Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Salon Writer "Horrified" By Atheist TV

Some art by yours truly. (source)
Well, it looks like American Atheists must be doing something right with their new television channel because Salon, the juggernaut of anti-(New)-Atheist drivel has come up with a real stinker.

It is so terrible and random that I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just throw a couple of comments out there.

I spent a day watching AtheistTV — and it was horrifying

Daniel D'Addario's -- who assures us all he is a bonafide atheist -- appears to have a problem with anything that mocks religion.
AtheistTV adheres to nasty stereotypes about atheism — smugness, gleeful disregard for others’ beliefs — to a degree that’s close to unwatchable.
When I first tuned in at 2 p.m. on Thursday, the closing credits for a show were scrolling, set to a parody hymn that rhymed “Don’t be offended by a word to the wise” with “There’s no real estate in the skies.”
After the second broadcast of a single “Atheist Experience” episode, the channel showed a 2012 rally in Washington, D.C.; speakers consistently described a future in which all Americans would join the movement, a future that they’d get to by mocking and hassling the beliefs of others.
Is D'Addario an atheist who does not at all see any utterly absurd and even potentially harmful beliefs within religion? Does he revere and honour the sincerely held beliefs of millions that he is a harmful person who is destined to Hell because of his atheism? How can anyone honestly do this?
Then, after several seconds of dead air, came a prerecorded call-in show called ”The Atheist Experience,” whose co-host Matt Dillahunty, wearing a black Hawaiian-style shirt decorated with flames and infinity symbols, needed no prompting to begin his show with the Biblical story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. “This is just absolutely horrible,” said Dillahunty. “And it’s the type of thing we get when we begin with the idea that the Bible is true and good, and you run into absurdities.”
Listen, AtheistTV is in its infancy. Most of the programmes on there are simply existing shows and there just isn't a wide enough selection of shows yet. Chill out, this will get better. And would it be better for D'Addario if Dillahunty were wearing a suit with nice hair and fake teeth?

Anyway, has he even considered the story of Abraham and Isaac? It is absolutely terrible and the Bible is quite full of absurdities -- D'Addario apparently doesn't know of any at all. He also either has no clue about the story itself or doesn't see any problem at all with dragging your son to the top of a mountain and traumatizing him for life.
What absurdities these were the viewer would have to fill in for himself; there was no extrapolation from this story in terms of what social ills have happened in the name of God, no sense that Dillahunty was bothered by people following the Bible for any reason other than that he thinks it’s nuts to rely on a book for wisdom and guidance. “I don’t worship any being,” he said, “though I respect a lot of people and a lot of fictional characters.”
WERE YOU NOT LISTENING, DANIEL?

Then there's this part.
AtheistTV frames atheism as a perpetual reaction against a conquering force. And that reaction isn’t reasoned debate. It’s unattractive nihilism.
You know, atheism is sort of a perpetual reaction against a conquering force -- perhaps even an occupying force. The name kind of gives it away: a-theism. If the theism stopped trying to control everyone's lives and brainwashing children into believing fairy stories atheism would pretty much no longer be a thing.

It makes me wonder if D'Addario simply grew up with his atheism and has never had to really consider religion at all -- perhaps it's just that pretty incense laden ritual that those folks do every week before crowding into buffets to eat their Sunday lunches. Maybe belief in one thing is just as valid and true as belief in anything else and for him beliefs have no consequences whatsoever.

And it's not meant to be attractive. It just needs to be true.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Another Article About What To Do About All These Churches Everywhere


There must be something in the air these days because only a week or so after I posted about some fantastic new uses for empty crumbly cathedrals here in Montreal, the New Republic has reprinted a really interesting article by Oliver Farry, Church Attendance Is Falling. Let the Buildings Fall, Too.
It is, of course, sacrilegious (from a conservationist point of view) to say this but I would sooner let them turn into elegant ruins or, as the French, those great connoisseurs of church architecture, have done so many times throughout history, knock them down and build something new in their stead.
I don't feel this way at all, that would be a terrible waste -- save the really ugly Catholic churches built during the 60s and 70s which looked more like Raëlian alien craft than churches to me. Go check out your favourite Quebec churches, perhaps you might get a good deal on one.

Even then though, why would we want to waste funds to knock down a building and replace it with cheap metal and plastic modern structure -- sometimes at the cost of the state -- when the building could simply be repurposed? In fact, in the case of public funds, we would be throwing new money at a problem to be solved in addition to all of that lost tax revenue. We still don't tax churches, so why not get some form of savings which could be used to pay down our debt? Although true for all churches still in reasonable condition, it is particularly the case for the older stone or brick churches which can be very sturdy making demolition costly
For this reason I am not a big fan of churches being converted for more practical uses when abandoned by the religious. The resultant effect is invariably kitsch or one of petit-bourgeois propriety.
Believe me, a lot of the later churches are horribly tacky. However, as my last post revealed, it is the bishop who is preventing churches from being converted to daycares and senior homes. Surely, these uses are not to kitsch for Farry?

All this said, I did enjoy the article and I too enjoy the majestic architecture of a beautiful Cathedral, so long as it's not all cluttered up with too many ghoulish statues of people being nailed to crosses.

I especially like the reference to Quebec and to Denys Arcand's set in Montreal film Les Invasions Des Barbares.
There is a scene in Denys Arcand’s 2003 film The Barbarian Invasions, in which a young French antiques appraiser visits a Quebec Catholic church to size up some long unused religious artifacts the local priest is trying to offload. The priest shows her around a dusty lock-up and tells her: “Quebec used to be as Catholic as Spain or Ireland. Everyone believed. At a precise moment, during the year 1966 in fact, the churches suddenly emptied in a matter of months. A strange phenomenon that no one has ever been able to explain.” The irony of course is that churches would in time also empty, or at least become emptier, in Ireland and Spain. This scene however sums up eloquently the material legacy a societal decline in religious faith leaves. Stripped of their function in a thriving congregation, surplus ciboria, chalices, and tabernacles of modest craftsmanship become items of largely worthless bric-a-brac. (It is interesting though that all three of those items endure as living, breathing examples of Quebec French’s wonderfully colorful profanity.)
The article ends rather weak, but starts out strong by giving insight about what different European countries are doing to cope with the ever emptying church situation.

This is sure to upset a few, forgive me but I cannot resist. I wonder when the first abortion clinic or clinic offering end of life care that includes assisted death will show up in an old church building?

On a more serious note, think of all the Humanist Centres and Secular Humanist schools that could move into these empty buildings?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Child Bride Situation In Nigeria

(source)
Not much time today but here's a dreadful story to start your week off wrong.

