July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET
Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN
(CNN) – When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.
I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.
Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.
In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.
June 27th, 2013
01:32 PM ET
Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com
By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN) – There’s a misconception among many faithful folks that religious convictions, by their very nature, are set in stone.
People who change their minds are called flip-floppers or backsliders, accused of capitulating to culture and “conforming to the world.”
But some of the most recognizable names in the Christian story experienced changes of heart: Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle.
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 5th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - When Peter Sprigg speaks publicly about his opposition to homosexuality, something odd often happens.
During his speeches, people raise their hands to challenge his assertions that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but no Christians speak out to defend him.
“But after it is over, they will come over to talk to me and whisper in my ear, ‘I agree with everything you said,’" says Sprigg, a spokesman for The Family Research Council, a powerful, conservative Christian lobbying group.
We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot. FULL POST
April 18th, 2013
06:27 PM 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
At the interfaith prayer service held in today for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing (including Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University, where I teach), President Barack Obama was once again called upon to play the pastor-in-chief at a moment of national tragedy.
In his speech, Obama did a lot of cheering for the home town, praising Boston as “the perfect state of grace.” He recalled his time as a law student at Harvard. He cheered on the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. And he repeatedly referred to Bostonians as a gritty people who would not give in to terrorism in the 21st century any more than they bowed to the British in the 18th.
As I listened to the speech, however, I couldn't help hearing echoes of President Ronald Reagan.
April 2nd, 2013
11:33 AM ET
By James Hibberd, EW.com
(Entertainment Weekly)–History’s The Bible miniseries finale delivered the show’s largest audience since its record-setting premiere. The network reports that 11.7 million viewers watched the two-hour conclusion on Easter Sunday, despite The Bible airing against heavy cable competition during its second hour — AMC’s The Walking Dead had its season finale and HBO’s Game of Thrones had its season premiere, with both geek titans setting ratings records.
In fact, during the 9 p.m. hour when The Bible and The Walking Dead ran head to head, the shows were basically tied with 12.3 million viewers (The Walking Dead rises to 12.4 million when you include its full 65-minute telecast). It’s a strong performance for the religious miniseries that few expected to be a ratings competitor.FULL STORY
March 29th, 2013
05:57 PM ET
By Jake Tapper, CNN
Televangelist Joel Osteen is a consultant on the History Channel's series, "The Bible," which has become a runaway success. More than 10 million people watched last week's episode, and nearly 14 million watched the debut. Osteen's friend Mark Burnett produces the show.
Osteen is not surprised by the success.
"There are a lot of people of faith still in our country and when somebody takes a step of faith like Mark and [co-executive producer Roma Downey] did, people want to get behind it and see good quality, you know, production of something that's ... dear to all of our hearts, and that is the scripture and the bible," said Osteen.
Osteen also dismissed the controversy surrounding the actor cast as Satan bearing a resemblance in some people's minds to President Obama.
"I felt like it was nonsense," says Osteen. "People can draw funny conclusions."FULL STORY
March 18th, 2013
01:59 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The third episode of the History Channel's miniseries “The Bible” was supposed to be remembered for the brutality of Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar, the strength of Daniel in the lion’s den, and the birth of Jesus Christ.
But after viewers claimed there was a striking resemblance between Satan’s human form and President Barack Obama, that probably won't be the case.
Buzz on Twitter quickly grew. According to Topsy.com on Monday, there were an estimated 20,000 tweets containing the words “Obama” and “Satan” since the 9:00 p.m. ET hour on Sunday, the hour in which Satan appears in the two-hour show.
In a statement, miniseries producer Mark Burnett called claims there was a resemblance "utter nonsense."
Burnett said the actor who played Satan, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, "is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics – including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President."
March 2nd, 2013
11:00 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Mark Burnett is the king of reality television. His shows and spinoffs command hours of prime-time television real estate. The seal of his production company One Three Media appears at the end of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Job” and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”
He will tell you each show was No. 1 in the time slot. He will tell you he will take on all comers in his bare-knuckle, ratings-driven world and beat them. He will tell you on any given day he has 150 video-editing systems churning through edits on his dossier, which spans the three major broadcast networks.
But if you suggest he may not have the chops to take on a massive scripted dramatic presentation of the Bible as a 10-hour miniseries, his eyes will tell you he wants to throttle you.
Burnett and wife, Roma Downey, have been barnstorming the country like roving preachers on horseback trying to evangelize the West. Their gospel is spreading the news of “The Bible” - their ambitious project that aims to tell the story of the Bible in 10 installments. It begins its weeklong premiere on the History Channel Sunday night.
February 1st, 2013
10:56 AM ET
By Stephanie Gallman, CNN
(CNN) – Ask Dylan Thompson to name his career highlights, and fans might expect to hear about one of his big moments as South Carolina's backup quarterback - like the time he led the Gamecocks to victory over rival Clemson, or when he threw the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left in the Outback Bowl.
But while Thompson said he's proud of his team’s accomplishments as well as his own, nothing really compares to what happened to him off the field his freshman year.
“Being saved and dedicating my life to Christ is actually the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Thompson said.
His desire to spread the Gospel and share his faith propelled Thompson and his mentor, Jack Easterby, to come up with The Bible Out Loud project, an online initiative aimed at getting Christians to memorize and recite Scripture.
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.