A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nn nn AANEWS nn #197 u 11/11/96 (Nightowl Edition) http://

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #197 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/11/96 (Nightowl Edition) http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org ftp.atheists.org In This Issue... * Atheists Wants Church Investigated For Election Violation * Iran Continues To Violate Human Rights * TheistWatch: "Possessed" Towns, Blue Beams, Millennial Madness * Reach Our Goal -- 10,000 Subscribers * AACHAT * About This List... ATHEIST PROTESTS RELIGIOUS ''SIN VOTE'' THREAT In last Tuesday's election, considerable media attention focused on the activities of the Christian Coalition and its distribution of over 45 million "voters guides" rating candidates for federal and state offices. But the Coalition wasn't the only religious group urging churches (at the risk of violating their tax exempt status) of voting for or against specific candidates. In Louisiana, Roman Catholic authorities tried to bully church members into voting against Mary Landrieu, a pro-choice candidate for Senate who managed to win her hotly-contested race. American Atheists member Kevin Courcey of Eugene, Oregon has sent the following letter to the Federal Elections Commission protesting this violation... * Federal Elections Commission 999 E. St., NW Washington, DC 20463 To whom it may concern, I have just become aware of a situation in Louisiana that should warrant your attention. Three days ago, Phillip Hannan, the former Catholic Archbishop of New Orleans, called a TV news conference where he told Catholics that it would be a "sin" to vote for Bill Clinton and for Mary Landrieu (a pro-choice candidate for the U.S. Senate). When asked by the reporters, he said that he was speaking for himself and for the present Archbishop and for all the eight bishops in Louisiana; he said that they had all talked about it and agreed that he would make the announcement because of his "ease on television." I am requesting a full investigation of this incident as a violation of the tax laws which govern religious institutions. This is blatant partisan political action by a tax-exempt church. This church's tax-exempt status in Louisiana should be revoked for 4 years, or at least until after the next national election. Churches and religious personalities have every right to make political endorsements if they wish to give up their tax exempt status. But they can't have it both ways. Our constitution and tax laws are set up to avoid such an "entanglement." Please investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute the Catholic church of Louisiana for this violation as soon as possible in order to avoid a wave of similar violations in future elections. Thank you for your attention to this important issue. Kevin Courcey ** HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN ~~ FROM BAD TO WORSE, SAYS UN REP The human rights situation in theocratic Iran "may well have deteriorated" in the last year, according to the author of a report circulated on behalf of the US Commission on Human Rights. Author Maurice Copithorne noted: "As will be seen...the information reaching the special representative suggests that the condition of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran may well have deteriorated since his report earlier this year..." While Copithorne noted "some positive signs," he balanced that development with indications that "the punishment regime in Iran would seem to have been significantly toughened." Among the signs of deteriorating conditions are: * A rise in the known number of executions to 66 people. (This figure does not include "wet work" carried out by the Iranian intelligence service either in Iran or abroad, specifically directed against dissidents and critics of the regime.) * "A number of indications that the social climate in the Islamic Republic is becoming less tolerant." In this category, the report noted censorship of newsmedia, orchestrated attacks on movie by quasi-government fundamentalist groups protesting films thought "contrary to Islamic and religious values," disruption of opposition meetings and "forcible interventions to break up private social functions which on occasion resulted in death." In Tehran, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati denounced the report and lamented that "Unfortunately, human rights has become a tool of the world powers in international bodies." The mullah added that "There are a lot of countries which do not believe in the principles of democracy and human rights, but there is no talk of them because of their close ties with the West." Velayati dismissed Copithorne's report calling it "baseless and affected by ulterior political motives." He did not deny specific allegations, though, including those dealing with hooligan activities of religious fundamentalist groups, apparently with official approval. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Are some flavors of christianity really that different from ancient cults which saw the world as "enchanted," inhabited by spirits and a battleground in some cosmic soap opera between the forces of "good" and "evil"? Not really. In the novels of "Christian thriller" writer Frank Peretti, for instance, demons move in on whole towns to take possession of citizens, work their diabolical deeds through new age dupes and witches, and end up getting their metaphysical butts kicked by angels and "prayer warriors." You probably won't find Peretti's works in the mall bookstores, but you will encounter the genre of "Christian thrillers" in the growing number of religious shops selling everything from books to theologically-correct music. Indeed, a shocking number of otherwise-normal, twentieth century folks really and truly believe that demons are responsible for the sorts of things most social scientists blame on unemployment, poverty, lack of education and other material factors. In increasing numbers, some churches are holding "prayer warrior" raids on communities, or gatherings which they insist are meant to literally drive the devil out of town faster than you can say "James Arness." One such religious Marshall Dillon is the Rev. Tom Bowers of California who heads an outfit called Prayer Partners International, and insist that god has given him a list of cities throughout the southwest that are, essentially, taken over by devils. Pastor Tom recently brought his "Prayer Crusade" to Riverside, California, where his lunacy even received the support of a local City Council representative. She used an official council meeting last month to urge the public to hunker down to Pastor Tom's revival show, adding "There are forces in this community that are not angelic. In fact, some of them are in this room and all around us, and so we need to pray against those and pray for the goodness that God wants to do in this community." One wonders whether to laugh, cry, or call for a doctor -- and a First Amendment attorney. The council representative, identified in the Riverside Press Enterprise as Cynthia Crothers, had no business using a public forum to boost any kind of religious event, including a ridiculous "prayer warrior" rally that even a respectable Pope or Episcopalian Vicar wouldn't be seen at. Worse yet is the medievalist notion of spreading fear and suspicion about "forces in the community that are not angelic," and who happen to participate in such mundane affairs as city council proceedings. Councilwoman Crothers insisted "I'm not going to take a chance at burning in hell for pointing a finger at somebody," which is a convenient way of saying "I'm avoiding a lawsuit (and maybe a one-way ticket to the nearest psychiatric facility)." We may snicker a bit at the stereotypical image of some Puritan zealot during the witch hysteria blaming everything from storms and illness to the antics of unwholesome spirits and demons. We've moved beyond that, you say? Unfortunately, some twentieth century proselytizers are back in that rut, explaining any kind of social disfunction on demonic possession, and calling for a crusade by "prayer warriors." ** Several editions of AANEWS have mentioned cases where the religious became excited, outraged and, well, constipated over the issue of swimsuits. You would think, of course, that with somewhat larger concerns like perhaps abortion, or school vouchers, or the attempts by some anti-christ chap to establish an anti-religious world government would motivate the "people of faith" to direct their energies elsewhere... but, no, that thong bikini must go, and government must protect one and all from the sight of naked, tempting flesh. No, we're not talking about the beaches of Florida, where just a few years ago religious groups DID get excited -- and outraged -- over thong bikinis. We're talking about India, the Miss World contest (scheduled for later this month), and swimsuits. Seems that a hoard (or is it a swarm?) of Hindu religious nationalist descended on the home of a public official to protest the Miss World contest. Reportedly, a group of women is threatening to set themselves on fire if the contest takes place, and other Hindu groups are vowing everything from arson to riots to stop the event. In fact, the event has become so controversial -- and for the wrong reasons -- that pageant organizers have decided to move the swimsuit event to the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean. That should put enough distance between all those outraged Hindus, and all that exposed flesh, no? ** Yet another poll has confirmed that the Christian Coalition is wrong in saying that conservative fundamentalists and evangelicals played the role of being a "firewall" which prevented a "meltdown" in last week's election. It just ain't so, Ralph. But there were some subtle differences on how candidates Clinton and Dole fared with voters of varying religious backgrounds. According to an analysis by New York Times religious writer Gustav Niebuhr, Republican Bob Dole did best with those identified as Protestants, getting 50% of those votes compared to 41% who supported Mr. Clinton. The remaining 9%, though, didn't follow the call of the Christian Coaltion -- most threw their vote behind Ross Perot, or divided up among smaller third-party groups. And Catholics went for Clinton, despite efforts by the religious right to link the president to the issue of so-called "partial birth abortion." Indeed, Mr. Clinton's decision last April to veto the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" might have hurt his standing with Roman Catholic leadership (it earned him an unusual letter of official rebuke from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops), but the president still managed to get 53%, compared with only 35% for Dole. According to political analyst John Green, Catholics reacted negatively to calls by Republicans to cut social welfare program. And what about Atheists? So far, we haven't found any studies which indicate who the "people of no faith" supported. The Times notes, however, that Clinton did well in areas with high religious diversity, large concentrations of Jewish and Catholic voters, and places where there are "significant minorities of people who claim no religious affiliation at all." Niebuhr says those areas include California, Nevada and Washington state. ** Well, are they "saved" or not? Nobody seems to know for sure, at least in Britain where authorities of the Church of England remain deeply divided over a "gay mass" scheduled for this Saturday, when more than 2,000 people are expected for the 20th anniversary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in Southward Cathedral. Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury pleaded that the decision to hold the celebration did not involve him or other church honchos, and did not represent a shift in the Anglican religion's condemnation of homosexuality. Indeed, the church stands by its 1987 decision that "homosexual genital acts are to be met with a call to repentance." Even so, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has spent two decades wasting time trying to ordain gay ministers and have monogamous homosexual relationships accorded the same status as heterosexual marriages. Church hard liners are charging that the cathedral event is a "day-long festival of gay sex." But a spokesman for the local cathedral denied that claim, insisting that the service would feature instead "themes of thanksgiving, intercession and pentinence." Care to argue which is worse? ** Speaking of the Church of England, put this one in the "right conclusion -- bad reasoning" file. According to the London Times, Anglican officials worry that the country is being plagued with an outbreak of crank, new age beliefs which could have widespread and deleterious social consequences. A report titled "The Search for Faith and the Witness of the Church" examines five areas of "Post-Modern Life" and finds that all are characterized by "drifting belief." And part of the drift is away from Christian orthodoxy. "It is becoming more eclectic," says the report in reference to British culture. "The more people move away from belonging to institutions, the less do they have something to anchor their faith. People pick up all kinds of things. This drifting of belief is causing fragmentation, and is itself fragmentation.; We can see this personal and social fragmentation all around us." Alas, there are totalitarian overtones in the "Search for Faith" document, especially when it bemoans the "maze of choices" and asks "What of people who hear the Gospel but cannot or will not believe it?" ** As we've reminded AANEWS in many past issues, expect more lunacy and religious babbling -- much of it with dire, apocalyptic overtones -- as we approach the year 2000. For a surprisingly wide assortment of folks, ranging from fundamentalist christians to new age devotees, 2000 (or thereabouts) -- the transitition to another millennium -- can be everything from the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the end of the world, the the landing of benevolent aliens or the emergence of some newfangled human super-consciousness. It all depends on whose apocalpyse drum beating you happen to be listening to. One excellent source in tracking millennialist angst, craziness and hysteria is the "Millennial Prophecy Report" published by Ted Daniels at the Millennium Watch Institute. MPR manages to cover most of the cultural terrain and waterfront in its quarterly issues; and one story titled "The New Age Carnival" caught your editor's eye in the October issue. Seems that a member of something called the Southern Kentucky Citizens Militia is warning the public of the dangers lurking in amusement carnivals and theme parks which are "hothouses of New Age belief and practice." One park supposedly boasts an attraction called "Chaos Chemicals Quarantine...straight from the Bible." Rather than try and paraphrase, we'll just quote from the latest Millennial Prophecy Report... "While people wait in line 'a futuristic, soothing, hypnotic, monotone female voice...endlessly proclaims' what they will find inside. As 'the voice of Chaos,' it assures attendees that they have been 'sanctioned' to 'check-in for purification' with a bar code passport. They will be inventoried and quarantined, once they step into line to enter the New World Order. It urges reluctant witnesses to 'abort not' and ends its spiel with a mantra: 'Lock; six, double six, nin, nine.' Cerebral scanning begins, always provided postulants are purified from all contamination." If that not far-out enough, there's a gal who insists that the Vatican is threatening her life because she has exposed something called "Project Blue Beam," "which will also life 'a whole bunch of people...into never-never land' in a false rapture." Yeah. Right. Millennial Propecy Report is worth either a sub or certainly a check-out at the MPR website. Visit http://www.channel1.com/mpr. And watch out for Project Blue Beam. ** HELP US REACH OUR GOAL... We have another seven weeks left to reach our goal of 10,000 AANEWS subscribers. Along with postings on the internet and in the American Atheist Newsletter, many people "discover" us when friends forward a copy to them. All it takes is the push of a button; just hit forward, and send AANEWS to someone who might be interested. ** INTERESTED IN MEETING OTHER ATHEISTS? OR HELPING OUT? One good way to interact with other Atheists is to join American Atheists and participate in our on-line, moderated discussion forum, aachat. This newsgroup is open to members of American Atheists, and discusses topics ranging from Atheism and the First Amendment to history, AA activities, civil liberties issues and much more. If you would like to participate, contact our moderator, Margie Wait at aachat@atheists.org. AMERICAN ATHEISTS also operates a FaxNet to help distribute press releases and other information to the media. If you are an AA member with a fax machine and would like to participate, contact Margie Wait at mdwait@atheists.org for information. ** 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 postal address. 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 *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank