Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Ultra Conservative Muslim 'Faceless' Dolls Are Scary As Hell

Aisha dolls. (source)
Call me old fashioned, but I really prefer my dolls to have eyes, a nose and a mouth. So did Tom Hanks' character in the movie Castaway. He painted a crude face on a soccer ball and called it Wilson.

Some months ago, I came across the website Aisha Dolls. Aisha is the little 9 (or 10!) year old girl, with whom a 53 year old Mohammed consummated their marriage. The Hadith apparently makes a point of specifying that the marriage actually took place when she was 6 or 7, but Mohammed patiently waited until she was nine or ten before doing the deed. What a considerate guy.
Aisha Dolls was the first of its kind on the market. Aisha Dolls are faceless, wearing modest/Islamic clothing, soft to cuddle and play friendly. Aisha Dolls cater for Islamic values, and are made with quality and imaginative play in mind, all very important aspects of every Muslim child’s life and upbringing. Aisha Dolls also offer multicultural dolls with different skin colours, reflecting our Muslim community.
...
The name of Aisha Dolls says it all. I was inspired by the hadith describing how Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) used to play with dolls which had no facial features in the presence of the Prophet (Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam). Having children of my own, I noticed that there was no company offering faceless dolls specifically for the Muslims. To begin with I made dolls for my own children, thereafter I saw other Muslim families’ need for this toy. I decided to create my own models and the idea for Aisha Dolls was born, the first company offering dolls of this kind to the Muslim community.
There's something deeply odd to me about giving a child a doll with no recognizably human facial features. I just can't put my finger on it. Happily, a Professor of Muslim Societies, Fawaz Gerges, has pointed out that the majority of Muslims out there are just as creeped out by this as me.
‘The doll is a gimmick, an ultra-conservative interpretation,’ he told Mail Online.

He added: ‘It is a very isolated phenomenon and with all due respect I imagine it would only appeal to a very tiny group.’
A similar project, the Deeni Doll -- which Gerges is above referencing -- was launched in the UK last year by a former Muslim school teacher, after some parents were expressing concern that their daughters' dolls looked human.
"I came up with the idea from scratch after speaking to some parents who were a little concerned about dolls with facial features," she said.

"Some parents won't leave the doll with their children at night because you are not allowed to have any eyes in the room.
Isn't it amazing? Eyeless, faceless dolls would scare the bejeebies out of me in a dark bedroom.

This all boils down to aniconism where you're not allowed to have any depiction of animals (humans or otherwise) in sculpture, art, etc. So much for the Venus de Milo. So much for GI Joe.

The Aisha Dolls website was actually sent to me by Toronto Pakistani sex and religion blogger, Eiynah Nice Mangos. I had originally found these cartoon depictions of people on Jamaican-born Canadian Muslim television personality Bilal Philips Facebook page. She sent me the page to point out that they're faceless for a reason and that it's the real deal for some Muslims out there.



Look ma! No eyes!

2015-07-05: Correction, Hadith not Quran mention Aisha's age.

Friday, 19 June 2015

New Science Book Series For Young Skeptics: Tiny Thinkers

Charlie & The Tortoise (source)
David Smalley, producer of Dogma Debate and head of Secular Media Group has launched an excellent fundraiser to bring more science themed books to kids. Being the father of an inquisitive five year old, I'm pretty excited about this.


Smalley narrates many secular audio books which can be found over at Audible, most of these are through Dogma Debate LLC. This fundraiser originally encompassed more than just children's books, but it was narrowed down to kids books only just a few days ago.
Great News! This campaign is now 100% dedicated to ONLY the Kids Books! This saves us a ton of room on the budget, knocking it down to only $12K needed for all 3 of our first books to be printed and published!
So far, three titles are on their way as part of a new series called Tiny Thinkers. They're written by KidsHeartKids' Mario Mouton, whom I've worked with before while fundraising for Humanist causes in Uganda. He's doing tonnes of great things for kids in Uganda!

Here are the three new titles. Mario was nice enough to send me a draft copy of Carl Went to the Library without images and it was delightful.
Charlie and the Tortoise details Charles Darwin's trip to the islands, and his quest for answering questions about why animals are so different.

Carl Went to the Library features Carl Sagan and his amazing impact on the world of science.

Richie Doodles showcases Richard Feynman and his contributions to the world of theoretical physics.  Feynman was an inspiration and mentor for world renowned physicist, Lawrence Krauss, who will be writing the forward for this book! 
Go check out the fundraiser!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

First Nations Childrens Deaths In Church Run Residential Schools: Same Odds As Soldier Deaths in WWII

