Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 22, 1996 Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 12:01:55 -0700 nn nn AAN

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 22, 1996 from: Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 12:01:55 -0700 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #44 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/22/96 In This Edition... * "Warm 'n Fuzzy" Reforms -- Equality of Superstition in Vaticanland * Freemen Standoff (Again!) ~~ Ruby Ridge as Americana, "Turner Diaries" Flap * Shroud of Turin (Again!) ~~ Best Left Buried? Or Sales Gimmick For 2000? * TheistWatch ~~ Lord's Resistance Army, Veil-ed Threats and Rich Swamis! TROUBLE AHEAD FOR VATICAN AS REFORMERS ORGANIZE A Coalition of Roman Catholic organizations calling themselves "We Are Church" plans a press conference later today to announce a new campaign for reforms within the religion. Efforts include getting one million signatures on a petition they hope to present to Pope John Paul II, calling for a Third Vatican Council in hopes of bringing about major changes. A similar petition drive in Europe gathered 2.3 million signatures in 1995. Among the goals of "We Are The Church": * Ordination of married men and women into the priesthood/priestesshood. * "The primacy of conscience in deciding issues of sexual morality (for example: birth control)" * A church policy which "embraces and welcomes those who are divorced and remarried, married priests, theologians and others who exercise freedom of speech." The new campaign underscores a deep split separating many American Catholics from the national ecclesiastical leadership, and the ruling authorities in Rome. Polls show that most married Catholic couples use birth control and often engage in other proscribed behaviors, despite stern Vatican injunctions. There is also growing resistance to the doctrine of "Papal Infallability" or "Ex Cathedra", where the Pope supposedly echoes the will of god in church teachings and doctrines. In fact, the new referendum push speaks disparagingly of "A year of Vatican infallibility decrees and a bishop threatening CTAers (Call to Action, another reform group) with excommunication..." The Vatican is unlikely to back down on core doctrinal issues, at least while John Paul II is pope. The pontiff has remained intransigent on issues such as birth control, abortion, ordination of women and "Ex Cathedra" policy, and the Curia -- the Vatican's governing body -- remains firmly in the hands of conservatives. "Religion" versus "Spirituality" The "We Are Church" initiatve also points to a subtle but deep change taking place in the postmodernist-religious marketplace -- the replacement of institutionalized religious organization with a more eclectic quest for "individual spirituality" and meaning. The traditional, top-down management model with the ecclesiastical authorities deciding and enforcing matters of dogma has been under attack in one form or another since Church councils began, even as far back as the fourth century, c.e. During the Reformation, Protestantism challenged many of the doctrines and trapping of the Church as well. But the current "greening" of religious institutions suggests that people are attempting to construct their own narratives about the world, and even trying to mix disparate elements into a personalized fusion. Groups traditionally oppressed by Christianity -- blacks, women, gays -- instead seek to alter and reform the traditional institutions and forms. These calls have not been received warmly by ecclesiastical authorities. The Second Vatican Council made certain reforms which lead to a "pop-culture" religious ritual. Priests, for instance, recited the mumbo-jumbo of the mass in languages other than Latin, thus renderring the ritual less transcendental. Even so, the Vatican-2 changes have only fueled the call for more reform. Core doctrines are threatened, including the vision of the traditional, male god of the old testament, the supremacy of males as church leaders, and long-standing views concerning sexuality, ordination and celibacy. What's Ahead? Just how far can the reform movement go? As long as conservative Popes and Cardinals operate the Vatican apparatus, basic doctrinal upheavals will be avoided, thus leaving reformers out in the cold. Religious fragmentation is historically common, though, and already traditionalist Catholics have established their own Tridentine above-ground movement. Doctrinal conservatives are found even throughout the American church hierarchy as well; Bishops and Archbishops are nearly unanimous in their views on issues such as abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women. There is nothing to stop reformers, however, from establishing their own churches, at least on paper. The "warm and fuzzy" reform doctrines though, must still contend with a rigid belief that "doctrine isn't a matter of voting" -- a view expressed by officials in the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese recently, where Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz threatened to excommunicate Catholics who maintained membership in certain reform or taboo groups. ************ FREEMEN STANDOFF IS ''SHEER LUNACY'' The confrontation between Christian Identity Freemen and the U.S. government took another bizarre twist late yesterday when Colorado Senator Charles Duke -- himself a sympathizer with militia-"Patriotic" movements -- gave up in his effort to end the confrontation. According to reports, Duke said that the Freemen are no longer willing to compromise, and that his five-day effort to mediate the dispute "just became sheer lunacy." Duke also accused the Freemen of fraud, adding "These people have absolutely nothing to do with the patriotic movement. My recommendation to anyone who considers themselves in the patriot movement or the militia movement is to stay away from Jordon, Montana." The Freemen dispute has been going on for 58 days, and stems from charges against two leaders of the group who were purportedly involved in a $1.8 million check fraud scheme and other activities. In related developments: * "Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy," a made-for TV movie, ended its two episode run last evening. Starring Laura Dern and Randy Quaid, the four-hour mini-series depicted the conflict between Randy Weaver and his family, and the FBI during the infamous siege at Rudy Ridge, Idaho. Weaver's wife and fourteen year old son were killed, along with a U.S. Marshall. The event has become an icon for the "anti government" movement, a term used to describe militias, white-racialists and believers in Christian Identity religion. The series was based on the book "Every Knee Shall Bow: The Truth and Tragedy of Ruby Ridge and the Randy Weaver Family," by journalist Jess Walter. The book describes how the Weavers "took to the woods to escape what they believed was a sinful world on the brink of Armageddon." * Lyle Stuart, the controversial publisher of "The Anarchist Cookbook", shipped 60,000 reprint copies of the "The Turner Diaries" to bookstores and distributors on Monday. The book was written by William L. Pierce in 1987 under the pseudonym "Andrew Macdonald," and describes a futuristic race war where white Christian nationalists "take back" the country from ZOG, "Zionist Occupation Government." According to reports, the novel is now the "bible" for militia and Christian Identity types, and was also "favorite reading" for Timothy McVeigh, now chareged with the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahomo City. "The Turner Diaries" might even have served as a model for the actual bombing; in the book, FBI headquarters is blown up by a fertilizer bomb at 9:15 a.m. when the building is full. The "Diaries" have sold over 200,000 copies, mostly through Pierce's organization known as the National Alliance. In an interview with American Atheist Magazine, Stuart declared that he was trying to "awaken the country" to the "dangerous ideas" in the book. He compared his publication of "The Turner Diaries" to the decision by American publishers like Reynall & Hitchcock to distribute Hitler's "Mein Kampf" prior to World War II. Laui Woods, Senior Researcher at the Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told American Atheist Magazine that her organization "does not advocate censorship" of the Turner Diaries. "The book has already circulated throughout the militia movement, but most buyers (of the Lyle Stuart edition) will be just ordinary, curious Americans who have heard of the book and want to read it." * William Pierce, the retired physics professor who authored "The Turner Diaries", grabbed another 15 minutes of fame on the Sunday edition of "60 Minutes." Pierce labeled himself "a concerned American trying to spread the truth" about what saw happening in the country. Asked by Mike Wallace about the "Day of the Rope" which describes the mass-hangings of Jews, blacks, race-mixers and other "traitors," Pierce chuckled that it was merely a literary technique to render the book exciting. *********** SHROUD FOLLY RESURRECTED AGAIN Haggling over whether the Shroud of Turin is REALLY the burial cloth for one J.C., or just another medieval religious hoax continues, amidst new reports that the wrapping may be older than recent tests indicate. According to the current USA TODAY, a team from the University of Texas Science Health Center reports that a film of microbes may have "skewed earlier radiocarbon dating" tests. The findings were reported at a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in New Orleans. Pieces of the shroud were examined