Controversial Preacher Wants to Cure Ebola with 4,000 Bottles of His Patented Holy Anointed Water

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Nigerian faith healer TB Joshua, who also happens to be a millionaire, is claiming that his patented holy water can cure people suffering from the deadly Ebola virus. He reportedly sent 4,000 bottles of the special water as a part of an aid package to Sierra Leone, via a private jet that cost $50,000. He is believed to have sent a cash donation of the same size, along with the water.

The news of Joshua’s holy water comes at a time when doctors and health workers are already trying to convince people in the rural areas that science could help them more than prayers or witchcraft. Nonetheless, the cash donation is certainly the need of the hour to stem the outbreak of Ebola in the West African nation.

The donation was confirmed by the office of Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma – the statement revealed that the cash was meant to ‘feed those affected by the Ebola outbreak’. The office, however, made no mention of the controversial holy water.

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Indian Priests Smash Coconuts on Devotees’ Heads in Bizarre Good Luck Ritual

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Every year, thousands of devotees travel to a remote village in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to put themselves through a gruesome ritual that they hope will bring them good health and success. Believe it or not, men, women and even children willingly permit priests to smash hard coconuts on their skulls!

Breaking coconuts on a sacred stone as an offering to the deity is a common practice in South Indian temples. But breaking them on one’s own head is quite rare, and viewed as an extreme display of devotion. Several devotees squat on the floor in a line, waiting patiently as the temple priests approach with a sack of coconuts. One priest holds the heads firmly, while the other one brings down the coconuts without hesitation. The whole process is completed in a matter of minutes.

Some devotees can be seen wincing in pain as the coconuts come crashing on to their heads. Some massage their heads, while others promptly collect the broken pieces as holy offerings. Surprisingly, there are a few who don’t flinch at all – these people are often in a deep meditative state of prayer. Nonetheless, medical staff are always present to tend to serious injuries.

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The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei Put Olympic Athletes to Shame

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In the foothills of Mt. Hiei, to the northeast of Kyoto City, lies a huge, 1,200-year old temple complex called Enryakuji. The Tendai-shu monks who inhabit this place are better known to the world as ‘marathon monks’ for their amazing physical feats that put Olympic athletes to shame

Not all the Enryakuji monks are Tendai-shu; only some of them get special permission to participate in the sennichi kaihogyo, or the Thousand Day Challenge – one of the most rigorous spiritual challenges in the world. The trial lasts for seven years and involves walking a distance that is equal to circling the globe once over. During this test of physical and mental endurance, the monk sets on a journey to venerate Fudo-myo-o, the central deity of the Tendai, by visiting a series of religious sites located on Mount Hiei.

The selected monks are called ‘gyoja’ and their challenge consists of seven long years of pilgrimage  to over 250 sites on Mt. Hiei, which is one of the top three sacred places in Japan. During their visits, they need to cover a total of 1,000 long marathons, a feat that seems humanly impossible to accomplish.

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Chinese Girl Gives Up Her Successful Life as Luxury Goods Designer to Become a Buddhist Monk

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24-year-old Ting Tien has done something that’s not really expected of girls her age – she’s gone and given up all her material comforts to become a monk. In her former life, Ting lived in luxury; she was a fashion designer with access to the best of clothes and make up. But the shine of material objects wore off quite soon in Ting’s case and she chose to look for inner peace instead.

Ting, a native of Jinan City in Eastern China, attended the Qingdao University in Shandong Province, specializing in luxury goods design. But when she graduated, she became disillusioned with the lifestyle that she and her friends were leading. She found everything around her increasingly materialistic and too much to handle.

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Nepal’s Worshiped Child Goddesses Whose Feet Cannot Touch the Ground until Puberty

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Nepal is a land of mysticism, where a select few pre-pubescent girls from the Newar clan are worshiped as ‘Kumari Devi’ or ‘Virgin Goddess’. According to tradition, Durga (the Hindu goddess of destruction) herself is incarnate in young girls belonging to the silver and goldsmith community. Until they attain puberty, Kumaris are worshipped as deities and deemed protectors by thousands of adoring Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.

To prove that she is the chosen one, a prospective Kumari must go through over 30 tests. Initially, high priests choose girls based on their physical characteristics – with a slender neck like a conch shell, gentle eyes like a cow, and other special traits. In the next stage, the girl must pass through a series of unusual trials. In one test, she is placed in a darkened room with severed animal heads and hideously masked dancing men, while her reaction is observed. In another test, she must correctly identify the items worn by her predecessor (similar to the ritual used in Tibet to choose a new Dalai Lama).

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Chinese Monk Who Has Been Praying for Up to 1,000 Times a Day for 20 years Leaves His Footprints Ingrained in Wooden Floor

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HuaChi, a simple monk from China, has achieved something that only few are able to – he has left a mark in this world, quite literally. The pious man has knelt to pray in the exact same spot for nearly 20 years now. He’s performed the ritual so many times that his footprints are deeply ingrained in the wooden floor of his temple, in the monastery town of Tongren, in Qinghai Province.

The highly disciplined monk follows a never-changing routine – he arrives at the temple steps every day before sunrise, places his feet on the footprints and prostrates a few thousand times in prayer. Having done this for two decades, the wood beneath his feet has softened considerably, transforming into perfect footprints that are 1.2 inches deep.

When Hua Chi was younger, he would prostrate 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. “But I have grown older, so in recent years I have only done around 1,000 each day,” he said. Sometimes, during winter he can only manage 500. But even that is seriously impressive; I couldn’t imagine doing a handful of prostrations without exhausting myself. After completing his prayers, he walks around the temple as well.

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Woman Says She Is Virgin Mary’s Cousin 65 Times Removed

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Mary Beth Webb, from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, is making  some tall claims about her ancestry. She considers herself to be the 64th great-granddaughter of Saint Joseph Ben Matthat Arimathaea, who is considered to be Virgin Mary’s paternal uncle. So that makes her the Virgin Mary’s cousin, 65 times removed.

Mary has been looking into her ancestry since 2010, and it has taken her two years to spot her connection to Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph of Arimathaea is credited in the Bible for providing the tomb in which Jesus Christ’s body was placed after his execution on the cross.

The idea to research her ancestry came from her other bizarre ritual – speaking to the dead. When she lost her brother to cancer in 1999, she started communicating with him and also with her dead parents. Mary’s cousin was always the medium for these conversations – she conveyed messages from Mary’s parents that included details she could never have known about. Mary herself admitted that there was no way her cousin could have known some of the stories.

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Baring More than Their Souls – Virginia Church Congregation Worship in the Nude

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White Tail Chapel, located in Southampton County, Virginia, has recently made a bizarre decision to welcome its congregation the way they were made – nude. Pastor Allen Parker, the leader of the church, said that he found the clothing requirements of other churches overly pretentious. So he wanted his own flock to be able to let go of such materialism if they desired to.

He argues that many of the Bible’s most defining moments occurred when people where nude, including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. “When he was born he was naked, when he was crucified he was naked and when he arose he left his clothes in the tomb and he was naked. If God made us that way, how can that be wrong,” said Parker, in an interview with CNN.

The pastor’s theory is that nudity is the ‘great equalizer’ that reminds the people gathered in church that they are all simple human beings. His goal is to drive the fact that beneath all the personal wealth and glamorous clothing, everyone is more or less the same. “There’s not a feeling that you have to be better than one another, physically,” he said. We’re humans, we have scars, we have what we have. It’s learning to love and accept that.”

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Arizona Reverend Performs Exorcisms via Skype

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Bob Larson, a reverend at the Spiritual Freedom Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, has developed a high-tech exorcism ritual involving Skype video calls. The reverend, who claims to have performed over 20,000 exorcisms in 40 years, is now giving possessed people the option of banishing their demons from the comfort of their living rooms.

“In simple terms, an exorcism is the process of expelling an evil spirit from an individual who has become somehow invaded and demonized by that being, and sending it back to hell and freeing the person,” he said in an interview with ABC news.

Larson is the self-proclaimed ‘world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult and supernatural phenomena’. In the past, he has appeared on shows like Oprah and Larry King Live. There are numerous video clips on YouTube of his exorcisms. A particular video where he came face-to-face with a gay demon went viral a couple of years ago.

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Meet Inri Cristo, the Man Who Thinks He Is Jesus Reincarnated

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A 66-year-old Brazilian man believes he is the reincarnation of Jesus. He has been preaching the word of God for the past for the past 35 years. Born Alvaro Theiss, this controversial religious figure now goes by ‘Inri Cristo’.

Inri is derived from the Latin acronym inscribed on the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion (INRI – Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, which means: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews). Cristo, his last name, means Christ.

Cristo experienced his first revelation that he was Christ during a religious fast in Santiago, Chile, in 1979. Although he had a powerful voice in his head guiding him since childhood, on this occasion it told him clearly: “I am your Father. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” He has hundreds of followers around the world, and his own church, ‘Soust’, based on a lush farmland outside Brasilia. Soust is an acronym for Suprema Ordem Universal da Santmssima Trindade.

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Taxi-Driving Pastor Offers Confessions on the Go

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Great news, you no longer have to go to church to confess your sins. Thanks to pastor Joseph Djan, who also happens to work as a cab driver, the confessional has been moved from the church into a New York taxi.

The 52-year-old taxi driver and Evangelical pastor sees cab-driving as running a “church on wheels”. Why? “It allows me to meet a lot of people and sometimes interact with them and it gives me the flexibility to attend to (the) ministry when it’s needed,” Djan says. He has Christian hip-hop playing in his cab and he sometimes lets his passengers know that he is a minister. Usually, after finding out about him being a man of Faith, people open up to him. This is what happened to one of his clients, a gay man who was afraid of coming out of the closet. “He heard my Christian hip-hop and while talking about it, it slipped out that I was a pastor. His mood changed instantly. He told me he wanted to tell me something that had never told anyone before”, the New York cabby says . The client confessed that he was feeling guilty about not telling the truth about his homosexuality, but Djan comforted him. “I told him that we all keep secrets. We all have to come out of the closet in some way or another. He was so relieved.” After stepping out of the cab, the passenger also stepped out of the closet and lived his life without hiding who he was.

