THE COWTOWN HUMANIST DEC 2004
TV EVANGELICALS TOPIC AT NOVEMBER 10 MEETING
WINTER SOLSTICE DINNER DECEMBER 8 AT WESTSIDE
“HOW I BECAME A HUMANIST” TOPIC OF JANUARY MEETING
OLE ANTHONY FLAILS TV EVANGELICAL OPPORTUNISTS
Considering that our guest speaker
had spoken at
was noted in last month’s Newsletter, Ole and his followers numbering some 100
try to lead lives that will be exemplary to impoverished and homeless people. At their Oak Cliff residences in
noted that 1st century Christianity was quite unlike its 21st
counterpart in the recruitment of adherents.
In the first place, early followers of Christ didn’t call themselves
Christians nor did they proselytize.
There were no churches as such until after 350 A.D. (The Christian
religion was legalized throughout the
much remains constant over two millennia and Christianity is no exception to
the rule. Today’s Christianity
tries to be all-inclusive (excepting those who choose to be intellectually
their own persons). Gone are the
admonitions of “laying down one’s old life and
following me” and disposing of one’s wealth in order to be eligible for a
higher than earthly existence. Quite to the contrary.
Christian religion is dispensed (obscenely) like goods in a supermarket.
Except for tithing, which of course expands the income the power of the clergy,
the evangelized are not expected to do much more in the way of material
sacrifices. In fact,
the brand of Christianity proffered by the religious channels and in many
churches attracts new followers by emphasizing the material benefits that can
accompany adoption of the faith. Whatever
material well-being may come from a “Christian” lifestyle to the newly
faithful, there is abundant evidence that “Prosperity” gospel has been a
windfall for many of its exponents, especially for the big-name TV evangelists
such as Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton and TBN’s
Paul Crouch. Benny Hinn lives in a $8.5 million
dollar home and Robert Tilton recently invested $5 million in his
The fact that there are now 12-14 religious networks suggests how lucrative evangelizing can be. Rupert Murdock reportedly offered $2 billion for TBN, a network that exists on viewers’ donations alone. Who are those people contributing money to the TV evangelists? According to Ole, upper-middle class people feeling guilty about their greed constitute 5-7 percent of the contributors. The bulk of the rest, he claims, comes from the desperate, the financially broke and the broken in body and/or spirit who expect the intercession of the preachers will bring manna from heaven. Don’t sneer at their credulity, he cautioned. They are not stupid. They are at the end of their rope and ready to try almost anything to improve their lot.
How do Ole and his investigators (of whom three accompanied him to our meeting) get the dope on these dupers? Combing through trash bins for records of financial transactions and for communications between the preachers and their audiences. Ole told us to expect something big on the Crouches of TBN in the next couple of months. [The LAT reported in September that Paul Crouch, TBN’s founder, had paid $425,000 hush-money to a former employee, who subsequently reneged on the deal and asked $l0 million for the rights to his book detailing a gay tryst with Crouch. Crouch has staunchly denied the allegation. In a 1997 wrangle with his detractors, Crouch was quoted saying: “God, we proclaim death to anything or anyone that will lift a hand against this network and this ministry that belongs to You.” Whether he has renewed this fatwah against his current detractor is unknown. TBN has about 10,000 affiliated stations in some 43 countries. It’s big business.]
Anthony handed out copies of his publication, DVD videos and other materials at the end of his presentation. Recipients, please apprise Don Ruhs of what you have in order that he may arrange for their further distribution.
HoFW NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Winter Solstice Dinner will be held at
December 8 at Westside UU Church,
Some of you we haven’t seen in recent months. We hope you will make a special effort to be with us on December 8. The next four years promise to be very tough for humanists. Individual liberties will almost certainly be further eroded; 1st Amendment guarantees of the separation of church and state will come under increasing attack. Now is the time to man the trenches against the assaults of the religious right and its allies. The need to stick together was perhaps never quite so urgent as now.
Please remember to bring a can of food for the needy.
MEETING: Each participant in the
January meeting will be given five minutes or so to explain what factor or
factors motivated him or her to adopt a humanist philosophy.
If you haven’t given much thought (and you probably have) how you left
the religious mainstream and took up a secularist, or if not secularist, a
distinctly nontheistic view of life, you might wish
to reflect on a turning-point or points when you decided traditional religious
beliefs were not credible and that a naturalistic philosophy was the only
adequate alternative. Perhaps
you can trace it so some specific experience or experiences or perhaps to a
book or to a particular discussion. Think
it over and be sure to be with us at
We welcome contributions to and comments about the Newsletter. Let us know how we can more adequately serve the needs of the membership. Thanks to Sandra Langley and Don Ruhs for their contributions to this month’s Newsletter.
