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Religion and Spirituality, Science and Philosophy Use this forum to discuss what you believe in. This is a place where everyone may share their views freely.

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Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 15th 2013, 01:34 AM

I like to research religions and I've come across quite a through sites that don't give the correct information. I've read through some sites for a bit before I realized the information is wrong or outrageous. It's especially easy to get sucked into an unreliable source if you are not knowledgeable about the religion you are looking up. I want to offer some tips to tell whether a website is legitimate or not.

1. I've come across several evangelical Christian websites that target non-mainstream Christian groups like Mormons, Jehovah's witnesses, Christadelphians, Swedenborgians, Seventh day Adventists, Oneness Pentecostals, and strangely Catholics. The information provided by these website is evangelical Christian thought on why those groups are incorrect and why their group is correct. The information they give about the other groups is their interpretation and understanding of why these religious groups are wrong. If that's what you were looking for you should still likely take what they say with a grain of salt. These websites quite possibly aren't providing an accurate representation of what the other group believes.
2. Be suspicious of websites declaring new religious movements and smaller religions cults.
3. If the website slanders and defames another religion then it's likely not reliable.
4. Look up the name of the website on Wikipedia. Wikipedia isn't always awesome but the articles are supposed to be impartial.
5. Know that what you are reading may be the views of one person or one sect of a religion.
6. Go to the religious group's official site or a site owned that religious group. A highly ranked Lutheran website is likely providing the correct information about Lutheranism and so on with other religions.

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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 15th 2013, 06:44 AM

Everyone translated the originals into their own things.

I'm not sure if this is relevant but this might be one of the first sources for the bible.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls


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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 15th 2013, 04:11 PM

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Originally Posted by JustACityBoy View Post
Everyone translated the originals into their own things.

I'm not sure if this is relevant but this might be one of the first sources for the bible.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls
A good thing to do is look at the references and further reading at the bottom of Wikipedia pages.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 15th 2013, 08:22 PM

I'd like to add that it depends what you mean as a legitimate source. Technically, all faith-based claims, whether slanderous or not, are truth. Why? Because faith has no evidence. It's based on ones interpretation, indoctrination, and understanding. There's no empirical evidence to support it. So, when discussing "doctrines" or religion and why one is right over the other, it is purely faith-based and each source is just as reliable as the next.

The problem is, for example, within Christianity there are over 35,000 denominations. All of these denominations claim to be the right denomination based on faith. They have no reason, just faith and interpretation of a particular text that the other 35,999 interpreted differently. Amongst those 35,000 denominations, you won't find TWO Christians who believe EXACTLY the same. This means of the approximate 2 billion Christians in the world, there are about 2 billion versions of Christianity, and each, in their own mind, are the correct versions of Christianity. So finding accuracy on something faith-based is impossible.

Rather, I think asking an individual what they believe is a more accurate way to accumulate a knowledge of faith-based thinking instead of relying on a group that tries to box 2 billion beliefs.

However, if by legitimate you mean the historical accuracy of a religion and it's claims, then that's a different matter entirely.


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June 15th 2013, 10:41 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Of Mike and Men View Post
I'd like to add that it depends what you mean as a legitimate source. Technically, all faith-based claims, whether slanderous or not, are truth. Why? Because faith has no evidence. It's based on ones interpretation, indoctrination, and understanding. There's no empirical evidence to support it. So, when discussing "doctrines" or religion and why one is right over the other, it is purely faith-based and each source is just as reliable as the next.

The problem is, for example, within Christianity there are over 35,000 denominations. All of these denominations claim to be the right denomination based on faith. They have no reason, just faith and interpretation of a particular text that the other 35,999 interpreted differently. Amongst those 35,000 denominations, you won't find TWO Christians who believe EXACTLY the same. This means of the approximate 2 billion Christians in the world, there are about 2 billion versions of Christianity, and each, in their own mind, are the correct versions of Christianity. So finding accuracy on something faith-based is impossible.

Rather, I think asking an individual what they believe is a more accurate way to accumulate a knowledge of faith-based thinking instead of relying on a group that tries to box 2 billion beliefs.

However, if by legitimate you mean the historical accuracy of a religion and it's claims, then that's a different matter entirely.
I thought about that. I don't mean accurate like Atheism/Judaism/Catholicism is correct and thus other information is false. I mean accuracy about what a particular group believes. So, "Lutherans believe in Jesus" is an accurate statement. "Lutherans worship Satan and eat babies" is not an accurate statement.

