A lot of news has surfaced recently about the charter of Quebec values. I wrote a post about it days before it was “leaked” to the Journal de Montreal. If you aren’t familiar, the main talking points are that it will ban the wearing of religious garments/headwear in public institutions. While this is clearly a breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so far the damage is limited to public workers. Continue reading
Women In Secularism 2 was a success. It had all the pieces that make a conference worth going to: accomplished and up-and-coming speakers, diverse panelists, a clear mandate and good locale. Washington D.C. is a great place to be inspired for political and social change. The conference was well managed … Continue reading
Normally I get essentially zero feedback on my Canadian Atheist posts, beyond what appears in the comment threads. My e-mail address is right there on the Authors page, but for some reason my blogging has not resulted in a flood of earnest critiques, death threats, marriage proposals, and other natural responses to my scintillating and insightful commentary. However, alert reader Kayla Evans did send me a link to an “infographic” that she had helped design for a site called learnstuff.com, suggesting it might be grist for my creaky little mill (not in those exact words). The infographic has nothing in particular to do with either atheism or Canada, but such was my excitement at receiving e-mail that I couldn’t have cared less.
I won’t post the full infographic here, as it’s a towering monolith of attractively arranged words, numbers, and images, but the uppermost bit establishes the theme and is also representative of the overall style:
There’s an old joke which asks how the Canadian census is done. The answer: Take the American census and divide by ten. But for religious faith, the numbers are quite different – the proportion of Canadian non-believers is 20-30%, roughly twice the US rate. So when an article on the rise of non-believers in the US Congress came to my attention, I wondered about the corresponding Canadian statistics. I know of two “out” atheist MPs: Carolyn Bennett and Jinny Sims – roughly 0.6%. As for the US, according to the article, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was “the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as none.”. However, Sinema has recently released a statement* saying that she “believes the terms non-theist, atheist or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” (This comes as rather a disappointment for those who were hopeful that Sinema would assume the mantle of the recently defeated atheist Pete Stark.) Interestingly, the article goes on to point out that “10 other members of the 113th Congress (about 2%) do not specify a religious affiliation, up from six members (about 1%) of the previous Congress.”
So who are the nones? One of the first commenters on the article vehemently objects to the assumption that as a none he is assumed to be an atheist (accusing those who do so self-identify of engaging in “fundamentalist closed thinking”). Others talk about people who rarely even consider topics of theology or spirituality. Still others suggest that it would be best if everyone called themselves “none-of-your-damned-business-ists”.
Perhaps atheist groups should take a caveat from this and be cautious about artificially inflating our numbers by appropriating all the nones. But beyond that, for those who really are atheists, and choose simply to say they are non-believers, it would be informative and useful to find out why. Are they really “apatheists” who only give thought to the existence of gods when explicitly asked? (Lucky for them, if their daily experience allows them to avoid the question.) Are they afraid of repercussions from family, friends, co-workers? Do they think people who call themselves atheists are inherently rude, mean, strident, militant, fundamentalist? Is there any value in trying to determine ways to engage them and involve them in groups like CFI? Or is that too much like evangelism?
*H/T to Butterflies and Wheels
While I’m generally for reasonable accommodations for cultural/religious practices. I’m not sure how reasonable it is to set aside a room, that is needed for something more educational, for prayer.
But he said none of the schools have permanent prayer rooms, and they’re often shuffled between classrooms or the gym, depending on what’s available.
Sometimes, he said there simply isn’t a room they can use.
At an educational institution we should not be letting education suffer to benefit prayer. Now, maybe the school needs to schedule things better, or maybe the muslim community could make a donation or something towards creating extra space…
But bottom line for me is that education must be the priority, prayer is by definition extra-curricular.
I generally take a dim view of people hurling insults at each other. I find that mostly it is just childish and counterproductive. But I’m a big fan of free speech… so…
I think communities should have a right to create their own standards of behaviour, whether it is gamers or freethoughtbloggers. The more democratic and less ideological, the better, in my view. But that’s me.
We should be adults… or something.
If you think someone is being a jerk, then just spell out in specifics what you object to and the point will be made in a substantive and constructive way, rather than just in an emotional one. I don’t want to clamp down on all criticism. I want to make it substantive and constructive.
Seems reasonable. (Not likely to work with actual human beings… but reasonable in an ideal sense.)
Not everyone agrees, of course… Continue reading
I had a English professor who liked to say, if it is longer than it is wide, it’s a phallic symbol. He was speaking in terms of literature and art, but there are no shortage of people who will argue how man-centred the world is, and not in the good way. They have a point.
