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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Happy Ramadan!

July 21st, 2012 No comments
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Today is the start of the Islamic holy season known as Ramadan.  It occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows a lunar cycle.  It is believed that during this period the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation.

Muslims who participate in this holy time abstain from ingesting anything into the body for one month from sunrise to sunset.  This includes food, drink, smoke and sexual relations.  It is a time of deep reflection and spiritual self-purification through prayer and meditation.  Additionally, one is required to refrain from evil thoughts toward others, such as thoughts of harm, lust or jealousy.  Through these ritual practices Muslims seek to gain an appreciation for the material gifts from God, regain self-control from bad habits, and deepen empathy for the hungry and deprived of the world.

Despite this seemingly disciplined and stringent ritual, Ramadan is also filled with much joy.  The nights are a time for the community to come together to share in food, prayer and one another’s company.   The end of Ramadan, or the breaking of the fast, is a celebration of grand proportions.

To all my Muslim friends I extend a Happy Ramadan!

M. xo

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Religious Tolerance

May 31st, 2012 3 comments
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I felt compelled to write this post because frankly I’m appalled by the declining health of religious tolerance in Canada.  Biases, generalizations, and ignorance are  insidiously penetrating the oft-lauded integrity of Canada as a nation of tolerance and acceptance.  Islamophobia is on the rise across the nation, and this is indeed troubling.  While headlines detailing the intolerance toward Muslims largely originates from down south, make no mistake, it is slowly infiltrating Canadian society – and in my opinion, we need to put a stop to it.  Adopting a misguided view of a particular religious group (and one of the fastest growing religious populations) will threaten the very essence of our Canadian values.

I believe the best solution to intolerance is education.  The fact is that many, many people barely know much about ‘other’ religions.  Most of the information we come by is garnered from sensational media headlines.  If you’re educating yourself about various religions through the media, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  I’m not suggesting that the media doesn’t hold some value in bringing issues to light; however, the media is rarely ever objective.  There’s always an angle, and usually that’s to increase readership/viewership and ultimately revenue.

So, where can one start to learn more about various religions and in particular religious tolerance?  There’s a wonderful site that I’ve been visiting for several years now that provides a wide range of information on almost any religion imaginable.  The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance tries “… to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, world views, and systems of morality, ethics, and values.”  There are over 6,000 essays available to read and the site covers religions ranging from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism.  Practically any religion you might have questions about can be found on this site.  In addition, the site tries to present all viewpoints on controversial religious topics.

As a final note, while I am huge proponent of religious tolerance – I also want to stress that this doesn’t mean that I think you should accept other people’s beliefs as valid or that you have to practice a belief different than your own.  It also doesn’t mean that you have to believe your religion is equal to that of another’s (it’s fine if you want to believe that your religion is superior to others).  What religious tolerance means is that you respect the right of other religions to exist and that their practitioners should be free from discrimination.  Oh, and this also includes people who are generally considered NOT religious.  Atheists, agnostics and humanists have the right to religious freedom too – including the option to not participate.
 

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Comic Book Religion

April 15th, 2012 1 comment
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I’m always fascinated with the infinite ways in which religion is intertwined into pretty well any aspect of life — and indeed, afterlife. Recently, I stumbled across this curious Web site called, Comic Book Religion.  Over 25,000 comic book characters and their religious affiliation are available to browse.

I have to admit, that I know little about comics; however, I do surround myself with geeks, freaks and assorted fan boys/girls.  I’ve been exposed to comic books through one channel or another for my entire life.  Yet, I’d never really given thought to whether any of the heroes or villains I’d heard about had anything at all to do with anything remotely religious.

Now, with just a few clicks, I can find out that Spider-Man was Protestant; The Thing, Jewish; and Green Arrow an agnostic.  And now you can, too!

http://comicbookreligion.com/

M. xo

 

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Cure for Love

January 28th, 2012 1 comment
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I had the opportunity to watch a 2008 documentary called, Cure for Love.  It was such an interesting film, hence why I’m posting about it here.  The synopsis reads, “Cure for Love is a full-length documentary about a controversial evangelical movement that purports to convert gay people into heterosexuals. The film brings us inside this unusual Christian subculture and follows the lives of several young people whose homosexuality is at odds with their religious beliefs.”

Of course, I wasn’t surprised that the types of ministries featured in this doc actually existed – and let’s be clear, I am clearly at odds with the mission of these ministries, particularly those such as Exodus.  For me, the most intriguing part of the film was hearing the stories of those who live in tension with their faiths and how they have come to reconcile that dissonance.  These are powerful stories of people seemingly struggling with similar issues, yet each has taken a different path in finding a resolution to their conflict.

As a voyeur into their lives, I found myself at times doubtful that some of the folks featured in the film actually had found a way to make peace with the tension between their faith and their sexuality; however I am mindful that I don’t live their lives and really can’t relate to their struggle – seeing as how I am neither a Christian nor a homosexual.  This film did reinforce, yet again, the powerful influence that religion has over people’s lives (a concept I cannot personally relate too – but one that fascinates me).