Like the example I gave. An official Lutheran website is likely giving the correct information of what Lutherans believe. This information might not be historically correct but indeed it is what Lutheran's believe.

I've encountered evangelical websites that give just plain incorrect information about other groups and then disprove it. Websites like that are an evangelical view of why the other religious group is wrong. It may not be the view of every evangelical Christian in the world. It may not accurately represent what another group believes. When websites set out to disprove other groups it can look like this:

1. "I believe this religion is incorrect and here is why"
2. [Fill in group] believes [incorrect information about other group]. Isn't that ridiculous? We know that our religion is correct about this and [misentrepretation] is totally wrong.
3. [Fill in group] is evil/a cult/disgusting/despicable. A bunch of slurs and derogatory terms about the religion.

If the website is taking a stance similar to the first one and not slurring, insulting, or providing false information it might be okay, but in general don't trust another religious group for accurate, impartial information. If you're looking for reasons another religion is wrong read from a reliable source of that religion or something like Wkipedia. Draw your own conclusions and then check out that webpage trying to disprove the other group. That way you can tell whether the information they give is factual.

Like this:
http://www.catholicculture.org/cultu...fm?recnum=8759

It's not a good source about Wicca, but it probably is a good source for Catholicism.

Historical accuracy is another thing entirely.

EDIT: http://www.watchman.org/cults/bahai2.htm

There's an example of information that is plain inaccurate.

1. The name of the religion is spelled incorrectly. It's missing an accent and an apostrophe.
2. The religion itself is misnamed. It's similar to calling the religion of Christianity "Christian."
3. This religion of millions is misidentified as a cult.
4. They are not a sect of Islam. It's a separate religion.
5. The Bab is named incorrectly as " Mizra Ali Muhammed". I think they were going for "Mírzá Muhammad `Alí'" but they spelled it incorrectly. That man wasn't even alive in 1844. The Bab's name is Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází.
6. Baha'u'llah is named as Mizra Husayn Ali. His name is actually Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri.
7. Baha'u'llah is not believed to be the final prophet.
8. The religion is incorrectly called "Bahaism."
9. They do not believe every religion ever was sent from God.
10. The belief about God is reported incorrectly.

This was written in 1991 though. I mean that likely has something to do with it, but I found this website through Google.


Another example of a website giving information that isn't entirely correct. It's better than the last example:

http://www.gotquestions.org/Bahai-faith.html

1. This is somewhat a technicality, but the Baha'i Faith really comes from Babism, not Shi'a Islam. Baha'u'llah became a Babi in his late twenties after being introduced to the movement by Mullá Husayn. He was a Babi when he announced his prophethood.

2. It does not have "practical autonomy" from Islam. It is completely separate. That's like saying Christianity has practical autonomy from Judaism.

3. It's not completely correct to say that the Bab is the eighth Manifestation of God. It is stated there are Manifestations whose names are last to history.

4. "Implicit to that statement was the denial of Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet and a denial together of the unique authority of the Koran. Islam did not take kindly to such thoughts." They managed to insult both Muslims and Baha'is there. This is fairly slanderous. Why would a Christian group care about believing in Mohammed as the final prophet or the authority of the Quran? It's purposely defamatory. Some of the first followers of the Bab and Baha'u'llah were previously Muslims.

5. The Bab is not viewed "like" John the Baptist; He is literally viewed as John the Baptist. That's pretty lazy research. It's in like the third paragraph on the Wikipedia page.

6. Their report of his messianic claims are confusing and don't seem to be completely factual. Baha'u'llah claimed to be a Manifestation of God, He whom God shall make manifest, the spiritual return of Isa, and the promised messianic figure of various religions. These claims are seen in a converging, symbolic sense rather than a literal fulfillment of every messianic claim and Eschatology. That's a pretty important detail to leave out. I wager they did that on purpose, or they didn't know that because of the clearly represented lazy and ineffectual research. Also notice the jeering tone of the repeated "not only".

I started reading that pretty pissed off, but I'm starting to have fun with it. It's just such shoddy and erroneous research. In general the article has an overtly mocking and condescending tone.

Last edited by Lizzie; June 18th 2013 at 09:18 PM.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 18th 2013, 05:45 AM

I understood what you meant. What I was saying is you cannot accurately box a group of beliefs that all people have in common. For example, take Christianity. Within Christianity you have a denomination called Baptist. Within the baptist you have free will baptist, Arminian baptist, Calvinistic baptists. Now, to separate one of these groups, lets separate the Calvinistic. Within Calvinistic you have the moderates, the stricts, and the reformed. Within each of those sub-types you have more, and more and more, until it beats down to what the individual believes. Essentially, anything pertaining to faith should be left to asking an individual, and not grouping people to fit a type.


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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 18th 2013, 07:19 PM

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Originally Posted by Of Mike and Men View Post
I understood what you meant. What I was saying is you cannot accurately box a group of beliefs that all people have in common. For example, take Christianity. Within Christianity you have a denomination called Baptist. Within the baptist you have free will baptist, Arminian baptist, Calvinistic baptists. Now, to separate one of these groups, lets separate the Calvinistic. Within Calvinistic you have the moderates, the stricts, and the reformed. Within each of those sub-types you have more, and more and more, until it beats down to what the individual believes. Essentially, anything pertaining to faith should be left to asking an individual, and not grouping people to fit a type.
I never meant Christianity as a whole. I never boxed Christianity in as a whole. I said the Evangelical websites really represent only evangelical Christianity and perhaps not even that. I'm aware of the great diversity of views in Christianity and to some extent in other religions. I don't know what gave you that idea as I specifically mentioned several denominations.

The thing is asking an individual for an answer can give you a totally wrong answer that claims to represent the whole group. That's really assuming that people aren't misinformed on their own religion or hold outrageous views, but many people just pay lip service to their religion or just follow it because their parents did. For example, I was talking to some Christian friends who didn't understand Christians view Jesus as the Jewish messiah. Sometimes there is information that is just wrong and is not a good representation of a religious group they claim to be in. I do understand what you're saying but it's not practical, accurate, or plausible to ask every person what their religious beliefs are.

That's kind of why denominations exist. If your views differ wildly than the denomination you claim to be in you're not a good representation of that group's beliefs. If an orthodox Jew is saying the mosaic law is not binding they're not holding views on orthodox Jew would hold. If I'm a Baha'i saying you don't have to pray every day and it's okay to drink, that information is wrong.

To know the official stance of a religion or a religious group consult a reliable source for that religion. If you want to know information about the Lutheran Church hit up a book published by the Lutheran Church about Lutheranism.

You're applying what I'm saying here too broadly. I'm talking about finding information on religious groups specifically on the internet and to a lesser extent in books.

#So I doubt anyone will call me out on this but Mirza Ali Muhammad seems to be just a less commonly used name for the Bab.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 18th 2013, 08:02 PM

I think that the only way to find reliable sources on a specific religious denomination or anything like that is talking to some kind of religious authority (like a pastor, spiritual leader, etc) about reliable sources to them. Ultimately, you're always going to find information that is not exactly universal to all religious denominations. If you're going to try to find reliable sources yourself over the internet, you're going to have a bad time.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 18th 2013, 08:22 PM

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I think that the only way to find reliable sources on a specific religious denomination or anything like that is talking to some kind of religious authority (like a pastor, spiritual leader, etc) about reliable sources to them. Ultimately, you're always going to find information that is not exactly universal to all religious denominations. If you're going to try to find reliable sources yourself over the internet, you're going to have a bad time.
I agree with what you said about information that is not always universal and differing opinions within a religion, but I think there is valid information online if you know how to find it. I gave examples of crap sources, but there are also decent ones available. It's concerning how much crap there is though, but I've found many resources online that don't suck.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 19th 2013, 06:51 AM

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Originally Posted by Up In The Clouds View Post
I agree with what you said about information that is not always universal and differing opinions within a religion, but I think there is valid information online if you know how to find it. I gave examples of crap sources, but there are also decent ones available. It's concerning how much crap there is though, but I've found many resources online that don't suck.
How do you differentiate between a resource that doesn't suck and a resource that does suck? For instance...let's say that you want to do research on pre-marital sex. How would you go about doing research on that?
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 19th 2013, 04:58 PM

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How do you differentiate between a resource that doesn't suck and a resource that does suck? For instance...let's say that you want to do research on pre-marital sex. How would you go about doing research on that?
Are you just a normal Schmo or a Catholic Schmo or A Muslim Schmo? That could be something to consult with your clergy or holy book about. Your Beliefs on Premarital Sex will be guided by your personal morals or religious beliefs. It doesn't take a whole lot of reading to know what articles have a staunch evangelical Christian, Catholic, or Muslim. There can't be a right or wrong about premarital sex since it depends on your beliefs.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 19th 2013, 09:50 PM

