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.

Why is the Song of Solomon in the Bible?

ROB ASKS: The Song of Solomon gets a lot of ‘bad press.’ Are there spiritual lessons to be found in this book? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs has probably roused more confusion than any other book in the Hebrew Bible, similar to the New Testament’s complex Book of Revelation. [Read More...]

Is military service sinful?

GAGE ASKS: Is killing as a protection of the United States, like going into the Army, a sin? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: Adequate treatment of this classic issue would require thousands of words. But start with some venerable quotations: “Do not kill or injure living creatures” (typical wording from Buddhism’s Five Precepts). “You shall not [Read More...]

Was Marx right that religion = “opium”?

ROD ASKS: Was Marx right? Is religion the opiate of the masses? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: This blog’s third item about atheism and atheists in seven weeks!  Rod cites the famous quote about religion from a 26-year-old Karl Marx in 1844, four years before he co-authored the momentous “Communist Manifesto.” Here’s the full context in [Read More...]

Why do some Protestants teach a “young earth” chronology?

ANNE ASKS: What is the explanation for today’s “young earth” movement among evangelicals? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: This question  highlights the split between many Christians in science and a wing within conservative Protestantism that believes Genesis chapter 1 requires a “young earth” chronology with earth and all living things originating some 10,000 years ago, not [Read More...]

How should we define — and assess — atheism?

DANIEL ASKS: Is it becoming possible to be religious without believing in god? (the lower-case “god” is Daniel’s usage) THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: This is partially a repeat from March 22, 2013 when The Guy posted “Is atheism a ‘religion’? Is the Pope Protestant?” That headline indicated the idea seems ludicrous on its face. Yet, [Read More...]

What religions use mind-altering drugs?

MICHAEL-ANN’S QUESTION: While millions observed Easter Sunday or the Passover season April 20, some folks were celebrating the annual “4-20,” numerical code for the marijuana subculture. That coincidence caused Michael-Ann to wonder “how many religions use weed (and other mind-altering drugs) to reach spirituality?” THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: The best-known example is the Rastafarians, who [Read More...]

How does that birth control ruling affect U.S. religion?

THE RELIGION GUY EXPLAINS that no-one has yet posted a question on the June 30 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing certain religious exemptions from the Obama Administration’s birth control mandate. So The Guy is posting his own analysis of an important case that highlights the nation’s religious, moral, legal, and political divisions. The case involved [Read More...]

Where does anti-Hitler hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer fit?

JOHN ASKS: [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] was a hero and martyr for the faith, but is it possible evangelical Christians in America have lionized someone whose theology is not actually in sync with theirs? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: Books by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) sell without letup, including no less than seven biographies since [Read More...]

What’s the track record when atheists wield political power?

DUANE’S QUESTION: He’d like to know what The Religion Guy was talking about in this from “Religion Q and A” on June 8: “When atheists seized governments in the 20th Century they fused their belief in unbelief with state power and enforced it with a cruel vengeance unmatched by the worst cross-and-crown tyrannies during Christendom’s [Read More...]

Do religions influence China’s atheistic rulers?

MADDIE ASKS: How much of … eastern and western religions have had an influence on the [atheistic Chinese Communist] Party’s ideology? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: Not much, on the surface, but there’s obvious affinity with Confucianism that the Communist authorities don’t admit. However — Is Confucianism a “religion” or a mere humanistic philosophy, since it lacks [Read More...]


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