Watching the World
Teens Reject Organized Religion
Canadian teenagers are sending a sobering message to religious leaders: The clergy have failed as teachers of God’s Word. A recent national survey reveals that fewer teenagers support organized religion than ever before. Only 10 percent believe that involvement with a religious group is important in their life. Yet, “more than 80 per cent turn to organized religion for ceremonies related to birth, marriage and death,” reports The Toronto Star. Interestingly, 80 percent also believe in the existence of God, while 60 percent believe in life after death. “Teens are more likely to be influenced by peers, the media, movies and popular music than by the clergy,” adds the Star. Only a small group of teenagers would look to church leaders for direction on important issues of life.
“Environmental tobacco smoke causes more deaths than any other man-made pollutant,” states Dr. Michael Popkiss, medical officer of health in Cape Town, South Africa. He was reacting to a pamphlet distributed by the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa that claimed that inadequate ventilation was the problem. Dr. Popkiss explained that “tobacco smoke concentrations in buildings generally exceed the average air quality standards for clean air” and can result in lung cancer and heart attacks, as well as stunted lung growth in children. He said there was no way of ventilating or filtering the air in a building so that it is completely clear of tobacco smoke. He added: “The most effective technique to keep the air clear is to limit air pollutants at their source.”
Hard Life for Pharaoh’s Workers
Recent studies of skeletons of those who worked on Pharaoh’s pyramids, tombs, and temples show that they were malnourished, disease-ridden, and overworked. Many of the workers were afflicted with arthritis, says Azza Sarry el-Din, an Egyptian anthropologist. Her study also revealed that the workers endured hard labor. “Their spines were bent from carrying heavy loads,” and “there’s bone inflammation, causing discomfort,” she concludes. Evidence of these diseases was found by examining the skulls, backbones, and bits of finger and toe bones excavated from nearby cemeteries. However, these diseases were not apparent in the remains found at upper-class burial sites. The anthropologist estimates that the workers’ life expectancy was in the 18- to 40-year range, while the privileged classes lived for some 50 to 70 years.
Kidnappers and robbers have replaced monsters in the nightmares of Brazilian children. According to Veja, researcher “Lenise Maria Duarte Lacerda identified a new and frightening list of phobias. The most cited worries by those interviewed, from 7 to 11 years of age, were assault, violence, kidnapping, and young thieves.” Since neither police nor parents can guarantee protection, “the child has lost the image of a hero that he cultivated in his imagination,” she adds. Pediatrician Dr. José Henrique Goulart da Graça says of the result: “The main infantile disease today is fear. Many children manifest [this] by means of psychosomatic diseases, such as headaches, asthma, diarrhea, and gastritis.”
Chagas’ Disease and Blood Transfusion
Annually, 20,000 Brazilians are infected with Chagas’ disease. However, João Carlos Dias, president of the National Health Foundation, says in Globo Ciência: “The situation can get worse because with the intense migration of rural populations to large cities, the disease can also be spread to urban areas.” Since the parasite causing the disease ‘may lodge in any organ, including the heart, the patient may eventually die of cardiac insufficiency.’ While explaining that only 8,000 are infected by means of the bug’s bite, the magazine adds: “Another very frequent kind of infection is through blood transfusion. It is estimated that 12,000 new cases occur annually by means of vertical transmission (from mother to child) or by transfusion.”
Fax Messages to God?
Can God be reached by fax? Bezeq, the Israeli telephone company, evidently thinks so. In January, Bezeq set up a service that allows people to send messages to God via a fax number in Jerusalem, reports the International Herald Tribune. Upon receiving the fax, a staff worker folds the message and takes it to be inserted into one of the crevices in the Western Wall, believed to be the remains of Jehovah’s temple that was destroyed by Roman armies in 70 C.E. According to the Tribune, the practice of putting written prayers in cracks in the wall is “a good-luck measure” practiced by worshipers who seek divine help in their search for a marriage partner, better health, or other goals. On the first day of the fax service, 60 messages arrived.
Astronomers are gravely concerned because artificial light from cities brightens the night sky, hampering efforts to study the stars. As reported in the International Herald Tribune, Alan MacRobert, associate editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, observed: “The absolute majesty, the incredible power of a truly dark, star-packed sky was part of the experience of all of humanity throughout all of human history. Now in developed countries, it’s practically unknown.” Responding to pressure from nearby observatories, the city of Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A., converted its 14,000 street lights from mercury vapor to sodium lighting having fixtures that direct the light toward the ground.
Rome Without a Pope?
According to John Paul II, the popes are successors of Peter, and their seat is in Rome because, as confirmed by “the earliest tradition” of the church, the apostle was supposedly martyred there. However, the pope caused quite a stir when he stated that “for the conditions of the times or for their own particular reasons, it could be that the Bishops of Rome temporarily establish their residence in places other than the Eternal City.” Is the papacy going to move at least temporarily to a different location? There are some who hail it as an event “destined to bring about radical changes in the whole of our culture,” but the majority believe that the tradition is too strong and that the seat of the pope will not move. “Another Saint Peter would have to come to move the papal seat,” says a teacher of ecclesiastical law, Carlo Cardia, who recognizes, however, that “the choice of Rome has no theological foundation.”
Astrologers Wrong Again
Early in 1992 the Association for Scientific Research into the Parasciences in Germany collected approximately 50 predictions by astrologers from all over the world, evaluating the results at year’s end. The association had done a similar exercise in 1991. (See Awake! of June 8, 1992, page 29.) Were the prognoses for 1992 more accurate than those for 1991? Far from it. “Whereas in 1991 vague prognoses were able to record at least partial successes,” reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “this time the predictions do not contain even one bulls-eye.” Predictions for 1992 included the reelection of George Bush and the destruction of the White House by fire. Looking ahead to 1993, the association even allowed itself a prediction: “The astrologers will be wide of the mark again next year.”
From Buenos Aires to Beijing, from Seoul to Calcutta and Cairo, the air in the world’s largest cities is becoming more and more dangerous to breathe. Citing a report by the UN Environment Program and the World Health Organization, the French newspaper Le Figaro says that the ever-increasing toxic levels of airborne pollutants (such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and lead) are clearly damaging the health of people living in large urban areas and can even be linked to the premature death of some city dwellers. Based on a 15-year study of 20 cities, the joint report warns that urgent measures must now be taken to decrease the pollution and to protect the health of the world’s urban populations. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2000, almost half of mankind will be living in urban areas.
How Europeans Spend Their Time
In order to gain information about daily life in Europe, over 9,700 persons in 20 lands were queried at the end of 1991 by the multimedia group Information et Publicité. How do daily routines differ from one country to another? Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that Greeks go to bed latest (12:40 a.m.), but the Hungarians are among the earliest to rise (5:45 a.m.). The Irish and the Luxembourgers sleep longer than most. The Czechs, Slovaks, and Swiss give TV a low profile, switching it on just two hours a day, whereas in Britain “the goggle-box runs for almost four hours a day.” In Sweden more than five hours a day is spent reading or listening to the radio, whereas the Danes enjoy one and a half hours of leisure per day at the movies, the theater, or something similar.