Faith, Ever Evolving

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Photograph by Peter Hapak for TIME

Almost exactly 45 years ago, TIME published a historic cover with the words IS GOD DEAD? on a stark black background. The question provoked enormous controversy, but the story carefully explored the role of faith in a secular and cynical age. This week, on the eve of Easter and Passover, we ask a different question: What if there's no hell? The story is both a portrait of Evangelical minister Rob Bell, who is shaking up the religious world with his tolerance for mystery and doubt, and in a larger sense, an exploration of Christianity's continuing struggle to reconcile itself with the modern world. The author of this week's cover is Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize--winning author and former editor of Newsweek who is one of America's foremost thinkers on the role of religion in public life. Jon sees a through line between the two stories, noting that what we wrote in 1966 about Christian thinkers--"they seek to imagine and define a God who can touch men's emotions and engage men's minds"--is a perfect description of Bell.

This week, in the wake of Washington's fragile budget agreement and President Obama's proposals for debt reduction, we offer our own politically incorrect take on how to cut a trillion dollars from the military budget. National-security correspondent Mark Thompson, also a Pulitzer winner, looks at long-sacred military budgets and not only proposes the elimination of unnecessary and outdated weapons systems but also argues that we can build a smarter military by concentrating on vital missions and eliminating some carrier groups and jet fighters and still be able to project power across the globe far better than any other nation.

Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR