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Is God going to hook me up online? Assessing Christian Mingle and 'soul mates'
January 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Is God going to hook me up online? Assessing Christian Mingle and 'soul mates'

By Thom Patterson, CNN

(CNN) - Has God taken an interest in the computer dating business? Does he (or she) have a username and password?

You might think so, if you’ve seen TV ads for the subscription-based dating website christianmingle.com.

The announcer says confidently: “Find God’s match for you.”

Really? Is God going to hook you up online? Cue the blogospheric debate.

"That's awfully bold to presume they already know who God wants you to marry," tweeted @Jessie_luvJesus recently.

"... SMH [shaking my head] these folks should be ashamed," wrote @EWebb424.

The tagline has been creating a “misconception” that God works exclusively through Christian Mingle, says spokeswoman Ashley Reccord.

Launched in 2001, Christian Mingle now boasts more than 5 million members, 40% of whom joined within the past year, according to the site (Full disclosure: Christian Mingle advertises on CNN.)

Members can register free and are asked to answer several questions based on religious background and personal preferences. Based on those answers, the website offers profiles of potential matches.

A search on the site for “soul mate” among women age 18-80 came up with 1,000 profiles, including one from Florida.

“I’m in search of the man God has for me,” writes the 35-year-old woman. “I’m looking for my best friend, my soul mate, and someone to share life’s greatest moments with.”

A 39-year-old woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote, “I still believe in true love … a soul mate. I am reasonable. I understand that there is not a perfect man out there … but one who is perfect for me.”

Says Reccord, the Christian Mingle spokeswoman: "God can orchestrate and use the medium of Christian Mingle to allow people to find their match for one another on the site. He may or may not use that means, but he can use that means."

So does that mean the cliché is true, that some matches really are “made in heaven?" Does God, if you believe there is one, pre-select us to pair up as life partners, as "soul mates?"

The Bible has little if anything to say about the matter, according to many religious writers and leaders. But several high-profile religious commentators have strong opinions about the idea:

–Soul mates do exist, according to some religious voices who cite the Jewish Talmud.

–Many Christians believe God helps people create their own kind of soul mates.

–Some say the Bible's "language of sexuality" supports the concept.

–Islam rejects the notion of soul mates, according to Muslim leaders.

–Many say belief in soul mates has negative consequences and can even be harmful.

Some of those warning about the dangers of the soul mate idea are Christians.

"If I get to heaven and I hear God say he had someone picked out for me, I'll believe him," says Lisa Anderson, host of "The Boundless Show," the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family's podcast for young adults.

"But it seems that this soul mate idea is really breaking up a lot of marriages and it's keeping a lot of young adults single."

Anderson says that believing in soul mates sets up two possible worst-case scenarios: a revolving door of marriages or a lifetime of being single.

Many young adults, she says, make this mistake: They think if they marry their “soul mate” then the marriage will be easy and wonderful. Then if the marriage turns rocky, game over; they suddenly decide they've picked the wrong mate. The marriage ends and they return to square one, searching for someone else to fill the soul mate role.

On the other hand, searching for a soul mate can be tragically intimidating, to the point of indecision.

"We're seeing young adults – X-ers and millennials - absolutely paralyzed and unable to get to marriage because they want to do it right," says Anderson. "They don't want to be their parents' generation ... the largest divorce generation in history."

Yada yada yada

But other evangelical Christian opinion-makers back Christian Mingle’s idea of an divinely ordained match.

"I would be scared to jump off a theological cliff and say we’re intended for one specific person," says Christian author Dannah Gresh. But based on the Bible’s “sexual language,” she doesn't dismiss the possibility.

The Old Testament’s original Hebrew text uses the word "yada" to imply the act of sex, says Gresh.

However, yada doesn't necessarily mean having sex in a literal sense, says Gresh. It means "to know," "to be known" or "to be respected."

She says yada biblically links the concepts of sex and the soul. "Sex is about a soul connection in its truest form," says Gresh, giving credence to a possible connection between God and the soul mate concept.

Not quite, says Bible scholar O. Wesley Allen of Lexington Theological Seminary. "The intimate knowing implied in [yada] is created through the act of sex, not as something that leads to union," Allen says.

A biblical companion to yada is the Greek word "ginosko," says Gresh, which is found in the New Testament. The Bible's original text uses ginosko to describe an "intimate soul connection between a husband and wife in the act of marriage," she says.

But she says the Bible also uses ginosko to describe a deep, intimate connection with God.

Gresh is giving too much weight to these words, Allen says. The fact that these words are used in dual contexts does not imply - or even suggest - the possibility of divinely ordained matches, according to Allen.

Gresh stresses that she does not believe God has intended matches for us. "However, I think there can be a really good theological argument made for exclusivity - once you have found someone you choose to love," she says.
On this point, says Allen, Gresh is on strong scriptural grounds.

A soul mate and a spare

Judaism, meanwhile, specifically includes the concept of soul mates in the Talmud, a collection of writings that constitute Jewish civil and religious laws.

According to the Talmud, before a soul comes into the world it is paired with a bashert, or first match, which is the first soul that you’re supposed to end up with, says Rabbi DovBer Pinson, of the New York-based IYYUN Center for Jewish Spirituality.

“If everything works out you’ll end up with that person,” says Pinson. Jewish tradition also includes a “second match” for every soul, which also could end up as a soul-mate relationship.

The names of everyone’s first and second matches are written down, “We just don’t have access to that information, because they’re written down in the spiritual plane” – or heaven, Pinson says.

The Kabbalistic tradition, rooted in Jewish mysticism, spells out clues to recognize whether your partner is your soul mate. If a partner is helping you overcome your negative traits and negative challenges while helping you pursue your positive traits, that person is your soul mate, says Pinson.

“It means these two souls originate from the same soul root and they’re meant to be connected to each other,” he says.

The Islamic faith, meanwhile, rejects the soul mate concept. "The words 'soul mate,' that you are meant to be with this person forever, there is no concept like this in Islam,” says Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Infinite knowledge allows God to know which partners end up together, but it’s up to people to sustain their marriages and stay together, Magid says, because “the concept of a soul mate in Islam would put the fault of divorce on God."

Are you telling me to 'settle?'

Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband, Jeff, have created their own industry with their popular books, required reading for Christian premarital counselors at thousands of churches.

But she says their marriage, which has produced the million-sellers "For Women Only" and "For Men Only,” was not necessarily preordained.

"If I'd gone to a different graduate school I may have never ended up marrying my husband," she acknowledges. Feldhahn says there probably isn't “one perfect soul mate” for each person. For her, the bottom line is that "whoever you end up with ... God knows what the eventual outcome of your life is going to be."

The flip side of that is God has also given people free will.

“We have every right to screw it up if we want to - and sometimes we do,” Feldhahn says.

However, if couples follow God’s general principles about relationships, it’s possible they can enjoy the same benefits as so-called “soul mates,” she says.

Don’t focus too much on the search for your perfect mate, according to Feldhahn, focus on leading a Christian lifestyle and things will work out fine.

As for Christian Mingle’s “God’s-match-for-you” tagline, Feldhahn says it could mean “Meet the person who’s going to end up being your perfect match - because that's what you're going to make it."

Is Feldhahn telling single folks to stop searching and to “settle” for the best person available?

“No,” she says. “That implies that the person cannot be the person you need. If you both live by God's principles, you will both become the people you need to be.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam

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soundoff (2,002 Responses)
  1. Aaron

    This site's advertisement "Find God's match for you" is a perfect example of just another person using religion to gain money/power over ignorant people. Wake up and control your own destiny!

    January 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  2. CHRIST

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVuMdD33X_0&w=640&h=390]

    January 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  3. NoMoreLabels

    I get e-mails from this group all the time in my spam e-mail. You'd think if 'god' was running the show, he'd be able to bypass the spam. Furthermore, if finding a soul-mate is so important to your superior being–why are humans charging for this service? Are your churches not adequate enough to find that soul-mate?

    January 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  4. so self righteous

    Krishma.......are you only a Christian if you are Baptised???

    January 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Krishma

      Yes, in order to be a Christian you have to be baptised. But just because you are baptised doesn't guarantee you that you will enter kingdom of Paradise (Heaven). You have to be a good Christian.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • pirate

      Yes but your religion also states that all the people that live good lives and help people will never go to heaven because they were not baptized.. I should know, I was raised with this garbage. Have you ever even read the bible? Don't you want to come up with your own conclusion? I mean, how nice could your god be if he messes with the Pharaoh's free will by hardening his heart so he wouldn't allow Moses's people to leave Egypt, and in the end kills all the innocent first born to finally get the Pharaoh to allow the people to leave? I mean, c'mon, that is called a BABY KILLER!

      January 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • TR6

      @Krishma:” You have to be a good Christian.”
      No, you can be a terrible person and still get into heave. Read your bible, all you have to do is believe.
      According to the rules, Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggered are both in heaven and Mahatma Gandhi is in hell

      This kind of dogma is just another reason I left the chruch

      January 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  5. Christie

    Of course God can find a soul mate for you. Just like the Tooth Fairy brings you money if you give her your teeth.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  6. nino

    Soul mates dont exist. why? simply because not everyone gets married... and then there is also the insane divorce rates.. so.. no.. the whole soul mate thing is a fairy tale. MArriage is also one big lie.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  7. Ley

    If Atheists hate Christians so much... who do they live in a country where 80% are Christians and over 90% believe in God?!

    January 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Harry

      I don't hate Christians.
      I just think you're wrong and wish people would stop trying the legislate religious belief.
      Believe what you want...just don't force it on everyone else.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • pirate

      Wow, those numbers are still shrinking, huh?

      January 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • pirate

      Your christianity, if you would only read the bible, is the one that is full of hate:
      Whoever denies “that Jesus is the Christ” is a liar and an anti-Christ. 1 John 2:22

      Christians are “of God;” everyone else is wicked. 1 John 5:19

      The non-Christian is “a deceiver and an anti-Christ” 2 John 1:7

      Anyone who doesn’t share Paul’s beliefs has “an evil heart.” Hebrews 3:12

      False Jews are members of “the synagogue of Satan.” Revelations 2:9, 3:9

      January 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • TR6

      Because of the wonderful consti_tutional requirement of separation of church and state Christians have not been able to fcuk up the country so badly that atheists couldn’t stand to live here.

      If Christians want to live in state ruled by god and religious law why don’t they move to Iran?

      January 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  8. urmomlol

    God wants me to date Megan Fox, but sadly the police didn't see it the same way :(

    January 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  9. Krishma

    Worldwide: 2.35% Atheist LOOOL tiny number!! 2.35% think they are "right" by rejecting God.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Freethinker

      It looks like you don't know much about religions. When you count atheists, you need to include the followers of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, since all of them are non-theistic philosophies.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Harry

      Just because a majority of people in the world believe a lie doesn't change the fact that it's a lie.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Canadian

      I think there is a big difference between rejecting, and requiring evidence.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Christie

      And how many people propagate the illusion of Santa Claus at xmas time?? Does that make him real? Coca Cola seems to think so.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • pirate

      Since when are the masses always right? Just a couple hundred years ago – the majority thought the earth was flat. Just a couple hundred years ago – the majority thought the universe revolved around the earth. Shall I go on? Science and research keep disproving religion and other fallacies, its only a matter of time before something like the great Hadron Collider will help us explain even more, down to the point where we prove there is no god.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • DanInTampa

      But almost 20% in the U.S. and our numbers are growing faster than any other "belief" system. Get over it, you Christians just aren't that important anymore.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  10. so self righteous

    I just don't want to hear it. I just don't want to see it......just the same as so called Christians don't want to hear about any other religious views. I am tired of being beat over the head and belittled by those who are supposed to spread the word and love of God, and who instead judge and dismiss. These same christiians would scream bloody murder if this was MUSLIM MINGLE. Organized religion is so full of hate. I know, I have lived it.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • fda

      You obviously did it wrong.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  11. JustTheFacts

    I used this website that had disastrous results. My chosen mate was wonderful. Then after about 5 yrs she was possessed by the Devil himself and started wanting me to help with the housework. I tried to explain to her that my mother never made me do any housework. I also explained to her that I didn't want to get dishpan hands. I even told her the God's truth that I didn't have any boobies and so I just couldn't do housework. Nothing could get thru to her because the Devil had her in his grip. I'm still married to her and will never stop trying to excorsize the Devil out of her.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  12. atroy

    Oh my! I just read through the comments and it looks like there is no one left on the planet who (yes WHO) knows how to use relative pronouns.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jim

      Most people use these sites to share ideas. The posts move pretty fast, so the proper usage of grammar is generally set aside.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  13. Harry

    Seriously?
    Religious people have to be the most gullible people in the world.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  14. Krishma

    By believe in God your life will be much better. Thank you my Lord helping me find a wonderful husband and healthy kids!

