Strange religions are everywhere
Most of us have had a friend or two who has spent some time on an ashram, or off in the woods somewhere practicing yoga or asceticism. Others may know someone who has converted to a different religion while trying to find his or her spiritual bearings in this universe of ours. Some of us might have even toyed around with Buddhism, Sufism or Kabbalah (I’m looking at you, Madonna), or simply transferred our allegiance to a different denomination of Protestantism. The search for greater meaning in life is an integral part of being human. Of course, if you’re good with the god you worship now, and have never wavered in your faith, please stay the course, and ignore the rest of this article.
Regardless of the reasons why people seek spiritual guidance outside of their particular devotional milieus, there should never be any shame in asking about something new. In fact, I encourage people who are curious about alternative religions to reach past the traditions we’ve been hearing about for hundreds and thousands of years. Who says the ancients have the sole right to come up with a globally dominant monotheistic or polytheistic spiritual movement?
There are, in fact, plenty of new religious that have sprung up in the not-so-distant past. And no, I’m not only talking about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here. The options differ wildly, depending on your sacred or metaphysical needs.
If you’re after a mishmash of competing philosophies, why not check out UFO Yoga Christianity, as expounded by the Aetherius Society? If you join up with these folks, you’ll be able to stop an alien annihilation of our planet through the power of your prayer, which in turn will make it possible for a messianic extraterrestrial to plop his flying saucer down on Earth, and make life better for us all.
Maybe New Age yoga and bug-eyed aliens isn’t your cup of tea? How about a fairly modern, litigation-plagued take on an extremely old religion? The Commandment Keepers (founded in 1919), or more correctly, the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of the Living God Pillar & Ground of Truth, Inc. are Hebrews who believe that the main players in the bible, like Abraham and Jacob, were black. This Harlem-based movement is in desperate need of new members and a place to worship, as it’s been hit hard over the last few decades with lawsuits. If you do join up, you’ll definitely be able to claim membership in a group with a very select few.
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If the racial politics of earthbound religions don’t interest you, and you’re not worried about an alien invasion, why not look deeper into the stars? You could, if the “midi-chlorians” in your heart so desire, avail yourself to the benefits and commonsense discipline of Jediism. And yes, as you might have guessed, Jediism is a fully functional, up-and-running “Star Wars”-based religion. While members of this movement eschew a personal god (no one to pray to), they do take their core principles very seriously — irrelevant of the fact that the Jedi code is a precept coming from “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’s mind.
You can read up on the Church of Jediism on their website, although be warned — this isn’t a religion for fanboys of the sci-fi franchise. Members focus on the real world, not a fictional galaxy far away, which means if you show up at a meeting and make ligthsaber sounds with your mouth, you just might get kicked out, although you can probably talk about “The Force” until you’re blue in the face.
If you need something a tad stronger, you can always opt for the Wicca religion, which was founded in an effort to bring paganism and witchcraft into the modern era. While the organizational structures in Wicca are pretty loose, the potential, at least according to some of the beliefs, almost defy the imagination — especially if you’re a fan of magic.
For those folks who are after something different, but not too far away from the mainstream, Opus Dei (made famous by “The Da Vinci Code”) might be an option, particularly for practicing Catholics in search of a slightly stricter form of Catholicism. Or perhaps The Goddess movement is what you need. This spiritual set of beliefs is great for worshipers who want to get away from the patriarchal tendencies of many Middle Eastern, desert-based religions and philosophies.
Again, if you’re comfortable with your religion, I’m happy for you. Studies show that people of faith are generally healthier and live longer than nonbelievers. If, on the other hand, you’re unhappy with your current beliefs, why limit yourself to mainstream religion? A heck of a lot of other options are out there just waiting, and even begging, for you to choose them.