Pay to Pray – Guy Makes Over $7 Million Charging People for Prayers Online

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Between 2011 and 2015, Seattle “businessman” Benjamin Rogovy made millions of dollars by taking advantage of people’s religious beliefs. Through his website, ChristianPrayerCenter.com, he led people to believe that ministers and religious leaders would pray for them if they paid between $9 and $35 for the service. He managed to convince hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the scam, becoming the sole recipient of all their donations.

To make the internet scam seem genuine, Rogovy posed as Pastor John Carlson, a fictitious character with a professional-looking LinkedIn profile. He created other fake profiles for ministers who could provide private consultations and perform religious ceremonies through ChristianPrayerCenter.com and its Spanish version, OracionCristiana.org. Both websites contained fake testimonials of people who, with the help of his prayers, had been able to avoid home foreclosures, win the lottery, have healthy babies, and even be cured of HIV.  The scheme worked perfectly for four very profitable years, and at the height of its popularity, Rogovy’s pay-to-pray service had a whopping 1,289,120 likes on Facebook. People posted all their prayers online and sent money in hopes that it would lead to small miracles.

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Russian Man Faces a Year in Prison For Denying the Existence of God Online

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After expressing his lack of belief in God on social media, a Russian man was arrested and charged with “offending the feelings of believers”. Victor Krasnov is now on trial and facing up to a year in prison for writing things like “there is no God” and “the Bible is a collection of Jewish fairy tales” during an online discussion on the Russian social networking website Vk.com.

Shortly after the discussion in 2014, Krasnov and his mother began to receive anonymous threats. Then, in the fall of 2015, a couple of his friends who were part of the discussion – Dmitry D., 24, and Alexander K., 23 – pressed charges against him, claiming that they were representing the interests of all Orthodox Christians in Russia. The Investigative Committee (similar to the FBI) interrogated Krasnov for over a month, during which he was also subjected to psychiatric evaluations. He was declared sane, but the Committee decided that although he did not directly insult any individual, his comments did hurt the feelings of religious people.

Offending the feelings of believers was made a criminal offence in the nation in 2012, after punk band Pussy Riot’s blasphemous performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. For this reason, Krasnov is now being tried in court in his hometown of Stavropol in southern Russia.

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Russian Church to Pay $11,500 Debt in Prayers for Construction Company

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It appears that in some parts of the world, prayers have legit market value. For example, a church in Russia is getting away with a $11,500 debt by promising to pray for the good health of the creditors instead.

The Nizhny Novgorod diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church owed 916,000 roubles to construction company Era for designing a heating system for one of their buildings. The church was only able to settle half the amount, and the company decided on taking legal action. But the owners of the company happen to be religious people, so the church was able to convince them to agree to a pre-trial settlement in which the loan would be written off and the church would pray for them in exchange.

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Mercy Bus – Mobile Church Offers Confession and Blessings on the Go

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The Catholic Diocese of Salford, in North West England, has come up with a unique initiative to reach out to the masses – a church on wheels. Aptly named the ‘Mercy Bus’, it’s an actual double-decker bus that will tour Greater Manchester and Lancashire throughout Lent, offering people sermons, blessings, and Confession.

Father Frankie Mulgrew, the brains behind the mission, revealed that Pope Francis was his inspiration when he came up with the idea last summer. The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, was looking for innovative ideas while making plans for the Year of Mercy. Fr. Frankie thought it would be great to have holy doors all over the diocese, and a mobile holy door that would move around the city. The idea kept evolving until, eventually, the Mercy Bus was born.

“We were inspired by the Pope who, when he was a cardinal in Argentina, would celebrate open-air Masses in the poorest areas of his diocese,” Fr Frankie said.

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African Pastor Sells Anointed Pens That Help Students Pass Exams without Studying

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A pastor in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe was in the news recently for selling hundreds of special, ‘anointed’ pens to local students. Prophet Sham Hungwe claims that the miracle pens will help students pass exams without even studying!

“It is anointed and I declare passes when your children sit for exams; when you sit for exams,” he told members of the House of Grace International Church, during a sermon. And with the ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams coming up, he managed to sell a lot of the 15-cent pens for different prices, ranging from $1 to $20. The more you pay, the higher the chances to pass the exams.

Several believers scrambled to secure the pens for themselves or their children, especially after one of the congregants testified that he scored 14 points on his ‘A’ level last year with Prophet Sham’s special pen. The testimony boosted sales, with one woman paying over $10 for a single pen.

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Japanese Monk Goes Nine Days Without Food, Drink and Sleep in Grueling Religious Ritual

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Can you imagine going without food, drink and sleep for nine straight days and nights? It sounds impossible, but a Japanese Buddhist monk proved that it can be done, after recently completing a grueling ritual.

Last Wednesday, 41-year-old Kogen Kamahori, one of the “marathon monks” of Mount Hiei, a holy mountain that straddles Japan’s Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, became one of only 13 monks to have completed the endurance test since the end of World War 2. He emerged from a training facility, assisted by fellow monks, after spending nine days without eating, drinking, sleeping or even lying down. During this time, he was also required to chant sutras 100,000 times. Just keeping count under these conditions sounds like a superhuman task.

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Russia Begins Construction of World’s First Underwater Church

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A group of Russians are trying to construct the world’s first underwater church at Cape Fiolent, about 200 meters off the Crimean coast. Divers recently planted a large cross styled like a ship’s anchor at a depth of about 20 meters below sea level, marking the beginning of the ambitious project.

The church is partly sponsored by a Russian motorcycle club called Night Wolves, believed to have close ties with President Putin. Co-funding the project is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Both groups hope that the church will attract more tourists to the newly annexed Crimean peninsula.

“The underwater church will look like a church,” said Archimandrite Tikhon, who is also a diving enthusiast. “There will be icons inside – just like in a real church. Most probably they will be bas-reliefs of icons in stainless steel or stone.” He added that architects are working on the design and details of the structure.

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38-Year-Old Woman Marries Jesus Christ in Elaborate Ceremony

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When high school teacher Jessica Hayes decided to get married, she settled for no less than the son of God himself. The 38-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana, tied the knot with Jesus Christ in an elaborate church ceremony last weekend. The groom, of course, was not present.

Hayes, a theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School, said that she made the decision to marry Christ after years of prayer and soul-searching. She is now part of an elite group of ‘consecrated virgins’ – women who lead chaste lives, but are not required to live in convents or obliged to work for the Catholic Church. Hayes plans to continue her normal life at home, but she will not be able to marry or have sex with anyone for the rest of her life.

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Alabama Church Opens Gun Range “in the Name of Jesus Christ”

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An Alabama church has shocked the nation by converting an unused patch of land on the church grounds into a gun range for parishioners. It appears that the members of Rocky Mount United Methodist Church, in Jemison, unanimously voted to mix religion and guns, “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

“We have had this large hole in the back of our property at the church for quite some time, and we thought it would be neat to start a gun range,” said Pastor Phil Guin. “The hole was primarily filled with kudzu, and had been used at one time to get fill dirt for the new facility that was built on the end of our church building.”

“We started working on the gun range about a year ago with some of the members of our church helping to clean out the hole,” the pastor added. “Not only did we think it would be a good outlet for members of our church to be able to learn more about gun safety, but it would be a good outreach for the community.” According to pastor Guin, a lot of the church’s female members owned or carried firearms but didn’t know how to use them.

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African Pastor Turns Woman’s Hair into Delicious Food for His Congregation

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A pastor from South Africa, who previously made headlines for praying for his congregation until they stripped, is now in the news again for turning a young woman’s hair into food and having his followers eat it straight from her head.

Pictures posted on The End Times Disciples Ministries’ Facebook page show the pastor, Prophet Penuel Mnguni, placing his hands on the woman. Other members of the congregation are seen holding her hair in their hands and actually attempting to eat it. The pictures are captioned: “Man of God held the head of a woman of God Thapelo from Mabopane and her hair turned into food for the sons and daughters of God to eat. Everything depends on what we say because we carry life in our tongue.”

