Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 14:51:46 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 1, 1996 A M E
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 14:51:46 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 1, 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
#190 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/1/96
In This Issue...
* Rushdie Snubbed By Danish Gov.
* Hollywood Execs Courting Religious Leaders
* TheistWatch: Wasting Away For Sainthood & More
* About This List...
SALMAN RUSHDIE BARRED BY DANISH GOVERNMENT
Author Was To Receive European Union Literature Prize...
Writer Salman Rushdie, whose controversial 1989 novel "The Satanic Verses"
brought him a sentence of death from Ayatollah Khomeni, has been refused
entry into Denmark where he was to receive a major literary prize. The
Danish government informed Rushdie of its decision in what the London Times
today describes as a "curt, anonymous note." Minister of Justice Bjorn Westh
last night confirmed the ban, and cited alleged security problems, including
the fact that Danish police were "over stretched" due to a recent and
unexpected wave of violence involving motorcycle clubs. (There has been
escalating violence in Denmark between native biker gangs and a chapter being
organized by the American-based Hell's Angels.)
The decision is a letdown for Rushdie and his many supporters who have
called upon Iran's clerical government to rescind the "fatwa" or death
sentence imposed by Khomeni seven years ago. Khomeni's action came following
critical acclaim for Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses." Iranian mullahs
denounced the work as blasphemous, and objected to portions which ostensibly
depicted the wives of Mohammed as prostitutes. Rushdie's work had already
been favorably received throughout much of the Arab world and the Indian
subcontinent; following the "fatwa," however, militant muslims began
organizing demonstrations and riots. In the United States and much of
Western Europe, a debate ensued between civil libertarians who defended
Rushdie, and Islamists and other religious groups who insisted that the novel
should be banned because it "insulted belief."
Rushdie was forced into hiding, but has increasingly made suprise,
last-minute public appearances. He was featured on the Jay Leno Show, and
attended a surprise book signing in London.
Since publication of "The Satanic Verses," Rushdie has also become
increasingly critical of religion and identified himself as an Atheist. He
continues to write; his novel "The Moor's Last Sigh" won critical acclaim,
and he has been named winner of the Aristeion Prize for European Literature.
Last night, Rushdie criticized the cowardice of the Dannish government,
adding that the decision to not permit him entry into the country was made a
fortnight before he was to accept the new award. "It was rather mysterious,"
noted Rushdie, "a typed text with no letter-heading. They had not even shown
the courtesy of signing it."
The Ministry statement expressed the hope that "there will be arranged
another suitable kind of presentation"; but Rushdie told The Times, "To hell
with that! If I'm being treated in this way, I will refuse the award. I'm
not receiving it in the backroom of a pub."
Rushdie's Case Today
Salman Rushdie is still under a sentence of death from the Iranian
government, although there have been mixed-signals from Tehran over who
exactly is supposed to murder the novelist. In February, Iranian foreign
minister Ali Akbar Velayati told reporters that the government would not lift
the "fatwa," but on the other hand "won't do anything to enforce the policy,
either (CNN)." The European Union has called upon Iran to suspend the death
penalty as a necessary condition toward normalizing relations.
The Rushdie Defense Committee USA remains active, and includes such
notable organizations as the American Booksellers Association, American
Library Association, Feminists for Free Expression, Lawyers Committee for
Human Rights and the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Religious groups across the political spectrum, though, continue to
exhibit an attitude of either snotty condemnation of Rushdie's work, or a
chilling silence on the entire issue. The newfangled "ecumenism" of certain
Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church seems to be a "big tent" for
religious belief, but lacks room for those who might dare criticize religion.
Muslim groups generally remain either supportive of the "fatwa," or prefer
not to defend Rushdie.
The clamor by religious organizations that the U.S. Government take a more
active role in defending "human rights" for religious dissidents does not
address the Rushdie case at all; indeed, Christian fundamentalist groups
active in trying to proselytize within the so-called "10-40 window" (a
reference to the geographical zone which happens to encompass much of the
Islamic world) criticize Muslim governments in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and
elsewhere, but only in the context of those state's oppression of religious
dissidents. No non-religious need apply for civil liberties, or support.
HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS CALL IN RALPH REED FOR CC ''SEAL OF APPROVAL''
"Spirituality'' May Signal New Courtship Between Churches,
Before he announced that Jack Kemp was to be his VP running mate, Senator
Bob Dole sat down with Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed to get the
group's approval for his decision.
And now, a powerful Hollywood studio bankrolled by major producers who
have been on the "outs' with the religious right, have called in Reed to
"consult" on a movie titled "The Prince of Egypt," an animated work dealing
with the story of Moses.
That's power as well.
This move underscores a dramatic change which some say is taking place in
parts of Hollywood as studios shift to making movies which emphasize
conventional religious or "spiritual" themes.
Contrary to what many Christian fundamentalist and evangelical "culture
warriors" have maintained, Hollywood never really "hated" religion. Studios
have always ground out a cornucopia of offerings of varying quality with
religious motifs. Titles easily come to mind... "It's A Wonderful Life,"
"Angels In The Outfield," "Oh God!," "The Bells of Saint Mary's," and others.
Some were sappy, others attempted to cash-in on humorous and contemporary
themes. A few were cinematic classics (even for those of us who disagreed
with the content); Charlton Heston's role in DeMille's "Ten Commandments" was
an epic performance.
The trend continues: USA TODAY notes in its weekend edition that Hollywood
is now again "immersed in a spiritual rebirth," grinding out features that
"spin themes of faith and hope." Reporter Ann Oldenburg adds that "new films
are reaching more blatantly than ever into religious imagery to harvest
heavenly heroes." Look for movies trying to catch the latest pop-culture
wave of angel interest; TV features "Touched By An Angel," a 90's adaptation
of Michael Landon's old role in "Heaven Can Wait" as a chummy guaridan from
above, and reportedly some Hollywood heavyweights like John Travolta and even
Denzel Washington will be playing angel roles as well. Travolta's character
reportedly likes to drink beer.
The bombshell in today's story about Hollywood's latest fling with
religious themes, though, is buried on page 2; Daniels reveals that Christian
Coalition Director Ralph Reed is "very encouraged" by the new wave of
spirituality and "has been called to Dream-Works SKG, the powerhouse studio
run by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, to consult on
its first big movie."
Heady stuff, especially for Ralph Reed. Spielberg and Geffen have both
been at the business end of the fundamentalist disciplinary paddle, of
course, and are identified with Hollywood's major Democratic Party coterie.
Even so, it may be the bottom line which drives these tinseltown moguls to
call in Mr. Read for his imprimatur on their new film. And Daniels adds that
"In some subtle advance marketing, studio executive are already consulting
with religious thinkers and leaders to make sure the finished product doesn't
USA TODAY reveals that "Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and
Television Commission, regularly meets with studio heads to talk about the
messages in movies, and has met with Dream-Works, too."
Disney Studios is also apparently trying to rehabilitate its tarnished
image with some religious groups who see the giant entertainment conglomerate
as a purveyor of homosexual, new age or anti-Christian themes. Disney has
dragged out the 1947 film "The Bishop's Wife" which featured Cary Grant, and
cast Courtney Grant in the role of an angel who comes to Earth to assist a
Hollywood's overtures to certain religious right figures probably won't do
much to blunt the inevitable boycotts or calls for censorship when the
studios roll out less sanguine, more controversial works like "The Last
Temptation of Christ." And hard-nosed studio execs don't necessarily embrace
the products they sell; the bottom line remains a constant quest for box
office revenue, especially with the ever-upward climb of production costs and
actor's salaries. Horror, sex and gratuitous violence will remain the staple
offering of many Hollywood vendors; but as mirror to our pop cultural
superficialities and spur-of-the moment cravings and tastes, the big screen
never lies. For now, everything from angels to the old testament is back in
style -- even if means letting Ralph Reed into the cutting room.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Add this to your "strange bedfellows" file.
We've been telling readers about the peculiar alliance of liberal and
conservative religious groups around common "culture war" themes, everything
from legalized gambling to tobacco and liquor advertising. And we have noted
that part of the Christian Coalition's post-election strategy will be an
effort to capitalize on building anti-gambling sentiment throughout the
country, and striking up some ad-hoc coalitions with its more liberal
brethren in the National Council of Churches. Like we've said, scratch just
about any religionist deep enough, and you'll find someone who believes that
ultimately folks need to be protected from themselves, and their own wicked,
"original sin"-infested souls.
So, don't flinch when you read it directly from CC Director Ralph Reed.
He told USA TODAY that "Our main allies in the struggle against legalized
gambling, interestingly enough, are not conservative Republicans but liberal
Democrats because gambling is, first a regressive tax that falls hardest on
those least able to pay."
And ever the pessimist and hyperbole, Reed adds that gambling is "causing
families to break up, it's causing families to go into deep debt, and it
causes suicides, divorces and family breakup."
Eyes right and left for another post-election outburst of religious
righteousness and government control. Since we're talking odds, our money
says that the Coalition and other religious groups will jump even deeper into
the fray over booze and beer advertisements on television. Many black
churches have organized boycotts and even campaigns of vandalism against
billboards which promote liquor and cigarettes, especially when it believed
that products are "ethnically targetted." White liberals often love to join
the fight as well. Over the past several years, inner city black churches
painted over billboards promoting malt liquor such as "PowerMaster," but
nobody said anything about the broadsides which featured some white, eminence
grise sipping a Chevas Regal. Ah, the old double standard!
Anyway, expect a flap over TV liquor advertising especially now that the
Seagram Company is trying to exercise its constitutional right to advertise
products. We anticipate that the two Reeds -- that Ralph Reed of the
Christian Coalition and Reed Hundt of the FCC -- will both hop on their
respective bully pulpits and tell the general public how it ought to live.
Hundt suggests that kids might see liquor ads and, presumably, rush right
down to the corner store for a bottle of hooch. Of course young people are
involved in all sorts of behaviors which AREN'T advertised on the tube. But
as with gambling, expect to see a "linkage" of "family values" issues which
will be debated in churches and legislatures next year.
Speaking of "family values" -- or is it "One Nation Under God"? -- well,
hardly a day passes when we don't see some new outrage being committed by
those "people of faith" who have taken over Afghanistan, the Taliban
religious militia. Here's the latest skinny on what's happening...
* In a see-saw battle, a Taliban offensive stalled yesterday as heavy
fighting erupted along a front north of the capital of Kabul. Forces of the
former government military commander, General Massood linked up with those of
Uzbek warlord Abduhl Dostrum, and launched attacks on Taliban positions along
roads leading into the city. BBC reports that Taliban will probably be
launching a counter-offensive today.
* In the "conquered territories," Taliban continues its relentless assault
on human rights.
Britain's Electronic Telegraph carries a story in today's edition of two
"adulterers" paraded before a crowd of onlookers, tied and placed in a pit
filled to their waists with debris, and literally stoned to death.
"I threw a stone, and I would do it again," one Taliban goon announced.
"I was happy to see Islamic rule enforced. I do not feel sorry for them."
Apparently, the Taliban religious police are hunting down those involved
in midnight assignations with the same zeal they seek rebels and dissidents.
Most remarkable was this paragraph from the story:
" 'This type of intercourse (adultery) is not good in Islam. I would
throw the stone at one of my own family,' said Mohammed Kharim, a dull-faced
24-year old in the uniform black turban and baggy clothes. 'Our Prophet
Mohammed, peace be upon him, said if his daughter stole money he would cut
off her hand'."
* No sooner had Taliban seized power than they began issuing a flurry of
religious edicts based upon the most reactionary and idiotic portions of the
Koran. One was a mandate that all men must begin growing beard. "Anyone
caught clean-shaven (is) locked in a bare, unlit freight container for up to
10 days, until their beard grows," notes the Telegraph. And what about
thieves? Those convicted of that crime are made to squat, blindfolded, while
a surgeon administers a local anaesthetic. The hand is then amputated below
the wrist bone."
Despite a geopolitical offensive across the world, the Vatican it appears
is running out of priests. The problem seems most acute in Europe, where
church attendance in just about religious denomination is considerably lower
than in the U.S., Latin America and elsewhere. It's so bad, in fact, that
the Pope is calling a major congress to deal with the problem early next
Last week, church authorities released a document which admits that there
are 13 percent fewer Roman Catholic priests than in 1978. The Netherlands
experienced a 34% drop in clerical ranks, followed by Belgium (down 31%),
France (27%), Britain (21%) and even the home turf, Italy, where the number
of priests declined by 11%.
And get this -- ever wonder how the church keeps track of how many people
it counts as followers? Along with notoriously unreliable tools such as
census records or direct surveys, one method has been to use the number of
baptisms; by that criteria, any number of Atheists would still be counted as
practicing, church-going Roman Catholics had they been baptised into the
religion as children. But thanks to this latest report, we learn that the
church has used another numerical method, namelyl counting the numbers of
candidates for the priesthood. This would suggest a remarkable decline not
only in the number of priests, but in the size of the "flock" as well.
Is one criteria for achieving sainthood that of having a serious
behavioral disorder? Last month, a convention of Italian medical specialists
in the disorder of anorexia heard revealing presentations which suggested
just that fact. Indeed, St. Catherine of Siena and many other female saints
of the Middle Ages period suffered from anorexia and other psychological
problems. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals now suspect
that anorexia is one of the revelatory signs accounting for the "saint's"
fatal attraction to mysticism, and the neurotic venting of repressed
Catherine died at age 33. When she was just 15, she began to refuse food
"in order to correct the vice of gluttony," and because god supposedly willed
it. Dr. Mario Reda of the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of
Siena, though, told the medical assembly that what Catherine was actually
doing was rejecting her overbearing mother, and the outside world.
The Electronic Telegraph reports that "She (Catherine) gave herself to God
and gave up food, thus refusing contact with the world, while also
compensating for failing to find her own identity, and for the deaths in the
The medical conference, held in Rome, gives us additional evidence that
mystical states (wherein one believes he or she is in communion with "god,"
"nature," or having a "transcendental" experience) are ultimately based upon
physiological processes in the body and the brain. For some, the path to
spirituality is found in consuming mind-altering substances; apparently for
certain saints of the medieval period, the road to god was one of fatal
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