By Nickolas Dinos,
Seeing the world as the creation of a divine being that can instantly -and willingly- create life through sheer nothing is a story that every culture since the dawn of humanity has been well accustomed to. More than three out of four people in the world are followers of the major four religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism), but a lot of other religions have as well a strong grip among small population groups around the world.
Tondeism: The worship of rocks
Every year on September, members of Tondeism (a recently registered ancient religion) in Southern Republic of Uganda gather at Wajjinja Cultural Worship Centre in Nabigasa Sub-county, Kyotera District to, pray in virtually identical means to those of the Christians, when they visit Namugongo Martyrs’ shrines (a sacred place of Christianity located in the Wakiso District of Uganda). Wajjinja is a rock hill with many weird looking shapes that Tondeism believers associate to divine power.
Two vast seat-like stones stand at the cultural site and Tondeism believers claim that the first Kabaka (traditional title of king in the kingdom of Uganda), Kintu and therefore the queen, Nambi, sat on those. A story is told of the way Kintu was said to sit on the larger one, whereas Nambi sat on the smaller one. Among the other mysterious features at Wajjinja are the distinct footmarks on one of the rocks on the path leading to the huge stone seats. The place of worship is a sacred venue that holds huge festivals that allow big group of followers to meet up and celebrate their stony gods.
Religious activities connected to the worship of rocks and boulders is not exclusive in East Africa. Historical artifacts and studies of old traditions and ancient drawings seem to suggest that a lot of different cultures used to perceive large and uniquely shaped pieces of earth as godly entities or as symbols of divine power. Paleolithic scholars and academics seem to entertain the possibility that ancient stone structures, such as the British Stonehenge, may have been raised as a form of celebrating the magical and mystical powers of large stones.
Church of Euthanasia: “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself”
The Church of Euthanasia was founded in 1992 by a software developer and DJ Chris Korda. Korda was inspired by the ideals of Dadaism, an artistic movement that emerged during World War I. It consists of artists whose artistic aim is to reject logic, reason and the modern capitalistic point of understanding the world, in favour of irrationality and nonsense as a form of protest against systematic use of power that promotes violence, war and blind pursuit of wealth.
According to Korda, the inspiration behind the birth of this new anti-human religion came to her in a dream. During this dream, an alien entity known as the Being tried to warn her about the impending doom of humanity due to the excessive use of Earth’s physical resources. The Being is believed to represent humanity to other entities in the cosmos and seems to be confused about the state of modern human politics and the large following of self-destructive policies that result to global climate changes and large pollution.
Human population control seems to be the center of this religion as the followers believe that the constantly increasing human population along with the decrease in morals and values will inevitably be the demise of the planet and civilization. The Church’s of Euthanasia sole commandment is “Thou shalt not procreate” and other slogans include phrases like “Eat a Queer Fetus for Jesus” or “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself”. The Church of Euthanasia sparked public interest when they released a video called “I Like To Watch” and showed clips of hardcore porn and footage of 9/11 side by side.
Rastafarianism: Religion as a form of opposition to colonialism
Rastafari, also known as the Rastafari movement or Rastafarianism, is a religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s. It is classified as both a new religious movement and a social movement by scholars of religion. Central authority and leadership is not evident in the Rastafarian movement. Practices of Rastafarianism is complex, diverse and can be found done in a lot of completely dissimilar and distinct ways. Practitioners of Rastafarianism are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rasta.
Rastafarianism’s roots can be traced back to a lot of both religious and social movements of the day. Rastafarianism revolves around an Afrocentric ideology that serves as a cultural reaction to Jamaica’s then dominant British Colonial oppression. Influences of Ethiopianism and Back-to-Africa movement are large and seem to be promoted by black nationalist individuals such as Marcus Garvey and -later- the Black Power party in the United States known as the Black Panthers.
In terms of religious influences, scholars seem to agree that Jeudo-Christian religions have been a guide to the birth of Rastafarianism. Some followers openly describe themselves as Christians and the distinction between the two religions seems to reside around the Afrocentric Understanding of the Bible’s writings. The Bible is regarded as a sacred book and holds a special place among the Rastafari practitioners. The Rastas interpret the Bible as absolute true depictions of early Black African history and consider themselves as God’s favored people. The Rastas’ god is a singular god they call Jah. The name Jah comes from the English Translation of God as Jehovah. Rastas understand God as a deity and emphasize the anthropocentric dimension of the monotheistic religion as one of the most famous Rastafari saying is “God is man and man is God”.
The Rastafari religion is widely popular as the result of the Rastafari’s subculture’s large appeal. The Rastafari subculture gained a lot of popularity through Reggae musicians such as Bob Marley and the cultural and de facto political leader of Ethiopia at the time, Emperor Haile Selassie. Bob Marley’s commercial success led to a mass following of Jamaican culture and Rastafari religion while the emperor’s brave social reforms and strong connection to the African People saw him become a divine figure in the Rastafari religion as he was perceived as the son of God and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Enthusiasm for Rastafari declined in the 1980s, following the deaths of Haile Selassie and Marley, but the movement survived and has a presence in many parts of the world.
- Davis S., “Save the Planet, Kill Yourself”: The Contentious History of the Church of Euthanasia, Vice, Available here
- Dery, M., I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams
- History, Rastafarianism, Available here
- Ray, S., 13 Religions From Around the World that Are Just Too Weird to Be Mainstream, IndiaTimes, Available here