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Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online
They are the same cast of characters that surface during every online debate about religion. Do you know a "Holy Troller?"
October 5th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) –"Yo mama..."

Whenever I heard those two words while growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I knew something bad was about to happen. Trading insults was a childhood ritual. But everyone understood that one subject was off-limits. You didn’t talk about anybody’s momma unless you were prepared to start swinging.

Now that I’m all grown-up, I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.

When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.

I don’t wonder anymore.

When I look at the comment section now, I see a whole lot of “yo mamas” being tossed about. Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.

You might even recognize yourself.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Ethics • Internet • News media • Nones

August 10th, 2013
02:33 AM ET

'Breaking Bad' and the evil within us all

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN

(CNN) - The other day I was asked in a radio interview why I’m still a Christian. Since I’ve never been shy about writing through my questions and doubts, the interviewer wanted to know why I hang on to faith in spite of them.

I talked about Jesus—his life, teachings, death, resurrection, and presence in my life and in the world. I talked about how faith is always a risk, and how the story of Jesus is a story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.

And then I said something that surprised me a little, even as it came out of my own mouth:

“I’m a Christian,” I said, “because Christianity names and addresses sin.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Opinion • TV

July 27th, 2013
08:33 AM ET

Why millennials are leaving the church

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) - At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • evangelicals • Opinion

July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) - When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

June 27th, 2013
01:32 PM ET

Not all religious convictions are written in stone

Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com

By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) - There’s a misconception among many faithful folks that religious convictions, by their very nature, are set in stone.

People who change their minds are called flip-floppers or backsliders, accused of capitulating to culture and “conforming to the world.”

But some of the most recognizable names in the Christian story experienced changes of heart: Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Faith • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Opinion • Politics

June 19th, 2013
03:28 PM ET

How the 'Francis effect' could rescue the church

Opinion by John Gehring, special to CNN

Can Pope Francis save the Catholic Church?

The question is part hyperbole, of course, but perhaps a fitting way to ponder what some are now calling the “Francis effect.”

At a time when nearly 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics, Pope Francis is using a humble style to set a new direction for the church that could reinvigorate the multitude, many of whom are weary of culture-war Christianity.

While a rising number of young Americans no longer identify with a particular religion, many seekers still hunger for moral clarity and prophetic voices that challenge the shallow materialism and spiritual alienation of our fractured culture.

During his first 100 days, Pope Francis has emphasized the Gospel’s radical and still relevant messages of peace, compassion and justice for the poor. He also just might break through to reach the religiously disaffected where others have failed.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Opinion • Pope Francis

April 24th, 2012
04:51 PM ET

Five things we learned from Joel Osteen's visit

By Eric Marrapodi and Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church, swung by the offices of CNN's Belief Blog on Tuesday. He’s in town for a "Night of Hope" event at Nationals Park baseball stadium this weekend, which is expected to draw thousands of worshipers who wouldn't otherwise step foot in a church.

Before taking batting practice with the Washington Nationals and delivering the opening prayer in Congress, Osteen sat down for a freewheeling interview with us. Five things we learned from his visit:

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

April 24th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

Osteen: Romney is a Christian

By Ashley Killough, CNN

(CNN) – Famed pastor Joel Osteen reiterated his position that Mitt Romney is a Christian on Tuesday, saying as long as the likely GOP presidential nominee believes that Jesus is the Son of God then he subscribes to the Christian faith.

"When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God–that he's the Christ, raised from the dead, that he's his Savior–that's good enough for me," Osteen said in an interview to air on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

While Osteen described the Mormon faith as "not traditional Christianity," he said he believes Mormons fall under the Christian tent.

"Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ," the pastor argued.

Romney's faith has largely remained an outlier in this presidential cycle, though some have expressed skepticism at the likely Republican nominee's religious views.

Read the full story on CNN's Political Ticker.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election

Jimmy Carter publishes study Bible, discusses faith-filled life
President Jimmy Carter's speaks at an interfaith service in New York in 1991.
March 17th, 2012
06:45 AM ET

Jimmy Carter publishes study Bible, discusses faith-filled life

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – Jimmy Carter, peanut farmer turned president turned globe-trotting humanitarian, now has another line to add to his business card: Bible commentator. Last week Carter published a Lessons from Life Study Bible, with the subtitle Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter.

With many Democrats embracing the language of faith in recent years in an attempt to win back so-called values voters from the Republican column, Carter's intense faith life is a good reminder that hardly all Democrats are new to the pew.

Since he returned to Plains, Georgia, from Washington after losing his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter has taught Sunday school at the local Maranatha Baptist Church, “about 685 times so far,” he says.

His notes in the new study Bible pull from years of Sunday school lessons. “Like the disciples, we should not be proud, seek an ascendant position or argue about who’s the greatest among us,” he notes in reflecting on a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus' followers are debating who among them is the greatest.

In a phone interview from his home in Plains, he said politics is one area in need of redemption, bemoaning the influx of vitriol and money into politics.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Church and state • Georgia • Politics

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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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