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Research links some scriptures to hostile acts
By Amy Choate-Nielsen    Deseret Morning News   Feb. 27, 2007

PROVO Utah Chances are, not many people in Utah would like to think of scripture as a violent medium that promotes hostility. But a study of 490 students 248 of them at Brigham Young University suggests a correlation between exposure to scriptural violence that is condoned by God and increased aggression.

University of Michigan psychologist Brad Bushman, BYU professor Robert Ridge and three other researchers co-wrote "When God Sanctions

Killing," which will appear in the March issue of Psychological Science magazine. Although the study points to a correlation between scriptural violence and aggression, Ridge said the research is not meant to attack scripture study.

"We were not saying that reading the scriptures is bad, but we were pointing out that if a person was seeing that kind of (violent) literature, it could have some negative effects," Ridge said. "We weren't trying to find fault with religion or the scriptures or anything, but when you think about terrorists and they say, 'God will sit in judgment,' and they sometimes refer to a scripture, our question was, 'Could that really make a person behave more aggressively?' And the answer is, yes, it could."


About a year ago, Ridge recruited 95 male and 153 female students from BYU a private university in Provo owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate in the project. They were selected to represent a population of people who are strongly religious. Ninety-nine percent of the students reported having a belief in God and the Bible. The students were given extra credit for their participation.


In addition to the BYU students, 110 male and 132 female students from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, participated in the study. These students were chosen because they represented a more diverse population of people with different religious backgrounds. Of the group, 50 percent said they believe in God and 27 percent said they believe in the Bible.


To do the study, both groups of students were shown a passage of scripture from the Old Testament that contained tales of beatings, rape and murder. Half of the students were shown an additional passage that included violent retribution as sanctioned by God. The other half was not. The students who were not shown the additional passage were told the story came from an ancient scroll. The others were told it came from the Bible.

 

                                

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Members of both the religious and non-religious groups who were exposed to the additional verse responded with greater aggression in a subsequent test than did those who did not read the passage.

In the test, participants were placed in groups of two. Each person was given headphones and a "weapon" a button that would produce a noise frequency that could be as loud as a smoke alarm. The students each pressed a button as fast as possible for 25 trials and the slowest of the pair would receive a blast in the ears. The winning button-pusher could choose how loud to make the sound in the other person's ears. Aggression was measured by the frequency with which the winning students blasted their partners.

The study indicated that those with a stronger religious background responded with slightly more hostility and louder blasts than those who were not as religious.

Ridge says that indicates a correlation between aggression and isolated violent passages.

The correlation also mirrors studies that show the relationship between hostility and violent movies, music or video games. The key difference is that if scriptures are read as a whole and not taken out of context, the results can be the opposite, Ridge says, as the overall themes of the Bible, specifically, are peace and love.

"We're not saying that just in and of itself violent media is uniformly bad but oftentimes there is no redeeming context to it," Ridge said. "If one reads the scriptures with an understanding of context, both historical as well as with a (desire) to hear what God is trying to teach us, you can read it in a different way. But if a person dives into (a violent passage) without the context, you could probably get some increased aggression."

Daniel Judd, BYU professor of ancient scripture, who was not involved in the study, said he agrees with the importance of understanding scriptural context. Taken by itself, a scriptural passage can wrongly rationalize negative behavior, he says. "You can use scripture to justify anything you're looking for," Judd said.

Ridge received approval from BYU's institutional review board before he conducted his test, but the board only serves to make sure proposed research projects are scientifically sound, not politically correct. Ridge said he had some trepidation about how his report will be received, but he hopes people will read the study before making final judgment.

As a highly religious university with a scriptural curriculum requirement, the study is somewhat ironic in its setting. But BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins says she hopes people won't hear of the study and get the wrong idea. "Our concern is with how people will perceive the conclusion,"

Jenkins said. "But like all research, it does need to be studied carefully.

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Ellen Johnson, President (973) 625-6900
Dave Silverman, Communications Director (732) 648-9333
Apr. 2 2007



ATHEISTS WARN PROPOSED U.N. BAN ON "DEFAMING" RELIGION THREAT TO FREE SPEECH, CHURCH-STATE SEPARATION

"This proposal amounts to an international 'blasphemy' statute, and punishes those exercising a right to question and criticize religious superstition..."
-- Ellen Johnson, President, American Atheists.

