About Richard Ostling

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.

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 [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. [Read More…]

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 [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 [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 [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 [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 [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 [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 [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 [Read More…]