    January 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Canadian

      Yes Because you deserve it. And God Chose to help you over all the other suffering and injustice in the world. ... BS!

      If and when something goes wrong in your life, you should hold to the same ideal and BLAME god rather than let him off the hook.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • TR6

      I was raised a christian and my life has been so much better since I stopped believing

      January 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  15. Jim

    And my wife claims to be a christian yet hasn't been to a church in years (and that was for a wedding), and shrugs her shoulders when I ask if she actually believes this stuff. A lot of christians in the 80% number are just along for the ride.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Krishma

      You are Christian if you are baptised and believe in Christ. It does not matter if you go to church or not. I am religious Christian and go to church only twice a year on holidays. I'm still Christian.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • fda

      Its mainly because of you. Your lucky to have her. I can imagine being in her shoes arguing you. Ive argued atheists in real life and when an argument starts, they dont shut up.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Mattiz

      I feel bad for your life sleeping with non-Christian. By the way by not going to church you could still be Christian as long as you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord & Saviour.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Ley

      Jim I feel bad for your wife :( I hope she leaves you and find a true Christian husband who probably treats her better. Perhaps she might be afraid of you not going to church.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jim

      C'mon, it's my fault she doesn't believe in something? Is it my responsibility to bolster anyone's beliefs? I don't care if she believes in big-foot, leprechauns or 9/11 conspiracies. I'm just saying that most people keep the label to calm the faithful in the family, especially parents.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jim

      Actually Ley, your Jesus claimed that if she divorces she will be an adulterer if she hooks up again, and anyone she marries will also be an adulterer. Apparently your religion tied her hands.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Canadian

      Exactly, There are a lot of scared people in the world that go along for the ride "just in case". Thats the tragedy preventing people from progressing. FEAR!

      January 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Jim

      Not only scared, but terrified. My mother-in-law was an old-school catholic and deeply believed she would go to purgatory until she had 10,000 prayers for her soul, and it would be released, like a celestial impound lot. This woman was BS'd her whole life and lived in nothing but fear for herself and her family. Truly sad.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • What ?

      it's arguing WITH you. DO you know what "arguing you" means ?

      January 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  16. Freethinker

    The Christians who believe that thanks to your unquestionable faith to the biblical God, you are going to heaven, need to read Revelations 14:1-4 in which God presented us with a vision of Heaven inhabited by 144,000 men but only men who were “not defiled by women”. Incredible! So men who are “defiled” by women will not go to Heaven? Very bad news for “straight” men! Good news for gay men; they were not defiled by women, they will go to heaven. Kidding aside, it is really sad that there are still so many people living in this age of space exploration, still holding on to a fictional book written by a bunch of uneducated people who did not even know that the earth is a sphere.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • pirate

      lol great way to put it... I usually reference people living in caves...

      January 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Religious & Proud

    It's so funny when atheists attack Christians here on internet, but then when it comes to in real life they are like chickens :o PS Don't think whoever writes down bad stuff about nonbelievers are Christians... perhaps they could be Jewish or Muslim, so don't assume everyone is Christian!

    January 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Paul

      as I mentioned earlier .. if you want to marry someone stupid, go on a website that advertise God as the match maker ...

      January 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Scott

      We're not attacking you, just having a little fun at your expense... kind of like if you were wearing parachute pants and thought you were stylish, or worshiping at the alter dedicated to atheletes foot or something.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Scott

      @paul... I wonder, do you think they email god all the info or do they have like god built in to the backend of the website and tie him into the SQL server? lol

      January 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • JC

      Just so they know, there are GAY Christians too. The website doesn't allow gay men and women to find Christian partners. Disgusted.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Aaron

      This site's advertisement "Find God's match for you" is just another person using religion to gain money/power over ignorant people. Wake up and control your own destiny!

