Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 7, 1996 (Nigh

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Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 7, 1996 (Nightowl Edition) Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #150 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/7/96 (Nightowl Edition) http://www.atheists.org 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 * Erratum * 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 "Karma-cola" invasion. 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 hairsplitting." 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 Galanter. 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 Levine. "...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 addressed." 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 church. .. 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 Orthodox Church. 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. *** Erratum... 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 info@atheists.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 aanews-request@listserv.atheist.org 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, irep@atheists.org

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