Look at Obama’s faith draws criticism, praise
Some readers thought we went too far by asking why some thought President Barack Obama was the "wrong kind of Christian."
October 24th, 2012
09:50 AM ET

Look at Obama’s faith draws criticism, praise

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - People have all sorts of questions for presidential candidates in an election year. But there was one question I asked last weekend that scores of readers griped about:

Why do so many people doubt President Barack Obama’s faith?

Obama has talked publicly about his faith for years, but doubts persist. Why? Was it race? Was he a different kind of Christian than his predecessors? How can anyone judge whether another person is a Christian?

Those are some of the questions I presented in the article. The reaction was stunning: more than 8,000 comments, 25,000 Facebook shares, 700 tweets and citations on political websites such as Talking Points Memo and the Washington Monthly.

Praise and criticism came from all political sides - liberals and conservatives both liked the piece and loathed it. Some saw it as a ringing defense of the progressive Christian traditions that shaped Obama’s faith. Others thought I was trying to sabotage the president's re-election chances with an unfair question.

The comments from readers tended to land on certain themes.

He’s not Christian - no matter what anybody says:

I got the impression that if Obama were suddenly surrounded by an angelic host during a press conference, and the voice of God declared, “He is not a Muslim,” some still would not believe it.

A reader named “Paul” put it this way:

"Sorry, the premise that Obama is a new kind of Christian is, in my opinion, just flat wrong. He is a Muslim."

Who gets to determine if someone is a Christian?

Other readers took offense at some pastors in the article who declared that Obama couldn’t be a Christian because he never talked about being “born again” and he supported same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

The article mentioned several prominent conservative Christians - including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham - who questioned Obama’s faith.

One pastor in the article, the Rev. Steven Andrew, author of “Making a Strong Nation,” even said that he thought Obama was “an anti-Christ.”

A reader identified as “C. J Mills” wrote:

"These ministers represent the kind of Christianity that makes me reluctant to say to people I don't know that I'm a Christian, and the kind of speakers for the faith that drove all my children out of churches because they would not put up with such judgmentmentalism. ..."

A ‘hit’ piece on Obama?

What was most surprising to me was the reaction of Obama supporters. The article featured several progressive Christians who said the sources for Obama’s faith are not sinister. The president’s faith is influenced by a brand of liberal Protestantism that dominated American public life during the early 20th century and a biblical perspective shaped by his exposure to the black church and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A “Cindy” called me Sunday and left a two-minute phone message skewering the story, and added a lengthy e-mail.

Her message:

"Your Sunday morning pre-election hit piece on President Obama is an outrage! ‘Is he the right kind of Christian?’ ‘He’s been called the anti-Christ.’ Really? It is disgusting, and doing it on a Sunday morning is an outrage."

I called Cindy at home and, after apologizing for her “cranky” message, she explained the source for some of her anger. She’s an Obama supporter living in a conservative state, and she said was on edge because of the election. She thought any article questioning Obama’s faith would convince people not to vote for him.

Another reader, “Muffin72,” had the opposite reaction. The reader thought the article was a puff piece on Obama:

"Nice CNN Obama PR piece trying to get a last grasp at another group of voters. … You can't support abortion and be a good Christian at the same time. ... Sorry, it just doesn't compute."

Other commentators asked when I would write a story asking if Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was a Christian. One commentator frankly declared progressive Christianity was an “apostate form of false Christianity.”

One of most unusual comments came from a “Clarke.”

"John Blake, I do not care for your article. To be fair, please tell us in your own words, what is the right Jew, the right Mormon, the right Christian. Why CNN would let you write about any religion, is beyond me. Religion is a personal thing, and does not belong on your sleeve and for you to judge others is just wrong. Makes me wonder if there was not money exchanged for this article. Shame, shame on you and CNN."

I can assure you Clarke, no one paid me to write the story. Yet there was a payoff for me.

Most journalists love to get people talking about what they write. Though I’ll always wonder if some of the commenters actually read the entire article, I’m glad that a provocative question could generate so many follow-up questions, even angry ones.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Billy Graham • Christianity • Culture wars • Obama

soundoff (1,150 Responses)
  1. Rainer Braendlein

    The issue of bad judging:

    What is that?

    We all commit sins. Sometimes people become mad, and assume they would by better than the others, only because they are connoisseurs of the divine law. Such people use the law as a club, condemn their fellow human beings, and themselves commit the sins which they judge. Such fools will be punished by the Most High, will face prison and bankrupt.

    How to handle the law of the Torah rightly?

    It only tells us that we have forsaken a happy state of health in God. Every sin is an act against the eternal love, and causes God's comment: you shall not ... ! If we would be in a state of health, we would not sin, and God would not tell us through the law: you shall not.

    In order to avoid God's unpleasant comments concerning our behaviour we need to believe in Jesus or God's gospel of Jesus Christ which leads us back to the state of health which Adam has forsaken.

    Hence, when we sin or when we see someone sinning, we should not condemn or fellow human being but offer the gospel of Jesus Christ which can improve his life. Offering the gospel is perfect love, and will be rewarded by the Most High.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dude, you are a trip!

      Like some half mad Aretie Johnson from Laugh In, without the humour.

      Do you run around in one of those point German helmets and goose step in front of your church altar?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • yep

      Oh good grief.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • JWT

      Just because something is a sin according to your version of the gospel does not mean it is a sin for other people. You are in essence telling other people that they are wrong because they do not follow YOUR religious laws. How rude.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  2. Susan

    I believe that the term Christian is getting to become overused and confused. I feel that most people just want him to be honest. Mitt Romney is "Mormon". He didn't change religion just because his "leader" angers people or it is not a "popular" religion. If Obama would have just stayed true to what he believed rather than become a "chameleon" – changing his beliefs based on what is considered popular at the moment- then people would not continually doubt his sincerity.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Romney has more persona than an autistic kid in a hall of mirrors has reflections.

      Frankly, I don't care who wins, but putting the chameleon label on Obama and not Romey is a clear sign you are indoctrinated.

      The man changes positions faster than he changes his magical underwear.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Lamento

    Let's humble ourselves and pray (not judge) for our leaders.....for we are living on critical times not only at home but also abroad...for if my people which are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, then will i hear from heaven and heal their lands

    October 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dude, spare us the nonesense.

      If you want to help, hire someone, or pick up some garbage, or help an old lady across the street.

      But stop acting like your cult rituals change things. They don't.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • richunix

      Outside P-52 which is dated from the 2nd century CE. What is the earliest known verson of Gospel MARK (that is complete) and brother we do know. Now compare it your version you now.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. richunix

    Food for thought: (reprint from an ealier post by Colin

    Teach them the following 10 Commandments..
    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.

    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.

    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.

    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.

    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.

    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.

    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?

    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.

    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?

    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jaimie

      Benevolent – marked by or disposed to doing good

      LOL where in the bible did GOD do anything good ?

      If anything you are all just a bunch of lab rats for his amusement.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  5. adunbar

    Jesus is the one to decide who is part of his flock. Not pastors. Not ministers. Not pundits. Only the Christ. As Jesus said, it would be a pretty good idea to remove the log from our own eye before hunting down the speck in our brother's.

    There are some Christians who live in a kind of evangelical bubble. You have to speak a special dialect of Chritianeese, pray in a certain way, raise your hands during certain types of praise songs, etc. It's all an outcome of the evangelical movement that has created a kind of sub-culture, and view main-line Protestants and Catholics as non-Christian.

    In other words, they are the new Pharisees. They feel they can take the place of God and pass judgement. Billy Graham would have given his son a good whooping in the old days. Billy was all about a relationship with Christ. He didn't run a mega-church, he didn't have controversy. His message was simple. Accept Jesus. He never tried to tell others how to PROVE their worthiness....something which is in itself, anti-Christ.

    God is judging America. It's coming soon. I'm afraid some mega churches and country churches are in for something of a disappointment, for their brand of love is no love at all. And by the same measure they condemn others, they themselves will be condemned.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Amen


      October 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • yep

      Zeus trumps all.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • richunix

      There is no diety "judging" anyone, other than in your own mind. Here is a test you can preform, take a rock (any rock will do). Go home and within the confines of your four walls. Pray to said deity to make this rock move and hence re-enforce your belief for you and mankind. Post the results and maybe I'll follow you.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      October 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  6. VA

    I understood what the original article was about and understood what the author was trying to convey. I agree with the author that no matter what Obama says or does, he will never be a Christian in the eyes of certain parts of our society. Those who took issue with the article read it from their political parties world view and misconstrued the meaning. Those political views have caused this nation to become extremely divided, and we are embarrassing ourselves to the rest of the world.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  7. Mike

    Did CNN do an article on this like 2 weeks ago??? What does his faith say about LYING to the American people about terrorist attacks?

    October 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • William Demuth


      You are under the false impression that either of the candidates care at all about what you believe enough to even bother to lie to you.

