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June 6th, 2013
10:37 AM ET

With his speech, valedictorian brings God to graduation

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='JRavitzCNN']

(CNN) - Leading up to Saturday’s ceremony, Roy Costner IV prayed on what he was going to do. Liberty High School’s 2013 valedictorian would soon find himself in front of a microphone. He’d have a pulpit from which he could address his small community tucked away in South Carolina’s mountainous corner.

Only his father and pastor knew what was weighing on his heart and mind. Could he, should he, insert a prayer in his pre-approved graduation speech? He’d been told by the school principal that talk of religion wasn’t allowed, and so far he’d followed the rules.

But as the day approached, the 18-year-old couldn’t deny what he felt he needed to do.

“I wanted to stand up for God,” he explained Wednesday. “This is what God wanted me to do.”

So Costner, in cap and gown, stood behind the podium and ripped up his original speech. Before he gave shout-outs to coaches, cheerleaders and friends, there was something else he wanted to say.

“One thing I am certain of is we’re all a sum of our experiences, both good and bad,” he told his fellow graduates, a class of about 150. “All in all, those experiences, the people who mentored us, that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today. I’m so thankful that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age. And I think most of you will understand when I say, ‘Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …”

The crowd before him began to cheer as he recited the Lord’s Prayer, drowning out a few verses. The school principal, sitting behind him, appeared uncomfortable and peered down at papers on her lap. The school district’s superintendent, a few seats over, couldn’t help but smile.

“I was tearing up,” Costner said, remembering the moment. “I was overwhelmed by the response. … The clapping was so loud I couldn’t hear myself talking into the microphone.”

His father told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday night he was overwhelmed with pride for his son. The younger Costner approached his dad a few days before the speech and showed him what he wanted to do.

"I said, 'Look, if you're doing this for political reasons, don't. But if you're doing it because you feel led to do it and you feel this is a part of your speech, then I want you to do it and I'll stand by you,' " Roy Costner III said.

Some who were there heaped on praise when talking to CNN affiliate WYFF. One called it “pretty impressive.” Another student said it “took a lot of courage” and that “people were proud that he stood up for what he believed in.”

What he believes is that Liberty, a town with three stoplights and a population of 3,000, “fully supports prayer.”

He also believes that organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin, group dedicated to maintaining separation of church and state, should stop meddling in the affairs of the Pickens County School District. The foundation, over this past school year, has leaned on the district to keep Jesus and student-led prayers out of school board meetings.

Other concerns went beyond board meetings. This spring, the foundation’s staff attorney sent a lawyer representing the district a letter about complaints of alleged discriminatory hiring and religious promotion in another county high school and praise music being played in an elementary school classroom. The foundation said it learned of such practices by way of community members who are, in fact, not fully supporting prayer.

Costner said he set out to make a statement, one he hopes will inspire others to stand up, too, for what he sees as the good of this country.

“Taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do,” he said.

If Costner went to a Christian school, there would be no discussion, said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But in public schools, even in a place where there may be a religious majority, prayers such as his are clearly unconstitutional, she said. What’s more, she added, what he did shows contempt for school district policy and a lack of sensitivity for his audience.

“It’s aggressive. It’s supremely rude,” she said. “This student is old enough to know that not everyone in the audience is Christian.”

But Costner, who was bouncing between interviews and heading to New York for TV appearances, said he counts atheists among his friends. He said that even though he doesn’t agree with their beliefs, he respects them – and that they do the same for him.

The elder Costner said his son had been inundated with messages of support, even from atheists.

He said he thinks the video of the speech resonated with people across the country because many people "really want something to hold onto for hope."

The son said he’s experienced no blowback from the district for what he did. And a district spokesman suggested Costner won’t.

“He’s a graduate now, so there’s nothing we can do about it even if we wanted to,” John Eby told WYFF. “But the bottom line is we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.”

The district, Eby explained to CNN Friday morning, is in a “nearly impossible position.” He said federal law, under the Establishment Clause, is clear that public schools cannot “approve in advance a student’s prayer” or “carve out time specifically for religious expression.” But, under the Free Exercise Clause, he added, “we can’t punish students who do pray.”

Gaylor doesn’t expect there to be any punishment. But without issuing some sort of statement expressing disappointment and reiterating school policy, she said, the district is making a mistake.

“It’s one thing if a school doesn’t have a policy,” she said. “But when they do, they really need to enforce their policy because otherwise it’s just a wink and a nod.”

Eby has an answer to this.

“I do want to reiterate that we don’t approve rule breaking,” he said. “But we are very serious about protecting our students’ rights to express themselves religiously – or refuse to.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (5,383 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    Jesus was the greatest salesman the world has ever seen. I am just amazed so many people have bought the snake oil.

