December 09, 2008

More right wing spin rears its ugly head

Natalie, in a comment in my previous post said, "Actually many children are now feeling the brunt edge of discrimination in schools and rec centers." I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I have read numerous accounts of young people who have questioned religion, or publicly professed their atheism being ostracized, bullied, had their belongings stolen or vandalized... Oh, wait. Natalie was talking about something else:

The government has seen to it that children of different religions including Christianity, Judaism, Sheiks, Hindus who wish to pray may not...

it is encouraged that these children are made fun of...

It is encouraged that these children are laughed at in class...

Really? Are religious children - including Christian children - being made fun of in schools? Are the other children being encouraged, by their peers or their teachers - the inference is unclear - to ridicule their religious classmates? These are outrageous accusations, and, well, I'm skeptical. Natalie, I'm going to have to ask you to provide some corroborating evidence to back up those statements, because I think they're (pardon the strong language) Bullshit.

Send me some links to news articles describing the events mentioned above. If you have them. I won't be surprised if you don't. I won't be even the slightest bit tempted to raise an eyebrow if you cannot support a single one of those statements.

See, Nat, I think you are much like Fred was, simply repeating things you have heard as if they are gospel truth. Unless you can back up those claims, I am going to dismiss them.

As for the other things you said in your comment, about the respecting the "historical" religious aspects of your country's founding, you are sadly mistaken. You should study some history, Nat. The founding fathers of your nation - the ones whose signatures grace the Declaration of Independence - were, for the most part, either weak Deists, Agnostics, or outright Atheists. Your country was founded on secular ideals, not religious ones. The appearance of God on your currency did not happen until almost a century after the founding of the country, and He did not find his way into your Pledge of Allegiance until almost another century after that. So your over-the-top hyperbole about dropping our Judeo-Christian roots in the trash can is just so much dishonest jibber-jabber. What has long been dropped in the trash can are the secular ideals of your founding fathers. The revolutionary ideas they had, and fought for, and are the very basis of what made America great, are being undermined and discarded on a daily basis by the current power brokers of your nation.

November 25, 2008


At some point in the comments on the previous post, Fred said, "I don't see why you bother." He meant by that statement, why do I bother with these posts about skepticism, about critical thinking, about atheism? The irony in the question is that Fred is a perfect example of why I bother.

Here we have Fred, not uneducated, clearly intelligent, worldly and experienced, a self-professed agnostic verging on atheist, a believer in evolution, and yet... And yet, there he is in the comments section of my blog, repeating every anti-science talking point in the Answers In Genesis debunk-the-Darwinists playbook. Now, I'm pretty sure Fred doesn't even know who Answers In Genesis is, but he knows how to parrot all of their dishonest arguments. I mean, we could start a drinking game here. Take a drink of your beer every time Fred repeats another AIG anti-science canard. Hey, here's the "evolution is just a theory" angle ::slurp:: Oh, look, it's the "where are the transitional fossils" rebuttal ::gulp:: Whoops, did he just say, "belief in evolution requires faith?" ::guzzle:: Whoa, we've been playing for, what, thirty seconds? I'm already tipsy. I hope he doesn't bring up the 'crocoduck.' Rules say I gotta down a whole bottle in one go for that one.

Fred is an illustration of just how successful the propaganda machine of the evangelical Christian right is in America. They have been able to reach right into his psyche and supplant any kind of science knowledge Fred may have once had with their own mis-information. And he isn't even the slightest bit aware of what is wrong with the points he has been raising here. Why, in his most recent comment to date, he says that evolution "isn't the most solid theory science has going." Yet, all he'd have to do is read the link I suggested in my very first reply to him to find that statement is inaacurate. Evolution, as a scientific "theory," is more solidly supported by concrete evidence than any other scientific theory in existence. We are more sure of evolution than we are of how gravity works. But the religious right would have him deny that truth, in favour of their own 'truth.' They would have us all deny any evidence that seems to contradict their slap-dash collection of 3000 year-old folk tales.

