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    Christianity 
If you genuinely think that the contents of Bible can be perfectly understood at face value despite the fact that we are a culture thousands of years from the one that wrote it, you will doubtlessly learn a lot from this article.
  • God is not supposed to be a physical six-foot Caucasian human male who sits on a cloud within Earth's atmosphere.note  Nobody really knows what God is supposed to look like, other than that humans were created in "His image and likeness", hence why there's been a ton of depictions that wildly vary. The weird three-foot blue-nosed creature that God is depicted as in South Park is just as likely as the old man with a beard.
    • Also, Jesus is often held to look like a Germanic white man in a lot of artwork. Jesus really had brownish/orange dark skin, about like modern Israeli Jews or Arabs from the Middle East have. Also, Jesus would likely have kept his hair and beard short, too. He'd also probably have had a healthy tan due to being an itinerant preacher wandering through an area known for getting a lot of sunlight. Artistic license aside, the idea that the real Jesus was lily-white Germanic with flowing long hair is absurd.
  • Nothing more than a minority of Christians are virulently homophobic, sexist, or racist. The reason that they get the most attention is the same reason that only the worst members of any Unpleasable Fanbase get attention: they're the Vocal Minority who are the loudest, most obnoxious, and most offensive. People who quietly go to church, are humble about their faith, try to do some good in the world, and don't raise a lot of stink about it (that is to say, the Silent Majority of Christians) aren't that interesting. All of this unfortunately leads to a shining example of the Spotlight Fallacy, where Christians are assumed to be homophobic, sexist, or racist because there's a lot of depictions of the worst parts of the faith. Said vocal minority ignores the vast amounts of retelling and reiteration of some variant of The Golden Rule in Christianity: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", etc.invoked
    • On that note: God does not hate anyone, let alone hate LGBT people. The Westboro Baptists are literally the only Christians to claim otherwise (aside from the occasional person who never bothered to learn anything about the religion they follow, and who is also a bigot). Any other fundie will finish their rant with "but remember, hate the sin, love the sinner." There are plenty of Christians who don't think there's anything wrong with gay marriage at all, and who have the scholarly exegesis to back it up. There are few things you could tell them about being gay that they wouldn't already be aware of. To be precise, while the Book of Romans technically condemns the act of homosexual sex, it does so in the context of it being a form of adultery. The Romans back then were indeed troubled by the problem of sexual immorality, such as same-sex concubines and prostitution. The Bible never tells Christians to hate gay people; it tells them to flee from sexual immorality. The fact that so many think that Christians hate gay people is another unfortunate result of the above-mentioned Vocal Minority and the Spotlight Fallacy.
  • Hitler frequently professed his Roman Catholicism in public and expressed some admiration for Martin Luther in Mein Kampf but he privately expressed disdain for religion in general and Christianity in particular. Even if Hitler was a Christian, he also wore pants. Does that make wearing pants evil?
  • Likewise, yes, Stalin was an atheist, but that doesn't mean every atheist on the planet is Stalin 2.0. He also spent his youth studying to become a Russian Orthodox priest-that doesn't mean all people who drop out of seminary intend to become a dictator.
  • The idea that the Antichrist is a character in the Bible is the result of this trope combined with something like values dissonance. Centuries of religious scholars struggling to find something new and fresh to say about Scripture, millennia after the stuff was written, is bound to produce some unusual theories. The term "Antichrist" doesn't appear a single time in the book of Revelation: the term "the Beast" is used instead.
    • It does appear five times in the epistles 1 John and 2 John, once in plural form and four times in the singular, always with a small "a". In one of these mentions the antichrist is said to be already present in the world. The plainest meaning, given context, is that a movement or tendency is meant, rather than a character.
      • It must be noted (in the interest of forestalling an editing war) that there is a difference of opinion among Christians about the nature of the Antichrist. Biblical literalists are of the opinion that prior to the Second Coming of Christ, there will be a literal individual who is the Antichrist. He is called the Beast in the book of Revelation, and is mentioned as "Gog" in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Amillennialism teaches that the binding of Satan - which would have followed the reign of the Antichrist, described in Revelation - has already occurred; he has been prevented from "deceiving the nations" by the spread of the gospel. This is the first binding he suffered in history after his fall from heaven.
    • "666" isn't the number of the beast, it's the number of a man. It means the Beast is a human (sometimes theorized to be Nero by modern scholars, though the identity of the man in question is open season when it comes to theories and wild speculations: for Fundamentalist Protestants (and perhaps Eastern Orthodox Christians as well) it's the Pope of Rome; for some it's whichever evil dictator or political opponent that happens to be around at the time, though these people are often derided).
