This is the first in a series exploring the concept of American exceptionalism. On Monday, we examine areas in which other countries lead the way.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – It’s safe to say the first European arrivals to New England wouldn’t recognize today’s debate over whether America is exceptional.
Though the United States wouldn’t be born for another century and a half, the Puritans arriving in the early 1600s on the shores of what would become Massachusetts firmly believed they were on a mission from God.
In other words, they had the exceptional part down pat.
Fleeing what they saw as the earthly and corrupt Church of England, the Puritans fancied themselves the world’s last, best hope for purifying Christianity - and for saving the world.
The Puritans never used the word “exceptionalism.” But they came to see Boston as the new Jerusalem, a divinely ordained “city upon a hill,” a phrase Massachusetts Bay Colony founder John Winthrop used in a sermon at sea en route from England in 1630.
“They were reinterpreting themselves as God’s new Israel,” Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero said. “They were essentially playing out the biblical story.”
To modern ears, that literal exceptionalist thinking could sound at once both exotic and quaint, which makes the idea’s staying power and influence throughout American history all the more remarkable.
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Nearly four centuries after Winthrop uttered the words “city on a hill,” President Barack Obama finds himself responding to charges from Republican challenger Mitt Romney that he has insufficient faith in American exceptionalism.
“Our president doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do,” Romney said at a campaign stop this year. “You have an opportunity to vote and take the next step in bringing back that special nature of being American.”
Obama has pushed back on that claim, saying in a recent speech that “the character of our country … has always made us exceptional.”
Though the particulars surrounding the idea have changed, the bedrock belief that America is exceptional when measured against the arc of history and against all other nations has helped forge the nation’s defining moments, from the American Revolution and the country’s dramatic expansion west to the Civil War and both World Wars.
More recently, arguments about American exceptionalism have helped elect and unseat presidents – and have fed a debate about whether the phrase still has any meaning.
'An asylum for mankind'
For New England’s Puritans, exceptionalism was a religious idea with big political repercussions.
They thought the Protestant Reformation, which had been set into motion a century before, hadn’t gone nearly far enough in rooting out the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.
Puritans saw the pomp and hierarchy of the Protestant Church of England as too much like another papacy.
My Take: How I constructed 'The American Bible'
In New England, Winthrop and his fellow travelers established a theocracy that they hoped would be a model for English Christianity.
“They had to succeed to bring about this promised apocalyptic history that would culminate in the second coming of Christ, hopefully to New England,” said Deborah Madsen, an American studies professor at the University of Geneva.
“To fail would be to fail the world on this grand, transcendent scale,” said Madsen, who has studied the idea of American exceptionalism throughout U.S. history.
With the stakes thought to be so high, there was intense social pressure among Puritans to adhere to a strict moral code.
Everyone looked for signs that they were among the elect destined for heaven and kept a watchful eye out for neighbors who might be backsliding. The starkest example: the Salem witch trials of 1692, in which 19 people were hanged in Massachusetts for allegedly practicing witchcraft.
“If the members of the community fulfilled their part in the work of sacred history, not only would the individuals find salvation, but the whole community would be saved,” Madsen said, summarizing Puritan thinking. “But if any individual failed to live up to this grand destiny, the entire community would be denied salvation.”
Being God’s chosen people, it turned out, wasn’t all roses.
America exceptional? Not by the numbers
As new arrivals and subsequent generations enlarged colonial America, the Puritans’ faith-based ideas were gradually secularized.
By 1660, it had become clear to the Massachusetts theocrats that they wouldn’t be exporting their ideas abroad anytime soon. That was the year the British monarchy was restored after a decade of rule by the Cromwells, putting an end to Puritan rule in England and re-establishing the Church of England as a political power.
And with new Enlightenment ideas making their way from Europe about a rational universe knowable through reason, the Puritans’ quest for perfect religious institutions gave way to a colonial quest for perfect political institutions.
My Faith: Why I don’t sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’
The democratic ideas that made up this new political exceptionalism owed plenty to Winthrop & Co.
“Puritans had mapped out the relationship between church and the community that included the seed of democratic participation,” said Madsen. “The idea was that everyone had rights but also responsibilities.
“By fulfilling their responsibilities and respecting the rights of others, they would achieve happiness through the social contract.”
That egalitarianism helped lay the groundwork for the American Revolution, though Madsen notes that “the terms of reference had changed from salvation to democracy.”
America’s revolutionaries were keenly aware that their calls for democratic government in the face of English rule were exceptional for their time.
“Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression,” Thomas Paine wrote in 1776 in “Common Sense,” which helped galvanize colonists toward the Revolutionary War.
