My Take: CNN readers' 7 answers to 'Where was God in Aurora?'
A man pauses at a memorial of crosses near the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the scene of last week's mass shooting.
July 26th, 2012
02:49 PM ET

My Take: CNN readers' 7 answers to 'Where was God in Aurora?'

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

Over the last few days, CNN’s Belief Blog has received more than 10,000 responses to its question, “Where was God in Aurora?”

The underlying concern here has vexed theologians for centuries: How can evil happen in a world that is lorded over by a good and all-powerful God? As CNN's readers struggled to make sense of God's presence (or absence) in the Aurora, Colorado, massacre, I counted seven different answers to this question:

1. There is no God.

Self-professed atheists may make up only 2% of the U.S. population, but they are extraordinarily active online, and on CNN's Belief Blog. A commenter who identified as Jason spoke for them when he wrote, “Where was God? He was where he has always been. Nowhere because God does not exist.” Bob Dobbs agreed: “God is imaginary. The question is moot.”

Many in this camp also quoted the ancient Greek philosopher (and skeptic) Epicurus:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

2. Don’t blame God, blame Satan.

Many theists on the site described the world as a battleground between God, who is working for good, and Satan, who is working for evil. “As long as Satan is loose to promote evil, bad things will happen to good people,” wrote kat.

3. Don’t blame God, blame us.

Probably the most common response from Christian commenters was that evil is a result of free will. Do we really want to be “puppets” or “robots"? Of course not. So God has given us the will to choose either evil or good.

Watch: Survivor of massacre says he forgives gunman

Believer summed up this position well:

"It's been said that the only thing we can truly give God is our will because its the only thing we possess that is uniquely ours. Everything else was given to us by him, and is, in effect, not ours to give in the first place. As such, and despite his omnipotence, he cannot intervene. . . .  He only possesses power where power can be possessed - and controlling our actions is not within that realm."

Here Deborah also chimed in: “This act of violence was not God's will. I get so tried of people blaming God for evil acts. Humans of their own free will do evil things.”

4. God was behind the massacre, and it was just.

Some believers saw God’s righteous hand in the Aurora massacre, inflicting a just punishment on a wayward nation now run by secular liberals rather than conservative Christians.

Lenny wrote:

"We as a country have been telling God to go away. We told him to get off our currency, get out of our schools, get out of our Pledge of Allegiance, take your Ten Commandments out of our courthouses, get those Bibles out of hotels and no graduation ceremonies in our churches. How can we expect God to give us his blessing and his protection if we demand that he leave us alone?"

Read: The man who made Aurora’s iconic crosses

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, took a similar tack in an appearance on the Heritage Foundation's "Istook Live" radio show, laying the blame at the feet of a nation that has turned away from its God:

"You know, when people say, where was God in all of this? Well, you know, . . . we’ve threatened high school graduation participants that if they use God’s name that they’re going to be jailed, we had a principal of a school, and a superintendent or a coach down in Florida that were threatened with jail because they said the blessing at a voluntary off campus dinner. I mean, that kind of stuff… where is God? Where, where? What have we done with God? We told him that we don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

5. God was present at the massacre but with the victims, not the perpetrator

One classic claim in the Abrahamic tradition of Jews, Christians and Muslims is that God is with those who suffer - the poor and the oppressed. Some commenters saw God’s miraculous hand in the midst of this suffering, not causing it to happen but bringing it to an end.  “This may sound crazy,” wrote Diana, “but I believe God had a hand in that the gun jammed so that more people weren’t killed.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The most common claim in this category came from peacemaker, who wrote, “God is and was with the victims and s/he is weeping.” In a more explicitly Christian vein, Lauren wrote: “He was there in the theater, pierced by bullets with the victims. He was scarred by the shrapnel. His eyes were scorched with gas and then burned with tears as He mourned alongside the broken.”

6. Which God?

Some commenters interrogated the question itself, arguing that the knots it twists us into are rooted in what commenter Ego_Death called “a false idea of what God is.” After all, the problem of evil in a world ruled by a sovereign and good God only presents itself if you posit one personal God who is both good and all-powerful.

