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May 1st, 2014
09:15 AM ET

Why Christians should support the death penalty

Opinion by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN) - The death penalty has been part of human society for millennia, understood to be the ultimate punishment for the most serious crimes.

But, should Christians support the death penalty now, especially in light of the controversial execution Tuesday in Oklahoma?

This is not an easy yes or no question.

On the one hand, the Bible clearly calls for capital punishment in the case of intentional murder.

In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

The death penalty was explicitly grounded in the fact that God made every individual human being in his own image, and thus an act of intentional murder is an assault upon human dignity and the very image of God.

In the simplest form, the Bible condemns murder and calls for the death of the murderer. The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul instructs Christians that the government “does not bear the sword in vain.” Indeed, in this case the magistrate “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the evildoer.” [Romans 13:4]

On the other hand, the Bible raises a very high requirement for evidence in a case of capital murder.

The act of murder must be confirmed and corroborated by the eyewitness testimony of accusers, and the society is to take every reasonable precaution to ensure that no one is punished unjustly.

While the death penalty is allowed and even mandated in some cases, the Bible also reveals that not all who are guilty of murder and complicity in murder are executed.

Just remember the biblical accounts concerning Moses, David and Saul, later known as Paul.

Christian thinking about the death penalty must begin with the fact that the Bible envisions a society in which capital punishment for murder is sometimes necessary, but should be exceedingly rare.

The Bible also affirms that the death penalty, rightly and justly applied, will have a powerful deterrent effect.

In a world of violence, the death penalty is understood as a necessary firewall against the spread of further deadly violence.

Seen in this light, the problem we face today is not with the death penalty, but with society at large.

American society is quickly conforming to a secular worldview, and the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization is being replaced with a much more ambiguous morality.

We have lost the cultural ability to declare murder – even mass murder – to be deserving of the death penalty.

Oklahoma's botched lethal injection marks new front in battle over executions

We have also robbed the death penalty of its deterrent power by allowing death penalty cases to languish for years in the legal system, often based on irrational and irrelevant appeals.

While most Americans claim to believe that the death penalty should be supported, there is a wide disparity in how Americans of different states and regions think about the issue.

Furthermore, Christians should be outraged at the economic and racial injustice in how the death penalty is applied. While the law itself is not prejudiced, the application of the death penalty often is.

Opinion: End secrecy in lethal injections

There is very little chance that a wealthy white murderer will ever be executed. There is a far greater likelihood that a poor African-American murderer will face execution.

Why? Because the rich can afford massively expensive legal defense teams that can exhaust the ability of the prosecution to get a death penalty sentence.

This is an outrage, and no Christian can support such a disparity. As the Bible warns, the rich must not be able to buy justice on their own terms.

There is also the larger cultural context. We must recognize that our cultural loss of confidence in human dignity and the secularizing of human identity has made murder a less heinous crime in the minds of many Americans.

Most would not admit this lower moral evaluation of murder, but our legal system is evidence that this is certainly true.

We also face a frontal assault upon the death penalty that is driven by legal activists and others determined to bring legal execution to an end in America.

Controversy over an execution this week in Oklahoma will bring even more attention to this cause, but most Americans will be completely unaware that this tragedy was caused by the inability of prison authorities to gain access to drugs for lethal injection that would have prevented those complications.

Opponents of the death penalty have, by their legal and political action, accomplished what might seem at first to be impossible – they now demand action to correct a situation that they largely created.

Their intention is to make the death penalty so horrifying in the public mind that support for executions would disappear. They have attacked every form of execution as “cruel and unusual punishment,” even though the Constitution itself authorizes the death penalty.

It is a testament to moral insanity that they have successfully diverted attention from a murderer’s heinous crimes and instead put the death penalty on trial.

Should Christians support the death penalty today?

I believe that Christians should hope, pray and strive for a society in which the death penalty, rightly and rarely applied, would make moral sense.

This would be a society in which there is every protection for the rights of the accused, and every assurance that the social status of the murderer will not determine the sentence for the crime.

Christians should work to ensure that there can be no reasonable doubt that the accused is indeed guilty of the crime. We must pray for a society in which the motive behind capital punishment is justice, and not merely revenge.

We must work for a society that will honor every single human being at every point of development and of every race and ethnicity as made in God’s image.

We must hope for a society that will support and demand the execution of justice in order to protect the very existence of that society. We must pray for a society that rightly tempers justice with mercy.

Should Christians support the death penalty today? I believe that we must, but with the considerations detailed above.

At the same time, given the secularization of our culture and the moral confusion that this has brought, this issue is not so clear-cut as some might think.

I do believe that the death penalty, though supported by the majority of Americans, may not long survive in this cultural context.

Death penalty in the United States gradually declining

It is one thing to support the death penalty. It is another thing altogether to explain it, fix it, administer it and sustain it with justice.

We are about to find out if Americans have the determination to meet that challenge. Christians should take leadership to help our fellow citizens understand what is at stake.

God affirmed the death penalty for murder as he made his affirmation of human dignity clear to Noah. Our job is to make it clear to our neighbors.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this column belong to Mohler.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Courts • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Ethics • Opinion • Violence

soundoff (2,706 Responses)
  1. SeaVik

    Why am I not surprised that Theo is for the death penalty? Is there any issue where he doesn't hold an immoral position?

    May 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
    • Akira

      I would think that s/he would have agreed that only God has the right to take a life. But, no.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
      • SeaVik

        Yes, and if his all-powerful god wanted someone dead, you'd think it would be able to make that happen without requiring the government to do so.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I am pro-death penalty (but anti-theo)

      May 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
      • SeaVik

        It's ok Egg, no one is perfect. If you oppose Theo on the majority of issues, you're probably a pretty good person.

        Why anyone would trust the government to decide life and death is beyond me. Consider all the George Bush executions in Texas. That is a seriously concerning thought that a man with the brain of a child had the power to kill legally.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          A jury hands down the verdict, not the government.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
        • SeaVik

          The jury is selected by government lawyers. The government judge decides the punishment. The governor allows it. There are plenty of cases where they've killed innocent people.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Both sides (and the judge) pick the jury and the prosecution can ask for the death penalty. The jury is under no obligation to hand down the death penalty, although I don't disagree with anyone who says it is a complex process and juries can be confused as to what their responsibility is.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
        • Akira

          The government is who ultimately puts the person to death.
          What a strange conversation.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
        • Alias

          our Concert Egg friend has a tendency to get caught up in a detail and miss the big picture.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Just playing devil's advocate. I know the system is broken. In my perfect world we would get all the convictions right and the death penalty would be carried out swiftly and correctly.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • Akira

          In a perfect world there would be no crime...but I get ya.

          I'm conflicted about the DP because so many have been found to be innocent.

          But, as the old song goes, "if a man ever needed dying, he did..."
          I'm conflicted. I'll admit it.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      seadik, wipe the tear from your eye, you have no moral fiber and your logic is twisted. this puke buried a young woman alive in a shallow grave after raping her .. but according to YOUR morals we should give him an new xbox and a fridge full of beer. ughhh .. what a degenerate you are.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
      • igaftr

        scot
        Gosh, so it must be somehow morally better for him to feel bad about it , ask for forgiveness from some unseen god, and allow him to get rewarded in heaven. By christian logic, Hitler would be welcome in heaven if he accepted christ and repented just before dying...Christians have no moral ground to claim.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • SeaVik

        Your idiotic, hate-filled response doesn't really sway my view for some reason.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
      • Akira

        What puke, Fred?

        May 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Concert in an Egg

    If there is an intruder in your home, it would be wise to administer the death penalty before they have a chance to rape and dismember your family.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
    • crittermom2

      What a silly argument. Immediate self-defense is a completely different scenario.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Silly indeed. You would murder them first, before they have done any violence to you or your family making you the killer. How is that justice?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
        • crittermom2

          You're just being oppositional. The words murder and death penaltydon't even apply to that situtaion, and you know it.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
    • Salero21

      WRONG AGAIN as usual for atheists/evolutionists/cultists/pagans/idolaters, not surprising! They never get matters of Life and death right because of their rejection of the Author of Life, God.

      That's already PRE-Meditated, and a shallow useless bravado based on sure knowledge of the very, very slim probability of that ever happening. Just one more piece of Evidence of what I've been saying all along, that atheism/evolutionism/cultism/paganism and idolatry are all Absolute, Complete and Total NONSENSE.

      May 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
      • HeavenSent

        Troll.

        May 1, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
        • Salero21

          Yourself.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
      • Akira

        So you would do nothing to defend your family, Salero? Why not?

        May 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Salero21

    The one thing that we all forget sometimes is that we ALL have the penalty of death hanging around us always.

    We are born one day to die another that's a fact! The True "statistic" of death is 1,000+% for everyone who is born. Millions of others were killed or die ever before being born. WE ALL are going to die of one thing or another. That proves the Sentence of God was right and JUST

    So what seems to be the problema for some, with the Authorities in Charge in any Society executing JUSTICE? Years of incarceration and/or the so called "Life" Sentences are by far more CRUEL than putting away a crazed heinous and sometime Serial murderer.

    There is a lot of Cruelty in incarcerating someone for the rest of their miserable life.

    An incarceration that for sure is going to include frequent and lengthy confinements in Solitary. And among the worst of it all, exposure to other criminal elements in Prison. Elements who are sometimes equally or worst criminals and often stronger. It also exposes other delinquents who are not as crazed, violent and are the weaker links in the penitentiary system to these other more criminal, violent and often stronger.

    So common sense ought to tell anyone which is the most Cruel of the two punishments.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
    • SeaVik

      I like how you said the chances of death are 1000+%. I mean, it's not just a hundred precent sure that we'll all die some day, it's a THOUSAND percent...no, a THOUSAND PLUS! It could be even higher than a thousand percent certainty that we'll all die some day!

      A little advice: If you have a valid point (and this is a rare case where you do), there's no need to exaggerate. There is a 100% chance that we'll all die some day. That's all you need to say and we'll all agree with you there.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
      • Salero21

        I'll give the one Greatest chunk of Advice, unless you Believe in HIM, JESUS the Christ you too shall Perish Forever, like the WORST of Criminals.

        And NO there's a .0001% chance that I, and all believers in Christ may not die, if Jesus returns before.

        May 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
        • SeaVik

          I'm very curious to see the calculations you used to come up with that probability. Can you please share? The first input I would use is:

          There is much less than one in a trillion chance that the Christian version of god exists...

          May 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
  4. Concert in an Egg

    This is an old but honest argument in favor of the death penalty. If some scum bag murdered one or more of your loved ones and/or raped and abused your children you would want them dead. As for me, I would be happy to administer the injection or pull the handle. Or shoot them in the head.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • SeaVik

      The question is not whether or not you want them dead or whether or not they deserve to be killed, the question is whether or not the government should have the power to decide between life and death and the answer is absolutely not.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
      • Salero21

        Really, and says who?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • SeaVik

          Says anyone who doesn't trust the government to decide whether they should live or die. Ironically, the right wing, supposedly for small government, tends to support the death penalty – pretty much the definition of big government making the biggest possible decision.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
        • Salero21

          Sure, sure and if not duly Elected by majority Government Officials for among others that very same purpose; who then, ignoramuses like yourself?

          May 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It is understandable and goes back to the code of Hammurabi – "eye for an eye" etc.

      Death is irreversible. I take the position that one wrongful execution is one too many and we have a very bad habit of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions in this country.

      Other than incarceration, I don't have a good suggestion for the appropriate punishment for heinous crimes, but execution of the innocent has to be beyond acceptable in a civilized society.

      http://www.innocenceproject.org/

      May 1, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
      • Salero21

        Way before the Hammurabi code there was Gen. 9:5,6 right after the Great flood.
        5 "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from [every] man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man.
        6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.

        May 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        • Akira

          Hammurabi predates Genesis, in terms of dating the written laws themselves.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • crittermom2

      Of course. This is why we do not allow victim's families to be on a jury. Their emotional reactions would make them biased.

      It's supposed to be justice, not revenge.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Revenge can be sweet.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
  5. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    There are:
    crimes of passion,
    crimes of stupidity, and
    crimes of calculation.

    No form of punishment ever deters crimes of passion or crimes of stupidity. People commit these crimes without considering the consequences. The people who commit crimes of calculation are already deliberately so far outside the law that they count on not getting caught.

    The death penalty is not a deterrent for murder.

    Imprisonment is a sufficient deterrent for people who might commit crimes if those crimes were otherwise consequence free. There is no 'extra' level of deterrence with the death penalty.

    No data substantiates the idea that there are people who make the distinction of thinking "I'll kill someone because I'll only go to prison for the rest of my life and not be executed".

    May 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      We have better things to spend money on than room and board for scum bags. It is time to completely overhaul the prison system. Kill the death row inmates already and let the dopers go free.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        leggo the crack pipe egghead, some of those death row are dopers like your buddy charlie manson.

        May 1, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
        • igaftr

          Seriously Scot Hartwell, what is wrong with you? Lame name calling, pointless personal attacks...why the bully tactics?

          May 1, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • Vic

      When a crime involves a human life, I believe it puts it in a separate class of its own as opposed to any other crime. Murder, hence death, is irreversible, so is physical harm in so many cases, every other offense can be recovered from, pretty much.

      Also, keep in mind that God's "Natural Law" is revealed in our hearts, we know it before we even speak it out loud. We know justice in our hearts.

      BTW, I view imprisonment as inhumane, how do you reconcile that?

      May 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
      • Alias

        if imprisonment is not acceptable to you, how do you suggest we protect society from dangerous individuals?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
        • Vic

          Prevention is the best medicine. Individual responsibility and proper sanctions.

          Now, that does not mean you can have a perfect society, rather, a less hostile and more orderly one.

          Before I view incarceration as inhumane, since there is the element of torture involved, I am totally against murder since it involves an innocent human life.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          State-authorized executions also involve an innocent life, much more often than we want.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • Akira

          How do you prevent anyone from committing a crime? How? It's never been done in the history of man. Ever.
          One cannot be anti-death penalty AND anti-prison. Well, I suppose one can, but it's really not realistic to think that crime can be prevented completely. Esoecially if there is NO penalty to pay at all for the crime.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
        • crittermom2

          Vic, you seem to assume that incarceration inevitably "has the element of torture involved." I am not sure how you get that. How do you define that torture, exactly?

          May 1, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        There is no argument over whether murder is wrong. It is. The question is over punishment. My objection to the death penalty is precisely your argument that it is irreversible. The state should not execute the innocent – ever, so until we get it right 100% of the time, an alternative punishment needs to be identified.

        The only punishment we as a society deem to be not 'cruel and unusual' is incarceration, so unless you have a better proposal, we're stuck with it.

        We have a serious problem with the expense of the prison system because of the extent to which we prosecute and punish non-violent offenders. There was an excellent Frontline covering incarceration of such people in Kentucky earlier this week.

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/locked-up-in-america/#prison-state
        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/locked-up-in-america/whos-locked-up-in-america/

        My favorite quote from a Kentucky prisons official was something along the lines of:
        "In this country we need to figure out who we're afraid of and who we're just mad at." We don't make much distinction on this today.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
  6. new-man

    For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

    And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

    For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

    When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether.

    "This is not 612 Laws. It is not the law of Moses that's written in our hearts. Rather, it is the Law of Love. Love others, even as I have loved you."
    The commands of God are not burdensome.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
    • otoh2

      new-man,

      Is this the same "Lord God" who "said":

      – You cure leprosy by having a dove killed, dipping a live one in its blood and having it fly around. Also, you have to anoint the toes of the suffer with the blood.–Leviticus 14

      – You discover unfaithful wives when their bellies swell and their thighs rot after they are made to drink some magical water. – Numbers 5

      – Prized striped goats are bred by having the mating parents stare at striped objects. –Genesis 30

      – You may buy, own, sell, and will slaves to your descendants (only foreigners for slaves, though, no Israelis) –Leviticus 25

      - “If two men are fighting, and the wife of one man tries to rescue her husband by grabbing the other man’s private parts, you must cut off her hand. Don’t have any mercy." Deuteronomy 25

      There are several other similar instances of absolute rubbish that this "God" purportedly "spoke", along with a bunch of other rules and laws and rituals that are obviously only from the minds of primitive men. How anyone can believe that this stuff came from a real smart divine being is ludicrous.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
      • new-man

        Friend,
        bring a discussion to me about things you understand, not things you have no knowledge or concept of.
        not trying to be harsh, but it's become tiresome people bringing up stuff they have no business discussing because they lack even the basic understanding required for that matter.

        Blessings.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • otoh2

          new-man,

          If "Jesus" believed in that "God" of the OT, he was out of touch with reality. If he believed that he *was* that "God", well, what can I say?

          (Plus, he allegedly said he was not changing a dot of those OT precepts)

          May 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • new-man

          otoh2,
          Jesus did not change any of the Law of Moses – the Old Covenant. Rather, He was the only person who perfectly lived those Laws.
          The OT Laws /The Big 10 were meant to show man that he needed a savior because he was incapable of upholding the perfect Laws of God. To this day, many still do not know they cannot uphold the law.

          How can a person really see their need for God's grace if they're not fully acquainted with what the Law-(the Big 10) really means.
          The mission was to "bury" people/man under the hopelessness of self-righteousness; to make them aware of sin – and designed to make everyone guilty; everyone on the same level.

          But, thank God, He justifies the ungodly through Jesus. Through Jesus, all are qualified to receive right standing with God.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      well put new-man but you are speaking to old-men for whom the lights never came back on.

      May 1, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
  7. naturadeorum

    Mr. Mohler, you have no idea whatsoever about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and his Gospel. You haven´t understood a single word of it.
    Yes, the Hebrew Bible calls for death penalty in the case of murder – but in several other cases as well. Should I think that you are proposing the same here?
    Where is the difference between your "Christianity" and the fundamentalist forms of Islam?
    There isn t one. You are all the same.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
    • new-man

      Thank you!

      May 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      It is always entertaining when Christians disagree over the fiction in the bible.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      wow, everything new-man stated just went over your head. you have no spiritual eyes sir.

      May 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • igaftr

        scot hartwell

        Thank you went over someone's head? What are you talking about?
        Until someone can show "spiritual" to exist, no one has spiritual eyes...that is called imagination.

        May 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          you can't appeal to my pride, it's been subdued; you can't appeal to fear, it's been subdued. i don't really give a damn if you know my name, i REALLY DON"T CARE. lol, it won't make you any less of an unregenerate, God-hating punk.

          May 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
        • igaftr

          Yes scot hartwell...blah blah name call, name call, blah blah blah.

          What do you mean by newmans remark of "thank you" going over someones head?

          May 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
        • Akira

          It a appears Scot doesn't know how to read a thread, either; if he did he would see that new-man agreed with naturadeorum.

          May 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
  8. awanderingscot

    the death penalty actually is a deterrent, the perpetrator will never again murder anyone. this is a fact.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It doesn't deter the first murder.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Damn straight. Kill the bastard and that's that. I agree with you.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • halfdime1

      deter death with death?
      Can we deter theft with theft then?

      May 2, 2014 at 3:21 am |
  9. crittermom2

    I'm opposed to the death penalty in all cases, but I CAN understand how it may have been necessary in primitive societies, such as in biblical times.

    If you have a violent individual, how can you keep the rest of your community safe? Bronze-age shepherds couldn't afford to lock up a criminal in a tent and continue feeding him. Nor could they afford to have others stand guard over the criminal. They had a subsistence lifestyle, and everyone who was going to eat had better be involved in the tasks of daily living, whether it be tending the flocks, growing crops, building shelters, whatever. Prisons were a luxury they couldn't afford, so execution (or banishment) were the most practical ways to keep the community safe.

    Now, however, we don't have that excuse. Civilized societies have the ability to be more humane, and that makes it morally wrong to be anything less.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:58 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I am in favor of the death penalty.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
      • Salero21

        Even if it was for yourself?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Especially if it was for me, if I deserved to die for my crimes of course.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Salero21

          However you're growing old and you will die one day of one thing or another. So what crime did you commit to deserve such destiny?

          May 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Troll feeding over.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
      • crittermom2

        Well, many people do. I don't. I believe the main thing that matters is removing the threat from society. Prison can do that. Killing someone who has already lost the power to threaten society strikes me as the ultimate form of "excessive use of force." We're not allowed to beat up an inmate who is shackled – why would we be allowed to kill him?

        Plus, I just don't trust the government not to make mistakes.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          You can pay for taking care of these sick fucks then. I say kill them.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • Vic

      When a crime involves a human life, I believe it puts it in a separate class of its own as opposed to any other crime. Murder, hence death, is irreversible, so is physical harm in so many cases, every other offense can be recovered from, pretty much.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  10. Concert in an Egg

    You know what really chaps my ass? This is the Belief Blog, not the “Bible” blog. Why in the hell do we have to scroll through page after page of Christian nut-jobs copy and pasting bible verse rather than having a discussion? That is what really chaps my behind, boy. That and army ants.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:52 am |
    • awanderingscot

      take your marbles and go home then fruitboy

      May 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
      • igaftr

        scot
        Did you gt permission from an adult to use the computer?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          right? that make no sense...marbles? fruit boy?

          May 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
  11. Concert in an Egg

    Hey world reflection;
    Whipped misery gardener.

    Flowers; evil children.
    Cain disengaged.

    Murderers breaking ground;
    Disposable nobodies.

    God hard gun; dead dreams.
    Tainted dreams; dope dreams.

    Personal; beautiful God.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:40 am |
  12. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    "the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization" What crap. People couldn't tell right from wrong before the christian cult was invented? To reiterate.... what crap.

    “You don't need religion to have morals. If you can't determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion” ~LET

    May 1, 2014 at 11:29 am |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Religion has very clearly shown me right from wrong. Religion is wrong.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:32 am |
    • bostontola

      You don't even need humans to have morality. Other mammals have clearly demonstrated the rudiments of morality.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:40 am |
      • Concert in an Egg

        I am not even convinced one needs morality. Do leaf-cutter ants have morality? They just work and get the job done. Leaf cutter ants are cool. Anyway, when they run into some army ants they typically change their path and move on with the prime directive.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:47 am |
        • bostontola

          Well, I would differ there. Morality/law is required for societies of intelligent individuals to stay out of chaos (there is practical and theoretical evidence of that). Ants have laws that they follow mechanically (built in instinct).

          My point about you don't need to be human to have morality is that lower animals display what we call morality (fairness, etc). The bible doesn't say God gave those animals morality. This fact shows that human morality was evolved out of simpler systems in our ancestors before humans.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:55 am |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Yes, I understood your point, I am just saying survival instinct is the precursor to morality. If morality was harmful to us we would be going ape shit. As it turns out, acting within a set of "moral" boundaries seems to work and it set the table for humans when it was our turn.

          We have not succeeded in being moral as a group unfortunately. Humans are self-destructive which affects us, other animals and the environment. Not moral at all.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          what an egghead, ants don't have free will you moron.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • Sungrazer

      I also interpreted it as a refuge from cognitive dissoance – "I want to be TOLD what is right and wrong". The Christian's "clear sense" is too often an escape from putting in any real work/thought on the thornier issues (everyday morality is not that complex – avoid doing harm). The Christian's "clear sense" has also led to some very objectionable morality. I related this Isaac Asimov quote on the previous page:

      "Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."

      May 1, 2014 at 11:42 am |
    • halfdime1

      I found it funny that he used the phrase "clear sense of right and wrong."What nonsense.

      May 2, 2014 at 3:26 am |
  13. bostontola

    "We must recognize that our cultural loss of confidence in human dignity and the secularizing of human ident'ity has made murder a less heinous crime in the minds of many Americans"
    "At the same time, given the secularization of our culture and the moral confusion that this has brought, this issue is not so clear-cut as some might think."

    The self righteous superiority of the author helps explain why many atheists have disdain for some Christians (more likely if they are Southern Baptists). Asserting these opinions as facts also shows arrogance.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:27 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It is beyond arrogance.

      This equally troubled me:
      "the clear sense of right and wrong that was Christianity’s gift to Western civilization is being replaced with a much more ambiguous morality"

      May 1, 2014 at 11:30 am |
      • bostontola

        The morality of the bible is more clear cut. The problem is, it is terribly flawed and inadequate for a complex large diverse society. Our American system gets a huge advantage from our diversity. If you set up a Christian country somewhere with great natural resources using biblical law, I would bet that country would be a backwater nation in 75 years.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          More likely the religious civil wars would self-destruct that nation long before 75 years

          May 1, 2014 at 11:40 am |
  14. Reality

    This is a secular country and what Mohler wishes or thinks have no consequence.

    Basically, it is the Supreme Court who sets the guidelines for the death penalty taking into account the 8th and 14th Amendments.

    See http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/death_penalty for a review.

    Some recent high profile cases:

    Timothy McVeigh was exe-cuted. Terry Nichols escaped the death penalty twice because of deadlocked juries. He was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole,[3][7] and is incarcerated in ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison near Florence, Colorado. He shares a cellblock that is commonly referred to as "Bombers Row" with Ramzi Yousef and Ted Kaczynski

    – Eric Rudolph is spending three life terms in prison with no parole.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am |
  15. bostontola

    The bible requirement for the death penalty is another example of an internal biblical conflict. The bible tells man to kill another for murder, but recognizes man is flawed. Man's intellect is limited and flawed, his situational awareness is limited and flawed, and man's motivations are often flawed. These limitations and flaws make guilt assessment imperfect. When that is coupled with the irreversibility of death, biblical God sanctioning humans to execute other humans is evidence of yet another glaring flaw in the bible.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:19 am |
  16. Concert in an Egg

    Authorities nationwide are searching for a Minnesota minister accused of 59 felony counts of criminal sexual conduct with two young girls while they were members of his church.

    Victor Barnard, 52, was last seen in Spokane, Washington, according to a written statement from the Washington State Patrol.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Where is your god now?

    May 1, 2014 at 11:15 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      So long as he is white he won't be threatened with the death penalty.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:22 am |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Death is not good enough for him.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • awanderingscot

          for you? after you molested the 8yr old neighbor boy? why not blame it on God?

          May 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
        • Akira

          You just go around accusing people of being a child molester, Rev Phelps? What the hell is wrong with you??

          May 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          Akira – are you married to egghead?

          May 1, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • Akira

          No.
          Are you married to an octopus?

          May 2, 2014 at 12:12 am |
    • awanderingscot

      i believe they are looking for a "minister", not God you moron.

      May 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  17. mk

    Of course the bible espouses the death penalty. The god of the bible reveled in having those who disobeyed killed en masse. Just because the bible says Thou shall not kill, that doesn't apply to god because he's only doing what's best to get rid of nasty vermin. And if it's men that decide that there are those that deserve to die, well then, some other quote within the bible can be found to justify it.

    In summary, the bible can be used to justify anything.

    May 1, 2014 at 11:04 am |
  18. Reality

    Mohler's entire life is based on the death penalty. Without the crucifixion, there is no Christianity.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • Salero21

      Actually you're only partially correct! However your ignorance of what the "Christian" Faith is all about is not surprising, since understanding of Scriptures cannot precede belief. Without belief and Faith understanding of Scripture and knowledge of God is like placing the ox ahead of the cart and still pretend that the ox "pulls" the cart.

      May 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  19. Salero21

    In a corrupt and perverted "Legal" system, murderers and the worst of Criminals are spared the JUST Punishment due to the sometimes horrendous Crimes. Instead they practically "rewarded" with years or life in Prison, which in itself is a cruel punishment.

    While in Prison the Family, relatives, friends, neighbors, fellow workers/students, the Widows/widowers, the orphans, of the Victims, have to spend the rest of their lives paying Taxes. So the Murderer of their loved one, friend, neighbor etc can have 3 meals a day, uniforms, heat in the winter, cool air in the summer, a Gym, recreation area and Dental and Medical care. The same Dental and Medical care that sometimes the Widows and orphans of the Victim struggle to have or pay for.

    While all of this undesirable situation goes on. The criminal/murderer himself either becomes victimized by other equally or worst criminals than him/herself. Or he/she victimizes others who may be the weaker inside the Prison.

    The death penalty was establish as the JUST and Proper Punishment for such crime very early in History, just after the Great Flood. Of course here is where yet again the Absolute, Complete and Total NONSENSE of atheism is demonstrated.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:58 am |
    • Salero21

      Not only that, the same aforementioned family, relatives, friends etc. of the sometimes brutal Assassin/Murderer often have to pay for the defense lawyer of the accused. And in the process of defending such criminals, sometimes even the Victim is portrayed as somehow deserving of being murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Also in such Corrupt and Perverted "Legal" System, sometime there're dozens even hundreds of Witnesses to the crime. Often the dozens and even hundreds of witnesses, includes policemen who had in many cases to battle the Murderer in shootouts and standoffs that lasted for hours even more than a day. And still we all together with the other people have to pay for COSTLY defense Lawyers and LENGTY trials, plus all the COSTLY and LENGTY appeals process.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:17 am |
    • bchev

      Salero,
      I STRONGLY doubt it will ever happen again, but I actually agree with some of the things you've said. I fully support the death penalty, and while the system needs to be refined and made more cautious (but more expedient when that level of caution ahs been acheieved), I absolutely do not believe it should go away.

      But what, in any of this article or in the first not really rambling half of you post has anything to do with atheism? do you realize that when you throw this
      -"Of course here is where yet again the Absolute, Complete and Total NONSENSE of atheism is demonstrated."
      on the end of your post for no reason whatsoever , it pretty much discredits rational discourse your post might have otherwise achieved?

      May 1, 2014 at 11:26 am |
      • Salero21

        @ bchev,

        I appreciate your comments very much, also your criticism of my use of that line referring to how yet again atheism show it's ugly head in the discussion. That's because that is the way is always is whenever this subject matter comes into the forefront of the discussions of Justice, Politics and fairness.

