April 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.
Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.
But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.
“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
April 21st, 2013
01:53 PM ET
Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War"; and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."
By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
(CNN) – Devoted fans.
Seldom have those words sounded quite so apt.
They describe the people who enjoyed the singing of George Beverly Shea, who died last week at the age of 104. The name may not be instantly recognizable to some Americans, but that was no fault of his. He accomplished something very few vocalists can claim: During his career, he sang in front of an estimated 200 million people in live performance.
How could this be?FULL COMMENTARY
April 10th, 2013
06:43 AM ET
By Dorrine Mendoza, CNN
(CNN) - In the hours after learning the Rev. Rick Warren's son had killed himself, Beth Moore says she was swept with conflicting waves of emotion.
Moore didn't know Warren or his wife, Kay, personally. But as someone who had ministered to women on Warren's Saddleback Church campus several years ago, she felt a strong connection to the couple.
In a post on her Living Proof Ministries blog about Matthew Warren's suicide, Moore first explained her anger at the "satanic force" that would prey on weak children. Then she walks her readers through her struggle to understand suicide.
But most compelling is her frustration in trying to understand "trash talk" on social media from Christians attacking the Warrens, in addition to hateful posts from non-Christians. FULL POST
February 12th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – With Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation on Monday, the leaders of the Catholic Church will soon meet to select the next person to lead the ever-changing church.
While it is likely that they will pick another voting member of the College of Cardinals - the 118 Catholic leaders younger than 80 will vote on who should lead the church - the standards for who can become pope are remarkably loose.
Any baptized man in good standing could be elected pope, according to canon law, a group of laws that guide the Catholic hierarchy. Women cannot be named pope because they are unable to become ordained priests in Catholicism.
So if the only standard is a baptized man in good standing with the church, there are millions of possible papal successors – including Speaker of the House John Boehner, rock star Bono and, yes, comedian Stephen Colbert.
February 5th, 2013
11:50 AM ET
By Jim Roope, CNN
(CNN) – When tragedies happen like the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, the question of faith often comes up. How can horrible events like that be allowed to happen?
Rabbi Marvin Heir with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said he’s not surprised that people question religion, and, God in tragedies.
Hear his and others' perspectives on the role of religion in our world from religious thought leaders in the player above or on CNN Radio SoundwavesFULL STORY
January 17th, 2013
02:32 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
(CNN) - As I have read recent neoconservative diatribes against President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel – including charges that he is an anti-Semite and a full-page advertisement attacking him in The New York Times on Thursday – I have asked myself, “What would George Washington do?"
In his Farewell Address, published on September 19, 1796, Washington offered his hard-won wisdom on such matters as church and state, partisan politics, and foreign policy.
On foreign policy, Washington declared our independence from friends and foes alike, warning against the “evils” produced by “permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others.” To love or hate another nation too deeply, he observed, “is in some degree to become a slave ... to its animosity or to its affection.”
December 28th, 2012
02:03 PM ET
By Michael Schulder, CNN
(CNN)– Something tells me if Rachel Held Evans were my childrens' Sunday School teacher they'd never want to miss a Sunday.
Evans is an evangelical Christian and my family is Jewish.
Evans lives in the town where the term Bible Belt was coined* and my father was a professional standup comic who worked the buckle of the Borscht Belt in New York's Catskill Mountains.
But Evans bridges the divide between the belts in her new book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood, the result of an experiment in which she lived the Old and New Testament's instructions for women as literally as possible for an entire year.
As Evans tells us in this week's audio show, CNN Profiles, she aims to "teach the gospel of Jesus with humor." That's hard to do without offending some people. Evans does have her critics, but she has an ark full of followers too.
Listen to the the CNN Profile of Rachel Held Evans at CNN Radio's Soundwaves.
November 29th, 2012
12:40 PM ET
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the best-selling hardback book in American history: Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life."
We reached out to scholars, religion experts and Warren's wife, Kay, to ask about the book's impact after a decade.
Here's what they told us:
Kay Warren is an author, speaker and co-founder of Saddleback Church.
I knew when I was reading the unfinished manuscript of “The Purpose Driven Life” that I was holding a treasure in my hands, but I was clueless as to how deeply the book would strike a nerve in the souls of millions of people around the globe.
November 19th, 2012
11:44 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) – Andy Stanley walked into his pastor's office, filled with dread.
The minister sat in a massive chair behind an enormous desk. He spread his arms across the desk as if he were bracing for battle. His secretary scurried out of the office when she saw Andy coming.
The pastor had baptized Andy when he was 6, and groomed him to be his successor. But a private trauma had gone public. And Andy felt compelled to speak.
The minister stared in silence as Andy gave him the news. The "unspoken dream" both men shared was over.
After Andy finished, the pastor looked at him as tears welled up.
"Andy," he said, "you have joined my enemies, and I'm your father."Read the full story on Charles and Andy Stanley
November 13th, 2012
09:29 AM ET
(CNN)–As the nation winds down after a hard-fought and divisive election season, what needs to happen to heal our country? What have we learned? What can we hope for as we move forward?
We reached out to religious leaders and spiritual thinkers to get their perspectives. Here are excerpts of what they wrote in response.
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.