YOUR OFFICERS AND HOW TO REACH THEM
Vice Chair & Newsletter Editor: Jim Cheatham, 1582 CR 2730, Glen Rose 76043; 254-797-0277; firstname.lastname@example.org
Treasurer: Dolores Ruhs (address same as Don Ruhs)
Immediate Past Chair & Webmaster: Russell Elleven, 6120 Comfort Dr., Forth Worth 76132; 817-370-2171; email@example.com
PUBLIC FAVORS JUSTICES WHO WILL UPHOLD ROE V. WADE
If President Bush has to nominate a replacement for any of the nine justices, the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that allowed legal abortions in the first three months of pregnancy is certain to be a central issue. An AP survey finds that 59 percent of respondents said they favor choosing a nominee who would uphold Roe v. Wade, while 31 percent wanted a nominee who would overturn the ruling. The preference for Supreme Court nominees who would uphold Roe v. Wade could be found among men and women, most age groups, most income groups and people living in urban, suburban and rural areas. However, fewer than half of Republicans, evangelicals and those over 65 said they favored a nominee who would uphold the abortion ruling. The survey also found that 61 percent of respondents said Supreme Court nominees should state their position on abortion before being approved for the job. (AP)
…BUT NO! TO GAY MARRIAGE
In the same poll, respondents opposed gay marriage by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent, with young adults between 18 and 29 about evenly split. Recent polls have indicated that the public is about evenly divided on the question of civil unions, which would provide many of the same legal protections as gay marriage. (AP)
ASHCROFT CRITICIZES JUDGES’ ANTITERRORISM RULINGS
Outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft charged November 12 that “dangerous and constitutionally questionable” rulings by federal judges that challenge the president’s powers in wartime are jeopardizing national security. In a speech before the conservative Federalist Society , he called the trend “profoundly disturbing.” The ACLU’s Anthony Romero called on the Bush administration and Attorney General-appointee Alberto Gonzales to renounce Ashcroft’s remarks, which he said showed “clear disdain for the rule of law.” (Knight Ridder)
RIGHTS GROUPS URGE SCRUTINY OF GONZALES
Nov.29, the leaders of 30 civil rights organizations called on the Chairman and
the ranking member of the Senate Judicial Committee to closely examine the
civil rights’ record of the Bush administration’s nominee for Attorney General,
Alberto R. Gonzalez, currently the White House legal counselor.
All expressed concern about the role Gonzales played in setting the
administration’s policy on the detention and interrogation of prisoners in
A 15-year study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets guidelines for federal judges, has found that while sentencing has become “more certain and predictable,” disparities still exist among races and regions of the country. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as the week of November 29 whether to throw out the system because it allows judges, not juries, to consider factors that can add years to sentences. According to the study released Nov. 23, the average prison sentence today is about four years, two months—twice what it was when lawmakers began calling for a uniform sentencing system in 1984, mostly because of the elimination of parole for offenses such as drug trafficking. The numbers of Hispanics imprisoned on immigration charges has surged over the past two decades. Another finding was that African-Americans stay in prison for about six years, compared with about four years for Anglos. The report attributed the disparity in part to harsher mandatory minimum sentences that Congress imposed for drug-related crimes such as cocaine possession. In 2002, 81 percent of these offenders were African-American. (AP)
SUPREME COURT HEARS MARIJUANA CASE
November 29, the Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether states have the
right to adopt laws allowing the use of drugs the federal government has banned
or whether federal drug agents can arrest individuals for abiding by those
medical marijuana laws. A
majority of the justices indicated skepticism about the medicinal value of the
POT AND FEDERAL POWER
The federal government’s crusade against users of “medical marijuana” even in states that allow sick people to have the drug is obnoxious. But a case argued before the Supreme Court on Nov. 29 is only superficially about pot and illness. At a deeper level, it is the latest test of the Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, the constitutional authority that underlies the modern regulatory state. While it would be satisfying to see the court bat down the Justice Department’s heavy-handed tactics, such a holding could be dangerous to civil rights enforcement, environmental protection and more. (WP editorial)
RISING SUPPORT AMONG TEXANS FOR MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS
A recent telephone poll of Texan sentiment showed that 44 percent of Texans favor a moratorium on death penalty executions pending a study on death-penalty issues; 52 percent oppose. “It’s clear that as people learn more about our application of the death penalty, there’s a greater understanding that the system is broke in Texas and there’s a greater desire to fix the system,” said Steve Hall, who heads an organization promoting a moratorium on executions. In other findings, the poll shows that 51 percent support the law allowing l7-year-old capital murder suspects to face the death penalty, while 40 percent oppose it. (FWST)
CHURCH & STATE
ENSHRINING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AGAIN
Like so many others, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott contends
that the Ten Commandments are “undeniably a foundation document of the
development of Western legal codes and civilization. Where that notion arises
is beyond me. The total number
of times that the Ten Commandments were referenced during the Constitutional
Convention is zero. Laws
supporting any of the first few commandments that deal with human-divine
relations would patently violate our Bill of Rights.
Virtually every society—since before the Bible was written—has followed
the same rules found in commandments six
through nine, and the last commandment contradicts the basic notions
underlying our nation’s economy. The
only thing that’s undeniable is that unthinking repetition of baseless claims
is commonly employed by those who strive to use the machinery of government to
advocate their own personal religious views.
(Mike Newdow of
PAYING OFF ELECTION DEBTS
President Bush may be a lame duck [in his second term], but he is not immune from the political reality of what the Republican Party wants and needs in the coming years. There is going to be an effort to try to pay back the religious right for what they have done in this election. There are already rumblings that they are going to try to bring the Federal Marriage Amendment up again in the spring, but even with 4-5 more votes in the Senate they are not going to have the votes they need [at least 60 to cut off debate]. There is nonetheless going to be a battle, and the left cannot roll over and play dead.
The Republicans are also trying to push a political speech bill which enables individual churches to speak out on electoral politics without violating their non-profit status, but people do not seem to be responding positively to it. Polls suggest that they feel it is stepping over the line. Americans tend to be religious in nature but they don’t like the idea of religion getting involved in their politics. Politics is a dirty word and they get upset when their ministers get involved with it.
The electorate is much more moderate than the current majority in Congress and the White House and even the courts. The pendulum has been shifting to the right steadily for years now and this election pushes it even further, but the election itself was close. If the Republicans use their power to push a far-right agenda, the pendulum will swing back. (Roy Speckhardt, Programme director, Ameican Humanist Assoc.)
IT MAY BE DESIGN, BUT IT’S NOT INTELLIGENT
school districts in
JERRY FALWELL TO REVIVE MORAL MAJORITY
Evangelist Jerry Falwell says he is starting a political organization that will be “a 21st-century resurrection” of the Moral Majority, the Christian lobby he founded and led from 1979 to 1987. The new group, named the Faith and Values Coalition, will “utilize the momentum of the Nov. 2 elections” to maintain an evangelical revolution of voters who will continue to go to the polls to ‘vote Christian.’ (WP)
RELIGION IN THE NEWS
PUB HAS MORE TO OFFER THAN CHURCH HAS
A recent poll shows that nearly two-thirds of British adults now believe that the pub has more to offer the community than the church. Just 15 percent have faith that it is the other way round. Three-quarters of the adult population go to pubs, and more than a third are regulars, dropping in at least once a week. This compares with the seven percent who are regular churchgoers. Another poll showed that only two percent of Britons go to church more than once a week, ten percent weekly, five percent monthly, and 36 percent a few times a year; 47 percent said they never go. (IHS)
ANGLICANS POSTPONE DECISION ON GAY UNIONS
governing body of Toronto Anglicans voted November 27 to defer a decision on
approving the blessing of same-sex unions until 2006.
Five months ago, the Anglican Church of Canada affirmed the “integrity
and sanctity” of same-sex relationships at a national meeting but stopped short
of authorizing blessing ceremonies for gay couples.
RELIGION MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH
at Maastricht University Holland have found that Roman Catholic rituals create
20 times more air pollution than a road with 45,000 vehicles traveling on it
per day. During a nine hour
period, a Roman Catholic basilica in
TOP OF THE NEWS
SWISS VOTERS ALLOW STEM-CELL RESEARCH
voters on Nov. 28 overwhelmingly approved a law allowing stem-cell research,
rejecting a campaign that compared researchers to the Nazis’ “angel of death,”
Dr. Josef Mengele.
