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Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath
December 29th, 2011
05:48 PM ET

Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– On Christmas Eve the Denver Broncos were getting destroyed by the Buffalo Bills* on the football field and comedian, liberal commentator, and religious provocateur Bill Maher couldn't help but tweet about it.

Wow, Jesus just f***** #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler "Hey, Buffalo's killing them"

People quickly responded to Maher on Twitter and called him (in summary) a hell bound atheist piece of trash. Maher's social media jab was picked up by the media too and landed in newspapers, websites and TVs everywhere. Pundits and twitter users called for a boycott of Maher's HBO show Real Time, and threatened to cancel their HBO subscriptions.

The timing could not have been better for Maher. The new season of his show begins next month and the week between Christmas and New Years is a veritable wasteland for actual news. In a world where no publicity is bad publicity, Maher scored big.

Maher has long skewered people of all faiths as part of his act. In 2008, Maher starred in "Religulous" a documentary that poked fun at any and all religions.

For all the fury aimed at Maher for the Tebow crack, the long time atheist received comparatively little heat for his Twitter dig at Jesus the next day on Christmas.

Happy birthday to JC – but don't forget the other "gods" who have the same bday/bio: Horus,Mithra, Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus..makes u think!

It was insulting Tim Tebow, not Jesus Christ, that drew the ire of a nation.

"[Tebow's] public image is built on goodness and virtue," Patton Dodd said. Dodd is the author of "The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football's Most Polarizing Player" and the managing editor of Patheos.com. "His particular expression of Christianity, or Christian witness, is built on acts of kindness to the poor and needy and to strangers. It's not just taking a knee on the field and thanking Jesus after the games. I think a lot of his fans know that."

Dodd said fans likely felt defensive towards Tebow, but acknowledged an athlete so public about their faith could not viewed as untouchable.

"I think the difference here is what Maher said was particularly crass and crude and I think it's seen as aimed more ... at Tebow's fan base than Tebow," he said.

For those who said Maher crossed an unspoken line with the tweet, comedian Pete Dominick said no way. "Our job is to push the envelope. There is no line for us. We don't have a line. You can make a joke about my kids getting cancer as long as it's funny. It has to be funny. That's the only rule, that it's funny. We're supposed to be controversial we're supposed to be provocative, that's what our job entails."

"He's begging to be made fun of," Dominick said.

Dominick, who is also the host of Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on the POTUS Chanel on SirusXM, said Tebow's outspokeness about his faith makes him a prime target for comedians. "He goes out on TV and talks about his faith, he puts it on his eye black. We're going to choose to make fun of it. Always."

"I think it's the wrong thing to get upset about. It's a tweet. It's a predictable tweet from a guy who says these kinds of things and who has an audience who love him for those kinds of things," Dodd said.

For his part Tebow has not commented on Maher's tweet, keeping true to his formula of not engaging critics. Dodd said part of what makes Tebow such a great athlete is his ability to block out the noise and focus on the game of football. Requests for comment from Maher were not responded to by his publicist but Maher tweeted on Wednesday night:

All u J-freaks having a cow re my Tebow tweets pls go back to the much longer piece we did on 11/4 Real Time and have a proper heart attack

There Maher goes after Tebow in far more than in the 140 characters Twitter allows per post.

If Tebow and his Bronco teammates can win on Sunday they will make the playoffs.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly had the Detroit Lions as the Broncos opponent. We regret the error and apologize to Bills fans everywhere. They have suffered enough this season.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (2,202 Responses)
  1. kabej

    Christ died for our sins. Please, don't let him have died in vain.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      Of course, you have no proof of this. You have no proof of heaven or hell or god or satan.

      Here's a thought... Grow up and be responsible for your own sins. If you hurt someone, make amends and learn from that action. Be an honest and kind person. You don't need god or Jesus to do that. No one has to be tortured to death. Just stand up and do it yourself.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      If you paid attention in history class, you would know he did die in vain (if he even existed, which is doubtful)

      December 30, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • kabej

      Silly people. Read a bit more carefully. Now go sin a little, wontcha?

      December 30, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  2. Ray77

    Hey Maher,
    Know what's really funny? Your an ass.......but Jesus still Loves ya!!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • tallulah13

      And Zeus loves you, Ray.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Eric

      He certainly irked a lot of Jesus freaks. I thought he preached tolerance and forgiveness.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Ray77

      Ghosts for the Atheist
      JAEE323

      Robert Velarde
      This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 32, number 3 (2009). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

      In an essay responding to a debate on the existence of God, Dallas Willard uses the phrase, “ontologically haunted universe,” adding, “It is haunted by unnerving possibilities.”1 Willard suggests that a successful argument against atheism results in that worldview being ideologically haunted. Rather than merely reacting to atheism—or any sort of skepticism, for that matter— actively engaging in establishing a haunted universe in the world-view of the atheist is a critical component in making the case for Christian theism.

      In the world of the occult or paranormal, a haunting refers to a recurring manifestation of a ghost, usually at a particular location such as a home or other building. Haunting can also mean to disturb or bother the sensibilities or mind. It is in the second sense that this article will provide “ghosts” for the atheist, not as occult phenomena, but as apologetic arguments intended to nudge atheists from their worldview in the direction of Christian theism by weaving cognitive tensions in the fabric of their view of reality. These tensions can fester, bothering atheists because their worldview becomes haunted by ideas that favor the existence of God.

      The recent rise of the so-called new atheism and its associated overt hostility to religion, particularly Christianity, calls out for a rational Christian response rather than merely defensive posturing. While the temperamentally belligerent tone of much of the new atheism is disturbing, the arguments presented are anything but new. In fact, many of the arguments the new atheists present are of the traditional variety, albeit in the guise of antagonism rather than a cordial meeting of the minds determined to discover truth. As a result, many Christians are on the defensive. We are certainly called to defend the faith, but this does not mean always being reactionary, thus allowing atheists to set the tone and topic of discussion. We need to engage actively on our terms instead of theirs.

      What figurative ghosts can Christian apologists provide to haunt the universe of the atheist? There are many, but I will briefly present ten, the first three being traditional natural theology arguments for the existence of God.

      Ghost #1: Cosmology. If the universe had a beginning, and if everything that has a beginning has a cause, then what caused the universe? To state that the big bang caused it is not a sufficient answer, as the big bang, if accepted, is an event. But what caused the event? In short, this first ghost is a brief presentation of the Kalam cosmological argument.2 It argues that the best explanation for the origins of the universe is God.

      Ghost #2: Design. Is the universe fine-tuned to support intelligent life? Is it designed? Does apparent design in the universe, both at a macroscopic and microscopic level, suggest chance or design? This is a brief presentation of one form of the teleological or design argument. It suggests that biological life and other factors, such as a seemingly biocentric universe, point to the reality of an intelligent designer behind the cosmos.

      Ghost #3: Morality. Do moral standards exist? If so, where do they come from? If they are mere inventions of beings who themselves are the result of time and chance, then there are no real standards of right and wrong. The result is moral relativism or variations of a sort of social contract theory of ethics. Whatever the atheist explanation, it falls short of having ultimate and transcendent authority. If God exists, however, we have a real and transcendent standard of right and wrong.3

      Ghost #4: Evil and Suffering. Atheists often appeal to the reality of evil and suffering as an argument against God. If God exists, the argument goes, then why does He allow so much evil and suffering in the world? But where does the atheist get the idea of evil? Where does that sense of injustice in the world come from? To call something evil requires some understanding of the reality of good. But where does this standard come from?

      Ghost #5: The Intelligent Christian. Another ghost that may haunt the universe of the atheist is the existence of the intelligent Christian. When I was an atheist, I was under the impression that most Christians were idiots. Unfortunately, most of the believers I encountered were intellectually ignorant, unable to articulate why they believed what they believed, much less able to engage with an atheist on more than a superficial level. When I began to encounter intelligent Christians, however, both through their writings and in person, I was haunted by a problem: how seemingly intelligent people embrace Christianity? Yet history is filled with individuals possessed of obviously great intelligence who also embrace Christianity as being “true and reasonable” (Acts 26:25 NIV). Christian thinkers are unlikely to compare to the intellectual greatness of the likes of Augustine. Nevertheless, we can model an intelligent and reasonable Christianity as an example for atheists not of a blind faith, but of a reasonable faith.

