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.
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.
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.
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:
Some words in the Islamic terminology such as shari'a,jihad or even love should be defined and understood.To avoid them is a mistake— TariqRamadan (@tariqramadan) October 31, 2012
Some words in the Islamic terminology such as shari'a,jihad or even love should be defined and understood.To avoid them is a mistake
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.