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Amid Orthodox Christmas, Egypt's Christians fear for their rights under Islamist government
Newly elected leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian, Pope Tawadros II, (C) Head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, leads the Coptic Christmas midnight mass at the al-Abasseya Cathedral in Cairo late on January 6, 2013.
January 7th, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Amid Orthodox Christmas, Egypt's Christians fear for their rights under Islamist government

By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN

(CNN)–
It's Orthodox Christmas, but the mood in Cairo's working-class Shobra district this year is somber. There aren't many colorful festivities and decorations that traditionally mark Eastern Christmas celebrations in this predominantly Christian neighborhood, and Shobra's Coptic Christian residents say they are in no mood to celebrate.

Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt's Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year's celebrations.

"Many of my friends and relatives have left the country," said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. "I would leave, too, if I had a place to go."

Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt's Christians.

Military sources, meanwhile, said Monday that Egyptian security forces had thwarted a militant attack on a church in Rafah the previous night. The would-be assailants fled after a military patrol spotted their unlicensed vehicles parked outside the town's Orthodox Christian church, which militants torched weeks after the January 2011 uprising. Soldiers found weapons in one of the vehicles and presume the escaped militants were planning to use them in their attack.

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Egypt's Christians are also concerned about the country's newly drafted constitution, which was written by an Islamist-dominated assembly. Liberal opposition political forces say the charter, which passed last month after being put to a popular vote, undermines religious freedoms and does not guarantee equal rights for Copts, despite an article in the constitution that says Muslims, Christians and Jews have a right to practice their religions freely. Church members on the constituent assembly, which was elected by parliament to draft the constitution, walked out weeks before the completion of the draft document, citing concerns about articles they said "contradict the principles of citizenship."

In a recent interview with the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the newly elected Orthodox Christian patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, said that while Christians accept Article 2 of the constitution, which says the principles of Islamic Sharia law are the main source of legislation, they are worried about an article that spells out what those principles are in Islamic terms. "This new provision makes the constitution unrepresentative of the whole society," he said.

Despite the Copts' increasing fears, it's not all doom and gloom for Egypt's Christians. A new law on houses of worship is under discussion in the Shura Council - the upper house of parliament, which recently has taken over legislation until the new People's Assembly, or lower house, is elected next month. Once passed, the new legislation will allow Christians to build and renovate their churches as stipulated by the constitution, a far cry from the days of toppled President Hosni Mubarak, when building and restoring churches required a presidential decree.

Moreover, in a recent meeting with Coptic clerics, President Mohamed Morsy promised to approve a unified law on personal affairs of non-Muslims. The law, which was drafted by the late Pope Shenouda III and is now under study, would allow Egyptian Christians to refer to their own religious edicts in matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, and would allow them to choose their religious clerics.

Copts however, complain of continued discrimination. "Copts were grossly underrepresented in parliament and in government under Mubarak. They continue to be discriminated against under Islamist President Mohamed Morsy, despite promises that he would be the president for all Egyptians," Coptic lawyer Nabil Ghabriel said.

The Islamist-dominated Cabinet has just one Christian woman - Nadia Zachary, who was appointed as minister of state for scientific research - and Copts continue to have little more than a token presence in the government. Moreover, Samir Morcos, the sole Coptic presidential aide, resigned in November to protest the sweeping powers that Morsy gave himself in a controversial constitutional declaration. Morcos said he was not consulted about the widely criticized declaration.

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Pope Tawadros has urged political parties to place Copts, women and youth revolutionaries at the top of their electoral lists in upcoming elections in a bid to give them adequate representation in parliament. He has also proposed allocating specific constituencies for Christians - a suggestion that Islamists are likely to reject.

Addressing the Christian faithful at the traditional Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday, Tawadros asked the congregation "to pray for Egypt." But he denied that Egyptian Copts are facing a crisis, reminding Christians that sectarian incidents had sporadically occurred in the country during the three decades of Mubarak's rule.

While the pope sounded an optimistic note, saying he anticipates a better future for Egypt, many Christians attending the prayers said they did not share his optimism. "The fact that President Morsy did not attend the Mass himself, but sent a government official to represent him, is a sign that little will change," Hani Tadros, 43, said as he left the cathedral in Abbasiya after attending the prayers.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic • Coptic Church • Egypt

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. nutrition healthy foods

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    June 15, 2013 at 6:40 am |
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      June 15, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  2. copticsistuh

    Im really shocked at the insults, I am a coptic christian and cant believe people are joking around about our Pope and what we wear. we are the oldest christian church in the world, we are proof of how ancient christians worship 200AD. we always mind our business, we never bother anyone, we dont go to doors knocking so u can convert , we dont go on tv preaching, we worship privately and this is what we get. wow the world is truely messed up, people dont know between right and wrong, and everyone making fun of our peope has no values or morals or respect whatsoever. why dont u all go poke fun at muhammad or buddha or whatever other god people believe in.

    February 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  3. mzh

    When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated to Medina from Mecca in the year of 622, he found that there were Jews and Christians lives in Medina, he (pbuh) confirmed that they will have their social security as they also pay taxes, he (pbuh) did not seperate or devide the land... Islam does not allow to draw a line in terms of living in same society but when it comes to worship – you do your and i as muslim do mine... its so simple, isn't it? 🙂

    January 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  4. Dirty Fossil

    No g-od roaming around 244 MILLION years ago !
    A fossil skeleton found in central Nevada's desert years ago has been identified as belonging to a 30-foot-long sea monster that ruled beneath the waves 244 million years ago.

