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Stirring Up the Bible Belt

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., has placed 50 anti-religious billboard messages in the Atlanta area in an effort to raise consciousness about non-belief and the separation of church and state in the Bible belt.

The billboard campaign, the organization’s largest in any state thus far, includes such messages as “Imagine No Religion,” “Sleep in on Sundays” and “In Reason We Trust.”

“Atheism and agnosticism should be as American as peach cobbler” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the organization’s co-president.

A report tonight by an Atlanta-based news outfit brought the signs to light, interviewing one atheist member of the organization and two believers, one a preacher and one a normal church member. Glad that reporting was fair and balanced!

The billboards are being displayed in and around the Fulton County area. The map to the right pinpoints the 50 locations, as does the link from the FFRF.

I have previously seen pictures of billboards from the FFRF displayed in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but the current campaign is quite a bold move in this, the southeast’s largest city. Through the record of American history, we find that it is the South that is the final clearing house of racist and often subversive thought. In short, it is the final holdout with regard to certain ideologies that have, historically, smashed individuality and crushed free thought. It is a somewhat surprising venture by the organization and one that will likely raise the ire of believers and more than a few eyebrows.

It’s time, in my opinion, that unbelief begins to take hold in these parts of the country (like it has in the Northeast and Southwest and Northwest), for it’s only in the Southeast that belief is the most entrenched. The sooner unbelief takes holds in this part of the country, the better.

[Map from the Freedom From Religion Foundation]
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About Jeremy Styron

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Want something to blow your mind? According the the “Many Worlds Interpretation” – whose adherents include Stephen Hawking – every time a quantum particle changes state, it simultaneously changes to every possible state…but each different new state occurs in a different reality.

    Think about that for a moment. If there is a different reality for each new state of each quantum particle every time that quantum particle changes state, then…

    …in the amount of time that it takes for a quantum particle to change state, a new number of realities is created that is equal to:

    the square of (x*y)-1

    where ‘x’ is the number of possible quantum states of a quantum particle and ‘y’ is the total number of quantum particles in the universe.

    THAT, sir, is a “big bang” indeed!

    However, the number may be somewhat less since quantum time probably flows more slowly inside deep gravity wells such as within black holes.

    But let’s not stop there! From this, we may extrapolate that if MWI is correct, then since every quantum particle WILL change state to every possible state, then everything that CAN happen, WILL happen…within the bounds of the laws of physics within that particular reality, of course.

    So in some reality somewhere, Doc Dreadful really is the president of China with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston as his wives!

    Now there’s one more observation I’d like to make when it comes to religion – if MWI is right, then everything that can happen, will happen…unless God wills otherwise. Think about it – there are things that you absolutely would not do in the next few minutes (murder, suicide, etc), so the ONLY factor that is preventing you from doing those things in some reality…is God Himself.

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning….


  • Baronius

    Dread, I’ll put that after “Delaware elections” on my list of things I have no control over. Hmmm, I wonder, is the expanding universe incorporated in Delaware?

  • The latest astronomical research appears to indicate that the universe will keep on expanding indefinitely. We’re looking at a “ba-” but no “-ng”.

    One more thing with a lower but no upper limit. Or vice versa, depending on your chosen scale of values.

  • Baronius

    Zing –

    I don’t know what you’re getting at in your first paragraph.

    In the second paragraph, you assert that the universe expands and contracts, and always has. I see no reason for that position. There’s no scientific evidence to indicate it. But if your second paragraph is refering to proof #2 or #3, note that they doesn’t mention time. The first is about causality, the second about contingency, both concepts that can be different from time.

  • … your justification for not having one is weak.

    Fine, #47. I concede the point. But I’d still like to know how Jeremy (#39) justifies saying that “religion should have its own section.” Why? It’s a simple question.

    And by the way, I’m not sure politics is part of culture, as you claim.

    Supposedly, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, Gandhi replied: “I think it would be a good idea.” He could only have been thinking of our politics.

  • But why do we need a separate religion category? It’s all part of culture.

    So are politics, music, TV, science, sports, books and cuisine, but we have separate sections for them.

    I agree with you that we don’t need a dedicated Religion category, since it overlaps so much with politics, literature, music and everything else, but your justification for not having one is weak.

