Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 15, 1996 Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 10:50:00 -0700 nn nn AA
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 15, 1996
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 10:50:00 -0700
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#92 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/15/96
In This Edition...
* Burial Rag Controversy Continues
* Religion and the '96 Campaign
* Fundy Rampage in Jerusalem!
* TheistWatch: Forget Sunscreen in Hell
* About This List...
CATHOLIC PRESS HEDGES BETS ON SHROUD DATING
The Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot piece of cloth which some insist is the
burial wrapping of "Jesus Christ," is once again back in the news. On July
6, two Italian university professors say that they discovered the image of a
Roman coin in the shroud which dates from the 16th year of the reign of the
Emperor Tiberius, or 29 c.e. That date approximates the time when JC
supposedly lived and died, although many biblical historians question whether
or not Jesus even existed as an actual person, or was simply a religious
folk-legend incorporating heroic messianic and salvationist themes.
Although the Shroud has been in the custody of the Archdioces of Turin
since 1578, Vatican authorities have never said that it was genuine and a
holy relic. In 1988, the church permitted three separate laboratory teams
using radiocarbon dating equipment to study small samples of the cloth; all
three laboratories concluded that it dated from sometime between 1260 and
1390, a time noted for religious hoaxes and the manufacture of fake relics.
In May, a team from the University of Texas Health Science Center told a
meeting of the American Society of Microbiology that the dating techniques
were flawed, since the cloth had a film of microbes and fungi. But that
contention was challenged by other scientists, including world-famous
geochronologist Paul Damon, who directed one of the three original teams that
studied the shroud. He insisted that radiocarbon datings of many linen
samples, including those from ancient Egypt, correspond to the expected time
frame. Damon also stands by the dating of the shourd.
The latest findings, though, concern the vague image of a coin and were
presented by Pier Luigi Baima Bollone, a professor of legal medicine, and
Nello Balossino, a professor of Communications.
There are already problems with the "coin scenario," though. The initial
finds of this latest study were made through Avvenire, a Roman Catholic Daily
paper from Italy, rather than a refereed scientific journal. Professor
Bollone said that his discovery was "definitive" and meant that it was
"almost 100% certain" that the cloth was used to wrap Christ's body following
the crucifiction. While international press reports say that church
authorities were "reacting cautiously" to the news, a Catholic Theologian who
is also assistant to the shroud's papal custodian told The London Times" I
believe above all that science should have the last word on this latest
result...But if this discovery is confirmed, it would have important
consequences." The Turin newspaper "La Stampa" said that this was "new proof
that the shroud is authentic.."
Historians writing about the shroud have pointed out that burial cloths
like the Turin artifact were common during medieval times, and have been
found often in connection with pilgrimage sites. If the image is indeed of
an ancient coin, it by no means requires that the cloth be from the same
period. And to many critics, even the date of the shroud suggests little; an
ancient date does not "prove" the existence of Jesus as an actual
personality, any more than other artifacts from that era would.
The Church press did not display widespread caution, though, over the
latest claims. "Catholic N.Y." ran a report from the Catholic News Service
declaring: "Shroud Dated To Christ's Time." The story noted that "Church
officials have never claimed the shroud was used to cover Christ's body. But
some have said the linen, because it bears the apparent marks of the Passion,
has the religious value of a 'sign' for Christians."
RELIGION PLAYING LEADING ROLE IN '96 CAMPAIGN
America may boast that it is a secular nation, but religious ideology
continues to play a leading role as the 1996 Presidential campaign shapes up.
There were developments last week affecting the aspirations of Both President
Clinton and presumed GOP challenger Senator Robert Dole:
* The head of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied
Craftworkers broke ranks with the AFL-CIO, and declared that he will not
support Clinton's re-election bid because of his veto of the Partial Birth
Abortion Ban. John T. Joyce, head of the 100,000 member union and a vice
president of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, said that he was following his
"personal convictions" because "there is no question that human life is taken
in the abortions banned" in the legislation. Joyce has headed the union
since 1979, and is a Roman Catholic. In an article appearing in "Commonweal"
magazine, he wrote that "the struggle against abortion and against economic
exploitation is really the same struggle."
* On Friday, Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed applauded the
agreement reached by Republican Party leaders over the abortion issue. In a
CC press release, Reed noted that the agreement negotiated between Senator
Dole and Representative Henry Hyde (Chairman of the GOP Platform Committee)
was satisfactory to the 1.7 million member group.
That statement is actually a tactical compromise which has little
substantive good news for any pro-choice Republicans. It notes that the
Party is "tolerant" of those who do not agree with the platform on every
issue, but still calls for "protecting the unborn" and advocates passage of a
Human Life Amendment which would outlaw abortion.
* Coming under more scrutinty is the "Catholic vote," especially since
Clinton and Dole are both running "family values" campaigns. Dole and his
handlers want to emphasize the abortion issue (and Clinton's veto of the
Partial Birth Abortion Ban last April), while the President is trying to
project an image as "the nation's headmaster" by talking tough on gangs,
advocating school uniforms -- a hold-over from Parochial schools -- and
curfews. Both parties have identified heavy concentrations of Catholic
voters in key states with big chunks of electoral votes, including Illinois,
Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And
studies show that for the last 20-years, the majority of Catholic voters have
gone with the winner.
But this is proving to be problematic for both sides. Curtis Gans of the
Center for the Study of the American Electorate told today's Chicago Tribune
that the Catholic block "is a vote up for grabs...I don't think you've got a
monolith at all." The Center identifies some sixty million Americans who say
they are Catholic, but that technique is flawed: in part, it uses
church-provided figures, which in turn are based not on the number of
regular, faithful, church-going Catholics, but on baptismal records. Even
so, those who are practicing Catholics are a flock which is straying from
church teaching, especially over issues such as abortion and birth control.
Neither side can take this vote for granted. Gans added that "Members of
the United States Conference of Bishops are more liberal than Bill Clinton on
more social issues, with the exception of abortion. They look with horror at
what Congress is doing with welfare reform and on health care." That means
rough going for Dole. The GOP contender may not be able to get much mileage
out of the abortion issue, either; an unidentified Catholic priest told The
Tribune that: "In the last election, Catholics did not vote on the abortion
issue. Maybe only 10% consider abortion the prime factor. They vote on
pocketbook and other issues, like the general public." According to a group
called Catholic for a Free Choice, only about 15% of church members believe
that abortion can never be a morally acceptable choice.
Even so, it is from the ranks of committed anti-abortionists that groups
like the Christian Coalition and its subsidiary Catholic Alliance are drawing
active members, who in turn are the hard-working precinct soldiers so vital
in campaigns. Like their evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant
counterparts, these activist Catholics may be more prone to vote and
participate in electoral campaigns.
FUNDAMENTALISTS CONTINUE RAMPAGE IN ISRAEL
Time has arrived for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "pay the
piper." The new head of Israel, who is non-religious but nevertheless
considered a hard-liner of security issues, relied on the support of orthodox
fundamentalists in his razor-thin election win over former Prime Minister
Shimon Peres. In exchange for cobbling together a tenuous coalition
government, Netanyahu has turned over major ministries and other powers to
the religious parties, which now have a record 26 seats in the Israeli
Knesset. The price, though, is turning out to be a heavy one: Israel is
quickly developing the image of a country which is rolling back the twentieth
century, and the whole peace process with neighboring Palestinians is now in
jeopardy over the question of Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements.
No sooner had Netanyahu been declared victor in last month's
hotly-contested race than religious parties began announcing their plans for
the country. First target was the sabbath; orthodox zealots want to shut
down commerce and other activity during the holy period, and last week began
rioting in Jerusalem in an attempt to block traffic on the heavilly-used
Bar-Ilan Street. This past weekend, full scale rioting broke out as
thousands of black-coated, beard-wearing Orthodox poured into the streets,
stoning cars and battling police who used water cannons to clear the highway.
Bar Ilan Streets has become a symbol in the emerging "culture war"
throughout Israel pitting Orthodox religiosity against the sensibilities of a
growing secular culture within the country. Much of the latter supported the
peace process initiated by Shimon Peres; and while they favor security for
Israel, they are in many cases deeply worried about the new-found political
power of the religious parties. Non-Orthodox and secularists fear that
closing major traffic corridons like Bail Ilan will "ghettoize" their
Last week, Transportation Yitzhak Levy of the National Religious Party
announced that the the road would be closed for a four-month trial period,
shutting off traffic beginning Friday night and into Saturday during the
hours of the sabbath. It was the first religious measure enacted by the new
Netanyahu government, but was immediately challenged in the Israeli Supreme
Court which issued a temporary injunction against the measure. That provoked
Orthodox protests over this past weekend.
Wading into the fray against the Orthodox is the progressive Meretz Party,
which was the first major political group in Israel to advocate a Palestinian
homeland, and an end to Jewish settlements in occupied territories. On
Friday and Saturday night, convoys of Meretz supporters poured onto Bar Ilan
Street, enraging the fundamentalists.
Ornan Yekutieli, a city councilman in Jerusalem and member of Meretz, told
the New York Times that "This is a culture war. Here it will be decided
whether Jerusalem, which is the face of the entire state of Israel, will be
free and liberal, or go back to the Dark Ages." He added that "The coming
period will determine whether we take a step toward Tehran or continue to be
part of the enlightened nations of the world."
The Times notes that enforcing the "sanctity" of the sabbath is a
life-or-death matter for Ultra-orthodox fanatics. Meanwhile, both sides
promise to bring out thousands of protesters next weekend. We'll be
In related news, allegations of police brutality are resulting in threats
from some religious groups to bring down the shaky coalition government of
Benjamin Netanyahu. The issue of the closure of Bar Ilan Street is quickly
being linked to another flash point, the Jewish settlements in the occupied
regions. Yesterday, a new settlement plan was announced which called for
building up that population from 120,000 to over 300,000, and constructing
ten more settlement zones. One settlement activist said that he wanted to
see up to 500,000 Israeli Jews living in the occupied lands. But Benjamin
Ben-Eliezer, former Labour Housing Minister warned ominously that "the
meaning of such a (settlement) plan is termination of the peace process.
Meanwhile, orthodox leaders are now demanding that Jerusalem's police
chief be dismissed over the weekend riots which pitted fundamentalists
against cops and secularists opposed to shutting down Bar Ilan Street during
the "holy period" of the sabbath. Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism
party said that "It is inconceivable that in Israel, in Jerusalem,
God-fearing and innocent people get beaten up." He said that without the
dismissal of Chief Arye Amit , he would move for a no-confidence vote in the
Religious zealotry may divided people, but it can bring some segments of
society closer together. TW says "Hooray!" for Palestinian Justice Minister
Freih Abu Medein, who is trying to establish a civil marriage office in the
Palestinian territory to cater to secular Israelis who now have to avoid
orthodox religious marriage ceremonies.
Under proposed new laws, only Orthodox rabbis would be empowered to marry
or convert new Jews to the faith. Conservative and Reform Jewish marriages
would not be permitted and recognized. Thousands of Israelis don't even want
a religious ceremony, and often travel abroad to take their vows and bypass
what many consider to be a cold and sterile orthodox rite.
The proposal is getting a mixed reaction. Palestinian religious leaders
oppose the idea of such a secular marriage, and the Chief Rabbi of Israel
blasted the prospect of inter-faith unions.
We recently mentioned something which French Atheists had passed on to us:
that the railroad route to the famed Shrine at Lourdes (where millions of the
credulous flock for "miracles") happens to be one of the most dangerous in
Europe, with frequent wrecks and other misfortunes. You would think that the
Mother O' All Gods could watch over her flock of supplicants more
efficiently, no? Same goes for India, where the Hindu religion offers, one,
two, three... billions of Gods, probably so many that even Dr. Sagan couldn't
count them all! Anyway, the L.A. Times reports that an a Hindu Shrine in
central India, some 200,000 people gathered at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in
Ujjain when a stampede began, killing 37 and injuring another 40. And all
those gods did nothing? Perhaps the souls of those poor victims will be
reincarnated as turnstiles.
It seems that religious doctrine -- for the major churches, anyway -- is
just a maleable sell-line to sucker believers and attract new members to
replace dwindling ranks. After all, you'd think that if a god or gods
existed, things like heaven, hell or other religious tenets would be pretty
firmly established in the existential firmament, right? Not so with the
Church of England. The Anglican General Synod this past weekend decided that
Hell is "a state of non-being and not one of eternal torment," according to
the Electronic Telegraph.
"A report which says there is no fire and brimstone beyond the grave was
overwhelmingly backed...and recommended as a 'substantial contribution to the
That's good to know. But how, possibly, could those staid Anglican
officials know such a thing? And whatabout all those decades and centuries
of teaching that hell was something out of Dante and Dore? Still, some
churchmen didn't like the no-hellfire-and-brimstone approach to eternity.
Rev. Andrew Dow remarked during a fierce debate within the Synod that "Many
people will think it unacceptable that Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are just
snuffed out and bracked with everyone else not in Heaven...We have to restore
some element of the fear of God the Judge."
At least now I can save on the sunscreen...
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