5 Arguments For and Against the Existence of God

Religious topics abound on Listverse and they are frequently the most commented upon. It has been some time since the last one so it seems like the time is ripe for another – and this one is a great one for discussion. Here we present five arguments in favor of the existence of God, and the counterargument for it. Feel free to comment on the veracity (or your opinion of) each but remember to keep calm and argue reasonably. After all, it is our ability to be reasonable (rationality) which separates us from the other animals! Note: These all deal with the Judeo-Christian God.

Cima Da Conegliano%2C God The Father

First formulated by St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, then taken up by Alvin Plantinga. “God exists, provided that it is logically possible for him to exist.”

This argument is quite brazen in its simplicity, requiring not only a belief in God, but a belief in the necessity of God. If you believe he is necessary, then you must believe he exists.

The Counterargument:

Criticism typically deals with the Ontological Argument committing a “bare assertion fallacy,” which means it asserts qualities inherent solely to an unproven statement, without any support for those qualities. It is also criticized as a circular argument, revolving from a premise to a conclusion which relies on the premise, which relies on the conclusion.

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This argument is very old, and states that God must exist for the following reason: 1. An aspect of morality is observed. 2. Belief in God is a better explanation for this morality than any alternative. 3. Belief in God is thus preferable to disbelief in God.

The Counterargument:

This argument is technically valid, provided that the three constituents are accepted, and most critics refuse to accept the first. Morality, they argue, is not universal. Murder was perfectly fine for the soldiers of the First Crusade, who slaughtered every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem in 1099. Thomas Hobbes argued that morality is based on the society around it, and is thus not objective.

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This is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Five Proofs of God,” and still causes debate among the two sides. Here is Aquinas’s statement of it, which I have translated from Latin, for a sense of thoroughness:

The fourth proof originates from the degrees discovered in things. For there is discovered greater and lesser degrees of goodness, truth, nobility, and others. But “more” or “less” are terms spoken concerning various things that approach in diverse manners toward something that is the “greatest,” just as in the case of “hotter” approaching nearer the “greatest” heat. There exists, therefore, something “truest,” and “best,” and “noblest,” which, in consequence, is the “greatest” being. For those things which are the greatest truths are the greatest beings, as is stated in Metaphysics Bk. II. 2. Furthermore, that which is the greatest in its way, is, in another way, the cause of all things belonging to it; thus fire, which is the greatest heat, is the cause of all heat, as is said in the same book (cf. Plato and Aristotle). Therefore, there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things, and of goodness, and of every perfection whatever. We call this “God.”

The Counterargument:

The most prevalent criticism of this argument considers that we do not have to believe in an object of a greater degree in order to believe in an object of a lesser degree. Richard Dawkins, the most famous, or infamous, Atheist around these days, argues that just because we come across a “smelly” object, does not require that we believe that we believe in a “preeminently peerless stinker,” in his words.

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One of my favorites, with very intricate abstraction. C. S. Lewis (who wrote “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”) came up with this. It begins as an argument from design, and then continues into something new. Very basically, it argues that God must exist, because, in Lewis’s words:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

The Counterargument:

It sounds powerful, and the final judgment on it is still out there. But its primary weak point is that, in the strictest sense, it is not a proof of God’s existence because it requires the assumption that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim, and it requires that human minds can be convinced by argumentation.

But in order to reject the assumption that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim, a human mind must assume that this claim is true or false, which immediately proves that human minds can assess the truth or falsehood of a claim.

But none of this has anything to do with God’s existence. Thus, the argument is better treated as a disproof of naturalistic materialism. However, given that most Atheists use naturalistic materialism as the foundation of Atheism, is is a very viable argument.

God-And-Creation

Thomas Aquinas’s most famous proof of God refuses to go away. You’ve probably already heard of it in some form. It was around before Aquinas, at least as early as Plato and Aristotle, and in basic terms, it goes like this:

1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

This is especially impressive in that it was theorized by the Ancient Greeks, at a time when the Universe was not known to have had an origin. Today, we call this “the Big Bang,” and the argument has changed to this form:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

The Counterargument:

Sequentially speaking, these three points are true. But the second point requires the Universe to have had a cause, and we still aren’t sure it did. “The Big Bang” is the most prevalent astrophysical theory today, but it has its detractors, most arguing that because the mathematics that leads back to a big bang do not function at the point immediately prior to the big bang, those mathematics were invalid to begin with.

Better than this, however, is the argument that this proof of God commits the logical fallacy called “infinite regression.” If the Universe had a first cause, what caused that first cause? Criticism declares that it is unfair to argue for every thing’s cause, and then argue for the sole exception of a “First Cause,” which did not have a cause.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/04/18/5-arguments-for-and-against-the-existence-of-god/

10 Bizarre Early Christian Sects

In the first two centuries of the Christian era, the New Testament had not yet been finalized and the definitive orthodox statement of belief, the Nicene Creed, was still many years in the future. The Roman world was home to many sects labeled “Christian” that would seem odd and downright weird to us this side of the Council of Nicea. If you think that modern Christian sects are so variegated and confusing, read on—and they will seem staid and tame in comparison to the free-for-all nature of early Christianity.

10Simonians

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The Simonians take their name from Simon Magus (the Magician), who makes an appearance in Acts 8:9–24, where he is rebuked by the apostle Peter for seeking to purchase the apostolic office (hence the term “simony” for the practice). According to Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, Simon is the father of all heretics.

Simon told a story wherein God’s feminine First Thought, called Ennoia, went to the lower worlds to create angels. Unfortunately, the angels rebelled against her and had her imprisoned in the body of a woman. She inhabited such a body through successive reincarnations, one of which was Helen of Troy. God finally descended to Earth as Simon Magus in order to rescue her. Simon found her latest incarnation, also named Helen, working as a prostitute in the city of Tyre. It was while in human form that God/Simon preached against the rebellious angels who created the world.

There are hints in Simon’s writings that he also identified himself as the Christ who suffered in Judea. He taught that people who turn to him and Helen (who was identified as the Holy Spirit) will be saved by grace, not by works. The apocryphal “Acts of Peter” relates that, in a contest with the apostle Peter to prove who is telling the truth, Simon levitates up above the Forum in Rome. Peter then prays to God to pull Simon down, whereupon the heretic is stopped in mid-air and crashes to the ground. Exposed as a con artist, he is stoned by the people and later dies of his injuries.

9Montanists

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Montanus founded a movement that, in his time, was called the “New Prophecy.” It was an ancient forerunner of modern Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic prophesying and speaking in tongues under possession of the Holy Spirit. Montanus was allegedly once a priest in the pagan cult of Attis and Cybele, which had a tradition of dervish-like behavior among its priestesses. While the movement did not differ much from the beliefs held by the proto-orthodox Catholic Church, there were significant departures from doctrine.

For one, Montanus allowed women prominent positions in the sect, such as bishops, presbyters, and deacons. His two chief prophetesses were Maximilla and Priscilla. While at Pepuza, in Phrygia (Asia Minor), Priscilla claimed that Jesus appeared to her in the form of a woman as she slept and, having laid beside her, “put wisdom into me, and revealed to me that this place is holy, and that here Jerusalem above comes down.” Maximilla foretold that, after her death, the end would come. This news of the imminent Second Coming of Christ (or “Parousia”) spread like wildfire throughout the region, and soon Pepuza was drowned in a sea of devotees. In preparation for the Parousia, Montanus urged asceticism, forbade marriage (later relaxed to only one marriage), and encouraged martyrdom.

At first, the Catholic Church regarded the New Prophecy with some approval. Even the staunch defender of the Church and enemy of heresy, Tertullian, was enthusiastic about how the Holy Spirit was moving among the Montanist community. But later, the Church hierarchy began to note with alarm that the prophecies were going above and beyond the words of Jesus, his apostles, and the proto-orthodox traditions. This prompted the Church to brand Montanism a heresy. Centuries of opposition followed, culminating in A.D. 550, when the Catholics confiscated Montanist church buildings in Pepuza and burned the bones of Montanus, Maximilla, and Priscilla.

8Marcionites

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The Marcionites were followers of Marcion of Pontus—a shipowner considered one of the most influential Christians between the time of St. Paul and Origen. He was allegedly expelled from church for “seducing a virgin,” but this accusation may just be part of the demolition job his enemies launched against him. What is known is that he came to Rome and began to teach his doctrines there, attracting a big following and threatening the very existence of the infant Roman Church. Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna called him the “firstborn of Satan.”

Marcion rejected the Jewish God Yahweh as an evil, tyrannical deity, teaching that the God spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures was not the loving Father of Jesus Christ. Obviously, he rejected the Jewish writings (what would become the Old Testament) as well, and compiled a new canon of holy books, one that is distinctly Christian. For this purpose he produced a “Gospel of the Lord” (an early version of Luke’s Gospel) and collected the epistles of Paul, thus introducing the idea of a “New” Testament.

Marcion considered Paul as the only apostle to truly understand Jesus’s message. The original 12, including Peter, he regarded as dense idiots. Marcion forbade marriage and urged celibacy of his followers (even those married), since bringing more children into the world meant bringing more people into captivity to the despotic Yahweh. Marcion was also a docetist, he believed Jesus never truly was a flesh-and-blood human being, but merely pretended to be one.

7Carpocratians

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While the Marcionites practiced extreme celibacy, the sect led by Carpocrates was accused of the opposite—extreme libertinism. The Carpocratians believed in reincarnation, and Bishop Iranaeus of Lyons said that members of the group were encouraged to experience everything there is in life, so they would not have to reincarnate to experience what they had missed out on, and that includes immorality. Irenaeus may be exaggerating, but Carpocratians did indeed pride themselves on being above any moral laws, having transcended the material realm and human conventions.

The Carpocratians’ notoriety was rekindled in the 20th century with the discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark, a purported more spiritual version of the canonical Gospel of Mark. It was mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, who accused the Carpocratians of falsifying it to support their libertinism. The Secret Gospel turned out to include a scene in which a naked Jesus gives instructions to another naked man, and this hint of a homosexual encounter was used by the Carpocratians to justify a gay lifestyle to a society far less tolerant than ours.

6Marcosians

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The sect, led by the teacher Marcus, is known for its fascination with numerology and letter theory. This theory of numbers was derived from the Pythagoreans. Marcosians found significance in the numerical equivalents of words (in Greek, every letter has a numerical value). For example, the name “Jesus” in Greek—IESOUS—corresponds to the numerical equivalent of 888, a number considered by ancients as sacred and magical. One reason for this is that the numbers associated with all 24 Greek letters, when added up, equal 888.

The Marcosians also used numerology to explain the account of Jesus’s baptism in Mark 1:11 as the moment when full divinity entered into him. They added up the letters of the Greek word for “dove,” which comes to 801. This happens to be the number of God, the Alpha and Omega, since Alpha equals 1 and Omega is 800. Marcus also taught of 30 divine beings, called Aeons, derived from the fact that 1+2+3+4+5+7+8 = 30, with the “6″ omitted, because it is not a letter of the usual Greek alphabet (“8″ represents the “Ogdoad,” the eight primary Aeons).

5Valentinians

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Valentinus was a very popular and influential teacher, having once narrowly missed being elected Bishop of Rome (the guy we call “Pope” today). After losing (or refusing) the election, he set up his own group. Valentinus believed in an androgynous Primal Being, its male aspect called Depth, and its female aspect Silence, from which pairs of other beings emanated. Fifteen pairs were eventually formed, totaling 30—the Aeons described by Marcus, who was a disciple of Valentinus. The last Aeon, Sophia, fell into ignorance and was separated from her consort, and this resulted in the material creation and all its evils. She was divided into two: Her higher part returned to her consort, while her lower part became trapped in this physical world.

The whole Valentinian concept of salvation lay in the rescue of Sophia by the Son, or Savior, in whom all the Aeons are integrated. Sophia had brought forth spiritual seeds in her image, but they too, were in ignorance. To awaken and mature the seeds, the lower Sophia and the Savior influenced the Demiurge (Craftsman, or Creator), a lower deity, to create the material world and human beings. This Demiurge is no other than the Biblical God of the Jews. Pretty weird stuff coming from someone who nearly became Pope.

4Basilideans

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The followers of Basilides of Alexandria were said by Irenaeus to be dualists and emanationists. That is, they viewed matter and spirit as hostile, opposing forces, and subscribed to the usual Gnostic myth of Aeons emanating in succession from an Unbegotten Father. The five principal Aeons were Nous (Mind), Logos (Word), Phronesis (Intelligence, or Prudence), Sophia (Wisdom), and Dynamis (Power). From Sophia and Dynamis emanated 365 heavens in descending order, collectively called Abrasax. The God of the Hebrews ruled the lowest heaven, and created an illusory world—our own. The True God saw humanity’s suffering in this illusory realm and sent Nous (or Christ) to bring the knowledge (Gnosis) that would free them.

Nous was born as Jesus, whose secret name among the Basilideans was Kavlakav (or Caulacau). Christ, being a totally divine being, had no real physical body. Basilides is perhaps best known for his interpretation of the crucifixion. Christ, being incorporeal, could not die. On the way to the crucifixion site at Golgotha, he performed a switch—he turned Simon of Cyrene, who was helping to carry the cross, into a likeness of himself, and vice versa. The Romans, completely fooled, proceeded to crucify the poor Simon. All the while, Jesus stood aside, laughing at the trick. This notion survives to this day, in the pages of the Muslim Quran: “They said ‘We killed Messiah Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Isa was put over another man.” (Quran 4:157).

3Ophites

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The Ophites are named after the word for “snake,” and as you may have guessed, these Christians were snake worshipers. Epiphanius relates that in their Eucharist, they let loose a snake, which slithered among the loaves of bread on the communion table. Their fascination with serpents stemmed from their reading of the account of the Fall in Genesis. To them, the serpent who tempted Eve is not the villain in the story, but the hero.

The Creator God of Genesis they called Ialdabaoth (Son of Chaos), who wanted to tyrannize over Adam and Eve by withholding from them the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the source of wisdom. Ialdabaoth was actually the son of Sophia. He was ignorant of a higher divine realm above him, and so arrogantly proclaimed himself the only God. The serpent was used by his mother Sophia to thwart his illusions of grandeur by inviting Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Thus, Moses himself exalted the serpent in the desert, and Jesus compared himself to that serpent.

2Sethians

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The Sethians were so called because they revered Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, as a revealer of knowledge. They considered themselves the “seed of Seth,” that part of humanity which had attained Gnosis (knowledge) and would thus be saved, as opposed to the rest of mankind, the offspring of Cain and Abel. Christ and Seth were one and the same revealer. Sethians are known for their most noted work, the Apocryphon (or “Secret Book”) of John. In it we read the most complete expression of the Gnostic worldview. It begins with the ineffable and unknowable Primal Father, from whom the first power, Thought (also called “Barbelo”) emanated.

This feminine figure played such an important role in Sethian myth that the sect was also known as Barbeloites. A further process of emanation from Barbelo produced Autogenes (Self-Begotten) and angels, including Adamas, the Perfect Man. The youngest emanation, Sophia, desired to bring forth a likeness of herself without the consent of the invisible Spirit. She instead produced a deformed being, Yaldabaoth, who became the Demiurge—the Creator God of the Bible. Yaldabaoth, in turn, produced Archons, who made the first human, Adam. The Archons saw that Adam was superior to them in intelligence, so they contrived to hide from him the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed the Archons, they were cast out of Paradise. Yaldabaoth then seduced Eve, and she gave birth to Cain and Abel.

1Phibionites

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The only account we have of the practices of the Phibionites (also called Borborites) comes from the writings of heresy hunter Epiphanius. We should be aware of the possible exaggerations and outright calumny in his biased account. True, partly true, or false, his account is nevertheless intriguing and interesting, not to say scandalous. Epiphanius relates that, as a young man in Egypt, two attractive Phibionite girls once attempted to convert (make that “seduce”) him into joining their sect. He rejected their advances, but went on to familiarize himself with their writings. Epiphanius claims knowledge of their rituals and all is lurid details.

He says that Phibionite feasts begin with the men shaking hands with the women, while secretly tickling their palms underneath. This may be a secret code to alert members to the presence of outsiders, or an erotic gesture. After dining, married couples begin to have sex, each with another member. The man, however, has to withdraw before climax, so that he and his partner can collect the semen and ingest it together, saying, “This is the body of Christ.” Leaders of the sect who have already reached perfection can perform the rite with a member of the same sex. There is also sacred masturbation, where one can take the body of Christ in the privacy of one’s room.

The reason for this sex ritual? The Phibionites believed this world is separated from the divine realm by 365 heavens. So to reach the highest world, a Phibionite redeemed must pass through all 365 heavens—twice. But each heaven is guarded by an Archon, and to be granted safe passage, a Phibionite must call out the secret name of one of the Archons, while doing the sex act. This belief guarantees every Phibionite male sex with a female member at least 730 times. The sex liturgy was also founded on the idea that humans have the divine seed trapped within the physical body, which must be liberated in order to return to the higher realms. This seed is passed on through the male semen and female blood. To allow the seed to develop in the woman’s womb into another human being is to perpetuate the cycle of entrapment. Thus, the ritual collects semen and menses, and their ingestion represents the liberation of the divine seed.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/02/07/10-bizarre-early-christian-sects/

10 Ancient Legends About Dreams

Dreams have always been one of the prevailing enigmas of humanity. As early as 5,000 B.C., Mesopotamians made a habit of recording their dreams on clay tablets, and every culture in the world has their own interpretation of the realm that lies between wakefulness and sleep. In some legends, dreams are sent from the gods; in others, terrifying monsters lurk at the fringes of consciousness, waiting for their chance to creep into the shadows of our minds. These 10 legends encompass the dreams and nightmares of various cultures scattered across 7,000 years of human history.

10 Baku

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In Japanese legend, a Baku is a dream-eater—a spirit animal that visits homes in the middle of the night and devours the nightmares of people who are sleeping. It’s usually described as a tapir, sort of pig-shaped with a long snout. In the realm of dream spirits, the Baku is a benevolent spirit who protects people from the terrors of bad dreams.

The story of the Baku actually began in China, but was taken to Japan in the 14th century. From there, the description of the beast changed over time. By the 17th century, the physical form of the Baku had become a chimera—it had the legs of a tiger, the head of an elephant, and the piercing eyes of a rhinoceros. Its name changed to Mo, and the belief arose that in order for it to protect you, you had to draw a sketch of the beast before you fell asleep.

9 Morpheus

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Few cultures delved as deeply into the world of dreams as the Greeks. As with most facets of life, they had a god that personified the dream world: Morpheus. He was the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and had the power to enter the dreams of mortal men to deliver messages from the gods.

Morpheus first appeared in the epic poem Metamorphoses, which was written by the first century poet Ovid. Though he could take the shape of a human when he was delivering dream messages, his true shape was a demon-like figure with massive black wings that allowed him to pass quickly through the dream world. Morpheus was chosen as a messenger because, out of Hypnos’s thousands of children, he was the best at disguising himself as a human.

8 Mara

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In Germanic folklore, a mara is an evil spirit that sits on your chest while you sleep, constricting your air supply and turning your dreams into nightmares. It appears in some form or another in all the Germanic cultures, although the specific name and description change with each language.

Most notably, the English word for the mara is “mare,” which is the origin of the word nightmare. Croatians believe that the mara takes the form of a beautiful woman at night. She visits men in their sleep to torture them and slowly suck away their life force over the course of a decades. In other cultures, a mara is a thick-skinned goblin.

7Dream Catching

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The Ojibwe are a Native American tribe who originally lived near the shores of Lake Superior in the northern United States. According to their own legend, however, their people began on the mythical Turtle Island. There, the Spider Woman, or Asibikaashi, watched over the Ojibwe people. Every morning, she builds a lodge that captures the sun and brings it to her children. Since she’s a spider, the lodge is a spider web, and the morning dew reflects the morning sunlight, “capturing” it.

As the Ojibwe people spread, Asibikaashi was no longer able to watch over every individual, so she allowed the people to build their own lodges—dreamcatchers—through which she would protect them from nightmares. According to the legend, if you hang a dreamcatcher over your bed at night, the good dreams will filter through the holes, but the nightmares will get stuck before they reach your head.

6 Phobetor And The Oneiroi

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The Greeks had many different gods to portray different aspects of dreams. And while Morpheus served as the dream messenger, his brother Phobetor was the bringer of nightmares. His name translates from Greek as “to be feared.” Every night, he emerges from the land of eternal darkness as a winged demon to infest the dreams of the living.

The poem Metamorphoses describes Phobetor as a shapeshifter who “forms the beasts and birds and long sliding snakes.” He is the son of Darkness, and is one of the most important figures of the Oneiroi. The Oneiroi are the pantheon of dream gods who live in Erebos, which was part of the Greek underworld. Phobetor’s children are the shapes of nightmares themselves, allowing him to extend his reach to all the sleeping people of the world.

5 Sleep Paralysis

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This strange phenomenon of sleep paralysis occurs when you wake up suddenly and are completely unable to move or speak. For some reason, most people who experience it also have a feeling of being “watched,” and it’s usually terrifying. People describe demons, alien visitors, and spirits in the dark room with them. Even though it’s really just a trick of the mind, the idea of a stranger watching you in the middle of the night is definitely unsettling.

It makes sense then that nearly every culture in history has had their own personification for sleep paralysis. The mara, which we mentioned earlier, were created to explain the phenomenon. In Kashmir, it’s caused when a pasikdhar—an invisible demon—attacks you in the night. In Turkey, a djinn sits on the sleeper’s arms, covers their mouth, and strangles them. The Pakistani legend is that Shaitan (Satan) himself has possessed the sleeper.

4 Brownies

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In the Scottish Lowlands, there’s a legend about tiny men called brownies who come into your home at night and do chores for you while you sleep. They’re similar to hobs, which traditionally live on farmland and, as long as they’re appeased, will help out around the farm. But God help you if you offend a hob, because their capacity for good is only outmatched by their mischievous appetite for destruction. They’ll knock over pitchforks, spook the sheep, or even, if you’ve really upset them, steal pies from windowsills.

The brownies, on the other hand, are usually good-natured. They don’t like to be seen by humans, so they’ll wait until you’re fast asleep and dreaming before coming inside. They’ll work even harder if you leave them some food, and they’re particularly fond of porridge and milk.

3 The Great Spirit

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The Abenaki are a Native American tribe who lived around the New England area of the United States, with villages that reached up into Southern Quebec. Their greatest dream legend is also their creation story.

According to the myth, the Great Spirit initially lived in a void, a world with neither form nor function. So he summoned the Great Turtle to form the lands of the world, and he piled clay onto the Turtle’s shell to create mountains. But then he came to a moment of indecision: What kinds of creatures would live on this world? As he thought about it, he drifted off to sleep and began to dream. In his dream he saw all the animals and people that fill the world today, and thought he was having a nightmare.

When the Great Spirit woke up, he discovered that his dreaming had created all the animals of the Earth, and the more he looked at it, the more he saw how everything in nature worked together towards a beautiful purpose.

2 Nue

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The nue is a chimera from Japanese folklore that serves as the harbinger of sickness and bad luck. It has the paws of a tiger, the face of a monkey, and the body of a tanuki. Its tail is a long, venomous serpent.

Nue are some of the oldest creatures in Japanese legend, most prominently appearing in The Tale of the Heiki, the story of a 12th century war between two opposing clans. In the story, a nue took on the form of a black cloud and visited the Emperor of Japan. The emperor soon became ill, besieged with nightmares every time he closed his eyes. The emperor grew sicker and sicker, until a samurai fired an arrow into the black cloud and killed the nue. To this day, there is a mound at the shore of the Sea of Japan which is said to be the grave of the nue from the story.

1 Sandman

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Every young child knows the story of the Sandman, a benevolent being who sprinkles sand into the eyes of sleeping boys and girls to make them dream. When you wake up with crusty residue around your eyes, it’s because the Sandman visited you the night before.

The Sandman was first introduced in literature in a Hans Christian Andersen story, Ole Lukoje. But it was the 1816 story Der Sandman that tortured the minds of young children for years to come. In that rendition, the Sandman visited only children who wouldn’t go to sleep. His sand made their eyes fall out, which he gathered up and fed to his demonic children in his iron fortress on the Moon.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/01/21/10-ancient-legends-about-dreams/

10 Awesome Jewish Stories Of Biblical Characters

As the three great monotheistic religions of the world, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism share a lot of similarities. A well-connected world has allowed us to read each other’s religious texts. We’ve covered some amazing Islamic versions of Biblical characters. Not to be outdone, this list contains epic and amazing stories of Biblical characters as told in Jewish literature.

10 Moses The Giant-Killer

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Long before David was born, Moses was already into the whole giant-slaying business. The Israelites had already defeated Sihon, a giant king of the Amorites. Next up on their list was his equally giant brother King Og. Og had long ago served Abraham as his slave Eliezer and secretly desired his wife Sarah; he also taunted his master that he would die childless.

As punishment, God added 500 years to his lifespan and made him king (wait—wasn’t this supposed to be a punishment?) but with the ultimate irony that one of Abraham’s descendants would kill him. Og was so huge that his feet touched the ground when he sat on his city walls. When Og saw the Israelite camp, he tore off the top of a mountain and tried to fling it at the Israelites. However, God had earlier sent ants to chew their way through the mountaintop, which fell off and comically bonked him on the head. Moses saw the now-helpless giant and and took the opportunity. With a 5.5-meter (18 ft) battleaxe in hand, Moses leaped 10 feet into the air, and mortally wounded Og at the ankles, proving once and for all he was a badass in any religion.

9 Adam’s Demonic Ex-Wife

Lilith

Adam already had a woman in his life way before Eve came out of his rib; the only problem was the fact that she was a literal demon. Lilith had been created by God from the same dust as Adam. Unfortunately, they only lived a short time together, as Lilith insisted on being recognized as Adam’s equal and pointed to their identical origins to prove her point. When she was told she would always be considered inferior to Adam, Lilith invoked God’s Holy Name and flew off to the Red Sea where she copulated with other demons and produced lots of demonic offspring.

God sent angels to track her down after He heard Adam’s complaint that his wife left him. They found her and threatened to kill 100 of her demon children daily unless she went back to Adam. Lilith ignored their threat and retaliated that she and her children would harm Adam’s future descendants. Later, when an inconsolable Adam refused to sleep with Eve after Cain killed Abel, Lilith visited him in the night and slept with him without his knowledge. Their unholy union produced countless other demonic offspring, who went on to terrorize the world. However, they later met their match in one of Adam’s descendants.

8 Solomon Made A Deal With The Devil

Solomon

King Solomon possessed a magic ring which allowed him to control demons. He used the ring to subjugate many demons, including the demon-king Asmodeus. One day, Solomon decided to rub it in and taunted Asmodeus, saying that he couldn’t understand why demons regarded themselves as superior beings when a “mere” human imprisoned their very leader. Asmodeus suggested that Solomon lend him his magic ring so he could also prove his greatness. Solomon agreed and gave Asmodeus his ring. The demon took it and instantly flung Solomon off to a faraway land and installed himself as king.

The disgraced Solomon was forced to wander and beg for three years. The people he met thought he was a madman who claimed to be the real king. He managed to become the Ammonite king’s cook and fell in love with his daughter. Both were banished to the desert and to avoid death they traveled until they reached a port-city. At the market, the princess bought a fish and was surprised to see a ring inside it. Solomon recognized it as his magic ring. He put it on and instantly teleported back to the palace, where he deposed the impostor Asmodeus.

7 Abraham Was A One-Man Wrecking Machine

Abraham

Abraham was eating in his tent when the Archangel Michael gave him the bad news: Lot had just been captured by the four kings, who defeated five rebellious city-states. One of these city-states was Sodom, the place where Lot settled after he parted ways with Abraham. Losing no time, Abraham mobilized his men to rescue his nephew. All of them refused to fight except for Eliezer. Together, the duo proceeded to the kings’ encampment where Lot was detained. God gave Abraham supernatural strength, which he used to unleash hell on the four armies. He threw stones and projectiles at the enemy soldiers with such force that they were instantly killed. God also made him invulnerable to arrows and projectiles. In addition to this unfair invincibility cheat code, God made the night sky bright so he could see better and even sent the angel Lailah to fight for him. In the end, Abraham stopped the carnage when his strength diminished at Dan, the infamous place where Jeroboam, the idolatrous future-king of Israel, would institute calf idol worship. It didn’t matter, though, since Abraham had successfully rescued his nephew in one of the most incredible ways possible.

6 Methuselah The Demon-Slayer

Methuselah

Methuselah was more than just the oldest guy in history; he was also a demon-slayer, and was he ever good at it. After Lilith slept with Adam, she produced lots of demonic offspring who spread and terrorized the world. Methuselah was king of the world at the time and saw their evil deeds; for three days he prayed and fasted for divine guidance. On the third day, God instructed him to forge a sword with his Holy Name on it. Methuselah used the sword and killed 94 demons in a single minute. He killed countless more before the first-born demon Agrimus groveled at his feet to stop the slaughter. Methuselah accepted and led off the demon-king in chains; he also banished the rest of the demons into the far corners of the earth.

5 Job The Godfather

job

Job was a very hands-on type of rich guy. He performed his charitable duties very zealously. His home had doors on all four sides so that anyone could enter from any direction. His tables were always filled with free food, and his servants waited constantly on his guests. He dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the poor so much that his richer guests also offered to help him out. He also gave out loans to anyone in need, with only the condition that the borrower should donate his future profits to the poor. If he was unable to pay the loan, Job took the IOU note and tore it up in the man’s presence. His biggest concern, however, was for the widows and orphans. Job regularly visited the dying and pledged to take care of his family in case of his untimely departure. Also, he wasn’t above strong-arming people. Fortunately, Job used his army on behalf of the poor. His men intimidated the unjust into paying their dues and they also provided security for the poor at trials where the defendant was known to be violent.

4 The Miraculous Tomb Of Daniel

Tombs of the Persian Kings

Even in death, Daniel was as miraculous as he was controversial. The city in which his tomb was situated was divided by a river into two sections: the poor one, and the wealthy one, the latter of which had Daniel’s tomb. The poor inhabitants wanted Daniel’s tomb on their side as they believed it would make them rich. They quarreled with their wealthy neighbors so frequently that the issue threatened to turn the city upside-down, until both sides reached a compromise: They just took turns. The practice persisted until their king personally stopped it and came up with a better solution. He suspended the tomb with chains in the middle of the river and erected an ecumenical house of prayer. Furthermore, he prohibited fishing near the prayer house. The tomb displayed its miraculous cursing properties whenever a traveler passed by. Those who were wicked drowned in the river, while those who were righteous emerged unharmed.

3 Jonah Did Not Want To Leave The Fish’s Belly

Jonah

In this undoubtedly more awesome version, the fish that swallowed Jonah neared its allotted lifespan on Earth, after which the Leviathan, an even larger monster would eat it. Jonah liked his new pad so much that he threatened to kill the Leviathan should it even attempt to touch a scale on the fish’s head. The sea monster backed off, and as gratitude the fish toured Jonah around the world and showed him places like Hell and the Underworld. Just like Captain Nemo, Jonah turned the fish into his Nautilus; he saw the outside world through the eyes of the fish and was contented to stay inside the fish’s belly.

After three days, God realized that Jonah wasn’t going to leave anytime soon and sent a bigger, pregnant fish who demanded that the prophet be transferred to its belly. Jonah shared the space with the baby fish and found it so uncomfortable that he prayed to God to save him from his new cramped quarters.

2 Balaam And Phinehas’ Magic Contest

Balaam And Phinehas

Phinehas, the Israelite High Priest, led his people to war against Midian after the Midianites and Moabites had been earlier advised by Balaam to let their women seduce the Israelite men. Naturally, after they wandered around the lonely desert for so long, the Israelite men fell for the hot women and so incurred God’s wrath. Phinehas killed the ringleaders and saved them from further destruction. As the Midianites were close to defeat, Balaam flew away (up in the air). Phinehas saw him and commanded his subordinate Zaliah to go after him, so Zaliah flew and chased Balaam, but the latter eluded him as he went higher and hid in the clouds. Finally, Phinehas invoked a prayer to flush Balaam out of hiding and allow Zaliah to capture him.

Brought before Phinehas, Balaam begged for his life but to no avail. When Phinehas ordered Zaliah to kill him, it was unsuccessful, as Balaam’s magic protected him from any weapon. Phinehas then gave Zaliah a sword graven with serpents on both sides and with the awesome inscription “Kill him with that to which he belongs—through this he will die.” With the sword, Zaliah finally killed Balaam.

1 Joseph Nearly Destroyed Egypt

joseph

The stories start off similarly enough: Joseph (ruling Egypt because of a famine and a misunderstanding) accused Benjamin of stealing his cup and said he must stay behind as collateral. (Joseph really missed his brothers, apparently.) From there, it gets a lot more epic. First, Judah pleaded with Joseph, and when that failed he threatened to kill him and Pharaoh. Joseph commanded his son Manasseh to stomp the ground and produce an earthquake. Judah backed down slightly, but the standoff intensified so much that the angels from heaven watched the spectacle and described it as a fight between a lion and a bull.

Judah cried out so loudly that his voice could be heard 650 kilometers (400 mi) away. After a while, the rest of the brothers joined the fray. They shook the earth and promised to destroy Egypt. Judah chewed some brass rods and spat them out as fine powder in a show of force; he also turned a five-kilogram (11 lb) stone to dust. Not one to back off, Joseph splintered a marble pedestal with a single kick, while Manasseh did the same bit with the stone. Judah ordered Naphtali to make a head count of all the Egyptians so that they could divide them equally for battle. Naphtali ran quickly across the entire breadth of Egypt and reported the entire Egyptian population to Judah.

In the meantime, Manasseh assembled the army to fight the brothers. The brothers were frightened at first, but Judah exhorted them to fight. They let out a battle cry so loud that the army stampeded out of fright, women gave birth prematurely, city walls crumbled, and Pharaoh and Joseph were knocked out of their thrones. Pharaoh begged Joseph to accede to the demands of the brothers. Joseph realized the standoff would really destroy Egypt, so he made himself known to his brothers.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/10/05/10-awesome-jewish-stories-of-biblical-characters/

Top 10 Bizarre Mormon Beliefs

Every religion has unique beliefs. This is a list of odd LDS beliefs. Each Item on the list quotes LDS scripture so you can be sure it is authentic.

10. Tithing

Tithing-1

While tithes are not uncommon among religion, rarely are they mandatory. LDS theology states that in order to make it to the highest kingdom of heaven, you must pay a full and honest tithe.

D&C 119: 3-6
3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.
4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.
5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.
6 And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.

9. Pleasure in Life

Coffee

This is one of the most famous pieces of LDS doctrine. It’s also the cause of many myths about Mormons. Basically; no coffee, no drugs, no tobacco.

D&C 89: 5-13
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

8. Spirits

Ghost

This one is very unique to the LDS faith. Basically, everyone on earth now was a spirit in the pre-existence. When we die, our spirits are separated from our bodies and if we were good they go to “spirit paradise.” If we were bad they go to “spirit prison.” The spirit world exists as a place for spirits to go while awaiting the second coming.

D&C 138: 8-14
8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
9 “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18—20.)
10 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:6.)
11 As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.
12 And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;
13 And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.
14 All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

7. Modern Revelation

Monson

Almost everyone who knows anything about the Mormon religion knows they have a prophet. What many don’t know, is anything that the prophet says in official capacity is considered official canon.

D&C 43: 2-9
2 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.
3 And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.
5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;
6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.
7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.
8 And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given.
9 And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me—

6. Jesus visited the Americas

Mormonmap

The Book of Mormon is a book of LDS scripture that takes place during the same time as the Bible and takes place on the American continent. It follows the stories of two tribes who descended from the family of Lehi. After Jesus’ resurrection LDS people believe he visited the peoples of the Americas.

3 Nephi 11: 7-12
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the alight and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

5. The Nature of God

God

While most religions believe in God, the LDS religion believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate beings. They also believe that God, Jesus and resurrected beings have bodies of “flesh and bone.”

D&C 129:1-5
1 There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.

