Showing posts with label christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christianity. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Supreme Court Ruling on Prayer: Some Interesting Effects

Here are a few interesting reactions to the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision on Wednesday to end prayer in Saguenay Quebec -- which has already had a national effect.

Veronica Abbass has written about the mayor of Cape Breton, who is kvetching about the ruling and vowing to pray in the hallway. Well, good for him.

Hemant Mehta has done some coverage of the mayor of Oshawa, who is threatening to have the prayer before the official part of the meeting within the chambers, which is, of course, a ridiculous and transparent ruse.

Larry Moran has reported that Mississauga is finally going to remove prayer from their city council meetings. Well, she'll obey the law, which I guess means removing the prayer. I wrote about this city in the past. Citizen Derek Gray even appeared before the city council meeting and a crowd of loud churchgoers to try to remove the prayer. That didn't work, but this situation seems impossible for them to weasel out of.

Born again Christian councilman of Halifax, Matt Whitman*, cannot seem to understand why an atheist would have any problem with prayer during city council meetings.
We have to live in a more tolerant world where if someone says 'God,' even if you don't believe in God, or if someone mentions a particular race or political statement, that you can't get so upset about it. This is supposed to be a world of tolerance.
Yes, atheists must tolerate Christians getting all spiritually fulfilled all over the chamber before actual business is done. Christians, on the other hand, should not have to tolerate atheists complaining that state endorsed God worship is alienating, marginalizing and intimidating.
"I like our prayer the way it is and I can feel connected to my God through our prayer. If someone else doesn't believe in God, they don't have to because of the prayer," Whitman said.
Just shut up and sit down and let Matt set the mood for the rest of the meeting by feeling connected with his God.

*Note: Originally I had Whitman down as the mayor of Halifax. Reader Veronica Abbass pointed out to me that the mayor is actually Mike Savage. He's fine with revisiting the prayer question. I guess that's what I get when I blog in the middle of the night.
In light of the Supreme Court ruling, Mayor Mike Savage says it’s a perfect opportunity to take a critical look at the invocation.

“For a long time we were a predominately Christian community. I think people felt it made sense to have the mention of God,” he said Thursday. “We are becoming more diverse, more multicultural.”

For Savage, prayer is a part of life, but he insists that his “beliefs shouldn’t be imposed upon anybody else.”
So, my apologies to the mayor and thank you to Veronica!

Meanwhile, in Quebec, on the day of the judgement, Catholic Bishop of Chicoutimi André Rivest was upset -- because, I think, his religion just lost a privileged position. The article plays back some soundbites. Here they are along with my typically subpar translations.
«Je suis très déçu du dénouement de cette saga. Avec ce jugement, on balaie tous les aspects religieux, et ce, sans nuances».
«Le combat du maire, c'est le combat d'une grande partie de notre population. Bon nombre d'entre nous sont chrétiens et dorénavant, nos croyances ne seront plus respectées».
«On a des droits individuels, mais aussi, des droits collectifs. C'est désolant de constater que l'on ne tient pas compte des droits collectifs dans un débat comme celui-là. »
«Le Mouvement laïque québécois milite, depuis des années, pour faire disparaître la religion de notre société. Ce combat a été conçu pour faire piquer du nez le maire. Pour que, en tant que personnalité publique, ce dernier perde la face devant les citoyens»
I am very disappointed of the conclusion of this saga. With this judgement, we are sweeping away all religious aspects, and this, without nuance.
The mayor's struggle, this is the struggle of a large portion of our population. A good number among us are Christian and from this point on, our beliefs will no longer be respected.
We have individual rights, but also collective rights. It's disappointing to admit that we are not taking account of collective rights in a debate like this.
The Quebec Secular Movement, has been militant for years, to make religion disappear from our society. This battle was conceived to bite the nose of the mayor. So that, as a public personality, this one loses face before the citizens.
Is this some sort of projection? A religion's beliefs need not be a dominant force in the province to be respected. What sort of respect does he then think Muslim and Jewish beliefs get in the province? Or do they not deserve respect?

As for collective rights. This is code for Catholic or Christian rights... or corporations... or an idea or something.

Well, it seems like the majority of Canadians aren't particularly keen on prayer in city halls. An online poll over at The Whig puts agreement with the ruling at 56% versus 31% against. A significant 13% were undecided. In other words, it seems like only a certain breed of activist Christian within government really cares.

Although the Quebec National Assembly dropped prayer way back in 1976, they still have that damned crucifix in the chamber and they're still refusing to take it down. This has been an ongoing thorn in the side of their Secular Charter efforts and the subject of at least one online petition and FEMEN protest. Really, if there's any hope of not looking like a pack of hypocrites, they need to move the thing to a museum.
“The (court) judgment did not mention the crucifix in the National Assembly so it’s important to mention that,” Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée told reporters after noting MNAs have voted twice, in the recent past, to leave it there as a heritage and artistic artifact.
Right, whatever. Prayer in the Assembly was an artistic artifact and that got tossed.

Surely in Quebec we can come up with something suitably artistic to hang up where the crucifix once was.

Hell, even this would be more meaningful.

Thanks to Stephanie for some portions.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Even Michael Coren Doesn't Think James Lunney Is Being Persecuted

Do you remember James Lunney? He's the Conservative MP that left his party and became an independent in Parliament so he could devote the rest of his time in office protecting his Christian faith (read: anti-(macro)evolution beliefs (read: creationism)). He's been increasingly against militant atheists lately.

Hey, remember Michael Coren? He was sort of like a Bill O'Reilly-lite that had his own show on the now defunct Sun News Channel (Canada's Fox News). He's written against those pesky militant atheists too!

Well now even Coren has essentially told Lunney to stop whining about being persecuted for his anti-evolution creationist beliefs.
As for "militant atheists", of course there are atheists out there and some of them are trying to influence the body politic. As someone who is a fairly prominent Christian, I have been debating with such people for years now. We all have the right to try to influence the culture but none of us has a right to assume we can dictate the result. And on a personal note, every time a Christian defies scientific truth it makes Christian apologetics all the more difficult.

Sorry, Mr. Lunney but your cries of persecution just don't stand up to scrutiny. It seems there may be some, well, evolving to do around this issue.
Wow, I agree with Michael Coren. Amazing. I suppose a stopped clock is really right a couple of times a day.

