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December 7th, 2013
09:16 AM ET

An atheist photographer focuses on faith

Opinion by Mark Schacter, special to CNN

(CNN) - I don’t believe in a divine presence, nor do I subscribe to any organized religion.

And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith.

With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that faith exerts over so many people's lives.

As a photographer approaching this mystery, I am confronted by what might seem like a contradiction: Photographs capture what can be seen, and yet faith is often invisible.

But even if personal faith can't be seen directly, there are some tangible traces of its existence, and that's where I point my camera.

In particular, I photograph houses of worship, whose bricks and clapboard, stained glass and steel are often the largest and most visible manifestations of religious faith.

I've photographed Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Baha'i sanctuaries in the United States and Canada.

I've also interviewed Christian ministers, a rabbi, a imam and a Buddhist scholar about the significance of their spiritual homes, pressing them to explain how they reconcile their sometimes opulent houses of worship with the fact that religion is ultimately about transcending worldly things.

Often, they answered that the magnificent building is of little consequence. It serves a valuable purpose only if, through its grandeur, it transports worshipers to a spiritual state of mind.

“The point of the building is to leave people feeling awestruck,” said the Rev. Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.

But is it the building itself that gives the space a sacred quality, or is holiness derived from the devotions of worshipers, present and past, who have occupied the space?

I don't pretend to know the answer to that question. But I do know this: Even an ardent atheist can look at a house of worship and see the signs of an invisible human longing that is common to us all, believer and unbeliever alike.

Mark Schacter is a photographer based in Ottawa, Canada. Mark's newest book of photography, Houses of Worship, has just been published. It's available now in Canada and will be released internationally soon. His website is www.luxetveritas.net.

The opinions expressed in this commentary belong to Mark Schacter.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Buddhism • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Houses of worship • Islam • Judaism • Mosque • Opinion • Sikh • United States

soundoff (2,235 Responses)
  1. tony

    I don't believe in the theory of god.

    December 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Mary is the mother of God. God is the father of God. Mary therefore had incest with her own son before he was born.

      God sits at the right hand of himself.

      God created sin, and then died for our sins so we could go to heaven. If God did not create sin, the rest of the bizarre story would not exist as there would be no sin to be concerned about. So this begs the question, why did God saddle unborn babies with sin that He invented in the first place? Then die for those sins even though God can't die?

      Christians are weird.

      December 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • BSinestra

        This excellent commentary should be handed to all christians to read and try to grasp.

        December 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    Common sense and a belief in gods / religion are not compatible.

    December 7, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Apple Bush

      1. There is no evidence for a god or gods.
      2. I have beliefs. Why would I not blog if I wish?

      December 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  3. tony

    You gotta wonder why a real god needs any churches?

    And as to church leaders and collection plates. . . . . . . . .

    December 7, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  4. truth

    wow,, all that tax free property that all tax payers have to pick up the tab for.

    Tax the businesses

    December 7, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  5. Dave

    You make my point exactly, when you say that it takes no faith to believe that all life is decendant from a single celled organism through random chance. I am always amazed at the blind faith and how people try to deflect from what the Theory of Evolution actually is.

    December 7, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • jj

      Evidence is one hell of a friend.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  6. Daniel

    I really get a good laugh when people mention Buddhism as a religion of faith. It is to a point but, by far, exponentially less than any Judaic tradition. If you actually follow true buddhism, that one coming from India 2500 years ago, you understand the simplicity of faith in its philosophy. True Buddhism has no reliance on a holier than thou figure nor a pointing finger from the heavens to point out all your foibles....we are all on a path of suffering...every living being on Earth of in existence....being human, we have the ability to realize the real nature of reality....suffering....Sidharta Guatama only provided a prescription or a path to alleviate suffering here either on Earth or to eradicate it altogether....

    December 7, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  7. tom LI

    "'The point of the building is to leave people feeling awestruck,' said the Rev. Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto."

    Interesting, because for me I'm more awestruck by simplicity and humility in many places of worship than I am in what usually manifests in excess splendor, and grandeur. Whenever I've seen one of the many beautiful houses worship around the world, be they a European Cathedral or a Mosque, or Temple – I see what man can do, and does very well...build nice things. What I dont see is the God, the presence of any spiritual essence there...I see nothing but MAN. Which is fine I like what mankind has built for place we want to make special. But it doesnt spark anything "Divine" for me to consider. Its just more of MAN.

    Where I might get more a sense of the Divine is in the more humble places where despite the rough life of the locals, the surrounding glitz and grandeur of Civilization and mans constant paying homage to himself -such as a city like NYC – and there is a humble place (trinity church) some place reserved for contemplation and quiet from all the distractions of our very material world.

    December 7, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • tony

      I'm, struck by how many houses of worship have come down in earthquakes, often killing those praying inside. Italy in the 80's rings a bell in my memory.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • Street Epistemologist In Training

        But what about the buildings and symbols that remain standing, or are created when a building collapses?

        December 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  8. Romans1:20

    For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

    December 7, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • ME II

      "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities... have been clearly seen, ..."

      A concept entirely acceptable to the great Invisible Pink Unicorn.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:15 am |
      • JJ

        Glory to the great IPU! May her loving invisible pinkness shine on us all and may all unbelievers suffer under the wrath of her punishing hooves.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • tony

          But will she hear your prayers?

          December 7, 2013 at 11:25 am |
        • JJ

          She hears prayers as well as all the other gods do.

          December 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • tony

      The world had to have been created several million years after the Sun, or the world would have had no sunlight for those several million years.

      If you don't beieve that, then you must also believe that the local nuclear power station is a figment of your imagination.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Is it your God's will that some people have the Spirit and some do not? I see I a conflict here: people are blamed for what they should know even without the Spirit, yet people can accept God only with the Spirit.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • Romans1:20

        Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. God is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to die but for all to come to repentance. God is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • tony

          Sounds a bit lilke the "theory" of gravity

          December 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Jorge

    Beautiful buildings in which to worship are not meant as gifts to the world but as offerings to God; offering not the mediocre but only the best, it is a material offering, just as we try to offer the best body (which is called by Him His temple) to Him, the difference being that He builds up in us the best temple in which to reside, Could more people have been fed with the money spent on building a church or a cathedral; maybe. But could more people be fed if we all undertook the task of making an impact on at least one human being; absolutely, that is what Jesus said we must do, but instead we tend to criticize the efforts of those who are doing something as NOT ENOUGH when we could join them and DO MORE. Why is it that when an Atheist does something "good" for humanity we call them generous and good , even though most of their money is spent on personal pleasures and when a church or a Christian does something good we say that they are not doing enough because they spent money building a beautiful church? It is right to feed the hungry but it is also right to build restaurants that serve spiritual food which are churches.

    December 7, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • tony

      " even though most of their money is spent on personal pleasures"

      Spreading lies about atheists is presumably a violation of the 9th commandment?

      December 7, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • ME II

        Technically, everyone spends "most" of their money on "personal pleasures" like food, shelter, and clothing.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Jorge

        If I have bore false witness against my neighbor then I have done it to myself for I used to be one of those who lived life for my own pleasure, Making a statement of truth that is disagreed with by others does not make it false, but even then breaking the 9th commandment can be forgiven, however blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is not.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:35 am |
        • tony

          Making a statement by saying up front it is "of truth", doesn't make it true either, even if agreed with by millions of others.

          Flat earth, Copernicus, Salme witch trials, etc. are not on your side of events.

          December 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
        • sqeptiq

          You mean there are "sins" that your god cannot forgive?

          December 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
        • BSinestra

          The holy spirit has been officially denounced, but the taking the lord's name in vain...that is another story

          December 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • ME II

      Not that I agree with your portrayal, but believers always run the risk of "doing good" just to curry favor with their deity or just to avoid punishment, which are not the noblest of motives. Non-believers, on the other hand, seemingly do "good" because it is the right thing to do.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:11 am |
      • hozo1

        thank you ... this concept is seemingly so foreign to the religious ... you do good because it gives you the best feeling in the world to help fellow human beings ... no strings attached, no heaven and hell stuff ... just helping out someone who needs help ... the human thing to do ...

        December 7, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • AE

          It is definitely not foreign to the religious.

          I think it is pretty clear that Jesus teaches our righteous acts do not produce favor with God or help us avoid suffering. At least that is my understanding.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • AE

        Are you saying the "non-believer" good works and are nobler than "believer" good works

        December 7, 2013 at 11:26 am |
        • AE

          "Non-believers" run the risk of doing good deeds just so they can tell others they "do the right thing" or are "just as noble as believers".

          December 7, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • ME II

          You see the difficulty with apparent motives.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • Street Epistemologist In Training

          No, he is saying the motivation for doing good works is nobler. It is more noble to do good just to do the right thing and help another, than to escape the wrath of a vindictive pr.ick.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:39 am |
        • AE

          Not all religious people do good deeds to avoid punishment from a vengeful God. Some of us have that same desire to help others as you have.

          I think it is great that you are motivated to do good deeds. But for me, it would be arrogant to start and think my good deeds are nobler than others. But that is what my religion teaches me... humility.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:43 am |
        • Street Epistemologist In Training

          You continue to confuse the deed and the motivation for doing the deed. This bit of this thread is about the motivation, not the deed.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • AE

          But it appears you are imagining what motivates a religious person.

          Is a non-believer at risk at being motivated by doing good deeds just so he can tell others he is doing the right thing? Or just so he can imagine he is more noble than the person who he imagines is doing it to just please an angry, vengeful God?

          December 7, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • G to the T

          I think it's more a matter of "it's more noble to do good for its own sake, rather than for selfish reasons" – "Selfish" can cover how it makes you feel, that your god would approve or even that you get a tax break. What I think the OP was going for is that believers have one more less than ideal reason for doing good (i.e. fear of divine retribution).

          December 9, 2013 at 11:23 am |
      • Jorge

        No, a true Christian does not do good to "curry" favor with God, the bible is clear on this, we can not gain favor or salvation through works of righteousness, we do it as an offering to God, an offering of obedience, not to feel good about ourselves.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • ME II

          ... but not simply because it is the right thing to do, or because it helps another human suffer less?

          December 7, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • Romans1:20

        Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

        December 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • tom LI

      Offerings such as these are not part of the NT prescription – as Jesus reinvented the OT covenant to be something different than what was part of the OT tents and rituals. (or so Believers keep telling us about the NT and the NEW Covenant) These Offerings you speak of, are not what Jesus sought from us...we are the offerings, not our material goods. BTW, many of these offerings, these great Cathedrals and such in the Xtian heritage were built with dirty money and indentured workers, many even slave laborers. In many US locals Xtian Churches are built with a little under the table money to the local zoning board, and often without much care for their impact on the environment, etc...

      I cant speak much for the other Religions, but one can say the same about them as well...Buddhism for example...while their temples can be seen as less grandiose in the native locations, in the West they become Statements of what MAN can do to show-off, and not what man can do to seek the Divine.

      I would be more impressed by a Xtian community that holds back on the grandeur, and builds for functionality not to grab my attention as I drive past. Who decide to maybe house some of their poorer congregants than build a Monument to their ability to raise funds for attention getting.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  10. Justice

    Mark, very well said.

    My mother always told me 'Faith lies within' and I think she's right. It lies within each and every one of us.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • tony

      Which kinda clashes with the absolute fact that most babies get initially given the faith of their parents and the area of the world they grow up in.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Billy

      Sometimes just fibs, but a lot of lies for sure

      December 7, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Justice

      A note to my fellow Christians and people of faith:

      Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in the Central Africa Republic (CAP) who are fleeing their homes, hiding in the brush and seeking refuge in Airports and places of worship as they have fallen under attack and persecution by Islamic radicals, Al Q Boco Harem and other Muslim rebels in an attempt to squash freedom of worship and infidels.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • tony

        Press reports say they started the massacre and are fleeing the reprisals.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:23 am |
        • Justice

          Tony:

          Read more. These atrocities against Christians has been going on for nearly a decade as Muslim gangs have used this region to smuggle cocaine from S. America to Europe. Their President fell to Muslim rebel in March. The people want their government back.

          December 7, 2013 at 11:33 am |
      • tom LI

        And yet you miss the back story – where Xtians came in and persecuted the locals for their pagan beliefs, or simply for not adhering to Xtian beliefs and rules on how to behave, etc.. Xtianity has a long dirty history of persecuting Natives peoples, then yelling persecution themselves when those same locals rise up – perhaps under a newer Religion that promises them the justice Xtianity did but never delivered...

        Xtianity is not an Innocent in the History of the World, most especially in places like Africa, the Asia's and here in the USA where like elsewhere Natives peoples were persecuted to within an inch of their lives and cultures! And like here in the US American Xtians are now screaming persecution at every turn because of what is the inevitable historical push-back of a system that preaches fairness and justice – but delivers none of it! American Xtians DO NOT know real persecution, not on these shores!

        December 7, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Realist

      ------–

      ... http://www.GodIsImaginary.com...

      ... and thank goodness because he ...

      ............. emanates from the .............

      ... http://www.EvilBible.com

      ------–

      December 8, 2013 at 1:57 am |
  11. chatley

    Actually you do have faith, more than you can imagine. If a person can look around and see everything and blindly believes that everything around including one's very own conscious that reacts with feelings (whether good or bad / happy or sad) and thinks that everything just popped into existence without a creator has to have some type of serious faith. We never have seen anything pop into existence ever, everything we see or build starts with some type of creation from some creator whether it be from humans or whatever, not one single example of anything would prove otherwise, so going about everyday life feeling confident that everything just magically popped into existence without a magician really takes a lot more faith than what I have.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • ME II

      "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" * POP *

      December 7, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  12. colonelingus

    Sin= Self induced nonsense.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      Great moniker there, colonel – kudos!

      December 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  13. tony

    Goodness Gracious. An acticle that actually piques interest and isn't full of fantasy claims.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  14. Phil

    I would hate to be as empty and soul less as the photographer. I feel bad for him. What kind of a life must he have had to end up this way?

    December 7, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • tony

      Actually you are. As are we all.

      You just have some way over the top fantasy beliefs that give you warm fuzzies.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • ?

      Really Phil, feeling sorry for someone just because they managed to avoid the brainwashing.

      December 7, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • hozo1

      a good meaningful one ... seems to have eluded you unfortunately ... wake up!!!

      December 7, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """I would hate to be as empty and soul less as the photographer. I feel bad for him. What kind of a life must he have had to end up this way?"""

      Understand this: you should not feel bad about the photographer.

      You believe in something that is not true. It makes you feel good, but it is a self-delusion. Not everyone needs to delude themselves to live a happy life, okay?

      December 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • BSinestra

      The marvels of this world and the universe are plenty without panting your nose in a bronze age book of nonsense.
      See he feels sorry for you, as I do..
      Science has disobeyed religion and you are tankful for that.

      December 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  15. Dave

    I don’t believe that the universe or life is the result of blind chance, nor do I have a doctorate in science. And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith in most historical science. With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that the belief in Evolution and the Big Bang exerts over so many people's lives. What I find most fascinating is the denial that these beliefs take any faith at all, when all observable science abd common sense contradicts these beliefs.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • ME II

      @Dave,
      That's big claim. What science contradicts evolution?

      December 7, 2013 at 10:30 am |
      • Dave

        Evolution's claim that all life descends from simple one-celled organisms is contradicted by every experiment to produce life from non-life. It is contradicted by common sense, because no cell is simple. It is contradicted by probability and statistics, there is no chance it happened. The "tree of life" is contradicted by genetic studies when unrelated life has similiar DNA. It is contradicated by every observation that complex machines and processes and information are not created by random mutations and selection, but only by intention.

        December 7, 2013 at 11:28 am |
        • hozo1

          you live in Texas don't you

          December 7, 2013 at 11:31 am |
        • ME II

          @Dave,
          “Evolution's claim that all life descends from simple one-celled organisms is contradicted by every experiment to produce life from non-life.”

          Your statement is a non-sequitur. How can descent from simple life be contradicted by experiments of life from non-life? One is evolution and the other is abiogenesis.

          “ It is contradicted by common sense, because no cell is simple. “

          “simple” is relative. How does this contradict evolution?