“Freedom hath been hunted round the globe,” Paine wrote. “Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger. … O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.”
The Puritan vision of America as world’s godly beacon had been replaced by the image of the nation as the world’s workshop for political and social progress. America’s founders wanted to break with what they saw as the corruption of European politics and society, where a person’s status was mostly a matter of inheritance.
By contrast, the founders proposed in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
While other republics had come and gone, many of the founders who signed the Declaration - and, later, the Constitution - wanted the American Republic to endure forever.
This was city on a hill 2.0.
Reading the founders’ paeans to American exceptionalism - about aspiring to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” as the Constitution puts it - can put a lump in your throat.
But their vision excluded huge swaths of the population, like women and slaves. And other applications of the idea had their own dark sides.
Take Manifest Destiny.
As the nascent United States strove to expand westward in the 1800s, its leaders faced major problems, including how to justify taking land that belonged to Europe or that was occupied by Native Americans.
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Manifest Destiny – the idea that it was God’s will for the U.S. government to occupy North America or all of the Americas – offered a big part of the answer.
“A civilization that has the sanction of God is always the ultimate justification,” said the University of Geneva’s Madsen. “The idea was that God had made it manifest that the U.S. should expand. … It’s not much different than the idea of American exceptionalism.”
Like many facets of exceptionalism, the notion of Manifest Destiny wasn’t entirely new.
In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth of England had established herself as a divinely ordained monarch whose reign had been presaged by the Bible. That mythology, which inspired Puritan exceptionalism, had helped English plantation owners justify forays into what is now Northern Ireland.
In the same way, Manifest Destiny helped justify the United States as it laid claim to European land and forcibly removed tens of thousands of American Indians. Many asserted that the campaign was meant to civilize or Christianize the natives, making good on America’s “chosenness.”
And the American image of a continent brimming with virgin land – which denied the presence of American Indians there – synched nicely with long-held exceptionalist visions of an unspoiled and utopian New World.
“Our manifest destiny (is) to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions,” American newspaper editor John S. O’Sullivan wrote in 1845, arguing for the annexation of Texas, in what is believed to be history’s first mention of Manifest Destiny.
It’s hard to know how much America’s leaders truly believed in the idea versus how much they employed it for purely political ends. Manifest Destiny certainly had high-profile critics, including Mark Twain, who declared himself an “anti-imperialist.”
“If you’re a cynical person and you see something like the Mexican-American War as a land grab, you can say this idea of Manifest Destiny was construed to create a moral tissue for a war of aggression,” Boston University international relations professor Andrew Bacevich said.
The westward expansion was driven largely by Southerners who wanted to farm the land and expand American slavery.
But abolitionists like Frederick Douglass also appropriated American exceptionalism, arguing that the nation’s “peculiar institution” was evidence that America was falling short of its Christian mandate.
That abolitionist line foreshadowed a key argument of 20th-century liberals: If America is exceptional, it’s because of the decisions we make around justice, not because of innate “chosenness.”
By Douglass’ time, American exceptionalism was so deeply entrenched in the American psyche that it transcended religion. Abraham Lincoln, often described as a deist - believing in a distant, uninvolved God - was nonetheless a hearty exceptionalist.
“He believed that America was leading the way in history toward democracy and equality,” said Dorothy Ross, a history professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. “At that time, Europe is still steeped in monarchs and failed revolutions, and America was still the only mass democracy in the Western world and believed that it was leading the historical way.”
Even the relatively unreligious Lincoln came to see the hand of God actively participating in American history through the Civil War.
“He gives to both North and South this terrible war,” Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, referring to God. “American slavery,” Lincoln said, was something that “He now wills to remove.”
The first president to say it
Despite its centuries-old influence, the term "American exceptionalism" didn’t emerge until sometime in the past 100 years.
Some historians say it’s unclear who coined the phrase, while others credit Joseph Stalin with doing so in 1929, when he admonished American communists for suggesting that the United States’ unique history could make it immune to Marxism.
In his reprimand, the Soviet leader decried “the heresy of American exceptionalism.”
Ironically, American intellectuals and eventually the broader public came to embrace the term, especially in the years following World War II, even after communists used the Great Depression as evidence of Stalin’s alleged "heresy.”
Just like President Woodrow Wilson had done in World War I, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman justified American involvement in World War II largely on the basis that the country had been chosen to lead and transform the world.
After the Second World War, “the United States had emerged as the strongest country,” said Johns Hopkins’ Ross. “Social scientists began studying things like national character and what makes America unique.”
American affection for the idea grew during the Cold War, as the U.S. attempted to distinguish itself from the “godless” Soviet Union.
