My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
January 5th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God

Editor’s note: Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM .

By Johnnie Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus was a lot more like you than you think, and a lot less clean cut than this iconic image of him that floats around culture.

You know the image. It’s the one where Jesus is walking like he’s floating in robes of pristine white followed by birds singing some holy little ditty. He’s polished, manicured, and clearly – God.

But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the “earthly” son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

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What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, “You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s exactly what I mean.”

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think.

I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that’s one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly.

They could relate to him.

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century. Times must have been rather tough for Jesus at points in his life, for he even spoke of being homeless, having to sleep on the ground with no roof over his head.

He also knew what it was like to have his message rejected and how it felt to be misunderstood. Jesus was regarded with such little significance in his hometown that one of his critics once remarked sardonically, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus eventually had to move to different city (Capernaum) because his teachings so infuriated the people living in his hometown that they drove him out of Nazareth and even tried to throw him off a cliff.

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The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem, and Jesus was, without a doubt, rumored to be a hypocrite or absolutely mad for all the time he spent with prostitutes and those afflicted with leprosy.

Not exactly have a clean-cut image.

He had a rather shady reputation.

Some people thought he was a revolutionary. The religious leaders called him a heretic, and others even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton - in no small part because of the vagabond group of disciples he had with him. No serious religious leader of his day would have ever recruited such people.

For his core 12 disciples, Jesus included a tough-as-nails, bombastic fisherman (Peter), a chief tax collector named Matthew (the most hated popular figure of the time), an eventual traitor who was stealing money out of the offering bucket (Judas), a prolific doubter (Thomas), two jocks nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) and Simon the Zealot, a member of a radical political party which believed in using violence to kick out the Romans.

Jesus was sarcastic, too.

He often snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television, and in a terribly embarrassing moment for all those around him, Jesus even called these respected religious teachers “snakes” that were probably sons of “Satan.”

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That’s not exactly the behavior of a sweet, self-help teacher with a halo over his head.

It’s the behavior of a frustrated man who might also be divine, but sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.

Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?

Lots of theologians have laid out opinions over the centuries, and in their opining they have tried once again to hijack Jesus’ humanity by defining it in philosophical terms. I believe it’s simpler than the philosophy and church councils and centuries of argument.

The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus, arrived with dirty hands.

Jesus came in a time period when Greco-Roman gods were housed in gigantic temples and portrayed with superhuman powers and with superhuman physiques. Gods were believed to be far away from people on their mountains or hemmed up in their sanctuaries.

Jesus arrived in defiance of this prevailing imagery.

Jesus didn’t come flinging lightning bolts from a mountaintop, or playing politics in Rome. He came to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth that was home to a couple hundred typical people. He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised. And when he started a religious movement that reshaped history, he did it in the most profound and anticlimatic way:

He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb.

In Jesus we meet a Savior who understood the desire to sleep just a few more hours, and who had to control his temper sometimes. In Jesus we find a God we can relate to because he chose to relate to us.

He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. greggcd

    Excellent commentary and insight. Well thought out and written. Thank you. The God that created the Universe in no namby pamby but awesome, and His choices and illustrations while here with us bear this out. You can't put Him in a box, and certainly not some refined religious box. No one sect, cult, or denomination own Him. He owns us all and looks primarily at our hearts. Keep yours right.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • Athy

      He's also imaginary, doesn't exist, and never did exist. Time to grow up, greg.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • OpposingView

      Athy... You're just one more atheist prone to throwing out outlandish claims without a shred of proof to back it up. Go figure...

      January 7, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      OV- what, pray is your proof otherwise. Faith? Personally, I support that a man-preacher-rabbi whom we have come to call Jesus did exist, and did die for purely political reasons at the hands of a Roman-Jewish conspiracy.Beyond that, all is simply speculation, largely supported by a text decided on by Rome, using tales and stories which fit the mold that was pre-ordained by the Roman Emperor prior to the Council of Nicea. Rome's treatment of diseenters in the months and years immediately following should be proof of that.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • OpposingView

      small 'c' christian... Jesus Christ is all the proof you need. If you believe he was anything other than the Son of God then you are "antichrist", and you're not of God. So your opinion means nothing...

