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I am a new parent. My interests are secularism, learning, parenting, religion, career planning, and adult education.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Public School will segregate students based on religion this fall.

I can't believe that a public school is moving forward with a decision to segregate students on the basis of religion this fall. This is 2012 for crying out loud! Canada is susposed to be a multicultural society, not a christian one. I just don't get it.

Luke Fevin - one of the leaders in trying to promote the removal of christian prayer from classrooms at Sturgeon Heights - has exactly captured what this form means.
Dear Parent, could you please indicate which room of random students you would like your children to be with each morning when they sing "Oh Canada" & get publicly acknowledged for their birthdays & achievements.

Please ignore the fact that the majority will be praying & to select non-praying may have your family judged & ostricized, or your children stigmatized & separated from their friends.
You can read more about the issue here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Sayin'

Here's my response the the Sturgeon Heights school board decision to re-instate christian prayer in a public school by segregating the christians from the non-christians and to the MP who wants to re-open the abortion debate. - If you have to make a law that hurts a number of people, just to prove your morals or faith, then you have no true morals or faith to prove.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pro Choice - This is why Canada should not re-open the abortion debate

Today, Conversative MP, Stephan Woodworth wants to open the debate around the definition of when human life begins and admits it is to re-open the issue of abortion rights in Canada.

I don't like where he's going with this.

While I think that biological arguments could be made that human life begins at conception, another biological and ethical argument can be made that a zygote/embryo/fetus depends on the life of it's host (the mother) who is an autonomous human being with rights and freedoms. The life of the zygote/embryo/fetus has serious impacts on the life and health of the mother. Our criminal code recognizes this and protects the rights of the autonomous human being. Therefore we do not need to to change our criminal code definitions - precisely because it endangers the rights, health, and well-being of autonomous human beings.

Coincidently, the author of "What Pale Blue Dot?" wrote about why she is pro-choice and I couldn't agree with her more.
Because I know that pregnancy kills, and more pregnancies kill more, and I believe in a woman's right to ensure her own survival (if for nothing else but to care for existing children), I strongly believe that women should have affordable, safe access to any and all measures to prevent and terminate pregnancy and the social support to utilize these measures.  Women should be in absolute control of when and under what conditions they put their lives at risk to bear a child. (emphasis mine) And we should value their lives enough to respect that agency.
For comparison, the death rate in any abortion procedure between 1993 and 1997 was .6 per 100,000 (Kaiser, 2002).  This makes ANY abortion, including late term, overall ten times safer than pregnancy and childbirth.  As it happens, this rate is still accurate, with more risky surgical abortion risk at .625 per 100,000 (NAF, 2006).
The takeaway on this is pregnancy is risky.  It may be less risky in wealthy nations when women have access to excellent medical care.  But it is always risky.  Women should be free to only take on this risk willingly and enthusiastically.  (emphasis mine) As such, all family planning services, contraceptive and abortive, are basic lifesaving healthcare and should never be denied to women.

Any denial of this lifesaving care is to presume that the life of a woman is less important than that of her potential offspring.

What bothers me most about pro-life activists is that they sure do seem to care a hell of a lot about the unborn than the living.

Please write your MPs and ask them to honor promises made by Stephan Harper that he will not allow this debate to be re-opened.

Friday, April 13, 2012


This news story is so moving. I think that as we move towards a more tolerant society, we need to protect freedom of expression. The story is how a  Thompson Rivers University student, Sooraya Graham, a Canadian woman who is also Muslim and chooses to wear a niqab and abaya took a photograph trying to portray an image through art that Muslim women - even those who wear traditional dress are normal.

This is Canada, she is Canadian, and she has the right to express herself through this medium and the fact a a Muslim man complained should not have resulted in her photo being censored. As her professor says, it is an example of what art should do - make you think and consider the world through a different lense.

I`m not saying the Muslim student group who were offended by the photo can`t express their reasons, but I am saying that that offense should not silence the voice of their fellow students - who is one of their own faith. I will say though that the reactions of the offended student group and Saudi Arabia`s embassy does say alot about their own views on women`s rights - both to freedom of expression and personal freedoms such as whether to allow others to take photos of you...while you are fully clothed...folding laundry. Strange that such as everyday occurrance can be so thought-provoking...and so offensive?! to make Canada!

Today, although Sooraya and I are far apart on religious issues - I want her to know that I support her rights and freedoms. I think her photo is very compelling on so many levels. In fact, I`m even a little glad that this controversy happened - because now even more people will see your work and hopefully stop and think about their own biases.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Gets Better at Brigham Young University

I never went to BYU but I used to be a Mormon. I remember standing up to an institute teacher once when he expressed sadness that a politician had to resign because he said he wanted to turn back the clock and not only make same-sex marriage illegal again but also bring back sodomy laws. I expressed my belief that while same-sex marriage wasn't allowed in our church that I thought it was fine if other churches and the state wanted to do it and that turning back the clock was wrong. I remember emphasizing that our church was supposed to honor free will and that I thought that didn't mean legislated our preferences for marriage and sex. My teacher disagreed with me. I left the church a few months later, not for this reason, for many others, but I'm glad that things are getting better and that at least GLBT Mormons are at the very least able to say who they are and that they aren't getting expelled for it anymore and can even form a community. Good for these brave young people, (who are creating change from within, they are the pioneers not their supposed inspired leaders). I do truly hope it gets even better and that of it doesn't you can feel free to leave this organization behind if it continues to lag behind the more progressive parts of society I accepting you and allowing you to form the family of your dreams, whatever that looks like to you.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who Really Has the Moral High Ground Here?

I've been following the request for public education free of religious instruction - as guaranteed by law - in Morinville. It's been a great story and I really admire the parents for what they have done to date and the progress that has been made. These parents have stood up to authority, with the law on their side, and solutions are on the way to Morinville- hopefully since it has been done in such a clumsy manner by our government.

Following the Morinville story lead me to following the stories around the new Education Act in Alberta as well. And in truth, it seemed like a good piece of legislation to me. It was so close to being passed, but then the call for an election halted its progress - due in large part to an effort by parents, who were concerned that teaching their kids about human rights, took away their rights to teach them whatever they wanted either in home schools or religious schools. See here, here, and here for more information.

However, I`m concerned that what is really happening is that forces, similar to those behind the religious right in the US, is trying to erode our public education system and our success as a country in protecting diversity and human rights. I`m sorry but if these kinds of movements and special interest groups means we`ll end up with Rick Santorums in Canada - then I`m not interested.

The Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are great legislation, not perfect, but pretty awesome. They do protect those rights that need it the most - yes, the rights of homosexuals, racial and ethnic minorities, and religious and nonreligious folks.

Parents don`t need to worry that they cannot teach their children their own religious views - those rights and freedoms are firmly protected.

From the Charter:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
And so while if you believe that being homosexual is a sin - you have every right to believe that and express that - but you do not have the right to discriminate against homosexuals - because they are humans who have rights too - the right to believe they are NOT sinners and the right to express that - and the right to not be discriminated against on the basis of who they love.

So, does the religious right have the moral high ground here? Hello, they are protesting teaching human rights and canadian law to their children - somethings that the Minister of Education said the act won't even force them to do! Their religion has them questioning whether or not to uphold laws and legislation that protect everyone - and Canada's unique multi-cultural, plural society.

I find these enshrined rights to be full of values that I can support.

From the Charter
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
From the Alberta Human Rights Act:

WHEREAS recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and
inalienable rights of all persons is the foundation of freedom,
justice and peace in the world;
WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle
and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in:
dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious
beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age,
ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family
status or sexual orientation;
WHEREAS multiculturalism describes the diverse racial and
cultural composition of Alberta society and its importance is
recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and a matter of
public policy;
WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle
and as a matter of public policy that all Albertans should share in
composition of society and that the richness of life in Alberta is
enhanced by sharing that diversity; and
WHEREAS it is fitting that these principles be affirmed by the
Legislature of Alberta in an enactment whereby those equality
rights and that diversity may be protected:
The Act goes on to clarify that freedom of belief and expression are protected. There is nothing wrong with teaching children about the laws, acts, and charter. It's typical social studies. The religious right is just wrong on this issue and I have to wonder - to what end?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I believe...

