So a week or so back, Statistics Canada released the data from the 2011 National Household Survey (which is what we have to work with since the long-form census was scrapped). I took a look at the overall data regarding religion in a previous post, and now I’ll dig a little deeper into it. This time, I’ll take a look at the sex distribution. Continue reading
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By: Justin Trottier
While it’s always enjoyable to interact with fellow freethinkers and skeptics, there’s no better test of the validity of your point of view or the quickness of your wits than to be surrounded by an audience not already committed to your worldview.
This week I had the pleasure of joining a group in Toronto called Theology Pub. As you might have guessed, this is a gathering of religious believers who come together to eat, drink and chat all about the divine. It’s basically what we do at Skeptics in the Pub, except while we’re skeptical of God, they’re skeptical of skeptics. It would be neat to setup some sort of an exchange program.
I was there to discuss free speech and why atheists and Christians – and ultimately anyone seeking to put forward perspectives others might deem provocative – should come together to support the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
Theology Pub’s previous guests have included National Post religion editor Charlie Lewis and Drew Marshall, host of the Drew Marshall Show, Canada’s largest spirituality radio show. Having interacted with both on several occasions, (I appeared on Marshall’s show to discuss the Office of Religious Freedom the day before my Theology Pub appearance), I was relieved because Lewis and Marshall are not very hard core in their religiosity. On the other hand, following my presentation, the Pub’s next guest was to be an Intelligent Design proponent discussing Michael Behe. A bit of a mixed bag.
There were about 35 people in attendance, all Christian Protestants, some of whom were church leaders and most of whom were actively involved as volunteers in their religious community. Although several different denominations were represented, including Anglicans, Evangelicals and Presbyterians, the largest number seemed to Baptists.
I used the opportunity to learn a little about the governance (or lack thereof) of Baptist churches. Apparently, so long as a Church agrees to some basic principles, they are free to adopt the “Baptist” name, and there is little if any oversight from a central authority. In that context, I asked about the Westboro Baptist Church, the notoriously anti-gay “God hates fags” church composed essentially of Fred Phelps and his family. The response was “we have to suffer with them.”
The experience was overwhelmingly positive. Before I shared my remarks, my host and a few of his colleagues engaged with me in a very amicable and freewheeling discussion. They were very curious about my experiences as an advocate for skepticism and atheism, how the Centre for Inquiry was established in Canada, and they asked me a lot of questions about my personal motivations and aspirations.
The mechanics of the presentation itself were a little awkward, since I was to speak from my seat near the centre of a long table in the middle of a crowded and loud restaurant. To keep everyone’s focus, I was pivoting my head back and forth constantly for 20 minutes, the calisthenics almost giving me whiplash, my prepared remarks mostly sitting useless in my lap.
Following the talk, there were many questions about both free speech and my views in many other areas. The tone was of genuine curiosity and openness. We discussed how free speech and secularism in Canada compared to the United States, the UK and elsewhere, what, if any, limitations should be on freedom of speech, and what the main counter-arguments might be to my remarks (a great question we should all be asked more often).
Perhaps I should have expected a few curve-balls, likely in the form of moral foundation queries or evolution-related critiques, given the audience. But it did come as a surprise when asked to describe the framework for my sense of right and wrong, given that evolution’s “survival of the fittest” required us to ignore the plight of the weak and vulnerable. The argument was easily dispatched when I quickly responded that while evolution’s ethical implications seemed very important to the questioner, I would never base my moral principles on the simple and direct reading of evolutionary science. Those were the facts of nature, and while ethics must obviously keep those facts in mind, they do not dictate what we ought to do. He was trying to build an argument based on a flawed initial assumption. And before he could put the roof on top, down came his hastily constructed house of cards.
Another highlight of the discussion period was the sense of persecution from one gentleman who insisted Christians were subject to more censorship than were other groups. While I’m rarely moved by Christian protestations of rights violations, sensing a confusion of rights and privileges often at the core, especially in church-state cases, it is hard to argue that Christians aren’t more often brought before Human Rights Commissions for offensive or hateful speech, at least compared to members of other faiths who might also be guilty of such actions. There may be explanations for the discrepancy, but it’s not clear to me that they are good ones.
Free speech in Canada is always an urgently important topic. Two days after Theology Pub, the Supreme Court announced a ruling related to the constitutionality of human rights hate speech laws.
Participating in Theology Pub was quite a positive and even exhilarating experience with more than enough grilling to keep it interesting.
University of Quebec in Montreal professor François Audet documents an increase in funding for religious charities.
From March 2005 until 2010, according to Audet’s findings, the funding received by 57 religious non-profits surged to a collective $129 million from $90 million, a 42 per cent increase.
Funding for 141 secular NGOs over the same period increased to $237 million from $226 million, up 5 per cent.
By contrast, from 2001 until March 2005, when the Liberals were in power, funding to secular charities through CIDA increased by 27.1 per cent, while faith-based organizations got a boost of 4.6 per cent.
The study will be published in the Canadian Journal of Development Studies in May.
Hard to say if the government is specifically favouring religion or if religious charities are just taking advantage of existing charity laws to scoop up more government cash marked for foreign aid. But numbers don’t lie. If secular charities are shrinking or otherwise not performing, we could have a bigger problem as religions monopolize public goodwill.
Whatever the case, our focus should always be on removing religion as a charitable status. If all they want to do is build wells and sewers, religions can create a separate corporation under the same category as secular charities (i.e. a focus on alleviating poverty rather than the advancement of religion through alleviating poverty as is currently practiced)
Last week, I discussed B C Premier Christy Clark’s planned appearance at City in Focus’ Young Professionals Network‘s Faith and Politics event on February 5. I would have like to attend Clark’s talk; however, the event was live tweeted by CFI Vancouver and the Vancouver Sun reported, “Christy Clark stands up for her Anglican faith.” Ethan Clow, from CFI Vancouver, wrote a comprehension post for Radio Freethinker, and an email from Pat O’Brien added a few details.
One of the first #Faithandpolitics tweets announced,
The first Event hasn’t even started yet and I’m already disappointed. They will take written questions only.
Asking for written questions was a disappointment, and Ethan Clow reports,
The event unfolded the way I thought it would, however; Clark managed to surprise me a few times. I’ve seen cartoonishly bad characterizations of secularism before, but Clark really upped the ante this time.
One of the irritating assumptions she frequently made throughout the evening was assuming we were all God fearing people who attended church regularly.
Secularism is bad because some religious groups do nice things. (I’m paraphrasing there)
Clark believes government should spend public money on faith based organizations because those groups are the ones doing the good work in society. Helping the poor etc. (Perhaps she’s not aware of the all the good work being done the secular groups like Insite, the Vancouver Food Bank, or Unicef)
She also remarked that it’s tragic that more people don’t go to church.
In an email, Pat O’Brien had very little to add to Clow’s “excellent summary of the event.” He mentioned that Clark
kept referring to the Salvation Army (who were there in uniform) as a good example of how religions support the poor. In the Sally Ann’s case, only if you are straight, they will not allow same sex couple in their shelters, they also use that “Kettle Money” to lobby against same sex marriage and abortion.
Best of all, Clark said,
she does not care about those who criticize her because she has “faith” that she is doing the right thing. And then, as if from heaven, this morning a poll came out saying that 39% of BCers find her “Out of touch” with voters and over 30% found her “Arrogant”. The shoe fits.
There is a trouble abrewing on the libertarian front.
Or… maybe not trouble per se, maybe it’s just a guy thing. Seems only yesterday it was Sam Harris profiling his guns. Or something.
Ok, so here goes.
First Ophelia got upset with Michael. I can sympathize. Even if he was just making an observation… it was kinda a dumb thing to say.
Starting to sound familiar? Oh boy. Of course, there is more, but…meh.
Did I mention Sam Harris? Well Shermer is also playing at the ethics game, and Massimo is having none of it. I agree with Massimo. Read his blog, it is good.
Now, I have to say, the whole ‘war on’ stuff annoys me. It is silly rhetoric. But I do think there is a point to be made that both left and right can be scientifically challenged. Just in different ways.
We don’t have to agree on everything… rational people can disagree and should be able to do so… rationally.
Yesterday, Doug Thomas, president of Secular Connexion Séculaire, sent SCS members a copy of the text of an email he sent to John Baird:
Dear Minister Baird:
Given the report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) noting the increase in discrimination against non-believers around the world cited by Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail today* are you prepared to publicly include discrimination against and persecution of atheists and other non-believers in the mandate for the Office of Religious Freedom?
More and more atheists are being targetted for violent persecution in the very countries where you seem to deem it necessary to defend religious freedom.
Included in the email is a link to Doug Saunders article “As the non-religious grow in number, they become targets of hate and discrimination.” However, Saunders’ description of atheists is problematic:
They [atheists] may be the fastest-growing faith group in the world.
Of course, atheists are not a “faith group,” and Saunders is correct when he says,
And yet people who place their faith in the human rather than the spiritual may be growing faster in number than any other belief community.
but it would be better if Saunders had not used the words faith and belief that carry a distinctly religious connotation.
Saunders mentions Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious, which is available on the International Humanist and Ethical Union website and notes,
Canada earns censure in the report for its practice of providing public funding to religious schools, even where such schools discriminate against the non-religious. . . . Ontario is singled out for providing 100 per cent state funding for Roman Catholic separate schools, which, the report notes, “discriminate against non-Catholics in hiring staff” and “can also exclude non-Catholic children.”
It is important that the IHEU mentions Ontario and Canada, because the ruling federal party in Canada, committed to promoting freedom of religion abroad, is not committed to promoting freedom from religion for its non-religious citizens.
In the video below, 600tongues examines Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom and how the office will protect the rights and freedoms of non-believers:
h/t for video: Godless Poutine
Enjoy this video of
Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland, speaking at the human rights implementation meeting of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) on October 1st 2012. Atheist Ireland is seeking an end to discrimination against atheists, and an end to blasphemy laws internationally:
You have rights: your beliefs do not
would look great on a T-shirt!
h/t: Eschaton 2012 Tweet