If you, like me, are intrigued by the power faith has in the lives of so many people, then this film is worth checking out.  It’s a well-balanced documentary that does shed some light on (IMO) questionable dogma, but even more than that, it is a film that speaks of the power of love.  For some that is the love of their Saviour, Jesus Christ; for others that is the love they find in their same sex partners.

Run time: 59 mins

Source: National Film Board of Canada

 

 

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When did Christmas stop being a Holiday?

December 3rd, 2011 3 comments
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The real war on christmas

It’s that time of year again. No sooner do the first snow flakes fall and the rhetoric around whether it’s appropriate to replace “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas” begins to fly. It’s one of the most divisive issues surrounding this season.

Firstly, there are the annual campaigns via email and social media promoting the “put the Christ back in Christmas” polemic. I’ve always found this particular argument curious. Last time I checked, Christ hadn’t left Christmas. What has changed is that fewer people are celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday — if at all. Christmas is still a Christian derived holy day, and Jesus is still very much a part of that day for those who follow his teachings. For believers, Christ is present and accounted for in the celebration of this holy day.

Following this are the claims that somehow Christmas has been hijacked by other cultures’ religions. The arguments usually follow the reasoning that because we live in a Western society built on the Judeo-Christian tradition that Christmas should take it’s rightful place as the holiday of the land.

XMASWARS1

It’s true that our heritage is that of a Judeo-Christian tradition, but our heritage also includes unequal rights for women and minority groups, child labour, the assimilation of First Nation’s people… need I go on?

Societies evolve, and for us this has included the separation of church and state.  Citizens are free to practice the religion of their choice.  States, however, are required to keep religion out of its affairs (in principle anyway). It’s a bit ironic that so many Westerners have much to say about Eastern nations living under religious rule, yet so little to say about the idea of forcing Christmas on ever person living in this hemisphere.

So, we’ve reverted to calling Christmas a holiday. What’s so wrong with that? It IS a HOLY day for Christians, but it’s also a HOLY time of year for a number of other religious groups. Using the term “Happy Holidays” is merely an inclusive way to wish everyone a joyous season — and really isn’t that what this time of year is all about?  Shouldn’t we be trying to spread joy and our very best to everyone?

Christmas-vs-Holidays-Holidays

It’s interesting that while so many of us have been debating this tiresome rhetoric, that we’ve failed to notice how the sacredness of this holy season has been hijacked by rampant consumerism.  Maybe those are the real issues we should be examining.  Why has a holy day meant to bring families and people together in joyful spirit become a sacred day for big box stores and credit card companies?  Just something worth thinking about…

Happy HOLY-DAYS!

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The Haunted History of Halloween

October 29th, 2011 No comments
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Halloween is my favourite time of year.  At no other time of the year can you completely alter your ego, and be encouraged to do so.  In addition to the identity shifting fun that can be had by kids and adults alike, the natural world is also shifting.  Gone are the hot humid days of summer- replaced by the slow fall into winter’s slumber.  We watch as the landscape transforms in dramatic ways – sometimes from a cornucopia of colour to a stark white overnight.  Visually, at least in my part of the world, it’s the season of dramatic transformation.  As if nature is making a grand statement before the long sleep of winter – lest we forget her majesty.  It seems rather appropriate that we engage in this rite of transformation called Halloween.  Why exactly do we shift our identities and parade door to door looking for sweet treats?  The History Channel’s “Haunted History of Halloween” has your primer for this ghoulish night of transformation.  The video is approximately 45 minutes long, so bookmark this page and put it on while you’re handing out treats to the ghostly revelers.  Happy Halloween!

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Religion in Schools

August 14th, 2011 4 comments
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Recent media stories have been aflutter over revelations that a Toronto area school is providing approximately 300 Muslim students with space for prayer every Friday afternoon.  Students congregate in the cafeteria for one hour and prayer sessions are led by an Imam who is brought into the school for this special rite.   In what has created more feather ruffling, girls are expected to take a position behind their male counterparts; and any girl menstruating is required to abstain from prayer sessions.  Additionally, non-Muslim students are not permitted to participate in the service.  The latest media reports suggest that perhaps more than one public school in the Toronto area is providing this service to its Muslim students.

There are a few things – at least to me – that are clearly wrong with this situation.  In fact, there are so many things REALLY wrong with this situation that I’m even more exasperated knowing that little is being done to resolve the issue.

Clearly, a publicly funded school board must find an appropriate balance for accommodating all students.  That accommodation should not extend to a student’s religious instruction.  The sheer diversity of religious groups within the public school system would make it near impossible to support every one of them.  There is nothing equitable about allowing one group of students to do it and not another.  Further, public schools are not in the business of religious education.  That kind of training should be extracurricular and at the parents’ discretion.

There is also something gravely wrong when a Canadian public school allows- even supports – a religious practice that clearly violates gender equality.  While I appreciate that certain religious customs deem it necessary and part of scripture to practice gender separation during prayer, I don’t believe those customs should be permitted to extend into our public school system.  All children should be treated equally in our schools and any action that counters this should be stopped immediately.