    June 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Shows you how ignorant most people are. They just go along with the crowd regardless of how preposterous religion is.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Jason

      Daniel, too bad by the time you find out the truth, it will be too late.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      That's right, Jason, you tell them. The lake of fire is waiting.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • One one

      @jason, ahh,....a threat! That's pretty much par for the course in discussions like this. Sort of like "oh yaah, well my god is going to torture you in hell for disagreeing with me!!!"

      June 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Sup

      @athy, since when you care about people? If they want to follow religion, let them, is their choice not yours.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • oh boy

      Cue the "yer gonna' burn in hayyyyyyyyyyy-yulllllll" replies in 3...2...1...

      June 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • oh golly here it comes

      cue the "yer a gonna burn in hayyy-yuull" glee. There is nothing more revolting than a cult-of-westboro zealot who actually feels glee at the thought of someone being tormented. Nobody should be surprised to learn that the members of a cult that worships a vengeful, peeping-tom gawwwwd often become two-faced sneak-weasels. One face for public consumption, the other for whatever...

      June 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Leinad

      Jesus Is the Greatest One and only Savior the world has ever known, Daniel! Without Him and people's acceptance of Him they cannot enter into Heaven. Of course that might be just fine with you since you obviously won't be going there or those who believe as you do. But at some point you will see that it truly exists.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Not really. He didn't sell himself – it was the people who came after him that actually did the con job. In fact it should probably be called "Paulianity" instead of "Christianity".

      June 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  2. derp

    @Bill Deacon. You managed to slink off like a coward rather than respon to this. I'm letting you off the hook.

    I will keep trolling you until you respond.

    "it cuts both ways derp. When HBC accuses someone of mental illness, it's up to her to make the case. Not the other way around"

    So you are saying that there is no god?

    Or are you saying you are not sure whether there is a god or not?

    Because you have certainly never ever offered a shred of proof of any god.

    By your own logic, you have failed to fulfill "proof is required by he who states".

    Thanks, you have just proven the complete invalidity of anyone who has ever asserted that there is a higher power. I appreciate you backing me up like that.

    June 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Vic

      God is outside the realm of this existence! He is NOT subject to this universe & its physical laws/laws of physics that He created all. God is Metaphysical. Science can not prove nor disprove God!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  3. Observer

    It was the school authorities that set up the rules that gave him the privilege of a platform to speak on. Instead of being grateful, the kid showed his lack of maturity and respect for authority. Bad example.

    June 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Robert

      No one "gave" him anything. He earned the right by maintaining the highest grad point average in his class. 🙂

      June 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Should the school bear some responsibility for this? Maybe the school should have asked him what he would talk about. What is the point he's trying to make? Shouldn't the school know a little about him first?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      I submitted a copy of the speech i was going to give, and then pretended to 'change my mind' as soon as I got up there! It was a very Christian thing to do. We have to be sneaky now because we're constantly being blocked by THE LIBERAL AGENDA and GOD will not put up with it for much longer.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • I Am God

      Valedictorian there is no Liberal Agenda. You seem to be ignorant of the fact that there are many Republicans that are also atheists.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      There is no such thing as a Republican atheist, only liars and the confused. The true people of God will not allow the liberals to ruin the moral fiber of this nation.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • George Steht

      I always notice this. When a white person says "GOD", Atheists, Non believers, go nuts, lets sue. BUT, when a NON white receives an award, talk about God, thanking GOD, Where in the hell are the Atheists? All of a sudden, not a one can be found. You non believers in God all of a sudden become mimes. What happened, God got your tongue? Strangest damn thing I have ever seen, happens every single time, Why is that? But that's the freedom of speech and one day there can only be a limit to that as there is to every thing else, not everybody can be right, right? Where does an Atheists go when they die? good question I think.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • I Am God

      I figured you were just another Christian/conservative troll. That is the truth Valedictorian. I suggest you get out of that fake world your living in and back to reality.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • I Am God

      George you have some serious problems. You either have some racial problems or you are very prejudice.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      George, God does not like racists or those who give false witness. Seek to free yourself from these behaviors.

      Proverbs 19:5 | A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Observer

      Robert,

      GUESS again. The school system isn't required to give anyone a speech platform.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • The Right Example

      This superb valedictorian was obviously setting the right example by earning the right to speak and speaking from his heart. And let no man try to outdo the authority of God. That will never work and those who try will be on the losing end each time. God is not mocked.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • The real Tom

      He LIED. What part of that escapes your notice?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      He talked about what was important to him,good example.!

      June 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  4. Valedictorian

    "I'm so glad my parents brainwashed me at a young age! So I am going to do some grandstanding now and say God made me do it. This will prove to everyone how awesome it is to be Christian. Nothing about this seems ridiculous!"

    June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "God made me do it. "

      How very typical...giving the credit where credit is not due!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  5. One one

    What do you think the reaction would have been if he went on an atheistic rant instead of a show of religious belief?

    June 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Vic

      It depends on the demographic!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • derp

      "It depends on the demographic!"

