April 29th, 2014
12:35 PM ET

New clues cast doubt on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'

Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss, special to CNN

(CNN) - It seemed real; it seemed fake; it seemed real again; now we’re back to fake.

"It” is the controversial little scrap of papyrus, written in Coptic, that seems to have Jesus referring to “my wife,” in contrast to the traditional stance that affirms Jesus’ perpetual bachelorhood.

The quick backstory: In 2012, a Harvard professor, Karen King, brought this papyrus to the attention of scholars and the public.

Both the material and the script looked authentically ancient at first glance, and though the notion of Jesus having a wife was remarkable, these “lost” Christian writings, such as the Gnostic Gospels, are full of unorthodoxies.

It was good enough for King, who is widely respected in the scholarly world.

From the beginning, there were doubts, however, beyond the unlikelihood that the tiny scrap that survived the centuries would happen to be the one that contained the reference to Jesus’ wife.

The papyrus, along with a few other ancient papyri of lesser novelty, had been passed to King by an anonymous figure.

Anonymity, in the world of antiquities, is often a bad sign, compounding the inherent uncertainty when dealing with texts that are bought and sold rather than discovered in a firm archaeological setting.

Then there were aspects of the text itself that seemed suspicious.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: archaeology • Bible • Christianity • Opinion

Dwindling witnesses of the Holocaust
April 28th, 2014
09:57 AM ET

Dwindling witnesses of the Holocaust

(CNN) - The old man exited a car and immediately ran through the forest to what he remembered was a mass gravesite. “The Germans were here,” he said. "The people were in a row, and they just shot them in the back, one by one.”

Mikhail K, a man well into his 80s, said he was just a boy when he witnessed Nazi German soldiers massacre villagers in southern Russia in the 1940s. In 2012,photographer Markel Redondo accompanied him to a site near the village of Ladozhskaya in the region of Krasnodar to document his memories surrounding the atrocity.

Mikhail stood silently for a moment, “remembering and looking at the place,” Redondo recalled. "You could see there was something going on in his head.”

Redondo met Mikhail and other witnesses as part of an initiative by the Paris-based group Yahad – In Unum. The project aims to locate and document World War II sites where Jews and other victims were executed by Nazis and their allies throughout Eastern Europe. Yahad – In Unum has chosen not to reveal the witnesses’ full names.

Redondo spoke with CNN ahead of Days of Remembrance, when Holocaust victims are honored during the week of April 27-May 4.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

April 27th, 2014
07:46 AM ET

Punch thy neighbor? 'Fight church' doesn't turn the other cheek

Opinion by Paul Burress, Special to CNN

(CNN)– As I sat backstage, I could hear the sound of thousands cheering as they waited for me to enter the ring.

“Lord put your covering over me,” I prayed in a whisper. “Use me as a witness. Use me to be a billboard for you."

I’m a pastor by trade, and the next morning I was set to preach the Easter sermon.

But on that night, I was preparing for something else entirely. This wasn’t the normal, churchgoing crowd.

I was about to enter the cage and compete in a mixed martial arts bout.

When I tell people I’m a pastor and a mixed martial arts fighter, I usually get some puzzled looks.

“How can you preach the Word of God participate in such brutal activity?” people ask. “Didn’t Jesus teach us to love one another?”


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith • Movies • Opinion • Sports • Violence

Hillary Clinton talks faith, family in speech to Methodist women
April 26th, 2014
05:20 PM ET

Hillary Clinton talks faith, family in speech to Methodist women

By Dan Merica, CNN

Louisville (CNN) – It would be difficult for Hillary Clinton to find a more welcoming crowd than the women at Saturday's United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville.

Greeted with raucous applause from the 6,500 women (and a few men) in attendance, the former secretary of state touted her knowledge of the faith, spoke about her family's Methodist roots and addressed how the teachings of Jesus and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, have guided her career.

And in synthesizing her view of Methodism's social gospel, Clinton's remarks seemed to come close to describing her presidential thought process, where the former first lady has acknowledged she is thinking about running for president in 2016.

"Even when we are tired and all we want to do is go away by ourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile," Clinton said, "even then, especially then, let’s make it happen."

Clinton focused largely on the social gospel teachings of Methodism. "Like the disciples of Jesus, we cannot look away, we cannot let those in need fend for themselves and live with ourselves," she said to applause. "We are all in this together."

Although faith has long been a part of Clinton's life, she rarely addresses it in public speeches. Saturday's remarks were a departure from that.

Clinton cited the Scripture Mark 6:30-44 - where Jesus instructs his disciples to organize their followers into groups and to feed them with five loaves of bread and two fish - as the central biblical passage of her speech. She jokingly called the story "the first great pot luck supper," and said she has always been fond of the passage.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Hillary Clinton

The pastor who shaped Hillary Clinton's politics
Hillary Rodham Clinton with the Rev. Don Jones, a pastor who had a lasting influence on her politics.
April 25th, 2014
01:43 PM ET

The pastor who shaped Hillary Clinton's politics

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - In the spring of 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most controversial men in America. One night in Chicago's Orchestra Hall after delivering a stirring speech on civil rights and the future of America, he shook hands with a standout 15-year-old with conservative parents, Hillary Rodham.

