Questions To Ask Your Religious Leader (That They Probably Don’t Want To Answer)

Questions To Ask Your Religious Leader (That They Probably Don’t Want To Answer)

Faith can be a source of profound comfort, but blind faith shouldn’t mean avoiding hard questions. You’re not going for “gotcha” moments but sparking honest dialogue and deepening your own understanding, even if the answers aren’t easy. The next time you have a chance to chat with your religious leader, consider asking for answers to some of these questions that have likely crossed your mind a few times.

1. How do you reconcile the suffering in the world with the concept of a loving and all-powerful God?

This is an age-old question that challenges the foundation of many different faiths. If God is good, why do bad things happen? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He intervene? Religious leaders often grapple with this themselves, and their answer (if they have one) reveals a lot about their theology and how they handle life’s unfairness.

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2. Can you admit to specific times when your personal faith has wavered?

Religious leaders are often put on a pedestal of unwavering certainty, but they’re human too. Asking this shows you value authenticity over impossible perfection. Their answer might reveal experiences that shaped their own journey, reminding you that doubt can be a part of faith, not a failure of it.

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3. How does our faith’s history with [social injustice, oppression, etc.] shape how we should act in the present?

Many religious institutions have checkered pasts regarding slavery, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ issues, and more, The Los Angeles Times notes. An honest answer from your religious leader in the present acknowledges past wrongs and shows a willingness to learn from history rather than sweep it under the rug. Does your leader push for atonement and meaningful change, or shy away from uncomfortable truths?

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4. Are there parts of our scripture that you personally find outdated or morally troubling?

Sacred texts are products of their time, reflecting societal norms we now find abhorrent. Does your leader engage critically with these passages, offering context and modern interpretations, or insist on literal readings, no matter how harmful those interpretations may be? Blind adherence to ancient rules can lead to dangerous territory.

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5. Where does the money go? How are financial decisions within the faith community made and with what level of transparency?

Churches require funding to operate, but between opulent megachurches and scandals of misused donations, it’s fair to ask for accountability. Your leader’s response demonstrates their attitude towards financial stewardship. Do they see offerings as a sacred trust, or are they defensive about how the money gets spent?

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6. How do you balance religious doctrine with scientific evidence that seems to contradict it?


Evolution, the Big Bang, even the Earth’s age – for some people, these clash with their faith (I’m one of them, admittedly). A nuanced leader can hold space for both science and spirituality. Do they acknowledge the complexity, or shut down scientific inquiry in favor of dogma? This reveals their openness to the world beyond their specific faith tradition.

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7. How do you view other religions and paths to spirituality?

Is your faith the ONLY true path to salvation, or is there room for respect and even learning from other beliefs? An insular, “we’re right, everyone else is wrong” approach just creates division and encourages a closed-minded community. A leader who sees value in interfaith dialogue and diverse spiritual experiences models a more peaceable way to exist within your own beliefs.

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8. What are the limits of religious authority when it comes to my personal life choices?

Where’s the line between guidance and control? Should religious leaders dictate your career, who you marry, your family planning? This question sparks a vital discussion on personal autonomy versus adherence. Their answer reveals where they land on the spectrum of respecting individual agency within a faith community. As The Guardian reports, religion can definitely make your life happier and healthier in some circumstances, but it can also become harmful.

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9. Do you believe unquestioning obedience is always a virtue?

Some faiths emphasize strict adherence to authority figures. This can be comforting, but also dangerous if it leads to blind acceptance of harmful directives. Does your leader encourage critical thinking, or demand unquestioning compliance? Their answer reveals how much they value your own moral judgment versus surrendering it to the institution.

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10. How do you personally define sin, and how has that definition evolved over time?

Sin is a loaded term. Does your leader see it as black-and-white rules, or a complex interplay of actions, intentions, and impact? Can they admit to changing their own understanding as they’ve grown? A focus on rigid legalism versus growth and compassion reveals the heart of how they interpret faith.

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11. What does our faith community do to actively welcome and include people who are marginalized or different?

Is your place of worship truly open to all? Do actions match welcoming words? Does your leader champion diversity and creating a sense of belonging, or just uphold the status quo with claims of being “welcoming” without meaningful action? This speaks volumes about the lived values of the faith.

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12. How do you address accusations of hypocrisy within our faith community?

No religious group is immune to members, even leaders, behaving in ways that contradict their preached values. Does your leader acknowledge this honestly, showing a commitment to holding everyone accountable? Or, do they dismiss concerns, prioritizing the reputation of the institution over its integrity?

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13. What role does joy play in your own spiritual practice?

Faith is often painted as solemn, focusing on duty and sacrifice. But where’s the celebration? Does your leader see joy and gratitude as essential parts of spirituality? Do they model a path that’s both meaningful and life-affirming? A faith that neglects joy can feel heavy and unsustainable.

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14. Can you share a time when you felt spiritually lost or disconnected?

Religious leaders are not immune to spiritual struggles. Asking this humanizes them and reminds us they’re on their own journey. Hearing how they navigated such a time provides valuable insight, and shows you’re not alone during those inevitable dark nights of the soul.

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15. What matters most at the end of life — being “right” about doctrine, or loving and living well?

This cuts to the core of what faith is truly FOR and about. Does your leader get caught up in theological minutiae while neglecting compassion and human connection? Their answer tells you whether their emphasis is on abstract rules or the lived experience of faith in the world.

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16. Have you ever considered leaving your leadership role, and if so, why?

This vulnerable question reveals potential tensions and doubts they may not share publicly. Even if they ultimately stayed, understanding their reasons for considering leaving can provide insights into the challenges facing leaders within the faith and their commitment to overcoming them.

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Jeff graduated from NYU with a degree in Political Science and moved to Australia for a year before eventually settling back in Brooklyn with his yellow lab, Sunny, and his girlfriend, Mia. He works in IT during the day and writes at night. In the future, he hopes to publish his own novel.