate characteristics, and any given ent¡ty can have at most 1 of them. If it's ever claimed that there can be >1, it's always possible to set up a scenario where the 2 are pitted against each other, and 1 of them must lose. Indeed, as with the famous riddle "Can God make a rock so heavy he can't lift it?", it's even possible to pit 1 of them (in this case omnipotence) against itself.

        So, logically, if there is such a thing as an Abrahamic mono-deity, it cannot be the all-everything one they claim it is. Therefore, with respect to such a critter, I am a gnostic atheist. I KNOW it cannot exist.

        June 11, 2014 at 4:11 am |
        • donna0072

          Why is it that you claim all those other gods- with plenty of "impossible" traits, are "human" and the Abrahamic god is not? It's possible to imagine all of it, if any of it. None of them are confined by human reality. And the you are mistaken that those other gods don't have traits that we would find just as impossible as the notion of the god you seem to find unique.

          June 11, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
  6. phonxus

    Wow so many words to express something that is completely false if you look at the definition of atheism.

    June 11, 2014 at 1:19 am |
    • santiagodraco

      So apparently now the Christian approach to combating Atheists is to lie and deceive people about what it is. I though Christians were supposed to be honest. I guess that's not the case.

      One day people will wake up to the sham that religion is and we can move towards a society of reason.

      June 11, 2014 at 2:07 am |
      • hotairace

        Nothing new here. The delusionals will do or say anything to keep their delusions alive.

        June 11, 2014 at 3:58 am |
  7. nepawoods

    "our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds"

    The author may speak for himself, but many people can be more objective than what he describes.

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

    Yet he never explains. In what sense could he possibly be an atheist if he believes in God? What nonsense.

    June 11, 2014 at 12:51 am |
    • chuckles719

      Agreed, he doesn't really take the idea of atheism to the logical conclusion and instead treats atheism like a anti-religion. I think it frustrates me the most when people think that in order to be an atheist, you have to go through a type of baptism of science, you must not question evolution or that the earth is old when in reality, if Schaeffer understood the science behind these high concepts, he would understand the being a skeptic of everything, of god, of evolution, of the big bang, of everything is the best attribute a person can have.

      It angers me more to think that he believes that most atheists read a book or two, get raised by some atheists and pass that on.... has he never met an atheist? Seriously? Rarely will you find an atheist raised by atheist only reading a book or two and taking that information at complete face value.

      I'm not saying Schaeffer can't be an atheist. Heck, if you claim to be an atheist, then you are, case closed but Schaeffer doesn't seem to understand that there's no such thing as membership among atheists, or that most atheists will appreciate logic and for a guy to come and extoll being an atheist and then immediately tries to back up his claim of being an atheist and a believer in god just screams disingenuous

      June 11, 2014 at 1:17 am |
      • santiagodraco

        What you need to understand is that he absolutely understands. He understands which is why he is intentionally lying and deceiving. He and other ethically bankrupt creationists will stop at nothing to perpetuate the cancer of self deception and anti-science and would, if they could, put us back into a dark age empty of reason.

        June 11, 2014 at 2:10 am |
  8. Splinter48708

    Most interesting article. Reason for that is that I fall in this area. The Bible says that God created everything in the space of 6 days (and the 7th day was the only day God's ever taken off).

    Yet, I see where the planet itself is 4.5 billion years old and there's the science to back that claim. Both cannot be right, though. Now, I cannot dismiss the effects of having a belief in God and that He does exist. When I was in Phoenix and gotten tossed out of my apartment due to a girl I should not have allowed there with some serious issues (Long story, but, the fault ultimately was mine), I was in a bad situation and Finally I asked God for help. It didn't take long and I had a roof over my head, a place to get cleaned up (showered) and three squares a day.

    But, that doesn't fully square up with certain other facts: The planet's 4.5 billion years old. It could not legitimately have formed in a couple of days as we measure them or even using the Bible's "A day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day" still doesn't rationalize hyperspeed formation of the entire universe. So, I think that while it took the millions of years just for the solar system to shake itself out into the planets, moons, asteroids, etc, that there is still God in charge of everything.

    June 11, 2014 at 12:22 am |
    • chuckles719

      Here's the thing.

      You have a belief in god for no other reason than wanting to believe in god because you want to believe in a higher power. It's clear you would consider yourself religious to a point though right? You wouldn't consider yourself an atheist even by accepting that the Earth formed billions of years ago and yet that's what Schaeffer wants to do.

      Does this make sense to you?

      June 11, 2014 at 1:21 am |
  9. ecom advisor

    Quote from the article: "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." Haha... HOW RIDICULOUS! Every member of my family is a devout Christian, and I didn't have to read any books; just an examination of myself, different cultures and belief systems across space and time, and the "natural" conclusion is lack of belief in gods... in other words, atheism. It's the thinking man's/woman's NON-religion.

    June 11, 2014 at 12:20 am |
    • ecom advisor

      I REALLY wish that people would understand that atheists generally "believe" NOTHING! We look for "evidence" in things so that we can "KNOW". In my book, "believe/belief" is a dirty and damaged word. It has been co-opted by the religious-minded in that they have brainwashed themselves that "believing" is more virtuous and powerful than "knowing". Evidence of their brainwashing is an oft-heard motto in religious circles: "Walk by faith, not by sight." Translation: "Believe nonsense is 100% true, even though there isn't one shred of evidence for it except for what I say and what I say you should feel about it."

      June 11, 2014 at 12:27 am |
      • ecom advisor

        (continued translation of "Walk by faith, not by sight") "...And if presented with evidence that clearly refutes your belief, ignore it, for it is the work of the devil!"

        June 11, 2014 at 12:29 am |
  10. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    Franks next book is "Why I am monogamous in my multiple se.xual relationships"

    June 11, 2014 at 12:06 am |
  11. somersetcace1

    By definition, an atheist does not believe in gods, despite how you choose to explain it. Stop trying to redefine labels and just be who you are. If it fits a particular label then great and if not, that's fine too. However, trying to complicate it with things like "I'm an atheis that believes in God" is silly.

    June 10, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Doesn't sell books though. What an idiot. How can he write a book about a subject, and not even get the definition of his subject matter right. ?

      June 10, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
  12. danab1234

    It's amazing that people who live indoors still believe in this nonsense.

    June 10, 2014 at 11:07 pm |
    • orilliaatheist

      Now THAT is an excellent, succinct way of characterizing religion. Well done!

      June 11, 2014 at 6:58 am |
  13. danab1234

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
    ― Penn Jillette

    June 10, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
    • ddeevviinn

      "Penn Jillette"

      Now there's a real credible source.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
      • danab1234

        Dispute any part of that.

        June 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        He is credible because he is honest. He thinks honestly about issues more than most people. And that includes admitting when he is wrong, which as he says is often. This is a really good quote. I think if you have issue with it you should address it rather than issuing a va.gue personal attack.

        June 10, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          I do believe I pointed out an example to you in the past of his completely contradictory thought processes. If memory serves me correct, I posted a quote of Mr. Jillettes's in which he contradicted his own word's in reference to the fundamental essence of atheism.

          Now to this current blurb. The stupidity in the statement lies in his belief that only science is true and that there is no one true religion. Hypothetically speaking ( and I use the term hypothetically only from your perspective) if there was one true faith and it was "wiped out", by its very nature it would continually be renewed and revealed. The God who established it would assure its continuance. But even more to the point, said God would seemingly never permit it to be "wiped out" in the first place, as is the case with Christianity.

          When you initially start with a flawed premise, your conclusion follows suit.

          I have read Penn's books and listened to him speak. I know nothing of the man personally and would never make a personal attack on his character. I give little to no credence to his ideology and therefore consider him to have minimal credence on the issues.

          June 11, 2014 at 6:03 am |
        • orilliaatheist

          @ dd: Interesting post. Completely void of any logic, mind you. You are starting off with a bunch of your own, unsupported beliefs – Christianity is the one "true" religion, God's characteristics, etc, and then you use these unsupported beliefs as the premises of your argument, taking them to be true.