      January 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Christie

      I have no problem telling Christians what I think. The problem is they are so full of hate when you don't agree with their god delusions that I fear for me life.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • TR6

      “but then when it comes to in real life they are like chickens “

      Oh No. I drive by a Planed Parenthood office every day on the way to work and allways honk at the anti-choice protesters and give them the finger. In fact I give the finger to every christian protestor I meet.

      Now the CHICKENS are the christians that come knocking on my door and always have a small child with them for protection. Because most athiests are too kind to upset the child by telling the parents where to go in it’s presents.

      January 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  18. Creaturz

    There are people in this world that not only want, but need the comfort behind the ideology of something greater than themselves controlling their path through life. These people are useless.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • atroy

      And then there are people in this world "WHO".......

      January 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  19. ChurchLady

    God has a chosen mate for us good people. The bad people not only don't get a chosen mate but they get a real AH and then they get sent to burn in everlasting hellfire when they die. I don't know why the lord creates so many of you bastuds but thank God that he does create the lovely lucky people like me.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Jim

      Got hubris?

      January 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Paul

      wow, since when enjoying and wishing pain to other is a Christian thing to do .. yeah .. you will be surprised what God as in awaiting for you after death .. he he

      January 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • pirate

      How does a perfect being go about creating so much imperfection that is destined to burn in hell? uhh.. isn't that, like, uh... cruel?

      January 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  20. Lucy

    It is so embarrasing living in a country where atheism / agnostic still excist in our nation under God. May God lead them to the truth.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Wholly Mary

      MOVE!

      January 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Jim

      Those that identify themselves as having no religious affiliation are the fastest growing segment of the population. Common sense is taking hold, finally.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Scott

      Thats funny cause you know, historically, people who did not bathe thought those that did were silly and pathetic. Rolling around in the muck of ignorance doesn't make you superior... just clueless.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Religious & Proud

      Don't get fooled by 'American Atheist' president David Silverman saying that atheism is the fastest growing people in the U.S. Atheism presents only 1.6% of the population vs. 80% Christians. Atheists will NEVER NEVER ever be the dominant people in America, not by a chance. PS! Those 16% not afflicated by any religion does not mean they don't believe in God!!!

      January 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jessica from Maine

      Actually "Religious & Proud" have a point. I am included with that 16% of the population not with any religion, but I am still believer in God, but not any member of any religious sect.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Lookaround

      Lucy – As a group, Atheists know more about religion than other religious groups – see link:
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM6oO4ySyJQ&w=640&h=390]
      Or see the original research on the Pew website.
      Your comment shows an embarrassing lack of understanding and education.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Christie

      If there was a God, why would he create non-believers??????

      January 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • pirate

      Sorry Lucy, you are a woman and according to your god you are worth less than I am.
      --
      Leviticus 27

      27:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
      27:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation. (27:2, 10) "When a man shall make a singular vow.... He shall not alter it, nor change it."
      Is it OK to take oaths?
      27:3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. (27:3-7)
      God defines the value of human life in dollars and cents. Of course, to God, females are worth considerably less than males (50 – 60%) - but neither are worth much.
      Males (20 – 60 years old) are worth 50 shekels.
      Females are worth 30.

      Males (5 – 20 years old) are worth 20 shekels.
      Females are worth 10.

      Males (< 5 years old) are worth 5 shekels.
      Females are worth 3.

      And babies (or fetuses) less than one month old are worth nothing at all.
      What the Bible says about abortion
      The worth of a woman: the Bible vs. the Quran

      27:4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
      27:5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
      27:6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.
      27:7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • pirate

      Here's the accounting summary:
      Man age 20-60 = 50 credits
      Woman age 20-60 = 30 credits
      Women are worth 60% of what men are worth.

      Boy age 5-20 = 20 credits
      Girl age 5-20 = 10 credits
      Girls are worth 50% of what a boy is.

      Boy age 1 month-5 years = 5 credits
      Girl age 1 month-5 years = 3 credits

      Man age 60+ = 15 credits
      Woman age 60+ = 10 credits

      Old women are worth 67% of what old men are worth.
      Old men are worth 30% of what a mature man is worth.
      Boys are worth 40% of what a mature man is worth.
      Children and infants are worth 10% of what a mature adult is worth.

      The Bible God places lower values of worth on children, females, and the aged.
      Also of note is that children under 1 month of age have no identified value.

      January 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
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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.