Weekly Update: to

by | January 5, 2019

Here’s the first Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for 2019, covering to .

[A comic. In the first panel, a man says: “I made snow angels outside!” In the second panel, a woman is looking out the window. There is snow falling. She says: “Where? I don’t see anything.” In the third panel, the man angrily says: “That’s because angels don’t exist.”]
Unfortunately, at least where I am, snow doesn’t exist either.
  • [] How YouTube Built a Radicalization Machine for the Far-Right

    It’s becoming a depressing norm, but in any discussion of the worst aspects of YouTube – hateful and violent rhetoric, Nazi ideologies, and so on – atheism is always raised as one of the gateway drugs. This article even mentions an explicit example of someone watching the infamous Bill Maher/Sam Harris/Ben Affleck debate being forwarded on to InfoWars conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson. This article gives more technical details of what’s really going on than you’ll find most places.

  • [] 2 boys almost bled to death in botched circumcisions by Manitoba doctor

    This is not so much a story of religion run amok as it is about one very incompetent doctor who decided on a whim he could start doing a surgical procedure he hadn’t done in almost two decades, and his extremely unethical and underhanded attempts to cover his ass. However… buried deep in the article are some horrifying facts. Toronto’s SickKids sees 0–5 infants per week for complications from circumcisions, and there have been fatalities. The urologist quoted suggested circumcision should be better regulated, and that seems a very reasonable request.

  • [] Alberta health minister reviewing rules around assisted dying at faith-based facilities

    Alberta has become all about weird contradictions since the NDP took power . It remains one of the most conservative provinces in Canada, and hence has had the most – and most egregious – cases of people being denied medical assistance in dying for religious reasons. But at the same time, the NDP government is actually making the right noises about doing something about the problem. Realistically, though, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll get anything done , at which point a UCP majority seems likely… and they are not going to do anything to piss off the religious base.

  • [] “The story of the James Bay Cree community that was divided by religion”(Audio: 15:10)

    This is an amazing story – I strongly recommend listening to the full audio on this one. There’s so much in there that’s just jaw-dropping. There’s the casual mention of how one man’s mother was cowed into obedient silence despite her doubts about Catholicism. There’s the family that was separated – father torn from son – because one was Catholic the other was Anglican. There’s the fact that they even created new languages to further separate the two religious groups. There’s the admission – made with the fear that there could be repercussion – of the clergyman who feels uncomfortable representing the faith due to the terrible way it’s treated the Cree people.

  • [] Lev Tahor children return to Quebec amid reports of sect leadership arrests in Mexico

    There is so much more to this story than is implied in the headline, or even in the article’s content, and unfortunately, even I am not completely up on all of the shit that’s gone down with this group. For those who don’t recognize the name, Lev Tahor is the ultra-orthodox Jewish cult that the Québec government cracked down on in 2013 after allegations of child abuse. But let’s go back a little earlier. The cult’s founder, Shlomo Helbrans, immigrated to the US from Israel in 1990, claiming persecution because he was anti-Zionist… but in 1994 he kidnapped a 13 year-old boy to indoctrinate him against the will of the non-religious mother. He got off from those charges because an election was coming up, and the DA didn’t want to piss off the orthodox Jewish community. He was arrested again in 1996 after he was caught on tape conspiring with the boy’s father, and the boy was even convinced to lie on the stand to protect Helbrans. It didn’t work; Helbrans was deported to Israel in 2000. In 2003, he applied for refugee status in Canada, claiming persecution because he was anti-Zionist (it was later discovered he probably lied on his refugee claim, and paid the boy he kidnapped to give him a good reference). Eventually he set up Lev Tahor in Québec. After the Québec authorities started to look into the allegations of child abuse in 2013, the group fled to Ontario… but then the Ontario authorities went after them too. So the group then fled to Guatemala, even while Canadian authorities were scrambling to stop them to protect the ~120 kids they were taking with them. But then the indigenous people of Guatemala effectively said “fuck these guys”, and unlike Canada, Guatemala actually listens to its indigenous peoples, so Lev Tahor crossed into Mexico. In mid-2017, Helbrans drowned in a botched mikveh – basically a magical Jewish bath – and his son, Nachman Helbrans, took over. This is where we get to the stuff I’m really not sure of – in fact, I don’t think anyone is quite sure of exactly what is going on right now. Apparently, several of the leaders of the cult have been arrested in Mexico. Who, and on what charges? No one seems to know. But as a result of that, the culties have fled once again… returning to Québec. Québec authorities are being very tight-lipped about how many have returned, where they are, what state they’re in, and so on, but promise that the kids are receiving services.

  • [] “Three Kings” by Doug Bayne & Trudy Cooper (Oglaf)

    You know, I never made this connection between Jesus and Santa before, that they’re both all about very conditional beneficence. Now that it’s been pointed out, it’s hard to ignore.

  • [] Yes, there is a war between science and religion

    Jerry Coyne comes out raging in this year-end piece railing against “accommodationism”. It’s nothing we haven’t heard a thousand times before, though.

  • [] Toronto ‘church plant’ seeks to spread Christianity in unique, modern way

    So let me explain what “church plants” are without all the circuitous romanticism of the Globe & Mail article. “Church plants” are simply crypto-churches set up in commercial spaces – the one in the article is set up in a strip mall – that bait & switch potential congregants by offering services like free Internet. They are evangelical churches, officially under the wing of established evangelical organizations, but they keep that on the down-low to avoid scaring people away. They are very well-funded, and part of a network that is aggressively advertising and targeting people in places and via methods were traditional churches don’t generally go – such as ads on social media. But despite their efforts to look hip, and to tap into modern technologies and practices, don’t be fooled – they are very much the same-old-same-old: virulently anti-LGBT, misogynistic, so-con shit-sticks.

  • [] “Christmas banned? The unknown, forgotten and surprising history of this holiday tradition”(Audio: 25:44)

    This is a really interesting segment that turns the contemporary idea of a “war on Christmas” on its head. It’s no secret that Christmas, as we celebrate it today, is about as “Christian” as Thor is. But it goes much farther than that!

  • [] “What happens to religious professionals when they stop believing in God” (Video: 7:41)

    This is a nice, short documentary about The Clergy Project – its origins, the services it provides, and some of the struggles its members face. Gretta Vosper is one of the interviewees.

  • [] The SJWs Are Winning and You’re All Just Going to Have to Deal With It: A thread.

    If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen hundreds of opinion pieces and rants making the charge that “SJWs” are everything wrong with the world, and they’re actually impeding social progress with their bitter pettiness (usually phrased as claims like “they’re the real racists for bringing up race all the time”, or accusations that they are guilty of engaging in “identity politics”, and so on). Surprise, surprise, no-one’s actually bothered to look at the evidence. When you do… turns out the truth isn’t what most of the opinion-mongers are selling.

  • [] Far Right Losing Collective Mind Over Islamic Party of Ontario Attempt To Register As An Official Party

    If you’ve been paying attention to right-wingers online recently, you can’t have missed their massive freak-out over the “Islamic Party of Ontario”. This is a proposed provincial political party being put forward by a former Ontario PCsupporter that, as of this writing, seems to have fewer supporters than letters in its name. But it’s got “Islam” in the name, so… cue the freak-out. This write-up by Anti-Racist Canada is cool because it not only describes the current freak-out with all the necessary context, it also puts it in an even larger context by pointing to the (federal) Christian Heritage Party.

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2 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Jim Atherton

    [20-Dec-2018] 2 boys almost bled to death in botched circumcisions by Manitoba doctor

    There never has and never will be any medical justification for circumcision. It is a simply a primitive barbaric act which is physically dangerous and psychologically damaging to the victim and should obviously be illegal in any civilized country.

    1. Indi Post author

      None of that is true, though. If it were, then it would be as open-and-shut as the case for female genital mutilation.

      The reality is that there is real data suggesting real medical benefits to circumcision – everything from eliminating phimosis to reduced risk of UTIs, HIV, and cancer. There’s even evidence that being circumcised reduces the risk of things like cancer and STIs in women sexual partners.

      As for the claims of it being “psychologically damaging”, where’s the evidence? The plural of anecdote is not data. There needs to be research, and there is none.

      To be clear, I am not in support of circumcision as a general practice (that is, without legitimate medical reasons for it). I think any parent that circumcises their child just because it’s a fad in their culture or because their religion says so is being a terrible parent. (And parents who have it done by shady religious or cultural, non-medical people outside of a hospital… that’s straight-up child abuse.) And I believe that the existing data showing medical benefits is all very sketchy, and that we need far more and better research – I suspect that if proper research was done, the supposed benefits associated with circumcision would dry up.

      But we’re supposed to be the ones who base our beliefs on evidence, not bullshit that we just want to believe. The evidence here is that circumcision, while not recommended as a general practice in Canada, does have some medical benefits, and does not produce any measurable long-term negative physical or psychological effects. Given those facts, making it illegal makes as much sense as making cannabis illegal… and we’re just now getting out of that quagmire – have we learned nothing?

      If you really believe that all of the purported medical benefits of circumcision are bullshit, or that it really is as harmful as you say, you should be putting in the effort to find the evidence – for example, by helping fund proper research – not lying about it.


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