Apologetics Index
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Religion Items In The News

May 11, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 84)

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=== Main
1. Jehovah Witnesses Registered Under New Law
2. Slain wife, accused husband possibly belonged to cult
3. Aka supports Rev. Moon
4. Ranch brings $6.5 million (Sun Myung Moon)
5. Japanese reading, heeding Nostradamus as millennium closes
6. The man China fears most (Items 6 - 9: Falun Gong)
7. China Sees Threat in Secret Sect
8. Followers say meditative discipline cures many ills...
9. Meditative discipline from China builds a following in N.J.
10. JU warns: Beware of False Prophets
11. Attack of the Robotic Poets (Scientology)
12. Scientology's attack on Psychiatry
13. Clergy challenge white supremacists (Christian Identity)
14. Killer at abortion clinic believes his act was right (Chr. Identity)
15. Einhorn's tale on the tube
16. Parents of boy stung to death disappear before arrest
17. Navajos aim to preserve tradition of medicine men
18. ACLU Attacks Code Of Conduct at Plaza (LDS)
19. Polygamist Leader the Alleged Victim in Fraud Case
20. Practicing their old-time religion (Wicca)
21. Science, at a higher power
22. In Romania, the Pope pushes on for unity
23. Differences between Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Christian...
24. Islamic school to combine secular, sacred

=== Noted
25. The Gangs and Their God
26. More college students seek religion
27. Church membership on the rise
28. Wholly L.A.
29. To Know God (New Age/Gnosticism)
30. Echelon Eavesdrops Around the World Without Warrant or Court Order

=== Books
31. The new wave of Christian broadcasting (Bob Briner)
32. Father, Son Square Off Over the Meaning of Life
33. Faith and probability

=== Main

1. Jehovah Witnesses Registered Under New Law
Russia Today, May 7, 1999
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The Jehovah's Witnesses, fighting a bid to ban their group in Moscow,
said on Thursday that Russia's Justice Ministry had re-registered them
as a religious organization nationwide under a controversial new law.

"We are very pleased with this development and hope that it will have a
positive impact on the court case in Moscow," Judah Schroeder, a
spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said by telephone from the
United States.

He said the group had been re-registered under the name "Administrative
Center for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia."

Moscow prosecutors began their attempt to close down the Jehovah's
Witnesses in the Russian capital after accusing the group of breaking
up families and preaching intolerance.

The Jehovah's Witnesses say the prosecutors have failed to produce any
evidence to back up their claims and say the case recalls Soviet-era
efforts to control all religious activity.

2. Slain wife, accused husband possibly belonged to cult
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 5, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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A Perry County man charged with capital murder in the shooting death of
his wife may have tried to get her out of a religious cult, Sheriff Ray
Byrd said Tuesday.

Grady apparently had stated that he wanted to get out of a religious
cult and wanted his wife to leave it also, Byrd said. The
investigation is continuing to determine whether Grady and his wife
belonged to the cult, Byrd said.

3. Aka supports Rev. Moon
The Post of Zambia, May 4, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Zambia president Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika has supported the
Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Lewanika, in a speech
when he introduced World president for the Women Federation of World
Peace, Hak Ja Han Moon, at a conference in Harare last week, said the
couple had initiated many religious, intellectual, recreational and
peace monitoring organisations over the last 40 years. Han Moon is the
wife of Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon.

Moon is on a worldwide tour of lectures with the theme "The Path of
Life for Humankind Families of True Love: The Gateway to Happiness in
the New Millennium."

4. Ranch brings $6.5 million
Miami Herald, May 9, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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A Houston hospital executive last week agreed to pay $6.5 million for
one of the most opulent ranches in Texas, acquiring the sprawling South
Texas property from a company owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The seller of the 3,029-acre ranch outside Carrizo Springs was the New
York-based C.F. Han Corp., owned by Moon, who is also leader of the
Unification Church.

5. Japanese reading, heeding Nostradamus as millennium closes
Nando Times, May 11, 1999
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(...) As the end of the century nears, Japan has come under an odd
spell - the apocalyptic preachings of the 16th century soothsayer
Nostradamus. Bookshelves are lined with Nostradamus spinoffs.
Celebrities comment earnestly on his predictions. The Internet is awash
with thousands of Japanese Web sites devoted to the French prophet of

Nostradamus, whose prophecies made him so famous in his lifetime that
he came under the patronage of Catherine de Medicis, has been a
household name in Japan for over two decades. And he's always been big
during times of crisis.

But the current gloom of Japan's recession and jitters about the
international situation - from the war in Kosovo to missile tests by
North Korea - have created the most virulent Nostradamus boom yet,
experts say.

6. The man China fears most
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), May 7, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Sydney has just had a visit from the leader of a Chinese "health" cult
whose members dared to line the streets of Beijing in protest at the
official treatment of their sect.

But the book also contains many extreme apocalyptic warnings and
references to our "contaminated society" and the "decline of the
humanmorality". In one section, Li refers to the earth "the trash can
of the universe". "Anything that is bad falls down here," he told some
2,000 followers gathered at Darling Harbour last Sunday.

Li was on his third visit to Australia at the invitation of the
Australian branch of Falun Dafa. The cult has attracted a steady flow
of new practitioners who assemble daily in parks to meditate and
exercise. In Sydney, there are about 20 sites.

But group members are particularly sensitive to what they see as bad

This writer was videotaped during an interview with Sydney members this
week and telephoned on Wednesday night by a solicitor representing
other Falun Dafa practitioners who wanted to inquire about the content
of this article.

Behind the scenes, according to reports, authorities are mapping out
plans to stem the growth of Falun Dafa and dilute its influence.
Government employees are being warned not to join in any of its
organised large-scale activities.

In his writings, however, Li reveals that he has deep misgivings about
the direction of modern society. They expose a heavy moralistic streak
that runs through his teachings. He lists homosexuality and "sex
liberation" in the same camp as drug dealing, prostitution and
organised crime - "simply terrible".

He rails against popular music and modern art which he identifies as
signs of "tremendous decline of the human morality".

"Among music works, there is so-called disco and rock and roll music,
and the loud noises have entered the hall of great elegance. The blind
or the lame as well as people of ugly appearance have all become
singing stars with hoarse voices with the help of the radio and TV

It's at that point you begin to wonder what happened to the principles
of benevolence and forbearance.

7. China Sees Threat in Secret Sect
Washington Post, May 7, 1999
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Shocked by throngs of meditating protesters on their front door,
Chinese leaders are preparing a methodical campaign to discredit and
rein in the martial arts sect they now see as a threat to Communist
Party power.

President Jiang Zemin has formed a high-level task force to monitor the
group, and government operatives have started taking names and
infiltrating the sect, Chinese sources inside and outside the party

Party leaders are convinced by the demonstration that the group is
disciplined and well-organized, despite its claims to have no
hierarchy. In their eyes, the Wheel of Law verges on the semi-religious
secret societies that sought to overthrow unjust emperors.

Officials ordered qigong practitioners and masters to register with
authorities in the early 1990s, said Nancy Chen, an anthropologist at
the University of California at Santa Cruz. One Beijing resident said
police have already started doing so in a village on the city's

State media are likely to begin publicizing stories to show the dangers
of the Wheel of Law. According to the source, one says that a female
devotee in northeastern Chaoyang city jumped to her death from a
building, shouting Li Hongzhi's name.

8. Falun Dafa: Followers say meditative discipline cures many ills; others call it a cult
Post-Gazette, May 4, 1999
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(...) Falun Dafa -- it is also known as Falun Gong -- is the law of the
revolving wheel, advertising itself as "an advanced system of
cultivation and practice." Its three main tenets, "Zhen, Shan and Ren,"
translate into truth, compassion and forbearance, respectively.

"Fa" means law or principle, "Lun" means wheel and "Gong" refers to
cultivation energy -- what the practitioner must develop to achieve

Li, in writings available on many Falun Dafa Web sites, says Falun Dafa
is characterized by the cultivation of the Falun or law wheel, located
in the body's lower abdomen. As an intelligent, spinning body of
high-energy substance, the Falun absorbs energy from the universe and
relieves the body of bad elements.

Practitioners can cure diseases and "cultivate supernatural powers and
other magic skills," according to Li. By eliminating "karma" or
negative energy, Li claims, people can purify their bodies and
eliminate many health problems.

Few local health professionals have extensive knowledge about the
effects of Falun Dafa, although other meditative practices, such as tai
chi and yoga have been shown in studies to lower blood pressure,
improve balance, ease stress, strengthen the immune system and promote
overall health.

"You may get improvement in a lot of ailments," said Dr. Paul N.
Cervone of Belle Vernon, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Monongahela
Valley Hospital in Carroll who has a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He said
Eastern approaches to health and fitness have very real benefits from
which Westerners can learn. Such practices, he says, increase physical
strength and concentration, as well as improve one's attitude and
ability to relax. By strengthening the immune system, the exercises
may ease allergy problems and other ailments, Cervone said.

Lengyel, the National Qigong member, said the primary difference
between qi gong and Falun Dafa is that those who practice qi gong draw
guidance and direction from within themselves; followers of Falun Dafa
look to Li for spiritual guidance.

Whether Falun Dafa is a religion or a form of medicine is an important
distinction, said Dr. Adam Sohnen, an internist at St. Francis Medical
Center who has done a lot of research on alternative health practices.
Medicine is falsifiable, meaning any claim medicine makes has to be
supported by continued evidence. If it cannot be supported, the
practice is dropped by Western practitioners.

Religion starts with an article of faith, and everything flows from
that. "You cannot measure it, you cannot test it, you cannot falsify
it," Sohnen said. "People who practice this have to understand that
they're dealing with a religion and not a science. If they claim it is
not a religion, all of a sudden they step into the realm, that which is
falsifiable; they are potentially putting themselves into trouble."

If people follow Falun Dafa as a "religion," and have a specific goal,
such as correction of a health problem, they may believe they are
spiritual failures if they don't reach that goal. "It's a very big
failing of any activity that hopes to promote spirituality."

9. Meditative discipline from China builds a following in N.J.
Bergen Record, May 5, 1999
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(...) But even as its popularity soars in China, Falun Dafa is taking
root in the United States, including in New Jersey, where followers say
fears sparked by last week's protest are entirely misguided.

"This is no religion," said Meng, of Ridgefield. "This is no cult."

Followers say Falun Dafa is an outgrowth of the widespread practice
known as qigong (pronounced chee-gong), a spiritual discipline which
teaches that people have the power to channel internal energy, usually
through a regimen of breathing and gentle exercise.

"Qigong has been practiced for a long time in China," said Peter Li, an
associate professor of East Asian studies at Rutgers University. "With
the practice of qigong, you can really transmit your energy to other
people for healing purposes."

In China, qigong is so common that millions of people practice it in
some form, with scores of older adults gathering in public parks to
engage in its meditative exercises, Li said.

10. JU warns: Beware of False Prophets
Passauer Neue Presse (Germany), May 6, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
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The Junge Union [Youth Union] warns of sects and false prophets in two
leaflets hot off the press. The reason for the information campaign by
the JU was the increased appearance of sects in recent times.

One of the leaflets is concerned with Scientology.

Nevertheless, Mayer and the Toeginger JU local chairman Martin Huber
both agree that Scientology is not the most pressing problem in the
district. It's a different story with the so-called Engelwerk (Opus
Angelorum), though.

In contrast to Scientology, whose members admit they are
Scientologists, Engelwerk is a secret society; little of its structure
has surfaced. Huber stated, "The motto of the Engelwerk members is to
be silent or lie." People who end up in the clutches of Engelwerk,
according to Huber, "cut themselves off from the outside and live in a
dream world" which puts criticism beyond their grasp.

11. Attack of the Robotic Poets
ZDnet, May 6, 1999
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(...) In recent months, Usenet denizens have been struggling against a
relentless assault, manifest in an unceasing deluge of nonsensical
messages posted by an inhuman poetry machine.

Did You Say Poetry? That's right, poetry.

"I have every fleck another airframe and philosophy have exerted it out
our hobo," reads one of the thousands of fraudulent posts found on
alt.religion.scientology in a single day. "Reassuringly it spread up a

The bizarre koans, each of them unique and hundreds of words in length,
come in by the thousands, flooding a handful of groups every day.

But Usenet's besieged defenders say the most consistent target is
alt.religion.scientology (ARS), a newsgroup traditionally dominated by
discourse critical of the Church of Scientology. Since February the
poetry-bot has dominated the discussions, forging the names of
legitimate human posters and blindly countering every argument-- pro or
con-- with such succinct rebuttals as "Above no cough at no writer
every considerate profit addressed," and mind-bending riddles like "Why
is another horseman either cytoplasm enchantingly?"

Usenet defenders are countering the assault with automation of their
own, crafting programs that kill the "sporgeries" -- a term coined by
ARS's Tilman Hausherr "because it's both spam, and forgery."

12. Scientology's attack on Psychiatry
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland), May 5, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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The Scientologists' battle against psychologists and psychiatrists has
a long tradition; even Scientology's founder, Ron Hubbard, hated the
doctors of the soul. At the moment his adherents are going into action:
a glossy-paged booklet entitled "Psychiatry deceives children and puts
them on drugs" lists the alleged sins of psychiatrists. The pamphlets
were sent to Kindergartens, schools, social institutions, agencies,
politicians, and others.

Numerous recipients were shaken up and puzzled as to who was behind the
booklets. One had to look at the booklet closely and be well-informed
in order to make the connection [to Scientology].

In contrast to the Scientology mother organization, the CCHR continues
to receive approval from the city to set up an information stand on
Saturdays and distribute booklets. Besides that the CCHR members seek
contact with psychiatric patients to get legal power to represent their
interests. Then legal means are used to bring about their release. The
methods used in these episodes are not always by the book, report
employees from psychiatric clinics.

Juerg Gassman, center secretary from Pro Mente Sana, criticized the
involvement of the Citizens Commission with Scientology and demanded
openness. He accused the Scientologists of unfair methods in regard to
information politics. An opinion was not available from the Citizens

13. Clergy challenge white supremacists
Detroit News, May 6, 1999
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A group of Springfield ministers says white supremacists have been
passing off their annual convention in the area as religion for too
many years, and they've had enough.

Making the convention feel unwelcome won't be easy. It is organized by
Everett Ramsey, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Houston, Mo., who
says there's no reason to worry. "We've been there seven years and
never had any trouble. We're nothing but a Baptist group. I have
nothing else to say," said Ramsey.

However, national organizations that monitor extremist activity
claim Ramsey's church is a hate group and belongs to the Christian
Identity movement

14. Killer at abortion clinic believes his act was right
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 6, 1999
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(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Paul J. Hill, Inmate No. 459364, who five years ago murdered a
doctor who performed abortions and the doctor's clinic escort, is free
from remorse and filled with belief in his cause.

An expert on extremist groups, Paul deArmond, says it's hard to
estimate how many people actually favor using deadly violence against
clinics that offer abortions. "The number actually acting is small,"
deArmond said last week, "but the support network is enormous."

DeArmond, a Bellingham, Wash.-based expert on religious and right-wing
extremism, said Hill is aligned with the Christian Identity movement
[Story no longer online? Read this]
that preaches violence in the service of "the one true God." "People
are finally waking up to antiabortion as a terrorist movement,"
deArmond said. "It's only taken about 150 bombings and a number of

Roy McMillan, a Hill defender who is in the Mississippi-based Christian
Action Group
, has said that assassinating Supreme Court justices would
be "justifiable homicide."

15. Einhorn's tale on the tube
Philadelphia Daily News, May 7, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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(...) At first, the French refused to extradite the fugitive. But an
appeals court ruled in February that Einhorn would be returned to
Philadelphia if the courts here grant him a new trial and guarantee
that he will not be put to death.

* Sidebars:
Viewers gain from victims' pain
Getting the book on Ira_Actor studied Einhorn's work
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BACKGROUND: The Einhorn Case
http://www.philly.com/packages/einhorn/ (Archived news stories)

16. Parents of boy stung to death disappear before arrest
Orlando Sentinel, May 11, 1999
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Police with arrest warrants were searching Monday for the parents of a
2-year-old-boy who died from 432 yellow jacket stings last fall. Kelly
and Wylie Johnson could not be found when deputy sheriffs went to the
couple's Palm Bay home Friday to arrest them on charges of aggravated
child abuse. A "For Sale" sign hung at the house on Matte Drive.

Despite the hundreds of stings, the parents did not seek medical
until the boy stopped breathing about seven hours after the
accident. Wylie and Kelly Johnson were members of a tiny religious
that distrusts doctors. They were arrested, tried and acquitted
in 1998 for failing to report the death of a baby whose parents
belonged to the same religious group.

Investigators said Monday that the Johnsons' group in Palm Bay
apparently dissolved but that the couple was active in a similar group
in Tampa.

17. Navajos aim to preserve tradition of medicine men
Dallas Morning News, May 6, 1999
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(...) Now, through a pilot project aimed at training young people in
traditional Navajo healing methods, Navajo leaders hope to revive the
health-care system they say works best for them - and save the
ceremonies on the verge of extinction.

The survival of the medicine man is vital if the Navajo language and
culture are to survive, said Alfred Yazzie, a Navajo language
instructor at Arizona State University. "Medicine men are, for the
most part, the people who hold all the teachings and spiritual aspects
of the community," Mr. Yazzie said. "They still hold a lot of the
history - undocumented history."

The solution, Mr. Jackson said, is for the state to treat the Navajo
health-care system as an equal to the Western system. "What we have to
do is give our traditional ceremonies a higher level of dignity - give
these medicine men names equivalent to doctors," he said.

In 1980, the Tribal Council turned down a request to charter the
medicine man's association, saying that Navajo ceremonies were a
religion and that it wouldn't be proper to mix church and state, state
Sen. Jackson said.

He argues that while the ceremonies are spiritual in nature, it is
important to distinguish that they are part of the Navajos' actual
health-care system and not a religion.

18. ACLU Attacks Code Of Conduct at Plaza
Salt Lake Tribune, May 6, 1999
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is challenging
city-sanctioned restrictions of public expression on the LDS Church's
pedestrian plaza planned for Main Street. On Wednesday, ACLU Legal
Director Stephen Clark sent a letter to city attorneys and council
members threatening litigation if the limits are not lifted.

On April 13, City Council members voted 5-2, along Mormon/non-Mormon
lines, to sell one block of Main Street from North Temple to South
Temple to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for $8.1

That night, a draft of "easement restrictions" appeared for the first
time. Under those rules, church security guards would be able to evict
pedestrians who assemble, picket, distribute literature, sunbathe,
smoke, carry guns, play music, make speeches or engage "in illegal,
offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or disorderly speech, dress
or conduct." Council members let those restrictions pass.

And the church could bar permanently anyone who has threatened harm or
damage to church leaders and members or their property or who have
violated the rules more than once.

19. Polygamist Leader the Alleged Victim in Fraud Case
Salt Lake Tribune, May 7, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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A businessman has been indicted for allegedly defrauding the leader and
members of the largest polygamist church in the nation in a scheme
involving a device that supposedly could provide unlimited energy.

Rulon T. Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints
, approved a deposit of $150,000 to buy "a device
capable of producing unlimited electrical power" to the 6,000 people
living in two towns on the Utah/Arizona border.

20. Practicing their old-time religion
Austin American-Statesman, May 11, 1999
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(...) This Wiccan celebration of the vernal equinox didn't take place
in some secret spot in the woods. The site was Fort Hood, and most of
the witches were active-duty Army. On the U.S. military's largest
installation, more than 40 witches, male and female, celebrated the
Rite of Spring on March 20, the day of equal daylight and darkness that
symbolizes the witches' goal of perfect balance.

Their on-post ceremony was possible because three years ago, Fort
Hood's top brass recognized Wicca as a legitimate faith, making it the
first U.S. military base to provide space for neo-pagan rituals.

Following Fort Hood's lead, other U.S. military bases around the world
have sanctioned Wicca. The top chaplains at Fort Hood are considered
the military's experts on the religion, fielding calls from base
chaplains and even the chief chaplain's office at the Pentagon.

In the past two decades, Wicca's popularity has grown steadily, along
with the Earth-centered spirituality of the New Age movement. The
Covenant of the Goddess in Berkeley, Calif., one of the oldest
incorporated Wiccan organizations, estimates there are 50,000 adherents
in the United States.

One of the challenges of the Open Circle is that it brings together
people from different branches of Wicca. To keep harmony, the group
rotates rituals from different traditions.

21. Science, at a higher power
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Most scientists, when surveyed, say they do not believe in God, but
suddenly science and religion are communing with one another.

Backing many of these conferences, seminars, courses and research
projects is $30 million to $40 million a year from the Templeton
Foundation, based in Radnor.

But not all scientists are happy about this privately funded trend.
They fear that Templeton is using his millions to buy the endorsement
of scientists for a religious agenda. It is enough to prompt physicist
Robert Park of the American Physical Society to call the Templeton
Foundation "a hideous, evil organization."

The Foundation recently gave $1.3 million to the American Association
for the Advancement of Science for its own science and religion effort,
in addition to $90,000 to hold last month's Cosmic Questions
conference. In an effort to reach the public, Templeton also sponsored
a recent PBS special called Faith and Reason that tried to counter the
widely held notion that science and religion conflict.

Harvard astronomer and historian Owen Gingerich, who helped organize
last month's Cosmic Questions meeting, said that science and religion
stem from the same universal impulse to understand the world and how
humans fit into it. He added that scientists voluntarily have begun
mixing science and religion -- even when they reject religious ideas.

Some scientists take the view that conflict between science and
religion is healthy. "I think it's good they remain at odds," said
Weinberg, the Texas physicist. "I think the great achievement of
science is that it made it possible for intelligent people not to be
religious," he said.

22. In Romania, the Pope pushes on for unity
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Pope John Paul II pushed ahead yesterday with efforts to break down
barriers that divide Christianity, calling on Orthodox Christians in
Romania to "exchange the embrace of peace."

John Paul's trip was the first by a Roman pontiff to a mainly Orthodox
country since the Eastern church definitively broke from Rome in the
Great Schism of 1054.

23. Differences between Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Christian Churches
San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1999

[Story no longer online? Read this]
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The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian Churches have been
separated since the Great Schism in 1054 in a dispute over papal
authority and interpretation of their creed.

* Note: brief descriptions of the two churches, history of the divide,
theological differences, and efforts at reconciliation

24. Islamic school to combine secular, sacred
Miami Herald, May 6, 1999
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The first Islamic elementary school in South Florida could open in West
Kendall as early as fall 2000.

The Islamic School of Miami initially intends to offer day care through
the sixth grade. In addition to a typical secular education, students
will be taught Islamic prayer, manners, the teachings of the prophet
Muhammed, and how to read and understand the Koran in the original
Arabic. Children will be required to wear traditional modest dress,
which for girls will mean covering their heads and not exposing their
body's profiles.

Though independent, the Islamic School of Miami will have ties to
similar schools that have been founded in recent years in cities like
Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Kansas City,
Uddin said.

``Miami has at this moment somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 to
20,000 Muslims,'' he said.

Uddin said the new school will not distinguish between the Shi'a and
Sunni sects. ``There is only one Islam,'' he said. ``We don't go by
the sects.

=== Noted

25. The Gangs and Their God
Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1999
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Many Latino gang members invoke the protection of Jesus or Mary in the
form of tattoos and graffiti. Some observers say the practice is a
genuine attempt to connect with a spiritual heritage.

26. More college students seek religion
Detroit News, May 6, 1999
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(...) She is among thousands of college students who are turning to
religion to find meaning in their lives. Both secular and
church-affiliated colleges report surging use of campus religious
centers and increasing attendance at many religious activities.

Ms. Kugler said when she arrived at the fiercely secular Johns Hopkins
in 1993, eight religious groups were active on campus. Now there are
20, representing Buddhism, Hinduism, the Bahai faith, Unitarianism and
seven Christian denominations. Later this year, for the first time in
its 123-year history, Johns Hopkins will open an interfaith center,
using a former Methodist church.

InterVarsity has enjoyed a steady increase in numbers in the past 10
years, from 23,000 in 1989 to 30,000 now, according to Evans. The
60-year-old ecumenical Christian group has 700 chapters nationwide.

27. Church membership on the rise
MSNBC, May 10, 1999
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In the past 3 years, church membership in America has gone from 156
million to 253 million. Thatís a 60% increase.

28. Wholly L.A.
LA Weekly, May 7-13, 1999
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(...) Today, in the waning days of a century of both unimaginable
horror and exalting accomplishments, L.A.ís spiritual universe is
undeniably robust, with some 600 communities of faith in the city. The
once "ideal Christian community" now includes mosques, temples of every
conceivable variety, monasteries, synagogues, ashrams, meditation
centers, New Age establishments, community worship centers, etc.,
giving us the distinction of being one of the worldís most religiously
diverse metropolitan regions.

The paradox inherent in this multiform religious landscape is that
while it reflects our virtues as a nation, it also brings the fault
lines of social existence into sharp relief. Some argue that the
Sabbath day in L.A. is largely a segregated affair, echoing what Martin
Luther King Jr. said 30 years ago: that houses of worship are among the
most segregated institutions in America. The difference today is that
the issue isnít framed solely in terms of black and white, but involves
a range of complexities and complexions.

29. To Know God
LA Weekly, May 7-13, 1999
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(...) Renowned religious/literary critic Harold Bloom muses that
nowadays the New Age is a naive goof: "An endlessly entertaining
saturnalia of ill-defined yearnings . . . whose origins are an old
mixture of occultism and American Harmonial faith suspended about
halfway between feeling good and good feeling."

As we draw minute by minute toward centuryís and millenniumís end,
Bloom isnít the only major spiritual philosopher to think this way.
Theosophist-writer-lecturer Dr. Stephan Hoeller, retired professor of
comparative religions and current director of the Gnostic Society of
L.A., warns those who are sincerely attempting to cultivate a spiritual
life to be "wary of anything that charges exorbitant fees, since the
objective of offering transcendence is not about marketing coups, but
simply making information available for people to choose their own

"Most of the New Age and "alternative" religious movements have roots
in Gnostic ideas, whether their participants know it or not, and
these discoveries were the scientific proof which showed the world how
much the early Christian church really had systematically suppressed
or erased free Gnostic thought and excluded female perspective."

30. Echelon Eavesdrops Around the World Without Warrant or Court Order
Salt Lake Tribune, May 8, 1999
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You may not have heard of Echelon, but if you've called over to Europe
lately, it has probably overheard you. Echelon is a global
communications surveillance system that allows our government to listen
in on international phone calls and intercept e-mail and faxes, all
without a warrant or court order.

In addition to spying on criminal and espionage activities, Echelon
also has been known to eavesdrop on Princess Diana and Amnesty
International. And stealing proprietary secrets from European
corporations is one of its stocks in trade.

According to two recent reports made to the European Parliament,
Echelon tries to intercept all international cellular, fiber-optic,
microwave and satellite traffic from around the world, including North
America. The voice and data communications are then sent through a
filtering system that is programmed to look for certain code words and
phrases, like names of individuals and organizations.

If the reports about the extent of spying are accurate, then
American overseas conversations and data transmissions are being
intercepted without any form of judicial or legislative oversight. With
Echelon, the NSA may have the largest domestic surveillance system of
any spy agency in the United States, including the FBI, yet it's
subject to none of the legal constraints.

This month, in the Electronic Telegraph International News, Tony
Paterson reported from Berlin that the United States is using Echelon
to conduct industrial espionage against German businesses.

But it's not just governments and businesses that have to worry.
Apparently, international charities and human rights groups have been
targets of Echelon's big ears. A British intelligence operative told
London's Observer that both Amnesty International and Christian Aid
have been spied on.

=== Books

31. The new wave of Christian broadcasting
Nando Times, May 9, 1999
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After 35 years of work in television and sports, Bob Briner is a pro at
spotting doors of opportunity in the numbers churned out by
media-research firms.

The former basketball player and football coach laughed and waved his
giant hand, like he was backhanding a pesky gnat. "Let's face it. Most
Christians still won't get behind a project in the entertainment
business unless you're going to make 'Becky Goes to Bible Camp,'" he

Briner is a conservative churchman and he doesn't enjoy making this
kind of wisecrack. Nevertheless, the 63-year-old entrepreneur has -
beginning with a 1993 book called "Roaring Lambs" - grown increasingly
candid in his critiques of the religious establishment. His work has
had an especially strong impact in Nashville, the Bible Belt's
entertainment capital.

The early title for his next book is "Christians Have Failed America:
And Some of Us are Sorry" and he is writing it while fighting cancer.

Most Christians, he argues in the first chapter, are sinfully content
to write for other Christians, sing to other Christians, produce
television programs for other Christians, educate other Christians,
debate other Christians and to only do business with other Christians.

"Shameful," he writes. "We have failed and are failing America. I am
sorry. In failing to show up ... in the places that really count, where
the moral, ethical and spiritual health of our country is concerned, we
have left our country exposed and vulnerable to all the ills we now see
besetting it. We have not provided a way of escape, even though we
profess to know the way."

32. Father, Son Square Off Over the Meaning of Life
San Francisco Chronicle, May 9, 1999
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A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life By Jean-Francois Revel and
Matthieu Ricard Foreword by Jack Miles Schocken; 310 pages; $24

REVIEWED BY Joseph Wakelee-Lynch, Special to The Chronicle

In ``The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning
of Life,'' age-old questions -- what is life's meaning, how do we come
to know it and how do we respond when we do -- come vibrantly to life.

In this lucid, intelligent, multilayered exchange, Jean-Francois Revel,
the skeptical father, and Matthieu Ricard, his Buddhist son, eloquently
play their parts: the atheist versus the believer, the rationalist
versus the mystic, the empiricist versus the transcendentalist.

Born in France in 1946, Matthieu Ricard is an author and translator of
Tibetan spiritual volumes. He has served as a translator for the Dalai
Lama for several years. Ricard was raised in a nonreligious household,
but always felt a ``passion for discovery.''

33. Faith and probability
Jerusalem Post, May 5, 1999
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by Martin Biddle. Sutton Publishing (UK). 172 pp. £25.

Prof. Martin Biddle of Oxford University, the world's leading authority
on the last hours of Christ, insists that the tomb of Jesus in
Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre is genuine. And that Christ
really was buried in the stone structure, the edicule within the walls
of this ancient church.

Biddle's book is a masterly compilation of the history of the holiest
site in Christendom, lavishly illustrated and filled with
computer-enhanced drawings of the area of the tomb.

The book presents the findings of the most comprehensive study ever
undertaken of the almost 2,000-year-old story of the tomb of Jesus.

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