Discussion on doctrinal issues
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Post by swamidada »

Concept of God in Primitive Religions

Primitive religion is a name given to the religious beliefs and practices of those traditional, often isolated, preliterate cultures which have not developed urban and technologically sophisticated forms of society. The term is misleading in suggesting that the religions of those peoples are somehow less complex than the religions of "advanced" societies. In fact, research carried out among the indigenous peoples of Oceania, the Americas, and sub Saharan Africa have revealed rich and very complex religions, which organize the smallest details of the people's lives.

The religions of archaic cultures - the cultures of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic ages - are also referred to as primitive. The available evidence for prehistoric religions is so limited as to render any reconstruction highly speculative. Scholars such as Mircea Eliade, however, have emphasized the importance of contemporary fieldwork in recapturing a sense of the religious life of early humankind.

Since the 17th century in the Western world scholars have speculated on the problem of the beginnings of human culture by making use of the empirical data collected about religious belief and practice among the non European cultures of the New World, Africa, Australia, the South Pacific, and elsewhere. Religion thus became one of the areas of study that shaped current ideas about the origins of human consciousness and institutions. Religion, both as a human experience and as an expression of that experience, was viewed as a primitive model of human consciousness, most clearly seen in primitive cultures. It is significant that the first systematic treatise in the discipline of Anthropology, Edward B Tylor's Primitive Culture (1871), had "Religion in Primitive Culture" as its subtitle, and that the first person to be appointed to a professorial chair of social anthropology in Britain was Sir James Frazer, author of the monumental study of comparative folklore, magic, and religion, The Golden Bough.

Theories of Primitive Religion
Theories of the nature of primitive religion have moved between two poles: one intellectualistic and rational, the other psychological and irrational. Tylor and Frazer, both of whom saw primitive religion as characterized preeminently by a belief in magic and unseen forces or powers, represent the intellectual - rational position. Tylor based his interpretation of primitive religion on the idea that primitive people make a mistaken logical inference - an intellectual error. He thought that they confuse subjective and objective reality in their belief that the vital force (soul) present in living organisms is detachable and capable of independent existence in its own mode. Dreams, he thought, might be a basis for this error. Tylor's definition of primitive religion as Animism, a belief in spiritual beings, expresses his interpretation that the basis of primitive religion is the belief that detached and detachable vital forces make up a suprahuman realm of reality that is just as real as the physical world of rocks, trees, and plants.
An opposing interpretation of primitive religion comes from an experimental and psychological approach to the data. R H Codrington's study The Melanesians (1891), in which he described the meaning of Mana as a supernatural power or influence experienced by the Melanesians, has provided a basis for other scholars to explain the origin and interpretation of primitive religion as rooted in the experience by primitive peoples of the dynamic power of nature. The most prominent interpreter of this point of view was the English anthropologist Robert R Marett. Variations of this theory may be seen in the works of Lucien Levy - Bruhl, who distinguished between a logical and prelogical mentality in analyzing the kind of thinking that takes place through this mode of experience, and the writings of Rudolf Otto, who described the specific religious meaning of this mode of human consciousness.

Another intellectual - rationalist approach to primitive religion is exemplified by Emile Durkheim, who saw religion as the deification of society and its structures. The symbols of religion arise as "collective representations" of the social sphere, and rituals function to unite the individual with society. Claude Levi - Strauss moved beyond Durkheim in an attempt to articulate the way in which the structures of society are exemplified in myths and symbols. Starting from the structural ideas of contemporary linguistics, he argued that there is one universal form of human logic and that the difference between the thinking of primitive and modern people cannot be based on different modes of thought or logic but rather on differences in the data on which logic operates.

Religious Experience and Expression
Whichever approach - psychological or intellectual - is accepted, it is clear that primitives experience the world differently than do persons in modern cultures. Few would hold that that difference can be explained by a different level of intelligence. Levi - Strauss, as has been indicated, believes that the intellectual powers of primitive peoples are equal to those of humans in all cultures and that differences between the two modes of thought may be attributed to the things thought upon. He refers to primitive thought as concrete thought. By this he means that such thought expresses a different way of relating to the objects and experiences of the everyday world. This form of thinking, he says, expresses itself in myth, rituals, and kinship systems, but all of these expressions embody an underlying rational order.
Mircea Eliade expressed a similar position. For him, primitive cultures are more open to the world of natural forms. This openness allows them to experience the world as a sacred reality. Anything in the world can reveal some aspect and dimension of sacredness to the person in primitive cultures. This mode of revelation is called a hierophany. In Eliade's theory, the revealing of the sacred is a total experience. It cannot be reduced to the rational, the irrational, or the psychological; the experience of the sacred includes them all. It is the way in which these experiences are integrated and received that characterizes the sacred. The integration of many seemingly disparate and often opposed meanings into a unity is what Eliade means by the religious symbol.

A myth is the integration of religious symbols into a narrative form. Myths not only provide a comprehensive view of the world, but they also provide the tools for deciphering the world. Although myths may have a counterpart in ritual patterns, they are autonomous modes of the expression of the sacredness of the world for primitive peoples.

One of the most pervasive forms of religious behavior in primitive cultures is expressed by rituals and ritualistic actions. The forms and functions of rituals are diverse. They may be performed to ensure the favor of the divine, to ward off evil, or to mark a change in cultural status. In most, but not all, cases an etiological myth provides the basis for the ritual in a divine act or injunction.
Generally, rituals express the great transitions in human life: birth (coming into being); puberty (the recognition and expression of sexual status); marriage (the acceptance of an adult role in the society); and death (the return to the world of the ancestors). These passage rites vary in form, importance, and intensity from one culture to another for they are tied to several other meanings and rituals in the culture. For example, the primitive cultures of south New Guinea and Indonesia place a great emphasis on rituals of death and funerary rites. They have elaborate myths describing the geography of the place of the dead and the journey of the dead to that place. Hardly any ritual meaning is given to birth. The Polynesians, on the other hand, have elaborate birth rituals and place much less emphasis on funerary rituals.

Almost all primitive cultures pay attention to puberty and marriage rituals, although there is a general tendency to pay more attention to the puberty rites of males than of females. Because puberty and marriage symbolize the fact that children are acquiring adult roles in the kinship system in particular, and in the culture in general, most primitive cultures consider the rituals surrounding these events very important. Puberty rituals are often accompanied with ceremonial circumcision or some other operation on the male genitals. Female circumcision is less common, although it occurs in several cultures. Female puberty rites are more often related to the commencement of the menstrual cycle in young girls.

In addition to these life cycle rituals, rituals are associated with the beginning of the new year and with planting and harvest times in agricultural societies. Numerous other rituals are found in hunting - and - gathering societies; these are supposed to increase the game and to give the hunter greater prowess.

Another class of rituals is related to occasional events, such as war, droughts, catastrophes, or extraordinary events. Rituals performed at such times are usually intended to appease supernatural forces or divine beings who might be the cause of the event, or to discover what divine power is causing the event and why.

Rituals are highly structured actions. Each person or class of persons has particular stylized roles to play in them. While some rituals call for communal participation, others are restricted by sex, age, and type of activity. Thus initiation rites for males and females are separate, and only hunters participate in hunting rituals. There are also rituals limited to warriors, blacksmiths, magicians, and diviners. Among the Dogon of the western Sudan, the ritual system integrates life cycle rituals with vocational cults; these in turn are related to a complex cosmological myth.

Divine Beings
Divine beings are usually known through the mode of their manifestation. Creator - gods are usually deities of the sky. The sky as a primordial expression of transcendence is one of the exemplary forms of sacred power. Deities of the sky are often considered to possess an ultimate power.
The apparent similarity in form between the supreme sky deities of primitive cultures and the single godheads of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism has led some Western students of religion to speak of a "primitive monotheism." By this they were suggesting a devolution of religion rather than the more rationalistic evolution of religion from Polytheism, through henotheism (the presence of several gods, but with one dominant), to Monotheism. The most avid proponent of the primitive monotheism was Wilhelm Schmidt, an Austrian Roman Catholic priest who was also an ethnologist. In his view the original sacred form was a creator - god of the sky. This original and first revelation of deity was lost or obscured by the attention evoked by other lesser sacred beings, and throughout the history of human culture this original creator - sky - god has been rediscovered or remembered in the monotheistic religions. This position has been largely rejected by contemporary scholars.

Allied to and existing within the same sphere as the sky - god are the manifestations of divine presence in the sun and the moon. The symbolism of the sun, while sharing the transcendent power of the sky, is more intimately related to the destiny of the human community and to the revelation of the rational power necessary to order the world. Sun - deities are creators by virtue of their growth - producing powers, whereas the sky - god creators often create ex nihilo ("out of nothing"); they do not require human agency in their creative capacities, and in many instances they withdraw and have little to do with humankind.

The manifestation and presence of the deity in the moon is different from that of the sun. Moon - deities are associated with a more rhythmic structure; they wax and wane, seem more vulnerable and more capable of loss and gain. Moon - deities are often female in form and associated with feminine characteristics. The moon - goddess is the revelation of the vulnerability and fragility of life, and unlike solar gods, her destiny is not the historical destiny of powerful rulers and empires, but the destiny of the human life cycle of birth, life, and death. Other places where deities show themselves are in the natural forms of water, vegetation, agriculture, stones, human sexuality, and so on.

The pattern of deities, of course, varies markedly among different types of societies. Hunting - and - gathering cultures, for example, not only have language and rituals related to hunting, but also often have a Lord, Master, or Mistress of Animals - a divine being who not only created the world of humans and animals but who also cares for, protects, and supplies the animals to the hunters. Religious cultures of this kind still exist among the Mbuti pygmies, the San of the Kalahari desert in Africa, Australian Aborigines, and Eskimo.