      Ghost #6: Atheism as Nihilism. Followed to its logical conclusions, atheism ultimately leads to the despair of nihilism. In the end, there is no lasting meaning to life within atheism because within its framework there is no God, no real grounding for morality, no reason for human existence, and no lasting meaning to anything we do. In this regard, atheism has nothing truly positive to offer the world. This is why traditionally it is Christians who help the needy, establish hospitals, and care for the hurting. Atheism has no real foundation to offer help to the world, unless its foundation is borrowed from a justifiably moral worldview such as what is found in Christian theism.

      Ghost #7: Reason and Intelligibility. Why are we able to reason? If we are merely the products of randomness rather than intelligence, why do we think our reasoning abilities actually have the power to arrive at truth? This is a version of the argument from reason.4 A somewhat related argument is one from intelligibility, related to the design argument. As Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli wrote, “Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.”5

      Ghost #8: Pascal’s Anthropological Argument. Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) argued that Christianity offers the best explanation of the seeming paradox of human greatness and wretchedness. Why is it that we are capable of such greatness, but also of such wretchedness? The explanation is found in Christianity. The doctrine of the Fall accounts for our capacity for wretchedness, while being made in the image of God accounts for human greatness.6

      Ghost #9: Explaining Christ. Another ghost for the atheist involves explaining Christ. Given that Christ existed and the New Testament Gospels are accurate accounts of His life, what explanation do atheists offer for Christ? This argument involves going beyond the traditional “Lord, liar, or lunatic” options presented in some popular apologetic works, as there are other options to consider.7

      Ghost #10: Christianity’s Positive Influence. The new atheism revels in pointing to the many supposed failings of Christianity. While there are excellent responses to the typical critiques,8 this ghost for the atheist concentrates on Christianity’s many positive influences throughout history in areas such as humanitarian aid, the arts, philosophy, social reform, science, literature, and more. Far from being a negative influence on the world, Christians have sought to love their neighbors, doing to others as they would have others do to them. The Golden Rule and God’s love as the key foundations of Christian ethics are hardly negative, but vastly positive.9

      Atheists who become Christians generally do so as the result of a series of progressive steps that ultimately lead to theism, then, perhaps after interludes exploring other worldviews, Christian theism. The interludes pose a danger in establishing a haunted universe for the atheist. The atheist may be diverted by another false worldview instead of making it all the way to Christianity. That is why the Christian apologist cannot merely offer arguments for the existence of God without ultimately pointing to Christianity as the solution and best explanation of reality.

      Not all atheists, moreover, will be haunted by the same ghosts. An incremental approach to dialoguing with atheists offers a variety of rigorous and well-crafted arguments that will create intellectual tensions in their thinking. Over time, these tensions may move the atheist closer to theism. If Christians can haunt the atheist universe by presenting reasonable arguments, that is not an apologetic defeat, but a significant step towards belief and acceptance of Christ.

      —Robert Velarde

      Robert Velarde is author of Conversations with C. S. Lewis (InterVarsity Press), The Heart of Narnia (NavPress), and Inside The Screwtape Letters (Baker Books). He studied philosophy of religion and apologetics at Denver Seminary and is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

      notes

      1 Dallas Willard, “Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence,” in Does God Exist? The Great Debate, ed. J .P. Moreland and Kai Neilsen (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 207. The book has since been reprinted by Prometheus Press (1993), while Willard’s essay is available online for those who wish to read the original context of his comments: http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=42

      2 Perhaps the most vocal evangelical Christian proponent of the argument in our time is William Lane Craig. See his book The Kalam Cosmological Argument (London: Macmillan, 1979). An example of the cosmological argument used by Craig in debate with an atheist may be found in God? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

      3 There are many variations of the moral argument. C. S. Lewis presented a popular version in Book I of Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952).

      4 C. S. Lewis presents the argument from reason in chapter 3 of Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1960). It has since been reexamined and defended by Victor Reppert in C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

      5 Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 66.

      6 A more detailed presentation of the argument is found in my article, “Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics,” Christian Research Journal 27, 2 (2004).

      7 See, e.g., Kreeft and Tacelli, chap. 7.

      8 See, e.g., Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) and Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001).

      9 See my booklet, What Christianity Has Done for the World (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2007).

      What is Truth?

      The Word of Promise Complete Bible (MP3)

      Glo: Interactive Bible

      The Wisdom of Pixar

      December 30, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  3. Matt

    For your consideration, John 15:18:

    "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you."

    Any hatred towards Tebow's public affirmation towards Christ Jesus, really is hatred towards Christ. Mankind in his sinful state loves sin and darkness:

    "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."

    December 30, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Eh

      Can't hate what doesn't exist, retard.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Matt

      I think you should closely examine the nature around you; God's handiwork is very plainly on display.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • tallulah13

      Matt, no god was needed. What you see is the product of millions of years of change and evolution. Your awe is not proof of god.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • tensai13

      Matt – "Examine nature, god's handiwork is on display" LOL – parasitic wasps that paralyze their prey, bury them alive, and lay eggs inside them so that they may be eaten alive – nice god you have.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  4. ooops

    Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Jesus tell Peter that there was no hell or that no such thing as eternity in hell

    December 30, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  5. Tebow cheap shot

    Really, is he taking the easy shot at Tebow or his fans . ..you dont see the pusss making muhamid jokes because he is afraid

    December 30, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Bob

      you are exactly right on that! Take shots at Christians, they turn the other cheek, Muslims cut your head off/stone you for saying things like that

      December 30, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Aaron

      All religions are stupid. If your "faith" is strong enough Bill's comments shouldn't bother you.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Uh, actually he's made fun of pretty much all religions.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Greg

      Um, yes he does. All the time.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Patrick Ford

      You obviously don't watch the show. There are many jokes aimed at Mohammed. Bill Maher is an equal opportunity offender and I applaud him for it!

      December 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Tebow cheap shot

      I can't find one Muhamid joke from maher ... where is the material?

      December 30, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Jesus freaks won't kill you

      So lets make fun of them

      December 30, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  6. Sam Harris

    FeBlow knows perfectly well that he is making a spectacle of his religious beliefs. It is a disgrace. The man spends more time on his knees than all of Greenwich Village! Maher has no class? Neither does FeBlow!

    There is no grace in the spectacular, and spectacle is all that halfwit football-chasing moron is all about.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  7. SecularBob

    Jesus Loves you....and if you don't love him back hes gonna make you burn for eternity.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Mike

      Ramen.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Matt

      Sir, you believe a common false gospel that preaches "Accept Jesus and you will be saved". It is not your lack of love or acceptance of Jesus that condemns you, but your sin. What you speak is an overflow of your heart, please consider this. Examine the 10 commandments and see how you would measure up on judgement day...your sins are what will condemn you; please humbly examine the scriptures and see for yourself.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  8. Aaron

    I wonder if the right will abandon Teebow when he finally comes out of the closet?

    December 30, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Eric

      Interesting. This is not the first thing I have read which suggests that Mr. Tebow is in a closet.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  9. Sensible Joe

    Tebowmania is out of control. He's a mere mortal who needs to learn what many other Christians already know and practice: that Jesus taught praying is to be done in private, not as a public show (Matthew 6:5-6), and that being a celebrity and a millionaire are hardly priorities in Jesus' gospel - in fact, they are things to avoid.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Chris

      The OT shows many examples of public prayer and worship. The scenes of heaven in Revelation shows millions praising and praying to the Lord, so you are incorrect in that blanket statement. In these days when it is easy to base Christians we need to stand beside them and not join the bashing as you have done.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Nick B

      Wrong. Matthew says not to gloat and show your suffering (while fasting) and sacrificing. In no way does he ever say only praise me in private. That's the exact opposite of what he says.

      Say what you want about his football game but the guy is a class act model human being.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  10. Norma

    Maybe while Tebow has his gods' attention he takes a knee and prays for a cure for deadly illnesses like cancer and aids ..I don't know..MAYBE he is being honorable...you know..Christian..and all..

