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My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism
Misunderstandings about secularists and secularism do a disservice to America, says Jacques Berlinerblau.
October 6th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism

By Jacques Berlinerblau, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His book, How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom has just been released.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, President Barack Obama is secularism’s go-to guy in Washington. Newt Gingrich refers to him as a “secular-socialist.” Mitt Romney charges that his opponent advocates a “secular agenda.” And Rick Santorum frets that Obama is imposing “secular values” on “people of faith.”

The president, however, seems not to have received the whole him-being-a-secularist memo. American secularists have thrown up their hands in frustration over his supersizing of George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. They roll their eyes at his God talk. As for his recent call for days of “prayer and remembrance” to commemorate 9/11, well, would the late Rev. Jerry Falwell have done it any differently?

After spending years trying to sequence the genome of American secularism, I have arrived at a sobering conclusion: no -ism is as misunderstood as this one. All of which is bad for secularists, secularism and America. Let’s look at some of the biggest misconceptions out there:

1. Secularist: Just another word for atheist: Not true! But that doesn’t mean there is any thing wrong with nonbelievers. Nor does it mean that secularists and atheists don’t share scads of objectives in common (e.g., opposing religious establishment, securing freedom from religion, defending free expression).

American secularism’s roots can be traced to Christian political philosophy (yes, you read that correctly). Its main architects were Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, Roger Williams, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

What evolved was a political worldview deeply suspicious of entanglements between what these gentlemen called “the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.” They asked: “How can we configure our government so that citizens of different religious groups may all live in equality, peace and order?”

Atheists, by contrast, posit the nonexistence of God(s) and proceed to explore the implications of that intriguing premise. Let’s put it this way: While nearly all atheists in America are secularists, not all secularists are atheists. In fact most secularists are not atheists — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

2. Secularism simply means total separation of church and state: Separationism is, undeniably, a form of secularism. But not the only form. Secularists need to accept this, if only because more and more state and federal governments are giving separationism the old heave-ho.

As conservative Christians like to point out, the Constitution never mentions separationism. That idea surfaces in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he lauded “a wall of separation between Church & State.” It was not, however, until about a century and a half later that the wall was actually built. This occurred in a series of stunning Supreme Court decisions that briskly evicted religion from public schools and spaces.

The separationist worldview crested in the 1960s and 1970s. When John F. Kennedy talked about a country where the “separation of church and state is absolute,” he articulated post-World War II liberalism’s dream. Or delusion. Even Supreme Court justices whose decisions helped erect  Jefferson’s Wall conceded that total separation is impossible to attain.

That is because the United States is historically and culturally Christian. We rest on Sundays. We close federal offices on Christmas. We put the word “God” on our coinage. Most citizens are believers. The state cannot logically “separate” from them. As Justice William Douglas - no foe of secularism - once remarked, total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”

Government and religious citizenry are entangled. This doesn’t mean we should endorse those entanglements. Rather, we must recognize separationist secularism as something extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

3. Secularism is for Democrats: This was increasingly true with each passing decade from the 1960s forward. But after John Kerry’s debilitating loss to George W. Bush in 2004, all of that changed. Party strategists now recognized the power of the so-called “values voters” — the conservative Christians whose energy and activism propelled the incumbent to his second term.

A few months before Kerry’s defeat, an obscure state senator named Barack Obama blew the roof off the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he intoned: “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.” It was a harbinger of things to come. By the 2006 midterms, stories leaked about Democratic consultants who advised candidates never to say “separation of church and state” on the stump.

By 2008, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were Bible-thumpin’ with aplomb. Presidential candidate Obama, for his part, was promising to renovate George W. Bush’s faith-based Office. Separationist secularism, long in decline, was about to be rolled. What replaced it? Read on.

4. Secularists don’t make accommodations: Although few have noticed it, the Democrats have pivoted from “separation” to “accommodation.” This means the government can fund or assist religion; it just can’t play favorites. Thus, all religions are equal in the eyes of the faith-friendly state.

Is this approach secular? The jury is still out. Accommodation does respect the First Amendment principle of refraining from federal establishment of religion.

Consider the White House faith-based office. In theory, it funds all religious groups who provide social services (hence no establishment). In practice, however, things have not worked out so well (see complaints against both the Bush and Obama offices). Further, accommodation doesn’t really accommodate or take into account nonbelieving citizens.

5. Secularists are anti-religious: In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves “secular.” Yet the idea that believers cannot be secular is incorrect and politically disastrous.

Secularism, as noted above, was born of Christian thought. Historically, its greatest champions have been those opposed to state support of one church or religious institution, such as Baptists, Protestant dissenters, and minorities including Jews, Catholics, Sikhs and others.

Secularism’s mission is to maximize freedom of and freedom from religion. But unless we start speaking of it in precise terms, and bringing secular believers and nonbelievers into coalition, it won’t be able to render this service to America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacques Berlinerblau.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Church and state • Courts • Politics

soundoff (1,517 Responses)
  1. fastball

    Don't kill. Don't steal. Treat other people with respect. Live and let live.
    If there is a God, and if that way of life is not good enough for him – then I don't wanna go anyways.
    As Mark Twain said "Go to Heaven for the weather – go to Hell for the company."

    October 7, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  2. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Jacques Berlinerblau, if you want to know what the total absence of separation of church and state looks like, then please go live in Iran or any number of other Islamic Republics. Then maybe you'd realize, that even if our imperfect American government, who panders to the masses by doing special favors for religious groups (even though I don't agree with that), is not on the same scale as government that imposes conformity to a given religion, whether it be Christianity, Islam, etc.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • fastball

      Seriously?? Where blasphemy is a capital crime?? Where speaking ill of Allah will get you decapitated??
      That's a separation of church and state?

      October 7, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • snowboarder

      fastball – he said "the absence of separation"

      October 7, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  3. D Rufus Onfyre

    To the people of faith who feel disrespected by the government's legal obligation to keep public spaces religiously neutral, take your silent moment of prayerful devotion at home or at your place of worship, outside the workplace, which includes schools. Imposing spiritual ideology on a diverse believing and non-believing populace, is intolerant, divisive and rude.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  4. DaveinCincy

    Atheists are the single most intollerant group next to muslim extemists.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Luis Wu

      No, Christians are. You are intolerant of people of ANY other faith than yours or those who lack faith. Christianity is almost as bad as Islam.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Tamila

      I would love to see this complete list, why did you stop at just listing the first two? Undoubtedly it is based on a comprehensive unbiased scientific study.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • DaveinCincy

      Luis...you obviously don't know many or any Christians.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      But, we know how to spell correctly.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • charlotte

      DaveinCincy, you by your very nasty remark have proven that YOU and whichever god club you profess to belong to, are far, far more intolerant than an atheist. And a much worse speller. Atheists by and large just want your sort to quit trying to shove your false religion down their throats, but they are fine if you want to believe it yourself. Grow up and show the same degree of intelligence and respect for your betters.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  5. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together"
    –James Madison

    October 7, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • snowboarder

      zeus – of course, because once government begins mandating religious observance it ceases to be religion and suddently becomes tyranny.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  6. akak

    Secular...
    What do you people not understand. yeah the extreme muslims targeted nyc, the isreals a while back, hit a us ship, a white supremacy took out soldiers recently. What do those people have in common? Their religious fever. We are a nation that allows all. Does you neighbor Kraus or Mohammed fight with you? If not who gives a damn. We live here together.
    While i believe ayn rayn was right about many things, she failed to envision trade agreements and unlevel tariffs, not to mention deriivetives, she was right about atleast one thing. Religion and politcs don't mix, elect me, and you will never have to deal with religion again, i will outlaw it.
    I got money that the majority or responses will be by people against this, because the smart people know that will never work, and it takes away from the liberty that we were granted