Residential school in Manitoba, 1960. (source)
As I've posted before, Canada has a dark and repulsive past of tearing First Nations children away from their families and shipping them off to re-education camps ("schools") where they'll be forbidden from speaking their own languages or learning about the religions of their people.
The Indian residential schools were a network of "residential" (boarding) schools for Native Canadians (First Nations or "Indians"; Métis and Inuit. Funded by the Canadian government's Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and administered by Christian churches, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church in Canada (60%), but also the Anglican Church of Canada (30%), and the United Church of Canada (including its pre-1925 constituent church predecessors)(10%). The policy was to remove children from the influence of their families and culture and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture. Over the course of the system's existence, approximately 30% of native children, roughly some 150,000, were placed in residential schools nationally.
Of course, these religious groups -- including the Pope himself (not until 2009!) -- issued apologies since the last school was closed in 1996(!!), however, it wasn't until the Truth & Reconciliation Commission started going through the archives and interviewing survivors, that we began to truly understand the horror that were these schools. It's gut wrenching.
In February 2013, research by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission revealed that at least 3,000 students had died, mostly from disease. In 2011, reflecting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's research, Justice Murray Sinclair told the Toronto Star: "Missing children — that is the big surprise for me, [...] That such large numbers of children died at the schools. That the information of their deaths was not communicated back to their families." In a legal report, the Canadian Bar Association concludes that "Student deaths were not uncommon". See Mortality rates below for more information.
These children were supposed to be in good hands of the religious communities here in Canada. Well, the commission has completed their task and the number of deaths is over 6,000 children in the past 120 black years of this disgusting blight on our nation's history.
In media interviews, Sinclair has also revealed that the TRC has documented the deaths of over 6,000 students while in residential schools, adding that there are probably more.

That would put the odds of dying in Canadian residential schools over the years they operated at about the same as for those serving in Canada's armed forces during the Second World War.
The commission also came right out and said it. This was cultural genocide ordered up by our elected officials and implemented by religious communities. There is blood on everyone's hands here, but it's clear that these churches and the Pope, who is apparently in communication with God himself, were downright evil.
A moment of shared emotional catharsis bound survivors of Canada's residential schools Tuesday as their collective ordeal was officially branded a "cultural genocide" that tore apart their families and left them to contend with lifelong scars of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The massive report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes 94 broad recommendations —everything from greater police independence and reducing the number of aboriginal children in foster care to restrictions on the use of conditional and mandatory minimum sentences.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I've read the stories about sexual abuse of children, deaths of kids in Ireland, money laundering in Rome and the fatal forcing of children to give birth to children of rape. Why do I still find this surprising?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is refusing to use the words cultural genocide, after we learned that 150,000 children were kidnapped from their families and over 6,000 died. That's pretty vile of him.

The violence continues. First Nations women go missing forever at a shocking rate in our country.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Finally a Book to Teach Your Kids Christian Mythology as Mythology

The book cover features the Hebrew myth of Lucifer being thrown out of heaven. (source)
Near the very beginning of my blog, back in 2012, I wrote about teaching religious mythology to son. Even though he was only two at the time, I was already thinking about what kinds of resources were out there and how I should expose him to often violent or misogynistic texts. I started with the story of Noah, then the Battle of Jericho and then the whole twisted idea of Easter.

Since then, I've been keeping a keen outlook for books about Christianity that aren't merely watered down Children's Bibles with the goal of spoonfed indoctrination. That's why I'm happy to see a Kickstarted campaign for Christian Mythology For Kids -- A Secular Family's Guide To Modern Christianity by freethinking mom Christine Trooien.

Watch this introduction video.


From their Kickstarter page:
Today, more than ever before, parents are raising their children free from religion. We have very few secular tools to teach our children about the Christian religions that still surrounds us. Secular children encounter bible stories from their peers, through pop culture, and from well intentioned relatives. Oftentimes the message that is delivered along with these stories is one of fear, promises or simply trying to convince young minds that these stories are somehow historical.

We wanted to introduce our children to christianity in a way that doesn't threaten them or coax them into thinking these stories are real. Children's books about Greek and Roman Mythology are wonderful, exciting stories that inform and entertain. Christian Mythology for Kids follows this format, but with a religion that some people still view as true. 
I've got a degree in Classics, and so I've studied the Greek and Roman mythologies. I've also read some Hittite and Sumerian myths as well. There are plenty of great children's anthologies of these myths out there and they do a good job of inoculating children from actually taking them seriously -- while teaching them valuable moral lessons (Aesop) or to never give up (Odyssey, Argonautica, Gilgamesh). 

A perfect analogy to this book would be a collection of Hindu mythology -- much of which would still be believed by millions of Hindus.
Exploring and discussing common Christian myths in a safe environment gives children an unbiased understanding before they encounter it in their daily lives. Christian Mythology for Kids also answers questions that children may have after hearing what their friends or relatives have to say. This book tells the story of each myth, followed by a brief logical or scientific explanation as to why it is mythology
At first I thought that this last part would surely be overkill. Why not just keep it to the story and let the child process it like any other myth? Then my wife reminded me that here in Montreal, we don't have people trying to cram it down our throats as being the slightest bit historical. I might run into the occasional it's a nice myth sort of Christian here in godless Montreal.

Based on the Kickstarter, Christine is located in Arizona -- quite different than secular Quebec! In places like Arizona, much of the United State south and much of Canada books like this would be absolutely necessary to provide children with the sorts of rebuttals necessary against even their school peers.

It would be different if there weren't people at every level of society pushing these fairy stories as fact!

Did I mention it also looks pretty entertaining for us grownups too?  Check it out!


Also go ahead and Like their Facebook page.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Lego Movie: Most Satanic Illuminati Movie Ever Exposed


I have a new favourite Youtube channel all about the Illuminati: The Vigilant Christian! More like hyper vigilant. Forgive me, I really love this conspiracy stuff and I'm still waiting for my invitation to the Illuminati.

Katy Perry apparently belonging to the Illuminati -- because only cool rich people can be part of this group, sadly! -- was what introduced me to this channel. It was this video about the satanic ritual that was the Superbowl Halftime Show, that won me over.

Well, here's another awesome video about how the Lego Movie is actually THE MOST SATANIC ILLUMINATI MOVIE EVER EXPOSED. I stumbled upon it because just watched the movie few days ago with my son and we both loved it!


What I find amazing about these videos is the incredible creativity involved what with finding all the links within the movie to the nefarious Illuminati. I have a degree in Classical Literature and the meta analysis involved in this work is truly truly top notch!

While watching it, I found myself wondering whether or not there was, indeed, a hidden link between the movie and some secret power group. Like many documentaries in the genre, the longer you watch, the more convincing it becomes. I suppose it could be confirmation bias -- or, perhaps the creators are just as much into the Illuminati as the Vigilant Christian! Maybe they are indeed raving Illuminati! If so, I'm not completely certain why we should care. I guess it could be because I am one of those humanist atheist types to which much of the movie actually appeals.

Then there's this interview with Church of Satan administrator and high priest Peter H. Gilmore:
I must view The Lego Movie as I've heard it is a celebration of individuality against herd conformity, and nothing is more Satanic than that. My personal blog discusses film and music that has Satanic aspects.
Oh reeaaaaaaaallllly?


Sunday, 25 January 2015

London Hasidic Jewish School Facing Action Due to Substandard Secular Education

By Benqish at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Back in November, I posted about the cloistered Ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Tash only minutes away from Montreal, yet so very far. All the schools within the village -- there are several -- are completely unlicensed, and the graduate of one, Yonanan Lowen, is suing Quebec authorities for allowing these exclusively religious instruction to be taught, at the expense of any secular subjects whatsoever.
But despite being raised and schooled for most of his life in the cloistered Hassidic Jewish community of Boisbriand, north of Montreal, the 37-year-old cannot read or write in French, stumbles through English texts and is confounded by the most basic tasks asked of grade-school students.
I'm becoming more and more aware that this is not an isolated phenomenon. Terry Firma has recently written about Kiryas Joel in New York state.

Now, just last week, we hear about a similar case of a cloistered ultra-Orthodox school offering a substandard education. This time it's in North London. The UK Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted) has already failed an emergency inspection over the summer. Now the school has failed again and the office is considering what regulatory action is appropriate. 
Secular subjects are taught for an hour and a half at the Yiddish-speaking school but are not introduced until year two. "Many of the required areas of learning are covered but the school does not make sure that pupils gain technological skills or develop their creativity," Ofsted reported.

"Although almost all pupils speak Yiddish as their main language, English is not taught to pupils in year one or to the children in early years." While some pupils made the expected progress in maths, only a few did so in English.

Lessons did not actively promote "fundamental British values" or give pupils enough opportunity to "develop respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs". There were no regular classes to make sure pupils learned about English institutions.
It's nice to see government doing its job. If only we didn't require an already traumatized, nearly illiterate graduate of similar schools (with virtually no secular education) to take legal action here in Quebec for the welfare of our province's children!

The school also neglected to teach the children anything about different human sexualities and gender identities. Oh really, quelle surprise! 
The comments reflect the new drive launched by the government last year to instil "British values" in schools to combat Islamist radicalism - although some Orthodox Jewish educators have questioned whether inspectors are taking the equality agenda too far.
Really? It seems to me like they are doing a fine job.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

NSFW: Swedish Public TV Makes Dancing Penis & Vulvae Cartoon. Reasons for Outrage Enlightening.

Snoppen och Snippan (Penis & Vagina) is meant to make children feel okay (perhaps even enthusiastic) about their genitalia.
Okay, so I'm not sure if this is NSFW or not -- I guess if you live outside of Sweden it's probably not. However, in sex-positive secular Sweden, the past week has been all about penises and vaginas in the news.

Bacillakuten appears to be a children's program on their public broadcaster SVT about health and their bodies.  Here is the rather catchy cartoon.

These are dancing erect penises and vulvae, so if you're at work, you might not want to watch... unless you work at a sexual education clinic or something!

(Isn't it interesting that I feel the need to put NSFW on a cartoon from a Swedish children's television program! Now what does this say about prudery here in North America?)


As VICE points out, there is the usual ridiculous outrage about children seeing cartoon genitalia -- which I'm sure they've discovered on their own by now -- but the real outrage really shows just how progressive Sweden really is.
Bacillakuten deals with the body and our most common physical conditions, so it's not out of character for it to talk about some organs that everyone has. But after the video was posted to SVT's Facebook page on January 8, it was immediately met by criticism on social media. Some people were obviously concerned about little kids being exposed to genitals, but others complained that the video promoted restrictive gender norms and transphobia.
Naturally, in Canada or the States, nobody would get past the fact there are evil evil genitalia dancing about. This cartoon was designed with the goal of making children feel comfortable with their genitals and perhaps alleviate the intense shame and sometimes utter revulsion some people end up developing for these parts of the body -- often religion induced. I know this first hand.

