Friday, February 25, 2011

In other news...

This post is titled "In other news" because it's not directly related to Buddhism or Paganism but more of the evolution of my beliefs. The MD Senate has passed the bill approving gay marriage. It must now go to the House. Gov. O'Malley says that he will sign the bill. Meanwhile the Atty Gen released an opinion that MD should recognize gay marriages that are performed elsewhere. This opinion is effective immediately.


Before it was passed in the Senate, the bill was amended to allow officiants to refuse to perform the ceremony based on religious beliefs. For example, a Catholic or Morman priest would be able to decline to marry a gay couple. However, being an ordained Universal Life Church minister (shameless plug!), I will perform the ceremony provided that both parties are of legal age to enter into the marriage contract.




Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Bible in public school

I thought about this post in a response to the article About Pagan/Wicca posted.


It seems that every now and then, a senator or congressperson wants to mix religion and politics. It is the responsibility of parents to see to the spiritual growth of their children. Public school is just that - public. I'm sure 100% of the public is not Christian. Private school is private. Many are affiliated with a specific religion. I would have no right to complain about the Christian-centric curriculum of "Jesus My Lord and Savior" private school.


In public school, there should be an elective course on World Religions. Elective. Meaning that it's not mandatory. It should be offered in all secondary schools. Why? Because children should be exposed to stuff outside of their own fishbowl.  I was indoctrinated for the past 3 decades and it's taking me until now to be deprogrammed. World Religions would include introductions to the appropriate spiritual texts.


In public colleges, a World Religions / Cultures class should be a mandatory Gen Ed class. Why the difference? One, once you're in college, you're an adult. Two, you should want to know more about your world. Three, you have a thirst for knowlege. Isn't that one of the reason why you're enrolled? 


So to the politicians: stop passing bills to further your religious agendas. You want your children to learn about the Bible, teach them yourself or send them to church.

Friday, February 11, 2011

1st Quarter Uposatha Dharma - Precepts

Some Buddhist traditions follow precepts during the festival days or Uposatha. As mentioned before, these days coincide more or less with the main phases of the moon and are sometimes referred to as the Buddhist sabbath. Laypersons take the opportunity to reinforce their beliefs.  The precepts as mentioned in Buddhism for Dummies are

  • do not kill
  • do not steal
  • do not engage in sexual misconduct
  • do not lie
  • do not use intoxicants
  • do not eat after midday
  • do not engage in singing, dancing, music, or any other kind of entertainment
  • do not use garlands, perfumes, or adornments
  • do not sit on a luxurious seat or sleep on a luxurious bed
  • do not accept or hold money

Laypersons should try to live by the first five on a daily basis; the remaining five are carried out on Uposatha days. Note that some of the precepts can be interpreted broadly. Others may need adjustment for today's society and for the specific lifestyle and tradition of the practitioner. Nowhere is it mentioned that there is a punishment for failing to follow them as it is with the 10 Commandments.  This site gives a modern take on the first five:

As far as I know, Nichiren Buddhism does not mention the precepts. However, following them would not detract from your practice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Final Arrangements and the Afterlife

As no one has been there and back with conclusive evidence, I'm not sure what to think about the afterlife. I do think that the spirit separates from the physical body at death. What happens to the spirit, I don't know. However, the physical body is ultimately just a shell. It has been scientifically proven that all elements in the body can be found in the universe or more close to home, in the earth's soil.  We are all star stuff or children of the earth.

I want my final arrangements to make it easier for my physical body to return to the universe. I request that no artificial means of preservation be applied to my remains. No autopsy.

  • Eject me into space straight into the sun. However, due to the extreme cost, this probably wouldn't happen.
  • Cremate me on a funeral pyre. They did this in the old days but it's is probably illegal in most states. This is the only way to make sure that my remains aren't mixed with someone else's.
  • Cremate me via convention methods. Unfortunately, crematoriums spew chemicals into the air and there's always a little bit of cremains left from the previous individuals.
  • Green burial. Burial with no chemicals, body is wrapped in cotton and decomposes naturally.

Are your final arrangements influenced by your belief or non-belief in the afterlife?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Then and Now

I was hesitant to post this because in some ways I believe that one's spirituality is a personal matter. However, I created this blog to get my thoughts out and perhaps to reach out to others. I don't expect anyone to agree with me although that would be nice J. As you may know by now, I was raised in a Christian religion. Now that I'm thinking for myself, I know longer hold to those ideals.  I decided to compare where I am now and where I was.

Old: There is one true God "out there", usually referred to as male.
New:  All Goddesses are one Goddess. All Gods are one God. The Goddess and God are one.  The Divine is within and without.

Old: The soul is not a separate part of the body.
New: The soul or spirit is what makes you, you and me, me and separates from the physical entity at death.

Old: There is only one true religion / spiritual path.
New: There are many ways to achieve the same goal. Your path may not be the same as mine. I don't mind if we share or compare notes, but don't force your beliefs on me.

Old: There is no afterlife. When you die, you die. No heaven (except for a select few), no fiery hell.
New: The spirit survives on. Doing what, I'm not sure. Some people believe in reincarnation which is the soul being reborn into another body. I still have lots of questions about that.

Old: Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind. We must go through him to talk to God.
New: Since we all have the Divine in us, we don't need an intermediary. We can contact God/dess directly.

Old: Homosexuality is a sin and is unnatural.
New: A sin according to whom? One's sexual preference is personal and is none of my business.  As far as being unnatural or contrary to nature – 2 males or 2 females cannot reproduce on their own. Sorry, but right now, the creation of a human being requires one egg to be fertilized by one sperm. Genetics aside, who are we to say who should get married or raise children? Is it any more unnatural to have more than one husband or wife? I also think that in some cases preferring the same gender is not a choice, so for those people being heterosexual is unnatural.

I'll pose a question to my readers – all one of them – if you don't follow your childhood religion, how have your beliefs changed?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is my religion a cult? Part 2

14. Are non-believers regarded with aloofness and suspicion?
Jehovah's Witness - not in my experience
Soka Gakkai International - no, I felt very comfortable
Nichiren Shoshu - no
Paganism - no

15. Are members told who to vote for in public elections?
JW - members are told to not vote at all, to remain neutral
SGI - not that I'm aware of
NS - not that I'm aware of
P - not that I'm aware of

16. Does the organization interfere in a member's choice of personal lifestyle?
JW - yes
SGI - no
NS - unsure
P - no

17. Does the organization interfere in a member's choice of martial partner?
JW - yes. Only other JWs and gay partners are definitely not allowed.
SGI - don't think so
NS - unsure but I believe they encourage members to marry other NS. Unsure about gay partners.
P - no

18. Are scandals within the organization hidden?
JW - unknown
SGI - unknown
NS - unknown
P - no central organization

19. Does the organization attack competing organizations, denominations, or religions?
JW - yes
SGI - not as viciously as others
NS - yes
P - some sects do, as a whole, I would say no.

20. Is culture misused, watered down, or bastardized in order to help acheive numerous rapid shallow conversions?
JW- unknown
SGI - unknown
NS - unknown
P - no, Paganism is not concerned with converting anyone

21. Are members discouraged from asking a lot of questions?
JW - yes
SGI - no
NS - no
P - no

22. Is individuality suppressed and conformity promoted?
JW - yes
SGI - no
NS - yes
P - no

23. Are some of the beliefs, doctrines, or practices bizarre?
JW - no
SGI - no
NS - no
P - they can be depending on the specific sect

24. Is dissent suppressed and hidden?
JW - yes, dissenters are cast out
SGI - unknown
NS - unknown
P - no

25. Are members told that if they discontinue their participation, their personal destiny will deteriorate?
JW - yes
SGI - unsure
NS - yes
P - no, but this could depend on the sect

Is my religion a cult? Part 1

This checklist can be found at Since I've led a very shelter life, I will be comparing 4 religions based on the questions according to my understanding. I'm not sure of the scientific validity of the results but it's definitely food for thought. If any of the information is incorrect, please comment. I am not claiming to be an expert on any of the following religions. For Paganism, I'm answering the questions based this path as a whole. Scoring starts at zero; for every yes answer add 4 points.

Score of 0:  Perfect.  No cultish characteristics.  Not a cult.  
Score of 1 - 25:  Mild cult.
Score of 26 - 50: Moderate cult.
Score of 51 - 75: Serious cult.
Score of 76 - 100: Extreme cult.

1. Do the members depend upon a charismatic leader or his memory and upon whom they heap adoration?
Jehovah's Witness - no
Soka Gakkai Internation - yes, Daisaku Ikeda
Nichiren Shoshu - no
Paganism - no

2. Is there pressure to donate all or most of your disposable income?
JW - no, but you are encouraged to donate to help support the Kingdom Hall itself and special projects as they come up
SGI - not in any of the meetings I attended
NS - not in any of the meetings I attended
P - No. Each coven may ask members to donate to support paying the rent on meeting areas, materials for rituals, etc.

3. Do members devote all or most of their spare time to organizational activities?
JW - members are encouraged to devote time to field service (preaching to non-believers). My mother volunteered to be a Pioneer and is required to devote 90 hours in field service a month.
SGI - I'm guessing that if you hold a leadership position, you will need to devote more time to the organization then one who is not a leader.
NS - unsure
P - not that I have seen

4. Are the members inconvenienced, for example, expected to drive long distances to attend large central meetings?
JW - Yes, last time I checked there were 2 circuit conventions and 1 district convention each year. The circuit convention is usually semi-local but the district one can require a hotel stay over a weekend.
SGI - need more information
NS - need more information
P - too many different paths to have a definitive answer

5. Do the publications co-opt the names and accomplishments of famous people even though the people being co-opted are not members?
JW - not that I'm aware
SGI - not that I'm aware
NS - not that I'm aware
P - not that I'm aware

6. Do the publications ignore the feedback or criticisms submitted by rank and file members?
JW - yes
SGI - unsure
NS - unsure
P - no central publications

7. Are members with long time chronic problems eventually looked down upon and made to feel unwelcome?
JW - I didn't notice this when I was a member
SGI - not that I'm aware
NS - not that I'm aware
P - not that I'm aware

8. Are there high-pressure targets for increasing memberships?
JW - yes, you are encouraged to increase your field service time, start Bible studies, and aid non-believers to get baptized as JW
SGI - not sure
NS - yes
P - no. Pagans in general keep to themselves. In fact because of the secrecy I think it is more difficult to become a member of a coven

9. Are decisions in the organization made top-down and hieracchically?
JW - yes
SGI - yes
NS - yes
P - if you're in a coven, yes

10. Are the organization's leaders appointed rather than elected?
JW - yes, appointed by holy spirit
SGI - unsure
NS - the high priest in Japan is picked by his predecessor, not sure about the local priests
P - it depends on the coven

11. Are the organization's charter, mission, rules, and bylaws made by the top leaders without consulting the rank and file members?
JW - yes
SGI - unsure
NS - unsure
P - no centralized organization

12. Is there an absence of financial transparency?
JW - as far as I know, the local congregations read the statement of accounts once a month.
SGI - unknown
NS - unknown
P - unknown

13. Are members pressured to give inflated testimonials at meetings?
JW - I wouldn't say pressured but members may be called upon to give experiences
SGI - same as above
NS - same as above
P - no