        The reason I included that comment at the end, is because some of the first comments against Capital Punishment did as almost always do, came from people who claim atheist as their "belief" system. You can see that in the page, check it out! Rational discussion with the like of these is nearly impossible because the Refuse & Reject the very source and reason for Capital Punishment/death Penalty, which is the Scriptures, God's Commandment to all peoples. They Refuse & Reject any concept or idea of Justice for the Victims of these particular crime and their widows/widowers, orphans etc. as aforementioned. In Refusing & Rejecting these most BASIC and Fundamental Concept/Premises atheists mainly throw away any chance of "Rationality" in the discussion.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:42 am |
        • crittermom2

          I was always against the death penalty, even while I was still a practicing catholic. Becoming an atheist didnt' have anything to do with that part of my belief.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
        • bchev

          Salero21,
          Ah. So I'm going to take it that you are unaware that I am an athiest. Not believing in gods does not dictate how someone feels about the death penalty. There are MANY religious people who are against the death penalty because their beliefs tell them that "God" values all human life and taking it for almost any reason is wrong. The death penalty brings up strong opinions and emotions, and while those thoughts may share a lot of the same roots as a person's beliefs and rligious convictions, the one does not necessarily cause the other.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
  20. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    "We have also robbed the death penalty of its deterrent power by allowing death penalty cases to languish for years in the legal system, often based on irrational and irrelevant appeals."

    The death penalty is not now and was never a deterrent.

    May 1, 2014 at 10:56 am |
    • Salero21

      Really!! And you know that how? It is not only a deterrent if Properly, Justly and without delay applied, but furthermore it is the JUST and Proper Punishment for the crime. Your guest is as good as anyone else's.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:02 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Q: With the death penalty in place are murders committed?
      A: Yes

      Therefore we can conclude it is categorically not a deterrent.

      If you can demonstrate suitably sourced statistics that show correlation between lower homicide rates in states with a death penalty, not influenced by other factors like high urban crime rates I'll look at it.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:11 am |
      • Salero21

        "Suitable sourced statistics" Really, don't be ridiculous! Statistics IS NOT an exact and foolproof "science". It can go either way for and against the matter. Do research rather for countries with or without Capital punishment and you will see the murder rate among countries with and without it. However still that for you and you kind would not be sufficient and conclusive. That's because atheist are extremely hypocritical, and you just proved by "conveniently" ignoring in your own opinion, what is Justice and Fairness for a society as a whole. So of course since the atheist "believes" there is no God, therefore no need to even think of being Just and fair.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:26 am |
        • Akira

          So. You deny even studies and statistics. I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!

          May 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
    • Theo Phileo

      "The death penalty is not now and was never a deterrent."
      -----------------
      It most certainly IS a deterrant! It ensures that person will NEVER commit that crime again.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:16 am |
      • Salero21

        Very Well said!!

        May 1, 2014 at 11:18 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Even if they never committed the crime in the first place.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          There are for certain cases of doubtless guilt. AND ONLY in cases of doubtless guilt should execution even be considered. But only as a last resort for the man who remains unrepentant.

          And in my opinion only – it seems that the death penalty can only exist as a deterrant to society against a similar crime if those executions are public. That's just me though...

          May 1, 2014 at 11:27 am |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          The law does not define "doubtless" guilt.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          "The law does not define "doubtless" guilt."
          -------------–
          Maybe the terminology is different, I'm no lawyer, so I don't know, but the idea is the same. A jury must convict beyond the shadow of any doubt.

          May 1, 2014 at 11:41 am |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          The standard is "reasonable doubt".

          It is ambiguous at best. Jurors are instructed as to the evidence they should consider. When this "evidence" is bad, wrongful convictions occur, and with surprising regularity, particularly with minority defendants.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • kudlak

          It is not up to members of a jury to prove anything. The prosecution makes it's case, and the defence tries to poke holes in that case. In a criminal case for murder, all that the jury need do is evaluate whether the prosecution has made a strong enough case to convict the accused. They do not have to be absolutely convinced that he is guilty to give such a ruling, just as they do not have to be absolutely convinced of his innocence to give a ruling of "not guilty".

          As a bit of an aside, the same standard of "reasonable doubt" applies to belief in God. We atheists cannot know for certain that no god exists somewhere in the universe, but we can make a reasonable assumption that the God being claimed by the three monotheisms isn't real based on the evidence presented. There is a slight chance that this might be a wrongful "acquittal", but it is the only reasonable one we feel that we can make in this case.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        That is not what "deterrant" means and you know it.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:24 am |
      • sam stone

        it is a strong deterrent from recidivsm, it is not one for murder

        try again, corn pone

        May 1, 2014 at 11:28 am |
        • Salero21

          You are probably all "stoned" in Colorado!

          May 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Murder rates per 100,000 people:

      .............................................. 2008 .. 2009 .. 2010 .. 2011 .. 2012
      States with death penalty: ......... 5.2 .... 4.9 .... 4.6 .... 4.7 ..... 4.7
      States without death penalty: ..... 3.3 .... 2.8 .... 2.9 .... 3.1 ..... 3.7

      Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

      If you think this is biased data, show me other data.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am |
      • crittermom2

        You are exactly right. Thank you for bringing up this data

        What most death-penalty supporters ignore is that many murders are committed spontaneously. It may make for better TV if the killer sits around and thinks about it for a while, but that's not how it usually happens. Quick decision, anger, no opportunity to ponder the potential consequences. Therefore, no deterrent.

        May 1, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • Salero21

          PATHETICAL!

          May 1, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • crittermom2

          Aside from the fact that that isn't a real word, what do you mean?

          May 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          There is no punishment that is a deterrent for crimes of passion or crimes of stupidity.

          For crimes of calculation (essentially assassinations / 'hits' ) people are already so far outside the law they just count on not getting caught and the threat of punishment is ignored no matter what it is.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          crittermom2,

          You are new around here – Salero21 is one of our resident trolls. S/he is not really trying to contribute.

          May 1, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • crittermomagain

          Not new, I was just bored enough to play. Thanks, though.

          May 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
        • halfdime1

          PATHETICAL

          I love this new word !!!

          May 2, 2014 at 3:29 am |
      • Salero21

        Really! Actually a closer look favors the death penalty not the other way around. However Statistics are not a foolproof and "Exact" science if such even exist. Statistics can be (as has been), very, very easily manipulated. It's extremely ridiculous of you to pretend to IGNORE the Fact that the death penalty is in Fact to JUST punishment for the crime of Murder. That's regardless whether or not deters crime, which cannot as has not been proved conclusively. Mainly because the Punishment has not been Justly, fairly and swiftly applied in most cases all through History. So again don't be ridiculous with spurious statistics that can actually prove you wrong. The real issue is as it should be; what is JUSTICE for the Victims and their loved ones?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • crittermom2

          Whether something is "just" or not is a matter of opinion. You think it is; I disagree.

          The fact that you don't like statistics does not mean they are incorrect. I'm not aware of any study that supports a deterrent effect. If you know of one, please share it.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • crittermom2

        Furthermore, deterrence has much less to do with the SEVERITY of punishment, and more to do with the CERTAINTYof punishment.

        Think about it – which odds are likely to influence your behavior? A risk that there is a one in a million chance you might die, or an eight out of ten chance you might break your leg?

        May 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
      • Alias

        This is how to NOT use statistics.
        The higher crime rate may cause the acceptance of the punishment, you seem to want to imply the opposite.

        May 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          I agree that data is subject to interpretation and circ.umstances.

          Feel free to provide alternative correlated data that you feel comfortable with.

          Check the source. I don't think it has the problem you object to. This is "murder" data not punishment data. I don't specifically know if it is all non-suicide homicides or murder conviction rates.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • kudlak

      In the 1800s, some 160 crimes that were punishable by death in Britain, including shoplifting, petty theft, stealing cattle, and even cutting down trees in public places. They still had no shortage of criminals to execute for these crimes. Dickens even commented that violent crime actually went up at public executions. It's difficult then to argue that the death penalty actually deters people.

      May 1, 2014 at 11:23 am |
    • kudlak

      Theo
      Wasn't Christianity itself once considered a "crime" punishable by death?

      Did that deter anyone from becoming a Christian?

      May 1, 2014 at 11:27 am |
      • Theo Phileo

        Rome attempted to stamp out Christianity... As a matter of fact, when Polycarp was brought before the Roman authorities and told to renounce his faith by saying "away witht he atheists!" (referring to Christians who didn't believe in the Roman pantheon) Polycarp smiled to himself, then pointed to the Roman authorities before him and yelled out "AWAY witht he atheists!!" Yeah, they didn't think that was very funny... They burned him alive. When men later merged Christianity with paganism and government, creating the heresy of Catholicism, it followed suit and began to burn those who differed with it.

        Capital punishment is permitted in scripture, but not for any reason that MAN allows, only for what God defines, and specifically, that is the taking of an innocent life. By Biblical definition, that also includes abortion. (Exodus 21:22-25)

        May 1, 2014 at 11:39 am |
        • Alias

          Not True.
          There are several crimes fo rwhich go dallowed his followers to stone people to death.

          May 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • kudlak

          Are you saying that protestants didn't burn anyone?

          Besides, the tales of Roman persecution of Christians appears to have been blown way out of proportion, and we only have the Christian legend of how any martyr supposedly died, don't we? The reality may have been quite different.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          "There are several crimes fo rwhich go dallowed his followers to stone people to death."
          -----------–
          Under the Mosaic Covenant, sure. But we're under the New Covenant now. I should have specified.

          "Are you saying that protestants didn't burn anyone?"
          --------------–
          Disobedient protestants, sure... Under the New Covenant, only the taking of innocent life carries the death penalty – But only as a last resort punishment, since there are cases in the Bible of men who had killed, but repented.

          "Besides, the tales of Roman persecution of Christians appears to have been blown way out of proportion, and we only have the Christian legend of how any martyr supposedly died, don't we? The reality may have been quite different."
          --------------
          Actually no, Justin Martyr was a very studious historian.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          Sorry, not Justin Martyr... I was talking to someone in the office about him, and apparently my fingers typed it. I meant "Fox."

          May 1, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          ...and I can't spell either – "FOXE."

          May 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
        • kudlak

          One might just as easily say that "no true Catholic" burned anyone either, right?

          Try The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom
          by Candida Moss

          Who is Justin Foxe?

          May 1, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • Theo Phileo

          "Who is Justin Foxe?"
          ----------
          No one I'm aquainted with! I was talking to someone in the office about Justin Martyr, and so that's apparently what I wrote. I'm one of those people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time... I meant to say John Foxe.

          May 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
      • Salero21

        @ kudlak

        FALLACIOUS!

        May 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Ah look, sally learned a new word. Sally, do you need help defining it now?

          May 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
        • kudlak

          This reminds me of The Princess Bride

          Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.

          Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          May 1, 2014 at 1:20 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.