Monday, 13 April 2015

James Lunney Blasts 'Militant Atheist Evolutionism' in National Post Piece

Today's Monday and I have a migraine. So, I'm just going to offer you some extracts from James Lunney's dramatic piece in the National Post today: Christianity under siege (!!!!!). If you need to know more context about Lunney, read about it on my blog! He started out being anti-(macro)evolution, but now he's become a social conservative Christian warrior against MILITANT ATHEIST EVOLUTIONISM! Oh yes, he's turned up the rhetoric against militant atheists lately.
Bigotry and intolerance are the trademark of militant atheism and its adherents’ campaign against God. Conrad Black exposed as much in his eloquently written and defended articles recently. As a multi-racial, multicultural, multi-faith society, Canada has been known to a world in conflict as a standard for respect for diversity and inclusion. However, a religious defence of science seems to be the vehicle for the most vitriolic, pejorative, vulgar campaigns of intolerance and ad hominem attacks in Canada today.
Lunney is here referring to two flamboyantly written pieces also in the National Post. I write about them here and here.

My head hurts though, so back to Lunney. Here, he colourfully compares militant atheism to militant Islam.
These public shaming assaults are not in keeping with the nature of scientific inquiry or the character of an otherwise extraordinarily tolerant nation. They are the hallmark of scientism and evolutionism bearing all the hallmarks of religion, but unrestrained by any modicum of respect for anyone who contradicts the tenets of the faith. In this regard militant atheism is more akin to militant Islam than any of Canada’s multi-faith communities.
Only with regards to just this one thing, of course!
The notion that belief in God is incompatible with pursuit of science is a falsehood clung to by a dwindling cadre of atheists in the science community today. It began with Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, a brilliant scientist in his own right; and the father of eugenics. While Gregor Mendel, was laying the foundation for modern genetics, Galton was promoting the concept that belief in God was an impediment to the advance of science.
We all know who was big on eugenics? Lunney mentioned it before on an interview. I won't say who -- but why not guess? I'll give you a hint: Godwin's Law. With regards to just this one thing, of course!
Evolutionism is based on a false construct from another century; it is as repugnant as any other form of bigotry. If this campaign for a godless Canada were successful, the Canada that would emerge is one that few Canadians would recognize and most would not want to live in. The “shabby, shallow world of the militant atheist”; it couldn’t be better stated.
I just don't understand how Lunney could believe that he's the guy who really understands evolution -- in opposition to the vast majority of scientists out there. Science isn't a religion or a philosophy or some sort of political statement -- it's the result of centuries of investigation and examining the data.

Lunney's ability to believe that he's got the truth vs the vast majority of the scientific community reminds me of something Tara Hill, ex-anti-vaxxer from Ottawa said on her blog.
I just didn’t trust civic government, the medical community, the pharmaceutical industry, and people in general.  By default, I had excluded all research available from any major, reputable organization.  Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?
Could they?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Live Taping: Conrad Black & Christopher DiCarlo Talk About 'Decline of Christianity'

Last week, Canadian Atheist announced that Christopher DiCarlo would be appearing on a television program over at Vision TV co-hosted by Conrad Black! If you're in Toronto, you can be in the studio audience -- all whilst living in your shabbyshallow militant atheist world!

It's on Wednesday, April 15th. You can find space-time coordinates for the taping over at Canadian Atheist or at the program's website.

Dr. DiCarlo has some serious creds and I'm thrilled to see he'll be representing the Centre for Inquiry:
Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is a fellow, advisor, and board member of the Society of Ontario Free Thinkers and the Centre for Inquiry Canada. He has been invited to speak at numerous national and international conferences and written many scholarly papers ranging from bioethics to cognitive evolution. His book entitled How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions was released world-wide by Prometheus Books in July 2011.
I first heard him interviewed on the David Pakman Show and I'd go just to hear him -- but you'll get to hear Conrad Black, defender of tired old proofs for God and spinner of fifty dollar words, talking about The Decline of Christianity! This ought to warm every shallow atheist's heart!
THE DECLINE OF CHRISTIANITY? Hosts Conrad Black and Faith Goldy explore the fate of Christianity in the wake of diminishing congregations and persecution in the Middle East.
Okay, I'm not a supporter of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. That's a legitimate problem -- unlike the fake persecution Christians are getting here in Canada.

So, I've been holding back on the name of the show until now. It's called The Zoomer. Unaware of what a zoomer was I checked out the definition for zoomers over at Urban Dictionary. Here are some of the many usages of the word. I left out some of the more obscene ones.
1 - zoomers (195↑: 36↓)A Slang term for Shrooms/Mushhrooms.

2 - zoomers (92↑: 15↓)word for magic mushrooms. -- last night i got all ripped on zoomers.

4 - zoomers (39↑: 45↓)In parts of southeast Michigan, Person who is tells tall tails and shows off..flashy person. Originally a person who drives around alot. -- Ever since he got his car hes become such a zoomer.

5 - zoomers (29↑: 38↓)A person who sells fake drugs and then takes off before being found out. -- Damn! that zoomer just sold me cat nip!
8 - zoomer (84↑: 96↓)A person who goes to Churchy and shags animals especially dogs up the butt. Zoomers are known to have a lot of money and shag eachother when there isnt a hairy animal in sight.

9 - zoomer (13↑: 27↓)Instance in which one accidentally inhales a small piece of Marijuana whilst smoking a cigarette of said substance.

10 - zoomer (15↑: 30↓)Similar in nature to a flaming hard core nerd, but spacier, and typically cross eyed.

12 - zoomer (6↑: 35↓)Exceedingly long pointed breasts.
Given his last two columns on atheists, I suppose it's plausible that one or more of the above could possibly apply to a program hosted by Conrad Black -- except for the really vile ones, of course -- but I'm more inclined to think that nobody under forty five actually knows what a zoomer is.

Wikipedia informs me it's a person born between 1946 and 1964 -- otherwise known as a baby boomer -- many of which probably took zoomers sometime in their far flung hippy pasts!

At any rate, it should be a very interesting conversation -- or potential showdown -- viewed with or without zoomers.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Oh Boy! The Left Behind Sequel Indigogo Promo Video Got Me Mad

Hemant Mehta proclaimed that my wish has been granted when he reported that producer Paul Lalonde is crowdsourcing for a sequel to the Left Behind reboot film which starred Nicholas Cage's facial expressions.