In Sweden, it seems like many have moved past this and have taken the next step by thinking about the gender stereotypes within the cartoon.
The video—which YouTube briefly slapped with an "adult" label before SVT objected—has received plenty of positive reviews for its attempt to strip away the drama and stigma from our genitals. But Swedish activists were pissed off that the video featured cis-centric lyrics like, "Pee, pee with the penis / Or the vagina if you're a girl!" ...
The show's project manager had to respond with a sort of apology.
There might be a pedagogic point to inform children that this is how it generally looks like; if you have a vagina you're regarded as a girl by others when you're born. If you have a penis you're regarded as a boy. To be on the children's side can sometimes mean to meet them in the reality they are living in. We would never stand behind a song that says that girls with penises aren't real girls or that boys with vaginas aren't real boys.
Could you imagine this happening in the United States? No, I couldn't either. VICE writer Caisa Ederyd points out in conclusion that, although the video is flawed in its non-inclusion of trans people, it still celebrates that penises and vaginas are pretty damn fun.

It truly is like they are light years ahead. According to the article, the country has had "gender-neutral" preschools since 2011! It's 2014 here in Canada and there is still a shitstorm over using gender-neutral pronouns!

So, condoms on to you, Sweden! Although this video did not meet the mark over there, even the controversy it generated is several orders of magnitude more educated and mature than anything you'll run into here in Canada.

If this is the result of one of the most secular and godless societies on earth, then more please.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Kikoy Dresses for Uganda Orphan Girls

Dopio Everlyne, age 5, Upper Nursery, father died and mum sick with epilepsy, lives with grandmother. 
Kasese Humanist Primary School Director Bwambale Robert and Hank Pellissier, Director of Brighter Brains Institute have teamed up to create a fantastically simple and effective way to help orphan girls in Uganda.

In a nutshell, they have hired a local tailor to make custom kikoy dresses for orphan children throughout the Kasese District -- mainly impoverished regions near the Congo border.

Help Orphans in Uganda Humanist School - buy a girls dress for $12

It really cannot be any more simple. You send twelve dollars and an orphan girl gets a dress.
We paid our tailor - Mr. Safari to sew 100 dresses of East African Kikoy cloth. We will give these lovely, well-made dresses to orphan girls who reside throughout the district, many in remote orphanages maintained by widows.
Just to prove that this money is not going to waste and to show just how amazingly effective your $12 was, a photograph of the child in the dress will be posted onto the Kasese Humanist Orphans Facebook page!

One of the first children to receive a dress from longtime Humanist school supporter, Mary Bellamy.
(Kasese Humanist Orphans)
Or more specifically, you will get:
  • A Thank You note from a director
  • A photograph of an orphan girl wearing a dress you purchased - holding a Thank You poster addressed to you (whenever possible*)
  • HTML copy of the upcoming book Orphans of Rwenzori - a humanist perspective - authored by the directors of this campaign.
I don't know how anyone could deny that this is value for your money!

* (2014-11-14) Depending on whether the dress is delivered locally or mailed (to save costs), the personalized photo might not be available. In cases where distances are too great, post will be used. Other times,  the girls may simply not be available to immediately change into the dress upon delivery, or technical difficulties may occur with photographic equipment. In these cases, a well-taken photograph of one of the orphan girls will be sent instead. This will allow this initiative keep overhead as low as possible in order to concentrate on optimizing the number of dresses distributed -- e.g. 12 were just mailed out to an orphanage in Jinja.


Just in case you are still skeptical of where the money goes, here's a breakdown of the expenses:
The kikoy dresses cost us $6.50 in materials and labor. Another $1.50 is spent on transferring/ wiring fees. Delivering dresses to orphans costs about $1 per dress.

The remaining $3.00 per dress cost will be donated to the 34 orphans of Kasese Humanist Primary School, to help pay for their tuition, meals and rooming.
The Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda has been a life changer for hundreds of local children and families. You can help them help the community and improve knowledge of science and skepticism in Uganda at the same time.

This initiative is also extremely smart because it employs local industry to help the local economy, it cuts out any substantial international shipping costs and shipping times and it has a very small carbon footprint.

Just in case this isn't enough. Let's take a look at who we're helping here.
Uganda has 3.5 million orphans - almost 10% of the population. Children are parentless due to AIDS, civil wars, violence, accidents, and abandonment.

An orphan life in this impoverished nation is difficult. Uganda’s per capita income is $567 per year; rural income is half that. Education for orphans is limited. When they “age out” of orphanages, many become “street kids ” sniffing glue, stealing, scavenging in garbage dumps, begging. Among girls, 60% end up in prostitution, where the HIV/AIDS rate is 37%.

Small Ugandan orphans are often naked; girls’ dresses are frequently old pillowcases.
We're talking about $12 dollars to immediately make a positive change in an orphan's life.

Read all about this initiative over at the Kasese Humanist Orphans Facebook page!


Friday, 15 August 2014

Childrens Book About Uganda With Kasese Humanist Primary School Students

Two students wearing their Kasese Humanist Primary School uniforms. 'Good Day Uganda' was written and is being developed by Russell Appelt in Victoria, BC, Canada. (Illustration reprinted with his permission.)
'After breakfast, while it’s still cool, kids from Kasese will walk to school. They’ll learn their lessons and be nobody’s fool. Good morning to Uganda.' 
Awhile back Russell Appelt, from Victoria, British Columbia, came up with the story for a picture book about Kasese Humanist Primary School. Interestingly, he did this by imagining Raffi singing a song about Uganda. He hadn't done anything like this before and isn't an illustrator, but didn't let that get in his way. Much like other volunteers helping this community-supported school, he jumped in and started the project and things are coming together.
I'm not an English major, just a nurse aid working at Aberdeen Hospital here in Victoria. I was doing my own illustrations at first but they were not professional enough. So I decided to hire an artist from Malaysia and I'm very pleased with what he's been able to do so far.
Russell sent me several illustrations and they are all incredibly vibrant and extremely bright and colourful -- like the pictures of Uganda in the summer season.

