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