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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Religion has been used in various times and places – not for good, but for evil. It would seem that religious fanaticism represents a faith hijacked by those who would use it for judgmental, political, and sometimes murderous purposes. For those of us who see religion as a positive – as something that can heal, restore, and uplift the world – it can be difficult to understand WHY religious fanatics would use religion for anything but good. It can also be hard to understand how killing can ever be a good thing, particularly when it is done in the name of religion.

If you’d like to understand the motivations behind modern-day terrorism and grave acts committed in the name of religion, I recommend When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball and Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

I would also recommend a new film, Not in God’s Name: In Search of Tolerance with the Dalai Lama (South Carolina ETV/Paradise Filmworks). This movie was released to public TV stations this spring and is now available on DVD.  The film explores India, which houses eight religions. The film explains how those religions peacefully coexist…and why sometimes they do not. The filmmaker interviews the Dalai Lama (no stranger to conflict resolution) who recounts the causes and solutions to conflict in the name of God. Here is the trailer:

Through these media you will learn how religious violence often starts with political conflict, economic hardship, or socio-cultural divisions and disagreements. If we as humans can get to the root of these problems, we may find that religion can be a catalyst for peace and relationship-building – instead of a device used to tear down, judge, and destroy. We may find, as the Dalai Lama says in the film, that we are one family. And that we don’t have to blame religion for tearing us apart.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

The following series of winter religious holidays was written by Religion Transcends writer Jackie Walker for the Winter 2009 issue of Relate magazine. Relate’s mission is to inspire teen girls to pursue their dreams with confidence and to teach them to be an example for others in their speech, life, love, faith and purity. Religion overviews may have Christian overtones to make the content relatable for the Christian teen audience.

If you’re putting the finishing touches on a winter wonderland of figgy pudding, jingling bells, and neatly wrapped presents, you’re in good company. Each year, about 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That’s more than 9 out of every 10 people in the United States!

Of course, Christmas comes in a variety of packages: Santa and his sleigh, Jesus and his manger, the Grinch and his itty-bitty heart. So just what is the real Christmas story? And what are some of the holy nights that the other 7% of Americans are celebrating this winter?

Set aside those gingerbread cookies and read this holiday list (we checked it twice!).


Holiday: Bodhi Day

Date: December 8

Main Players: Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)

The Story: Bodhi Day celebrates the day Buddha became enlightened – in other words, Buddha figured out what life is really about. The fat Buddha you’ve seen in pictures grew up as a skinny kid named Siddartha Guatama. He lived in a palace with all the riches. But one day he saw four people along the road who were dying or ill. Siddhartha wondered how he could get rid of suffering, so he began following Hinduism. He ate only a grain of rice a day and became super skinny. One day in Bodh Gaya, India, he propped his weak body beneath a tree and began to meditate. There, he suddenly understood the universe and the reason for suffering. He was, as they say, the “enlightened one,” or the Buddha. Buddha didn’t stop there. He could’ve sat under the tree forever, completely content. Instead he went out and preached what he’d discovered. His followers became Buddhists. So Bodhi Day marks the day Siddartha Guatama became Buddha – and Buddhism became a religion.

Traditions: There are no required traditions on Bodhi Day. But Buddhists who want to celebrate can:

  • Meditate like Buddha
  • Chant Buddhist texts (called sutras)
  • Perform kind acts toward others in honor of Buddha

Other installments in this series:
-Judaism: Hanukkah

-Christianity: Christmas

-Islam: Ashura
-Hinduism: Vasant Panchami

Other holidays this winter:
-Islam: Hijra (December 18)
-Wicca: Winter Solstice (December 21)
-Shinto: Gantan-sai (January 1)
-Baha’i: World Religion Day (January 17)
-Buddhism/Confucianism: Chinese New Year (February 14)

Created by Religion Transcends, 2009

Today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu were awarded the Fetzer Institute’s Prize for Love and Forgiveness. The prize was presented at the 2009 Peace Summit in Vancouver.

The award honors their work to bring love, compassion, and forgiveness to others. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu have a history of promoting these qualities in the lives of others and reflecting those qualities themselves.

Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa, opposed apartheid and led nonviolent opposition to the system in South Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and later worked with the United Nations on various human rights issues. He is an Anglican (Christian) leader.

Learn about the Dalai Lama on Religion Transcends. He is a Tibetan Buddhist, leader of the government in exile, and a successor in the line of Buddha.

“Love, compassion and forgiveness have the power to change, the power to heal and the power to transform any situation—no matter how violent or troubled—into something that is generative and life-giving,” said Tom Beech, president and CEO of the Institute. “The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are renowned, revered, respected and loved the world over. In giving this award, the Fetzer Institute celebrates their humanity and the consistency with which their lives stand for compassion in the face of isolation, love in the face of fear and forgiveness in the face of violence.”

The two men are actually great friends. The award thus represents their ability to work together and love one another despite their religious differences. It also honors their compassion for the world, transcending religious differences and caring about the heart of the human being. Their lives are proof that compassion can bring about kind acts, regardless of religion. Their work is proof that acts tied to the world’s religions can be positive and transformative.

Congratulations to both of these men. Thank you for your loving acts of service and for showing the world that religious folk can rise above judgment and limitations.

Learn more about Fetzer Institute online.

Created by, 2009 (with quotes from Fetzer)

In 1986, Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama recognized Osel Hita Torres as a reincarnation of another lama – Lama Yeshe who had died two years prior. Many Buddhists worshipped the boy like a god. But now at age 24, Torres is abandoning his faith and speaking out about his unhappy childhood.


Background – What is a lama?

A lama is a Tibetan religious teacher (kind of like a guru). The title can mean someone has authority to teach, is spiritually admirable, or is a reincarnation of a past lama. Torres is the latter. The Dalai Lama himself is in the most famous line of reincarnated lamas. Past lamas tend to socialize together. 


Torres speaks out

Torres claims he was often depressed, separated from his family who have voluntarily given him a monastery as a baby. He was placed on a throne and worshipped there. Torres claims he was only allowed to socialize with other lamas and was not allowed to watch TV or experience a normal childhood. When he turned 18, the Spanish Torres began exploring the world (dancing, kissing, two things he’d never seen) and studying film. He has also rejected the Buddhist religion and spoken out against it.


The Buddhist Channel says Torres’ recent behavior has caused “some embarassment” for Buddhists.


What do you think? Do Buddhists have a right to be embarrassed? Are they just disappointed? Is Torres justified in his denouncement of Buddhism or is he just complaining?

Learn about other lamas on Religion Transcends.


Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends