Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 24, 1996 nn nn AA
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 24, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 74 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/24/96
In This Edition...
* "Seance-gate" May Fuel Attacks From Religious Right
* Papal Tour Hits Rough Road in Germany
* Another Web Site for Hypathia!
* Atheists Point to Bias in ABC Program on Kids, "God" Belief
* One Man's Opinion ~~ Media "Fairness", "Balance" Aimed at Atheists
* About This List...
WHITE HOUSE ''SPIRITUAL ADVISOR'' ~~ SEANCES OR PSYCHOBABBLE?
Regardless of Truth, Incident May Be Political Ammo for Religious
Is it cutting-edge psychothereapy?
A breakthrough method of evoking images and ideas buried in the
Or is it just 70's psychobbble with a new lease on life and
respectability, hovering on the fringe of outright crankery and new age
Whatever it is, it's right up there with Filegate, Whitewater and the rest
of the buzz-circuit talk in Washington, D.C., and it's found in Bob
Woodward's latest book "The Choice" expected to hit retail outlets later this
Woodward reveals that First Lady Hillary Clinton maintains an association
with various "spiritual advisors", including Jean Houston and Mary Catherine
Bateson, and engaged in sessions in the White House which included imaginary
conversations with Mahatma Gandi and Eleanor Roosevelt. While some are
comparing this revelation tothe story about Nancy Reagan's relationship with
professional astrologer Joan Quigley, administration spokesmen like Leon
Panetta are saying that's unfair. The conversations were definitely not
psychic communications with the dead, or seances, but more in the line of
"brainstorming", said Panetta yesterday.
Jean Houston: On The Fringe?
The current USA TODAY notes that "Bill and Hillary Clinton have always
been comfortable with the writings and theories of self-help authors and
gurus," and have attended the Renaissance Weekend events in South Carolina
which focus on psychological issues. According to Woodward, Houston spent
several days huddled with Mrs. Clinton in the White House, at a time when she
"seemed jerked around by the muddled role of first lady, as she swung between
New Age feminist and national housewife." Woodward adds that her "sense of
high purpose and doing good had been thwarted" by the debacle over health
Unlike hard-core fringe, new age gurus, Houston appears to be heavilly
credentialed, with a B.A. from Barnard College, and completed doctoral
programs from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary (Philosophy
of Religion), and Union Graduate School (Philosophy.) She is the author of
fifteen books, including best-sellers like "The Possible Human" and "Search
for the Beloved." She and her husband, Robert Masters, are considered major
figures in the "human potential movement" and direct the Foundation for Mind
Research. Houston is also founder of something called The Mystery School,
described as "My 20th century version of an ancient and honorable tradition,
the study of the world's spiritual mysteries." The program combines "the
things I love most," according to Houston, including "sacred psychology,
music, history, theatre, cultural wisdom science (fact, fiction and fantasy),
neurophysiology, philosophy, anthropology, theology, poetry, laughter,
cosmology, metaphysics and innovative ideas to provide a multi-faceted,
multi-level Time out of time."
There seems to be nothing in Houston's background which suggests early
fixation on bizarre paranormal or religious ideas. Publishers Weekly,
however, noted in its description of Houston's 1995 book "A Mythic Life:
Learning to Live Our Greater Story" that her mother was "a former
stock-and-bond analyst who claims to see angels." Houston's father was a TV
and radio script writer for Eddie Cantor,. Henny Youngman and George Burns.
Houston says that the divorce of her parents resulted in her own efforts to
cope "with grief and loss, discovering one's 'Essence self' and tapping
latent creative potential." PW added that "Houston believes that myths and
archetypes can provide keys linking our local lives to larger patterns
unfolding on the planet and in the cosmos." She often cites the works of
thinkers popular in humanistic psychology, including Margaret Mead, Joseph
Campbell, Alduous Huxley, Martin Buber and Fritz Perls.
Houston's writings often reflect an eclectic approach to areas such as
human behavior, cultural trends and politics. Her essay "A Short Excursion
on Brains and Politics" discussed everything from neurophysiological brain
states to developments in Bosnia, and described prayer as "not simply a
psychological state of yearning, but a most powerful resonance that puts us
in alignment with the deeper spiritual purpose, the singular Reality that
informs all lesser realities." She also refers to "morphic fields," a
phenomenon theorized by Rupert Sheldrake, and touches on such pre-millennium
events as the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugore in Yugoslavia,
suggesting that world leaders might wish to use the sightings as the basis of
forming a peace agreement.
Houston's fascination with myths, archetypes and inner mental states
typifies the growing popularity and influence of "esoteric" religious systems
which often by-pass and challenge the "exoteric" establishment institutions
of the churches. But exactly how far Houston moves beyond experimental
psychological techniques and the use of metaphors into new age-style
pseudoscience is often not clear. Conventional new age artifacts such as
UFO, astrology, reincarnation or fortune telling are not discussed in
Houston's public-record materials which AANEWS has found. But at least one
associate, Esther Francis, describes herself as an "Astrologer, writer and
resident of Woodstock, N.Y." who is "certified by Dr. Jean Houston to teach
'Human Capacities,' a multidimensional approach to consciousness expansion
which includes Sacred Psychology, the 'creative process' and myth." Frances'
web site says that she is a "lifelong lover of astrology" which she considers
"to be a way to empower people to activate their own inner wisdom." She
invites participants in her own seminars to "join me on this exploration of
the Astrological Anatomy of Woodstock, a town which seems to be a receiving
dish for galactic transmissions which are then carried throughout the planet
via music and media (Neptune and Uranus) to awaken our imaginations..."
Fodder for the Fundamentalist Mill?
While Houston and her associate Mary Catherine Bateson, an anthropologist
are described as "two of hundreds of women that the first lady enjoys hearing
from and listening to," these latest revelations promise to be areas for
considerable speculation from media, and even over-blown concern for
religious fundamentalists. The Mystery School logo includes a number of
symbols, including the ruins of Stonehenge and an Indian goddess with a
pyramid in the background, evocative images for both new agers and religious
right conspiracy types. The vagueness of Houston's own writings could end up
inviting rampant speculation that Houston -- and the First Lady -- are
involved in everything from pagan rites to devil worship.
It is also not clear how Hillary Clinton's interest in such areas affects
public policy and goes beyond the realm of personal interest. But in the
summer "silly season" of news reporting, this story could end up next to
Whitewater, a "Seance-gate" ready to consume drums of newspaper ink and
plenty of TV air time.
HECKLERS PURSUE POPE DURING TOUR IN GERMANY
Protesters in Germany gave Pope John Paul II a less-than pleasant
reception this weekend during the pontiff's much heralded visit to that
nation since reunification. On Sunday, JP officiated a three-hour mass in
Berlin's Olympic Stadium, the site constructed on orders from Adolph Hitler
as a shrine to aryan supremacy in the 1936 international games. He
"beatified" two German priests who resisted the Nazi oppression, but his
speech left out sentences in the original version handed to the newsmedia
which defended Pope Pius XII -- a man critics say did less than he could to
speak out against the persecution of Jews and other dissidents during the
Third Reich. While speaking to a crowd in the city of Panderborn, Pope John
Paul also dropped two paragraphs extolling "the resistance offered by the
whole Church" against fascism.
The papal tour through Germany drew perhaps the widest opposition and
protest against the Pope and church policies ever seen. In Berlin, police
turned back hundreds of demonstrators in a march organized by the "Anti-Pope
Council." Signs alluded to the ambiguous, even collaborative relationship
between the nazis and the Vatican during the World War II period. Critics
say that the papacy could have done to speak out against the extermination
and persecution of the Nazis, and considerable evidence exists that the
Vatican helped to operate the infamous "Rat line" after the war which
provided ex-Nazis with cash, fake identity papers, and transport out of
Other protest groups were out as well bringing up a variety of issues.
Gays and lesbians showed up wearing condom-shaped hats, a reference to the
church's stand against birth control, or as nuns sporting pink habits.
Hecklers bombarded the glassed-in "popemobile" with paint bombs, and shouted
"Go To Hell" as the pontiff -- turning and gesticulating behind the
bullet-proof barrier like an automaton -- was wisked by. At least one naked
woman attempted to run up to the popemobile, though it's not know whether JP
II caught a glimpse of her.
ANOTHER WEB SITE HONORS HYPATIA
Hypathia of Alexandria, a scholar of the ancient world who was murdered by
a frenzied mob of religious zealots, is again being honored at yet another
site on the world wide web. Point your browser to
http://cosmopolis.com/people/hypathia.html and you will find three
biographical references to this hero, including "The Life of Hypatia" from
the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, and even a defense of
her killing by John, Bishop of Nikiu. There are also links to other Hypatia
Hypatia (370-415 c.e.) was a mathematician, astronomer and philosopher
associated with the Library of Alexandria, headed by her father Theon. The
new web site notes that "Hypathia's prominence was accentuated by the fact
that she was both female and pagan in an increasingly Christian environment."
It was Cyril (376-444 c.e.), later "Saint Cyril" who as Archbishop of
Alexandria became a fanatical defender of Christian orthodoxy, persecuted
heritics and expelled the Jews. One of Cyril's targets of wrath was the
enormous Museum of Library of Alexandria which had been established during
the reign of the Ptolemy kings. It was the greatest collection of
manuscripts and other artifacts in the ancient world, and the free reign
given to scholars of the time produced major breakthroughs in science and the
classical humanities. Thanks to the Library, Eratosthenes helped to map the
known earth and even calculate its size, and Euclid produced his geometry.
Hipparchus first proposed the evolution and movement of the stars. Not
surprisingly, the Library helped to make Alexandria a cosmopolitan city which
resonated with the vitality brought by trade, tourism, commerce and
Astronomer and writer Carl Sagan has done much to re-acquaint our own era
with the legacy of Hypatia, in part thanks to his book and TV series
"Cosmos." He place Hypathia at the confluence of social forces transforming
the world of the fifth century, current era: "Slavery had sapped classical
civilization of its vitality. The growing Christian Church was consolidating
its power and attempting to eradicate pagan influence and culture," wrote
Sagan and other biographical sources note that Hypatia was "a symbol of
learning and science, which were largely identified by the early Church with
paganism." Worse yet, she was female, during a time when Church "fathers"
were quoting biblical verse telling women to "remain silent in the churches"
and acknowledge the man "as head of the house as Christ is the head of the
Hypatia was also at the center of a conflict between Archbhishop Cyril and
the local prefect Orestes. In 415, Cyril's persistent attacks on Hypathia
paid off. A mob which included Christian monks, seized her on a public
street, beat her, and after dragging the body to a local church mutilated the
corpse with tiles (some accounts say shells) and burned the remains.
Thanks in part to Sagan, Hypatia has become a symbol of resistence to
mindless clerical, ecclesiastical authority, and the defense of intellectual
The Church made Archbishop Cyril a "saint," in part for his role in
helping to stamp out heretical groups like the Nestorians. Atheists and
others may wish to consider efforts to have the Vatican retract this title
for Cyril, whose role as a thug-provocateur and persecutor of those seeking
intellectual freedom, is more aptly described in the historical record.
ATHEIST MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE CITES GMA SEGMENT
(Editor's note: On Friday, the nationwide ABC program "Good Morning America!"
included a segment about raising children, which naturally brought up the
question of religious belief. A "panel of experts" included a minister and a
rabbi. American Atheists and aanews received a number of inquiries about this
incident. Our National Media Coordinator, Ron Barrier, released the
following statement and letter to ABC and the press.)
To The Producers of Good Morning America:
This morning, June 21, you aired a segment titled "Raising Great Kids." A
question brought up during the segment was based on the idea of kids
The bias of this segment was overwhelming and insulting to honest,
hard-working Atheist parents and their families, as well as to Freethinkers,
Humanists and Agnostics.
The "panel" selected also left much to be desired. One might as well have
sought advice on family life from a soup can, given the obvious lack of
experience reflected by your guests.
The President of American Atheists, Inc. is Mrs. Ellen Johnson, a second
generation Atheist and full-time mother of two lovely and well-behaved
children. Her intelligence and first-hand experience in rearing a family in
a religiously-soaked environment would have added the balance and fairness
this piece so sorely lacked.
The Heritage Foundation, as well as other notable "think tanks," recently
published a study which placed the Atheist/Agnostic population within the
United States between 10-13%. This is more than the Jewish, Episcopalian and
Southern Baptist Convention memberships combined.
American Atheists, Inc. kindly asks that in the future, program executives
at ABC display not only more balance, but a healthy respect for those who are
free from religion.
Ronald J. Barrier
National Media Coordinator, AMERICAN ATHEISTS.
One Man's Opinion...
GOOD MORNING AMERICA TYPICAL OF ANTI-ATHEIST BIAS
"Fairness" can be a funny concept. Plenty of things are called "fair"
which are not, especially when they reflect certain deep, unquestioned social
The Murray O'Hair's knew that better than anyone. Madalyn O'Hair spoke to
hundreds of gatherings, gave thousands of interviews, and appeared on
countless talk-shows and media call-in events. Jon Murray and Robin Murray
O'Hair continued that tradition. With all of that media experience, though,
they noticed that often "the deck is stacked" against Atheists and First
Consider "fairness" and "balance" in the media. TV program producers and
radio show hosts often contact the American Atheist offices wanting a
representative from our organization to discuss a particular issue, say,
school vouchers or prayer. When the Atheist representatives walks into the
studio, he or she suddenly learns that ALSO appearing will be a priest,
minister or rabbi (sometimes all three!) to lend "balance" to the program.
That automatically reduces the amount of air time that we have to present
our opinion. Our media representatives, like Ron Barrier, often "lock horns"
with the resident-religionists; and while the program can be entertaining,
sometimes that environment short-changes viewers and listeners. As a policy,
there are many talk show formats that American Atheists simply will not
provide spokespersons to. Indeed, the classic interview format which once
existed on "Donahue" or the "Johnny Carson Show" has been replaced --
especially during daytime programming -- with a verbal free-for-all. Cliches
and interruptions are rampant, and it really doesn't matter if you are
discussing Atheism or "Ritual Satanic Abuse by Aliens and Disfunctional
Tranvestite Grandmothers." It's more of a circus than a talk show.
Producers often assume that when an Atheist is to be a guest on a program,
the show requires "fairness" and "balance of views." They drag out the local
phone book or station rolodex, and promptly invite priests, ministers or
rabbis to appear alongside the Atheist.
Can we expect this same "balance," though, when something involving
religion is taking place? During all of the visits to the United States by
Pope John Paul II, American Atheists and other groups organized picket-lines
and demonstrations protesting the church's stand on social issues, and the
use of taxpayer monies to fund these religious extravaganzas. Television
coverage, both at the local station and national network level, inevitably
included a "resident advisor" to "help us understanding this papal visit," a
priest. These visits were transformed from news events into publicity
stunts, with an eager, loquacious priest "assisting" the announcers. No
Atheist was brought onto the set to "advise" Dan Rather or Peter Jennings
about what was taking place. "Fairness" and "balance" seem to exist only
when Atheists manage to obtain precious media exposure.
As the Good Morning America segment on raising children clearly shows,
though, Atheists are often not extended the same consideration or courtesy
received by religious proselytizers. In the GMA segment, for instance, it
was assumed that all children are going to be curious about "god," and that
guidance for parents (all of whom are presumed to be religious) can come only
for those in the religion business. As Mr. Barrier points out, though, 10%
of Americans -- some 25,000,000 people -- are Atheists, agnostics,
freethinkers or religious skeptics of some sort. The tacit assumption is that
priests, ministers and rabbis somehow "know what is best" for young minds.
During the American Atheists Conventions (an annual rite we hope someday
soon to resume in some form!), it was evident that many Atheists are involved
in happy, productive family units. There are also plenty of "Atheist kids"
out there -- a fact we should remember when discussing the school prayer
We encourage readers to voice their concerns to ABC, and other media when
biased programming like the Good Morning America segment airs. Atheists and
freethinkers need to speak up and demand "fair time" in the electronic
marketplace, and an opportunity to present our views. Especially when it
comes to dealing with kids, the preachers certainly don't enjoy a monopoly on
About This List...
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founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank