18 Religious Facts People Get Wrong All the Time

In 2024, it’s more important than ever to be tolerant toward every person you meet, regardless of their religious beliefs. This article is here to aid this endeavor and clear up any confusion you may have about different faiths. Let’s correct 18 religious facts that people often get wrong.

Islam Promotes Violence

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The notion that Islam inherently promotes violence is widespread in the media but entirely untrue. Islam’s teachings, much like those of other major religions, advocate for peace and justice. However, the misinterpretations and cultural practices of some regions have contributed to this misconception.

Hinduism Endorses a Caste System

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It’s a common belief that Hinduism has a rigid caste system, but this is actually more of a cultural artifact of India than a religious doctrine. Hindu scriptures discuss varna and dharma, which are more about moral duties and roles than rigid social stratification.

Mormons Are Polygamists

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The idea that Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, still practice polygamy is common. In reality, they renounced this practice in the 1890s, and it’s strictly prohibited to this day. Some splinter groups not affiliated with the main LDS Church may still practice polygamy, however, which does nothing to help stop the spread of this myth.

Atheism Equals Anti-Religion

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Atheism, defined as a lack of belief in gods, doesn’t inherently oppose religion. Though many atheists value secularism in public policy, this doesn’t mean they oppose religious practices outright or as a whole. However, this can vary, as some atheists may indeed be against religion.

Buddhists Are Pacifists

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On the contrary, Buddhists are entirely capable of violence, especially in the name of faith. Many Buddhist teachings emphasize non-violence, but not all followers practice pacifism. Like any religion, Buddhism’s interpretation can vary dramatically between cultures, with some finding more leeway in its teachings than others.

All Jews Are Zionists

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Zionism, the support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, is a political movement, not a religious mandate. Jewish communities hold diverse views on Zionism, and not all of them support the current policies of the Israeli government or the Zionist movement.

Christians Oppose Evolution

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This whole misconception arises from vocal minority groups within Christianity, who tend to have their views more widely spread by the media. The relationship between Christianity and science, including evolution, actually varies widely. Some Christian denominations accept evolutionary theory and see no conflict with their faith. 

Sikhs Are Muslims

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According to Learn Religions, there’s a lot of confusion between Sikhs and Muslims. This is mainly because of visuals, such as their turbans and beards, which are common to men in both faiths. However, Sikhism and Islam are distinct religions with different beliefs and practices.

Muslims Worship Muhammad

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This is another common misconception. Muslims don’t worship Muhammad—they actually view him as a prophet. Those who know Islam know that it emphasizes the worship of Allah and Allah alone, though Muhammad is respected and loved in the Muslim world.

Voodoo Is Black Magic

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This might surprise you, but Voodoo is actually a religion with African roots. It’s primarily practiced in Haiti and involves a system of gods, spirits, and practices for communicating with the “divine.” Some of these practices are referred to as “black magic,” but this is just a stereotype.

Rastafarians Just Smoke Marijuana

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This myth comes down to the visible association of reggae music and marijuana. In actuality, Rastafarianism is a spiritual and political movement that emphasizes personal spirituality and African diaspora consciousness. While marijuana does hold value in Rastafarianism, not all Rastafarians use it.

All Quakers Are Amish

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The Quakers and Amish are two distinct groups with different religious practices and beliefs. The Amish are famous for their separation from mainstream society and avoidance of most modern technology, while Quakers generally embrace new technology and are known for their liberal social activism.

Pagans Worship Satan

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As shared by the BBC, pagans don’t worship Satan or the devil, despite what TV shows and movies may lead you to believe. In fact, most pagan religions don’t even include the concept of Satan, which is specific to Abrahamic religions.

Jainism Encourages Starvation

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Jainism emphasizes non-violence and extreme respect for all life forms, leading to strict vegetarianism. While fasting is a common practice, it’s intended to promote spiritual cleansing and discipline rather than starvation. This misunderstanding comes from observance of these dietary and ethical practices.

All Catholics Worship Statues

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Catholics use statues as visual aids, but they definitely don’t worship them as gods. Though saints and images are very much respected in the religion, this shouldn’t be misunderstood or confused with worship. It is, however, true that honor given to images in Catholicism is said to pass to the original.

Shinto Is Just About Worshiping Ancestors

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Shinto is a diverse and very old Japanese religion focused on kami (spirits), which can include ancestors, but also spirits of nature. This myth might stem from the visible role of ancestor rituals in Japanese culture, but in Shinto, ancestor worship is only a small part of its many practices and beliefs.

Wiccans Are Witches

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For those who don’t know, Wicca is a modern pagan religion that does involve some practices commonly associated with witchcraft. However, Wicca is also a recognized religion with its own rituals and ethics. The popular depiction of being witches is actually harmful to Wiccans.

Santeria Is Only Used for Curses

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While it includes rituals that may seem like “curses,” these are part of a broader set of practices aimed at connecting with spiritual forces. Original Botanica claims that any folk practice not Christian in origin is considered “witchcraft” by wider society, which is why so many people believe this incorrect fact.

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