  • zingzing

    baronius, aquinas seems to think that if something came from nothing, then the being that forced this into happening was god. but where did god come from? the nothing? oh wait. “not everything is a contingent being.” mhmm. convenient, that.

    what if there never was “nothing?” time is a necessary part of the universe, is it not? it’s a dimension like height and width, dependent upon the other dimensions to define existence. there never was nothing, because if there ever was nothing, there would be no time in which it didn’t exist, if you can follow. there always MUST be something. our universe expands and contracts and always has. it blows out and sucks itself back in continually. what causes this to happen is no more mysterious than what causes you to fart.

    aquinas, like everyone else trying to prove the existence of god through logic, necessarily has to take a wild leap at some point. in each of his “proofs,” he explains what were, in his time, unexplainable problems in our understanding by saying “well, that there must be god.” maybe it is god. but maybe it’s not. really, the most likely answer is that it’s not god.

  • Jeremy, you miss my point. Of course religion covers non-belief. But why do we need a separate religion category? It’s all part of culture.

  • @ Caliph: “If religion deserves its own section, shouldn’t atheism also have one?”

    No. Atheism does not deserve a separate category. A section on “religion” would cover both posts about belief and non-belief.

  • The silliest idea of all is someone called “Dr Dreadful.” Besides, aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? Can’t you find anything touristy to do?

  • Do you mean that religion and atheism are silly ideas, Mr Kurtzliph, or that separate sections of Blogcritics for them are?

  • If religion deserves its own section, shouldn’t atheism also have one? Both ideas are silly. Religion and irreligion are part of culture. Why separate religion as if it were estranged from culture?

  • Baronius, quantum physics can explain a spontaneous universe, which is not to say that the explanation is correct. Science can’t disprove God, but it can demonstrate him not to be necessary.

    In his fourth proof, Aquinas is in trouble from the start when he says that “some things are better than others”, which is a purely human attribution of values. The saint’s heat analogy is a poor illustration. Again, he could not have known this, but what we observe as heat is actually the excitation of molecules, which has a lower limit – absolute zero, the point at which all molecular activity stops – but no theoretical upper limit. Determining that “hotter” is “better” is arbitrary; not only that, but there is only a “best” if you go in one direction.

    In the fifth, Aquinas correlates the absence of chance with the presence of will, an unwarranted assumption. For example, iron filings are attracted towards a magnet; this does not mean that the magnet has a will.

  • @ jeannie danna: Yes, religion should have its own section, methinks. It would incite many an interesting conversation such as this one.

    @ jeannie danna: About your #38 comment, well played. Yes, culture is the only place in which I thought it might go, what with no religion category. 😉

  • You know, you see what you want. I thought this article was in politics and I was going to bitch up a storm about separation of church and state, but now I see that it’s in culture…never-mind and forget #s 32 & 33.


  • Baronius

    The fourth makes sense if you buy into Aristotle or if you believe in Anselm’s proof. The odd thing is that Aquinas didn’t agree with Anselm. As for the fifth, I don’t like the way it’s presented, but it’s bulletproof if you completely accept Aristotle (something I’m not trained well enough to decide on).

    I disagree that quantum physics, even writ large, can explain the existence of a closed system spontaneously developing. As for string theory and multiverses, they’re at least as speculative as any religion. Nice math, but definitionally unprovable.

    Finally, in a battle between the authority of blogger Christopher Rose and that of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Universal Doctor of the Church, I have to go with: neither, because such matters aren’t determined by authority. But I’ve read Aquinas and his dectractors, and Chris doesn’t present any reason for me to hesitate in standing by my prior reasoning.

  • except philosophers aren’t very good at logic.

    The trouble with a lot of philosophers is that they get so entangled in their own logic they forget there’s a real world outside their own lines of reasoning. I don’t think you can legitimately charge Aquinas with this, though.

    His first three proofs are actually rather elegant, although of course he had no knowledge of quantum physics or modern cosmology, which kneecap the notion that there must necessarily be a prime mover, prime cause, first contingency or indeed first anything.

    His first proof is IMHO logically the soundest and most convincing (ironically!).

    The fourth and fifth proofs, however, are complete codswallop.

  • Baronius, you have very confused and unclear thinking on this subject.

