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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. KlausVos

    9/10
    not bad
    'cept you can't lump atheists together
    other groups share values, upbringings, probably ethnicity, traditions, and just about everything else
    atheists have one thing in common, lack of belief in a god or gods

    and we (at least I) don't actively try to "convert" people to atheism because it's a jerk move to get preachy about anything, even not preaching

    and of course you're going to get atheists commenting on religion, along with theists, deists, agnostics, gnostics, and everyone else
    the fact that some atheists don't like some of the belief blogs obviously pro-Christian stories is to be expected
    It can be seen that the belief blog is pro-Christian, a non-biased view would be much more helpful and informative

    also, the premise is a bit messed up
    not everything has to do with faith, there are plenty of news stories that have nothing to do with religion and associating those news items with religion unnecessarily is divisive

    June 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  2. Matt

    Bippy, the Lesser Squirrel-God of Hiccuping Clowns (I got a promotion)

    You want evidence? In three days I promise you will receive your answer.. If you should truly want that evidence.

    Peace

    June 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • ilikeike

      what are you talking about?

      June 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Dina

      No evidence has been forthcoming all these thousands of years. Three days of bs waiting is not going to change the past any more than it can change the lack of results.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Jesus has trouble meeting deadlines

      I think Matt is saying that the end of the world has been reshceduled yet again, with Saturday being the day that nothing happens and they reschedule it yet again.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  3. B. Paul

    Without God there would be no war.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • ilikeike

      prove it

      June 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • jon

      Right, because secularists are always pacifists and wouldn't think of using arms. Come on man, think!

      June 8, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Dina

      We should be using our arms to make love, not war.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  4. Matt

    Bippy, the Lesser Squirrel-God of Hiccuping Clowns (I got a promotion)

    Apparently YOU believe that George Carlin is God.- is correct

    June 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  5. Matt

    @Kebos
    Many are of the same opinion that you have. It's true. and I agree with you there with your point. However, many people do not want to understand WHY the Bible was written or believe in it. So it doesn't matter what proofs I offer.

    I will let you know in on a little secret- the day that you mentioned about is nearing.

    Peace

    June 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Matt. Please consider getting some help.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  6. Willow

    Unbelievers do not need to evangelize. It is Christians who need to be evangelical. Please get your facts straight. We don't care if everyone is agnostic, atheist, or what have you. We just want to live and let live.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  7. paulthinkingoutloud

    Congrats to CNN on 12 months of Belief Blogging! As a blogger who incorporates stories from a variety of sources, I have come to rely on Belief Blog for up to the minute stories of religious significance. Ultimately, this is the hardest subject matter for a reporter to get right; so having writers and guests who come out of the sects or denominations in question gives your stories accuracy and insight, and gives the blog as a whole a degree of balance. Click the name above to drop by Thinking Out Loud anytime; you'll probably see CNN linked at least once a week.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  8. ItsPeanutButterJellyTime!

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

    June 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  9. Matt

    @Bippy, the Lesser Squirrel-God of Hiccuping Clowns (I got a promotion)

    I saw that video. I can understand that and I agree with you there.

    Did you know or do you really think that it is possible that there can be a False Religion or True Religion?

    If you can grasp the concept of that then you can understand that what Comedian George Carlin is saying is TRUE. He is telling the Truth about Religion from His perspective. There is a difference between True and False Religion. Do you realize that? The proof that False Religion exist is because he is describing it in his comedy. But the real joke is can you find the True Religion in evidence today?

    Peace

    June 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Bippy, the Lesser Squirrel-God of Hiccuping Clowns (I got a promotion)

      In evidence? Feel free to provide the evidence. Otherwise, that made no sense.