      • And it is six-hundred sixty six (or six-hundred sixteen, in some manuscripts), so any reference that depends on the visual representation of three sixes, such as 999 from End of Days, is just plain wrong. The Book of Revelation predates the introduction of Arabic numerals in the West by many centuries.
    • There's no Book of Revelations in the Bible, either. It's Revelation. No S. And it's the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not St. John. John is recording the Revelation, not making it.
      • Apocalypse (which is Greek for "uncovering") is the name of the book in various languages, not the name of the End of the World. The term "revelation" suffers from the same associations; it literally means the same thing "apocalypse" does, only in Latin.
      • For that matter, Armageddon isn't a name for the end of the world either. It's a real place where the final battle is prophesied to be fought.
      • And on top of that it's actually the gathering place, not where the battle is fought.
      • In case you're wondering, the proper term for the end of the world is Eschaton. Eschatology is the term for the study of end times.
  • Many, many people do not seem to realize that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means that Mary, although conceived by normal biological means, was miraculously preserved from original sin (the conception of Jesus is called the Incarnation). This is perhaps understandable in some contexts, but the confusion is often propagated by people making an argument for the divine nature of Jesus.
    • And people who've picked up the pop-culture notion that Christianity just hates sex, making "immaculate" equivalent to "sexless."
    • And oft-repeated snarky comments about "super-short pregnancy", since the Feast of Immaculate Conception comes shortly before Christmas. The Feast of Annunciation is exactly 9 months before Christmas. Furthermore, most educated Christians are aware that December 25 is not the actual birth date of Jesus. No one knows when that was, but some theorize it occurred in the spring as that's when the shepherds tended their flocks. It's cold during winter even in the Holy Land after all.
    • "Killjoy Pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions." It's hard to know where to start with this one. Basically, all Benedict was saying was that much of the traditional Christmas imagery doesn't come from the Gospels, and that Jesus was almost certainly born a few years before the start of the Christian Era. Both of those points have been well known for centuries and are accepted by all but the most reactionary Christian scholars and clergy. "For the Pope to admit a flaw in something so fundamental to Catholic faith is surprising." The Anno Domini system is not "fundamental to Catholic faith." It was created by a monk who wasn't trying to figure out the exact date of Jesus' birth, just an approximate year that could be associated with Jesus rather than a Roman emperor, and it became widespread because it was endorsed by Charlemagne, not the Church.
  • Because of Catholicism being the most visible form of Christianity in the West, as well as the presence of The Pope as a clearly identifiable leader figure, it is often associated in mainstream culture with various ideas coming from Protestant groups. Some examples:
    • The idea that the Catholic Church endorses creationism and has persecuted scientists in the past, to the point where it is cited as THE force behind the controversy surrounding Darwinism. The official teaching of the Church is that the question of evolution vs. creationism is irrelevant to salvation and therefore everyone is free to take whatever stance they want on that; in practice, the mainstream of Church thought on the matter leans toward theistic evolution (God intends His creations to evolve). Also, this has actually been the Church's first official statement concerning evolution, made in the early 20th century. The controversy over Darwinism was primarily an Anglican thing. Plus, many non-religious naturalists of Darwin's time were also against his theory until evidence was found to support it.
    • Pope John Paul II made some definitive statements favoring evolution.
    • The recent date for the Rapture set by an American preacher has led to many, many comments on the Internet saying something to the effect of "The Pope should give that guy a stern warning." The Rapture is an entirely Protestant concept with no analogue in Catholicism.
    • And historically, the Catholic Church is invariably associated with "witch burning". While the Church is not innocent itself - the Inquisition has led to executions of a fair number of heretics - witch hunts and burnings were done by both Protestant and Catholic Europeans. France saw a large number of trials. That said, over most of its history Catholic doctrine was officially that witchcraft did not exist (the closest thing being the insistence on applying the old Roman law demanding the execution of poisoners—that, under Roman law, fell under witchcraft). Witch trials peaked after the Protestant Reformation occurred. This does not exonerate Catholics who were involved, but the Protestants—who took a more literal view of the Bible in general, including the parts professing a belief in and condemning witchcraft—contributed more heavily to this trend.
      • To explain, during the infamous Spanish Inquisition, accusing your neighbor of being a witch would not get them tortured or executed. It would get you punished and then re-educated for believing in witches. The Spanish Inquisiton actually stopped conducting witch trials after a single occurrence, acquitting nearly all of the accused because the evidence was deemed incredible, with some judges expressing open skepticism toward the charges.
      • The infamous Malleus Maleficarum is often brought up in this context. While it was a bestseller and saw use among local courts and traveling witch hunters, it was actually condemned by the religious authorities of its day.
