Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Godless grifters: How the New Atheists merged with the far right

    This article was all the talk of the atheist Internet universe for the past couple of weeks, with pretty much every atheist podcast, blog, and commentator chiming in with their take on it. I’m not going to use this space to give my own take—that’s not what Weekly Update is for—but I do think I have to give some context to give you a better understanding of where the article is coming from, and why it’s triggered so much discussion. Salon has long been… and I don’t think this is an unfair characterization… virulently anti-atheist in its takes. For about as long as atheism has been politically relevant (pretty much since 9/11 and the early days of New Atheism), Salon has been relentlessly critical of the very existence of atheist activism, and certainly of any activism that isn’t deferent or polite. So the fact that yet another article dumping on atheism has appeared in Salon is pretty par for the course. However… the author of the article, Phil Torres, is not the kind of author who is blindly critical of atheism or atheist activism. He has instead been (at least in the last few years) consistently critical of the regressive tendencies of some branches of atheism, and particularly of the embarrassingly shitty behaviour of some formerly beloved atheist celebrities. So when you read the article, you have to understand it as a bastard synthesis of Salon’s disdain for the very idea of atheist activism, and Torres’s laser-focused criticisms of its darker corners. And fascinatingly—for me, at least—the community commentary seems to get that. In the past, when Salon did one of its dumping-on-atheists articles, it would generally just be torn to shreds without bothering to give it any benefit of the doubt (and, perhaps, justly so). This time, however, people are at least looking into the article’s claims and inferences. And the general consensus seems to be threefold. The first point of consensus is that the factual claims made appear to be all legit. Every horrible, shitty thing these figures are accused of doing, everything appears to be all true. These are all garbage human beings that no-one should be holding up as “leaders” in any sense, especially by a community that is serious about its progressive cred. However, the second point of consensus is that… the atheist community really doesn’t consider these people “leaders”, at least not anymore. This is a point that’s only peripherally mentioned in the article, and only in the very last paragraph: it has always been true that the atheist community at large has been far more left-leaning, and more progressively minded, than its putative “leadership”. The people mentioned in the article have their rabid fanbases, sure, but none of them have anything even remotely approaching the popularity in the atheist community that they could perhaps once claim to. And some of them don’t even seem to have any traction in the atheist community at all. Like, who the fuck is James Lindsay? Oh, I know who is; what I mean is, when the fuck was he ever considered to be a major figure in New Atheism, or atheism at all? All he’s famous for is being Peter Boghossian’s Igor in their idiotic “grievance studies” failed hoaxes. What, he wrote one book (that I’d never heard of before now) about atheism, and that makes him a major figure in the movement? Is our standard for celebrity really that low? Anywho, the third point of consensus is that while Torres has certainly, and correctly, zeroed in behaviour that is reprehensible, and positions that are hysterically out of sync with atheists specifically, and the general left more broadly, saying that any of it amounts to evidence of “merging with the far-right” is ridiculous. As pretty much every commentator notes, most of the things that Torres accuses them of—believing and peddling in outdated science, ranting about “social justice warriors” and “wokeism”, being sexual predators, sexism, and islamophobia—is hardly shit specific to the far right. Sam Harris is a good example: the fact that Harris is popular among the far right, and the fact that he is seen as a gateway to far right extremism, does not mean that Harris himself is far right (or that he’s “merged” with the far right in any meaningful way). The left-right political spectrum is bullshit from the jump, but even if you want to try to take it seriously, it’s not black-or-white: the fact that these people aren’t good lefties does not therefore make them far right. Torres has failed miserably if his goal was to prove that these people have “merged with the far right”; what he has succeeded in proving, though, is that they’re all trash. What we, as a community, need to figure out now is what to do about this.

  • [] New data suggests conversion therapy practices are still common across Canada

    See this? This is why a conversion therapy ban isn’t just a symbolic gesture. It’s still happening, and as the article notes, around 2⁄3 of the time it’s being done in a religious setting. An exemption in the ban for religion—something the Conservatives have been pushing for—would be absurd.

  • [] Muslim family killed in ‘premeditated’ hit and run in London, Ont., driver charged with murder, police say

    This was the big news this past week, not just within the atheist sphere, but right across Canada. It’s depressing to say it but… here we go again, because this is, what, the third deadly islamophobic attack in the last five years? (And I’m just counting the ones where people died; if I counted the ones where people were merely hospitalized, the count would be much bigger.) And as always, surrounding the core tragedy is a constellation of smaller outrages and insults… for example, an online vigil held by a Waterloo Region group was “Zoom bombed” by people making racist and homophobic comments… and that’s not even close to the worst things that happened online. As happens after every one of these tragic events, people are trying to call out the worst offenders of anti-Muslim rhetoric (who are mostly Conservative politicians, natch), and pointing to obviously-related sociocultural phenomena, but I’m skeptical it will have any lasting effect (it never does). We don’t yet know why the perpetrator did it, which leaves me as always with that chilling fear… was he one of us? That is… was he an atheist? Though he may have been poisoned by the darkest corners of our community… was he part of our community? Thus far we’ve been “lucky” in that the toxic islamophobia that is so tragically rife in some sectors of the atheist community has yet to produce a killer… has our luck run out this time? Are we going to have to “own” this tragedy? I’d say even if not, we need to do more, work harder, to expunge the anti-Muslim intolerance we all know exists in our spaces.

  • [] GraceLife Church pastor’s religious freedoms not violated, Alberta judge rules

    The only thing about this ruling that would surprise me is if anyone is actually surprised by it. I know there are asshats in our community who insist that we can’t count on the courts because they’re too into multiculturalism or too “woke”, but reality just doesn’t align with their paranoid delusions. In fact, Canadian courts have always been a strong defender of secularism; I would argue that if our governments actually listened to our courts—rather than constantly trying to work around them—we’d be one of the most successfully secular countries in the world. So yeah, of course the government wasn’t targeting GraceLife or James Coates with their COVID-19 health measures. I mean, duh. I love the Judge’s bluntness: The question today is whether the purpose, manner, or effect of enforcement of that law on December 2020 violated James Coates’s religious freedoms. The answer is no. Mic drop.

  • [] Apostate Report – Ex-Muslims of North America

    I believe this may be the very first time former Muslims specifically have been surveyed, making this an invaluable resource for insight into that population. I haven’t read the report myself—they want you to submit your personal information to get it, so no, EXMNA, fuck off, I don’t want to be on your mailing list or have my info sold to advertisers. But there’s still a lot of information out of the report that’s publicly available. The most interesting finding, for me, is just how strongly progressive ex-Muslims are… which is interesting because, just as with the case for atheists in general, the general ex-Muslim population appear to be far, far more progressive than their representative “leadership”.

  • [] The theological reason why the Catholic Church is reticent to apologize for residential schools

    There’s a lot of background context here that I would hope all Canadian atheists already know… but of course, not all of our readership are specifically Canadian atheists, so, I’ll explain. The residential school system was a system that ran from 1831 to 1996 (!), organized by the Canadian government, and administered (mostly) by churches, with the aim of “civilizing” indigenous Canadians… which in practice meant forcibly taking children from their families, (literally) beating Jesus into them while forbidding them to speak their native languages or practise their traditional customs, making them work as child slaves on attached farms and such to pay for the schools, and generally starving them and letting them die of cholera and other diseases to due inadequate medical care and generally horrific living conditions. It was a genocide. It has been acknowledged as such, and almost all organizations responsible have apologized for it: the government of Canada, and three of the four religious groups responsible for running the schools—the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church of Canada (notably, all three admirably apologized before the residential school system was even fully abolished… took the Canadian government over a decade to catch up). The one holdout is the Roman Catholic Church… which is especially infuriating because they ran the majority (roughly 50–60%) of the schools, and carried out the worst of the atrocities. Despite being pressured to by residential school survivors and by the Canadian government, multiple Popes have refused, offering only “expressions of sorrow” instead. Which is like punching someone in the face, then saying, “I’m sorry you got punched in the face,” rather than, “I’m sorry I punched you in the face”. Well, a few weeks back, the remains of 215 children were discovered at a former residential school run by the Catholic Church (and there are now rumblings that remains of another 100 children were found at a different residential school, also a Catholic school for at least part of its existence). This has set off a whole new round of attempts to get the Catholic Church to apologize… and a whole new round of refusals. Now, the standing assumption of why the Catholic Church refuses to apologize is that they don’t want to become accountable for compensation. That’s probably true… but here we have yet another, and perhaps more interesting reason.

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.

2 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. These would be easier to read if they were broken up into smaller paragraphs, the first and last one especially.

    • Yeah, the script I use to generate Weekly Update is in dire need of an upgrade, for a number of reasons… the one you mentioned being one of them. It doesn’t even work properly with the more recent versions of WordPress.

      It’s on my to-do list, but given how little time I have these days, and the number of higher priority fixes that need to get done, it’ll probably be a while before I finally get around to fixing it. So please bear with it for a while!

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