A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#197 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/11/96 (Nightowl Edition)
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
* 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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.
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