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Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith
American Atheists says it took down billboards critical of the candidates' religions in Charlotte, North Carolina, after threats.
August 27th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith

By Dan Gilgoff and Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - An atheist group that raised a pair of billboards taking aim at the presidential candidates’ religion at the site of next month’s Democratic National Convention has pulled the signs after what the group called a “large volume of threats.”

The billboards, sponsored by American Atheists, took aim at Mormonism and Christianity and went up this month in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will play host to the Democratic convention.

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and President Barack Obama is also a Christian.

The billboard targeting Christianity featured an image of Jesus Christ on toast and this description of the faith: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’ ”

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The billboard targeting Mormonism lambasted - and, Mormons would say, distorted - specific Mormon doctrines: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.”

The Mormon billboard featured a man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments.

American Atheists said the billboards provoked a “large volume of threats” by phone and e-mail and that the group reported the threats to police.

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“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ managing director, said in a statement last week.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny - and this includes religion in all forms,” Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats and hate speech against our staff, volunteers and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

American Atheists had wanted to put the anti-Mormon billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with this week's Republican National Convention.

When no billboard company in the city would lease the group space for such a sign, American Atheists President David Silverman said the organization decided to focus solely on the Democrats in Charlotte.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Politics

soundoff (1,780 Responses)
  1. polycarp pio

    Atheism simply for fools, join them and perisn. PP

    August 28, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • ruben

      Join them and learn how to spell

      August 28, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Hawk

      Oh yes...an "all loving" deity, who loves his children more than any human could love their own children, will take any of his children who don't bow down and worship him and torture them for eternity. VERY loving. /sarcasm

      August 28, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • ruben

      You must be dyslexic, it should say polycrap. If you prey about it, you might be blessed with the knowledge of English Comp.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Hawk...In order for us to have free will, there must be consequences for making the wrong choices. I hope for your sake you are right about there being no God, but I hope for my sake there is.

      August 28, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  2. Ms. Maud

    Atheists are so preoccupied that there is no God that they spend more time thinking about God than I do.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • ruben

      I think about God all the time and i laugh to myself while I think about what everybody else is thinking about. They are so silly.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Hawk

      Take god out of our government, out of our laws and out of our schools...and we will shut up. But since Christianity is shoved in our faces on a daily basis, yes, we will talk about god because it impacts our lives each and every day.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Emitr

      I spend most of my philosophy time thinking about how silly humans are. Cute but silly.

      August 28, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Hawk, we don't shove Christianity in your face, but rather our idea of what is right or wrong. How we decide what we believe is right or wrong is our choice as it is yours too. Just because we believe certain things are right or wrong does not make it shoving it in your face, and our attempting to make legal or illegal things we think are right or wrong is no more wrong than you doing the same based on whatever decision making method you use.

      August 28, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  3. N. Onnimus

    I'm sure the billboard was offensive to some. Seeing those giant billboards around town that tell me Jesus died for my sins is offensive to me... but I never threatened anyone as a result. The God-fearing hypocrites that would threaten the company that put up the billboards should be ashamed of themselves; and if they're caught, they should be punished through our legal system.

    As for the stupid comments about people suddenly believing in God when they're about to die, that's just B.S. Those who think that's so obviously don't know any atheists. Big surprise (not).

    August 28, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  4. Timothy

    Ah I love this. Atheists claim to be liberals, but where is that famous tolerance for which liberals and the left are known? Many of the atheists I have met are among the most bigoted intolerant people around.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Eh

      It's not them, it's YOU. You are a total dorkwad, so naturally everyone around you will be hostile to you. Dork.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Angela Birch

      Actually Athiests don't claim to be liberals Athiests come from across the political spectrum for Ayn Rand devetees to Liberald who don't believe in a God.
      I really see this as no different than devout loving Christians putting pu billboards telling people "If you don't beleiive in my version of Christianity you will go straight to the place of eternal damnation. And yes, Christians also come from across the political spectrum meither political party owns either Christianiaty nor do they own athism.

      Nothing in the billboards are especially intolerant, they basically say we don't believe.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Hawk

      I am actually a Centrist (with some liberal leanings). I would have very little, if any, problem with religion if it kept itself out of government, laws and the schools. Unfortunately, it doesn't. That is where I have my biggest problem. If religion were to get out of those areas tomorrow, I would have very little reason to complain.

