Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[Flag created by the Waterloo District School Board to substitute for a Pride Flag. The flag features a cartoonish figure representing Jesus—with a halo and a cross over his shoulder—arms spread and welcoming before a crowd of multicoloured (blue, green, red, etc.) stick people. Below that is the slogan, “We are all wonderfully made”. Below the slogan is the text, “We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)”.]
The caption “we love because he first loved us” clearly sends the message that acceptance of others is totally unconditional.
  • [] Should We Reopen Churches?

    I know, I know; I always say that when a headline asks a question, the answer is always “no”. And yeah, that certainly seems to be the obvious answer here. But as author Pueyo notes: They are going to open. That’s not up for debate; one way or another, they will reopen. Debating that question is a complete waste of everyone’s time. So what Pueyo chooses to focus on is the next question: Given that places of worship will reopen… how can it be done safely? This article is an interesting read both for the way it describes how traditional worship is a virus breeding ground, and for its interesting suggestions on what should change.

  • [] Statement on racism and police brutality in light of George Floyd’s murder

    With the wave of protests following the multiple (!) murders of black Americans – and Canadians (!) – by police (George Floyd being perhaps the most infamous), most secularist, humanist, atheist, and freethought organizations have issued public statements condemning racism. Sadly, the vast majority of those statements have been fucking terrible. Most are simply vapid, hollow regurgitations of empty-headed declarations of “racism is bad, mkay?”, completely devoid of any acknowledgement of the social context that racism is supported by and supports in turn. Some of the worst even pointedly ignore any social context, and blame racism on just not bein’ rational enough. Because sure, that’s all we need to do: just be more rational, and black people will stop being murdered disproportionately by cops. We’re being reasonable, so, job done! Racism solved! Of course, that’s complete bullshit. Of all those obligatory statements of solidarity against racism from SHAFT organizations in the last few weeks, I’ve seen few as good as this one by Humanists International. This is how you do it, folks. You don’t ignore the larger social and systemic contexts that racism exists in. You don’t try to twist it into your own pet issues, or obsession with “rationalism”. You name the problem and its causes… you give voice to the people who live with the problem… you use your platform to empower the voices normally ignored… you identity your own responsibility to do something about it… and you don’t dissemble, play “whataboutery” games, or try to shift the dialogue onto your own personal pet peeves.

  • [] Student speaks out against lack of Pride flag at Catholic high school

    I’ve said before and I’ll almost certainly say it again: the kids are alright. On just about every issue of interest to Canadian Atheist, you can count on younger Canadians to be way ahead of the curve. This item is interesting for a number of reasons. If you’ve been following Weekly Update, you know all about the efforts of Ontario’s public Catholic school boards to avoid showing any real support for Pride Month while also avoiding accusations of homophobia. Well, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board came up with a rather clever tactic. After more than 300 students at St. David Catholic Secondary School signed a petition asking that their school fly the Pride flag at their school (see? the kids are alright!), members of the Board found a creative way to eat their hate and have it too. They simply designed a new flag! Yup, it’s a rare example of vexiological plausible deniability: they can claim to progressives that, look, they are flying “a” “Pride flag”, whilst simultaneously not betraying the bigots in their fold. And of course, their new design shows not even one single sign of anything pro-LGBTQ2S… but it sure has a big-ass Jesus! But back to the kids; how did they respond to this ridiculously transparent attempt to fake LGBTQ2S support? They weren’t buying. Within days the Board decided that flying its own flag wasn’t going to fool anyone, so they did the decent thing. Only of course they didn’t. The decent thing would be deciding to fly the actual Pride flag… which is what the students wanted in the first place, remember? But the Board decided that since people didn’t want their bullshit replacement flag… well then they weren’t going to fly any Pride flag at all! (The silliest part of the whole debacle, to me, is how the Board, after being called out for their bullshit, made a public statement that they were going to reevaluate whether to fly a Pride flag after consulting with the LGBTQ2S community… I mean, what the fuck do they think the LGBTQ2S community is going to say about whether or not to fly a Pride flag?)

  • [] Pass or Fail?

    One of the most commonly repeated claims in favour of private schools is that they provide better educational outcomes. But is that true? Spoiler: No, it’s probably not. There has been a lot of evidence over the years that suggests that there is either virtually no difference between the quality of education provided by public or private schools, or that what small differences do exist are easily explained away by the socioeconomic differences you would expect between students rich and privileged enough to attend private schools and those not. The BCHA (which has been killing it recently, doing some outstanding work far beyond anything any other Canadian secularist, humanist, atheist, or freethought group is doing – I actually awarded their executive director the Canadian Atheist Person of the Year award last year partly for the organizations outstanding work, and it looks like they’re seriously gunning for a repeat!) has added even more evidence to the pile, this time using data from UBC. I haven’t had time to read the full report yet, but it looks like there was really very little difference between public and private school students, except that private school students were more likely to complete their degrees (which is almost certainly something that could be caused by socioeconomic differences). (The study also apparently compares elite private schools with non-elite, and religious private schools with secular private schools. It’s worth a read; I intend to dive into it this weekend!)

