Monthly Archives: April 2013

Atheism: God is a man-made construct to guide human morality

Ricky Gervais, well-known atheist, comedian, actor, producer and director, wrote an interesting article in 2010 for The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog about what it means to be atheist.

EXTRAS: Ricky Gervais. photo: Ray Burmiston

In his article “A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist,” Gervais discusses how Jesus was a bigger hero to him more than any pop star or foot ball player. Gervais depicts his poverty-stricken upbringing saying: “You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So being them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.” Gervais concludes his article by discussing the idea of “goodness.” He says “I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When I became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.” You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.”

bjnPO

Atheists like Ricky Gervais believe God is man-made, a myth, a legend, or that it a God’s existence doesn’t matter. Atheists cite many reasons for their non-belief. According to the BBC the following are some of those reasons:Morality-and-Religion-atheism-27554447-720-540

  • they find insufficient evidence to support religion
  • they think religion is nonsensical
  • they lost faith in their religion
  • they live in a non-religious culture
  • religion isn’t interesting to them
  • religion isn’t relevant to their lives
  • religion seems to have done harm in the world
  • the world is a bad place so there can’t possibly be a God

While Atheists don’t believe in God, some believe in other spiritual movements like Buddhism and Taoism. Atheists find the answers to the university through humanity. Atheists generally believe that a faith in God are unnecessary. They argue that science explains everything that exists in the Universe.

One noted atheist Ludwig Feuebach argued in 1841 that God was a human invention that we created to help us deal with aspirations and fears. He believed that humans began to feel inferior to a perfect God which alienated them from their true selves.

386390_187913671298210_248115155_n

Many of the usual ceremonies are religiously laced, but atheists and spiritualist movements without Gods have made the move to God-less ceremonies. Many of these people have humanist wedding ceremonies which allow more personalization because there are no religious words shared. Many of these ceremonies include music, introduction to the importance of marriage and partnership, readings of commitment between the bride and groom, an exchange of rings, candle-lighting and sometimes a hand-fasting ritual. A humanist funeral celebrates the person’s life and their contributions to the world. The funeral is likely to conclude: music, poetry readings, a eulogy, moments of silence and reflection and a formal goodbye.

TS-QUOTES-einstein2

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Santeria: nourishing Orishas to become closer to God

You’ve heard in a Sublime song, but what is Santeria all about?

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that formed out of the slave trade in Cuba. Santeria is translated to “Way of the Saints” and it has some Catholic influences. It is considered “syncretic” because the religion blends elements from many different faiths.

seven-orishas

Santeria is based on the relationships between humans and powerful spirits called Orishas. Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishnas and the manifestation of Olodumare, their God. They believe that certain rituals can enlist the help of Orishas.

The religion is area in Cuba through Yoruba traditions that were brought to the country by the enslaved Africans. Santeria is an interesting blend of religions, because the enslaved did not convert, but instead blended religions. For a long time Santeria was a secret religion, but over the past 15 years it has expanded. The slaves kept their own rituals like dancing, drumming, speaking and eating with the spirits. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 it has spread to many other countries including the United States. The population of those practicing Santeria is unknown and there is no central organization. Santeria also does not have holy scripture. The religion is based in oral tradition and is passed through word-of-mouth.

101029_tch_santeria-zoom.grid-6x2

Some of the blending in Santeria comes from Catholicism. There are some Catholic influences on Santeria including the incorporation of some Catholic symbols. Sometimes those who follow Santeria are also Roman Catholic. Santeria also worships some of the Catholic Saints:mainpromo

  • Saint Barbara/ Shango: justice and strength, associated with lightning and fire
  • Our Lady of Charity/ Ochun: Yoruba goddess of the river, associated with water, yellow, sweets, money and love
  • Saint Lazarus/ Bablu-Aye: associated with the sick

One central element of Santeria is animal sacrifice. Followers sacrifice animals as food in order to build a good relationship with Orishas. The process of sacrifice brings the worshiper closer to the Orishna.santeria2 Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishas are similar to living beings. They need food, nourishment and praise in order to stay alive. Sacrifices are performed for life events like birth, marriage and death and also for healing. Animal sacrifices are completed in a certain ways; the animal is killed by cutting the carotid artery with a knife. After the ritual is performed, the animal is cooked and eaten. Those who practice Santeria see it as sharing the sacrifice with the Orisha. The Orisha is nourished by the blood and the worshiper is nourished by the meat. Sacrificial animals include: chickens, pigeons, doves, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, and turtles.

Although there is no central organization, there are a some buildings and houses devoted to the faith. Rituals are usually done in a house called the casa or ile which is generally the house of a senior Santeria priest. Santeria priesthood includes both men and women because they can either be called babalorisha which means Father in the Spirit or iyalorisha which means Mother/Wife in the Spirit. They are also sometimes called Santero and Santera which is the Spanish translation of the work priest in the masculine and feminine forms.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Spiritualism: physical beings connecting with the ever-present soul

You’ve seen them on the boardwalk and you’ve seen them on TV shows like “Long Island Medium,” but is there any truth in those who practice Spiritualism?

Possibly one of the most recognized Spiritualists is the star of Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo. She claims that spirits began coming to her when she was just four years old. For many years, Caputo says she struggled with anxiety until she became a student of Pat Longo, a spiritual healer/ teacher who taught her about her ability to communicate with spirits. Since that time, Caputo has gone on to build a career out of her unique abilities and now tours the United States providing people with spiritual readings. When she is not touring she lives with her family in Long Island.

long-island-medium_original

Spiritualism is a modernist movement that grew out of Hydesville, NY in 1848. Spiritualism centers on communication with the spirits of the dead. In the 19th century séances were performed to connect with these people. Today, we communicate with spirits through people who have a special skill set called mediums, like Theresa Caputo.

Spiritualism

There are three ways the mediums can receive messages. Clairvoyance which is seeing spirits. Clairaudience which is hearing spirits, and clairsentience which is sensing spirits in some other way.

Spiritualism does not have a sacred text. Although all Spiritualists have a variety of beliefs most believe in the following key ideas:Psychic-Reading-Mediumship-Readings-Perth-Wa

  • the spirit can communicate with the living
  • every human soul survives death of body and enters the spirit world
  • souls can communicate with the living through a medium
  • souls are interested in the material world
  • souls are aware and interested in the lives they have left behind
  • after death a soul can keep learning and improving itself

Specifically, the United States’ National Association of Spiritualist Churches has nine core principles:

  • belief in infinite intelligence
  • belief that nature is a physical and spiritual expression of infinite intelligence
  • a correct understanding of the expression of infinite intelligence and living in accordance with that expression constitutes true religion
  • communication with spirits is a fact
  • the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you do ye also unto them.”
  • every individual has moral responsibility and is responsible for their own happiness
  • reformation of the soul never stops
  • belief in the prophecy and healing contained in all sacred texts

The number of practicing Spiritualists is unknown, but the BBC reports that Spiritualism is the eight largest religion in the UK.

spiritualism-grangerThere are Spiritualist churches where Spiritualism is practiced. There is a service held every Sunday that usually consists of prayers, hymns, and a reading or talk from a medium who connects the physical world to the spiritual world.

Naturally, the validity of this practice is controversial and there are many skeptics of Spiritualism. Although many may not consider Spiritualism a religion, Spiritualism has “rituals, doctrinal components, belief in a transcendent realm and an experiential dimension,” according to the BBC. Spiritualists have two main churches, one in the United Kingdom called the Spiritualists’ National Union and in the United States called the National Association of Spiritualist Churches.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Zoroastrianism: disappearing religion of Persian empire

Zoroastrianism, once the official religion of the Persian empire, is now one of the smallest religions in the world. The New York Times reported in 2006 that there were less than 190,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. Zoroastrianism is one of the monotheistic religions and has existed for more than 3,500 years. The religion was one of the most powerful religions for over 1,000 years. The central ideas of Zoroastrianism are summed up as “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”

Zoroastrians believe in one God who they call Ahura Mazda which translated to the Wise Lord. They believe that he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, impossible for humans to conceive, unchanging, the creator of life and the source of all goodness. They believe that he created the world. Zoroastrians believe that God’s truth was revealed through Zoroaster.

Frvhar

Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Iran during a time when most religions had multiple gods. Zoroaster was considered a family man. He was married and had three sons and three daughters. Zoroaster had a vision at tumblr_lsu0mdDVQu1qlziglo1_400age 30 while he performed a bathing ritual for pagan purification. He saw a shining being on the shore made of light. It was revealed to him as Vohu Manah which means the Good Mind. The vision transformed Zoroasters life and faith. He spent the rest of his life trying to teach others his new views.

The holy book is called the Avesta. This book contains the Gathas, which are 17 hymns that are thought to be written by Zoroaster. It also contains The Younger Avesta which is a book of commentaries on older writings that contains myths and stories.

The religion focuses on the idea of dualism. They believe in the existence and complete separation of good and evil. There are two types. Cosmic dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the universe while moral dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the mind. The cosmic dualism is a battle between good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu) in the zoroastrianism-was-the-religion-during-most-of-the-persian-empireuniverse. Examples of this are life and death, and day and night. One cannot exist without the other. Moral dualism is the battle between good and evil within man. Zoroastrians believe that humans all have free will and that we make choices to either follow evil (druj) or good (asha). Following druj will lead to a life of misery and condemn you to Hell while a life of asha leads to happiness and Heaven. Through every choice evil can be eliminated. Although these opposing forces exist, Zoroastrianism believes that humans are ultimately good and that good always wins over evil.

Fire is important to Zoroastrianism because they believe in the elements and that fire represents God’s light and wisdom

zoro-temple-of-yazd-iran-wp-gfdl

Zoroastrian worship takes place in a Fire Temple called Agiary. They pray several times a day. Most Zoroastrians go through a purification process of washing the hands before prayer. Zoroastrians should pray while facing the sun because it is symbolic of divine light.

Navjote_Ceremony-25768

When Zoroastrians turn seven they have a Navjote, or an initiation ceremony. During the initiation children receive a shirt, called a sudreh, and a cord, called a kusti. By this time children should already know the daily prayers and should engage in the ceremony rituals.

parsi-wedding-ceremony

Zoroastrian weddings have two stages. The two stages are the signing of the marriage contract and a service of feast and celebration that lasts between three and seven days. Both the bride and the groom dress in white to show purity.

Zoroastrians are world known for their ritual DSC_5002of “laying out the dead.” They believe that once someone stops breathing the body becomes impure because death is a work of evil. They do not believe in contaminating the world with dead bodies. Instead, Zoroastrians lay out the body in a tower called dokhma, which is translated as “Tower of Silence.” The bodies are then exposed to the sun and eaten by birds.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baha’i: unity for the greater good of humanity

bahai9religions1_210w-copy

Bahá’i one of the world’s youngest religions. There are 6 million Bahá’is in the world spread over 235 countries. The faith was born out of the Shi’ite branch of the Muslim faith.

bahafaceIt was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 1863. Bahá’u’lláh is translated to the glory of God in Arabic. He was born in Mirza Husayn Ali, Iran in 1817 and he claims he is a messenger of God. His message to the people was that a final messenger of God would soon arrive and that this messenger would be the last in the line of God’s prophets.

Bahá’í religion believes that God intervenes in human life in order to communicate with his messengers. He is known to his people through the prophets. Bahá’is believe that there is only one God and that he is the same God of every religion only with a different name. God is perfect, all-knowing, and too complex for humans to understand.

