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Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age
January 10th, 2012
04:18 PM ET

Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

America’s Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution and are evenly split on whether the earth is 6,000 years old, according to a survey released Monday by the Southern Baptist Convention.

When asked if “God used evolution to create people," 73% of pastors disagreed - 64% said they strongly disagreed - compared to 12% who said they agree.

Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed.

A movement called Young Earth creationism promotes the 6,000-year-old figure, arguing that it is rooted in the Bible. Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The Southern Baptist Convention survey, which queried 1,000 American Protestant pastors, also found that 74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people.

“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a report on LifeWay’s site. “But Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly Creationists and believe in a literal Adam and Eve.”

The phone survey was conducted in May 2011, sampling ministers from randomly selected Protestant churches. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent, LifeWay said.

A 2010 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, versus 54% who said humans developed over millions of years.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Evangelical • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. logan5

    Here it is. More evidence that hard line Christianity not only impedes societies social progress but its intellectual progress as well. But its understandable why most pastors would believe the account of Genesis. If they were to discount its validity that would basically destroy the integrity of their bible. In other words, if one biblical account is deemed to be false then how many others would be as well. Poor pastors, they're dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. Anyway, to claim the earth is only a few thousand years old and that we humans appeared on her in our present form is blatantly asinine!!

    January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  2. Rev. John GIll

    Something is fishy here, so to speak. I do not believe this unless all of the pastors surveyed were from the Southern Baptist Convention – which has become terribly narrow-minded. I have been in ministry in the UCC for over 20 years and all of the colleagues I work with, from a variety of religious traditions, accept evolution.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • JG

      I teach biology in the south and I think the number is MUCH higher around here. EVERY, SINGLE pastor is not only an ignorant, uneducated baffoon...but they have an openly anti-science, anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-black, anti-pretty much anything point of view. And they spread their hatred and cancer to as many people as they can. They call it a "mission."
      Rotters....each and every one of them. Selling lies to people. False hope of an afterlife and meeting their loved ones again. Preachers should be ASHAMED of the lies they SELL for money. All tax free.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • EvoIntoWhat

      Let us not forget the source of this article. Liberals. Statistics are manipulated to show the outcome desired by the author.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Wanderer

      Do you have any brother or sister who has same parents with you? Why there are female and/or male in a family, in general. Does it explain anything why there are apes?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by EvoIntoWhat is an instance of the circu-mstantial ad hominem fallacy, and furthermore, its initial assumption represents a begging the question fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/

      January 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  3. Randy

    I will believe in Evolution when someone can explain to me why there are still apes in this world if we evolved from them. Nobody has been able to explain that to me yet. If the theory of Evolution is correct, there should only be one form of life on earth.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • go4it

      We didn't evolve from apes. Apes and man both evolved from a common ancestor. That's the way it works.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • EnlightenedOne

      Do you want someone to explain the science of it or just the paradigm itself?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • revolting peasant

      Randy, the rest of us evolved from apes, but you are excluded from that.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • 21k

      if by this point in life you cannot grasp the simple concept of branches, then don't waste your time. have another brewski, beat the wife and continue to rant agin' big gub'mint thru your toothless lips.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • thetascape

      All this post does is clearly illustrate your utter lack of understanding of what evolution is. Please give The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins a try. It will answer your question, show you why it is an improper question and detail how evolution actually works. There are even pictures.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • sharoom

      Well, if you can't understand how you can have multiple offspring that branch off independently then we can't help you.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Eric G

      What I find funny is that you said no one has been able to explain it to you yet. This means that someone has tried, but you lack the capacity to understand.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • hilreal

      IT doesn't say we evolved from apes, it says that we have a common ancester. Maybe you need to do a little learnin about this subject. I would strongly suggest reading The Language of God written by a Christian who is also a world renowned scientist.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Flappy

      Not understanding the explaination is not the same as there not being one.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • sportreform

      it'll happen, my friend. you just need a little faith.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Dr. Bob

      At least learn what the theory of evolution is before you reject it.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • thevoice

      Nobody has ever claimed humans evolved from apes – where on earth are you getting this from? We share the same ancestors, entirely different story altogether.

      Please seek junior high level education.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Shazaam

      I think I found your problem, it's located in this sentence: "Nobody has been able to explain that to me yet".

