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My Take: Counting the Bible's words doesn't yield a Republican Jesus
How many times do hot-button issues come up in the Bible?
November 5th, 2012
09:43 AM ET

My Take: Counting the Bible's words doesn't yield a Republican Jesus

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

(CNN) Over the last few days I have fielded hundreds of angry e-mails from pro-Mitt Romney evangelicals about a recent Belief Blog post in which I took Billy Graham and other white evangelicals to task for turning Jesus into a water boy for the Republican Party.

A disturbing number of these complaints about my alleged "evangelical bashing" have been hateful, ill-informed and explicitly racist. But the more intelligent responses have taken two tacks.

First, readers have told me that they are voting for Romney not because Mormonism is proper Christianity but because Romney is the lesser of two evils. Some in this camp, convinced (wrongly) that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, say they would rather vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.

Second, readers have argued that Romney's political views are more biblical. And repeatedly they have referred me to two central issues: abortion and same-sex marriage.

One pastor who reports he is working on a doctorate in theology says he believes “that the Bible is the literal word of God.” Because of this belief, he will vote for Romney: “ If you claim Christ as your king, how on earth can you justify the murder of God given life through abortion or any other means?" he writes. "If you accept Christ as your king, how on earth can you accept the moral deviancy of homosexuality as normal?”

In my book "American Jesus," I demonstrated how American views of Jesus, rather than adhering strictly to the unchanging biblical witness, have shifted with the cultural and political winds. Over the course of U.S. history Jesus has been a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior.

In other words, he has been used, by both the left and the right. Or, as I put it, “The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king, pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess, sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.”

This problem of mistaking your God for the God the problem, that is, of idolatry was captured beautifully by Albert Schweitzer, who suggested that scholars on a quest for the “historical Jesus” were looking down into a deep well and seeing not the real Jesus but reflections of themselves.

This is what is happening, in my view, to my angry evangelical readers. In this case, however, they are looking down the well and seeing some mashup of Ronald Reagan and Romney. Instead of the biblical Christ, they are seeing the Republican Jesus.

There are many ways to support my argument that the preoccupations of the Christian Right today are not the preoccupations of the Bible.

One is to point out that abortion is never even mentioned in the Bible. (Yes, Jeremiah 1:5 reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” but when did that formation happen? At conception? At quickening? At birth?)

Another is to point out that American evangelicals didn’t care about the abortion question until the GOP taught them to care.

As Jonathan Dudley observes in a recent Belief Blog post, U.S. Catholic leaders began to take on abortion right after Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973, but American evangelical leaders continued to teach that life begins at birth until the late 1970s and early 1980s. If the Bible clearly teaches us that our politics should center on the abortion question, why did it take nearly 2,000 years for Bible believers to figure this out?

Here is my basic proposition: Bible-believing Christians who want to base their politics on the Bible ought to get the Bible straight, which is to say (a) correct and (b) directly from the page, rather than filtered through the spin of the GOP.

To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of “The Official King James Bible Online,” which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity.

Not surprisingly, “and” and “the” are the top two.  But how do more meaningful words rank?

Abortion, of course, is not on the list. Neither is homosexuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male homosexuality (and either one or zero to lesbianism, depending on how you read Romans 1:26).

So these issues are not central. But which issues are? Well, faith, grace and salvation, for starters. (They appear 231, 159 and 158 times, respectively.)

But if you turn to the political questions that beset us today, what does this quantitative approach to the Bible yield? First and foremost, a preoccupation with "war” (280 times) and “peace” (470). Second, a preoccupation with economics, and especially with the rich (109) and the poor (233).

The Bible also seems far more concerned with “prison” and “prisoners” (109) than we are in U.S. politics today. And, I might add, with famine (101).

Finally, the Bible mentions Israel a lot (2,509 times) even more than heaven (644). So that seems to be something that both candidates got right in the third debate.

To conclude, I have no problem with evangelical Christians voting for Romney. My complaint arises when they say they are doing so because the Bible commands them to vote for the candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage.

The Bible itself is relatively unconcerned with these matters. It is far more concerned with questions of poverty and wealth, war and peace, and (need I add?) theology.

