I had a surreal experience the other day. I grew up in a musical family, and was a musician myself, so when I drive I like to have the stereo thumping. I also tend to prefer hard rock or peppery hip hop – something to keep the pulse up and keep me alert while I drive – so I happened to catch the debut of the new Black Sabbath single over the radio. I also happened to catch a few impromptu sermons. Continue reading
Ya win some, ya lose some.
Good news in the US:
In October 2011, CFI-Michigan booked a room at a local golf&country club for a talk by Richard Dawkins. The Wyndgate Country Club management canceled the event shortly before the scheduled date, stating that “the owner does not wish to associate with certain individuals and philosophies.” CFI filed suite, in April of 2012, and the club has agreed to a settlement. According to CFI, this marks “perhaps the first time federal and state civil rights statutes have been successfully invoked by nonbelievers in a public accommodations lawsuit.”
Not so good news in Canada, on the CBC’s Cross-Country Checkup yesterday:
Retired Senator Pat Carney asserted that it was pretty much impossible for her to work with people who did not have faith, since there was no basis of shared values, and further expressed her astonishment that she had come across someone who had no idea what “the Lord’s Prayer” was. The way she said it, it was almost as if she thought this ought to be obvious to everyone, leaving me utterly astonished at her unselfconscious narrow-minded bigotry.
Professor of Philosophy and Theology John Stackhouse thinks that Richard Dawkins is a fundamentalist atheist, and needs more Christian friends, but allows that there are some atheists that he might be able to work with, as long as everyone is respectful.
One has to wonder why Rex Murphy did not see fit to have a representative of the “Nones” on the panel, though Mavaddat Javid from CFI Vancouver and Ian Bushfield from BC Humanists did their best from the audience.
Early last night, the media was alight with the news that “Canada Funds Anti-gay Group’s Work in Homophobic Uganda,” which, this morning, became “Fantino orders review of funding for anti-gay group working in homophobic Uganda.” It’s about time, Mr. Fantino! In response, Michael Payton, National Director, CFI Canada sent out a media release, “National Secular Organization Outraged Over Government Funding of Evangelical Ministry“:
TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Feb. 11, 2013) - In response to the surge of controversy surrounding Crossroads Christian Communications’ receipt of hundreds of thousands in government aid, the Centre for Inquiry (CFI), Canada’s largest secular and skeptic organization, calls on the Government of Canada to cease all funding of organizations with an openly discriminatory code of ethics.
Crossroads Canada is an evangelical ministry that describes homosexuality as a “perversion” and a “sin” on their public website. “Crossroad’s anti-homosexuality stance is open discrimination.” said CFI Canada’s National Director, Michael Payton. “It is outrageous that an organization received this level of government funding while its main purpose is evangelism.”
Payton says he is deeply concerned about the double standard which is set between secular and religious charities. “When most secular charities receive government funding, there are miles of red tape that they have to put up with; it amazes me that a religious group would receive so much funding while having practices which contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
“It certainly points to a double standard,” Payton continued, “If a charity receives government funding, the government should ensure that the programming is directed to positive societal change, not to promoting a discriminatory religious ideology.”
CFI Canada Advisor, Grant Lefleche, used his column, “Grant Rants,” to to exclaim, “The Stupid It Burns: Government of Canada Edition”:
Please, Ottawa, please, please, please, please pour some water on the burning stupid. . . . . We don’t have very high expectations of you, Government of Canada. . . . . But we really do expect that every once in a while you use your collective brains before jumping down the rabbit hole. Especially when the rabbit hole is more like a massive sink hole that just swallowed a city.
That’s Lefleche’s opening paragraph; his postscript is even better:
PS. Crossroads is saying in news stories that it is [in] Uganda spreading the almighty’s love and using federal money for specific objectives (digging well[s] and the like.) and not religious missionary work. It’s not a defense that is of much use. You don’t get to blast homosexuals at home, then take tax dollars and use them to do work in a country that is passing laws to kill gay people for being gay. You just don’t.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
Finally and good riddance, Ratzinger.
“Now,” according to the Montreal Gazette, “Canadians might have another question on their mind: Is one of their countrymen set to become the next pontiff?” I certainly hope not!
Marc Cardinal Ouellet is being touted as one of the likeliest candidates, perhaps even the favourite, to succeed Benedict.
Nobody rants at and about Canadian politicians and institutions better than Rick Mercer does. Here’s Mercers latest Rant:
Charity starts at home, but it stops with Vic.
