Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 17:43:19 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 31, 1996 (Nigh
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 17:43:19 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 31, 1996 (Nightowl 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
nnnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#189 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/31/96
In This Issue...
* More Taliban Crazies: In The Land Of The Blind, The One-Eyed Man...
* Praise Jesus It's BINGO!
* Coalition Readies Last-Minute Blitz
* TheistWatch: Behind The Times, Naked Deities
* Our Goal -- 10,000 Readers. You Can Help!
* About This List...
TALIBAN WITHSTANDING MASSOOD PUSH ON KABUL
Mohammed Omar The "Dark Prince" Behind Taliban's Islamic Dictatorship
The Taliban militia which has swept up control of most of Afghanistan and
established a nightmarish Islamic dictatorship has managed to withstand a
major assault against its position in the capital of Kabul -- a sobering
reminder of the teancity and resources of the fundamentalist movement. An
attack on the Afghan capital by forces loyal to former government military
commander Ahmed Shah Massood has now stalled; and yesterday, Taliban planes
carried out a series of raids on Massood's Panshir Valley stronghold.
The balance of military power may still reside with General Abdul Rashid
Dostrum, an Islamic warlord who controls positions to the north of Kabul, and
who has formed an ad hoc alliance with Massood.
* International aid organizations are reportedly divided over whether they
should continue their efforts in Kabul and other Taliban-controlled regions;
at issue is the new government's repressive laws prohibiting virtually any
work by women, specifically in the medical and relief fields. Yesterday, a
representative for the Oxfam relief organization told the London Times that
"Our programs will stay suspended until our Afghan women employees are
allowed to return to work. There has been too much accomodation, too quickly
with the Taliban authorities." Oxfam spokespersons also express shock that
other relief groups had acquiesced to Taliban demands. Said one
representatives: "Most aid organizations are going soft on the women's
* Taliban mullahs show little or no willingness to relax their
interpretation of Islamic law and how it applies to women. Indeed, a wave of
anti-intellectual rules and regulations are being imposed throughout the
occupied areas. Secular schools which were shut down immediately following
the Taliban sweep into Kabul have now been reopened as Madrasas, or Koranic
* A cult of personality is being fostered by Taliban around the person of
the movement's leading clerical figure, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who has been
declared "Prince of all Muslims." Britain's Electronic Telegraph notes in
today's edition that "The chief inspiration of this one-eyed mullah appears
to be to lead Afghanistan down a blind alley into the middle ages."
Omar typifies the makeup of the Taliban -- young men of limited education
who trained in doctrinaire religious schools and grew up in the midst of the
Afghan civil war, first fighting the invading Soviets and later the other
Islamic factions jockeying for power.
Stories envelop the Taliban leader -- that he was motivated to form the
militia because of the rape of three young women at the hands of local thugs,
that he lost an eye leading an assault against the Soviets.
Earlier this year, as the Taliban began its march toward conquering
Afghanistan, a meeting of 1,600 religious scholars and mullahs named Omar as
the "Emirulmomenin" or "master" of all muslims. Only two other Islamic
leaders have been so honored.
"PRAISE THE LORD! BINGO!"
Our coverage of religious organizations ranging from the National Council
of Churches to the Christian Coalition who have banded together to stop
legalized gambling in the U.S. evoked a surprising amount of feedback from
aanews readers -- more than on any other issue, in fact. We particularly
enjoyed this one from Cary Pincus...
"It may be an irrelevant point, but the religious right's bashing of
legalized gambling is either influenced by or ignorant of this nation's
pro-lotto past. Where I grew up, at least, the only legal gambling took
place either at the race track or at churches and temples, i.e. Bingo.
Repeat after me: Gambling for god is good. When off-track betting and lotto
were being debated, one of the issues raised was the loss of gambling income
by the religious groups. Thankfully this took place in an environment of
declining perceptions of the usefulness of organized religion. And one can
easily imagine that when the sheep have emptied their pockets into the
coffers of the casino there's paltry left for the collection plate.
"Gambling and religion share many features, anyway. In gambling one
either suspends belief in the numerical odds or thinks that one has special
insight into the future outcome. In religions people have placed their faith
in the unproveable, based on the indoctrinating promises of those who claim
"People rarely sell their souls to the devil; most are basically
good-hearted folk, if ignorant and slow-witted. But it is all too common for
people of all types to sell their souls to the beliefs of another human
being, in return for the promise of ultimate salvation, nirvana, heaven, high
consciousness, or (gag) forgiveness. Most have never had the courage to
think for themselves, and scant few leaders have had the courage to call them
to this task.
