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February 2nd, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Obama reflects on faith in prayer breakfast speech

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) -
President Barack Obama spoke of his personal faith Thursday as he delivered remarks for the third year in a row at the National Prayer Breakfast.

In addition, Obama used the platform in front of religious dignitaries and politicians to express his vision of how faith and government intersect and can work together.

After his remarks, the president received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Washington Hilton, the White House pool reporter said. Journalists are barred from attending the breakfast with the exception of the White House pool, which follows the president. CNN requested and was denied access to the event.

The breakfast has hosted every president since Eisenhower.

Obama, who, as one administration official said, identifies as a "committed Christian who spends a lot of time working on his Christian walk," noted in the speech that he prays daily.

"I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion," he said.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

Since he has been in Washington, Obama has not formally joined a church. For nearly 20 years he was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The president and his staff have noted the logistical difficulties of a sitting president attending services, but he has visited several churches in Washington and worshiped privately with his family at Camp David.

The president also spoke of praying with Billy Graham, and said, "I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment."

In his speech Obama made specific mention of his calls, visits and prayers with Joel Hunter, a megachurch pastor from Florida, and with Bishop T.D. Jakes, a megachurch pastor from Texas.

"From time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they'll call on the phone or they'll send me an e-mail, and we'll pray together, and they'll pray for me and my family, and for our country," he said.

Hunter, who was at the breakfast, said Obama hit the right notes with the crowd.

"The president made a positive and practical application of Jesus' command to love our neighbors," Hunter said. "He connected that moral mandate to the economic and political issues we face, and he let us know that, for him, that common good compassion is an extension of his personal Christian faith."

Jakes was not at the breakfast but, when reached by phone, said he had read a transcript of the speech.

"Anytime we can have an open dialogue about faith on the highest level it is a very good thing," he said.

Jakes said he had "the privilege to pray" with the past three U.S. presidents, and noted of his time praying with Obama, "It's no different from any other president. My plan was to provide prayerful support regardless of his policies, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't."

An administration official speaking on background said Obama viewed the speech as chance to explain his personal faith practices and to show "his desire to step in the gap for those who are vulnerable."

The president also highlighted faith efforts that are particularly of importance to young evangelicals, a voting block he courted heavily in 2008. The Passion Conference, a massive gathering of young Christians that this year took aim at human trafficking, got a nod from the podium, as did other groups with targeted antipoverty efforts.

CNN Money – Obama: Jesus would back my tax-the-rich policy

Others in the room recounted the ease with which the president presented his case for the integration of his faith and policy.

"Each time that I have listened to the president reflect on his Christian faith, I'm struck by the quiet poignancy of his words as he speaks from the heart," said Stephen Schneck, a professor from Catholic University who has advised the administration in the past.

"This morning we all felt this. Most moving for me was the way he spoke of his concern for the poor and marginalized and the personal responsibility he felt to serve these 'least among us,' a responsibility that the president grounded in his daily prayer life," Schneck told CNN. But he added, "Of course, that doesn't change that he made a serious mistake with the HHS mandate."

Is Obama losing the Catholic vote?

The administration was still doing damage control over a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy that forces religious schools and institutions that offer employee health insurance to cover FDA-approved contraceptives. The move has angered many Catholics in particular, who oppose the use of contraceptives on religious grounds, and view the policy as an intrusion on their religious liberty.

Hunter, who has been a strong vocal supporter of the president, noted that while there was no rancor in the room about the HHS decision, "there is real disappointment with that decision."

Obama did not directly address the issue in his speech but did allude to it when describing his guiding principles on coming to tough policy decisions.

"We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face," he said. He added later, "Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often."

White House stands firm on contraception policy

Not long after the president's speech, the White House sent a fact sheet to reporters from Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. It laid out a point-by-point articulation of the HHS policy, making specific mention that churches will be exempt from the policy and noting Catholic opposition by highlighting the work they have done together.

"The administration has provided substantial resources to Catholic organizations over the past three years, in addition to numerous non-financial partnerships to promote healthy communities and serve the common good," the statement from Munoz reads. "This work includes partnerships with Catholic social service agencies on local responsible fatherhood programs and international anti-hunger/food assistance programs. We look forward to continuing this important work."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, also spoke at the prayer breakfast about the complexity of the balance between religion and governing.

"I think we all had two different experiences of what can happen when we bring faith into the world of government and business," he said. "Sometimes it creates conflict, and when we look at our planet's history, even wars. But in other times - more often, really - true faith can be a reconciling force of amazing power, a power that can make an entire society better."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • DC • Politics • United States

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soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. guardian angel

    Amazing issues here. I am very happy to see your post. Thanks so much and I am looking forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?