“Our governments, in every branch ... must be as a city upon a hill,” John F. Kennedy said in a Boston speech just before his inauguration in 1961, citing John Winthrop by name.
In the ’60s and ’70s, however, American scholars and others began challenging the idea of American exceptionalism, mostly from the left and especially after the Vietnam War, which liberals criticized as a costly exercise in American hubris.
Historians began to see exceptionalism as a scholarly construct, a way of interpreting American history rather than as accepted fact.
Ronald Reagan illustrated the partisan gap around the idea, speaking of America as a “city on a hill” and attacking President Jimmy Carter for allegedly showing weakness on the world stage, including in the Iran hostage crisis.
“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so,” Reagan told the first annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 1974. “We are today the last best hope of man on Earth.”
President George W. Bush employed similar rhetoric in his global “freedom agenda,” even after initially pledging a “humble” foreign policy.
Despite greater Republican than Democratic support for the idea (91% vs. 70%) , a 2010 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans subscribed to the notion that the U.S. has a “unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.”
Boston University’s Prothero criticizes that definition of American exceptionalism, which he says is how most American politicians use the term today.
For John Winthrop, the shining city was an aspiration that depended on the righteous behavior of the Puritans, Prothero says, part of the social contract that laid the groundwork for democracy. Whether the city would in fact shine was an open question.
If the Puritans dealt falsely with their God, Winthrop had said in his 1630 sermon, there will be “curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.”
In contemporary American politics, by contrast, Prothero says the idea of exceptionalism has been stripped of its conditionalism, becoming “a kind of brag.”
“Today, it’s ‘of course God blesses America,’ ” he said. “It’s presumptuous.”
Others have attacked the idea as little more than the kind of nationalism felt by citizens of countries all over the world.
“I believe in American exceptionalism,” President Obama said in France in 2009, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
But the president has since sounded a different tune. In his Air Force Academy commencement speech in May, Obama repeatedly expressed support for American exceptionalism.
“The United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs,” Obama said. “It's one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.”
In fact, Obama appears to be the first sitting president to publicly use those words, political experts say. Given their place in the modern American political lexicon, nearly 400 years after Winthrop first gave voice to the idea, he is unlikely to be the last.
What is exceptional about America: (1) Babies having babies out of wedlock. (2) Men marrying men and women marrying women. (3) American jobs shipped overseas. (4) America giving large amounts of money each year to the enemies of progress in the Middle East where women cannot drive or look their own husbands in the eyes. (4) American students in student loan debt to their eyeballs. (5) A nation of thieves and scam artists. (6) A nation of murderers and serial killers. (7) A nation of artificial breasts, artificial wealth and artificial food. (8) The natural disaster capital of the world. (9) A nation of gluttons, drunks and drug addicts. (10) A nation obsessed with all things "White trash". (11) A nation of corporate greed governed by politicians with the IQ of a duck. (11) The number 1 debtor nation in the world. (12) The most wasteful nation since life began on earth. Do you want to know what America's "manifest destiny" is? Read Revelation Chapter 18.
***PS*** I am not an angry Muslim or angry foreigner. I am an American citizen who is sick and tired of hearing or reading about our "swollen words of greatness" while our nation takes a giant step to self-destruction each day.
"I am not an angry Muslim or angry foreigner."
you sound more like a psychotic christian.
forgot one Jimmy
13. Has a large population of deluded fools who actually read 2000 year old mythological texts which were made up by humans, and think they actually have predictive value, and live as though they have any authority.
Good evening everyone. All are welcome to visit – thestarofkaduri.com
trolling a commercial for your website is bad etiquette.
The view that the United States is "exceptional" is indeed true, for has the position of being the 7th world power in Bible history (Rev 17:9 10), being joined together with Britain as the Anglo-American dual world power. Though many say the expression " God bless America", to the contrary, this nation is on a head-on collision with God, along with all political governments on earth at the "war of the great day of God Almighty" called Armageddon.(Rev 16:14, 16)
It is also given a name in Revelation, calling it the "false prophet", whereby it is spoken of as having "unclean inspired expressions that looked like frogs" come out of its mouth.(Rev 16:13) At Revelation 13:11, it is seen as a "wild beast" that "had two horns like a lamb, but it began speaking as a dragon."
By claiming to be Christian and nonaggressive, the Anglo-American world power puts on a lamblike appearance. But it has really acted like a dragon. Due to its ascending power in 1919, along with Britain, President Woodrow Wilson (along with British Prime Minister Lloyd George) formulated the beginning of League of Nations though never an official member. It looks like it is pursuing peace, but in reality it has the thought of controlling nations and maintaining its sovereignty through political expressions that "looked like frogs".
