Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 1, 1996 (Nightowl
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 1, 1996 (Nightowl Edition)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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
* "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
The foundations subsidizing the drive for state aid to private, religious
* 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
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
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
''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
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
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
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
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
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 legend...is on everybody's
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
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
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...
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