Tag Archives: funeral

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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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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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.”

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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.

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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.

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