Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 10, 1996 (Nightow

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Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 10, 1996 (Nightowl Edition!) Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 hard place. 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 unionized workers. 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 wishes. ***************** 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 cathedral. 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 to Catholicism." 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 and McCoys." ************ 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 proselytizing. 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 picture. 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." (Reuter) 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:, 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:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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