Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts

Monday, 24 November 2014

Petition Launched to Keep Lord's Prayer in Brampton City Council Meetings

Billy Graham (source).
Remember the post I wrote awhile back about the new mayor in Brampton who's considering dropping the recital of the Lord's Prayer at city meetings? Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass was quoted on the piece as well.

Anyway, it turns out that Susanne Guenther, of Brampton’s The Salvation Army, has decided to launch a petition against removing the prayer.

From the petition itself:
To begin Council meetings with the Lord's Prayer is to acknowledge there is a higher power, and to petition a blessing for all the people of Brampton.  There are no exclusive terms within the prayer. It asks for provision and protection for all people. There can be no wording more inclusive than those already spoken. Canada is a Nation that has grown and prospered because of it's (sic) foundation of Biblical Principals (sic) that are for every people in this world. To remove a foundation is detrimental to a firm structure. 
Let's take a close look at one of the Lord's Prayers. I'll choose the Catholic one because apparently this completely non-exclusive prayer has several different versions because it's been reinterpreted several times by different groups. I'm guessing Jews, Jains, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Pastafarians, Rastafarians, Zoroastrians or Hindus are not one of those groups.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
I wonder what the Wiccans would say about Our Father? I wonder what the Zen Buddhists would say about who art in heaven? What do non-believers of the Bible thing of thy kingdom come? Does this kingdom include Lakshmi or Ganesh? What about the traditional Native gods who may have been pushed out of the minds by this very prayer over the past few centuries by zealous missionaries right here in Canada? It goes on and on. Of course, if you're an atheist none of this is even the slightest bit non-exclusive.

Is it not blatantly obvious that biblical principles are not foundational to any religion on earth that doesn't base itself on the Bible? Why are we even having this discussion?

However, what immediately hit me about this was a realization that most people out there seem to see little matters like human rights as being up for a general vote. You know, little things like protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

From a Mississauga News article on this:
Guenther said she is worried that dropping the prayer goes against what the majority of Brampton residents want.

“I’ve never heard anyone complain about the Lord’s Prayer, and I wanted to know if there are other people that feel the same way as I do,” she said as to her motive behind the petition. “It’s like everyone is afraid to say something and so I’m just saying what other people are thinking.”

The tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at council – and that it represents the Christian background Canada was built on – should be upheld, she said.
If the population of Brampton becomes majority non-Christian, I'll be looking forward to Guenther's energetic defense of Islamic or Buddhist prayers at city council meetings. We can wait five or ten years to let it become a tradition as well, if it will help.
“If you are going to lead with any prayer, it’s as good as any,” she said, noting that she attends council meetings regularly. “I’m just standing up for what I always thought was a good thing.”
Well, then I suppose it's nothing special. If it's as good as any then why don't we switch things up every so often and have some invocations to other deities? Why is it so important for people to participate in this theater? Perhaps if it wasn't so important, people like me would pay it no mind.

Regardless of this oft-used ruse of claiming it's no big deal, it's just tradition, recitation of this prayer is important, it's a statement that this is a Christian Nation and other religions (and non-religions) better remember that. It's a bizarre attempt to defend a homogenous Canada from the cultural diversity that is Canada today.

Here's hoping the Saguenay prayer case goes our way.

Rick Mercer's Latest Rant Calls Out Government's Anti-Science Position

Rick Mercer Report Rant (source).
Watch this video, it's short and Rick Mercer reminds us how our Harper Government(tm), who brought us the Office of Religious Freedom and doesn't think atheists have any human rights issues (John Baird said), has systematically worked against science in Canada.


Then go read Foreign scientists call on Stephen Harper to restore science funding, freedom, then read all about how for the first time in history, the usually non-political scientists are now campaigning against our government: Canadian Federal Scientists, Professionals Union Launches Anti-Harper Campaign.

Now go read Larry Moran's Sandwalk blog. He is covering how the government is systematically gagging and gutting science in our country. Why not start at this post: Canada is destroying a generation of scientists.

Can we please put aside our differences and push this government out?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

US Hindu Group Upset With Art Featuring Indian Gods In Modern Settings

Image of modern-day Lakshmi by photographer Dina Goldstein in her new installation Gods of Suburbia.
In December 2013, it was the 'Lord Ganesh socks'. Then, in July 2014, it was the 'Lord Ganesh duvet cover'. Now it's an art installation in Vancouver called Gods of Suburbia that's got American Hindu statesman Rajad Zed and his Universal Society of Hinduism rather upset.
Rajan Zed, who often makes the news as president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, objects to the way Ganesh is shown sitting on a bench in Fairview Elementary school in Vancouver, being bullied. Lakshmi is seen in a modern kitchen with a snake slithering towards her.
Here is the meat from his official press release. Emphasis my own.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA), was highly critical of Dina Goldstein’s photo project for trivializing the highly revered deities of Hinduism, Ganesh and Lakshmi.

In this photo project, Ganesh is shown sitting on a bench in Fairview Elementary and apparently being bullied by kids. Lakshmi is seen struggling in the kitchen with a snake slithering towards her.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees. Ganesh and Lakshmi and other Hindu deities were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and it was not appropriate to unnecessarily drag them around to push your personal interests.

Rajan Zed pointed out that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at belittling it were painful for the devotees. Artists should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, Zed added.

Zed further said that Hindus welcomed art world to immerse in Hinduism but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for personal agendas. Distorting of Ganesh and Lakshmi was highly slighting of ancient Hindu traditions.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. No faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered, Rajan Zed noted.
Well, Boo hoo!

How is this any different than Muslims demanding we not draw the prophet? Zed is quite welcome to revere his gods as much as he likes, but that's where his rights end. Goldstein can paint whatever she pleases and it's obviously nothing personal. This is simply what she does with all topics, sacred or otherwise, and she's rather good at it.

These images are all rather good and thought-provoking as well. My favourite is Lord Xenu auditing someone! You can also see Charles Darwin as well.

Men Dressed as Buddhist Monks Running Money Scam In Vancouver Streets!

By Ryan McFarland (http://www.flickr.com/photos/zieak/3975089297/) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Although Buddhist societies forbid monks from begging and panhandling outside of Asia, it seems as if some monks, or people dressed up like monks, have taken to the streets to terrorize Vancouverites for their money. One such victim was Kent Spencer.
“One guy shoves a small bead bracelet in my hand and some literature and then he opens this notebook and starts making ‘ugh, ugh’ noises that he wants me to do something,” Spencer said. “The notebook had a column marked for donations and a couple dozen people’s names who apparently had given funds. He gave no indication that he could speak English and just started gesturing with his arms and saying ‘money.’ ”
Australia is also experiencing a similar situation, so has New York and Toronto.
“They walk up to individuals in the street, they are dressed in saffron robes and they are offering a token that looks like a gold coin,” Consumer Protection Scamnet director Dave Hillyard told ABC Perth, in January. “They open up a list to show that people have donated $20, $30 or $50 ... they have very poor English skills.”
In Asia, monks generally need not accost people on the street because Buddhism is prevalent enough there for people to make larger and more frequent donations. Katsuya Aoki, priest at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple, reiterated that soliciting donations outside of Asia is not considered kosher at all.

