Tag Archives: United States

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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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