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
April 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Rose Arce, CNN
New York (CNN) - The day Anthony Colon heard his older brother had been gunned down in East Harlem, he began struggling with a rage that would last for years.
The anger wore him down. He missed him desperately.
He hated the three men who had fired 13 bullets into his brother who was unarmed.
“Oh, God, it just - it just put so much hate in my life. I hated everybody. I hated everything. It made me to be a person, like a monster,” said Colon, who considered his brother Wilfredo his only stable family.
“I loved him because he always stood up for me from a little kid. He would not even allow me to fight. He would stand up for me, whatever happened, because he always saw that goodness in me.”
But as the years passed the fog of anger began to lift.
March 30th, 2013
10:00 PM ET
CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.
Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.
One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.
And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”
Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.
March 26th, 2013
09:47 AM ET
By John Blake
(CNN) – There’s been a lot of debate about the Republican Party’s need to rebrand after the 2012 presidential defeat, but could evangelicals face the same challenge?
The evangelical community, too, has been involved in some collective soul-searching. Evangelical leaders constantly warn that young people are deserting churches; pastors struggle to address changing views on homosexuality; and others wonder how evangelicals can remain relevant when a growing number of Americans refuse to identify with any religion.
Relevant magazine, an evangelical publication, tackles these issues head-on in its latest issue with an article titled “10 Challenges Facing Us in The Next Decade."
“The future is coming faster than ever," the article says, "with the tectonic plates of society, church, culture, technology, economy and environment shifting beneath us.”
February 8th, 2013
10:25 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
“Lead me not into temptation. I can find it all by myself.”
That line, taken from the country music song “Lead Me Not,” evokes smiles because it underscores a truth: The struggle against temptation is universal.
A new survey, however, gets specific about the type of temptations most Americans battle against, and shows that men and women seem to wrestle with different vices.
“Temptations and America’s Favorite Sins,” a survey conducted by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, concludes that the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices, the survey concludes.
The top three sins seducing most Americans: procrastination, overeating and spending too much time on media.
February 7th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Employing faith, whether calling for nationwide prayer or healing the nation by quoting scripture, is a presidential tradition as old as the office itself.
The nation’s first president, George Washington, was also the first to call for a National Day of Prayer, one of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” to “acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his famous fireside chats, promised “salvation” from the economic doldrums of the Great Depression. And President Barack Obama, in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, quoted scripture as a way to comfort those grieving.
Obama will continue this tradition on Thursday when he attends the National Prayer Breakfast, a longstanding Washington event that has hosted every president since Dwight Eisenhower.
February 1st, 2013
11:59 AM ET
By Jordan Hultine, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) - As the 49ers and Ravens take the field in New Orleans’ Super Dome for Super Bowl XLVII, a man very familiar with that field, Chris Reis, will be watching the game with his family.
It was only three years ago that Reis was playing in the big game for the New Orleans Saints. He burst into the national spotlight with one unusual, but game-changing play, an onside kick recovery that surprised the opposition and many say paved the path for the Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
It was an unlikely position for a kid who grew up in a broken family, with a father who was in and out of his life and addicted to sex and alcohol. Reis broke through the obstacles to succeed, he says, in part by finding God in high school. He went on to play for Georgia Tech where he served as president of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was briefly signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Falcons, but the team cut him loose before he even saw field time. The Saints then signed him as a free agent, but sent him to play in the NFL Europe league. Later that year the team called him back to New Orleans where he played the next four years with the Saints.
January 29th, 2013
02:10 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - With millions of Americans set to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, a new survey finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God "plays a role in determining which team wins" at sports events.
The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”
“In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics," said institute CEO Robert P. Jones, "significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play."
January 10th, 2013
01:37 AM ET
By Kevin Bohn, CNN Senior Producer
Washington (CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden and officials on his gun violence committee held an unannounced meeting Wednesday evening with a group of 12 national faith leaders.
One theme brought up by several participants was the "moral tragedy" reflected in the gun violence the nation has seen over the past several months.FULL STORY
January 8th, 2013
09:25 AM ET
One of the most intense battlefields in today's gun control debate is happening inside Christianity.
Christians of every stripe; conservative, moderate and liberal tend to agree with the Gospel's message of love and peace. However, they don’t agree on what that Gospel message means.FULL STORY
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.