    Aquinas’ five “proofs” are similarly confused, confusing and don’t actually prove anything at all, except philosophers aren’t very good at logic.

    Perhaps you find them rational simply because you want to..?

    Personally, I don’t care whether there is a god or gods or not, but I have never seen any convincing evidence from anybody anywhere at any time in our history that there is, which is why I tend to think that there probably isn’t.

    Given all the hypocrisy, lies and deception that theism clearly engenders, it is hard to see anything positive in the notion either.

  • Baronius

    Zing, that’s not really a logical argument, though. It’s a series of psychological and sociological suppositions. Every one of them could be true and it wouldn’t affect the arguments for God’s existence.

    As for proofs of God’s existence, Aquinas’ Five Proofs are the best place to start, and this link is as good a presentation as any. We can debate specific points, and personally I don’t buy the fifth argument, but I think that overall Aquinas’ arguments are rational.

  • Yes, Religion needs a section.

  • God is used for so many reasons. Here his name is used in-order to hide form all the other more pressing issues, like politics.

    JD way to go!

  • zingzing

    “”The moon doesn’t exist.” etc.

    the thing is, the moon does exist, so i’d never argue that. we can witness the physical effects of its existence. god does not have a physical presence on this earth and does not do anything here. all of that is man’s doing.

  • zingzing

    baronius, you asking me to prove a negative. you know that’s not possible.

    instead, i’ll argue that man created god, not the other way around. the evolution of “god” in man’s mind, from multiple gods represented by physical objects, to star worship, to billions of hindu gods, to the lack of a god in buddhism, to the monotheism of the three major religions of today suggests that god is a figment of our rather fertile imagination.

    each society presents “god” as something that fits with their psychology. the idea of a monotheistic god is a product of our brains and our society, just as native american religions and spirituality are a product of theirs, etc, etc, etc. the continuities and divergent paths of gods and religions are consistent with our history.

    if you were to present a logical “proof of god” to me, i doubt you could do it without taking at least one major logical leap that i am unwilling to take with you.

  • Baronius

    29) That’s not an argument. It’s equivalent to the following:

    “The moon doesn’t exist. If just the sun existed, mankind would have no antagonist in the stories he made up about the sun. Man had to imagine that the moon existed.”

    You pose an alternate explanation for an impulse, but that doesn’t address the question of whether the object of the impulse actually exists.

    30) I, personally, believe in the God of the Bible, but the logical arguments for the existence of God don’t rely on the Bible. They don’t require God to have the attributes of the God in the Bible. They treat God as merely a first cause, or an unmoved mover, or the like.

  • zingzing

    also, when you refer to “god,” are you referring to the god in the bible? is that the one you believe in?

  • zingzing

    see my last two paragraphs then.

  • Baronius

    I wasn’t using the Bible as proof of God’s existence, and I don’t think anyone else here did so. I certainly wasn’t asking why you don’t believe in the Bible. Why do you believe that there isn’t a God?

  • zingzing

    “Zing, why do you say that God doesn’t exist?”

    the god of the bible certainly doesn’t exist. if he does, he’s very confused, a liar, in terrible need of some editorial skills, the victim of bad translation, and self-contradicting to the point that he cancels himself out.

    if the bible is used as the ultimate “proof” of god’s existence, it’s incredibly poor proof. the old testament god is a jealous and violent god. the new testament god is a silent actor, willing to sacrifice “himself” for the good of mankind. ok… fine. people change, hairstyles change, gods change. wait, do gods change? are they really so fickle? seriously, it’s like the man was on his period for a few millennia. was he having a bad epoch? the psychological differences between the old testament god and the new testament god are like two different people. or beings, whatever. they just aren’t the same person. unless that person snapped. is god insane? he must be.

    man created god, not the other way around, to lure people into tribes that share beliefs. it’s a way to create and nurture cultures and societies. gods are nothing more than human power. we use them to shape our world, but they are our tools just as much as a spear or a knife or a hammer is our tool.

    god is a giant can opener. that’s why i don’t believe in god.

  • Baronius

    Sorry. I posted my comment #24 before refreshing. But still, even though my comment doesn’t reply to the one immediately before it, I’d like it if Zing would answer it.

  • Baronius

    You know how if you have the same argument over and over again, you start anticipating point #5 when you’re still on point #2? I just did that. I was responding to possible comments from Zing before he made them. So let me pull it back a bit: Zing, why do you say that God doesn’t exist?

  • zingzing

    jordan: “You’ve brought about God to the same place as so many fundamentalists.”

    nope. i’m talking about the one in the bible. and i’m talking about the santa in “rudolf the red-nosed reindeer,” not the great meaning behind the myth of santa, the meditation on goodness and selflessness. i’m talking about the thing people believe in. i’m not floating on clouds of righteousness, i’m holding a bible and watching christmas television programming.

    “It’s imagination, a set of rules and regulations and possibilities that attempt to explain something that makes no sense: why are we here?”

    actually, the question was more likely “what the fuck is happening?” people weren’t so much looking inward as looking outward. nowadays, they’re doing the same thing, but it’s less about the mystery of nature and more about control and power and money.

    “Her God is beyond the book, beyond the material, beyond the tangible, beyond explanation.”

    so she’s a buddhist. sorry. in all seriousness, does she read the bible? or does she not believe in the christian god? general spirituality is an alright thing. it’s getting bogged down in dogma and the random moralities of the various faiths that’s so troubling.

    and baronius, the supernatural doesn’t exist. other than brian wilson. that man’s god.

  • @handyguy: He can’t be both the source and an extension of nature. If he’s the source, he’s supernatural. If he’s an extension of nature, he’s not supernatural but subject to its laws like anything else, thus, not omnipotent.

  • Baronius

    Handy, there’s no particular reason that would be so. He can be the source of nature without being limited by it.

  • @ Jordan: Coexistence should be the goal. I agree, but my greater point is that with religion, coexistence is often not the goal, and indeed, it’s antithetical to the Great Commission or the edicts of Allah or … whoever. And no, I don’t think you should ridicule believing relatives about their beliefs. Discuss it if they insist, but as for me, I usually just don’t talk about it and let them live however they see fit.

  • If you believe God is real, then he is not a “supernatural” being. He is part of, an extension of, the source of nature.

  • Baronius

    One of the problems of the recent Atheist Revival is that it’s left people thinking that there’s evidence that God doesn’t exist.

    I’ve read some logical proofs of the existence of God as well as their rebuttals and opposites. I’m persuaded that the existence of God can be proven with reason (which most people consider to be a means of knowledge).

    But in this modern era, we tend to want to prove things through experimentation. Is that possible with the existence of God? No. To put it more precisely, the existence of any supernatural being cannot be proven through experimentation. An experiment is repeatable, which makes it appropriate for the study of repeatable phenomena, what we call “nature”. The supernatural is defined as being above nature. By definition, a process that can be repeated naturally isn’t supernatural. So the expectation that a supernatural being’s existence should be proven by the standards of experimentation is contradictory.

  • Pooja

    Interesting thoughts. Basically, I believe that religion is a way of life. And as Jordan says, it is the desire to know the answer of a question that has plagued the Human mind for centuries: Why are we here?
    Religion provides a framework for what life must be. Ideally, you are free to choose the religion which suits your innate feelings about life and spirituality.
    Forcing your religion on somebody or condemning some other religion defies logic, for they are different paths leading to a single destination.
    God is a different concept for everybody, and giving him a form is for better identification with religion. The image of God arises from the fact that it is difficult to imagine something intangible that cannot be understood fully, and as described in the vedas, ‘nirgun, nirakar’. It is relatively easy to look upto a form that you can recognise, termed as ‘sagun, sakar’.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Again, I think it’s more complicated than that.

    “Neither really exist,” you say as though there’s a comparison with spirituality and a sort of bearded-man syndrome that some believers adhere to. From my experience, though, this isn’t really the case.

    Belief in “God” or “gods” or “deism” or “theism” or whatever has, from my experience, held a wide array of ramifications that far exceed the normal concept of a “God out there” in the sky or so forth. The beliefs I’ve encountered throughout my life so far are far too complex to even be dealt with in terms of whether or not they materially exist. Most, at least from my experience, hold a belief that is couched in a priori knowledge: science won’t and cannot prove its “truthiness” in terms of practical application.

    My mother, for instance, knows God exists in her life. But she could never prove it scientifically because God, for her, doesn’t exist materially or scientifically or even in terms of “verification” in any other realm but the personal. For all intents and purposes, her belief is in a personal God.

    See, it’s easy to discard a God who created the universe and the earth in seven days. It’s easy to do away with a God who eradicates people for not believing in Him. It’s easy to do away with a God who has a beard and walks around in white robes. It’s easy to discard a God who appears to “answer prayer” and so on.

    It’s not so easy to discard beliefs that go beyond characteristics and religion, though. It’s not easy to discard the idea of, to borrow from John Shelby Spong a little, the God behind the God. Or outside of theism, for instance.

    See, in your post you’ve reduced God to a being living on an “astral plane” tossing the planets into their “right places” and so forth. You’ve brought about God to the same place as so many fundamentalists: a judge in charge, a chief sky being whose jealousy and rage has formed the universe. An ego maniac. A fool. Something that deserves, by all rights, to be killed off.

    I agree. Again from Spong, any God that can be killed should be killed.

    But as you say, “it’s just as easy.” We could have varying other forms of religious thought at the snap of a finger, but we would continue to yearn towards something. The God behind the God, existence beneath existence. Something beyond the tangible, the material, the human-created language of religion.

    To me, religion is the ultimate exploration of humanity’s failure to deal with its existence and its frailty. It’s imagination, a set of rules and regulations and possibilities that attempt to explain something that makes no sense: why are we here?

    My mother knows God exists in her life. What He looks like, where He lives, why He lives, etc. have never been her concern. Her concern, instead, is quiet, humble, simple faith. I would never suggest for one second that she ought to grow out of that. Her God is beyond the book, beyond the material, beyond the tangible, beyond explanation. What happens when she dies? Truthfully she has no earthly clue, like the rest of us. But spiritually, she has faith.

    What I find unfortunate about humanity is when we neglect or ignore what’s beyond tangible. We sift through garbage trying to prove there is or isn’t a God when that’s a question nobody can answer, not even Lee Strobel and all the “cases” in the world. We will never really know anything, will we? We’re all here hurtling through space on this rock without so much as a clue as to why we’re doing this absurd dance. Maybe a little tolerance and compassion would help grease the wheels.

  • zingzing

    (just to be clear, i have no problem with good, honest christians who believe in god and aren’t interested in pushing their beliefs on others. when christianity becomes something like we saw over the weekend, when it was used as a wedge between other people on this earth, that’s when i get pissed. i’m just angry that people who believe this shit so strongly fuck up its message so profoundly, and they use something that should be a force for good in this world as a terribly misguided weapon. it’s a bunch of malarkey, and yet it’s so powerful. therefore, this delusion becomes dangerous. i hate religion as much as i hate nuclear technology. religion gone wrong is just as bad as a nuke. and we humans invest far too much in the evil properties of these ideas.)

  • zingzing

    inevitably, the idea of god and the idea of santa come from the same place. neither really exist. but people are told to believe in them and they do. maybe when they do, good things come to them, and they keep believing, maybe out of greed, maybe out of superstition, maybe out of need. maybe this belief makes them do good things (like clean up their room, or set up a soup kitchen).

    that doesn’t change the fact that they’re deluded and living, in the end, under the power of a lie. most kids wake up one day and realize that santa isn’t there, and people have been lying to them. but adults who believe in god sometimes never realize it.

    (i must admit that in times of trouble, i’ll send up a little prayer, in the hopes that if there is a god, he’ll help me out. surely, a good god isn’t so vain as to not help out the profoundly doubtful.)

    but trying to “awaken” someone to “reality” when they’ve invested their life in a fantasy is a tough road to plow.

    also, i don’t condescend to five year olds. i avoid them. actually, that’s not true. really, they’re closer to a lot of truths that adulthood distances people from. but they’re also tripping their balls off. just watch a five year old’s behavior. they hallucinate. it’s awesome. i can’t imagine the amount of drugs i’d have to take to get to their level. they exist upon a higher plane.

    i’m not saying that people who believe in god are stupid. i’m saying they’re deluded. and yes, that is an incredibly simplistic approach. but i’m talking a simple point. just as their is no zeus and there is no sun god, there is no lonely being that exists upon an astral plane, flinging planets and creating life from nothing and gently placing leaves upon the nethers of the first man and the first woman and killing everyone except an old man and his wife because he’s an angry bitch god and then screwing virgins on the sly and then letting his offspring rot on two sticks and then disappearing off the face of the goddamn earth.

    if life went to hell and society crumbled again like it did after the fall of the roman empire, we could end up with tolkien and the lord of the rings as our new religion. it’s just as easy.

