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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

God Hates…. Shrimp?!?

March 5th, 2013 No comments
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churchsignIn one of my classes we’ve been examining what the Bible says about various hot button topics including homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and the environment.  Despite what many people on both sides of these debates say, the Bible doesn’t necessarily speak to many of these issues.  Various interpretations and translations over the years have skewed or taken these topics completely out of context.  Personally, I take issue with a literal or fundamental view of the Bible – particularly when those adhering to such worldviews attempt to take away freedoms or oppress people based on these ancient writings.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t find value in Scripture, but it does mean that I don’t believe that laws should be based solely on Biblical interpretations.  We must be careful in how we give relevancy to the Bible.

In response to some of these groups (WBC comes to mind), parody sites have turned the table, so to speak.  One such site points out that you can’t pick and choose what is an abomination in order to satisfy some social agenda.  It’s either all, or nothing.  The God Hates Shrimp parody site provides a tongue-in-cheek look at two Biblical passages that suggest that God forbids the consumption of all shellfish, thus we are Divinely mandated to boycott any restaurant that is serving up these abominations.  Remove the bib, put down the claw cracker, and repent your sins.  And while you’re at it, wipe that butter off your chin…

pinchsuckburn

M. xo

Images provided by: God Hates Shrimp

 

 

 

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Soaring out of the Spiritual Closet

February 13th, 2013 8 comments
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When I tell people that I study religion there is often one of two assumptions made – either that I am deeply religious or that I am unreservedly anti-religious.  These assumptions are inaccurate.  So, in honour of my second year of blogging under the Black Chicken moniker, I thought I’d soar out of the spiritual closet, so to speak, and clear up a few things (and undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers in the process).

I do not consider myself religious in the sense that I am a follower of any particular faith, institution or path.  I do, however, consider myself a student of all religions and paths – both the traditional and esoteric.  The closest definition I can attribute to my beliefs is agnostic.  Simply put – I don’t profess to know one way or the other.   I’ve never been particularly fond of rigid definitions, but for sake of classifying my beliefs, it’ll have to do.

I consider myself a secularist.  In this sense, I mean that I don’t believe politics and religion should mix.  It does not mean, however, that I think religion should be banished from society or that religious groups shouldn’t have a voice (just like any other group representing a segment of people within society).   I just believe that when one group is given preferential status to shape politics, this inevitably leads to alienating people within that society.  For me, it doesn’t matter how small or fringe the out-group happens to be, they are still part of the make-up of society and have just as much right to express themselves to the powers that govern.

I am a secularist, religious ‘none’, but this does not mean that I don’t find value in religion.  I hold the view that religion has inspired people to create some truly beautiful things in the world.  From artistic expression to revolutionary movements, religious motivation can be wonderfully awesome.  I am also aware that this same motivation has aroused some truly heinous things.  I don’t deny that, but I think it’s important to point out that religions are not inherently good or bad – it is people that hold these qualities.  Sure, I can prattle off images of violence in sacred texts and historical examples of religiously-motivated atrocities.  In the same breath I can identify calls for peace and love in scriptures and point out divinely-inspired movements that have had great benefit to mankind.  It’s not as black and white as far too many people claim.

I believe in tolerance and respect.  I seek to achieve these in my own life by removing myself from my context and trying to understand and even appreciate the worldviews of my fellow human beings.   No, I don’t always agree with everyone or everything I come across.  That’s not the point.  I don’t have to agree, but I do believe that I have a duty to earn respect by giving respect.  It is far too often that I see extreme groups both religious and irreligious condemning the other for so called atrocities.  Let’s get real on this subject.  It is fine to align anywhere along the spectrum of belief.  That’s your choice, but to infringe on the rights of others to do so is horribly hypocritical – especially when one of your base arguments is that the ‘other’ forces their beliefs on people.  Kettle meet pot.   Far too often I see online groups that supposedly represent a rational worldview calling for an end to religion because it indoctrinates and dictates.  I hope they see the irony in these arguments.  On the other side, I see groups claiming a moral ambiguity and an erosion of ethics due to a lack of religious values.  Again, I think we need to get real.  Religion does not make people evil or righteous.  It is people who can be considered good, bad, or somewhere along the spectrum.  Yes, religion may inspire or motivate them.  So too can art, literature, politics, experiences, illness, and a host of other variables.  Again, it’s not as black and white as some claim.

Further, I’m not saying that you can’t critique, satirize or poke fun at beliefs.  Sure you can.  In my opinion, it should never be to hurt, mock or incite violence and hatred.  If you’re going to do it, be respectful and open to dialogue.  I realize this is a very fine line (one that I too have been guilty of crossing), but that’s how freedom of expression works.  The problem is when we express in a manner that is disparaging.   If the intent is malicious, then it really serves no good purpose such as engaging in critical thinking or laughing with someone instead of at someone.

We will never find peace in the world or within ourselves until we stop the madness of forcing other people to adopt our worldviews whether they are religious or otherwise.  We also cannot say that we are truly secure in our own beliefs if we are belittling and bullying others for theirs.  On this, the second anniversary of my online squawking and feather-ruffling, I extend a wish that you all find your inner peace and security.  Live and let live.

M. xo

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Project Conversion – Book Review

February 5th, 2013 No comments
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(Note:  Project Conversion is available through Amazon.com in either print or Kindle format)

If you’re a regular follower of my posts, you’re already well acquainted with my deep concerns about religious/irreligious intolerance.  Through my blog posts and academic pursuits, I’ve tried to understand what causes such hatred to exist, and how we can move forward to collectively embrace a mindset that celebrates, rather than condemns, our differences of faith and philosophy.

It wasn’t always this way for me.  I’ve been both the condemner and the condemned; the believer and the non-believer.  I didn’t always walk the middle path that I find myself now embracing.   Like so many others, I’ve struggled to reconcile the conflict within me.  I’ve read untold numbers of psychological research studies and various other social scientific theories in an attempt to find those answers.   I could find no simple answers.  Then, on the 11th anniversary of a day burned into so many of our minds, I was introduced to Project Conversion.  The sheer simplicity of the concept, although certainly not its implementation, was brilliant.

I first encountered Andrew Bowen’s Project Conversion on a post he contributed to the State of Formation web site.  I was immediately drawn into his story.  It was compelling, brave, heart-breaking, and inspiring all at once.  Soon after, I joined the ranks of his Facebook page and began following his journey to publication.  I was not only intensely interested in his pursuit to create an atmosphere of interfaith dialogue and tolerance; I also wanted to help spread the gospel – so to speak.  If this man, who once had such intense hatred, could become a believer in the humanity that binds us all, couldn’t others experience this same awakening?  If all it took was simply getting to know those who we fear, hate, or condemn – wouldn’t it be worth it if we could stop the violence, turmoil, and sheer madness?  Yes, I believed it was, and is, worth it.  So, when Bowen put out a call to bloggers to read his memoir detailing his Project Conversion experience,  I gladly knocked on his door.

The Project Conversion memoir is not only a testament of one man’s journey of immersion into twelve faiths over the course of a year; it also bears witness to a remarkable group of people who guide, support, and provide unconditional love during the process of this spiritual metamorphosis.   There is no doubt that readers will find the brief historical and descriptive surveys of each of the traditions enlightening, but they will also be compelled by Bowen’s candid, and often very personal, glimpses into his personal life.

If you’re like me, you’ll fall in love with the women in his life who, for all intents, seem to embody the triple Goddess archetype.  The innocent wisdom and humour of his daughters are perhaps some of the most persuasive sections of his memoir.  There’s just something utterly compelling about the untainted perspectives of children who have yet to be exposed to the often harsh cruelties of the world.  I guarantee that the anecdotes and quips of these young ladies will make you laugh and reflect.  Not to be outdone, Bowen’s Grandmother lends an unmatched wit to his adventure as she steadfastly keeps him clothed in custom-made attire indicative of some of the traditions he embraces.  Of course, I would be doing a huge disservice if I didn’t acknowledge the fortitude, compassion and insight of his wife, who provides the solid foundation in this uncharted, and at times rocky, terrain.

Family, friends, and strangers embrace Bowen as he undertakes a voyage to discover the divine manifested through a variety of lenses.  Beginning with a foray into the celestial complexity of Hinduism, he travels through a mosaic of faiths.  He embarks on a journey to understand the world’s foremost traditions, but also those often viewed as fringe or downright strange.  Certainly, the various stops along his voyage reveal our common humanity, but it is the people along his travels that stand as the true testament to these blessings.

Andrew Bowen’s Project Conversion memoir is a literary tapestry woven together with stunning metaphors, engaging anecdotes, clever humour, and modest candour.  It’s a book that I hope you will all consider reading.  It’s a book that’s sure to impart insight into beliefs you may not have known about, but more importantly it’s a book that speaks to the collective consciousness that transcends faith.

In celebration, Project Conversion (Kindle version) will be available free to download for a very limited time.

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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Holy Daze: Guru Nanak Gurpurab (November 28th, 2012) – Sikhism

November 26th, 2012 No comments
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Guru Nanak’s birthday lighting at Akat Takht near Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib, Punjab

Guru Nanak was the first Sikh Guru, and is considered the founder of the religion.  Sikhs celebrate the anniversary of the births or martyrdoms of the ten Gurus during remembrance days known as Gurpurabs. The festival celebrating Guru Nanak’s birthday falls on the full moon in the month of Kartik.

In preparation for the festivities, Gurdwaras (Sikh places of holy worship) are decorated with lights, flowers, and flags.  Activities usually begin a couple days in advance of the anniversary day.  One important activity is the continuous reading, over two days, of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book).  This is undertaken by several men and women, each reading for a few hours at a time.  On the day preceding the anniversary, processions are led by five people representing the original Panj Piare or Five Beloved Ones.  Following them are various musicians, singers, and groups displaying martial arts and sword skills.  The actual day of Gurpurab is devoted to early morning hymnal singing, sermons, lectures – many of which are based on the life of the Guru.  Of course, any Sikh celebration wouldn’t be complete without the congregation sharing langar – a free community meal.

The short video below gives a nice glimpse of a Gurpurab procession.  Enjoy!

Happy Gurpurab!

M. xo

Muktsar Nagar Kirtan – Sri Guru Nanak Birthday (3:09 mins):

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Holy Daze: Diwali (November 13th, 2012) – Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism

November 12th, 2012 No comments
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Diwali Celebrations

Diwali, popularly known as the “Festival of Lights” is an important festival in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.  All three traditions share this sacred day, however, the significance and meaning of the day differs.  I think many of you will also note some striking similarities around the spiritual metaphors between this revered Eastern holiday with one of similar reverence in the West.

For Hindus, Diwali is similar to Christmas for Christians.  It is the most important holiday and is celebrated with colourful displays of light.  It is also a time to rejoice with family and friends.  Central to Hindu philosophy is an awareness of the inner light (Atman) and the light of higher knowledge (Brahman).  In essence, Diwali celebrates triumph of good over evil or light (knowledge) over dark (ignorance).  For several days Hindus may celebrate Diwali with various traditions including fireworks, worship, colourful sand and light displays, the sharing of sweets, cleaning out of homes/businesses, gambling, the purchasing of new clothes, and the exchanging of gifts.

Jains mark Diwali as their New Year’s Eve.  Similar to Hindu belief, Jains believe in an inner light or awareness.  They celebrate in remembrance of the day in 527 BCE that Lord Mahavir, an Indian sage believed to have established the central tenets of Jainism, reached Nirvana.  Jains also incorporate light into their celebrations, particularly as a reminder of the absence of the light of Lord Mahavir.

Similarly, Sikhs mark Diwali as a day of remembrance.  It is considered the day in 1619 when the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, was released from prison along with 52 Hindu kings, whom he had a part in freeing.  He became known as “Bandi Chhor” (deliverer from prison).  Upon the Guru’s return, the Golden Temple was lit with hundreds of lamps in celebration.  Every year since, Sikh commemorate Diwali to pay homage to the Guru and religious freedom.

Diwali is an extremely important holiday and as such I can’t do it justice in this short blog post.  National Geographic has a fantastic, three minute clip that highlights some Diwali celebrations.  Check it out!

M. xo

Diwali – Festival of Lights

 

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Holy Daze: Samhain (October 31st, 2012) – Wiccan/Neopagan

October 31st, 2012 No comments
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Neopagans honoring the dead as part of a Samhain ritual

For many, October 31st marks Halloween, a day for dressing up in scary (and not-so-scary) costumes and going door-to-door trick or treating.  For others though, this day is the most sacred day of the year.

Wiccans and Neopagans celebrate this day as the New Year and end of the harvest.  It is a day when the veil between the corporeal world and spirit world is believed to be the thinnest.  Many Wiccans honour or attempt to contact deceased love ones.  It is a time of remembrance, change, and positive blessings for the future.  The memorial elements of this sacred day share much with the Christian observances known as All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.  For some Wiccans, it is customary to dress in a costume reflecting what they hope to achieve or become in the New Year.  Others may engage in a tradition known as the Silent Supper.

The Silent Supper (or Dumb Supper, less popularly used) tradition entails the preparation of special meal, whereby those who have crossed over in the last year (and indeed other loved ones long since passed) are honoured.  Either one place will be set for all loved ones, or a setting for each person that has passed will be set at the table.  The room is often purified through smudging or other ritual acts.  Guests to the silent supper will proceed with their meal in complete silence as a token of honouring their loved ones.  Following, notes to those who have crossed over may be placed under the place setting of the deceased.  Later, these notes may be burned in a cauldron as part of the closing of the ritual observance.

There are other ritual ancestral observances that some Wiccans engage in, such as setting up an altar honouring the ancestors that may include grave rubbings of the deceased’s headstone and the baking of soul cakes traditionally made as gifts for the spirits of those who have crossed over.

The first video below is an overview of this sacred holiday, while the second is a glimpse at one Wiccan’s family ancestral altar.

Blessed Be!

M. xo

Samhain / Halloween:

Wiccan Altar For Samhain:

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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Holy Daze: Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th, 2012) – Catholic Christian

October 3rd, 2012 No comments
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Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Coyoacan, Federal District, Mexico

St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher born in the 12th century.  Despite being born into wealth, he dedicated his life to living in poverty and prayer.   He was known to wander and minister to lepers.  St. Francis was also known for his love of animals.  He is often depicted surrounded by birds and other animals.  Today, he is considered the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment.  To commemorate this holy day, many churches offer blessings to pets.  Below you’ll find a short video about this popular saint.  In the second short video, you’ll see a large gathering of people and their pets lining up to receive blessings.

M. xo

Saint Francis of Assisi

Church day for pets

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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