Chinese Hell Notes
by Chris Shappell
from Money Talks, July 12, 1996

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  • Even before the development of money, people have been looking for ways to provide financially for the dead. The ancient Egyptians buried their pharaohs with untold riches. The Greeks buried their dead with a coin to pay the mythological figure, Charon, to ferry the soul across the River Styx into eternity. But it was the Chinese who found that money makes the world -- even the after-world -- go round!

    The Chinese view of the after-life is of a world not much different from our own. It's a pleasant place, but one where people must still work and provide for themselves. The Chinese also have a strong belief in the family, and feel that the relatives who remain behind in this world must help provide financial support for their departed loved ones.

    How can money be sent from this world to the after-world? Not even Western Union, nor our beloved Post Office, could deliver that kind of package. If, as some believe, incense reaches the after-world when it's burned -- the same should be true of paper money ... it reaches the dead when it's burned.

    Any good survivor who's strapped for cash is faced with a dilemma: if he burns real money, there's obviously less money to provide for his living family. But if he doesn't care for his ancestors, then he's a disrespectful son. What's the solution? How about imitation paper money? "Hell money."

    Hell notes are truly the money of the dead. They're printed by private individuals, backed by fictitious banks. Values range from a few dollars, or Yuan, to several thousand, but the purchaser of the notes probably didn't pay more than a dollar or two for an entire stack. Hell notes are valueless. Only the dead can use them as money.

    Technology now enters the picture. Seeing the burning of perhaps millions of these notes as a waste of natural resources, Chinese officials are urging mourners to use a single blank check written to the deceased. One bank in Taiwan even offers imitation credit cards, ones that can't be used in this world -- issued only to the dead.

    And why, for heaven sakes, is it called "hell money"? It seems that 19th century Christian missionaries to China observed the practice and told the Chinese that since their relatives were not baptized, they were spending the after-life in hell.

    from Money Talks © American Numismatic Association 818 N. Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903 (719) 632-2646 org

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    Who Doubt
    by Conrad Goeringer
    from AANEWS by American Atheists

    On July 11, 1997, USA Today noted in its front page "USA Snapshots" section that, "Despite the scientific advances of the past 80 years, about the same percentage of physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in a god as did in 1916." That finding was reported in a survey from the journal Nature.

    But what's interesting is that in 1916, 41.5 percent of respondents in the science group professed no belief in a deity, while 45.3 percent reported the same in 1996. The percentage expressing "Doubt or agnosticism" declined from 16.7 percent in 1916 surveys, to 15.4 percent in 1996. The combined total of respondents in the scientific sample who expressed "no belief" or "doubts" thus was 60.7 percent.

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    Atheist Community
    of Austin founded

    Date: Mon, 16 Dec 1996 21:32:20 -0500
    Subject: Atheist Community of Austin founded


    On December 15th, 1996, twenty-one Austin area atheists gathered at the Hot Jumbo Bagelry in Austin for our weekly Sunday meeting to establish our group as the:


    Our little ceremony included a brief speech, comments from each member, the reading of our Declaration of Intent (see below), the signing of our Declaration and a toast. The ACA is an independent effort and not affiliated with any other organization.

    Our group was started in May by Kellen Von Houser. We now have about 30 plus different members showing up during a month. Our twice monthly newsletter, Austin Atheist Update, goes to 50 people. We work with the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin and the Humanists of Austin as projects arise, such as the Giving Thanks for Freethought week proclamation signed by the Mayor of Austin.

    It is a rare event when a new group of atheists organizes. We are glad to join the handful of atheists across the country who enjoy the rare benefit of knowing and socializing with an atheist group. We would appreciate it if you would pass this announcement along to any atheists, agnostics, free thinkers, nontheists, skeptics, and rationalists who might be interested.

    For the time being, you can contact myself, Howard Thompson ( or Kellen Von Houser ( as interim co-coordinators for the group.

