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

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.

Adolfo-Huerta-Aleman

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A Huge Cross to Bear – Man Spends 26 Years Traveling the World with a Giant Crucifix on His Shoulder

I think it’s amazing how dedicated some people can be towards a cause they believe in. Like 60-year-old Lindsay Hamon, who has spent the past 26 years of his life hauling a giant crucifix all around the world, talking about Jesus to anyone who will listen. He literally carried his faith on his shoulders, trekking across 19 countries including New Zealand, Romania, India and Sri Lanka. During the course of his amazing journey he has had some truly spectacular moments as well as some pretty rough ones. In spite of being attacked and shot at in Bangladesh and thrown out of St Peter’s Square in Rome, Hamon has no plans to stop his work any time soon.

Hamon took up the mission of carrying the huge cross around the world in 1987, and he has rarely put it down ever since . The cross itself is made of cedar wood and measures 12 ft. by 6ft tall. It has a wheel at its base to make it easier to drag around, and he actually carries it over his shoulder for up to 12 hours a day, without having the faintest idea of where he will spend the night. The father-of-two and part-time care worker receives donations from supporters that help him stay committed to his role as a Christian Evangelist. But he does need to stop at his home town in Cornwall every once in a while to work and pay his family’s bills. “I tried giving up my work and doing this full time instead, but I didn’t get enough money to make ends meet,” he says. At times, Hamon has even put his life at risk. “There is fear there sometimes because I have a wife and kids and you don’t want to put yourself in danger. It is really trusting in God, knowing he will protect you.”

Lindsay-Hamon-cross

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The Religious Serpent Handlers of Appalachia

You would think that handling snakes is an activity limited to the snake-charmers of India. After all, the handling of such venomous creatures is naturally associated with the mystical cultures of the East. But you will be surprised to know that the practice exists in the U.S. as well, and has been present here for the past 100 years. ‘Snake handling’ or ‘Serpent handling’, as it is called, is a religious ritual followed in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., with origins in 20th century Appalachia. The belief behind the practice dates back to antiquity, and followers quote the Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke for support:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

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Ghost Money – Currency of the Afterlife

If there is indeed such a thing as afterlife, the Chinese and Vietnamese might just be the richest people there. And that’s because their living relatives make sure they are well provided for – by throwing money into flames. Well, not real money. Only fake notes. This fake money is commonly known as ghost money, “Joss paper” and as ‘pinyin’ (literally ‘shade’ or ‘dark’ money) in Chinese. The ghost money, along with other papier-mâché items (usually expensive stuff) are burned as a part of Chinese tradition – on holidays to venerate the deceased, and also at funerals, to make sure that the spirits have plenty of good things in the afterlife.

Traditionally, Joss paper is made from coarse bamboo paper or rice paper. The Joss is cut into squares or rectangles and has a thin piece of square foil glued in the center. Sometimes, it is even endorsed with a traditional Chinese red ink seal depending on the particular region. The paper is generally of a white color (symbolizing mourning) and the foil is either silver or gold (representing wealth), hence the name, ghost money. The three types of ghost money are copper (for newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown), gold (for the deceased and the higher gods), and silver (for ancestral spirits and local deities). Sometimes Joss paper is completely gold, engraved with towers or ingots. The burning of joss paper is not done casually, but with a certain reverence, placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Some other customs involve folding each sheet in a specific manner before burning. The burning is mostly done in an earthenware pot or a chimney built specifically for this purpose.

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Indian Men Get Trampled by Cattle in Traditional Ritual

In villages around the Ujain region, in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh, men lay down on the ground and have their cattle trample all over them, as part of a bizarre centuries-old ritual.

There are a many things people will do in order to have their prayers answered by their gods, but until today, I didn’t know getting trampled by cattle was one of them. In a weird example of blind faith, dozens of villagers from Bhidawad village and neighboring settlements decorate their cattle with colours and henna in different patterns, then lay down on the ground and get trampled by the confused animals. The ritual takes place on the occasion of Ekadashi, a day after Diwali, the popular Hindu festival of lights, which was celebrated around the world on November 13. The whole village gathers in the streets to witness the painful event that they believe will make Hindu gods answer their prayers. “This is a traditional festival observed during Ekadashi fast after which the entire village’s cows are made to run over men lying on the ground, ” local Rekha Dubey told reporters. “We worship the cows before the ritual and also fast for five days and sing hymns during the festival.”

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Russian Coupon Site Is Offering a 50% Discount on Redemption Just in Time for the Mayan Apocalypse

Believe it or not there are people out there who actually believe they can buy their way into Heaven. A Russian coupon site is offering a 50% discount on indulgences offered by the Catholic Church, and so far over 100 people bought the coupon. The funny thing is Russia is an Orthodox country…

What’s the price of redemption, fellow sinners? Well, according to this offer posted on Russian site Kupon Klub, it’s just 500 rubles ($16). Come on, you have to admit that’s a bargain! But, truth be told, it’s 50% off thanks to the kindness of an Italian Catholic church that has offered to pray for the forgiveness of your sins at half price. All someone has to do is buy this holy coupon and send its unique number to an email address mentioned on site. No matter how much you’ve sinned over the years, you can buy just one coupon for yourself, but you can get as many as you want to have your loved-ones’ sins forgiven as well. According to Lifenews.ru, the organizers of this bizarre campaign believe the number of sold coupons will be in the millions, but with 37 days to go to expiry, only 110 people have bough the discounted indulgence vouchers. That’s right, 110 people believe paying $15 for a coupon will open their way into Heaven.

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Woman Spends a Year Living According to the Bible

31-year-old Rachel Held Evans has spent an entire year trying to follow of the Bible’s instructions for menstruating women, from “submitting” to their husbands to removing themselves from the community. Now she’s launching a book on her religious experiment, called “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”.

The Tennessee-based evangelical blogger set out to obey the Bible’s strict rules for women on their period, from Leviticus Chapters 15 to 18. In case you didn’t know, the Holy Book sets a strict set of rules for women, some explicit, others implied, and Evans tried to obey most of them as precisely as possible. During the 12-month-long experience, she stayed home from church, made her own clothes, abstained from sex and even touching her husband, let her hair grow, slept in a tent once a month, and even carried a  seat cushion with her wherever she went to avoid sitting on chairs outside her home. It might sound funny, even kooky, but  through her experiment Rachel tries to make a serious point: all Christians choose to respect those parts of the Bible that suit them.

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Pray-O-Mat – The Simple Solution for Getting Blessings on the Go

We live in such a busy world that some people don’t even have the time to go to church anymore. Luckily, there’s the Pray-O-Mat, a converted old photo booth that features 300 pre-recorded prayers and incantations in 65 different languages, and lets you get your blessing on the go.

Waiting for the service at the local church or temple takes time, and in this day and age that’s a valuable commodity. But thanks to German artist Oliver Sturm, you don’t have to skip out on getting closer to the supreme being you happen to be worshiping. Known as the “Gebetomat” in Germany, the ingenious device has been branded as a “Pray-O-Mat” for its transition to England, where it’s gotten quite a lot of attention since being installed at the University of Manchester, as part of a study into “multi faith spaces”.

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11-Year-Old Boy Leads Church as an Ordained Minister

Is there anything kids nowadays can’t do? Well, there may be a few, but becoming an ordained minister and leading a church isn’t one of them. 11-year-old Ezekiel Stoddard recently made headlines after he was ordained a minister at the Fullness of Time Church in Maryland.

We’ve featured a few prodigies on Oddity Central, like the world’s youngest computer wiz, the 9-year-old Monet, a 10-year-old sake expert, but we’ve never had a child minister. That changes today, as we introduce Ezekiel Stoddard, an 11-year-old ordained minister who has apparently been writing his own sermons since he was seven. “It doesn’t matter the age that you can be licensed. It just matters … how much word do you have and how much God has called you,” the enthusiastic child of God told the Washington Post. Still, he admits sometimes adults don’t take him seriously and “look at me like I’m a joke and I need to sit down.”

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Fight Church – When Evangelical Christianity Meets Mixed Martial Arts

What do you do when your love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is just as strong as your passion for religion? That’s the big question Fight Church is trying to answer.

Fight Church is an interesting documentary directed by Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge that tries to explore the rocky relationship between Evangelical Christianity and fighting in a cage. It mainly focuses on Senior Pastor Paul Burress, his Trinity Church and its offshoot MMA school, Trinity Training. The controversial film was given the green light after attracting $30,000 through Kickstarter, and although it’s still in production, the debut trailer posted online has already caused quite a stir. And that comes as no surprise, considering it features people asking questions like “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?”

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Los Santos Malandros – The Thug Saints of Venezuela

An idol of a man dressed in blue jeans, orange shirt, green baseball cap and a gun stuck in his belt is hardly something you’d expect to see at a place of worship. But it’s pretty common in Venezuela, the country with the highest murder rates in the world. Religious cults worship thugs and criminals who are long dead and gone. Even though the most widespread religion in Venezuela is Christianity, the worship of local thugs is so strong that it cannot be overlooked. The people who participate in such cult worship are more often than not, from the poorest sections of society.

With an average murder rate of about 14,000 a year, Venezuela isn’t exactly the safest place in the world. In such a scenario, I suppose it would be easiest for the people to relate to a God with whom they can connect, as compared to the Christian saints. And that is what makes the Maria Lionza cult so popular. According to this alternate religion, the dead co-exist with the living and they can be accessed through a few people who act as a medium.

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The Creation Museum – A Controversial Attraction in Kentucky

The Creation Museum, located in Portland, Kentucky, is a $27million museum dedicated to the Creationist theory. Creationism, which opposes the concept of evolution, is based on the Christian Genesis story that God created heaven and earth. Spectacular multimedia displays that use Hollywood technology depict the story of Genesis at the Creation Museum. Tens of thousands of people from all over the US pay regular visits to the place dedicated to God and how he created our world. One visitor proclaims, “I finally realized today that God made time. He made the dates, He made the 24 hours, He gave this to us.”

According to the Creationist theory, the world has not been evolving for millions of years (as stated by the theory of evolution), but was created only 6,000 years ago. Calling scientific experiments and proofs as ‘based on a ton of assumptions’, the videos played at the museum’s auditorium state that it is better to “start with the word of someone who has seen everything from the beginning and told us exactly what happened.” That someone, they say, is God. Some of the other attractions at the museum include life-size models of Noah and his Ark, Adam, Eve, and other characters from the Bible. Also on display are a few fragments of Torah scrolls that were supposedly saved from the clutches of Saddam, in Iraq.

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Thousands Flock to See Miraculous Frescoes of Macedonian Church

The phenomenon is being hailed as a modern day miracle. But there are some who are just not buying into it. Whatever the reason may be, what’s happening at the St Demetrius church in Skopje, Macedonia is very interesting. The gold halos around the paintings of saints on the walls of the five-century old church have miraculously turned brighter, overnight. The paint is reported to be noticeably sharper than it used to be before. Some reports suggest that the soot gathered over all these centuries is simply falling off, to reveal the original colors of the paintings beneath. The phenomenon first began with the image of the Virgin Mary and soon spread to the other works of art.

The miracle of the Macedonian Church paintings is turning out to be quite a popular one. Several hundreds have gathered in long lines outside the church, hoping to get a glance. Even Archbishop Stefan of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski paid their visits. Father Dragi Trpeski says, “I’ve worked as a priest for 26 years but I have never witnessed a miracle like this.” Several theories have been put forth, attempting to explain the event. According to local clergy, the famous warrior St Demetrius is unhappy about the recent drop in visits to the church. Apparently, the presence of nearby construction sites has blocked main entrances and resulted in fewer visitors. Head of the Commission for Religious Communities, Valentina Bozinovska, suggests, “This is a message that we must immediately return to moral values, family and children, to preserve ourselves from the decadence we are facing.”

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Man Single Handedly Carves Orthodox Churches in the Side of Mountain

It’s the stuff that ancient legends are made of, but I guess you could call the story of Aba Defar a modern-day miracle. How else would you explain an old man carving four churches on a mountain side of the Ethiopian highlands, all on his own?

Aba Defar is a man driven by his faith in religion. At one point in life he was a family man and a weaver by profession. But all that changed with a simple dream he had in 1959. The Holy Spirit appeared in his dream, showing him a mountain church carved out of sheer rock. The dream kept repeating itself over the next 30 years, but he never knew what to make of it. It was when he had a vision that he finally understood that his life’s mission was awaiting him.

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The God Squad – Russia’s Parachuting Priests

Until now, only angels were able to drop in from the skies, but not anymore. Russian priests will be joining in pretty soon, complete with church and everything. No, they won’t be sprouting wings, they will be using parachutes to do their flying. Confused? I’m talking about an elite unit of priests that are currently being trained as a part of the Russian Army. Once the training is complete, they will be able to drop in along with their mobile churches, to hold services for Russian troops posted around the world. Their code name – The God Squad (of course).

More interesting than the parachuting priests themselves, are the mini hi-tech churches they are to carry with them. The self-assembled Russian orthodox churches will come with crucifixes, replica icons, bells and chalices. In short, everything that’s needed for the rituals performed as a part of their religion. An air conditioning unit, generator, refrigerator and mini-theatre will also accompany the priests. The chapel will be placed on the ground using an airborne platform, generally meant for carrying heavy military equipment. Once on the ground, the priests would get to work in assembling the entire church unit, before holding a service.

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