Skip navigation

Category Archives: atheism

LoR – Episode 30

[I realize that I have been remiss in putting what is essentially an audio blog of a podcast on this website. I don’t blog anymore, preferring to voice my opposition to magical thinking and the harm it does to individuals and society as a whole. I will hereafter update this page as we continue our journey at The Legion of Reason.]

In this installment we present another one of Kris’ fantastic interviews from the American Humanist Association conference in New Orleans earlier this year. Kris discussed humanism with the Harvard Humanists. Participating in the discussion were Sarah Chandonnet, James Croft, Chris Stedman and Greg Epstein.

The Centre for Inquiry here in Calgary is organizing SkeptiFest, a one-day music & comedy festival happening on September 8 at Ten Nightclub. It will be featuring Australian singing sensation Shelley Segal who performed at the historic Reason Rally earlier this year in Washington, DC. Check out her opus entitled “Saved” on website. Also appearing is Albertan comic Derek Sweet and Calgarian songster Dean Morisson, whose song “Non Believer” we featured here on the Legion of Reason a while back. It’ll be a rocking good time! Tickets are available through Eventbrite, and prices are $20 the general public, $15 for students with valid student ID, and members of the Centre for Inquiry and Freethinkers Society get ’em for $10.

To listen to more from the Legion, please visit our website at www.legionofreason.com!

I haven’t posted in some time. It hasn’t been because I haven’t anything to say, but because I have starte actually saying it. My brother B and I had been wanting to start up a podcast for some time, but with the arrival of my niece and nephew things got put on the back burner. I didn’t want to start things up on my own, but when a new homeopathy store opened up and started advertising on Facebook, I could no longer wait.

It was at this time that I put out a cattle all to my Center for Inquiry friends and was pleasantly surprised to receive numerous requests to be involved. We made our first recording a little after Xmas and we’re getting set to record our eighth episode tomorrow evening.

So what’s the podcast about? Well, the vision I have is quite broad. Essentially, it involves discussing topics anywhere that evidence-based thinking can be applied. This can involve public policy, woo woo, religion, science, education, etc. There are many great podcasts out there about atheism (The Non-Prophets, for example) or applied skepticism which exclude religious claims (e.g., The Skeptics Guide to the Universe), but almost none that make no distinction where critical thinking gets applied. (The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Skeptics with a K.)

As I like to say, I am an atheist for the same reason that I am a-reiki, a-homeopathic, a-yeti, or a-quantum healing. I see no difference in any of these claims or the requirements they need to meet before acceptance is justified. However, religion is a big component of the podcast for the simple reason that it pervades so much of society. I wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about it except for one thing: Beliefs inform actions and believing in things without the requisite evidence often lead to harm, not to mention that it is an impoverished way of living. The universe is amazing enough without diminishing it by making up far less interesting stuff about it.

A case in point (which I would like to make into a podcast topic): a recent crime bill passed here in Canada increases prison time and takes funding away from programs which may help make inmates productive members of society when released. There is not one shred of evidence that increasing prison time makes society any safer or better off. Quite the opposite, in fact. But such thinking arises from and panders to an electorate with a religious conservative point of view that is demonstrably false. This is not how public policy should be created and does real harm to society.

The topics we discuss are as relevant to the Canadian prairies as possible (or at least nationally). There are already podcasts out there which ably cover the tribulations south of the 49th parallel. But topics which are of interst to everyone are covered as well, though we give them a decidedly local flavor.

In the first seven episodes we have talked about Xerion Homoeopathie (a Calgary purveyor of magic sugar pills) and their dissemination of anti-vaccination nonsense, the effectiveness so-called ‘liberation’ therapy as a proposed treatment of multiple sclerosis (which has a very high incidence in the prairie provinces), the absence of secular education in the town of Morinville (just north of Edmonton), and in the episode we are recording tomorrow we have an interview with rock star cosmologist Lawrence Krauss about science education and why the non-religious are labeled “strident” (or worse) just for daring to question religious claims. His new book A Universe From Nothing (which I guiltlessly plug here) is a great companion to the viral YouTube video of the same name.

Come visit us at the Legion of Reason and give us a listen, or you can find us on iTunes.

I have just finished reading Paul Tobin’s excellent book The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager (who of us godless Sodomites isn’t sick and tired of all its different flavors by now?). I have a fairly substantial library on biblical criticism, including books by Ehrman, Helms and Callaghan. But I especially like this one as it gets into how scholars have come to the conclusions more than most, and in a manner not as dry as a turkey cooked two hours too long (like say Burton L. Mack’s Who Wrote the New Testament?). Read More »

On the weekend of September 9, I and a fellow member of the Center for Inquiry attended a creationism “conference” (I’d have called it a lecture series, but hey, whatever). My overall impression is that if this is all that creationists have, evolutionary theory is not at all in jeopardy. Of course, I never thought it was. I just wanted to experience what people who believe the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs co-existed with humans had to say. The whole thing could only be accepted by those who have drunk the Kool Aid. There was nothing convincing in anything I saw, and some stretched my credulity well past the breaking point. Read More »

It’s getting tougher and tougher to find the time to blog, and I really wanted to get this one out. A while ago I was part of a discussion course entitled “God, Atheism and Morality” that used Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape as a back-drop, as well as Richard Holloway’s Godless Morality. Though Holloway still has some religious baggage to unload that keeps his goal of a morality that encompasses humanity out of reach, he’s a Christian (an Anglican bishop) who largely gets it. There are problems with Harris’ book as well, but as Matt Dillahunty notes he provides us with a language for discussing these issues.

I wish I had kept up with the class in my blog. Throughout the coarse my view of Harris’ book changed significantly. For instance, I agree with Massimo Pigliucci’s view that Science can not determine the values we should hold, but I think Massimo undervalues Science in evaluating the effects of values we do hold. Harris bizarrely never mentions the application of the social sciences to this evaluation, and I have a hard time seeing how a reduction of morality to the neurosciences can have anywhere near as much value as some of the work that Gregory Paul has done. But while I have mixed feelings about the contents of The Moral Landscape, Harris opened up a dialog that needed opening.

Read More »

Hi folks! I haven’t written in some time, but I thought perhaps this might be of interest. To keep those who might balk at the length of this diatribe interested enough to read further, I’ll just say that a situation has arisen in a town called Morinville, Alta, where it is not possible for parents to select a secular education for their children. For those that want to skip the history lesson, scroll thine eyes down five paragraphs. But the history lesson itself will surprise many people. I met someone who recently moved to here from British Columbia who had no idea that Alberta has a faith-based publicly-funded school system.

Canada does not have an explicit church-state separation. I wish it did. Had the Canadian Constitution been drawn up now rather than 30 years ago, I think it would. Religiopolitics in the US scares the bejesus out of us. Well, most of us. The current constitution relies very heavily on a previous act of British Parliament passed in 1867, the so-called British North America (BNA) Act. In it, it allows for religion-based school systems to remain publicly funded. This was a historical reality at the time, but has long since become an anachronism. Regions were settled by people of a single predominant faith and built public institutions before they entered Confederation and became provinces. These were predominantly Catholic, with a bit of Anglican thrown into the mix. The BNA Act provided for publicly-funded separate school systems for schools of religious faiths that existed prior to their entering into Confederation. (This led to an interesting situation when about 30 years after Manitoba entered into Confederation the provincial government decided to cease funding the Catholic school system, causing Pope Leo XIII to write a papal encyclical condemning the whole action. Fortunately, no one listened….) Read More »

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on anything of substance. Busy, busy, busy. Last month, my wife pointed out to me a new class being offered through the Continuing Education program at the local university called God, Atheism and Morality. It’s a discussion class using Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape as the backdrop and led by an ex-Lutheran pastor. A nice fellow, but maybe too nice for the things likely to come…

There are nine of us, from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. There’s a non-believing Teacher who wants to return to university, perhaps to get a PhD in the philosophy of science; a Lawyer who deals with immigrants and who made an excellent point on refugee claimants that I have suspected for some time that I will get to later on; another who grew up in a Secular household and does not understand faith (I do – I just don’t understand why anyone in their right mind discards reason and evidence in favor of wishful thinking); the Spiritual woman that made the claim that most atheists are really agnostics (which underscores a problem of definitions that might produce some trouble); another that wants to see if there are reasons to discard her Faith (burden of proof shift, anyone?) and “dragged” her husband along (well, according to him, anyway…); a retiree with a Physics background who didn’t really say much about himself; a believing Moral Relativist (!) who knows too much about philosophy, an intellectual pursuit that I have little patience for (and who actually told me that string theory is not testable, that I should Google it! Ah, the University of Google, where you can get a degree in 9/11 truthing! Michio Kaku, where are you when I need you?); and yours truly, who described himself as “the most unspiritual person that you will ever meet”. Quite a wide spectrum of beliefs which is a good start.
Read More »

Brother Andre, a Holy Cross Brother in Quebec and whose personage is said to have healed thousands, will be canonized a saint tomorrow, October 17.

