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 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 [Read More…]

Does Islam’s Quran say husbands can beat their wives?

THE QUESTION: What does Islam’s holy book, the Quran, say about husbands beating their wives? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The Guy is posting this item himself rather than our usual answer to a question posted via the Website because this oft-discussed matter has become an important public dispute. In heavily Muslim Pakistan, the nation’s Parliament [Read More…]

Why do the Catholics and Orthodox “cross themselves” differently?

GAIL’S QUESTION: Why don’t the Orthodox and Roman Catholics cross themselves the same way? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Catholic and Orthodox parishioners make the “sign of the cross” before personal prayers, upon entering a church, at various points during worship, and otherwise. Priests make the sign not only during the sacraments but use it to [Read More…]

Does religious liberty in the U.S. go too far?

NORMAN’S QUESTION: Given that many religious groups have some very socially undesirable beliefs and, even more, practices, how much does religious liberty in America need to be restricted? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Here’s a sketch of a very complex constellation of issues. The question provides no examples of what’s offensive but The Guy guesses that [Read More…]

What is Jainism?

SID’S QUERY: I am looking for information on Jainism. Any help you can give me would be great. THE RELIGION GUY’S RESPONSE: Jainism is an ancient religion of India that’s relatively unknown in the West. Though with only 4 million or so adherents it is considered a major world faith, alongside others with followers that [Read More…]

Will Catholicism admit women deacons to the clergy ranks?

THE QUESTION: What are the reasons the Catholic Church might, or might not, ordain women in the clerical rank of deacon? (Almost all Q and A topics are posted by our online audience, but The Guy decided to pose this timely question himself.) THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Catholicism’s long-simmering discussion about whether to ordain women [Read More…]

Wine? Juice? Water? Wheat bread? What should be served at Communion?

GORDON’S QUESTION: Why do some Christians use (unfermented) grape juice or leavened bread in Communion since what was on the table at the Last Supper was almost certainly unleavened bread and fermented wine? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The Bible records that on the night of Jesus’ arrest he blessed and distributed bread saying “take; this [Read More…]

Is capitalism biblical?

JOHN’S QUESTION: It has always been my understanding from Proverbs (condemning the “sluggard”), and Paul’s instruction that missionaries earn their keep and not be a burden, that the Bible encouraged hard work and a responsibility to give of our blessings to the poor — personal responsibility vs. government responsibility. The trend toward government socialism seems [Read More…]

A big one: Is New Testament history reliable?

NORMAN’S QUESTION: How can we get people informed about the results of academic biblical scholarship, work that completely undermines the ordinary popular conception of Christianity and faith? Why are Christians not interested in the truth? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: “What is truth?”, Pilate asked Jesus. Or did he? America’s “Jesus Seminar” claimed the Roman tyrant [Read More…]

Was one of the New Testament apostles a woman?

CLAUDE’S QUESTION: How did you come to the conclusion that Junia / Junias in Romans 16:7 is an apostle? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Paul’s weighty New Testament letter to the Romans concludes with chapter 16’s greetings to various friends. Verse 7 applies the exalted label of “apostle” to Andronicus alongside someone named either “Junias” or [Read More…]


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