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Obama's gay marriage support riles religious conservatives, but political effects not yet clear
President Barack Obama addressing a gay rights group in 2011.
May 9th, 2012
04:55 PM ET

Obama's gay marriage support riles religious conservatives, but political effects not yet clear

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage on Wednesday outraged conservative Christian leaders, who vowed to use it as an organizing tool in the 2012 elections, but the move is also activating the liberal base, raising big questions about who gains and loses politically.

“It cuts both ways - it activates both Democratic and Republican base voters,” said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. “The most likely effect is that it makes an already close election even closer.”

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

The announcement puts Obama at odds with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage and who voiced that opposition in an interview on Wednesday.

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"Considering that 10 of the 16 battleground states have marriage amendments that could be overturned by the president's new policy position on marriage, today's announcement almost ensures that marriage will again be a major issue in the presidential election,” said Tony Perkins, president of the the conservative Family Research Council.

“The president has provided a clear contrast between him and his challenger, Mitt Romney," Perkins continued. "Romney, who has signed a pledge to support a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution, may have been handed the key to social conservative support by President Obama."

Obama stressed in the interview that his support was personal and that he would leave the issue of marriage to the states. But many conservatives chafed at the idea that the president's personal views would not affect public policy.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement saying the president's comments were "deeply saddening." Dolan's statement continued, "I pray for the President every day, and will continue to pray that he and his Administration act justly to uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church outside of Washington, DC, said that "I think the president has been in this place for awhile and that he chose this time because he thought that it might shift the balance of power." Jackson has long campaigned against same-sex marriage.

Ralph Reed, a top organizer among religious conservatives, said Obama’s announcement was a “gift to the Romney campaign.”

Romney, a Mormon who has evolved to a more conservative position on hot button social issues, has struggled with his party's largely evangelical conservative base in the primaries. But Reed said Obama’s gay marriage support would help Romney in many battleground states.

“The Obama campaign doesn’t have to worry about New York and California,” Reed said. “They have to worry about Ohio, Florida and Virginia and I don’t’ see evidence that it’s a winning issue in those states.”

Green said that public opinion about gay marriage has been shifting dramatically in recent years, with some polls showing more support than opposition. Green said that in many battlegrounds, including Ohio, it's impossible to nail down current public opinion on same-sex marriage. A Gallup Poll conducted this month found that 50% of American adults support legal recognition of same-sex marriage, while 48% oppose it.

Reed noted that same-sex marriage bans have passed in virtually every state they have appeared on the ballot, including in North Carolina on Tuesday. That’s a typically red state that Obama won in 2008 and that is the site of the Democrat's 2012 convention.

Many liberal groups were ecstatic over Obama’s support for gay marriage. “Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In his interview with ABC, Obama talked about squaring his decision with his personal religious faith.

“We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others,” Obama said, referencing his wife, Michelle.

“But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule,” he said. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

One key Obama constituency that may be angered by his Wednesday announcement is African-Americans, who tend to be more religious than whites. Though they hew heavily Democratic, African-Americans are generally conservative on social issues like gay marriage.

- CNN's Eric Marrapodi, Shannon Travis, and Mary Snow contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Gay marriage

soundoff (2,108 Responses)
  1. Yobub

    So President has the religious conservatives riled. It's probably the first time they have had an erection in the last four decades.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  2. AtheistoMachisto

    Keep quoting your book of fiction called the Bible.. Who cares??????

    May 10, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  3. wrdofyaweh

    1 Timothy 4:1
    "But The Spirit speaks plainly that in the last time they shall depart one by one from the faith and they shall go after deceiving spirits and after the teachings of demons" That time is here and Obama is merely carrying out what has to happen. Therefore pray that your spirits be in alignment with the Spirit of the creator. All these things must pass...

    May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Madtown

      Which version is that scriptural quote from? Interesting to note that the verse will look different if taken from a different version.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Primewonk

      Leviticus 20:13
      If a man has sèxual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death

      Yet I don't see you fundiots obeying this command from your god. Why??