One little thingy wrong with that delusion : the Babble ain't no history. Next
don't worry about it. i gave myself a frontal lobotomy so i wouldn't have to worry about that nasty cognitive thinking. being half a tard has worked out great for me so far.
don't forget me! i'm a complete moron too!
Too small to be a moron? Maybe a mneuron.
Yes, America is exceptional because thanks to God's grace and blessings we're fortunate and blessed to be governed by President Barack Obama, the greatest President in US history!
One more thing: Most of the signers of the Declaration: NOT holy rollers or christian types at all, but Diests, and some athiests in the mix. Lots of deluded idiot spend way to much time trying to recast the early days of this country as some sort of christian epiphany, but the reality of the facts and the history don't support that. Trying to cast this country as some sort of christian country, that it IS NOT , is a back handed attempt at bigotry aimed squarely at those who might worship outside the christian dogma, or indeed realists who don't see the need for comforting fables of magical god beings. I get it! You seek to exclude Muslims, and Hindus, Toaists, Bhuddists, Jews, Agnostics, Naturalists, Realists, and whatever guiding philosophies that create doubt in your thought-sphere. But this country WAS NOT built on exclusionism, as far as I can tell, and every attempt at bigotry, misogyny, or racism eventually meets its match. Get over it! Whatever you want to believe, go in peace with your beliefs. Just don't try to shove it down my throat, because I see things differently. I am not saying I am more correct than you. We may or may not ever know the answer to that question. But I will grant you the right to be wrong, if you are. Grant me the same decency.
Excellent post. :-)
Practically all cultures where power ends up in the hands of a few have evolved into something else,that else has no positive outcome
In case you didn't notice, I'm an idiot.
bet you haven't noticed my diapers are full of poo. it doesn't taste as bad as you'd think.
It doesn't take long for an atheist to degenerate into filth.
i'm a g.ay christian. i loves the p.enis.
stinking up the internet!
Here's where religion comes from, Herbie :
American exceptionalism is an unAmerican notion. The mere idea of it was made, not expressly said, by the Frenchman Alexander de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America. Tocqueville's examination of the newly created country – after the revolution and before the Civil War – was a pessimistic outlook at best. It is strange to read a book written over a few centuries ago that outlines all the problems we have in our country now because of the complacency of its people. I do not mean merely the complacency of people in voting I mean in all areas, such as education, healthcare, and the list could go on. All of these issues we predicted and are playing out in the exct same way. Again this is not an issue of political parties or which political party sucks, it is about the unwillingness and laziness of our citizens to take accountability. You want to make our country exceptional go out and get an education. Demand become better than yourself and transcend the limitations that are being set on you, all of us at once. That opportunity is what makes American exceptional, not our willingness to pretend to be consumed with the welfare of our country when a ballot box opens or your favorite politician decides to speak. The only true way to free ourselves from the place we are at now is to invest in ourselves and educate ourselves. We will merely be passed up by everyone else if we do not choose to do so.
We're number #1!!!
... in hubris.
Many people take the US as it is, for granted. I see an unsustainable government/economic relationship which thrived under post-war conditions during the 50's, but that model can't last forever.
So it was "God's" master plan to practically wipe out all of the people that were inhabiting this country before the Europeans settled here? So much for a "loving God"......
Their "god" demands blood sacrifice.
hard to believe? not really.
god murdered millions of people when he drowned everyone on earth but one family. he also murdered the first born children of egypt. he also send a bear to kill 42 children because they made fun of a bald prophet. he also murders almost everyone on earth during the end days.
Thank you Rob. you summed it really well.
Judgement is the definition of a loving God. It would be unloving to allow sinners to run totally unchallenged and unpunished, just as it would be unjust for a mortal judge not to pass sentence on any convicted criminal it would be unjust for a loving God not to have destroyed the evil as a warning to future generations. God bless
stinking up the internet!......
"Judgement is the definition of a loving God."
only a complete psychopath would justify the murder of innocent children.
There were no innocents all were guilty, then and now. God bless
there is no herbie
babies are guilty and deserving of death?
keep showing how inhumane and brainwashed you are.
"There were no innocents all were guilty, then and now. God bless" only the foolishness of a christian could make a belief like that. no innocents not even infants? The bible is evil garbage
Please. America is taking away women's rights left and right. Treating it's citzens like animals. We are going to implode on ourselves before we know its happening. Oh wait, it already is. With economic downfall and religious nut jobs on the rise that stand against what this very country was founded on–ESCAPE from relgious persecution. You jesus krispys actually believe this revisionist history that America was founded on a christian doctrine. so false.
