May 23rd, 2013
06:16 PM ET
Editor's Note: John Stemberger is an Eagle Scout and president of On My Honor, a coalition of concerned parents, Scout Leaders, Scouting donors, Eagle Scouts and others affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America who are united in their support of Scouting’s timeless values and their opposition to open homosexuality in the Scouts. Find more information at www.OnMyHonor.net.
By John Stemberger, Special to CNN
(CNN)– On Thursday, delegates to the Boy Scouts of America’s national conference met in Grapevine, Texas, to determine the fate of one of the most beloved organizations in this country’s history. This organization that has stood the test of time will probably be destroyed now that they have decided to admit openly gay boys as Scouts.
Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts, and allowing open homosexuality will lead to myriad bad consequences.
May 23rd, 2013
03:59 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) -– American atheists welcomed Pope Francis’ comments that God redeems nonbelievers, saying that the new pontiff's historic outreach is helping to topple longstanding barriers.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”
Francis continued: “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said that although he has been skeptical of Francis' outreach to the nonreligious, he welcomed Wednesday’s comments.
May 22nd, 2013
06:20 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – Behind her were ruins, a tangled mess where structures once stood. Cradled in her arms, the mother’s 19-month-old son played with a snatched microphone, unfazed by the chaos swirling around him. And in front of Rebecca Vitsmun stood CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who – after asking her about the decision that saved her and her son's lives – had one more question:
“I guess you got to thank the Lord, right?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she mumbled, smiling and looking down.
“Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?” he continued.
“I, I, I,” the 30-year-old stay-at-home mom stammered before adding, “I’m actually an atheist.” FULL POST
May 22nd, 2013
05:05 PM ET
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
London (CNN) – A man thought to be a serving British soldier was killed by two armed men in a frenzied attack on a London street Wednesday, in what the government is treating as a suspected act of terrorism.
Witnesses told of a gruesome scene in which the man was hit by a car, then hacked with cleavers and his body dumped in the middle of the road in Woolwich, southeast London.
The two suspects in the killing were injured in a confrontation with police and have been taken to two hospitals, where they are being treated.
CNN affiliate ITN aired a video showing a man with bloody hands and holding a meat cleaver, who says, "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."
The man, who seems to have a London accent, carries on: "The only reasons we killed this man this is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth.FULL STORY
May 22nd, 2013
08:34 AM ET
Editor's Note: The Rev. Ian Punnett is the author of "How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God (Or Anyone Else For That Matter)" and a veteran talk show host. He has been married for 28 years and is the father of two college age boys.
By Ian Punnett, Special to CNN
(CNN) – “God never gives us more than we can handle.”
God, have I learned to hate that cliche.
As a clergy person, as a hospital chaplain intern and as a father, I have come to believe that, at best, that platitude is a classic example of meaningless bumper-sticker theology. It's easily said and only makes sense when it goes by you so fast you don’t have time to think about it.
At worst, however, claiming that God scales a tragedy up or down depending on our ability to handle loss is as heartless as it is thoughtless.
May 21st, 2013
04:45 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – God may not notice the thousands of prayers tweeted for victims of Oklahoma’s devastating tornado – but Ricky Gervais sure has. And he is not pleased.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people have used the hashtag #PrayForOklahoma, including pop starlets, pastors and politicians, according to Topsy.com, a trend-monitoring site.
For example, the White House tweeted,
But the hashtag and the sentiments it promotes prompted a fierce backlash on social media, led by Gervais, a British comedian, and other prominent nonbelievers.
And while one Oklahoma City pastor says he appreciates the Twitter prayers, some religious scholars say devout petitions require more than moving your hands across a keyboard. FULL POST
May 21st, 2013
02:55 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – A Vatican spokesman on Tuesday refuted claims that Pope Francis performed an exorcism on a man in St. Peter’s Square after Mass on Sunday. But he did not altogether deny the encounter.
“The Holy Father had no intention to perform any exorcism,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. “Instead, as he frequently does for the sick and suffering persons who approach him, he simply meant to pray for a suffering person who was presented to him.”
Speculation that Francis performed an exorcism began to ricochet around the Internet when video of the encounter from TV2000, a Catholic television station in Italy, was posted online.
In the video, Francis smiles and takes the hand of an unnamed man in a wheelchair. After a priest whispers in the pope's ear, his demeanor changes and he places his hands on the man’s head. The video shows the man in the wheelchair convulsing before his body goes limp with his mouth agape.
May 21st, 2013
11:35 AM ET
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) — At first glance, it would seem that the town of Greece, New York, has been brazenly violating the First Amendment. For roughly a decade, it invited local Christians — and only Christians — to offer prayers opening its Town Board meetings.
Two non-Christian town residents — Susan Galloway (who is Jewish) and Linda Stephens (who is an atheist) — objected, arguing that this practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the town’s practice of repeatedly inviting Christians to offer demonstrably Christian prayers amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.
May 20th, 2013
10:28 AM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
Washington (CNN) - A dispute over public prayers at town board meetings will be taken up by the Supreme Court in coming months, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the public arena.
The justices announced Monday it will decide whether a New York community may continue what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its town board sessions. The policy now allows Wiccans and atheists to offer invocations.
But some local citizens sued and a federal appeals court found the policy to be an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause, which forbids any government "endorsement" of religion.
The petition will be argued later this year or early in 2014, with a ruling ready by the spring.
The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696).FULL STORY
May 19th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
“God, help me!”
Eben Alexander shouted and flailed as hospital orderlies tried to hold him in place. But no one could stop his violent seizures, and the 54-year-old neurosurgeon went limp as his horrified wife looked on.
That moment could have been the end. But Alexander says it was just the beginning. He found himself soaring toward a brilliant white light tinged with gold into “the strangest, most beautiful world I’d ever seen.”
Alexander calls that world heaven, and he describes his journey in “Proof of Heaven,” which has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 27 weeks. Alexander says he used to be an indifferent churchgoer who ignored stories about the afterlife. But now he knows there’s truth to those stories, and there’s no reason to fear death.
“Not one bit,” he said. “It’s a transition; it’s not the end of anything. We will be with our loved ones again.”
Heaven used to be a mystery, a place glimpsed only by mystics and prophets. But popular culture is filled with firsthand accounts from all sorts of people who claim that they, too, have proofs of heaven after undergoing near-death experiences.
Yet the popularity of these stories raises another question: Why doesn’t the church talk about heaven anymore? FULL POST
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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.