Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 14:16:47 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for December 11, 1996

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Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 14:16:47 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for December 11, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS subject: AANEWS for December 11, 1996 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #214 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 12/11/96 http://www.atheists.org ftp.atheists.org/pub/ e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * Will The Money Last Until Doomsday? * Church And State In Utah * Contacts: And There's Still Time To Order! * TheistWatch: Godzilla Vs. Aliens! * About This List... CHRISTIAN COALITION: RECORD EARNINGS, BUT DOOMSDAY COMING ? The Politically-Savvy Group Still Succumbs To The Lure Of Millennialist Madness The Christian Coalition released its revenue figures yesterday for the 1996 fiscal year which showed a record level of contributions and sales. Donations increased a whopping 33% of the 1995 level to a high of $24,924,894. The figure is even higher -- over $26,760,000 in fact -- when contributions toward the "Save the Churches" fund are factored in. That effort was launched by Christian Coalition in the midst of last summer's rash of church fires, which CC representatives said was a "conspiracy against religion." A press release from the Coalition also announced that its network of affiliated churches active in efforts to distribute the controversial political voters guides grew to 126,241 participating congregations. CC Director Ralph Reed gushed exuberantly: "Clearly, these numbers reflect an explosive momentum at the grassroots-level in the pro-family, pro-life movement." Questions still remain about the size of the group, however, which has made claims of having nearly 1.6 million members. Circulation figures from the Coalition's publication, "The Christian American," indicate a primary readership of only about 25% of that. Even so, the growth in the number of participating church group's in the Coalition's precinct-level army of volunteers is significant. Churches have the become the "anchor points" in the Coalition's sophisticated outreach apparatus. Each week, for instance, a televised political workshop and message featuring Ralph Reed is beamed by satellite link to over 6,000 Coalition groups operating out of churches. Precinct Victories ~~ But In Times For Doomsday ? The December issue of Church & State magazine, a journal published by the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, reports that a controversial book about biblical prophecy and the end of the world has received an endorsement from Coalition Director Ralph Reed. Written by a contributing editor to "The Christian American" magazine, John Wheeler Jr., the book is titled "Earth's Two-Minute Warning: Today's Bible-Predicted Signs of the End Times." Among the claims made in this work, as reported by Church & State: * Bible scholars predict that the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches will merge to establish a "false religious system they represent (which) will be revealed as 'The Great Whore'." While denying that all Roman Catholics are "willful followers of the Antichrist," Wheeler reportedly muses that the Vatican "may one day run amok." * Roman Catholic prelates engage in rites of "Satanic pedophilia" and a "Satanic enthronement ceremony in the Vatican." He warns that any successor to the current Pope, John Paul II could be "someone not all all devoted to Christ," and that an "apostate, Satanically empowered successor to John Paul II" could emerge to officiate the rule of the Antichrist. * Mormons, New Agers and other groups are discussed as "cults." Fringe Themes... Many of the ideas presented in the Wheeler book bear striking resemblance to traditional themes found in the literature and teachings of Christian fringe groups, especially militant fundamentalist sects. Books and other materials pumped out by groups like the old Children of God Cult, River of Life, Chick Publications and even the Worldwide Church of God under the leadership of the late Herbert W. Armstrong, all warn of a "one world religion" led the "false prophet," a powerful religious figure in the employ of the Biblical Antichrist. Such developments are usually fitted into an "end-times" template leading up to the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Lure Of The Millennium... The Wheeler book is not available (at least yet) through the Christian Coalition catalogue or web site; but it will join a growing number of tracts, books and videos percolating through Christian bookstores and congregations warning of impending fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and events like Rapture, Armageddon and the return of the Messiah. But the connection between a politically savvy group like the Christian Coalition, and bizarre musings about doomsday and conspiracies involving the devil and the Catholic Church may raise eyebrows. If anything, the Wheeler book underscores the increasing lure of apocalyptic thinking one encounters in religious-right movements, and the seductive attraction many feel for the advent of the coming new millennium. The onset of the year 2000 continues to be attracting and focusing the concerns of a diverse groups -- Christian fundamentalists, new agers, and theo-political apocalyptics. The Robertson Connection: Political Eschatology The politicizing of America's fundamentalists and evangelicals which began in the early 1970's has always involved an uncomfortable element, namely so-called "Armageddon theology." The reference is to Biblical prophecy (especially the scenario in books like Daniel and Revelation) which some insist describes a literal series of events referred to as "end times' or "final days." Religious apocalyptics argue about the exact series and interpretations of such events, especially the sequence of prophetic fulfillment. And like other prophetic utterances, everything from the enigmatic Quatrains of Nostradamus to the verse of Mother Shipton, contemporary events are often molded to the apocalyptic template, albeit with difficulty. For many fundamentalists and evangelicals, events in the Mideast are important warning signs of the fruition of Bible prophecy. With the exception of racialist theopolitical groups like Christian Identity (a major source of religious underpinning for groups like Aryan Nations and the Phineas Priesthood) who see America as the locus of prophetic unfolding, the bulk of America's Christian armageddonists look to events in Israel as "proof of prophecy." Such millennialist thinking even appeared in presidential politics. While campaigning in 1980, Ronald Reagan appeared on Jim Bakker's PTL ("Praise The Lord") program and warned viewers, "We may be the generation that seems Armageddon." Such doomsday sentiments were voiced by Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, who even circulated a pamphlet titled "Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Christ." Later, the notion that America and the world were "being punished" cited the growing AIDS epidemic, homosexuality, bans on school prayer and other developments.` Pat Robertson has emerged as perhaps the most conspicuous drum major for apocalyptic thinking. His popular "700 Club" program skillfully blends fundamentalist religion, prayer, chummy talks with athletes and other luminaries, and oblique hints that "prophecy is being fulfilled" or "we could be living in the final days" with current events. Robertson's recent "Christian Thriller" (The End of an Age) is repleat with millennialist themes. A Problem With Jews, Catholics Reed's seeming endorsement of "Earth's Two-Minute Warning" could hurt efforts by the Christian Coalition to forge closer ties with both conservative Roman Catholics and even a segment of "right-wing" Jews who endorse much of the CC social agenda. Church & State reportedly sees the Reed-Wheeler connection as a stumbling block to any Coalition-Catholic cooperation, and notes that the group Catholic Alliance (formed by Robertson) "was nowhere to be seen in the November elections." Eschatological rants, though, could also sour relations between the Coalition and another segment on the political right -- certain Jewish writers and groups which endorse the basics of the CC political program. Historically, the "old religious right" that was part of isolationist movements prior to World War II (active in groups like "America First Committee") were nationalist and anti-semitic. Many drew inspiration from the leadership of Gerald L.K. Smith, the "Christian mystic" Wesley Swift who mixed fundamentalism with belief in spirits and aliens, and more bizarre characters like William Dudley Pelley and the Soulcraft movement. For such groups, Jews were an enemy, "Christ killers" who organized cabals to control the world. In the late 1960's and 1970's, though, the role of Jews in the Christian eschatological view began to change. Israeli victories in the middle-east against Soviet-backed Arab armies drew praise from religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell. Later, Israeli-interest groups maintained close ties to the American religious right. Jews became "participants" in a wider Christian view of Armageddon, not so much as enemies but as a "chosen people" whose fate was tied to the Second Coming and other prophetic events. Even today, the coalition Likud government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making efforts to forge strong ties to America's fundamentalist politicos. Many Jews, however, may feel uneasy in their role as "kid brothers" to a more belligerent and domineering fundamentalist-evangelical movement. Some Protestant groups believe in their "mission" to accelerate end-times prophecies through wholesale proseltyzing and conversion of Jews to Christianity. Jay Sekulow, head of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is also active in Jews for Jesus. Don Feder, a syndicated nationalist columnist, authored the book "A Jewish Conservative Looks At Pagan America", and maintains that the United States has abandoned biblical principles, "evolving into a type of Canaanite culture (unrestricted hedonism, ritual prostitution, child sacrifice and the civic nature of Sodom) which my ancestors encountered at the dawn of moral history. Feder is a participant in Christian Coalition, and in 1993 told the group's annual convention that politicians who seek gay support "openly court the votes of degenerates." The following year at the CC "Road to Victory Conference," he attacked the "mythical wall" of separation between church and stated. Feder has also managed to recast traditional religious anti-semitic conspiracy theories of history into a more digestable form. Indeed, his publisher, Huntington House, disseminates conspiracy theme works such as "The New World Order: The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies" which warns of a cabal of Freemasons and wealthy capitalists to control the world. The Coalition may encounter problems with Roman Catholics as well if it does not promptly distance itself from the Wheeler book. But even in doing that, American fundamentalist and evangelical movements seem unable to resist the lure of apocalyptic thinking. Ralph Reed may have to balance his political barnstorming agenda with more weighty concerns like the anticipated return of Jesus Christ. ** '' RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION'' IN SCHOOLS CHALLENGED BY UTAH ATHEISTS In Utah, a state long troubled by wholesale violations of state-church separation, a 21-member panel is struggling to craft a proposal balancing civil liberties and the expression of religious belief in public schools in the Davis School District. The group's work is considered "one of the most comprehensive in the state", and declares that "schools may not endorse religious practices or doctrine, nor may they forbid students from expressing their religious beliefs." The policy was crafted by a panel of parents, clergy and school officials, and tries to establish guidelines on everything from religious music to clothing and holidays. But sections of the 24-page draft have drawn criticism from Utah Atheist Chris Allen, director of the local Society of Separationists. Allen recently told the media that "The policy is a definite progress of what the state's policy is by and large," but warned that some activity is not in compliance with the First Amendment. He specifically cited the idea of having a "moment of silence'' during school graduation ceremonies, and objected to the practice of having schools orchestrate choir presentation in local churches -- a common practice in many Mormon areas. "A person really shouldn't in any circumstances require a student to attend church for a grade," Allen told the Utah Standard-Examiner newspaper. "There's a great deal of concern over religious expressions and the expense of separation of church and state," noted the Utah Atheists. "You have to have a balance with the government not pushing it on you (religion), and you have to be careful that the balance doesn't tip." ** SEND A WINTER SOLSTICE GREETING CARD! Hurry, and you still have time to order our popular Winter Solstice greeting cards through American Atheist Press. Our new catalogue has hundreds of other items -- from books and pamphlets to tee-shirts -- which make great gifts at this time of year. Send e-mail to catalogue@atheists.org, and we'll RUSH a catalogue to you. Be sure to include your name and postal mailing address. We do suggest, though, that with less than two weeks remaining in this holiday season, that you fax your order for timely service. You can order some catalogue items on-line at our web site (http://www.atheists.org), or use our ftp site at ftp.atheists.org:/pub/AA_Press_Catalogue/1995cat.txt. AND OTHER ADDRESSES ... Interested in joining the fight for Atheism and First Amendment rights? Consider joining the hundreds of new folks who have joined American Atheists in the last couple of months. For an information packet, send mail to info@atheists.org, and include your name and postal mailing address. * If you're already a member of American Atheists, there are a number of activities you can participate in. +++ The American Atheist Volunteers Network is organizing, and needs the support of those members who would like to "do more" in their community. We're also looking for members in good standing who could serve as State and Regional Directors. If you would like to help out, contact our National Outreach Director, Neal Cary at ncary@atheists.org. +++ Members can also participate in our on-line, moderated discussion group, aachat. This is a great way to meet other members, and keep up to speed on AA activities and developments. Contact our Internet Representative, Margie Wait at mdwait@atheists.org. +++ The Atheist Viewpoint television program is now on dozens of cable systems throughout the country, and we're about halfway to our goal of being on 140 networks by next year. If your cable system has public access, and accepts "imported programing," why not sponsor The Atheist Viewpoint? Send e-mail to our National Media Coordinator, Ron Barrier at rbarrier@atheists.org to find our how you can help. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS AANEWS'er Charles Fiterman had some thoughts we want to share about our recent story about the reception to the blockbuster movie "Independence Day" in the middle east. Mr. Fiterman writes: No, we were defending Europe and Japan's oil supply. How foolish of you to suggest otherwise. As to horror and sci-films you should the films produced by various nations; they say things about those cultures the writers never knew they were saying. In Japanese films, the monster attacks Tokyo. As he arrives and the military is forced to retreat, they go in strict inverse order of rank with the highest ranking general standing in obvious terror but not leaving until everyone else is gone and the ceiling is about to collapse. In Korean films, the monster attacks Seoul. As he arrives the military flees with officers killing enlisted men to get away fast. As the monster approaches, the top general says "We must declare marshal law!" as his first idea. With American films, the monster attacks New York or Washington. The military leaders watch from the safety of the war room ten stories under ground. Irish films (film actually), the monster attacks London. The audience cheers. In Arabic films, aliens invade the Arab world. Government officials collaborate with the aliens, leaving the fight to the underground. -- Charles Fiterman ** 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 subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org. **

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