Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back

    This is primarily about the US, so ignore the actual values of the numerical data. But it does relate to the situation here (and most other places in the world). It’s common knowledge now (I hope) that younger people have been leaving religion in droves… but there has been some question about whether they would stay away. Some people have argued that the exodus is just a temporary trend, and as millennials get older, they would “mellow out” and return to the faith of their childhood. Things like having children and needing a place for them to get moral instruction would drive them back to the churches, the argument went. Well, as this piece argues, the data isn’t supporting that hypothesis: When millennials left the churches, it appears they left for good. That’s good news, but the article makes some very important points about where to go from here. It’s good that people are leaving the churches, but we really do need to work harder at providing alternatives to the supplementary (that is, non-religious) services that churches that offer.

  • [] Quebec’s top court won’t suspend province’s religious symbols ban, but judges say rights being violated

    Disappointing, but not surprising: Québec’s Court of Appeal has never been particularly good about defending secularism (for example, in the Saguenay prayer case, they were the only level of court that ruled in favour of government prayer). I mentioned this ruling in passing last week, but couldn’t say more because the ruling isn’t available online yet. However, judging from this CBC piece, it seems that there is no controversy whatsoever that Bill 21 is extremely discriminatory, and that it’s doing very real harm (both things that the Bill’s supporters have tried to downplay or deny). So why didn’t they suspend it? Well, it all comes down to the use of the notwithstanding clause – that seems to have thrown the Court into confusion. You see, the courts are generally loathe to do anything that defies the intention of the elected legislature; unless a law is blatantly unconstitutional, they tend to let it stand. The logic here is that since the government used the nuclear option (the notwithstanding clause) the lawmakers must think this law is really, really, really important – so important that it should stand even though it violates fundamental rights… and the Court should respect that. (Personally, I find that a little weird. They’re basically saying, “okay, it’s our job to strike down laws that violate our Constitution… but we’ll allow an illegal law if they really, really want it.” But, whatever.) The ruling wasn’t unanimous, which means it automatically qualifies for further review, but that seems unlikely – it’s more likely that people will just let the law stand for now, and focus on the actual challenges that will strike it down completely.

  • [] ‘Pray and stay’: Vancouver Island church opens doors (and pews) to homeless

    The real story in this item isn’t what’s in the article, it’s the article itself. On the one hand, I like the idea of a piece that really sticks it to a municipal government that’s too tight-assed to pay for a cold-weather shelter that could literally save lives, and dumps the responsibility on the private sector. But… the tone of this piece is troubling. It’s not really all that critical of the Parksville city council… instead the focus is on how sweet and awesome the church that picked up the slack is. That’s… I mean… one way to spin the story, I guess. But… the piece is really, really sycophantic, breathlessly praising the church for an action which is hardly novel for churches in general, and really, the least one could expect from a tax-exempt property. What’s really troubling is how the piece glosses over what’s really going on, though: the church’s program is hardly altruistic – it’s literally called “Pray and Stay”. This is not just a selfless, humanitarian gesture… they’re actually exploiting the desperate situation people are finding themselves in, in order to force their religion on them. And the church even aware of this! Just look at the second last paragraph, which literally has the Reverend saying that people haven’t put up much of a fight to a peremptory show of faith for a warm place to sleep so they don’t die of hypothermia.

  • [] London ‘street preachers’ yell slurs at women in Waterloo

    I can’t believe these guys are still at it! And now they’re expanding their range. I thought they’d been arrested and charged… well, they have been charged, multiple times, but apparently the cases are still working their way through the courts.

  • [] Canadian Military Investigating Soldier After Posts on Neo-Nazi Forum

    Another one! It’s amazing how many Nazis the Forces are finding in their ranks now that they’re actually, yanno, lookin’ for ‘em. This story really goes hand-in-hand with the other amazing story this week – broken by an Australian news outlet; not a Canadian one – that the RCMP basically put out a kill order on indigenous protesters at the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest. Normally I wouldn’t mention these stories in an Update, because they’re really kinda peripheral to Canadian atheist interests, but 1) it was a slow news week; and 2) these stories are all part of a larger context that is of interest to Canadian atheists, where our media and particularly our security and law enforcement agencies have had an incredibly unbalanced and unhealthy focus on Islamist terrorism in Canada – sometimes literally fabricating them (in multiple cases!) – while ignoring other forms of hate that are a much greater threat, particularly right-wing terrorism. It’s important to be aware of this, because the same kind of thing is rampant within the (Canadian) atheist community – it’s not only that there are lots of people who still think that Islamic terrorism is a major threat in Canada, while downplaying or ignoring the threat of right-wing extremism… it’s also the case that there is a lot of right-wing extremism lurking under the atheist banner.

  • [] Jesuits in Canada promise to release names of abusive priests

    Credit where it’s due, the Jesuits are the first and only Canadian Catholic order to do this. And, to be clear, they’re not just releasing the list of offenders who have been charged or are dead… they’re releasing the list of everyone who has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting minors over the last 60 years… including some who are still alive, and some who were not previously publicly known as accused. And “credible” is based simply on a “more likely true than not” standard. There’s apparently even at least six names on the list who are still currently clergy (though allegedly they were long ago removed from any role where they might have access to children). The only reason they’re not releasing the list now is because they’ve brought on a third-party legal reviewer to check each case and make sure it’s legally safe for the Jesuits to add the name to the list… which, yeah, sure, fine – you don’t want to accidentally release a name that isn’t credibly accused. Buried in the article is a possible motivation for the timing. You see, the other big news in Catholic child rape this week was that the Pope has removed the “pontifical secrecy” protection for sex abuse cases. I’m not an expert in canon law, but as I understand it, there is a general rule of “ordinary secrecy” for the business of the Church – which is fine; in secular terms we’d call that “confidentiality”, and we expect any businesses or organizations we work with to keep the details of our interaction confidential unless there’s a damn good reason not to. As with secular organizations, “ordinary secrecy” doesn’t apply when there’s a criminal investigation going on. But “pontifical secrecy” is (supposedly) for stuff that’s really important to keep secret, and thus can even be held back from authorities in a criminal investigation. You may be outraged at this, but think again – you have to remember that the Church operates all over the world, including places that are under extremely corrupt and dangerous regimes: it makes perfect sense to, for example, hide someone’s admission of being gay from a government that executes gay people. However, “pontifical secrecy” has been used to stymie police investigations of child abuse by clergy. That won’t work any longer. Note that this still doesn’t require clergy to work with authorities or divulge evidence in cases of child abuse… but that’s probably never going to be official policy, again because of the fact that the Church operates in some dodgy jurisdictions: you don’t want a priest to feel forced to reveal that someone has a same-sex attraction – even if that’s revealed because of their actions with a minor – in a place where that might result in a death sentence.

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