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September 14th, 2013
08:01 AM ET

Hey atheists, let’s make a deal

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN

(CNN) - Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has been rightfully criticized this week for saying the “mild pedophilia” he and other English children experienced in the 1950s “didn’t cause any lasting harm.”

This comes after an August tweet in which Dawkins declared that “all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Dawkins is known for pushing his provocative rhetorical style too far, providing ample ammunition for his critics, and already I’ve seen my fellow Christians seize the opportunity to rail against the evils of atheism.

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole.

So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

Now I’m not saying we just let these destructive words and actions go—not at all. It’s important for both believers and atheists to decry irresponsible views and hateful rhetoric, especially from within our own communities.

(Believe me. There are plenty of Christians who raise hell every time Robertson says something homophobic or a celebrity pastor somewhere says something misogynistic.)

READ MORE: Why millennials are leaving the church

But what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?

What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?

Only then can we avoid these shallow ad hominem attacks and instead engage in substantive debates that bring our true differences and our true commonalities to light.

It’s harder to go this route, and it takes more work and patience, but I’m convinced that both Christians and atheists are interested in the truth and in searching for it with integrity, without taking the easy way out.

Pope Francis took a step in that direction this week with a letter in a Rome newspaper responding directly to questions posed by its atheist director and inviting respectful open dialog between nonbelievers and Christians.

READ MORE: Why millennials need the church

So, yes, Richard Dawkins is an atheist. But so are authors Greg Epstein and Susan Jacoby. So is my friend and fellow blogger Hemant Mehta. So is Sir Ian McKellen. So is ethicist Peter Singer, who may or may not be the best example.

And yes, Pat Robertson is a Christian. But so is Nelson Mandela. So is acclaimed geneticist Francis Collins. So is Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. So is Barack Obama. So is Stephen Colbert.

And I'm willing to bet that the same collective groan emitted by millions of Christians each time Pat Robertson says something embarrassing on TV sounds a lot like the collective groan emitted by millions of atheists when Richard Dawkins rants on Twitter.

Still, in the end, it’s not about who has the most charismatic or generous personalities in their roster, nor about who has the most “crazies.” It’s about the truth.

So let’s talk about the truth, and with the people who most consistently and graciously point us toward it.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" and "Evolving in Monkey Town." Evans blogs at rachelheldevans.com, and the views expressed in this column belong to her.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity • Faith

soundoff (5,916 Responses)
  1. Gus Barba

    Ms. Evans, you are right we should not let destructive words or actions go simply because they occurred long ago or in a different cultural context. ( Yes, Dawkins maybe blind to the present effects of that past) So should we not see this comment as a shot across the bow for everyone; do I need to mention the hate and brutality especially against children in your 'good' book. Are these actions not defended in the most sweeping and broadest sense by religionists like yourself today?

    September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  2. Etta Mae

    So, I believe in God. But I think all religions are inherently evil. Where does that put me? Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Except I really do believe in science. I think teaching creationism to children is tantamount to telling them that Santa Claus is real and that he'll bring you gifts at Christmas if you'll just learn to hate anyone who isn't Christian. Man and dinosaurs roaming the earth together? They need to make a movie showing Jesus riding into Nazareth on the back of a brontosaurus. Except fanatical Christians would take that as proof that man and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time.

    Religion is a dangerous thing. It stymies progressive thought. Forbids it outright. And enslaves believers to follow laws and teachings which may not be in their best interests. And if there is a God – and I think there is – then he is surely confounded by us all because WE created the many religions of this world; HE didn't.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Your "god" has a gender? Thats demented...

      September 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Valerie

      Painting ALL religions with the same paintbrush by saying that they prevent progressive thought and enslaves believers is being blatantly unfair to those religions which do not do that. Buddhism, for example, has the Kalama Sutta, spoken by the Buddha himself and is the ground for preventing dogma within the religion.

      Kalama Sutta

      The people of Kalama asked the Buddha who to believe out of all the ascetics, sages, venerables, and holy ones who, like himself, passed through their town. They complained that they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. The Kalama Sutta is the Buddha's reply.
      – Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.
      – Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.
      – Do not believe anything on account of rumors or because people talk a a great deal about it.
      – Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.
      – Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordinary, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.
      – Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favor, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.
      – Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.
      – But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.
      The same text, said the Buddha, must be applied to his own teachings.

