Date: Sun, 1 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 1, 1996 A M E

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Date: Sun, 1 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 1, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #144 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/1/96 In This Issue... * Catholic Teens Don't Want Church Jobs * PR Maggie ~ Stars In Her Eyes? * Help Us Reach 10,000 Readers! * Islamic Creed-Fest In Britain Draws Foreign Protests * TheistWatch: Crucifixion As Kitsch, Creedmeisters Lose in Poland * An Offer We Hope You Don't Refuse... * About This List... SURVEY OF CATHOLIC TEENS IS CAUSE FOR MIXED BLESSINGS A survey conducted by a Georgetown University-based research organization has some good and bad news for Catholic leaders. Over 6,000 Roman Catholic adolescents were queried about their opinions on religious belief by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; the finding are included in a report titled "New Directions In Youth Ministry," released last month by the United States Catholic Conference. The study claims that there are 60.2 million baptized Catholics in the country, up from 52.3 million in 1985. But those numbers don't tell the whole story; they are based simply on reported baptisms, and do not reflect the actual number of people who believe in the Catholic religion, or are regular church attendees. There are more accurate records, however, which reflect things such as the number of priests and nuns working for the church. The "New Directions" study confirms other data which shows the number of active priests is declining precipitously. The total has dropped from 57,317 a decade ago to 49,947. Along with a "greying" of the clerical population, there is a serious problem of finding new recruits for the priesthood. Equally encouraging is the declining number of nuns. That figure has dropped to 92, 107 from 115,386 in 1985. While Catholic youth who are "highly committed" and participate in youth ministry programs identify with the church and are "proud to be Catholic," they are not interested in answering the call of a full-time religious vocation. Three in ten of the "committed" adolescents report that they had thought of a vocation, but according to the New York Times, "parents' support for that thinking was weak." Only 20% said that they received encouragement for such a direction from parents; interestingly, there was a substantial gender difference with 26% of adolescent boys being encouraged to enter the priesthood, and only 15% of girls being urged to enter a nunnery. Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the Catholic Conference said "It's a very significant concern," and added that the nation's bishops are hard at work mapping new ways to encourage youngsters to pursue a career in the church. There are more subtle indications of trouble for ecclesiastical leaders as well. One is the mixed reaction to Pope John Paul II; while the "committed youth" admired the pope, they also believed that congregants should have a bigger role in decision making at the parish level. That struggle within the hierarchy of church organization has become a major concern for the Vatican, especially with huge numbers of American Catholics "straying from the flock" on crucial issues like birth control and abortion. Interestingly, while "committed" youth said that they attended mass more than either friends or their parents, only 1 in 7 placed emphasis on studying the bible. About half reported that prayer was "very important." ** PAPER CHARGES THATCHER ASKED ASTROLOGER FOR HELP Britain's Electronic Telegraph is reporting that former conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used the services of an astrologer in October, 1994, presumably in reaction to the terrorist bombing of a hotel. A London astrologer, Marjorie Orr, claims that she was approached by Thatcher's press officer, Sir Bernard Ingham, and asked to contact 10 Downing Street if "I ever heard anything that indicated danger." She added that her role "as keeper of Mrs. Thatcher's astrological chart" was security related, and that horoscopes and forecasts had no influence in making political decisions. The Telegraph notes that "Lady Thatcher is only one of a number of world leaders who turned to the stars for guidance," and cited the role played by California astrologer Joan Quigley for first lady Nancy Reagan. Quigley was reportedly paid $3,000 a month for her horoscopes on the President, and in a 1989 interview said that her astrological forecasts played a role in historic arms reduction talks. She also claims to be responsible for getting President Reagan to drop the phrase "Evil Empire" in referring to the Soviet Union. There have been reports of other world leaders employing the services of astrologers and other soothsayers. During World War II, Adolph Hitler allegedly listened to advice from astrologers and the British Intelligence service maintained a staff of astrologers to keep them appraised of what the Nazi leaders stargazers were telling him. Sir Bernard Ingham told The Telegraph that he considered astrology to be "a load of rubbish," but did not recall whether or not he had approached Ms. Orr on behalf of Margaret Thatcher. ** **** Help AANEWS reach its goal of 10,000 subscribers by the end of the year! Forward this issue to friends, and ask them to join the growing family of aanews readers. *** * How NOT To Combat Muslim Fanaticism... PRESSURE BUILDING ON BRITAIN TO BAN ISLAMIST REVIVAL RALLY Britain is coming under increased pressure both at home and abroad to ban a scheduled Islamic Revival Rally slated for September 8 in the London Arena. As reported earlier by AANEWS, the gathering is expected to attract thousands of Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom have links to known terrorist movements. Yesterday, the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek again repeated its warning that Britain was being "naive and hypocritcal" for allowing the conference to proceed. And the country's influential paper Akhbar el-Yom declared that some Arab states would show their displeasure by cancelling lucratic commercial contracts with Britain in protest. Algeria also joined the chorus of Arab countries protesting the event, and charged that the Revival Rally will be attended by "the paymasters, the ideologists, the financiers and the zealots of international terrorism." So far, British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has declared that he will act to shut down the meeting only if law is broken. He told The Sunday Times that "People who wish to hold conferences of course don't need to seek permission from the government in Britain. As long as they obey our laws than that is not something the government would normally interfere with." Akhbar el-Yom responded, saying that many of those receiving visas to attend the conference were "people proven to be involved in assassinations, in financing operations aimed at killing hundreds of innocents." Among the organizers for the conference is Mohammed al-Masari, a Saudi dissident based in London who has called for the "elimination" of Jews and the establishment of Islamic theocracies, even in countries like Saudi Arabia which he considered "profane" for permitting the presence of foreign troops and interests. Another organizer is Omar Bakri Mohammed, an Islamic fundamentalist who advocates a world wide "jihad' or "holy war" in order to establish a global khilafah. The Times observes that "The word recalls the Muslim Caliphate, which once ruled the Middle East, North Africa and stretched at its greatest extent to the gates of Vienna." "Mr. Mohammed wants its boundaries to extend even farther," notes The Times. His political vision includes a Muslim theocracy governing Britain, America and other countries, and subjecting citizens to the sharia, or Islamic law." Mohammed, 37, is head of Britain's Al-Mahajiroun Party, the country's fastest growing Islamic organization. He has announced that the gathering will include videotaped messages from groups such as Hizbollah and the fundamentalist Hamas movement. Is Banning Free Speech Even The Answer? Not surprisingly, countrys such as Saudi Arabia and even Egypt are shocked that the British will simply not prohibit the gathering. They and other middle east states like Algeria already face an escalating war being waged by Islamic terrorists; in the religious ideology of fundamentalists like Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi based dissident who is also helping with the Rally for Revival, even conservative theocracies are not sufficiently "pure" and "religious." But efforts by those countries to forcibly ban Islamic movements have thus far been a dramatic failure, and at times even played into the hands of Muslim jihadists. Often, the insurgent groups are portrayed as "liberators" and "rebels" seeking to overthrow corrupt and intolerant regimes. Despite their superstitious and authoritarian agenda, they are frequently perceived as "liberators" who struggle against predatory and feudalistic Arab satraps. Indeed, the astonishment of some Arab governments that subversive and distasteful speech is tolerated to an extent in the west stems, in part, from the lack of prorgress made in the middleast on behalf of civil libertarianism, secularism and other artifacts of the Enlightenment agenda. But the growing activism and presence of Islamic militancy poses problems for Britain as well. The government remains "under siege" by religionists of all persuasions to extend the chilling authority of the Blasphemy Laws, and make illegal utterances which criticize, "insult" or possibly even question religious belief. The country's growing Muslim constituency was active in calling for such measures when Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" was condemned by Iran's leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeni. Leaders of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu and Jewish groups joined in the call for government to ban or censor the book, and prohibit anything which "insulted" religious belief. Growing activism and militancy by Britain's Muslims can only increase that dangerous trend. Denying even the limited civil rights found in most middle eastern Arab countries has done little or anything to stop Muslim fundamentalism. Algeria voided the recent elections which would have given Islamic leaders clear control in that nation. And in Saudi Arabia, the conservative ruling House of Saud has made no movement in the direction of holding free and open elections. Ironically, Saudi Arabia -- a sworn target of many of the fundamentalists -- is actively promoting its own religious, reactionary agenda as it takes control of mass media in many Arab country's, including Egypt. The best remedy in countering the influence of the Rally for Revival, and the