Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 27, 1996 nn nn A

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Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 27, 1996 from: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #24 nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 4/27/96 In This Issue... * Plaque "Tells It Like It Is," Irritates Church * How's The Haj? Theopolitics Hits Mecca Again * Rabbis Worry: Who's Tying The Knot? * TheistWatch Short Shots: Throwing The Dice, Religious Kitsch, And More! * On-Line Resources From American Atheists CONTROVERSIAL STATUE, PLAQUE DRAW WRATH OF RELIGIONISTS IN S.F. The Pioneer Monument has been in San Francisco for over a century, surviving everything from storms to earthquakes; but now, a fight over a plaque at that site has city officials, Native Americans, and religious organizations like the local Roman Catholic Church battling over whose version of history is going to be immortalized in bronze. The monument includes a statue of a "supplicating Indian under a righteous Franciscan friar," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The attached plaque reads: "With their efforts over in 1834, the missionaries left behind about 56,000 converts -- and 150,000 dead. Half of the original Native American population had perished during this time from diseases, armed attacks and mistreatment." According to the Chronicle, the plaque was "intended to placate Native Americans who felt humiliated" by the statue. That didn't sit well with either the local Consul General of Spain, or the Catholic Church. The initial Catholic invasion of California, of course, was launched from Spain which was competing with England and other European powers for colonial territory. The Spanish used both Franciscan and Jesuit priests to handle the "mental colonization" of Indians and other indigenous peoples, while soldiers established military bases and fortified cities, and helped subdue any uprisings. Historians today speak of the "Enslavement Theology" promulgated by the Church. Heading up the religious brainwashing was Junipero Serra (1713-1784), considered the founder of California missions whose statue sits in Golden Gate Park. Although Serra was less brutal than the Spanish military government, his primary objective was not in protecting the rights of the local Indians, but in converting them to Catholicism. Even "liberation theology" partisans like Daniel Fogel, author of "Junipero Serra, the Vatican and Enslavement Theology," note that the powerful Friar "continued to treat them (Native Americans) as helpless children, opposing their right to govern themselves." There is also evidence that Serra worked for the notorious and dreaded Inquisition, being appointed in 1752 to the post of Inquisitor for a region of what is now Mexico. Records exist of Serra's "evidences of witchcraft in the Sierra Gorda mission," and stern warnings to his ecclesiastical bosses that "horrible corruption will spread among these poor (Indian) neophytes who are in our charge..." Serra, who has been under consideration for Sainthood by the Vatican, was also a masochist and self-flagellationist. Every night, he whipped himself in imitation of Francisco Solano (1549-1610), another Spanish Franciscan who "spread the word" for the Church in Peru and Argentina. Serra kept an armory of S&M devices next to his bed, including a chain of sharp pointed iron links; Fogel notes that he used this instrument "to whip himself when sinful thoughts (including, presumably, any sexual impulses) ran through his mind in the night." During the day, he wore a sackcloth spiked with bristles, or a coat with broken pieces of wire under his outer clothing. The missionary tradition in California, and elsewhere, was twofold: first, priests were there to "win converts" and "gain souls" for conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, even if such objectives required the political subjugation of indigenous peoples and the forcible obliteration of their cultural institutions. Second, the friars attempted to "smooth the way" for political colonization, and ensure that the population was kept maleable and docile. Although individual priests occasionally came into conflict with local military authorities, both groups had the same objective politically -- the geographical conquest of the new territories. The Consul General of Spain considered the new San Francisco plaque to be an "international insult", saying that the local Art Commission (which authorized the inscription) "should not be toying around with divisive issues and much less posting them in bronze." The local Archishop "got on the phone -- and talked to Mayor Willie Brown," according to the Chronicle; soon, His Honor was then pressuring Art Commission President Stanlee Gatti to "clean up" the mess. Gatti is now willing to drop the words "and 150,000 dead" from the plaque -- a move the Archbishop considered to be "a good first step." **************** ANNUAL HAJ IN MECCA EMPHASIZING POLITICAL DIFFERENCES Today is the climax of the annual haj, or pilgrimage time in Mecca, as some 2,000,000 muslims pour into Islam's "holy" city. Tens of thousands stand in line to visit the Great Mosque, or march in circles around the cube-shaped Kaaba, the spot all Muslims must face in their daily prayer rituals. Others listen to talks from religious leaders, or journey to Mount Arafat where the founder of the religion, Muhammed, is said to have delivered his final sermon. This year's Haj, though, is marked by a high level of tension over political messages being integrated into the annual religious ritual. Saudi Arabia has banned all political activity during the event, but Iran has been encouraging pilgrims to exploit the occasion, and chant slogans against Israel, the U.S. and other targets. There have been political protests since 1987; over 400 people died in violent demonstrations that year, most of them Iranian. Iran then officially boycotted the Haf for three years. Today, there is heightened security at the Grand Mosque and other religious sites, including the Mena (an underground stone monument representing the devil which pilgrims throw rocks at) and the road to Mount Arafat. There, pilgrims shout "There is no god but god" as the sun rises. ********** RELIGIOUS ''BALKANIZATION'' -- JEWS, CHRISTIANS SQUABBLE OVER CONVERTS AND MARRIAGES The numbers game battle just doesn't stop. America's mainstream religions are facing a population crisis; established churches and religious organizations are being challenged by "upstarts" representing faiths like Scientology, Momonism, and evangelical christianity. Catholics, Jews and traditional Protestants are all feeling the pinch; indeed, the battle to win new converts, or even hold on to believers, is reaching fever pitch. -- Last month, the 107th Annual Conference of American Rabbis which represents Reform Jews in the U.S. and Canada, had intermarriage as one of its main themes. The group's moderator told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "The issue of officiating at a mixed marriage is a dominant issue now, because mixed marriages are occurring in unprecedented number." Speakers lamented the trend, and one declared "I have come to the conclusion that intermarriage is not in the best interests of Judaism." Others insisted that one goal in inter-faith marriages must be to assure than any children are raised in the Jewish religion. -- Increasingly, Jews are becoming a target of fundamentalist and evangelical christian proselytizing. In recent years, an estimated 150,000 American Jews have converted to Christianity, some joining organizations like "Jews for Jesus." Rabbi Tovia Singer, who specializes in efforts to keep Jews Jewish, says that evangelical denominations poured in over $170 million last year alone operating 469 missions that attempt to recruit Jews to Christianity. Why all the fuss? Singer notes that many fundamentalists believe that Jews must be converted by the year 2,000, when they anticipate the Second Coming. He charges that Christian outreaches which target Jews claim that belief in Jesus "means becoming a 'completed' Jew rather than converting." Jews for Jesus is only one group which sees the en masse conversion of Jews to Christianity as an integral part of an apocalyptic time table. Even evangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson see Jews, and particularly the State of Israel, as elements which fit into biblical prohecy of the "Final Days." -- The State of Israel enjoys a problematic relationship with U.S. religious conservatives. Traditionally, the American right has had its fair share of anti-semitism and conspiracy theories involving Jews, Freemasons and others, going back to the days of Father Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith. The 1967 Arab-Israeli war, however, fostered the image of Israel as a bastion against Communist influence in the middle east. In the 1980's, Christian Right groups such as Trinity Broadcasting began interpreting geopolitical trends such as the "diaspora" of Jews from the Soviet Union and the Israeli capture of Jerusalem as the unfolding of events predicted in Book of Revelation. The growing audience for works by pop-Christian eschatologist Hal Linsey ("The Late Great Planet Earth") reinforced this perception; Jews and the Israeli nation became part of a greater, Christian, apocalyptic time table. Even today, Robertson pays close attention to middle east developments, warning viewers of his "700 Club" programs about impending armageddon. But while the Israeli Government has been trying to find a peaceful solution to the Palestinian question and other problems, both fanatical Jews and some born-again Christians are still anxious to "hasten the coming of the Messiah" by making Jerusalem the