      May 10, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  4. Marcia

    Two consenting adults who promise and commit to love, honor, support, respect each other in a monogamous relationship until they are parted by death? Fine with me.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  5. Will

    Should the church stop banging little boys first? Also, based on the bible, anyone, including a gay man has the potential to become spontaneously pregnant like the virgin Mary. I guess abstinence only work 99.9% of the time.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • bob

      that's the catholic church.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Will

      It's every church, name one church that has not abused a kid.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  6. bob

    I don't really care what Obama thinks about gay marriage, I did vote for him last time this time I will not. What put me against him is his stance with veterans and the military in general. This year he made it so that the VA will try and charge your med. insurance if you have any for service connected issues when you go to the VA. As it is I hate going to the VA hospital, the wait time is outrageous the doctors don't even really exam you and it's just an overall pain in the butt. I prefer to see a real doctor but the VA will not cover it and most med insurance do not cover pre-existing conditions so it's a catch 22.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • stateschool

      Congress controls that.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Neeneko

      Yeah.. because GoP candidates are so wonderful to vetrans. GoP is great about big military funding, but they have a lousy track record of taking care of veterans after leaving the service.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • bob

      Congress may control it but it was Obama who suggested it. I'm not saying the GOP is any better the way I look at it we need new blood in there. Too many people are stuck in their ways and we need to start taking care of our own country and our own people. And right now neither side has anyone good running for president, but as long as people continue to believe in the foolishness that is being feed to them this country will continue on the path that's it's currently on.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Lukeskywalkr

      Go ahead. Throw your vote away.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  7. wrdofyaweh

    They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    1John 4
    This is how you know the true God.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      Take some ecstasy and you will truly speak to "GOD" you are claiming to exist.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Fvck em

      Laughable. You believe in a deity because a 2000 year old book of fairy tales written by ancient nomadic goat headers tells you too?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  8. a disgrace

    tell everyone what they want to hear get elected and go back on vacation...AMERICA TELLS OBAMA FOOL ME ONCE!

    May 10, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Primewonk

      Bush (the Younger) spent more time on vacation than any President in history. Obama isn't anywhere close.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  9. JB

    Won't happen in my lifetime, but the tide is turning and fewer and fewer people care what religious conservatives think. Your views are archaic and backwards. This society is progressing and evolving, and one day you will go the way of the dodo, and that will be a great day for the advancement of humanity.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Lukeskywalkr

      Amen to that. Just look at Western Europe and Scandinavia to have a glimpse of how society in America will evolve by the time our children and grandchildren are grown up.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  10. MJS

    God is not a procrastinator....he is showing America mercy and providing us an opportunity to repent. This country is completely lost and we have evil people in charge. "Treat others like you would want to be treated." What about showing God respect by obeying his commandments and the Bible. You can treat other humans equally and respectfully every day of your life but when you compromise Gods commands, straight to hell you will find yourself. For Eternity, Forever! Think about that...intense pain and suffering that never ceases! God gives us every breath of air we breathe each day...it's time we repent as a nation and start living for him. Alot of society's problems that are slowly getting worse would slowly improve.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Wayne

      Your god is imaginary.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Mike

      There is no place for your religion in our politics!

      May 10, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • BRC

      @MJS,
      Will you go to hell if gay people get married? If the answer is not, then let it go. Many do not share your fears, adn no matter how strongly you feel it you can't prove your beliefs to be truth. Since their getting married won't harm you, YOU don't get to direct their lives based on your beliefs.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Dennis

      So, you follow EVERY law in the Bible......doubt it! Don't judge people because the sin differently than you!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • MJS

      What leads you to believe he is imaginary? Just because you can't see something you immediately refute it's existence? Instead of just arguing that God is imaginary what leads you to believe he is?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Boytjie

      Did you hold up that same mirror to George W Bush that went into an unnecessary war based on lies? Hypocrits

      May 10, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Fvck em

      apparently your god is procrastinator, he has yet to send Jesus back, and didn't seem to give a sh!t about the world as a whole. No god.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • George37

      Wayne, you speak only for yourself. One day, you will know the truth.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • BRC

      @MJS,
      Because I have never seen, felt or sensed any evidence of the existence of any gods. Becasue I can answer the hows and whys of my life with science, no divine intervention required; and becasue while we don't know how the universe started, we move closer everyday.

