This cannot be just a Pennsylvania problem

The most recent scandal involving sex abuse in the Catholic church has received widespread attention because of the numbers of children and priests involved and the scale of the cover up. The courts released a grand jury report that was devastating.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has released a grand jury report detailing sex abuse in the Catholic Church, naming over 300 accused clergymen.

The landmark grand jury investigation found more than 1,000 children had been abused by members of six dioceses in the state for the last 70 years.

Officials say the probe found systematic cover-ups by the church.

The report is the latest inquiry into allegations of sex abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide.

After an 18-month investigation, “over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records,” the grand jury states in the report released on Tuesday.

“We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands.”

The document states that young boys and girls, as well as teenagers, were abused by clergy.

“All of them were brushed aside by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” the report reads.

Due to alleged cover-up efforts by the church’s senior officials, most of the cases are too old for prosecution, the grand jury noted.

But officials warned there may be more indictments as the investigation continues.

While the report names hundreds of priests, some names remain redacted due to claims that naming them violates their constitutional rights.

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The rise of black women freethinkers

It has rightly been pointed out that while atheists span the entire spectrum of the population, the atheist movement itself, in the sense of the leadership of organizations and the most visible atheists in the media, has been dominated by white men. This is fortunately changing and Christopher Cameron in an article titled Black atheists matter: how women freethinkers take on religion reports on those developments. In doing so, he addresses the often-raised question of why the horrors of slavery did not result in the wholesale discrediting of religion in the black community since religion was often used not only to justify slavery but to encourage black people to passively accept their situation in return for their reward in heaven. He says that support for religion in the black community ebbed and flowed depending on the contemporary situation.
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US evangelicals always think the country is going to hell

John Fea, an evangelical and professor of American History and chairman of the Department of History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA, has written an essay where he tries to understand why his fellow evangelicals have such a deep devotion to Donald Trump that they are willing to overlook and even celebrate actions that should revolt them because they contradict the basic values they claim to profess.
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Philippines president Duterte issues a challenge that Edward Feser can meet

Some readers may recall my post making fun of the press release of a new book by a theologian Edward Feser where he claims to provide five proofs for the existence of his god. My point was that people had been trying for eons to logically prove the existence of any god without success, and there was no reason to think that Feser would be any more successful. Trying to prove the existence of an entity without the use of any evidence is futile.
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A perfect example of the Sam Harris two-step

As a follow-up to my post on how the alt-right hate groups are targeting young skeptics for recruitment, I want to point out how prominent atheists like Sam Harris are enabling this disturbing trend, something that Harvard secular chaplain Greg Epstein has already observed. This is because people like Harris say things that are rife with ambiguity. I and many others have noted before the disingenuous way that Sam Harris argues that enables him to be on both sides of an issue, something that I have labeled the Sam Harris two-step, though he is not the only one to use it. Charles Murray is also a master at it. They both seem to say outrageous things then, when challenged, point to other statements that seem contradict it.
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The alt-right is appealing to young skeptics

Some time ago, I wrote about how the alt-right coalition of fascists, neo-Nazis, and bigots was luring in young people by appealing to their sense of irony and fun, or ‘lulz’ as some say these days, acting as if the rhetoric of hate was not something to be believed in but was being used just to annoy and irritate those who were derisively labeled as ‘social justice warriors’ (though why that term is seen as an insult baffles me). The claim that they were ‘fighting political correctness’ was another shield used to deflect criticisms of this stance.
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What drives the ‘Flat Earth’ belief?

When I was a young boy in Sri Lanka, there was a Jesuit priest-in-training named Basil, a friend of the parents of a friend of mine, who liked to argue with us that the Earth was flat. We of course believed that it was round but as anyone who has argued with a flat-Earther knows, they have quite an array of arguments that they can drop on you to counter your objections and it is a good example of how almost any proposition can be defended if one is allowed to make ad hoc assumptions. We suspected that Basil did not really believe what he was saying but was using the formidable argumentative skills that Jesuits learn to mess with our young minds and show how hard it is to defend even what seem to be obvious truths.
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“Be a Hitler”

I have written many times about how there is a militant and bigoted group of Buddhists that includes Buddhist monks who feel that Sri Lanka should be a purely Sinhala Buddhist country and that every other ethnic-religious group does not belong. They have incited mobs to attack non-Sinhala Buddhists, most recently against the Muslim minority. Now a leading monk has gone to the next level, explicitly urging a presidential candidate to adopt Hitler as a model.
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The little-known story of the San Antonio Four

I have written before about cases of people who were incarcerated for long periods of time even though they were innocent of the crime. On a broadcast of the radio program Latino USA I recently learned of the case of four women who were convicted of Satanic sexual abuse and rape of two young nieces of one of the women. This was at the height of the hysteria over Satanic acts perpetrated on children in day care centers and the like.
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Give the religious an inch and they’ll try to take a mile

The US Supreme Court frequently takes up cases involving the Establishment Clause about the extent to which religious elements can be introduced into the public sphere. Rather than unequivocally declare that it should never be allowed and thus ending the debate once and for all, a decision that would likely result in them having to face the wrath of the religious in America, they have instead tried to rule very narrowly, inserting intricate conditions on when such things can be allowed. They have done this with prayers, religious displays, and the like.
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