    Enjoy reality, Howard Thompson; Kellen Von Houser

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    Witch On Trial
    by Denise Lavoie
    The Associated Press

    August 2, 1996

    BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- She called him "L.B." -- for "little boy -- and sent him love letters signed in blood and decorated with supernatural symbols. Kerri Lynn Patavino, a self-proclaimed witch, was his 26-year-old bus driver who wrote of seeing his "aura." He was a 14-year-old middle school student. The two had sex for months, the boy said, until he began to fear Patavino's taste for the bizarre.

    Once, after she cut her arm with a razor blade, "she made me lick the blood," the boy testified as Patavino's sexual assault trial began yesterday. Patavino, a married mother of three, is accused of having sex more than 50 times in 1995 with the teen, who was a student on her bus route in Trumbull. She is also charged with breaking into the boy's home after he ended their alleged affair, stealing a ring,, videotapes, a skateboard and other possessions.

    Patavino, now 28, wore a pentagram medallion -- a witchcraft symbol -- around her neck in court. She could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

    When the boy, now 16, testified that she had sometimes given him marijuana and crack cocaine, she looked at the ceiling, shook her head and said, "Oh, my God."

    The lanky teen, who is not being identified because of his age, smiled and fidgeted uncomfortably as he told the jury about his first sexual encounter with Patavino. He said they had sex about four times a week from February through June 1995. He was the first student on her bus every day, and she greeted him with a love note and a kiss, he said. On the way home, she would drop him off at a store, drop off her bus, then come back and pick him up.

    Prosecutor Stephen Sedensky III read aloud letters that police said were decorated with witchcraft symbols and signed in Patavino's blood. "I am a witch and I see your aura.... Your spirit is good; use it, use it," reads one letter. When asked what "L.B." referred to in the letters, the boy hesitated, then said that Patavino called him a little boy.

    The boy said he finally told his mother about the relationship in June 1995 after Patavino began to bother him, calling incessantly. The mother took the boy to the police. Defense lawyer Joseph Mirsky tried to show that Patavino's bus company found nothing improper after investigating a complaint that she had taken the boy home late at night.

    Patavino had said her husband was friendly with the boy's father and that the father knew the boy sometimes visited her home, according to testimony from Gail Avery-Cross, a contract manager for Ryder Student Transportation Services Inc. "We were satisfied with her explanation of why she was with this child," Avery-Cross said. Nonetheless, Patavino was eventually suspended.

    Bus driver Gale Somers testified that Patavino had tried to take over her high school bus route just as the boy was finishing middle school. "She said she would try to get me off" the bus route because there was a boy she wanted to drive, Somers said.

    by Chuck Shepherd

    School bus driver Kerri Lynn Patavino, 28, was convicted of statutory rape in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for having sex with a 14-year-old passenger, who said Patavino cast a spell on him and made him lick her blood. According to the boy, the two had sex more than a dozen times, and she sent him love letters signed in blood. Patavino admitted that she is a follower of Wicca, an ancient, witchcraft-practicing religion.

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    A "State Of
    Yokels"? Again!?
    Associated Press

    April, 1996

    Nashville, Tennessee (AP) -- The state where John Scopes was tried and convicted in 1925 for teaching evolution again wants to restrict what students can be told about the origins of man.

    The Tennessee Senate is considering legislation to fire any teacher who presents evolution as fact. The bill was expected to pass during Monday night's session but instead was sent back to committee for study of six proposed amendments.

    The amendments included one that would have protected teachers who wanted to teach the Biblical theories of creation along with evolution. Another changed the wording to say a teacher "could" be fired instead of "shall" be fired.

    The bill had been expected to pass despite an attorney general's opinion it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

    Republican state Sen. Keith Jordan said he moved to send the bill back to the Education Committee in hopes of figuring out a way to make it constitutional. "We cannot constitutionally tell what is to be taught, particularly when there are religious underpinnings."

