You Won't Believe You're Reading This

Safer to be a freethinker. A sheep being raised for sacrificial slaughter butted a worshipper in Cairo off the top of a three-story building, causing severe injuries. Source: AP/San Francisco Examiner, Jan. 3, 2001

"She shall be scourged." Nigerian teenager Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, 17, who recently gave birth after being coerced by her father to have sex with three of his associates, received 100 lashings with a cane on Jan. 22 for having premarital sex and for "falsely accusing men." Her Islamic court sentence of 180 lashes was reduced after an international outcry. Source: Globe & Mail, Dec. 28, 2000; AP, Jan. 23, 2001

Woe to the women. Saudi Arabia's mutawa, religious police who earn bounty for arrests, are still terrorizing women ten years after women protesters held a "drive-in" to defy a ban on women driving and enforcement of sharia, fundamentalist Islamic law. Saudi women may expose only hands and sometimes kohl-rimmed eyes and hennaed feet, and may not travel, go to school or get a job without written approval of a male relative. Source: Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2000

Hairy men only need apply. Afghani's Taliban issued an edict that men without beards will be denied jobs and services, because a "beard is the tradition of Islam's prophet Mohammad." Source: Reuters, Nov. 18, 2000

Another eagerly awaited edict. The Taliban announced the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion, and for any non-Muslim trying to win converts. Source: AP, Jan. 11, 2001

Ironic, isn't it? A vicar was forced to apologize for telling an assembly of 217 children, ages 7-11, that Father Christmas does not exist. Source: Daily Mail [Great Britain], Dec. 15, 2000

Women: shut up. The judicial body of the Presbyterian Church in America cleared a Tennessee pastor of charges of violating church doctrine forbidding women from preaching, concluding the female guest speaker did not preach but gave a "presentation." Said cleared Rev. John Wood: "It's a very emotional issue with a lot of fellows who believe if women start speaking in church it's a slippery slope, and the next thing you know we'll be ordaining women." Source: The Tennessean, October 22, 2000

We'll take the leftovers! Nestl? withdrew a white chocolate Aero bar with a cranberry flavor marketed as "Stuff Xmas! Treat Yourself!" from British shelves after the Church of England condemned it as "offensive." Source: [London] Times, Nov. 9, 11, 2000

Those wild & crazy monks. Buddhist monks are under surveillance in Thailand after a series of sex and financial scandals, including drinking, pornography, carousing in karaoke bars, and sleeping with women. One monk bought a collection of 60 vintage Mercedes Benz from donations raised to help disadvantaged youth. Source: Irish Independent, Nov. 2, 2000

Oh . . . go to hell! "Science is using evolution theory to make kids go to hell," maintains Florida evangelist Kent Hovind of Science Evangelism, who has taught high school math and science but (not surprisingly) has no science degree. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 10, 2000

Will Earth be flat? Answers in Genesis plans a March unveiling of a $14 million, 95,000-square-ft Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center dedicated to the "history of the world according to the bible," near Hebron, KY. Source: Associated Press, 11/22/00

Exorcism a booming business. The Los Angeles Times reports the ancient ritual of exorcism, which fell out of favor in the Age of Reason, is flourishing once more in the Age of the Internet. Some 20 official U.S. Catholic exorcists are outnumbered by about 600 evangelical/Pentecostal exorcists. Source: Washington Post, Dec. 7, 2000

Christian family scandals. John Bircher John G. Schmitz, a Southern California rightwing leader, died in January. In 1982, the fierce opponent of sex education and proponent of "family values" was exposed for having a pregnant mistress and a 15 month old son. His daughter Mary Kay LeTourneau, now 35, was convicted in 1997 in Washington state for having a sexual relationship with her 13-year-old student, with whom the married, imprisoned mother has now borne two children. Source: AP, Jan. 11, 2001

Gospel: not "good news" for gays. U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-AZ, was disinvited by the Gospel Rescue Mission to be a volunteer at a Tucson homeless shelter's Thanksgiving dinner because he is gay. The mission compared homosexuals to "adulterers, liars and thieves." Source: Tucson Citizen 11/25/00

Both are addictive substances. A church which meets in a public school has raised local ire by mailing an ad to 10,000 homes in Royal Oak, MI, depicting an empty vodka bottle with the slogan "Absolut Truth Straight From God." Source: Daily Tribune

No way to treat Archimedes. After nearly 1,000 years, the earliest known copy of Archimedes' mathematical theorems, worth $2 million and written over by a 12th-century monk to make a prayer book, has been restored by the Rochester Institute of Technology. Source: Photonics Spectra, April 2000

Jesus junk mail. Whether they wanted them or not, 1.1 million households in 10 U.S. cities got an 83-minute movie of the life of Jesus in early December. Orlando churches raised nearly $1.3 million to send the videos to half a million central Florida homes. Source: Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6, 2000 & AP, Dec. 12, 2000

Methodists disown Mormons. The United Methodist Church General Conference, citing "radically differing" doctrines, has determined that Mormons are not Christians, and, should any wish to convert to Methodism, must undergo "intensive exploration and instruction in the Christian faith" before rebaptism. Source: Press-Enterprise, May 11, 2000

A supernatural alibi. Prior to the conviction of Gary Paul Karr, 51, on extortion and other charges relating to the disappearance of the Murray-O'Hair family, Karr's attorney Tom Mills blamed a higher authority for O'Hair's apparent murder: "When someone spends 30 years cursing and deploring God, it wouldn't surprise me if one day He grew weary of it. Mr. Karr has maintained that he did not kill her or her staff. If they are gone, and who knows if they are, perhaps no human was responsible for their disappearance from the earth." Source: American-Statesman, March 30, 2000

Talk about ego! The pope, age 80, is being marketed as a comic-book hero in a Vatican-approved serial depicting "the real life and true adventures of 'Karol Wojtyla: Pope of the Third Millennium.' " Source: Associated Press

Geez, leave atheists out of it! In denouncing McDonald's inroads in Rome, the Catholic newspaper Avvenire declared fast food fit only for atheists, or perhaps Lutherans. Source: Reuters/Irish Times, Nov. 11, 2000

Reflects well on Clinton. Pope John Paul II told the Italian weekly magazine Oggi: "The only leader I did not manage to have a proper conversation with was Clinton. I was speaking and he was looking at one of the walls, admiring the frescos and the paintings. He was not listening to me." Source: Reuters, Jan. 11, 2001

Bill of Rights "ungodly." The Vatican called the Charter of Fundamental Rights adopted by the European Union summit "ungodly" for sanctioning gay unions, showing "excessive tolerance" toward Muslim immigrants, and for being a "communist plot." Source: [London] Times, Dec. 2, 2000

Unholy See? The Vatican bank is fighting a California law designed to help elderly Holocaust survivors achieve resolution of Nazi slave labor claims during their lifetimes. Source:, Dec. 29, 2000

Suffer the children to suffer. The head of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order admitted one of her nuns had used a hot knife to burn the hands of four street children in Calcutta as discipline for stealing. Source: Irish Times, Sept. 22, 2000

Nuns with "bad" habits. Drama chiefs banned nuns from entering Julie Andrews lookalike contests at karaoke shows in Yorkshire commemorating the 35-year-old film "Sound of Music," complaining nuns were walking away with top prizes of champagne, chocolates and videos at similar contests in London and Oxford. "This is taking the prizes away from those people who have actually dressed up for the night," said a spokeswoman for Limelight Entertainment. Source: The Northern Echo [UK], Oct. 11, 2000

Don't keep on truckin'. The 55 "trans-denominational" truck chapels run in 24 states by the Ga.-based Truckstop Ministries are getting some competition. Rev. John A. Jamnicky is leaving his post as O'Hare Airport's Catholic chaplain to oversee his denomination's first trucker ministry. Source: Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 27, 2000

"You killed Jesus!" About 50 students from the Catholic Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois, chanted an anti-Semitic taunt, "You killed Jesus," during a heated basketball game against a rival high school on Nov. 22. Source: Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 2000

Blessed are the pizza makers? Some 2,000 pizza chefs participated in a special delivery of pizza on Oct. 25 to His Awfulness the Pope, receiving in return a blessing for his Jubilee of the Pizza-Makers. Source: Baltimore Sun, 10/26/00

Unsporting Christianity? Animal rights activists denounced the Georgia-based Special Youth Challenge Minisries for taking a group of disabled teens on a hunt consisting of shooting trapped animals on a ranch. Source: Sun-Sentinel, July 15, 2000

Just what Georgia needs. Silver Dollar City, Inc., which proclaims "Christian values," announced plans for a $100 million theme park on Southern history and heritage at Stone Mountain, Georgia, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and already home to a bas-relief memorial to Confederate leaders. Source: New York Times, Oct. 8, 2000

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