THEISTWATCH for JUNE 14, 1995 Pennsylvania - TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL CA

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THEISTWATCH for JUNE 14, 1995 __________________ __________________ Pennsylvania--TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL CASE United States--AT LAST! SANITY, SKEPTICISM PREVAIL ON PRIME TIME TV Algeria--SOCCER BOOSTER MURDERED IN FUNDAMENTALIST JIHAD __________________ __________________ TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL CASE by Conrad F. Goeringer Two Roman Catholic organizations may have violated tax exemption and election codes, according to a report in Tuesday's (June 13) edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The complaints filed with the IRS involve St. Philomena's Elementary School in Lansdowne and the Home and School Association which is affiliated with St. Cyril's School in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. A spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia said that "mistakes" were made. According to reports, the school principal at St. Philomena's sent students home with campaign leaflets endorsing a specific candidate for the William Penn School Board. The St. Cyril's case involved literature distribution and the charge that the candidate's campaign was virtually run by the Home and School Association. The Lansdowne resident who filed the complaint said "What they (the Churches) did clearly violate the Internal Revenue Code. . . . I just want tax-exempt organizations to get out of electioneering." Although the archdiocese said that precautions were being taken to prevent similar incidents in the future, the Roman Catholic organization in southeastern Pennsylvania has been involved in blatant political action on issues ranging from anti-abortion activism to a campaign for government support of private-parochial schools. Last month, parishioners throughout the region were given mail- in post cards during church services to send to elected representatives in support of the school voucher campaign. The archdiocese has also contributed funding and other resources to a coalition running advertising on behalf of the vouchers, now being debated in the Pennsylvania legislature. Critics charge that the incident in Lansdowne is, in fact, part of a pattern which is encouraged by the Roman Catholic leadership in Philadelphia. No action was taken against Sister Margaret John, the principal at St. Philomena, although she "admitted that she made a mistake and should have read the flier more carefully." AT LAST! SANITY, SKEPTICISM PREVAIL ON PRIME TIME TV Claims By a Writer Who Says She Talked to Jesus Were Critically Examined on Last Week's 20/20 Program by Conrad Goeringer Betty J. Eadie says that she died, went to heaven, talked to Jesus, and returned to earth with a message. The message has sold 4,000,000 copies of her book "Embraced by the Light" in 26 countries and made Betty Eadie a sought-after speaker, especially on the New Age chat circuit. But despite the book's growing popularity, not everyone is buying what Betty has to say. Last week's installment of the ABC newsmagazine "20/20" was a pleasant departure from the credulous tone found in numerous documentaries, specials and investigations into the paranormal, occult and religious. While noting that many individuals -- including Betty Eadie -- report NDE's or "Near Death Experiences," "20/20" presented psychologist Susan Blackmore who skillfully explained the NDE phenomena in scientific terms. Blackmore is a psychologist at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Her own investigations have transformed her from being an initial "believer" in such paranormal phenomena into a skeptic. Among the common recollections of NDE are: **Hovering and looking down on one's body laying on an operating table or bed, even on the ground or in the remains of machinery following an accident. **Being "pulled" into a bright tunnel and experiencing intense feelings of love, warmth, joy and resolution. **Encountering angels, gods, other supernatural beings. Blackmore noted that death is a process of neurological decay, where brain cells are firing rapidly and in random, producing all manner of subjective experiences. She explained the "tunnel" by the gradual decay of cells in the visual cortex, and surmised that the NDE is a function of brain activity rather than some mystical or religious event. Experiments have also duplicated the "hovering" sensation, through the use of drugs such as tetrodotoxin. Subjects in laboratory trials were administered similar chemicals and reported levitating out of their own bodies, "looking down" on themselves and others. One ingenious experiment asked the subjects to levitate and examine numbers which were mounted face-up near the roof of the lab room. Although test subjects often had the experience of viewing the numbers, their recollections never did match the actual digits on the control cards. Obviously, they -- and their eyes -- stayed in bed. "20/20" also noted that Eadie has a religious background, having spent time in a Roman Catholic boarding school as a child on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Records which would confirm the fact that she did, in fact, die while having a hysterectomy have not been released. Betty Eadies's "messages" from heaven are often vague or speak of "love" and "understanding." Those depicted attending her lectures, asking questions or getting her to sign copies of her book frequently cried and expressed gratitude to Eadie for her claim that their "loved one's" lived on in an afterlife. Betty Eadie is quite matter-of- fact about heaven, too. Do our pets survive to be with us in an afterlife? She says they do. (What about germs, sharks, ticks or killer bees?) One of the more disturbing claims of Ms. Eadie, though, concerns the holocaust. Eadie insists that Jews were, in a sense, responsible for their own deaths at the hands of Nazis "because they were on earth for a divine purpose." She also claims that EVERYBODY goes to heaven, from our pets to Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot. A comforting thought. Unfortunately, no one at "20/20" thought to ask Betty Eadie (or any other NDE-travellers who claim to have ventured to heaven) why she did not return with a cure for cancer, AIDS, or perhaps a useful formula for energy production -- something that would tend to support such an astounding claim as that of meeting a god. Eadie says, however, that she was sent back to earth alive, "for a purpose" and when she is done with her work she will die. For now, that purpose seems to involve books, lectures, and glowing stories about the hereafter. Both hosts of "20/20", Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters, expressed skepticism at Betty Eadie's claims. Downs suggested that Eadie, however, believed her own story and had obviously experienced "something." Unfortunately, this "20/20" installment was not a thorough autopsy of a religious or paranormal claim. It did not discuss the possible motivations of Eadie (ranging from hallucination to outright fraud), nor did it examine the even more crucial element of why so many persons believe claims of this type without good, substantial evidence. But it was refreshing to see at least some counter-evidence presented. One senses that Dr. Blackmore said a great deal more about the "Near Death Experience" that ended up on the cutting- room floor at ABC. Perhaps, though, this program is at least a start for some segments of the news media to take a more critical and skeptical approach in dealing with claims of the occult, paranormal, and religious. SOCCER BOOSTER MURDERED IN FUNDAMENTALIST JIHAD 30,000 Have Been Killed in Algeria As the Islamic Salvation Front Continues Its Terror Campaign by Conrad F. Goeringer Islamic militants continued their holy war in Algeria Sunday, June 11, murdering a popular soccer fan known throughout the country for his colorful garb and stadium antics. Hocine Dehimi was 33 and known to hundreds of thousands of fans as "Yamaha." For the past 15 years, he was a mascot for the national soccer team and his home club in the Belcourt section of Algiers. "Yamaha" followed his teams to away-matches, danced, led crowds in songs and chants, and banged drums to build up enthusiasm during the matches. Thousands of Algerian youth poured into the streets of the poor Belcourt section yesterday in protest of this latest act of violence. It appears that the murder was carried out by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front which has carried out a terror campaign in its efforts to establish an Iran-style "Islamic Social Republic" and abolish reforms made in Algeria by the secular government and other progressive elements. Originally, the Front targeted military and political leaders, but has now begun executing popular cultural figures as well. The popular singer known as Hasni, whose cassettes and records were sold throughout the Middle East, was killed in September 1994. The newspaper El Watan said like Hasni, the young Dehimi was a symbol "of hope for young people thirsting to live, not kill." *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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