By Cassie Spodak, CNN
New York (CNN) – A new Broadway musical looks at religious faith and doubt with a healthy dose of imagination: the audience meets Jesus, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith, Satan, and an African warlord as well as Darth Vader, Yoda and two hobbits.
The production, called "The Book of Mormon," was written by "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, along with Robert Lopez, who wrote the Broadway hit "Avenue Q."
The creators have used music, irreverent comedy, and obscenity to tackle controversial subjects before, but they say their approach is new to Broadway musicals. The play opened to strong reviews Thursday night.
“Broadway, for so many years, was a very wholesome community,” Lopez told CNN. “As far as comedy, (Broadway) has not progressed as far as movies and TV (even though) there are no censors.”
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
In early April 1959, Time magazine reported that “the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful baby born last week was a Jewish girl named Elisheba Rachel Taylor.”
Explaining that a convert to Judaism is considered "a newborn child," the article recounted the conversion of 27-year-old actress Elizabeth Taylor to the faith. Her newly acquired Hebrew name, used in ceremonies accompanying life cycle events, combined the Hebrew version of Elizabeth with her biblical heroine, Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife.
Raised a Christian Scientist, Taylor’s decision wasn’t sudden. She first thought about converting when she married movie producer Mike Todd, her third husband, who’d been born Avrom Goldbogen and was the grandson of a Polish rabbi, Time reported.
But the theory that Todd - or that her soon-to-be next Jewish husband Eddie Fisher - provided the impetus for her conversion was one she disputed. FULL POST
Rola Othman sits at her dining room table littered with papers, poring over school board minutes.
She's anxiously preparing to speak at the Reavis High School District 220 board meeting in Chicago's southwest suburbs, where 11 teachers are about to be laid off.
And she has had enough.
Othman, a mother of two, is pursuing a doctorate in education. She says that when her son's school cut Advanced Placement classes and slashed the budget for academic programming, it was time to act.
"I see my kid's school going in the opposite direction, it's kind of scary. You can only make calls for so long," she said. "You need to effect change by being in the place to make decisions."
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
A new survey conducted on the heels of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami finds that few Americans think natural disasters are signs from God and that even fewer believe God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens, as some suggested after the Japanese disaster.
At the same time, most Americans believe God is responsible for everything that happens in the world, according to the survey, which was released Thursday.
The survey was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service.
Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans (38%) believe that earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters are a sign from God, while roughly 3 in 10 believe that God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some citizens, according to the survey.
Shortly after the Japanese quake and tsunami, the governor of Tokyo said publicly that the disaster was divine punishment for Japanese egoism, though he apologized for the remarks a day later.
Young, religiously active people are more likely than their non-religious counterparts to become obese in middle age, according to new research. In fact, frequent religious involvement appears to almost double the risk of obesity compared with little or no involvement.
What is unclear from the new research is why religion might be associated with overeating.
"Churches pay more attention to obvious vices like smoking or drinking," said Matthew Feinstein, lead author of the research and fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our best guess about why is that...more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like."
Editor's Note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. Soledad O'Brien Reports "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door", airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. E.T. April 2 on CNN.
By Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Would you be "OK" with a mosque in your community?
According to a new national poll, most Americans say yes, they would.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday found that 69%of Americans would be "OK" with a mosque in their area while 28% would not.
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.