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?

English flagItalian flagKorean flagChinese (Simplified) flagPortuguese flagGerman flagFrench flagSpanish flagJapanese flagArabic flag
Russian flagGreek flagDutch flagBulgarian flagCzech flagCroatian flagDanish flagFinnish flagHindi flagPolish flag
Romanian flagSwedish flagNorwegian flagCatalan flagFilipino flagHebrew flagIndonesian flagLatvian flagLithuanian flagSerbian flag
Slovak flagSlovenian flagUkrainian flagVietnamese flag      

Guest Posts

David Silverman

Following is a Q&A between Religion Transcends and the new president of American Atheists, David Silverman.*

Q. I cover several religious holidays on Religion Transcends. What do Atheists do during holiday seasons?

A. The reason for the season is the season itself.  The Winter Solstice has been observed with celebration since man first figured out that it was the shortest day of the year.  After all, what better reason is there to celebrate?

Q. Do you celebrate any other “observances” that could be considered holidays?

A. As you know, the term atheist is very broad.  Some atheists, especially Secular Humanists, celebrate HumanLight, which is a festive solstice celebration with most of the traditional trappings.  Some, like myself, huddle in the corner until the whole season passes.

Q. What is the biggest misconception about Atheists/Atheism?

A. That we are few in number.  Most polls show the nonreligious people hovering at around 15%, which is more than Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, combined, and doubled.  The problem is that most of these atheists are closeted, at least to some extent, and as a result most religious people think we are an insignificant minority.

A portion of that comes from the problem within the secular community.  If you as a Methodist his religion, he’ll say “Christian.”  if you as a Lutheran, he will also say “Christian.”  Presbyterian? Christian.  But if you ask an agnostic, which is a type of atheist, he’ll say “Agnostic”.  The same goes for Secular Humanists, Brights, and, rationalists.  But they are all atheists!  So again, we are perpetuating the misconception that atheists don’t exist by avoiding the A-word.

Q. Were you surprised by the results of the recent Pew Forum survey?

A. I was not at all surprised.  As an atheist, I get challenged on my religious knowledge all the time, usually beginning with “have you ever read the bible?” and moving on from there.  Religionists tend to quiz me to see if I know what I am talking about, and this happens very often.  As a result of interactions like this, atheists are more incented to research the religions in which they do not believe, which in turn leads to a firmer atheism.

On the other hand, religious people are typically discouraged from learning about other faiths, and very often they know very little of their own.  Most have not read their bible, and as a result live a life of obedient ignorance — which is exactly what the religious leaders want.

Q. “Hard-liner” Atheists (or aggressive Atheists as some might say) like Richard Dawkins often don’t just lack a belief in God. They also tend to take issue with/aim at organized religion. In light of that, are Atheists open to learning about religions? Is there something positive to be gained by understanding what religious folk believe?

A. There is no more value in learning about Christianity [for example] than there is in learning about any other Greek mythology, and Greek Mythology is better literature.  Once religion is understood, there is nothing more to gain, and no great lessons to learn.  Really.

*David Silverman has been an atheist since he was six years old.  After a Jewish upbringing, he became an “out-and-proud atheist,” debating other students in college, one of whom he married.  He became an activist in 1996 and was soon named NJ state director for American Atheists.  Several years later, he was named national spokesperson, and eventually vice president.  Now, as president, he has grabbed the reins of the organization he loves and hopes to one day adequately fill the shoes of its founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

rabbi_jason_miller1Following is a post from guest blogger, Rabbi Jason Miller. Visit his blog at 

Tonight begins the festival of Shavuot, the holiday in which the Jewish people celebrate the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps, the questions about the revelation of the Torah (when, what, how, if, and to whom) are the questions that divide the Jewish people today more than any other questions. The divisions among the modern denominations of Judaism all stem from the question of how the Torah was revealed to the Jewish people. The way in which individuals in the Jewish community consider the event that occurred at Mt. Sinai several millennia ago has vast implications for their approach to the Jewish faith. The sheer magnitude of that event, however, should force us all to transcend denominational differences and feel the power of community – whichever community we choose.