Nobody's really sure who these people are and whether they are authentic Buddhist monks or not.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish School Graduate Suing For Substandard Education

By Benqish at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
(Please see edit at bottom of article)

Remember the Hasidic Jewish school that came to a compromise with the Quebec government? Because the school was unlicensed to teach approved curriculum, the parents now need to enrol the children into homeschooling for their secular education. The school would continue teaching a predominantly religious education (Torah-based) -- only teaching English and Math components of the provincial program.

At the time, I thought this was probably a fairly decent solution to the problem of an unlicensed religious school teaching children pretty much nothing but religion -- illegally. The province originally tried to force these parents to put their children into licensed schools where they could be reasonably sure the children were receiving a balanced curriculum of required subjects. However, there was the real possibility it would be tied up paying for a lengthy court battle with public funds. So, there was this compromise.

Well, this compromise was just the catalyst needed for former Hasidic Jew Yonanan Lowen, who is now suing Youth Protection, the Seigneurie des Mille-Iles public school board, and two Hasidic schools he attended -- Yeshiva Beth Yehuda school and Oir Hachaim d'Tash college -- for $1.2 million because he was allowed to receive a substandard education as a child.
Yonanan Lowen claims that the two schools he attended growing up in the Tash community in Boisbriand, north of Montreal, ill-equipped him for modern society, let alone making a living.

The father of several children, he said he cannot find work outside the chassidic community. He left the Tash community in 2010 before moving to Montreal.
Lowen says that thanks to his poor education in real-world subjects, he's now an illiterate 36 year old. He has a poor grasp of English, none of French and he can write neither. He has no knowledge core subjects like Math, History or Geography.
He claims the ministry and these bodies knew for years that these schools were not following the mandatory provincial curriculum, but did nothing.

He blames them for depriving him of the basic secular education guaranteed to all Quebec children between ages six and 16 under the law. Both schools have been under investigation for the past half-dozen years by the government for not respecting the law.
Furthermore, a Huffington Post article provides an extract from the notice to sue from his lawyers from the non-profit legal team Juripop.
« Le gouvernement, le directeur de la protection de la jeunesse, la commission scolaire, l'école et le collège, par leur tolérance face à cette situation, leur omission ou leur négligence à s'assurer que notre client fréquente une institution qui dispense le programme d'éducation reconnu par le ministère de l'Éducation [...] fait en sorte que notre client ne peut aujourd'hui évoluer normalement dans la société. » 
The government, the director of Youth Protection, the public school board, the school and the college, by their tolerance of this situation; their omission or negligence of ensuring that our client attend an institution that provides the educational program recognized by the Ministry of Education ... (they) did such that our client is today unable to function normally in society.
In 2010, he and his friend Hersy Moskovitz, 35, escaped from the Hasidic community after having been forced to attend an school they regard as 'illegal where we learned nothing but how to pray.' 

Readers of this blog may be reminded of Mende Pape's story or of the Lev Tahor cult, where children also learned prayer and Yiddish at the expense of being able to even speak English or French.

Moskovitz explained in broken English (translated to French for this Droit-Inc article):
« Le fait de fréquenter une école illégale a bouleversé ma vie. Je vois une psychologue, car j’ai peur d’être en public. On a souffert en silence, alors que le gouvernement connaissait la situation. Il n’a pourtant rien fait », a critiqué M. Moskovitz.
"The reality of attending an illegal school turned my life upside down. I'm seeing a psychologist because I'm scared to be in public. We suffered in silence while the government knew the situation. Still, it did nothing." criticized Mr. Moskovitz.
All the same, their beef seems to be with the ministry and the schools, not with the parents. According to them it is the schools which duped the parents -- possibly over generations? -- into believing they were receiving adequate educations -- all the while, provincial authorities turned a blind eye to the fact that these schools were operating openly without licenses... religious privilege.

When I originally wrote about this, I had my doubts whether these parents were at all qualified to teach secular subjects to their children, since they themselves may have been taught in similar schools. That, along with time constraints made be seriously doubt the feasibility of this plan.
First off, are these parents really the most qualified people to teach secular subjects? Observe their choice of school for their children! Then take a look at homeschooled Jessa Duggar. Still, so long as the provincial requirements are met, I can't do much more than complain.
Well Lowen, himself a victim of poor education, does not share my optimism concerning the above compromise.
Lowen told Ici Radio-Canada this is a “farce” because these parents also never received an adequate secular education.
I now begin to wonder if this compromise was just a way for the province to sort of excuse themselves from having to shoulder the legal burdens to enforce the law and ensure these children do get proper secular educations. It's possible that Lowen also could see this as a sort of punt which again allows the government to turn its head and look the other way. How plausible is it for children to receive nearly 100% religious instruction all through the day and the get their secular education somehow crammed into the evenings by parents who are perhaps themselves products of the very same schools?

I'm not saying it's impossible, but Lowen seems to believe it is and he's prepared to go to court.

As mentioned above, Lowen says he is now completely unable to obtain a job outside of the Hasidic community. He now helps to support his family as a Jewish religious instructor in a legal school, the only place he's found himself qualified to work.

Meanwhile, Lowen's lawyer Marc-Antoine Cloutier is now on the lookout for more plaintiffs.
« Nous sommes à la recherche d’autres témoignages. Le ministère de l’Éducation, en fermant les yeux, s’est rendu complice de ces parents qui n’ont pas donné à leurs enfants l’éducation à laquelle ils étaient en droit de s’attendre. C’est un énorme préjudice.»

We are searching for more plaintiffs. The Ministry of Education, by shutting their eyes, has made itself complicit of these parents who did not give their children the education that was their right. It's an enormous injustice (damage).
I hope more come out to support this cause. I have no problem with children learning about religion but I do have a problem if real-world secular curriculum is cut out to the point where they cannot even function outside their cloistered religious community.

Edit 2014-11-23: Check out this followup post about the situation for Hasidic Jews leaving their communities.

Edit 2014-11-22: Just after publishing this I had this second thought. I see a lot of Hasidic Jews in Montreal and they do seem to be functioning in society. However, I'm not sure if this is because they are supported by their community or not. In other words, I'm not sure if Lowen's situation is one that is typical of people within the Hasidic community or not. Perhaps some could give me some feedback on this?