    • Jewish discussions of whether or not Christians count as Noachides (i.e., righteous Gentiles) tend to focus disproportionately on Catholic doctrine, despite Catholicism holding many problematic practices and beliefs (e.g., praying to saints) that were later abandoned by Protestantism. This is largely because the Christian doctrines most relevant to the issue (e.g., the Trinity) are extremely confusing to non-theologians.
      • The whole "praying to saints" thing brings to mind another moment of Critical Research Failure levied against Catholics, i.e. that when a Catholic prays to a saint or member of the Holy Family (e.g. Mary the Mother of Jesus), that means they're worshiping said saint/member of the Holy Family. No they're not; they're simply conversing with whomever they're praying to, usually in hopes of that intermediary conveying a message to Jesus Christ/God but sometimes just to converse. The latter predominantly happens whenever one uses prayer to converse with a deceased loved one, which also happens a lot of the time.
  • Baptists have a habit of being fundamentalists, but this is purely a result of the denomination's particular clerical hierarchy. Or more specifically, its lack of one. The pastor (or the board of elders/director that is responsible for hiring the paster) is as high as it goes, so each Baptist church is independent of all the others. The sole unifying factor is the belief that baptism should not be performed on infants, but on adults who have made the conscious decision to come to Christ; as long as you believe that, you can believe anything else (that's not an outright heresy) and still call yourself a Baptist. The reason The lack of hierarchy results in fundamentalism is because there's nobody above the pastor to correct them using their superior scholarship. It also makes Baptist churches historically prone to schisms over doctrine, like free will vs. predestination.
  • "Never again the Burning Times!" Wiccans were not burned at Salem. Women (and men) accused of witchcraft (who were innocent but had land the accuser wanted) were the ones being killed, and almost all of them were hanged.
    • As were most convicted witches executed in England. And witchcraft qua witchcraft was not even a capital offense until the 17th century, after the accession of James VI.
    • Actually, there were plenty of "witch burnings" in America... by the Indians, who did not need white men to tell them to be harsh on (accusations of) anti-social magic working.
    • Wiccans did not exist until the 20th century (any claim to the contrary is either ignorance or deliberate fabrication, often by some of the founders of some branches of Wicca to try and legitimize their religion by saying it survived centuries/millenia underground). Some think the afflicted girls (and women and boys) were at most influenced by family enmities about land in selecting victims. Both men and women were hanged (though more women than men, as was usual in witch hunts).
    • It should be noted that places like Scandinavia and Germany did burn people suspected of witchcraft at the stake, however. This was what happened to people like Maren Spliid and Merga Bien.
    • Also worth noting: witches weren't necessarily burned alive. In many cases, the punishment for witchcraft was being hanged, then having ones' body burned at the stake. Funeral rituals were Serious Business, and being burned rather than properly buried was a horrible thought to most Christians back in the day.
  • Many people think the Catholic Church burned witches because of Saint Joan of Arc. Joan was actually burned as a relapsed heretic. Her "official" sin was cross-dressing. Of course, her real sin, of course, was the common sense and intelligence that helped her plan strategies and lead French troops to victory over the English—the execution was pure power politics, and the religious nature of the charges were dictated by circumstance (having been captured alive, she couldn't simply be killed under the customs of civilised warfare, but being French fighting for a French claimant to the French throne, it would have been difficult, or at least impolitic, to charge her with treason or rebellion against the English).
    • And she was convicted by English and pro-English clergy overseen by English commanders, who were overruled by the Pope after Joan was dead for violating canon law from beginning to end, and exonerating her of their spurious charges (given the technical limitations of the late Middle Ages it would have been near-impossible for the Holy See to save her before her execution). Joan of Arc has, since the early 20th century, been considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • In Mexico, it is an increasingly common trend for Christian-based religious leaders and ultraconservative Catholic Moral Guardians to accuse Halloween of being a Satanic ritual. It was originally a Celtic festivity.
    • It's not just Mexico. It's almost guaranteed that Christian radio stations in the U.S. will spend the month of October ranting over the airwaves about Satanic Halloween. At least the Catholic Church recognizes that November 1 is a holy day of obligation (All Saints' Day), not Satan's birthday. In fact, Hallowe'en is short for All Hallow's Eve, making people who call it Satanist Entertainingly Wrong at best.
    • Although some Protestant leaders in Mexico would tell their followers not to celebrate either Halloween or Mexican Dia de los Muertos because of their unbiblical origins, Catholic groups almost exclusively accuse Halloween of it, while encouraging people to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, disregarding its nature as a pagan ancestor worship celebration.
  • Mormons have been subject to this ad infinitum.
