Apologetics Index
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Religion News Report

February 12, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 323) - 3/3

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues

» Continued from Part 2

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
27. Pagans are grateful for understanding

=== Other News
28. France may further delay vote on anti-cult measure
29. Tokyo Police Identify Remains (Lucie Blackman)
30. Reps Pass Secret Cult Prohibition Bill
31. Vietnam unrest threatens to raise objections to US trade deal
32. New governor practices quiet faith

=== Noted
33. Children of a Lesser God

=== Books
34. The relationship between Japanese culture, Buddhism
35. From Leviticus to levitation

=== Paganism / Witchcraft

27. Pagans are grateful for understanding
Akron Beacon Journal, Feb. 10, 2001
http://www.ohio.com/Off-site Link

Crow Welch has never denied that she is a witch.

And she doesn't plan to start now.

``We are who we are. That might make some people uncomfortable. But I think that discomfort stems from a lot of misperceptions about who we are,'' said Welch, a retired priestess and outreach counselor for the Church of Spiral Oak of Akron, a pagan group that meets once a week for discussion and ceremonies.

That discomfort rose to a level earlier this week that forced the Akron Area Interfaith Council to change the location of tomorrow's annual award dinner from Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Brown Street.

It started Monday when the Rev. Nancy Arnold, president of the Interfaith Council, received a letter from the Rev. Jerry Hall, the pastor at Annunciation.

The letter said that if a musical group from the Church of Spiral Oak remained on the program, the Council could not have its dinner at Annunciation. It also said the musical group from the Orthodox community would not take part in a program that included the pagan group.

Hall, who saw the program lineup for the first time on Monday, said he had no other choice but to object.

``We have regulations that limit our participation with groups that would be involved with things like paganism,'' Hall said. ``If we allowed this event at our church, with their participation, it would send a message to the community of our acceptance.

``As Orthodox Christians, we cannot accept their tenets and we cannot send a message that it is OK. Well, it's not OK. And we had to take a stand.''

Welch said that what some people call spells, her group calls prayer. She explained that her group is composed of people of faith who believe God and nature are one and the same. The various gods in paganism are regarded as an expression of the divine in the natural world.

Her husband, Raja, who is a member of the clergy at Spiral Oak, will sing with the choral group tomorrow night. The group plans to sing three songs that speak of unity and oneness of human beings and nature.

The Welches say it is easy for outsiders to make assumptions about the pagan community. ``We are constantly fighting against age-old prejudices of other people's interpretations of us -- that we are devil worshippers. We don't even believe in Satan, so how could that be?'' Crow Welch said.

``We are just grateful to the Interfaith Council that they stood up for us and said we should be respected for who we are.''

=== Other News

28. France may further delay vote on anti-cult measure
Cox News Service, Feb. 10, 2001
http://www.deseretnews.com/Off-site Link

LONDON - The French legislature appears likely to further postpone a vote on a proposed anti-cult law that mainstream religious leaders have opposed because they fear the measure could jeopardize traditional evangelical activities.

The vote had originally been scheduled for Jan. 25 but was postponed just days before. It is possible that the Senate could vote on it today before the legislative body adjourns until late March, but no planned vote has been posted on the Senate's Web site.

While no reason has been given for the delay, groups monitoring the legislation have attributed it to a busy legislative agenda.

In early January, French legislators toned down the ''mental manipulation'' provision, but concerns about the bill remain.
The French Senate is expected to approve the most recent version of the law. Final approval in the National Assembly is expected to follow soon.
It is cults like Scientology and the Unification Church that have complained loudest about the proposed cult-crimes law, with the Scientology-related entities spreading misinformation about it and about related issues.

29. Tokyo Police Identify Remains
The Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

TOKYO -- Police have identified the dismembered remains found in a beachside cave near Tokyo as those of a British bar hostess who disappeared in July, authorities said Saturday.

''We have determined the identity of the body and it is an unfortunate outcome for the parents and family of Lucie'' Blackman, Tokyo police investigator Akira Hiromitsu said.

The body was dug up near the seaside apartment of a Japanese businessman who was arrested in October and accused of drugging and raping several women, including a Canadian hostess and another Briton.

Blackman, 22, a former British Airways flight attendant, was working in a Tokyo bar when she disappeared on July 1. She had told a friend she was going on a drive to the ocean with a customer who promised to buy her a mobile phone.
Soon after, her roommate got a call from someone who said she had joined a religious cult and would not be back.

The case highlighted concerns over the vulnerability of foreign women working in the murky world of the Japanese bar trade. Many do not have proper visas, making it difficult for them seek the protection of the law.

30. Reps Pass Secret Cult Prohibition Bill
Vanguard Daily (Nigeria), Feb. 8, 2001 http://allafrica.com/Off-site Link

The House of Representatives has passed the Secret Cult and Secret Society Prohibition Bill which makes it a constitutional offence for any person to form join or take part in any activity of a secret cult. Anybody that violates that offence faces two years imprisonment or fine of N250,000.

The bill sponsored by Hon. Jerry Ogokwe (Anambra) and presented to the House by the House Committee on Judiciary will now be forwarded to the Senate for final consideration before it is sent to the President for his accent.

The bill defined secret society to include ''cult or any society, association, group or body of persons (whether registered or not) that uses secret signs, oaths, rites or symbols and which is formed to promote a cause, the purpose or part of the purpose of which is to foster the interest of its members and to aid one another under any circumstance, without merit, fair play or justice, to the detriment of the legitimate interest of those who are not members.''

''The membership of which is incompatible with the function of dignity of any public office under the constitution (of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) and whose members are sworn to observe oaths of secrecy; or the activities of, which are not known to the public at large the names of whose members, are kept secret and whose meetings are held in secret.''

31. Vietnam unrest threatens to raise objections to US trade deal
AFP, Feb. 11, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

A wave of unrest among Vietnam's mainly Christian central highlanders just as Washington prepares to hold hearings into religious freedoms is threatening to intensify human rights objections to a key trade deal between the former foes.

The two weeks of protests have thrown into stark relief the communist authorities' outlawing of Protestant Churches which have won a large following among the region's indigenous minorities in recent years.

Tuesday's session of the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms is due to hear from a string of expert witnesses, including leading exiled dissidents.

Analysts expect it provide ample ammunition for opponents of last July's trade agreement when it comes up for ratification by the new Congress after former president Bill Clinton ran out of legislative time.

''All this publicity about communist authorities attacking Protestant church services in minority areas is going to do Vietnam no good at all as far as US political opinion is concerned,'' one Western diplomat told AFP.

Washington has long complained about the treatment of the region's minority Protestants.

''Many Protestant Christians who worshipped in house churches in ethnic minority areas were subjected to arbitrary detention by local officials who broke up unsanctioned religious meetings there,'' said a US State department released late last year.

The unrest among the minority Christians comes hot on heels of accusations of renewed harrassment of the elderly leaders of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, one of whom was nominated for last year's Nobel peace prize by a group of US Congressmen.

32. New governor practices quiet faith
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Feb. 9, 2001
http://www.jsonline.com/Off-site Link

Believers in Wisconsin, where the world's first Christian Scientist church was built in 1886, waited a long time for a member of the now-global faith to rise to the state's highest elective office.

With the inauguration of Gov. Scott McCallum, the wait is over.

And a remarkably democratic religion - one with local autonomy, no clergy and no formal doctrines - is in the political footlights, if not the spotlights.

Few Wisconsin residents know much about the religion other than a vague sense that it emphasizes faith rather than medicine in healing. Some have lingering memories of those rare cases in which parents have been taken to court in some U.S. city to force medical treatment of a dangerously ill child.

That might raise questions about the fact that one of McCallum's first policy initiatives was a proposal to make prescription drugs more widely available for senior citizens. But people familiar with Christian Science say it would not require him to act any particular way on that issue.

Beyond belief in faith-based healing, many people have heard of the international newspaper the church publishes, The Christian Science Monitor. But many might be surprised to know that Christian Science has had its share of famous adherents.

Christian Science does not recommend that people alternate conventional medicine with its biblical, prayer-based approach to healing. But it also does not condemn or pressure members who put a foot in both worlds.

Within the faith, there are widely varying degrees of reliance on prayer.

''It's up to the individual,'' said Coddington, a Christian Science practitioner who assists people in need of physical, emotional or mental healing. ''I know people who have broken legs and arms and gone to the doctor and had them set, and I know other individuals who have just prayed through it and been completely healed.

''If, because of their circumstance, they choose to turn to the medical profession, nobody looks down on them for doing that. We understand, and we don't know what we would do in some dire situation. My own mother had a dire situation in which she turned to the medical (profession), and we all still prayed for her and supported her.''