I believed him and was fully expecting to be greatly amused by the video on the project's Indigogo fundraiser page, until I watched it. Then I got angry. Not at Hemant -- how was he supposed to know? -- but at people who make these sorts of films.

Anyway, here's the video:

Check out "Left Behind 2" on Indiegogo and support it to help bring the next "Left Behind" movie to theaters!
Posted by Left Behind on Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Here's the opening lines with producer Paul Lalonde and his highly noticeable Canadian accent.
We don't know when it's going to happen. It could be next year. It could be next month. It could be today. But the world as we know it, is not going to last forever.

The countdown has started. We're living in the last days. But if the Rapture were to happen today, there are a lot of people who just aren't ready.

Some of them are strangers, but many are people in our lives, our families, our friends, people that we love. But whether they're half way around the world, or right across from us at the dinner table, the bottom line is, if they don't know the truth [standing in front of a Chic-fil-A], they're gonna be left behind.
A little later on:
There are a lot of people out there. People like you, people like me, that know that this is an important story and it's the story that needs to be told and it needs to be told in a big way, on the big screen, for the wold world to see.
Taken at face value, this film is hilarious because people have been waiting and dreaming of the Rapture for centuries and it just hasn't come.

It's just that... the world will as we know it well end. The message from the IPCC is dire. It's been getting worse and worse every time a new report is released.  The message is freaking clear, people.
Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts. 
We're seeing this at a local level everywhere. Hell, even insurance companies know it.

But we've got morons like Ted Cruz claiming that global warming is not happening -- using satellite data -- telling NASA to stop worrying about global warming and get out to space!

The corporate media is not spreading the message properly at all. Climate change is either ignored or seriously misrepresented with a lack of actual scientists and an over abundance of politically motivated talking head know nothings. Much like evolution, if climate change is covered, equal time is given to science deniers -- confusing the message.

Back to the video. It's the false victim complex that bothers the hell out of me. Listen, everyone's heard this story, thank you. You've had 2,000 years to tell it. All the praying and asking Jesus into your heart is not going to stop the warming of our planet and the increased violent weather. My insurance company assures me of this.

The tragic thing is, all you need to do is substitute the above Rapture-readiness message with Climate Change readiness and you would have possibly the most important message to spread humanity has ever known.

Where are movies like this? Not stupid disaster movies about fake ice ages, I mean real science based movies about what is predicted to occur over the next century or two on this planet.

The public doesn't respond to goddamn statistics and numbers and graphs -- who cares about those? Obviously no one but scientists.

We need personal stories just like the ones in the Left Behind movie franchise (but with better acting and screenplay). Stories about people whose city has run out of water and who have become refugees. Stories about victims of wars over natural resources -- lack of food, lack of clean water. Tales of people's homes being destroyed in Florida by unchecked hurricanes. Stories of flooding and increased diseases once only found in the Tropics. Pictures of huge algae blooms -- thousands of dead fish floating down the river for all to see.

Where is this? Why are we wasting our time and money on dreams which will get us nowhere unless we all really do want the end to come?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Rafe Mair's Defence of James Lunney's Creationism Misses the Mark

Rafe Mair has come out in defence of MP James Lunney's creationism and what a defence it is.

Namely, he's defending Lunney against Richard Littlemore's amusing piece, Social media smites creationist James Lunney, ex-Tory MP where Littlemore points out that the public has every right to point out politicians' silly beliefs when they see them -- for the sake of the common good!
When we lived in villages, everyone knew the fool. And when he said something silly, the people either pointed and laughed and or they turned away in embarrassed sympathy. In either case, they didn’t elect him chief.
By all accounts I've read, Mair is a brilliant lawyer with a great list of achievements. This defence is not one of them. Let's take a look at it.

After explaining that he is a lukewarm Christian (read: Anglican) and singing the praises of chiropractors as 'bona fide healers who the public vote for consistently with their wallets because they bring relief the medical profession cannot' -- something sort of like homeopaths and those scam artists in Florida, the Hippocrates Institute -- Mair got to the meat of his argument.
Dr. Lunney's main sin, evidently, is that he is a creationist and denies the theory of evolution as propounded by Charles Darwin. Evidently creationism is so way out a view as to be unacceptably unorthodox, not to mention embarrassing to the Prime Minister.
I shall have to send my time machine for Mair, as he's obviously stuck alongside Lunney and countless other creationists in the nineteenth century. It's possible, I supposed, he's missed the memorandum that Charles Darwin died in 1882. It may seem astounding to someone whose religion stands by the words of a man who died 2,000 years ago, but the science around evolution has changed since Darwin laid it out!

This betrays a gross misunderstanding of the science that only gets worse as the defence goes on. Scientists have not been sitting on their laurels since 1882. They've been testing, correcting and expanding the theory of evolution all along. Lunney is challenging the findings of multiple fields of biological science for over a century.

Mair redeems himself by getting the following right, though:
My religion believes in a man who could walk on water, who fed thousands with food sufficient only for scores and turned water into wine. He also raised the dead and ascended bodily into heaven upon his own death.

The senior Christian religion believes all that plus that when one takes communion, the bread and wine turn into the actual flesh and blood of Christ.

Mormons believe that the true beliefs were found by a guy named Joseph Smith, inscribed on golden tablets which he transcribed into a new "Bible", after which he somehow lost the gold tablets.

I could go on but only wish to make the point that there's not a religion in the world that I know of that doesn't strain normal credulity in its teachings.
Indeed. It's all completely ridiculous. So why on earth would you get your ideas about reality from it? Why in heavens name would you challenge the scientific method by substituting your favourite myth or fairy story?
Dealing with evolution I can't quarrel with what Darwin had to say. I'm no scientist and certainly it would appear from the physical evidence that he's right. However he doesn't go all the way and this is where I personally argue with evolution. 
Darn tootin! You're not a scientist and neither is Lunney and so why are we having this argument?

In fact, what is even meant by the above paragraph? If Mair admits he's not a scientist and that the physical evidence he sees confirms evolution, then why proceed?

It's because Mair takes issue with the completely unrelated problem of how life first began on our planet. He then has a problem with the very very completely unrelated problem of how the universe began!
The question I have is, where did the water and the amoebae come from? I go further than that. Science tells us that it all started with some matter the size of a golf ball exploding into the universe as we know it. Without dealing with just how remarkable that is, the question arises, where the hell did the golf ball and the necessary oxygen come from? 
Indeed. Where did the golf ball and the oxygen come from? If only the cosmologists had any sort of idea whatsoever, right? Then the biologists would know how the different species of animal came to be.

I mean, how are we supposed to know how golf balls even work until we know how they were made, who invented them, the inventor's birth place, parents, grandparents...

He then points out that if we all don't know for sure, then why is postulating an infinite being outside of time and space that knows everything and can do everything and is utterly beyond our comprehension or ability to explain any more silly? Why is a completely incomprehensible thing for which no one has any proof of more silly... than, say... trying to come up with actual plausible, testable solutions to the problem?

He goes on to point out that many religions -- which he's pointed out above make completely irrational claims -- reject evolution. I'll help him out with this graphic from Wikipedia.

This is completely predictable for belief systems based on dogma lifted from non-evidence based... well... fairy tales.  I'll then invite him to take a look at Project Steve on the same Wikipedia article:
The Discovery Institute announced that over 700 scientists had expressed support for intelligent design as of February 8, 2007. This prompted the National Center for Science Education to produce a "light-hearted" petition called "Project Steve" in support of evolution. Only scientists named "Steve" or some variation (such as Stephen, Stephanie, and Stefan) are eligible to sign the petition. It is intended to be a "tongue-in-cheek parody" of the lists of alleged "scientists" supposedly supporting creationist principles that creationist organizations produce. The petition demonstrates that there are more scientists who accept evolution with a name like "Steve" alone (over 1200) than there are in total who support intelligent design. This is, again, why the percentage of scientists who support evolution has been estimated by Brian Alters to be about 99.9 percent.
There are many scientific and scholarly organizations from around the world that have issued statements in support of the theory of evolution. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with more than 130,000 members and over 262 affiliated societies and academies of science including over 10 million individuals, has made several statements and issued several press releases in support of evolution. The prestigious United States National Academy of Sciences, which provides science advice to the nation, has published several books supporting evolution and criticising creationism and intelligent design.
Oh, but it's still totally open for debate amongst believers of religions which assert the existence of flying chariots, arks containing every animal in the world, talking donkeys and snakes, etc. Science be damned, we still don't have buy in from those groups.
Since by any objective standards all religions are goofy, why is Dr. Lunney any goofier than the rest of us Christians, Muslims, Jews and so on?
Not at all. I would say his beliefs are right on par with the official doctrines of these religions. If he believes these things then he is just as deserving of the same sort of ridicule ardent believers of other silly things are.

Don't get me wrong though. I believe the vast majority of religious people in the 21st century, possess more sense than what their religion itself states. How could anyone function in the modern world if this weren't the case?
No, Dr. Lunney is right – this is a matter of freedom of belief and freedom of speech. That this embarrasses the Prime Minister and his resident toadies, or indeed Richard Littlemore, scarcely alters the basic right in a free society to hold one's own beliefs and express them without incivility and ostracism however unorthodox they are or how goofy they may seem to others, even to the vast majority. 
I'm not certain what Mair is asking for. Does this blog post cross the line? Are we permitted to point out the error and then required to apologize for our insensitivity or any sort of emotional harm it may cause? Are we allowed to satirize Lunney, or is that forbidden? Will we hurt all important religious sensitivities and risk jail time like in Russia, Iran or Egypt? Can we poke fun at the ridiculousness of his ideas and question other assumptions he may have which might affect his policy as a politician or would this be too offensive for him... for the law?

Where's the line, precisely, Mair? Who gets to decide when it's been crossed?

Because people demanding respect for their deeply held religious beliefs in our society and crying foul and screaming slander when they do not get it -- that does slide into the territory of blasphemy and blasphemy laws.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Russian Opera Director Fired For 'Blasphemous Opera'

Scene from the controversial production.
2015-03-31 Correction: I've mixed up the names. It's actually Boris Mezdrich the opera boss who got fired, not the director Timofey Kulyabin. Most recent update on this here.

Here's an interesting bit of truth. It seems that in Russia the courts, the judiciary, are powerless against the will of the Russian Orthodox Church -- who are, themselves buddy buddy with Vladimir Putin. The pious mobs apparently go along with whatever the church tells them. It's like any sort of religious fundamentalism, I suppose.

The most recent fuel to fire my disillusionment with post-Soviet Russia is this whole drama involving Novosibirsk theatre director, Boris Mezdrich, who has now just been fired by the Russian Culture Minister for producing a blasphemous rendition of Wagner's Tannhauser opera.
The announcement that Boris Mezdrich had been sacked was made on Sunday as several thousand people rallied outside the Novosibirsk theatre to protest against the opera, which they said was offensive to Christians and reflected the values of the decadent west.
Let's take a step back and remember that this all started when a Russian Orthodox cleric filed a complaint with the courts because the opera breached the rights of believes to not be offended! He never bothered to watch the opera himself, of course.
“I wrote (to prosecutors) that Tannhauser breaches the rights of believers ... Believers are offended, so to say,” Tikhon said at a news conference this month.
This is all part of an insane law in Russia -- brought in by Putin and the Orthodox Church -- stating that it was illegal to upset anyone's (read: Orthodox Russian Church) religious sensibilities.

Then, surprising to me, the Russian court threw out the case!

Well, in Russia, when the courts of law don't work, the government steps in and does what the church wants. The Minister of Culture decided to investigate the opera.
"We are not encroaching on the freedom of creativity; we certainly believe in the most daring possible interpretations of theatrical classics and experimental scenes," the Culture Ministry said in a statement. "However, the [theater] should not only warn their viewers about unusual treatments of classic works. They should also try to explain the authors' concept and what will occur during the production so as to show respect for all types of audience members."
Oh no! We would never think to limit anyone's freedom of creativity! We just want them to be careful about what they say and to ensure that proper respect is paid to absolutely everyone, lest any feelings get hurt -- especially Orthodox Christians.

This brings us back to yesterday, when Mezdrich was fired.
The Russian Orthodox church has played an active part in Putin’s efforts to consolidate Russian society by appealing to what are described as traditional Russian values as opposed to western liberalism.
Naturally, art should never challenge traditional values or promote liberalism. Only inoffensive, state-approved, conservative art for 21st century Russia. With that, they can march boldly back to the days of Nikita Khrushchev -- Putin's muse.

