November 13th, 2013
09:31 AM ET
(CNN) – A giant statue of Jesus apparently survived Typhoon Haiyan unscathed, even as the massive storm flattened many parts of Tanauan, a coastal town in the central Philippines.
It's not the first time religious statues have survived natural disasters in the heavily Catholic Philippines, according to local reports. Two statues of the Virgin Mary withstood a devastating earthquake last month.
Meanwhile, Haiyan has wiped entire towns off the map, and thousands are searching for family members, food and water.
So, what do you think, readers: Is the unscathed Jesus statue a miraculous sign of hope amid the ruins or just a random coincidence?
November 11th, 2013
11:16 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – The disasters are always different and often devastating. But the questions they raise are hauntingly familiar.
In the days since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on Thursday, survivors are frantically searching for lost family members and international aid groups are springing into action.
Officials say the death toll may rise to 10,000 in the heavily Catholic country. Meanwhile, many people are asking: How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?
These questions may not be new, but we keep asking them, perhaps because the answers remain so elusive.
November 9th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
Opinion by Molly Worthen, special to CNN
(CNN) – Under ordinary circumstances, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch are probably not in the habit of attending the birthday parties of elderly Christian preachers in the North Carolina mountains.
But they were both among the hundreds of well-wishers at the party on Thursday marking Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.
Graham spent his career leading revivals around the globe, following a long tradition of evangelists who have traveled far and wide to urge sinners to accept Christ. But his birthday guest list shows that he is no ordinary preacher. He is a cultural icon, the most famous face of traditional Protestant Christianity.
“We need Billy Graham's message to be heard, I think, today more than ever," former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin told the crowd.
What, exactly, is that message—and what accounts for its mass appeal? Now that Billy is 95, I wonder: is there anyone who can fill his shoes?
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
November 7th, 2013
06:08 PM ET
By Phil Gast, CNN
(CNN) - The Rev. Billy Graham took people to church, perhaps for the last time, as hundreds joined the iconic evangelist Thursday evening for his 95th birthday.
A guest list that included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Rev. Rick Warren and businessmen Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump came to pay tribute to a man beloved for his humility and faithfulness.
Because the frail Graham no longer has the strength to speak behind a lectern, his enduring message of salvation through Jesus Christ came in the form of "The Cross," a 30-minute DVD that made its debut at the celebration.
"He is my spiritual hero," said entertainer Ricky Skaggs shortly before the celebration began at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. "He exemplifies brokenness and humility."
November 7th, 2013
12:30 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, Pope Francis has earned high praise from fellow Catholics.
Hell, even atheists love him - as amply demonstrated by the surprising displays of affection tweeted after the Pope publicly embraced a severely disfigured man on Wednesday.
Here's what some atheists had to say on Twitter:
November 6th, 2013
12:18 PM ET
By Bill Mears and Daniel Burke, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Should prayers to God open government meetings?
That's the controversial question a divided Supreme Court debated on Wednesday.
At oral arguments about whether public prayers at a New York town's board meetings are permissible, the high court took a broad look at the country's church-state history and even the Supreme Court's own traditions.
Two local women sued officials in Greece, New York, objecting that monthly Town Board public sessions have opened with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian.
But the case's implications extend far beyond upstate New York and could have widespread consequences, according to constitutional scholars.
"This is going to affect communities across the country," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.
The frequent court battles over public prayers, Ten Commandment memorials and holiday displays might strike some Americans as silly, but they touch on deep questions about national identity to reach back to the Founding Fathers, Haynes said.
"It's a long struggle in our country about self-definition and what our country was founded to be. That's why we keep circling back to these emotional and highly divisive questions."
At Wednesday's oral arguments, the court's conservative majority appeared to have the votes to allow the public prayers to continue in some form, but both sides expressed concerns about the level of judicial and government oversight over prayers presented by members of a particular faith.
November 4th, 2013
02:54 PM ET
(CNN) - Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
Diwali - from the word Deepavali, meaning "row of lights" - is observed by Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities, who celebrate for five days in autumn to mark the victory of light over darkness.
This year, the festival begins on November 3, with splashes of color, lighting displays and blaring parties set to greet Diwali's arrival.
Celebrated for centuries across much of the Indian subcontinent, Diwali is now exploding: spreading the promise of wealth, knowledge and happiness to new communities across the world.FULL STORY
November 3rd, 2013
06:42 AM ET
Opinion by Debbie Blue, special to CNN
(CNN) – As long as humans have been breathing, they've invested birds with meaning.
They fly all over the Bible - from beginning to end - and they have a prominent place in the founding narratives of almost every culture and religion. They are not just bones and feathers. They are strength or hope, omen and oracle.
In the Bible's first book, Genesis, God hovers over the face of the water like a dove, the Jewish sages suggest in the Talmud. In its final book, birds gorge on the flesh of the defeated "beast" in Book of Revelation.
Birds are the currency of mercy, sacrificed to God in the hopes of winning blessings or forgiveness. They bring bread to the prophets. Abraham has to shoo them away from his offering, and a pigeon accompanies Jesus on his first visit to the temple.
Jesus told us to "consider the birds." I love this about him, and I've taken his advice to heart.
In doing so, I've found paying attention to these wild, awesome animals reveals hidden layers of meaning in the Bible and new lessons for modern Christians looking for grace in unexpected places.
Here are a few of the surprising things I've learned about Bible birds.
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.
But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.
The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.
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.