          “It is contradicted by probability and statistics, there is no chance it happened. “

          There is “no chance” that you can know the probability of abiogenesis. (yes, “no chance” is hyperbole)

          “The "tree of life" is contradicted by genetic studies when unrelated life has similiar DNA”

          First, what life is “unrelated”? Second, what studies are you referring to specifically?

          “It is contradicated by every observation that complex machines and processes and information are not created by random mutations and selection, but only by intention.”

          What observations are referring to specifically? One example beneficial mutation is Lenski’s e. coli experiment: http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli and http://www.pnas.org/content/105/23/7899.abstract

          December 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          why do you believe 'common sense' carries any weight in regards to evolution?

          December 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Colin

      Well Dave, there is no "pull toward" evolution nor faith involved in accepting evoution. It takes nothing more than an understanding of high school biology. Genetic diversity, survival of the fittest and the propensity of organisms to produce offspring that resemble themselves are all pretty simple concepts. Outside of the USA, the schoolchildren don't seem to have a problem grasping these relatively simple ideas.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • Jeff Williams

        """ It takes nothing more than an understanding of high school biology. """

        And therein lies the rub. Those who understand biology the least are the most skeptical of evolution.

        December 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
        • Jonathan

          Interesting claim. I'm skeptical of evolution (the belief that all creatures evolved from a single organism) though I am quite convinced of natural selection and adaptation. I also scored the highest in my high school biology, advanced biology, chemisty and anatomy/physiology courses (99% or higher in every test).

          December 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • hozo1

      so does gravity take faith? if i don't believe in it do I fall off the Earth?

      December 7, 2013 at 11:29 am |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Gravity is real.

        December 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  16. ME II

    Yet another response to the Theist's perennial question, "Why do Atheists care about religion?", simple curiosity.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  17. JJ

    Imagine where our species would be if we were to take all the resources and effort we waste because of belief in the supernatural and utilize them in the real world.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Keith of Colorado

      We could have colonized Mars by now.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  18. Colin

    One of the few positive things religion has brought the World is beautiful architecture. When one looks at the most beautiful or historically important buildings in the World, they tend to be religious monuments – the pyramids of Egypt and Mesoamerica, the great cathedrals of Europe, Spilt Blood and St. Isaacs in Saint Petersburg, the Greek and Roman temples, the Taj Mahal, the Wots of Asia, even the modern Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and the like.

    Indeed, escaping death seems to be one of the principal motivators for our species to achieve architectural greatness. What a shame it is all a futile waste of time and resources and that there is no Egyptian, Hindu, Christian or Buddhist afterlife to reward our construction endeavors.

    December 7, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • ME II

      True. Religions have inspired some amazing art and architecture.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Pete

      Don't forget too that people and animals suffered in building those structures, killed and lived miserable lives to make it happen. The corruption of religion at it's finest.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • Colin

        100% agreed.

        December 7, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      Well, you know, that money would be better spent on the poor people in the area, but you gotta impress god with your building of worship, because that what he sees best I suppose. Churches used to be the tallest buildings people made – until people started worshipping money. Now the financial buildings are the tallest.

      December 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  19. catherine

    The Christian one seems the best to me.......Expansion to the truth!

    December 7, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • tony

      Expansion along the astral plane no doubt.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  20. Jason

    As the scriptures say, your body is a temple of the living God.

    December 7, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Jason

      1 Corinthians 6:19

      December 7, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Corruptible flesh, you mean?

      December 7, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Pete

      "your body is a temple of the living God."

      That eventually break down, gets sick and dies, sounds just like all religions man has created.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • Science Works

        Pete

        It might be to hard for the religious but the cycle of life – we are born – we live and pay taxes – then die .

        But there is a bunch of fun stuff in the we live part !

        December 7, 2013 at 10:40 am |
        • lol??

          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          Bushman quoted the exact same story. Is that a socie A&A myth??..

          December 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
          lol??
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          They are a testy bunch, SAT and all.
          lol??
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          lol??
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          Mommie and pink ponies, sheesh.
          lol??
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          Show us yer LUV socies!! Uuuummm, on second thought please skip it...

          December 7, 2013 at 2:01 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.