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Posts Tagged ‘New Religious Movements’

The National Church of Bey: Official Commercial and Indiegogo Campaign

May 28th, 2014 No comments
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A few weeks ago I posted about an Atlanta area church purportedly worshipping music superstar Beyonce Knowles. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and this appears to be one of those times. Or is it? This morning I followed up with the Church’s activities on social media feeds and was delighted to find some new video additions to their portfolio.

Firstly, the official commercial:

I’m still at a loss to explain how the Church is able to use her likeness and brand.  By all accounts Beyonce hasn’t endorsed the Church. The next video, however, has me questioning whether this isn’t some sort of publicity stunt.

At the very least, it’s made the Church of Bey lose any shred of legitimacy it had as a religion, IMO anyway.

Yeah, I know. You’re probably asking yourself ‘how could she even consider The Church of Bey a religious organization?!’ Truth is, I am rather liberal in what I can reasonably accept as a legitimate religion.  Religion is far too complex for rigid definitions. I didn’t feel comfortable suggesting that they shouldn’t be considered a legitimate religion, particularly with the scant information I had available to me. Who am I to judge what another person deems sacred and worthy of worship?

Having said that, the fact that they have managed to start an Indiegogo Campaign to raise funds for a ‘Goddess’ clothing line suggests, to me, that their intentions fall far from divine. I’m not sure how buying t-shirts and bags emblazoned with a giant ‘B’ is going to ‘make a difference.’ There is the idea of religion as commodity, but this seems almost the reverse phenomenon: commodity as religion, perhaps? At any rate, I’m still waiting for the Beyble to be offered to the public.  Now THAT I would be interested in buying. Something tells me though, that it’s going to be full of copyrighted material, and hence will probably never get off the ground.

Bottom line is that I’ve crossed The Church of Bey off as a legitimate religious organization. I’m still not sure if this is a publicity stunt, satirical commentary, or a money-making scheme. I honestly don’t know, but if they are receiving taxpayer funding as a not-for-profit/religious organization, I hope some good citizen takes up the investigation to determine whether that really is a good use of public funds.

M. xo

 

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The National Church of Bey (That’s Beyonce, For the Unindoctrinated)

May 4th, 2014 No comments
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Whether serious or satire, this is certainly a curious piece of news circulating the religion feeds. It also highlights the complexities of defining religion (and perhaps, how not-for-profit religious organizations are granted such status).

Sometime last year, a group of about a dozen Beyonce Knowles fans in Atlanta (GA) formed a church dedicated to Her worship. Practicing what adherents dub, ‘Beyism,’ worshippers meet weekly; sing Her songs; seek spiritual meaning from Her lyrics; and generally worship Her (purportedly also seeking out transcendent assistance with the use of certain herbal aids, cleverly named: ‘Beyha’).

The Church is led by self-titled ‘Minister Diva,’ Pauline John Andrews and is reportedly a registered non-profit organization. A note posted to The National Church of Bey website last month responded to public criticism:

“We are very disappointed in the failure of the public to recognize the existence of a divine Deity walking among them. Deity’s often walk the Earth in their flesh form. Beyonce will transcend back to the spirit once her work here on Mother Earth has been completed.”

The statement goes on to address some misconceptions about the beliefs of ‘Beyists':

“As our congregation continues to swell, we ask that you consider what is more real; an invisible spirit on high, or a walking, talking, breathing Goddess who shows you her true form daily. Beyonce’s spirit is entrancing. We know that she was sent to this place to spread love, peace, and joy. While we do not believe Beyonce to be the Creator, we recognize that she still sits among the throne of Gods. There is a lot of false information being spread about our beliefs, but we will correct all of the vicious lie-tellers. As Beyonce spreads her gospel through song and dance, her message provides uplifting, loving, and many times real-life happenings. We humbly ask you to respect our beliefs, just as you want those to respect yours. Open your mind to new possibilities and you will see, just as we did, that Bey is a true higher power.”

Despite the limited amount of information available on the website regarding the Church’s beliefs, a recent posting suggests that Her divine word will be made available to the public shortly. The Church is organizing the production of a ‘Beyble’ (get it?).

One final note, it’s important to point out that Beyonce Knowles herself has not endorsed this newly minted Church. She may not even be aware of its existence. That doesn’t dissuade Church members from hoping that Queen ‘Bey’ herself might someday preach at one of their sermons.

Want more information on The National Church of Bey?  Check out their website and view their promotional video below.

M. xo

P.S. Please note, that I took liberties in capitalizing the word ‘Her’ when referencing the divine.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the ‘Beyble’ for sale online.  If you’re looking for other ‘Bey’ inspired items, check out:

 

 

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NRMs: Satanism

April 14th, 2013 2 comments
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I hesitated to write this post because I realize that it may cause some controversy and discomfort for some of my readers.  That said, I felt it was an important new religious movement (NRM) to discuss because it aptly demonstrates how beliefs that seemingly contradict our own, or are foreign to us, can lead to the proliferation of misinformation and false accusations.  Besides, I like to ruffle feathers on occasion –  particularly if that feather ruffling might shed some stereotypes.

Of course, some of the first images that are conjured up when one mentions Satanism are of people who worship the Devil.  This has been largely propagated by those who see the Devil as an enemy of mankind and God.  Images of Satanists have also been framed by Hollywood with movies such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.  Yet, some who call themselves Satanists would find those images grossly amusing or offensive.

Satanism as an atheistic philosophy, invokes the imagery of Satan as a metaphor for rebellion, liberation, individualism, and self-indulgence.  Much like the Romantics, modern Satanists view the mythical figure as the bad boy bucking the status quo.  While there are Satanic rituals, they bear little resemblance to those of which tabloid newspapers and Hollywood blockbusters have imagined.  There are no sacrifices or sex rites.  Some rituals are designed for self-transformation and shedding unwanted emotional distress.  Other rituals may be to mark initiations, marriages, births, and deaths.  You know – the same kinds of life events that non-Satanists might honour.  One of the core tenets of the philosophy is individual responsibility for one’s own actions and choices.  Seems fairly reasonable, doesn’t it?

Followers of Satanism are recognized and protected in various countries that value religious freedom.  This, of course, hasn’t been without controversy – particularly in countries that hold a Christian majority.  Rightfully so, given the myths associated with Satan in their sacred stories.  Examining the archetype of Satan though, depicts this figure as not an enemy of God, but rather a counter-voice to a system of belief that has shaped civilizations around the world.  It’s the voice of the minority, the little guy, and the rabble-rouser.

Once again, I have only presented a brief snapshot of this fascinating, but small, movement.  There’s some great (and not so great) resources out there if you’re looking to learn more.  Some of the best comes from  The Church of Satan  and its founder, Anton LaVey who published The Satanic Bible in 1969.  In it, he lays out the nine Satanic Statements:

  1. Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence!
  2. Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
  3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
  4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates!
  5. Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek!
  6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires!
  7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
  8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
  9. Satan has been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years!

These no non-sense, tongue-in-cheek statements are indicative of the kinds of beliefs you’ll find perusing Satanist material.  Of course, Satan himself has a rich history that embodies much of the imagery just presented.  A great documentary that examines The History of the Devil provides fantastic narrative of how this archetype has changed over the millennia.

The History of the Devil:

M. xo

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Holy Daze: World Religion Day (January 20th, 2013) – Bahá’í Faith, Interfaith

January 11th, 2013 No comments
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World Religions

In 1949, The National Spiritual Assembly (a governing body of the Bahá’í Faith in the United States) proclaimed that every year on the third Sunday of January, the Bahá’í community would observe World Religion Day.  Despite this observance being originally founded by the Bahá’í community, it is intended to be celebrated by all the world’s religious traditions. 

It is a day to celebrate the unity of all people of the world and all faiths.  A core message of World Religion Day is “Religion must be the cause of unity”.  Personally, I think this is a wonderful concept.  I hope you will take a moment on this day to reflect on your own faith traditions or viewpoints, while also seeking to understand and appreciate other faiths and viewpoints. 

Various communities throughout North America will be holding interfaith services and celebrations.  If you want to learn more about this inclusive holiday, check out the World Religion Day Web site for more information.

M. xo

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all. Together we stand, divided we fall.” ― Pink Floyd

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.” ― T. H. White, The Once and Future King

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”― Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

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NRMs: Raelism

November 30th, 2012 No comments
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Adam, Eve, and extraterrestrial Elohim

Many of you may be familiar with the Raelian Movement from when they made news in 2002.  A biotechnology company with ties to the Raelians claimed to have cloned the first human baby, a girl named Eve.  Obviously, this created some sensational headlines.

The Raelian Movement was founded in 1974 by Claude Vorillhon who claimed that he had a series of encounters with an extraterrestrial being, named Yahweh, that gave him a mission to bring new information to humanity.  From this encounter, Vorillhon (who subsequently became known as Rael) began writing these messages in a series of books.  Raelism is considered an atheistic, UFO religion.  There is no belief in a god or gods, but rather members believe that humans and life on Earth were created by Elohim, a species of extraterrestrials.  A series of prophets, including Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed were sent by the Elohim to maintain contact with their creation.

Perhaps most interesting is Rael’s reinterpretation of the Bible.   Popular Biblical images are transformed into narratives that rival the best sci-fi epics.  For instance, the Garden of Eden is transformed into a space laboratory where the Elohim created the first humans.  Noah’s ark is said to have been a space craft to escape a flood caused by a nuclear explosion.  The healing powers of Jesus are recounted as laser beams from a far off space ship.  Mary is said to have been artificially inseminated by Yahweh, so too was Rael’s mother (making him and Jesus half-brothers).  Jesus’ resurrection was from cloning of a single cell from his corpse.  The Tower of Babel is depicted as a giant space rocket.  And the list goes on.

If you’re interested in checking out this reinterpretation or the messages Rael received, visit their Web site.  You can download the e-book for free.

There are so many interesting bits of information that I could impart about this particular NRM, but in an effort to keep my post brief, I’ll provide you with some external links in case you happen to be as fascinated as I am about this curious movement.

M. xo

Raelian Official Web site:  http://www.rael.org/ 

Raelian News:  http://raelianews.org/news.php 

Testimonies by ex-Raelians  http://raelian.com/en/

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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NRMs: Jediism

October 23rd, 2012 No comments
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Temple of the Jedi Order symbol

I’ve wanted to write about this new religion for a while now.  Mostly because it was inspired by one of the greatest movie franchises in the history of cinema, but also because I keep company with various geeks, freaks, and assorted fanboys/girls who I thought would appreciate this post.  That being said, let’s chat about Jediism.

Now before you start snickering, I’d like to point out that on January 12th, 2009 the Canadian government officially recognized Jediism as a religion.  This past March, the United States followed suit and recognized Jediism as a nonprofit religious organization.  This may have been the result of a grassroots movement in 2001 to encourage people to write down Jedi as their religious affiliation on national censuses.  The movement was so successful that 21,000 Canadians indicated their religion as Jedi.  In other countries, the numbers were much more impressive.  For instance, in 2001 New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi followers, even eclipsing those who identified with two major world religions – Buddhism and Hinduism.

Certainly, the movement has had its critics – particularly those from the irreligious persuasion who believe that their own numbers are being under-recorded due to non-religious folks indicating Jedi as a joke or novel answer to the question.  Make no mistake – practitioners of this religion are serious about their faith.

Jediism, like many other religions, has different variations between groups.  Most groups draw inspiration from the Lucas films, such as the belief in the Force and possibility of interaction with the Force.  The manifestation of this belief appears to take on different contexts.   Perhaps most interesting about this NRM is the drawing from a wide variety of religious beliefs.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jediism, there are several sites you can visit.

The Temple of The Jedi Order purports to be the first international church of Jediism.  Quoting from their website, “We are real Jedi.  We believe in Peace, Justice, Love, Learning and using our abilities for Good. We are not fictional Jedi, nor are we role playing. We live our lives according to the principles of Jediism and work together as a community to both cultivate and celebrate.”

The Order of the Jedi, is a Canadian-based organization; however it considers itself a worldwide Order.  A description of a Jedi taken from their Web site, “[…] is someone who believes in an energy that surrounds, binds, penetrates, and encompasses all living things. A Jedi believes in the greater good, and always tries to follow the light or positive energy. Jedi do not discriminate, all are welcome.”

As I stated previously, Jediism isn’t without its critics.  Members have also been subject to some highly publicized religious discrimination.  In the video posted below, a news station provides coverage of a Jedi follower who was asked to remove his hood at a job center.  He was subsequently escorted from the premises when he refused to comply.  Self-proclaimed Jediism founder, Daniel Jones is also interviewed in this segment.

May the Force be with you…

M. xo

Jedi follower discriminated against & Jediism Founder interviewed:

Image Source: Temple of the Jedi Order

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NRMs: Fellowship of Isis

September 29th, 2012 No comments
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Founded in 1976 at Clonegal Castle, Ireland, the Fellowship of Isis (FOI) was formed to foster closer unity between individuals and the Goddess.  The founders include former clergy with the Anglican Church, Lawrence Durdin-Robertson (1920-1994); his wife and clairvoyant, Pamela (1923-????); and Lawrence’s older sister and surviving founder, Olivia Robertson (1917-).  Claiming a hereditary lineage to the priesthood of Ancient Egypt, these Anglo-Irish aristocrat descendants sought to form a fellowship that embraced all religions, cultures, and traditions.  This still remains an integral part of their manifesto, as members are free to maintain other religious allegiances.

FOI is organized on a democratic basis, whereby all members are equal.  Further, the FOI does not require that members take any vows or commitments to secrecy.   Both men and women can seek initiation as priests or priestesses.  Membership is free, and members can resign at any point.  The number of members throughout the fellowship’s history is murky, in part due to poorly kept records; however, some sources claim over 50,000 members.

Love, Beauty, and Truth, are engrained in the Fellowship’s manifesto.  Further, it seeks “to develop friendliness, psychic gifts, happiness, and compassion for all life.”

Over the years, the Fellowship has grown to include a network of daughter societies, many of which honour a specific Goddess and/or God.  In addition, the FOI network includes “colleges” which carry out the liturgy and training of priests and priestesses.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Fellowship, you can visit the Fellowship of Isis Web site which has numerous photos and writings.  There are also a host of affiliated sites that can provide more in-depth information.  Below is a short video that provides a great introduction to the Fellowship of Isis.

M. xo

Fellowship of Isis:

Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons

 

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NRMs: New Religious Movements

September 23rd, 2012 No comments
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If you’ve perched here before, you’ll know that I find religion a fascinating subject matter.  One of the most intriguing (at least to me) areas is New Religious Movements (NRMs).  These movements are popularly referred to as cults; however, due to the inherent negative connotations associated with the word, I’m going to refrain from using it.

Typically, these religions are considered minority in the scope of the world’s religious landscape, and they are relatively new in the sense that they usually weren’t established over a millennia or so ago.  Some NRMs do claim to originate from centuries old beliefs; however, their existence and proliferation is, generally, relatively recent.  Of course, as with many other aspects of religion, there is much debate among scholars concerning the scope, prevalence, and definition of NRMs.  Within the mainstream and popular media, there are many misconceptions and negative stereotypes regarding NRMs.  This is in large part due to the highly sensationalized portrayal of some rare and extreme cases of violent, abusive, and sometime bizarre behaviour by NRM leaders and followers.

That being said, I’ve decided that I want to write a regular series of posts that provide a brief overview of some NRMs, and some of their leaders.  I will not be engaging in debate about any group’s validity as a religion.  As I’ve previously indicated, religion is hard to define, so what you might call religion, someone else may not.  The sole purpose of these posts will be to introduce you to something new, and to try and dispel the myth that all NRMs are somehow dangerous, violent or engaged in brainwashing of their members.  Chances are you will not agree with the practices of many of these groups.  That’s fine.  The point is that simply branding all NRMs as inherently the same is narrow-minded.  In the same sense, tarnishing the image of all members of an NRM because of the actions of a few individuals is also narrow-minded.   So, I hope that you’ll try to keep an open-mind as we peck into this intriguing area of study.

For me, NRMs speak to the diversity and creativity of human beings in trying to make sense of the world and their part in it.  It also speaks to the freedoms that many of us enjoy.  So, let’s not engage in debate about the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’, and instead, let’s engage in learning something new about our fellow human beings.

So, stay tuned in the coming days as I introduce you to the incredibly diverse milieu of New Religious Movements.

Cheers! M. xo

 

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