    • To begin with, the proper name of what is usually called "the Mormon Church" is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" and it has been that since the very early days of the Church note . There has been a recent Church drive to use the full name of the Church more often and avoid using "Mormon". They even officially changed the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to "The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square".
      • There are other, much smaller churches and sects that have sometimes been called "Mormon" or "Mormon Fundamentalist" that aren't part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but none of them have had "Mormon" in their official name either.
    • No, they do not pray to Joseph Smith or consider him to be in any way divine.
    • They also don't believe that every man will get his own planet when he dies. The minority who worry about theosis expect a lot more than a single planet.
    • They don't practice polygamy anymore, either. Not since the 1890s.
      • Except the artifact from past practices of polygamy that a man can get sealed to another woman after his first wife dies, while women can't be sealed to a second husband in the same way. Sealings are supposed to be eternal, so you could argue that they do sometimes still practice polygamy after everyone involved is dead.
    • They don't require anybody to go through shock therapy to "cure" their homosexuality (it was practiced in isolated cases at Brigham Young University during The '60s and The '70s but was never any sort of official church policy).
    • They're also not explicitly forbidden to drink caffeine. Many of them just choose not to.
      • They are forbidden to drink "hot drinks". This has been clarified by leaders of the church since then to refer to coffee and non-herbal tea. Caffeine in general i.e. soda, energy drinks, etc, is eschewed by many members because of the negative effects that it can have on the body, although there is no doctrine stating that caffeine is prohibited. When BYU started selling caffeinated Coca-Cola on campus in 2017, school leaders were quick to point out that it was a purely business-related decision and was no reflection (and had no bearing) on church doctrine.
  • Crucifixes often show Jesus with nails in hands. An actual crucifixion involved driving nails into the victims wrists, as just the flesh on one's palm isn't strong enough to support a person's weight.
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    Other Monotheistic religions 
  • Plenty of people do not know anything about Judaism except that Jews cannot eat pork, their Bible is the same as the Old Testament and they celebrate Hanukkah (which is basically like Christmas, right?).note  In reality, Jews have a lot of different dietary laws, they have an entirely different tradition of exegesis from Christianity (based on the Talmud) and they have several important holidays (among them Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Purim). That's not even getting into the differences between Orthodox and mainstream Judaism (or, why those guys wear those funny hats) or the reasons behind kosher slaughter and circumcision (depending on who you talk to, you'd think Jews do nothing but lop the penises off innocent baby boys and slit the throats of farm animals just For the Evulz).
    • Interestingly, the Christmas/Hanukkah thing goes both ways. Many Jews assume Christmas to be as spiritually important to the Christian calendar as Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur are to the Jewish calendar, not realizing that Christmas is much less important ecclesiastically than it is in the secular world (although unlike Hanukkah, which is very minor, Christmas is definitely a top-level holiday in Christianity—it's just that Easter is incredibly important in Christianity, while Christmas is merely important).note 
    • Few people who haven't read it actually know what is in the Talmud. Part of it is because the Talmud is basically commentary on commentary on commentary on interpretation of scripture. And when two contrasting viewpoints are explored that's not a bug but a feature. Like most books, the Talmud is easily and frequently misquoted all around the web.
  • In Judaism, it is a commonly-held but false belief that one should not stay in the sanctuary for the Yizkor (Memorial) Service on Yom Kippur if both of their parents are alive. Although many people believe this is supposed to be bad luck and leave during this portion, rabbis typically know better and encourage people to stay. Depending on which sect the congregation is, the service may also include prayers for other relatives as well as Holocaust victims and martyrs. At the very least, it includes a generic memorial prayer for any male relatives who have passed on and a similar one for deceased female relatives.
  • Islam gets it particularly bad. Most Westerners don't know anything about the religion and its beliefs, let alone that Muslims hold Jesus and Mary in high esteem, or that killing civilians is strictly forbidden under Islamic law.note  This isn't a new thing either: in medieval Europe there was a widespread belief that Islam was a pagan desert cult centered around the worship of Muhammadnote  and its followers were called "Mohammedans" for this reason. Even today, most Westerners who criticize Islam on the grounds of its being misogynist, violent, and reactionary etc. have doubtless never read the entire Qur'an.
    • On that note, much of Islamic law (Sharia) comes not from the Qur'an, but hadiths (the purported sayings of Muhammad). This includes most of the more controversial bits, like stoning adulterers. Which hadiths are valid is disputed (and vary depending on which branch of Islam you adhere to; see below for more).
    • Or think the radical terrorist groups are representative of the religion as a whole. Never mind that these groups are about as likely to kill fellow Muslims (considered 'impure') as they are to kill anyone else who disagrees with them.
