Date: Sun, 12 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 12, 1996 nn nn AAN

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Sun, 12 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 12, 1996 from: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #36 nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 5/12/96 In This Edition... * Voter's Won't Get To Say NO To Slavery Lovin' Legislator. * Christian Group Slam-Dunks Mormon Athlete * Atheists Win In Utah; LDS Is Back To Busing * TheistWatch: Mobile Monks, Blessed Cars, Kick-Ass Hassidics BIBLE QUOTER, SLAVERY DEFENDERS QUITS CONGRESSIONAL RACE An Alabama official who last week circulated a statement using biblical quotes to justify his position on slavery, yesterday dropped out of the race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. State Senator Charles Davidson was faced with growing criticism, following his claim that those angry over slavery "are obviously bitter and hateful against God and his word, because they reject what God says and embrace what mere humans say concerning slavery." Davidson had quoted specific biblical passage in support of slavery, including an exhortation from Leviticus which declares "You may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you." He also quoted First Timothy, where god orders servants (slaves) to "regard their own masters as worthy of all honors." The pro-slavery remarks were contained in a statement Davidson circulated to fellow Alabama State Senators early last week; he had originally attempted to use the material in a speech which supporting flying the Confederate flag over the capitol building in Montgomery. That measure, though, was quickly tabled before Davidson could make his remarks. Davidson was one of six candidates in a GOP primary contest to be decided on June 4. Fellow Republicans quickly called upon him to withdraw from the Fourth Congressional District contest, as did U.S.Rep. Tom Bevill, the Democratic incumbent. ************** MORMON STUDENT LOSES AWARD; CHRISTIAN GROUPS SAYS THAT LDS IS REALLY POLYTHEISTIC Despite all the trendy talk abour religious ecumenism and the positive role religious ideology plays, there's still plenty of infighting over who's "god" happens to top all others. The latest victim in the squabble is a Franklin, Tennessee high school athlete named Aaron Walker, who was named as his high school's Male Christian Athlete of the Year. But now, the organization which hands out the honor is refusing to recognize the 18-year old graduating senior at its annual banquet. Walker is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nationwide evangelical organization with over 5,000 chapters called "huddles" in high schools throughout the country. The group describes itself as interdenominational, and insists that its focus "has always been on the person of Jesus Christ and not on traditions or denominational labels." Even so, FCA now refused to recognize Walker's achievement because he is a member of the Mormon (LDS) Church. A spokesman for FCA told the news media "We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons, whereas the teachings of the church (sic) of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe in a polytheistic view in which there are many gods." Fellowship of Christian Athletes was organized in 1954 by a group of Pittsburg businessmen. Beginning in 1956, the group held summer camps which mixed athletic events with religious instructions. It now boasts 320 staff members, and has some 250,000 school athletes and coaches as members. A statement from FCA declares that "To further focus the ministry, we have determined that the junior and senior high schools and college campuses in the U.S. provide the best arena to reach coaches and athletes. Every sanctioned FCA Huddle will be identified with either a junior or senior high or a college/university." The Problematic Status of the LDS The incident between a member of the Mormon Church and a "mainstream" Christian evangelical group merely highlights the problematic status of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. LDS is an authentic American phenomenon, based on the teachings of Joseph Smith (1805-1844). Smith claimed that he began to have "visions" at the age of 15 informing him that the "true religion" had vanished from the earth and that he had been selected to re-establish it. What followed, in the opinion of critics, was a life filled with either duplicitous manipulation or credulous followers, or hallucinatory rantings -- or perhaps a combination of both. In September of 1827, Smith claimed that he had received instructions from an angel written on golden tablets. These supposedly revealed a secret history of the "true church" in America. As a child, Smith was known as to be highly imaginative, and was fascinated by folk tales and speculation concerning lost civilizations and invisible entities. In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published, and Smith established a small congregation which he then moved to Ohio in 1831, then to Missouri seven years later. Eventually, the sect ended up in