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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.

FULL POST

- 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

My Take: Why should Santorum decide who's a real Christian?
February 20th, 2012
01:03 PM ET

My Take: Why should Santorum decide who's a real Christian?

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

There has been much chatter in recent days about the reinjection of religious matters into the presidential campaign, with a focus on the increasingly bitter debate over Catholics and contraception. But Rick Santorum has just opened up a new and dangerous front in the culture wars.

We are now being asked to debate which of the Christians running for president is really a Christian. I am referring here not to questions about Mitt Romney, whose Mormonism according to many evangelicals is not the right theological stuff, but to questions about President Barack Obama.

In the past, the strategy on the right was to intimate that Obama was a closet Muslim (he is not.) It was too crass even for our crassest politicians to come out and utter this falsehood, so, when asked about Obama’s faith, the strategy was to say, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • Politics • Protestant • Rick Santorum • Uncategorized • United States

Survey: Very religious rate higher on “well being” scale
February 17th, 2012
05:59 AM ET

Survey: Very religious rate higher on “well being” scale

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Very religious people rate higher – compared to the moderately religious and nonreligious – on a Gallup “well being” survey released Thursday.

According to the survey, very religious people from all religious groups surveyed higher than their nonreligious brethren. Very religious Jews scored highest on the survey with a score of 72.4. Very religious Mormons finished a close second with 71.5.

By comparison, moderately and non religious Jews scored in the 68 percentile, while moderately and non religious Mormons scored in the 63 percentile.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Judaism • Mormonism • Polls • Protestant

A preaching 'genius' faces his toughest convert
The Rev. Fred Craddock's stories revolutionized preaching, but few know about the pain behind them.
November 28th, 2011
10:49 AM ET

A preaching 'genius' faces his toughest convert

By John Blake, CNN

Blue Ridge, Georgia (CNN) - Fred Craddock was a young preacher trying to find his voice when he received a call from his mother one day.

"You need to go see your father," she said. "He may not live longer."

Craddock found his father in a VA hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Fred Craddock Sr. had whittled down to 73 pounds. Radiation treatments had burned him to pieces. He couldn't eat or speak.

Read the full story on the experiences that helped shape the revolutionary preacher
- davidmichaels18

Filed under: Christianity • Georgia • Protestant

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

May 27th, 2011
03:50 PM ET

My Take: No justice in Eddie Long's settlement

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

The Roman Catholic Church isn't the only religious institution that has failed to respond directly and transparently to allegations of sexual impropriety.

Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of the Georgia-based New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has just settled out of court with the four young men who alleged Long had sexually coerced them. And neither side is talking.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Buddhism • Catholic Church • Christianity • Leaders • Pastors • Protestant • Scandal • Sex abuse • United States

My Take: Can Zipcars save my dying church?
April 19th, 2011
07:57 AM ET

My Take: Can Zipcars save my dying church?

Editor's Note: Mark Barger Elliott is senior pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and author of "Creative Styles of Preaching." His blog Faith in the World identifies stories of hope from around the world and places where religion intersects everyday life.

By Mark Barger Elliott, Special to CNN

The prospect of death typically prompts action.

Doctors offer experimental trials. Tuna casseroles appear on doorsteps. Families ask that loved ones to be placed on church prayer lists.

As a pastor, I’ve seen that when time grows short, people feel compelled to do something. Best-selling books such as "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" owe their popularity to that human instinct.

I’ve thought of this lately as I’ve begun to watch my church die.

Not the local church I serve in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but the larger church of which I’m a part – what we know as the mainline church.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Opinion • Protestant

President offers prayers, thoughts to tornado victims
The President held an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House Tuesday
April 19th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

President offers prayers, thoughts to tornado victims

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama offered his thoughts and prayers Tuesday to victims of weekend storms that spawned dozens of tornadoes that cut a swath through the South, killing more than 40 people.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that have been affected down there," the president said during an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.

The twisters hit 12 states in the South, cutting a path of destruction from Oklahoma to Maryland between Thursday and Saturday. At least 45 people were killed, including 22 from hard-hit North Carolina.

Politics were not on the menu during the prayer breakfast. It was the second year the president has held such an Easter prayer event.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • DC • Food • Leaders • Pastors • Politics • Protestant • United States

My Take: Snap out of spiritual slump with Lent
Catholics traditionally mark the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, but Lent is for Protestants too, Mark Batterson writes.
April 3rd, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Snap out of spiritual slump with Lent

Editor's Note: Mark Batterson is lead pastor at the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He is the author of “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” “Wild Goose Chase” and “Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.”

By Mark Batterson, Special to CNN

When I was a seminary student, my wife and I went to downtown Chicago for a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” When the producer came out to prep us for the show, I was embarrassed for him because he had dirt on his forehead. Didn’t he look in the mirror that morning? Why didn’t someone tell him? My embarrassment for him turned into embarrassment for myself when I discovered it was Ash Wednesday and the dirt on his forehead was actually ashes that symbolized the day of repentance that begins Lent.

I grew up going to a wide variety of Protestant churches, but none of them practiced or even mentioned Lent. It wasn’t until a few years ago, well into my tenure as lead pastor of National Community Church, that I discovered the value of Lent. It has since become a meaningful season in the cycle of my spiritual life. During the last few Lenten seasons, I’ve incorporated a fast into my routine. One year I gave up television. Another year I gave up soda. I’ve also done a variety of food fasts for Lent.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Lent • Opinion • Protestant

Poll: Few Americans believe natural disasters are signs from God
March 24th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Poll: Few Americans believe natural disasters are signs from God

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

A new survey conducted on the heels of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami finds that few Americans think natural disasters are signs from God and that even fewer believe God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens, as some suggested after the Japanese disaster.

At the same time, most Americans believe God is responsible for everything that happens in the world, according to the survey, which was released Thursday.

The survey was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service.

Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans (38%) believe that earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters are a sign from God, while roughly 3 in 10 believe that God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some citizens, according to the survey.

Shortly after the Japanese quake and tsunami, the governor of Tokyo said publicly that the disaster was divine punishment for Japanese egoism, though he apologized for the remarks a day later.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Culture & Science • Protestant • United States

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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.

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