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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Feb. 15, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 166 - Part 2/2)
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=== Wicca / Witchcraft
26. Like Magic, Witchcraft Charms Teenagers
27. Witchcraft law up for review
28. Sangoma's lightning scam strikes
29. Horror as 'friend' cuts off man's testicle for witchcraft ritual

=== Hate Groups
30. White Supremacist Takes Law License Fight to D.C. (Matthew Hale)

=== Other News
31. Mystery, dispute persist in child's death (Plain Sect)
32. Judgment day comes for cult leader (''Master David'')
33. Cult-like conspiracy claim closes with 2 convictions (''Master David'')
34. Expert tells Marietta College Y2K cult activity not over yet (Rick Ross)
35. Psychologists turn to spirituality (Shamanism)
36. Trading One Cage For Another (Karmapa)
37. Masonic Lodges look to the future
38. Superstition brings good fortune to retailers (Japan)
39. Superstitions the bread and butter of daily life in Russia
40. Magician Doug Henning Dead At 52
41. Could it be magic? (Henning's ''Veda Land'')
42. Escondido residents still oppose Hare Krishna temple
43. Expelled Christians May Return to Israel (Pilgrim House)
44. Preacher says Pokemon leads kids into occult

=== Religious Freedom
45. Romania poised to withdraw controversial religion bill?

=== Science
46. Scientists move a tad closer to the big bang
47. 'New State of Matter' Recalls Big Bang

=== Noted
48. Scholars To Explore Images of God (Eck/Borg)
49. Spirituality by design

=== The Believers Around The Corner
50. Priest raps ''Judases'' who leave mass early

=== Wicca / Witchcraft

26. Like Magic, Witchcraft Charms Teenagers
New York Times, Feb. 13, 2000
(...) Trayer and Haddad-Friedman are members of a movement gaining an ardent
following among teen-agers, mostly girls, who are in part captivated by the
glossy new image of witches portrayed on television shows and in the movies.
No longer the hideous, wart-covered crone of folklore and fairy tale, witches
in hit television shows like ''Charmed,'' starring Shannen Doherty, and the
1996 movie ''The Craft,'' a favorite with teen-agers at video stores, are
avatars of glamour, power and style.

Other youthful adherents of Wicca, seeking an alternative path to
spirituality, are attracted by the craft's lack of structure and dogma.

Wiccans, as they have been known since Gerald Gardner, an English high Wiccan
priest, popularized the faith in the 1950s and '60s, have no codified beliefs
or essential texts. Practitioners are unified primarily by their belief in a
dual divinity: a god and goddess. They also share a reverence for the natural
world, which they see as permeated with powerful energy that may be tapped
through rituals or magic for healing or success in work or love.

Estimates of the movement's size in the United States vary from 100,000 to
about 1 million, the latter figure cited by Fritz Jung, who with his wife,
Wren Walker, created the Witches' Voice, a Web site at www.witchvox.com.
Teen-age Wiccans, who tend to worship alone or to meet in small, informal
groups, are the hardest to track. While there is no definitive count, 35
percent of the total visitors to the Witches' Voice -- or close to 5,000 of
them -- are under 18, said Jung, who tracks their ages. ''So Ya Wanna Be a
Witch?'' the company's Web page for teen-agers, has drawn 175,000 visitors in
the last two years, he said.

Judging by the popularity of Web sites aimed at teen-agers (some 320 are
listed on Witchvox alone), and by the small army of television producers,
movie makers, magazine editors and booksellers now promoting the Wiccan
lifestyle, the craft has cast a powerful enchantment on the high-school and
college-age population.

