Atheists: Fear Them — Researchers conducting the three-year American Mosaic Project are surveying Americans’ attitudes toward race and religion. Among many other questions, participants were asked what religious group was the most threatening or dangerous. Fifty-four percent answered “Atheists.” Maybe white, conservative Christians dominated the pool: that group revealed the most antipathy toward diversity, in their responses to questions about scenarios in which their children might marry out of their faith or race.
Thanks for the Clues — Those who have been keeping an eye out for the Antichrist will be relieved to know that Cardinal Giacomo Biffi is on the job. The conservative cleric, considered to be a leading candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II, says that the seven-headed beast described in the Book of Revelations was already among us and probably disguised as philanthropist advocating for vegetarianism, animal rights, or pacifism. He could also be working to dialogue with Orthodox or Anglican religious. But his true purpose, Biffi reminds us, is to undermine Catholicism.
Better Late Than Never? — Latin Americans are worried about an invasion. Asians fear a resurgence of tradition. The English and North Americans are dismayed by “fads” that just won’t go away. All together, Catholics representing twenty-five countries convened in Rome in June to discuss how to protect their religion and keep from losing followers to New Age spiritualities. Among the examples listed in a report on the problem were the Jewish kabbalah, the Enneagram personality-reading cult, ancient Egyptian occult practices, Sufism, Druid practices, Celtic Christianity, medieval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, yoga, and Zen Buddhism. Some Catholics working on the problems are advocating a dialogue with New Agers similar to that being conducted with Muslims, while others, including the pope, view it as a matter of right or wrong.
That’s a Relief — The death toll from the Spanish Inquisition is far less that has been speculated, according to a historian of Catholicism. Professor Agostino Borromeo of Rome’s Sapienza University says that his studies have shown that “only” 1 percent of the 125,000 people tried by church tribunals were executed, although deaths may also have occurred at the hands of nonchurch tribunals. Previous estimates have put the figure at anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000. He notes that the process was strictly regulated: each victim was allowed to be tortured for only fifteen minutes and only in the presence of a doctor.
World Baptists on the Defensive as Americans Pull Out
Early last June at the Baptist World Alliance annual meeting, the U.S.-based Southern Baptist Convention, made headlines with its announcement that it was pulling out of the BWA. The SBC was objecting to a perceived liberal leaning in the BWA, manifesting itself as tolerance toward homosexuality and support for women in the clergy. The SBC also objected to perceived “anti-American pronouncements.”Some would say the BWA is on the right track. But not so fast, says the BWA: it claims have been misrepresented and has accused the SBC of slander.
In an official statement that was designed to clear up the confusion, the BWA made the following points: “The BWA is not a liberal organization!”; “The BWA does not promote women as pastors of churches nor does it argue against the practice”; and “The BWA does not support homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, believing it to be incompatible with the teachings of Scripture!”
The BWA also insisted that it was not anti-American and that “Baptists should always be good and patriotic citizens of their countries,” but that “patriotism must always be limited to and judged by the Bible’s call for ultimate loyalty to Christ who is above all!”
“How sad that the BWA has been defamed and our strongly Biblical and evangelical stance has been irreparably hurt by innuendos, false accusations, and guilt by association,” the statement read.
Mike Jordan, the irrepressible creator and director of the world’s only atheist/freethinker a cappella group, Voices of Reason, died June 10, 2004. He was thirty-six. Originally from Minnesota, Mike founded and directed the Minneapolis Greed Theater. He moved to California in his twenties to pursue his dream of finding success in Hollywood. He was a proficient musician, actor, and singer, a theater critic, and a writer whose semi-autobiographical short story “Catch” was nominated for a prestigious journalistic award.
Within the gay community, Mike always pushed to have the atheist’s voice heard. For his innovative creation of Voices of Reason, Mike was awarded the 2002 Spencer Blackwelder Freethought Pioneer Award from Atheists United. He is survived by his partner, Peter Olson, in Los Angeles, and by his parents and two sisters in Minnesota.
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Long-time Council for Secular Humanism supporter Robert Lees died at ninety-one years of age as a victim of a brutal murder in his hometown of Los Angeles. Mr. Lees was involved with the CFI–West community and will be dearly missed by friends and CFI staff. Mr. Lees was one of the first Hollywood screenwriters to be blacklisted, and his writing career came to a halt for some time when he invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than naming names in the McCarthy hearings. His writing credits include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and the television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A long-time humanist, Mr. Lees kept a plaque from his childhood that read: “The world is my home, all men are my brothers.” Our brother will be missed. The Council and Free InquIry send their deepest condolences to Mr. Lees’s family.