“The Office” says final farewell to Scranton

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Cast and crew of “The Office” invaded Scranton on Saturday to say a final farewell to their loyal fans and the city. The hit NBC mockumentary revolves around the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and the fictional Scrantonians who work there. More than 10,000 people filled the streets of Scranton to celebrate everyone’s favorite comedy, “The Office.”

The stars who turned out for the event include, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, Oscar Nunez, Brian Baumgarten, Ellie Kemper, Kate Flannery, Creed Bratton, Paul Lieberstein, Craig Robinson and Andy Buckley. Steve Carell even crashed the event later in the day at the PNC Field for the Final Farewell celebration.

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Christina Scully and I were issued press passes so that we could cover the event for The Aquinas.

Editor-in-Chief Christina Scully and I had the amazing opportunity to cover the entire event for The University of Scranton‘s newspaper, The Aquinas. We even got nifty press passes that helped us get front-row seats to all the events and great photo opportunities!

The day kicked off bright and early with the Blogger’s Breakfast where bloggers and fans had a chance to mix and mingle. The morning started with excitement when actors Paul Lieberstein and Andy Buckley showed up to sign autographs and meet with fans. Buckley made sure that he stuck around at the event long enough to get a picture with every single one of his fans.

Next up, was the Behind the Scenes Q&A which packed the Byron Center. Directors and writers took the stage to answer questions about “The Office.” The panel included Editor Director Claire Scanlon, Director of Photography Matt Sohn, Co-Executive Producer Allison Silverman, Property Manager Phil Shea, Producer Steve Burgess, Executive Producer Greg Daniels, Executive Producer Paul Lieberstein and Writer Carrie Kemper.

The crew answered many questions for the audience and reminisced on their time making the show. Fans had the chance to view never before seen footage of the show. Property Manager Phil Shea, reminisced on the early days when the show was first starting. He discussed how many of the props seen on the show were gathered from local Scrantonians.

When fans see things like the Froggy 101 sticker on the office desk, those items were all collected from the locals!

“We’ll take this back to California with us,” Shea said of the fan support for the show.

Executive Producer Greg Daniels said, “It has been a privilege to get to work on this show. To have gone nine years — it’s amazing. We have the fans to thank. They kept the show going.”

After the Q&A there was a short break until 2 p.m. for the big parade which began by St. Thomas Hall. Fans swarmed downtown Scranton to get a peek at the stars as the parade made its way down Linden Street to the Lackawanna County Courthouse square where the party continued. The cast and crew took to the stage to talk to the audience, sing and perform with the Scrantones.

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John Krasinski signs autographs for fans during the parade.

After the parade the cast, crew and fans traveled to PNC Field for the Final Farewell where the biggest surprise of the night was revealed. Steve Carell shocked fans at the PNC Field for the Final Farewell celebration. Carell played Michael Scott, a character who left during the show’s seventh season.

Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson): 10k in downtown Scranton for the Office wrap party. Amazing. So moving.

John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski): Hell yeah Scranton!!!

After the Final Farewell at the PNC Field came to a close, the stars of the hit show took to the streets of Scranton to party it up one last time. As they say, “There ain’t no party like a Scranton party” and according to their Twitter accounts, they had a pretty crazy night. And I mean they really partied. Fans flocked to The Backyard Ale House where the stars hung out all night, tending bar, buying drinks and taking pictures with fans. (John Krasinski even rocked a University of Scranton tshirt!)

Celebrity Tweets from their big night out in Scranton:

Brian Baumgarner (@BBBaumgartner): Thanks to the 20,000 people who showed up to say goodbye today. We’ll see you tonight. Drinks are on @johnkrasinski

Craig Robinson (@MrCraigRobinson): Backyard ale house

John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski): Backyard ale house Scranton y’all!!!

Kate Flannery (@KateFlannery): We are at the #backyardalehouse

Jenna Fisher (@jennafischer): Hell yeah!! Ain’t no party like a Scranton party…!

Brian Baumgartner (@BBBaumgartner): Great great times in Scranton last night. I am PRETTY sure I bought all of these people a drink.

And then at almost 4:40 a.m…

Brian Baumgartner (@BBBaumgartner): None of us have gone to bed.

After the Wrap Party, the cast took to Twitter to thank their fans and their beloved city of Scranton:

Steve Carell (@SteveCarell): Thank You Scranton.

Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson): I ❤ Scranton

Jenna Fischer (@jennafischer): From the bottom of my heart, thank you Scranton for the most special send off. Great city, great people, great day.

Brian Baumgartner (@BBBaumgartner): Thank you City of Scranton for throwing us the greatest Wrap Party any show has ever had. Send pics if you were there!

Kate Flannery (@KateFlannery): It is impossible to individually thank everyone who came out yesterday, but please know I love each & every one of you. Reading every tweet!

Craig Robinson (@MrCraigRobinson): Dear Scranton……I mean, what can I say? So much fun hangin, u all couldn’t have been nicer. Thank u. Love u

The final episode will air on NBC May 16 from 9-10:15 p.m. (NBC gave the show the go-ahead to run an extra 15 minutes longer than usual). There will be an hour long special starting at 8 p.m. about “The Office” Wrap Party. Be sure to tune in and see if you can spot yourself!

Chris Dolan, photographer for The Aquinas, was on hand all day snapping photos of all the stars as they spent their day in Scranton. Check out all of his amazing photos from the day.

Check out the live Twitter coverage of the event.

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Religious Tolerance: find the beauty in every religion

In more recent years, religions across the world have been on the decline. According to the Washington Post, in the 1950s those who identified with no religion was at about 2 percent of the entire population. In 1970, this percentage grew to 7 percent. Now, the percentage has swelled to almost 20 percent of the population.

According to Pew, 74 percent of those who don’t identify with a religion grew up without a religious belief.

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It’s hard to locate the source of the problem. With the younger generations it seems religion and faith have taken a back seat. More children are being raised faithless in the United States than every before. The decline in religion dates to the 1990s when trust in religious institution became questionable. Scandal is no stranger to religion, including sexual scandals of church leaders and the church’s opposition of same-sex marriage.

1worldI’ve noticed the decline of religion in my life. My great-grandparents were straight off the boat Irish, strict Roman Catholics. Both my grandparents and my parents were raised Roman Catholic, but me? Well, I was raised Roman Catholic too, but not in the same sense they were. My upbringing was not strict. We did everything the normal Catholics did. My siblings and I have all been baptized, confessed, communed and confirmed. We used to always go to church on Sundays until there was some controversy with my mom’s favorite priest, and we stopped going after he left the parish.

Over the years I’ve grown apart from the religion I was raised in. Learning about other religions and understanding what others believe in has made me more accepting of other ideas. Maybe Catholicism isn’t the only important religion out there? Maybe I think there’s more than one God? Maybe I don’t even believe in God?

I have always been one to question religion and I think I always will. There will never be a way to really known and that’s why we have faith. As I’ve grown up, I’ve lost the faith I had in the Catholic church. I like to think that I’ve developed a syncretic religion that is all my own.

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Here is what I know…

  1. I love the Amish life of simplicity.
  2. I love the Taoist idea of the Tao. The feeling inside of you that cannot be described in words. The source and the driving force behind everything. When you have to make a decision and something instinctively tells you to make a certain decision, that’s the Tao working inside you. The Tao will always keep you on the path meant for you.
  3. I love that marriage is a central notion for Mormon life. They believe God ordered them to get marriage and have children. Mormons believe that the family continues on together to salvation after death and I hope that’s true.
  4. I love all of the ideas behind Sikhism. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to keep God in your mind, to live honestly, to work hard, to treat everyone as an equal and to be generous to the less fortunate. I think if we could all learn to live like the Sikhs the world would be a much happier place.
  5. I love the Wiccan quote “If you take the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible is the wind and the rain.” Like me, the Wiccans believe in the very world they see right before their eyes.
  6. The unity and push for equality that surrounds the Unitarian Universalists is beautiful. I hope one day all religions can be this accepting.
  7. I like that Scientology seeks to base their beliefs in something concrete.
  8. I love the Buddhist idea of reincarnation. For me, reincarnation is the explanation for déjà vu. Why do I feel like I have been here before? Because you have been. Why do I know exactly what he is about to say? Because you’ve heard it before.
  9. I simply love the Rastafarian dreadlocks.
  10. I love the Jain idea of bad karma accumulating on the human soul and that the human has to spend their life “chipping away” that karma. It gives us a reason to live for the good.
  11. I love the Bahá’í belief that greater good will prevail when humanity works together in unity for the benefit of not themselves, but others.
  12. I love that Zoroastrians pray facing the sun because it symbolizes God’s divine light.
  13. I love that Spiritualists believe that every soul lives past physical death and that all souls are reunited.
  14. I love that Santeria was born because the African slaves felt so strongly about their religion they refused to completely convert, but instead blended religions.
  15. I love that Atheists believe in humanity rather than a higher being and that they believe the real reward is living a good life now while you’re here to live it.
  16. I love Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith and that they are required to help the less fortunate.
  17. I love that Hasidic Jews live together in tight-knit communities where they really care about each other.
  18. I love the Shinto notion that there are kamis there to guide us. Everyone can use a helping hand now and then.
  19. I love that Candomblé doesn’t believe in good or bad. Just that one person should live their life in order to fulfill their own destiny as best they can.
  20. I love the creativity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
  21. I love that Confucianism teaches that human nature is “teachable, improvable, and perfectible.”
  22. Interfaith marriage is beautiful.

And let’s face it… I have nothing nice to say about the Westboro Baptist Church.

When you take a chance to open yourself to others beliefs you might be surprised. You might end up believing in something you weren’t raised to believe in. You might learn to tolerate others in a new way. There is something beautiful in every religion if you take the time to find it.

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Combining Love: Interfaith marriage

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Throughout the past few years, America has made strides in becoming a more open nation in terms of marriage. Although times and viewpoints are still changing, the concepts of interfaith marriage, interracial marriage, and even gay marriage are being more openly accepted in our society. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, less than a quarter of the 18-to 23-year-old respondents believed that it was important to marry someone of the same faith. However, like any true controversial issue, there are both positives and negatives to interfaith marriage.

An interfaith marriage can pose many issues to the couple and the family unit. Within a interfaith marriage a power struggle may be created over which religion is more important. This is especially true if a child is brought into the picture. The couple must decide to either raise the child within one religion or expose them to both religions in the household. Both parent will interfaith-marriages-in-Britainobviously feel a strong inclination to raise their child in their own religion. If there are two different religions present there will likely be two different sets of holidays and traditions. Although celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah may seem like an advantage, it could also cause tension within the marriage as each person in the couple believes that their holidays and traditions are more important. Couples of interfaith marriages may be more likely to fight over which traditions they want to celebrate. It would be easy for disagreements to add up over time as religion ties into many other aspects of like, like how to raise children or spend time.

There are also many advantages to an interfaith marriage and growing up as a child within an interfaith family. Rather than being defined by one single religion, children from interfaith marriages have the advantage of experiencing two different religions. Instead of growing up with one faith, children within interfaith marriages feel more free to explore their own beliefs. The child would be more aware of the various faiths that exist and would be more tolerant of other religions. Allowing the child to take part in both religions will give them a more complete picture of what faith is about and lead them to eventually make their own decisions about what they believe. Another positive aspect is that interfaith marriage can also strengthen the bond between the couple. In terms of religion, the couple would have to be very open with communication and willing to occasionally compromise on things like holidays and traditions. Interfaith marriages will create more diversity among the population and society will become more integrated and tolerant to different religions.

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I personally feel that interfaith marriages can be both informative and rewarding. To limit oneself solely to one religion is ludicrous. There is a whole world of beliefs and religions out there and it seems naive to not expose oneself to other religions or at the very least become informed about them. Without being informed on the other religions that exist how can one know what religion they truly believe in without blindly accepting the faith they were taught as a child by their parents. I believe that as long as the couple have a strong relationship with open communication they can compromise on the important aspects of both religions and allow their child to make their own informed decision about religion.

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Confucianism: optimistic view of human nature

Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical religion that was born out of the Han Dynasty by Confucius. Confucianism was very popular during the Han Dynasty until it fell in popularity to other religions like Buddhism and Taoism which took over as the dominant schools of thought during the Tang dynasty. Confucianism is practiced in places like China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

confuciusConfucianism, which began in the 6th-5th century BC, is seen as less of a religion and as more of a way of life. Some even view Confucianism as more of a philosophy than a religion. There are about 5-6 million followers of Confucianism.

Confucianism has a few classic texts all authored by Confucius himself:

  • I Ching: the Book of Changes, earliest of the classics, shows metaphysical vision which combines art with numerology, philosophy sees cosmos interact with the yin yang
  • Classic of Poetry: the Book of Songs, earliest book of Chinese poems and songs
  • Book of Documents: the Book of History, features speeches from major figures and recorded events
  • Book of Rites: describes social form and ceremonial rites
  • Spring and Autumn Annals: a book that chronicles the spring and the autumn

Confucianism is centered on humanism, the world around us and the people in our lives. There is also a large emphasis placed on honesty which is important to humanism. There are five humanist virtues:

  • Ren: humaness
  • Yi: righteousness/ justiceConfucian Temple
  • Li: propriety/ etiquette
  • Zhi: knowledge
  • Xin: integrity

Confucianism also places a large importance on relationships. There are the Five Bonds are:

  • ruler to ruled
  • father and son
  • husband and wife
  • elder brother to younger brother
  • friend to friend

Confucianism also places a heavy emphasis on the optimism view of human nature. Confucianisms truly believe in humanity and that humans can become amazing. Confucian believed that humans are “teachable, improvable, and perfectible” through proper ethical and philosophical training.

**(14)CHINA-SHANDONG-QUFU-SACRIFICING CEREMONY TO CONFUCIUS (CN)

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Pastafarianism: satirical response to intelligent design

Onto a much lighter topic… let’s talk about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, also known as, Pastafarianism.

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The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a parody religion that was created through a satirical letter by Bobby Henderson. The parody religion takes a light-hearted view on all things religious.pastamonster_2 Henderson wrote the satirical letter to protest the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to allow intelligent design to be taught in publish schools rather than evolution. Henderson’s creativity clearly showed in the open letter where he claimed to believe in a higher being that resembled spaghetti and meatballs, even describing the higher being to have “noodly appendages.” Henderson asked the Kansas State Board of Education to devote equal class time for intelligent design and also for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The_Gospel_of_the_Flying_Spaghetti_MonsterHenderson is described as a prophet of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and has written The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster which was published in 2006. The core belief of the “religion” is that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. Those who follow the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have meetings online where they share ideas and post about their alleged sightings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

When Henderson’s open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education was never answered he posted it online where it become a phenomenon. The letter went on to be published in many newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Chicago Sun-Times.The newspaper coverage of his letter caused six publishers to approach him about a book on the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He received a $80,000 advance from Villard to write The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The book was released on March 28, 2006.

Henderson states that “the only dogma allowed in the Church ofFSM3d the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma.” Pastafarians count Friday as their holy day. Prayers are said over meals and they are ended with the phrase “R’amen,” a combination of the usual “Amen” with the food, “ramen.” The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster uses many religious terms with a pasta twist, like “Pastover” instead of Passover and “Ramendan” instead of Ramadan.

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Westboro Baptist Church: the ultimate hate group

Westboro Baptist Church always finds its way into the middle of controversy. From picketing the vigil for the victims of the Newtown shootings to claiming that the Boston Marathon bombings were God’s retaliation, the Westboro Baptist Church always finds someway to make a statement.

The Westboro Baptist Church claims that their beliefs are similar to the primitive Baptist tradition, a conservative branch FredPhelpsdeveloped in the early 19th century that follows the King James version of the Bible. The Westboro Baptist Church is described by most as a hate group. Most of the Westboro Baptist beliefs are similar to other Christian schools of though. The big difference between the Christian teachings and the Westboro Baptists teachings are their stance on homosexuality.

Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church said, “The modern militant homosexual movement poses a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God as in 1898 B.C. at Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Phelps believes that America’s new openness to homosexuality will be the downfall of religion and of our country. “They were raised on a steady diet of fag propaganda in the home, on TV, in church, in school, in mass media – everywhere – the two pronged lied. One, it’s okay to be WestboroBaptist4gay. And two, anyone saying otherwise, like Westboro Baptist Church, is a hatemonger who must be vilified, demonized and marginalized,” Phelps said in response to America’s children growing up with an open mind about homosexuality.

The rituals at the Westboro Baptist Church are similar to other religions including a weekly church meeting. However, the WBC has been centered on picketing and protesting since the early 1990s. WBC picketing has become more widespread including homosexuality, the Holocaust Memorial, September 11th, 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China, Pope Benedict XVI, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Catholic priests, Catholic church, Hinduism and Islam.

tumblr_m81v6myBeE1qk2dsto1_1280One thing that has become popular is the “counter protest” which started gaining popularity after the September 11th attacks. The Westboro Baptist Church showed up to picket the tragedy and one young man, Jared Dailey, stood across the street with a sign that read “Not today, Fred,” calling out Phelps on his insensitivity. After a few days, nearly 100 other people joined Dailey with American flags and anti-hate signs. When the WBC decided to picket the funerals of the Newtown shootings, people took to the internet to fight back at the church, writing letters to government officials and releasing a membership list with personal contact information of all of the WBC members.

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The Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any particular denomination and has actually been rejected by many religions. The WBC mainly claims to have ties to the Southern Baptists because Phelps was ordained by a Southern Baptist Minister in 1947.

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Although there are no exact numbers, it is estimated that there are less than one hundred followers of the Westboro Baptist Church and the majority of the members are family. Phelps and his wife have 13 children together and those 13 children have married and have children of their own. Many of these offspring live in the family compound, while some do not except the WBC teachings and have moved away. The family compound is located in Topeka, Kansas where Phelps lives with his large family.

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Although the Westboro Baptist Church receives mainly backlash for their conservative views, the church was defended on the grounds of free speech by the American Civil Liberties Union. Even though the church has found an ally in one Union, most others are still disgusted by what the WBC’s actions and what it stands for. The federal government has made some moves to control the WBC. In 2012, California and the federal government set a 300 foot parameter around funerals the the WBC cannot protest within.

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Candomblé: syncretic, African religion brought by slaves

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Candombléa small African religion based on a mixture of Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs, is popular among African countries especially Brazil.

Candomblé can be translated to “dance in honor of the gods” in English. The BBC reports that there are more than two million Candomblé  followers worldwide. Candomblé is considered a syncretic religion because it combines many religions and beliefs. Candomblé originated from the enslaved Africans who brought their religion with them when they were shipped to Brazil during the slave trade.

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Followers of Candomblé believe in one powerful and almighty God named Oludumaré. This god is served my lesser deities called orixas. Every person has their own orixa who serves the. The personal orixas serve them by controlling their destiny and protecting them. Orixas can be ancestors and they can be recent or hundreds of years old. Orixas serve as an important link between people and the spiritual world. Candomblé practitioners believe that every orixa has a central force. This central force can be associated with food, color, animals, days of the week, a person’s character, etc.

CandomblŽC: Cynthia Britto/ PulsarLic/00 fasc31 pag 11 Hist—ria

One central idea is that there is no concept of good and bad. Candomblé believes that each person has one mission which is to fulfill their own destiny by living their life to the fullest.

Candomblé is based on oral tradition. Music and dance is central to Candomblé worship. Many choreographed dances are used throughout the service in order to connect with ancestor spirits. Worship used to take place in the home of the slaves. Women in Candomblé are called “mothers of the holy one” and usually lead the service.

The first Candomblé temple began during 19th century in Salvador, Bahai in Brazil.

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Shintoism: praying for helping hand from the spirits

mulanpraysIt’s largely debated that Disney princess Mulan was Shinto, a spiritual religion centered on communication with helpful spirits. While Mulan is Chinese, many aspects in the movie point to Shintoism. The movie even depicts the family’s personal shrine where she goes to pray to them for safety before she joins the war.

Shinto is an ethnic and spiritually bound Japanese religion that emphasizes the communication between living humans and spirits. The religion centers on the connection between present day Japan and ancient Japan. The name Shinto is derived from the Chinese characters for Shen meaning the divine being and Tao which means the way of the spirits. Ritual is central to the Shinto religion and visiting shrines is popular amongpriests-meiji-cc-chrisjfry followers especially around the Japanese New Year. There is no founder of the religion and there are no Gods to be worshiped. There is also no central text, although Shintoism does teach a set of ethical principles for worshipers. Shintoism is also very much a local religion. There is not much missionary work and the religion revolves around the idea of local worship. Followers might even have small shrines in their homes. Shinto has been viewed as a Japanese faith that has influenced culture for more than 2000 years.

Shintos call the spiritual beings they connect with kami. The work kami can be translated to “spirits” in English, but it is important to note that the Japanese version of the world also incorporates the spirits of landscapes, elements and nature. Shintos believe that kami are spirits that have passed on who are still interested in human beings and communicating with us. Kamis are not Gods, but they can be prayed to and should be treated with respect. Shintos believe that if kamis are 711308701_origproperly respected they can help us and bring us good benefits like A’s on final exams. Kamis have the ability to influence nature and human lives in order to bring us happiness.

There is no concept of sin in Shintoism and it is believed that all humans are basically good. Most followers of Shintoism are devoted to the emphasis of goodness in a man’s life.

One important aspect of Shintoism is purity. Shintos believe that all humans are born pure and that humans collect “badness” over time. The human can get rid of the impurity in their life through purifying rituals. The most common purifying agents are water and salt. The purification takes place at the beginning of the ceremony when the hands and face are washed. The priest then uses a haraigushi, a ‘purification’ want over the person completing the purification.  Many Shintos perform these purification in large groups, especially at the beginning of a new year.

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The Shinto shrine called a jinja is a sacred place where the kami live. Every town has its own kami and a shrine dedicated to it. There is always a Shinto shrine in town for public worship, but many Shintosshinto also have private shrines. Shrines do not have to be buildings, they can be anywhere, but they must be special to each kami. There is no obligation to visit the shrine. Shintos visit the shrines during festivals and whenever they feel that they should. Often they visit shrines during time of need to ask the kamis for assistance.

Shinto weddings do exist, however, they are very unpopular with only 20 percent of Shintos participating. The standard Shinto wedding is small, involving family and close friends. The bride wears a white kimono and a white scarf to symbolize purity. The wedding begins with a purification followed by prayers to the kami for the couple. The couple takes three sips from three different cups and read their commitments to each other.shinto_wedding_meiji_jingu_4093

The Shinto concept of baptism is called Hatsumiyamairi. The newborn is taken to the shrine by the grandmother and prayers are recited.

In Shintoism, death is seen as impure. Shinto funerals do not usually occur. The dead are handled by the laypeople who bury the body in a cemetery. Shrines and cemeteries will never be found near each other in Japan.

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Hasidic Judaism: Debunking the myths

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They are easily distinguishable with their conservative clothing, curls, and large families. So, what’s the deal with the Hasidic Jewish? While Hasidics believe in the same things as other the other Jewish branches, Hasidics are often the center of controversy. There are many myths that circulate about the Hasidics and it’s about time we figure out which are true and which are false.

Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism meaning “loving kindness.” This branch that focuses of mysical Judaism was founded in Poland during the 18th century by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Hasidism focuses on the personal relationship between man and God.

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Hasidics usually live in large communities together that can be mainly found throughout the United States, Israel and Canada. There are several cities that have large Hascidic populations, like New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Paris, Sydney, London and Montreal. One of the largest Hasidic neighborhoods is in Brooklyn, specifically Williamsburge, Crown Heights, and Boro Park.

The ideal life for the Hasidics is to live a hallowed life. They life in small communities that are centered around the religion with one religious leader called the rebbe.