D&C 130: 22-23
22 The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
23 A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.

4. Priesthood

Priesthood

In the LDS religion any worthy male can be given the priesthood and is given specific duties. Black people were not allowed to have the priesthood until 1978. Females are not allowed to have the priesthood.

D&C 107: 1-5
1 There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.
2 Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.
3 Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.
4 But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.
5 All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.

Official Declaration – 2, 1978
Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

3. Multiple Heavens

Heavens-1

In LDS doctrine there are three heavens: the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and Telestial Kingdom. The Celestial is the highest, where God and the ones who followed his law reside. The Terrestrial is the middle, where people who followed the Law of Moses reside. The Telestial is the lowest, where the ones who followed carnal law reside.

D&C 76: 94-98
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.
97 And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one.
98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;

2. Forgiveness

Forgiveness

In LDS theology you can be forgiven for any sin, save two. First, denying the Holy Spirit, and second, murder. Also, God is infinitely forgiving, until the second coming. After that, you end up where you end up, no matter what. There are no second chances. Period.

D&C 76: 43-45
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—
45 And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;

D&C 18: 42
18 And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.

D&C 76: 111-112
111 For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared;
112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

1. Multiple Worlds and Multiple Gods

Planets

This deserves some explanation. Mormons believe that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that multiple Gods exist but each has their own universe. We are only subject to our God and if we obtain the highest level of heaven we can become gods ourselves.

D&C 76: 24
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

D&C 93: 10
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.

Moses 1: 33
33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

D&C 76: 108
108 Then shall he be crowned with the crown of his glory, to sit on the throne of his power to reign forever and ever.

D&C 131: 1-5
1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
5 (May 17th, 1843.) The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.

Contributor: Mystern

Read more: http://listverse.com/2008/02/04/top-10-bizarre-mormon-beliefs/

10 Real People Who Were Mistaken For Gods

No one ever said it was easy becoming a deity. To accrue even the smallest core of followers, you need to create an entire universe in under a week—or, at the very least, write some sci-fi novels. But just occasionally, the criteria are lowered, leading to deification for all sorts of unlikely reasons.

10The Disgraced Scholar Who Became A Shinto Deity

01
Late in the ninth century, Sugawara no Michizane was riding a real career high. A scholar of Chinese literature who’d risen to one of the most important ranks in the Japanese government, he had every reason to think he’d be remembered long after his death. And yet he probably didn’t realize how bizarre his veneration would turn out to be.

In the year 901, a court scandal saw Michizane falsely accused of plotting against the throne. As punishment, he was exiled to a remote province, where he died in disgrace two years later. His story should have ended there, were it not for a strange twist of fate.

Not long after Michizane died, a series of horrific accidents began to plague the Kyoto court. As they grew increasingly more lethal, people started to believe that Michizane had returned from beyond the grave to wreak brutal vengeance on his accusers.

Fearing his evil, scholarly spirit, the court issued a pardon and reinstated Michizane’s descendants. They also deified him as tenjin, the patron saint of literature. Apparently, this devotion was enough. The accidents ceased, and Michizane took his place in the Japanese pantheon.

9The Unknown GI Who Inspired A Cult

02

John Frum (if that’s his real name; no one’s completely sure) may well be the most lauded GI in military history. He wasn’t particularly brave, and he didn’t kill a notable number of enemies. He just happened to deliver some cargo to the obscure island of Tanna.

World War II was reaching fever pitch in the Pacific. American and Japanese troops were flooding into previously untouched islands, each hoping to gain an advantage in this apocalyptic war. For the local tribes, machines, equipment, and cargo—seemingly divine in origin—were suddenly raining down from the heavens, brought by strange-colored men. Religious cults soon sprang up around these gifts of cargo. One of the longest lasting of these was the cult of John Frum.

Today, it’s thought that Frum was simply a GI who brought a particularly large cargo load or showed some generosity to the locals. But to his adherents, he’s a god who will one day return, bearing gifts of ice-cold Coca-Cola and securing the freedom of the Tanna people.

8The Martyred Revolutionary

03

The 19th century was a bad time to be Filipino. The country was under the thumb of the brutal Spanish, and advocating self-rule earned you a one-way ticket to the nearest graveyard. Into this setup for a stirring drama stepped Jose Rizal.

An ardent patriot, Rizal wrote novels and poems on the Filipino identity. He also criticized the Spanish, likening their rule to a cancer. Although he personally advocated non-violent reform, the Spanish conveniently overlooked this when it came time to execute some nationalists. In 1896, Rizal was executed by firing squad, and his death spurred the Filipino revolution. It also inspired a brand new cult centered around the dead poet.

According to the Rizalistas, the man murdered by the Spanish was a “spiritual transfiguration.” The real Rizal is still alive and living in the forest of Mount Makiling, a physical embodiment of the Holy Spirit. Although the cult is currently on the wane, it boasted over 100,000 members just 30 years ago.

7The Colonialist Evil God

04
As district commander of Rawalpindi (now in modern Pakistan) during the days of British rule, John Nicholson was famous for his racism and brutality. He once personally decapitated a local thief, keeping the severed head on his desk. Another time, he beat a boy to death simply for walking in front of him. He also advocated burning mutineers alive and famously executed hundreds of Indians without trial. But none of this compares to his god complex.

An old-fashioned Messianic, Nicholson believed that it was God’s mission for him to slaughter as many Indians and Afghans as possible. As a result of this zealous streak, plenty of his victims came to believe that he was an incarnation of Vishnu. By the time he was 30, he’d attracted his own sect (“the Nikal Seyn”), who followed him around, worshiping him.

Even then, his hatred of Indians continued to manifest itself. Any of his followers who refused to be silent were publicly whipped. Although Nicholson died in 1857, his cult may have survived much longer.

6The Chinese Generals Deified By A Book

05

Sometime in the 14th century, Luo Guanzhong sat down to write a book known as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A barnstorming classic of Chinese literature, it features over 1,000 characters. Only two are popularly remembered: a Robin Hood figure called Guan Yu and the evil magician Cao Cao. Both were based on real people. Thanks in large part to the book, both are now considered deities.

Romantic legends had sprung up about the real Guan Yu’s powers and exploits ever since his death. Following the publication of the Three Kingdoms, this mythologizing reached new heights. In 1594, a Ming Dynasty emperor finally canonized him as god of war, precipitating the construction of thousands of temples.

Cao Cao was less lucky. After being depicted in the novel as an evil, unscrupulous villain, he became an important part of Chinese folklore as a possessor of black magic powers. Today, he’s regarded as a kind of Satan/Boogeyman figure—a far cry from Guan Yu’s glorious ascension to godhood.

5The Autocrat Saint

06

The day Hugo Chavez died, the whole of Venezuela was plunged into mourning, with an official shrine even set up to honor his memory. In the months following his death, it was even reported that his face had mysteriously appeared on a subway wall.

Almost from the get-go, Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, positioned himself as the dead man’s representative on Earth. He claimed that Chavez watched over him from nearby mountains and visited him in dreams, taking the form of a tiny bird to dispense wisdom. He had the party rewrite the Lord’s Prayer to begin “Our Chavez, who art in Heaven.”

According to observers, this deification of Chavez is less about belief and more a cynical attempt to help the dying Socialist party harness his memory. Yet it seems to be catching on. Already, plenty of Chavez supporters genuinely believe that his spirit is watching over them from Christ’s right side.

4The Egyptian Doctor Who Became One With Christ

07

Imhotep was ancient Egypt’s premier doctor and architect. He was so respected that he was venerated as the patron saint of scribes. As time went on, his cult grew until he was fully deified, taking his place in the Egyptian pantheon. And it wasn’t just the Egyptians who venerated this long-dead polymath: The Greeks and early Christians joined in, too.

For the Greeks, Imhotep was another face of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. He was so respected that they built temples to him across their lands, many of which became centers for healing. The early Christians went one step further, conflating him with Christ.

Because early Christianity was extremely susceptible to pagan influences, it’s thought that the emergent Church simply had to absorb this belief until their followers could be weaned off it. It’s even been suggested that Imhotep’s legacy was responsible for the tradition of black Madonnas in European painting.

3The Worshiped First Lady

08
As first lady of a determinedly populist president, Eva Peron was referred to as “the mother of Argentina” and even got the official title “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” (a post that she technically still holds). Her commitment to charity and workers’ rights saw her practically worshiped in her home country. Then came her death from cancer at 33, and the “practically” part went out the window.

A week after her death, one of Argentina’s biggest unions wrote to the Vatican demanding that Evita be beatified. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of families set up shrines to her memory. Others reported that their dead first lady was literally working miracles.

Decades years after her death, the Evita cult was alive and well across the slums of Buenos Aires, despite a succession of military juntas trying to stamp out Peronism. Even today, shrines to her memory litter the country, a testament to her role as “the uncanonized saint of the poor.”

2The President Who Became A Shinto Deity

09
You may not be surprised to see how George Washington is revered as a demigod in America. What is surprising, however, is that he’s literally worshiped—as part of the Shinto religion.

For generations, Hawaii has welcomed a sizable number of Japanese immigrants into its borders, and many have continued to practice Shintoism. Although linked with its Japanese cousin, Hawaiian Shinto has its own pantheon of deities to worship. Chief among these is George Washington.

