Tag Archives: God

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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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.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Baha’i: unity for the greater good of humanity

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jains: achieving liberation through harmlessness

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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