      Oh, you only capitalize "His" when you are referring to God. Apparently you feel George Carlin is God.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  10. jman33
    June 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • WeLoveYou

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

      June 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  11. Eatyour Freedomfries

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHRP0I2SrVs&w=640&h=390]

    June 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  12. Eatyour Freedomfries

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqbFxZ-3XA4&w=640&h=390]

    June 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  13. Brad

    The problem with talking to a person of 'faith' is that they come from the viewpoint that they KNOW that God exists. Why do they KNOW this? Because they BELIEVE it to be true (This is called the "Belief" blog)...mostly because they were TOLD it to be true.

    People who are naturalists or secularlist don't KNOW anything. I sure don't. I look for the preponderance of the verifiable evidence and draw conclusions. These conclusions, however, are always open to be changed when new EVIDENCE makes the old assertions obsolete (Newtonian Physiscs to Einstein to Quantum...etc).

    For the religious they have all the evidence they will ever need...all from books written centuries ago and, despite verifiable proof that much of the claims in them are, at best, inaccurate, they refuse to adapt their beliefs. It would be as if scientists still believed the geocentric view of the solar system despite all of the current evidence (and I won't even get into those people who still believe THAT to be true!).

    I will take evidence over belief any day of the week.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hi Brad,
      Nice post. Since you refrained from the simple ranting and name calling. I request that I respond.
      You said that you look for evidence. I feel that the evidence that many of Faith have found is in the not being able to explain away some things and the belief that someone or something created all of this. It is not fear for which we post so freely, it is the lack of fear that we do.
      I wish I could explain it better but my time is running out here and I have to go. I will try to check up in a few hours but I wanted to say thank you for the direct and non-confrontational post.
      Peace dude.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Kebos

      People "of faith" are somewhat lazy thinkers. It's much easier to read and believe the bible or koran than to put some real elbow-grease into it and think about the probability of god. Any logical person who puts the effort into it will come to the same conclusion that the existence of a god is foolhardy with no basis in reality.

      People going to church for the social function. I get that. We all want a sense of belonging. Well, most of us, anyway.

      But as for a god or God or gods of Gods, it just doesn't exist. Mankind has invented such fantasy. And just because there is a book to "back it up" doesn't make it real. Although I will admit it if it had have included, say, a foldout diagram of the human anatomy in detail or plans for how to build a space shuttle,or even a single cure fo cancer.....just one!...... it would have made the book's authenticity of a higher power more convincing. But it does not. Furthermore these "books", supposedly dictated by a god, are riddled with subject matter errors, violence, injustice and other perverse qualities that make them less credible. At best they belong in a dusty corner of the public library for historical review of a time when man was a simpler and a more impressionable creature.

      One day, the majority of mankind will dispense with the silly notions of a deity and become more appreciate of the beauty the world and the universe have to offer. And enjoy this life, this one short life, that we all have to experience and to share with our fellow humankind.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  14. Matt

    @Dennis

    Here is a test. Are you willing? Does God exist? Tonight Pray to "God", ask him: "God, do you exist? be honest and sincere. And I PROMISE you within THREE day's of your prayer you will have the answer to your prayer and the answers to your questions.

    Peace

    June 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Do you realize that you can be conscious that you are dreaming while dreaming? It's called lucid dreaming. And an amazing fact is that many people have their first lucid dream with a few nights of first hearing about them. I personally know two people who told me that they had their first first lucid dream shortly after I had told them about lucid dreaming.

      Suggestion is a strange and strangely potent thing. And I suggest that your little experiment is an experiment not about god's existence, but about suggestion.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Presto

      I did better than that and still got no reply. Got anything else up your religious sleeve we could try?

      June 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • frank

      Let me guess–if nothing happens, there was something wrong with ME, not any fault in the laughably (or depressingly) insipid nature of your little genie conjurer spell?

      June 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  15. frank

    Hail Baby Satan!!!

    June 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Pure Nard

      I miss the potato. 😦

      June 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  16. Mark from Middle River

    ROFL

    **Tony GA- What a pathetic argument, Mark. But you don't know any better, just like any Uncle Tom.

    When they include you in a meeting, do they know you're just another Uncle Tom, like Steele? Them rebs be hanging you when they get what they want, fool.Your post reeks of self-congratulation and smirking all over the place. You don't know any better. That's why you're a Republican Uncle Tom .
    You be stupid, boy. “ ***

    ROFL .... a Uncle Tom.