Prayer changes things'
Obviously, prayer is NOT healthy for the children where parents believed in "faith healing". You know since they DIED. I hope you have no children and have them believe in foolish things "like prayer". I will teach my children that science and reason exist and to accept responsibility for the things they can and cannot change. Not pray to some invisible being for help.
What is more dangerous to children are pedophile priests, pastors, and rabbis.
No one has ever committed atrocities in the name of no god, but every god can list millions of dead in their name.
actions change things; prayer wastes valuable time.
unclasp your hands, stop talking to your invisible friend in the sky, go outside and make a difference.
More innocent people have been brutally tortured and murdered by atheists in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries.
nobody kills in the name of atheism. people do kill, however, in the name of christianity.
Now YOU'RE the bigot, Booty Boy.
Go explain that to da boyz in da hoood.
bitterfunk, Actions without a plan seem to be your speed. Prayer provides Gods perfect plan. No one would follow you anyway.
You have to excuse me, Ronaldo.... I'm actually quite an idiot. That's why I post so much nonsense.
prayer = planning? FAIL.
planning is planning; prayer is talking to yourself. so when you get ready to build a house, you don't get diagrams and blueprints and come up with an actual plan - you just pray to god and then start nailing boards together and hope for the best. yes, that's a great strategy.
you need to look up the word "plan" and the word "prayer" and realize they aren't interchangeable.
Mao killed in the name of atheism, so did Stalin and Hitler and Ho and Fidel and African warlords, all communists did. Atheists place a great deal of importance on lying, stealing and when in power murder. God bless
Hitler, a catholic, killed in the name of atheism? LOL!
beattyfunk you need to look up the words reason and rational thought. No one would follow your plan if it was inscribed on gold plates and they were allowed to keep the plates.
that's because you think prayer is planning. you can probably find other idiots with similar "thinking".
failing and stinking
bippyfunk Hitler was a catholic like mickey is a mouse. refer back to your need for rational thought. With each post it seems less likely that anyone would follow your lead anywhere.
Hitler talks about his christian faith in his book, Mein Kampf. he says he's on a mission from god to kill the jews.
do some homework.
"Mao killed in the name of atheism, so did Stalin and Hitler and Ho and Fidel and African warlords, all communists did. Atheists place a great deal of importance on lying, stealing and when in power murder. God bless"
Epic Foolishness. Mao/Stalin killed in the name of communism and cult of personality. they purged plenty of their own. Hitler was a catholic. nice try. however many people were killed directly in the name of xianity
No we are not exceptional. There is far to much hate and name calling to be a chosen land.
Ok...all you hate mongers...let me have it! There is nothing worse then a bunch of hate-full belly aching Christians.
WHAT'S YOUR GRUDGE THIS TIME AMERICA?
GRUDGE SPELLS DOOM!
This country needs lerts!
"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."
–The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.
Notice he didn't say that he was a disciple of the myths propagated by his crazy followers.
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
I'm an idiot, too. But you didn't need Thomas Jefferson to figure that out.
bet you can guess how many different objects are up my b.utt right now?
Do you know who the strongest patriot is? It's not the deluded Fox Borg who thinks everything we do as a nation is by its very nature golden. The best patriot is one who understands our triumphs, and celibrates them, but also understands our weaknesses and our screwups, and doesn't make excuses for them, but instead has a clear and factual nature in the discussion as to how to overcome our messes and make this country better. Hey! torture and imperialism, for example? Let's not make escuses or provide blind subservience to national leaders that commit crimes against humanity but instead, let's point out the error of our ways and how we can make this nation better, both for ourselves and as a world citizen. The US COULD BE a world leader, an example for all nations; instead it is a dangerous wounded viper, dying due to its overexpenditures and its hegemonic overreach and its surrender to its Rentier Class which takes all and earns nothing through any effort, dying but still strong and dangerous and capable of lashing out and dealing any country a lethal blow, often with little reason. We can be better. And you know deep down inside your psyche and conscience the path forward, never weak, but cooperative on the world stage and understanding that to be truly exceptional is not to be a killer and a danger but instead a friend and team member. We need to return this country to one By, Of, and For The People. All of Them, not just the warmongers and profiteers
"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever."
–Adams wrote this in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776.
What's your point?
"The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.
"Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System."
–Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.
So, do you reject America's entrance into WWII... if we were a "christian" nation, then we should have turned the other cheek after the Pearl Harbor attack. So... do you really follow the teachings of Jesus, or just the ones you feel comfortable with. I'm also guessing that you have not sold all your belongings and given the proceeds to charity.
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.