''The contemporary witch is the beautiful 25 year old that you see on TV,''
said Jami Shoemaker, the publicist for Lllewellyn Worldwide, the St.
Paul-based publisher of RavenWolf's books ''Teen Witch'' and ''To Ride a Silver

Magazines, too, have heeded the pagan's siren call. A recent issue of Jump, a
monthly for teen-age girls, featured a fashion layout on ''goddess style'' --
an update on hippie exoticism. The magazine refrains from discussing
witchcraft directly lest it alienate some readers, said its editor, Lori
Berger, but it peppers its pages with features on astrology, herbal cures and
color therapy -- witches' stock in trade.

''In our reader surveys, those stories just score though the roof,'' Berger
said. ''There's a sense of magic that girls get from this that is very

Booksellers have been particularly enterprising in trading on witchcraft's
appeal to the lovelorn: the Borders bookstore on 57th Street and Park Avenue
in Manhattan has dedicated no less than 21 feet of shelf space to Magical
Studies, including titles like ''The Little Book of Love Spells'' (Andrews
McNeel, 1997) and ''Titania's Wishing Spells: Love'' (William Morrow, 2000).

But to focus on Wicca's trappings is perhaps to miss its impact as a faith on
sincere seekers. They burn incense, consecrate candles, chant and draw
''magick'' circles in the air. Simone Magaletta, 21, a junior at New York
University and a self-taught aspiring Wiccan, maintains that learning the
craft has influenced her profoundly. ''It has made me more determined to make
something of myself,'' she said. ''And taught me to live in a more positive

The craft is ''especially appealing to the young people who want to be active
participants in their own spiritual lives,'' said Wren Walker of the Witches'

Witchcraft is also a magnet for feminists, who identify with its female
deity, and for environmentalists drawn by the reverence for nature. It also
exerts a pull on the eccentric, the sensitive and the socially disconnected.
Wicca ''empowers the marginalized,'' said John K. Simmons, a professor of
religious studies at Western Illinois University, who has studied
contemporary witchcraft. ''It appeals most of all to the intelligent, poetic
young woman who is not necessarily going to go out for cheerleader or date
the captain of the football team.''

Although Wicca portrays itself as a positive creed, it remains the bane of
some parents, educators and clergymen, who are concerned or even alarmed by
its associations with black magic and demons.

Wiccans are not to be confused with the black-cloaked, hardware-festooned
Goths and Satanists, other subcultures popular with teen-agers that are
obsessed with death and invoke the devil in their rites. Wiccans reject Satan
as a fiction devised by man. ''There is no black magic or white magic, there
is only magic,'' maintained Lady Armida, a Wiccan priestess, who is the owner
of Enchanted Childe.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Witchcraft law up for review
African National Congres, Feb. 11, 2000 (Parliamentary press release)
South Africa's antiquated witchcraft legislation is to be reviewed in an
attempt to help traditional communities resolve disputes without resorting to
violence, according to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).

Commissioner Elize Delport told Parliament's committee on children, youth and
disabled people on Friday that the act was vague, ineffective, and could be
fuelling the kind of violence it sought to prevent.

There are regular reports of witchcraft-related killings in South Africa's
rural areas. Particularly problematic has been the Northern Province, where
women are often targeted as witches.

Delport said that in the wake of workshops held in September 1998 and
December last year, which involved traditional healers and leaders,
academics, and victims and perpetrators of witchcraft-related violence, the
commission had drawn up proposals for a new law.

She said the existing act totally denied the existence of witchcraft and, by
extension, any belief in witchcraft, and was aimed at punishing people who
accused others of the practice.

The Witchcraft Suppression Act, passed in 1957, sets a 20-year jail sentence
for anyone who, professing a knowledge of witchcraft, names one person as
having caused death, injury, grief, or disappearance of another.

It also provides for up to five years in jail for anyone who ''professes a
knowledge of witchcraft, or the use of charms...(and) supplies any person
with any pretended means of witchcraft''.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Sangoma's lightning scam strikes
Sunday Times (South Africa), Feb. 13, 2000
Northern Province police are tracking down a sangoma who is extorting money
from rural villagers by claiming that lightning bolts are man-made weapons.

