January 4th, 2014
09:00 AM ET
By Katie Engelhart, special to CNN
LONDON (CNN) - The Sunday Assembly was riding high.
The world’s most voguish - though not its only - atheist church opened last year in London, to global attention and abundant acclaim.
So popular was the premise, so bright the promise, that soon the Sunday Assembly was ready to franchise, branching out into cities such as New York, Dublin and Melbourne.
“It’s a way to scale goodness,” declared Sanderson Jones, a standup comic and co-founder of The Sunday Assembly, which calls itself a “godless congregation.”
But nearly as quickly as the Assembly spread, it split, with New York City emerging as organized atheism’s Avignon.
In October, three former members of Sunday Assembly NYC announced the formation of a breakaway group called Godless Revival.
“The Sunday Assembly,” wrote Godless Revival founder Lee Moore in a scathing blog post, “has a problem with atheism.”
December 24th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate his first Christmas at the Vatican, Americans' opinions of the pontiff appear to be as high as the dome on St. Peter's Basilica, according to a new survey.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.
The popular pontiff has also made a positive impression among Americans in general: Nearly three in four view Francis favorably. The new survey suggests that the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
December 22nd, 2013
10:24 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. Thomas Rosica, special to CNN
(CNN) Christmas was a moveable feast for me this year - in fact it happened right smack in the middle of Lent, when the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church elected a man from Argentina to be the next Pope.
I have been asking myself a ton of questions over the past months.
What has happened in the church, and how can it be that a 77-year-old, retirement-bound archbishop from Buenos Aires has captivated the world?
How can we describe the sense of springtime that has come upon the church? How is it fathomable in our day and age that not only Christians and Catholics but millions of others are speaking about “Papa Francesco” as if he were their own?
Is this all the work of a PR company or clever media strategists hired by the Vatican to rebrand its image? Or is there something else at work? Let me tell you what I think is afoot.
December 3rd, 2013
02:11 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– If St. Peter ever needs help at the Pearly Gates, his successor Pope Francis may be the perfect man for the job.
The popular pontiff was once a bouncer at a nightclub in his native Argentina, Francis told Catholics at a church outside Rome earlier this week.
He has also swept floors and run tests in a chemical laboratory, the Pope said, in revelations sure to boost his image as a "pope of the people." And, as leader of the Jesuit community in Argentina, he woke at 5:30 a.m. to do the priests' laundry, according to author Christopher Lowney.
Francis didn't offer details about his career as a bouncer, according to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, or what connection his velvet-rope experience might have to his current job as Vicar of Christ and head of the Roman Catholic Church.
November 30th, 2013
09:59 AM ET
Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN
(CNN)– Dave Ramsey is rich. And he makes his living telling other evangelical Christians how they can get rich, too.
Host of a nationally syndicated radio program and author of multiple best-selling books, Ramsey targets evangelical Christians with what he calls a “biblical” approach to financial planning, one that focuses primarily on the elimination of consumer debt. His for-profit Financial Peace University is billed as “a biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways."
Much of what Ramsey teaches is sound, helpful advice, particularly for middle-class Americans struggling with mounting credit card bills. I have celebrated with friends as they’ve marked their first day of debt-free living, thanks in part to Dave Ramsey’s teachings and all those white envelopes of cash he urges his students to use instead of credit cards.
But while Ramsey may be a fine source of information on how to eliminate debt, his views on poverty are neither informed nor biblical.
November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.
Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.
If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.
But there’s much more to the story.
In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.
He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.
One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.
As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death – and it was far from peaceful, as we all know – almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.
November 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
Opinion by Chris Lowney
(CNN) – Every day, millions of Americans perform a task that epitomizes Pope Francis’ leadership style: They do the laundry.
I came to that somewhat surprising conclusion while talking to Jesuit priests who lived with the future Pope, then known as the Rev. Jorge Bergoglio, during the early 1980s. At the time, they were young Jesuit seminarians, and he was their “boss,” the rector of their 100-member community.
“He was very demanding when it came to studies,” one of them told me. “Do what you’re doing and do it well,” he used to say.
But the rector wanted the budding Jesuits to learn from people, not just from books.
“He used to send us to the opera and also have us clean the seminary bathrooms, because he wanted us to be adaptable to all kinds of situations.”
The seminarians all did volunteer work in poor communities, and one of them remembers Bergoglio telling them that “closeness to the poor is important for the formation of a priest’s heart.”
His mantra at the time was: “You’re going to learn from these people before you teach them anything,” the young Jesuits recall.
November 14th, 2013
02:59 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNNFollow @BurkeCNN
ROME (CNN) - Pope Francis' crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church, including an overhaul of the scandal-scarred Vatican Bank, has put the new pontiff in the Italian mafia's crosshairs, according to two organized crime experts.
"The strong will of Pope Francis, aiming to disrupt the gangrene power centers, puts him at risk. He disturbs the mafia very much," Nicola Gratteri, a top anti-mafia prosecutor in Italy, told CNN on Thursday.
"I don't have precise information about a plan of the mafia against Pope Francis," Gratteri continued. "But if I did, I wouldn't say."
November 12th, 2013
03:49 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - It's official: Pope Francis is the most talked-about person on the planet.
More folks have been chatting about the popular new pontiff online this year than Edward Snowden, Kate Middleton or even the Internet's favorite bad girl, Miley Cyrus.
That's according to the 14th annual survey from the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based company that trackers top talkers on the web. The GLM says their rankings are based on an analysis of English-language blogs, social media and 275,000 electronic and online news media.
The GLM broke their research into three categories: top words, top phrases and top names.
Besides being the Internet's top name, the Pope's Twitter handle, @Pontifex, was the fourth most talked about word thus far in 2013.
November 9th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
Opinion by Molly Worthen, special to CNN
(CNN) – Under ordinary circumstances, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch are probably not in the habit of attending the birthday parties of elderly Christian preachers in the North Carolina mountains.
But they were both among the hundreds of well-wishers at the party on Thursday marking Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.
Graham spent his career leading revivals around the globe, following a long tradition of evangelists who have traveled far and wide to urge sinners to accept Christ. But his birthday guest list shows that he is no ordinary preacher. He is a cultural icon, the most famous face of traditional Protestant Christianity.
“We need Billy Graham's message to be heard, I think, today more than ever," former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin told the crowd.
What, exactly, is that message—and what accounts for its mass appeal? Now that Billy is 95, I wonder: is there anyone who can fill his shoes?
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.