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The Catacomb Saints – Relic Hunter Photographs Europe’s Jewel-Encrusted Skeletons

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Paul Koudounaris, a history professor from California, has spent the last three years visiting ancient ossuaries and churches around Europe and photographing their macabre treasures. Among these are the Catacomb Saints, a series of jewel-encrusted skeletons said to be the remains of Christian saints.

Decorated with hundreds of precious stones and several pounds of gold and silver, the Catacomb Saints photographed by Mr. Koudounaris for his new book, Empire of Death, are skeletons dug up from Roman catacombs in the 16th century and installed in churches around Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the orders of the Vatican, to replace the sacred relics destroyed during the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. Although none of them qualified as saints, authorities from the Vatican signed certificates identifying the dug-up skeletons as martyrs. The bones were packed in boxes and sent from Rome to various monasteries around central Europe, where nuns decorated them with gold and silver jewelry encrusted with precious stones. Since the skeletons were believe to be Christian martyrs, their bones couldn’t be handled by anybody, but only by those who had taken a sacred vow to the Church.  Once the decorative work was finished, the bejeweled remains were sent to churches and cathedrals where they reminded people of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife and acted as symbols of the Christian Church’s power in previously Protestant areas.

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Man Spends 4 Years Writing the Bible by Hand

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Handwritten bibles were common before the invention of the printing press, but nowadays they are considered a rarity. 63-year-old Philip Patterson, a retired interior designer from New York, has spent the last four years copying every single word in the King James Bible by hand.

Philip Patterson is not the most religious person in the world. He goes to church regularly, but he has never been particularly zealous. One might think the man from Philmont, New York, set out on this painstaking quest as a spiritual journey, but Philip says he did it out of curiosity, to learn more about the Book of Books. It all started one day in 2007, when his longtime partner, Mohammed, told him that Muslims have a tradition of writing out the Quran. Patterson replied that the Bible was too long, but Mohammed said that was more of a reason why he should do it. “The next day I started researching pens and pencils and paper and never looked back,” Philip said. 2007 was the year he started working on his prototype, copying the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, which allowed him to figure out the technique, layout and the type of paper and writing instruments that were most suitable for his grand project. Two years later, he started work on the entire King James Bible.

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On the Wings of a Prayer – India’s Unique Airplane Temple Fuels Devotees’ Traveling Dreams

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It’s not unusual at Indian temples for devotees to make huge offerings of money and food, in exchange for their prayers to answered. But the case of this particular Sikh temple in Punjab is quite strange, even for Indian standards. The narrow, dusty alleyway leading up to the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara in Punjab’s Doaba region, near the city of Jalandhar, is lined with a host of shops selling toy aircrafts of various sizes and colors. Although they sell like hot cakes, they are not meant to be travel souvenirs, but offerings to the temple. At the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara, devotees make toy plane offerings in the hopes that their dreams of traveling abroad and starting a new life will come true.

It’s hard to say how the trend started. But the offering of the toy plane is quite befitting, since the thing most people pray for at this temple is to settle down in another country. According to one local shopkeeper, “Surely it must have been someone’s wish to go abroad coming true that must have started it all. It’s now become a tradition. For us it’s business.” So the sight of scores of devotees flocking at the century-old gurudwara gates, holding colorful toy planes might be a strange one to you but quite normal to the locals. They line up patiently, waiting for their turn to access the inner sanctum on the first floor, where several decorative model planes are placed in neat rows. The devotees place their rainbow-colored offerings in the demarcated enclosure, paying their obeisance to the Gurus of the Sikh tradition and to Baba Nihal Singh, a simple farmer of the nearby Doaba region after whom the gurudwara was named. After the offering is made, they then proceed to ask for their wish to be granted – to be sent abroad as soon as possible.

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Controversial Priest Wears Rocker Clothes, Rides a Chopper and References Rock Songs During Sermons

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Adolfo Huerta Aleman, known to his parishioners as Father Gofo, is not your usual priest. He looks and dresses like a rocker, likes going to bars, loves pictures of naked women,smokes, swears, and tells jokes during his sermons. He’s probably not the only Catholic priest with odd hobbies, but unlike most, he’s open about them.

At one point in his life, Gofo wanted to enroll in the military. Then he thought about becoming a policeman, a firefighter or a teacher, but he ended up as a priest in the Mexican city of Satillo. He says his ultimate career choice was probably influenced by the values passed on to him by his religious family. But for him, entering the Church didn’t mean leaving everything he loved up to that point at the door. That included his love for rock culture, his passion for motorcycles or any of his vices. On the contrary, he decided to let his unique personality play a big role in his profession, as a way to reach those for whom conventional religion held no appeal. He continued dyeing the end of his black locks red, wore skull rings and bracelets in church, rode his chopper around town, and even referenced rock songs during Mass. Obviously, all that didn’t sit well with many of his conservative parishioners, but it got him closer to members of the community that would otherwise be inaccessible to the Catholic Church.

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