Nigeria girl faces murder trial over forced marriage
A Nigerian court on Monday postponed the murder trial of a 14-year-old girl accused of poisoning the 35-year-old man she was forced to marry, a case that has thrown the spotlight on the influence of Islamic law in region.
I'll distill it the quickest way I can. We have a 14 year old girl who's forced to marry a 35 year old man. She behaves in a criminal way -- however she is just a child! She should have never been thrown into this mess.

These short soundbites sums things up rather well, as does the infographic above.
"All we are saying is do justice to her. Treat the case as it is. Treat her as a child," Aliyu said.
and:
"A girl of 14 cannot stand trial under the criminal code. This case is just adding to our country's negative reputation in the eyes of the international community," he told AFP.
and:
She supported Ogunye's argument that regardless of religion or region, a child cannot face criminal charges in a high court and the case must be moved to the juvenile system.
If you have a child who's not old enough to be tried as an adult but must be moved to the juvenile system then why the hell should she be even allowed to be married to a 35 year old pervert? Oh, and why should human beings be sold off to older perverts like chattel? This is so very wrong on so many levels and yet it seems to be pretty cool as far as the religious are concerned in the region. Funny how these things so often conveniently work out.
The marriage of teenage girls to much older men is rampant in deeply conservative, mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, especially in poorer rural areas.

The region has since 2000 been under sharia Islamic law which some say does not prohibit the marriage of underage girls.

Under Nigeria's marriage act, which applies nationwide, a woman under the age of 21 who wants to marry must have the consent of her parents.
There is pressure within the country to remove the awkward and confusing sharia law and secular criminal code hybrid that's so common in the North and apply just the secular code. If people are indeed compassionate enough to see she should not be tried as an adult than I can only hope they can see that she shouldn't have been forcefully married off in the first place.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Nigerian Witchcraft Story So Outlandish It's Not Even Funny

(source)
This story would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that it's not April 1st and the report seems to be perfectly serious without a single hint of sarcasm or skepticism. Because of this, I can't even bring myself to laugh, I just feel sorry for people trapped in such soul sucking superstition.

Witchcraft: Boys allegedly transforming into cats caught by Police in Rivers state
Detectives at the Rumuolumeni Divisional Police Station in Port Harcourt, Rivers State are investigating a case involving three persons who allegedly transformed to cats.

One of the suspects is a twelve-year-old boy simply identified as John who had transformed to a cat and was caught by policemen at the Rumuolumeni Division.
When the police believe they've seen children turn into cats you know that anything goes as far as outlandish accusations and crimes.

It's possible that this dire situation might be in part the result of the horrid films portraying cannibal child witches put out by Christian evangelist and self-styled witch hunter Helen Ukpabio. Belief in child witches is common in Nigeria and has been the cause of immense abuse.

It's a problem common in Nigeria and pastors are often part of the problem. Afterall, the Bible acknowledges witchcraft.
Much more could be achieved if we could succeed in changing the minds of pastors. But many pastors are not about being spiritual shepherds. They are about getting rich. The wealth of some popular pastors and evangelists in Nigeria could compare with the wealth of some of the wealthiest mega evangelists and pastors in the U.S. This is obscene when placed against the culture of extreme poverty in Nigeria. I've often asked Nigerian pastors, "Why don't you do something to stop the superstition that leads to so many deaths of innocent children?" I asked one of them if he believed that children in Nigeria were witches. He said, "If Jesus would cast demons into pigs, why couldn't demons go into children too?" And he is the pastor of a huge church; when he walks behind the pulpit to preach, he enters as if he were a rock-star. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen any church in Nigeria with any program that addresses the issue of children falsely accused as witches.
Back to the original story. What led them to suspect something was odd?
DailyPost reporter who visited the scene of the incident reports that the policemen became curious after noticing that a particular cat was always running across the police station and decided to lay ambush for the animal.
A cat running across the police station, therefore child witches. What the hell. Then, apparently the cat turned into a boy. The local government also believes this nonsense.
The paramount ruler of Rumuolumeni in Oibio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Eze Ndubueze Wobo confirmed the transformation of three members of his community into cats.

Eze Wobo told Dailypost that one of the men, who is popularly called PAPA, confessed to him at the police station that he initiated the people to suck human blood and inflict their victims with diseases.

Wobo said the victim listed some items which would be used to cleanse initiated children, some which include native alligator pepper, Local gin, Local kola nut and so on.

Some of the residents of the community, including the security operatives who captured the cat before it changed into a human being said that the man confessed that he used packaged beef roll and other things to initiate the victims, who are mainly schoolchildren.
So, so sad.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

"Poor Secular Kids Can't Tell (Biblical) 'Truth' From Fiction!"

(source)
I heard about a fascinating study last week on the David Pakman Show about how children raised with religion -- seems like Christianity in this study -- are less able to discern fact from fiction. I Fucking Love Science blog describes it well.
For the investigations, researchers enrolled 5- and 6- year old children and separated them into four groups: children who attend public school and church, children who attend public school but not church, children who attend parochial school and church and children who attend parochial school but not church.

They then exposed the children to three different types of stories- biblical (religious), fantastical (where the divine element was replaced with magic) or realistic (all supernatural elements removed). They then asked the children to judge whether the protagonist (lead character) was fictional or real.
So what happened was that both groups believed the completely realistic stories (read: naturalistic). Also predictably, the Biblical stories -- like Noah's Ark -- were predominantly judged as true by children from religious backgrounds and fictional from children from secular upbringings.

The interesting part comes with the fantastical stories.
Children exposed to religion, either through school or church, decided that the characters were real, whereas secular children judged them to be fictional.
So it seems like being raised to believe in certain supernatural stories opens up the door to all kinds of belief in the supernatural without evidence, while a grounding in a more naturalistic secular point of view inoculates kids against believing in magic. Really, both groups of kids are behaving perfectly consistently.

Fast-forward now to an article by David Roach in the Baptist Press.

Religious beliefs form by age 6

About the title. Personally, I think that if religious beliefs are cemented by the age of six, we should all be concerned. A six year old is not qualified to critically examine metaphysical truth claims or realise when they possess inadequate knowledge to come to a sound conclusion. This is why we ought to let their brains develop first.

Anyway, what's really amazing with this piece is how it tries to turn the conclusion of most media observers -- including the study authors -- on its head. It's the secular kids who are most impaired here because they're unable to see the Biblical accounts as non fiction!
Media reports of the study have tended to portray children with Christian training as ignorant or developmentally challenged. For example, the Huffington Post reported that “young children who are exposed to religion have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction.” But a careful examination of the study suggests the opposite of what some media reports imply. In the rush to slam Christianity, it’s been overlooked that religious children correctly identified the true stories far more often than did secular children. After all, the “realistic” and “fantastical” stories were mere concoctions of the researchers’ imaginations, unlike the biblically-based stories, which were largely true though some changed the details of Bible stories and one was an apocryphal story about Jesus that contained elements similar to what is reported in the Gospels.
Roach had pointed out earlier in his article that some of the Biblical stories were somewhat Biblically inaccurate, so the children could be excused for not always believing those versions to be true. 

This is what happens when True or Non-Fictional equals, in all cases, what's in the Bible. Boat full of pairs of every kind of animal on the planet? TRUE! Earth created in six days? TRUE! Talking donkey? TRUE!

It turns out that the poor secular children were unable to properly identify all those Biblical accounts -- because, I suppose, they just evaluate the plausibility of these stories as they would the The Cat In the Hat or Jason And The Argonauts! Aren't they silly?
Still, the secular children misidentified the religious stories as false at a higher rate than the religious children misidentified the fantastical stories as true. In the end, the Christian worldview proved more effective at recognizing truth than the secular worldview.
Enormous... facepalm...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Charles Moore: 'Atheists Are So So Sad'

(source)
I've been sitting on this review of Nick Spencer's new book, Atheists: The Origin of the Species, by Charles Moore over at the Telegraph for awhile now and figured now's as good a time as any to unload it onto my beloved readers. I did, however, write a little about Michael Collins' review of the same book where I was actually more fascinated by a strange Christian admiration of Nietzsche and Camus.

The sad business of trying to disprove God

Well, let us now examine this new textbook quality screed against the New atheists together, shall we? Please feel free to take out any common tired chestnut bingo cards you may have -- I really ought to make some.

First off, the title, The sad business of trying to disprove God. Nobody is trying to disprove God in the general sense -- well, not people like Dawkins anyway. Although, it is possible to find internal inconsistencies with God theories when they are defined properly -- or at all -- which can disprove those Gods.

The really tough gods to disprove are the vast majority, which are so ill-defined as to be utterly meaningless. The cannot be addressed in any logical fashion and hence cannot be proven to exist in any substantial way. You can squint your eyes and make believe, but that is not basis of proof.

The burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of the theist. Dawkins, like many New Atheists have merely examined what proof he has found or has been given and is unconvinced.  It would be nice if Charles Moore would provide proof for God in this article, but instead we're left with the same chestnuts.

Chestnut: They're all emotionless, robotic, science, man nerds.

Moore starts out with a light stereotyping of the average teenage atheist, who is a male, nerdy science type with no knowledge of the arts whatsoever.
You often meet them for the first time at secondary school. The typical teenage atheist is more likely a boy than a girl, stronger on science than the arts, and at the high-ish end of the academic spectrum. He tells you that he has studied the nature of matter, the universe etc, and can prove that God does not exist.
The problem with this teenager and Moore's argument is he's failing to say which God is being shown not to exist. This archetypal teenager is making the same critical error as many theists who claim to be able to prove their god -- prove 'what' exactly? Who knows, not my job. How this teenager is an example of New Atheists is a mystery to me.

Chestnut: Religion cannot be studied by science.

Moore predictably pulls in non-overlapping magisteria and with a sort of smug omniscience, puts a boundary on the scientific enterprise. Apparently, science can have nothing to say about God -- it's verboten. This tool which has proven so useful in examining the evidence for any other truth claim out there is ill-equipped to deal with religion and I would have to agree. It's because any concrete claims religions out there have are so ill-defined or completely unfalsefiable that they seem to reduce to utter gibberish when examined under the critical eye of the scientific method -- that is, if they do not disintegrate utterly under the weight of their own internal logical inconsistencies first.

Like art, religion can be comforting, beautiful, inspiring and utterly nonsensical. Unlike art, religion does make truth claims which affect our physical world. Wherever it interfaces with the physical world it can be assessed by science.

Chestnut: Atheists are just rebelling against god/state/society.

Then we get that old idea that atheism is born from rebellion against authority. While in reality, it is nothing more than a non-belief in god. I would add that it is a rejection of a mostly nonsensical and ill-defined theory with about as many flavours as religionists.

Chestnut: Atheists are all smarty pants intellectuals elites.

We also find the canard that atheists are all smarty pant know-it-alls who believe theists are all dumb dumbs. I'll concede that some do and this is unfortunate. Still, the whole point of the Brights was to be a positive term for atheists, not to imply anything derogatory of believers.
In the current era of Richard Dawkins and the New Atheism, many atheists call themselves the “Brights”, pleased to make the rest of us out as dullards.
This is not the case and I would point out that there are quite a few theists out there who claim to know all the important answers, including what science is capable or not capable of doing.

Chestnut: Dawkins believes he's proved religion is hogwash and he's anti-woman and anti-poor(?) Moore's proof is? I suppose it's nothing more than an analogy.
Some atheists – Dawkins, Sigmund Freud, AJ Ayer – resemble, in essence, that clever young schoolboy. They believe they have brilliantly proved religion to be a load of hogwash. In their minds, it seems an advantage that their creed does not appeal as much to women or the poor and ignorant. 
Chestnut: Once again, the curious Theist Cult of Nietzsche:
Indeed, Friedrich Nietzsche saw more deeply how European society’s moral order would collapse with the destruction of faith – but welcomed it.
Chestnut: Required reference to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Lenin, etc.
People such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler took up such thoughts with deadly enthusiasm.
Chestnut: New Atheism is an expression of anger.
Spencer believes that the New Atheism is an expression of anger at the curious phenomenon that all over the world, except among white Westerners, God is back.
Of course it's a reaction to theism! New atheism is just atheism that is not afraid to make itself heard. Point finale. Although atheists do have plenty to be angry about and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this anger.


But here's a particularly new charge that I've yet to see until now.
This leads to the question: “Is atheism parasitic on religion?” There is something unsatisfactory about building your thought around an anti-faith. Some atheists – amusingly catalogued here – have noticed this, and set up Cults of Reason, secular societies and atheist chapels, trying, rather unsuccessfully, to reproduce the communal creativity of faith. Hamlet says: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Any imaginative atheist must sometimes be troubled by this thought, and worry that his ideas are so dependent on the very thing he opposes.
What the hell?

No, actually there is something wholly satisfactory about not building my thought around faith! I was fundamentally unhappy and dissatisfied during my religious days when I would examine the tenets and have them all fall apart utterly under with the slightest inspection. It was sad days wandering about from religion to religion looking for one that made the slightest bit of sense and could stand up to even a modicum of examination. I would find a new one and it would unravel into absurdity the longer I would test it.
... Cults of Reason, secular societies and atheist chapels, trying, rather unsuccessfully, to reproduce the communal creativity of faith.
No, actually there is something to be said for not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This is a reflection of the human need for community as well as the recognition that the only way atheists can ever hope to be heard in the public sphere is by banding together into groups.
Hamlet says: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Any imaginative atheist must sometimes be troubled by this thought, and worry that his ideas are so dependent on the very thing he opposes.
How utterly ironic of Moore to tell atheists that they ought to be troubled by there being more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy! Set the Bible, a Bronze Age book with talking bushes next to either Cosmos series to start. If these things are beyond this book, then perhaps someone could share the details so they can be properly studies. I'm willing to learn.

