17 Religious Facts People Get Wrong All the Time

Religious beliefs and practices are often misunderstood, leading to common misconceptions. Some are just too general, others are downright out there. So, we’ll be correcting 17 widely circulated ‘facts’ about world religions.

The Forbidden Fruit Was an Apple

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The Bible never specifies the type of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Over time, Western art and literature popularized the apple as the forbidden fruit, but early Christian texts simply referred to it as ‘fruit’.

Hinduism Is Polytheistic

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A common misconception is that Hinduism worships multiple gods. In reality, it’s more accurately described as henotheistic—believing in one supreme god with other deities representing various aspects of the supreme god.

All Buddhists Are Vegetarians

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While many Buddhists follow a vegetarian diet, Buddhism doesn’t strictly mandate vegetarianism. The choice depends on individual beliefs and interpretations of Buddhist teachings on compassion and non-violence.

All Christians Believe in Hell

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A common belief is that all Christians adhere to the concept of hell as a place of eternal punishment. However, there are Christian denominations and theologians who interpret hell differently, viewing it as a metaphorical state, temporary separation from God, or even questioning its existence entirely.

The Buddha Was Overweight

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Popular depictions of a jolly, rotund Buddha are misleading. The ‘Laughing Buddha’ actually represents a Chinese monk, Budai, known for his good nature. Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was likely quite lean due to his ascetic lifestyle.

Jesus Was Born on December 25

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The actual date of Jesus Christ’s birth remains unknown. December 25 was chosen much later by the Christian church to coincide with Roman winter festivals, making the true date a matter of historical debate and religious interpretation.

Karma Is Simply Cause and Effect

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In Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is a complex concept involving actions and their ethical consequences. It’s not just a simple case of good deeds leading to good outcomes, or vice versa; it encompasses intention and moral context.

All Monks Take a Vow of Silence

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While some monastic orders practice silence as a spiritual discipline, it’s not a universal rule in monastic life. The vows and practices of monks vary widely among different religious traditions and orders.

Jews Just Follow the Old Testament

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Judaism is based on a rich tradition of religious texts and interpretations, not just the Old Testament. The Talmud and other rabbinic writings are central to Jewish thought and practice, offering a deeper understanding of their faith.

The Dalai Lama Is a Buddhist ‘Pope’

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The Dalai Lama, a significant figure in Tibetan Buddhism, is often mistakenly seen as the Buddhist equivalent of a pope. In reality, he is the spiritual leader of just one Buddhist school among many, with no authority over all of Buddhism.

Confession Isn’t Always to a Priest

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In Christianity, particularly in Protestant denominations, confession can be a personal act between the believer and God, not necessarily involving a priest. The practice of confession varies widely across Christian sects.

Angels Have Wings

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Biblical descriptions of angels don’t always include wings. This depiction became popular in art over time, but in religious texts, angels appear in various forms, sometimes even indistinguishable from humans.

All Religious Jews Wear Black

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The stereotype of all religious Jews wearing black is misleading. While some Orthodox Jewish communities favor traditional black clothing, Jewish religious attire varies greatly across different communities and cultures.

The Trinity Is Three Separate Gods

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In Christianity, the Trinity refers to God as three divine persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one. This concept is often misunderstood as polytheistic, but it’s a central tenet of mainstream Christianity’s monotheistic belief.

Yoga Is Just Physical Exercise

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In the West, yoga is often seen merely as physical exercise. However, in its original context within Hinduism and Buddhism, yoga includes a range of practices aimed at spiritual enlightenment, not just physical fitness.

The Hijab Is Just a Headscarf

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In Islam, ‘hijab’ refers to the principle of modesty in behavior and dress, not just the headscarf worn by some Muslim women. The headscarf is actually called a ‘khimar’ or ‘hijab’, depending on the style and region.

All Nuns Wear Habits

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The traditional nun’s habit is not worn by all nuns in Christianity. Many modern orders of nuns wear simple, everyday clothing, reflecting changes in religious practices and societal norms over time.

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