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My Faith: Reclaiming Halloween's religious roots
A pagan altar constructed for Samhain, which Pagans celebrate around October 31.
October 31st, 2012
11:36 AM ET

My Faith: Reclaiming Halloween's religious roots

Editor's note: Christine Hoff Kraemer is managing editor of the Patheos.com Pagan Channel and an instructor in Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary.

By Christine Hoff Kraemer, Special to CNN

(CNN) – As Halloween approaches, Americans rush to malls and shopping centers, credit cards in hand. Children are outfitted as ghosts, Disney characters, princesses and superheroes, while adults dress to impress with “sexy” witch, vampire or pirate garb. Cookies shaped like jack o’lanterns fly off the shelves along with bag after bag of packaged candy.

In American culture, Halloween has mostly become a reason for a good party.

So it may surprise you to learn that the roots of Halloween are religious. In fact, for Americans who practice contemporary Paganism, Halloween is one of the two most important religious holidays of the year. Known as Samhain (pronounced SOW-un), the holiday is modeled after the ancient Celtic festival that marked the beginning of winter.

In Ireland, Scotland and parts of what is now France, ancient people believed that on the night of Samhain, the veil between the living world and that of the dead grew thin. The festival was a time to honor one’s ancestors and to remember deceased family members, as well as to prepare for winter.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Halloween • Opinion • Paganism

The Sistine Chapel
October 31st, 2012
07:28 AM ET

Sistine Chapel ceiling turns 500 years old

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of the world's most iconic pieces of art, celebrated its 500th anniversary on Wednesday in Vatican City. Pope Benedict XVI marked the occasion with the celebration of Vespers in the chapel on Wednesday evening.

Nine centered panels in the ceiling fresco show stories from the book of Genesis, fanning out from the center of the ceiling with the iconic "Creation of Adam" that shows God reaching down from heaven and touching the finger of Adam. The vaulted ceiling also features images of biblical prophets and ancestors of Jesus.

Work on the ceiling began in 1508 when Pope Julius II della Rovere decided to make some changes to the room including the ceiling alteration. He commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling and the lunettes, which are the upper parts of the room. According to the Vatican, Julius dedicated the newly decorated space with a Mass on the Feast of All Saints Day, which falls on November 1.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Art • Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

Anti-Obama mail piece: ‘We are no longer a Christian nation’
October 31st, 2012
07:12 AM ET

Anti-Obama mail piece: ‘We are no longer a Christian nation’

By Peter Hamby, CNN Political Reporter

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based social conservative organization founded by evangelical author and radio host James Dobson, is targeting Iowa voters with a mailing that quotes President Obama as saying “we are no longer a Christian nation.”

The fold-out brochure, which landed in Iowa mailboxes last week and was provided to CNN by a Des Moines-area voter, draws a series of contrasts between Obama and Mitt Romney on the issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and insurance coverage for contraception.

See the mailer here and here.

FULL STORY
- A. Hawkins

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Politics

October 31st, 2012
05:21 AM ET

Belief Blog's Morning Speed Read for Wednesday, October 31

By Arielle Hawkins, CNN

Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.

From the Blog:


Burned-out vehicles and destroyed homes line a street in Breezy Point, located on the western end of the Rockaway peninsula in New York.

CNN: Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism
As millions of Americans begin to clean up from Superstorm Sandy, many will turn to insurance companies to cover damages caused by an “act of God.” It’s legalese for natural disasters. Some of the online conversation around Sandy have treated it as such an act, with the term “prayer” trending on Facebook on Monday, as the nation awaited the storm’s landfall. We noticed four themes emerging that touch on God and religion on Facebook, Twitter and in CNN.com’s comments sections:

Tweet of the Day:

FULL POST

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Uncategorized

My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice
The author notes that evangelical Christians were once largely pro-abortion rights.
October 30th, 2012
05:54 PM ET

My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics."

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Over the course of the 2012 election season, evangelical politicians have put their community’s hard-line opposition to abortion on dramatic display.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin claimed “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock insisted that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

While these statements have understandably provoked outrage, they’ve also reinforced a false assumption, shared by liberals and conservatives alike: that uncompromising opposition to abortion is a timeless feature of evangelical Christianity.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Catholic Church • Christianity • Opinion

Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism
A church sign from Sunday in a town on Long Island, New York.
October 30th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism

By Conor Finnegan, CNN

(CNN) – As millions of Americans begin to clean up from Superstorm Sandy, many will  turn to insurance companies to cover damages caused by an “act of God.” It’s legalese for natural disasters.