Today, America’s greatest president even has his own shrines where followers worship. Many of them fly the stars and stripes.

1The Prince Who Became God On Earth

10

Remember the story of John Frum and the people of Tanna? He wasn’t the only man to be elevated to deity status by an island tribe.

Prince Philip of the UK (husband of the reigning monarch) came to the attention of villagers in Vanuatu in the 1960s, thanks to local colonial offices hanging his picture up. His life just happened to coincide with a series of local myths about a white-skinned mountain god who’d marry a powerful woman in a distant land.

Unlike nearly everyone else on our list, Prince Philip is not only fully aware of his worshipers—he also sends them gifts. Since the cult really took off in 1974, the Prince has sent its adherents autographed photos, including one of him posing with a ritual nal nal club. He even met them as part of a Channel 4 documentary, where he exchanged further gifts with the tribe.

Today, those photos and trinkets are the most prized possessions on the island. His followers are even convinced that he’ll one day return, but this prophecy has sadly yet to be fulfilled.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/10/03/10-real-people-who-were-mistaken-for-gods/

Top 7 Chakras

In many religions and practices, there is a belief that there are many energy centers in the body that are tuned to an aspect of life. The energy centers, charkas, are represented with colors and are believed that the person has the ability to open and close them individually with practice and discipline. This is a subject which most people have heard of but few know the details. In order from lowest to highest, here are the charkas.

1. Root Chakra

Root Chakra

The Root Chakra is located between the anus and genitalia. It is represented with the color red. The Root Chakra is the energy center that helps you feel at home in situations. It is also what controls your feeling of physically being there. You will have a sufficient trust level for other people. When you feel nervous or fearful this Chakra is under-active or blocked. When it is over active, you will tend to obsess with security and very resistant to change. You may also be materialistic and greedy.

2. Sacral Chakra

Sacral Chakra

The Sacral Chakra is located at the sacral bone, or lower back. It is represented by the color Orange. The Sacral Chakra is the energy center in control of feelings and sexuality. Being open does not mean you are over-emotional but that you can express your feelings freely. You will not feel ashamed to let your feelings be known. You are also secure with your sexuality. This doesn’t mean bragging about how much sex you have. When this Chakra is under-active, you tend to bottle up all emotions or tend to have a permanent poker face. Over-emotionally attached to people is characteristic of over-active Sacral Chakra.

3. Navel Chakra

Navel Chakra

The Navel Chakra is located on the spine a little higher than the navel. It is sometimes referred to as the Solar Plexus Chakra. It is represented by the color yellow. The Navel Chakra is associated with asserting yourself and your self-esteem. Under-active Navel Chakra usually has reference to being timid and indecisive. You probably don’t get what you want or have a hard time letting someone know your opinions about the situation. Being over-active, you are probably aggressive and domineering.

4. Heart Chakra

Heart Chakra

The Heart Chakra is located at the spine and level with the heart. It is represented by the color green. This Chakra is the energy center for love and affection, your kindness to others, being compassionate and friendly. You live in harmony with your friends and easily make new friends. Being closed or under-active, you will tend to be cold and distant. Others tend to not notice you or you are very rude to them. Being over active, you will tend to smother your relations. You love will usually have a very selfish reason.

5. Throat Chakra

Throat Chakra

The Throat Chakra is located at the base of the throat. It is represented with the color blue. This Chakra is the energy center for talking and self-expression. When this Chakra is under-active you are likely to be introverted and shy. You probably don’t talk too much and may have a tendency to lie. Being over-active you can tend to be over bearing with how much you talk and tend not to listen very well.

6. Third-Eye Chakra

Third-Eye Chakra

The Third-Eye Chakra is located between and slightly above your eyebrows. It is represented by the color purple. This is the center for premonition, insight and visualization. When this Chakra is open you will tend to have a normal instinct and will tend to fantasize. You will have good intuition. When it is closed, you are not very good at thinking for yourself. You may tend to rely on others for basic instructions. You may get confused easily and rely too much on beliefs. When it is over-active, you may live in a fantasy world or even have extreme hallucinations.

7. Crown Chakra

Crown Chakra

The Crown Chakra is located about 4 finger widths above your head. The color white or violet represents it. The Chakra is the center for wisdom and being one with the world. When active you may be unprejudiced and aware of you surroundings. Being under-active you are probably a one way thinker and not very aware of spirituality. When this Chakra is over-active you may be ignoring you bodily needs. You are more obsessed with spirituality and may tend to over analyze everything around you.

Source: MindWorks

Contributor: Ravyn

Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/11/21/top-7-chakras/

8 Reasons People Embrace Religion

It’s been estimated that nearly 90% of people in the world belong to a religion; even if you exclude the children of religious people (in many countries, children are legally of the same religion as their parents until they are adults), it’s clear a large percentage of people have religious beliefs. The question is why? Is there a “god shaped hole in our brain”? Why do people have the need to “believe fervently in the very unlikely”?

The short answer is no-one knows for sure, but there are some aspects of our behavior that provide some clues. Here are eight reasons that have been given for religious behavior.

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I’m a fan of cricket and, occasionally, I have a feeling that I suspect many other sports fans will find familiar—if I stop watching a game for a couple of minutes and a wicket falls, I’m tempted to stop watching again to see if that “takes another wicket”. Football fans report a similar feeling if they stop watching and a goal is scored, they feel they should stop watching again to see if that scores another goal.

Although my logical mind knows that me popping out to the toilet can’t really affect a game being played hundreds or thousands of miles away, the feeling is there—and it’s widespread; I’ve heard plenty of stories starting “I’m not superstitious, but…”..

What’s interesting is that superstition isn’t confined to people; psychologist B.F. Skinner demonstrated that pigeons are also superstitious; he put hungry pigeons in a box and delivered food at random times—the pigeons would repeat whatever behavior they’d just been doing to “make” the food come again.

As has been pointed out; it is very difficult to distinguish between superstitious behavior (getting a cup of coffee to “make” a football team score a goal) and religious behaviour (talking in a quiet voice to “make” it rain).

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Hands up who talks to their computer? And not because it has speech recognition. Yep, I can see lots of hands there—including my own. We talk to (or shout at) computers, cars, screwdrivers, almost anything we interact with. It’s a widespread practice and children, in particular, do it—imposing personalities on inanimate objects.

There is some evidence that this is useful behavior—for example, if you’re looking for something you’ve lost then saying the item’s name out loud makes it easier to find—as if “talking” to something helps people concentrate on the item. Again, if pressed, people will confess that the computer, car or screwdriver can’t actually hear them—even if we shout, but also people can’t stop doing it—it’s built into our brains.

How does this tie in to religious beliefs? Religion has been described as “trying to talk to the weather”; is talking to our cars so different?

Purpose

We seem to have a natural ability to see purposes for things; for example, rabbits can be seen to have lots of purposes; they eat grass, they make holes, they make more rabbits (obviously!), they feed foxes and so on. It seems that it’s natural to feel everything should have a purpose—“but what use are wasps?” is a question I’ve heard plenty of times—as if wasps have a bit of a nerve existing without a clear purpose. It feels wrong to say, “well, some things have no purpose; they just are.” The tendency to say “everything has a purpose” leads to questions such as “what is the purpose of life?, of death?, of evil?” Many philosophers would argue that these aren’t sensible questions—partly because they’re based on an assumption that such things have a purpose, but if you insist that things do have a purpose, then a supernatural explanation—which can explain anything—can obviously explain it.

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It seems people have an innate belief in justice; particularly when we’re young—“it’s just not fair!”—sound familiar? Although the parents’ standard response is “well, life isn’t fair”, the feeling that life *should* be fair is deeply ingrained—as with superstition, there’s evidence that it isn’t restricted to humans—evolutionary biologist, Professor Marc Bekoff believes that a sense of morality is built into the brains of all mammals—but people simply hate to see wrongdoing unpunished and it’s a common factor in religions that there’s a *lot* of punishment going on. It’s rather unpleasant to think that one of the biggest “draws” of religion is the hope that “evil” people get really punished.

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The other side of the belief in justice; when someone dies, one of the stages of grieving that people go through is anger—it just seems so wrong, so unfair that someone we love is gone. Who would not like it to be true that we’ll see them again? As with many of these things, our logical mind might accept that simply living, and being conscious of living is enough, but our logical mind isn’t the only thing that drives our beliefs.

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The closest living relative to modern humans are gorillas—depending on how you count the DNA, we’re up to 99% gorilla—or gorillas are 99% human. As the naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough has pointed out, their vision, hearing and sense of smell is so similar to ours that they experience the world in the same way we do.

The behavior of gorillas, however, is different from humans. Bands (or whoops!) of gorillas live in small groups with one dominant male—called a silverback because the fur on a male’s goes silver as the male ages. The silverback defends the group from attacks—and, as you’d suspect, a mature, male gorilla is *very* strong, so it’s likely to win. The silverback also “runs” the group; making all the decisions, sorting out fights, deciding where the group goes and so on.

Humans don’t live like this; they live in relatively large groups—particularly compared with other apes—and they don’t have a supremely powerful male leader, but there is a theory that until (in evolutionary terms) recent times, we did and part of our brain misses him; a lot of religious behavior is identical to submissive behavior to a dominant male (eyes are downcast, there’s quiet and respect in their presence). The difference is that our dominant male isn’t so tangible nowadays.

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Indigenous people in South America have been taking ayahuasca for centuries—European missionaries described it in in the 16th century, but it was long established then. Ayahuasca is easy to make—assuming you’ve access to a rain forest, and can boil water—various leaves are crushed and boiled and consumed. It’s, apparently, quite difficult to keep the mixture down but users describe life changing, spiritual experiences under the influence of the psychedelic chemicals in the leaves. Other effects reported are “becoming” prey animals—in a spirit world.

Humans are no strangers to psychedelic drugs; evidence for magic mushroom use date back to prehistoric times and it’s believed that early religions were an attempt to explain the psychedelic experiences of drugs.

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Although it’s difficult to know for sure how behavior evolves, there is usually one of two reasons why it survives; either it provides a benefit or it’s a side effect of something else that provides a benefit.

At first look, religion is evolutionary expensive; animal and human sacrifice is, historically, commonplace, religious wars, to this day, cost thousands of lives how could religious belief survive the evolutionary process?

One theory is that religious belief brings people together—or more precisely, that it allows lots of people to live together without killing each other; our closest relatives—gorillas and chimps live in small groups (150 individuals is probably the biggest chimpanzee band). Chimpanzees and humans have a common ancestor from around 8 million years ago, so it seems likely that early humans lived in small groups, but started living in larger and larger groups with the invention of agriculture forcing them to live together.Something in early humans’ brains would have to change to allow us to live in large groups without continual fighting; a common religious belief could be that change. One interesting point about the theory is that it doesn’t matter what the religious beliefs are, but it is important that everyone in the community believes the same thing. That may explain some of the bizarre beliefs in religions.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/06/13/8-reasons-people-embrace-religion/

10 Heavens Of World Mythologies

Nearly every religion or mythology has a paradise which promises everlasting rewards if its followers obey the rules. There are quite a few similarities between them—mainly eternal youth, peacefulness, and an absence of evil or strife—but there are quite a few differences as well.

10Tlalocan
Aztec Mythology

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For the Aztec people, Mictlan was the place where nearly all mortals went when they died, regardless of how they lived. However, if certain conditions were met, the soul could be granted access to other afterlives. One such place, known as Tlalocan, was home to the rain god Tlaloc and was exclusively for those who died because of rain, lightning, or various skin diseases, or were sacrificed to the deity. It was said to be peaceful and full of flowers and dancing (makes sense with all that rain). Those with physical deformities, who were said to be under the watch of Tlaloc, were also granted access to the paradise. The souls of those who went to Tlalocan frequently reincarnated, passing back and forth between realms.

9Gan Eden
Judaism

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Gan Eden (Hebrew for “the Garden of Eden”) is the final spiritual plane in Judaism, where the souls of the righteous go to spend eternity with God. It’s described as being 60 times better than what we experience on Earth and is the counterpart of Gehanna, a kind of Jewish purgatory, where sinners go to purify themselves of the wrongs they committed (most only have to stay there for 12 months but the truly wicked never come out). It is sometimes compared to the Garden of Eden in the Bible, but it is a distinct place which has never been seen by mortal eyes.

8Fólkvangr
Norse Mythology

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Most people are probably familiar with Valhalla, the heaven-like place where the souls of fallen warriors are taken in Norse mythology. However, according to the myths, half of them were actually said to go to a place called Fólkvangr, which translates as “field of the host” or “army field.” This afterlife was ruled by Freyja and was supposedly a counterpart to Valhalla. Very few literal descriptions of Fólkvangr have survived, but we do know that it is where Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir (“roomy seat”) is located, which itself is described as “great and fair.” Women were also believed to be able to end up there, even if they weren’t killed in battle.

7The Fields Of Aaru
Egyptian Mythology

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Sometimes known as “the Fields of Offerings” or even “the Elysian Fields,” Aaru was the land where Osiris dwelt after having been resurrected from death. A number of gates, either 15 or 21, each with its own guard, stood between the soul of a righteous person and Aaru. Once they arrived, the souls would find themselves in a land of eternal peace, with magnificent crops and “bread and beer of eternity,” which would never go stale. Other physical comforts were abundant and men could have a number of wives and concubines (No word on what women would get, if they could even get in). Aaru was more or less exactly the same as the mortal world, just better.

6Vaikuntha
Hinduism

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The ultimate destination for souls who have achieved moksha, or “salvation,” Vaikuntha is the highest of heavens in Hinduism and is said to be the place where Vishnu, the supreme god, resides. Upon arrival, the souls are granted love and fellowship with Vishnu, which lasts for eternity. Everyone in Vaikuntha is beautiful and young, especially the women, who are compared to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of fortune. Animals and plants are infinitely better than their real-world counterparts, and the denizens of Vaikuntha fly in airplanes, made out of lapis lazuli, emerald, and gold. In addition, the forests have wish-giving trees, specially designed for the inhabitants. Again, men would receive wives and consorts as they pleased.

5Tir Na Nog
Irish Mythology

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Known to the Irish as “The Land of the Young,” Tir Na Nog was an island far out in the Atlantic Ocean which was said to be a place of eternal happiness and youth. Mortals were normally banned from the island but could reach it if they underwent an extreme trial or were invited by the fairies that lived there. One such mortal was Oisín, who was said to be the greatest poet in Ireland’s history. He traveled there with Níamh Chinn Óir, the daughter of the king of Tir Na Nog, and they stayed together for 300 years—although it only felt like one year to Oisín. Everything you could ever want was found on the island. However, Oisín eventually grew homesick and left, dying when he returned to Ireland.

4The Otherworld
Celtic Mythology

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Unlike most depictions of heaven, the Celtic Otherworld was said to be located on Earth, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes, it is described as an island or chain of islands; other times, the Otherworld is believed to exist beneath the ocean. It is an idealized mirror image of Earth, where sickness, old age, famine, war, and all other evils of the world are banished. The various deities of Celtic mythology are said to call the Otherworld home and the souls of righteous humans interact with them for eternity. In addition, unlike many of the other heavens on this list, mortals were said to have occasionally visited the Otherworld.

3Elysium
Greek Mythology

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Also known as the Elysian Fields, the Elysian Plain, or the Islands of the Blessed, Elysium’s purpose changed over time for the Greeks. At first, only those mortals who were given special favor by the gods were allowed to enter, but eventually the invitation was extended to all good humans. Homer described it as a place of perfection, without work or strife. Hesiod wrote that “honey-sweet fruit” grows three times a year, nourishing the blessed. Later Greek writers identified the islands of the eastern Aegean or other islands in the Atlantic Ocean as possible real-world locations for Elysium. When reincarnation began to take hold in Greek mythology, Elysium was sometimes split into tiers, with a soul required to gain entry four times into Elysium before being permanently taken to the Islands of the Blessed.

2Cockaigne
Medieval European Mythology

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Not associated with any religion, Cockaigne was a mythical land much like heaven, where everyone got whatever they wanted. Rivers of wine were said to flow through the land and the houses and streets were made of pastries. Its location was rumored to be in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, and it was sometimes seen as an alternative to the “boring” paradise of Christian heaven. Sexuality was extremely pronounced, and nearly everyone engaged in some form of lewd activity (nuns and monks were particularly singled out). In addition, no one needed to work, and there were roast geese which would wander around, begging to be eaten. The American hobo myth of Big Rock Candy Mountain is seen as an evolution of this idea.

1Heaven
Christianity

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As the largest religion in the world, Christianity’s version of heaven is pretty well known. Attributes like an absence of sadness, war, or sin are common knowledge, as are the pearly gates, but there are quite a few obscure elements which separate Christian heaven from other depictions. For starters, the ultimate heaven isn’t a place yet; the Bible says that a new Earth, where heaven will be, won’t be created until after Armageddon. Until then, the dead are just sort of waiting in an intermediate heaven, feeling no passage of time.

The book of Revelation says that there will be a great city, unparalleled in beauty, with walls made of precious jewels and streets made of gold. God is said to dwell among the humans who make it to heaven, where they worship him for eternity. There is a lot of debate over whether or not those in heaven remember their lives, and the Bible is a little ambiguous on the subject, but Jesus’s promise to see his disciples there has been taken as meaning they do.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/10/02/10-heavens-of-world-mythologies/

Top 10 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church

Having recently published our misconceptions list about Islam, I promised a commenter that I would also publish a list of misconceptions about the Catholic Church – of which there are millions. With this list I am honoring that promise. I have taken ten of the most believed or written about misconceptions about Catholics or the Church and debunked them (with evidence wherever possible). I certainly hope that you all find it interesting and readable.

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Misconception: The Church discourages Bible reading

The very first Christian Bible was produced by the Catholic Church – compiled by Catholic scholars of the 2nd and 3rd century and approved for general Christian use by the Catholic Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The very first printed Bible was produced under the auspices of the Catholic Church – printed by the Catholic inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. And the very first Bible with chapters and numbered verses was produced by the Catholic Church–the work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.

