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 … [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 … [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 to offer. But Barbara raises an important topic to … [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 4:18) … [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 th … [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 was … [Read More...]

Religion and terrorism: How do IRA Catholics compare with ISIS Muslims?

HEATHER'S QUESTION:[Paraphrased]  I remember being shocked years ago that some Irish terrorist acts were carried out in the name of Catholicism. What were the reactions to that, compared with the support or denial of Muslims toward violent jihad today?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The Guy can only sketch a few aspects of the religio-ethnic strife that has so roiled Ireland for centuries, or of the terror syndrome currently plaguing world Islam. Another preliminary point: Believers should … [Read More...]

Do Bible teachings apply to today’s “sanctuary” movement?

JULIA'S QUESTION:(In light of news about efforts of U.S. churches and others to shield immigrant aliens from arrest) she asks "whether teachings from the Old Testament on 'sanctuary' apply today."THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Many nations, including the United States, struggle over their moral duty in the midst of impossibly huge floods of refugees and other immigrants desiring residency and citizenship, alongside matters of border security. Those challenges obviously relate to the … [Read More...]

What’s the relationship between America’s Episcopal Church and the Church of England?

LISA ASKS:If Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church, does that mean today's head of the Episcopal Church is the reigning monarch of England?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:No. After the American colonies won independence, Anglican leaders in the new nation met in 1789 to form the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" as a totally separate, self-governing denomination, though with shared heritage, sentiment, and liturgy with the mother church.The current … [Read More...]

Why do many religions care what believers wear?

"ERASMUS" ASKS:Why do the religious authorities feel strongly about what we wear when we go about our daily lives, when we worship -- or indeed when we swim?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:One evening The Religion Guy was at the house of a physician who got an emergency summons to visit a hospital patient. Before departing, he took time to change from a polo shirt, ragged jeans, and sneakers into a dark suit, freshly starched white shirt, tie, and shiny shoes. I asked why bother. He … [Read More...]