CFI had their ‘Women in Secularism’ conference this past weekend.
I didn’t go.(I had a family get-together to attend)
Neither did PZ. (He was busy at another conference) …but his ‘daughter-spawn’ did attend.
So if you missed it, she summarizes well.(Although the whole blacklisting idea worries me, regardless of the intent.)
I have to admit, even without the family event, I was probably going to skip it. While I do often find myself sympathetic to women’s issues, I tend to be more trouble than I am worth at such events. It bothered me, for instance, that no men were asked to speak. That sets a very bad precedent in my book. It may seem like a small thing, a corrective measure even, by some standards. But as someone who has spent a few years in the secular movement, and argued pretty consistently for minority and women to be included in conferences, as speakers, it sorta takes the wind out of my ‘be inclusive’ arguments. I know, poor me, rough life. I’m way too sensitive.
This is, more generally, my problem with modern feminism. It seems, at least to my phallocentric brain, that a lot of feminism(especially online) has become not so much about ‘equality’, but rather about promoting and protecting women, period. That whole tribal mindset. This is problematic for me, because although I understand the motivation behind it, that whole way of thinking tends to frame evil-menz as the obstacle to be overcome. As with atheism, there are lots of things even rational people are going to disagree on. Politics, Religion and Sex, are always the hot-buttons. Even if someone wants to claim I’m an ignorant clod(see you all later in the comments), good teachers listen to their students. Preaching to the choir is much easier of course, but it generally doesn’t get you very far. (Unless you really like choir-boys, but I digress)
I should note, I’m not generally a supporter of MRAs, as they tend to have that same confrontational attitude that just puts everyone in troll-battle-mode. And battle-mode just gets them the misogynist label, and righteously ignored, and many deserve to be. I do think men have an essential contribution to make to any serious discussion of gender/sex, but as with any good conversation, it needs to be an exchange. Atheists might like lectures, but very few like being lectured to. So it goes.
This would certainly be a situation where you’d get support from me. I understand the intent, but the precedent is scary. Banning a group because they make other people uncomfortable is not a reasonable accommodation.
Darebin Mayor Diana Asmar said these events were aimed at women who, “due to their cultural and religious backgrounds, cannot attend events where men and women both attend”.
[..]the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has backed the bans, and declared councils no longer needed to apply to the court for such exemptions.
Private functions that cater to the idiosyncrasies of a culture are one thing, but getting government involved in such things really crosses the line in my view. Governments should at least try and remain neutral in cultural clashes.
In Saskatoon, its Reasonable Women group will be meeting Sunday, September 18th to discuss/debate the merits of Slutwalks. Katie did a great post on this issue a few months ago, so we’ll use some of the points she raises as a starting place on figuring out the merits or drawbacks of reclaiming the word “slut” for feminism.
The Vancouver Reasonable Women group will have its first meeting on Sunday, September 25th, and they’ll be taking on the recent “Elevatorgate” scandal and also talking about the banning of the hijab veil in France.
The purpose of groups like Reasonable Women is to engage one particular subset of the larger atheist/freethinking/skeptic movement: the women (including those who self-identify as women). Come out and join us!
EDIT: There’s also a group in Kelowna that is meeting THIS Thursday night (September 8th):
The Okanagan’s first women-only skeptic group! CHICK CHAT will provide a unique gathering for women on a monthly basis to discuss and debate, critically think, strategize and problem solve on a variety of issues.
Before I start this post, I’d like to apologize for my long absence. I have been traveling for work, and have struggled to find time for the other parts of my life. I am now back from my trip and my head is back in the game.
I caught this item in the news, and thought you’d all find it interesting:
A bill which would ban halal and kosher slaughter methods has passed through the Dutch parliament, despite opposition from Muslim and Jewish groups who say a ban would impinge on their religious freedoms. The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by parliamentarians on Wednesday, still has to pass through the Dutch senate, which is unlikely before the summer recess.
The Dutch cabinet said on Monday that the law may be unenforceable in its current form due to the ambiguity of a last-minute amendment that says religious slaughter licenses can be granted if they can “prove” that it does not cause animals more pain than stunning.
There are a couple of pieces of context that are really important in understanding this news item. The first is that there has been of late a sizable anti-immigrant swing in the halls of power in Europe, and the Netherlands is no exception. The values of secular tolerance are being eroded by the rising tide of xenophobia, though to be fair not all of it is entirely unjustified. Europe seems to be particularly ill-prepared for the rapid social change that has happened over the past few decades, and as a result they are precariously close to seeing social revolt rather than gradual evolution.
(More after the jump)