Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 16:36:19 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19,1996 (Evenin

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 16:36:19 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19,1996 (Evening Edition) Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #134 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/19/96 (Evening Edition) In This Issue... * Devils On Mars? Some Believe... * Colorado School ~ Evolution Not "Fact"? * TheistWatch: "Un-Baptize Me, Please!" * About This List... MARTIAN LIFE DEBATE SPURS MORE RELIGIOUS SPECULATION Life on Mars? Don't bet on it, evolutionary scientist Frank Zindler told AANEWS readers last week. The evidence for even microbial life on the Red Planet is still highly problematic; and regardless of the verdict from even a manned mission to Mars, religionists will still have a dizzying array of interpretations. Many creationist-fundamentalist are uncomfortable with the idea of extraterrestrial life, noted Zindler, while other religious groups -- including Roman Catholics -- seem to have little or no problem reconciling that possibility with their own peculiar theological doctrines. The religious debate over life on Mars is rapidly taking on a dynamic of its own, touching broader questions such as the very nature -- and for some, the purpose -- of the universe. According to writer and television producer Margaret Wertheim, "biblical creationists have been touting the existence of aliens for years -- and Mars itself has featured prominently in the scenarios." For bible literalists, the conflict in heaven between god and Lucifer resulted in the expulsion of "bad angels", and their systematic conversion into demons. But where did they go? Accordng to Wertheim, at least some groups like the Seventh Day Adventists taught that Satan and his minions ended up, of all places, on Mars. And notes Ronald Numbers, a professor at University of Wisconsin and author of the book "The Creationists," for some bible literalists "exytraterrestrial life is almost a necessity." Ellen White, the prophetess-founder of the Seventh Day Advent movement told the story of the conflict between good and evil, god and Satan, in her 1890 book "The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets." Enter An Atheist Jester... But perhaps the most outstanding claim that Mars was inhabited by a race of evil-minded geniuses who had been "cast out" of heaven came from a Atheist humorist and hoaxer named Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pages (1854-1907), known also as Leo Taxil. Although he was educated by the Jesuits, he became a militant Atheist and anti-cleric in his youth, and published a satirical journal "La Marotte" or Fool's Bauble. Pages ground out numerous anti-religious pieces, many of them amusing skits and satires including "A Humorous Bible" and "A Humorous Gospel." He soon became a secretary in the French Anti-Clerical League." In 1892, Taxil-Pages embarked on his most stupendous literary feat, joining forces with a collaborator, Karl Hacks, who wrote under the pseudonym of Bataille. Together, they published one of the greatest hoaxes in history -- a book ominous titled "The Devil In The 19th Century." It was presented as a serious and scholarly expose of Freemasonry, devil cults, and a "Satanic Church" which supposedly worked closely with demons who happened to drop in from the planet Mars. Taxil and Hacks included the alleged memoirs of a young lady named Diana Vaughn, who according to "The Devil In The 19th Century" was really a descendant of the Rosicrucian alchemist Thomas Vaughn. Taxil noted that Ms. Vaughn had been born in Paris on Feb 29, 1874 -- a most remarkable feat, considering that in that particular year there was no such date.. According to the book, Freemasons, devil cults and other groups were working over-time to win planet earth for Satan, even going as far as to construct a hidden laboratory beneath the cliffts of Gibralter where Satan's chemists -- under the direction of a demon named Tubal Cain -- invented flus and viruses to be spread amongst Christians everywhere. Another vignette insisted that in the town of Freiburg, Switzerland there was a Masonic temple hewn out of rock for use during the Satanic mass. Naked men and women were supposedly engaged in irreligious and erotic outrages, including stabbing holy wafers which had been pilferred from nearby Catholic Churches. And more: according to Diane Vaughn, she was in possession of a signed contract between her famous ancestor and the devil himself. She even insisted that she had the Christian angel Raphael "exorcised" from her body, and spent quality time with the demon Asmodeius, who often escorted her on trips to Mars where the pair dined in splendor by the edge of the watery canals. All of this was heady and fantastic stuff; Taxil insisted that he had converted to Catholicism (a claim few of his comrades believed), but in his memoirs, he wrote of his surprise to see that "The Devil In The 19th Century" was not only becoming a best-seller, but was widely and credulously being accepted in religious circles. One believer was Pope Leo XIII, who had also accepted earlier hoaxes by Taxil ; the Atheist-humorist was granted a private papal audience, and soon his sham-books were being promoted in the Roman Catholic Press. The hoax collapsed when Taxil failed to produce Diana Vaughn, as promised, at a press conference. He had made a small fortune, though, and literally millions of copies of "The Devil In The 19th Century" had been printed in several languages around the world, often by Catholic publishing houses. Taxil returned to the anti-clerical movement, and properly, The Catholic Encyclopedia records him as "one of the most notorious religious hoaxers of the nineteenth century." * According to Wertheim, modern day creationists like Henry Morris, a founder of the California-based Institute for Creation Science, interpret biblical verse to mean "that evil angels from outer space were coming down to violate earthly women." Intercourse between "sky gods" and humans is, of course, a theme repleat in mythology, from the tales of the Greeks to the lurid accounts of demons who took the form of "succubi" and "incubi" to molest the faithful. But if there is conclusive evidence for life elsewhere in the solar system or galaxy, creationists might have a problem if it is relatively simple and undeveloped. "If God were going to put life on Mars," asks Wertheim, "wouldn't He have chosen something a little grander than bacteria?" At the other end of the spectrum are scientists and philosophers who accept the so-called "Anthropic" argument for the existence of a prime mover or deity. Some believe that the findings of science, especially in areas like physics, and the teaching of religion are converging. Paul Davies, an English physicist who is also the winner of the Templeton Prize for religion, is one such scientists according to Wertheim. Davies believes that "the universe now seems purposefully tailored to ensure the emergence of beings like us." But critics could well point out that amidst the ever-growing body of evidence for evolutionary development of life on earth, "beings like us" -- sentient life -- displays a wide range of characteristics. Even the discovery of primitive life elsewhere may stretch Davies's "Anthropic Principle" to a breaking point. For now, the debate over extraterrestrial life focuses on a chunk of meteoritic rock found in Antarctical. Most creationists and fundamentalists will continue to cling to a belief enunciated by George McCready Price, the "founder" of creation science, who argued that the verses of Genesis were limited only to a discussion of life on earth, and that the earth is only 6,000 years old. And even if confronted by overwhelming new evidence of life elsewhere , those who accept biblical literalism may cling to a religious belief which on earth has withstood its own test of time. ****** SCIENCE VIDEO IS YANKED BY COLORADO SCHOOL SUP'R In Colorado, a Jefferson County School Superintendent has removed a highly-praised video from the curriculum, after a student complained. "The Miracle of Life" was pulled by Superintendent Wayne Carle, following the objection by a student who insisted that a section of the video presented evolution as a fact -- something which, he insists, contradicts his religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union is on the case, and in a letter to the Jefferson County School Board said that the rationale for yanking "The Miracle of Life" was "deeply troubling." ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein asked: "Will the school board insist that all discussion of gravity include the point that it is a theory and not a fact? Will the school board ensure that teachers refrain from suggesting that the theory of electricity is a fact?" *********** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS There's trouble in that unique subculture of "Christian music" which has becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the entertainment industry. Seems that the parents of Christian pop-singer Jeffrey Fenholt are suing their kid for $12 million, disputing his claim that he was beaten as a child. They want Fenholt to stop making the claims and destroy any unsold copies of his 1994 autobiography, "From Darkness to Light." They're also taking the publisher to court, along with Trinity Broadcasting Network, an evangelical radio outfit that has a reputation of hosting more than its share of dubious religious nostrums and end-of-the-world claims. ** Down in New Zealand, a triumphant rugby team known as the All Blacks are catching flak for roadside billboards which have appeared throughout major metropolitan areas. Based on the famous painting Da Vinci painting titled "The Last Supper", the billboard display shows the original figure of Christ and the apostles replaced with players from the All Blacks team. That's outraged a religious group which, ironically, calls itself the Christian Coalition (no relation to the American-based organization), and has denounced the billboards and wants them removed. * In France, hundreds of Roman Catholics are asking to be "un-baptised" in a protest over the Pope's visit to that country scheduled for next month. The movement started in southern France, where a group known as "Vivre au Present" is asking its members to "renounce their baptism," and says that it will threaten Mother Church with legal action is people are not "un-baptised." The organization opposes the Vatican's '"reaction" stand on issues such as AIDS and abortrion; and members say that they are being driven out of the church by the current Pope's teachings. All of this comes a year-and-a-half after the dismissal of Mgr. Jacques Gaillot, the Bishop of Evreau, who criticized papal infallability and called for ordination of women into the priesthood and the use of condoms to combat AIDS. The Pope's gig is still planned, though; he is expected to participate in celebrations throughout the country which commemorate the 1,500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis, the first Christian King of France. *** More tasteless and mindless quotes from the Christian Coalition's "Faith & Freedom Rally" held last week in San Diego. Jack Kemp's wife Joanne put in an appearance with three of their four kids and said that "with God's help," the GOP will capture the White House. New Hampshire Gov. Steve Merrill quoted bible verse to the audience of 1,500-2,000 CC supporters, saying "This is the work of God. Believe in the one whom he has sent." Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts declared that there was no subject he enjoyed discussing more than "my faith in the pure and living God." South Carolina Gov. David Beasely insisted: "You and I know there is a God who loves us and we have a vision to move the country forward. Let us not forget to get down on our knees and pray for America." Sprinkled liberally throughout the crowd were garish Operation Rescue posters which sported gruesom pictures of aborted fetuses and the words "Hell is Forever." Meanwhile, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Vice President Dan Quayle both declared their belief in "Judeo-Christian values" as the basis for society. *** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to:, and include your name and postal address; or, check out our cool new web site at You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER. Internet Representative is Margie Wait, *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: * * PO Box 140195 FTP: * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: * * Info on American Atheists:, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: * * 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. * * * ***********************************************************************


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank