April 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.
Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.
But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.
“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
April 4th, 2013
12:51 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
The Templeton Prize "honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works," the John Templeton Foundation says on its website.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the son of a schoolteacher and a domestic servant, was ordained a priest in 1961.
March 12th, 2013
04:32 PM ET
(CNN) - Unity. Faith. Peace. Support.
These words were common among the 20,000 messages received when CNN and mobile technology company Jana.com carried out a mobile phone survey in 11 countries asking Africans: What would be the impact of an African pope on the continent, or you?
The results provide a fascinating insight into faith on the continent, where Christianity is growing.
February 19th, 2013
01:06 PM ET
(CNN) – Despite calls for a new pope from Latin America or Africa, the areas of the Catholic Church experiencing the most rapid growth, the power in the College of Cardinals is decidedly European.
The rapid growth of the Catholic population in Latin America and Africa has not yet led to a proportional balancing of the College of Cardinals. The makeup of the college skews overwhelmingly European, while the majority of the congregants are increasingly not European.
“It (the College of Cardinals) doesn't reflect the population, it reflects the power structure,” said William D’Antonio, a professor at The Catholic University of America. “It is like a corporation. The corporation picks its own board of directors. You might own some stock in it, but you are really fighting a battle against a corporation here.”
Dubbed the “princes of the church,” the cardinals’ main role is to select the next pope, which is done in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Cardinals are handpicked by the pope both to choose his successor and to assist in the daily needs of the church. When they are elevated to the role they take on a red hat, symbolic of their willingness to shed their own blood for their faith.
February 14th, 2013
04:58 AM ET
Editor's note: Stan Chu Ilo is professor of religion and education, director of field education, at St Michael's College, University of Toronto, Canada. He is also author of: "The Face of Africa: Looking Beyond the Shadows" and "The Church and Development in Africa: Aid and Development from the Perspective of Catholic Social Ethics."
By Stan Chu Ilo, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, was asked last week at the celebration of Black History Month in Toronto if he thought that the time was ripe for an African pope. His answer attracted much cheering from the crowd of over 500 Catholics of African descent.
He said: "The time for an African pope was ripe even in the time of the Apostolic Fathers in the first century of the church."
"I am not saying that I wish to be considered for the papacy, but the fact that the Gospel is to be preached to all peoples, languages, and races means that the highest leadership of the church should be open to anyone from any race, language and nation. I will not be surprised to see an African pope in my lifetime."FULL STORY
February 12th, 2013
11:33 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
The United States just finished a diversity election that saw a president elected not by old, white men but by Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement, the Roman Catholic Church is preparing for an election of its own. Though in this case, the election will be decided not by rank-and-file Catholics but by the College of Cardinals.
It is well known that the demographics of the Catholic Church are changing quickly. Membership is hemorrhaging in Europe and barely stable in the United States, but it is booming in Asia and Africa and Latin America, which together account for two-thirds of the world’s Catholics.
In recent years, the papacy has seen some demographic milestones, as the College of Cardinals moved beyond Italy to tap popes from Poland (John Paul II) and Germany (Benedict XVI). There is now some speculation that an American might be considered, namely Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
But the church could take a much bolder step, tapping a pontiff that represents its future in the "Global South" rather than its past in the "Global North."
February 11th, 2013
01:18 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
(CNN) – Hours after Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement Monday, speculation was surging over who might be his successor and what part of the world the new pontiff could be from.
The 118 cardinals who will pick the next pope are also in the running for the job. Those cardinals are from around the globe, but more than half of them hail from European nations, according to Vatican statistics.
Worldwide, the demographic trends among the Roman Catholic Church's nearly 1.2 billion members show a different breakdown, with the church seeing only a trickle of new members in Europe, while membership has grown significantly in Africa.
February 7th, 2013
09:51 AM ET
Editor's note: Dagfinn Høybråten is a vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chairman of the GAVI Alliance Board. GAVI is a public-private partnership that works with governments, vaccine producers, faith-based organizations and others to expand access to vaccines and immunization. Since its launch in 2000, GAVI has helped immunize 370 million children in the poorest countries.
By Dagfinn Høybråten, Special to CNN
Despite their political, religious and ethnic differences, leaders from around the world are coming together for today's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. As they do, it is worth noting that faith and science are also coming together around the world to promote healing and equality in the form of access to vaccines.
Vaccines are a triumph of science due to their incredible capacity to save lives and protect health. Yet vaccines reach only four out of five children who need them. To reach the fifth child, science has found an important partner in the faith community, which helps bring vaccines to the most remote areas and the children who need them most. FULL POST
February 5th, 2013
05:53 AM ET
By Chika Oduah, for CNN
Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) – A Shabbat service is underway at the Ghihon Hebrew Research synagogue in the Jikwoyi suburb of Nigeria's federal capital territory.
Fourteen year-old Kadmiel Izungu Abor heads there with his family. They walk alongside stray goats on a road covered in red dust and potholes, lined with open sewage. They are nearly 20 kilometers away from the modern multi-story office buildings and sprawling mansions in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja.
About 50 people gather in the synagogue. They pray from the Siddur, they read from the Torah and as they chant, Abor's mellow alto begins to rise.
In a country of 162 million people tensions often lead to violent uprisings between Christians and Muslims and being part of the religious minority can be an issue. But Abor wears his kippah and his identity with pride.
"I am a Jewish Igbo," he says.FULL STORY
January 7th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN
Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt's Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year's celebrations.
"Many of my friends and relatives have left the country," said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. "I would leave, too, if I had a place to go."
Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt's Christians.
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.