    Already this year, Tennessee senators went on record in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments in churches, schools, businesses and homes for 10 days in May, and against same-sex marriages. "This is a trilogy that is making this state a comedy," said Sen. Steve Cohen, Democrat from Memphis.

    The sponsor of the evolution bill is Sen. Tommy Burks, whose home district is 45 miles northwest of Dayton, the site of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey trial" He said he introduced the bill because constituents told him evolution was being taught as fact in Tennessee schools. He won't say where.

    With the bill back in committee, passage of the legislation in the Senate was uncertain. The same bill is pending in the House. The conservative Eagle Forum has been the most vocal backer of the bill, which some say is hard to oppose. "You can't explain a no vote in a 15-second sound bite," said Rep. Eugene Davidson, who voted for the bill when it cleared the House Education Committee. Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, has not said what he will do if the bill reaches his desk.

    The bill is more lenient than the law under which Scopes, a substitute biology teacher, was convicted of teaching evolution and fined $100. That law prohibited teaching "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach again that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

    Burks' bill does not ban the teaching of evolution as theory or promote the teaching of Biblical theories, but teachers say no one knows how the law might be interpreted. "Teachers will be afraid to teach anything about evolution," so students will miss a portion of their basic science curriculum, said Wesley Roberts, an ecology teacher at Nashville's Hillwood High.

    The Monkey Trial pitted two legal giants of the age against each other -- Clarence Darrow, representing Scopes, and William Jennings Bryan. It also drew scorn: Newspaperman H.L. Mencken, who covered the trial, branded Tennessee "a state of yokels."

    Scopes' conviction was overturned on a technicality, but the law remained on the books until it was repealed in 1967. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Arkansas law a year later.

    Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned the evolution bill as a move by the "radical religious right to continue hammering away at the wall between church and state."

    Cohen, the Senate's only Jew and the lone opponent of the Ten Commandments resolution, agreed. He waits outside the Senate chamber while his colleagues begin each session with a prayer, usually to Jesus.

    "God is great. Religion is great. It can be a great influence on people's lives," Cohen said. "But government is not, especially when people want government to get involved in religion."

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    "God still loves me"

    Pol Caught
    With Prostitute
    Christian Coalition Rating "Perfect"
    by Woody Johnson

    February 23, 1996

    Tallahassee, Florida -- A state lawmaker who earned a perfect rating from the Christian Coalition of Florida admitted buying sex from prostitutes after being caught with one in his truck in a shopping center parking lot. Orange County sheriff deputies said Rep. Marvin Couch paid $22 for sex around noon February 22.

    "I have sinned against my god, my wife, my children and the citizens I represent," Couch, R-Oviedo, said in a statement. "I am truly regretful for the embarrassment and shame this incident has caused them."

    Couch, who is married and has six children, attends prayer meetings in the Capitol with other lawmakers who call themselves the "God Squad." He is now being counseled by his pastor.

    Besides the prostitution charge, he is charged with two other misdemeanors -- unnatural or lascivious acts and exposure of his sexual organs. He was released after posting a $750 bond.

    A painting contractor elected to the Legislature in 1992, Couch said he will not seek re-election this fall but hopes to finish his second term.

    Two sheriff's vice agents said they were following a known prostitute when she climbed into Couch's truck. The two parked at a shopping center and were caught in the act, in full view of people going by, the agents said.

    Donna M. Depp, who also was arrested on prostitution charges, told agents she had to haggle with Couch over her fees. She said he offered $30 for sex, then discovered he had only $23. She said he then paid her $22 for oral sex, saying he needed at least $1 to pay highway tolls.

    Couch, a steady advocate of voluntary school prayer, was one of 15 state legislators who wrote Walt Disney Co. last fall to criticize its new policy of extending health insurance to partners of gay and lesbian employees.

    Couch said he "knows that God still loves me" and has no plans to change his political support of issues important to religious conservatives.