I have been participating in a facebook discussion where I challenged the idea that atheists find more acceptence in the world than christians. Of course, with some good-natured ribbing, I got push back from believers who trotted out typical atheist stereotypes - you know the ones I'm talking about...

  • are angry
  • are smug
  • don't believe in anything
  • don't exist ie. someone said "I don't believe in atheists" (this one always makes me chuckle, as there is more evidence that atheists exist than that god exists)
Anyway, I've been neglecting this blog for far too long and writing about the things I do believe in seemed like an easy thing to post about.

The author of the blog, Releasing Religion, summarizes my feelings well...

"It is a common misconception that to be an atheist is to be a believer of nothing. On the contrary, to be an atheist can be an exquisite search for truth, just as passionate as any religious follower could be."
My atheism definitely started with a search for truth - and the journey was exquisite - sometimes exquisitely painful, exquisitely frustrating, and definitely exquisitely joyful. My journey started with dealing with the uncomfortable experience of facing the cognitive dissonance that was building between what seemed compassionate and real and what my church taught and I believed. Examining my cherished religious beliefs in light of obvious contradictions with my personal values and reality was probably once of the most intense periods of self-reflection of my life. Don't they say that the unexamined life isn't worth living?

My journey to atheism was not an overnight journey - it started with questioning the teachings of my church, broadening my view of what a just god would really be like, then searching for evidence of that god or a community that embraced that view. Finding none, I accepted that organized religion could got hold all that god probably is and slid towards agnostism. Finally I realized that proving god did or did not exist was pointless - the fact of the matter is that either way, it didn`t matter - I didn`t need to believe in god to lead a good life, be a good person, care for others, care for the world and its inhabitants, or to be grounded in values.

Everyone has values - no matter what supernatural powers people do or do not believe in. I`ve found that finding common values regardless of belief is how to build community and find meaning - doesn`t matter where you think those values come from. So without further ado - are are the things that I believe in - in no particular order.

I believe in compassion.

I believe in fairness.

I believe that human beings have the capacity for developing excellent solutions to complex problems.

I believe humans have a responsibility to care for others - because it makes our lives easier when there are people to care for us.

I believe that we need to leave the world a better place (or at least a habitable place) for future generations - because so far, it seems this is only place we humans really have to live.

I believe in working together to find solutions to the problems that face us in the here and now.

I believe in following your heart in a way that does not harm others.

I believe in standing up for people who cannot or will not stand up for themselves.

I believe in human rights and justice.

I believe that discrimination and prejudice should be identified and called out.

I believe that a secular public life built on shared humanist values protects everyone`s right to religion the best.

I believe that religious beliefs are best left to families and churches and that the state should not interfere in these beliefs unless those beliefs are acted upon in ways that infringe on others` human rights (ie. the belief that a husband has the right to beat his wife into submission, or that parents can deny their children medical care, honor killings, etc.)

I believe that men and women are equal.

I believe that children should not be abused and deserve the respect of their human dignity.

I believe that education is important and that the scientific method is really our best way of finding out about and understanding the world and the universe.

I believe in the golden rule - which has found its way into many philosophies and ancient religions and predates christianity.

I believe that there are many right ways to have a family - as long as there is love, support, commitment and fairness.

I do have a bias against religion, I`ll admit it, but I try to be respecful of people`s rights to believe. However, I do not think that religious ideas and ideals are off limits for criticism just because they are called religious. If an idea has merit, it should stand on it`s own, have support in the real world, and not be protected against discussion - as it is simply an idea that must stand on it`s own in the marketplace of values and ideas.

For someone who is an atheist and "doesn`t believe in anything", I find my heart and mind full - I could even say "my cup runneth over."