About 66 percent approved the law passed by the government last December. The Swiss bill only allows
the use of embryonic stem cells left over from invitro
fertilization, a more restrictive usage than elsewhere in
RED CROSS DECRIES KILLING OF IRAQI CIVILIANS
International Red Cross is “deeply concerned” about the killing of civilians
and noncombatants in
PAY COST OF
malnutrition among young children in
WAR ON TERRORISM DETAINEES COMPLAIN OF MISTREATMENT
detainees released from U.S.-run facilities around the world continue to come
forward with reports of torture or degrading treatment during their
interrogation and detention. A
just released Amnesty International report documents a pattern of human rights
violations that range from
International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to
WE WERE NOT ALONE
discovery of a nearly complete skeleton of a dainty, 95-centimetre- tall [three
foot] humanoid in a cave on the eastern Indonesian
AMERICAN YOUTH DUPED INTO ABSTINENCE PROGRAMS?
American youngsters participating in federally funded, abstinence-only programs
have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility
and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the
ELEVEN PERCENT OF AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS FEARED HUNGER IN 2003
A little-noticed report released in mid-November by the Agriculture Department found that 11.2 percent of all American households—about12.6 million of them—were “food insecure” at some point last year. Nearly one-third of households headed by single mothers reported such concerns; children in 207,000 households, the report said, went hungry at some point last year. In response, a group of senators from across the political spectrum now constituting one-third of the members of that chamber has banded together to help put the often-forgotten issue of hunger on the congressional agenda. (WP)
OUR ‘KINDNESS DEFICIT’ OF CARE
the elderly scream about the price of prescription drugs, ears prick up. But 80 percent of the 45 million
uninsured are what
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE FEAR MYTH
Democrats have come up with lots of comfort-food explanations of George Bush’s
victory—from the idea that the rascal stole the election for a second time…to
the notion that he rode into
…The no-need-to-change things party: First, the party is increasingly dominated by people who have no yearning for growth: public-sector workers; academics and trustafarians who both live off inherited endowments; environmentalists who want to regulate SUVS and urban sprawl; and billionaires who are too rich to aspire to anything. (One of the best statistics of the campaign is that people worth $2m-10m supported Mr. Bush by a 63-37% margin, whereas those worth more than $10 million favoured Mr. Kerry 59-41%.) Second, the Democratic Party is ceasing to be a mom-and-pop party.
…the fertility rate in the Kerry
states is 12% lower than the Bush states.
…perhaps the most left-wing
state in the country, produces an annual average of 49 children for every 1,000
women of child-bearing age; in Utah, where 71% of the population voted for Mr.
Bush, the figure is 91. In
deep-blue cities such as
The typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the
political field. He argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile
within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking is associative
--Joseph Schumpeter, economic theorist (1942)
1912: WILSON, ROOSEVELT, TAFT AND DEBS—THE ELECTION THAT CHANGED THE COUNTRY, by James Chace (2004)
If I didn’t feel that I was the personal instrument of God, I couldn’t carry on.
that sound like something that could have been said by a more recent occupant
of the oval office? It’s no
secret that some neocon intellectuals in
1912, four formidable personalities of
mythic proportions clashed in their quest for the presidency.
This was a unique event in American history, and James Chace does full justice to a dramatic story,” says the
cover blurb, contributed by Aruthur Schlesinger, Jr. Perhaps this paean was sung
with tongue in cheek. The third,
William Howard Taft strikes me, at least in Chace’s
narrative, as more of a milquetoast than a titan, except in girth.
(Taft weighted 350 pounds, and in that respect was the preeminent
heavyweight among presidents.) Taft
never wanted to be president (he came from the bench and to the bench, on the
Supreme Court, to be sure, he wished to return—and eventually did) and almost
certainly never would have been except for the overweening ambition of his wife
and a sitting president’s desire for a successor compliant to the progressive
program already laid down for him. Alas,
Roosevelt made the mistake of going off on an African safari immediately after
he left office and during his one year absence, the heavy-hitters in a
Republican dominated congress, seething at Roosevelt’s rhetorical bashing of
big business, pretty much had their way in reversing Rooseveltian
reform. (In fairness to Taft, it
should be pointed out that the Taft administration was rather more vigorous
with trust-busting than its predecessor.)
Teddy was able to contain his frustration with his anointed successor
only so long and when it exploded, two men who had been the dearest of friends
became the bitterest of enemies.
split in Republican ranks gave the Democrats a real shot at the presidency and
congressional control for the first time in sixteen years.
But who was to be their candidate?
The pickings were pretty slim.
Most of the party elite regarded William Jennings Bryant as washed up
after three unsuccessful runs. Its
congressional leaders were an uninspiring lot.
Democratic governors could scarcely raise an electoral eyebrow—except
with one exception: the
reforming governor of
the advantage of a divided opposition,
The rest, as they say, is history.
In small compass Chace has done a remarkable job in delineating the issues and the personalities who dealt with them. His is the most engaging work of history that I have read in a long time.