#3 AANEWS 4/8/96 aanews is distributed by American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded

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#3 ****************************************** AANEWS ****************************4/8/96 aanews is distributed by 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 more information on American Atheists, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org . Include your name, mailing address and zip code in the message. Additional background on this list may be obtained by mailing to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and putting "info.aanews" in the body. You may forward this dispatch; material may be quoted or re-produced, provided credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. ################# THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL AS AN ECHO OF THE EASTER RELIGIOUS FRENZY Remember Michael Douglas in the 1980's movie "Wall Street"? "Greed is good!", insists a high-rolling Gordon Gekko played artfully by the younger Douglas, in a tale of money, power and hubris. Indeed, that statement came to typify some of the excesses of the 80's with its junk-bonds, S & L scandals, monopoly-style financial games and the erosion of economic security. Well, greed is back. It may never have left the cultural landscape, of course, but in an era of economic uncertainty and social dislocations, the religious "prosperity gospel" -- a peculiarly American artifact -- is back, and with a vengeance. The identification of the business enterprise with christianity has been a mainstay in modernist economic and sociological theory, starting with Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism". The financial booms (and busts) of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century were accompanied by a panoply of literature, schemes, self-improvements regimens and other devices intertwined with a "prosperity gospel" declaring that, yes, god DID want you to become rich. Juvenile literature extolled the virtues of the poor down-and-out kid who, by thrify and sweat, managed to pyramid a few coins into a business empire. Hard work and "clean living" was often identified with other religious goals, including temperance; reward in the material world was interpreted as god's way of saying that you were climbing the ladder of success. Not everyone in religious quarters agreed, however, and there was the coincident development of the "social gospel" movement as well. Jesus was portrayed as less of a business tycoon and more of a social worker worried about the poor, downtrodden and un-employed. Regardless of your class or disposition, however, there was a gospel for you. In the 1890's, Charles Sheldon's "In His Footsteps" was a hot seller, with its story of a successful businessman who patterned his life after that of Jesus Christ. A review of contemporary books by Deborah Shead in the New York Times noted that "True to the Protestant ethic, his highly moral action brings him even greater material wealth." Another popular novel was "The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Bartin, "which casts Jesus as a brilliant adman for God's cause." In the late 1970's, the "greening" of American culture saw the importing of new age and oriental-kitsch ideas into the American management marketplace. Books which purported to combine "eastern though" with financial strategies sold well; seminars peddled ways that one could use "Samuri techniques" or the philosophy of obscure martial arts masters to "outsmart the competition." Invaluable secrets of the ages were ostensibly available for the trouble of an evening's read, or maybe a high-priced seminar. By some indicators, though, we are back to where we started fifty or seventy five years ago -- a new version of the "prosperity gospel" is rolling off the printing presses, and finding a receptive, credulous audience among would-be moguls, flabby middle-management drones and worried white collar types who see themselves just a paycheck or two away from having to work the counter at McDonald's. There is also the growth of the prosperity gospel message in marketing sales, even real estate. Some indicators... Firms which have a distinctly religious, often Christian message are thriving. The giant ServiceMaster Corporation ("In Service to the Master") is showing record prophets. Another example is the Mary Kay cosmetics firm, with its official motto of "God first, family second and career third." A recent regional convention brought out nearly 1,400 of the groups 400,000 independent sales reps, for a weekend of motivational pep talks, chanting, cheering and sign waving. Annual sales have soard past the $1.7 billion mark. Even with its "God first" slogan, Mary Kay execs exhort their followers to "Look to your directors as guides...Follow closely in their footsteps and you, too, will live in the castle of your dreams." The new age financial scam books are still around, but there is a sudden profusion of distinctly Judeo Christian "wealth building" materials.They include The Management Methods of Jesus" by Bob Briner, "God Wants You to Be Rich," by Paul Pilzer and "Jesus C.E.O.," by Laurie Beth Jones. Seeing the son of an almighty god in an Armani suit with Rolex and cellular phone may stretch the limits of credulity, but why not? As Stead notes: "These days, executives are being urged to buy books on the 'management' wisdom of basketball coaches, medieval despots and Winnie the Pooh." Jesus-as-tycoon, though, resonates with strong religious trends in the United States. Religious neo-conservative types have already tried to hop on the Toffleresque Third Wave bandwagon (with mixed results); one thinks of George Gilder suggesting that married men are more financially secure than their bachelor counterparts, and enjoy greater emotional and monetary security. The Heritage Foundation works over-time in constructing its tenuous thesis that religious belief somehow correlates to a wide range of benefits -- longer life, greater income, permanent marriage, lower suicide rates. The benefits of prosperity, it is maintained, accrue to those who believe in and practice the message of the