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“What are your beliefs?” There is no one answer that can define what a belief is. What we do know, however, is that beliefs shape our world and the way in which we live. Religion and spirituality have been around for centuries to guide us on this journey of life. Explore some of the major religions in the world today as well as describe how these different faiths may affect you or yourself if you were to practice them.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has an estimated 225 million followers worldwide, mainly located in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and other countries from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. It consists of 15 autocephalous (independent) churches within its jurisdiction who trace their roots.
In some cultures, religion is the platform for ethical and moral standards. However, it goes beyond that today. Besides creating values that people live by, spirituality helps individuals connect to something outside of themselves.
The weekend is everyone’s favorite part of the week. This is the perfect time to relax and be with friends and family. Aside from going to church, what other fun activities can you do next? Here are 5 things you and your family can try out.
– Nail Art
Just like any type of artistic expression, nail art aims to go beyond what we usually see on a daily basis. A regular manicure/pedicure session can turn into a bedazzling experience of mixing and matching nail polish, beads, and glitters to turn your nails into beautiful canvases. Take for example Minnie, the creator behind the Youtube channel Nailbees. She creates amazing videos about nail art painting that will blow your mind. Her nail art designs range from anime characters, holographic designs, and cute animal creatures that will surely make heads turn. Compare nail art designs with one another, or have your mom paint yours and vice versa.
– Plant herbs
Getting your hands dirty in planting is not a bad idea, and herbs are not very challenging to grow at all. Recycle old plastic containers. Have your children decorate them using non-toxic paint. Punch holes at the bottom of these containers for drainage, and then add potting soil. Have your children choose what herbs they want to plant. Oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, and cilantro are some of the easiest to grow. Place your containers in a sunny windowsill and remind your children to water them regularly. In a matter of days, notice sprouts coming out of the soil. This creates a feeling of accomplishment for your children.
– Film a cooking show
Stage a cooking show with your kids. Have them wear aprons, chef hats, and provide oven mitts or pot holders. Don’t forget to remind your kids with safety measures everytime they’re in the kitchen. Planning to cook a roasted turkey with stuffing? Now that can be complicated with children, but with proper guidance. It’s not as hard as you expect it. Speaking of turkey, did you know what temperature does the FDA recommend cooking a turkey to? According to the USDA, your oven must be set at 325F, and the turkey must have an internal temperature of 165F. Always have your food thermometer handy.
– Karaoke night
Everyone loves singing and let’s admit it, one of the best ways to do it is while bathing. Now, can you imagine doing this as a family bonding activity? That’s right, try having a karaoke night. You can sing your favorite Frank Sinatra songs while the kids jam over popular artists of today like Ariana Grande, or Sam Smith. It’s going to be a blast for sure.
– Movie or series marathon
Another way to spend time after going to church is having a movie or series marathon. Come up with a theme that everyone agrees to. You can try chick flicks, horror, comedy, and drama. For series shows, Netflix does not disappoint. Don’t forget the popcorn.
Most spiritual practices and religions give a special place to prayer as an essential activity. That’s because it’s how people communicate with the spiritual while in their physical state. Thus, individuals perceive it to be an avenue for connection to a deity.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
– Romans 12:12
Religion News Service | Seventh-day Adventist Pastor plans to flirt with atheism for 12 months
(RNS) California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.”
It’s an odd resolution for an ordained minister, former church pastor, a teacher at two highly regarded Christian universities and church consultant. Yet for the next 12 months, Bell, 42, plans to refrain from praying, reading the Bible and thinking about God at all.
Instead, he will read atheist authors, attend atheist gatherings and seek out conversation and companionship with unbelievers. He wants to “do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist.”
Still, his resolution is only an experiment he is not, he said, an atheist. “At least not yet,” he wrote in an essay for The Huffington Post, where, on New Year’s Eve, he announced his plan and a new blog to document it.
“I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.”
But so far, it has also been about loss. Since announcing his plans, Bell has been asked to resign from both of his teaching positions and lost a consulting job. In the months before his decision to, as he put it, “try on” atheism, his health and his family relationships suffered too.
But even this early in his experiment, Bell feels he has gained something. Among the 20,000-plus people who have visited his new blog are many who have written to say that they, too, dance with doubt, but feel they cannot do so publicly because of the cost.
“In a way, it is like being gay and not being able to come out to your family,” Bell said in a conversation from his home in the Los Angeles area. “There have just been so many people who said they have wanted to ask questions too and didn’t feel that they could. So they are living vicariously through my spiritual journey.”
“Which,” he added, “in a way, is a lot like being a pastor.”
Indeed, Bell’s path has been marked by controversy before. Born to Methodist parents who converted to Seventh-day Adventism, he eventually led Hollywood Adventist Church, a Los Angeles congregation known as a liberal outpost in a mostly conservative denomination.
Over the years, Bell’s once-fundamentalist views became more progressive, he said. He advocated for women’s ordination and the full recognition and inclusion of gays and lesbians, both prohibited by current church doctrine. He also took issue with the church’s literal interpretation of a six-day period of creation and its end-times teachings.
Last March, after eight years at Hollywood Adventist, he was asked by denominational leaders to resign. And that, he said, in part led him to his yearlong experiment with atheism.
“Not being a pastor for nine months has given me the freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,” he said.
Others have documented their yearlong spiritual quests, although usually from a more religious point of view. A.J. Jacobs tried to follow every arcane rule in the Bible for The Year of Living Biblically and Rachel Held Evans did the same for A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Others, including former Louisiana pastor Jerry DeWitt, have written about their loss of faith after the fact.
Linda LaScola, a clinical social worker and co-author of “Caught in the Pulpit,” a book of interviews with clergy who have lost their faith, said while no one knows how many clergy struggles with unbelief, various denominations deal with them differently. She knows of one Episcopal priest who admitted to a parishioner that he did not believe in the Nicene Creed, a core statement of Christian faith that’s recited every Sunday in Episcopal parishes. There were, she said, “no repercussions.”
“While it’s OK and even expected for many clergies to feel doubt with the assumption that it is a temporary situation that defaults back to faith clergy may hesitate to express their doubts openly to their congregation for fear it could affect people’s faith,” she said.
“For literalists like the Seventh-day Adventists and Mormons, there is little room for doubt. They know certain things to be true.”
Bell decided to share his doubts on a blog because writing has always been a way he processes his experiences. “Vocationally and spiritually, it was something I wanted to share with other people,” he said.
So far, the reaction from the atheist community has been lukewarm. Hemant Mehta, writing at his Friendly Atheist blog, commended Bell for exploring atheism, but said until he gives up belief in God, his experiment is flawed. Others, Bell said, have condemned him as a “mole” and a “fake.”
But Bell seems to have struck a chord among readers who can be classified as “nones” the 20 percent of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation, according to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center.
“There are so many other ways to think about and experience life than through the lenses of dogmatic Christianity, or dogmatic atheism,” one such reader commented. “I hope you find one that resonates with you.”
That’s Bell’s hope, too.
“If I have to be absolutely certain that there is no God, I don’t know if I can ever qualify for that group,” he said. “And if I need to acknowledge with certainty that there is a God, I don’t know if I can ever be a part of that group. But I am excited because this feels like a continuation of my spiritual journey. People seem to think I am leaping into this, but really this is just the next step for me.”
Salon | Enough of the year of stunts
Whether you want to eat nothing but artisan breakfast sandwiches for a year, or spend 365 days not believing in God, if it makes you happy, I salute you. But can I ask you to do it a little more quietly? Because of I’m ready to declare 2014 the year of not giving a damn what anybody else’s yearlong project is.
Maybe it’s all A.J. Jacobs fault. Over the past decade, Jacobs has spun his experiences of reading the encyclopedia, pursuing bodily perfection, following the Bible literally and other self-imposed Herculean tasks into New York Times bestsellers. He has helped spawn an entire industry of stunt quests in which enterprising individuals live like Oprah or have sex every day or exist entirely on Groupon deals for a year. The unusual limited-time endeavor spawned Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me and Julie Powells Julie and Julia and the guy who watched Julie and Julia every day for a year. And for a while, it was a fun idea. But now, a new crop of would-be adventurers find themselves grasping for novel endeavors, and the time-sensitive challenge has become as tired a trope as the found-footage horror flick. Just this week alone, as we crossed the finish line of one year and entered a new one, we’ve had international headline-making stories of Beyoncé and Jay-Z ending their month of veganism, the woman who subsisted entirely on Starbucks fare for a year, the couple who did a marathon every day for a year and the former pastor who, in a reversal of Pascals wager, is living 2014 as if there’s no God. If there is a God, I beg him, please make it stop.
Today there were two interesting pieces posted about my Huffington Post piece. Many of you have probably already seen these. They are written by two atheists of serious intellect and experience, who are gently critiquing the methodology of my year long journey. I am grateful for their engagement with me and I look forward to incorporating their comments into my thinking about this journey. Many others have said very similar things in the comment here on the blog (I read every comment, by the way) so I understand that many atheists feel Im not sincerely or genuine in what I am doing. All I can say is, thank you for your insights and critique and time will tell.
Here they are. What do you think?
Synapses | A year without god
Happy Atheist | To the Pastor Giving Atheism a Shot for a Year: You’re Doing It Wrong
What difference does God make?
About a year ago a friend and Episcopal priest, told me her atheist friend asked her this question. She found it harder to answer than she expected. He had batted away her first few attempts and she was now running it by me. We didnt end up discussing it for very long but the question has stayed with me. Recently I decided I would find out, by living for a year without God.
I was more or less raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My parents were United Methodists when I was born in 1971 in Parma, Ohio a suburb on the west side of Cleveland. When I was six years old my parents marriage started to come apart and in an effort to save it, we all ended up with my moms parents in Southern California. Part of the effort to save their marriage must have been a renewed commitment to their Christian faith, this time in the Seventh-day Adventist dialect of my grandparents.
From that time until early 2013, I lived within the family of the church. My relationship with God and the church has taken many turns a story for another time but I always managed to maintain the tension between the relatively unchanging demands of the church, my growing understanding of God, and my own personal experience of the world. I realize now that this tension was always there. These relationships were never easy for me. Whether during my fundamentalist phase, during college, or my growing progressive convictions in recent years, I always had a nagging sense that I didnt fit. So, naturally, I became a pastor. Since 1991 I have either been a pastor or in school developing my skills to be a better pastor. When I felt that I couldnt do it anymore I was convinced, by myself and others, that I could make my best contribution from inside rather than outside the church. So I stayed.
As it turns out, the day came when I really didnt fit within the church anymore. I had been an outspoken critic of the churchs approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership (we wont kick you out but you cant participate in leadership). Through the years, I had also been a critic of the churchs treatment of women, their approach to evangelism and their tunnel-vision approach to church growth. I was deeply committed to my community and its betterment something that won me the praise of some (and even an Innovative Church of the Year award from the North American Division) and the vitriol of others. I engaged in and sponsored interfaith relationships within my churches and in the community. I struggled alongside our neighbors for justice and peace. All of these things things I was most proud of in my ministry earned me rebuke and alienation from church administrators. I tried to maintain that I was a faithful critic a critic from within someone committed to the church and its future success but unwilling to go blindly along with things I felt were questionable, or even wrong.
This was on top of my theological concerns. I couldnt affirm the teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the remnant church Gods chosen people to prepare the world for the last days. If fact, there was a lot about the churchs beliefs concerning the last days (and the more proximate days) that troubled me.
In March, I stood my ground on these issues and was asked to resign. I didnt want to resign but I finally agreed. My family and my health had suffered over the past several years but my faith had suffered most of all. Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if Im honest, God. I havent attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I havent prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I havent studied, or even really read, the Bible.
So, Im making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will try on atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone elses circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).
I will read atheist sacred texts from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new religious atheists (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.
In short, I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. Its important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. Thats part of what this year is about.
For this life-long Christian, and a pastor for nearly 20 years, this feels abnormal. Risky, even. It is as uncomfortable as a lifelong atheist trying on Christianity for a year. Many of my colleagues will fear for my eternal security (what if I somehow die during the year?), others will question my mental health, reasoning that the recent trauma in my life has sent me over the edge. Perhaps they are right. There has been some religious trauma in my life in the last year and it has shaken the foundation of my faith, but honestly, it was getting pretty shaky anyway.
My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth and do it in a sometimes serious, sometimes playful, way that might be insightful for others as well. During the year I will be blogging my experience here and working on a book. I invite you to follow along and share your thoughts.