Health & Spirit

Only two ways to become a member of a religion, by blood or by belief

Religion / God Squad /

What am I?

Q: I am 54 years old, baptized Catholic at 20 years old. My Mom was Protestant and my father was Roman Catholic. I was never baptized as an infant and took classes with a priest at 19 and decided I wanted to become a Catholic. We just found out that my mother's family was really Jewish. What am I? I am a practicing Catholic with a ...Read more

Questions about God and the meaning of life

Religion / God Squad /

In honor of the start of school, I want to renew my invitation to answer high school students' questions about God and the meaning of life. Last year I received a bunch of questions from Mercy High School, a Catholic high school in Middletown, Connecticut. They have a theology class in their junior year and have been kind enough to use my ...Read more

The purpose and power of prayer

Religion / God Squad /

Q: When someone is sick, we are asked to pray for them ... and if they die, it's often said that it was the will of God. But if they recover, the power of prayer is often given credit. Do you think enough prayers will change God's mind? -- Anonymous

A: The purpose of prayer is not to change God (that is magic), but to change us. It is a normal ...Read more

Reincarnation and karma compatible with Christianity and Judaism?

Religion / God Squad /

Q: Do you believe that the Hindu belief in reincarnation and karma are compatible with Christianity and Judaism? -- M from North Carolina

A: Today we live in an era of "Cafeteria Christianity and Judaism." People choose their beliefs from a theological smorgasbord of religious beliefs from all the religions of the world. The technical term for ...Read more

Belief in God is an invitation not a threat

Religion / God Squad /

Q: Does God punish, either in this life or in an afterlife, those who do not believe he exists? -- J in Wilmington, NC

A: Thanks, J. You are the source of many of my best questions. Your question is whether or not atheism is a sin and not just a mistaken belief. The difference between a mistake and a sin is that a mistake is just a wrong ...Read more

Crossing arms at Mass

Religion / God Squad /

Father Tom Hartman was not just my best friend, he was also my teacher. When we had to answer a question about Judaism, obviously I knew enough. When we had to answer about Catholicism, obviously, he knew enough. As far as questions about Buddhism I sort of knew enough, and as far as questions about every other religion in the world we were ...Read more

Our talents are the marks of God's blessing

Religion / God Squad /

Q: I would greatly appreciate it if you would explain what it means to be blessed. When many believers say they are blessed, they imply that they have found favor with God. Does this mean that God favors some over others? Have the favored pleased God more than others? Isn't this contradictory to what is stated in the Book of Job? Fleming James' ...Read more

How to be a perfect stranger

Religion / God Squad /

Q: What is the appropriate action for a person of the Jewish faith, if you are at a church service and the congregation kneels down during the service? Should you kneel down or stay seated? -- From M

A: Stay seated but sit in the back.

Richard Siegel, a friend of mine who passed away this year, wrote a book titled "How to Be a Perfect Stranger...Read more

You can see much of America in the Liberty Bell and its crack

Religion / God Squad /

When you look at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, you either see the bell first or the crack first. It is the same with America. You either see our genius as a nation or our flaws. Like the Liberty Bell, both are on clear view in America; it just depends upon which aspect of our national experiment in freedom reaches your soul more deeply.

A ...Read more

Is it OK to be friends with a witch?

Religion / God Squad /

Q: My background in Christianity was in the Catholic Church with summers at the Nazarene (Vacation Bible School). As an adult I belong to a Charismatic Church, and one of the things I did, because I felt God compelling me to, was to end a longtime friendship with a friend who became a Wiccan. I missed her, but felt right by God. -- From S

A: I ...Read more

If aliens exist, have they found their way to our God?

Religion / God Squad /

Q: What does faith believe with regard to life on other planets? Reports of fighter pilots viewing strange activity makes you wonder. -- From M on Long Island, N.Y.

A: Now that the government has brought the study of UFOs out of the whack-a-do shadows and into the we-need-to-study-this-more-closely realm, your question is both relevant and ...Read more

Have your prayers heard by adding an 'Amen'

Religion / God Squad /

Q: How do we know that the one true God, rather than a false God, is the recipient of our prayers? -- From J in Wilmington, N.C.

A: "Amen" is the word we say to conclude all our prayers. Amen comes from the root word meaning "trust." When we conclude a prayer with Amen, we are not saying "please." "Please" would make praying an act of begging, ...Read more

A dark horse emerges in the great sports-as-life debate

Religion / God Squad /

Many, many, readers weighed in on the metaphysical/theological/athletic question of the decade: "What sport is most like life?" Understanding our answers helps us understand life and why sports are such an important part of life for so many people. I always thought that life was obviously more important than sports because you could decide not ...Read more

Sex is not the Garden of Eden's forbidden fruit

Religion / God Squad /

Q: There is evidence in the Bible that sex (not an apple) is the forbidden fruit tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What do you think? -- From R in Berkeley, Calif.

A: I am not on board with the interpretation of the forbidden fruit as sex and thus with the conclusion that God has a hostile view of sex. Let's go back to the Garden,

"...Read more

A lesson on Buddhism in honor of Buddha's birthday

Religion / God Squad /

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday, dear Buddha

Happy birthday to you!!

Wesak (or Vesak) is the annual (well not exactly annual since there is no Wesak in 2020) birthday celebration of Siddhartha Gautama, the first and best of all Buddhas who lived from the sixth to the fourth centuries before the common era. The ...Read more

A flood of cherished memories return as my synagogue turns 50

Religion / God Squad /

My synagogue is 50 years old this year, and I have been the rabbi at Temple Beth Torah for almost 40 of those 50 years. I know some synagogues are older and some rabbis have served longer, but 50 years is definitely old enough to have left a mark on my soul and on my community. I want you, dear readers, to understand just some of the reasons why...Read more

Twisted, perverted religion is on the rise, and it must be stopped

Religion / God Squad /

"What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold ...Read more


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