500 years later, how do Protestants and Catholics view each other?

GORDON'S QUESTION:Is the divide between Protestants and Catholics growing or shrinking?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:"Will Pope Francis Break the Church?"  The Atlantic attached that overwrought headline to a sober analysis of internal Catholic tensions written by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. No, Francis won't, despite weighty issues the article surveyed. But a dramatic "break" did actually happen, beginning in 1517 when Martin Luther posted what history calls the "95 Theses." T … [Read More...]

Are tattoos OK for Jews and Christians?

JACOB'S QUESTION:Christians and Jews -- Is it OK for them to get tattoos?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Quick summary: Many if not most Jews say no (as do Muslims). With Christians, it's complicated.There are obvious pros and cons with getting a tattoo because it's a social signifier and permanently so, unlike hair styles, attire, and other expressions of individuality. But as a religious matter the issue is whether to observe the Bible's commandment in Leviticus 19:28: "You shall not … [Read More...]

What are America’s biggest Christian groups?

RACHAEL'S QUESTION:What are the major Christian denominations in the U.S.?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Numbers. Numbers. The Pew Research Center snagged some headlines April 2 with projections on world religions as of 2050 that are worth pondering. Among other things, we're told high birth rates will make world Islam almost as large as Christianity, India will surpass Indonesia as the nation with the biggest Muslim population, Muslims will constitute 10 percent of Europeans, and will … [Read More...]

What did Jesus mean in his Good Friday saying to the “daughters of Jerusalem”?

KRISTYN'S QUESTION:I'm having trouble discerning what Luke was trying to communicate when he referred to the women of Jerusalem on Jesus' trek up to Golgotha [in Luke 23:28-31]. If this is exactly what Jesus said, I have no idea what he meant. Can you shed some light on this?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Thanks to Kristyn for something Christians might ponder during the Holy Week season of sorrow that precedes Easter joy. Jesus' saying was poetic prophecy that, yes, can be opaque. This … [Read More...]

How will the gay marriage OK affect the Presbyterian Church (USA)?

DUANE'S QUESTION:What do you think will happen to the Presbyterian Church (USA) now that it has voted to officially sanction gay marriage?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Maybe not much. The Presbyterian Church (USA) announced March 17 that a nationwide referendum among regional bodies ("presbyteries") has redefined marriage as "between two people, traditionally a man and woman" so same-sex couples can wed in church. This historic change will be very upsetting for a sizable minority but … [Read More...]

666!!: What should we make of the Bible’s scariest number?

WESLEY'S QUESTION:Does it really matter if it is 666 or 616?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Hold that 616 for a moment.The Bible's scariest number -- 666 -- occurs in Revelation 13:17-18, a famously perplexing passage in Scripture's most perplexing book. (If you're superstitious, note that's in chapter 13.) "The International Bible Commentary" recounts that assorted preachers have identified 666 as the Pope, Muhammad, Muslim warrior Saladin, King Charles I, Charles's enemy Oliver C … [Read More...]

Did Paul write all 13 letters the Bible credits to him?

RACHAEL ASKS:What is the debate about the authorship of Paul's letters to the early church?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:The New Testament includes 13 letters ("epistles") from Christianity's first decades that name the apostle Paul as the author, or Paul with colleagues Silvanus, Sosthenes, or Timothy. The earliest is 1 Thessalonians, written just a couple decades after Jesus' crucifixion. In the traditional view, Paul produced the others during the next 15 years or so before his … [Read More...]

How should we understand the three “Abrahamic” religions?

NIHAL ASKS:Why aren't the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) one main religion?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:Nihal posted his query while preparing a 9th grade school report, and unfortunately this response comes too late to help. On the specific question of"why" these three faiths exist the way they are the best a mere journalist can say is "God only knows." However the interrelationships, overlaps, and differences among these great religions are certainly worth … [Read More...]

Is Islam a “religion of peace”?

DAVID ASKS:Where is the Muslim peace movement? Put another way, if Islam is a peace-loving religion where are the Muslim voices for peace?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:"Islam is a religion that preaches peace," U.S. President Barack Obama told CBS last September, and likewise President George W. Bush's mosque speech after 9-11 said "Islam is peace." Yet there's continual violence committed in the name of Islam. Analysts are abuzz over a major article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood, who … [Read More...]

Should religious fasting be kept secret?

HAEVEN ASKS:I'm beginning to fast and was wondering if I should hide it from people because of the verse that says to. I don't know if I can tell people without the intent to show off.THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:We're heading into Lent 2015, the annual season when Christians are most likely to undertake fasting, which is part of most religious traditions though now somewhat neglected in the West. For Christians, such times of abstinence from food are a spiritual discipline intended to … [Read More...]