      He was in Hickville USA. They would have blown a gasket.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Given where the incident took place, I'm sure they would have found he'd committed suicide a few days later by shooting himself in the back twelve times.

      June 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  6. I Am God

    I've don't have anything to say about what he was doing was wrong. I would disagree with the fact that people still believe that God should be in schools. There are to many different cultures and religious folk to have God involved in schools. You have churches. Keep the religious stuff there (or within your home).

    June 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Sup

      only at home? how about public places like a sidewalk, the park? Thomas Jefferson once wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

      June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • I Am God

      Sup Thomas Jefferson was also the main individual who insured that everyone has their freedom of beliefs in the United States, not just one.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Sup

      I agree, so why disrespect someone's belief then? Do you want people to respect in whatever you believe? You want religion to stay inside of church or home, but non believers can spread the idea that God do not exist all over the world. Where's our critical thinking at? This Nation was founded with the ideas of not oppressing liberty, happiness and life.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • I Am God

      Sup you rarely see Atheists standing in the middle of a street waving "Convert to our God." Also Atheists don't spread anything. If people have doubts about there God they usually become Atheist. We don't bother spreading ideals or anything like religious folk do.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      Atheists spread false witness and harm society with their doubt and scorn.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      Of course God is in schools,people are in schools,God is in people.....Daaa!

      June 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  7. whitepine

    Is he just trying to show us he is better than others because he believes what he believes?

    June 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Vic

      He is friends with Atheists!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  8. One one

    I wonder what his motivation was to make a public display of his religious beliefs.

    June 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Vic

      Answer is in the 10th paragraph of the a r t i c l e.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Robert

      Why not? This is a free country. He can express his religious beliefs...or he cannot. It's his choice. He decided to express his. Some other valedictorian's decided not to.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      The best motivation of all – brainwashing!! Braying about my beliefs make them seem super-awesome, and help The True Righteous folks of this God-fearing nation strike a blow against the encroaching HEATHENS and GAYS.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • I Am God

      Valedictorian. Get lost. You seriously have some problems. God-fearing nation? You have some ego problems.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      This is a Christian nation and talk like this fine young man was dishing out should be mandatory at all ceremonies.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • I Am God

      Valedictorian this has never been a Christian nation and if you actually studied your history you would know it. I suggest you get an actual education that does not involve the Bible for once.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      The best and only truly important education is GOD's WORD. You will understand one day when you will be called to stand before Him and account for your blasphemy.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • I Am God

      Valedictorian you have problems. God doesn't exist. I travel my own path, not the path trodden by many that you chose.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Athy

      Oh, bullshit. You can't possibly believe that without being well below average in intelligence.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Valedictorian: It is very hard to stand before an evasive god...that would be like standing before the tooth fairy. Blasphemy is not a crime in the secular country that you reside in. The fact that you obviously lack an education shows in the fact that you believe you reside in a christard country when your constitution specifically states that you don't and that is what matters (have you ever read it??).

      June 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      The 'laws' of this 'secular nation' do not apply to God. His Word stands, and the more you deny it, the more you will suffer later.

      Your eternal soul will kneel before His great glory and be cast down for your willfullness.

      You have been warned.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Valedictorian: Warned??? I'm guessing none of us are worried, see you first need to provide evidence for your claims and without your buybull you are incapable of doing so. And by the way you're judging here, it is rather safe to say that IF hell exists, you'll be the one spending time there!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  9. Bob

    Why do right wingers insist on shoving their religion down everyones throats?????

    This isn't IRAN, or didn't you know that?

    June 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Roger

      I don't see any problem with him praying aloud like some goat herder at such a ceremony. Of course people in the audience should be allowed to bring and throw fruit as well.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • A Conversation

      Hey everyone! Have you met Bob yet? He's the local drama queen.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Putin

      Hey Bob this isn't N.korea either, why don't you move there?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • what is rong with that

      Well, sure my kids have always been allowed to pray in school the way Jesus taught (without making a public spectacle of it). The point is, my cult has to make a public spectacle of it and lie about it (claiming that liberal, commie-lovin' muzzies in the UN black helicopters came in as commandoes and kidnapped jeeeezus from school)... my cult does it for a very good reason: the Patriotic Christian gawwwwd of Unending Prosperity demands it... we have to draw attention to ourselves using the same tactics that politicians use to appeal to morons. What, pray tell, is RONG with that?????

      June 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  10. shazaam

    The separation of Church and State does not mean that individuals are prohibited from expressing their religious faith. It only means that the government cannot officially sponsor a specific religion.

    June 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Bob

      And when that speech occurs in a government funded school, he is out of line and WRONG.

      M<ove to Iran if you don't like our rules here.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • shazaam

      One of our rules is religious freedom. A state sponsored school does not have right the suppress individual religous expression regardless of where or when it occurs. You fail to understand the underlying principal of the separation of Church and State as all atheists do.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • derp

      "A state sponsored school does not have right the suppress individual religous expression regardless of where or when it occurs. You fail to understand the underlying principal of the separation of Church and State as all atheists do."