Commerce, Ill, where Smith and his select advisers governed the religious colony with a heavy hand. Mormon practices like polygamy soon attracted hostility from neighbors, and following a schism within the cult, Smith was arrested and jailed by non-Mormons in Carthage, Ill. and shot. One of Smith's son opposed the teaching on polygamy, and established a Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints. Meanwhile, Smith sidekick Brigham Young (1801-1877) became head of the Mormon sect, and eventually oversaw the migration of Church members to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Young's own talent for organizational genius and despotism made him the first governor of the Territory (1849-1857); but Mormon teaching eventually collided with cultural sensibilities over the issue of polygamy. The Church finally "changed" its doctrinal view in order to bring Utah into the United States. While Mormon teaching accepted the divinity of the Judean messiah, it told a tale about the exploits of Jesus in "the new world." Today, Mormons promote their Book of Mormon as "another testament" to be accepted along with the Old and New Testament writings of mainstream, Christian religions. As a result, and because of other bizarre church doctrines, theologians outside of the Mormon church often consider the LDS a strange sect which is "not entirely" Christian. In Utah, the LDS has built up enormous financial holdings and considerable political power. Mormon legislators often act as "mouthpieces" for the LDS on political issues. It has been estimated that the Mormon Church is the wealthiest religious organization throughout the entire Rocky Mountain region. It is also one of the fastest growing religions, with over 6,000,000 members, and has active outreaches across the world, and particularly in Latin America. There, the Roman Catholic Church, which for centuries has enjoyed a near-monopoly on religious belief and government sanction, considers the LDS an upstart, "new religion." Politically, the Church reflects a social conservatism which echoes much of the fundamentalist or evangelical Protestant new right agenda. It also agrees with religions like Catholicism in its support for an across the board ban on abortion. And while Mormon luminaries like Utah Senator Orin Hatch are considered reliable allies of the Christian Coalition, many evangelicals -- including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes -- still have serious doctrinal problems with Mormonism and its members. ************* SOS SAYS ''EMERGENCY'' NO EXCUSE FOR GOV'T AID TO CHURCH When a fire destroyed a Mormon seminary building in West Jordan, Utah last Wednesday, local School District Officials promptly offered the 1,500 theology students temporary use of the West Jordan High School. And that action has now brough opposition from American Atheists and its parent organization, the Society of Separationists. According to Utah State AA Director Chris Allen, government officials had no business in making the public facility available for a religious exercise. He quoted the Utah Constitution, which clearly states that: "Religious classes shall not be held in school buildings or on school property in any way that permits public money or property to be applied to, or that requires public employees to be entangled with, any religious worship, exercise, or instruction." Allen's statement, released immediately after the actions of District officials were uncovered, sent state officials running for cover. A lawyer for the State Office of Higher Education told the news media that there was nothing to worry about. Doug Bates insisted that "It's not illegal as long as it's a temporary accommodation." But Allen countered: "State officials are consciously trying to circumvent the law because they're only doing it for a day or two. It's indicative of their respect for the law regarding church and state regulation. They'll look for any excuse to get around it." Allen, a frequent critic of state-church entanglement in the Mormon-dominated state, was once again successful. By Thursday, LDS officials caved in, and began busing their seminary students 10 blocks to a church facility. ************ THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS We'll let this remark from AA Internet Represent Margie Wait speak for itself. She call's this "news that didn't make the headlines..." "Who doesn't associate the thought of Buddhist monks with serene temples, living in poverty, meditation and simple vegetarian meals? On one of China's 4 holy mountains, Jiuhua in the Eastern province of Anhui, one can find almost 90 monasteries and that attracts a lot of (religious) tourism. Many monks went into business; they're running hotels and lodges, vegetarian restaurants and souvenir shops. These activities generate a lot of cash and to keep up with life in the fast land, hordes of holy men have bought themselves cars equipped with cellular phones." **************** TW has reported several stories about thuggery and brutality involving hired security guards of the Nation of Islam. Last summer, for instance, Muslim-linked