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Hasidics are often identified by the interesting way their dress. Usually, men have full beards and wear clothing and hats. Men wear hats in a respect for God. The covering of the head is meant as a sign that there is a greater God ruling above the human mind. In the place of the usual hat, some men choose to wear the yarmulke. Some Hasidics even wear the yarmulke to bed. Women have long, modest dresses and scarves they sometimes use as head coverings. In general, Hasidics usually wear0202123 darker clothing, but it is not always black. Some other popular colors are browns and grays. However, Hasidics always wear black on the Sabbath and on holy days which are reserved for honoring God. Both men and women are expected to be modest and cover the body.

Another Hasidic characteristic that is always noted are the payos which are the sidecurls. These payos and the beard are maintained in accordance with the Torah which says “You shall not round corner of your heads, nor mar the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). Not cutting the hair or beard show an obedience to God. Usually, once the man is old enough to grow a beard, they no longer keep the payos.

Hasidic Judaism is regarded for some of its strict policies. For instance, men and women are not allowed to shake each other’s hands. This rule was created to promote modesty throughout the Jewish church. Hasidics are only permitted to touch if they are married and it is in private. The body is considered sacred and only for the one person to whom you are married. By the same token men and women who are not married are not allowed to make eye contact.

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There is one urban myth about Hasidics however which is not true, and that is that Hasidics have sex through a hole in the sheets. This is a myth that started a long time ago. While the Hasidic movement was still Europe the Hasidics used to hang out their garments on a clothes line, specifically a white garment with a hole in the middle that is where the head goes through. The rumor mill started and this myth was created. In fact, Hasidics regard sex as natural and families tend to be large.

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Islam: living through the teachings of the one and only Allah

boston-magazine-marathon-coverIn the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings Islam is all over the news. Many question the religion as a while while the terrorist acts that are often linked to the religion are carried out by Islam extremists.

The word Islam is translated to “submission to the will of God.” Islam is the second largest world religions with one billion followers following Christianity. Muslims believe that there is only one God and that the one God is called Allah. Muslims teach that God sent prophets to humans to shows us how to live in accordance with his teachings. These prophets include Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the final prophet, Muhammad. The sacred text of the Muslims is the Qur’an.

The five Pillars of Islam are central to the Islamic faith. These Pillars of Faith are:

  • Shahadah: declaration of the faith
  • Salat: praying fives times per day
  • Zakat: paying alms/ giving money to charity to benefit the needy and poor
  • Sawm: fasting during Ramadan (Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during this month Muslims must give up food, drink, smoking, and sexual activity during the daylight hours)
  • Hajj: a pilgrimage to Mecca

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Islam has six main beliefs:

  • belief that there is one God named AllahIndian-Muslims-praying-ed
  • belief in angels
  • belief in the holy books
  • belief in the prophets (Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Muhammad)
  • belief in a Day of Judgement
  • belief in predestination (Allah has knowledge of everything, but that humans have free choice)

Allah is omniscient and omnipotent. Allah cannot be seen or heard, he is just. Muslims connect with Allah through prayer and reciting the Qur’an. The Qur’an is meant to be sung.

One Islamic term that gets thrown around in the media whenever Islam is discussed is Jihad which means holy war. The term Jihad is used in three different references:

  1. a Muslim’s inner struggle to live a proper Islamic
  2. the struggle to build a good society
  3. a “Holy War,” the struggle to defend Islam

crescent-200Islam has guidelines when it comes to war. War is only allowed in self defense, when other nations attack Islam, and if another state oppresses Muslims.

Another characteristic of the Islam faith is hijab which is the covering that is worn by women to cover everything but the hands and face.

Muslim worship takes place in a place called a mosque. Outside of the mosque Muslims must take off their shoes and carry out a ritual washing before prayer. Inside, everyone sits on the floor to create equality among everyone. One wall in the mosque called the mihrab shows the direction of Mecca which all worshipers must face while they pray. Women and men must sit separately to prevent distraction, but most women stay home to pray.

Muslims-Praying

Muslims take firm stances on many ethical issues:

  • against abortion unless it harms the mother’s life
  • capital punishment is exercised, but forgiveness is preferred
  • against euthanasia
  • no central belief in stem cells (Islam does not have a central authority)
  • all living creatures were made by Allah and should be respected
  • no sexual acts are permitted outside of marriage and contraception is allowed between husband and life
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