      • For comparison, imagine that everybody in the non-Christian world assumed that the Irish Republican Army represented all of Christianity.
    • A common mistake is thinking that Muslims worship a God named Allah. In fact, "Allah" is just the Arabic word for "God" (cognate of Hebrew "Elohim"), and refers to the same God Christians and Jews worship. Arab Christians (of whom there are many) also call God "Allah" when speaking Arabic. It would be like saying that French Christians don't worship God, they worship some other deity called "Dieu." There are some legitimate arguments about whether the God of Judaism, the God of Christianity, and the God of Islam are "really" the same deity (since the first and last are both undivided, while the second one is a Trinity, etc., etc., etc.), but calling the Muslim God "Allah" isn't a good arrangement unless you're also calling the Jewish God...um...something else (there are too many names; pick one).
    • Another, medieval Cowboy Bebop about Islam was that they worship a god, or a demon, named Termagant, along with the "false prophet Mahound". A lot of Medieval Literature came up with widespread and elaborate ideas of Islamic worship, based on Pagan Gods, which had them worshipping a Trinity of Mahound, Termagant and Apollo/Apollyon (Apollo being a Graeco-Roman God and Apollyon being a demon mentioned in the Book of Revelations). It is still debatable whether Medieval Christians actually believed this or whether their literature was parodying Islam. There was another idea that Muslims worshipped Aphrodite. This appeared in the account of Theophanes, a 9th century Byzantine Historian.
      • At the same time, this debate is itself peripheral to the real issue. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam might claim to worship the same God, but they (or at least their strictest adherents) claim that their way is the one correct way to worship Him, and that worshiping Him incorrectly is as bad if not worse than not worshiping Him at all.
    • Not to mention all the Christian fundamentalists who misinterpret the moon and star symbol found on the flags of many Islamic countries as "the symbol of the Pagan Moon-God Allah", when the symbol has practically nothing to do with Islam and could be more accurately said to represent the region itself as a holdover from the Ottoman Empire.
      • Indeed, many Muslims find the moon symbol offensive, no one more than the violent radicals who tend to come from just about anywhere but Turkey (a rather secular country in modern times, something that is anathema to said radicals).
      • This one's especially egregious because the crescent-and-star symbol began as the symbol of the City of Constantinople, a city built by a Christian Roman Emperor. The Ottomans adopted it after taking the city as a way to legitimize their rule over former Byzantine territory by claiming to be the rightful successors to previous emperors.
    • And the fact that many Christians don't think that the honor Muslims have for Jesus constitutes high esteem at all. Islam does after all hold as a key tenet that "Allah has no son." Jesus is considered a great prophet, the second only to Muhammad, but fully mortal (although he did ascend bodily into heaven in the Quran as well). On the other hand, some Nontrinitarian Christian sects also deny the divinity of Jesus, particularly the Unitarians,note  although some Nontrinitarian sects accept that Jesus is God's son in some sense of the term.
    • Another common mistake Westerners make is assuming all Muslims are Arabs and/or Persians (if they even make the distinction between 'Arab' and 'Persian' in the first place, which is another story entirely...) when in fact, most Muslims are in South (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and Southeast Asia (Indonesia). Indonesia is even the world's largest and most populous Muslim-majority country.
      • On a related note, the term "Muslim country" is thrown around in the media a lot, without clarifying whether they mean theocratic countries with Islamic laws (such as Saudi Arabia) or simply secular countries with a Muslim majority (such as Turkey or the aforementioned Indonesia).
    • Conversely, assuming that all Arabs/Persians are Muslims. There is in fact a sizable number of Arabic and Persian Christians and Jews (as well as a small number of Zoroastrians in Iran) native to their countries, as people following minority religions are explicitly protected by Sharia law.
    • Recently there seem to have been a rise in the perception that pigs are somehow a Muslim's weakness. While Muslims, like Jews, indeed avoid eating pork or pig-based products, it doesn't mean Muslims are allergic to them in any way.
    • A large misconception is the thought that all Muslims believe the exact same things. This is as ridiculous a notion as thinking all Christians believe the exact same things. For starters, Islam is generally divided into two main branches: Sunni Islam (the majority of Muslims are this) and Shia Islam, and there are further different schools of thought and philosophy within those two branches. Which branch and which school of thought dominates vary wildly from country to country.
    • You would be surprised at how little understanding of Ramadhan many non-Muslims have, other than it being "that time when Muslims don't eat anything." First off, Ramadhan is a month in the Islamic calendar (the ninth of twelve, to be precise.) Second, fasting in Islam requires you to not consume anything, from food to water to other thing like cigarettes. Third, it does not mean you don't consume anything at all for a month straight (otherwise, you'd die!), but rather you hold off on eating and drinking from the break of dawn to the onset of dusk (and not a moment later). When the sun sets a Muslim is required to immediately break their fast. The very young, the very old, the sick, and pregnant or nursing mothers also don't have to fast. Also, because of the effects of high latitude on day length that the early Muslim jurists were at best dimly aware of, most modern authorities have come around to the opinion that Muslims living far north or south enough for a true dawn-to-dusk fast to be impractical in the summer (and a mere inconvenience in the winter) can adopt a shorter fast (either going by the times at Mecca, which thanks to its tropical location never stray that far from 12 hours between dawn and sunset, or just any arbitrary 12 hours). (The sizeable Muslim population in Britain is thankful for these rulings, particularly the ones in Scotland—daylight can last 18 hours in Aberdeen.)
  • The Yazidism is a monotheistic religion practised in Kurdistan. One of the central figures of the religion is a being named Melek Taus (in English "Peacock Angel"), a benevolent emanation of God who rules over the angels. Due to some similarities between Melek Taus and the Muslim figure of Iblis (AKA Satan), they have been wrongly described as devil-worshippers.

    Other religions, mythologies, and beliefs 
  • Many people nowadays are under the impression that "Paganism" is the name of a religion, when in fact "pagan" is a derogatory term used by Mediæval Christians to refer to anyone who followed any non-Abrahamic, polytheistic religion (which is to say, almost every religion ever), and later any religion that wasn't Christianity.
    • Although to be fair, plenty of modern neopagans are more than willing to use the term to identify themselves, and followers of the old Germanic religion (which goes by several names, most prominently Asatru) use the similar term "Heathen" to refer to themselves. Both words originally meant "rustic" or "country folk", who were historically the last to convert to Christianity, in some cases keeping their old religion (or at least elements of it) for centuries after the official conversion occurred.
  • Native American Mythology has a lot of cases of one god being put in another tribe's mythos, conflation of transvestites with contraries (people who do everything backward), and the like.
    • Most people more familiar with a Judeo-Christian mythology feel the need to assign all mythological characters to either good or evil. As such, most Native American tricksters tend to be thought of as Always Chaotic Evil. Coyote in particular is often given this treatment, sometimes even referred to as something like "the Native American Satan". In fact, Coyote is, by and large, simply Chaotic Neutral. He is sometimes malicious, to be sure, but he is just as often a culture hero.
      • This depends somewhat on which tribes you are talking about, as many share characters but have them in different roles. Some Native American myths do indeed present the Coyote as a creature of pure malice, though hardly identical to the Christian Devil, while others present him as more a neutral trickster.
      • The Navajo's version of Coyote, for example, is portrayed as one of two things, by turns: an idiot (constantly screwing up First Man's plans), and a witch—and when Navajos say "witch", they mean Kill It with Fire. Well, with a stone club, but potayto, potahto. Then again, First Man is himself often pretty evil, having invented Witchery Way in the first place. The only gods in their religion who are uniformly good are the Hero Twins, Changing Woman, and Talking God—and Talking God is spooky as hell even though he's not malevolent.
      • And of course, the Sioux use a spider as a trickster animal, but it's never noticed, because there's nothing trickster-like about building traps and it's not like a famous West African trickster is a spider either.
  • Mistakes like this are also common with Classical Mythology. Possibly the most glaring example is the Titan Atlas. He held up the sky, not the earth.
    • This misconception probably stems from his being depicted as holding up a sphere in art. This, however, is not the Earth but the Heavenly Sphere, which no longer makes sense to people with a modern understanding of cosmology.
    • Most people only understand Greek gods by highly stereotypical archetypes, like Athena being the hero-aiding goddess of wisdom, Zeus the petty and depraved hurler of lightning, etc. In reality, they were exceptionally complex in every facet of their existence, with a very wide variety of roles and many different depictions of their personalities.
    • Also thinking that Hades was the Greek equivalent of Satan and that the Greek Underworld was a Fire and Brimstone Hell. In reality Hades was a very nice guy and probably one of the more benevolent gods and the Greek Underworld has nothing to do with the Christian Hell (which doesn’t have Fire and Brimstone either but that’s another story). Hollywood is probably the one to blame as Hades is often depicted as a Devilish version in most movies like Disney’s Hercules and the Percy Jackson movie (not the book though). The Hades in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was more accurate.
  • Buddhism is a frequent victim of this. Budai (also known as Fat Buddha) is often mistakenly called Buddha in the West. While he is a Buddha, he is not the Buddha.
    • A lot of people believe Buddha is a deity worshiped by Buddhists.
    • Even Buddhists refer to Siddharta Gautama as "Buddha". The Buddha. Even though technically any creature who has reached Enlightenment is a Buddha (which means "the awakened one" in Sanskrit).