If you think otherwise, it's not the Bible speaking. It's the political operative at the bottom of the well.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Bible • Economy • Jesus • Mitt Romney • Opinion • Politics • United States

soundoff (1,060 Responses)
  1. joshua

    ride on romney

    November 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  2. WillieLove

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z19_tbkSjA&w=640&h=390]

    November 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • joshua

      love ,,get a brain of your own...get down and kiss the groubd of your new president willie cain love

      November 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  3. WillieLove

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVtEvplXMLs&w=640&h=390]

    November 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  4. Servant

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    In other-words don't pass judgement as it is not your place. You never know what mission God has given his people.

    November 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • joshua

      wrong p-brain YOU HAVE TO JUDGE TO KNOW GOOD FROM EVIL

      November 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  5. YoozYerBrain

    What I find galling is how little christians actually seem to know about their little book of horrors. Luckily, we have Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian to explain...

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw&w=640&h=390]

    November 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  6. MasterWooten

    "One pastor who reports he is working on a doctorate in theology says he believes “that the Bible is the literal word of God.”

    So buddy by siting him in the negative you're saying that the bible is NOT the word of God? I guess Christianity to youis some theme the tenants of which you can makeup as you go along!

    Pathetic!

    November 6, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • ZeusDeusMaximus

      @MasterWooten
      First, your use of English is terrible, the words you wanted were "citing", and "tenets"

      Second, your belief is un democratic and anti-American. Here are some GOOD Americans (and one Brit) and what they say about it;

      "The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma." [Lincoln]

      "Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies." [Thomas Jefferson]

      "Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile." [Kurt Vonnegut]

      "Religion is based . . . mainly on fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. . . . My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race." [Bertrand Russell]

      There is no god, morality and ethics are NOT supernaturally-derived, and religion is undemocratic and anti-American. FIGHT it, fight it, fight it, fight the fear-mongering lords of darkness like masterwooten and rainerbrandlein, etc et al

      Up with AMERICA! Down with superst ition/religion!

      November 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If the bible is the literal word of god why does it contain so much ignorance, immorality and contradiction, that would make your god ignorant, immoral and a contradiction.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Darth Cheney

      In your straw man argument, you left out the most important word, "literal." We don't know, and can't know, the "word" of god. Therefore, we have no choice but to make interpretations. There is no "literal" anyway, even the written words can mean multiple things and some passages contradict others.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • joshua

      this elections over mormon haters..get used to your new neighbors

      November 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Rhonda

    I am a teacher and I really believe you need to go home and redo this assignment. This time get the facts straight.

    November 6, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Darth Cheney

      Who do you mean by "you"? What facts, specifically, are not straight?

      November 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • raises hand

      Darth Cheney – Rhonda apparently doesn't teach writing or logic. Or at least let's hope not.

      November 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  8. Oh! Brother Where Art Thou

    The scene in which two of the escaped cons are baptized and the preacher washes away their sins and they are overjoyed. The third con comments they maybe right with the lord but the state of Missouri was not that leniant. Kind of reminds me of how the vatican works when applying their laws in regards to their criminal behaviour and ignore the laws of the states/countries where the crimes took place. Sometimes the cover ups are just as bad as the crimes, do you agree Bill Deacon?

    November 6, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      First, as always, neither I nor anyone in the Catholic Church advocates the abuse of children.

      Second, while the laws of various countries may differ when it comes to criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, I do not personally believe that people who covered up any acts of abuse are as guilty as those who perpetrated the acts themselves. The act of covering up is a defect of human nature that many people fall into whether to protect ones family, tribe or instiitution. The act of child abuse is heinous and deviant. So, in my personal and human judgement while those involved in covering up may be guilty under the law, their actions are at least understandable by me, whereas I cannot fathom the motivations behind pedophilia

      November 6, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Oh! Brother Where Art Thou

      I can see why you would be rather defensive of the child abuse scandal, but that is one of many. Money laundering, the activities of P2, scandals around Roberto Calvi and the Vatican Bank, interference in politics, Vatican corruption and the Church's tax affairs and more, the list is long the cover ups are numerous. I am a little surprised that a defender of the faith like you does not keep up to date on the activities of you church. Even here in America there have been stories of Church insiders commiting fraud against their congregations, are you willing blind to what goes on.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  9. Ann

    If they're basing how marriage should be on the bible – they're mostly polygamists.

    Now, I have no objection to that if it's all consenting adults, but I challenge anyone to find the "one man, one woman" definition in that old book.

    November 6, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Will

      Challenge accepted.

      It is throughout the book. First in Genesis with Adam and Eve. God's design for marriage is one man and one woman united in mind, spirit, and body. There are also many references to "let a husband have his wife" and "let a wife have her husband" (not plural – husbands or wives and not let a husband have his husband or a wife have her wife).

      It is unfortunate that this witness has been damaged so greatly as the divorce rate within churches increases and Christians do not live out these values. But hey, we live in a fallen world and it is very difficult for a wife to continually submit to her husband in love and for her husband to love her as Christ loved the church even to give up his life for her well being. Especially with the messages this world is bombarding us with daily. And did plural marriages happen and were the traditions odd and in my mind even aggregious? Surely. The fact that people made mistakes and deviated from God's design and purpose does not change what God's design and purpose is.

      Part of the problem is society is constantly bombaring us with messages that we should be our own God and reign on the throne of our lives. And they are seductive messages. Sad that we still fall for the same lies and seductions and tricks as in the garden ("Did God really say ...?").

      And I personally believe the reason this topic is so hotly debated is that to receive grace and forgiveness we are called to repentance. We aren't told to continue in the same sin and say I'm sorry each time we commit it. We are told to recognize sin for what it is, turn from it, and pursue the path of righteousness. That doesn't mean we won't fail and fall back into the old pattern of sin from time to time. But it does mean that we try rather than giving in and condoning or even endorsing sin in our lives. And I don't believe this is limited to "gay marriage" although that is the hot topic of the day. There are plenty of people equally guilty of ongoing adultery and other sins that they need to turn away from.

      The wonderful thing about the Bible is it is not a book full of perfect people showing us how to live a perfect life. It is a book full of people who fall short of God's standards, mess up and make bad decisions continually, and still receive God's love, mercy, and grace.

      And while I disagree with some of the author's assertions I completely agree with the statement that if you are not worshiping the God of the Bible you are worshiping an idol. But that also is part of faith, we each have our own beliefs based on what we believe the Bible to mean and we will each be accountable for those beliefs one day.

      November 6, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  10. Michelle Miller

    Thank you! Thank you for having the courage to unspin the political spins.

    November 6, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  11. daniellesjarofstars

    Abortion may not be a listed word in the Bible search, but God said "Thou shalt not murder". Semantics doesn't change the fact that killing a baby IS MURDER, and IT IS A BIG DEAL! A VERY BIG DEAL.

    November 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you see someone killing a baby, call 911. Abortions take place before the fetus is viable outside the uterus; it's not a baby until it's born.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • MCR

      A cow has more cognitive capacity than a 10 or 12 week fetus...yet most Christians are willing to torture and eat them.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • christopher hitchens

      100% accurate Daniel do not be swayed by those who murder or condone the murder of innocents.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • WASP

      @danie: .........................
      1) it's thou shalt not kill.
      on that you should be eating dirt because anything "once living" has to be killed to eat it, even plants.
      2) the female body aborts more fetus in a year than done by human intervention.
      mainly due to the genetic mistakes your god commits more "babies" die long before the mother ever knows she is pregnant.
      so that means EVERY woman should be brought up on charges for murder by your reasoning.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Observer

      The Bible is full of commands from God to kill women and God never once gave a rip if they were pregnant or not.

      Actions speak louder than words.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • nope

      @wus ...
      nope

      November 6, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Just a John

      I think I get where you are coming from. As soon as an egg is fertalized and begins spitting into multiple cells that is a baby in your world, right or wrong? Is it then a sin if the mother has a natural miscarriage because the fetus/baby is not viable or do you just write it off as a benovelent god's will? Just one more dead baby.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • YoozYerBrain

      You don't seem to know much about your bibble babble, but luckily America's Best Christian is here to give you some skoolin!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq3U09DeKpg&w=640&h=390]

      As an atheist I hate your little book of horrors and the evil it has promulgated throughout the centuries. You're the murderer. God says life starts at 1 month....AFTER birth....fool....

      November 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  12. daniellesjarofstars

    The bible may not list the word abortion, and then you may posit it to be unimportant, but that is semantics. God said "you shall not murder" – It's a commandment, so killing a baby is murder and IT IS A BIG DEAL.

    November 6, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Huebert

      A fetus is not a baby.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • MCR

      Only if the book defines murder to include abortion. Without that tie,you've got nothing.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • midwest rail

      Then please list all the substantive steps taken by "pro-life" candidates since Roe v Wade was enacted. Gonna be a short list....

      November 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's not "murder" and never has been under the law, and that is what counts. Not your bible and not your god. No "babies" are involved in abortion. A "baby" is born. A fetus is not.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • nope

      @to...
      nope

      November 6, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • WASP

      (clapping excitedly) YAY!!!!!!!!! my NOPE MONKEY has returned. how i have missed you NOPE MONKEY, please dance more for all the nutty humans. we will continue to throw peanuts at you, if you don't.
      (pats on head) that's a good NOPE MONKEY.

      November 6, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      nope only knows one word. He's kind of like the brain-damaged ball gunner in "The World According to Garp" Instead of "garp" his only word is "nope."

      Short for "no hope."

      November 6, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  13. Bill Deacon

    From pg2

    sam stone

    "Certainly you are not making the case that man is not evil are you?"

    In a sense, I am.

    There are evil people
    I don't think people in general are evil.

    Do you?

    Reply:

    Interesting sam. If there are good and evil people there must the a standard by which to discriminate. Who sets the standard? You? Me? All men are just in their own eyes. Can you show me a man who is truly good? I'm not talking about the rationalized kind of good where one does some good things and some not so good but on the whole thinks of himself as good and I'm not talking about the kind of divine good that is in us because we are made from love. I am asking you to show me a person who has lived a live with no error, that kind of good, spotless, without sin. I find your observation that there are good people to be superficial because we have all fallen at some time have we not? Even a toddler takes what he wants with no regard for others. Is there a man who has not looked on another with lust or vengeance? Since we have all fallen, how then are we to be made whole and good? Those of us who believe in the Christian God understand that God wants us to be good but that we are unable to achieve that by following the law. We sin. Therefore we need a redeemer, an intercessor, a savior. And that is Jesus Christ. Those, like you who do not believe, accept their condition as normal, natural, without need for redemption. You deny your sin or rationalize it away. But if you really look at yourself, honestly, I daresay you will find that you are not so good as you would like us all to think.

    November 6, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @BIll Deacon
      One of the tenets by which I live is that my enemy is never a villain in his own eyes.
      Keeping this in mind can give the chance to find common ground – or else dismiss them quickly and without hate.
      Diogenes' quest never ends...

      November 6, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Explain Please

      @Bill Deacon
      "Therefore we need a redeemer, an intercessor, a savior." Why? To save us from what exactly? For the 5 billion people or so, that do not believe in your jesus christ or eternal punishment, they seem to get along quite well without the need to be saved by the christian faith. I really think it is a cop out to say that we are all sinners (I agree with that point) but we can simply be absolved of the sin by begging some god to forgive us and he/it will.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • WASP

      @bill: "Who sets the standard? You? Me?"
      i say the american legal system sets the standard.
      it's really simple to figure out if your actions are just.
      1) is another human life in danger? could your actions place another human in danger? then it's not just
      2) would you want your actions carried out on you? (i.e. death) if not then it's not just
      3) would your actions place you personally in danger that isn't required? then it's not just

      see where i'm going with this? it's really easy to figure out what is and isn't just if you just stop and think. :)

      November 6, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • WASP

      @bill: "Those of us who believe in the Christian God understand that God wants us to be good"

      can't help myself.
      ROFLMFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      THEN WHY DO YOU FOLKS SUCK AT IT SO BAD? XD

      November 6, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If the only thing that keeps you from murdering your wife is the belief that some invisible giant will send you to hell if you do any such thing, you're the one without any morals, Bill. You need the threat of punishment to keep you in line; you don't know what is evil unless your god tells you.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      WASP: ;)

      November 6, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • sam stone

      "Since we have all fallen, how then are we to be made whole and good?"

      Who says we are to be "made whole and good"?

      "You deny your sin or rationalize it away"

      Perhaps we do not see "sin" the same as you.

      November 6, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • sam stone

      Morality enforced through the threat of punishment is not morality at all

      Don't you remember your scripture?

