Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 13, 1996 (Ev

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Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 13, 1996 (Evening Edition) from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net 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 #158 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/13/96 (Evening Edition) In This Issue... * Muscle Guru Schmoozed With JP-2 * Ten Commandments Challenged in Alabama Courtroom * X-Men Get The Boot * TheistWatch: Mark 'O The Beast, A Missing Penis, Root Canal Faith * AACHAT * About This List... "$6,000,000 GURU'' MET WITH POPE There are "Peace Runs," "Peace Blossoms," and now the "Peace Torch." And they are all ways of attracting publicity for Hindu religious leader Sri Chinmoy, whose followers recently erected a controversial "Peace Blossom" plaque at the Statue of Liberty. Cult awareness activists, state-church separationists and other critics say that all of these are just schemes to gain publicity and credibility for Chinmoy, who also insists that he has performed incredible athletic and artistic feats such as lifting over 7000 pounds of weight with one arm. But the National Park Service -- the federal gency which approved a request from Chinmoy's followers to erect a "Peace Blossom" plaque -- isn't the only agency which has been enamored of the Hindu cultist. In July, 1995, Sri Chinmoy passed a flaming "Peace Torch" to none other than Pope John Paul II during a weekly public audience with the Pontiff in St. Peter's Square, Rome. The Pope was greeting participants in yet another Sri Chinmoy activity, a "Peace Run' that attracted athletes from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austrial, the United States and elsewhere. The marathon was officially publicized as the "Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run," an event first organized in 1987. At the official "Peace Run" home page, browsers are informed that the event "has been endorsed by many of our nation's Mayors, Governors, and Members of the U.S. Congress, as well as four-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis..." The opening ceremony takes place at the United Nations, where Chinmoy holds "meditation" sessions for officials. Chinmoy reportedly addressed the Pope, saying: "Holy Father, we are offering our hearts' prayerful gratitude to you for so compassionately blessing this Peace Torch which will be covering 70 countries." Other supporters of the event were listed, including "many Heads of State and World leaders such as Mother Teresa, former President Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth." *** TEN COMMANDMENTS POSTING IN COURTROOM CHALLENGED ACLU "Hates Christianity, The Christ Of The Bible!" Says Minister .... Once again, the question of whether prayer and the ten commandments are really religious has been raised in a court of law. In Montgomery, Alabama, a hearing was conducted yesterday in the case of Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who insists on posting the ten commandments in the hearing chamber and opening judicial proceedings with a public prayer led by a minister. That practice has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union; a federal judge dismissed the suit, but it carried over into state court in Montgomery. Judge Moore now enjoys the support of the state Attorney General's office, as well as several hundred people who clogged the front of a county courthouse yesterday for a rally. Events quickly got out of hand. Following a round of prayer and hymn singing from the flag and plackard waving crowd, Rev. Mickey Kirkland of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Montogomery, Alabama, took the podium and told listeners that "The ACLU hates Christianity, the Christ of the Bible and we hate the ACLU." He reportedly termed the team of ACLU lawyers "blood-sucking parasites." That was too much even for the embarrassed local head of the Alabama American Family Association; Dean Young tried to admonish the crowd that "We love the ACLU, we just don't agree with them." Rev. Kirkland ran for governor in the 1994 GOP primary. Inside the hearing room, though, lawyers for both sides admitted a finding-of-fact that the only person who had ever complained about prayer in Judge Moore's court was permitted to leave and return later. A report in the Birmingham News noted that Civil Liberties Union attorney Bobby Segall argued the coercive nature of the ten commandments plaque; he added that only Christian ministers had been asked to lead the prayer in Judge Moore's courtroom, and that any lawyer who happens to leave the chamber over the prayer issue risks offending certain jurors. The attorney for Judge Moore told officials that the U.S. Supreme Court's practice of calling on god to bless its proceedings was the same as a prayer. Segall quickly noted that ACLU would agree if Moore constrained himself to that practice alone. Back outside, Roy Moore told supporters that "All the Ten Commandments and prayer is an acknowledgement of the Almighty God," (sic) adding that "We will not back down from that." The Birmingham News says that Moore also described the commandments as "the foundation of our laws." Local atheist Larry Mundinger took a dim view of the proceedings, telling aanews that "this is a place where being an atheist can be dangerous to one's person, property and employment." Amen! to that! *** NATION OF ISLAM ''SECURITY SERVICE'' TOSSED FROM HOUSING PROJECT New York Governor George Pataki has ordered a state-run housing project in Brooklyn to end its contract with a security service owned by the Nation of Islam. While the presence of the business-suited guards correlated with a drop in both crime and apartment vacancies, administrative representatives say that the Muslim security agents decorated lobbies and hallways