Weekly Update: 20-Nov-2021 to 26-Nov-2021

by | November 27, 2021

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] The Gift of Uncertainty

I keep a close eye on religious demographics in Canada, and I think it’s pretty common knowledge now that religious affiliation is dropping dramatically… but particularly that younger Canadians have the lowest religious affiliation of all.

It’s important to understand, though, that religious affiliation doesn’t necessarily measure religiosity. We all know that there are many people who still identify with some religion, despite not actually believing it—for example, “cultural Catholics”. And some of the religiously unaffiliated—the so-called “Nones”—are by far more religious than the average religiously-affiliated person; these are people who believe in nonsense too ridiculous for most established faiths, and thus, are “forging their own path”.

So where do the youth fit? Are they unaffiliated because they’re actually non-religious? Or are they finding religion on the Internet, among the nuttiest YouTube conspiracy theories?

What appears to be happening, according this article, is that young people are not necessarily less religious… but they are more skeptical. They’re not necessarily rejecting religion entirely… but they are less likely to accept it on their parents’ terms.

Where this will lead, a generation from now, could be interesting. It’s possible that it could lead to outright rejecting religion, but even if not, mere skepticism could be a game changer. If you think about it, most of the issues we have had—today and in the past—with religion, all stem from religious certainty. Imagine what it would be like if religious people were actually humble—if they were open to coexisting peacefully with other religions (and non-religion), and unwilling to impose their own faith-based beliefs on others.

[] Hamilton pastor under fire for providing hundreds of religious COVID-19 vaccine exemptions

I know this is outrageously irresponsible behaviour, but I have a hard time being outraged by it… because it’s just too stupid to take seriously.

As the article notes—repeatedly—no one seems to be taking the idea of (Christian) religious exemptions to COVID vaccines seriously. The province (and remember, this is currently Doug Ford’s province) flat-out says they’re not considering any non-medical exemptions (which… yeah, more on that in a moment). Private employers have mostly said they will at least consider faith-based exemptions—probably out of fear of lawsuits—but at the same time, none seem to have actually accepted any—again, probably out of fear of lawsuits by all the other, already-vaccinated employees for endangering them. So this pastor’s exemptions are probably just a complete waste of everyone’s time.

I think it needs to be clarified, though, that… if… someone manages to come forward with a… valid… case for a religious exemption… then the province and private employers are required, by law, to take it seriously. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll simply be… “exempt”; most likely, if the employer can make a reasonable accommodation—like allowing the employee to work from home—then the employee will also be required to make some concessions as well… anything from reduced pay, to additional duties, to whatever else. Contrary to what many people seem to think—including many atheists—there is simply no such thing as “religious exemptions” in Canadian law. There is such a thing as a legal duty to accommodate sincere religious beliefs… but accommodation never means simply saying the rules don’t apply to the religious person. Accommodation is a compromise… on both sides… so unless the rule is pointless and unnecessary—in which case, the rule should be removed entirely—the religious person will be asked to make some sacrifices too.

There are two issues with regards to religious accommodation requests:

  • the religious belief has to be valid; and
  • the requested accommodation has to be reasonable.

Thus far, all “religious exemption” requests have failed on both counts.

To be valid, a religious belief about vaccination has to be both:

  • sincere; and
  • legitimately connected to the faith.

What’s been happening, though, is that people have been making political arguments—like that they object to government overreach—and trying to use religious language to camouflage their true motives. Judges, of course, are not fools; they can spot the deception.

And what these “religious exemption” idiots are asking for is completely unreasonable. Most of them downplay or deny the danger of COVID altogether… that right there is an immediate losing strategy. And then, the only accommodation they request is just a complete exemption to the public health rules… which, as I mentioned above: accommodation ≠ exemption. Failing to offer or accept any reasonable compromises on their part dooms their chances of coming to an agreement for an accommodation.

The whole affair fascinates me, because this is the first time I can think of where we’re seeing a society-wide reevaluation of religious privilege. Traditionally, Canadians have generally been conflict-averse… especially where religion has come up. In the past, Canadians have shrugged and allowed some rather ridiculous requests for religious exemptions; for example, virtually every provincial law society rolled over and acquiesced Trinity Western University’s homophobic law school “covenant”. Now, I am surprised to see how readily and vigorously Canadians are pushing back against attempts to exercise religious privilege. I have to wonder how much this represents a permanent cultural change.

[] ‘Great expectations’ for meeting with Pope

Okay, I know many (most?) atheists are saying that an apology from the Pope is completely worthless. Frankly, I don’t give a shit about your opinion. The people who decide whether an apology matters are the people to whom the apology is owed. If indigenous Canadians want an apology, then they deserve one. And all you atheists barking at the sidelines about how it means nothing, y’all need to shut the fuck up.

One thing Longhurst brings up that really impressed me is that the last time Fontaine tried to get a Papal apology was not only before the discovery of thousands of indigenous children in mass graves, it was also before the Truth and Reconciliation report. I remember that attempt; I remember Pope Benedict’s “expression of sorrow”… pointedly not an apology. I remember being disgusted at the Pope’s response… and that was before the TRC report.

Of course, a Papal apology, by itself, will never be enough. That’s especially true now, after we’ve learned of all the things the Canadian Catholic church did to avoid paying its fair share of the compensation. A Papal apology, if it comes, will only be a tiny step toward reconciliation.

But if it will help survivors, then let it happen.

So if you’re not a residential schools survivor, keep your fucking opinions about the Pope, Catholicism, and everything else related to yourself. This is not the situation to insert yourself and your opinions into.

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