Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996 (Evening Edition) Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 14:13
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996 (Evening Edition)
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 14:13:31 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#96 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/17/96 (Evening Edition)
In This Issue...
* More Phoney Shroud Claims?
* Religious Riots in Russia -- Who's Got The Body?
* Saudi Media Reach Expands Throughout Middle East
* ANOTHER Church Sex Abuse Scandal?
* Holy Eggplant! or "Does Allah Prefer Aubergines?"
* About This List...
ZINDLER CRITICIZES SHROUD DATING CRITICS
American Atheists editor and science advisor Frank Zindler, a
nationally-recognized authority in the evolution-creationism debate, today
criticized what he described as "recent attempts to rehabilitate the Shroud
of Turin as the authentic burial cloth of Jesus." His statement, being
released to the press today, follows another round of claims about the
14-foot long cloth, this time from two researchers at Turin University who
say they have new evidence that the shroud is not a medieval fake, but
instead dates from the alleged time of Christ's death.
Yesterday, AANEWS reported that Pier Luigi Baima Bollone and Nello
Balossino claimed to have detected d the faint impression on the cloth of a
Roman coin from the time of the emperor Tiberius, dated 29 c.e. We noted
that announcement of this "discovery" was made through the Catholic newspaper
Avvenire rather than a refereed scientific journal; the Turin newspaper
LaStampa said this was "new proof that the shroud is authentic," while
Avvenire called the find "sensational and definitive."
Text of Mr. Zindler's Statement to the Media
American Atheists science advisor Frank R. Zindler is underwhelmed by
recent attempts to rehabilitate the Shroud of Turin as the authentic burial
cloth of Jesus, despite radiocarbon dating studies which have shown it to be
a late medieval fraud. "It's hard to decide which alleged proof is the
sillier," he says, referring first to a report that Italian investigators
claim to have found the image of a Roman coin over the left eye of the shroud
face, and then a report from a Texas team that claims that microbes and fungi
on the surface of the shroud's linen fibers contaminated the test samples
with "young" carbon.
"If the image of a coin over the eye were to prove authentic," Zindler
points out, "it would be conclusive proof that the person wrapped in the
shroud was NOT a Jew, and thus could not have been the Jesus featured in New
Testament legend. In ancient times, only pagans placed coins over the eyes
and in the mouths of their dead -- payment for carriage across the river Styx
or its equivalents. A devout Jew certainly would not do that. Moreover,
most coins had human images on them, and such images were shunned by every
good Jew of the time."
Concerning the claim that microbes contaminated the samples subjected to
radiocarbon dating, the Atheist spokesman chides the members of the American
Society of Microbiology, who heard the report, for not pointing out
elementary facts of microbial physiology to the team from the University of
Texas Health Science Center who made the claim. "Instead of the carbon from
the microbes contaminating the shroud," he notes, "it is carbon from the
shroud that is contaminating the microbes. I wouldn't be surprised if carbon
dating of fungi now feeding on the shroud found them to be six hundred years
Some microbes feeding on the linen fibers are not photosynthetic and
cannot fix large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (the only source of
"young" carbon); the vast majority of their carbon atoms are taken from the
food they are absorbing. If they are feeding on old carbon compounds they
will appear to be old. If they are feeding on recently produced compounds,
they will appear to be their true age. On the other hand, the amount of
young carbon they would contribute to the cloth fibers would hardly affect
their dating at all.
"It is a little short of miraculous," Zindler chuckles, "that the alleged
error introduced by these bacteria just happens to be the exact amount needed
to cause three independent laboratories to arrive at a date when the medieval
bishop Pierre d'Arcis is known to have told the pope that the relic was a
cunning, contemporary forgery. That's a bigger miracle than the image on the
(End of Zindler media statement)
There have been other problems, though, with claims made by the Texas
team. Like the announcement from Italy, the findings were not initially made
through a reputable, refereed scientific journal. In addition, the
scientists involved are microbiologist Stephen Mattingly and Leoncio Garza
Valdez, a San Antonio pediatrician. Dr. Douglas Donahue reportedly visited
Mattingly's lab, and expressed serious doubts that the pair really knew what
they were talking about, "since radiocarbon dating techniques are based in
physics, not microbiology." (Austin American-Statesman).
Toni Hester of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at University
of Texas said that he "has a hard time believing that microscopic layers of
bacteria and fungi would not be removed by standard chemical cleaning methods
or that they could throw off an accelerator mass spectrometer.
"If you couldn't believe that, you'd have to take all the dating and throw
it out," Hester told the paper.
RELIGIOUS RIOTS IN RUSSIA
Factions of the Orthodox religion continue their battle in the former
Soviet Union, as rival groups of clerics and followers call for official
recognition of their respective cults. Last Sunday, the breakaway Ukrainian
Orthodox Church unveiled a monument over the grave of a patriarch buried last
year near a trolleystop outside the country's main church. Some 1500 people
gathered outside St. Sofia Cathedral where there is a monument to Patriach
Volodymyr, who spent 19 years in Soviet prisons. But last year, church
members were refused permission to bury that patriarch's body inside the
grounds of St. Sofia by the government of President Leonid Kuchma's, who said
that the cathedral was a cultural monument which could not be monopolized by
any one faith.
But to Orthodox believers in the Ukraine, that signifies the split between
a faction led by Volodymyr's successor, Patriarch Filaret, and the local
branch of the Russian Orthodox movement recognized by Moscow and the church
hierarchy in Constantinople. Disputes over property and even rituals have
resulted in riots and street conflicts; media reports note that most of the
rioters are elderly.
There is also the question of an officially recognized state church in the
newly-independent Ukraine, something which President Kuchma does not want.
The Roman Catholic Church is also becoming active and has many followers in
the Ukraine's minority Greek population of some five million people. It was
relegalized in 1991.
Sunday's prayer and memorial service quickly turned violent when
parishioners dug up of the carcass of the late patriarch and hurriedly buried
the remains on the grounds of St. Sophia. Police and religious rioters
slugged it out; also involved was the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian National
Self-Defense (UNSO) group that sees an independent church as a key element in
RELIGIOUS SAUDIS TAKING CONTROL OF ARAB MEDIA
Despite the promise of open and unfettered global communications using
technologies like direct satellite broadcasting or the Internet, mass media
in the middle east is rapidly being bought up by powerful financial interests
based in Saudi Arabia. According to news reports, including a piece in the
Philadelphia Inquirer, and other sources, the result is that Saudi religious
views are "going digital," promoting a "puritanical vision for the next
Writing in the Inquirer last week, Alan Sipress noted: "The Saudi royal
family and its close associates have coupled the kingdom's oil wealth with
advanced communications technology to impose a message of radical cultural
conservatism and political intolerance."
Among the Saudi-held communications assets are three satellite services
which reach millions of viewers throughout the region over 20 channels. Adel
Hammouda, an editor of an influential Egyptian magazine, told The Inquirer:
"Ninety percent of the Arab media, whether directly or indirectly, is
controlled by the Saudis." This enormous concentration of media power,
coupled with the religious and puritanical contents, have human rights groups
Lurking behind the scenes of this media monopoly is the state-sponsored
religious police or Mutawah, who enforce Islamic puritanism throughout the
society. As a result, Saudi interests now have a 38-item list of
prohibitions which are circulated to their operations abroad in other Arab
states; the result has been a growing trend of sanitizing and censoring of
movies, programs and printed materials. In films or TV shows, for instance,
there is a ban on hugging between an actor and actress even if they happen to
be portraying a married coupl.e. Item 20 on the list forbids women from
singing, and item 31 "bans the depiction of a married couple talking while in
bed." Even the presence on screen in the same scene between an unmarried man
and woman requires a third person to be present. What else is taboo? Beach
scenes, smoking, dancing and the wearing of gold necklaces if prohibited; so
is anything depicting a father kissing his daughter.
Insulting or blaspheming religion in any way is banned under item 11, and
a variety of subjects are proscribed, including housing shortages, labor
unrest, and public demonstrations of any kind.
The restrictions are taking their toll, especially in Egypt. Critics note
that many of the films made in that country during the 1950's and 1960's
could not be produced today, including classics such as "Anna Karenina" since
it touched on the subject of adultery. An Egyptian screenwriter declared
that "The financial domination of the Saudis has beaten down Egyptian cinema.
They tried to impose their bedouin taste on film. It's a medieval kingdom
that lives in the 21st century."
Observers are also concerned over the Saudi-controlled Middle East
Broadcasting Center. While programming often examines the internal affairs
of other Arab countries, it is never critical of problems within Saudi
Arabia, including the growing fundamentalist opposition there, or the recent
illness of King Fahd.
Saudi influence also reaches as far as Britain, where London's leading
Arabic daily newspaper, Al Hayat, is controlled by Saudi Prince Khaled Bin
Sultan That has become an important political asset for the kingdom,
especially since London is a base for dissident emigree groups such as the
Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights headed by fundamentalist
Mohammed al-Masari. Many of the dissidents feel that the Saudi government
is, incredibly, not religious enough, and allows foreign workers and troops
(especially U.S.) to "desecrate" the sacred soil of the nation which gave
birth to Islam.
The Saudi agenda seems twofold: first, the regime want to ally itself with
U.S. foreign policy interests, without inviting the cultural and social
changes which inevitably accompany economic or military contact with western
cultures. Second, the Saudi establishment -- the 6,000 Princes and
Princesses of the ruling House of Saud -- are intent on promoting their
version of religious fundamentalism throughout the region, while doing
whatever is necessary to deflect inquiry or criticism from their own
Ironically, social reform is being driven by other countries in the region
which are not always considered allies. Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and even Iraq
are culturally far more liberal and secular than Saudi Arabia. But the
regional influence exerted by Saudi interests now gobbling up media
throughout the middle east raises the prospect that the digital image of
reality will ultimately be shaped by a small coterie of Saudi
billionaire-princes and their religious police.
HO-HUM, ANOTHER CHURCH SEXUAL ABUSE CASE FILED...
Over the past decade, various Roman Catholic Archdiocese throughout the
country have paid out tens of millions of dollars in "hush money" and
settlement funds in an on-going sex scandal involving priests and young boys.
Now, another suit has been filed, this one by six former altar boys
against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who say that a priest abused them
during the 1970's. According to the L.A. Times, "the lawsuits came five
months after 38 criminal charges against the priest, Father Ted Llanos, were
dismissed" on grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The
molestation supposedly took place at parishes in Long Beach, Covina, Santa
Ana and Los Angeles. A spokesman for the diocese said that Fr. Llanos was
still considered a priest, but was on "inactive leave."
Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Wilson last week signed a bill that could open the
door for refiling charges against Llanos. The state Supreme Court is
expected to rule on the constitutionality of that measure.
HOLY EGGPLANT! PRAISE ALLAH FOR HIS WORKS!
Our British correspondent Mr. G. sent us more evidence recently that the
human capacity for religious foolishness knows few, if any limits. We're
told that one Mrs. Ruksana Patel of Lancashire happened to cut open an
aubergine (eggplant) only to discover that the seeds within spelled out
"Ya-Allah", or "Allah Exists." She claims that during the previous night,
she had dreamt that one of three eggplants she had purchased was holy and
that she would find Allah when she cut it open.
Our correspondent reports that each day about 50 pilgrims are stopping by
to gawk at the holy aubergine, and that a similar aubergine seed phenomenon
in 1990 drew some 5,000 pilgrims to Leicester.
Is there no end to such wondrous works?
And, when you think about it, is this REALLY any different from the claims
about other religious "miracles" and artifacts, including the Shroud of Turin
or the Holy Coat of Tiers, both of which are being dragged out for public
consumption in time for the millennium?
Your editor recalls other displays of human folly, including one in the
1970's in Phoenix, Arizona. There, a Mrs. Barreras happened to bake a
tortilla on which was supposedly the image of Jesus Christ. Tens of
thousands of people flocked to her home to see the "holy tortilla" which was
soon ensconced in its very own wood-and-glass display case. Traffic was
backed up in the neighborhood, media descended on Mrs. Barreras' house, and
the faithful (and just-plain-curious) flocked, rosaries and bibles clutched
in hand. Only the next week, a gentleman out in nearby Mesa (which happens
to boast a high Mormon population) received a similar revelation. There,
Jesus happened to appear in the outline of the wood grain of a kitchen
cabinet which was being re-surfaced. Again, thousands stopped by and
newspapers, television and other media -- rather than pay attention to
substantive issues -- reported this "event."
Laugh as we may, the holy tortilla, Kitchen-Kabinet-Khrist, and even the
Holy Aubergine Seeds make as much sense as other manifestations of religious
credulity, including the various "secrets" and "sacraments" of the world's
established and "respected" religious faiths. Is Holy Communion, or the
Virgin Birth, or Mohammed flying off to heaven on a horse any LESS foolish?
Are you a member of American Atheists? If so, why not join our moderated
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activities and other related topics. If you would like to participate, just
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include your name and postal address.
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