Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[A chart showing the break down in the responses by US adults to the question “Do you believe in God or not?” 80% say yes; 19% say no. The 80% who say yes breaks down further into 56% saying they believe in God as described in the Bible and 23% saying they believe in some other higher power or spiritual force. The 19% who say no breaks down into 9% who believe in some other higher power or spiritual force, and 10% who do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.]

A very interesting breakdown of the results of the Pew data about atheists in America.

The Update is very late this week due to yesterday’s wind storm killing my power and Internet from yesterday afternoon up until this morning. But better late than never, right?

  • [] Health Canada should stop approving homeopathic remedies — period: Robyn Urback

    It’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with the logic in this piece. Even homeopaths with integrity (assuming any exist) should agree. Health Canada doesn’t actually do any testing of homeopathic medicines – all they require is that you list the ingredients, state that it’s safe, and don’t make any specific health claims that could be debunked by scientific testing. So they’re basically doing fuck-all, and rubber-stamping stuff as “homeopathic medicines” based on the cross-my-heart promises of the manufacturers (who totes aren’t “Big Pharma”!). Even if you’re a sincere believer in homeopathy, that situation should be untenable – there is nothing to stop a manufacturer from just bottling completely unmodified tap water and getting the Health Canada stamp of approval; there’s absolutely no checking of the integrity of the medicines (let alone the efficacy). Either Health Canada approval means something, or it’s meaningless; if it means something, there should be some reasonable minimum standard required to get it; if it’s meaningless, there’s no need for it.

  • [] Christians In Boissevain, Man. Warned To Stay Away From Yoga

    It’s not common knowledge, but yoga is one of the things fundamentalist Christians have a hate-on for, due to its Hindu roots (the basic concepts may actually pre-date Hinduism by a thousand years or more, but were formalized parallel with Hindu philosophy).

  • [] Alberta’s top court rejects anti-abortion group’s bid for bus ad in Grande Prairie

    This is another story from a while back that’s popped up again. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is an Alberta-based anti-abortion group that went to a number of municipalities across Canada back in 2015, and tried to get them to run gross anti-abortion ads (featuring bloody aborted fetuses) on things like public transit. When the cities objected, the CCBER used legal bluster and threats to coerce them. Some cities, like Peterborough, Ontario, caved. But Grande Prairie in Alberta stood their ground… and won. (Vancouver also won.) And now Alberta’s highest court has affirmed the city’s victory.

  • [] When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?

    This is a fascinating report that I haven’t had time to really get into yet, but which I might be writing about in the near future. Rather than vague questions about religion, this report is all about belief in gods specifically. And there’s a lot of data in there to chew on. The top-line result itself is fascinating: 10% of Americans are straight-up, no-nonsense atheists. 10% (±2.3%)! That’s damned impressive for the US. A further 9% are “sorta-kinda atheists”, in that they don’t believe in a god specifically, but do believe in some kind of wishy-washy “higher power/spiritual force” that some people might consider a god, under some definitions. Asking detailed questions specifically about belief in gods is actually the kind of study I’ve been keen to see done in Canada – it’s one of the things I intend to finance if Canadian Atheist’s Patreon funding takes off.

  • [] Intelligent Design Supporters Actually Make One Valid Point About Science

    The point is deliberately provocative, but is it valid? Is “agency” a thing science needs to explain?

  • [] When Misogynists Become Terrorists

    Jessica Valenti makes the uncomfortable point that Alek Minassian – the Toronto van attack perpetrator – didn’t come out of nowhere. His attack was prefigured by a serious of other attacks – most famously by Elliot Rodger, whom Minassian seems to have been inspired by – and the warnings were there. But because those warnings came from women, they were not heeded. We need to do better.

  • [] Roman Catholic Church to pay $2.6M in landmark sex abuse case

    This judgment includes the largest punitive damages reward against the Roman Catholic Church in Canada by far. And it’s deserved, too – the guy was a massive creep, and the Church knew all about it.

  • [] Yes, there are neo-Nazis in Canada

    Amazing that this still needs to be pointed out, but the deniers persist.

  • [] Attestation requirement is being wildly misinterpreted

    This piece by Joyce Arthur is overdue, but was badly needed. The freak-out about the requirement for organizations to attest that they don’t work contrary to the Charter in order to get government summer camp program funding has been all over the news, but with very little clarity about what the requirement actually is. Granted, part of the problem was that the lack of clarity on the government’s part at first, but they did eventually clarify everything. And it turns out the requirements are… actually pretty reasonable. The organization actually doesn’t need to support abortion (for example) to be eligible for funding; in fact, they can even be actively and outspokenly against abortion. The key is that opposing abortion can’t be their core mandate. For example, the core mandate of a church that opposes abortion isn’t to oppose abortion… it’s to be a church – to spread the Gospel or whatever. So, so long as that church isn’t going to use the summer camp money for anti-abortion activities – if they’re just using it to run their camps and pay the counsellors – that’s all cool; they’ll be eligible for the money. Which means that pretty much every church and religious group – even if they oppose abortion (or any of the other human rights enumerated in the Charter) – would have been able to get funding as they always have in the past… but because they bought into the misinformation spread in the freak-out they’ve shot themselves in the foot.

  • [] Retailer stops selling unlicensed remedy made from rabid dog saliva after federal investigation

    Okay, this story can get a little confusing. The background is the story – broken in Weekly Update – of the naturopath who dosed a kid with diluted rabies because she thought he was a werewolf. One of the many astonishing parts of that story was that the diluted-rabies “medicine” is actually Health Canada approved. Only… then Health Canada said, “no, it isn’t”. Only… it issorta. Diluted-rabies “medicine” is actually approved by Health Canada … but the particular company (I’m not sure if it’s the one Zimmerman actually used) was not licensed to sell it.

  • [] The 12 Worst Ideas Organized Religion Has Unleashed On the World

    It’s a pretty comprehensive list, as one expects from Valerie Tarico. Can you think of anything she missed? I’d suggest “preordained roles”, such as the idea that men are “supposed” to be such-and-such a way while women are “supposed” to be something else, because for those kind of things to be “supposed” to be true, there had to be something (a god) to make the supposition.

  • [] House of Commons makes ‘historic’ call for residential school apology from Pope Francis

    This was pretty awesome. One can make a number of criticisms about the way the current government has handled indigenous issues, but this show of solidarity had impact. Every MP from every party except for 10 Conservatives (include Brad Trost, Scott Reid, and Garnett Genuis; 24 Liberals, 28 Conservatives, and 5 NDP were absent) demanded the Pope make an apology, and pay the restitution money.

  • [] Alberta school board votes to close Christian academy after Bible verse controversy

    This is a story CA has been following since . What happened was the publicly-funded Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA) made a handbook for students that included a homophobic Bible verse. The Battle River School Division (BRSD) asked them to remove it on the grounds that it would almost certainly trigger a human rights complaint. (They also, hilariously, asked the school to remove the word “quality” from the sentence “CCA offers quality educational programming.”) The school bristled at first, but complied… but then they launched into this massive Christian persecution wankfest where they accused the Board of trying to censor the Bible. The Board found the whole act distasteful and irritating, so they started talking about dropping CCA (it had been a private school before joining the District as a “Christian alternative school”). CCA filed a lawsuit, claiming discrimination, and that they were being dropped for their Christian beliefs. Well, now the BRSD has put their foot down, and voted to actually drop CCA. CCA’s only chance of staying in the public system is their court case, which will be heard .

  • [] Looking away from hate leaves a space for right-wing extremism

    This article should serve as an appetizer to the “Canada the Good” item below. Refusal to call out and confront bigotry and hate empowers bigotry and hate.

  • [] There Really Is Life After Hate

    Whenever a story about a deplorable person comes up, there is inevitably a flood of people making comments – particularly on Facebook – dehumanizing the person, usually advocating a complete lack of mercy in dealing with them, sometimes even going so far as suggesting they should just be killed, or otherwise discarded as trash. Aside from its gross anti-humanist position, the problem with that kind of rhetoric is that it ignores the fact that sometimes… people recover. Even the most deplorable, hateful, bigoted assholes sometimes find their way back to reason and humanity. And when the do, they bring with them lessons on how we can help others find their way out of hate or – even better – avoid it altogether. Stories like the one in this blog post are important, and should be shared widely by Canadian humanists and believers in reason and tolerance in general, because they remind us that our goal shouldn’t be to destroy our enemies – or to deny or devalue their humanity – but rather to help them understand that they’re on the wrong side, and why. True victory does not come when our opponents die or or get pushed down into obscurity and irrelevance; it comes when we manage to reach them, and show them why our way is the more reasonable one.

  • [] New Poll Suggests Non-Religious Americans Aren’t Veering Toward the “Alt-Right”

    There is a serious problem of popular and big-name atheists promoting far-right ideas, and becoming stepping stones into right-wing extremism. (I’ve written about that myself, on more than one occasion.) But the question that hasn’t been answered satisfactorily before now has been how many average atheists – that is, not the big, popular names or their outspoken, rabid fanbases – lean toward right-wing extremism. Anecdotal evidence and personal experience has led me and many other atheists to suspect: not many. But until now, we’ve had precious little data to support our intuitions. This new survey not only supports my own observations – that atheists are fairly far left of the general population, and generally very tolerant – it goes beyond them in startling ways. It turns out that atheists are more tolerant of Muslims than Muslims!

  • [] ‘Canada the Good’ myth exposed: Migrant workers resist debt-bondage

    I am a proud Canadian, and one of the things that makes me most proud to be Canadian is that we have an excellent track record of tolerance and reason in our immigration policy, and outcomes among the best in the world. But it’s not all perfect, and that can be hard to face. Min Sook Lee’s documentary is free to watch for all of , and I’ll be taking advantage of that.

  • [] Police investigating after pair of ‘shocking’ neo-Nazi matters in Montreal

    One of the two events referred to here is the outing of Gabriel Sohier Chaput; that story is better covered in other items. But the other event – someone flying an actual Nazi flag over their apartment building – is just as alarming.

  • [] Top doctor calls for sanctions against chiropractor for anti-vaccine video

    Chiropractic is dangerous bullshit, but unfortunately too many Canadians are either unaware, or think it’s harmless. One of the pernicious problems with chiropractors is that – using their undeserved mantle of medical legitimacy – they promote even more pseudo-scientific bullshit, like homeopathy. Anti-vaccination propaganda is widespread among chiropractors – there have been issues with anti-vax nonsense being taught in chiropractic schools, and a number of sting operations revealing chiropractors urging clients away from medicines and vaccination. It’s so bad that the B.C. College of Chiropractors had to create a specific policy addressing the problem. But it’s clearly not working.

  • [] A Point-By-Point Rebuttal of Angelo Stagnaro’s Anti-Atheist Hit Piece

    The National Catholic Register has once again published a hate piece against atheists – that’s the kind of journalism that earned it last year’s “newspaper of the year” award from the Catholic Press Association. Terry Firma of Friendly Atheist takes it apart piece-by-piece.

  • [] ‘How many were complicit?’ Sask. abuse victims say priest shouldn’t have been transferred to Ontario

    This article goes a bit more into detail about what actually happened in the Marshall case.

  • [] Alberta United Conservatives Walked Out Of Chamber For Abortion Clinic Bill Vote

    It doesn’t get more craven than this. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this was not a vote “for abortion”. It was a vote to protect innocent women and medical practitioners trying to do a legal medical procedure. Even if you disagree with the procedure, surely you should have a problem with people being harassed and threatened. Sarah Hoffman has the money quote.

  • [] Montreal neo-Nazi, outed this week, was lead cheerleader for deadly U.S. cell

    This was the big news this week: a coalition of US and Canadian anti-hate activists unmasked one of the most notorious names in the neo-Nazi movement. Gabriel Sohier Chaput, who went by the alias “Charles Zeiger”, was apparently the #2 man at The Daily Stormer, after only Andrew Anglin himself… and he’s a Canadian, living in Montréal. He was also an advocate of the extremely violent Atomwaffen Division – responsible for multiple murders – and a proponent of cell-based terrorism to promote neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and antisemitic goals. He may have been ostracized or become disillusioned from the mainstream neo-Nazi alt-right after Charlottesville – people like Andrew Anglin were condemning those who walked around waving Nazi flags as being a bit too obvious about their beliefs, and bringing the alt-right into disrepute, and some of the more hard-core members of the movement (which Chaput was undoubtedly one) bristled at that. Active interference by anti-hate groups may also have disrupted Chaput’s activities. But there’s no doubt that Chaput remains a very, very dangerous person, with connections to actively violent people and groups.

  • [] Canadian Anti-Hate Network Is Now Active

    This is awesome news! One of the things that frustrates me most as an atheist activist is that I’m usually forced to rely so heavily on American data, simply because analogous groups and levels of research just don’t exist in Canada. This new group promises to be the Canadian version of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose data I’ve relied on extensively. And they’ve already scored a headline-grabbing victory, with the outing of Gabriel Sohier Chaput/“Charles Zeiger”. I will almost certainly be relying on the CAHN in the future. Right now they’re building support and funding, so if you can manage it, consider giving them a hand.

Canadian Atheist’s Weekly Update depends on the submissions of readers like you. If you see anything on the Internet that you think might be of interest to CA readers, please take a minute to make a submission.

3 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. •[20-Apr-2018] Health Canada should stop approving homeopathic remedies — period: Robyn Urback

    For more information on this very important subject I recommend reading “Natural Causes:Death, Lies and Politics in America’s Vitamin and Herbal Supplements Industry” by Dan Hurley. This book is freely available from the Toronto Public Library. I realize this book is about the US situation but I belief in this case, as in most cases, the Canadian experience mirrors that in the US.

    Actually, in many cases, I would have much more faith in natural remedies for many simple ailments than I would for many of the so called miracles of modern medicine. With the caveat that these natural remedies are forced to meet exactly the same standards of testing and proofs of effectiveness as all other conventional medicines. Under these conditions all medicines should come under Health Canada and there should be no distinction between homeopathic medicines and conventional medicines other than indicating on the packaging that the natural ones are in fact naturally derived.

    • Actually, in many cases, I would have much more faith in natural remedies for many simple ailments than I would for many of the so called miracles of modern medicine. With the caveat that these natural remedies are forced to meet exactly the same standards of testing and proofs of effectiveness as all other conventional medicines.

      Assuming proper testing is done, why would it matter if a medicine is “natural” or not? If a “modern medicine” is going to be more dangerous, less effective, or whatever else than a “natural medicine”, the testing should be able to show that. If it can’t we need better testing.

      Under these conditions all medicines should come under Health Canada and there should be no distinction between homeopathic medicines and conventional medicines other than indicating on the packaging that the natural ones are in fact naturally derived.

      I think that’s a misguided way to approach the problem. There are a “lot” of “naturally derived” things that are far more dangerous than synthetic stuff. That rabies-based stuff was totally natural, for example, but if any of the virus survived dilution, that “medicine” could be a death sentence.

      I’d prefer to see a system where nothing can be labelled as “medicine”, “cure”, “treatment”, “remedy”, or anything like that – and it cannot make any specific health claims – without the balance of peer-reviewed scientific data proving its efficacy and safety. I don’t care whether it’s “natural” or not. I just care whether it’s safe and effective.

      If someone wants to sell homeopathic crap, they can get it approved under the rules for things like food (for ingestible stuff) or beauty creams (for topical stuff). And they should not be allowed to label it in a way that is misleading, making it look like actual medicine.

      However, I would allow “homeopathic” stuff to be prescribed as placebos. But only by prescription – it should not be used as a treatment instead of real medicine unless a doctor (a real doctor, not a homeopath or naturopath) has decided so. (But of course, it wouldn’t really matter if a prescription placebo is “homeopathic” or not; it could just be simple sugar pills. But if the aura of “homeopathy” makes it a more effective placebo, then fine.)

      • I like to think the verdict on ‘natural/homeopathic’ remedies isn’t entirely out yet, although actually I don’t think there’s much hope that it isn’t.

        I recently watched a documentary on Al Jazeera about an old woman in the Ukraine who would walk around her farm picking up almost anything growing and saying this is good for this or that and so on and so on. She almost couldn’t find any plant that properly prepared wasn’t good for helping with some ailment.

        People have been using plants for cures for thousands of years but it is only in the recent past that it seems most of this great store of knowledge has been forgotten. Sad, but I’m afraid true.

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