No matter what your religion, beliefs, and beliefs on religion, chances are some of them are wrong. Growing up on the West side of the hemisphere can have occupants knowing little about Eastern religions and vice versa. There is even the possibility of not knowing what goes on in churches you pass every day.
To help in the quest for religious enlightenment, or at least a little knowledge, we have gathered the below 25 myths about religions around the world. From whether or not meat is acceptable right down to what happens after you die, the question of your eternal soul – and even if it exists – are all discussed below.
Myths About Religions Around the World
These religious myths can apply to many found in both the West and East.
- Combine Church and State
While those who champion separation of church and state are not hesitant to say it, what about those who would enjoy a combination of religion and politics? In America, it would be hard to find such a person. According to Rasmussen polls, only twelve percent of Americans feel it is appropriate for a church leader, such as a rabbi or a priest, to suggest who their parish members should vote for in an election. In whopping opposition, 79 percent of those surveyed believed such a suggestion would be inappropriate.
- Atheism Isn’t a Religion
This myth depends on what your definition of a religion is. If it is similar to what Dictionary.com calls it: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies,” chances are atheism might fall into the religion category. However, this decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2005 that it was a religion only adds to the myth that atheism isn’t one.
- Most Christians are Conservative
As with most things, Christians and conservatism changes with time. However, in the most recent presidential election, the opposite would seem more true. In the 2008 election, The Daily Mail reports that 54 percent of Catholics voted for liberal Barack Obama, with only 46 percent voting for more conservative opponent John McCain.
- Freedom of Religion = More Atheists
With a freedom of religion protected in the U.S. constitution, there is a thought that because people are free, they are free to choose atheism without any consequences, leading to more atheists. However, according to an ABC poll, 13 percent of Americans identified themselves as having no religion (2005 court decision not applying), or atheists. Compared to a comparable 15 percent of the world identifying themselves with no religion, the freedom doesn’t seem to largely impact atheism.
- Agnostic is the Same as Atheism
Although they may hold similar beliefs, they are not the same. In an answer from Austin Cline, expert guide for About.com, he responds that many agnostics reject the label of atheism. While agnostics doubt the existence of a god, atheists feel for certain that there is no such thing as a god, making the two different.
- Men More Religious Than Women
Another tough call, it depends on what you mean by more religious. However, according to a study done by The Pew Forum, women were more likely to say that religion influences the way the vote with 26 percent saying it does. The number of men who felt the same way was only 17 percent.
- Heaven Isn’t Worth It
Think of your favorite thing to do. Now think of getting to do it for 100 years straight. It does sound at best repetitive. So what’s the use in being good? If taking in mind the Bible’s description of heaven as “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him,” heaven isn’t exactly a place where time or anything else functions as it does here, so whether it is worth it or not takes on a whole new meaning.
Myths About Western Religions
The best of the West myths in religion are outlined and discussed below.
- Only Christians go to Heaven
While everyone may believe that his or her religion is right, do they believe only “their kind” will be allowed into heaven if they are Christians? The little discussed matter is actually debunked on Beliefnet. Using a quote from the Pope, they report that “those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes–the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life–will enter God’s kingdom.” Other Christians are reported as giving similar answers.
- Priests Can’t Marry
There are many sects within the Christian faith that do allow their men and even women of the cloth to marry. On the other hand, have you ever heard a Catholic priest say “my son did the craziest thing the other day?” But there is an exception to this rule as well. According to Father William P. Saunders, there are certain times when a priest can marry. The short answer is he has to be married first and a priest in a different church before becoming a Catholic priest and receiving an exemption from the celibacy requirement.
- Mormons Can Have Many Wives
With a look at “Big Love,” it is easy to see why this myth is still around. In actuality, polygamy was a practice that used to be done by Mormons but is only practiced by those on the outskirts of Mormonism. A quick read of Why Mormonism shows that those who do practice plural marriage are excommunicated.
- Dinosaurs Didn’t Exist
With creationism and evolution seemingly clashing on the battle of the true titans, the issue of the dinosaur’s role in Christianity is ironically taken on by Answers in Genesis. How they came to be and there ultimate extinction is discussed with many quotes from the Bible.
- Soulmates Were Derived from the Bible
Although the soul itself contains biblical meaning, the term “soulmates” is far more likely to have originated in Hollywood than Jerusalem. With the exception of Adam and Eve, there is no example of two people who were created for each other. The Bible also allows widows to remarry, even though not all the new spouses can be each other’s soulmate if the original one passed away.
- Halloween is the Devil’s Birthday
While those who practice devil worship may not be offended by Halloween, it can’t exactly be referred to as “The Devi’s Birthday” since devils were not born of this earth, and there was no 365 day calendar to mark the occasion if they were born before the universe. According to the History Channel, Halloween is actually a combination of Celtic practices and even Catholic and Roman traditions which evolved into a holiday targeted towards kids.
- Jesus was Married
Although the story of the son of God getting married should have made it into the Bible, believers of this possible myth say that it was edited by those who opposed the union. In a lengthy response, Revered Dr. Mark D. Roberts takes on the topic. He uses biblical references and even the history of the era to discuss.
- Christians Hate Harry Potter
This myth would be easier to believe if Harry Potter wasn’t a billion dollar franchise and growing. However, there are those who think Christians are opposed to a fictional story about a boy wizard and his buddies. This forum, which answers many questions on Christianity and Catholicism, does a fine job of explaining why this is a myth.
Myths About Eastern Religions
Go East and learn more about the Muslim, Buddhist, and other religions.
- Islam Doesn’t Allow Other Religions
Among other religions, Christians are often referred to positively in the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an. According to Huda, the About.com Islam guide, Christians are “people who have received and believed in previous revelation from God’s prophets.” There are also several other relevant quotes regarding Christianity.
- Muslim Women are Required to Wear Face Scarves
Although there are Muslim led nations where a woman cannot go out into public without a face and/or body scarf, there are many where women are free to wear what they like. In this column for Islam for Today, a young student explains the purpose of the hijab. It is used as a tool for women to be judged solely for their character, not appearance. Others see it as a way to keep men from thinking impure thoughts.
- All Middle East Countries are Muslim
With the exception of Israel, of course. While some countries in the Middle East are devotedly Muslim, such as Afghanistan with 99.7 percent of the population being Muslim, others are not. Lebanon is 59.3 percent Muslim and Kazakhstan is only 56.4 percent Muslim.
- All Muslims Hate Israel
While it may not be difficult to find a Muslim who finds fault with Israel, not all of them believe that it should be wiped off the globe. Check out this site by Muslims who “believe that peace between Israeli’s and Palestinians should be encouraged (and) that the state of Israel should exist as a Jewish democracy.”
- Islam Means Peace
Those who claim that the word “Islam” means “peace” are not exactly correct. According to Islamicity, the word more correctly means “submission” in Arabic. With specificity to submission to God, the lack of struggle against Allah may suggest peace but is not accurately represented in the word “Islam.”
- Buddhists Believe in God
The short answer to this according to Ven. S. Dhammika is “no.” Because religious ideas and especially god have an origin in fear, this is one of the main reasons Buddhists do not believe in god. He also uses quotes from The Buddha and other teachings.
- All Buddhists are Vegetarians
Although many Buddhists are vegetarians and vegans, beliefs on this practice vary from sect to sect and even individual to individual. According to Barbara O’Brien, Buddhists were required to eat anything put in their bowls, including meat, and to gratefully receive it. Although one of the first precepts of Buddhism is to not kill, there are certain exceptions when it comes to meat which are discussed more in detail here.
- Buddhist Believe in the Soul
This is more of a half myth. Using karma as more of a basis, they believe that it is the driving factor when undergoing reincarnation. The thinking that a person’s soul goes with him or her after death is not believed in by Buddhists.
- Hindus are the Same
While Hindus also believe in reincarnation, their belief on the soul is quite different. They believe that the soul passes through many kinds of life, but only the human life offers the chance of learning the truth. ARC World has more on the Hindu faith.
- Hinduism is One Religion
While all religions have sects, branches, and even sects within sects, Hinduism is not the same. Hinduism does not have any one founder, and it does not have a Bible or a Qur’an to which controversies can be referred for resolution. Consequently, it does not require its adherents to accept any one idea.
And the above 25 myths about religions around the world are just the beginning. There are far more out there and many voices offering many different opinions and even facts, including the above and it is ultimately up to the individual to choose what he or she believes or even considers believing in.
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