      "He knows when you been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake"

      I don't care a bit if what I do would be considered moral by iron age sheep romancers

      November 6, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well that seems like a bunch of scattered and nonsensical responses. Most of you seem to agree that mankind is not inherently good but as long as you can outflank the next guy you're ok. Notice, I said not one word about punishment, quid pro quo, or ultimatums from any diety. I simply express the consensus of most philosophers through the ages whether Christian or not that man is fallen. Any honest thinking person will be confronted by this fact. Back to the original point, sam proposes that modern man is not under the same constraint as ancient man but the era in which we live has nothing to do with it. There have always been those who accept that man is fallen and those who refuse to acknowledge that fact.
      I maintain that those who claim they are "good" are, in reality merely unexamined.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You contend whatever you want, Billy. The fact is that you think a deity is necessary for humans to be altruistic, merciful, loving, kind, thoughtful, and that an absence of belief in one will result in evil.

      I say you're full of it.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Any honest thinking person will be confronted by this fact."

      Any intelligent person will recognize that it isn't fact, just opinion.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • WASP

      @bill:
      1)" I simply express the consensus of most philosophers through the ages whether Christian or not that man is fallen." please show me other faiths and non-faithful that "believe humans have fallen" from anywhere. that is strictly a christian ideal.
      2)"Any honest thinking person will be confronted by this fact."
      where you said that humans have fallen was a fact, please show how this is true;otherwise it's an opinion, not fact.
      3) humans are neither "good nor evil" inherently. we have the capacity to help and hurt based on what we percieve as benificial to ourselves.
      4) "Well that seems like a bunch of scattered and nonsensical responses."
      would you be refering to my 3 points in my last post?

      November 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Huh?

      "I maintain that those who claim they are "good" are, in reality merely unexamined."

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Explain Please

      You avoided my question. Why do we need a savior, to save us from what?

      November 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      Tell us how man's fall is a fact, rather than an opinion.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      So, Bill, are you going to answer that, or just hide?

      November 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      What is the fact?

      Man's fall, or philosopher's opinion?

      November 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 6, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Bev

      I preyed for Chris Christie to see the light about how wonderful Obama is and he did! Hallelujah!!

      I prey that more and more evidence surfaces in support of evolution, and it does! Hallelujah!!

      I prey that Obama wins a second term...

      November 6, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • sam stone

      prey?

      November 6, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Bev

      Oops, ... pray. :-)

      November 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Let Us Pray

      That all the christian trolls, too many to list but you know who you are, will find a non-belief blog to post their faithy insights on and leave this site to their detractors. Only those that can come up with a little humor from time to time need hang around. So long Chad, Bill Deacon, Rainer, Athiesm is (and you other 10 handles), fred, etc. Heaven Sent please drop by now and then for comic relief.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Huebert

      Any time you want to test that claim I am ready and willing to help you.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • christopher hitchens

      @hubie
      You and your test are not required, the earth did well before you and will do better when you are gone. God is over all.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Huebert

      Are you afraid of what a test might reveal?

      November 6, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • christopher hitchens

      @hubie
      No. just that no one has any use for you.

      November 6, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Huebert

      No one has any use for you either, but that's not important. You made a claim, lets find out if it is true. Come on It'll be fun :D

      November 6, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, now, Huebert, that's not true. Chrissie would make an excellent piñata!

      November 6, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Huebert

      @Tom tom

      I imagine she is filled with cheep off brand candy.

      November 6, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "christopher hitchens" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • christopher hitchens

      Late sobering up this am hal?

      November 6, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  15. Chad

    To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of “The Official King James Bible Online,” which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity. Not surprisingly, “and” and “the” are the top two. But how do more meaningful words rank?
    Abortion, of course, is not on the list. Neither is hom ose xuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male hom os exuality (and either one or zero to les bianism, depending on how you read Romans 1:26). So these issues are not central. But which issues are? Well, faith, grace and salvation, for starters. (They appear 231, 159 and 158 times, respectively.)

    so, your thesis is that the more a word is mentioned, then the more central it is to the message of the bible?

    1. You should try reading the bible, that will give you a sense of what is central (I know, I know.. you have made it this far without reading it, why start now right?)
    2. Some words that using your nonsense, arent "meaningful "
    SOVEREIGNTY(2 occurrences): God being sovereign obviously not a central theme in the bible.. LOL
    LORDSHIP (3): clearly not central .. lol
    UNGODLINESS (7): clearly, unimportant LOL

    now, on the other hand, words that you identify as very important. Central to the biblical narrative:
    ABOUT – 716
    NOR – 714
    OWN – 700
    MANY – 699
    WAY – 699

    serious question stephen, are you merely ignorant or disingenuous?

    November 6, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      Everyone just picks what they like from the Bible and ignores the rest. That's how many Christians can pretend the Bible condemns abortion. It's the same when they pick on gays and ignore the MUCH greater number of adulterous heteros. It's all hypocrisy.

      November 6, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • MaryJ

      @Chad
      Maybe you're just choosing the wrong words to search for these things? How many times does God, or is God referred to as "Lord", or "King"? How much of the Bible is centered around people straying from the path? The author's point is that the subjects he was identifying are not mentioned very much at all no matter what words you use to describe them specifically. You just can't say "sin" includes being gay just because you think it does.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Chad

      @MaryJ "You just can't say "sin" includes being g ay just because you think it does."

      @Chad "You are way off base..

      A. Prothero acknowledges that the bible condemns that activity,, "Neither is h omos exuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male ho mos exuality

      albeit in his usual idiotic fashion "the bible doesnt prohibit h omos exuality unless of course you take into account the places where it explicitly does". That is just his version of logic..

      B. You can claim that the bible is bigoted, or ho mo-phobic or whatever. However, you can NOT claim that the bible does not condemn that activity. It clearly does.

      What the bible says:
      You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination Leviticus 18

      If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them Leviticus 20

      you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the se xually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prost itutes nor hom os exual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1st Corinthians 6

      y exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. , Romans 1

      November 6, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Don

      The most beautiful word in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is "whosoever." All of God's promises are intended for every human being. This includes gay men and lesbians. How tragic it is that the Christian Church has excluded and persecuted people who are homosexual! We are all created with powerful needs for personal relationships. Our quality of life depends upon the love we share with others; whether family or friends, partners or peers. Yet, lesbians and gay men facing hostile attitudes in society often are denied access to healthy relationships. Jesus Christ calls us to find ultimate meaning in life through a personal relationship with our Creator. This important spiritual union can bring healing and strength to all of our human relationships

      Biblical Interpretation and Theology also change from time to time. Approximately 150 years ago in the United States, some Christian teaching held that there was a two-fold moral order: black and white. Whites were thought to be superior to blacks, therefore blacks were to be subservient and slavery was an institution ordained by God. Clergy who supported such an abhorrent idea claimed the authority of the Bible. The conflict over slavery led to divisions which gave birth to some major Christian denominations. These same denominations, of course, do not support slavery today. Did the Bible change? No, their interpretation of the Bible did!

      Genesis 19:1-25

      Some "televangelists" carelessly proclaim that God destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of "homosexuality." Although some theologians have equated the sin of Sodom with homosexuality, a careful look at Scripture corrects such ignorance. Announcing judgment on these cities in Genesis 18, God sends two angels to Sodom, where Abraham's nephew, Lot, persuades them to stay in his home. Genesis 19 records that "all the people from every quarter" surround Lot's house demanding the release of his visitors so "we might know them." The Hebrew word for "know" in this case, yadha, usually means "have thorough knowledge of." It could also express intent to examine the visitors' credentials, or on rare occasions the term implies sexual intercourse. If the latter was the author's intended meaning, it would have been a clear case of attempted gang rape. Several observations are important.

      First, the judgment on these cities for their wickedness had been announced prior to the alleged homosexual incident. Second, all of Sodom's people participated in the assault on Lot's house; in no culture has more than a small minority of the population been homosexual. Third, Lot's offer to release his daughters suggests he knew his neighbors to have heterosexual interests. Fourth, if the issue was sexual, why did God spare Lot, who immediately commits incest with his daughters? Most importantly, why do all the other passages of Scripture referring to this account fail to raise the issue of homosexuality?

      Romans 1:24-27

      Most New Testament books, including the four Gospels, are silent on same-sex acts, and Paul is the only author who makes any reference to the subject. The most negative statement by Paul regarding same-sex acts occurs in Romans 1:24-27 where, in the context of a larger argument on the need of all people for the gospel of Jesus Christ, certain homosexual behavior is given as an example of the "uncleanness" of idolatrous Gentiles.

      This raises the question: Does this passage refer to all homosexual acts, or to certain homosexual behavior known to Paul's readers? The book of Romans was written to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome, who would have been familiar with the infamous sexual excesses of their contemporaries, especially Roman emperors. They would also have been aware of tensions in the early Church regarding Gentiles and observance of the Jewish laws, as noted in Acts 15 and Paul's letter to the Galatians. Jewish laws in Leviticus mentioned male same-sex acts in the context of idolatry.

      The homosexual practices cited in Romans 1:24-27 were believed to result from idolatry and are associated with some very serious offenses as noted in Romans 1. Taken in this larger context, it should be obvious that such acts are significantly different from loving, responsible lesbian and gay relationships seen today.

      What is "Natural"?

      Significant to Paul's discussion is the fact that these "unclean" Gentiles exchanged that which was "natural" for them, physin, in the Greek text, for something "unnatural," para physin. In Romans 11:24, God acts in an "unnatural" way, para physin, to accept the Gentiles. "Unnatural" in these passages does not refer to violation of so-called laws of nature, but rather implies action contradicting one's own nature. In view of this, we should observe that it is "unnatural," para physin, for a person today with a lesbian or gay sexual orientation to attempt living a heterosexual lifestyle.

      I Corinthians 6:9

      Any consideration of New Testament statements on same-sex acts must carefully view the social context of the Greco-Roman culture in which Paul ministered. Prostitution and pederasty (sexual relationships of adult men with boys) were the most commonly known male same-sex acts. In I Corinthians 6:9, Paul condemns those who are "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with mankind," as translated in the King James version. Unfortunately, some new translations are worse, rendering these words "homosexuals." Recent scholarship unmasks the homophobia behind such mistranslations.

      The first word – malakos, in the Greek text-which has been translated "effeminate" or "soft," most likely refers to someone who lacks discipline or moral control. The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament but never with reference to sexuality.

      The second word, Arsenokoitai, occurs once each in I Corinthians and I Timothy (1:10), but nowhere else in other literature of the period. It is derived from two Greek words, one meaning, "males" and the other "beds", a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Other Greek words were commonly used to describe homosexual behavior but do not appear here. The larger context of I Corinthians 6 shows Paul extremely concerned with prostitution, so it is very possible he was referring to male prostitutes. But many experts now attempting to translate these words have reached a simple conclusion: their precise meaning is uncertain. Scripture Study Conclusion…No Law Against Love

      The rarity with which Paul discusses any form of same-sex behavior and the ambiguity in references attributed to him make it extremely unsound to conclude any sure position in the New Testament on homosexuality, especially in the context of loving, responsible relationships. Since any arguments must be made from silence, it is much more reliable to turn to great principles of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do not judge others, lest you be judged. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love . . . against such there is no law. One thing is abundantly clear, as Paul stated in Galatians 5:14: "...the whole Law is fulfilled in one statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself".

      November 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Chad

      Gods promise of forgiveness is indeed for everyone, all sinners, of which I am one.

      Every time homosexuality is discussed in the bible it is condemned..

      Jesus of course said it best:

      At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
      But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
      9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
      11 “No one, sir,” she said.
      “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
      John 8

      ultimately, none of us benefit from attempts to redefine sin.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  16. Reality

    AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

    "prof" P has his Boston U angels?

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does Obama and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  17. AJ

    Writer asks "If the Bible clearly teaches us that our politics should center on the abortion question, why did it take nearly 2,000 years for Bible believers to figure this out?" Because it took 2000 years to make abortion as easy as " let's go get our nails done"

    November 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Observer

      AJ,

      The Bible NEVER mentions abortion so Christians pretending it does then need to read it sometime to know better.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Len

      Abortion was common in Egypt and other places over a 1000 years before Jesus.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Len,

      Please cite reliable sources for your statement.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Observer

      Reality,

      Look at wikipedia references.

      November 6, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Reality
      The Ebers Papyrus from1550 B.C.E records ancient Egyptian abortion.

      Some even say that the Bible records priests administering abortifacients:
      Numbers 5:18. "And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which [is] the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse...."
      'The curse' being menstruation. The bitter water was likely an herbal emmagogue given as a test of fidelity. If the woman had not been unfaithful, the drug would not work and the pregnancy was assumed to be the husband’s child. If she miscarried, she was considered guilty of adultery.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  18. Clyde

    Since when does a word count determine relative importance?

    November 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • MCR

      It doesn't definitively determine anything, but it is a predictor of emphasis, and generally quite reliable.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Ting

      It certainly doesn't matter to Christians. When it comes to the Bible, people pick and choose the verses they want to follow. They choose to emphasize the one verse that happens to support their prejudice.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Bev

      Clyde
      Wouldn't you say that something like baseball is important to somebody if they talk a lot about it a lot? Jesus talked a lot about no fault divorce, but nothing about gays. Any reasonable person would think that this establishes his priorities, but many Christians believe the opposite, that Jesus wasn't really concerned over their having divorces, but was really concerned over people he never said a word about. Weird!