    January 8, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  5. the AnViL

    muslim extremist = devout muslim

    January 8, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • faith

      ANVIL BRAIN B Back

      rectum lover

      welcome

      she is named in the lawsuit, too

      June 15, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  6. Bootyfunk

    these guys live in a bizarre dark ages renaissance fair, where you can't escape from 15th century ignorance.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:34 am |
  7. buddy

    BD, get out while you can. Swimming in this swill of sewage exposes you to filth borne diseases of the soul.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:48 am |
  8. loramacantoch

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    January 8, 2013 at 1:44 am |
  9. Apatheist

    Those Egyptians really take their costume parties seriously...

    January 7, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Apatheist

      I see I'm rather late to the party with my comment. =)

      January 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • truly......

      No you re spot on with your comment... i had to do a double take...thought someone had actually photographed Santa.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  10. truly......

    One religious group targeting another religious group?.....because of a difference in religious philosophy? ....and the religious cant grasp how our world would be better without religion....they say they have a better moral compass...
    and they dont trust atheists because they cant fathom where Their morals come from....

    Well i ve yet to see one atheist try to kill another over atheism..... Governments work in the west because of secularism. time for humanity to catch a bloody clue!

    January 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  11. saggyroy

    Afraid of Islamist's? The most peaceful religion in the universe?

    January 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Metoo

      are you sure that islam is the most peaceful relegion ?!!! if you want to see the truth , look to the islamic countries and what is going on overthere and you will see the amazing peace of islam.

      February 3, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  12. niknak

    Man, look at that gettup that fool is wearing.
    Although that would be a dope halloween costume.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      As a Mennonite I would sell all the gold in that garb and give it to Mennonite Disaster Service to help put roofs on homes damaged from Sandy.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Haven't you heard nik...making judgements on others you know nothing about when out of style a long time ago.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I kinda like the outfit...too bad I'd never pull it off.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • frank

      Wow – or use that thing as a scarecrow.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Father Gaga?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • damien

      That scene gives me the creeps. They are often not very careful with that Holy water. And it BUURRRNNS. It BUURRRNNNSS!!

      January 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Merlin

      The magical Wizardy look speaks for itself...

      January 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Science

      bill the hats comedy gold .................you could trap/chain up tinker bell in one of those hats. from an old speed read

      A War Without End, With Earth's Carbon Cycle Held in the Balance

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213132323.htm

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/15/belief-blogs-morning-speed-read-for-friday-february-15-2013/comment-page-3/#comments

      June 15, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  13. Reality

    The easy, safe and peaceful answer to the problems of all concerned (only for new member of this blog)

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    January 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      What's priceless about this? It's 99% opinion and we all know how much opinions on here are worth.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Reality

      Details as requested:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      January 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Reality

      More details:

      AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      Some added references to "tink-erbells".

      newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      For added information see the review at:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel
      "The prophet Ezekiel described an incredible vision of cherubim angels in Ezekiel chapter 10 of the Torah and the Bible, mentioning that the angels’ wings were “completely full of eyes” (verse 12) and “under their wings was what looked like human hands” (verse 21). The angels each used their wings and something “like a wheel intersecting a wheel” (verse 10) that “sparkled like topaz” (verse 9) to move around."

      For a rather extensive review of angel wings, see http://angels.about.com/od/AngelBasics/a/Angels-Wings-And-Things.htm

      January 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Reality

      More details:

      1. See above.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate, dirty, sometimes sick Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      earlychristianwritings.com/

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current problems:

      The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

      5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the

      January 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  14. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    Every hindu racist follower of hinduism, racism must be made to feel unsafe, hindu Mithra ism, criminal savior ism, labeled as Christianity, celebrated by display of sign of hinduism racism cross, of hind, dark ages is based not on human equality, but hinduism, denial of truth absolute, based on hinduism criminality of hindu Jew's, criminal secular to drive humanity into gentile ism. slavery. It should be eliminated by law for good of humanity.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  15. Mohammad A Dar

    look at that colorful Thanksgiving turkey, why someone put that heavy crown on his head?

    January 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  16. THE BROWN NOTE

    I HAVE ARRIVED FOR SAUCE.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Christian Mingle

    Where's my match, god damnit ?.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  18. William Demuth

    Fear for their rights?

    Rights are given by the state

    So in effect, they don't actually have any at all.

    If I was them, I would be more worried about being hung or gassed or fed to dogs.

    If they don't run, when they die, I will remind you that I gave them fair warning

    Religious people kill each other, always have, always will.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      The rights of man..where everyone has the right to believe as they will. The right to try and find some measure of happiness in their lives.
      These are rightd worth fighting for.

      When the Nazis came for the communists,
      I remained silent;
      I was not a communist.

      When they locked up the social democrats,
      I remained silent;
      I was not a social democrat.

      When they came for the trade unionists,
      I did not speak out;
      I was not a trade unionist.

      When they came for the Jews,
      I remained silent;
      I wasn't a Jew.

      When they came for me,
      there was no one left to speak out.
      (Martin Niemöller)

      January 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      In America rights are divinely apportioned by our Creator. The Constiitution proscribes the limits whereby the state is prohibited from infringing on them.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Rights?

      Tales told by fools!

      You have the right to take as much as you can, until you get caught.

      If they believe for a minute their space monkey will protect them I suggest a visit to Treblinka.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      William Demuth-"You have the right to take as much as you can, until you get caught."

      That's because you are harming another person and their rights. We are not talking about that..we are talking about human rights....those such as worship that does not impede on another person's faith.

      When they came for the athiests,
      I remained silent;
      I wasn't an atheist.

      When they came for me,
      there was no one left to speak out.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  19. realbuckyball

    Wow. They make fancy helmets in Egypt too. His table cloth is ok, but not quite as nice as Ratty's.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Milton

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioLEFRZP-_A

    January 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Highly improbable events happen all the time. The argument is illogical, and mathematically incorrect. Too bad he never took Stats 101.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:12 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.