Barbara O'Brien

Zen Buddhism Expert


B.J., Journalism, University of Missouri


  • 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 student of Zen Buddhism and a journalist who covers religion in 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 previously covered 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 have been published by The Guardian,, and elsewhere. 


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

Awards and Publications

Learn Religions and Dotdash Meredith

Learn Religions, a Dotdash Meredith brand, aims to help you explore the practices of your own faith, understand your neighbor’s beliefs, and familiarize yourself with the world’s major religions. Learn more about us and our editorial guidelines.

Read more from Barbara O'Brien