Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[Cartoon featuring a man praying: “Dear God, how can you punish humans with eternal damnation?”]
To which God responded by demonstrating: “Easy, like this!” Because God’s a jerk.
  • [] Vatican hosts major atheism conference with University of Kent

    I know what you’re thinking. A study on atheists… funded by the Templeton Foundation… hosted at the Vatican. Ha, ha, ha, ha! But actually, this was a pretty serious academic venture. The growth of atheism, for obvious reasons, is a serious concern for the Vatican, and they’re not all morons there – they really want to seriously understand the phenomenon, otherwise they have no hope of effectively “handling” it. The last time they tried this was in 1969, which ended as a hilarious embarrassment for the Vatican, because they made all the preparations to have this super-serious academic discussion about atheism… then it turned out that none of the experts invited actually knew any atheists. This time, atheists were much easier to find. And it shows in the results. The report completely demolishes the popular stereotypes about “dogmatic atheists”, atheists lacking moral compasses, and the myths about atheists being more “rational”. It also adds evidence to support what many of us have long believed: that atheists are far, far more numerous than most people think, because most atheists don’t actually use the label.

  • [] Why it matters 9,000 churches and religious spaces will close over next 10 years

    A lot of atheists reading this piece have laughed it off, enjoying the schadenfreude of seeing religion suffer. And, yes, it’s a CBC piece, which means it’s pretty much guaranteed to be pearl-clutching, boomer-baiting bullshit about how very, very sad it is that religion is going away while offering some sliver of hope for believers. But there is actually a very serious secular problem here. The problem is that governments have traditionally relied on religion for social services. Yes, that’s bad, and yes, it should never have happened in the first place, and yes, it will be good if that stops. But do you see any government in Canada showing any real commitment to modernizing social services? What’s going to happen if we do nothing is that when the religious organizations and facilities that currently run social services collapse, there’s going to be a vacuum. This won’t be the end of the world, because those services could be reestablished… but 1) that won’t be an easy thing to sell in the current political climate; and 2) even if it were, it would still mean massive upheavals and periods of time where those necessary services just won’t be available. It’s not that religion is necessary for social services, it’s that dedication and passion are necessary… and for all its many flaws, religion is very good at creating dedication and passion. Rather than just cackling smugly at the collapse of religion, we need to get better at actually replacing it.

  • [] Why Do So Many Researchers Still Treat Race as a Scientific Concept?

    “Race” has always been bullshit, scientifically speaking. However, very few people know that. Even many scientists think it’s a meaningful construct… until they’re actually pressed to explain it, as the article reveals. And of course, there’s a lot of popular atheist “Rational Thinkers™” who peddle racist nonsense that they pretend is “scientific”. If you’re one of those people who believes in “race science”, then I encourage you to at least read this review, if not the book itself.

  • [] Do humans have a ‘religion instinct’?

    This is the second part of the essay mentioned in an Update back in April. Like the first part, it’s a really good overview of some of the more recent science about the evolution of religion… with some problematic opinions of the author mixed in (especially at the end, regarding the future of religion). Still a highly recommended read, though.

  • [] Homeopathic products now come with a warning in Quebec

    This move strikes me as a pretty good idea. Asking pharmacies to just stop stocking homeopathic junk seems hopeless: they’re not medical institutions, they’re commercial businesses – their primary purpose is to make money. If they stop selling something profitable on principle, but the competitor across the street keeps selling it, they risk being run out of business. “Then they should all stop selling that junk.” Well, sure, if we could actually get all pharmacies to stop selling homeopathic junk, that would be great… but that doesn’t seem like a plausible strategy. But this does. Since it’s the provincial association making these warnings, pharmacies that don’t show them get asked tough questions: “Your competitor is showing the warnings, and thus real concern for their customers’ health… why aren’t you?” Plus, the warnings don’t say “don’t buy”, they say “talk to the pharmacist”… a message that works well for the pharmacy.

  • [] Opinion: Why I believe advance requests for assisted dying must be allowed

    There are plenty of purely logical arguments in favour of advance requests; this piece focuses on some very emotional, very personal arguments. Not only is forcing people to suffer past where they just wish to die cruel to the person themselves, it’s cruel to everyone around them.

  • [] Conservative Witness for ‘Online Hate’ Hearing Was a Recent Guest on a White Nationalist’s YouTube Channel

    To recap: Last week there was an item about the Parliamentary Justice Committee hearings about online hate, telling the tale of vice-chair Michael Cooper’s reaction to evidence given by a witness that virtually all politically-motivated mass murders in Western nations in recent years were perpetrated by people hopped up on a diet of right-wing media. Cooper flipped out, and retaliated by reading from the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto… to a Muslim… while insulting the witness. More has since come out about that story, and it’s all bad. Firstly, just before this happened, Scheer made noises about how the Conservative Party won’t tolerate white nationalist bullshit… yet Cooper’s performance earned only the slightest slap on the wrist; Cooper didn’t even really apologize – he just offered a “not-pology”. More importantly, Dave Climenhaga pointed out that in order for Cooper to do what he did… he had to come prepared with the manifesto, with the intention of using it the way he did. In other words, this wasn’t a case of Cooper simply being outraged and losing his cool… he knew someone was going to connect the dots between conservative commentators and extremist violence, and planned to throw a mass murder’s trolling bullshit in the face of whoever did. But there’s actually more, and – amazingly – it gets even worse. This past week, the witnesses at the hearing were: Lindsay Shepherd, who recently appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast discussing white replacement theory; Mark Steyn, a far-right islamophobic commentator; and John Robson of Rebel Media. Yeah, seriously. Let’s focus just on Shepherd, arguably the least offensive of the bunch. Several people have pointed out that her recent podcast appearance, where she nodded along with white genocide theories, means that she’s either a) aware of what she was doing, and thus complicit, and thus actually part of the problem; or b) pulling a Michael Shermer and pleading innocent because “well, I didn’t know they were Nazis!”, which if you believe it would make her not a hatemonger herself, but just really, really, fucking stupid. Either way – either she’s a conspirator or a fucking moron – she hardly seems like a sensible choice to speak as a witness. So… who brought her in? When asked, all the Liberal and NDP members of the committee confirmed it wasn’t them. Which means… it’s pretty likely that those bozos were invited by Cooper – it was either him, Michael Barrett, or Dave MacKenzie, and the latter two are just committee members while Cooper was vice-chair. So I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate my comments from last week: Fuck… this… guy.

  • [] Poll finds majority strongly oppose funding private faith schools

    I’m a little disappointed by the results here, because people don’t seem to differentiate between private schools and private religious schools. Personally, I don’t have a problem with providing some funding for private schools, providing they can provide a solid justification for their existence – for example, they’re using a new, experimental system based on cutting-edge research. I mean, if they’re just “we’re just like the public schools, except we add Jesus”, then fuck ’em – you get the same effect with the public schools plus church, so special schools for the purpose are unnecessary. But I’m not an expert in education, so I’d be open to convincing.

  • [] “Eternal” by Zach Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

    This actually makes way more sense than any apologetics explanation I’ve ever heard.

  • [] Charged priest uses charter freedoms in strike at abortion bubble-zone law

    This idiot has made a lot of people very angry, but I honestly just find him amusing. His beef is with the law that provides a safe space around abortion clinics so patients can enter without being blocked or accosted by anti-abortion protesters. The stunt he pulled was to not do any obvious anti-abortion protesting; instead his placards only mentioned “free speech” and he just sat there silently and glared at the people entering and exiting. It’s like a child’s attempt to get around a rule set by a parent: “You told me not to hit my sister, and I didn’t touch her; she got hit by this stick, not me. Sure, I was swinging it around, but I wasn’t swinging it at her – I was just swinging it randomly, and she got in the way.” It’s not going to work. The ploy is so transparent, it’s laughable. Even if one were gullible enough to believe that his protest was really about free speech and not just a disguised abortion protest, then why would he need to hold that protest within 50 m of an abortion clinic?

  • [] Calgary couple convicted in son’s death from staph infection handed prison sentences

    Oh, ho, ho! I was not expecting this; this is a really pleasant surprise! I mean, I was totally expecting the Clarks to be convicted… but I wasn’t expecting jail time. The Clarks have been relatively sympathetic defendants – they really did care about the kid, and they did show some remorse. Contrast that to David and Collet Stephan, who just this week started their new trial. (They were convicted previously, but it was thrown out due to procedural errors.) The Stephans have not only been openly combative – attacking the police, the courts, the media, and even the doctors who tried to save the kid – they have been making a career out of their infamy, touring alt-med events and hawking herbal remedies (that obviously didn’t work, so I don’t know who’d be stupid enough to buy in). They’re probably shaking in their britches now – their previous conviction only netted them a few months in jail (and only for David; Collet just got house arrest).

  • [] Why “genocide” was used in the MMIWG report

    When I heard that the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry had called Canada’s treatment of indigenous people a “genocide”, my first response was… well, yeah, obviously. My second response was… this is going to trigger a shitstorm of denial. I am pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. Of course there was some denial, from the expected sources. But by and large, Canadians – at least so far as I’ve seen from the people I interact with – have accepted the conclusion. Even Trudeau acknowledged it. This interview provides an expert opinion of the term, and why it applies, so if there are any doubters remaining, it’s probably a good place to start.

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.

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