I don’t want to get too political (and especially not partisan) on this blog, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post this story from a couple weeks ago.

[Premier Christy] Clark noted that the weekend marks Easter observances in the Christian faith, celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

“It is a time for renewal and beginnings in the Christian calendar, and marks the crucifixion on Good Friday, and the resurrection on Easter Sunday,” said Clark.

“Spending time with family and friends is traditional at this time of year, and provides an opportunity to reflect on, and renew faith,” she added.

“It’s important to pass on to our children the traditions of our particular families at this time of year, and pass on the rituals of the past.”

In a province where nearly two-in-five of British Columbians expressed scepticism at the notion of a supernatural creator (let alone Clark’s specific saviour), it is simply divisive for our premier to single out her chosen deity to use her position to proselytize for. Furthermore, I think that we ought to be especially careful of which traditions and rituals we pass on. While I would argue that some are valuable, all should be critically examined and the dangerous or absurd ones (like resurrection) should be tossed aside.

Of course this isn’t the first time Clark has played the religion card. Anyone who sat through her swearing in had to deal with a dose of religiosity. The video is available here and I transcribed the relevant sections below.

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Two interesting polls came out in the past week, both documenting the growing strength of the non-religious in Canada and British Columbia.

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Words Engraved

As part of my electronic spring cleaning, I came across a number of emails that I meant to respond to or that merited more attention than I first gave them. Below are videos entitled “Words Engraved” that were designed to inspire humanist and enlightenment values.

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I meant to write about this sooner, but about a week ago Quebec’s Dying With Dignity Committee released their final report on assisted suicide in the province.

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This past weekend while we enjoyed sunny blue skies in Vancouver, 20,000 atheists, humanists, and freethinkers gathered in Washington, DC for a rainy Reason Rally. The speaker’s list was a veritable who’s who of the New Atheist movement, with Richard Dawkins, Tim Minchin, and Adam Savage taking the stage.

But what interests me isn’t so much how successful the Rally itself was, but how we build off the success of this event and translate that momentum.

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Does the word “evil” sit comfortably with you? When someone is described as “evil”, what does this make you think of their decisions and motives? Are they aware they’re doing the “wrong” thing but, for whatever reason, are doing it anyway? What reason do you suppose that is?

To a certain extent we are aware that we cannot decouple a person’s moral actions from A) their neurophysiology and B) unconscious, formative factors. This awareness is what has lead, for example, to a recent acknowledgement by the Supreme Court of Canada that these factors must be weighed in the case of aboriginals.

To what extent should this be taken? One of my earliest “humanist” memories (before I was aware of the term) was, in one moment, reading angrily about the actions of Somalian pirates and, in the next moment, wondering if I, Alan Byers, would have ended up differently had I been born and raised under the same circumstances.

The Question of Free Will is a moral question in which rational humanism offers, in my opinion, a fair-minded and understanding approach to our understanding of immorality: rationally, and as a budding humanist, I could not say no, a Somalian Alan Byers would never become a pirate. A social conservative may balk at “understanding” immorality for fear of seeming permissive or being an enabler; what that person would fail to realize is that it is understanding, not fear and ignorance, that breeds solutions.

If you find free will even half as fascinating as I do, you may be interested to hear Sam Harris’s fascinating and easily digestible talk on the subject. Enjoy.

In 21st century Canada, there are a growing number of youth who have spent so much time in the intellectual, socially innocent bubble of campus life that, heart-warmingly, they’re actually surprised to hear that ol’ time racism is alive and well in North America. With YouTube at their disposal, they are, of course, aware of the fun-loving, diversity-celebrating racism of Russel Peters, but his antics do little to blunt the malicious and de-humanizing racism of those who don’t allow other human beings the benefit of their own ignorant doubt.

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The Ontario Court of Appeal today upheld an earlier ruling that the federal laws banning “bawdy houses” (brothels) is unconstitutional. They further ruled that the law against “living on the avails” of prostitution could only apply to exploitative relationships. Finally, they overturned an earlier ruling and upheld the ban on solicitation.

The court has given the federal government 12 months to rewrite Canada’s current prostitution laws to better balance the rights of sex workers and their communities. Nevertheless, this decision would put any government in an awkward position, having to deal with a sensitive and contentious issue that is likely to divide sharply along partisan lines.

Leaving the political and partisan implications, we are still left with the question of what the humanist take on this ruling should be.

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Like comedian and pundit Rick Mercer, I follow politics like many people follow sports. I follow scandals, read polls, and try to come up with projections. I will even go to the pub to watch and debate political conventions.

But this is a non-partisan blog, and I generally want to keep my political rants to my personal blog. Every once-in-a-while though, my political sphere of interest will collide with my secular humanist interests.

Such is the case with the latest poll from Leger Marketing [pdf], which asked the standard “who will you vote for” type questions, but then dug deeper to try to expose a difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada. One question in particular sparked my interest.

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In light of last fall’s Occupy protests, there has been an increase in awareness about the issue of income inequality. One new line of social psychology research is probing the concept of whether wealth correlates with morality.

To date the results are potentially counter-intuitive, suggesting that the more money one has, the more likely they are to engage in unethical behaviour.

Well, perhaps that isn’t counter-intuitive at all.

The following info-graphic summarizes some of these basic findings.

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