Saturday, March 9, 2013

Beneficial or harmful religious practices to health and the environment.

Dr Abe V. Rotor
Typical Palm Sunday, blessing of young fronds of coconut, buri, anahaw and oliva.

• Fasting is cleansing, it helps the body stop the accumulation of unwanted substances such as cholesterol, and allows the body to eliminate toxic materials. Fasting heightens awareness on food, its value, taste, discipline, "grace", and the feeling of hunger - which millions of people around the world encounter everyday.    

• Retreat and reflection is therapy, helps the mind and body release tension and do away with the effects of stress. It moderates lofty thoughts and ambition. It brings back idealism, hones ability to discern right from wrong.

• Abstinence conserves animal population especially during the lean months, conserving breeding stocks in order to multiply in the next season. Abstinence increases awareness to the need of becoming less dependent on animal products, and more consumption of plant products.

• To some religions pork is banned. Pork is a carrier of known parasites such as tapeworm, hookworm, and ascaris.

. Ancient religions regard certain places and trees sacred, thus enhancing their conservation. (Such worship was replaced by later religions, thus losing Nature's protection.)

• The washing of feet is not only ritual, it is also hygienic, getting rid of germs and preventing the spread of diseases.

On the other hand, on Palm Sunday trees are stripped off of their buds, leaves and stems. Whole palm trees are cut down and laid to waste. Potential loss to the coconut industry runs to millions of pesos every year, based on the productive life of a coconut tree of 20 years on the average, and quarterly harvesting of nuts, other uses of coconut notwithstanding. There are plants used on Palm Sunday that are endangered, among them species of Cycad.

There are rituals and practices of various religions that fall in either of the categories – beneficial or deleterious to our environment. It is time to review them in the light of the present environmental crisis.

Here is a short list of other religious practices that should be discouraged.
1. Flagellants inflicting wounds as penitence, source of infection.

2. Religious attires, habits, costumes not suitable to climate and weather conditions.

3. Stagnant communal holy water is breeding place and carrier of many germs causing diseases.

4. Walking on the knees may result to injury and long term disability.

5. Scents and smoke, mainly from candles, contain poisonous gases like carbon monoxide, specially in closed chamber.

6. Banging head as penitence, and other forms of self infliction.

7. Extreme emotional devotion drains physical and mental strength.

8. Amulets made of toxic and allergenic materials (lead, mercury, nickel).

9. Extreme sacrifice, leading to dehydration, sun stroke, fatigue, neglect of duties.

10. Extreme fanaticism. Don't gaze at the dancing sun, you'll surely lose your sight.

11. Barefoot walking is dangerous, so with bareheaded under the scorching sun..

12. Unruly crowd may result to stampede.

13. Bringing along very young children to crowded church, pilgrimage, procession is dangerous.

14. Don't be deceived or over react to piteous situation, and play the role of a politician.

15. Being pious is not a guarantee, you will be spared of criminal elements, and accidents.

16. Be humble, don't brag with your religion, you'll only court ire, and even fight.

17. Dress simply, decently, avoid ostentatious show of wealth in your devotion.

18. Religion is a way of life, live up with it.

19. Don't preach, don't proselytize, it is better to just live as an example.

20. Never, never associate devotion with suicidal act.

Remember that more people have died in religious wars, and conflicts motivated by religion, than all casualties of non-religious wars and battles in history. Many suicides were committed because of religious fanaticism. x x x

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