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
May 14th, 2013
02:22 PM ET
By Bryony Jones, CNN
(CNN) – Its art collection is the envy of galleries the world over, but until now the Vatican has been better known for Renaissance masterpieces rather than hip modernist artworks.
That may be about to change: the home of the Catholic Church has announced it will exhibit at the ultra-fashionable Venice Biennale for the first time later this year.
In a bold move away from the works of Michelangelo, Rafael and Giotto for which it is renowned, the Holy See picked Italian new media art collective Studio Azzurro, Czech-French photographer Josef Koudelka, and Australian-born U.S. painter Lawrence Carroll to interpret its chosen theme.
But the subject itself is one of the oldest and most traditional: the pavilion, inspired by Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is entitled "In the Beginning."FULL STORY
April 11th, 2013
03:21 PM ET
(CNN)–An artist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has created a unique portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
January 15th, 2013
05:41 AM ET
By Katie Hunt, for CNN
Hong Kong (CNN) - A darkened room in a Hong Kong university building is an unlikely portal into an ancient world.
But with the touch of an iPad Mini, the space is digitally transformed into a 1,500-year-old Buddhist grotto. Its walls decorated with exquisite but faded paintings of enlightened beings, dancers and musicians.
Another swipe and a pair of 3-D glasses brings the cave to life.FULL STORY
October 31st, 2012
07:28 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of the world's most iconic pieces of art, celebrated its 500th anniversary on Wednesday in Vatican City. Pope Benedict XVI marked the occasion with the celebration of Vespers in the chapel on Wednesday evening.
Nine centered panels in the ceiling fresco show stories from the book of Genesis, fanning out from the center of the ceiling with the iconic "Creation of Adam" that shows God reaching down from heaven and touching the finger of Adam. The vaulted ceiling also features images of biblical prophets and ancestors of Jesus.
Work on the ceiling began in 1508 when Pope Julius II della Rovere decided to make some changes to the room including the ceiling alteration. He commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling and the lunettes, which are the upper parts of the room. According to the Vatican, Julius dedicated the newly decorated space with a Mass on the Feast of All Saints Day, which falls on November 1.
July 5th, 2012
03:29 AM ET
By Joe Sterling, CNN
(CNN) – Archaeologists are reveling in the discovery of an ancient synagogue in northern Israel, a "monumental" structure with a mosaic floor depicting the biblical figure of Samson and a Hebrew inscription.
The synagogue - dating to the fourth and fifth centuries in both the Talmudic and late Roman periods - is in Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in the country's Galilee region, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said.
Jodi Magness, a professor of early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the building was found in a recent excavation.FULL STORY
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.
It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.
But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"
February 27th, 2012
02:51 PM ET
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
Sunday was the 19th anniversary of the first World Trade Center terrorist attack, which claimed 6 lives on February 26, 1993. I took this occasion as a chance to see the 9/11 Memorial, which remembers these six victims alongside the 2977 people killed on September 11, 2001, in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
I have been writing recently about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lower Manhattan site is obviously influenced by that design. So it is hard to avoid comparisons. There are the granite walls, though in the New York memorial there is flowing over them. And there are the names of the dead, though in New York they are cut through bronze rather than inscribed on granite.
But the spirit of the 9/11 Memorial is very different.
September 19th, 2011
10:28 AM ET
By Heather M. Higgins,CNN
New York (CNN) – Earlier this month, signs of life returned to what was once a gaping pit, frozen in sadness and rife with emotion, as part of the memorial at the World Trade Center opened on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
This week, another grand opening – this one steeped in controversy – is scheduled for just a few blocks away from the site where the Twin Towers once stood.
The first part of Park51, the planned Lower Manhattan Islamic community center that sparked an international controversy last year, is set to open Wednesday with an art exhibit that features photographs of children.
“It is a huge step forward,” said Katerina Lucas, Park51’s chief of staff. “I hope it shows we are about inclusion, not exclusion.”
August 31st, 2011
01:33 PM ET
By Rosalina Nieves, CNN
Los Angeles, California (CNN) – At first glance, the blown-up plastic bags affixed to a jungle gym-like frame residing in a University of Southern California courtyard looks like a piece of public art, pure and simple.
But the structure's creator says it’s something more: a sacred place for people of all faiths. He calls it an inflatable chapel.
“I wanted to create a spiritual structure, so I combined every symbolic piece of religion and geometrically combined them to represent them in this chapel,” says Gail Peter Borden, an architect and assistant professor at the USC School of Architecture who designed the structure.
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.