Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 22, 1996 Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 12:01:55 -0700 nn nn AAN
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 22, 1996
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 12:01:55 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Based simply on the criteria of longevity, we wonder if a similar decree
concerning prostitution is not warranted.
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