Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 12:56:58 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 21, 1996 A M E
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 12:56:58 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 21, 1996
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
#180 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/21/96
In This Issue...
* Afghanistan ~ Yeah, But WHICH god?
* Court To Rule On Military Chaplain Politicking
* Colorado Amendment Gains New Support
* TheistWatch: Fatima Madonna Doll Begins Road Tour
* About This List...
TALIBAN BLUNTS ATTACK ON KABUL AS BOTH SIDES DECLARE
"GOD IS GREATEST"
The American presidential election may not be the only showcase of "lesser
evil politics." In wartorn Afghanistan earlier today, both the Taliban
religious militia which controls the capital of Kabul, and former government
troops under the command of General Ahmad Shah Massood chanted "God is
greatest" as they each launched rocked salvos and exchanged gun fire. It now
appears that following initial victories by Massood's forces, the Taliban has
stopped this latest offensive. Much of the fighting centered on the village
of Hussein Kot which is just 12 miles on the main road leading into Kabul.
From there, Massood's soldiers launched a rocket attack on the capital's
airport, and with the battlecry "God is greatest!" began an infantry assault
in the direction of Kabul. Taliban militia echoing the same religious
sloganeering then counterattacked, driving the former government troops back
with what Reuter news service is describing as a "withering barrage of
mortar, rocket and artillery fire."
There continue to be reports of growing opposition to the authoritarian
Taliban religious agenda, especially in Kabul. Yesterday, Britain's
Electronic Telegraph says that "armed resistance is waiting for the command
to rise up and rebel," and that "Astonishingly there is evidence that Afghan
women, outraged by the Taliban's attempts to impose strict Islamic rule on
the city, are launching deadly terrorist attacks on their tormentors."
Despite house-to-house searches by Taliban militia to confiscate firearms,
ammunition and other weapons, there are estimated to be over 500 guerillas
now operating in Kabul, most of them loyal to the former military commander,
Gen. Massood. The Telegraph ads that "there are substantial arms caches
hidden far from the reach of the Taliban..."
In related developments...
* Forces of Uzbek warlord Gen. Rashid Dostrum captured the Bagram airbase
late Friday night, depriving Taliban of a major staging area . This followed
a breakdown in truce talks, and an end to any immediate negotiated
settlement. In conferences with representatives of Dostrum, Taliban clerics
reportedly stood by their demand that strict Islamic law be imposed on all
parts of the country, including provinces controlled by Dostrum, and that
both the warlord and troops loyal to Gen. Massood be disarmed.
The capture of Bagram means that the pressure is now off Gen. Massood, who
until the weekend was entrenched with his units in the Panshir Valley.
Kabul is now vulnerable to the north and east, and two of the three main
roads leading into the capitol are under the control of rebels.
* Any alliance between Massood and Dostrum remains problematic. Gen.
Massood is an ethnic Tajik, a group wary of Dostrum's Uzbek origins. Both
dislike the ethnic Pashtuns, though, who represent nearly half of
Afghanistan's 16 million people and constitute the bulk of the Taliban
* Taliban religious fanaticism continues to produce resentment, especially
in Kabul. The mullah's have already banned women from the workplace and
instituted mandatory, public prayer sessions for all males five times a day.
Taliban "modesty patrols" roam the streets assaulting both men and women who
are not dressed according to fundamentalist law, and the death penalty has
been instituted for a wide range of transgressions, including adultery.
The latest Taliban punishment is public humilitation. The London Times
reports one incident involving younsters caught stealing "public property"
from bombed-out areas of Kabul who were made to stand on chairs in the middle
of a road, balancing pieces of waste metal on their shoulders for hours
"It explains why Kabul hates the Taliban rulers," noted The Times, "an
uneducated, rural people with no knowledge of city life and a repugnance for
its comparatively liberal ways..."
Many of the Taliban mullahs who exercise full police powers are
near-illiterate; many boast of reading only one book in their lives (the
Koran), and many are young religious school students.
* United Nations envoy Norbert Holl landed in Kabul early this morning,
and is slated to hold talks with senior Taliban officials. The Taliban
response may depend, in part, on whether they can broker a deal with Gen.
Dostrum, whose front line is just 12 miles from the Kabul city limits. While
Dostrum's army is smaller than the combined Taliban units, it is well armed
and more coordinated. The Washington Post notes that Dostrum "is considered
a formidable military strategists."
What To Expect...
Regardless of the prospects for a brokered peace agreement, the immediate
political and military landscape may not change much in Afghanistan. Dostrum
and Massood continue to receive arms from India, Russia and probably Iran;
Taliban's main quartermaster, Pakistan, shows no evidence of changing its
Beneath the veneer of politics, though, changes could be brewing. The
Taliban imposition of religious law has been so brutal that the reaction
against it could set the stage for a wider social revolution involving the
question of womens rights. The current fighting outside of Kabul is a
strictly males-only affair; but within the capital, an insurrection involving
women could have unforeseen and long term consequences. If and when Taliban
is thrown out of Kabul, it will be interesting to see just how far any new
government, be it representing Dostrum or Massood, can go in selling ITS
version of Islam to the population. Remember, Taliban was challenging a
regime which was already a theocratic establishment. Much depends on how
many guns women in Kabul can obtain, and how they organize after the military
fighting stops and the political maneuvering beings...
MILITARY CHAPLAIN CASE HEADED FOR COURT
Last summer, when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops launched its
"Project Life Postcard Campaign" to mobilize followers in support of the
Partial Birth Abortion Ban, the military drew a line in the regulatory sand.
Each military branch issued guidelines to all service chaplains outlining the
limitations for appropriate political activity. The nation's brass
specifically prohibited distribution of any political materials from pulpits
on miitary bases. As a result, military chaplains were enjoined from
distributing pre-printed cards from the Bishops which followers could mail
to their local Senator or Congressional Representative supporting the ban on
Now, that gag order is headed for court where it is expected to be heard
next month in a Washington federal district court. The case will test the
limits of just how far religious groups can go, even when they are directly
funded by government -- in this case, pitting the free speech and political
activities of military chaplains against restrictions on any government aid
to religious activism.
Federal laws like the Polk Act forbid lobbying by government employees.
The situation involving military chaplains, though, may test new limits in
the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which outlaws the mixing of
government and religion. The constitutionality of having military chaplains
has been challenged in the past, and in cases such as KATCOFF v. DEPARTMENT
OF DEFENSE, the courts found that soldiers in remote locations might find
themselves without access to religious exercise.
But chaplains are on the public payroll, and technically government
employees. In addition, church buildings and other equipment on military
bases are public property.
The Pentagon regulations say that chaplains "may not directly or
indirectly influence congressional action on pending legislation because of a
rule forbidding lobbying in the military," according to the Christian Science
Monitor. A religious coalition of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim chaplains,
though, is challenging the restrictions.
Civil libertarians and state-church activists remain divided over this
issue. Free speech activist Nat Hentoff charged that the military rules were
a form of "thinly veiled censorship" which violated "the basic right to
receive unadulterated spiritual direction and, more importantly, instruction
on how to apply that direction." But Robert Boston of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State declared that the case "underscores the
inherent problem of government-funded chaplaincy," and says that the US
Supreme Court needs to examine the entire issue.
For religious right groups, though, the military guidelines have become
the latest in a series of "religious liberty" cases. Representing the group
of chaplains is the Washington-based Becket Fund, which in most news reports
is identified as a "bipartisan, ecumenical public interest law firm." In
fact, the Fund is a major player on Capitol Hill for religion-based
legislation such as the proposed Religious Equality Amendment, and worked
closely with the Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome early this year in
organizing a conference marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Second
Vatican Council. Fund president Kevin Hasson warned that religion was
becoming "something which pornography used to be: You can do it only in
private, in your own home."
COLORADO TAX PROPOSAL GAINS SUPPORT
Colorado's Amendment 11 which would begin taxing non-profit organizations
including churches and religious groups picked up support yesterday, when it
was announced that the Business Coalition for Fair Competition had endorsed
the measure. The Coalition is an alliance of 19 trade organizations, and
works to stop government from competing with private business and remove
unfair advantages in the marketplace enjoyed by non-profit, tax-exempt
According to a release from Coloradoans for Fair Property Taxation, "This
endorsement is based on the fact that the non-profit sector has grown faster
as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product than the for-profit sector, and
that growth is not driven as much by donations as by the commercial sale of
products and services."
Amendment 11 booster John Murphy has argued that a tax on the state's non
profit groups could generate as much as $100 million in taxes: Murphy wants
that to be used as a tax rebate for Colorado citizens, who could then decide
on how they wish to spend their money. The proposal has united the state's
religious groups, though, and it is estimated that churches alone will be
pouring up to $500,000 into the effort to defeat Amendment 11. In the past
decade, dozens of religious groups have flocked to communities such as
Colorado Springs; while they employ thousands of people, critics says that
they receive a special tax-exemption which passes costs onto to private
individuals and businesses.
The full text of this latest endorsement can be found at
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Mention "child abuse" and the public imagination conjurs the image of some
paedophile who's headed to the local school playground just after downloading
sexually explicit pics from the internet. But before calling 1-800-SNITCH,
maybe we should remember that most physical abuse of children is carried out
by relatives (and even parents in the wonderful "nuclear family") or perps
known to the victim, not anonymous strangers. The bulk of organized, ritual
child abuse doesn't go on inside bizarre satanic cults, but in hard-line,
authoritarian fundamentalist sects where walloping children with the back of
a hand or a paddle (or witholding food and resorting to torture) is justified
as "bible-based discipline."
And there's the child abuse practiced by religious sects which deprive
kids of appropriate medical attention, just because mom and dad believe that
"only prayer" is the way to deal with everything from a toothache to serious
Well, if mom and dad want to trust more in their god than in antibiotics
and surgery, that's OK with me. Free country, and it is their freedom of
religion. But should they be enforcing their doctrines onto their kids who
haven't often reached an age when they are free to choose, or even deliberate
Last week, the legal system continued to wrestle with that problem as a
federal judge in Boston overturned the 1990 involuntary manslaughter
conviction of a Christian Scientist who preferred "spiritual healing" when
her preschool daughter got sick. Chief US District Judge Emeritus Karlton
ruled that prosecutors had violated the constitutional right of Laurie Walker
to receive fair notice that a parent's reliance on such a regimen might be a
crime. In 1984, while Walker's daughter was ill, California law recognized
"spiritual healing" as an accepted regimen. Prosecutors insisted that this
was only sanctioned when children were suffering from what The Christian
Science Monitor described as "nonserious illnesses." But Karlton agreed with
a defense attorney's petition, who said that his client was protected under
the law by the extant statutes in California . In this case, mom won -- but
the child lost.
One need not go into the hoary pages of historical texts to discover
myths. After all, myth-making is a thriving business, and some of the
greatest religious mythology has been fabricated in our own era.
AANEWS has suggested to readers that with the onset of the year 2000, we
may expect outbursts of millennialist fervor, much of it manifesting
religious overtones of some kind. We have noted the growing number of
reports, for instance, of sightings of the Virgin Mary and even Jesus;
indeed, next to sightings of UFO's and Princess Di, Mary and Jesus have risen
to the top of the pop-culture celebrity list in some nations.
One of the greatest myths surrounding Mary -- indeed, one that has done so
much to foster the "cult of the Virgin" now sweeping most of the "Christian
world" -- concerns the alleged apparition at Fatima, Portugal. October 13
marked the 79th anniversary of this event, where the mom 'o god is said to
have appeared to three peasant children and imparted to them folksy
instructions and some prophetic utterances. Not surprisingly, one of
"Mary's" predictions allegedly concerned the Bolshevik revolution. Russia,
it was said, would spread "errors" throughout the world, but eventually that
wayward country would find its way back into the smothering embrace of Mother
Church. Indeed, Catholic school children for decades were admonished to
"pray for the conversion of Russia," and believe firmly in the inevitable
outcome. Kind of makes you wonder why "god" permitted the revolution in the
With Catholicism making in a poor showing in newly-liberated Russia --
and, according to many observers, losing its grip in the emergent secular
societies of the former Soviet block, like Poland -- the Vatican has now
launched its latest publicity stunt, and it sending the official statue of
Mary from the Fatima cult shrine for a barnstorming tour of Russia, Siberia
and -- get this -- Kazakhstan. Thousands of people poured into Fatima,
Portugal for the anniversary send-off, which was presided over by none other
than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the "Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith." CDF, for those who aren't up on Vatican intrigue, is essentially
the successor to the Holy Inquisition; it is Ratzinger who plays an important
role in the Roman Catholic Church's international operations, with special
attention to target nations once "behind the iron curtain."
Pope John Paul II is a Mary cultist, and in a 1991 sojourn to Fatima,
credited Mary with bringing about the political realignment of eastern
europe, and helping him survive an assasination attempt by Turkish gunman Ali
Agca in 1981. Seems the attack, carried out in St. Peter's Square, Vatican
City, was on the Feast of the Virgin of Fatima, May 13. Investigators have
linked Agca to a number of groups, from the Bulgarian secret service and the
old KGB to fascist groups in Turkey such as the Gray Wolves. Whatever his
affiliation, Agca has supposedly converted to Catholicism and apologized to
the pontiff for his misdeeds.
In anticipation of the millennium, the Church is dragging out for public
consumption a veritable closet of long-forgeotted juju relics, including the
Holy Coat of Trier and that old Barnum-style standby, the Shroud of Turin.
We expect the Fatima Virgin doll to join this grotesque parade of
superstitious iconography and make the rounds on behalf of Catholic
proselytizing and cultural neurosis.
And what about those revelations? How come Mary can't ask her all-knowing
son for some truly useful information that would benefit the human race... a
cure for cancer or Parkinson's disease or some other malady? What about a
non-polluting energy source? Many would settle for the formula to a
We recently praised the efforts of the National Center for Science
Education, a group which combats pseudoscientific creationism in public
schools. This is a group worthy of your consideration and support: check out
their web site at http://www.NatCenSciEd.org.
Remember our story a few weeks ago about the uproar over a video of a
naked man playing at Durham Cathedral, England? Government officials,
police, bluenoses and even some religious zealots all objected to a brief
film titled "The Messenger" by graphic artist Bill Viola. According to
Britain's Electronic Telegraph, the video is shown behind "modestry screens
on policy advice." Now, THERE'S a new term for you -- "modesty screen!"
Anway, it turns out that 'The Messenger" is such a hit that the exhibition
has extended its hours, and more than 1,000 people each day are making a
conscious voluntary effort to see the video. We're just wondering, in light
of those numbers, who happens to be defining "modesty?"
About This List...
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