I said it once, I'll say it again:

Friday, 27 March 2015

Betty Bowers Explains "Religious Freedom"

Given what's been going on with Christian Persecution Complex up here in Canada and the horrendous new We Don't Serve Your Kind law passed in Indiana, I think this excellent meme by Betty Bowers sums things up nicely.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Religious Communities Who Filter the Web

I recently ran into this interesting story about an Orthodox Russian Church search engine called Rublev. It works like Google or Yandex but only presents search results compatible with church doctrine.

So, here's the search result for атеизм (atheism):

Oh dear, there are none. You do get a link to a couple of texts which I believe are writings by Orthodox Russian Church scholars. Those are likely not to be too friendly to atheism.

A search for the same term on Google gets you around 700,000 results and Yandex claims about 4,000,000 results.

Humourously, the result for porn is one of the ten commandments. That's bound to disappoint.
According to Russian Internet blog TJournal, Rublev's interface mimics Russia's popular Yandex search engine. But unlike Yandex, if you search for "porn" on Rublev the site redirects you to the seventh commandment — "thou shall not commit adultery," Tjournal said.
I could actually understand a service like this for parents to restrict certain age inappropriate aspects of the Internet from their children. My own son is five and we've disabled the web browser on his tablet and monitor him as much as possible.

Although the news report features children, it doesn't specifically pitch this as a tool to filter out age-inappropriate content from children. In fact, I get the impression this tool is designed as a self-censorship tool for all ages.
The engine, dubbed "Rublev," was launched on Tuesday by Russian film director Yury Grymov after two years of development, Grymov wrote on his Facebook page, where he introduced the service as "an intuitive and easy-to-use [Internet] guide for believers and those who are just beginning their path in the world of Orthodox faith." ...
... Grymov, a well-known film director during the 1990s and former director of liberal-leaning television news station Dozhd, said the engine would allow users to submit questions to priests, access an easy-to-understand Orthodox calendar and search for Orthodox-friendly Internet content.

Alongside curated lists of prayers, monasteries and churches, the site will also feature news from the Orthodox world, including interviews with religious leaders, and even their blogs.

The service will continue to be tested and improved over the next several months, Grymov said, adding that a free mobile Rublev app was also planned that will allow users to stream Orthodox services to their phone.
This is meant for people to completely cloister themselves into an Orthodox Russian world and not let anything from the outside in. Although they are free to do so, I'm not real cool with this personally.

It seems like religious families of all stripes are flocking to similar services. A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a similar service, ZamZam Telecom, having started up in Quebec and Ontario. It is actually based right here in Montreal.

Because it's at the ISP level, it's almost totally bulletproof. This is definitely designed to filter everyones internet in the house, which turns me off. On the other hand, it does seem to be designed specifically to protect kids, and I can actually get behind that. It depends on how much you value the your own freedom as an adult to room the web unhindered.

The service would actually be a win for me if it offered the grownups password protected VPNs to allow them to browse what they want without giving their browser history to Zam Zam. I will try to ask Nassim Mahi, creator of the service about this.

Nassim was featured in an interview over at MuslimLink where he talked about his new service. I agreed with most of what was said but had to do a triple take at this part:
What is the goal/vision you have for Zamzam Telecom?
Our long term goal is to be able to offer clean internet service to any home in Canada and the US, and eventually maybe force the other larger telecom companies to do the same. Right now maybe they don't see the importance in filtering or blocking certain content from the internet. Hopefully we can help them do it. We are in touch with local authorities to block extremist content that infiltrates the internet. They're excited about the idea and their response has been positive. There are a lot of Muslim leaders and speakers pointing out that the problem is mainly coming from the internet and as internet service providers we can protect youth from websites and forums that promote hatred, extremism, and violence. So we proposed the idea that we can help and tackle these issues together in our communities.
I had to re-read to make sure Nassim doesn't want large telecom companies to filter all of our Internet. Because, that would be indistinguishable from what they do in places like Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- where they consider blogs like this one extremist and hateful. This runs counter to principles of freedom of expression and who decides which content is extremist or hate promoting? In this model it is a centralized ISP -- who may be more easily influenced by state actors -- while the home software model at least allows parents to see what they're missing.

However, don't get too excited! I believe that Nassim means to say that large ISPs should offer services like his to families and religious adults who are interested. If this is the case, then I'm totally cool with it.

Both of these services are, of course, less creepy than the fundamentalist Christian service Covenant Eye. This is software which audits the porn (mostly) husbands view and sends reports off to wives and porn buddies who are then tasked to go over the transgressions with them. I think I'd take either of the above services over that!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Windsor Will Not Fly Jesus Flag For 2015 'March for Jesus' Parade

Shirley Walsh holding up the Christian flag (source).
In August 2013, the city of Windsor kept religion separate from state by rejecting a bid to fly the Christian flag atop City Hall by pastor Shirley Walsh of the Cutting Edge International Church. This would have been part of their annual March for Jesus. They're request was also denied in 2014 and now it's been denied yet again. I think they might understand this secularism thing in Windsor.
Council voted against the request from the Cutting Edge International Church to raise the flag three days before the event, because it contravenes city policy, which reads: “At no time will the City of Windsor display flags deemed to be inappropriate or offensive in nature or those supporting discrimination, prejudice, political or religious movements.”
Mayor Drew Dilkens stated that flying the flag in 2012 was a mistake they do not plan to repeat, because they are trying to be fair to everyone.
Mayor Drew Dilkens said council is only trying to be fair to everyone.

“We have a policy that says we don’t allow religious organizations, amongst others, to fly their flag on government property,” Dilkens said. “I think people see that the March for Jesus — Jesus being a religious symbol — didn’t meet that policy.”
Take a look at this document at the City of Windsor, where you'll see Walsh's original request (end) and an excellent example of how, unlike other cities, Windsor is actively working to promote secularism and an inclusive environment for all religions or non-religions.
There is a great social and ideological risk associated with the approval of religious and faith based flags to fly at City Hall. To grant the opportunity of tools for one religion or religious movement to promote itself city-wide regardless of creed or belief system is not the jurisdiction or function of local government. The policy does not accept these types of flags for these purposes as there must be a clear divide between the role of governance and religion. Furthermore, acceptance of one group or organization would not adequately reflect the presence of the multicultural mosaic and other religious factions that make up the greater community.
By golly! They've got it! Good work, Windsor!

