About ReligionFacts (FAQ)

Thank you for visiting ReligionFacts! Below is some information about this website, presented in the form of Frequently Asked Questions.

What is ReligionFacts?

As its name suggests, the purpose of ReligionFacts is to provide "just the facts" on the world's religions and topics of religious interest. Every effort has been taken to present material from an impartial, academic perspective.

This site has no mission or agenda other than to provide useful and interesting information on religion in an accessible format. Our goal is to combine the benefits of a print encyclopedia of religion with the unique capabilities of the Web to create a single convenient online resource for information on religion.

Who is this site written for?

The information on ReligionFacts is intended to be comprehensive and reliable enough for students, teachers, journalists and religious professionals, but also accessible and useful to those with only limited knowledge of religion. ReligionFacts therefore offers detailed articles and treatments of specialized topics as well as just-the-basics overviews, facts and figures, timelines, maps, glossaries, and comparative charts.

Similarly, ReligionFacts is intended to be a useful resource for people of any religious background or none at all. Its goal is to enable you to learn more about your own faith, compare it with another faith, investigate several belief systems, or just satisfy your curiosity about some aspect of a particular religion.

When and why was this site founded?

This site was founded in March 2004, for the same reason many websites come about - I was looking for a certain kind of online resource and didn't find one, so I decided to make it myself! What I wanted was a single website where I could quickly find information on just about anything related to religion, rather than having to sift through search engine results, read past the biases of supportive or critical sources, or find my way around several different websites. And I wanted that one website to contain reliable, scholarly information by a knowledgeable author and with well-documented sources. I have tried to make ReligionFacts as close as possible to this ideal resource I had imagined, and I have had a great time doing so.

That leads to the second reason I created ReligionFacts – I enjoy studying religion and this provides a focus for my studies. I think religion is a fascinating subject and writing articles, designing charts, and categorizing topics helps me to retain and understand what I've learned from my research. Its broad scope is also a good supplement for my doctoral work, which is of course quite specific by nature.

Who designed the site?

I did. I knew nothing about web programming when I first decided to create ReligionFacts, but I have done my best to learn as I go. I now know how to use Dreamweaver and CSS, I'm semi-fluent in HTML, and I think I understand the basics of Javascript. I often wish I could afford a real web programmer to help me with the technical stuff, but I have enjoyed the non-technical aspects of designing the site.

Who is the webmaster?

I have a bachelor's degree in religion from an American university and a master's degree in religion from a UK university. I have decided to keep everything else anonymous. This is primarily because I believe it helps support the goal of this website as an objective source if I don't reveal my religious or ethnic background, specific area of academic study, or related information. I also don't want to present myself as an authority on the subjects here. Although I have academic training, I am no expert and write these articles only as an interested private researcher.

What religion are you, if any?

As mentioned above, I'm not telling and it's not relevant anyway. ReligionFacts is not intended to promote or support any one religion and I have done my best to keep any and all personal biases out of it.

How do I cite ReligionFacts as a source?

In order to cite ReligionFacts as a source for a school essay or project, please consult the writing style manual specified by your school (APA, MLA, etc.) regarding citation of Internet sources. For MLA, proper citation format would be something like this:

Anonymous. "Christian Holidays." ReligionFacts. 8 February 2007. [date from "Updated" on the left of the article] Accessed 8 December 2007 [date you accessed the article] <http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/holidays.htm>.

I have received numerous e-mails from students asking for my name because they are not allowed to cite anonymous sources. But I am sticking to my decision to remain anonymous, for the reasons described above.

Moreover, even if I did provide a name, ReligionFacts is still a non-official, non-peer-reviewed website. As such, it is not generally suitable for citation in a school essay. For all you know, I could be making up my name and qualifications! Your teachers are right to insist against anonymous Internet sources and hopefully they are also teaching you that you can't trust everything you read, especially on the Web. The greatest thing and the worst thing about the Web is that anyone can publish anything.

So I don't claim ReligionFacts has inherent authority and you shouldn't treat it like it does. I do hope the quality of its articles its agreement with authoritative sources show it to be trustworthy (and I try very hard to be objective and accurate in all my information), but ReligionFacts is primarily intended to give you an introductory understanding of a religious topic. Most of the articles will point you to more official and authoritative sources that you can cite with more confidence, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, university websites, official websites of religions, and so on.

Good luck with your project and I'm very glad ReligionFacts was helpful in your research!

How accurate and reliable are the "facts" on ReligionFacts?

The Internet provides an unprecedented opportunity for anyone with a computer, a phone line, and some basic computer skills to make their voice heard throughout the world on any subject. It facilitates free speech and the instantaneous exchange of information and viewpoints across time zones, classes, and cultures. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in the worldwide dissemination of a great deal of unreliable information.

So how do you know you can trust the information presented in articles on this website? Only because it is based on respected sources that you can check for yourself. For each article, a variety of reliable, authoritative sources have been consulted, and these are documented in the Sources, References or Notes sections at the bottom of each page. In addition, wherever possible, articles will be reviewed for accuracy by a relevant academic expert or religious adherent. Where this has occurred, it is indicated in the Sources section.

That said, ReligionFacts (like most any other online resource) is no substitute for a book by a reliable author and a reputable publisher. Resources on the web do not go through the peer review process that published books must, and therefore online resources should always be treated with greater caution and verified using other sources. This website is simply meant to be an easily-accessible summary based on these sources.

And of course, when it comes to religion, "academic" and "objective" sources like ReligionFacts (or the Oxford Dictionary of Religions, etc.) are limited in that they can only tell you about history, statistics, texts, stated doctrine, etc. When it comes to what it's like to practice a religion or the personal meaning and significance of its beliefs, there's no substitute for discussions with religious persons or reading sacred texts themselves.

Finally, despite my best efforts, this is a very large site, its articles are written by humans and I sometimes complete articles quickly, so errors may slip through. Should you spot a factual error, please contact me. Be sure to include specifics about where the problem occurs and provide sources demonstrating the error. Notifications about broken links, typographical errors or any other problems are encouraged as well.

Are all the articles on this site original?

Mostly, but not entirely. Some ReligionFacts articles incorporate public domain or Creative Commons text from various sources, but I almost always edit and supplement them with my own material. The source on which such articles are based is always clearly noted in the "Sources" or "References" section.

I see ReligionFacts as a lifelong project, and eventually it will consist entirely of my original work (and some special features by other authors). But in the meantime, I've chosen to incorporate other sources to accomplish the main mission of ReligionFacts – to provide as much information on religion as possible in a single location, arranged in an easy-to-use format.

The public domain sources I incorporate on this include the 1911 version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Catholic Encyclopedia, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, and several others. These are in the public domain not because they are inferior (in fact they are quite reputable and reliable), but because their copyright has expired. The only disadvantages of these sources is that they tend to be a bit outdated and/or more scholarly than I would like for the purposes of this site. However, in most cases I have pared down the material and added newer material, which I think tends to make the public-domain-based articles on ReligionFacts more useful to the average reader than the original source.

One other major source of public domain text is Wikipedia, "the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be written and edited by anyone, and can be republished under a Free Documentation License. The advantages are that the articles are up-to-date, written for a general audience, include images, and are generally of high quality. Many are themselves based on the public domain sources mentioned above. However, as they are not professionally edited or peer reviewed, errors or poor writing often slip in. So when I have made use of Wikipedia articles, I usually do extensive editing and supplementing of the text.

What are the terms of use for articles on ReligionFacts?

Any page on ReligionFacts may be printed, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes only (e.g. for personal or classroom use). You may not reproduce any pages, articles, charts or tables on another website. You may, however, include excerpts with proper attribution and a link to ReligionFacts, and you are more than welcome to link to any page.

Articles on this site that are based on public domain texts are not automatically in the public domain. As mentioned above, I have made extensive edits and additions to almost every public domain source used on ReligionFacts, which makes the articles new compositions not in the public domain. However, in the case of articles based on Wikipedia, the Free Documentation License requires that anyone creating modified versions of their articles allow the modified versions to be freely distributed and modified. Check your local laws or an attorney for all the important details of Internet copyright.

Are there any changes or expansions planned in the future?

Yes! First of all, I am continually working to expand the depth of information provided on each religion as well as add lots more religions and belief systems. Beyond that, there are all kinds of exciting ideas brewing, including a section devoted to comparing religious beliefs and ethical views, more fully developed religion-related stores, more daily and weekly features on the home page, a possible ad-free version of the site for subscribers, printable versions of each page, and newsletters. These new features will be added as time and funding allows.

How is this site financed?

The information on ReligionFacts is provided as a free resource to anyone who finds it useful, but of course it is not free to operate. Its expenses include web hosting charges, web design software, numerous books and other research resources (including subscriptions to Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service and Questia Online Library), and, most of all, the huge amount of time that goes into researching, writing and editing articles and attempting to figure out a modicum of web programming.

These expenses are currently financed by advertising revenue, which I try to keep as relevant, useful and unobtrusive as possible. I block all flashing ads, flourescent banners and popups. Those pay more, but I hate them and I know you do, too.

What can I do to support this site?

If you have found this site useful, there are several ways in which you can support its ongoing maintenance, improvement and expansion into an even better resource, both monetary and non-monetary.

Non-monetary support:

  • Provide feedback and suggestions on what you like, what you'd like to see, and on how we can make this site a better resource by contacting the webmaster.
  • Recommend ReligionFacts to friends who might find it helpful or interesting.
  • If you have a website, link to ReligionFacts.
  • Click on advertisements for products or services on ReligionFacts that interest you.
  • Donate a quality, unbiased, well-documented article. The webmaster reserves the right to reject or edit any submission, but if approved, your article would be clearly credited to you along with a link to your own site if you wish. Perhaps one day we'll have enough revenue to be able to offer some small payment for such contributions, but unfortunately we're not there yet.

Monetary support:

  • Shop from our advertising sponsors.
  • Shop with our merchant partners through a link on ReligionFacts, such as Amazon.com. This costs you no more than shopping directly, so if you're going to buy that thing anyway, please do it through us! You can usually find relevant books and/or products next to articles, and we have a few virtual stores with religion-related items (hover over "store" on the top menu). Once you've gone to Amazon, eBay or wherever from ReligionFacts, anything you buy in that session will provide a small commission to us.
  • Make a one-time or ongoing donation of any amount through PayPal (coming soon)

All of these little things go a long way towards making this site a better resource and are greatly appreciated!

Thank you for visiting ReligionFacts!

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