A Kasese Humanist Primary student wakes up with the Ugandan flag flying outside his window. This is an image from an upcoming childrens book 'Good Day Uganda' being developed by Victoria BC's Russell Appelt. (Illustration reprinted with his permission.)
'Raise the flag, black, yellow and red. Everybody wake up and get out of bed. There’s work to do, don’t be a sleepy head. Good morning to Uganda.'
Although some text is prone to change as the story gets refined, the version of the book I read uses delightful rhyming verse to tell the story of humans, animals and plants on a sunny school day in Uganda. There is no direct mention of science, save for a reference to chimps, the closest living relative to humankind. This book instead instills a wonder in the natural world by referencing the fauna of the region along with some local geographical features.

Russell and his girlfriend Elsie.
Russell hopes to have the project done sometime in 2015. Meanwhile, there will likely be some editing. He would like to add a Fun Facts section to the back of the book with some trivial about the country and a recipe for matoke (plantain stew with meat), which is referenced within the story itself.
Perhaps Bwambale Robert could send me a deliciously authentic one.
As a Humanist parent of a four year old, I really appreciate books like this and hope more will appear. There is a real need for more childrens media in our community.

I'll keep you all posted about the development of this book. If you would like to contact Russell directly, then you can email him at russ.appelt@gmail.com.

Friday, 4 April 2014

New Christian Children's Book All About The Mark of the Beast

Here's a creepy children's book talking about the Book of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast and an attractive (dare I say hot?) clean-shaven Jesus sitting on a lion with a bunch of kids who I assume are not his.

(source: Wonkette)

I found it in this story on Wonkette.  The author, Katherine Albrecht -- who has been a regular on the zany conspiracy theorist programme Coast to Coast -- believes we'll all be implanted with chips just like it says in the Bible and ... 666 and the acid trip that is the Book of Revelation ... etc.

Of course scaring the crap out of educating children about the impending rule of Satan on Earth is what every responsible Christian parent ought to do.
She especially wants to reach younger readers with her book I Won't Take the Mark, a Bible Book and Contract for Children to help kids understand the book of Revelation. 
"I am stunned at the number of people who have gone to VBS and summer camp and Bible school and Sunday school, and they've never even heard of the mark of the beast," Albrecht said. "The churches aren't preaching it; they're not discussing it."
Albrecht is pretty sure these new chips must be the Mark of the Beast -- and I suppose that barcodes, credit cards and social security numbers just haven't panned out. Process of elimination, right?

Well, as the irresponsible atheist that I am, I guess I'll just keep reading my son All My Friends Are Dead.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Kickstarter Project: "Freethinker's Book of Fables"

Concept art for book's cover. (source)

Matthew Brackney emailed me last week with information on his new Kickstarter campaign to illustrate a series of completely new modern-day fables for Freethinkers (also appropriate for those who may not consider themselves Freethinkers as well).
I've just started my own project, The Freethinker's Book of Fables, which is a children's/young adult book aimed at teaching moral lessons through reason. Specifically, I want it to deal with the dangers of group thought, traditions that go unexamined, and fear of reason.
At first glance, I agreed that group thought and unquestioned traditions are common-day occurrences. However, fear of reason didn't really strike me as a big problem until my mind went back to the disturbing messages creationists had for evolutionists (e.g. people who listen to science) after the Ken Ham - Bill Nye debate. After that, other examples came flooding in. I wonder if these creationists would have thought differently if they had an up to date book of fables that encouraged critical thought rather than  their own 2,000 year-old book of fables.

Here's the link to this project:

The Freethinker's Book of Fables
Though some fables are still popular and relevant there are many that are not. This project is an attempt to write and fully illustrate modern fables with themes that are based on morals reached through reason. The fables should help parents in instructing their children to question everything and make their own conclusions on a variety of topics but with fun-filled stories and quirky characters.
Yes, that's right, no "the Bible tells us so" or "it's tradition" here. This book aims to begin children on the path of thinking for themselves and using reason and ethics to underly their morality.

Here's my favourite synopsis of one of the proposed fables.
The Bronze King of the Squirrels 
A well fed community of squirrels lives in the park. They have an abundance of nuts, and life is good. A group of the squirrels attributes their prosperity to a great bronze statue recently erected in the center of the park. The great wise-squirrels insist that the statue is their god, and that a nut sacrifice is necessary to show homage.  When a disaster strikes and nuts are no longer plentiful, the wise-squirrels start blaming the squirrels that don’t sacrifice. More restrictive rules are enforced. The wise-squirrels demands more sacrifice, and insist that the squirrels spend more time in devotion to the statue. A small group of squirrels that have refused to sacrifice their nuts instead find a new source of food. Conflict develops between the two groups who must find a way to coexist.
And some of Matthew's artwork:

Bronze King Concept Art (source)
That isn't a commercial for rodent Snuggies. Those are squirrels giving up their nuts.

You can see a video describing this project at Matthew's Kickstarter page. It looks like around $4,000 has been raised (25%). Why not pitch a little in so they can get to 50%?

As a parent who's posted before about books for kids that encourage critical thinking, I know what I'll pick up for my little guy for this 5th birthday... The Freethinker's Book of Fables

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

JREF Lending A Helping Hand To Pathfinders Project And Uganda Humanist Schools

Classroom Module from the JREF
 Classroom Module from the JREF. (source)
Here's s a short update.

I got an uplifting email from Conor Robinson, founder of the Pathfinders Project, a couple of weeks ago. I promised to write about it on the blog but things happened and stuff got in the way. Finally, here's some good news.

You can read about it here: 

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has donated classroom kits to the Pathfinders Project. These kits will be used by the Pathfinders at the Kasese Humanist Primary School and the Mustard Seed Secondary School (member of the Uganda Humanist School Trust)!

At first, the Pathfinders intended to use the free online resources provided by the JREF. 
Some of the online modules guide students through the process of designing controlled experiments, collecting data, and evaluating the significance of the results. Others use historical examples of hoaxes and pseudoscientific claims to allow students to compare the reliability of different kinds of evidence
An excellent fit with the school in Kasese, who's motto is "With Science we can progress!" 

The JREF heard about this and offered to donate the classroom kits they use in their own workshops!
These classroom kits take the online modules to the next instructional level with handouts, materials, lesson plans, and manipulatives, and they can of course still be supplemented with the online modules for extended learning. This arrangement will allow JREF to expand its reach and Pathfinders Project to more effectively promote critical thinking. JREF will get to see its powerful curricula in action internationally, and Pathfinders Project will have a strong educational counterbalance to its clean water and human rights projects.
And the kits will be left at the schools so teachers can use them with students for years to come.

On another note. It turns out Conor was at TAM this year.  I should have gotten this post out a little sooner - woops. Apologies!

Anyway, the Pathfinders will be at Kasese Humanist School this fall and they will be helping out with some of the fundraising as well. The goal is to get enough money raised to start building classrooms on the newly purchased land that was bought a few months ago with the help of the Atheist/Humanist community!

Read about the Kasese Humanist Primary School fundraiser: Build a Humanist School In Uganda

If you want to help the Pathfinders, visit their site over at: 
http://www.pathfindersproject.com/#!support

When you help the Pathfinders, you help others as well!



Children standing in front of Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda.
I've started a fundraiser to help build classrooms on newly purchased land for the Kasese Humanist Primary School.

Please consider donating!


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Comic Book Heros Make Chemotherapy Easier For Kids! Way Cooler Than Pope.

(souce: Buzzfeed)
So, last night I ranted to my wife about yesterday's post, Why Does This Repulse Me So Much?, which is all about the Pope apparently using frail and sick children to boost his public image.

My wife very wisely pointed me to this most excellent initiative by doctors, Warner Bros, JWT and comic book artists to make chemotherapy more tolerable and as fun as possible for children.

Look, this is way cooler than some old guy in a frock asking dying children to pray to his God for him. Maybe I'm just behind the times or something, but this beats the cassock off the pontiff.

Take a look at this story over at Buzzfeed:

Children’s Cancer Center Rebrands Chemotherapy As “Superformula” : They also redesigned the cancer ward to look like a Super Friends Hall of Justice. An amazing idea.

The idea is to rebrand the children's ward at the A.C. Carmargo Cancer Center into a fully immersive superhero experience.
Covers for intravenous bags were constructed based on characters from the Justice League, creating a child-friendly version of the treatment. Co-developed with doctors, the covers are easy to sterilize and handle and meet all hospital hygiene standards. 
(The) experience went far beyond the covers by also providing a new look to the entire Children’s Ward: the game room was turned into the Hall of Justice, corridors and doors were decorated in the same theme, and the exterior acquired an exclusive entrance for these little heroes.
(source: Buzzfeed)

The children get to read comic books that describe familiar superheros who also have cancer and have to take the very same superformula inside identical cases. The books document struggles and challenges similar to those the children could well have to endure before they get better.

The idea is that this will act as an additional placebo effect.  It presents the treatment in terms children can understand and it provides positive role models - superheros. I would imagine they may not feel as alone or afraid. And their IV covers are identical to those in the comic book.

The children are the true heros here.

Watch this video. Unlike the visit with the Pope in yesterday's post, this one may me weep with joy. Thank goodness for smart and compassionate doctors and multinational media companies. Never thought I'd say that.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Why Does This Repulse Me So Much?

"Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) chose a children's hospital 
in Palermo (Buenos Aires) to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the 

Lord's Supper.  There, he washed the feet of 12 sick children."
Right, so I'm likely to get some criticism from someone on this post, but there is something I really need to get off my chest.

It could be baggage left over from my Catholic days, or being a father.

When I saw the picture to the right and read the blog post over at the Archdiocese of Toronto blog I got angry.  Really angry, deep down. I have a really hard time expressing why.

Last Halloween I posted about the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. This is where there are horrible mutations of fetuses and various other horrendous diseases that afflict the innocent for no apparent reason. It points clearly to either an incompetent, feeble, malicious or non-existent God. Pope Francis' God.

In the post I quoted Dan Barker.
All you have to do is walk into any Children's Hospital and you know there is no God.
Well the Pope, who is, as I understand it, God's main conduit here on Earth - Mr. Infallible Himself - visited a children's hospital in March of this year and washed some kids feet and the crowd went absolutely wild. Many of the children may well still die after horrible suffering, but the reporters snapped photo after photo of this humble man in a frock washed the feet of innocent children.

