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.

'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article

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. thedarkelf

    Im happy to know how Jesus was human fine. I didnt need the "author" using shock value to see his book. Why didnt he pick the profit Mohamed as a subject? AFRAID yes. Just a simple self righteous, want to be famous author. I hope that most people can see the truth here and not bother buying a book based on Jesus's bowel movements. Its ridiculous. And to the nonbelievers some day on you death bed you will prey I have seen this many times. And remember your the minority and I would be careful about mocking people religious beliefs

    January 7, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "I would be careful about mocking people's religious beliefs"

      OR WHAT???

      You sound like a four year old – Oooh, wait til my daddy shows up, then you're going to get it!

      Must be nice living your life based on fear of, and submission to, some giant abusive parent.

      Try growing up and thinking for yourself.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Intresting

      that you would misuse the word profit for prophet since most of the articles wriiten and placed on this blog are by authors trying to flog their book. Prophits for profit, get it?

      January 7, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Pray without ceasing in 2013
    Prayer changes things

    January 7, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Yes, Prayer changes things. Such as the Manhattan skyline when some religious nuts prayed to their god for success. Guess he answered their prayers.

      Yay, prayers!

      Oh, hang on . . .

      January 7, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • BOB

      I kind of like the idea that Jesus passed gas in front of the other 12 guys. I feel better knowing he probably let one slip...Jesus was that you? Oh Jesus that one stunk!

      January 7, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • richunix

      Prayer is a very human concept, however making the statement “Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things” is a poor choice of words. Atheism allows for the person to accept that the world is changing, Christianity does not (Fear must breed fear in order for dear to continue).

      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.”

      January 7, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  3. pjr

    I hope many of you don't have children. Because the things you believed in will surely ruin them for life. Give them the opportunity to decide for themselves.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  4. lies

    this is total Blasphemy. and you are additionally and idiot.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Blasphemy is an idiotic concept, and those who make charges of blasphemy are idiots.

      Oooh, isn't your god tough enough to withstand someone saying something about him? Wimp. (That would be directed to both you and your god)

      January 7, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • sam stone

      what is blasphemous about it? saying someone who lifed in that region of the world two millenia ago might have had more difficulty with cleanliness than someone living in the modern world?

      "and you are additionally and idiot."
      AN idiot. If you are going to call people idiots, be sure that you don't come off as one. I do realize it is too late on that last point, but perhaps you can use the advice in the future, d-bag

      January 7, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • thedarkelf

      I dare this slime ball to discribe The Profit Mohammad in this fashion! He would be killed in a week.He is only speaking in this manor in an attempt to sell his book. The shock value GET IT! I would love to meet this man so he could tell me all about it.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • PastorJack

      Maybe if you actaully read your Bible, you would see most of the things this man states are in the scriptures.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • fintastic

      @jack..... and the scriptures are mythology.... now what's your point?

      January 7, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  5. Won't matter

    If christians can get all riled up and into a praying and worshiping frenzy over some bird sh it splattered on a statue of the virgin Mary, I can't see them getting upset if jesus smelt like an unwashed pig farmer. Pontious Pilate was heard to say, keep him outside, I just had the place cleaned.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:10 am |
  6. NephilimFree

    At this moment there are millions of people living without running water and electricity. But CNN wants you to have images in your head of Jesus performing bowel movements because to them a bowel movement is what he is. Thank God such hatred of God is self-destructive.

    Matthew 6
    [31] Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
    [32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
    [33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yes, because if some guy's opinion blog said jesus was clean instead, world hunger, water and electricity would be solved.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • NClaw441

      This article does not bother me. Jesus was all human, and the descriptions in the article are part of the human condition. It shows, in part, what Christ was willing to endure for us, when He could have avoided it all.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ NC – endured? Jesus was supposedly a chunk of an all-powerful, all-knowing god. What's the big deal about a bit of dirt to a god???

      Silly, silly Christians. Have you ever stopped to consider just how silly and illogical the whole "Sacrifice of Jesus" myth really is?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • sam stone

      i see the christian persecution complex is in fine form with you, nephilim

      January 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • sam stone

      nclaw: avoided what, a bad weekend?

      his daddy/himself knew what was going to happen (being omniscient) but chose to let it happen anyway.

      how do you reconcile the concepts of an all powerful, all knowing god with suffering?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      CNN is merely reporting what some believer wrote. Don't shoot the messenger. . .

      January 7, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • NClaw441

      attack– I don't claim perfect knowledge or understanding. My own family doesn't look to me for that, so I hope you don't. However, my understanding (and faith) is that God sent His son to earth in human form as a sacrfice for the sins of the world. While Christ was (and is) divine, God made Him all human, or else the very issue you raise would obliterate His life on earth, I agree. I believe that Jesus was a man of faith, and while He, through faith, believed He was the Son of God, nevertheless had doubts, to go along with the rest of His human condition. Yes, I'd say He endured being human, just as we all do.

      I understand that you do not believe as I do. I am not trying to force anyone to believe anything, only stating my own faith. You believe differently. I get that, and understand.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  7. M

    Are considerations like whether or not Jesus had severe diarrhea worthwhile? They aren't worth my time. Goodbye!

    January 7, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Kevin H

      I'm sorry – and you posted because???

      January 12, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  8. richunix

    Nice article, rather funny, but believable. If history is correct Jesus was born into a common family, destine to be a laborer (which he was). Outside of his dirty hands, Christianity was and is a very human creation

    January 7, 2013 at 6:55 am |

    Oh my what a revelation!!! After these many years we have genius!! Give him the Noble Prize, that will shut him up!!!!

    January 7, 2013 at 6:46 am |
  10. WASP

    finally someone putting it out there. lmao
    i love how christians have that prestin image of jesus when he lived during a time period that was disease riddened.
    no hot showers, no....................well any modern convience yet somehow "jesus" was able to stay perfectly clean. lmao
    the number one problem i have with the image of jesus in churchs is that the guy is white. seriously? he was born as a carpenters son in isreal.
    it's far more likely that he had a pigment to his skin and had a "farmers tan" to boot. he would have been far from the
    clean anglosaxon look i see in murals and church paintings.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Rick Doty

      Speculation is all you can do and your article is not one that any Christian will take serious – you are a liberal. He was put on this earth as a man for God had a reason for His divine plan. I know you are not a beliver and when your time comes to pass – I hope you remember that you may have to answer to Him one day...

      January 7, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • Sane Person

      You just keep threatening people with your fantasies, you'll be ok. "You just wait til your sky daddy gets home!! Then you'll get it!"

      January 7, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • WASP


      LMFAO! seriously you come at me with the whole " wait and see" BS? well on that note, wait until you die, you will have to answer to odin as to why you failed to believe in him....................oh and BTW THOR is kindof a pain when he isn't given he aknowledgements either.

      thanks for the laugh loser.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'Rick Doty' is a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.


      January 7, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • sam stone

      rick: oooh, scary stuff

      January 7, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  11. lou

    Any atheists out there ever look into bacterial flagellum. It's a very interesting part of our world that may hold some proof or at least some evidence to prove that something more is going on in this world than simply spontaneous life from nowhere.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Sane Person

      So your take is, if we dont fully understand a thing scientifically yet, then the answer must be magic? Few hundred years ago, Television was magic. Radio, internet, modern medicine, explosives, all magic before they were understood. So now that those other things have been explained, we move on to bacterial flagellum. And when we explain that satisfactorily? (Which we mostly already have) Then what? Start claiming that since we dont understand faster than light travel yet, that proves god?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • James

      If you're going to use the bacterial flagellum as an argument for intelligent design you should probably also read up on the type III secretion system, which many biologists feel provides an evolutionary path for the flagellum's development.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Simran

      Your point being?.... Oh, you talk of irreducible complexity!


      January 7, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'lou' is an instance of the Argument from Ignorance fallacy.


      January 7, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Sane Person

      @ sane person

      Can't you think of your own name? Or are you just a fan of my work?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Sane Person

      A gaseous discharge by any other name...

