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4 big myths of Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation has terrified and confused readers for centuries. Few agree on its meaning, but many have opinions.
March 31st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

4 big myths of Book of Revelation

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – The anti-Christ. The Battle of Armageddon. The dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

You don’t have to be a student of religion to recognize references from the Book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible has fascinated readers for centuries. People who don’t even follow religion are nonetheless familiar with figures and images from Revelation.

And why not? No other New Testament book reads like Revelation. The book virtually drips with blood and reeks of sulfur. At the center of this final battle between good and evil is an action-hero-like Jesus, who is in no mood to turn the other cheek.

Elaine Pagels, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, first read Revelation as a teenager. She read it again in writing her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

Pagels’ book is built around a simple question: What does Revelation mean? Her answers may disturb people who see the book as a prophecy about the end of the world.

But people have clashed over the meaning of Revelation ever since it was virtually forced into the New Testament canon over the protests of some early church leaders, Pagels says.

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“There were always debates about it,” she says. “Some people said a heretic wrote it. Some said a disciple. There were always people who loved and championed it.”

The debate persists. Pagels adds to it by challenging some of the common assumptions about Revelation.

Here are what she says are four big myths about Revelation::

1. It’s about the end of the world

Anyone who has read the popular “Left Behind” novels or listened to pastors preaching about the “rapture” might see Revelation as a blow-by-blow preview of how the world will end.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation was actually describing the way his own world ended.

She says the writer of Revelation may have been called John – the book is sometimes called “Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine” but he was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus. He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos, off the coast of  present-day Greece.

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“He would have been a very simple man in his clothes and dress,” Pagels says. “He may have gone from church to church preaching his message. He seems more like a traveling preacher or a prophet.”

The author of Revelation had experienced a catastrophe. He wrote his book not long after 60,000 Roman soldiers had stormed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., burned down its great temple and left the city in ruins after putting down an armed Jewish revolt.

For some of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was incomprehensible. They had expected Jesus to return “with power” and conquer Rome before inaugurating a new age. But Rome had conquered Jesus’ homeland instead.

The author of Revelation was trying to encourage the followers of Jesus at a time when their world seemed doomed. Think of the Winston Churchill radio broadcasts delivered to the British during the darkest days of World War II.

Revelation was an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. The message: God would return and destroy the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem.

“His primary target is Rome,” Pagels says of the book’s author. “He really is deeply angry and grieved at the Jewish war and what happened to his people.”

2. The numerals 666 stand for the devil

The 1976 horror film “The Omen” scared a lot of folks. It may have scared some theologians, too, who began encountering people whose view of Revelation comes from a Hollywood movie.

The Omen” depicted the birth and rise of the “anti-Christ,” the cunning son of Satan who would be known by “the mark of the beast,” 666, on his body.

Here’s the passage from Revelation that “The Omen” alluded to: “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.”

Good movies, though, don’t always make good theology. Most people think 666 stands for an anti-Christ-like figure that will deceive humanity and trigger a final battle between good and evil. Some people think he’s already here.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation didn’t really intend 666 as the devil’s digits. He was describing another incarnation of evil: The Roman emperor, Nero.

The arrogant and demented Nero was particularly despised by the earliest followers of Jesus, including the writer of Revelation. Nero was said to have burned followers of Jesus alive to illuminate his garden.

But the author of Revelation couldn’t safely name Nero, so he used the Jewish numerology system to spell out Nero’s imperial name, Pagels says.

Pagels says that John may have had in mind other meanings for the mark of the beast: the imperial stamp Romans used on official documents, tattoos authorizing people to engage in Roman business, or the images of Roman emperors on stamps and coins.

Since Revelation’s author writes in “the language of dreams and nightmares,” Pagels says it’s easy for outsiders to misconstrue the book’s original meaning.

Still, they take heart from Revelation’s larger message, she writes:

“…Countless people for thousands of years have been able to see their own conflicts, fears, and hopes reflected in his prophecies. And because he speaks from his convictions about divine justice, many readers have found reassurance in his conviction that there is meaning in history – even when he does not say exactly what that meaning is – and that there is hope.”

3. The writer of Revelation was a Christian

The author of Revelation hated Rome, but he also scorned another group – a group of people we would call Christians today, Pagels says.

There’s a common perception that there was a golden age of Christianity, when most Christians agreed on an uncontaminated version of the faith. Yet there was never one agreed-upon Christianity. There were always clashing visions.

Revelation reflects some of those early clashes in the church, Pagels says.

That idea isn’t new territory for Pagels. She won the National Book Award for “The Gnostic Gospels,” a 1979 book that examined a cache of newly discovered “secret” gospels of Jesus. The book, along with other work from Pagels, argues that there were other accounts of Jesus’ life that were suppressed by early church leaders because it didn’t fit with their agenda.

The author of Revelation was like an activist crusading for traditional values. In his case, he was a devout Jew who saw Jesus as the messiah. But he didn’t like the message that the apostle Paul and other followers of Jesus were preaching.

This new message insisted that gentiles could become followers of Jesus without adopting the requirements of the Torah. It accepted women leaders, and intermarriage with gentiles, Pagels says.

The new message was a lot like what we call Christianity today.

That was too much for the author of Revelation. At one point, he calls a woman leader in an early church community a “Jezebel.” He calls one of those gentile-accepting churches a “synagogue of Satan.”

John was defending a form of Christianity that would be eclipsed by the Christians he attacked, Pagels says.

“What John of Patmos preached would have looked old-fashioned – and simply wrong to Paul’s converts…,” she writes.

The author of Revelation was a follower of Jesus, but he wasn’t what some people would call a Christian today, Pagels says.

“There’s no indication that he read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or that he read the gospels or Paul’s letters,” she says. “….He doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins.”

4. There is only one Book of Revelation

There’s no other book in the Bible quite like Revelation, but there are plenty of books like Revelation that didn’t make it into the Bible, Pagels says.

Early church leaders suppressed an “astonishing” range of books that claimed to be revelations from apostles such as Peter and James. Many of these books were read and treasured by Christians throughout the Roman Empire, she says.

There was even another “Secret Revelation of John.” In this one, Jesus wasn’t a divine warrior, but someone who first appeared to the apostle Paul as a blazing light, then as a child, an old man and, some scholars say, a woman.

So why did the revelation from John of Patmos make it into the Bible, but not the others?

Pagels traces that decision largely to Bishop Athanasius, a pugnacious church leader who championed Revelation about 360 years after the death of Jesus.

Athanasius was so fiery that during his 46 years as bishop he was deposed and exiled five times. He was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says.

Many church leaders opposed including Revelation in the New Testament. Athanasius’s predecessor said the book was “unintelligible, irrational and false.”

Athanasius, though, saw Revelation as a useful political tool. He transformed it into an attack ad against Christians who questioned him.

Rome was no longer the enemy; those who questioned church authority were the anti-Christs in Athanasius’s reading of Revelation, Pagels says.

“Athanasius interprets Revelation’s cosmic war as a vivid picture of his own crusade against heretics and reads John’s visions as a sharp warning to Christian dissidents,” she writes. “God is about to divide the saved from the damned – which now means dividing the ‘orthodox’ from ‘heretics.’ ’’

Centuries later, Revelation still divides people. Pagels calls it the strangest and most controversial book in the Bible.

Even after writing a book about it, Pagels has hardly mastered its meaning.

“The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Devil • End times • Faith • History • Jerusalem

soundoff (8,460 Responses)
  1. The Second Coming of Da Vinci

    Pagel is right about this“The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”
    . It has some mysteries from Easter religion and unless one knows about yoga and creation and concept of Ego, Revelations can not be understood in isolation.
    I tried to understand it from Easter concept of creation and Ego and wrote about it in the book " The Second Coming of Da Vinci Real Lost symbols of Bible."
    The book of Revelation is trying to describe how creation came in to existence.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  2. b4bigbang

    cant think of any at the moment. Is there something on your mind as to where this might lead?

    April 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  3. Nicki

    How can Pagels be a leading biblical scholar and not understand the geographic component. Patmos is a Greek island, not a Turkish island as she stated. Big mistake. . . . not good. Is there a retraction in the works?

    April 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  4. D. Reed

    Hi John,
    Interesting article, but I disagree with much of the information.

    1. you are not using the term myth in the correct way. You are using a modern term meaning lie. Historically myth does not mean that.
    2. Your claim of who actually wrote the book is, I believe, incorrect. The disciple John was exiled to the island of Patamos. In fact he was the only disciple not martyred for following Jesus.
    3. You are inconsistent in when you claim that John was not a Christian, but a devout Jew, but then say that he wrote to encourage Christians. Historically, first century Jews (religious sense) did not encourage Christians they sought to kill them.

    I would argue that the ultimate themes of Revelation are a. Judgement, but greater is that of b. restoration of peace and order.
    For the record I do not agree with the the theology of the Left behind books, which represent one theology within the Christian framework.

    In the future it would be helpful to cite your information. I would expect CNN to represent a more thorough treatment of a subject that has immense meaning for millions of people worldwide. This article does not seem to reflect the type of reporting I would expect from a major news network.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • eric

      Speaking of citing information....

      perhaps you could explain where you got your information. You say things like "myth" are incorrect but do not explain the correct meaning. You have more plot holes than this article.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  5. Ric

    Old news. Every educated student of the Bible knows these things. This information has been around for 100 years. Just because the subject is the bible doesn't mean we have to check our brain at the door.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • mandarax

      Sadly, (a) some don't, and (b) for some it does.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  6. The Second Coming of Da Vinci

    “The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”
    Pagel is right about this. It has some mysteries from Easter religion and unless one knows about yoga and creation and concept of Ego, Revelations can not be understood in isolation.
    I tried to understand it from Easter concept of creation and Ego and wrote about it in the book " The Second Coming of Da Vinci Real Lost symbols of Bible."
    The book of Revelation is trying to describe how creation came in to existence.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  7. M C KIRK

    Narwhals for JESUS thats funnyr , how many people in this discussion know what a NARWHAL is ?

    April 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  8. Tico

    I guess anyone can make up anything, and say it with authority, and CNN will print it. The Belief Blog should be on the "National Enquirer" site.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • gorillahug

      An excellent description of bible authority and authenticity.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  9. André

    The whole bible story is a myth, idiots.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  10. Pipe-Dreamer

    The mirrored reflections of socialisms will ever hide many individual's oneness. "I am alone" when one looks passed socialisms' reflectives. You will never truly be united with me nor myself. I am myself and nothng more. You are the mirrored reflectiveness that keeps me wanting to learn. I am fearful oh God of my unleavened spirit. You oh God know my innermost thoughts and you oh God do see myself's pain to know you oh God. Without my always trying to know you oh God, I would be without much reason to want living and to be alive. You oh God are my Life's nourishing moments in Time.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  11. Americaends

    America is finished. Reject God, now God rejects you. It's over.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • momoya

      Good.. Who needs an @sshole like that who can't do what he commands and contradicts himself in every other scripture.. What a fvcktard.. Good riddance to the dovchebag.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  12. b4bigbang

    "Are YOU helping the poor as MY ATHEIST SELF DOES" [emphasis mine].
    "Not proclaiming my good deeds".

    You cant have it both ways debbie. Please be truthful.
    Also, please understand that traditionally Christians believe that Jesus tells people to REFRAIN from publicizing their acts of charity.
    I realize u r a self-proclaimed atheist (ref your above post) but try to understand the others' rules they have to abide by.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • toad

      Do you do good things because you think Jesus wants it, or because you think they are good?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @toad: both; humans are a complexity, wouldn't you agree?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • toad

      What do you do when there is a contradiction?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • momoya

      humans are somewhat complex; there's lots and lots of things more complex than us.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • On the other hand

      b4bigbang,

      Perhaps you should have a chat with your Christian cohorts then, and tell them to quit accusing atheists of being selfish and uncharitable.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • DebbieNJ

      I donate to food pantries because I despise that kids are hungry, not because I'm trying to get into 'heaven'. I help people in need because I feel for them, not because I'm trying to win points with a spirit in the clouds. Shall I just pray for them and take no action? Yeah, I don't believe in a man in the sky....... Do you help the poor as your god instructs? Do you go without to help those in need? I'll leave the self-rightousness to you biblethumpers....