Bahá’i includes some interesting teachings. Bahá’is believe that all souls live forever and that we are all form the same race. They believe that on day we will all be united. Although we are all different, Bahá’is believe that we are all equal. Bahá’ís believe that the final stage of evolution for humans is to recognize that we are one.

At the time of this religion, Iran was mainly Muslim. Bahá’í is open to all religions nineReligioussymbolsand believes that all religions have valid origins. All religion has the same foundation. They believe that God’s prophets bring humanity God’s message as fully as possible. They call these people the Manifestations of God. These people include:

  • Adam
  • Abraham
  • Moses
  • Krishna
  • Zoroaster
  • Buddha
  • Jesus Christ
  • Muhammad
  • The Báb
  • Bahá’u’ll’áh

Bahá’ís believe that all human souls are infinite. They believe that the soul does not live in the body. There is a connection between body and soul that cannot be explained in words and this connection begins at conception. Bahá’ís practice fasting for the soul. The practice of self-restraint brings them closer to God. Bahá’u’lláh created a 19-day period of fasting that happens before the Bahá’i New Year. Those who are elderly, very young or pregnant do not need to participate in the fasting.

A central idea that lies behind the religion is unity. Bahá’is believe that all people should work together for the greater good and benefit of others.

Pray

Prayer is very important to the Bahá’í life. They believe that prayer is a conversation with God and the inner spirit. They believe prayers should be short and happy. The aim of prayer is to become closer with God. Bahá’ís believe that that prayers should be said three times a day, in the morning, at noon and at night. Bahá’í also stresses the need for meditation. Bahá’ís should meditate at least once a day to think about life and about their actions for that day. They believe meditation can lead to deeper knowledge and spirituality. Bahá’ís believe that service to others if a form of worship. There are no rituals in Bahá’í. In fact, they believe that ritual leads to meaningless service.

baskaran wedding

Marriage is viewed as a a marriage of both body and spirit. Arranged marriages are not allowed in the Bahá’í faith. Marriage must happen between two people who have spent time getting to know each other. Although divorce is not banned, they are strongly against it. The Bahá’í community is very child-centered. The parents and the community are both involved in the up bringing of children. Bahá’ís believe that the most important task in life is to have children and raise them. Bahá’ís give their children a sense of self-worth. Children are involved in all parts of family life, including family decision making. Bahá’ís are not allowed to discipline children physically or hurt them verbally.

6817-800

Anyone can become Bahá’í so long as they believe in Bahá’u’lláh and his teachings. Converts do not need to convert. They must only accept that their previous faith need reformation.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jains: achieving liberation through harmlessness

jj

Jainism, is an ancient Indian religion that centers on the idea of liberation through harmlessness. The aim of Jainism is to liberate the soul by avoiding bad karma. Jains are also highly concerned with the well being of all things living and non-living. The 2001 Census of India found that India has the largest population of Jains at 4.2 million. Jainism has two major sects: Digambara, “the sky clad,” and Svetambara, “the white clad.” Jainism has been declining since the growth of Hinduism in India

asdf

Jains do not believe in any type of God or spiritual being. Jains believe that every animal, plant and person contains a soul and that all souls are equal. For this reason, Jains are also strict vegetarians.

The Jains call the soul the jiva and they believe everything has a soul. Jiva means a conscious, living soul. Ajiva refers to the soul of non-living objects. They believe that the soul lasts forever and that souls are responsible for actions. Jains believe that every soul is individual in itself and that there are an infinite number of souls in the world. Souls don’t have bodies and they are infinite, meaning that they have infinite knowledge, infinite power, and infinite bliss. They are perfect beings.

mahaviraMahavira reformed and popularized Jainism. He was born in Vardhamana in 599 B.C.E. and was the son of King Siddhartha. After living as a prince for 30 years he decided to leave his royal palace to live as a sahana. Sahanas live an ascetic life and they reject worldly pleasures and comforts. Mahavira lived ascetically for 12 years and engaged in fasting and meditation until he finally reached enlightenment. The Agamas are the texts of Mahavira’s teachings.

