The Witch Costume: How Modern Pagans Have Reclaimed it as an Act of Power
For my second blog I have chosen an article from the Huffington Post by Antonia Blumberg. The article revolves around the use of the iconic witch costume on Halloween and how it is seen by Pagan groups. One of the first main points of this article is the fact that members of Pagan groups don’t actually find it offensive to dress up in a witch costume. I find that this point being made by the article relates well with our studies of religious world views as it pins the views of Pagan group members against the views of non-Pagan group members. The article seems to suggest that it is non-Pagan group members who tend to think wearing witches costumes is offensive to those belonging to Wiccan churches when in actuality many Pagan group members believe that a key component in dressing up in spiritual garb is the context it is being worn in. Rev. Selena Fox a senior minister of the Circle Sanctuary who is quoted throughout the article is noted as saying “We are having fun with witch costumes because of the context.” Another main point made by the article is that Pagan group members are not so much frustrated by people offending them by wearing witch costumes but are more irritated by the fact that non-witches/Wiccans are determining what’s offensive instead of asking them what they find as offensive. Again we see how the worldviews between non-Pagans and Pagans are very different and a true understanding of the Pagan worldview cannot be ascertained without actually speaking to someone who associates themselves under the Pagan religion. A third point made by the article is the fact that those belonging to Pagan groups are reclaiming not only the witch costume but the word “witch” itself as an act of power. The word “witch has always been associated with evil and bad things at least in terms of those who are non-witches/Wiccans. It seems though that members of Pagan groups are looking to change that as Fox is quoted saying that “But depictions of the “evil witch”, with her hat and broom, can offer an opportunity to talk about the true nature of Wiccan spirituality.” I think this point made by the article relates well with what we learned in class about the understanding of worldviews constantly changing. Not only is it a constant change but it is a change with the intention to help others gain a better understanding of other worldviews. Overall I think this articles does well to relate to our core study of the nature and origin of religious worldviews because it shines a light on how the nature of religious worldviews can be quite different between members and non-members of a religion. If you would like to read the article yourself you can find it on the following link
Vatican Softens View on Homosexuality
In this article, , the Vatican has announced that they will be taking a more accepting view towards gay people. After a week long discussion of 200 bishops, a Vatican document revealed that homosexuals have “gifts and qualities to offer.” This document reflects Pope Francis’ view regarding homosexuality. He says, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis has taken progressive steps to change the position of the Church so that homosexuals are accepted and valued as humans.
It seems that the Pope is saying that the Church should not be afraid to change as it has been far too rigid in its views of gay people. His views are a far cry from those of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI whose views were much in line with the tradition doctrines of the Church. Pope Francis presents a new and hopeful direction for the Catholic churches to soften their views on homosexuality. This view by Pope Francis indicates that the old, hard traditions of Catholicism may slowly fade over time.
This dramatic view of Pope Francis has already been embraced by many American Catholics, particularly the young. The younger generation tend to be more progressive and more likely to support gay people. Therefore, it may be more difficult for Bishops and the Catholic Church to keep traditional doctrines in place as time goes on. In addition, if the church does not change, it will continue to alienate the younger generation who are accepting of homosexuals.
For now, there will be no doctrinal changes but it is a big step in a new direction. Changing attitudes will be an ongoing effort especially among those who have been faithful to the church for so long. Homosexuality has been regarded as a sin in the Catholic Church, but Pope Francis wants to look beyond the sin and view the person as a whole with compassion and respect. Pope Francis is saying that if a person is gay, but has God in his heart, then there is no room to interfere spiritually in the life of a homosexual.
There will be much debate along the way and this new direction will most likely break down tradition values and set new grounds in tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality. Although some old traditional Catholics may have a problem with this new view, it is important for the Church to move ahead as our society has been embracing new values and morals over time. Perhaps it is time for the Church to start listening and adapting with our constantly changing society.
Science and Religion: An Ongoing Debate
In June 2014, Judge William F. Kuntz, a New York City district judge ruled to uphold a policy that prevents unvaccinated children from going to school when another child has a disease that is preventable by vaccination. Three families have filed lawsuits against this school policy stating that it is a violation of their personal religious freedoms. I believe the areas of religion and science come into conflict with each other often because they are both highly contested and highly controversial issues. I believe that Judge William F. Kuntz is correct in upholding this policy. Judge Kuntz is taking a public health viewpoint that is both rational and effective. Freedom of religion or freedom of belief can be described as a right to practice ones beliefs and practices as an individual or in a community. Religious freedom is a significant right that individuals should rightfully possess and everyone should hold this right. But to a certain extent, religious freedom does not take precedent over public health issues.
In this Huffington Post news article it is stated that a few individuals who are against this health policy state that they do not want their children vaccinated on the grounds of “sincere religious belief”. These individuals that do not want to vaccinate their children because of a sincere religious belief are not considering the safety of their children and ultimately, the safety of the entire community around them. I believe that every individual has a right to practice their religion and their religious beliefs. But when it comes to public health, it is significant to consider that public health concerns go beyond religious beliefs and practices. When it comes to matters of public health, it has the ability to effect many people and groups and goes beyond just the individual and their own beliefs. The greater society must be considered and the safety of the community must be upheld.
An individual by the last name Check had stated in the New York Times that her opposition to vaccinations came from a religious revelation that occurred during her tough pregnancy. Check is quoted as saying “The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down,” she said. “But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.” I believe this statement illustrates an extreme side of religious beliefs. Completely disregarding scientific evidence that vaccinations and medicine help prevent diseases on the grounds of religion is incredibly irrational. A strong belief in a higher power does not grant you immunity from diseases and sickness. I believe that this article from Huffington Post illustrates that controversial issues of science and religion and how they often intersect and ultimately conflict with each other. New York City district Judge, William F. Kuntz was entirely justified in upholding this policy. This article also illustrates how public health concerns often take precedence over religion, and rightfully so.
“Not in my Name”
There have been many discussions among Canadians about the threat of ISIS, the extremist terrorist organization that claims to Islamic in its religious views. These discussions have also led to debates about the Muslim faith and its supposed violent agenda of terror. While it may be easy and convenient for people to blame the Muslim faith for these evil people’s actions, I feel that this type of generalization is simply untrue, and is in fact quite ignorant. With approximately 1.6 billion Muslims on our planet, i find it incredibly difficult to believe the idea that they all hold the extreme beliefs that ISIS holds. In my opinion, ISIS is a group whom uses religion as an excuse for its violent activities, and whose members are deeply evil individuals who have found a way to try and justify their actions. There are evil people in all religious groups and of all races, as well as good, kind people in every religious group and race. This idea should be commonplace in modern society, yet it sadly isn’t. Instead, certain uninformed people, and the mainstream media, place the blame on the entire Muslim religion, because society loves a scapegoat in times of distress apparently. With the recent attacks in Ottawa by recent Islamic converts, the fear of Islam has become very real for Canadians. This is what 17 year-old Muslim Ali Chebli wants to eliminate. He took to social media to express his feelings on the attack, posting a picture of himself holding up a sign saying “not in my name”. The Quebecois Muslim student strongly disagrees with what ISIS is doing, as do many other Muslim people. He states “I’m just a regular person. Like i said on my page, i wake up every morning, i go to school, i come home, i have dinner, i do my homework.” Although this young man identifies with Islam and the Muslim faith, he is not preaching violence or anything of the sort as many would like us to believe all Muslims do; he is in fact doing the opposite. This young man is doing his part to help eliminate the stigma that some people are fabricating about the Islamic worldview. The overall message to be taken from Ali Chebli’s statement is that the actions of ISIS should not reflect the beliefs of the Muslim faith as a whole; ISIS does not deserve to associate with and tarnish a religion that does not believe in violence. It turns out that most of ISIS’s victims thus far are Muslims, which should help paint the real picture here.
Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Spreading Christianity
The Iranian government has gone to radical extremes in sentencing a Christian Pastor to six years in prison for spreading the faith. In the past, it has been common practice for Iranians to detain Christian pastors for spreading the gospel. One such devout pastor, Behnam Irani, has been threatened with his life for spreading the word of God. Authorities have claimed that in spreading a religion other than their version of Islam, it is considered blasphemous and corrupt to spread the gospel. Pastors involved in gospel missions have been grilled and interrogated for endless hours only to be handed preposterous prison sentences.
Irani’s charges were later reduced to “action against national security and creating a network to overthrow the system” possibly due to international pressure. Although, this did not deter Judge Asel Al-Hosseyn in declaring Irani and his near church associates as guilty of these alleged crimes. They were each handed six-year terms for these supposed crimes against the state. The international and Christian community members alike were not surprised by Iran’s absurd allegations and sentencing of these pastors.
Many skeptics believe that Iran’s initial threat of a death sentence may have been made to defect the international community’s unrest over a long-term prison sentence. Unfortunately, Irani’s deteriorating health will turn the six-year sentence into an inevitable death sentence. If Irani lives to be released in 2023, he will have missed the most crucial years of his 6-year-old and 12-year-old daughters lives. Even more distressing is that the prison that Irani is serving his double six-year sentence is filled with drug dealers and smugglers who are bringing opium into the country making it an extremely dangerous place for anyone let alone a man of the gospel.
Newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, is concerned about the growing number of Muslims embracing the Christian faith. Record numbers of Muslims are embracing the gospel and have been forced to flee the country due to fear of persecution and eventual death penalties. Rouhani has been cracking down harder on these Christians for fear of growing numbers of conversions. One such high profile case was Youcef Nadarkhani who faced the death penalty for protesting against the Iranian’s government’s new policy to require all children to study the Qu’ran. The Iranian Supreme Court informed Nardarkhani that he could save himself form the death penalty if he converted to Islam. His refusal landed him back on death row and he was only released after outcries from a number of international communities.
With an unyielding regime that refuses to allow people to practice their basic human rights, it is clear as to why there are so many conversions to the Christian faith by Muslims in Iran. People are looking for a religion that allows them to express their basic human rights in a society that has stifled their very existence. Islam in Iran has not been able to provide these human rights for a growing number of discontented Muslims and their God-given choice to seek this in Christianity has them facing prison terms and death penalties.
Clark, H. (2014, October 24). Iranian pastor sentenced to six years in prison for spreading Christianity. Retrieved October 25, 2014, from http://christiannews.net/2014/10/24/iranian-pastor-sentenced-to-six-years-in-prison-for- spreading-christianity/
Hexham, I. (2014). Origin and Nature Religious World Views. Religion 200 Course Lectures.
To Wash or Not To Wash the Ebola Dead?
The title clearly hints the dilemma the two article reveals. With increasing death toll of Ebola in West Africa, Muslims in Liberia in particular have been cautioned against washing the bodies of people who died from the Ebola disease to avoid the spread of this vicious virus. That is, when Muslims die, Islam handles death much differently. Relatives and often family members personally wash the corpses of the dead. Such ritual is considered to be a collective duty for Muslims and failure to do so is believed to leave the deceased impure. A member of the World Health Organization (WHO) publicly made a statement that such Islamic burial rituals are a key reason that health officials cannot contain the spread of this deadly virus in West Africa. WHO has issued an advisory to Red Cross and other relief workers in African Muslim nations to “be aware of the family’s cultural practices and religious beliefs. Help the family understand why some practices cannot be done because they place the family or others at risk for exposure.”
The question I want to raise is: to what extent should we be accepting explanations backed up by, or rooted in religion?
In my opinion such activity of washing dead bodies believing that it purifies the deceased is a form of a myth deriving from Muslim communities in Nigeria. I recognize from learning in Dr.Hexham’s lecture that anthropologist John Middleton seemed to treat with respect when it comes to defining what myth means and whereby his definition does not undermine individuals that adhere to myths. According to Dr.Hexham’s book, Middleton once said that “myths enable people to make sense of their lives and their world (past and present) but also be used to direct them for the future”. As with Nigerians, I sincerely believe that washing the bodies of those who died from Ebola is a ritualistic behavior that is a way for them to pay respect for the last time to their loved ones.
Although I feel sympathetic towards Muslim Nigerians who has lost a loved family member to the vicious Ebola virus, and even though I understand that myth is a way for people to deal with the present and is a ritualistic behavior to pay respect, I agree with the WHO on the need to prevent from these people washing Ebola infected bodies. I may sound very critical and some may find it offensive however I present my opinion that: these devout Muslims in Nigeria are selfish in some aspects. It is indeed bitter to call someone selfish however, my explanation for them being selfish is because of the fact that they are risking the lives of millions not only in their own country but threatening the lives of millions world-wide just because of their religious rituals, more generally speaking; their religion. I firmly believe that everyone in this world has a common right that must be respected and protected at all times— basic human rights. More specifically, when it comes to matters that deal with health.
In summation, I am suggesting that: whatever one’s belief may be rooted in (whether it be religious and otherwise) in justifying one’s own actions and the consequences as a result of their actions, such reasons cannot be treated as equally important and valid as the safety of others’ health. The health of others should not be compromised for a person or a group of people’s belief system.
Science and God
One of the questions that is directed to people who practice religion is if one can be a religious person and support science at the same time, or if science disproves religion. My answer is yes, you can both be a follower of a certain religion and science does not disprove religion. There are many people who research science for the glory of God, and some doctors who are religious would say that this “talent” was gifted to them by God, and could not do it without him. One of the misconceptions about the church is that they would not accept science and the modern world, but as this article says, “Of course, the whole reason the Vatican established a Vatican Observatory was to show the world that the Church supports science.” I believe that science and God go together, because how could one possibly say that nothing is moving the world? How does evolution progress to the way we are now? In my opinion, God has made this happen, the complexity of the universe, how the very first living organism was born must have been a creationist theory, otherwise how could one explain where the very first organism came from. Sure, there are many things that are left unexplained or there are many things that the Bible does not explain things such as extraterrestrial beings. But the Bible doesn’t mention about these things either, the Bible does not deny them either, this means that science does not disprove of religion. We can also look at emotions, such as love. It takes more than evidence and data collecting or the scientific method to prove or evaluate this emotion. It is something science cannot apprehend very well, just as Consolmagno says in this article, “But Love is not a puzzle that can be “solved” with “evidence”; it is a reality that grows, in beauty and complexity, the longer you live with it.” But just these reasons for why science would support God are not enough. There are many people in the world that goes strongly against science and religion together. People would begin to ask questions that sometimes cannot be answered, and sometimes people’s faith would waver, which makes others think that if faith is wavered, it would just reinforce the fact that religion and science do not go together and faith is not needed. If there is no faith, people would question the existence of religion and God, I believe that research on science not only supports religion, but it also tests your faith in God.