Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
 Pakistan called her a blasphemer. Canada became her refuge. On the Prairies, fear and grief haunt her
This is a fascinating follow-up on a story that captured the attention of the entire world a few years back. Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan (most likely falsely, not that it matters), and sentenced to death, was ultimately exonerated, but still had to flee to Canada to escape the murder squads after her (and it wasn’t an unjustified fear: murder squads assassinated politicians Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti merely for speaking out in her defence). She’s been here since mid-2019, apparently in the prairies of all places. She’s still living in fear; if extremists found out where she is, there is a very real chance they would still murder her. And she really regrets that neither she nor her daughters received proper education (her youngest has a disability, and if I recall, Bibi herself also has a learning disability). Nevertheless, she seems happy in Canada, though she is still struggling to really settle in; the language barrier seems to be a particular issue. This follow-up has led me to wonder how other people who escaped religious persecution and resettled in Canada have done. For example, I wonder how things are working out for Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun.
 Theologian: You “Can’t Improve” the Bible. Internet: OH YES WE CAN!
This is a pretty funny post from Friendly Atheist describing a hilarious self-own by a theologian. If there’s a lesson here, it would be: Don’t challenge the Internet to “improve” your religion. Because they will.
 “Philosophical Mythbusters” by Corey Mohler (Existential Comics)
Some of the biggest “atheist celebrities” have built their platforms on mocking philosophy, usually insinuating that “science” has supplanted it wholly. (The most infamous example is Sam Harris, about whom Mohler made a series of “unofficial” comics: part 1, part 2, part 3.) I wanted to feature this comic not because of the specific philosophical concepts discussed in it—which are interesting, if a bit abstract—but because I think it illustrates pretty clearly why the simple-minded empirical debunking that is so popular among a certain strain of atheist just… doesn’t work for some things. And if you don’t care about whether we actually perceive reality as it is or not (the first philosophical concept mentioned in the concept), that’s fine, you can live your life without needing the answer… but to deny the question is important at all, or to mock people for trying to answer it or even caring about it, is frankly just ignorant, and stupid.
 “Wow!” by Zach Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)
I mean, God kinda has a point. We really are on track to “sterilize” ourselves out of existence, and we can’t really pin all the blame for that on religion.
 Fifteen years ago we shrugged off anti-Muslim hate speech. Have we evolved?
This is an absolutely fascinating piece that functions both as a retrospective of how anti-Muslim hate speech manifests in Canada and how it has been perceived, and also a revelation how anti-Muslim hate is different—or, at least, perceived differently—from, say, antisemitism, and why. I remember Mark Steyn at the peak of his popularity, and I remember how frustrating it was getting people to recognize that what he was doing was islamophobia. I also remember how those dismissing concerns about Steyn were abruptly silenced when Anders Breivik cited him as justification for his massacre. Things didn’t change right away; it took several more atrocities—the Québec mosque shooting, the Christchurch shooting, and even the recent murder of a Muslim family simply taking a walk—and we’re arguably still trying to get people to take islamophobia seriously… but there is progress. An interesting point raised in this article is that one of the reasons calling out islamophobia has been so hard is that there is a lack of cultural awareness of what constituted islamophobic dog whistles. Like we all recognize that when someone says something like “the gas chambers were a good idea”… that’s clearly antisemitism. When someone speaks about Jewish control of the media or the banks, we are able to recognize that not as concern about media freedom or over-consolidation of the financial industry; we can discern that the real concern here is about the Jews. But when someone starts talking about “the Great Replacement”—as Steyn was—we still aren’t savvy enough, as a culture, to sniff out the islamophobia (and general racism) just beneath the surface. This is a problem that can only be solved by more education, to promote more general awareness of how racists and other bigots operate, and how they package their bullshit.
 Why Can Canadian Doctors Still Deny Access To Abortion—And Other Healthcare?
