January 3rd, 2013
05:54 AM ET

Belief Blog's Morning Speed Read for Thursday, January 03, 2013

By Arielle Hawkins, CNN

Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.

From the Blog:

CNN: Nigerian forces kill 13 Boko Haram militants after church attacks
Islamist militants in Nigeria's restive north have taken the lives of 34 people since Christmas, including 27 Christians attending church services. On Tuesday, the country's military took the fight to Boko Haram's stronghold, killing 13 suspected combatants.

Photos of the Day:

Photo credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Ultra Orthodox Jewish men pray next to the body of Rabbi Abraham Jacob Friedman of Sadigura Hasidic dynasty during his funeral on January 01, 2013. in Bnei Brak, Israel. The Rabbi was the leader of the Sadigura Hasidic dynasty in Bnei Brak and died at the age of 84.

Photo credit: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

A devotee dances at the shrine of Muslim Sufi Saint Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore on January 1, 2013. The three-day festival for Hazrat Ali Bin Usman, popularly known as Data Gunj Bakhsh, started with traditional zeal with a 'chaddar' laying ceremony and the distribution of communal milk at the shrine.

Photo credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

Shinto priests bow during a ritual end-of-the-year purification ceremony to prepare for New Year's Day at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on December 31, 2012. Millions of Japanese people will visit shrines and temples across the country to celebrate New Year's Day, one of the most important holiday periods of the year here.

Enlightening Reads:

Christen News Agency: Iranian pastor's Christmas arrest worries religious liberty advocates
A Christian pastor who spent nearly three years in an Iranian prison for his religious conversion was reportedly arrested again on Christmas Day, contrary to a previous agreement.

Reuters: Israeli TV star-turned-politician to confront ultra-Orthodox skipping army
In a matter of months, Yair Lapid has turned from heartthrob television news anchor into a rising star of Israeli politics, leading a new centrist party into elections on January 22. Lapid’s late father, Yosef, tried as a justice minister to curb the political power of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Now the son is gaining popularity with younger voters by promising to relieve a housing shortage and abolish military draft exemptions for Jewish seminary students.

The Guardian: Gay mass services in Soho abolished by archbishop of Westminster
The Archbishop of Westminster, head of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, has ordered that special fortnightly "Soho masses" for gay and lesbian churchgoers in central London are not appropriate and are to be axed. The services, intended to be particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, had been held at Our Lady of the Assumption church in the West End for six years with the blessing of senior clergy but had attracted criticism from traditionalists.

New York Times: One-Stop Sunday Mornings for Cowboys and Cowgirls in an Arizona Town
From an improvised pulpit nestled on a slice of desert sand between a bull-riding ring and a bar serving biscuits and $3 beers, the preacher opened his last sermon of the year with a question and a revelation. Steve Gilbertson, 52, has been a preacher for about 30 years. Four months ago, he started a church of his own. At his last job, he had led an informal Sunday morning service over coffee and doughnuts at a local megachurch. Now he preaches under a mesquite tree, in the shadow of a saloon best known for the quality of its country-western bands and the fervor of its regulars’ allegiance to the Green Bay Packers.

NY Post: Devotion wins out: Pong star nixes Sabbath match
She doesn’t spin on Shabbos. Ping-pong prodigy Estee Ackerman, an 11-year-old from Long Island, was disqualified from her final event at the 2012 US National Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas last Dec. 21 when her match fell on the Jewish holy day of rest and she chose not to play.

NYT: A Careful Writer Stalks the Truth About Scientology
Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear: Scientology, Celebrity, and the Prison of Belief” explains that more people appear willing to discuss Scientology’s image problems.

Quote of the Day:

And once again, and I don’t know what my chances are of getting into heaven, but the absence of listening to the compassion and support of the religious community is deafening to me. I know their strong position about same-sex marriage, and about women controlling their bodies and all of those things and I say if you write the book, you have the rules, do what you have to do. But my God. When it comes to caring for people, not New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, not just the United States, but all over the world—can’t there be some people that have compassion to know that these are what God expects us to do? That’s why we say, ‘in God we trust.’

- U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel, D-New York

Opinion of the Day:

Tibetans at a protest in Taipei in 2011 display portraits of people who killed themselves by self-immolation.

CNN: My Take: Blood on Chinese hands in Tibetan self-immolations
Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, wrote an article for the Belief Blog last summer criticizing the Dalai Lama for not speaking out against the increase in Tibetan self-immolations protesting Chinese rule. His article was recently quoted by China Daily, an English-language newspaper and a mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Prothero now clarifies his position saying: “When I criticized the Dalai Lama for his silence on the self-immolations, I should have criticized the Chinese government even more forcefully, for carrying out a policy of cultural genocide in Tibet.”

Join the conversation…

CNN: Googling the Dead Sea Scrolls
Tania Treiger pulls on her tight blue gloves and picks up her tweezers, preparing for the extraordinary job she has been hired to do. She is one of only five conservators in the entire world allowed to handle one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. Treiger’s job is to help conserve and record the more than 2,000-year-old pieces of parchment that make up Dead Sea Scrolls.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Thinker23

    Niknak...I've asked you a pretty simple question but somehow you've ignored it...

    There are two possibilities here, that the Universe was designed and built by someone having the knowledge and ability to do it or, alternatively, that the Universe just came into existence all by itself from nothing.

    Which one of these two possibilities is more plausible, in your opinion?

    January 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The second one is certainly closer to being believable than the first.

      If "someone" created the universe, who created the "someone?"

      I don't know how the universe began and neither do you. You're just willing to opt for the "goddidit" explanation. I'm not so desperate for an explanation that I need to resort to that.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  2. Thinker23

    William Demuth: "Brainstorming amongst simpletons to agree the absurd is reality is not studying boy"

    But of course, genius... Only YOUR church (or whatever you call it) is the RIGHT one, correct?

    January 4, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • ???????

      you must mean Stephen Hawking he is the genuis according to the experts.
      see below copy and paste url

      January 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bethenny

      God has unlimited knowledge.

      Stephen has limits.

      I'll trust God.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  3. ???????

    But they can't seem to understand this....
    Stephen Hawking: God didn't create universe

    January 4, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  4. Pax

    There's too much negative energy here.

    January 4, 2013 at 5:54 am |
  5. Billy


    January 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  6. New human species

    Neanderthals and hobbits aren't the only species that may have coexisted with modern humans. Scientists in southwest China have discovered the bizarrely shaped skulls of a possible new human species called the Red Deer Cave People that existed until the end of the ice age, about 11,000 years ago. The odd skeletons had prominent jaws and jutting cheekbones, and middling-sized brains more commonly seen in human ancestors from hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    January 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  7. lol??

    What's with the speed read thing, anyway? Copyin' the Reader's Digest? Nuthin' sacred anymore?

    January 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  8. han solo

    You can find explanations for skeptic's questions.


    We openly study these things in my church. I'm invited to ask tough questions.

    January 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • niknak

      Out of all the thousands of religions, why is yours the right one solo?
      How do you know you are believing in the right god?
      If you had been born in Saudi Arabia do you think you would still be a xtian and not believe in the koran?

      January 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • lol??

      C'mon nikynaky, I thought yuse guys figured that out already in your Friday nite sessions in the dorm.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • All Thumbs

      Christian Evangelical Rule of Thumb:

      - If a Bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally.

      - If a Bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical or metaphorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is an ancient cultural anomaly; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Study and church in the same sentence!

      Brainstorming amongst simpletons to agree the absurd is reality is not studying boy

      January 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • niknak

      No lol, us atheists figure out all that stuff hanging out in gay leather bars where we plot the downfall of the US government and the destruction of xtianity.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • han solo

      We don't all agree on the same things.

      We actually allow and encourage new ideas.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • lol??

      Well, nicky I guess 1 out of 2 ain't a bad average.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  9. richunix

    Christianity is very much a human religion, it did not descend from high. It was created down here on earth, among the followers of Jesus in the decades and centuries after his death by men, both with good and bad intention. But the religion was built up around God and Jesus was based on various myths not on facts. However Jesus death was not a myth, but the cirismstance surrounding his death and resurrection are myth and were created by men and later church leaders, as Paul into the God-like myth we have today. Example are found in Mark, Jesus was in fear of the unknown, only to be calm and in control as in Luke.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I have a clue for you!

      ALL religions are man made.

      100 percent fabrications, designed to seperate fools from their money, and believers from reality.

      We have already discredited over 3000 of them, with only about 20 left to knock down.

      Jesus shall fade

      January 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • han solo

      He lives!

      January 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • han solo

      Jesus Christ doesn't need my money. Or does he want me to live outside of reality.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • NClaw441

      rich, neither you nor I were around to witness Christ's death and resurrection, yet you seem pretty sure of your position. Faith?

      Christ had many, many followers even before his death and resurrection. Many of His apostles died hideous deaths. They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. Had they not, certainly they would have recanted rather than suffer.
      I'll take their word over some late comer researcher.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • niknak

      Hanjob solo,
      Can you give us any evidence that he lives?
      Yeah, I did not think so.
      But keep up the faith in your sky fairy land. Why live in reality when you can make it up as you go along?
      Hey, how many virgin wives will you be getting when you get to sky fairy land?
      Or is that some other sky fairy myth?
      Hard to keep all you religious people's sky fairys straight.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Realist

      Re: " Many of His apostles died hideous deaths."

      The fates (and even the ident-ities) of these 'apostles' is largely unknown. There are only some (often conflicting) stories about them.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • han solo


      I've got serenity since I've invited Jesus into my life.

      I don't think we have wives or husbands in God's heavenly kingdom. It is not about what "I get". I haven't died yet, some I agnostic on the afterlife.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • han solo

      **so I am agnostic on the afterlife.**

      January 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Topher

      What conflcting stories?

      January 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Really??

      I've got(ten)serenity since I invited Frodo into my life....

      January 3, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Realist

      Re: "What conflicting stories?"

      I sort of wish that this site had a different name because it might scare you, but maybe you will have a look at this page:


      January 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • han solo

      -)> I've got(ten)serenity since I invited Frodo into my life....

      Jesus makes a difference for me. That is my evidence.

      If Frodo works better for you, do it.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Topher


      You're right about the name of that site. I'm not going to go to a site that is obviously biased against Christ. If you want to point out something in the Bible that seems to be conflicting about one of the apostles, I'll go check that out, though.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • han solo

      You can find explanations for skeptic's questions.


      We openly study these things in my church. I'm invited to ask tough questions.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • niknak

      That's cool solo.
      I have no issue with someone who wants to believe that god exists or that they feel jesus is in their life.
      Or Frodo for that matter.
      But just don't try to push that as fact, and then try to make the rest of us go along with it.
      That is the issue.
      The religious somehow think there is this war on religion being waged by non believers.
      Nothing is further from the truth.
      What we are tired of is you religious people wanting to force us to go along with your beliefs.
      If you stay out of our government, our medicine, our laws, our schools and our bedrooms, then you can go to your taxpayer supported communicators to god and kneel and speak your magic spells to your heart's content.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Realist

      Re: Conflicting stories about the 'apostles'. Here's just one of them:

      3. John, son of Zebedee.

      This guy has to be kept alive long enough to take care of Mary, lead the church in Ephesus, write the Book of Revelation and write his own gospel. He even survives being boiled in oil and is given a natural death!

      Actually, John bar Zebedee disappears from the yarn in Acts at the same time his brother James is more dramatically removed from the story. The last reference to John is also verse 12.2. From Acts 12.12 onward we are dealing with another John "whose surname was Mark" – a lightweight character who nonetheless is credited with authorship of the first gospel.

      The impending demotion of the thunder brothers is actually prefigured in Mark's gospel (and is embellished in Matthew, where Mrs Zebedee does the talking). The boys ask for front seats in the hereafter. JC is having none of it:

      "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

      "Jesus said unto them ... to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John." – Mark 10:35-41.

      Thus while the earthly career of Jesus features prominently brothers James and John, "the sons of thunder" (Mark 3.7), the story of the early church features a new James, "the brother of Jesus", and a new John, a sidekick to Paul and Barnabas (see below). We know little about either, although the death of James bar Damneus (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9) provides a basis for the colourful martyrdom of brother James beloved of Christian apologists.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Topher

      So what is the problem?

      January 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • han solo

      Yea, I'm with you niknak. I believe what Jesus Christ taught is best done outside of government. Power seems to corrupt even the best of us.

      January 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Thinker23

      William Demutth: "We have already discredited over 3000 of them, with only about 20 left to knock down."

      II have a clue for you, William... Every single religion claims that it's the ONLY right one and that all other faiths were "discradited".

      January 4, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  10. Believe it or not

    How The Universe Works
    See as never before the inner workings of our world, and explore black holes, supernovae, neutron stars, dark energy, and all the ti-tanic forces that make us


    January 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Thanks but no thanks. I'll wait for science to claim our universe to be but one within a grand cosmos of unknowable amounts of universes. Only when science comes to grips with immeasurable amounts of universes will I want some info regarding scientific claims of universalisms variants to be a noteworthy claim.

      I know and do believe upon the following views,

      1. The inner cosmologies of the atomized realms

      2. The outer cosmologies of the cellular realms

      3. The cellular cosmologies of the living realms

      January 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Thinker23

      lionlylamb... Modern physical cosmology ALREADY offers the 'Multiverse' theories where our Universe is just one of almost infinite number of Universes.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  11. Pax

    BBL this evening... Time to crash now.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:17 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.