Some of the online conversation around Sandy have treated it as such an act, with the term “prayer” trending on Facebook on Monday, as the nation awaited the storm’s landfall.

We noticed four themes emerging that touch on God and religion on Facebook, Twitter and in CNN.com’s comments sections:

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Comments • God

October 30th, 2012
05:33 AM ET

Belief Blog's Morning Speed Read for Tuesday, October 30

By Arielle Hawkins , CNN

Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.

From the Blog:

CNN: Ralph Reed mobilizing evangelicals in Ohio
Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed is marshalling his forces in Ohio as the battleground state takes center stage in final week of the presidential race. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Atlanta-based organization Reed launched in 2009 to mobilize voters of faith around the country, is placing more than one million voter guides in 5,300 Ohio churches and plans to complete the effort on the final Sunday before Election Day.

CNN: The Undecided: Radical for Jesus, dubious of Romney
With Bible verses painted on the walls of his living room and with an unshakable belief that hell is for real, there's no question that Rob Seyler is a devout evangelical Christian. He is also a renegade. Tucked into his well-thumbed Bible, the spine held together with silver duct tape, is a picture of Marilyn Manson in full goth makeup. Seyler, a high school Bible teacher, says the metal singer's writings shed light into the secret world of suffering teens.

FULL POST

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Undecided: Radical for Jesus, dubious of Romney
Rob Seyler in the classrom where he teaches the Bible to high school students.
October 29th, 2012
04:52 PM ET

The Undecided: Radical for Jesus, dubious of Romney

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – With Bible verses painted on the walls of his living room and with an unshakable belief that hell is for real, there's no question that Rob Seyler is a devout evangelical Christian.

He is also a renegade.

Tucked into his well-thumbed Bible, the spine held together with silver duct tape, is a picture of Marilyn Manson in full goth makeup. Seyler, a high school Bible teacher, says the metal singer's writings shed light into the secret world of suffering teens.

Musically, Seyler gravitates more to Johnny Cash, partly because of the musician's intense religiosity. But Seyler will be the first to tell you that Cash's memoir of life as a sinner, "Man in Black," is much better than Cash's Christian novel, "Man in White."

His renegade streak extends to Seyler's classroom at the Grandview Park Baptist School in gritty East Des Moines, where he has painted so many brightly colored quotes and pictures onto the walls that it looks like a pop artist's studio. There are Bible verses and a black and white silhouette of Johnny Cash and an image that Seyler says has "created a little bit of a ruckus."

Read the fully story about undecided Iowa evangelical voter Rob Seyler.
- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Iowa • Politics

My Take: God not in whirlwinds of Sandy, presidential race
A NASA image of Hurricane Sandy.
October 29th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

My Take: God not in whirlwinds of Sandy, presidential race

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

I am riding out Sandy on Cape Cod and wondering whether this, too, is God’s will.

As this storm has carved its path through the Caribbean and up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, it has taken 67 lives and (so far) spared the rest of us. Was it the will of the Almighty that so many should perish?

Is God angry with Cuba, where 11 died last week? More angry with Haiti, where 51 perished? Relatively unperturbed with Jamaica, where the death toll was only two? If a tree falls on my house today, will that be an Act of God, too?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Belief • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Science • United States

Ralph Reed mobilizing evangelicals in Ohio
October 29th, 2012
11:01 AM ET

Ralph Reed mobilizing evangelicals in Ohio

By Peter Hamby, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed is marshalling his forces in Ohio as the battleground state takes center stage in final week of the presidential race.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Atlanta-based organization Reed launched in 2009 to mobilize voters of faith around the country, is placing more than one million voter guides in 5,300 Ohio churches and plans to complete the effort on the final Sunday before Election Day.

Dropping literature in churches is just one element of a robust closing drive in Ohio to raise evangelical and Catholic awareness of the “cultural issues” at stake in the campaign, Reed told CNN in a phone interview.

“It’s a major push,” Reed said of the Ohio effort. “We’re all in.”

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics

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About this blog

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.

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