“Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” Baptist City Council Member Reminds Jews at Menorah-Lighting Ceremony

The city of Springfield (Massachusetts) held it’s annual menorah-lighting ceremony to mark the first day of Hanukkah this past Tuesday. Among the 150 attendees was Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams.

While Williams is a Baptist, he decided to offer his own reflections on the Jewish holiday:

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Now, you might think this was bizarrely out of place at a celebration for the Jewish Festival of Lights. And you’d be right.

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Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Rally Will Bring Together Despicable Christian Leaders to Accomplish Nothing

The first problem with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal‘s upcoming prayer rally a month from now is that he’s hosting a prayer rally.

In his invitation, he made it very clear that he wanted to use his position to advance Christianity:

Our nation is faced with fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography, abortion, racism — Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Lord of Life, is America’s only hope. We need Spiritual Transformation.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State made clear that Jindal had completely crossed a line:

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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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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):

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