  • Jordan Richardson

    So basically you’re saying that I should approach my parents and relatives in the same condescending fashion that I would approach a five year old?

    Again, you argue an incredibly simplistic approach to the beliefs of others. Sky gods, Santa, etc. are apparently analogous to one’s deeply-held convictions and spiritual beliefs because they are equivalent in mental capacity to five-year-olds. And, as you’ve said elsewhere, we need to grow up. It’s only reasonable to assume this.

    So, again, at what point do I tell my family members and friends of varying religious persuasions to “grow up?”

    If I respect them and care for them, as I do, I’d assume that it would only be cruel to leave grown-ups with their sad delusions. Shouldn’t I awaken them to reality?

  • zingzing

    can you coexist with santa-believing 5 year olds? all good then.

    it doesn’t mean you have to respect them for their faith in santa.

    it’s the same with adults with bearded-man fantasies. you can live with them. but it doesn’t make their fantasies any more real.

  • Jordan Richardson

    So at what point do I begin politely mocking my mother, father, grandmother, uncles, aunts, and other relatives for their beliefs in an apparent “magic man” in the sky?

    How do I politely begin telling them that they should have stopped believing in this bullshit when they were five and that they ought to be much smarter now?

    Or is it perhaps better that I understand that there’s much more to belief and faith than simplistic strawmen pertaining to sky gods, Santa Claus and mythology? Instead of striving for unbelief or belief to reign supreme, perhaps we should be striving for tolerance and coexistence. Just a humble thought.

  • @handyguy: Agreed to some degree, although assuming there is a god doesn’t necessarily mean that he created us outright. It could have been through the mechanism of evolution or something else, although I don’t buy that either.

  • If there is a God, then he gave us our brains, and would probably appreciate our using them, all the time, and not selectively turning them off when discussing Him.

  • zingzing

    baronius, most people stop believing in magic men in the sky when they’re 5 years old. at one point, you’re innocent and you believe in santa. but at another point, it stops being funny.

  • That would be “Baronius.” My bad.

  • Thanks for reading and commenting, guys.

    @Baronis: No I’m not better, but I just find it peculiar that some folks, especially in the South, can in every other area of their lives, display the ability to think and reason, except on the topic of religion. And then, they are willing, and even happily, introduce all sorts of spiritual beings into this otherwise natural universe and to believe that obviously cobbled together and deeply flawed texts should govern their lives.

  • edwords

    Melrose, we know what the Bibleholics beliefs are.

    They’re always pushing them on us.

    Now we’re pushing back. Care to join us?

  • Baronius

    Wow, dude, you must be so much better than your neighbors that they should be honored to live near you!

  • momintum

    I do not feel any animositiy toward the religiously inclined providing they practice privately but to allow any government to dictate a proscribed creed is asking for a great deal more in terrorist activities as all religions breed hate, intolerance, and are constantly at odds creating more divisiveness. Yes, religion is dwindling and on the way out of the evolutionary processes of human development but even a serpent in its death throes can inflict a very great deal of sorrow.

  • Melrose

    Religion, religion, religion – what are we to do now? The oxymoron in this whole thing is, you have people who cry freedom of speech, when the underline of it all is, freedom of discrimination. Church folks hate non believers, and vice / versa…’Can’t we all just get a long?’ If you don’t want to believe in God or religion, that’s on you…if you do want to believe, that’s on you! Where it gets dicey is when we want to impose our beliefs on others. This works both ways…Religious people shut out non believers and non believers mock religious folks…one thing we have in common, is we both act childish and immature…so all you church going folks out there – instead of criticizing non believers, why don’t you pray for them? And all you non believers, instead of mocking what people believe in, why don’t you find out for yourself…quit jumping to conclusions or pretending like you know everything because you don’t! Let’s be the one thing we definitely all are: HUMAN