Finally, there has also been some concern about the background and history of the Imams conducting these prayer sessions.  It’s certainly a frightening notion that some of the parents interviewed had no idea who the religious instructors were or what they were teaching their children.  Where’s the transparency and accountability that is supposed to be a part of our school system?  Who hired these prayer leaders and what exactly are their qualifications?

As far as I am concerned, religious instruction has no place in our public school systems.  Truthfully, I’m surprised that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has allowed this to go on.  In the last couple decades we’ve seen public schools in Ontario steadily become more and more secular.  The Lord’s Prayer, once a mandatory start to each school day, was deemed inappropriate for a public school system comprised of multiple faiths and cultures.   Christmas and Easter events have been re-branded as Holiday and Spring festivities.  It seems to me that the TDSB is taking two steps backward by supporting prayer sessions in their schools.

Let’s be clear – public schools should be about education, not indoctrination.  It’s fine if a scholarly view of religion is offered in school; however, religious instruction should not have a place in our public schools.  Leave that kind of teaching to the parents – or better yet – let the children decide when they come of age.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, this is a very slippery slope indeed.  Once again, it appears that we’ve chosen to stand on the edge of the slope and see how far we can lean over before we slide uncontrollably down.

 

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Pastafarian wins right to wear pasta strainer as religious headgear

July 15th, 2011 1 comment
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If you’re not familiar with the term Pastafarian, then you likely haven’t heard of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The “church” was originally conceived  in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as satirical commentary in the form of an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education regarding decisions to allow intelligent design to be taught as an alternative to evolution in classrooms.  Since then thousands of people have been touched by His Noodly Appendage.

With so many people now claiming Pastafarian as their religious affiliation, it’s little wonder that certain religious rights are being challenged.  The BBC reports that Austrian, Niko Alm recently won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head as “religious headgear” for his driver’s license photo . Alm’s next crusade in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is to have the religion recognized as an official faith.

So, do you think this is taking religious freedom too far?  Or are you on the side of some who suggest this is meant as a tool to mock the religious by the non-religious?  Perhaps, you agree that the work done by followers of His Noodly Appendage is merely social commentary meant to incite discussion on religion’s place and value in society.

Inevitably, this latest win for the Pastafarians will garner more publicity for the movement and more hate mail.  Rest assured, however, that the movement isn’t going away any time soon.  I’d wager that it’s going to become more widespread and who knows, may even one day be recognized as an official faith.

Carbo Diem!  M. xo

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Songs of Faith

June 17th, 2011 1 comment
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Some of the most beautiful & entertaining sounds I’ve ever heard are songs of the faithful.  It’s as though the sound truly does emanate from their souls.  There’s no embarrassment, or anxiety about how one sounds – just pure joy of song and music.

I thought I’d share some random videos of song, prayer and music from various religious/cultural points of view.  A special note to The Funky fresh Sr Choir (a group of senior citizens) for their interpretations of various hip-hop and pop songs for their congregation.  Also, if you’ve never heard of Matisyahu then you’re missing out on some pretty cool and amazing tunes.  Lucky for you – you’re reading this blog.   Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Religion as commodity

May 14th, 2011 2 comments
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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, so I’m glad that I’ve started writing it now – even though I’m not sure if it’ll be published sooner rather than later. It was a trip to the grocery store that bore the seeds of this post. In particular, a meander through the organic and health foods aisle that popped up this gem of a cereal:

 

I’ll be honest – I was very amused (hence, why I got out my phone and snapped this pic). And yet, a part of me felt that perhaps it was going a bit too far. Clearly, this cereal was targeting a very specific market. I found it curious, because by displaying this blatantly religious tone on their packaging, they were alienating a large percentage of the market. Surely, atheists, agnostics and other “free-thinkers” were just as likely to want to eat healthy as the “People of the Book”. With so many of these whole-grain, organic cereals on the market, you’d think a business wouldn’t want to alienate consumers. Perhaps, that isn’t the point though. Maybe the company has some corporate policy to provide products to a specific demographic, regardless of the effect on the bottom line (a refreshing change, indeed).

But, I digress from the point of my post…

Question: If the sacred becomes commodified, does it then fall into the realm of the profane? Religion has surely become big business and it appears that the commodification of religion is being widely accepted and even propagated. Take, for example, a line of t-shirts that combines edgy humour with religious themes.

I’ve seen these shirts worn by both extremely religious and anti-religious folks alike. So, what message is that sending? Are these items meant to attack the sacred or are they intended to revere it? Perhaps it has more to do with the idea that pretty well anything can be turned into a product for mass consumption. I’m sure some of you would agree that mass production isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Another thought – is it considered idolatrous to consume these products (strictly speaking to the religious)? Surely there will be those religious adherents that find products such as these blasphemous; however, there is another segment of religious adherents that would likely deem these products as harmless – perhaps even an homage to their faiths.

For now, I’m left thinking that the great prophets of “the Book” probably would have regarded any attempt to commodify the sacred as counter to the values of their faiths. It seems to me that once the sacred enters the realm of the profane, then it becomes regarded as ordinary. Maybe – just maybe – the commodification of religion is a reflection of our society, suggesting that the sacred may be just another average, ordinary part of our humdrum lives.

M. xo

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