Because I'm wholly unimpressed with what I've read in the Bible or Quran.

Chestnut: Atheists cannot possibly understand Love, because only love can believe the Resurrection. Whatever the hell that means, it certainly sounds rather dehumanizing, doesn't it? This one hurts the most.

How A Moroccan Atheist Deals With Ramadan

Moroccan chicken, vegetables and couscous is one of my favourite things. (source)
There is an excellent interview in Morocco World News with an anonymous atheist who explains how he and other atheists in the country cope with Ramadan. This comes just a couple of weeks after another news story about atheists in Muslim countries who face jail time for not going along with state enforced fasting and abstinence. So there is at least an encouraging increase of discussion about atheism in the media in Muslim countries.

Interview: Moroccan Atheist Reveals How He Spends Ramadan

First off, this is not a joke. The Moroccan Penal Code specifies that eating in public during Ramadan, during daylight hours, can bring up up to six months in jail and a significant fine.

The interview is with Karim El Quamch (probably not real name). He describes Ramadan as "a period of agony and torture at all levels, physical and psychological." He points out the possible issues with starving oneself during the day while altering one's sleeping patterns in the night.

He describes the trouble he has to go through to avoid offending his family members and perhaps even go to jail. At this time, his family suspects nothing of his secret atheism.

He sleeps through a good part of the day to avoid the agony of fasting for something he has no belief in whatsoever -- or in other words, a theocratic imposition onto his own freedoms from religion.
“I go to bed at 6 or 7 a.m to kill time…usually that’s the best period to work in Ramadan because during the night all members of my family are asleep after dawn…thus I can eat and smoke while working without worries of being caught up.”

He goes on to add, “I wake up around 2 or 3 p.m..and I go outside to buy some food to eat… Eating and drinking happens inside my locked room. I always try to make sure that cigarette smells don’t escape from under the door using simple techniques.”
Remember, Karim is not a child. He is 36 years old yet the government is treating him like a mere boy. He is forced to hide in his room to eat -- not only by his family but by the State! This is a degrading human rights violation.

The article surprisingly doesn't go into any of that -- and we don't hear the Office of Religious Freedom bringing this up either. However, a Muslim commentor, Yassin Moutaouakil, apparently hailing from Université Mohamed V Rabat -Souissi, did come to Karim's defense, which I found encouraging.
Karim, I declare my solidarity with you. I respect you, though I am a muslim, who fast Ramadan. But, it us unfair that you have to memic following the beliefs of this damned society.
i don’t think any majority-islamic country allows freedom from and of religion. you can’t be an atheist in these nations. that means the entire religion is that way. pray to my god or die. wow, what a choice.
Well, there is hope in the next generation after all.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Men Cut Infant Penises, Sucked The Blood, Gave Herpes In The Process: No Jail Time

Brit Milah circumcision tools. (source)
Well, I'm sure you all know how I feel about circumcision. So I'm pretty sure you can guess what I think of circumcision in the context of religious ritual. But can you guess how I feel about grown men using the pretext of religion to suck the blood from a freshly butchered infant penis and giving them herpes in the process?

You likely cannot fully comprehend the sheer level of confusion, bewilderment, disgust and anger I'm feeling after reading...

2 Infants Diagnosed With Herpes After Ritual Jewish Circumcisions: Officials
In both cases, the infant boys were born to mothers with full-term pregnancies and normal deliveries. They were circumcised using the direct oral suction technique practiced by some Orthodox Jews eight days after their birth, and developed lesions on their genitals shortly thereafter, the Health Department said.
Holy crap is this revolting. Can someone please tell me how grown men can get away with such sick and unthinkable acts? I know you know why.
There have been 16 confirmed cases of herpes since 2000 in newborn boys after circumcisions that likely involved direct oral suction, including three in 2014, according to the Health Department.

Two of the infants died and at least two others suffered brain damage.
Inexcusable! Send these men to jail, immediately. I mean, how could you excuse this? The article goes on to talk about how it's all an ancient ritual. Oh well then, I suppose there's no problem with this, then.

Apparently, in 2012 the Health Board made a rule that rabbis had to get written consent from parents before cutting the penises and licking the blood. A group of Orthodox rabbis attempted to sue their way out of this rule...

What the hell is going on here on this planet of ours? Why are the infants' legal guardians even allowed to authorize some guy to suck blood from their babies' penises with the documented risk of potentially transmitting herpes and killing them? How could this make sense? I think you know how.

Quick question, if this wasn't a 'religious thing' would these men be in jail right now? I'm sure you know the answer.

Religion.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Michael Robbins & The Theist Cult of Nietzsche

(source)
By now I'm certain that many of you would have had the chance to encounter Michael Robbins review of this new book by Nick Spencer, Atheists: The Origin of the Species over at Slate. Robbins deserves a medal for the title of the article, Know Nothing: The true history of atheismIf you scroll down, a header appears at the top reading: 'Atheists used to take the idea of God seriously . That's why they mattered.'  If it's meant to be click bait, it worked with over 6,500 comments after a mere four days. Although I find these articles frustrating, something else is beginning to bother me even more. I just don't get where these articles are coming from.

The trouble starts as early as the first two paragraphs. This is where Robbins bemoans the popular idea that religion once touted the answers to life the universe and everything but then reason and science came along and gradually took it away from the clergymen one fact at a time. He points out that even the church fathers would have been confused by those who see Science and Faith in constant opposition.
... setting up an opposition between reason and faith that the church fathers would have found rather puzzling.
Yes, the church fathers would have likely found this rather puzzling. They thought having faith in that which there was not sufficient evidence was perfectly reasonable. Science has achieved an impressive body of knowledge that requires no Spanish Inquisition to buttress it.

As atheists, we have access to a bottomless ocean of Christian faith trying to pass itself off as proof for God. But it's evidence we require in our modern world where mere strongly held religious belief and mere faith is not adequate evidence for a proposition to be true. This is what the scientific method has brought us -- this is what gives it its power over battling feelings and emotions.

