Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 1, 1996 (Nightowl

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Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 1, 1996 (Nightowl Edition) Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn # 84 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/1/96 (Nightowl Edition) * Church Schools Try To Hit Public Purse * "Guru Busters" a Hit (Believe It Or Not!) * Monks Into Personality Cults, Murder-For-Hire * Chupacabras Makes It To The Big Apple! (In Time For New Years?) * About This List... MICHIGAN GOV LINES UP RELIGIOUS FAT CATS FOR CHURCH SCHOOLS John Engler, Governor of Michigan, is busy working with religious groups, including Christian "fat cat" foundations, to breach the state-church separation wall and begin directing public monies to private religious schools. Sound familiar? That's the conclusion of a background investigation reported in the recent Metrotimes of Detroit. Among the findings: * "Four private foundations that describe themselves as Christian-oriented contributed more than $2 million between 1990 and 1994 to three non-porofit groups leading the fight for school reform in Michigan." "School reform" is often a euphemism to undermine funding for public schools, and enact voucher schemes or other taxpayer funded conduits in order to establish and operate private schools, most of which are religious. The paper quotes an officials with the Council on Parochiaid (an anti-voucher group) who said: "The state's parochial (Catholic) schools have been trying to get their fingers into the coffers of public schools for a long, long time..." * Documents show that one of the governor's closest advisers has played a vital role in crafting an amendment to the Michigan state constitution "that would allow public funding of religious schools." The push for "school reform" has been a major objective of religious groups such as the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family,Concerned Women for America, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. While it speaks of "bringing competition" to the educational system, critics point out that the real goal is to have state funding of religious schools and a mass system of religious indoctrination aimed at youngsters. So-called "Charter Schools" and other quasi-private educational institutions usually end up including a religious-based curriculum. The textbooks in such schools are often published by religious organizations including the Bob Jones University Press and the Christian College Press of Florida. Metrotimes quoted Albert Menendez of the group "Americans for Religious Liberty," who found that "One (text) points out that the 'Bible does not specifically condemn slavery,' while another maintains that one factor in the Civil War was the South's desire to retain its Protestant identity. 'The Indian culture typified heathen civilization,' declares one history book, 'Lost in darkness without light of the gospel.' " Other texts declared that "God demands sexual purity" and warn that those who committ sexual sin should know: "The diseases that may result are a reminder that God punishes sinners." The foundations subsidizing the drive for state aid to private, religious schools are: * Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation. DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, is estimated to be worth over $4 billion. In 1994, the DeVoses gave more than $8 million to fundamentalist political action groups, including anti-abortion organizations and groups promoting English-only initiatives. AANEWS files show that DeVos's involvement with christian political causes goes back over 20 years, to his participation with insurance magnate Arthur De Moss (who runs the sappy "you're worth waiting for" chastity ads) and Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ in the "Third Century" Movement which gave birth to much of the present religious right. * Prince Foundation. Founded by the late Edgar Prince, an auto parts baron, the Foundation gives substantial amounts to Focus on the Family, James Dobson's Colorado-based groups. Another recipient of Foundation money is the Promise Keepers movement, the rah-rah evangelical group that holds religious rallies for men in stadiums. Still another-- the censorship-oriented American Family Association in Tupelo, Mississippi, which is constipated over violence, sex, profanity and blasphemy in the media. * Orville and Ruth Merillat Foundation. This trust has given money to the Michigan Family Forum (Dobson) and the Foundation for Traditional Values, described as "a Lansing group that advocates a government rooted in biblical foundations" It also funds the Rutherford Instituted, a Reconstructionist-legal defense group. * Cook Charitable Foundation. Among the beneficiaries of this group are Focus on the Family, Western Theological Seminary and the Michigan Family Forum. Some of the groups, including Citizens for Traditional Values, promote Christian pseudo-science in the form of "creationism," a doctrine which accepts the literal story of creation as told in the old testament as an accurate account of how life and the universe began. The group's political action committee endorses candidates, and has the support of the Michigan Senate Majority Leader (Dick Posthumus) and Speaker of the Michigan House Paul Hillegonds. The Michigan strategy reflects an approach religious groups