June 30th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Despite fights about its merits, idea of American exceptionalism a powerful force through history

This is the first in a series exploring the concept of American exceptionalism. On Monday, we examine areas in which other countries lead the way.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – It’s safe to say the first European arrivals to New England wouldn’t recognize today’s debate over whether America is exceptional.

Though the United States wouldn’t be born for another century and a half, the Puritans arriving in the early 1600s on the shores of what would become Massachusetts firmly believed they were on a mission from God.

In other words, they had the exceptional part down pat.

Fleeing what they saw as the earthly and corrupt Church of England, the Puritans fancied themselves the world’s last, best hope for purifying Christianity - and for saving the world.

The Puritans never used the word “exceptionalism.” But they came to see Boston as the new Jerusalem, a divinely ordained “city upon a hill,” a phrase Massachusetts Bay Colony founder John Winthrop used in a sermon at sea en route from England in 1630.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christianity • Europe • Mitt Romney • Politics • Protestant • Religious liberty • United Kingdom • United States

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to step down
March 16th, 2012
08:10 AM ET

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to step down

London (CNN) - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the 85 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, announced Friday he will step down from his post at the end of the year.

Williams has been archbishop of Canterbury, the top role in the Church of England, for 10 years.

He has accepted the position of master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University, starting in January, a statement on his website said.

Read the full story on the Archbishop of Canterbury's resignation
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • United Kingdom

November 21st, 2011
07:59 AM ET

British Muslims optimistic and proud, survey finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

British Muslims are more proud to be British than the population as a whole, and they are significantly more optimistic about the country's future, a new study released Monday reveals.

Religious people in general are more proud to be British than those who call themselves atheists or non-believers, the survey by the think tanks Demos said.

Nearly nine out of 10 Anglicans and Jews, and more than eight out of 10 Muslims said they were "proud to be a British citizen."


- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Islam • Muslim • United Kingdom

Praising Occupy movement, Archbishop of Canterbury backs bank tax
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams expressed understanding for Occupy Wall Street protesters.
November 2nd, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Praising Occupy movement, Archbishop of Canterbury backs bank tax

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

London (CNN) -
The head of the Church of England came out in favor of taxing bank transactions Wednesday, finally tipping his hand after weeks of Occupy London protests in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said "the best outcome" of the controversies surrounding the occupation would be to "effect credible change in the financial world."

He expressed understanding for the protesters, saying: "There is still a powerful sense around - fair or not - of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers."

He said there was "impatience with a return to 'business as usual' - represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices."


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Belief • Christianity • Europe • United Kingdom

London cleric resigns amid Occupy cathedral protest
Protestors camped near St. Paul's Cathedral have prompted the church to close for the first time since World War II.
October 27th, 2011
11:50 AM ET

London cleric resigns amid Occupy cathedral protest

By Erin McLaughlin and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

LONDON (CNN) - A senior figure at London's landmark St. Paul's Cathedral stepped down Thursday, apparently over concerns that it planned to evict anti-capitalist protesters camped outside.

Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser had been supportive of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp, the presence of which led the cathedral to close its doors last week for the first time in decades.

"It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St. Paul's Cathedral," Fraser said on Twitter Thursday, but did not give a reason why.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Leaders • United Kingdom

Occupy London protests require St. Paul’s Cathedral to close
Protesters set up in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, forcing the famed church to close until further notice.
October 21st, 2011
06:32 PM ET

Occupy London protests require St. Paul’s Cathedral to close

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - Citing “practical and safety issues,” the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London announced Friday that the historic cathedral will be closed “until further notice” because of the growing number of Occupy London protesters camping in the shadows of its dome.

Though the Right Rev. Graeme Knowles said he was delighted that the London protests have been peaceful, he indicated in a news release that closing the church was his only “lawful” option.

“The Health, Safety and Fire officers have pointed out that access to and from the Cathedral is seriously limited,” he said. “With so many stoves and fires and lots of different types of fuel around, there is a clear fire hazard.”


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church • Europe • United Kingdom

‘Kosher’ crossing for road outside London synagogue
Orthodox Jews can't push traffic signs to cross the street on the Sabbath. A British contractor may have found a solution.
October 3rd, 2011
01:09 PM ET

‘Kosher’ crossing for road outside London synagogue

By Bryony Jones, CNN

London (CNN) - A busy London street will get a hands-free pedestrian crossing so that worshippers at a nearby synagogue don’t have to break strict religious rules prohibiting the use of electricity on the Sabbath.

Roads around Finchley United Synagogue in north London are being redeveloped to improve safety, and as part of the plans, members of the Jewish community requested a button-free crosswalk.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Judaism • United Kingdom

Bombs, songs and soccer: Glasgow confronts a religious divide
Celtic versus Rangers is one of the fiercest rivalries in world football.
September 16th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Bombs, songs and soccer: Glasgow confronts a religious divide

By Ben Wyatt, CNN

Glasgow, Scotland (CNN) - Robert Marshall is the burly, landlord of The Louden Tavern, a pub located in the west end of the Scottish city of Glasgow, on the south bank of the same Clyde River that was once used to ferry coal and steel to the great shipbuilding companies that in the past made this area an industrial powerhouse.

There is no doubt as to which soccer team Marshall and his clientele give their loyalties. Decorated in the team colors of red, white and blue throughout its interior and situated only a stone's throw from the famous Ibrox Stadium, the bar is overt in its homage to Rangers Football Club.

Its position around the corner from the Glasgow Orange Order - a Protestant fraternity who still march once a year to celebrate the victory of King William III over the Catholic King James II in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne - may be a mere coincidence, the allegiance of its regulars to Rangers is not.

Across town, on the Gallowgate road, Tommy Carberry pulls pints in Bairds Bar, a building daubed in the green hue synonymous with Celtic Football Club. The pub sits a mile-or-so from Celtic Park - the 60,000-seater home ground of the 42-time Scottish title winners - and is a much-loved stopping point for fans attending the match.

Celtic wears its Irish and Catholic heritage very much on its sleeve - or chest to be more exact, as the club's four-leafed clover badge sits on the left breast of its players - which is maybe not surprising for a team founded by a member of a Catholic religious order in 1888.

The two landlords - who remarkably, are childhood friends - represent two of Glasgow's communities in a microcosm, one passionately British and Protestant, the other proud of their Catholic and Irish heritage, a division which mirrors the sectarian lines of Northern Ireland, loyalties forged over centuries of war and strife.

Like their fathers before them, Robert and Tommy's cultural background almost dictated which of the city's two giant clubs they would support. Allegiance to Rangers or Celtic carries a cultural significance above a mere love of the beautiful game for many nestled around the banks of the Clyde.

It is one of the ingredients that makes the meeting of these two teams, over 90 minutes of football, so special. Celtic versus Rangers is one of the fiercest rivalries in world football.

Read the full story
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Protestant • Sports • United Kingdom

Winehouse burial raises Jewish questions about tattoos, cremation
July 26th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Winehouse burial raises Jewish questions about tattoos, cremation

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

LONDON (CNN) - Your Jewish grandmother might have told you not to get a tattoo if you want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery when you die. If you ignored her, rest easy - not only progressive Jews, but Britain's Orthodox Jews now have no problem with burying Jews with tattoos.

The question came up Tuesday as the heavily tattooed Amy Winehouse was laid to rest in a traditional Jewish ceremony in London. The funeral was conducted by a rabbi and the Winehouse family will sit shiva - the Jewish custom and tradition of receiving guests in their home - starting Tuesday night, Winehouse spokesman Chris Goodman said.

Winehouse was cremated, Goodman added - a more controversial practice among Jews.


- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Death • Judaism • United Kingdom

June 21st, 2011
11:38 AM ET

Partying at Stonehenge for the summer solstice:

Tuesday is the start of the summer solstice and at Stonehenge the party rages.
CNN's Kyra Phillips and Zain Verjee report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Content Partner • Druids • Europe • Holidays • Paganism • TV-CNN Newsroom • United Kingdom

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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.