More than 50 years later, the moment still resonates profoundly with Clinton, who has had an illustrious political career and could again seek to make history as the first woman president.

"Probably my great privilege as a young woman was going to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak," Clinton said earlier this year at an event at the University of Miami. "I sat on the edge of my seat as this preacher challenged us to participate in the cause of justice, not to slumber while the world changed around us. And that made such an impression on me."

Clinton has traced much of her life in politics and activism to King's words that night. But there was another minister, not famous like King, who also influenced her views on social justice and stoked an intensity for action.

Don Jones was the Methodist youth pastor who organized the trip of like-minded teens to see King, and mentored her for the rest of his life.

"Don opened up a new world to me," Clinton said in 2009, the year he died, "and helped guide me on a spiritual, social and political journey of over 40 years."


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Hillary Clinton • Methodist • Politics

Who is your patron saint?
April 25th, 2014
11:41 AM ET

How the Catholic Church makes saints

By John L. Allen, Jr. and Daniel Burke

(CNN) - On Sunday, for the first time in history, the Catholic Church will canonize two popes on the same day.

Pope Francis will preside over a special ceremony that is expected to draw upwards of a million pilgrims, who will gather in St. Peter's Square to witness Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII enter the celestial community of Catholic saints.

Here's a bit about the Catholic Church's canonization process.

What is a saint, and how many are there?

Catholics believe a saint is someone who lived a holy life and who’s already in heaven. Saints are considered role models for people still on Earth, and are capable of interceding with God on someone’s behalf when a request for help is made in prayer.

The actual number of saints is impossible to calculate. One well-known work called "Lives of the Saints" lists 2,565 Catholic saints, but that doesn’t count thousands of others celebrated in local regions all over the world. The Catholic Church has a feast, All Saints’ Day, on November 1 to honor the countless saints who aren’t formally canonized.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Leaders • Miracles • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

9 myths about Hinduism — debunked
An Indian artist dresses as Kali, the goddess of destruction, at a festival in Allahabad earlier this month.
April 25th, 2014
09:00 AM ET

9 myths about Hinduism — debunked

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Caste. Cows. Karma.

Suhag Shukla knows that’s how some people outside Hinduism see her religion. As the head of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla, 42, clarifies misconceptions all the time.

Hinduism is ancient, though there is no specific date for when it was formed. The name is a Sanskrit word; Hinduism and Hindu were coined by invaders who used the terms to refer to the people they encountered when they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and arrived at the Indus River.

Hotel Death: It's a place of celebration and salvation for souls

In America, Hinduism’s profile was elevated by Indian immigrants who brought their customs and rituals with them and perhaps most recently, by the growing popularity of Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation. FULL POST

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Asia • Hinduism • India

April 25th, 2014
07:57 AM ET

Three popes, one brilliant move

Opinion by John Carr, special to CNN

(CNN) - This Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize “Good” Pope John and Pope John Paul “the Great.”

These popular references to Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II recall the ancient practice of choosing saints by public acclaim.

Sunday's ceremony, on the other hand, is the result of a more elaborate process and a brilliant decision by their successor, Pope Francis.

Though they will be canonized together, in some ways these two popes were very different people.

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of 14 children from an Italian peasant family who became a historian, diplomat, bishop and then Pope John XXIII.

Long before Pope Francis' off-script, populist touches led some to dub him the "people's pope," John broke precedent by escaping the Vatican to visit hospitals and prisons.

He left as a legacy his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which was addressed for the first time not just to Catholics, but to all those of “good will.” It reshaped Catholic teaching on human rights and made an impassioned call for peace amid the Cold War.


- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Italy • Leaders • Opinion • Poland • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

April 24th, 2014
10:21 AM ET

Vatican: Pope's phone calls don't change doctrine

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) - It was just a phone call.

That's the message the Vatican sent to reporters on Thursday, a day after news broke about a private conversation between the pontiff and a woman in Argentina.

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, reportedly called Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona and told her it was OK to receive Communion, despite her civil marriage to a divorced man. 

"She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong," the woman's husband, Julio Sabetta, told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate in Argentina.

Does that mean the Pope was overturning centuries of church doctrine?


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

April 23rd, 2014
08:13 PM ET

Does 9/11 museum slander Muslims?

(CNN) – Interfaith leaders object to a film slated to be part of an exhibit in the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

"The Rise of Al Qaeda," narrated by NBC's Brian Williams, is supposed to provide a brief history of the terrorist group.

The opening lines:

“This program describes the emergence of the terrorist organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks. It concentrates on a period of roughly 15 years, beginning with al-Qaeda’s founding during the Soviet-Afghan War and concluding with its rationale and planning for the attacks of 2001. The program tracks al-Qaeda’s embrace of violence and the decision of its leadership to commit mass murder, at the dawn of the 21st century.”

But faith leaders say the film does not draw a sharp enough distinction between al Qaeda and Muslims in general.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.