Press Release: “AFT Denounces Draft Bill 59”

Atheist Freethinkers shared the following press release with Canadian Atheist:

AFT logo

For immediate release
AFT Denounces Quebec’s Draft Bill 59 at Ontario Non-Believers’ Convention

Montreal, 21st August 2015 — Tomorrow in Kitchener, Ontario a major convention for non-believers, the “Non-Conference,” will feature issues of importance to atheists, humanists and secularists. Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT), an association which promotes secularism and supports the rights of atheists, will be represented by its president David Rand on a panel discussing the international campaign to repeal all laws which criminalize blasphemy, including Canada’s antiquated law prohibiting “Blasphemous Libel.”

Mr. Rand will also denounce the Quebec government’s plan to introduce legislation, draft Bill 59, which is a major threat to freedom of expression and fundamental human rights and would be equivalent to a new anti-blasphemy law at the provincial level. This Bill 59, whose declared purpose is “to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence,” would grant sweeping new powers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse or CDPDJ), allowing it to initiate investigations on its own without having received a complaint, to receive complaints anonymously without protecting the anonymity of the accused, to suppress speech before completion of an investigation, to impose exorbitant fines and to publish a list of the “guilty” on the internet.

“This legislation, if adopted, will effectively criminalize legitimate criticism of religions and other ideologies, whereas the Commission should instead be protecting the right to express such ideas as an essential element of any healthy democracy,” says David Rand.

In addition to draft Bill 59, the Quebec government simultaneously introduced an action plan, ostensibly to fight against “radicalization” but which blames this phenomenon not on the obvious cause of radical Islamist propaganda, but rather on so-called “Islamophobia.” In the words of Mr. Rand, “By putting all Muslims in the same basket and claiming that anti-Muslim prejudice is the motivator, not the result, of radical Islam, the Couillard government is completely at odds with reality. Worse still, in combination with Bill 59, it is giving preferential treatment to religions in general and to Islam in particular by protecting them from criticism.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Reach us by email

David Rand, bulletin at atheology.ca
Jaque Parisien, jaque.parisien at gmail.com

www.atheology.ca

Uncivil Warring

I don’t understand the common obsession with everything Kardashian. Now, it’s not that I don’t have my guilty pleasures, my taste in music for instance, is crap. I have always liked crappy pop songs, and I probably don’t want to hear x band’s first album… before they went mainstream…

Maybe I am just gettin old, but the idea of dumping your private life onto the internet, for mass consumption, seems not only narcissistic, but also masochistic. Why anyone would want fame at all… I don’t know. (I am happy to accept cash, but it will have to be the real kind, as we don’t monetize your clicks here at CA)

I guess this is a strange attitude for a sometime blogger, as quite a lot of my kind lean towards the reality tv drama model of blogging. This manifested recently over at Freethought Blogs. They had a bit of a civil war and lost a couple soldiers in the process (as of this writing, Ophelia Benson and Ed Brayton are no longer with FtB). The short version: Ophelia Benson made some comments, that some commenters and some of her fellow bloggers as well, interpreted as meaning ‘transwomen are not women’. I won’t get into the details, its a convoluted mess of accusations and counter accusations.
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Joint Open Letter to Bangladeshi PM and President

we-are-bangla-humanists-space-flag

On Wednesday, August 18, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) was pleased to announce in a press release that a “Huge alliance protests government response to Bangladesh blogger murders“:

Following a string of brutal “machete” murders of Bangladeshi writers, all of whom had blogged about humanism, secularism, and atheist critiques of religion, a groundbreaking open letter today (Wednesday) calls on the Bangladeshi government to stop “victim-blaming” the bloggers, and instead focus on catching the extremists who are murdering them.

The letter accuses authorities of “making matters worse” after the most recent murder, of blogger Niladri Chatterjee (pen name Niloy Neel) on 7 August. First, the Inspector General of Police condemned the killings, but went on to tell bloggers, “Do not cross the limit. Do not hurt anyone’s religious belief”, and suggested that more bloggers criticisng religion and advocating humanism would be arrested under the country’s online communications laws. The sentiments were repeated by the Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, as well as the Home Minister, a stand which the open letter describes as state institutions engaging in “victim-blaming”. The police also said those named on new Islamist militant “hit lists”, including bloggers, poets and academics, should “lodge a police complaint” if they thought they were being “followed”, an approach summed up in the letter as a “grossly inadequate, highly negligent response to what is evidently a most serious and potentially fatal threat.”

As the IHEU press release points out, “What makes the letter so groundbreaking is the list of supporters.” The list of supporters is available at the end of the letter, and as one of the signatories to the “Joint open letter to Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh,” I am pleased to see so many signatures from individual Canadians, Canadian bloggers and Canadian organizations:

Alice Klein — President, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, CJFE
Alex Zakreski — Member, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression – CJFE
Brendan de Caires — Programs & Communications Coordinator, PEN Canada
David Rand — President, Libres penseurs athées – Atheist Freethinkers, Canada
Hasan Mahmud — Advisory Board Member, World Muslim Congress; General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada
Ian Bushfield — Executive Director British Columbia Humanist Association
Sean McGuire — Blogger, My Secret Atheist Blog
Sheila Ayala — Secular Ontario
The Board of Directors of Humanist Canada
Ontario Humanist Society

The “Open Letter” in English and Bangla makes it very clear to Bangladeshi PM and President that the signatories are

concerned members of the blogging and activist community of Bangladesh and internationally, along with representatives of human rights organisations and other civil society organisations and supporters, wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the institutional attack on Bangladeshi citizens who profess humanist, atheist or secularist views.

and implore Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid to

• ensure the safety and security of those individuals whose lives are threatened by Islamist extremists, including the witnesses and family members

•instruct the police to find the killers, not to harass or blame the victims

•disassociate yourself publicly from those who call for death penalties against non-religious Bangladeshis, and ensure using your executive authority that individuals within your party membership maintain the same standard of respect for freedom of conscience and expression

•work decisively for legal reform to repeal Section 295A of the Penal Code and section 57 of the ICT Act of 2006, in order to bring the legal system of Bangladesh in line with the spirit and values of freedom of expression and ‘of conscience’ as enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and as per obligations under the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is party.

The “Open Letter” points out,

People must be able to discuss and debate religion and politics, beliefs and practices. If they cannot, then injustice, fear and violence will reign.

However, lest Canadians become too complacent as they support freedom of expression in Bangladesh, they need to be reminded that Canada has a blasphemy law; Bill 59: “Quebec’s Proposed Anti-Hate Speech Bill Is Cause For Concern,” and Rassemblement pour la laïcité has condemned the pretence of state secularism proposed by the Couillard government.

Canadians are not immune to threats against their freedom to discuss and debate religion and politics, beliefs and practices.

John Oliver Deliciously Excoriates Televangelists

John Oliver spends 20 glorious minutes excoriating televangelists in his latest Last Week Tonight segment. I expected him to highlight the obvious John Oliver Taking on Televangelistslavish lifestyles of televangelists and Oliver did so wonderfully by showing clips of the likes of  Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar (the guy who started a fund for a 65 million dollar plane), Mike Murdock (who bought several lavish planes) and Kenneth Copeland (who asked his followers to help him buy a 20 million dollar jet) all unabashedly asking their flock to donate to their luxurious airplane causes.

But Oliver revealed something I didn’t expect: the truly despicable and slightly psychopathic Prosperity Principle. In short, wealth is seen as a sign of God’s favour and those who donate money will see wealth come back to them. Televangelists exploit the Prosperity Principle in the form of “Seed Faith” (donations = seeds you get to harvest). Oliver shows examples of televangelists predatorily imploring people with credit card debt (people who clearly don’t have the extra funds) to hand over any money ear marked for debt repayment because God will take this seed money and wipe out their debt! Not the best investment strategy and Oliver amusingly points out that participating in this type of “investment” is tantamount to suggesting that:

The key to you losing weight lies in the bottom of this giant COSTCO bulk bag of peanut butter M&Ms! Go find it; it’s definitely down there!

While you may think that a fool and his money are easily parted, these televangelists are preying on vulnerable people: the poor and the sick, including Bonnie Parker, who chose to “sew” money into Kenneth Copeland’s ministry instead of treating her cancer. She died believing that the greater amount of money she “sewed”, the greater chance she had of a miraculous recovery. It really saddens me when people choose malarky over proven medical treatment, eschewing the rewards of living in a scientifically advanced civilization for dark age charlatanism. Gloria Copeland’s words are an affront to modern society:

We know what’s wrong with you; you’ve got cancer. The bad news is, we don’t know what to do about it except give you some poison that will make you sicker. Now, which do you want to do? Do you want to do that or do you want to sit here on Saturday morning, hear the word of God and let faith come into your heart and be healed? Hallelujah.

Wow. That’s a lot of psychopathy to take in all at once! It’s one thing to really believe in woo and to think you are doing legitimate good even though you are doing terrible bad. But, this woman is preaching these lies to line her coffers; she doesn’t really care one way or another if the inflicted watching the show find a cure to their illness or not, as long as they send in their “seed money”.

Oliver goes on to expose the tax free status of church donations and ultimately and hilariously creates his own church. Watch the whole clip – it’s very entertaining despite the maddening details Oliver brings to light. The only disappointing part is when Oliver introduces the segment, he carefully points out that his attack on churches will not include those that help the poor and perform other charitable acts. I take his point that there are churches who do genuinely good deeds, but they still enjoy the same tax-free, audit-lite status the televangelists enjoy, all the while shoving their beliefs onto vulnerable people, while non-religious charitable organizations, void of any preachy impetus fill-in reams of paperwork each year to maintain their non-profit status.

Why I Am No Longer an Atheist

Guest post by BillyBob

The word atheism is simplistic and confusing. Atheists get asked facile questions like “are you a hard or soft atheist?” or “how do you know atheism is accurate and correct?” and many variations of these questions. It is a waste of time answering that atheism is not the position that god does not exist but simply the position that there is insufficient evidence to believe a god or gods exist. Most people do not know this definition, and religious apologists ignore or misrepresent it. For this reason I am no longer an atheist; I am now an evidentialist.

My definition

evidentialist: an individual whose world view is “that which is confirmed by evidence to exist, exists; that which is not confirmed by evidence to exist does not exist”

evidentialist: will accept any material object, observable force, being or creature if there is direct evidence for its existence. Any claim of something existing that is not substantiated with evidence is deemed false.

Examples

Bigfoot is deemed not to exist as there is no confirmed evidence proving its existence. If a bigfoot were captured, it would then be deemed to exist.

Ra the sun god is deemed not to exist as there is no confirmed evidence proving its existence.

Dark matter will be accepted when scientists confirm it. That there are unexplained gravitational forces is accepted, and when experiments confirm them to be dark matter, it will be accepted.

The supernatural is deemed not to exist as there is no confirmed evidence proving its existence.

Homeopaths claim water has memory. Water memory is deemed not to exist as there is no confirmed evidence proving its existence. When a peer reviewed experiment shows water has memory, then water memory will be deemed to exist.

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