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A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #196 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/11/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org ftp: ftp.atheists.org/pub/ In This Issue... * Who's God Throws The Best Punch? * Our New ftp Site... * About This List... HOLYFIELD-TYSON ~~ CUT AND JAB, OR THE SECOND COMING? No doubt about it, there was a helluva' fight last night in Las Vegas. The oddsmeisters put a 25-1 underdog tag on Evander Holyfield, saying that he couldn't out punch a beefed-up Mike Tyson, who in the minds and sports columns of some has come to symbolize just about everything wrong with "the sweet science." Those odds cuiously dropped to 6-1 when Holyfield and Tyson stepped into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The smart money was on the champ, and 47 of 48 sports writers polled by the Las Vegas Review-Journal predicted a Tyson cake walk. It didn't happen. And 11 brutal rounds later, Holyfield was describing his decision-verdict over "the Baddest Man on the Planet" as the will of god, and the sports reporters were acting like it was the second coming of Christ. This was a bout that on so many levels was repleat with religious themes. There's Tyson, a "jailhouse Muslim" whose rape conviction led to a stint in the slammer, and who was variously described after last night's less-than-credible jabbing performance as everything from a "beast" to a "shark" who likes to hang out in flashy hotel rooms and "lap-dancing" joints in Manhattan. And there's Evander, a born-again Christian who has huddled with televangelist Pat Robertson in his dressing room before bouts, and who sported a "Jesus is Lord" baseball cap and gown inscribed with "Phil iv, 13", a reference to the bible passage which reads: "I can do all things through Jesus, which strengthens me." It was good versus evil, the "great religious hope" against some cash cow for a much-disliked Don King. Had Tyson landed one of his lethal deliveries instead of sustaining 21 unanswered blows by Holyfield, well, there would a different spin on today's sport headlines, and a lot less gushing by Pat Robertson and crew on the Monday morning "700 Club." The truth is that Jesus wasn't in the ring, and that Evander Holyfield employed a simply and systematic strategy in dismantling any threat the 222 lb. reigning champ had to offer. He delivered a medley of punches that Tyson just couldn't answer, and floored the champ for only the second time in Tyson's 47-fight career. In the sixth round, Holyfield dumped Iron Mike onto the canvas, and opened a cut over the left eye. By the top of the ninth, Tyson was wobbly and on the ropes. And in the 11th, referee Mitch Halpern had to salvage Tyson and call the fight for Evander Holyfield. The fact that Holyfield is an exuberant religious proselytizer who invokes God and Jesus with every jab seems to have captivated the sports-writing establishment, and bathed last night's slugfest with a near-metaphysical cache. He was "guided by an unwavering inner spirit," mused USA TODAY, and Holyfield himself wasn't shy on recounting how "I prayed during training. I prayed when I got into the ring. I prayed when I was fighting him..." Columnist Bryan Burwell gushed that "Holyfield's excellent night rescues boxing," as if Evander and his spirit-world corner men had managed to vanquish the infidels and retake Jerusalem for the pope. Would he, or any of the other sports columnist, have been so generous if Tyson had won? Or if Tyson had been upset by some other Buster Douglas stand-in? We doubt it. Another Religious Symbol? Evander is already a bit of a poster-boy for religious causes, having flirted with Pat Robertson, religious performance-artist and faith healer Benny Hinn, and even signed on to the Advisory Committee of the "National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools." Mr. Hinn has been the recipient of considerable Holyfield largesse , and no doubt last night's winner's purse of at least $45 million could go a long way in compensating Holyfield, and spreading the true word. His involvement with faith healer Hinn is even more bizarre than last night's clobbering of Mike Tyson. Operating out of Orlando, Florida, Hinn has managed to become one of the most successful -- and controversial -- televangelists and religious crusaders peddling spiritual goods in the belief market place. His daily television program "This Is Your Day" is pumped into millions of households on 90 cable outlets, and reaches overseas to Russia, Norway, Iceland, Italy, South Africa, and down to Latin America. His World Outreach Center boasts a home-congregation membership of over 10,000 people. Hinn has attracted media attention, and even the concern of mainstream religious groups for his claims of faith healing, his statement that he is a channel for god, and his involvement with Evander Holyfield. For years, Hinn claimed that he believed in "revelation knowledge," whereby truths were revealed directly to him by god. He has also massaged new age and even gnostic-manichean teachings into his ministry, maintaining that there are nine spirits or manifestations of the deity, namely three bodies, souls and spirits for each member of the Trinity. Skeptics and even many religious groups are wary of Hinn's fabulous claims as a faith healer, which explains the involvement between Hinn and boxer Evander Holyfield. Following a diagnosis several years ago for a non-life threatening heart condition which threatened to sideline his career, Holyfield attended one of Hinn's faith healing marathons. Reportedly, Holyfield ended up on the stage where he remained paralyzed for over an hour as he "allowed the spirit" to enter him. He credit that miraculous event with the beginning of a successful medical recovery, and reportedly presented Hinn with $250,000 Punching Out Public Schools ? Evander Holyfield is an Advisory Board member of a group known as the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. This organization is another one of those disingenuous schemes of sneaking religious exercise back into the public education system, all under the guise of "informing students of the importance of religion in world and national history," albeit without supposedly "imposing the doctrines of any particular religious sect." The Council wants the Bible taught as an "important literary form," which would give students "insight into the world views of America's founding fathers" and the "Biblical influences on their views on human rights." The new champ who doubtless will be using his position in the ring to broadcast the benefits of religious faith, has some interesting company within this group, including some of the nation's most authoritarian religious ideologists and anti-gay activists. There's Christian Reconstructionist Howard Phillips (US Taxpayers Party), and Ted Baehr of the Christian Film and Television