In the Old Testament, was God guilty of “genocide”?

THE RELIGION GUY poses this complex historical question himself instead of the customary answer to an item posted via “Send Your Questions In” — new submissions very much welcomed. There’s been important debate on this issue recently, and a new book proposes sweeping reinterpretation of the Old Testament depiction of Israel’s “Conquest” of the Holy Land under Joshua. More on that below. Richard Dawkins, a fervent foe of religion, indicts the biblical God for inciting “genocide” in the Bible’s conquest passages… Read more

Should women serve as Christian clergy? Why, or why not?

THE RELIGION GUY (instead of answering a question posted by a reader) raises this topic that he discussed with a house guest who advocated an all-male clergy on biblical grounds, while The Guy (full disclosure) favored having pastors of either gender. Most Christians have belonged to church bodies that limit clergy leadership to men. A watershed occurred in 1975 when Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan wrote to inform Pope Paul VI about a growing consensus within the international Anglican Communion… Read more

Why do Jewish and Christian Bibles put the books in a different order?

GORDON’S QUESTION: Why is there a different order of the books of the Hebrew Bible in Jewish and Christian editions? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: As we’ll see, there’s revived debate about this. For starters, one key fact is that the contrasting lists did not result from conflict between Judaism and Christianity but rather the varied sequences used by Jews. Overview: The Jewish Bible and Protestant Old Testament have the same contents, but list the books in different order. Catholicism’s ordering… Read more

Are U.S Christians “Gnostics” in disguise? Revisiting an odd old theory

NORMAN’S QUESTION: How do you feel about Professor Harold Bloom’s contention (1992 book) that all American religion is more Gnostic than Christian, [that Americans] believe in “God and me,” which is not historic Christianity at all. THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: This question regards the American literary critic’s book “The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation.” When first published, many saw eccentric or crackpot thinking as Bloom contended that most Americans’ belief “masks itself as Protestant Christianity yet has… Read more

Jesus and “the spirits in prison” — is this the New Testament’s most difficult passage?

JOEL’S QUESTION: [Explanation:] The pastor of a New Jersey Protestant congregation sent in several “questions that have come up here.” One of them is how to understand the passage in the New Testament letter of 1st Peter about Jesus Christ preaching to “the spirits in prison.” THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The Bible’s major teachings are clear enough. But Joel and his parishioners shouldn’t be embarrassed if they’re confused about this particular New Testament head-scratcher. Even Martin Luther (who so energized Bible… Read more

What does the Bible say about reincarnation?

MARK’S QUESTION: What does the Bible say bout reincarnation? Was it an esoteric teaching of Jesus that was censored by church councils in the 4th and 5th Centuries? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: According to historians, nothing, and no. Forget pop novels, conspiracy theories about church censorship, or supposed secret knowledge from Jesus. The experts say the Bible, and thus Christianity, never taught reincarnation. That’s not to say individual Christians haven’t pondered the idea along with some mystics in Sufi Islam… Read more

What does Christianity teach about protecting yourself (e.g. motorcycling)?

BARBARA’S QUESTION: My son is in his 20s. He’s a devoted Christian. He also loves motorcycles. I hate them, and have seen too many young people killed on them. He says ‘Mom, if it’s my time, it’s my time.’ How can I caution him and make him take me seriously? I think the Lord gives you the good sense to make good decisions. THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: “Religion Q and A” usually avoids personal issues on which mere journalists have little… Read more

Did Jesus teach that slaves should be abused?(!)

REX’S QUESTION (Paraphrased): How can anyone believe in Jesus when he was a liar who preached “liberty” yet instructed people to beat slaves? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Rex, and any folks who influenced his thinking, seriously misread Jesus’ teaching, so it’s worth unpacking why and glimpse how experts advise us to understand the Bible. Here’s the full question, as posted: “How is it possible to believe in Jesus when he claimed to ‘set at liberty them that are bruised’ (Luke… Read more

Why do Hindus believe cows are sacred?

THE QUESTION:  What’s the background on Hinduism’s belief in “sacred cows”? (Posed by The Religion Guy himself, not a reader, because the topic is in the news.) THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Press reports from India say street vigilantes and the government in Uttar Pradesh state are campaigning against Muslim slaughterhouses accused of processing cows, which is illegal, instead of buffaloes, which is allowed and constitutes a large industry. Though Muslims deny the charge, Reuters reports that thousands of butcher shops have been… Read more

Could the Shroud of Turin be Jesus’ actual burial cloth?

MARK’S QUESTION: Is the Shroud of Turin really the burial cloth of Jesus? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Is Italy’s celebrated Shroud of Turin an authentic relic of Jesus Christ from the 1st Century that undergirds belief in his crucifixion and resurrection? Or a hoax from medieval times? Or an ingenious work of pious art? Or what? The Religion Guy will attempt to fairly summarize key aspects of this seasonal topic. Quick answer: There is no undisputed, empirical proof that this… Read more