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • bram

      obviously you have ZERO grasp on what evolution is. perhaps if you did your homework, you would be able to convince yourself.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Paully B

      The theory of evolution never said that once a new species braches off (evolves) from another the former species always disappears forever, Please go back to the library and study up on this before you ask anymore questions.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Scott

      Really Randy? We came from a common ancestor over 4.5 million years ago. Evolution takes time, none of that resting on the 7th day stuff in the real world.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Wanderer

      Do you have any brother or sister who has same parents with you? Why there are female and/or male in a family, in general. Does it explain anything why there are apes? ( I posted it once in a wrong place first time)

      January 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Rob Dobrenski

      You are working under the assumption that a) evolution happens quickly and b) there can be no overlap in species. And possibly c) evolution is finished. Evolution is an agonizingly slow process which means species will overlap. Humans didn't suddenly appear while apes simultaneously disappeared. We came from them and are still evolving. Who knows if evolution is an infinite process that will never end, but over the course of millions of years apes will likely no longer be present. Maybe not humans either.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      You can begin by realizing that 99% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • todd paul

      Randy, has this not been explained to you yet? If this is all that is holding you back, then the answer is quite simple. We are not evolved from apes. We share a common ancestor with them. There are still apes like chimps and bonobos because they evolved along different lines than humans. It's like this... Our American ancestors came from Europe to America but there are still Europeans. Sort of like all the funny dogs we've made but the wolf still exists. Does this make sense?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Rob Dobrenski

      Oops, my bad. Take out "we came from them" from my comment.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • WASP

      ok how this works. an ancestor of early apes as animals do migrated to a different enviroment. in doing so they had to adapt; to let's say the flood plains of africa; where if they walked on all fours they would drown their young. the ones smart enough to stand, their young would survive to pass this trait or adaptation on to their young. over time this adaptation would go from being a learned behavior to an actual genetic change in the population due to that trait causing them to stand more often thus changing how their spinal column is designed. a straighting of the spinal column would cause the early ape to walk easier on two legs. that new adaptation would be a step in the process called evolution. evolution is a process of adaptation; or steps in the process to adapt to your natural surroundings. look up something called "aquatic ape theory" it will help with the points i made.......and we still see the same activity today on the africa flood plains. hope this helps. :)

      January 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  4. thetascape

    What expertise in biology do pastors have to offer on the subject of evolution? We don't seek guidance from pastors in physics, astronomy, geology or electrical engineering, why would we think they have anything meaningful to say about evolutionary biology?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • william

      Why, they don't have to. The Bible is inerrant, don't you know... just like it was when they threatened to kill Gallileo for agreeing with Copernicus that the Earth revolved around the Sun, which the Bible clearly refuted.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  5. Benjamin

    The nice thing about science is that it's true regardless of what you believe.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  6. Evolution observed

    I just saw my neighbors dog fly out of the window.
    gotta observe that evolution it is awesome!

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Atheist

      Wow! that should prove evolution is observable, right?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • hilreal

      I think you've been sipping on the communion wine a little too much....

      January 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Prf Calc.

      hey EO-So what's next for mankind? humans developing wings to fly?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      I thought humans had already developed wings for flying. . .how many dogs travel via airplane nowadays? Yes people, we are STILL evolving.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  7. Wizard

    I approach this from a bit of a different playing field. 1) I have a deep background in science. 2) That said there is reason to suspect evolution (as it has been taught) might be wrong. The BIG ISSUE is the jump from simple hominids to more advanced humans occurred in a very short amount of time (approx 20,000 years) whereas the evolution of all other phases of hominids took millions of years. Thus the fossil record is out of whack with the theory of natural selection (this is fact). Adding speculatiion to this fact, one could argue that the evidence that suggests we (humans) were given a massive boost forward by some other intelligence that manipulated our DNA to create humans as we are today. If this is true, than both camps are partially correct. Do I believe this to be true? Until I have absolute proof, I am a man of probabilities, and in this case I'm betting 75% that the above is true.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • EnlightenedOne

      Apparently your experience in science must be limited to the realm outside bio-anthropology, or you are just making up that you are actually well grounded in science. Human evolution from primate to hominid occurred over millions of years.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • hilreal

      If you look at a Chimp, for example, versus a human, it really is a very small step. Similarities are about a million to one compared to the differences.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • JG

      Please use the googles and look up "transitional skull fossils." There was no fast gap. You will see many failed hominids. There are no gaps. It is all very logical and reasonable. Stop shrouding your religion in faux-science. You talk like you are smart...but you spout the same ignorant anti-science as all the other "believers." You just think you sound smart, therefore your particular brand of ignorance will carry weight. It doesn't.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      What "wizard" seems to be speculating about is the so-called "mesolithic-neolithic transition." This was popular 40 years ago when I was a student. The idea is that there was a major shift in tool complexity, and use of symbolic images about 30,000 years ago.

      What has happened in the real science arena is that improved dating- both radiometric, and stratigraphic, has smoothed the "industry/cognitive leap" into a fairly monotonic curve. People interact intellectually as well as biologically. This can cause some interesting problems for paleoarchaeolgy. The lack of precision has invited whacknut speculation, which is what "wizard" clearly represents. Just for fun "wizard," where exactly did this 20,000 years of radical advancement happen?

      January 11, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  8. Jim

    I wonder how many still believe the earth is flat? or that the earth is at the center of the Universe?
    Sad

    January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Eric G

      Actually, I am the center of the universe. I just live on Earth

      January 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      Sir, the Bible itself doesn't say anywhere between it's front cover and it's back cover that the Earth is "flat." I can only guess where such a misconception ever arose among Believers. The Bible never so much as fives an impression of such a thought as the Earth possibly being flat. The Bible DOES make mention of "the four corners of the earth." I have read the Bible through, as several of our congregants do once or twice a year, and have never seen anything aside from this single statement. The "four corners of the earth" very simply means that the earth has four compass points: North, South, East, and West. The Book of Job informs us that God has created the earth, "Yea, the whole circle of it..." and another Old Testament Jewish writer said: "Behold, He hangeth it (the earth) upon nothing..." Both these points are very much in keeping with reallity of Earth and it's factual existance.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      A sphere has corners? Is it more of a cubed sphere thing?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @Missouri Boy,

      The early biblical cosmology was the same as that shared with other early Mesopotamian people. There was a stack of disk shaped surfaces. The Earth was about in the middle. I suggest you try to study this, and particularly, I have found the following books helpful;

      Black, Jeremy, Anthony Green, Tessa Rickards (illustrator)
      2003 "Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia" Austin: University of Texas Press.

      Blenkinsopp, Joseph
      1992 "The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible" The Anchor Bible Reference Library New York: ABRL/Doubleday

      Dalley, Stephanie
      2000 "Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Revised" Oxford: Oxford University Press

      Kramer, Samuel Noah
      1972 "Sumerian Mythology: A study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millenium B.C." OP 1961 New York: University of Pennsylvania Press/ Harper.

      Smith, Mark S.
      2002 “The Early History of God 2nd ed.” Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing
      ___________
      2003 “The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts” Oxford University Press.

      Speiser, E. A.
      1962 "Genesis: Introduction, Translation and Notes" New York: Anchor Bible- Doubleday

      January 11, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  9. augustghost

    73% of pastors are ignorant with their head in the sand

    January 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  10. EvoIntoWhat

    Interestingly, there is not a single shred of physical evidence that one species ever evolved into another. I challenge you with all the resources that are out there to show me one, just one single example of one species and all of the intermediary species that it took to evolve into another. And I will save you some time: it doesn't exist. And don't bring up "ring species", they are total BS. It is one bird that evolved into, guess what, another bird! I used to be in the group that believed whole heartedly in evolution and made fun of those that didn't. It took an actual look at the facts to change my mind. Yes, species do evolve inter-species and adapt to their environment. I am not saying 100% that they do not (and did not) evolve into other species, but the FACT remains that there is NO physical evidence that this ever happened.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • go4it

      DNA. There.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • EvoIntoWhat

      With the same creator, it stands to reason that we would have similar makeups. DNA does not prove inter-species evolution.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      There is no physical evidence for many things, that does not mean they are not true. However:

      The physical evidence for evolution is overwhelming.
      -Atavisms
      -Biogeography
      -DNA
      -Ontogeny

      January 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Flappy

      There are mountains of evidence for evolution and there are many many books on the subject. Unfortunately it is impossible to condense all of this evidence into a comment field. I suggest you do a Google search or buy some books on the subject from Amazon.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • JG

      What? DNA CLEARLY shows very close links. The concept is called SPECIATION. It is a biological fact. No one disputes the idea. Except those who are deluded with childish fantasies about magical superbeings in the sky.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      I have compiled a list of dozens of examples of speciation. These range from plants, insects, fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals. They have been observed in nature, and generated in laboratories. We now can actually track the molecule-by-molecule transitions.

      The Emergence of New Species
      http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2009/03/emergence-of-new-species.html

      January 11, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • WASP

      Modern example. H.I.V. ; Rhinovirus....A.K.A. common cold.; sea snakes and terristial snakes.; caimen, salt water crocidiles and alligators; sharks too many variousations to label on here; frogs,toads; i hope you get the idea every animal you see on earth has come from other common ancestory. if you take human DNA and compare it to less evolved creatures you will find it matches almost exactly with that creatures DNA our DNA sequece is just written longer due to how complex we are. a portion of human DNA matches that of the oak tree, more so with chimps and other primates, and great apes.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  11. Bullet