in 1988 by three separate teams; all arrived at the conclusion that the alleged burial cloth was a fake, dating sometime between 1260 and 1390 -- a period when the manufacture and sale of phoney religious trinkets and artifacts was thriving. The Shroud of Turin has been the property of the Roman Catholic Church since 1578; it shows a negative image of a man with nail wounds in the hands and feet. Many believers hope it is the burial cloth of their god-man. Critics say that the rendering could have been produced by various artistic techniques well known in the 13 and 14 centuries. While the Vatican will not vouch for the Shroud's authenticity, it will nevertheless be displaying the cloth for public viewing in 1998 and 2000, years when religious tourism in Italy is expected to attract up to 20 million people. Last month, the church dragged out another suspected hoax artifact, the "Holy Coat of Trier." Believers say that this is the actual coat worn by J.C. during his trek to his crucifixion. Carbon dating of the "Holy Coat" may be difficult if not impossible, though, since it was immersed in a rubber preservative in the 19th century, and decorated with silk trappings. It was brought from the "Holy Land" by Empress (later Saint) Helena, the mother of Constantine, who also purchased other questionable relics, including the "Holy Stairs" which allegedly were in the home of Pontius Pilate, and which Jesus is said to have ascended when brought into the presence of the Ropman governor. Like the Shroud, the "Holy Coat" will also be displayed to the gullible and curious when 2,000 rolls around. *********** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Bits and pieces of First Amendment related news...The Supreme Court rejected without comment this week a case which challenged the use of the motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency. And in Oregon, Roman Catholic leaders are challenging the possible use of a recorded confession made to a priest by a prison inmate. Seems that on April 22, a man charged with burglary and theft, along with possible involvement in three 1995 slayings, confessed his transgressions to the Rev. Timothy Mockaitis while in jail. Part of the legal dilemma involves the policy of recording all conversations, including confessions. The Church insists that the "sacrament" is protected as a confidential religious right, similar to attorney-client exchanges. ********** Louis Farrakhan may not like Bill Clinton, but the head of the largest Afro-American Muslim group in the country does. Iman ("religious leader-teacher") W. Deen Mohammed said that he favors Clinton over probable GOP challenger Bob Dole during a recent press conference; but officials of the Islamic organization say that he will not be directing followers to vote the same way. ******** The Vatican isn't the only foreign power messing in internal American politics. Last week, the Chilean Senate enacted a resolution urging their U.S. counterparts to override President Clinton's controversial veto of the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban." Do we detect the backroom hand of the Catholic Church in this international stunt? Religion News Service noted that the resolution was "unusual" (after all, it's mostly the U.S. telling the Chileans how to behave, even if it means getting rid of their own president!) and was signed by 40 of the country's 46 senators. Abortion is outlawed in Chile, which has a large Roman Catholic majority. *** Iran isn't the only example of religious disutopianism in the world. Consider the region of Sudan and Uganda, which also happens to be a thriving center for slave trading -- Louis Farrakhan not withstanding. In northern Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army of faith healer Joseph Kony is doing its best to overthrow the government and establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments. Last month, the Lord's privateers destroyed hundreds of houses in one town, and killed 34 people in the village of Pabbo. In April, they attacked military convoys, and then massacred 250 civilians with machine gun fire near the Sudanese border. According to reports, the Lord's Resistance Army grew out of an earlier apocalyptic militia called the Holy Spirit Army, led by mystical seer and "prophetess" Alice Lakwena. As a con artist, Lakwena was exceptionally gifted, recruiting thousands of willing followers. Her military skills were another matter. The Holy Spirit Army went down to defeat after suffering heavy casualties; soldiers were told that spirits would render them invincible to bullets and artillery. Brother Joe Kony is related to Lakwena, and often wears decorated white robes while directing the armed faithful from Sudan., The "prophetess" is hiding out in nearby Kenya. ********** Here's another example of how you DON'T go about the business of promoting reason and secularism. In Egypt, the relatively secular government is locked in a bitter struggle with Islamic fundamentalists who want to ape their kindred in Tehran and set up a theocratic dictatorship. Hosni Mubarek's government has detained and executed thousands of suspects in the campaign against the Muslim fanatics, who in turn retaliate by bombing tour buses, hotels, restaurants and doing their utmost to create a climate of terror in Allah's Name (Praise Be To Him...blah, blah). Last week, Egypt's High Court upheld an Education Ministry regulation which bars schoolgirls from wearing the Islamic veil over their faces. The court rejected an appeal from a man whose two daughters were expelled from school, following the establishment of school uniforms policies which exclude the veil. Most versions of Islamic law declare that women must dress "modestly" and cover their hands and faces in public. The father argued that the government uniforms violated individual liberty and Muslim law. The uniform idea was devised by Education Minister Hussein Kamel Bahaeddin as a way of combatting what he feared was the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalist teachers. The court decision simply means that fundamentalists are once again falsely lionized as "heroes" and guardians of civil liberties against the draconian, oppressive measures of government. It turns Islamic purists into martyrs, and fails to distinguish between clearly violent acts (such as bombing innocent victims) and statements of religious liberty -- and foolishness -- such as wearing the veil. Our advice to secular comrades in Egypt -- IDEAS are the only tools which can ultimately roll back religious bigotry and intolerance. ************* Thanks to correspondent Neal Cary, who sent us the following transcript from Andy Rooney's recent "60 Minutes" conversation with Dr. Jack Kevorkian: ROONEY: "Did you really seriously worry about going to prison?" KEVORKIAN: "No! Never! Am I a criminal? The world knows I'm not a criminal! What are they trying to put me in jail for? You've lost common sense in this society because of religious fanaticism and dogma. You're basing your laws, and your whole outlook on natural life, on mythology! It won't work! That's why you have all these problems in the world. Name them -- India, Pakistan, Ireland. Name them! All these problems -- they're all religious problems!" *** We'll contrary to Billy Graham and the sleazoid TV evangelists hustling quick bucks on the tube, there are plenty of major examples where prayer DOESN'T work. Your humb'l correspondent has always been mystified when, for instance, atheletes from competing teams cross themselves, or mutter quick prayers, presumably for a victory on the court or playing field. What's going on? Is "God" counting the hail mary's and other incantations to see who should win? Does a tied score mean He couldn't decide? So take the case of the former Prime Minister of India, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, who last week went down to political defeat to Hindu fundamentalists in that country's elections. As the ballots were being counter, Roa left Congress Party headquarters and journeyed to the Hindu shrine at Tirupati; he had visited there nearly a dozen times during his campaign, and he had even consulted Hindu astrologers on the most propitious time for scheduling the election! Even so, despite prayers and incantations, Rao and his party went down to defeat, and the Hindu-nationalist BHP group emerged as the new victor. Rao also maintained the services of a self-proclaimed Hindu "Swami" or "holy man" named Chandraswamy for over 25 years. The swami now resides in the slammer on charges of accepting bribes from foreign business interests, and is said to know so much about internal corruption within the Congress Party that, as he told reporters, "When I start to talk, heads will roll!" ************** In case you're keeping your own tally of the religious war on civil liberties, South Carolina Governor David Beasley signed a measure banning same-sex marriage yesterday. The good guv' insisted that "The State of South Carolina sends a very clear message that we support the oldest long-living institution in the history of humanity. That is marriage between man and woman." Based simply on the criteria of longevity, we wonder if a similar decree concerning prostitution is not warranted. **** 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 about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and mailing address. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the aanews. For information about this list, send mail to:, and put "info aanews" (without the quotes) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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