    • Partly these misconceptions stem from the fact that, like many religions, Buddhism has been practiced very differently in various places, and mixed with other local belief systems.
    • Buddhism is known as a largely pacifistic religion, with practitioners usually being vegetarian (since you might be eating someone who has been reincarnated as an animal) and even going so far as to sweep the floor to avoid stepping on bugs. In fact, Buddhists have been involved in plenty of wars and violence over the years, and learning martial arts in a remote Buddhist temple has been a staple of fiction for a long time. The religion whose practitioners sometimes sweep to avoid killing bugs is Jainism, a religion as old as Buddhism which most people know even less about.
    • Which can be a Cowboy Bebop for Jainism in its own right, Jains are very often mistaken as Buddhists and many of their practices are associated with Buddhism in the West including their Actual Pacifism. Buddhism may be objectively more pacific than other world religions but it does has some caveats that establishes the right to use violence in some circumstances (like self-defense and in case of justified wars), of course as with other religions some fundamentalists have abused of this caveats that were supposed to be exceptions and use only in extreme cases. But Jainism does not has such caveats, they forbid absolutely every form of violence even in self-defense (which one of the reasons some scholars think Buddhism became more widespread and popular than Jainism, as Jainism establishes that you should not use violence nor even to protect yourself from robbery, rape or murder, which is hard to sell specially to common people, whilst Buddhistm does allows it).
  • What does the average Westerner (or Easterner) know about Hinduism? Let's guess: they have tons of gods, which are all blue and have multiple arms (somewhat Truth in Television, yes, but how many can they name?) they like cows, and they have a sacred river, and this book called the Bhagavad-Gita, and they can all reincarnate at will.note  The more worldly among them might know there is an autumn festival called Divali, but that's about it.
    • What a lot of people don't know is that Hindus are essentially monotheistic (well, most of the sects anyway), in the sense that they believe that the gods are all various forms of the one God (in other words, it's similar to the Catholic concept of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being one God...which is, admittedly, not a perfect analogy, but it's a good place to get started). These sects then proceed to differ on which god of the pantheon is the One God, of which all other gods are manifestations (the largest two sects are Vaishnavism, which broadly holds Vishnu to be the One, and Shaivism, which broadly holds Shiva to be the One).
      • Hindu monotheism is, however, a very recent development came after centuries of Muslim and Christian rule over India. That said, Hinduism has many schools of thought some pantheist, some politheist and some monotheist.
    • Hindus are also often stereotyped in Western media as being a bunch of hippies, or at least the religion is stereotyped as being a "hippie" religion, probably because A. Most Westerners' main exposure to Hinduism (and Buddhism) was when Western hippies practiced their own WILDLY inaccurate Theme Park Version of Hinduism and Buddhism in The '60s, and B. because the most famous Indian and Hindu in the West's frame of reference is the pacifist Mahatma Gandhi. But in actuality, the Hindu faith encourages people not to shy away from a fight (at least, when the fight is viewed as being necessary and justified). The Bhagavad Gita is all about Lord Krishna instructing the reluctant warrior Arjuna to be brave, and urging him to charge fearlessly into battle against the bad guys. The Gita is actually a very pro-military book. So yeah, Hindus are not a bunch of hippies, thank you very much.
    • Also probably impacted by some Hindus being vegetarian (which is mostly to do with the belief that people are reincarnated into animals, with it being very bad karma to eat one's relatives in animal form).
    • And the very word "Hindu" is just the Farsi word for the river Indus. It just means "India". The religions of the sub-continent are not one religion; rather they are a network of interrelated faiths, which share a group of certain core traits.
  • Voodoo, or more accurately vodou, is often stereotyped as a Satanic cult dedicated to human sacrifices, inflicting curses, and raising zombies, when in fact there are two forms of vodou: Haitian and Louisiana, both of which originate from the syncretism of the West African vodun religion with Roman Catholicism. Vodou, Haitian vodou in particular, involves the veneration of spirits called loa or lwa, who act as intermediaries between the Houngan, or priest, and a supreme deity called Bondye, similar to the relationship between angels and God in Abrahamic traditions. Louisiana voodoo, which is often conflated with its Caribbean counterpart, is similar but places more emphasis on charms called gris-gris,note  voodoo queens (or more properly, mambos), use of Hoodoo occult paraphernalia, and the veneration of Li Grand Zombi, a snake deity.
  • Richard Dawkins has said that he hopes that some day no one will believe in currently popular religions, just as no one now believes in Jupiter or Thor... apparently no one bothered to inform modern neo-pagans of their non-existence.
  • In one Christian fundamentalist book called Armageddon for Beginners (about the end-times), the author slags off the movie Apocalypse Now for "not being a true depiction of the Apocalypse". He jumped to the conclusion, based on nothing but the name, that Apocalypse Now is about the (Biblical) Apocalypse rather than just an apocalypse, then blamed the movie because he turned out to be wrong.
  • While the Khlysty were a rather obscure Russian sect, they're still chronic victims of this because of their (extremely loose) association with Rasputin. They are generally characterized as a hedonistic sect who believed in sinning to achieve salvation and had ecstatic services ending in mass orgies. While their services were ecstatic, in reality the Khlysty were strict ascetics who saw the physical world as sinful and practiced strict asceticism (including abstinence) and ecstatic worship in order to achieve salvation. Also, Rasputin wasn't a member.
  • Maybe more of a science one, but some believe that "Y-chromosomal Adam" and "Mitochondrial Eve" are actually the Adam and Eve, and use it to prove that the Bible is right. In reality, they are the earliest known common human ancestors, with whom most humans share their genes with; they aren't a fixed person, and if an older ancestor was found, the name would move to them. They didn't even live at the same time, and the current theory is that "Eve" lived tens, or even over a hundred thousand years before "Adam", which would mean that "Noah" would be a more accurate term than "Adam".note 
  • Aleister Crowley is often describe as "a Satanist" and even "father or modern Satanism". Crowley never call himself as such nor is evidence that he ever consider himself to be a Satanist or worship Satan, and most modern scholar do not think the term fits, with terms like Gnostic, Neo-Pagan or simple Occultist and/or Esotericist to be more fitting. In fact Crowley called one of his organizations the Gnostic Church and studied Qabalah in which God has an important role. He even mentions God in several of his writings (although most certainly he didn’t had the Christian conception of God, most likely the more abstract monist Hermetic or Gnostic conception). He did mention other several Pagan gods as part of Thelema’s pantheon and ritual however whether they were to be consider literal beings with independent existence or just symbols is still under debate.
  • Most people would think that Satanists are devil-worshipers who want to bring over the end of the world, sacrifice virgins, babies and animals and practice orgies and blood rituals. In reality most Satanic groups absolutely forbid any form of crime or violence, specially toward animals and children. Satanists in general have their own ethical codes of conduct as reasonable as any other. Some even are philanthropic in nature and have campaigns for human rights and other noble causes like the Satanic Temple. Those who do believe in Satan like a classic entity known as Traditional Satanism maybe more diverse (and some groups or individual practitioners have been involved in crimes, but not more often than any other group) with wild difference on ethics or behavior, but the more mainstream are not different than any other religion and is not like in the Hollywood stereotype that Satanists worship evil and want to destroy the world, most Satanists believe quite the opposite; that Satan is a force of good and that the evil is Yaveh (specially using some Gnostic, Nietzschean and other philosophical sources, and lets be honest, the bible itself gives a lot of material). Heck, the Temple of Set has been criticized by other Satanic groups for trying to make their version of Satanism too mainstream.
  • Similar to the above Luciferians are often mixed with Satanism. Luciferianism generally consider itself to be completely separated from Satanism, as Theistic Luciferians consider Lucifer to be the God of Light of Gnosticism and not related to Satan in any way. But in general, Luciferian are like a fluffy Gnostic-Hermetic religion not that different from Wicca or Thelema, much more pacifist and spiritual than Satanism which, despite not being what the stereotype is about, is still much more aggressive and antinomian in its approach.
  • The Theosophical Society is often accused of being realated to Nazism and racist. This come mostly from three main sources; some writings of Blavatsky that did not aged well, the use of the word "Aryan race" and the use of the Swastika in their logo. The Society’s logo was made long before the Nazi Party existed and there's no evidence that Hitler or any nazi for that matter was ever influence by it or interested in it (and the German branch was outlawed once Nazis came to power). The logo thing is because it uses symbols from the main world religions, the Swastika been the one from Buddhism. The term Aryan race does not holds the same meaning the Nazis gave it, as it refers to every human being on Earth and is the name of a type of humanity from an specific cycle (like the previous Atlantean race and Lemurian race). And regarding Blavatsky’s writings Theosophists generally have to approaches, whether they are in some case misinterpreted or that they are indeed racist in nature but unfortunate part of the world view that a woman from Victorian Europe would have at the time. Also that, in any case, Blavatsky’s thinking was not necessary the same of all the members and that the Society was very progressive for its time, for example that one of the organization's goals includes the equality of all people disregarding race, religion, gender and caste (considering that it was founded in 1875, long before women could vote in most countries or racial segregation was abolished in the US or the caste system in India).
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