h/t Ian Bushfield on Twitter
I’m only a qualified fan of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but this video clip makes me wish we Canadians could work out some kind of deal with our Commonwealth sister-nation of Australia that would involve exchanging heads of government for at least a year or two. No doubt there was an element of calculated public relations in Gillard’s decision to go ahead with this, but it still shows a commendable willingness to poke fun at flaky apocalypse-mongering. Without further ado I give you Julia Gillard, obligingly promoting an episode of a morning show called Breakfast with Tom & Alex on the Australian publicly-funded radio station triple j:
Rick’s Rant: Nobody does it better:
h/t: Ian Bushfield
I have not read the English writer Tim Holland’s recent book, In the Shadow of the Sword, but my interest has been piqued by a kerfuffle surrounding a related documentary that Holland apparently made for the UK’s feisty public broadcaster Channel 4. The documentary, called Islam: the Untold Story, triggered hundreds of complaints to Channel 4 and the regulatory body Ofcom. A brief review in The Telegraph provides some clues as to what aspects of the program viewers of a certain religious persuasion might have considered to be offensive, biased and/or inaccurate:
Here, by contrast, presenter Tom Holland took the brave step of applying the West’s own (admittedly more recent) traditions of scholarship and scepticism to Islam’s origins. What he found was rather surprising. In the 7th century, the Arabs did indeed roar out of their desert peninsula and conquer half the world. But in those days were they Muslims at all? And if so, why didn’t they, or anybody they conquered, mention the fact?
Clearly these are uncomfortable questions – and for a while Holland kept asking them without providing an answer. Eventually, though, he forced himself to come clean. No, those world-conquering Arabs probably weren’t Muslims. Only later did Islam appear, and possibly as a neat variation on the Roman use of religion to demonstrate God’s approval of their empire. Moreover, Prophet Mohammed’s life is a historical blank and for decades after his death, Mecca was a place of no special significance. Holland – who by now seemed to be involved in a game of How Far Can You Go? – did stop short of questioning whether Mohammed ever actually existed. But only just.
First of all, let me apologize for having been AWOL for a couple of weeks now. My life has been uprooted as my wife and I (and our cat of course) have moved up (very) north to teach in a small but beautiful village in Quebec. Things are beginning to settle so I’ll be getting back to posting and joining the conversations.
The week of our move I was sitting in traffic after a big day of shopping for extreme cold weather gear and dry goods when I peered over at a bus a couple of cars ahead to read the advertisement on the back to pass the time. However, it wasn’t so much an advertisement that I saw but instead a question – “Are you saved?” Saved from what,? This traffic? If that was the question then the answer was an emphatic “NO!”
Unfortunately despite my kidding around I knew right away what I was reading – a fundamentalist Christian bus campaign. At first I was quite ticked off and if I had to guess I’m sure I barked a couple things at the bus which no doubt would have looked pretty amusing to any of my fellow traffic sitters. But after giving myself a moment to be upset I quickly remembered that anyone who wants to buy some space on the side of a bus is allowed to because freedom of speech and expression is a beautiful thing. I put aside the fact that the CFI bus campaign was trying to get people to think and enjoy life and this campaign is clearly trying to frighten people into believing a certain doctrine. While beautiful, free speech is really frustrating sometimes.
But I digress. Reading on, the bus “advertisement” had a quote from Timothy (2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth) and a website – AreYouSaved.com, which really excited me because that meant I had homework but it also made the traffic even more frustrating.
Playboy’s interview with Richard Dawkins is described as a “candid conversation with the controversial atheist about the simple beauty of evolution, the improbability of God and why the pope should be arrested”:
PLAYBOY: Do you believe, as Christopher Hitchens did, that the pope should be arrested?
DAWKINS: Hitchens wrote me suggesting we should arrest him, but we soon gave up on the idea of literally making a citizen’s arrest by creeping up with handcuffs or something. Instead we asked Geoffrey Robertson, a distinguished human rights lawyer, to speak about the legal case against the pope for covering up pedophilia. He also looked at the alleged immunity of the pope from prosecution as the head of a state, calling into question the notion of the Vatican as a legitimate sovereign state. I responded to the pope’s uncalled-for truculence when he landed in Edinburgh. The first thing he said was to blame atheists for Hitler. Although I don’t blame the pope for being a member of the Hitler Youth, as he was very young, I felt this was pretty cheeky, really. If I were him I’d keep my head down over Hitler.
Readers familiar with the history of moral philosophy may dispute Dawkins’ answer to the next question:
PLAYBOY: What is your view of Jesus?
DAWKINS: The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy. (my emphasis)
The whole interview is available online.
h/t: Hemant Mehta
For those who are avidly watching the 2012 Olympics, please note: most of the Ottawa Citizen religion experts have decided not to compete in the religion question event. The question, “How can the Olympic motto — Faster, Higher, Stronger — apply to faith?” is either too difficult to hurdle or not worth the effort.
However, two experts did enter; it’s up to you to decide which expert won the gold:
Balpreet Singh: legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada
While the Olympics are about celebrating excellence in sport, faith must be about fostering and celebrating excellence in spirit. Faster, higher and stronger are all descriptors that apply to the goal of the Sikh faith with respect to human consciousness and spirit.
For Sikhs, the purpose of religion and faith has to be the upliftment of the spirit. In fact, the slogan of the Sikh faith is “Chardi Kala” or “ever-higher spirits.”
Jack Mclean: Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry
Spirituality in the world’s great religions is lived out in a variety of styles. These styles I view as being complimentary, not in conflict. The style of spirituality suggested to me in applying the Olympic motto to the life of faith would be a “spirituality of striving”. In secular terms, the slogan corresponds to “Try harder”, or to the school room admonition, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”