A somewhat more complex religious culture is found in early agricultural societies. It is commonly accepted that the earliest form of agriculture was both a feminine rite and a female right. This means that the gift and power of agriculture provided a means by which the sacredness of the world could be expressed in the femininity of the human species. Agricultural rituals became a powerful symbolic language that spoke of gestation, birth, nurture, and death. This development does not imply an early Matriarchy nor the dominance of society by females. In agricultural societies males dominate in the conventional sense of the term, but the power of women is nevertheless potent and real.

In some cultures of West Africa three layers of cultural religious meaning may be discerned. One refers to an earlier agriculture, in which the feminine symbolism and power predominated. In the second the theft of the ritual and rights of agriculture is portrayed in masculine symbolism and language. By contrast, the equal cooperation of masculine and feminine in the power and meaning of cultural life is symbolized in the third level. In present cultures of this area the older layer can be seen in the Queen Mother, who is "owner of the land"; the second layer in the kingship system; and the third layer in the myths associated with egg symbolism, which on the cosmological level are a means of transmuting sexual tensions into practical harmonies.

Sacred Personages
Just as sacredness tends to be localized in the natural forms of the world in primitive religious cultures, sacred meaning is also defined by specific kinds of persons. On the one hand, sacredness may be located in and defined by office and status in a society. In such cases the role and function of the chief or king carries a sacred meaning because it is seen as an imitation of a divine model, which is generally narrated in a cultural myth; it may also be thought to possess divine power. Offices and functions of this kind are usually hereditary and are not dependent on any specific or unique personality structure in the individual.
On the other hand, forms of individual sacredness exist that do depend on specific types of personality structures and the calling to a particular religious vocation. Persons such as shamans fall into this category. Shamans are recruited from among young persons who tend to exhibit particular psychological traits that indicate their openness to a more profound and complex world of sacred meanings than is available to the society at large. Once chosen, shamans undergo a special shamanistic initiation and are taught by older shamans the peculiar forms of healing and behavior that identify their sacred work. Given the nature of their sacred work, they must undergo long periods of training before they are capable practitioners of the sacred and healing arts. The same is true of medicine men and diviners, although these often inherit their status.

Each person in a primitive society may also bear an ordinary form of sacred meaning. Such meaning can be discerned in the elements of the person's psychological structure. For example, among the Ashanti of Ghana, an individual's blood is said to be derived from the goddess of the earth through that individual's mother, an individual's destiny from the high - god, and personality and temperament from the tutelary deity of the individual's father. On the cosmological level of myths and rituals all of these divine forms have a primordial meaning that acquires individual and existential significance when it is expressed in persons.

Charles H Long
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Post by swamidada »

Jan-e-Alam Khaki Published August 9, 2013

ONE of the enduring topics of Muslim sectarian polemics has been the hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) according to which he had predicted that his ummah would be divided into 73 sects, but only one would be saved.

All Muslim sects happily claim that their sect is the ‘saved one’ (naji) and the ‘others’ are destined for hell. This hadith, if we were to follow the traditional line of argument, divides the Muslim ummah into two sections: the saved ones and the hell-bound ones.

Few people ask why the number 73, and where it comes from. Luckily, there is now a tendency to see this hadith in a more objective way, beyond sectarian interpretations. There is an attempt to see the sects more in a pluralistic and inclusive light than in exclusive ways. In recent times, attempts have been made to unravel the context of this hadith and examine its implications.

The most frequently cited hadith regarding the 73 divisions of the Muslim faith is reported as: the Jews are divided into 71 sects (firqa), the Christians into 72 sects, and my community will divide into 73 sects (Ibn Majah, Abu Daud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa’i). The hadith also occurs in many other versions as well.

This hadith has two parts: one is the number of sects that are to emerge, and the other the salvation part. Often, it was understood that the 72 sects would be condemned while one would be saved. As opposed to this, we have another version of the hadith which tells us a different story.

Muqaddasi (a 10th-century geographer), according to Roy Mottahedeh (Diversity and Pluralism in Islam), tells us that “72 sects are in heaven and one in hell, according to what he considers is a more sound line of transmission (isnad)”. This shows that there is variation of the hadith reported on the 73 sects.

According to Mottahedeh, Fakhruddin Razi (d. 1209) reports that some have questioned the authenticity of this tradition, saying that if by 72 they mean the fundamentals of religious belief (usul), then they do not reach this number and if they mean the practices (furu), then the number passes this number by several multiples.

The other view of this hadith is that the figure 73 is not meant literally, but is a relative and figurative number, identified because of a context. Mottahedeh gives extensive historical examples wherein the figure was used as a symbolic number. The author says that “70 meant ‘a sizeable number’ and 70-odd meant ‘a sizeable number and then some’ is fairly clear. In many cases, the expressions are meant to be pictorial numbers and not exact ‘head counts’”.

He further adds that 70 assumed the role of a metaphor for numerousness and thus is “rhetorically significant”. The author cites a hadith that says, ‘He who helps a believer in distress, God will remove him from 73 afflictions’. Here again, probably what is meant is a generous indication towards God’s reward. Religious language is often couched in symbolic language and not meant to be literally understood.

Two famous personalities, al-Baghdadi (d. 1037) and al-Shahrastani (d. 1153) give different accounts of the sectarian numbers and their backgrounds. There is no standard explanation; each, according to his background and time, has highlighted the sectarian beliefs and backgrounds as they understood them in their times.

Talking about the quarrelling of sects, Hafiz (d. 1389-1390), a great Muslim poet, says, “Forgive the war of the 72 sects; since they did not see the truth they have struck out on the road to fancy”.

Hafiz regards the sectarian quarrels as afsana that preoccupies those who fail to understand the diversity of faith. Similarly, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi, according to Mottahedeh, thinks that the “deeper religion is the trans-religious mystery of love of God. This manifests itself in many (ie 72) ‘madnesses’ and takes the soul beyond the world of being. Ultimately, we not only accept pluralism among Muslims, but among all the mysterious paths of the love of God” (Diversity and Pluralism).

Truth cannot be contained and constrained by communities’ quarrels among themselves. When we step outside the narrow confines of our communities, we realise that there is so much to learn from others. This point is reinforced by Abdul Aziz Sachedina in his remarkable book The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism by demystifying the mystery of different religions and sects, and how Islam views this diversity.

Throughout history, communities have learnt much from each other. Today as well, there is an increasing global trend to learn from and celebrate the diversity of faiths in many ways.

This discussion leads us to the realization that sectarian numbers and who ‘owns’ the truth are complex issues. We need to look at Muslim diversity with respect, humility, responsibility, and celebration rather than through the prism of sectarianism.

Let there be no bloodshed just because one sect believes and practices its faith in a particular way. All are seeking the truth. The Quran refers to this positive outlook in many verses and an example is: “… if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad PBUH) compel men until they are believers? It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no understanding” (10:99-100).

The writer teaches Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies at a private university in Pakistan. ... f-73-sects
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Post by swamidada »

Church of England discusses gender-neutral God
If liberal clergy get their way, the Almighty Father may be stricken from the scriptures
Church of England discusses gender-neutral God

Liberal Christians are pushing the Church of England to abolish gendered references to God from scriptures and services, the Telegraph reported on Tuesday. Describing God as a man, they argue, is a “theological misreading.”

The argument was brought up at a sitting of the General Synod – the Church’s lawmaking body – this week. According to the Telegraph, the Reverend Joanna Stobart of Bath and Wells asked the Liturgical Commission what steps were being taken “to develop more inclusive language in our authorized liturgy.”

Stobart said that she wanted more options to “speak of God in a non-gendered way,” and more prayers that didn’t refer to God “using male pronouns.”

The Liturgical Commission is responsible for setting out how church services are conducted, including what kind of language is used during these services. Its vice-chairman, the Bishop of Litchfield, told Stobart that the commission has “been exploring the use of gendered language in relation to God for several years,” and would discuss the matter with the Faith and Order Commission this spring.

However, any change to the Church’s liturgy would require the unanimous approval of the Synod, where there is strong opposition.

“The fact that God is called ‘Father’ can’t be substituted by ‘Mother’ without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralized to ‘Parent’ without loss of meaning,” Rev. Ian Paul, a member of the Church’s Archbishop’s Council, said in response to Stobart’s proposal.

“Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but relate to their offspring in different ways,” he continued. “If the Liturgical Commission seeks to change this, then in an important way they will be moving the doctrine of the Church away from being grounded in the Scriptures.”

The Church of England differs from the Catholic Church in several key ways: It does not recognize the Pope as the one appointed ‘Vicar of Christ’, it allows clergy to marry, and it permits women to be ordained, all while delegating more authority to individual bishops and ministers. Thus, while orders from the Vatican forbid Catholic priests from blessing same-sex unions, the General Synod of the Church of England is currently preparing for a divisive vote on the matter this week.

While the catechisms of both the Catholic and Anglican churches define God as neither a man nor a woman, both refer to him as male in their liturgy. ... d-england/
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Post by swamidada »

The Satanic Temple: Think you know about Satanists? Maybe you don't
Rebecca Seales - BBC News, Boston
Sat, May 20, 2023 at 6:53 AM CDT

This may be the world's largest ever gathering of Satanists - and it's about to begin at a Marriott hotel in downtown Boston.

In a candle-lit room set aside for Satanic ceremonies, a neon sign welcomes you to The Little Black Chapel. A raised altar stands at one end, a white pentagram on the floor in front of it.

The ritual being performed here is an "unbaptism", in which participants symbolically reject religious rites performed when they were children.

"No names," says a Satanist who agreed to let me witness their ceremony, as long as they aren't identified.

They wear a floor-length, hooded cloak and a black face mask. Their hands are bound with rope, which is then cast off to represent liberation. Pages are torn out of a Bible to symbolise overturning their Christian baptism.
An altar decked in blue-white lights also with an upside down cross on it stands behind. The subject of the ceremony kneels down in a black robe and hood.
Minister Rose d'Arc performs an Unbaptism Ceremony for an attendee in the Little Black Chapel
It's clear the experience was powerful for them.

"As a gay child, being told you are an abomination and should be destroyed, warped a lot of my thinking. Finding The Satanic Temple has really helped me embrace logic and empathy."

The Satanic Temple is recognised as a religion by the US government, and has ministers and congregations in America, Europe and Australia.

More than 830 people snapped up tickets for its late April convention, dubbed SatanCon.

Members say they don't actually believe in a literal Lucifer or Hell. Instead, they say Satan is a metaphor for questioning authority, and grounding your beliefs in science. The sense of community around these shared values makes it a religion, they say.

They do use the symbols of Satan for rituals - for example when celebrating a wedding or adopting a new name. That might include having an upside-down neon cross on your altar while shouting: "Hail Satan!"

For many Christians, this is serious blasphemy.

"That's not wrong," agrees Dex Desjardins, a spokesperson for The Satanic Temple. "A lot of our imagery is inherently blasphemous.

"We've got folks who wear inverted crosses. And our opening ceremony did have the ripping up of a Bible as a symbol of oppression, especially oppression of LGBTQ folk and women, and also the BIPOC community, and pretty much anybody who's grown up with religious trauma, which is a tremendous number of our members."

Chalice Blythe, a woman in a long black dress, gestures with a Holy Bible during the opening ceremony for SatanCon. A man in a long red robe stands at her side
SatanCon's opening ceremony featured pages being torn out of a Bible - which drew the wrath of critics online
A woman in a black dress shakes fake money from a Bible during the opening statements at SatanCon 2023
Members of the Satanic Temple know their use of Christian materials is blasphemous to some people, but say they aren't setting out to upset anyone
The Satanists say they respect everyone's right to choose their faith, and they're not trying to upset people.

But Christian protesters from many denominations have gathered outside the hotel, carrying signs warning of damnation.

"Repent and believe the Gospel," urges one. "Satan rules over all the children of pride," says another - the letters of "pride" shaded in the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ Pride flag.

"We are hoping to show God that we do not accept this blasphemy, and that we Catholics have not abandoned the public square to Satanists," says protester Michael Shivler, from a conservative Catholic group.

Convention-goers in the lobby eye the protest outside. "They called us 'dope-smoking masturbators'," one man reports. "Oooh, sky daddy is mad with me!" someone else jokes.

Outside the Marriott Copley hotel, the event takes up the whole fourth floor of the hotel. The Satanists fill it with androgynous goth chic, flamboyant robes, hand-painted horns, diabolical tattoos, and high-maintenance moustache choices.

Most people here are old enough to be parents, and several are. I spot at least one pushchair.

Presentations are given, including one called "Hellbillies: Visible Satanism in Rural America", and a seminar on Satanism and self-pleasure.

A man wearing horns, a black ruff and elaborate pointed fake nails poses with a martini
Some attendees wore their normal street clothes to the convention. Others added a little extra
Political activism is a core part of The Satanic Temple's identity. It believes religion and the state should be kept separate, and frequently files lawsuits in the US to defend the distinction. Their point is serious, but they relish bringing satire and outrageousness to the fight.

In Oklahoma, for example, they asked to erect an 8ft (2.4m) Satanic statue at the state capitol when a monument of the Ten Commandments was put up, noting that the First Amendment requires all religions to be treated equally. (The Commandments were ultimately removed after a court battle.)

Decoding the symbols on Satan's statue

The Temple also advocates for abortion access, arguing that everyone should have autonomy over their own body.

Earlier this year, it opened an online clinic based in New Mexico, which provides abortion pills by mail.

It has also developed an abortion ritual for people terminating a pregnancy - which is designed to be comforting and involves reciting an affirmation before the abortion - and argues its members must be religiously exempt from abortion bans that would stop them performing it.

That rationale has drawn criticism from some quarters, including in Catholic newspaper the National Catholic Register which called the ritual "nothing more than a grotesque parodying of religious rituals and symbols".

The Yellowhammer Fund, which finances low-income people seeking abortions, declared that "putting your dollars and trust in grassroots organisations that have been doing this work for decades" was a better way to support abortion access.

In a hall packed with supporters, the directors of TST's campaigns present updates on their work. Successes are greeted with whoops, applause, and the sign of the horns.

Another project drawing headlines is After School Satan Clubs - slogan: "Educatin' with Satan". The Temple would rather keep religion out of schools, but wants to counter faith groups coming in to evangelise to pupils.

So where local people have asked it to, it tries to launch an After School Satan Club, focused on community service, science, crafts and critical thinking.

Opponents say it's frightening children, but TST says its content is demon-free. They have a kids' song - My Pal Satan - with a bopping animated goat, and the lines: "Satan's not an evil guy, he wants you to learn and question why. He wants you to have fun and be yourself - and by the way there is no hell."

'Satan loves you!'
Dozens of artists and vendors have set up stalls to sell Satanically inspired crafts. They have everything from "Satan Loves You!" beanies, to crocheted toys modelled on the Baphomet - a goat-headed Satanist symbol with wings.

The Satanic Temple is selling its own T-shirts too. The group doesn't take membership fees, and is kept running largely off donations and merch sales.

The Satanic Temple's code of guiding principles - the Seven Tenets - prioritises empathy, control over one's own body, and respect for other people's freedoms, including the freedom to offend.

Chatting around the merch stalls, many people say their intro to The Satanic Temple came from the 2019 documentary Hail Satan?, directed by Penny Lane, which explores the Temple's principles and early activism.

TST says it boosted membership from perhaps 10,000 in 2019, to more than 700,000 today.

Those gathered in Boston include local government staff, medics, engineers, artists, people in finance, a social worker, a therapist, and a circus performer. Many belong to the LGBTQ community. Plenty are married to Christians - or at least to non-Satanists.

Members tend to lean to the left politically, but there's no political test to join and the Temple will not endorse any party or candidate.

Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple's co-founder, arrives with personal security, dressed in black and carrying a Thermos. "English breakfast tea. I got it from a shop that sells British stuff." He smiles when I accidentally say "bless you!"

Greaves (a pseudonym) started the movement a decade ago with a friend, Malcolm Jarry (also a pseudonym). They shared a commitment to religious freedom, and opposing what they see as Christianity encroaching on legislation.

Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, says it was never a prank project - despite their willingness to use satire and shock value
News outlets, especially in the US, often present The Satanic Temple as attention-seeking pranksters pretending to be a religion, something he strongly objects to.

"People are hesitant to take anything we say at face value, but I feel like everything we say is pretty straightforward and we're not misrepresenting ourselves at all."

If you're trying not to look like trolls, was it wise to name your abortion clinic "Samuel Alito's Mom's Satanic Abortion Clinic", after the Supreme Court judge who backed the decision to remove the federal right to abortion? And then put it on a T-shirt?

The Satanic Temple defends giving its abortion clinic an openly trollish name
"Part of the consideration was refusing to yield to this idea that everything must be sober and humourless to be authentic at all," says Greaves.

"My thinking on that was - nothing could be more serious than us opening a telehealth clinic. I just would hate to see us lose any sense of humour." Greaves has had to adjust his life to deal with the personal risks he faces as America's most prominent Satanist.

"I moved at some point within the past four years and I don't even have people over, because I don't want to have to move again."

Some TST members feel unable to acknowledge openly that they're involved, citing risks to their safety. Members who have been outed have lost their jobs, lost their children in custody battles, and found fake bombs under their cars.

Chalice Blythe, spokesperson for the Temple's religious reproductive rights campaign, received online harassment in the middle of SatanCon, after footage went viral of her tearing a Bible during the opening ceremony.

It's not the first time she's been threatened. In 2016, a family member leaked her details online and a gunman turned up at her home.

The gunman "said 'this is what I'm here to do - I have this gun with that bitch's name on it.' I know they went to jail.

"Legally changing my name, I've had to do that."

As far as she's concerned, it's worth it. "If my enemies are people of a crazy evangelical mindset who want to take my rights away - those are the kind of enemies I'm proud to have."

Typhon Nyx, in his 30s, is one of many TST members who uses an alternative name in the community - a "Satanym", as they call it. He says he moved from atheism to Satanism only recently.

"Satanism stands for everything I believe in," he says. "Including bodily autonomy, compassion, respect, science. And Satan represents those who were cast out, those who think differently.

"I never found my friends being accepted in the Christian circles. The appeal of Satan is that he is the accepting one, the inclusive one, and someone I can more identify with.

"Although, I don't believe he actually exists." ... 51041.html
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Post by swamidada »

The Conversation
Happy birthday, Buddha! Why the founder of Buddhism has so many different birthdays around the world
Megan Bryson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee
Wed, May 24, 2023 at 7:17 AM CDT

When Siddhartha Gautama was born, he was clearly no ordinary infant. According to Buddhist texts, he raised his hand to the skies and declared, “In the heavens above and below the heavens, I am the world’s most honored one. I will free all beings from birth, old age, sickness, and death.”

Then the remarkable baby is believed to have received a first bath: streams of water poured by the gods Brahma and Indra – or flowing from two dragon kings’ mouths, depending on the legend. This cleansing consecrated the Buddha-to-be as holy, signaling that even the gods recognized him as worthy of veneration.

Buddhists believe that several “buddhas,” or enlightened teachers, have been born throughout history. Yet the title “the Buddha” typically refers to this historical figure, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on to found Buddhism. Each year on the Buddha’s birthday, East Asian Buddhists recreate his first bath by pouring water or sweetened tea over a statue of the infant.

The holiday has been observed in different parts of Asia for hundreds of years, but its significance varied by region. In Sri Lanka, for example, it was a religious day simply celebrated at temples, not a public celebration. In Korea, on the other hand, the Buddha’s birthday became a more commercial festival under the Choson dynasty, which frowned upon Buddhist religious practices and ended in 1910.

Buddhist reformers in the 19th and 20th centuries, however, deliberately emphasized the Buddha’s birthday in their efforts to unite Buddhist populations across countries and protect traditions from Christian missionaries. In the late 1800s, Sri Lankans successfully petitioned the British colonial government to allow celebrations for the Buddha’s birthday, which they deliberately modeled on Christmas – a model that caught on around Asia.

These efforts helped the Buddha’s birthday become a major global holiday, but celebrations still take place on different dates and with different traditions. As a scholar of Buddhism who studies the religion’s transmission from India to China, I am keenly aware of how people adapt practices and ideas to their own cultures.

One Buddha, many dates
In South Asia and Southeast Asia, the Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the full moon of the second lunar month, known as Vesākha or Vaiśākha. In Sanskrit, a full moon is “Pūrṇimā,” which is why the holiday is often called Buddha Pūrṇimā, Vesak or Wesak.

Vaiśākha corresponds to April and May of the Gregorian calendar, so in 2023, people in countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Burma celebrated the Buddha’s birthday on the full moon of May 5.

Buddhists in East Asia, however, mark the Buddha’s birthday on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month – and follow a different lunisolar calendar, too. In China, Vietnam and Korea, Buddha’s birthday will be celebrated in 2023 on May 26.

But there are even more variations. The Taiwanese government decided in 1999 to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday jointly with Mother’s Day, on the second Sunday in May. In Japan, meanwhile, the Buddha’s birthday is called “Flower Festival” – Hana Matsuri in Japanese – and celebrated on April 8, following the government’s decision to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1873.

Yet another date for the Buddha’s birthday in 2023 is June 4: the full moon of the fourth lunar month in the Tibetan lunisolar calendar. The entire month, called Saga Dawa, is considered holy because it includes the Buddha’s birth, awakening and death. Tibetan Buddhists believe that good deeds generate exponentially more positive karma during Saga Dawa than at other times of the year.

The date of the Buddha’s birthday isn’t the only difference between cultures. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, including Tibetan regions, Vesak doesn’t just commemorate the Buddha’s birth, but also his attainment of nirvāṇa, or enlightenment, and his death, known as parinirvana. In East Asia, however, the Buddha’s enlightenment and passing are honored on separate days, so the spring holiday only focuses on the Buddha’s birth.

China: Care for creatures
Throughout East Asia, Buddhists will bathe statues of the infant Buddha-to-be, recite Buddhist scriptures and make donations to Buddhist temples – but there will still be a lot of diversity in these celebrations.

In China, the practice of “fangsheng,” releasing animals, has been part of celebrating the Buddha’s birthday since the 11th century. Devout Buddhists purchase animals otherwise destined for slaughter and release them into the wild. Recently, some cities in China have encouraged greater consideration of local ecosystems to prevent invasive species that worshippers release from crowding out native animals.

Another way Chinese Buddhists express compassion for all living beings is by avoiding meat for three days around the Buddha’s birthday – similar to the Tibetan practice of following a vegetarian diet during the month of Saga Dawa.

Korea: Lighting up the sky
Korea was under Japanese imperial rule from 1910 to 1945. During that period, the Japanese government sponsored a joint Japanese-Korean celebration of the Buddha’s birthday that revived the holiday’s religious significance. Though many Koreans opposed the Japanese occupation, some Korean Buddhists appreciated the opportunity to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday as a new pan-Buddhist holiday.

Korean celebrations of the Buddha’s birthday are distinctive for their use of lanterns, which represent the light of awakening and can also be used as vehicles for prayers and vows sent up toward the heavens. Today in South Korea, colorful lantern displays and lantern parades mark the national holiday.

The Buddha’s birthday has even been observed in North Korea since 1988, despite the country’s general suppression of religious activity. In 2018, the holiday served as an occasion for Korean unity, with Buddhists in North and South Korea jointly composing and reciting a prayer for the occasion.

Vietnam: Renewed traditions
In Vietnam, the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday – known as Phật Đản – was observed in the medieval period, often alongside prayers for rain. However, celebrations seem to have faded over time until the festival was reintroduced in the early 20th century, when the holiday was gaining popularity throughout the region.

The holiday still remains somewhat obscure in northern Vietnamese villages, but has gained popularity elsewhere in the country. Today, Buddha birthday celebrations in Vietnam involve lighting paper lanterns, making offerings to the Buddha and praying for health and well-being. Lotus-shaped lanterns are especially popular because they symbolize the ability to remain pure in an impure world, just like beautiful lotuses grow from murky swamps.

Buddha birthday celebrations that fall earlier in the spring are often the ones international groups focus on. In 1950, the World Fellowship of Buddhists decided to make Vesak an international Buddhist holiday, commemorated on the first full moon of May. Nearly 50 years later, the United Nations passed a resolution to recognize Vesak on the same day, in line with South Asian and Southeast Asian celebrations.

These official acts of recognition mark the importance of this holiday for Buddhists worldwide, but we should also remember the just-as-meaningful celebrations that come a few weeks later.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.
It was written by: Megan Bryson, University of Tennessee. ... 15281.html
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Post by swamidada »

Iran's Zoroastrians keep ancient, sacred flame burning

Ahmad Parhizi and Jerome Rivet
Sat, July 22, 2023 at 11:35 PM CDT

A Zoroastrian priest dressed in white carefully added wood to a fire that has burned for centuries inside an Iranian temple, sacred to one of the world's oldest religions.

The fragrant holy fire, kept in a large bronze goblet, "has been burning for more than 1,500 years", said Simin, a tour guide welcoming visitors to the Zoroastrian fire temple in Iran's central Yazd province.

Zoroastrianism dates back some 3,500 years, but centuries of persecution have dwindled its numbers and a fast-changing modern world has left it struggling to adjust.

Founded by the prophet Zarathustra, it was the predominant religion of the ancient Persian empire, until the rise of Islam with the Arab conquests of the seventh century.

Today, the Zoroastrian community is estimated at around 200,000 people who live mainly in Iran and India.

They venerate fire as a supreme form of purity.

Alongside water, air and earth, the elements must not be contaminated by human activity, according to their faith.

Only Zoroastrian priests are allowed in the Yazd sanctum, covering their faces to prevent vapour and breath from contaminating the sacred fire, as they take turns during the day to keep the flame burning.

The fire "can never die out", said the tour guide.

Visitors can only observe the rituals from behind tinted glass.

In Iran, Zoroastrian leaders say the community nowadays counts about 50,000 members. The latest national census, conducted in 2016 and excluding converts, put their number at 24,000.

Over the centuries, faithful have undergone forced conversions, with many of their temples destroyed, libraries set ablaze, and much of their cultural heritage lost.

But "our religion still occupies a place in the history of the world, and it will continue to exist", said Bahram Demehri, a 76-year-old faithful from Yazd.

"The essence of Zoroastrianism, like other religions, is based on monotheism, prophecy, belief in the afterlife and benevolence," he told AFP.

Zoroastrians believe that "good thoughts, good words, good deeds" are the key to happiness and spirituality.

A messiah called Saoshyant will one day return and save the world by fighting wrongs, they believe.

Their teachings are embodied in Faravahar, an ancient symbol of a man emerging from a winged disc while holding a ring, which is carved on the pediments of ancient Persian temples.

"Joy is essential in the practice of our religion," Simin, the tour guide, noted, mentioning multiple religious celebrations.

One of those festivals, Nowruz, marks the new Persian year and is celebrated to this day by Iran's overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim majority.

Tehran recognises Zoroastrians as a religious minority, granting them freedom of worship and representation in parliament, which also reserves seats for other minorities including Armenians, Assyrians and Jews.

Some other religious minorities, like followers of the Bahai faith -- Iran's largest non-Muslim group -- are not recognised by the state.

But for Zoroastrians like Demehri, "the laws protect us", he said.

"Zoroastrians are active members of Iranian society," and include "university professors and government employees", Demehri added.

They are, however, barred from careers in Iran's armed forces and cannot run for president.

- Waning traditions -

Some Zoroastrian rituals were lost as followers were forced to practise their faith discreetly.

A funerary rite known as "dakhma" was banned in Iran since the late 1960s for sanitary reasons.

It involves exposing the dead bodies atop a platform known as "the tower of silence" to be devoured by scavenging birds.

Instead, Zoroastrians have opted to lay their deceased to rest in cemeteries.

Other traditions are challenged by modernity, with many followers scattered around the world.

Among the community's most famous exiles is legendary Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury, born to a Zoroastrian family originally from India.

Zoroastrian priests have sought to open centres abroad, including in California in the United States, where a sizeable diaspora community lives.

Demehri noted efforts to "modernise the rites" and simplify them for younger generations.

"It is difficult to ask young people who love pizza to eat our traditional tasteless bread during celebrations," he said. ... 42201.html
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Post by swamidada »

Sermon 1: Praise is due to Allah

Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks.

The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute.

Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and whoever recognises His like regards Him two; and whoever regards Him as two recognises parts for Him; and whoever recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and whoever mistook Him pointed at Him; and whoever pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and whoever admitted limitations for Him numbered Him. Whoever said: ‘In what is He?’, held that He is contained; and whoever said: ‘On what is He?’, held He is not on something else.

He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.

Note: Adopted from first Sermon of Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence) explained by Mowla Murtaza Ali, only beginning portion of Sermon related to Allah is mentioned.
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