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10 things the Belief Blog learned in its first year
June 8th, 2011
01:01 PM ET

10 things the Belief Blog learned in its first year

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – In case you were wondering about all the balloons and cake: CNN’s Belief Blog has just marked its first birthday.

After publishing 1,840 posts and sifting through 452,603 comments (OK, we may have missed one or two) the Belief Blog feels older than its 12 months would suggest. But it also feels wiser, having followed the faith angles of big news stories, commissioned lots of commentary and, yes, paid attention to all those reader comments for a solid year.

10 things we've learned:

1. Every big news story has a faith angle. Even the ordeal of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months. Even the attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Even March Madness. Even - well, you get the point.

2. Atheists are the most fervent commenters on matters religious. This became apparent immediately after the Belief Blog's first official post last May, which quickly drew such comments as:

acerider
Can we have a fairy tale blog too?

Sunil
This is nothing but America moving away from its wondrous spirit of Apollo 11 into a mindset of the perpetually intellectually challenged.
I think there was some news today about scientists having created the first artificial cell. That should have been a HUGE story. And yet, what do we get? A faith blog. Pathetic.

Rachel
This blog is terrifying. It's amazing how much power the radical religious right is amassing in our country right now. If I can't have some legislation, can I at least have some news that does not cater to zealots?

Those early comments presaged an avalanche of alternately humorous and outraged atheist responses on virtually everything the Belief Blog publishes. They're more evidence that atheists are coming out of the closet to trumpet their disbelief, argue with the faithful and evangelize their godlessness. (It's worth noting that the Belief Blog does plenty of atheism stories.)

3. People are still intensely curious about the Bible, its meaning and its origins.

It's an ancient tome, but more than any other book in the Western tradition (with the Quran being the lone exception), the Bible still fascinates us. And it still feeds our most heated debates. In February, a guest post here arguing that the Bible is more ambiguous on homosexuality than traditionally thought elicited more than 4,000 comments. A response post insisting that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality brought in an equal number of comments - and was the most popular story on CNN.com on the day it was published.

Other Belief Blog pieces about biblical scholarship - including a recent offering about biblical misquotations – have also caught fire. More of us may be reading it on iPhones these days, but the Good Book still matters a lot more than the popular culture lets on.

4.   Most Americans are religiously illiterate. Despite the appetite for stories and commentary about the Bible, most Americans know little about it. A huge Pew survey released in September found that most Americans scored 50 percent or less on a quiz measuring knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion in public life. Ironically, atheists and agnostics scored best. How did you do on the quiz?

5. It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion. Why did the Egyptian revolution happen on a Friday? Why was Osama bin Laden's body buried so quickly after he was killed? Why did Afghan rioters kill seven United Nations workers in April? You simply can't answer those questions without bringing in religion.

6.  Regardless of where they fit on the spectrum, people want others to understand what they believe. That goes for pagans, fundamentalist Mormons, Native Americans, atheists – everyone.

7. Americans still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. Nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks provoked many Americans to pay attention to Islam for the first time, much of the country is still somewhat uncomfortable about the religion, which counts 1.5 billion followers worldwide.

The biggest domestic religion story in the Belief Blog's young life was probably last year's opposition to a proposed Islamic Center and mosque near New York's ground zero. And with the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, domestic tensions around Islam may flare again. The Arab Spring, meanwhile is raising weighty questions about Islam's role in post-autocratic regimes, guaranteeing the religion - and its relationship with the U.S. - will be one of the world's big stories for years to come.

8. God may not prevent natural disasters, but religion is always a big part of the response. We see it play out every time Mother Nature delivers a punishing blow, from March's Japan earthquake and tsunami to the recent tornado that flattened much of Joplin, Missouri.

9. Apocalyptic movements come and go. The May 21st doomsdayers drew loads of interest, largely thanks to a massive ad campaign, but they're hardly original.

10. Most Americans don't know that President Barack Obama is a Christian. It's ironic, since church-based community organizing led him to politics and since his close relationship with a pastor almost sunk his presidential campaign, but that's what a Pew poll found last year.

Only about a third of Americans correctly identified Obama's religion, while nearly one in five said he's a Muslim. Another irony: The longer Obama's been in office, the smaller the proportion of Americans who can correctly name his faith. As the 2012 presidential race approaches, this story bears watching, since views of candidates' religion influence voting patterns.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Comments • Technology • Trends

soundoff (1,520 Responses)
  1. Lord Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind

    Everything that is happening is pointing to the end of the world. God is
    coming sooner than most people believe. In His right hand is eternal
    life. if you desire to live and love existing, repent and put your faith
    in the Son of God (LORD Jesus Christ). He is our only hope. If you do
    not believe these words, that is fine. If you do believe and would like
    to learn more visit www . theeternalwisdom . com, this website will inform
    you on how to receive the free gift of salvation. May God bless you and
    may His mercy and grace be with mankind.

    Romans 5:8-"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."
    John
    3:16-"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only
    Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have
    eternal life."
    Matthew 5:6-"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

    ...Please choose life...

    May 26, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  2. sisterchef

    I see it as a misnomer when you write about a decline in people who are religious. It is Organized religion that is being rejected by most. Not going to a church and not believing are two radically different things.

    January 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  3. tony

    It's helped atheists go public much more and show up the religious fairytale belief system no end. Otherwise this blog is great marketing to catch the religious segment of the market. Intellectual nonsense for the rest of us though. Does Fox have a moron blog too?

    April 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • PAUL

      JESUS IS LORD!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lThuhz45pDI&w=640&h=390]

      August 8, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  4. reason

    The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from stone age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.

    Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you lived your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.

    March 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  5. sk

    Every time humanity deviated from right path, God sent down His of prophets (Noah, Ibrahim, Mosses Jesus and Mohammed were among thousands) who carried this single message to the whole humanity (And they all had the highest moral standards). That is the message of Islam.

    God speaks to the whole humanity through His book Quran..

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “…anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people....." Qur'an [5:32]

    Most exalted is the One in whose hands is all kingship, and He is Omnipotent.The One who created death and life for the purpose of distinguishing those among you who would do better. Quran [67.2]

    Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    February 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Noodly

      You are totally correct. I am going to visit whyIslam.org right now. In the meantime, I invite you to check out my religion, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We too have a really cool book full of interesting mythologies. And our afterlife is way better – there are professional nude women and a beer volcano! I really think you should look into it.

      December 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  6. phew

    hey everyone. just be good to everyone. that's the basic tenet that brings about that warm fuzzy that all of us idiots crave. you don't need a super-structured beauracracy of religious laws, theorems, dates, figures, miracles, and theo-speech. be good. if there is a great one, and nobody but nobody knows if there is, that will be enough. if there is a great one that is all knowing he will know that we could never possibly know enough to know for sure and so he will know that for us doubt, disbelief, uncertainty, and whatever is to be expected. get it? a loving, forgiving, all knowing god? huh? get it? just be good and if you want.....believe.....it's all free and no need to clock in every week

    January 4, 2012 at 2:14 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.