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Websites to help understand religions

by Ask The Propellerheads
| June 20, 2010 9:00 PM

Dear Propeller Heads: With all the controversy and rhetoric surrounding the world's organized religions, is there some authoritative website I can visit to help understand some of this?

A: There is no shortage of issues, controversies, scandals and the like surrounding the world's religious communities. As a rule, these events can have a polarizing effect on people, so big and little issues can become significant.

This PropellerHead believes you already get enough press regarding today's religious headlines. Depending on your point of view, the reporting may be accurate or slanderous. But religion certainly has an impact on your life, even if you consider yourself thoroughly secular. Since understanding can lead to true tolerance, respect and acceptance, I thought it would be helpful to relay some Web sites that could contribute to a better understanding of organized religion.

Obviously, we can't cover all beliefs or their websites. Rather, we will provide some online resources that are a good starting point for research about the major religions of the world.

A good place to start is www.religionfacts.com. Religion facts begins with what they call The Big Religion Chart which lists in grid format 42 regions/sects/beliefs, a brief background, number of followers, basic interpretation of God (monotheistic, polytheistic, etc.), purpose of life, afterlife, practices (prayer, sacrifice, etc.), basic text (Bible, Qur'an, etc.) and links for more information. According to their chart, about two thirds of the world's population consider themselves followers of Islam, Hindu or Christianity. It lists atheists at a little over a billion. That leaves about one billion for the rest of the world's population.

The BBC in Great Britain has a very nice website (www.bbc.co.uk/religion) with easy navigation and features like a multi-denominational calendar to help you get caught up with the religions of the world. As you might expect, it is chock full of BBC audio and video clips covering various religious backgrounds and stories.

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research is another great resource. Their denominations page (http://bit.ly/cW5qgB) contains links for hundreds of websites, many of which are the official Web sites of religions.

Some websites of note include:

• for Christianity: www.christianity.com

• for Islam: www.islam.org and www.islam101.org

• for Hinduism: www.hinduwebsoite.com

• for the Roman Catholic Church: www.vatican.va

• for Buddhism: www.buddhanet.net

• for Judaism: www.jewfaq.org

• for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: www.lds.com

• for Scientology: www.scientology.org

If Tip O'Neil was on to something, I suppose all religions are local too. Many organized religions have local places of worship where you can meet members, experience the services and rituals, and get involved in a religious community. Google local makes that easy with searches like "Catholic Church Richmond VA" or "Synagogue Tampa Bay FL." So like anything else, you can't believe everything you see on TV regarding religion. Rather, do some research on your own, either on the Web, or in person at a place of worship.

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren't busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. E-mail them to questions@askthepropellerheads.com or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our Web site at www.askthepropellerheads.com.

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