The unnamed charlatan is demanding R20 each from residents of Jane Furse
village as protection from the deadly bolts, which he claims are directed at
victims by foes. Police were called in last week after two women who ran
under a tree to shelter from a storm were killed by a lightning strike. A
third woman survived.

Safety and Security spokesman Charley Nkadimeng said: ''The provincial
government cannot allow witchcraft violence to surface again. We call upon
traditional leaders and healers to stop accusing people of being witches.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Horror as 'friend' cuts off man's testicle for witchcraft ritual
Sunday Times (South Africa), Feb. 13, 2000
Four men held down Barnabas Manyatsi and ignored his screams as they sliced
off one of his testicles for a witchdoctor.

''They told me one of my testicles was needed for a witchcraft ritual and it
had to be cut out while I was alive,'' said Manyatsi. He did not know why he
was chosen.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

30. White Supremacist Takes Law License Fight to D.C.
Law News Network, Feb. 11, 2000
Avowed white supremacist, Matthew F. Hale, is appealing the Illinois Supreme
Court's refusal to let him have a law license and, therefore, to practice law
in the Land of Lincoln.

The petition for Certiorari argues that Hale ''met his burden to establish his
good moral character'' in the course of applying for an Illinois law license
by calling witnesses who could vouch for his integrity, honesty and candor,
as well as by vowing he could uphold both federal and Illinois constitutions
and abide by laws respecting the rights of minorities. All that, despite his

Hale, supreme leader of the World Church of the Creator, has fought to obtain
his law license since earning his Juris Doctor in 1998 from Southern Illinois
University School of Law, and subsequently passing the Illinois Bar exam.

His efforts were thwarted, however, by a bar admission requirement that
Illinois lawyers have the requisite moral character and fitness to be
licensed attorneys in the state.

The Committee on Character and Fitness, part of the Illinois Board of
Admissions to the Bar, has refused to certify Hale, reasoning his extreme
views would render him incapable of abiding by the state's professional
conduct rules.

Hale's World Church of the Creator adheres to a belief in ''Creativity,'' that
''what is good for the white race is the highest virtue and what is bad for
the white race is the ultimate sin.'' Hale says he wants to be a licensed
attorney so he can work within the system to reach his organization's goal --
a separation of the races and eventual deportation of all ''mud races'' from
American soil.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

31. Mystery, dispute persist in child's death
Lancaster New Era, Feb. 12, 2000
In the mysterious death of Christina Kreider, there are just two things on
which family and police agree: The 15-month-old girl, daughter of a Plain
Sect family with Lancaster County roots, died unexpectedly in her parents'
Georgia home a month ago. And she was the victim of a sexual assault.

On all other major issues surrounding the infant's death _ how she died,
where and when she was assaulted, whether the death was homicide or illness _
they totally disagree.

Now, in the wake of a judge's seemingly contradictory rulings, the conflict
between family and law-enforcement officials seems certain to persist.

More than ever, the Kreider family believes Christina died of illness. More
than ever, investigators believe she was assaulted and killed. The death of
Arnold and Rachel Kreider's youngest child _ they have eight other children _
occurred in the early hours of Jan. 9.

Georgia officials acknowledge Morton's credentials as an expert in pediatrics
and in maple syrup urine disease, a rare genetic disorder found among Plain
Sect families.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Judgment day comes for cult leader
Siskiyou Daily, Feb. 10, 2000
One of the more bizarre criminal cases in Siskiyou County Came to a close
Tuesday when a Valley Ford man once proclaiming to be Jesus was sentenced to
state prison for the assault and rape of one of his female disciples.

Robert Martin Lloyd, who had his name legally changed in 1998 to Master
David, appeared briefly in Siskiyou County Superior Court on Tuesday with his
attorney Public Defender Mario Novello.

The woman stated she had managed to escape from the RV park near McCloud
where she and other followers had been staying with the man who had taken the
name of ''His Holiness Master David,'' an ordained minister with the Essence
Church of the Fields.

