Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 1996 (Ev
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 1996 (Evening Edition)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#155 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu9/11/96 (Evening Edition)
In This Issue...
* The Wild, Wacky & Questionable Claims of Sri Chinmoy
* Split In Likud Ranks?
* Scintist Says Belief In God "Outmoded"
* Alien Abductions: Sexy ET's, Voluptuous Demons
* Secular Organization For Sobriety
* Atheist Viewpoint TV Needs Your Help!
* About This List...
WEIGHTLIFTERS CHALLENGED CLAIMS OF HINDU ''STRONGMAN'' GURU
Are Park Service, U.N., Others Being ""Suckered" By Huckster ?
Amidst claims of amazing feats by Hindu guru Sri Chinmoy, a number of
competition weighlifters have questioned the statement that the religious
leader has lifted up to 7,000 pounds with one arm.
The topic has been brought up again following a discussion during July and
August in various weighlifting newsgroups on the internet, since it was
revealed that the National Park Service has dedicated a so-called "Peace
Blossom" erected by Sri Chinmoy's group at the Statue of Liberty.
That decision has caused growing public outrage. In a series of press
releases dispatched over the last 48-hours, American Atheists called for the
removal of the plaque, stating that it violated laws to protect the
separation of church and state.
The claim that the Indian guru lifted over three tons with one arm is only
one of several that followers have made concerning the controversial
religious leaders. Incredibly, a video shown to a National Park Service
official prior to approval of the plaque claimed to depict this event; while
the official, identified as site superintendent Diana Dayson was somewhat
skeptical, she nevertheless considered the organization to be "spiritual,"
and considered the theme of the plaque to be "universal."
(Opponents of the plaque note that Sri Chinmoy's much-touted poetry
contains vague and obscure reference to "Earth-heart's pinnacle-Divinity" and
"Her Beauty's cosmos-fragrance-ride.")
Followers of Sri Chinmoy insist that in 1987, the guru hoisted weights of
3081 pounds and 7063 pounds in what were described as "one-arm overhead
lifts." Although the weights were said to have been lifted only about half
an inch, such a claim caught the attention of many powerlifters; in debate on
newsgroups, many expressed skepticism about the claim, and others considered
it an outright hoax. One lifter wrote:
"I have read several posts pertaining to this so-called lift and have
looked at the pictures. I remain totally unconvinced that he (Sri Chinmoy)
or anyone else could support 500 lbs over head with one hand, much less 7000+
lbs. ... I must say that anyone who believes this has got to be living in
LaLaLand. I have lifted weights for over 25 years and have never come across
such a blatant attempt at chicanery. To believe that a human being can
support over 7000 lbs with just one hand is utter nonsense, I don't care if
the guy has a direct link to heaven, this is total BS..."
Reportedly, no recognized competition powerlifter has ever even attempted
a one-armed overhead lifT according to one athlete who contacted aanews about
this incident. A study of weighlifting records, however, suggests one of
* Sri Chinmoy did in fact accomplish a spectacular athletic feat which
would defy what is known about the limits of human physiology, including
muscle strength and bone density.
* Chinmoy and his followers are mistaken in their count total of the
weight lifted; they may have miscalculated that weight by a factor of nearly
* Sri Chimnoy and his gullible followers are liars and the whole event is
Although aanews has been unable to ascertain Sri Chinmoy's potential
weight class, a comparison with known records is enlightening. The latest
Olympics included weight classes for athletes ranging from 54 klg to 108 kgs.
and over. In the latter category, Russian Andrey Chemerkin of Russia
successfully lifted a mere 573.201 lbs. in the "clean & jerk" category.
Powerlifters who were at the other end of the weight spectrum lifted amounts
ranging from slightly more than 292 lbs to a range hovering near 400 lbs.
Of course, the "clean & jerk" is only a general comparison of human
strength. But powerlifters seem to be highly skeptical of Chinmoy's dubious
claim. In an August 28th posting, one weightlifter remarked that if this
avatar "were capable of doing even close to what is claimed, he should report
to Stanford (University) for anatomical study, since he would be pretty
obviously super-human, both in strength and in structural integrity."
And what about that "structural integritgy"? Men and women in yet another
growing, competative sport -- arm wrestling -- know that human muscle and
bone can only exert or resist so much pressure. Bones have been known to
break during such competitions which involve considerably less weight and
force than what Chinmoy and his followers insist that the guru hefted.
"There is no middle ground to Chinmoy's weightlifting claims," wrote one
lifter in a letter to aanews. "Either he is the greatest weightlifter ever
to have walked this planet, or this one of the greatest sports hoaxes ever
What Else About Sri Chinmoy Should Be Believed ?
Extraordinary, bizarre, extravagant and weird claims -- often of a
paranormal, mystical or religious nature -- are offered every day. One good
rule in evaluating such propositions is that "extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence." Such evidence appears to be lacking in the case of
Sri Chinmoy and his followers. As "information consumers," the public would
be only right in asking what other claims by this religious leader and his
organization actually have any basis in fact.
Incredibly, Sri Chinmoy has persuaded public officials throughout the
world to ignore some of his more bizarre claims, not the least of which is
his reported insistence that he is the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson, or
that the Hindu deity Krishna once perched on his shoulders. Those charges
appeared earlier today in aanews, and were made by a former Chinmoy follower,
Brie Waters, who is now Vice President of the Atheists Student Foundation at
the University of Maryland.
Followers of Chinmoy have managed to erect over 900 so-called "Peace
Blossoms" at major tourist venues throughout the world, often with the
cooperation of public officials. Most disturbing was the fact that a video
of Sri Chinmoy allegedly lifting thousands of pounds was presented to the
National Park Service Superintendent at the Statue of Liberty, Diane H.
Dayson, who according to the New York Times was somewhat skeptical, but
nevertheless apparently saw nothing wrong with allowing the dedication of the
disingenuous "peace" plaque. Shouldn't the magnitude of such an outrageous
claim at least prompted the Service to take a closer look at Sri Chinmoy and
Indeed, cult awareness experts warn that brainwashing followers into
uncritical acceptance of preposterous claims is an important step in
"capturing" the loyalty and allegiance of others.
(Editor's note: Those AANEWS readers who are concerned about this
state-church separation issue may wish to communicate with Marie Rust, the
Field Directo for the National Park Service. Her fax number is 215-597-0815.
Those of you who participate in the aachat newsgroup may wish to share your
letter to Ms. Rust with other readers.)
FIGHTING, DISSENSION INSIDE LIKUD COALITION AFTER HANDSHAKE
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shook hands with
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last week, he set off a firestorm of
controversy inside the ranks of both his own Likud party and the shaky
religious coalition which currently governs Israel.
A poll by the Tel Aviv daily Yediot Ahronot showed that 82% of Israelis
thought the meeting was "the right thing to do," but criticism inside Likud
ranks -- and from the assorted religious parties which make up the Netanyahu
coalition -- was loud and insistent.
Less than 24-hours after his landmark meeting with Arafat (the first
between the two leaders), Netanyahu went before the Likud Central Committee
amid shouts of "traitor." One heckler demanded to know if the Prime Minister
had "washed his hands with soap" after meeting his Palestinian counterpart.
Veteran Likud activist Amram Cohavi said that "Bibi (Neanyahu) has betrayed
us."; he was shouted down by another man who said he was wounded during the
1973 war, who insisted "I have five children...I want them to enjoy peace and
that is why Bibi had to meet Arafat."
Most Likud ministers had tough words for the Prime Minister.
Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon, brought into the Netanyahu cabinet
after demands from religious groups, warned the new Prime Minister about
giving away Jewish holy sites on the West Bank and in Jerusalem. But
Netanyahu remained adamant on the issue of a Palestinian homeland. At the
Likud meeting and later at a conference with a leading settlement
organization, he declared "There never will be a Palestinian state between
the sea and the Jordan."
Netanyahu faces more trouble from the religious right, though. The
largest settlement group, the Council of Jewish Communities, responded to the
Netanyahu-Arafat meeting by insisting that it will embark on a major building
campaign, legally or illegally.
And there are signs that religious groups are stepping up their efforts to
control daily life throughout Israel. Hirsch Goodman, editor of Jerusalem
Report magazine noted that "What is happening in Israel is not random
violence or the work of a few hotheads...It is part of a concerted
ultra-Orthodox campaign to control the day-to-day life." Goodman was
referring to a number of recent developments, including attempts by Orthodox
and other religious hard-liners to shut down major traffic routes during the
Jewish sabbath, and to remove Aharon Barak, the liberal chief justice of
Israel's Supreme Court. In recent weeks, religious newspapers have unleashed
a series of barrages against the jurist, branding him "the most dangerous
enemy of Judaism."
Meanwhile, a report filed to the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the
outcry against Barak shows that "Israel's Orthodox Jewish parties have
stepped up their pressure to impose their conservative social agenda.
Instrumental in helping Benjamin Netanyahu win the election, they now enjoy
Among the targets of Orthodox bigotry are women. There have been dozens of
attacks on females who are caught near religious neighborhoods, often for
wearing "immodest dress."
"More employers are bowing to religious demands," noted the Inquirer
report. A post office in Jerusalem employs only men "in response to the
concern of rabbis that women might be immodest." At least one Jerusalem
supermarket is now refusing entry to women who do not wear a dress.
In the past, the major bastion against such religious abuses has been
Israel's Supreme Court. While the country's legal community seems to be
rallying on behalf of the secular justice system, some warn of the
"delegitimatization" of the Supreme Court, and the threat of violence from
In the middle is Netanyahu; while the leader of the right-wing Likud,
"Bibi" is considered to be "non-religious," and even drew criticism and wrath
from religious leaders during his campaign against Labor incumbent Shimon
Peres. Groups like the National Religious Party, the Shas, and United Torah
Judaism denounced Netanyahu for having an extra-marital affair. Even so,
they saw support for Likud as the best way of achieving power. Whether the
tenuous coalition can hold together remains to be seen.
RELIGIOUS BELIEF ''OUTMODED AND RIDICULOUS,'' SCIENTISTS TOLD
In a debate yesterday at the annual meeting of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science, chemistry professor Peter Atkins said that it was
not possible to believe in the existence of gods and be intellectually
honest, if one is a true scientist.
He called belief in a deity or deities a "worn out but once useful crutch
in mankind's journey toward truth," adding that "We consider the time has
come for that crutch to be abandoned."
Taking an opposite view was Prof. William Gosling of Bath University, who
according to Britain's Electronic Telegraph told his audience that the
strength of religion was its "unknowable mystery."
"At the heart of all religion there is nothing but the mysterious cause
and author of all. More durable than time, more extensive than space,
stronger than death, the very source of life itself... God is the last answer
to all questions."
But Atkins countered, listing some of the standards arguments on behalf of
the existence of god. He added that believing that a god is responsible for
actions was an "abnegation of the power of human understanding."
"It's a vacuous answer...To say that 'God made the world' is simply a more
or less sophisticated way of saying that we don't understand how the universe
originated. A god, in so far as it is anything, is an admission of
Atkins also told his audience that "I regard teaching religion as
purveying lies. I came here today to de-corrupt you all."
AND FROM ''GOD'' TO ALIEN ABDUCTIONS...
Another manifestation of human irrationality seems to plague Britain.
According to data from a survey carried out in Bristol, England, more than
one million people in that nation believe they have been abducted by aliens.
And more than half of the population insists that they have witnessed
"strange phenomenon" immediately after waking up.
The survey involved a sample of 200 adults and 120 children. 33% of the
children say they had seen a ghost, but that figure dropped to 12% of adults.
Nearly one-third of respondents reported having a so-called "out of body"
experience where they experienced the sensation of floating above their
bodies, or flying through rooms or out of doors.
But Dr. Susan Blackmore, a psychologist at the University of the West in
England who has written books and articles dealing with the paranormal, says
that science can explain much of this. Out-of-body experiences are often
associated with what she describes as "sleep paralysis," which takes place
during the dream state. One's body becomes temporarily paralyzed, and the
person is prevented from "acting out" the dream. According to Blackmore,
about 45% of the population experiences such paralysis at least once in the
course of a lifetime. She told The London Times that "Normally you know
nothing about sleep paralysis. However, occasionally something goes wrong
with the mechanism, for example if you are very tired, over-worked, excited
Blackmore links belief in alien abductions to a kind of sleep paralysis,
noting "There are certain features that come up again and again. There are
strange whining noises. One (subject) described loud screaming and
high-pitched laughter and another said she had experienced a roaring noise in
According to the Times, Blackmore thinks that much of this is due to
electrical behavior in different parts of the brain and sleep paralysis. And
what about the sensation that an alien -- or some other mysterious entity --
is in the room? "It is known that sense of presence can be created by
stimulating the temporal lobes of the brain... this can give rise to
out-of-body experiences and mystical experiences."
Today's Aliens -- Yesterday's "Angels" ?
Reports of being abducted by mysterious beings, or even having sexual
intercourse with them are not new. Many so-called "alien abduction" cases
involve florid accounts of being paralyzed, taken on board a mysterious
craft, subjected to a bizarre medical examination (including rectal, vaginal
or penile probing) and even being involved in sex acts. Tens of thousands of
individuals are now "going public" with such stories, and a considerable
literary fiction has developed around this theme. These annecdotal accounts
have also fueled an entire genre in books, television programs, and
questionable "documentaries" which purport to "examine" the subject. But if
all of this is not the result of sex-obsessed aliens, many of whom would be
paedophiles and rapists were these accounts accurate, is there is another
Dr. Robert Baker, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, thinks
there is; he notes a distinct sexual component in many of these stories, and
theorizes that sleep disturbances of some kind are at the root of the
Before space aliens were in vogue though -- in part with the rise of pulp
fiction magazines, and the science fiction genre in movies and on television
-- many people believed in religious demons. Astronomer Carl Sagan, in an
article for Parade Magazine (March 7, 1993), observed that religious
authorities taught followers that devils would "come down from Heaven and
have unlawful sexual congress with women. St. Augustine believed witches
were the offspring of these forbidden unions."
Pope Innocent VIII denounced such antics in a papal Bull, warning that "It
has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have
intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their
sorceries and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they
suffocate, extinguish and cause to perish the births of women."
Sagan also notes the 1645 case of a teenager who recalled "being attacked
by little men, carried paralyzed to a castle in the air, seduced and returned
A Note To AANEWS Readers...
In yesterday's dispatch, we reported on court cases in New York and
Wisconsin which involved the question of prison inmates being forced to
participate in religion-based "recovery" programs as a condition for parole
or other benefits. We mentioned the group Rational Recovery.
Our National Media Coordinator, Ron Barrier, reminds us that there is also
yet another rational recovery program known as SOS, Secular Organizations for
Sobriety. It is also known as "Save Our Selves," and was begun by Mr. James
Christopher. In just the past decade, SOS has expanded into every state and
even has international chapters. In 1987, SOS was ruled to be a viable
alternative by California courts to the religion-based program Alcoholics
Mr. Christopher was a recent guest in a two part installment of the
Atheist Viewpoint television show, the new cable-TV program hosted by
American Atheists which now appears on nearly 40 cable systems. In a
discussion about sobreity with Mr. Barrier, SOS's Christopher stated that
Alcoholics Anonymous "was simply replacing one dependency with another, and
that the symptoms which produced such dependencies were ignored."
Those wishing to get in touch with SOS should contact Mr. Barrier at
And While You're At It... Help Sponsor THE ATHEIST VIEWPOINT
If your cable system features a public access channel and accepts
"imported" programming, you could sponsor The Atheist Viewpoint in your
community. This is a weekly, 30-minute program available for broadcasting in
a range of popular cable formats. For more information, just send mail to:
email@example.com. Incidentally, the interview with Mr. James Christopher is
included in episodes #77 and #78.
About This List...
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