“You cannot . . .”

220px-Stradano_Inferno_Canto_08

The fifth circle, illustrated by Stradanus Source: Wikipedia is.gd/lkJV8D

You cannot” is a command that can evoke the opposite response: “I can, and I will,” especially when this command is uttered by the man Paul Fidalgo (affectionately?) refers to as “Pope Fluffy.”

The nickname “Pope Fluffy” is reminiscent of the rhyme “Fuzzy Wuzzy“:

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,

Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy,

was he?

“Pope Fluffy” is best ignored, but not everyone agrees. Ron Lindsay President & CEO, Center for Inquiry, Transnational, decided to respond to “Pope Fluffy”‘s widely publicized assertion that “there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith” with a Huffington Post article that makes it clear that

Pope Francis is wrong.

Of course, Pope Fluffy is wrong, so why waste the time paper and ink to tell him so?

Today, Mr. Deity published an equally redundant but more profane response to Pope Fluffy’s

morally reprehensible comments regarding the violence in Paris against the satirists at the French weekly, Charile Hebdo.

 

I can, but I won’t discuss or criticize Jorge Mario Bergoglio (“Pope Fluffy”). He should be ignored until he fades into oblivion or into one of Dante’s circles of hell.

John Baird Speaks Out: Finally

Yesterday, CTV News announced,

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has publicly denounced the flogging of a Saudi blogger, calling for clemency in the case.

In his statement Baird says

“Canada is deeply concerned by the public flogging of Raif Badawi. This punishment is a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression, and we call for clemency in this case.”

We call for clemency? No, we want the flogging to stop; we want Raif Badawi released and allowed to come to Canada to join his wife and children:

Raif Badawi’s wife and children live in Quebec.

Marc Garneau (Liberal foreign affairs critic) and Paul Dewar (NDP foreign affairs critic) urged Baird to make a statement, and International Development Minister Christian Paradis said,

the case is complicated because he is not a Canadian citizen.

Complicated? It’s not complicated! Raif Bawadi is a citizen of the world: a thousand tongue lashings for anyone or any country that punishes bloggers for speaking their mind.

We can all help Raif Bawad:  Amnesty’s global human rights blog suggests “Five ways you can help Raif Badawi.”

I Am Bernard Drainville

CBC News Montreal reports “Bernard Drainville set to release new secular charter proposal.” According to CBC, Drainville

is set to introduce Thursday what he’s calling “Charter 2.0” this week, to regulate issues like secularism in the public service.

It is no secret that I supported the earlier Quebec Charter of Values. I will continue to support what Drainville calls “a charter to fight against ‘fundamentalism.’” The CBC article goes on to say,

Reports say this new proposal would exclude universities from any religious dress code.

It would also include a so-called “grandfather clause” to allow current government employees to continue wearing religious symbols.

Drainville said other aspects like the ban on religious symbols for public daycare and school employees will remain a key part of the plan.

“The subsidized private daycare centres are important and they always were,” he said.

“Children do not have to be exposed to religious influence.”

The introduction of a “grandfather clause” is a disappointment. I agree with Sean McGuire from My Secret Atheist Blog when he says,

the grandfather clause seems weasely to me: either allow them or do not allow them!

Drainville’s statement,

“Children do not have to be exposed to religious influence.”

should be brought to the attention of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: the premier who continues to use tax dollars to fund a public but separate Catholic school system.

An Atheist’s Perspective on Cancer

When the new gods and the old meet to battle in Neil Gaiman’s book, American Gods, one new god appears as a tumour with scalpels sticking out of it. It seems uncanny to suggest that a tumour belongs in a pantheon of new deities but, we do tend to treat tumours, and the cancer they represent, as gods or demons; cancer is either a journey, a blessing, and a gift or something hellish to battle as soldiers.

Cancer isn’t a journey, blessing, gift or battle. It is a serious illness that requires the attention of both experts (technicians, doctors, nurses, researchers) and friends (supporters, advocates). It may help some people to take on the positive battle language, but the downside is the people who lose the battle or can’t see it as a blessing feel that their disease is their fault for not having more cancer appropriate thoughts!

In mid November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found the lump, by chance, at the end of October. I had a partial mastectomy (aka lumpectomy) and sentinel node biopsy in mid December. Last week I got back the pathology report which showed the best outcome I could have hoped for: a cancer that is stage 1, grade 1 (i.e.: slow moving with no lymph node involvement) and a tumour that is estrogen and progesterone positive (something that is highly treatable with hormone therapy).

I’m praying for you

I had many prayers from all different faiths. I have no problem with people praying for me as it is more a comfort for them than it is an intervention for me, but I feel stressed when a believer, who knows I am an atheist, tells me this; it feels like the believer doesn’t respect me for who I am. In most cases, believers are just trying to say they are thinking of me and hope things turn out okay but, some take illness as a an opportunity to subtly evangelize. Pray if you want, but just tell the atheist you care for her and are there for her. If you want to know what to say to someone with a serious illness, take a look at Lisa Adams’s suggestions. She has Stage IV breast cancer and she has been dealing with her illness for quite some time. I really like this part:

Don’t tell them that their science-based treatments are bunk and what they really need to be doing is just changing their diet, breathing pure oxygen, or relieving their constipation to be cured of cancer.

Which brings me to the next thing I heard a lot.

So and so Cured Her Cancer By (insert bullshit here)

If you are an atheist, you may also embrace science and reason, so addressing the various woo thrown your way can really drain you. One example is Suzanne Somers and how she said no to chemotherapy and embraced an alternative solution that cured her! Guess what! Suzanne Somers had the same cancer I have and she decided to have a lumpectomy, and radiation but to skip chemotherapy because it only gave her a small survival advantage. Her alternative treatment contributed nothing to her cancer free status and it was the conventional treatment (lumpectomy, radiation) that saved her. How many people with more aggressive or more widely spread cancers has Suzanne Somers inadvertently killed? For a detailed take down of Suzanne Somers’s claims see here and here.

Related to the alternative medicine phenomenon is the other lefty fallacy also known as, those studies you read are probably wrong because they’re financed by big pharma! This forces the ailing atheist to explain how peer review works, how various scientists attempt to reproduce the experiments to see if they get the same results, how the results are discredited if they don’t, how you can tell a good study from a bad one and how the researchers must declare their biases. This is how we know, for example, that Stanislaw Burzynski’s alternative treatments are bunk. Depending on the atheist, constant educating can be draining. I actually didn’t mind too much if the person on the other end genuinely listened, but it would become too much to handle if I had to do this over and over.

Positive Attitude

As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, an attitude about cancer has turned into what Barbara Ehrenreich calls the fetishization of breast cancer in her book, Bright-sided. You will recognize the key words and phrases: kick cancer’s ass, survivor, fighter, battle. Sorry to say but, a pugnacious personality has nothing to do with a patient’s prognosis. It’s mostly luck (catching the cancer early) and science (surgery, adjuvant therapy). Besides, what does this say of all the thousands of people who die of cancer each year? That they didn’t have the right attitude? That it was all their fault? Again, this is where dualism is dangerous. You aren’t a being slumped behind tired eyes; your brain and body are one organism. One ailing organism. You can’t think yourself well! In fact, it’s probably better to acknowledge your feelings and surround yourself with people who support you; it certainly made all the difference for me.

It’s great if people find something positive in their dastardly disease, but cancer doesn’t have some universal cryptic meaning and no one gives it to you so you can uncover some life lesson (and if your deity did he’s probably a psychopath). Often, when it isn’t the result of something obviously environmental: smoking, breathing in asbestos, ingesting radium, it happens for reasons that can’t easily be explained; maybe a cosmic ray hit you at the wrong time or you just had some really weird cellular mitosis.

Take a look at Lisa Adams’s post about the stupid things people say to those with cancer. I can relate to these ones in particular:

“Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.”
“We just need a miracle for you.”
“If anyone can beat this, you can.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“It’s all part of a larger plan.”
“You’re only given what you can handle.”
“All you need to do is think positive.”
“Half the battle is the mindset. Be determined to beat cancer and you will.”

Although the long waits between pathology results were excruciating, I got lucky: I found the tumour in its early stages, I live in a wealthy country where access to medical care is very good and I had a good surgeon. Radiation and other adjuvant therapies are not going to be easy, but things certainly could have been much, much worse. No deity saved or cursed me and the support of friends and family, not a fighting attitude, got me through the tougher times.

Take Action for Human Rights

Update: @6:15 pm for those in or near Ottawa:

CFI Canada has received an invitation to participate a 30-minute demonstration at the Saudi embassy in Ottawa (201 Sussex Drive). Amnesty International Canada is leading this initiative on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm.

For more info see CFIOttawa Meetup at http://www.meetup.com/CFI-ottawa/events/219812213/ or contact Amnesty International Canada toll free at 1-800-266-3789

 

AmInt

www.amnesty.ca

Amnesty International Canada asks you to “Get Involved: Take Action Now” by signing its petition to

His Excellency Naif Bandir A. Alsudairy, Ambassador for Saudi Arabia

Your Excellency:

Everyone has the right to peacefully express their beliefs and opinions. No one should be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for any reason. Amnesty International believes Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We call on your government to:

Drop all charges against Raif Badawi, and release him without delay or conditions on his freedom.

Until he is free, please ensure that Raif Badawi is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, including his sentence of flogging.

More than 43,000 people have signed the petition.

YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED NOW >>

The petition in French, “LIBEREZ RAIF BADAWI! IL A DROIT A SON OPINION,” addressed to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud is much more eloquent and emphatic: please sign it as well.

LE DÉBAT N’EST PAS UN CRIME!

La liberté d’expression est un droit

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