5 articles Tag religion

Tips for Planning out faith based tours in Europe

Faith based toursPhoto by Biel Morro on Unsplash

On the topic of organizing religious tourism it should be mentioned that it is a special activity related to the provision of services and the satisfaction of the needs of tourists who travel to sacred religious centers outside their usual environment.

Some tourists prefer to travel for religious purposes and in some cases leave the country for a long period of time, for example, at least six months to visit holy places as well as religious centers. Religious tourism has become particularly popular today, when tourists have many opportunities to travel to other countries as well, especially in Europe.

Target audience for faith based tours

Religious tourism is a promising and quite fascinating sphere of tourism, since it allows to make trips to different places, visiting the oldest monuments that are important not only for religion, but also for the development of art, culture, related to any historical event. In addition, the given orientation of the rest attracts not only believers, but also those who want to learn more about the architecture of temples, churches, various religious constructions, to know their interior decoration and their specific environment. Thus culture and religion overlap in this aspect.

Some people go on religious journeys to purify their souls, as well as to find inner peace and balance. Thus, the pilgrimage was practiced even before the birth of Christ, and now it is also practiced by various categories of tourists. It is very important to know who the target audience is for these faith based tours as it can help plan them better.

Types of faith based tours to prepare

In this way, the following types of religious tourism are distinguished:

Pilgrimage – It represents the desire of believers to worship holy places. Pilgrims have a variety of purposes, such as the desire to pray to God and be closer to him, to find grace, to carry out God’s work, atone for sins, to express gratitude for a good event, etc. The pilgrims, contrary to the opinion of some people, are not religious fanatics, but dedicated and learned people.

Because pilgrims travel long distances, they need to possess the quality of intelligence to communicate with strangers, as well as the ability to count on their strength. Modern pilgrims use the many comforts of civilization to make their travels. Now, this requires a certain amount of money, as well as documents that allow them to reach a certain country, but is a non-issue for European tours.

Religious and cultural tourism – Travel in the religious tourism format involves not only the worship of church relics, buildings, structures, or other objects, but also a general knowledge of the culture and religion of a particular place, which is also of educational interest. Tourists in this direction do not seek to achieve any enlightenment, forgive their sins, they just want to travel and see new corners of our world. For these types of tours it’s great to mix in general local culture elements to keep the audience hooked.

Learning from the history of the religious tourism industry

Religious tourism as a destination has existed since ancient times. However, religious tourists used to travel independently, without the help of any tourist organization. Their goal was to visit temples, cathedrals, monasteries and places of preservation of sacred relics.

The first mention of religious tourism dates back to ancient times, when the ancient Greeks visited Delphi. Pilgrimage tourism is mentioned later in the Middle Ages, when the Crusades gained special importance. In particular, under religious guidance the military operations against a particular state were hidden, so that religious travel at that time has acquired a special political significance.

In the second half of the 19th century, religious tourism began to acquire an organized character. For example, in France there were annual trips to atone for sins.

Characteristics of religious tours to help with organizing

To date, religious visits are the most common. However, when organizing religious visits it is necessary to take into account several aspects:

The address of the tour. The direction of the visit is determined based on the faith that the tourist has or the specific place that he must visit. Therefore, tour operators and travel agents must be well oriented in the available directions and be able to offer the tourist the right product.

The tour route. The tourist’s itinerary must be configured in such a way that the religious feelings of the tourist are not hurt, so that visits to places that may be unpleasant for the tourist are excluded.

Means of transportation. In many countries, the movement through the holy places is carried out by various types of land transport, most of the time by bus, since it allows not only to know the religious monuments, but also to see the daily life and way of life of the people who live there, in addition to knowing the natural attractions.

Designation of tour rules. Religious tourism, like no other, requires strict regulations. People can even carelessly offend the feelings of believers, so it is necessary to know the rules of conduct not only in the temple, but also in other holy places. Otherwise, the consequences can be deplorable, up to imprisonment, especially abroad. To avoid problems for tourists, it is necessary to explain the rules of conduct in a certain place. In addition, it is necessary to stipulate the way of dressing, for example, there are places where it is necessary to put a scarf on the head, it is forbidden to expose certain parts of the body, etc. It is necessary to remember that they have little free time, and it cannot be spent in constant discussions with travelers.

Keep in mind that you can always seek out the help of a professional tour operator for faith based tours in Europe that can help with the journey. When going on a religious tour, tourists should also remember that religious tourism is not a means of entertainment and fun. It is above all an opportunity to change the vision of the world, to learn new things, and to let go of negative emotions and experiences.

