This week Kris and I talk with Ian Cromwell (author of The Crommunist Manifesto (http://freethoughtblogs NULL.com/crommunist) over at Freethought Blogs) about race and gender issues in the skeptic and atheist communities and how the movements can increase participation from other cultural demographics and benefit from increased variation in views.
In this installment of the Legion of Reason we have a very special guest ahead of his appearance in Calgary on the 30th (tickets available through Eventbrite (http://cfiyychrab NULL.eventbrite NULL.ca/#)) – the incomparable George Hrab, host of the Geologic Podcast (http://www NULL.geologicpodcast NULL.com/)! In a wonderfully relaxed conversation Kris and I scare the bejeezus out of George with talk of the spring weather than can afflict the city of Calgary, the tragic marathon bombing in Boston, his introduction to one of his life’s passions, my hat envy, teaching music to children, food and MCing The Amaz!ng Meeting. And I reveal a deep, dark secret about myself when we get to the subject of television and pop culture.
We’ve already had two episodes dedicated to the Office of Religious Freedom (http://www NULL.international NULL.gc NULL.ca/religious_freedom-liberte_de_religion/index NULL.aspx). One (episode 2) was when the intention to create it was announced last year, and the second (episode 53) after the official opening itself. We now bring you a third look at the ORF, this time from someone who has had an audience with Ambassador Andrew Bennett. Michael Payton is the national director of the Centre for Inquiry Canada (http://www NULL.cficanada NULL.ca/) and he and several other CFI board members met with Bennett and we (me, Haysn and Kris) speak with Michael about this experience. Religious groups co-opting the power of the state to lash out against atheists are becoming more common, and not just in the Islamic world. In response to last year’s Pussy Riot demonstrations just this week the Russian parliament has passed a bill to increase the maximum punishment for the fictitious crime of blasphemy (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/news/world-europe-22090308) to three years in prison or a 300,000 rouble fine. Greece arrested a 27-year old man last fall for ”malicious blasphemy and religious insult” (http://www NULL.indexoncensorship NULL.org/2013/03/free-speech-takes-a-beating-in-greece/) ridiculed a well-known Greek Orthodox monk on his Facebook page. Even so-called secular Muslim countries get in on the act. In a move itself worth insulting, Turkish pianist Fazil Say was given a suspended 10-month prison sentence (reduced from 12 for good courtroom behavior) for insulting “Muslim values” on Twitter (http://www NULL.aljazeera NULL.com/news/europe/2013/04/2013415103818540386 NULL.html). But these incidents pale in comparison to what is happening right now in Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of protesters are calling for the death of atheist bloggers (http://www NULL.iol NULL.co NULL.za/news/world/bangladesh-atheist-bloggers-arrested-1 NULL.1494515). Bangladesh has no law against blasphemy, but extremist religious political parties such as Hefazat are calling for the government to institute not only draconian blasphemy laws targeted particularly at atheists (I mean, who else are they going to target?), but xenophobic isolationist laws and to make Bangladesh an official Islamic state. Even discrimination of other Islamic sects is promoted in Hefazat’s 13-point plan (http://blogs NULL.aljazeera NULL.com/blog/asia/bangladeshi-clerics-fight-atheist-bloggers). Bangladesh is seen by CFI (and us) as a test case for the ORF.They have written an appeal to Andrew Bennett to engage with the Bangladesh government (http://canadianatheist NULL.com/2013/04/12/cfi-petitions-the-office-of-religious-freedom/) to stem arrests and attacks on atheists who are simply trying to access the fundamental human rights of belief and free speech.
CFI is attempting to organize protests April 25 at Bangladeshi High Commissions and Consulates in Canada to go along with those in Washington, DC and New York. We’ll keep you posted here.
Welcome to another episode of the Legion of Reason! It’s been a few weeks, I was croaking like a chorus of frogs and I figured that no one wanted to hear that, if they want to hear me at all, and last week I was the only one available and again, I don’t think anyone would be terribly interested in listening to me talk to myself. I couldn’t do this podcast without my co-hosts.
Anyway, Kris, Twylla, Haysn and I discuss the response from Imam Syed Soharwardy to the recent Islamist terrorist attack in Algeria in which two Canadians participated (http://www NULL.sunnewsnetwork NULL.ca/sunnews/canada/archives/2013/04/20130403-182657 NULL.html). The good imam is clearly in denial about the relationship between fundamentalis Islam and religion-based terrorism. We discuss with bemusement a recent poll which asked American voters their opinions on the validity of various popular conspiracy theories (http://www NULL.publicpolicypolling NULL.com/main/2013/04/conspiracy-theory-poll-results- NULL.html). And we announce our intention to create our own version of the JREF’s Pigassus Awards (http://www NULL.randi NULL.org/site/index NULL.php/jref-news/2074-jrefs-pigasus-awards-honors-dubious-peddlers-of-woo NULL.html) – the inaugural annual “White Ass-hat Awards”. There are various categories of asshattery, religious and nonreligious in nature, and we will be taking nominations from our listeners in each category. We will announce the winners in a couple of weeks! The episode ends with a bit of inspirational music from that great British satirical television program Spitting Image.
I want to remind people that on April 30 we will be visited by the incomparable George Hrab for an evening of skepticism and music at Ten Nightclub. You can get your tickets to that at Eventbrite, (http://cfiyychrab NULL.eventbrite NULL.ca/#) and even save a couple of bucks using the promo code hidden somewhere in this episode! There are also apparently still some tickets (and even hotel space!) available for INR3 in Kamploops May 17-19 (http://imaginenoreligion NULL.ca/). So, those still on the fence had best make a move if they want to attend. Another name has been recently added to the speaker list, Peter Boghossian, instructor of philosophy at Portland State University and author of “Street Epistemology: A Manual for Creating Atheists” that will be coming out soon. That weekend is going to be a blast and you’ll regret having missed it if you aren’t there!
But first, we tackle a topic that seems to be raging through the skeptic and atheist movements – feminism. To quote a Talking Heads tune, “My God! What have I done?”