      April 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  13. someone

    vicarius filii dei

    April 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      porco dio

      April 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Heaven_Bound

      VICARIUS FILII DEI = 666, The Number of the Beast

      April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  14. Steve

    The book of Revelations like many other books of the Bible provided historical points of view from the writers present day events and prophetic points of view as well. It is up to the reader of the book to determine which is which. The seven churches of Revelations were actual churches during the writers time that dealt with specific issues of that time. Yet, in the prophetic sense you can see how the church "age" has changed as well. The book of Revelations can be understood by reading the book of Daniel and the book of Ezekiels. Both prophets write about many of the events in the book of Revelations.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • bff

      So why should this book have any meaning beyond the people of its time? Certainly not enough meaning to live your life by.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  15. GodLovesU

    This author has clearly put a lot of time and research into her work, but she seems to arrive at much of her conclusions because she is approaching the Bible from a perspective that I do not believe God intended. The primary purpose of the Bible is stated in 2 Timothy 3:15 and that is to lead the reader to salvation. I know that statement is going to draw some fire, but the Bible really is God’s plan of salvation revealed to mankind. If one does not approach the Bible within that context it will be impossible to understand. In order to figure out if this author’s conclusions are right, one must evaluate or study the Scripture for themselves; and in studying it’s important to understand the intention of the Author. If anyone is interested, I would like to share some principles which are essential to understanding the Bible. You can view them using the following like. It’s a PDF file.

    http://www.penn.vi/goodnews/BibleStudy/01-StudyTips.pdf

    I think it will be worth the investigation. God be with you all

    April 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      His research IS aimed at getting to the original intention of the author of Revelation, not the interpretation later people have placed on it. Standing alone, as it did before being included in the canon of the Bible, Revelation wasn't about "Christian salvation" as you now believe. That's the point; you really cannot understand this book without comparing it to the other aapocalyptic literature, and the historical events around it's writing. It was eventually included into the Bible, but it was originally written to stand by itself, like all NT books except maybe Luke/Acts.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  16. Zach

    I am appalled that CNN would have the guts to and post an article like this. How dare they start a direct assault on the Bilbe. This article whole be taken down at once!!!

    April 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • momoya

      We're coming out, baby!! yeah!!!!!!! atheists are being heard!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • DebbieNJ

      How DARE we question anything, think for ourselves.....damned sheep getting out of line !!!!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Guy

      An article that the demonics forces are in agreement with 100%.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • momoya

      There are no demons, Guy, just reality; reality says that the bible is a bunch of stupid ramblings of a few weird sheep fvckers.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Steven Brooks

      Grow up, thanks.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Just Saying

      Please Zack, calm down and take a deep breath; if you need your meds take them now. Read the article...it is a scholarly work involving the history of mankind as reflected in one book of the Bible. Hardly an attack on the Bible or people who believe in the Bible. The Bible, although divinely inspired, was written by humans and took place inside the confines of history. Peace be with you.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • sonofamram

      What is the Bilbe?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Cq

      Truth hurts, huh Zach?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  17. Newsy

    When one considers that the Catholic church was the group that spearheaded the canons to be included in the bible it should leave anyone wondering about the entire book. Many things were omitted in several books. Beginning with Genesis that skips important steps like where did Adam and Eve go after they left the garden? If there's was the first family how did their son find someone to marry? It goes on indefinitely.

    Besides that then you must look at the bible the Catholics use that include so many rules inserted by Popes. It is ludicrous to think that they did not want total control of the people and used God and Jesus as a way to gain money and power.

    All this does not mean that God does not exist. Even the Muslims believed in the same God as the Jews until the first writer of the Q'ran died. And there are many that say the Jews twisted and added and deleted scripture to build themselves as the chosen people.

    Most people in organized religion are not taught to really think all of this through nor evolution. No I don't mean that we descended from apes – perhaps we did- but there is anthropology to prove there certainly were giant peoples and small peoples. Peoples who would not necessarily have lived in the areas they were found in. The earth was in an evolution era (climate change if you will) many times. People and animals migrated and adapted to new surroundings. To deny all this is to be blinded by faith in ignorance.

    For the most part the bible is wonderful in the parable teachings of Jesus that used love, common sense, prudence and morality. The golden rule is also a great guide for mankind as are the Ten Commandments. If one believes in a God that was loving enough to create each being and a son that was loving and giving enough to decend and teach and sacrifice his own mortal life and then attune yourself to the goodness of that love you can not be lost. The development of the relationship you build with God is your doing entirely.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  18. Yossarian

    I remember reading somewhere that the Number of the Beast was 616 instead of 666. It still represented Nero, just rendered somewhat differently.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  19. shartoo

    Bet Carlin is regretting this now.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • plucky

      Then you will be in hell too! Your chances are 1 in thousands of gods. Maybe the correct god doesn't even have a religion yet! Then we are all fvcked.

      Most likely there is no god and George is exactly where he was before he was born, nowhere.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • OrionStyles

      Why would he regret banging Zeus' daughter Thaleia?

      April 2, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  20. Danny

    The best part about debating believing in religion.
    If I'm wrong it doesn't matter. If I'm right your screwed.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • momoya

      Your position is known as "Pascal's Wager," and only matters if YOUR god just happens to be the right one out of a couple thousand.. And why would god reach out to a non-believer who merely gambled correctly?. Good luck.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Danny

      I didn't know about "Pascal's Wager" but I find it funny people rationally bet against Pascal.
      And even funnier that people argue about it.

      If your right, why are you wasting your time trying to convince someone else your right?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • toad

      Danny,
      I find it funny that you find it funny. Why is this so funny?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • John

      Sorry, but it does matter. If you spend your life believing a load of bull and contributing lots of time money to what might be nonsense and you're wrong it is a wasted life.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Danny

      It's just interesting human behavior.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • momoya

      I don't care about convincing people of anything on a religious or god issue.. I care about people criticizing information according to the exact same logic–regardless of what "belief" it happens to touch on in their brain.. Why do you believe your religion in exactly the same way and with exactly the same fervor as another person of a different country, time period, and god?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      If you're wrong, your out all the time, money, and effort trying to understand religion. If you opposed civil rights and scientific research because of your beliefs then you have harmed society and individuals for no good reason. Some of us would rather take our chances than step over people just to selfishly better our chances at an afterlife that's just a rumour.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Danny
      You find people not acting selfishly interesting human behavior?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Danny

      John, If you don't believe in any religion or god. Isn't it wasted anyway. Your just molecules and get turned back into molecules in the universe no matter what you do. does it really matter what you did after your gone and no longer exist.
      And Momoya, you do to care about convincing us. We wouldn't even be annoying to you, if you didn't care. Faith is not a scientific principle and can't be argued as if it were. In my opinion, Pride is what makes many people refuse to believe a God could exist, and that we are smart enough to understand all things with science.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Danny

      I don't think we are smart at all, as a species.. I think we are rather dumb.. We don't even see 95% or so of the universe.. We're blind and crazy.. I don't have to convince anybody of anything, and I don't care too, either.. If believing in your god helps you, then go for it.. Just don't try to force your morality and laws on everybody else! Got it?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Danny

      So here is my question "Oh Yeah." If there is nothing after this life, why does it matter what you do in this life. Won't it end either way? And aren't we both wasting our time no matter what we do?
      And I disagree. I don't see people who believe in Religion any more selfish than people who don't. i.e. yourself.

      Momoya, I agree withyou about forcing morality and laws on everyone, just don't force it off everyone also! got it?
      Anyways I just don't understand why life, and especially what comes after your matters, in your view.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Danny

      Momoya, I agree withyou about forcing morality and laws on everyone, just don't force it off everyone also! got it?
      Anyways I just don't understand why life, and especially what comes after your matters, in your view.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Danny

      It's hard for an atheist to explain it to a believer.. Basically, we atheists just want you numbskulls to grow up and quit believing in Santa.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Danny

      momoya,
      So here is my question.
      If you truly believe what you do, why does it matter to you that I quit believing in "Santa"?

      April 2, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Danny
      Does hurting people only matter to you whether or not you eventually get punished for it after you die? Personally, I don't hurt people because it isn't the nice thing to do. I try to be good for goodness' sake, as the tune goes, not for the reward I might get out of it later on.

      Believers have the additional (and, in at least some cases, only) incentive of trying to earn brownie points with their good deeds. There are many believers I've spoken to who say that they are only against gay marriage and evolution because they think God is, and that they believe God will punish those who do not take a stand against these things. That makes them selfish, as selfish as somebody who chooses to be the follower of a bully instead of his victim. I don't hurt people just because there is a superst.ition that doing so might earn me a reward after I die. I don't hurt them just because it's the right thing to do.

      April 2, 2012 at 12:12 am |
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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.