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 is an agnostic?

LISA’S QUESTION: What does it mean to be agnostic?  Are there people who actually consider it to be a religion? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: In Pew Research’s much-mulled 2014 religion poll of 35,000 U.S. adults, 3.1 percent defined themselves as “atheists” (compared with 1.6 percent in a similar 2007 survey) while a somewhat larger faction [Read More...]

How should Christians holding public office conduct their duties?

GENE’S QUESTION: How ought Christian believers conduct themselves as public office-holders? To what extent should they promote biblical principles in the context of a democratic society? What grounds should they cite? Are some biblical principles too idealistic for a secular society? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Gene posted this fourfold query before Kentucky county clerk Kimberly [Read More...]

Which U.S. churches accept legal abortion?

EVA’S QUESTION: Are there any Christian denominations that accept the legality of abortion? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Yes.  To make things manageable the following discusses only Christianity in the U.S. in the era of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion nationwide. Although some predominantly white “mainline” Protestant churches are officially neutral or opposed, five [Read More...]

A common dilemma: Which Bible to use?

DALE’S QUESTION: I am no longer sure which Bible to use. I currently have the New American Standard Bible. How accurate is this? What are your thoughts on the New English Translation? [This is a direct response to our immediately preceding Religion Q and A for August 16, 2015, "Why were some verses removed from [Read More...]

Why were some verses removed from the New Testament?

CASSANDRA’S QUESTION: I’m just shocked by the information I just received about the N.I.V. Bible, that many verses of the Scriptures have been removed. So I’m searching for a reliable version of the Bible to study from. Any suggestions? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The Guy reassures Cassandra, who’s been reading the Bible for 21 years, [Read More...]

How come Judaism is broken into various branches?

MADDIE’S QUESTION: What caused Judaism to break into branches? Are the branches even seen as a division? Does theology differ among them? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The questioner has “a Christian background” so is familiar with a religion made up of separate groups. Christianity has long been divided into four main families, the so-called “Oriental [Read More...]

Which Old Testament laws apply to non-Jews?

VALERIE’S QUESTION: Do God’s laws apply to Gentiles, including foods that should not be eaten, i.e. pigs, fish without scales? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Valerie raises a broad topic but focuses on the ritually prohibited foods in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) as listed in Leviticus 11 and  Deuteronomy 14. For [Read More...]

What’s ahead for Americans who believe in traditional marriage?

THE RELIGION GUY ASKS: With the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, what’s ahead for religious believers in traditional man-and-woman marriage alone? (The Guy poses this timely topic now in place of the usual question posted by an online reader.) THE ANSWER: The historic June 26 legalization, by a one-vote majority of [Read More...]

Does the Bible’s ban on “graven images” forbid art in church?

BRAD’S QUESTION: Why don’t Catholics have a problem with the graven images that surround them in church? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER Brad is obviously Protestant in his cultural outlook. That is, Catholic and Orthodox churches encourage religious art in church, seen as aids to devotion. Protestants’ policies vary (as on most things!) but they broadly [Read More...]

What can experts tell us about America’s growing “nondenominational” churches?

RACHAEL’S QUESTION: In the recent Pew survey showing America’s religious changes, how were nondenominational churches categorized? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Rachael asked previously what America’s biggest Christian groups are, and now has another demographic item about the Pew Research Center’s important “Religious Landscape Study,” which continues to spur discussion. (Text: www.pewforum.org/files/2015/05/RLS-05-08-full-report.pdf. This blog scanned key [Read More...]