All the Names of God and Their Meanings

There are many denominations and different titles that designate God the Father in the bible, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. These names reveal some of the attributes that God has and with which He wanted to reveal himself in his dealings with man. Let’s see the most important ones.

 

He. It is a generic word used in the ancient Semitic languages ​​to speak of God. It is the name of the most important God among the Canaanites. The Bible also speaks of Him as the God of Israel. In plural it is Elohim that is united to the verb in singular form. Sometimes it appears in combination with a noun.

 

Elyon. Elyon in Hebrew means getting up. Express the idea of ​​”Most High”, “Exalted”. This is what Genesis calls it: “Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought bread and wine, for he was a priest of the Most High God.”

 

Shadai. It is the name used for God in the stories of the ancestors of Israel: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, etc. Its etymology is not certain: God of the Mountain, Almighty God, Mighty One of Israel. It refers to the maximum and sovereign power of God.

This title suggests the abundant goodness of God, the temporal and spiritual blessings with which he enriches his people. Others believe that Shaddai comes from a root meaning “to be violent,” “to plunder,” “to devastate.” Then, applied to God, it would mean “show power” as “Almighty God” or “Almighty God.” This name appears for the first time in Genesis: “Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said: I am El-Shaddai.”

 

Elohim This is a general title for “God,” which appears more than 250 times in the Bible. It is part of the plural of “El”, by which some have understood an allusion to the Holy Trinity, based on the words: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness”, from the book of Genesis. It certainly refers to the one true God. It is the simplest and oldest form. Moses, David and Isaiah had a special preference for this name.

 

Adonai This word comes from a Hebrew root that means to govern. It is used to refer to the owner of a property, the head of the family, or the governor of a province. It appears about 300 times the Hebrew word adon in the Old Testament. It is usually translated “Lord”. It is used in place of YHWH, which was considered too sacred by the Jews to be pronounced by sinful men.

 

Yahweh It is derived from YHWH, the most common divine title in the Old Testament (it appears 5,500 times). The sacred word YHWH is called Tetragrammaton, that is, “four letters”, referring to the four consonants that compose it. (In the ancient Hebrew only the consonants of the words were written.) The Jews, by a feeling of reverence, considered the title so sacred that they did not even read the Scriptures. This name specifies immanence, a presence. Yahweh is present, accessible, close to those who invoke him for his liberation, forgiveness, and guidance. This is what the psalm says: “Let those rescued by Yahweh say so.”

 

Yahweh Sebaot (in Hebrew, army). Appearing 250 times in the Bible (18 times only in the 18th chapter of Zechariah), the “Lord of Hosts” is a common name for God. Perhaps it is the most sublime of the divine titles. Suggests full control and lordship over the entire universe. A beautiful example of this is found in Ps 24, where it literally reads: “Who is this King of glory? Yahweh of the armies; he is the King of glory. ”

 

Besides the mentioned names, other titles abound in the Holy Book, such as Ancient of Days, Creator, Deliverer, Father, Saint, Yo-soy, Judge, King, Lawgiver, Light, Rock, Redeemer, Fort of Israel, etc.

Zoroastrianism


Definition

Zoroastrianism is a religion, one of the oldest.

According to tradition, it was founded by Zoroaster after he received a vision in which he was introduced to Ahura Mazda, and told of the great God and his adversary. He saw other radiant figures too, but could not see his shadow on the ground, a sign which convince Zoroaster his vision was authentic. This was the first of several visions in which Ahura Mazda conversed with him. The vision is alluded to in the Cathas (Y 43) and briefly described in the Pahlavi work (Zadspram XX-XXI). It was the knowledge gained from these visions which caused Zoroaster to designate Ahura Mazda as master of asha, order, righteousness, and justice; proclaiming him to be the one uncreated God, existing eternally, and Creator of all else that is good including all other beneficent divinities.

However, experience of the harsh realities of the world convinced Zoroaster that Ahura Mazda did not exist alone; and in a vision, he saw the Adversary, the Hostile Spirit, Angra Mainya, or Ahriman, who was equally uncreated, ignorant and wholly malign. Zoroaster saw in his prophetic eye the origin of these two Spirits; they were twin, primal spirits, destined to be in constant conflict; of the two, the worst Spirit had chosen to do the worst things while the good Spirit had chosen righteousness. They were the twin antagonists in thought, word and act, the good and the bad. When these Spirits first encountered they created life and not-life; and at the end the worst existence shall befall the followers of falsehood (drug) while the best dwelling is for those choosing righteousness (asha). It is speculated by some Iraniologists that the prophetic vision of these twin spirits might have been influenced by Zervanism, the religion of the Magi. Evidence of this is the mentioning of the “twin-spirits” in the Gathas. However, in the Zervanite theogony Ahura Mazda and Ahriman were associated with Light and Darkness, and were the twin sons of Zurvan, god of Infinite Time (Settegast 216).

In order to fully comprehend Zoroaster’s twin-spirit cosmogony one must perceive that the prophet’s veneration of Ahura Mazda was based upon tradition. Mazda, the oldest of the three Ahuras or guardians of asha, had been previously worshipped as the greatest of the three. However, Zoroaster independently and drastically abandoned this former teaching by making Ahura Mazda an uncreated God and Creator; and, as previously stated, experience of the harsh realities of the world convinced Zoroaster that Ahura Mazda did not solely exist, another divinity existed; this was Angra Mainya, the bad or evil Spirit. Here was the dualism; the beliefs were absolute, each spirit acted according to his nature; the good chose good, and the bad chose bad. No room way made or allowed for the belief that both good and bad could come from the same spirit; such a belief never occurred or would it have been tolerated. The reason was that Zoroaster believed like the two primal Spirits, each human would have to make the identical choice between good and evil.

Such an exercise of choice changed the inherent antagonism between the two Spirits into an active one that was expressed by the decision made by Ahura Mazda, in the creation and counter-creation, or the creation of life and not-life; that is death. Zoroaster believed that Ahura Mazda, through his wisdom, knew if he became Creator and fashioned the world, then the Hostile Spirit would attack it because it was good, and it would become a battleground for the two forces, but in the end he, God, would win the great struggle there and be able to destroy evil, and establish a universe which would be wholly good forever.

 

Origin

It should be noted that Zoroaster’s belief seemed based on a Persian myth of Zurvan (Time) (see Time and the Zurvan myth). From the myth Zoroaster appears to have assumed that the combative forces of good and evil always existed since since they were born in time. He further teaches that they would continue their struggle within the created world and finally good would conquer evil.

His teaching about Ahura Mazda was new; but it was based on the former cosmogony which gave basis for Zoroaster’s thought. Thus, the first act that Zoroaster envisioned Ahura Mazda performing was the evoking, through his Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu, of six lesser divinities, the radiant Beings which Zoroaster saw in his first vision. These six divinities form a heptad with Ahura Mazda, and proceeded with him to fashion the seven creations which compose the world. The evocation of the six is variously described in the works of Zoroastrian, but always in manners which suggest the essential unity of beneficent divinity. Ahura Mazda is either described as the “father,” or to have “mingled” himself with them, and in one Pahlavi text his creation of them is compared with the lighting of a torch from s torch.

Ahura Mazda, also referred to as Lord of Wisdom, is believed to be head of the divine heptad. The descriptions of the other six divinities often do not correspond to their sequential creations. Armati, as guardian of the enduring, fertile earth, and mother of all things, was the protectress of women. The other deities and their attributes are: Vohu Manah, Good Thought; Asha Vahishta, Right Order; Khsathra Vairya, Sovereign Power; Haurvatat, Immortality; and Ameretat, Wholeness or Integrity. Each worshipper could partitions the deities collectively or individually. Gradually each deity was believed to be the protector of each particular aspect of creation they were given other attributes by individuals who prayed to them; for example, Haurvatat water, and Ameretat plants; and many speculate this was the reason for Zoroastrianism becoming firmly established.

With these beliefs and teachings Zoroaster began his process of separating the gods. He taught these six great Beings, who were in fact the beneficent deities of the pagan Iranian pantheon. They were, according to Zoroastrian doctrine, were direct or indirect emanations of Ahura Mazda, strived under him, performing their various duties, to promote good and defeat evil. Collectively in Zoroastrianism they are known as Yazatas, “Beings worthy of worship,” or Amesha Spentas, “Holy Immortals.” Although the latter term never in the Gathas, it is thought that Zoroaster coined it to distinguished these entities revealed to him as beneficent from the generality of the pagan gods, who were evoked as “All of the Immortals” in the Vedas; because he vigorously rejected the worship of the warlike, amoral Daevas, particularly Indra and his companions, whom he considered as being of “a race of evil purpose” (Yasna 32.3). “The Daevas chose not rightly, because the Deceiver came upon them as they consulted, so that they chose the worst purpose. Then together they betook themselves to Wrath, through whom they afflicted the life of man” (Y 30.6).

Here Zoroaster was describing the Daevas as false gods, who like Angra Mainyu, were wicked by both nature and choice, and were not to be worshipped because they represented conflict among men, luring them through their greed of offerings to bloodshed and destructive strife. A religious system which Zoroaster was instigating envisioned not only a new spiritual attitude but a cultural one as well. He not only intended to eliminate the worship of warrior gods, but the warrior too. Many Iraniologists think possibly this was the most difficult transformation the prophet attempted to make upon his society. The god Indra, the image of the ideal warrior who was pictured in the Rg Veda as being arrogant, strife-provoking, drunk on songs and soma but bountiful to his followers, from whom he demanded abundant offerings, was vivid in the minds of the people; he also was important to this warring culture. Here, a priest and prophet was trying to eliminate a powerful god; this must have caused quite a stir. Indra was not mentioned in the Gathas, but demonized as a Daeva in the Younger Avesta. His counterpart Mithra, in his warrior aspect, also is not named in the Gathas, but had a very old Yast dedicated to him, which indicates he was probably honored before Zoroaster’s time. It is recognized that Zoroaster’s objection to the natural cults of the time was because of their excessive worship of the divinities, perhaps this is the reason that Indra and Mithra was omitted from the Gathas.