throughout the country are taking in their quest to achieve public funding of religious schools. But getting that done by federal legislation is unlikely; an anti-voucher activist told the Metrotimes that "What they've (the religious right) learned over the years is that pilot programs are the way to go. The only way they've been successful in getting the public to accept them is on the local level with limited scope." And part of that effort means portraying parochaid and religious funding as "school reform." Along with the demise of public education, though, these groups wants government money to help them achieve a monpology on operating schools, specifically, religious schools. Once free of the encumbrances of public oversight, they can then craft a bible-based curriculum for their student subjects. *************** ''GURU BUSTERS'' WORTH THE VIEW by Ron Barrier, AANMC I've often heard that Atheism is the lone oasis of reason in a desert of superstition. And in today's "global village" things are no different. So it was when cable's TLC (The Learning Channel) scheduled a showing of the 1995 program "Guru Busters" this past Friday. The feature was a veritable orgy of Atheist and Rationalist thought as it followed the India Rationalist Society in its campaign against superstition and religion. Using their own funds, their own time, and their own guile, the Rationalists are shown travelling through Southern India in a type of "magic bus," festooned with rationalist slogans, bringing their anti-religious philosophy to a population trapped by illiteracy and awash in superstition. They travel from town to town, actively seeking out "godmen" (or "babas") to debunk, with a zeal for outreach which this writer has witnessed in only the most fervent christ-o-matics. "Godmen" are self-described holy men who claim to heal the sick, and drive out demons using "kitchen table" special effects to accentuate the proceedings. They perform "miracles" and produce "holy ashes" out of thin air, and are revered by the ignorant and educated alike. And they wield great political clout. But, as one lawyer pointed out, while they produce "gifts of jewelry and gold" for the rich and elite "which they do not need, " to the poor they conjur "holy ashes." "Why could not these godmen produce something useful, like food?", he opined. Indeed, we Atheists have been asking the same question for centuries. The influence of the godmen extends beyond the poverty and squalor of rural India to the most educated and politically powerful men in the country. The Prime Minister, cabinet minister and other officials often seek out these fakirs (fakers?) One professor of civil engineering, Dr. Lakshman Rao, insisted that he witnessed one of the godmen produce jewely apparently out of thin air. A powerful politico, T.N. Seshan, who claimed to have a degree in physics, stated that he experienced "no problem" reconciling his training in the sciences with "the fact that the baba produced a ring out of the blue." The "National Miracle Exposure Campaign" as the rationalists call their mission, is led by Prabir Ghosh, a teacher, P.O. Sorcar, physician, and journalist Sanal Edamaraku. Before crowds averaging 300-600 in each town, the men demonstrate techniques employed by the godmen. They convince many that outright fraud is taking place, but the majority continue to "want to believe." The concerted attack on superstition, religion and miracles that these gentlemen have successfully employed (and so obviously enjoy!), is detailed objectively by the filmakers . The program also showed broadcast footage of a fake "miracle" pulled off by one of India's leading godmen in front of the current prime minister. The film, taken by the state-controlled India Broadcast Network, was spotted by an editor and banned from television broadcast. The various rationalist groups each approach their task with similar vigor but varying tactics. In New Delhi and Bombay, they operate schools of rationalist thought which also include sports and a self-defense program. As they continue to capture the rising generation of Indian youth, the number of physical attacks against rationalists has increased. Rationalism has also attracted many of the young who have rejected their traditional beliefs and are now on the frontlines against superstition. A scene in the program showed one of the youth leading a group of children in chanting "Down with witch doctors" and "Gurus are frauds" in a classroom decorated with banners which read: "Religion is worse than cancer -- than the atomic bomb." It is unfortunate that this type of programming is available infrequently at best, if not suppressed altogether. Kudos to The Learning Channel for airing this show which demonstrated that Atheism and rationalism is a world-wide effort, with tangible results if applied diligently. Hopefully, this can someday overcome what one Indian teacher described as "the black tide of superstition." ****** (Ron Barrier is National Media Coordinator for American Atheists.) ********************** THAI BUDDHIST MONKS: PERSONALITY CULTS, HIRED THUGS & KILLERS The next time some blissed-out new ager starts to babble about the wonders of the Buddhist lifestyle, you might remind him or her about what is taking place in Thailand. Authorities there, responding to a spate of contract killings, have discovered that Buddhist monks in that nation are becoming hired murderers, thugs and psychopaths hiding behind saffron robes and gilded temples. The problem is getting so bad, according to international reports, that some of the larger temples may start using a computer registry to check out the background of new recruits -- this following the murder of a British tourist by a Buddhist priest. Critics have noted a dangerous trend, where some leading monks have encouraged personality cults, complete with fans clubs and expensive books, magazines and souvenirs for gullible followers. And last year, a popular abbot named Phra Yantra Amarobhikkhu was charged with raping girls in his care. His temple makes millions of dollars selling Buddhist-kitsch merchandise, mostly to tourists.It was also revealed that he was stealing credit cards to visit bordellos while on trips to Australia and New Zealand, and he fathered a child in Yugoslavia. Rank-and-file monks must live a demanding lifestyle which is proscribed by 234 rules of behavior. They cannot be alone with women, or touch money, and they must beg for food. But the traditional Buddhist teaching that no act is beyond spiritual redemption and forgiveness has attracted many criminals, not all of whom seek personal change. Drug addicts, rapists, robbers and murderers are joining temples, but using the religious "cover" to continue their activities. The temples have also accumulated enormous wealth, which has also been a corrosive and corrupting factor for many monks. In fact, with Thailand's booming economy, it has become a habit of the nouveau riche to flaunt their own wealth by competing with each other in giving donations to Temples. ************** CHUPACABRAS MONSTER-LEGEND ARRIVES IN AMERICA... (Editor's note: On May 16, AANEWS discussed the Chupacabras or "Mexican blood-sucker" monster which was causing social panic throughout parts of Mexico. The legend of this hybrid beast -- said to resemble a cross between a dog and a giant reptile, or some other blend of animal -- was attracting considerable media attention even throughout the United States. We noted that belief in the Chupacabras seemed linked to other pseudo-science legends, especially UFO's and "tunnels to the center of the planet" where aliens or monsters supposedly lived. We also compared this legend to the "Jersey Devil" which to this day (according to some) stalks the Pinebarrens of New Jersey. Is this Chupacabras legend another example of pre-millennium angst?, we wondered. Read on...and watch out!) **************** The Chupacabras has finally made it to the United States, and for the time being seems to be hanging out on Long Island, N.Y. That's the word, anyway, as Spanish language radio and television stations in this country spread the tale of the legendary beast which supposedly sucks the blood of helpless farm animals. Long Island's Newsday paper observed last week that "Some say it is an alien. Others claim it is a harbinger of disasters to come. But one thing the Latino community can agree on is that the on everybody's lips." Hysteria about the Chupacabras on Long Island started when a family found their nine rabbits and one chicken dead, and allegedly drained of all blood from puncture wounds. It fit the M.O. of the Chupacabras. But an investigator with the SPCA said that an autopsy on the animals indicated that they had been crushed to death, with blood remaining inside their bodies. Only one of the rabbits had any kind of puncture wound. Even so, the Chupacabras fear has been spreading. AANEWS has suggested that the hysteria (and media publicity) over this mythical beast not only shows our widespread lack of critical thinking, but humanity's penchant for superstition and pre-millennium angst. One Long Island resident told Newsday that "The Bible says you're going to see a lot of mysterious things in the future. It's (the Chupacabras) a mystery." Another local declared that he believed in the Chupacabras, adding "I believe he's an alien animal of some sort. There's a lot of experimenting." That suggestion has been making the rounds in Mexican reports; some link the Chupacabras to CIA experiments on animals, a theme which seems to go back to earlier fears that the AIDS virus was invented in Mexico by American scientists. The owners of a Botanica or ju-ju herb shop told Newday that the Chupacabras was "very agile, and it could be from outer space. And it uses a method of hypnotization." Orignally, the Chupacabras legend began in Puerto Rico. Some linked it to UFO's and aliens, in part due to the presence of the giant radio telescope in Arecibo. Chupacabras tee shirts are now appearing at Hispanic festivals and other events. Felix Matos Rodriguez, professor of Caribbean and Latin American history at Northeastern University in Boston told Newsday that the legend could be the result of distrust "toward official and government explanations of things. The mythical explanation becomes a popular expression of distrusting official sources. The cynicism allows you to make the jump to take the whole thing as a joke." ******************* 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 about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and postal address in the message box. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the AANEWS. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" in the message body (minus the quotation marks, please!). Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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