Weekly Update: 18-Feb-2022 to 25-Feb-2022

by | February 26, 2022

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] The leading edge of social justice is secular

Phil Zuckerman may be the father of secular studies; that is, the sociological study of nonreligious populations. He’s certainly responsible for creating the first secular studies program in North America… probably even in the world. He’s also been a strong advocate for secularism, and for nonreligious people, speaking out against the stigmatization of atheists as “immoral” and other such nonsense, and backing it up with research.

Nothing in this article should be surprising or contentious among our dear Canadian atheist readers. We all know that the Venn diagram of social justice and nonreligion is almost a circle. I don’t think that even religious advocates can deny that causes like LGBTQ2S+ rights or women’s rights have much more robust support from nonreligious circles than from the faithful.

But as Zuckerman points out, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s not just gay rights and women’s rights, or even just things that have traditionally found their primary opposition from religious doctrine. Every social justice issue finds much stronger support among the nonreligious. Environmentalism… animal rights… anti-racism… support for universal health care… even ending the “war on drugs”… every progressive, social justice cause finds stronger support among the nonreligious.

What I really like about this article—and the reason I chose to highlight it—is that, as is his way, Zuckerman backs it all up with a ton of links to supporting studies, polls, and other data. Most of it comes from Ryan Burge’s plumbing of the Cooperative Election Study, which is both really good data, and very fresh (although American, so it’s probably safe to assume that Canadian data would be ever better).

[] Faith and Access: The Conflict Inside Catholic Hospitals

I don’t think any of our readers are for Catholic-run hospitals, in any sense. Certainly no one thinks they should be able to impose the Catholic faith on either the patients or the medical professionals that work there. My own position is that if individual health care professionals want to refuse to do certain procedures for religious reasons, fine*—although, they should be required to make their religious concerns clear up front, before treating patients, and they should be require to facilitate effective referrals—but both individuals and especially institutions should have absolutely zero right to prevent others from either giving or receiving legally permissible treatment.

* (There is a case to be made that my position is, perhaps, too permissive. There are some very good arguments that health care professionals should not be allowed to be “conscientious objectors”. The case is that in the doctor–patient relationship, the doctor has all the power, and so the rules should focus on protecting the patient. No one has a “right” to practice medicine, but everyone does have a right to receive treatment.)

The most interesting part of this article, for me, is the explanation of why Catholic-run hospitals became so widespread. All hospitals were religious at one point—there simply wasn’t a secular entity of any sort, let alone a secular government, back in 17th century—but Catholic hospitals, despite being generally unpopular even back in the day (although, historically, the animus was due to anti-Catholic bigotry rather than justified secular outrage), came to dominate. The primary reason seems to be almost hilariously mercenary: unlike the hospitals of other religions, Catholic hospitals just didn’t pay their staff. They didn’t have to; their staff was mostly made up of nuns and such who had taken vows of poverty.

But the article’s conclusion is actually really uplifting. It’s mostly the administration of these Catholic hospitals that are the problem; the actual doctors and nurses who work at them are mostly either in favour of providing all legal medical procedures, or, at the very least, not opposed. And the pressure of secular society is forcing Catholic hospitals to either loosen up the rules or, at least, just not enforce them. As the article points out, the future looks bleak for bigotry, because if the health care professionals who work at Catholic hospitals, or the patients treated there, ever decide to organize or flex their collaborative muscles, the most likely outcome is either that the regressive administrations will have to cave, or the authorities will step in and come up with new regulations that take away all their oppressive power.

[] Christian sex predator Ravi Zacharias was aided by RZIM’s lack of oversight

Of all the criticisms one could levy against me, I think the claim that I give religious organizations too much benefit of the doubt would be among the most ridiculous. Any yes… here again, I think I may be guilty of it. Every time I think there may be even a shred of integrity and decency among the leadership of a religion or religious organization, they never fail to punish me for that stupidity.

Case in point: As the Ravi Zacharias scandal unfolded, I was naïve enough to believe this was a story of mostly personal corruption. Naturally and unsurprisingly, when the first whispers of Zacharias’s smarmy side hustles started to come to light, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries reflexively denied everything, blustering about seedy actors trying to tarnish the reputation of a great man just after his death, when he couldn’t defend himself. That’s fine; assuming they actually had no clue what was going on, that’s a perfectly reasonable response to what were, in all honestly, some really wild accusations. But then, as the rumours grew more numerous and, thus, more plausible, RZIM actually did the right thing, and brought in an outside investigator to look into them.

That first report was beaten to the punch when some of the accusers went public on their own, but it was damning. Even the wildest accusations from the rumours were corroborated… along with much worse.

At this point, the organization still appeared to have at least some amount of integrity. Their official communications didn’t downplay the shit Zacharias did, and there was even talk of dropping Zacharias’s name from the organization. Some of Zacharias’s spawn—who, of course, hold cushy leadership positions in the organization—defended their molester father, but the organization itself seemed to generally be doing the decent thing.

But now a second report has come out.

The first report was, basically, asking: “what did Ravi do?” The second report was instead asking: “how did Ravi get away with it?” And, more specifically: “what role, if any, did the organization play in facilitating his skeeviness?”

It turns out that the organization was very active in helping Zacharias terrorize and molest his victims. There were schemes to shuffle money around—money given by well-meaning donors—to pay women he was extorting sex from, and to pay settlements.

So the organization was very much in on it, and just as guilty as Zacharias himself. And, just to piss away every last bit of credit to their name, the organization is trying to wiggle out of responsibility by throwing Zacharias under the bus, while trying to pass themselves off as innocent victims of his depravity.

All benefit of the doubt has been thoroughly shat away at this point. Ravi Zacharias was a lying sex pest, and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries was complicit.

[] Renewed hope for jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s release

Take caution: I have been unable to confirm most of the claims made in this article.

But if they are true, this is wonderful news! Badawi’s wife has, in recent years, turned out to be a bit of a choad, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Badawi himself is a victim who needs our help. He’s been in jail almost a decade now, not to mention the torture he’s endured.

As the article explains, even if Badawi is released, that doesn’t mean his ordeal is over. What the article doesn’t really get into is why he can’t just be granted Canadian citizenship—as his wife and kids were—and thus allowed to leave Saudi Arabia and finally be free and safe.

One political journalist I know offered me some off-the-record speculation that the reason giving Badawi citizenship right now might not be politically expedient is because the Trudeau government is in a very vulnerable state, and has been since the last election didn’t go the way they hoped. The Trudeau government has always been entangled with Saudi Arabia in morally questionable ways, going back their earliest days. You may remember the scandal involving the selling of tanks to Saudi Arabia, which were then caught on camera suppressing legitimate, unarmed protesters. Well, the sale of weapons never stopped, and if Canada did something to publicly embarrass Saudi Arabia—something like “rescuing” their most famous political prisoner—the Kingdom will retaliate by embarrassing Canada in return… something the Trudeau government really wants to avoid right now.

On the other hand, I don’t see a lot of Canadian empathy for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If Ottawa went ahead and gave Badawi citizenship, and then evacuated him to Canada, I don’t see Canadians being particularly sympathetic to the Kingdom’s outrage, or to whatever tantrum they may throw. My speculation is that Canada just doesn’t want to do anything to piss off the Kingdom while it may still make Badawi’s situation worse. Once Badawi is out of prison, and in the Canadian embassy, the situation will be very different.

But we’ll see. Right now, we can only hope the rumours are sound, and that next week, I’ll be able to report on how Raif Badawi is, finally, a free man.

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