      Rest confident that they do not.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • DAC

      I come from a strong military family and I dont know what world you live in, but we have been getting attacks on consulates/Embassies goes back to the Late 80's 90's up until now and security was tight, we still got attack Saudi Arabia is a good example the !! 9/11, who's the blame? You can't say Bush. In the world I live in, people are mean if they want you they will get you and go to the extremes..No different than and innocent person on a street corner being murderd and for what reason why? Sometimes there are no answers and motives in a fool or killer's mind..Justice will be served in the end...Think realistic here and stop having bias thoughts go educate yourself..This article has nothing to do with your comment...

      October 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Jay

      It says about as much as everyone else that lie, cheat, steal, unfaithful etc.... It doesn't matter what you call yourself, you are subject to the same vices of a perverse world.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Check further back

      We have fought Muslim from day one! Our FIRST war was with them (We won by using suicide bombers)

      I kid you not!

      October 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • DAC

      Yes William this is true.. I was just throwing Saudi as an example and as, far as I can remember..That was a a good example of how tight security was, gated compound etc..and some fool still attack because of an inside source and my thing is, if someone wants you they will go to the extremes no matter what to get you or send a message..

      Those extremist groups folks over there are nuttier than a snicker bar or nuttier that someone on opium in Afghanistan.. LOL

      October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Follix

    Who care? Religion is the most irrational thing that human created... The number of crazy religious zealots america's got is insane, you guys should rebuild your education system from the start.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer


      October 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  9. J Harris

    Oh! One more thing, when a person proclaims to be a Christian does not mean that he/she is a Born Again Christian. There are levels in the Faith so please if you want to attack a person base on your personal feelings don't do it in the name of the Christianity because the holy Bible say, “"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
    He is a God who fights His very own battle, He is Sovereign.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Here's some more "word of god" crap for you...

      "When two men are fighting and the wife of one of them intervenes to drag her husband clear of his opponent, if she puts out her hand and catches hold of the man by his privates, you must cut off her hand and show her no mercy."
      Deuteronomy 25:11

      Religion is insane. I should know, I'm the devil.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  10. Chutzpah

    RealMenLoveJesus, you're absolutely right... I truly do hate spending my time responding to this kind of irrational stuff. I stayed out of religious arguments for a long time because it's a waste of my valuable (and limited) time.

    So I'll make you a deal... stop trying to take over my goverment, control the bodies of women who don't share your extreme beliefs, force children to pray to your gods in schools, destroy scientific and medical advances that I depend upon, and I'll be more than happy to go back to ignoring you.


    October 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  11. Bob

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded. It has no place in American politics.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  12. Martin

    I'd like to see an article exploring the beliefs of Mormons. It's unbelievable that we could have a president that believed that stuff.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Bob

      On the other hand, you have to admire any religion who's motto is "I don't care how many you bring, just Bring 'em Young!"

      October 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Not "could" WILL we will have a Mormon President. Get ready to repent or pack your heathen bags. Romney / Ryan 2012

      October 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      " the beliefs of Mormons" If Mitt wins, your kids will be wanting to join the new cool church because everyone else is doing it. So there will be plenty of pieces about what they believe and how their revelation is so much more modern than the Christians revelation. Plenty of sitcoms about the new Mormon neighbors being misunderstood and having to set things straight, etc. It's only natural; conquerors impose their culture on the defeated.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  13. richunix

    Two thousand years ago multiple religions were the cultural norm. The belief in multiple GODs (the word GOD is taken from the 6th century CE Germanic language) was widely accepted and only varied by type (and special abilities) depending the region you lived in. None of the Bible stories were ever PROVEN (BAR NONE) and they were will written long after the events supposedly happened. The only thing that changed was the names used to describe the GODS, from Sumerian times the supreme God was called “An” when have evolved to the current Christian name “YAHWEH”. To make a finer point the only thing that really changed was the “story teller” . Each story teller went to great lengths improve his or her deity to the reader. Also remember they didn’t have much on the burden or nor was proof really a requirement. These writers create wondrous feats of magic that go beyond the basic physical laws of nature. You find the very same Creation (according to the Sumerian) stories written thousand years earlier, only the name has changed to meet the current popular God in use. Of course when any questioned these stories, the same standard answer “God says so” . But yet the same people will question any other believers of different religious sects like the Jehovah Witness and Mormons and then label them as “whack–jobs” , but they fail to see Christians are no different. The major difference is modern man has proven through scientific exam the laws of nature and how man really works and YES we evolved from lower forms of life and YES Apes are our distance cousin (deal with it).

    I’m not interested in changing anyone beliefs, that is for you to decide. If believing in whatever you wish to believe make you feel better about yourself, please continue. But stop with trying to make these stories sound if they are true. No ONE (BAR NONE) has ever seen any God (outside of the occasional burring bush and always alone), parted the Red Sea or the Jewish Sea of Reeds or even a damn pond or have they ever turned anyone to stone, pillar of salt or into your favorite color. If you ever attempt (and a few have) to use any of the stories mention in the bible as a test of scientific theory and then use them in court for defense, by invoking the angel Satan made me do it, or God said so, then who are you to say “He’s lying”, in short mold the fantasy into your reality.

    To finish, I’m very happy with my life and YES I know I’m going to die as it is very much a part of life. I’m not so vain or fearful about what will happen that I need stories to comfort my fears. I know I will live forever, I can see it every day with the next generation and I sigh with relief, that they will make the world a better place. Enjoy your life, do what you can to make it better, don’t live in fear of unknown.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Polytheisim is still the norm.

      Chrristianity is a classic example.

      They have more Gods than Walmart has cheap Chinese t-shirts

      October 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • TESLAvision


      October 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  14. Bible Clown©

    Marx said religion is the opiate of the people, but on some people it's more like PCP.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  15. Julias Thompson

    It's great that you asked about the President's faith. He is a Christian. Why haven't you questioned Mitt Rommey faith about being in a Cult. Let's hear what the so-called evangelicals/religious right have to say about him.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • snowboarder

      whenever the toilet overflows i say a little prayer, but i always bring the plunger anyway.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Howdy Robert!

      Feeding time at the hospital again?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      Prayer can't even change food into crap.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • TESLAvision

      my children and my dog and my plants are doing quite well in my Atheist household.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Bible Clown

      But Fundies sure can.

      Do NOT go in a porta pottie at redenck prayerapalooza.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • truth be told

      No they are not. Lying and murder are the qualities an atheist brings to everything it touches.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "The Truth" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Lorraine" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian

      October 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      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.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • yep

      I'm nope!

      October 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  17. A-Rod

    Given the choice between a man some people says is a closet Muslim and a man who is a professed Mormon I am voting for the supposed Muslim.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  18. Madge

    It cracks me up that there are self-important people out there who actually believe that what they believe has any bearing on reality. He says he's a Christian, he's a Christian. You can claim not to believe him, but that certainly does not mean he isn't one!

    October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  19. snowboarder

    the religion of a candidate is immaterial as long as they have the good sense to realize that they represent the entire population and that their office is not a pulput from which to foist their religious ideals onto the rest of us.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Job one for President Romney will be to restore moral dignity in America. Once moral laws are in place it will be the practice of the country to rid America of the unbelieving sinners that have corrupted the very const itution the founding fathers intended. Nothing will be foisted on anyone it will be the enforcement of the legal will of a righteous majority. Romney / Ryan 2012

      October 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I bet anyone who tries that approach with me ends up dead.

      Frankly, I would love the opportunity, so bring it!!!

      October 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • SilverHair

      Right on.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • snowboarder

      ronald – i assume you are a troll, because that comment was beyond ridiculous.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • midwest rail

      @ snow – yes, R.R, has been a one-note troll since the day he arrived here. Quite boring, actually.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      Ronnie: Come and get us. Keep in mind the 2nd amendment, punk

      October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • DB

      Oh, Ronald...you're living in the wrong country, son. If you want a theocracy, try Iran.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Where will you get the gun? Do you think your false interpretation of the 2nd amendment will still be there ? Oh and consider a few facts. 1. President Romney will be commander in chief, ever hear of the US Army? 2. only about 1 % of America are lying commie atheist types, 1 to 99 odds favor the majority. 3. the comeuppance of the unholy minority is long overdue and even those you think are beside you will turn tail and run. Romney / Ryan 2012

      October 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • snowboarder

      ronald – i'm calling BS. your comments are too absurd to be real. you are obviously a troll attempting to create a bad caricature of a christian or conservative.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ronald Regonzo

      Fifty bucks and ten minutes in a pool supply store and I can take out your average American church and all its inhabitants.

      We non believers have certain skills most of you fundies don't, like an education.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  20. Primewonk

    Why do fundiot nutters have this bizarre need to apply a religious means test for folks running for political office? You seem to think that it's a contest to see which candidate can "out Jesus" the other.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because they are losing their power.

      A dying religion is a desperate religion.

      No Fundies on either preidentail ticket.

      First time EVER! Progress indeed.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:47 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.