By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.
It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.
But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN)– For Christians in countries thrown into tumult by the Arab Spring revolutions, Easter celebrations may prove dangerous.
According to experts and academics in the United States, the changing balances of power in each country, along with a history of anti-Christian sentiment, have made overt celebrations like Easter a cause for concern among Christians. This atmosphere, according to the same scholars, will likely alter the way the religious holiday is celebrated.
"In the past, they [Syrian Christians] have had great outpouring of piety in the public squares on Easter," said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. "This time, I suspect it is going to be vastly different. They are fearful."
By Denise Quan, CNN
(CNN)–Merle Haggard calls himself a walking miracle and credits God for keeping him healthy. He spent his 21st birthday in San Quentin State Prison for attempted robbery. He'll celebrate this birthday surrounded by family and friends at his home in Palo Cedro, California. For the remainder of April, he'll travel around the country, playing new songs and old such hits like "Mama Tried" and "Okie From Muskogee."
In a rare and unflinching interview with CNN, the man critics have dubbed "Poet of the Common Man" sounds off on religion, poverty, politics, health and family.
(CNN)–NFL star Tim Tebow will be in Texas speaking at Celebration Church's Easter Sunday service in Georgetown, Texas . The church is setting up an outdoor space for the event and expects as many as 30,000 people to attend. CNN affiliate KVUE reports.
By Eric Marrapodi and Brian Todd, CNN
Kansas City, Missouri (CNN) – Elder William Walker slipped white booties over his black wing-tip shoes and instructed his guests to do the same as he led them into the newest Mormon temple in the world.
This day was the first chance the public had to see inside the sacred space for the area’s 49,000 Mormons, and it was also one of the last.
On May 6, when Thomas S. Monson, the head of the 14 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, dedicates this temple, the doors will close forever to the public. The church said it expects as many as 100,000 visitors in Kansas City before the temple will be closed to the public.
After that, only temple-recommended Mormons will be able to walk through the heavy wooden and stained-glass doors.
“This is a sacred space, set apart place for only those who are devout followers of the faith,” Walker said.
By Floyd Yarmuth, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Christians have been part of Middle Eastern culture for 2,000 years, but many people don’t realize that a small minority of Arabs are Christians.
Pastor Esper Ajaj of the Arabic Baptist Church in Washington said that people often assume he is Muslim because of his background and accent.
“I tell them that there are a lot of Christian people in the Middle East. In Egypt, there are 9 million Coptic Christians alone,” he said.
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.