The two subjects one should never bring up if one does not want to start an argument are politics and religion. Well today, we will talk about the latter. Religion is and will always be a sensitive topic to discuss, and there’s no denying this will never change. However practitioners of religion can be categorized in four different groups.
The first group are the ignorant believers; this group consists of followers who believe that their religion is the one true religion and takes it upon themselves to prosecute others who practice a different religion. These are the people responsible for wars and innocent lives being taken away because of their beliefs. The second group consist of religious followers who care deeply about their religion, yet are open and accept other religions and try to live in peace and harmony. The third group is people who were born in their religion, nonetheless challenge the beliefs and notions of the preaching of their respected religion. The fourth and final group consists of the non-believers; they do not associate themselves with a religion and are considered atheist. Some of these people oppose all religions and others respect and accept religions for what they are.
The point of all this is to demonstrate to the readers that religion is not the problem, practitioners who take it upon themselves to use religion as a means to hate and indict others are the problem with society. Religion was the root to many wars throughout history, and still today there are senseless clashes going on because of people’s beliefs. In retrospect, all religions have fundamentals of respecting others and to live an enlightened life, though ignorant believers can’t seem to comprehend what they are doing is going against what they believe. This article shows different religions around the world which many did not know even existed. Some might seem bizarre and odd to readers, while others can be seen as interesting and maybe something one might want take part and discover more about. Here are 13 religions you didn’t know existed.
Mandaeism is a gnostic religion with a dualistic worldview. This religion doesn’t follow the teaching of Jesus, Abraham, or Moses. Instead it follows heavily on the principles and teachings of John the Baptist. Mandaean’s dualistic view of life includes both good and evil; all good is thought to come from the world of light and all evil from the world of darkness. They believe the body, all worldly and material objects come from the dark, while the soul is a creation that emanates from the light world. Mandaeism is an old religion, scholars have discovered that its origins can date back to the first century. Mandaeans were mainly situated in Iraq with a population of 60,000 to 70,000. Though, due to the Iraq War, most have relocated to neighboring countries Iran, Syria and Jordan.
12. Builders of the Adytum
Builders of the Adytum (or B.O.T.A for short) is a newer religion created in California by Dr. Paul Foster Case. Most of the beliefs and teachings cover esoteric psychology, occult tarot, Hermetic Qabalah, astrology, and meditation techniques. B.O.T.A holds a variety of ritual services and study groups for its practitioners, with many of them open to the public. B.O.T.A believes that the Qabalah is the mystical root of both ancient Judaism and the original Christianity, but people of all faiths are accepted if they are mystically inclined. Nonetheless, B.O.TA has a small number of members, only 5,000 have been reported. The number is growing, but B.O.T.A is still considered one of the smallest religions in the world.
Zoroastrianism is considered one of the oldest Religions in the world founded by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster in 5th century BCE. Researchers and scholars actually found out that Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world at one point. It was the official religion of the Achaemenid Empire from 600 BCE to 650 CE, and this empire was regarded as the largest empire in history. However, because of the Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century, the Zoroastrianism religion was suppressed. It was estimated that there is around 2.6 million Zoroastrians living today, mostly located in India and Iran.
Zoroastrianism is practiced in the western world as well. North America is thought to be home to 18,000-25,000 Zoroastrians. A recent study has shown that the United States has become a substantial destination for Zoroastrians, having the second largest population after India.
Eckankar is a modern day religion created by Paul Twitchell in 1965. The main principle of this religion is to help individuals find their way back to God through direct personal and spiritual experiences. This movement significantly focuses on meditation as a form of spiritual growth, and dreams are also an imperative part of their beliefs. Followers believe dream travel serves as the gateway to soul travel. Through these practices, the soul can escape the physical form and enter the Sugmad, or spiritual realm. Completion is seen as successful when one’s spiritual journey results in a reunification with Eck, which is their God.
Heathenry is a modern Pagan religious movement that is relatively new, where practitioners seek to revive pre-Christian religions. Heathenry centers on a pantheon of deities from pre-Christian Germanic Europe, including both gods and goddesses. There are an estimated 20,000 Heathenry practitioners, though because of depiction of Norse religion in popular culture (History Channel series Vikings), the number of members is growing worldwide. Heathenry has had many racial issues because of its predominantly “white race” of followers. Due to this pressing issue, two factions were formed, “racialist” and “non-racialist”. In the United States, three different factions were formed, “anti-racist”, “radical racist” and “ethnic.”
8. LaVeyan Satanism
The practice of Satanism garners a lot of criticism, and contrary to popular belief, LaVeyan Satanism does not worship the devil or any deities. The principle of LaVeyan Satanism is worshiping your own self, as the core philosophies are based on views of individualism and egoism. The religion is atheistic, it rejects Gods or any supernatural beings. Practitioners view Satan as an archetype who represents pride, liberty and enlightenment. The practice of magic is part of LaVeyan Satanism; there are two distinct forms, greater and lesser magic. Greater magic focuses on one’s emotional energy for specific purpose (the three major psycho emotive themes are compassion, destruction and sex). Lesser magic on the other hand is the practice to bend an individual or situation to one’s will by the means of applied psychology and glamour.
Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966, and since then groups have been created across the United States. Still to this day, a large number of people practice LaVeyan Satanism.
Baha’i emphasizes the spiritual unity of all mankind. Their belief is monotheistic, which is the belief in the existence of one God. The Baha’i religion follows three core principles; the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. According to teachings, the purpose of humans is to learn to know and love God through methods of prayer, reflection, and being a service to humanity. The religion was founded in 19th century Persia, and it has since spread from its roots and is predominantly situated Iran. Baha’i followers have been estimated to be in over 200 countries around the world.
The practitioners can suffer persecution in many countries, particularly in Iran where over 200 Baha’is were executed between 1978 and 1998.
Raelism preaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extra-terrestrials, which they call Elohim. They believe that members of this species appeared human when having personal contacts with decedents of the humans that they made. Raelians consider Jesus, Budha and other prophets and messengers to be of the Elohim. Raelism started in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon, he claims he had alien encounters with beings who gave him knowledge of the origins of all major religions. What started as a very small movement in France with only 174 followers, has now expanded worldwide with over 55,000 practitioners.
5. Falun Gong
Falun Gong was founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992. The religion consists of meditation and qigong exercises. Key elements of Buddhism and Taoism are incorporated in its teachings. Falun Gong has a moral philosophy centered on the tenet’s truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to better their health and ultimately reach spiritual enlightenment. Meditation and qigong exercises are of foremost importance in Falun Gong.
Initially the Chinese government supported this movement, however, it drastically changed from support to persecution. In an attempt to eradicate the practice, it was declared a heretical organization that threatened social stability. As of 2009, it was reported that over 2000 Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of abuse in custody. In addition, tens of thousands lives have been taken to supply China’s organ transplant industry.
In what many perceived to be a joke in a 2001 census about religion is now a full fledge religious moment. Jedism was inspired by the blockbuster movie franchise Star Wars. Even though the Jedism movement has no founder or central structure, concepts have been created for the way a practitioner of Jedism should live his or her life. Jedism recognizes that all living things share living force and that all people have an innate knowledge of what is right and wrong. They believe there is one all powerful force that binds the entire universe together, which is an energy field created by all living things. In Jedism, there is also good and evil which is represented by the light and dark side. It is not known if the creator of Star Wars George Lucas is a member of the Jedi Church, though one can believe he would join a religion that was inspired from his very own work.
Candomble has a strong following in Brazil and in many South American countries. It has 2 million followers to date and is still growing in popularity. Unlike other religions, Candomble does not have Holy Scriptures, as all of the religion’s cultural material and tradition is transmitted verbally from one generation to another. Practitioners believe in a supreme creator called Oludumare, and each follower is believed to be protected by a deity who in turn serves Oludumare.
The Candomble religious origins come from West Africa. Music and dance are an integral part of the Candomble ceremonies, and the dances enable worshipers to become possessed by their deities.
At one point in time it was one of the strongest religions in China, although today the numbers of practitioners have significantly reduced. Taoism originated in the late 4th century BCE by founder Laozi. Whether he actually existed is disputed to this day, yet his work is still preached regardless. Tao means “way”, “path” and “principle”, thus Taoism emphasizes living in harmony with Tao. An important element in Taoism are exercises by aligning oneself with cosmic forces and undertaking of spiritual journeys. The key objective of a Taoist is to improve one’s health to the point of immortality and become Xian. In Taoism, Xian is considered a spiritually immortal and enlightened person.
1. First Church of Cannabis
Many do not believe this is an actual church; however, by law it is a religious institution. When Indiana passed a “religious freedom” law designed to legalize LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) discrimination, the government accidentally made this church 100% legal. Cannataerians believe in harmony and follow a set of guidelines they live by called “deity dozens”. These guidelines are straightforward and range from “don’t be an a$$hole, treat everyone as an equal” to “don’t be a troll on the internet”. Services are held every Wednesday at 7:00, and also include a lot of pot smoking.