The Main Religion of the Heian Period

Two Buddhist sects, Tendai and Shingon, dominated religion in the Heian period. The word tendai means heavenly platform, and the word shingon means true word. Both of them belonged to the Mahayana, Great Vehicle, branch of Buddhism originating in India, and both of them were imported from China by the Japanese court at the beginning of the ninth century. In their new surroundings, the sects came to terms with the change from the centralized monarchy of early Heian times to aristocratic familism.

Together the spread throughout the countryside, absorbing Shinto in the process, and became a fruitful ource of artistic inspiration. In those years, two prominent scholar-monks, Saicho and Kukai, each at the height of his powers, returned to Japan from a period of study in China. Saicho, the founder of Tendai Buddhism, was born in 767 in the province of Omi into Mitsuomi family, who were originally immigrants from China. His father was such a devout Buddhist that their house was turned into a temple.

At the age of 12, Saicho entered the Kokubunji monastery of Omi and became a disciple of Gyohyo where he received his first ordination at the age of 14 (in 785 C. E. ) His life was relatively uneventful up until this point, until he received his complete ordination at the age of 19. Then, three months after his ordination he went to live in a small hermitage on Mountain In 788, Saicho established the Hienzanji temple where the carved image of Yakushi the healing Buddha is a central image.

It was sometime during this period that he began studying Ti’en-t’ai scriptures. As a devoutly religious idealist, Saicho was very impressed by the undiscriminating and universal aspects of Ti’en T’ai and thought the Teachings would be a welcome change to the somewhat sterile theology of the Six Nara The mood of the Nara sects was scholastic rather than devotional, and the major Nara practices were magical rites to improve memory or to expand the mind for study, and on occasion to impress the aristocracy.

These were far from the daily devotional exercises found in the writings of Chih-i, the founder of Chinese Ti’en-t’ai. In 802, in favoring monks like Saicho, Emperor Kammu doubtless intended to strengthen the States control over ecclesiastical affairs. Apart from any immediate hecks to the political power of the Nara Monks, the move to a new capital marked a fresh start in religion as well as politics. In Nara, the monks had taught the higher arts of civilization and government to the dynasty and its ruling elite.

In Kyoto, the imperial house and bureaucracy were to be the sponsors rather than pupils of Buddhism. Saicho himself enthusiastically argued that religion should not only submit to the political authorities but also actively help them in their task of administration. A patriot at heart, he held that monks should be ready to put their learning and special skills at the isposal of the national community. Partly to enable them to do this, he insisted that his followers study, as he himself had done, all the variously teaching of Buddhism.

As a result, Tendai came to be the most scholarly of the sects and Hieizan the seat of Japanese These two principles, of partnership with the state, and stress on education, are illustrated by some of the rules Saicho framed for his pupils. Students shall be appointed to positions in keeping with their achievements after twelve years training and study. Those who are capable in both action and speech hall remain permanently on the mountain as leaders of the nation, and those capable in action but not in speech shall be the functionaries of the nation.

Teachers and functionaries of the nation shall be appointed with official licenses as Transmitters of Doctrine and National Lecturers. They shall also serve in such undertakings which benefit the nation and people as the repair of ponds and canals, the reclamation of uncultivated land, the reparation of landslides, the construction of bridges and ships, the planting of trees, the sowing of hemp and grasses, and the igging of wells and irrigation ditches.

They shall also study the Sutras, and cultivate their minds, but shall not engage in private agriculture or trading. Two lay intendants will be appointed to this Tendai monastery to supervise it alternately, and to keep out robbers, liquor and women. Thus the Buddhist Law will be upheld and the nation However, Tendai was never simply a branch of the public service that happened to be organized as a religion. The document quoted makes it clear that while its monks had a duty to the world, they were not to be of the world.

Neither Saicho nor the later leaders of the sect doubted that a monk? fundamental business remained what it always had been: self-guidance through study and moral discipline to a state of spiritual enlightenment where he would cease to be reborn (nirvana). They also agreed with the older sects in thinking that this individualistic vocation could best be fulfilled in a monastery. There, the seeker after truth would find books and instructions as well as the bare necessities of food, Where Tendai did differ from the Nara sects was in its actual doctrine.

It was the irst fully Mahayana (Great Vehicle) teaching in Japan and with Shingon, eclipse the older Hinayana (Small Vehicle) teaching found at Nara. In other words, since about the end of the tenth century, Japanese Buddhism has been very largely one or other school of Mahayana Buddhism developed in India and China over the period 100-600 A. D. Having many branches and much subtle philosophy, it is a vast and complicated field of study. However, one can say that both Tendai and Shingon retained the Hinayana concepts of rebirth (karma), monasticism, and self-effort.

Man was fated to suffer in existence for so long as he remained attached to an illusory, sinful world and to his own selfish desires. The only way he could escape was to listen to the Buddhist message, enter a monastery, and once there learn to rid himself of any sense of attachment. To this stock of basic ideas the Mahayana Buddhists added some equally important dogmas of their One of these was the bodhisattva ideal. Bodhisattvas were a class of exceptional beings who had acquired sufficient merit to enter nirvana, but had given up this reward in he interests of help9ing others along the path to enlightenment.

The role of bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism is similar to that of saints in Christianity. It was believed that a bodhisattva would increase the spiritual purity and welfare of those who prayed to him. This idea is known technically as the doctrine of the transfer of merit, and was quite contrary to the strict Hinayana insistence on the monk? achieving nirvana through his own determination and without any outside help. As a religious ideal, the bodhisattva stood for compassion and service to others rather than for self.

Death from a Buddhist and Christian Point of View

“You will be with me today in paradise,” Jesus Christ told this to the thief on the cross while they were dying. However, can people believe that there is truly life after death? In many different religions there are different perceptions of life after death. For example in the Buddhist religion, the Buddhist people believe that life is practice for death. Professor Brown, of California State University of Northridge stated, “The Buddhist people cultivate positive, happy virtuous states of mind and abandoning non-virtuous, harmful, suffering states of mind. ” This teaching is mirrored by Christianity teachings as well.

Professor Brown also stated, “Death is an opportunity for great spiritual achievement if one is prepared and remembers one’s spiritual practices and beliefs and understandings during the death process. ” From its inception, Buddhism has stressed the importance of death, since awareness of death is what prompted the Buddha to perceive the ultimate futility of worldly concerns and pleasures. Realizing that death is inevitable for a person who is caught up in worldly pleasures and attitudes, he resolved to renounce the world and devote himself to finding a solution to this most basic of existential dilemmas.

Buddhism does not look at death as a continuation of the soul but as an awakening. Dying and being reborn has been compared by some Buddhist as a candle flame. When the flame of one lit candle is touched to the wick of an unlighted candle, the light passes from one Valino 2 candle to another. The actual flame of the first candle does not pass over but is responsible for lighting the second candle. When preparing for death Buddhist generally agree a person’s state of mind while dying is of great importance.

While dying the person can be surrounded by friends, family and monks who recite Buddhists scriptures and mantras to help the person achieve a peaceful state of mind. Buddhism asserts that all being live beyond the various fluctuations of this life. Death is merely a passage to rebirth in another realm such as the human world, a pure land or the flowering of the ultimate nature of the mind. So in all actuality, Buddhist believe that every day on earth, people should live with good positive feelings, positive thinking, positive attitude.

As Buddhist people suggested, life is practice. One can not be happy in the after life unless one takes the advantage of their life on earth. This belief system is also mirrored bye the Christianity point of view on life, death, and the after life. Of course, there are differences, but also vast similarities. Going back to what Jesus stated on the cross, “You will be with me today in paradise. ” This is a quote that many Christians take to heart. In the Christian point of view, Jesus Christ is believed to be the Son of God, the Holy Spirit, as well as God.

Jesus was sent on earth by God to fulfill God’s will. Jesus, while spreading the teachings and practicing the teachings of God, is to die for everyone’s sins. While on earth, Jesus was able to help people and perform many miracles. For example, he has raised the dead. Three times this feet was achieved. Once he rose Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5. 22-24, 35-43; He also rose the son of the widow of Valino 3 Nain (Luke 7. 11-16); and Lazarus (John I 1). Christianity also has a set of teachings that people must follow and go bye while living.

Most commonly known are the Ten Commandments. Some of those Commandments include, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet a neighbors belongings, honor thy father and mother and so on. These teachings help people of the Christian fate to live everyday. These teachings give Christians a standard to live bye. It is a code that Christians live bye. Why do Christians live bye this code? Many if not most of Christians live by this code in order to achieve their ultimate goal. Their ultimate goal of being able to be with God after one dies.

For Christians whose lives are guided by the Bible, the reality of death is acknowledged as part of the current human condition, affected by sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5; Hebrews 9:27). There is “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Although eternal life is a gift that is granted to all who accept salvation through Jesus Christ, faithful Christians await the second coming of Jesus for complete realization of their immortality (John 3:36; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). While waiting for Jesus to come again, Christians may be called upon to care for the dying and to face personally their own death.

However, living by these codes and commandments does NOT guarantee living with God after death. There is something called judgment which the soul has to go through before it can join God in Paradise. The thought of standing for judgment can be delightful or frightful, depending on the place toward which a person seems to be heading, because of the permanence associated with Valino 4 the outcome. What evidence supports this teaching, and can it stand up to objective investigation? Jesus said that he came from heaven and would return to heaven.

He said that those who believe in him and follow him would spend eternity in heaven, while those who don’t will be tormented forever in hell. So in all actuality, living by Christian point of view, if one lives their life on earth by the teachings of Jesus Christ, and live each day as Jesus did, one can expect to be judged fairly and in a good way. What have people learned from both the Buddhist point of view of life and death, and the Christian point of view of life after death? Living life a certain way can lead to a positive or negative after life.

Depending on how one lives their life, Buddhist believe that positive living, the spirit enters a pure land, or the flowering of the nature of mind, or is reincarnated in order to redo the wrong one has done. And according to the Christian point of view, if living positively on Earth, one can expect to go to Heaven and live happily with God. However, if one lives negatively, one can expect to endure the eternal fires of Hell. People should ask themselves, “What would Jesus do? ” or, “What would Buddha do? ” Asking these questions, maybe people will be able to live positively.

The Koran

According to the traditional account the Koran was revealed to Muhammad, usually by an angel, gradually over a period of years until his death in 632 C. E. It is not clear how much of the Koran had been written down by the time of Muhammad’s death, but it seems probable that there was no single manuscript in which the Prophet himself had collected all the revelations. Nonetheless, there are traditions which describe how the Prophet dictated this or that portion of the Koran to his secretaries The Qur’an (Koran, Quran) is the Holy Book of Islam and the religions most sacred writing.

Muslims consider it the actual word of Allah and not the word of Muhammad to whom it was given. Muslim tradition states that the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and gave him the words directly from Allah. These words were Allah’s words of wisdom, truth, and commandments to His creation. The Qur’an (which means recitation) was revealed in the Arabic dialect used by the Quraish tribe of Mecca of that time. This dialect became the formal Arabic of the Islamic nations due to the distribution of Qur’anic scriptures throughout the Islamic empire. In the Arabic the Qur’an is poetic in style with rhymes, meter, and shifts in line lengths.

Those who speak the language say it is a beautiful work. The Qur’an deals mainly with what and how Allah wants mankind to believe and do in Man’s moral struggle. It’s primary theme is that of complete submission to the will of Allah. However, it also, it teaches . . . there is only one sovereign God (3:191; 5:73; 112:1-4). there will be an end of the world and judgment day (3:30; 35:33-37). those who are not Muslims will go to hell (3:13; 19:49). that those whose good deeds exceed their bad will obtain paradise (3:135; 7:8-9; 21:47). social and ethical behavior for Islamic society.

In the year 610 (believed to be the 26th of Ramadan), while in a cave on Mt. Hirah, which is now called Mount Jabal Nur, Muhammad said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and commanded him to recite (96:1-19). From that point on, Muhammad received revelations up to the time of his death, 23 years later in 632. In these encounters with the angel Gabriel, sometimes Muhammad would see the angel, other times he would only hear him, and at others he only heard the sound of a bell through which the words of the angel came. Since Muhammad could not read or write, his companions wrote down what he said.

These recitations were copied onto a variety of materials: papyrus, flat stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades and ribs of animals, pieces of leather and wooden boards. 1 Additionally, these sayings were also being memorized by Mohammad’s followers. In fact, to this day, great emphasis is placed upon memorizing the entire Qur’an and there are many thousands of Muslims who have committed it to memory. The work is roughly the same size as the New Testament. Apparently, there was no attempt made to collect all of the savings given by Muhammad during his lifetime.

After all, Mohammad was continuing to give ‘ recitations’ on a somewhat regular basis. But, after he died in 632, Abu-Bakr, Muhammad’s father in law, became the caliph (religious leader of the Muslims) and there was a small effort to collect the fragments of Qur’anic sayings into a common place. But, it wasn’t until the fourth leader of Islam, Caliph Uthman, that the whole Qur’an was finally assemble, approved, and disseminated throughout the Muslim world. The Koran also contains many biblical figures (Abraham, David, Moses, and Jesus) as well as non-biblical figures.

However, some of the accounts of biblical characters are different than the Bible. The Koran is divided into 114 chapters, called Surah’s. The word surah means “row”. Today the Koran is arranged with the longer surah’s first and the shorter ones after. To with the whole thing that divided into 30 approximately equal lengths. “Islamic law prohibits the touching of the physical Arabic Qur’an (and formal, but not casual, recitation) unless the person he is in a state of purity which corresponds to the greater of Ablution… it is a priest group Chin that every Moslem must commit at least 12 vs. lines of the Qur’an to memory. “2

The revelations are identified has having been revealed either in Mecca or Medina. Generally, those revealed in Mecca are the earlier ones and are more poetic and deal with apocalyptic themes. The Medina revelations deal more with the law of Allah. Many have noted that the arrangement of the Qur’an is not chronological or thematic. The subjects tend to be disjointed and shifting. This is due in part to the directions of Mohammad to put certain savings in different places in the Surahs. Muslims are aware of this and considered as to be the divine order in the Koran.

The types of cults

There are many types of cults in the world, cults are everywhere but you just do not see them. Every person in the world has been in contact with them in one way or another in many cases you cannot see them. The closest cult we know of is on Rice Lake called the Moonies led by Reverend Myung, where I have currently visited. Cults can be involved in churches and even are earliest religions are called cults. Cults are not the strongest groups’ sects are the strongest group. When you join a sect you cannot get out of them but a cult you can leave without having any problem or commitment.

Sects will not let you out because many times it’s illegal and they are afraid that you will say something to the public. Cults sometimes are illegal to. Religious cults are in every town and village there is no definition of a cult that is accepted by sociologists and psychologist or religion many types of activities will take cult like structures, an example would be any popular trend like physical exercise this is called the physical fitness cult. Famous athletes are a big figure when it comes to cults, many times Movie stars, professional athletes will endorse a product and a trend will start, making it turn into a cult.

Also people who generate beliefs of something like flying saucer, aliens or any unknown figures can be cult. In religion when people call a church they are referring to a sacred organization having a highly structured or formalized dogma and hierarchy, but also allowing a bit of flexibility about membership requirements allowing you to go to a church and leave church when you want to. Although sects are against church attempts to accommodate to secular society. Sects believe that they are protecting a true faith or belief.

Sects tend to stay away from world events , and also they believe in a strong strict behavioral code and demand a commitment out of their people. The differences between cults and sects are sometimes the same. Many scholars do not make distinctions between the two. Cults are different because they do not expect as much commitment. Many times’ cults do not expect couples to become apart. Cults do not last as long as sects. Many times’ cults survive through a decade, and also cults allow you to come and go as you want.

Leaders of cults build around a charismatic leader who has a lifestyle dedicated to a specific spirituality group that they know other people will follow. The word Mormonism began as a small cult then grew bigger until it became a sect and eventually into a church. All the new religions followed the same thing by beginning small and getting bigger than becoming a church. Contemporary Cults Cults go back as far as we know of life, cults began to get bigger and be known throughout the world in the late 1960s and early 70s as people were better educated and better understood how they were formed and how they were run and people began to join.

During this time Youths and middle class people began to join cults because of the in thing to do and they felt more secure about themselves. Cults really started to fascinate people when Jimmy Jones cult began in November of 1978 when all attention was focused on the mass suicide in Jonestown, a similar event happened in 1993 when federal agents engaged in a shoot out with cult leader David Koresh. Modern cults have many different practices and many different ways of leadership.

Some cults have a flexible functional leadership, like the groups in the charismatic movement coming from the mainland Christian religion, other cults have people who run and orchestrate cult events, like Reverend Myung Moon leader of the unification church. The reason people are attracted to modern cults because it puts emphasis on community and on direct experience with the divine. In cults’ participants often find a level of social support and acceptance that they do not find in a nuclear family.

This makes and generates a sense of belonging to something profound and a feel of being somebody. People who often join cults such as this, join because they think they are getting something the world did not give them. Several factors have been looked at to figure why people like are modern youths join cults. Factors that were looked at were drug’s war assignation of many unpopular presidents. Cults have been questioned about brainwashing people, and found it to be true. Cargo Cults Cargo cults are usually neutralist and are in it for money.

The word cargo refers to foreign goods possessed by Europeans. Cult members believe that goods belong to themselves and that , with the help of ancestral spirits, the goods can be returned to them through magic religious means. Brainwashing Brainwashing is the process of deliberately subjecting people to physical and psychological hardship in order to alter their thoughts and attitudes, and actions. It also is a process of totally cleaning a mind of one set idea and replacing them by another thought or belief.

This is called to indoctrinate cleaning a thought and putting a completely new thought in mind. Indoctrinating can take place without brainwashing. There are 2 aspects of brainwashing they are confessions of past crimes or errors of the past and re-education to new beliefs. Prisoners sometimes are made to confess by lack of sleep and food and other forms of intense physical discomfort, also isolation from victims’ families and from familiar surroundings. Cult leaders show obedience, and humility and make other members give social pressure to the new member to make them join.

And the last thing they do is make mutual criticism and self criticism sessions, which make them have a generalized guilt feeling that all people have acceptance of new ideas is again fostered by group pressure and the anticipated reward of freedom. People who have a better understanding of psychology and neuophysiology have made larger groups create extremely effective brainwashing programs. Their techniques however have been used for centuries as inquisition making people give excited confessions from alleged heretics.

Religions sometimes use these methods like scourging, rhythmic dancing and drumming and sometimes inducing a trance like state in which the individual is open to conversion. In the 20th centuries, most noticeably by the people’s temple of Guyana, whose membership committed mass suicide. Mystery Cults Mystery Cults are usually in the ancient times whose members believed that by means of the performance of particular secret rituals they would gain knowledge that people in the normal world would not have and that would make a mystical union with the divine.

Mystery cults make their members feel they are god and give them a feel of immortality that they cannot be destroyed. Many times in mystery cults, cult leaders feel they died and were brought back to be god or Jesus. Conclusion In todays society, cults are one of the many unfortunate aspects endure in life. Leaders of Cults should be dealt with in a more serious matter. Cult leaders are con-artists and are people that like to control others.

Cults: Brainwashing

The controversy surrounding new religious movements seems to be foremost concerned with whether or not the members of these religions come of their own freewill or if they convert as a necessary and inevitable response to advanced “brainwashing” techniques used by the cult leaders.

The concept of brainwashing came into popular existence in the 1950’s as the result of attempts to try and explain the behavior of some American GI’s who defected to the Communists during the Korean War (19 Oct 1999). Many people, including some professionals, found brainwashing to be the explanation for the otherwise unexplainable behavior. However, the brainwashing theory did nothing to explain why hundreds of other captured GI’s who chose to remain true to their country even at the risk of being tortured or even murdered. It couldn’t accurately explain for the behavior of few GI’s when it didn’t offer any explanation for the behavior of the majority.

Since the 1950’s, the concept of brainwashing has faded in and out of public’s eyes with a tendency to flare up again in the face of public controversy. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the brainwashing debate again took center stage, this time in an attempt to explain the behavior of so-called radicals who left behind a “normal” life and choose instead for a “cult” existence.

Although scholars of new religious movements would agree that religious groups often have great influence over their followers, they would also debate that the “influence forced in “cults” is not very different from influence that is present in practically every aspect of life,” (19 Oct 1999). Mainstream religions also exercise influence over their members concerning matters such as lifestyle choices, family relations and financial donations. Furthermore, most sociologists concede that some degree of influence is expected in each culture and surface of life even outside the area of religious choice.

Despite the fact that there do not appear to be any studies that provide evidence of brainwashing as a legitimate explanation for joining a cult, and in spite of the many studies that have refuted that brainwashing defense successfully, the brainwashing theory continues to be debated regularly. The concept of brainwashing is still often relied on to account for behavior that is otherwise culturally unjustifiable.

If brainwashing is not an valid explanation for the conversion of people to cults than what is? A common theme on the anti-cult side of the conversion debate is the argument that members are, to varying degrees, predisposed to becoming cult members. This supposed predisposition is commonly thought to be a product of depression, grief, loneliness and a life filled with successive failures. However, as recent studies have shown, this is not entirely true. Although many people who seek out

Cult followers are suffering with depression or have realized some setbacks the same could be said of some that seek out mainstream religions for the same reasons, namely to feel better about themselves and to find purpose and meaning in life.

Shelley Leibert, an instructor with the Unification Church, has discussed two main types of people that pass through the UC camps (Dawson, 1996:204). Leibert describes one type as being well rounded, successful and secure while the other is described as being drug users, dropouts and drifters. Leibert concludes that it is the latter that are most unlikely to dedicate themselves to the lifestyle of the UC.

Proposals of the predictable theory often argue that it is these depressed and lonely people who are vulnerable, determined and often targeted “victims” of cult brainwashing. They make these assumptions often lacking any firsthand knowledge of cult recruiting practices. While it is true that at times some cult members appear to be more vulnerable to cult recruiting (Dawson, 1996:205), it remains that vulnerability and disposed are two different concepts. Furthermore, many of those who are deemed to be “vulnerable” (recent divorcees, the grieving, etc.,) frequently regard their cult experience as a positive and therapeutic experience, even after leaving the cult environment (Dawson, 1996:205).

Although, as Dr. John G. Clark suggests, these seemingly vulnerable people join cults in an attempt to “feel better about themselves” (Dawson, 1996:207), the same thing can be said of many who join mainstream religious organizations. Regardless of whether the vulnerable person chooses to join a mainstream religion or a cult it is nevertheless, still a choice. The exercising of freewill, or choice, by cult inductees is evident but their frequent church, or cult, hopping done in order to find a group whose beliefs and practices best answer their questions (Dawson, 1996:205).

The brainwashing theory conveniently provides an outlet for the anti-cult movement to answer to the question of why some people chose cults over mainstream religions. It allows those who leave cults and regret their former connections to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and takes the blame for their “unexpected” behavior away from them. Doing so, the brainwashing theory cancels out the possibility of freewill.

In conclusion, it could be argued that, if brainwashing was a relevant theory, the anti-cult movement exhibits more “mind control” behaviors than do cults, when considering their participation in action such as “breaking down” and their consistent use of propaganda and half truths.

Feminist Spirituality And Goddess Religion In The United States

Thousands of years ago, the Goddess was viewed as an autonomous entity worthy of respect from men and women alike. Because of societal changes caused by Eastern influence, a patriarchical system conquered all aspects of life including religion. Today, the loss of a strong female presence in Judeo-Christian beliefs has prompted believers to look to other sources that celebrate the role of women. Goddess religion and feminist spirituality have increasingly been embraced by men and women as an alternative to the patriarchy found in traditional biblical religion.

Within a few thousand years the first recognizable human society developed worship of the Great Goddess or Great Mother. For these people, deity was female. The importance of fertility in crops, domesticated animals,wild animals and in the tribe itself were of paramount importance to their survival. Thus, the Female life-giving principle was considered divine and an enigma. This culture lasted for tens of thousands of years, generally living in peace. Males and females were treated equally.

Their society was matrilineal–children took their mothers’ names, but not a matriarchy (Christ 58-59). Life and time was experienced as a repetitive cycle, not linearly as is accepted today. However, Easterners soon brought modern civilization to this culture, including war, belief in male Gods, exploitation of nature, and knowledge of the male role in procreation. Goddess worship was gradually combined with worship of male Gods to produce a variety of Pagan religions, thus losing some of its singular focus on the female as a deity.

Goddess Worship during the Christian Era was molded by more dominant outside forces. As Judaism, Christianity & eventually Islam evolved, the Pagan religions were suppressed and the female principle was gradually driven out of religion. Consequently women were reduced to a level inferior to men. The God, King, Priest & Father replaced the Goddess, Queen, Priestess & Mother. A woman’s testimony was not considered significant in courts, women were not allowed to speak in churches, and positions of authority in the church were (almost without exception) limited to men.

A feminine presence was added to Christianity when the Virgin Mary was named Theotokos (Mother of God). However, her role was heavily restricted and included none of the fertility components present in Pagan religions. A low point in the fortunes of women was reached during the Renaissance, when hundreds of thousands of suspected female witches were exterminated by burning and hanging. These combined factors propelled women who did not find traditional structures, views, and rituals fulfilling to return to a feminine based spirituality more suited to their specific needs.

At the turn of the century, scholars began writing about a Mother Goddess. By the 1950s, Gerald Gardner claimed initiation into a coven of English witches in England. He began publicizing this \”Old Religion\” of Wicca. Gardnerian Witchcraft recognized a Goddess of Earth-moon-sea as well as the Horned-hunt-sun God (Corbett, 290). Women could be High Priestesses, but much sexism still prevailed. Wicca schismed after Gardner’s death, but these traditions continued to be founded by and named after men.

Meanwhile, women in the US and elsewhere were beginning the feminist movement. Defining patriarchy as the oppressive force they were battling, they began reexamining all aspects of their lives, including religion. In the 1970s, women began using the concept of \”Goddess\” as part of the feminist movement. DianicWicca began: a women-only version that eliminated the God and all male aspects, as well as many traditional Wiccan elements such as hierarchies, secrecy, and formality.

During the 1980s, while the name Wicca remained, many groups began using the term \”neo-Pagan\” which retains the God as well as the Goddess, but incorporates the increased status given to the Goddess and women. The Goddess is oftenidentified with the Earth and elements in nature explicitly. It has been referred to as \”eco-feminism\” to reflect this increased emphasis. This stems from the Wiccan ideology that people have a unique responsibility toward the environment because of our ability to make conscious choices (Corbett 292).

Goddess worship broadened to include African, Asian, and Native American ideals beyond the classic Wiccan deities. It became\”politically correct\” by beginning to include gays and lesbians (formerly neglected with the emphasis on male-female fertility) as well as the ecological movement and an openness to people of color and other minorities. Now considered the fastest growing religion in America by some scholars, neo-Pagans were represented at the World Council of Religions in 1993. Despite the spread of feminist and goddess belief, many witches still face discrimination because of their faith.

People outside the neo-Pagan community still often confuse Wicca with Satanism, feeling that witchcraft is not a valid religion and should not be afforded the same protections as more ‘mainstream’, consensus religions. However, Wicca and other goddess religions are not Satanistic. Satanism focuses on the Christian idea of the devil, whereas these spiritualities predate Christianity and have no link to those beliefs (Corbett 292). Another common misconception is that witches cast spells in order to hurtothers for their own or someone elses benefit.

This myth has developed through years of media and literary misrepresentation. While Wicca does not have many concrete beliefs, a universal code for behavior does exist. Best exemplified in the Wiccan Rede (An ye harm none, do what ye will) and the Threefold Law (Whatever we do returns to us three times over, be it good or ll), personal freedom and choice are essential to Wiccan morality and ethics (Corbett 292). Modern Goddess worship today can best be described as a renaissance of Paganism.

Its worship of Goddesses and Gods occurred in the middle of this century with the reemergence of Wicca. With the rise of feminism, new traditions within Wicca were created in which the Goddess grew in importance, and the role of the God shrank into obscurity. The Goddess in both Goddess Worship and Neo-Paganism is often visualized in three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone (Corbett 290). Her aspects are mirrored in the phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning. The Maiden represents youth, emerging sexuality, and the independence from men found in virginity.

The Mother symbolizes feminine power, fertility, and nurturing. The Crone is the wisdom and compassion which evolves from experience, and the one who guides women through the death experience. Although not all followers of the goddess are Wiccan, virtually all Wiccans are worshipers of the goddess (Corbett 291). Beliefs of Goddess religion and Feminist Spiritualities are not absolute or definite. No official doctrine exists uniting the many branches and forms falling under these categories of faith. Almost all include a female creator, usually with some male counterpart.

Feminist spirituality acknowledges that female power is independent from all outside forces. It is an important and intense entity that can be called upon through rituals, dance, prayer, chants, or meditation. Its message clearly states female ambition will not be subjugated in a mans world. Images are of paramount importance to these religions. The portrayal of women in a positive way reinforces autonomy, beauty of the female figure, and elegance of each womans soul. It calls participants to recognize the goddess within and celebrate their own connections to time and nature.

Goddess images resacrilize the female body, enabling women to take pride in themselves and encouraging men and children to respect their feminine power (Christ, 165). Symbols and rituals are an essential component in goddess religion and feminist spirituality. They demonstrate our interconnectedness to all that is, and also how diversity and difference should be celebrated. Symbols evoke respect for the Goddess, Her role in nature, and the female form in general. Rituals reinforce these values as an outward sign of commitment and remembrance.

This combination of rituals and symbols brings Her power into believers lives. Ritual also creates long lasting moods and motivations which shape wisdom and become second nature for practitioners (Christ, 25). A very ancient tradition which creates a sacred space for the Goddess is the creation of a home altar. Images, candles, books, and symbols can be incorporated to personalize and add meaning to the space. Rituals may be done in solitude or within a gathering of believer to invoke the power of the Goddess.

Other times, pilgrimages are taken to sacred places which have made a personal impact on the believer. Because there is no liturgy or official order of worship, these rituals can be molded to suit individual needs. The rituals may change each time to allow for innovation and spontaneity. Certain groups follow an established traditional pattern for times, dates, and practices of the rituals (Christ 29). Holidays and festivals are integral to goddess worship. They are special times of reflection on our connection to the cyclical patterns of nature and time.

Some Goddess holidays and festivals are celebrated at corresponding times and dates to Judeo-Christian feast days and holidays. This correspondence originates from the alignment of religious holidays to the natural rhythms of seasons and nature including the equinoxes, the solstices, and the holidays falling exactly in between, dividing the year into eight seasons. Others are held in relation to new and full moons, recognizing the nexus between womens cycles and the position of the moon (Christ 28-29). The ethos that these symbols and rituals create provides a sense of reality and a plan of action to live by.

Individual choice and societys reactions and decision making are heavily emphasized. Carol P. Christ lists nine touchstones which can be consulted when attempting to maintain the ethics held in Goddess worship: nurture life, walk in love and beauty, trust the knowledge that comes through the body, speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering, take only what you need, think about the consequences ofyour actions for seven generations, approach the taking of life with great restraint, practice great generosity, and repair relations between all people peacefully (167).

These touchstones are not commandments, only a guideline for virtuous and moral living. Organization and practices often coincide. Since there is no official leader or hierarchical system, counting members is nearly impossible. Reluctance to identify with the feminist spirituality movement stems from the negative associations people make with witchcraft. However, an estimated 50,000 American believers have been recorded (Corbett 294). Practitioners often gather in small groups (between three and twenty people) called covens.

Others are solitaries who practice alone depending on location, personal choice, or other circumstances. Covens are usually all female, but some are mixed or male only. Many of the larger organizations have adopted home-study programs, museums, libraries, and stores for those interested in learning more about the beliefs of Goddess religion. Others hold conferences and celebrations to join the smaller, fragmented groups. Some groups strive to emphasize one specific aspect of their beliefs, such as Dianic Wicca does with feminism (Corbett 294-95).

Although the popularity and acceptance of feminist spirituality seems to be increasing, Wicca and other groups are still not afforded the same status and recognition as other religions. Many misconceptions still exist today about the beliefs, practices, and organizations which are categorized as Goddess religion. The followers of these traditions do not see themselves as contradicting more mainstream religious beliefs. They view their spirituality as a refocusing and reprioritizing of values forgotten by a patriarchical society over thousands of years.

The Hebrews Prophets: Isaiah & Amos

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees , to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people. Making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of the reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives, of fall among the slain.. Yet for all this his anger is not turned away. His hand is still upraised. Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of the wrath! I send him against a

Godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. ” These writings, from the enscriptures of the bible some say philosophical, inspire mystery, wonder and the relation to how true they are. I have a monotheistic way of thinking, though the bible is said to be the writings of the way of life of Moses and the Hebrews, I am puzzled by how certain writings pertain to society, culture and the life of man and women today. As I try to decipher this passage in my own words of Isaiah. One is speaking of the oppression committed by man upon man.

It is Jesus asking why man whom were created as brother and sister making unjustly laws… deprive the poor of their rights… withhold the justice from the oppressed of my people. I strongly believe there is a judgment day. For all the wrongs committed in society against one another and against oneself; as the sacred body that be. Harming thy brethren, killing thy neighbor, steeling. All to satisfy the wants for themselves. It is all competitive. Part of my heritage being of Blackfoot Indian descent, the way of life is to create and live life from the gifts of nature in which thy God provided.

I can almost guarantee the society today iving of monetary value, would not know how to survive if everything all of a sudden were taken away. A sudden exhausting rainfall, which flooded the cities, and devoured the homes, and cars, and other belongings. Some consider this to happen on Judgment Day or the day of Reckoning. As a punishment for man creating these evil doings. People today are so encompassed in the American Way of Living they cannot sacrifice for a minute to live without.. forks, eating with thyne hands… the powers tocreate… cars… televisions. computers… telephones… steeling… killing… assaulting… aping… adultery.

I myself look forward to the day when I do not have to work two jobs and go to school, to have a good house, a family, a nice car, to live happy. Now ask me have I eaten with my hands, or walked to school or read the newspaper instead of watched tv. Yes, to realize the best things in life are for free! So how can one judge them? How can they pay for their sins. is it the day of Reckoning or Judgment day the day in which the truth shall prevail.. So for those people who know about this day… I dispatch him against a people who anger me , seize loot and snatch , and to trample them down like mud in the treets.

I believe a good person, inner person who has a good heart and does good will see the light in Judgment day.. Those who deprive the poor, steel commit adultery and follow the way of disobeying the 10 Commandments will pay for their sins. I, like many others in the same have a strong, yet kind heart. I question many times what are my personal attributes and skills and many times reach the same question not answered. Until a little birdie one day told me my heart is good and kind, I care for those who don not care and help those who will not admit they need help.

Yet at the same time I give to the poor and can feel for the poor, though sometimes I feel like saying get a damn job. I have learned it is not that easy. Mentally they just cannot do it, it’s like living in a world without work. What is one to do, just live? So am I depriving the poor of what they need? All these questions have to have answers and rest, someday I believe they will be answered on the day of Reckoning… Judgment day. In ending I am afraid of this day as I relate to the bible God shall come not a man or animal but as beast and will come take thyne which belongith in thy kindom of Heaven, and I believe that is me.

Religion Through the Ages

The role religion plays in world history is, at best, tremendous. Through the ages, religion has both unified and divided civilizations often bringing extreme human casualty, in the case of division, or creating interesting new cultures, in the case of the latter. In the Ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Kush and Egyptian empires religion serves as a catalyst further strengthening the bond found in such homogeneous societies.

In these civilizations it is important to note that the inhabitants did not conceive of religion in terms of a belief system in a higher moral authority, rather, the belief system was such a part of their lifestyle that there was no differentiation. In discussing ancient civilizations such as the Greek and Kush empires it is also important to understand that nonconformity was not even a mode of thinking, therefore, there was no room for religious disunity.

In homogeneous societies, religion serves to further bridge the culture together. This is not the case in other later civilizations. England’s King Henry VIII separation from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century presents the most interesting scenario in discussing the role of religion and how it either unites or divides people. For the first time, moreso than Rome’s conversion to Christianity, a religious division was taking place within a relatively homogeneous society.

Religion perhaps is predominately viewed by most contemporaries as problematic given the current divisions among many Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and the continuing conflict between Muslims and Hebrews in the Middle East. The Crusades serve as an example of how two religiously unified societies become fierce competitors in the conquest for world domination, in this sense, religion is divisive. The dynamics in determining whether religion unites or divides people are extremely complex especially when discussing civilizations from the Egyptians to the English dynasties.

However, three distinctions can be outlined in this discussion. Firstly, religion serves as a catalyst further unifying homogeneous civilizations such as the Greek, Kushite and Egyptian societies, secondly, religion serves as a primary focus of difference when two homogeneous societies, such as the Muslims and the Christians involve themselves in a conflict for spiritual dominance, and, thirdly, how religion, in some homogenous societies such as the Protestant Reformation of the late Tudor and early Stuart dynasties in England, serves to divide the people.

Religious observance in ancient civilizations serves to further bridge the connectedness that the people of those societies felt. In the ancient Greek, Kushite and and Egyptian cultures religion was such a integral part of their lifestyle that it was totally indistinguishable in terms of contemporary classifications. The ancient Greeks held close to a common polytheistic belief system and operated the government, domestic lifestyle, and recreation from this system. The evidence is abounds in that the Olympic Games were held at the feast of Zeus at Olympia in Elis, and the Pythian Games were held at Delphi, in honor of Apollo.

Although the Greeks were advanced in the governmental procedures such as their creation of the republic, Kings such as Darius yielded extreme power and control. The Kushites who first known around the sixth century B. C. (538 B. C. ) were the darker skinned people who rivaled, to a small extent, the great Egyptian dynasties. The Kushites had a central belief system that revolved around the ka or “soul” as Miriam Ma’at Ka Re Monges explains in her book entitled Kush: The Jewel of Nubia.

The ka was “used as a term for the creative and sustaining power of life” which every human being shared by entering the world. Another important factor in explaining how religion within homogeneous societies serves as a bonding force is the Kushite custom of regicide. In Meroe as well as other Kushite kingdoms, the killing of the king was an accepted custom. The religious belief is that the King’s physical well being was directly tied to the gods and to the fertility of the lands.

Monges, in her book, further contends that: ince the king was responsible for Maat[term a number of positive qualities, i. . righteousness and truth] and since the fertility of the land was necessary for balance and order, the decreased vitality of the king would affect the production of the land. This suggests an underlying reason for the ritual killing of the king(109)This was an accepted custom for ages until the belief system was challenged by King of Ethiopia Ergamenes during the “reign of the second Ptolemy. ” Ergamenes was educated in Greece, and, therefore, did not have the true understanding of Kushite custom as his predecessors.

Two belief systems clashed. Eragmenes was the “first to have the courage to disdain the command” because of his Greek training, consequently, he puts “the priests to the sword, and after abolishing this custom ordered affairs after his own will. ” This occurrence serves as concrete example of how religion can become extremely dangerous when one, in power, disrupts the common belief system of a homogeneous society. Monges, in her book, further contemplates the Ergamenes situation:

The ritual killing of the king was being practiced by these African people. It isapparent that the culture was not fully understood by these outsiders. Didorus[Greek historian who records the account] writes that prior to Ergamenes, the ritual killing of the king was “accepted by the simple mind of a creature shaped by old and ineffective customs. ” The Greek mind separated the material and the spiritual. (113)Precisely, the Greek mind in Ergamenes did not allow him to simply give up his wealth for something spiritual that he could not see.

In the case of Ergamenes the only bloodshed caused was that of the priests, however, in other cases where two belief systems clash, especially when these two belief systems are religions dedicated to world dominance such as with the Christians and the Muslims, the extreme human destruction is incalculable. The ancient Egyptian civilization, which spans over 3 millenium, is yet another example of how religion within the contexts of a homogeneous society further bridges people to a commonality. For the most part, Ancient Egyptian religion was polytheistic with tremendous pyramids and other religious objects dedicated to this religion.

An example of how important religious conformity is among the ancient Egyptians one can look at the reign of Ahmenhotep IV. Amenhotep IV undertook a religious reform by displacing all the traditional deities with the sun god Aton . In the god’s honor, the pharaoh changed his name to Akhenaton, Akhenaton’s reforms were one of the earliest attempts to enforce monotheism among a longstanding polytheistic culture. Images and inscriptions of other gods were removed, moreover, Akhenaton, to further enforce his views, moved the country’s capital from Thebes to a place up north which he called Akhetaton.

His obsessive concentration on religious reform allowed for the empire to disintegrate to a degree. After his death, Tutankhamun, restored the original gods and returned the capital back to Thebes. Again the internal religious belief system of a homogeneous culture is threatened, but unlike the case of Ergamenes in the Kushite kingdom, Akhenaton’s reforms were overturned. In these three cultures, one can readily observe how religion serves as a catalyst further strengthening the bond of the homogeneous societies. Only in cases, where the religious belief system is threatened is the continuity of the civilization in jeopardy.

Religious observance in ancient civilizations serves to further bridge the connectedness that the people of those societies felt. In the case of the Muslims and the Christians, the long history of the Crusades serves as an example of how two groups of people spanning borders and languages side themselves on religion alone. The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095. Urban was a reforming, activist pope who according to Dr. Ellis Knox “was looking for some great event or cause. ” Pope Urban II gave a speech, which directly leads to the first but not last lengthy battles of the Crusades.

Knox gives a summary of what Urban II says on his website page. Christians are being oppressed and attacked; the holy places are being defiled; and Jerusalem itself is groaning under the Saracenyoke. The Holy Sepulchre is in Muslim hands. The West must march in defense of the Holy Land. All should go, rich and poor alike. God himself will lead them, for they will be doing His work. There will be absolution and remission of sins for all who die here they are poor and miserable sinners – there they will be rich and happy, true allies of God. Let them march next summer.

The history of the Crusades is as dynamic and complex as all the battles and events that take place. A series of defeats and triumphs for both the Christians and the Muslims provide Europe with more of a Muslim influence and set the stage for the Middle East being the breadbasket for Islam. Knox, in the last page description of the Crusades in his website, brilliantly divulges: It is common for textbooks to talk about the results of the crusades: increased contact with the East, opening of markets, Arab influences on styles and customs, changes in military practice.

While all these certainly came about at one time or another, crusades were preached from the end of the eleventh century on into the sixteenth century. One has to be cautious in assigning any sort of result to a movement that covers five hundred years. http://history. idbsu. edu/westciv/crusades/21. htm)One must “be cautious” in “assigning” any significant historic event or movement that evolved from the Crusades but the quote is included to show the how religion has played such a vital role in dividing people.

Knox further argues that making enemies of the church became such a “commonplace” activity that “Crusading activity simply became a part of European culture. ” He also contends: In a sense, the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation are the logical result of this mentality; by the time Europeans had exhausted themselves in internal religious war, we hear no more about wars against the infidel. Exactly, the internal religious wars had become external which sets the historical stage for the Protestant Reformation. The third distinction outlined earlier discusses how religion in homogeneous societies can divide people.

The Protestant Reformation perhaps is the best example of this occurrence. Unlike Ergamenes in the Kushite Empire and Akhenaton in the Ancient Egyptian civilization, King Henry VIII’s great matter altered the course of history forever and divided people along distinct lines. Henry VIII, desperate for a son and believing that Catharine of Aragon could not provide him a son, seeks an annulment from their marriage on grounds that Catharine violated their marriage by consummating her first marriage to his brother who died.

The Vatican in Italy did not support the King’s claim therefore he separates from the Roman Catholic Church and creates the Anglican Church of England. The ramifications that this move had on Parliament and the people of England were paramount. Parliament had new found power in that the Church money no longer flowed to the Vatican and the King needed to get Parliament’s permission for most funds. King Henry VIII, however, successfully starts the tradition of Protestantism in Europe, which ultimately leads to the rise of Protestantism as a major religious world force.

England after the transition, however, faced constant threats of revolution and plot attempts on their king’s court. The tragic rule of Queen Mary illustrates this point best. Like Akhenaton and Ergamenes she attempts to change her people’s religion but, unlike the previous two mentioned, Mary attempts to bring a religion that her people traditionally serve, Catholicism, back to England. Her reign was filled with people being burned at the stake with the charge of heresy. Queen Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain did not contribute in her endeavor of bringing England back to Rome’s control.

Mary’s tragic reign ultimately ends in her death in 1558. She alone is responsible for the destruction and tragedy she brings to her people as Stuart E. Prall in his book entitled Church and State in Tudor and Stuart England explains: The belief that the people and the monarch should share the same religion Was deeply ingrained throughout Western Europe. It was Mary and her advisors Who forced Cranmer and England to choose[Protestantism]. Once Mary Combined mass burnings at the stake with a pro-Spanish foreign policy, all In the name of the Roman church, the eventual triumph of a monarchial EnglishProtestantism appeared to be inevitable. 8)

The issue at hand with the Protestant Reformation is the a homogeneous people had deep religious divisions internally due to a shift in religious practice. Religion has both united and divided societies since the beginning of history. As demonstrated with the ancient Kushite, Greek, and Egyptian cultures, homogeneous societies use religion as a bridge further developing the interconnectedness of the group of people. The second distinction made in discussing whether or not religion unites or divides is understanding the origins and plight of the Crusades.

When two homogeneous groups of people with differing belief systems collide, the results are horrific. The Protestant Reformation provides a twist in the discussion. A homogeneous people with religion being problematic in that it divides them between their King and their God. Religion is at once dividing and uniting. It serves as a means for humans to explain their existence and substantiate their place in this world, however, as demonstrated the impact of religion in world civilizations has been tremendous, and should continue to be.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Religion as Repression

Like his protagonist, James Joyce was an Irish Catholic. He was also sent to Clongowes Wood College to board and study as a young boy. In effect the story is in part an autobiography of Joyce’s own life up to the age of twenty or so (Kershner 6). In his essay A Portrait as Rebellion Norman Holland states: Because of Portrait’s peculiar combination of novel and autobiography, I feel called upon to see Joyce’s schoolfellows in two ways at once. They are characters in a novel, bigger than life, and they are real people like me and y school and college pals. 280)

The Catholic religion is a significant and recurring theme in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Though brought up in the church, several major events lead Stephen to defy the lessons of his Catholic school education and choose a life of his own, the life of an artist. Through his experiences with religion, Stephen Dedalus both matures and gradually discovers an identity of his own. As a young boy, religion is crucial to Stephen’s life. Stephen was reared in a strict Catholic family. The demand for compliance placed on Stephen shapes his life early at Clongowes, a preparatory school run by the Jesuit order.

Even as he is adhering to the principles of his Catholic school upbringing, he becomes increasingly disillusioned. Even though Joyce spoke warmly of his own experiences at Clongowes he portrays a different, almost opposite experience for Stephen (Kershner 4). Formerly above reproach or distrust, the priests become symbols of narrow-mindedness and repression in Stephen’s mind. Father Dolan, in particular, whose abusive and humiliating statements along with the frequent floggings, personifies the sort of demeanor Stephen begins to associate with his Catholic teachers.

Joyce himself admits that he was punished at Clongowes, however, for indiscretions that justly deserved punishment. Stephen, though, is often portrayed as being punished unjustly (Kershner 4). Stephen’s self discovery highlights complaints to the rector about the actions of Father Dolan. As Stephen matures, he becomes ever more rebellious and disillusioned with religion. He begins to feel lost and forlorn. His main concern now becomes one of pleasing his friends and family. This feeling of loss and loneliness along with his hunger to be loved is what inevitably leads to Stephen’s tryst with a prostitute.

These sinful encounters eventually cause Stephen to feel extreme guilt and a more profound sense of loneliness. The state of affairs surrounding Stephens life cause him to re-examine his existence. His lost faith is abruptly restored after his confession at Church Street Chapel, and he begins to lead a life nearly as pious as that of his Jesuit teachers. As his life grows towards a more devout ideal it occurs to him that he can never be perfect nor live the sinless life of the Jesuit.

When he is offered a position as a priest the memories of his sinful past begin to haunt him. He wonders how he will pass the first night in the ….. novitiate and with what dread he would awake with the first morning in the dormitory. While strolling on the beach one day Stephen observes a woman walking in the distance. Apparently he watches her with lust in his eart, since he comes to the conclusion that because of his former corrupt past he would never be able to talk to her in the role of a priest. This realization convinces Stephen to again forsake religion.

He turns and runs from the woman and in effect runs from religion and into a new life of freedom. Stephen decides to become an artist. Suzette Henke observes in her critique Stephen Dedalus and Women: A Feminist Reading of Portrait: Through Portrait, Stephen manifests a psychological horror of woman as a figure of immanence, a symbol of unsettling exual difference, and a perpetual reminder of bodily abjection. At the conclusion of chapter five, he prepares to flee from all the women who have served as catalysts in his own adolescent development.

His journey into exile will release him from what he perceives as a cloying matriarchal authority. (323) Stephen’s life as an artist is a secluded search for identity. Stephen’s mind rarely dwells on religion at this point in time. He spends most of his time composing his theses on art, aesthetic beauty, ideal pity and ideal terror. While these theses are significant to the continuity of the novel, Joyce does not reintroduce religion until close to the end of the novel. Stephen is trying to make a life for himself by surrounding himself with beautiful thoughts and images.

Cranly, a friend of Stephen’s, seeing this as pure foolishness cautiously tries to instill religion back into Stephen’s life. Stephen reacts to Cranly’s proddings by denouncing religion bitterly and with much sarcasm. This confrontation with Cranly gives rise to Stephen’s ultimate break with religion. Stephen’s life in Ireland appears to be vacuous towards the end. In response to the question of whether he loves his mother, Stephen says, “I don’t know what your words mean.

Here Joyce is indicating the lack of love in Stephen’s life, a lack that resulted in Stephen turning his back on religion. Joyce appears to be implying there can be no true feeling or outlet for these feelings without religion. Stephen’s turning away from religion is significant to his development as an artist. As he loses his innocence and learns to distrust a doctrinal society, he rejects religion and society in order to become the artist. It is here he finds his identity.

The Eucharist

Eucharist is the central rite of the Christian religion, in which bread and wine are consecrated by an ordained minister and consumed by the minister and members of the congregation in obedience to Jesus’ command at the Last Supper, Do this in remembrance of me. In the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and in the Anglican, Lutheran, and many other Protestant churches, it is regarded as a sacrament, which both symbolizes and effects the union of Christ with the faithful.

Baptists and others refer to Holy Communion as an institution, rather than a sacrament, emphasizing obedience to a commandment. Traditionally, Jesus’ command to his disciples at the Last Supper to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of me constitutes the institution of the Eucharist. This specific command occurs in two New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, Luke 22:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Older theology asserts that Jesus gave this command on this occasion to ensure that Christians would break bread and drink wine in his memory as long as the church endured.

A critical approach to the Gospel texts, however, has made this conclusion less certain. The command Do this in remembrance of me does not appear in either Matthew’s or Mark’s account of the Last Supper. Consequently, a number of scholars have supposed that the undoubted experience of communion with the risen Christ at meals in the days after Easter inspired in some later traditions the understanding that such communion had been foreseen and commanded by Jesus at the Last Supper. The matter can probably never be resolved with complete satisfaction.

In any case, the practice of eating meals in remembrance of the Lord and the belief in the presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread clearly were universal in the early church. The Didache, an early Christian document, refers to the Eucharist twice at some length. The Didache and the New Testament together indicate considerable diversity in both the practice and the understanding of the Eucharist, but no evidence exists of any Christian church in which the sacrament was not celebrated.

The development of Eucharistic doctrine centers on two ideas: presence and sacrifice. In the New Testament, no attempt is made to explain Christ’s presence at the Eucharist. The theologians of the early church tended to accept Jesus’ words This is my body and This cup … is the new covenant in my blood as sufficient explanation of the miraculous transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, although some interpretations reflect the influence of Platonic philosophy on the early church.

During the Middle Ages Scholastic philosophers under the influence of Aristotle developed a more elaborate doctrine of the Eucharist. Aristotle taught that earthly things possessed accidents perceptible to the senses, and substance, their essential reality, known by the mind. According to Scholastic speculation, the substance of the Eucharistic bread is, by the power of God, wholly transformed into the body of Christ. This view of the presence of Christ, called transubstantiation, was most elaborately formulated by the 13th-century Italian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas.

It has been the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church since the Middle Ages, although the Council of Trent, which reasserted the doctrine against the Protestant reformers in the 16th century, did not include any philosophical speculation in its statement, asserting simply that an actual change occurred in the bread and wine. In the 16th century Protestant reformers offered several alternative interpretations of the Eucharist. Martin Luther taught that Christ is present in, with, and under the elements.

The Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli denied any real connection between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ. He believed that at the celebration of the Supper, which recalls to worshipers the words and deeds of the Lord, Christ is with them by the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Zwingli, the bread and wine recall the Last Supper, but no metaphysical change takes place in them. The Swiss Protestant theologian John Calvin argued that Christ is present both symbolically and by his spiritual power, which is imparted by his body in heaven to the souls of believers as they partake of the Eucharist.

This position, which has been called dynamic presence, occupies a middle ground between the doctrines of Luther and Zwingli. The Anglican doctrine affirms the real presence of Christ, without specifying its mode. Some modern theologians have attempted to recapture the ancient Judaic sense of remembering the acts of God. By invoking the presence of God and by remembering in his presence the events by which he has delivered them, worshipers live through those events as present events.

Thus, just as each generation of Israelites participated year by year in the exodus, the wanderings in the wilderness, and the crossing into Canaan, so each generation of Christians, week by week, participate in the Last Supper, the cross, and the resurrection. Eucharistic doctrine also concerns the sacrificial character of the sacramenthow the Eucharist is related to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches have traditionally taught that the Eucharist is a means by which believers can partake of Christ’s sacrifice and the new covenant with God that it inaugurated.

In popular belief this idea was sometimes interpreted to mean that each celebration of the Eucharist is a new sacrifice, rather than a partaking of the original sacrifice of Christ as officially taught by the church. Protestants in general have been hesitant to apply sacrificial categories to celebrations of the Eucharist. The service is called the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion in most Protestant churches; the Divine Liturgy in Eastern Orthodoxy; and the Mass among Roman Catholics and some Anglicans. It is the central and most solemn Christian liturgy.

Normally the service consists of two parts. The first, the ‘service of the Word, consists of Scripture readings, a sermon, and prayers. This part of the Eucharist, apparently adapted from Jewish synagogue worship, has been prefixed to the service of bread and wine at least since the middle of the 2nd century. The second part of the service, the service of the Upper Room, consists typically of an offering of bread and wine; the central Eucharistic prayer; the distribution of the consecrated elements to worshipers; and a final blessing and dismissal.

This particular part of the service has its roots in the ancient traditional table prayers said at Jewish meals. The central Eucharistic prayer, the Anaphora, which is Greek for offering, typically contains a prayer of thanksgiving for the creation of the world and its redemption in Christ; an account of the institution of the Last Supper; the oblation, or Anamnesisthe offering of the bread and wine in thankful remembrance of Christ; the Epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine and on the congregation; and prayers of intercession.

A Sociological View of Rastafarianism

Organized religion is a duality between the religion and the church which represents it. Sometimes the representation of the religion is marred and flawed to those who view it because of the bureaucracy contained within. Unknown to those who gaze upon the dissolved morals and values of what is perceived to be the contradiction known as modern religion, it was never intended to be this way. Most religions started off as a sect, a minor detail on the fringes of the society it never wanted to represent. Rastfarianism is such a sect.

The differences between Rastafarianism and a normal mainstream religion are numberless, including: no set membership, no authoritative leader, no offices of authority, no trained clergy and no involvement with the world as a whole. Rastafarianism is based upon an underrepresented minority which needed hope in the face in utter demise. According to Max Weber, religion emerges to satisfy a social need. In treating suffering as a symptom of odiousness in the eyes of gods and as a sign of secret guilt, religion has psychologically met a very general need (Weber 271).

Rastafarianism emerges in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1930s to meet the needs of the poor, unskilled black Jamaicans who needed a hope. The social situation which was emerging in the 1930s which called for this need was as follows. Jamaica was a commonwealth of the British Empire. It had recently, around 1884, received a write in clause to their constitution which stipulated if the new government did not succeed and the economic life of Jamaica were to suffer because of it, the political constitution would be amended or abolished to meet new conditions.

Black Jamaicans had a taste for power in their mouths and in 1938, this erupted in labor riots and violence. This act did nothing for their cause. It would still be 30 years until Jamaica received its independence. Blacks in Jamaica were the victims of social stratification which left them at the bottom rung of the ladder. They had menial jobs such as field worker or an attendant at the sugar plant, if they had jobs at all. The blacks were suffering as a people and as an organized group.

Ethopianism had been introduced to Jamaica in 1784 by George Liele, by adding it to the name of his Baptist church, hoping to graft itself onto the African religion of Jamaican slaves. But the movement to embody the Ethiopian ideology par excellence was the Back to Africa movement of Marcus Garvey (Barret 76). He saw African civilization as anterior to all others and used bible verses which were easily interpretable to portray Africans as the chosen people mentioned in the bible, as in Psalm 68: Princes shall come out if Egypt and Ethiopia shall stretch forth his hands onto God (Barret 78).

Garveys persistence culminated in the crowning of Ras Tafari as Negus of Ethiopia. He took the name Haile Selassie and added King of Kings and the Lion in the Tribe of Judah, placing himself in the legendary line of King Soloman, and therefore, in the same line as Jesus Christ of Roman Catholicism. Out of this came Rastafarianism which took over Jamaica at a time when it was in a low tide economically and socially. Socially, people experienced the brunt of the Depression as well as disaster due to a devastating hurricane. Politically, colonialism gripped the country and the future of the masses looked hopeless.

Any doctrine which that promised a better hope and a better day was ripe for hearing (Barret 84). Weber analyzed conditions such as these as a theodicy of suffering. One can explain suffering and injustice by refrying to individual sin committed in former life, to the guilt of ancestors . . . to the wickedness of all people. As compensatory promised one can refer to hopes of the individual for a better life in the future of this world or to the for the successors, or to a better life in the hereafter (Weber 275). In other words, those who are disadvantaged in a situation (the poor, hopeless, black Jamaicans) will be rewarded.

The poor people have a decided advantage in the Rastas view, since they are forced to look into themselves and confront the basic reality of human existence – and only there can God be found (Owens 173) Their negative situation will be turned into a positive one (transvaluation) because they are the truly righteous, or so they believed. Rastafarianism was more than a religion to the people of Jamaica, it was a hope. It was their escape from the the rational everyday world. This theodicy of suffering, in which the underprivileged and underrepresented Jamaicans believed, was compensation for the deplorable state in which they found themselves.

The Rastafarian way of living and their everyday activities began as a deviant social behavior, but rather was a routinization of the masses into one cohesive unit, following the same general creed under different principles. This point can be seen most specifically in the modern Rastafarian hairstyles. In traditional Rastafarianism most Rastas do not cut their hair but allow it to grow naturally long matted strands or locks. These locks are in accordance with the Leviticus 21:5: They shall not make baldness upon their head (Johnson-Hill 25).

But in todays Rastafarianism, their are men who will not grow facial hair or locks in accordance to their position in the work place and in society, but still believe in the faith of and consider themselves a part of the Rastafarian religion. This process of electing points on a subject in which a followers ideas converge with is called elective affinity, as coined by Max Weber. This elective affinity concerning Rastafarianism was spurred by charismatic prophets of the belief system such as Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie, and Samuel Brown.

All of these men preached to the negatively privileged strata which existed in the Jamaican slums and the impoverished Jamaican parishes. The underprivileged strata became a status group in a sociological point of view when they selected Rastafarianism and Haile Selassie as their god. This annunciation and promise led these impoverished blacks into a status group known as Rastafarians. This elective affinity between underprivileged Jamaicans and Rastafarians was seen most directly in a change in diet to follow Kosher food laws, a change in hair style, the use of a different language, and a the use of a holy weed; ganja.

These highly visible symbols served as a solidification of a persons elective affinity and a public statement of their beliefs. To become a member of the Rastafarian status group was to embrace the lifestyle and the conceptual livity of a personal relationship with nature, in a pure organic way (Johnson-Hill 25). The Rastafarian lifestyle, at its early core, was based upon responses to social actions cast forth by the Jamaican bureaucracy. These actions exist on the guise of a messianic hope which is generally known as Ethiopia or Africa (Barret 117).

The first reaction is aggression, which was exemplified by the social struggles for equality or even acknowledgment by the economically challenged island residents. The second reaction is acceptance. This ambivalence toward the situation is more of a standstill than anything else. The act of accepting ones own unfortunate situation negates the aggression and action of the previous step. This is where the Messianic values began to seep into the Rastafarian watershed.

With these people and this clear-cut fashion only among them and under other very particular conditions, the suffering of a peoples community, rather than the suffering of the individual, became the object of hope for religious salvation (Weber 273). Rastafarian men and women began to forget their own individual struggles and rely on the preaching from Haile Selassie to comfort them as a group. Individuality is looked down upon in the Rastafarian religion. The status group or strata will suffer as a whole, not as individual pieces of a puzzle. Every Rastafarian considers himself an authoritative spokesman for Selassie.

It is consequently unthinkable that one of the brethren should assume special prerogatives in speaking for the Emperor (Owens 43). The third and final response to social action by Rastafarians is avoidance. This act is predominated by the view that Jamaica is Babylon and Ethiopia is Zion. This metaphor implying hopelessness in Jamaica acts very much, in Marxian terminology, as an opiate. This outlook on everyday life does not produce action, rather it reduces it. Another example of this can be seen economically. The Rastafarians generally represent the lowest segment of the Jamaican social class . . .

This level of Jamaican society represents the largest body on unemployed and underemployed and the greatest number of unemployables . . . (Barret 115). This fact is well known among the Rastafarians and it is partially why many are in the religion, acceptance into a social class which is higher than their own. They have mostly given up on employment besides that of home produced items which are pawned to tourists or others within the Rastafarian movement. Their is no motivation to produce economically because most of the industry within Jamaica during the early Rastafarian period was controlled by the British land owners.

Working for these British men would have been a direct violation of their religious creed; The white person is inferior to the black person (Barret 104) and The Black person is the reincarnation of ancient Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been in exile to Jamaica (Barret 104). This ties into Webers Theodicy of Suffering because to suffer economically is to suffer through all aspects of ones life. But, many times, as previously illustrated, an ambivalence to end suffering leaves one still in the same peculiar situation. Without a motive to change, there is not change in a cultures motives.

So, the early Rastafarians suffered not from a theodicy of suffering which was merely and only forced upon them by the white Jamaican bureaucracy; but rather a self- imposed and self-induced level of their suffering. This way of viewing Rastafarian all changed as time passed. Social strata are decisive for the development of a religion (Weber 282) and as the social strata which embodies this religion began to change, the religion changed proportionately with it. This can be seen in contrasting the previous three social reactions just stated: aggression, acceptance and avoidance.

As the general body of Rastafarianism began to grow old and pass away, so did many of their ideas and rationality’s concerning the religion in which they were a part. These views were handed down to the new, younger members of the Rastafarian religion and updated substantially to concur with the new time period and the new state of Rastafarians in Jamaica. Largely, there is no need for one to use aggression to prove equality in Jamaica. The modern Rastafarian, rather is a symbol of the Jamaican lifestyle and one can almost mistakenly assume all Jamaicans embody the Rastafarian way of thinking and lifestyle.

The newly independent Jamaica uses aspects of the traditional Rastafarian to promote its tourism industry: such as the reggae music which originally symbolized the suffering of black Jamaicans, the dread locks which represented the I-tal way of organic living and the artifacts and cultural productions of such Rastafarian artisans. Rastafarians no longer accept their status as a constant; an unchanging fact which merely misrepresents them in popular culture. They have began to work on their economic status within the Jamaican community.

Rastafarians now occupy enviable positions in Jamaica. There are Rasta physicians, pharmacists, professors, journalists, pilots, teachers . . . to name only a few of their trades and professions (Barret 243). They are willing to educate their children to become productive citizens of the country, which is evident in the formation of Rasta primary and secondary schools and the possibility of a Rasta university within Jamaica. Rastafarians now have control over their own destiny within the scope of mass media and their ultimate portrayal.

With the advent of educated and world minded Rastafarians, the Rastafarian movement has proliferated out of Jamaica and into the mainstream of the world, including both the United States and England. The final large change concerning Rastafarians is avoidance. Instead of avoiding the problems in Jamaica and praying for a magical repatriation to Ethiopia, they have first decided to repair the problems which exist in Jamaica before they leave for Zion. This new brethren is focused on change and one way they have decided to accomplish this is through political action. Rastafarians are traditionally apolitical; they do not vote.

Their word for politics is politricks, which sums up their perception of the political game (Barret 220). With the election of a pro Rastafarian prime minister, Michael Manley, Rastafarians were encouraged to use their constitutional rights and vote. There is no way of telling how many Rastafarians voted or continue to vote, but their role in Jamaican culture requires them to be addressed and noticed. The act of being spoken to and about in a public forum is just aspect in which indirectly they have traversed out of the avoidance stage. Rastafarians also no longer avoid the media. Rather, they embrace it and use it to their advantage.

This is evident is the many quotes and passages contained within Leonard Barrets book and the relative ease of access he obtained many on these passages. The Rastafarian culture is moving toward the future, and as Weber stated, changing with the social strata, which is changing with the times. It can then be inferred Rastafarianism is a constantly updated and evolving entity, modernizing as the world does so as well. But this evolving modern entity did not always keeps its modernity defined. Many of the actions of Rastafarianism worked against modernity and favored a complete stand still in all actions of life.

In effect, the pain of the poor black Jamaica strata directly led into a form of ambivalence which militated against social and economic change; in essence, the status group of Rastafarians and their beliefs acted as an opiate against socioeconomic change. Religion is the opium of the people (Marx 54). This opium like quality leads directly into a state of false consciousness, which ties in directly with Webers theodicy of suffering. Both of these militate against socieconomic change by giving a check of approval to a negative situation. In this way, Marx and Weber are showing the flaws in the Rastafarian system.

The inherent flaw of giving false hope or false consciousness to a people based on a system (Rastafarian) which at its base complies with stagnant situations and life styles. At the same time, Marxism can be interpreted as a direct conflict with itself. The Rastafarian movement occupies not only an opiate status, but a status of opposition as well. The Rastafarian movement was founded originally as an opposition to the bureaucratic ways of the ruling class. The religion modeled greatly an American democratic way of thinking: by the people for the people. The people are the underrepresented and under appreciated blacks of Jamaica.

In comparison with a Weberian sociological thought process, they both agree upon Rastafarian as basically an evolution. This plays more into Marxs favor because of the direct correlation between themselves. Like the Rastafarian evolution, in which they retreated on many of their former beliefs and creeds, Marx also did the same according to the time he was writing in. So, a direct comparison can be made through the evolution of Marx and Rastafarianism; both occur because of the rise of modernity and culture around them, directly effecting the person or group in question.

Marx and Weber also collide in beliefs on the idea of theodicy of suffering. Weber believed religion emerges to fulfill a social need. The poor, black, Jamaicans needed hope, and with their economic status, suffering was a major part. Taken on a face value then, the Jamaican culture can be divided into two distinct classes: theodicy of suffering and theodicy of good fortune. The former group, those who indirectly believe in a theodicy of suffering, are alienated from the latter group. Within the suffering group, there is alienation among members due to separation from product.

The product, in this case, is their religion. Now all of the members of the Rastafarian status group belong to Rastafarianism as a whole, but there are sects within the sect, which are different from each other. For an example, the emergence of the uptown Rasta which differs in belief system from Rastafarianism as a whole. The alienation comes in the fact that the people, not as one unified group, but as a large organization of individuals are single entities and none speak for the religion. Criticism of this can be found in a previously mentioned Joseph Owens quote (see page four, first paragraph).

Although each member is a spokesman for Selassie, is unthinkable to assume each member of the brethren might have something different to say? This leads to alienation among those within the same sect. The previously stated belief contrasts with a Weberian point of view as well. In a Marxian view of thought, the poor should try to revolt against their ruling bureaucracy. This appropriation is further determined by the manner in which it must be effected.

It can only be effected through a union, which by the character of the proletariat itself can again only be a universal one, and through a revolution . (Marx 192). There is a flaw under the question: how can a society revolt through Marxism and still be prone against change, an opiate in Marxian view, to their own standing within the community? Karl Marx would see this as a complete oxymoron. Rastafarianism should benefit the social group, not allow it to stop progression and merely graze the lips of those who chose it, giving them a short and unsatisfying taste of what is available to them. This yearning for more should lead the people into a full economic and political revolt against this bourgeoisie.

While relatively similar to a Marxian point of view, Durkheimian sociology sees Rastafarianism as a social entity. This religion was originally associated as Jamaican poor and the term Rasta and poor, black Jamaican could be used interchangeable. And with this association, Rastafarianism emerged to regulate the desires of the Jamaican poor. It brought about a solidarity among the lowest status class which served as a jumping point into embracing their situations. Thus, the religion is inseparable from the groups which contain it.

This occupies the ideas of Weber in that if the religion is inseparable from the groups which contain it, then, the religion will indirectly evolve as the group evolves. This basically complies with the Weberian point of view that religious beliefs change along with the strata which embody them. Also, if Rastafarianism is a social entity, it therefore must have risen out of the need for a social set of values, complying with the Weberian ideal of religion emerging to satisfy a social need. This Durkheimian point of view also crosses paths with the views of Karl Marx.

If religion brings about solidarity among a status group which happens to be underprivileged, revolution is a possible following steps. One person may revolt, but one needs masses along the same ideals to successfully revolt. By integrating society, one brings the society or group on the same consciousness, although it may be a false consciousness. No matter rational or irrational, the motives exist and can be accomplished with aid of a charismatic prophet, in this case, Marcus Garvey or Samuel Brown. To update this idea, there is a popular t-shirt which states Never underestimate stupid people in large groups.

The same could be applied to a Marxian and Durkheimian point of view. Their t-shirt might say Never underestimate the power of alienated oppressed on the same intellectual level. Durkheim and Weber do disagree on some levels. One of them being the role of individuality within religion. A Durkheimian point of view toward individuality could not characterize the Rastafarian movement because it believes one should embrace all the exists, but do not include each other. This directly violates the Rastafarians belief in an I-n-I mentality.

This implies a three-fold relationship between any individual self, Jah [God], and other selves (Johnson-Hill 23). Max Weber sees religion as a unification of a people, which is evident in his distinction between strata and status. Rastafarianism is a status group, individuality is left behind at the strata before seemingly advancing into a higher level of consciousness, complete with its own symbols, language and customs, especially marijuana usage. Although the beliefs of a religion change, the essence of the religion does not. This is supported by Weber with the idea that changes in a decisive stratum lead to a change of beliefs.

This is opposed by Durkheim stating a religion as a whole has lasted because it performs a social function; it integrates those involved within it. The falsity is what people believe. So, if people change, the religion changes with the people, not necessarily minor beliefs within it. It is a cycle which includes the transfer of old gods to new gods, completely changing the religion with society. Rastafarianism has not faded away, and in fact has spread its brethren among many areas of the world. The Rastafarian movement is no longer a mere revolutionary movement; it has become a part of the establishment, a part of officialdom (Barret 245).

Rastafarianism may have started on the fringes of Jamaican society, but it now a representation of what it considered hell. In terms of an outsider, Jamaica is no longer Babylon, it is now Rastafaria, a step on the way to utopian Zion. Rastafarianism is now an integration of all of Jamaican society rather that just one social strata. Its changes have moved along with the changes of Jamaica as a nation. The people of Jamaica are interchangeable with Rastafarianism. It is ironic which a group so hating of their own environment would become such a force as to represent it to the world. Rastafarianism is truly by the people, for the people.

Assimilation, Adaptation, and Adjustment of Immigrants as They Enter American Culture

Must pray on Saturday and can not keep the store open, anticipate loss of business; you are Jewish. Pray in school, anticipate objections; you are Muslim. Pray to 330 million gods, anticipate fear and injustice; you are Hindu. The United States of America is a country that welcomes immigrants with open arms to live in and bring their own religions, cultures, and traditions. Over time, as different religions come to America they do the best they can to stay distinct and resist conforming their beliefs and customs to the pressures of American culture.

Sociologist Will Herberg suggested that America was not only a melting pot, but a triple melting pot that represented the faiths of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. 1 The core values shared by these three denominations represent the American ideals. That is one of the only advantages that Judaism has over the other immigrant religions. Otherwise, Jews across America have felt the hardship of not being a part of the Christian nation. It is common to see the Irish out parading on St. Patricks Day, Christians bearing palm branches on Palm Sunday; however a Jew will never be seen parading with a Torah on Simchat Torah or parading on Purim.

There is a level of equality that unfortunately has not yet been reached. There are three different categories within Judaism; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Orthodox is the most observant and also has not changed its doctrines since they were instilled. Reform is the least observant and has adapted to the modern world and current way of life. One of the most noticeable differences is in the Sabbath, which is heavily observed by Orthodox and moderately observed by Conservative and Reform Jews.

The Sabbath is celebrated starting at sundown Friday evening continuing until sundown on Saturday evening, while Christians celebrate only on Sunday. This causes problems when Jewish people live in communities where the majority is Christian and they do not understand the need to observe on a Saturday. If Jews own businesses, this may hurt their profits, as sales are normally heavy on Saturdays. A fear of many Jewish immigrants is that when they move to America they will lose complete faith and their Judaic roots. 3 However, not all change constitutes a loss of faith and some change promotes the greater good of all mankind.

One thing that some orthodox Jews are learning is the equality of women. In orthodox synagogues, women sit separately from men and are not considered equal in many aspects of daily life. 4 American life allows women to hold positions of power and changed the way they are perceived. One great distinction between Jewish and American lifestyles is the dietary restrictions that Jews live by. Kashrut is the term for the body of dietary law. The numerous rules outline exactly how a Jew should prepare their food, what food they can and cannot eat, and what to eat on certain occasions.

It is difficult for Jews to keep kosher in America because they have to go out of their way and shop only in kosher marts and shops. Also, dining out or eating in someone elses home is almost impossible. Mainly just the orthodox Jews are strict to most of the laws, conservative and reform Jews just try to keep the basic laws. 5 In Israel, most of the food that is available is kosher and it is much easier to follow the kashrut. There are few hardships that one has to accept knowing that they are leaving their homeland to move to a foreign nation where there rituals and traditions are not commonly carried out.

Every minority community faces a variety of challenges living in America. The American way of life is secular, and religious belief or disbelief is held to be a private matter versus a public one. Muslims face challenges that are associated with the character of Islam. The Islamic faith and its practices involve special obligations and responsibilities that shape the way Muslims as individuals and groups respond to the conditions of American society. 6 Since Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life, it is difficult to live in a society where the main religion is not Islam.

In an Islamic country, everyone dresses the same and observes all of the same practices. Americans are not educated in the teachings of Islam and may not be sympathetic to some of the demands of the faith. To pray five times a day and fast for a month out of the year can be seen as non-productive and threatening. The obligation of salat (five daily prayers), is an issue in school and in the work place. As a religion, Islam will not conform and dismiss the necessity for these prayers because they are not a part of American life. Another part of a Muslims life is their dress, specifically that of a woman.

A Muslim woman is required to cover her hair in an effort to avoid attracting men and seeming flirtatious. This necessary article of clothing has been the cause of much controversy. In many public schools around the nation Muslim girls are being ridiculed and harassed because of the way their religion asks them to dress. One girl chose to not wear her hejab (piece that covers the hair) in public as to not draw undesired attention to herself. 7 These subtle conformities show that in time Islam will reshape more and more to fit in with American society.

Hindus comprise almost fourteen percent of the worlds religion, yet they are minorities in the United States. The foreign beliefs of this religion cause them to feel alienated by American society where so much revolves around the Judeo-Christian belief in one god. Hindus mainly practice their faith in peoples homes. A group called the Organization of Hindu Malayalees (OHM) was formed in 1991 to give Hindu immigrants a means for meeting people of their faith and observing together. To be able to fit in but yet still be able to maintain ones cultural and personal integrity is the challenge every immigrant faces.

Hindu men and women have special outfits that are distinctly Hindu that they wear on certain occasions. The trouble is that the Hindus that are born in America feel embarrassed to be seen with their parents when they are wearing this traditional dress. A major concern of many Hindu parents is their childrens future marriage partners. They feel that moving to America will lead their children to marry outside the faith and abandon their religion. Many Indians came to America in search of job opportunities in hope that they will eventually bring their good fortunes with them back home.

The stay in America seems to be more permanent and Hindus need to start establishing more concrete methods of practicing their religious beliefs. Not all immigrants that come to the United States have been of non-Christian religions. Christian immigrants from all over have been reshaping the way they practice their religion to conform to American culture and norms. There are several churches across America that are specific to certain ethnicities such as German, Italian, Mexican, etc. Germans converted their public meetings into English.

These groups observed their different ways of practicing within their own churches and communities. In the Italian community of East Harlem, they have managed to keep with their native traditions in celebrating their festa. 9 As a Mexican family moves to America they must get accustomed to prayer in English and being surrounded by white Irish priests. The way Catholicism is practiced in Mexico and most Hispanic nations is stricter and less secular than the United States. 10 The common theme between all the immigrant minorities is that they will lose their sense of ethnicity when they come to America.

However, there is a fine line between losing faith and religion and losing traditions, values, and the culture of ones people. It is acceptable to adopt American ways to demonstrate loyalty to the country without sacrificing ones own identity. There are many processes whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture. Immigrant religions struggle between keeping their roots and adjusting to American culture. As these immigrants conform to American society, America also conforms around them to form a universal identity unique to the nation of America.

Philosophy of spiritual gifts

The area of Spiritual gifts is one the holds great interest for me. The thought that The different areas of effectiveness and skills are from God is interesting. I grew up with the teaching that we had God given abilities but never equated these with “spiritual gifts”. They were just skill that we had been born with. I felt that our genetics and social conditioning had as much to do with these “gifts” as the Holy spirit did.

Since there are non-Christians who exhibit these same abilities and gifts and when I was not a Christian I still had the desire to encourage others (encouragement is my spiritual gift). So I guess that I just never thought of these as spiritual gifts. I have been wondering for a few years now about what my spiritual gifts are. Although I have been intrigued by them, I was unsure of the method to use to discover them. The truth is, the thought that I did not know never really concerned me. The lack of understanding my spiritual gifts did not keep me from ministering.

In a way I guess that they were already evident to me. The only thing I was missing was the “Christian” terminology for them. I would still be content not to know what the spiritual gifts I have are, but the elective I took gave me the opportunity to explore and discover the spiritual gifts I possess. My involvement in the discovering of my spiritual gifts is purely by God’s design, so I assume that the time is right for me to be aware of them. The class module has been informative and interesting, and has revealed to me the gifts that God has blessed me with.

The biggest concern I have regarding knowledge of our spiritual gifts is the temptation to misuse them and to a smaller degree to let ourselves be constricted in what we do in our spiritual lives because the task may lie outside of our “gifts”. The thought that people use this as an excuse is disappointing to me. That tells me that they do not have a full understanding of who our God is. To limit oneself to the spiritual gifts that are evident is in a sense limiting God. When We become Christians is purely because of what God has worked in us.

Throughout the life of the believer the continuing work of the Spirit is evident in our lives, or should be if the believer’s relationship with God is healthy. The believer is continually growing and developing as the “new creation” Christ allowed us to become through the power of His resurrection. Therefore, there is nothing to say that what gifts we have now will always be there and in use, and likewise, there is nothing to say that gifts that we do not have now will not become evident in our lives at some time.

Those who are involved in the search to discover their spiritual gifts seem to be at risk of feeling disappointment when they do not see how the gifts they have could be of use to them. There is also the inherent risk of misunderstanding their gifts and how to use them the most effectively. Those who are made aware of their spiritual gifts need to be educated in the use of their gifts and the usefulness of the gifts. So the most evident need of those who have had their gifts revealed to them is discipleship. They need to have education and training.

In class there seems to be several students who have a hard time grasping the concept of spiritual gifts. They seem to be wanting “special revelation” in regards to their gifts. I think that they had in mind where their gifts were and when the tests revealed gifts that they were unaware of or uninterested in they are disappointed. These people need more information and the Spirit needs to open their eyes to the subject and reveal these things to them. They are now aware of what the gifts are and they need to have guidance regarding the use and development of those gifts.

The concept of the church and the purpose of the body of Christ makes understanding and using the spiritual gifts much easier. I want to explore the role and purpose of the church on earth. In order to have the proper use of spiritual gifts There must be a proper understanding of what the role of the church is. I feel that this has far more importance over what gifts there may be. For while gifts will change and develop, and we will discover new ones throughout our lives, the church is something that has to be set and established.

The church as found in the New Testament is the assembly of those who believe in Jesus Christ and profess a saving faith in His through His resurrection. The word ekklesia is what is often translated “church” into English, This word means literally “assembly”. The church is Jesus’ body on earth. Being so, we have a responsibility to fulfill. What is our reason for being on this earth? what is our purpose? The following paragraphs will hopefully give us some insight into what the purpose of the church actually is.

Our purpose is fulfilled in six ways, there are specific areas that the church has to meet in order to be considered truly functioning. Without any of these the church is lacking and the impact of this will be felt throughout everything that the church does. The six areas that the church has to fulfill can be easily seen in the acrostic W. I. F. E. E. From this acrostic we can see the areas that the church is to minister to in order to serve its purpose on this earth. How we fulfill these areas will differ from one congregation to another.

As each grouping of believers will have a different focus. e priorities will differ from Christian to Christian, but as long as basic Christian community is there churches will be efficient. The next few paragraphs will be used to explain more in depth the words in the acrostic. Starting with W. Worship, it is our most important work on earth. To bring glory to God to show him worship. There are many ways in which we can worship God , we worship Him through obedience, through song, through prayer, our daily lives are to be an example of the difference God can make in our lives when one is willing to concede control of it to God.

Intercession, this is standing in the gap and lifting up our pleas and requests to God. It is coming to God through the blood of Christ and lifting up ourselves and others to God. Just as Christ makes intercession for us to the Father we to are to do for others. Fellowship, this is one that everyone is ready to engage in until you look at the Greek text. The word for fellowship in Greek is koinania and the general idea behind it is to “hold everything in common”.

This means that we must be willing to share all that we have with those fellow believers who are in need around us, The New Testament tells us in the book of Acts that believers held everything in common and would give to each as there was need. Edification, this is pertaining to the building up of the body of Christ. What ever happens in the church must edify others, this includes encouraging, strengthening, teaching, and other adverbs that relate to this. The dictionary describes edification this way,” instruction and improvement.

We must always be aware of how our actions are affecting others and must also be careful to build up rather that destroy. Evangelism, some have said that this should be our focus, but I have put it last for a reason. If we as Christians are not fulfilling and meeting the needs of those who are already in the body of Christ with us how can we reasonably expect to meet the needs of those who are still outside of the body? Everyone knows that evangelism is spreading the good news. Yet what kind of example will we be if those who are our own are hurting and we do nothing about it.

Not that I want to downplay the importance of evangelism, it is just that I want to make sure that when those on the outside come in they will come into a healthy body. But we must reach out to those who are not Christians so that all may have the opportunity to know the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. With these things in mind, the role of spiritual gifts in the believers life takes on new purpose. We are here to lift up and edify the body of Christ which is us who are believers.

Spiritual gifts are useless unless they are used in the proper context. Churches today often go to extremes regarding spiritual gifts and their application and use in believers lives. There needs to be found a balance in this area. For to place to much importance on the gift is to risk not giving the proper credit to the provider of the gifts. Then at the other end of the perspective are those who ignore spiritual gifts and those people are at risk of taking the credit due to the Spirit for themselves. That is the problem, finding balance within this area.

Different Interpretations Of Religion

“Nearly everyone has some conception of religion. In fact, sometimes it appears that there are as many definitions of it as there are people” (Schmidt 9). Not only does each person have his or her own way of defining religion; each person has his or her own way of practicing religion. Studying these different practices can be difficult. There have been many people who have studied religion and through many different methods. While some people share similar findings, each person has his or her own interpretation of religion.

Michael Malloy found three major patterns in his studies of religion. These patterns can be seen in many religions, especially Hinduism. The first pattern Malloy describes is the way each religion contacts the sacred. There are two ways that Hindus contact the sacred. One is through the Vedic Hinduism sacrifice, and the other appears in Upanishadic Hinduism, which is through mystical orientation, where a person “seeks union with a reality greater than ones self” (Burke 11). The sacrifice follows a scheduled routine in which many priests are present to ensure the event’s accuracy.

The sacrifice is used to contact the gods in an attempt to please them so that they improve relations with the gods. This will help the sacrificer receive things from the gods that he asks for. “Usually the sacrificers praised the god for deeds they wanted the gods to repeat, such as the release of rain on the earth” (Srauta Sacrifice 76). Often sacrifices dealt with the natural aspects in life, the things the people could not control on their own. In The Katha Upanishad, Nachtketa asks the King of Death for the secret of morality.

Ask for cattle, elephants, horses, gold,” says the King of Death (Burke 39). Nachtketa declines these offerings so that he may obtain the knowledge of immortality. The King of Death tells him to know Brahman. Brahman is sacred to the Hindus. Through mystical orientation Hindu’s try to reach this knowledge of Brahman. “Often techniques for lessening the sense of one’s individual identity (such as seated meditation) help the individual experience a greater unity” (Malloy 11). Hindu’s use seated meditation, yoga, to control the body, senses, breath and mind to reach a state where they can find Brahman.

The second pattern Malloy describes is the importance of worldviews in a religion. Each religion has a different way of seeing the world and interpreting experiences. Worldviews include all aspects of life, especially; the nature of sacred reality, morality, and a view of time. Hindu’s Brahman is an example of sacred reality. They believe Brahman is everywhere and in everything. The True Self is the Brahman that is found in every person. “The SelfIt is indestructible, for it is never destroyed. It is not for the love of the husband that a husband is dearly loved.

Rather it is for the love of the self that the husband is dearly loved” (Burke 20,21). Hindus look for the True Self in every person. Because Brahaman is found everywhere, liberation can be found everywhere. Hinduism’s view of morality includes the Law of Karma. This is an impersonal law that regulates morality throughout time. “To reward the good and punish the wicked” (Burke 22). The Law of Karma plays a role in Hindu’s view of time. They believe that people are born and reborn during this cycle of samsara and the class, high or low, that a person is reborn into is determined by the Law of Karma.

Karma exists constantly because to the Hindus time is on going. Life is an endless cycle that can only be escaped by the knowledge of Brahman. The third pattern is the role of male and female, and how each sex plays a role in the religion. In Hinduism there are male and female gods and they both play a significant role in the beliefs of Classical Hinduism. The god Shiva is the god of destruction, who destroys ignorance and gives Hindus mystical knowledge. Kali is the wife of Shiva, the goddess of time. She is the great mother who creates life only to later destroy life.

For each male god there is a female counterpart, and the union between them, sex, is valued as the highest union that people can have. Hindus simulate this union through sexual acts, or Kama Sutra. The valued idea that the god Khrishna made love to 16,000 women in one night demonstrates the Hindu’s goal of union. The union of being and togetherness, the union of god and goddess, is what Hindu’s want to simulate because they want that same union with god. The patterns Malloy describes are very evident in Hinduism. Other people have also found commonalities among religions.