    December 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  11. Aaron

    Bill is right! We support you Bill, continue speaking the truth.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Bob

      Bill Maher is an atheist moron!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Janine from TX

      Bill's the best....keep up the good work; we need the laughs now more than ever!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • The Dude

      K Bob good one and you are a "whatever religious club you joined" moron

      December 30, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      That's right, Bob. Bill Maher is an athiest, moron. I'm a huge fan of Tebow's game, because he makes football fun to watch. The fact that he is a nutso, christian whackjob makes me glad he lives across town and not in my neighborhood. But I'm sure as hell glad he plays football in my city. And, as little as I think of jesus freaks, I prefer them to dog killers.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Danny

      Sorry but Bill is a NUT!!!!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Nick B

      Maher will say anything to try and get some views. Coincidence that his show is about to premier this season? Of course not. I love comedians from Colbert to stand-up but Maher is a classless dbag. He's an embarrassment to atheists.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  12. SurRy

    Bill Maher...the only person who lost his job over 9-11.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Bob

      Tim Tebow is a much better role model than Bill Maher will ever be. Maher is a liberal idiot.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • The Dude

      How so Bob? Please explain in detail.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  13. Tebow me for 20

    ooops..."Grow"

    December 30, 2011 at 12:44 am |
  14. Tebow me for 20

    and yes, believing in an 'imaginary friend' is silly. Go up America!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Bob

      imaginary until you die, then your tune will change. All will know and speak his name and beg for mercy.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      That's right, Bob! You'll be sorry when your dead. Of course, there's no proof of any sort of consciousness after death, and the entire notion is based on some fairly dodgy translations of a 2000 year old book written by bronze age men, but by golly, if Bob says so, it must be true.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  15. Marla

    I love Bill Maher. He speaks for many of us who are offended by the religious right.
    IMO, football is worthless, and I figure that someday this kid will get caught cheating on his wife, or taking steroids, just like the rest of them.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Bob

      Tebow will probably screw up one day like the rest of us... that's ok though, Jesus died for sins for all of us. All we have to do is believe in him. It's not rocket science

      December 30, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • James

      Stereotype much?

      December 30, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • The Dude

      Bob you need to ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" in what I have learned about him, he wouldn't comment on every post that may cast a christian pro football player in a negative way. I think he wouldn't even care.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  16. Tebow me for 20

    Good for Bill, but this article has a slew of errors.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  17. Paul F

    Jesus is STILL turning lives around towards an abundant life after all these years. "Thank you Jesus". The Bills make me wanna Shout. Go Jesus.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Bob

      Amen, the only way to father is through the son, Jesus Christ

      December 30, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • SurRy

      oh dear...

      December 30, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, no thank you. I'm not interested in heaven, and not afraid of hell, and frankly, I have never done anything bad enough that would require someone to be tortured to death in order for me to be forgiven. If I have, it is only right that I be the person tortured to death. I would NEVER be such a coward as to let someone else take responsibility for my crimes.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  18. Peter Welcher

    Maher is anti religious in a highly offensive way. Im a somewhat disaffected Catholic and I resent the heck out of being called a nut case for believing on God. It's not funny. And if the subject of such nsensitivity, heck downright rudeness, were almost any of a number of other forms of such offensiveness (when does unfunny outspokeness become bigotry?), he'd be out of a job and viewed as a racist, bigot, or whatever - and publicly shunned by liberals. Why is it that religious people and scientists are both considered acceptable targets for name calling and other hate messages by comics and Hollywood?

    December 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Janine from TX

      No, it is very funny! And I never make fun of scientists.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • CEC

      Do you hold the same view about people that still believe Elvis is alive?

      Why is it that religious belief is the only realm that's supposed to get a pass when it comes to rational satire.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • WiserThanEwe (not a sheep)

      I don't call people like you nut jobs because it's funny. I do it because it's true. And that's actually quite sad.

      The difference between scientists and religious nut jobs is that scientists have a sense of humor (and are smart enough to actually understand the jokes). Of course there are a lot of other differences, but these are on topic.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  19. Bob

    The Broncos were getting destroyed by the Buffalo Bills not the Detroit Lions!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Im an riter

      Go Buffalo!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  20. dann

    WHO WROTE THIS STORY???

    IT IS FULL OF GRAMMATICAL ERRORS!!!!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:37 am |
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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.