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Indian Millionaire Gives Up His Fortune to Become a Humble Monk

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Indian businessman Bhanwarlal Raghunath Doshi made headlines last weekend for publicly renouncing his wealth to become a monk. The ‘plastics king’ of Delhi gave up his 600-crore ($100 million) business empire during a ceremony on Sunday, becoming the 108th disciple of Jain guru Shri Gunratna Surishwarji Maharaj.

Doshi’s decision wasn’t an impulsive one: Jain lectures have been drawing him to spirituality since 1982. But his family – his wife, two sons, and a daughter – were always reluctant to let him go. They finally relented last year, allowing Doshi to fulfil his long-time dream of becoming a monk. His initiation into monkhood took place in an extravagant ceremony at Ahmedabad Education Society, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

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Goofy Church Of Bacon Offers Religious Services to Meat Lovers

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Founded in 2012 by Las Vegas-based ex-Marine John Whiteside, the basic premise of the United Church of Bacon is rather simple – bacon is our God, because bacon is real. Well, who can argue with logic like that?

The church claims to have over 4,000 meat-loving members, some of whom even bear quirky titles. Whiteside goes by ‘Bacon Prophet’, while member Johnny Monsarrat calls himself ‘Funkmaster General’ and ‘Institutionalised Thought Leader’. The members are mostly atheists who claim that their religion is to doubt religion.

Although the church aims to unite meat lovers, it was basically started by Whiteside to stand up for atheists’ rights. “The hatred of atheists, atheophobia and secularphobia, has no stigma, unlike homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. That needs to change,” he said.

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Prayer Nuts – Intricately Carved Wooden Marvels of a Time Long Passed

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While most rosaries these days consist of glass or wooden prayer beads, there was a time when wealthy Europeans used ‘prayer nuts’ – minutely detailed, small-scaled boxwood carvings. Each nut was a masterpiece in itself, decorated on the interior and exterior with intricate carvings representing Biblical stories.

The delicate wooden orbs were designed to be worn on a rosary, or on a belt by members of the nobility or wealthy merchant classes in northern Europe. At times, fragrant substances may have been inserted into the orbs, so that the nuts may have served as pomanders as well.

Recent studies suggest that prayer nuts of the early 16th century were reduced to such a small scale that they might have become impractical to use. The religious significance might have faded away, and these nuts may have later been made just to be studied and marveled at, as private collectors’ items.

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No Girls Allowed – The Greek State That Forbids Both Human and Animal Females

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Mount Athos, formally known as Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, is located on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki. The monastic traditions of the mountain date back to 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other eastern orthodox countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world.

Although technically part of the European Union, the Holy Mountain is largely self-governed. This prohibits the free movement of people and goods in its territory, unless formal permission has been granted. As a result, a number of traditions at Mount Athos might seem odd to people outside. The keeping of Byzantine time, for instance, means that their day begins at sunset. But perhaps their most bizarre practice is the centuries-old ban on women entering the sacred peninsula.

For over 1,000 years, women have been forbidden from setting foot on the mountain. In fact, females of other species such as cows, dogs and goats aren’t permitted either. Only birds and insects are exempted from the rule – scanning the skies and grounds for female body parts would surely be too absurd, even by Mount Athos standards.

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Hundreds of Indians Fast to Death Every Year in Ancient Santhara Ritual

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Fasting is a common religious practice in several cultures across the world, but few are as hardcore as ‘Santhara’. The exacting ritual is a part of Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world, and it involves participants making an oath to stop eating until they literally die of starvation. According to the Jains, this is a surefire way to purge oneself of bad karma and achieve ‘Moksha’ – liberation from the worldly cycle of death and reincarnation.

Every year, hundreds of Jains across India take up the onerous oath – some are monks, others are ordinary people. Interestingly, over 60 percent of the participants are female, and it is believed that women are more strong-willed than men. The practice is more popular with Jains who are ill or dying, but healthy people are also known to participate.

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