Toronto Streetcar Party Tickets Now on Sale!

Posted by Chris on February 28th, 2009
atheistbus

TTC Streetcars - Toronto

Tickets to the Toronto streetcar party are now available for purchase! We’re selling single tickets for $20 and tickets for two cost $30. There’s a limited quantity available for purchase so buy soon before we sell out!

The evening will include a ride around downtown Toronto on a TTC streetcar and also a chance for people to mingle, talk, and party at the Centre for Inquiry. We will have drinks and food available for purchase. To buy a ticket and read more about the event details, visit http://streetcar.atheistbus.ca. Please remember to read through all of the instructions first!

We will also have music at our party and on the streetcar so if you are attending and want to request a song, do so now by posting a comment below! We can’t promise we will play all requested songs but we will try. There will be a wide audience of people with many different tastes in music so please keep that in mind.

Ticket holders will also have an opportunity to take pictures of the streetcar with our ad, so bring your camera!

On a side note, if you are in the business of making pizza and other foods that can be easily and quickly served to our party guests, we’d love to hear from you. We are willing to advertise your business on our website in exchange for a decent discount. Our website receives hundreds and sometimes thousands of hits every day to make any discount worth while. If interested, please email chris{at}atheistbus.ca.

Bringing Atheism & Secular Ethics Debate to Halifax: Haligonians Offer Warm Support, Cold Reception and Everything in Between

Posted by Justin on February 26th, 2009

I feel caught up in a whirlwind. The last 2 days in Halifax has involved tons of presentations, interviews and meetings – and little by way of sleep.

Arriving in the city as Tuesday was dawning, I immediately headed for my hotel to put some finishing touches on (alright, to get started on) my remarks for the Silent Rally for Free Speech that was planned for noon outside city hall.

Before making it to the rally Derek Rodgers (Halifax spokesperson and organizer with the Dalhousie Atheist Community) and I had a rather long (and equally annoying) appearance on Maritime Morning with Andrew Krystal. This was without a doubt the most surreal radio experience I’ve had. Derek and I were put through an intense defense of the campaign by Mr. Krystal, but after an hour of that I still can’t pinpoint where he stands on the issue. Clearly he thinks it’s odd we’d be promoting our atheistic position. He mentioned more then a few times that if you believe in no God, you would have no reason to be an activist. And he was convinced that Christians – not atheists – were marginalized in this country (I think he must be a devotee of Michael Coren).

But more then anything else, it would appear his show simply thrives on controversy and yelling matches and that is what he wanted to spark. He was quite happy to be able to get one supportive caller and one angry caller to square off against each other. Great radio, if not terribly conducive to a productive dialogue. This was the first time I was on a radio show to which a significant majority of callers offered strong criticism of our campaign, reaffirming for me how important the choice of Halifax was. Some were just insulting, calling Derek and I “young men” who must be in our “early thirties.” I won’t divulge any ages but let’s just say that’s still some way off for me and significantly off for Derek.

One woman called in to defend a previous caller, insisting we had been rude to her. When we defended ourselves she said, “well you’re irritating me” and promptly hung up on us. Towards the end I recall being asked what my parents thought of this campaign and whether they were offended by what we were doing. That one threw both Derek and I off at first. But it was indicative of the general tone, which fluctuated between criticism of our disrespect and disrespect for our criticism. Here’s the full audio for your enjoyment/irritation.

Although Metro Transit in Halifax banned the ads on buses, the Rally itself was unopposed and went very smoothly, despite being so close to the offices of some very strong politicians and detractors.

The event was covered by 16 media outlets (at least that’s how many microphones were shoved in my face). In fact, the ratio of media to protesters was 1:1. As we were preparing, one reporter called me over to inquire, referring to the bible, as to whether we had purposefully planned to have precisely 12 individuals holding posters. Thankfully, a few more people promptly showed up. The modest turn out was unavoidable given the tight timeline we had to work within and the weather of the day. Nevertheless, we were able to get every protester – with the exception of Derek and I – behind a big banner bearing our slogan, with their mouths taped shut. A placard was held up behind the slogan:

This is What Metro Transit is Protecting You From

Not more then five hours later, the story was already reported on CBC.ca – Protesters Cry Censorship in Atheist Bus Ad. Other media soon followed, including a front page story in The Chronicle Herald with a large picture at the top with our banner. Some other reports included: Athiests bring duct-taped disappointment to city hall (which mispelled Atheists but managed to get my name right) and Rally for atheist bus ads

Long desiring a Free Speech Rally, ever since the inauguration of the Centre for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression, this was one of the proudest moments of my life.