          Try this: first, establish the validity of your premises. Establish that Christianity is the one "true" religion (whatever that means). establish how you know this to be the case. Establish how it is that you know what your god would do in any given situation, and how you know that to be true. Of course, that would have to be after you establish the existence of this god.

          Go ahead. Then you'll be in a much stronger position to criticize Penn's quote.

          June 11, 2014 at 6:57 am |
        • ddeevviinn

          " Starting off with your own bunch of unsupported beliefs"

          Not at all, my beliefs are fully supported, you simply choose not to accept the support, much in the same way I do not accept Mr. Penn's "supported beliefs". You see Orill, this is why we have this forum, individuals with divergent presuppositions come here to banter their ideas. It is why I, as you do mine, find your post to be completely void of logic also.

          June 11, 2014 at 10:41 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "if there was one true faith and it was "wiped out", by its very nature it would continually be renewed and revealed."


          IF there was one true faith...that says it all. I know you believe yours is the one true faith. But you are unable to objectively demonstrate that issue to anyone but yourself. Science would work out the same regardless.

          The point is, the dogma of Christianity is what it is due to politics, wars, committiees, infighting, ect, ect. If circu/mstances of those issues had gone slightly different the dogmatic outcome could and would have been radical. What you are saying (it would seem) is that god micro-managed all those interactions to get this specific outcome. That is a pretty big stretch, terribly inefficient and pretty much destroys any semblance of "free will" of which your dogma is essetually based on.

          June 11, 2014 at 11:42 am |
        • ddeevviinn


          "God micro manages"

          O course he does, this is a fundamental tenet of the christian faith:

          "In Christ also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who WORKS ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL"

          I won't rehash this notion you have that objective truth ( in its strictest sense) is the only truth. We just disagree. I will point out,however, that your attributing Christian dogma to " politics, war, etc..." is simply inaccurate. That God is sovereign, omniscient, immutable, eternal and that justification is by faith and that God has provided a means of eternal life and that God entered into space/time/ history in the form of His son, and that we who are spiritually dead can be reconciled to 'God through His son, yadayadayada are not founded upon anything less than written propositional truth. You examples are just no so.

          Just for clarification, and I know this will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, I do not believe in free will. I am a Determinist. Not that in the every day autonomous, decision making sense, but in the context of soteriology. It is the fundamental, and only, reason you and I differ in our belief system. I realize you will misconstrue ( I don't say this as criticism) my previous 3 sentences, but I wanted to clear this thought up flying around that all Christians believe in free will.

          June 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
  14. danab1234

    Grow up people.


    June 10, 2014 at 11:02 pm |
    • prentz2

      Sorry Bill, Albert Einstein in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929-
      "To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?"
      "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."
      "Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?"
      "Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot!"
      "You accept the historical existence of Jesus?"
      "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."
      Science and belief in a creator didn't stunt Albert's mind, I don't think!

      June 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
      • nepawoods

        Where did Einstein suggest belief in a creator or God? Certainly not in anything you quoted.

        June 11, 2014 at 12:40 am |
      • skb8721

        Einstein was an atheist: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/may/12/peopleinscience.religion

        June 11, 2014 at 12:49 am |
        • skb8721

          A quote from one of Einstein's letters: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this." See the link I posted above.

          June 11, 2014 at 12:50 am |
    • Vic


      June 11, 2014 at 12:03 am |
  15. danab1234

    "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."

    A bible thumper's beliefs are not founded in facts at all.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:59 pm |
  16. danab1234

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

    So you are a religious brain-washed fool.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm |
    • prentz2

      Or someone who can't accept evolution or God. True, it's not a wall you can sit on for long- generally you fall to one side or the other- or turn your brain off. It will drive you crazy.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Amazing that in some ignorant places, accepting Evolution, (which is taught at EVERY major academic center in the entire world, and has no counter-evidence against it), and Evolutionary Psychology are thought to be the essential defining characteristics of non-belief, yet belief in a "spiritual realm" and a "creator" are not. Wow. Equivocating the word "atheist". Some stupidity is incompatible with life.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:02 pm |
    • nepawoods

      It's really hard to draw conclusions. The only thing we can be sure of is that either "I'm an atheist" doesn't mean that he's an atheist, or "I believe in God" doesn't mean he believes in God.

      June 11, 2014 at 1:10 am |
  17. prentz2

    Both ideas are crazy- do you believe that everything as complex as an earthworm (complex? we've never made one) to a human to our solar system and beyond just happened or do you believe that there's a creator, a God capable of creating everything around us, We all die and we'll find the answer then...or not. Is there one True God or not? How would you know? Yep, lots of questions but closed minds find no answers.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm |
    • danab1234

      The answers are pretty simple. There is no god. Life is very easy to create. Just because you don't know the answer, it doesn't mean that an invisible magician in the sky did it.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
      • prentz2

        Funny, you say life is easy to Create.

        June 10, 2014 at 11:02 pm |
        • danab1234

          Just take water, the right temperature range, and time.

          June 10, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
    • nepawoods

      "do you believe that everything ... just happened or do you believe that there's a creator"

      Those are not the only options.

      June 11, 2014 at 12:56 am |
  18. fatherstorm

    Does this not make him agnostic? Not sure if I misread this or if he has a difficulty understanding the religion. I thought Atheist was disbelief in deity while agnostic was belief in a deity without belief in a particular religious doctrine.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm |
    • prentz2

      You're right, but he's not that unusual. If you can't grasp that our complex life forms and integrated system of life just happened but really don't want to believe there's a creator, what do you do?

      June 10, 2014 at 10:59 pm |
    • otoh2

      "agnostic was belief in a deity without belief in a particular religious doctrine."

      That does not describe an agnostic. It describes a deist.

      An agnostic does not know if there is a deity or not.

      June 10, 2014 at 11:02 pm |
      • otoh2

        p.s. many (most) atheists are also agnostic - they generally claim not to *know* if there is a god or gods, and they therefore have no *belief* in a god or gods.

        June 10, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
        • danab1234

          Agnostics are just atheists without balls.

          June 10, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
        • skb8721

          "Agnostics are just atheists without balls." Oh, please, I'm so tired of that claim! I'm agnostic because I don't think anyone can prove or disprove the existence of a god or gods. To me, it's as irrational to make that leap of faith to atheism as it is to make that leap of faith to theism. I am an agnostic because I believe it is the most rational place to be based on the evidence at hand . . . not because I don't have the guts to call myself an atheist. As an agnostic I am as far removed from atheism as I am from theism.

          June 11, 2014 at 12:55 am |
  19. rabideyemovement

    Not that strange of a concept. Everyone is an atheist. There have been over 3600 gods worshiped and tens of thousands more contemporary fictional ones. Unless there is a person who believes in every single one of these gods, then every person on the planet is an atheist.
    If you're a christian: atheist.
    if you're a jew: atheist.
    If you're a buddhist: atheist.
    etc etc. To believe in one creation myth means to discount the others it contradicts.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm |
    • donna0072

      The definition of an atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any deity, not one or some, but any. So if you believe in one god, you are not an atheist, by definition.

      June 11, 2014 at 1:06 am |
      • clouseau2

        He means atheist with respect to certain deities. An atheist and a theist both don't believe in 99.9999% of the same gods so they share that belief. The theist picks one god out of the tens of thousands that have been created by mankind in the last thousands of years and says that's the one that really exists; the atheist says nope I don't believe in that one either.

        June 11, 2014 at 1:50 am |
        • donna0072

          Yes, I know that he was trying to invent a new meaning of the word. But you can't. It does NOT mean whatever you want it to mean. Your pretending that atheism can mean whatever you want it to is disingenuous.

          June 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  20. bearcateds

    Seriously.. Does CNN have a room full of monkeys and a typewriter coming up with this crap???? On second though, a holographic monkey flinging poo would have been better than this garbage.

    June 10, 2014 at 10:38 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.