Raising Pragmatists – Parenting Without God

It’s pretty safe to say that religion is not something which factors very highly on mine and Husband’s list when it comes to parenting our girls. We’ve taught them the basics about what each of the major religions involve and have told them that, if they choose to, they’re welcome to explore faith if it appeals to them, but we certainly don’t follow any religion ourselves and usually strive to separate the girls from these kinds of teachings. While this may seem like our household is “lacking” in something because of our aversion to faith, I actually think that it makes our jobs as parents a lot harder, in two specific ways.

Firstly, there’s the issue of death. When Husband and I have broached this subject in the past with Sausage (BB is still far too young and is mostly only concerned with cake and Mr. Tumble), we don’t have tales of fluffy white clouds and angels with harps to pass on. Husband and I feel that humans have energy and that energy is reabsorbed into the earth when we die, but beyond that there’s nothing. It’s really hard to look your child in the eye and tell them that we won’t live on together in eternity, as much as I would love that to be the case. Expecting a child to be pragmatic enough to deal with the thought that, one day, we won’t be together anymore and we won’t be skipping around in Heaven together is really quite tough.

When my stepmum passed away in 2011, Sausage was just three. Lorraine was another pragmatist and had a Humanistic funeral, presided over by a minister who talked not about God but about people and life and living as a good person. When we spoke to Sausage about her passing, we were careful not to say “Lorraine has gone to Heaven”, both as a way to respect Lorraine’s wishes but also to convey our own views on the situation, but whenever anyone else mentions death around the kids, they tend to soften things by saying that the person had gone to Heaven. While I respect people’s views, I can’t help but wonder if they’re making things easier for themselves because they don’t have to broach the subject of nothing after death, just as much as they are softening things for the kids.pragmatism

The other issue, whilst still Heaven related, is the issue of morality. Husband and I can’t teach our girls that if they aren’t “good” then they won’t go to Heaven or that bad people get their comeuppance in Hell. They don’t have the looming threat of eternal damnation keeping them in line, they simply have to self-moderate and apply what we’ve passed on in terms of ‘how to be a good person’. Anyone who knows our girls knows that they’re both really decent little people, with kind hearts and mindful attitudes (again, I’m talking about Sausage here more than BB, she’s still a work in progress!), both of which have been achieved without religion. It makes me really proud of Sausage to know that, when she’s being a good person, it’s not for the sake of a Heavenly trade-off, it’s because she’s a genuinely good person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing people who’ve got faith and pass it on to their children; I’m all for personal choice and as long as people respect my right to live without faith, I’ll respect their right to have it. All I’m saying is, religion must make certain aspects of child-rearing a lot simpler.

What do you think? Are you raising faithless pragmatists? How do you broach the difficult subjects without making things seem too stark or scary? Do you use the phrase “going to Heaven” even though you don’t believe it? I’d love to hear your views, please leave me a comment below.

Sausage, Rainbows and the Religious Conundrum

Husband and I have been looking for an after-school club to send Sausage to for some time; there are clubs run through her school but they’re for slightly older kids. She’s a bright, outgoing little girl but being an only child means that she lacks interaction and sometimes is a little under-confident in social situations where she has to push her boundaries. We were aware that a few of her classmates went to Rainbows so I enquired about our local group and waited for a reply.

Husband raised concerns that he thought that The Girlguides Association was a Christian group and as someone who attended Brownies and Guides myself, I had to admit that I remembered promising to ‘do my duty to God’ during the Promise. I went onto the Girlguiding website to check it out and according to the information on the site, the part of the promise mentioning God has been removed altogether, after a public consultation. It also goes on to say that The Girlguiding Association “is not, and never has been, a Christian organisation”. The Promise, which aims to represent the inclusive values of Rainbows has now been changed to say ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’

Okay, so far, so good…or so we thought.

After Sausage’s first session, which she really enjoyed, I emailed the Brown Owl at Sausage’s group to see if she could shed any light on the situation, mostly because we’d received a schedule of the next few meetings which said that she’d be attending ‘Church Parade’ within the next few weeks. I asked the leader if this was a compulsory activity and if there was a general note of religion running through any of the sessions. Here’s her reply:

“There is not a particularly religious aspect to our meetings.  As you may have read in the Press last autumn, Girlguiding has altered the Promise to ask a girl to be true to her beliefs, whatever they may be, so it is multi-cultural.  Church Parade is not compulsory, but as we meet in the Church Hall and are given greatly reduced rates for the hall hire by the PCC we do like to support the Church.  About once a year the Vicar runs a meeting for us.  This has taken the form of a nature walk round his garden, a BBQ, a tour of the church and a talk about Advent.  These meetings are listed on the programme and you are at liberty to withdraw Sausage from that evening if you so wish.”

So, what that sounds like to me is that, because the Church hires the hall space to the Rainbows for a reduced rate, they’re given access to the kids to be allowed to preach religion to them. Despite the official organisation tack of ‘all-inclusive’, I don’t see anything on the schedule about activities with a Rabbi, Imam, Buddhist monk or any other such religious leader, so it does seem to be fairly exclusively Christian, does it not? And what, in exchange for cheap hall rental?

I appreciate the fact that we’ve been given the option to keep Sausage back from the sessions which involve religion, but I don’t understand why there has to be a religious aspect at all? It’s all well and good to encourage “spiritual development”, but I really feel that should be part of the parents job, not the remit of someone who is clearly biased towards one religion or another. My daughter is five years old – she’s not old enough to make her mind up about which religion she wants to follow, if any (she regularly tells us she wants to be a Hindu until she realises that it means she’ll have to give up eating spaghetti Bolognese) and beginning some sort of insidious indoctrination at such a young age is not what we signed up for.

To be honest, I feel really disappointed on Sausage’s behalf. She should be able to attend an after-school club without us having to worry about what might be being preached in her ear, but this Rainbows pack in particular has obviously decided that the all-inclusive nature of Rainbows is to be ignored. The whole point of the Promise Consultation wasn’t just to make the organisation inclusive to all faiths, it was to make it inclusive to those with NO set faith too.

She’s given MORE than enough religious education at school (which, believe me, is an understatement, she comes home almost every day telling us that there’s been some sort of religious aspect to her education) and the last thing we want is for it to be poured onto her at an extra-curricular club too. Faith, or choosing NOT to have faith, should be a personal thing, dealt with at home and marginally through a small aspect of their education. She’s five years old and it’s all too much.

Perhaps I need to see if I can find a science club for her to attend.

AIDS vs. Christianity

Husband sent me an email the other day with a link to this photo in it:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I’ll give you a second to absorb the information in that photo…

Can you see the message it’s putting across? The map on the right shows the distribution and severity of the AIDS virus in Africa. The map on the left shows the concentration of religions (notably Christianity, in red) by country. There is an ALARMING correlation between the two maps, is there not?

When are we going to realise that religion is responsible for almost every major world issue that we’re facing today? The Catholic church is sending missionaries to African countries and spreading the belief that not only will they burn in hell for eternity if they use contraception, but that condoms do nothing to halt the spread of the disease  which is grossly wrong. The Wikipedia page on ‘Religion and HIV/AIDS’ says “Pope John Paul II strongly opposed the use of artificial birth control, and rejected the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.[8] Pope Benedict XVI stated in 2005 that condoms were not a sufficient solution to the AIDS crisis,[9] but then in 2009 claimed that AIDS “cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.””

The irony of the statement above becomes even greater when you factor in the fact that the Catholic church considers AIDS and HIV to be a ‘gay’ disease and punishment for promiscuous behaviour, yet actively blocks gay marriage and the concept of monogamy for gay couples. We’ve let religion dictate our political decisions for far too long.

I’m by no means lumping every Christian into this category, but there are extremists in every denomination and the western world needs to wake up to the fact that telling citizens of a country which has an AIDS pandemic that condoms don’t protect against AIDS is religious extremism in its worst form.

It’s being reported that rape is being used as a weapon more than ever in many African nations since the explosion in infection rates of HIV and AIDS. The Unitied Nations University said “One striking difference between the use of rape as a weapon of war in pre-1990 conflicts and in latter-day wars is the emergence and “willful” transmission of HIV to the victims. Serious questions have been raised in the social science literature about the actual time of transmission and infection, and whether the “intent” of the perpetrators could conclusively be to infect the victim with HIV. Nonetheless, there is evidence from the victims’ accounts confirming the deliberate nature of these acts.

In her 2004 book, The Right to Survive: Sexual Violence, Women and HIV/AIDS, Françoise Nduwimana reported the testimony of one of the many rape victims during the genocide:

“For 60 days, my body was used as a thoroughfare for all the hoodlums, militia men and soldiers in the district.… Those men completely destroyed me; they caused me so much pain. They raped me in front of my six children.… Three years ago, I discovered I had HIV/AIDS. There is no doubt in my mind that I was infected during these rapes.””

People may blanch at the term ‘pro-choice’ but for me, being pro-choice isn’t just about abortion. Pro-choice means that EVERYONE has the right to choose. They have the right to choose to protect themselves against disease and poverty just as they also have a right to follow religious doctrine if they choose to. Preaching anti-contraception propaganda to vulnerable masses is dangerous.

Marie Stopes is doing fantastic work in Africa and other Third World countries to try to eliminate HIV and AIDS by providing contraception and family planning advice, as well as access to safe abortions and sexual health treatment. If you’d like to help them by donating to their cause, or simply educating yourself about the work that they do, you can GO HERE.

Do me a favour. Take another look at that map. Really think about the implications. Then think about the fact that 12 years ago, some Muslim extremists flew a plane into some buildings. 2996 people were killed that day and the USA and UK went to war with Iraq, leading to around 655,000 excess deaths, 601,027 of which were violent, according to The Lancet.

Through reading various publications, I found the following facts: Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 68% of all people living with HIV, however is only home to 12% of the world’s population. The vast majority of people in the region acquire the viurus during unprotected heterosexual intercourse or through breastfeeding as newborn babies. Of the estimated 22.9 million people living with AIDS in the region, 59% are women. Between 1999 and 2000, more people died of AIDS-related diseases in Africa than all the worlds wars combined. In 2010 alone, HIV/AIDS related diseases killed 1.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 90% of the 16.6 million children orphaned by AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 2 million adolescents aged 10-19 are living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of them don’t even know they’re infected.

Why aren’t we going to war over that?

SOURCES

http://www.stephenlewisfoundation.org/assets/files/Materials%20-%20General/SLF_HIV-AIDS_factsheet.pdf

http://unu.edu/publications/articles/rape-and-hiv-as-weapons-of-war.html

issuebrief/760/
http://www.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/epidemiology/2012/gr2012/2012_FS_regional_ssa_en.pdf
http://www.avert.org/worldstats.htm
http://www.globalissues.org/article/90/aids-in-africa

Am I A Christmas Hypocrite?

I was listening to Radio 2 today and they had someone on talking about Christmas in terms of midnight mass and other religious things (I think he was a vicar, but I missed the beginning of the segment) and I found myself feeling cross.

“This is the BBC”, I thought, “why am I listening to religious things?”.

I thought the BBC should be a bit more moderate and found myself wondering if they had a Kohen on for Hanukkah or an Imam for Ramadan. But then it occurred to me – they were talking about CHRISTmas. You know, the religious holiday?

The problem I have is this; I don’t believe in Jesus. But I kind of do. Let me explain:

I don’t like to pin down my beliefs and give them a name. I think there are aspects of Christianity I like, such as the message that we should all be nice to each other, but I like that in the same way that I like aspects of Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Rastafari and so on and so forth. I’m open to the concept that there may have been a man called Jesus who spread the word of love and tolerance, but do I believe that he was the Son of God? No, probably not. However, there are large aspects of each of them that I dislike (less so with Buddhism or Jainism) and I don’t celebrate the festivals of any of the other religions, so why do I celebrate Christmas?

There’s a quote from one of my favourite films that has always really resonated with me. It’s from Dogma, the Kevin Smith film about religion and may not be a heavyweight in terms of theological debate, but for me, this is profound:

Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name – wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it. 
Bethany: Having beliefs isn’t good? 
Rufus: I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier…

IDEAS. That’s how I feel. I could never in a million years say that I don’t believe in anything, because I just don’t know and it would be terribly narrow-minded of me to refute anything, but the scientist in me just won’t let me get my head around the earth being created in six days. But hey, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong! Another quote I love is this:

‎”If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.” -The Dalai Lama

That’s just beautiful, as far as I’m concerned. That is how it should be. Don’t ban science lessons which include evolution. How about we teach our kids ALL of the ideas?

But anyway, my original point – am I a Christmas hypocrite? Well, I just don’t know. Sausage doesn’t know the story of the nativity as such and I have no plans to teach it to her just yet. I knew it by her age as I went to a C of E primary school and we had hymns, psalms and all sorts every day, but I’m just not ready to teach her the nativity yet. Maybe Husband can jump in on this one, he’s far better at teaching her things than I am! But am I a hypocrite for celebrating Christmas without telling Sausage WHY?

I’d love to know how you feel about this. Are you having a totally non-religious Christmas? Do you ever feel weird about celebrating a religious festival with no intention of attending church? Or do you do the full-on Christian thing and teach your kids about Baby Jesus? Hit me up in the comments box!

(If you’d like to subscribe to Mum’s the Word and get these posts straight to your inbox, take a look at the subscription options in the sidebar.)