apocalyptic, global caliphate of Mr. Mohammed, is the building and promotion of secular institutions -- including even so basic a right as freedom of speech. *** * THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Remember the "Antichrist Hysteria" that swept Colombia and other parts of Latin America last June? People were huddled in churches, giving away their possessions and joining crank evangelical cults, all because of pamphlets which circulated widely declaring that the devil was arriving on earth on June, 6, 1996 -- 6/6/96 (Get it?) Apparently, people brought not only their kids to church for quickie-baptism (the devil was ostensibly in a kidnapping mood as well), but their money. It was too much even for the head of Colommbia's Roman Catholic Church, who has now ordered local priests to forfeit any cash they received for performing clerical survices during the scare. Archbishop Pedro Rubiano released a letter saying "Serious harm has been done to the church because of the actions of some priests. They have distorted the true image of the church." There is no record, of course, of how much money was collected, and the devil never did put in as much as a cameo appearance. He didn't have to. After all, in terms of revenues generated and people terrified out of their minds,the devil has been the best friend Christianity has ever had! *** We're happy to report that in Poland, the Catholic Church has suffered another setback in its effort to bring that newly-liberated nation under the control of Vatican creedmeisters. On Friday, the Polish parliament voted to liberalize that nation's abortion laws, and recognize the right of women to terminate pregnancies before the 12th week. That measure amended a 1993 anti-abortion law, "despite a campaign against the change by the Roman Catholic Church and its political allies," according to CNN. * Every year in April, around the time of Good Friday, there is an outbreak of ritual and real crucifixions in the Philippines where certain local Catholics allow themselves to be tied -- even nailed -- to crosses for a few hours, ostensibly to commemorate the sado-masochistic tribulation of the god-man, Jesus. Last year there was a scandal which AANEWS reported -- one of the crucifictionees was a gentleman from Japan named Shinichiro Kaneko, who turned out to be an actor in pornographic films. We now learn that Kaneko's performance on the cross is still scheduled for release on video, much to the consernation of Filipino Christians. In addition, there have been some other recent crucifixions, including: * Ricardo Chavez Garcia. Mr. Garcia had himself tied to a cross in Mexico City outside of the U.S. Embassy to protest police corruption in that nation. The ex-cop was issued a summons for "illegal use of a police uniform" which he apparently wore in preference to a loincloth. * Franco Moni engaged in a crucifixion (sans nails, we're told) on the balcony of his Rome apartment, to protest the loud music emanating from a downstairs bar at all hours of the night. We sorta' sympathize, Franco. * Ventura Galvan also had himself crucified in Mexico City, in protest of the dismissal of bus drivers from the local transit system. Mr. Galvan had earlier conducted a hunger strike, and then had his eyes and ears sewn shut; finally, he had his lips tied up as well, but the stiches then became infected and had to be removed. *** American Atheists and other separationist groups have been fighting overt displays of government-sponsored religiosity for years, including the practice of posting the Ten Commandments and other biblical grafitti in and on public buildings. Recently, when freethinkers challenged a monument with the 10 do's-and-don't's on it, the court ruled that the Ten Commandments weren't really religious, just so much a part of the local cultural tradition. Strange, but religionists don't think so, and that includes the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Last week, Archbishop Antonio Quarracino declared that the first thing he would do if elected president would be to erect posters of the Ten Commandments in all government offices. The prelate has cultivated an image of being the defender of the poor and downtrodden, and has become a critic of that nation's free market, secularist reforms; which prompts us to inquire whether he would be willing to put the enormous wealth of the Catholic Church in Argentina on the tax rolls. Guess not. Those Ten Commandments are just more important, you know! *** THERE'S STILL TIME FOR AN OFFER YOU JUST CAN'T REFUSE... AANEWS is offering a special discount for all subscribers during the month of September who decide to join American Atheists. You get 50% off the regular individual or family membership fee; we'll even sweeten the deal by doing the math. Individual membership, until September 30, is marked down to $25; the family membership is reduced from $75 to $37.50. Membership includes a subscription to the American Atheist Newsletter, issues of American Atheist Magazine, catalogues, and other benefits. For membership information and an application, just send mail to:, and include your name and postal address. When you join, be sure to mention the special aanews offer, and your e-mail address. *** 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. 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, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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