52 Weeks, 52 Religions

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 23, 2009 in Resources

religious symbols

For 35 years, I attended the same religion. When I left, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about what other faiths believe. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask. For 52 weeks, I’m setting out to visit 52 different religions. Christian to Muslim, Buddhist to atheist, I’m going to attend their services, discuss faith with their leaders, and bring it all back to you.

So says John Hummel, Mormon-cum-atheist. Every week he podcasts his experiences with a different religion, from Unitarian Universalist to Jehovah’s Witnesses, from Church of Satan to Sikh Gurdwara, from Scientology to Christian Scientist, from Lutheran to Shia Islam, from humanism to Vedanta Hinduism. Hear John’s introductory podcast episode here.

This podcast offers 52 bite-size solutions to America’s religious illiteracy. An excellent listening experience.

Here is my favorite interview question I’ve heard from John yet, from the Unitarian Universalist episode (paraphrased slightly):

I’ve gone to each church and asked: “What are the important things people should be doing?” If I go to an Islamic service, they say “Help the poor, the sick, and the needy.” If I go to the Catholics, I get the same answer. If I go to the humanists, the same answer. I don’t think that anyone so far has told me much otherwise. But when I look at our society at large, we do a really bad job at all of those.

If everyone really believed we should be helping the homeless, we wouldn’t have any. If we really believed we should be helping the sick, I wouldn’t encounter people who have cancer and can’t pay for it.

We spend our time arguing about whether we should put the Ten Commandments in a courthouse or not, or whether gay people should get married or not. We spend so much time arguing about our differences, instead of doing the thing we all agree we should be doing. Why is that?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd White October 23, 2009 at 8:14 am

To the extent that it’s true that the message of every organized religion is “help other people,” that’s one of the major reasons I have little interest in joining a religion. To that, I can only ask (and I think other people ask): “Fine, but what’s in it for me?”

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Reginald Selkirk October 23, 2009 at 10:49 am

I hope he doesn’t turn up at the wrong religion the week they are passing out the koolade.

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DocintheAtl October 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Why argue the differences?
It is a good thing that most religions advocate for helping the unfortunate; Christianity is not alone in this. The difference is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. All other religions is based on a code of conduct; Christianity is based on a relationship. Other’s way to salvation (for those religions that teach salvation) is based on works; our way of salvation is based on grace. Other religions are void of historical and prophetic validation; our is confirmed. Culturally, freedom in found in societies founded on Judeo-Chritian priciples. Bondage is found in societies that have other foundations: atheist or Islamic.
We should love our neighbor as ourselves and strive to help them, but it is foolish to dismiss the differences in an effort to accomplish this end.

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Reginald Selkirk October 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Other’s way to salvation (for those religions that teach salvation) is based on works; our way of salvation is based on grace.

Either can be supported by reference to the Gospels.

Other religions are void of historical and prophetic validation; our is confirmed.

*snicker*

Culturally, freedom is found in societies founded on Judeo-Christian priciples. Bondage is found in societies that have other foundations: atheist or Islamic.

There’s so much wrong with that it would be difficult to choose a starting point in offering criticism.

BTW, what do you mean by “Christianity”? Do you consider Catholics to be Christian? How about Mormons?

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Reginald Selkirk October 24, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Is there an index for the religious symbols image? I don’t recognize many of them. I notice that there is a Christian cross, but that the Holy Roman Catholic Church prefers a crucifix, i.e. a cross with a dead body on it.

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lukeprog October 24, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Reginald,

Got ‘em all from good ‘ol Wikipedia.

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Grant Bakewell November 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm

What an interesting idea! I hope you learn much and avail yourself of this learning to grow spiritually, perhaps enough to educate or bless the rest of us in the process. It would be important, however, to also attend a “humanist” church and an “atheist” conclave or “support group”. Although they do not represent themselves as religions, per se, they definitely represent, or seek to promote, a particular world view (and can be as progressive and civic-minded, or dogmatic and closed-minded, as their religious counterparts). Such a self-critical stance, even of one’s own “atheism” or “agnosticism” could truly lead to fuller enlightenment, as long as one is open to it, through the Amazing Grace of the One some atheists aren’t supposed to talk about (the “Uno Who”,the unnamable, the transcendant: the Big Gal upstairs). Peace+

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Esme Fisher July 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

the religion of my grandfather is Hinduism and he says that it is a great religion.’”,

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Steve Hoskins July 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Well, as for Todd White he is the one who professes to be able to heal anyone. I’ve seen the show. What I haven’t seen is anyone “healed” that has anything provably wrong with them. He makes the claim. I offer a very simple request. Go to a hospital and find an amputee and grow them a new appendage right before their doctor and any other witness they or I care to choose. If that happens, I will be convinced along with any other reasonable minded person. If that can’t be done then I ask why not? Choose another reasonable test. Cure a terminaly ill cancer patient close to death. I’ll make it easy. Cure half of them that aren’t expected to live 24 hours. Let say 5 out of 10. Cure them so that all evidence of cancer is gone, immediately…..or simply before they expire. Nothing too tough for someone who claims to be able to do just that. Any takers?

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Brandon September 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

I believe that as long as you are a good person and do what you know in your heart is right that all paths to the divine are valid.

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Fred March 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm

A crucifix is not a cross with a dead body it. It is a cross with a suffering Jesus on it. It symbolizes what Jesus went through to grant us salvation.

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