Jains believe in the idea of reincarnation in the afterlife. The central concept in Jainism is to reach ultimate liberation and escape the cycle of rebirth. The Jain soul can only become liberated when it is detached from bad karma. Jains want their souls to live in bliss which is only possible if the bad karma ismed_gallery_2395_1452_159998 removed. Karma determines the quality of life. Jains have a different view on karma than most other religions. Jains believe that karma is like a physical substance that can actually build up on the soul. We attract karma through our bad actions. An accumulation can cause us to have bad thoughts, emotions, and vices. The goal of the Jain life it to “chip away” at this karma that has built up until the soul is liberated.

Three guiding principals called the “three jewels” rule the Jain life. The “three jewels” are: right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. Jains also have the Five Great Vows, sometimes called the mahavratas. The Five Great Vows are: non-violence, non-attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing and sexual restraint. The most important of these is the principle of non-violence called ahism because of their belief that everything has an individual soul.

mainpromo

For Jains, nothing is every created or destroyed. Everything changes forms, but exists forever. Jains believe that history is cyclical.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rastafari: liberation of misplaced black community

Many link the spread of Rastafarianism back to Bob Marley. The religion was spread globally after he incorporated it into some of his music in the 1970s. Since this time, Rastafarians have become trademarked by their use of marijuana, their dreadlocks and the Rastafarian colors.

Bob+Marley++smile

Rastafarians go by a variety of names, including Rastafarians, Rastas, Sufferers, Locksmen, Dreads or Dreadlocks. Rastafari is an African centered developed in Jamaica by Marcus Garvey, a political activist. This religions follows Haile Selassie I and believe that he is their God. 3763862438_efa33b6082Rastafaris believe that Haile Selassie will bring back black people back to Africa who have been displaced from their home due to colonization and slave trade. Haile Selassie was never a Rastafarian and did not think of himself as God, but to Rastafarians he is considered the God of the black race. Rastafarians believe blacks are the chosen people of God and that it is their concern to bring them all back to Africa. There are about one million followers worldwide.

Rastafarians don’t have a religious building, but they usually meet weekly in a community center or someone’s house. These meetings are called Reasoning sessions or Nyabingi meetings._1076641_rastas300 Usually, the people gathered chant, say prayers, sing and discuss community issues. Marijuana is usually used during these meetings and there is a large feast. Marijuana has religious significance to Rastafarians who usually call it “wisdom weed” or the “holy herb.” They believe that it increases the feeling of community and that it produces visions of religious and calming nature. Rastafarians are identified by the rasta colors: red, green, gold and black.

Red: signifies the blood lost of those killed for the cause of the black communityimages

Green: signifies Jamaica’s vegetation and the hope for the end of suppression

Gold: symbolizes the wealth of Ethiopia

Black: symbolizes the Africans who initiated Rastafari

There is no uniform Rastafari creed, but there is a list from “The Rastafarians, The Dreadlocks of Jamaica” by Leonard Barrett who lists the six basic principles of Rastafarianism. However, the following list is about 30 years old and many of these beliefs are either no longer practiced or viewed differently by modern Rastafarians.

  1. Haile Selassie is the Living God
  2. The Black person is the reincarnation of ancient Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been in exile in Jamaica
  3. The White person is inferior to the Black person
  4. Jamaica is hell; Ethiopia is heaven: believe Ethiopia is their homeland and they want to returnmarley_brothers
  5. The Invincible Emperor of Ethiopia is now arranging for expatriated persons of African origin to return to Ethiopia
  6. In the near future Blacks shall rule the world

A more modern version was published by Joseph Owens in 1973 and was revised in 1991. The follow are the key ideas of contemporary Rastafarians:

  • The humanity of God and the divinity of man: Haile Selassie is a living God and God reveals himself through humanity
  • God is found in every man
  • God in history: history alligns with God and his workings
  • Salvation on earth: salvation is something that happens on earth, not in Heaven
  • The supremacy of life: human life should be protected and preserved
  • Respect of nature: nature is important and shold be resepected
  • The power of speech: enables the power of God
  • Evil is coporate: they believe places like the International Monetary Fund are to blame for Jamaica’s financial situation
  • Judgement is near
  • The priesthood of Rastafarians: chosen people of God305749_10151415173997887_351286127_n

 

Women have a special role in Rastafarianism. Early Rastafarians would have abided strictly by the following rules, but modern Rastafarians give women more freedom:

  • Women are regarded as Queens
  • The main duty of the woman is to look after her KingI-Threes-e1328732236112
  • Women are subordinate to men
  • Women should keep the house and have children
  • Women must not commit infidelity
  • Women cannot be leaders
  • Men are the head of the household
  • Women cannot cook for their husbands while menstruating
  • Women cannot wear make up, use chemicals in her hair or dress promiscuously
  • Women cannot use birth control
  • Women must never get an abortion because it is considered murder
  • Women have to cover their hair when they pray

 

Rasta_Man_by_epinephrine_eyesMany Rastafarians are trademarked by their dreadlocks because are forbiddento cut there hair. They grow their hair out long and then create the dreadlocks look. Rastfarians also oppose abortion and contraception. The Rastafarian diet is very strict. All food must be clean and naturally produced. They must avoid all meats especially pork and abstain from all alcohol. Prepared food cannot be made with salt and is usually cooked with coconut oil. They eat fish very often, but will not eat fish that are more than 12 inches long. Rastafarians also will not drink milk or coffee but will drink that is herbal and naturally made from roots.

Children born into the Rastafari tradition are blessed at a Nyabingi session with chanting an prayer. There is also no structured form of marriage. If a man and woman live together they are considered husband and wife. When a Rastafari dies there is no such thing as a funeral because they believe in reincarnation after death and that life eternal.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Buddhism: following in the enlightened footsteps of Siddhartha Gautama

What do Tiger Woods, Orlando Bloom and Steve Jobs all have in common? They’re all Buddhists!

36b28c8e8f4f615aa2cd8631d6ef200c

Buddhism focuses on spiritual development and is absent of worship to any God or deity. The goal of this religion is to reach nirvana by following a similar life path as Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, in his journey towards enlightenment in the 6th century BC. Nirvana is translated as “extinguish and is understood to mean a passing into another kind of existence.  The path to enlightenment is reached through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhism is over 2,500 years old and there are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhism focuses on the idea that nothing is permanent and that everything in life is always changing. Life is endless and always subject to the three states called tilakhana. These states are impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The three states are the sign of our existence which is endless. Buddhists believe that the major form of suffering in life is believing that a good thing can last. Nothing stays in a state of good or bad forever.

tumblr_ljebfrHAkg1qahnmzo1_500The Buddha was Siddhartha Gaurtama, a member of the royal family. Gaurtama lived a rich and privileged life and rarely left his enclosed area. When he did one day he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse and understood the suffering of the world He decided to become a monk and adopted extreme asceticism. After years of understanding that asceticism was not the answer, Gaurtama began following the idea of the “Middle Way”; living a life that is absent of both luxury and poverty. Gaurtama was enlightened and is now known as the Buddha which is translated to the “awakened one.”

The two largest schools of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Although there are a number of different Buddhist schools they all seek englightenment.

Most of the Buddha’s teachings are translated into The Four Noble Truths which are central to Buddhism. These are the truths the Buddha understood on his path to enlightenment through meditation:

  1. Dukkha: the truth is sufferingbuddhism
  2. Samudaya: the truth of the origin
  3. Nirodha: the truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. Magga: the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

Buddhism asks us to understand that suffering is a part of life and that the origin of that suffering is truth. In the third Noble Truth, the Buddha promists a cure for the suffering and the fourth Noble Truth is what fixes truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is a guideline of how to live ethically and free of suffering in pursuit of truth. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path Buddhists achieve a higher level of existence and can reach Nirvana. The eight parts of the Path are not steps that go in order, but instead principles that work together.

  1. right viewtumblr_m4jfup1pDQ1r0kx5qo1_1280
  2. right intention
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration

Another central concept in Buddhism is karma. The idea behind karma is that what we have done in our past lives can affect our current life in either a positive or negative manner. Buddhism usually explains this idea in relation to good and bad seeds. Good seeds lead good fruit while bad seeds yield bad fruit. Karma decides where the person is born in their next life. A life of good karma can lead to being born among the heavenly while bad karma can lead to rebirth as an animal or in hell. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to get out of the rebirth cycle. It is through our own actions that we determine which way we move in our next life. Motives should be based on: compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness and wisdom.

buddhist-temple2

Worship takes place at a Buddhist temple although you do not have to go to the temple to worship. Many Buddhists have a room at their home that is dedicated to worship. Temples are designed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, earth, water and wisdom. Usually worshipers sit barefoot on the floor facing an image of the Buddha.

Meditation is another central aspect of Buddhism. It is a mental and physical course of action that helps a person to separate their thoughts and feelings. Meditation is good therapy for mental and physical health. Meditation is the idea of simply being and not thing.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

– The Buddha

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scientology: Tom Cruise’s beliefs, religion or cult?

Katie-Tom-Cruise-Suri-Divorce

Scientology was the talk of the town last year when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split. Scientology was put in the limelight when media began reporting that Holmes scientology_027allegedly left her husband because they had been arguing about Suri, their daughter, joining the church. Other famous Scientologists include Kirstie Alley, Juliette Lewis and John Travolta.

Scientology, a controversial religion that teaches that human beings have forgotten their true nature, was created by Ron Hubbard in 1952. Scientology has beliefs and practices that are based on research and science. Since beginning in the 1950s Scientology has spread to Britain, Ireland, South Africa and Australia. In the sixties it was banned in some parts of Australia for hypnosis and it still remains banned in some parts of the country.

Hubbard developed Scientology after his self-help system Dianetics. Both Dianetics and Scientology use a form of rehabilitation called “auditing.” During auditing, they re-experience painful or traumatic experiences and events as a way to move on from the past. Auditing is only available to members after a specified donation. This was seen as a new form of psychotherapy.

1bKSn

Scientologists believe that our souls, called “thetans” reincarnate after death and that they have lived on other planets before Earth in a previous lifetime. Scientologists also observe events like weddings, child naming and funerals which are performed by ordained Scientology ministers.

They also believe in two divisions within the mind: the reactive mind and the analytical mind. The reactive mind stores mental images and absorbs pain and emotional trauma. These memories are not available to the analytical mind and are called engrams. The analytical mind is rational and responsible for consciousness. Engrams are considered painful and debilitating. When engrams are accumulated people move away from who they truly are. In order to stop this, auditing is necessary to move towards what is called the “clean state.”

auditing-session

Scientology also studies personalities. Hubbard believed that about 80 percent of people had social personalities. People with this personality are people who contribute to the welfare of others. He also believed that 20 percent of people were suppressive personalities. Of this 20 percent, only 2.5 percent are considered to have a hopelessly antisocial personality. These people are are truly dangerous people who are evil. Those who go against Scientology are called suppressive people. Katie Holmes was labeled this after her break up with Tom Cruise.

The religions uses the Scientology cross which says “the horizontal bar represents the material universe, and the vertical bar represents the spirit. Thus the spirit is seen to be rising triumphantly, ultimately transcending the turmoil of the physical universe to achieve salvation.”

scientology-islam

In 1953 Hubbard incorporated three churches in Camden, New Jersey, and in 1954 he set up the first church called the Church of Scientology of California. The Church of Scientology claimed in 2005 that they had 8 million followers worldwide with 3.5 million followers in the United States. A survey in 2001 found that there were only 55,000 Scientologists in the United States.

lisa

Scientology gets a lot of criticism and some people even say that it’s not a religion, but a cult. The religion is learned through studying Scientology materials that are separated in advancing levels that become increasingly harder. This process is called the Bridge to Total Freedom and it has two sides: training and processing. Training is the education received about Scientology principles and the practice of auditing while processing is the personal development that results from training. It is necessary for members to make donations to study and move up the Bridge to Total Freedom. The later teachings are not reveals until members have paid thousands of dollars. For this reason, most Scientologists only move up the bridge so far as their income allows. The official memorial page for Lisa McPherson also blames Scientology for her death. McPherson died of pulmonary embolism while under the care of the Flag Service Organization which is a branch of the Church of Scientology

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unitarian Universalists: leaders in marriage equality

da8ce636862a4f824ea2d5264b3bf751

Gay marriage is nothing new for Unitarian Universalists. Two female Unitarian ministers got national media attention in 2004 after illegally marrying gay couples without marriage licenses.

Unitarian Univeralism is an open-minded, individualistic approach to religion that grew out of the Protestant Reformation which began in Poland and Transylvania in the 1560s. There are about 800,000 Unitarian Universalists worldwide and 225,000 in the United States. Most Unitarians blend concepts from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other humanistic and pagan, earth-centered religions. Unitarianism is a movement that is heavily influence by the ideas of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Other famous Universalists include Sylvia Plath and John Quincy Adams.

fc649a3db2af460909e009bd76a3623c

Unitarians are a highly tolerant group of people who are accepting of others beliefs. They believe that everyone is free to search for the meaning of life and come to conclusions in their own way. They stress that followers should seek truth and meaning through intellect and life. Unitarians believe that religions should be “broad, inclusive, and tolerant.”

There are no standard set of beliefs or central creed so people from all kinds of religions can be Unitarian Universalists. In Unitarian Universalism whatever you believe whatever you feel is right. The very core of Unitarian Universalism is that you have the freedom to believe what you believe. Unitarians are extremely skeptical that one religion could possess the whole truth. Unitarians believe that religion should be a blending of two or more ideologies, although most Unitarians identify with the idea of the Holy Spirit. Unitarians promote the Seven Principles and Purposes:

9ee46b917e874f661379d94aa66424daThe inherent worth and dignity of every person;

  • justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  • a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  • the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
  • respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Although there is no central creed, all Unitarians support freedom and religious thought. Religious ideas must be based on rational thought and formed through the conscience, thinking and life experiences. All Unitarians must also be tolerant of others religious beliefs. Unitarians have differing views of God, but most identify with one of the following:

  • the principle that unites all things
  • the ground of existence
  • the source of original and ongoing creation
  • the ultimate good
  • the ideals and aspirations of humanity
  • a loving power with which human beings can have a personal relationship
  • the still small voice within each of us
  • a great mystery

Unitarians see no conflict between faith and knowledge. Most believe that religion and science are rooted in one reality. They also reject original sin and do not believe that humans have fallen from grace. Unitarians also do not believe that we must be dependent on God for salvation.

061113_banner550One central belief in Unitarian Universalism is the belief that religion should make a difference and that actions speak louder than words. For these reasons, many Universalists are strongly active in social justice issues, like equal rights for gay couples and gender equality, and community work. Unitarians use gender-inclusive language and concepts from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions. The Unitarians were the first group of people to accept women ministers in 1904.

sinkford334

Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey went to court in 2004 after becoming the first two ministers to be prosecuted in the United States for performing same sex marraiges. Both women were Unitarian Universalists. They were charged with multiple accounts of marriage without a license. The two women would have faced fines up to $500 and a year in jail, but the charges were dropped later that year.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,