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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 10 Bizarre Belief Systems

By the nature of the human condition, there is a reluctance to accept that our existence concludes on our death bed and the debate over how we continue after the last beat of our heart has become the intersecting point of most major religions. So, although irrational and improvable, the inclusion of a belief in life after death cannot be considered bizarre. The word bizarre must be reserved for those belief systems that step knee-deep in the irrational and improvable in this life.
Some of those included here attract the word “bizarre” for their own incredible assertions, while others do so for the outrageous way in which their own bureaucracies or the authorities around them behave. So the following list has been assembled from the tenth to most bizarre with a view to noting those that have spun on more eccentric orbits than the vast majority faith-based belief systems.

Iglesia Maradoniana
Whether as a method of escaping the material demands of the modern world or as a way to escape the hardships of poverty, sports has a vital and meaningful role in life. The people who reach the highest level of any sport receive the adulation and affection of a broad range of supporters and devotees. So it may be no surprise that the World Game has spawned its own bizarre spiritual phenomenon with, at the head of it, the one unquestionable champion, Diego Maradona.
On the celebration of the great man’s thirty-eighth birthday, a handful of fanatics in the city of Rosario founded the Iglesia Maradoniana, that is, the Maradonian Church. As with all great movements, and soccer games, the beginnings were slow and the participants took time to instigate the path to their goal, so it wasn’t until 2001 that the first official meeting of the church was held. Less than ten years later, Iglesia Maradoniana boasts a membership of over 80,000 drawn from over 60 countries.
Unlike other systems of belief that must use weekly gatherings to maintain their momentum and passion, the Maradonian Church has only two significant periods of structured worship each year. On October 29th and 30th, worshippers celebrate Noche buena y Navidad Maradoniana, Maradona, Christmas Eve and Christmas, which acknowledges the birthday of the one true football God. Then on June 22nd, Las Pascuas Maradonianas, Maradona Easter, is celebrated to commemorate the day that Argentina defeated England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals with Maradona scoring the two goals for his country.
Typically, Iglesia Maradoniana sets out some important tenets for her members and these can be largely reflected in the Ten Commandments of the church:
1. The ball must not be stained, as D10S has proclaimed;
2. Love football over all things;
3. Declare your unconditional love of football;
4. Defend the colors of Argentina;
5. Preach the words of “Diego Maradona” all over the world;
6. Pray in the temples where he preached, and to his sacred mantles;
7. Do not proclaim the name of Diego in the name of a single club;
8. Follow the teachings of the Maradonian Church;
9. Let Diego be your second name, and that of your children;
10. “No see cabeza de term y sue no se the escape la tortuga.” (Meaning “don’t be a hothead and don’t let the turtle escape you”)
D10S is a clever play on the Spanish word for God, Dios, with the inclusion of the jersey number of the infallible one of the football world, but the church is not all tongue in cheek. Like many followers, one of the Ten Apostles of the church has been quoted as saying, “The church isn’t just a bit of fun. This is a serious celebration of our eternal love for God. I may have only been part of the church for two years but I was born ‘Maradonian’.”
While there are those who will always see as bizarre the passion of sport that leads grown men to proclaim Maradona as God and, although Diego Maradona himself is reluctant to acknowledge his deity, perhaps the truth is hidden in one of his most famous or infamous moments on the soccer pitch. The second of Maradona’s goals in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup has long been revealed to have been scored with his hand. But when this was put to the incarnate God himself, his response was simple, that the triumph was assisted by the “Mano de Dios”, the Hand of God.

