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10 Things You’re Probably Getting Wrong About Major Religions

by gregory myers
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Religion is one of the most common and influential parts of society. While some people are not interested in being part of a specific belief system, most people in the world adhere to some specific set of beliefs or another. These many religions have evolved around the world into the unique philosophies they are today due to the many different cultures around the world and the different ways they look at things. Since many of us grow up with only one or a few religions around us — and many of those are often similar to each other — it can often be hard to relate to or understand those that are so wholly different. Many of the things we believe about other faiths are often very inaccurate, or even just flat out wrong.

See Also: Top 10 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church

10Buddhism Is Mostly A Philosophical Religion With Very Few Supernatural Beliefs

When most people think of Buddhism, they think of monks in robes meditating and holding their arms out in strange positions, perhaps while vocalizing odd humming sounds. Many people picture a monastery where monks in robes essentially just spend their time contemplating the universe and getting really good at martial arts. Buddhism has become popular in the Western world where many people will tell you that it isn’t actually a religion at all, but a philosophy. They will say that Buddhism doesn’t really require belief in a deity at all, and that therefore you can even be an atheist and be a Buddhist at the same time.

However, this is a huge oversimplification and totally misstates what Buddhism is. Since it is incredibly widespread and popular, it has allowed people a fair amount of breathing room in terms of belief, and there are some schools of thought that you can be Buddhist without believing in anything supernatural, but that isn’t really how the religion usually works.

Those who believe in Buddhism in the Eastern world nearly always believed in the supernatural, and it is a taught and accepted part of the religion. Those who believe in Buddhism usually believe in an afterlife, and in various punishments and rewards — belief in reincarnation is also very common. In some schools of Buddhist thought there are many books and teachings on the very spiritual aspects of the faith. Those monks are not just sitting up there in the monasteries clearing their minds — they are deeply contemplating religious texts that are as complex as any major world religions.[1]

9 Catholics Believe That Their Pope Is Infallible

Whenever someone wants to denigrate Catholics and insult their beliefs, one of their first things out of their mouth is to mention the pope, and suggest that Catholics are blind followers for obeying him the way one would follow the edicts of a king. They say that Catholics have to obey and or believe whatever comes out of the pope’s mouth, no matter how crazy it may be. These people will tell you with all seriousness that this is because of a belief called papal infallibility, wherein the pope is speaking through God and all of his pronouncements are to be considered gospel by Catholics.

However, while there is a tradition called papal infallibility, it is nothing at all like people imagine. To begin with, while the pope’s word is greatly respected by Catholics the world over, like any human his advice can be flawed, especially if it does not concern matters of faith and morals. Further, a statement made by the pope is only considered infallible under very, very specific conditions, and it has only happened twice in the history of the Catholic Church. He has to make the statement from the seat of St. Peter — known as making the statement ex cathedra — and usually consults the most respected bishops and cardinals, and spends a lot of time in prayer, before making such a statement in the first place.

For those who are curious, the two instances of popes invoking the doctrine of infallibility that most theologians agree on have to do with the Immaculate Conception And The Assumption into heaven of Mary. There are several other controversial ones, some of which theologians disagree with either because they were simply written in a private letter, given as advice or, in some cases, actually made while under duress.[2]

8Wicca Is Based All Or Mostly Off A Single Religious Tradition

Wicca has become an incredibly popular religion in recent years. Helped along by many fantasy novels and movies that have helped inspire people’s interest, many young people have been fascinated by the occult nature and all of the mystic ideas and practices. Those who subscribe to Wicca will gush about how it is an ancient Pagan tradition that has been reclaimed after the Christians stamped out the old ways so many years ago. Unfortunately, despite it now being its own religion, these people have sadly failed to do their research.

Now, some Wiccans understand full well the true origin of Wicca, but many who follow it only understand the history of the religion’s founding a little bit, or not at all. Some know that it was founded by Gerald Gardner, but many at least assume that he basically revived an old tradition. In actuality, Gardner took so many bits and pieces from so many different places to to try to say he actually revived any kind of specific pagan tradition is almost laughable.

Gardner not only took whatever bits he wanted from anything Pagan he could find, but he also encouraged being extra strange for no particular reason just to get attention. He completely made up the idea that pagans once had eight holidays they celebrated every year based on the solstice. Some pagans celebrated some of these holidays, but none of them celebrated all of them. He also inserted his own philosophy whenever possible, and wasn’t shy about doing so. The truth is that Wicca may be inspired by old pagan religions, but to say it is based on or derived from any of them in particular is quite a stretch indeed.[3]

7 Yazidis Are Devil Worshippers

In recent days, many people may have heard of the Yazidis due to the events that have been going on in Iraq involving the ongoing war with ISIS. The Yazidi have been a particularly desired target of persecution and genocide by ISIS since the very beginning of their reign of terror, and huge numbers have had to flee for their lives, leaving almost all of their belongings behind. For those who aren’t familiar with them, the Yazidi often face persecution from other denizens of the Middle East because they have received the reputation of being devil worshippers.

When asked, they will tell you that they worship a being known as Melek Taus — the peacock angel. This being supposedly rebelled against God and was sent to hell for a thousand years, where he managed to eventually quench the fires and reconcile himself with the most high. The being they worship sounds very similar to the Western idea of Satan, but many Yazidi will say that their religion has been around since before Islam or Christianity started.

They don’t like to talk about their religion much due to so much past and present persecution, but they are clear that they do not believe in worshipping or doing the bidding of evil. According to them, the being they pray to — Melek Taus — is both good and evil, just like the world itself. They have been following many of the same ancient practices for thousands of years, something historians believe may have started as a very early form of bird worship, and just want to practice their beliefs in peace. They have never been known to harm anyone or seek out evil, and don’t worship the devil, at least not the way many people might imagine.[4]

6The Church Of “Satan” Worships Satan

Sometimes when there is an issue involving the religious world conflicting with the world of public buildings, such as government buildings or schools, the Church of Satan will appear to spread their own philosophy in the ensuing publicity. This of course angers many different groups, some of whom find the entire idea distasteful. Even many who aren’t Christian or aren’t even particularly religious find the idea of worshipping the devil to be a bit scary and or strange. After all, regardless of your stance on religion, Satan is supposed to be a fundamentally bad guy.

However, the truth is that the Church of Satan, and those who call themselves Satanists, are actually not at all related to actual devil worshippers. There are those who worship a demonic figure of some sorts, and they do crop up in many different cultures, but those who call themselves Satanists actually don’t believe in the supernatural at all. They are atheists who live by a philosophy that likely inspired the name because it sounds like something the devil would endorse.

While Satanists are completely against any violent or evil actions, their philosophy is inherently selfish. They believe that there is no God but yourself, and that you should live your life to put yourself front and center in all ways at all times. In a way you become your own deity and instead of an atheist, as their founder Anton Lavey calls it, you become an “I-thiest”. According to those who subscribe to these beliefs, it is a contradiction for someone to claim to be a part of their church and actually believe in the supernatural at all.[5]

5 Scientologists Are Aware Of Their Churches Most Important Teachings

Much has been said about scientology in recent years, and most of it has not been very positive. They have been accused of being a cult, and many people will point to quotes from L. Ron Hubbard, the religion’s founder, about his plans to get rich by inventing his own religion. Most people consider this pretty good evidence that it likely isn’t legitimate, and the fact that they ask for money up front and then increasingly ask for more is a red flag to a lot of people. However, despite how strange or controversial Scientology might be, it has quite a number of loyal adherents now, and most people would assume that that they have a good understanding of their religions beliefs.

However, Scientology thrives on secrecy, and most important religious doctrines are not revealed until someone is very high level (you can read 8 of the leaked Scientology levels here), and has invested large amounts of both time and money on the church. For those who haven’t seen the South Park episode about Scientology — which gets it pretty much dead on — they believe that an evil intergalactic overlord killed a bunch of people in earth’s volcanos. He then captured their spirits and brainwashed them with crazy ideas about gods and devils, and released them on earth. They started possessing primitive humans, which is the real cause of mental illness — and the reason they believe psychiatry is quackery.

Scientologists will not tell their members this until they are too far in to ridicule something that sounds so absurd, and publicly they deny the story from South Park to their earlier members, but South Park did not just make that information up. They took it from an affidavit filed in court by an ex-scientologist. The lawyers for Scientology tried to have the document shushed up so no one could see it, claiming something about copyright protection. This obviously is a contradiction, as they are telling their newer members it isn’t true, but they wouldn’t have had a trademark on it if it was made up by someone trying to discredit them.[6]

4Mormons Believe In Heaven And Hell The Same As Other Christians

For those who don’t know the full term, Mormons are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Many of you reading this may know a bit about Mormons from watching a well known episode of the hit cartoon South Park, which showcases the founding of the religion and why some people question if its origins could have had any legitimacy. Many people may have also seen a pair of young men in white button down shirts in real life, proudly wearing their name tags and spreading the word of the book of mormon to those who would hear it.

The faith of mormonism is greatly based on the teachings of Christianity and their past philosophy, which means that many people tend to think that Mormons are going to mostly believe the same things as Christians, just with a twist or two. However, when it comes to many specific things, they take great issue with the normal teachings of Catholicism and Christianity. And no more is this clearly apparent than when it comes to their ideas about the afterlife.

Mormons believe in three heavenly kingdoms and a sort of hell like place called the outer darkness. The three heavenly kingdoms are known as celestial, terrestrial and telestial. The highest kingdom has all three members of the trinity — although mormons don’t believe in the trinity the way Catholics do — and is the ultimate destination of the most faithful lifelong mormons, in this realm you can sort of become a god. In the middle realm go the people who eventually accept the truth when they die, and still lived pretty good lives while they were alive. This realm only gets to experience some of the gods, and not the presence of all of them.

The last realm, the telestial, is only inhabited by people who have first suffered by spending a millennia in the outer darkness — the mormon version of hell. However, there really isn’t permanent suffering in the mormon afterlife. Unless someone had the luck to have a personal inspiration from the holy ghost, and rejected it in life — a rare occurrence in their beliefs — then they won’t remain permanently in the outer darkness with the fallen angels. And according to their doctrines, once you reach the telestial kingdom, you will find it to still be a much better and more harmonious place than earth, and it will be a permanent existence. You won’t get to experience most of the gods, but the holy spirit will still visit from time to time.[7]

3 The Islamic Religion Is At Its Core A Misogynistic Religion That Oppresses Women

Most people, unless they are living under a rock, are well aware of the situation going on in the Middle East right now. Many regions are lacking stability, and in Iraq and Syria, ISIS are still terrorizing and killing on a daily basis. As mass amounts of immigrants flood to Europe to escape the violence, many in Europe who fear ISIS have come to fear innocent immigrants looking for a safe haven. Unfortunately this has also led to a huge upsurge in anti Islamic bigotry in many different parts of the world, which has also led to increasing misconceptions about what they believe.

Many of the worst thing so called Islamic extremists do involve women, and they way they basically treat them like chattel and sell them between each other as slaves. Some would say that countries like Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern countries are not much better — systematically oppressing women and not even allowing them to show their faces in public. However, what many people don’t realize is that forcing women to cover themselves, not allowing them to drive, or be properly educated, is not something truly taught by the Islamic faith. Women in Islamic history have accomplished many great things, and according to actual teachings they have a lot of freedom to make their own choices.

The problem is, as some who follow the faith have pointed out, that many Middle Eastern countries are very patriarchal societies where the men do not wish to relinquish any of the power they have over women. This means they use the religion as a tool to control women, twisting the doctrines to the point they don’t resemble the actual beliefs anymore, in order to maintain their control.

On another very important note, no follower of Islam has any reason to be inclined to be violent. Jihad does not necessarily have anything to do with a war, or actually fighting at all. Many Islamists simply consider it to be any struggle you have to go through to please Allah, even if that just means practicing the self discipline to avoid small vices, or to be a little more spiritually minded.[8]

2 Freemasonry Is Not A Religion And Freemasons Are Not Devil Worshippers

The Freemasons are one of the most controversial groups and have been going back hundreds of years at least. Many of the founding fathers of the United States of America were practicing freemasons, and some historians, along with many conspiracy theorists in recent years have speculated about how much the influence of freemasonry might have helped lead to the United States independence. The shadowy nature of the group’s practices, along with the often elite member list, has led to all kinds of insane beliefs about the group.

The most common belief is that Freemasonry is not just a secret society, but essentially a secret religion that worships the devil. Those who claim they have secret information from the freemasons rites will tell you how they worship “lucifer the light bringer” and therefore are devil worshippers of the most evil degree possible. While some leaks do seem to suggest some such rituals, similar leaks also suggest that none of this is really taken seriously in terms of anyone believing any of it or worshipping anything.

The rituals are designed to be fun, interesting and mysterious while sort of working as a group bonding exercise. The secrecy, for many of them, is simply part of the fun. The society started a long time ago as a way for people to meet and network, forging connections in order to move up in the world. Many people may also be surprised to know though, that their is a distinct religious undertone, just not the one people might expect. Freemasons are not required to believe any specific doctrine, but they are all supposed to believe in the basic idea of the Christian God.[9]

1 Many Hindus Actually Eat Some Forms Of Meat And They Do Not Worship Cows

Hinduism is the oldest major religion in the world and is still one of the largest, but considering that most Hindus are concentrated in a few regions of the world, many people have misconceptions about the religion and its adherents. Those who practice Hinduism are certainly known for being peaceful and nonviolent, but they are also known more than anything, the world over, for their refusal to eat any meat that comes from a cow.

Many people believe that Hindus worship cows, and that this is the reason that cows are not eaten. However, there are some serious misconceptions at play here. Cows are definitely considered very special to Hindus, as are all living things, but they do not believe cows are at all divine in any way, shape, or form. And while Hindus are respectful of all life, the vast majority of them are perfectly willing to eat meat as long as it isn’t from a cow.

Another common misconception is that Hindus worship many, or multiple gods. Hindus believe in one God, but they also do not believe that God can be properly understood or fathomed. For this reason they encourage people to pray to or worship whatever aspect of God that they most relate to. This has led to various different gods such as Krishna, or Shiva, but to Hindus, they are simply different ways of looking at the same, single divine creator.[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater