1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email

Controversies and Misconceptions

Because alternative religions are, by definition, not mainstream, they are less well understood by the general populace. This frequently leads to misconceptions about these faiths. In addition, some alternative religions have (rightly or wrongly) become involved in fairly public controversies.
  1. Evaluating Religions and Cults (10)
  2. Kabbalah (3)
  3. Satanism (8)
  4. Scientology Controversies and Misconceptions (6)

Are Voodoo Dolls Real?
Popular culture depicts the "Voodoo doll" as a poppet bearing the resemblance of an enemy. The target is cursed with misfortune, pain and even death via the thrusting of pins into the doll. Such items are not a part of traditional Vodou, although some Vodouisants, primarily in New Orleans, have now adopted them, often for sale to tourists.

Baha'i Persecution in Iran

The lines between politics and religion are often blurred in Iran. While its president is democratically elected, its supreme leader is a Muslim cleric. Islam is the official religion, with Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity officially recognized as minority religions.

The Baha'i Faith, however, has no such recognition even though it is the largest minority religion in Iran. …

Can Christians Follow New Age Beliefs?
There is nothing inherently anti-Christian about New Age beliefs, although some Christians (primarily more conservative ones) object to various New Age beliefs. Indeed, most New Age beliefs do not belong to any one religion, and many New Agers are also Christian by religion.

Cult Suicides
The reality of mass suicide pacts within a small number of religious groups is the source of perhaps the greatest stigma facing new religions. The reality is terrifying, even though they are exceedingly rare. Why would any group think suicide to be the ultimate expression of faith?

Do Certain Religions Ban Tarot Reading? - Religious Objections to Divination
Some religious texts, including the Bible, ban divination as a whole. However, the exact interpretation of "divination" varies considerably among believers.

Is Freemasonry a Religion?
The Freemasons are a fraternal order dating back at least four centuries and have likely roots in medieval mason guilds. Questions abound today as to what exactly Freemasons do, believe, and expect from members, thanks in part to hoaxes, gossip, misunderstanding and a distrust of anything that offers even the notion of secrecy.

The term "witchcraft" has been used in two distinctly different contexts in history. The older definition was quite negative, while current definitions are often more neutral. This has led to substantial confusion.

The Necronomicon is perhaps the most well known magical book in existence, which is pretty phenomenal considering that the book doesn't actually exist. It started in works of fiction, but over the years its reputation has expanded into the real world, so much so that at least one writer created a Necronomicon in response to the regular requests...

Order of Rael's Angels
Rael's Angels are a female-only organization within the Raelian movement which prepares women to staff the Elohim embassy. Until that time, they are held up as prime examples of strong, feminine women to be role models for men and women alike.

Plastic Shamans
A growing interest in Native American culture and religion and has created a mentality described as plastic shamanism. Plastic shamans are considered frauds by Native Americans. Often, plastic shamans peddle their knowledge for money, and their knowledge is generally shallow or even incorrect.

Which Religions Involve Animal Sacrifice?
A complete list of religions across the world that involve animal sacrifice would be impossible to compile, as it is still a part of a variety of indigenous practices. Here is a brief overview of some of the minority cultures found in the West that still perform animal sacrifices.

Why is the Occult so Associated with Satanism?
For many people, the word occult is practically synonymous with Satanism. Not only is that a relatively recent phenomena, but it's not grounded in any fact. While Satanists do often participate in occult practices, they are a tiny fraction of occultists. Learn how this misleading connection developed.

Religion and the Law
What exactly does the first amendment protect or not protect? Why are certain religions allowed to do or not do certain things?

Is the Westboro Baptist Church a Cult?
The highly unpopular Westboro Baptist Church is sometimes labeled as a cult. Is that a reasonable description of this extreme Christian sect?

Science and Religion – Do they Conflict?
The conflict with certain religious groups over certain scientific subjects gives many the impression that religion and science inherently conflict, with many of this mindset being convinced that science has made religion irrelevant, and that religion is only for the ignorant.

Reconciling Science and Religion
While some people believe science and religion are inherently in conflict, many religions not only do not reject science but even actively embrace it.

Why People are Suspicious of New Religious Movements

Is My Child Involved in the Occult/Satanism?
Don't let fearmongering distract you from common sense. While parents should always be wary of what their children are studying, those pursing occult practices that include dangerous behavior and/or illegal and immoral things practically don't exist.

Hoaxes and Fallacies
Hoaxes and fallacies are common in the study of alternative religions. Read about some of the more wide-reaching ones.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.