      – Do not accept any doctrine from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • Shayna

        Buddhism in non-theistic

        September 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • G to the T

          Depends on the brach – Theravada is non-theistic but many others do have theist tendancies.

          September 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  3. James

    Side question: What happened to all of the people who lived prior to the start of monotheism? Are they all in hell? How can they be if there was not a single god to worship?

    September 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • jens gessner

      There is a funny story of an exchange between a missionary and a aboriginal:

      Aboriginal: If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?
      Priest: No, not if you did not know.
      Aboriginal: Then why did you tell me?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • James

        😀

        September 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  4. Kenneth

    I don't understand how people could possibly respect people who worship a bronze-age. middle-eastern, genocidal, jewish deity (yahweh) and his illiterate, passive "son" (jesus).

    Luckily, Christians in the US are dying off faster than they can be replaced. Like Western Europe, people who profess belief will be ridiculed by anyone who has am above-high-school education.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Galileo

    Sorry, but it's not a quid pro quo type thing. You're equating Pat Robertson with Richard Dawkins? My outlook is very similar to Dawkins. As a scientist I know the difference between evidence and opinions and especially the diversity of opinions. I don't consider anyone - whatever their philosophical/religious stripe - to be in the same box as Robertson. He's a self serving circus freak. But you're trying to put Dawkins in that box. No way.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  6. Irona

    I'd love to see the author of this blog actually defend what they have written. It'll never happen because there is no defense for stupidity.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  7. karl from az

    A true Christian CANNOT make a deal with EVIL!

    September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      In order to do that, Christians would have to make a deal with themselves...

      September 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Your deity supposedly forgives the most heinous, evil people on earth, if only the ask for "forgiveness", how's that for a deal with "evil"?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • the real god

      christians ARE evil.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Irona

      A true christian? You mean like your buddy Pat? The Westboro baptist church? How about Warren Jeffs, or Ted Haggard? Are they "true" christians?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • His Noodly Master

        Actually, Westboro is being more true to the faith than the majority of hypocrite Christians are. An "inconvenient truth", that.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • James

          so true. They definitely know what's up. 🙂

          September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Peaceful Christian

      A true Christian follows Christ's precepts not his own prejudices. Remember "Love thy neighbor"???

      September 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • One one

      Do you mean like After the Nazis came to power in Germany, they signed an agreement with the Catholic Church whereby the Vatican would accept the Nazi government in return for the Nazis not interfering with the Catholic Church?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  8. Gabriel

    I think Dawkins is trying to normalize inappropriate touching in his mind to deal with his own admitted abuse as a child. He needs counseling regarding this. On the other hand, what's Robertson's excuse for the hate that spews from his mouth?

    September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Irona

      faith.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  9. John Swinburn

    As a life-long atheist, I'm perfectly happy to agree to the terms suggested by Ms. Evans. I'm just as sick and tired of vitriol from atheists as I am of vitriol from evangelical nutcases. Obviously, atheists and Christians (and all theists) have radically different views of reality. One, or both, are "wrong." But who cares? If we treat our differences as philosophical differences instead of existential differences, we'll all be better off.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Peaceful Christian

      Wooo hoo, John!!!!! Would that both sides get that!!!

      September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • jens gessner

      No, I would not let religious people off the hook that easily. The problem is not just differing views on reality, the problem is that irrational views make their way into public policy.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
      • His Noodly Master

        Hear, hear. We'll stop glorifying our heroes when you fundagelical kooks stop electing wingnut politicians.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • John Swinburn

        I think most reasonable Christians, and there are many, support rational public policy. It's not Christianity that's attempting to establish everlasting control over public policy, it's right-wing dominionists. I'll happily condemn them and their efforts and I will fight them every step of the way, but painting all Christians with the same brush I paint these dangerous creatures does me no good and, in fact, alienates people who otherwise might be my allies.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • jens gessner

          The abortion debate is dominated by religious folk. Opposition to gay marriage is entirely due to religious views. There is even a debate in school boards over the curriculum, because religious folk can't tell the difference between rational science and irrational belief. There are many examples.

