Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .
 BCHA responds to federal pre-budget 2022 consultation
Some of the items the BCHA wants the feds to consider will be no surprise; they’ve been calling on an end to property tax exemptions for religions and the removal of “advancement of religion” as a legitimate charity purpose for years now. The third item, though, caught my attention: I honestly hadn’t considered the issue of faith-based childcare before. But… yeah… I mean, the BCHA has already done the legwork and discovered that religious schools teach nonsense, and practise discrimination, and I see no reasonable argument that publicly funding such bullshit doesn’t violate the Charter. That being said, this will be a hard sell. But I’m impressed that we’ve come to a point where the BCHA feels it can seriously make that proposal.
 Class-action lawsuit claims RZIM misled donors, covered up Ravi Zacharias’ abuse
Ooo-hoo-hoo, this just makes my black little atheist heart swell. It’s not just the schadenfreude that comes from the rare sight of seeing a religious organization face real consequences for its misdeeds. It’s the precedent this sets. We all know how many of the most successful religious grifters are straight-up crooks… some of them, like Kent Hovind, literally so. The list of major evangelist preachers who have been caught in some kind of grody scandal is… well, pretty much the same as the list of major evangelist preachers. Imagine if the believers who were duped into donating to these grifters had the chance to recover their donations when the grifters were exposed as such. That could be life-changing for some people; there are lot of stories of people tricked into donating most or all of their life savings to grifter preachers. And it would be an incredible upheaval of the entire ecosystem of charismatic preachers and their ministries; it would become much more risky to turn a blind eye to shady behaviour by the preachers, because now there could be real consequences if their public image becomes soiled. Oh man, I can’t wait to see how this shakes out. It’s just a pity the lawsuit is being filed in the US, where the courts have been stacked with theocrats.
 Shift Happens: Employees seeking accommodation for their religious practices shouldn’t put too much faith in the system
This is a brief and fairly simplistic article, but for all its first-year-level coverage of reasonable accommodation by employers, it still has a lot to teach many atheists. Reasonable accommodation has a bad rap among atheists, largely due to disinformation campaigns by right-wing actors who peddle the notion that multiculturalism requires blind tolerance of any request for accommodation (or, more often, “exemptions”) made for religious reasons. That’s rank bullshit, but many atheists still believe it. The reality is that the Canadian legal system, and the courts in particular, have been very strong allies of atheists and secularists for many, many years. Reasonable accommodation does not mean blindly accepting any request for “special treatment” made with a religious excuse; it means nothing of the sort. This article gives just a taste of how the decision process actually works.
 Quebec man who supported banning hijabs thinks vaccine passports are a violation of his personal freedom
Once again, The Beaverton’s got the number of islamophobes in Québec who support the province’s religious accessories ban. Best line:
To Savard and many others, this is the worst infringement on civil rights in Quebec in decades, since this one affects them.
 Ontario pastor fired after coming out as trans files lawsuit against Baptist church
Every time Junia Joplin appears in my news feed, my respect for her rises. Joplin is the pastor who came out as trans to her congregation in a video sermon just over a year ago, and at first, everything seemed to be going wonderfully. She received an outpouring of support from her congregants, and even the Church itself seemed to be supportive. And then, everything abruptly turned to shit. The bigots, it seems, were too cowardly to express their opinions openly, and instead waited for an opportunity to hurt Joplin, anonymously, to avoid social consequences. So as soon as Church leadership gave them the opportunity to do so, they voted to have Joplin fired. Joplin was understandably crushed by this… but now she’s demanding justice. Obviously I don’t know the gory details of the case, but it sure seems to me like she has a damned good case. Firing someone for being transgender would normally be an open-and-shut case of illegal discrimination… but of course, the fact that we’re dealing with a church complicates matters. Religious organizations are granted leeway to discriminate based on a person’s beliefs—a Jewish synagogue would be allowed to refuse to hire a Hindu for a rabbi position—but is “being transgender” having the wrong beliefs? And does the Lorne Park Baptist Church actually have a theological opposition to someone being transgender? ~48% of them basically said no in the vote that ultimately got Joplin fired. Would they eject a congregant who was transgender? Seems doubtful. Does Joplin being a trans woman somehow make her incapable of acting as pastor in the Church? If so, why? I can’t see Lorne Park Baptist Church giving satisfactory answers to these questions, and it sure seems like putting someone’s employment to a vote like that is questionable at best—what would happen if the congregation voted to fire a pastor for being black?—so, given what information I have right now, it sure looks like Joplin has a strong case.
