Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 13, 1996 (Ev
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 13, 1996 (Evening Edition)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#158 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/13/96 (Evening Edition)
In This Issue...
* Muscle Guru Schmoozed With JP-2
* Ten Commandments Challenged in Alabama Courtroom
* X-Men Get The Boot
* TheistWatch: Mark 'O The Beast, A Missing Penis, Root Canal Faith
* About This List...
"$6,000,000 GURU'' MET WITH POPE
There are "Peace Runs," "Peace Blossoms," and now the "Peace Torch."
And they are all ways of attracting publicity for Hindu religious leader
Sri Chinmoy, whose followers recently erected a controversial "Peace Blossom"
plaque at the Statue of Liberty.
Cult awareness activists, state-church separationists and other critics
say that all of these are just schemes to gain publicity and credibility for
Chinmoy, who also insists that he has performed incredible athletic and
artistic feats such as lifting over 7000 pounds of weight with one arm.
But the National Park Service -- the federal gency which approved a
request from Chinmoy's followers to erect a "Peace Blossom" plaque -- isn't
the only agency which has been enamored of the Hindu cultist. In July, 1995,
Sri Chinmoy passed a flaming "Peace Torch" to none other than Pope John Paul
II during a weekly public audience with the Pontiff in St. Peter's Square,
Rome. The Pope was greeting participants in yet another Sri Chinmoy
activity, a "Peace Run' that attracted athletes from Italy, Switzerland,
Germany, Austrial, the United States and elsewhere.
The marathon was officially publicized as the "Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home
Peace Run," an event first organized in 1987.
At the official "Peace Run" home page, browsers are informed that the
event "has been endorsed by many of our nation's Mayors, Governors, and
Members of the U.S. Congress, as well as four-time Olympic champion Carl
Lewis..." The opening ceremony takes place at the United Nations, where
Chinmoy holds "meditation" sessions for officials.
Chinmoy reportedly addressed the Pope, saying: "Holy Father, we are
offering our hearts' prayerful gratitude to you for so compassionately
blessing this Peace Torch which will be covering 70 countries."
Other supporters of the event were listed, including "many Heads of State
and World leaders such as Mother Teresa, former President Mikhail Gorbachev
and Queen Elizabeth."
TEN COMMANDMENTS POSTING IN COURTROOM CHALLENGED
ACLU "Hates Christianity, The Christ Of The Bible!" Says Minister
Once again, the question of whether prayer and the ten commandments are
really religious has been raised in a court of law.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a hearing was conducted yesterday in the case of
Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who insists on posting the ten
commandments in the hearing chamber and opening judicial proceedings with a
public prayer led by a minister. That practice has been challenged by the
American Civil Liberties Union; a federal judge dismissed the suit, but it
carried over into state court in Montgomery. Judge Moore now enjoys the
support of the state Attorney General's office, as well as several hundred
people who clogged the front of a county courthouse yesterday for a rally.
Events quickly got out of hand. Following a round of prayer and hymn
singing from the flag and plackard waving crowd, Rev. Mickey Kirkland of the
Lighthouse Baptist Church in Montogomery, Alabama, took the podium and told
listeners that "The ACLU hates Christianity, the Christ of the Bible and we
hate the ACLU." He reportedly termed the team of ACLU lawyers "blood-sucking
That was too much even for the embarrassed local head of the Alabama
American Family Association; Dean Young tried to admonish the crowd that "We
love the ACLU, we just don't agree with them."
Rev. Kirkland ran for governor in the 1994 GOP primary.
Inside the hearing room, though, lawyers for both sides admitted a
finding-of-fact that the only person who had ever complained about prayer in
Judge Moore's court was permitted to leave and return later. A report in the
Birmingham News noted that Civil Liberties Union attorney Bobby Segall argued
the coercive nature of the ten commandments plaque; he added that only
Christian ministers had been asked to lead the prayer in Judge Moore's
courtroom, and that any lawyer who happens to leave the chamber over the
prayer issue risks offending certain jurors.
The attorney for Judge Moore told officials that the U.S. Supreme Court's
practice of calling on god to bless its proceedings was the same as a prayer.
Segall quickly noted that ACLU would agree if Moore constrained himself to
that practice alone.
Back outside, Roy Moore told supporters that "All the Ten Commandments and
prayer is an acknowledgement of the Almighty God," (sic) adding that "We will
not back down from that." The Birmingham News says that Moore also described
the commandments as "the foundation of our laws."
Local atheist Larry Mundinger took a dim view of the proceedings, telling
aanews that "this is a place where being an atheist can be dangerous to one's
person, property and employment."
Amen! to that!
NATION OF ISLAM ''SECURITY SERVICE'' TOSSED FROM HOUSING PROJECT
New York Governor George Pataki has ordered a state-run housing project in
Brooklyn to end its contract with a security service owned by the Nation of
While the presence of the business-suited guards correlated with a drop in
both crime and apartment vacancies, administrative representatives say that
the Muslim security agents decorated lobbies and hallways with pictures of
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, attempted to recruit new members, and
passed out anti-semitic literature.
The controversy involves the huge Ocean Towers complex which, while
privately owned, was built with state money and has a dedicated number of
living units for low-income families. Security has been provided by a
company known as X-Men, which was hired in 1993 with a $360,000 annual
contract. That year, a congressional subcommittee began looking into the
activities of the National of Islam, particularly the activities of its
security service ("Fruit of Islam") which was being hired in public housing
complexes throughout the nation. While critics admitted that the NOI quickly
rid those areas of drug dealing and other crime, they also engaged in
religious proselytizing and vigilante behavior. Jules Polinetsky, a
Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, accused X-Men of distributing issues of
the Final Call, the official publication of the Nation of Islam.
He told the subcommittee that "In this paper, white men are called wicked
and filthy, Jews are called bloodsuckers, and the pope is described as the
leader of organized crime on this earth."
Both residents and building managers initially objected to breaking the
contract with the Muslim-affiliated security company. Even after the Pataki
order, some residents insisted that they would move since "drug dealers are
waiting for the X-Men to leave so they can come back..." Polinetsky agreed
that "The Nation of Islam did a good job at providing security but did a
better job of proselytizing." He told The New York Times that "Mussolini
made the trains run on time, but that did not make Fascism an acceptable
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
We certainly don't agree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but at times
we do have to sympathize. Case in point -- the Jesuit-operated University of
San Francisco. The 140-year-old school had the distinction of being assigned
the telephone area code 666, which for some fundamentalist Protestants (and
not a few Catholics!) is the Mark of the Beast, the Sign of Satan. USF's
main switchboard (666-5555) was being bombarded with crank and sincere
callers; according to a school spokesman, "As long as I can remember we've
been getting calls saying, 'Do you know that your prefix is the sign of the
beast?' We've asked the telephone company to change the digits many times,
but they told us that it was physically impossible to do so unless we paid
tens of thousands of dollars."
No more. Prayers may not have solved the problem for the California
Jesuits, but technology has. Pacific Bell is now able to assign a new set of
three digits to the area, and 666 has been replaced by the more
Where did that 666 business originate, anyway? For millennialist doomsday
prophets, 666 -- on license plates, supermarket bar codes, even IRS forms and
highway markers -- is proof that Satan is prospering and counting down to
Armageddon. Don't laugh. Highway 666, a north-south route which began at
the Arizona border with Mexico and twisted its way to Colorado and beyond has
now been segmented and re-numbered, in part due to complaints from
fundamentalist religious groups. It was also in vogue to either pepper the
"Route 666" road signs with shotgun blasts, or steal them as sourvenirs (or
possibly as artifacts in mobile satanic rituals?). But is 666 the Mark of
the Beast? Actually, this could be a case of "Sorry, wrong number."
The "Number of the Beast" has been the inspiration for all manner of
biblical soothsaying and prophetic forecasting, fervent hunts for the
"anti-Christ," and, of course, an abundance of fair-to bad Hollywood
productions about the devil or one of his minions, often seen chasing
panty-wearing coeds in abandoned houses. It comes from the last book of the
New Testament, Revelation, where in chapter 13, verse 18 it is stated:
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the
beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred
threescore and six."
All of this has to do with an ancient practice known as "gematria", a
corruption of the greek term for geometry. Under this arcane system, letters
were assigned a numerical value which ostensible revealed a sub-text or
hidden meaning. For some mystics, sacred texts including the bible had
layers or levels of truth; "true wisdom" was concealed in a textual code,
which could be revealed by elaborate mathematic manipulations.
If Revelation was an allegorical history of early Christianity as many
bible scholars suspected it to be, then "The Mark of the Beast" possibly
refers to the Emperor Nero, or Neron Caesar. When written in the Hebrew
alphabet and churned-through the gematria coding, one produces the numbers
666 or 616, depending on spelling. Indeed, some early translation of
Revelation declare that the "Number of the Beast" is 616. That's not quite as
sexy as 666, of course... but imagine the cache of having a telephone number
Earlier this week, the Christian Medical & Dental Society issued a press
release condemning partial-birth abortions. This comes at a time when the
House of Representatives is considering a possible override of President
Clinton's April 10 veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. You may recall
that this action produced an outcry from anti-abortions groups, including the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Christian Medical & Dental Society claims to represent 11,000
physicians that "serve as a voice and ministry for Christian doctors."