  • [] Why People Kill in the Name of God

    This piece describes a fascinating study about religious bellicosity. So, we all know that some religious people make a big show of being about peace and love. Some even fetishize the idea of being peaceful so much that they make a virtue of being a punching bag even in the face of unjustified violence – just consider the old “turn the other cheek” saw. But other religious people beat the drum of violence and oppression, and think of their religion as a club to beat others into submission and compliance with. The idea behind this study is to try to suss out just what exactly makes those two kinds of religious people difference. The theory is that people more inclined to justify religious dominance (and maybe violence) are those people who are more confident of their own superiority… and usually overconfident, because they don’t actually have any objective justification for thinking themselves superior. They just believe they’re superior because… well, that’s the way the universe is structured: some people are superior to others, and they happen to be the superior ones. There’s a hierarchy, they believe, and you have to accept and respect your place in it, or you can be violently corrected and put back in your place. What’s really fascinating is the way they tested this idea of self-superiority and overconfidence. What they did was ask people how well they knew a bunch of Bible stories, like the story of Noah’s Ark, the Ten Commandments, as well as some obscure ones like Tobit’s Song of Praise and Soren’s Temple. The genius of their test? Some of those “Bible stories” were completely fabricated. “Soren’s Temple”? It’s just not a thing. The researchers made it up. Yet some people claimed to be quite familiar with the completely bullshit “Bible stories”. And those people who claimed knowledge of non-existent Bible stories were the ones most likely to think it was okay to use religious violence. And! This finding held for both Christians and Muslims (with “Bible stories” replaced with “Quran stories” of course)!

  • [] Allowing the call to prayer in Canada spurred complaints — but not about noise

    I mean… is anyone surprised? The noise was never the issue. (My city wasn’t one of the ones that allowed the call to prayer, so far as I know. I’m only aware of a single mosque in the entire city, and it’s right on the border of the industrial area.) I love that the article quotes Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish pointing out that they did get noise complaints, but when they actually checked the addresses, they were nowhere near mosques. Other cities, like Brampton, apparently didn’t even get a single noise complaint. Of course, the real problem with showing any sign of kindness to Muslims was… that we were showing any sign of kindness to Muslims.

  • [] Why is Doug Ford in such a hurry to open churches?

    This past week, the biggest news of interest to our readership (I mean, aside from the Black Lives Matter protests, of course), has been the reopening of places of worship in Ontario as part of the “Phase 2” stage of easing pandemic restrictions in Ontario. Obviously most Canadian atheists aren’t enthused about reopening churches. But for most, the thing that bothers them isn’t really that religious people are going to get their playgrounds back… it’s that places of worship are demonstrably the most dangerous vectors of contagion… and we’re still in the middle of a fucking pandemic. Reopening places of worship willy-nilly seems almost like asking for a second wave. And (as a later item points out), we are reopening them in a very willy-nilly fashion. This reckless rush seems ill-advised at best, downright deadly at worst, and while that’s kinda the way the Ford government does business generally, I think it’s important to understand where all this pressure is coming from. It’s far too easy to simply generalize this ignorant and reckless stupidity to all religious people, or to simplify it as just a “feature” of religion. But the reality is, as always, that religion is really a far more complex and multi-faceted phenomenon than we usually give it credit for. Turns out that most religious Ontarians do not want to rush into reopening places of worship. It’s really just a very small group of very conservative, very loud evangelical Christian groups that are the primary voices calling for it… and of course, those are the groups that power the socon lobby that Doug Ford is beholden to, so… yeah.

  • [] ‘You don’t want to be the priest that kills off your congregation’: Is Ontario opening houses of worship too quickly?

    A rare case where a headline asks a question and the answer is “yes”! This week we’ve had 3 items about reopening churches. The first assumed it’s happening eventually, and focused on the mechanics of how it might be done safely. The second was about pointing out that this crazy obsession with reopening churches as soon as possible isn’t actually coming from most religious people; it’s really just a small cabal of very right-wing, very conservative Christian groups who happen to wield a disproportionate amount of political clout. This piece looks at the actual reopening strategy Ontario is using this week… or rather, the appalling lack of strategy.

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