The group had camped in various places throughout the Western states,
including locally near Stewart Springs, Mt. Shasta, and McCloud.

After confirming the warrant, the officer placed David under arrest. He was
extradited to Siskiyou County where he immediately insisted on representing
himself, proclaiming all the while that he was Jesus and ''knew all.'' He ate
nothing but candy bars at the jail and was seen on several occasions drinking
water from puddles within an exercise area of the jail.

David claimed the ''womyn'' (his spelling) signed a rigid contract as did his
other followers, and that she had broken that contract by leaving the path of
''truth and love.''

Proclaimed excerpts of the woman's alleged diary were also received, which
reflected strict teachings by ''his master,'' written mostly in gothic terms.

David also wrote that the victim actually took the training course willingly
for two-and-a-half years, explaining that, ''under the intense strain of the
program one aspires for perfection.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Cult-like conspiracy claim closes with 2 convictions
The Clarion-Ledger, Feb. 14, 2000
Days after the Pearl High school shootings, prosecutors and law officers
sketched out what they claimed was a sensational conspiracy of a cult-like
group of teens involved in the slayings on Oct. 1, 1997.

The group, known as ''the Kroth,'' dabbled in satanism and had plotted to
overthrow the school, then flee to Cuba, an investigator said.

In the end, however, prosecutors convicted two of the seven former Pearl High
students charged: triggerman Luke Woodham and the supposed leader Grant

The charges of conspiracy, threaded together with bits about black magic and
appreciation of Adolf Hitler, hit at the very soul of a community known for
its parks and churches. To what extent, if any, cult-like activity took
place among the accused former students remains murky. However, the claim
alone forced many in the community to look inward, to make more of an effort
to reach out to their children.

Rainer disputes the more sensational claims, such as casting spells and
worshipping the devil. However, Rainer acknowledges, there's some truth in
the description of the teens as outcasts who never quite fit in any cliques
at the school. ''They banded together and became friends because of the
common thread of being picked on,'' Rainer said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Expert tells Marietta College Y2K cult activity not over yet
Excite/U-Wire, Feb. 11, 2000
Although Jan 1, 2000, has passed uneventfully, it's too early to breathe a
sigh of relief regarding potentially dangerous millennial cult activity,
according to cult expert Rick Ross.

Ross, the only deprogrammer ever to work with members of the Branch Davidian
cult, appeared on campus at marietta College Wednesday night as part of the
Esbenshade series.

''Our Western calendar is not actually accurate,'' Ross said - 2001 actually
marks the next millennium, and ''the clock keeps ticking. ''Who will be the
next Waco? We know they're out there, and all we can do is wait.''

The Manson Family, the abduction of Patty Hearst, the Jonestown Massacre, the
Waco standoff and the Heaven's Gate suicide are only some of the noted
examples of modern cult activity.

Cults are also marked by a fear of outsiders and a belief that ''only the
group has the answers,'' according to Ross. When the target of harassment by
a destructive cult seeks legal action, he says, the leader and members see it
as an act of religious persecution. ''But that would be like Billy Graham
suing someone for spreading the Good News.''

A process commonly known as brainwashing also helps maintain a cult's
membership. Brainwashing techniques include tight control of environment,
loaded language that stops people from thinking, an emphasis on doctrine over
individual and the dismissing of people not in the group as ''non-people.''

''Brainwashing is based also on deception,'' Ross adds. ''No one says, 'Would
you break me down? I'd really like that.'''

Those most susceptible to cult activity, he says, are those who are in
transition or feel lonely and depressed. But Ross emphasizes that we are all
open to influence - or else there would be no television commercials - and
cult leaders may be powerfully persuasive.

In the United States, there are thousands of cults, with total membership
numbers of about two million.

