I’ve recently gotten into some conversations about learning and researching other belief systems. How can we build tolerance for each other, when we don’t even understand the perspectives others hold? We must start with reading, research and learning.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to be converted to another belief. If that does happen, then maybe you weren’t as anchored in your proclaimed belief in the first place. There’s nothing to be afraid of, unless you don’t think your views and beliefs can stand up to comparison or scrutiny. In which case, why would you want to follow a system of belief that isn’t valid within your own standards?
Learning about others can actually strengthen your own beliefs by expanding your views. When you remove the limitations from your mind, you can see a much larger view of the world around you. That might give you something to think about and lead you to research within your own beliefs to discover how this relates to that, or how does this explain that, and so on.
I’m often asked how do start researching material, how do you know what’s reliable and what to stay away from, where do you go to find the official answer for this or that. In 2013 I wrote an article for my students about How To Research Spiritual Topics. That article gives you some basic concepts for researching anything, but it is specific to understanding and finding good and reliable information off the internet.
As an academic I tend to look for well researched, source documented sites that provide a balanced and unbiased view of a particular system of belief. And since I do A LOT of research for my writing, I have developed a list of sites that I often start with, or go back to time and time again. Most of these will have links to more specific resource sites that expand from the practitioners point of view, more about that belief system.
There are four sites I always start with:
- UVA’s Religious Movements Project:
The University of Virginia, who put together one of the best and most comprehensive online libraries relating to modern day religious movements. The site was retired many years ago, but I received permission to reproduce some of the original articles. You’ll find a link from here to the new site that may not have all the archived research from the old original site. Or you can simply click on the link below this one. 😉
- The World Religions & Spirituality Project (WRSP):
The new site of UVA’s Religious Movements Project.
The site has undergone some updates and changes and it has some new information as well. Each article has a bibliography for additional research!
- Religious Tolerance:
The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. They say this about their site: “Almost all other religious web sites explain only the beliefs of the webmaster or sponsoring faith group. We are different: we try to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, world views, and systems of morality, ethics, and values.”
Say what you want about Wikipedia, I love this place! At the very least their articles give resource information where I can go to find out more about the topic I’m researching.
If I’m looking for information about a specific branch of faith or practice, I often go straight to an official website for that religion or spiritual movement. Here are a few of my favorite resources for those.
Those religions that share a common history and understanding of Abraham, are non-pagan and exist in one category of religious faiths. Each of these systems share basic principles of their beliefs, but divide their understanding at what most would understand as the end of the Old Testament.
- Catholic / Christian – There are a great number of resources to choose from. I suggest using your favorite search engine to find what you’re looking for in the category of reliable links. But here are one or two I tend to visit.
- Islam – There are so many resources on Islam it’s hard to know where to start. Plus, some resources are designed to degrade and misinform, which makes it harder to research for legitimate information. I start with Wikipedia’s Portal for Islam and try to find what I’m looking for from there. I have the links I’ve traveled have held reliable information.
- Judaism – Like most Abrahamic religions there are a ton of resources. Here’s some I use.
- Berkley Center for Religion – Judaism – berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/traditions/judaism
- Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – ou.org
- Wikipedia – Judaism – wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism
Pagan & Heathen
Pagan is defined as any religion that does not share the foundation of belief and history of Abraham. That’s a huge category of religions that might include a few you wouldn’t expect. But by academic definition and standards, they are pagan. It does not always imply polytheistic religions. As many Shamanistic based faiths do not honor any deities, but rather see the Divine as a collective consciousness. So it can include monotheistic paths as well.
- Asatru – asatru.org
- Buddhism – There are several good resources for Buddhism that I like to refer to.
- The Dalai Lama – the official website of the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
- Buddhanet describes themselves as “the original Buddhist information and education network.”
- A Buddhist Library is an online Buddhist educational resource featuring access to books and articles on many Buddhist traditions: Tibetan , Theravada, Zen, Pure Land, and Chinese Mahayana. Other world religions are also covered.
- Church of Satan – churchofsatan.com
- Hinduism – hindunet.org
- Odinism – There are so many places to learn about Odinism; you’re better off going to Wikipedia learning a little and then following their links. They have some great ones! Wikipedia:Odinism.
- Pagan – I think I have this one covered.
- Temple of Set – xeper.org
Use your favorite search engine liberally! You have the Library of Alexandria at your finger tips. If you want to learn something, there’s someone out there in the world who has written about it and shared information with links, resources and book suggestions.
© 2014 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.