      You may want to check with the supreme court on that one.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • mah diddy dint need no larnin

      And an official meeting like a school graduation, that school... is it a private school? If not, and it is funded and controlled by local government means that it falls in that area we call "run by the gubmint" ... and if the gubmint allows ONE religion to shove it's dogma down the throats of everyone in this meeting, the gubmint is effectively endorsing that one religion(intentionally or not,,, it doesn't matter). What if it was a voodoo priest who spoke (and 51% of the town were in his church). Would that be fair to your kids? Life isn't all about you or your cult of choice.

      June 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • salmonella says

      My kids and all kids have always been able to freely, openly pray in schools any time they want (though doing it during a test is pretty popular)... AND at the same time, they can do it the way Jesus insisted upon (by NOT making a public show of it). Any cult that demands to do it as a big show is defying the wishes of Jesus... any cult that claims "Jesus has been taken out of schools" is lying. Neither case is acceptable for Christians. Simple. The cult-of-westboro is the worst offender. They make a big public show just for the money. Yuck.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  11. pauleky

    Sad. In 2013 and many folks still insist on living in the Dark Ages.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • lol??

      Don't come on this blog complainin' about yer pwoblems. A&A's aren't as empathetic as they claim. In fact they refuse to go find their own blog.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Ben

    The kid is a terrorist and should be sent to Gitmo for trying to spread that mental illness called religion.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Sup

      You should be send to Gitmo for spreading stupidity. Get a life and mind your own business, non-believers will never get rid off religion especially Christianity.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Sup............You must admit. Religion is losing it's influence on a daily basis.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Sup

      @Ken, i agree with you, but like you said, "some" influence. For centuries people has tried to get rid off Christianity and their Bible, but as you see we still have the Bible and Christians all over the world. Religion is not going nowhere, so is better for us to get along and stop insulting and disrespecting each other beliefs. I see hypocrisy from both religious and non-believers, mocking each other and disrespecting on what they believe. Who cares if you don't believe in God or who cares if you believe that a God exist somewhere in the sky.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Sup: World population of 7 billion with only 2 billion being christian. (http://www.religionfacts.com/big_religion_chart.htm)

      June 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  13. Mopi

    Not sure how this makes CNN. Glad that he is comfortable enough to talk about the g-word in public tho.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Kyle

      Me, too. The way the atheists on the board treat people – I'm sure he had some fear of ridicule and pressure by his peers to label him as 'delusional', or whatever slur words they are using against people they hate today.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Kyle

      A) it's clear his class supported him, obviously he wasn't afraid of ridicule

      B) "deluded" is now a slur? really?

      Persecution complex much?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Kyle: How is our treatment of theists any different than their treatment of gays; women; anyone who disagrees with them?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Kyle, Delusion is believing something despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How else would one describe someone who believes that an invisible omnipotent, omniscient being created the universe and is concurrently keeping tabs on the 7 billion occupants 24×7 and recording everything they say and do, despite evidence that the creation myths are incorrect and therefore the original sin is bogus.
      Presumably if there is life elsewhere in the universe it is doing the same in those places as well.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • sam

      Hey Kyle, thanks for coming in just to bitch! Maybe later you can run outside and yell at kids to get off your lawn.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @In Santa We Trust, @Kyle

      Yes! A point illustrated by Friar Giordano Bruno in the 16th century. His reward? Burned alive by the church. THAT is what courage means. It's not standing up in front of 95% of people agreeing with you and "preaching to the choir." It's standing for what you know is right in the face of the 95% who disagree.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Hypatia

    Craven little coward with a sneak attack of manure. Hope life kicks his pitiful butt.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • julnor

      As an athiest I applaud his courage to stand up and speak his mind. As valedvictorian, he has earned this right. Sorry Ms. Gaylor, it is not his role to say things that everyone will agree with, it is his role to say what he wants to say as the academic leader of his class.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Athy

      Julnor, You could at least spell atheist correctly. Except for that, your post is totally irrelevant.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  15. atheists hate this

    It is impossible to scientifically measure if an all-powerful, all-knowing God greater than our ability to measure or comprehend exists or not.

    Sorry, guys.

    Atheists have to have faith to not believe in God.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      We don't hate this. It's not worth our time.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "It is impossible to scientifically measure if an all-powerful, all-knowing God"

      So why apply one if no evidence exists?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      hater,
      hater,
      "It is impossible to scientifically measure if an all-powerful, all-knowing God greater than our ability to measure or comprehend exists or not."

      Equally it's impossible to know if such a god exists and with no evidence to support it why believe it?

      No faith required unlike your superstitions which defy logic and reason, and have no supporting evidence.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Also impossible to measure if an all-powerful, all-magical bunny exists. Your point?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      -Also impossible to measure if an all-powerful, all-magical bunny exists. Your point?–

      Do you have any testimonies from people about this bunny?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foffh-gneRs

      Here is some proof you guys are always asking us for.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Mopi

      Athiests hate a lot of things. I'm glad I am not an athiest

      June 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      5:00

      June 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Water

      1. Video you posted is not proof. Please read up on what consti.tutes as proof.

      2. I've heard of this bunny. He has big sharp, pointy teeth and fur softer than a cloud. (There's your testimony – now please go and disprove my claim or else I guess it's time for you to start worshiping this bunny as feverently as your god huh?)

      June 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Observer

      Mopi,

      Yep. Atheists usually hate slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped. Are you glad you're not like that since you follow the Bible?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Water_On_Mars,

      The point being that testimonials are a source of evidence? Then you believe in Zeus? There are tons of testimonials about him.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      Sometimes it is the best we can do, a testimony.

      I don't trust your testimony. But hers is real.

      And beautiful. Such courage.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ Mopi, We also hate ignorance.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " I don't trust your testimony. But hers is real. "
      This is the kind of statement that prompted my reply to you the other day. The point still stands.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ GodFreeNow

      I don't believe and trust in Zeus.

      Post a testimonial about Zeus.

      Since there are tons, how about you post 3?

      I'll let you honestly know what I think about them.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Hey Observer; When did the anti slavery movement movement begin? Pick a period, any period and tell us who the moving forces were against it.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Water

      What's the difference between my testimony and hers? That she is more feverent about it? How do you know this bunny does not exist? Prove to me he does not exist!

      June 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Water_On_Mars,

      Psalm 146:3
      Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @water
      1) http://www.godandgoddess.com/the-god-zeus.html
      2) http://www.greek-gods.info/greek-gods/zeus/stories/zeus-king-of-the-gods/
      3) http://www.greek-gods.info/greek-gods/zeus/stories/zeus-and-the-greedy-ant/

      there's a ton out there. If you want more, try google.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ What's the difference between my testimony and hers? That she is more feverent about it? How do you know this bunny does not exist? Prove to me he does not exist!

      Are people gathering together to meet and talk about your bunny? Have stories, songs and art about your bunny survived for thousands of years? Do you personally know people that have helped poor, orphaned and needy people in the name of your bunny.

      Can you post a testimonial about your bunny?

      I don't need to prove to you the bunny doesn't exist. And I'm not going to argue with someone about that.

      That would be dumb.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ GodFreeNow

      A personal testimony. Not an encylopedia-like entry.

      Watch this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p3tM-rBfkQ

      And please find something like it.

      You, too, @Chuckles.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      Water_On_Mars sez:
      "Post a testimonial about Zeus. "
      King Agamemnon conquering Troy, gave homage to Zeus.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      water, Just because christianity has been a pervasive influence in Western societies for centuries does not mean that your god exists. You are an atheist as far as Zeus, Odin, Ra, etc. etc. are concerned; you have no more evidence for your god than for any of the thousands of others yet you reject them. You cannot prove that they do not exist and yet you believe in your god on the same evidence as there is for Zeus, etc. The bunny is an example to show how ridiculous your delusion is.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Water

      Wait a second, so you need something to be real only if other people believe it to be the case and take action? That doesn't really make sense now does it? Maybe the big bunny doesn't have as many followers as your god does, but there are some.

      Lets also not forget the flying spaghetti monster. Take a look online. the FSG (pbh) has a pretty large following and there's already been reformation and split. Many folks, including ones on here discuss his noodly appendage and his existance. So tell me, what makes the flying spaghetti monster less real? Because it sounds stupid? because it isn't old enough (and if so, what's the requisite time before something is old enough?)?

      You see the problem right?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Observer

      Bill Deacon

      "Hey Observer; When did the anti slavery movement movement begin? Pick a period, any period and tell us who the moving forces were against it."

      Hey Bill, have you read the Bible? See what it says about slavery?

      The Bible was used my many people to oppose integration and interracial marriage. It was southern PREACHERS who led the fight against integration.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      water, btw, I have several books on Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology; just because it is written doesn't make it true. As I said in the other post you cannot prove that Zeus, etc do not exist. Testimony of belief is not evidence of existence.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Drekor

      Athiest need faith to not believe in god? No... we really don't. We see no evidence for him to exist so what reason do we have to believe in him? If you can prove he exists we are more than willing to listen but the onus of proof is on you... if you put the onus on us well... the result is Pastafarians. A religion we made that worships the flying spaghetti monster because YOU CAN'T PROVE HE DOESN'T EXIST.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "A personal testimony. Not an encylopedia-like entry."
      AH so now there is a time limit on 'testimonies' ... so this now disavows all of the books of the bible.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ Chuckles

      @ You see the problem right?

      I understand your point.

      But God is real to me.

      I don't think your bunny can grant me the strength and courage that Jesus Christ does for me.

      > FSG

      That is a parody of religion. It is a humorus joke. It makes some good points.

      @Brother Maynard

      @King Agamemnon conquering Troy, gave homage to Zeus.

      That doesn't seem very helpful to me today.

      I don't know a single soul that gives homage to or believes in Zeus.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Water

      I'm confused why you think testimony via youtube all of a sudden validates your god more than the flying spaghetti monster. Seriously, think about it for a moment.

      Please, just think?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bill Deacon,
      "When did the anti slavery movement movement begin?"

      "... in the 18th century, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening in the Thirteen Colonies; and in the same period, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man."

      18th Century... that's only 1700+ years after Jesus and Christianity, right?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Nicholas

      As an atheist, I agree with your concept that we all have beliefs – because whether our focus is based on the scientific or the religious (maybe even a little of both), the scope of what we're trying to comprehend extends beyond what we can 'know'. Belief exists in some degree within us all.

      I would say you're stating it incorrectly – I don't need to have faith to not believe in god, but I do need to have faith in the science that continues to prove that no god is necessary. and since science has a significantly more impressive track record of being right, I'm quite confident in that faith.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • mama k

      "It is impossible to scientifically measure if an all-powerful, all-knowing God greater than our ability to measure or comprehend exists or not. "

      Does anyone know what this "sentence" is supposed to be stating? What is impossible to measure? My monitor?
      How can one hate something that makes no sense?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ Chuckles
      @ I'm confused why you think testimony via youtube all of a sudden validate...

      I'm just speaking for me, personally.

      Both of those individuals I trust. I honestly believe what they have experienced is God. Because I have a similar story.

      I'm not saying what you believe is wrong. I'm just being honest about what I believe in and why.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ In Santa we trust

      Fine. I can't prove to a guy on the internet named "In Santa we trust" that God exists.

      Oh well...

      June 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • derp

      It is impossible to scientifically measure if an all-powerful, all-knowing rainbow colored six legged ganja smoking unicorn, greater than our ability to measure or comprehend exists or not.

      Sorry, guys.

      Christians have to have faith to not believe in an all-knowing rainbow colored six legged ganja smoking unicorn.

      Seriously, this is how dumb you sound to us.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Water

      That's fine. Believe in what you want to believe. If you really think that god helped you do something instead of you doing it yourself, that's not my problem. Though posting videos of testimonies won't exactly make you seem less strange for believing in that god. If you aren't looking to convert, thats great! If you believe in the separation of church and state, even better!

      June 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Athy

      Mopi, how could you possibly be an atheist, you can't even spell it right.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "I don't know a single soul that gives homage to or believes in Zeus"
      So you are saying that the only reason you give homage or believe in god/ jesus is because everyone else does?

      June 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @Brother Maynard

      @ "I don't know a single soul that gives homage to or believes in Zeus"
      So you are saying that the only reason you give homage or believe in god/ jesus is because everyone else does?

      No. That is not what I'm saying. At all.

      I recieved help from people who love and trust in Jesus Christ.

      Before I was very anti-God. I hated any talk about God. I really did not like Christians. If there was a God, he certainly hadn't done anything for me.

      And nothing made logical sense to me in the Bible.

      And then I learned that God speaks to our hearts. He wants our hearts.

      God loves you. And God wants your heart. He doesn't need your mind. He can use it. But He doesn't need it.

      His knowledge is unlimited.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "Fine. I can't prove to a guy on the internet named "In Santa we trust" that God exists."
      THANK YOU!!
      I as an athiest am totally ok with individual saying " It is totally irrational to believe in god ... yet I have faith any way"
      Faith defined as – Accepting something as true with out any evidience to support the claim
      Next step however – because it is irrational to believe in god do not use that as a measuring stick for state officers nor rules / laws.
      Use rationality - ( it is SO much easier to defend too)

      June 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • TheTruth

      For those who claim that no evidence exists, I recommend Evidence That Demands A Verdict and The Case For Christ. The evidence is, in fact, overwhelming when you look for it. If you don't – then you have no valid claim.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @ Bro M

      Faith:

      1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

      2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

      I believe that the Christian concept (or at least mine) of faith is the first definition, not the 2nd.

      "Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase."

      Martin Luther King, Jr. (Christian, believer in God, trusted Jesus Christ)

      June 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Water_On_Mars, If his knowledge is "unlimited" I encourage you to ask a complicated physics question to him and wait for a reply. I guarantee that unless you yourself are a physicist or you seek the knowledge of another physicist, you will never receive an answer.

      You have deified your mind. If you received "help" from god in the past, the you helped yourself. This means you're probably a relatively intelligent creature capable of reasoned thought. It saddens me though to see that you have externalized your power in order to justify its existence somehow.

      You are the one you've been waiting for. I hope you one day recognize the truth of that and find the peace and joy within yourself without the need to constantly feed an external idea in increasingly creative ways to experience a satisfactory return of value.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      @GodFreeNow

      Can't you imagine 'whatever' or 'whoever' is responsible for all this has a better understaning than you?

