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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Mar. 12, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 177) - 2/2

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« Part 1

=== Islam
25. A Lifesaving Mission
26. Dilemma for Muslims in Berlin

=== Word-Faith Movement
27. Holyfield settlement will keep Dollar in circulation
28. Dollar and the Gospel

=== Other News
29. Judge Bans Greek Best-Selling Book
30. Religious group wants book banned throughout Greece
31. Pastor brainwashed teen, family alleges in lawsuit
32. Trial under way for man accused in blood-drinking ritual
33. High-ranking Sikh leader to appear for religious trial in India
34. Satanic Taxes
35. Hackensack man racks up $70,000 in psychic hotline bill
36. First Buddhist Fire Ritual in U.S. Set for April in Yorba Linda
37. Pope's apology for past sins is carefully worded
38. Church name reflects new century, clears confusion

=== Science
39. Poll on creationism, evolution manages to back both sides

=== Noted
40. The art of the spiritual smackdown
41. Deepak Chopra's search for God
42. RaŽl love
43. Americans paint a positive picture for future of faith
44. On Religion: A mega church with a message for smaller churches
45. Bible scholars take a new look at Jesus
46. Counselling the Devil

=== The Chip Maker Around The Corner
47. Chip upstart takes on Intel ... with God

25. A Lifesaving Mission
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 11, 2000
Fauccia Bibi was 16 and lived in Pakistan. Last year, in an incident later
chronicled by a BBC documentary, her husband's family accused her of being
unfaithful, threw kerosene on her and set her aflame to defend their honor.

As a group of about 50 people at Cal State Northridge watched the documentary
on a recent night, the TV cameras zoomed in on the severe welts and charred
flesh of Fauccia's legs.

This is ''honor killing,'' and renowned Muslim theologian Riffat Hassan has
dedicated herself to denouncing the practice as anti-Islamic.

The custom is found in many predominantly Muslim countries where women are
murdered by male relatives when suspected of immorality.

Some Muslim fundamentalists see honor killings as just punishment
recognized by Islam. Others avoid discussion of the subject, fearing that
publicity about it will only lead to discrimination against Muslims in
Western nations.

Hassan, a Muslim native of Pakistan who is now a professor of religious
studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, spoke this week at three
Southern California campuses. She believes that only widespread publicity
will bring an end to the practice.

''The situation is very grim,'' she said. ''We need a radical revision of how
the Koran is interpreted. If we were to construct a society on the true basis
of Islam, we would find men and women are equal in the sight of God. So these
killings are not happening because they're following Islam. People are
distorting Islam.''

Honor killings became the subject of increased attention in the United
States last year after ABC News' ''Nightline'' devoted two nights to the
subject and rebroadcast the BBC documentary, ''Murder in Purdah.'' Purdah is
the custom of secluding women from society, and among Muslims can require
that they be covered completely when in public.

In one segment of the documentary, a father explains how he killed his
daughter after she eloped with a man of her own choosing. He walked into the
police station and confessed.
''Is it honorable to kill your daughter?'' asks the reporter.
''There is no greater honor anywhere,'' he says.

In the midst of the military coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf late last year,
two international organizations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International, published reports on honor killings in Pakistan. Among the
findings, Amnesty International said that ''the number of honor killings is
on the rise as the perception of what constitutes honor . . . widens.''

The methods of attack vary from hacking the victim to pieces with axes to
shooting her. More recently, burning women has become more common. Police
almost always take the man's side in honor killings and rarely prosecute
killers, the report said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Dilemma for Muslims in Berlin
Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 10, 2000
(...) A ruling by a German federal court has opened the way for a
controversial Islamic group to begin teaching lessons on the Koran to Muslims
at Berlin schools.

In a country where religious instruction is a constitutional right, Germany's
Muslims have long demanded the same recognition granted to Christians. Today,
there are more Muslim than Catholic children in Berlin, a traditional
stronghold of Protestant secularism.

Last month, a court sanctioned the Islamic Federation, a group with links to
fundamentalists in Turkey, to put together a lesson plan for Berlin's public
schools. The decision renewed the debate over what role religion should play
in an increasingly pluralistic society.

Article 7 of the German Constitution makes religion a regular subject at
public schools; nonbelievers are required to take an alternative course such
as ethics. Though technically exempt from Article 7, Berlin offers optional
religion classes organized by the Protestant and Catholic churches. But
Muslim parents have only had the option of sending children to classes
offered by mosques.