      1 John 4:3 – And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist...

      January 7, 2013 at 2:31 am |
  2. Vince

    The dude who wrote this story has a good imagination.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Pete

      EVERYONE who writes about Jesus needs a good imagination.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      Eh... Not everyone. Some of us write about a man who came to be called Jesus long after his passing. Nothing wrong with that. Others write about a passionate Latin-American workers-rights activist with the same given name. That's okay, too.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:54 am |
  3. t3chnician

    According to the bible, God said "Thou shalt have NO other gods before me."
    According to the bible, Jesus said "No man cometh unto the father but by me."
    Our souls belong to God. You can't give your soul away. I don't think it's a good idea to even try. I wouldn't recommend it.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      and one should care about what the bible because?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  4. Mary Jane

    Jesus may have had dirty hands, but he had clean feet. He didn't just hang out with men. A woman liked him so much, she washed his feet and dried them with her hair. Don't forget Lazuarus's sisters Mary and Martha. He healed men and women alike. He did not discremanate. He healed a rich man's servant and a beggar alike. He transported one disciple through space to teach a black man about the gospel who in turn carried it to Africa. What can I say, each must chose their on path. P.S. God gave man free will, right or wrong it's your decision.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • OpposingView

      Yes, God did give man free will. But you will be judged by the choices you make. Making the wrong choices can send you to hell...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      so you say...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism... So says the Word of God. And if you're too ignorant to know that then I don't have time to explain it to you...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      more assumptions...
      YOU say it's the word of YOUR 'god'
      please, don't make an ad populum argument next.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism… You've only confirming what I said. That atheists love to throw out ridiculous statements without a shred of proof. And you just did it – again. You say I'm making assumptions – but where's your proof of that?... Answer: You have none...

      January 7, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      OV- Nope. This time, FFT is right. It's YOUR God that you are writing of. You have no idea if FFT believes in the same god as you.

      And please- don't go down the "there is only one God" road. It completely fails to explain 10,000 years of history in 90% of the rest of the world outside the mid-east.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  5. Ted

    I can relate to him, my father is a contractor and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to party, I would love to smoke one with him. If he would be cool with that.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:33 am |
  6. Hitchslap

    Osama tortured non believers on earth. Jesus wants to torture non believers in hell forever. – John 15:6
    John 15:6
    If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • texcal68

      The New Testament doesn't contain a single eyewitness account of what Jesus said or did. The first gospel (Mark) written 35 to 40 years after his death didn't mention the virgin birth or a single sighting of Jesus after his death. The authors of Matthew and Luke (written nearly 50 years after Jesus' death) were the first and only writings to mention the virgin birth or the after death sighting. Bottom line: the New Testament is 27 books of pure fiction.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • OpposingView

      texcal68... It seems you're another idiot who has bought a huge pack of lies, hook line and sinker. Learn some truth and then get back to me...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • James

      You forgot how many nonbelievers the Church killed, usually very slowly and painfully.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • small 'c' christian

      So, Hitchslap, the Crusades, the sacking of Jerusalem, the Inquisition, the death of Joan of Arc. the Salem Trials and summary executions, were they all merely examples of kindness?

      January 7, 2013 at 1:52 am |
  7. Ted

    Sounds like my kind of God. No wonder I always feel comfortable speaking to him.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • James

      Maybe it's the antipsychotic drugs you're taking that's making you comfortable? You are taking your drugs, aren't you?

      January 7, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  8. Hitchslap

    That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.
    – Christopher Hitchens

    January 7, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • scott

      Oh if only Mr. Hitchens could speak right now...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
      –Carl Sagan

      January 7, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism... You stated..."extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence –Carl Sagan"...

      A perfect quote from a devil.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      you have some serious issues

      January 7, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • Lou

      If somebody claimed to have a cure for cancer, wouldn't you want proof before undergoing the procedure? How about a claim to be able to make crazy money with little effort and risk? All cons are built upon amazing claims that people are so greedy for that they disregard what their common sense is telling them. Common sense is that, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn't, and Jesus dying for our sins is just too good to be true.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yes, Scott, it's a shame that Mr. Hitchens no longer exists. He was a very intelligent man and his voice is sorely missed.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism... So has all devils...

      January 7, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • OpposingView

      Lou... Believing people and believing God are too different things. For example, the scripture says, it is impossible for God to lie. And that's good enough for me. But that is not the case with man. If I were to follow your rules and to doubt people all because they are a man, then I'd first have to doubt you and doubt what you're telling me...

      January 7, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  9. ivee

    i remember my theology professor back in college, saying that Jesus was a bum who loved to party... nothing wrong with that, i guess.. I think Jesus was indeed a revolutionary, and if he were (physically) alive today, he would've loathed the patriarchal, power-hungry leaders of the Catholic Church. I myself am Catholic, and i love being one, because of Jesus. Jesus would be a long-haired surfer-artist working for social justice or something...

    January 7, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Hitchslap

      The god of the bible is a terrorist who killed millions and then sent his only terrorist son jesus so he could torture moral non believers in hell while pampering Christian rapists and child molesting priests in fairytale disgusting Christian heaven. Christianity is a joke and can’t be believed by a mentally healthy person.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • OpposingView

      Hitchslap... If God and Jesus are terrorists and you're a million times worse than them, then what does that make you?... Rest assured, people like you may get by but you won't get away...

      Matthew 12:26 – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Lou

      I doubt that he would like the Pharisee-like protestant conservatives any better. The only Christians he'd probably like are the Salvation Army.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      OpposingView: So in your opinion someone who doesn't believe in your particular god is "a million times worse" than terrorists? You have a very messed up set of priorities.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  10. Hitchens

    For a good laugh read genesis. The god of the bible does not exist because the bible has been proven wrong on the subject of evolution to age of the universe to heliocentric solar system to moon reflecting sun’s light to plants came millions of years after the sun, not day before as in genesis 1:11-16.
    The god of the bible is a terrorist who killed millions and then sent his only terrorist son jesus so he could torture moral non believers in hell while pampering Christian rapists and child molesting priests in fairytale disgusting Christian heaven. Christianity is a joke and can’t be believed by a mentally healthy person.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:27 am |
  11. Hitchens

    Did Jesus the magician even exist? Jesus is a pagan myth. Jesus myth is a copy cat of Dionysus, and blend of Horus, both sons of god. One from greece and Horus from egypt. Moron christians don't do any research and believe in any fairytale written in their disgusting bible.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Keith

      You missed your myths and you don't know enough about their Religion to be teaching them it's faults. Find out what you believe and work on that. You will be much happier than trying to teach people that don't want to hear you.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • OpposingView

      I hate to tell you this but someone has sold you a huge pack of lies. And you bought it – hook, line and sinker. And that is your problem. You're doing research in the wrong places...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  12. mustangvoodoo1

    I always am amazed at those that blast us for believing in the floating magic man in the sky. How can you look at a sunset, a sunrise, a child, how you can feel love for another and yet you blast away that there is a reason for everything an explanation for everything.
    So many lament what fools are we to believe in Jesus when the GOD particle has been found!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I ask you, where did the GOD particle come from? How did the world come to be? How did the galaxy come to be?

    So many speak that we are of FOOLS and fools breed MORE fools!!!!! So many think that when our days are done, it is as simple as flicking a switch and no more!!!!! WHAT IF YOU ARE WRONG PEOPLE???????????????? If that IS indeed the case, I guess I for one will never know that because I will be just...gone!!!!!!! BUT WHAT IF YOU ARE WRONG?????????? The way it looks to this fool is this.....I can afford to be wrong.....can you?

    January 7, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      wow.. just wow.....
      your first point is nothing but promiscuous teleology
      secondly, the physicist recanted the labeling of the Higgs Boson particle
      your third point is nothing more than a Pascal's wager (look it up)
      you're welcome

      January 7, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Pete

      What if you're wrong about vampires, huh? I never leave the house without a garlic necklace, how about you, fool! Well, don't come crying to me when some undead dreamboat comes knocking on your window in the middle of the night!

      January 7, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • OpposingView

      Never mind the atheists. They are just in serious denial. They're like little children playing silly games, they're unable to deal with the real world, so they've created this imaginary world in their mind where God doesn't exist…

      January 7, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      and what you say is true because...?
      How about addressing the arguments/points atheists make to demonstrate how they're wrong, instead of making ridiculous claims

      January 7, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism… That is your problem. You've believed the lies of too many scientists. Better make sure those scientists can come and get you out of hell...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      "You've believed the lies of too many scientists." Straw man (I know you don't know what that is, so look it up)
      "Better make sure those scientists can come and get you out of hell..." hahaha; see my first response to this thread–3rd point specifically

      January 7, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • Keith

      If your God is a loving god and we are wrong he will bring us into Heaven. If he is the hateful genocidal god we all know about none of us wrong people will be sad about it and wouldn‘t want to be around him anyway.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism… You mean like you and all your atheists friends frequently do? You continually throw out ridiculous claims without a shred of proof to back it up. So that's back at you. If you're too ignorant to know the truth then I don't have time to explain it to you…

      January 7, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      What claims have I made that you require proof from me for?
      You're a lazy debater, and that's all there is to it

      January 7, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism... Everything you say that is either not true or backed up by truth. And there is only one truth: the Word of God. All else is nothing but lies. And since you don't believe in the Word of God. That means you don't have a leg to stand on. So everything you say must be proven. Otherwise it's not worth listening to, let alone believing...

      January 7, 2013 at 1:16 am |

    Never looked at it like that... We try to disprove it, but that is futile. There is no way that we can disprove all of the supportive evidence that this man Jesus came here.... We can argue about if he was Diety, but it's pretty concrete that a man named Jesus came, and historically written, he did some things that nobody has ever done before or since...

    January 7, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      hmhm ok

      January 7, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Lou

      You might want to look into your claims before you make them next time. Roaming miracle workers were a dime a dozen back then. Objectively, there was nothing original, or even special about the character Jesus.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • OpposingView

      Lou… People like you are the biggest of liars. You'll say anything to deny the truth. To illustrate your ignorance, even if you were personally there in the time of Jesus and had saw him do miracles, how would you even know a trick from the real thing? Answer: You wouldn't. Out of pure ignorance or hatred, you then state that Jesus wasn't special or original. And how would you know that? What possible evidence do you have to support that fact? Answer: You have none. Like all other atheists, you love to make outlandish claims and ridiculous statements for which you haven't a shred of proof….

      As for Jesus being original, trust me, there is NO ONE more original than him. He was the FIRST and ONLY begotten son of the living God. He was the first man EVER to be named Jesus. He was the first man EVER to be born of a virgin Mary. He was the first man EVER to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He was the first man EVER to live a life that was totally sinless. He was the first man EVER to walk on water and to command the wind. He was the first man EVER to rise from the dead. He was the first man EVER to step on a cloud and to ascend up into heaven. He was the first man EVER to hold all power in heaven and earth in his hands…

      All the above are witnesses against you. All the above only proves that people like you are haters of God and are pathological liars. And all haters of God shall be cast into the lake…

      January 7, 2013 at 2:27 am |
    • Hear This

      Opposing View,
      "As for Jesus being original, trust me,..."

      No, I do not trust you. There is no credibility in your ravings, nor in the stories from your 'scriptures'.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:34 am |
  14. Jo Qu

    I would like to hear his comments about that Muslim dude Mohamed, that's if he has a enough guts.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  15. pir-faqir

    What you believe is not nearly as important as knowing where you got your beliefs. "If you can put a name to your beliefs, those are borrowed beliefs and you are nothing more than a hammered brass mirror offering up faulty reflections of the beliefs that you borrowed." ... pir faqir (cooyright)

    January 7, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      no worries, i won't use that

      January 7, 2013 at 12:14 am |




    January 7, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      none of those things make their belief true, even if what you say is true

      January 7, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • OpposingView

      FreeFromTheism... Nor does your disbelief in those things make them untrue. Go figure...

      January 7, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      you're not well versed in logic, are you?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Lou

      "The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."
      - George Bernard Shaw

      Also, where are your sources for believers being more successful and longer-lived? I highly doubt it. Atheism is correlated with higher levels of education and education is correlated with good health and better earning power. So if anything, the opposite is probably true.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Keith

      Is that waht your preacher told you after he emptied your wallet

      January 7, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • iBod

      That is a load of horse sh..!

      My side of the argument: The South is the region with the worst education and highest rates of poverty in the country. The South is also the most Christian part of the country. I'm not starting a political debate on a religious article, but part of the reason the South has never truly recovered from damages brought on by the Civil War is mostly because they continue to cling to tradition: racism, religion. The Lost Cause. They have never recovered because the politicians have in the hundred fifty years since aided in bringing it to the point it is at today. The politicians have destroyed the South. But still...Why can't they fully recover? Because they are known to cling to tradition. And who better does a Southerner find to uphold their conservative points of view? Republicans. So, in turn, the South's desire to cling to their religion is the reason they are financially poor and poorly educated.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:04 am |
  17. menoc

    I'd say Jesus looked very much like Osama Bin Laden. In fact, if jesus were alive today, he'd be fighting alongside muslims and the CIA would have a Drone missile with Jesus' name on it.

    To jesus, we would be very much "Rome all over again" . . .

    January 7, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Lou

      And he would see that we're overrun with Pharisee-like conservatives who like nothing more than to condemn any act of compassion and social justice. Plus, there's also all the hypocrites who make great shows of praying in public, and all those who make their money on selling items related to God, like Christian music and books. Just like in his own day.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  18. Klaark

    Today Jesus would be labeled a hippie liberal bum by the people who fill his churches.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  19. 5000

    This author was simply writing about what he believes in, trying to get a point across that some may have not thought of. It's amazing how many comments are destructive. If you didn't want to read it, you shouldn't have. That's why this is a personal blog. His beliefs. It's amazing how much negativity is in this world. Give it a rest people. Christ is risen, there is a lot to be learned from His Book.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      "Christ is risen, there is a lot to be learned from His Book."
      is that so?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  20. wishheart

    This article is totally useless and may only harm to those who do not have the knowledge with the Bible. To those who really want the truth please visit http://www.mcgi.org

    January 7, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      ho ho ho

      January 7, 2013 at 12:12 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.