      In fact, I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. A Church that accepts those of all faiths and non-faith. It focuses on social justice, equality and humanitarianism. I have no problem with the UU Church. I can be an Atheist there and be accepted. I don't have to have "faith" in some deity. And I don't have to support forcing any particular religious dogma into schools, politics or law.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • ruben

      The Bible says that people named Timothy shall sucketh the rod. I'm sure that you have read that and do it.
      Religiously

      August 28, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • John in Vegas

      Atheists, like liberals are not tolerant. We are educated. There is no need for tolerance if you learn to distinguish truth from ignorance.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  5. Chris

    I guess we have freedom of speech in this country, ONLY if you're saying what others want to hear. So sad. Atheists, keep up the good work. Education is the key to enlightenment. Though science, we've learned that thunder is not an angry god, the earth is not flat, and the sun does not revolve around the earth. Through time, a lot more silly old beliefs will be disproved until people eventually look back and laugh at the primitive people that believed there was an invisible all-knowing man in the sky. It won't happen in this lifetime, but centuries from now, they are going to be looking back at folks like you and applauding you for using your common sense.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Brian

      Not a good idea to cram you ideas down the throats of people....ever. Doesn't work either way. There are many things that science cannot explain and many Christians who are very respected scientists. I have learned that people who think they know everything know very little. There is more to this universe than can be explained by science.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  6. Steve

    These billboards were pure D-baggery. It's just as annoying when atheists act self-righteous as when the religiously pious do the same.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  7. arothmanmusic

    As an atheist, I find these billboards tasteless and rude. You can't enlighten people by insulting them. I'm glad they took them down.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Kyle

      you can't enlighten people who abandon reason and knowledge for hope and faith.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Brian

      Exactly.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Angela Birch

      Well you might be able to appeal to reason if you didn't start out by insulting people. When they are already mad at you the sweet reason isn't going to be hears, and I speak as a non believer. More flies with honey actually is more effective

      August 28, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  8. rep

    the next time someone wants to call some Muslims on the other side of the world "crazy" for threatening violence whenever their religion gets insulted or mocked, remember this. religious zealots everywhere have a lot in common with each other.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • ruben

      Here, Here!!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Hawk

      EXACTLY! There are those in the U.S. who would love to establish a Christian Theocracy to replace our current government. This is why it is so important for a high wall to separate Church and State. Keep religion out of the government, out of the schools and out of the laws. Teach religion at home and in the Churches, where it belongs.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • war on women

      agreed!

      August 28, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • polycarp pio

      Yes I want a high wall of seperation to keep Mr Obama out of my church!!!!!!!.. PP

      August 28, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Brian

      Yep....and it goes the other way too. You don't have to have religion in there to have "crazies". One want for a state that has religion as its' rule is no worse than a state that says religion is not allowed....i.e. USSR, China, N. Korea, etc. In fact, your tone suggests that you are same as what you disparage.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  9. biglifter

    Self-righteous idiots.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  10. us_1776

    As an atheist, I found this ad to be in poor taste and poor timing.

    I am glad they took it down. Not that I disagreed with it's message.

    It just wasn't the time or the place to have this discussion.

    .

    August 27, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      When is the time and where is the place?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Shaun

      Its is possessive. It's means, it is.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Eh

      The best time and place for this discussion would be outside the execution chambers just before we send in the religious idiots to die for murdering people in the name of their vicious and nasty god.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Brian

      Eh....you are the perfect example that is used to show that none should be trusted. Why would you make such an statement in a country that allows the freedoms we have for everyone? When was the last time any religious person threatened you? What happened if they did? The fact is that you are protected just as they are. This country has a lot of good and a little bad to it but our separation of church and state has worked since its inception....and don't forget there junior that for a couple of hundred years the Christians in this country have had control and never have used violence to further their goals. The churches in the country do a great job of filling in gaps where the government fails. It is appaling to see the vitrol that is put out on these boards from "enlightened" individuals. You are pathetic and probably not old enough to understand what you are even saying.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Angela Birch

      Sorryy Brian, the Christians in the US have used violence to achieve their goals, some of which were to make Christians out of Native Americans. They also justified slavery with all of it's evils as being supported by Christianity. The Pilgrim fathers murdered and expelled those who even deviated slightly from their form of Christianity. Then you have to look at the fact that Christians especially in the south murdered and terrorized Jewish and Catholics. Som of these actions were government policy and some were just enthusiastic Christians. And then less we forget the CCRs that banned everyone who was not a Christian from buying a property. No the faith of Americans has not made them an appreciably better than those of any other nation.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  11. Emitr

    If they voluntarily took the billboards down themselves, it's not a free speech issue. They should have left them up.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Bob the Cat

      They were bullied.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Bob

      So their free speech rights were "bullied" by..... others' free speech?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Gypsy

      Actually, they took them down because the billboard company had received death threats from so called "christians." Had they only threatened American Atheists, they would have left them up. Read about it on their website www atheists dot org.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Hawk

      It is not "voluntary" when done under threat of violence. Nothing you do can be considered "voluntary" when don under the threat of violence.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Bob the Cat

      Threats are not utilizing "free speech" and you know it.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • John

      @Bob, death threats are not a form of free speech.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Emitr

      Then it's a bullying issue, not a free speech issue.

