Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996 18:44:32 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 26, 1996 (Night
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996 18:44:32 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 26, 1996 (Nightowl Edition)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#140 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/26/96 (Nightowl Edition)
In This Issue...
* Mother Teresa -- Media Hype?
* Space Nazis & Mystery Kissers
* Legal Points in The Mt. Davidson Cross Case
* About This List...
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOTHER TERESA CULT...
"Hyperbole and Credulity" ?
Is she the essence of goodness and charity? A heroine helping the poor?
Or is she a shameless apologist for privilege, acceptance of faith, and an
embarrasment to the nation whose poor she claims to assist.
Tonight, the 85-year old Albanian nun known as Mother Teresa remains in
serious medical condition in a nursing home in Calcutta, India. But
admiration for her is reaching fever pitch, and there is worldwide
death-watch on her behalf. Associated Press reports that while she remains
under the care of a team of physicians who are using the latest medicines on
her behalf, there is a virtual "prayer-fest" involving groups of Christian
and Hindu priests, Buddhist monks and Muslim clerics. A joint statement from
religious leaders announced: "We pray so that our Mother could be among us
again. So is not the mother of only the Christian community, she is the
mother of all communities.
Indeed, Mother Teresa has become a pop-culture icon of religious altruism;
along with her Missionaries of Charity order of nuns, she has cultivated a
media image of caring for the homeless and poor of Calcutta.
But is that the whole story? Some say no. An amidst the uncritical and
fawning statements about Mother Teresa, some are re-discovering a 1994
British documentary titled "Hell's Angel," which dissected the mythology
surrounding the popular Catholic nun, and spoke of image-molding which was a
mixture of "hyperbole and credulity."
Reuters news service noted this past weekend that "For decades television
has helped spread Mother Teresa's message of hope for the destitute and
brought the image of her tiny, stooped, birdlike figure into homes across the
world." But the 1994 documentary questioned not only the effectiveness of her
actions, but her motivations as well. An article in the British medical
journal The Lancet noted: "Mother Teresa prefers providence to planning,"
noting that the Missionaries of Charity are primarilly a religious order
before their role as medical care-givers.
The documentary "dismissed Mother Teresa as a conservative Catholic who
ran an order weak on healing skills and preached surrender and prostration to
the poor...(It) accused the Albania-born nun of preaching the message that
the poor must accept their fate while the rich and powerful are favoured by
Mother Teresa has also become an outspoken opponent of contraception and
birth control -- a position which leads some to doubt her sanity considering
the teeming and overpopulated cities she labors in.
Christopher Hitchens, who wrote the script for ''Hell's Angel" adds that
Mother Teresa "lends spiritual solace to dictators and to wealthy exploiters,
which is scarecely the essence of simplicity, and she preaches surrender and
prostration to the poor, which ia truly humble person would barely have the
nerve to do."
SPACE NAZIS AND THE GREATEST PHOTO OF TIMES SQUARE...
Recent Events, Including a Spat Over a Famous Photo, Show
the Biases of Human Belief.
Cropcircles -- those often ornate patterns carved into fields of wheat,
oat and corn -- have become a cause celebre for a bevy of new agers, UFO
enthusiasts and others who believe that "someone" is trying to communicate
with Planet Earth. Some recent events, though, suggest that not only is a
good deal of selective thinking and bias required to accept such a notion,
but that even prosaic happenings are sometimes peppered with misperceptions,
contradictions, and even possibly lies. Two seemingly unconnected events tell
the tale --
* In Burlington County, New Jersey, a 60-foot high swastika was carved in
the middle of a 30-acre field. Police have made no arrests.
* In New York, the mystery concerning the identity of a couple in a
famous picture snapped by the renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt rages
on. The photo appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on August 27, 1945 --
the issue celebrating VJ or Victory-Over-Japan day. A sailor is kissing a
nurse in her white dress, bent backward, a foot in the air.
In the first example, despite wide regional media coverage, no group which
subscribes to the hypothesis that cropcircles represent mysterious paranormal
forces, or are in some way connected with alien spacecraft, has proposed that
the swastika outline was made by extraterrestrials -- either as a joke, a
warning, an innocent, symetrical design, or a statement of political belief.
The swastika was surprisingly well aligned -- placed near the exact center
of the cornfield, with the arms are right-angles to adjacent roads and a
driveway. The image could have been carved as long as a month ago; it was
only first noticed last week by pilots flying out of nearby McGuire Air Force
base, who informed Burlington County authorities.
Jeffrey Maas, executive director of the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League,
told news reporters that he had never heard of "swastika carving" in the 21
years he has been with ADL. "I find it disturbing, but nothing surprises me
these days", he told the Philadelphia Inquirer recently.
But what is equally puzzling is a) why the usual list of crop circle
groups and publications has not stepped forward to claim this latest
apparition as yet another manifestation of aliens, spirits or other
paranormal forces and b) the fact that there is nothing unusual between this
swastika and other patterns which have described as being "impossible" to
have manufactured as hoaxes. Contrary to the assertions of many cropwatchers
as they are called, there is nothing "mysterious" about these ornate
patterns; two British men say they started the whole crop circle rage years
ago, and in the case of the Burlington County swastika, the Inquirer reports:
"Township police guessed that the swastika could have been the work of nearby
high school students..." Far from requiring the advanced technology of
space-faring aliens, construting a crop-pattern hoax is relatively simple,
though somewhat time consuming.
The other event may cast a skeptical light on unusual claims made by
individuals who insist that they participated in or witnessed events of an
equally unusual nature. What comes to mind? Perhaps remembrances of
miracles, apparitions, even autopsies allegedly done on dead aliens.
Earlier this month, the question of who the sailor and nurse really were
who graced the cover of Life magazine in one of the most famous photographs
ever taken, received another lease -- on life. In 1980, the magazine tried to
ascertain the mystery couple's identity, and received an "outpouring" of
claims. Some even suggest that Alfred Eisenstaedt hadn't taken the
photograph on VJ day, since several of the sailors in the background were
wearing woolen uniforms. Since then, dozens of individuals including a
retired police detective from Fort Laudcerdale, and a retiree from Rhode
Island, have been considered likely candidates.
Last week, a 75 -year-old machinist whose wife recently died claimed that
he was, indeed, the faceless sailor in Eisenstaedt's photograph. Although
neither the face of the nurse nor sailor is visible in the Life photo, the
man claims that he was quickly recognized by his then-fiancee and prospective
mother-in-law -- a potentially embarrassing situation since the nurse was not
the fiancee! He says that he escaped blame by claiming that he was in
California at the time the picture was taken. According to Reuter, "His wife
died this year and he said he longer minded admitting that he was the sailor
in the blue wool suit in the photograph."
It is remarkable that a celebrated photograph of such renown would
inspire so many claims and theories -- including accusations that Eisenstaedt
posed the two subjects, or that it was not taken on VJ Day. Life Magazine
tracked down Eisenstaedt's photo records and assignment log for that day in
question; he was indeed in Times Square. He also wrote of the events on
August 27, 1945, including the serendipitous encounter with the amorous and
celebrating couple. It is possible, of course, that some of those who claim
to be the mystery kissers sincerely believe that they were; but what would
the motivation be of the others who have come forward? Even so public an
event -- one which resulted in the creation of a cultural icon symbolizing
the end of a tragic era -- can result in diverse, often contradictory claims.
Perhaps one lesson which links the cropcircle swastika and the mystery of
the missing kissers is the selective nature of human perception. Circle
watchers see mazes and other designs as "proof" of alien visitation; but why
not the swastika? It is, after all, a symbol which pre-dates the Nazi era
and appears in various configurations throughout cultures in ancient America,
India, Japan and Persia. Why not New Jersey? And what about the
contradictory claims of the would-be kissers? They can't all be right. If we
have to be suspect over the stories of individuals who say they are the
anonymous subjects of an Eisenstaedt photograph on the cover of a major
American magazine, what of the more extraordinary claims we are asked to
accept at face value -- of being witness to an alien autopsy, a miracle, an
In our quest for answers, for certainty, perhaps the first step involves a
healthy skepticism of unusual claims, and an appreciation of how problematic
the human psyche can be.
COURT: MT. DAVIDSON CROSS VIOLATED ''NO PREFERENCE''
In its decision which found the Mt. Davidson cross in San Francisco to be
unconstitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals used a substantial body of
evidence and law -- including the California State Constitution. Among the
* The 103-foot cross stands in a 40-acre park owned by the County and City
of San Francisco. There is a copper box within the foundation of the
monument which contains "a number of items including newspapers, telephone
directories, two Bibles, two rocks from the Garden of Gethsemane, and a jug
of water from the Jordan River." In addition, there is a plaque
commemorating the first Easter Sunrise service held at that location in 1923.
*Previous crosses had been erected, but were destroyed by fire. In 1932,
the City gained clear title to the land and the following year authorized
"the allocation of public funds to build a permanent cross." That allocation
also authorized floodlights which were used to illuminate the structure
during the Easter session. President Franklin Roosevelt activated the lights
by telegraph from Washington in a special ceremony; that spectacle attracted
a crowd of 50,000 people.
* Between 1934 and 1987, the Cross was at times illuminated during the
week before Easter and during the Christmas season..." That practice was
halted in 1990.
The challenge to the use of public funds to maintain the Mt. Davidson
Cross rested on the claim that the practice violated the No Preference Clause
and the Ban on Aid to Religion Caluse of the California Constitution, and the
Establishment Clause (First Amendment) of the U.S. Constitution. The No
Preference Clause guarantees "free exercise and enjoyment of religion without
discrimination or preference." Article I, Section 4 of the California
Constitution also states: "The legislature shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion."
* The court noted several factors including "the religious significance of
the display," "the size and visibility of the display," "the inclusion of
other religious symbols," "the historical background of the display," and
"the proximity of the display to government buildings or religious
facilities." It also observed that the Latin cross (similar to the one in
Eugene, Oregon, which was also ruled unconstitional) "is a preeminent symbol
of many Christian religions and represents with relative clarity and
simplicity the Christian message of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus
Christ, a doctrine at the heart of Christianity." Other relics in the cross,
such as the two bibles, had obvious religious significance as well. The court
observed that "the Mount Davidson Cross' history is intertwined with its
religious symbolism" and that "This kind of historical significance simply
exacerbates the appearance of government preferance for a particular
The judges rejected the view that the Cross "has become well recognized as
a cultural landmark similar to other notable San Francisco landmarks, like
the Golden Gate Bridge..." It cited "the mistaken notion that 'the longer the
violation, the less violative it becomes'." And the justices likewise
disagreed with the contention that the cross was essentially "a work of art,"
saying "the argument that a religious display is art or a tourist attraction
will not protect the display from restrictions on government-sponsored
religion which the people of California have put in their constitution."
About This List...
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