Now religion pretends to know more than simple natural phenomena. It pretentiously boasts knowledge of all time and space through its books of Genesis and Revelation. It claims to know both the natural and the supernatural in its entirety. It sets up a being who it claims knows the thoughts and hearts of all men and women for all times past and future. Surely, this bolder claim attempts to annex even the natural phenomena relegated to science. If this is not Robbins' Christian views, then I submit that it is the case for the ignorant multitude, the οἱ πολλοί, whether he likes it or not.
To be sure, several scriptures offer, for instance, their own accounts of creation. But Christians have recognized the allegorical nature of these accounts since the very beginnings of Christianity. 
Allegory is a natural escape for anyone who wishes to gloss over logical contradictions in their holy books. Though it comes with a price. Each time one of these escape hatches is cut into a wall, the more weakened its supporting function. How many escape hatches does Robbins have cut through the walls supporting his faith edifice? Are there any walls left? Is the structure still standing? Is his scripture merely a collection of feel good Aesop's fables?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Man Drinking Coffee, In A Car, During Ramadan

(source)
The borough I live in has a very large Muslim population. In fact, it contains largest mosque in the province. This translates to very delicious food all around me. There are no fast food joints here, only wonderful delicious Pakistani, Lebanese and Moroccan food.

Of course, we are now roughly at the halfway mark in the month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from basically putting anything in their mouths -- food or water. They break their fast at sundown, which, because of our high Canadian latitude, isn't until around 9pm. I've noticed this makes for some tired looking people and it seems like some drivers get a little erratic around 6 or 7pm.

This brings me to this morning. When my wife got up and opened the blinds she noticed a car parked out front. There was a man sitting in it drinking coffee. It was a little unusual. Several minutes later I noticed the car and there could have been some food there too. Was he eating breakfast? Was he waiting for someone, perhaps? Around an hour later my wife noticed him still there and then he apparently just drove off.

I don't know for sure, but a thought came to my mind after reading about atheists living in Muslim dominated countries where non-observance of Ramadan can lead to a jail sentence. There have also been recent protests over the years as well by non-Muslim populations who felt oppressed by this enforced fast.

Was he a Muslim sneaking a coffee and perhaps some food on the downlow?

Of course, having a coffee and perhaps a croissant won't lead to a jail sentence here in Canada, but what about his wife, his co-workers, the people he knows at the cafe even? He doesn't even need to be an atheist for this. What if he's a believing Muslim who is wracked with guilt but unable to help himself because he's hypoglycemic?

It's sad if he cannot do something as natural as eat or drink due to unsupported beliefs.

Or, I guess he could be just a guy drinking a coffee parked outside my house. That article did get me thinking though.

Monday, 7 July 2014

More Doctors Who Refuse to Prescribe The Pill

(source)
Awhile back we heard about a Calgary clinic with a doctor who was refusing to provide birth control pills to women. Well, a recent opinion piece in the Toronto Star recounts yet another case of this in at least one Ottawa clinic this past February.
At an Ottawa walk-in clinic last winter, Kate Desjardins requested a prescription for birth control and was denied. Instead, she was handed a letter explaining that the one doctor on duty that day wouldn’t provide contraception “because of reasons of my own medical judgment, as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values.” Desjardins left the busy waiting room shocked and humiliated. Surely this was illegal, she thought, or at least a breach of professional conduct.
The excellent piece goes on to mention that, like in Alberta, Ontario has rules in place that allow doctors' religious freedom to trump the rights of patients to receive legal medical services. The author asks the very same question I did in my post about this. What happens if you live in a very small rural community with one doctor?
The policy, which is currently under review in Ontario, ought to be overturned. In its attempt to protect a doctor’s freedom of religion, it unacceptably threatens a patient’s right to adequate care.

Desjardins, who is 25 and married, was able to find a doctor at another clinic to write her a prescription. But what if she had lived in a more remote area with fewer accessible doctors? What if the doctor at the next clinic also objected?
The piece goes on to report that two other doctors in the very same clinic refuse to prescribe birth control on moral/religious grounds! The common thread here seems to be a religious one.

As I wrote in my previous post on this, the author asks the question: "What if this is a young girl who lacks the confidence to stand up to a doctor and demand her prescription?"  I would add: What if she doesn't have access to another doctor? Does she need to drive to the next county? Does she have a car? Can she afford a bus? Can she take time to travel and not get fired? Can she safely ask her parents for help?"

Unbelievably, obstacles like this are standing in the way of already pregnant women trying to obtain legal abortions with the number of active clinics dwindling in parts of the company -- say, P.E.I for example! Now are we seeing the very same people who would wish abortion to be made completely illegal ultimately increasing the likelihood of abortions because of their religious freedom? 

It really makes me wonder if these people wish to outlaw abortion, birth control or, perhaps, non-procreational sex, altogether.
Of course, it’s reasonable to attempt to protect physicians from being asked to deliver care they find morally reprehensible. But when that entails patients being denied common, medically uncontroversial treatments by public health facilities, it’s an accommodation too far.
Absolutely. Perhaps these clinics should pay to have these medications couriered to women if these doctors are too squeamish to do it themselves.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Quebec Passes End Of Life Care Bill 52

(source)
I'm not sure how I missed this, but Bill 52, the dignity in dying law was passed last month. This makes Quebec the first North American government to allow those who are suffering greatly to end their own lives.
Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, received broad support on Thursday from nearly 80 per cent of MNAs. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard allowed his caucus to vote according to their conscience. The 22 MNAs who voted against were all Liberals, including 10 cabinet ministers.
As I outlined in my last post about this bill, doctor assisted suicide has very broad support in Quebec -- 79%.
The legislation outlines the conditions in which a terminally ill adult patient who is of sound mind may request continuous palliative sedation that would lead to death. Patients would need to have an incurable illness and be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capacities.” They would also have to be in constant and unbearable physical and psychological pain that doctors would view as impossible to relieve through medication.

The procedure for making the request would be supervised by the attending physician and approved though consultation with the hospital’s medical team. And, finally, a patient could at any time withdraw a signed request for medical aid in dying. (source)
Here's a quote from a press release from the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops.
Of course we understand the anguish and sorrow of everyone who has ever heard a loved one ask for death during a difficult end-of-life phase. The authentic response of society and of medicine to such a situation is palliative care. Palliative care is the best way to allay the suffering of a person who is approaching the end of her life, and to help her to live this final step with humanity and dignity
Here's a quote from Jewish General Hospital executive director Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg.
We do not give life, and we have no right to take life,” Rosenberg affirmed. “The National Assembly has no bona fides to determine what is high-quality medical care and what is not.” ...
... According to Judaism, he said,  “we are not the owners of our body; only God can terminate our life
Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, said:
“We have no right to take our lives. Our lives are not ours. Our lives are a gift from God,” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, told CNA June 26.
“We have no right to take our own life or to take anyone else's life. It violates the gift of the Creator,” Douglas said, noting that bill opponents “have to continue to emphasize the sacredness of human life.”
She also countered views that suffering justifies assisted suicide, adding that Catholics and other Christians believe that human suffering has merit when it is “united to the suffering of Christ.”
Well, that's fine then. Please, by all means, go ahead and suffer to the end! Just don't make us all suffer in pain to satisfy your own religious ideas!

