This Photo, and Its Caption, Finally Made Me Realize That, Yes, I’m an Anti-Theist

I’ve always believed in live and let live. Different strokes for different folks. I still do, but I’m less inclined to be romantic about it. Yes, people should follow their conscience, express their personal proclivities and preferences as they see fit, and be allowed to speak their minds in almost any way they wish.

But I’ve come to a point where I can no longer tell myself that widespread irrationality, the belief in gods and ghosts, is just another lovely part of the tapestry of humanity. Most people, even non-believers, appear to have signed on to the National Geographic approach to foolish behaviors. The mindset of the magazine’s editors is, “Oh, look, there’s another group of worshipers, let’s capture them in pretty light and pretend there’s something uplifting about the spectacle of people engaging in superstition and twaddle.”

I’m done. This photo, an award winner in the National Geographic 2014 photo contest, is the final straw.



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Exposé in the Atlantic Reveals Many U.S. Zen Buddhist Teachers To Be Incorrigible Sexual Predators

This paragraph in a new long-form piece in the Atlantic got my attention:

When we think of predatory clergy, we think of Roman Catholic priests. Their sins are far worse than what goes on in Zen circles. But the percentage of the Zen clergy implicated in sexual misdeeds is many times greater than that of the Catholic clergy.

Author Mark Oppenheimer, who also writes the biweekly “Beliefs” column for the New York Times, offers scant numbers, which makes his claim impossible to verify. And we should, I think, show more reticence than he does in comparing Roman-Catholic child rape to the overwhelmingly consensual exploits of randy Buddhist monks. But Oppenheimer does paint a convincing and pretty horrifying picture of a U.S. Buddhist culture in which the assorted Zen masters just can’t keep it in their pants (or robes, as the case may be).

His 13,000-word exposé, The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side, focuses mainly on 81-year-old Eido Shimano, a Zen Buddhist monk from Japan who arrived in New York in 1964, penniless but devout. Shimano’s timing was perfect. Influenced by the nascent counterculture of the sixties, swaths of Western society were eager to expand the definition of spirituality; like the Beatles and their Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, they looked toward the East. Downtown New York and even the posh Upper East Side were full of seekers and peaceniks. Within months, Shimano had enough followers to make a decent living, and after a couple of years, he had become a teacher to various moneyed acolytes. Dorris Carlson, the widow of the man who’d founded Xerox, ended up giving Shimano two million dollars, enabling him to buy 1,400 acres in New York’s Catskills, where he built a Japanese monastery and Zen retreat.

Some members were famous; others were rich. In addition to Carlson, with her Xerox money, the Bethlehem Steel executive William P. Johnstone, the publisher Barney Rosset, and the writer Peter Matthiessen were all students of Shimano’s. The Rockefeller Foundation gave money, too.

In the decades that followed, while he solidified his reputation as a teacher and businessman, Shimano was followed by whispers that he made aggressive sexual advances toward his younger female students, taking advantage of his pupils’ awe for him. Multiple women complained of sexual harassment, with at least one saying that Shimano’s advances had been a “barrage.” But because the victims considered themselves pioneers of American Buddhism and didn’t want to hurt their movement, they didn’t press charges or seek publicity.



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Italian Priest, Annoyed By Ringing Cell Phones, Installs Jamming Device in His Church

People are expected to be on their best behavior in church. Father Michele Madonna wishes his flock would understand that that means cell phones and tablets ought to be turned off for the duration of the service.

But asking nicely didn’t work, and neither did prayer (God wasn’t taking messages). So to enforce his in-church ban on mobile devices, the priest bought a jammer.

A Catholic priest says the only calls to be heard during Mass should be from God — so he has installed a jamming device in his Italian church to stop the congregation talking on their cells. Father Michele Madonna forked out the cash to install the gadget inside the Santa Maria a Montesanto chapel in downtown Naples, reports Ansa. He said he was fed up with the constant ringing and beeping of phones during his sermons.



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Judge Voids Verdict in Case of Young Black Boy Who Died on Electric Chair, Perhaps With the Bible as a Booster Seat

Justice received posthumously is no justice at all. But maybe it’s better than nothing?

A South Carolina judge on Wednesday took the unusual step of vacating the 1944 conviction of a black 14-year-old boy, the youngest person executed in the United States in the past century, saying he did not receive a fair trial in the murders of two white girls.

George Stinney Jr. was convicted by an all-white jury after a one-day trial and a 10-minute jury deliberation during a time when racial segregation prevailed in much of the United States. Stinney died in the electric chair less than three months after the killings of Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7.

In her ruling, Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen said she was not overturning the case on its merits, which scant records made nearly impossible to relitigate, but on the failure of the court to grant Stinney a fair trial. She said few or no defense witnesses testified and that it was “highly likely” that Stinney’s confession to white police officers was coerced.



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Now Who’s Waging War on Christmas? To the Dismay of Other Christians, Pastor Claims that Santa = Satan

Pastor Edward Carothers seems like a barrel of laughs. He’s the man behind a church sign outside the Born Again Independent Baptist Church in Harlem, Georgia, that’s been raising eyebrows. It reads:

SANTA IS SATAN

Also:

SANTA GREAT IMPOSTER

So what’s Carothers’ beef with the big-bellied gift-giver from the North Pole?



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