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Pope Francis
April 23rd, 2014
03:46 PM ET

Pope stirs Communion debate with call to woman

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor  

(CNN) – Pope Francis called an Argentine woman married to a divorced man and reportedly told her that she could receive the sacrament of Communion, according to the woman's husband, in an apparent contradiction of Catholic law.

Julio Sabetta, from San Lorenzo in the Pope's home country, said his wife, Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona, spoke with Francis on Monday.

Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona wrote to the pontiff in September to ask for clarification on the Communion issue, according to her husband, who said his divorced status had prevented her from receiving the sacrament.

"She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong," Sabetta told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed the telephone call but would not comment on the conversation's content.

"It's between the Pope and the woman," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Argentina • Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Ethics • Pope Francis • South America

Hollywood's religious revival
April 21st, 2014
11:00 AM ET

What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven

Opinion by Drew Dyck, special to CNN 

(CNN) - The 4-year-old boy sees angels floating toward him. They start out as stars, then slowly become more visible, wings flapping behind orbs of white light.

As they approach, they sing a melodious song. The boy cocks his head, squints into the sky, and makes a strange request. “Can you sing ‘We Will Rock You’?”

The angels giggle.

So do people in the theater.

The scene is from “Heaven is for Real,” the latest in a string of religious movies soaring at the box office. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film tells the real-life story of Colton Burpo, a 4-year-old boy who awakens from surgery with eye-popping tales of the great beyond. The film took in an estimated $21.5 million in opening on Easter weekend.

Even Colton’s religious parents (his dad, Todd, is a pastor) struggle to accept the celestial encounters their son describes: seeing Jesus and his rainbow-colored horse, meeting his sister who died in utero, and talking to his deceased great-grandfather, “Pop,” who, Colton exclaims, has “huge wings.”

The book and film are part of a larger trend. Depictions of journeys to heaven have never been more numerous or more popular. There’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “To Heaven and Back,” “Proof of Heaven,” and “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” just to name a few.

Does God have a prayer in Hollywood?

So what should we make of such accounts? And what does their popularity say about us?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Faith Now • Heaven • Media • Movies • Opinion

Holy Week around the world
April 17th, 2014
08:00 AM ET

Did Christians really 'steal' Easter?

Opinion by Candida Moss, special to CNN

(CNN) - It’s that time of year again: the time when chocolate comes in pastels, cherry blossoms start to bloom and well-marketed religion exposés are released to the world.

In other words, it’s Easter.

Among the rash of sensationalist stories we can expect through the season, the annual “Easter was stolen from the pagans” refrain has sprouted again just in time for Holy Week.

Don’t believe the hype.

Perhaps most misinformed theory that rolls around the Internet this time of year is that Easter was originally a celebration of the ancient Near Eastern fertility goddess Ishtar.

This idea is grounded in the shared concept of new life and similar-sounding words Easter/Ishtar. There’s no linguistic connection, however. Ishtar is Akkadian and Easter is likely to be Anglo-Saxon.

Just because words in different languages sound the same doesn’t mean they are related. In Swedish, the word “kiss” means urine.

But the biggest issue for Christians is the claim that Jesus’ resurrection - the faith’s central tenet - might have pagan roots.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Easter • Easter • Faith Now • Holidays • Jesus • Opinion • Paganism • Traditions

Heathenism's battle with white supremacists
Odin or Wotan, the chief god in Norse mythology. White supremacists have appropriate some Heathen images and gods.
April 16th, 2014
02:54 PM ET

Heathenism's battle with white supremacists

Opinion by Joshua Rood, special to CNN

(CNN) – The word “heathen” is a very old one that once meant “heath dweller” or a person who lives out in the wild.

Eventually, when Christianity came into Northern Europe, it came to mean “one who still worships the old gods.” It still means that in some parts of the world, like Iceland, where it also goes by the name Ásatrú (“belief in the Aesir”).

Aesir is just a very old word for the traditional gods of Scandinavia. You’ve probably heard of some of these gods: Odin, Thor, Freyr and Freyja.

What you might not know is that many traditions, stories and celebrations have never gone away.

These can be as simple as the Scandinavian belief in vaettir (nature spirits) or as complex as the poems and songs about the Aesi that were written and are still sung and performed in Iceland.

Most of the stories were preserved in Icelandic poems and sagas, written in the 13th and 14th centuries. Others have been preserved in regional folk stories and folk customs.

Today, Ásatrú, which can go by many names, is the largest non-Christian religion in Iceland and is officially recognized in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Thanks to multiculturalism, it exists in many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada and most European countries.

There are many organizations, private groups and individuals who adhere to Ásatrú. Although terminology, festivals and customs can vary depending on local lore and tradition, at its heart, Ásatrú is a celebration of the gods, stories and customs that have been passed down from Northern Europe into the modern world.

Unfortunately, there are people in this world who try to use these beautiful stories and traditions for selfish and hateful reasons.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Discrimination • Faith Now • Heathenism • Neo-Nazi • Neopaganism • Opinion • Paganism • Prejudice • Religious violence

April 14th, 2014
06:06 PM ET

The accused Kansas killer's neo-pagan religion

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – Frazier Glenn Cross is a white supremacist, an avowed anti-Semite and an accused killer. But he is not, as many think, a Christian.