I had very little time to soak it all in though, as I was rushed back to my hotel to prepare for the evening’s talk. This was a short speech building on the situation with the ad campaign but going much further and discussing censorship and attacks on free expression at local, national and international levels in many areas. A transcript of the full speech – Local, National and International Threats to our Fundamental Freedom – is available here. The talk rolled nicely into an organizing meeting for the Dalhousie Atheist Community. I would encourage any on or off campus supporters to get in touch with this very well run and ambitious organization. They have some great activities planned. Sylvia Browne beware.

Back at my hotel that evening, I quickly got to work to prepare for my debate – Can We Be Good Without God, hosted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs – scheduled for Wednesday evening. I emerged from my hotel room only once over the course of the next 20 hours. That was a pre-debate debate at the CBC (just down the road from where I was staying) and an excellent opportunity to plug the evening’s event as well as for I and my fellow debater Eric Beresford, President of Atlantic School of Theology to meet and learn a little about each other.

The exchange was quite productive and amicable and it set me at ease that the evening would be the same. One question for which I really had no good answer was, to paraphrase, what yardstick to you use to judge right actions? Busy reading everything on philosophy and science that touched on ethics, I wasn’t ready for this practical question regarding my own personal decision making. Thankfully both Dr. Beresford and I quickly agreed the question was just not amenable to an easy answer. After all, most philosophers if they agree on anything in ethics, it’s that there is no such a thing as an objective all purpose yardstick for such judgments on individual actions.

It was a real pleasure engaging with Dr. Beresford, who was kind enough to take me on a short tour of downtown Halifax, pointing out some locations he recommended I visit while in town. His organization – the Atlantic School of Theology – had submitted an Editorial supporting the atheist bus campaign. Another religious ally.

The debate that evening was composed and measured. I fear it may have been too low key for our organizers, who understandably were hoping for more disagreement. There were of course a few key areas where we had some seemingly fundamental dispute.

One example is whether individualism or community identity was supreme. We each insisted on the importance of both, but my argument was that any ethical system ought to be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members and if group rights were protected at the expense of those within the group – and here I’m referring mostly to children – who have little choice and opportunity to leave, then that is problematic. An emphasis on individual and universal human rights must reign supreme.

We also argued but then came to a consensus of sorts on the universality of science to approach questions outside its usual sphere, such as love and ethics. The last point I made to that issue was that while science might be the best method we’ve developed to understand really anything and everything, love and ethics (through its evolutionary underpinnings) included, that to implement that knowledge, such as in building loving relationships and building actual ethical systems, that here science is not appropriate.

A defense of the scientific method was also given. Carl Sagan was invoked to explain science’s built in tension between acceptance for consideration of all new ideas and, paradoxically, great skepticism of novelty. By lying between those extremes, it is hard to conceive of anything like fundamentalist science.

Hard to believe I’ve only been in Halifax for 2 days. Today time will finally be dedicated to visiting the city itself which until now has been but a backdrop on all these activities. But a city that has given rise to such controversy and in which I’ve met such interesting individuals – supportive or otherwise – is one I’m happy to have some time to explore.

One question to leave you with. Can anyone tell me why Halifax citizens refer to themselves as Haligonians? No one here seems to know.

Show Your Support at Halifax Events: Rally, Meeting, Debate

Posted by Justin on February 23rd, 2009

If you’re in or around Halifax come support the Atheist Bus Campaign this Tuesday or Wednesday!  I’ll be around at the following events, the descriptions of which I am copying from various promotional listings:

1. Silent Rally:  Show your support for free speech — oppose Metro Transit’s censorship

Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Grand Parade (Just outside of City Hall)

It has been three weeks since Metro Transit — a publicly-funded organization, bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — publicly announced their intention to censor our message.

Citing a policy that ads “must not be objectionable to any race, creed, or moral standard,” Metro Transit expressed their desire to protect the delicate sensibilities of Haligonians from a point of view that might… differ from their own!

Despite the public outcry from atheists and religious folk alike — all of whom are concerned about the implications of this decision for free speech — Metro Transit has, to date, refused our repeated requests to meet with them in the hopes of coming to an amicable resolution.

Facebook Event for Tuesday’s Silent Rally
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=64919326864

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2.  Dalhousie Atheist Community and the future of Secular activism in Halifax
A meeting with CFI Canada’s Executive Director, Justin Trottier

Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Council Chambers — Dalhousie Student Union Building, 2nd floor
6136 University Ave

As a Centre for Inquiry campus group, Justin will be meeting with the Dalhousie Atheist Community to discuss free speech and the atheist bus campaign. This will flow into an organizing meeting for those interested in the Centre for Inquiry’s campus and off campus groups in Halifax.

Interested in becoming more a part of freethought activism in Nova Scotia? Want to help grow the DAC and help foster similar groups in the Maritimes?

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=64919326864#/event.php?eid=67560982585&ref=ts
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3.  Just in Time Debate: Can We Be Good Without God?

Is religion foundational to our collective sense of right and wrong? Can a purely secular society maintain its moral grounding?

Panel: Eric Beresford, President, Atlantic School of Theology; Justin Trottier, Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada. Moderated by Kevin Kindred, Legal Counsel, Bell Aliant

Scotiabank Theatre
Sobey School of Business
Saint Mary’s University 7-9 pm.
Free Admission

http://www.ccepa.ca/

Facebook Event for Wednesday’s CCEPA Debate
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=51125909817

Photos of the Atheist Bus ads in Toronto

Posted by Philip on February 23rd, 2009

Hello everyone.

Here are some pictures of the Toronto Atheist Bus ads, which are now running.

Atheist Bus (Full view front, angled)

Side-view

Isn’t it nice to finally see the ads in Canada? We took these photos while the bus was posing for us at the TTC garage. If you happen to see one of the bus ads in the wild and have a camera, we encourage you to take your own pictures and share them with us. With your permission, we’ll place them on our website.

You can email your photos to us at photos(at)atheistbus.ca or you can post them to our forum.

You can find more official pictures here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35703605@N06/show/

Please feel perfectly free to reuse and remix these photos. (Though,if you could credit the photos to our website it would be much appreciated).

Thanks!

Kicked Off the Bus; My Editorial is Pubished in the Ottawa Citizen

Posted by Justin on February 19th, 2009

Now that our buses are in Toronto perhaps the media will switch their regular image to a Canadian one?

I was really thrilled to author a full editorial in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday which they titled:

Kicked off the bus: While it’s unfortunate that Ottawa won’t run our atheist bus ads, at least people are talking about important issues of ethics and faith

It was a great opportunity to defend the integrity of this campaign, highlight its main goals and respond to specific criticisms that have been leveled against us.

Two elements I was particularly happy to be able to make.

1. Responding to the claim that our bus ad makes atheists appear hedonistic:

While atheism is not itself an ethical system, secular and humanistic values are crucial to an open society. They are the values of individual autonomy and universal human rights. They include the belief that evidence, reason and free inquiry form the best way of seeking solutions to shared problems. Try fitting all that on the side of a bus.

2. Being able to plug the free speech angle that this campaign has suddenly taken on, which I think is key as we show atheists to be taking the high road, fighting for everyone’s right to be heard – both to offend and to be offended:

That freedom of expression is a key issue for us may be no surprise considering the refusal by Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver and other city transit operations to run our ads. But the Centre for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression was inaugurated half a year ago when we recognized that censorship was becoming a defining issue in Canada, with human rights commissions across the country hearing cases involving such matters as the publication of religiously offensive words and pictures.

The banning of these ads is another attempt by governmental authorities to decide what Canadian citizens ought to be exposed to. We are fighting for everyone’s right to promote their values — religious and secular alike — in a neutral public square.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think of the piece.

—-

This entry is cross-posted to my personal blog www.equalismactivism.com

Discuss this on our forums at http://atheistbus.ca/forum

Global TV calls Atheists ‘Fanatics’?

Posted by Chris on February 18th, 2009

Last Sunday evening on Global TV’s investigative television show 16:9 The Bigger Picture, Darryl Konynenbelt reported on our world renowned atheist bus campaign. What did he say? Watch the video below to see for yourself:

I wanted to address some of the things said in the broadcast, I’ll do it in a chronological order to make it easier for those of you that want to watch the video clip and skim through to the parts I reference.

The first part I wanted to briefly discuss begins at 2:04 minutes into the clip. Out of the thousand books on the shelf at the Centre For Inquiry building where Justin Trottier was being interviewed, a book titled The trouble with Christmas is zoomed in on by the videographer.  Was it deliberate? Were they trying to imply that atheists are the “party poopers” of Christmas? It might have just been coincidental but nonetheless it’s worthy of being addressed. I do not believe in a God and I think Jesus might have existed but certainly not in the sense that most Christians believe. To the point, Atheists can enjoy mythological holidays just as much as anyone else, we do not believe in the supernatural but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate certain festivities. We can appreciate the mythological stories behind them. The artwork in St Paul’s cathedral is still beautiful even without a supernatural god, just as Christmas is enjoyed even if the Jesus story is a myth.

During the interview with Justin, Darryl asked:

“That’s a pretty ballsy statement considering that people who are Jewish, Hindu, Christian are going to be at those bus stops, watching those ads go by and say ‘that doesn’t resonate with me, why did they put it on there?’” (referring to our banner as being ballsy)

Really? Ballsy? I guess that asking people to stop worrying and enjoy their lives is ballsy, I didn’t think it was. In my opinion, advertisements that reference or directly quote the text that many of these religions are based on is ballsy, they’re the ones reading from books full of murder, rape, racism, homophobia, and slavery and teaching that these books are true. If you don’t believe the bible contains any of the mentioned atrocities please take a look for yourself, 1 Chronicles 21:9-14, Leviticus 25:44-46, for more visit evilbible.com. For an all knowing, all powerful God that supposedly is beyond time, he/she/it doesn’t really seem like a loving God to me. One-hundred million dollars of tax money being funded to churches that are also registered charities so they can teach our children these things, now that’s ballsy… and not in a good way.

As for the part where Darryl asks “That doesn’t resonate with me, why did they put it on there?” I didn’t think every advertisement was supposed to resonate or appeal to everyone. I do think that asking people not to worry and to enjoy life might resonate with some, after all, who wants to worry? But don’t flatter yourself, people aren’t donating $40k+ just to make the religious “feel good” or to “resonate” with them. We’re spending the money to raise the profile of atheism, provoke thought and discussion, and promote education about secularism, atheism, humanism, and to also open dialog between the religious and secular world.  We think that through education and understanding we can create a better world to live in, and if that resonates with you or makes you feel good, that’s great.

At about 3 minutes into the clip, Reverend David Giuliano mentions:

“It’s so sad that there are people in the world who perceive the presence of god as a source of worry and lack of enjoyment.”

If you told me god was the first cause of the universe and that was it, no more religion after that, no more texts, Bibles, Qurans, etc,  I wouldn’t be inclined to think that people should worry or not about god if people went around converting people to believe in a first mover’ism. The problem is that there are so many strings attached to mainstream religions. Many of them expect people to submit to their version of god and to take a submissive role under a father/master head. I.e. you have to believe in Jesus and submit yourself to the lord to be “saved” because God wants to save “us” humans. How narcissistic of these people to think that out of the trillions of planets, stars, and galaxies in the universe, hundreds of billions of which are capable of sustaining life, apparently we’re the centre of the universe and the sole purpose of everything. If there truly was a presence of god that Rev. Giuliano is referring to, the world might be a better place, but the problem is that there is no “presence of god” but people keep thinking there is, leaving it up to oneself to create some sort of delusional presence of god in their mind and kidding themselves into thinking it is the supernatural. Obviously it’s not all bad, some just worship, some even feel convictions to help the less fortunate and needy, but some also fly planes into buildings, kill homosexuals for being born gay, and punish women for being raped under Sharia law.

Despite all of what was mentioned on the show, perhaps one of the most troubling parts comes from Lori Patterson of Halifax Metro Transit. It’s hard to make any conclusive statements about what was said because her clip was heavily edited and cut very close, and in her defense, she might have said something after that validated her statement. The press does seem to want to create controversy where there might not be any; some papers have been adamantly trying to get us to say that we will take Ottawa’s OC Transpo to the supreme court of Canada, something that is not in our plans yet. But back to Ms. Patterson, she said:

“I don’t want to see those ads”.

Everyone obviously has the right to their own opinion but if she really doesn’t want to see those ads then she might want to consider the fact that her opinion is not what counts here, Halifax Metro Transit is a public service funded by public tax dollars, as the TTC has justified our ads, very similar rules apply to Metro Transit as Nova Scotia’s charter is not that different from Ontario’s. Ms. Patterson is not part of the Thought Police from George Orwell’s novel 1984, although  she may wish she could be.

And finally, someone gets called a fanatic! Darryl says:

“The ads are getting the evil eye from Lori Patterson of Halifax Metro Transit who doesn’t want to see fanatics target her buses.”

It’s hard to say whether they are stating they don’t want to see fanatics target their buses with ads, calling atheists fanatics, or if they mean that they don’t want someone strapping a bomb to a bus because an ad on it goes around refuting their religion. A clip of Ms. Patterson says “We have to worry about our passengers and our operators” so I tend to think that they were implying they didn’t want to attract the bomb strapping lunatics that apparently run rampant in Canada with the sole intention of hitting Halifax of all places. I’m glad I live in Toronto, a free city that doesn’t bow down to the apparent threat of religious fanaticism but maybe in Halifax the crazies run loose. I highly doubt it, I think the people of Halifax are just as civil as my fellow Canadians in Ontario, but when spokes people like Lori Patterson go around in the public eye stating those types of things, one has to wonder if she realizes she is damaging Halifax’s reputation of being a safe and beautiful city.

—-

Discuss this on our forums at http://atheistbus.ca/forum

Atheist Bus Hits Toronto Streets and Brick Wall in Ottawa

Posted by Chris on February 15th, 2009

The Canadian Atheist Bus has officially hit the streets of Toronto with more ads en route to be displayed in the follow weeks.   Starting Feb 23rd our subway interior ads will posted and the following week (March 2nd) on the sides of streetcars in the downtown Toronto area. If you are lucky enough to catch a photo, we’d love to post it online. Please email photos to “photos {at} atheistbus.ca”. Buses change routes daily as they are returned to TTC garages and picked up by different drivers that drive different routes so keep your eyes peeled.

Unfortunately we also have a bit of bad news about our campaign. We’ve been rejected by OC Transpo and at the moment our advertisement is not permitted to be displayed on any Ottawa public transit vehicle.  OC Transpo’s response:

The Advertising Standards section of our contract specifically excludes religious advertising which might be offensive to transit users, so we cannot approve this ad”

This comes as a shock to us and also Pattison Outdoors whom was forecasting a positive response. OC Transpo has permitted religious advertisements in the past but it is not yet clear what message was being advertised.  On Tuesday (Monday is an Ontario provincial holiday) we will attempt to contact OC Transpo to try and discuss our options. Hopefully we have more success in Ottawa compared to Halifax where Metro Transit has rejected every offer for a meeting thus far.

This past week our advertisement was also rejected in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna British Columbia, and  London Ontario. The three cities we applied to in BC follow identical transit standards, their response:

“No advertisement will be accepted which promotes or opposes a specific theology or religious ethic, point of view, policy or action.”

In London we were simply told that no religious advertisements were permitted despite Atheism not being a religion.

From Stalin to Islam, From Individualism to the Limits of Reason: There was a lot on The Agenda

Posted by Justin on February 13th, 2009

Steven Paikin

All feedback I’ve been privy to indicates atheists kicked butt on The Agenda last night when Robert Buckman, Humanists Canada President Emeritus and Advisory Fellow of the Centre for Inquiry Canada and I joined Gretta Vosper of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity to take on the ultra-conservative Kathy Shaidle and the great Defender of the Faith Jordan Peterson (the three of us don’t agree on everything but this is how it worked out). But you decide. You can link to the episode page which I think includes the actual taping, and the online discussion is going on right now here. Here’s a rundown:

Not realizing I’d ultimately get to make a fair number of points over the hour, when Steven Paiken addressed me at the beginning I took the opportunity to introduce the campaign as one seeking dialogue and raising awareness that atheists are as interested as anyone in important questions, like science education, free speech and church-state separation.

Jordan Peterson’s aggressive bullying was not a surprise.

I had been in the audience when he was on the “Is Faith Inevitable?” panel also with Rob Buckman. However, I think he took it up a notch yesterday. This was an “immature” campaign he explained. I shot back by comparing it to what is being mounted in the UK in opposition to the British Humanist Association ads. There is a group that would like to put up bus signs describing atheists as a dark force. I would also have liked to remind him that Humanists of Canada’s slogan was a simple “Can We Be Good Without God” which I think is a very important and mature message, and that was deemed in need of being “toned down.”

The argument he keeps coming back to is that we are all irrational and emotional and that at bottom our ethics are founded on principles we can’t reasonably articulate. Well, perhaps humans aren’t the pinnacle of reason we like to imagine we are. That doesn’t mean there aren’t degrees of irrationality and that we can’t work together to correct each other’s mistakes and improve our ethical understanding, in the way science continually improves our understanding of the physical world. As to being emotional creatures, I would hardly disagree with the importance of a well-harnessed passion which can direct and focus one’s efforts. Was our side of the table lacking in passion?

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson

Peterson also sees in religion a force to unite communities (glossing over the frictions between religous bodies). I pointed out that secular countries where citizens willingly choose atheism or agnosticism in great numbers are, as reported by Phil Zuckerman in Society Without Gods, societies that place great resources in social programs. (This prompted the first of several snorts from Kathy Shaidle. More on that later.) A 2005 study by Gregory Paul found that the more atheistic a democracy the lower the number of murders and suicides, as well as other metrics of a disfunctional society. Citizens in these societies report high levels of happiness and cohesion. Interestingly, the difference in the US in which happiness seems correlated to religiosity may have a rather ominous explanation. Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale, published an article in Slate called “Does Religion Make You Nice?” in which he speculates on this phenomenon:

American atheists, by contrast, are often left out of community life. The studies that Brooks cites in Gross National Happiness, which find that the religious are happier and more generous then the secular, do not define religious and secular in terms of belief. They define it in terms of religious attendance. It is not hard to see how being left out of one of the dominant modes of American togetherness can have a corrosive effect on morality. As P.Z. Myers, the biologist and prominent atheist, puts it, “[S]cattered individuals who are excluded from communities do not receive the benefits of community, nor do they feel willing to contribute to the communities that exclude them.”

So the prevalence of religiosity in the public square by isolating atheists and depriving them of community benefits, may be at fault. Speculative yes but interesting.

Turning back to the show, Peterson also threw out the usual atheism=Stalin=evil equation. How tiring. Rob Buckman deflected that nicely by asking if Hitler’s vegetarianism should be blamed for his actions. I think it’s petty to tally atrocities committed by atheists and theists. Instead I said I wasn’t interested in converting people to my belief system, but would like to see critical thinking become a standard part of public education. If people become more adept at skeptical and scientific inquiry let that lead them wherever it may.

Kathy Shaidle

Kathy Shaidle

Although I received some warning yesterday, the real shocker for me – and Paiken as well I think – was Kathy Shaidle, advertised as a “religious writer and blogger”. Fascist might have been a more appropriate epithet.

Kathy says atheists are boring on her blog. I suppose to someone as aggressive as she, who doesn’t believe in shades of gray and speaks in extreme and uncompromisng language, anyone who shows the least bit of modesty or compromise in their language will be boring.

Her inability to form cogent arguments is reflected in the way her remarks were rarely longer then a sentence or two. Her chortles, chuckles and snorts – not sure if these were captured by her microphone – probably took up about as much airtime as her more successful vocalizations.

When she was able to form a comment, they were pathetically trite. She is of the opinion that Christians are marginalized in the United States. They certainly seemed to be at Obama’s inaugural, wouldn’t you say? But to be fair, she didn’t watch the inaugural, that apparently would have been like attending an hour lecture by a marxist professor.

I asked her if she realized that atheists – not catholics – were deemed the most untrustworthy demographic groups by US citizens, so what exactly was she basing this belief in christian marginalization on. She replied, comically, that it was something that hit her every time she walked out her door. Unless her neighbour is the Centre for Inquiry, I can’t imagine where she must be living.

Unable or unwilling to appreciate the nuance of divergent positions, she lumps all left-leaning organizations together as supporting Islamism and undermining free speech and good values. So I had to remind her that freethought student groups were the first to speak up against the banning of campus anti-abortion clubs (and for the re-printing of the Mohamed cartoons).

A few other random remarks…

I recall someone wondering whether Dawkins couldn’t admit some level of doubt in his atheism and how he would never have used the term probably. Whoever asked that question couldn’t possibly have sat through a full lecture of his, listened to any interview I’ve heard or indeed even read The God Delusion. He has a chapter in there called “Why There Almost Certainly In No God.” I would love to see the same hesitancy – even slight – in the book chapter of more theists.

Finally, someone pointed out to me that Peterson wasn’t referring to circumcision when he mentioned young male initiation.

Justin, there was one part where you seem to have misunderstood what psychologist guy said. The catholic woman mentioned that snake handlers were kooky at one point (did someone mention it before she did?). He was merely pointing out that such practices can have a rational basis: that by putting yourself in real danger you get to see how trivial most of our fears and concerns really are. He then said that rites of passage rituals for native peoples can serve a similar purpose. Justin then criticized him, by discussing circumcisions. But, I don’t think that he was talking about circumcisions at all.

Sure, I’ll grant that I was mistaken in believing that was what he was referring to, although I don’t believe he actually specified he was referring to native peoples. In any case, how he could think that initiation “rites” (initiation wrongs is more apt), be they genitally mutilating a helpless baby at 8 days old or the isolation and starvation rituals of certain native groups on pubescent boys, could be voluntary is beyond me. Perhaps the child sacrifices of the ancient Aztecs fall under voluntary worship as well. This is at bottom my problem with everything Peterson stands for. His obsession with group cohesion would see individual human rights and those who do not fit into the group completely neglected. Thankfully, our Human Rights Charter and the UN Declaration on Human Rights is an individualist document. It would not subject us to the tyranny of the majority and the human rights abuses – like male genital mutilation – which Peterson and those religious leaders he gives cover to, see as a vital part of building group identity.

This post is cross posted to my personal blog www.equalismactivism.com

Advertising Atheism – Justin Trottier on The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Posted by Chris on February 13th, 2009

A discussion about atheism.

Hosted by: Steve Paikin

Guests:
Justin Trottier
– President of the Freethought Association of Canada and executive director of the Centre for Inquiry.
Robert Buckman – President emertius of the Humanist Association of Canada, oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital, and author of Can We Be Good without God, and Biology, Behaviour and the Need to Believe.
Jordan Peterson – Clinical psychologist, a professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and author of Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.
Gretta Vosper – Chair of the Canadian Centre of Progressive Christianity
Kathy Shaidle – Religious writer and blogger

Produced by: Meredith Martin

Toronto Streetcar Social Gathering and Celebration

Posted by Chris on February 12th, 2009

We are planning on renting a TTC Streetcar with our advertisement on the side but we want to get a ball-park idea of how many people might attend. The night would begin around 8pm on March 6th with ticket holders going on a cruise around downtown Toronto on a streetcar, we would then arrive back at a yet-to-be-announced location where food and drinks might be served. This is a great way to meet supporters, campaign workers, donors, fellow skeptics, and also make new friends. All of this is still in the planning stages and nothing is set in stone but if you have any ideas about how we can make this night more fun and interesting, please comment below. Thanks!

[poll id="3"]

Official Toronto Streetcar Party Thread on our forums – Click Here

Official Facebook Event – Click Here


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