      January 7, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Sane Person

      Sorry toots, I've been me for far far longer than you. Good try tho!

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

      Why yes... the bacterial flagellum being made in whole as it is presently was completely debunked at the kitzmiller vs. Dover trial by catholic Dr. Miller of Brown university.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  12. Rafa

    and even with all these dirty things Jesus´s thoughts are still impacting lifes these days. His thoughts were able to change the way of living and the way of taking care of each other. Even with all these dirty things I do belive that He had something special, don´t you think? Love Jesus....

    January 7, 2013 at 6:42 am |
  13. lou

    Maybe it's mentioned in this book but there was also no dental floss, tooth paste, toilet paper, air freshener, shampoo and conditioner, biore black head remover, hair gel, an ear and nose hair trimmer, etc. His timing was not accidental. I have thought of the reasons He might have chosen this period instead of our time and it makes sense to me in many ways.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • Sane Person

      He couldnt afford manscaping?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:28 am |
    • Frances French

      Really, doesn't the media have anything better than to speculate on weather Jesus was dirty or not? I tend to think He was as clean as anyone else in those time There were lots of wells for water in the region mentioned in the Bible and don't forget the Seas and rivers around the places He walked. ..Huh, seems to me they were always washing their feet. So what if he was dirty? Still love Him. I think Satan was dirty and smelly, just consider the constant heat and stench in Hell? Yuck! Reportes give us something news worthy...jerks!

      January 7, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Liam

      It's amazing that the human race survived. How could people stand to get close enough to each other to procreate!

      January 7, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      What are the ways it makes sense? Appear in a time where record keeping, and ways to verify events, was almost non-existent? A time when the average person was illiterate, not knowledgeable in any way about science, and thus more easily swayed? A time when communication was solely word of mouth?

      Why not appear in a place and at a time where the appearance can be validated, as opposed to a time where it is the most difficult to validate?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Sure it makes sense...people weren't as educated as they are now, they (like lou) were stupid enough to believe anything.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • WASP

      i imagine jesus had horrible breath and poor gum health seeing dental hygene wasn't possble during that time either; thus he was probably missing a few teeth.
      no trimmers and the hand to mouth shoveling method of eating would have left food particules in his beard.
      no combs or readily available grooming tools would have had his beard and hair dingy and matted together.
      weeks if not months without a decent bath would have made his B.O. almost unbearable to be near.

      so the image of jesus would have resembled that of your local wino instead of the well groomed anglosaxon "demi-god" as portrayed by the church.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  14. Oneforall777

    Looking at many of these comments it seems Satan is alive and well and has many followers.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:07 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Given that Satan is about as real as god, and that we dismiss what can't be proven without evidence, it would appear you are deluded.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • sam stone

      oooooh.....satan.....pretty scary stuff......for those who believe in it. oneforall777, the fact that people disagree with you does not mean they are demonically influenced. so, get off your pedestal, you pompous a$$

      January 7, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • Sane Person

      Looking at that comment, delusion is going strong in 2013. You just keep threatening people with your fantasies, you'll be ok. "You just wait til your sky daddy gets home!! Then you'll get it!"

      January 7, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • lou

      He outwitted many in not believing in a creator.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Perhaps all of the "believers" posting here have been fooled by this Satan fellow. How could one tell?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Satan

      Thanks...see you guys at the end of your rope....hehehehe..

      January 7, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • rick eppard

      It surprise me...you having all of this knowledge...do not understand,,,,,about the revelation of Jesus....he was just a man..but the only man that could resist the temptation of of this world.....
      like it or not he did it...he resisted...so at that point he became the son of God....as it was written...
      if you are a spiritual man...then test your self...if you ask God to test you you will be tested....
      and I will tell you you will fail the test...
      I wish i could explain this to you,,,,,but unless you have the spirit of God in you...You wont understand....but if by some,,
      strange coincidence....you do have the faith in spiritual matters...of God...then ask him to test you...I assure you,,,this will
      confirm...the true meaning of my God........good luck....

      January 7, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Captain Kirk

      To Rick: must claim . . . copyright infringement on . . . your . . . writing style! That . . . was mine, and . . . mine alone. your . . . use of ellipses . . .must . . . be stopped!!!

      January 7, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  15. pray

    Thanks for a well written and eye opening article. Appreciated it

    January 7, 2013 at 6:05 am |
  16. Jim Jones

    So much mental effort wasted on fairy tales. He night just as well talked about how dirty Frodo Baggins was on his way to Mt. Doom. I mean, he went through woods, fields, mountains, swamps and desserts without ever an opportunity to bathe, except maybe while in Rivendell. We don't like to think of Frodo, the hero as being dirty, but he was. He also probably had to defecate on the side of the road more than once.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:47 am |
    • earmstrong24

      and when the world with the elves and dwarfs and man all jockeying for power the one who saved middle earth was a little halfling from the shire!

      January 7, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      They should have just taken the Eagles to Mount Doom directly – save a Hell of a lot of trouble.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Michael

      People may dispute Jesus's deity, but no sane historian, buddhist, christian, atheist, or flying-spaghettiest disputes that a Jesus walked the Earth and was executed. With that said, why not write an opinion article about how a historical figure has been given a false, perma-clean image in many churches?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      I do, and I'm sane. There is insufficient, cogent, probative evidence to establish that there was the human Jesus as depicted in the Bible. Where are the valid first hand accounts? Not there? It's all made up, and reinterpreted, and fudged with over hundreds of years to come up with a suitable myth.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  17. Leo

    Johnny Rotton

    January 7, 2013 at 5:15 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Rosie Cotton

      January 7, 2013 at 6:48 am |
  18. Conni

    Johnnie Moore...why not write about mohammed if you have the cajones (didn't think so...)

    January 7, 2013 at 5:08 am |
    • jESS

      because usually people(mostly Christians) attack only Mohammad and they over do it...I'm so tired of it! I never hear Muslims attacking Jesus all the time or make fun of Christianity.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:21 am |
    • ilskim

      "because usually people(mostly Christians) attack only Mohammad and they over do it...I'm so tired of it! I never hear Muslims attacking Jesus all the time or make fun of Christianity."

      Seriously?? WOW...you must've never read the Quran or talked to any knowledgeable Muslims

      January 7, 2013 at 6:04 am |
    • saggyroy

      What we need is a winner take all no-holds barred death match....a thrilla in Manilla....Jesus' followers can jump in the ring and bash Mohammed (and visa versa) with folding chairs and jump on him from step ladders....

      January 7, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • sam stone

      Conni: Because he is a vice president at Liberty University (Jerry Fartwell's wet dream), that's why. What authority would he have to write something on Islam?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:21 am |
    • Kevin H

      I really do love Jesus. It's his loving but heavily flawed followers who commit sin again and again and then expect forgiveness that I find utterly disgusting and vile.

      January 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  19. raeafdd

    I am so angry right now.
    Some kid planned to blow something up with chewing tobacco cans!
    Those things are freaking plastic or paper and maybe some glue.

    This is the story that made national news, really?
    Maybe if his local town had harassed him less he would have been fine.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:03 am |
    • Sane Person

      Its a blog. An opinion piece. Sunday fluff. CNN's website has hundreds of stories linked from it. If you really think every single one of them is going to be personally important to you, then congratualtions, you are yet another person who thinks the world revolves around them.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • earmstrong24

      you think one blog post about jesus takes away from the reporting? i smell a slightttt overreaction here...

      January 7, 2013 at 6:16 am |
  20. tylerwyler

    Wow. So, the author is saying that Jesus had the screaming squirts? I wonder if he ever had projectile blasts... I did once while I was living in West Africa and had food poisoning. Totally painted a wall with feces. I mean, top to bottom, side to side. Anyway, jesus is love. And crap.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Same thing happened to my dog – a big newfoundlander that was very sick. Brought him into the vet's office – as i get him in there his butt explodes and sprays everywhere. By the time I got him turned around and back out the door he pretty much had the whole office done about three feet up the walls, Grossest thing I've ever seen.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:50 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.