Israeli capitol, and destroying the Al Aqsa mosque in that city. This Islamic shrine is at the site of the remains of the second Hebrew Temple. According to Sara Diamond's book "Spiritual Warfare": "Some evangelicals (adherents to the 'pretribulation rapture' theory) believe that the rebuilding of the destroyed temple is a necessary prelude to the return of Christ." Diamond notes that even former members of the Zionist Stern Gang have received funding from U.S. Christian groups, including the International Christian Embassy. Many Jewish "fundamentalists" resent having their own religion fitted in to a millennialist scheme presided over by Christian evangelicals. Others resent the incursion that modernity and secularism have made into their own religious culture. Some are joining the ultra-orthodox sects like the Lubavitcher cult, founded by the late Menachem Mendel Scheerson, who died in 1994 after declaring himself the Messiah. Followers still wait for him to rise from the dead. ************ THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS We've got an update for you on a story which TW has been reporting for several months. Along with "country club prisons," divorce, single-moms, smut, blasphemy and other shibboleth's of the religious right, we can include a more traditional taboo, namely, gambling. Recall that back in February, the (liberal) National Council of Churches announced that it was joining forces with -- of all groups -- the Christian Coalition to stop the spread of legalized gambling in the United States. The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is now up-and-running, following the dedication of its Washington, D.C. office by CC Director Ralph Reed. The event was described as "an interfaith effort and a signal that the nation's religious community is ready to take the offensive against the gambling industry." Some form of gambling is legal in all but two states -- Utah and Hawaii. Observers note that Utah Mormons are frequent customers at Nevada casinos and bordellos (where prostitution is legal). But many states, and a growing number of municipalities, see some form of regulating gaming as a way to expand the service economy and provide additional tax revenue. Critics charge that this latest marriage of religious authoritarians from opposite sides of the political spectrum is nothing new. Conspicuous from the coalition, though, is the Catholic Church; for years, local catholics have battled Protestant congregations over the issue of "bingo" style gambling and the use of raffles to raise cash for hard-pressed churches. Regardless of how you feel about the legalized-gaming issue, religious prudery and dogma only cloud the issue. The NCC and the CC are once again pulling out their bibles and telling people what's "good" for them -- or else. Besides, gambling will always be around regardless of what the bluenoses do. Making it illegal simply drives it "underground," back into the clutches of the Godfather-types. And besides, we have to have SOME way of helping Donald Trump, right? *********** Is it a contemporary version of "sacred music", or just more pop-culture Christian kitsch? While Ralph Reed is busy painting a picture of gloom and doom for modern day Jesus believers, telling them that everyone from the U.S. Government to the public school system is "hostile" to the "people of faith," there more evidence that it just isn't so. Even in secular America, Christians have plenty of rights to exercise their "freedom of religion," even if it means creating a thriving, multi-hundred million dollar music business that has a bigger market share and following that either jazz or classical music. Take the case of Michael W. Smith, dubbed by USA TODAY as "the prototype of the new Christian pop star." He's following in the tracks of other performers like Amy Grant, having sold over six million abums along with his current "I'll Lead You Home," and pops up on both the Billboard top-selling albumn chart, and even the Jay Leno Show. Meanwhile, some of the heavy-hitters in the music industry are beginning to invest in pop religious music, including EMI, BMG and even Warner. The head of the Gospel Music Association says that "They recognize a real potential"; indeed, six of the largest religious music labels have been snapped up by media mogus, and sales of Christian music have increased more than 20% a year since 1992. That's well ahead of the 5% annual growth for rock and country. Not all Christians like the trend, however, and there is "spirited" debate over the use of rock and roll to "win" souls for the Big Guy in the Sky. Some consider all forms of rock to be satanic and sinful; others resent the success enjoyed by performers like Grant who have expanded their audience beyond the confines of the religious sub-cultures they began in. Grant caught flack for her "Baby, Baby" video where she nuzzles with a male co-star, and frolics around in front of the camera. Smith did the same, cavorting with a "sultry dancer" in the "I Will Be Here For You" video he made in 1992. Well, this writer considers the whole "Christian music" phenomenon as just so much pop-culture religious kitsch, which will hopefully someday be consigned to the historical yard-sale, along with glow-in-the-dark statues of Jesus, or holy icons that bleed on command. Handel and Verdo is about as religious as I'll get. But the success of this (bad) musical art form should tell Ralph Reed and born-again scaremongers that there is plenty of place in the American marketplace for all kinds of music. Imagine if Atheists tried to ban lyrics by Mr. Smith, or Any Grant, or Christian musical groups like "Jars of Clay." We would rightfully be seen as social bullies and authoritarians, violating the rights of others (and doing little or nothing on behalf of Atheism and the First Amendment). I wish that religionists would be just as tolerant, though. They do indeed have their own music, their own studios, record labels, bookstores and other outlets. Why do so many of them, unsatisfied with that, insist on trying to ban and censor OTHER forms of music they disapprove of? Why the mass-record and CD burnings of heavy-metal, hip-hop and rap? How would they feel if we started burning their musical materials, or trying to pass laws which prohibit certain suggestive "religious" lyrics? Live and let live, folks. You have the right to say, or sing anything you want. ************** Some politicians and religious leaders insist that Churches (with a lot o' help from the taxpayer) should take over social programs, and could do a better job than the government. But this stampede over the First Amendment and state-church separation may not be all it's cooked up to be according to a new study by the Minneapolis-based Search Institute. 90% of surveyed religious congregations report trouble in keeping high-school students involved in programs, while only about 9% say they are doing a good job. According to Associated Press, officials at a number of religious organizations also agree with the survey findings. A spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bioshops said "We just haven't convinced enough pastors and enough church leadership that we have to take youth work seriously." The survey indicated that "Just at the age when young people are facing difficult decisions about sex, alcohol, drugs and other perils of adolescence, they are breaking ties with the religious communities than can offer spiritual guidance and nurture." In fact, 55% of responding congregations said that they had "a lot of trouble" interesting teenagers in their activities, while another 38% reported "some trouble." Successful outreach programs were those willing to discuss "hot button" topics like sexuality and AIDS; according to AP, however, "The survey found...that few congregations are offering these programs." Isn't the message loud and clear, folks? Trypical religious nostrums such as "Just Say No," or schemes that emphasize religious taboo-laden doctrines like chastity, aren't going to appeal to youth in the twentieth century. Neither is being fearful of discussing AIDS. Remember the recent AANEWS dispatch which quoted a school board President who insisted that "students can live without oral sex," a reference to a remark made during a now-banned AIDS awareness presentation? And this situation won't improve by throwing good taxpayer money at it. Churches do not necessarily do "a better job" than secular social service agencies, Ralph Reed to the contrary. Even if they did, that wouldn't justify abandoning the First Amendment, and turning religion into a taxpayer-funded administration agency for social services. The facts suggest that attempts to "farm out" social programs to religion would not only be a constitutional violation -- it probably would not help the very people who need services the most. ************* ON-LINE RESOURCES FROM AMERICAN ATHEISTS... You can learn more about American Atheists and its activities by sending e-mail to: Be sure to include your name, address and zip code. Members of American Atheists may participate in AACHAT, our moderated discussion forum about Atheism, state-church separation, AA activities and related topics. Contact the list at Include your name and address. You may forward, reprint or quote from AANEWS dispatches, provided that credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. Coming soon... the American Atheists site on the world wide web. Read up on Atheism, and see what's happening in the fight for First Amendment freedoms; or, order from our new on-line catalogue! Watch this space for further details. **************** 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 on this list, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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