Color me skeptical. As part of the process for beatification on the road to canonization, the Vatican must verify that two (it is now one) miracles involving the subject has occurred. Two? A measely two? I would think that the Law of Large Numbers mixed with human nature will produce quite a few ‘miracles’. The association of a human figure up for canonization with a large sampling in which statistically unlikely events will always occur, especially when the sample size is increased by weird associations, like the oil from a lamp that Brother Andre used. Here’s one of the so-called ‘miracles’ as described in the Montreal Gazette:

The second phenomenon involved a 9-year-old who was cycling when he was struck by a car in 1998, said Father Claude Grou, rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory. The boy suffered severe head injuries and his parents were told there was no hope of recovery. Friends of the family prayed at St. Joseph’s Oratory, bringing a bottle of “St. Joseph’s oil,” a medal and a prayer card back to the parents, Grou said.

The oratory distributes more than 100,000 bottles of the oil annually. In his day, Brother Andre offered a bit of oil to the sick from a lamp that was burning in front of a statue of St. Joseph. He would tell them to rub it on their bodies and pray to St. Joseph to heal them.

Soon after the parents of the boy started praying to Brother Andre, “the healing started to come,” Grou said. “In a few days, he was no longer in danger of death, and in a few days more, they found he was recovering his faculties; he started to talk.”

Read More »

I got this from a link by a commenter at Pharynguyla. It’s Thanksgiving Day here in The Great White North (not so white yet, however) and the believers are atheist bashing by expressing fake sympathy for atheists with no one to thank on this day come out of the woodwork. They’ll be back again for American Thanksgiving and Christmas, where for the latter they will change their spots, point to us and say “Look! Those atheists are celebrating the birth of baby Jesus!”, conveniently forgetting that Christmas (like Thanksgiving) has been utterly secularized and attaching religious meaning to a holiday (two in Canada, since we celebrate Boxing Day as the Brits do….) is a personal matter that one may or may not do. Not to mention that pagans can point to Christians and claim “Look! They’re celebrating the birth of Mithras!”, since Christmas itself was a co-option of already existing pagan celebrations.

And believers wonder why we atheists can get a bit cynical at times.

Well, in the long tradition of religious misapprehension of what it means to be an atheist, we have yet another one that openly exposes his ignorance to the world and proudly proclaims that he is a twit. The Vancouver Sun printed a story by Douglas Todd which begins with the question-

How do the almost two out five British Columbians who say they have no religion, and especially the 16 per cent who are atheists, approach a festive day that encourages humans to express a sense of thankfulness, particularly for life itself being a gift?

Read More »

From CBC News:

The Pope has called the raids carried out by Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse “deplorable” and asserted the autonomy of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse alongside civil law enforcement authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI issued a message Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, Msgr. Andre-Joseph Leonard. In it, he expressed solidarity with all Belgian bishops for the “surprising and deplorable way” in which the raids were carried out Thursday.

Benedict said justice must take its course. But he also repeated that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law “respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy.”

The raids targeted a retired archbishop and the graves of two prelates.

Again, Ratzi demonstrates more concern for bishops that have traditionally interfered with investigations of sexual abuse allegations by priests. The raid is simply a sign that law enforcement is no longer willing to put up with this and have not one whit of sympathy for the Belgian bishops. And considering its active interference in the investigations of allegations of sexual assault to this point, I give the benefit of the doubt to the Belgian police rather than to an organization that even the Mafia defers to. It simply astounds me that anyone listens to this prick. Fuck you, Ratzi, fuck of all of you who make apologies for Ratzi’s actions and fuck all of you who listen to this prick and blind themselves to how morally bankrupt the organization he represents actually is and just act as enablers.

And as for this perceived non-existent “right” of the Vatican to investigate these crimes alongside law enforcement agencies? Fuck off, Ratzi. All I see is just another attempt at covering up the aiding and abetting of pedophile priests that you have conspicuously never apologized for or even acknowledged in the face of overwhelimingy damning evidence.

The Vatican can do what it damn well pleases, but if its ‘investigations’ involve the almost traditional willful failure to report crimes, withholding evidence or even not willing to hand over evidence voluntarily, properly take care of the victims who haven’t seen half the compassion the perpetrators have received, then such church authorities should themselves be charged. The Vatican should have no expectation that law enforcement will work with them, and to maintain independence MUST NOT. There was a time when the Vatican was allowed to deal with pedophile priests on its own, and that is exactly how we got to this outrageous and dispicable state of affairs.

As I said, the Vatican can do what it wants, but if any bishop – or pope, for that matter – should interfere with investigations by legitimate law enforcement, those individuals should be unceremoniously treated like the criminals they are. We’re through with the Vatican dealing with these unspeakably heinous crimes.

There is only one course of action to be taken by the Vatican in order to remedy its scandalous behavior. That is, to completely take their hands off investigations, offer full co-operation with law enforcement, willingly hand over all evidence they have, let these investigations take their course and actually accept the consequences of their actions.

Yeah, when pigs fly.

Fuck you, Ratzi.