gospel. Facts may say otherwise, of course, but for believers, it is "attitude and motivation" which make a difference. So why not use the story of Jesus and his planned parade into Jerusalem during Passover as an example of marketing acumen? Strike while the iron is hot. Watch Your Timing (a chapter title from "Management Methods of Jesus"). Location, location, location. Brother, can you spare the price of a book? ******************** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad Goeringer You've heard of Mad Cow disease, right? But how 'bout Mad Hindu disease. Seems that nearly 140,000 Hindus in Britain organized prayer services for the millions of cows which are due for slaughter in that country, due to fear of viral-infected beef. Mad Cow disease has been linked to the destruction of brain tissue, and can be passed on to humans. The slaughter of the cows is part of a government effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Hindus, however, consider cows to be sacred animals. Our question: who REALLY has a diseased brain? *** Moses a party-pooper? OK, I admit it -- I vegged out last night and caught some of the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic movie "The Ten Commandments." To this reviewer, the "Chosen People", the Israelites, were a credulous group of feckless fools. Moses pulls off some heavy-duty stuntwork as he manages to part the Red Sea, crush the Egyptian Army, bring plague and suffering upon the empire of Pharaoh -- and he can't even get to the top of Mt. Sanai before Edward G. Robinson has organized the mob to give away their money and build a golden calf. "Moses! Moses!" cries the child-like tribe as a sternful patriarch climbs down with his stone tablets. The story is SO unbelievable that I wonder if DeMille was serious. There is little or no evidence for most of these tales, of course; historians and archeologists find little support for biblical myths such as the exile out of Egypt. How could so many people wander the desert for 40 years and not leave a trace? How did they live? What did they drink? Surely, a god which could split the waters of a sea could just as easilly "beamed" his followers into the promised land. Why did they have to walk? Perhaps the answer for these and other Moses-related mysteries is found in a review which Time Magazine did of "The Ten Commandments." In a review, a critic noted the many difficulties faced by DeMille in creating this epic masterpiece. "The result of all these stupdendous efforts? Something roughly comparable to an 8' chorus girl -- pretty well put together but much too flashy...what DeMille has really done is to throw sex and sand into the moviegoers eye for almost twice as long as anyone else has ever dared to." ********************* In an effort to give equal time to the other side; while "Jesus as Tycoon" has become a popular, Easter-season kitsch item in the business books department, new age mumbo jumbo isn't out of the running entirely. 'Simple Spells for Success" by Barrie Dolnick includes "spealls to start an enterprise, increase business opportunities and attract new investors." There's also the Forget Love Potion No. 9 which can be purchased from the Spellbox Co. of Colorado. You get some ju-ju supplies to attract a new lover or get rid of an old one -- incense, talismans and candles. Find out if this really works for just $24.95. Bizarre? Crazy? Of course, but consider something else -- real estate agents throughout the country are still on a kick where they bury religious statues on property they are listing. Put the Virgin in upside-down if you want to sell your house; bury her upright on your own property if you want to buy somebody elses. Or is it the other way around? Doesn't matter, of course, and believers just insist that it works. ***** The next time somebody insists that "religious charity" is one of the many outstanding works performed by churches, tell them to check their facts. Everyone from the Christian Coalition to Rep. Ernest Istook wants to "privatize welfare" and social services. The Congressman has even introduced legislation which would permit the flow of government monies into religious groups REGARDLESS of whether such funds end up being used for religious purposes mixed in with social charity. According to the Philanthropy Roundtable, more "religious charity" is simply government aid being funnelled through churches. 65% of the funds for Catholic Charities, for instance, comes from the Federal government. Local and state governments are pouring millions into religious groups, which then administer social programs -- while grabbing the credit as a "charitable institution." ****************** A note from the LISTMASTER... Dear aanews subscribers, Many of you were originally on the ad hoc list known as AAFWD. That list was discontinued about a month ago, and the names transferred over to aanews when it started up last week. In this process, a number of e-mail addresses have become invalid. If you know someone who once was on the aafwd list but is NOT getting aanews, please tell them to send e-mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org with "info aanews" in the body of their message. We also urge you to post aanews to bulletin boards and other outlets, and help "spread the word." As for aachat, the LISTMASTER, Margie Wait, is still fine-tuning the mechanics of that list. Partiicpation in that list is limited to current members of American Atheists. If you would like to join aachat, contact Ms. Wait via e-mail at aachat@atheists.org. Be sure to give you name, address and zip code for membership verification. Finally, AANEWS will be sending out another dispatch later today. This will be a special report on the Freeman group in Montana, which is still locked in a standoff with government agents. This report will explore the religious underpinnings of the Freemen, with special emphasis on the Christian Identity movement. Thanks for your interest in aanews! Conrad Goeringer LISTMASTER aanews@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. * * * ***********************************************************************


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