Commission. Evander might want to take a look in the mirror, then recall how Baehr and his "Good News Communications" were grinding out phoney propaganda videos on behalf of the old apartheid regime in South Africa which included questionable footage supplied by that government's secret service. Other participants in the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools include: * D. James Kennedy ~ "700 Club" and Trinity Broadcasting Co. regular, head of Coral Ridge Ministries, and one of the original inncer-circle behind Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" group. Kennedy is also linked to cult leader Rev. Moon (Unification Church) through the "Coalition for Religious Freedom." * Russ Walton ~ Walton's involvement in religious-political activism goes back to the 1970's when he participated in the so-called "Third Century" movement, and authored an electioneering manual titled "One Nation Under God." Walton now is active in Howard Phillip's US Taxpayers Party, and founded the Plymouth Rock Foundation and the offshoot group known as Christian Committee of Correspondence. The latter group is composed of those "who desire to rebuild the biblical foundations of this nation...They join together to learn the true Christian history of the United States, to study scriptural principles of government, economics and education, and to apply those principles to both their personal lives and public affairs." While Mr. Walton has flirted with the Christian Reconstructionist idea of imposing the death penalty for homosexuals, insisting that "Sodomy gnaws at the vitals and rots the soul of the nation that permits it to go unchallenged" ("Biblical Principles Concerning Issues of Importance to Christians," by Rus Walton), homosexuality is actually a personal issue in the Walton family. His daughter, Pam, is a lesbian filmmaker who has produced gay documentaries; she has been estranged from her father since 1981. * John Munday ~ Dean with Pat Robertson's Regent University. * Two other members of the National Council on Bible Curriculum have links to the anti-gay movement, and were involved in the secret "Glen Eyrie Conference" held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hosted by the "Colorado For Family Values" group, the two-day event was even described by the Moonie-funded Washington Times as "two days of top secret meetings," designed to lay out a nationwide, religious anti-gay agenda. Participants included the Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for American, American Family Association and the Christian Coalition. REV. RAYMOND KWONG of the California-based Chinese Family Alliance was a Glen Eyrie strategist, and serves on the NCBCPS Advisory Committee; he also appears in the anti-gay video "The Gay Agenda." The Chinese Family Alliance is one of a nexus of California groups working on behalf of "family values," and was involved in a flap over high school materials in San Francisco which dealt with the problem of female genital mutilation. The book, "Warrior Masks," was called "disturbing, hdeous, nasty, gross, horrifying, insulting and totally inappropriate for teenagers" by the group. Another National Council on Bible Curriculum member with strong ties to religious right, anti-gay groups is Colonel RONALD D. RAY, a military historian and participant in the Glen Eyrie conclave. Ray is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense who authored the controversial "Military Necessity and Homosexuality," which argued for keeping homosexuals out of the military. Sports Heroes As Religious Icons The mythic linkage of athletic success, 'clean living" and religious belief is deeply rooted in contemporary consciousness. There are a number of religious evangelical groups which focus on recruiting "Christian athletes" ; and the Promise Keepers movement with its emphasis on athletic metaphors and venues has attracted nearly a million male participants for its "Rallies." American evangelist Billy Sunday was widely praised as an example of "Christian manhood" for his religious belief and wholesome lifestyle while playing professional baseball, prior to embarking on a full-time career on the stump for Jesus (see: "Preacher ~ Billy Sunday & Big Time American Evangelism," by Roger Bruns.) The award-winning hit film "Chariots of Fire" focused on the athletic prowess of missionary Eric Liddel, and his refusal to compete on the sabbath day during the Olympic games because of his religious beliefs. Religious television and radio programming and publications abound with the "testimony" of athletes who credit prayer, god and religious belief for their physical achievements. As for Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, last night's bout would have been seen as a vindication of religious belief regardless of the outcome. Holyfield had insisted "You can pray to some gods and some gods don't hear prayers, but there's a god out there that do (sic) hear prayers..." His reference to "some gods" could well have been Mr. Tyson's Islamic deity; indeed, a Tyson victory (last night or in the rematch) could be dredged up as proof that the Muslim deity is more efficacious, if not in reforming human conduct, then certainly in giving one an athletic or mental edge. The celebration of Mr. Holyfield's near-moral victory in the ring fits aptly with the new religious wave of "muscular Christianity," a rejection of problematic feminism or lurking, repressed homosexual cravings, and certainly the attitude espoused by Promise Keepers and other religious-right movements that men must re-assert their divinely-inspired roles as "head of household" and "clean living," strong leaders of society. Tyson, the "beast" and afficianado of morally decadent table dancing was exposed as what one leading sports columnist, Bill Lyon, described as a "bully," although one is left wondering how that label adequately describes a man with a 45-2 career record. Mr. Holyfield certainly deserves credit for rigorous training and a devastating performance against Mike Tyson inside the ropes last evening. . But his credulous religious beliefs and associations with more sophsticated and menacing representatives of the American religious fundamentalist cause should be warning flags to anyone who seeks to elevate him to the status of a hero. ** AMERICAN ATHEISTS LAUNCHES NEW FTP SITE The American Atheists ftp site is not up and running at ftp.atheists.org/pub/. Eventually, there will be a complete directory of back issues of AANEWS. There is already a long list of materials available for downloading, including a history of the organization, copies of press releases and articles which have appeared in our publications. Our thanks to Don Rivers, Wayne Aiken and Ed Gauci for their continued work on the ftp site. We'll keep readers informed as new materials are made available. ** 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. 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