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Human Race | Independent thinking characterized great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut

Issue: "'Darkest moment'," April 28, 2007

When Kurt Vonnegut died April 11 due to brain injuries from a nasty fall, hundreds of writers eulogized the 84-year-old author with some of his best humanistic quotes and witticisms-fitting tributes for the simple and elegant prose of this troubled and prolific American novelist.

But Vonnegut proved no ordinary humanist, noting in an interview last year that human bodies "are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answers for how we got this way when natural selection couldn't possibly have produced such machines. . . . Something perfectly wonderful is going on, I do not doubt it. But the explanations I hear do not satisfy me."

That kind of independent thought coupled with Vonnegut's dark humor and whacky science-fiction storytelling elevated him among the most influential voices of his time. Despite the success of his books, most notably Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969, Vonnegut attempted suicide in 1984 and spent much of his life in depression. So it goes.

King Vinnie

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Travolta: Scientology saved cult-star favorite from self-destruction

Actor John Travolta says he's as big a star as the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, but that his Scientology practices have prevented him from going down the same self-destructive path.

"I have fame on the level of a Marilyn Monroe or an Elvis, but part of the reason I didn't go the way they did was because of my beliefs," Travolta, who first gained fame as the swaggering Vinnie Barbarino on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter, told the Irish Independent.

"People make judgments about it [Scientology], but often they don't know what they're talking about. I would advise anyone who wants to know about it to read up on it. We [the Church of Scientology] are only getting bigger and we help people all over the world, from disaster zones to drug rehabilitation." No word on just what role Scientology god Xenu plays in disaster relief.
-John Dawson

Close-ups

AFRICA: A 13-year-old Christian boy fled his Muslim captors last month in Nigeria and has found his way home. Teenager Victor Udo Usen was kidnapped and taken captive by militant Islamic radicals in November for the purpose of converting the boy to Islam. After relatives unsuccessfully sought his release, Victor finally escaped, according to Compass Direct News, and made his way back to his family, which promptly put him in hiding.

FILM: Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ may soon become a hot item again. Movie house Lions Gate Entertainment announced it purchased the rights to a documentary based on Strobel's instant classic apologetic work and intends to redistribute the DVD. Most theatergoers may recognize Lions Gate from horror flicks like Saw and Hostel.

MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME: Meredith G. Kline, noted Covenant theologian and Old Testament scholar whose teaching career spanned more than 50 years at Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia and Escondido, Calif.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., died April 14 in Beverly, Mass., following a long illness; he was 84.

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