An Atheist civil rights group condemned Friday's passage at the United Nations of a proposal for a global ban on "defaming" religion.
The measure, passed 24 -14 (nine abstentions) by the U.N. Human Rights Council called upon governments to "take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination including through political institutions and organizations of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion..."
States are also asked to encourage "tolerance and respect" for religion, and report on acts of violence or discrimination against religious populations.
"One of the problems here is that religion and religious believers are being singled out for 'special treatment,' " said Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. "Atheists aren't mentioned, and we have plenty of cases where inappropriate and aggressive religious proselytizing, even physical coercion, is being allowed in schools, the workplace and in government."

Johnson also warned that the resolution was vague and overly-broad, and that criticizing or even questioning religious creeds is seen by many as a form of "defamation."
"This amounts to an 'anti-blasphemy' statute that can punish anyone exercising free speech," said Johnson.
The measure was supported primarily by Islamic countries. Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists," noted that the measure only mentioned Islam and Muslim minorities.

"Many of these countries have shabby records when it comes to human rights and freedom of expression," said Mr. Silverman. "Even if all religions were included in this dangerous proposal, however, we would still oppose any attempt to punish people for expressing an honest opinion about religion and what many of us argue is a superstitious and un-enlightened point of view."
Silverman added that all concerned with freedom of speech, including religious groups, should oppose the measure.



AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.

American Atheists, Inc.
P. O. Box 5733
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Tel: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402

 

Australian scientist faces excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 Published Thursday, July 21st, 2005

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - An Australian scientist who wrote a book saying DNA evidence contradicts ancestry claims in the Book of Mormon faces disciplinary action in a separate case that could bring excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Simon Southerton told The Associated Press he's been ordered to a July 31 hearing before church leaders in Canberra, Australia.

Southerton's book "Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church" uses DNA data to argue against Book of Mormon teachings that ancient America's inhabitants descended from Israelites.

Yet Southerton, a plant geneticist in Canberra, faces charges of adultery, not heresy. He acknowledges an affair five years ago, after separating from his wife, but contends church authorities are using that against him while the more difficult apostasy charge is "obviously the major issue."

Southerton says church authorities never mentioned adultery when they paid him a recent visit, instead bringing up his book, abandonment of the church in 1998 (though he technically remains a

member) and postings on the www.exmormons.org Web site.

A. Einstein

Einstein: Bible Is 'Primitive, Pretty Childish'

LONDON Albert Einstein: arch rationalist or scientist with a spiritual core?

A letter being auctioned in London this week adds more fuel to the long-simmering debate about the Nobel prize-winning physicist's religious views.

In the note, written the year before his death, Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and the Bible as "pretty childish."

The letter, handwritten in German, is being sold by Bloomsbury Auctions on Thursday and is expected to fetch between $12,000 and $16,000.

Einstein, who helped unravel the mysteries of the universe with his theory of relativity, expressed complex and arguably contradictory views on faith, perceiving a universe suffused with spirituality while rejecting organized religion.

The letter up for sale, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954, suggests his views on religion did not mellow with age.

In it, Einstein said that "the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

"For me," he added, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions."

Addressing the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people, Einstein wrote that "the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

Bloomsbury spokesman Richard Caton said the auction house was "100 percent certain" of the letter's authenticity.

It is being offered at auction for the first time, by a private vendor.

John Brooke, emeritus professor of science and religion at Oxford University, said the letter lends weight to the notion that "Einstein was not a conventional theist" although he was not an atheist, either.

"Like many great scientists of the past, he is rather quirky about religion, and not always consistent from one period to another," Brooke said.

Born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1879, Einstein said he went through a devout phase as a child before beginning to question conventional religion at the age of 12.

In later life, he expressed a sense of wonder at the universe and its mysteries what he called a "cosmic religious feeling" and famously said: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

But, he also said: "I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws."

Brooke said Einstein believed that "there is some kind of intelligence working its way through nature. But it is certainly not a conventional Christian or Judaic religious view."

Einstein's most famous legacy is the special theory of relativity, which makes the point that a large amount of energy could be released from a tiny amount of matter, as expressed in the equation E=MC2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared).

The theory changed the face of physics, allowing scientists to make predictions about space and paving the way for nuclear power and the atomic bomb.

Einstein's musings on science, war, peace and God helped make him world famous, and his scientific legacy prompted Time magazine to name him its Person of the 20th Century.
 

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,355323,00.html


 

 


 


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Evangelist Alamo: Puberty is age of sexual consent

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- Since Tony Alamo's start as a California street preacher more than 40 years ago, the self-styled evangelist's story has been colorful and checkered.

When his wife died of cancer, Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed. It would be 16 years before her body was returned to her family.

For a time, his elaborately painted denim jackets were a must-have in Hollywood, but sales contributed to tax problems that landed him in prison for four years in the 1990s.

Alamo was charged but not convicted of other crimes, including child abuse. Now the 74-year-old is accused by former church members of abusing children and running an organization in which girls who just reached puberty can marry. Agents raided his southwest Arkansas compound on Saturday and placed six girls in state custody.

In an interview Monday, Alamo spoke of the allegations with a mix of denial and defiance, saying he never promoted sexual abuse but that he believes there's a mandate from the Bible for young girls to marry.

"In the Bible it happened. But girls today, I don't marry 'em if they want to at 14-15 years old. Because we won't do it, even though I believe it's OK," Alamo said.

In an interview on Saturday, he had said that for girls having sex, "consent is puberty."

On Monday he bristled at descriptions of his organization as a cult, saying enemies want to cast him as a "weirdo for preaching what the Bible says."

People who have left Alamo's organization say they have witnessed older men marrying girls who just reached puberty. The U.S. Attorney's Office said in an e-mail that was inadvertently sent to media last week said agents expected to find children ages 12-14 who had been abused and that they expected to file charges. The e-mail said agents believed child pornography was being produced at the compound in Fouke.

Alamo also denied creating any pornography.


"They (government agents) have got six of our girls in custody. Little girls. They probably disrobed them. I mean it's the most filthy bunch of devils that I've ever heard of," Alamo said.

As for former followers making the allegations, Alamo said, "I've kicked a lot of people out of the church and they'll say anything to get back at me."

He suggested efforts to gather evidence against him will only bring more people to his ministry, noting that daily traffic on his Web site has grown more than 10-fold, to more than 1 million hits, since the raid.

"They're really making us famous," he said with a laugh.

Alamo, who now lives in California, said he still preaches daily. He first bought land in Arkansas in 1975 for a complex near Alma and from there grew to own a number of businesses.

Fashion was his best-known business. His painted denim jackets were worn by celebrities for a time and even now are offered for hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the Internet. Alamo's Web site features a picture of Mr. T wearing one.

Alamo went to prison for tax evasion after the complex was raided in 1991. He fled with his followers before the raid, taking with him the body of his wife, who had died nine years earlier.

In order to be released from his sentence in 1998, Alamo followed a judge's order to return Susan Alamo's remains to members of her family.

 

And Alamo's property had been raided once before, in 1988 in Santa Ana, California, where state officials came to seize three boys and return them to their fathers' custody.

An 11-year-old boy told police that Alamo directed four men to strike him 140 times with a wooden paddle as punishment for minor offenses. Alamo briefly faced a child-abuse charge but a prosecutor directed that the count be dropped, citing a lack of evidence.

In 1991, Alamo was acquitted on a charge that he threatened to kidnap a federal judge.

Alamo claims to be unique among Christian preachers because he was born a Jew and had a "supernatural experience" through which he became a born-again Christian.

"I am a completed Jew," he said, though he added that he had never believed in Judaism.

Alamo's anti-Catholic bias is evident as he speaks. He claims the White House is in league with the Vatican, which he says also controls the United Nations.

He said being a Jew gives him special insight.

"We wrote the Bible. I don't want these stinking gentiles in Rome telling me what it says. They don't know," he said.

Under state law, investigators have to make a court filing after a search warrant is executed that details what the search found. But Circuit Judge Jim Hudson said the document would be kept under seal because of the juveniles involved.

The six girls taken into state custody will require a hearing if they remain with the state on a long-term basis but there was no indication Monday that a hearing had been set.

Arkansas Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said the children were taken from the compound because they were "in harm's way or in imminent danger." She said the state is trying to identify the children's parents.

As for what would inspire people to follow Alamo or other charismatic leaders, there is no single or easy answer, said David Bromley, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"These groups vary, and when they are at the hot stage, there is intense commitment. When people leave, when you have that kind of intensity, they tend to be rejected by the group and they tend to be quite hostile when they leave," said Bromley, who is writing a book on why people join such movements.

Bromley said that such organizations may not be as strong as they seem.

"These groups are much more diverse than they appear on the surface. You have people who look and talk alike, but when you find out who the members are, you find the levels of commitment are enormously different," Bromley said.

"It looks pretty solid to you from the outside but you find out people have different reasons for being there and that half are on their way in and half are on their way out," he said.

Alamo would not discuss how his organization operates beyond saying it accepts donations. He said he has workers who keep the books and pay the bills, including his $70,000 salary.

Source:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/09/23/alamo.evangelist.raid.ap/index.html