A Sacred Trust: Getting it Right When Writing About Religion

Breakout Session


Writing about religion presents a special set of challenges. Whether writing about your own faith or another's, compelling writing requires a high level of objectivity and self-awareness. The writer must know the literal and symbolic language of a religion, its basic beliefs and terminology. Finding accurate sources is key. This session will focus on what writer Peter Manseau calls “elevating empathy over agreement.” Attendees will read and discuss some excellent examples of getting it right such as Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece "Sacred and Profane" and "Upon This Rock" by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Key takeaways from this session:

  • To describe, with sensory detail where appropriate, the personal experience of religion or spirituality, whether yours or someone else's
  • To identify and vet sources of information about faith practices, at the institutional, community, and individual levels
  • To gain insight into how to identify your own biases or misunderstandings so that you can write without judgment about others' religions

View Handout [PDF]



  • Ruth Nasrullah

    Ruth is an independent journalist who has written for multiple outlets including the Houston Chronicle, The Lily, Religion News Service, The Trek, Toastmaster, Aramco World and others. She writes feature articles, essays, profiles, and opinion pieces, with a focus on religion, civil rights, and the environment. Her poetry is featured...