Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 nn nn AANEW

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Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #31 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/3/96 In This Edition... * "Mysteries Of The Millennium" (Part Two of Two) ******************* MILLENNIUM MYSTERY OR MEDIA MISINFORMATION? (Part Two Of Two) Other hoary artifacts of pseudo-science and new age crankery appear in the program "Mysteries of the Millennium," which aired this past Wednesday on CBS. The poetic quatrains of Nostradamus (1503-1566) are often cited as eschatological utterances about the end of the world, and authors such as John Sladek, L. Sprague de Camp, and the stage magician James Randi have discussed the enigmatic prophet at length. Sladek notes one source which found twenty different Nostradamuses, "the name having become a generic term for prophet." Sprague de Camp found much of Nostradamus's ramblings to be vague and incoherent; of some 449 identifiable predictions, 390 "cannot be identified with anything that has happened." Eighteen have proved to be false, and 41 were fulfilled; Sladek notes, though that "many were worded so as to have an even chance of fulfilment." Like the biblical verses in apocalyptic texts such as Daniel and Revelation, the writings of Nostradamus are a fertile ground for projection, wishful thinking, and the Procrustean mental exercise of fitting select contemporary events into the prophetic jigsaw puzzle. The prophecies are interpreted as accurate often after the fact; and the verses are so plentiful and bursting with enigmatic possibilities that some are bound to be "true," if we just look hard enough! (James Randi's "The Mask of Nostradamus: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Prophet" is probably the most comprehensive examination of Nostradamus and his writings. The author describes the quatrains as "disguised social commentaries, not prophecies.") Smoke And Mirrors From "Popular Arts" And Kushner/Evans Productions "Mysteries of the Millennium" is a collaborative effort involving Popular Arts Entertainment and a firm called Kushner/Evans Productions. PAE created a number of programs for both the Turner Network and Home Box Office (HBO), such as "Lights, Action, Hollywood" and "Jocks." Kushner/Evans appears to be tongue-in-cheek when it comes to describing itself as a "television, publishing and new media company devoted to wresting world-wide control from the brutal conspiracy that has so far thwarted our overweening ambition. Combining disparate backgrounds in combat surgery, sword-swallowing and black helicopter repair, KEP eagerly awaits the instructions of the Space Brothers." This humorous, light-hearted characterization has some interesting elements. The "Space Brothers" appear on the fringes of the UFO-alien abduction sub-culture, benevolent beings from afar who are said be responsible for ushering in a new age of peace, harmony and cosmic awareness. Adam Parfrey's latest book "Cult Rapture" has a chapter devoted to the Unarius cult, those champions of Space Brotherhood, and the important role they play in the 33 planets of the Interplanetary Confederation. As a romp on the fringes of sanity, it is well worth the read. The reference to "black helicopter repair" could well refer to those infamous black whirlybirds associated with everything from UFO abductions to tales about Satanic Cult Cattle Mutilation. Black Helicopters are supposedly keeping an eye on everything and everybody, at least to some self-described alien abductees. These obviously aren't the warm and fuzzy "Space Brothers", but the more sinister grey, nazi types said to be hiding out under U.S. Government protection in Nevada. The writer and Co-executive Producer for "Mysteries of the Millennium" is Truusje Kushner, who has ground out numerous specials for the Big Three networks and HBO. Her credits include "Frankenstein: An Untold Story." "She's very familiar with intrigue after a three year stint producing "Unsolved Mysteries." according to a promotional blurb. Tim Evans has produced and written material for Fox, NBC and even The Playboy Channel. "His project subjects have ranged from parapsychology in 'Mysterious Forces Beyond' to world history with 'A Year To Remember' to the wackiness of 'Totally Hidden Video'." He also helped to develop those legendary "Friday the 13th" films with Frank Mancuso, Jr. who later spun-off the TV series. "Prior to joining the entertainment industry, Tim drove a hearse for the L.A. County Coroner," we're told. Other people involved in the "Mysteries of the Millennium" project include Tim Braine a former HBO executive and a Chicago Film Festival award winner, and Kevin Meagher ("Today Show," "Anything For Money," "Candid Camera.") One can speculate from these backgrounds, of course, as to the motivations behind a program like"Mysteries of the Millennium." Was this intended as a serious, thought-provoking documentary which plumbed the depths of myth, prophecy and the human condition? Doubtful. If anything, these guys -- perhaps in a joking, "put one over on 'em" mood cooked up a virtual media brew of selective scientific musing combined with new age schlock, biblical eschatology, and a bit of the Virgin Mary thrown in for the benefit of the faithful. Some of "Mysteries" had little or nothing to do with the end of the world; a segment about "metaman", saving yourself to disc and someday "uploading" to a new body may be the stuff of techno-dreams and Extopian fantasy, but all of that wonderful solid state circuitry will be obliterated when the Big Comet Hits, or the Antichrist finally gets his (last) act together. The Down Side To Having The LAST Laugh... "Mysteries of the Millennium" may be, for some of us anyway, an excuse for grabbing the microwave popcorn, suspending our rational sense of disbelief and escaping everyday life for the seductive, mindless world of "X-Files"-style "entertainment." The more rational among us can entertain the possibility that the world could end in a cataclysmic impace, but we're still sensible enough to not take that to the bank. Checks and a regular mortgage payment constitute a more productive and plausible future. But according to many observers, the cultural fallout from millennialist angst may be something more serious than entertaining. "Millennial Prophecy Report" tracks the absurd, harmless and not-so-benign happenings as we barrel down the road toward the year 2,000. For those who expect to wake up in some post-millennial utopia with extrasensory powers, or the helping hand of the Space Brothers, the day-after hangover is probably survivable. But apocalyptic thinking -- the sense that one is in the midst of historic events and must "take sides" in Armageddon -- may already be taking its toll. Members of the Order of the Solar Temple took their own lives, and the lives of children. Branch Davidians chose to "shoot it out" with the BATF, and bring down their own House of David in a Texas-style Gotterdammerung. The Aum "Supreme Truth" cult in Japan eagerly awaited the End of the World, then decided to speed up the eschatological time table. And thousands of people on American highways drive around with bumper stickers on their cars declaring "IN CASE OF RAPTURE, THIS CAR WILL BE UN-MANNED." And they are quite serious. Over 100 million Americans believe in biblical prophecy. Tens of millions accept claims made about the reality of the devil, the immanence of the Final Days, the existence of UFO's with their abduction-crazed occupants, reincarnation, and numerous other tenets of everything from religious fundamentalism to new age mysticism. "How many religious and secular groups believe the prophecy that the world as we know it will soon end?, asks "Millennial Prophecy Report." "More than you can image." ******* AANEWS is a service of American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of govenrment and religion. For information on AA, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Be sure to include your name and address. Additional background about this list may be obtained by mailing to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and placing "info aanews" in the message body. You may forward, reprint or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the AANEWS. Edited and written by Conrad Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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