Edit 2015-03-03: Veronica points out that the City council still prays a 'non-denominational' prayer before each meeting. See comments below. 
"Every city council meeting starts with the singing of O Canada, followed by a prayer from various groups. On Monday night, a woman read a prayer from the Baha’i Community of Windsor."

Naturally, nobody is stopping the March for Jesus people from marching and waiving about whatever flags they like. The very same document grants them permission to march on city streets and express themselves like any other group of citizens. They just cannot use the city's flagpole as a statement of cultural dominance or religious heritage or whatever.

This story was brought to my attention by reader rg57. He wisely pointed out in a comment to the last story about this group's flag-hoisting endeavours that they've got until August to figure out a way to bamboozle the City Council to change their minds.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Robot Preachers Trying to Convert Robots to Jesus!

Another short one today. Some people have dark visions of a future where computers and robots become self-aware: apocalyptic movies like Terminator II or The Matrix spring to mind, but I'm sure there have been many. Even Stephen HawkingBill Gates, and Elon Musk seem to warning us that artificial intelligence (AI) could very well kill us!

But there is an even more terrifying vision of the future -- Robot preachers trying to convert self-aware computer programs inside our computers and household appliances! Could this get any more terrifying?
In an article published on Wednesday, Gizmodo’s Zoltan Istvan pointed out that the world was nearing a point where “autonomous, self-aware super intelligences” created by humans would be part of our culture.

And several pastors and theologians told Istvan that there was no reason that a computer could not be saved by Jesus.
What more can I say about this? I would imagine that any AI worth its salt would begin logically picking apart the truth claims of any religion because they would, presumably, have no childhood indoctrination or emotional investment in it being true. Who knows though, right?

I would call this cyber-religion a God Virus, personally.

Holy Crap! Brampton Does The Right Thing Again!

In my last post about the Lord's Prayer situation in Brampton, I noted that because a few upset citizens got 5,000 people to sign a petition, the city would inevitably cave to public opinion rather than follow the law.
Anyway, the city has voted to send this question back to committee for discussion. This almost certainly means they'll cave if people don't start come out in favour of secularism or else threaten legal action somehow.
Refreshingly, it seems like I underestimated Mayor Linda Jeffrey's intestinal fortitude! The committee discussed and voted to not put back the Lord's Prayer!
At a committee meeting Wednesday delegates called for the reinstatement after council chambers were packed last week with angry residents demanding the prayer be brought back. They were told it would be dealt with and a 9-2 vote closed the door on the issue, for now. A vote was taken and passed to hold a public meeting on the issue in April. It will now take a two-thirds majority vote of council to re-open the issue after the public meeting is held.
The Mayor had this utterly kickass statement as well:
“This term of council cannot be occupied dealing with issues that the province has already dealt with. We have incredible challenges ahead of us: jobs, how we’re going to keep taxes in line, transit and gridlock, how to pay for badly needed infrastructure, new funding models, and instilling a culture of transparency and accountability. We cannot afford to get distracted the way we unfortunately have in the past. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but religious issues should not be our focus.

Freaking exactly!

Here's hoping the Supreme Court doesn't bungle up the case against our favourite mayor in Saguenay now.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Screw the Law! Dominant Christian Majority Has 'Tradition!'

One of the women who brought forward the petition is Susanne Guenther, a member of the Salvation Army.
It's the stuff of an inspirational movie -- about the persecuted and downtrodden minorities in our society, who band together and stand up against the System, against The Man. Thus, with clenched fists raised and arms joined in solidarity -- defending their god who is apparently tied up with something else at the moment -- they scream out: You cannot keep us down! You can take away our lives but you cannaugh' take away our freedom!

Except that it isn't this really. It's two women and a crowd of 100 or so like-minded defenders of tradition. These are warriors for the way it's been for the past 100 years -- imported European Christian tradition -- what the majority still wants, soldiers fighting for the oppressed status quo.

They got together after getting upset. The privileged position of their completely dominant religion, Christianity, was finally ever so slightly but still not at all put in check at Brampton City council meetings for legal reasons. The newly elected mayor, after consultation with her council members and their lawyer, decided to drop one very specific magical incantation -- Lord's Prayer -- and replace it with a non-denominational spell.

Now to introductions.  First we have high school teacher Greta Archer.  She got mad and, among other things, said this directly to the new mayor at city council:
Because, I believe it should be maintained as a part of our Canadian Christian heritage and everything addresses... we think it's separate but really it's not...  state and religion... history tells us they are connected, whether we like it or not. Seeking direction is very very vitally important.. and maintaining what Canada, why I came to Canada: freedom, yes, but for the Christian heritage that I can pass on to my children and they to their children.
Freedom? Yeah sure, but for the Christian heritage. You know, 'tradition.' Anyone else better stand aside, because Canada is a Christian country, get into the slow lane and stay there, please.

At some point, Greta met Susanne Guenther, whom I've written about before as well. Susanne is a member of the definitely not LGBT-friendly Salvation Army. She started a petition just a month before Greta made her television appearance with the mayor.
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. 
Don't they both resemble each other? More Christian Dominionism, I say. As an exercise, replace Biblical principles with the laws of another religion and then think about both statements as really forming the basis of a country's legal and political system. I'll let you use your imagination. See what springs to mind.

Wednesday, Greta joined Susanne to present petitions garnering some 5,000 signatures at City Hall. These people are demanding that the City of Brampton shove their state-endorsement of Christianity down the throats of religious and non-religious minorities. Christians have been persecuted for too long here! -- a few months.
“We have come today to tell you that we find your abrupt, undemocratic removal of the Lord’s Prayer from council meetings disappointing and shocking,” said Brampton resident Greta Archer, speaking on behalf of dozens of residents who crammed into council chambers to petition against the move.

They want council to reinstate the tradition and presented a box full of petitions with about 5,000 signatures.
What Greta and the article seemed to be missing is that her 5,000 signatures, less than 1% of the city's population, doesn't count a single lick. The courts have settled this and the city's legal counsel knows it. This is a question of human rights -- the right of any Muslims, Jews, Jains, Raëlians, Wiccans or atheists in the room not to be completely alienated and intimidated by the state's obvious endorsement of a single religion.
“You have ripped a 130-year-old tradition right out from under us. “There is nothing in this prayer that should offend anyone.”
I hate these statements because they seem so disingenuous to me. If this prayer is so utterly meaningless and watered down, then let's chuck it. Obviously it holds very great meaning to a certain privileged majority religious group within Brampton who might feel threatened by moves to more inclusion and diversity. Privilege is often unfelt and hidden until it is exposed and removed. This is more than just a tradition this is an expression of dominance and one religion's stamp of ownership on a city, a country. Let's be real, both sides know this.

There is nothing in a Secular Humanist or even Pagan invocation that should offend anyone -- let's bring those out and have them before the council meetings. In fact, I suggest we start a petition to have Jedi and Flying Spaghetti Monster invocations complete with light sabers and spaghetti strainer hats. Can someone in Brampton start a petition for this? I'm reasonably certain that if word got out, more than 5,000 people would sign up.

'I' personally don't see anything that ought to offend Greta about this and 'I' question 'her' right to be offended. Why should she decide what offends her, right? If heads are to bow to His Noodliness, I expect Greta to honour the proper decorum and solemn tradition lest they cause blasphemous offence.

Anyway, the city has voted to send this question back to committee for discussion. This almost certainly means they'll cave if people don't start come out in favour of secularism or else threaten legal action somehow.

The Toronto Sun 'boils' the situation down to 10 comments, most of which are favourable to secularism and separation of church and state.
God has no place in politics anyways. They removed the Lord’s Prayer from public schools a long time ago, so why would it still be in government buildings? Perhaps the councillors should be reminded they are there to represent the public, and just worry about doing their job. – brob
Oh, but I'm certain there are plenty of people who would love to see the Lord's Prayer in every school, government building, courthouse. This is a sliding scale, of course with a sort of theocratic state on one end.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Incomprehensible Catholic Arguments For Opposing 'Gender Theory' Published Days After Trans Teen's Tragic Death

By Tim Evanson from Washington, D.C., USA, United States of America [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There's a horrendous piece of theological gobbly-gook over at The Catholic World Report by Bill Maguire. The website chose to publish just three days after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn tragically killed herself.  (An online letter penned by her detailed that she could no longer bear living as a transgender child in a deeply Christian family.)

Here's the title of this piece:

Christmas Season and Gender Theory: The pernicious ideology of so-called “gender theory" is a rejection of the gift of our bodies and, ultimately, a rejection of the Giver

Because of the mention of Christmas, it appears that this was not meant as a direct response to the death -- unlike Michael Brown's dreadful piece. Still, it offers a window into a cold, logically abstract, disconnected from reality, and utterly incomprehensible theologically inspired 'response' to the pernicious ideology of gender theory. Ideology? Could you imagine being a transgender teen trying to get some sort of insight from this article?
Christ did not come as a pure spirit with the mere appearance of a body; nor did he come as an androgynous person. Rather, he came as a male-person. Jesus took on real human flesh and united his real human body and soul to his divine Person. The Incarnation, then, plunges its roots back to “the beginning,” back to the sacrament of creation. When the eternal Word became flesh, he reaffirmed the two fundamental words of his creation: male and female. And in reaffirming these two words of creation, these two ways of being human, Jesus reaffirms the sacramental function of the body: to bear the image of God in the visible cosmos through the dual-unity, the unity-in-difference of man and woman.
Confused yet? How about this.
Gender theory, then, insists on rejecting the symbolism of the body in its masculinity and femininity. Interestingly, the term symbol comes from the Greeks words sym+ballein, which means “thrown together.” Thus, gender theorists are in fact trying to put asunder what God has joined together: the body, in its masculinity and femininity, as the visible sign of the invisible reality of who God is (an eternal communion of three divine persons) and the nature of his love for humanity (spousal—the love of the Bridegroom for the Bride).

In a real sense, then, gender theory is diabolic. The term diabolic comes from the two Greek words dia+ballein, which means to “throw apart” or “separate.” In Christian theology, the diabolic is that aspect of evil which tears apart and fractures. Gender theory tears apart the body and the soul; it fractures the personality and causes alienation between one’s identity and one’s body. It is, moreover, diabolic in a second sense. Gender theory enshrines as its first principle a Promethean will to power: it introduces a rivalry between God and man in that it presupposes the rejection of God and his created order—the given order of the body in its masculinity and femininity—as the precise precondition for the authentic exercise of freedom and self-realization.
It was difficult for me to choose parts to highlight from this because pretty much every paragraph is just as intensely confusing as the previous. None of it seems to be the slightest bit rooted in reality.

I'm from a Latin-mass-going Catholic family myself. I'm now trying to imagine now, if I were transgender rather than cis (and still religious), what I would make of this. How could I even begin to unpack these sorts of arguments which are rooted down to their foundations in Catholic theology.

To be honest, my brain shut down after the first few paragraphs. All I was left with is the message that if I were transgender, I would be somehow diabolic and destructive to myself and others. What an inspiring Christmas message -- what wonderful timing so soon after the death of a transgender teen.

The Catholic World Report apparently let the post go up at the height of media attention for this story. I can only assume this could be their response to this tragic story which didn't have to happen if people would only accept trans teens for who they are.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Brampton Drops Lord's Prayer... And A Touch of Christian Dominionism?

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey explains what secularism is to a Brampton resident. (source)
During December 10th question period portion of the Brampton city council meeting, newly elected mayor Linda Jeffrey explained why the council decided to stop saying the Lord's Prayer to upset resident Greta Archer.

The entire exchange is only twelve minutes and is well worth a watch (skip to 3:30).

Here's a rough transcript of an example of the sort of thing we're up against when pushing for a secular nation. The transcribing bit was bloody painful -- give it a listen up above and you'll know why.
What is our heritage here? To me, the Lord's Prayer is a vital part of our Canadian Christian heritage and this needs to be maintained in council. Because what it says to me is that all of you are not proud enough.. are not proud... but you are in humility, willing to allow to be directed, guiding, given wisdom by God, to do your job, right?

It's very important to us to have that basis. Then, if you want add a more inclusive one, as the mayor said in the Friday November 7th newspaper, which was, Madam mayor, a shock to me, to tell the truth, because I voted for you.

We had enough of other things and we need a fresh start, but this hits me hard as a person who voted. This is the first thing that you brought and I strongly believe that we should be respectful of our diverse communities. I agree with that, but we must have a basis,  a base and then we be inclusive.

In all we homes, we have a rules, we have our standards and then we are welcoming and inclusive to other things. The Lord's Prayer is, to me -- how much more inclusive can we get? It is, to me, one of the most vital things.

So, a question for you, I noticed it was absent today. So was there a meeting that you had to drop it? Where did the idea come from to drop it? Is this your own idea?
She then asked Jeffrey for answers to those questions. The mayor suggested Archer to finish her questions due to time constraints. This is when things get even more frightening.
Did members of your transition team advise you to do this? Has any person of other faith asked you to do this? Is each of the regional and city councilors in agreement with this 100%... ... if so, if they are not in agreement, in a matter of transparency, we would like to know those of you who are not in agreement and we want to know the names.

Because, I believe it should be maintained as a part of our Canadian Christian heritage and everything addresses... we think it's separate but really it's not...  state and religion... history tells us they are connected, whether we like it or not. Seeking direction is very very vitally important.. and maintaining what Canada, why I came to Canada: freedom, yes, but for the Christian heritage that I can pass on to my children and they to their children.
Terrifying. She's all for diverse cultures -- so long as they know who's boss -- her Gawd. It sort of, kind of, sounds like Christian Dominionism, doesn't it?

Again, just a quick reminder that the council didn't drop all prayer, just this particular prayer. So the invocation could still very well be a Christian one -- or at least a monotheistic one. That's just not acceptable for Archer. Her god needs to be revered over all others by the government -- that's why she chose Canada, to be some kind of theocracy-lite. This is what this prayer means to her.

The mayor made a very reasonable and non-rambly response.
I'll speak to the Lord's Prayer. At the end of the day, the Charter of Right and Freedoms has indicated that since 1999 it is illegal for a municipal council to be reciting the Lord's Prayer in their council chambers and we have been one of the outliers as a community, the City of Brampton. So, as I arrived at council, I actually did a survey of all of council and spoke with each person individually about a number of issues and this is one.

As you begin a new term of council, you can decide whether you want to continue to do things the way you used to or whether you do, for a new term of council, in this case four years, do something different. I'm not going to speak about what each councillor said individually -- if you want to have that conversation with each one -- but the majority agreed that it was time for a non-denominational invocation to be part of our opening greetings at the beginning of a council meeting. So, I agree with you, I'm one who recites the Lord's Prayer when I pray but that's my cultural background. My goal here is to try to put the city of Brampton in a different place, to be not an outlier, to be leading edge.

So, each councilor gave me an answer, and the majority indicated either no prayer or a non-denomination. So that was the majority decision of council. ... ...
It would appear that Jeffrey not only understands that city councils should not break the law -- she is after all trying to improve transparency! -- but she also has a much better grasp on secularism than this resident.

Her private consultation with the members also avoided the any concerns councillors may have with good Christians wanting to see who needed shaming -- like what happened to Carolyn Parrish, the only member to vote against keeping the Lord's Prayer in Mississauga.
I've already received two tweets on my Blackberry; that I didn't stand for the Lord's Prayer today: "Now we know what her beliefs are," and one good Christian said, "We're gonna have to work on this and we're gonna have to shame her."
Archer wanted names. I'm not implying she would harass the councilors who wanted a more inclusive space, but there is an element of intimidation there. I wonder how the vote would have gone in Mississauga if mayor Crombie had done things the same way. Perhaps it wouldn't have been such a clean sweep to keep the Lord's Prayer.

Meanwhile, in the above video, the city solicitor was even called into the discussion. Archer asked how she and thousands of other concerned residents could get this changed. The mayor very wisely asked to city solicitor to speak to this. He succinctly brought up the 1999 ruling that rendered reciting the prayer illegal.  Call your lawyer, otherwise, case closed.

If only Mississauga could have been as reasonable as Brampton. Still, remember that all this hullabaloo is over the Lord's Prayer. This will be replaced with another non-denominational prayers, so people are still praying to god(s) before the meetings.

Oh, but it's all just a tradition, after-all. Let this indicate what this prayer really means -- it's a demonstration to all non-Christians that the Christian god is in charge and that politicians are to humble themselves to Yahweh and let Him guide their every move. This is about theocracy -- well, symbolically at least.

Go check out Veronica Abbass' excellent Orwellianesque piece on this over at the Canadian Atheist. There, she points out the Mississauga Newspeak which so starkly contrasts Brampton mayor Jeffrey's clear English.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Irrational Beliefs Have Real World Consequences

By Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There has been another case of parents attempting to faith heal their child. Calgary fundamentalist Seventh Day Adventist couple Jennifer Clark and Jeromie Clark withheld proper medical treatment to their infant son after malnourishing it. The baby died in the hospital from a condition which could have been easily treated if caught sooner.
An autopsy found the child was suffering from a staph infection that was complicated by malnutrition and as a result, the infection was untreatable.
This tragedy keeps repeating itself. At the risk of coming off as an insensitive I-told-you-so, I'll repeat a little of my reaction to another case of a religious family letting a member of their own die due to misguided and delusional blind religious faith.
Again, I wonder how this would have gone down if it were a child instead of the father -- and if the family were of a minority religion or no religion at all (kooky alien cult, etc.). I think this could have turned out quite differently.
My above comment was about Kaling Wald, who believed that prayer would heal her husband's seriously infected foot and then believed that prayer would resurrect him from the dead. Neither worked.

Well, it turns out that this was a repetition of history. Last week, the Clarks were arrested after their infant child wasn't strong enough to be treated for a staph infection. An over the top religiously-motivated diet left him extremely malnourished. They even hid their son's declining health until someone ultimately forced them to bring him to a hospital. No doubt, the child suffered horribly.
“We have no indication that he (the infant) had seen a doctor since his birth and the child was not born in hospital,”  said S/Sgt. Andrus. “And the family took steps to conceal his condition from family members. And it was only after the realization by a family member that the infant was sick [that] they were advised to take him to hospital.”
It apparently took a long time in this case for the authorities to bring about charges against the couple.
Police say the investigation was a long and complicated process, which is why it took time to get the results.
No exact indication about why it was so long and complicated, but the other case seemed to be difficult as well, perhaps due to the religious angle.
“It’s an extremely sad case . . . she truly believed her husband was going to be resurrected from the dead, even after six months,” said assistant Crown attorney Janet Booy.
In the case of the adult victim, the children were left with the mother, even after she admitted that she still believed wholeheartedly in the power of prayer and in resurrection. Thankfully, in this case of the infant, the surviving children were removed at the onset of the investigation and are being cared for elsewhere. I fail to see how one is any less potentially dangerous than the other.

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