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. Buster

    I'm committed to my topic and always make my point. You missed it because you were not paying attention. In any case, I would encourage you to read the Holy Bible front to back, and do more research on the topic of NDEs, and then draw your own conclusions.

    January 12, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • mama k

      Evidently you missed making a point and missed making a reply Buster.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      like Mussolini said " If not for the Roman empire this little jewish religion would have disappear "

      January 13, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Buster

      Read my postings more carefully.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Kim

      But we skeptics and atheists have done those things and have drawn our own conclusions. They just happen to be more grounded in reason and different than yours, is all.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Buster


      I would encourage you to read God's word (The Holy Bible), and let the word marinate in your mind, heart, soul and Spirit. After this point, you'll be in a better position to make a decision based on sound reason and logic.

      January 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  2. Jay

    Christianity is the only religion in the history of the world that properly acknowledges what God must be, if indeed there is a God, and therefore recognizes that man cannot reach Him by any means. Instead, God loved us so much that he humbled himself to the death of the cross, and paid the price we cannot pay. Reunification of sinful man with holy God by grace is peculiar to Christianity; it's the greatest story ever, there's none other like it.

    Now, fire away with irrelevant comments about the bad things people have done in the name of Christ, the false comparisons to Egyptian myth, and the other silly rebutals of hopeless secularism. Your quarrel is with God, not me.

    January 12, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Kim

      I'd say that Jews and Muslims believe that their faiths both cater to God's specific worship needs as well, and every other religion would claim some unique insight into people's spiritual needs not being met by others. No religion claims to be average, or only moderately capable of satisfying gods and people, so your claim that Christianity is the clear choice for a faith product doesn't impress me much. I'd expect you to say nothing less.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      like Mussolini said " If not for the Roman empire this little jewish religion would have disappear "

      January 13, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  3. revjohnson

    All things will be revealed soon.

    January 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • James

      Yes, science is making great discoveries every day!

      January 13, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  4. revjohnson

    Western civilization is sickening to the stomach. These people live a total lie and look down and kill people who don't look like them(white,blond,slim). Well guess what Jesus(Yehoshua) was a dark skin black man with a nappy fro and a wife and kids. Take that for your fake fairy tale white blonded haired Jesus that is a fragment of European fairy tale. All things will be revealed soon. Western society is based on Greek and Roman civilization and they stole everything from the black Africans. Good luck fixing and explaining your lies when they are exposed and stuff hits the fan.

    January 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Jay

      Wow, so much anger, and you think it's hurting me?

      January 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      like Mussolini said " If not for the Roman empire this little jewish religion would have disappear "

      January 13, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  5. dave

    Jesus didn't die for our sins. Jesus died because he got nailed to a cross.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Nate

      Actually, Dave, I can agree with that, but he did die for our sins. In fact, we sin every day, and back before Jesus was born (B.C.), if people didn't listen to God, they would suffer the consequences. We are all still here today as adults, and we've sinned since we were born, but we never know it. We never think about it, actually. We would possibly be dead by now how many sins we've done. So, technically, he did die because he was nailed to the cross, but it took 9 hours, but he suffered for us. So, yes, he did die for our sins.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • James

      I think that it usually took days for a man to die on the cross. Jesus died rather earlier than expected. Perhaps he really was a drunkard and glutton after all, like he said people were calling him? Out of shape from not working for a living?

      January 13, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • sam stone

      "In fact, we sin every day"

      Nate, you are confusing opinion with fact

      January 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Grouchoman

    Jesus was born dirty, born in a manger with sheep, cows, donkeys and camels. He was NOT a wimpy, lily white guy.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • James

      He didn't last very long on the cross. Sounds pretty wimpy to me.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  7. Hary

    May God forgive you for spreading lies to the millions of people who unfortunately read this site.
    Go to a priest and confess. I will pray for you.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • advizor54

      Hary, Please point out a single "lie" in this piece. I think it's a wonderful take on God who became like man, so we could become like God.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Jay

      Jesus is the only true priest, but would you care to be specific beyond that?

      January 12, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • James

      That's a God who prayed to himself at Gethsemane, right? Why would he need to do that? Pray to his God, like a devout Jew would, yes, but why would one part of God need to verbally ask for spiritual help from one of his other parts? Hardly the omniscient thing to do, is it?

      January 13, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  8. steama

    It seems Jesus was not only full of crap but covered in it too. Not surprising crap begets crap.

    January 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • NoName

      You don't have to believe in God...but it would be nice to respect other people's beliefs.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • James

      Do Christians respect the beliefs of people of different faiths when the declare that their's is the ONLY way? With that statement aren't you basically expressing the view that nonChristian faiths are wrong, and a waste of people's faith? Now, is that being "respectful"?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  9. pbernasc

    Jesus passed gas so much .. God almost fired him

    January 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • James

      That's what they meant by "Casting out evil spirits"! 🙂

      January 13, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  10. Zane

    Oh my gosh, do you think Jesus might have had a cold and coughed up phlegm at some time in his life? Wow!

    Did he also get those annoying eye boogers in the corners of his eyes sometimes when he woke up in the morning? Amazing!

    Now, here is the biggest, most Earth-shattering question of all time: Did Jesus fart?

    January 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Comic relief

      Jesus farted once. It was the "big bang".

      January 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  11. Jon Durham

    They just don't make Jews like Jesus anymore.

    January 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Gerry

      There are a lot of good Jews nowadays, and many wise rabbis, just like Jesus.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:05 am |
  12. david

    It shows us the great love that God has for us,
    the huge price God paid for our redemption.
    leaving his throne of glory, to live a life of misery,
    suffering shame and humiliation and being God does not care.
    if we do not honor God's name today
    sanctifying our lives,
    in the day of reckoning in court of God,
    we will not have words to defend our case.
    God is a God of love but also he is a God of justice
    and That will by no means clear the guilty.
    God blessb you.

    January 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Kay

      Huh??? Out of all eternity, God spends a whole 33 years on earth. Then goes back to being God in Heaven.

      Why the heck do you consider that a "huge price"???

      January 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • William


      Good show of religious tolerance. Pfft.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Gerry

      This is a discussion blog, can't anyone ask a question or two? There are so many things about Christian belief that few, if anyone, can actually explain. For example, I've always wondered who actually witnessed Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness? Surely nobody would have just taken his word on such a claim, right? So, I often wonder how that little story got into the gospel.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      like Mussolini said " If not for the Roman empire this little jewish religion would have disappear "

      January 13, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  13. Wire Palladin S.F.

    The author's viewpoints coincide closely to the lds beliefs.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  14. joe

    Funny, there is no misinterpretation of Caesar, or even Spartacus.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Pete

      Yup, Kirk Douglas was about as historically accurate as you can get.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  15. Buster


    People should pay attention to Harvard Nuerosurgeon Eben Alexander's story as it can encourage them, and increase their level of faith, but it should not be the foundation of faith. Let's take a look at all NDE survivors. What do they all have in common?
    Answer: they lived to tell the tale.
    These NDE stories may or may not have specific scientific explanations, but that is beside the point. God may have given a few of them a vision or sample of what is to come, but it may not necessarily be the Heaven described in the Bible. When a person truly dies a Biblical death (By Biblical, I'm referring to the fact that they are not coming back any time soon), they will stand in judgement before the Lord. At this time the Lord will execute righteous judgement. For those who have accepted Christ, and lived according to His word will live with Him in paradise. For those who did not accept Christ, or listened to programs like Ophrah Winfrey (or atheists, many academics, DePak Chopra, and non-God believers like Richard Dawkins, etc...) got convinced that there are many paths to God, will face conscious and visceral punishment. As it states in the Bible, the only way to get to Heaven is through Christ, and that path is indeed narrow, but wide is the road that leads to destruction.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Emma

      If they lived to tell a tale then they weren't really dead to begin with, right? What they most likely experienced is a dream-like sensation from lack of oxygen, an experience that would probably be the same for everyone just as people experience strokes pretty much the same way around the world.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Buster People all around the world have experienced near death events...of all regions and non-believers...over all those people do not have the same experience but those that are religious see the after life in terms of their religion, but all have a spiritual experience that changes them....What I am curious is do these prove that Christians are correct..Muslims say it re-enforces their beliefs, Buddhist say it re-enforces their beliefs, Native Americans say it supports their view on a spirit world.. What can we say for sure... just maybe that there may be more to our reality then we think... If Time is a dimension..separate from the 3 dimension of space..then. why not a level or dimension for thought...for intelligence, or the spirit..

      January 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      We understand NDE well. It is sometimes the fight or flight release of adrenaline or the body's release of dopamine during trauma that cause hallucinations perceived by @3% of the general population. Half of the people experiencing it aren't actually near death. One can experience the same effects with various drugs.

      This is a reason Sam Harris declined a debate with him. There's not enough time in the world to expose every NDE fraud. It is a known fraud, or if you want to be polite call it a misconception. There's no need to debate it. We can't spend life worrying about Bigfoot because a believer will claim he is hiding behind the next stand of trees.

      Your god is a known fiction. No debate necessary on whatever carnival of lies surrounds the assertion otherwise.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Kim

      The brain is easily fooled. try this optical illusion. The religious explanation would be that the squares actually do bend. 🙂


      January 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Buster

      All of you missed the point of my posting. It does not matter if NDEs have a scientific explanation or other cultures have similar experiences. When a person truly dies they don't experience NDE, but DE or death experience which is relatively permanent. During a DE the person will be judged by Christ and either go to the Biblical Heaven or face punishment in Hell.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Kay

      We missed your point, Buster, because you never actually *made* a point. *YOU* were the one who brought up NDEs...telling us what we should pay attention to...then blew off everything you said.

      So...why did you bring up NDEs in the first place???

      As far as *your* determining what alleged "judgements" people will face, well....no one died and made you God, now did they?

      January 12, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Pete

      How would anyone know whether people who are really dead go to Heaven or Hell? Interview them at a seance?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:27 am |
  16. dreamer96


    The Bible is full of contradictions even Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John cannot agree of the details and travels or Jesus...
    The King James version was put together by 47 Religious Scholars the picked which stories to include...saying the hand of God guided them...to pick which to include...all were written long after the death of Jesus, all by those that said God guided their hand...and yet some were not included....The dead sea scrolls do not agree with the Bible...We can not say for sure exactly what Jesus will do with the Devil after he is defeated...is he cast into the burning lake of fire..or the bottomless pit...and why are the humans that sin dammed for all time...but the Devil himself is released after 1,000 years?....

    January 12, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Zane

      The Devil started out as an angel. God told all the angels in Heaven to never bow to anyone but him.

      Then, God created Adam, and he commanded all the angels to bow down before Adam.

      When Satan refused, he was cast out of Heaven, and he became the Devil.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Pete

      You realize that Milton "filled in" Paradise Lost with details not found in the Bible?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • dinard38

      Well, now I can answer the question about the thousand years. Read Revelations, Chapter 20. So....allegedly after the Tribulation period, god will send an angel down to bind that wascally wabbit known as Satan and cast him into a bottomless pit for a thousand years. During the thousand years there is peace and tranquility on earth. Then after a thousand years, Satan is loosed upon earth for a short period of time to, once again, cause chaos and destruction. He will also get ready for battle by assembling his troops.......which makes no damn sense because as soon as he gathered his troops, god rains down fire on him and cast him into the lake of fire and brimstone forever....so what's the purpose of releasing him for a thousand years and gathering up troops to fight a battle that will never happen??? Beats me!! 😛

      January 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  17. Peter

    Jesus is accessible and loving as always but He holds to a standard which we see that standard in society slipping really fast. Of course you will see Jesus portrayed more and more loosely because those in society are finding it increasingly hard to live to the standard so rather than raising our society lets lower the bar. Welcome to the gov they cannot control spending and balance the budget so lets raise taxes and raise the debt limit. Are you so stupid to not see that as society goes down the tubes that those that follow Jesus will be increasingly out of step? Jesus never came for everyone contrary to all who want to preach the goody 2 shoes Jesus. He came to call His own yes all can come but He already knows whose are his. If you still doubt why didnt Jesus just heal all who were around Him rather than a some in each town? The Bible talks about the end times that will those who truly are children of God be here to worship Him when He returns. That is not a comforting thought. Atheists in times past would be delegated to the back doors of society the dregs so to speak yet we see them openly challenging Christians and insulting them on their own blog page. What loose of morals in society has allowed this to happen and you wonder why we have to bring Jesus down?

    January 12, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • End Religion

      bozo, it is a public blog, no more yours than mine.

      Religion is a manmade club like any other, with rules by which to segregate and perks to make the club feel special from other clubs. The club gets together periodically to reinforce the delusions of members. Many branches of this club have dues which most call a tithe. Each club redefines words so its intolerance seems righteous.

      You've chosen, or were likely born into a family who joined, the club that aligns best with your own fantasy concerning how to minimize your fears in life. You and others in the club are afraid so you've made up a god that soothes you by making decisions for you, helping you feel less alone in the universe, and promising you life everlasting. The various club gods offer perks to induce membership such as seeing dead relatives, virginal sex partners, planets to rule or even one's own god status.

      The Jesus you believe in never existed, was and is king of nothing. The bible is a collection of stolen, modified, pre-fabricated myth and forgeries about a non-existent deity. You don't have to be afraid. You do not need religion.

      Deal with the lack of afterlife by celebrating life and family in the here and now. Be responsible for your own decisions. Be kind to the earth and others on it. Forge a path with determination, or "go with the flow" and let life determine the course if you're the lazy type. Either way, you don't need a god or a club for any of that.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Peter's post is not of someone who could be described as a bozo .... He reasons very well.
      But you, on contrary, sound much like a bozo!

      January 12, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Great post, Peter. Much depth in it ...also wisdom and discernment. Praise be to God!

      January 12, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • End Religion

      yeah, peter sounds perfectly reasonable, you deluded dolt. In one sentence he earns "bozo" multiple times.

      "we see [atheists] openly challenging Christians and insulting them on their own blog page"
      – as if an atheist speaking on a public forum in a free country is unacceptable
      – as if "challenging a christian," let alone any view in a free society, is unacceptable
      – as if a public blog is his

      To stuff so much idiocy into one sentence is to earn "bozo." And that's being generous...

      January 12, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      Believer logic: If it comes from a fellow believer it is reasonable, logic and true, and if it comes from anyone else, it isn't.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Emma

      Why should everyone try to uphold Jesus' 2000 year old standard? Hasn't society moved beyond the casual acceptance of slavery and subservience of women that was the accepted norm back in his day?

      January 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Kim

      So, you think this is a Christian blog? Have you actually read the "About this blog" blurb on this page? The word "Christian" doesn't even appear there. ER is right, you are a bozo.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Kay

      "Jesus never came for everyone contrary to all who want to preach the goody 2 shoes Jesus. He came to call His own yes all can come but He already knows whose are his."

      So you're saying there is no free will? That it's already been pre-determined who will or won't be saved? And that a loving Jesus who opens his arms to all in hopes that they will *ALL* come to Him is a "goody 2 shoes Jesus"???

      Shame on you.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Peter

      I didn't see anything about atheist either.

      January 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      like Mussolini said " If not for the Roman empire this little jewish religion would have disappear "

      January 13, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Kim

      That's because it's a discussion for EVERYONE, get it?

      January 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  18. Peter

    There's a parallel here. If you look at the way Jesus has been portrayed over the last century in movies, TV programs and radio dramas, you'll see that, up until around the 1970s, portrayals of Jesus were overly reverent. Jesus spoke only in King James' English, and in a very stilted delivery. More recently, you see and hear Jesus portrayed in a more casual, accessible way that makes him more relatable.

    As an excellent example, I recommend the radio plays by Nick Warburton, "Witness: Five Plays from the Gospel of Luke."

    January 12, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • End Religion

      The enemy of the church is reason. People are becoming overall more informed, so the church (which is nothing but a pack of lies) is trying to moderate to stay alive. Religion is thankfully in its death throes. Go away, Peter, you bigot. The world doesn't need or want you.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Peter

      Ha, ha! End Religion, you are so funny! That is so adorkable! You crack me up!

      January 13, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Georgie Vasquez

      too stupid for science , try religion

      January 13, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  19. Odin

    Loki threw up on the floor once...

    January 12, 2013 at 5:52 am |
  20. Krishna's eye liner

    If you are selecting a diety based only on time spent on hair and wardrobe Krishna would probably be your best bet.

    January 12, 2013 at 5:37 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.