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Religion 101

Religion 101

Bio

Reed Hall teaches community college credit courses on world religions. (Check out his supernatural thriller novel "MAGIC" at http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Occult-Thriller-Reed-Hall/dp/1453874836.)

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Six)

posted by Reed Hall

Specifically Christian newcomers to the study of Judaism frequently puzzle over  why — as they themselves often put it — Jews “don’t believe in Jesus.” The reality is simply that the entire Jewish concept of who and what a Messiah […]

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On Teaching About Judaism (Part Five)

posted by Reed Hall

Aside from the several other frequent areas of confusion which sometimes puzzle newcomers to the study of Judaism (areas which I’ve been discussing in my last several blog entries), there is yet another hazy area that is often uniquely puzzling […]

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On Teaching About Judaism (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about many of the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real […]

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real knowledge of […]

Midsummer (Litha)/Yule 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Tomorrow (Friday, June 21, 2013) is the date of the summer solstice within the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, by contrast, tomorrow will be the date of the winter solstice. Solstices have long been observed as important seasonal festivals […]

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

As I observed in my previous blog entry, a rather sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, when we take up the study of the […]

On Teaching About Judaism (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

One might expect that many if not most Americans would have at least a passing familiarity with the basics of Judaism. After all, about 80% or so of the American public self-identifies as Christian, and Christianity and Judaism are inextricably […]

On Teaching About Buddhism (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, the Buddhist religion maintains that not only is there no eternal Creator God, but also no such thing as an eternal soul. If that is so, many non-Buddhists wonder, then just exactly […]

On Teaching About Buddhism (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, the Buddhist religion often stretches the very limits of what some of my students of comparative religion (and other newcomers to Buddhism) are typically used to regarding as some of the absolutely […]

On Teaching About Buddhism (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

As I discussed in my previous blog entry, if Hinduism seemed unfamiliar and strange to many of the students in my community college classes who are new to the study of Eastern religions, then Buddhism often seems even stranger, and […]

On Teaching About Buddhism (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

As I discussed in a previous blog entry, my community college classes on Eastern religions begin each semester with an introductory overview of Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion (after Christianity and Islam), quite possibly the oldest of the world’s […]

Discrimination and the Boy Scouts of America

posted by Reed Hall

In a controversial move (controversial among many religious conservatives), the Boy Scouts of America recently reversed their longstanding policy banning “open and avowed homosexuals” from becoming Scouts. In other words, the BSA now affirms that it’s okay for Boy Scouts […]

Ascension of Baha’u’llah 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (Wednesday, May 29), adherents of the Baha’i Faith will celebrate an important holy day. “The Ascension of Baha’u’llah” annually commemorates the anniversary of the death of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith. The Ascension of Baha’u’llah is one […]

Vesak (Buddha Day) 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (Friday, May 24) marks one of the most important Buddhist holidays. Vesak, otherwise known as “Buddha Day” (or sometimes “Buddha’s Birthday”) commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Although observed by Buddhists in many […]

Declaration of the Bab 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Tomorrow (May 23), members of the Baha’i Faith will celebrate “the Declaration of the Bab,” one of eleven holy days on the Baha’i religious calendar. Of those eleven Baha’i holy days, work is suspended on nine of them; this is […]

At the Intersection of Church and State, the Violations Continue…

posted by Reed Hall

In a previous blog entry, I commented upon a recent news story involving the cancellation of an Arkansas school district’s elementary school graduation ceremonies in the wake of a local controversy over prayer, which the district had intended to incorporate […]

Pentecost 2013

posted by Reed Hall

This Sunday (May 19) is the Christian holiday known as Pentecost, widely regarded by many believers as marking the actual birth or nativity of the church. Pentecost commemorates the descent of, and the manifestation among Christ’s apostles, of the Holy […]

Shavuot 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset yesterday (Tuesday, May 14), Jews worldwide began the Jewish holiday festival of Shavuot (pronounced “shav-oo-OT”), otherwise known as the Feast of Weeks. Shavout is traditionally both an agricultural harvest festival (originally dating back to when the first fruits […]

It’s Not About Being “Too P.C.” or Not Wanting to “Offend”; It’s About the LAW

posted by Reed Hall

There seems to be a rather widespread misunderstanding regarding the actual underlying motivations of people who object to schools leading prayers and courts posting copies of the Ten Commandments, or who protest against “under God” being in the Pledge of […]

