Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 10, 1996 (Nightow
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 10, 1996 (Nightowl Edition!)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#61 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/10/96 (Nightowl Edition!)
In This Edition...
* Cardinals "No" on Gay Rights, "Yes" on Zoning Exemption
* Virgin of Guadalupe is Faky Lady, Says Abbott!
* Church Shootout ~~ A Feud in Brooklyn
* TheistWatch: From Holy Sunday to Dark Skies
* About This List...
A TALE OF TWO CITIES ~~ RELIGIOUS BOSSISM ON EAST, WEST COASTS
Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell is, well, between a rock and a very, very
Last week, he signed a special executive order which extends city-paid
health benefits to domestic partners of gay city officials, a move he had
promised as a mayoral candidate in 1991. The order covers about 500 nonunion
city managers, supervisors and appointees, but leaves out about 20,000 other
Gays called it a symbolic victory; it was a lot less than they had hoped
for, and it was less than Rendell wanted back in 1993 when he urged the
Philadelphia City Council to extend health and pension benefits to gay
partners of all municipal employees, and give the same consideration for
unmarried heterosexual workers..
Enter Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, the city's powerful Roman Catholic
primate, who on Friday blasted the mayor and predicted that the order would
lead "to the deterioration of our civilization." He said he would "pray" for
Rendell to reverse the measure, and according to the Philadelphia Inquirer,
"vowed to press for repeal of the order."
Bevilacqua has considerable political pull, especially with an estimated
1.4 million Catholics in Rendell's political turf. City Council President
John Street quickly fell into step, and issued a statement calling the
mayor's order a "frontal assault on our city's families."
Bevilacqua's blast came in a televised broadcast from Mexico City, where
the Cardinal is attending a Vatican conference on family issues. He said the
inclusion of gays in the city's health benefits plan "is against marriage,
against the family and against the city."
Cardinal Bevilacqua is known for his clout within the American Catholic
establishment, and in regional politics. The Philadelphia Archdiocese was
active last year in organizing rallies, letter-writing campaigns and other
efforts on behalf of a proposed state school voucher scheme which would have
ended up giving private and religious schools up to $500,000,000 per year.
Some 3,000 miles away, Catholic officials in Los Angeles are locked in a
different kind of controversy. Cardinal Roger Mahony wants to raze the
120-year old St. Vibiana's Cathedral, which has become a cause celebre for
local historic preservationists. Church officials maintain that the
structure is unsafe, especially after the 3.6 magnitude earthquake on May 23;
there is now a wide safety area around the building, including the 83-foot
high bell tower.
Preservationists, though, insist that the damage is not so much material
as political; they want the local Cultural Heritage Commission to review the
application for demolition.
California politicians are already helping out Mahony, though.
Assemblymen Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles) and Jim Brulte (R-Rancho
Cucamonga), and Sen Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill last
Wednesday that would exempt all places of religious worship from any state
rules requiring review of disaster-damaged landmarks. Meanwhile, critics
charge that the Archbishop is using financial clout to affect the outcome of
the preservation fight; Mahoney had originally promised to erect a new
Cathedral near or on the same location which could cost up to $40 million or
more. Now, he speculates that he might build his new "house of worship"
outside of city limits if the municipal government doesn't comply with his
VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE A FRAUD, SAYS ABBOT ~~ DENIAL OF CHRISTIAN
EARTH GODDESS CAUSES FUROR IN MEXICO!
(Editor's Note: Developments last week in both Colombia and Mexico
clearly demonstrate how religious consciousness can leads to social epidemics
of fear, anxiety and nagging doubt. While Colombians were packing churches
in fear of the possible arrival of the Antichrist -- see AANEWS #60 -- mass
media in the country of Mexico was reflecting a virtual panic over the events
described in the following article. Is this just another example of
pre-Millennialist angst? Read on...)
Debate, accusations and anger erupted last week throughout Mexico amidst
charges that "the Mother of all Mexicans" -- the Virgin of Guadalupe -- is a
legend or hoax. Abbot Guillermo Schulemburg, who operates the enormous Mexico
City basilica build in honor of the minor deity, was quoted in an Italian
magazine as saying that the peasant Juan Diego (to whom the Virgin supposedly
appeared) never existed. According to Reuters, that admission is having the
effect of "casting the entire legend into doubt."
According to the legend, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Diego on a
hilltop near Mexico City -- a site which, coincidentally, was sacred to Aztec
Indians who populated the region. The dark-skinned apparition supposedly
told Juan Diego to construct a temple in her honor; she was soon dubbed the
Virgin of Guadalupe, referring to an Aztec term "Coatlallope" which means
"the one who crushed the serpent."
All of which is interesting, especially to religious skeptics who see
various social and political factors at work in constructing the legend --
not a metaphysical apparition. Present-day Mexico City sits on top of the
old Aztec Island capitol once known as Tenochtitlan. After the founding of
the city, the theocratic empire quickly absorbed neighboring tribal groups
through a series of "flower wars", and eventually included a good portion of
modern Mexico and ranged as far south as Guatamala. In 1521, the Spaniard
Hernando Cortes forged an alliance with discontented tribes, and crushed the
"Triple Alliance" which ruled the Aztec state.
While the Aztec empire was warlike and practiced religious rituals of
blood sacrifice, Cortes and his Catholic missionaries began their own bloody
campaign to dismantle the culture and enslave the population. Huge amounts
of goal were appropriated and shipped to Spain (or ended up as sunken
treasure which is still sought today.) Meanwhile, Christian missionaries
began mass-conversion of the newly colonized Indians, and started to graft
Catholic rituals and symbols onto the old religious metaphors. The giant
Aztec Temple of the Sun was demolished, and rubble from it and other
structures was used to fill in the surrounding swampland, including Lake
Texcoco. On the site of the old Temple was erected an enormous Catholic
With the political colonization complete, Catholic authorities moved to
finish off the social, religious and mental colonization of the indigenous
peoples. Was the "Virgin of Guadalupe" part of this process?
Today, the Virgin is a national symbol. Notes Reuters: "Known simply as
'La Virgen' throughout Mesoamerica, her image, which miraculously appeared on
Juan Diego's cloak, is standard decoration in any Mexican home or car." The
site of the alleged apparition was earlier a shrine devoted to the worship of
the Indian goddess, Tonantzin, known as "Our Mother."
The Abbot Tells All
The recent flap began when the Mexican daily paper Reforma quoted Abbot
Schulemburg as saying "(Juan Diego) is a symbol, not a reality." The abbot,
who is now 81, then claimed he was misquoted, and Archbishop Sergio Obeso
Rivera commented that "The statement of the abbot must have been
misinterpreted because you just can't say that (Diego did not exist.)"
Schulemburg's quote was first thought to have been published in the
Italian magazine "30 Giorno": but it then turned out that the Giroro article
was based on an interview given "months earlier" (Reuters) with the local
Catholic publication known as Ixtus. Reuters reported that "In that
interview -- never denied by the abbot -- Schulemburg said Juan Diego
symbolized the marriage between Catholicism and traditional Indian religions
and said his beatification recognized a 'cult', not a real person."
Associated press reported similar wording. Abbot Schulenburg (sic) is
reported to have said that the 1990 beatification of Juan Diego by the Pope
"is a recognition of a cult. It is not a recognition of the physical, real
existence of a person."
AP also reports that "small protests" broke out once the statement was made
public, and that "Demonstrators scrawled graffiti on church walls vilifying
the abbot and demanding his ouster."
Even so, local religious fanatics are apparently unaware that Abbot
Schulemburg is not alone in his opinions. "Some church leaders," noted AP
last week, "argued the apparition of the brown-skinned Virgin was a fable
created to allow the Indians to continue to worship their own goddess.
Others said the Spanish made up the story to help convert Mexico's Indians
The man who orchestrated the campaign for the beatification to sainthood
of Juan Diego is now demanding that Abbot Schulenburg resign.
A final word about the Virgin of Guadalupe. Today, she is depicted as
having fair skin; she stands on the horns of a bull, said to symbolize
fertility and potency, or on the outline of a crescent moon -- another symbol
of the earth goddess.
NEW YORK CHURCH FEUD LEAVES ONE DEAD, BITTER MEMORIES
While some religious leaders are trying to close ranks and legislate
morality on issues like abortion and freedom of expression, others are busy
slashing car tires and placing anonymous phone calls to each other according
to the New York Times.
It's not exactly Lebanon, or the Palestinian-Israeli squabble; but on
Friday night, a long-standing feud between two Brooklyn churches resulted in
an exchange of gun fire
and the death of one parishioner who was shot in the chest and head.
According to reports, members of the Prince of Peace Disciples Church
confronted three members of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and "accused
them of firing gunshots at their building early that day."
Why the squabble? According to the Times, "Friday's confrontation was
apparently rooted in a competition over congregants and in small gestures --
like parking in the other church's driveway -- that acquired larger meanings
for the pastors and church members."
In fact, both "churches" are described as converted storefronts located on
the ground floor of a series of row houses. The wife of the Church of the
Lord pastor said that the rival church was envious of her congregation's
growth. A detective on the scene remarked that "They were like the Hatfields
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Millennium watchers might be interested in these information tidbits.
Evangelicals in the United States are busy speculating about the possible
biblical significance of the election two weeks ago of Benjamin Netanyahu as
Israel's new Prime Minister. Many view the Likud victory, and the rise to
power of assorted religious parties, as part of the Second Coming and "God's
plan for humanity." In order for bible prophesy to be fulfilled, the
re-establishment of Israel, and its survival, are necessary conditions. Many
American Christians buying into this fantasy don't approve of the middle east
peace process. After all, notes the L.A. Times, many evangelicals "believe
that the land-for-peace policy followed by defeated Prime Minister Shimon
Peres and his predecessor, the late Yitzak Rabinb, weakened Israel militarily
and threatened its long-term survival."
Other Christians worry that a more nationalistic and theocratic Israel
could jeopardize missionary activities there. As in Russia and other
countries, religious fundamentalists are worried about foreign religious
AANEWS also reported that the Fox Network is firing what perhaps may be
the opening shot in Millennialist wars across the cultural bow, with its fall
program "Millennium." The plot involves a secret cabal which fights the
social decay and rampant crime in the "Last Days." Seems that NBC, a major
purveyor of religious and pseudo-science videotrash, is now going one-on-one
with Fox, blending elements of the "X-files" with an Oliver Stone approach to
the future. "Dark Skies" will be the peacock's fall offering on Saturday
nights. According to the press blurb, it involves "two idealistic college
graduates" who back in 1961 were part of John Kennedy's Camelot days.
"They set off to change the world. They never imagined they would lead
the battle to save it."
"From what?", you might ask.
Well, among the villans, TW is finding just about every pseudo-science
distortion and fantasy that making the cultural rounds. There's Project
Majestic which is linked to pernicious aliens, the New York blackout of 1965,
Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Challenger disaster -- well, you get
The boyfriend-girlfriend duo get involved with a resistance movement known
as "Dark Skies," and the whole confabulation is touted as "an epic science
fiction-adventure series, combining 40 years of history..."
Yeah, and we thought all that stuff was the work of the Keebler Elves!
The Switch Is On, at least in Great Britain, where believers are busy
"jumping ship", leaving the Anglican Church for the ranks of Roman
Catholicism. According to the London Times and the Catholic Herald, whole
congregations are leaving the official state church, in part due to its
policy of ordaining women into the priesthood. And, hey, I wanna' know why
media doesn't fess-up and call it the "priestesshood"!
Even so, the Catholic church authorities are less-than-pleased with their
latest membership gains. Bishop Victor Guazzelli says that the waves of
converts "should not be greeted with triumphalism; it is about ecumenism,
sharing and the love of God." It is generally understood that leaders of the
Church of England are working overtime with the Vatican to effect a
reconcilliation. Where IS Henry when we need him?
The Church of England is finally throwing in the towel over the hoary
issue of Sabbatarianism -- "keeping the Sabbath Holy." As in the U.S.,
religious groups battled hard against any commercialization of "the Lord's
day," at one time equating doing business on Sunday with something akin to
sin and damnation. Sabbatarianism lived on in America in the form of
nefarious "Sunday closing" laws, which tried to regulate what sorts of
businesses could and could not be open; there's even a remnant of this
antedeluvian superstition in regulations which mandate late-opening hours for
bars, pubs and other worthwhile establishments, Presumably, Almighty God and
His Hosts was in serious jeopardy from Demon Rum and Jack Daniels.
Last week, though, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, all but
put the nail in the coffin lid when he called upon the Anglican establishment
to adapt to the commercialization of Sunday. But get this -- it's a defeat
twisted into victory. Carey couched the triumph of secularism and the defeat
of religious prudery by calling for what the London Times described as "the
creation of a seven-day-a-week Church." Using buzz-phrases like "reaching
out to the community," Carey said that the Church had to become more flexible
and aggressive if it wants to stay in business. We added that "We live in a
society which is losing touch with its spiritual and moral roots." While we
disagree with THAT statement -- after all, we promote an Enlightened
Secularism! -- we do applaud at least part of the Archbishop's perception
that "Individualism and relativism have seeped deep into our culture."
We've got an update on Canadian state-church separation developments,
thanks to our Due North Correspondent (aptly known as "J.C.!). Last week, we
informed readers that the government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien was
promoting legislation which would limit the power churches enjoyed over
schools in Newfoundland. The Canadian House of Commons voted by a 170-46
measure to approve the resolution; but some of the opposition came from
within the Liberal Party, and feared "the possibility of Roman Catholic
schools in other provinces losing their funding if a precedent were set."
The measure now moves to the Canadian Senate, and if approved would permit
local governments to merge schools and eliminate needless duplication.
It's not the first time that Chretien and religious groups have tangled;
the church was upset by an earlier measure which the Prime Minister pushed
through which banned discrimination against homosexuals.
About This List...
AANEWS is a free service from 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 information on
American Atheists, send e-mail to: email@example.com, and include your name
and mailing address in the message body.
You may forward, post, or quote from this dispatch, provided that
appropriate credit is given to both American Atheists and AANEWS. For
subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "info aanews" (minus the
quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F.
Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank