By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – With Bible verses painted on the walls of his living room and with an unshakable belief that hell is for real, there's no question that Rob Seyler is a devout evangelical Christian.
He is also a renegade.
Tucked into his well-thumbed Bible, the spine held together with silver duct tape, is a picture of Marilyn Manson in full goth makeup. Seyler, a high school Bible teacher, says the metal singer's writings shed light into the secret world of suffering teens.
Musically, Seyler gravitates more to Johnny Cash, partly because of the musician's intense religiosity. But Seyler will be the first to tell you that Cash's memoir of life as a sinner, "Man in Black," is much better than Cash's Christian novel, "Man in White."
His renegade streak extends to Seyler's classroom at the Grandview Park Baptist School in gritty East Des Moines, where he has painted so many brightly colored quotes and pictures onto the walls that it looks like a pop artist's studio. There are Bible verses and a black and white silhouette of Johnny Cash and an image that Seyler says has "created a little bit of a ruckus."
Editor's note: This is the last in a series about the faith lives of the presidential candidates, which includes a profile of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Washington (CNN) – President Obama’s prayers for a strong first debate may not have been answered, but that doesn’t mean the prayers weren’t happening.
Before he stepped onto a Colorado stage earlier this month to face off with Mitt Romney for the first time, Obama joined a conference call with a small circle of Christian ministers.
“The focus of that prayer was, ‘Oh, Lord, you know precisely what the president needs to say,'” says Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Methodist megachurch pastor from Texas who helped lead the call. “'You know what this country needs during the next four years.’”
“'And so I would pray that your primary will and words that you want the president to say will fall from his lips,'” Caldwell goes on, recalling his prayer.
Obama, for his part, was mostly silent.
(CNN) – Conservative writer and activist Dinesh D’Souza, who attracted wide attention with his recent anti-Obama film “2016: Obama’s America,” resigned Thursday as president of a Christian college in New York after questions were raised about his marriage.
D’Souza had led The King’s College, a small but prestigious evangelical school in Manhattan, for the past two years.
His departure appeared to be set in motion by an article on the website of the evangelical magazine World that accused D’Souza, who is married, of sharing a hotel room with a woman whom he allegedly referred to as his “fiancé” at a Christian conference.
Washington (CNN) – It was the first-ever debate between two Roman Catholics vying for a White House perch, and in Thursday’s face-off between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the question was put plainly: How does your faith shape your position on abortion?
It’s one of the most divisive questions in American politics, and the query from debate moderator Martha Raddatz, asked near the end of the sole vice presidential debate, set the table for some of the night’s most personal and poignant moments.
“I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” said Ryan. “Our faith informs us in everything we do.”
(CNN) – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney met with evangelical icon Billy Graham for the first time on Thursday at the evangelist’s remote mountaintop home in North Carolina.
Romney traveled to Graham’s residence in Montreat, just outside Asheville, to meet with Graham and his son Franklin Graham, a high-profile pastor in his own right.
Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka told reporters that Romney met with the Grahams for approximately 30 minutes and that they discussed religious freedom, religious persecution and growth of the Grahams’ ministry in China, Sudan and North Korea.
Towards the end of the meeting, according to Gorka, Billy Graham led a prayer for the Romneys, saying "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
(CNN) – As it organizes Catholic watch parties for Thursday night’s debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, who are both Roman Catholic, the Obama campaign hasn’t been shy about suggesting that the GOP vice presidential nominee hasn’t lived up to his Catholic values.
“For Catholic outreach, a defining moment in this campaign has been (Mitt) Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate,” said Broderick Johnson, a senior adviser with Barack Obama’s campaign who spearheads Catholic outreach efforts.
“The Ryan budget has entered into quite a debate, particularly among Catholics, in terms of the moral test and what is in that budget and what the budget proposes to slash.”
Washington (CNN) – A U.S. congressman is attracting attention and criticism for an online video that shows him blasting evolution and the Big Bang theory as “lies from the pit of hell” in a recent speech at a church event in his home state of Georgia.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” U.S Rep. Paul Broun said in an address last month at a banquet organized by Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Broun, a medical doctor by training, serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
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(CNN) – Will religion factor into the first 2012 presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday night? Maybe, though it's likely to happen in subtle ways.
Both President Barack Obama, a Protestant Christian whose political base is largely secular and whose last presidential campaign was almost brought low by his association with a minister, and Mitt Romney, whose Mormon religion is misunderstood or viewed skeptically by many Americans, have generally avoided talking religion on the campaign trail.
By Alan Miller, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Alan Miller is director of The New York Salon and co-founder of London's Old Truman Brewery. He is speaking at The Battle of Ideas at London's Barbican in October.
I wrote a Belief Blog piece on Sunday called "My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out," which has received more than 8,000 comments, many taking up key points I raised.
My assessment is that the wider disorientation of Western society, the decreasing respect for many institutions and the disdain for humans alongside what Christopher Lasch has termed a "culture of narcissism" has played out both among the "spiritual but not religious" identifiers as well as among many "new atheists." Lots of the comments bear that out.
Some commenters accused me of outdated and dangerous dogmatism in sticking up for traditional religion. A commenter whose handle is spectraprism spoke to this view:
Editor’s note: Alan Miller is Director of The New York Salon and Co-Founder of London's Old Truman Brewery. He is speaking at The Battle of Ideas at London's Barbican in October.
The increasingly common refrain that "I'm spiritual, but not religious," represents some of the most retrogressive aspects of contemporary society. The spiritual but not religious "movement" - an inappropriate term as that would suggest some collective, organizational aspect - highlights the implosion of belief that has struck at the heart of Western society.
Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions.
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.