 Harassment rooted in race, religion and gender to become illegal under Edmonton bylaw
I don’t think this new bylaw is a bad thing, but I wonder if it’s really necessary. This seems like something that should already be covered by the Criminal Code… although, perhaps the goal is to deal with types of harassment that don’t quite rise to the level of criminal harassment. Actually, I kinda dig that it also covers sexual harassment. Still, I have to wonder: is harassment that big a problem in Edmonton? There have been several high-profile incidents, and I have heard informal opinions of residents that it really is terrible there, so, maybe so.
 Manitoba medical student expelled over ‘pro-gun and pro-life’ Facebook posts wins court ruling
I haven’t seen a lot of chatter about this ruling in the atheosphere, but I suspect that’s because it’s slipped under the radar of most atheists. I further suspect that if they were to take notice, the decision would trigger outrage—“What?! Universities can’t expel students for publishing horrifying opinions, even if those opinions make other students feel unsafe?!” I hope to preempt such outrage here, because that was absolutely not what the decision was. Quite conversely, the University does have the right to expel students who share horrifying opinions on Facebook or elsewhere. What happened here was a procedural failure: one particular professor basically decided to expel from the start—regardless of whatever Zaki did—and then didn’t properly recuse themselves from the decision-making process thereafter. Also, the decision-making process didn’t give enough attention to Zaki’s freedom of expression. To be absolutely clear, this does not mean that they were wrong to decide to expel Zaki… it just means the process needed to be more fair and less biased (that one professor should not have been involved if they had no interest in considering Zaki’s side), and needed to take Zaki’s rights more seriously (which just means they have to show their thinking process with regards to the balance of Zaki’s rights, and the rights of other students and the university itself). If the decision were done fairly, and properly, it’s still possible—even likely—to have ended up with Zaki’s explusion. The real lesson here is that even if you’re dealing with opinions or behaviours that are obviously disgusting and unacceptable, you still have to treat each case fairly, on its own merits, and without prejudice. That shouldn’t be a problem, though; if the opinion or behaviour really is disgusting, a fair process should still arrive at the sensible and “obvious” conclusion.
 Typical ‘vaccine hesitant’ person is a 42-year-old Ontario woman who votes Liberal: Abacus polling
There’s a lot of very good data in this article—though, as is so common in Canadian media coverage of the issue, no connection is made between COVID vaccine denialism and religion. For instance, I’d be very curious to see how much of “hate government telling me what to do” stems from the belief that only God has the right to do that, and how much of the distrust in government, science, and doctors is based on eschatological leanings. Regardless, this data is still interesting despite being so obviously incomplete. Personally, I don’t really see a substantive difference between the “Hesitant” and the “Refusers”; the latter just seems to be a more stubborn version of the former. The “Refusers” just seem more likely to believe COVID-19 isn’t really a problem (it’s a hoax, or they’re not worried about getting it, etc.), while the “Hesitant” are just “alternative medicine” types.
 Why Aren’t We All Conspiracy Theorists?
This is a remarkable article; I highly recommend everybody give it a read. The title doesn’t nearly do it justice; the question serves as a starting point for a complete inversion of conventional science about conspiracy theories and why people are seduced by them. I’ve featured several Weekly Update items about what kinds of people are vulnerable to conspiracy delusions, and why. This, I think, is the first time I’ve seen anyone ask the opposite question. That alone would be enough to be interesting… but that’s just the article’s warm-up. I don’t want to say more, because I’d like to see what kind of discussion this article inspires organically.
 When true believers become a danger to themselves and others
I’ve noted several times how mainstream media outlets are strangely coy about mentioning the fact that the heart of the Canadian opposition to COVID-19 vaccination is pretty much entirely religious. Or rather, pretty much entirely Christian. Yes, yes, “not all Christians” and all that—it is true that the majority of Christians are on board with vaccination. But the minority that aren’t is still huge, and they make up a plurality of all deniers in Canada, so this is a connection that can’t simply be ignored. So it’s cool that Coren is willing to call them out, and, even cooler, he digs deep into the why. Why has COVID denialism taken root in Christianity? What are the reasons they give? Coren’s got their number.
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With regard to the Psychology Today article, “Why Aren’t We All Conspiracy Theorists?”…
It’s a very interesting idea to treat conspiracy theories (metaphorically) as a immunology problem. It might turn out to be a useful strategy.
However, I have two thoughts about it.
First, its really just a rearrangement of Dawkins’ original meme idea from The Selfish Gene: Ideas replicate and spread like viruses, without conscious effort fro the minds that host them. So, let’s make a vaccine. The problem with this is that idea of the meme is a metaphor, and treating metaphors as real things can produce irrational results.
Second, this is just one in a long list of pop-sci articles that psychologist what is essentially a USA-specific cultural problem. All of these articles take the USA as a proxy for the world, and so none of them ask why people in the USA are so much more prone to conspiracy thinking than people in other countries, and why conspiracies in other countries are so often exports from the USA.
People believe crazy things in large part because they are part of a culture where these crazy ideas keep cropping up. Yes, the mental shortcuts that we all are victims of allow these ideas to take root, but the level and volume of craziness is peculiar to the United States.
It’s been long know that when populations experience personal insecurity for long periods of time, they become more superstitious, more religious, and more prone to conspiracy thinking. The economy and culture of the USA has been crafted (sometimes deliberately, sometimes by accident) to keep people afraid. It’s no wonder they are prone to conspiracies.
Not really, though. I mean, if you squint and hand-wave a bit, there are superficial similarities, but the two ideas have very little in common.
The most basic difference is that in Dawkins’s metaphor, the thing that determines how “infectious” an idea is is in the idea. Certain ideas are more “infectious” than others because of some characteristic of the idea that makes them more effective at “infecting” human minds. But in inoculation theory, it’s not the idea that determines whether or not it can “infect” a mind… it’s something about the mind. In other words, they’re looking at entirely different things. Dawkins is looking at characteristics of the idea; McGuire is looking at characteristics of the mind.
The two ideas are completely orthogonal. Even if Dawkins’s metaphor were complete bullshit, McGuire’s model is still valid; if ideas didn’t replicate and spread like viruses, it could still be true that individual minds are more or less vulnerable to poor reasoning. And on the flip side, even if McGuire were completely wrong, Dawkins’s metaphor could still stand; the idea of memes could still work even if individual minds didn’t vary in how vulnerable they are.
What? Did you read the article? This idea is sixty years old… and has been applied for decades. The Wikipedia article (which is linked in the Psychology Today article) describes how it’s been used in marketing (for example) since the 1970s. It even says the theory .
What’s new is the way it’s being applied. Historically, the theory has been used to shape opinions in marketing and political campaigning and the like, including how to persuade people in an argument. The idea of using the theory to protect against misinformation is new… the articles linked to are from 2017 and 2019.
Also, I don’t know where you get the idea that this is US-centric. The article uses mostly-US-centric examples, sure, but… it’s a US publication… it would obviously use examples familiar to its target audience. If it were a Canadian magazine, I would expect it to use examples familiar to Canadian readers. And just because the article only used US-centric examples, that doesn’t mean that the theory is US-centric. One of the biggest modern names in connection to the theory is John Cook, and he’s Australian.