Zoroaster proved that he was not just concerned with the divinities, but also with the people and the earth. His aim was to secure both the material and spiritual welfare of the “Good Creation,” to renew and preserve the sanctity of the world to restore it to a state of perfection. This hope is uttered in the prayer “May we be those who will renew this existence” (Y 30.9).

Such renovation was to occur through husbandry. Although ancient Iranian kings are claimed to have invented husbandry, Zoroaster is said to be the first to embed it into a religious system. Soil cultivation became a kind of worship to his followers, “He who cultivates corn [grain] cultivates righteousness” (Vendidad 3.1).

The previous description is of the second time in cosmic history as Zoroaster envisioned it. To him, cosmic history was divided or spaced within three times or eras. In the first time era “Creation” Ahura Mazda brought all things in a disembodied state, called in Pahlavi, “menog,” or “spiritual immaterial.” To this he added the “material” or “getig” existence, which was better because it possessed perfection that the menog state did not have. The getig state was of solid and sentient form which completed the two states that constituted the act of Creation, called in the Pahlavi “Bundahishn.” The completion of the getig state signaled the start of Angra Mainyu’s evil attack. According to the myth in Pahlavi works, he broke in violently through the lower bowl of the stone sky, thus ruining its perfection. Then he plunged upward through the water, turning much of it in salt, and attacked the earth, creating deserts. There he withered the plant, and slew the uniquely-created Bull and the first man. Finally he fell upon the seventh creation, fire, and sullied it with smoke, so that he had physically blighted all the good creation.

After this all the divine beings rekindled their forces, and the second time era occurred. In this era called the “Mixture” everything is no longer perfect as it was in the era of Creation; the assault of Angra Mainyu destroyed that perfection which could not be restored. The beneficent divinities renewed each thing as best as they could: the plant was ground up and spread over the world by cloud and rain, and sprang forth covering the earth; the seeds of Bull and Man were purified and multiplied everywhere; and where the shameful endeavor of Angra Mainyu had brought decay and death into the perfect and static world of Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, through their holy power, were able to turn his malicious acts to benefit, and knew such must be the endeavor of all good creation.

But during the Mixture Angra Mainyu, according to Zoroaster, will continue his attack along with the Daevas to destroy the world which the Mesha Spentas in cooperation with mankind are attempting to rebuild. There are three essential differences between the world of the Creation and the second world of the Mixture: first, the second world is not perfect, the original perfection could not be restored because all of the illness and evil which Angra Mainyu bestowed upon it remained; second, the Spentas restored as much of Ahura Mazda’s perfection as they could to the world; third, and they did it with the help of the people.

This final difference is a key point in Zoroastrianism; in recognizing that Angra Mainyu was still attempting to corrupt the world, Zoroaster saw that it would require the efforts of both the beneficent divinities and mankind to restore it. And, since man himself was under attack he needed the help of these divinities; therefore, it was necessary for man to steadfastly venerate the divinities to keep them in his heart so there would be no room for vice or weakness. This meant venerating all of the Yazatas, which included Ahura Mazda, the six Spentas, and the lesser Ahuras, such as the Sun and the Moon, which contributed to keeping the world strong and in accordance, with asha. Zoroaster took the vision of cosmic history a step further than it had been; the previous concept was that once the process of life was started, it was expected to continue forever, if men and the gods each bore their part; but, Zoroaster added new significance to this co-operation between the divinities and the worshippers by saying it would not just preserve the world as it is, but it would reach the ultimate goal of restoring perfection. Man was given a new dignity, he became allied with God, and together they would work toward the defeat of evil which they both sought.

This perfection occurs in the third time or era, called “Separation.” According to teaching even souls in Paradise do not experience perfect bliss during Mixture; complete happiness can only come again at Frashegird. Death was a general affliction for all humanity, Zoroaster taught; it forces individual souls to depart the getig world and return temporary to a deficient menlog state. When each soul departs it is judged on what it has done in its life during the Mixture to promote the cause of goodness. Both men and women as well as servants and masters could hope to achieve Paradise, for the physical barrier of the pagan days, the “Bridge of the Separator,” becomes a place of moral judgment. Here each soul must depend, not on power or wealth of offerings in the life it has left behind, but on its own ethical achievements. Here Mithra presides over the tribunal, flanked by Sraosh and Rashnu, who hold the scales of justice. In these are weighed the thoughts, words, and deeds of each soul, the good on one side and the bad on the other. If the good acts are heavier, then the soul is judged worthy of Paradise; and is lead by a maiden, the personification of its own conscience daena, across the broad bridge and up on high. But, when the scales sink on the bad side, the bridge contracts to the width of a blade-edge, and a horrid hag meeting the souls as it tries to cross, sieges it in her arms and plunges with it down into hell, “the dwelling place of the Worst Purpose (Y 12.13), where the wicked endure “a long age of misery, of darkness, ill food, and the crying of woe” (Y 31.20). This concept of hell, a place of torment presided over by Angra Mainyu, appears to have been Zoroaster’s own idea, shaped by his personal deep sense of a need for justice. Although a few souls “whose false (things) and what are just balance” (Y 35.1) go to the “Place of the Mixed Ones,” Misvan Gatu, where, as in the old underworld kingdom of the dead, they lead a grey existence lacking both joy and sorrow.

Zoroaster taught that there was to be a Last Judgment. The pagan Iranians like the Vedic Indians held that in Paradise each soul was reunited with the body to live a sentiment, happy life; but according to Zoroaster the blessed had to wait until the culmination of the Frashegird and the “future body” (Pahlavi “yan i pasen”), when the earth will give up the bones of the dead (Y 30.7). The Last Judgment will follow this general resurrection, which divides the righteous from the wicked, including those living until that time and those previously judged. Following this final judgment certain divinities will melt all the metal in the mountains; and this will flow in a glowing river over the earth. And all mankind must pass through this river, and as described in a Pahlavi text, “for him who is righteous it will seem like warm milk, and for him who is wicked, it will seem as if he is walking in the flesh through molten metal” (GBd 36.18-19). This was Zoroaster’s vision, based on his original teaching that strict justice should prevail, just as at each individual judgment on earth by fiery ordeal, so too at this general judgment the wicked should experience a second death and perish from the face of the earth. Further, according to teaching, the Daevas and legions of darkness have already been annihilated in the last great battle with the Yazatas; and the river of metal will flow into hell, slaying Angra Mainyu and burning the last vintage of wickedness in the universe.

 

Beliefs

Zoroaster initially instituted a religious eschatology, or the belief in the end of the world. This is seen in relation to the figure of Saoshyant, a World Savior. This savior emerged during the dark years of the religion prompted, according to Gathnic passages, by Zoroaster’s fear of an imminent end of the world which caused him to envision Ahura Mazda sending “a man who is better than a good man” (Y 43.3), the Saoshyant, literally meaning “one who bring benefit,” who will possess revealed truth and will lead humanity in the final battle against evil. It is speculated that the prophet reasoned that he would not lived to see the age of Frasho-kereti. His followers ardently clung to this expectation, coming to believe that Saoshyant would come from the prophet’s own seed, miraculously preserved in the depths of a lake (identified as Lake Kasaoya). When the end of time approaches, it is said, a virgin will bathe in this lake and become with child by the prophet, and she will in due course bear a son, named Astvat-ereta, “He who embodies righteousness” (after Zoroaster’s own words: “My righteousness embodied” Y 43.16).

Even though the Saoshyant was miraculously conceived he was to be born of natural parents since this was compatible with Zoroaster’s teachings that man would participate in the defeat of evil. Later Saoshyant was pluralized to Saoshyans to include religious and other leaders. In the Avesta this detailed is given: “When Astvat-ereta comes from the Lake Kasaoya, messenger of Ahura Mazda…the he will drive the Drug out from the world of Asha” (Boyce 42).

 

Rituals

Following this time Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas will solemnized a last, spiritual yasna, offering the last sacrifice (after which death will be no more), and making a preparation of the mystical “white haoma,” which will confer immortality on the resurrected bodies of all the blessed, who will partake of it. Thereafter, men shall be like the Immortals themselves in thought, word, and deed; unaging, free from illness, without corruption, and forever joyful in the kingdom of God on the earth. The blessed have now entered the era of the “Separation,” according to Zoroaster, which is not like the remote insubstantial Paradise, but the renewal of the perfect Creation.

 

Literature

Almost three-fourth of the Zoroastrianism literature in presumed lost. The remaining literature consists of the Gathas, seventeen hymns attributed to Zoroaster himself and frequently addressed directly to Ahura Mazda; a group of Yasts, songs that praise archaic divinities usually associated with a particular aspect of nature; and the Vendidad, mainly a collection of religious and more precepts and purifications.

 

Holy Book

The Avesta, material memorized and transferred orally for generations, was not written down until the Sassanian period, the third to seventh centuries AD. Because the words were believed to have effective power, their verbatim preservation was considered essential; therefore, they survive relatively uncorrupted in a dead church language that poses innumerable translation problems. The Yasts and Vendidad are said to compose the Younger Avesta. The Avesta is the holy book of Zoroastrianism.

The literature appears to designate the period and condition of the church. The Gathas, the most ancient, describe Zoroaster’s followers often as depressed and endangered. Zoroaster’s denunciations of the former gods and old ways, his economic imperative to settle and farm the land, apparently were not too well received by some nomadic peoples; traces of bloody conflicts have been found in Gathic hymns. The Vendidad tells of a different time, the danger has passed, the church has been established, and the composition is of sacrifices, recitations, and purifications that require minute observance to be enacted under priestly surveillance.

Some Iraniologists also believe the literature helps to somewhat date the origins of Zoroastrianism. It is believed that the seniority of the Gathas should not detract from the antiquity of the Younger Avesta itself. The Fravadrin Yast, for example, contains references to Iranian peoples who were apparently not known to the earliest Achaemenid records of the sixth century BC. And with the one exception of “Ragha,” believed to be the ancient Rayy near Tehran, no allusion is made to any known Iranian city or village. Moreover, the practices described in sections of the Younger Avesta are only those of agriculturalists and herdsmen. Stone mortars, pestles, and the ritual flint knife were implements associated with the Neolithic times, were still being used, and bows and arrows were often flint-tipped. Events described in the Younger Avesta appear to possibly have occurred as often in the Stone Age as in the Bronze (Settegast 213-214).

Observances Zoroaster instructed his followers to pray in the presence of fire. Fire was a symbol of order and justice. An earthly fire can represent fire, by the Sun, or by the Moon. Zoroastrians must pray five times every 24 hours – sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight and dawn. They pray standing while untying and tying a sacred cord tied around their waist. There are seven communal festivals. The most important is No Ruz or Navroz – the Parsi New Year new day observed at the spring of Equinox. People took special care about the purity of fire, water and earth. They disposed of the dead by exposing the corpses in barren places or on stone towers, called Towers of Silence, where they are eaten by vultures. Zoroastrians practice a number of rites for regaining lost purity. Prayers are regularly preceded by ritual ablutions. The community is divided into lay people and priests. Boys begin to study the sacred text at the age of seven years. Some priests tend the sacred fire kept burning in the temples (see Temple fire).

The practice of leaving the dead exposed for vouchers to scavenge again suggests the possible association with the Magi, for Strabo (XV. 3. xx) noted “the Magi are not buried, but the birds are allowed to devour them.” As previously mentioned Zervanism, which also spoke of the “twin-spirits,” was the religion of the Magi. Many believe Zervanism is older than Zoroastrianism; therefore, it is speculated that either Zoroaster was or became a Magi, or the Magi were in want of reform and joined the latter religion which resulted in a combination of the two (Settegast 216).

 

Islam

The rise of Islam throughout the Iranian area brought the Zoroastrian imperial history to an end in the seventh century AD. Muslim forces defeated the mighty Sasarian army in 642. It became evident that a total conquest was desired; the last Zoroastrian king, Yazdegird III, was killed by one of own people in 652. After the initial conquest Islamic rule began to gradually settle over the region; actually most citizens benefited since taxes were lower than those imposed by the Magi and monarchs. But the initial attraction of the new Muslim leaders and their religion did not last long; soon taxes increased and there arose intolerance for those clinging to Zoroastrianism. Many migrated to seek new homes in India where they became known as the Parsis, or the people from Persia. The remaining Iranian Zoroastrians were defeated two more times by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century followed by the Mughals; both conquers were converted to Islam, but this did little to compensate the Zoroastrians for the terrible slaughter which they suffered. During turbulent times many Zoroastrians converted, but it is remarkable how many stayed true to their ancestral religion.

During the 20th century the conditions improved whenever the empowered government was favorable to the Zoroastrians. This trend began before 1900 with the removal of the jizya in 1882; the grinding labor which they endeared was stopped, and medical and educational facilities were provided for the oppressed people. In 1909 all minorities were represented in the government. Physical conditions again improved, the Zoroastrians were seen as part of the ancient Iranian history; they began reconsidering returning to their homeland. Under a second Pahlavi monarch who publicly proclaimed the pre-Islamic history and culture, and a Zoroastrian deputy prime minister, the people faired better and gained positions in both the armed forces and the professions. With increased opportunities in Tehran many Zoroastrians returned to the metropolis from their desert retreats. However, when the Islamic Republic took power in 1979 many Zoroastrians feared for their future and a few retreated to their homes while a greater number migrated to Australia, Canada, and the United States to loin the Parsi diaspora. Those staying in the homeland did not suffer the feared persecution but they experienced inequalities in the law, not being equal to Muslims, and decreased opportunities in education and the professions. By unconfirmed population figures there appears to have been an increase in the religion’s membership.

 

Symbol

Faravahar is the ancient Symbol of Zoroastrianism.

 

See also Zoroastrianism founder

A.G.H.


Sources:

Boyce, Mary, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, New York, Routledge, 2002, pp. 18-29
Settegast, Mary, Plato Prehistorian, Cambridge, MA, The Rotenberg Press, 1986, pp. 211-218
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 1070-1072
<http://www.meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Zoroastrim/zoroastrism.htm>

Yezidis

 



A
 religious sect of Krudistan known as devil worshipers who reside in the region of Monsul. They refer to themselves as Dasni, but other Kruds give them the name of Yezidi, which is thought to be derived from the Persian Yazdan, meaning “God.”

Their religion is presumably a combination of Mazdaism, Islam and Christianity, and their theology resembles that of Gnostics and Albigensian beliefs. The world is believed to have been created by Lucifer, the fallen angel as an agent of the supreme God, and Lucifer is propitiated by worship in the symbolic form of the peacock. The reasoning of this worship is that it avoids mentioning the Devil by name and averts evil.

In their religious beliefs the Yezidees consider Christ to be an angel in human form, and Mohammed a prophet along with Abraham and others. They practice baptism and circumcision.

Their sacred texts were translated by F. Nau, Recueil de textes et de documents sur les Yezidis (1918). There are other works describing the Yezidia and their beliefs: The Cult of the Peacock Angel by R. H. Empson (1928), Adventures in Arabia among the Bedouins Druses Whirling Derivishes & Yezidee Devilworshipers by W. B. Seabrook (1928), Peacock Angel by E. S. Drower. A.G.H.


Source: 9.

Voodoo



Definition

The religion of Vodoun as currently practiced bears little resemblance to its ancestral practice. Presently there are an estimated 50 million worshippers worldwide. The central belief of the religion is in spirit possession, through which the gods speak to the devotees only for a short time during the ceremonies. However, the faithful believe that the work of the gods is present in all aspects of daily life, and that pleasing the gods will gain them health, wealth, and spiritual commitment. Vodoun is almost universally practiced in Haiti, but also is practiced in many cities of the United States such as New York, New Orleans (Marie Laveau), Houston, Charleston, South Carolina, and Los Angeles. In the United States it is recognized as a legitimate religion. The major portion of this article describes Haitian Vodoun.

 

Origins

The origins of the word vodoun, according to etymologists, stems from the term vodu, meaning “spirit” or “deity” in the Fon language of the West African kingdom of Dahomey, which is now Benin, and some parts of Togo West Africa. In the 18th century, the Creoles (whites born in the New World, usually of Spanish or French ancestry or perhaps being of mixed blood), masters of the Dahomean slaves, translated the word into vaudau. The Creole language was derived from French, with distinct African patterns of phonetics and grammar. Eventually from this came various spellings of the word, some which were considered derogatory. Vodoun or Vodoun is preferred by the faithful who not only consider their practice a religion, but also a way of life.

Mainly slaves brought the religion of Vodoun to the New World from the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Saint Domingue, now divided into the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. This black population of millions encompassed members from the Bambara, Foula, Arada or Arda, Mandingue, Fon, Nago, Iwe, Ibo, Yoruba, and other Congo tribes.

The religion of the slaves at first fascinated their masters, but soon the whites became fearful of the strange practices and forbade the slave from their religious practices and from gathering in any type of congregations. Penalties for violations were sadistic and severe, including mutilation, sexual disfigurement, flaying alive and burial alive. Any slave found possessing a fetish could be imprisoned, hanged or flayed alive.

Slaves often experienced confiscation of fetishes before and after reaching America. Their holders, or even priests, would take these images from the frighten slaves, telling them that they should not put trust in these idols, but in Jesus Christ who would help them. No one ever thought in most cases that these frighten slaves hardly knew, or did not know, who Jesus Christ was; the only things being accomplished was that this frighten individual was being stripped of the only security that he or she had.

Many master hurriedly baptized their new slaves as Catholic Christians in order to dispossess them of the “animal” nature that they were supposed to have. This and other practices of slaveholders quickly forced the slaves took their native practices underground. They practiced Catholicism in front of their masters, but whenever they could, the secretly gathered together to worship the gods of their ancestors. Occasionally rites were held deep in woods, while prayers were transmitted into work songs and the worship of saints became a secret prayer to their previous gods. Secretly through unique variations old traditions were kept alive.

As for example, this worked well with St. Patrick, who supposedly banished snakes from Ireland. A slave could publicly be thought to be begging the intercession of St. Patrick while secretly praying to the snake-god Danbhalah-Waldo. Fetishes became unnecessary, even masters were tolerant of slaves keeping a tame snake and lighting candles for the saints. A syncretism evolved: a blending of the traditional Catholic worship of the saints and Christ with the gods of Africa. Eventually Vodounists did not regard this as profaning either Christianity or Vodoun but as an enrichment of their faith.

The pantheon of gods, called loas or mysteres, associated with the religion of Vodoun is enormous and is forever increasing with local deities and ancestral spirits. Vodounists recognize a Supreme Being, called Gran Met, who made the world, but he has long ago completed his work, and is believed to have returned to other worlds, or perhaps to eternal contemplation. His remoteness precludes active worship.

Devotees are those “who serve the loas,” and depending on the rites observed, the loas can be kind, beneficent, wise, violent, sexual, vindictive, generous, or mean.

Danbhala-Wedo, or the Grand Serpent (also called Danballah or Damballah), is the “father” of the loas, which brought forth creation. Before the days of slavery, Africans worshipped a large python, called Danh-gbwe, as an embodiment of the gods. The snake was harmless to humans, and devotees believed that any child touched by the serpent had been chosen to be a priest or priestess by god himself. After being transported to the Americas, the blacks found a substitute in a type of boa. Danbhalah is the oldest of the ancestors and does not speak, only hisses. Langage the sacred language of Vodoun, which represents the long-forgotten African litungy, originates from Danbhalah’s hissing. Danbhalah governs the waters of the earth and is also associated with Legba the god of the sun and the way of spiritual communication.

Aida-Wedo, the Rainbow, which arouse out of the waters of the earth serves as a many-colored way of the gods’ message to the earth and is the wife of Danbhalah. She, also, is a serpent: a short-coiled snake that feeds upon bananas and lives principally in the water. Her bright spectrum decorates the Vodoun temples, especially the central support pole. Aida-Wedo is only one manifestation of the goddess Erzulie, the deity of beauty, love, wealth, and prosperity, who is normally referred to as Maitresse Erzulie, the lunar wife of Legba, the sun. As the moon, Erzulie is pure, virginal. The contact with her heated husband burned her skin, so Erzulie is usually depicted as a beautiful dark-skinned Ethiopian. Erzulie is thought of in a variety of ways, which do not always encompass the better virtues of love and good will. It is believed that she can have the vices of jealousy, discord, and vengeance. She can be vain, likes pretty jewelry and perfume, and angers easily.

