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
(CNN) - A few years ago, I came across a high school textbook on U.S. history that stumbled badly when it tried to describe the first Thanksgiving. Because of a serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment, the authors thought they couldn’t even refer to God in their textbook. So they ended up telling their readers that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians. (Huh?)
Personally, I think Thanksgiving is (and was) about giving thanks to God, but I am too eclectic nowadays to confine my giving of thanks to the capricious Calvinist God of the Pilgrims. So in the spirit of Pascal, who placed a wager on the Christian god, I'm putting a marker down, too. But why confine your wager to one divinity? Here is my own Thanksgiving litany to the gods.
By Stina Backer and Eoghan Macguire, for CNN
Diwali is one of the most important events in the Hindu spiritual calendar. It is known as the "Festival of Lights" and takes place between mid October and mid November each year.
This year we asked iReporters from around the world to submit their best images of the celebration.
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins on November 13 and is celebrated for several days afterward by millions of Hindus across the world as one of the most important events on their spiritual calendar.
The word Diwali itself means 'festival of lamps', because houses and public spaces are decorated with scores of small oil lamps in honor of the goddess Lakshmi, to whom Hindus pray to for success and wealth. Throughout the festival, families purchase new clothes and buy sweets and snacks for themselves, relatives and friends.
To commemorate Diwali, we want to see your best images of the most beautiful festival lights. Send them to CNN iReport.
By Dana Davidsen, CNN
(CNN) - In an election that broke boundaries, Hawaii elected the nation's first practicing Hindu to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congresswoman-elect Tulsi Gabbard, who will represent the state's second district, told CNN Monday that her election "shows the respect, diversity and love and aloha that people have in Hawaii that would allow for something like this to happen."
The 31-year-old Democrat said she will take her oath of office on the Hindu religious text Bhagavad Gita in January.
"I think it's a perfect time and a great time for Congress to start moving toward this representation on diversity and really this common ideal that regardless of what our differences might be, we all need to come together now to do what's best for the people," Gabbard said.
“It’s demography, stupid!” is the new mantra for analyzing the 2012 election, in which African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos cast their votes in overwhelming numbers for President Obama.
But religious diversity was another key theme. How so? Let me count the ways.
By Naomi Canton, for CNN
(CNN) - Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India - but the colorful customs and meanings associated with it can vary dramatically depending on whether you reside in the countryside or the city.
On the streets of densely populated conurbations like Mumbai, Diwali - popularly known as the Festival of Lights - is often a raucous affair, marked by a cacophony of firecrackers on the streets and a flourish of ceremonial gambling in the home. The wealthier urban dwellers splurge on gold, jewelry, clothes and expensive gifts such as electronics, which they buy for themselves and their loved ones.
(CNN)–For centuries, artisans have been crafting statues of Hindu deities on the banks of the Hooghly River in Kolkata, India.
Italian photographer Albertina d'Urso recently visited the historic Kumartuli district in the West Bengal capital.
"I think they enjoy their work because they know the idols they create will be enjoyed by others, but most of all because it is creative and handmade work," she said. "It would not be the same if it was a modern factory."
Read the full story from CNN Photos.
An empty chair in Bali.
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.
When I went to Bali a few years ago, I didn’t go, like most tourists, for the beaches or, like Elizabeth Gilbert, for love. I went for the religion. I wanted to learn something about the unique brand of Hinduism practiced there.
Balinese Hinduism differs from Indian Hinduism in many ways. For example, in Balinese temples there are often no images of God. But for me the most arresting religious image I encountered was the empty chair.
When I first started studying Asian religions in the United States in graduate school, I assumed that the story of Asian immigration was a story of the arrival and adaptation of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Asian religions.
And so it is. But the broader story is much more complicated and intriguing.
To ring in the New Year, CNN's Belief Blog asked experts in religion, faith leaders, and a secular humanist about how the forces of faith and faithlessness will shape the world in 2012.
Here's what they told us:
1. The Republican Party will tap Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee, and America will finally have its "Mormon moment." As evangelicals try to figure out whether they can support a president who practices Mormonism, the rest of us will try to figure out whether Mormonism is a cult, a form of Christianity, or something in between. Meanwhile, visitors to Marriott hotels will finally crack open some of those nightstand copies of The Book of Mormon.
–Stephen Prothero, Boston University religion professor and regular CNN Belief Blog contributor
2. Despite all of the lessons that could have been learned from Y2K and Harold Camping, people will still rally around the idea that apocalyptic events are on the calendar for 2012. Some will turn to the end-date of the 5125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar (closely associated with the Maya civilization) and a handful of folks believe cataclysmic events are awaiting on December 21, 2012. But the dates with will pass with little fanfare — except for those profiting from the sale of gold coins, generators, and dried food that you'd probably rather want to die than eat.
–Margaret Feinberg, author of "Hungry for God"
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.