New Film: “The Unbelievers” (2013)

posted by Reed Hall

Documentary films relating to matters of religion and belief are always worth knowing about, and often worth checking out. A new film entitled The Unbelievers, looking at the importance of reason and science — and casting a critical eye upon […]

Orthodox Easter 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, Sunday, May 5, 2013), Orthodox Christians worldwide are observing Easter Sunday. Christianity, like other religions, subdivides into a number of major branches. Catholics are the single largest such major branch or subdivision within Christianity, accounting for […]

Orthodox Good Friday 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, Friday, May 3, 2013), Orthodox Christians worldwide are observing Good Friday (or Holy Friday) — the Friday immediately prior to Easter Sunday. Christianity, like other religions, subdivides into a number of major branches. Catholics are the […]

Beltane/Samhain 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset yesterday (April 30, 2013), a significant holiday on the religious calendars of Wiccans and other Neopagans began. However, which particular Wiccan holiday it happens to be will vary, depending upon which particular hemisphere of the world — the […]

What Is “Spirituality”?

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, I raised the question, “What is religion?” (and invited reader feedback). In this blog entry, I’d next like to raise the question, “What is spirituality?” (and again invite reader feedback). What’s the real difference, anyway, […]

What Is “Religion”?

posted by Reed Hall

It has occurred to me that, over the course of some 113 blog entries and counting (this one marking number 114, since starting this little blog back in July of last year), that I have not yet attempted to precisely […]

Religion and Science (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

Finally, another way of attempting to underscore and clarify how science and religion can be viewed as each occupying and specializing in very different, and even non-overlapping, domains or areas of inquiry (which, being non-overlapping, would mean that they cannot […]

Religion and Science (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

So, what happens if or when religion ventures beyond its own purely non-empirical (or strictly “spiritual”) backyard, and starts making claims regarding empirical (detectable, testable) matters? Such claims would fall properly within the purview of empirical science, which possesses the […]

Religion and Science (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Some observers suspect that, as science continues to advance, it may eventually succeed in eclipsing religion altogether. According to this perspective, both religion and science are essentially all about explaining or accounting for various mysteries of existence; if and as […]

Religion and Science (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In some of the community college world religions courses I teach, as the end of the semester draws near we sometimes begin to shift our focus away from looking just at individual religions, from exploring the details of their particular […]

On Atheism and Agnosticism (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

A fair percentage of my community college world religions students (and also of the general public, whom my students probably represent a fairly representative sample of) often exhibits some confusion or uncertainty over the precise meaning of such terms as […]

Yom HaShoah 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset today (Sunday, April 7), Jews worldwide will begin observing Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. A relatively recent modern addition to the Jewish calendar (having been established in 1953), this is a solemn memorial day commemorating the approximately […]

On Atheism and Agnosticism (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

As mentioned in my previous blog, a fair percentage of my community college world religions students (and also of the general public, whom my students probably represent a fairly representative sample of) often exhibits some confusion or uncertainty over the […]

On Atheism and Agnosticism (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Many of the students who enter my community college world religions courses each semester (and much, for that matter, of the general American public, of whom such students probably represent a fairly representative sampling), sometimes seem to exhibit varying degrees […]

Easter 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, March 31, 2013) is Easter Sunday. Worldwide, Christians today are commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ (traditionally believed to have occurred on a Sunday). On the calendar, Easter Sunday falls in close proximity each year to […]

Good Friday 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, Friday, March 29, 2013), Christians worldwide are observing Good Friday — the Friday immediately prior to Easter Sunday. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ (traditionally believed to have occurred on a Friday), […]

Holi 2013

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, Wednesday, March 27, 2013), Hindus worldwide are observing the spring religious festival known as Holi, or the “festival of colors.” Holi always begins on the final full moon of the lunar month of Phalguna on the […]

Passover (Pesach) 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset today (Monday, March 25), Jews worldwide will begin observing the eight-day festival known in Hebrew as Pesach, and in English as Passover. Why at sunset? Because Judaism traditionally reckons a “day” as beginning not at 12:00 midnight, nor […]

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part Five)

posted by Reed Hall

When encountering Hinduism for the first time, Westerners (including many of the students in my community college Eastern religions classes) find themselves faced with a major world faith which in many ways differs drastically from the major Western faiths with […]

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

In sharp contrast to Christianity, which has long maintained that there is but one single, unique path to salvation (via Christ alone), the Hindu view has long been that there are actually a multiplicity of equally valid spiritual paths which […]

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

When encountering Hinduism for the first time, Westerners (including many of the students in my community college Eastern religions classes) find themselves faced with a major world faith which in many ways differs drastically from the major Western faiths with […]

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

When encountering Hinduism for the first time, Westerners (including many of the students in my community college Eastern religions classes) find themselves faced with a major world faith which in many ways differs drastically from the major Western faiths with […]

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

The community college classes I teach on Eastern religions begin each semester with a unit on Hinduism. Right away, most of my students find themselves in a very strange and unfamiliar new religious world altogether. Indeed, many Western newcomers to […]

Purim 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset yesterday (February 23, 2013), Jews worldwide began observing one of Judaism’s most joyous and celebratory annual holidays (or “holy days”): Purim, or the Feast of Lots. Purim runs throughout the following day (today), before concluding at nightfall this evening (February 24). I’ve […]

On Teaching About Indigenous Religions (Part Five)

posted by Reed Hall

Finally, what about something like religious sacrificial offerings? The practice is common enough among indigenous religions; but what role, if any, might such a practice play within major religions of the modern Western world, like Judaism or Christianity? Well, the […]

On Teaching About Indigenous Religions (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

So, what about such matters as religious taboos, or religious sacrificial offerings? What role, if any, might such things play within major contemporary religions of the modern Western world — like, say, Judaism or Christianity? In our own contemporary culture, […]

On Teaching About Indigenous Religions (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, we looked at some of the similarities and parallels that seem to exist between the shamans of many indigenous religions, and the prophets, priests, and faith-healers of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. But what about some […]

On Teaching About Indigenous Religions (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Many of the students in my community college world religions courses (who may be completely new to the academic study of religion) often find some of the seeming similarities and peculiar parallels that exist between indigenous religions on the one […]

On Teaching About Indigenous Religions (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Once again, a new semester has begun at the community college system where I teach courses about the religions of the world. (And please note that I specifically said “about.” I don’t “teach religion”; rather, I teach about religion. There’s […]

Imbolc (Candlemas) / Lughnasadh (Lammas) 2013

posted by Reed Hall

On or about February 2, 2013 (there is some variation by region and by tradition), a significant holiday on the religious calendars of Wiccans and other Neopagans will begin. However, which particular Wiccan holiday it happens to be will vary, […]

Hail Mary (or OMG): It’s Super Bowl Sunday!

posted by Reed Hall

In this blog, I try to make a point of mentioning important holy days (“holidays”), and other significant dates on the religious calendars of many of the world’s major faith traditions, as they come up. Such dates are, of course, […]

One Nation: But “Under God”?

posted by Reed Hall

Recent blog posts have addressed some controversial matters arising from the intersection (some might say collision) between religion and our secular culture in general — and our secular public schools in particular. I’ve addressed common misconceptions and misinformation revolving around […]

School Prayer: Yea or Nay?

posted by Reed Hall

In recent blogs, I’ve been concerned with clearing up some common misconceptions relating to areas of interface (sometimes involving significant controversy and conflict) between religion and secular American culture. Having previously discussed why teaching creationism in public school science classes, […]

Mawlid (Muhammad’s Birthday) 2013

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset today (as I write, Wednesday, January 23, 2013), Muslims around the world will begin their observance of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, an observance known in the Islamic world as Mawlid al-Nabi (Arabic for “Birth of the […]

Why the Ten Commandments Do NOT Belong in Public Schools (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

To attempt to put a more “human face” upon all of this abstract armchair argumentation over the constitutionality and legality (or otherwise) of the government posting or supporting displays of the Ten Commandments in U.S. public schools, let’s wrap things […]

Why the Ten Commandments Do NOT Belong in Public Schools (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, I underscored the fact that since U.S. public schools are secular state institutions, they therefore cannot endorse or promote religion in general, or any specific religions or religious doctrines in particular. And this means that […]

Why the Ten Commandments Do NOT Belong in Public Schools (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, I mentioned the fact that U.S. public schools are taxpayer-supported, government-operated state institutions (teachers and other public school staff members are state employees), and that, as state institutions, U.S. public schools are therefore required to […]

No, Creationism is NOT Science; It’s Religion (Part Five)

posted by Reed Hall

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, there simply is no alternative scientific theory in legitimate, evidence-based competition with evolution. “Creation scientists” frequently attempt to present what they take to be valid empirical data in support of creationism (or […]

No, Creationism is NOT Science; It’s Religion (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, the theory of evolution is far from “a theory in crisis,” and is in fact fully accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists worldwide. Within the U.S. alone (where belief in creationism […]

No, Creationism is NOT Science; It’s Religion (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, a sizable proportion of the American public in general fails to understand that in science, a theory is not just a working hypothesis or a mere educated guess, but actually a systematic, […]

No, Creationism is NOT Science; It’s Religion (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, a sizable proportion of the American public in general seems to have the impression that creationism and evolution are equally legitimate heavyweight contenders in the scientific marketplace of unsettled ideas. With so […]

No, Creationism is NOT Science; It’s Religion (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

A sizable proportion of the American public in general — which, of course, includes a correspondingly sizable proportion of the community college students who enroll in my world religions classes each semester — evidently believes that creationism and evolution are […]

No, America is NOT a “Christian Nation”

posted by Reed Hall

A surprising number of students who enter my world religions classes every semester seem to have the idea that the United States is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t. Now, we must of course be careful to clearly define our terms […]

Happy 2013 (But No, Jesus Was NOT Born 2013 Years Ago)!

posted by Reed Hall

Today is January 1, 2013, otherwise known as New Years Day. The beginning of a brand new year (as much of the world reckons time and date), today is the day we throw away our old 2012 calendars and open […]

Was the Virgin Birth REALLY A “Virgin” Birth?

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog, I clarified the difference between the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth (they’re by no means the same thing at all, despite widespread misconception and misuse of the two terms as if they were synonymous). The […]

No, the Immaculate Conception is NOT the Virgin Birth

posted by Reed Hall

Yesterday was Christmas. Christmas is, of course, the Christian religious holiday that commemorates the birth of Christ, which may have to do with why this particular religious misunderstanding just happened to pop into my mind. Or it might have popped […]

Christmas 2012

posted by Reed Hall

As I write, tomorrow (December 25) is Christmas, one of the most important holidays on the Christian religious calendar; the term itself derives from the phrase “Christ’s Mass.” The holiday (or “holy day”) is widely celebrated, even among non-Christians, as […]

Yule/Litha 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (Friday, December 21, 2012) is the date of the winter solstice within the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, by contrast, today is the date of the summer solstice. Solstices have long been observed as important seasonal festivals in […]

12/21/2012: End of the World? (Again?)

posted by Reed Hall

The Internet has been abuzz for quite some time now regarding the infamous Mayan calendar, and its notorious terminal date of December 21, 2012. Since that ominous date is now (as I write) looming before us as the day after […]

The Connecticut Shooter & The Problem of Evil

posted by Reed Hall

Back in July of this year, I posted a rather lengthy blog entry entitled “The Colorado Shooter & The Problem of Evil.” It reflected upon how a gunman who had opened fire in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, killing 12 […]

Buddhist Demographics & Denominations (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

The Buddhist world subdivides into three major branches: Theravada, Mayahana, and Vajrayana. In my previous post, I provided a short thumbnail sketch of what Theravada Buddhists believe and practice. Now, we’ll finish painting the broad Buddhist picture with brief portraits of the other […]

Buddhist Demographics & Denominations (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

The Buddhist world subdivides into three major branches: Theravada, Mayahana, and Vajrayana. For reasons explained previously, estimates on the total world Buddhist population vary (by large margins). Some sources would put the total at well over a billion, but many […]

Hanukkah 2012

posted by Reed Hall

The eight-day Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah (or Chanukah) began this year at sunset on Saturday, December 8, and will end at sunset on Sunday, December 16. Like all Jewish holidays (literally “holy days”), Hanukkah begins and ends at sundown. […]

Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) 2012

posted by Reed Hall

(Note: Part Three of my series on Buddhist Demographics & Denominations will appear in a subsequent entry.) Today (Saturday, December 8, 2012) is Rohatsu, a Japanese Buddhist holiday celebrating the occasion of the attainment of mystical enlightenment and the perfect […]

Buddhist Demographics & Denominations (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Buddhism, like the other major religions of the world (such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism), is by no means universally homogeneous and uniform in content, but is instead heterogeneous, highly variegated, and internally diverse. In other words, not all […]

Buddhist Demographics & Denominations (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Having previously looked at the demographics and “denominations” (major branches, movements, divisions) of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, we turn now to Buddhism. And, just as the other four of the “Big Five” among the world’s major religions are by […]

Hindu Demographics & Denominations (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Much like every other major religion, Hinduism is not one thing, but many — not homogeneous and monolithic, but internally diverse and highly variegated. Within the Hindu religious tradition, God or the Divine can be imaged, visualized, conceptualized or comprehended […]

Hindu Demographics & Denominations (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Having already addressed, in previous blog entries, the basic breakdown into wings, branches, sects, movements, denominations and similar sorts of internal subdivisions that is found within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I’d now like to round out the big picture in […]

Islamic Demographics & Denominations (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

With approximately 1.6 billion followers (about 23% of the global human population), Islam currently ranks as the second largest religion in the world. But Islam, like the rest of the world’s major religions, is not one thing, but many. Islam is […]

Islamic Demographics & Denominations (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

With approximately 1.6 billion followers (about 23% of the total global human population), Islam currently ranks as the second largest religion in the world. But Islam, like the rest of the world’s religions, is not one thing, but many. Islam […]

Islamic Demographics & Denominations (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

With approximately 1.6 billion followers (about 23% of the total human population), Islam currently ranks as the second largest religion in the world. Globally, nearly one in four people are Muslim. There are more Muslims than Catholics on the planet. […]

Christian Demographics & Denominations (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry (Part One of this pair of posts), I described and illustrated how Christianity worldwide breaks down, in terms of its various branches, wings, and internal subdivisions: Now, moving from a broadly global perspective to a […]

Christian Demographics & Denominations (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

For those who may not know, Christianity is the single largest religion in the world. Of course, by “Christianity” I do not merely mean, say, evangelical Christianity alone, or any other single subset of the Christian faith (some of whose […]

Religious Demographics & Denominations

posted by Reed Hall

When I was new to religious studies (or “comparative religion”), whenever I initially began the study of any particular religion, I always wondered, “How many of these guys are there, in the world? Is this a really big religion? A […]

Diwali 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (November 13, 2012) marks the first day of a major five-day religious festival — in fact, the largest and single most important holiday on the Hindu religious calendar. Observed in India and beyond not only by Hindus but also […]

Religious Diversity in Congress: First Hindu Congresswoman, First Buddhist Senator

posted by Reed Hall

Election Day (November 6, 2012) did more than give Barack Obama a second term in office as the U.S. president. Among other things, it also gave us America’s first Hindu congresswoman, as well as its first Buddhist senator. Tulsi Gabbard, […]

Which Religion is TRUE? (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog post, I asked the perennial and fundamental question: Out of all of these many diverse religions, major and minor, which one of them (if any) happens to be, you know, true? In other words, which of […]

Which Religion is TRUE? (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Okay, this is it. The $64,000 question. For many people, this one is the really big, bottom-line uber question — the most central and most burning of all questions pertaining to religion. Out of all of these many diverse religions, […]

Are All Religions “Saying the Same Thing”?

posted by Reed Hall

It’s a common enough question, and one that is often posed less as an actual question than as a simple observation, or even as a subtle assertion: “When you get right down to it, aren’t all religions really just saying […]

Samhain/Beltane 2012

posted by Reed Hall

At sunset today (October 31, 2012), a significant holiday on the religious calendars of Wiccans and other Neopagans will begin. However, which particular Wiccan holiday it happens to be will vary, depending upon which particular hemisphere of the world — […]

How DIVERSE Are the Religions?

posted by Reed Hall

Or, to put the question more precisely: how internally diverse are each of the world’s religions? Most people understand that the religious landscape is a very diverse place. A plurality of different religions, major and minor, exist in the world, […]

Eid al-Adha 2012

posted by Reed Hall

With the end of the annual Hajj period fast approaching, Muslims today (as I write, Friday, October 26) are celebrating the first day of a major multi-day Islamic holiday. The conclusion of the Hajj, or pilgrimage at Mecca, is marked […]

Hajj 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (as I write, Wednesday, October 24), millions of Muslims from all over the world are arriving in the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. They are converging upon this holiest of Islamic holy cities on the eve of […]

How OLD Are the Religions?

posted by Reed Hall

In a previous series of blog entries, I addressed a common basic question: How MANY religions are there? In my immediately preceding blog entries, I addressed a followup question: How BIG are the religions? In this blog entry, I’d like […]

How BIG Are the Religions? (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry (Part One of this series), I remarked that if I were from Mars, and knew absolutely nothing about Earth’s religions, then in order to begin to familiarize myself with the spiritual “lay of the land,” […]

How BIG Are the Religions? (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

The overarching purpose of this entire “Religion 101″ blog of mine is primarily to introduce newcomers to the study of religion, as well as newbies just starting out on a personal spiritual search, to the wider world of global religion […]

Navratri 2012

posted by Reed Hall

As I write, Hindus in India and beyond are preparing for the beginning of Navratri (or Navaratri, Sanskrit for “Nine Nights”), a major Hindu harvest-time religious festival. As its name implies, Navratri is a celebration running nine nights in a […]

How MANY Religions Are There? (Part Five: The Hard Numbers)

posted by Reed Hall

In my last blog entry, I continued to ask (or perhaps dance around) the simple question: How many religions are there in the world? Now, at last, I shall meet the question head on. Never mind about all of the […]

How MANY Religions Are There? (Part Four: “Religions” vs. Denominations, Sects, etc.)

posted by Reed Hall

In my last several blog entries, I have been asking (or perhaps dancing around) the simple question: How many religions are there in the world? Never mind about all of the myriad bygone religions of the remote past. We touched […]

How MANY Religions Are There? (Part Three: “Religion” vs. “Way of Life”?)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, I again asked the seemingly simple question: How many religions are there in the world, today? (Popular objections that Christianity somehow doesn’t count because “it’s a relationship, not a ‘religion’” notwithstanding, it does count. It’s […]

How MANY Religions Are There? (Part Two: When Is A Religion “Not A Religion”?)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry, I asked the seemingly simple question: How many religions are there in the world, today? (Never mind about all the myriad bygone religions of the remote past. And never mind how many people think exclusively […]

How MANY Religions Are There? (Part One: “Myth” vs. “Religion”)

posted by Reed Hall

It seems a simple enough question. How many religions are there, in the world? Let’s immediately narrow things down a bit further, just by additionally refining that question slightly: How many religions are there in the world, today? That last […]

Sukkot 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (October 1, 2012), Jews worldwide are observing the first day of a joyous, seven-day-long holiday (a holy week, actually, rather than a literal “holy day”) known as Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles (or the Festival of Booths). For the first two […]

Jewish Demographics & “Denominations” (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my last blog entry, I presented some statistics and some graphic “pie charts” to illustrate (for the benefit of those for whom religious demographics may be unfamiliar territory) the actual size of both the total world Jewish population, as […]

Jewish Demographics & “Denominations” (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In several of my most recent blog posts, I’ve been talking about Judaism — the High Holy Days in general, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in particular. But many people who are new (or relatively new) to the study […]

Yom Kippur 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Tonight (September 25, 2012), Jews worldwide will begin observing Judaism’s most sacred holiday of the year: Yom Kippur, otherwise known as the Day of Atonement. Coming ten days after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), on the tenth day of the month of […]

Autumnal Equinox (Mabon, Ostara) 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (September 22, 2012) is the autumnal equinox, a significant date on the religious calendars of Wiccans and other Neopagan groups. An equinox occurs when the Sun is precisely aligned with the plane of the Earth’s equator, such that our […]

Paryushana 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today (September 19, 2012) is the first day of the multi-day festival of Paryushana (“Coming Together”), one of the two most important festivals in Jainism. Paryushana runs for either 8 or 10 days, depending upon the particular Jain sect, but […]

Rosh Hashanah 2012

posted by Reed Hall

For many people, and in many societies, the start of a new year is a festive, joyous occasion. But most of us regard New Year’s Day (January 1) as a purely secular holiday, with little or no real religious meaning. […]

Jewish Holidays and the High Holy Days

posted by Reed Hall

All religions have their holidays (literally “holy days”) — certain special days of the year which are set aside and elevated as being especially sacred or holy. Judaism itself celebrates about ten major and many more minor holidays throughout the […]

World Religions: The U.S. Religious “Pie” (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my last post, I presented a visual pie chart graphically displaying the relative sizes of the major religions that are currently predominant within the United States. I also compared and contrasted that U.S. religious pie chart with a second […]

World Religions: The U.S. Religious “Pie” (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous two posts, I presented a global religious pie chart, graphically displaying and comparing the relative sizes of the major religions of the world, based upon their own total global populations. Now, I’d like to present a similar […]

World Religions: The Global Religious “Pie” (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Out of a total world population currently close to seven billion people, the global religious “pie” slices up roughly as follows: The above raw data calls for at least a little bit of additional explanation and commentary. The clear winner, […]

World Religions: The Global Religious “Pie” (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

People engaged in a personal spiritual search, or on a private religious quest, often conduct it in a limited fashion, largely unaware of the immense variety of living religions and spiritual pathways that actually exist out there, in the wider […]

Religion & God: Inseparable?

posted by Reed Hall

In a previous blog, I asked the rhetorical question, “Can religions exist without scriptures?” (Answer: Yes. Religions can and do exist that lack any written scriptures. Many indigenous religions, for instance, are associated with non-literate cultures. They do just fine […]

Christianity: One Faith, Many Flavors

posted by Reed Hall

Question: What do Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Pentecostals, charismatics, evangelicals, fundamentalists and “non-denominationals” all have in common? Answer: they’re all “Christians.” Christianity is the largest religion […]

Ten Surprising Similarities Between Judaism & Islam (Part Five)

posted by Reed Hall

Concluding my five-part overview of ten striking similarities and prominent parallels between Judaism and Islam, which some who are unfamiliar with either faith might find rather surprising: 9.  Jews and Muslims both observe religiously mandated dietary rules and regulations.   […]

Ten Surprising Similarities Between Judaism & Islam (Part Four)

posted by Reed Hall

As mentioned in my previous blog entry, a recent Pew Forum survey finds that 78.4% of the U.S. population self-identifies as Christian — clearly an overwhelming majority. By contrast, Jews account for only 1.7% and Muslims a mere 0.6% of […]

Ten Surprising Similarities Between Judaism & Islam (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

According to a recent Pew Forum survey, 78.4% of the U.S. population self-identifies as Christian — clearly an overwhelming majority. By contrast, Jews account for only 1.7% and Muslims a mere 0.6% of the population. Overwhelming majorities (of whatever sort) […]

Ten Surprising Similarities Between Judaism & Islam (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

The U.S. population is overwhelmingly a Christian population (78% according to a recent Pew Forum survey), which of course means that all other religions also present within the U.S. are, by definition, “minority religions” (no matter how large they might […]

Ten Surprising Similarities Between Judaism & Islam (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entries, I addressed poll results indicating that a surprisingly large percentage of Americans are unaware of the fact that Judaism is older than both Christianity and Islam, and are also unable to identify which Islamic countries […]

Eid al-Fitr 2012

posted by Reed Hall

The end of the Islamic month of Ramadan is fast approaching — and with it, the conclusion of the daylight fasting that Muslims worldwide have been faithfully observing throughout this holiest of months on the Islamic calendar. No food or […]

Religious Illiteracy Redux (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog post, I cited Newsweek magazine’s 2007 “What You Need to Know Poll,” which stated the following: “Roughly half (53 percent) are aware that Judaism is an older religion than both Christianity and Islam (41 percent aren’t […]

Religious Illiteracy Redux (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Here’s a new statistic (well, it’s actually about five years old, now, but it’s a new one to me), which I only just happened to stumble upon the other day. This one surprises even me. Evidently back in 2007, Newsweek […]

Krishna Janmashtami 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Today is Krishna Janmashtami, the annual celebration in the Hindu calendar of the birthday of Lord Krishna. Because of the complex intricacies of the Indian calendar’s structure and workings, the precise date of this popular Hindu holy day and festival […]

What Is Sikhism?

posted by Reed Hall

Sadly, another mass shooting has been in the news recently — this one occurring not in a Colorado movie theater, but in a Wisconsin house of worship. A gunman identified as Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh temple (technically known […]

Universal Salvation? (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

Whereas many theologically conservative evangelical Christians, and most if not all fundamentalist Christians, believe both in a literal hell and that at least some poor souls are suffering there for all eternity, there are plenty of others — Christians and […]

Universal Salvation? (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

Many mainline Protestant denominations see Christianity as being less about obtaining a ticket out of hell through faith in Christ as one’s personal savior, and more about emulating Christ’s example of unconditional love — expressing and realizing their own faith […]

Universal Salvation? (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

In the wake of the tragic July 20 massacre at the Aurora, Colorado cinema where a lone gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others, one notable evangelical Christian public figure famously (or infamously) observed that any among the dead […]

Ultimate Origins (or, How Old Is Creation?)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry (on religious calendars), I mentioned that according to the Jewish or Hebrew calendar, we are currently living in the year 5772. I further mentioned that the Jewish calendar begins counting or numbering its years from […]

Religious Calendars (or, What Year Is This?)

posted by Reed Hall

While discussing the month (and the monthlong fast) of Ramadan in my previous blog post, I briefly touched upon the subject of the Islamic calendar. It subsequently occurred to me that many non-Muslims may not be aware that such a […]

Ramadan 2012

posted by Reed Hall

Muslims worldwide are currently in the midst of observing Ramadan. But just what, exactly, is Ramadan? Ramadan is well known as the famous month-long fast of Islam. But Ramadan is actually also the proper name of a specific month in […]

The Colorado Shooter & The Problem of Evil

posted by Reed Hall

The tragic recent events at a suburban movie theater in Colorado, in which a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others, is a vivid and painful reminder of the degree to which senseless evil and profound suffering exist as […]

Sacred Texts & Sacred Libraries (Part Three)

posted by Reed Hall

In the previous entry (“Sacred Texts & Sacred Libraries, Part Two“), I concluded by asking the seemingly straightforward question: How many books are there in the Bible? The simple answer: it depends. It depends not only upon whether we’re taking […]

Sacred Texts & Sacred Libraries (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

In my previous blog entry (“Sacred Texts & Sacred Libraries, Part One”), I mentioned that the Bible was itself a kind of “mini-library,” an anthology of multiple individual sacred texts or scriptures, all assembled together between the covers of a […]

Sacred Texts & Sacred Libraries (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Religions and scriptures. Can you have one without the other? Well, yes, actually — you can. The classic example of non-scripture-based faith is the broad category of “indigenous religions” (the myriad native religious traditions of various local, often tribal ethnic […]

Ten Essential “-isms” (Part Two)

posted by Reed Hall

(We here continue with our “Ten Essential ‘-isms’,” which we began listing and describing in the previous post [“Part 1″].) By way of wrapping up our discussion of polytheism (begun at the end of Part 1), it’s important to add […]

Ten Essential “-isms” (Part One)

posted by Reed Hall

Newcomers to the study of religion and spirituality, whether they approach such a study academically and objectively (as my own students do, in a college classroom) or more personally and subjectively (perhaps during moments of private religious reflection, or as […]

Religious Illiteracy

posted by Reed Hall

•  Only half of American adults can name even one of the four Gospels. •  Most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible. •  Only one-third know that Jesus (no, not Billy Graham) delivered the Sermon on the […]

Previous Posts

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Six)
Specifically Christian newcomers to the study of Judaism frequently puzzle over  why -- as they themselves often put it -- Jews "don't believe in Jesus." The reality is simply that the entire Jewish concept of who and what a Messiah actually is (or does) is just nothing like what Christians them

posted 4:45:00pm Jun. 29, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Five)
Aside from the several other frequent areas of confusion which sometimes puzzle newcomers to the study of Judaism (areas which I've been discussing in my last several blog entries), there is yet another hazy area that is often uniquely puzzling to specifically Christian newcomers: why, as they thems

posted 10:01:32pm Jun. 27, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Four)
As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about many of the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real knowledge of the Jewish faith, and may even harbor some fa

posted 9:16:07pm Jun. 25, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Three)
As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real knowledge of the Jewish faith, and may even harbor some fairly com

posted 6:27:16pm Jun. 22, 2013 | read full post »

Midsummer (Litha)/Yule 2013
Tomorrow (Friday, June 21, 2013) is the date of the summer solstice within the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, by contrast, tomorrow will be the date of the winter solstice. Solstices have long been observed as important seasonal festivals in many traditional cultures. Accordingl

posted 5:05:38pm Jun. 20, 2013 | read full post »

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