It’s not just Catholics

Is this like some bizarre religion-wide side-effect or something? Because Catholicism and Buddhism seem like such wildly different faiths, but here we go again, chronic incidents of child rape by priests…Buddhist priests. And like the Catholic side of the story, they’ve got some of these priests dead to rights, with DNA/paternity tests and admissions and all kinds of testimony, and once again, it is the crime of the religious hierarchy to both enable it and hide the culprits from justice.

A Tribune review of sexual abuse cases involving several Theravada Buddhist temples found minimal accountability and lax oversight of monks accused of preying on vulnerable targets.

Because they answer to no outside ecclesiastical authority, the temples respond to allegations as they see fit. And because the monks are viewed as free agents, temples claim to have no way of controlling what they do next. Those found guilty of wrongdoing can pack a bag and move to another temple — much to the dismay of victims, law enforcement and other monks.

“You’d think they’d want to make sure these guys are not out there trying to get into other temples,” said Rishi Agrawal, the attorney for a victim of a west suburban monk convicted of battery for sexual contact last fall. “What is the institutional approach here? It seems to be ignorance and inaction.”

Paul Numrich, an expert on Theravada temples in the United States, said that like clergy abuse in other religious organizations, sex offenses are especially egregious because monks are supposed to live up to a higher spiritual calling. The monks take a vow of celibacy.

One serial offender, Boa-Ubol, has been definitively caught with a DNA test — he fathered a child on a 14-year-old girl. His temple chastised him, and claimed that he had left the US to go to Thailand. Where is he now? California. In a temple. Working with children. Reporters can call this rapist and pedophile up and have a conversation with him.

Speaking by phone from the California temple, he [Boa-Ubol ] responded to the allegations involving the 12-year-old and another woman who alleges Boa-Ubol sexually assaulted her at Wat Dhammaram in the late 1990s.

The woman is suing Boa-Ubol, Sriburin and the temple, alleging negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gender violence, and has included the alleged sex abuse of the other girl in her suit.

She alleges Boa-Ubol began assaulting her in the temple and a trailer behind it when she was 14 and continued to do so for nearly a year until she became pregnant.

The monk threatened to kill her father if she told anyone about the sex and provided her with money to keep quiet, according to the lawsuit. She alleged that other monks assaulted teenage girls and witnessed some of the attacks on her.

When she later told a woman at the temple that Boa-Ubol was the father of her daughter, the woman allegedly instructed her to relinquish the child to Wat Dhammaram — a response that caused her to flee the site, according to records.

Here’s another hint: don’t put clueless celibates in charge of judging sexual offenses.

But at Wat Dhammaram, the temple on the edge of Chicago, the monks did not see Boa-Ubol’s alleged abuse of the 12-year-old as cause to strip him of his title because there was no sexual intercourse, said Sriburin, the monk who penned the letter to the girl’s family.

“As long as we don’t know any sexual intercourse, we have no reason to charge anybody on that ground,” Sriburin said. “… We were informed that he just touched body.”

Jebus…I mean, Boo-duh. They really are all rotten through and through, aren’t they?

Save the James Webb Space Telescope

Lawrence Krauss has written an excellent defense of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble which is currently under threat of cancellation. I was really down on the space shuttle the other day, but that’s because I think it was a failure at doing its job of enabling exploration and discovery — the Space Telescope is a fabulous tool that works, and I want NASA to focus more on cost-effective, powerful methods of exploring the universe.

Lawrence Krauss also criticized the space shuttle, and urges us to send more robots into space. Uh-oh. Cue ominous music as Neil deGrasse Tyson emerges from the wings, carrying a folding chair.