In 1980, the Islamic Federation applied for permission to offer lessons on
the Koran in schools. When its requests were ignored, the federation went to
court for recognition as a ''religious community'' - and eventually won, much
to the dismay of advocates of secular Islam. ''We couldn't have written a
better curriculum,'' Mr. Cinar says. ''It's not an issue of the curriculum,
but whether a political organization should be drawing it up.''

Through its president, the Islamic Federation has links to Milli Görüs, a
branch of the fundamentalist Virtue Party in Turkey. Both the Islamic
Federation and Milli Görüs are under observation by the German Office for the
Protection of the Constitution, which monitors radical groups. ''It's their
job to observe us,'' says Burhan Kesici of the Islamic Federation. ''They
will see that we're not fundamentalist. We have never been politically

But many Berlin Muslims are skeptical. ''I would never send my children to
such an organization, because I know that one day they may be poisoned,''
says Ahmet Cengiz, a teacher and the father of two school-age children. Mr.
Cengiz says he would only support Islam classes in the schools if they were
drawn up by secular organizations with no hidden political agendas.

To provide for the country's 600,000 Muslim schoolchildren, the Turkish
community here has called for a broad-based commission of cultural, academic,
and civic representatives to come up with ''modern religious instruction.''
They say it should be designed especially for children living in Germany and
based on democratic values.

In comparison with other European states, Germany has been slow to accept
Islam as a major national religion. Belgium formally recognized Islam in the
1970s, making Koran instruction possible in schools. Austria and the
Netherlands have similar rules, while France, like the United States, draws a
clear line between church and state.

Such a separation in Germany would solve the debate over Islam instruction.
Yet Article 7 is one of Germany's basic rights. Dieter Oberndörfer is one of
the few voices for removing religion from the classroom altogether.

''The issue in Berlin is important for the whole country,'' Oberndörfer says,
''If you allow Islam instruction in schools, all sorts of Islamic
organizations will try to have influence on it. That's why it would be better
to solve the whole thing - as in the US - by separating church and state more
clearly than we have up to now.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Holland, too, keeps radical Muslim organizations - or those linked to
them - under observation. One concern is the the fact that such
organizations are trying to influence elections abroad (in Turkey,
Marocco, etc.) by putting pressure on Muslims through their mosques
in the Netherlands and other European countries.

=== Word-Faith Movement

27. Holyfield settlement will keep Dollar in circulation
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 11, 2000
Boxer Evander Holyfield and his wife, Janice, have agreed to settle their
multimillion-dollar divorce out of court, meaning the Rev. Creflo Dollar will
not be thrown in jail for refusing to give a deposition.

The tentative settlement eliminates the biggest conflict in the case: Whether
Dollar, the colorful leader of World Changers Ministries, would tell Janice
Holyfield's lawyer how much money Evander Holyfield gave to the church.

John Mayoue, Janice Holyfield's lawyer, alleged the boxer gave $7 million to
Dollar and World Changers Ministries. Dollar is a leader in the ''prosperity
gospel'' movement, which teaches that God promises wealth and health to the
faithful. Holyfield is one of 20,000 members of the College Park church.

Dollar refused to give the deposition, citing separation of church and state,
pastor-parishioner privilege and his personal opposition to divorce. Miller
found Dollar in contempt of court, but Dollar appealed. On Thursday, the
Georgia Supreme Court dismissed Dollar's final appeals.

But Miller said he will not issue an order for Dollar's arrest because of the
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Dollar and the Gospel
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 9, 2000
The Rev. Creflo Dollar Jr. has unabashedly embraced his name by building a
religious empire on the message that his brand of piety leads to prosperity.

He drives a black Rolls-Royce, flies to speaking engagements across the
nation and Europe in a $5 million private jet and lives in a $1 million home
behind iron gates in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood.

But now Dollar is wrestling with more temporal matters. He's been cited for
contempt of court in the Evander Holyfield divorce. He's appealing the
contempt charge issued in December by a Fayette County Superior Court judge
after Dollar refused to give a deposition in the boxer's divorce case.

Janice Holyfield's attorneys want Dollar to account for what they say is at
least $4 million that Holyfield has given to the church and to Dollar
personally. They also want a record of Dollar's counseling sessions with
Evander Holyfield.

In September, Dollar vowed he would go to jail before relenting. ''I
realize there are a bunch of high-strung people that have got the love of
money on their mind, but they just messed with'' the wrong person, he said in
a sermon.

In December, 100 Fulton County police officers were admonished by the
county's ethics board for accepting $1,000 apiece from Dollar. Dollar sent
the money to recognize the officers' service to the community. But the
gesture was criticized because it came a month after two traffic tickets
Dollar had received were downgraded to warnings.

A fiercely private man, Dollar has refused repeated requests for an interview
with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But in interviews with 25 people,
including Dollar's relatives, childhood friends and former and current church
members, two clashing portraits of Dollar emerged.

Supporters see Dollar as a compassionate man who helps the needy and a
spiritual visionary whose message of prosperity is twisted out of context.
Detractors characterize him privately as ''Cash-Flow'' Dollar, a high roller
who often refuses to let members touch him and whose church requests access
to their W-2 forms.

Then Dollar's wife, Taffi, introduces her husband as one who talks ''face to
face with God, like Moses.'' She warns that ''every tongue that rises up
against'' her husband will ''be struck down.''

About a half-hour into the service, an assistant pastor booms to the
congregation: ''It's opportunity for prosperity time!''

The congregants wave money-filled envelopes in the air and yell in joy as
ushers pass the white buckets down the row to collect the envelopes.

Today, his congregation is the second in size only to the 23,000-strong New
Birth Missionary Baptist. His sermons are broadcast in every state and in
seven countries on the Trinity Broadcast Network, an international Christian
television network.

Dollar lives in a $1 million home owned by the church in the Guilford Forest
subdivision in southwest Atlanta. World Changers purchased another $1 million
home on 27 acres in Fayette County in December. The church has amassed a
fortune in real estate, mostly in College Park.

As World Changers grew, so did Dollar's emphasis on prosperity. Dollar has no
degree in theology. Much of his prosperity message, according to church and
his family members, is based on the teachings of friend and spiritual mentor
Kenneth Copeland.

Copeland, a nationally known televangelist based in Fort Worth, Texas, also
has provided Dollar with financial backing, according to J. Lee Grady, an
editor with Charisma Magazine, one of the country's most prestigious
Christian publications.

Dollar's message amounts to ''a Christian version of the lottery,'' said Hank
, host of a nationally syndicated radio show and author of
''Counterfeit Revival,'' a book that claims tactics used by cults are
replicated in some churches.

Hanegraaff said such churches have a high turnover rate because people burn
out under the pressure to tithe. Many followers of the prosperity gospel
eventually abandon all organized religion.

Dollar also has attracted the attention of Ole, the founder of Trinity
Foundation Inc.
, a nonprofit Christian group based in Dallas that
investigates televangelists. Anthony gained attention in 1991 when he filmed
televangelist Robert Tilton dumping hundreds of prayer requests in a garbage
bag after removing the money.

Anthony said many former members of World Changers are afraid to speak out
against Dollar because they are constantly reminded that they will be
punished if they talk against a man of God.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Judge Bans Greek Best-Selling Book
Newsday/AP, Mar. 9, 2000
A judge today banned a best-selling book that was condemned by the Greek
Orthodox Church because of passages about the possible sexual longings of
Jesus Christ.

Presiding over a court in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Judge Maria
Robbi said she banned sales of the book in northern Greece to prevent
''outbreaks of violence'' after religious zealots threatened to take action
against the author and bookstores selling the book.

She said the ban, covering nearly one-fourth of the country, will remain in
effect until May 16, when a hearing is held on a suit to halt the sale of ''M
to the Power of N'' by a former communist parliament deputy, Mimis

The church and its leader, Archbishop Christodoulos, refused to comment on
the decision. But Metropolitan Kallinikos, a spokesman for the church's
ruling body, said Androulakis had no right ''to insult millions of our
faithful with what he has said about the leader of our faith.''

''Our religion may teach love, but we will never talk to Mimi Androulakis,''
Kallinikos said.

The book is a series of fictional dialogues between women whose names all
begin with the letter M. The central theme is misogyny in various aspects of
life, including religion. One chapter mentions an often explored hypothesis:
a possible sexual element in the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary
Magdalene, a prostitute who became a follower.

The suit was filed by Byzantine history professor Marios Pylavakis, who
argues that Christ's life cannot be open to fictional reinterpretation. He
has been joined by a mix of ultra-nationalists and religious firebrands.

Nearly all political parties, literary societies and scholars have backed
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Religious group wants book banned throughout Greece
Nando Times/AP, Mar. 10, 2000
A group representing conservative Greek Orthodox Christians on Friday asked a
court to impose a countrywide ban on a book containing passages about the
possible sexual longings of Jesus Christ.

But the Athens court refused to hear the case until April 24, saying the
group had failed to file the proper request form for an immediate hearing.

The court's decision came one day after a judge in the northern Greek city of
Thessaloniki banned sales of the best-selling book ''M to the Power of N,''
by former Communist parliament deputy Mimis Androulakis, in nearly a quarter
of the country.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Pastor brainwashed teen, family alleges in lawsuit
Anchorage Daily News, Mar. 9, 2000
It sounds like a made-for-TV movie: a church accused of brainwashing a
15-year-old girl into believing her parents were demon-possessed and that she
had to run away from home. But the trial unfolding this week in a Palmer
courtroom is no work of fiction. On trial is Wasilla Ministries, a small
Pentecostal church in downtown Wasilla led by pastor Marion Sands, who
believes, among other things, that God speaks directly to her and has allowed
her to discern demons in others.

At issue is whether church members six years ago overstepped their bounds in
their dealing with Jodi Hejl. Her parents claim the church interfered with
their right to raise their child, and that it cost them thousands of dollars
in counseling, travel and other expenses.

Hejl, now known by her married name Jodi Logan, ran away from home three
times to be with church members during 1993 and 1994. She has since
reconciled with her parents.

In a lawsuit filed against the church in 1994, Logan and her parents claim
Wasilla Ministries is a cult that used a program of ''persuasive coercion''
to brainwash Logan into leaving her parents. They say Sands told Logan that
her parents had demons and that the church they attended - Living Word
Fellowship - was influenced by demons.

They also accuse church members of helping Logan run away from home,
including buying her a plane ticket to escape from a treatment center in
California, and persuading her to make false charges of sexual abuse against
her father. Logan has since recanted those charges.

Logan's parents had sent her to the Minirth Meier New Life Clinic to help her
break free from the church's influence.

But Wasilla Ministries' attorney Tim Lamb said the case grew out of lost love
and bad family feelings and is not about a cult surreptitiously trying to
bring another member into the fold.

In testimony Wednesday, Sands said she was called by God to start the

She denied trying to control people, although she agreed other people have
had that impression.

The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks. More than 50 witnesses are
scheduled to testify, including cult experts, members of Wasilla Ministries,
two of Sands' daughters, and Logan's former boyfriend Will Sands, who now
uses a wheelchair after a shooting accident.

While much of the focus is on religion, the jury has been instructed that it
cannot judge the credibility of the beliefs held by the parties. Rather, they
are to decide whether the church was negligent in how it dealt with Logan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Trial under way for man accused in blood-drinking ritual
Boston.com/AP, Mar. 8, 2000
A judge found a teen-ager guilty Wednesday of being an accomplice to an
assault after hearing testimony that he sat in the room during a
blood-drinking ritual.

The teen who inflicted a seven-inch razor wound and her 17-year-old victim
both testified that Roy Gutfinski, 19, was in the room but was listening to
music and seemed oblivious to what was going on.

Justice John R. Atwood said Gutfinski still played a big role.

''He was the host, he was the dominant player, two or three years older and
unambiguously the person to charge,'' he said. ''He was a promoter and
believer of the concept of cutting others and drinking their blood.''

Gutfinski was found guilty of elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault
and reckless conduct. Testimony began Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior

Police said Gutfinski and his girlfriend cut the girl's back with a razor on
Aug. 21 and drank the blood together while kissing. Police were notified
after the wound was closed with 32 stitches at an emergency room.

Deputy District Attorney Alan P. Kelley told jurors on Tuesday that Gutfinski
was a ''Goth'' who wore dark clothes and practiced self-mutilation and some
blood-licking or blood-drinking.

''Roy Gutfinski Jr. perceived himself and claimed to be a Satanic worshipper,
claimed to police he was a vampire and drank blood, his own as well as other
persons', as often as possible,'' Kelley said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. High-ranking Sikh leader to appear for religious trial in India
Boston.com/AP, Mar. 11, 2000
A high-ranking Sikh leader was summoned Saturday for a religious trial before
Sikhism's highest priest, who excommunicated her for trying to change the
Sikh festival calendar.

Jagir Kaur has been accused of undermining Hindu-Sikh relations and defying
the authority of the priests by her decision to alter the calendar of Sikh
festivals, which traditionally have been celebrated according to the Hindu
calendar. Kaur was excommunicated in January and ordered to appear before the
high priest.

Those excommunicated from the religion are generally taken back after they
have performed a ritual punishment, such as washing dishes or cleaning the
floor of a temple.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Satanic Taxes
Russia Today, Mar. 10, 2000
[Summary of an item from Izvestiya (Russia)]

In a statement yesterday, the Russian Orthodox Church Synod accused the Tax
and Duties Ministry of using ''satanic symbols'' in some tax documents.
According to the Church, barcodes contain the image of the apocalyptic number
666. It is funny that, at the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church has been
striving for more tax privileges for many years.

The Russian Orthodox Church is always opposed to attempts to create any
regulatory system based on Western methods. It sees in any innovation the
''hand of the Vatican'', if not the anti-Christ.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Hackensack man racks up $70,000 in psychic hotline bill
Boston.com/AP, Mar. 9, 2000
The telephone hot line operator who connected Jeffrey Ochs with psychics on
the South Pacific island of Vanuatu told him they would fix his life and
encouraged him to keep calling. They didn't, but he did.

Ochs racked up a $70,000 telephone bill for the $6-a-minute calls he made to
Psychic Hotline between Nov. 15 and Jan. 7. Hackensack police arrested him
last month for theft of services, saying he had refused to pay his Bell
Atlantic telephone bill.

Ochs, 49, of Hackensack, has filed a complaint against Bell Atlantic,
charging the carrier with deceptive business practices.

Galler said Ochs filed a complaint against Bell Atlantic because the carrier
was representing the Psychic Hotline and Ochs' long-distance carrier as a
collection agent for the full telephone bill.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. First Buddhist Fire Ritual in U.S. Set for April in Yorba Linda
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 11, 2000
About 5,000 people from all over the world are expected to attend a fire
ritual at Yorba Linda's Shinnyo-En Buddhist temple on April 14 and 15.
The temple, built in 1989 on a 10-acre lot on Bastanchury Road, will be the
first site in the United States for the ritual.

Shinnyo-En is a Japanese Buddhist organization that emerged early this
century. This sect evolved from the last teaching of Buddha that emphasized
the practice of truth and compassion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Pope's apology for past sins is carefully worded
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 11, 2000
On Sunday, Pope John Paul II is expected to continue his practice of asking
forgiveness for the sins committed by Catholics over the past 2,000 years. He
will speak at Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The pope, a former theology and philosophy professor, is precise in his
language. He never apologizes for the church but for the actions of its human
leaders and followers, including popes. This theological distinction demands
some attention. The pope talks about the sins of the ''sons and daughters of
the church'' because the church is more than just its human element,
according to Catholic theology.

The Catholic distinction between the holy church and its sinning members ''is
a distinction that is lost on a good Protestant,'' said the Rev. David
Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary, a United Church of Christ
seminary in Webster Groves.

''The church needs to understand that it's a human institution, so it needs
to acknowledge its foibles and mistakes,'' he said. ''I think it's really
important to do that because the church represents God. Some people make the
mistake of believing that the church is God.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Church name reflects new century, clears confusion
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 8, 2000
After years of outside confusion with other religions, the Burbank Church of
Religious Science has changed its name to SpiritWorks Center for Spiritual

Morris said the church was often confused with Church of Christ, Scientist
or Church of Scientology sects due to the similarity of their names. She said
religious science churches are less traditional than Christian Science and
have little in common with Scientology.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Science

39. Poll on creationism, evolution manages to back both sides
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/New York Times, Mar. 11, 2000
An overwhelming majority of Americans think that creationism should be taught
along with Darwin's theory of evolution in the public schools, according to a
new nationwide survey by an independent polling organization.

Some scientists characterized the seemingly contradictory findings as a
quixotic attempt by the American public to accommodate incompatible world
views. But in some ways, even as Americans continue to argue over what
children should learn about human origins, the poll offers encouragement to
both sides in the debate.

The poll results were released Friday by the People for the American Way
Foundation, the liberal civil rights organization that commissioned the
study. It was based on extensive interviews with 1,500 Americans drawn
representatively from all segments of society across the country.

In results emphasized by the foundation, the poll found that 83 percent of
Americans generally support the teaching of evolution in public schools.

But the poll, which had a statistical margin of error of 2.6 percentage
points, also found that 79 percent of Americans think that creationism has a
place in the public school curriculum, though respondents often said the
topic should be discussed as a belief rather than as a competing scientific

As for evolution, almost half of the respondents said that the theory ''is
far from being proven scientifically.'' And 68 percent said it was possible
simultaneously to believe in evolution and also that God created humans and
guided their development.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

40. The art of the spiritual smackdown
Salon, Mar. 7, 2000
''You know how you find God?'' joked New Age guru Deepak Chopra in his deep,
resonant voice. ''Have a lawsuit with Joyce Weaver.''

Chopra was riffing on the title of his recent book ''How to Know God'' as
well as making a catty reference to his tangled, five-year legal battle with
Weaver, a former employee of the now-defunct Sharp Center for Mind-Body
Medicine in Del Mar, Calif., where Chopra once worked.

The La Jolla-based author has made a name for himself as a spiritual advisor
to such notables as Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Michael Jackson and even
President Clinton. But he's also garnered notoriety through his frequent
visits to the courtroom.

Monday afternoon the San Diego jury returned a unanimous verdict in his
favor. Just two days earlier, I spoke with Chopra by phone (he was in Chicago
on a promotional book tour). In a candid conversation sprinkled with
self-deprecating remarks, he discussed his reputation as a tough-as-nails
litigant and his charges of venality in the San Diego legal system, among
other matters.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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41. Deepak Chopra's search for God
CNN, Mar. 7, 2000
(...) His latest book is now on shelves, owning the kind of title that
carries an anti-Nietzsche boast: ''How To Know God: The Soul's Journey Into
the Mystery of Mysteries'' (Crown Publishing Group).

The book is Chopra's investigation of religions, nature, and personal
experience to claim that humans are ''hardwired'' to know God -- even if they
don't believe in God. It's precisely the type of book that religious
conservatives are likely to place in the cylindrical file next to the latest
musings on Scientology.

Dr. Candace B. Pert, a physiology and biophysics professor at Georgetown
University, calls the book ''a brilliant, scholarly yet lyrical synthesis of
neuroscience, quantum physics, personal reminiscence, Eastern, Western and
spiritual thinking.'' On the Publisher's Weekly best-seller list, ''How To
Know God'' sits at No. 14 this week (just below ''The Art of Happiness,''
which uses the ideas of the Dalai Lama to lead the reader to potential

Chopra says he studied at St. Columbas in India. It was run by Irish
Christian missionaries. ''My dad said, 'In school, be a Catholic. At home,
be a Hindu.' So we did both,'' Chopra says.

He eventually went to All India Institute for Medical Sciences in New Delhi
and studied neuro-endocrinology, infatuated with finding out how ''thoughts
translate into molecules.'' At Boston Regional Medical Center, Chopra's
experiences led him to study alternative healing and the relation of body,
mind and spirit.

He's become so popular, Time magazine named him one of the 20th century's
most prominent figures, calling him the ''poet-prophet of alternative

Naturally, Chopra has endured his share of criticism. His brand of new age
philosophy has been called ''McSpirituality'' by at least one preacher
(Perhaps there might be a new pun available in the Starbucks name?). And some
observers don't appreciate when Chopra casually uses official terms
previously reserved for those who studied the work of Einstein.

Wendy Kaminer, author of ''Sleeping With Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of
Irrationalism and Perils of Piety,'' says Chopra has a bad habit of misusing
the word ''quantum'' -- for instance, he often calls the energies of the
universe a ''quantum soup'' that we are destined to alphabetize.

''He's taking a single word from the realm of science -- quantum -- and using
it in ways that are meaningless,'' Kaminer told the Kansas City Star. ''It's
an attempt to use science to prove your faith.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. Raël love
Salon, Mar. 8, 2000
(...) This is a gathering of the Raëlians, an organization whose members
believe that the fact that the human race was created by extraterrestrials
shouldn't interfere with our hedonistic enjoyment of sex.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Nearly identical to the author's Aug. 7, 1999 Canadian National Post story
on the Raelians.

Raelian Religion

43. Americans paint a positive picture for future of faith
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Scripps Howard News Service, Mar. 11, 2000
(...) ''The study tends to support the thinking that Americans of all types
believe that it should be possible to increase our spiritual discoveries, our
spiritual knowledge if you will,'' said Sir John Templeton, who paid for the

The survey Templeton sponsored of 1,002 adult residents of the United States
was conducted Feb. 14-24. It found that 53 percent say ''religious beliefs or
spiritual practices (will) become an increasing force in people's lives in
the next 100 years.'' The study found that well-educated people were just as
likely to believe this as less educated people.

Nearly two-thirds say religion will ''change the way we think'' in the coming
century and a slightly higher number believe that spiritual values are
''important to guide and inspire the growing power of science and

Eighty-one percent said they believe it's either very likely or somewhat
likely that ''individuals (generally) will experience advancement in
religious beliefs or spiritual growth'' in the coming century.

But only half said they believe there will be ''greater agreement between
religious and scientific thinking.''

Templeton, who has written best-selling bookings on investment management,
recently has produced more religious tomes: ''Agape Love: a Tradition Found
in Eight World Religions'' and ''How Large is God: the Voices of Scientists
and Theologians.''

He is not as sanguine as the public about the future of faith in the United

''Religiosity or the influence of religion and the attention of ethical
matters is decreasing in America, not increasing,'' Templeton said. ''But it
is decreasing much more rapidly in other parts of the world.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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44. On Religion: A mega church with a message for smaller churches
Naples News/Scripps Howard News Service, Mar. 4, 2000 (Terry Mattingly Column)
(...) Saddleback looks like a textbook megachurch, the kind that keeps
inspiring sociologists to rush to their computers. The Rev. Rick Warren and
friends mailed 15,000 invitations to their first service in 1980 and the
church had 10,000 members before it built a sanctuary. Today, 15,000 or more
attend five ''seeker friendly'' weekend services. The sunny baptismal pool
welcomes a river of newcomers, with 1,638 baptized in 1999.

But this wasn't a megachurch sermonette for folks used to clutching a TV
remote. Warren regularly preaches between 50 minutes and an hour, working his
way through a dozen scripture passages and waves of illustrations from the
news and daily life. Seeker-friendly sermons do not have to be short and
shallow, he said.

''The idea that postmodern people will not listen to a 'talking head' for 45
minutes is pure myth,'' he said. ''Of course, most people, including many
preachers, couldn't hold an audience for 10 minutes. But that's due to their
communication style, not the supposed short attention span of unbelievers.
Any communicator who is personal, passionate, authentic and applies the
scriptures to real life will have no trouble holding the attention of our

Critics may scoff, but this Southern Baptist congregation is committed to
developing techniques to help churches with 150 members, as well as 15,000.
Saddleback services rarely include comedy and drama, because small churches
struggle to find talented writers and actors. Saddleback rarely uses
high-tech media in its services, because small churches don't have the
resources to do so.

That's OK. Warren said that ''if all seekers were looking for was a quality
production, they'd stay home and watch TV, where millions are spent to
produce half-hour programs.''

Churches don't have to be shallow to appeal to the heads and hearts of
unbelievers, stressed Warren. In fact, just the opposite is true.

''Unbelievers wrestle with the same deep questions believers have,'' he said.
''Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Does life make sense?
Why is there suffering and evil in the world? What is my purpose in life? How
can I learn to get along with people? These are certainly not shallow
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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45. Bible scholars take a new look at Jesus
Cincinnati Post, Mar. 8, 2000
At no other time in history has the identity of Jesus been more in dispute,
and perhaps no other group has been more responsible for reopening the debate
over the historical Jesus than the Jesus Seminar.

A media-savvy body of about 200 scholars, the Jesus Seminar is best known for
its method of voting on the validity of Gospel passages by dropping colored
beads in a box.

It has concluded that Jesus said only 18 percent of the things attributed to
him in the four Gospels, and it virtually discounts the entire Gospel of

But for a group that doesn't believe Jesus ever uttered the words, ''Who do
you say I am?'' the Jesus Seminar is working hard to answer that question.

On Friday and Saturday, a traveling workshop of the Jesus Seminar will be in
Cincinnati for six hours of discussion on the historical Jesus.

The traveling workshops are one way the Jesus Seminar endeavors to take its
findings to the public, Dewey said. Another way is its two major books, ''The
Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus''
(HarperSanFrancisco, $20) and ''The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the
Authentic Deeds of Jesus'' (HarperSanFrancisco, $35).

As a Catholic theologian teaching at a Jesuit school, Dewey has been
criticized for his affiliation with the Jesus Seminar. Many Catholics see the
work of the seminar as an attack on the foundations of the Catholic faith.

The Jesus of the Jesus Seminar, critics say, does not resemble the Jesus of
the New Testament, much less of the creeds. The conservative Catholic
magazine Crisis devotes much of its March issue to challenging the
scholarship of the Jesus Seminar.

But Dewey said he is ''doing exactly what the church wants'' by engaging in
the biblical scholarship encouraged by the Jesus Seminar.

In its reconstruction of Jesus, the Jesus Seminar has relied heavily on
extrabiblical texts such as the gnostic-influenced Gospel of Thomas to paint
what members say is a more historically accurate picture of Jesus.

Yamauchi contributed to the 1995 anti-Jesus Seminar book ''Jesus Under Fire''
(Zondervan, $16.99), where he wrote the chapter ''Jesus Outside the New
Testament: What is the zEvidence?''

''The revisionist Jesus whom scholars have rediscovered ... is a Jesus who
performed no miracles, who did not regard himself as the Messiah, and who was
not raised from the dead, but was instead a wise teacher who preached
egalitarianism and rebuked social injustice,'' Yamauchi wrote in an
unpublished paper criticizing the Jesus Seminar.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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46. Counselling the Devil
Canoe/Ottawa Sun (Canada), Mar. 10, 2000
Talk radio hosts are used to hearing strange things. And then there's John
Counsell, host of CFRA's Late Night Counsell, which is heard every weeknight
from 10 to midnight. The man berates devils and demons. He serves eviction
notices to unruly spirits inhabiting someone else's soul. He's a
contemporary exorcist.

And he's to be believed, he does a pretty good job. Somewhat like a spiritual
superintendent, he says he's evicted between six and 24 evil spirits over the
past 10 years.

Of course, there are many skeptics when it comes to exorcisms, including Dr.
George Fraser, one of Canada's leading psychiatric experts in the field.

Fraser, of the Ottawa Anxiety and Trauma Clinic, recently wrote a study of
seven psychiatric patients who had undergone exorcisms with devastating
results. While the patients improved initially after the exorcism, their
possessions grew much worse later on, he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== The Chip Maker Around The Corner

47. Chip upstart takes on Intel ... with God
Yahoo/ZDnet, Mar. 10, 2000
[...more offbeat stories...]
VIA Technologies is not your usual chip company. Just ask CEO Wen Chi Chen,
who code-names his chips after biblical characters.

The desktop PC processor market is shaping up to be a battle of biblical
proportions. So it only seems appropriate that newcomer VIA Technologies Inc.
names its processors after biblical heroes.

A born again Christian, Chen said his strong religious beliefs inspire not
only his personal outlook, but VIA policy. ''Science and technology can go
hand-in-hand with what the Bible tells us,'' Chen said.

His beliefs also motivated Chen to direct VIA to use chip code-names taken
from the Bible. The company's Joshua processor, now known as the Cyrix III
chip, was named after the biblical leader, who Chen describes as strong,
courageous and unafraid to face up to his enemies.

With its religious fervor, the Joshua product launch on Feb. 22 was ''one of
the more unusual product launches I have seen in a long time,'' said Nathan
Brookwood, principle at Insight64. There, according to attendees, Chen said,
''With god on our side, we can beat Intel.''

Chen's enthusiasm for his religion and its adoption into VIA's corporate
culture shows in other ways as well. The company's home page carries a link
to the prayer site World Pray. The site, sponsored by VIA, describes itself
as a ''non-denominational, nonprofit website whose primary goal is to unite
people around the world through prayer and spread the word of God.''

''The most unusual aspect of Chen and VIA right now is the religious
aspect,'' Brookwood said. ''It sets them apart. You're not going to see this
on Intel.com or AMD.com.''