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Religious Misconceptions

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Common misconceptions about religion and scripture

  • Albert Einstein did not believe in God in a "personal" sense and discounted the existence of a creator. Einstein was, in fact, a rationalistic pantheist and follower of Baruch Spinoza. Many people misinterpreted his words in public, to which Einstein himself responded by saying: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."[1]
  • The phrase "separation of church and state" does not occur in the U.S. Constitution. It was first used in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, reassuring them that religious minorities (such as Baptists) would be protected under the Bill of Rights. His expression "wall of separation between church and state" was a description of the intended effect of the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise provisions, not a quotation therefrom.[2]

Judaism and Christianity

  • Nowhere in the Bible is the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden referred to as an apple. The fruit is called the "fruit of the tree" (that is, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), and neither the fruit nor the tree is identified by species. In Middle English, as late as the 17th century "apple" was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts.[3] However, also in continental European art from that period representing the Fall of Man the fruit is often depicted as an apple.
  • In the book of Genesis, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is not explicitly identified as being Satan. This is teaching made by later Christians. Additionally, Satan is never explicitly given the name Lucifer ("light bearer") in the Bible. That name comes from the Vulgate (Latin translation) of a prophecy in Isaiah 14:12, which some Christians interpret as referring to the fall of Satan from heaven.
  • Genesis does not state that there were only two of every animal aboard Noah's Ark. In fact, chapter 7 verse 2 states that there were to be seven pairs of every clean animal, and two pairs of every unclean animal.
  • Although Christians and Jews agree that the Ten Commandments are ten in number, they are not explicitly separated from each other in the original text. Thus the interpretation of the precise text of each commandment differs between Christians and Jews, and between Christian groups (see this chart for example).
  • Even though many Christians have adopted abortion as a cornerstone practice to abolish as part of their religious principles, nowhere in the Bible is abortion explicitly indicated as being against God's will or prohibited, although murder is prohibited by God's word according to Exodus 20:13. According to the book of Leviticus killing a fetus is considered a crime only punishable by a fine.[4]Template:Cn
  • The term Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus's conception by the Virgin Mary (see Virgin Birth of Jesus), but rather to the Roman Catholic teaching that Mary herself was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. (See also Blessed Virgin Mary.)
  • Nowhere in the Bible is Mary Magdalene ever referred to as a prostitute. Before her seeing the risen Jesus, the only other mention besides the listing of her name is the mentioning in Luke 8:2[5] that she had been possessed by seven demons. In fact there are several sinful women mentioned in the gospels, one of whom is "caught in adultery." Pope Gregory conflated this woman with Mary Magdalene in one of his sermons and thus propagated this mistaken [citation needed] idea. This misconception may be caused by the fact that Magdala, where Mary Magdalene hailed from, was infamous for prostitution.[citation needed]
  • The canon of the New Testament was not selected by Constantine at the First Council of Nicaea. Constantine did not personally have a vote on the council, and the canon had been settled mainly by common consent among the clergy from the early second century. Furthermore, the council did not consider the matter of canon in its proceedings. (See Development of the New Testament canon.)
  • The New Testament was not routinely altered by scribes and priests through the centuries. Spelling errors and other copyist mistakes exist in all of the extant manuscripts, but there are only a few examples of what modern philologists and textual critics believe are intentional alterations (e.g., the Pericope Adulterae).[6] Noted New Testament textual critic Bart D. Ehrman states:
    It would be a mistake… to assume that the only changes being made were by copyists with a personal stake in the wording of the text. In fact, most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology. Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple — slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another.[7]
  • Nowhere in the Bible does it say exactly three wise men came from afar on camels to visit "Baby Jesus"[8] It was assumed that there were three kings because three gifts are described.


  • Hinduism is not one distinct religion, but was considered to be so since at least 1323 AD, as attested by South Indian and Kashmiri texts,[9] and increasingly so during the British rule. Since the end of the 18th century the word has been used as an umbrella term for most of the religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions of the sub-continent, excluding the distinct religions of Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Despite this, many traditions considered "Hindu" today draw their validity from core texts called the Vedas, though in various degrees; some traditions assert that their own texts supersede the Vedas. The traditions that reject the Vedas are considered nastika (heterodox), as opposed to astika (orthodox). Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are now seen as trinity; that is, highest in the order of Hindu Gods (See Astika and Nastika). Nastika is often translated as "atheist", though it does not exactly correspond to the English word.[10]
  • According to one sect of Hinduism, called Smartism, Shiva is neither female nor an ice deity. Shiva is one of the three main male gods of the current Hindu beliefs and is supposed to be destroyer (along with Vishnu "the preserver " and Brahma "the creator" of the Universe). Shiva does, however, have an androgynous form known as Ardhanarishvara. This form of Shiva is split into male and female halves on a central axis, the right male half bearing traits of Shiva, the left female half bearing those of his consort Parvati or Shakti.
  • Throughout most traditions, the Bhagavad Gita is not equivalent to the Christian's Bible in level of scriptural authority. It is considered Smriti (that which is remembered) which is a class of scripture lower in rank than Shruti (what is heard), containing the Vedas. The Bhagavad Gita, though, is considered the most popular.[11]
  • Hinduism is considered a family of religions and as such has no concept of God universal to all astika sects. Hinduism is thus not strictly polytheistic across all sampradyas (traditions), but can be pantheistic or panentheistic, or be distinctly henotheistic or monotheistic.
  • According to some texts, Hinduism is the way of life, which over the years morphed into religious beliefs and customs.


  • The Qu'ran does not actually promise that martyrs are awarded 72 virgins in heaven. The misconception most likely stems from a Hadith that's been attributed to Muhammad via an unreliable[12] chain of narrators, stating:

"It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim, that Abu al-Haytham 'Adullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa'id al-Khudhri, who heard the Prophet Muhammad saying, 'The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San'a.[13]

  • The Niqāb veil (and by extension, Burqa) is not considered by most[14] Islamic scholars to be obligatory, but rather a voluntary show of piety, and is never mentioned specifically in the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran instructs to women to "…not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to…"[15]


  • Paganism is an umbrella term like Christianity - Lutherans, Catholics, and Protestants are all Christians just like Wiccans, Druids, and Shamans are all Pagans.
  • People who refer to themselves as witches or Wiccans do not worship Satan. The devil is a Christian concept that does not exist in paganism, just Christianity.
  • All witches do not necessarily practice magick (spelled with a 'k' to distinguish it from stage magic). There are forms of witchcraft that are completely philosophical or religious that exclude any magickal practices.
  • Not all pagans are polytheists, some are monotheists as well as pantheists.


  1. . Einstein quotes
  2. . Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists
  3. . Apple at the Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. . http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Abortion_and_the_Bible
  5. . Luke 8
  6. . Indeed, Daniel B. Wallace claims that "only about 1% of the textual variants are both meaningful and viable" (link).
  7. . Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), p. 55.
  8. . Snopes: 3 Wise Men
  9. . David Lorenzen, Who Invented Hinduism? New Delhi 2006, pp. 24-33; Rajatarangini of Yonaraja
  10. . Template:Cite book
  11. . Heart of Hinduism: Hindu Sacred Books
  12. . Salahuddin Yusuf, Riyadhus Salihin, commentary on Nawawi, Chapter 372, Dar-us-Salam Publications (1999), ISBN-10: 159144053X ,ISBN-13: 978-1591440536
  13. . How Many Wives Will The Believers Have In Paradise? - Questions answered by Islamic scholar Gibril Haddad
  14. . 'Religion and Ethics - Islam. The Niqab
  15. . 'The Qu'ran, translation by Yusuf Ali

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