      More specifically, I know the "God" of the Christian religion doesn't exist. the descriptions are contradictory, mutually exclusive, and downright absurd. An all loving "God" that commits attrocities, and all powerful "God" that cares what miniscule beings do in their free time, yet can't control or stop it, that builds humans a certain way then punishes them for being that way, that makes a universe that is vast beond comprehension, so he can populate an infintesimally small rock, invent needless rules that he knows we will break, punish us for breaking them, still be angry, come to earth as a human form of himself, kill himself to appease himself for us breaking a rule that he created, and then still be mad at us. Sorry, that is senseless. I have no reason to believe it, so I don't.

      Does that answer your question?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • MJS

      No where did I say I followed every law in the Bible. I am a sinner just like every other human being on this earth. Jesus interceded for our sins for those who follow him with all of their heart and believe. I also do not intend to direct others life choices. However, I do want others to come to christ even if only one person.

      Regardless of the issue, does it not cause concern that Obama chooses to take a stance on an issue claiming that because Biden did....it accelerated his decision to take a stance. So basically what that shows is that he gives into the pressure of others actions/words.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • mommytwice

      one thing the Bible was big on was stoning people. Slavery was prominent. Should we go back to that? Just because it's in a 2,000 year old book written by MEN, (Catholic monks, specifically)doesn't mean every single syllable needs to be adhered to. I still say Jesus would NEVER have supported the blantant discrimination and mistreatment of anyone. He preached against it every day of his life.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Primewonk

      "What about showing God respect by obeying his commandments and the Bible. You can treat other humans equally and respectfully every day of your life but when you compromise Gods commands, straight to hell you will find yourself."

      Your god's 1st commandment says that I must worship only him, under penalty of death and eternal torture. My 1st amendment says I can worship any gods I want, or no gods. My constîtution goes further and says that no religious test can be used for any public office. My constîtution trumps your commandments. I win. Every day. Every time.

      Plus, your god commands that you (his followers) go and kill gay folks. So according to you, since you fundiots refuse to do this, you all are going straight to hell.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  11. antigay

    BTW its not hate speech, I don't care if you are gay and what you do behind closed doors, but allowing gay marriage opens pandoras box, next you'll have hollywood advocating pedophiles to marry children. Or humans to marry animals, after all they love one another too, and it makes them happy, isn't that what gay marriage is all about?

    May 10, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • bppack

      that's just stupid

      May 10, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Wayne

      It's about consent. Children and animals can't do that.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      Ssssh!The Mormon has a plan. They want Romney who is a Mormon to win the presidency so they can pass a law to legalize polygamy and for you to marry your first cousins and take a younger wife. Isn't that exciting?

      May 10, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • antigay

      what make you think a child can't consent? Just listen to some of the emails from cases incolcing pedo's. also again don't care if your gay, but it will open doors for other deviant behaviors to be acceptable. give and inch they will take a mile, there are already advocacy groups for that kind of stuff.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • antigay

      actually I could argue if your not being bitten the anilmal is consenting, they bite when they dont consent

      May 10, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Boytjie

      antigay

      what make you think a child can't consent?
      --------
      It's something called the law. Are you really this ignorant?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Bob

      Moronic

      May 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Michael

      @ Wayne

      Good point, except for the fact, that it isn't. What if an adult male claims to love and wants to marry his adult sister and they both conscent, does that make it right? Is conscent allow what defines something as being right? Are you saying that the gov should allow incest if the two adults are conscenting? Or lets even broaden this point and say if someone conscents to committing suicide, does it make it right, after all it is their body and they are conscenting to it, right?

      The problem is people are very good at making a statement to try to prove their point, without thinking out the logic or principle behind their point.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Primewonk

      Children and animals cannot give informed consent and enter a valid contract. We have told you fundiots this over and over. We've given you the science behind it. We've given you the case law behind it.

      However, your cognitive dissonance prohibits you from understanding this.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Michael

      @ Primework, plse see my above statement in response to Wayne. I have already tackled this issue. I understand your arguement about the animals, however, if whether someone should be able to marry is based on conscent, then let me know if you believe in incest and polgamy if all parties involved are adults and conscent. You can't play that deck of cards on one thing and not on everything. Either you believe adults should legally be allowed to be married to who they want, no matter how many as long as everyone conscents.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  12. olga79

    Tell me what is the difference between the "religious right" in this country and the Taliban who are pushing their beliefs on people?

    May 10, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • n8263

      In principle there is no difference.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Mike

      The Taliban is willing to die for their beliefs and the Religous right stops just short of that.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Greg

      I agree with your statement. I have often said that you can't be a Conservative Christian. You can be an Intolerant Christian...that makes more sense if you think about it. That is very Taliban like. If you are a true follower of Christ you are by definition: L I B E R A L Now, all these hate mongers just prove my point You can't be a Conservative Christian...an INTOLERANT or Hateful Christian, Yes! But not Conservative. That just doesn't make any sense. Thankfully, those people who oppose marriage equality will eventually leave this earth a better place....BECAUSE THEY LEFT! Amen!

      May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Dubhly

      Both try to force people to accept and obey their form of religion, differance is that one says "God" and one says "Allah". Islam is a branch off of the Judeo/Christian religion anyway so same god, just differant names. Considering we have christian terrorist too...no real differance, just semantics.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Primewonk

      The religious right (oxymoron) and the taliban both worship the same god. They just choose to hate each other in his name.

      This god gave the same commands and rules to the religious right (oxymoron) and the taliban. Kill gay folks.. Force ràpe victims to marry their attackers. Kill folks who worship other gods.

      The only difference is that the fundiot Muslims have the balls to obey their god, while these religious right (oxymoron) fundiots just thumb their noses at god.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  13. vdanker

    Let the hate speech begin...

    May 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  14. Listen

    When God says "Don't" He means "Don't hurt yourself". Love does not equal lust.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • BRC

      @Listen,
      Odd, noting that love does not equal lust, you think religious people would be more supportive of relationships that aren;t centered around the traditional concept of s-x, and that feel so strongly their love for one another that they are willing to take on the hate and discontent that apparently a small majority of the nation will direct at them for embracing their love. Or are you saying love is only important when it's a certain specific kind of love?

      May 10, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Michael

      @BRC, the point here is that when God tells us not to do something, he is not saying it just to be a mean intolerant God. He is saying because he knows the consequences of it, both in the physical and the spiritual realm. No different than me as a father would tell my daughter not to do something, even if she disagrees or gets mad at me for it, I see the bigger picture and know the dangers that there are, even we she can't see them. To bring this full circle, one example of gay s-x is that statistically speaking, AIDS is more likely in the gay community, not saying that no one else can get it, but it is more likely to be contracted in that lifestyle. So, that being said, I would think an all powerful, all knowing God would tell us, hey don't do this, it can cause you harm, even if you don't see it, because you are too busy wrapped up in your lust or sometimes shame or guilt and even feeling of duty or obligation.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Michael – then you will want your daughter to be a lesbian. They have the lowest rate of HIV transmission of any group. The highest rate world-wide is heterosèxual women.

      May 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Michael

      @Primewonk, no I want my daughter to not have s-x until she is married and with one man, as God intended it, again for a reason, as you pointed out. The statistic you point out is usually with women who have had more than one partner.

      May 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  15. antigay

    @ BRC the laws he speaks of are for what we all know goes down in bedrooms of gay people. So lets call it what it is......SODOMY! Look it up, male on male, human on animal, its all sodomy! and its illegal!

    May 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • BRC

      @antigay,
      Sodomy is only adressed by blue laws in some states, and it is virtualy unenforced even there. There are laws against sodomy in the UCMJ as well, but those are definitely never enforced. Fun fact, straight couples can (and do) commit acts that are considered sodomy. Those same states also commonly have laws against oral, and sometime anything that isn't missionary position. Thankfully those laws are not universal, completely unenforceable, and would be overturned on appeal in a matter of minutes.

      You're either sarcastic or ignorant on this one, I hope for your sake the former.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • antigay

      sure I agree with you on that, but either way it is still deviancy. I am not ignorant and know full well some people are going to choose to be gay can't stop that , but I don't have to condone it.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • BRC

      @antigay,
      who defines it as deviant?

      May 10, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Lukeskywalkr

      Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  16. NorCalMojo

    Right, because Obama has been pretending he didn't support it to please right wing conservatives.

    This reporting is a joke.

    He's been lying about it because of the black and white-hispanic blocs don't like gays. Everyone knows that.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  17. Satan

    Thanks to all my friends who are posting. See you all in Hell.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • BRC

      I'll bring the ice cream and snow cones.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Portia

      Well, if all gays are going to meet you, and all peoples who don't go along with what the Bible says is coming to meet you, then I guess the vast majority of America is headed South

      May 10, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • John

      I thought your intelligence was next to God's, but it turns out you're just as dumb as any backwoods hick.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      Looking forward to it. You're not boring.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • BRC

      Pretty much anything fun is a sin.

      Heaven (if I understand it) is eternity outside of sin...

      No thank you.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • 3vix6

      Hey Satan,

      Are you still taking care of the undead across the river sticks or did you give up that gig when your character was recycled from Anubis and Hades to create Satan from Christianity?

      The Abrahamic religions are a joke and a waste of time.. Get a life.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Lukeskywalkr

      Correction: ALL religions are stupid and a waste of time. Throughout history, there is no shred of evidence that a god or gods exist. They are always man-made inventions until proven otherwise.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  18. joe

    Of course I am headed to hell with my post modernist male friends.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  19. n8263

    It is immoral to impose your personal Sharia Law on to others.
    Keep religion out of politics.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  20. joe

    Religious reaction should be irrelevant. I mean how much attention do you want to give people who follow ideas and rules from primitive man? Who in their right mind wants to stay nailed to the ideas and rules of ignorant, primitive men from 2000-3000 years ago?

    May 10, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Fvck em

      Well said.

      May 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Michael

      @ Joe, except these so called "primitive man" figures you talk about as though they were just complete idiots, were the forerunners to a lot of our technology. Had they not discovered and tried what they did, we may not enjoy the technology we have today. By the way, take a look at ancient Egyptian stuff, I'm sure you will find that the people were far from "stupid primitive people" They were human beings just like you and I. They had friends and family, just like us, they had jobs and problems, just like us. The only difference is the difference in technology. Which honestly, I think makes us dumber, because instead of figuring things out on our own, we allow technology to figure it out for us.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Michael – please don't lump your nomadic bronze-age shepherds in with folks from back then who were scientifically curious.

      Your bands of îdiots could get pi past 3.0, while others at that time had it worked out to 22/7. Your guys thought epilepsy was demonic possession. Your guys treated leprosy by using a live bird to sprinkle the blood of a dead bird around a house. Your guys thought rabbits chewed their cud.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Michael

      @ Primewonk – First of all, have of your point is rhetoric and has no validitiy to it at all. You did not live in that time, nor can you say you sat down and had an interview with someone at that time, so to act like you have all the answers about people of that time and what they thought and did, is foolish at best. Hate to break the news to you, but you are capable of being wrong, you are capable of making mistakes and you are capable of misunderstanding things. So, to assume that people, who had less technology to investigate things than we have today are some how all idiots is dumb in and of itself.

      Then on top of that to assume that people who have a different viewpoint than you are dumb is also arrogant as well. I guarantee you that you do not have the answers to all of lives questions, so don't blame those looking for them to not look to you. Besides, it makes more logical sense to believe we were created, than we just happened. After all, when you get in your car today, I'm sure you are not going to wonder how atoms came together and made the car and evolved over time. You are going to know someone made that car in a factory somewhere and considering we are much more complex than that car is, it only makes sense that there is a creator.

      May 10, 2012 at 2:47 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.