Blog

Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.


Taking precautions and protecting our community

The evidence and warnings from our public health officials are clear: To prevent the novel coronavirus COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system and leading to a lot of unnecessary suffering and death, immediate action is required from every one of us.

Yesterday, BC's Chief Public Health Officer banned all gatherings of over 50 people and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restricted travel to Canada to Canadian residents and Americans. Municipalities are also starting to close non-essential public facilities. More measures are expected today and throughout the week.

For our own part, the BCHA's Board of Directors is taking steps to protect our members and the broader community. Specifically, we are suspending all in person meetings and encouraging online connections until public health officials deem the risk to be over.

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Teaching about religion and culture still legal

Over three years ago, I wrote about an allegation that a student in Port Alberni was forced to participate in an Indigenous smudging ceremony in a BC public school.

So as Humanists and secularists, we stand with the parent in speaking out against the forced participation of students in such a ceremony.

Today, Justice Thompson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed that case, finding that the school district did not infringe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the state’s duty of religious neutrality. The entire ruling is worth reading as this was possibly the first case to examine the place of Indigenous spiritual practice in a secular school classroom in the era of reconciliation.

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Winning the fight against religious privilege

After discussing what we're up against last week, we saw a major change on Thursday when the Legislature agreed to amend its practice of starting each day's session with "prayers" to "prayers and reflections."

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What we're up against

As Humanists, we’re used to fighting the religious right. From the battles over creationism or Bible distribution in public schools to securing the right to a medically-assisted death, we know well how to respond to arguments based on dogma and religious authorities.

But as we continue to push toward a more peaceful, compassionate and secular world, we’re coming up a number of other challenges that threaten our progress.

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Seven prayers from MLAs that left us scratching our heads

Going through over 850 prayers this summer, we came across a few gems I wanted to share with you prior to the release of our study on Monday.

Unfortunately, we can't embed the videos here but the prayers are the first item of business if you want to watch them (you might need to skip ahead past the procession).

If you think prayers like these have no place in the legislature, make sure to send you MLA an email.

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The first step to decolonizing Humanism

We acknowledge that this event takes place on the traditional and unceded shared territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Attend nearly any event in Vancouver in the past few years, particularly ones held by progressive organizations, and you are likely to hear some variation on those words. The practice of territorial acknowledgements has spread farther, with variations in communities across Canada and the USA recognizing the local indigenous peoples.

For many Humanists, these statements can be reminiscent of ritualistic Christian prayers that have often been said before formal events (and in some places still are). This is further complicated when a local indigenous elder is invited to give the acknowledgement and they invoke a deity — either from their own spiritual traditions or in some cases the Christian God.

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Will charities be free to speak during the election?

Canadian Twitter was ablaze today over a story that seemed to allege that any charity that talks about climate change during the election will be censored by Elections Canada.

The story comes from Mia Rabson’s scoop for The Canadian Press. She reported that Elections Canada may consider charities that run campaigns about climate change during the election to be captured under the Canada Elections Act.

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Respecting one another's pronouns

Last year, over 2600 scientists signed a statement that underlined the reality that gender cannot be defined along a strict binary.

The relationship between sex chromosomes, genitalia, and gender identity is complex, and not fully understood. There are no genetic tests that can unambiguously determine gender, or even sex. Furthermore, even if such tests existed, it would be unconscionable to use the pretext of science to enact policies that overrule the lived experience of people’s own gender identities.

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He died as he lived: David Hume, philosopher and infidel

By Dennis Rasmussen, Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufts University

As the Scottish philosopher David Hume lay on his deathbed in the summer of 1776, his passing became a highly anticipated event. Few people in 18th-century Britain were as forthright in their lack of religious faith as Hume was, and his skepticism had earned him a lifetime of abuse and reproach from the pious, including a concerted effort to excommunicate him from the Church of Scotland. Now everyone wanted to know how the notorious infidel would face his end. Would he show remorse or perhaps even recant his skepticism? Would he die in a state of distress, having none of the usual consolations afforded by belief in an afterlife? In the event, Hume died as he had lived, with remarkable good humour and without religion.

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Quebec's "state laicity" law undermines secularism

The passage of Quebec’s Bill 21 is bad news for the state of freedom of expression, religious freedom and secularism itself in Canada. Humanists should stand united against the clear infringement on our fundamental freedoms by the Government of Quebec.

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