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.

[Read more…]

Catholic Blogger Claims Non-Christians Are Incapable of Helping Others on a Large Scale

Last month, Catholic blogger Rebecca Hamilton made a really nasty accusation against people who didn’t believe in her God, suggesting they could never seriously help other people in times of need:

Christians, unlike their critics, build hospitals and schools, go on missions to help those in need where help is needed. Christians donate massive amounts of money to aid those in need. They run toward disasters, rather than away from them, to give aid and comfort.

These people were not paid for their efforts. No one asked them to do it. They simply responded to need because that is what Our Lord told them to do.

In all these things, the difference is Jesus.

She won’t admit it because it would ruin her narrative, but this is obviously, objectively, and harmfully wrong.

If anyone made similar accusations about any other group of people, maybe there would be a bigger outcry, but we’re used to this kind of anti-atheist prejudice. No doubt there are good religious charities out there, but there’s no lack of openly non-religious ones either.

Instead of pointing you to the myriad organizations that do good work explicitly without God, I asked Hemley Gonzalez to respond to her.

Hemley is the founder of the Humanist group Responsible Charity and literally works in the slums of India to improve lives.

This is what he told me (via email, with slight edits):

[Read more…]

A&E Orders Reality Show Where Pastor Surprises Sex Workers By Trying To “Save” Them

The television network A&E has ordered eight episodes of a new reality show in which a cop-turned-pastor hires sex workers, then “surprises” them by trying to convince them to quit and start their lives over.

8 Minutes, the show’s working title, is about Pastor Kevin Brown and his church’s “undercover prostitute intervention operation,” a venture first covered in the Los Angeles Times in 2013. Its executive producer is Tom Forman, of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and The Great Food Truck Race. He gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly where he discussed the premise of the show, which is still in production:

[Read more…]

This Animated Science Infographic About Birth is Incredible

Eleanor Lutz created this animated infographic about birth that you need to see in full size on her site to really experience.

[Read more…]

Guess Who’s Mad About the Atheist Billboards in Chicago?

The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is very unhappy with the run of atheist billboards that just went up around Chicago.

She’d also like to point out that my billboard omits some information: “It’s curious that the billboard doesn’t identify Mehta as a public high school teacher.” In fact, she went ahead and mentioned the school’s name in her article (just to make sure they see it in their Google Alerts, I’m sure).

You know, there are some very simple reasons for that:

[Read more…]