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Referring to "our idea of a human-like personal God" as "an ancient myth," Northstar56 wrote:

"But just because this kind of God does not appear to exist, does not mean that God, in fact, does not exist. I think many have developed a more mature and realistic perspective . . . in which God exists as a pure fundamental consciousness or state from which all of existence arises. This God does not control anything, but rather continues to perpetually emanate as reality . . . God was present in all of the victims, and everyone else. God was present in the killer as well. The tragedy is that the killer's awareness was so distorted and twisted that he could not see or be aware of the intrinsic priceless value of every person he gunned down."

Evoking something more akin to the “watchmaker” God of the deists, who makes the world and its laws and then refuses to intervene in its operation, Norm wrote: “God is not involved in our everyday mundane activities. How arrogant of man to think he’s the center of the universe and has God’s constant attention and every action is ‘God’s will.’”

Taking a different tack, "varun" invoked the teachings of the beloved Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita:

"Only the followers of Semitic religions have problem with understanding this - because they do not believe in rebirth and karma. As soon as you introduce these two concepts into (the) picture along with the eternal indestructible soul (something Semitic religions do believe in), everything makes sense. Read Bhagavad-Gita and everything would be as clear as daylight."

7. Who knows? It’s a mystery

Agnosticism is a rare virtue in the United States nowadays, but there were a few commenters who admitted to something less than the absolute certainty exhibited by atheists and evangelicals alike. "The answer," wrote Terry, "is we don't know where he was." Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom saw this "God works in mysterious ways" move as “ultimate cop-out/rationalization,” but I am not so sure.

In September 1862, in the midst of a much greater American tragedy, Abraham Lincoln wrote a private “Meditation on the Divine Will” in which he struggled to make sense of what God was doing in the Civil War. He later reworked those reflections into his second inaugural address, one of the greatest speeches in American history.

Surveying the corpse-ridden landscape of North and South, Lincoln observed, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.” Clearly there was little good in slavery, he reasoned, yet equally clearly God was not giving a swift and sure victory to the Union. So what was God up to? In the end, Lincoln had to admit he did not know. Or, as he put it, “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

I suppose this is in a sense a “cop-out,” but it is a humble one, uninfected by the absolute certainties (either pro- or anti-God) that have shed more blood on earth than agnosticism ever will. It is also a classic example of answering a question with a question: What is God doing with this war? Who knows?

“Josephpusateri” also answered our question with a question. His comment was in my view the best of the hundreds I read, so I will end with it here:

"Oh, the blindness of such a question... as if only theodicy was a relevant question in white, American suburbs. Where is God in Afghanistan? Where is God in Gaza? Where is God in Syria? . . . Where is God, indeed."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Culture wars • Devil • Ethics • God • Violence

soundoff (4,074 Responses)
  1. Lucas

    To answer the question, first you need to define God. If you think it's some dude with a beard that died some 2000 years ago, then that's the answer. He's been gone for centuries and was obviously not in Aurora. In fact, if he ever existed, he surely never made it to the new world (America). If your definition of God is that fascinating and mysterious something that makes trees grow, allows babies to be born, keeps my heartbeat going and keeps planets in orbit, then it surely was there. But so was the air we breathe. What does that have to do with the idiotic actions of a stupid person?

    July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  2. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Ed

    Where was God? Its a fair question. I'm sure its ben said by others but God and Satan were not the problem in the theater. The problem was one man. either an evil man or a insane man but a man. God gave us the ability to decide for ourselves what we do and with and to who. We all prefer to control our on lives. In not fair to say I get to control my self then ask why did you let me control myself.
    We have spent a lot of time is the past years as a nation telling God to mind his own business and let us mind ours. Yet every time he does we say what gives God where were you? We can't have it both ways either we give him control or stop blaming him when one or more of us do something wrong.
    Finally we really are in control of our lives God does not control everything that happens and never said he would. He did not cause this. He did not want this. Like any parent whose children fight he worrys for both sides not just one. If you have kids you know sometimes the don't get along and sometimes you have to let them work it out. Its a hard truth but still a truth.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      If God is omnipotent, everything is his fault. If he's not omnipotent, then he's not the Abrahamic god.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Observer

