THE RELIGION GUY EXPLAINS:
This is the 100th “Religion Q and A” posting. So instead of answering the usual weekly question The Guy pauses to scan what sort of religious stuff provoked interest since December, 2012. That’s when this blog began posting non-sectarian answers to anonymously posted questions on “any old thing about any and all faith options,” after a strategic boost from Terry Mattingly of the estimable www.getreligion.org.
The Guy, as a journalist, naturally wants current topics in the mix, and thus recently dealt with: new movies, the career of Chick-fil-A’s pious founder Truett Cathy, the Supreme Court ruling on birth control under “Obamacare,” suicide and the Robin Williams tragedy, religious conflict in Ukraine, and the disputes about tax exemption, civic prayers, legalized marijuana, and same-sex marriage.
Yet check the handy archives on the blog’s home page and you’ll see less timely topics predominate. A prime principle in education is that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and The Guy welcomes queries about basic information. Many others will have asked themselves the same thing. So The Guy examined Catholic intermarriage policy, whether military service is sinful, a deceptively simple query on “what is faith?” and this golden oldie: “When does life begin?” (the blog’s very first question).
Readers have wondered how to define “mainline” Protestants, and “evangelical” Protestants, and “new age” religion. You’ve asked why some ancient faiths died out while others survived. Why are so many U.S. churches in slow decline? What can be done about it? Where are the exceptions? More cosmically, are we seeing “a seismic shift in religion worldwide”?
Predictably, we’ve coped with many queries about Jesus or the Bible. Here’s a good one: “Why are holy scriptures so complicated?” Another: “Why do Christians ignore so many biblical laws?” And another: “Which Bible version is the most authentic?” And of course The Guy was asked about the latest twist in this tired old tale: “Was Jesus married?”
Readers want to learn about prayer, hell, purgatory, heaven, who gets there, and whether heavenly “near-death” experiences are valid. Concerning organizations, we’ve treated Catholicism and the new pope along with aspects of the far less numerous Episcopalians, Quakers, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Jains, and Sikhs. Even Psychiana and Natural Hygiene came in for mention.
There’s perpetual interest in Islam including its bloodthirsty factions (eight questions), in the Latter-day Saints a.k.a. Mormons (five questions), and in atheism (five questions). Boy, is there interest in atheism! The blog’s record total of comments (69) came after “Q and A” tallied death tolls from Christendom’s most embarrassing atrocities ciompared with the worse carnage when atheistic Communists gained power. Sensitive atheists responded in defense that atheism is incidental to Communism, or that atheistic Communism is a religion so this proves religion is dangerous, or that atheism is not a religion at all. Meanwhile, The Guy proposed that big-time atheist Karl Marx was kinda correct that religion is “the opium of the people.”
If this project has value, urge your friends to follow www.patheos.com/blogs/religionqanda, post comments that may correct The Guy’s shortcomings, and especially post pertinent new questions that are our lifeblood. If we’ve already answered a question from you, feel free to post another; some of our sharpest items come from repeaters.
To newcomers: The Guy is no philosopher-theologian-preacher and seeks to report fairly on what the facts and the experts tell us, mostly limiting his own opinions to a modest measure of interpretative material. Our founding manifesto called this “old-fashioned — and getting to be increasingly out-of-fashion — journalism.” See: www.patheos.com/blogs/religionqanda/2012/12/religion-q-and-a-and-old-fashioned-journalisms-five-ws.
The Guy in retirement launched these modest online contributions rather than just continuing to grumble privately about religious fare on the Internet, some of it inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, or slanted, and the bulk of it promoting a particular religious or anti-religious viewpoint. Nothing wrong with promoting viewpoints, of course. But there’s nowhere near enough non-partisan information and analysis of the sort The Guy attempted to provide during decades covering religion with “Time” magazine, The Associated Press, CBS Radio, and the PBS-TV “NewsHour.”
Is The Guy correct to think that, if anything, the quality of religious discourse on the Web and in the media has declined another notch during these 22 months?