Sigmund Freud, a psychologist, has his own views of the patterns he has found in religion. Hinduism contains the belief of kathenotheism, which means Hindu’s believe in many gods, but only one god is supreme at a time. Many of the gods represent aspects of nature that the Hindu’s believe those gods control. Hindu’s believe that Agni is the god of fire, Varuna is the creator of the cosmos, Rta controls the seasons, and Tvashtri is the god of the volcano. Freud believes that the people prayed to these gods to protect themselves, “against the dangers and nature of Fate”(Freud 110).

Freud feels that this is and illusion, for example the god Tvashtri does not control volcanoes, a volcano has a scientific reason for erupting. Freud believes they created the gods for comfort and to explain the things in nature that they did not have enough scientific knowledge to explain. Therefore Freud does not blame these people for their ignorance, but he feels that they need to be taught the scientific reasons for why things happen. He recognizes that people are afraid of these elements and that they use gods to comfort their fears. “Men are not entirely without assistance.

Their scientific knowledge has taught them much” (Freud 114). Freud believes if men use the knowledge of science to calm their fears of nature then they would not need religion. T. Patrick Burke along with Malloy and Freud found commonalities amongst the religions of the world. Burke describes a formula for religion. “Each of the major religions has a message about human condition; each points to something that it views as fundamentally wrong an unsatisfactory about our existence; each offers a diagnosis of the cause of that unsatisfactoriness and points to a possible remedy” (Burke 2).

This describes the idea that each religion has a problem, path, and a solution. Taoism and Confucianism share this structure. Confucianism’s main problem is the lack of harmony in society. If there is no harmony, then society does not run smoothly and people do not develop to their full potential as human beings. The belief is, “Our relationship to Heaven is governed by how we conduct ourselves” (Burke 107). The solution for people who believe in Confucianism is harmony amongst the people. The path in Confucianism includes four main issues: the rectification of names, having strong leaders, Li, and Jen.

The rectification of names refers to clear language. Words must be correct and people must understand them without confusion. “We must see it that the reality lives up to its nameHuman beings should be in harmony with their natures” (Burke 114). The clarity of words brings about the clarity of actions, which helps to create harmony among the people. Strong leaders are an important part of any society. People will follow any way a leader leads them. Li is the proper way of conduct, a set of moral guidelines. People need to know the rules so that they can stay in harmony with society.

If people are not respectful them society will be off balance. Along with respect is Jen, meaning human heartedness. “It is the highest perfection of goodness, a sublime moral ideal beyond the reach of ordinary morals” (Burke110). Confucianism believes that by following these characteristics and this path they with create harmony in civilization and with Heaven. Taoism also has a problem, path, and a solution. Taoists believe that the problem is that people are not empty, which does not allow them to be in harmony with nature. Their minds are not empty and accepting of other things.

Taoists do not trust words; they believe that words are problematic. Once a word is used to define something it closes all opinions of thought. A common idea in Taoism is; who is to say what is right and what is wrong. “The wise man makes room in his mind for both the acceptable and the unacceptable, for what the people consider right and also what the people consider wrong” (Burke 138). Taoists also find many problems with rules. They feel that rules are as problematic as words are. The more rules a society has, the more rules there are to brake.

Then the solution is emptying the mind and allowing many ideas to come and go. This concept is known as Tao. “To respond properly to Nature we must give up all conventional value judgments, abandon all our usual likes and dislikes, and simply accept what Nature gives us” (Burke 137). The path one must take in Taoism is that of wu wei, inactive action. Wu wei is action that follows the way of Tao. Tao is an element that exists throughout the world. It is an element that exists in all things and it is also a way of understanding of life. There is no good and there is no bad in Tao.

Taoists believe that good things come from bad things, and that bad things come from good things. They see the unity of all things. “Things can achieve success, not in spite of their limits, but because of them” (Burke 136). Because a person stays empty, that person is open to accepting the natural structure of life. He or she has no predetermined ideas, therefore they do not argue with what occurs. “There is a thing inherent and natural, which exists before Heaven and Earth. Motionless and fathomlessI do not know its name. If I am forced to give it a name, I call it Tao” (Burke 149).

Tao’s characteristics are most commonly associated with water. Tao like water is bending, yielding, it moves around other things, and it lies the lowest to the ground. Through inactive action the man of Tao, the Sage, allows nature to take its course thus creating harmony with nature. Inactive action wu wei means, “There are times when it is better to do nothing, when action, however well intended, will do more harm than good” (Burke 141). By embracing these concepts of Tao and selflessness, the Taoists believe that they will achieve the solution to their problem of a lack of harmony in nature.

If they accept nature and Tao then they do not put boundaries on their thoughts and are therefore open and in harmony with nature and the world around them. Karl Marx was an economist who also wrote about religion. Marx did not find religion to be a positive contribution to society. He felt that religion produces a false since of illusionary happiness that causes difficulty for people to accurately evaluate their surroundings. Marx called religion the opiate of the people. He believes that it produces fantasies, it is addictive, and that it removes pain. Marx’s Theory applies to Taoism.

Marx’s ideas say that Tao is a fantasy, which keeps people from progressing in their lives. Taoism’s concept of no good and no bad keeps people from trying to improve their lives in society. If people accept the bad things that happen to them, and never try to change them because they believe that good will eventually come out of bad due to the cycle of Tao, then they will never act to improve their lives. If people never try to improve their lives; then people will continue to suffer. Taoism is addicting because every time something goes wrong people resort to it, instead of trying to fix what went wrong.

Marx believes Taoism becomes an excuse and it is easier to excuse problems than it is to solve problems, and that is how it becomes addicting. Taoism removes pain because the Taoist belief is that there is no good or bad. If there is no bad, then people do not feel pain. Marx believes that if people do not feel pain then they will not act to rid the pain, and again no progression is made in society. To Marx, all religion must be destroyed, this way people will solve their problems instead of turning towards religion. By solving problems instead of masking them with illusory happiness, the people may truly be happy.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed peoplethe abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness” (Marx 41). For all people religion provides something different. To some, living by way of religious practices is the only way they see fit to live. Religion is an explanation that comforts them. Other people find religion as a paralyzing element in the world, which holds back the cognitive development of people and the development of society. There are no certainties, except that there are no right or wrong views in terms of religious opinions, because every person has his or her own opinion.

Similarities and Differences Exist in Christian and Islamic Beliefs of Sin and Salvation

There is no disputing the fact that differences exist along the lines of different religions and cultures. However, for as many contrasts that can be found, an abundance of similarities can be found as well. There are a multitude of similarities that can be found in the Christian and Islamic beliefs of sin and salvation in the Holy Bible and in the Quran. There also exist, of course, a great deal of differences as well. In the Bible, there is an explicit claim that God created the world good. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen. 1:3).

Included in Gods creations were that of man and woman. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Gen. 1:27). Humanity, having been created in the image of God, was not simply good, as were the rest of Gods creations. Humanity was perfect. Having been placed in the garden of Eden, it was here that humanity began to relate to both God and the world. Initially, humanity was free to do as they wished and all was well.

Their only prohibition was that they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for on the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). However, humanity was tempted by Satan in the form of a serpent. “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:14). Humanity ate from the tree, failing the test to which they had been put by God. Adam and Eve were expelled from both the garden of Eden and the presence of God. They, furthermore, were forbidden to eat from the tree of life (Gen. 3:22).

The Christian view of sin is based on the initial status and fall of Adam and Eve. Sin is not intended for humanity. Man and woman are created perfect and for relationship with God, according to Christian belief. Sin has distorted that relationship and driven humanity from the presence of God. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13) God is holy and cannot even look on sin. The failure of Adam and Eve to obey Gods word is the root of the biblical notion of sin because it has the idea of disobedience.

According to Genesis 3:7 and 16, sin has negatively altered human relationships and relationships with the world. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). In Genesis 3:23, humanity was denied eternal life. This does not apply only to physical life, it applies to spiritual life as well. This is because of Adams sin. “For as in Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22). The effects of the “first parents” will affect humanity for as long as there is humanity. Everyone is born to die. All descendants of Adam inherit his sin and guilt. Furthermore, Adams descendants are born out of relationship with both God and the world.

In reading the Quran, it can be found that Sura 7:22 states “So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you? ” However, Muslims do not believe, as Christians do, in the idea of original sin. According to Islamic belief, sin is not something that is transmitted from generation to generation.

The events that transpired in the garden of Eden between humanity and Allah have no spiritual bearing on Muslims. The Qu ran says that after humanity was created, Allah told the angels to “prostrate yourselves from Adam. ” All except Satan did so. As a result, Satan was cast out of the paradise and was made to be the tempter of humanity. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and they did so. This is very much similar to Christian ideology, except after Adam and Eve were tempted, they asked for forgiveness and it was granted.

Adam and Eve were sent down to earth to instruct others and to be tested in their faithfulness to God (Sura 7:23 ? 26). Human history did not begin with unfaithfulness to God, according to Muslims because Adam and Eve repented for their sin and were forgiven (Sura 7:23). Therefore, Muslims do not stand guilty before Allah because of Adam. The source of sin is Satan, not sinful nature. Each person begins with righteousness. “All people are born as true Muslims, innocent, pure, and free (Sura 30:30). Every Muslim, though not a perfect creation, is a good creation.

Only Allah is perfect. Whereas Christians believe in the fallen nature of humanity, Muslims believe that one falls from a perfect state of grace. Muslims are not born sinners, they become sinners through disobedience to Allahs word. The Bible speaks of human sin as inevitable. The Quran places greater emphasis on a persons free will to gravitate towards obedience or disobedience. Sin affects Muslims only through external influences. For Christians, the essence of sin is disobedience and unfaithfulness while for Muslims, the worst sin is giving oneself equal status to Allah.

For Christians, salvation is only possible because Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross. When Jesus died, God paid the price and formed an eternal covenant with humanity. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. ” (Rom. 5:6, 8) Human salvation is possible because God sent Jesus down to Calvary. “And almost all the things are by law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. :22).

For a Christian to receive salvation, he must first realize that he is a sinner. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). A Christian must verbally confess his sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). The Bible also says in Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

A Christian must next repent his sins. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Finally, one must accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30). In doing these things, the Christian becomes a new creation.

II Corinthians says “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. ” In addition, the Christian then has the promise of everlasting life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (I John 5:24). As Muslims do not believe in original sin, they do not believe that one is born not being a Muslim. Thus, Muslims do not believe that they need to be saved from death to life.

In the Quran, repentance is spoken of more than salvation. Whereas the Christian key to salvation lies in Christs death on the cross, the Muslim key to salvation lies in Allahs mercy and compassion. In Islam, it is up to the individual to save himself. While Muslims place a lot of emphasis on living correctly, salvation is not attained by good works. A Muslim is not saved because he follows the law. Following the law is an expression of commitment to Allah. Accordingly, the Five Pillars of Islam are not required; they are tests for faith.

The Five Pillars of Islam are faith (there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God), prayer (obligatory prayers recited five times a day), giving zakat or support of the needy (possessions are purified by setting aside a portion for those in need), fasting in the month of Ramadan (all Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual relations from first light to sundown), and pilgrimage (the pilgrimage to Mekkah is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it).

Faith and good works are complementary. As for those that have faith and do good works, We shall admit them to gardens watered by running streams, where, wedded to chaste virgin, they shall abide for ever”(Sura 4:57). For Christians, the teaching is that Christ was God incarnate dying for sins of world. For Muslims, the incarnation is polytheism and grounds for rejection. For Christians, the first step towards salvation is impossible without the intervention of God and His grace. For Muslims, the first step to salvation is impossible without deciding to do something themselves.

Ultimately, Muslims place more emphasis on the visible signs of repentance than do Christians . Christians generally teach that the inner self is more than the outer. However, it seems that both Muslims and Christians are aware of the need for grace and the avoidance of the idea that good works alone are grounds for salvation. In concentrating on our differences, it is easy to state that we are all diverse. This is, of course, true. However, I think that we need to focus more on the things that make us similar. Only then can we put an end to the ideas and stereotypes that keep us apart.

The Old Testament

A myriad of mysteries is contained in the pages of the Old Testament. For centuries, scholars of theology, archeology and anthropology have labored to produce some explanation of the contradictions and impossibilities put forth in these texts. The ancient ruins of lost cities reveal evidence that some writings may be incorrectly dated, or even that they may be false. Faith and tradition give way to speculation that the Bible may be nothing more than a collection of ancient Israelite mythology. Some things, however, prove tantalizingly true.

Temple Judaism and its monarchy, for example, are historical fact; the records of surrounding civilizations corroborate the chronicling of their place in the ancient world. Jerusalem was conquered and sacked on a regular basis by the likes of Egypt, Babylon, Rome and finally, Palestine. The temple was destroyed on numerous occasions and its treasures looted and carried off as booty. One mystery connected to these events has captivated the imagination of mankind, inspiring theologians, archeologists, and filmmakers alike: the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant.

This ancient coffer, believed to have held the actual stone tablets on which the Decalogue or Ten Commandments were inscribed by the very hand of Yahweh, disappears from biblical mention after the Babylonian exile. Having successfully established themselves as a nation, the Israelites were beaten and taken as captives by Babylon. Enslaved in a foreign land, all hope of regaining their freedom and traditions rested in the power of their God. After seventy years, as prophesied, the repentance and lamentation of the Israelites so moved the King of Babylon that they were allowed to return and rebuild their capitol.

The Holy of Holies, or resting place of the Ark in the temple, would, however, remain empty from that time forward. The description of the Ark, given in Exodus chapter twenty-five, indeed explains why it may have been a coveted artifact to rival kings. It was a wooden chest, layered over in gold and measuring more than a yard long and two feet in height and width, respectively. Gold rings attached to the sides made it possible for two handles, also of gold covered wood, to be slid through. The lid of the Ark represented a throne for the very presence of God and was flanked by two cherubim.

These winged effigies of heavenly beings, or angels, were in a crouched or kneeling position, as if bowing before the power of Yahweh. Their wings fanned out in front of them creating, in effect, a canopy over the Ark. Moses himself received the description for the Ark from God on Mount Sinai or Horeb; it was only one of several objects that the Lord wanted the Israelites to cast for use in worship. In the wilderness exile, these sacred vessels were carried from place to place and resided in a special group of tents when Israel was encamped.

The tents were arranged around a center “courtyard,” this served as a portable temple for worship. The Ark, along with its accompanying tabernacle, altar, and lampstand, became the very center of Hebrew ritual. The tabernacle was an inner tent, with gold laden wooden poles for a frame and fine, colorful cloth curtains for its sides. Even the curtain rings were made of gold. All of this gold was undoubtedly the spoils that, as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites had coerced from their captors. It was fashioned, for a time, into the golden calf of infamy in the Exodus story.

Whenever the nation traveled, the Ark was carried before it on the shoulders of twelve priests who were consecrated specifically for its guardianship. Sometimes a veil of fine cloth embroidered with symbols of the covenant and cherubim of gold thread was draped over the Ark. While in the tabernacle, the veil served as the final separation between the Hebrew nation and the Holy of Holies, access to which was only granted the High Priest. Going on before the Israelites, the priests bearing the Ark sang the praises of God and the power of God was believed to render the column invulnerable to attack.

Later, in the book of Joshua, the priests bore the Ark into the river Jordan; the flow of water was stopped up. Rising as if held back by an invisible dam, the waters ceased to run so that the Hebrews could cross on dry ground. The success of military campaigns was attributed to the power overshadowing the Ark. When it was carried around the walls of the city of Jericho, the citizens within were struck with fear and on the seventh day of these “parades” the walls collapsed. In the First book of Samuel, the Israelites are defeated because the Ark is not with them.

When it arrived in their camp, their enemies the Philistines were so afraid of its power that they immediately besieged them again and captured the Ark. From there, the Ark fought its own battles. Passed from one enemy nation to another, it left their temples in ruins, their people afflicted, and their lands desolate. King David returned the Ark, which he called “the footstool of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:2), to Jerusalem. He was so overjoyed at its recapture that he danced naked in the streets before it.

Residing in the homes of some of the most righteous men in Israel, the Ark remained the most important focal point of worship and symbolism to the nation. David fretted over the fact that the Ark had no temple in which to reside while he himself lived in a palace. Because of his sin with Bathsheba, the Lord refused him the honor of constructing one. It was his son Solomon that would fulfill his dream and build the temple he planned for the Ark. There it remained until after the death of King Josiah when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded.

To the ancient Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant was just that: a container for the stone tablets on which the provisions for the basis of their agreement with God were inscribed. It is also possible that the Ark held a sacred vessel containing a piece of Manna from the desert (Exodus 16:34). Other traditions hold that the staffs of Moses and Aaron were placed inside; and, in Deuteronomy chapter thirty-one, the transcriptions of the Law of Moses also went into its protective shell. More than a mere vault of safety, however, the Ark was a symbol of God’s power manifest in the midst of the people; a throne on which the Spirit of God did rest.

Like the Holy Grail, it has an actual power to heal, sanctify, and possibly, to kill. One man named Uzzah died when he touched it; and he was only trying to keep it from falling off an ox cart (Second Samuel 6:6-7). Many possibilities exist for the explanation of what happened to the Ark. Some believe it was destroyed and its gold melted down, along with the other temple treasures, by the Babylonians. The lingering hope that it may have been hidden by the priests of the temple prior to the sacking of Jerusalem is, however, held throughout the world.

It may be the case that it still rests in a hidden chamber somewhere beneath the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim mosque now on the site of the original temple. Second Temple Judaism maintained the tradition of the Holy of Holies, and since entrance was forbidden, it was long believed that the Ark was still inside. In the final fall of Jerusalem to Rome the temple was found to be empty of its relics. The possibility also exists that it was taken to Egypt or the Byzantine Empire. Whatever the case, the Ark remains an object of mystery and fascination to this very day.

Hinduism and Buddhism

Hinduism is the main religion of India. Honduism has no founder or formal church. This religion’s roots are from ancient Aryan beliefs and practices. It is the way a way of life. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism has somewhat of a founder of the religion. It all started around 600 b. c. The Brahman cast had become very powerful. Brahamans claimed that they alone could perform the sacred rituals of the Hindu religion. One of the reformers was Siddhartha Guautama. Guautama was a son of a local ruler, he lived a life of luxery not knowing the meaning of suffering. One day he saw a begger, and one thing lead to another.

He now relized that life was fule of misery and suffering. He then left his family and home to find the cause of human misery. After years of searching, he meditated under a tree, and he recieved enlitghtenment. He now understood the cause of suffering. From then on he was known as the Buddha which started the religion, Buddhism. Hindu’s beliefs are recorded in sacred texts. The most important being the Vedas and the Upanishads. The Vedas contains eternal thruths that were reveiled to the wise men. The Upanishads helped to explain the ideas that occured in the Vedas.

This is somewhat similar to Buddhism being that the Buddah taught others what he learned as he sat under the tree. He called those ideas the four noble truths. The first truth was that suffering was universal. The second was that suffering is caused by desire. The third is that the only way to stop suffering is to crush desire. The fourth is that the only way to end desire was to follow the noble Eightfold path. Hindusworship thousnads of gods. Each god is part of a single supreme force known as the Brahman. The many gods give the Brahman a more stable form that is easily understandible to the average person.

The three main gods of Hinduism are Bhrama, Vsnu, and Siva. Brhama is the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer. Throughout India different religious groups worship one or more of these gods. Hindus believe that every person has an essential life or atman. This is part of a unversal soul. They also do not believe in violence because they believe that all natuarel living thigs are part of the same universal soul. They respect nature. The Buddah thought of himself as a hindu but did not beilive in any god. He also thought that preist were not neccesary and that people had to seek nirvana on their own.

Hindus believe that pele undergo reincarnation, which is the rebirth of a soul in various forms. They do not think that everythig can be accomplished in one lifetime. The cycle of death and rebirth continuos until one reaches Brahaman. If a person was born into a specific caste they will remain in that caste forever. In each caste their are certain duties and obligations. If they obey these rules they will move ahead in their next life. Like Hindus, Buddah believed that salvation was achieved when the individual self has escaped the body.

Even though he rejected the caste system he believed in reincarnation. Soon after the Buddah atracted many followers. He set up monastaries and convents, so that munks could study the noble Eight fold path. After he died, his followers passed his teaching by mouth. The ideas were written down in the three baskets of wisdom, which were similiar to the Vedas. Although Buddah began in South Asia, it almost dissappearred there. Hinduism is a tolerant faith, and slowly absorbed many Buddhist ideas. Hinduismis a giant religion that buddhism origanated from.

Religious Beliefs Essay

Today’s religious beliefs, governmental structures, laws and traditions of social behavior find their roots in the development of three main belief systems – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although other religious movements have developed throughout the years, these three belief systems have had the most impact on civilizations of the West. To better understand this impact, it is important to trace the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and review the relationships between them.

While each belief system is unique, there are many similarities due to their common beginnings. The philosophies and traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam most prominently begin with the founder of the Hebrews known as Abraham ca 1800 BCE Historically, these teachings were also subscribed by nomadic tribes, which settled in present day Palestine, near Mt. Sinai. The people of these tribes did not label themselves as Hebrews, and referred to God as the god of Abraham.

This came about as God promised Abraham a son, and in the course of the events doubting that is old wife could give him a son, he had Ishmael with his maid, Hagar, and then later God’s prophecy would be fulfilled with the birth of Isaac, by his wife Sarha. Due to their belief system, the tribe proliferated the idea that Isaac and his descendants were chosen by God to carry forward Abraham’s holy lineage. Isaac was the forefather of what was to become the 12 tribes of Israel, while Ishmael and his descendents were to constitute a different Semitic tribe and follow Arabic traditions.

The term Judaism came about after the establishment of the state of Israel when the tribes divided into two, the northern and Judas kingdoms, ca 922-587 BCE The customs and belief systems of these nomadic tribes to be later identified as Arab tribes were very similar to the Hebrews’; however, the Arab tribes developed in some subtle ways. They remained nomadic, whereas the Hebrews tended to follow the teachings of the Holy Scriptures to the achievement of The Promised Land.

As for the Arab nomadic tribes because of this development, a centralized governing agent who organized the religion did not develop as it did with the Hebrews. In approximately ca 1290-1250 BCE, Moses further supplemented both traditions with a covenant between God and his believers. Moses married Zipphora, from a different Semitic tribe, (Ishmael descendants? ) as they referred to God as the God of Abrahim; this would indicate the strong similarity of beliefs and customs between the Hebrew and Arab tribes at that time.

In approximately 600 CE, a somewhat modified revival of the beliefs and traditions of Abraham occurred, due to the persuasions of Mohammed. He disagreed with the commonly held belief that Isaac and his descendents were the chosen ones. He taught instead that Ishmael was the chosen one, and therefore, Ishmaels descendants, the Arabs, carried forth Abraham’s holy lineage. Mohammed redefined the Arabic religious tradition on this point into the tradition of Islam. Islamic belief centered on “submission to the will of Allah by fulfilling the five duties know as the Pillars of Islam”.

Within the organized movement of Islam, ca 570-632 BCE, a written tradition, as well as a central controlling agent of the Arab tribes, developed through compilation of the Qur’an. The Qur’an, although in some ways similar to the teachings in the Hebrew Holy Scriptures, totally and distinctly separated the Islamic belief system as a new, and competing, tradition from that of Judaism. Another offspring of Judaism was Christianity. The belief that a Messiah would appear amongst the Jews by the end of the millennium came to life with the crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem ca 29 B. C. E. Jesus was believed by many followers of Judaism to be the long-awaited Messiah, and served to divide Judaism once again.

In contrast to Judaism, Christians believe that the appearance and teaching of Jesus represents a new covenant superseding the previous covenant between God and Moses. The Jews that chose to believe in this new covenant began the Christian movement. A focused Christian movement began based on the documentation of his teachings by men who lived during the two to three generations following Jesus’ death.

The written tradition was called the New Testament, and was considered an addition to the Hebrew Holy Scriptures. Developments of Christianity are chiefly attributed to Paul, for his contributions to the New Testament, and Peter, the leader of the Roman Church. The influence of the Christian belief system is great – the socio-economic traditions of the western world revolve around traditions derived from Christianity (Catholicism). Naturally, as both Christianity and Islam originated from Judaism, many of their teachings, beliefs and traditions are similar to Judaism.

All three religions are similar in their description of the relationship with God and his followers, as the Holy Scriptures are part of the teachings of Christianity. There can be seen a great influence by the Tanakh and the Gospels in the Qur’an: “Praise be to God, the Lord of the universe, the merciful, the compassionate, the authority on judgment day”…. He has created the heavens and the earths in accordance with the requirements of wisdom. Exalted is he above all that they associate with him. ”

While women played a key role in all three of these religious systems, they have been historically mistreated and overshadowed by their male counterparts. In Hebrew society, women were excluded from the priesthood, for the exception of a few, who played an active role in the religious observances and politics of the times. For example, Deborah was responsible for claiming territory for her tribe due to the defeat of the Canaates in 1125 BCE Throughout the history of Christianity, women were also restrained from achieving equality amongst men, with few exceptions, such as St. Catherine of Siena, who lived between 1347-1380 BCE She became involved with Church policy at the highest level, thus, playing a very important role in Church politics.

In Islamic society, women were important in the home and yet subordinate to men. They could neither claim nor inherit what their husbands won in the battlefield and had no right to divorce. “Baby girls were regarded with such disdain that in some instances they were buried alive at birth. ” Although Mohammed tried to improve their treatment, women enjoyed no equality with men.

Despite any differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, one incredible belief has remained – the decreased value and respect of women. This belief regarding women is responsible for the current status of women in modern society. Despite advancements in knowledge and technology, women are not currently recognized as equal to men in western civilization. This is attributed to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, the New Testament, and the Qur’an, which reinforce the subordination of women to men.

A very unfortunate impact of these belief systems is the substantiation of a discriminating god, which benefits and empowers only men. Just as there are similarities, there are many distinctions between the three belief systems. One of the main distinctions of Islam from Judaism and Christianity is the emphasis of Islam’s last great prophet Mohammed – not acknowledged by either Judaism or Christianity. While both Islam and Christianity recognize Jesus as a prophet, Christianity further exalts Jesus as the Messiah. Judaism does not recognize Jesus as a significant person.

Since the establishment of Catholicism and Islam, Jews have been a migrating minority and in spite of the many wars and battles fought amongst Catholics and Muslims during the Crusades, Jews seem to be a prime target of discrimination from both Catholics and Muslims of the times. The differences between Islam and Christianity flared during one period of history, primarily due to reasons of influence and power. The expansion of Islam looked with favor on commerce and developed trading routes, which extended from the Pacific to the Atlantic and from central Africa to Russia.

The Islamic world brought expanded economic opportunities to Europe and also benefited Muslim culture in science, medicine and philosophy. This created a sense of competition between followers of Islam and the Christians, who had established huge followings and social-economic monopolies. Pope Urban II transformed the competition into hatred in 1095, who depicted Muslims as a wicked race, and so the Crusades began one of the bloodiest and destained conflicts to occur between followers of Christianity and Islam.

Most of the disagreements within these three religions have been used to gain political power and the control of trading routes in the West. Manifestations of these disagreements are the great influence that Catholicism has had on Western Civilization regarding law and behavior, the current control of black gold in Saudi Arabia, and the entire issue of the state of Israel, which inevitably affects the world economically. Key figures were responsible for the development and proliferation of each of the religions herein discussed.

Moses was a key individual in the development of the Jewish faith, Mohammed was the key proponent of the Islamic traditions, and Peter and Paul were the major figures that progressed Christianity. Although the key figures are different, it is noticeable that organization is the most important factor in the development of all of these movements. These three movements are also linked by a need to justify and resolve issues of morality, as well as to assert an identity with a God.

The essential need to believe and describe in the existence of a higher force or Supreme Being has been present in all western civilizations from the time of Mesopotamia to this day. All three religions place importance on a grand occurrence – a representation of God will come and rescue them from the evils of society, leading them to eternal life. Believers of Judaism await the coming of the Messiah. Christians await the Second Coming of Christ, and followers of Islam await the return of Mohammed.

The importance placed on a future occurrence is one of the strongest factors responsible for the continuance of these religions, as it reinforces the need to follow the customs, ethics, morals of the particular belief system, and helps to stimulate conversions to each of the belief systems. Another major difference is the competition of Islam and Christianity for converts, whereas Judaism carefully evaluates a family lineage as to establish the relation to Judaism or in cases of conversions one must adhere to a detailed set of covenants in order to be accepted.

Islam and Christianity actively seek converts, whereas Judaism doesn’t. The final outcome of all of these religious beliefs is continuance of the structures they prescribe, and their profound impact on the development of western civilization. Judaism currently manifests itself as the final achievement of the state of Israel, and the catalyst for the basis of the influential world religions of Islam and Christianity.

Christianity influenced western culture through establishment and continuance of the Roman Catholic Church, its powerful infrastructures, which controlled the Roman Empire and to present-day influences of it are still strong. Islam created distinctive civilizations such as Damascus, Bhagdad, Cairo, Cordiva, and Delhi and has substantially impacted the people of Europe and Asia through their systems of trade and culture. Through their unique and combined interactions, the entire socio-political ideologies of western civilization have been affected.

Importance should be placed on both the disagreements and agreements between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As the current socio-economic status of western civilization, as well as eastern civilization, revolves around influences of the leaders that subscribe to one the above religions, it is extremely difficult to change outdated beliefs such as subordination of women and discrimination of humans due to their belief systems, specifically in current world events such as the situation of Israel in the Middle East and the wars taking place in former Yugoslavia.

Judaism comprises less than two per cent of western society, and yet has contributed in field after field. They have ranked the contribution of their day as Marx, Freud, Einstein, and Fermi have within this century. Furthermore, Jewries have been outcast and prosecuted more than any other society from as early as history could be recorded and survived against all odds. The Irony of all is that most of the persecuting has been done from movements which prescribed to either Christianity or Islam which in essence would have not existed without Judaism?

Compare and contrast Jewish, Christian and Islamic Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism: The belief in old and traditional forms of religion, or the belief that what is written in a holy book, such as the Christian Bible, as being completely and literally true. The Cambridge International Dictionary of English Fundamentalism: a: a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as Fundamental to Christian life and teaching; b: the beliefs of this movement; c: adherence t such beliefs. Webster’s English Dictionary. Fundamentalism is a religious phenomenon which has taken 20th century politics by storm.

As defined by Webster’s English dictionary fundamentalism has a direct correlation with Protestant Christianity; however, it has in the past, and is currently, impacting many other forms of religion. Since the 1970’s many religious movements have emerged into political governments and ideologies all over the world. The dominating religion in Europe is Catholicism; Hinduism is very strong in eastern Asia; Judaism is the ranking religion in Israel and Israeli’s political decision; and finally, Islam is the principal religion in the Middle East.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, second only to Christianity which has been the main religion in the United States and is actually making a strong comeback in America. According to Kepel (1994) all of these religions share the characteristic of challenging the way society is organized: either its secular foundation, or the way it has deviated from a foundation based upon religion, as in the United States for example. When the American government was constructed by its founding fathers, the guidelines for America’s laws and ideas where based on what Biblical principals, Christian values and morals.

The founding fathers wanted their Christian faith to play a major role in the American government and law, but they did not want government to rule over the church or the church to rule over government. Therefore, they added a clause in the constitution that discusses the separation of church and state to ensure that the church and the people attending those churches could worship freely without the will of government hindering their worship.

In the past thirty years separation of church and states has come up in many court proceedings through many cases brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU believes the concept of separation of church and state means that no government building or place of business can display or have within its contents of instruction anything that would be of a religious connotation. For instance, the Supreme Court in Washington, D. C. displays the words “In God We Trust” and many City Halls throughout America have displayed the manger scene at Christmas time.

The ACLU’s argument is that these symbols are a violation of church and state. Another example, is the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade, a court decision which gave women unlimited rights to abort their unborn child. Many believe that the decision in favor of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court was a strong indicator that government will not allow religion to play a role in their decisions. Another decision made by the Supreme Court which gave rise to Christian Fundamentalism in America was when the Court decided not to allow prayer in public schools.

Because of these types of decisions being made in America, several organizations were formed to activate Christians to get involved in the political world to combat the liberalism they believed was becoming prevalent in politics and developing government policies. In the late 1970s, an organization that was created to activate a moral foundation in government was the Moral Majority developed by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Later, Pat Robertson, founder of Regents University and the 700 Club TV program in the United States, established the Christian Coalition.

These organizations were the outlets used for Protestant Christians to get involved and provided a platform to campaign on a variety of moral issues. Issues such as the “right-to-life,” not giving preferential treatment to homosexuals just because of their sexual orientation, ending sexual education in schools, banning pornography, and putting prayer back into the public school system. These organizations have also been influential in campaigning to seeing that Christian men and women get elected to office on local community, state and national levels.

These organizations established strong lobbying grassroots in all areas of government to influence government policies and getting good people elected to office who share similar moral views. With this group now activated in the political realm, many consider theses groups to be on the far right of the political spectrum. Other names and labels which have been put on this group are names like the radical, the religious right or conservatives. This resurgence of a more fundamentalist approach to government decisions has not been without controversy.

There are similarities of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States with other religious fundamentalists through the world. All fundamentalisms reject “liberal” attitudes to morality, lifestyles and politics. Fundamentalists appear to favor a more traditional view regarding social morality and social order. There continues to be a battle for fundamentalism and liberalism in the United States. Political leadership continues to try to balance decision-making on these considerations. The definition of Fundamentalism differs even through each religion.

Within Christianity the definition of Fundamentalism is based the Protestant Churches firm belief in the Holy Scripture of the Bible, which Christians believe to be the divine and infallible word of God. Within Islam the definition of fundamentalism is based off of the belief is some old form of religion and that of a holy book, which Muslims refer to as the Koran given to them by god through Mohammed. Like Christianity modern Islam wishes to see a return to government with a religious foundation, but unlike Christianity in the US Muslims wish to see the government practically run by the basic Islamic law and that of the Koran.

Many Muslims see today’s so called crisis of Islam’ as the willingness to follow the false’ ideas of the western world, and that what is needed is a reassertion of traditional values. From this point of view, the crisis of Islam is seen as the result of the corruption of nominally Muslim governments and the creeping growth of secularism and Western capitalist influence on the Muslim world. Frequently those who argue in this way use violence in the cause of overthrowing unjust and what they see as corrupt governments.

This very approach is what defines Islamic Fundamentalism. Modern Islam in this idea goes back centuries. Ibn Taymoyya is often cited since he argued for a purification of Islam from what he considered corruption’s which had entered in his day. Ibn Taymiyya influenced later figures such as Muhammad In Abd al-Wahhab, the father of Wahhabi, and it is maybe ironic that the Saudi kingdom which came to power as a result of Wahhabi in Arabia is now one of the most prominent targets of the charge of corruption and of serving as a vehicle for western influence in the Islamic world.

With the idea of breaking away from western influence, the first conventional Islamic organization started with the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1920’s. The founder of the brotherhood, Hassen al Banna believed that the Islamic world needed to be cleansed and purified of western influence and that a restored faith must be placed in the center of the nation. He also believed that the sharia, or divine law, must be the central authority and its principles be applied to every aspect of Islamic life. These principles include to ways of dressing, praying, eating relations with the opposite sex and children as well as education.

The general idea is to re-Islamize society as a whole. According to Banna the ending result would be an Islamic state neither capitalist nor socialist. One of the of their most influential theorists was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb wanted to see an extreme form of Islam take control with that of a break’ from what he referred to as the jahiliyya, a term used to describe non-believers or an impious society. Qutb was executed in Egypt before he could see his own idea take shape, but re-Islamization movements in the 1980’s followed his same idea.

Tat a struggle against the jahiliyya was going to take place, followed by a seizure of power and the inauguration of an Islamic State subject to the sharia. The means of doing this have very enormously, from alternative societies to that of terrorism, with the formation of Islamist political parties as an intermediate solution. In the recent decade an extreme case of Islam has emerged with a man born of Saudi Arabian decent. His name is Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious country where Islamic practices are strictly observed.

In fact they have a religious police that inforce the prohibition of alcohol and he wearing of traditional female dress, and much else makes the Saudi society very conservative. So we have to ask what would make a Saudi born man turn to an extreme form of Islam within a strict Islamic country? Despite the country’s adherence to Islamic codes, its religious standing and its generous patronage of Islamic causes, the Saudi royal family has been under much criticism from fundamentalist saying they have to strong a tie with the United States and the western world as a whole.

Since the Iranian revolution in the late 1970’s the Saudis have relied greatly on the US for support and they in fact are one of the West’s largest suppliers for oil. Osama bin Laden believed in the idea that an extreme for of Islam needed to be established and need to break off from the western world. His extreme views and actions got him kicked out of his native country where he then found a safe harbour with an Islamic fundamentalist movement in Afghanistan known as the Taliban. The Taliban movement was created in 1994 by a senior Islamic priest by the name of Mohammed Omar in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban movement emerged after years of civil war, as well as a war between the Afghans and Soviets. The war was fought mainly by mujahiden, or guerrilla fractions with assistance from other countries and governments the soviets finally withdrew, which left the Afghans to create a government of their own. The Taliban emerged out of one of these guerrilla fractions and promoted itself as a new force for peace and unity. Since the Afghan people had suffered through many years of war many supported the early efforts of the Taliban.

After the Taliban seized control of the capital Kabul they created the Ministry for Ordering What is Right and Forbidding What is Wrong, to enforce its fundamentalist rules of behavior. Most of their rules have little to do with Islam itself, and are more influenced by ancient tribal beliefs. Their laws particularly affected women, who where ordered to cover themselves from head to toe in burkas (long, tentlike veils showing nothing but their eyes), they were forbidden to work outside the home, and publicly beaten if improperly dressed of escorted by males not of their own family.

The Taliban also made murder, adultery and drug dealing punishable by death and theft punishable by cutting of the hand. Many of these laws have nothing to do with Islam and many Islamic countries do not recognise the Taliban as a form of government of religion. The Taliban have taken cleansing of the Islamic world’ to the most extreme. They want a society totally separate from the Western influence and try as hard as possible to rid the world of capitalism they believe that they will come into power across the world after a jihad, or holy war.

Social and Political Reactions to Mormon Polygamy

“We are a peculiar people,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie once said (McConkie 25). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of a few “odd” Christian religions. Many of its practices have created much persecution and political reaction, polygamy being one of these. It created much social and political persecution of the Mormons. Most of this persecution had come from anti-polygamist Christians. This is ironic because the anti-polygamists believed in the Bible, but not polygamy, one of its teachings.

Many of Gods righteous followers in the Old Testament practiced polygamy. Abraham married Hagar, Sarais handmaiden (Genesis 16:1-3). Jacob was married to Leah, Rachel, Billah, and Zilpha all at the same time. In the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelation used as scripture by the LDS church, it states that “in nothing did they [the Old Testament prophets] sin save in those things they received not of me [God]”(132:38). Quickly one sees that God gave those women to the prophets of old because they were righteous.

So what exactly is the justification and reason for polygamy? Mormons believed that when a couple or family is sealed in the temple of the Lord by one holding Gods priesthood keys of sealing, that the bond is not “until death do us part,” but rather for all eternity. If this is true, then when a man is widowed and he marries a second wife, he then has two wives. The Mormons believe that if a man can have multiple wives in heaven, then the same should be true on Earth.

According to the Lords law of marriage, it is lawful that a man have only one wife at a time unless by revelation the Lord commands plurality of wives in the new and everlasting covenant” (McConkie5770). If a woman who is sealed in the temple is widowed, she not allowed to be resealed: only a man is allowed a plurality of spouses. Before the founding and organizing of the LDS church and introduction of polygamy, Joseph Smith received bitter persecution. He was tarred and feathered by a mob, but this was nothing compared to the treatment the saints received when their practice of polygamy became well known (Arrington JS 26-7).

In order to escape the torture, Joseph Smith led one hundred and fifty or more saints from New York to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831 (Arrington JS 21). After living in harmony with the native Gentiles for several years, the town of Kirtland became a prosperous city. In 1843, the local Gentiles found out that Joseph Smith and many other church members were practicing polygamy. When questioned, they confessed to the act, but from then on they hid it from the Gentiles (Newell 66-7). The news spread quickly, and the persecution returned at an even greater intensity.

Social persecution quickly turned into political persecution. On October 30, 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs issued the Extermination Order in which he wrote “that the Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good. ” (Benton 787) A few days later at Hauns Mill, 17 Mormons were killed and many others, including women and children, were severely wounded (Benton787).

In October 1838, the Missouri state militia was marching toward the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio: Anxious to avoid bloodshed, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman White and George Robinson went to negotiate with state officials under the flag of truce. Instead of treating the group with respect, however, militia officials seized the group. An order was issued to have Joseph and the others shot, but Colonel Alexander Doniphan, a secondary Missouri officer, courageously refused to carry out the order. Instead of court-martial and execution, the prisoners were taken on November 2 to Jackson County for Prison and trial.

After spending six months in prison, the group escaped with the help of the jailer (Arrington JS 32). Joseph then purchased a large amount of land in Jackson county, Missouri to which the Mormons could flee for safety. There Smith founded the city of Nauvoo, to which approximately 2,500 Mormons fled, from Ohio and New York. “At first the Mormons were kindly received by the Missourians who looked upon them as a set of harmless fanatics, very susceptible of being molded into good and honest citizens” (Benton 796).

Native Southerners soon found that the Mormons were against slavery, and therefore began to despise their presence (Benton 797). William and Wilson Law organized a paper called the Nauvoo Expositor, and printed their first and last paper in which they reinforced the rumors among the Gentiles that the Mormons practiced polygamy. Anti-Mormon mob violence increased in response. Smith had the press destroyed and gathered the Nauvoo legion to quell the mob violence and to protect the city (Benton 797):

For this he was charged with treason and with others, including his brother Hyrum, incarcerated in Carthage jail under pledge of protection by Governor Ford. This pledge was not kept. On the afternoon of June 27, 1844, a mob of armed men with blackened faces assaulted the jail and murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith. John Taylor was severely wounded, but Willard Richards, their fellow prisoner, escaped unhurt. ” (Benton 797) The prophet and president of the church was dead, and for the next three years. The Mormons were led by the Quorum of the Twelve.

Brigham Young, the senior member of the Twelve, was then appointed by the Twelve and overwhelmingly ratified by the congregation (Benton797). Under Brigham Young, the Mormons faced their final move. On September 10, 1845 Young appointed 1,500 men to go to the Great Salt Lake Valley, and two weeks later an agreement was made with the county and the state officials in Missouri for a prompt evacuation of Missouri. In the early spring of 1846, several thousand Mormons evacuated Nauvoo to head for Salt Lake (Arrington BY 55).

The Salt Lake Valley “was selected because of its very unattractiveness, with the hope, therefore, that it would not be coveted by others”(Benton 797): Constitutional conventions of 1856, 1862, 1872, 1882, and 1887 accomplished nothi8ng in the face of the determination of the federal government to force abolition of polygamy which became the symbol of the supremacy of United States law over the Mormon way of life. (Benton 910) Not until 1895 was Utah allowed entrance into the union as a state, because Congress wanted more non-Mormons in Utah and because they wanted to be sure that polygamy was finished there (Arrington 343).

They eventually received status as a United States territory under the name of Utah, instead of statehood. Under their new status as a territory, the Mormons were treated poorly by their appointed territorial governor and congress. During the 1850s, Associate Justice William Drummond and the United States Attorney General Jeremiah Black sent claims to President James Buchanan that the records of the territorial Supreme Court had been damaged under Brigham Youngs command (Roberts 4:46).

After several more reports of serious treason were reported to Buchanan, he sent in General Albert Sidney Johnston with several thousand troops and the newly appointed territorial Governor Alfred Cumming to quell the rebellion and restore peace. Due to severe weather conditions and guerrilla attacks, in which supplies were taken or destroyed, the army was forced to stay in Camp Scott near Fort Bridger (Benton 797). In the Spring the troops moved in and found that the records were intact. In preparation for the federal troops, Young had ordered that all Mormons in the Great Salt Lake Valley area were to flee south (Roberts 4:444).

