Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[Cartoon of a man praying, saying, “Dear God, please make me rich.” God replies: “Nah, that’s selfish.”]
Says the omnipotent being who nevertheless limits its creations to a few decades’ lifespan in a tightly resource-constrained environment.
  • [] “Coffee” by Zach Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

    This week was book-ended by a pair of great comics poking holes in religious logic by Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. This one is the more complex of the pair, reminding that pithy “arguments” for God based on pointing to this or that good thing can always be undermined, because nothing is truly perfect.

  • [] Why Are We Still Paying for Catholic Schools?

    This is a comprehensive and well-argued case for scrapping the separate Catholic school systems in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. What makes this really stand out is that the person making the case is Michael Coren, perhaps Canada’s most famous lapsed Catholic (yet still very much Christian).

  • [] Teaching about religion and culture still legal

    This is the BCHA’s write-up about the recently-decided Port Alberni case, where a Christian mother sued the school for allegedly forcing her daughter to participate in an indigenous religious ritual. This was a messier story than it really needed to be. The mother claimed her child was forced to take part in – not just observe, but actually take part in – a Nuu-chah-nulth smudging ritual… which went against the family’s Christian beliefs. The school said the children did observe the ritual demonstrated, but didn’t take part, and were certainly not coerced at any point. If it had been your typical case of a very religious parent (and child) saying X, and the school saying (including all school officials, teachers, and students involved in the event) saying Y… well, then the truth is Y. Because it always is. But confounding the issue here was the fact that the school had sent parents a letter explicitly saying that the children would not only be taking part in the ceremony, they would even be expected to have a spiritual experience while doing so. Well, it appears the letter was a mistake – most likely some parent (possibly even the same one who filed the case) had contacted the school, pointing out how incredibly inappropriate it would be to make the kids actually participate in a religious ritual, and the school course-corrected. Apparently things went down exactly as you’d expect in a secular school system: the Nuu-chah-nulth demonstrated the ceremony, and explained the cultural context the significance of the various elements, while the children observed, and asked questions. Thus, the Court dismissed the mother’s complaint. There was more to the mother’s complaint, but the article explains it, and explains the ruling more completely. It’s a good ruling, saying what I’ve been saying here at CA forever: It’s perfectly fine for students in a public school system to be taught about religion, and for them to observe religious ceremonies (provided a sound educational justification can be made, and there are very good reasons to teach more about indigenous culture and beliefs in this country). So long as the religion isn’t being taught itself – as truth or fact – and the students aren’t participating in ceremonies or rituals, then there is no violation of secularism.

  • [] Enshrine evidence-based medicine in healthcare professions

    Okay, a little backstory is necessary here. The last few years have seen a number of very embarrassing scandals for a number of health-related professions – the BC College of Dental Surgeons was apparently particularly “dysfunctional”… but particularly problematic have been the colleges for things like chiropractic and naturopathy. Not only have several naturopaths been caught claiming they can “cure” autism, and several chiropractors found telling patients anti-vaccination bullshit, some of those were actually board members of the professional college. Plus there were some high-profile cases, like the naturopath who gave a boy live rabies virus (luckily so diluted as to be harmless) because she thought he was a werewolf – not only did she face no real sanction from her professional college, she was allowed to quit without any consequences simply because she didn’t agree with her profession’s rules. The province commissioned an independent report from Harry Cayton on what to do about the system of professional colleges. That report was delivered early last year, and it was explosive. Cayton basically said: scrap the whole system and start fresh. But he also said – not so much in the report, so far as I know, but certainly in public comments – that some of the professional colleges shouldn’t even exist at all. I don’t think he’s said which explicitly… but it’s pretty clear what he’s hinting at: he doesn’t think garbage like homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and maybe even chiropractic should have official status as professional colleges. Now the province is considering what actions to take, and it sounds like they’re dumping a number of the colleges. This item is the BCHA’s submission to the public consultation by the province’s health ministry, in which they press for a science-based approach to health care.

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

    This is the other SMBC comic featured this week. It makes a nice contrast to the first… in this, it’s the human who gets the last laugh.

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