Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Spirituality, Not Just Religion, May Be Declining

    This is a really interesting take on the peculiar demographic changes in religiosity we’re seeing worldwide. I’ve written previously that many people are abandoning the “religious” label with all its hateful, ignorant baggage, and calling themselves “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR). They’re not really becoming less religious, they’re just changing the label. But yes, sure, there are also large numbers abandoning both “religious” and “spiritual/SBNR”. However, I think Ralph Lewis may be jumping the gun a bit. There is some evidence of a “backlash”, where younger people are actually re-embracing religiosity; Lewis does note the uptick in “paranormal” beliefs among younger people, but I think this is something we really need more data about before we start making sweeping declarations about trends.

  • [] We could save billions by amalgamating school boards

    There have been countless editorials and opinion pieces pointing out the many, many benefits of amalgamating separate (religious) school systems into a single (secular) public school system, most commonly pointing out the significant cash savings that comes with doing so. This one is particularly neat, though, because it is a direct response to a letter-to-the-editor published in The Hamilton Spectator that makes a pretty sad-ass attempt at apologetics for the separate system, and asks: Where will the savings comes from? The writer makes the silly argument that the number of students won’t change, therefore the funding will be the same. Well, in this item, Tom Roden explains, in great detail and with numerous examples, exactly where the savings will come from. It’s a mic-drop piece.

  • [] Jean Vanier, Canadian Catholic Charity Founder, Sexually Abused Women

    Well, well, well. Yet another story of abuse in the Catholic hierarchy… but Vanier may be the biggest Canadian name ever accused (of course, he died last year, escaping justice). Vanier has the highest grade Order of Canada, he won the Templeton Prize in 2015, and he was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. There are a couple of very interesting things about the Vanier case that make it somewhat unique, though. First, the victims weren’t children, or disabled people (Vanier’s charity, L’Arche International, deals with the developmentally disabled). The Catholic Church’s official line is that relationships between religious leaders and (non-disabled) adults under their care are always consensual… but there is very clear evidence of predatory behaviour and abuse of authority here, not to mention the way the religion itself was weaponized to intimidate and control the victims. Second, Vanier wasn’t clergy; he was a layman. (He appears to have been trained to be a creep by a clergyman, but that’s another (gross) story.) Since he wasn’t clergy, there’s really nothing the Catholic Church could have done – their mechanisms for reporting and punishing offenders (when that happens, which rarely) are all built around clergy. Vanier was using the Church’s power to rape women, but the Church was powerless to stop him. You can see where there’s a problem here the Church really needs to do something about. Third, the case was actually reported by L’Arche – Vanier’s own organization – which is a rare, but good thing. Granted, it was only after Vanier’s death – a few short months after – which is… less good. And fourth, the response has been… intriguing. This is the first time I’ve seen a major Catholic figure credibly accused, and at least some Catholics are actually taking the accusation seriously – and not trying to dissemble or deny – and taking action, like the school considering changing its name.

  • [] Test of faith

    Holy shit. If it weren’t for the Vanier revelations, this would be hands-down the religious news story of the week. Where to even begin? This story is huge, with years of backstory, and clearly a lot more to come. So Gospel for Asia is a religious charity that’s been around for decades, but not one of the (more-or-less) “good” religious charities that actually do good work while sprinkling a little Jesus on top… no, Gospel for Asia is specifically about throwing Jesus at the most vulnerable people, and any actual, real good they happen to do is only incidental (for example, yeah, they build clean water wells… but only if there doesn’t happen to be clean water available for the church they’re building). The list of bullshit Gospel for Asia has been accused of is… well, I was going to write “horrifying”, but really, it’s kinda par for the course for a religious charity: it’s the usual shit like accusations of only giving needed aid in a disaster if people convert to Christianity. But Gospel for Asia has been particularly shady when it comes to its financials. Well, I mean, again, par for the course for a religious charity, right? But GfA has been particularly shady, even for a religious charity. They were actually expelled from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (I know, don’t laugh) in 2015 for straight-up fucking lying about their finances. And then, just in 2019, they lost a class action lawsuit in the US and had to pay back $37 million in donation refunds… but that was a lucky break for GfA, because they were accused of siphoning hundreds of millions away from actual relief spending and into the private accounts of the founder K.P. Yohannan – so $37 million was chump change – and they never had to admit to any wrongdoing. But now, a CBC investigation – the one that produced this long-form piece – has triggered a new class action lawsuit… this time in Canada. And this should be really interesting, because during US case, GfA straight-up admitted, yeah, we totally stole $20 million from Canadians to pay for our headquarters in Texas… which ain’t in Asia, donchaknow. (They had no qualms admitting this, because it was a US case, and the complainants in that case didn’t give a fuck about lost Canadian money.) They also told the CRA they spent $94 million on projects in Asia… which appears to be a complete fiction. The long-form story the item links to tells even more about the shenanigans going on, so I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this story.

  • [] Here’s how Christian fundamentalist homeschooling actually hurts kids

    This is a very nicely balanced piece about homeschooling. While it focuses on abuses of the practice – “educational neglect” in particular – it makes the point that there no need to ban homeschooling completely, or to put overly tight restrictions on what can be taught and how, or to resort to criminalizing and jailing non-compliant parents. But there does need to be more oversight, and better checks, on what homeschooling parents are doing, to ensure that kids aren’t being denied their right to an education, or falling too far behind. Still, there’s a lot in there about the way religious people see homeschooling that’s concerning. Personally, my eyebrows really went up at the mother who homeschools two of her kids… but sends her special needs kid to public school.

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