      And that it may be best to recognize that? To humble one self to that idea?

      The opposite seems to think one knows better or is too proud to admit one's own limitations.

      God does not do for me, what I can do for myself.

      @ You are the one you've been waiting for.

      You are not qualified to know that.

      Unless you think you are some kind of God.

      Which I know you aren't.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      "I can’t imagine that the God of the universe is limited to our ideas of how God should act. I can’t imagine that God doesn’t reveal God’s self in countless ways outside of my understanding of what is happening in my own life. And even though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, In a way that’s actually good news, because you need a God who is bigger, more nimble and mysterious than your ability to understand God."

      NBW

      June 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Water_On_Mars

      "Can't you imagine 'whatever' or 'whoever' is responsible for all this has a better understaning than you?"

      If I relied on my imagination to dictate reality, then maybe. However, I would suggest that such a god, wouldn't be so easy to outthink. All gods I've read about to this point have been.

      It is precisely BECAUSE I know my limits and the limits of other men, that I know not to trust words on face value. This is why I require evidence in my life. ALL gods are the report of man, just as is all science. One however seeks to prove/disprove itself in an honest repeatable fashion, while the other demands acceptance without question or doubt, I.e., faith.

      Religion is about the poor. The poor of mind, the poor of body, the poor of spirit, or the poor of wealth. I am none of these. I am rich with life and love. I share this richness and love with the world. I am content with myself and at peace with the world around me. I am not afraid to die, regardless of what may come afterward. When I experience gain, I am grateful. When I experience loss, I am grateful.

      So what can you find that would compel me to add an unproved story to my life structure? How would it better me?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      Sounds like you've got your s#*t together.

      Thanks for talking!

      June 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      DIS-belief is NOT equivalent to belief, moron. Do you require faith to DIS-believe in Santa? Get your empty head out of the bible and read a real book.

      June 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Ken Margo

    It's no big deal. He's moved on, the school will move on. This is really a non story.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      The irony is that this is seen as somehow courageous. South Carolina is listed as 95% christian. It's like shouting "I love hamburgers!" in a McDonalds.

      Christian: 93%
      -Protestant: 84%
      -Southern Baptist: 45%
      -Methodist: 15%
      -Presbyterian: 5%
      -Other Protestant: 19%
      -Roman Catholic: 7%
      -Other Christian: 1%
      -Other Religions: 1%

      June 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      He gave the Freedom From Religion Foundation something to do (besides making lame billboards).

      June 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Isn't South Carolina the same "Christian" state that gave Newt "3 Wives" Gingrich a state. Didn't the "Christian" state re-elect Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford. The people need to call that 1800 atheist phone line to talk.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • JT

      GodFreeNow, 177%? Am I reading this wrong?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ JT, Yes... the dashed items are subsets of xtianity.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • chris

      @ GodFreeNow:

      "@ JT, Yes... the dashed items are subsets of xtianity."

      The components you listed add up to 177%, as JT stated. Perhaps you should double check your interwebz data.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      To clarify this so it makes more sense:
      Christian: 93%
      -Protestant: 84%-(Southern Baptist: 45%-Methodist: 15%-Presbyterian: 5%Other Protestant: 19%)
      -Roman Catholic: 7%
      -Other Christian: 1%
      -Other Religions: 1%

      June 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • billfitt

      People in McDonalds don't love hamburgers. They love something that looks like a hamburger.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  17. Observer

    The message from this valedictorian is that you don't have to obey legal authorities and follow rules. Make up your own.

    One of the worst valedictorian speeches ever.

    June 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What legal obligation was he under?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Observer

      The principal and the school board set the rules. Law supports their decisions. Let him make his own rules in classes and see how long that lasts.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @observer..............I have no problem with it. You treat it like any other speech. I you like it clap, if you don't ignore it.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • derp

      @Bill Deacon

      "Ei inc umbit probatio qui d icit, non qui negat"

      June 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I disagree that the kid had a legal obligation to read the approved speech. But you hit on an interesting theme. Christian doctrine holds that we have an obligation to oppose, rescind, reject and ultimately disobey immoral laws. Are you suggesting that there should be no such avenue for civil disobedience or redress of grievances towards authority? What if the law ordered you to load people in your town onto trains?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Right derp. You've proven you can copy and paste. Congratulations

      June 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Observer

      Ken Margo,

      Would you have had any problem if the valedictorian was a Muslim who quoted the Koran where it says to kill infidels or an atheist listing reasons why "God is dead"?

      His speech was no place for religious comments, pro or con. He needs to grow up and learn to follow rules.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      That dang Martin Luther King, Jr didn't follow the rules either.

