By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Santiago, Cuba (CNN) - Facing the stage where Pope Benedict XVI will deliver his first Mass in Cuba during his visit here this week is a giant neon billboard of a young and victorious Fidel Castro brandishing a rifle.
It would appear to be a poor omen for the pope’s visit, if not for the message printed beside the Cuban leader: “Rebels yesterday, hospitable today, always heroic.” It’s the slogan for Santiago de Cuba, the first stop on the pope’s three-day trip to the island nation.
The freshly erected sign offers insight into the changing, often hard to read, relationship between the Cuban government and the Catholic Church.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN)– Billed as a watershed moment in the atheism movement, a gathering of atheists, agnostics and humanists drew large numbers of non-theists to the Washington Mall Saturday despite bad weather.
Put on by a coalition of atheist and humanist organizations, the rally was touted as the largest gathering of non-theists in the history of the world. Headlined by a number of high-profile speakers, including Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” organizers said the event shows that atheism is a powerful minority in American life.
“We will never be closeted again,” said David Silverman, the rally’s head organizer. “In years to come, the Reason Rally will be seen as the beginning of the end to the religious right’s grip” on American life.
By Rafael Romo, CNN
(CNN) – It has been a project of celestial proportions, but it's finally ready. Construction workers have labored nonstop for months.
Their mission? To build an altar worthy of a pope and an outdoor venue that can accommodate as many as 700,000 people.
The altar where Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass on Sunday is located at Bicentennial Park in Mexico's Guanajuato state, the heartland of Mexican Catholicism. Guanajuato has the highest percentage of Catholics in Mexico at well over 90 percent.
Benedict is expected to arrive at 4:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET) Friday at Guanajuato's International Airport.
The nation's Catholics have been waiting for a papal visit since Joseph Ratzinger was elevated to the papacy in 2005. President Felipe Calderon invited the pontiff to Mexico when they met in Vatican City in 2007 and then again in May of last year when Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian, was canonized.
Editor’s note: Patton Dodd is the managing editor of Patheos and the author of The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.
By Patton Dodd, Special to CNN
Denver, Colorado (CNN) - As a lifelong Denver Broncos fan, I’d have to be crazy to second-guess my team’s signing of the great quarterback Peyton Manning, assuming he’s as healthy as Broncos’ Vice President John Elway wishes him to be. And I’m not crazy.
I got chills watching Manning hold up the new #18 Broncos jersey at his introductory press conference, and I’ll be counting the days until his September debut.
But as a Tim Tebow scribe, general religion nerd, and sucker for inspirational sports stories, I’m mourning the loss of something special, something larger than football, and something Denver may never have again no matter how many championships the team wins.
Tim Tebow is moving to New York to play for the Jets.
By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) – Responding to Pope Benedict XVI's comment that Marxism "no longer responds to reality," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Friday that his country respects all opinions.
"We consider the exchange of ideas useful," Rodriguez said at Havana's historic Hotel Nacional, adding that his country is perfecting its system.
The pontiff answered reporters' questions about the Caribbean communist island on the papal plane Friday as he began a six-day trip to Mexico and Cuba, according to the Vatican. He arrived in Mexico on Friday afternoon.
"With this visit, a way of cooperation and dialogue has been inaugurated, a long road that requires patience but that leads forward," the pope said, according to the Vatican.
"It is evident today that Marxist ideology as it had been conceived no longer responds to reality," Benedict continued.
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.