By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – Monday is my last day at CNN.com, so it's a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned as religion editor here these past three years.
The CNN Belief Blog will continue to go strong under the leadership of Eric Marrapodi, with whom I’ve been lucky to co-edit the blog since 2010. I’m off to National Geographic, where I’ll be director of digital news.
Five things I’ve learned as religion editor at CNN.com:
1.) The faith/meaning angles off breaking news can yield meaningful, important stories - even when it feels a little weird to do them. The recent Newtown school massacre offers a case in point: We wrote about people grappling with the question “Where was God?” in the tragedy’s aftermath on the same day the shooting happened. The approach might have been dismissed as “fluffy” in other newsrooms (and one college professor hung up on me when I explained what I was writing about), but exploring that question got to one of the most keenly felt sentiments among those in Newtown and among people watching the news from anywhere. Trying to make sense of seemingly senseless deaths and suffering is a fundamental human struggle. It helps explain why our piece quickly collected nearly 8,000 comments. People want to talk about belief, spirituality and the meaning of life - including when it appears that all hell has broken loose.
By Bill Mears, CNN
(CNN)– The billionaire founder of Domino's Pizza has won a temporary court victory, with a federal judge blocking enforcement of part of the health care reform bill requiring most employers to provide a range of contraception and reproductive health services.
Some business owners and their staff see that as a violation of their religious rights.
Federal Judge Lawrence Zatkoff issued his order late Sunday, saying Thomas Monaghan had "shown that abiding by the mandate will substantially burden his exercise of religion."
"The (federal) government has failed to satisfy its burden of showing that its actions were narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest," said Zatkoff, a 1986 Reagan appointee. "Therefore, the court finds that plaintiffs have established at least some likelihood of succeeding on the merits" of their claim.
(CNN)–Why a fight over water threatened to shut down one of the holiest sites in Christianity. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.
By Sara Sidner, CNN
Jerusalem (CNN)–Tania Treiger pulls on her tight blue gloves and picks up her tweezers, preparing for the extraordinary job she has been hired to do. She is one of only five conservators in the entire world allowed to handle one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. Treiger’s job is to help conserve and record the more than 2,000-year-old pieces of parchment that make up Dead Sea Scrolls.
Many of the fragments are smaller than a bottle cap, and Treiger is taking painstaking measures to preserve the tiny pieces of history by laying each one under a camera to be photographed. The work she and many others are doing now is making it possible for anyone around the world with access to the Internet to see and study the scrolls.
The scrolls were found by Muhammad Ahmed al-Hamed, a Bedouin shepherd, in Khirbet Qumran in caves near the Dead Sea 65 years ago in what was then the British Mandate Palestine, now the West Bank. When pieced together, the scrolls reveal some of the holiest and well-known texts of the world. In the delicate pieces of ancient parchment you can see the text of the Ten Commandments, the first chapter of Genesis, Psalms and many of the writings that make up the Bible as well as other non-biblical books. Nearly 900 manuscripts are now online because of a partnership between the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google.
Editor’s Note: Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., is the CEO at Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Daniel Cox is the Director of Research at PRRI and specializes in research on millennials and the religiously unaffiliated.
By Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Considering that 2012 saw the first presidential contest in which there was no white mainline Protestant anywhere on the presidential ticket, religion played a surprisingly subtle role in the election cycle. But even if religion played more of a supporting than a leading role in the election, the religion factor was nonetheless alive and well this year.
Here are the 10 most important ways religion influenced politics and culture in 2012, trimmed out with findings from 16 surveys and over 22,000 interviews conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute research team in 2012.
By Laura Koran, 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: Baby boomer nuns revolutionize health care
The baby boomer generation's efforts at creating social justice dramatically transformed history – from the Vietnam War to gay rights. Even institutions that kept tradition at their very core – institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church – were radically changed by this generation.
CNN: Decades-long fight for Jewish freedom remembered
If asked to name the monumental chapters in Jewish history over the past century, people are likely to name the Holocaust or the founding of the state of Israel. Overlooked and largely unknown, especially among younger generations, is a tale that spanned decades and transcended politics, people and places.
By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) - The baby boomer generation's efforts at creating social justice dramatically transformed history - from the Vietnam War to gay rights.
Even institutions that kept tradition at their very core - institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church - were radically changed by this generation.
Within the church, perhaps the biggest agents of this change were its nuns. A wave of new thought during the 1960s opened cloister doors.
While modernization of the church did leave fewer nuns in the pipeline to carry out work in the health care and education fields, the ones who stayed - this baby boomer generation of religious sisters - undertook a kind of grass-roots, social justice-oriented health care.
Read the full story
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
If asked to name the monumental chapters in Jewish history over the past century, people are likely to name the Holocaust or the founding of the state of Israel.
Overlooked and largely unknown, especially among younger generations, is a tale that spanned decades and transcended politics, people and places.
It is the story of a campaign that began in the 1960s and demanded freedom of religion, speech and movement for Soviet Jews – and, by extension, others – who lived behind the Iron Curtain. A new group that wants the Soviet Jewry movement remembered says it belongs in history books, not just Jewish books, and can be a model for confronting human rights abuses that exist now.
Even from the early days, this was a movement that spoke to a broader audience. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Tanya Marie (“T.M.”) Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor in the department of anthropology at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is the author of "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God."
By T.M. Luhrmann, Special to CNN
(CNN)—In the Bible, God spoke directly to Abraham. He spoke directly to Moses. He spoke directly to Job. But to your neighbor down the street?
Most people reading the ancient scriptures understand these accounts of hearing God’s voice as miracles that really did happen but no longer take place today, or maybe as folkloric flourishes to ancient stories. Even Christians who believe that miracles can be an everyday affair can hesitate when someone tells them they heard God speak audibly. There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia.
Except that usually it’s not.
Editor’s note: Daniel Darling is a pastor, author and speaker in the Chicago area. His latest book is "Real: Owning Your Christian Faith." He tweets at @dandarling.
By Daniel Darling, Special to CNN
(CNN) – The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns, but many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy. According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws.
But in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, it’s time for evangelicals to contribute to the national discussion beyond: “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”
In fairness to gun enthusiasts, no reasonable observer could pin the blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting solely on the lack of effective gun laws. Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men. And the research about the effectiveness of gun controls laws seems mixed at best.
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.