      August 28, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  12. Joe R.

    Considering that the vast majority still claim to believe in a God, according to various polls, I guess this organization is desperate for members.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Hardly. Atheist and humanist organizations have enjoyed robust growth in recent years. The louder and more obnoxious the religious right becomes, the faster the membership rolls grow.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Bob the Cat

      No worries, the road to common sense will eventually encompass everyone.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Brent Slensker

      Joe R! Your kids are LEAVING religion and the Internet is fueling it!!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Brian

      Brent....how did we get here? Write that out and see how much sense that makes to you. There is more to our existence than science can and will ever be able to explain....period.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  13. rdeleys

    So much for free speech in this country. I guess it's only free when it agrees with the majority.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Jennifer

      It always has been, always will be a battle...

      August 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Ethan

      Yeah, exactly. It's a shame so many loving, kind religious people threaten all these atheists and force them to remove the signs. It's free speech, and these signs are 100% true.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • ruben

      So the threats are coming from the "peaceful" christians. Christians are truly nice and will go to the ends of the earth to make sure that everybody on the planet becomes a Christian because that is the way that God wants it. So when anybody voices their opinion, the "good" Christians must protect themselves by making threats, acting violently, or starting a war. Who is truly evil? I have never heard of an atheist war.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Bob

      So the atheists get free speech but those who disagree with them aren't. "Hate" and "vitriol" – what exactly do they thing their billboard represented? Go after those making threats, but don't complain about people saying mean things and say it restricts your "free speech".

      August 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Hawk

      Isn't it interesting that the religious are rather free with the death threats? Especially since they profess to follow a religion of, "peace and love"?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Brian

      Hawk and Ruben....let's say this....there are a lot of people in this world that believe a LOT of different things. When your organization decides to go and publicly entice a large part of our population then you can expect this reaction. 95% of the people that consider themselves Christians would not hurt you for any reason outside of the protection of their families. However, there are people that consider themselves Christians that would go to war over what your group did in a heart beat. That is why this is a bad idea....just as bad as Christians putting up a billboard at an Atheists convention and telling them they are all going to hell. Do you think that all of your ilk would attach churches....no, but there would be a portion that would. It is best to practice tolerance where we can. Christians have an obligation to preach to lost souls and they should do this with respect to others. I am sure your group wants to do the same thing. We all have a right to our opinions and these billboards were ill conceived.
      Next....religions are NOT the cause of the issues this world has seen. Are they clean....no. However, I would submit to you that the individuals that have caused the most destruction were not truly religious. The wars they caused would have happened with or without religion. The Muslims are killing in the name of a god but because they dislike others of different backgrounds. I submit most of it is political....not religious. Hitler, Stalin, Mao did not need a religion to execute the largest numbers of people ever murdered....neither did the leaders of Vietnam or North Korea.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  14. bibleverse1

    “It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,”

    Um, why is it a free speech issue? No government shut them down. We are protected from the government not our neighbors and what they believe is indecent. I dont agree with the words or the spirit they were written. Their rights of free speech were not infringed upon.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • rdeleys

      You are incorrect. Freedom of speech doesn't mean just the freedom form government interference. It means I have the right to express myself even if you don't like it.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • JosephPreistlyUU

      the irony is that Democrats aren't really going to let the signs bother them. It's republicans that can't handle hearing this.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • johannflobberschnoggit

      People threatened them with violence if they didn't take the billboards down. That's not a free speech issue?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Bob

      redelys – free speech is encoded in the 1st Amendment and refers to governmental interference. Please tell us where else you believe free speech is a codified right

      August 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • John in Vegas

      American Atheists and the owners of the billboard were threatened with violence by their (Christian?) neighbors for stating a message and the government could not (would not?) protect their right to say it. Sounds like a first amendment violation to me.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  15. Eman

    People call themselves Atheist right up until the moment the plane starts to fall.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      And then they call themselves atheists who are about to die.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Joe R.

      Athesists about to die who call out, "Help me God!" or "Oh God!"