Christian Scientists believe in Jesus and in all the Gospel accounts of him. Services include music, public and private prayer, and readings by elected lay readers of the faith's fundamental books - the Bible, and ''Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,'' by Mary Baker Eddy.

Eddy, the New England-born founder of the faith, had suffered from poor health for years. While recovering from an injury, she read a Biblical account of one of Jesus' miracles, had an insight into the relationship of God and health, and experienced a dramatic healing.

The book she later wrote discusses a scientific application of the laws of God that were behind Jesus' healings, Coddington said.
Theologically, Christian Science is a cult of Christianity. It does not represent historic, biblical Christianity.

=== Noted
33. Children of a Lesser God
The Path: Coming of new age for alternative religions
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

Their parents came of age in that burst of idealism and naivete known as the '60s, joining utopian movements and religious sects that promised to save the world through communal living, Krishna consciousness and the messianic visions of L. Ron Hubbard and Sun Myung Moon.

They sold flowers in airports, chanted on street corners, flew off to India and worked tirelessly to plant alternative religions in Judeo-Christian soil.

They also married and made babies.

While their parents were out spreading a counterculture gospel, the kids were left behind in nurseries, boarding schools and communal farms. Some felt abandoned and abused. Others blossomed.

Navigating the path to adulthood can be hard for any adolescent. But it can be an especially arduous journey for children in spiritual movements going through their own growing pains.

This four-day series follows the lives of children born into four of the most infamous ''youth cults'' of the late 1960s, '70s and early '80s.

Founded by charismatic leaders in the 1950s and '60s, these four crusades burst onto the national consciousness during the ''cult wars'' of the '70s. Since then, they have struggled to overcome the foibles of their leaders, rehabilitate damaged reputations and gain acceptance in the larger religious community.

All religions start as cults, spiritual movements rising around the revelations of a charismatic leader, or sects, revival movements breaking off from existing faiths.

Whether they flourish or whither away, religious movements have a definite life cycle.

They start out intense and fanatical, convinced that the established religious and social order is misguided or corrupt. They have the way, the truth and the light.

Cults and sects can be harsh on apostates, and intolerant of dissent.

Two early tests facing new religious movements are how well they survive the death of their founder and whether they can pass the faith onto the next generation.

Reviving the spiritual fervor of the '60s and '70s has not been easy for the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, the Church of Scientology or the Children of God.

Allegations of widespread child abuse have crippled the Hare Krishna movement and set back the Children of God's efforts to keep second-generation members in the fold.

Leaders of the Church of Scientology have put more emphasis on improving their public image and attracting new members, but are fighting off attacks from disgruntled defectors, investigative journalists and government officials.

Rev. Moon's Unification Church has tried the hardest to hold onto second- generation devotees, but has met with only limited success.

''They haven't captured the imagination of young people,'' said E. Burke Rochford, a professor of sociology and religion at Middlebury College in Vermont. ''Children in these movements have not committed themselves like their parents did.''

Rochford, a scholar of new religions, said he does not expect ''a major world religion to come out of any of these movements, at least nothing like the success of the Mormons.''

Charismatic Leaders Gave Birth to New Faiths But Can They Survive? DAY ONE: THE MOONIES Rev. Moon convinced thousands of baby boomers that he was the new ''messiah.'' Now those aging converts are trying to keep their own kids in the fold. DAY TWO: SCIENTOLOGY All new religious movements have trouble with apostates - those who denounce their former faith. But the Church of Scientology plays hardball with heretics. DAY THREE: HARE KRISHNAS They were one of the most visible spiritual movements of 1970s, but a child abuse scandal following their founder's death could bankrupt this Hindu sect. DAY FOUR: CHILDREN OF GOD ''Moses'' Berg attracted thousands with his prophesies about Christianity and free sex. Now the children born from those unions are living his legacy.
The article on the Moonies and Scientology are noted earlier in this issue of RNR. The next two articles are slated for Feb. 13 and 14 respectively.

=== Books

34. The relationship between Japanese culture, Buddhism
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Feb. 10, 2001
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/Off-site Link

By Yoshiro Tamura
Trans. Jeffrey Hunter
Koesi, 232 pp. 1,746 yen

This is an unfortunately titled book, since the browsing reader will probably assume that it is just another volume in the already-crowded genre of exploring Japanese Buddhism. The field is cluttered with the good and the bad, and the interested reader, who probably already has a handful of books that adequately or admirably deals with the subject, will likely bypass this one without even reading the back cover, which not only piques interest but helps to set Yoshiro Tamura's work apart from the rest.

