Religion Posts

  • My new Twitter handle is now live - check me out at @jackiewgibson!

  • CNN has posted a history of bias against Sikhs - more reason for people to learn about religions before they attack anyone:...

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Hackers group Anonymous takes down Vatican website:

  • WGN-TV calls doomsday prophecies "an illusion":

  • RT @graceishuman: Really,? Asking people JUST LEAVING the service how they felt about it? Tacky, tacky, inappropriate

  • Whitney Houston's funeral service really took the world to church. Love Pastor Winans' honesty, very moving.

  • #teacher ? Here are appropriate responses to situations with your Jehovah's Witness student:

  • #Teachers: Want to know why your Jehovah's Witness student won't say the pledge and how to respond?

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CNN just reported that a shooting at a Sikh temple took place at 10:40 am this morning near Milwaukee, WI. As of 1:42 pm, people were still trapped inside the temple. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people inside and their families.

Here is a quick backgrounder on Sikhism:

The major players: 10 gurus, teachers who passed the torch onto one another until the tenth guru told Sikhs to follow the eternal guru one year on Baisakhi Day. The first guru was Guru Nanak Dev whose life and preaching resulted in the founding of Sikhism.
The major scripture: Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal guru, a collection of the teachings of the ten gurus and writers from other religions. It is the so-called “head” of the Sikh religion, though Sikhs do not worship the book as an idol.
The major tenets: There is only one God, he cannot take human form, one should devote oneself daily to remembering God, one should reject rituals (such as fasting, yoga, and pilgrimages) as one should focus more on good conduct and right mind than things connected to the world
The goal: To break the cycle of death and rebirth and merge with God
Encouraged practices: Meditation, following the teachings of the gurus, service, and charity
The social connection: Equality for all sexes, races, castes, and creeds; social responsibility and community service emphasized

Learn more about Sikhism.

Teachers: If there’s one thing you probably already know about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s that they are a group of religious folk who go door to door giving out information about their beliefs. But as an educator, there are a few other things to know about the Jehovah’s Witness in your classroom. Here are answers to three common questions to help you respond appropriately and with sensitivity when situations arise.

1. My student won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem. Isn’t this unpatriotic?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that actions such as saluting the flag, singing the national anthem, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance give reverence to one’s country, instead of God. To the Jehovah’s Witness, patriotism is a form of idolatry to be avoided.

How to respond: Your student may ask to sit during the pledge, stand quietly, or even be dismissed from the classroom. You may not agree with her beliefs, but you can respect them by allowing her to take part (or sit in the hallway) as her conscience permits.

2. Can my student participate in a holiday celebration?

Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays or holidays (including Christmas) because they believe holidays originated as pagan festivities and put the focus on humans instead of God.

How to respond: Do not automatically plan a birthday celebration for your Jehovah’s Witness student. If you are planning any sort of birthday or holiday celebration to be held during class, pull him aside ahead of time and ask whether he would be allowed to attend. If not, make arrangements for him to be elsewhere during the celebration. Be sure to give him a fun activity to do in the other room (not homework) since your other students will be doing something fun.

If you are holding a holiday celebration that’s intended to teach a student about a culture (such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead), give your Jehovah’s Witness student instruction and classroom materials that will help him understand what that holiday means to the culture…but don’t require him to participate in the celebration.

3. Will my student try to convert people in school?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus sent followers out to share his message. Children often accompany adults on missionary activities. The steps that are believed to lead to conversion include passing out literature at homes but do not include passing out materials in schools. That said, students may be excited to share their beliefs just as any student from another religion might want to tell others what he believes.

How to respond: For the most part, if a student wishes to pass out evangelistic materials to her classmates, public school districts can’t prohibit them from doing so. However, they can place restrictions on when and where those materials are distributed. If you have concerns, talk to your administrators.

To learn more about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and how you might respond, visit their official website or this BBC site.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.

Yesterday, November 1, the News Literacy Project held an event at a high school in Chicago, in which religion reporters spoke to high school students. The event was titled, “Covering Religion: How to Balance Facts and Faith in the Search for Truth.” If you missed my tweets from the event, check it out now at

The event was moderated by Art Norman, anchor at NBC5 Chicago and included three panelists:

Watch this video to hear the panelists answer a student’s question:

“How do you balance fact and faith when reporting religion?”

Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.

It’s that time of year. Dogs dressed up like bees, kids in homemade ghost costumes, buckets of candy…

…horror flicks, people on the train wearing Scream masks…and then there was that house down the street with fake body parts attached to the fence. Yep, apparently we have death on the brain. But scarier than the kind of slasher films that seem sort of unbelievable, are those bumps in the night that make us pause and question what’s real and what’s perhaps a figment of our imagination: ghosts, apparitions, demons…

What are demons?

“Demons” are defined as evil spirits or, if you trace the original meaning, higher beings from the Devil’s realm. Demons are thought to be able to take hold of or possess people. And, according to Catholic thought, those demons can be exorcised out of human beings. The act of driving demons out is mentioned several times in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Perhaps the best known of these is the story of Legion in Mark 5:

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16
What do Catholics think?
Well for one, there are only about 30 official exorcists in the United States. And as far as whether it works or is real, it depends on whom you ask. This article from US Catholic sums up the mood among Catholics when it comes to present-day exorcism.

What do you think about exorcism? Are demons real? Does your religious belief affect your belief in demonic possession and exorcism?
Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.