And they're winning. Fred is the evidence of that. They are slowly, but surely chipping away at the foundations of right and reason the founding fathers of the United States used as the basis for their vision of a new country. They are creating a nation of Freds; a nation of people who just don't care; a nation of people who think science is something that never touches their lives.

Why do I bother? Why don't you bother? I cannot understand why every single person with a basic understanding of science isn't standing up in the public square and calling out The Discovery Institute, and Answers In Genesis, and all their ilk for the liars and deceivers they are.

Come on, point and laugh. It's what they deserve.

November 18, 2008

Secularists, Humanists and Atheists, oh my!

Fred (an excellent writer - check out his stuff) wrote a post about his impression that God - well, religion - well, specifically the Christian religion - is under attack in America.

I am not the most religious of men. I don't remember the last time I was in a place of worship, other than as a tourist or a wedding guest. But I recognize that religion is under attack in this country. And, it's not all religion, just Christianity. Because, I don't believe for a minute that the same sort of message would be allowed on Metro buses and trains about Allah. (link)

Yeah, you know I couldn't resist.

I posted a couple of comments on that entry, but my most recent reply became quite involved, so, as is my wont, I turned it into a blog post of my own. Also, I like commas.

You should pop over there to catch up on the conversation so far, then come on back here and read my response.

Here's what I wrote:


Dear Fred,
As I said in my most recent comment on your blog entry about religion, your views on atheism, secularism, and science are somewhat misguided. Don't feel bad. You are being lied to every day by the religious right about what the secularist message actually is. They lie about what the US constitution really says, and they lie about the history of your nation. They lie, bald-faced and unashamed, because it is the only effective tool they have in the fight to protect their "Truth." Funny, that.

Below, I have selected several points you made in your last comment to me, and attempted to explain where your understanding of the topic is erroneous.

1) "The percentage of people who regularly attend church, the people who ARE battling the atheist, is only a little more than 25%. The rest don't care enough one way or the other to even notice unless there's something in the news about religion."

-Wrong. In a February, 2007 Gallup poll , 53% percent of respondents said they would not vote for a "generally well qualified" presidential candidate if that candidate were an atheist. So, significantly more than just 25% of religious people are discriminatory towards non-believers. Over half of the population of the United States believes that a lack of belief in God should disqualify someone from holding high public office. No other minority group is reviled as strongly in America as atheists. The moderates are as intolerant as the fundies.

2) Evolution is an atheistic view.

-Wrong. Evolution is a scientific view. It does not claim that God does not exist. It simply demonstrates that there are perfectly rational and natural ways to explain our existence. God might be out there, or not, but whether he is, or isn't, is impossible to determine by looking at our world. There is nothing in our observable reality for which, "God diddit," is the only possible explanation. Science does not preclude the explanation, "God diddit," but it does not find any evidence to support it either. Science is agnostic on the topic of God.

3) "...atheists [are] fighting to keep creationsm from being taught."

-Wrong. Atheists are not fighting to keep creationism out of the classroom. Secularists are fighting to keep creationism out of the science classroom. To you, the disctinction may be a fine one, but it is a very important one. Creationism, or Intelligent Design if you like, does not use science, or the scientific method as a basis for investigation of the world. The Discovery Institute standing up and saying, "it is so science," doesn't make it so. In order to be science, they have to do science. They don't. Reading the Bible and saying, "there, that's how it is," is not science. If creationists want to teach their views in a comparative religion, or philosophy course, I have no problem with that. But teaching it in the science classroom is like teaching kids flower arranging in auto shop class - just plain wrong.

4) "But the attacks aren't aimed at those vague psychological teachings, they are aimed at the church."

-Wrong. Putting aside the topic of whether or not the word 'attack' is appropriate here, the problem is that those "vague psychological teachings" aren't telling people that they are the be-all and end-all of reality. Freud's ideas are pretty much dismissed today, but he is still taught as a historical reference to the science. But every psych student alive will tell you that, "sometimes a stairway is just a stairway." Psychology is taught as a theoretical science. Religion is taught as the only one truth. You cannot compare the two. No scientist will tell you you're going to burn in a lake of fire for all eternity if you disagree with him.

5) "While they concentrate on keeping their children out of church, they don't see them heading for the mosque."

-Wrong. That's just silly, and the fact you make that statement at all shows how poorly you understand the secular movement. I don't fear the church, or the mosque. I am raising my son to think for himself. If he tells me one day he wants to attend a church, I won't stop him. And the reason we aren't focussing on the Moslem (or any other) religion goes to our goals, which are not destruction of the church. They are freedom for all, not just freedom for all who agree with me. As I said in an earlier comment, black people don't want to kill all whiteys - they just want all the same rights and freedoms as we enjoy. And gay people don't want to tear apart all existing heterosexual marriages - they just want to be able to enjoy the same legal protections we already have. Atheists have no interest in making all religion go away. We just want equal treatment for all - including Moslems, and every other religion. The reason we don't "pick on" other religions is because the other religions don't exercise undue political power in our society the way the Christian church does.

Of course, if you feel that black people should still be on the plantation, and that gays deserve to be stoned to death, and that women exist solely for the gratification of men, then you won't understand any of these arguments anyway.

November 12, 2008

Dear Gabe,

You don't know me. We've never met. I'm just a guy your mother occasionally finds to be mildly amusing.

I'm also a Canadian, so I'm somewhat removed from your situation. Aside from the different attitudes towards the military in our two countries, I also think the decision your government made to send you and your fellows into Iraq was a poor one. Or at least made for the wrong reasons.

That, however does not reflect on you in any way. You are a man who answered his country's call when he perceived it was needed. You stood up and said, "yes, put me in harm's way for the benefit of all my friends, family, neighbours and countrymen." For that I have nothing but the utmost respect for you, and the brothers-in-arms with whom you have spent the last two years.

I am also a father; not of a whole brood of Oompahs, like your parents, but of a fourteen year-old boy - much like one of your younger brothers - much like you were, yourself, not too many years ago. As such, I have understood your Mother's complex feelings over your enlistment and deployment. I have read along in her blog, feeling her fear for, feeling her helplessness about, and feeling her emmense pride in her son. I cannot imagine what I would feel if my son announced he was joining the military. Were it to come to pass, I can only hope to handle it with the grace your Mother has displayed during a time when her worst fears were never very far from the surface of her mind.

With your current tour of duty over, I share your Mother's joy at your return home, and relief that you are out of harm's way - at least for a while. Welcome home, Gabe. Well done, and welcome home. Have a beer for me. Heck, have two - it'll be like having one Canadian beer.


Paul Little

(cross posted in Letters to Gabe)

November 08, 2008

OK, so I was wrong

Yes, I said it. I was wrong. I must say that I have rarely ever been so pleased to have been wrong. I am somewhat encouraged that all is not necessarily lost for the USA. There are some grown-ups living down there after all. Well done, America.

November 06, 2008

Oh, my!

This is very interesting:

Who can tell me exactly what is going on here?

November 01, 2008

Thursday, Friday and Saturday

T: The Majesty of Rock (or How To Know When You've Been Up Too Long)*

Thursday night, while I was reading "my blogs," I came across a fun post at BigHeathenMike's place. Mike featured a YouTube video from the Barenaked Ladies Bathroom Sessions. I'd never heard of them before - the 'Bathroom Sessions,' not The Barenaked Ladies - so I clicked through to explore a bit. (They're basically just some home video recordings of acoustic renderings of Barenaked Ladies songs recorded by Ed Robertson and Stephen Page in Ed's bathroom - no, don't think about that too much; nothing good can come of it.)

Anyway, you know how, on YouTube, they have all those links to "related videos" down the side? And, you know how you can sometimes click on a few of those links, jumping from one "related" video to another "related" video, and eventually end up somewhere almost completely inexplicable? Yeah... Well... Sometime around one o'clock I found myself watching this:

So, as a point of information: when you find yourself, in the wee hours of the morning, watching a stop-motion animated YouTube video called 'Lego Spinal Tap,' it's time to say to yourself, "go to bed, idiot!"

Just a small piece of advice from me to you.


F: Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight (or It's All Fun Until Some Zombie's Eye Falls Out)**

Friday night we left the boy home to hand out Halloween candy, while we went out to the curling club. We dressed up for the holiday as the losing team on ice number 6. It's bad enough losing a game, but we had to suffer the indignity of being beaten by a woman in a four foot tall, rainbow coloured, Cat-in-the-Hat tophat, a bright orange, oversized cardigan, and spiderweb patterned, silk boxer shorts. Not that I mind losing to Karen. She's a fine curler, and I'm getting used to being beaten by her, but you'd think she could do it with a little bit more, I don't know, style, or something.


S: [Listen To The] Flower People (or How to make your voice heard in a participatory democracy)***

I'm really looking forward to Tuesday. Actually, I'm really looking forward to the day after Tuesday, when we can all stop talking about the American Election, and just get on with our lives. Seriously, does the whole world come to a stop to watch the outcome of an election in any other country in the entire world? (Just in case you were unsure of the answer to that question, it's, "no.")

But listen, all you American readers out there. Do me a favour. Vote. It's important. Go out and vote. I voted in our election, you vote in yours. Not being an American myself, I'm not going to presume to tell you who I think you should vote for. I'm just saying, "vote." Even if you're going to vote for the guy I don't want to see in office, still, vote. I mean it.

That's all.

* No Viagra was harmed during the writing of this post.

** Several commas were abused during the writing of this post

*** Stretching a theme too far was criminally perpetrated during the writing of this post. This one does not go to eleven.

October 29, 2008

More stuffs

That snow from last week? It all melted the next day. Then, it snowed more last night. So, we have another thin, white blanket over the ground this morning. Apparently, Ottawa was supposed to get fifteen centimeters last night. It's not even November yet.

It's sunny out right now. It'll all probably be gone again this time tomorrow.


The wife spent yesterday at the Toronto Food Bank with her work group. They sorted and packed food all day long. She says they had to throw out almost as much as they packed. Apparently, many people think that donating to the food bank is a good thing to do with those items they find in their cupoboard that are past the best before date.

People! If you won't feed it to your family, don't suggest that someone else should feed it to theirs. If you have ever done this, I order you to go out to the grocery store - right now - and buy a brand new package of powdered milk, and a jar of peanut butter, and drop them off at your local food bank immediately. And, if you've never given anything to a food bank, hey, now's as good a time as any to start.


That whole gym thing? Yeah...uh...I'm slipping. Been busy. Had colds. I've only been out three times in the last thirty days. And that's just not good enough.

The good news: I went yesterday, and it felt really good to work out. So, here's hoping I can get back into the routine. Also, my pecs are sore.

October 22, 2008

Two stuffs

We had a federal election up here last week. Our Conservative Party won more seats in the House of Commons than any other single party, but not a majority of the available seats, leaving them to manage what we call a "minority government." Which is pretty much status quo, as that's the situation we've been in for the last two years. A minority goverment is an interesting situation because the governing party does not control enough votes in the house to pass legislation without the co-operation of members of other parties. This leads to an unprecedented amount of compromise and co-operation within the house, as the government will make concessions to the opposition parties in return for support for their initiatives.

It usually leads to a lack of contoversial legislation being passed, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It also means a short sitting period for a government, as a non-confidence vote is certain to eventually take place. We'll be back at the polls in probably less than another two years to do it all again.

I have read a number of opinions online from fellow Canadians who are scadalized that the Conservatives won another election. They seem to think Stephen Harper and his associates are out to ruin the country in some way. The most common commentary seems to equate Harper and the Conservatives with George Bush and the American Republican party, which is ridiculous. The Canadian political parties do not line up with the traditional American parties in ideology. Sure, the Liberals are more liberal minded, and the Conservatives are more, well, conservative, but both parties are far closer to the center of the political spectrum than the GOP and the Democrats.

While American conservatives can't seem to open their mouths without threatening to trample all over the rights of women, homosexuals, or non-christians, the Canadian Conservative Party has repeatedly stated that changes to Canada's human rights laws - permissive of gay marriage, abortion, and religious freedom - are not on their agenda. And have showed absolutely no indication over the last two years that they plan to change that position. Crying about those issues is nothing more than mindlessly parroting opposition talking points, so just stop it, OK?


It snowed here. All day long. None of it stayed on the ground though...until about 4:30. Now the front lawn is completely covered in a blanket of white. Put me in mind of this:

I predict high volume panic sales of snow tires tomorrow.

October 16, 2008

A post with meat

A recent editorial in the Toronto Sun caught my eye. Alan Shanoff wrote about a religious group in Alberta called the Hutterian Brethren, who are arguing before the Supreme Court of Canada that they should be exempt from having their pictures taken for driver's licenses. It seems the Hutterian Brethren take very literally the second commandment, which states, in part:

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4).
According to the Brethren, this commandment prevents them from voluntarily having their picture taken, which they interpret as 'making an idol.' Leaving off the fact that they seem to be quoting the verse out of context, and misinterpreting their own scripture, their argument is that the Government of Alberta, in refusing to issue driver's licenses to people who decline to have their picture taken, is infringing on their right to freely practice their religion.

Actually, their argument is slightly more complex than that. According to the Shanoff article, the Government of Alberta is preventing them from "continuing their communal way of life." Whatever that means.

Those of you who have been reading AWV for a while probably know my response to this. As I did for Mr. Balinder Badesha a few months ago, I have a couple of questions for the Hutterian Brethren:
1) Does your religion prevent you from posing for a driver's license photo?
We know the answer to this question, because it is the basis of their argument before the Supreme Court. (In case you weren't paying attention, their answer to the first question is, "yes."
2) Does your religion require you to operate a motor vehicle?
Now, here's the thing, uh, Brethren. If you try to answer, "yes," to this one, I'm gonna hafta ask for some kinda, you know, documentation. You're gonna hafta show me where, in your Holy Book, God says, "thou shalt operate motorized vehicles on public roadways." 'Cause, you know, I've read it, and I'm pretty sure that isn't in there.

So, for the record: requiring you to adhere to the law does not, in any way, infringe upon your right to believe silly things. Case dismissed.

Also, Alberta beef. Mmmm!

October 14, 2008

Even more newer and improvededer!!!1

Check out the blog's funky new duds. Nice, eh? Boy, oh boy, what an adventure that was, finding and uploading a new blog template, let me tell you! Tell me what you think.

Many thanks to for the cool template. Also, many thanks to Matt for the cool header photo.

October 10, 2008

New! Improved! Aurora Walking Vacation

Welcome to the New! and Improved! Aurora Walking Vacation. What's New! and Improved! about it, you ask? Well, its location, here on Blogger, is new. It used to be an AOL Journal, but AOL decided to no longer support blogging, and they chose to - get this corporate-speak - "sunset" their blogging platform. So, here I am.
This blog was actually created in May of 2006 (so, I guess it's not really all that new), when I thought I might try out an alternate blogging platform; one that might offer more features, and more customization tools. In the end, I didn't feel like doing the work required to suss the ins and outs of a new system, and stayed where I was.
That is no longer an option.

As for the improved part, well...uh...we'll just have to wait and see.

The original Aurora Walking Vacation - which will cease to exist on November 1, 2008 - has been imported to Blogger, and will remain as an archive from which I may, from time to time, pull old entries to feature here. If you are interested, it can be found at