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Religion 101

Religion 101

World Religions Archives

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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 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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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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