RNB Religion News Roundup: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories and religion research resources.
You’ll find religion news stories ranging from serious to seriously offbeat.
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The Dahn Yoga Centers
Dahn Yoga: Body, Brain and Wallet
[Amy] Shipley, now 25, is one of 27 former Dahn practitioners who filed suit in Arizona in May claiming the group subjected them to psychological manipulation and fraudulently induced them to spend thousands of dollars on Dahn yoga classes and retreats in Sedona, Ariz. and other places. The punishing techniques, they say, included forced isolation from friends and families, exercises like bowing 3,000 times all night long without breaks, disciplining members by sticking their heads in the toilet and making them lick other members’ feet, and having them hold certain poses, like the push-up position, for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. On top of those charges, the suit alleges that Ilchi Lee, the 57-year-old Korean founder of Dahn and its spiritual leader, sexually preyed on young female disciples.
Dahn Yoga calls the suit frivolous and has filed a motion to dismiss on various grounds, including prior settlements with three of the plaintiffs. Two of those settlements included unusual provisions forbidding the former members from complaining about Dahn Yoga to any government agencies. Ilchi Lee is also seeking to dismiss counts against him personally, contending he wasn’t directly involved.
The lawsuit’s allegations echo what many cult experts like Steven Hassan … and Cathleen Mann have been saying for years about Dahn. Hassan, a Somerville, Mass. mental health counselor who has helped scores of former Dahn members, says the group uses deceptive recruitment and mind-control techniques to create a dissociative disorder among followers, splitting them off from their families and value systems. Dahn’s spokesperson says these unfounded “rumors and innuendoes” are simply efforts to hurt a large and visible brand in yoga training.
Testimony continues in the trial of evangelist Tony Alamo. Some of his former ‘wives’ — including one whom he married when she was 8 years old — have taken the stand to describe the cult leader’s behavior toward them and others.
Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count indictment alleging he took young girls across state lines for sex. His lawyers say the girls were moved so they could do legitimate ministry work, and claim the government has targeted him. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 10 counts against him. He is being held without bond. – AP
Muslim convert jailed for suicide vest bomb plot
A former public schoolboy was jailed today for plotting to blow himself up using his own suicide vest and home-made explosives.
Muslim convert Isa Ibrahim, 20, was convicted of making an explosive with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK in April 2008.
He was also found guilty of a charge of preparing terrorist acts by purchasing material to make an explosive, making that explosive, buying material to detonate the explosive, carrying out “reconnaissance” before the act and “making an improvised suicide vest in which to then detonate an explosive substance”.
He was given an indeterminate sentence at Winchester Crown Court and told he should serve a minimum of 10 years. […]
The prosecution said the heroin and crack addict, who had been expelled from several schools, was preparing to carry out a terrorist attack on the Broadmead shopping centre in Bristol.
The jury heard that Ibrahim became increasingly radicalised after converting to Islam and consequently changing his name from Andrew Philip Michael Ibrahim.
He spent several months researching Islamic fundamentalism on the internet, including the motivation behind suicide attacks.
He also used the internet to find instructions on how to make explosives from household products. […]
Mexican cardinal says existence of devil must be taken seriously
The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said yesterday that the existence of the devil must be taken as fact, without exaggerating or minimizing his actions out of skepticism or credulity taken to the extreme.
During a conference for exorcists in Mexico, the cardinal said skepticism leads many to deny the existence of the devil and dismiss his actions as psychological, socio-cultural or paranormal phenomena. Others, out of extreme gullibility, see the devil everywhere and grant him supernatural powers as if he were God, the cardinal stated.
According to the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news service, Cardinal Rivera said that many people embrace esoteric and occult practices because of their estrangement from God.
He encouraged exorcists to appeal to the Virgin Mary for help, as she plays a special role in the fight against the demonic. “She brings us to Jesus, she protects us and cares for us in this difficult ministry … Mary also participates in exorcisms. She herself is an exorcist and expels the devil through her sanctity,” the cardinal stressed. […]
Unbiblical teachings regarding the Virgin Mary
Venue Change for Exorcism Trial
Citing pre-trial publicity, a Texas judge has ordered a change in venue for the trial of a mother and her boyfriend who beat their 13-month-old daughter to death during an alleged exorcism. Officers say it was the worst crime scene anybody working the case had ever seen when the lifeless body of 13-month old Amora Bain Carson was found covered in blunt force trauma wounds and human bite marks.