      "If you have kids you know sometimes the don't get along and sometimes you have to let them work it out. Its a hard truth but still a truth"

      Your idea of letting them work it out:

      58 wounded
      12 dead


      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Sean

      Omniscience and omnipotence are mutually exclusive. By their very definitions they cannot coexist in the same being. Either you are omniscient and can know every possible outcome of every possible option in every possible scenario OR you are omnipotent and have the power to modify every possible outcome of every possible option in every possible scenario at will. If you are omniscient and already know every possible outcome, then you cannot modify that outcome to something other than what it is and thus you are not omnipotent. If you are omnipotent and can modify the outcome as you see fit then you can't know every possible outcome since it can always be changed and you are not omniscient.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Ed

      @Observer, I did not mean to imply that this was a simply as working it out. But it is this mans doing and God granted him the same free will he granted you. Would yiou have him prevent you from doing something you wanted to do like drinking to much or partying to hard. He could have stopped this man but that would deny him free will. Then you would still complain.

      @Sean nice little paradox but it proves nothing really

      July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Observer


      If you had the power to prevent the deaths of 12 of your "children", would you have stood around and watched the slaughter?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • TR6

      So why did god let Jaapan bomb pearl harbor at the start of WWII back when we were a “god fearing nation” ™

      July 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  4. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      Interesting sarcasm.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  5. Greg s

    This is our life, If someone stepped in and set things right every time something goes wrong then we are just hamsters in a cage. Free will is a beast of a thing, But having it means dealing with a sun of a gun who is using his free will to kill innocent people. With out it we are just pets.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  6. suspectsteve

    God is all powerful, so any reasoning that God couldn't stop the massacre, or simply allowed it to happen miss the point. God gave the killer the ability to pull the trigger, so we can rightly say God is behind the whole thing. God cannot do evil because he is good, so how can God ordain a massacre and not be judged as evil?

    Here's the answer... Everything, even the bad parts of life, work out for His glory and our good – even if we don't understand at the time. Look at the crucifixion. The only time a bad thing happened to a good person. The worst evil in the history of mankind became the greatest good in the history of the universe. Christians have hope because of the evil that happened that day.

    One more thing. Evil exists so we can see the depth of God's grace and love for us. The fact is, we are all part of the problem. We may not start shooting people, but we've all lived our lives less than perfect. We create evil in varying degrees, and God uses this evil so that we can understand how much God loves us despite us. That he would save us and redeem us when we don't deserve it shows just how much he cares for me and you.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      So God's evil. Gotcha.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • suspectsteve

      You're missing the point. When we do evil things, it's evil, because we have evil intentions. But what we intend for evil, God uses for good. What we think is evil, God makes it good. It says in the Bible what man intends for evil, God intends for good. God's not evil, but uses our evil for his good purpose

      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Smurfette

      God can completely f*kk us over and cause horrific suffering so that we will be intimidated into loving him? Nice guy.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • suspectsteve

      You're missing the point. When we do evil things, it's evil, because we have evil intentions. But what we intend for evil, God uses for good. What we think is evil, God makes it good. It says in the Bible what man intends for evil, God intends for good. God's not evil, but uses our evil for his good purpose.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • suspectsteve

      We can't be intimidated into loving him, since love doesn't come from intimidation. You're downplaying YOUR role in suffering. You may not do something terribly wrong, but you don't do everything right. You're screwed people over in the past – we all have. We've all neglected to help people when they were in need. We are part of the cause of suffering. God is using it for a better purpose. Is that wrong?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • TR6

      Please explain god’s good that came from the slaughter of 6,000,000 Jews by the Nazis. Or was this just god acting in mysterious ways? (eye roll)

      July 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  7. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Best to not be disingenuous.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      Sounds like Pascals Wager to me.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  8. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      Hey, don't be greedy and pass that thing.YOUR BOGARTING IT!

      July 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  9. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  10. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Or after a 3 day drink/drug binge.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  11. Bob

    He was with Santa and the Tooth Fairy in the minds of all those who refuse to think

    July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. tokencode

    What a joke..... religous people can even stay logical within their own fantasy world. If men were given free will, why does god need to be involved?

    July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  13. larry5

    Hasn't this story dried up, yet?

    July 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      Hmmm...think I shall go over and give the Chic-fil-a people a good debate.They hate themselves some gays.I am not one,but will fight for their rights to be one.By the way,"No chicken sandwiches for gay couples who want to marry".Amen.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  14. Cody

    2% Atheist? That number is much higher. 16-18% is more likely.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      16-18% is no religion.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • sybaris

      Not just as pure atheists but a Hindu is an atheist in relation to the christian god.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Bob

      And if you add all the "more or less" atheists who have to keep quite because they live in a Christian dominated society where such people are ostracized than the number is much much higher.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian


      Hindus are not included in the 16-18%.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Anti-indoctrination

      Correct, though it's often mixed with agnostic and non-religious.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Not from the census bureau, where the accurate results can be found.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      To all the people who somehow can't grasp the fact that self-declared atheists are no more than 2% of the adult population please look here:

      Unafilliated ................ 16.1%
      Athesists .................... 1.6%
      Agnostics ..................... 2.4%
      No particular church .... 12.1%

      Bob is probably on the right track when he says that people are not willing to openly declare themselves as atheists in what is clearly such a religious country.

      I see an increasing number people calling themselves 'spiritual but not religious'. This is a big part of the 12.1% They are people who don't want to let go of the idea of a supreme being / spirit, but don't buy into any particular dogma.

      The picture for millenials is different. There is much a higher percentage of atheists amongst millenials than the whole population.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Rational Libertarian,

      what is the census data? Please share specifics.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • ME II

      "Hindus are not included in the 16-18%."
      How so?
      Buddhists, perhaps, because I don't think they believe in a deity, but Hindus have thousands of gods. How is that even close to atheistic?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • ME II

      Perhaps I need glasses. I completely misread that one. never mind.

      "Hindus are not included in the 16-18%."

      July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There is more recent data but for 18-20 numbers in the full survey are:

      Athesist ........................... 3%
      Agnostic .......................... 4%
      No particular church ...... 18%
      Total Unafilliated .............. 25%

      July 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  15. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  16. The_Pope_is_just_another_man

    Wow,it really amazes me how some people here know what God is thinking.Realize it is what YOU are thinking.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Smurfette

      The Pope is NOT "just another man"! He's a man with a really, really, really big hat. Not every man can make that claim.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      @smurfette- I stand corrected in your presence my little blue friend.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Gary S.

      The Pope..........
      We can not know what God is thinking. We can how ever refer to His Word,The Holy Bible, Ther is an answer for every question if we study His word and rely on His promises. God not lie, HE will keep his Promises.
      You are right The Pope is Just another Man. We can go directly to the Main sorce ourselves, JESUS.

      July 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  17. SteveG

    Where was God? The answer is easy. He was right there. What happened to that old saying – the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away? That can explain why any of us die at any time. If you are at all religious that's the only explanation you might need. If God is everywhere at all times then he was certainly there that day. We're just left wondering why God allowed that day to unfold the way it did. And we're left wondering why the assailant did what he did. We might find out someday since he said he wanted to live to talk about it. All we need to remember is to do right by others everyday just like any heroes that surfaced on that day.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • allenwoll

      Brain rot is difficult to stop let alone cure - But at least RY ! ! ! .

      July 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  18. TOMG


    July 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Put down the crack pipe and back away from the computer...locate the number of the nearest psych ward and get some help for your illness.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • TOMG


      July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • solex

      DUDE- Give the CAPS LOCK key a break – you are SHOUTING.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  19. solex

    Here is one thing I just cannot understand:

    People say that Jesus lived and walked the earth around two thousand years ago. He was born, then vanished for most of his life, and then re-appeared right at the end and was then persecuted by the Romans for stirring up trouble and then executed by them for sedition. Right religious people?

    So how come there is NOT ONE SHRED OF PROOF THAT IT EVER HAPPENED? The Romans were EXCELLENT record keepers – and in fact after the Greeks were the best historians on the planet. They kept records about EVERYTHING. I can show you research on how much product traveled the trade routes, show expense reports for local governments and much much more. Yet somehow the Romans FORGOT to enter ANYTHING about what was considered a rebelion and the trial and execution of the perpetrator?


    He never existed. I believe Jesus to be an amalgam of serveral people that were merged into "Jesus". He is NOT an historical person, he is a folk hero on steroids.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      If you will realize that "Easter" falls on or near the spring solstice.
      That Jesus's birthday"Christmas" falls on or near the winter soltice.
      You Christians would realize that the story is a fable to tell people when to reap and sow as mentioned in the Bible and referred to thousands of times in that book.Research it and stop believing blindly and out of fear!

      July 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • J.W

      Are all of those records that the Romans took still around?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Susan

      Jesus was not killed by the Romans but by the Jews! Know the Bible well before you distort fact.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      @ Susan...um, i believe the Romans drove in the nails in that story.Did they not?
      Pontius Pilate condemned him @ the request of the Jewish priests.Did he not? You can @ least say they were in on it.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Gary S.

      Solex , I'M a christian but you are wrong Jesus christ is recorded in the muslim koran, as is Abraham The blood line from
      wich Jesus was a desendant. Jesus is GOD . He is My GOD, His spirit is for ALL who seek him, Every Nation.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  20. Atheist = Thinker

    Morality is doing what's right no matter what you're told...

    Religion is doing what you're told no matter what's right.

    July 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Where does your knowledge of right and wrong come from? How do you know what's right and what's wrong?

      July 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian


      It's called cultural/communal evolution. Where does your morality come from? Jeebus?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Atheist = Thinker

      "Where does your knowledge of right and wrong come from? How do you know what's right and what's wrong?"

      Common sense and logic... Some of us have brains that allow us to determine such things without fairy tales to guide us... Why don't you??

      July 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Mortalc01l

      PRISM 1234: Thousands of years before Christianity, human beings had morals. Do you really think that Christianity somehow INVENTED morals? 50,000 years ago cavemen protected their families, gave food to the weaker members of the tribe, knew that killing another person was wrong, etc, etc, etc.

      Even animals have morals.. It's the reason that they don't spend all day killing each other and instead co-operate, like lions hunting, or Baboons that give food to babies.

      Where did this utter nonsense come from that somehow you can't have morality unless you are a Christian??? The sheer self righteous pompousness of Christians to claim morality as THEIRS is mind-bogglingly arrogant and pathetic.. Do Buddhists not have morals? How about Hindus and tribesmen in New Guinea?

      Christians need to think more and stop believing in 2000 year old fairy-tales.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • allenwoll

      PRISM1234 - Many of us have a fully functioning facility known as a CONSCIENCE. . Its purpose is to let us distinguish right from wrong - It works pretty good for many but NOT for all. . I view it as in fact the human soul.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Strelok

      There are plenty of religious people who can think and reason in the objective reality we live in. Fortunately, a lot of us can separate our beliefs from our ability to perceive reality, as well. The reality is that you probably don't spend all day peering through an expensive tunneling microscope to confirm for your own eyes that atoms exist, but being the thinker you are, you've accepted that as fact because others have, right?

      Now, in the vein of belief, we live on one side of existence that we all know well, and that is life - the observable universe. Do you personally know what is on the other side? Do you have a spiritual side at all, or do you simply dismiss those things as a pseudoscience and believe that every thought and emotion you've ever had was just a chemical reaction?

      Not all people who are religious just "do what they're told no matter whether it's right." That's a pretty ignorant statement for a thinking person to utter.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • The_Pope_is_just_another_man

      @ prism 1234...I do believe it is innate in us.Were all the men and women who died in the theater protecting their loved ones Christian?
      I don't know.Do you?

      July 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Jesus said
      "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away...And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God will abide for ever."
      The fool has said IN HIS HEART, there is no God. Corrupt are they altogether, and have done abominable works. There is none that does good, no, not one"
      This is God's Word which describes you..... and it is this WORD that will be your judge!

      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
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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.