Destructive cults have been seen as a uniquely American problem, Ross notes.
People from Europe and Japan ''would always say, 'You crazy Americans!''' but
realized their nations also had destructive cults.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Psychologists turn to spirituality
Calgary Herald (Canada), Feb. 12, 2000
At least five Calgary psychologists are employing ''shamanic healing'' or
''earth spirituality'' in their therapeutic practices, or are referring
patients to ''shamanic healers.''

Though the College of Alberta Psychologists has no formal objection to this
style of therapy, shamanic practitioners claim ''unofficial'' repression
because of a lack of a formal, professional tolerance for their studies.

''The psychology profession rejects anything spiritual,'' said one
psychologist, who asked to remain anonymous.

The term ''shamanism'' comes from the Tuva tribes of central Siberia, who
preserved their religion until the Soviet conquest of the 1920s. But it has
become the generic term for the worldwide variety of ''dream seer'' traditions,
from the native spirituality of the American and Australian natives, to the
sacred oaks and human sacrifices of the ancient Druids and narcotic trances
of Saharan Bedouins.

Shamanic healer Laureen Rama receives patient referrals from chartered
psychologists. She says shamanic practices are techniques for gaining access
to ''non-ordinary reality,'' whether understood as the spirit world,
imagination or collective unconsciousness.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. Trading One Cage For Another
ABC News, Feb. 11, 2000
(...) He might wish for more freedom for himself, placed as he is under
virtual house arrest. He cannot leave the small Gyuto Monastery for so much
as a walk.

The Karmapa, 14, is a political hot potato. The boy, born Ugyen Thinley
Dorje, landed in India at a time when its often-tense relations with China —
from which he fled in January after years of another kind of house arrest —
were on the mend.

Some observers have expressed worries that such strictures could revive old
resentments of earlier days, when refugee adherents of the Dalai Lama’s
Gelupgpa sect received preferential treatment to those of other Buddhist
schools, such as the Karmapa’s Kagyupa sect.

The Dalai Lama has worked hard to overcome old prejudices and inequities
carried over from theocratic Tibet — attitudes that incited ugly conflicts in
the past. The Dalai Lama has been personally very supportive of the Karmapa,
and it is said that he and the young lama have hit it off very well. He
continues to meet the Karmapa regularly.

Some observers say Tibetans of every stripe or sect are glad to accept the
Karmapa, and some even talk of him as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama,
at least symbolically.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Masonic Lodges look to the future
The Press, New Zealand, Feb. 14, 2000
Declining membership has forced the closure of three Masonic Lodges in
Canterbury but the forming of a new one is a sign of the future, says
Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Robin Adams.

It was the first new lodge in New Zealand, and among the first in the world
this century, Mr Adams said. The movement had never promoted itself but was
more open now and people could see its focus was on charity and fellowship.
Membership was increasing again.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Superstition brings good fortune to retailers
Asahi News (Japan), Feb. 12, 2000
Charisma, wiretapping, amulets and other talismans, pyramid selling ... these
are some of the strange fads that reflect the anxious mood gripping society.

Who are behind these weird phenomena that prey on troubled minds?

Yoshiko Tanaka, the owner of Engiya-a store in Tokyo's Shinjuku that
specializes in mascots, talismans and lucky charms-wore a pink kimono to the
official opening of her store at precisely noon on New Year's Day.

''Customers who come here to complain are actually seeking salvation,'' said
Tanaka. ''To be honest, I don't think the products we sell have divine
powers. People who believe in them and work hard are saved (from misfortune)
and succeed.''

People anxious what fate will bring are not just avid buyers of good luck
charms, but a reliable source of custom for fortunetellers, to whom they turn
for reassurance.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Superstitions the bread and butter of daily life in Russia
Yahoo/AFP, Feb. 14, 2000
(...) Superstitions play a major part in Russian daily life particularly in
rural areas where people prefer to observe at times irrational traditional
beliefs rather than swallow the arguments of a more scientific approach and
chance their arm against fate. Even in major urban areas, superstitions
govern the lives of many.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Magician Doug Henning Dead At 52
New York Times/AP, Feb. 9, 2000
(...) A devotee of transcendental meditation, Henning spent much of the rest
of his life committed to the movement founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
He ran unsuccessfully in elections in England in 1992 and Canada in the
mid-1990s as a member of the Natural Law party, which was founded by the

During his last decade, he worked on plans to build transcendental
meditation theme parks called Veda Land, one of which he hoped to build in
Niagara Falls, Ontario.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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41. Could it be magic?
The Buffalo News, Feb. 13, 2000
(...) The question is whether Doug Henning's dream of a billion-dollar theme
park in Niagara Falls, Ont., died with the world-class magician last week.

What Henning envisioned was a transcendental meditation theme park, a project
first proposed in 1993 but delayed several times by financial snags.

City officials say Henning's group still owns a small part of the proposed
1,400-acre site but has allowed options on most of the land to expire.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. Escondido residents still oppose Hare Krishna temple
San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 11, 2000
A proposed Hare Krishna temple hit another bump in the road yesterday at a
hearing before the city's Design Review Board, the first step in the approval

Members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness of San Diego
have proposed building an ornate, 30,000-square-foot complex featuring two
Hindu-style temples; a 6,400-square-foot, two-story dormitory for monks and
nuns; and four single-family homes on a 24-acre parcel.

One board member, Lucy Berk, said she supported the proposal, citing
Escondido as a place known historically for its supportive attitude toward
various religious groups and churches. She said the proposed site was an
appropriate place for a Hare Krishna temple.

''While many of the neighbors' concerns are legitimate, people spend thousands
to go to the Orient to see temples,'' Berk said. ''This will add uniqueness to
that end of the community.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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43. Expelled Christians May Return to Israel
Haaretz, Feb. 11, 2000
Irish pilgrims expelled from Israel last year amid allegations of police
brutality have reacted angrily to restrictions placed on any future visit to
Israel by the group.

The 25 pilgrims, 18 of whom are mentally disabled, will be permitted to enter
the country for no longer than one month and only after the Pope's scheduled
visit to Israel in March.

''We are not at all happy with the decision,'' said Pilgrim House Community
founder and spokesman Helena O'Leary. ''The conditions reflect the underlying
position that the group is a security threat and a risk to public order. This
has been countered by numerous politicians and the Church in Ireland at the
highest possible levels.''

The pilgrims gained international attention when Israeli authorities refused
them entry to the country in Haifa last October. Prior information has been
received about the group from Irish authorities, who described them as
''radical Christians,'' leading to the group to be associated with unconnected
factions, such as the evangelical fundamentalists from Denver, known as the
Concerned Christians.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* News Wire (UK), Dec. 31, 1999:

When translated into Hebrew and back into English, the word ''radical'' had
become ''extreme''. The group said what they called ''this liguistic error''
had now been adequately dealt with by the Irish authorities, and claimed
their position had been supported by the Dublin government, the Irish
Roman Catholic church and Jewish communities worldwide.

44. Preacher says Pokemon leads kids into occult
Duluth News, Feb. 12, 2000
Pastor Eugene Walton issued fair warning to his flock last month: Pokemon may
be a tool of the devil.

His flock is responding by throwing out their children's Pokemon cards. They
are not alone on the way to the dump. A growing number of parents in the
conservative Christian community are tossing the likes of Pikachu, Sgeedweed
and Two Tails in the trash before the occult tendencies they believe the game
inspires draw their children to the dark side.

''You get into all these potions and witchcraft, and the idea is to try and
control other people,'' said Walton, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in
West Palm Beach. ''The whole thrust is that you become the master. It's not
your parents, it's not the law, it's not God, it's you.''