Pagan police get solstice leave
Pagan police officers in some areas are being allowed to take as many as eight days leave a year for events such as the summer solstice and Halloween.
It comes after the Pagan Police Association was set up following discussions with Home Office officials. […]
Pc Andy Pardy, a Pagan neighbourhood beat officer in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, was one of the officers involved in setting up the association. He told Police Review: “Paganism is not the new age, tree-hugging fad that some people think it is. “It is not the clandestine, horrible, evil thing that people think it is. A lot of people think it is about dancing naked around a fire. “But the rituals involve chanting, music and meditation. For Pagans, the practices are seen to have the same power as prayer does for Christians.”
Pc Pardy is allowed to take eight days per year for Pagan events – which form part of his annual leave.
Pagans worship nature and believe in many gods and their practices include witchcraft and druidism. According to the Office of National Statistics there were 31,000 people practising Paganism in England and Wales in 2001. […]
A Home Office spokesman said: the Pagan Police Association did not receive any funding from the Home Office. He added: “The government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves. “It is down to individual forces to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the religion or beliefs of individual officers, as far as operational requirements permit.”
“White Sikhs” — foreigners who found faith in Sikhism
Sword-carrying Sikhs roaming the Indian city of Amritsar are a normal sight; but white people wearing turbans definitely are not. The strangeness lies in the fact that they are non-Indians who converted to Sikhism.
Most of them attend the Miri Piri Academy (MPA), an International boarding school in Amritsar where foreigners who converted to Sikhism leave their children to immerse themselves in the religion. […]
The current student body represents 13 countries and 8 languages from various countries in Asia, Europe and America.
Although Sikhism does not have missionaries around the world, more white people are converting to Sikhism in the 21st century. Sikhism as a faith has never actively sought converts, thus the Sikhs have remained a relatively homogeneous racial group. […]
Due to the activities of Harbhajan Singh Yogi via his Kundalini Yoga, which focuses on 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy) Organization, Sikhism has witnessed a moderate growth in non-Indian adherents.
It was estimated that in 1998, these 3HO Sikhs, known colloquially as “gora” or “white” Sikhs, totalled 7,800 members, and were mainly centered around Espan~ola, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California.
Most foreigners turn to Sikhism through an indirect route of Kundalani Yoga from Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, better known as Yogi Bhajan, a renowned Sikh yoga teacher who came to America in the late 1960s, and died in 2004.
Hard Times Are Jamming the Ashrams
As the unemployment rate rises, so-called yoga retreats see an influx of spiritual seekers interested in their work-study programs. The article opens with the example of a former Intel employee who…
spends his days on the Himalayan Institute’s 400-acre wooded campus, practicing hatha yoga and meditation, studying spiritual texts, biking, walking and preparing meals in the institute’s kitchen. In exchange for his cooking duties and an annual fee of $3,000, he gets a private room, three vegetarian meals a day and unlimited access to the institute’s classes, seminars and other events.
The Himalayan Institute is one of many retreats where cash-strapped spiritual seekers can participate in work-study programs in which they pay typically $300 to $900 a month in exchange for a few hours a day of service, like washing dishes, cleaning rooms or weeding gardens.
As the unemployment rate has risen and people have sought refuge from the harsh economy, these work-exchanges have become a hot commodity.
The article points out that the ashrams are not to be seen as spas, and one work-study coordinator reiterates that the true purpose of these work exchanges, sometimes known as karma yoga, is to foster selflessness and good will.
Reader comments on the article are interesting, such as this one by Nat from Wilmington, DE: Karma yogis search for a new job. Gnana yogis learn new things and search for new knowledge. But the unemployed now go to the Himalayan Institute. Awesome.
Someone else writes that the cost of these programs bothers her — whether or not room and board are provided. A third says, it is unfortunate that we are still in the collective mind set that in order to live in this way we must go somewhere “else.”
Yet another writer warns that once one moves out of the “mainstream”, it is difficult to return. Marketable skills atrophy, contacts fade, future job interviewers dont understand the gap in your resume, or worse, think you belong to “a cult”. So (through no fault of the ashram), somehow one becomes stuck.
Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking
In the past 50 years, people with mental problems have spent untold millions of hours in therapists’ offices, and millions more reading self-help books, trying to turn negative thoughts like “I never do anything right” into positive ones like “I can succeed.” For many people — including well-educated, highly trained therapists, for whom “cognitive restructuring” is a central goal — the very definition of psychotherapy is the process of changing self-defeating attitudes into constructive ones.
But was Norman Vincent Peale right? Is there power in positive thinking? A study just published in the journal Psychological Science says trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are.
Meanwhile in the UK: A police force has been slammed for spending £82,000 on a self-help guru – to encourage their officers to stop moaning. Cambridgeshire Police have hired motivational speaker Paul McGee to teach officers how to be more positive and stop dwelling on setbacks. Mr McGee’s Shut Up and Move On (SUMO) course has also been used to perk up Manchester United FC and ailing Marks & Spencer bosses.
Help yourself save £82.000. Buy the Self Help book of your choice.
Fiji freemasons held for sorcery
The 14 men, including eight Australians and a New Zealander, had been holding a night-time meeting on Denerau island. The New Zealand man told reporters he had spent a “wretched” time in jail, and blamed the mix-up on the actions of “dopey village people”.
Police also seized wands, compasses and a skull from the freemasons’ lodge.
Freemasonry is a centuries-old club that practises secret rituals and has more than five million members worldwide. […]
Ever So Briefly
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in western Wisconsin seeking to block the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.
A Long Island man who touts himself as a Roman Catholic bishop was busted yesterday for performing a sex act on a teen boy, cops said. Dennis McCormack, 41, of Massapequa, was arrested at his home after a family member of the 16-year-old victim contacted police about the alleged incident, which supposedly took place within the past week.
According to a new study by British researchers, saying the F word or any other commonly used expletive can work to reduce physical pain — and it seems that people may use curse words by instinct.
Russian investigators says two Jesuit priests found dead last year were killed by a drunk man who was solicited for sex by one of them. The bodies of Russian Otto Messmer and Victor Betancourt of Ecuador were found on Oct. 28 in their Moscow apartment at the religious order’s Moscow headquarters.
A garden gnome giving the Nazi salute has landed a German artist in trouble with the authorities in Nuremberg. Prosecutors are investigating whether the gnome, which went on show in one of the city’s galleries, breaks the strict law banning Nazi symbols and gestures.
Religion News Blog’s editors twitter religion news. Follow us for stories like these:
Jury Resumes Work In Faith-Healing Trial: http://bit.ly/Bzb5y
Catholic church “a climate change sinner” http://bit.ly/UsTLx
Islamic Supremacist Group Holds First U.S. Conference: http://bit.ly/bgTmO
Convicted Nuwaubian leader asks court to dismiss his 135-year prison sentence: http://bit.ly/iNeRD
Dahn Yoga: Body, Brain and Wallet: http://bit.ly/yZAOc
“White Sikhs” — foreigners who found faith in Sikhism: http://bit.ly/pBTwI
Jerusalem fears more ultra-Orthodox riots: http://bit.ly/HlmPq
Venue Changed for Trial in Alleged Exorcism-Related Killing: http://bit.ly/ewB4n
Pope Benedict XVI taken to hospital after fall: http://bit.ly/M3g6F
Woman ‘married’ to pastor at age 8 to retake stand: http://bit.ly/SiNte
Yoga Retreats With Chores Attract the Weary and Unemployed: http://bit.ly/3rvKro
The Cult That Wants My Kids: http://bit.ly/FRYox – #religion #cults + http://bit.ly/Qbbn3
ACLU demands changes after jail removes Bible verses from letters to inmate: http://bit.ly/wrUsL
Evangelist Tony Alamo on trial: “I’m gonna win.” http://bit.ly/TthBb
Science and religion: squabbling but loving cousins: http://bit.ly/Nnnkl
Ultra-Orthodox Jews riot in Jerusalem over arrest: http://bit.ly/blKMz
Ancient shrine found at Hadrian’s Wall fort: http://bit.ly/1EUfuB
The Case for God: What Religion Means: http://bit.ly/zb0TF
BBC apology and ?45k damages to Muslim leader: http://bit.ly/wcDZN
Police officers into witchcraft get Pagan Police Association; religious holidays: http://bit.ly/muQBA
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