Now here are some of the things the bill's author, Véronique Hivon said.
Sometimes when you are suffering in pain, one hour can feel like one week.… The protection of the vulnerable is reflected in every aspect of this bill...
For me, dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering … and respecting who that person always was during his or her whole life..
Sounds like this is coming from a place of compassion and consideration for the patient's suffering. Quebec Premier Couillard, who was a neurosurgeon before entering politics said.
Not once did patients tell me that they wanted to die. But they often told me that they no longer wanted to endure the pain and wanted to go to sleep...
Both sides are coming at this from different places.

I was made aware of this while listening to an excellent interview on Freethought Radio with Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada. There are many compelling stories told on this interview and Couillard's above observation seems to be much more on the mark than all this God talk above.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Vatican Approves Of International Association of Exorcists!

You can smile all you want! They're coming for you! (source)
Watch out, Satan! The Vatican is all done with all the easy problems, like witches and heretics who desperately needed to get burnt -- that was so 17th century!  Nobody believes in those silly things anymore! Now they can focus on real problems: devils and demons etc. etc. possessing people all over the place.

Move over, psychiatrists. Out of the way, Teen Exorcists! Young ladies, you have nothing on this latest batch of Vatican Endorsed(tm) demon hunters!
Exorcists now have an extra weapon in their fight against evil – the official backing of the Catholic church. The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.
Isn't it funny how it always seems to be the faithful who require liberating? You would think that people of the faith would be less vulnerable to spiritual attack. For all I know, there could be demons fluttering in and out of my nostrils this very minute but they really don't seem to be bothering me. It really seems like they're just ugly figments of people's imaginations.

No matter! The Church is all about capitalizing on people's imaginations!
The head of the association, the Rev Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. "Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," he told L'Osservatore.
Is it tax deductible though?

I wonder if there are any fee being charged for this or if it's completely charity. How does this International Association of Exorcists get its funds? If so, then how is this any different than Benny Hinn and his exorcisms? Even if this snake oil works, is it ethical?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Calgary Doctor Refuses Women Reproductive Freedom Because: Religion

"Please be informed that the physician on duty today WILL NOT prescribe the Birth Control Pill."

If you're a woman who needs the pill and walk into the Westglen Medical Clinic in Calgary, you better hope you arrive while Chantelle Barry is on duty. Because, she won't prescribe those little 'baby killin' caplets -- it's against her religion! Jesus would want you to have that child, even if it kills you!

Calgary doctor’s refusal to prescribe birth control triggers outrage

Watch the video. Apparently, this sort of behaviour is just fine.
According to representatives with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, all physicians are legally entitled to refuse to provide medical service based on religious or moral grounds, but must provide patients with contact details for a doctor willing to provide the service.
I wonder what happens when the last doctor decides not to sell birth control? An unlikely scenario -- unless you live in a small town. Dr. Barry once practiced in a rural community. I hope there was another doctor for her to refer women to. What if both doctors are against it? Do they take turns imposing their strongly held religious beliefs on women young and old alternating days?  Or does the poor girl or woman need to find a way to get into the next town?

Anyway, if you watch the video, you'll also see a short interview with a woman who has a medical condition which requires her to take birth control. She's not too happy with Dr Barry. This is not an uncommon situation.

Naturally though, God loves every tiny little egg so women must release every single one, every month! God's watching, but he can do nothing without Dr. Barry's help! Oh, and Barry's a doctor, she understands that taking the pill is indeed ovocide babycide.

Anyway, if this doctor is perfectly within her right to refuse to deliver this service, then the best response for everyone is to drop her as their family doctor and make a point of letting the clinic know why. I think this is one case that the free market can handle.

Of course, making noise about this to the College of Physicians is also a good idea. Imagine being a teenage girl and having to see this doctor about going on birth control?


Friday, 20 June 2014

UN Committee Concerned About Child Trafficking For Religious Rituals

Haitian Voodoo ritual. (source)
So, in today's disturbing news...

An article over at Voice of Russia is shedding light on concerns the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has about African children being kidnapped and shipped to the UK for use in Voodoo and other religious rituals. (Originally on AFP)
"We're concerned about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London, for religious rituals," said Kristen Sandberg, head of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The article says that British police have reported many cases of child torture and abuse for witchcraft rituals. It then goes on to list off a few such cases in more detail.

I found the report in question after some digging on the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights website. Here's the relevant bit.
Child Trafficking

30. The Committee is strongly concerned that thousands of children continue to be trafficked every year in the State party, particularly for sexual exploitation and labour, and it expresses its deepest concern about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the State party for brutal religious rituals, such as the so-called voodoo and juju rituals. The Committee is particularly concerned that:

a) The number of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators of trafficking and other offences under the Optional Protocol is extremely low across the State party, leading to impunity for perpetrators, and that the prosecutors often choose to charge perpetrators of human trafficking with other offences, such as rape or abduction to secure convictions; and

b) While under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, a non-national who arranges the trafficking of a child outside the jurisdiction of the State party commits a crime in England and Wales, the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

31. The Committee urges that the State party strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement authorities and judiciary to detect and prosecute trafficking of children for labour, sexual and other forms of exploitation, including for religious rituals. The Committee further recommends that the State party enact a specific legislation on child trafficking in accordance with the Optional Protocol and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (UN Palermo Protocol) and ensure that the crime of child trafficking is defined consistently and prosecuted throughout the State party.  
It appears that sexual exploitation and labour are the two largest categories, but religious superstition is also a problem. Apparently authorities tend to downplay these events for some reason.
The British government launched a campaign against faith-based child abuse in 2012, saying there was a need to make a stand, working with African migrant associations.

Critics have pointed to what they say is a tendency to view ritual abuse differently from other forms.
Yet another bizarre and tragic double standard around religion.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vancouver School Board Does the Right Thing For Transgender Students

(source)
Good news out of Vancouver! The Vancouver School Board voted yesterday evening to update its gender identity policy to protect students' expression of their own gender identities.
The policy update will allow students to be addressed by the name that corresponds with their own gender identity. It will also allow transgender students to use the washroom of their choice.
These simple things can have a huge impact on the lives of transgender students who, with no such support, are at a disproportionate risk of suicide, self harming and dropping out.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said before the vote,
"We need to do this. There's research that suggests when LGBT kids are supported at school, it actually lowers high-risk behaviours for all students."
You would think this would be a no brainer, but local parent groups fought it tooth and nail. Douglas Todd identifies Vancouver's large ethnic Chinese community as being a primary opponent to these progressive changes.
Still, this is only the latest public assault on programs for LGBT students led predominantly by members of Metro Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese population, which numbers more than 400,000 (three-quarters of whom are immigrants).