That said, it is patently wrong for any school to teach without a license and to not teach basic essential skills and material found in the province's secular curriculum.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Interview With Raif Badawi's Daughter

Raif Badawi's daughter, Rajwa. (source)
Ex-Muslim Moroccan Christian evangelist Brother Rachid has already released a video interview with jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar along with some short clips of their children. That one looks compelling, but is in Arabic and lacks any English subtitles.

Well, just a couple of days ago, Brother Rachid released a more complete interview with Raif's daughter, Rajwa in Arabic with English subtitles. In it, he appears to be visibly disturbed by the situation and perhaps also struck by the girl's obvious stoic bravery after two years of having to deal with her father in jail and now being lashed weekly.

This video along with the the previous one seems to be a message directly to Saudi Arabia and Arabic speaking people within and without Saudi Arabia.


Oh, and the Canadian government's Office of Foreign Affairs and Office of Religious Freedom is useless against $audi Arabia -- even when his wife and children are now living in Sherbrooke, Quebec!

Feeling motivated?

Here's information on how to write the King of Saudi Arabia.

Here's how to leave a telephone message with the Saudi ambassador and send them a fax too (bottom of post)!

Sign this petition at Change.org.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alberta Far Right Party Strikes Down Equality Statement: Atheist VP Communications Resigns

Terry Lo looking awesomely dapper in his outfit before attending Hullabaloo 2014. (source)
Terry Lo looks like a pretty fun guy, according to his Twitter feed. My cursory look at this, along with his blog, Calgary  Dreamer, really makes me wonder how he ever fit into the creepy, extremist and rather theocratic Alberta Wildrose Party. If I'm to understand Alberta politics, Progressives actually voted for the somewhat not crazy conservative party so these totally crazy social conservatives didn't get into power.

Well, just yesterday, Lo posted his resignation from the post of VP of Communications in a post on his blog.
Today, I made a small stand for what I believed in, leading to what probably was the shortest time I’ve ever held office as VP Communications for the Wild Rose Party in Calgary-Glenmore, and the end to my association with the party as well. Being the surrogate dad to a gay son, Asian, AND atheist, I was always an unusual member of the party. But a few events in the last year made me realize that I was in a place that was morally (to me) untenable. I resigned today with no reservations.
Uhm... yeah... not a great match. How does this sort of thing even happen? In his official resignation letter he points out the problems with this party.
As a member who is Asian, Atheist and parent of a LGBT son, I hoped to change the ill perception that resulted in the Lake of Fire debacle. When our leader, Danielle Smith, had championed the inclusion statement in the 2013 AGM, I had truly believed that I was a member of the right party, and it was in this spirit that I had made my decision to serve the party in the best way I saw fit.

But even despite what I saw as an appalling misstep in defeating the 2014 vote re: GSAs and the protection of LGBT youth against bullying, I still had hoped to help change the tone and give an inclusive message to the public at large. After all, if one such as me could be a member, then anyone can be a part.
But in the time between my election and now, several events at the Glenmore Rally and during the by- elections has led me to believe that I was mistaken, and as such, find myself at this decision. The final breaking point was the revocation of the inclusion statement at the AGM this past weekend DESPITE our leader’s own recommendation, and how it used to show that WR was truly an inclusive party.
Huffington Post explains how the party held a vote during the Glenmore Rally where they decided to remove a statement of inclusion that would essentially apply to all races, religions (or no religion), LGBT people etc. -- you know, human beings.
Party members on the weekend voted against adopting as policy a statement supported by Leader Danielle Smith that affirmed the rights of everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and other differences.

The expanded definition had been held up by the party for a year as the shining example of a new moderate centrism palatable to Albertans across the political spectrum.

Instead, members voted Saturday to go with a broader policy to recognize that "all Albertans have equal rights, privileges and responsibilities."

In the 2012 election, the party appeared to be on the road to winning when it was derailed by controversies that included comments by one of its candidates who, in a blog, had urged gays to repent or face an eternity in hell's "lake of fire."
That's right... "Lake of fire!" You'll find Lo's reaction to universal inclusion being dropped at the  Glenmore Rally in this picture he posted on the blog post.


Lo identifies as many atheists I know do -- as a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. I don't consider myself a conservative, but we need more conservatives like Lo! Really, the right wing has gotten downright nutty.
I’ve always seen myself as a fiscal conservative, but socially liberal. I believe in a balanced budget, responsible use of the public purse and more. But I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a strong supporter of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and a firm rejection of organized religion. I would suppose that would make me a moderate of sorts. I also try to emulate and follow a modern version of chivalry, whereas the highest aspirations of a person should be in service of others, and built a name in support of charity and goodwill in Calgary. I despise anyone who will not support the strength of their convictions, and I really do try to back my own acts come what may.
In actually, this breed of conservative -- the kind I can get along with -- is a rare breed these days in both Canada and the US... okay, especially in the US. Lately, conservative has come to mean Bible-thumpin', anti-choice, anti-LGBT, but this wasn't always the case. He felt out of place in the PC party for social agenda reasons and out of place from the NDP party for fiscal agenda reasons -- Wild Rose seemed to be an alternative at the time.
But being a member of a sports team with gay members, and looking around at random WR events, I knew this was far from the truth. What was sad was this was confirmed as I walked around. But in those several chats, what especially disturbed me was that LGBT people were described as “uppity” and “whiners”. This wasn’t a bad joke, or even a casual careless statement. Looking at each face, it was an honest belief. Needless to say, I was actually angry, no more like pissed and furious, on TV as I was positioned to stand right behind Danielle at the rally. I was close to storming off that day, but calmed down by the end of her speech.
Wild Rose also joined the Conservatives to vote down bill 31-19, which would have made it mandatory for schools to allow Gay Straight Alliances in schools (GSA). Lo's own son is gay -- preventing the formation of GSA groups is a blow against people like his son and rightly so. He thought there was some hope for the party even after this, but the removal of the equality statement was too much.
Ideologically, I believe now that the party is swinging far right again on social issues, and as such, totally in opposition to my own beliefs. And ANY party that visibly does not protect my son, is one that has lost my support, and in fact, earned my opposition.
Good on ya, Terry! I'm happy to see you dumped the party and you're unabashedly atheist as well!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Quebec Journalists & Intellectuals Come Out In Support of Raif Badawi

Prof. Normand Baillargeon appearing on Tout Le Monde En Parle. (source)
As almost all of you probably know, jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar and their three children have succesfully escaped and now live right here in Quebec, in Sherbrooke. I write about this as much as I can.

Over the past weeks and months, I've been blown away at how Quebec media have supported Raif's plight in print and on television. So much so, it's hard for me to keep up. Authors and journalists all over the province are speaking out in support of the unjustly jailed activist. They are calling out the brutality of the Saudi government and demanding this man be freed and brought here to Quebec to be with his family.

Just a few days ago, we have prominent journalist Jean-François Lépine coming out strongly in favour of Raif's release in a November 14th Radio Canada interview. My attempt at translation is in italics.
À qui aimeriez-vous écrire?  
Au roi d'Arabie Saoudite, Abdallah, pour lui parler de Raif Badawi, un jeune blogueur qui a été incarcéré le 17 juin 2012 et condamné par le tribunal pénal de Djeddah à 10 ans d'emprisonnement, à 1000 coups de fouet et à une amende de 1 million de riyals (près de 290 000 dollars) pour des propos tenus sur son site web, prônant une plus grande transparence de l'État saoudien. Nous sommes à genoux devant l'Arabie Saoudite, pourtant c'est une des puissances les plus réactionnaires et les plus violentes de la planète.

To whom would you like to write?
To the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdallah, to speak to him about Raif Badawi, a young blogger who was incarcerated the 17th of June, 2012 and sentenced by a Jeddah penal jury to 10 years in prison; 1000 lashes; and a fine of one million riyals (about 290,000 dollars) for what was said on his website, (where he was) asking for more transparency in Saudi government. We are on our knees before Saudi Arabia, but it is one of the most radical and violent powers on the planet.
In stark contrast with English Canadian media and US corporate media, I'm beginning to see a sort of groundswell of support for Raif right here in Quebec. Most recently was just last Sunday evening on the popular discussion program Tout Le Monde En Parle.

Towards the end of the show, guest Normand Baillargeon, who is a well-known academic in Quebec, interjected this (~1:50:17):
Je veux dire un mot. J'ai un ami en Arabie saoudite qui s'appelle Raïf Badawi. Il est condamné à mille coups de fouets... vingt par semaine pendant cinquante semaines. Ce qu'il a defendu c'est la liberté de s'exprimer librement sur tous les questions et compris religieuse. Sa femme et ses trois enfants sont à Sherbrooke. Amnistie internationale fait une grosse mobilisation pour lui. Vous allez sur le site, vous pouvez signer les lettres et le ramener ici avec ses enfants.
I would like to add something. I have a friend in Saudi Arabia called Raif Badawi. He is sentenced to 1,000 lashes... twenty per week for fifty weeks. What he defended was the freedom of expressing oneself freely concerning all (?) religious questions. His wife and his three children are in Sherbrooke. Amnesty International is running a large campaign for him. Go onto the site, you can sign letters and bring him here with his children.
His words came out quickly because it was the very end of the show. So I had some trouble transcribing and translating towards the middle, but the message is clear enough!

Anyway, the show notes include a link to a petition to the Saudi King for Raif's immediate and unconditional release. The petition already has over 7,000 signatures.

What's extra awesome about this is he timed the message out so it would appear during the closing credits of the programme, just before Le Téléjournal, which is the primary nightly news program on Radio Canada, equivalent to The National.

I had a brief Facebook conversation with Prof. Baillargeon and he has sent me a link to an appeal he wrote on behalf of Raif in French -- a call to action. If my translation skills do not fail me utterly, I'll post it here in English.

Normand also took Stephen Harper's conservatives to task for decimating and muzzling scientific research here in Canada in a worse way than Bush's go at it awhile ago. So he gets extra points for that!

Thank you, Normand Baillargeon!

Raif Badawi's Family Featured in Emotional Amnesty International Video

Still scene from video of Raif's son Tirad. (source)
Amnesty International has released an emotional video showing the struggle of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his family, who have escaped to Sherbrooke. If you need any motivation to help, here it is!


Feeling motivated?

Here's information on how to write the King of Saudi Arabia.

Here's how to leave a telephone message with the Saudi ambassador and send them a fax too (bottom of post)!

Sign this petition at Change.org.

I will continue posting updates I'm receiving from contacts at the University of Sherbrooke on my blog.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Help CFI Canada Help Atheists at Risk!

Josh Estey/AusAID [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
If you're on the Centre For Inquiry Canada mailing list, you would have received an important email today announcing a new two-year initiative by the CFI. Being an atheist blogger, who covered the plight of persecuted atheist bloggers around the world, I thought I'd write about this here and quote a bit of it. It really does have the potential of becoming a pretty big deal.

The initiative centers around protecting free-thinkers around the world who dare to speak honestly about religion and their own non-belief. You know, countries where posting a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just might get you into jail, a body part hacked off, or dead.
Here in Canada, expressing our opinions is a right we enjoy every day. Unfortunately, it's not the same everywhere. There are still many places where speaking out carries the threat and reality of torture and death. Centre for Inquiry Canada is taking a hard look at this issue and exploring what may be done to assist individuals who think and speak freely and as a result must seek asylum to avoid persecution for their opinions.

CFI Canada is embarking on a two-year project to research current legislation dealing with asylum seekers and refugee claimants of different sexuality, religious/non-religious, racial, and cultural backgrounds.
The ultimate goal of this project is to defend those who must seek asylum from governments and societies that would have them killed for coming out as free-thinkers. Three levels of support are envisioned as being crucial for its overall success.
  • question the rationality, and the fairness, of current legislation in the way it treats asylum seekers who are at the highest risk of having their cases denied because of an immigration prosecutor's personal bias, instead of the facts
  • educate Canadians about the facts of free-thought and free speech as life-threatening acts
  • mobilize the Canadian free-thinking community to provide support and information for individuals who are desperate for their lives.
This is more than simply speaking out against human rights violations and suppression of free expression. This is a call for mobilization to individuals across the country.

Listen, people are not being asked to quit their jobs and become immigration lawyers, lobbyists or social workers here. Everyone has skills they can bring to the table to make this work. For now, the best way anyone can help is by donating some money -- enough to get some infrastructure in place, to get things started.
Our financial target for this program is $200,000 over two years to cover staffing, research and legal costs as well as materials and equipment.  We also want to be in a position to provide material support and assistance to atheists and bloggers who are successful in reaching Canada.

We currently need $30,000 to launch our efforts: if every person who receives this message gives only $10, we can start immediately.
If you're skeptical about what the CFI could do to help people in immediate need, take a look at some of these e-mail correspondences from individuals at risk.  These are people are reaching out to the CFI for help. Now the goal is to put CFI into a position of being able to provide these people with real concrete support!
"I am atheist for about a year in secret because I live under Islamic domination. I am planning to apply for asylum in Canada do to threat of death in case of exposed. I wonder if your organization offers support for cases like my case or guidance," April 10, 2014.
And...
Is there anything that can be done to rescue this young man from this desperate situation? From what I have read of the Canadian immigration process, he wouldn't stand a chance of qualifying for entry into Canada, Is there a chance he might qualify as a refugee on the grounds of 'religious' prosecution? Is there someone within the Canadian system that might help me?"
Here's a chat conversation I had with a Gaza atheist who was outed in a news article which I has posted about on my blog. Since then, both my post and the original article have been taken down to protect this person's safety.
hey, I'm sorry u put my life in risk now

i cant express that in front of Gazans people
please
edit ur blog

my life in risk

the islamic goverment here would kill me if they found out
Over the past few months, I have been trying to help this person the best I can. Asylum on the grounds of religious persecution is being explored and it looks like progress is being made, but I am just an atheist blogger!  There is a real need for organizations, right here in Canada, who can help with situations like this as people in oppressive countries out themselves or are outed as atheists. 

Religious would-be refugees sometimes have religious and ethnic communities within Canada to which they can reach out. However, dynamics can be seriously affected when the asylum seeker does not share the same religious belief as existing grassroots support networks within Canada -- like my Gazan friend above.

The threat doesn't even stop when asylum is achieved. Last year, I posted about Sharif Ahmed, an Ex-Bangladeshi atheist blogger who successfully got asylum here in Canada. Not too long afterward, I was asked by him to remove his picture from the post -- he was concerned for his safety right here in Canada.

The cases come in faster than I can report. Just recently there were the Saudi atheist bloggers who have dropped off the radar completely since being arrested.  There's Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is in prison getting lashed every week in front of the mosque. The list goes on.

And don't expect our government to do anything at all. Their Office of Religious Freedom seems perfectly happy to allow governments like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bangladesh all the freedom they like to brutally abuse and torture atheists bloggers. Nope, not a peep from them.

So, interested in helping people like you and me who happen to blog or express themselves in environments who would see them killed for it? Check out this blog post over at CFI!:

Atheist Bloggers Risking Their Lives

You'll find a small donate button at the bottom of that post. People are being thrown into prison, tortured and killed in this world for speaking their minds... for doing what you do on Facebook every day. You can help us help them!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Mississauga City Council Needs to Drop Lord's Prayer

Mississauga City Hall. By Mikerussell (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A few days ago, I wrote about the effort to remove prayer in city council meetings in  Brampton, Ontario. The city has a newly elected mayor who is considering dropping the Lord's Prayer -- because it's been ruled against in court(!)  and perhaps due to a complaint from Secular Ontario

Now, in that piece, I mentioned that this is happening in at least two cities. The second city is Mississauga, where another mayor-elect is considering dropping the non-inclusive Christian prayer.
The recitation of the Lord’s Prayer prior to the start of city council meetings has been a tradition for a number of years in Mississauga.

However, some people are wondering whether it’s time for that practice to end in such a diverse community as Canada’s sixth largest city.

While discussion and debate happens over the issue, mayor-elect Bonnie Crombie has reached out to her colleagues to hear what they have to say about it.
Like in Brampton, Secular Ontario has rightly complained about this mingling of church and state -- the did this back in 2007! 

Much like his Canadian Atheist atheist activist blogger counterpart, Veronica Abbass, it's now Sandwalk atheist activist blogger Larry Moran who is the voice of reason in the report about Mississauga. He discovered this situation back in 2007 (and here).
Larry Moran, who described himself as an atheist, is also a University of Toronto professor and an advisory fellow with the Centre for Inquiry Canada, an organization he said strongly supports the separation of religion and government.

He wrote a blog post condemning the practice in Mississauga earlier this year and Moran estimates about 30 per cent of Canadians aren’t religious. He strongly believes the Lord’s Prayer before council should come to an end.
The article also quotes Moran:
“There is no reason to invoke any of the gods at a public meeting of any government body,” said Moran. “It sends the wrong message to … citizens who don’t believe in those gods or who believe in other gods. Nobody has been able to tell me why religion has to be mixed in with government business.”
I cannot find this precise quote on his blog -- unless it was an interview(?), but he has written about this situation elegantly back in March of this year. There's lots of great background here which is missing from the above quoted article.

Moran writes on his blog in the March post:
Like most places in Canada, Mississauga is a diverse community with a substantial number of nonbelievers and a substantial number of non-Christians. Prayer has no place in a secular society and beginning a City Council meeting with prayer sends out all the wrong messages. Imagine that you are a nonbeliever waiting to petition City Council over some grievance and you have to watch your council member praying before you can speak.

I have no idea which council members are religious and what religion they prefer but it doesn't matter. Even if all of them are devoutly religious it's still not proper for them to begin meetings with a prayer. You'd think that would be obvious to any intelligent adult in Canada in the 21st century.
Listen,  it's taken us seven long years to even reach a place where this is finally being considered.

Perhaps some limited progress is shown by the sentiment of one incoming city councilor who rightly disagrees with the prayer and has this to say.
Incoming Ward 5 councillor Carolyn Parrish isn’t in favour of the practice but said eliminating it isn’t a priority for her.

“I don't support it,” said Parrish. “We have a hugely multicultural population to start with and no one religion should take precedence. council is a place of work. I doubt they stop the assembly lines at Ford every day to start with a prayer.”
Wow, 'meh', right? I guess it's the intention that counts? I suppose I'll give her a B+ for that but an F for lack of execution.

To be honest, comments like this make me wonder how seriously she takes her job -- or how seriously anyone takes their city government responsibilities. Apparently, companies like Ford do not have time to waste on useless religious muttering, while city councils -- well, they obviously have all the time in the world.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Brampton City Council Needs to Drop Lord's Prayer

Elections happened in Ontario this year and, thanks to Secular Ontario, recitation of the obviously Christian and blatantly non-inclusive Lord's Prayer at city council meetings is being challenged in at least two cities -- and the new mayor-elects are both at least participating in the discussion.

In this post, I'll talk about Brampton. There, mayor-elect Linda Jeffrey says she's open to dropping the non-inclusive religious ceremony.
“I strongly believe that we should be respective (sic) of our diverse communities,” said Jeffrey.
The city council currently sings the national anthem and then recites the Lord's Prayer. She would prefer to see a non-denominational approach and so would the law. The exact details of how this non-denominational approach could be fairly achieve haven't been worked out. In today's multicultural Canada, Mere Christianity will not cut it. There are plenty of non-Christian religious in Canada now and there have always been atheists as well.

Secular Ontario and other secularists, me included, would like to see no prayer at any municipal meeting.
Veronica Abbass, a member of Secular Ontario, said she finds it “ridiculous that some municipalities all over this country stand up and pray.”

“There is no place for God in a municipal council,” said Abbass, who is currently in a legal tussle with the City of Peterborough over the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer at council meetings. “There is no place for God in any public building.”

Abbass contends government should remain strictly secular.

A big part of her work at Secular Ontario is campaigning to protect the secular and civil nature of Ontario society. She defends the position that the act is unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her court case against the City of Peterborough is currently on hold until Canada's highest court makes a ruling in a similar case out of Saguenay, Quebec.

In Brampton’s case, Abbass said even the mayor-elect’s proposal for a non-denominational prayer is against the rules.

“Every mayor in Ontario that is saying the Lord’s Prayer in city council meetings is breaking the law,” Abbass said. “Any city council that allows it to be said or says it is breaking the law.”
This is activist and blogger Veronica from Canadian AtheistRegardless of the rather suspect word 'content' in this article, she is doing more than just suggesting here that the government should remain strictly secular. The Ontario Court of Appeal agrees with her, as far as the Lord's Prayer at least.
Ontario Court of Appeal in 1999 ruled reciting the Lord's Prayer during meetings goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Perhaps the mayor is sincere about her desires to be more inclusive or perhaps she realizes the city could end up with a court battle. Either way, it is positive this is being talked about.

Naturally, there is opposition to removing the Lord's Prayer. Predictably, it's coming from Christians. What a surprising coincidence, right?
In contrast, Father Roman Galadza of Brampton's St. Elias Ukrainian Church, counters the Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father, is as an inclusive prayer as you can get.

“What would you replace it with?” he asked. “Line by line, is there anything there that is not applicable to people of all faiths no matter where they come from?”

Galadza spoke about the country’s foundation in faith and warned against moving away from traditions that have made Canada open and tolerant, including abandoning prayer.

“Without a basis in faith we condemn ourselves to destruction,” he said.
How about all the faiths who do not happen to believe in a father who's in heaven? How can any rational person actually believe this? Unless one happens to think that anyone who doesn't subscribe to their particular faith just isn't a person of faith at all?

So why are atheists and secularists all worked up here? Naturally, saying the Lord's Prayer isn't a big deal at all, right? I mean, it's just tradition, that's all. Well, it is only a quirky tradition, unless you're actually a religious believer like this guy -- then it means the difference between a tolerant country and total destruction! Funny how defenders of government-sponsored prayer try to sell it as being a mere cultural tradition yet also seem to fight tooth and claw to keep it -- as if it means so very much more.

Read this post by Veronica over at Canadian Atheist about how you can help protect and strengthen secular government in Canada!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Amnesty International Holds a Day of Action in Support of Raif Badawi at Université de Sherbrooke

Université de Sherbrooke students sign Amnestie Internationale petition to free jailed blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Last weekend, I heard that Amnestie Internationale in Sherbrooke Quebec was going to man a few tables at the University of Sherbrooke to raise awareness of Raif Badawi's arrest and imprisonment and to collect signatures for a petition demanding his release. The event happened on November 4th.

Remember that Ensaf Haidar, Raif's wife, managed to escape Saudi Arabia with their children and are now living right here in Quebec -- in Sherbrooke. So it makes perfect sense that this initiative is taking place right here in Quebec.

Here's a quick video that Ensaf recorded the day before the event. By all appearances, she beginning to learn French and integrating well into Quebec society.

Je suis Ensaf Haidar, la femme de Raïf Badawi. Je vous remercie de nous aider. S'il vous plait, signer la petition de l'amnestie internationale. Merci.
I am Ensaf Haider, the wife of Raif Badawi. I thank you for helping us. Please sign the Amnesty International petition. Thank you.
Unfortunately, you cannot sign that petition virtually. You can find an English petition to sign online over at Change.org.

I reached out to Marie-Maude Bossiroy, the uploader of the above video and the organizer of the petition signing event on the 4th. This afternoon, she was able to respond to some of my questions.
Cette semaine nous avons fait 3 kiosques pour Raif Badawi à l'Université de Sherbrooke. Nous avons ramassé environ 200 signatures. Nous avons aussi téléphoné à l'ambassade saoudienne et envoyé des lettres à l'ambassadeur.

Nous récolterons encore des signatures ce soir. On fait tout ce qu'on peut pour que les gens autour de nous soient au courant de l'injustice que subit Raif Badawi.
This week, we manned three tables for Raif Badawi at the University of Sherbrooke. We collected around 200 signatures. We also telephoned the Saudi Embassy and sent letters to the ambassador.

We will continue collecting signatures tonight. We are doing all we can so that people are kept informed about the injustice suffered by Raif Badawi.
You can find more information about how to contact the Saudi embassy here in Canada at a previous post of mine, where I give step-by-step instructions which were given to me by Mireille Elchacar, from Amnistie Internationale Canada Francophone.

You can take a look at some pictures and read about the event over at its Facebook page.  You can also join the Amnistie Internationale U de S to keep abreast of new events. I definitely will try to keep more ahead of these events so I can let people know when and where they will take place -- and perhaps cover them as well.

It's really small groups like this, in their dozens and hundreds, that can make a difference.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

British Columbia Denies Accreditation to Trinity Western Law School


So, back in September, the Law Society of New Brunswick voted against accrediting the proposed Trinity Western Law School. This adds on to Ontario and Nova Scotia. There have also been hints of Prince Edward Island also moving in this direction.

Meanwhile, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have put their decisions on hold which practically means a 'no'. Well, now after some waffling, British Columbia has also decided against accrediting the school.
The British Columbia Law Society will not recognize graduates of a controversial Christian law school.

The society’s governing council voted Friday to reverse an earlier decision and uphold the results of a member referendum, rejecting accreditation for law graduates from Trinity Western University.

“The referendum enabled all of B.C.’s lawyers to have a say in whether the benchers should recognize the Trinity Western University law school,” president Jan Lindsay said in a statement.
In case anyone has forgotten, the school has this covenant employees and students must sign stating they cannot have sex outside of marriage -- real, proper marriage 'betwixt the woman and the man'. Or in other words, if you want a job at this school you better not be a gay married person, or a gay person who has sex.

I honestly think these moves are simple protest votes. The school is currently suing the Ontario and Nova Scotia law societies and I rather expect the decision to come out in favour of the school.

Although I can understand progressive lawyers at the societies do not wish to stamp any sort of approval onto any degree from this school for their despicable discrimination against LGBT students, I believe they likely know how the Supreme Court would rule here. They are simply displaying their disapproval. Hey, maybe I'm far off.

One thing, though. Since when does your chasteness, sexual preference or marital status become fair game for not getting a job or being dismissed from a job if you have the qualifications? Academic qualifications should be easy enough to determine for students without determining who they have sex with! The same is probably true for professors. How is this not discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status? How is this not a straight-up human rights violation?

Will Canadian Muslims 'Own' The Radicalization of their Youth?

Syed Soharwardy (source)
I never learned how to play a musical instrument with any sort of proficiency -- although I am very good at whistling. So the musical component of my highschool days was choir. I intensely disliked it but it lead to an interesting observation.

Each group had their own leader or leaders. There was always a single soprano, perhaps a few altos, a single tenor and bass who would always be heard. They often had this revoltingly contrived British accent and would over enunciate constantly. Everyone else would sort of follow their lead and quietly mumble as if they were at church.

Last year, I wrote about an enlightening discussion panel over on NPR about taking the slam out of Islam with feminist and author Asra Nomani. This was in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and Asra was bravely declaring that Muslims everywhere needed to own the problem of extremism within their community.
... And I believe that inside of our Muslim community we haven't completely owned up to the real issues of extremism that is laying claim to our young boys.

... To me that means, in fact, acknowledging that we do have ideologues and we have websites and we have awful, awful indoctrination campaigns inside of our communities, well funded, that lay claim to these boys. It's not enough to say they're outside of our community. They are part of us. And we have to take ownership over that. Just as African-American community has had to confront the issue of gangs, we have ideological gangs in our community.

... I think that means identifying and clearly stating that we have ideologies that are called Wahhabism, Salafism and Deobandism that are indoctrinating our kids and our communities, that we have Uncle Mishas inside of our communities, and we all know who they are and we need to point at them - and they are just like the gang leaders in neighborhoods who take the hearts of young boys - and we need to isolate them. And that is how then the entire Muslim community will not be judged, because they will see that we are cleaning up our own community, and that is our responsibility, I believe, as citizens of this country and this world.

... there are wounds in every community and every society, and I think that the idea is that terrorists are wound collectors and we in our societies and our families and our communities have to make it so that folks can have legitimate nonviolent solutions to their grievances and their wounds and not turn to these violent means, and religion should not be used as a means of sanctioning that kind of violence. And we have to take the slam out of Islam. That's very bottom line for me.
I believe we need more brave people like her. In this day of ISIS the situation of youth radicalization in places like the United States, the UK and Canada demands that everyone on the side of a free and democratic secular society -- where all religions and no religion may flourish -- work together. 

One of the most prominent imams in Canada is Syed Soharwardy who is head of the Canadian Supreme Muslim Council and Muslims Against Terrorism. Back in August, he began speaking out against the alarming uptick in Muslim youth radicalization - in particular, the serious number of young recruits to ISIS from Canada, mainly Calgary, his own backyard.

Back then, I noticed a conspicuous lack of this owning that Asra Nomani demonstrated so clearly in the NPR piece. It seemed like he was asking the Federal government to work harder to clean up this problem but I just didn't see anything he or other imams were doing within their communities. It was a shame because Soharwardy seemed to be in the perfect position to make calls to action and bring Muslims together for this cause.

Randy Tyson and I discussed this over the mysterious backchannel that is Facebook. He shared a Facebook exchange he had with Soharwardy on his podcast The Legion of Reason where he asked this very question -- why not own the problem and tell us what the Muslim community is doing to fight radicalization?
Hi Randy, No doubt the Muslim community and leaders work with the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies to help in making Canada secure and safe. If I know any terrorist or a potential terrorist I will report. However, the people who are violent and creating terrorism do not attend my congregation. We follow SUFI tradition and the violent people follow the WAHABI / SALAFI sect.

Goverment has to go after them. I can just educate Canadian and the Canadian govt. about the root cause of terrorism which is a Wahabi ideology. It has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. Thanks
I can recognize that lumping all Muslims together into a single group is simplistic and counterproductive and his response does point out the very same groups Asra Nomani identifies. However, if you are going to go by the label Muslim then I think it's wise to own the problem of fundamentalist Islamist ideologies translating to violence. I mean, isn't that the right thing to do? This is what Nomani is calling for.

These people are terrorising and dying in the name of -- what they at least call -- Islam. Listen, this atheist isn't terribly interested in which sects are responsible -- this mess is inside the Muslim community, from this vantage point. To this atheist, who's read the Quran at least once, violence does seem to follow rather well from a very literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of the book.

However, whatever your opinions about this, surely those in the best position to combat this sort of violence are those within the broader Muslim community! We're talking about people's children running away to join ISIS here. Surely, this is the most serious thing.

To Soharwardy's credit, he does seem to be the only imam we ever hear about who is at least speaking out strongly against this religiously-motivated insanity.  In the past, he's even reached out to other religious (and non-religious) communities as well. So even though he's wrong about the whole God and religion thing, he appears to be an otherwise reasonable guy. It was rather disappointing though to see him not quite go all the way, to own it.

Then I see this recent update on his Facebook page. Emphasis is my own.
The two faces of “so called” Muslim leaders make me very angry and frustrated. There are Muslims leaders when they speak privately they recognize/identify the sources of radicalization of Muslim youth but when they appear in the media or speak in public they become diplomatic and do not tell the whole truth. Only condemning radicalization and not identifying the source of radicalization is hypocrisy in my opinion.

There are other Muslim leaders who condemn radicalization publicly but privately they are the one who preach the ideology of radicalization. 

Unfortunately, majority of Muslim leaders are like this. So, keep on harvesting what are we sowing. May Allah save Islam from Muslim hypocrites. Ameen.
Now that's better! I mean, it's a start, right?

If only he could rouse some of the other members of the choir to sing a song of truth and shine some real light on this problem. If only I could hear anyone else singing at all!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Baptisms In Pointe-Claire Public Pool

Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre, Pointe-Claire, Quebec. (source)
Are you tired of all those people crowding you at your local public pool? Are you nervous taking a shower when you've inevitably forgotten your flip-flops? Is the chlorine or salt water too aggressive? Do you resent having to wear those tight head condoms? Are you suspicious of strangely coloured underwater clouds lingering around young children?

Well, things were even more distressing this past weekend over at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre. It seems like churches are bringing their members to the pool and baptizing them!
Pointe-Claire resident Ninon Choquette said she was at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre on Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. for “open-swim” when a group of bathers, including several dressed entirely in white, entered the pool area.
Well, at least they were fully clothed.
“The pool is in no way a place of worship,” said Choquette. “We go there to relax, to play with our children and to get in shape, not to undergo religious exercises.
Apparently, this is a pretty common thing.
Bill Gate is the manager of the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre.

Over the years, Gate said, he has seen baptisms take place in the pool, “one or two people … it’s over in 30 seconds.”
Choquette also asks the question of what's the limit, here. Indeed, what's next, funerals? In response, she made the very reasonable suggestion that religious groups rent the pool outside of regular swim hours for their religious ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the complaint has made it all the way up to the mayor of the city who responded by stating that religious events in city facilities are forbidden without prior city council approval.

This is apparently what happens when churches do not have the resources to baptise within their own premises and the Canadian winter is setting in -- and they're not into BieberBaptisms.

One commenter to the article could see no reason why anyone should have any problem with churches performing religious rituals at the public pool:
Why has this offended anyone? It is a public place. How you enter the water or why should be of no concern to anyone else. No one is hurt by someone choosing baptism and if it makes someone uncomfortable, don't watch. Why should it not be allowed? How about a mother breast feeding her child in the pool area? That makes some people uncomfortable, should that not be allowed? What happened to living in a place of freedom? What is it about God that offends some people so greatly that they would take precious time out of their day to complain? There are so many more productive things to fill your time with.
I wonder if there are any Satanist groups nearby who would be interested in doing some of their rituals there? If Christians get to have their ritual there then everyone from the Satanists to the Pastafarians should jump right on in.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Somerville: Physician Assisted Dying Ruins Our Sense Of "Secular Sacred"

So you may have seen posters like these circulating around the Internet arguing, from a Catholic point of view, why physician-assisted dying (with dignity!) -- otherwise known as having mercy on someone and letting them end their own intolerable suffering -- is downright selfish!



Apparently this came from the American Life League who are a band of conservative superheros hell bent on keeping you alive regardless of how grotesque and horrible that life may be, because: SUFFERING = JESUS and NOT SUFFERING = SELFISH! Sit back and ignore grandad's pleading to end his suffering, ignore his written wishes as well. He's being a selfish bastard.

Strangely enough, this approach didn't seem to work very well outside of uber-Catholic-type circles. I'm sure some must think it has to do with all that Jesus, God and Catholic business. Everyone is always picking on the Catholics. 

Cue the intro music for Montreal secular anti-euthanasia apologist Margaret Somerville! She claims to have some persuasive secular arguments for prolonging people's unbearable end of life pain and suffering.
If we are to maintain, and pass on to future generations, societies in which reasonable people would want to live, we must foster a sense of the “secular sacred” that everyone can accept whether or not they are religious and, if religious, no matter which tradition they follow. Euthanasia destroys any sense of there being a mystery at the heart of life and, therefore, that life is “secular sacred.” Mystery must be distinguished from myth, in the sense of a fairy tale, an illusion, or an untrue story. Experiencing mystery involves sensing there’s an immense unknown that we can intuit, to some extent, but not fully understand, and we must respect its integrity. Euthanasia — intentionally killing another person — unavoidably breaches the required respect. It treats us as expired products to be checked out of the supermarket of life, preferably, as one Australian politician put it, “as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible.”
Where can I even begin with this?

Okay, since when has the way you died defined whether or not people have a sense of the sacred? 

This leads me to the question: What sort of sense of secular sacred does Somerville actually have if she's claiming that people must suffer horribly in their final days or else it will be dashed? Is she a sort of suffering fetischist like Mother Teresa or the folks at the American Life League appear to be? The two messages do seem to resemble each other, don't they? What, precisely, is it that prolonged suffering contributes to a life well lived?

I'm sure she doesn't mean this, but it does rather sound like these darkest, most humiliating, most gruesome, fearful and painful days of one's life are to be wondered at as being some sort of mystery at the heart of life -- right up there with how the universe began and the vastness and sublime beauty of the cosmos.

I've seen a man dying and there is very little mystery involved there.

Meanwhile, there is much awe and inspiration and even feeling of secular sacred within the atheist and Humanist community! Actually, only the saddest of people would not have multitudes of things within this world which bring such feelings and death probably ranks fairly low on the list.

Something is cheap if it lacks quality and the only one who can assess whether or not a life is sufficiently good to be lived is the one who must walk that path -- not Somerville in her office or the Pope in Rome.
We must also respect the “human spirit,” which probably has a genetic base, because we all share it whether or not we’re religious. As I’ve written previously, it is “the intangible, immeasurable, ineffable reality all of us need to have access to find meaning in life and to make life worth living — a deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or connectedness to all life, especially other people, to the world, the universe and the cosmos in which we live; the metaphysical — but not necessarily supernatural — reality which we need to experience to live fully human lives.” Kay is right in perceiving he must reject a concept of the human spirit to validate the ethical acceptability of euthanasia.
Is this the best they can do? Those who would stand on guard to keep the suffering awake to feel the pain have intangibles and immeasuables and ineffables to suppress the will and right to self-autonomy of other human beings?

Perhaps their god will turn up wherever they happen to actually find something tangible, measurable, and effible with which to argue against the will of the weakest, most vulnerable of society.

When they come up with something substantial, they can offer it up and we can reconsider. For now, let's allow people to end their own suffering.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

CBC Program Examines Young Patients Choosing Traditional Medicine Over Chemo

(source)
Dr Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) presented a series of interviews and discussions on his CBC Radio program, White Coat, Black Art about Makayla Sault and another young girl both with leukemia who have dropped evidence-based chemotherapy for unproven traditional medicines.

Goldman ultimately comes out on the side of the two families, which is reflected in the title, Makayla's Choice. Many would argue that an eleven year old child of two Christian pastors who ultimately based their decision to drop out of chemo on a vision of Jesus the girl claimed to have, may not be well-equipped to make such calls.

I've already pretty much stated how I feel about this in previous posts and it becomes pretty depressing to go over it again and again. I'll just point out a few things.

The patients are referred to over and over again as clients, as if people can simply shop around for whatever sort of reality they feel most comfortable with and get equivalently valid and effective treatments.

There also seemed to be very little discussion comparing the actual effectiveness of science-based vs. tradition-based medicines. Dr. Nadine Caron did admit that she would do her profession and recommend chemo -- but surely this isn't just about doing your job.

She also said this, which pretty much underlies the entire program:
I think there's other ways where you can garner knowledge and wisdom. And the aboriginal ways of knowing are simply different...they are  not wrong, they are different.
No actually -- assuming we all share the same reality -- there are better ways of coming to knowledge than others. Personal belief, ideology or tradition are not reliable ways of knowing and this has been shown over and over again. The scientific method is designed to eliminate these biases -- surely both of these doctors must know this?

I find this increasing attitude that one treatment is as good as another very unsettling.

For a program with so many medical doctors, very little time is spent on actual cold hard medical facts. The Children's Hospital statement isn't even read in full and is merely linked to. They are the only ones to bring up evidence-based medicine!

The one point that Dr. Caron did bring up that might truly intersect with evidence-based medicine is that studies apparently do not properly consider the differences between different racial populations.  It could very well be that chemo has more complications and could be less effective with First Nations populations, but could it really be worse than no (proven) treatment at all? Let's study this.

If anything, this program shows all of the details and complications of society, history, law, politics, religion and tradition on this story. The cancer, of course, has no respect or concern for any of these things.

So have a listen to the program. Doctor's orders!... which apparently mean very little these days.