Most religions have one or two unusual practices or devices but occasionally you find one which is just completely weird. This list contains ten of the more unusual things found in modern religions.
1. Mormom Temple Garments Wikipedia
In some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the temple garment (or the Garment of the Holy Priesthood, or informally, the garment or garments) is a set of sacred underclothing worn by adult adherents who have taken part in a ritual ceremony known as washing and anointing ordinance, usually in a temple as part of the Endowment ceremony. Adherents consider them to be sacred and may be offended by public discussion of the garments. Anti-Mormon activists have publicly displayed or defaced temple garments to show their opposition to the LDS Church.
According to generally-accepted Mormon doctrine, the marks in the garments are sacred symbols (Buerger 2002, p. 58). One proposed element of the symbolism, according to early Mormon leaders, was a link to the “Compass and the Square”, the symbols of freemasonry (Morgan 1827, pp. 22-23), to which Joseph Smith (creator of Mormonism) had been initiated about seven weeks prior to his introduction of the Endowment ceremony.
An E-meter is an electronic device manufactured by the Church of Scientology at their Gold Base production facility. It is used as an aid by Dianetics and Scientology counselors and counselors-in-training in some forms of auditing, the application of the techniques of Dianetics and Scientology to another or to oneself for the express purpose of addressing spiritual issues.
E-meter sessions are conducted by church employees known as auditors. Scientology materials traditionally refer to the subject as the “preclear,” although auditors continue to use the meter well beyond the clear level. The preclear holds a pair of cylindrical electrodes (“cans”) connected to the meter while the auditor asks the preclear a series of questions and notes both the verbal response and the activity of the meter. Auditor training describes many types of needle movements, with each having their own special significance.
A 1971 ruling of the United States District Court, District of Columbia (333 F. Supp. 357), specifically stated, “The E-meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, nor is it medically or scientifically capable of improving any bodily function.”
3. Exorcism Cogitz
Exorcism is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed (taken control of). The practice is quite ancient and still part of the belief system of many religions, though it is seen mostly in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the church, can only be exercised by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness. The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1908) enjoined: “Superstition ought not to be confounded with religion, however much their history may be interwoven, nor magic, however white it may be, with a legitimate religious rite”.
Kaparot is a traditional Jewish religious ritual that takes place around the time of the High Holidays. Classically, it is performed by grasping a live chicken by the sholder blades and moving around one’s head three times, symbolically transferring one’s sins to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor, preferably eaten at the pre-Yom Kippur feast. In modern times, Kapparos is performed in the traditional form mostly in Haredi communities. The ritual is preceded by the reading of Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24.
On the eve of Yom Kippur 2005, more than 200 caged chickens were abandoned in rainy weather as part of a Kaparot operation in Brooklyn, NY; some of these starving and dehydrated chickens were subsequently rescuedby the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Jacob Kalish, an Orthodox Jew from Williamsburg, was charged with animal cruelty for the drowning deaths of 35 of these chickens. In response to such reports of the mistreatment of chickens, animal rights organizations have begun to picket public observances of kaparot, particularly in Israel.
5. Shamanism Wikipedia
Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. There are many variations in shamanism throughout the world, though there are some beliefs that are shared by all forms of shamanism. Its practitioners claim the ability to diagnose and cure human suffering and, in some societies, the ability to cause suffering. This is believed to be accomplished by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits.
Shamans have been credited with the ability to control the weather, divination, the interpretation of dreams, astral projection, and traveling to upper and lower worlds. Shamans were used in Tibetan Buddhism as a form of divination by which the Dalai Lama was given prophesies of the future and advice.
6. Dowry Wikipedia
This is a cultural practice rather than a religious one. The practice of dowry exists across India. Despite laws against it, the practice continues. The girl child’s dowry and wedding expenses often sends her family into a huge debt trap. As consumerism and wealth increase in India, dowry demands are growing. In rural areas, families sell their land holdings, while the urban poor sell their houses.
To curb the practice of dowry, the government of India made several laws detailing severe punishment to anyone demanding dowry and a law in Indian Penal Code (Section 498A) has been introduced. While it gives boost to a woman and her family, it in the same time also put a man and his family in a great disadvantage. Misuse of this law by women in urban India and many incidents of extortion of money from the husband done by the wife and her family (this is called sowry) have come to light.
7. Mormon Baptism of the Dead Wikipedia
Baptism for the dead, vicarious baptism or proxy baptism is a religious practice of baptising a living person on behalf of an individual who is dead; the living person is acting as the deceased person’s proxy. It has been practiced since 1840 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where it is also called temple baptism because it is performed only in dedicated temples.
In the practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a living person, acting as proxy, is baptized by immersion on behalf of a deceased person of the same gender. The baptism ritual is as follows: after calling the living proxy by name, the person performing the baptism says, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you for and in behalf of [full name of deceased person], who is dead, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” The proxy is then immersed briefly in the water. Baptism for the dead is a distinctive ordinance of the church and is based on the belief that baptism is a required ordinance for entry into the Kingdom of God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints vicariously baptizes people regardless of race, sex, or creed. This includes both victims and perpetrators of genocide. Some Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and their supporters have objected to this practice.
8. Jainist Digambaras Wikipedia
Digambar also spelled Digambara is one of the two main sects of Jainism. Senior Digambar monks wear no clothes, following the practice of Lord Mahavira. They do not consider themselves to be nude — they are wearing the environment. Digambaras believe that this practice represents a refusal to give in to the body’s demands for comfort and private property — only Digambara ascetics are required to forsake clothing. Digambara ascetics have only two possessions: a peacock feather broom and a water gourd.
The native Jain communities of Maharashta, Bundelkhand (MP/UP), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu are all Digambaras. In north India, the Saravagis and the Agrawals are also Digambaras. In Gujarat and Southern Rajasthan, the majority of Jains follow the Svetambara tradition, although some Jain communities of these regions like the Humad are also Digambaras.
9. Islamic Niqab (?????) Wikipedia
A niqab is a veil which covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of sartorial hijab. It is popular in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf but it can also be found in North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The niqab is regarded differently by the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence known as madhahab. Some see it as obligatory, or fard , while others see it as recommended, or mustahab, and a few see it as forbidden. The majority of scholars believe hijab is required, but only a few see niqab as required, although this is not the common perception among the general population.
10. Jehovah’s Witnesses Refusal of Blood Transfusions Wikipedia
A fundamental doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaches that the Bible prohibits consumption, storage and transfusion of blood, including in cases of emergency. This doctrine was introduced in 1945, and has been elaborated upon since then. Although accepted by a majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses, evidence indicates a minority does not wholly endorse this doctrine. Facets of the doctrine have drawn praise and criticism from both members of the medical community and Jehovah’s Witnesses alike.
In 1964, Jehovah’s Witnesses were prohibited from obtaining transfusions for pets, from using fertilizer containing blood, and were even encouraged to write to dog food manufacturers to verify that their products were blood-free. Later that year, Jehovah’s Witnesses doctors and nurses were instructed to withhold blood transfusions from fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. As to administering transfusions to non-members, The Watchtower stated that such a decision is “left to the Christian doctor’s own conscience.”
Reincarnation is the belief that when one dies, one’s body decomposes but something of oneself is reborn in another body. It is the belief that one has lived before and will live again in another body after death. The bodies one passes in and out of need not be human. One may have been a Doberman in a past life, and one may be a mite or a carrot in a future life. Some tribes avoid eating certain animals because they believe that the souls of their ancestors dwell in those animals. A man could even become his own daughter by dying before she is born and then entering her body at birth.
The belief in past lives used to be mainly a belief found in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, but now is a central tenet of much woo-woo like dianetics and channeling. In those ancient Eastern religions, reincarnation was not considered a good thing, but a bad thing. To achieve the state of ultimate bliss (nirvana) is to escape from the wheel of rebirth. In most, if not all, ancient religions with a belief in reincarnation, the soul entering a body is seen as a metaphysical demotion, a sullying and impure rite of passage. In New Age religions, however, being born again seems to be a kind of perverse goal. Prepare yourself in this life for who or what you want to come back as in the next life. Belief in past lives also opens the door for New Age therapies such as past life regression therapy, which seeks the causes of today’s psychological problems in the experiences of previous lives.
