Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
 “Twitter and Anti-intellectualism” (Video: 17:39)
This absolutely remarkable video starts from a common observation. (If you can’t access the video on Nebula, there is a version on YouTube. I know there are some differences, but I haven’t watched the YouTube version, so I can’t say what they are.) Joel noticed a tweet by an Internet celebrity (who was, at one point, quite popular in some atheist circles) that basically accused socialists of being pro-bestiality. Now, at this point, most people would make the tired, old, unthinking argument that discourse these days is absolutely toxic because of “the Internet” or “social media” or whatever. But Joel did something different. He did some sleuthing, and uncovered the history leading up to the tweet… and in doing so, he discovered something amazing. Joel discovered that the conversation had started with a perfectly legitimate (if somewhat provocative) intellectual challenge, and, for short while, unfolded as a very thoughtful and rational discussion of ethics in general (along with the specific topic of the original challenge). Even the celebrity in question participated with their own proposition… it was just a very, very bad argument, and, as one would hope and expect in an open, intellectual discussion forum, it was called out as such, and critics explained why it was such a terrible argument. Up to this point, what was happening was exactly what one would hope for from the Internet: new ideas were being put forward, and critiqued… old ideas and positions were being challenged… it was all wonderful and beautiful. Oh, of course, it was contentious, but that’s what one should expect in a truly open discussion forum where deeply-held ideas can be challenged. But then things abruptly went off the rails when ego and defensiveness came into play, and in very short order, we went from a beautiful, free, open, rational discussion of ethics and beliefs… to accusing “socialists” (? 🤷🏼) of secretly wanting to fuck animals. Joel digs into what happened, how it happened—speculating on the psychology of those involved—and what this tells us about Internet discourse in general, and the ways that social media makes it better, and not-so-much better.
This is mostly a fairly typical call for people to give a shit about islamophobia, which is fine; there’s not really anything to debate or object to here. However, there is one part of the article that I find very interesting: in the second-last paragraph, where Khan makes some specific recommendations. Her recommendations are awesome, and I would not hesitate to label any party that refuses to implement them to be at least tacitly supporting islamophobia, if not outright bigoted. Is that just me, though? What do you think: are Khan’s suggestions too much? If so, why?
Like Myers says, you better get your affairs in order, atheists, because the believers have decided that will be a Global Day of Prayer to End Atheism. That’s right, using the Power of Prayer™, theists will put an end to atheism. It’s not clear whether they will be praying that we all suddenly become believers, or whether we should all simply be eradicated, but either way, our days as atheists are numbered. After all, we know how effective prayer can be. How can we forget the Global Day of Prayer to End Coronavirus? Which, yanno, happened on March 3rd. In 2020. And totes ended the pandemic, right?
This articles gives a much more credulous view of Bill 21 support than I would, but I think it’s a good thing to have to defend one’s position from intelligent and reasonable disagreement from time to time. I totally agree with Polèse in thinking that the Justices on the Supreme Court of Canada have a tough situation ahead of them. Bill 21 is not really being argued on its merits—the near-unanimous consensus is that it has no merits—but rather has become a political weapon of Québec nationalism. As Polèse says, this is a no-win situation: if the Supreme Court says that Bill 21 is bullshit (even if they don’t strike it down, due to the notwithstanding clause), Legault wins; if the Supreme Court says that Bill 21 is reasonable, Legault wins. But I would hope the Justices take a longer view; it doesn’t really matter if Legault wins now… the question is: who wins and who loses in the long term. And with a long-term view, it is much more important to stand up for minority rights than to politically coddle separatists. Where I disagree with Polèse is on this oft-repeated idea that there are “two views” of secularism. There are not. There is secularism, and then there is bigotry. And as hard as Polèse tries to disguise the positions of Bill 21 supporters as “reasonable”, they are indisputably naked bigotry. The fact that their bigotry is “understandable” given their history does not make it “not bigotry”. Historically understandable bigotry is still bigotry.
I find the verbal gymnastics here hilarious. The article singles out groups where vaccination rates are low using the following terms: Alberta, Manitoba, rural, remote, the Prairies, specific areas in Alberta and Manitoba, seniors, teenagers, indigenous people, and “young”. Only one person interviewed, the Mayor of High Level, makes a passing reference that
some religious communities are especially resistant, but only after first mentioning that
people are spread out, and before going on to blame indigenous communities and the Internet. And yet… when it comes time to interview an actual anti-vaxxer, who do they find? A pastor. Now, this pastor is cagey enough to assert that he’s not an anti-vaxxer, and to say he’s just
unconvinced… but of course, his arguments are stupid and dishonest: he claims he doesn’t trust the government, but it’s not actually the government who says vaccines are safe and effective, it’s scientists; he’s not doubting “public health officials”, he’s denying the science. But the point is: why is The Globe and Mail so damned desperate to avoid naming religion as the primary source of vaccine “skepticism”?
My knee-jerk response to this petition is to say: “Yo. Peeps. Go sign.” However… this is not a proper Government petition. This is, in fact, a Change.org petition… which means it’s basically pointless; it’s just screaming into the digital æther (and giving email harvesters your information in the process). I mean, if you’re in the mood, and if you have a burner email address you don’t mind getting spammed, then by all means, go ahead and sign it, if only to drum up the numbers. But I would really like to see a real Government petition for something like this, which would require getting a member of Parliament to sponsor it. Can we do it? Will any MP step up?
Depressingly, I’ve seen far too many atheists trying to be the “rational” voice in the room in discussions about residential schools, and taking what they think is the “sensible, middle position” between the extremes of saying they were the best thing ever on the one hand, and calling them a genocide on the other. The problem is, the “middle” position is not always the reasonable one. Sometimes, in a debate between two sides, one side is just plain correct, and the other is plain wrong, and the “middle position” between them… is also plain wrong. The case of residential schools appears to be one of those situations. There is no need for a “moderate” position, and in fact, there is no “moderate” position that doesn’t require denying indisputable facts: the residential schools program was a straight-up genocide. This article calls out a number of the arguments “moderates” try to make to dismiss the fact that a genocide occurred, or at the very least, water down the atrocity. If you have ever tried to argue that residential schools did some good, or anything like “well, they at least provided an education”, then you need some education yourself, and this article is a good start.
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