Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 19:41:44 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for December 20, 1996

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Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 19:41:44 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for December 20, 1996 (Nightowl Edition) Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS subject: AANEWS for December 20, 1996 (Nightowl Edition) A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #220 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu12/20/96 (Nightowl Edition) ATHEISTS SEEK REMOVAL OF NATIVITY DISPLAY IN TEXAS American Atheists today sent out a press release calling for the immediate removal of a Christian religious display on the main courthouse square in Weatherford, Texas. AA State Director Dick Hogan called upon residents of Parker County to place religious symbols and exhibits "on their own properties and the lawns of their churches." He added: "They do not because this is really about putting the imprimatur of government on their fantasy. It's about associating citizenship with religiosity." In a statement to the media, AA criticized a judge who earlier refused to have the display removed. "Contrary to what Judge Ben Long has stated our constitution and the Republic of the United States were not inspired by religious faith but by a critical attitude toward religion and a desire to secularize national life." Mr. Hogan added that "Although the constitution is essentially a majoritarian document, the Bill of Rights is not. And it does not matter at all if the majority of the residents of Parker County want the display. The First Amendment is not something that is subject to majority vote." ** ONE ATHEIST'S MESSAGE ~ "THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS" (Editor's note: We received the following from Oregon aanews correspondent Kevin Courcey. His thoughts on "The True Meaning of Christmas" are especially timely -- tomorrow, at 9:06 a.m. Eastern marks the Winter Solstice, that time of the year when the sun reaches its lowest point in its annual journey through the sky. As Mr. Courcey points out, that natural event is the real basis of the holiday which later was transmogrified into "Christmas") by Kevin Courcey The festival now called Christmas is far older than Christianity. It is a relic of sun-worship. It is the day on which the sun triumphs over the hosts of darkness; and thousands of years before the republic of Rome existed, before one stone of Athens was laid, before the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, before the religion of Brahma, before Sanskrit was spoken, men and women crawled out of their caves, pushed the matted hair from their eyes, and greeted the triumph of the sun over the powers of the night. The ancient Vikings and Druids would actually build huge bonfires on hilltops the night of the solstice in order to give the sun just enough of a boost to help it stay up a little longer the next day. Later, this rebirth of the sun was celebrated through the myths of the sun-gods, who were, like the sun the day after the solstice, metaphorically raised from the dead. The major festival in ancient Rome was called the "Saturnalia," and it centered around the winter solstice. When the Julian calendar was first devised, the solstice fell on December 21st. However, due to an error in the calender (it was off by 6 hours and 11 minutes a year), by the third century the solstice had crept forward to December 24th. At this time, the Emperor Aurelian established an official holiday (the festival of the "unconquered sun") on December 25, in honor of the a Syrian sun god, "Sol." This established December 25th as the official solstice, and all other religions which worshipped sun gods also accepted December 25th as the fixed date fore their celebrations. By the fourth century, many Christians were referring to this festival as the holiday of the "unconquered s-o-n," a fairly clever play on words; and by 350 a.d., Pope Julius I decreed that the nativity of Christ should be celebrated on the same day as all the other sun gods, namely, December 25th. Some of the other sun gods whose birthdays were celebrated on December 25th were Marduk, Osiris, Horus, Isis, Mithra, Saturn, Sol, Apollo, Serapis, and Huitzilopochli. If you were to wander around ancient Rome on December 24, a few years before the reported birth of Christ, you would find much merriment and celebrating. In an underground temple outside the city, you would find the birth of the sun-god Mithra being celebrated. At midnight, the first minute of December 25, the temple of Mithra would be lit up with candles, incense would be burning, and priests in white garments would be reciting the history of Mithra. They would tell the faithful of how Mithra killed a cosmic white bull. When he did so, the bull became the moon, Mithra's cloak became the night sky and stars, and the blood of the bull gave birth to all life on earth. After the creation, Mithra retired to heaven, until he returned to act as savior to all mankind. You would hear the story of how a star fell from the sky when Mithra was born, how shepherds witnessed the birth, and how Zoroastrian priests called Magi followed the fallen star to worship him, and how they brought crowns of gold to the newborn "King of Kings." In another section of the city, the Egyptians would be celebrating the birthday of their god Horus. They would recite the story of how Horus was born of a virgin in a stable on December 25, and how the priests would have reconstructed this manger scene in their temple, with the baby Horus lying in the manger with his virgin mother, Isis, standing beside him. Of course the Magi would also be shown to be in attendance at the birth. The priests would tell the life story of Horus; how he would go onto perform many miracles, such as walking on water and casting out demons; how he would be betrayed by one of his own, tried before an emperor, and crucified to atone for the sins of man, finally to be resurrected from the dead. So, when you hear someone say, "we ought to get back to the TRUE MEANING of Christmas," explain to them that the original meaning is a pagan celebration of nature, or the rebirth of the sun. Remind them that for more than 4,000 years, this has been a time of feasting, visiting with relatives and friends, and gift giving. We are simply celebrating the most precious gift we could possibly have on this planet -- the gift of warmth and sunlight. ** WINTER SOLSTICE ~ December 21, 1997, 9:06 a.m. ET ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS In Iran, one of the nation's hard-line clerics has called for government restrictions on the internet since unrestricted and unregulated communication would feed "poison" to the masses. "Internet should be restricted to research and scientific centers," declared Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati during a weekly sermon at Tehran University. He told the crowd of male students: "Beyond that, it is poison fed to people...It (the internet) is poisoned thought, moral and attitude" and "was much worse than food poisoning since 100 doctors put together could not cure such a case in a short time." Janatti is associated with the militant Hezbollah organization in Iran (Party of God), and frequently works with an affiliated group known as "Supporters of Hezbollah." He helped to organize the "Week for Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice," and event which spurred Islamic militants to attack mixed-sex bicycle rides, "un-Islamic" movies in theatres and other manifestations of impurity. ** As reported in Wednesday's AANEWS, the infamous Skinner's Butte Cross in Eugene Oregon may finally be history. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by a local American Legion Post, thus letting stand a Circuit Court decision that found the 51-foot steel and concrete cross a clear endorsement of religion by government. But cross boosters still aren't going down without a fight. The cross must come down sooner or later, of course, but aanews correspondent Kevin Courcey reports that May Ruth Bascom has ordered that the cross be lighted starting this evening through December 28 -- a practice since 1970. Her Honor terms her decision to use taxpayer money to illuminate this unconstitutional erection as a "judgment call." Kudos, though, to Charles Porter, the Eugene attorney who led the recent court effort to get rid of the cross on Skinner's Butte. In victory, he is gracious. Mr. Porter told the Eugene Register-Guard: "The cross has been deemed unconstitutional and must come down, but there's no big emergency about it." We appreciate his sense of fair play, especially in a community divided by this intrusion of religion into civic life, but we must take exception to his claim that lighting the Skinner's Butte cross this one last Christmas is "legally and morally correct." It isn't. But it may be a step toward healing the community. ** We just don't understand the inconsistency of some religious fundamentalist and zealots. When it comes to defending their own freedom, they at times are willing to take on the most oppressive institutions of government, and can appear to be staunch defenders of free expression. But free expression, like other liberties, is often something they dispense in measured, limited amounts -- for themselves, not for everyone else. A case in point may be a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher named Rick Strawcutter, who is operating a pirate radio station from his church in Adrian, Michigan. At only 95-watts, it's not exactly clogging the airwaves. But Radio Free Lenawee, at 97.7 FM says "God, Guns & Guts Made America -- Let's Keep All Three," according to media reports. Strawcutter told CNN that "There are a lot of small voices like mine that need to be heard in this country, and we feel, in large measure, we're being suppressed." We can only hope that Rev. Strawcutter and his congregation are as generous with the rights of others, and other important electronic media including the internet! ** In Clearwater, Florida, hundreds of people are converging on a local office building in hopes of seeing what some maintain is a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary. The image seems to appear on the tinted windows of a building housing a finance company office. According to news reports, it shimmers and changes colors -- and some insist that they can see the outline of a hooded robe with a countenance similar to that of the Virgin. A nun affiliated with the Order of Saint Anne in Bangalore, India told CNN that the miracle shows "God is giving us a sign... God is telling us it is time to change our ways." People are flocking around the building, some kneeling to prayer, others going into ecstatic gyrations. "The wall in front of the image has become a shrine, piled with candles, photos of children, handwritten prayers and funeral notices," reports the CNN "Fringe" page. There are traffic jams, and local police have now had to barricade the front of the building. Skeptics suggest that "the Window Glass Virgin" is an optical illusion caused by sun light reflecting off water left by sprinklers. A local radio station has reportedly threatened to send a crew to the building to clean the windows. Any volunteers? ** Those of you who have followed the creche controversy in Pittsburgh may recall how city commissioners and local religious groups were all in favor of free expression when it came to erecting a Christian nativity scene on public property in front of a local courthouse. Things changed, though, when local Ku Klux Klanners announced plans for a cross of their own. Suddenly, said one religious leader, everything went from good to bad; and government commissioners, previously defenders of free expression, denied