With some support from non-Chinese, they have frequently tried to stop school boards and Christian denominations from more fully embracing gays, lesbians and transgendered (sic) people.
It seems like some of it is cultural - in China, only 20% of respondents to a recent Pew Poll approve of "homosexuality" which may loosely map onto LGBT issues. However, Todd's article points out the very strong Christian component of this particular anti-LGBT movement in Vancouver. He does a good job of profiling the effects of strong (mostly evangelical) Christian motivators in both the Chinese and Korean communities in the city.

Todd quotes his own piece about human geographer Justin Tse which draws out the real irony here. We have minority Chinese and Korean groups in Canada, themselves struggling for acceptance, which are actively attempting to limit the rights of another much maligned minority, transgender people. It seems that many simply believe Canadians are wrong with their human rights laws.
Among other, things, Tse described how many ethnic Chinese do not see a contradiction between their own struggle to be fully accepted as an ethno-cultural group in Canada and their opposition to accepting gays and lesbians. The SCMP recently ran a headline describing how Chinese-Canadians felt Canada’s human rights laws on homosexuality were “ridiculous.”
This is further illustrated in the South China Morning Post: Canada’s ‘ridiculous’ human rights galvanise evangelical Chinese
Tse wrote that his Cantonese-speaking evangelical research participants believed human rights were being taken to "ridiculous" extremes in Canada.
...
Tse's thesis described how a proposed federal bill to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure protection for bisexual and transgender people was hotly opposed by Cantonese-speaking evangelicals in Vancouver. The bill was passed by the lower house but died in the Senate in 2011.

"Within Cantonese evangelical circles, [the bill] highlighted for many that 'Western' Canadian society's constitutional fixation on 'human rights' was descending into nihilism, bolstering in turn the ideological merits of a universally 'Chinese' traditional family system that remained part of a rational sexual majority," Tse wrote.
Well, I'm happy that mothers like Chinese Canadian Fiona Chen, whose 11 year old son, born a girl has decided to identify as a boy, can finally see him get some acceptance at his school.
This world is full of bias and discrimination, and I want to clear the way for my son. He's courageous enough to come out to tell everybody who he really is, so as his mother, I'm here to help him, and to build a better world. And to have people better understand people like him.
And...
I truly believe the trustees will vote for it, because it's the right thing to do.

If this policy pass, you will give them [students] more sense of being accepted by the whole society, that will really help them build their confidence, because feeling rejected is terrible thing, right?
People, we're talking about simple things like being able to use the bathroom assigned by society to a gender identity that corresponds to your own gender identity. We're talking about having the right to specify whatever name you wish to self-identify with and have others honour your decision. Why is this so controversial?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Whence Dignity?


Douglas Todd's latest column on dignity is pretty good. Not really for what Todd thinks - he doesn't really share that. Instead, it represents an ongoing debate over what's dignified and how it shapes public policy.

'Dignity' is often a kind of nebulous term upon which, for better or worse, some kind of common ground is being sought between an  increasingly wide gamut of often competing religions and non-religious groups. Back in the day, people just used to listen to whatever the Pope said, but that doesn't slice the bread anymore.

The obvious problem is there tend to be disagreements between these groups as many of them base their views on what's 'dignity' on 2,000 year old texts claiming to document the utterances of spooks in the sky. This comes to the forefront with issues like abortion, euthanasia and prostitution where much of the opposition is religion motivated.

Elsewhere, Charles Taylor seems to bring this up. If people are to bring their religions to the discussion table, they had better be compatible or there will be trouble, which is why he ultimately seems to believe that too many non-religious views can destroy the social cohesion required to keep a state together. The other approach is to keep your religious view off the table, of course, which is an approach favored by me and most of the state-church separation crowd.

Perhaps the problem with such an approach is the very word dignity itself. I feel it's burdened down with religious baggage - it's what's not 'unseemly' or 'blasphemous' or 'indecent' behavior, whatever doesn't offend the puritan's delicate sensibilities. It's bringing your religion to a table and dooming any discussion to failure as the number of differing religious perspectives and secular representation grows. The secularists are right. A proper separation of church and state is the only way.

God-given 'dignity' forms the backbones of broken arguments against abortion, prostitution and euthanasia - which interestingly has a a good secular argument for it: 'dying with dignity.' This goes to show how often the question is who's dignity are we really concerned about here? Indeed, does the human in question even have enough autonomy over their own bodies or are they simply on loan from God?

A better way forward would be to recognize the human rights that all people have and only put in limitations where real harm may result. I'm not talking about 'spiritual harm' or 'self-degrading harm', I'm saying that a prostitute who wishes to sell sex is not harming anyone if she herself is fine with this and is working in a legalized well-regulated system.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure most of the regular readers here have an idea where I stand on issues like prostitution (it should be legal and regulated) and dying with dignity (it should be legal). Todd's article was refreshingly unbiased - well at least it seemed that way this first time I read it.

There's just one point that confuses me.
Religions have other ways to determine supreme value than dignity. Broadly speaking, Christianity emphasizes love and redemption through Christ; Islam emphasizes submission to the will of God, while Buddhism emphasizes escaping the cycle of reincarnation through enlightenment.
I'm sorry, but wasn't this a little hand waving? Perhaps Todd can explain what all this means because I fail to see how such an equation can possibly translate into sound policy.

Some may see a secular approach as 'not grounded in anything concrete,' but I fail to see how statements like the above could possibly be anything but murky waters.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

John Baird Responds to UFO Religion's Request for Alien Embassy in Canada

John Baird and the proposed Raëlian embassy.

A few days ago, the Raëlians, who are a UFO religion that believes we were all engineered by aliens rather than a god (a minor point), asked the Canadian government to help them build an interstellar embassy for the alien race, the Elohim, so that we may become a galactic hub.

I thought this was quite silly, but I was interested if there would be a response from John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs. We'll he responded with a tweet, which my wife alerted me to only an hour ago.
Depak Obhrai is the Conservative MP from Calgary East riding. He responded in the affirmative, so here's hoping the Elohim are as friendly as the Raëlians claim they are or else he'll likely end up the first human served up as lunch to our new intergalactic overlords.
A CBC story releases a more detailed government response.
In response to a request from CBC News, ministerial press secretary @adamihodge explained that, "although tempting due to the promises of long term jobs and economic growth, sadly, current Canadian law is that only representatives of another state or an international organization can have diplomatic status in Canada - there is no mention of extraterrestrial entities."
It goes to to mention that the Canadian diplomatic licence plates wouldn't be big enough for the spacecraft and that if the Elohim would only make themselves known to the government, they would be happy to meet for coffee and discuss new galactic economic action plans. Har Har Har.

