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Oprah Winfrey Network's documentary series shows faith in its many forms
Oprah Winfrey celebrates the wide variety of spiritual practices in the world in her new series, "Belief." - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Oprah Winfrey is giving faith a facelift, displaying all the good religion does in the world in a new documentary series, which premiered Sunday.

"At a time when many people in Western countries criticize religion as hypocritical, divisive or dangerous, and while large numbers are rejecting religion altogether, Winfrey's project is a worthy reminder to viewers that religion can heal, restore and transform," wrote Christian scholar and author Diana Butler Bass in The Washington Post.

The series explores 33 different spiritual experiences, which include a Native American coming-of-age ceremony, the Islamic community's annual pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca, and Burning Man, a one-of-a-kind gathering that takes place each year in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

"When I set out to create 'Belief' I wanted to entertain, enlighten and encourage people to explore their own faith or spiritual practices more deeply," Oprah told Religion News Service. "I wanted the series to be a tool to help connect people. I have always known that my calling was to share ideas through storytelling that reflects the human spirit and allows people to see themselves reflected in the stories."

However, the series could also frustrate some of the believers it's trying to celebrate, as Christian author Jonathan Merritt noted in The Atlantic.

People who believe their religion promotes the true path to God will be frustrated by the show's pluralistic message, he wrote. Members of this group "will naturally be skeptical of this series, especially given the squishy spirituality for which Oprah is famous."

Many viewers chronicled their engagement with Sunday's premier on Twitter, including prominent faith leaders and writers.

"Empathy is built on seeing both differences and similarities in our experiences and traditions. That's why belief is an experience itself," tweeted Najeeba Syeed, director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding at Claremont School of Theology.

Christopher Hale, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, shared that he was "excited for (the) first episode of Belief. It's a series that Pope Francis would love."

"(We're) making belief a family event. (It's) sparking amazing conversations and questions. Thanks, Oprah. This is a true gift," tweeted Brene Brown, author of the new book, "Rising Strong," which is about preserving faith in the wake of failure.

"Belief" will air every night this week on OWN Network at 8 p.m. EDT.
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