Opinion by Matt Emerson, special to CNN
(CNN) – Is Andrew Garfield, star of films such as “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spiderman,” considering the priesthood?
Last month, paparazzi snapped a picture of Garfield walking as he carried “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” the Rev. James Martin’s insightful overview of Jesuit life and spirituality.
According to reports, he’s consulting the book as he prepares to play a Jesuit in a film adaptation of “Silence,” a novel about Catholic missionaries in Japan.
Garfield’s reading material – and the movie he’s studying for – captures the continuing cultural impact of the 474-year-old Catholic religious order officially known as the Society of Jesus.
Sometimes called "God's Marines" (not all appreciate the nickname) for their willingness to go to the frontlines of faith, Jesuits form the largest order of Catholic priests in the church, with approximately 18,000 members worldwide. And, at a time when most religious orders are shrinking and pining for new candidates, the Jesuits say inquiries about joining their ranks are surging.
What explains the Jesuits’ enduring appeal?
Much of it has to do with their academic legacy. In the United States alone, there are 60 Jesuit high schools and 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. They are part of a network of secondary and post-secondary institutions that stretch from Los Angeles to Lagos to Tokyo. A good number of those schools are named after the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Born in Spain in 1491, Ignatius – then Iñigo Lòpez de Loyola – was groomed for a conventional path in service of the Spanish crown.
Opinion by Frank Schaeffer, special to CNN
(CNN) - All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night.
They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.
The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty.
What exactly is a “believer?” And for that matter what is an “atheist?” Who is the objective observer to define these terms?
Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.
Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.
Let me explain.
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.
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.
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.”
By Tom Foreman, CNN
CNN's Tom Foreman moderated the "creation debate" Tuesday night in Petersburg, Kentucky, between Bill "the Science Guy" Nye and creationist Ken Ham.
(CNN) – It says something when a person shows up at the Creation Museum wearing a top that says, "This is my atheist T-shirt."
At least that's what I think it said. I saw it in a blur as she passed in the parking lot; a thirtysomething with a young boy in tow, striding through the bitter winds of Kentucky to visit a place that proclaims those who deny the existence of God are dead wrong.
I thought about chasing her down to ask her what had compelled her to come, but it would have been a foolish question.
She was here to see a fight. And I was here to play the referee, to moderate a debate on a question that has raged for well over a century: Was humankind created by God in a rush of divine power, or did we evolve over time with only nature to take the credit?
Or as the organizers put it: "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?"
About 900 people snapped up tickets to this event just a few minutes after they went on sale, and I was told they expected at least "hundreds of thousands ... maybe a million or more" to watch as it streamed online.
It was not just the topic drawing the throngs. For this crowd, the debaters really mattered.
Editor's note: Ken Ham will debate Bill Nye on Tuesday at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, with CNN's Tom Foreman moderating. The debate will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.com, and CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" will host both Ham and Nye at 9 p.m. Tuesday after the debate.
Opinion by Bill Nye, Special to CNN
(CNN) – A lot of people have been asking why I accepted Ken Ham’s invitation to debate the origins of life Tuesday night at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.
In short, I decided to participate in the debate because I felt it would draw attention to the importance of science education here in the United States.
What keeps this country in the game economically is our ability to innovate. New ideas lead to new technologies, which drive new businesses and new opportunities.
Technological innovations absolutely cannot be created without fundamental understanding of science, the means by which we know nature.
How many young adults and taxpayers use mobile phones? How many of us rely on global navigation systems that use satellites high above the Earth’s surface to find our way around?
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) When Amy Arden joined Eagle Mountain International Church in 1997, her 11monthold daughter had received all the recommended vaccinations. But in the six years the young, single mother worked and worshipped at the evangelical megachurch, Arden didn’t take her child to get a single shot.
“There was a belief permeating throughout the church that there is only faith and fear,” Arden said. “If you were afraid of the illness enough to get vaccinated, it showed a lack of faith that God would protect and heal you.”
Members of Eagle Mountain International Church also believed that childhood vaccinations could lead to autism, said Arden, who is 35.
Arden said she was taught by a supervisor at the church's nursery how to opt out of a Texas law that requires most children to be immunized. She now regrets passing the same lesson on to other parents.
“I didn’t know a single mother who was vaccinating her children,” she said.
Opinion by Hemant Mehta, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Articles and books about why millennials are leaving Christianity often focus on what churches are doing "wrong."
They're anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education and anti-doubt,
to name a few of the most common criticisms.
I don't disagree with those critiques, but there's another side to the story.
While Christians have played sloppy defense, secular Americans have been showing off some impressive offense, giving young Christians plenty of reasons to lose faith in organized religion.
For instance, atheists dominate the Internet, rallying to thriving websites and online communities in lieu of physical meeting spaces.
Even a writer for the evangelical magazine Relevant admitted that “While Christianity enjoys a robust online presence, the edge still seems to belong to its unbelievers.”
By Sarah Hoye, CNN
Philadelphia (CNN)–When Brandon Schaible got a rash, his parents prayed.
When the 7-month-old became irritable with diarrhea and lost his appetite, his parents, Catherine and Herbert Schaible, prayed again.
When Brandon had trouble breathing and gasped for air, his parents called a pastor - this, in spite of the fact that a judge had ordered them to call a doctor.
Brandon Schaible died on April 18 from bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and strep, according to the district attorney’s office – all treatable with antibiotics.
On Wednesday his parents were charged with third-degree murder.
The Schaibles are lifelong members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, one of several religious groups in the U.S. that relies on faith, and eschews most medical care.
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
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.