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ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 23, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 23, 2004 [Science and Religion] Local Activists Face Off in Creationism Debate http://www.religionnewsblog.com/6561-.html With the
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 23, 2004
      ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 23, 2004

      [Science and Religion] Local Activists Face Off in Creationism Debate
      With the battle over teaching evolution in America’s schools erupting yet again, two Berkeley activists stand at the vanguard of the opposing sides on the legal, legislative, and mass media battlefields of the nation. At the forefront of the fight to reinstate the image of a divinely created humanity in public school textbooks and the public imagination stands Phillip Johnson, emeritus professor of law at UC Berkeley. Speaking of that nationwide effort, Johnson says, “My fingerprints are on it.” Leading the effort to keep creationism out of public schools is Eugenie Scott, a physical anthropologist and Berkeley resident.

      [Atheism] Family dispute could derail Supreme Court case on the Pledge of Allegiance
      The historic challenge to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance might never have reached the Supreme Court if not for a collision of faith between two parents -- one an atheist, the other a born-again Christian. Normally, the personal sagas of the parties in a Supreme Court case are just a footnote to the constitutional principles. But the clash between the parents threatens to derail the entire case, which will be heard by the high court on Wednesday.

      [MRTCG] Kibwetere Site to House Tourist Hotel
      Four years since about 1,000 people were murdered in a horrific religious cult mass killing in Uganda's south-western district of Kanungu police say they are still hunting the lead killers. Police say they have finished forensic studies into the ash remains of the people killed by the cult led by Joseph Kibwetere. [...] The Uganda police say they are working with International Police (Interpol) to pursue leading clues, some of which suggest that the cult leaders were sighted in the Kenyan capital Nairobi last year. The offered Shs 50 million to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the five leaders of the doomsday cult. Rugunda said police have credible information indicating that the cult leaders could still be still alive. [...] The Mayor of Kanungu Town Council Mr Godfrey Karabenda says his council plans to build a multi-million hotel at the scene of the cult massacre. He says the site is to be preserved as a tourist attraction. Before they perished in the fire the cult leaders handed over to government a land title for 27 acres. They also "donated" another two acres of ekibanja (land without a title deed).

      [Israel] Israel owes no apologies for taking out a killer
      Fueled by implacable hatred and thirst for blood, Hamas has massacred hundreds of Israeli men, women and children and wounded thousands more. In the last 3-1/2 years alone, according to the Jerusalem Post, 425 Hamas attacks killed 377 Israelis, 288 in suicide bombings, and wounded 2,076. The question perhaps shouldn't be why the Israelis killed the vile Ahmed Yassin on Monday, but why it took them so long to get rid of this mass murderer whose sole goal in life was slaughtering Jews and exterminating the state of Israel. [...] Of all the reactions to the killing of Yassin, the one that amazes us is this: Now Israel should be preparing for the next terror attack. As if the Israelis don't do that every day. As if Hamas and the other murderous gangs weren't already spending every waking hour plotting ways to kill Israelis. Last week they tried to turn an 11-year-old boy into a human bomb, failing only because their device didn't detonate on command. A few days earlier a couple of suicide bombers attacking the port of Ashdod tried, but fortunately failed, to get close enough to chemical facilities in hopes of blowing them up to kill hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.

      [Branch Davidians] Supreme Court won't hear Davidians' judge case
      The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal questioning the conduct of a federal judge involved in lawsuits over the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas. The high court did not comment in rejecting a pair of appeals from survivors and from families of children who died in the fire that swept the complex in April 1993. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, the only federal judge sitting in Waco, refused to recuse himself despite what the Davidians called a demonstrated bias against them. At one point the judge referred to part of the Davidians' case as "bullcrap," lawyers for surviving family members alleged. He also allegedly referred to a witness as a "crazy, murdering son of a bitch."

      [Jehovah's Witnesses] Lawsuits allege abuse
      A woman who has sued Jehovah's Witnesses leaders alleging sexual abuse at a Pacific Grove congregation encouraged others to come forward at a meeting in Monterey on Monday. [...] The local case is one of a slew of lawsuits being filed nationwide against Jehovah's Witnesses institutions accusing them of covering up the sexual abuse of children. Lawyers from the two firms pursuing the bulk of the cases have been gathering alleged abuse survivors throughout California for a series of meetings to draw out more potential victims and witnesses.

      [USA] Terror book intrigues
      As violence engulfs the Middle East, a controversial new book accusing President Bush of flubbing and then politicizing the war on terrorism has been selling briskly at local bookstores. [...] Clarke's book charges the Bush administration with ignoring imminent threats posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network before the Sept. 11 attacks and then trying to capitalize politically on public outrage. [...] A counter-terrorism expert under presidents Clinton and Bush, Clarke repeated his claims Sunday night on the CBS News program, "60 Minutes." He said Bush administration officials pressured him to find a link between al Qaeda and Iraq despite prevailing evidence to the contrary. After serving 30 years in Democrat and Republican administrations, Clarke resigned from the government in March 2003.

      [USA] Excerpts from 'Against All Enemies'
      President Bush: Clarke blames Bush for doing a "terrible job" fighting terrorism. Says "the critique of him as a dumb, lazy rich kid was somewhat off the mark," but that Bush looks for "the simple solution, the bumper-sticker description of the problem." [...] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: Clarke accuses Rumsfeld of plotting to bomb Iraq one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, despite any evidence of Iraqi involvement. Says Rumsfeld noted there weren’t any good bombing targets in Afghanistan but plenty of targets in Iraq. "At first I thought Rumsfeld was joking. But he was serious and the president did not reject out of hand the idea of attacking Iraq," Clarke wrote.

      [Church and State] One Crucial Issue in Pledge Case: What Does 'Under God' Mean?
      It has taken 50 years since Congress added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance for the validity of that cold war amendment to reach the Supreme Court, with arguments scheduled for Wednesday. But before the justices can decide whether those two words render the pledge unconstitutional, they have to answer a factual question that is inextricably entwined with the legal one: what exactly does it mean to pledge allegiance to "one nation under God"?

      [Offbeat News] The coolest church in the world
      When Jane Blake said, "I do," it wasn't clear whether her voice trembled from emotion or the piercing cold. Her velvet cloak could only partly shield her from the Arctic conditions enveloping the wedding ceremony. The groom, Miles Wakefield, looked slightly more comfortable in his tailor-made suit with extra thick lining. But his lips were turning purple toward the end of the half-hour rite. "Tonight we spend our wedding night at a suite in the Ice Hotel," the 32-year-old engineer said as he stepped out of the igloo-like church with his bride. [...] Three other British couples waited to walk down the aisle of the Ice Church, a frosty chapel adjoining the famed Ice Hotel of Jukkasjarvi. At least four other chapels have been built at snow and ice hotels in Finland, Canada and Alaska in what has become an exotic alternative to tropical wedding getaways.

      [Bioterrorism] Japan should prepare for bio-attack-US health chief
      Japan, like the United States, is certain to be a target of an attack with biological weapons and should be ready to respond, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson was quoted as saying on Tuesday. "It is not if there is going to be an attack in Japan, it is when it is going to be," the Asahi Shimbun daily quoted him was saying. "Japan is going to have a bio-terrorism attack sometime in the future, just like America is going to have."

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Aum reflects Japanese society in miniature
      In a way, it was inevitable that so many Aum Shinrikyo followers were graduates of elite universities, and, in particular, had degrees in the natural sciences. One of the reasons I say ``inevitable'' is that people with superior reasoning ability are all the more prone to see the limits of reason itself. This is something akin to a doctor's understanding of the limits of medicine because he or she sees human suffering all the time. When those bright young Aum zealots realized no amount of knowledge was ever going to make life easier in this world, they set out on their quest for a simpler path that would help them lead others to happiness. Were this the 1960s, such young people might have found their calling in political activism. But that was not the case. Nor did any of the established religions provide an answer. In the past, new religions were a powerful magnet for those who were desperate to escape dire poverty, sickness or any other hardships in life. In the case of Aum followers, however, their hunger was spiritual, not physical. It is not unheard-of for members of a doomsday cult to commit mass suicide, convinced of the utter worthlessness of their present lives. Aum, on the other hand, turned to murder.

      [Books] Researcher examines relationship between the occult and religion
      Witchcraft, magic and contact with the supernatural are common, perhaps even essential, companions of organized religions because they allow the average person to participate in an otherworldly experience, according to a Penn State folklore researcher. Recently, many fundamentalist Christians warned that the wizardry contained in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books corrupts impressionable young minds. Yet, the lure of the occult, especially for teenagers, is a centuries-old phenomenon and not likely to fade out, says Bill Ellis, associate professor of English and American studies at Penn State's Hazleton campus and author of "Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture" (The University of Kentucky Press, 2004). [...] An active member of the Lutheran Church, Ellis has served as president of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research and of the Folk Narrative Section and Children's Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society.

      [Robin Marie Murphy] Murphy’s third attempt at parole to be heard today
      Nearly a year after her bid for a new trial was denied by a superior court judge, the Fall River woman who has spent the past 23 years in prison for her role in the infamous "cult murders" will have her third chance at being released on parole today. Robin Marie Murphy, 41, will have her chance to present her case for release this afternoon during her parole board hearing at the Old Colony Correctional Institution, said State Parole Board spokeswoman Tina Hurley.

      [Bratslav Hasidim] Followers flock to Uman
      Rabbi Nahman's teachings have become increasingly trendy among religious students for his emphasis on the importance of happiness and simple prayer in the service of God. There is also a common belief that the repetition of his name in a certain fashion (as made famous by the stickers and graffiti on buildings throughout the country), can bring good luck. This belief, however, is disapproved of by most mainstream Bratzlavers.

      [Witchcraft] Strange brew
      Witchcraft is growing in popularity but today's pagans are more interested in self-improvement than in casting nefarious spells. Claire Halliday reports. If you believe statistics, Melbourne is the witch capital of Australia. According to the 2001 census there are 4155 pagans in the metropolitan area — the highest concentration in Australia. Another 1459 lurk mysteriously elsewhere in Victoria. Are more people falling under witchcraft's spell? There is no doubt. The number of Australians identifying themselves as either witches or wiccans more than quadrupled in the five years between the last two censuses.

      [Films] Gibson to film Jewish 'Western'
      Mel Gibson looks set to provoke further antipathy among the Jewish community with plans to make a film about the story behind the festival of Hanukkah. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees' victory against Greek king Antiochus IV, 165 years before Jesus was born.
      "The Maccabees' family stood up and made war," said Gibson, speaking on a US chat show last week. "They stuck by their guns and they came out winning. It's like a Western."

      [Aztec] Aztec temple is reborn with belief in the sun's power
      Wearing a scarlet headband and amulets, the Nahuatl shaman invoked the spirit of the "blessed creator" at dawn yesterday, as he raised an eagle-plumed staff over tens of thousands of pilgrims who had travelled to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan to soak up the power of the equinox. The long-abandoned site, 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, was founded early in the first millennium, and became Mexico's most successful pre-Hispanic city-state, with a peak population of 200,000. Its religion centred on sun and moon deities, and now the love affair with the sun is enjoying a revival. Up to one million men, women and children filed solemnly up the steps of the Temple of the Sun and the Moon throughout Saturday and Sunday; nearby the smog-wreathed capital staged its first festival in modern times to mark the arrival of spring.

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      [Rastafarianism] Rastafarian Jah Lloyd dies in Ethiopia
      After a lifetime of campaigning for the repatriation of Rastafarians to Ethiopia, their spiritual homeland, Jah Lloyd, the outspoken Rastafarian activist, died last week in that east African country, Sunday Observer sources said. Jah Lloyd, whose real name is Lloyd Young, was in his 60s. [...] Jah Lloyd, an elder of the local Rastafari Theocracy government, reportedly left Jamaica mid last year for Ethiopia to attend a "reasoning" (conference) on repatriation, in his capacity as chairman of Jamaica's Rastafari Steering Committee of the Ethiopian Peace Foundation (EPF).

      [Terry Nichols] Terry Nichols Goes on Trial for His Life
      Nichols went on trial for his life Monday in the Oklahoma City bombing and was alternately portrayed as an eager participant in the attack and a fall guy in a conspiracy wider than the government has acknowledged. Nichols hated the U.S. government and worked hand-in-hand with Timothy McVeigh in assembling and detonating the "huge, monstrous bomb," prosecutor Lou Keel said during opening statements in the state murder trial. [...] The defense plans to show that Nichols was a patsy for a shadowy group of conspirators, possibly including members of the white supremacist and anti-government group Aryan Republican Army.

      [Alternative Healing] Ancient knowledge gets a modern makeover
      A new [Indonesian] government policy on paranormal and alternative healing therapies is expected to be unveiled in the near future. In a similar way to other countries which have recognized certain nonscience-based health care therapies like acupuncture, the Ministry of Health is now taking a close look at its own indigenous alternative medicine, including paranormal therapies.

      [Israel] Israel now finds itself more isolated than ever
      To dispel Arab illusions that Israel's consolidation might represent a victory for terrorism, Ariel Sharon's government has targeted leaders of Hamas. Intended to intimidate by striking not only at the young terrorists, but also at the veterans who recruit and control them, the policy culminated in Mr Sharon's decision to kill Yassin, the éminence grise of the intifada. The global reaction to that decision, however, casts doubt on Mr Sharon's entire policy. To kill Yassin already looks like a serious mistake, less for moral than for strategic reasons. His assassination has divided Israel, including the cabinet, for no compensating gain in security. By granting Yassin the martyrdom he craved, the Israelis have provided a motive for new suicide attacks. More young Palestinians will fall in love with death, and more Israeli civilians will die with them.

      [Christian Fellowship Ministries] Follow Up - "Church or Cult?"
      Controversy at the Chandler Ostrich Festival Parade. During the festival's parade, a valley church used images of the twin towers to pursuade people to become 'born again.' It was sponsored by a church called 'The Door' -- an evangelical church that began in Prescott, Arizona. One of the ministers said they brought a confrontational message because he believes they're running out of time. [...] Many crowd members thought the church had a right to participate in the parade, but questioned the message. [...] The 5i-Team reported on this Arizona based church in February, which many people accuse of brainwashing members.

      [James Redfield] Celestine Prophecy destined for big screen
      Thomas Kretschmann, star of "The Pianist", has signed on to star with Sarah Wayne Callies and Matthew Settle in the big-screen adaptation of James Redfield's best-selling New Age novel "The Celestine Prophecy." He will play Will, an outdoorsman and guide who also is a mystic. The film follows a spiritual search in a Peruvian rain forest for a long-lost manuscript containing insights into the nature of human existence. Also joining "Celestine" are Hector Elizondo, Jurgen Prochnow and Joaquim de Almeida. Armand Mastroianni ("Touched by an Angel") is directing the indie project from a script adapted by Redfield with Barnet Bain. "Celestine" begins shooting next month.

      [Cafeteria Religion] Making a conscious choice
      Toronto's Centre for Conscious Living attracts many who call themselves `spiritual but not religious' Minister says. [...] The message is pure New Thought, and fits right in with that of many of today's prominent spiritual writers and speakers. Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer and others talk about a force in the universe that we use as individuals to create our lives, and about the power of the subconscious mind to create our reality. Together, these thinkers support a grassroots backlash against traditional, formalized religion. New Thought concepts have made a powerful sweep around the planet, and in the last 10 years have become positively trendy. Everyone's talking about it: Oprah, Madonna, Keanu Reeves, Nelson Mandela. The Centre for Conscious Living is an idea whose time has come. In Toronto, so many people consider themselves to be "spiritual but not religious" that the phrase became a cliché here before Alberta even knew it existed.

      [Underground Church] China tries church leaders for telling foreigners of Christian crackdown
      China has tried three underground church leaders in secret for exposing a crackdown against Christians just days after it passed a constitutional amendment to protect human rights. Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were tried on Tuesday at the Intermediate Peoples Court of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, Xu's wife Li Shanna and New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) said. Originally charged with "inciting the gathering of state secrets," the three Christians were brought to trial on amended charges of "providing intelligence to organizations outside of China." The men had told overseas groups of the suppression of Christians in Hangzhou city, where more than a dozen churches in houses were destroyed and at least 300 Christians were arrested, with some physically abused. The court has not announced a verdict but the men face imprisonment for 10 years to life, HRIC said.

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