First published more than 30 years ago, the book suffers no loss of importance due to advances in research or reevaluations since its thesis does not rely solely up the development and elaboration of Buddhism in Japan. Instead, Tamura explores how and why Japanese society and culture transformed Buddhism and vice versa, adding a healthy dose of history and politics.

Any culture, society or civilization throughout history and worldwide is predicated upon a religion. In fact, any advance in society, culture and even science ultimately has its roots in religion. Tamura succinctly writes that aspects of present-day Japanese culture have their beginnings in the development of Japanese Buddhism, and that the political and historical ramifications of the conflicts between religion and state hold large historical import and and manifest themselves even today.

The cultural contributions of Buddhism are well-documented elsewhere, and Tamura does not wish to lavish detail on any one aspect of Buddhist culture since this book is an overview. But once he moves into social influences that have originated from Buddhism, he provides some necessary details. However, the reader is far from overwhelmed with historical minutiae, and some chapters and sections have a dearth of explanation and depth, which is both enticing and frustrating.

As Buddhism faded from the limelight after the Restoration, Tamura points out that it became suborned to the expansionist and nationalistic forces set into motion. Although State Shintoism was the official religion, Buddhist sects played their shameful role in Japanese aggression overseas by providing support for troops and toeing the government line. Tamura does not gloss over this. In fact, he is quite blunt about Japanese wartime behavior, its politics and how it influenced the actions of the Buddhist sects. This is extremely refreshing considering the extent of treatment of this part of Japanese history, and surprising considering the time of the first publication of this book and the authors standing in society.

It is also poignantly counterpointed by the lack of comments about this period by almost all Buddhist sects in Japan regarding their complicity and support of the rabid nationalists of this period. But considering his honest recounting of other less-than-glowing moments in Buddhist and Japanese history--warrior-monks, corruption, imperialism, brutal suppression of dissent--it is only to be expected.

It must be kept in mind, however, that this is an overview of Buddhism and its role and influence in Japanese cultural history, albeit one with more detail than average, and can in no way be considered authoritative. Tamura explains events and provides enough detail to satisfy the casual reader, and more than enough historical trails for the more interested reader to follow.

35. From Leviticus to levitation
Damian Thompson praises a splendidly authoritative guide to fringe religions
The Daily Telegraph (England), Feb. 10, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

The New Believers: a Survey of Sects, Cults and Alternative Religions
by David V Barrett
544pp, Cassell, pounds 20
T pounds 17 (free p&p) 0870 1557222

For connoisseurs of strange religion, here are riches indeed: gorgeously clad occult bishops who believe in both transubstantiation and reincarnation, neo-pagans whose sacred text is a science-fiction novel, the growing band of Rastafarian Maoris, and Holy Trinity Brompton's Alpha Course. David Barrett's The New Believers is an excellent guide to fringe religions that juxtaposes ''respectable'' movements and those conventionally dismissed as cults. And quite right, too. By considering them together, he uncovers some disconcerting family likenesses and demonstrates that the eccentricities of personal revelation can disturb and refresh every religious tradition, be it Anglican or anthroposophist.

The mistake made by the anti-cult movement is to assume that the dubious behaviour of new movements is a direct product of their bizarre teachings. Not so. The dynamics of the cult are replicated everywhere in society, not least in the evangelical Churches to which most cult-watchers belong: that is why we can use the word ''guru'' so indiscriminately. Those who claim any sort of enlightenment - political, religious or scientific - will always attract some people and repulse others.

Ironically, anti-cult organisations are also susceptible to fanaticism and scandal: one of the cleverest things about this book is the way it anatomises them alongside the cults. The implication is that ill-informed campaigners against fringe religions pose as much of a threat to individual freedom as the groups they oppose, though Barrett is too polite to say so explicitly. But one can sense his amusement at the delicious snippet of information with which he ends his survey of cult-watching groups: the Cult Awareness Network, which was forced into bankruptcy after being sued over its deprogramming activities, has now been taken over by a consortium including the Church of Scientology.
David V. Barrett at one time worked with INFORM, a controversial organization known for, among other things, its connections with and support of cult apologists

More about the real Cult Awareness Network

More about Scientology's so-called ''Cult Awareness Network''