At every Mass in the world everyday, the Bible is read aloud by the priest. In the traditional Mass there is one reading from the general body of the Bible (excluding the gospels), and two from the Gospels. In the modern Catholic Mass, there are two readings from the general body of the Bible and one from the Gospels. All Catholic homes have a Bible and the Bible is taught in Catholic schools (as is its perennial tradition).

This myth has come about because Bibles were often locked away in Churches in the past, but that was not to prevent people having access – it was to prevent them being stolen. These were hand written Bibles which were incredibly valuable due to scarcity. Furthermore, people think the Church forbade people from reading the Bible by putting it on the Index of Forbidden Books, but the Bibles placed on the Index were Protestant versions (lacking 7 books) or badly translated versions – the most famous of which is the King James Version which Catholics are not supposed to use.

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Misconception: Catholics worship Mary and are, therefore, committing idolatry

In Catholic theology there are three types of worship – one of which is condemned in the Bible if offered to anyone but God:

1) Latria – this is adoration which is given to God alone – giving this type of worship to anyone else is considered to be a mortal sin and it is the idolatry condemned in the Bible.

2) Hyperdulia – this is a special type of worship given to Mary the Mother of Jesus – it is only given to her and it is not considered to be idolatory as it is not adoration, merely reverence.

3) Dulia – this is the special type of worship given only to the saints and angels – it is also not idolatrous as it, too, is a form of reverence.

The distinction was made by the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787 AD. The council was called to condemn the people who claimed that it was idolatrous to have statues and images of saints. The canons of the Council can be read here.

Just to clarify: “Latria is a Latin term (from the Greek ???????) used in Orthodox and Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity.” – there are lower forms of worship (as is implied here). A Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it. The images of saints (whether it be in statue form or painting) serves as a reminder of the holiness of the person depicted.

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Misconception: Catholics aren’t Christians

In fact, Catholics are the first Christians. When reading over the early Christian writings, you can see clearly that their doctrines and teachings are the same as the Catholic Church today. You hear of Bishops, virgins living in community (nuns), priests, confession, baptism of infants, the Bishop of Rome as head of the Christian religion, and reverence for the saints. Here are some comments by the early Church fathers who were, in many cases, the apostles of the Biblical apostles:

Bishops: For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop’s office unblamably and holily. — Pope St Clement, Letter to the Corinthians 1, A.D. 96.

The Papacy: “[From] Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father” (St Ignatius, Letter to the Romans 1:1 [A.D. 110]).

Holy Communion: “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” — St. Justin Martyr, “First Apology”, A.D. 148-155.

Infant Baptism:Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (St Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Confession: “[A filial method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, “I said, to the Lord, I will accuse myself of my iniquity.” ” (Origen, Homilies in Leviticus 2:4 — A.D. 248)

From these quotes it is obvious that the practices of the modern Catholic Church are the closest to the practices of the apostles and early Christians. It should also be said that the majority of historians accept that the Catholic Church was the first Christian Church as it is verifiable from ancient texts.

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Misconception: The Pope is infallible in all things

Roman Catholics believe that only under certain circumstances is the pope infallible (that is, he can not make a mistake). The Catholic Church defines three conditions under which the Pope is infallible:

I. The Pope must be making a decree on matters of faith or morals
II. The declaration must be binding on the whole Church
III. The Pope must be speaking with the full authority of the Papacy, and not in a personal capacity.

This means that when the Pope is speaking on matters of science, he can make errors (as we have seen in the past with issues such as Heliocentricity). However, when he is teaching a matter of religion and the other two conditions above are met, Catholics consider that the decree is equal to the Word of God. It can not contradict any previous declarations and it must be believed by all Catholics. Catholics believe that if a person denies any of these solemn decrees, they are committing a mortal sin – the type of sin that sends a person to hell. Here is an example of an infallible decree from the Council of Trent (under Pope Saint Pius V – 16th Century):

If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.

The last section of the final sentence “let him be anathema” is a standard phrase that normally appears at the end of an infallible statement. It means “let him be cursed”. The most recent pronouncement that can be seen as falling under Papal Infallibility was when Pope John Paul II declared that women could not become priests.

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Misconception: The Catholic Church is opposed to science and rejects evolution

In fact, may great scientific advances have come about through Catholic scholarship and education. The most recent and interesting case is that of Monsignor Georges Lemaître (pictured above, center) a Belgian priest who proposed the Big Bang theory. When he proposed his theory, Einstein rejected it, causing Monsignor Lemaître to write to him: “Your math is correct, but your physics is abominable.” Eventually Einstein came to accept the theory.

Also, unlike many of the American Protestant or evangelical religions, the Catholic Church does not reject the theory of evolution. Right from the early days of the theory, the Church remained mostly silent on the issue. The first public statements specifically regarding evolution came from Pope Pius XII who said: “The Church does not forbid that…research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.”

In 2004, a Theological Commission overseen by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) issued this statement: “According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. […] Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.”

Catholic Schools all around the world (including the US) teach scientific evolution as part of their science curriculum.

Orthodox Indulgence

Misconception: Indulgences let you pay to have your sins forgiven

First of all we need to understand what an indulgence is. The Catholic Church teaches that when a person sins, they get two punishments: eternal (hell) and temporal (punishment on earth while alive, or in purgatory after death). To remove the eternal punishment of hell, a person must confess their sins and be forgiven. But the temporal punishment remains. To remove the temporal punishment a person can receive an indulgence. This is a special “blessing” in which the temporal punishment is removed if a person performs a special act such as doing good deeds or reading certain prayers.

In the Middle ages, forgers who were working for disobedient Bishops would write fake indulgences offering the forgiveness of sins (removal of eternal punishment) in exchange for money which was often used for church building. Popes had been long trying to end the abuse but it took at least three centuries for the sale of indulgences to finally end. True indulgences existed from the beginning of Christianity and the Church continues to grant special indulgences today. Wikipedia has an excellent and honest article on the abuse of indulgences from the Middle Ages. You can read it here. Here is a BBC article on a new indulgence granted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

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Misconception: Emperor Constantine invented the Catholic Church in 325 AD

In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine announced toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity. At the age of 40 he converted to Christianity and in 325 he convened the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea. Because of the importance of this council, many people believe that Constantine created the Church, but in fact there had been many councils (though not as large) prior to Nicaea and the structure of the Church already existed. Constantine was at the council merely as an observer and the Bishops and representative of the Pope made all of the decisions. Before the council of Nicaea, priestly celibacy was already the norm, baptism of infants was practiced (as were all 7 sacraments), and the structure of priests and Bishops was already 300 years old.

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Misconception: Catholic Priests can’t get married

This has appeared on a previous list, but it is well worth including it here as well. In order to clear this one up, we need to first understand the nature of the Catholic Church. Within the universal Church there are sections (also called churches but not in the sense that they are separate) – the most common one is, of course, the Roman (or Latin) Catholic Church. Then there is the Eastern Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Orthodox which is a different religion). Both of these churches fall under the jurisdiction of the Pope and all believe the same doctrines. There are a lot of differences between the two groups but these are all in matters of style of worship and certain rules. In the Eastern Church, priests are allowed to be married – but a married priest can’t become a Bishop.

It also happens that occasionally in the Latin Church, pastors who convert from other religions such as the Church of England are allowed to become priests even though they are married, so married priests can be found in all parts of the Roman Catholic Church. Pictured above is a Greek Catholic priest and his wife. Don’t believe me? Here is proof. And here is more proof.

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Misconception: The Church added books to the Bible

The Catholic version of the Old Testament differs from the Protestant version in that the Catholic edition contains seven more books than Protestant Bibles. These “extra” books are the reason that many people consider the Church to have added to the Bible, but in fact these books were considered the official canon (list of books) by all Christians until the Protestant reformation during which Martin Luther (leader of the revolution) removed them. Interestingly some of these books contain affirmations of Catholic doctrines which Luther rejected. The reason that the Catholic Church uses the Greek edition is because the apostles used it exclusively in their preaching.

Luther decided to use the Jewish Masoretic canon (circa 700 – 1000 AD) instead of the Apostolic canon. The seven books he removed were: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch. While initially wanting to remove at least one book (The Epistle of James, because it contradicts Luther’s teaching that faith alone is needed for salvation [James Chapter 2]) from the New Testament, Luther ultimately decided to keep the Catholic New Testament in full.

Interestingly, Hanukah is mentioned only in 1 and 2 Maccabees, which is not included in either the Jewish or Protestant versions of the Old Testament.

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Misconception: The Papacy is a medieval invention

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, and from the beginning of Christianity he was considered the head of the Church. This fact is alluded to in many of the early Church documents and even in the Bible itself: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter [Greek for “rock”]; and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and he led the Church until his death in 64 AD, at which point St Linus became the second Pope. St Irenaeus mentions him here:

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate [office of Bishop of Rome]. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy [2 Timothy 4:21]. To him succeeded Anacletus [third Pope, pictured above]; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement [4th Pope] was allotted the bishopric. — Against the Heresies, 180 AD

St Irenaeus goes on to mention another six Popes and the various tasks they undertook during their reigns – such as the imposition by Pope Linus of the rule that women cover their heads in Church (a rule which, though often ignored, still exists today).

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/07/13/top-10-misconceptions-about-the-catholic-church/