Well, we can understand Christians speaking out on the issue of abortion.
And we can understand Christian doctors being concerned. But dentists? Is
there really something like "Christian dentistry"? (Does it involve
short-changing the novocaine for non-believers, we wonder?)
Ever notice how "natural healing" and the "prayer helps fight illness"
crowd rarely talk about cavities, root canals and toothaches?
There is all manner of pseudo-science and religious claims in connection
with life threatening or debilitating illness -- cancer, HIV, heart disease.
Quacks and religious hucksters have made considerable sums from victims of
such maladies, offering a variety of dubious "cures". Millions have flocked
over the years to the "healing waters" of Lourdes, but despite a veritable
mountain of crutches, even the Roman Catholic church will attest to a few
dozen genuine "cures." In the Philippines, there is a growth-industry in
so-called "psychic surgery" where self-described "healers" and "bloodless
knife" surgeons insist they yank out cancerous growths from their patience.
And there is a spectrum of new age style cures, everything from crank diet
regimens to "body polarization" therapy.
But notice that none of these curious procedures involves prosaic (and
thoroughly understood) medical problems like broken bones, or even the lowly
aching cavity. Evangelists like Morris Cerullo wouldn't dare try to "cure" a
broken leg "by the power of prayer," and one is probably quite justified in
wondering if sufficient belief in The Loooord Jeeeezzuuuuss can obviate the
need for a root canal.
Hopefully, the various forms of cancer and other scourges will go the way
of the broken leg, and be treatable by relatively painless and efficient
medical procedures. We can thank teams of scientists and researchers for
such a prospect. What will the quacksters do then?
Oh yeah, let's hope that science also finds a replacement for root canal
Religious ignorance and superstition is often a barrier to social progress
in emergent democracies like South Africa and other parts of the Third World.
In the Republican of Cameroon, there is an epidemic of hysteria over
so-called "penis snatchers", alleged practioners of black magic who, with
only a handshake, are thought to be capable of stealing genitals. Late last
month, mobs in several towns went on a rampage beating suspected witches, and
hanging three men who supposedly could make the genitals of others
The fear of "penis snatchers" may have been spread along trade routes by
word-of-mouth. One 18-year old student claimed that he suspected a friend of
being a genital thief, since when they shook hands a "electric-like current
ran through him, and a feeling that his manhood had retreated into his
Doctors examined the "victims" and reportedly found all penises un-harmed
In South Africa, years of apartheid and discrimination are manifesting
themselves through a resurgence of tribal superstition. The government of
Nelson Mandela must now contend with a growing wave of witch-craze, and it
has been estimated that throughout the nation over 100 people, most of them
elderly, have been murdered as suspected practioners of witchcraft. Security
police have even had to establish special "witch" refugee camps.
"Seventy percent of our people, even doctors, believe in witches," a
spokesman for the Ministry of Safety and Security in the Northern Province
told Britain's Electronic Telegraph.
One factor in the longevity of belief in witches is the pentacostal
African church which manages to fuse elements of Christian and native tribal
beliefs. The telegraph notes that some religious leaders "see no
contradiction in condoning witchcraft belief."
Incidentally, fears of penis-snatchers and witches are not unique to
"primitive" Third World nations. The majority of Americans (presumably one
of the more sophisticated and "enlightened" peoples of the world) believe in
the existence of the devil; and the infamous book "Maleus Mallefecarum" or
"Hammer of Witches" which served as the basis of the Christian Inquisition in
Europe and the rest of the Jesus-ized world, began with a tale of a devil who
stole penises of all the men in a village, including that of the local
priest. The "Malleus" declared that with the help of god, all the penii were
recovered, including that of the priest -- his was easilly recognized since
it was supposedly the largest.
In Australia, the Catholic Church has again entered the abortion fray
thanks to a high court ruling on Wednesday. The Church was granted amicus
("friend of the court") status in a suit filed by a women claiming damages
from a medical center that failed to diagnose her pregnancy in time for an
abortion. The unidentified woman says that doctors thus cost her the expense
of child-rearing and the income that, as a stay at home mom, she will no
longer be able to earn.
But with the participation of the Church, the whole complexion of the case
has now legally changed, and could end up testing the country's position on
legal abortion. The Church is being represented by an association of
Catholic Bishops and the Australian Catholic Health Care Association; church
lawyers will ask the court to reverse the so-called Wald Principles which
legalize most of the 29,000 abortions in the New South Wales province.
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