Am I ever appalled that even up till today there are some Christians arguing for their passage way to heaven and who is eligible. Although, this strikes me a controversial thought: can Christians only be admitted to heaven? Surely, I would want my Buddhist and even non-religious friends to come up there with me when my time has passed. Yet, I can argue on my case that I haven’t been the proper Christian I should have been by attending regular Sunday masses. In fact, the bible did indeed expressively say that I had to keep the Holy Sabbath day, and to be frank I do not. Thus in my argument, do I permit to entering heaven as well? To my curiosity, the article ‘Can only Christians go to heaven?’ written by Vasko Kholmayer, questions if non-Christian followers are to “suffer the torments of hell.” This follows under the pre-tribulation view from one of the Christian teachings that states Jesus Christ would come down from heaven to “rapture” his people that were diligent and obedient Christians. Kholmayer argues that many of the prophets in the bible themselves were Jewish and spoke about God. However, according to Kholmayer, he states that Christian argues only those who follow under the footsteps of Jesus were permitted. Kholmayer also defends his argument by presenting the book of Jobs that does not mention about Moses or the Torah from the Hebrew Scripture. Job, a “righteous gentile” who was neither Jewish nor Christian is believed to be in heaven with God. Thus, does this answer if someone must be Christian to go to heaven? Hence, regardless of religion, Kholmayer and I share the similar belief that heaven is not limited to Christians. In light of growing up in a family with mixed religious ideas, my mother followed the religious teachings of Chinese Buddhism, and my father is Catholic; I have been brought up to learn that all religions had their own type of heaven. Overall, I am not one to predict if either of my parents, friends or even myself will be going to heaven, the void, nirvana or the blank slits of the universe.
To read more about Kholmayer’s article, visit: http://bit.ly/Wotjsb
For centuries, Tibetan Buddhist monks have offered advice through their centuries-old wisdom in an attempt to better society. A new program called the “Science for Monks” has been developed to provide monks an alternative perspective. There has always been debate over science and religion, however, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso has opened up to the possibility of embracing western science. With this new knowledge he sees an opportunity to “explore…the nature of reality” and sees science as a “compelling way to communicate insights from [his] own spiritual tradition”. The introduction of science to this well established and ancient practice is not intended to alter beliefs and traditions, but to “show their potential for an expanded role in the community… but as more engaged…informed…and more well-rounded scholars.” Traditional Buddhism has rooted values in observing the universe and understanding its nature for the purpose of bettering society. Through the Dalai Lama Centre for Ethics and Transformative Values, a program called Science, Monks and Technology aims to give monks the knowledge they need so they can provide technologies such as accessible, clean water, and solar power to their communities. Generally, people have the notion that traditional religions are reluctant to change and reject criticism, however, the Buddhists of Tibet erase that stigma. The” Science for Monks” program is designed to provide “another touch point for a two-way discussion on the nature of reality”, and ultimately demonstrates that “Western science and Buddhism can help each other best serve humanity”.
Baha’is in Iran today are facing extreme segregation in their nation. It is very sad to hear that in today’s society individuals are being punished, not for harmful crimes but simply for something they believe in. Young people of the Baha’i Faith are stripped from the right of going to universities, from achieving respective careers such as: professors, doctors, teachers and many more. According to the article, 116 individuals have been put in jail for what they believe in, and over 670 have been arrested. This information is especially disappointing because the Baha’i Faith is a very open culture, it is open to anyone who is interested. The Faith encourages unity among the world as well as helping humanity move to a new and better day in society through interaction amongst different cultures. Although Baha’i minorities are facing horrific treatment in Iran today, it is comforting to know that the U.S Congress is doing something to stand up for these people. They are trying to pressure the Iranian government to release the imprisoned individuals because they are being punished for no good reason. It is incredible to think about how much strength the Baha’is in Iran have, especially when they are denied the right of higher education; no matter how qualified they happen to be. No matter what culture, religion or faith a person chooses to live by, they shouldn’t be punished for it, as long as they are not hurting anyone or any other system of belief.
Adolph Hitler, leader of the nazi party in Germany and founder of the Aryan race has been exposed on suspicious habits. In the practice of the pure Aryan race followers and members were advised to abide by strict rules, one being the idea of an all vegetarian diet. Margot Woelk, one of the war brides at the time of Hitler’s rise to power had to taste each and every meal made for Hitler by the kitchen to test for poison. She recently came forward after many years and revealed some intriguing details. Margot noted that while testing the food for Hitler to eat she occasionally noticed a meat source, whether it was a bavarian sausage, a stuffed pigeon, or a slice of ham. Adolph was ignoring the all pure Aryan diet that he created himself, which is known for fresh delicious foods like salads and vegetables. As we have learned in class diet plays a significant role in religion. Many religions have a different suggested diet and eating habits that pertain to their belief system, whether it be meat friendly or prepared completely kosher. How can one create such ideas and strict rules for the people of this race to follow yet not abide by them himself? Although Hitler promoted the idea of the pure Aryan race as a meat-friendly diet, he was on the fence and did not always practice the ways he strongly advocated.
I found this news story interesting due to the idea that the Mormon communtiy is using a play which mocks them in order to bring their history and their beliefs into the public eye. Rather than protesting and back-lashing against the musical, which is a satirical comedy of Mormon beliefs and traditions, Mormons are using it as a platform to spread education about their belief system to a highly uneducated American audience. Its also interesting to notice their use of technology in this process as they have implemented a scan code within the program booklets which helps direct viewers to The Book of Mormon, the fundamental literature which is the backbone of the movement. I think that in today’s society, a large misunderstanding and negative bias are both present toward not only the Mormon religion, but all new religious movements in general. It is therefore wise to educate the public in order to alleviate negative attitudes and replace them with concrete understandings of who the believers are, what they believe, and their reasons for doing so. Our textbook, Understanding Cults and New Age Religions, opened with an introduction which emphasized the tendency that Evangelical Christians have to judge, scapegoat, and ostracize religions other than their own. I think that through the use of humour and satire, the Mormon community has successfully implemented a system which will help decrease levels of stigma and confusion and replace them with understanding and perhaps even additional members to their community of believers. Since the Mormon religion is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, it is important that as much education is provided about what they stand for as possible and this unique method was definitely a wise way to approach this goal. I think that education is the most efficient way to combat misunderstanding and prejudice against new religious movements and I definitely think that the method used here is beneficial to the livelihood of the Morman community.
The Mormon church has long been known for its staunch opposition to homosexual marriage, from the high level of support the church provided for proposition 8, an amendment of state constitutional law in California which dictated that “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” (http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/text-proposed-laws/text-of-proposed-laws.pdf#prop8), to Mormon cultural figures such as Orson Scott Card, author of the influential Science Fiction novel Ender’s Game, who is extremely vocal in his disapproval of homosexuality itself. Considering the influence of Christian beliefs on the Mormon religion, this opposition is probably not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the acceptance of openly homosexual members in certain Mormon churches, including some important figures within the structure of the church.
One of the most outspoken examples in 2013 is Mitch Mayne, the executive secretary of the Bay ward of the Church, which is based in San Francisco, California. Mayne self-identifies as a homosexual Mormon man and describes himself as “an ambassador between the church and the LGBT community” (http://www.kalw.org/post/where-homosexuality-and-mormonism-collide), bridging the gap between what appear to be two opposing groups of people. In the article I tweeted, there is an interesting interview with Mayne that provides some insight into the attitudes held by Mayne and his peers regarding homosexuality inside and outside of the Mormon church. The most prevalent aspect of the interview discussed by Mayne was his spirituality regarding his religious faith and his sexual orientation.
As discussed in Understanding Cults and New Age Religions, the Mormon church is one of the first examples of spiritually-based evolutionary mythology, and the church believes that human beings are inherently “spiritual beings whose existence predates their physical birth” (40). Because of this heavily spiritual belief system, the language used by Mayne regarding his sexual orientation and his faith as aspects of his physical and spiritual make-up, genetically ingrained aspects of his body and soul, can show some reasoning behind the acceptance of gay members of the Latter Day Saints church. Mayne is, as the article I posted suggests, “not what we think of as a typical Mormon”, but his standing within the church may represent several intriguing movements within the LDS church: an ability of the church to change over time can be attributed to spiritual evolution and greater understanding of the soul. An acceptance of modern sensibilities is possible within the movement, and there is a potential schism between those who show disdain for LGBT rights and those who choose to accept homosexuality as inevitable.
Does this contentious point show signs of change within the Mormon church? Does the history of New England as a space of “rapid social change” (Understanding Cults and New Age Religions 39) around when the religious movement was founded allow the church to be more open to internal debate and modern sensibilities that change over time?
Lawrence Wright writes a tell-all book on the Church of Scientology. As a former member himself, he reveals the negative side to the New Religious Movement. Wright does not discredit the church in its original teachings, but the way it has exploded into something much harsher, sometimes violent and stricter than it needs to be. He calls it a “prison of belief” than has been glamorized because of its notable celebrity following. The issue with this glamorized church is just that, glamorized. Wright reveals it as something wonderful from the outside, but violent once on the inside. Regular non-celebrities will never be treated the way members such as Tom Cruise are treated. In his book, he is warning the public about the ‘true’ ways of the Church of Scientology and that people may be extremely taken advantage of when included into this group. According to the course, Wright has been “deprogrammed” from the religion and feels it is his duty to warn others of its shortcomings.
Although often riddled with criticism, Scientology has most recently headlined newspapers and news programs all over the world due in large part to its celebrity following. From Tom Cruise and John Travolta to Kristie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley, it would seem that Scientology has taken over Hollywood. But lately, it’s celebrity status has become second to the dangers that many ex-Scientologists claim they dealt with while members of the organization. Most recently, the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige has come out with a tell-all book about her life as a Scientologist and the fateful day she decided she would take her own life (http://bit.ly/11MxXHY). Although Ms. Miscavige was “saved” from this drastic decision she still anguishes over her lost childhood, lack of education, and abusive upbringing under the church’s reign. But this draws the question as to why some religions become so obtrusive to people’s well-being, and why people feel these drastic measures are the only way to leave the religion.
As we saw in class, this situation reflects quite similarly to how certain religions (eg. the Unification Church) accusedly “teach” their members how to take their own life. Although, this is believed to be untrue, the concept of self-harm or suicide in religion seems to be more apparent than ever. But it isn’t just the hope of leaving the religion that pushes people to this extent. Although it isn’t always clear why mass suicides take place or what message is trying to be sent, mass suicides often take place as a warning and can be based on apocalyptic theology. In some of the most extreme examples: 900 members of Jonestown committed mass suicide in 1979 when the group known as the Peoples Temple, led by Jim Jones, wear urged to “die with dignity” as opposed to under capitalist forces. Although some of the suicides are believed to have been voluntary, it has also been reported that some were forced to drink poison or shot if they tried to leave. This mass suicide seemed to stem mostly from fear of power. But it was also widely known that the religion was under scrutiny and constant investigation on how members were treated. There did not seem to be an apocalyptic fear associated with Jonestown but in various other cases (e.g. Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate) it was believed that through suicide you would be reincarnated or that your soul would find it’s way to another life or world. This is a complete reversal from what is condoned in traditional religions.
Out of the three Abrahamic religions, both Christianity and Islam deem suicide a cardinal sin, whereas in Judaism suicide has its exceptions (imprisonment/war camps) – but, of course, is never encouraged. However, suicide is somewhat of a contentious issue amongst new religions. Mass suicides and “devil worshipping” have been widely documented amongst “cults”/new religions which has created a negative and perpetuating stereotype about new and evolving religions – even if they are based on traditional Abrahamic religious values.
The Church of Scientology is one of the most controversial new religious movements to have risen in the 20th century. What makes this new movement so captivating? Firstly, it has been linked to famous figures in Hollywood, and according to an article in The Economist, the church describes its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a “navy hero who rid the world of the need for psychiatry with concepts from his 1950 book Dianetics”. The religion claims to cure physical and mental illness through a process called “auditing”. This entails the believer to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past to free themselves emotionally. This description however seems to illustrate Scientology as the formula to curing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are several cognitive restructuring therapies to essentially “audit” ones past experiences, usually performed by a licensed professional. Yet the reader may conclude that the significance of this new religious movement lies only in its tightly knit and private communal structure. Mr. Wright, author of “Going Clear”, interviews eleven former members who reported abuse and brainwashing, yet this is a small number of accounts considering the rate at which Scientology is growing. The private nature of this religion gives the reader more reason to assume it’s an organization. Scientologists compare their hardships with the Nazi persecution of the Jews, instantly categorizing themselves as a world religion, yet the reader may concur from former member testimonials that followers were badly “persecuted” if not 100% devout. New Religion or New Therapy?!