Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
 Sex Redefined: The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic
Science is way ahead of culture on this question, but ironically, most opponents of the idea think the science is on their side. They use outdated or poorly-understood science (quite often fuzzily-remembered high school science, believe it or not) to justify their beliefs, and never actually bother to ask a practising scientist in the field if they’re right.
 After the destructive fool’s errand of pot prohibition, expungement now!
Legalization of cannabis was perhaps the biggest change to Canada’s criminal justice laws in a generation, but it’s important to remember the work isn’t even close to done. First there’s the fact that – par for the course with the Liberals – the decriminalization was only half-assed, and several cannabis-related crimes remain on the books. More importantly is that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians with criminal record for pot, and that criminal record is having enormous negative impact on their lives. You’d think their cannabis crimes could be automatically expunged, but no, instead there is a lengthy and costly process involved. Surely we could do better.
 Why Are Some Religions More Popular Than Others?
This article opens with the somewhat facetious question:
Why isn’t Mickey Mouse a god?But the brilliance of the question is that if you don’t just roll your eyes or laugh it off, and instead stop to really think about it… why isn’t Mickey Mouse a god? (I mean, other than for the obvious reason that Mickey Mouse kinda sucks. Seriously, I could see Bugs Bunny or Optimus Prime as a god, but Mickey Mouse?) Mickey Mouse is every bit as fictional as Jehovah or Vishnu, so why do they have “worshippers” while Mickey only has “fans”. (I mean, again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Mickey has fans.) This article goes over the current state-of-the-art scholarship on the question of what makes a religion “work”.
 Hanes: CAQ’s banning of religious symbols really aimed at the veil
I mean, yeah, it’s kinda obvious. The attempts to frame this is being about “all” religious is transparently bullshit – first of all, the laws are deliberately crafted to not touch certain religions (for example, leaving cross necklaces untouched), and second of all, whenever there’s any debate about the laws, it always comes down to Muslim garb. Sure, there are strained attempts to bring other religion’s accessories up, but those are always obvious distractions; the real issue is always Muslim visibility.
 What Happens When A Country Bans Spanking?
Yet another item this week where the culture is really lagging behind the science: corporal punishment of children. Canada is one of a shrinking number of countries that doesn’t ban spanking (it’s banned in schools, but not at home).
 Gérard Bouchard says he’s ‘disappointed’ by CAQ’s proposed ban on religious symbols
Okay, this one caught me somewhat by surprise. I fully expected Taylor to step forward and call bullshit on the CAQ’s religious symbols ban (and he did). But I did not expect Gérard Bouchard to come out just as fiery. Now both members of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission have called bullshit on the CAQ’s claim that they’re just doing what the commission recommended.
 US religious orders asked to ID priest abusers
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it deals largely with a subset of the priesthood that have – thus far – not really been scrutinized. In other words, there’s a whole new potential set of allegations just waiting to explode here, and now for the first time, there appears to be an active effort to get ahead of the investigations and come clean (better late than never). It’s also important for Canada because it turns out that when priests are accused, one of the first moves by their superiors is to send them away on retreats to… pray or contemplate their faith or whatever… and those retreats are, totally coincidentally I’m sure, often in other jurisdictions – like Canada. I think it would be good to know when rapists are being shipped here to lay low.
 Samantha Stevenson Charged Under ‘Witchcraft’ Provisions
You may remember that last week there was an item about a woman being charged with “pretending to practice witchcraft”. This is not the same woman, this is a different woman, in a different jurisdiction. As I mentioned last week, this may just be about law enforcement getting their last gasp at using this charge before it’s repealed. (Interestingly, this week the repeal was postponed yet again when the Senate returned the bill to the House of Commons with amendments. One wonders if this sudden spate of witchcraft charges will lite a fire under Parliament’s pants, and get them to finally push this thing through.)
 Churches take tax hit after province strips exemption for daycares
You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t shed a tear for all those churches that now have to pay taxes, but what they were doing up until now can’t really be called anything other than ripping off the people. This is part of a Canada-wide trend of cracking down on religious tax exemptions, likely as part of an effort to buff up provincial finances without raising taxes. Nobody’s quite got to taxing churches yet, and they’re not likely to for a while. But churches have got away with murder up until now, what with keeping vast swaths of tax-free property they don’t need or use, and running tax-free for-profit businesses on church property. It’s good to see these tax evaders finally paying their dues.
 Meet the Canadian soldiers behind a white supremacist military surplus store
This is an incredible story, and Ricochet deserves some kind of medal – or at least, your support – for the work they’ve done to break it. It’s been an open secret for quite a long time that the Canadian Forces has a serious far right problem. (Hell, let’s not single the Forces out; pretty much every law-enforcement and defence organization in Canada has a serious far right problem.) Thus far, despite a multitude of reported cases of rampant bigotry and bad behaviour by members of the Forces, there’s been a general nudge-wink agreement between the Forces and the media that the perpetrators are all just bad apples or lone wolves, and the Forces doesn’t have really have a general problem with far-right attitudes in their midst. That tune is getting increasingly strained, and this story is finally breaking from the deal. The Forces initially didn’t care about any of this, but now that the story is making waves, they’ve changed their tune and are “looking into it”. Note that this story is still breaking – since the publication of this article, another Canadian Forces reservist has been identified as connected. And if it was just the Forces where this rot was festering, that would be bad enough, but Press Progress has connected these bigots with the Alberta United Conservative Party and Jason Kenney in particular. This story is still unfolding, so there’s probably going to be more coming.
 How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it
Ugh, this is a fucking mess, and you’ll have to forgive me if my summary isn’t perfect, because adoption is honestly way out of my wheelhouse. What seems to have happened is that the Harper government unilaterally decided to interpret sharia law, and concluded that it stated that adoptions just couldn’t happen legally. Thus, they shut down adoptions from countries that use sharia as a basis for their laws. The thing is, they did this despite the way those countries interpreted sharia law themselves. Pakistan, for example, uses court decisions to waive sharia rules so that adoptions can happen… but the Harper government figured it knew Pakistan’s laws better than Pakistan because it had interpreted the sharia rules themselves. If you’re thinking this is all about Harper, nope; the Liberals have not only continued the Harper policy, they’re even doubling down on it. Let’s go back to where the root of this problem is: a secular government should not be in the business of interpreting religious beliefs or rules. I mean, duh, right? This should be obvious.
 Human rights commission wants Supreme Court to hear dispute over Muslim prayer at Calgary school
This is such a stupid case, and I’m amazed it’s gone this far. It started with a private school in Alberta banning Muslim kids from praying because it went against the school’s secular character. If that doesn’t sound wrong to you… I’m appalled… but let’s give it a second chance: let’s say a private school banned an atheist from skipping prayers because it went against the school’s Muslim character. Do we agree that is unacceptable? Good. Same idea, just with the beliefs reversed – it’s intolerance and a violation of the fundamental rights of the student either way. Now, a point of clarification is in order, because I’ve seen some misrepresentations of what’s been going on. Some people have been claiming the school has won a court victory; that’s false. The school has not won a single victory in the entire judicial history of the case; the students have won at every level… except!… the Alberta Court of Appeal said: “look, the school has some new arguments they didn’t use earlier, so I’m going to force you go right back to the beginning, so they can try ’em out.” That’s it, that’s the only so-called “victory” the school won in this entire case. And now everyone’s saying: “fuck that, we’re not starting over, we want this case closed.” That’s where we’re at, and frankly, it makes it pretty clear that the school has no chance of winning, really. Whether this goes on to the Supreme Court or back to square one to start all over again, the conclusion is pretty clear: a secular (or religious) school can be as secular (or religious) as it wants, but it cannot force its students to comply with its beliefs.
 60% of world’s wildlife has been wiped out since 1970
Damn. I mean, the evidence for climate change has been far past the point of debate for a while now, but in the last few months it’s really swung into alarming territory. And amazingly enough, we still have governments all over Canada – including at the federal level (everyone enjoying that piece of pipeline they own?) – that are committed to doing fuck-all about the problem.
 Anti-Semitism happens in Canada too, and is on the rise, say advocates
This isn’t really “news”; we’ve been covering the alarming rise in the hate crime stats for months now, if not years. But it’s getting worse and worse, and there seems to be little awareness of how bad things are getting, never mind interest in putting a stop to it. While there’s not much antisemitic rhetoric coming out of atheist circles, there is some. But what we’re mostly guilty of is excusing and enabling. All too often, in the name of sticking it to religion, we share or “like” anti-Jewish memes or jokes that go far beyond rational criticism. (For clarity, Nice Mangos is not the one sharing the meme; she’s calling out Armin Navabi for creating it and doubling down on it.) Don’t fall for that “anything goes so long as you’re criticizing the religion/ideas and not the people” bullshit; it’s literally impossible to criticize a religion or idea without also criticizing the people who believe it. That’s just an attempt to allow fools bigots to say whatever unjustified or irrational bullshit they want without consequences, so long as they can at least dress it up as “criticizing the idea, not the people”. Don’t fall for it. By all means, criticize Judaism, Jews, or even Israel – everything’s fair game – but always make sure your criticisms are measured, justified, and rational. And always take the social context into account – if you’re living in a society where Jewish people are being physically assaulted or murdered and synagogues are getting firebombed… and yes, you do live in that society… maybe think very carefully about how you criticize Jews or Judaism, or if your criticism is really all that necessary in the first place. Maybe in that kind of society, saying Jews are worse than Nazis isn’t a smart thing to do. (And neither is trying to disguise it as “Judaism is worse than Nazism”, because that’s saying the same fucking thing; you’re not fooling anyone.)
 City asks province to look into alleged election interference by school board
Wow, this may actually be taking off – I’m surprised, but quite pleased. So here’s what’s going on. As reported in last week’s update, Eric Renaud was a candidate for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, whose platform called for the merger of the public and Catholic boards. He lost. However, just days before the election, a letter was sent out that criticized Renaud and misrepresented his position, and it was signed by the Catholic school board chair, the director of education, three Catholic Teachers’ Association leaders, and Diocese of London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, among others. This letter was not just distributed in church bulletins, it was actually read from the pulpit by some priests. Renaud cried foul, claiming it basically destroyed his chances… and it’s increasingly looking like he might actually have a real case. The city is now calling for an investigation into possible election interference by the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.
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