Religious Extremism

Calling Terrorists By The Name Of Religious Organizations Is Irony In Its Most Dangerous Form

Neither our Quran nor the Bible allows for their consistent breaches of compassion and mercy upon their neighbors in favor of nothing less than unrestrained bloodshed in order to achieve political control and subordination from those whom they conquer.

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This past weekend, a savage attack by terrorists on Iran's Revolutionary Guard during their military parade to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the eight-year war with Iraq in Ahwaz left approximately 24 dead (including children) and 60 wounded. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by both the Islamic State and the Ahvaz National Resistance, whose goal is to seek a separate state in Khuzestan Province.

The majority of the victims in this cowardly attack were Muslim, and the terrorists who perpetrated the assault also professed themselves to be followers of the Islamic faith. Therein lies the unsolvable paradox of citing a terror group as having a religious basis — how can it be that a religious follower of Islam carries out such a devastating assault against those who are considered to be fellow Muslims?

How is it possible for Muslims to profess their faith in God, and then turn around and slaughter their own people, their spiritual brothers and sisters in religion? For that matter, how can any so-called religious extremist profess themselves as followers of their religion (which abhors the very notion of violence, especially against the innocent), and then commit such heinous actions?

This is not the first time that such an atrocious act of violence against Muslims has been carried out by these so-called religious extremists. Indeed, the entire campaign of Daesh (I refuse to call them ISIS because they do not have any religious basis to their wanton destruction and deserve no verification) has been against the mostly-Muslim population of Iraq and its surrounding countries, highlighted by mass executions of the brave men who choose to stand against them and the heartbreaking enslavement of the women and children that are left in their wake.

Boko Haram, for all of its professed adherence to the Quran, bans Western education despite our Prophet (SAW) demanding that the Muslim community seek knowledge from far and wide, no matter the distance or methodology of that knowledge. Other religious terrorist organizations and hate groups such as the IRA, the Westboro Baptist Church, and The Lord's Resistance Army claim to be followers of Christ, but no holy book I know of would advocate for such horrific acts of violence that these groups inflict upon the innocent.

Neither our Quran nor their Bible allow for the consistent breaches of compassion and mercy upon their neighbors in favor of nothing less than unrestrained bloodshed in order to achieve political control and subordinance from those whom they conquer

It is for this reason that I believe that any terrorist that tries to justify the words of a holy book and a religion of Peace, be it Islam or Christianity, is an utter fool devoid of even the most basic understanding of the love that their religion spreads amongst a community. The Quran itself claims that there is no compulsion in religion — therefore, no one can be forced to follow the tidings of our Prophet (PBUH) without their own consent. The Bible claims that to love others more than oneself is the sure sign of Christian faith, so hatred cannot possibly be justified in the eyes of Christian extremists.

For this reason, it's time we stopped calling terrorists religious because if they were to actually heed the tidings of their faith, they would not be terrorists.

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What Easter Is Like As A Wiccan

For the majority of people, Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead. But for witches, it's about something very different.
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One thing that can be quite irksome about being a part of the American school/college system is the fact that, for the most part, we are only given time off for holidays recognized by one religion, that being Christianity. I'm not saying these holidays are bad or that Christianity is overrated; far from it. But when you think about the holidays celebrated by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or, in this case, Pagans, it makes you wonder how everyone else chooses to celebrate their own holidays in the midst of the all-mighty Hallmark-centric holidays.

Before I converted to Wicca, I never quite understood why the majority of Americans chose to celebrate the gory death and alleged resurrection of someone during the spring, much like how we choose to celebrate Christmas in December even though many historians believe Jesus Christ was born around June. Although anyone can celebrate their own holidays for their own reasons, I think its also important to understand where these holidays may have really come from and how other religious holidays can be represented during this Easter weekend.

Instead of celebrating Easter, myself and millions of other people who identify as Pagans celebrate the holiday Ostara. This holiday is mostly celebrated around March 21, but fell on March 20 this year. During this time, Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox, when winter ends and the bright colors of spring are allowed to come forward for the year -- when "Night and day stand equal, The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom and the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death."

Ostara is one of the eight Pagan Sabbats marked by the Wheel of the Year. Each Sabbat marks a new season, equinox or solstice, which are used to signify the cycle of life, love, death and rebirth between the Mother Goddess (Gaia) and the Father God (also known as the Horned God). With Ostara in particular, it represents a new age of fertility, as the cycle of life and death of the Horned God starts up again.

There are many ways witches and warlocks from the multiple branches of Paganism choose to celebrate Ostara, but the majority of them choose to celebrate the Sabbat of rebirth by basking in the fresh spring flowers. For many, they can choose to have a ritual in their hard garden or simply enjoy the world around them.

You may be wondering, well what does some holiday about spring have to do with Easter? I'm glad you asked! As it turns out, like many other pagan traditions, the Christian religion got a few inspirations from the Pagans, one of them being the beloved Easter Egg.

What the rabbit represents for Ostara is fertility, magic and sexual energy, seeing as the main theme in the Spring Equinox is fertility and sowing seeds. Many believe that both of the holidays' names come from the goddess Eostre, who is sometimes associated with fertility and is loosely connected to both eggs and rabbits. There are also many sources, such as Jacob Grimm (one half of the Brothers Grimm), who believe that the egg is one of the symbols of early Paganism.

So how exactly do Pagans celebrate Easter, considering it's usually a week after Ostara? Well, for many, they just use the holiday to reconnect with family and celebrate some much-needed time off. For me, I just celebrate with food.

Lots and lots of food.

Happy Easter and Merry Ostara everyone!

Cover Image Credit: Lucid Source

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The Notre Dame Cathedral–Such A Loss Of History And Beauty, But What A Gift It Was To Experience It

Reid shares her story as she is saddened for Paris and the church.

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After the massive fire that devastated large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 850-year-old cathedral's spire fell. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to share in the nation's sorrow but gave hope for the future. This includes the rebuilding of the cathedral together and making it more beautiful than ever. "The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched," Macron said.

Tyler Reid

Among many others, Tyler Reid is saddened for Paris and the church. Although, she counts herself blessed to have seen it such a short time before it was destroyed. Reid, who was lucky enough to visit the amazing structure this past spring break, remarked:

My trip was filled with so many wonderful sites. Although, because Notre Dame carries the title of most-visited monument in Europe, my expectations were high. When I first walked up, there isn't one specific feeling I got; instead, it was more of a million thoughts running though my head. Once inside, looking at the massive stained glass windows combined with all the details in every crevice, it was hard for me to imagine people actually building this without the technology we have today. This hand crafted masterpiece really is so influential considering people still went there to worship, even after so much time has past and so many other cathedrals had been built. This proves how special the Notre Dame Cathedral really is. Due to my experience here, hearing about the fire hurt my heart, especially thinking about how some of the irreplaceable artworks and all of this history may be gone. This place truly influenced people, including me, and for it to be gone is a true tragedy.

Like Macron, Reid shares in the sorrow; although, for her, it was just from one visit. This proves the amazing impact the Notre Dame Cathedral had and hopefully will continue to have even after this devastation.

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