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.
2.) The explosion of people with no religion will be a huge story in this century, and the news media have only begun to explore its many implications. CNN reporter Dan Merica has led the news media pack in reporting on what the growth of “religious nones” means for American politics and for the burgeoning movement of activist atheists, which represents only a small portion of those with no religion. There are countless other stories to be found among the tens of millions of religious “nones” - about making meaning, tradition and ethics in a post-religious existence. These stories won’t be provoked by press releases. If you’re a religious “none,” speak up. Let the news media know what we should be covering in your world.
3.) Religion reporting shouldn’t be an inside game. “We believe that understanding the role of faith in today’s world isn’t optional or nice to know,” we wrote in our inaugural Belief Blog post, in May 2010. “It’s need to know.” That was true again for many of 2012’s biggest stories, for which understanding forces of faith and faithlessness were crucial to understanding the nominees for president, reactions to July’s deadly Aurora, Colorado, shooting and Whitney Houston’s funeral. You don’t have to be religious to think religion stories matter; you just have to be curious about the way the world works. I believe that more now than I did when we launched the Belief Blog.
4.) The news media isn’t anti-religion. You hear that from some religious people, particularly those on the political right. Truth is, news organizations such as CNN are fascinated by religion because it yields stories brimming with meaning, controversy and powerful characters. But the religion beat can scare off reporters because it can be so daunting (if you’re a non-Mormon, try wrapping your mind around the Mormon practice of posthumous proxy baptism in time to meet a 5 o’clock deadline). And yet so many CNN Belief stories were born when CNNers across the organization asked basic questions such as, “Will the Catholic presidential candidates don ashes for an Ash Wednesday debate?” and “Why don’t we explain why some American Muslim women wear the hijab?” Many other religion stories came from CNNers who volunteered ideas from their own religious subcultures. CNN forces working against religion coverage? I never encountered any.
5.) In the world of digital journalism, your voice matters more than ever. With the proliferation of reader comments, social media and instantaneous metrics on what our audiences are clicking and how they’re responding, your choices and opinions are shaping our coverage more than ever. Some of our best content from the last year was more about conversations happening around the news than about the news itself. We choose to do certain stories and skip others partly based on whether you’re engaged in those stories or not. Use your power wisely.
The hardest part of being alive is meeting up with people who don't agree with me.
I totally disagree...!! hehehhe
How about this: Christianity is not the only viable religion in the world. The bible is not the only sacred scripture that matters. The bible is not the only "word of God" in the world, and it was not written by God. It was compiled and canonized by supposed scholars etc. in Rome, council of Nicene circa 500 a.d.Jesus never had or taught out of a "bible" (which is derived from Latin "biblio" meaning "collection of books"). Most of the people in the U.S. and the "west" in general need to wrap their heads around that first. Think it'll happen?
That's why I'm on here Natty. It's a feeble attempt to cut thru the brain-washing that is xtianity. Any time someone belongs to a group they're afraid to leave, I consider it a cult. Xtians threaten with eternal torture to inflict their meme onto others. It's a brutal religion, under the cloak of "loving", "caring", "compassion". HIstory proves otherwise.
total bs. i'm free to come and go to chruches in my town as i wish. none of what you are dreaming up happens. delusions, for sure.
You judge very harshly. With your dislike of Christians I would hate to approach you.
Most Christians try to live moral good lives.
You are the one needing to look inside yourself in my opinion.
They try to live good lives? How is voting down the rights of others "a good life". How is thinking it's "justice" to send me to a fiery inferno for not believing something "a good life"? Since when is not believing something a crime, worthy of eternal, unthinkable torture? Xtianity is a hateful, delustional existence. That's the fallacy I spoke of.. "they are wolves in sheep's clothing".
That is not what we do. Some do. Not all. Try to learn the truth. You sound prejudiced.
Not all atheists are hateful. But some are.
@Oli – Are you trying to convince me that the message behind Xtianity is not what I said earlier? My mother was a Pentecostal preacher! Are you serious? You may have adopted some sort of "false Christianity", but Christianity, the religion (not all of its people), but the religion itself...is judgmental, cruel, and rife with hypocricy. It states plainly, that non-believers will burn in a lake of fire. It states that if you do not adhere to all of its tenets, you wil be subjected to eternal torment. If that's not hateful, please tell me what is?
@Oli – I'll consider your non-response as an agreement with my previous posts. Thank you for being gracious enough to concede.
@Eddumbandduumber – Your post makes zero sense. You are a babbling idiot.
Relax, if I don't answer I may be busy.
That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know what I know, I don't need your warped understanding. I've got joy today. You can't take that away. I'm out! (I'm leaving, you can declare that as a victory for you if you want. i'm not fighting anyway.)
@Oli – please give me your "watered down" version of Xtianity. My soul is at stake. Enlighten me please. Glad you're high on your delusion.
@ oli – No, I hear you,and I don't have a "hatred" for Christians. This is an opinion blog, tho, you know? I get along with many people of diverse backrounds probly a vast majority are Christians. I treat others how I would wish to be treated and mostly leave it at that. But what I'm doing with my post is to challenge the religious hegemony based on some of the fallacies I pointed out. The idea that the Christian bible may not be the only viable scripture in the world should not be an affront to anyone or viewed as hatred for christians. That reaction illustrates the problem.
@Natty – another brilliant post. Oli's religion teaches Oli, that Oli is to destroy or convert anyone who opposes the scriptures in this one book. All other god's are false, and any threat to its truthfulness must be irradicated. Oli failed to testify to us, so Oli is disobeying the very book he/she professes to follow...to be a witness at all times. See what I mean by hypocricy? Xtians have a dreadful history of witch trials, wars, etc...too many atrocities to mention here. It is gasping for breath.
As a Mormon, CNN did a much better job discussing my religion in 2012 than they had in years previous. Most of the beliefs and doctrines they got right, though they did overemphasize things that we don't really care about and exaggerated others.
Well isn't that special.
Did they over-exaggerate the hate campaign the Mormon's carried out against gay/lesbian folks in California (Prop 8)? I don't think it's possible to exaggerate that hateful, expensive campaign. But I have to congratulate them on their successful rein of tyranny. I think however, it came with a very high price tag...as they are now considered a hate group.
Why don't you CARE about these certain things?Think they might seem a little made up or something?
To be happy is a business don't worry be happy? *Malachi 3:15 And now we called the proud happy; they that work wickedness are set up; yea that tempt God are even delivered. *Psalm 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. Revelation 6:6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; (*Amos 8:6?*) Is Abe Lincoln on a penny? Ask God about Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (*Psalm 90:10)
Good luck in your future endeavors, Mr. Gilgoff.
In addition to the 'nones,' many people are abandoning Abraham's religions in favor of their ancestral religions.
Lo, there do I see my father
Lo, there do I see my mother and sisters and my brothers
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning
Lo, they do call to me!
They bid me take my place among them
In the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave may live forever!
It amazes me that in a country that has the most, and access to the most Bibles in the world, that people are still blaming God for every bad thing that happens. ITS NOT GOD THAT IS DOING THE BAD STUFF. The Bible says that God is Good. God is Love. Think on this: black/white, good/evil, justice/injustice, God/Satan. God became so disgusted with humanity, that God became flesh, in that He became Goodness and Love in the form of Jesus, to show what God's plan for humanity was, and to overcome the evil by His own sacrifice unto death and Resurrection.
GET WITH THE PROGRAM PEOPLE. STOP BLAMING GOD FOR THE BAD STUFF !!!
Apparently sweety, you need to check out one of those books yourself if you don't think your god is evil. He drowns innocents in great floods, order numerous killings throughout the entire book. Are you 10?
Why is it so hard for people that believe to accept both the good and bad that God allows? And if God can not control what happens is he all powerful?
Are you confused, and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. reading (*Isaiah 34:11*) Are you still confused at this day? Read Daniel 9:7. Always tell the truth, and the world will hate you, because you love grace and truth. When Christ asked the people questions, they always became shut up and never answered him back? *Matthew 22:46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
Oh, wow! You mean your holy book says that others will be confused by it and not understand it, but because you're so special you'll understand it, but others will mock you for understanding it. Oh my gosh! Good thing it has that in there.
moby = troll
@haha – wow...that was deep. I hope Moby can survive this severe attack. That's all you got? You're no match for Moby, face it.
The days of people becoming shut up are waning,my friend.Get used to it!
Growing up as an atheist in a country where most people believe in bronze age fairytales (the US) can be frustrating. As a kid I dare not state my lack of belief for fear of repercussion. Today with tides slowly shifting I feel more inclined to talk about atheism openly. We are still a minority no doubt, but a growing minority. I think it is plausible to think we will have an atheist president within the next 20-30 years as long as people keep up the fight and don't back down from the loonies and their mythological book.
Everybody hates us. Lets go eat worms and hate Jews together.
Atheists don't "hate" any religion, we just believe them to be false.
"keep up the fight" – This is why there's a real problem with so many of you atheists. You feel at war with the religious, and you're only deluding yourselves and deliberately or (granted unknowingly) spreading fear and hate. And calling their beliefs "fairytales", you are knowingly insulting them.
@Zobby – excellent post! Yes, when my family finally admitted I was atheist, they considered me "devil obsessed", a "heathen", and numerous other adjectives. Hard to believe that just because I don't believe there are invisible beings in the sky, and roaming the earth, I can be so scorned. They don't even want me around their children, for fear my opinions (and that's all religion is...an opinion) could corrupt their children/grandchildren.
oops..I meant "devil posessed", not "devil obsessed".
Actually, some atheists do HATE religion. It is true. And you can't speak for all atheists. I know some atheists respect Jewish people. I know this is true, because I live, work and play with atheists, none are as ignorant as you.
"You can't speak for all atheists." LOLOLOLOL!!! uh.... duh!
Maybe it does spread fear and hate, but as long as we prevail in the end what we suffer through will have been worth it for future generations.
> Victim Mentality
An open letter to the 'victims' of their own making:
“Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it! Today is a new day!”
“There is a fine line between compassion and a victim mentality. Compassion though is a healing force and comes from a place of kindness towards yourself. Playing the victim is a toxic waste of time that not only repels other people, but also robs the victim of ever knowing true happiness.”
"Victims can feel they have certain rights that the world owes them, and are disappointed or angry when the world doesn't deliver. They tend to feel very strongly about "their rights" and they way things should be done for them. Contrast this "in-bound" worldview with Peter Drucker, who discusses his life/work approach in "The Effective Executive." His focus is not "what can I get?", or even "what can I achieve?" but rather "what can I contribute?"
1. To loudly and aggressively express one's displeasure and offense at a deliberately misunderstood position held by someone else.
2. To misconstrue someone's words as a personal attack, and complain about it loudly.
3. To loudly proclaim how one is always the victim.
The internet has made it much easier to be open about one's atheism. Speaking openly here has led me to speak openly in my real life, and strangely enough, I discovered that many people I never suspected are atheists as well. It's good to live in a time when hanging, drowning or burning people alive for heresy is no longer tolerated, at least in this country.
@ tallulah13 - Exactly!! I agree completely!
The Belief Blog at CNN is nothing more than a convienient blogging outlet for raging atheists to cast off the same, tired insults and slurs against Christianity. None of the articles ever display the positive aspects of the religion, but only (at best) sensasionalize it, and often trivialize its beliefs. Always has been, always will be. Everyone (including CNN) knows this. That's a big part of the reason the Comments section is configured such that you don't even need to log in with a user account.
We blow off steam online because we feel repressed in our daily lives, still unable to openly voice our opinions without fear of ridicule in most parts of the country.
Yes. I know they don't represent all 'atheists/agnostics'. I know some really good 'atheists/agnostics'. But, damn, the majority voice here is pretty ugly. I'd be embarrassed to share a belief system with them. It seems like all the reasonable people don't stay here long – the inmates run the asylum.
Your bias is showing, Mental Crybaby. Atheism isn't a belief system so there's nothing "shared" among atheists and agnostics to feel any particular way about. Stupid logic.
Zobby speaks about "we" as in "we atheists"... Demonstrating a shared belief system.
The pronoun "we" does not connote a belief system, moron. Do all people who drive Mazdas share a belief system? Could they use the term "we?"
Atheism is as much as a "belief system" as NOT collecting stamps is a type of hobby.
My point is to support "The facts are..." about this being a "blogging outlet for raging atheists to cast off the same, tired insults and slurs against Christianity."
I think he is spot on. Rage on, dude – I've got better things to do.
I'll leave you with the Cherokee Prayer Blessing:
May the Warm Winds of Heaven
Blow softly upon your house.
May the Great Spirit
Bless all who enter there.
May your Mocassins
Make happy tracks
in many snows,
and may the Rainbow
Always touch your shoulder.
Gee, 2,000 years of oppression does tend to make some of us a bit outraged. Hard to believe, isn't it?
indians = loonies who believed n fairy tales.
Sharing a not belief isn't something everyone can believe in. You may ask one man "Do you believe in Santa Clause?" If he says no, and you ask another man the same question his reason for not believing in Santa Clause may be different. However if people start trying to worship Santa Clause or shove Christmas tales down their throats as reality, they may band up against the Santa Clause believers.
The tares are being prepared to be burned, the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; *Job 39:12 Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn? (The church is not a barn, it is for the tares.) *Matthew 13:30 but gather the wheat into my barn.
Your disgusting god should help the tares not be tares rather than burning them.
Your rude god thinks of me as a grain of wheat. I'm not a grain of wheat. I'm a real person with real feelings. If he can't respect me now, how can I expect him to respect me in eternity? Is he going to change his mind? But he never changes!
I'M SO STUPID I DON'T KNOW WHAT A METAPHOR IS. I LITERALLY THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO TELL ME GOD BELIEVES I'M A GRAIN OF WHEAT.
The bible refers to sinners "as grains of wheat to be harvested" numerous times throughout the bible. Do you not understand its metaphor? What do you think it's referring to dillweed? Actual wheat???
YES. I TOLD YOU I'M STUPID. I THINK GOD DOESN'T REALIZE I HAVE FEELINGS, TOO. HE JUST THINKS I'M A BAD SEED.
Goodbye, Dan Gilgoff. You've done noble work here. I've enjoyed your articles which have elevated the conversation on every featured news story. Attention towards God and religion may be fading from most developed, western nations, but that isn't true worldwide. And one must ask, "What has replaced religion here at home?" Humanism, barbarism, or an existential angst? Personally, I prefer to "keep the faith," and let everyone decide what that is for themselves.
I'll take religion seriously when people realize religion shouldn't be a part of politics.
Only for the eyes of Mr. Gilgoff:
Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Added details available upon written request
Throughout history mankind has evolved and cast aside old beliefs for new ones . We are doing it again here. Every living thing is aware of it's existance and seeks to evolve. That awareness is the only proof we have that ( all that is ) exists.
What We Learned About Humanity in 2012
what does your profound statement have to do with anything ?
Religion does not equal faith and faith sure don't mean religion. I have no religion does NOT mean i have no faith in something larger than myself. In order to really explore the spiritual map of human belief, different questions need to be asked.
I do sometimes read this part of CNN. I do believe in God, but I'm not a fan of organized religion. I don't like the way extremists on both sides talk to one another. Both sides get too heated and say things that just reinforce the other sides position. It's very confusing sometimes.
I believe in God. Religion is personal. You don't believe in God? OK. The reason I say OK is that our right to believe as we want is guaranteed by where we live, the good ole' USA. I consider my belief in God is personal. That means I won't try to change you and your personal beliefs. I will show respect to you and your beliefs. I also show respect to other religions including atheists. You people show nothing in your comments except your stupidity towards one another. You all should be in Congress or in "time out".
If only everyone saw it as something personal to keep in one's home and heart. Unfortunately, the major tenets of most major religions implicate that their "truth" is the only truth and conversion of unbelievers through whatever means necessary, be it through laws that effect me or even violence. As long as this exists, I will fight for rigid separation of church and state and against all forms of theocratic bullying. It is the major war of this century, IMHO and I have picked my side. Thanks for not being one of 'THEM.'
imagine Jonas Salk coming out of his laboratory having found a legitimate cure for polio and saying "well, this is just personal. it's only for my heart & my home."
rethink what you're saying. if these things are true, how hateful would you have to be NOT to want others to know?
at least one atheist gets that much...
You don't seem to get it. Christians obviously DO NOT believe because if they did, they would be doing all sorts of things to convince the rest of the world. They wouldn't be wasting their time on blogs such as this one. They wouldn't be arguing. They would be ACTING and every so often, PLEADING, and then back to acting in ways to convince others of their moral authority and goodness because of their belief system. If christians honestly believe what they claim, then they're the ultimate azzholes for simply debating it as if it was some other nonconsequential topic on some internet board.
You just don't get it, do you?
such a shallow take there, moby. why must our efforts be constrained to only one area? clearly, Jesus spoke about comprehensive efforts (sociological, economic, theological, philosophical, personal, public, specific and incredibly general, etc.). And note: he SPOKE. He claimed to BE the truth.
yes, Christians need to enact the Gospel as best we can – and a big part of that is admitting that we are as messed up as anybody and equally need a Savior. and yet, notice Jesus' plan from the outset is to use the 'fools' of this world (the racial & gender outsiders, lower class, etc.) to shame the 'wise' & powerful. so, yes, me being here is an example of God using EVEN idiots like me.
but press your own assumptions: who are the groups engaging third world poverty & disease? who are the people found among the poorest of the poor around the world? why are so many of the hospitals religiously affiliated? if we are really so evil as you presume, and so ineffectual, why are so many of the things you are asking for already being enacted – even by weak, hypocritical failures such as me?
you can't have it both ways. the very so-called 'fanatical' beliefs you would malign in Christianity are the exact same beliefs that lead us to do such things, AND Christians ARE doing these things – even WHILE often being abysmal examples of the Christian life... in feeble & faulted efforts that include attempting to meet people where they are... like on a national religious discussion blog.
so maybe the better question is: why are you here?
I call it like I see it, Russ. If arguing on line and calling people shallow who express their honest opinion is the best your god can help you do in response to my words to you, then my opinion of you and those you try to get off the hook with your stupid apologetics doesn't change. Face it, you guys either don't really believe, or you're the biggest azzholes the world has seen to care so little about the eternal consequence awaiting nonbelievers.
The problem with your ana.logy, Russ, is that Polio is a disease with observable consequences. Had Salk come out of his laboratory claiming to cure a disease that existed only in his mind, he probably would have been discredited and possibly committed.
@ Schtick: I see you dodged my question – despite the fact that I answered yours.
@ talullah: as many theologians have said: sin is the most empirically verifiable doctrine of the faith. do you actually deny that the world is broken or that evil exists?
if there is no problem, why is it then that something like newtown happens & virtually everyone is clamoring for a "solution"? genocide, r.a.pe, insti.tutional oppression, etc., etc. in the face of such insurmountable "evidence", yet you claim there is no real, tangible, empirical problem? it only exists "in my mind"... & the majority of the minds of people on the planet who (across religious & secular lines) see that there is a very tangible problem, yet you claim it's all fabricated? seems to me your answer to the problem of evil is the worst possible answer: pretend it doesn't exist.
Jesus spoke the truth.
And some people rejected it, he walked away. He didn't go chasing them down, it is a waste of time. Other times they mocked and called him foolish. They wanted to kill him. He walked away.
I don't answer questions that I don't find interesting. Why is anyone here? Please,
god is personal, religion is not
If you see something, say something? It is against the law to tell the truth. Do you believe God is he? *John 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. (*Isaiah 43:10*)
2.) The explosion of people with no religion will be a huge story in this century
It shouldn't be a huge story, it happened for me and many I know over 30 years ago
It happened for me too about 20-30 years ago, for good reason, one of the biggest is because we are deliberately lied to by religous leaders. Here's an example: Mary was not a virgin, that was a political decision made at the Council of Nicea in order to control women, yet this lie has been perpetrated by Christian leaders for 2 millenia!
I think what he really means here is that you are going to see more and more people leaving their churches in droves. Turning away from religion, especially the extremely dysfunctional "cook book" religions like Catholicism or Islam with more rules than a board game that are supposed to get you to heaven if you only follow them, in favor of a genuine spirituality that comes from within. On the deeper issues we innately know right from wrong and don't need a preacher to tell us that.
I guess all these dictating religious leaders are going to have to go out and get real jobs like the rest of us!
It will be a huge story in that "Nones" will be a statistically significant portion of the populace. That's a first for the US–we've seen such scenarios in Europe (Norway, France, and Sweden being classic examples), but it's a first for us.
Of course, here in the US, we tend to take a short view of history.
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.