    March 31, 2012 at 5:40 am |
  2. Usman

    Echipa e un sistem colmpex. Vii boboc intr-o echipa si echipa aia te ridica, te aduce la nivelul ei. In timp cresti in aceeasi echipa si ajungi tu sa o conduci(si nu cred ca e vorba doar de un caz ideal) si echipa aia te tine sus. E ceva profund intr-o echipa care se poate cobori la nivelul unui newbie si ridica la nivelul unui oldie si vorbesc de aceeasi echipa, aceeasi oameni, doar timpuri diferite.

    March 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Brooke

    good website. thanks for this excellent write-up. i regards a lot.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Obama social security number

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    February 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Obama xl pipeline decision

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    February 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
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    February 7, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  7. Me banking

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    February 7, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  8. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world; that and wasting time are the real impact of prayer.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • house

      is this a prayer?

      February 6, 2012 at 3:52 am |
  9. Muneef

    bellow is a wonderful website of tafseer al quran alkareem by all schools of Islam  

    http://www.altafsir.com/

    February 5, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Reality

      What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

      Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

      February 5, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Muneef

      Reality.

      Couldn't it be because they knew what your people's thoughts of the future?
      Make your search and read;

      Henry Kissinger: "If You Can't Hear the Drums of War You Must Be Deaf"
      By Alfred Heinz 27/11/2011 09:40:00

      February 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Muneef

      Poor guys they took it thinking they were the twin horns of the devil...

      February 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Reality

      The terror and aggression that is Islam via a Partial and Recent and Not So Recent Body Count

      As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

      February 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  10. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer causes small kids to get hit by buses when they aren't paying attention.
    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you crave the smell of kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  11. D.C.

    Isn't it a bit awkward.... as he sets up the mirror for his prayers?????

    February 3, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Sandrine

      Blessed St THerese,Thank you for your love, Please help Paul and his addictions. To find the right path and seek God in his life. Help him to know his worth and God Loves him uodoncitinnaly. Bless my family with your love! Thank-You in Gods Name Amen

      August 1, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  12. Jim Colyer

    Mitt Romney is our next 8 year president.

    February 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • mk

      No he is NOT Jim – because he is the biggest flip flopper ever – he will be crushed by the Obama juggernaut

      February 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  13. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joseph Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39 years

    39 x 2 million/yr = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    February 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things !

    February 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Nope

      --The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.-

      February 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      February 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Greg

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      A new study shows that many devout Americans know less about religion than do atheists. To some observers, it suggests a shallowness of faith.

      February 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Nope

      "Prayer changes things"

      -–The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.-

      February 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      You're both idiots. Get a hobby.

      February 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • just sayin

      I agree with sean both greg and nope are idiots but even idiots need prayer

      February 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • ......

      Alfred E Neuman = Prayer changes things=just sayin = Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      You are contributing nothing to this blog except for some immature trolling. Your constant posting is really showing us you suffer from low self esteem issues and abusive behaviour. Why don't you look up the reasons for your continued need to troll.

      February 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • just sayin

      don't study studies studies are useless study God

      February 4, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • TR6

      @just sayin:”don't study studies studies are useless study God”

      Yes, and putting your fingers in your ears and going la la la… real loud, is another way to try and ignore reality

      February 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer makes you crave the smell of kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Prayer wastes time.

      February 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • just sayin

      It appears to work for you tr6

      February 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • house

      actually there are studies that show church attendance reduces depression–makes sense because of socializing and belief in some good things...

      February 6, 2012 at 3:55 am |
  15. Debbie in Delaware

    All I know is that me and my family have lived an air and prayer for the last eight years, i can't even think of how we managed to still be in our home, with food on our table and still together in the terrible economy handed down to president Obama from his predecessor.

    February 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • man

      Pray for Mrs. Hannah Sawyer's Uncle. His name is Scott Schuler. He is in his late 40's, has five kids still at home, and has recently been dinasoged with very aggressive colon cancer. Colon cancer is very, very serious. Please pray that God would intervene.

      May 19, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  16. reXteryalizer

    Want to thank all of you, for your Powerfull stand against Oboma & His Corrupted political partners.

    But there is so much more we can do. Being aggressive and focusing on the facts and truth is only the first step.

    We musT follow Up with more details standing by our convictions and dont back down.

    Oboma has NOT brought CHANGE, In fact ~! ~ THE ONLY real THING needing CHANGE !....Was Barack Hussein Obama II.

    HIMSELF

    Barack Hussein Obama II ( Who hates American Values ) who is A " SELF PROCLAIMED Enemy" ~of responsible, Morally Conscious HARD WORKING Americans.

    oBOMAS Irresponsible & DRUG MAFIA and reckless supporters KNOW~ that Barack Hussein Obama II, WILL FORCE YOU to paY THEM, out of your PockeT .{ FOR all of their UNCHECKED Vices and THRILLS/

    { All on YOU

    | / At your COST & Sacrifice.\

    ...This UN~CHANGABLE fraud, has done His VERY BEST to Inspire VIOLENCE. THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. saying .........To his supporters.Saying “Get ready for hand-to-hand combat with your Fellow

    Americans” – Obama has ALSO DECLARED to his Supporters. “I want all Americans to get in each others faces!– Obama

    demands !

    “You bring a knife to a fight pal, we’ll bring a gun” –

    THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. ANGER VIOLENCE and more taxes..... THIS IS OBAMAS Change for america /“Hit Back Twice As Hard”. He commands ! *Obama on the private sector: ~~ “We talk To these folks…~ / so I know whose a*$ to KICK.“ OBOMA wants to KICK your a*$ /"`Shouting THAT Republican victory would mean ~ “hand to hand combat” and HE IS EXPECTING people to be on

    Edge and ON BORDERLINE killing MODE, " VIOLENT / and STAND and STOMP and MOB for their immoral CAUSES and

    THIS IS WHAT HE LIVES FOR ./ ./ ./ THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. !* Obama Tells democrats: “ I’m itching for a

    fight.” !

    ....PLEASE.... go to reXes NEW WebsiTe ~ ! Oboma *( Just like Adolf Hitler~~\oBOMA~~~ Demands ! - [ THE

    FINAL SOLUTION – for Un~Wanted Children

    Barak Obama is A MURDERER .~Torturing UNWANTED babys on DEATH ROE.

    CLICK HERE http://obomlnation.webstarts.com/index.html

    OBAMA TAKES a little NEW BORN innocent child, BORN ALIVE sTabS it iN the head and SUCKs ITS BRAINS OUT.

    This is just too wrong and horrible. Please stand for Loving Children and the USA.

    Respectfully and Thankfully Thank you ALL for your Time.

    To see HORRIBLE HONOR Killings ~~` HATE CRIMES ]`~ ! eXecuted by the CLINTON, RENO and ATF Media WHO COMMITTED H0NOR KILLINGs [ SLAUGHTERING }] 21 LITTLE Helpless Children at Waco.

    Click Here http://obomlnation.webstarts.com/partly_born_totally_murdered.html

    February 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Amused

      reX – Isn't it great to live in a FREE country where even mentally unstable hate-filled raving lunatics like yourself are still able to spew their insane rhetoric?

      February 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Jeez you're quite the sociopath. Could you please let me know what state you live in? I'd like to move as far as humanly possible away.

      February 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. travelinpants

    I dont care who you are if you are a believer in your chosen faith, it definitely will influence your actions, reactions and will mold your decisions for the most part. It is plain ole stu pid to think other wise. If you have no reli gous beli efs you will make your decisions on those beliefs outside of religion. Your internal morality beeper as influenced by the latest fad and societal norms will influ ence your behavior, likes, dislikes, mor als, eth ics and deci sions you make every day. True belivers in whatever faith they practice mingle this into their decisions everyday. It is just plain d u m b to think otherwise. Plus, it helps iwth garnering votes if you display who you are behind closed doors to the voting public. It does ha ve a imp act one wa y or a no the r

    February 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 3, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Nope

      ~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~~~

      February 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  19. RightTurnClyde

    Obama praying? Ha! Where is Rev. Wright and his "I h.a.t.e. the U.S. wife?" What about his "Holy Quran??" What about his CPUSA buddies and Bill Ayers? (.. religion is the opiate of the masses ...)... talk about hypocritical (for the election of course). It does show you how two faced all of them are in order to get elected (and none more than this candidate).

    February 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  20. J.W

    Some data came out today that showed some pretty strong numbers on the economy. All of you republicans wont be able to use the economy against him anymore if things keep going this way. You will need a new game plan.

    February 3, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Oh ... LOL ... Looney, looney, l;ooney ... go back to your boom box.

      February 3, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • J.W

      Why am I looney?

      February 3, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • craig

      It certainly was not Obama's policies that changed the economy, it is the free market, the American people that changed the economy.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
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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.