The religion that cried “wolf”

Those of you new to the blog may be unaware that I also contribute to Canadian Atheist, a group blog made up of a diverse group of atheists from across the country. It’s a good group, and I often get a chance to go full anti-theist and vent there in a way that I don’t like doing here. Today, I wrote this:

Okay, this is just getting ridiculous now. Those of you that know me best from my work decrying racist attitudes and unraveling the code of “politely” racist statements know that I have a fairly well-developed radar for bigotry. I am not one to shrink from making the call, even in those circumstances where the room is against me and I am forced to explain myself in excruciating detail. Racism is a serious problem, and I think we should be devoting more time and attention to it, not less.

If you’ve been involved in discussions of race-based (or really, any other kind of) bigotry, it’s a good chance that you’ve been accused at some point of being “the real racist”. The argument goes something like this: if everyone just acted like race wasn’t important, it would all of a sudden cease to be a factor. I will not bother detailing the number of reasons why this position is stupid - it’s the Wile E. Coyote school of debate…

Go read the rest of the article, and be sure to check out the high quality contributions of my co-authors. Since I don’t have to be impartial, I will take this opportunity to give a particular shoutout to Ian Bushfield, a fellow Vancouver skeptic whose writing I always find insightful and persuasive.

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Both sides of the coin

Most people who support a woman’s right to choose when to have children call themselves just that – pro choice. While most rankle at the lazy characterization of “pro-abortion”, I’m personally okay with it. I am for abortion access. I think every time someone makes the choice to have a child it should be celebrated, and every time someone decides that now is not the right time, that’s a smart move too. I feel no sense of moral panic at the consequences of my stance. Anyone who would use abortion as birth control (the religious right’s nighmare scenario) isn’t someone I want raising a child, not even as some kind of twisted form of ‘just deserts’ punishment.

As I’ve explained before, it is wildly inaccurate to call the opposite side – the anti-choice side – anything else. They’re not “anti-abortion”, since restrictions on abortion do not reduce the overall number of abortions. And they’re not “pro-life”, because when women seek out abortion services outside of a licensed medical practitioner, the results can be fatal: [Read more...]

A surprising story (and a not-so-surprising one)

If you’ve been with the blog from the beginning, you know that I’m not really a fan of Malawi. From their persecution of ‘witches’, to their attitude about polygamy (that women should be under the protection of a man, so men should marry as many women as possible), to their backwards policy about homosexuality - let’s just say that Malawi is not the most progressive place in the world. I don’t know why, aside from the fact that most places in the developing world haven’t yet moved beyond the traditions and superstitions of a pre-scientific age (owing in no small part to the fact that many don’t have access to education), and perhaps the more pervasive influence of religion in that region.

Whatever the various causes, Malawi is not a place where you expect to hear a strong statement of enlightenment princples. Which is why I was so flabbergasted to read this: [Read more...]

Empower Health: Week 1

So last week I noticed, with more than a little consternation, that the Vancouver Sun has begun publishing a feature it calls Empower Health:

Better health is not a destination. Your health is a journey of small steps, things you can do to improve your mental and physical well-being.

Empowered Health is a new locally produced television program that shows you the path to better health with weekly tips on eating better, improving your fitness and navigating the minefield of the health care system and the dozens of complementary and alternative therapies and practices.

Those of you who don’t know much about Vancouver aside from the excellent work that the Vancouver Skeptics do here may be unaware that it is a city full of woo-woo nonsense. One can’t walk a city block without stumbling over a reflexologist or a chiropractor or some other snake-oil peddler trying to separate fools from their money. Because Vancouver has a large population of young, well-educated and upwardly mobile people, it has succumbed to the stereotypical west-coast syndrome of buying wholesale into “alternative” practices. Add to that a large immigrant population bringing practices from their countries of origin and a well-developed sense of fascination with anything “exotic”, and you have a perfect recipe for this kind of hucksterism.