    October 7, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • charlotte

      Pish posh. Extreme muslims are no worse than Extreme Christians. And usually have far, far better reasons for their extremism.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  7. newton

    I found the article to be very accurate. It explained the distinctions very well, and somehow ought to be published over at Fox Nation. Those folks are the ones that really need to read it.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  8. democrat, liberal, communist - tomato, tomahto

    it's impossible to have true secularism. right and wrong is written into our laws and is based on religious beliefs right from day one. If we remove all vestiges of religion, it would be true chaos.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Indoctrination is VERY difficult to break .. but we CAN do it!! and no, chaos would not be the result, fear of change is what causes that.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • snowboarder

      tomahto – pure fallacy. our laws are based on the constructs of morality evolved through civil society. there are and have been a myriad of religions, yet humanistic values evolved from community have repulsed chaos.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Major Tom

      Seven of the ten "Ten Commandments" are nowhere to be found in the law. Blown off. Why? Because they're pure bul*sh!t. There you go. So much for getting "right and wrong" from your religion. Now get lost.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • DaveinCincy

      @Tom...you're the perfect example of an intollerant Jack A$$. Congrats....

      October 7, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • erosco

      There is a not a single moral value that requires a person to be religious. In fact, there are many immoral values that only religion teaches that a non-believer would never believe in. If you believe that you must be religious to be immoral, then what do are you saying about your own pathetic conscience?

      October 7, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  9. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    "As Justice William Douglas – no foe of secularism – once remarked, total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”"

    Then you're saying that if we are to, for example, show how un-racist we are, that municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to one race or another? In other words, no one gets help because that would show favoritism? That is just SO MUCH BS!

    October 7, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Sunny Raja

      Excellent observation.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • moi

      My first inclination upon reading that part of the article was to wonder why an exception wouldn't just be made for something as obviously ludicrous as that. Seems pretty simple.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • fastball

      G. Zeus....now you're just getting stupid.
      There's a thing called common sense and modern thought.
      Quit taking things LITERALLY. We are a progressive society – and we try to be all-inclusive.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • JOregon

      It is an issue of Separation of Church and State.
      If the Church is on fire the State can't render aid.
      Racism has nothing to do with that separation.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • charlotte

      Oh, I'm fine with them religiots getting police and fire protection, just like anyone else. But they really ought to pay taxes, just like anyone else, for the services. The IRS code should be revamped such that ONLY the money that actually demonstrably buys food for the poor or otherwise expends a dollar on an indigent person, only those funds are tax-exempt. The rest should be taxed at LEAST at thief Romney's rate, which is still a bargain-basement price.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  10. NJreader

    I am an atheist. Kindly do not tell me I have a religion. I do not. I am an atheist. I believe in no gods, devils, angels, demons, etc. I do not seek to make atheists out of religious people. I wish religious people would not seek to make me religious, or, failing that, argue that my atheism is somehow a religion. The religious people who seem loudest on the subject of "America's freedoms" do not seem inclined to allow me freedom of thought.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • a dose of reality

      well said!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Martin

      It is amusing to see religious people call atheism a religion, because they mean it as an insult and consequently are acknowledging the weakness of their own position.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • moi

      You were correct until your very last sentence which made you sound just like a religious fanatic. No one can deny you freedom of thought. Freedom not to see a religious word or symbol on government land or currency, maybe, but not thought. The fact that you are writing your thoughts here on a CNN blog proves that.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Philip

      Very well stated, thank you.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • DaveinCincy

      then riddle me this batman.....why do Atheists groups puchase billboards advertising to point out their views of Atheism and shove them down the throats of everyone? Why do ahtheists groups come together to raise money to push their agenda. Of course your part of an intollerant religion. Except it....

      October 7, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Of course your part of an intollerant religion. Except it...."""

      Yet we can tolerate folks who can't spell and don't have a grasp of basic grammar skills.

      But the absence of logical thinking? Well, now – that's another ball of wax.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • JimR

      *You* may not have a religion but there are plenty of your fellow atheists on-line trying to convert theists to their beliefs (or lack there of). You can't claim that those atheists aren't religious.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  11. Lilith

    " total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”
    We don't render these "protections" to religious groups .. we dispatch them to people! A supreme court justice too stupid to realize this is too ignorant to be a supreme court justice! Completely absurd statement!

    October 7, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • drkent3

      All people limit their understanding by filtering all information through their beliefs. Even the smartest of us do this. It is the very reason we need a scientific method.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • akak

      wow a liberal justice stating the facts of the time, when was that quote taken btw?

      October 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Kathmandu91

      People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      lilith – very true. humanity transends religion. what kind of humans would we be if we queried about an individuals religion prior to providing assistance.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • moi

      This is misleading. Police and fire of course would render assistance to religious groups.... they are after all citizen, right? I think what the article meant to imply is that religious BUILDINGS might not be protected under the law. I'm sure an exception could be made. After all, we aren't a bunch of morons, right?? ....Right?!?!?

      October 7, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  12. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    "American seculari-sm’s roots can be traced to Christian political philosophy (yes, you read that correctly). Its main architects were Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, Roger Williams, John Locke and Thomas Jef-ferson."

    Well, here's are few quote from Mr. Thomas Jef-ferson, now YOU DECIDE! (No, I am not a fan of Faux News!)

    "I have examined all the known supersti-tions of the world, and I do not find in our particular supersti-tion of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the ef-fect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

    “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

    -Thomas Jef-ferson

    October 7, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Lilith

      But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
      -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

      October 7, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • snowboarder

      lilith – unless, of course, your neighbor attemts to have his beliefs codifed into civil law or insinuated into public education to indoctrinate children.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • snowboarder

      "attempts"

      October 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • moi

      thanks for posting
      no fan of faux, here, either;)

      October 7, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Lilith

      snowboarder ... Absolutely!! Their "belief" harms nothing, it's their "actions" that cause problems.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  13. David

    God and I are not religious.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Tamila

      just "spiritual" right?
      bwahahahaha

      October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  14. Mr. Black

    Religion got its chance to run things; it was called the Dark Ages.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  15. Major Tom

    I have a dream. I have a dream that one day the last priest (or pastor or mullah or bishop – whichever the case might be) will be suffocated with the entrails of the last faithful politician. Then and only then will there be peace and harmony among humans, and only then will freedom and enlightenment reign.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Onetake

      Seriously doubtful. Then the problem exists of all atheists taking over at that point and pushing their opinions down everyone's throat thus continuing the chain you wish to kill off.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Major Tom

      @Onetake: You're describing the faithful, not atheists. They will have been killed off – by themselves.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Yea, atheists sure have a history of trying to push their opinions down everyone's throat. You sure you're not talking about religion?!?!?!?! Cause religion has that as one of it's mandates!!!! Get a clue

      October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Jeff

      Hatred is a bad habit. Removing the object of you hate will not remove the hate.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Alan

      Ground Control here, Major Tom. Come down and see us some time. I think your plan is a good one.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  16. Chmee

    Go back to Fox News. You've obviously been drinking their Koolaid.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Chmee

      Hmm.. this was supposed to be a reply to another post. 🙁

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  17. fastball

    You did 4 years of college?? I stopped counting after your third spelling/grammatical error.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • sqeptiq

      To whom are you speaking?

      October 7, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  18. marc

    If parents stopped teaching their religious beliefs to their children and let them come to their own conclusions as they grew and learned, by the third generation the concept of god would no longer exist and would be dismissed just as all other non-scientific principles have been over the years. Remember, it was only 500 years ago that it was thought that the world was flat and less than 150 that people believed in witches.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Joshua Partridge

      I agree... Never have i ever seen someone ultimaltly believe in a god unless taught to do so when they were young. religion spreads the same way culture does, that is, by the people around you. People only believe because they have been convinced by the people around them. thats why relgious blocks exist. its why the middle east is islamic, europe is becoming athiest, and it is the reason americans are christian. If there is anything that humans are good at, its telling a story, not just to other people, but often to themselves. Ultimatly, its not god your placing your trust in and its not god that you strive to be like, its the people who tell you these things that you trust, and often its the people you associate with you that you want to become.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Onetake

      Ignorance reigns without education.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • DaveinCincy

      "If Parents would stop teaching their children"....yes- spoken like a liberal.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Zach

      Actually Marc few people ever thought the word was flat. That was another myth created by religious people back in the late 1800s to try and push their particular religious thoughts. Unfortunately, their writings claiming our ancestors thought the earth was flat got incorporated into educational texts and is still being taught to our kids to this day. Yet there is no written evidence that most people 500 years ago or more thought the earth was flat at all. And there are maps that clearly show a globe shape, even over 2000 years ago in fact. An ancient greek scientist even calculated the diameter of the earth quite closely to what it actually is!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Tamila

      see: Culture
      go back to school.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Chris

      That is about as perfect a statement as i have ever heard

      October 7, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  19. Jeb

    Throughout human history, joining Church and State has always corrupted both.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      Throughout history, Church and State have always been corrupted.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  20. People go to College to get stupid, not smart

    After seeing a video of how many college kids though the BHO should of had a telepromter at the 1st debate, its been observed that most kids grauduating college 50% cant get jobs and one can see why. With all these liberal ollege professors at the helm these kids today come out of college with thier head full of stupidity. The country is far better off today, you might say, but I say there are many who go to college to get stupid. And Im a college grad, 4 year BA Info Tech. People need to be allowed to have the faith/no-faith that they are comfortable with. But pressing upon young minds there is no God is just as bad as pressing upon them that there is a God. Liberal college professors still preach socialism today.........And this is why kids who go to college unless learining to be a doctor or lawyer with a specific set of skills are going there to get stupid. Sandra Fluke, does one need to say any thing else?

    October 7, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • drkent3

      Sadly, you proved your own point with your ludicrous diatribe.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • phil

      All your post proves is that we need more college education of a higher quality. There is no way with your massive amount of spelling and grammatical errors in your post that you attended any real college-save for Oral Roberts.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Joel

      Then you must not have gone to classes. Any talk of religion, outside of religious studies classes, was dangerous territory, whether that was promoting secularism or speaking about Christianity. I never had a teacher even mention socialism, except for a political science teacher, and that was when we were learning it. There is no liberal agenda in college or conspiracy. I had creationist profs as well as Muslims and Hindus and I never once did these people bring up a diety or try to talk about a candidate. And I was from a Kansas University.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • sybaris

      You should have picked a better college

      Also

      "People need to be allowed to have the faith/no-faith that they are comfortable with"

      George Bush is comfortable in his faith, so much so that he believed his god told him that invading Iraq and murdering tens of thousands of innocent civilians was the right thing to do.

      No, we don't need people comfortable in their religion or faith or in worshiping god(s). Believing in invisible sky fairy's and the voices in your heard, by any other measure, is delusional. We really don;t need those people deciding the fate of millions.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Alan

      I encountered just as many college profs who advocated conservative politics in the classroom, as those who "preached socialism." This author clearly feels that socialism is sacred: to advocate it is to "preach" it apparently! Personally, I do not fear socialism. What I fear is the misuse of language. As in this article, where the writer never really defines his terms and puts words into his readers' mouths, and thoughts into their heads, and then proceeds to argue against them. Pathetic!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • rdeleys

      You have 4 years of college education? Please, return your degree and demand a refund!

      October 7, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • moi

      I'm taking classes in one of the most liberal cities, at one of the most liberal universities in the country. In my anthropology classes, where the SUBJECT MATTER is human evolution, my professors won't touch the subjects of religion or politics. In fact, they go out of their way to go around it, in my opinion. You're pulling your information (rather uninformed and badly communicated opinions) out of your a55.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:06 am |
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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.