    It appears the election cycles are being dominated by the economy and religion. There is a way to marry the two together and solve part of the problem. Make the churches pay taxes on their incomes and properties like most folks do. That would go a long ways toward easing the national debt and take some of the high handed preachers out of circulation.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      Sir: The "churches" are already paying taxes. I am a Church member and my taxes are with-held every year. Everyone in our Church pays taxes. All year, every year. Why should we be taxed for WHAT we believe? How about you paying a tax because of your non-belief? Is that fair that you should pay some "Belief-specific" tax? I think not. Maybe an "Atheist Tax" is in order. But, I dont guess that would be right, either. I know that it grates on all Atheists that we contribute to the Political landscape in this County. But so does everyone else. There are Democrats among our congregants. Would our Church pay a "Tax" because of my Right-leaning political beliefs or because of some of the others' Democrat/ cento-leftist leanings?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  12. 21k

    i always wonder why we never find human remains inside of t-rex fossils, and don't find t-rex bones in old human habitats. i guess "gawd works in strange ways" is the applicable answer for this. instead of the other 2 laws, "god made it" and "god did it"

    January 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  13. JG

    10 out of 10 rational thinkers believe the idea of magical superbeings in the sky is completely ridiculous and childish.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • 21k

      just ain't enough of them to drown out the knuckleheads.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • fred

      That is why we serve a living God who is with us and in us. We are no longer our own but belong to Christ.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Randy

      Well then I'm not a rational thinker because I believe there is a God and He created the earth and everything else just like the Bible says.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • 21k

      randy, which bible, there are several variations, and one is being re-written even now.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      I am a Christian and I believe that the idea of a "super being" IN THE SKY is foolish. Our God isn't "in the sky." He has gone away to prepare us a Place. In the words of a famous lady poet: "I have never been to Heaven...but I am as sure of the place..." as if I had been there. America's common folk, people who knew the crops, the land, the animals and knew what it felt like to sweat and feel the rich, dark soil under their bare feet understood God and His holy Word in a way as rich and real and deep as anyone ever could have known. Just in the last few generations, when the emphasis begin to be shifted to the secular and heavy emphasis placed on the inner-city and "higher" education, did some of the people begin to lose their faith. As time goes on I fully expect to see much more of this thought. Jesus said:"Nevertheless, WHEN the Son of man cometh, will He find faith on the earth?"

      January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • 21k

      poor, poor misouri boy. there have been "common" folks who farmed on the earth for a lot longer than the bible. they were not xtians, never heard of your god. they had other gods, like the sun, water, earth.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  14. The Central Scrutinizer

    “The platypus... I don't know WHAT the FUK I was on when I made that...”
    ~ God on Platypuses

    “Fuk this, now I'm Atheist!”
    ~ The Pope on his first sight of a Platypus

    “"I mean, what the hell?"”
    ~ Everybody on Platypuses

    January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • BBPatriot

      Who's god?

      -any platypus

      January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      God can be cruel little platypus. God can be cruel.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  15. CdnJim

    Holy cow. I bought into that anti-evolution clap-trap when I was 12. ANd then I started reading and learning as opposed to hearing and repeating. My favourite part of the Bible is where God made silurian mollusk shells and ancient pottery shards and planted them in the earth, But not too deep. He was going to trick those foolish archeologists and paleontologists who were going to come along 6,000 years later, What a clever deity.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  16. Trixibelle

    Fairy tales about magical space aliens controlling our destiny are not healthy for children.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Rick

    They prove it time and time again, religion is just a pile of crap

    January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  18. JG

    Interpretation: 7 in 10 Pastors are ignorant and uneducated. I actually thought that number would be 10 out of 10. Pleasantly surprised that 3 in 10 are in any way enlightened.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • 21k

      6 out of those 7 are probably home-schooled.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • sportreform

      9 of 10 abuse children, been going on for 6000 years or so.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  19. steve

    73% of ministers are morons.__

    January 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  20. snowdogg

    "Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed." Ya can't argue with a fundamentalist Christian. Everything in their Bible is correct and true.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Randy

      Yes sir, you are correct. Everything in the Bible is correct and true. Nobody has ever been able to prove the Bible wrong yet.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • EvoIntoWhat

      The Catholic church does not believe or teach that the Earth is only 6000 years. While there are some close-minded false religions that do believe this, it is not mainstream teaching. The Catholic church is the only authority on Christian religions. All other "Christian" churches represent false religions and not the true word. They came about through Liberalism (the great destroyer) and with that a desire to do less and less and be given more and more. For instance; salvation without doing anything accept repeating meaningless words. Words without action are meaningless. It matters not what you say, you will be judged by your actions in this existence and may or may not ascend into Heaven.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • clearfog

      MATTHEW 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."

      LUKE 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."

      JOHN 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."

      They can't all be true.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Well at least the Catholic Church was smart enough to say that it believes in Evolution. Unfortunately, the book from which the Church teaches says nothing about evolution. In fact it says quite the opposite. That plus they've never been able to explain lwhy "God" created suffering and death. Was "He" unjust in creating suffering? They can't figure that one out because they refuse to accept Evolution instead of what "Genesis" says.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:13 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.