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On trial: Faith, delusion or excuse for crime?
November 15th, 2010
02:32 PM ET

On trial: Faith, delusion or excuse for crime?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

He's a self-proclaimed prophet who called his bed an altar.

He wore robes, grew his beard long and penned a rambling manifesto.

He said he received revelations and was destined to take 49 wives.

And he is on federal trial for kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, now 23, and moving her across state lines for sex.

Smart testified that Mitchell handed out a pamphlet stating the "Declaration of Our Faith" while preaching on the streets.

The lawyers for Brian David Mitchell do not dispute that he abducted Smart, then 14, and held her captive for nine months. But they say his religious beliefs were delusions, that their client was insane and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions.

Smart, in her courtroom testimony last week in Utah, countered that he "used religion…to justify everything." And that is the prosecution's case: that Mitchell's religious "revelations" were all self-serving.

Jurors will have to decide: To find Mitchell insane, they must believe that he suffered from mental illness or defect at the time he kidnapped and held Smart captive, and that it kept him from knowing that what he was doing was wrong. Or they may find him guilty; that he used his purported beliefs to justify his crimes.

It is a long-awaited and complicated trial, one likely to focus more on the letter of the law than the veracity of faith. But this is certain: When it comes to determining competency vs. criminality, religious beliefs are sometimes central to the debate.

FULL POST


November 15th, 2010
11:47 AM ET

Top Catholic bishop denies knowing of abuse

A top contender to head the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected allegations he allowed the ordination of a priest who  went on to abuse children.

The bishops meet Tuesday to elect a new president, and the current  vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, is considered a  likely candidate.

But a group that campaigns against abuse of children by priests said  Sunday he was not fit for the job.

"Kicanas knew about serious accusations of child sexual abuse and  misconduct by a Chicago priest but 'did little or nothing to report these  allegations to police, warn parents about him, or protect children from him,""  the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said.

FULL POST

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Sex abuse

November 15th, 2010
09:36 AM ET

Adventurer's photos capture a bygone Mecca

By Barry Neild for CNN

He was an adventurer, a scholar, and possibly a spy - but as Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje proved with his rare 1885 photographs and sound recordings of Mecca, he was also a pioneering multimedia journalist.

Snouck's extraordinary collection of sepia-tinted images of Mecca in a bygone age have gone on display in Dubai ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage that originally drew him to the heart of Islam.

Accompanied by crackling, eerie soundscapes captured by Snouck using Thomas Edison's newly-invented wax cylinders, the exhibition paints a very different picture from the ornate and built-up Mecca familiar to modern visitors.

Among the newly-restored platinum prints, one image taken from a nearby hillside shows the Kaaba, the instantly recognizable cubic building considered by Muslims to be the holiest place on the planet.

But though the galleried compound which surrounds it is echoed by Mecca's contemporary architecture, the sparsely-built city of Snouck's era bears only a passing resemblance, as do the rudimentary travelers' tents on the dusty plains outside the city.

Read the full story here from CNN's Inside the Middle East Blog.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holidays • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

$4.5M covering for ‘God’s house’
November 15th, 2010
09:15 AM ET

$4.5M covering for ‘God’s house’

Editor's Note: CNN Correspondent Nima Elbagir is in Mecca for the Hajj and filed this report.

It is the most recognizable landmark of Islam’s holiest site, but it actually pre-dates Islam. The black cloth of the Kabaa, or the Kiswa as it is known, is the covering of “God’s House." For Muslims, the cloth itself an object of reverence.

And for nearly a century it’s manufacture has been entrusted to only a handful of local artisans.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holidays • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

November 15th, 2010
08:54 AM ET

Construction booms in Mecca

Editor's Note: CNN Correspondent Nima Elbagir is in Mecca for the Hajj. She brings us this report on how the increasing number of pilgrims to Mecca is causing a billion-dollar construction boom.

I just prayed the evening prayer, the Maghrib, squeezed between a Cinnabon and a Movenpick ice cream kiosk, in an underground shopping mall. The Imam was piped into us over loudspeakers. It took me three days after our arrival in Mecca to pray within the courtyard of the Masjid Al Haraam itself.

This is my first time covering Hajj for CNN and my first actual Hajj pilgrimage and although I've seen the pictures but I was unprepared for the sheer mass of humanity. And even less prepared for how happy most of them seem to be, utterly joyous to have made it here, to have been called by God.

There is a crush of traffic jams and the searing heat. The heat is here to stay but the traffic jams might soon be a thing of the past. The Saudi Arabian authorities have quietly been putting into place the largest reconstruction project in the world.

Unbelievably, given its status as for one of the most visited places on Earth, Mecca itself is only 1200 kilometers squared (about 745 miles squared).

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

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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.

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