January 4th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

Japanese pray hard for prosperous 2012

(CNN)–Half a million Japanese faithful pray for a better global economy in 2012. CNN's Kyung Lah reports.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Japan

April 24th, 2011
07:48 PM ET

Pope calls for peace around the world in Easter message

(CNN) - Pope Benedict XVI called for peace amid ongoing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and mentioned the plight of those in Japan during his annual Easter message Sunday.

The pope singled out Libya, saying, "may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid."

Read the full story about the pope's Easter message

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Catholic Church • Easter • Holidays • Japan • Libya • Middle East • Pope Benedict XVI

April 10th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

In tsunami-flattened town, religious shrine survives

By Paula Hancocks, CNN

Otsuchi, Japan (CNN) - The Otsuchi shrine looks out of place.

Beautifully intact, the ornate Shinto place of worship watches over kilometers of scorched devastation. It is almost the only building still standing in a sea of carnage.

Unscathed by an earthquake, a tsunami and a ferocious fire, some residents believe the shrine, set on a small hill, is blessed and was spared by the gods.

Caretaker Tomoyuki Matsuhashi sweeps the path in front of the buildings, one of them now being used as a shelter for 22 people who lost their homes. He becomes animated as he describes the moments after last month's earthquake.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Japan

My Take: Japanese new religions' big role in disaster response
Volunteers carry boxes of food supplies to a distribution center in Iwate prefecture.
March 22nd, 2011
09:18 AM ET

My Take: Japanese new religions' big role in disaster response

Editor's Note: Barbara Ambros is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, president of the Society for the Study of Japanese Religions and author of "Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Oyama Cult and Regional Religion in Early Modern Japan."

By Barbara Ambros, Special to CNN

Devastating images of human suffering have been pouring in from Japan for over a week now and many of us have wanted to help. When news reports showed store shelves in Tokyo were emptying, I felt the irrational urge to mail necessities like rice, toilet paper and batteries to relatives and friends there.

Ultimately, I knew that by the time my care packages would reach Tokyo, store shelves would have been restocked. An organized relief effort requires pre-existing networks. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, yakuza - Japan’s organized crime cartels - efficiently distributed food and water.

Since this month’s earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, other types of organized aid networks have also largely been neglected by the news media, including the Japanese news: those managed by religious organizations.

These charitable efforts include more than traditional Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that many rightly associate with Japan. The thriving Japanese religious landscape is much more diverse than most outsiders realize, with many so-called new religious movements, in addition to Christian churches and Islamic centers.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • Japan • Opinion

 Where is God in Japan?
March 20th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Finding faith amid disaster

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Around the world, people are still struggling to come to terms with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which have left more than 8,000 dead, thousands more missing and hundreds of thousand others homeless. The threat of a nuclear crisis only adds to the uncertainty.

In times like these, many people find comfort in their faith. But disasters can also challenge long-held beliefs. The CNN Belief Blog asked some prominent voices with different views on religion how they make sense of such suffering, where they see inspiration amid destruction and how they respond to people who wonder, “How could God let this happen?”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author whose books include “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

Whenever a disaster like this occurs, I go back to the Bible, to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert, back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses.


- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • God • Japan

March 18th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

Franklin Graham sending 90 tons of aid to Japan

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The Rev. Franklin Graham on Friday was readying what he described as an airlift of more than 90 tons of emergency supplies from North Carolina to earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged Japan.

“I want the people of Japan to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that God does care for them and that he loves them,” said Graham, who is organizing the effort through his group Samaritan’s Purse.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Christian Science • Japan • Leaders

March 17th, 2011
04:32 AM ET

Top Democrat calls Japan tragedy 'beyond biblical'

By CNN Congressional Producer Matthew Hoye

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday described the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan as "beyond biblical in terms of its proportion."

The "humanitarian loss is so tremendous," Pelosi,  a California Democrat, told reporters on Capitol Hill, saying the United States is helping with humanitarian and technical assistance, but it's a "huge order.

"We all feel quite inadequate in terms of the size of the tragedy, but completely committed to helping," Pelosi said.

While Pelosi said she doesn't believe any radioactive material would "drift ashore" in this country, she noted that California and Hawaii would be in the "first line of receiving" any fallout and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency "needs to take inventory" of emergency supplies and figure out "how it gets directly to people."

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • DC • Japan • Politics • United States

6 other calamities blamed on divine retribution
Destroyed vehicles and rubble in Minamisanriku, Japan
March 16th, 2011
04:55 PM ET

6 other calamities blamed on divine retribution

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Age-old questions about divine punishment are back. Again.

On Tuesday, the governor of Tokyo apologized for saying the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of Japanese were divine retribution for national egoism.

Television and media personality Glenn Beck, meanwhile, has sent mixed messages about whether he thinks God is behind Japan's natural disaster. “I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes,” he said Monday, adding he's “not not saying that, either.”

“Whether you call it Gaia, or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent and that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well,’” Beck said. “Maybe we should stop doing some of it.”

Blaming human sinfulness for natural and man-made disasters is nothing new. “This kind of thinking is actually typical rather than atypical in world history,” says Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion professor and CNN Belief Blog contributor.

Here’s a list of natural and man-made calamities that have been attributed to divine retribution for human transgression. Let us know what others should make the cut.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • God • Holocaust • Japan

Tokyo governor apologizes for calling quake divine retribution
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara in 2009.
March 15th, 2011
02:23 PM ET

Tokyo governor apologizes for calling quake divine retribution

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The governor of Tokyo apologized on Tuesday for saying the earthquake and resulting tsunami that left thousands dead were divine punishment for Japanese egoism, a leading Japanese news service reported.

"I will take back (the remark) and offer a deep apology," Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said at a Tuesday news conference, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.

On Monday, Ishihara had told reporters, "I think (the disaster) is tembatsu (divine punishment), although I feel sorry for disaster victims," according to Kyodo News, which translated Ishihara's remarks from Japanese.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • Japan

How Japan's religions confront tragedy
A religious statue in a tsunami-devastated area in Natori city, along the coast.
March 14th, 2011
04:43 PM ET

How Japan's religions confront tragedy

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Proud of their secular society, most Japanese aren't religious in the way Americans are: They tend not to identify with a single tradition nor study religious texts.

"The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral,” says Brian Bocking, an expert in Japanese religions at Ireland’s University College Cork.

When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense.

“A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • Japan • Shintoism

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.