BeliefA group of religious fanatics in Russia called the Skoptzies were famous in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for practicing self castration. Advocating chastity, they took this notion to the extreme, citing Biblical references in Matthew 19:12 ("and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake") and Luke 23:29 ("blessed are the barren"). The operations were performed by both men and women, who used razors, pieces of glass, sharpened bone, or hot irons to do the deed to themselves. The greater number of Skoptzies submitted to the "first purification," which required that they remove their own testicles and scrotum. These initiates were said to have given up the "keys of hell" but to retain the "keys to the abyss." Those who removed their penis as well were awarded the honor of "Bearers of the Imperial Seal," and these initiates of the "second purification" were considered "worthy of mounting white horses." Female members of this sect did not remove their ovaries, but mutilated their external genitalia, mammae, and nipples. The highest degree of feminine participation was the complete amputation of the breasts.
BibleFifty to seventy Bibles are sold or distributed throughout the world every minute of the day.
BuddhismContrary to popular belief, there are almost no Buddhists in India, nor have there been for about a thousand years. Though Buddhism was founded in India around 470 B.C. and developed there at an early date, it was uprooted from India between the seventh and twelfth centuries A.D. and today exists almost exclusively outside that country, primarily in Sri Lanka, Japan, and Indochina.
ConversionSaint Lucy is depicted in paintings as carrying her own eyes on a dish. When still a young and beautiful maiden, Lucy supposedly looked at and fell in love with an equally young and handsome man. Feeling this passionate glance to be a betrayal of her vows of chastity, Lucy plucked out the eyes that had offended her so that she might never again look with lust. Her prospective lover was so impressed with Lucy's piety, the story says, that he Converted to Christianity.
Holy GroundThe Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is one of the few shrines in the world simultaneously sacred to three religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. According to the Jews, the rock beneath the dome marks the spot where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, and later was the site where Solomon built his temple. Christians believe that Christ once preached a sermon on the spot, and for Moslems this is the Holy Ground where the Prophet Muhammad made his famous Night Flight on the back of the winged barak.
LuciferThe devil is never referred to by his common name Lucifer in the entire New Testament. Only once is the name used in the Old Testament (Isaiah 14:12), and then it refers to the king of Babylon and not to the Satan we generally associate it with. The name Lucifer, interestingly enough means "light bearer" (hence a match is known as a "lucifer"), and has none of the evil connotations of some of the devil's other names like Beelzebub ("lord of the flies") and Satan ("to accuse") The planet Venus, when seen in the morning sky, is known to astronomers as Lucifer --that is, the star that heralds the coming light of day.
StrangeSaint Lawrence (d. 258 A.D.), deacon to Pope Sixtus II, turned to his executioners while being burned to death and remarked, "I am cooked on that side, turn me over, and eat."
Tradition - Roman CatholicWhen a new Roman Catholic pope is elected, he is given a ring with a picture of Saint Peter engraved on it. It is called the Fisherman's Ring, and all papal documents must receive its seal. When the pope dies the ring is smashed, no one but the pontiff to whom it was given is allowed to wear it and a new one is fashioned for his successor. This Tradition can be traced back to Saint Peter himself.