Learning About the Religions of the World

On the first day of a four-part open house on Religions of the World, I fulfilled my duty as a Jew.

Are you surprised? Well, apparently, having an ancestor on my mother’s side named Pinkus gave me that right and obligation.

Panelists answer audience questions

Enrique Sanchez, one of the speakers at the day’s event, was honored to wrap tefillin, jewel-like boxes with inscribed scrolls, on my head and arm. He had me read solemn verses from the Torah, the Jewish Bible.

It was a beautiful moment, as, too, was watching the troupe of Aztec dancers move with deliberate intensity through their complex steps, led by the elder Lazaro, a general in the ancient Aztec dance movement.

Now in its third year, each of the four Open Houses features an assortment of religions.

The Open House, held at the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles, was sponsored by the California Chapter of Youth for Human Rights, with special assistance from Dr. Arik Greenburg of the Institute for Religious Tolerance, Peace and Justice.

Now in its third year, each of the four Open Houses features an assortment of religions.

On this first event of the series, we heard from the Aztec and Jewish religions, and also from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Scientology.

Videos were also played, including The Story of Human Rights, which has seen more than a million views on YouTube since 2009.

Bishop Larry Eastland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) first spoke about how his religion was founded on the principle of bringing back the original Word of God through the revelations of prophets. He emphasized that prophets still exist today, not just two or three millennia ago.

Event panelists

Rev. Nick Lekas of the Church of Scientology then led a group counseling process that brought us all into the present. He went on to explain how you can be any religion and still be a Scientologist. Scientology doesn’t “define” God but holds that only when one has a full understanding of the spirit will one achieve an understanding of God.

Jewish scholar Enrique Sanchez spoke on the emphasis placed on ACTIONS in the ancient Jewish faith. It’s not enough to think right—you must do right.

Finally, Indio, of the ancient Aztec faith, spoke on how the Aztec calendar is alive as both an astronomical and astrological instrument.

Indio told us about the significance of the Aztec dance performed that day, with the key role that fire plays, recalling the "torture by fire" of Cuauhtémoc, the last Emperor of the Aztecs.

Looking for the fortune in gold, silver, gems, feathers and more that he had collected and then lost, and which he believed was taken by the Aztecs, conquistador Hernan Cortés had Cuauhtémoc’s bare feet slowly broiled over red-hot coals to make him talk.

But, unlike others being tortured, Cuauhtémoc stoically remarked "Am I enjoying some kind of delight or bath?" (Little of the lost booty was ever found.)

Damian Kevitt, Master of Ceremonies, closed by telling us about other presentations in this featuring Middle-Eastern Religions: Islam, the Assyrian Church, Bahá’í and what some believe is the oldest religion currently in existence: Zoroastrianism.

Attendees of all four events receive a certificate in the Basics of Religious Diversity and Tolerance.

As a blogger for STAND, I didn’t expect to participate so personally. But while my training as a Scientology Minister involved a study of the religions of the world, these speakers brought life to their faiths and impressed on me the universality of the knowledge they seek.

As organizer Andromeda Edison put it, “we have far more in common than our differences.” For me, that was symbolized by receiving tefillin in the modern setting of a Scientology Church. For me, the ritual had meaning, and the verses had unexpected poetry. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

For further information on the RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD event series, please visit this link.

T. Riggs Eckelberry
When I was growing up, we lived everywhere, and to this day I can number my friends from school on one hand. I have served as a commercial ship captain, wine importer, film production manager, and above all, technologist. Today, I’m the CEO of a public company that licenses a unique technology for treating water. I believe that technology has the potential to save the world, but also to undermine our rights and our independence. The many people working in the spiritual arena are the vital counter-balance, and I’m proud to be one of these, with my wife, Sigrid.