      August 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • David Bramblett

      "There is no such thing as a foxhole atheist," is an old saying and also a fallacy. After all, if God is on your side and looking out for your well being, why did you need to dive into the fox hole? Everyone in a fox hole is an atheist on an instinctual level. Fortunately for the well being of fox hole dwellers, a few million years of evolution trumps the flawed logic of religious thinking.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Hawk

      Nope – but religious people like to *claim* that atheists recant on their deathbeds. I guess it gives them some sort of false "validation" or something. It is almost always a myth – a lie (a breaking of the 9th Commandment btw). This is why people like Richard Dawkins plans to have a tape recorder by his bedside to have a record that he does not recant at the last moment.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Bob the Cat

      So afraid of dying. Live life to the fullest, be good, let the chips fall where they may. 🙂

      August 27, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • JosephPreistlyUU

      my mother was an atheist till the day she died. So did a ton of people who went to my church (Unitarian Universalist). People who claim everyone believes in god on their death bed have never really met an atheist in their lives. ones who don't care what other people think or want to believe...just knows there isn't a god, so if everyone else wants to waste their time worshiping a figment of their imagination, let them. Just like people who really believe won't stop having faith even though there is not only no proof of god what-so-ever, there is more evidence that one doesn't exist, what with the history of the world being so much more old and complex then the people who made up the bible would suggest. There is no changing people's minds. Just saying this includes atheists on their death bed too.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  16. TownC

    Atheists can challenge Christians, but Christianity has been an important driving force behind the most free and generous and tolerant country on Earth. Christians have created a country where even the views of atheists are able to be expressed.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I can't gamble, take drugs, bang prost.itutes, the government steal a huge chunk of my salary. What's so free about that?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Hawk

      "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,...." – Treaty of Tripoli, submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification *unanimously* from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 (with a copy given to each Senator) and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Jennifer

      What are you smoking??? Many of those who call themselves Christians aka the Evangelical have been the driving force behind hate and violence against those that refuse to belief what they belief.... from the witch trials to the even the prosecution of mormons, jews, gays, and many other minorities, the christians are the first to turn their backs on god and use their "bible" to justify hate...

      August 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • LT Fang

      Christianity is why the people were kicked off England in the first place.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      They weren't "kicked off". The pilgrims left England to set up a theocracy. It's a misconception that they left to found a land based on religious freedom.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • harinder

      which country y ou are talking about US – where untill 60's and to some till today blacks were treated worse than animals (recemtly a CHRISTIAN church refused to marry a black couple) – Spain- which spread chritianty to Latin America – all native pouplation is catholic – but dirt poor – should I go on – christanity and Islam are religions known for their violent ways of coverting people – read history once in a while – unfortunately the problem is the dont learn from the past but keep on repeating the same mistakes

      August 28, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  17. Walter Napaski

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s07e12-all-about-mormons

    August 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Rocinante

      http://www.mormon.org

      August 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  18. Michael Paul

    Obama, a Christian? Wow–how stupid is CNN?

    August 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Well what is he so?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Jennifer

      yes he is a Christian, deal with it...

      August 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Hawk

      Yes, Obama IS a Christian. Despite what those trying to slander him may say, he is Christian. He just doesn't shove it in everyone's face – ya know, the way Christ *actually* taught people to do. Matthew 6:6 "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." In case you missed that part.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Brian

      Here is an idea for everyone that has an idea about Christianity.....even if you don't believe just read the New Testament and try to see that people make religion jaded....not the scriptures. I would submit that living a life that is guided by the ideas of the Bible is not a bad thing at all.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  19. monarch811

    I would agree with that mormon one

    August 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      And that Christian one.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • TownC

      Check with Mormon.org to get information about Mormons.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  20. wirius

    When as an atheist you belittle and insult another religion, you are just as petty and persuasive as a christian who belittle and insults your belief that God does not exist.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Except that atheism isn't a religion.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • TJ

      It's not belittling to state FACTS that are in the bible. The god of the old testament is terrible–not worthy of "worship". Bible worship is an ignorant sickness. Read that awful book cover to cover.

      That's the problem. Pick-and-choose religions. Cherry-pick out the stuff you like and downplay the stuff you don't.

      Yawn....

      Proud to be a humanist and THINKER.

      I am... therefore I think.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Mary

      I agree. Regardless of one's belief system, every person has the right to feel what they feel and believe what they choose to believe. One should be able to freely follow what they feel works for them and helps them find contentment in their heart. No one has to be right or wrong, because not one person living on this planet knows the absolute truth about what a higher power and how it exists. This goes for Christians, Atheists, Mormons, and all the other belief systems.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      People are free to believe, and I'm free to mock their beliefs.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Joe R.

      Well...for atheists to claim there is no God, they would have to be all-knowing. If they're all-knowing, then they make themselves to be God. I guess there are no real atheists. LOOOL!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Wow Joe, that's some retarded logic.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Hawk

      @Joe – I am an Agnostic Atheist. I have seen no evidence that there is/are god(s). I can't be *absolutely positive* that god(s) don't exist, but I find it so remote as to not be worthy of consideration in my everyday life. And, just for the sake of argument, let's say that god(s) exist...why is it necessarily *your* god(s)? Man has worshiped over 10,000 gods in written history – why could it not be one of them? Or perhaps another that we have not even thought of yet?

      August 28, 2012 at 12:08 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.