Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 27, 1996 nn nn A
Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 27, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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
-- 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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