          September 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • DropD

      You sounded like you were genuine until you threw in "nutcases" to describe the extreme religious view holders, yet used no insults to describe the same on the atheist side. Hypocrite much?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • James

        and what would the extreme version of an atheist be?

        September 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • John Swinburn

        Fair enough. I'll apply the same term to the atheist idiots who wish to force theists into their narrow views.

        September 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  10. Time For You To Grow Up...

    Morality is doing what's right no matter what you're told...

    Religion is doing what you're told, no matter what's right.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • johnthemon

      sheer profundity

      September 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Parker

    No deal. Because Pat Robertson has MANY followers that believe every word he says. Richard Dawkins may be a prominent atheist, but atheists won't hesitate to say "No, Dawkins is fully wrong here."

    Pat Robertson is leading many people to do terrible things. Richard Dawkins is no leader.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Peaceful Christian

      Parker, there are a great many Christians who don't hesitate to call out Pat Robertson, including yours truly.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Pat Robertson is not leading anyone to terrible things. Unless you consider giving medical care and digging wells around the world and providing school supplies and disaster relief at home to be terrible things.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Have you heard what he said about AIDS and Sandy etc. etc. He is in a position where a section of christians do look to him for guidance.

        September 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • Bob Bales

          And what terrible things were done because of what he said? (I don't agree with everything Mr, Robertson says, but I think that sometimes what he says is misunderstood by those without a Christian background.)

          September 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  12. chanruss

    There is only one true gospel in the world and all other religions are an abomination onto God.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      How are you so certain?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      Your blind faith has no effect on reality...

      September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      True, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      All praise His Noodly Appendages.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • One one

      That's what they all say.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Meredith S.

      Chanruss, dear, you are exactly what Ms. Held Evans was talking about when she describes the vitriolic Christian. You aren't representative of Christians, thankfully.

      Dial down the rhetoric a bit, and stop being so divisive. If you're not Christian, because you didn't state your religion, dial it down anyway.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Any evidence of a god?

      September 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  13. conoclast

    Don't make the mistake putting religious people and atheists on the same shelf; they are NOT "spiritual equals". Religion itself is firmly based on (and blatantly nurtures) fear, plain & simple. Atheism rejects the notion that fear of death is a way-of-life - and those religious cynics in the clergy who rely on it for a livelihood. What atheism is, really, is simple honesty.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      This is the atheist's view of religion, not what it actually is. Religion, specifically Christianity is based on fear in exactly the same way as is doctors' advice to quit smoking or to eat less sugar.

      Atheists seem to think that their beliefs are superior to those that believe in God. The reality is that they are just the atheists' opinions, which cannot be objective shown to be reality.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        The evidence that we have contradicts the creation myths of all religions. While atheists cannot prove that there is no god, those that claim a god should be able to provide evidence and they can't, so why believe in the superstitions of ancient middle-eastern shepherds?

        September 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
        • Bob Bales

          I take it that you are referring, at least primarily, to evolution as opposed to the Bible. It is not the evidence that contradicts the Bible, but a particular view - one developed while specifically excluding God - of the evidence. You say that those who believe can't provide evidence of God. They can't provide evidence that atheists accept (those who do are former atheists), but atheists are not the judges of what is and is not evidence. Millions of people have looked at the evidence and concluded that God exists. You would say there is no evidence, but they would say there is. You cannot show that you are right and they are wrong.

          September 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Herewe Goagain

    They are not interested in your little deal, Rachel.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  15. kevin

    how does crap like this make it on cnn.com

    September 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      It is called a belief blog for a reason.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  16. VIVI Pestilenz

    Religion doesn't have to be a problem. However it chooses to be a problem. If Christians were more open-minded they wouldn't have the blind hate towards Atheists to hide from their own beliefs. You can hide behind your beliefs all you want but it doesn't mean every one needs to follow your set of rules.

    You need to be concience for your children not just your people. If you raise your children a certain way make sure it's very light-hearted and don't push the "if you don't believe in God you will burn in the fiery pits" brainwashing too hard. They are young and they of course cannot understand the world and it's problems so I guess that's why they are so vulnerable to your race.

    I choose to be secular. I don't mind Christians as long as they don't tell me what I can or cannot believe because some Christians the Zionists believe God should be in politics. I believe God should be a choice not a MUST HAVE. I guess that's just indication that I have wisdom and am beyond comprehension of religious beliefs and brainwashing tactics. Sorry Christians but you failed on me.

    Next time you want to strike a deal make it worth our time.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      I don't know if you have children, but if you do or will, will you keep in light-hearted and not brainwash them with the idea that there is no God. You'll probably object that telling children there is no God isn't brainwashing - but there is no reason to think Christian teaching is brainwashing, either.

      September 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  17. MTD

    CNN, is this woman the best you can get to write a column on religion? Someone please tell her that going to a Christian church doesn't make you a Christian.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Lagos

      And judging someone you've never met like you're God is apparently indicative of your strong Christian beliefs.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • VIVI Pestilenz

        Oh please Christians judge people all of the time.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  18. wakeup333

    This site seems to ban comments with the word "Muslims." I've tried to defend Dawkin's tweet but none of my comments posted!

    September 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      It wouldn't be the word muslims, it would be something containing 'bad' letter combinations.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Hints

      Bad letter combinations/words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN Belief Blog/WordPress automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      -
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      crac-ker…
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more, etc.
      ho-oters…as in sho-oters
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      inf-orms us…
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      ni-gra…as in deni-grate
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
      sn-atch
      sp-ank
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, t-itle, ent-ity, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, salt-water, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!
      x-xx…
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).

      September 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  19. truthsayer

    RELIGION IS THE PROBLEM

    September 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      People are the problem.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • Time For You To Grow Up...

        That's a non-sequitur... There are a lot of good people in the world, but religion makes a lot of good people bad.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          It's not a non-sequitur. People are going to massacre each other over something, it might as well be religion.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • Time For You To Grow Up...

          "It's not a non-sequitur. People are going to massacre each other over something, it might as well be religion."

          Religion is the REASON why people massacre each other... Remove it and the massacres will all but stop.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          No they won't, people will find another reason.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          We should castigate the reasons people use to murder each other. Religion and the other reasons.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          People will invent new reasons.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Which we should then castigate. duh

          September 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          We'd end up with nothing.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Bullsh!t. What a nonsequitur and silly idea. We keep refining our laws and disapproval of unwanted behavior. If no real progress is made then at least we're trying everything we can. Try feeling less fatalistic and accepting of murder, why don't you?

          September 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • Bob Bales

          "Remove it and the massacres will all but stop." Except for Nazi Germany (which focused on the Jews' ethnicity, not their religion and, if anything, considered Slavic people to be lower than Jews), Cambodia, North Korea, Stalin. . . .

          September 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
      • Jack

        People who support religion are the problem

        September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Some of them. There are lots of good people who support religion.

          September 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  20. dan tate

    AS A CHRISTIAN, THERE ARE NUMEROUS DOCTRINS I HERE OR READ IN CHURCH WHICH I QUESTION OR EVEN DISAGREE WITH. ESPECIALLY WHEN I HERE YOUR EITHER WITH US OR AGINST US.

    I HAVE A NUMBER OF FRIENDS WHO CLAIM NOT TO BELIEVE IN GOD, BUT EVEN SO THEY STILL PRACTICE BASIC VALUES OF HONESTY, LOVE, GIVING AND FORGIVENESS AS WELL AS BEING NON JUDGE MENTAL AND RESPECT FOR OTHERS.

    AS A LIFE LONG CHRISTIAN,ONE THING WHICH IS NOT DEBATABLE IS MY FAITH. THE BEST I CAN DO IS PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT AND HOLD ON TO MY WALLET A LITTLE TIGHTER WHEN CONFRONTING WITH OTHERS WHO GO OVER BOARDWHEN BRAGGKING ABOUT BEING A TRUS CHRISIAN.

    September 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • truthsayer

      Morality did not come from religion. As a species we would not have gotten to this point in history without cooperating and recognizing basic moral beliefs - and this moral belief did not come from a god, it comes from people not wanting immoral acts done upon them and in turn they don't do it to others. No God in the equation.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Parker

      Caps lock button is on the left, Dan.

      September 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • One one

      Why do you feel you must pray for those who are not Christians ?

      September 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • Yahweh

        They love the way their "voice" sounds in their head. I'm sure it's the empty, echoing effect.

        September 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
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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.