Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 13:35:18 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 29, 1996 nn nn AA

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Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 13:35:18 -0700 From: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 29, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #110 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/29/96 RAINDANCING IN TEXAS NOT OUT-OF-STEP The Allmighty must be one terrible, terrible weather forecaster. In West Texas, soaring temperatures and unusually low rates of rain are bringing havoc, drought and economic uncertainty to farmers and ranchers Rivers like the Blanco are dry, and over 270 communities have enacted emergency water restrictions. Livestock and crops are suffering. It's bad -- but drought has been known to hit this region of the country before. What makes this recent tragedy more unusual, though, has been an outpouring of religious sentiment from government, community and church leaders. According to press reports, including the New York Times, much of the frustration and dismay over the Great Texas Drought of '96 seems to be venting itself through prayers to bring rain. This past weekend, representatives of Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Methodist, Baptist and other churches showed up in front of the courthouse in Blanco, Texas, invoking their respective deities to shed a few tears and conjure some rain clouds. "Lord, we need it to rain," the Rev. Rusty Hicks of the First Baptist Church reminded god, adding: "Livestock is being lost. Crops are being lost. The city won't make it without the water." East of Waco, Texas in the community of Wortham residents have reportedly been holding regular prayer sessions in a church, and there are signs around town with the legend: "Pray for Rain." The Mayor, F.B. Covert, has made no qualms about asking residents to pray, and told yesterday's Times: "I believe in prayer. I believe it works, and I think it will work for us." 200 miles away, Bishop Michael Pfeifer of San Angelo, Texas, sent a letter to the 74 congregations in his realm asking them to pray for rain as well. "Weathermen deal with facts," he said. "We believers deal with faith. I believe that we take God at His word. If we ask, God will take care of us and hear us." There are reports that in other communities throughout the area, people are packing churches, and that some government officials, like Mayor Covert, have made public declarations imploring people to literally pray for rain. Any rain is bound is to confirm the believe that "prayer works," of course. But selective observation and bias play a vital role in propping-up the prayer-belief system. For instance, people organizing an outdoor event may pray for clear skies, whereas a neighboring farmer might wish it to rain; one is bound to have prayers "answered." Dalhart, Texas for instance is one community where citizens have reportedly been packing churches pleading for rain. The National Weather service reports that several inches of the wet stuff did indeed fall this past month. The relief seems to keep bypassing Blanco, however, so an Assembly of God preacher has declared that citizens must "bombard heaven with our prayers." Rev. Gene Benningfield reportedly has a specific order for how much rain he wants -- four inches to be exact. "And if He (god) doesn't send it today, I'm going to keep praying until He does." ********** STATE SCHOOL OFFICIAL AGREE WITH ''FAMILY FORUM'', WANTS BIBLE USED IN SCHOOLS IN TEACHING VALUES The President of the Michigan State Board of Education has declared that he wants to begin using the bible to teach "values" in public schools, and dared civil libertarians to sue if they don't agree with the policy. President Clark Durant made the statement last Wednesday during a Board meeting. A resolution about values and teaching, though, was postponed. It reportedly urged the school system to teach "basic parental and community values including the responsible exercise of freedom, personal honesty, self-responsibility, self-discipline, courage, love, seeking truth, doing what is good, a sense of self-worth, good citizenship and a respect for others." The resolution and the use of the bible as a teaching tool drew the support of the Michigan Family Forum. That group is the state affiliate of the giant Focus on the Family based in Colorado and run by bible-discipline guru James Dobson. According to an investigative report in a recent MetroTimes (Detroit), the Forum "devotes about 60 percent of its efforts toward school reform. It spends the rest of its efforts supporting other causes, including attacks on abortion and gay rights." Durant's call for using bible quotes to teach virtue drew a quick response from Wendy Wagenheim of the American Civil Liberties Union. She told the Detroit News that the proposal was simply a ploy to mix religion and the three R's. "This resolution, in its present form, opens the door to the potential intrusion of religious values in our public school system." Durant's call for more religion in the classroom, though, comes against the backdrop of a larger battle shaping up in Michigan's public schools. Gov. James Engler and certain religious groups have embarked on an ambitious campaign to establish a system of direct government aid to church schools, including the parochial school system. One vehicle is the TEACH Michigan strategic plan which would implement vouchers and a so-called "Charter" school system. These schools would receive government aid, and they would be permitted to have a religion-based curriculum. Critics note that the TEACH proposal is just another step to gut an already financially-strapped and cash poor public education system under the guise of "school choice." Religious indoctrination in Michigan public schools is a major objective not only of Board President Durant, but even the very groups which also back the Charter school proposals. Money on behalf of the campaign is coming, in large part, from four foundations with ties to the religious-right movement. They include the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation which in 1994 dolled out more than $8 million to fundamentalist religious and political groups, and the Prince Foundation which in 1994 spent $2.3 million on groups like Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, and the censorship-oriented American Family Association. The biggest beneficiary of TEACH Michigan will be the state's enormous Parochial school system, which could end up absorbing 80% of the taxpayer monies used for the voucher scheme. ************** (Thanks to H.S., our Detroit correspondent, for this story...) *** AMERICAN RELIGIOUS SLEAZE WASHES UP ON BRITISH SHORES American televangelist and faith-healer Morris Cerullo spent nearly $65,000 yesterday in full-page newspaper advertisements in Britain to decry that country's alleged "rapid moral and spiritual decline," according to the Electronic Telegraph. A 3,000 word statement was used to publicize a series of rallies Cerullo has scheduled next week in London. Titled "Here I Stand," the evangelist's manifesto declared: "When God first called me to preach the Gospel of Christ to the people of Britain I had many misgivings. I believed the British people to be insular, cold, unwelcoming and wary of anything from America. But God in an unmistakable fashion made it clear to me that Britain was in need and I must come." Cerullo is a fixture on many American TV sets, with his energetic prayer rallies, bombastic sermons and dubious "faith healing" perfomances. Cerullo "works his audience", striking people who are allegedly suffering from physical maladies on the forehead as he yells "HEEEEAL!" into a microphone. As people collapse, they are quickly hustled away by beefy Cerullo assistants. Encounters of the Less-Than-Credible-Kind? Cerullo's biography and web site claim that in 1947, when the future evangelist was only a year old, "God took Morris into the heavens and revealed His literal glory to him in a significant appearance of His Presence where God asked Morris for his life..." Other accounts suggest that Cerullo claimed to have encountered the deity at age eight, and according to a biography assembled by a watch-dog group, Christian Research Institute, "gave up a driving ambition to be the governor of New Jersey in order to become a minister of the gospel." Cerullo is like many charasmatic evangelists who peddle a "Faith theology." Faith or belief, in itself, a considered a spiritual or metaphysical power which can be harnessed and directed. Faith theology links a whole spectrum of Christian evangelicals, many of whom claim to be channels for divine intervention (miracle healings), including televangelists like Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, Marilyn Hickey and of course Cerullo, to black "prosperity" preacher Frederick Price. While many people associate Faith televangelists with fundamentalist Christianity, especially since charasmatic preachers use biblical verse to exhort their audiences, the roots are found not only in New and Old Testament theology, but in a Neoplatonist ideology known as New Thought. This began with the religious ministry of Emma Curtis Hopkins (1853-1925); the New Age Encyclopedia (Detroit, 1990, edited by J. Gordon Melton), however, suggests that for some, the movement goes back even further to the "mental healing" writings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866). New Thought elements pervade the "faith healing" foundation of Christian Science, but more properly exist today in the Unity School of Christianity, Religious Science International and the International Divine Science Association. Not surprisingly, many Faith evangelicals make claims and report experiences which are strikingly similar to those of new age believers. Faith believers often hold that one's reality is shaped through affirmation and the construction of one's own mental reality; indeed, some Faith ministers claim visions of divine figures, trips to heaven, conversations with god, even out-of-body experiences. Evangelist Kenneth Hagin, for instance, claimed that while in the middle of a sermon he was actually taken back in time to witness an adulterous act involving one of the women from his congregation. Benny Hinn, a televangelist, claims that god personally revealed to him that women were originally created so as to give birth out of the side of their bodies. Many say they possess the ability to "tap" a "healing source" using Faith techniques. Some of Cerullo's claims made in his own publications rival the most astounding tales and confabulations of UFO abductees, victims of satanic cult abuse, or even those who may reside in lunatic asylums. In publications like "The Miracle Book" and "God's Faithful, Annointed Servant, Morris Cerullo," the evangelist informs readers that he was taken from a Jewish orphanage by angels, met personally with god in heaven, and possesses the ability to divine the future. Cerullo has also told audiences: "You're not looking at Morris Cerullo -- you're looking at God. You're looking at Jesus." He has also told followers that god speaks directly through him, and makes the statement: "Would you surrender your pocketbooks unto Me, saith God, and let me be the Lord of your pocketbooks...Yea, so be thou obedient unto my voice." (End of Part One of Two)

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