Cross, who also goes by the name Glenn Miller, is accused of killing three people – all Christians - on Sunday at Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas.

Authorities are weighing whether to file hate-crime charges against Cross, who is suspected of targeting Jews.

The 73-year-old has espoused anti-Semitism for decades. He also founded racist groups like a branch of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Both groups have deep ties to Christian white supremacists.

But according to Cross' 1999 biography, he is an adherent of Odinism, a neo-pagan religion that experts say has emerged as one the most vicious strains in the white supremacist movement.

"The faith’s obsession with genetic purity, racial supremacy and conquering supposedly lesser peoples is a recipe for violence," said Josh Glasstetter, campaign director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • Discrimination • Neo-Nazi • Neopaganism • Prejudice • Religious violence • Violence

Total lunar eclipses
April 14th, 2014
12:53 PM ET

Does the Bible predict the 'blood moon'?

Opinion by Kenneth L. Waters Sr., special to CNN

(CNN) - Are the End Times finally at hand? To some Christians, the answer will be as clear as the moon in the sky.

Monday night will host a rare celestial event: a “blood moon,” which occurs when the Earth spins between the sun and the moon.

During this lunar eclipse, the shadow of the Earth catches the refracted sunlight, casting a reddish sheen upon the moon.

Christians who draw a divine connection to the celestial show are citing the Bible's Book of Acts, in which God says:

“And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

That passage echoes the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Joel, one of Judaism's 12 minor prophets.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Culture & Science • End times • evangelicals • Faith Now • Middle East • Opinion • Passover • Science

April 10th, 2014
10:04 AM ET

Study: 'Jesus' wife' fragment not a fake

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – A team of scientists has concluded that a controversial scrap of papyrus that purportedly quotes Jesus referring to "my wife," is not a fake, according to the Harvard Theological Review.

"A wide range of scientific testing indicates that a papyrus fragment containing the words, 'Jesus said to them, my wife' is an ancient document, dating between the sixth to ninth centuries CE," Harvard Divinity School said in a statement.

Scientists tested the papyrus and the carbon ink, and analyzed the handwriting and grammar, according to Harvard.

Radiocarbon tests conducted at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology produced an origination date for the papyrus of 659-859 CE, according to Harvard. MIT also studied the chemical composition of the papyrus and patterns of oxidation.

Other scholars studied the carbon character of the ink and found that it matched samples of papyri from the first to eight century CE, according to Harvard.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • History • Jesus

Controversial biblical movies
April 5th, 2014
08:56 AM ET

When God plays the villain

Opinion by Joel S. Baden, special to CNN

(CNN) - Most modern people tend to distinguish between the wrathful God of the Old Testament and the merciful God of the New Testament.

In our age, the merciful God reigns - or so we like to think.

But every so often, stories or books or natural disasters summon visions of a wrathful God, and nowhere is that more in evidence than in the biblical story of the Flood, now brutally depicted in Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Noah.”

With our notion of a God who loves us all individually, especially the little children, we struggle with a deity who would wipe out all of humanity. Surely there were many innocent people, children, who died in the Flood?

But let’s be clear: This is our problem, not the Bible’s.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Death • Faith • Judaism • Media • Movies • natural disasters • Opinion

Millennials and the false 'gospel of nice'
Jesus confronts the money-lenders in the temple.
April 3rd, 2014
10:29 PM ET

Millennials and the false 'gospel of nice'

Opinion by Daniel Darling, special to CNN

(CNN) – Perhaps you’ve heard that there is trouble brewing among evangelicals.

Younger Christians are weary of pitched cultural battles and are longing for the “real Jesus” – a Jesus who talks more about washing feet and feeding the poor than flashpoint issues like same-sex marriage and the sanctity of life.

If key evangelical influencers don’t listen, we are told, they are about to lose the entire millennial generation. Or, maybe that generation is already gone.

This story has been told with testimonials, chronicled in best-selling books and posted on popular blogs.

Here’s the short version: If only orthodox evangelical leaders would give up their antiquated beliefs, get more in step with the real Jesus, the church and the world would be better off.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Culture wars • evangelicals • Faith Now • Opinion • Protestant

March 20th, 2014
11:14 AM ET

Does the Big Bang breakthrough offer proof of God?

Opinion by Leslie A. Wickman, special to CNN

(CNN) The remarkable discovery, announced this week, of ripples in the space-time fabric of the universe rocked the world of science and the world of religion.

Touted as evidence for inflation (a faster-than-the-speed-of-light expansion of our universe), the new discovery of traces of gravity waves affirms scientific concepts in the fields of cosmology, general relativity, and particle physics.

The new discovery also has significant implications for the Judeo-Christian worldview, offering strong support for biblical beliefs.

Here's how.

The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,” which argued that the universe has always existed, without a beginning that necessitated a cause.

However, this new evidence strongly suggests that there was a beginning to our universe.

If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Culture & Science • Faith • Faith Now • Opinion • Science

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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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