L. Ron Hubbard, author of Dianetics and the founder of Scientology, introduced his own version of reincarnation into his new religion. According to Hubbard, past lives need auditing to get at the root of one’s “troubles.” He also claims that “Dianetics gave impetus to Bridey Murphy” and that some scientologists have been dogs and other animals in previous lives (“A Note on Past Lives” in The Rediscovery of the Human Soul). According to Hubbard, “It has only been in Scientology that the mechanics of death have been thoroughly understood.” What happens in death is this: the Thetan (spirit) finds itself without a body (which has died) and then it goes looking for a new body. Thetans “will hang around people. They will see a woman who is pregnant and follow her down the street.” Then, the Thetan will slip into the newborn “usually…two or three minutes after the delivery of a child from the mother. A Thetan usually picks it up about the time the baby takes its first gasp.” How Hubbard knows this is never revealed.
Channeling, like past life regression, is distinct from reincarnation, even though it is based on the same essential concept: death does not put an end to the entirety of one’s being. In classical reincarnation, something of the consciousness of the deceased somehow enters a new body but as that body grows only one unified consciousness persists through time. Channeling might be called temporary intermittent past life invasion because there is a coming and going of the past life entity, which always remains distinct from the present self-conscious being. For example, JZ Knight claims that in 1977 the spirit of a Cro-Magnon warrior who once lived in Atlantis took over her body in order to pass on bits of wisdom he’d picked up over the centuries. Knight seems to be carrying on the work of Jane Roberts and Robert Butts, who in 1972 hit the market with Seth Speaks. Knight, Roberts, and Butts are indebted to Edgar Cayce, who claimed to be in touch with many of his past lives. One would think that channeling might muck things up a bit. After all, if various spirits from the past can enter any body at any time without destroying the present person, it is possible that when one remembers a past life it is actually someone else’s life one is remembering.
From a philosophical point of view, reincarnation poses some interesting problems. What is it that is reincarnated? Presumably, it is the soul that is reincarnated, but what is the soul? A disembodied consciousness?
Reincarnation does seem to offer an explanation for some strange phenomena such as the ability of some people to regress to a past life under hypnosis. Also, we might explain child prodigies by claiming that unlike most cases of reincarnation where the soul has to more or less start from scratch, the child prodigy somehow gets a soul with great carryover from a previous life, giving it a decided advantage over the rest of us. Reincarnation could explain why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people: they are being rewarded or punished for actions in past lives (karma). One could explain déjà vu experiences by claiming that they are memories of past lives. Dreams could be interpreted as a kind of soul travel and soul memory. However, past life regression and déjà vu experiences are best explained as the recalling of events from this life, not some past life. Dreams and child prodigies are best explained in terms of brain structures and genetically inheritable traits and processes. And since bad things also happen to bad people and good things also happen to good people, the most reasonable belief is that there is no design to the distribution of good and bad happening to people.
Stories, especially stories from children, that claim knowledge of a past life, abound. One collector of such stories was the psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, who made a weak case that the stories offered scientific evidence for reincarnation.
Finally, since there is no way to tell the difference between a baby with a soul that will go to heaven or hell, a baby with a soul that has been around before in other bodies, and a baby with no soul at all, it follows that the idea of a soul adds nothing to our concept of a human being. Applying Occam’s razor, both the idea of reincarnation and the idea of an immortal soul that will go to heaven or hell are equally unnecessary.
See also Bloxham tapes, Bridey Murphy, Edgar Cayce, channeling, dream, dualism, karma, mind, memory, Occam’s razor, past life regression, Ian Stevenson, soul, and my review of The Rediscovery of the Human Soul by L. Ron Hubbard, (1996).
via reincarnation –.