      November 6, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  19. Brampt

    “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.4And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Rev 21:3,4

    November 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Athy

      Is that all you can do, Brampton, quote the fucking bible? Don't you have an original thought of your own?

      November 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Sweet

      ... and the good little prince and princess lived happily ever after. The End.

      How sweet.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Brampt

      Athy – I quoted diferent bible txts, read all of them, compare them with the theme of this articule and you will come to a conclusion. That will be my idea about this articule.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Athy

      It's "article", not "articule". Spelling is not your strong suit, is it?

      November 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      November 6, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  20. John

    Tom, etc.... have fun. It's all the same cash flows to the rich end game. Neither candidate will do anything other than extract cash from society, horde it, and kick the poor to the curb while handing them welfare checks they can't live on, until they can't borrow any more funds from the rich, to hand out the checks... rather than jobs. The jobs went to Asia... unemployment went up, not down. Obama's hope and change BS didn't do anything for 4 years. The rich don't mind at all... they're the lenders/horders. Nothing new to see here.

    November 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are delusional. What is it with you and the welfare checks? Is that your real beef? That you can't live on the handout you're getting?

      November 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • John

      Tom, you're behind, CNN posted an article this last week saying people in poverty get $60,000 a year average in assistance. I make more than that, but even so, a good portion of them are struggling, unless they can get more babies per square foot than their peers.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Romnesia

      John, please provide a link. That is way higher than unemployment and you're saying welfare is higher?

      November 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • John

      Looks like I mis-read it, the article is apparently saying $60,000 is spent per family, but the family doesn't get all that, most of it is wasted on the program to get the funds to them... bleeding cash everywhere. Probably some high wage earners to oversee the programs at every step of the way. I can't find the CNN article, but did find this one saying basically that:
      http://patriot-newswire.com/2012/10/government-pays-60000-per-poor-family-to-keep-them-voting-for-liberals/

      If it wasn't CNN... sorry, but that was my recollection that I'd seen it on a CNN page.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Whether John is correct in his details or not, he is correct in his description of the dynamics. The scheme of the money changers is to enslave the proletariat by advancing credit to them in their fiat currency. When the money supply dries up and credit stops functioning values plummet and the rich repossess the wealth of the nation. The Rothschilds have perfected this scheme over centuries in Europe and in the last 100 years in America. It's called fractional reserve banking and quantiitative easing. Also known as the business cycle. The politicians buy votes by borrowing money from the central bank and the taxpayer must service the loan. This is the job of the IRS. We've built our country on the national credit card and now the note is due. America lost her sovereignty in 1913.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, for the love of Pete.

      You might as well whine about the weather, you crybabies.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're really big on conspiracy theories, aren't you, Billy?

      November 6, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I guess you and John must love the Electoral College.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • MCR

      John, the biggest welfare program is public schools, at over $13,000 per child handed out to families each year in my state. If you want to complain, look at families having more than replacement (2 children) in the schools who are really sucking up everyone else's money.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Public education contributes to the good of all. That is why ALL, including single people, childless couples, and retirees help pay for them. If you think that's expensive, MCR, try ignorance.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Tom Tom
      I don't think its a conspiracy – Bill is telling it like it is.
      In the last 40 years or so, more and more countries that previously were (mostly) able to avoid the va/garies of that type of economic model have been forced into it.
      When a country is decimated by war or natural disaster, insti/tutions like the IMF and the World Bank step in to fund reconstruction efforts – but at an extraordinary cost.
      In order to pay back the loans, countries that are given no choice other than to privatize their national assets, selling them off to corporate interests that care little for the populations of said countries.
      Instead of allowing the people of a ruined country re-build their own homes, these corporations sub-contract the efforts to outside bidders who seldom hire locals. By denying the people the tools and opportunities to rebuild their economies, these countries become stuck in a cycle of poverty.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So, what do you want to do, Doc? You want a soviet-style economy, managed by the state? No banks? No corporations?

      November 6, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • MCR

      Tom, I'm a huge supporter of public education – all education. What I can't stand is middle class earners whining about welfare while they send 5 kids to public school – at a cost far above what they're paying in taxes.

      November 6, 2012 at 11:41 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.