So many reporters, so many germs - so feeble the immune systems of many of these children. You'll notice that the Pope apparently has not a force field capable of stopping infection from entering the nostrils of this poor child due to the this increased risk. I hope the Pope's visit didn't cause more harm than what was intended - well, assuming the whole thing wasn't one big PR stunt.


So June 3rd, the Pope was visited by some children with cancer (see video above). A young girl with cancer read a letter to him where she assured him they were praying for him. She asked him to pray for them and all the sick children in the world.

The Pope responded that Jesus, dead for 2,000 years, gives them all a big hug. He then asks them one last favour.  To pray for HIM!  I mean, if they're not too busy with chemo or other treatments - with the whole cancer thing and all.

Why does the world fawn all over this man?  What about the doctors trying to save the lives of these children? The researchers looking for a cure or new treatments?  The suffering parents who must walk boldly on with brave faces for their children as they watch their babies weaken and sometimes die?

At least Jesus, who is now apparently un-dead, allegedly healed the sick - although I've been told this was only to prove some point or other. Regardless, what is this Pope capable of?  Apparently, he can manifest invisible hugs from an immaterial dead undead guy. How warm and fuzzy. How sad.

Well I guess it's still more warm and fuzzy than his God who apparently sits by while these children die  - for no apparent reason.  But maybe it is his greater closeness to God that allows Pope Francis to keep faith and be satisfied with only being able to provide psychic hugs from beyond.  To say the least of currying the prayers from dying children.

It's really sad on another level too. I mean, these poor kids seem to believe in this, adore him and probably derive a great deal of hope and comfort from this. The fact it's all bullshit makes me want to weep - really, it does.

But, if my son got cancer, was deathly ill and asked me if he was going to see me in heaven when he passes away, I just don't know if I could explain to him that this wouldn't be the case. I think it would be easier if I told him from the get go - that it's a sleep we go into forever. Yes maybe. I don't know.

Anyway, look, I get it. He's humble - he uses public transit and doesn't use his limousine. Maybe he sleeps in the smallest room of his palace. Perhaps he's just a product of his own past.  Maybe he's just typecast to believe in the whole thing. But there is something about this that makes me ill - as a father of a young child. I'm not sure why I find it so repugnant.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Now William Lane Craig Goes After Darwin The Dog!

Craig's gunning against Darwin the Dog - a danger to the
youth.  I can already imagine the upcoming debate.
Remember that Dallas preacher, Jim Denison, who went after the American Humanist Association for daring to put up a website for kids (Kids Without God) that promoted critical thinking and Humanist values?  For shame!  His video was funny.

Well now my least favourite apologist, William Lane Craig, is also picking on poor Darwin the Dog.

Just read  ATHEIST WEBSITE FOR CHILDREN HAS ONE-SIDED ARGUMENTS!  Don't worry, it's a brief plug for Craig's site article that's only a few short paragraphs long.

The whole criticism of the site is that it doesn't provide all-sided arguments on the basis of reality.  No, wait, I think it actually means Craig is annoyed it doesn't consider his own argument about the basis of reality - God did it.
The website promotes the virtues of critical thinking and scientific reflection on evidence claimed to disprove one's faith, but Craig notes that the site never examines critical arguments against atheism.
No, the site attempts to foster critical thinking and skepticism in general of everything. From the Kids Without God website Parents section:
The goal of this website is to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture and history. 
We hope that you and your kids will enjoy reading about Darwin the Dog, who is committed to an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion; and who is able to enjoy mythology while still differentiating between the real and the imaginary.
You know, rather than just drilling dogma into the children's brains.
Craig says a child's views are not solidly formed enough to understand the false arguments, let alone be able to defend them, so they can be easily misled.  Craig believes an excellent website for arguments in defense of faith is ReasonableFaith.org.
You know, like being easily brainwashed into believing ancient mythologies.  Because every other Christian children's site out there need not present the arguments against Christianity - but the only Humanist children's site out there... they ought to be presenting the arguments against their worldview.  Double standard stemming from a privileged Christian outlook?  I think so, yes.

Oh and ReasonableFaith.org is Craig's own website.  Nice self plug there.  Real classy. Well, I suppose I might be just as shameless peddling my own stuff... or maybe not.

I also find it amusing that both this story and the previous one never provided an actually link to the Kids Without God campaign website.  Heaven forbid someone actually click on it for themselves!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Dallas Preacher Goes After Darwin the Dog

Looks like I've been wandering around Youtube again.  Last Monday, I found this video about the Office of Religious Freedoms.  Well, last night I found a video all about a new atheist strategy for children.

The video features Dr. Jim Denison, president of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture.   He's got problems with the American Humanist Association's Kids Without God website (www.kidswithoutgod.com), which looks excellent by the way.  I recommend you visit it and show it to your kids!

The American Humanist Association (AHA) has launched a new initiative aimed at kids. Their website, www.kidswithoutgod.com, is "a site for the millions of young people around the world who have embraced science, rejected superstition, and are dedicated to being Good Without A God!"


The children's section introduces us to "Darwin" the dog. He "loves to enjoy stories from a long, long time ago." But he "also knows that these are just stories, though, and that they aren't real." There's a teens section, with videos that coach young people on becoming atheists and telling others about their decision. The parents section offers tips for "helping our kids become humanists."

Watch the video below and follow along!


This is a logical fallacy known as "affirming a disjunct," where we are erroneously told that if A is true, B must be false. 
What I find hilarious about this is all those arguments that go something like: "You can't prove the Big Bang was uncaused - therefore... God!" or "Evolution is a myth - therefore... God!" or "The Bible was right about this one thing - therefore... the Bible is true... therefore... God!"
Many are absolutely sure that absolute truth doesn't exist.
How clever!  Nobody can be absolutely sure of anything - except perhaps mathematical  truths.  Am I absolutely sure that absolute truth doesn't exist?  Well, it may exist (read: some math and logic).  Oh wait a minute, I know your game:  Absolute Truth... God!
How can Christians respond to this strategy aimed at children and young people? By offering what no non-Christian can: a genuine encounter with a loving God. 
Well, someone should search for this loving god, because he sure isn't in the Bible.  I'll pass on an encounter with the Christian god, thank you.
In my view, the rise of "aggressive atheism" is directly related to a decline of love for God in our churches.
Since when is having a website just for the children of Humanists agressive atheism?  How is this any more agressive than Christian sites for children of the same age?  Is the site's mere existence that threatens you, Mr Denison?  It's a real good symbol of the kind of Christian privilege that's been the status quo for so very long.  The mere notion of other groups expressing themselves on an equal footing is seen as strident, agressive or threatening.

So is atheism directly related to a decline of love for God in our churches.  Well, I can't fault his logic there.  Of course a direct rise of atheism in America would have a very profound effect on the love of God in the churches!
If more of us were in love with Jesus, fewer in the world would be led away from him.
Well, amen to that.  I think it's his crazy dad people are beginning to lose faith in.  But I suppose they're both the same thing anyway.

What a ringing endorsement for the site!  Thanks Mr Denison!


Why not visit this great site for kids and teens: http://www.kidswithoutgod.com/

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Listen, Please! Help Camp Quest, Secular Student Alliance or Foundation Beyond Belief Get Money!

You only have until September 19th!

What is this all about?

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, explains it best over at his blog in this post:

No, Seriously, Why Haven't You Voted Yet?

Basically CHASE is looking for charities to donate to and letting the masses decide whom will get the money.

It turns out that Camp Quest and Foundation, Secular Student Alliance and  Beyond Belief are real close to getting some serious doh.


Invalid Excuse 1: Don't I need to be a CHASE member to vote?

No!  Everyone gets two votes.  If you are a CHASE member you get 2 extra votes.

Here's something straight off the Friendly Atheist:
If you’re on Facebook, you get two votes.  If you want to vote for the Secular Student Alliance, go here. If you want to vote for the Foundation Beyond Belief, go here. If you want to vote for Camp Quest, go here.
I did it and I have nothing to do with CHASE.


Invalid Excuse 2: Don't I need to be on the Facebook?

Nope.  As mentioned on the Friendly Atheist:
Hate Facebook? Fine! Vote at Chasegiving.com for FBBSSA, or  CQ!

Invalid Excuse 3: Don't I need to be an American?

Nope!  I'm Canadian and it let me do it from Facebook.  I would think that everyone on the planet gets 2 votes.


When Your Done Voting...

Go up-vote the Reddit item on /r/atheism to keep it fresh and on their radar.  It would seem that some unscrupulous types have voted this down.  The link is here.

Please, go do it now!

And if your friends vote you get more votes!  So if you've already voted the max, go back and check to see if you can vote more!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

And The Paperwork Begins

Forms have always intimidated me.  More than dinosaurs
even.
Back in university I knew someone who really liked filling out forms.  It's inexplicable, I know, but she would actually offer to fill in other people's forms for them.  Maybe it was some kind of endorphin high or something?  I just don't know.

I hate filling in forms.  And I realize it's really the least of my concerns, but the pile of forms that need to be filled out for fostering is a little daunting to be form-challenged like me.   I know: First-World problems.

Over the next couple of days I plan on getting my application to foster a child filled in and get my wife's application properly updated - since she had filled it all in mostly the first time.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Option 2: Fostering

My wife and I have always wanted two children.  Our first child came after three miscarriages.  The last of which occurred during a very unlucky visit to Las Vegas.

Shortly after the third miscarriage, we got ourselves tested by geneticists at the Montreal Jewish General hospital.  It was discovered that we both had genetic anomalies that would reduce our chances to carry a baby to term to around 25%.  Even then, they predicted possible learning delays for any child we may have.

I can still remember picking up Thai food just after getting the genetic test results at the restaurant across the street from the hospital and feeling depressed.  It was at that time that we decided to seriously look into adoption and fostering.

Then my wife got pregnant a fourth time and it stuck (25%!).  We now have a beautiful nearly 2-year old boy.  Just as predicted - he's has delays and he's on the spectrum, but we're very happy and so is he.

Friday, 3 August 2012

DAY ONE - Kasese Humanist Primary School Chicken Coop Project Construction Update

Purchasing 2x4 lumber.
Construction has begun on the chicken coop for the Kasese Humanist Primary School!  A couple of weeks ago we successfully raised the required funds to build a coop to help feed hungry students at the school.  Now it's time to start building the coop so the kids can get eating the eggs and chicken!

This is the first daily update from Kasese for the project.  It's estimated the construction may take around five days.  Then we move on to filling the coop with chickens.

Here is an e-mail I got from Bwambale along with some pictures of the first day of construction (August 2nd, 2012).

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