The Church of All Worlds
Inspiration for belief can come in a variety of ways and not every spiritual leader can hope for a “Road to Damascus” moment to point them toward their true calling. But Oberon Zell-Ravenheart founded the Church of All Worlds through a novel, if not bizarre, means by basing his neo-pagan religion on – a novel. While many religions accommodate and assimilate the belief systems around them, few pick up whole slabs of fictional religions and make them their own.
Based on a religion from “Stranger in a Strange Land”, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, the Church of All Worlds includes aspects of Science Fiction, elements of Greek Mythology, handfuls of contemporary fiction and a healthy smattering of Druidry. Of course, the growth of a system of belief from Science Fiction can hardly be considered bizarre, unless others like Jediism and Scientology were to be labeled bizarre as well.
However, the Church of All Worlds has tried to remain contemporary and has now dipped into more current fiction to create The Grey School of Wizardry, which has remarkable similarities to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter novels. Educational supplies can be purchased through Magick Alley and its Grey Council boasts an extensive list of practitioners including the longest continuously-practicing Wiccan in the world, who had “a mystical experience in the arms of his first fiancĂ©e” and was initiated soon after into Gardnerian Witchcraft. Perhaps this system of belief would seem less unusual if everyone who had a mystical experience in the arms of their lover immediately entered a branch of Witchcraft.
With a Sacred Mission that works towards the reawakening of Gaia, the Church is firmly grounded in neo-paganism, yet some choices of language are surprising. Lurking Bear is a noted member of the Grey Council, an associated website carries a slogan that may well have been borrowed from a bar, “May You Never Thirst!” and the co-founder and wife of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has taken a name that clearly represents the beauty of the rising day or the rising of Oberon, in Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. So it makes sense that the Church is administered by two bodies, the Board of Directors and the Fun Committee.
The cynical would suggest that the use of such language and the inclusion of pop culture references and structures are all ploys to make the Church a commercial success, more so than a spiritual one. But, in maybe the most bizarre twist of all, the annual fee to enroll in the online Grey School of Wizardry is a negligible $30 for students under eighteen and $60 for those over eighteen. The cost to move from one level to the next is similarly negligible, which can only lead one to believe that, regardless of the bizarre conglomerate of fiction and fantasy, Oberon, Morning Glory and others of the Church of All Worlds are sincere in their beliefs and intentions.

Circle Of Friends
Screen Shot 2011-08-15 At 13.10.45
Bruno Groening was a miracle-healer and teacher, who made few professions to greatness or god-likeness. He came to prominence in Germany in the latter half of the 1940’s, having survived World War II as a benign opponent to the Nazi Movement. As a healer, Groening drew on the divine energy of God to help cases of chronic illness and he encouraged his followers to “not be credulous” but to “convince yourself”.
In all, there was little of Bruno Groening and his work that was bizarre, until he passed away in 1959. It was then that the Circle Of Friends took his humble insistence that his followers be sure of their faith to a radical level. To this end they began to document healings that they could attribute to Groening, demanding reports from doctors, medical professionals and veterinarians before and after the healing to justify the claim.
This process was thorough and admirable, but somewhere in the midst of it the followers devised new and unusual approaches to the “Heilstrom”, the divine energy, that Groening had used. It was “realized” that, for the energy to work effectively, members of the congregation could not sit in any configuration but a series of even and parallel rows that all faced the photograph of Groening. This was so that the flow of the energy would be most efficiently channeled.
Music at meetings was restricted to those tunes recognized to have shared the vibrational qualities of Groening’s “divine energy”. Cut flowers were symbols of death and could be placed near the photograph. Only potted plants could be used as these were still filled with the energy of life.
As the Circle Of Friends has spread, the pressing focus of its members has moved away from the sharing of spirituality and the empowering love of God to the need to record, document and lodge healings that can be proven as the intercession of Bruno Groening. While there can be no doubt that the work of Groening himself was remarkable, the current standard of achievements dwells somewhere in the midst of chickens laying more contented eggs.
Throughout history spiritual leaders have had their words, works and intentions modified and mollified to accommodate the whims of their followers. The Circle of Friends may be representative of the bizarre bureaucratic interpretations made by many stumbling followers that impose a system of belief on the work of great people.

Sky Kingdom
Sky Kingdom Teapot3
Amidst the diversity of beliefs, either bizarre or banal, there are few that reject the opportunity to exclusivity. However, Ayah Pin succeeded in being both bizarre and banal while working enthusiastically to gather all believers of just about anything. This multi-denominational appeal was even more admirable given that his Malaysian home was in the very bosom of Islamic fundamentalism.
Sky Kingdom, the commune and sect founded by Ariffin Mohammed, who was later known as Ayah Pin, was open to most religions as Arrifin proclaimed himself the reincarnation of the gods of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In contrast to the paranoid machinations of the State endorsed religion that worked itself into a lather trying to silence it, Sky Kingdom pursued a convivial and ecumenical approach to religion. They even went so far as to host a Christian group, which was a rare and dangerous venture in an environment where the rule of Sharia law was so powerful.
In evidence of this power, Sky Kingdom and its followers were subject to continuous persecution and often members were arrested and charged with offenses under Sharia Law. Appeals against prison sentences and fines were lodged on the basis that those charged had renounced Islam and so were no longer subject to Sharia Law. However, the federal court dismissed the appeals on the basis that the guilty parties were Muslim at the time that they had committed the offenses.
Aside from the bizarre behavior occurring around it, Sky Kingdom must be acknowledged as having one of the most bizarre places of worship imaginable. In their typically inoffensive style, they constructed a two-story teapot. Cream in color and complemented by a proportionally sized blue vase, these building were designed to symbolize the “love pouring from heaven” and the purity and purifying properties of water. Sadly, there was no Brahman bull-sized teabag in Ayah Pin’s disciple’s dream, which was the inspiration for the architecture.
A similarly impressive big, yellow umbrella provided shade in the compound as “a place for people to take shelter beneath God”. There was also some tenuous link in the umbrella to the nine planets of Hinduism, but some visitors found that hard to spot.
Officials from the Besut Land Office demolished the buildings of Sky Kingdom on August 1st, 2005, using bureaucratic justifications to confiscate the land. Ayah Pin was forced into exile in Thailand and, even though the remnant members of the commune elected a new leader, they now live in such fear that they turn off all the lights in the commune should a car be heard approaching at night.

Bronnikov Gimnpifagoreizev
One that springs into the mire without a bean of hesitation has to be the Pythagorean Circle of Friends. While Pythagoras was a master mathematician and a charismatic philosopher and teacher, he also drifted into the realm of the mystics. So great was his fame that he established a commune, consisting of the inner circle, or Mathematikoi, and an outer circle, the Akousmatikoi. Both levels of followers were devoted to his teachings and the more they praised his name, the stranger the rules became.
It wasn’t long before he considered himself semi-divine and persuaded his followers of the reality of reincarnation and the transmigration of the soul. He reportedly was convinced of this when he saw a man beating a dog and called for the beating to stop because he recognized the voice of deceased friend in the yelps of the dog.
Logically, as you would expect of Pythagoras, he quickly pointed out that if people could be reincarnated in animals, then eating them was not really polite. Vegetarianism was the order of the day, although probably something green with a Greek dressing would have been the order most days, but lentil soup could have been questionable. Lentils are close to beans in the legume family and beans were banned by the big man, but more of that later.
The Pythagoreans system of belief recognized that, at its most basic, reality is mathematical in nature. This was reflected in music, astronomy and, of course, mathematics. The numbers themselves held meaning, such as,
one is the number of reason
two is the first female number, that of opinion
three is the first true male number, the number of harmony
four is the number of justice
five is the number of marriage (2+3)
six is the number of creation (2×3)
It also helped that all numbers were rational, so even nature could be explained rationally. But when one of his followers, Hippasus, proved to Pythagoras that the square root of two was irrational, Pythagoras did the only thing a rational religious leader could. He had him drowned.
Among other rules of Pythagoreanism were that one should never stir the fire with an iron, never touch a white cock and never pick up what has fallen. However, there were others that probably were more worrying in the days of Pythagoras than they are now, such as, women and men are equal and all property should be communal.
Although Pythagoreanism lived on for centuries, but the stringent rules were probably going to be the death of it, as they were for its founder. Pythagoras, when being chased by soldiers came to field of beans. With the choice of trampling the sacred legumes or facing death, he chose to abide by his own laws and was speared where he stood.

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