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Ramadan around the world
June 28th, 2014
08:12 AM ET

The Belief Blog guide to Ramadan

(CNN) - For 1.6 billion people, the holiest month of the year began this past Saturday.

The exact starting date sometimes depends on the locale, but most Muslims across the globe will be fasting, praying and abstaining from sex and smoking during daylight hours. Many call it a time of spiritual purity and rededication to God.

Here's everything you need to know about the observance.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Hijri, or Islamic calendar. The word derives from the Arabic ramida or ar-ramad meaning a fierce, burning heat.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Eid al-Fitr • Faith • Holidays • Islam • Ramadan • Uncategorized

June 20th, 2014
10:18 AM ET

Presbyterians vote to allow same-sex marriage

(CNN) - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted Thursday to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal.

The church also voted, by an overwhelming majority, to change the language about marriage in the church constitution to "two persons" from a "man and a woman," according to More Light Presbyterians, a group that supports gay rights.

To take effect, that change would need to be approved by a majority of 172 local presbyteries, which have a year to vote, the church said in a statement.

However, starting Saturday, pastors can go ahead and begin marrying same-sex couples in the states that allow it, according to Toya Richards Jackson, a church spokeswoman.

"The church affirmed all its faithful members today. This vote is an answer to many prayers for the Church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples," said Alex McNeill, executive director at More Light Presbyterians.

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- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

June 19th, 2014
11:17 AM ET

89-year-old Philadelphia man accused of being Nazi death-camp guard

(CNN) - An alleged former Nazi camp guard who has lived in the United States since the 1950s is facing possible extradition to Germany following his arrest in Philadelphia, authorities said Wednesday.

Federal authorities are moving to extradite Johann (John) Breyer, an 89-year-old U.S. citizen, who is wanted in Germany for war crimes committed during World War II.

Breyer was arrested in Philadelphia, where he has long lived, on Tuesday. Federal Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice on Wednesday ordered him held without bail, pending an extradition hearing in late August.

According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, German authorities have charged Breyer with complicity in the murder of over 216,000 European Jews from Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, who were forcibly deported to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp on 158 trains between May and October 1944.

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- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

June 17th, 2014
02:36 PM ET

'Cosmos': the creationist version

"Creationist Cosmos" has an answer for all the mysteries of the Universe: God did it.

Sharp satire or offensive stereotyping? Weigh in below.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

June 1st, 2014
07:02 PM ET

When religious obsessions slide into OCD

(CNN) - When she was 12, Jennifer Traig's hands were red and raw from washing them so much. She'd start scrubbing a half an hour before dinner; when she was done, she'd hold her hands up like a surgeon until her family sat down to eat.

Her handwashing compulsions began at the time she was studying for her Bat Mitzvah. She was so worried about being exposed to pork fumes that she cleaned her shoes and barrettes in a washing machine.

"Like a lot of people with OCD, I tended to obsess about cleanliness," said Traig, now 42. "But because I was reading various Torah portions, I was obsessed with a biblical definition of cleanliness."

Family dinners were awkward for Tina Fariss Barbour, too, as an adolescent. She would concentrate so hard on praying for forgiveness that if anyone tried to interrupt her thoughts, she wouldn't respond.

"First I had to get rid of all my sins, ask forgiveness, do it in the right way, and then I had to pray for protection," said Barbour, now 50. "Or, if something bad happened to my family, it would be my fault because I had not prayed good enough."

The women come from different faith backgrounds: Barbour is Methodist and Traig is Jewish. But as children they believed fervently that they needed to conduct their own rituals and prayers, or else disaster would befall their families.

Both women say they suffered from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder known as scrupulosity. A fear of sin or punishment from deities characterizes this condition, saidJonathan Abramowitz, professor and associate chairman of the department of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, involves unwanted thoughts ("obsessions") and accompanying behaviors called compulsions that patients use to reduce anxiety. In scrupulosity, the obsessions have a religious or moral underpinning.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

May 14th, 2014
08:25 AM ET

The secret confessions of Jackie Kennedy

Washington (CNN) - She wrote of being in love, falling out of love, fearing a marriage to a skirt-chaser and then loving that marriage, and believing in God to hold on to the hope of reuniting with her assassinated husband.

Letters that a young Jacqueline Bouvier, and later a married Jackie Kennedy, wrote to a Catholic priest in Ireland offer a rare and revealing glimpse of the private thoughts of one of America's most admired first ladies.

An icon of style and elegance, she came to symbolize an administration nicknamed Camelot that ended with the violent death of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

Over a period from when she first met the Rev. Joseph Leonard on a trip to Ireland in 1950 until he died in 1964, she wrote him more than two dozen letters.

She only met him in person once more, in 1955, but the letters being sold at auction in Ireland provide insight into the personal dreams, wishes and fears of a young woman who became one of the world's most popular figures.

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- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

Dwindling witnesses of the Holocaust
April 28th, 2014
09:57 AM ET

Dwindling witnesses of the Holocaust

(CNN) - The old man exited a car and immediately ran through the forest to what he remembered was a mass gravesite. “The Germans were here,” he said. "The people were in a row, and they just shot them in the back, one by one.”

Mikhail K, a man well into his 80s, said he was just a boy when he witnessed Nazi German soldiers massacre villagers in southern Russia in the 1940s. In 2012,photographer Markel Redondo accompanied him to a site near the village of Ladozhskaya in the region of Krasnodar to document his memories surrounding the atrocity.

Mikhail stood silently for a moment, “remembering and looking at the place,” Redondo recalled. "You could see there was something going on in his head.”

Redondo met Mikhail and other witnesses as part of an initiative by the Paris-based group Yahad – In Unum. The project aims to locate and document World War II sites where Jews and other victims were executed by Nazis and their allies throughout Eastern Europe. Yahad – In Unum has chosen not to reveal the witnesses’ full names.

Redondo spoke with CNN ahead of Days of Remembrance, when Holocaust victims are honored during the week of April 27-May 4.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

April 23rd, 2014
08:13 PM ET

Does 9/11 museum slander Muslims?

(CNN) – Interfaith leaders object to a film slated to be part of an exhibit in the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

"The Rise of Al Qaeda," narrated by NBC's Brian Williams, is supposed to provide a brief history of the terrorist group.

The opening lines:

“This program describes the emergence of the terrorist organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks. It concentrates on a period of roughly 15 years, beginning with al-Qaeda’s founding during the Soviet-Afghan War and concluding with its rationale and planning for the attacks of 2001. The program tracks al-Qaeda’s embrace of violence and the decision of its leadership to commit mass murder, at the dawn of the 21st century.”

But faith leaders say the film does not draw a sharp enough distinction between al Qaeda and Muslims in general.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

April 14th, 2014
08:30 AM ET

Police arrest 'raging anti-Semite' in Kansas Jewish center shootings

(CNN) - A Missouri man, with a long virulent history of anti-Semitism, is suspected of killing a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center in Kansas City and a woman at a Jewish assisted living facility nearby.

While police in Overland Park, Kansas, stopped short of labeling the Sunday attacks a hate crime until they were further along in their investigation, the suspect - Frazier Glenn Miller – is the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.

Both operated as paramilitary organizations in the 1980s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.

The 73-year-old Miller, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Cross, faces charges of premeditated first-degree murder. He is expected to appear in court Monday.

FULL STORY

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Uncategorized

Westboro Church founder Fred Phelps dies
Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died Wednesday, according to a spokesman.
March 20th, 2014
05:06 PM ET

Westboro Church founder Fred Phelps dies

(CNN) - Fred Phelps - the founding pastor of a Kansas church known for its virulently anti-gay protests at public events, including military funerals - has died, the church said Thursday.

The 84-year-old died of natural causes at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday, according to church spokesman Steve Drain.

Phelps founded Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, in 1955 and molded it in his fire-and-brimstone image. Many members of the small congregation are related to Phelps through blood or marriage.

In a statement Thursday, the church chided the "world-wide media" for "gleefully anticipating the death."

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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