Barbara O'Brien

  • Author of Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-Affirming World, (Ten Directions, 2014)​
  • A former student at Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, New York
  • Has written extensively about Buddhism, and religion in general, and how it impacts politics and culture


Barbara Hoetsu O'Brien is a former writer for ThoughtCo. She is a student of Zen Buddhism and a journalist writing about the impact religion has on American politics and culture.

O'Brien began her formal study of Buddhism in 1988, upon her acceptance as a laity student at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Temper, New York. In the intervening years, O'Brien has actively engaged in meeting Buddhists from other traditions and cultures to learn about the many forms of Buddhism. O'Brien also practiced at the  Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, New York, as well as the Zen Center of New York City. 

O'Brien spent more than eight years writing about Buddhism and other religious-themed topics for ThoughtCo. Through her blog, Rethinking Religion, she wrote primarily about Buddhism and religion in general. She also wrote extensively about religion in America, looking at how religion helped to shape the nation's politics and culture. Her work includes several books such as Rethinking Religion (TenDirections, 2014). Her articles appear on,, and other religion-centric websites.


Barbara Hoetsu O'Brien has a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri.

Awards and Publications


ThoughtCo and Dotdash

ThoughtCo is a premier reference site focusing on expert-created education content. We are one of the top-10 information sites in the world as rated by comScore, a leading Internet measurement company. Every month, more than 13 million readers seek answers to their questions on ThoughtCo.

For more than 20 years, Dotdash brands have been helping people find answers, solve problems, and get inspired. We are one of the top-20 largest content publishers on the Internet according to comScore, and reach more than 30% of the U.S. population monthly. Our brands collectively have won more than 20 industry awards in the last year alone, and recently Dotdash was named Publisher of the Year by Digiday, a leading industry publication.

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