      Damn him?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Observer

      Bill Deacon,

      So as a Christian, does that make all laws optional for you? Is it the same pick-and-choose that Christians often use to decide which Bible verses they will support?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Observer................The kid didn't make a hate speech. He read a verse (a non violent one). Don't make it out to be more than it was.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Do you live in an anarchy? The caveat is "immoral". Typically an organic process is involved wherein some action, such as a public statement is made prior to stronger reactions.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Observer

      Ken Margo,

      Again, would you feel THE SAME if the kid produced a list of reasons "Why God is Dead"? Appropriate for a graduation speech to you?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      But I'll take it by your obstinate answer that you support totalitarianism. Just so you get some perspective, whenever you see Ken Margo and I aligning against you, you're probably WAAAAY off base.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Observer.............I'm as religious as a rock. Trust me. I'd believe in Santa Claus before I'd believe what this kid said. Keep it in perspective. There's nothing that can be done about it. He can't be punished. He didn't kill anybody. I'm not saying I'd like it. I'm just saying their are more important things to worry about.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Maybe the school will change the procedure and review speeches in the future. Let the students decide this. It's their day. As long as the kid doesn't become a politician and write laws based on his religion, he can do whatever he wants.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Observer

      Bill Deacon,

      So as a Christian, does that make all laws optional for you? Is it the same pick-and-choose that Christians often use to decide which Bible verses they will support?

      Stumped?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Observer

      Ken Margo,

      I agree that this is not a big deal. I am just stating my opposition to the Christians on here who think it's fine that he showed no respect for authority.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Oberver......................I don't look at it as a lack of respect for authority because they had no authority over him at that point.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • derp

      "Right derp. You've proven you can copy and paste. Congratulations"

      I'll stop trolling you when you respond to this...

      "it cuts both ways derp. When HBC accuses someone of mental illness, it's up to her to make the case. Not the other way around"

      So you are saying that there is no god?

      Or are you saying you are not sure whether there is a god or not?

      Because you have certainly never ever offered a shred of proof of any god.

      By your own logic, you have failed to fulfill "proof is required by he who states".

      Thanks, you have just proven the complete invalidity of anyone who has ever asserted that there is a higher power. I appreciate you backing me up like that.

      June 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Rob

      Observer: Stop hating so much. That's the problem with you atheists...you're bitterly resentful of other people's beliefs. The kid is the valedictorian and he can say what he wants, within reason. He didn't advocate violence, he didn't scream at people, etc. You're upset because he said something that YOU wouldn't want to hear. So what? Are you THAT PC shock-troop oriented? Are you that resentful and easily upset????

      June 6, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • His Message Was Spot On!

      The message from this fine valedictorian is that Almighty God supersedes man's law of which there was none to prevent or bar him from espousing what was in his heart.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      He is telling what impacted his life and what sustaines him.he is a high achiever and he was asked to talk about what is important to him.you gonna mute him and deny his right to speak his mind?What is it to you if he has faith and it gives him hope and comfort?

      June 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  18. John Stefanyszyn

    Did this young man make this prayer as an expression of his belief in his freedom of self-rights....
    ...OR...
    Did he make this prayer because he believes in doing the Will of the One and Only Creator....and not his own will?

    June 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'd say he was making a declarative statement of identiity

      June 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • derp

      @Bill Deacon

      "Ei inc umbit probatio qui d icit, non qui negat"

      June 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • jj

      God seems to always want what religious people themselves want.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  19. Water_On_Mars

    Free speech!

    June 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  20. GodFreeNow

    The fact is, we all do/say stupid things when we're young. I don't think we should hold it against this guy because he is confused about reality. When I graduated from school, I was a bigoted, gun-toting misanthrope. I look back on those days and laugh at myself.

    When I listen to this guy, I don't hear clarity. I hear pain and confusion. With the power of reason, I found clarity and peace, and I'm grateful and humbled by that knowledge every day. I hope the same thing is possible for this guy.

    June 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You're right. LOL I even know people who decided they were atheist in eighth grade.

      June 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      I was an atheist when I graduated 20 years ago. I believe and trust in God today. Looking back I feel I'm better off now.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @water.......In what way are you so much better?

      June 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Water_On_Mars,

      Yes... thank you for illustrating my point. You cannot trust the words of the youth.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      I was an theist when I graduated 20 years ago. I don't believe or trust in God today. Looking back I feel I'm better off now.

      June 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      I know, it goes both ways.

      But I'm not the one claiming somebody is "confused about reality".

      June 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      GodFreeNow wrote, "When I listen to this guy, I don't hear clarity. I hear pain and confusion. With the power of reason, I found clarity and peace, and I'm grateful and humbled by that knowledge every day. I hope the same thing is possible for this guy."

      I see. One's 'reasoning power' brings forth ohms of clarities unrelenting peace beyond all anyone's dreams? Give even a goofball like me a break why don't you?! Being 'humbled' and 'grateful' for one's own reasoning power(s) is I guess as good a tale as Humpty Dumpty sitting upon a wall. :mrgreen: 👿 ❗

      June 6, 2013 at 5:30 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.