mall walkers stopped, detained and threatened a couple of teenage kids on charges of shoplifting. But tough-guy Muslims aren't the only self-appointed religious cops on the prowl. Last Friday, nine members of a Hassidic community in Brookly, N.Y. were busted after they set fires and blocked cars during a demonstration. The trouble began late Thursday after two Hassidic security patrol members were arrested and charged with beating up a man whose nephew they accused of boosting bikes. Over 150 people showed up at the local police station and began the melee. All of this happened in the Crown Heights neighborhood where there have been numerous racial outreaks; back in 1991, a black child was accidentally killed in a car accident involving a Lubavitch sect member, and race riots broke out. ******** This writer has always wondered about the religious practice of "blessing" people, animals, sports team, armies, and anything else. Just what happens? Is it a way of reminding god to pay extra-special attention to the object of this ritual? Does a blessed athlete score more points, win more often? Would blessing a ValueJet plane render it safer? Comes a Father Orozco in Columbia, whose Church of Our Lady of Health is reportedly thriving. The good father is raking in over $3,000 (that's U.S. dollars, folks) just from blessing automobiles. The price is one-dollar per car, apparently regardless of horsepower. Reportedly, he's been doing this since 1950, which on our calculator comes out to about $7,000,000. That can buy one hell of a car, and more! *********** We found some interesting comments on the net recently about the subject of religious terrorism. Read, weep and fear. * "Whenever religion is involved, terrorists kill more people." -- Dr. Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University, Scotland. * "In some sects members are told to commit violent acts because the only way they can hasten redemption or achieve salvation is to eliminate the nonbelievers." -- (Ibid.) * "This (Aum sect Tokyo nerve gas attack) was done not by people with a political ideal but by a lunatic religious group whose idea of a happy death is mass suicide." -- Atsuyuki Sassas, Japanese expert on terrorism. * "These extremist sects appeal to many people in an antispiritual age because they combine their empowering theology with a warm, supportive environment, at least at first. Those who join become part of a close-knit body of believers who are convinced they understand the meaning of history and what the future holds." -- Bruce Nelan, Time Magazine. ********** You'd have thought that a Church which claimed to have an 800-number to the Almighty and a perfect batting average on All Questions Material and Spiritual, would at least be consistent when it came to politics in its own neck of the woods. Take the recurrent issue of Italian unity; seems like the old men in the Vatican just can't decide what's always good for them, or for the Italian people. In the 19th century, the papacy was opposed to efforts aimed at uniting the Italian peninsula and establishing a Republic. Pope's never DID trust the common folk, especially after years of nuzzling-up to Europe's incestuous autocratic regimes which stretched from the Balkans to the Meditteranean. Troops finally breached the walls of Rome in 1870, and annexed the papal territories. The Church had to wait nearly six decades before Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Grand Council granted autonomy once again to the Vatican, and helped to underwrite the Vatican Bank. That concordant, signed on Feb. 11, 1929, assured the cooperation of the Church in transporting dozens of Nazis to safety out of Europe at the end of World War II, an operation aptly known as the "Ratline." No sooner had the Nazis moved on with safe passage, though, than the Vatican made a land grab to annex hundreds of square miles of territory leading to the sea. The new Italian government didn't go along, however, so the Vatican remained as only an exclusive high-rent district in Rome. Now, the Church has done a flip-flop on the question of Italian unity. Last Thursday, John Paul II urged Italians to reject a move for secession being made by the Northern League Party. Addressing a conference of Italy's bishops, the pope declared that "The common good and progress towards a caring society in the beloved Italian nation require...the clear testimony of to propose and defend that great inheritance of faith, culture and unity..." The question of secession for the north reflects the byzantine nuances of domestic Italian politics, including charges that the country -- dominated by Rome -- is rife with curruption and waste. The Northern League has attracted about 10% of the nation's popular vote. *********** AANEWS is a free service of 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: Be sure to include your name and mailing address. You may quote from, forward, or copy this dispatch for further distribution, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and AANEWS. For more information about this list, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank