Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.
The rise of the Christian Right in Canada
By André Gagné, Concordia University and Andréa Febres-Gagné, McGill University
Over the past few years, Christian right groups have made inroads into the political landscape of certain countries. Two recent examples have been the American and Brazilian elections.
Among Christian right organizations, 81 per cent of white evangelicals are credited with helping propel Donald Trump to the White House in 2016.
During the recent midterm elections, 75 per cent of white “born again” evangelicals supported Republican candidates. Their influence was also felt in Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro’s victory. Recent polls estimate that 70 per cent of Brazilian evangelicals voted for the new president.
Some groups in America have been pushing for Christian nationalist-inspired laws through a little-known endeavour originally launched in 2015 called “Project Blitz.”Read more
Join the call for a Secular BC
The past year has seen some big advances for Humanist values in British Columbia - and for the BC Humanist Association itself.
The highlight of the year, for me, came in June when the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the decisions of law societies in BC and Ontario to reject Trinity Western University's proposed law school. Specifically, Justice Malcolm Rowe adopted our arguments that organizations don't have an inherent right to religious freedom.Read more
It's time Canada outlaws physical violence against children
By Valerie Michaelson, Queen's University, Ontario
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement recommending that parents not spank, hit or slap their children.
The announcement created a flurry of media attention around the world with headlines such as “Spanking is Still Really Common, and Still Really Bad for Kids.”
The statement is significant, but it’s also old news. It adds to already substantial research evidence about the risks that physical punishment poses to children.
To date, 54 countries have banned the physical punishment of children, and 56 more have declared that they will. Canada has done neither.
In Canada, the law still permits parents to use physical punishment to discipline their children.Read more
Settlement suggests atheists welcome in United Church ministry
The United Church of Canada reached a settlement agreement with Rev Gretta Vosper recently, meaning she will be able to continue in her role as a minister.
Vosper came to prominence after openly declaring herself an atheist within the Christian and Protestant denomination. Vosper ministers a congregation in Toronto. Officials in the church had sought to defrock her in an internal hearing.
The settlement means that hearing will not go ahead.Read more
Why conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries should be outlawed
By Gerald Walton, Lakehead University
“Pray the gay away” is shorthand for Christian programs that, disguised as love, purport that God heals homosexuality. Through the lens of sexual sin, homosexuality is construed as something in need of healing, a disease in need of a cure, an error in need of remedy.
Secular versions are known as conversion therapy, as described in detail by Peter Gajdics in his memoir, The Inheritance of Shame. The book details his experiences with “ex-gay” counselling during the late 1980s and early 1990s.Read more
By Cathryn van Kessel, University of Alberta
After Robert Bowers murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, people are looking for explanations. Who would do such a thing? And why? The answers are almost as terrifying as the violence itself. “The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seems,” a neighbour of Bowers told the Associated Press.
Indeed, often “ordinary people” commit these evil deeds. To grasp how extraordinary evils are often committed by apparently ordinary people, we need to take care regarding how we define evil, and most importantly, whom we consider to be the agents of evil.Read more
Humanists condemn antisemitism - Oct 29, 2018 Newsletter
Earlier today, I wrote to the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture (Vancouver's community for Secular Humanistic Judaism) to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences following this weekend's attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and by extension Jewish peoples around the world. These are undoubtedly trying times and the resurgence of openly violent antisemitism is deeply concerning.
Donna Becker, Executive Director of the Peretz Centre wrote back to me with a message for BCHA members:
The kind of action we saw in Pittsburgh and in other places in the US and even in eastern Canada is unbelievably terrible. The Pittsburgh murders raise antisemitic attacks to a new level—orders of magnitude beyond desecrating a graveyard or vandalizing a synagogue.
We at the Peretz Centre have sent condolence letters to various mosques, churches and synagogues in the recent past, and It is so good to know that the BC Humanists stand behind the Jewish community, as we stand behind other victims of ignorance and bigotry.
We mourn those killed in the anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life #PittsburghSynagogue & recognize the tragic impact on the community. We also recognize this as an example of a white man radicalized by a regime bent on using divisive hate-filled rhetoric to bolster its base. pic.twitter.com/HfGhk0juVL— American Humanist (@americnhumanist) October 28, 2018
This was not an isolated incident. Earlier last week, it was widely reported that another far right extremist sent pipe bombs to numerous Democratic officials and a white supremacist murdered two innocent people at a drugstore. The resurgence of violent antisemitism and white supremacy occurs amidst a clear campaign by far right groups to use racial resentment to divide and radicalize people.
Humanists and atheists are not immune from contributing to this toxic climate. I've seen atheists bring up the antisemitic conspiracy theory of cultural marxism. Even more blatantly, I've seen atheists claim "the religion of Judaism is worse than Nazism" in an ugly effort to try to make some cheap point about how much they dislike religion. It doesn't take long to hear similar comments about Muslims or Islam in many atheist spaces these days either. Regardless of efforts to caveat that the point of that such statements are about challenging ideas and not people, given the broader discourse we have a duty to think far more critically about the arguments we are making, or letting go unchallenged. Because it is neither reasonable nor productive to make comparisons between a religion that's practiced by around 15 million people and an ideology that is dedicated to the eradication of all of those people.
Humanist values should compel each and every one of us to condemn all forms of bigotry and motivate us to fight discrimination and intolerance in our communities. We need to take responsibility not just for our own comments but for our own silence in the face of others' hatred.
Finally, we must stay committed to our common humanity. Humanism calls on us to utilize free inquiry for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion. So let us aim to be thoughtful and compassionate as we continue to work for a better world.Read more
The hypocrisy of Québec’s move to ban religious dress
By Richard Moon, University of Windsor
The newly elected government of Québec has indicated that it intends to ban civil servants in positions of authority (including police officers and judges) from wearing religious dress or symbols such as the turban or hijab.
The new government views the wearing of religious dress by civil servants not as an act of personal religious or cultural expression but instead as a political act — an act of the state — that is incompatible with the requirement that the state remain neutral in matters of religion.
The ban will have the effect of excluding the members of certain religious minorities from civil service jobs. And it will, almost certainly, breach religious freedom under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At the same time, the government has confirmed that a crucifix will continue to hang in the provincial legislature. The government insists that the crucifix is simply a “heritage object” and “part of our history” and so its presence in the legislature doesn’t violate the requirement that the state remain neutral in matters of religion.Read more
The (partial) end of the War on Drugs
Today is the first day that recreational cannabis is legal to buy and use across Canada.
Here in BC, that means you can buy it from the one open store in Kamloops (pictured above, via bcgovphotos) or via the government's online store.
Nevertheless, this limited step also exposes how many people are still unjustly targeted by Canada's prohibition-esque drug laws.Read more
Humanists Light the Night - Oct 15, 2018 Newsletter
Thanks to Eugene, Sonia, Wanda, Clayton, Greg, Katie and Aron who came out on Saturday night to support the BC Humanists in the annual Light the Night walk.
This event builds on our efforts to promote Humanist Action - living Humanist values in an effort to make the world a better place.
We've previously taken part in sorting efforts with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, done blood drives and helped with the shoreline cleanup.
We're hoping to get our members and supporters involved in more charitable activities in the future.
Let me know what other ideas you have or if you live outside Metro Vancouver, we'd be eager to help you start getting involved in your community.Read more