Date: Wed, 24 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 24, 1996 nn nn A

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Date: Wed, 24 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 24, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #22 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/24/96 MILLENNIAL ANGST -- ''JESUS'' AND ''VIRGIN MARY'' SIGHTINGS INCREASING Cultural historians of the future may well find the late twentieth century to be a period marked by rampant religious superstition and popular acceptance of pseudo-science. That is one possible conclusion based on our research into the growing number of "apparitions" people throughout the world report of religious figures such as "Jesus" and the "Virgin Mary." Some are officially approved by religious groups such as the Roman Catholic Church; nearly all seem to receive extensive, uncritical publicity from the mass media, and extensive exposure in fring-media, including tabloid news journals and television programs. Included in our survey of published reports and documents appearing on the web: * Of 79 apparitions which have attracted either considerable attention (in the form of an investigation) or conditional-to-full sanction by ecclesiastical authorities, 54 have taken place since 1952. The earlies sighting which received official church approval occurred in 1347 in Sienna, Italy, involving the woman who was later sanctified as "St. Catherine." * Through the 17-19th centuries, all incidents involved sightings in Europe, mostly France. This includes the 1858 apparition at Lourdes. It was not until 1920 that such an event was reported in the United States, when Eileen George was "visited" in Millbury, Mass. There were periodic incidents, such as the 1954 sighting in Ohio, or the Bayside, New York apparitions involving one Veronica Leukin which met with conditional approval of the local Bishop as being genuine. * In the mid-1980's, an upsurge in religious sightings in the United States began to occur. The timing corresponds, too, with growing numbers of UFO reports, tales of alien abductions, and fears of "Satan's Underground" involving powerful cabals of devil worshippers running amok. Locations in the U.S. included Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona; Conyers, Georgia; Falmouth, Kentucky; and Cincinatti, Ohio. Return of the Earth Goddess? Curiously, most of the reports involve claims that individuals saw and conversed with the "Virgin Mary." Some consider this to be a uniquely Roman Catholic phenomenon, since Jews and Protestants do not place emphasis on the alleged mother of the messiah for purposes of worship. Some Protestants even consider the growing cult of "Marianism" to be a manifestation of latent paganism which has characterized the Vatican since its inception. Others note that the fascination with Mary, especially in the form of apparitions and groups dedicated to the worship of this figure (such as the "Legion of Mary"), constitutes a kind of postmodernist return to goddess worship. Like earth goddesses of earlier religions, Mary is a symbol of both virginal purity as well as fertility; she is often portrayed with a child in her arms, and in some cases -- especially throughout Latin America -- she stands on the horns of a bull (potency) said to symbolize the crescent-moon. The moon symbol, of course, resonates in female mythology as a goddess symbol. Enthusiasts of the Marian apparition phenomena insist that a "Great Chastisement" is about to befall mankind, a warning with definite apocalyptical, millennialist overtones. The "Apparitions List", published by Marianist partisans, says "Jesus has been offended by the multiplication of sins against His Sacred Heart: and Mary exhorts humanity to prayer and repentance and an increased devotion to the sacraments..." Even the crudest manifestations of Jesus-Mary visitations receive coverage from media, and enthused devotion from throngs of followers. Last summer, for example, a small statue of the Madonna of Fatima began to shed "tears of blood" in the southern Dutch town of Brunssum. The owners of the icon had to move the figure outside because of the growing number of worshippers trekking through their residence, and the event quickly became international news. Scientists at the local De Wever Hospital, though, analyzed the "tears of blood", and found them to be residue from the paint used in the statue's eyes; the paint liquified in the hot weather, producing the ersatz "tears." Despite prosaic explanations, including hoaxing, for these types of phenomena, there appears to be growing public interest in such bizarre events. One of the most prominent apparitions, the "Message at Mejugorje", Yugoslavia, has impressed social scientists like Stjepan G. Mestrovic (Professor of Sociology, Texas A & M) as a clear symptom of the "fin de siecle spirit." In his recent book, "The Coming Fin De Siecle" (Routledge, 1991), he notes that "The cult of the Virgin Mary is the only surviving remnant of primitive female goddesses in modern, Western culture." Though he acknowledges that the Mejugorje phenomenon parallels certain social and political dislocations, he also suggests that the fascination with Mary seems to typify a search for a new narrative in explaining the world, away from the reductionist-scientific methods which characterize modernity. For Mestrovic, this is all part of a new millennialist angst permeating human society as it approaches the year 2,000. ************* COMING TO A NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR YOU: MARCH FOR JEEEZUS They're baaaack! Earlier this week, aanews noted upcoming events for the May 2 "National Day of Prayer", decreed by President Clinton and exploited by a wide range of religious groups who want to affirm the supposed religious heritage of the United States. But next Monday and Tuesday (April 29 nd 30), Christian groups across the country will be organizing marches and rallies in an event called "March for Jesus." The March has gathered momentum since it was first organized in 1980. Now, there are hundreds of community-based marches, including a demonstration in Washington, D.C. March organizers are hoping to turn out 2,000,000 for the D.C. event, which is a figure far above that of even the largest political events in the capitol. A Religious-Right Agenda The demonstrations are losely coordinated by a group known as Washington March for Jesus, part of One Nation Under God, Inc. The official project office is located in the former Iranian Embassy in Washington, and has been dubbed "Prince of Peace Embassy." Literature from Washington March for Jesus warns that there are "five GIANTS" which "dominate our land". The include abortion, drugs, homosexuality, AIDS, and "persecution of the church." Washington for Jesus quotes Isaiah 5 as a warning against drug use, "Woe to you who get up early in the morning to go on long drinking bouts that last till late at night." II Chronicles 21 is the prohibition on AIDS: "Now the Lord will destroy your nation with a great plague. You, your children, your wives...will be struck down...your bowels will rot away." Other March literature warns of "rampant addiction to drugs and alcohol, to the rise of occult activities in recent years." While not as organized or influential yet as the National Day of Prayer, March for Jesus has succeeded in igniting support from evangelicals who feel that their "religious liberties" are "under attack" by government and secular society. The political message is somewhat less obvious than the one enunciated by groups like the Christian Coalition, and is tied less to precinct politics and more to "personal salvation." Emphasis is placed on public declarations and expression of religious fervor, including wearing tee shirts with slogans like "Shout it out!" and "Just Say So!" It is heavilly youth-oriented as well; one activist in the March movement is a former lead singer for the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. *************** THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS There's hope yet. The Information Service of the German Evangelical Church recently commissioned a survey, which indicated bad, bad news on all fronts. 83% of Austria's 7.8 million people are members of the Roman Catholic Church or a Protestant denomination; and a whopping 22% of the population calls itself Atheist. This latter fact is encouraging; but why do the percentages add up to 105%? Simple. In Austria, Germany and,yes, even the good 'ol U.S. of A., the Roman Catholic Church bases its claims of "followers" in the flock on baptismal records. You can be an Atheist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Seventh Day Adventist -- but if you were baptised into Holy Mutha' Church, well, you're still counted as one of the good guys for the papacy. The Austrian poll was conducted by the Gallup Institute; it revealed that 35% of those under the age of 30 were Atheists. And only 3% of that group says that they bother to attend church every Sunday. Hallelujah! ******* Somebody should tell Cardinal Roger Mahony that it works both ways. We recently informed aanews readers that Mahony, Archbishop of LaLaLand, was grumbling about the wholly-owned Christian Coalition subsidiary known as Catholic Alliance. A turf grudge war, is what we called it. Last week, major newspapers throughout the country picked up Mahony's press-handout and ran it as a bona fide opinion column; the good priest warned that recent court rulings on behalf of assisted suicide were the "slippery slope" of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion. "We have created a 'culture of death' in our country whereby no human life is safe..." He should tell that to the world's religious warriors, of course, and make an apology for the inhumanity of the Inquisition. But even so, Mahony is a bit of a hypocrite since he also signed the church's letter of rebuke sent last week to President Clinton for his veto of the bogus "partial birth abortion ban." We're told that we should support the ban because it outlaws an extreme method of killing fetuses; abortion rights advocates who support the veto, are in turn labeled extreme for even SUGGESTING that this ban is a "slippery slope" to banning all abortion outright. So which is, Roger? Fetuses and individuals in great pain suffering from terminal illness are clearly not the same thing. We suspect that the Archbishop is less interested in the quality of life than he is in the sheer quantity of it -- at any cost. *** And speaking of slippery slopes, how about Rep Charles Canady, and his scheduled round of hearings which began this past Monday to "scrutinize" the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. We're told that the hearings are simply to evaluate the status of abortion legislation, but we also recall that Rep. Canady is behind such legislative shenanigans as the Religious Equality Amendment and other nostrums of the religious right. And "scrutinizing" a Supreme Court Case, especially in these circumstances, means more attempts to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion -- or making it next to impossible for anyone other than rich folks to obtain one. Ah, the sanctity of poverty! **** Remember the school board battle in the Antelope Valley district in California? Several years ago, religionists opposed to the teaching of everything from sex education to evolution managed to take over the school board, much to the consternation of parents, educators and scientists. The flap even prompted coverage from TV networks, and a special on PBS. They really DID believe that dinosaurs were on board Noah's Ark. Now, it appears that there is a new foe for religious stalwarts -- oral sex. A federally funded, county-approved AIDS awareness program has been banned from Antelope Valley Union High because one of the lecturers responded to a student's question about -- oral sex. The District President told that LA Times "This is not appropriate for the students...they could live the rest of their lives without any knowledge of oral sex. What they need is to be steered away from any form of sex outside of marriage, anyway." The student question involved asking if any protection should be used during oral sex. The lecturer noted "The question...was asked, answered, and they just moved on." The District President, identified as Sue Stokka, also displayed her knowledge of health and sexual technique, insisting that the use of a condom or latex sheet was "dangerous," and added "There is no way a little piece of material is going to be protection...and certainly not plastic wrap." Which makes us wonder if SHE would take the plastic bag challenge on TV... ************ Although he believes that Jews operate a hidden "cabal", Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan now insists that he himself is part Jewish. In an interview appearing next Monday in the New Yorker magazine, the controversial Farrakhan declares that his grandfather on one side was a white Portuguese, most of whom were of Sephardic Jewish ancestry. Even so, interviewer and black scholar Henry Louis Gates says that Farrakhan's anti-semitism "has the characteristics of a psychological obsession and once in a while he shows signs of recognizing this." He also says that the controversial Muslim leader may be softening his feelings about whites. Even so, Nation of Islam teachings passed on by the late Elija Mohammed say that the white race was a genetic invention of a mad scientist named Mr. Yacob, who millions of years ago betrayed his own black fellows. Farrakhan has also stated that he has had visions of being on board flying saucers, which were operated by black aliens from distant planets. These same UFO's, says Farrakhan, gave him advanced warning of impending U.S. attacks against Libya. ************** 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 more information on American Atheists, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Be sure to include your name, address and zip code. For additional background on aanews, send mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" in the body of the message. Written and edited by Conrad Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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