Lindeman’s focus is on abortion, but they’re touching on an issue that is massively broad and growing. Should health care providers—doctors, hospitals, and so on—have the right to “conscientiously object” to providing health care. Sounds pretty ridiculous on its face: Should bus drivers have the right to “consciously object” to driving buses? I think most people would laugh and answer “obviously no”… but I respectfully disagree. I think bus drivers should have the right to refuse to drive a bus. And, no, I don’t think they should be required to provide a reason why. Doesn’t matter if their concern is safety… or health (“I have a chronic intestinal disease, and it’s acting up today”)… or religious (“I can’t drive on Sundays”)… or conscientious (“I refuse to drive this route today because I would be delivering bigots to an fascist/homophobic/whatever event”)… or whatever. I don’t fucking care: if a driver does not want to drive, they should have the right to refuse to do so, because human beings are not robots or slaves who must perform their duties “or else”. Now, to be clear, I do expect that a refusal should come along with a willingness to reach a reasonable accommodation with the employer. (If they won’t drive on Sundays, fine, let them drive on Saturdays… if they won’t drive this route on this day for political or conscientious reasons, then they should be obligated to give advance notice so other drivers can be arranged… and so on.) So, my position is that, yes, if a doctor is going to refuse to provide abortions—directly or indirectly—then they should not be forced to do… however, they absolutely must reasonably accommodate for the fact that they are health care providers, and abortion is legal health care in Canada. They can’t just say: “I won’t assist with abortions, and I won’t provide referrals”. They need to reach a compromise that doesn’t block their patients from getting the health care they need. They should probably also be forced to put up clear signs in their lobby for what services they would rather not provide (but should still provide referrals, at least, if asked anyway). All that is my position… but this article makes a strong case for a different position—one that I do not fully object to—that it is wrong for health care providers to refuse to provide health care to their patients based on their own, personal preferences. (Or, as the article also insinuates, their own ignorance and intransigence against getting the training to be able to effectively provide abortion services.) Obviously those health care providers that are actively sabotaging their patients’ health by misdirecting or misinforming them deserve to lose their licences. But what do you think about allowing doctors the right to refuse to provide medical services? Under what circumstances? Let’s assume they are required to provide effective referrals… does that make refusal okay? If they do refuse, are they obligated to provide reasons?
 Saskatoon diocese report discloses 9 historical cases of sexual abuse, misconduct over 60 years
You’re probably thinking: “Another report of multiple abuses occurring in a Catholic diocese? Must be a day that ends in ‘-y’.” You’re not wrong, and honestly, at first I wasn’t even going to bother featuring this report as a Weekly Update item. But when I read the article, multiple things jumped out at me that made me think it was worth highlighting. The first is the half-assed nature of the report itself: despite identifying nine assailants, the Diocese only named three… and only the three that had already been named by the courts. So the idea that this represents any kind of “transparency” on the part of the Diocese is already bullshit. But it gets worse. Because it is not the case that there “only” nine cases… rather these were the only cases that were
fully investigated. In other words, there are other cases… the Diocese just doesn’t want to mention them. The excuse that they weren’t “fully investigated” is pretty weak; even providing anonymized partial information about those cases could help other victims come forward to substantiate the accusations. And even if not, revealing the number of uninvestigated accusations would be valuable data in and of itself, for a number of obvious reasons.
 Neo-Nazi was a Guest at a Swanky Fundraising Dinner for a Right-Wing Charity That Tried to Dig Up Dirt on a Canadian Judge
Hot damn this has not been a good month for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and I couldn’t be happier about that. First it came out that the JCCF had hired private investigators to spy on a judge… and not just any judge, a judge currently hearing a case of theirs. As a result, John Carpay is facing some serious legal consequences, and may be disbarred; he’s taken a “leave of absence” from the JCCF (I incorrectly said he’d actually quit the organization last week, but apparently he’s just on a break). Now, the JCCF has always associated with some pretty shitty characters—it’s kinda their jam—but… Nazis?! Yup. Paul Fromm, Canada’s most (in)famous neo-Nazi, who is so toxic that he actually got Derek Sloan kicked out of the Conservative Party merely by donating, was at a fundraiser for the JCCF. Now, in the JCCF’s defence, they probably didn’t ask Fromm to show up or support them, and may not have even been aware he was a fan. But… still… if Canada’s most notorious neo-Nazi is coming to your fundraisers, maybe it’s time for some serious soul-searching.
 Opinion: Graphic anti-abortion material is hate speech
I’m not a fan of using hate speech legislation willy-nilly—I am not a fan of using any legislation willy-nilly, especially when it comes to restricting the right to free expression—but where there is a legitimate claim that something rises to the level of hate speech, then I fully support identifyng it as such. Here the case is being made that graphic anti-abortion messaging rises to that level. My knee-jerk response is: no, because it doesn’t target a specific, identifiable group, and it doesn’t speak about anyone in language that suggests they should be eradicated. However… this article does make a good case. Anti-abortion messaging may not explicitly target a specific group… but it does target anyone provides or seeks abortions, which is undeniably an identifiable group who are often targeted for hate and violence. The targeting is implicit, but obvious and undeniable. And the language is absolutely violent, and calling for the eradication of the target group, vaguely worded disclaimers about not supporting violence notwithstanding. You can’t call a group of people literal baby murderers, then shrug your shoulders when someone decides that the world would be better off with them dead. And the use of graphic—both visually and metaphorically—language to “criticize” people who provide or get abortions is not legitimate criticism… it is straight-up vilification, intended to elicit an emotional response, not a rational one. So… is it hate speech? Hm, I’m going to have to give this a second thought. What do you think?
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Wow quite the update. I haven’t even read the articles just your commentary..ill have to get back to you later. It’s the denying healthcare one that most intrests me. I’m just so bored of nazis but iso good people keep watch where it pos up. The Christian Right. To be fair it’s in the right wing component of any religion. Even amongst atheists.
What a mess that was.
what concerns me is the Saint Pauls Hospital replacement mega project arrangement the BC government. the old location was ground zero in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. I never heard much about dying patients being told to repent for their sins or threatened with fire and brimstone.
But just a few years ago someone who had requested MAID had to be moved to another hospital using a specialized ambulance equipped with life support for their grave condition. Who paid for that I don’t know. Completely unnecessary. I emailed our health minister that he better have all the new hospitals obligations in print. basically that they perform every procedure of a secular hospital, admit doctors that perform those procedures and have normal hiring practices.
With respect to tax payer funded services like health care and public transit, the rights of the service providers to refuse service on moral or ethical grounds needs to be constrained by the fact that the users and funders of these systems:
a) may not share those beliefs
b) should have a reasonable expectation of service
You could also say that individual taxpayers should be accommodated should they decide that they can not in good conscience fund a health care system that denies access to services to a select group of people based on religious bigotry or a public transit system that provides transportation to health care facilities that offer abortions.
It’s a race to to the bottom and there are no winners here.
The argument that you can refuse to pay taxes if you don’t like something the government is doing has long been debunked. The gist of it is: As part of a community, you don’t necessarily get to have your personal way all the time; the community as a whole comes together to make a decision on what to do, and you go along with the majority choice, even if you don’t like it.
Oh, of course, you have the freedom to expression to object as strenuously as you want, and the freedom to campaign for what you want, to try to convince people to change your view, and hopefully convince enough of them that you can come together and vote to change things. But as part of the community, you do not have the freedom to just say, “fuck the community, I’m out” every time a vote doesn’t go your way.
This is not theoretical. I am stridently opposed to supporting the oil and gas industry, yet my government provides massive subsidies to programs that are, quite literally, setting the world on fire. I would love to just withhold my taxes until the government stops enabling the rape of the planet. But that would be wrong; the community voted in a government that is buying pipelines, and while that pisses me off, I am still part of that community, and I have to respect the community decision… “respect” in the sense that I have to abide by it, not in the sense that I have to like it. I will definitely use every legal means at my disposal to advocate against oil and gas subsidies, and I will vote against the parties that provide them, and I will do my level best to convince others to vote along with me. But I won’t simply deny that I am a part of the community, just because they’re not doing everything I want. And as part of the community, I have obligations to the community, one of which is paying taxes.
This is entirely different from the case of doctors (I’m just going to use “doctors” as shorthand for all medical professionals, because this applies to nurses, emergency response personnel, and so on, just as much as it applies to actual doctors). Doctors do not “owe the medical community”, or society at large, any obligation to perform every single medical procedure they are asked to do. Sure, doctors owe society in the general sense that society gave them the training and gives them privileges (like big money) in exchange for performing their services… but that doesn’t translate to “you must do everything we demand”. Doctors are not slaves.
If there are procedures that a doctor will not, or cannot, do, then I say they should absolutely have the freedom to refuse.
I don’t really care why they want to refuse:
I don’t care if they’re refusing because they had a death in the family and now feel out of sorts, and thus, not confident that they can do the procedure properly.
I don’t care if they’re refusing because it’s been years since they learned or last did the procedure, and feel their skills have atrophied to the point that there’s too great a risk.
I don’t care if they just don’t want to do it because they want to leave early to go golfing for the weekend (true story: this actually happened when my brother was born). Practically speaking, if a doctor really isn’t into doing a procedure, forcing them to do it is stupid and dangerous… it would be better to pass it on to someone currently more invested in things.
I don’t care if they’re refusing because they think their sky daddy will be sad if they perform the procedure. The argument is similar to the previous case: if they really don’t want to do, it would be stupid and dangerous to force to do it.
The bottom line is: I recognize that doctors are human beings, not health-care providing robots. If they don’t wanna do something, fine. Doesn’t matter why. Forcing them, in any case, is counterproductive on every level.
(By the way, this applies to all employees, no matter what they do. I say no to slavery; everyone should be able to refuse work they really don’t want to do, no matter the reason. Naturally, there must be accommodation on all sides: if your job is to do X, and you just don’t feel like doing X, then you must work with the employer to figure out a reasonable compromise. That could be as simple as, “Joe says he’ll fill in for me today”, and as complex as, “okay, we’re transferring you to another position, and there will be a pay deduction in that position”, depending on the situation.)
Of course, there are caveats, the most important being, if a doctor will not or cannot perform a procedure, they must provide an effective referral. That much obligation they do have, as doctors. I’m fine with a doctor saying, “I don’t want to provide abortions… but I will provide patients who want one with immediate and effective referrals so they can get it done”. And I actually prefer that the doctor doesn’t tell the patient why they won’t do the abortion—I’d be fine with them lying, and saying they don’t have the training, or the time, or whatever, rather than burdening the patient by judging the choice with the doctor’s personal beliefs.
And I’m also on board with doctors being required to put up signage detailing what services they won’t provide, so that patients know to avoid doctors who won’t provide services… but they should still provide effective referrals none the less.
And I am on board with institutions, like hospitals, being allowed to ask a doctor what services they will and won’t provide, and refusing to hire a doctor who won’t do abortions (for example). I don’t see this as discrimination based on religion, because, as I’ve repeated, I don’t give a shit about the reasons a doctor won’t do abortions. So it’s irrelevant if your objection is religious or not. (The mirror case, where a hospital wants to refuse to hire a doctor who will provide abortions, is totally different, because that would be religious discrimination.)
So I don’t buy your slippery slope argument. I don’t see how allowing doctors (or employees in general) to object to performing work they don’t want to do can possibly lead to allowing people to refuse to pay taxes. This is apples and oranges. Paying taxes is an obligation that all citizens of a society have… and if you don’t like it, then you can leave the society, or you can try to change the society… but you can’t simply stay in the society, reaping its benefits and privileges, while refusing to do your fair share. But performing every single procedure demanded of them is not an obligation doctors have. They are not robots, and they are not slaves. They do have an obligation to help patients, but they can (usually) do so by providing effective referrals. That’s good enough; that’s a good balance between patients’s rights and doctors’s rights.
I’ve run into groups waving around this sort of material in a public venue (just outside of Union Station, Toronto in my case) and in my experience they have been either Catholic or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ignoring the obvious hypocrisy of cults well known for murdering children taking a stance on the protection of fetuses I have noticed that these people include a large contingent of young people obviously roped into this activity by their cult.
My upbringing included a Ontario tax payer funded Catholic education all the way up to grade 13 and I certainly recognise the pressures that these young people are facing, having participated in anti-abortion trips to Queens Park myself.
I would have to include these people in the target group, seeing them more as victims than willing participants.