Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 7, 1996 (Nigh
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 7, 1996 (Nightowl Edition)
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#150 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/7/96 (Nightowl Edition)
In This Issue...
* Religious Cult Gets Plaque At Statue Of Liberty
* Pope Tour Hits Hungary, Slated For France -- Amidst Protests
* Clinton Wants States To "Help" Churches
* About This List...
PARK SERVICE VIOLATING FIRST AMENDMENT? HINDU ''PEACE''
PLAQUE INSTALLED AT STATUE OF LIBERTY
The National Park Service has installed a "peace" plaque linked to the
Hindu religious cult figure Sri Chinmoy, who is touted by his followers as an
avatar, master athelete, composer, writer, artist and stong-man. In a
ceremony which took place on August 27, the brass marker was placed in the
lobby portion of the Statue of Liberty; the Park Service, which administers
the site, then sent out a press release titled "Statue of Liberty Dedicated
as International Symbol of Peace," and presented a birthday cake (in the
shape of the Statue) to Sri Chinmoy.
The ceremony and plaque are part of an international effort known as "Sri
Chinmoy Peace-Blossoms" -- public sites throughout the world which have
markers with the cult leader's name. "Blossoms" include the Sydney Opera,
Grand Coulee Dam, Mount McKinley, and even the city of Canberra, Australia,
which has been officially declared as the "Sri Chinmoy Peace Capitol."
According to the current New York Times, the decision to permit
installation of the plaque was made by Diana H. Dayson, Superintendent of the
Statue of Liberty. The paper says that she was approached a mere six weeks
ago by two members of the Sri Chinmoy sect "about dedicating the statue to
world peace as part of the Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom effort."
"While a request for a religious plaque would have been turned down
immediately, Ms. Dayson said, the issue of world peace seemed apolitical and
universal," added the Times. The two representatives then produced letters
"from officials at other sites praising the project," and showed her a video
about Sri Chinmoy.
The video shows the Hindu avatar (whom followers refer to as "Supreme")
ostensibly lifting huge weights. Followers insist that Chinmoy "is capable
of amazing physical and artistic feats," notes the NYT, such as "writing
13,000 songs and 1,120 books...(drawing) 5 million pictures of peace birds
and lift(ing) 7,000 pounds with either arm."
The Chinroy cult promotes a number of athletic events, including marathon
running, hiking and scaling mountains.
A Religious Agenda
While the Statue of Liberty was meant as a symbol of liberty and freedom,
the attempt by Chinmoy and his followers to promote "world peace" masks a
distinctly religious agenda, and one based on a reactionary, oppressive
religion. A 1994 interview with Sri Chinroy which appeared in the
publication "Hinduism Today" contains quotes by the guru, such as:
"To me Hinduism is a home..."
"You are destined to serve God the creation..."
The guru's actual name is Chinmoy Kumar Ghose. He was born on August 27,
1931 In East Bengal, India, where his father was employed on the railroad.
As a child, he wrote poetry and developed musical skills; the family
reportedly worshipped the Hindu goddess, Kali. At age 12, he went into an
"ashram" or religious training-temple, and two years later ostensibly
experienced what the New Age Encycloped describes as "nirvikalpa samadhi", or
"an experience of self-realization that included a memory of having had the
experience before in a previous incarnation." In 1964, he left for New York,
part of a wave of assorted Indian "holy men," mystics, delusional hucksters
and con-artists which some Indian Rationalists and skeptics described as the
Chinmoy opened an AUM Center in New York City and began publishing a
magazine; by 1970, other centers had sprung up throughout the country, and
Chinmoy was even teaching "meditation" at the United Nations. A series of
books and lectures followed, including "Eastern Light for the Western Mind"
and Meditation: Man-Pefection in God-Satisfaction."
Chinmoy is also known for various "peace concerts", and has allegedly
influenced the work of musicians like Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin. He
has also managed to hold meetings (inevitably videotaped for the later
consumption of followers and for use at his "concerts" and other events) with
global personalities like the Pope and even Mikhail Gorbachev. His
"concerts" by no means meet with universal approval, however; they are
sometimes leafletted by small groups of Christian fundamentalists, and one
performance was termed "A suck supreme" by a music critic.
Sri Chinmoy "peace runs" have taken place all over the world, at times
attracting hundreds of athletic participants. The United Nations Press
Office has ground out a steady supply of Chinmoy related publicity hand-outs,
which describe the Hindu cultist as "an international ambassador of peace,
who has dedicated his life to promoting peace and his vision of a
oneness-world-family." One UN broadside noted that the relay races encompass
"over 40,000 miles in 80 countries of the world."
