Some additions to donfreenut's writeup.

Rastafarianism embraces a lot of beliefs and rituals and, like in all religions, followers often differ in their opinions on the interpretation of the religion. Some Rastafarians accept Jesus as a prophet, some don't. Most Rasta have dreadlocks, some don't. Some Rasta are nationalistic, some aren't. All Rastafari, however, follow the teachings of Haile Selassie, although often disagreeing on how these teachings should be interpreted. I have never been more impressed by a religious discussion than the time I was sitting with some Rasta around a campfire and they started discussing the Old Testament.

All this makes Rastafarianism as difficult to understand as any other religion.

One of the bigger problems of Rastafarianism at the moment is something that most religions have difficulty with nowadays. A religion needs to steer clear of dogmatism lest the changing of the times destroy it. If a religion can't keep it's beliefs up to date it will lose it's followers or it will end as a purely dogmatic sect with hollowed-out symbols and rituals without meaning. A religion should stay true to it's core beliefs and the 'why' of a religion should always stay more important than the 'how'.

Rastafarianism has got it's roots in the 400 years of slavery that the African people went through. A lot of it's beliefs have their grounds in this slavery ( the fight for freedom and liberation from the forces of 'downpression', the fight against the corrupt powers (Babylon), the repatriation of the Africans to their homeland ). Now that slavery is officially abolished in most countries it is a challenge for Rastafarianism to convey the belief to the people who 'haven't been there'; to people who haven't felt the lick of the whip. A lot of black people in the western world have found a life in which they feel content, adopting the Babylonian lifestyle. Rastafarianism points to the fact that, although slavery is officially abolished, there are still people suffering under the crushing force of the new capitalism of the corporations and other world powers. Racism hasn't ended. Nations are still hungry. The fight must go on.

Not all Rastafari will agree with me when I type this, but I believe Rastafarianism is not about dreadlocks or any other form of outward appearance. It's about freedom and equal rights for all people. Find the meaning behind the symbols of Rasta and you will understand.

Now be it known that I don't consider myself a Rastafari. I happen to do a lot of things most Rastafari do (I am a veggie, I listen to reggae, I spliff) and I think a lot of thoughts most Rastafari think (I fight for freedom of all things living, I cry for the things that have gone wrong in the past. I pray that humanity won't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.). But I do these things and I think these thoughts because I am just being me, not because I am Rasta. Rastafari believe Haile Selassie is the redeemer who will lead his people to salvation while I believe that salvation comes from within yourself. Haile Selassie did great things and I admire him for it, but to me he is not god. This doesn't mean that I don't believe in his immortality. As long as people remember and respect Haile Selassie he _will_ live on.

I'm off to sleep now. Maybe more later.

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