According to one pamphlet circulated in conservative churches, the character
Kadabra has a pentagram on his forehead and ''SSS'' on his chest. ''He is
giving the Satanic salute with his left hand,'' the pamphlet says. ''All of
the above have strong occult significance.''

A spokesman for Nintendo, in Redmond, Wash., said this is not the first time
they've heard the complaint that Pokemon is linked to devil worship. But they
think the conservative community misses the point: The game teaches players
how to cooperate with one another and encourages children to read more
because the game is accompanied by several books.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom

45. Romania poised to withdraw controversial religion bill?
EWTN/CWnews/Keston, Feb. 11, 2000
Romania's new prime minister Mugur Isarescu appears to have decided to
withdraw the controversial bill on religious organizations that has divided
religious communities in Romania.

Human rights activists and religious leaders reported these rumors, while a
leading official in the State Secretariat for Religious Cults confirmed that
the government is likely to make a decision on withdrawing the draft ''within
a few days.''

Many non-Orthodox religious groups had opposed the bill on the General Status
of Religious Cults, presented by the government to parliament in September
1999. The bill would have separated religious groups into three categories,
making it all but impossible for new groups to attain the status of
government-recognized ''religious cult,'' a group with the highest status.
Unrecognized groups would have been illegal and their leaders liable to fines
for conducting unregistered activity.

An official of the State Secretariat for Religious Cults confirmed that it
had recommended at the end of January that the government should withdraw the
bill. Monica Lotreanu, a counselor to the head of the State Secretariat
Minister Nicolae Branza, when asked why the government seems set to withdraw
the bill, responded: ''There are a number of reasons. We are not the only
institution to recommend its withdrawal. Churches, the commission on human
rights, and minorities of the Chamber of Deputies and other groups also
recommended withdrawal.''

She stressed that the country was taking seriously reforms to bring it into
line with European Union practice. ''The European Union has changed our vision
regarding freedom of religion in the context of human rights,'' she said.
''There are new political and diplomatic aspects of the country.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Science

46. Scientists move a tad closer to the big bang
Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 11, 2000
Scientists trying to understand the origins of the universe said yesterday
that they had moved a step closer, creating a ''primordial soup'' of subatomic
particles that they believe resembles the universe during the earliest
moments of creation.

The scientists said the discovery was a breakthrough in the attempt to study
the exact moment of the big bang, the fiery explosion in which most
scientists believe the universe was born.

In the experiments, scientists at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle
Physics, said they were able to re-create a state of matter that has not
existed since the first few microseconds - or millionths of a second - after
the explosion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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47. 'New State of Matter' Recalls Big Bang
Washington Post, Feb. 11, 2000
Scientists at Europe's premier high-energy physics facility announced
yesterday that they have created a ''new state of matter'' that has not existed
since a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang that generated the

Luciano Maianim, general director of the CERN laboratory in Geneva where the
new work was done, said the new finding ''verifies an important prediction of
the present theory of fundamental particles.'' It is also ''an important step
forward in the understanding of the early evolution of the universe.''

Several experts in the United States called the claim of a ''new state of
matter'' premature at best. Among other things, no one knows exactly what a
free-quark condition is supposed to look like. As one high-energy research
veteran put it, ''there is definitely no smoking gun'' to prove that the new
state had been observed.

But many physicists found the CERN achievement promising for the next stage
of similar research, slated to begin this summer at Brookhaven National
Laboratory's new Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island.

CERN officials stopped short, however, of saying that they had achieved the
long-sought quark-gluon plasma, declaring only that they had shown quark

Whether the results actually constitute a ''new state'' is a matter of intense
dispute among physicists.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

48. Scholars To Explore Images of God
Yahoo/AP, Feb. 12, 2000
[religious pluralism]
What is God's place in the 21st century? Two of the world's most prominent
theologians say God's image is going to have to change for all faiths if
religion is to survive.

''We can't enter the 21st century with the idea of God we learned in Sunday
school,'' Diana Eck, author and comparative religion professor at Harvard,
said Friday as a two-day conference called ''God at 2000'' began.

