Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
Ugh, okay, as if you didn’t need another reason to despise the Catholic Church. This article gets really technical – it’s Bloomberg Businessweek, after all – but you don’t really need to understand the technicality to get the gist of what the Catholic Church is doing… and yes, let’s be clear, this is not individual dioceses going rogue, this is definitely a top-to-bottom strategy that the Vatican itself is deeply involved in.
Okay, this is technically not really about atheism, or Canada, or anything in between (pun intended). But it’s such a wonderfully weird article, I couldn’t help but share it. There is a certain kind of genius at play here, and I just love the intersection of impressive technical competence, friendly international cooperation, and straight-up absurdity. To me, this is humanity… maybe not at its best 😏, but certainly at its most human.
This article is a fascinating read for a number of reasons. First, it is by a former Conservative advisor who actually used to believe safe injection sites for drug users were
a horrible idea. What changed his mind? The evidence… and lots of it, some of which he kindly shares, and which, even by itself, would be remarkable. (My favourite factoid is that no-one has ever died at a safe injection site anywhere in the entire world. I knew that was true for Canada, despite having millions of visits, but not the entire world.) The third reason this piece is fascinating is the way the writer pivots from a scientific, evidence-based argument right into a Jesus argument… and then, bizarrely decides it was really the Jesus argument that
hit home. It’s a fascinating study of a religious mind that’s not stupid or so warped by faith that the thought process is incoherent. This is an intelligent person who very intelligently reasons his way to a sensible conclusion using science and data… then in the space of a few sentences, completely forgets all about that, and chants “praise Jesus!”
It’s really scary when you realize that the cartoonishly evil monster in this cartoon is actually less evil than the proposed anti-vaxx plan would require.
I highly recommend that every atheist that has ever fancied themselves a “religious debunker” read this article… or at least one like it. It turns out the way that most of us think believers can be convinced and “deconverted”… is wrong. Like… objectively wrong. The science says so, and we’re supposed be the ones who believe the science. The article very carefully avoids using “the r-word” (religion), and restricts the examples to “political” beliefs… but the “political” beliefs mentioned are
abortion access, immigration, or LGBTQ rights, and other than immigration, the Venn diagram of bigots on these topics for “political” reasons and religious reasons is pretty much a circle. So, it turns out that if you seriously want to change the beliefs of a religious person, you shouldn’t waste your time with facts or evidence. And of course, you shouldn’t call them an idiot, or a bigot, or anything else like that. Instead, you should just chat with them about what they believe and why, and let them find the incoherence in their own beliefs… much like the “street epistemology” methodology. Of course, this assumes you actually care about “deconverting” that person. Often it’s a complete waste of your time to even try, because they’re a particularly hard case, or because they’re just completely lacking in any integrity. In that case, other evidence suggests that there is value in just turning on the flamethrower and calling them the bigots that they, while explaining clearly exactly why they deserve the label. Won’t change their thinking, but there is evidence that it helps change others’ thinking.
Fun fact about me: in my earliest days of atheist activism, Scientology was actually one of my fields of expertise. I studied the religion in great depth, and even talked to some fairly high-ranking Scientologists as part of my research. I wasn’t interested in the rampant abuse that went on in the Church, because most of that happened in the US – off my beat. I wasn’t really interested in the Church structure or politics at all, really. I focused on the theological basis for Scientology, with an aim to debunk its religious (and, by extension, pseudoscientific claims). Not many people are aware that one of the primary motivations behind the founding of Scientology was L Ron Hubbard’s hatred for psychiatry. Yup, originally, Hubbard was peddling Dianetics, which was supposed to be a “new science” that would replace psychiatry… but when Dianetics got in legal trouble (for practising medicine without a licence), Hubbard repackaged it as a religion: Scientology. And in Scientology, psychiatry is basically the Devil – in fact, it was supposedly even responsible for Hitler. (Interesting bit of trivia: In his most famous science fiction novel Battlefield Earth, the aliens were the “Psychlos”, and their evil ruling class was the “Catrists”. Yup, the villains were the “Psychlo Catrists”. Subtle, eh?)
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