Defending Your Beliefs

Beliefs

You need to know why you chose the belief. What reason did you have? Make sure it is a good reason so you aren’t caught off guard or look bad.

Do plenty of research on it. If it is a different religion, look up the religion in textbooks or on the internet. If it is a style, you may do research if you want, but also you need to stand as to what you wear, and explain that it’s not evil, it’s just different.

On a piece of paper, record all of the data you’ve uncovered.

Confront the person you are trying to convince. If they often come to you, be prepared. Maybe practice discussing it with yourself, a friend, or somebody you can trust.

Firmly tell them that your religion/belief is what you believe in. Stand up for it, and don’t take their discouraging words. Have confidence that your belief is the right thing for you, because to the best of your knowledge, it is true.

Don’t get offended if others question your beliefs. If you are truly secure about them, then you have nothing to worry about.

Understand that some beliefs have no foundation, and need to be put out to pasture.

If your belief is controversial, don’t flaunt it.

Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Sometimes it’s best to just keep your ideas to yourself to avoid fights.

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Celebrating The Lent Season : Kool & Good For Soul

Lent
It is a Christian tradition that is observed in many denominations. The following article focuses on observing Lent in the Catholic tradition. Lent is the hallowed forty-day period of sacrifice leading up to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. During Lent, Catholics and some Protestants prepare for Holy Week by fasting, praying, and reconciling with the Lord. These forty days are a wonderful time to rethink everything and to allow ourselves to take up our crosses as Christ did.
Make a Lenten calendar. Such a calendar will help you to focus on the progression of the Lenten season. Lent is 40 days long and doesn’t include Sundays. It ends the Friday before Easter; count backwards from there.
Decide on your Lenten sacrifice. Our sacrifice is a reminder of the sacrifice of self Jesus made to save us from our sins. Think about all the trivial things in your life that shift your focus away from God. Do you find that you dedicate more time to sending text messages and posting status updates than to prayer and time with God? Do you have a habit of eating junk food excessively?
Take something on. While many people choose to give harmful things up for Lent, you could use the season to help you build good habits. You could promise to be more patient and kind toward your neighbor, or you could vow to help the needy. Whether you choose to sacrifice or to adopt new, strengthening habits, you should allow your Lenten promises to help you grow in faith and virtue.
Attend church service as often as possible. In addition to weekly Sunday service, it’s good to go to church frequently, especially during the Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday when we remember that we come from dust and to dust we shall return. Many traditions often have an additional worship service in mid-week, and attendance at these services is a good way to participate in Lent.
Go to Reconciliation. Reconciliation, or Confession, is a wonderful way to turn away from sin and reunite yourself with Christ. If you don’t already, try getting into the habit of going to Confession on a regular basis. The Catholic Church has made it obligatory that all the faithful receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a year and once during the season of Lent, though it’s recommended that you attend Confession at least once a month if possible.
Spend time on devotions. Though not required, devotions are a great way to put yourself in the right mindset for Lent. The Church highly encourages Adoration of God or the veneration of the Blessed Virgin and the saints. Your local parish probably has regular Eucharistic Adoration, where you can go to sit and engage in deep prayer, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. To practice veneration, you could say a decade of the Rosary daily, or pray to your patron saint.
Fast and abstain. All Catholics aged fourteen and older are asked to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays, though fish is allowed to be eaten. Additionally, Catholics aged 18-59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Lenten Fridays, meaning that only one full meal may be eaten in the day.
Giving something up for Lent is no longer a religious mandate. Some communities or individuals take on something new, change a usual tradition, or simplify a piece of their lives instead. The point of these disciplines is to focus oneself inward on a spiritual journey with Christ in preparation for the season of Easter.
Lent is traditionally the time when those who are thinking of becoming Christians learn about the faith and prepare to be baptized. This means that many churches hold extra classes to learn about the faith. This is a good place to do some learning for the first time, or to refresh your understanding of being a Christian.

Christmas Customs : The Origins

CustomsA. The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

B. The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim. The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.

C. The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).

D. The Origin of Santa Claus

a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.

c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

Why Celebrate Christmas On December 25th : Think

XmasA. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.

D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.

G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”

H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

When Was Jesus Born : The Real Truth

Baby Jesus

A. Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.

B. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.

C. The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:

a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.

b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.

c. Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.

d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).

e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.

f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.

D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament, writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”

E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.

Happy Holidays & Jingling Bells

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious /secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our world great. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

The Philosophy Of Religion

The philosophy of religion deals with the big questions about God and religion: does God exist? Are we justified in believing in God? Should we make a leap of faith? What ought our response to be to evil and suffering? If God exists, what properties does he have? Are religions compatible with one another? Can we communicate with God through prayer and can he communicate with us through religious experiences? Is a belief in God compatible with a respect for science?

Make the distinction between philosophy of religion and theology. Philosophy of religion attempts to investigate the philosophical underpinnings of religion and religious beliefs – about God, for instance. Theology combines some philosophical reflection on these topics with reflection on religious beliefs that take some of the answers for granted that philosophers of religion would want to question.

Prepare yourself personally for studying philosophy of religion. Unlike other branches of philosophy, philosophy of religion questions and seeks reasons for ideas around religion and faith. For many people, their religious faith (or lack of) is a very personal and subjective matter and discussing it frankly and openly in a classroom may be uncomfortable. Decide whether or not you truly want to take part in such discussions and be prepared to change your mind.

Familiarize yourself with the arguments for and against the existence of God. The three main types of arguments are the cosmological or first cause argument, the ontological argument, and the teleological or design argument.

Explore the ontological argument more deeply. Many philosophers of religion, both theist and atheist, will agree that the ontological argument is perhaps the most interesting of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

Consider the epistemic questions about faith. Learn about the idea of fideism, and read up on Pascal’s wager. Attempt to answer the question: is it rational to believe in God? Do believers in God have evidence for their beliefs? If they don’t have evidence, can it still be rational to believe in God? Is religious or spiritual experience evidence?

Consider the divine attributes. Many of the sorts of questions one may ask in Sunday school are actual problems that philosophers of religion attempt to resolve: questions like “can God create a rock so big he couldn’t lift it?” (or Homer Simpson’s variation on the theme: “could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot he couldn’t eat it?”) are questioning the compatibility of the “Omni-max” conception of God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, Omni-benevolence – God being all-powerful, everywhere, all-knowing and all-loving), specifically whether God’s Omni-max properties ever conflict with one another or with the laws of logic or of nature.

Think about the role of religious language. Some philosophers in the logical positivist movement considered religious language to be cognitively meaningless and to lack reference. Some other philosophers try to interpret religious language in a naturalistic, reductionist manner, reducing claims about God to being claims about ethics. Some mystics and religious thinkers deem it impossible to describe God because of his infiniteness, and so prefer to talk about what God is not – this is described as the via negative. In recent times, many philosophers of religion have interpreted religious language through the lens of Wittgenstein’s latter theories.

Think about the problem of evil. How can we say that we live in a universe created and ruled by an Omni-benevolent and all-powerful God when he allows so much pain and suffering to occur? This question has been a primary line of argument from atheists and agnostics, and one that religious philosophers find the most difficult to answer.

Engage in dialogue and write. It is no good just reading the literature: philosophy is not a spectator sport. Attempt to develop the arguments yourself, think them through, write down your thoughts, and discuss them with others. It can be difficult finding people who have also studied the philosophical literature in depth: this may mean finding people on the Internet, attending seminars, conferences and lectures at universities or becoming a student.

Try Making A Personal Prayer Journal

There are many different ways to talk to God through your prayer, and there even some things to avoid. One method of prayers is to write a journal (something like a diary of prayers). You’ll be amazed to see how God has been answering your prayers as you keep track of what you’ve been praying about.

Get a journal. Any journal will do, as long as it has paper and no writing in it. It could be a journal or a diary. It doesn’t matter. It should have a decent amount of pages in it, at least 70 so it will last for a while.

Find a hiding spot. You will be writing down your prayers in here, even the personal ones that you don’t want anyone else knowing about. It’s good if no one ever knows where your journal is. It’s even better if they don’t even know that it exists. It’s harder to find something you’re not looking for.

Write an entry. It doesn’t matter how you write it. Just write it. But make sure you include the date. You’ll want to know what day you wrote it later on. When you’re writing, don’t leave out anything. Just say your prayer that is going through your mind. Write exactly what you would say if you were “talking” to Him. Just talk to God.

Go back and read. Once you write an entry, don’t read it again until you fill up the journal. Once you fill it up, read everything, and you’ll be amazed at all of the prayers that got answered. It’s a really neat thing to realize that prayer works. When God has answered your prayer sometimes you will know but sometimes you wouldn’t know since it may be different from what you wanted or expect.

Prayer, Made Easier

The term to pray is now often used to refer to religious prayers: to commune with a spirit or deity that you believe in. It’s something that hunter-gatherers, ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and followers of today’s major religions share in common. While the rituals and conventions of prayer may vary widely, the intention is the same–to renew one’s spiritual connection with a power outside them.

Take the time to pray. No matter how you pray or who you pray to, it can be difficult to find time for prayer during busy times. One way to deal with this is to make prayer part of your daily routine, such as praying as soon as you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep, or before every meal. Many people also pray during emotional times, like when they feel sad, scared, or happy. You can pray at any time of day, and as much or as little as you feel is sufficient for your spiritual life. Some people make it their goal to maintain a state of prayer all the time by remaining conscious of their spiritual connection throughout the day. No matter what, if prayer is an important part of your life, you need to put first things first and make time to pray on a regular basis.

Find a good location to pray. You will find that you can pray anytime, anywhere, anyhow. It may help to be in a place where the focus is on spirituality (such as a church or temple) or where the environment reminds you of your spiritual bond (like a natural setting, or a spot with a big view). You can choose to pray in the presence of others, or you can pray privately.

Get into your prayer position. This depends on the belief you have, if any. Sometimes expressing your thoughts physically can make the experience more complete. People vary in how they position themselves during prayer: sitting, kneeling, lying down on the floor, hands folded, clasped, or raised high, holding hands with other people, head bowed, dancing, prostrating, whirling, swaying, and so on.

Prepare for praying. This also depends on belief, if any. Some activities help to get people in the mindset of prayer. Prepare in whichever way you feel is comfortable or appropriate. People do this in a variety of ways around the world, including washing, anointing with oil, ringing a bell, burning incense or paper, lighting a candle, facing a specific direction, making the sign of the cross, or fasting. Sometimes the preparation is directed by someone else, such as a spiritual friend, a group prayer leader, or a teacher of your beliefs.

Begin the prayer. You can pray by speaking out loud, thinking, singing, etc. Some prayers are recited from memory or read from a book, while other prayers are more like conversations. Your eyes can be opened or closed. You may open the prayer by calling on the God(s) or Deity(s) you are praying to, and asking for help.

Make the request, or ask the question. You can ask questions, seek strength, send good wishes to others, or give thanks. Perhaps the most basic forms of prayer are requests for help in becoming a good (or better) person, and requests that your deity(s) direct your prayer.

End the prayer. Some people end or close the prayer with a special word, phrase or a gesture or simply by standing or sitting in silence for a minute or two, or say amen.