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July 2nd, 2014
08:50 AM ET

The new American dream: Searching for spirituality

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - To discover one’s self. To find enlightenment. To take a spiritual journey.

What does this language mean? Are these pursuits, these aspirations, really possible? And if they are, what do the results look like?

I can’t pretend to have the answers. What I do know is that I went to India this year on a journalism fellowship to write about religion and spirituality. I landed in a place called Rishikesh, a holy spot for Hindus and magnet for Westerners seeking inner peace.

For two weeks, I set judgment aside and dove in to see what this place was all about. What I found touched me more than I anticipated and left me feeling somewhat transformed. I chronicled all of this in "Indian Awakenings" last month.

Since then, I've had a different sort of awakening. FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Faith • India • Spirituality

June 24th, 2014
10:45 AM ET

Mormon feminist excommunicated for apostasy

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) – Kate Kelly, a lifelong Mormon who’s spearheaded a fight for equal opportunities for women in her church, was convicted of apostasy Monday and excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The verdict, decided by a panel of male judges who convened Sunday, came to her by way of an e-mail sent by her former LDS Church bishop in Virginia, Mark Harrison. Kelly described the verdict as “exceptionally painful.”

“Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities,” she said on Ordain Women’s site Monday.

“I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”

No harsher punishment exists for a Latter-day Saint.

Kelly was excommunicated “for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” Harrison wrote.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • gender issues • Mormonism • Women

June 7th, 2014
07:31 AM ET

Finding wholeness in a holy place

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Earlier this year, thanks to a global religion reporting fellowship, I had the opportunity to explore the spiritual landscape that is Rishikesh, India.

It’s a magical little city nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas that’s holy to Hindus and a mystical playground for Westerners.

The journey was something I lightly anticipated as “Eat, Pray, Love … minus the pizza and sex.” It turned out to be so much more.

Maybe you followed the two-week experience, as it unfolded, at #RoamingRavitz. Or perhaps you’re hearing about this adventure for the first time. Either way, I hope you’ll be curious to learn more.

My time in Rishikesh was full. What I learned from the swamis, gurus, astrologers, yogis, healers and seekers I met there left my head and heart spinning.

Months later, I have finally made sense of it all. I invite you to check out the full story of my odyssey at "Indian Awakenings."

Also be sure to read "Lost and found: Missing in Rishikesh, India, the 'Land of Gods,'" where I delve into the mysteries surrounding the disappearance in Rishikesh of two Western men. Some have theorized that they fell victim to "India Syndrome," an unusual condition in which young Western travelers become delusional and, in extreme cases, disappear - often during quests for enlightenment.

I went into both reporting ventures not knowing what to expect. They brought me places I never saw coming.

If a spiritual destination left you transformed, I'd love to know where you went and what you learned. Please feel free to share in the comments section.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Journeys

Is the Internet killing religion?
A new study suggests that the Internet may play a role in the demise of organized religion.
April 9th, 2014
12:17 PM ET

Is the Internet killing religion?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) We can blame the Internet for plenty: the proliferation of porn, our obsession with cat videos, the alleged rise of teen trends like brace yourself eyeball licking.

But is it also a culprit in helping us lose our religion? A new study suggests it might be.

Allen Downey, a computer scientist at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, set out to understand the national uptick in those who claim no religious affiliation. These are the “nones,” which the Pew Research Center considers the fastest-growing “religious” group in America.
FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Internet • Technology

Pastor Fred Phelps
March 20th, 2014
07:12 PM ET

Should we celebrate Fred Phelps' death?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - He was a preacher best known for his virulent anti-gay rhetoric, the force behind placards that read “God Hates Fags.” He taught that natural disasters and man-made horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were God’s punishment for acceptance of homosexuality.

He believed gays and lesbians should be put to death.

On Thursday, the world learned that Fred Phelps, founding pastor of the small but infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, was dead.

The news unleashed a firestorm of online chatter. In less than an hour after CNN posted an article announcing his death, more than 3,000 readers had weighed in with comments. By the end of the business day, that number exceeded 11,000.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Discrimination • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Westboro Bapitst Church

'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex
We're heading to Rishikesh in India, which is considered the yoga capital of the world.
January 7th, 2014
12:37 PM ET

'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, sits a magical place ripe for exploration. It’s called Rishikesh, and for the next two weeks it will be our spiritual playground.

I am going there thanks to a religion reporting fellowship, and I’d like to take you with me.

A holy spot for Hindus, Rishikesh is also a destination for Westerners hungering for a different and deeper kind of sustenance. Among the most renowned Rishikesh searchers: The Beatles, who came here in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

It’s dotted with ashrams. Painted holy men roam the streets and sit in nearby caves. There are sunset ceremonies along the sacred Ganges River, and yoga classes flow as consistently as the hallowed waters. Pilgrims flock to temples. Visitors can surrender to ancient forms of medicine, find healing and be cleansed. Some are said to arrive in Rishikesh and never leave, losing themselves forever in the quest for enlightenment.
FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Journeys • Meditation • Yoga

Bush's plans to address Messianic Jewish group irks former aides
Former President George W. Bush plans to address a group committed to converting Jews to Christianity.
November 13th, 2013
05:34 PM ET

Bush's plans to address Messianic Jewish group irks former aides

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Of course Tevi Troy has heard the hubbub.

He knows full well that his onetime boss, former President George W. Bush, plans to speak Thursday at a Dallas fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute – a group dedicated to converting Jews to Christianity.

“I have yet to meet a Jewish person who hasn’t heard about this,” says Troy, who served as a Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community and was a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The topic of conversion can prompt a visceral reaction for Jews whose darker times have been marred by persecution, expulsion and forced conversions. Millions have died for and because of their faith.

“There’s good historical reason for the Jewish discomfort,” Troy says. FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: evangelicals • Judaism • Politics

It's Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins
The force behind eScapegoat is G-dcast, a San Francisco nonprofit working to making Jewish learning fun.
September 13th, 2013
10:46 AM ET

It's Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) Calling all Jews! Your confessional clock is ticking.

With Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement starting at sunset Friday (and ending the following night), this is your last chance to wipe your slates clean of the wrongs you’ve committed over the past year.

Oh, sure, you’ll be able to participate in a communal confession of sins Saturday in synagogue. But we know as well as you do that your community won’t hear everything you did.

It’s time to fess up. FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Holidays • Judaism • Social media

Christians happier than atheists – on Twitter
In 140 characters or less, Christians seem to be spreading love and joy more than atheists.
June 28th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

Christians happier than atheists – on Twitter

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) – Christians tweet from the heart, atheists from the head, according to a new study.

The study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tapped Twitter as a research tool and compared the messages of Christians and atheists.

The conclusion: When they are limited to 140 characters or less, these researchers say, believers are happier than their counterparts. FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity • Technology

June 6th, 2013
10:37 AM ET

With his speech, valedictorian brings God to graduation

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Leading up to Saturday’s ceremony, Roy Costner IV prayed on what he was going to do. Liberty High School’s 2013 valedictorian would soon find himself in front of a microphone. He’d have a pulpit from which he could address his small community tucked away in South Carolina’s mountainous corner.

Only his father and pastor knew what was weighing on his heart and mind. Could he, should he, insert a prayer in his pre-approved graduation speech? He’d been told by the school principal that talk of religion wasn’t allowed, and so far he’d followed the rules.

But as the day approached, the 18-year-old couldn’t deny what he felt he needed to do. FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

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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.

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