Now, ordinarily the only thing I read the Sun for is local news and Canucks coverage, but I figured I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a local skeptic if I didn’t take a swing at the glass jaw they’re dangling out there. So I will try, every week, to digest the claims made in these articles. [Read more...]

Kiva Project update

I received this e-mail last night:

This is an update on your loan to Gulshan Mammadova in Azerbaijan.

Thanks to you and 95 other Kiva Lenders, the $2,550.00 loan request in Azerbaijan has been 100% funded.

This loan will be used for the purpose of: to purchase cleaning solutions

Over the 20 months of this loan, Kiva’s Field Partner in Azerbaijan, Komak Credit Union, will be collecting repayments from this entrepreneur and posting progress updates on the Kiva website.

Thanks for lending to the world’s working poor on Kiva!

Start dreaming up plans for the next project, Cromrades! I will have information about how much revenue your hits have generated coming in the next couple of weeks.

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Welcome a new friend

It brings me great pleasure (and no small amount of personal satisfaction) to welcome Natalie Reed to the FTBorg collective:

My name is Natalie Reed, and I’m newly arrived here to Freethought Blogs. Before this move, I was a writer for the Skepchick network, and managing editor for sister siteQueereka. I’m young and grossly unqualified, but people seem to enjoy what I do. “What I do” generally being posts on trans and queer issues, gender, sexuality and so on from a skeptical, secular perspective.

I’m probably just going to go right on doing more or less the same sort of thing here at FTB, though the fact that I now have my own little niche, and will be posting on a more regular basis, will allow me to quickly start branching out into other areas as well. I’d love to start discussing LGBTQ issues in a more general sense, and also start covering other areas of particular interest to me, such as addiction and mental health issues, Canadian stuff (helping out my lovely colleagues Crommunist and the Lousy Canuck), feminism in general, some of my “hobbies” like linguistics, literature and neuroscience, and also some of my own takes on atheism, skepticism, humanism and related subjects. Maybe even some “traditional” skeptic topics like alt-med, God, conspiracy theories and cryptids, too!

Natalie is a fellow Vancouverite (I can already hear the mid-western USA contingent quaking with fear and anger as the left coast crew makes its presence known), and a personal friend of mine so I’m thrilled to have her as a colleague here. Warning: she is very good at what she does. Second warning: if you desert me for her I will be very sad.

Anyway, it’s a good day for FTB, a good day for Natalie, and a good day for all of you. Go say hello AND THEN COME RIGHT BACK BECAUSE I WILL MISS YOU WHILE YOU’RE GONE *pant, pant*. Wow… went a lil’ nuts there.

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Economists and Ethics

It’s something of an inevitability that when the various heinous acts of corporations are brought to light, the Economists march out in lock-step to explain to the dissenters A) how emotional and irrational the dissenters are acting and B) sure, isn’t this the best possible thing that could be happening for ‘those people’?

This line of thinking was most recently articulated by Paul Krugman in The Slate. I want to focus on the two main points of this article: 1) the lie being presented that this is the best possible choice we could make given “the alternative”, and 2) the objection to this is being made on purely emotional grounds (i.e. there are no rational grounds to this objection) [Read more...]

Standing on the shoulders of assholes

First of all, I need to apologize for the visual that is now in your head (or will be shortly) of an asshole with shoulders. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of colliding metaphors. Here’s something to cleanse your mental palate:

Many of us (myself included) have had the decidedly unpleasant experience of expressing the unpopular opinion in the room and getting just piled on by dissenters. You think that there may be a position that deserves exploration, that isn’t being discussed or considered. There’s a gaping hole in the logic of the room, and you’re apparently the only person who sees it. This group-think, by circumventing your clear counter-example, is leading people to draw erroneous and potentially harmful conclusions about the topic at hand. It’s up to you to show the room the error of their ways, so you carefully craft a bulletproof refutation of the central tenets of the argument, or provide an insightful counterexample that is sure to immediately change everyone’s minds. Then you sit back and let the accolades for your erudite and clear thinking roll in. [Read more...]