with pictures of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, attempted to recruit new members, and passed out anti-semitic literature. The controversy involves the huge Ocean Towers complex which, while privately owned, was built with state money and has a dedicated number of living units for low-income families. Security has been provided by a company known as X-Men, which was hired in 1993 with a $360,000 annual contract. That year, a congressional subcommittee began looking into the activities of the National of Islam, particularly the activities of its security service ("Fruit of Islam") which was being hired in public housing complexes throughout the nation. While critics admitted that the NOI quickly rid those areas of drug dealing and other crime, they also engaged in religious proselytizing and vigilante behavior. Jules Polinetsky, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, accused X-Men of distributing issues of the Final Call, the official publication of the Nation of Islam. He told the subcommittee that "In this paper, white men are called wicked and filthy, Jews are called bloodsuckers, and the pope is described as the leader of organized crime on this earth." Both residents and building managers initially objected to breaking the contract with the Muslim-affiliated security company. Even after the Pataki order, some residents insisted that they would move since "drug dealers are waiting for the X-Men to leave so they can come back..." Polinetsky agreed that "The Nation of Islam did a good job at providing security but did a better job of proselytizing." He told The New York Times that "Mussolini made the trains run on time, but that did not make Fascism an acceptable evil." *** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS We certainly don't agree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but at times we do have to sympathize. Case in point -- the Jesuit-operated University of San Francisco. The 140-year-old school had the distinction of being assigned the telephone area code 666, which for some fundamentalist Protestants (and not a few Catholics!) is the Mark of the Beast, the Sign of Satan. USF's main switchboard (666-5555) was being bombarded with crank and sincere callers; according to a school spokesman, "As long as I can remember we've been getting calls saying, 'Do you know that your prefix is the sign of the beast?' We've asked the telephone company to change the digits many times, but they told us that it was physically impossible to do so unless we paid tens of thousands of dollars." No more. Prayers may not have solved the problem for the California Jesuits, but technology has. Pacific Bell is now able to assign a new set of three digits to the area, and 666 has been replaced by the more innocent-sounding 422. *** Where did that 666 business originate, anyway? For millennialist doomsday prophets, 666 -- on license plates, supermarket bar codes, even IRS forms and highway markers -- is proof that Satan is prospering and counting down to Armageddon. Don't laugh. Highway 666, a north-south route which began at the Arizona border with Mexico and twisted its way to Colorado and beyond has now been segmented and re-numbered, in part due to complaints from fundamentalist religious groups. It was also in vogue to either pepper the "Route 666" road signs with shotgun blasts, or steal them as sourvenirs (or possibly as artifacts in mobile satanic rituals?). But is 666 the Mark of the Beast? Actually, this could be a case of "Sorry, wrong number." The "Number of the Beast" has been the inspiration for all manner of biblical soothsaying and prophetic forecasting, fervent hunts for the "anti-Christ," and, of course, an abundance of fair-to bad Hollywood productions about the devil or one of his minions, often seen chasing panty-wearing coeds in abandoned houses. It comes from the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, where in chapter 13, verse 18 it is stated: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." All of this has to do with an ancient practice known as "gematria", a corruption of the greek term for geometry. Under this arcane system, letters were assigned a numerical value which ostensible revealed a sub-text or hidden meaning. For some mystics, sacred texts including the bible had layers or levels of truth; "true wisdom" was concealed in a textual code, which could be revealed by elaborate mathematic manipulations. If Revelation was an allegorical history of early Christianity as many bible scholars suspected it to be, then "The Mark of the Beast" possibly refers to the Emperor Nero, or Neron Caesar. When written in the Hebrew alphabet and churned-through the gematria coding, one produces the numbers 666 or 616, depending on spelling. Indeed, some early translation of Revelation declare that the "Number of the Beast" is 616. That's not quite as sexy as 666, of course... but imagine the cache of having a telephone number like 666-6666! *** Earlier this week, the Christian Medical & Dental Society issued a press release condemning partial-birth abortions. This comes at a time when the House of Representatives is considering a possible override of President Clinton's April 10 veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. You may recall that this action produced an outcry from anti-abortions groups, including the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Christian Medical & Dental Society claims to represent 11,000 physicians that "serve as a voice and ministry for Christian doctors." Well, we can understand Christians speaking out on the issue of abortion. And we can understand Christian doctors being concerned. But dentists? Is there really something like "Christian dentistry"? (Does it involve short-changing the novocaine for non-believers, we wonder?) Ever notice how "natural healing" and the "prayer helps fight illness" crowd rarely talk about cavities, root canals and toothaches? There is all manner of pseudo-science and religious claims in connection with life threatening or debilitating illness -- cancer, HIV, heart disease. Quacks and religious hucksters have made considerable sums from victims of such maladies, offering a variety of dubious "cures". Millions have flocked over the years to the "healing waters" of Lourdes, but despite a veritable mountain of crutches, even the Roman Catholic church will attest to a few dozen genuine "cures." In the Philippines, there is a growth-industry in so-called "psychic surgery" where self-described "healers" and "bloodless knife" surgeons insist they yank out cancerous growths from their patience. And there is a spectrum of new age style cures, everything from crank diet regimens to "body polarization" therapy. But notice that none of these curious procedures involves prosaic (and thoroughly understood) medical problems like broken bones, or even the lowly aching cavity. Evangelists like Morris Cerullo wouldn't dare try to "cure" a broken leg "by the power of prayer," and one is probably quite justified in wondering if sufficient belief in The Loooord Jeeeezzuuuuss can obviate the need for a root canal. Hopefully, the various forms of cancer and other scourges will go the way of the broken leg, and be treatable by relatively painless and efficient medical procedures. We can thank teams of scientists and researchers for such a prospect. What will the quacksters do then? Oh yeah, let's hope that science also finds a replacement for root canal as well... *** Religious ignorance and superstition is often a barrier to social progress in emergent democracies like South Africa and other parts of the Third World. In the Republican of Cameroon, there is an epidemic of hysteria over so-called "penis snatchers", alleged practioners of black magic who, with only a handshake, are thought to be capable of stealing genitals. Late last month, mobs in several towns went on a rampage beating suspected witches, and hanging three men who supposedly could make the genitals of others disappear. The fear of "penis snatchers" may have been spread along trade routes by word-of-mouth. One 18-year old student claimed that he suspected a friend of being a genital thief, since when they shook hands a "electric-like current ran through him, and a feeling that his manhood had retreated into his stomach." Doctors examined the "victims" and reportedly found all penises un-harmed and normal. In South Africa, years of apartheid and discrimination are manifesting themselves through a resurgence of tribal superstition. The government of Nelson Mandela must now contend with a growing wave of witch-craze, and it has been estimated that throughout the nation over 100 people, most of them elderly, have been murdered as suspected practioners of witchcraft. Security police have even had to establish special "witch" refugee camps. "Seventy percent of our people, even doctors, believe in witches," a spokesman for the Ministry of Safety and Security in the Northern Province told Britain's Electronic Telegraph. One factor in the longevity of belief in witches is the pentacostal African church which manages to fuse elements of Christian and native tribal beliefs. The telegraph notes that some religious leaders "see no contradiction in condoning witchcraft belief." Incidentally, fears of penis-snatchers and witches are not unique to "primitive" Third World nations. The majority of Americans (presumably one of the more sophisticated and "enlightened" peoples of the world) believe in the existence of the devil; and the infamous book "Maleus Mallefecarum" or "Hammer of Witches" which served as the basis of the Christian Inquisition in Europe and the rest of the Jesus-ized world, began with a tale of a devil who stole penises of all the men in a village, including that of the local priest. The "Malleus" declared that with the help of god, all the penii were recovered, including that of the priest -- his was easilly recognized since it was supposedly the largest. * In Australia, the Catholic Church has again entered the abortion fray thanks to a high court ruling on Wednesday. The Church was granted amicus ("friend of the court") status in a suit filed by a women claiming damages from a medical center that failed to diagnose her pregnancy in time for an abortion. The unidentified woman says that doctors thus cost her the expense of child-rearing and the income that, as a stay at home mom, she will no longer be able to earn. But with the participation of the Church, the whole complexion of the case has now legally changed, and could end up testing the country's position on legal abortion. The Church is being represented by an association of Catholic Bishops and the Australian Catholic Health Care Association; church lawyers will ask the court to reverse the so-called Wald Principles which legalize most of the 29,000 abortions in the New South Wales province. *** INTERESTED IN MEETING OTHER ATHEISTS ? Even though 10% of the American population describe themselves as Atheists, freethinkers or non-believers, many of them remain "in the closet." So, how do you find other Atheists? One way is to join American Atheists and participate in our moderated online discussion group, aachat. If you'd like to join in this stimulating forum, just contact our Internet Representative, Margie Wait, at aachat@atheists.org. * 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 information about American Atheists, send mail to info@atheists.org, and include your name and mailing address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. 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 aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait (irep@atheists.org).

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