Vodoun, like other religions, has a creation myth; and according to it, Danbhalah, the Serpent, and Aida-Wedo, the Rainbow, taught men and women, how to procreate, and how to make blood sacrifices so they could become the spirit and obtain the wisdom of the Serpent.

Even though it is believed that Danbhalah represents the ancestral knowledge of Vodoun, it is acknowledged that no communication may occur between the gods and worshipper without the offices of Legba. He is the Orient, the East, the sun and the place the sun rises. He controls gates, fences, and entryways; no deity may join a Vodoun ceremony unless Legba has been asked to open the “door.” He governs all actions of the spirits. Legba is depicted both as a man sprinkling water and as an old man walking with a stick or crutch. He personifies the ritual waters and the consolidation of the Vodoun mysteries. He is called Papa; and through syncretism has become identified with St. Peter, the gate keeper, the man to whom Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom. Still others liken Legba to Christ, a mulatto man born of the sun and moon. He also guards crossroads, and as Matre Carrefour (master of the four roads, or crossroads) is the patron of sorcery.

There are other important deities in the pantheon all of who display manifestations. They include Ogou Fer or Ogoun, the god of war and armor, iron and metalworking, wisdom and fire, and is associated with St. James; Agwe or Agoueh, the spirit of the sea, who presides over all fish and sea life and those sailing upon it; Zoka, the god of agriculture, who manifests himself in the clothes and course speech of peasants; and Erzulie Freda, the goddess’s most feminine and flirtatious persona. As Venus was the lover of Mars, so Ogou takes Erzuli Freda. The entire Vodoun pantheon includes hundreds of gods and goddesses and increases each time an ancestor becomes divine. This is very important because a central feature of Vodoun is spiritual growth through communication with ancestors and serving the vodou gods.

A separate classification of the loas is the Guedes, the various spirits of death and dying, debauchery and lewdness, graveyards and gravediggers. Also, as sexual spirits the Guedes govern the renewal of life and protect children. Depictions of Guedes, usually referred to as Guede Nibbho or NimboBaron Samedi (Saturday, the day of death) or Baron Cimetiere (cemetery), show the loa in a tailcoat sand a tall hat resembling an undertaker. His symbols are coffins and phalluses. Individuals possessed by the Baron Samedi tell lewd jokes, wear dark glasses, smoke cigarettes or cigars, eat voraciously, and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Entire sects of Vodounists worship Guedes.

There are several rites and practices in Vodounism. These come from tribal rites and display or honor different manifestations of the loas. The two main rite of Vodounism are Rada or Petro or PethroRadarites follow the more traditional African patterns emphasizing the gentler, more positive attributes of the loas. Devotees were all white clothing during these ceremonies. Animal sacrifices, which represents the “partaking of the blood, include chicken, goats, and bulls. Three oxhide-covered drums provide the rhythms for the chanting, representing three atmospheres of the sun, or Legba: the largest, called Manman, related to the chromosphere; the next, called simply Second, related to the photosphere; and the smallest one, called Bou-Lah, which is the solar nucleus. These drums provide the resonant combinations of musical rhythm of any rite and are struck with drumsticks. The drummers are called houn’torguiers.

The Petro rites appear to have originated in Haiti during the slavery days. The name Petro allegedly comes from Don Juan Felipe Pedro, a Spanish Vodoun priest and former slave who contributed a rather violent style of dance to the ceremonies. Many of the Petro practices, including more violent worship services, and the use of red in the ceremonial clothing and on the face, which came from the Awak and Carib Indians who then lived on Saint Dominque. The Petro loas tend to be more menacing, deadly, and ill-tempered than other loas; many of their names simply have the appellation GeRouge (Red Eyes) after a Rada name to signify the Petro form. Pigs are sacrificed for the benefit of the Petro loas.

Petro worshippers only use two drums, and they are covered with goatskin and struck only with the hands. Rigaud reports the drums are considered cannibalistic, even demonic, and their syncopated rhythms are difficult to control in magic operations rendering them dangerous. The first drum is identified with thunderbolts, and their patron Quebiesou Den-Lah; the second and smaller drum with Guinee or the extremity of the world which receives the thunderbolt.

Guinee or Ian Guinee or Ginen represents the symbolic homeland of the African in disposa. The sacred city of Guinee is Ife, the Mecca of Vodoun. An actual Ife exists in southern Nigeria, but the Ife of Vodoun is a legendary place where the revelations of the loas descended to the faithful. Vodoun worshippers refer to themselves as the sons and daughters of the Guinee “ti quinin”. Vodooists believe in all aspects of life–administrative, religious, social, political, agricultural, artistic–originate in Ife, but most especially the art of divination. Since Africa is east of the New World, Ife represents the celestial position of the sun. Devotees gain spiritual strength from Ife; they are sent to Ife in a very solemn ceremony signifying death, burial, and resurrection.

Some aspects of the Vodoun worship appear fairly constant, with local alterations for all rites. The temple, which can be anything from a formal structure to a designated place behind a house, is called a hounfourhumbo or oun’phor. Within the temple, also known as the “holy of holies,” are the altar and perhaps rooms for solitary mediation by initiates. The altar stone, called a pe, is covered with candles and govis, small jars believed containing spirits of ancestors. Offerings of food, drink, and money may also grace the altar, as well as ritual rattles, charms, flags, sacred stones, and other paraphernalia. Years ago, the sacred snakes symbolizing Danbhalah lived in the pe’s hollow interior, but no longer.

The walls and floors are decorated in elaborated colored designs, called veves, symbolizing the gods. These drawings can be permanent or created in cornmeal, flour, powdered brick, gun powder, or face powder just before a ceremony. They are quite beautiful and incorporate the symbols and occult signs of the loas being worshipped: a for Legba shows a cross; one for Erzulie, a heart; Danbhalah a serpent; and for Baron Samedi, a coffin. Usually drawn around the center post, or the place of sacrifice, the veve serves as a ritual “magnet” for the loa’s entrance, obliging the loa to descend to the earth.

Outside the main temple is the paristyle, the roofed and sometimes encircled courtyard adjacent to the holy of holies. Since the hounfour probably cannot accommodate all of the Vodoun participants and onlookers most of the ceremonies are held in the open-air paristyles, as is the treatment of the sick. A low wall encircles the area, allowing those who are not dressed properly, or merely curious, to watch less conspicuously. The paristyle floor is always made of hard-
packed earth without paving or tile.

Holding up the paristyle is the poteau-mitan, or center post. The poteau-mitan symbolizes the center of Vodoun from the sky to hell and is the cosmic axis of all Vodoun magic. Usually made of wood it is set in a masonary base called the socle. The post bears colorful decorations and designs representing the serpent Danbhalah and his wife Aida-Wedo. The poteau-mitan also symbolizes Legba Ali-Bon (“wood of justice” or Legba Tree-of-the-Good), the way of all Vodoun knowledge and communion with the gods. Geometrically the placement of the center post forms perfect squares, circles, crosses and triangles with the socle adding to its magical powers. All Vodoun temples have a poteau-mitan, or center, even if the post exists symbolically.

Outside the paristyle, the trees surrounding the courtyard serve as reposoirs or sancturaries for gods. Vodoun devotees believe that all things serve the loa, and are by definition expressions and extensions of God, especially the trees. They are revered as divinities themselves, and receive offerings of food, drink, and money. Like cathedrals they are places to be in the presence of the holy spirit, banana trees are particularly revered.

Calling the loa, True communion comes through divine possession. When summoned, the gods may enter a govi, or “mount a horse”–assume a person’s mind or body. The possessed loses all consciousness, totally becoming the possessing loa with his or her desires and eccentricities. Young women possessed by older spirits seem frail and decrepit, while the infirm possessed by young, virile gods dance and carvot with no thought of their disabilities. Even facial expressions change to resemble those of the god or goddess. Although there exists a sacred interaction between the loa and devotee, possession can be frightening and even dangerous. Some worshippers unable to control the loa have gone insane and died.

The loas manifest to protect, punish, confer skills and talents, prophesy, cure illness, exorcise spirits, give counsel, assist with rituals, and take sacrificial offerings.

The priest or priestess, called the houngan or mambo respectively, is an intermediary to summon the loa and helps the loa depart when his or her business is finished. The houngan and mambo receive total authority from the loas, and therefore, their roles could be compared to that of the Pope says Rigaud. Indeed, the houngan is often called papa or papa-loa, while the mambo is called mamman or mama. The houngan and mambo serve as healers, diviners, psychologists, counselors, and spiritual leaders.

Like the ruler’s sceptre, the most important symbol of the houngan’s or mambo’s office is the asson, a large ritual rattle, made from the calabash, a type of squash with a bulbous end and a long handle. Symbolically the asson represents the joining of the two most important magic principles: the circle at the round end and the wand at the handle. The handle also symbolizes the poteau-mitan, or central post. Inside the dried calbash are sacred stones and serpent vertebrae, considered bones of African ancestors. Eight different stones in eight different colors are used to symbolize eight ancestor gods (eight signifies eternity). Chains of colored beads symbolizing the rainbow of Aida-Wedo, or more snake vertebrea encircle the round end of the calabash. When the vertebrae rattle making the asson “speak,” the spirits come down to the faithful through Danbhalah, the oldest of the ancestors. Once the houngan or mambo has attracted the loa through the deity’s symbol, or veve, appealed to Legba for intercession, and performed the water rituals and prayers, shaking the asson or striking it on the veve releases the power of the loas and brings them into the ceremony.

Other important members of the worship are the la place or commandant la place, the master of ceremonies who orchestrates the flag waving ceremonies, and frequently the the choral singing, the chanting, and the drum beating. The la place carries the ritual sword usually decorated with geometrical symbols and designs. The sword is called ku-bah-sah meaning “cutting away all that is material. The la placeswings or waves the sword east to west cutting away all that is material so the worshippers might more freely come into the divine presence.

The chorus or carizo made up of hounsihs or hounsis under the direction of the hounguenicon or hounguenikon, usually a woman and second most powerful member after the houngan or mambo, because they send the chants to the loas on the astral plane which demand that the come down to earth.

Novices who are not completely in the power of the loas are called hounsih bossales. The initiate who obtains the sacrificial animals are the hounsih ventallier, and the sacrificial cook is the hounsih cuisiniere. The hounguenicon quartier-maitre oversees the distribution of sacrificial food not reserved for the loas.

Magic, used for both good and evil purposes, is an integral part of Vodoun. Vodoun recognizes no dichotomy between good and evil, as expressed within the Judeo-Christian philosophy, but sees evil as the mirror image of good. Devotees feel that the magic of the spirits is there to be used, if that magic is evil, so be it. A houngan who practices more black magic sorcery than healing is referred to as a bokor or boko or “one who serves the loa with both hands.” A.G.H.


Source: 4, 349-353.

For further information see: West African Dahomean Vodoun

Universism

 


Universism is a philosophy of The Universist Movement. Universism, though not a definitive philosophy, is a progressive, naturalistic worldview in which all meaning and purpose is understood through personal reason and experience; thus, being a religion of reason. This allows the Universist (pronounced universe-ist) to be an Atheist, Agnostic, DeistPantheistTranscendentalist, or anyone holding similar beliefs. Universism may further be defined as a philosophy of the universe; a metaphysical philosophy, yet propose the possibility that there may be nothing metaphysical. Further exploration will show such uncertainty lies at the heart of Universism.

On March 6, 2005 United Universists changed its name to The Universist Movement due to rising cultural awareness that was resulting in inappropriate name confusion with the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Universism may be thought of as a new religious philosophy originating from the Deus Project founded in 1999. This new religious philosophy was conceived by examining the perspectives that unite most people when applying reason to metaphysical questions; the end result was Universism which gained importance after September 11, 2001. The Deus Project won the support of the thousands of people who contacted it and in 2002 gained the support of two scientific luminaries Steven Pinker and Edward O. Wilson. In 2003 the Project closed and changed it name to The Universist Movement, with the purpose of promoting Universism.

Universism evolved from the conclusion of the Deus Project. The purpose of the Project was to address Deism with the mission of making it the “religion of the future.” The consensus was that something was wrong with Deism, whatever it was had to be fixed in order to make a satisfying replacement for faith. The conclusion of this effort was uncertainty, the opposite of faith, was the necessary antidote. It was felt that uncertainty needed to be embraced and celebrated as it contributes to daily living and human progress as a whole.

Through a process of embracing and celebration of uncertainty emerged a religious philosophy called Universism; in essence, this philosophy can be thought of as a rational religion, employing the term religion from the Latin religare, which means “to bind.” This rational religion, however, is faithless and differs from other religions in that the members of The Universist Movement are not bound to one or more metaphysical truths, but are bound by the commitment to their ongoing search, as described in their five principles.

Although Universists hold no set metaphysical beliefs they believe in freedom of religion and respect the rights of others to hold such beliefs and to be members of such faith-based religions as Christianity,IslamJudaismHinduismBuddhism, and others. However, Universism is very subjective in nature because its adherents hold diverse views, which makes it very open-minded toward religious matters. Therefore Universists respect religious tolerance, per se, but are concerned with the destructive effect that religious intolerant language and action, such as discrimination, hatred, ignorance, and violence, as exhibited by some adherents of faith-based religions have on this nation and planet. Universists acknowledge that many people believe that a personal faith is required of them and others for salvation. Also, acknowledged and believed by Universists is the concept that the promotion of personal faith is socially dangerous. Such danger is readily seen in the past by the impact of faith systems on almost every life through the detrimental alterations in the course of history and the changing of social mores. Universists do not value, respect or honor any faith except for the individual’s right to hold it. The goal of Universists is to end the power of faith in the Twenty-First century. Religious views, faithful or faithless, should be a matter of personal selection without societal and community imposition to sustain social justice and species survival.

According to Universism this survival depends on the turning away from faith, a deliberate choice. This concept is produced from the work of evolutionary scientists Edward O. Wilson and Steven Pinker who write about the biology of belief, which resembles religion (aka faith) in some ways, but fails to give the human species a choice en masse; and, also, from the material produced by neuroscientists and neurologists concerning the variety of ways in which the brain can encourage and enforce the misconception of reality. Universism contends that faith promotes the continuation of such misconceptions; people of faith do not choose but often follow blindly. It is possible that significant changes in behavior could occur if it was not for the dictates of long-established religious faith. Steadfastness in faith (a belief) dulls if not destroys curiosity; the faithful fearing to view the world, or anything, except within the prescribed, authoritarian way develops a tunnel-vision worldview; those holding such a view lack understanding and compassion for new and different ideas and for those seeking them. This type of view causes rapid stagnation because status-quo of almost everything is the principle goal. Whereas the seeker of new information, the questioner, is amicable toward his fellow seekers, ideas are explored and exchanged, new technology and scientific discoveries are rapidly explored, not disregarded because some high authority declares them immoral. This is a choice of remaining in the bounds of certainty or venturing into the unknown.

Universists may be described seekers of the unknown. It is their sense that they are part of something bigger than what is already known that causes them to forsake the certain for the uncertain. This uncertainty, the challenge of the unknown–the continual questioning, is the heart of Universism making its adherents eagerly form grassroots networks and groups to facilitate questioning and exploration of members’ thoughts and experiences. Through such cooperative and explorative efforts the Universists seek to provide a sense of hope for the future. Universism affirms the incredible power of every individual, free him from blind faith, rigid dogma, and the irrational belief that supernatural powers interfere in the world. Thus the Universists are free to work for a better day for themselves and humanity.

This valuing of the incredible power within each individual forms the basis of the Universists’ ethics. Although individual morality is considered to be relative, it certainly affects ethical behavior; ethics constituting such behavior are derived from reason and not from supernatural revelation or church dogma. Humans are believed to be innately noble and do not have to suffer the indignity of supernatural coercion and threats of eternal damnation to behave “morally.” However, the development of personal ethics is tricky because, for good or bad, it can become culturally and personally subjective. From a societal standpoint, many Universists believe the basics of John Stuart Mill’s “Harm Principle” provide an ample reason-based ethical framework:

“…the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” –John Stuart Mills

To value the human being for his noble nature is a major reason why Universists do not believe or participate in any religion or philosophy based on faith and dogma such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and many others including Baha’i Faith and Unification Church of Scientology. The main reason for the aversion toward these faith-based religions is their demeaning of humankind. Again, the Universist philosophy regards humans through the use of reason capable of exerting correct behavior. It is thought that through reason and searching, and not by the commands of some mythological deity written in stone, that humans come to display ethical behavior. Humans acquire behavior; it’s within them; they do not need to look to an imaginary figure or stone tablets to know what to do. They learn from experience. If a person does not want others to takes what he has then he will reasonably conclude that it is best not to take what others have; this person needs no commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” the commandment, if you will, has became part of this person’s nature. Likewise, through reason and experience, those feeling the compassion of others will be compassionate not because they are commanded “to love thy neighbor,” but because it is a good experience to care for humanity.

The Universists exhibit internal-motivated behavior, and not external. This is the core of The Universist Movement. The Movement is built on a sociological concept which states there can be no freedom without structure. The Universists express this as personal freedom requires mutual respect for the freedom of everyone. The concept that freedom requires structure may seem contradictory, but it is not. Think of it this way, referring to the old saying, a man’s home is his/her castle, which is true as long as that person has control, the ability to do as he pleases, in the home. However, if someone, say a thief, enters the home knocks the occupant out or ties him up then it is no long his castle during the time the thief has control. The man has freedom as long as he has control of the structured setting, the home, but once he loses control his freedom is gone. The home was just mentioned as an example of a structured setting; it can be anything. Imagine a four-way intersection where there are no traffic lights of signs and the rule of right-of way that the car on the right goes first is not obeyed; you have a great setting for a demolition derby. Simply stated, if an Universist wants to be truly free then he must desire freedom for all people; his motto is to harm no one and do what he wants.

The desire for freedom for everyone is one of the two generally applied statements which Universism makes lending itself to the statement that an overall morality doesn’t exist. Only relative morality exits for Universists, that is, the behavior which feels appropriate to the individual, but such behavior cannot be deemed for another individual; that is the choice for the other person to make. This is true if the Universist recognizes the rights of each individual; the Universist may think people should act a certain way, but still recognizes his thoughts are not moral authority.

This leads to Universists taking a relative stand, decided on case basis, on various issues. The question of slavery may be given as an example. First, the wrongness of slavery is that it forces one individual’s will upon another, thus depriving him of his ability to search for his personal answers. This also applies to persons murdering and injuring each other; there is a violation of another’s rights. Universism, however, maintains that each case must be decided on its own basis as there is no transcendent right or wrong. This does not mean that Universism infers the abandonment of societal and legal laws; but what is inferred is that such laws, as a whole, do not automatically apply justly in every case, and should be separately applied. In the view of Universism the legal system, judges and juries, are only useful when a crime has been determined to have been committed by one person against another to determine a corrective action, but they have no duty to determine the ultimate, cosmic rightness or wrongness of the action; that is the responsibility of the persons affected.

Universism judges governmental institutions by their “usefulness,” that is, to the degree to which they facilitate eudaimonia, Greek term for flourishing; the term is used instead of “good” because Universism does not recognize the existence of good; therefore, to say the institutions were good when increasing in magnitude as the help more people to achieve eudaimonia would be the same as saying the institutions could reach could reach some ideal plane of existence, which would be nonsense because the institutions are just tools by which people eudaimonia. Since Universism is a more personal, religious philosophy it espouses no specific political philosophy, although most adherents tend to lean toward liberalism and libertinism. This is mainly because of their free and subjective thinking. If there is a political philosophy at all, it seems to be a mixture of the two, a libertine might advocate pure capitalism, people do better left on their own, while a liberal would advocate more of a social welfare form of government; the desired result would be a government that helps people to flourish.

Again, this is why Universists do not favor or agree with faith-based, dogmatic religions or institutions. People coming in contact with them, including their adherents, simply are not completely free; the organizational dogmatic rule is imposed on the people by the nature of the organizations; people could be thought of as slaves to religion. This is the reason for separation of church and state in the United States. Religions of faith seek to control people. This is why Universists are for religious symbols being kept out of and remove from government building; they are not against the symbols themselves but the religious domination which they represent.

To say that Universists are against faith-based religions is not to say Universists do not hold personal religious views. Persons attracted to other philosophies such as Deism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, Transcendentalism, Scientific Materialism, Pantheism, and many others are also attracted to Universism and welcomed as well. They may identify themselves just as Universists, or as a Deist Universist, or whatever designation they choose. However, once becoming a Universist the person consciously makes a decision to constantly continue to question his decisions and choices. This is so because this constant questioning, using reason as in the scientific method along with experience to examine reality, the constant exploring of uncertainty, is the central activity of Universism. Specifically to the Deist Universist this means asking himself why he is a deist, or the agnostic, why he is an agnostic. Statements such as there is a God or there is no God, which the deist or the agnostic would make, are unacceptable in Universism because they are declarations of a belief, a statement believed to be true but which cannot be supported by fact; also such statements indicate a belief or non-belief in a spirit which cannot be substantiated by reason. However, if the deist or agnostic states that he feels that there is a God, or that there is no God, such statement is different from the first. The difference is that the first statement attempts to proclaim a truth not supported by reason while the second statement declares a feeling or emotion which does not necessitate a reason; although because of his continuing path of uncertainty the Universist would certainly try to discover the reason or reasons for his feeling.

Other examples are if the Universist was a Pantheist with Gnostic leanings. The Universist would then question his feelings toward Pantheism and Gnosticism. He would certainly have to admit his attachment for the Goddess and other mythological deities was purely emotional since these deities are spiritual whose existence cannot be proven by reason. Similar circumstances can be ascribed to Gnosticism, except there is one similarity between Universism and Gnosticism; both urge their adherent to question or search. However, in Gnosticism the search is believed to end; adherents believe Jesus told them to search until they find, and then search no more. An Universist, therefore, would most likely surrender his Gnostic leanings because his belief in Jesus could not be reasonably substantiated, and he could never stop his search with anything found, such an abortion of the search would indicate the object found was the true goal, not likely proven by reason, so the search would have to continue.

This constant questioning uncertainty does principally two things for the Universist: it clarifies his own thinking by helping him know through reason whether he is dealing with facts, things known through reasoning and experience, or emotions; and how to interpret the statements of others. With this in mind, free will can be discussed, rather do Universists believe in free will? Universism takes no position on whether the individual has free will or not. Through reason it is determined that the universe is made up of energy and matter forming reality; some Universists believe a spiritual element is involved too; and in this reality are multiple of variables which the individual freely interacts with. In this sense the term free will becomes meaningless, for it is practically impossible to determine how and why each reaction occurs. Therefore the only restraint on individual reaction is the laws of nature. And, to question the existence of free will is to postulate the existence of a spirit which Universism does not do. Thus the belief that a mythological deity gave each human being is categorically denied.

It has been asked if Universist is postmodernist. It is postmodernist as far as religion is concerned; but not as related to the natural world. Universalism is a relative reality, and science is the tool for which it is deciphered. Metaphysics play no part in this deciphering, as science cannot decipher them, only personal reason, intuition, experiences, and perceived environment are perceived as valid sources composing personal religious views, and considered more valid than claims from revealed sources. Modernism has come and gone, and in the academic community postmodernism has come and gone as well. We have learned from both movements. Universism attempts to take what is best from both and apply it to religion. There is the modernist passion for the search, the eternal optimism, and yet there is a recognition of uncertainty and a desire to appreciate that as part of the human experience, as a motivation, and as a force for good in promoting respect among all fellow seekers.

The habitual questioning uncertainty is destined to lead the Universist to the culmination of life, death. Universism says that what occurs after death, an afterlife, cannot be known; it cannot be discovered through science or be known by reason. To proclaim there is an afterlife is just as unacceptable and declaring that there is no afterlife; both statements are based on unproven beliefs. The only certainty in respect to the collective fear of death is that we all must wait and see. But, perhaps the fear will be more therapeutic than cognitive dissonance and motivate us to improve earthly life in unanticipated ways.

Previously in this article it was mentioned that through Universism is possible that significant changes in behavior could occur. At present this author can readily think of a few. One is the present societal and religious debate over stem cell research. Without going into details, which this author confesses that he is unfamiliar with, the reason for the religious objection to such research is the stem cell which can produce life is destroyed. This objection does not consider the fact that if the stem cell, obtained through an abortion, is not used in the regular birth process dies anyway. Therefore, in this argument only the destruction of the stem cell, the killing of possible life, is considered, and there is complete disregard for societal benefits, curing of certain diseases and physically handicaps, which could be derived from the research. The religious objection as this author sees it is base on the commandment “Thou shall not kill.” In this sense, all life, even the potential for life regardless of whether it will eventually be destroyed, is sacred, a belief not based on reason or scientific evidence, and shall not be destroyed. It is not known whether this argument will be solved or not, but what is known, as this author recently heard, is that through research it has been determine that in the future the stem cell will not have to be destroyed. The main point is that if society had stopped all stem cell research on the authority of dogmatic, religious leaders the research would never have proceeded as far as it has, this new result would have never been discovered, and society would have been robbed of enumerable future benefits. The author does not know the stand of Universism on stem cell research but he surmises it would be similarly stated since Universism pledges to provide a global clue to help humanity find better ways of living together, something that no institutionalized religious organization has ever done.

Speaking from a personal point of view this author sees the advantage of Universism in the study of psychic phenomena, particularly clairaudiovoyance and clairvoyance. People experiencing such phenomena are often said to be psychic gifted with the inference that the gift is spiritual in nature. The author has experienced several clairaudiovoyance incidents and has corresponded with people having one or both phenomenon, mostly clairvoyance. In many of these incidences there was a feeling of spiritual influence such as saying the ability eemed to have came from out there, or there’s something out there. When using Universism, one knows that the person experiencing the psychic phenomenon recognizes it, especially if he experiences it several times or repeatedly; he also recognizes the sensation surrounding it; these recognitions can be described as valid experiences. However, the belief that the cause of such phenomenon is spiritual or came out there cannot be explained be either reason or science. The belief, becoming invalid, is unacceptable. This does not mean that the sensation that there is a cause for the phenomenon is invalid, but believing it has some mystical origin is invalid since this cannot be proven.

Several years ago this author related some of his clairaudiovoyance experiences to a friend who commented perhaps the author has unconsciously trained his mind to receive them. At the time, still holding the spiritual cause theory, the author did not put much significance in his friend’s comments. However, after reading the views of Universism the comments assume more importance. Perhaps the friend was right or perhaps the answer to the cause of such phenomena lies elsewhere. For instance it is known that some aborigines could foretell a change in the weather by feeling the rise or fall of barometric pressure against their skin; with the wearing of clothes man lost this ability. The similarity is could all the revelation doctrine which has been forced upon man made him lose some or most of his psychic ability. This uncertainty shifts the inference; man’s psychic ability does not come from somewhere out there, but may lie dominant and forgotten within man. The prospect of invigorating these abilities again would possibly change, if not enhance, our lifestyles.

Perhaps these tentative uses of Universism seem strange, but they seem to indicate a possible new and positive perspective of the world; a world progressing through reason and science instead of deteriorating from faith and rhetoric; a land of plenty where many will flourish. The apparent aim of Universism is to form a global society of freethinkers, respecting the individual opinions of each other, but safeguarding them as well from faith-base religions and institutions. The world is to be hallowed through reason, science and individual experience.

During its short existence The Universist Movement has grown to over 8.000 members; people seeking the goal which the Movement provides. More members are sought and welcomed. New members may sign up at Universist.org/signup.htm. The philosophy of Universism was written by Ford Vox, Founder. Offices of The Universist Movement include Director and President, Todd Strickler, Secretary and Treasurer, E. Frank Smith, and Assistant Director John Armstrong. Among the websites operated by The Universist Movement are the Universist Global Meeting, and the Faithless Community. It also answers and generates media inquiries, engages faith-based organizations in the culture debate, and communicates with the individuals who make up the Universist Movement, offering them advice, information and inspiration to succeed.

This author wishes to thank The Universist Movement for the opportunity to write this article and to thank them for allowing the use of the Frequently Asked Questions for the article’s basis.

by Alan G. Hefner


Unitarian Universalist Association

 


The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed in 1961 originating and evolving from Unitarianism when associated with Christianity rejects the Trinitarian understanding of Good. Although there are many antecedents for this specific point of view for the origin of the movement it is usually accepted to be the work of Michael Servetus, and of the Sozzinis (i.e. Socinianism). The first Unitarian congregation was in England in 1774 and in the United States in 1782, but the movement finally was fully organized in Baltimore in 1819 with the sermon of W. E. Channing on Unitarian Christianity. The American Unitarian Association was founded in 1825 and existed until 1961 when emerging with the Universalists to become the Unitarian Universalist Association. It is characterized by its desire of wanting its members to seek truth out of human experience rather than allegiance to creeds or doctrines. There is no hierarchal control, each congregation is autonomous. A.G.H.


Source:

Bowker, John. ed. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York. Oxford University Press. 1997. p. 1005

Tantrism Tantra

 


Tantra or Tantrism is a system of yoni-worship, or female-centered sex-worship, which allegedly begun thousands of years ago in India by women of a secret sect called Vratyas, the processors of the devadasis or sacred harlots. The religion was associated with later written scriptures known as Tantras, therefore, it became known as Tantrism. Its primary objective was the adoration of the lingam-yoni, sign of the male and female principles in conjunction (the god Shiva and the goddess Kali). Tantrism is still practiced in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.

The basic tenet of Tantrism was that the woman possesses more spiritual energy than the man; therefore, the man could achieve realization of the divinity through sexual and emotional union with a woman. A fundamental rite was controlled sexual intercourse, maithuna, Latin, coitus reservatus; sex without male orgasm. In theory the man must store up his sexual fluid rather than expelling it by ejaculation. Through Tantric training, he learned to absorb through his penis the fluid engendered by his partner’s orgasm and to prolong sexual intercourse for many hours. In this way he became similar to Shiva, the God in perpetual union with the Goddess. Theoretically, the concept was that the conserved vital fluids would be stored in the man’s spinal column, working their way up through the chakras to his head, and there flower the inspiration of divine wisdom. The Tantras explains the purposes of the various rites and the philosophy underlying them.

The most sacred mantra expressing Tantric worship was Om mani padme hum, the Jewel (penis) in the Lotus (vulva). The symbolic lingam-yoni often took the form of an altar shaped like a penis in a vulva.

The practice met with opposition as did its Christian counterparts, namely the Ophites and Montanists. Orthodox Buddhism was based on opposition to the female principle and believed in order to saved their souls men must avoid sex. The vitality of the soul was retained by the conservation of semen, and the concentration (see Meditation) on the Self. Buddhist monks claim their prophet commanded them to quell all sexual desire, and to never see or speak to a woman.

Tantrism or tantra was never completely destroyed. It has been practiced in different forms or versions throughout the centuries. It was practiced by some early Christians who called it synesaktism, the Way of Shakti, which was a form of Goddess-worship that had come from the Orient through Pythagorean and Neoplatonic mystics. Plotinus equated the mind’s progress toward Ineffable to “the sight of a beautiful lady.” The ascent of the mind toward the realization of divinity was divided into six steps, the first being the perception of woman’s beauty to the culmination with the contemplation of Universal Beauty.

However, as with everything which incorporates natural tendencies but also denies them this form of Goddess-worship traveled a bumpy road. One big obstacle was when the Christian Church declared that the sole purpose of sex was for the propagation of children. This lead to the obstacle of others being suspicious of those practicing it, thinking promiscuity was occurring among them.

Some early Christian sects such as the Gnostic Ophites practiced a form of Tantrism by adoring their Goddess symbol of Sophia. She was thought of as the Holy Spirit, the feminine soul or the Shakti of God. They called their rite a spiritual marriage which was completely misconceived by the orthodox Church which condemned it. Certain members of these sects laid naked together while copulating. Their rite was suspicious in that they say they only avoided male orgasm. As previously mentioned promiscuity was suspect.

Christians were not the only ones attacking such practices, the Islamic leaders also were attacking the Sufi cults of love. Sufi mysticism survived underground, carried on by troubadours calling themselves Lovers and adoring the feminine principle as a world-sustaining power. The Sufi worship eventually influenced the European troubadours, who founded cults of Courtly Love in the centuries following the crusades. Such troubadours were branded sinful by the Church because they loved women instead of God; and, women were equated with the devil by the theological opinion of the time. The patriarchal authority was not going to approve something that was natural as good, such an act would seem to grant the right of sexual pleasure to women.

Although Courtly Love practiced Tantric maithuna under the name of drudaria, a sort of love associated with male self-denial, it was anything but chaste. To the contrary, its poetry was highly erotic. The bardic verse indicated Tantrism origins, especially when Peredur’s mystic lady-love revealed that she came from India or when Tristan told his lady-love Iseult that his name was the syllabically-reversed Tantris.

There are indications that Tantrism was present throughout the history of western nations. It was either taught through secret teaching or discovered independently. Medieval goddess-worshippers, valified as “witches” apparently knew of it. There are indications that it was taught and used as a birth-control technique. Many alleged witches were midwives whom the Church thought were teaching birth control. Also, there is no evidence of women becoming pregnant after returning from witches’ sabbats.

Maithuna was heard of once more, in 1848, when John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Creek Community, rediscovered the technique which he called “male continence’ or karezza. Noyes’ initial reason as to protect his wife from “the horrors and the fear of involuntary propagation” after she had four disastrous pregnancies. Afterwards Noyes trained members of his community in the technique and they began experimenting in what was called “complex marriage” where the various partners had no fear of unwanted pregnancies.

Some occult groups in the 19th and 20th centuries used Tantric coitus reservatus for various reasons. However, maithuna was not widely practiced by Western men because of Christian and cultural teachings. A.G.H.


Source: 56.

Sufism

 


Sufism, which is a branch of Islam, teaches the personal and mystical worship, and union with Allah or God. It was formulated in opposition to the formal, legalistic Islamic theology of the ninth century AD.

The term “Sufism” is derived from Arabic suf, and means “wool,” which refers to the plain wool worn by the early Sufis (“wool-clad”). The Sufis, rejecting the excesses of the Caliphs, lived simple, communal, ascetic lives similar to the earlier Christian monks. Early Arab conquerors were impressed by the ways of the Christian mystics that they incorporated many of them into the Sufi tradition. Other elements of Sufi mysticism came from Buddhism, Hinduism, and Persian Zoroastrianism. Mystical love and oneness with God (tawhid) form the basic tenets of the Sufi faith.

The worshippers observe faqr, or “pious poverty,” and are therefore known as faqirs (fakirs). They follow a path, or tariqa, to divine knowledge (gnosis) reading, study, prayer, and most especially the dhikr: the endless repetition of God’s holy name or passages from the Koran, which may lead to self-hypnosis like repeating a mantra. Prayer beads, similar to rosaries, also are used.

The following of the Sufi Path to enlightened love entails a lifetime, since there is no single moment when true union with God, the vision of the face of God as described in the Koran, has occurred. It is the belief of the Sufis that mankind has always been one with God, and that the traveling of the Path serves as a remembrance of this realization. Death does not stop the faqir’s spiritual communication and training but is only another stage of development. According to Grand Sheikh Idries Shah, the Sufi makes four journeys:

1. Fana, or annihilation: At this stage the Sufi becomes harmonized with objective reality and seeks the unification of his consciousness. He is intoxicated with divine love.

2. Baqa, or permanency: Here the Sufi becomes a teacher or qutub; the magnet to which all turn for wisdom. He has stabilized his objective knowledge and became the Perfect Man. Rather than uniting with God, the Perfect Man has subordinated his will to God and lives in and through God. (Traditionally, Sufi teachers are male.)

3. Sufis attaining the Third Journey become spiritual guides for all in accordance with their abilities, whereas Stage Two teachers work only in their local areas.

4. In the Fourth Journey, the Perfect Man guides others in the transition at death from physical life to another stage of development invisible to ordinary people. Few attain this plateau of wisdom.

Sufis consider guidance from wise teachers essential to prevent straying from the Path. These sheikhs, who are venerated as saints, are believed the only ones able to provide access to the knowledge of God. However, Sufi teaches discourage others from becoming their disciples because the goal of Sufism is for each believer to acquire his personal wisdom independently and develop a line of communication with the Beloved.

The mastery of such self-awareness requires a long time, however, most Sufis follow their leader, or sheikh throughout their lives. He is seen as the supreme ruler, possessing the greatest knowledge of God, charismatic, and the most disciplined. He is also known as pir (Persian for “old man”) or mushid (Arabic for “one who directs”). The devotees bind themselves to the sheikh by an oath of allegiance and pledge to obey him unselfishly.

Various schools or Orders have been established over the centuries, which succeeding sheikhs have followed or amended. The principle goal of each Order is to prepare the Seeker for the Truth. The Orders provide the circumstances in which members can attain stabilization of their inner beings comparable to that of the students of Muhammad and are in fact organized similar to Muhammad’s early gatherings.

The Orders include various teaching methods, which are employed within the Sufi worship. One example is the dervishes’ frenzied dancing that is accompanied by music and poetry. Poets were always the disseminators of Sufi thought, using secret metaphorical language to guard the sanctity of the mystic messages and protect hem from heretical examination. It can be noted that the word “troubadour,” the medieval songmaster of love, comes from the Arabic root TRB, or “lutanist.”

The worship services become and endless repetition of chanting, swaying, dancing, and rhythmic drum-beating. They resemble the Voodoo, or Vodoun, services. The worshippers enter a trance or state of ecstasy in which it is thought they have became one with the Beloved.

It is claimed that such ecstasy with God does not represent the ultimate reward for the Sufis. The constant pursuit of the love of God can lead to ecstasy, but it only serves a purpose if the Sufi can take that boundless joy and use it in the temporal world as an experience of love: to live “in the world, but not of it,” free from ambition, greed, and intellectual pride, showing love in living and not just knowing it.

No Sufi is allowed to practice spiritual healing until after he has studied twelve years. Spiritual healing is thought to be a love duty. The Sufi healer, like a teacher, acts as a guide leading the patient to diagnose himself or herself under hypnosis brought on by breathing techniques. The healer chants prayers over the patient and passes his hands over the patient’s body. Requests, or demands, for healing cannot come from friends or relatives and the healer cannot impose his will upon the patient. Unlike more orthodox faith-healing methods, the patients are not expected to believe they will be cured. The payment may be no more than a handful of grain.

Unlike Muhammad who decried the worship of sheikhs as saints, and declaring Allah the only deity, the Sufis believe that knowledge of the Path to God comes only from master teacher, who attain saintly blessedness (baraqa). The devotees once worshipped these men publicly, making pilgrimages to their tombs and petitioning for their intercession.

The Sufi history extends back to the ninth and tenth centuries with several sheikhs predominating in the different periods. The message the permeated their teachings was that the human struggle in the physical world was to help the person fulfill God’s covenants and become perfect through God. During the tenth century one sheikh took Jesus Christ, not Muhammad, for his example to that humanity could recognize that God is love by discovering such divinity within themselves.

In the 13th century a Spanish Moslem and mystic, Muhammad iben-Arabi, emerged to described Prophet Muhammad as the Perfect Man. Also he wrote about the Prophet’s ascent into Paradise, which influenced Dante Alighteri’s The Divine Comedy. Other medieval Christian writers influenced by Sufism included Roger Bacon, Cervantes, Averroes, St. Francis of Assisi, Avicebron, and Chaucer.

What is known as modern Sufism reached its peak during the Mogul and Ottoman empires, in the 1500s to 1800s. Sufi increased the ranks of the Moslem armies during the Islamic expansion of the Middle and Far East during the 18th and 19th centuries; they infiltrated the trade unions and married royal princesses. Then they bravely fought against the European expansion on Islamic lands during the holy war.

Currently Sufism has lost some of its influence by being criticized for its mystical excesses and for worshipping the sheikhs and other holy men. This is largely due to a puritan revival of the Moslem movement in Islam. However, many Moslems continue practicing Sufism, but in secret societies keeping mostly to themselves. Sufism has wide followings in India, England, and the United States. A.G.H.


Source: 29, 580-583.

Subud

 


This is the spiritual movement that evolved around the Indonesian mystic Muhammed Subuh, known as “Bapak” or spiritual father. The movement originated in Java, and spread to Europe and elsewhere after gaining the support of the disciples of G. I. Gurdjieff led by J. G. Bennett, at Coombe Springs, England. Gurdjieff himself had predicted that an Indonesian teacher would bring emotional warmth to his system.

Subud gained publicity in 1959 when the movement held its International Convention in England. Shortly afterwards, the Hungarian actress Eva Bartok was initiated and said she was healed from childbirth complications.

The Bapak, essentially, is a charismatic figure who generates a contagious spiritual energy, which is reminiscent of the traditional shaktipat of such Hindu gurus as Swami Muktananda.

The Latihan is the basis of the Subud movement. This is an initiation for newcomers as well as a spiritual exercise for those already initiated. A “helper” prepares the initiate for the “opening” or receptivity to the descent of spiritual energy. The initiates may experience convulsions as a sign of their reception of kundalini energy, which is traditional in Hindu mysticism.

This energy has a purificatory function, bestows intense feelings of peace when there is a submission to divine will. Subud is unlike established religions or cults as it has no creed, dogma, rules or regulations. Its primary objective is to make the Latihan experience available to the initiates.

Members of Subud groups meet in each other’s homes or rented halls. The movement does not advertise or proselytize. Subud centers are in over seventy cities of the United States, and a phone call will elicit the time and place of the Latihan. Also, Subud groups are in most of the larger cities of Britain. A.G.H.


Source: 9, 1630-1631.

Sodom and Gomorrah

 


 

Bible Story

Sodom and Gomorrah are cities of the biblical Pentapolis, located on the shores of the Dead Sea. Its historical existence is in dispute.
The history of Sodom and Gomorrah is carried out primarily in the book genesis, there it is related that God sentenced to the destruction to these cities by the abject perversion of its inhabitants.

“Yahweh rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, destroyed these cities and how many men there were in them” (Gen 19: 27-28).

The historical existence of Sodom and Gomorrah is in dispute. Many investigators have attempted to locate the “damn” cities, and according to their studies, these were located in the southern part of the present seabed of the Dead Sea. With this hypothesis, several Israeli archaeologists searched for evidence on a peninsula, the Lisan peninsula that is inland in the south of the Dead Sea and found remains of vessels and cemetery traces in that sector, which may or may not be attributable to cities, and That its date does not correspond to the dates in which it is considered, existed those cities. The peninsula of Lisan, formed part of the Moabite territory, comes from one of the descendants of Lot. It has been ruled out that there has been a volcanic eruption in the 4,000 years in this area, but it is possible that the villages have been destroyed by an earthquake, especially if they were on a major fault, such as the Jordan Valley Fault.

 

Why the cities were destroyed

Were destroyed by sexual immorality, but if you cast this same question to the Gais theologians, the answer they give you will be markedly different. The three most cited answers within the homosexual camp are: They were destroyed because they did not care for the poor. They were destroyed because they wanted to rape in groups. They were destroyed because they were not hospitable. In a sense, the three answers carry some of the reason. In fact, the first reason is drawn directly from the Bible and that is why it is the most convincing of the three. Let us begin, then, with the first answer.

 

1.- They were destroyed because they did not care for the poor The first reason put forward by Queer theology is that Sodomites were destroyed because they did not care for the poor. Here they appeal to the writings of Ezekiel. Ezekiel explains the reason why Sodom was destroyed: “As I live, saith the Lord, Sodom thy sister and her children have not done as thou didst and thy daughters. Behold, this was the wickedness of Sodom thy sister: pride and bread and abundance of idleness were she and her daughters; And strengthened not the hand of the afflicted and the needy “(Ezekiel 16:49). Biblically speaking, it is true that God destroyed the city of Sodom by not caring for the poor (among a few other things). However, it is important to continue reading until the next verse to grasp the whole truth. It is precisely this verse that is not often quoted in gay theological reflection: “And they were filled with pride and did an abomination before me, and when I saw it I took them away” (v. 50). The most important term in verse 50 is an abomination. Interestingly, Ezequiel uses the noun in the singular (toevah) and not its plural form. It is quite probable that the prophet takes the term from the book of Leviticus, which uses the word toevah six times. In Leviticus, it is used four times in the plural and twice in the singular. The two texts that use the singular refer exclusively to the sin of homosexuality, namely Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Ezekiel, then, makes a linguistic connection between the teaching of the Law of Moses and the sexual evil committed by the sodomites. It was such an abomination that urged God to remove Sodom from the face of the earth. The book of Leviticus explains that the Canaanites were punished by the Lord because of such sexual debauchery. After warning the Hebrews of the importance of sexual ethics, God tells them: “Do not do any of these abominations, neither the natural nor the foreigner that dwells among you (for all these abominations did the men of that land that were before Of you, and the earth was defiled); Lest the land cause you to vomit because it has defiled it, as it vomited out the nation that inhabited it before you “(Leviticus 18: 26-28). Lighter could not be! God judged them by their sexual deviations in the same way that he did with the sodomites; Not because of their lack of interest in the poor.

 

2.- They were destroyed because they wanted to rape in groups. The second reason offered by gay theology is that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because they wanted to rape in a group. Now this reason is not as strong as the first because it is not found in the Bible. It’s something the gay community has invented. Evidently God is against rape in a group. So far we are all in agreement. But this does not mean that God agrees with homosexual activity. And anyway, God wanted to destroy the cities for their continuing evil; Not by a single act of rape (Genesis 18:20 and 2 Peter 2: 8). Genesis 19 is part of the book of Genesis. Therefore, it is impossible to understand Chapter 19 without knowing the message of the rest of the book. The first two chapters of Genesis explain that in the beginning God created a male a and a woman according to His image and likeness. Marriage is a reflection of the Trinitarian beauty of God. In addition, the Lord decreed that the first pair should procreate. A homosexual couple does not represent God’s perfect plan nor can he fulfill his mandate to reproduce. When the author of Genesis 19 describes the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, he has already established that heterosexuality is a gift of God in the first two chapters of the book. Any other sexual expression is a deviation from its original design. So it is true that it is wrong to violate; However, the message of Genesis is that sexuality is for a man and a woman under the blessing of God. The men of Sodom wanted to rape two men: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out so that we may know them “(Genesis 19: 5). I do not think we need to explain what it means to know here, right? Lot identified homosexual rape as a great evil. He said, “I beseech you, my brethren, do not do such wickedness” (Genesis 19: 5)

We know that he refers to the sin of homosexuality because he immediately offered his two daughters; Not his sons-in-law. Even the sodomites knew that homosexual activity was a terrible perversion: “Now we will do you more harm than they” (Genesis 19: 9). They wanted to rape Lot too. Their sin was so depraved that the angels punished them with blindness. This second answer is devoid of weight because it does not take into account the incessant and perpetual nature of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. God did not judge them by an isolated act; But by a lifestyle totally addicted to vice.

 

3.- They were destroyed because they were not hospitable. The third reason and perhaps the most popular interpretation formulated by homosexual theology is that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because they were not hospitable. At first glance it seems a logical proposition. But the problem is that he is not faithful to the biblical account. Genesis 13:13 states that, “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners against the Lord in a great way.” Again, Genesis 18:20 states, “As the cry against Sodom and Gomorrah is increased more and more, and their sin is greatly aggravated, I will come down now.” The biblical text is talking about a kind of sin beyond the ordinary. Would the lack of hospitality really be a sign that his sin had been “aggravated in the extreme”? Does it seem credible, viable? Would not group rape be a much more offensive sin? Where does God condemn the lack of hospitality in terms of life and death? When Lot was about to deliver his two daughters to the men of Sodom, he did not do so that the men would learn to be more hospitable. And if we thought about it a little, the angels already had a house to spend the night – the house of Lot – therefore they did not need to depend on the hospitality of the city. Question Marcela Carmona, “Were angels in need of lodging?” Another interesting fact: pro-homosexual theologians forget that God destroyed Gomorrah and other neighboring cities as well (Jude 7). Where do we read that the inhabitants of these cities were inhospitable? That God destroyed cities for not being hospitable is a well-rounded response. Do not you think? Regardless of what we believe, the good news is that there are two texts in the New Testament that clearly explain why God destroyed them. Peter makes mention of his ungodliness, his nefarious conduct, his wicked deeds, “those who follow the flesh, walk in lust and uncleanness, and despise lordship” (2 Peter 2: 6-10). And then Judas is even more explicit: “Having fornicated and gone after vices against nature [homosexuality], they were put, for example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Throughout the Bible, the term sodomite becomes synonymous with homosexuality. As Voddie Baucham preached, “The sin of Sodom was sodomy.” There are many other biblical texts that condemn a gay lifestyle. God opposed homosexual activity in biblical days and continues to oppose it today. Conclusion However, the three proposals of contemporary gay theology are not satisfactory. Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for not caring for the poor, but for committing an abomination that corresponds to the homosexual sin named in Leviticus. Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because they wanted to rape in groups, but because their sin was continuous and constant; God did not judge them by a single isolated act. He was already thinking of destroying the city even before the attempted rape. Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for lack of hospitality because their sin was extremely serious and the rest of the Bible clarifies that it was a matter of homosexuality. In sum, to answer the initial question – Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? – for the reasons explained above it would be far more honest on the intellectual and hermeneutical level to stick to the traditional evangelical stance, that is, that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for sexual immorality.