Just another roadside attraction

I’ve received a couple of shocked emails from people lately, about something called Dinosaur World. It’s a set of three theme parks, in Plant City, Florida, Cave City, Kentucky, and Glen Rose, Texas (that last one probably set off alarm bells already) which feature life-size fiberglass and concrete dinosaurs in a park-like setting. They also have a web site and blog which has some popular appeal: all of the entries in the blog are short descriptions of dinosaurs, with a photo, geared to the level a young child could understand. Here’s an example:

Maiasaura was a large, plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur. Maiasaura was the first dinosaur that was found alongside its young, eggs, and nests. This suggests that Maiasaura nurtured its young.

When you look through them now, though, you’ll notice something a little ominous: they always make these brief descriptions of their appearance, but they never mention when these dinosaurs lived. There’s a reason for that.

What prompted the flurry of surprised email was that on 25 July, they posted this educational announcement:

At Dinosaur World, we present interesting facts about each dinosaur. Examples include, what they ate and unique charactaristics of each. However, we do have many books in the giftshop including information on creationism. Below is an example.

Why is so little known about dinosaurs? Despite all the new dinosaur discoveries, little is known about the dinosaurs because all information comes from fossils and a lot of “educated guesses” have to be made.

Where did dinosaurs come from? God created the entire universe and everything in it including all animals (Gen 1:20-25; Exodus 20:11; Genesis 1; John 1:3).

Are dinosaurs in the Bible? Dinosaur-like creatures are mentioned in the Bible including “behemoth” and “tannin”. Perhaps the best example is in Job 40.

What were the dinosaurs like? Man and dinosaurs lived together and man were masters over all God’s wonderful creatures. (Gen 1:26, 28) In the first early days, all animals were friendly and under man’s control. None of the animals ate meat or killed. God provided for all. There was no sin, no death, no evil and no disease. It was after the flood that things changed.

What happened to the dinosaurs? The Bible says that a great flood covered the entire earth. All but those on Noah’s ark were killed, including dinosaurs.

Were dinosaurs on the ark? The Bible says one set of every air breathing land animal was on the ark. (Gen 6:12-20; 7:15-16). Young dinosaurs would be small and easier to care for than the full grown ones.

What happened after the flood? After the flood, the earth was very different and temperatures had changed. Some places were very hot and some very cold. Many parts of the world were too harsh for the dinosaurs to live and much harder to find food to feed their enormous bodies. It is not just dinosaurs that have become extinct. In the last 350 years alone, almost 400 species have disappeared. After the flood man also was responsible for killing many animals. The wooly mammoths and mastodons where wiped out by humans.

What about “millions of years old”? Just because something is fossilized does not mean it is millions or even thousands of years old. When conditions are right, a bone can become filled with minerals quickly. The main ingredients are quick burial, water and minerals. Conditions during the flood were ideal for creating fossils.

You can imagine how some people who had no idea felt; they’d been reading the articles to their kids, who are enthusiastic about dinosaurs, and suddenly, boom, they discover that the authors are idiots. And idiots with a religious agenda. There is nothing about any of this nonsense in their About page; similarly, Wikipedia and none of the other reviews on the web mention that this is a creationist attraction. Sneaky!

I’m sure they’d let her use their bathroom, though

Ah, the subtle ways we can discriminate. An Arkansas school decided a black woman just wasn’t the right kind of person to stand up at their graduation ceremony.

A high school southeast of Little Rock would not let a black student be valedictorian though she had the highest grade-point average, and wouldn’t let her mom speak to the school board about it until graduation had passed, the graduate claims in Federal Court.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, got only a single B in her 4 years at McGehee Secondary School, and loaded up on Honors and Advanced Placement classes. She had the highest G.P.A. and says the school’s refusal to let her be sole valedictorian was part of a pattern of discrimination against black students.

Wimberly says that despite earning the highest G.P.A. of the Class of 2011, and being informed of it by a school counselor, “school administrators and personnel treated two other white students as heir[s] apparent to the valedictorian and salutatorian spots.”

Doesn’t that bring up those fond memories of high school? We all knew who the anointed ones were, the kids who were typically the children of the wealthier members of the community, who had the connections, who had the right image, who associated with the right other kids, who were in the right clubs. I remember my one brief moment of ‘fame’ in my high school: I blew the doors off the SAT exams, and was one of four who were National Merit Award finalists. We were all called into the principal’s office for congratulations, and the guy schmoozed up to the other three, the popular kids, and laughed and joked and had a grand time, and finally came to me, the strange nerd in the well-worn jeans and ragged shirt, gave me a “who the hell are you?” look, and said “Good work.” Done.

And then we got acknowledged in an assembly. The other three got praise and thorough introductions; I got named, nothing more, and was last. It was the weirdest feeling: nobody had said anything wrong about me, I was given a moment in the spotlight, but somehow I came out of it feeling like I’d been snubbed and spit upon. I wasn’t the right kind of person, I didn’t belong to the blessed clique, I was an interloper.

I can sort of understand where the administrators are coming from. They’d probably say they aren’t racist, oh no, it’s just that Bob and Janet (or whatever the white kids’ names are) have been such active leaders in the school, they’ve had school spirit, everyone knows and loves Bob and Janet, they deserve prominence at graduation — they’ll say nothing demeaning about Wimberly at all, they’ll couch it all in the most positive terms. And the black woman will still feel the sting of being snubbed, because she’ll have gotten the message: hard work, intelligence and talent simply aren’t as important as being the right kind of kid. Sorry, girl, academic accomplishment isn’t as important as going to the good church, dressing right, being in sports or cheerleading, going to the right parties, and all that other stuff that establishes your position in the social hierarchy. Shoulda studied less math and worked harder at being white, like Bob and Janet.

Racism is only rarely a matter of snarled epithets and swinging ax handles. Usually it’s a subtler thing, where a groups are set apart on superficial criteria, and the categorization becomes a proxy for recognizing ability honestly.

(via Think Progress)

Too soon?

Wait, I don’t think this was intended as a joke. Esquire introduces an article on oral sex with Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s maid.

We don’t mean to be indelicate, but well, this whole thing has gotten a little indelicate, hasn’t it? In the latest Newsweek, the maid who was allegedly raped by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn gives a very graphic account of their time together, including some very indecent oral sex. And whomever you believe, that’s a tragedy. Because as we’ve learned over the years from our sex expert, a blowjob need not be degrading or hurtful, for either party. Here, a little timely etiquette dedicated to one of America’s indelible bedroom acts. It might just help us all.

Diallo’s account is below the fold: not for the squeamish.

[Read more…]

Episode CCXXXII: How shall we destroy America today, Comrades?

I had no idea we were so powerful. The loon in this video describes the ways Communists will undermine True American values: by promoting feminism, environmentalism, homosexuality, and atheism. Squeee! He’s talking about Pharyngula!

I think I’m pretty much an anti-Cleon Skousen, too.

(Last edition of TET; Current totals: 12,801 entries with 1,448,175 comments.)

Glenn Beck is still on the air?

Glenn Beck really is contemptible. Here’s how he sees the murders in Norway:

As the thing started to unfold, and then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever — I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing. But anyway, so there’s this political camp, and some crazy man goes and starts shooting kids.

Who does a camp about politics? You mean, like the teabaggers?

But wait! There’s more! He rambles on and on, and claims that he predicted this was coming, and eventually gets around to summarizing his claims, babbles about Geert Wilders and radical Islam, and pins the blame for the massacre on…multiculturalism. And then he distances himself from Anders Behring Breivik by arguing that he wasn’t the same kind of right-winger as Beck, because Breivik favored big government.

(via Media Matters)

Australians! Don’t play games on your census forms!

Australia has a census coming up, and you know us atheists: we don’t take religion seriously, so we’re likely to write down any old mocking riposte to questions about our beliefs. Try not to do it: it gets the godless under-reported. Just answer “no religion” if you’re an atheist. If it helps, imagine that the humorless bureaucrats who will tally up the answers are completely incapable of recognizing snark.