the Klan its petition. Local churches then announced that they would rather not have their creche than compete with the local bigots in sheets. Our local aanews correspondent, Gary Gahagan, muses: "First off, I don't believe for a second the reason they won't challenge the commissioners is because of "the spirit of the Christmas season." These clergy don't want a KKK cross beside their creche...Isn't it ironic that it took something that the Christians found distasteful, the Klan cross as the reason not to erect a creche that we atheists found distasteful?" Indeed. And these sorts of squabbles are another reason why religion should be kept out of the public square, and firmly in the churches, temples, mosques and klan rallies. We are following another story, though, this one in Auburn, Indiana where the Klan has received permission from DeKalb County Commissioners to erect a 6-foot cross emblazoned with "KKK" in a downtown public park, by the steps of the local courthouse. ** Florida -- which this past year endured a divisive battle over prayer in public schools -- may not become a battleground once again in the "culture war." State Senator John Grant has filed legislation which would prevent Florida from recognizing gay marriages, and extending benefits traditionally reserved for heterosexual, married couples to same-sex partners. No state currently extends legal recognition to gay marriages, although Hawaii may become the first to do so after a court ruled its constitution does indeed allow lesbian and gay couples to marry. That decision is being appealed. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Task Force of Florida told an American Civil Liberties Union publication: "It always surprises me when Republicans like John Grant get all worked up over issues like this. I always thought they were a party to say we want government out of people's lives." ** Yesterday, American Atheists announced plans to counter-demonstrate against the Promise Keepers movement which will try to bring 1,000,000 alpha-male types to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1997. PK is a religious fundamentalist group founded by former football coach Bill McCartney which likes to organize rallies and prayer-fests in athletic venues like stadiums. A good deal of the group's vocabulary is laced with trendy sports metaphors and terminology; and the PK line is distinctly patriarchal -- the goal of having men reclaim their position over women "as heads of household." A recent article in The Nation observed that "P.K. men are counseled that they've mistakenly given wives their leadership role, and must take it back -- gently but without compromise!" As a group, of course, women have heard this kind of bunk before in one way or another; Promise Keepers thus is the equivalent of a bunch of guys swilling cheap beer at a bar talking about "the good 'ol days," all the while displaying the cracks of the their butts to the general public. "Heads of household." Yeah, right. But don't write off the power of the Promise Keepers, which has emerged as one of the most sophisticated fundamentalist religious movements in the country. With an annual budget of $65 million, the group can indeed deliver on its promise to hold its own Million Man March. The theme for the Fall, 1997 shindig is "Stand in the Gap," a reference caused presumably by lack of faith, moral relativism, divorce, adultery and crime. A PK leader, in announcing plans for the Christian MMM, declared: "This gathering is not to demonstrate our power before men, but to display our poverty before Almighty God." ** Hey, speaking of "heads of household" and other excrescences of male supremacy, how 'bout this quote: "The woman has the task of being pretty, and of bringing children into the world. This is not such a crude and old-fashioned idea as it sounds. The female bird cleans herself for her husband, and cares for the eggs. And in exchange, the male bird takes care of bringing home dinner. He also stands watch and fights away all enemies." This dubious insight into sociobiology could have come from any number of contemporary political or religious leaders who would do just about anything in the quest to justify keeping the "fair sex" barefoot, pregnant, submissive and in the home. In fact, the author of the quote was an active anti-abortion zealot, who helped enact two vital pieces of anti-abortion legislation. Thanks to his efforts at outlawing abortion and making enforcement of such laws a top priority, convictions for the offense rose a whopping 65% in a six year period. Got a clue who this might be? The quote is by Dr. Joseph Goebbels. And beginning in 1933, he was helping to ramrod tough anti-abortion legislation in Germany. From 1935 on, doctors and midwives had to notify police of every miscarriage, and the circumstances were investigated. That task eventually fell under the domain of Heinrich Himmler, head cop for the Third Reich, who established the Central Agency for the Struggle Against Homosexuality and Abortion. In 1943, a law entitled "Protection of Marriage, Family, Motherhood" called for the death penalty in 'extreme cases.' ** TIME IS RUNNING OUT -- HELP US REACH 10,000 AANEWS READERS! The Winter Solstice marks more than just the sun's lowest point in its annual journey through our apparent sky. It also means that there are just a few days left in our ambitious campaign to reach the goal of having 10,000 readers for aanews! Won't you help? Why not forward an aanews dispatch to a friend who might be interested in joining our family of regular readers; or post aanews to your home page or local bulletin board. You'll be helping us reach our goal, and to spread the message about Atheism and state-church separation. Thanks for your efforts! ** 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 mailing 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.

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