The troops returned to Camp Scott and reported to Buchanan that the peace had been restored (Roberts 4:43). “The whole military episode soon became known as Buchanans blunder and did much to ruin his fortunes politically”(Benton798). After “Buchanans blunder,” Congress reverted to laws instead of the military to rid the United States of polygamous Mormons. The first of many anti-Mormon and anti- polygamy laws was the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862. Lincoln approved this bill on July 8, 1862 which made the practice of polygamy illegal (Roberts 5:7).

In 1882 the Edmunds Law was enacted, providing for imprisonment of those convicted of polygamy or “unlawful cohabitation” (Kenney 195). Because of these two laws the Mormons were subject to extreme persecution (Roberts 5:7); many of the Mormon leaders “were forced to flee their homes to keep from being thrown in prison for a practice basic to their religious beliefs” (Swinton 145): These laws were questioned because it was thought that they constituted an infringement upon religious liberty as guaranteed by the constitution. In 1890, however, after the US supreme court had reaffirmed the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy laws. (Benton 799)

On September 24, 1890. In response to the decree of the Supreme Court Wilford Woodruff issued what became known as the “Woodruff Manifesto. ” It is printed at the end of every copy of the Doctrine & Covenants. It reads in part as follows: Inasmuch as Laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort. I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise. (D&C292)

Although the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer sanctioned or allowed polygamous marriages in their temples, the practice continued among rebellious and stubborn members. Persecution continued because many Gentiles rightly felt that the Mormons were still practicing polygamy. The Idaho Test Oath was used to disenfranchise those men who continued to practice polygamy. Gentile women fought to gain suffrage in order to aid the passage of anti-polygamy laws. Once women were enfranchised they realized it was only aiding the polygamists and began lobbying for disenfranchising women (Bitton 212-3).

Not all Mormons liked polygamy; many felt it was not an institution of God. At first, even Joseph Smith dreaded it (Newell 292). Women, especially, did not approve of it. They fought against it because of its accompanying hardships. Emma Smith, Josephs wife, was one such Mormon woman. In her journal she writes of the hardships she had to go through because of polygamy: Today Lucie Rigdon told me she had heard of another of Josephs wives. I just cant cope with sharing my husband. (Newell 272). Men also rejected polygamy. They felt it was a form of justified adultery.

Not all Mormons reacted the same way to polygamy. Some left, and others had their testimonies strengthened by it. The Mormons were subject to severe persecution and unjust treatment for believing that polygamy was morally, spiritually, and legally correct and for upholding the two percent who practiced it (Robert 6:149). The Mormons were driven across the nation to escape the persecution but were never successful. Many church historians have felt that polygamy was practiced in order to make the early and present members stronger by forcing them to defend their beliefs as Mormons (Roberts 5:294-300).

The Word “Disciple”

At the mention of the word “disciple”, the image most people conjure up is that of a faithful pupil, a person more than willing to follow the teachings of their leader without question. However, the early disciples didnt always conform to this stereotype. In fact, they sometimes showed a complete lack of faith, finding it extremely hard to accept Jesus word in their hearts. Jesus appointed twelve disciples to symbolise each of the twelve tribes of Israel. In doing so, it was as if he were replacing the Old Judaism with his new covenant.

This symbolised a new, more personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. In choosing his apostles, Jesus showed us that the call is open to all of us, as his chosen twelve all had a different trade, and led varying ways of life. With such a mixed group, it is no wonder there were a few differences of opinion. An excellent example is the relationship between Simon the Zealot, and Matthew the tax collector. While Zealots were political freedom fighters, tax collectors were the hated collaborates of the Romans.

Therefore you can imagine that tax collectors and zealots, if left to their own devices, were normally sworn enemies. However, Matthew and Simon still managed to live relatively peaceful lives together, putting into practice the commandment “love thy neighbour as thyself”. They were called, and rose to the challenge of that call by their commitment to respond. It was not necessary to posses any special quality to be a disciple of Jesus, and they were all far from perfect. Take Peter for example, he wasnt particularly quick-witted.

In fact, he often had trouble grasping the message Jesus was trying to get across, as shown in the Parables, where in the Parable of the Sower, (Mark 4:1-9), he found it no easier then the rest of the disciples to understand Gods message. Neither did he have unquestionable faith. He demonstrates this (as did the other disciples) when they were all in a boat together with Jesus in the middle of the Lake Galilee on a particularly stormy night. He and the other disciples became so frantic with worry that they decided to wake Jesus (Mk 4:35-41).

Surely, if you cannot feel safe when you have the Son of God asleep in the same boat as you, you never will! Another example of Peter displaying a serious lapse of faith is when he denied Jesus three times, even after as we learn in Mark, chapter 8, taking part in the wholly religious experience of the Transfiguration. Despite all these faults however, and many more, he was still appointed as the first Pope of the Roman Catholic church, and eventually ended up dying for his beliefs (Acts of the Apostles). At that time, this was not unusual, as many Christians were being persecuted for their beliefs.

A man named Mark soon realized that in order to keep the Christian faith alive and strong, he would have to write the Gospel. However, Marks Gospel is not a biography. He did not include every minor detail, but only the points about Jesus that he thought were helpful for his community to cope with persecution. For this reason, I will be using Marks Gospel as reference material throughout this essay, and also because there is a sense in which Marks gospel, with the intention of giving testimony to the Good News, also provides an extremely effective teaching manual for his early church readership.

I have already shown that from Marks Gospel we learn that the call to discipleship is open to all, in Christs broad selection of people and personalities — ranging from fiery, hard working fishermen, to a tax collector and a political agitator. Mark also shows his readers that a crisis of faith is acceptable. After all, if Peter provides the model of Discipleship we all need to remember, it is that it was Peters perseverance that got him through hard times. His heart was in the right place, and he didnt give up!

Marks Gospel therefore provides a great deal of information that teaches us about the nature of discipleship, so from reading it we can also choose to respond to what we learn about the meaning of being a disciple of Christ. The disciples found it incredibly hard to understand that their job was to build the Kingdom of God here on Earth. Most of them had a vision of Jesus as a type of warrior king, a knight in shining armour who would lead them to battle to finally free them from Roman rule. They failed to understand that Jesus kingdom was based on love, and not on power or greatness.

By far the worst offenders were James and John, sons of Zebedee. We learn, in Mark Chapter 10, that they came to Jesus and told him “there is something we want you to do for us. ” When Jesus asked “What is it? ” they replied “When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left. ” So Jesus called his disciples together and told them “If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant to the rest, and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and give his life to redeem many people. ” Jesus demonstrated all this by taking a child and stating to his disciples “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. ” Jesus uses a child as an example, as they are trusting and open minded, the qualities needed for a good disciple. Small children also understand the concept of love better than that of war, meaning we should all become as innocent and open minded as little children to enter the Kingdom of God.

However, as people grow older, they lose these crucial qualities, and the disciples were no exceptions. Gradually, the disciples had to start learning to rely on God alone. They were told by Jesus on their journey to spread the word of God to not “take anything with you on your journey except a stick, no bread, no beggars bag, no money in your pocket. Wear sandals, but dont carry an extra shirt. ” (Mark ch 6:6b-13). Forbidding them to take a begging bag reduced the temptation of collecting money dishonestly. (This is a further indication that the disciples were as susceptible to temptation as the rest of us.

They needed to be aware of the great importance and urgency of the journey, and therefore if they are made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in any house, they are instructed to “shake the dust of your feet when you leave it. ” This mission required much faith, but then again their faith must have been very strong if they had already “left their nets and followed him,” or “left father Zebedee in the boat with hired men. ” Needless to say, they didnt literally get up and follow Jesus as soon as he asked them to.

It is more likely they would have admired Jesus and his way of life beforehand, and not just begins to show an interest when he said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. ” The reason Mark makes it seem that way in his Gospel is because he is trying to underline just how much charisma Jesus had, and how much faith the disciples had. James and John even left their obviously wealthy father with “hired hands”, as they realized that material wealth was no substitute for real happiness, which they believed they could achieve if they became followers of Jesus.

So in this, Mark is giving us a lesson in the nature of faith and commitment. However, Jesus and his disciples didnt always see eye to eye, especially when Jesus teachings strongly contradicted Jewish ones. On one occasion, Jesus told them that it was imperative that they detach themselves from any obstacle that may bridge a gap between their relationship with God and each other, including, in some cases, riches and material possessions. The disciples found this difficult to accept, as the Jewish idea was that if you were well off in life, you were “blessed” by God.

Therefore, it is no wonder they found it hard to adjust to the idea “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. ” An example is the story of the Rich Young Man, who sought Jesus out, and asked to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. To that, Jesus answered that he must obey all the commandments. When the rich young man tells him that he has obeyed the commandments “ever since I was young”, Jesus “looks at the young man, and loves him.

He then tells the young man that he must give away all his money and possessions, and “come follow me” in order to inherit eternal life. With that the young man “walks away saddened”, as he was a man of many riches, and could not bear the thought of parting with them. The disciples are astonished by this, and ask Jesus “Who then can be saved? ” But once again, they have misunderstood, and fail to realize that it is not the amount of money you have, but whether or not you allow it take over your life, and your quality of relationships with God and others.

The exact opposite of the story of the rich young man is the Widows Offering (Mk ch 12:41-44). This tells the story of a poor widow, whose faith and love for God were so strong, that she was willing to sacrifice all the money she had. Perhaps the concept the disciples found the most difficult to understand was why Jesus loved others to the point of giving up his life for them. They failed to see Jesus in his true light, as the suffering Messiah. However, there was a point when Jesus thought that Peter had finally gotten the message, when he asked, “Who do you say I am? d Peter replies, “You are the Messiah. ”

However, the moment is short lived, as when Jesus speaks of his impending suffering and death, Peter takes him aside, and tells him not to go. With that, Jesus realizes that Peter doesnt get it after all, and tells Peter to “Get away from me Satan. Your thoughts dont come from God but from man. ” While at this point in his life he is not prepared to suffer, or for that matter, allow Jesus to suffer for others, unknown to him, he is to become one of the first martyrs of the Christian Church. Understandably, society has changed a lot in the last 2000 years.

Not only have countless new inventions and technologies been introduced, but attitudes have also changed. We not only live in a multi faith society, but their are many more people now who do not feel the need to be bound by a religion. Christians nowadays have many more distractions, such as the media, and television, which could interfere with their relationship with God and others. There is also a growing importance of riches and status in our society. However, this does not mean that it has become any harder to be a disciple. Most people would be surprised to discover that the Bible is the worlds best selling book.

So while there have been countless changes in our society, one of the only things which has remained constant is the Word of God. What was written 2000 years ago still applies to Christians today. Therefore I think it is safe to say that if the Word of God has not changed, then neither has the meaning of discipleship, as the Bible is still at the centre of a Christians way of life. While Christians nowadays are fighting for equality among nations, and the Christians of the past fought against Roman Rule and Persecution, we are nevertheless still fighting.

Being a disciple of God still means living as much of a Christ like life as possible. Some might argue that the world as it is now is a lot more evil and corrupt than it was in Jesus time, but in my opinion there has always been evil and corruption in the world. Of course, this corruption would have been present in far different ways then it is now, but as I aforementioned, the world has changed in the last 2000 years. Just as it was in the past, Christianity today still remains a very much-unprejudiced religion.

People from every walk of life are still open to the call. However, there are many different ways to interpret this call. Some Christians feel the need to follow Christ in a very radical way. These people are priests, nuns, and all other members of the clergy. They are making the biggest commitment possible, by making a total choice of God, expressed in the vows of Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty they take. However this does not necessarily make them better Christians than those who dont take these vows. They are just doing what is right for God by them.

Religion is a very personal thing, and can be open to many different interpretations. However, the one thing all Christians should have in common is the ability to treat fellow human beings with love, respect and compassion, and have a deep faith in God. For this reason, there are a great many ways a layperson can be a disciple of God. In fact, they have often been known to bring their Christian values to environments where priests and consecrated religions are never present. They display their Christian values in the way they treat colleagues, and the effort they make in their jobs.

Even someone who donates money to charity is a layperson. While they are not, perhaps, choosing to follow God in a radical way, they are nevertheless making an effort to incorporate Gods teachings into their lives. Others who may be called lay people are teachers, doctors, and anyone else that does research into diseases and illness. Teachers and Youth Workers do a great deal of work teaching adults and children skills which are vital for living prosperous and fulfilling lives, thus showing their love for fellow human beings.

Doctors and medical Researchers also show this love for humanity by trying their best to alleviate human pain and suffering, and helping people to lead longer and healthier lives. Another example of the remarkable work lay people do is the work many of them do for voluntary organizations such as CAFOD, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development. This organization specializes in helping developing countries to help themselves, by providing food, clothes, and technical equipment. Knowing they are playing a part in making a persons life more bearable should be the only reward a Christian needs.

Another much debated point in the history of Christianity, which is still very much under debate today, is the question of material wealth. While some Christians choose to follow the parable of the Rich Young Man quite literally, giving up all material wealth and possessions to follow in Christs footsteps, not doing so doesnt make you a bad Christian. It means, yet again, that you have chosen to interpret Christs message in a different way. In telling the rich young man to give up all his possessions to follow him, Jesus did not mean that it is necessary for Christians to own no material wealth.

He simply meant that nothing should be allowed to come between your relationship with God, and in the Rich Young Mans case, his wealth certainly did. The Rich Young Man provides the classic case of what Timothy was talking about in his New Testament letter, when he said, “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Unfortunately, lay people live in a society in which anti-Christian attitudes are prevalent. The use of nuclear weapons goes against all teachings of Christianity, as it involves causing intentional injury to others.

There are also a great many people who lie their way through life for personal gain, and others who commit many grave offences against society, by causing significant pain to their victims, or their family. When it comes down to it, I do believe it is as possible to be a disciple of Christ today as it was in the past. Not only can the late Sean Devereux and Mother Theresa be used as models, but there are countless numbers of ordinary people who are never acknowledged for their good work. The definition of a disciple is a person that follows their leaders example as much as possible.

These people need not necessarily be perfect, nor need they dedicate their whole lives to the church. The only thing that a person must do in order to be a modern day disciple of Christ is to treat others with love, respect, and compassion, and have a deep (but not necessarily unshakable) faith in God. There are, yet again, countless numbers of Christians throughout the world who observe these codes of conduct. They show this by their attitudes towards others, and their willingness to do good works.

Despite the many injustices in our society, these people persevere to oppose them, and strive to spread Gods Word in everything they do. Spreading the Word of God does not necessarily mean having to learn the Bible word perfect, nor quote it at every given opportunity; it simply means to try to stop injustice from taking place within your power, and to treat others in the way you would like to be treated. While circumstances today may differ from those in the past, neither has the Word of God, nor the Christian attitude towards others changed.

We have witnessed many beneficial changes in our society, such as women gaining suffrage, and prejudice and discrimination being opposed in most parts of the world. This shows that good works are still being accomplished in our society, and gives us an incentive that not all hope is lost. Unfortunately, there are still many people in developing countries, and so called developed countries, who are forced to accept unfairness, discrimination, and prejudice as a part of their everyday lives.

However, we are shown through the many people who choose to donate money to the numerous causes, and people who are prepared to sacrifice even a little to help those less fortunate than themselves, that disciples are more than present in society. Some might argue that todays society is materialistic and secularised, and that few people now see the purpose of living by a set of ideals. However, the numerous people who still choose to participate in religious activity and worship show us that the world has by far lost faith in God.

There are many people out there that are only kept going by their faith in God, even though their misery appears to be never ending. It is also true that there will always be some misguided individuals who will insist that using violence is the only means of achieving what they want. This applies particularly to world leaders, who possess the might to end the lives, many innocent civilians at will. However, we may be encouraged by the world powers who are prepared to negotiate to ensure that as little blood-shed as possible is enabled.

It may also be said by some that far fewer people are as devoted to Christianity as they were in the past, as we no longer have prophets, or the Son of God Jesus to guide us. However, there are still many people who are choosing to enter the Holy Orders, and all these people can serve as an inspiration to us all. People such as these are still choosing to leave their loved ones in order to devote their lives to God. Also, when Jesus preached his Good News almost 2000 years ago, there were no fewer people then there are now who opposed to his teachings.

However, the one thing that the Christians of the past had that none of us will probably have the opportunity to see in our life times are miracles performed first hand. While it is true that humans have a tendency to believe only what they see, the Bible has, and will continue to be a great source of inspiration for many. It is true that the Bible is the closest thing we will ever get to an understanding of Jesus way of life and Christianity, so the Christian faith will remain to be, for us, an unravelled mystery.

The International Church of Christ

The International Church of Christ didn’t come from nowhere, although it sometimes looks that way to unsuspecting people when a new ICC church is planted in their city or community. The ICC itself largely ignores its roots — current members rarely hear anything about the group’s history prior to the early 1990s, and earlier periods are almost never discussed publicly by the leaders.

This can strike an observer as odd, because the story is worth telling, and hearing. The International Church of Christ has grown from a single congregation with a few hundred members in 1967 to a worldwide organization with over 300 local churches spread across ix continents and a membership of around 85,000 as of earlier this year. This is a record most churches would be glad to point to.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t stop there. In its growth, the ICC has also left behind a lot of people and churches on the way — during a series of during a series of reconstructions, exposure and disgrace of its founder for sexual improprieties, rejection by the church which founded it, and (according to former members) sheer burnout from impossibly high expectations and abusive treatment at the hands of the leaders.

Two years ago at a onference in Johannesburg, South Africa, one current ICC leader estimated that there were two former members for each current member, which (if correct) would mean that there are around 200,000 former members. Since the ICC at present does not consider anyone who left it prior to around 1987 to be a former member, the actual number is The International Church of Christ came out of a mainstream American Protestant denomination called the Church of Christ.

The Churches of Christ have come to be called the “mainline” Churches of Christ in the last ten or fifteen years to distinguish them from he International Churches of Christ — before that, both groups were just called Churches The ICC was also influenced by the “Discipling” movement which started among the Assemblies of God in the late 1950s, and to some extent by the general “Jesus People” revival which accompanied the social upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the This sounds like an odd combination to an outsider, but the rather rigid and legalistic intellectual approach of the mainline Churches of Christ, with its emphasis on Scripture, Scripture, and more Scripture complemented the more emotional Assemblies of God, who alued the personal touch in spiritual development. While the early Crossroads movement did not have direct contact with the Assemblies of God, the influence of such Assembly of God ministers and teachers as Robert Coleman and Juan Carlos Ortiz on the thinking of the early movement is difficult to overstate.

The early Crossroads movement took most of its theological fundamentals, though, from the mainline Churches of Christ, and that is where someone trying to understand the The mainline Churches of Christ are a conservative evangelical fundamentalist group oncentrated in the “Bible Belt”, the southern and midwestern states of the United States. They originally came from an American religious movement of the early 1800s called the “Restoration Movement”, and represent the conservative wing of that movement. The independent “Christian Church” and “Disciples of Christ” are the other two large denominations that came out of the Restoration Movement. The Churches of Christ should not be confused with the United Church of Christ, which came from a different branch of the Protestant Reformation and holds very different beliefs han the Churches of Christ or Restoration movement as a whole.

The Restoration movement was founded by several Protestant evangelists of different denominations and backgrounds who grew tired of the religious bickering of the period and who became convinced that the key to ending it was to believe the Bible only and toss out all creeds and other measures of faith. The movement came to be called the “Restoration Movement” by its adherents since they believed they were restoring Christianity to what it was in the New Testament. Perhaps one of the best, short statements of the beliefs, purpose, methods and goals of the Churches of Christ was written by Batsell Barrett Baxter, a widely respected Church of Christ minister and writer who died only a few years ago. “[The churches of Christ are] primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible.

In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speak and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further empasizes that in everything religious there must be a “Thus saith the Lord” for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity. ” As Baxter’s statement makes clear, the Churches of Christ do not see themselves as particularly exclusive.

From their point of view, their emphasis on the “Bible only” and rejection of creeds is an attempt at reunifying a divided Christianity. The implementation of this belief in many places has had a quite different effect, though — there are at least wenty significant factions in the mainline Churches of Christ, most of whom do not recognize each other, let alone the “denominational churches”, as Christian. The Churches of Christ have no formal hierarchy or religious structure above the local congregation, and no written creed, but their beliefs are well defined and agreed upon among the members. Anyone who has been a member knows these beliefs: Churches of Christ believe in following only the Bible and no “creeds of men”.

Any religious practice which is not commanded in the Bible, an example of which is not given n the Bible, or which is not a “necessary inference” from a Biblical command or example, is termed “unbiblical” and is rejected by mainline Churches of Christ. A common saying among them is that, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and keep silent where it is silent. ” “We are also of opinion that as the Divine word is equally binding upon all, so all lie under an equal obligation to be bound by it, and it alone; and not by any human interpretation of it; and that, therefore, no man has a right to judge his brother, except in so far as he manifestly violates the express letter of the law.

Declaration and Address”, 1809 In their view of religious authority, the Churches of Christ are extreme evangelical Protestants who reject the notion that the Church itself has any authority to develop doctrine or initiate practices. All authority devolves in theory upon Christ Himself, in practice upon the written Scriptures since the Churches of Christ reject any post-New Testament revelation or direct guidance from the Holy Spirit. While in practice the mainline Churches of Christ do not object to the doctrines in the Nicene Creed, they do not repeat it in worship or teach it because they believe it is a creed f men, and not a command of God.

Churches of Christ are generally trinitarian, although some respected ministers and teachers in the Churches of Christ were not trinitarian and this was not considered sufficient reason to split the church. Churches of Christ believe that one must hear the gospel, believe it, repent of sin, confess belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and be baptized by immersion for remission of sins, in order to be saved. (Among irreverent mainline people this is called the “five finger exercise”. ) They baptize only believers, so they don’t baptize infants or young children.

They believe that the act of baptism actually saves a repentant believer, although not that the water itself has power to save. (They interpret Acts 2:38 literally. Churches of Christ take communion every Sunday. They believe that the bread and wine are symbolic of Christ’s body and blood — that is, they don’t agree with the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Otherwise they don’t rigidly define what they do believe about this. They use “unleavened bread” and “fruit of the vine” as the communion elements — usually matzoh and grape juice. (Most mainline Churches of Christ disapprove f members drinking alcohol, and so don’t use wine. ) Most mainline Churches of Christ are conservative about women’s roles in the church, and restrict them to teaching children’s classes or speaking to groups of women only.

There’s no such formally-defined role as “women’s counselor” or “women’s minstry leader” among mainline Churches of Christ — that is an innovation of the ICC — but older women in some mainline Churches of Christ do much of the work a women’s ministry leader does in an Most mainline Churches of Christ reject the use of musical instruments during worship as unbiblical. It is primarily this belief that separates the mainline Churches of Christ from the Independent Christian Churches, many of whom also go by the name, “Church of Christ” and whose beliefs and practices are extremely similar to those of the Churches of Christ. Most do not allow members to divorce and remarry unless the divorce was for adultery or, in some cases, abandonment by a non-believing spouse. This list does not give a full picture of the religious atmosphere of the mainline Church of Christ, though — a list of doctrines can’t do that. In the past thirty years, many mainline

Churches of Christ have abandoned the rigid beliefs typical of their denomination in the During the early years of the Crossroads movement, though, the mainline Churches of Christ were known for their absolutism and their generally-held conviction that they alone were the Church of Christ — Christ’s people on the earth. They viewed the “denominational Churches” (any church outside of the Churches of Christ) as schismatic and heretical. While not all members of the Churches of Christ felt this way, many members of the Church of Christ were convinced that people in these churches were unsaved and going to ell, and it was not uncommon to hear this stated from the pulpit.

This absolutism spilled over into their beliefs on every imaginable theological issue. Most members had very little sense of proportion — any little detail of doctrine (like the rule against using musical instruments during worship) was as important as a fundamental of the Christian Faith (like believing in the Resurrection of Christ). This meant, of course, that they were usually isolated from other believers, new thoughts, and new ideas. The isolation was far from total — many members read C. S. Lewis and ther Christian writers of the twentieth century, and some were more open than others to talking with people from other churches about issues of faith.

But outside influences seeped in more slowly than in most churches, feeding the conservatism already typical of The beliefs and terminology of the Restoration Movement and Churches of Christ are still very much in evidence in the ICC. The ICC uses the term “Restoration” frequently, and sees itself as God’s movement to restore true “New Testament Christianity”, another Restoration Movement term. It believes that denominations and sects are sinful, and must e rejected. It teaches that creeds and statements of faith are divisive and should be rejected in favor of “the Bible only. ” Its basic theology and hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) are also derived from and remain similar to that of the Church of The Boston and Crossroads movements are earlier incarnations of the ICC, and were named after the Churches of Christ where these movements began.

The Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida in 1967, and the Boston Church of Christ in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1979. ) Both movements had many members at other churches hich they began (or planted), or which adopted their methods and beliefs, so a “Bostonite” or “Crossroader” may not have been in Boston or Gainesville at all. The ICC generally points to the start of the Boston Church of Christ in 1979 as the point at which it begun. Most outside the ICC put the date twelve years earlier, though, and at the 14th Street (later Crossroads) Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida. In 1967 the elders (bishops) of that church hired Chuck Lucas as campus minister.

Lucas immediately began an outreach to the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, named the “Campus Lucas also began a system of mentoring, or discipling, within the Campus Advance, based on the principles in Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism and other works which preached the principles of discipling, or “shepherding”, as it was also called at the time. The central theme of these works was an interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20 which taught Making disciples was the primary goal and purpose of a Christian’s life. To make a disciple, you must go out into the world (not wait for the world to come to you), bring people to conversion (baptism, in the Church of Christ), and then teach them

The process of making disciples thus requires that each new Christian be assigned a more mature Christian as a mentor, or “prayer partner”, who teaches them the fullness of the Gospel and whom the junior prayer partner is expected to emulate and obey. To this Lucas added one further point. To be a disciple requires total commitment to God, the Church, and the discipling process. If this sounds familiar to those who never heard of Crossroads and joined the ICC twenty years later, it should. While there are some differences, a few significant, between the doctrines and practices of the early Crossroads movement and today’s International Church f Christ, the similarities far outweigh the differences.

Small group evangelistic Bible Studies (called “soul talks” in the early Crossroads movement), disciplers (called “prayer partners”), quiet times, radical Christianity (called “total commitment”), and the imperative to evangelize the world (or at least, this generation) all came from Crossroads. During the twelve years before the planting of the Boston Church of Christ, the Crossroads Church of Christ and Churches of Christ with Crossroads-patterned Campus Ministries were among the fastest growing churches in the world. Not surprisingly, there were a series of problems associated with that extremely rapid growth. The young, “totally committed” disciples often looked down on what they viewed as the lukewarm, or even spiritually dead, older members of their churches, and it showed.

Spiritual pride and arrogance have been Achilles heels of the discipling movement from The doctrinal concerns of the older members and leaders about the discipling movement also struck the discipling movement’s leaders and members as largely irrelevant, and were ignored. In the extremely doctrine-conscious, conservative mainline Church of Christ, this In 1977, the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas fired a couple of young Crossroads ministers they had been supporting at a small church in Illinois. These ministers were Roger Lamb, the son of one of the elders at Memorial Drive, and Kip McKean. In the letter announcing their decision to withdraw financial support for these two young evangelists, the elders accused Lamb and McKean of teaching false and “deceitful” doctrine and promoting controlling practices.

This letter, which was widely publicized in the Churches of Christ, confirmed the growing uneasiness felt by many in this denomination about Crossroads. By 1979, it had become clear to most people in and out of the Crossroads movement that the Crossroads methods did not work well in most established Churches of Christ. Time and again, churches with Crossroads-based campus ministries split or suffered severe problems because of them. So Kip McKean decided to try something different. He found a tiny, dying Church of Christ in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts which agreed to allow him to rebuild it from the ground up using the Crossroads methods. It agreed to give him and his team full authority to do this, and the Boston Church of Christ was founded.

Through the early 1980s, the Boston Church of Christ grew and grew until its growth rate outstripped, not only the Churches of Christ as a whole, but all the other discipling movement churches as well. It also began planting churches of its own — New York in 1981, Chicago and London in 1982, and several more churches in various parts of the world in the following couple of years. In each case, a “team” of people trained in Boston, including an evangelist and usually some interns, was sent to the new city. The evangelist and (in a few cases) one or two other people were on staff and their salaries paid from Boston, but the other team members ere required to find work and pay their own expenses. Early in the 1980s team members were volunteers.

Later on, team members were picked by the church leaders — they nominally could choose whether to accept their “calling” or not, but in practice were in deep trouble if they refused. This basic pattern of church planting has remained unchanged By 1982 Boston had supplanted Crossroads as the real center of the discipling movement. Crossroads continued to plant churches, but soon the Boston-planted churches in New York, Chicago and London were themselves planting churches throughout the world. New missions teams were forming constantly, urged on by Kip McKean’s charismatic and emotional sermons urging people to “evangelize the world in this generation”. It was a message many people inside and, increasingly, outside the Churches of Christ responded to.

Boston was “where it was happening”, and many people transferred to new universities, quit jobs, sold houses, and moved, sometimes with with their families, to Two prominent leaders in the mainline Churches of Christ who “went to Boston”, or joined the Boston movement, during the mid-1980s were Jerry Jones and Gordon Ferguson. Jerry left a little over a year later, and subsequently wrote three lengthy books which consist primarily of compilations of statements by the Boston leadership. These statements are scary to read — they show the growing adulation of Kip McKean, to the extent that some of the movement’s leaders were comparing him to the Apostles. Gordon Ferguson joined the Boston Movement in 1986, shortly after Jerry Jones left. He is still a member, and by most accounts is the architect of the ICC’s “church reconstruction” methods.

These first appeared during the 1987 “Great Reconstruction” eriod (more about that later), but have come to be used much as corporate reorganizations have been in the 1990s — as a means of shaping up churches who were failing to meet During the mid-1980s the Movement and mainline Churches of Christ grew further and further apart. At the same time, the churches in the Movement itself were increasingly found in two camps — those who approved entirely of Kip McKean and Boston, and those who were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Boston’s authoritarian structure and steady streams of burned out ex-members reporting horrific spiritual and mental abuse.

A few months later, in early 1987, the Boston Church of Christ demanded that all discipling movement Churches of Christ which had not been planted by Boston originally allow themselves to be “reconstructed”. This means that their entire leadership was to resign, and make way for a leadership team sent out from Boston to take over. Those who refused were henceforth no longer to be considered part of the Movement. Most of the Movement churches capitulated, but a number did not. Among those who refused were the Northwest Church of Christ in Seattle (whose evangelist, Milton Jones, ad been very influential in the movement) and the Crossroads Church of Christ, where the movement began.

This period also led to an exodus of members from churches which did capitulate, many of them long-time members and leaders who could not accept what was During this period Kip McKean also first formulated the trademark ICC doctrine of “Baptism as a Disciple” — the teaching that one must both fully understand the purpose of baptism and have fully committed to following Christ and obeying the leaders in the Church (the two were seen as synonymous) in order for his baptism to be valid. Those ho had not been baptized in accordance with this understanding of baptism were no This led to a wave of rebaptisms in Boston-planted churches — many of the top leaders were rebaptized at this time.

Kip McKean, oddly enough, either never was rebaptized or Former members have taken to calling the period between late 1986 and early 1988 the Great Reconstruction. It also marks the final break between the ICC and the mainline Churches of Christ — from this point, both groups considered themselves separate churches Although the ICC did not adopt the name “International Church of Christ” formally until 993, we consider the “Great Reconstruction” to represent the breaking point. The earlier Boston Church of Christ had a real, although uncomfortable and contentious, relationship with outside Churches of Christ — churches whose doctrines and practices differed significantly from those of the leaders in Boston. After 1987 the Boston Church of Christ became law unto itself.

It recognized no one but itself as part of the Church; it made no effort to communicate with outside churches; it followed its own path, or (as former members generally believe), Kip McKean’s path. Once shed of the limitations posed by the need to conform to the practices and expectations of the mainline Churches of Christ and, even more, by those of the independent discipling movement churches, the ICC moved forward fast. It began developing the complex hierarchy that is now one of its characteristics. Leaders in various parts of the world were put in charge of proselytizing areas covering several countries — these areas are now called the World Sectors.

The unofficial lines of authority between certain large, old churches and the churches that had been “planted” by mission teams from the large churches were formalized. Formal requirements and mechanisms were put in place for all churches to support the leadership in Boston. (This structure is described in In 1990, Kip McKean moved from Boston to Los Angeles, and the central church of the Movement became the Los Angeles Church of Christ. This finalized the break with the “Boston years”, although the Boston Church of Christ itself is still in existence. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ICC saw an explosion of new church plantings, and in in the size of many existing churches.

The demographics of the ICC also changed — while previously, many of those in the movement had come from within the mainline Churches of Christ, this was no longer true of new members. They came from all religious backgrounds, or none. Most didn’t know much, if anything, about the mainline Churches of Christ — their entire understanding of the ICC was formed by the ICC itself. It also led to an increasing number of people leaving the ICC, burned out by the high pressure lifestyle and unreasonable demands of the group. The complaints grew. Previously, most complaints about the ICC had been heard primarily from people inside of the mainline Churches of Christ, and were often dismissed by those outside of the Churches of Christ as sectarian squabbles.

But the new complaints came from all quarters — Christian churches, Jewish leaders, and secular psychologists who had seen a string of patients who showed evidence of severe psychological abuse and who had all been With a few notable exceptions, the doctrines of the ICC are the same as those of the “mainline” Churches of Christ from which the ICC came. In this page, I will try to cover both those doctrines which the ICC shares with its parent church, and those in which it differs from the mainline Churches of Christ. First, we need to discuss the sources of ICC theology — who has the authority to speak nd teach for the ICC. As the ICC understands this, the Bible is the ultimate source of authority. In practice, though, Kip McKean, the World Missions Evangelist and head of the ICC, is the ultimate authority and source for ICC doctrine, as well as the actual practices of the group.

This does not mean he writes all doctrinal material used by the group — others in the ICC, notably Gordon Ferguson, Doug Jacoby, and Mike Taliferro, have each written and published considerably more than McKean. What McKean has written, though, is authoritative, and nothing the others write is published by the ICC or Among the work actually written by McKean or attributed to him are the First Principles Bible study series, which almost all recruits in the past twenty years were taken through prior to their baptisms, and Revolution through Restoration, a 1992 article in Discipleship Magazine which clearly states the movement’s vision of itself and guiding principles.

Many valuable quotes from McKean also come from sermon tapes and lecture notes, and We also will cite spoken or written work by other ICC leaders, among them Ferguson (an elder and probably the preeminent theologian in the ICC), Ferguson’s wife Teresa Ferguson (a prominent women’s ministry leader), Marty Fuqua, other world sector leaders Core beliefs of the ICC and the mainline Churches of Christ are: Both claim to believe in the Bible only as the sole authority for Christian doctrine and practice. The ICC, however, is considerably more willing to institute a doctrine or practice which does not appear in the Bible, on the grounds that the Bible does not specifically forbid it.

In this they are more like the so-called “Independent Christian Churches”, a somewhat less conservative offshoot of the same religious movement which also gave Probably some critics will no doubt say that we begin some practice and then go to Scripture in order to justify it. But the issue is whether or not the Bible does, in fact, justify “A better motto… would be the following: ‘Where the Bible speaks we are silent, and where the Bible is silent we speak. ” Thus, if God has specified something, we shut up and submit. But if He has not, then we have the freedom to discover the most effective way to Progressive Revelation Boston Bulletin, May 1988 Both accept the doctrines in the Nicene Creed on the nature of God, Christ, and the

Trinity, although they reject the actual creed because it believes that all creeds are human teachings, not the Word of God. Unlike the mainline Churches of Christ, though, the ICC does not emphasize theological issues in its preaching or teaching; it has a utilitarian, results-oriented approach. The ICC tends to view serious theological study as a waste of “Any religious group who strongly emphasizes doctrinal accuracy runs a risk of losing perspective and losing God… An insistence that we have ‘book, chapter, and verse’ for anything new has virtually guaranteed that we will have nothing new, even if the old is a Progressive Revelation Boston Bulletin, May 1988 Both believe in one Church, and hold that denominations and sects are sinful and not of God.

Unlike the mainline Churches of Christ, the ICC also believes that there should be only one church per city or town in order not to destroy the unity of the Church. Because of this, there are never two ICC-affiliated churches in a single city or town. Finally, the ICC sees itself as the “remnant” of God’s people — it believes that the ICC IS Christ’s Church in “this generation. ” It no longer views the mainline Churches of Christ as true If you are not in a discipling ministry, you need to move to one. Why do you resist the spirit and not move?… God is trying to forge a remnant…. There are divisions between us and the mainline church becase, as it says in 1 Corinthians 11, there has got to be divisions so they can show which ones of us has God’s approval. ” Why Do You Resist the Spirit? 987 World Missions Seminar, Boston “This church [the Boston Church of Christ] is truly the Jerusalem of God’s modern day McKean Becomes Mission Evangelist Boston Bulletin, June 26, 1988 Both believe that a person must be baptized by immersion for forgiveness of sins in order o be saved, and both practice baptism of adults only — they do not baptize infants or children who have not reached “the age of understanding”.

The ICC has a unique teaching, though, that a person must be “baptized as a disciple” in order to be saved. This means that a person must have what the ICC views as the correct understanding of baptism at the time of baptism, must have fully repented of their sins, and must have committed to living as a disciple of Christ, prior to baptism, or the baptism is invalid and the person unsaved. “For a long time in the Church of Christ… [people] were taught… the five point plan of alvation — hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized…. I believe an essential element has not been emphasized in the area of repentance….

We need to get it straight, who is a candidate for baptism. It is the individual who is a disciple… There has become an innate doctrinal difference, but they [the mainline Churches of Christ] don’t recognize it because 1987 Boston Women’s Retreat “I taught what was clear in Acts 11:26: SAVED = CHRISTIAN = DISCIPLE, simply meaning that you cannot be saved and you cannot be a true Christian without being a disciple also. I taught that, to be baptized, you must first make the decision to be a isciple, and then be baptized…. I taught that their baptism was invalid because a retroactive understanding of repentance and baptism was not consistent with Scripture. Revolution through Restoration Discipleship Magazine, April 1992 It believes that the Great Commission of Christ, as stated in Matthew 28:18-20, applies equally to all believers and mandates that each member engage in aggressive, active proselytizing (“evangelism”) as their primary personal responsibility before God.

They also believe that proselytizing non-members is the primary responsibility of the church as a Based also on Matthew 28:18-20, the ICC believes in a system of discipling, which means that every member is assigned another member as a mentor, to whom he/she reports, confesses sin, and which he/she is expected to obey and emulate. “To not have a discipleship partner is to be rebellious to God and to the leadership of this congregation….

The person that you are discipling must believe, must trust, that you are out for God and their best interest. Because, you see, there is going to be some advice they will not understand. But if they trust that you are out for God and their best interest, they ill obey…. They must believe your judgement is better than theirs. ” Discipleship Partners 1988 Boston Leadership Conference “Ultimately, if we do not trust these people [disciplers], we do not trust God. To the extent that I trust my discipler, I am in reality trusting God. ” Boston Bulletin, October 22, 1989 Both believe the Bible sets out the proper structure for the Church. In no other area, though, has the ICC moved farther from its roots in the mainline Churches of Christ.

Greek Religion Essay

In its simplest form Greek religion means the worship of the Mount Olympian deities (gods or goddess) whose king Zeus resided among the peaks of Mount Olympus. Each deity had several different attributes. Thus Apollo was the god of light and music; Athena was the goddess of wisdom and war, and also patroness of Athens. The reality of Greek religion was, however, more complicated, since many other deities also existed, many of whom became identified with the Olympians. Greek religion for people of long ago was the worship of a god or gods.

Religion in itself played a very important role in the lives of Greek people and had many different styles in which the worshipers could practice. This was made possible by what is known as syncretism, which in its simplest definition means: a combination of different forms of belief or practice, or the fusion of cults (Westerdale 14). The Greeks had no word for religion nor any vocational priesthood. Nevertheless Greek religion was pervasive, playing a part in almost every activity of, polis or city – state. A principle form of Greek worship was sacrifice.

This form of religious worship much of the time consisted of some gifts, often the haunch of a selected animal, was offered to the gods at the alter, which was placed outside the temple (Moncrieff 83). The purpose of sacrifice was to ask the deity to grant some favor or, more often, because Greek gods were naturally jealous and angry, to help refrain them from doing harm to people. Sacrifice would work only if the ritual was performed with rigorous precision. This involved careful choice of an animal and of the method of sacrifice as well as the use of all the cult names of the gods (84).

In addition, sacrifice was an important preliminary right at the major oracles-the sacred places where a god would respond to questions asked by the worshipers. Another aspect of the Greek religion was festivals, to allow celebration and show respect for the deities. The ceremonial aspects of Greek religion was no where more apparent than in the festivals, and the Greek year was full of them. The most important were the 4-Ppan-Hellenie (national) festivals, which attracted large numbers from a wide area. In Athens, festivals were unique in their lavishness.

No fewer than 120 days of the year were devoted to festivals, and through these, and also through many fine temples built on the prominent ridge of the Aeropolis (high part of the city), the state and the gods became indissolubly united (86). There was also a more secretive side to religion- Private religion, which showed itself in mystery cults that required special initiation ceremonies (Sewell 63). One was at Eleusis near Athens, in which Demeter, the earth mother , and other almighty beings were worshipped.

The nature of the Eleusinian mysteries is unclear, but a central thread seems to be the story of the abduction of Demeters daughter, Persephone, by Hades, the god of the underworld. She remained with Hades for four months, spending the rest of the year with Demeter, and her return to the upperworld symbolizes the return of spring, as the joyful Demeter gives life to the plants the Debotees of the mysteries had insurance of a satisfying after-life (59), significant because for most Greeks there was little prospect of this.

Author Helen Sewell Wrote that, once souls were ferried across the river Styx, they would enter the twilight of a shadowy underworld, ruled by Hades (60). Another mystery cult was that of Dionysus, the wine god. This cult offered to the female participants a release from tension, and they would be uplifted by the ecstatic moods. It was even said that in their frenzy they tore living animals to pieces. The darker side of Greek religion is reflected in beliefs in witchcraft and curses.

Many cursed tablets, known as katadesmoi, have been discovered, each bearing a name and the hope that some disaster might befall the named person. There was also a belief in ghosts. Unburied souls were said to wander the earth in a kind of limbo, and according to Plato, people who were rich on earth might not die properly because of their attachment to their riches (Moncrieff 88). In this day and age one may find it a somewhat strange phenomenon to even comprehend the lengths that the ancient Greeks would go in the name of faith.

Religion and the worshipping of gods was important to the Greeks of the ancient times because it was their belief that this practice would enrich their lives and help them in the after life following death. Although no evidence was ever found to support these beliefs, Religion at that time could be chalked up as a type of tool having been used in a sense as a guide for all to live and prosper. One can definitely appreciate the dedication and devotion that went into ancient Greek religion so it can be said that no matter where or how religion is practiced it is the opiate of people.

The Shinto religion

The Shinto religion was started in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) of Japanese history. The Tokugawa Enlightenment inspired a group of people who studied kokugaku, which roughly translated means nativism, Japanese Studies, or Native Studies. Kokugaku’s intent was to recover Japanese character to what it was before the early influences of foreigners, especially the Chinese. Some of these influences include Confucianism (Chinese), Taoism (Chinese), Buddhism (Indian and Chinese), and Christianity (Western European).

The kokugakushu (nativist) focused most of their efforts on recovering the Shinto eligion, the native Japanese religion, from fragments of texts and popular religious practices. However, Shintoism is probably not a native religion of Japan (since the Japanese were not the original natives of Japan). There really is no one thing that can be called Shinto, The name itself is a bit misleading because it is made up of two Chinese words meaning the way of the gods(Shen : spiritual power, divinity; Tao : the way or path). The word for this in Japanese is kannagara : “the way of the kami . Many things can be said about Shinto. First, it was a tribal religion, not a state one.

However, even when the tribes were organized into coherent states, they still retained their Shinto beliefs. Second, all Shinto cults believe in Kami (the divine) Individual clans worshipped a single Kami which was regarded as the principal ancestor of the clan. As the clan spread, it still worshipped it’s Kami, but when one clan conquered another clan-the defeated clan had to worship the Kami of the victorious clan. What the Kami consist of is hard to define.

Kami refers to the gods of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. But Kami also are all those things that have divinity in them to some degree. Third, all Shinto involve some sort of shrine worship, the most important was the Izumo Shrine on the coast of the Japan Sea. Originally, these shrines were himorogi (unpolluted land surrounded by trees) or iwasaka (unpolluted land surrounded by stones). Shinto shrines are usually single rooms raised off the ground, with religious objects placed inside, and on the outside there was a torii (wash-basin).

The torii was used for the misorgi, which is ashing the hands and sometimes the face before entering the shrine. Someone worships a shrine by attending it, or devoting oneself to the object that is being worshipped, and by giving offerings to it: the offerings can be anything from vegetables to great riches. Almost nothing at all is known about early Shinto because nothing was written about it. Early Shinto may just be a name given to a large number of unrelated local religions that combined with the the centralized states.

The two texts of Shintoism, the Kojiki (The records of Ancient matters) and the Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), were written down around 700 A. D. , two centuries after Japan had declared Buddhism the state religion. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Japanese government campaigned to make Shinto the national religion. However many people were unhappy with Shintoism. During that time Christianity arrived in Japan. Between 1868 and 1873 Christianity was severely attacked as the government shut out foreigners and their ideas. Many active Christians were killed. In 1912 the Japanese got religious freedom.

Roman Religion in A Romans Everyday Life vs. Religion’s Effects on Today

We Romans, said Cicero, owe our supremacy overall other peoples to our piety and religious observances and to our wisdom in believing that the spirit of the gods rules and directs everything. Roman rites and observances took two main forms. One was the domestic reverence of the spirit or genius of the family. The other was the public attitude to the gods and goddesses by whom the destiny and welfare of the Roman people as a whole were supposed to be guided and controlled.

During the Classical period, religious observance accompanied all important private and public events and transactions and, no successful outcome went without a vow of thanks or public dedication. Temples, priests and sacred rites were provided by the State. Nothing in the nature of religious services as we know them, in which the body of worshipers as a whole were able to participate, seems to have been celebrated in the temples. Any set forms of prayers, hymns or chants were performed solely by the official priests whose secrets they remained.

The ordinary Roman man or woman had little personal part to play in such rites (Handbook To Life In Ancient Greece). While they were being undertaken and fulfilled it was the duty of the ordinary citizen not to interfere or make any disturbance and to refrain from any business affairs. When religiously minded Roman dropped in to a temple in order to worship the god or goddess whose house it was , they had some practical object in view : some personal favor or advantage. They came and perhaps burn incenses.

When praying they stood with upturned palms. Sometimes they got as close to the image of the god as they could in order to whisper their pleas; the feet of some of the images were worn by the kisses of generations of worshipers. In addition to paying a fee for admission, the grateful petitioner for divine aid also brought sacrifices and thankful offerings to the temples. Enormous numbers of livestock and cattle went to augment the wealth of the temples, and to swell the incomes of the priests and attendants, many of whom became extremely wealthy.

Temple worship was no essential part of Roman life. If it had been, it is difficult to understand why there were not more than about a hundred within the city confines, which is no large number in a city of some million inhabitants. Romans kept their religious faith because they grew up with it in their homes. Its strength did not depend so much upon visits to the temples or upon the services of the priests because every home had a domestic shrine and alter before which daily act of reverence could take place.

There were lares of the cross roads also, who could be worshiped out doors by the homeless or by those too poor to maintain their own family shrine (Handbook To Life In Ancient Greece). Roman religion had been heavily influenced by its surrounding civilizations, especially Greek and Etruscan. Characteristic for early Roman religion are the so called function gods : gods that perform only one specific function that was mostly agricultural. Rome used to be an agricultural community before evolving into a world power.

Apart from these , gods as Stercutus the god of the power of manure , nature itself was full of godly powers. In a later stage the Romans transformed under Greek influence. Since the beginning of their existence Romans tended to take over other cults and incorporate them into their own religion ; cults like the one of Cybele, originally from Anatolia, Mithras from the Persians and even Isis from Egypt where adapted and incorporated in Roman society.

During the Empire an important new cult was institutionalized , the cult of the Emperor. Starting from Augustus onwards the emperor was deified and worshiped (Home Work Help : History). This was very handy to unify the empire and show loyalty to the emperor. Roman religion was intended to keep the relation god/human healthy. The relation between god and man was kept somewhat like a contract, I give you something and you give me something in return, inscriptions on alters were often words of thanks to the god(s).

It was believed that the gods could see all human activities, provide for all human needs, protect against danger and heal the sick. In return, they were worshiped according to their functions and spheres of influence. People offered sacrifices, votive offerings and prayers , and looked after the gods’ sacred places. Except for a few specific cults the gods were not expected to provide salvation after death (as in the Christian sense), but rather rewards and favors during life in return for piety , service and sacrifice to them.

There were official gods like Jupiter or Juno who had their own official festivities , the Games began by being part of the public religious ceremonial of the Roman people. However, by the time of Martial and of Juvenal, the crowds who thronged the streets, the theaters and the circuses had very little knowledge of or interest in any ceremonial meaning there might have once been behind the Games ; nevertheless the ancient traditions inspiring them were kept alive.

Many of the Romans themselves were ignorant of this early religious aspect of their apparently mundane, secular games and festivals. So it came about that games staged at first to gratify the gods and to do them honor, soon descended to the very low level of gratifying the baser passions of the hungry, ignorant, lazy and idle mob (Handbook To Life In Ancient Greece). By the end of the Republic and in the early days of the Roman Empire very few educated Romans seemed to have retained any genuine belief in the existence of the gods.

The poet Ovid is a suitable sample, they thought it was a good idea to keep the popular beliefs alive, It’s useful that there should be god, he said, so let’s believe there are, and let incense and wine be brought to their ancient shrines. Mithra was the friend and champion of the poor. Like Christianity, Mithraism began as the religion of the poor and degraded servile classes. Christianity showed some similarities with the Mithras cult. It was influenced by the Mithras cult indeed. Like Jesus, Mithras had definite features of a savior.

Moreover the Mithras cult had aspects of messianism, including some kind of heaven and hell. In its liturgy bread and wine were taken, although transubstantiation was not considered to occur (Roman religion). The Mithras cult and Christianity were fierce competitors for a long time. When Christianity finally won, it took over the ‘Mithraeum’ on more than one occasion. The ‘Mithraeum’ was the place where the Mithras followers professed their faith, and the Christians made it their prayer room.

Modern day religion , Christianity especially with its teaching of mercy, gentleness, loving kindness and charity towards others, even towards enemies ; with is spurning of the world and worldly satisfactions ; with its gospel of self restraint , discipline and sobriety; with its care for the poor ; with its belief in the evil of sin and the faith in one God , the Savior of mankind controls the masses (Handbook To Life In Ancient Greece). I can’t help but have the crushing impression that the masses of todays’ youth are intentionally being deceived through lies; although it is just an impression.

Mistrust of every kind of authority can grew out of this experience of deceit, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that are alive in any specific social environment an attitude that can never again leave them. It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which is soon lost, is an attempt to free from the chains of the merely personal, from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. I also think the pulpit has lost its position. It speaks no longer with authority. The pews determine what shall be preached.

They pay only for that which they wish to buy — for that which they wish to hear. Of course in every church there is an advance guard and a conservative party, and nearly every minister is obliged to preach a little for both (Crumbling Creeds). He now and then says a radical thing for one part of his congregation, and takes it mostly back on the next Sabbath, for the sake of the others. I think in the world today it all basically comes down to, people want immortality now and during the Romans’ time they were quite content just knowing they were being protected during their life time.

There is this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to our minds, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal that is never quite achievable. (Becoming a Freethinker and a Scientist).

Compare and Contrast Martin Luther and John Calvin

Martin Luther and John Calvin were both very important leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Although they were both against the Roman Catholic Church, they brought about very different ideas in religion. Martin Luther founded the group that are today known as Lutherans. He was ordained a priest in 1507. He dealt with questions dealing with the structure of the church and with its moral values. These questions were important in Luther’s eyes, but the most important was how to find favor with God. Luther tried to pray, fast, and repent, but he never felt self-satisfaction.

He eventually concluded that God’s love was not a prize or a reward to be earned or won, but a gift to be accepted. Luther further concluded that until man stops trying to achieve God’s favor through his own achievements he cannot truly understand God’s grace. Luther also had the idea that one did not need a priest to talk to God, he believed that one could pray and repent without the help of anyone else. This was the idea for which Luther became famous. In 1517, Luther was involved in a controversy which involved indulgences.

Indulgences ere the idea that a person could donate money to a worthy cause in exchange for forgiveness of their sins. Luther opposed this idea and stated his beliefs in his Ninety-Five Thesis, which he posted on the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany. In 1519, Luther had a debate in Leipzig with Johann Eck, a Roman Catholic theologian. During this debate, Luther denied the supremacy of the Pope and stated that church councils could make mistakes. In 1521, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Luther was then ordered to appear before a council which demanded that he retract his teachings.

Luther intern stated that unless he was inspired to do so by scripture he would not since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Possible the most important contribution of Luther to society was his translation of the Bible into German. This made it possible for those who were not fluent in Greek to study the Word of God. Luther also wrote another influential work, Small Catechism of 1529, which was also known as the layman’s Bible. It summarized Christian beliefs into clear, simple language and told how they should live.

During the Reformation, Luther discovered that he had founded a new church. He complained that his name should not be given to a group whose name should only be taken from Christ; but Lutherans still believe in the doctrines he originated. John Calvin teachings were especially influential in Switzerland, England, Scotland, and colonial North America. Calvin’s followers in France were known as the Huguenots, and in England they were know as the Puritans. During the Reformation, the people were insisting that anyone, not just the hierarchy, be nvolved in political and religious policy making.

This inspired Calvin’s teachings. The Calvinists developed political theories that supported constitutional government, representative government, the right of people to change their government, and the separation of civil and church government. The Calvanists originally intended these ideas to apply to the aristocracy, but democracy eventually arose in England and America. Calvin’s basic religious beliefs were the superiority of faith over good works, universal riesthood of all believers, and the Bible as the basis of all Christian teachings.

The concept of universal priesthood was that all believers were considered priests. This was unlike the Roman Catholic Church which had various ranks of priests. Calvin also believed that men could only be saved by the grace of God. He believed that only the Elect would be saved and that no one knew who the Elect were. He also believed in Predestination, which is the idea that your entire life is already planned for you. Many of Calvin’s ideas were controversial, but he improved the morals of the Church rastically.

Calvin developed the pattern of church government that is today known as Presbyterian. Martin Luther and John Calvin achieved great results, but went about it in different ways. Luther was more concerned with his own spirituality, and therefore set an example by changing himself. Calvin on the other hand, was more concerned with changing society and the government. They both believed in being saved through God’s grace, but Calvin believed in Predestination and the Elect. Martin Luther and John Calvin were both key assets Protestant Reformation.

Hollywood’s Attack on Religion

The section that I have chosen to analyze from the book Hollywood vs. America is “The Attack on Religion. ” In this part of the book, Michael Medved discusses the shift in attitude Hollywood has made toward religion, from acceptable to contemptible. He takes a look at the messages being sent in films, music and television in the last 15 to 20 years and analyzes their effects. In general, Hollywood depicts religion in an unfavorable manner, according to Medved. Moreover, Medved also argues that, not only has Hollywood taken a hostile stance toward religion, but it has paid the price, literally, for doing o.

All of Medved’s arguments are well supported and documented, making them seemingly futile to argue against. Yet, Hollywood, which includes films, music and television, continues to disregard the obvious facts that Medved has revealed. In the first chapter of this section, “A Declaration of War,” Medved discusses the facts surrounding the protest which took place on August 11, 1988, in opposition to the release of the motion picture The Last Temptation of Christ.

MCA/Universal, which funded the Martin Scorsese film, called the protesters a know-nothing wacky pack” (38). However, as Medved points out, the protest was “the largest protest ever mounted against the release of a motion picture” (37) and included such groups as the National Council of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, twenty members of the U. S. House of Representatives and prominent figures such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Ken Wales, former vice president at Disney studios.

Even with such strong opposition from these respected groups and people, the studio refused to listen and stood behind its First Amendment rights. MCA/Universal was even supported by the Motion Picture Association of America, which stated that “The . . . MPAA support MCA/Universal in its absolute right to offer to the people whatever movie it chooses” (41). However, Medved rebukes this statement, arguing that “absolute right” wasn’t the issue; the issue “concerned the movie company’s choices, not its rights” (41).

He supports this argument further by indicating that the MPAA would never support a film portraying Malcolm X as a paid agent of Hoover’s FBI or portraying Anne Frank “as an out-of-control nymphomaniac” (41). By releasing The Last Temptation of Christ, the studio positions Jesus, God and Christianity below these prominent figures in history because it is portraying Jesus and other religious figures in uncharacteristic situations that would never be associated with these historical figures.

This is supported by past experiences when movies were edited so as to not offend animal rights activists, gay advocacy groups, and ethnic organizations: Leaders of the motion picture business showed more concern with possible sacrilege against the religious traditions of single Hopi village than with certain offense to the faith of tens of millions of believing Christians; the prospect of being labeled “antiwolf” produced greater worry than the prospect of being labeled “anti-Christ” (42). Of course, the response to this is that the changes were made during the production of the other films, not afterward.

Again, Medved argues back, pointing out that “Martin Scorsese and his associates kept their plans for The Last Temptation a closely guarded secret from all church leaders” (43). The press also distorted the movement against the release of the film by focusing on one utterly unrepresentative individual as the preeminent symbol of that movement: the Reverend R. L. Hymers” (43). His predictions of impending apocalypse, his violent outbursts, and his history of legal problems “lived up to anyone’s worst nightmare of deranged religious fanatic.

Naturally, the press couldn’t get enough of him” (43). The press also misrepresented the movement’s main objections, according to Medved, by focusing on the “dream sequence” in which Jesus makes love to Mary Magdalene, “and asserting that this image alone ad provoked the furor in the religious community” (44). However, Christian leaders objected to more than that; they identified “more than twenty elements” (44) that were offending to them. In other words, “the press helped to make the protesters look like narrow-minded prudes” (44).

As a result, Hollywood misled itself and the public into believing that the protesters’ main objective was to censor the film. As Medved says, “What they [protester] wanted from the industry wasn’t censorship; it was sensitivity” (45). Besides the fact that The Last Temptation of Christ was so heavily rotested against, it was a bad movie, according to Medved, who is also a movie critic. He even went on the record saying, It is the height of irony that all this controversy should be generated by a film that turns out to be so breathtakingly bad, so unbearably boring.

In my opinion, the controversy about this picture is a lot more interesting than the film itself (47). However, the movie industry defended the film by nominating Scorsese for an Academy Award as Best Director. This response by the movie industry “provides a good example of the film establishment rallying around a bad film to protect its wn selfish interest . . . that film, . . . was a slap in the face to Christians everywhere,” (48) according to Mickey Rooney, one of only a few established Hollywood figures who spoke out against the film.

And in the end, MCA/Universal got what it deserved, according to Medved, losing at least $10 million because people, Christian or not, realized how bad the movie was. The confrontation between Christians and Hollywood over The Last Temptation of Christ was just one of the incidents in the last 15 years in which Hollywood has attacked religion. In the past, leaders of the film industry “understood the importance of honoring the faith of their patrons. For them, it was not only a matter of good business, but an element of good citizenship'” (51).

Films such as Going My Way, Angels with Dirty Faces, and Boys Town, portrayed religious characters “in a sympathetic light” (51). But in the last 15 years or so, “Hollywood has swung in the opposite extreme” (52). When a religious figure is portrayed now, it is likely that “he will turn out to be corrupt or crazy or probably both” (52). Medved goes on to discuss several ovies which attacked Catholics, Born-Again Christians, and Jews. He gives a brief synopsis of these movies, highlighting the portions which portray religion in a negative way.

For the most part, the movie titles are unfamiliar. This can be accounted for by the fact that “the overwhelming majority of these pictures performed abysmally at the box office” (64). The main reason these films did so poorly is probably due to the fact that there is “a significant and growing percentage of the American population” (70) that is committed to a traditional faith. On the other hand, ost of the people who play a large part in producing movies claim no religious affiliation whatsoever: “93 percent . . . say they seldom or never attend religious services” (71).

This fact is one of the main reasons why Hollywood has lost touch when it comes to religion in movies, according to Medved: “. . . unrepresentative personal perspective has helped to blind Hollywood’s leaders to the intense involvement of most Americans with organized faith” (71). And when movies “have portrayed organized faith in a favorable and affectionable light,” (75) they have been successful: . . the extraordinary films mentioned above shared another common element: an impressive level of both commercial and critical success.

These seven pictures won two Oscars for Best Picture . . three for Best Actress, and one for Best Actor (76). Of course, the film industry isn’t solely responsible for Hollywood’s attack on religion. The music industry and television are also guilty of slandering religion. Lyrics by groups such as R. E. M. , Black Sabbath and Judas Priest indicate the music industry’s contempt for religion. For television, “God’s influence . . . is all but invisible” (79). Statistics show that “only 5. 4 percent of the characters had an identifiable religious affiliation although 89 percent of Americans claim affiliation with an organized faith” (80).

Religion’s only outlet for television is “relegated mostly to Sunday mornings and televangelists” (80). Medved analyzes the reasons for Hollywood’s attack on religion and narrows it down to two specific reasons. One reason is that “movie, TV, and music moguls are motivated by the pursuit of profit” (87) and they believe there is money to be made by slandering religion. But the main reason is that they re in constant pursuit of “the respect of their peers” (87). And religion “is the one subject in the world that everyone acknowledges as fundamentally serious” (88).

So when writers and directors attack religion, “no matter how clumsy or contrived that attack may be, they can feel as if they’ve made some sort of important and courageous statement” (88). Thus, “a filmmaker can win the respect of his colleagues, even if his work is rejected by the larger public” (88). It is obvious that Hollywood’s attacks on religion have been fruitless; Hollywood loses money and established religions have been degraded publicly. Medved is thorough in evaluating Hollywood’s stance on religion, and even more thorough in knocking it down.

His arguments against Hollywood for its attacks on religion are supported by facts that Hollywood has refused to realize. It is absurd that Hollywood continues to attack religion, especially when figures show that a vast majority of the population claim some sort of affiliation with an established religion. It would only make sense for Hollywood to change its ways and adopt “a greater sense of neutrality and balance . . . when it comes to portrayals of organized faith” (90).

Non Traditional Religions Voodoo Spiritualism Cults

Religion is primary agent of social control in our society. Due to its communally held beliefs and principles, we have a foundation on which we can rest the laws, values, and the main doctrine, of almost any society. Here in America, we have tremendous freedom in both establishing and in choosing the religion of our choice. This freedom has given birth to many non-traditional religions and practices. When discussing the topic of social control and order within a society, these non-traditional religions can be used very strongly to bring about social change within an individual then into the population.

On the rise in our nation, is the emergence of voodoo practices, the belief in spiritualism, and many groups of cults. Each one of these religions has the extreme ability to influence the individual in many psychological and physical ways, drastically changing a persons behavioral patterns. While inducing these changes upon the individual, many people can and usually will, succumb explicit exploitation of themselves as well as their economic resources. Voodoo, whose name derived from the African word for spirit (Origins of Voodoo), came to us through the European colonization of the West Indies.

African tribes were forcibly shipped overseas, primarily to Haiti and other Caribbean lands, to be used as agricultural slaves. Upon the arrival in their new country, the slaves were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. In fear of revolt, the colonists separated the many tribes of slaves and had them dispersed all across the new land. This result was a mixture of African slaves, forced to live together, naturally adapting to each others lifestyles, habits, and beliefs systems. The slaves were forced to attend a Catholic Mass on a regular basis, however, many of the assimilated tribes continued to practice their native religion.

When the colonists found this out, the persecution of many African slaves took place. They were violently beaten and killed for worshiping their own gods, and not the one of the Catholic religion. It was through this persecution that the tribes did not separate; rather, they came together and formed together with the common bond of their religion. The religious beliefs and the rituals from many of the tribes began it integrate, ultimately creating a new religion: Voodoo. Voodoo is based on the manifestation of the spirit world through the channel of the human being.

This is achieved through the acts of rituals in highly structured Voodoo ceremonies, which are preformed by a Voodoo Priest. A male priest is referred to as a Houngan, and a female is referred to as a Mambo. There are two types of Voodoo or magic, used in Voodoo, White Magic, and Black Magic. White Magic involves the usage of candles, oils, plants, and potions, to obtain certain things in life. For example, one might attend or perform a White Magic ceremony to obtain power, love, or money.

This ritual or ceremony is used in a positive manner only, it causes no harm, nor does it pose any threat upon the individual or on others. Black Magic or Red Voodoo, on the other hand, involves evil and harmful acts. Black magic is preformed by a Bokor, which is one who uses evil acts of sorcery, involving death and zombie curses. A zombie curse involves a ritual where the Bokor poisons his human subject, resulting in death. After three days, the dead is revived and becomes the Bokors eternal slave (Haitian Voodoo Culture). The followers of the Voodoo religion believe in one Supreme Being, named Bondye.

Under Bondye, there are hundreds of minor gods and Loas. A Loas refers to the spirit of someone who has led an exceptional life. The Loas exercise control over nature, health, wealth, happiness, and all prosperity of mortals. The human followers and the Laos exercise a dependency-based relationship with one another. The Loas provide prosperity, and the humans provide food, and other material objects to the Laos as an offering. The altars that are each dedicated to one specific Loa are encompassed with candles, pictures of the Loa, and anything else referring to the Loa.

A prime example of a Loa is one named Zaka. Zaka is the god or spirit of agriculture; he provides prosperity over the crops of any given land. One might want to make contact with this Loa to ensure abundance in the years crop. Through the ritual and the altar, one might present an offering of seeds, fruit, or a shovel. In return, the Loa will provide health, fortune, and protection of evil spirits over his followers. In the doctrine of Voodoo, the human soul is made up of two parts: the Gros-bon-ange and the Ti-bon-age.

The Ti-bon-age is the part of the soul that leaves the body during sleep and the part that can also be possessed by a Loa in a ceremony. The Gros-bon-ange is the part of the soul, which upon death, rejoins with the sprit world and can be reused. It a common belief in Voodoo, that the soul can be taken over by evil spirits when it is freed from the body. It is through the act of rituals in ceremonies that a voodoo priest is able to make contact with the spiritual world. A Voodoo ceremony takes place in a temple called a Honfor.

At the center of Honfor is a spirit pole called a Poto-Mitan. The Poto-Mitan represents the center of the universe and it is through this pole, that humans are able to connect with the spirit world. A voodoo ceremony has several key elements that make it possible to connect with the spirit world. A general voodoo ceremony would be acted out as follows: A feast would be held before the main ceremony. This feast may include the sharing of food, and or alcohol. The ceremony will them begin with the introduction of the Veve banners or flags.

A Hounsis (A Voodoo priestess), will bring these flags out and wave them around to assist in the summoning of Loa. The flags are created by the Houngan and are made out of silk or satin material. They are decorated with sequins, beads, and seed pearls. Meanwhile, in the background there is a constant rhythm of drumbeats. The music and dancing play an important role in the ceremony. It is through the music that one is able to be put into a trance-like state and become possessed by the Loa. Within the ceremony, there are usually three particular drums used.

Within the ceremony, their are generally three drum used. The Manman, which is the largest of the three, it is about three feet tall, and is beating standing up using a small wooden hammer in one hand and the other bare hand. The Segond drum, which is about two feet tall, is played by a seated drummer holding the drum between the legs. The drum is beaten using both hands. The smallest drum is named bula. It is beaten using two very long thin sticks. Dancing is performed by the Houngan and Hounsis. The Houngan focuses the dance around the spirit pole.

It is through the dancing of the Houngan that intensity builds up resulting in the Hounsis becoming possessed by a loa. The Houngan also uses the aid of an Asson. An Asson is sacred rattle constructed out of a gourd that is decorated with coral and snake bones. The Houngan will also create a Veve, which is a sand painting. The Veve’ is constructed on the floor of the Hounfor and is created around the spirit pole. The Veve’ is made out of flour or cornmeal and is dedicated to the Loa in which the ceremony is being acted out. A Voodoo ceremony may include an animal sacrifice.

The Houngan may sacrifice a goat, sheep, pig, or chicken to satisfy the hunger of their Loa. The throat of the animal is slit, and the blood is collected in a special ceremonial cup, the Hounsis, or person possess, will then drink the blood. This is believed to satisfy the hunger of the Loa. Haiti still remains the dominant country in which Voodoo is practiced’ in. Voodoo was able to bring together many people in a time of sorrow and persecution. Throughout the years, many people have suffered for their beliefs in the Voodoo religion. Voodoo still stands strong in many cultures and is a dominant force in many peoples lives.

Voodoo encompasses the whole family and embraces the influence of ancestors in ones individual life. Voodoo is not only a religion, but a way of life. The use of extravagant and clairvoyant formal ceremonies is used in many non-traditional religions to manifest the realm of the spiritual world, right here the natural. As seen, Voodoo has its own distinct ways of communicating with the spiritual realm. Many other religions also use spiritual items or objects of nature, as means of transcending into the spiritual realm; which brings us to the next topic of spiritualism.

Spiritualism is a belief that the dead manifest their presence to people, usually through a clairvoyant or medium; also, it is the doctrine and practices of those people whom so believe. Although spiritualism has been practiced in one form or another since prehistoric times, modern spiritualism is the result of 19th century occurrences and research. About 1848 in the United States, sisters Margaret and Kate Fox were exploited by their older sister as alleged child mediums and aroused sensational news stories that spurred the creation of a cult of spiritualism.

It was given impetus by the writings of another medium, the American Andrew Jackson Davis, who asserted that he was capable of performing certain intellectual feats while in a trance that he could not perform normally. About this time, the British surgeon James Braid provided a scientific explanation of mesmerism and thus helped to establish the modern technique of hypnosis. In 1872 a former British clergyman, William Stainton Moses, became editor of the spiritualist paper Light and wrote several books concerning spiritualism.

The movement was publicity discredited after the appearance of a number of charlatans, whose demonstrations were recognized as simple tricks of prestidigitation. Margaret Fox herself, as a grown woman, claimed that she had used tricks to make her spirit rappings. The Society for Physical Research was founded and a fund was established to examine the claims of spiritualism. Spiritualism is a way of life. It combines philosophy, science and religion. It covers a wide field and therefore one cannot expect to understand it fully without a certain amount of study.

The primary object of Spiritualism today is to prove the survival of the human personality or soul after death and that death is only the doorway to a new and wider life. Spiritualism is in itself a religion in that it embodies that there is a life after death, immortality, and the existence of a God. The difference between Spiritualism and other religions is the ability through medium ship to prove that man survives the grave; that is to say certain people called Mediums are able to communicate with those who have passed over, thus furnishing conclusive evidence of their continued existence in another world.

Very similar as the one we live in now, only more perfect. A medium cannot call up these people, as they would a friend on a telephone- they come to us, but only when they are ready, and willing and able so to do. So, who are these Mediums? they are highly sensitive people who developed their psychic power; which each of us posses to a greater or less degree. A womans intuition is an example. Some people are born mediums, others may take years to develop, and there are others, who through ignorance, or lack of the opportunity of development, are unable to exercise their gifts.

The philosophy of Spiritualism is based on Seven Fundamental Principles: III. The Communication of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels, IV. The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul, VI. Compensation and Retribution hereafter for all the Good and Evil Deeds done on Earth, VII. Eternal Progress Open to every Human Soul. (Spiritualism) Spiritualists are often accused of being atheists or Anti-Christian, yet our first Principle recognizes God as our Father; but who is God?. Spiritualism is universal religion recognizing such leaders as Buddha, Mohammed, Moses as well as Jesus.

It does not however, claim a monopoly of Religion. Ones religion is a personal matter and any person adopting Spiritualism is free to interpret the principles according to their own awareness. Furthermore, they do not believe in a Vindictive God. They are their own judges and they shall receive compensation or retribution for what ever they have done whether it is good or bad. Heaven and hell are not places to which we are destined to go, but states of mind of our own creation.

Among the greatest forces of Spiritualism is healing the sick either by personal contact or through the absent healing in which the patients are treated often at great distances away by the sending out healing thoughts and prayers. The so-called miracles of healing performed by Jesus and his disciples are regular performs by spiritual healers today. Many incurable diseases have been successfully treated. No healer can guarantee a cure, but at least he can alleviate suffering and ease a passing, and possibly affect a complete cure. Spiritual Healing is not Faith Healing.

Patients have been treated without their knowledge as by absent healing, or through being too ill or, too young to understand. The practices of Voodoo and Spiritualism are very common in many ways. The both believe in the spiritual realm, both have formal ceremonies to come in contact with the spiritual realm, and both use particular items as a medium, or a gateway as a way to transcend into the spiritual realm. Although Voodoo is practiced here in America, many of its practices are not publicly exposed; so it lives underground so to speak.

Spiritualism on the other hand, is rising at an increasing rate. We can find the practices of Spiritualism openly used throughout our society. In every city, psychic readings, and spiritual healings are readily available to anyone who is interested. There is one other form (chosen out of very many), of a non-traditional religion, that exists within the very threads of America: It is the Cult. The formation of cults is an issue in society that many are un-familiar with. There are thousands of cults operating in America today; exact numbers cannot be established due to the nature of cults.

Many cults go unreported because they work in secrecy, giving their members a feeling of self worth only when in, and a part of a secret group in society. A cult by definition is: 2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents 3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents 4 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion.

Websters Un-Abridged Dictionary 10Th Ed. Basically, a cult is a group of people who have formulated their lives around the devotion of one or a few charismatic leaders, and an ideology pushed forth by those leaders. There are three main aspects a group has to have in order for it to be positively identified as a cult. The first is the ruling charismatic leader or leadership: These leaders will maintain total control over their followers lives as well as their person, trying desperately to advance the groups goals or ideas.

The group focuses on the leadership, rather than on God, or a higher power. Total commitment is given to these leaders from their followers, as they are fed with false pretense or a sense of a mission in their lives. This leads up to the second qualification: The use of mind control or brain washing on their subjects. The cult leaders will explicitly use psychological manipulation, or brain washing on their followers to influence their will upon them. This abuse changes a normal person into another; one who will do whatever it takes to carry out any and all the commands of the leadership.

Lastly is the exploitation of the subjects, mainly in sexual and economic ways. The followers of the cult are usually drained of all personal wealth as well as their own individuality. Giving all they can to better benefit the leadership, followers dont think twice about following the orders of the leadership no matter how crude or ridiculous, leaving themselves wide open to ant form of exploitation. Other than these main three characteristics, many cults are known to have compounds or exquisite meeting places in which many live.

They are usually self-supported as if they were their own community, where everyone participates in the upkeep and maintenance. Elaborate rituals, practices, and scheduled daily activities occupy most of their day. The group usually has two or more sets of codes or ethics. One set for the leadership; which typically has total freedom over the group. Another set for the existing members; of which are very rigid, another for new recruits that are very relaxed, and so on. Lastly, another popular activity of the cult is the dedication to recruiting of new members.

People are the greatest resource of the cult or any group in that matter. The more people the greater the power of the leadership. Cults concentrate a mass amount of their energies to the coercing practices of getting people to join their group. When concerning the issue of cults, many people ask the question of why people join cults. Little to ones knowledge, very few people join cults of their own free will. This option is usually reserved only for the members of the leadership. The question still remains; why do people join cults?

The question is not why people join cults, rather, is it how do they join cults. And the answer to this question is a long and lengthy process of psychological manipulation, brain washing or mind control, to the point of the lowering of ones self esteem, and then the loss of ones personal identity. Author Steven Hassan details this mind control process through behavior control, information control, thought control, and emotional control or the BITE Model for short. (Hassan). Controlling ones behavior limits the individual to personal choices, limiting his/her own identity.

The leaders will use tactics that include the regulation of: 1. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with 2. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears 3. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects 4. How much sleep the person is able to have The member is literally stripped of his/her identity by this regulatory system designed by the leadership. Also invoked in this process is the dependency or the need of the cult. The individual perceives a reliance on the cult to provide for their basic everyday life decisions.

Along with behavior control comes the control of the information or any kind of knowledge that is provided to the individual. This regulation of knowledge can be in any fashion; for example a member may not be allowed to watch TV or read a newspaper, or information about the cults leadership or former members may be disclosed and considered classified. Also by using cult-generated propaganda, the individual is fed with information pertaining to the goals of the leadership thus focusing only on that.

Accumulated with the use of deception, lying, and the twisting of stories, the individual has no inclination to question the motives of the cult leaders. The use of thought control is the most important step in implementing the cult doctrine among its members. The need to see the cult doctrine as the absolute truth will hold the member in their proper place. Any kind of questioning about the leaders, decisions, and cult policies are highly discouraged and even disciplined with punishment in some cases. Finally with the use of emotional control, the leaders gain control of the individuals by with methods implementing guilt and fear.

Using public confession of sins and demeaning acts, self-esteem is lowered in the individual and their behavior is modified according to the wills of the leaders. Fear is also used to keep the members in line. Threatening members of loosing their salvation, being outcast by the group they so much depend on, and hostile circumstances (i. e. hell, demon possession), are all used to coerce the individuals behavior. By successfully eliminating free thought, limiting information, controlling circumstantial decisions, and how their members should feel at all times; it becomes no wonder how cult members commit acts of highly irregular behavior.

As shown, under the highly influential pressures of mind control, cult members have almost no control over their lives. Their decisions are not of their own, but only of the leaders of cult. Out of the millions of people who fall victim to the persuasion of the cult way of life, very few escape this lifestyle. Those who do are exposed with long tern psychological effects, creating many problems for the individual, as they try to readjust to normal every day life. Frequently, cult survivors initially suffer from depression.

The fact of no longer belonging to an elite group, or not having a sense of purpose within themselves, causes the individuals to fall into massive depressive states. Those who have been involved in the cult for quite sometime will also suffer from loneliness, as they have left their former source of family and friendship. Indecisiveness is also a major symptom; normal decisions become very complicated for this individual because everything had been previously decided for them (what to wear, what to eat, etc. ). And fear of their former cult reigns inside them.

At the very thought of betrayal and the coerced effects if it, leaves the individual with an underlying sense of fear and insecurity. Surviving members are highly recommended to get some sort of psychological counseling immediately after exiting the cult. Those who do receive counseling have a quicker and a greater success in merging back into society as productive individuals. Non-traditional religions thrive on the limiting involvement of the government concerning religion. Many of these religions have highly unorthodox practices in which followers faithfully participate it.

In any other circumstances excluding religion, many of these practices would be deemed abnormal or deviant behavior. Legally very little can be done about the un-ethical practices found in these non-traditional religions. As a society we have to be very careful and aware at all times, recognizing the pressures that religion can force upon an individual. We also have to be conscious, and the face the fact that we are very vulnerable; each one of us can easily fall into the sway of lifestyles of these non-traditional religions, against our own will.

Buddhism – one of the major religions of the world

Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world it was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived in northern India from c. 560 to c. 480 BC. The time of the Buddha was a time of social and religious change, the development of trade and cities, the breakdown of old tribal traditions, and the rise of many new religious movements that answered the demands of the times. These movements came from the Brahmanic tradition of Hinduism but were also reactions against it. Of the new sects, Buddhism was the most successful and eventually spread throughout India and most of Asia.

Today Buddhism is divided into two main branches. The Theravada, or “Way of the Elders,” the more conservative of the two, it is mainly found in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. The Mahayana, or “Great Vehicle,” is more liberal, it is found mainly in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, and among Tibetan peoples, where it is known by its emphasis on the Buddhist Tantras. In recent times, both branches, as well as Tibetan Buddhism, have gained followers in the West. It is almost impossible to tell the size of the Buddhist population today.

Statistics are difficult to obtain because some individuals may have Buddhist beliefs and engage in Buddhist rites while maintaining folk or other religions; hese people may or may not call themselves Buddhists. Nevertheless, the number of Buddhists worldwide is estimated at more than 300 million. The matter of what Buddha’s original teachings were cause of major controversy. Even so, it is said to have centered on certain basic doctrines. The first of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha held, is suffering.

By this, he meant not only that human existence is occasionally painful but that all beings–humans, animals, ghosts, hell-beings, even the gods–are caught up in samsara, a cycle of rebirth, a maze of suffering in which their actions keep them wandering. Samsara and karma are not doctrines specific to Buddhism. The Buddha, however, specified that samsara is characterized by three marks: suffering, impermanence and no self. Individuals not only suffer in a constantly changing world, but what appears to be the “self,” the “soul,” has no independent reality apart from its many separable elements.

The second Noble Truth is that suffering itself has a cause. At the simplest level, this may be said to be desire; but the theory was fully worked out in the complex doctrine of “dependent origination,” which explains the interrelationship of all reality in terms of an unbroken chain of causation. The third Noble Truth is that this chain can be broken–that suffering can cease. The Buddhists called this end of suffering nirvana and thought of it as a rebirth, an escape from samsara. Finally, the fourth Noble Truth is that a way exists through which this reversal can be brought about, the practice of the noble Eightfold Path.

This combines ethical and disciplinary practices and training in concentration and meditation with initial faith, which is finally transformed into wisdom. With the death of the Buddha, his followers immediately faced a crisis, what were they to do in the with their master one? The followers who had remained householders proceeded to honor his bodily relics, which were monuments called stupas. This was the beginning of a cult of devotion to the person of the Buddha that was to focus not only on stupas but also on many holy sites, which became centers of pilgrimage, and eventually on Buddha images too.

On the other hand, those Buddhists who had become monks and nuns took on the gathering and preservation of their departed master’s teachings. According to tradition, a great council of 500 monks was held at Rajagriha, mmediately after the Buddha’s death, and all the Buddha’s sermons and the rules of the discipline were remembered and recited. In the years that followed, the monks gradually unified their communal life. Like many other wandering mendicants of their time, they were always on the move, coming together only once a year for the three months of the monsoon.

Gradually, these rain-retreats grew into more structured year-round settlements. As new communities developed, it was inevitable that some differences in their understanding of both the Buddha is teaching and of the rules of the order should arise. Within 100 years of the Buddha’s death, a second council took place at Vaisali, during which the advocates of certain relaxations in the vinaya rules were condemned. Then, c. 250 BC, the great Buddhist emperor Asoka is said to have held a third council at Pataliputra to settle certain doctrinal controversies.

It is clear from the accounts of these and other Buddhist councils that whatever the unity of early Buddhism may have been, it was rapidly split into various sectarian divisions. One of the earliest and most important of these divisions was that between the Sthavira and the Mahasamghika schools. Within the former developed such important sects as the Sarvastivada and the Theravadins, whose canon is in Pali and who today are the only surviving representatives of the whole of the Hinayana, or “Lesser Vehicle,” of Buddhism.

The Mahasamghika, also a Hinayanist sect, died out completely, but it is important because it represents one of the forerunners of the Mahayana doctrines. These doctrines were to include a different understanding of the nature of the Buddha, an emphasis on the figure of the bodhisattva, and on the practice of the perfection. In addition, within the Mahayana, a number of great thinkers were to add some new doctrinal dimensions to Buddhism. One of these was Nagarjuna, the 2d-century AD founder of the Madhyamika School.

Using subtle and thoroughgoing analyses, Nagarjuna took the theory of dependent origination to its logical limits, showing that the absolute relativity of everything means finally the emptiness of all things. Another important Mahayana school arose in the fourth century AD when the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu sought to establish the doctrine of Vijnanavada–that the mind alone exists and that objects have no reality external o it. This idealist doctrine and Nagarjuna’s emptiness were to play important roles in the further developments of Buddhist thought outside of India.

Within India itself, they paved the way for yet another stage in the elaboration of the religion: the development of Buddhist tantra. Tantric Buddhism, which is sometimes separated from the Mahayana Buddhism as a distinct “Thunderbolt-Vehicle,” became especially important in Tibet, where it was introduced starting in the seventh century. It was, however, the last phase of Buddhism in India, where the religion–partly by reabsorption into the Hindu tradition, partly by ersecution by the Muslim invaders–ceased to exist by the 13th century.

Before its demise in India, Buddhism had already spread throughout Asia. This expansion started at least as early as the time of the emperor Asoka in the 3d century BC. According to tradition, this great monarch, who was himself a convert to Buddhism, actively supported the religion and sought to spread the dharma. He is said to have sent his own son, Mahinda, as a missionary to Sri Lanka. Their Buddhism quickly took root and prospered, and the island was to become a stronghold of the Theravada sect.

The Pali Canon was first written there in the first century BC; ater the island was to be host to the great Theravadin systematizer and commentator Buddhaghosa. Asoka is also said to have sent missionaries to the East to what is now Burma and Thailand. Whatever the truth of this claim, it is clear that by the first several centuries AD, Buddhism, accompanying the spread of Indian culture, had established itself in large areas of Southeast Asia, even as far as Indonesia. Also, tradition has it that another son of Asoka established a Buddhist kingdom in Central Asia.

Whether or not this is true, it is clear that in subsequent centuries more missionaries followed the established trade routes west and north o this region, preaching the dharma as they went. Throughout Asia, wherever Buddhism was introduced, its leaders tended to seek the support of kings and other rulers of the state. The pattern of this relationship between a Buddhist king and the monastic community was given its definitive formulation by Emperor Asoka in the 3d century BC.

This was a symbiotic relationship in which, in exchange for the allegiance and religious support of the sangha, the emperor became the patron and backer of the Buddhist dharma. To some extent, this pattern was extended to the laity as well. Everywhere, Buddhist monastic communities tended o depend on the laity for food and material support. Although in some places the sangha as a whole became well to do and the controller of vast monastic estates, traditionally monks were beggars and, in Southeast Asian countries, they still go on daily alms rounds.

Traditionally also, Buddhist monks have been celibate. Thus, they depend on the faithful not only for food and financial support but also for new recruits. Often children will enter a monastery and spend a number of years as novices, studying, learning and doing chores. Then, following ordination, they become full members of the community, vowing to uphold its discipline. Henceforth their days will be taken up in ritual, devotions, meditation, study, teaching and preaching.

Twice a month, all the monks in a given monastery will gather for the recitation of the rules of the order and the confession of any violation of those rules. One of the pivotal concepts behind the rites and festivals of Buddhist laity and monks is that of offering. This includes, for the laity, not just the giving of food and of new robes to the monks, but also the offering of flowers, incense, and praise to the image of the Buddha, stupas, bodhi trees, or, especially in Mahayanist countries, to other embers of the Buddhist pantheon such as bodhisattvas.

For the monks, the notion of offering extends also to the giving of the dharma in the form of sermons, to the chanting of scriptures in rituals, and to the recitation of sutras for the dead. All of these acts of offering are intimately involved in the concept of merit making. By performing them, individuals, through the working of karma, can seek to assure themselves rebirth in one of the heavens or a better station in life, from which they may be able to attain the goal of enlightenment.

Religion in the American Public School

Throughout history, religion has impacted the lives of millions whether at school, work, with friends, or by some tragedy. Religion can change the way people view their existence. Religion also plays a big role in the infiltration of values into the loves of many young people today. In a recent pole printed in the USA Weekend Paper, “34% of respondents [said] Religion plays a powerful role in their everyday lives. ” These student respondents “cited religion as the second-strongest influence in their lives outranked only by parents.

Religion also surpassed the world-renounced media as an influence in their lives (Lerman. 1). Many outsider views have changed negatively since the enlightenment (McConnell, 10) however, the fact still stands that religion is one of the most powerful influences on a person’s decisions throughout whether it is an actual religion or the lack thereof. The Supreme Court even states that “it is legitimate for the public schools to inculcate values” and most values of present day society are often based on religious beliefs.

Inculcating religion into the lives of students in the public school is not only both historically and presently permissible but also beneficial to the three main areas of a school system. Through many Supreme Court cases, decisions, and official statements, the United States Government has made it clear that study about religion is constitutional (Haynes 2). 3 main cases have explicitly shown the acceptability of religion in school. There have been many statements made Supreme Court Justices and the current president himself stating the permissibility of having religion taught in school.

Guidelines have also been written and carried out for the use of religion in the public school system (Guidelines: U. S. Department of Education, 2) One of these cases includes the Good News Club, a Christian-based youth program, vs. Milford Central Schools case. Despite the fact that this case didn’t rule in favor of religion, it was a ground post for many other court cases for holding religious based clubs on school grounds. The club was refused the right to hold meetings at the Milford Central Middle School while other clubs could. The state court ruled against the club and an appeal was filed.

Rev. Stephen D. Fournier of 10 years from the Milford Center Community Bible Church said it was discrimination by the school. A federal trial judge threw out the appeal. However, on a case of another Good News Club the 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994, ruled in favor of the club, therefore showing its permissibility (Associated Press, 1). A battle amongst the Kentucky General Assembly and other States in America has shown the admissibility of religion throughout the public school.

This debate is over the issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in the public school. years ago, when this issue was brought up to Kentucky General Assembly, their ruling ended the Supreme Court ruling to not allow the Ten Commandments in public schools. Along with Kentucky, two states, Indiana and South Dakota made it law that the Ten Commandments were allowed to be put up in public schools and 11 others also made actions toward allowing it (Copeland, 1). Another court case on Everson vs. Board of Education showed the admissibility of religion in public schools. In it the Supreme Court stressed that the constitution protects not only the people that believe in God but also those who do not.

They are therefore stating that as long as religion is kept on a voluntary basis in public places, it is constitutional and allowed ( ). There are also many government officials and organizations that support religion in school. Many statements have been made by Supreme Court Justices, the current United States President and other organizations. For example, for the Abington vs. Schempp case Associate Justice Tom Clark of the Supreme Court wrote: [I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.

It might well be said that the bible is worthy of study for its literary and historical qualities (Haynes, 2). Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens also made the statement: ” Nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this court prohibits any public school student from voluntary praying at any time before, during or after the school day (Muro, 2). ‘ ” Many religious groups including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association suggest that a higher “emphasis” be placed on religion comparatively (Spiro 7).

The National Center for history in the schools encourages teaching religion (Haynes,3). The current United States President George W. Bush stated, “I support the constitutionally guaranteed right of all students to express their faith freely and participate in voluntary student-led prayer (Muro, 1). ” This was stated after the Supreme Court told Texas public schools can not have student-led prayer at football games (Muro,1). Through these statements one can see, there are three main areas of religious activity in the school system that many people would benefit from.

Through each one come certain characteristics that make them both beneficial and permissible as stated by the United States Government. These three main areas are religion in the classroom, or religious teaching, religion in extracurricular activities, and religion in the everyday atmosphere and activities of the school. The first main area is religious teaching in the classroom setting which is constitutional by means of the First Amendment. It is well stated by Associate Justice Tom Clark saying, “… one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion… (Haynes, 2).

It was acknowledged in A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, “Most state standards in the social studies require or recommend teaching about religion (Haynes, 3). ” This is also stated earlier in the guide saying, “Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education (Haynes, 1). These statements are consequently showing how religion in the classroom in constitutional and permissible by all stretch of the meaning. Religious teaching is also beneficial to all students in the classroom setting.

This was well stated by the above guide for teachers declaring, that religion and the Bible contributes to the culture of historical nations and is therefore vital to understanding the study of history (Haynes, 2). ” Religion gives students a different perspective on historical events, et cetera. The Bible gives incite to the influences of religion on particular culture in history through art, music, literature, and social studies. Many of the United States’ Laws are also based on religious views, therefore religion would allow students the religious basis for laws (Glenn, 5).

Religion has also played a big role in the history of extracurricular activities especially that of sports. Many times before sports games, particularly football games, players and their coaches have said a prayer for their game (Keeping, 2). However, the Supreme Court has said this was unconstitutional even if it was student led (Muro, 1) and many people are continuing to do so despite the Supreme Court ruling (Keeping, 2). As stated earlier, even president George Bush believes in student-led voluntary prayer.

Religious clubs such as the Good News Club give students the choice to participate in activities that support their value systems. Religion also plays a part in the everyday workings of the school. For example, Students recite the pledge of allegiance everyday which includes the line, “one nation, under God,” which is of obvious religious nature. There are also announcements of religious activities and holidays which would make students of all religions feel welcome in the school and even those who are not of any religion at all because they can see how all religions are affecting the workings of the school.

Religion can obviously have a immense influence on the thoughts of people especially on the theories and ideas that many young people today base their values on. As stated earlier (will be in the introduction), 34% of students say that religion plays a role in their lives and it is the second strongest influence on their lives. This is above all the other factors including the most commonly known influence on young people today, the media (Lerman, 1). The Supreme Court even stated that “… it is legitimate for the public schools to inculcate values,” and many values are also based on religion (McConnell, 9).

This being said, religion also played a colossal role in the historical foundations of the present day America. Historically, religion was one of the main fundamentals that caused America to become its own country let alone allowed it to survive. Much of the constitution is based on religious laws followed by the people of the soon to be country of America (Zacharias, 2). And this country obviously still has religious based laws and an originally based religious people but yet we cannot have a religious based environment for students in a public school?

Religion in the Public School Curriculum: Questions and Answers, which was “issued by a coalition of 17 major religious and educational organizations,… describes the importance of religion in the curriculum through this statement: Because religion plays a significant role in history and society, study about religion is essential to understanding both the nation and the world. Omission of facts about religion can give the students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant (Haynes, 2).

Thus showing that religion was a vital part of the foundation of the United States. In 1980, for example, on the case of Davis vs. Beason, the Supreme Court outlawed “bigamy and polygamy, which are crimes by the laws of the civilized and Christian countries (Glenn, 5). Consequently, religion was also historically a fundamental part of the value systems of American citizens. Thomas Jefferson stated, Americans were “enlightened by a benign religion professed indeed and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man (Glenn, 3).

When Americans came to this country they came to gain religious freedom because of the religious prosecution they were receiving from Great Britain (Cayton, _). Then the laws that were written based on the religious value of the people came from Great Britain at the time (Glenn, 7) such as George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin were some of the most respected young men that went on to become presidents (Cayton, _). The permissibility and benefits of having religion in the school system is shown through the historical significance, Supreme Court decisions and opinions, and the three main areas of a school.

The Supreme Court has made it clear through its case by case decisions that it is constitutional and beneficial in some areas. Also, many organizations of official government and educational positions have also stated that religion is recommended in the public school. In addition, the historical significance of religion in the creation of the present day America and the laws that it is based on is by and large one of the greatest influences on the common everyday workings of society.

Religion is part of a well rounded education and provides the religious aspects of human morality and virtuosity (Haynes, 2). It allows for the insight into history and culture through the historical influence of its nature. Despite the fact that it is not the only factor, one can not help but notice the steady decline of the moral society in relation to the degeneration of religious rights (Glenn, 7). One must stop and think how a little bit of voluntary religious freedom in the public school system would affect the morality of the new age student.

Religion, The State And Sovereignty

The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to the first records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength to some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts of information and anthropological studies revealing the interaction of religion and humankind. However, for the purposes of this paper, the time periods of study will be broken up into three sections. Each section will give a general description of how religion affected the institution of the state and its Sovereignty in a Euro-centric perspective.

The first period is the early period, which will encompass rom Christianity and the Roman Empire to the Medieval times (approx. 311 to 1100 A. D. ). The second period will include the Renaissance, the Reformation to the Treaty of Westphalia (1101 to 1648 A. D. ). The third and increment of history will range from 1649 to 1945 A. D. The date 311 A. D. marks the issuing of the “Edict of Toleration” for Christians. This date is important because it symbolizes “national” acceptance of Christianity, and planted its roots as a political institution.

Later the Roman Empire on the verge of internal collapse acknowledged the importance of Christianity and used it to hold ogether the remnants of it former self. This adoption of Christianity took form and eventually became the Catholic church. The church became intermingled with politics and became a strong entity. The policies delivered from the church had more authority than the local rulers and magistrates of the developing feudal system. For example, St. Augustine wrote about war and what justified its enactment against fellow men.

This policy was followed and adhered to for hundreds of years after St. Augustine wrote it. Another example, is the use of the Bible as a guideline for stablishing governing systems. Scripture portrayed God as choosing the king of the people. The pope, being God’s “representative” was then given the authority to crown the king. This crowning process gave the pope large influence in the political arena. This ritual continued for a number of centuries. The Crusades, which occurred around 1100 A. D. , played a crucial role in challenging the church’s authority.

The pope identifying the spread of Islam as evil requested all of Europe embark on a “Crusade” to defeat the infidels. As the battles were fought, great treasures were ound in the form of books and knowledge. These books were crude translations of old Greek texts, containing information which would eventually produce the waning of Church authority in the future. The Renaissance marked the beginning of intellectual re-birth. Writers such as Dante, Machiavelli, Guiarccidini, Vitoria, etc. , all attempting to reform and some even contest church dominance.

Dante in his imaginative work “Inferno” writes of hell which he envision is the pope’s final destination. Machiavelli takes a more direct role classifying the actions of a prince to be above morality and ultimately bove the Church. He continues the affront by classifying a human character of “virtu” as being completely centered around man (humanism). The Raison D’ Tat is supreme especially in terms of the church belligerence. In the middle of the Renaissance, the Church was dealt a deadly blow from which it would never recover.

This assault came via Martin Luther. His work, “95 Thesis”, marked the beginning of the Reformation. This movement split the church into Catholic and Protestant sects. It marked the beginning of a bloody period which virtually split Europe in half. Examples of the conflict raged between Protestants and Catholics from the great slaughter of Protestants in Paris 1572 A. D. (7000 dead) to the Thirty Years War. With the Church in disarray, freedom was given to the “state” to begin to develop.

During this period of Renaissance the political identity was going through a tremendous transformation. This transformation took form in what is called Absolutism. “Princes” began to tolerate less and less manipulation from the church. The political entity in the form of monarchy began to wean itself from the Church for its legitimacy and ooked toward its own power. Other writers began to rise and discuss issues of sovereignty and the state. Thomas Hobbes discusses the state and refers to it as “Leviathan” which is the concurring title of his work.

Believing man to be evil, Hobbes fashions his description of the state as the mechanism to control and harness the capabilities of man. There can be no peace as long as there is not absolute surrender to reason. The state’s interest is supreme, as well as, its authority. These ideas were written in direct opposition to the church and its history. Hobbes esired a complete refutation of the Church’s influence in government. Hobbes portrays a state as sovereign. The sovereignty of the state is in direct relation to its longevity and basic existence.

State sovereignty must be perpetual and supreme. The authority of this described state would over-shadow the authority of the church. Continuing historically, the development of the thirty years war was significant in its unique result. The treaty of Westphelia was the agreement which not only settled the war, but gave absolute authority to the sovereign of each individual state. This was accomplished by granting the sovereign the right to choose which religion he/she desired and that in turn transferred down to the people.

Thus, once again the authority of the church was restricted, however this time by the emergence of an institution called the state. During this period states begin to develop colonies and exploration of the new world. The discoveries and travel further challenged church authority. An example of this is the well founded “scientific” fact that the earth was flat. After such journeys by Columbus and Magellan, the concept of church’s monopoly on truth was ttacked once again. The third period in history starts with the age of reason.

Its intellectual basis of the time period is science and natural law. Empiricism plays a fundamental role in church legitimacy. Factual concrete proof of God and his work is not provided by science. States begin to mature politically as colonial powers. The Church or rather the concept of religion is still strong but begins a transformation during the Enlightenment. From Religion ideas of morality and natural law arise. Locke addresses the role of the government of a state. He ortrays the ideas of a social contract between the people and its government.

He continued by pointing out that the government has a commitment with the people it must with hold. Locke’s writings also contained concepts concerning of natural rights which are inherent to human beings. This developed and identified that power now comes from the people. These people from which the government is derived and power (legitimacy) have rights and will be safe-guarded by the people. The French and American Revolutions harnessed the ideas which the enlightenment wrote and discussed. The French Revolution exemplified the early stages of nationalism.

Nationalism derives from a grouping of people who share common cultural and social experiences. >From nationalism the concept of self-determination is derived. Phrases like,” We the People. . . ” began to show up in constitutions and declarations, which showed consensus among people with like-minded purposes. The inception of positive law was the last and final blow to the concept of religion. Positive law is fashioned and codified by man. The law has replaced the concept of morality. The framework which laws reate make the state and its sovereign powers legitimate and legal.

States no longer operate in terms of what is just but on whether the legality for the action or jurisdiction have application. The evolution of the state and its sovereignty is clear. The Church once being a dominant political factor has been reduced to a mere whisper of advice. The influence of religion in instituting or in the elective process of choosing a representative ruler has been severely minimized. Sovereignty and the institution of the State has surpassed predestination and Divine Right of Kings.

Religion Effect On Politics

The belief systems of the modern world have helped determine the policies and politics of nations around the world. For centuries before, and almost definitely for decades after now, there will be disputed between people and countries on account of their faith. Religions have started wars, ended them, impacted, and persuaded people. Needless to say, beliefs are very influential on the world today. People of different faiths dont only fight over their basic beliefs and land but they end conflicts.

Making amends between religious groups reatly helps relieve the constant strain of division that we are all too aware of these days. The Lutheran religion began 482 years ago when monk, Martin Luther, attacked the practices of the Catholic Church. These who followed his ideas eventually into what we call Lutherans today. For those 482 years, Lutherans and Catholics have stayed divided on uneasy terms. Now the leaders of the modern Lutheran and Catholic churches both signed a document that laid to rest those many years of differences under the explanation that it was all a isunderstanding.

Sometimes different faiths just dont seem like they want to even try to compromise on a conflict. The Jordanian Muslims and the Israeli Jews fighting over which side of the Jordan River Jesus was baptized on is a perfect example of this. The Muslims have invested over one million dollars t fix up the site. The site will bring in expectantly millions of tourists and with them billions of dollars that will be spent locally to boost the economy. Looking past the irony of the Jews and Muslims disputing over a Christian site, the ocal point of the quarreling is that such a site will bring.

The Pope and Prince Charles have already scheduled a visit, but as of now, no resolve has come about. These days its not always conflicts between two specific regions, but between regions occupied by faiths who disagree on certain topics. The two groups being the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the compromise on the rift in the settler movement conflict arising in those countries. To the Jews the West Bank is part of the greater Land of Israel, given by God to the Jews. To ement their control over the land, the Jews built forty-two hilltop encampments on the West Bank.

They did this to prevent it from becoming a Palestinian state. The Palestinian government claimed that some of the outposts didnt have the necessary building papers and twelve of those sites were dismantled. This disagreement is, for the time being, settled peacefully despite the denounced accord from the Palestinians. In the future more outposts are likely to be taken down. Whatever the rhyme or reason, religions and belief systems have tremendous ffects on the way things work in this world.

Hopefully nations are learning from their past mistakes what not to do if such an occasion arise again. Whether the Lutherans and Catholics are putting years of disagreement behind them, the Jews and Muslims are settling their dispute, or Jewish outposts are being taken down, we are moving forward into a new and brighter future, and gaining information as we go along. Maybe in the future, more of the religious spats will be settled as the Lutheran/Catholic dispute was… peacefully.

Dialectic And Spectacle In The Harrowing Of Hell

Roland Barthes’s essay on “The World of Wrestling” draws analogically on the ancient theatre to contextualize wrestling as a cultural myth where the grandiloquence of the ancient is preserved and the spectacle of excess is displayed. Barthes’s critique — which is above all a rewriting of what was to understand what is — is useful here insofar as it may be applied back to theatre as another open-air spectacle. But in this case, not the theatre of the ancients, but the Middle English pageant presents the locus for discussing the sport of presentation, or, if you prefer, the performance of the sport.

More specifically, what we see by looking at the Harrowing of Hell — the ramatic moment in the cycle plays that narratizes doctrinal redemption more graphically than any other play in the cycle — as spectacle offers a matrix for the multiple relationships between performance and audience and the means of producing that performance which, in turn, necessarily produces the audience.

The implications of the spectacle could sensibly be applied to the complete texts of the cycle plays, and perhaps more appropriately to the full range of the pageant and its concomitant festivities. The direction of pseudo-historical criticism, especially of the Elizabethan tage, certainly provides a well-plowed ground for advancing the festive and carnivalesque inherently present in the establishment and event of theater.

Nevertheless, my discussion here is both more limited and more expansive: its limits are constructed by the choice of an individual play recurrent through the four extant manuscripts of what has come to be called the Corpus Christi plays; its expansion is expressed through a delivery that aims to implicate the particular moment of this play in the operations of a dominant church-state apparatus, which is, ostensibly, a model of maintaining hegemony in Western culture.

The Harrowing provides a singular instance in which the mechanisms of control of the apparatus appear to extend and exploit their relationship with the audience (i. e. congregation). The play is constructed beyond the canonized operations of the sacred, originating a narrative beyond (yet within) the authorized vulgate; it is constructed only through church authority yet maintains the divinely instituted force of the orthodox doctrine.

Two introductory instances, one from the Chester cycle and the other from the Towneley cycle, situate the narrative and event of the lay as a spectacle which engages the possibility of being consumed by its historical and particular mass culture — a culture which was primarily illiterate in both the official and the vernacular writings of the church — and being understood within the hegemonic orthodoxy.

The introductory speech in the Chester Plays (The Cooke’s Play) describes a previous knowledge that Adam — as representative for a fallen humanity — apprehends exactly at the moment he articulates his speech: Nowe, by this light that I nowe see, joye ys come, lord, through thee, and one thy people hast pittye to put them out of payne. Similarly, though now through Jesus’s self-proclamation, the introduction in the Towneley cycle reveals the already known nature of its narrative: A light will thay haue To know I will com sone; My body shall abyde in gaue Till all this dede be done.

The doubled “nowe” of Adam’s speech and the perfected futurity of Jesus’s speech dictate a time before narrative. By expressing the nature of narrative to be known and that the outcome of the particular battle — which is hardly a battle — between Satan and Jesus is already determined, both Adam’s and Jesus’s speeches establish a code for participating in the festival. The audience is relegated within this code beyond the activity of interpretation; they are placed outside of the hermeneutic circle. Instead of calling for interpretation, the play calls for consumption, which means, in this case, to view the spectacle.

The public then is subordinated to its own activity of visualization — its own sense of perception — to gain access to the operations of the festival. At this point of subordination to the visual, the audience’s motives, according to Barthes’s description of the effects of the spectacle, are extinguished: The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether he contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees.

Though Barthes’s explanation is particularized to explain our fascination with wrestling, his reading may become more useful if we explore exactly the points of knowing and not knowing which are significant for the audience of the Harrowing. The virtual awareness that the Harrowing is “rigged” becomes impertinent in comparison to the consequence of knowing the narrative as sacred — as authorized and rivileged text of doctrinal truth. By seeing what they know, the members of the audience affirm their own knowing — that is their own capacity to know — validating their own immersion in the light.

As Barthes suggests, the activity then is not of thought, but instead, of repetitive affirmation. The yearly festival reincorporates the “known realities” of the church year into the memories of its congregation. The Harrowing happens because it always happens; its events do not change because the narrative is merely spectacle, revealing the necessity of its outcome [it happens because it always appens or it happens because God (i. e. the church) says it happens].

Every sign of the players and the play is “endowed with an absolute clarity, since one must always understand everything on the spot. ” The play is constructed in and as total intelligibility, which should empower the audience to affirm and control its relationship to the spectacle — to judge its authority and position. The play gains its position as spectacle through repetition and institutionalization. The pageant’s yearly performance, as an iteration of doctrinal litanies, hypostatisizes the narrative of redemption in the cultural milieu.

Moreover, the authority by which the play is produced and written validates the history being told. Indeed, it is not a history, but the history. Even beyond the force of the church-instituted process of validation, the play holds ceratin social values through convention, concretization, and repetition. W. A. Davenport has noted that though “these scenes convey no great moral force,” the morality theme, present in the cycle as it is in even lesser known morality plays such as Mary Magdalene, gains “liveliness” by the conventionality of its presentation.

If Barthes is correct about the nature of the spectacle, then ur reading of the Harrowing should allow for a positioning of the audience where it obtains to a judgement concerning the outcome. For Barthes, the audience must participate in a “pure and full signification”: Leaving nothing in the shade, each action discards all parasitic meanings and ceremonially offers to the public a pure and full signification, rounded like Nature.

This grandiloquence is nothing but the popular and age-old image of the perfect intelligibility of reality. What is portrayed . . . is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive mbiguity of everyday situations and placed before the panoramic view of a univocal Nature, in which signs at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.

By the positioning and antecedent action of the Harrowing of Hell, the signification of plot articulates itself in totality — an ideal understanding of things. Since the center of dramatic action hinges on Christ’s confrontation with Satan, the dramatic action folds to that exact point, where Satan has “already been diminished as a force of opposition and the playwright had prepared for his demise. ” In the Chester Plays, specifically, the audience has already been told that “Christ hasse overcommen the devil” (Chester 224, line 176).

But what Barthes fails to negotiate or perhaps notice in ascribing a power to the full signification of the spectacle is the audience’s necessary involvement in the “perfect intelligibility of reality” when it is predicated not on the intelligible reception but on the nature of reality. When the stage is more than the wrestling mat, but the very ground of heaven and hell, the audience’s position becomes tantamount to eternal destruction or eternal bliss within this intelligible reality.

It is exactly at the point where the audience loses control in the appearance of control that the operations or mechanisms of the hegemonic orthodoxy become discernible. Just as the spectacle privileges the audience and not the production of the spectacle, so the play, at least the Cooke’s Play in the Chester cycle, suggests a privileged subjectivity for the members of the audience — a privileged subjectivity that will ultimately be rewritten in the master narrative of God’s (that is the church’s) history.

As David comments on the spectacle for the audience, he describes his own privileged position, which, in turn, escalates the osition of the audience to a heightened knowledge of self-delivery or self-redemption: I, kinge Davyd, nowe well may saye my prophecye fulfilled is, in faye, as nowe shewes in sight verey, and soothly ys seene. I taught men thus here in my lyefe-daye to worshippe God by all waye, that hell-yates he should afraye and wonn that his hath bynne. Chester 332-3, lines 185-192) David’s speech couples the fulfilling of his prophecy — that Christ would overcome Satan and the gates of hell — and his didactic function as Israel’s king. He has taught the act of worship, and, in the juxtaposition of prophetic fulfillment and Judaic history, Christ’s ctions become utterly dependent on the activity of the people.

Fulfillment is necessarily derived from the “worshippe” of “God by all waye. The apparent privileging of human activity in enabling the freeing of the spirits in hell’s prison is problematized, however, by the synchronizing of history — by the completion of the act of redemption in a single speech (or series of plays within the pageant) and by the position of the play’s audience in relationship to human activity. The Corpus Christi pageant posits a temporal space that constructs human history as a priori — in other words, human history xists only insofar as it can be narrativized in the playing of the historical scene.

For the audience, history is not a text, but is instead, to borrow form Spinoza, an absent cause that is only accessible in textual form. Or, as Fredric Jameson says in his contesting of the master narrative of history that people desire to possess, history “is inaccessible to us except in textual form, and that our approach to it and to the Real itself necessarily passes through its prior textualization, its narrativization in the political unconscious.

The entire history of humankind is consequently directed by an absent cause – or master narrative — that is only accessible for the Harrowing’s audience through the offices of the church proper. Human activity is subdued beneath the force of a performative narrative that gains its position from the sacramentalizing of its word. The word is not contestable; it derives its puissance from its history and from its already known and knowing completion as narrative. The history of the Corpus Christi pageant in general and the Harrowing of Hell in particular provide a ground for the authority of the text and performance.

Some scholars have debated, often with little ffect, the doctrinal and historical connection between the Feast of Corpus Christi and the cyclic drama that literary historians have attached to it. Indeed, Harden Craig zealously argues that the necessary historical connection between the two “is possibly an ineradicable heresy. ” Likewise, Glynn Wickham encourages us to “question how the plays ever became attached to a procession, a form of celebration so antipathetic to their performance.

Nonetheless, as Jerome Taylor has aptly noted, the feast did attract and “gather” the procession, and, historically, the plays as contained within the estival represent the cultural activity of re-historicizing the present in the master narrative of Catholic history. We may establish part of the Harrowing of Hell’s historical significance by relating the audience’s participation, which is an active-passivity similar to the effects of a lack of drama under Calvinist dogma, to the congregation’s delimited and litanized response to the office of readings for Holy Saturday: Quid istud rei est?

Hodie silentium magnum in terra; silentium magnum, et solitudo deinceps; silentium magnum, quoniam Rex dormit; terra timuit et quievit, quoniam Deus in carne obdormivit, et a s? ulo dormientes excitivat. Deus in carne mortuus est, et infernum concitavit. Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silent because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised all who has slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

The prevailing silence controls the responsiveness of the congregation. Sovereignty is determined only through the agency of Christ — a “real” privileged subjectivity whose sleeping or waking determines the rembling of the world. And just as the world trembles so does hell — the two becomes analogous spaces marking a simultaneous harrowing of hell and harrowing of here. The congregation’s response to the Matins reading confirms its position in the present only as it is textualized and narratized in the past performance of Christ: “This is the day when our Savior broke through the gates of death.

The audience of the feast of Corpus Christi, like the congregation of Holy Saturday, responds to the power of the dramatic harrowing by realizing a position of deprivation. The audience cannot act; it can only be acted upon. The audience’s passivity is further underscored by both the textual and visual representations of the Harrowing of Hell preceding the dramatic performances during the Corpus Christi pageant. The narrativizing of the visual in the iconography (see the Holkham Bible Picture Book, for example) again represents the completion of activity before the activity begins.

As in much of medieval iconography, temporal spaces are collapsed, endings and beginnings are conflated in single representative moments, and the spatiality of the image subjugates the implicit narrative of events. Rosemary Woolf’s escription of the Limbo of Fathers demonstrates the conflation of crucifixion, harrowing, and resurrection in a single spatial moment: “the Limbo of Fathers is depicted as a small, battlemented building: its doors with their heavy locks, have already crashed to the ground at the touch of Christ’s Resurrection Cross” (emphasis mine).

Complementing the iconographic representations of the Harrowing, the Gospel of Nicodemus, in its full mystical and miraculous detail, was the popular and textual source for the Harrowing’s dramatists. Yet, as Rosemary Woolf and other contextual critics have noted, the plays hardly convey he dramatic force or poetic possibility of the Gospel. Instead, the plays textualize the apocryphal source into the orthodox doctrine, creating a spectacle of excess without the empowering visual interpretation by the audience.

To some degree, the iconographic and apocryphal referents of the Harrowing of Hell provide the base level for interpretive possibilities: the historical and textual referent. However, as I would hope to demonstrate, interpretive possibilities are obliterated in the dominating desire of the play — and the church — to control the social structure and to entrench the values — and therefore “laws” — f the church apparatus. Oscillating within the literal referential articulations of the play, the allegorical, moral, and anagogical levels or senses operate.

The allegorical mode is directed through the implicit parallel between Christ’s history — his redemption of the souls — and the church’s history — the break near the end of the play (Chester 337 and Towneley 305) when the audience/congregation chants the “Te Deum laudamus. ” The moral level is the individual, where the subject in the audience is able to participate in self-interpolation, placing the individual of today in the history of both the past and the uture simultaneously.

The individual’s redemption, however, remains collective, addressed to Adam’s “osspringe”: Peace to thee, Adam, my dearlynge, and eke to all thy osspringe that ryghtwise were in yearth livinge. From mee yee shall not severe. To blys nowe I wyl you bringe there you shalbe withowt endinge. (Chester 334, 205-210) Isias. Adam, thrugh thi syn here were we put to dwell, This wykyd place within; The name of it is hell; here paynes shall neuer blyn. That wykyd ar and fell loue that lord with wyn, his lyfe for vs wold sell Et cantent omnes “salutor mundi,” primum versum. Towneley 294, 37-44)

Identification with Adam’s sinfulness prefigures a (re)collection in Jesus’s redeeming effort to break the gates of hell. Nonetheless, the activity is utterly collective; morality cannot be apprehended on an individual level, excluding individual interpretation from the audience’s role. The exclusion of the individual places the interpretive dilemma at the anagogical level, confronting the collective “meaning” of history and giving authority to the spectacle of the performance itself.

Earlier in this paper I identified the performance with sport — a type of game in which the arbitrariness of the result is predetermined y the apparatus of its production. What the Corpus Christi pageant in general and the Harrowing of Hell play in particular present is a dialectical foundation of empowerment and control. The spectacle posits a knowing of “truth,” creating an audience empowered by its own capacity to know what is and to therefore possess that knowledge.

The real, as it is signified in the clarity of its repetition and form, is entrusted to an audience of arbiters, who decide a personal validity for the means of its articulation (to extend Barthes’s reading of wrestling, the audience may judge the performance and the value of the performance even f it does not judge the necessary relationship between the body of the wrestler and the outcome of the event). The play, however, within its limited origination as church extension, reaffirms the authority of the church by limiting the authority of the individual.

The collective is privileged over and against the individual — so that, indeed, an individual consciousness exists in the play only as rebellion (e. g. Judas and Cain are left to dwell in hell with Satan exactly because they positioned themselves as individuals, against the dominant domain of Adam’s sinfulness). The dialectic between the play as spectacle — and therefore a eans of enlightenment — and value-producing mechanism of the “collective” church which institutes the myth as valid poses the problem of seeing both operations, that is both functional modes, within the play as identical.

Adorno and Horkheimer’s potent and persuasive definition of myth and enlightenment shows how each mode of cultural operation serves to exercise power through what Lukacs calls reification: Myth turns into enlightenment, and nature into mere objectivity. Men pay for the increase of their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power. Enlightenment behaves oward things as a dictator toward men. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them.

For Adorno and Horkheimer, myth and enlightenment, magic and science, mechanization and spirit, all serve as polar oppositions in a dialectically organized agenda of manipulation and control. Likewise, the pageant and the play orchestrate a subsumption of the individual’s power — especially the interpretive power of the masses — into the collectivized agency of the church. The result of transforming the individual consciousnesses present in the audience and the congregation into a homologized and omogenized extension of orthodox values is coded in the presentation of its form.

All history as it is posited within the play has already been written; the only question — and here I mean the undervalued question of a member in the audience — is what position is marked — not necessarily predestined or predetermined, although the means of making this a self-determination have been completely removed from the mass culture of medieval Catholic orthodoxy — for the individual. Will the audience member be a member classified as goat or sheep (a question addressed in a parable played briefly before the Harrowing?

Is hell harrowed for him/her? Moreover, the result of the question interrogates mass culture itself, for the operations of the church-state apparatus are not distinctly separate in effect from the culture industry and the mechanization of the factory that Adorno and Horkheimer evaluate: Culture as a common denominator already contains in embryo the schematization and process of cataloging and classification which bring culture within the sphere of administration.

And which entirely accords with this notion of culture. By subordinating in the same way and to the same end all areas of intellectual creation, by ccupying men’s senses from the time they leave the factory in the evening to the time they clock in again the next morning with matter that bears the impress of the labor process they themselves have to sustain throughout the day, this subsumption mockingly satisfies the concept of a unified culture which the philosophers of personality contrasted with mass culture.

Indeed, what could be more subsumptive than a mythos of redemption and salvation, constructed through a series of social and socially required events, that ultimately demand a vilification of self-value and a celebration of the church establishment. In both the Towneley play and the Chester play, the chorus of prophets, all participating in the monolithic community of hell-to-be-redeemed, offer a collective subsumption of the individual. The greatest desire of the audience must be to share in voice with the prophets who speak of both praise and thankfulness.

The consumptive and subsumptive chorus in the Towneley play moves from Moses to David to Isaiah in progressively shorter lines to silence the audience, rather ironically, by invoking their collective chorus in litany: Dauid. As I saide ere yit say I so, “ne derelinquas, domine, Animum meam in inferno;” “Leyfe neuer my saull, lord, after the, In depe hell wheder dampned shall go; suffre thou neuer thi sayntys to se The sorow of thaym that won in wo, ay full of fylth and may not fle. ” Moyses. Make myrth both more and les, amd loue oure lord we may, That has broght vs fro bytternes In blys to abyde for ay.

Ysaias. Therfor now let vs sing to loue our lord ihesus. (Towneley 305, 389-402) Affirmation through association becomes the fulfillment of the audience’s constructed desire. The members of the audience join ranks with the great prophets who have all been associated with their own istories during the action of the Harrowing. The audience must join, for it does not have access to the already written history; by being displaced from the narratizing of redemption, it can only associate with the characters who already participate in the code.

By this code I intend to suggest the positioning of the already achieved narrative action which cannot be possessed as spectacle, but, instead, must be apprehended as the mechanism of the church-state apparatus to maintain power. The state apparatus is “defined by the perpetuation or conservation of organs of power. ” The state apparatus, o borrow an analogy from Deleuze and Guattari, is a contained system with components and limits similar to the game of chess. The game is played with a definite code, the pieces are determined to be what they are by what they are. A knight is always a knight simply because he is.

A king will always be protected. In the same way, as a character to be “played” again and again, in every year of the pageant and in every other formulation of church doctrine, Jesus is always Jesus; he must always win against Satan who is always Satan. God, in his redemptive activity must be consistent (we still have this code and its response in ontemporary culture, as is typical in the Baptist belt where the phrase “that’s not my God, my God is … ” indicates an utter lack of interpretive understanding as it is constrained by the operations of a fundamentalist approach to a univocal God in a univocal way).

The consistency of the players, whether on a chess board or a medieval horse-drawn carriage platform, necessitates the homogenization of the players’ audience — the church’s congregation. Deleuze argues that the state’s ability to reproduce itself exactly is determined through its own public presentation — i. e. the fact that the state is and must be ublic: “The State-form . . . has a tendency to reproduce itself, remaining identical to itself across its variations and easily recognizable within the limits of its poles, always seeking public recognition (there is no masked state).

The Corpus Christi plays offer then an extension of the church-state apparatus to construct, even as the mass does, a congregation utterly unified in its interpretive understanding and consolidated in its desire for redemption and its means of happening. The collective meaning of history — the anagogical level of interpretive meaning — is discernible only through the allegorical — hich is to say that church history accurately reflects redemptive history to the point of requiring participation in one to assure inclusion in the other.

These claims concerning the plays and its most dramatic representative of redemptive force, the Harrowing of Hell, attempt to discern the mechanism of producing the power of the church-state apparatus — how indeed, the superstructure gains support from its base — and how, in fact, the pageant is the most accessible form for disseminating the conservation of this power. The plays demonstrate as a combination of social artistry and ultural design an historical moment of political conservation and dominant authorizing.

It seems we are not merely to claim, as Hardin Craig does, that the plays are “a theological intelligence motivated by structural imagination that lasted from age to age in the development of a great cycle of mystery plays. ” Instead, we should interrogate the multiple dimensions of artistry and artificiality of the play; our task is to ask how these plays operate as a performative moment coming directly from the dominant arms of orthodoxy while still being influenced by the severely limited mass culture.

We may find, then, at the center of the controlling mechanisms of the church-state apparatus, the necessitated desire for community that even Satan validates and proclaims: Nay, I pray the do not so; Vmthynke the better in thy mynde; Or els let me with the go, I pray the leyffe me not behynde! The desire, of course, extends past Satan’s plea, for the homogenized desire of the congregation ultimately — which is in history written and yet to be — is directed toward a different answer from Jesus: one that affirms salvation and again confirms the church’s orthodox pageantry of performance.

Jainism – one of the oldest practicing religions

Jainism is one of the oldest practicing religions, although, today Jainism appears in its present day form in the areas of Northeastern India, just as it did thousands of years ago. It’s a religion composed in arrangement so that it’s characteristic are associated with the religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. In the beginning, however, the Jains prayed to the Hindu gods mainly for earthly support like a male heir, long life, and prosperity.

Jainism can be trace its beginnings to the Indus river valley civilization of three thousands B. C. Due to the reaction and demands of the Indian religion by the Hindu Brahmans and its Brahman priesthood, there arose two independent religions with who rejected the materialistic goals and bloody sacrifices of the Vedic of later Hinduism rituals. These two religions are still practiced today, one being Buddhism and the other Jainism. However, Jains survived the ups and downs of Buddhism and attacks from Islam and Hinduism. In the twelfth century, the fortunes of the Jains rose and fell due to the Muslins conquest of India. This led to the persecutions of all religions other than Islam.

Jainism has some similarities associated with two other religions called Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism is similar to Jainism because the religions do not acknowledge that there is existences of God on the contrary do believe in gods who are much higher than the human beings. The gods by the Jainism terms are called Jinas or Kevalins. Buddhism gods are called Bodhisattvas. Buddhism takes care of the interests of the world and Jainism does not. Jainism recognize the presence of everything in the universe, even down to little micro organism in matter and the Buddhism do accept all things but not for everything in this world.

Both accept Karma and the effects of the individual. Buddhism disappeared from the India territory but Jainism and Hinduism still remains. Today, reform movements and the formation of new sectors have begun. Jainism has continued along with the economic power of its teachings has led the way. Jains are forbidden from having an occupation that causes the devastation of life. Example would be, hunting and fishing, eating meat, eggs, also to use any animal products including leather. However, they are bankers, scholars, traders, arts, farming, crafting, commerce, and other acceptable occupations are government work.

At night they do not drink after sundown for fear of unknowly swallowing a gant. They are allowed no food or drink after sundown. This may cause some wonder since it is looked down to not limit one’s possessions, although they live in the world but not of the worldly things. Jainism earliest descriptions were thought of being a self centered search for personal salvation without having a personal God. Jains do not believe in one creator or God. Heinrich Zimmer, an expert on Indian Philosophy, states, “Jainism is Tran theistic- it does not deny existence of God but that it goes beyond them.

Others see it’s as a search for personal growth and a sense of higher personal ethics. Jainism is founded on the goal of overcoming the temporary cycle of earthly life in addition to be released from an endless cycle of existence. Human destiny was the center of Jain teaching. They were to rely on themselves to seek that which will save them from the domination of matter, this being moral elevation. Above all, Jainism is a religion of love and compassion, with an eternal universe. They have made significant contributions in logic, art, and architecture, grammar, mathematics, literature, philosophy, astronomy, and astrology.

Jainism was distinguished for their extreme practices, even to the severity of death by self starvation. They focus on asceticism or the mortification of the flesh and individuals, striving toward moral perfection by means of nonviolence. They especially avoid harming any living creature since every manifestation of nature has a soul. Jains have been known to cover their face with a mask to guard against breathing in and destroying insect life or sweep the path before them as to avoid stepping on any life form.

Jainism is thought to be based on the teachings of Vardhamana, who is known as Mahavira (Great Hero) and Jain (Victor). Mahavira was born near Panta during c. 599 BC. His father was a king. His disciples are called Jains or Janas which means “followers or children of Victor. ” People shorten the word “Jainism” to “Jain” and that what they call themselves. Jain means conqueror. Jains claim Mahvira was the founder of Jainism but was said that it had been traced back to the Tirthankaras in prehistoric times where there were twenty-four Tirthankaras.

Tirthankaras means makers of the river crossing or finders of the ford. Those who went beyond the gods found a way to save humanity. They are revered as models of spiritual victory that found their way across the river of life and won release from the external cycle of Karma. The law of Karma determines as human destiny. They remain faithful to an archaic form of realism based on a common sense acceptance of the surrounding world. It was given the name by the twenty-four teachers, which are called Tirthankaras. Rsabha was the first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras.

Mallinatha was the ninety Tirthankaras that was said to have been a woman. Today’s scholars believe the biographies of the first twenty-two are mythological. Parsvas and Majhavira were the only two thought to be historical figures. The most famous of them all was Varahanaba Mahavira. He was born in north-east India, where the present day Punta is located. There are two stories on how he began to discover the nature of the universe. Some would say that he was a lifelong bachelor, but he did married. He left his wife, Yashoda, and daughter, Anaja, to search for the core universe.

Other would say that at the age of thirty, he gave up his life and become a mendicant. For about twelve or more years, he committed himself to renunciation and separation from all material things around the world. Nudity for monks is a sign of devotion, renunciation of all worldly possessions. Eventually, he reached a point of complete understanding and absolute separation from the worldly wishes; he found what he was looking for and started teaching others. Mahavira added a fifth vow of poverty to the original four vows. It was at this time, his jealous brother, tried to have him killed.

He was unsuccessful. Fir seventy years he wondered India gathering disciples and teaching them the four vows: not to take life, not to lie, not to steal, and not to own property. During the time he was alive, he led nearly thousands and thousands of people into the Jainism religion. He was said to have reached Karma and achieved liberation on Mount Sammeda in Bengal, known today as the hill of Parsvanatha. He died at the age of seventy-two. After he died, he left eleven chief followers in charge.

Also after his death, his teachings were preserved in oral form but were not written down until about 300 B. C. This religion spread after his death to north-eastern and north-western population cities. It was helped spread by princes also of that time. During this time, the monks began to argue, causing a split. This religion split into two different communities or churches. They are the Digambaras and the Savetambara. The split between the two became final and exists to the present day. Both sectors have their own scared books and commentaries. The Digambara took vows of nudity. They are also known as the naked religion. The people of this religion rejected clothing, even in public.

The Digambaras were anti-feminist and rejected theories that the ninth Tirthankaras had been a woman. Women were condemned as the world’s greatest temptation and the cause of all sinful acts. Women could not practice unity. The only way for them to obtain release was to be born again as a man. However, a man could also be reborn as a woman. Digambaras insist that the true monk must be naked. They predominate in the north and west areas of India. The Svetambara practiced predominated in the south. They are known as the white-clad. They believe in wearing white that you can be pure without taking off your clothes.

After the two churches were split, it split into branches called Sakhas. Then it broke down even further into families or schools called Kulas. Sometimes in the fifth century, the Jain culture began to fall. By the twelfth century, Jainism disappeared in a city called Karnataka. Even though the Jain community did not disappear completely, the religion did not become as popular as before. Jain is still active in India and as well as Canada. The main areas of contentment between the Svetambaras and the Dogambaras were related to the clothing aspect.

The ancient text had been hesitant as to whether the monks are naked in token of their total renunciation of worldliness or wear white robes. The Jains have a fertility goddess in the Indian religious sector the stylized the attitude and expression of the figure representing a goddess who is not divine child, but the mother of all living things, a universe forced both human and not human. The Indian sub-continent has a vast number of scared sites which Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and other visit as often as circumstances permit.

The monastic community is managed by a Cayuga who decides disciplinary and doctrinal matters. A monastic spends their days and nights divided by requesting Alma eating, teaching, reading, studying, meditation, confessing faults, and mortifying the body. They are easily noticed for their shaved head. They are encouraged to take twelve vows after professing their faith to their religion of Tirthankaras. They must renounce all other religions and faiths except the reality of Karma and not to associate with hypocrites.

Prayer in Public Schools: Should It Be Constitutional

The courts have ruled against prayer in school. Many agree with decision; yet many disagree including myself. Prayer should be allowed in public school because it is already practiced, it prevents immoral acts, and it enhances the learning environment. The issue of prayer in school has been debated in the U. S. since the North West Treaty (1787and 1789) which states: “ Religion, morality, and the knowledge being necessary for good government and the happiness of man kind, schools and the means of learning shall forever be engorged.

Thus, religion, which includes prayer, was deemed to be necessary. Many people believe that prayer is not allowed in the public schools. In fact prayer is allowed in the school system on buses, at the flagpole, in student religious groups, and in the cafeteria. However, prayer is not permitted in the classroom itself when class is in session. Prayer in class would violate the principles of church- state separation, which is defined by court interpretations of the First Amendment.

This requires that public school teachers, principals, and boards to be religiously neutral. The reason for this is to prevent any arguments among students and teachers about their specific religion. Public schools had prayer for nearly two hundred years before the supreme court ruled that state- mandated class prayers were unconstitutional (Engle, 1962) The fact that prayer was practiced for nearly two-hundred years established it by precedent as a beneficial practice in our schools. Since the court outlawed prayer, the nation has been in steady moral decline.

Former secretary of education William Bennett revealed in his cultured indexes that between 1960 and1990 there was a steady moral decline. During this period divorce doubled, teenage pregnancy went up 200%, teen suicide increased 300%, child abuse reached an all time high, violent crime went up 500% and abortion increased 1000% . Morals must be taught and they can not be taught properly without religion, because most of the strong moral beliefs stem from religion such as the Ten Commandments.

There is a strong correlation between the expulsion of prayer from our schools and the decline in morality. The third argument is prayer enhances the learning environment at public schools. Prayer enhances the learning environment because when there is a test coming up or a paper due, you think to yourself, “ How am I going to do all of this, and do well? ” I know from personal experiences, that having a number of assignments due at the same time can be frustrating.

When this happens, I always turn to God, and he guides and gives me strength and understanding. The outcome from doing praying is always good and the things that I asked for in my prayer are always bestowed upon me. Prayer may not enhance everyone’s learning environment but I know before I start my day, I ask God to let me have a good day and let everything that I do, be a true learning experience for me. The experience may not always be good, but if it happens, it happens for a reason.

Finally, I will end with a quote from “ An Outrageous Idea: Natural Prayer” written by Patty Jo Cornish. “ We have forgotten that we are all in this together and we keep separating ourselves by ourselves by colors, by football teams, by clothes, by money, by creed, by greed, by boundaries, by age, and so on and on. We need something to pull us all together, natural prayer could be that miracle. It includes everyone even the non-believers. ”

Sociology And Religion

This paper is from a catholic feminist’s perceptive that the church, as an institution, is structured as a pyramid modeled on the patriarchal family with the custom of father-right. The patriarchal decision-maker has the power to shape, form and control the “poor of the world” (McCormick, pg. 240) mirroring the aspect of the conflict theory. The poor of the world are the people who work for the institution of the Church controlled by the patriarchal power elite. These established masses of people feel no control, which cause anxiety and they continue to perform their means of production as a formed unit.

The power elite’s fear of being overthrown by the poor of the world is fueled with sheer determination and consistency to stay on top. In the article “Sociology and Sexuality” women and women’s sexuality is stated to be oppressed with the poor of the people and is examined through human rights, religious desacralization, religious sacralization, women’s human rights and social conditioning. The concern for human rights is for the two-thirds of the people who live below the level of endurance but have the knowledge of the lack of social relations in the world of distributing goods.

The poor is aware of their civil rights to take part in decisions that will affect their lives such as developing resources of places where they would live instead of having those resources used in the interest of the powerful nations of the world and multinational corporations. The right to life of these people is systematically denied in social systems. Liberation Theology is a direct approach in being freed from this structure. This is where people mediate on the Gospel in company with the poor and by the mandate of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World to help and work with the poor for their own liberation.

This movement aroused the re-ordering of priorities for the structure of the church, which was visible in the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the church to where the people of the church are first priority rather than the hierarchy structure in serving needs. With this structural change, people are beginning to see the need to change and recognized the development of human beings and not on the rule of elite’s in the model of fathers over children. Self-representation is part of the process of the development of people.

Pope Paul in the Development of Peoples and again in The Eightieth Year Letter on the anniversary of Rerum Novarum called Christians to initiate action on this transformed structure that eliminated the injustices of exploiting the two-thirds of the world. In turn, religion started to desacralize as the patriarchal family modeled for business firms, industry, government, educational systems and other organization because the un-represented people were learning that the people who make decisions for others make them against nonmembers.

Religion and science affirmed the sacredness of hierarchy and theocracy but today the amount of exploitation by elite in government and industries question these affirmations and instead of father-right it is human right with the inferior groups claiming what is theirs. Human rights create equal opportunity available for all races. The more inferior groups realize and recognize the presuppositions of superiority through social conditioning then the more they can do to demand changes for their civil rights.

The human rights cause in the rise of desacralization of religion relies also on women’s roles and significance in religious sacralization, which was developed out of fear of human extinction while serving the elite. Women were encouraged to bear children for existence and the church reinforced sexuality as the common ethic of Western society. Now, since there is an immense population base with advances in science proving to propagate the race through methods such as cloning, there is no longer the fear of human population dying out and women are no longer encouraged to bear children as a struggle for existence.

Planned population takes away the need of fertilization through women and once women are recognized for not having to satisfy these urges then they will be recognized as people fully capable of feelings such as sexual and the roles of men and women can share a common life-style. Although women’s knowledge of her own self-being is recognized, the male represents a dominant consciousness of his role which prevails and cant be retracted and women’s human right to professional training needs to be provided in more schools.

Women have taken on enormous tasks to create equality with the male such as choosing ministry as their life’s vocation, but they are challenged by the image that remains clear of the patriarchal family. It is said that we as humans accept social conditioning, which is a natural function necessary at one time, but no longer necessary for survival. Conditioning usually serves the interest of a group that has power to preserve what is to its advantage to retain. Studies show males are more susceptible than females to cultural conditionings, especially in areas of sexuality.

Questions of sexuality are concentrated on issues like birth control, abortion, divorce, premarital sex and the possibility of married clergy but men are not aware of the general problem of the male-dominated theological language, liturgy, and religious education denying women a place to celebrate life in the church. The theological language has its roots through patriarchal family terms because of generic masculinity. For example, the word Father referring to “your Father who is in Heaven” (247) allows paternal exploitation to grow.

Through women’s research of human life they discover their common oppression with the poor. Although the poor of the people and women are trying to construct a structural change of the church from the pyramidal patriarchal family to a new circular symbol of unity, they have enormous implications of conditioning that makes it hard to break the pattern of this strongly grounded pyramid. Men still write about and research priesthood without considering the issue the ordination of women. The development of human beings and not on the rule of elite’s in the model of fathers over children needs to be further recognized.

Christianity Report Essay

Christianity was traditionally understood to be founded by Jesus of Nazareth. Paul of Tarsus, after his conversion on the road to Damascus, worked tirelessly to establish Christianity among both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles of the Diaspora. Clues in the New Testament indicate that there was a significant rift between Paul and the Jewish leadership early in the history of the Church. It is primarily Paul’s writings which has most influenced the Church today.

Christians span the globe and are present on all the inhabited continents and in most of the world’s societies. As Christianity is a universalizing religion, it embraces all nations and peoples. Major Teachings: Most Christian denominations and sects teach that man is sinful and can never inherit eternal life in the presence of God as a result of the sins of our first parents, Adam and Eve,as well as our own personal sin.

It thus became necessary for God to become man in the person of Jesus Christ who as the Son of God was sinless and unblemished. His purpose was to suffer and die in atonement for the sins of all who accept his sacrifice for sin. Individual salvation is dependent upon the acceptance of this atonement. The Church is the Bride of Christ whose purpose is to spread this message, “the Gospel”, to all people before Christ’s return to the earth to rule all nations as the heir to the throne of David.

This is primary message of most Christians. Other sects will have variations on this message, and may include many other doctrines they find necessary to their own message or purpose. Scriptures and Other Significant Writings: The New Testament together with the Jewish Bible make up the canon of Christianity. The Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity also include books in their canons that many Protestants do not, called “the Apocrypha” or the “Deuterocanonicals”.

Also important are the writings of the early church fathers and early church councils, which established much of the doctrine now considered dogma in the Church today. As of 1986, at least one book of the Christian Bible has been translated into 1,848 languages of the world. A book has been compiled by the United Bible Societies which lists languages alphabetically, chronologically, and geographically Of the present missionary efforts by many of Christianity’s sects, biblical translation is just one of many.

Symbols: The most well known symbol of Christianity is the cross, or crucifix, symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. An ancient symbol of Christianity is the fish formed by two intersecting arcs. Often the Greek word for fish, IXTHYS, appears within being an acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son”. Major Divisions: The three major branches of Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. There are, arguably, other sects such as Mormonism claiming this distinction due to major departures from orthodox doctrines.

Major Holy Days: Although the differing divisions and sects of Christianity may celebrate differing holidays, place emphasis on certain holidays rather than others, or may use a differing calendar, the major holy days of Christianity are: Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas The Details about Christianity: Christianity arose as an obscure Jewish sect, and through the dedicated missionary efforts of such persons as the Apostle Paul was distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin.

Church tradition suggests that each of the remaining Apostles of Jesus taught in such diverse places as the British Isles and India. After years of official persecution by the Roman Empire, Christianity was embraced as the state religion by Emperor Constantine. Several important church councils were held during this time period to decide on controversies over doctrine. Eventually, the decisions of these councils provided guidelines to determine orthodoxy or heresy. The many divisions and sects now found in Christianity today has been the result of opinions which differed from the established doctrine.

The Geography of Christianity: Christianity has greatly influenced the geography of medieval Europe, and later, the rest of the world due to colonization and missionary efforts. Perhaps the most significant contribution of Christianity was the reorganization of Europe from pagan bands and villages into the centrally organized holds of feudal Europe. This reorganization was patterned after the ecclesiastical hierarchy envisioned by the Church and set the stage for all that was to come in the future. Monasteries were set up throughout Europe as either destinations or as waystations for pilgrimages.

Monasteries became the repositories of civilization, learning, and often wealth. The Church provided sanction and divine recognition for governments of the day in the form of “Divine Right”. The Church was responsible for the ordination of kings and often arbitrated disputes over territory. Until the Reformation, the Church was a power to be reckoned with in both religious and secular matters. Also important in the geography of Christianity is the special distribution of the various denominations, each denomination’s geographic divisions, and what effects each denomination has upon the land.

For example, many new Protestant sects such as the Shakers experimented with new communal living arrangements in a quest for utopia during the first part of the nineteenth century. Although most of these efforts eventually failed, they created intentionally designed settlements of farms and workshops expressing new cultural and societal ideals. Roman Catholicism and Mormonism express their ecclesiastical geography through dividing the world into a hierarchy of areas. Catholics and many Protestant groups have missionary territories throughout the world.

ISLAM Early History of Islam: Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Mohammed the Prophet in Median. It is seen as the youngest of the world’s great religions. However, many if not most of the followers of Islam believe that: 1 Islam existed before Mohammed was born, 2 The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, 3 Mohammed was the last of a series of Prophets. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. “Muslim” is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the Will of God.

Allah” is an Arabic word which means “the One True God. ” An alternate spelling for “Muslim” that is occasionally used is “Moslem”; it is not recommended because it is often pronounced “Moslem”: which sounds like an Arabic word for “oppressor”. Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as “Mohammedism”; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Mohammed the Prophet was in some way divine. Little is known about Muhammad’s childhood.

He was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by his uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria by his uncle at the age of 9. Later, as a youth, he was employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. Mohammed later managed caravans on behalf of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and was able to observe and learn about Judaism, Christianity and the indigenous Pagan religions. After marriage, he was able to spend more time in meditation.

At the age of 40, he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriella. He developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and materialism. He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north to Medina due to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the hegira . Here he was disappointed by the rejection of his message by the Jews.

Through military activity and political negotiation, Mohammed became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established in the area. By 750 CE, Islam had expanded to China, India, along the Southern shore of the Mediterranean and into Spain. By 1550 they had reached Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling Muslims from Spain and Europe. Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they did not an develop extensive sea trade. As a result, the old world occupation of North America was left to Christians.

Believers are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity. Many do not look upon Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. Mohammed’srole as the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and to purify it by removing foreign ideas that had been added in error. At a level of 1. 2 billion, they represent about 22% of the world’s population.

They are the second largest religion in the world; Christianity has 33%. Islam is growing about 2. 9% per year which is faster than the total world population which increases about 2. 3% annually. It is thus attracting a progressively larger percentage of the world’s population. The number of Muslims in North America is in dispute: estimates range from under 3 million to over 6 million. The main cause of the disagreement appears to be over how many Muslim immigrants have converted to Christianity since they arrived in the US.

Jewish Christian Relations

While we speak about the tenuous relationship between Christians and Jews dating back to the time of Christ, the seeds for the schism within Judaism may have been planted more than 500 years prior. Jeremiah was one of a group of distinguished prophets whose works became part of the Old Testament canon. The Jewish “wisdom” prophets lectured, warned and blamed all who would listen about the sins of their own people, the resulting punishments that God had prescribed for them, and what they had to do to get back into God’s good graces.

Some prophets targeted Jewish monarchs as an idolatrous distraction which prevented the people from properly hearing the Word of God. Other prophets still maintained that Jews should continue to believe that God would not abandon his chosen people. Regardless of the specific message, it was clear that the overall prophetic approach to God’s covenant with the Jewish people was changing. “A good century after the return from Exile… the doctrine of retribution, of God’s righteousness, which rewards and punishes… d been shattered,” said Catholic theologian Hans Kung in his book Judaism: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (Kung 113).

In the passage quoted from Jeremiah above, the prophet is predicting that a new covenant would be formed between God and his people, an agreement that would supersede the pact made between Moses and God upon Sinai and at the Red Sea. The first covenant, Jeremiah indicated, would become null and void because of the sins of the Jewish people. The new covenant would absolve these sins and reaffirm God’s fidelity to his people.

This famous prophecy provides the foundation and the core of the central theological teaching of the New Testament,” said The Collegeville Bible Commentary on the Old Testament. “It underlies, but without explicit references, much of the ‘new life’ theology of St. John and is central to the teaching of Jesus in John’s Last Supper discourse. ” (Collegeville 469). While Jeremiah is interpreted from many perspectives, some early Christian apologists proof-texted his words as an indication that the Jews had been cast aside by God because they had not remained faithful to Him and his Mosaic covenant.

Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesies, so some claimed, and the Jews would remain shunned and doomed to wander through the desert until they repented by accepting the personification of God’s saving grace. “The Old Israel along with its Old Testament… had been succeeded, fulfilled, completed, replaced, and/or displaced by the New Israel, the New Testament, the Christian Church, the new people of God,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin about the Christian attitude during the formative years of the Church (Fisher, Rudin, Tannebaum 9).

Sensitivity relating to the perceived expiration of the first Mosaic covenant has brought forth a minor controversy in recent decades about the political correctness of referring to the Old Testament as being “old. ” Some Catholic Scripture professors express a preference for “Hebrew Scriptures,” while others apologetically retain the old reference to prevent confusion. (Pazcuzzi 2/97). The issue of Judaism having been superceded by Christianity will be addressed at various points in this paper.

In addition to the writings of Jeremiah, other Old Testament works written in the centuries prior to the birth Christ pointed to the coming of a messiah to save the Jewish people from their continuing history of enslavement, persecution, and dislocation. Some Jews waited for a David-like king to rescue them. Others felt that Jesus Christ–who had suffered for the sins of his people, the one who had endured and conquered death–was the true messiah.

Whether the messiah had come or the messiah was still yet to come was the key issue between the Jews who remained Jews during the first and succeeding centuries versus those who founded the sect which worshipped Christ and became known as “Christians. ” While the theological implications of resurrection also became a significant issue between the two branches of Judaism, historical documents suggest that Jews and Christian Jews were still worshipping together around the middle of the first century, and were discussing and acknowledging their differences.

Reverend Robert S. Smith suggests that, at that stage, the differences between Jews and Christian were seemingly more like “a family fight,” not necessarily showing signs of the formation of a new religion (Smith 10/18/97). Toward the end of the first century, however, relations between the two sects began to seriously deteriorate. As Christian zealots, apologists, Church Fathers, and first and second century scribes made their case for Christianity amidst Greek and Roman persecution, they directed vehement attacks at the Jews, from whom Christian Jews had more or less officially broken off from following the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 80 AD.

At that time, Jewish leaders who remained faithful to Mosaic Law, began excommunicating Christian Jews, ending decades of relatively peaceful coexistence and shared worship. What seemed to exacerbate the rift between the Jews of the first century and Christians to a point of no return was the accusation of “diecide,” that by conspiring with the Romans to crucify Jesus, the Jews who did not embrace the prophesied Messiah had actually killed God on earth.

“To murder God: the very phrase is chilling! aid Rabbi Rudin in his analysis of Jewish-Christian relations “The charge was hurled at an entire people, and not solely at the Jewish people who were alive at the time of Jesus” (Fisher, Rudin, Tannebaum 10). To seemingly gain favor with the Roman hierarchy, early Christian writings emphasized Jewish involvement in the death of Christ and minimized the Roman role. This is especially evident in the Gospel of John.

“The Gospel of John contains some of the most hostile anti-Jewish statements in the Christian scriptures,” said R. Alan Culpepper, Scripture Professor at the Southern Baptist Seminary in his essay “The Gospel of John as a Threat to Jewish-Christian Relations. ” “So sharp is the contrast in that gospel between Jesus’ exhortations to his followers to love one another and the hostile references to the Jews that Kaufmann Kohler commented that John is ‘a gospel of Christian love and Jew hatred. ‘” (Charlesworth page 21).

Anti-Jewish sentiment could not only be found in the Gospels but also in the writings of St. Paul, himself a converted Jew, and someone who once lovingly analogized the relations between Judaism and gentile Christianity as a grafted olive branch. “In proclaiming his Christian message Paul stressed that the Jewish nation had been rejected by God, and the new Covenant had superseded the old,” said David Cohn-Sherbok, in his book The Crucified Jew. “In these ways the New Testament laid the foundations for later Christian hostility to the Jewish nation… and served as the basis for the early Church’s vilification of the Jews” (Cohn-Sherbok xv).

In his book Jesus Through the Centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan also raises the issue of Catholic theological focus fueling the flames of Christian hatred of the Jews. “Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms, would there have been an Auschwitz, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion on icons of Mary not only as Mother of God but as the Jewish maiden? ” asked Pelikan. “And Jesus as Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph in the context of the history of a suffering Israel and a suffering humanity? ” (qtd. in Charlesworth page 51).

According to Cohn-Sherbok, a theology professor at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, anti-Jewish hostility which, he claimed, had evolved from the Adversos Judeos of the Church Fathers, continued into medieval times. On their way to the Crusades to free the Holy Land from Moslem control, Christian crusaders routinely massacred Jewish communities as part of their religious zeal. The persecution of Jews has been so pervading and so rampant down through the centuries that one might be tempted to overlook some attempts at humane treatment. Bernard of Clairvaux served as the spiritual leader of the Second Christian Crusade in 1144.

He was greatly distressed by the slaughter of five thousand European Jews during the First Crusade in 1096 and he spoke out to prevent a repeat performance. Pope Calixtus II in 1120 issued the Papal Bull Sicut Judaeis. That document forbade the mistreatment of Jews, and that same document was invoked by others Popes in later reigns. Despite the efforts of Bernard and Calixtus, hundreds more Jews were slaughtered during the Second Crusade (NCR 12/12/97 24) Stories circulated among Christians at various points in history about Jewish rituals that required the blood of Christian children.

On into the Middle Ages, Jews were not just reviled for their non-Christian religious beliefs but were condemned as being satanic, blasphemers, and as a “sub-species of the human race. ” (Cohn-Sherbok page xvi. ) Major Jewish exterminations followed a medieval fable, which blamed the Jews for the poisoning drinking water and causing plagues. Post-medieval literature depicted Jewish caricatures and stereotypes such as Shakespeare’s image of Shylock in the “Merchant of Venice. ” Martin Luther spoke as harshly about Jews as he did about the Catholic Church when he initiated the Protestant Reformation. 92 was not just the year that the Spanish monarchy bankrolled Columbus’ expedition to the New World.

In that same year, the Catholic Spanish rulers brought anti-Jewish contempt to a logical conclusion with its Inquisition, the expulsion of Jews from their nation and the torture of those who claimed to have been converted. From the Middle Ages on down through modern times, Jews were persecuted throughout Europe, as social and economic steps were taken to counter what were seen as demonic traits coupled with purported genetic predisposition to greed, gluttony, and manipulation of the monetary system.

In many European nations, Jews were forced to live in isolated ghettos, were prevented from owning land, were limited in their vocations, and were forced to wear identifiable clothing. “The centuries of Judaism after the Crusades are full of enforced religious dialogues, compulsory baptisms, burnings of the Talmud… of condemnations, expulsions, resettlements, plunderings, torture, and murder,” said Hans Kung in regard to what some view as the punishment for the Jewish complicity in Christ’s death. (Kung 349.

Any attempts to rationalize the evil that has been done to Jews down through the centuries reeks of triumphalism,” said Father Robert S. Smith in response to a suggestion by another professor at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception that throughout history, anti-Semitism must be taken within context of the times. “It should be clear to all Christians that, in terms of relations with the Jews, the Holy Spirit has failed us” (Smith 10/18/97). In fairness, over the first 1900 years after the Jewish schism, not all of Catholic and Christian attitudes toward Jews were uniformly oppressive.

For limited periods of time, there were tolerable conditions in some countries for people of the Jewish faith. There were also some Catholic leaders who found ways to show tolerance and understanding toward the Jews. It also must be noted that there was, conversely, contempt in word, writings, and deeds displayed by rabbinical Judaism toward Christians during these centuries as well. Recent efforts by Jewish historians such as David Biale of Berkeley emphasize the success, achievements, and power bases that Jews did have at various points during this time period (Kung page 159.

Although it predominates its history, the Jewish heritage is not simply one of continual suffering, persecution, and subservience. Nonetheless, the majority of available historical evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that theologically-fueled anti-Semitism prevailed during the nineteen centuries following Christ’s death, and many of these attitudes and persecutions provided logical segues which led up to 20th century European anti-Semitic atrocities.

Moby-Dick By Herman Melville: Religion

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”

Such was the beginning of creation. Creation continued with the sky and the waters, the Earth and the vegetation, the lights and the animals, and on the sixth day God created man. ”Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…. So God created humankind in his image.” God created Adam. It was Adam who had the first human relation with God. God “put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it. And the lord God commanded the man, ‘you may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” This simple command was not to be obeyed, and Adam, Eve and subsequent humanity was banished from Eden.

This first encounter with God serves to identify the trouble that man has with obeying God and ignoring ones self. Even in a simple time with no worries at all, it was impossible for Adam to resist the self and obey God. Throughout the novel Moby Dick Melville addresses the relationship between man and the Judeo-Christian God. Melville demonstrates many of the shortcomings of western religion and its in ability to reconcile the benefits of the darker side of humanity. Ishmael, through his journeys finds himself in the midst of several situations that exemplify this dichotomy between the ideal relationship with the Judeo-Christian God and the practical nature in which man typically relates to God.

Ishmael’s first encounter with the ideals of the man-God relationship in Moby Dick occurs at the Whaler’s Chapel. Father Mapple, a devout Christian. He preached the Bible and a devout life as an ideal that men must strive to reach, rather than as a tool to guide men within the confines of everyday life. On the day that Ishmael attended Father Mapple’s service, the sermon was about Jonah and the whale. During his sermon Father Mapple describes why Jonah’s story is one for all sinners. He tells of how Jonah chose to disobey God because God’s command was a difficult one to follow.

Father Mapple then states one of the most fundamental notions of Judeo-Christian ideology, in one sentence he describes the struggle that goes on inside all practitioners of western religion, he pronounced: “And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves that the hardness of obeying God consists.” This duality between what is sensible for Ishmael and what is scriptural come up many times, and is next seen during Queequeg’s fasting holiday.

By examining Queequeg’s fasting holiday we gain some insight into Ishmael, and his thoughts on organized religion. We see him discus how he feels both about western religion and other non-traditional religions as well. Ishmael says that:

“I have no objection to any person’s religion, be it what it ma, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when a man’s religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this Earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.”

This view, that religion is not acceptable if it causes some form or physical discomfort stands almost directly in opposition of the Puritanical view that Father Mapple preached. In Judeo-Christian philosophy it is only through the rejection of the physical world that it is possible to clear the mind enough to focus on God. However Ishmael in his sensibilities expresses the rational thought that if one is starved then how can he focus on anything but the empty feeling in their stomach, rather than on God; “fasting makes the body cave in; hence the spirit caves in; and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be half-starved.” Also within this statement Melville, through Ishmael weaves the physical body and the spiritual body into one cohesive unit. Judeo-Christian philosophy states that one must separate the spiritual self from the physical self, while here, Ishmael declares that without a healthy physical self the spiritual self cannot be sustained.

Later in the novel, after they have set sail, the dichotomy between the separation of spirituality and physicality is brought into question as Ishmael describes the nature of the crow’s nest. As he describes the endless hours spent alone on the masthead he creates a clear image of the danger that is faced by becoming lost in contemplation. Up on the masthead, it is easy to be “lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie” that one may forget where they are.

“There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch, slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror.”

It seems that, here, all Ishmael is discussing is the danger that is present for those up in the masthead, however, the metaphor extends to the risk one runs by separating their spiritual self too completely from their physical self. If a person becomes too introspective in their search for God, as Father Mapple and Judeo-Christian ideology suggests they must, then they may completely loose track of their physical world and be unable to function as rational people.

Although Ishmael serves throughout the novel as a source for examining the dichotomy between practicality and spirituality, Melville also takes advantage of other characters to show some of the shortcomings of Judeo-Christian thought. Through the character of Starbuck, Melville demonstrates how being to righteous can become self-destructive. The first time we see Starbucks righteousness as navet and a downfall is in his first confrontation with Ahab.

During this confrontation in which Starbuck confronts Ahab about the nature of their voyage, and Ahab’s decision to pursue Moby Dick instead of the actual orders of the ship to collect whale oil, Starbuck is unable to maintain a rational argument with the monomaniacal Ahab. Ahab, who knows that he has all of the crews support, but Starbuck’s points this out to the unsure first mate, who is then unable to rationalize a way to win the support of the crew. Rather than trying to solve the problem in the physical world, Starbuck in looking to God to protect him from the monster in Ahab, whispers to himself “God keep me! –Keep us all!”

Later in the novel Starbuck again finds himself faced against Ahab. Only this time it is against the sleeping Ahab. Starbuck finds the gun that Ahab once held up against him and ponders the idea of killing Ahab, and preventing the tragic inevitable end that Starbuck perceives for the Pequod. In his self deliberations Starbuck wrestles with the idea of trying to capture Ahab alive and keep him as a prisoner, but he “could not endure the sight; could not possibly fly his howlings; all comfort, sleep itself, inestimable reason would leave me on the long intolerable voyage.” Starbuck finds himself unable to make a rational decision because he is overwrought with moral objections. To the idea of killing Ahab, Starbuck even tries to rationalize it, because, by killing Ahab he would be preventing Ahab from being able to commit the sin of killing the members of the crew.

But shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship’s company down to doom with him? – Yes, it would make him the willful murderer of thirty men and more, if the ship com to any deadly harm; and come to deadly harm, my soul swears this ship will, if Ahab have his way. If, then, he were this instant-put aside, that crime would not be his.”
As Starbuck continues to ponder whether to kill or capture Ahab or not, Starbuck again begins to look to God to give him the answer.

His blind faith in God to provide him with a source of enlightenment fails him again, when in the midst of his pleading for God’s help, “God, where art though? Shall I? Shall I?” Moby Dick is spotted and thus ends Starbuck’s opportunity to prevent the impending disaster. Had Starbuck not been so overwhelmed by his moral and religions convictions, a rational man would have been able to act in a manner that would have saved the ship, and thus proved less destructive than the passive, pious mindset of Starbuck.

Starbucks lack of action stemmed from his blind reliance on a higher power to solve his problems. Rather than finding a balance in which he could have weighed both practical rational along with Judeo-Christian teachings, he relied too much on a God who did not show his face. By looking at these examples from the novel it is easy to see some of the limitations of Judeo-Christian thought. While in no means does it completely invalidate any of the ideas of western religion it does force one to question the blind validity in which some people purse it, and at what cost are they pursuing their spiritual self.

Morality in Sophocles’ Antigone

In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions centered around the expanding field of science. Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercised in the city-states and man was focused on more than the Gods or heavenly concerns. As a result many new ideals and beliefs surfaced. These new ideals and beliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with one another and created complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocles play Antigone that was written in this era. In the play, Antigone and Creon battle a philosophical war concerning their ideals. They both base there actions on what they believe is right and wrong. The conflict arose when their ideals that backed up their actions on the burial of Polyneices clashed, creating a contradiction between morals.

Antigone’s side of the conflict held a much more divine approach, as opposed to the mundane path Creon chose to travel. Antigone feels that Creon is disregarding the laws of the heavens by ordering it unlawful for anyone to provide a proper burial for her brother Polyneices. Antigone’s opinion is one that supports the Gods and the laws of the heavens. Her reasoning is set by her belief that if someone were not given a proper burial, that person would not be accepted into heaven. Antigone was a very religious person and the acceptance of her brother by the Gods was very important to her. Creons order was personal to Antigone and his edict invaded her family life as well as the Gods. An important ideal in Ancient Greece was the belief that the government was to have no control in matters concerning religious beliefs. In

Antigone’s eyes, Creon betrayed that ideal by not allowing her to properly bury her brother, Polyneices. She believed that the burial was a religious ceremony, and Creon did not have the power to deny Polyneices that right. Antigone’s strong beliefs eventually led her to death by the hand of Creon.

Creon’s actions are guided by the ideal that man is the measure of all things. Creon believes that the good of man comes before the Gods. An example of Creons belief was the unburied body of Polyneices. Creon doesn’t want to give honor to a man who attempted to invade and conquer his city. He denies burial for Polyneices to show respect for Thebes. From this standpoint, Creons decisions for denying burial for Polyneices are completely just and supports the ideals. Creon’s reasoning’s coincide with the Greek ideals except for two that strongly contradicts his actions.

The first is that Creon exercises complete domination of political power. He defies this ideal by holding Antigone as his prisoner and not the publics. The people of Thebes supported Antigone but were too scared to do anything about it. Creon found out about this through his son Haemon. The second is freedom of religion. By denying Antigone to perform burial ceremonies for Polyneices, he is denying Antigone the ideal that supports freedom of religion.

The contradictions between the beliefs of Antigone and Creon are strong throughout the play. Neither of their arguments dominates the other even though they are both right and wrong at the same time. Antigone is following divine law while Creon is trying to protect the integrity of the city-state. In the end, Creon was convinced to set Antigone free after he weighed the factors and debated the ideals. But it was too late. The contradiction of ideals was the cause of Antigone’s, Haemons, and Megareus death. Both sides were just and all beliefs were supported. The downfall is that Creon had to decide the unanswerable, and determine right from wrong when there was no clear answer.

Les Miserables Themes

Les Miserables is a story, a very long story, which has been categorized as a classic. The story is about 1200 pages long. It is an epic saga, which covers about three decades in the early 1800’s of France. The film is about the fugitive, Jean Valjean, following his release from jail after doing nineteen years of hard labor for stealing bread. Jean Valjean is chased by the cruel and self-righteous Inspector Javert, in a lifelong struggle to evade capture.

The novel, Les Miserables is internationally known. That is because of its universal themes. These themes are: how society treats its outcasts, and how it views its criminals, prejudice, justice, doing what is morally right, and people can become better persons.
The theme -how society treats its outcasts- can be seen in how the poor and homeless are are treated, and that is like animals.

The rich treat them as though they are inferior and that they have no feelings or any form of intelligence. They are also not given the right to vote, which makes them not citizens of that nation.

This theme is universal because every nation in the world has some sort of outcasts in their land. In America, this theme can be related to the blacks. In the beginning of the twentieth century they did not have as much rights and oppurtunities as the whites. Another example of how this theme can be related to America is how a person with a southern accent is perceived as less intelligent, which is a false misconception.

The theme -how criminals are viewed by society- can be seen by how Jean Valjean is treated after he is released by prison. Although, he has served a sentence of nineteen years, he is still chased and wanted. In that period of time when a person commited theft it was viewed as a crime against the community and that person should be punished to the most extremes.

That theme can be seen in modern America. When a person commits a federal crime heshe cannot hold a public job or teach for the rest of hisher life. Also, when a person commits a crime, that person and that person’s career is scarred for life.

The theme -doing what is morally right- can be seen in many instances in the novel. One instance is Valjean gives money to free Cozzette. Another instance is Valjean does not kill Javert to save his life. Also, Javert lets Valjean go free. There are also times where people do something that is morally wrong, but lawful. One might be when the students are executed. Another might be the arrest of the prostitute. A present time situation might be soldiers killing other soldiers. It is legal, but is morally wrong.

In conclusion, the novel, Les Miserables, is a universal book with themes that many people from many countries can relate to. That is why it is put in the class of classics. It is also popular because it can be related with present time situations and events.

“Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen: Short Review

In his play “Ghosts”, Ibsen forces the reader to think about his own ideas and believes, as well as those of society and past ages. Symbolism is one technique repeatedly used to portray the author’s ideas through rain, light, fire, the orphanage, Oswald, and through Engstrand himself. The use of religion is also interesting in the way the town people and Pastor Mander uses it.

There are many symbols present throughout Ibsen’s work. Rain is used as a symbol of the cleansing of evil and impurities. Outside of Mrs. Alving’s home it remains rainy and stormy until she faces the truth about her husband. The rain washes away the disguises so that the truth may be seen. Generally when this takes place the sun, another symbol, rises, revealing the reality of the situation. Mrs. Alving said, “And there we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light” (271).

All the characters are afraid to face reality, especially Mrs. Alving, represented by the light. Fire is yet another symbol Ibsen uses. When Oswald comes downstairs with Alving’s pipe, he recalls an incident when he was given a pipe in his youth. Young Oswald smoked until he became sick. This is a foreshadowing of his illness, another sickness caused by careless actions. Another example of fire is seen when the orphanage, built in honor of Alving, is burned (287). The fire creates a symbolism that represents the truth, rising quickly and devouring all illusions. However, when the fire is extinguished, the fantasy world is up in smoke and all that remains are the painful ashes of the past.

The orphanage is used as a subtle symbol for the illusion created by Mrs. Alving. The brothel, Captain Alving’s Home, symbolizes the reality of his life. In the end however, the truth is made known about both by the burning of the orphanage (287), and the brothel taking its place. These two actions illustrate the awakening from illusion to reality in the play. Oswald can also be seen as a main symbol. He is ignorant of the truth, giving him a false sense of innocence. He seems to have some power to stand up for his own beliefs, something his mother lacks.

Oswald, is used to represent the truth of his situation which is hidden in is past. His illness and his wanting to die illustrate this idea. A final symbol used throughout the play is that of Engstrand. He represents society as a whole. Engstrand has a crippled leg; yet he says about his ethics he has “two good legs to stand on” (277). Society is very much like this. It seems to be solid and stable but has weak foundations. Society will never completely heal or lose its flaws, nor will Engstrand.

Religion plays a major role in the everyday lives of the townspeople. The members of this community do not have not have the same direct contact with their God as the members of the ancient Greek world, but reach their God through a divine person (Pastor Manders). In this way, the society presented is further away from the Holy Spirit, but closer to the priest. This gave the priest enormous power as he was a “Pathway to Heaven” for his congregation (265). This may be seen in Pastor Mander’s obsessions of how he is perceived by the people who entrust him. His power is illustrated during his discussion with Mrs. Alving over whether or not the orphanage should be insured or not. “You see! In town, we have a great many such people.

Followers of other denominations. People might very easily come to the conclusion that neither you nor I have sufficient trust in the ordinance of the Higher Power” (254). The orphanage is to be raised in Captain Alving’s honor, yet it’s his own reputation which Manders is worried about. Mrs. Alving’s name is just mentioned to obscure the obvious reason for saying this. This illustrates how the church was used for personal achievements, and not only to reach divine sanctity. The common people’s conduct is also an important is also in important mirror in how the religion permeates the society in this drama.

Mrs. Alving has been living on her own, unbounded from society and regulations. She has become a free-thinker, commonly reading books that are not sociably accepted. Manders response to this, reflects the attitude of the time by saying, “Remember the duty you owe to this orphanage which you decided to found at a time which your attitude towards spiritual matters was quite different from what it is now- as far as I can judge” (253). In the society Ibsen creates, it is not God’s role to judge, but that of Manders and the other members of society.

Many ideas are presented in Ibsen’s play “Ghosts.” The use of symbolism, such as rain, light, fire, and characters illustrate various concepts involved throughout the play. Religion, and the misconceptual use of it by Manders and society, also illustrates the unusual scenes painted by Ibsen within the play.

Religion Versus Common Sense

Of all the things learned and decided in ones life, the subject of religion is always considered the most important. This report very well may upset some of the Bible belt Christians, who cannot seem to allow any thought or idea but there own, but it needs to be said. The basis is simple, in todays world, and especially here in America, the concept of religion has taken an unfortunate turn.

The power of religion has been given almost solely to the wrong people. Priest, Evangelist, Pastors, Cardinals, and all the rest have been given the power to interpret the Bible to their liking. People who attend church believe that they are going to Heaven simply for the fact that they attend every Sunday morning. I guess they feel that they can then criticize everyone for there sins, and forget about there own. The famous saying holds true,absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the church has been corrupted to an unbearable extent. Story after story, the public is bombarded with news highlights of corrupt Preachers and elevangelists who have embezzled money from the church and thousands of dollars from hard working citizens.

But the worst thing that the Christian society has going for it is the hypocritical majority that has saturated the whole population of the United States with the idea that the Church is basically a witch hunt.

Todays Churches are no longer places of Holy worship and gathering for study of the bible, but is instead a place for the ladies to show off there new dresses and to spread gossip that they heard throughout the week.

They call themselves Christians and Americans, but they are far from both. True Christians spread the faith and attempt to save lost souls, but instead have become involved in politics of the day. Case in point, when the Christians Coalition-back Kenneth Starr investigation began to attack President Clinton, I heard from several intelligent nonchristians that they could never see believing in a faith that allowed such persecution and hate.

Although they say they teach love, hate seems to be the main topic of the day. When it comes to the issue of separation of church and state, they are quick to jump and argue against it. This would be fine with me, but the ignorant fools only believe in discussing their own religion, blind to the fact that this is a direct slap in the face to everyone who worships another way. Who would want to convert to a religion so oblivious and asinine?

What about the issue of evolution? Most believe that it is sacrilegious to challenge the Bibles version of the dawn of time and the creation of man, but I believe that God has a way to explain everything that has happened and will happen, such as the end of time. For instance, it says that the Heavens and the Earth was created in seven days, but do you think God is running on the same clock we are? On the other hand, for that matter, do you think he is running on any clock at all?

Perhaps the seven days was in fact several billion years. However, to get back to the evolutionary discussion, it is science fact that evolution occurs. Whether social Darwinism or natural selection, evolution is the basic instinct of an animal to survive. To prove to any person that it is real, make someone step outside in the middle of winter with nothing on but a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Next to them, place a jacket and some insulated pants. Reminding them that they cannot come inside for ten minutes, literally anyone would put the extra clothing on. Why? Because the person was, cold and they did not want to freeze.

Perhaps the most mind boggling thing that todays people think is there take on so-called other religions. Christians hate Muslims. Muslims hate Christians. Why? Because they are from different parts of the world. Not because they worship different religions, because although no one wants to here it, the two religions are the same.

It is said in the Bible that everyone will be given a chance to here the gospel, but that is nearly an impossible feat since Christianity is not even the worlds largest religion. The two religions believe and worship the same thing, only there are slight differences because they are so geologically diverse. When you put two mice of the same size in two separate environments, they will grow and adapt differently, although deep down they are essentially the same. It is unfortunate that todays Christians have there heads so far each others but with all the infighting that they cannot accomplish anything. How can I aspect them to reach out to followers of Islam if they are still bickering over each sect, such as Baptist, Church Of Christ, Presbyterians, and so fourth.

So when deciding on a religion, if one has no already choose one, perhaps one might follow my path. I believe in my God, who I put total and undying love and faith in. I would not think twice about dying for my beliefs, for I know that they are just and true. I do not fear death, since I know that a better place awaits me after this short span on Earth is over. I always remember a few simple things, my God is never short on cash, but helping others is the only way. I believe that a person must truly feel sorry for their sins, and must repent against them.

I believe that my views should be heard for they could save lost souls, but not to force them upon others, for it would scare them away perhaps forever. I believe to do on to others that you would have them do to you, which is the one that most Christians have forgotten. I finally believe (among several other things) that nearly all Monistic religions are the same, and that if you do truly believe in God and have been saved, that you will be welcomed into the Gates of Heaven. But please do not take my word for it find out for yourself. Thank you, God bless, and goodnight.

Cat’s Cradle: Life and Death in San Lorenzo

Life is a struggle to defy the inevitable. Since the beginning of time man has contemplated his own death, labored over the meaning of life, and created religion to explain all that he can not understand. Death at some point will catch up with all of society and at some point the entire world as human beings have come to know it will come to an end. No one can hide from death or attempt to out run its ever-expanding claw; death is absolute. It is possibly the only certainty in all of human existence.

Whether the sun explodes sucking itself into its own infinite gravity, or human beings finally manage to destroy this beautiful planet, life will end. All great societies have come to tragic anti-climatic ends. The Romans slowly poisoned themselves through their use of an amazingly complex lead piping system, and Athens feel eventually to an equally dismal fate. In our modern society the world has watched as many threats of global destruction have come and gone. The fact that currently the nuclear arsenal of the United States alone could easily destroy all of earth leaves many fearing that the end is near.

The contemplation of ones eventual demise leads one to think that life is no longer worth the effort to live. In Cat’s Cradle the destruction of the world is realized by the invention of a substance capable of freezing all water on earth. Its inventor was a peaceful man, a man who invented for the sake of discovery, for the sake of the human race. It was only after his death, that the greed and stupidity of man allowed this substance to end all man has struggled to create. Throughout human existence man’s disregard for his home and his environment is evident in all aspects of cultural. This disregard for the frailties of nature will eventually lead to the death of all humanity.

In Cat’s Cradle the narrator John winds his way through the events that eventually lead to the destruction of the human race. Life to John is a quest; a quest that is defined finally by his new found religion Bokononism. He feels that everyone in his life revolves around him as they all search for something of meaning in their lives; this group is called a karass. Life is a gift that is never solicited and often unappreciated after given. Human emotions are often the catalyst behind extremely destructive actions. In Cat’s Cradle John feels that he is in love with a girl that he has never met. He feels this way so strongly that he can not bear the fact of her being with another man. Eventually John comes to marry this girl who he has known for only a short time, and as she perishes he can not help but be paralyzed with grief.

The struggle of a hard third-world life is very evident in all aspects of the San Lorenzo culture. Throughout the novel the people of San Lorenzo struggle with the horrible reality that is their day to day lives. It is only in the outlawed teachings of Bokonon that they can truly find some happiness. Bokononism teaches that life is nasty, that life is short, and that human beings are basically stupid primitive being destined for failure. Through these teachings they learn to except the faults of man and actually come to better their lives and themselves.

In Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle the only animal species to survive is the ant. They have accomplished this remarkable task through lack of any emotional attachment for each other. Since all the water on the planet is frozen the ants must form a ball around the ICE-9, melt it with their body-heat, drink the freshly melted water, and then eat the ones that had died from direct contact. Fascinated, John sat for hours studding the behavior of the ants. He wondered how the ants had figured that they themselves were a source of food. The cycle of life will continue as long as some life can be viewed as an expendable commodity. To destroy one for the continued life of many is excepted only if all emotion is removed from the situation.

Vonnegut has once again explored the destruction of the human race. His perceptive realization of how truly ignorant society truly is proves startling. To explore this subject in the setting of a culture that lacks what we could call civility creates a people much more dependent on faith, rather than power and wealth. Society will perish, most likely from its own creation, and when that day comes no one will realize all the mistakes that have been made until it is way to late.

“Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolpho Anaya

In the book “Bless Me Ultima”, by Rudolpho Anaya, there were two families represented, the Marez family and the Lunas family. These two families were very different, but were brought together by the marriage of Gabriel Marez and Maria Lunas. Through the eyes of their son Antonio one may see the comparison of the two. The differentiation of these two families is very clearly noticeable, such as in their personalities, the expression of their religion, and their everyday ways of life.

One can easily see the difference in their personality even down to the most basic things. The Marez’s are very free spirited, they do not like to have to worry about things. They can be seen mainly riding their horses around the llano. An example of this is shown in the book where Gabriel Marez speaks of his move to Guadeloupe at the birth of his son, Antonio.

In this he says, “The move lowered my father in esteem of his compadres, the other vaqueros who clung tenaciously to their way of life and freedom.” On the other hand the Lunas are more down to earth. They are farmers, so they stay in one place to grow their crops, and are very land oriented. They concentrate more on work and less on the free will that can be seen in the Marez family.

As far as religion goes the Lunas are far more religious than the Marez family. Religion plays a very important part in the life of the Lunas. They believe highly in God and everything else that is involved in the Roman Catholic religion. Maria Lunas is shown to be praying to the Virgin Mary on many different occasions in the book. The Lunas family has been encouraging Antonio to become a priest throughout his life, to the point that he believes he is obligated too.

This is clearly shown in the book where Antonio states, “My mother was a devout Catholic, and so she saw the salvation of the soul rooted in the Holy Mother Church, and she said the world would be saved if the people turned to the earth.” On the other hand the Marez family is not very religious at all. They don’t believe that God plays a very important part in their lives.

One can even see the differences through there everyday lives. The Marez family are very restless people. They are wanderers, they would like to just roam throughout the land. They think about their own needs and desires before thoughts of others. In one of Antonio’s dream’s he describes his birth. In this dream he says, “Then the silence was shattered with the sound of hoof beats; vaqueros surrounded the small house with shouts and gunshots, and when they entered the room they were laughing and singing and drinking.” The Lunas, antithetically, are very tranquil, relaxed, and even tempered family. They care about the needs of their entire family, and they do what they can to fulfill those needs. They also take very much care for their land and the llano.

Two families with such contrasting characteristics were brought together in this book. With one family being so caring and loving, while the other so carefree. One not so serious about their religion and the other revolving around it. One being so loving of the land, while the other of themselves. Yet through the personal journey of a young boy, Antonio, one can see how they can blend so well together.

Bless Me Ultima: Concerning Religions

After reading the book, Bless Me Ultima, I realized the integral importance of religion and need for religion and answers to lifes questions. At first, while reading this book, I thought it was just about relationships and the meaning in them but as the plot progressed I realized the book, is more than that, it questions the structures that decide the rules, morals and values that society is composed of. There were three types of religion that I identified in the book that young Anthony chose to pursue. The first was the paganistic rituals of Ultima.

Ultima came into the life of Tony at a very young age and had great influence n the child. Ultima saved the life of Lucas through Tonys strength. Physical pain was brought unto Anthony because of Ultima’s ritual, showing actual validity of the rituals themselves, that they were had tangibility. She brought torment on the Tenorios family (he was the antagonist in the book-the bad guy) saving Lucas though using ritualistic dolls and chants. This showed her magic was not only good but bad as well.

Ultima guided Anthony through all of the mental and social torment during his early years of grade school. So in away Ultima was a guide for Tony through his early years to make sense of all of the storms in his early life, but also was an instrument of religion to base his life on. But in the end of the book Ultima ultimately dies and the strength he once found in her is destroyed. She is buried and the remnants of her medicines and herbs must be burned. So the religion that she commands is dead.

In addition, Tonys mother Maria was a staunch catholic who desperately wanted her youngest son to become a priest to a small community of farmers. Her roots were in farming and living off the land (having a mutually benefiting relationship-being connected to the land). She prayed during times of family toil constantly. Tony has a dream after his brothers beckon him into a whorehouse to sleep with the women at Rosies House. He refuses the offer and affirms that he will preserve his innocence in order to become a priest in the holy catholic faith. His brothers mock him.

They try to tell him that in being a man and the son of a vaquero his need for bodily pleasure will become stronger. Here is where I believe Tony accepts the destiny that his mother supplies for him as a man of god, but again his faith in this religion fails. He feels that his catechism will protect him from being corrupted and that god will reveal himself during this ceremonial rite-but nothing happens. He thought that when he partakes in this ceremony all will be revealed to him, but it is not.

Furthermore, the golden carp is also a in a form a religion. He believes the myth of the golden carp and that it is sacred because it saved mankind. Tony and Cico go to a thicket where the carp emerges from under the water. There it is explained of the story of the carp and even more importantly another belief that Tony holds important. The lakes are remnant of when at one times the sea covered the land and the cycle of the sea rising again will be resultant of the sins of the people weighing down the land and causing it to collapse. For a final time, another one of the values he set for himself was destroyed upon the death of Florence in the water before they could inform him about the religion associated in the Carp. A childhood myth is destroyed and all of the religions and beliefs hat Tony has chosen to believe have been destroyed. Cico and Tony both know Florence is gone forever because he had no religion or belief that would save his soul.

In a dream all of this is foreshadowed (chapter 14), god refuses to grant Andrew pardon from eternity in hell, a mob comes after Ultima, the carp is eaten and a new world forms. There is no coincidence that all of this happened in the same dream or that the occurrences in the novel are parallel to the events that actually happen in the book. There are so many events that are foreshadowed by the dreams that Tonys has (he is prophetic!!). But I also believe that the authors intent was to further the theme that all things are transient and you must not depend on the beliefs that others present you but you must follow your beliefs.

Review: Bless Me, Ultima

Only a few books dare to discuss the confusion surrounded by a religious awakening. In Bless Me, Ultima, Richard A. Anaya, Premio Quinto Sol national Chicano literary award recipient, challenges standard religion and brings in differnet ideas through the perspective of a young and confused boy. At the end of his struggle to understand, the boy reaches the peace of mind he was seeking.

Antonio, the young boy, wants answers to the questions that have been nagging at him since he was introduced to religious ideology. He does not understand why Ultima, a close elderly friend and a curandera or healer, can save his dying uncle from the curses of evil while the priest from El Puerto with his holy water and the power of God can not lift the curse from him. He wonders whether God really exists or if the Cico’s story of the golden carp is true. Bless Me, Ultima, is a compelling story that deals with Antonio’s family, beliefs, and dreams.

Throughout the book Antonio is introduced to many new ideas. The first is the experiences he has with Ultima. Ultima is a healer who learned her techniques from an old wise man on the llano or prairie. She is sometimes called a bruja or witch. This confuses Antonio because in his heart he knows Ultima represents good and not the evil she is sometimes blamed for. Antonio learns some of the ways of Ultima and begins to understand his surroundings. He knows the name of almost every plant and what medicinal uses each has.

The next revelation for Antonio is the myth of the golden carp. Antonio learns about the golden carp from Cico, a friend of his. According to Cico, the golden carp was once a god who loved the people of Antonio’s town, Gaudalupe. The people were not allowed to fish for the brown carp that lived in the river that flowed around the town. These fish were sacred to the gods. However, becasuse of a drought and no food, the people had to eat the carp to survive. This angered the gods.

They wanted to punish all the people by death but “they relented from killing the people. Instead, they turned the people into carp and made them live forever in the waters of the river-” (74). The god who loved the people wished to become a carp like them to protect them from the dangers of the river. The gods agreed and “because he was a god they made him very big and colored him the color gold” (74). Antonio can not believe there is a new god and seeks answers from Ultima. Ultima is pleased that he has learned so much but says she can not tell him what to believe for he must decide for himself.

The last idea Antonio learns about is the Catholic religion. This isn’t new to him completely but he only knows what his mother has told him and what he has learned on Sundays at church. It is not until he starts going to catechism that he learns more about the religion his mother so dearly follows. He is still not satisfied even after his First Communion, ” [I] thought I had felt His warmth, but then everthing moved so fast. There wasn’t time just to sit and discover Him like I could do when I sat on the cread bank and watched the golden carp swim in the sun-filtered waters (210). He expects to hear God answer all his questions the second he drinks the wine but he hears nothing from the God he pursues: “A thousand questions pushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer. There was only silence” (211). He doesn’t know what to believe. The only thing that has proven completely worthy is Ultima and her magic.

Anaya’s writing successfully integrates the confusion of a young boys who wants answers to topics over his head with a wonderful story. By weaving three subjects in a continuous pattern the stories tie into each other. Anaya uses many Spanish phrases which are very effective and bring a real life quality to the book. He also uses dream sequences which underscored Antonio’s confusion. With such topics it can be hard for a book to flow lightly but with comical scenes and interesting characters scattered throughout the book, this is possible. Anaya uses deep descriptions that do not bore the reader but give insight to the surroundings of the characters. Although writing is not easy, Anaya creates a masterpiece story that satisfies the mind.

The theme of Bless Me, Ultima is one of finding what beliefs are right for the indivudial by experiencing each one characteristically. This relates to our society in so many ways. People follow many different religions but many are not content with their current situation. They want to learn more and discover the religious idea that suits them. Richard A. Anaya has brought this theme of religious confusion into the literary world and may help many confused people like Antonio find what they are searching for.

Bless Me Ultima: Character Growth

Only a few books dare to discuss the confusion surrounded by a religious awakening. In Bless Me Ultima, Richard A. Anaya, Premio Quinto Sol national Chicano literary award recipient, challenges standard religion and brings in different ideas through the perspective of a young and confused boy. Due to the new ideas that he is introduced to, the events that occurs especially deaths, and his eagerness for knowledge all leads Antonio to question his religious beliefs. At the end of his struggle to understand, the boy reaches the peace of mind he was seeking.

Throughout the book Antonio is introduced to many new ideas. The first is the experiences he has with Ultima. Ultima is a healer who learned her techniques from an old wise man on the llano or prairie. She is sometimes called a bruja or witch. This confuses Antonio because in his heart he knows Ultima represents good and not the evil she is sometimes blamed for. Antonio learns some of the ways of Ultima and begins to understand his surroundings. He knows the name of almost every plant and what medicinal use each has.

As the novel continues there is a stronger interpretation of Ultimas powers as she heals Antonios Uncle Lucas. This is the beginning of good versus evil or god versus the devil, Lucas had seen Tenerios daughters performing devil worship in the woods and in return the daughters placed a curse on his hair. When the curse was revoked by Ultima it went into effect against the daughters and as they began to die Tenerio went into an evil rage against the powers of Ultima. Antonio was then introduced to the Golden Carp and the story of the waters surrounding the town and its influence, which also allows Antonio to question the influence of god within his life, and the new power behind the carp.

The next revelation for Antonio is the myth of the golden carp. Antonio learns about the golden carp from Cico, a friend of his. According to Cico, the golden carp was once a god who loved the people of Antonio’s town, Guadalupe. The people were not allowed to fish for the brown carp that lived in the river that flowed around the town. These fish were sacred to the gods. However, because of a drought and no food, the people had to eat the carp to survive. This angered the gods. They wanted to punish all the people by death but “they relented from killing the people. Instead, they turned the people into carp and made them live forever in the waters of the river-” (80). The god who loved the people wished to become a carp like them to protect them from the dangers of the river. The gods agreed and “because he was a god they made him very big and colored him the color gold” (81).

Antonio cannot believe there is a new god and seeks answers from Ultima. Ultima is pleased that he has learned so much, but says she cannot tell him what to believe for he must decide for himself. The Golden Carp represents all the questions Tony has about religion and morality. Tonys confusion is due to conflicting forces in both these aspects of life. When Cico first introduces the Carp to Tony, he is forced to make a tough decision, Do you believe the Golden Carp is a god? which he skillfully evades until he has the information he wants to make his decision (106). After the emergence of the Carp, Tony begins to question his Catholic upbringing, and he wonders why God punishes people. This is when Tony begins to set his idealism aside and truly looses his spiritual innocence.

In the early part of the novel Antonio already starts to begin questioning his relationship with God. The events that occurs throughout the novel especially deaths has a huge impact on the struggles he has with his religious beliefs. In chapter one Antonio takes his first steps toward his loss of innocence, The brown water would be stained with blood, forever and ever and ever. Lupitos death is the first time that he is faced with death, and begins his questioning of God. This is when Antonio first begins to have doubts about his religion.

The second time that Antonio experienced death occurs as Narciso runs through the blizzard to warn Ultima of Tenerios relentless violent threats as his second daughter was dying. Antonio did not have time to run for a priest or Ultima as he lay dying under the Juniper, so Antonio took it upon himself to perform the religious ceremony preparing Narciso for death another influence of god and religion. It is good on the hill of the llano, beneath the juniper, these are the last words of Narciso before he died. This leads to Antonio becoming sick, and within his dreams questioning the influence of god and justice within his life. Throughout this time the bond of Ultima is near him as she cares for him, as he is sick.

In the final chapters Antonio could only concentrate on his communion during the remainder of the school year. To him the entrance of god into his body would answer all of his questions. His excellent dedication to the church after school everyday further reinforced his mother’s dream for his entrance into the priesthood. During the novel, Tony bluntly admitted that he did not believe in god and when the boys were forcing Antonio to pretend to be the priest before confession, he sincerely admitted he had no sins and also questioned God.

He is still not satisfied even after his First Communion, ” [I] thought I had felt His warmth, but then everything moved so fast. There wasn’t time just to sit and discover Him like I could do when I sat on the cread bank and watched the golden carp swim in the sun-filtered waters (221). He expects to hear God answer all his questions the second he drinks the wine but he hears nothing from the God he pursues: “A thousand questions pushed through my mind, but the Voice within me did not answer. There was only silence” (221). The entrance of god into his life did not answer the questions that were plaguing him. He doesn’t know what to believe. The only thing that has proven completely worthy is Ultima and her magic.

In the final scenes of the novel the evil of Tenerio overcomes all as he first attempts to kill Antonio, and then goes to kill Ultima. Antonio arrives just in time to see the killing of the owl, Ultima’s spirit that was tied to her when she was a child by the wise man who taught her how to live with the land and plants. Antonio then goes to bury her spirit in his own peaceful burial under a forked juniper tree as she instructed. By being blessed by her it shows that he has possibly grown from the idea that he is tied to the church by being a deep spiritual individual and accepting that there may be more powers than that of god. Ultima allowed him to see the world differently, and accept her powers especially in Antonio proclamation, Bless Me Ultima.”

For someone of his age, Antonio has a strong yearning for knowledge. He is driven by the desire to make [his] the magic of the letters and numbers (58) and works hard, eager to learn the secret of the magic. (76) At school, while others cryand wet their pants (58), Antonio spends his time in the corner writing his name over and over. (58) Even Ultima praises Tonys willingness to study, saying, he learns as much in one day as most do in a year. (81)

However, Tonys drive for knowledge is not restricted to books; he also seeks more answers (71) about God. He tries in vain to find the answers why people are made to suffer for Old Eves sin, (196) why didnt God make this earth free of evil things (196), and of why The Old Manleft Florence all alone (195) with no family. By asking these questions, he subconsciously challenges the validity of the church, using the excuse that he is not yet ready to understand to repress his heresy. Antonio hopes that when he makes communion, he will understand. (187)

Antonios desire for knowledge nurture a growing wisdom. Feeling only emptinessto the God within him, (221) the thousands of questions that push through his mind are still unanswered after his first communion. (221) Gods failure to answer Antonios questions allows Tony to realize the truths of religion and that his answers cannot be answered by God. Used to think everyone believed in God, but now understands that there are many gods. (237) His final dream reveals the death of all the faiths and beliefs, and even the magic of Ultimadies in agony. (244)

Now he understands that if the old religion can no longer answer the questions of the children, then perhaps it was time to change it. (248) Furthermore, from his father, Antonio discovers most of the things people call evil are not evil at all; it is just that people do not understand those things and thus call them evil. (248) Most importantly, Tonys wisdom is complete once he is aware that understanding comes with life (248) and that he is seeing only partsand not looking beyond into the great cycle that binds us all. (121)

Antonio wants answers to the questions that have been nagging at him since he was introduced to religious ideology. He does not understand why Ultima, a close elderly friend and a curandera or healer, can save his dying uncle from the curses of evil while the priest from El Puerto with his holy water and the power of God cannot lift the curse from him. He wonders whether God really exists or if the Cico’s story of the golden carp is true. Bless Me Ultima, is a compelling story that deals with Antonio’s family, beliefs, and dreams.

Anaya’s writing successfully integrates the confusion of a young boy who wants answers to topics over his head with a wonderful story. By weaving three subjects in a continuous pattern the stories tie into each other. Anaya uses many Spanish phrases, which are very effective and bring a real life quality to the book. He also uses dream sequences, which accentuate Antonio’s confusion. With such topics it can be hard for a book to flow lightly but with comical scenes and interesting characters scattered throughout the book, this is possible. Anaya uses deep descriptions that do not bore the reader but give insight to the surroundings of the characters. Although writing is not easy, Anaya creates a masterpiece story that satisfies the mind.

The theme of Bless Me Ultima is one of finding what beliefs are right for the individual by experiencing each one characteristically. This relates to our society in so many ways. People follow many different religions, but many are not content with their current situation. They want to learn more and discover the religious idea that suits them. Richard A. Anaya has brought this theme of religious confusion into the literary world and may help many confused people like Antonio find what they are searching for.

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God is set in the 1920’s, before secularism became dominant. It begins with the image of a mask, when he tells his son not to carve the mask of a god for the white man. The mask is a symbol of change. The whole world is changing, and the people who do not change will not survive. The old priest, Ezeulu, desires change, but he cannot do it. He cannot force himself to leave the old ways behind and adopt the new ways. Thus, he sends one of his sons to learn from the white man. He cannot do it himself.

This novel shows the life and death of an Igbo priest in a battle between traditional tribal religion and missionary Christianity. The ways in which this confrontation is played out also repeat. A Christian church is set up in a traditional village. The Christians have two attitudes regarding traditional religion. John Goodcountry’s enthusiasm inspires Oduche, the Christian son of Chief Priest Ezeulu, to capture the sacred python. Goodcountry is opposed by Moses Unachukwu, who may be open to both cultures out of pragmatic motives, since he appreciates the religious and economic power of the white man, and he hopes to profit from that power.

Ezeulu has mixed feelings. He sends Oduche to the missionaries in order to gain access to their wisdom, but he fears the aggressiveness of the new religion. However, his devotion to his god, Ulu, is unquestionable, as is seen in his participation in the New Yam festival.

Ezeulu, the main character of the novel, is sincere when he refuses to obey Winterbottom’s summons to Okperi because such behavior does not befit his sacred role. Ezeulu stands up for what he believes is right, as his god reveals it to him, even when there is no profit in it for himself. He even loses much by saying the truth. Thus, he is like a saint.

Ezeulu has a negative side too. He wonders if he is merely the tool of Ulu. Does he have any personal power, himself? Could he refuse to authorize the New Yam Harvest Festival? At the other extreme, he has bad dreams about being dishonored together with his god. As the story proceeds, Ezeulu feels more and more alienated from his community. They do not support him, and they do not even admit that he was right when they get bad effects from their headstrong actions. They go against Ezeulu’s advice, and things go bad, but they still insist that they were right and he was wrong. Worst of all, Nwaka does not even get a belly ache after he sends the young men to the other village to announce the war for the piece of farmland. In reaction, Ezeulu claims a special vision for himself and talks about sacrificing Oduche to the white man. At the same time, he feels a “haughty indifference” to the clan, which turns into a desire for revenge.

When Nwaka speaks, the people listen to his talk of war. They are afraid to go against him. But they do not listen to Ezeulu. They are not afraid of him, and they will not stand beside him, even if they think he is right. He thinks that he knows the truth about the land dispute, but he knows only the facts. The truth is deeper, that the white men will give the land to Okperi, and the white men have guns and soldiers.

Ezeulu’s son Obika walks through the night, sometimes singing and sometimes speaking. His “voice rose louder and louder into the night air as he approached home. Even his whistling carried farther than some men’s voices.” Some day, Ezeulu hopes that his son’s voice will speak for the god. But this is not going to happen. All of the old man’s dreams will die, while the culture of his people dies all around him. The white man is too powerful, and they cannot stand up against the Christian missionaries and the British soldiers. They are doomed.

His older son, Edogo, carves the mask. He sits in a dark hut, surrounded by “older masks and other regalia of ancestral spirits, some of them older than even his father. They produced a certain ambience which gave power and cunning to his fingers.” Thus, Edogo is drawing power form the old traditions. However, he is also leaving the old ways behind. He is adopting the ways of the white man. It is the only way for him to survive in the changing world.

Ezeulu’s dream after he returns from Okperi convinces him that he should not submit to the people’s wishes. After delaying the New Yam Festival, he interprets the people’s anguish as a kind of scapegoating. They are blaming someone else for their own faults and mistakes. Ezeulu’s downfall is disastrous not only for the people but for traditional religion, because the hungry people dedicate their crop to the Christian God. They see Ezeulu’s insanity as the judgment of the ancestors against his disregard for the clan he is supposed to serve. It is really just the last straw, since his son is dead and he must bury him. Now the old priest has nothing left, not even a young man to look at the stars for him when he is old and blind.

Ezeulu’s strategy of resistance has led instead to the opposite of what he wanted. Instead of reviving the cult of the ancestors, he has seen it replaced with Christianity.

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe presents some cultural dynamic problems, such as religious conflict, disunity, and war among villages of the Igbo nation. The biggest problem is the colonial impact and cultural conflict against the British imperial rule. The novel illustrates themes like foreign cultural conflicts, western influences on African cultural traditions, patience, masculine feminine divine principles of African culture, and religions contradictions. Cultural conflict includes the colonial impact and its effects upon all aspects of Igbo and African life.

Arrow of God focuses on Nigeria’s early experience with colonialism, from first contact with the British to widespread British administration. It starts after World War I, a time when the British ruled much of the world and imposed their cultural values on the “primitive” cultures which they found.

This book explores the failure of the British to understand traditional beliefs and values of the African people. Captain Winterbottom just thinks that they are savages with no brains. The Christians just think that they are souls to be saved. In a world of change, the old priest is not flexible enough to adapt, so he is swept aside.

The story of the old priest is actually the story of all his people in all the six villages. They forget their religion, and they accept the religion of their conquerors. Ezeulu forgets first, and then the people forget. The people created the god Ulu when they united the six villages to form Umuaro. Ezeulu wrestles with the people on behalf of the god Ulu, since he forgets that Ulu was made to serve the people. They were not made to serve Ulu. The priest fails to understand his relationship to the god and the community. He is supposed to serve the community, but he is trying to force them to serve his god. This is the source of his downfall.

When Ezeulu is released from prison, it is raining, and he feels like it is healing and restoring him. But his pride will make him do the wrong thing again. He has suffered, and now he wants revenge, but he will only destroy himself and those he loves. He sees that others suffer because of their own actions, but he does not take responsibility for his own suffering. He just goes insane.

Meditations – Descartes

In the Meditations, Descartes embarks upon what Bernard Williams has called the project of ‘Pure Enquiry’ to discover certain, indubitable foundations for knowledge. By subjecting everything to doubt Descartes hoped to discover whatever was immune to it. In order to best understand how and why Descartes builds his epistemological system up from his foundations in the way that he does, it is helpful to gain an understanding of the intellectual background of the 17th century that provided the motivation for his work.

We can discern three distinct influences on Descartes, three conflicting world-views that fought for prominence in his day. The first was what remained of the mediaeval scholastic philosophy, largely based on Aristotelian science and Christian theology. Descartes had been taught according to this outlook during his time at the Jesuit college La Fleche and it had an important influence on his work, as we shall see later. The second was the scepticism that had made a sudden impact on the intellectual world, mainly as a reaction to the scholastic outlook.

This scepticism was strongly influenced by the work of the Pyrrhonians as handed down from antiquity by Sextus Empiricus, which claimed that, as there is never a reason to believe p that is better than a reason not to believe p, we should forget about trying to discover the nature of reality and live by appearance alone. This attitude was best exemplified in the work of Michel de Montaigne, who mockingly dismissed the attempts of theologians and scientists to understand the nature of God and the universe respectively.

Descartes felt the force of sceptical arguments and, while not being sceptically disposed himself, came to believe that scepticism towards knowledge was the best way to discover what is certain: by applying sceptical doubt to all our beliefs, we can discover which of them are indubitable, and thus form an adequate foundation for knowledge. The third world-view resulted largely from the work of the new scientists; Galileo, Copernicus, Bacon et al. Science had finally begun to assert itself and shake off its dated Aristotelian prejudices.

Coherent theories about the world and its place in the universe were being constructed and many of those who were aware of this work became very optimistic about the influence it could have. Descartes was a child of the scientific revolution, but felt that until sceptical concerns were dealt with, science would always have to contend with Montaigne and his cronies, standing on the sidelines and laughing at science’s pretenses to knowledge. Descartes’ project, then, was to use the tools of the sceptic to disprove the sceptical thesis by discovering certain knowledge that could subsequently be used as the foundation of a new science, in which knowledge about the external world was as certain as knowledge about mathematics.

It was also to hammer the last nail into the coffin of scholasticism, but also, arguably, to show that God still had a vital role to play in the discovery of knowledge. Meditation One describes Descartes’ method of doubt. By its conclusion, Descartes has seemingly subjected all of his beliefs to the strongest and most hyberbolic of doubts. He invokes the nightmarish notion of an all-powerful, malign demon who could be deceiving him in the realm of sensory experience, in his very understanding of matter and even in the simplest cases of mathematical or logical truths.

The doubts may be obscure, but this is the strength of the method – the weakness of criteria for what makes a doubt reasonable means that almost anything can count as a doubt, and therefore whatever withstands doubt must be something epistemologically formidable. In Meditation Two, Descartes hits upon the indubitable principle he has been seeking. He exists, at least when he thinks he exists. The cogito (Descartes’ proof of his own existence) has been the source of a great deal of discussion ever since Descartes first formulated it in the 1637 Discourse on Method, and, I believe, a great deal of misinterpretation (quite possibly as a result of Descartes’ repeated contradictions of his own position in subsequent writings).

Many commentators have fallen prey to the tempting interpretation of the cogito as either syllogism or enthymeme. This view holds that Descartes asserts that he is thinking, that he believes it axiomatic that ‘whatever thinks must exist’ and therefore that he logically concludes that he exists. This view, it seems to me, is wrong. It should be stated on no occasion, in the Meditations, does Descartes write ‘I am thinking, therefore I am’, nor anything directly equivalent. Rather, he says: “Doubtless, then, that I existand, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me or conceived in my mind.” (p. 80).

The point here is that it is impossible to doubt the truth of the proposition ‘I exist’ when one utters it. It is an indubitable proposition, and one that will necessarily be presupposed in every attack of the sceptic. Descartes is not yet entitled to use syllogisms as the possibility of the malign demon is still very much alive. As an aside, Descartes himself denies that the cogito is a syllogism, although it should be mentioned that in some of the Replies to Objections he seems to assert that it is in fact a syllogism. Finally, in the Regulae ad directionem ingenii, Descartes denies the usefulness of syllogisms as a means to knowledge.

I believe that, given Descartes’ project, it is fair to grant him that the cogito deserves the status he bestows upon it. For can there be anything more certain than something that is so forceful and so powerful that every time it is presented to our mind we are forced to assent to it? What Descartes did here was to jiggle about the way philosophy normally approaches the construction of knowledge structures. By starting with self-knowledge, he elevates the subjective above the objective and forces his epistemology to rest upon the knowledge he has of his own self (and inadvertently sets the tone for the next 300 years of philosophy). This leaves him with a problem. He can know his own existence, that he is a thinking thing and the contents of his consciousness, but how can any of this ever lead to any knowledge of anything outside of himself? The answer is that, by itself, it can’t.

Descartes, in the third Meditation, attempts to prove the existence of God, defined as a being with all perfections. This proof is to be derived from his idea of a God, defined as a being with all perfections. So far, so good – Descartes examines the contents of his consciousness and discovers within it this idea, and we can allow him this. At this point, however, he introduces a whole series of scholastic principles concerning different modes of causation and reality without proper justification: “For, without doubt, those [ideas considered as images, as opposed to modes of consciousness] that represent substances are something more, and contain in themselves, so to speak, more objective reality, that is, participate by representation in higher degrees of being or perfection than those that represent only modes or accidents; and again the idea by which I conceive a Godhas certainly in it more objective reality than those ideas by which finite substances are represented.

Now it is manifest by the natural light that there must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause as in its effect; for whence can the effect draw its reality if not from its cause? And how could the cause communicate to it this reality unless it possessed it in itself?” Whence do these principles draw their indubitability? Even if we grant that it is contrary to natural reason that an effect can have greater ‘reality’ than its cause, that the concepts of modes and substances are coherent with Descartes’ method, let alone possess the properties that he ascribes to them, then surely we can still bring the malign demon into play? Is it not possible that this all- powerful demon could bring it about that Descartes has a notion of a being with all possible perfections that he calls God? No, says Descartes, because the notion (representing something perfect) would then have more objective reality than the demon (as something evil and thus imperfect) has formal reality, and ‘it is manifest by the natural light’ that this is not possible. But why not? Maybe the demon has just made it seem impossible, and it seems that Descartes has no answer to this. Further problems remain. Cosmological arguments for God invoking the notion of causation have always had to contend with the problem of the cause of God. For if all events (or ideas) are caused ultimately by God, then what about God Himself? Why should He be exempt from this rule? The standard response to this is to claim that God, being omnipotent, causes Himself. One of the chief perfections that Descartes attributes to God is that of ‘self-existence’, that is, that His existence depends on nothing else but itself.

But if we examine this idea, it seems a little confused. If God is the efficient cause of God then we are forced to ask how something that does not yet exist can cause anything. If God is the formal cause of God, i.e. it is part of the intrinsic nature of God that he exists – which seems more likely – then it seems that we have merely a reformulation of the ontological argument for God’s existence from Meditation 5. It seems that Descartes may have anticipated the wealth of criticism that the causal proof of God would inspire, and so, after explaining how human error and a benevolent, non-deceiving God are compatible in Meditation Four, he produced in Meditation Five a version of the mediaeval ontological argument for God’s existence.

Unlike the causal argument, the ontological argument doesn’t involve the covert import of any new principles. It simply purports to show that, from an analysis of his own idea of God, Descartes can show that He necessarily exists. The reasoning goes like this: I have ideas of things which have true and immutable natures. If I perceive clearly and distinctly that a property belongs to an idea’s true and immutable nature, then it does actually belong to that nature. I perceive clearly and distinctly that God’s true and immutable nature is that of a being with all perfections. Further, I perceive clearly and distinctly that existence is a perfection and non-existence a non- perfection.

Thus existence belongs to God’s true and immutable nature. God exists. One of the interesting things about this argument is that, at first sight, it does not seem to depend in any way upon anything that has been proved hitherto. It is an application of pure logic, an analysis of what we mean when we say ‘God’ and a inference from that analysis. Descartes explicitly says that an idea’s true and immutable nature does not in any way depend upon his thinking it, and thus upon his existence. Once he has perceived clearly and distinctly that an idea’s true and immutable nature consists in such-and-such, that is the case whether or not he thinks it is, or even if he exists or not. Descartes in fact recognises the primacy of the ontological argument: “although all the conclusions of the preceding Meditations were false, the existence of God would pass with me for a truth at least as certain as I ever judged any truth of mathematics to be.”

If this is true, which it seems to be, then this argument is only as trustworthy as the faculties which enabled us to construct it, which are the same faculties that enable us to know mathematical truths, and so it seems worthwhile to ask how, under Descartes’ theory, we come to know mathematical truths. Descartes claims we perceive them clearly and distinctly. How do we know that what we perceive clearly and distinctly is true? Because God, being perfect, is no deceiver, and would not let it be the case that we could ever perceive something clearly and distinctly without it being the case. It seems then, that this proof of God, relying on the veracity of clear and distinct ideas, relies on the certain knowledge that a non-deceiving God exists.

We have another proof of God, the causal proof as described in Meditation three. But apart from the patent futility of using one proof of p to construct another proof of p, on examining the causal proof of God further, we find that it, too, relies upon a methodology that can only be relied upon if the divine guarantee is present, for if this guarantee is not present, then, as I mentioned above, how can we be sure that the all-powerful demon is not exercising his malignant influence? This, of course, is the infamous Cartesian circle, first identified by Arnauld in the Fourth Objections and discussed ever since. Many philosophers have tried to get Descartes off the hook in various ways, some by denying that there is a circle and some by admitting the circularity but denying its significance.

I will here briefly evaluate a few of their arguments. Some commentators have taken a passage from Descartes’ reply to the Second set of Objections (Mersenne’s) to indicate that Descartes is only actually interested in the psychological significance of fundamental truths. The passage is as follows: “If a conviction is so firm that that it is impossible for us ever to have any reason for doubting what we are convinced of, then there are no further questions for us to ask; we have everything we could reasonably want.” Under my interpretation, this is what it is about the cogito that makes it so important for Descartes, so we cannot have any argument with the principle expressed by him in the above passage. But can it help break the circle? When we clearly and distinctly perceive something, Descartes says, fairly I think, that this perception compels our assent, that we cannot but believe it.

God’s role in the system, to these commentators, is as a guarantor of our memory regarding clarity and distinctness. In other words, once we have proved God’s existence, we can happily know that any memory we have of a clear and distinct idea regarding x is true i.e. that we really did have a clear and distinct idea of x. But this does not seem satisfactory, as we still do not have a divine guarantee for the reasoning that leads us from the clear and distinct notions we originally have about God to the proof of His existence. We can give assent to the clear and distinct notions we have originally; in fact, we are compelled to give this assent when the notions are presented to our mind, but the logical steps we take from these ideas to the final proof is still subject to the evil demon because God is not yet proven.

Furthermore, because these steps are needed, the memory of the original clear and distinct ideas are themselves subject to doubt because God is not yet proven. It seems that the only way either of the proofs of God could be accepted would be if we had an original clear and distinct perception of God directly presented to our mind (qualitatively similar to the cogito). But this in itself would make any future proofs redundant. Interestingly, this sounds quite similar to a divine revelation. Harry Frankfurt, in his book ‘Demons, Dreamers and Madmen’, has argued that what Descartes is actually looking for is a coherent, indubitable set of beliefs about the universe. Whether they are ‘true’ or not is irrelevant. Perfect certainty is totally compatible with absolute falsity. Our certainty may not coincide precisely with ‘God’s’ truth, but should this matter?: “Reasoncan give us certainty. It can serve to establish beliefs in which there is no risk of betrayal. This certainty is all we need and all we demand. Perhaps our certainties do not coincide with God’s truthBut this divine or absolute truth, since it is outside the range of our faculties and cannot undermine our certainties, need be of no concern to us.” (Frankfurt, p 184)

This is almost a Kantian approach to knowledge, where we as humans only concern ourselves with the phenomena of objects as they present themselves to us, not with the objects in themselves. Can we ascribe this view to Descartes? It’s tempting, given what we have said above regarding the prime importance of indubitability, but it would seem that a God presenting ideas to us in a form which doesn’t correspond to reality, and then giving us a strong disposition to believe that they do correspond to reality would be a deceiving God and contrary to Descartes’ notion of Him. Thus the belief set would not be coherent. Perhaps, as we do not have clear and distinct ideas of the bodies we perceive, and as the divine guarantee only extends as far as clear and distinct ideas, we are being too hasty in judging that reality is how it appears to be and if we stopped to meditate further we would see that reality is actually like something else.

But aside from the fact that this seems unlikely, Descartes never seemed to envisage the possibility. So much for the Cartesian circle. Where does this leave the ontological argument, which we had only just begun to discuss? Aside from the methodological difficulties, there do seem to two further problems with it. The first has been noted by almost every student of Descartes over the years – that of the description of existence as a property. Put briefly, this objection states that existence is not a property like ‘red’ or ‘hairy’ or ‘three-sided’ that can be applied to a subject, and thus it makes no sense to say that existence is part of something’s essence.

If we assert that x is y, we are already asserting the existence of x as soon as we mention it, prior to any application of a predicate. from the beginning. In other words, to say ‘x exists’ is to utter a tautology and to say that ‘x doesn’t exist’ is to contradict oneself. So how can sentences of the form ‘x doesn’t exist’ make sense? one may well ask. It is because these sentences are shorthand for ‘the idea I have of x has no corresponding reality’ and it was to solve problems like this that Bertrand Russell constructed his theory of descriptions. To add existence to an idea doesn’t just make it an idea with a new property, it changes it from an idea into an existent entity.

Finally, if Descartes is right, there seems no reason why we cannot construct any other idea whose essence includes existence. For instance, if I conjure up the idea of ‘an existent purple building that resembles the Taj Mahal’, then it is the true and immutable nature of this idea that it is a building, that this building resembles the Taj Mahal, that the building is purple, and that it exists. But no such building does exist, as far as I am aware, and if it did exist, its existence would not be necessary, but contingent. This in itself is enough, I think, to show that the ontological argument is false.

Once we have destroyed Descartes’ proofs of the existence of God, the edifice of knowledge necessarily comes tumbling down with them, as we find that almost everything Descartes believes in is dependent on God’s nature as a non-deceiver: “I remarkthat the certitude of all other truths is so absolutely dependent on it, that without this knowledge it is impossible ever to know anything perfectly.” (p.115) The only possible exceptions are those assent-compelling beliefs such as the cogito. Even these, however, are doubtful when we are not thinking about them, and the above passage does give weight to Edwin Curley’s argument that: “Descartes would hold that the proposition “I exist” is fully certain only if the rest of the argument of the Meditations goes through. We must buy all or nothing.”

This is not the end of the story, though. As far as Descartes is concerned, by the end of Meditation Five, he has produced two powerful proofs of God, has a clear and distinct notion of his own self, has a criterion for truth, knows how to avoid error and is beginning to form ideas regarding our knowledge of corporeal bodies.. And so it remains only to explain why we are fully justified in believing in corporeal bodies, and also to draw the ideas of Meditation Two regarding self-knowledge to their full conclusion. Regarding the nature of corporeal bodies and our knowledge of them, it seems to me that, given his premises, the conclusions Descartes draws in Meditation Six are generally the correct ones.

He again invokes the causal to argue that the ideas of bodies we have within our minds must be caused by something with at least as much formal reality as the ideas have objective reality. We could theoretically be producing these ideas, but Descartes dismisses this possibility for two reasons – firstly, that the idea of corporeality does not presuppose thought and secondly that our will seems to have no effect on what we perceive or don’t perceive. (This second argument seems to me to ignore dreaming, in which what we perceive derives from us but is independent of our will).

The ideas, then, could come from God, or from another being superior to us but inferior to God. But this, too, is impossible, argues Descartes, as if it were the case that God produces the ideas of bodies in us, then the very strong inclination we have towards believing that the idea-producing bodies resemble the ideas we have would be false and thus God would be allowing us to be deceived which is not permissible. The same would apply if any other being were producing these ideas. Thus, concludes Descartes, it is most likely that our ideas of corporeal bodies are actually caused by bodies resembling those ideas.

We cannot be certain, however, as we cannot claim to have clear and distinct notions of everything we perceive. We can, however, claim certainty with regard to those properties of bodies which we do know with clarity and distinction; namely, size, figure (shape), position, motion, substance, duration and number (not all of these assertions are justified). Obviously we cannot claim that we know these properties for specific bodies with clarity and distinction, for to do so would leave open the question of why it is that astronomy and the senses attribute different sizes to stars.

What Descartes means is that we can be sure that these primary qualities exist in bodies in the same way that they do in our ideas of bodies. This cannot be claimed for qualities such as heat, colour, taste and smell, of which our ideas are so confused and vague that we must always reserve judgement. (This conclusion is actually quite similar to the one John Locke drew fifty years later in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.) I think we can grant this reasoning, with the caveat regarding dreaming that I noted above, and of course the other unproved reasonings that Descartes exhumes here, such as the causal principle. Furthermore, it seems to be further proof that Descartes does believe we can get to know objects in themselves to a certain extent.

Finally, I turn to Descartes’ argument for the distinction of mind and body. Descartes believes he has shown the mind to be better known than the body in Meditation Two. In Meditation Six he goes on to claim that, as he knows his mind and knows clearly and distinctly that its essence consists purely of thought, and that bodies’ essences consist purely of extension, that he can conceive of his mind and body as existing separately. By the power of God, anything that can be clearly and distinctly conceived of as existing separately from something else can be created as existing separately.

At this point, Descartes makes the apparent logical leap to claiming that the mind and body have been created separately, without justification. Most commentators agree that this is not justified, and further, that just because I can conceive of my mind existing independently of my body it does not necessarily follow that it does so. In defence of Descartes, Saul Kripke has suggested that Descartes may have anticipated a modern strand of modal logic that holds that if x=y, then L (x=y). In other words, if x is identical to y then it is necessarily identical to it. From this it follows that if it is logically possible that x and y have different properties then they are distinct.

In this instance, that means that because I can clearly and distinctly conceive of my mind and body as existing separately, then they are distinct. The argument, like much modern work on identity, is too technical and involved to explore here in much depth. But suffice to say that we can clearly and distinctly conceive of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as being distinct and yet they are identical, necessarily so under Kripke’s theory. It is doubtful that Kripke can come to Descartes’ aid here and Descartes needs further argument to prove that the mind and the body are distinct.

And so we finish our discussion of Descartes’ attempts to extricate himself from the sceptical doubts he has set up for himself. As mentioned previously, the ultimate conclusion to draw regarding the success of the enterprise that Descartes set for himself must be that he failed. When the whole epistemological structure is so heavily dependent on one piece of knowledge – in this case the knowledge that God exists – then a denial of that knowledge destroys the whole structure. All that we can really grant Descartes – and this is certainly contentious – is that he can rightly claim that when a clear and distinct idea presents itself to his mind, he cannot but give his assent to this idea, and furthermore, that while this assent is being granted, the clear and distinct idea can be justly used as a foundation for knowledge.

The most this gets us – and this is not a little – is the knowledge of our own existence each time we assert it. But Descartes’ project should not be judged by us as a failure – the fact that he addressed topics of great and lasting interest, and provided us with a method we can both understand and utilise fruitfully, speaks for itself.

Bibliography

1. Descartes, Rene A Discourse on Method, Meditations and Principles of Philosophy trans. John Veitch. The Everyman’s Library, 1995.

2. Descartes, Rene The Philosophical Writings of Descartes volume I and II ed. and trans. John Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch. Cambridge, 1985.

3. Frankfurt, Harry Demons, Dreamers and Madmen. Bobbs-Merrill, 1970.

4. Curley, Edwin Descartes Against the Skeptics. Oxford, 1978.

5. Vesey, Godfrey Descartes: Father of Modern Philosophy. Open University Press, 1971.

6. Sorrell, Tom Descartes: Reason and Experience. Open University Press, 1982.

7. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy ed. Ted Honderich. Oxford University Press, 1985.

8. Cottingham, John Descartes. Oxford, 1986.

9. Williams, Bernard Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry. Harmondsworth, 1978.

10. Russell, Bertrand The History of Western Philosophy. George Allen and Unwin, 1961.

11. Kripke, Saul Naming and Necessity. Oxford 1980.