Never has the spiritual force of revelation affected me more than it did on the early morning of May 31, 1998. I had recently graduated college and was spending Shavuot at a local synagogue, where I served as the youth director. The assistant rabbi decided that the congregation would offer an all-night Tikkun Leil Shavuot (study session) and then a dawn service just before 5:00 in the morning.

It was a memorable night with many opportunities for Torah study with several wonderful teachers including three eighth-grade day school students. With delicious snacks and caffeinated beverages, about thirty of us managed to stay up the entire night. We decided to hold the minyan outdoors in the courtyard so we could enjoy the sunrise while we prayed.

The Torah service that morning took on new meaning for me. The Torah was paraded around and I had the sense that we really were at Sinai claiming what God had lovingly gifted to us. As I stood at the Torah for my aliyah, the sky began to get dark again. The Torah reader pronounced, “On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning…” As the words “thunder” and “lightning” were uttered, a huge thunderstorm ensued. The Torah reader managed to get out a few more words, chanting “…and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp toward God, and they took their places at the foot of the mountain.”

At that point, the sky opened up and the heavy rains began. We grabbed the Torah and ran inside where the Torah reading was completed. As I wiped the raindrops from my glasses, I remember thinking that this must be divine revelation. This was the epitome of holiness. This existential experience was full of awe and majesty, thunderclaps, and lightning bolts. Best of all, it was shared with community.

This was a liminal moment in my life. That experience has had a lasting effect on my life in the decade since. Being shaken by the thunder, seeing the lightning, and hearing the words of our Torah convinced me that I really did stand at Sinai. We were all there together. As a community.

That was my revelation. What was revealed to me? The power of community. Was I really at Mt. Sinai several thousand years ago? Maybe not physically there, but with this community, during that early morning storm it was as if I were there. And that is the message of Sinai. A community gathered to receive a gift from God. How that gift is interpreted thousands of years later should not take away from the magic of that moment.

At a time when some segments of the global Jewish community do not recognize other segments as Jewish, let us put aside our denominational differences and hearken back to Sinai. One Torah was given to the entire community. Let us stand again at Sinai with our brothers and sisters, and feel the power of community.

Rabbi Jason Miller was ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2004 where he was the first Gladstein Rabbinic Fellow and also received a Master’s Degree from the William Davidson School of Jewish Education. He is currently the Rabbi of Tamarack Camps, a Jewish camping agency. Additionally, he serves as the director of ATID (Alliance for Teens in Detroit), a Conservative Jewish high school program for teenagers in Metro Detroit, and leads Congregation T’chiyah. He serves on several committees of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and is a board member of JARC, a community-based Jewish residential services agency for individuals with developmental disabilities. He is an alumni of the STAR Foundation’s PEER (Professional Education for Excellence in Rabbis) program, which focuses on spiritual leadership, communication and practical skills for non-profit management. He is also a fellow in CLAL’s Rabbis without Borders fellowship. Rabbi Miller writes and lectures about modern technology’s effect on Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on the global Jewish community. His blog is at; follow him on @rabbijason.

Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends

Following is a post from guest blogger, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa. Visit his blog at


It was truly a remarkable sight to see the president of the United States give his first interview as president to an Arabic news channel. After 8 years of a Bush Administration that alienated much of, not only the Arab and Muslim worlds, but the larger global community, it was so refreshing to hear the president say, “My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect.” After having a president who talked about “Islamofascists,” it was invogorating to hear President Obama say, “My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives.”


There is much to be hopeful about an Obama presidency with respect to the Muslim world. Throughout his 17-minute interview with Al Arabiya television, President Obama repeatedly spoke about a mutually respectful relationship with the Muslim world; about listening, rather than dictating; about extending a hand of friendship to willing partners on the other side. This is something that has been sorely lacking for the last 8 years. Finally, we have a president who understands that the best way to achieve security for the United States is to drain the swamps in which the scourge of terrorism breeds – swamps of poverty, oppression, lack of opportunity, and despair. I think he will find a very gracious and enthusiastic response from the Muslim world to his open hand of friendship.


But he must use the good will that he, I believe, has already fostered with the Muslim world to tackle one of the most important priorities: a final and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If peace can be achieved in the Holy Land, you will see the “new religion” of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world melt away like ice cream in the summer. Yet, some may question whether a just peace can actually be achieved while keeping Israel as a “strong ally.” This is a false choice.


Anyone who is truly a friend to Israel, who is truly committed to Israel’s peace and security, would not be – through either his actions or inaction – goading Israel toward continued war and confrontation with the Palestinians. By working toward finally achieving peace between Israel and Palestine, President Obama would be the best friend Israel has ever had. It is possible to be pro-Israel and pro-peace at the same time; these are not mutually exclusive. In Barack Obama, I think we finally have a president who understands this.


There are some aspects of concern when it comes to Obama and the Muslim world. Many Muslims across the globe are still quite angry that he did not speak out more forcefully against the civilian carnage of the Israeli attack on Gaza. Many have seen this as silent complicity in Israel’s actions in the Strip. In addition, as reported by the New York Times, it seems that the president intends to adopt a tougher stance in Afghanistan, focusing more on attacking Al Qaeda and less on development (leaving that to NATO allies).


All in all, however, I think the president’s actions in reaching out to the Muslim world as he did is a most welcome change in the tone, face, and conduct of America. True, it may simply be a calculated strategy of giving the Muslim world a few kind words, such as “respect” and “listening,” to assuage the anger and disillusionment of the Bush nightmare, but I believe the president is genuine in his effort to reach out to the Muslim world. And, as President Obama himself said, “Ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words, but by my actions and my administration’s actions.”


So, we will have to wait and see what happens; but I have the audacity to hope that he means what he says,  and that we will see a new era of friendship and respect between America and the Muslim world under President Obama. And that is precisely why Al Qaeda is freaking out in their caves.


Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago pulmonologist and writer. He is the author of the essay “Why I Love the Ten Commandments,” published in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam (Rodale). He is also co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday). On a freelance basis, he has written for the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers around the world. A writer for, Dr. Hassaballa is also a columnist for Religion News Service and Deputy Director of Illume Magazine. Visit his blog at


Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends.


Tomorrow, August 15, Roman Catholics will celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Read my guest post about the Assumption of Mary on Sister Julie’s blog, A Nun’s Life.

On the same day as the Assumption, Orthodox Christians remember the Dormition of the Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary – in other words, they remember Mary’s death.

Who is Mary?

Mary was the mother of Jesus. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Mary is a young virgin. The angel Gabriel came to her and told her she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 1-3 or Luke 1-2 for more about Mary and the birth of Jesus.

It is a common myth that Catholics worship Mary. They do not. Rather, they honor her for her purity (many believe she never sinned), her motherhood, and her closeness to Jesus Christ. Catholics may ask Mary to pray with them or for them, as she is thought to be closer to God and may plead with those in need.

What happened at her death?

Several oral and written documents were combined into the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus in the 14th century. These documents tell the story of Mary’s death.

Though Mary lived the latter part of her life in Ephesus, it is said that she left for Jerusalem toward the end of her life. While in Jerusalem, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would be leaving her life behind and heading into eternal life. She then prayed that Jesus’s disciple John would be able to come to her. Shortly thereafter, all the disciples except Thomas appeared before her. She blessed them, and they sat with her at her deathbed.

On the morning she was to die (the Dormition), a light descended from Heaven and it is said that Mary could see Jesus, angels, and prophets. She bowed to her son, then fell asleep (thus passing away).

After her death, the disciples buried her in Israel, near the Garden of Gethsemane. They sat by her tomb for three days. Then on the third day, Thomas (the missing disciple) arrived. Having missed her death and burial, he asked if they would open the tomb and allow him to get one last glimpse of Mary. They complied.

When they opened the tomb, they found her burial shroud and nothing more. Her body was gone. Read more about Mary’s death at

Where did her body go?

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, Mary was taken up (assumed) into Heaven. Read about the Assumption of Mary on

What is the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos?

The Feast of the Dormition is a celebration and a solemn remembrance of Mary’s death. It is celebrated by Orthodox Christians. Read more about Orthodox Christians at