    Take an American Literature class dude. If you actually read Uncle Tom's cabin you would understand why it is almost a complement.

    Here..just in case you choose not too. When a few of the slaves escaped the slave-trader wanted Tom to tell him where the run away slaves were. When Tom refuses the slave-trader beat Tom. Old and elderly Tom dies during a whipping where the slave trader asked him repeatedly to tell where the run away slaves were.

    He also took the whipping and died to stall the slave trader as too give those run away slaves a better chance to escape.

    So, calling me an Uncle Tom …

    ...Thank You. 🙂

    June 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Tony GA

      Yet you knew what I meant. Nice try at brushing it off, but you cannot deny the truth that you are a traitor.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  17. munkittrick

    First, Atheist are no more vocal than any religious sect, we're just less fearful, and thus speak freely unrestrained by infantile fear of fairy tale repercussion.

    Next, NO story has a faith angle. There simply is so much fear in the world that people wish that there were a reality-based reason that people do stupid things.

    Then, Americans ARE religiously illiterate, but no more so than they are actually illiterate. The typical "hillbilly" has never experienced Europe, nor any of the many nations of Africa and South America, so they cling tightly to what they think MUST be right by virtue of the fact that it was what they were raised to believe...and that's just sad. People who travel, even within the United States are far more likely to accept different or even opposing religious views and harbor far less animosity toward those who hold those views.

    Finally, being human DOES NOT require a faith-based requiem at every juncture. Every person has a slightly different view of life, myself included. My beliefs quite often make fun of my sensibilities, so much so that I often respond to people who I have never met, nor would due to our incredibly disparate ideas. That being said, LIFE IS LIFE, for better or worse, it is what it is, it is what we make it and it is what we believe. I only wish that the depth of understanding in people of all faiths was more tolerant of the millions of different factions within each. We stand to learn far more if we speak TO one another than AT or OF one another.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  18. Skip Guinness

    embrace diversity, learn how different people pray
    http://skipguinnesslearns.blogspot.com/

    June 8, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  19. Matt

    @Light in the black
    You bring up an excellent point, my friend. God is not the type of God that religions are painting Him to be.
    Please allow me to explain, He does not sit and decide who survives plan crashes or other unforeseen occurrences. But what God does allow- he allows to happen. You see, my friend, that God has stepped back from our situation and observing it along with a host of other angelic creatures.

    The Bible promises that the God of love, James 4:4 will remove and undue the works of the Devil. God has the power and ability to reverse all the bad that you see today. and He will do so. There are a lot of scriptures to back up what I tell you but I encourage you to find those for yourself my friend

    June 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Kebos

      Please spare us the silliness that you speak of here. There is no god or God or gods of Gods. Mankind has invented such fantasy. And just because there is a book to "back it up" doesn't make it real. Although I will admit it if it had have included, say, a foldout diagram of the human anatomy in detail or plans for how to build a space shuttle,or even a single cure fo cancer.....just one!...... it would have made the book's authenticity of a higher power more convincing. But it does not. Furthermore these "books", supposedly dictated by a god, are riddled with subject matter errors, violence, injustice and other qualities that make them less credible. At best they belong in a dusty corner of the public library for historical review of a time when man was a simpler and a more impressionable creature.

      One day, the majority of mankind will dispense with the silly notions of a deity and become more appreciate of the beauty the world and the universe have to offer.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  20. Light In The Black

    Believe what you will
    but dont force it on me.
    I am likely to fight back.

    You people who respond with lines from scripture...
    Thats all you do is prove that you are in deed....
    brainwashed.
    Why bother ?
    Do you think you are going to change the minds
    of those who think you are freaking nuts ?
    So nice that the internet offers you the voice to prove
    how controlled you are.
    Also so sad.

    June 8, 2011 at 8:52 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.