Should churches be tax-exempt?

RACHAEL'S QUESTION:Once in a while I'll see someone comment online about how taxing churches could help with some of the nation's financial problems. Would taxing churches help or hurt? How do other countries handle their churches and taxes?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Governments always want more cash. However, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court warned in 1819 (in McCulloch v. Maryland) that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy," so policy-makers need to weigh societal benefits … [Read More...]

What do Jews believe about life after death?

NORMAN'S QUESTION:The Hebrew Bible makes no mention of an afterlife. When did this belief come into being among the Israelites, and why?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:This is an appropriate follow-up to our December 1 answer to Paula concerning "what does Christianity say happens to believers after death?"True, the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (= Christians' Old Testament) has no explicit and detailed concept of the afterlife such as we have in the New Testament. This whole topic has been … [Read More...]

With Jesus’ birth, why does the Bible list two different family trees?

THE QUESTION:In the accounts of Jesus' Nativity in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, why are the genealogies so different?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Because there are no Christmas-y questions from readers awaiting answers, The Guy raises this Yuletide classic himself. When Matthew and Luke recount the birth of Jesus they present different genealogies with fascinating intricacies. The following can only sketch a few basics from the immense literature on this.The Bible provides no … [Read More...]

What does Christianity say happens to believers after death?

PAULA'S QUESTION:When people say their loved one went to heaven, why doesn't the preacher tell them that no-one goes straight to heaven? If they did, what would be the reason for the resurrection?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Christian doctrine says that after death a believer's soul enters the presence of God in the blessedness of heaven, and then in the end times will be reunited with a transformed body. Christianity contrasts with Eastern religions' belief in reincarnation, a long … [Read More...]

Why didn’t the Bible abolish slavery?

THE QUESTION:If the Bible is a revered guide to morality, why didn't it abolish slavery? The Guy poses this issue that was raised in many comments posted after our October 17, 2016, "Q and A" about people who abhor Jewish and Christian Scripture.THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Toleration of slavery, in which some people own and control others as property, is a favorite Internet attack skeptics level against the Bible. Greg Carey of Lancaster Theological Seminary says slavery is "the single … [Read More...]

Who are the Yazidis of Iraq? (And why are they persecuted so?)

RACHAEL'S QUESTION:I've heard of Yazidis but don't know much about them. What are some basics of their beliefs?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The genocidal effort by the "Islamic State" (I.S.) to exterminate devotees of this small Kurdish religion centered in mountainous northern Iraq is a great moral outrage of the era. The opponents' bloodthirsty zeal exceeds even the persecution, enslavement, exile, and murder I.S. has visited upon Christians.With Mosul as the current focus of … [Read More...]

Is the Bible so “dangerous” it should be banned? Burned? Seriously.

NORMAN'S QUESTION:The Bible is the most-purchased and least-read book of any. What can we do to discourage the reading of this dangerous book? The medieval church kept it wisely in Latin. The damned Protestant Reformers wanted everyone to read it and look what evil that has accomplished! Shall we burn it? Shall we prevent it being sold? I am serious.THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The Religion Guy would have ignored this one except for the last three words above that require us to take … [Read More...]

Was the Bible’s Abraham a real person or only a fictional character?

MARK'S QUESTION:Liberal biblical scholars say Abraham never lived and was a literary invention of "priestly" writers in exile in Babylon. Since we have no archaeological data on him, how do we know he really lived?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The patriarch Abraham is all-important as the revered founding forefather and exemplar of faith in the one God, this not only for Jews and Christians but Muslims, whose Quran parallels some of the biblical account on him in Genesis 11 - 25. Islam … [Read More...]

Were Paul, and Jesus himself, mistaken about when the Second Coming would occur?

NORMAN'S QUESTION (summarized and paraphrased):The New Testament letter of 1st Thessalonians regards the coming of the Kingdom as imminent. But don't 2nd Thessalonians and later New Testament letters indicate the church was coming to terms with the fact that Paul (and Jesus himself) were mistaken about this?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Experts say the first of the two letters Paul, Silvanus and Timothy sent to friends in the Greek city of Thessalonika was the earliest New Testament book … [Read More...]

What does the Bible say about physical punishment of children?”

AN ANONYMOUS READER ASKS:In the U.S. there is a strong tendency among certain segments of the population to emphasize only the negatives of Islam and only the positives of Christianity. What would you say to the Christians who believe in beating their children?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:This responds to our July 26 item on verse 4:34 in the Quran that directs husbands to beat rebellious wives, currently a political issue in the Muslim world. Islamic interpreters explain that beating is … [Read More...]

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