By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - An atheist organization known for being provocative plans to take that reputation to the next level this week by putting up seven billboards that call out prominent politicians and religious leaders.
American Atheists plans to target three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speak Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
The seven signs will go up around Dallas and Austin, Texas.
In one billboard, a picture of Palin is featured on the left, with a quote attributed to her. "We should create law based on the God of the Bible," the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tag line "GO GODLESS INSTEAD."
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
I am riding out Sandy on Cape Cod and wondering whether this, too, is God’s will.
As this storm has carved its path through the Caribbean and up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, it has taken 67 lives and (so far) spared the rest of us. Was it the will of the Almighty that so many should perish?
Is God angry with Cuba, where 11 died last week? More angry with Haiti, where 51 perished? Relatively unperturbed with Jamaica, where the death toll was only two? If a tree falls on my house today, will that be an Act of God, too?
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
(CNN) - Anyone who is old enough to remember Sen. John F. Kennedy’s run for president in 1960 knows that this used to be not just a Christian country, but a Protestant one. Admittedly, the Constitution makes the United States secular by law, but for most of our history, we have been Protestant by choice.
All that has changed in recent years. We now have a Catholic speaker of the House (John Boehner), a Catholic House minority leader (Nancy Pelosi) and a Catholic vice president (Joe Biden). Six of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are Catholics. And that guy duking it out with Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination? Rick Santorum is Catholic, too.
By Shawna Shepherd, CNN Political Producer
Cumming, Georgia (CNN) - Vying for evangelical support in the GOP primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum appeared at the same Georgia church on consecutive Sundays.
Gingrich, a former Georgia congressman, is favored to win Georgia on Super Tuesday, March 6, but Santorum, who appears to be gaining ground in other early nominating states, poses a threat to the former House speaker.
Gingrich spoke for about 40 minutes during a regularly scheduled service Sunday morning at First Redeemer Church with about 2,300 people in the audience. The former Pennsylvania senator drew a much larger crowd when he spoke there in the evening a week ago.
Founding Pastor Dr. Richard Lee, a Gingrich supporter, introduced Gingrich as a "true American," with more veiled references to President Barack Obama in his opening remarks.
Editor's note: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to CNNPolitics.com or to CNN apps or the CNN mobile site.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) - "You've got something on your forehead."
Every year on Ash Wednesday it's how the awkward conversation begins. A well meaning co-worker points out a black smudge on someone's forehead, not knowing it's supposed to be there.
The smudge is the imposition of ashes, often on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten season, when Christians take time to prepare for Easter through a time of fasting and prayer. The imposition of ashes nears a holy obligation for many Catholics, although technically it is not.
As two prominent Catholic presidential candidates take to the debate stage for the CNN Republican Presidential Debate in Mesa, Arizona, lots of people are asking will they or won't they wear ashes?
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, bringing to the Senate the ever growing charge that President Barack Obama and his administration are violating the rights of religious Americans.
The bill looks to repeal health care reform mandates that “violates religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions,” Rubio said in a news release.
The main concern from religious organizations has been the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to finalize plans that would require church-affiliated organizations to offer private health care that would include contraceptives.
“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people,” said Rubio, a Florida Republican.
By David French, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David French is a constitutional lawyer, veteran of the Iraq war and the co-author (most recently) of "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (And Feel Good about It!)."
(CNN) – At the moment, Newt Gingrich appears to be riding high with evangelical voters. After dismal performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich dominated the evangelical vote in South Carolina and has made a strong pitch to evangelical voters in Florida.
There’s no question that evangelicals are intrigued, and they are just now starting to take a close look.
They won’t like what they see.
By John Sepulvado, CNN
(CNN) – Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed has called the Bible Belt home for decades, but he grew up in Miami in the 1970s, when the city was emerging as a diverse megalopolis.
Among his middle school friends were Jews, Catholics and Methodists.
Then, at age 15, Reed's family relocated to the sleepy mountain town of Toccoa, Georgia, so his dad, a doctor, could take a better-paying job.
“It was very conservative,” says Reed, who now lives outside Atlanta. “At first – as would be true of any 15-year-old – I didn’t like it. I think it was a culture shock.”
Ultimately, the mostly evangelical residents of Toccoa shaped Reed’s faith, helping lead him to Jesus in his 20s. But in terms of his faith-based organizing, the well-known activist drew more on his experiences in hyper-diverse Miami.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - The ex-wife of a Republican politician alleges her then-husband asked if they could have an open marriage, so evangelical “values voters” rethink their support for him, right?
Not so fast, say some evangelical leaders and experts.
Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife, Marianne, made the “open marriage” allegation in an interview that aired Thursday night on ABC News.
But because of political circumstances and the way Gingrich parried a question about the accusation during Thursday’s CNN debate, the episode may cause relatively little fallout among evangelical voters, who are expected to make up about 60% of the vote in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.
Some say the drama may even help Gingrich among such voters.
(CNN) – Even though former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, one of two Catholics in the race for the GOP nomination, was helped by an evangelical bump in Iowa on Wednesday, his support among Catholic Republicans is near the bottom of the field, according to a new Gallup survey.
Santorum, who according to the survey gets the support of 3% of all registered Republicans, only gets 4% support – a 1% bump – among his Catholic GOP brethren.
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.