This is, of course, hilarious at this level alone. However, it becomes rather sickeningly ironic from the point of view of a skeptic atheist like me - someone who sees all religions as being rather equally kooky.

I don't mean to go too far onto a limb here, but as far as I can tell, the odds that we were manufactured by aliens are actually better than some nebulous, undefinable god thing! Presumably, aliens would be flesh and bone (or something natural) and would need not defy the laws of physics or magically bring about humans from nowhere at all - via will power, chi, life essence, "I AM WHAT I AM" or whatever God is supposed to have done.

So it strikes me as both hilarious and sort of sad that someone who believes in a magic sky god from the bronze age even feels the right to mock a religion that is probably more scientifically-based than his.

Speaking of religions. If Baird thinks this is hilarious, what about the Embassy to of Canada to the Holy See? Their claim to fame are crackers and wine that become the body and blood of a man who apparently lived and died 2,000 years ago. I honestly don't know which is the more ridiculous.

They are both equally ridiculous - but the Raëlians seem to be much less hung up about sex.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Raëlians to Lobby Canadian Government to Build Interplanetary Embassy for Aliens

Model of a proposed embassy the Raëlians wish to build in Cambodia. (source)

So the Raëlian Church of Canada - who do not believe in a god but do believe space aliens created us as science experiments - made a press release yesterday.

For years, they've been trying to build an interplanetary embassy to establish diplomatic relations with the Elohim, the alien race who created us in laboratory. They've been trying to convince Israel to let them build the structure in Jerusalem but they've been refused seven times. So now they've decided to give other countries a try!

Press conference - An Embassy to welcome an extraterrestrial civilization: the Raelians will file a formal application to the Canadian Government!

They plan to do this tomorrow (Wednesday June 4th).
"The file we will give to Prime Minister Harper, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Finance includes two main sections. The first is a request for a Lot Of Land, ​​4 square kilometers in Canada and the second is a request to grant extraterritoriality, as for all Embassies in the world", declared Daniel Turcotte, RAEL's assistant for the Embassy project. "In return, Canada will benefit from an economic impact of tens of billions of dollars in the long term. In addition, the host country of this Embassy will improve and enjoy an immense prestige being the interplanetary hub. The residents of this country will be the first to benefit from the Elohim's very advanced technology in the fields, among others, of  bio-robotics, nanotechnology, medicine, transport and communications, as well as an access to some sources of energy currently impossible to imagine by our scientists", added Turcotte.
A story in HuffPo covering this reports that the Raëlians do have one stipulation: no land in the Arctic. The Elohim do not dig very cold weather and members of the religion have been known to go in the nude during public events often. I'm certain they're aware of the cold winters here in Montreal since there is a strong Raëlian presence here.

I'm interested to see what John Baird will do with this information. Canada has lots of land, indeed, and four square kilometers would not go missed. Just think of the boon of being the world's first interplanetary hub! Now there's a return on investment!
On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 3:00 pm, the Raelian Movement will hold a press conference at Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St. Ottawa, Queen Salon (executive level), during which the Embassy file will be handed to the attending journalists. By the same occasion a model of the Embassy will be unveiled. Nicole Bertrand and Daniel Turcotte will also be available to answer their questions.
Naturally, I don't believe this for one minute, but I do find it fascinating. I am also intrigued at how the government officials will react. Are there any readers who could attend, take pictures, report back to base?

Oh, the release also mentions that Canada has had a many UFO sightings - an upswing in the last couple of years, actually. This obviously means the Elohim have been buzzing around but just do not have a suitable place to land!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Toni Braxton: My Son's Autism Is God's Payback For My Previous Abortion

Toni Braxton in Romania, 2012 (source)

Ever since it was posted on this blog's Facebook Page today, I've been dying to comment on this outrageous story.

Toni Braxton laments son’s autism as ‘God’s payback’ for abortion

It's all in her upcoming memoir, Unbreak My Heart.

Back in 2001, Braxton got pregnant but was taking Accutane for her acne, which has been known to cause birth defects. She also decided it wasn't the right time to have a baby. Hence, she had an abortion. I don't see a problem with this, but Braxton was raised in an uber cult-like Christian family and so apparently still feels immense guilt for this.
Braxton notes in her book that she grew up in a very strict household where she was forced to fast for two weeks during Lent, could not wear pants, and often had to neglect her homework in order to memorize Scripture. At the church where she and her family attended, students were forced to memorize at least 25 Scriptures per week.
What paints her God as a horrendous monster is that she honestly wonders whether her parents' divorce was caused by her abortion. Presumably God inflicted great pain and suffering onto her parents because of something she did.
She also believed that God may be punishing her with a diagnosis of lupus and her parents' divorce.
Because he wasn't done yet, apparently this God also decided that her son be autistic. Oh no, sorry, he let him have autism.
‘I have sometimes wondered whether God was punishing me for the abortion I had years ago by allowing my son to have autism. Or by giving me so many health issues’, she writes.
I honestly wonder what this says about her thoughts of autistic people as well. I know autistic children and adults and this kind of talk - of an affliction - can be seen as rather offensive. My own son and wife are both autistic and I do not see them as punishments from some (non-existent) God.

On top of this, jerk-God decided to also give Braxton Lupus. What a dick. And just how many abortions has he let happen recently?

Among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is roughly 15-20%. Miscarriage may occur for many reasons, not all of which can be identified. Some of these causes include genetic, uterine, or hormonal abnormalities, reproductive tract infections, and tissue rejection. Miscarriage caused by invasive prenatal diagnosis (chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis) is rare (about 1%).
Not to mention being strangled by their own umbilical cords!

Although she's been through a lot and it's not easy. I notice a common thread in all of these cases; they all point back to Toni Braxton and something she did. This can be either seen as rather self-centered of her or a symptom of way way too much guilt and ownership of a bad situation. This appears to be an unhealthy condition and the cause is a twisted up guilt-ridden religious view that attaches unproven consequences onto unrelated actions. Being ex-Catholic, I think I might get some of it.

I hope Braxton can try to get over this and realize it is not anything she did, but that will require getting over the sort of abuse it looks like she had to endure. I think she owes it to her kids to try.

Oh, and it is infact, even worse than it sounds. In her upcoming memoir, Braxton also mentions that her second son's Autism symptoms just so happened to coincide with the MMR vaccine. If you're going to go off the superstitious conspiracy theory deep end, you may as well go for broke.
"Maybe it's just a coincidence that after my son's first MMR vaccine, I began to notice changes in him," Braxton noted in the book.