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Originally Posted by Up In The Clouds View Post
Are you just a normal Schmo or a Catholic Schmo or A Muslim Schmo? That could be something to consult with your clergy or holy book about. Your Beliefs on Premarital Sex will be guided by your personal morals or religious beliefs. It doesn't take a whole lot of reading to know what articles have a staunch evangelical Christian, Catholic, or Muslim. There can't be a right or wrong about premarital sex since it depends on your beliefs.
So what you're saying is that the difference between a good source and bad source is that the source agrees with your belief?
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 19th 2013, 11:58 PM

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So what you're saying is that the difference between a good source and bad source is that the source agrees with your belief?
No. Did I ever say that? Premarital sex will depend on your personal beliefs or religious beliefs.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 20th 2013, 02:42 AM

I personally like http://www.religioustolerance.org/ when I want to learn about other religions.
   
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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 20th 2013, 06:09 PM

Like I said, you're still boxing evangelical Christians. It boils down to individuals. Not groups. One conservative Evangelical Christian might support gay marriage, while the other may not. If you want to find out about groups, then read their beliefs based on their organization. I.E. Independent Baptists website. This still doesn't mean all Independent Baptists believe what the Independent Baptist websites says they believe. It will just prove what the independent baptists who wrote the site believe, and sometimes not even then. Which is why this doesn't change what I said at all, and you've still completely misunderstood me, it boils down to individuals. It's all personal preference. So, if you want to know what an evangelical Christian believes, ask individual Evangelical Christians, because I guarantee one will believe different from the next and you won't find common beliefs on all evangelical doctrines.


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Re: Finding legitimate sources about religion - June 20th 2013, 08:47 PM

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No. Did I ever say that? Premarital sex will depend on your personal beliefs or religious beliefs.
That's the problem with finding "legitimate sources" because the stuff that people are actually willing to research are the things that are most likely controversial or different interpretations. Do I need to research whether or not Christians believe that murder is a sin? Probably not. After all, different religions have different approaches on why murder is bad. Religions that believe in the cycle in Samsara might say that we shouldn't murder people because they could've saved our lives in our previous life while religions that believe in Heaven and Hell might say that murder is bad because you'll go to Hell if you do. If anything, I'm probably more likely to ask "why?" when it comes to things that aren't very controversial or anything like that. Even still, the Christian Bible has been translated many times throughout history so we're never really 100% sure that everything we read is what it was originally. For all I know, murder could've been encouraged in the original Bible. But none of us have access to that information (as far as I know). So we're very limited on what kind of "information" that we have. I could ask questions about historical things that happened in Christian history and be able to call a source "reliable" because it's backed with credible evidence, but when we're researching stuff about interpretations on scriptures or anything like that which may not have clear answers on everything, a lot of that stuff IS going to be a personal belief. There's going to be Christians that even go to the same church but can preach completely different answers on given subjects through the internet, back themselves up with passages from the Bible, important historical religious leaders quotes, and still may claim both to be legitimate. The great thing about being a human is that our DNA is what makes us unique, but the problem is that we believe vastly different things that it would be silly to suggest that everyone in the same church believes the exact same things on every subject. You can get close, but the controversial subjects are the things that can change someone's opinion on a specific church from being "right" Christians and "wrong" Christians because the controversial subjects are the subjects that people most care about. So if someone wants to look up a subject on whether or not homosexuality is a sin, they're going to find "reliable" sources that say different things. And if it's individually interpreted, then who is right? Wouldn't individually interpreting something putting yourself before God because supposedly the Bible is the word of God. If you question the word of God, interpret His word into your own words, isn't that sin by itself? So what it really all comes down to is that there really is no such thing as a legitimate source. I can't say that homosexuality is a sin, nor can I say that homosexuality isn't a sin. I don't know. No one knows. It's individually interpreted so the only source you got is yourself, really. All the other stuff that most people seem to agree are probably going to have reliable (or at least as reliable as you can get considering the numerous translations of scriptures) sources that don't need more than a paragraph to provide evidence for because the evidence is pretty much right there and easy to interpret. So that's why I'm asking how you decide on what's a good source or not, which you never really answered my question.
   
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