Groups worried about cults and "totalistic" religions have expressed
concern over Sri Chinmoy and his religious group. The former executive
director of the Cult Awareness Networ (which reportedly has recently declared
bankruptcy following a series of costly litigations) told the Times that
"They're (Chinmoy's followers) very good at enhancing their image, promoting
themselves, linking themselves up to make themselves look very group."
Cynthia Kisser added that "Sri is a holy name, so he's certainly giving the
impression that he's religious. If he says he's not, I'd say that's
The Times also talked to Dr. Marc Galanter, professor of psychiatry at New
York University's School of Medicine, another cult expert. Galanter had just
returned from a trip to Africa, where he had seen another Chiinmoy "Peace
Blossom" plaque at Victoria Falls.
"I think it was quite striking that they bore sufficient influence to have
this installed in one of the major and remote sites on a continent several
thousands of miles away from where their operation is carried out," remarked
In Practice -- A Violent And Oppressive Religion
Despite offering an amalgam of vague promises ("world peace") and
psychobabble, Hinduism is -- in practice -- one of the most violent and
oppressive religious systems which humanity has had the misfortune to endure.
In India -- the world's bastion of Hindu superstition -- rationalists and
secularists are in an uphill battle against religious ignorance and
superstition. The notion of re-incarnation has rationalized an ancient and
oppressive "caste" system, women are treated as chattel property, Hindu sects
battle each other, and there is growing violence and intolerance directed at
Muslims and other religionists.
Ironically, while new agers and mystics in the west are gushing with
enthusiasm for Hindu religious crankery, rationalists in India are busy
attempting to lift the masses of people there out a swamp of superstition
and credulous acceptance of "god-men" and other religious charlatans.
Religious Babble Gratis The Park Service?
There is evidence that public officials who were approached by followers
of Sri Chinmoy may have been ignorant of the Hindu leader and what his cult
represents, or remarkably gullible. A spokesman for Grand Coulee Dam told
The Times: "It was my understanding they (Chinmoy's representatives) were
taking about international peace." Diana Davidson, the Statue of Liberty
Supreintendent, thought that the "issue of world peace seemed apolitical and
universal," although she expressed doubts concerning the video she was shown.
"While I couldn't believe that he couldn't life all those pounds...the
video showed him lifting all those pounds," she told the paper.
But the religious-mystical nature of Sri Chinroy appears to be clear in
remarks ostensibly made during the dedication ceremony. One "student" of
Chinmoy reportedly insisted that the leader be referred to as a "student of
peace" instead of a guru, "to avoid unpleasant implications."
"Sri Chinmoy's is a message of self-transcendence," said a Dr. Agraha
"...Sri Chinmoy feels each of us has a soul, each is a child of God -- we
can find infinite compassion, infinite peace, infinite love..."
Meanwhile, a disingenuous or gullible rationalization for the event was
provided by a spokesman for the National Park Service who was "involved" in
the planning for the plaque, according to the Times, which stated that "there
had been questions about the group's orientation but they had been
Roger Scott of the NPS said that "In speaking with the group they say they
are definitely not a religious group, just followers of Sri Chinmoy, who is
an advocate of world peace. We felt it was a good, apolitical program to be
associated with. The statue gets request by the score, and many have
political connections that Parks would rather not be associated with."
Despite that statement by Scott, however, Superintendent Dayson "got an
inklink of the 'spiritual cast' of the group, and the reverence in which
followers held Sri Chinmoy," according to The Times.
LUSTIGER PLAYING ''HIT MAN'' FOR PAPAL VISIT AS PROTESTS MOUNT
Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, trying to silence a growing chorus
of desent within church ranks and from secularists throughout France, has
blasted critics and defended the Pope's upcoming state visit. According to
Reuters, that papal tour -- Pope John Paul's fifth visit to France -- has
"revived anti-clerical currents stretching back to before the 1798
Revolution." And Lustiger, a hard-line traditionalist who considers France
to be "the elder daughter of the Church," has stepped firmly into the fray.
French ecclesiastical authorities are reportedly outraged that they are
having to pay $1.4 million for cover the cost of religious events; but since
the Pope is considered a "head of state," French taxpayers will still have to
pay for security and a fleet of aircraft which will guard the papal entourage
and shuffle John Paul around as needed. Reuters notes: "Local and state
authorities have come under fire for using public funds on the visit, mostly
to traditionally devout areas of western France, with critics saying the
legal separation of church and state was being blurred."
In a statement released late last week, Lustiger said that he was "ashamed
for my country...to hear nonsense being spouted by people who see themselves
as leading lights."
Meanwhile, John Paul II keeps up his globe-trotting pace despite rumors
about his health and speculation that he will not live to see his goal of
ushering the Roman Catholic Church into the next millennium. The pope
arrived yesterday in Hungary for a brief visit to celebrate the 1,000
anniversary of a monastery; in Budapest, he was greeted at the airport by
Hungarian President Goncz, Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Cardinal Laszlo
Paskai. Tomorrow, a mass is scheduled in the town of Gyoer which is expected
to attract 150,000 people.
While the anniversary of the one of the world's oldest monasteries is the
announced purpose of the papal visit, politics is playing an equally
important, but behind-the-scenes role. The Church is resisting a rising tide
of secularism throughout much of the former Soviet eastern block, and has
experienced major political setbacks. In Poland last week, for instance,
that country's legislature voted to liberalize abortion despite an energetic
campaign by the Church.
There is also John Paul's geo-political vision of a united Christian
religion before the year 2000. Vatican strategists were hoping that the
pontiff would be able to schmooze with Aleksy II, Patriarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church, and a former "asset" of the KGB or Soviet intelligence
service. John Paul saw the liberation of eastern block nations like Poland
as an import step in unifying the Eastern and Western divisions of the
.. The hoped-for meeting was slated for the Benedictine monastery of
Pannonhalma, since it was built prior to 1054, the year of the schism between
the two churches. Orthodox leaders, however, reportedly felt that the venue
was not sufficiently "neutral" because Hungary is predominantly Roman
Catholic; and the meeting would have taken place a month before celebrations
in the Ukraine and Belarus of the anniversary of the creation of the Ukranian
Catholic Church, which split from the Orthodox cult four centuries ago.
In Russia, the Orthodox Church -- which had a peculair, even symbiotic
relationship with the Communist regime -- now finds itself in a religious
"turf war" with the Vatican, aggressive Protestant evangelical sects, and
even new age cults for the allegiance of believers. Russian Security Chief
Alexander Lebed has already called for a crackdown against groups like the
Mormon Church, Scientology and the remnants of the Aum "Supreme Truth" cult,
and the recognition of specific, "official" religions like the Russian
One of the most aggressive outreaches in Russia and the rest of the former
Soviet Union is being carried out by Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting
Network, which already boasts a network of over 8,500 "home churches."
CLINTON WANTS CHURCHES TO ''HELP'' WITH STATE MONEY
President Clinton, continuing to coopt the Republican emphasis on "family
values" and "faith-based" charity, told a religious group yesterday that he
wants the government to assist churches in hiring people off of the welfare
rolls. Speaking to the National Baptist Convention USA, a group representing
over 33,000 black churches, Clinton asked: "Will you go home and consider
hiring somebody from welfare to work if your state will give you some money
to help you do it?"
The crowd seemed enthused, and chants of "four more years" reverberated
through the Orlando, Florida meeting hall.
Clinton now finds himself in bed with strange company, namely, the
religious right which has pushed for government to "privatize welfare" by
turning social services over to churches and "faith-based charities," albeit
with taxpayer money. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act included provisions which
make it easier for government to "subcontract" social services, or give
outright grants, to religious groups. Critics, including First Amendment
activists, are warning that this new law blurs the distinction between state
and church, and represents a government subsidy for religious organizations.
Why is this AANEWS listed as #150? What happened to #149?
Now, we could tell you that it was abducted and taken to Area 51 -- but
who on this enlightened list could possibly believe that? The truth, dear
readers, is that despite strong coffee and the demands of a publishing
schedule, your esteemed editor simply goofed. Thanks to Henry Morgan of
Detroit for pointing out this error. The issue of September 5 should have
been #148, and was incorrectly identified as #147. Number 148 (September 6)
SHOULD have been #149; and so, to synchronize the issue properly, this is
#150. We beg forgiveness!
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 more information
about American Atheists, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out our
cool, new web site at http://www.atheists.org.
You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that
appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and AANEWS. For
subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to
email@example.com and put "info aanews" (minus the
quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad
F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER. American Atheists Internet Representative is
Margie Wait, firstname.lastname@example.org
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank