Weekly Update: to

by | February 22, 2020

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Tolerance, Openness and Secularism in Society Are the First Steps to Economic Prosperity, Study Finds

    This study’s findings aren’t exactly ground-breaking – there is a growing body of evidence that this study’s findings conform with. Basically: Pretty much everyone has noticed that countries that are more secular (and more tolerant, but we’ll get to that in a moment) are better-off economically. The question has been: Which came first? The secularism? Or the prosperity? The evidence is pretty darn strong that it’s the secular-rationality (and tolerance) that comes first, and the prosperity follows. If prosperity comes first, secular-rationality doesn’t necessarily follow. But there’s a whole lot more to talk about here. For example: The study talks about “secular-rationality”… which is not secularism, or atheism. Instead, it refers to thinking about things in a secular way. Take morality, for instance: “Secular-rationality” does not mean people give up their faith, but rather that they think about what’s moral and what’s not using secular metrics (like consequentialism/utilitarianism (“the greatest good for the greatest number”) ethics, for example). Secularism does usually come along later, because when you think carefully (or “rationally”) about how to organize a society, secularism is the only sensible option… but “secular-rationality” doesn’t necessarily imply irreligiousness: You can theoretically have a country that is 100% Muslim, and all true believers (not just “culturally Muslim”), but they’re all “liberal Muslims”, meaning they believe in the theological fairy tales, but use modern standards for ethical reasoning. The really interesting thing about this finding, though, is how much tolerance matters. That’s especially interesting today, in 2020, given how much backsliding is going on worldwide with the rise of nationalist sentiment and right-wing extremism… does that mean we’re seeing a reversal of progress? One of the study authors opines that we’re not; the current situation is merely a hiccup in a centuries-long trend. But it is interesting that if we really want to talk about progress, we can’t merely – as we atheist and secular activists have been doing – talk only about secular progress… we need to include tolerance in that calculus as well. And that’s something that we could be a lot better at.

  • [] Trial shines light on closed Hasidic community on outskirts of Montreal

    The trial in the Tash case continued this week. There have been quite a few articles on the trial, and many of them include interesting details not included in other articles, so be sure to check the “related” links on the CBC site (I don’t think other outlets are covering the trial as closely as the CBC, but if you see articles on other sites, those would probably be worth checking out too, of course).

  • [] Why mentally-ill people should, of course, be eligible for assisted dying

    I mean… yeah. Duh. Why would anyone ever think otherwise? Assisted dying should be legal and available for anyone who is capable of making a legally-binding decision. And being mentally ill does not make one mentally incompetent.

  • [] ‘It’s OK to be gay in a Catholic school’: Toronto teacher defends book read in classroom

    The story here is deceptively simple: A teacher within the Toronto Catholic District School Board read a pro-LGBTQ2+ book to his grade 5 and 6 students… cue the religious freak-out… now the teacher is fighting for his job. Pretty standard, cut-and-dry case for a separate schools controversy, right? Only… all is not quite as it seems here. First, the book is not actually a pro-LGBTQ2+ book. Well… it is and it isn’t. It’s The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, which is about a boy who cried “fabulous”. Yeah. That’s literally it. The boy just runs around calling everything he sees “fabulous”, while his parents try to rein him in and make him more like them – that is, more reserved and orderly and conforming. There is nothing there that is explicitly pro-LGBTQ2+ book… but… yeah, I mean, the word “fabulous” is kinda coded that way. But on the surface, it’s really about tolerance – about having a different way of seeing the world, and having your viewpoint tolerated. In any case, the sign outside De Buono’s class is right: It’s OK to be gay in a Catholic school. I’ve written about this myself: while it is constitutionally-required that Catholic schools be Catholic, being gay is not “anti-Catholic”; one can be gay and in good standing with the Catholic church, and anyone who says otherwise is not only a bigot, and not only wrong… they’re a heretic. De Buono sounds like a bit of an idiot (or he’s just playing dumb) for allegedly not realizing the controversy he was creating… but he’s not wrong, and he should not be fired because he did nothing wrong. But the TCDSB is the same school district that, just a few weeks back, created controversy by initially refusing to include provincially-mandated protection for gender identity and expression in its code of conduct… and whose vice-chair who advocated adding bestiality, pedophilia, cannibalism, auto-erotic asphyxiation and “auto-vampirism”. So De Buono really is in a dangerous spot. As per usual, online news articles don’t link to his petition (what is the point of putting your journalism on the web if you’re not going to link to anything in it?). So here it is: Paulo De Buono’s petition to keep his job despite the efforts of homophobic Catholics.

  • [] Revealed: quarter of all tweets about climate crisis produced by bots

    It’s no secret and no surprise that there are a lot of bots pushing political narratives online; evidence of that fact has been featured before in Weekly Update items. What the new data here provides is further evidence for the fact that this is primarily happening only on one side of the “debate”. In this case, the focus is on climate change and climate change denial. It turns out that bots are disproportionately responsible for spreading climate change denial bullshit… and especially stuff that undermines science: almost 40% of tweets talking about “fake science” were by bots. The reason why this matters so much is because there are a number of major cognitive biases (the bandwagon effect, the availability heuristic, the fallacy of the middle ground, and so on) that this is playing to: it doesn’t matter if it’s complete bullshit – if it’s repeated enough, it will worm its way into people’s thinking.

  • [] Ontario Court judge rules parts of Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional

    Well, this is an interesting ruling. Legally, it doesn’t really mean much yet; it’s just an Ontario court ruling, and criminal law is a federal matter. But the prostitution law is a complicated issue. On the one hand, the stated purpose of prostitution law is to prevent human trafficking and the exploitation of young women or vulnerable minorities. That’s fine, but on the other hand, there sure does seem to be a lot of Victorian-era, religious moralizing behind it, too. For instance, banning advertising of sex services seems be entirely about preventing sex work, period… there’s no real logical connection to human trafficking or exploitation specifically. I mean, if you think about it, the only people likely to be advertising sex services would be people who are not trafficking or exploiting! Right? If you’re doing something shady or straight-up illegal… you’re not likely to be freaking advertising it, right? If we removed the primarily-religious moral stigma from sex work, and allowed it to be done openly and with sensible government protections (I don’t know offhand what those might be, but I can imagine there might be some), then that would be undermining the market for trafficking or exploitation victims. In that world, only outfits that aren’t operating openly would immediately stand out to investigators as places where there might be problems… there would basically be a flashing red light (pun intended) pointing to the places where trafficking or exploitation are likely to be happening! I have heard that there are not insubstantial numbers of atheists that oppose legalizing sex work… but I’ve only heard that from religious opponents of sex work, and in my own experience I’ve never found a Canadian atheist who strongly opposes legalizing sex work. Are there any out there? I’d love to hear your arguments.

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One thought on “Weekly Update: to

  1. steve oberski

    Those involved in the sex trade need full access to all the rights and services accorded to other members of our society.

    This includes being able to open a bank account (specifically for their business), use accountants, buy/rent/lease places of business, have full access to the legal system and police services, both criminal and civil.

    While it is my opinion, completely unsubstantiated, that many of those involved in the sex trade would rather be pursuing another occupation, the laws applicable to this area should be designed to provide maximum protection to those involved in this area and allow them to conduct their lives to the same extent that anyone else in our society can.

    I think that it will be the continued emancipation of many of the marginalised groups that find themselves forced to work in this area due to lack of opportunity, when they have equal rights under the law as other members of our society, that will allow them other options currently not available.

    That being said, there are most likely some that would work in the sex trade by fully informed choice, and the laws in this area should allow for this, they should not be designed to “solve” problems that do not exist.


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