By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Lots of lawmakers have been accused of devilish behavior, but Oklahoma's state capitol may become the first to actually have a monument to Satan.
If a New York-based group called the Temple of Satan gets its way, a statue of the Evil One would sit next to the recently erected 10 Commandments monument on state capitol grounds.
"They said they wanted to be open to different monuments," said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Temple of Satan, "and this seems like a perfect place to put that to the test."
Greaves and some legal experts say the Constitution is clear: the government can't endorse one particular religion. So, if a state capitol has a monument to one faith, it must allow monuments to others as well.
Editor’s note: The new documentary "Hellbound?" explores Americans' ideas about hell. We asked two prominent Christians who featured in the film to give us their very different takes on hell.
My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell
Editor’s note: Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is "Crazy For God."
By Frank Schaeffer, Special to CNN
Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.
And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States. And nowhere on earth have conservative Muslims been more dominant than in the countries from which the 9/11 extremists originated – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
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
Over the last few days, CNN’s Belief Blog has received more than 10,000 responses to its question, “Where was God in Aurora?”
The underlying concern here has vexed theologians for centuries: How can evil happen in a world that is lorded over by a good and all-powerful God? As CNN's readers struggled to make sense of God's presence (or absence) in the Aurora, Colorado, massacre, I counted seven different answers to this question:
1. There is no God.
Self-professed atheists may make up only 2% of the U.S. population, but they are extraordinarily active online, and on CNN's Belief Blog. A commenter who identified as Jason spoke for them when he wrote, “Where was God? He was where he has always been. Nowhere because God does not exist.” Bob Dobbs agreed: “God is imaginary. The question is moot.”
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – The anti-Christ. The Battle of Armageddon. The dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
You don’t have to be a student of religion to recognize references from the Book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible has fascinated readers for centuries. People who don’t even follow religion are nonetheless familiar with figures and images from Revelation.
And why not? No other New Testament book reads like Revelation. The book virtually drips with blood and reeks of sulfur. At the center of this final battle between good and evil is an action-hero-like Jesus, who is in no mood to turn the other cheek.
Elaine Pagels, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, first read Revelation as a teenager. She read it again in writing her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation.”
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
New York (CNN) – For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.
All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. The controversy pushed the book into the third spot on Amazon’s sales ranking, virtually assuring the book a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
On Monday night, dressed in black and sporting his trademark black-rimmed glasses, Bell strolled quietly into the auditorium of the New York Ethical Culture Society. This was his chance to hit back.
“I never set out to be controversial,” Bell told CNN before the event. “I don’t think it’s a goal that God honors. I don’t think it’s a noble goal.
Editor's Note: This story comes from a new CNN Special, "Stories Reporter," with Tom Foreman which features an in-depth look at the news of the day.
By Tom Foreman, CNN
The sun was shining on the Santa Cruz Mountains. The freeway from the San Francisco airport to San Jose was still buzzing in my ears when I stepped into the parking lot of an unassuming church and the most famous exorcist in America walked up.
“Hello, I’m Father Gary Thomas.” At 57 years old, he has an easy smile, an abiding love for the Giants and strong convictions about the nature of evil.
"You believe there is a devil?" I ask him as we settle in at a small, beautiful chapel near the church.
“You believe that this devil acts upon people?”
He says it with the certainty that I reserve for answers to questions like, “Did you bring your lunch?” but that’s no surprise. He has faced skeptics many times and never more than now, because his life and training as an exorcist in Rome are the inspiration behind the Hollywood film "The Rite."
By James Hibberd, EW.com
(EW.com) - Discovery Channel is teaming with the Vatican for an unprecedented new series hunting the deadliest catch of all: Demons.
"The Exorcist Files" will recreate stories of real-life hauntings and demonic possession, based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church. The project includes access into the Vatican's case files, as well as interviews with the organization's top exorcists - religious experts who are rarely seen on television.
"The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we're not going to try to tell people what to think," says Discovery president and GM Clark Bunting.
Bunting says the investigators believe a demon can inhabit an inanimate object (like a home) or a person. The network executive says he was initially skeptical when first meeting the team but was won over after more than three hours of talks.
Read the full story here about the new exorcism series here.
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
He's a self-proclaimed prophet who called his bed an altar.
He wore robes, grew his beard long and penned a rambling manifesto.
He said he received revelations and was destined to take 49 wives.
And he is on federal trial for kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, now 23, and moving her across state lines for sex.
Smart testified that Mitchell handed out a pamphlet stating the "Declaration of Our Faith" while preaching on the streets.
The lawyers for Brian David Mitchell do not dispute that he abducted Smart, then 14, and held her captive for nine months. But they say his religious beliefs were delusions, that their client was insane and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions.
Smart, in her courtroom testimony last week in Utah, countered that he "used religion…to justify everything." And that is the prosecution's case: that Mitchell's religious "revelations" were all self-serving.
Jurors will have to decide: To find Mitchell insane, they must believe that he suffered from mental illness or defect at the time he kidnapped and held Smart captive, and that it kept him from knowing that what he was doing was wrong. Or they may find him guilty; that he used his purported beliefs to justify his crimes.
It is a long-awaited and complicated trial, one likely to focus more on the letter of the law than the veracity of faith. But this is certain: When it comes to determining competency vs. criminality, religious beliefs are sometimes central to the debate.
Here's what Mario Sepulveda, trapped inside Chile's San Jose mine for 69 days, said after he was rescued today:
I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won.
Read the full story here.
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.