Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
It took me a while to read through this article… but wow was it worth it. Okay, the backstory is that the NDP/Green government in BC has been updating its parliamentary procedures – particularly with respect to religion. The most notable action thus far has been when they changed the opening procedure from “prayers” to “prayers and reflections” last year. The current project is that the Clerk of the House is replacing the current “sample prayers” that MLAs can use with… well, presumably a more “diverse” set of sample prayers. Now, the primary point of the article is to point out that that entire project is doomed from the get-go, and on that score, the article is damning. Literally any possible argument I could think of for how it might be even reasonably possible is explored, and thoroughly dismantled. (Note: I never even conceived that it would be a good idea, no; there’s no way it could be a good idea… but I figured that if you shrugged off the violations of secularism and stretched pragmatic hand-waving to the limit, it could at least be doable in some vaguely objectively practical way.) For that alone, the article is worth the price of admission, but I’d recommend it for a much broader purpose. I write a lot about secularism, and how poorly understood it is, and how difficult it can be to be apply in a social/cultural context that is just steeped in deeply ingrained Christian privilege. This article is hands down the best example I’ve ever seen of applying the principles of secularism in an actual, practical, real-world case study. I mean, that’s not really the primary intention of the article (so far as I can tell, they don’t even use the word “secularism” other than in quotes, except for once (and that usage, I’d question the correctness of if I were being really pedantic))… but… yeah, it kinda is, really, because what Bushfield and Phelps Bondaroff are trying to do, in essence, is look at the problem through the lens of reason and empathy, with the awareness that we live in a multicultural society. And… that’s it! That’s secularism! That’s how it’s done! Bushfield and Phelps Bondaroff may not be explicitly acting in the name of secularism, but they nevertheless perfectly illustrate how it’s done. Hell, they even show this old dog some new tricks! I really love the phrase: “tainted neutrality of the secular”. It poetically describes one of the hardest problems of secularism. So, yeah, for its face value – for the argument for why the government should not be in the business of putting together a prayer book – the article delivers on everything it promises. But the reason I’m adding it to my library is because it is simply the best practical example of “how to secularism” I think I’ve ever seen.
Welp, I guess we know what a Conservative Party under O’Toole is going to look like, when it comes to tolerance. I mean, nobody should be surprised; O’Toole only won the party leadership thanks to the hardcore so-cons, and he promised to pay them back for it. It would be offensive enough to have a god-besotted, hate-mongering, ignoramus in the caucus at all, but this is the Conservative Party, so yanno, standards are pretty low there. But to appoint someone like Chiu as the critic for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth? I mean, that’s just spitting in the face of at least two out of three of those concepts. Of course, Chiu and O’Toole are digging in and insisting that he’s not really a homophobic bigot… yanno, despite all the evidence.
This is US data, so, as always, keep that in mind, but it is very unique data that I haven’t seen before. The focus is on teenagers aged 13 to 17, and the similarities and differences between their religious beliefs and practices, and those of their parents. There’s a lot in there; I’ve only scratched the surface… but there are some interesting results even there. Given that these are still fairly young kids, still living at home with their parents, it shouldn’t be surprising that most are still steeped in the family faith; teens are only slightly more likely (6%) to be atheist, versus their parents (4%). (Older teens are more likely to be atheist; interestingly, there is virtually no gender difference.) However… there’s an interesting phenomenon buried in the data. Teens are equally likely to attend church as their parents… duh, right, because they live at home, so if the parents are going, so too almost certainly are the kids… but!… when it comes to religious practices the parents can’t (usually) force the kids to do… the kids just don’t do them! Yes, a teen will attend church as often as the parent (because they have to)… but they don’t pray nearly as often, or care about religion, or… believe in god! And keep in mind with all this: the vast majority of the time, a kid becomes an atheist after they leave home and (for example) go to college (or sometimes even later), so as uplifting as all this data is, it isn’t showing us what the future of atheism will look like… it’s actually vastly underestimating it.
Not gonna lie, this story took a turn I wasn’t expecting, and it did so remarkably quickly. So, for weeks now, residents of Kingston, Ontario have been using social media to draw attention to the absolutely wackadoodle, hate-filled bullshit coming out of the Third Day Worship Centre, and particularly its founder, Francis Armstrong. It’s not just the usual homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic garbage you’d expect from a Christian nut farm, nope; Armstrong also rants about stuff like Bill Gates planning to chip people via a COVID-19 vaccination, which would be the mark of the beast signalling the Revelations end times, yadda yadda. So, hateful and crazy. But the thing that really bothered Kingstoners was the fact that the city’s mayor, Bryan Paterson, was a member of the church. And not just a member, an enthusiastic member, who made videos for the church as a youth pastor – where he was just as ignorant and bigoted as Armstrong, though perhaps slightly less batshit insane. In the past, and also when this controversy erupted, Paterson has always denied being a bigot and made pretty standard statements about how he cares oh so very much about diversity and inclusiveness… just… yanno, apparently not so much that Armstrong’s church’s open bigotry bothered him. And that’s where I thought the story would stand… but then, mid-week, Paterson suddenly reversed course, and now he’s distancing himself from the church. Why? Well, I mean, I’d like to believe that, as his statement claims, he took some time to reflect and realized what a shitbag he was for being part of such an ignorant, hateful, and downright crazy-ass church. And, hey, maybe that’s true. But it’s just as likely that the social media campaign by Kingston’s residents turned so much heat on him that Armstrong and the Third Day Worship Centre became a political liability. Whatever’s in his heart, though, throwing Armstrong under the bus is effective in sending the message that he and his crap is not welcome in public discourse. Kudos to the good people of Kingston for bringing this all to light, and making it count!
Canadian Atheist’s Weekly Update depends on the submissions of readers like you. If you see anything on the Internet that you think might be of interest to CA readers, please take a minute to make a submission.