Sunday, 26 April 2015

How You Can Help People In Nepal

By now I'm sure you've read about the devastating earthquake which hit Nepal  -- magnitude 7.8. The death toll is already over 2,000 and at least one major aftershock has already struck the already smashed city of Kathmandu.

Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive has begun accepting donations which will be directed to relief efforts in Nepal (donation page).

Hemant Mehta, who is on the FBB board of directors,  gives us some background information about the effort, which ought to determine at least one eligible recipient organization by today.
We are still in the process of vetting a beneficiary that is secular in nature, efficient, and local. We should have that figured out by tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’d like to make a donation now, you can do so here so we can get that money out as soon as possible. 100% of your donations will go to that recipient — Foundation Beyond Belief doesn’t take any overhead for this. If you’d like to wait until we announce the charity we’ll be working with, I completely understand. You can see recaps of our previous disaster efforts here.
Hemant rightly reminds us that prayers aren't going to cut it. Real funds are required to help this city in the hard days to come.

Parliament Under Scrutiny to Drop Christian Prayer Before Sessions

Architecture inside House of Parliament. (source)
Not long ago, Independant MP James Lunney was attempting to address Parliament with a long discourse about cyber trolls who were making fun of him and other evangelical creationist Christians in Canada. The speaker of the house essentially shut his long rambling down and no doubt there were some with extreme victim complexes who may have taken the Speaker's action as yet another proof of the persecution of the religious in our country.

Well, Lunney and his ilk need not concern themselves there. The Speaker of the House is trying to keep prayer in Parliament after the Supreme Court ruled that it could not stay in city councils -- well, in Saguenay at least. It seems like the NPD would like to see the Parliament follow suit and remove the prayer. The Speaker wants the prayer to stay. It's all about the Parliamentary Privilege.
Opposition House leader Peter Julian is looking into whether the decision applies in the House of Commons, which is protected by parliamentary privilege, said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

"If there a place where we need to show we fully respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it's here in Parliament," he said.
Speaker Andrew Scheer "has no intention of changing this," but standing orders can be amended by the House, Bradley said.
Here's the prayer said before every Parliamentary session:
Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.
Everyone must stand for this prayer: Speaker, MPs, table officers. How does this even remotely reflect a secular country? Well, it doesn't. It seems that things are worse here than I imagined.
The prayer is read by the Speaker of the House ahead of each sitting before the doors are opened to the public. Parliament's website says that the Speaker, MPs and table officers must stand during the prayer, which is followed by a moment of silence.
Peter McKay actually believes the prayer recognizes all faiths! The following moment of silence is supposed to make the agnostics happy. Meanwhile NPD leader, Tom Mulclair pointed out that just having a moment of silence with no prayer -- like they do in Quebec -- really could be the best way to go.
"It's a solemn moment at the beginning of each session. Those who want to pray are free to pray, but it's not imposed," he said
Before people start telling me it's just tradition and that it's mere formality, why not read this extract from a terrible piece about prayer in city council by Terry Burns, pastor of Pembroke Pentecostal Tabernacle, in the Pembroke Daily Observer:
It's funny. The preamble of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with an acknowledgment of the supremacy of God, so there is some recognition by the document's architects that the Fathers of Confederation, and maybe even a few of the Charter's signatories, recognize the deep ties that our nation has to the Judeo-Christian God. Embedded in the wall of our Parliament Buildings is the inscription, "And He shall have dominion from sea to sea," quoting the Psalms. The God referred to, the "He," is God, Yahweh or Jehovah, not some new-age notion!
This is why we need these prayers out of the ritual of city, provincial and federal government!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saudi Arabia Religious Police Open Twitter Account to 'Improve PR Image!'

Picture of Haia tweeter at @PvGovSa
After shutting down over 10,000 Twitter accounts in 2014, the Saudi religious police, Haia, have opened up their own Twitter account@PvGovSa!
According to Breitbart News, this first of four tweet in the past three days reads:
In the name of Allah and Allah’s blessing kicks off the official account of the General Presidency for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on Twitter asking Allah to benefit by everyone.
The English language Saudi Gazette lets us all know why the agency -- which has been known to raid florist shops for celebrating Valentines Day -- decided to step into Twitter.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), inaugurated its official Twitter account (@pvgovsa). Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad, president of the commission, inaugurated the account and announced the formation of a higher committee for media and public relations to improve the Haia’s public image.
Yes, they could really use an image overhaul. They've been known to arrest men for dancing at birthday parties and tear down atheist Twitter accounts -- or arresting atheists for execution. They're also the ones making sure women are appropriately dressed and I would imagine that women driving wouldn't go over well with them either.
The religious entity patrols the streets ensuring that individuals, particularly women, are maintaining a Sharia-compliant lifestyle, which includes dressing properly (wearing a full cloak) and remaining separated from men at all times. The Haia agency is also known for enforcing Saudi Arabia’s ban on female automobile drivers.

Haia can arrest anyone for violating Islamic customs and dietary laws, such as women smoking, couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, or either gender eating pork or consuming alcohol.
So, given they've engaged Twitter by joining it, I think it's only appropriate for us all to slip @PvGovSa into every story we retweet about human rights violations -- whether it be forbidding women for driving, cracking down on Twitter witches(!) or flogging and jailing bloggers like Raif Badawi. I know I'll be letting them know how I feel about these things and any other absurd and retrograde laws they enforce!

Then of course, I'm an atheist blogger and they consider atheists terrorists. I won't go into what would happen to me if I ever set foot in that country.

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