Eck is the director of The Pluralism Project, an effort to study the growth
of faiths in the United States, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

She said Christians, in particular, have isolated themselves from other
religions when other faiths have much to teach them. She noted that there are
now more Muslims in the United States than Presbyterians.

''None of us owns the universe of faith,'' she said. ''I'm convinced it's
time for all of our theisms to be recognized.''

Eck joined Marcus Borg, a best-selling religious author, to open the
conference at Oregon State University, where Borg teaches.

''I find it literally incredible that the God of the whole universe has
chosen to be known by one religious tradition,'' Borg said.

He said all the great religions of the world, including Christianity, Judaism
and Islam, suggest that God is an encompassing spirit who is part of everyday

He described this not as pantheism but as ''panentheism,'' which suggests
that God is not only transcendent and beyond human experience, but also
immanent, or dwelling within all of us.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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49. Spirituality by design
Orlando Sentinel, Feb. 12, 2000
(...) Middle-class Americans such as Moody and Traykov, left unfulfilled by
traditional and restrained worship, are looking for more in their spiritual
lives: a mixture of enlightenment, emotion and a personal relationship with
the supernatural.

Experts say this intermingling of Judeo-Christian faith, Eastern meditative
practices and New Age beliefs is growing.

Phillip Lucas, associate professor of religious studies at Stetson University
in DeLand, calls this trend ''designer faith -- picking and choosing from a
number of traditional rituals, spiritual methods and beliefs.''

The phenomenon has become so pronounced that the American Academy of Religion
has established a panel called the New Religions Group to study new faiths
outside the religious mainstream and the way they interact with established

''America has always been a sociocultural environment that welcomes spiritual
searching,'' said Lucas, a leading member of the new academic group and editor
of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey found that 45 percent of those polled said they
pay more attention to their ''own views or the views of others'' than to ''God
or religious teachings'' in deciding how to conduct life. In another question,
44 percent said that Christianity is not the only true path to God.

But some religious leaders say that this spiritual searching may lead people
to embrace belief systems that are inconsistent with Judeo-Christian faith.

''We don't discover God on our own,'' said the Rev. Joseph Harte, of Mary Queen
of the Universe Shrine, a Roman Catholic church in Orlando. ''When you accept
teachings from another religion that in themselves constitute a denial of
Christian belief, then you have gone over the threshold.''

Secular critics are also skeptical about designer spirituality. Wendy
Kaminer, author of Sleeping With Extraterrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism
and Perils of Piety, thinks we are living in an era when ''faith seems in the
ascent and reason is in a downturn.''

For Kaminer, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, it's a case of
fads and a gullible American society, susceptible to supernatural beliefs --
from apparitions of Jesus and Mary to faith healing to fire walking. People
who are inclined to believe in the supernatural can find one supernaturalism
as comforting or as plausible as another," he said. "Faith and belief in
ridiculous propositions can coexist with intelligence and education."

''Once you start adding other gods or combining other gods, you have left
historic Christianity,'' said the Rev. Robert Mills, associate editor of The
Presbyterian Layman, a conservative, 550,000-circulation journal aimed at
members of the Presbyterian Church, USA. ''You may have a religion that
American consumers find personally acceptable, but what you no longer have is
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== The Believers Around The Corner

50. Priest raps ''Judases'' who leave mass early
EWTN, Feb. 5, 2000
A Worcestershire, England, priest has admonished his parishioners who leave
Sunday Mass before the end by reminding them that the traitor Judas was the
first to leave the Last Supper.

Father Patrick Brannigan shocked some of the congregation at St. Peter's
Church, Bromsgrove, by telling them he knew that people were disappearing
from the back pews the moment his back was turned.

''I reminded them that Judas was the only person to leave the Last Supper
early,'' he said.
[...more offbeat items...]