"What is it about gambling that bothers them? Is it the money aspect? Is
it OK to gamble away one's soul in church, or gamble away one's life
rock-climbing, on a race-track or in a coal mine? Or is it that in a world
filled with legalized drugs, prostitution and gambling, with pleasurable
distractions so readily available and choices for lifestyle so abundant as to
boggle the mind, that conventional religious doctrine would be seen as
nothing more than a macabre way of thinking? Religion is god's dirty little
One is tempted to agree with Cary Pincus. Indeed, the perception of
humanity embraced by many Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals is based
on the notion of "original sin," and the concept that man (thanks to woman)
"fell" into imperfection because of Adam's transgressions in the Garden of
Eden. This notion that people are fundamentally evil, besotted with sin, and
sorely in need of "salvation" appears to be at least some of the motivation
for the actions of organized religion. From cranky Christian
Reconstructionists to the other varieties of religious authoritarianism,
there is a belief that humanity needs to be controlled, punished and
regulated, that people "need to protected from themselves," not just each
COALITION READIES LAST-MINUTE ''VOTERS GUIDE'' BLITZ ON SUNDAY
The Christian Coalition is waiting until Sunday to distribute the bulk of
some 45 million to 55-million "voters guides," a move which has been
criticized as a last-minute political stunt which does not give opponents
sufficient time to respond to claims about their voting record. In an
address last week, Coalition Director Ralph Reed said that the eleventh-hour
political push will demonstrate that Christians have "crossed the threshold
of legitimacy" and become a permanent force on the American electoral stage.
Reed added that the guides would be distributed through a network of over
120,000 churches -- some 20,000 more than participated in the last election.
Critics of the Coalition, including Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, had called upon Reed's group to distribute the "voters
guides" earlier and give those candidates who received an unfavorable rating
sufficient time to respond. AU has also been sending churches throughout the
country a memorandum prepared by attorneys which says that religious groups
could be jeopardizing their tax-exempt status by engaging in partisan
politics and distributing the Coalition guides.
From "Victory" to "Meltdown" Control...
In an interview in the current USA TODAY, Reed -- who once backed Bob Dole
as the only candidate capable of beating Bill Clinton -- now declares that
the Christian Coalition will instead "act as a firewall that will prevent...
a poor Republican presidential performance from turning into a meltdown." He
told the paper that the Coalition's army of precinct-level volunteers, along
with the "voters guides'', would also "play a central role in enabling
Republicans to retain control of both houses of Congress and perhaps pick up
seats in at least one house of Congress." Reed also predicted "significant
gains down the ballot" in state legislative races.
Reed's newfound status which has seen him transform from a presidential
king maker during last August's GOP convention to the less glamorous role of
election-eve spindoctor highlights widespread disenchantment of religious
right leaders with the Republicans and, specifically, with Dole. Most agree
with Reed, who insists that Dole should have made moral decline and a loss of
family values more of a central (campaign) theme. It would have helped him
bring the religious base of the party home sooner..." The "voters guides"
reflect the narrow focus with culture war issues; they simplify and list
candidate's voting records or stans on a handful of issues, either "for" or
"against" abortion, school choice, prayer in schools, a "partial-birth"
abortion ban and Dole's 15% tax cut proposal.
The USA TODAY interview confirmed our own analysis about what the
Christian Coalition will be doing once the ballots are counted and a new
Congress convenes in January.
"We are looking very closely at some of the anti-gambling initiatives that
are on ballots around the country," said Reed, mentioning other "family
values" issues like the various parental rights proposals being fielded .
"If the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress...we
(Christian Coalition) can take a very aggressive posture of trying to advance
more of our legislative agenda. You can expect us, for example, once again
to offer the partial-birth abortion ban, and the possibility of a religious
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Religious right pundits are already taking Pope John Paul II to task for
his (gasp!) accomodation of evolution. "Tell us what we don't already know,
please," was our reaction when the Vatican announced recently that evolution
was scientific fact, but that "god" was still needed in order to install a
"soul" into each human biological unit. Dr. Richard Dawkins, a foremost
scientist and one of Great Britain's most outspoken Atheists and advocates of
reason, jokingly congratulated the Vatican for its blinding rapidity in
keeping up with the latest findings in science. Better late than never.
We predicted that the pope's somewhat grudging acknowledgement of
evolution -- an act that was managed and finessed in the form of a letter
read to the Pontificial Academy of Sciences which did not once mention
Charles Darwin -- might be a divisive issue in Catholic-Protestant
fundamentalist relations. On Wednesday, religious columnist Cal Thomas,
whose face frequently graces the set of Pat Robertson's "700 Club," took the
pope to task, and charged that JP-2 "has succumbed in his declining years to
the tyranny of evolutionary scientists who claim we are related to monkeys."
Not too far off the mark, though, Thomas notes that "Having succumed to
evolutionary theorists, the pope cannot credibly defend other doctrinal
issues -- such as the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus, His (sic) bodily
resurrection and our salvation -- because the same book that says God created
the world and everything in it out of nothing also testifies to these other
Thomas echoes a battery of standard religious objections to evolution, but
then lobs a rhetorical bombshell -- in admitting that evolution was grounded
in scientific fact, the pope "has accepted a philosophy that stands at the
core of communism." He closes his column of Wednesday, October 30 by quoting
Catholic writer and columnist Joseph Sorban, who observed "that he would
rather belong to a church that is 5,000 years behind the times and sublimely
indifferent to change than to a church that is five minutes behind the times,
'huffing and puffing to catch up'."
Sometimes the best arguments DO come from the mouths of the religious.
From a purely intellectual point of view, the pope indeed has painted
himself into a corner, trying to selectively borrow and choose what happens
to conform to the latest findings of science, all the while attempting to
salvage other vestiges of superstition. . But we'll be generous as far as
that 5,000 year figure goes: shave off a few millennia, just make it a few
hundred years behind the times.
In Israel, the Meretz Party continues its efforts on behalf of reason and
separation of government and religious creeds. Recall that it was the Meretz
that organized counter-protests when tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews
attempted to shut down major traffic arteries like Bar Ilan Street in
Jerusalem for the "sabbath." Now, the party is protesting a religious
spectacle which uses autistic children in order to persuade people to "return
On Monday, an Orthodox synogogue in Netanya, Israel staged an
invitation-only, women-only show which was promised to be a"fascinating
spectacle" which would "astound" the credulous audience with "far-reaching
findings." According to the Jerusalem Post, the program was to feature
Shulamit Gatt, whose ten year old daughter had prompted her to "rediscover
religion" by means of "divine signals."
The program features a film made in 1995 in which Gatt's autistic child
presumably tells fortunes and divines the future.
A Meretz member of the Israeli Parliament or Knesset called upon party
members to protest the show; joining in was another group which takes care of
autistic children, Na'amat and Alut, which charged that the Synogogue
spectacle exploited and abused a helpless minor.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Children's Welfare Council, Dr. Yitzak
Kadman, told the Post that he had succeeded in cancelling a number of other
similar programs throughout the country.
It's already Halloween night on the east coast, and with luck your editor
will be able to dodge the rapacious kids banging on the downstairs door in
search of candy. So, it may be appropriate to note that the New York Center
for the Strange has released the result of a survey it conducted of 340
American witches; the soothsayers predict that "Mr. Clinton will soundly
defeat challenger Bob Dole on November 5."
The election may not be "in the bag" for Clinton and his handlers, but we
can probably add this prognostication to the long list of other items already
in the "Tell us what we didn't know..." file -- such as the pope's revelation
that Mr. Darwin was right all along. But on the witches other predictions,
we're not so confident. They say that Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York will
take "intensive voice and diction lessons," and end up with a resounding
stentorian voice like that of James Earl Jones. For that to happen may indeed
prompt some interest from skeptics. But one prediction the witches made is
proof of either definitive craziness, or a new breakthrough on behalf of the
validity of the paranormal. Should this prediction occur, well... The
witches predict that the Dodgers will be heading back to Brooklyn!
Religious groups in South Africa have failed to stop a bill which will
liberalize abortion laws in that country; it permits women to have abortion
on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in the first 20 weeks if
the mother or fetus is at medical risk. The Roman Catholic Church objected,
of course, but so did entrenched Protestant groups and the African Christian
Democratic Party, which called the new legislation "worse than anything
debated in the apartheid era."
Health minister Nkosazana Zuma told legislators that hundreds of
predominantly poor, black women died every year because of botched
back-street abortions. Said Zuma: "Every woman has the right to exercise her
choice but is not allowed to impose it on others."
In India, a group calling itself the People's Youth Forum has filed a
petition with the government demanding that criminal charges be brought
against an artist named Maqbool Fida Husain for obscentiy, vulgarity and
offending religious belief. Husain is a highly celebrated artist in that
country, but the Forum objects to his paintings which depict Hindu female
deities as nude and semi-nude women. This IS the nation that produced erotic
masterpieces like the Karma Sutra, is it not? And where ancient (and even
more contemporary) temples are covered with colorful depictions of erotic
ecstasy? What seems to worry the prim and proper folks at the Youth Forum,
though, is that Husain is supposedly a Muslim. Guess that only Hindus can
draw naked female Hindu deities, right?
The rightwing Hindu nationalist Janata Party has jumped into the fray,
joining the Forum and demanding that Husain be prosecuted. That may be
difficult, though. At 81, Husain is going strong and is one of the nation's
most celebrated artists. He began his career nearly half-a-century ago
illustrating movie posters and billboards. Since then, he has won numerous
The Russian Orthodox Church has outdone itself this time in promoting a
reactionary, jingoistic and corrupt agenda. Last week, senior clerics
proposed during a meeting of the church's Holy Synod in Moscow, that the
entire Romanov dynasty be declared saints. Remember the Romanov's?
This proposal is all the more amusing because after 80 years, the Tsar and
his family -- even dead -- are managing to occupy center stage in Russia's
political theater. The call for sainthood is expected to drive a serious
wedge in a fragile, marriage-of-convenience alliance between former
communists and orthodox nationalists and monarchist who are united in their
opposition to any efforts to liberalize the nation.
For the Orthodox Church, though, it may be a savvy political move.
Canonizing the Romanov's makes good press, especially in the believer "turf
war" going on in Russia with Catholics, Protestants and even new age cults.
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