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Category Archives: News

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.

Yesterday the Government of Canada lost a vote of confidence over the new budget, necessitating an election on May 2.

While I don’t know yet who will be getting my vote, I most certainly know which party I will not be voting for, putting me squarely in the ABC (Anybody But Conservative) camp. The current regime is the most undemocratic group I have ever seen in Canada. The sheer contempt this Prime Minister has shown parliament and the citizens of Canada is appalling in the extreme:

  • The ill-fated attempt to end party funding (the obvious result of which would have been that party policy would be dictated by those “donating” the most money to a party and not about doing what is best for the electorate);
  • Not once, but twice prorogued parliament not for what proroguing is supposed to be used for (end the session when the business of the house is finished early), but to cynically avoid a non-confidence vote in the House in 2008 and again in 2009 to avoid answering tough questions about the Afghan detainee affair. In both cases legislation was still waiting to be dealt with by Parliament, thus shutting down the House violated the spirit of prorogation entirely and abrogated the rights of Canadians to ask questions and demand answers of the government.;
  • Witholding information asked for by the House on costs associated with crime bills and thus were found in contempt of Parliament;
  • Ending of mandatory submission of the long census for those that receive it. (Any statistician will tell you just how skewed data critical for developing public policy will now be….);
  • illegally financed campaigns in the last election through money shuffles, a scandal called the “in and out” scheme;
  • Maintaining a cabinet minister who, while leader of the Conservative Party, as condition to garnering support for his leadership promised never to merge with the Alliance Party (headed by Stephen Harper). He got what I think is his own just desserts when his girlfirend and fellow caucus member crossed the floor to the Liberal camp without telling him of this action beforehand. Delicious!
  • Was admonished by Hillary Clinton for not including funding abortion in foreign aid packages…. The United States lecturing another country on family planning! Abortion is considered a necessary medical service legal in Canada, but apparently not for other countries where access is also needed. This action by Harper clearly shows his religious beliefs affect his policies, and relgion has no place in politics. Not now, not ever!
  • The pièce de résistance, Harper shows his respect for science by appointing to the office of the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology a chiroptractor. You read that right- a fucking chiropractor! Anyone with an ounce of scientific knowledge wouldn’t be a chiropractor.

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.

[From CTV news]

Ten American missionaries were been charged with human trafficking after trying to spirit (pun intended) 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic Friday night, claiming at the border that the children were orphans (that a number of these children claimed to not be orphans notwithstanding).

“God is the one who called us to come here and we just really believed that this was his purpose,” said Carla Thompson, another member of the group, which called itself the New Life Children’s Refuge.

The Reverend Clint Henry of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Idaho to which the group belongs also protested their innocence, saying their intention was “upright and pure”.

I couldn’t care less what their motives were for doing something clearly wrong. Belief in a deity does not give ANYONE carte blanche to flout international law. There is no indication that this group made any attempt whatsover to reunite any of these children with family, the first thing they should have done. Nor is religion any excuse for not contacting authorities to state their intentions.

The president and CEO of Plan Canada says concerns are growing over illegal child trafficking, and no matter how well intentioned people are, it is important to safeguard children during such an emergency by watching the borders and remaining vigilant about unaccompanied children.

Plan Canada President and CEO Rosemary McCarney says she’s not sure if the accused were attempting to engage in child trafficking. But even if they weren’t, just by taking the children away, they could do them more harm than good.

“Whether this is trafficking or not, it puts children at risk,” McCarney told Canada AM from Toronto. “Because even well-intentioned people who remove children from their communities and their country, by crossing borders, it makes it almost impossible for us to track them and find their parents and extended families and caring adults who could take care of these children.”

McCarney said her group aims to help families stay united, not send children away.

“Our job is to support the Haitian communities so that they can look after their children,” she said.

The New Life Children’s Refuge charity says it is “dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God’s love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ”. In other words, it is at least as much about forcing their beliefs on a captive audience as it is to feed, house and clothe them. I would say more so.

After the earthquake, their mission statement took a more sinister turn: “…rescue Haitian orphans abandoned on the streets, makeshift hospitals or from collapsed orphanages in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, and bring them to New Life Children’s Refuge in Cabarete, Dominican Republic.” Nowhere in their manifesto is there anything about working with authorities or reunification of the children they find with families. This is about indoctrination of captives, not providing aid.

Some have called these people ‘misguided’. They’re wrong. They knew exactly what they were doing. They unilateraly and without consulting experts decided they (because their god ‘speaks’ to them) know better than anyone else. Had they been successful, it would have been next to impossible to track these children in order to reunite them with family. And the reason they didn’t contact authorities is because they knew their actions would have been stopped. And for damn good reason. They were taking advantage of the chaos produced by the earthquake for their own (not their purported) purposes. Nothing less. Honestly, I see nothing to differentiate what these people say from what was being said in Jonestown before the Kool-Aid. Religion does NOT override well-reasoned international laws or principles.

When asked about the charges against them, several in the group simply responded to ABC News, “Philippians 1.” The Bible’s first chapter of Philippians chronicles the apostle Paul’s time in prison for preaching the gospel.

Cry me a river. This trying to drum up sympathy by claiming they are being oppressed due to their religion is crap. And if their religion does involve the kidnapping of children, violating international laws on the trafficking of children and making it nearly impossible for these children to keep in touch with family, I say oppress them in the same manner we oppress the belief that pedophilia is acceptable because one is a priest.

The ten Baptist missionaries will likely be tried in the US, as the quake has essentially destroyed the infrastructure necessary for a trial. I hope jurers aren’t snowed by the irrelevant religious aspects of this. If UNICEF did anything similar (not that they would) I would not be any less harsh on them. But this tragedy is attracting wacko groups who, because they are “well-meaning”, are completely blind to the harm they cause. Intentions are nothing without reason. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Religion is no guarantor of good behavior, and is often used as an excuse for bad behavior.

NDP leader Brian Mason had this to say about Bill 44, legislation tabled yesterday which allows parents to pull their children from class on the basis of belief:

All they’ve done is make Alberta look like Northumberland and sound like Arkansas.

Testify! 

Bill 44 is

[a] controversial Alberta bill will enshrine into law the rights of parents to pull their children out of classes discussing the topics of evolution and homosexuality.

The new rules, which would require schools to notify parents in advance of “subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation,” is buried in a bill that extends human rights to homosexuals. Parents can ask for their child to be excluded from the discussion.

Education minister Dave Hancock:

“With respect to values, religion and sex education have always been areas of concern for parents, and they’ve always been areas parents have had the right to be notified about and to exempt their students from.” 

Read More »

Macleans online reports:

The Dallas Morning News reports the invitations are already in the mail: A chance to hear George W. Bush “share his thoughts on his eight momentous years in the Oval Office,” live, in Calgary, on March 17. The event is not open to the public and is so far away from the Washington nerve centre, or any other U.S. hub, that it screams dry run. Welcome to the lucrative world of the speaker’s circuit, Mr. President.

Set faces on “stunned”! Can we get him on the undesirables list in time?