Atheist Scruples: don’t drink and drive

August 26, 2014

I guess it’s a question in this game because not everyone thinks like I do.

One of your guests has drunk too much and become obnoxious. Finally, he is about to leave. Do you allow him to drive home in his condition?

Saskatchewan Government Insurance offers an Android App called SGI Safe Ride.

The SGI Safe Ride App puts all Saskatchewan taxis, DD services, transit routes, and even your own designated drivers in the palm of your hand. So, if you have been out for a few drinks you can always plan a safe ride home.
• Automatically determines your location, and lists one-touch calling for all local taxis and designated driver services.
• Provides available city transit information in your area.
• Allows you to easily assign designated drivers from your contacts list or add custom numbers.
This app is currently only designed for people living in Saskatchewan, Canada.

So, no use to my worldly readers, but locally worth knowing about.

This is assuming my annoying, obnoxious friend has not made an ass out of himself to a point where I’d want to go year before another visit and wouldn’t care if he killed himself crossing the road after what he said.

Then again, that’d be mighty cruel of me and, for all I know, liable in the death of him or those he may harm if I let him leave while inebriated.

So, aiming to avoid that possibility: crash on my couch, idiot. I’ll give you coffee in the morning and tell you all about the stupid ass things you did and said. You’re lucky we’re such good friends…

Animal rights over religious rights in Denmark? That’s interesting.

August 15, 2014

To say the least…

European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds. For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.

Yet defending his government’s decision to remove this exemption, the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”.

Commenting on the change, Israel’s deputy minister of religious services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan told the Jewish Daily Forward: “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions.”

NPR notes that Sweden and Norway have had a ban in place for years.

Dutch lawmakers took up the issue in 2012, and even Britain’s top veterinarian is now making headlines by suggesting his country would do well to follow the Danish example.

As Europe grows more secular, says Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation in Copenpagen, “religious tradition” is no longer a valid argument for much of anything, he says.

Benyones Essabar with the group Danish Halal agrees.

“Religion itself in Europe doesn’t play the big role … it does in other countries. So every time we speak about something that [has] to do with religion,” he says, “it will always be looked at as something from medieval times, and something that doesn’t have any scientific place in our modern days.”

There are a lot of rules set down to make food properly Kosher or halal. Some of it sounds completely silly in terms of blessings and prayers to certain gods in order to make it “official” but other parts probably did have a basis in food safety and health at a time when people did not have refrigerators or any knowledge of bacteria and parasites. Salt has been used as a preservative for centuries and the kernels of Kosher salt are ideal for soaking up liquid like blood; blood is a no-go for both traditions. Why milk and meat can’t go together for halal food is up for grabs in terms of sciency reasons, but it would have made sense at the time to avoid the meat of carnivores. It still makes sense.

I can’t speak to the sense people have about these bans coming across as anti-Semitic or Islamophobic, though. I can see why that would be a fear since both are minority groups in Europe with a history of racism, fear and propaganda denouncing the faith and its followers. But, what if it really does just come down to compassion for the plight of animals? So long as people insist on eating them, shouldn’t all attempts be made to make their end as painless as possible? Can Kosher and Halal butchers and the rest involved guarantee that?

BC Pastafarian seeks to wear colander for driver’s licence photo

August 15, 2014

Obi Canuel is an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and he made the request this year but so far has been denied. The Insurance Corporation of B.C

told him “there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander for the purpose of taking the photo to appear on your driver’s license.”

ICBC said its religious head covering policy strive to strike a balance between respect for the driver’s religious beliefs and a need to preserve the integrity of the licensing system.

For the past several years, Austria has allowed people to identify as Pastafarian and a fellow in Poland wanted his country to extend the same right to him. The article has no update as to his luck with that endeavor but it turns out a higher court did agree to allow for Pastafarians to register as religious observers there.

It’s also been allowed in Texas as of 2013.

“I don’t want to say its poking fun at religious head-wear in other peoples faiths I would like to think that it actually opens the doors for new age religion and just it kind of symbolizes acceptance and it kind of celebrates in a sense that we are a melting pot of a country,” Castillo told

Canuel is taking the stance that an insurance company shouldn’t have any say in what people wear on their heads in terms of religious headgear. I suppose he can make the case that it’s not obscuring his facial features in any way.

Strangely, a photo of Canuel wearing the exact same strainer on his head was approved for his new B.C. Services card

I don’t think it’s written down anywhere that government has to make sense…

I think it’s all a bit silly but whatever. At least it’s a practice that doesn’t hurt anyone. Ramen and good luck, man.

Should Christian photographers take gay photos?

July 3, 2012

Worthy of a special round of Scruples, this one. I ran across a story of New Mexico event photographers who wound up in a bit of hot water over refusing to take photos for a lesbian wedding. The lesbian couple in question took the matter to the Human Rights Commission back in 2006 and Elaine and Jon Huguenin, joint owners of Elaine Photography, have now been asked to pay $7000 for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I’m going to say they shouldn’t have to. This isn’t a case of a Justice of the Peace refusing to wed a lesbian couple, or people who won’t rent to them. It’s wedding photography and I think all the couple should have done was say, “Screw you then, we’ll give our money to somebody else,” and then paid for some less homophobic company to capture their memorable day forever. I can’t imagine they were the only photographers available in town.

I’m also going to say that I think consumers need to do more research into the companies they want to deal with and maybe this couple was right to want to make an example of the Huguenins. If their beliefs are going to be getting in the way of doing their job, then perhaps they should either switch beliefs or switch jobs.

Another article about the case quotes Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who tries to make the case that this is still more evidence of religious “rights” being whittled away:

“I think this case illustrates a disturbing trend that we’re seeing in general, which is a shrinking of religious liberty and [a shrinking] of the area in which we can act on our religious convictions to only the four walls of our homes or the four walls of our churches,”

he warns, but NEWS FLASH! Religion needs to be pulled out of the public areas. It really needs to be. Keep the public areas secular and be as religious as you want to be at home and your church. The rest of the city/province/state/country should be kept religion free so no group gets preferential treatment and no group winds up feeling slighted. Christians are used to assuming they ought to get preferential treatment but that’s an assumption that needs to be set aside as places get more and more multicultural. I know many Christians think they ought to be allowed to convert everyone they see so the whole world is Christian like they are, but tough tits. People are allowed to hold other religious beliefs. Including no religious beliefs. Laws and ethics and morality can be built up and upheld without resorting to what people think some god thinks.

I’m just throwing all that out there. What about readers? What are your thoughts here?

Old news: it’s hard to be atheist in Indonesia

May 22, 2012

Via the Jakarta Globe, January 19, 2012:

An Indonesian civil servant who posted “God does not exist” on his Facebook page has been taken into police custody for his own protection after he was badly beaten.

The man, identified as Alexander, 31, now faces the prospect of losing his job, or even being jailed, if he fails to repent and accept one of six official state religions.

Blasphemy carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Atheist Ireland felt like taking a stand over this. Their own country passed a blasphemy law in July of 2009. While briefing local politicians about the Indonesia case, they implied that Ireland is partially to blame for it. Two Senators agreed and in February of this year, they asked their government leaders to support Alexander Aan. Said Jillian van Turnhout:

While I fully support the repeal of this law, I do not believe the intention of the blasphemy legislation introduced by Mr. Dermot Ahern in 2009 was to infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and conscience in Ireland. Nor do I think it is a desirable consequence that our law is being used to support such infringements, including against Christian religions in Islamic countries anywhere else in the world.

The Guardian picked the story up again in May. The article states that the country runs with a state philosophy of pancasila, which requires all citizens to pick one god (or set of gods) and believe in that completely. Aan’s initial refusal to choose to be Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Confucian or Hindi might encourage more people to reject every religion and thus become uncontrollable individualists without ethics or morals, so he has to be beaten by mobs and imprisoned as a warning for everyone.

While his lawyers estimate there may be up to 2,000 atheists in Indonesia, “there’s no real way of knowing”, Fajrin says. The repercussions are too dangerous.

According to Andreas Harsono, a local human rights activist, Aan’s case is just one of a growing number of examples of religious intolerance across Indonesia, ranging from harassment to mob and arson attacks against groups such as the Baha’i, Shia and Ahmadiyah Muslims – sometimes ending in death.

Last year, the local Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace recorded 244 acts of violence against religious minorities – nearly double the 2007 figure.

Official state religions there might be, but some are preferred over others. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has closed 80 Christian churches a year since he took power in 2004. Aan has “converted” to Islam – he’d been going to mosques as a kid with his family even though he didn’t believe – and issued a public apology for his Facebook post, too. Unfortunately, the Islamic Society Forum still calls for the death penalty in this case; too little, too late.

He looks out the window to where a group of inmates are celebrating their Sunday by performing karoake to drum’n’bass in the dusty prison yard, most of them smoking, all of them barefoot. “I only want to see a better world and help create a better world,” he says. “If I cannot … then I would prefer to die.”

While he has Atheist Alliance International and Britain’s Council of ex-Muslims in his corner, it probably won’t affect the predicted grim outcome. His country will make an example out of him, and then atheists the world over will have to double efforts to try to stop this from happening again. But it will probably happen again. None of those guys will wake up the next morning and think they made a mistake. No, they’ll think they did Allah’s will and will pat themselves on the back for it, then go after some other person who dares to think or dress a bit differently.

I feel for him.

I don’t know if I’d want to see Jesus getting touched…

February 2, 2012

…but it’s good to find out that a short film featuring JC on the cross and St Teresa of Avila giving him a “sexual caress” is no longer banned in Britain. And it only took 20 years. Well done. It was the only film in Britain’s history deemed blasphemous enough by law to warrant the ban but now that blasphemy is no longer a crime (as of 2008), the film has finally gotten a pass.

In a statement today, the board said: “With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force.

“Nor does the board regard the film as likely to cause harm to viewers in the terms envisioned by the Video Recordings Act.

But it added: “The board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers.

“However, the board’s guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor harmful.

“In the absence of any breach of UK law and the lack of any credible risk of harm, as opposed to mere offensiveness, the board has no sustainable grounds on which to refuse a classification to Visions Of Ecstasy in 2012.”

Still doesn’t sound like anything I’d watch, but then again, I sat through “Club of the Discarded” recently which features stop motion mannequins having “sex” (among other things) so who really knows for sure…

Tacky Whitefish Jesus remains on mountain top – for now

February 1, 2012

The Forestry Service has caved to Christian pressure decided to renew the Knights of Columbus special permit which allows them to advertise for Jesus keep their memorial in place for a further ten years.

Forest Service supervisor Chip Weber stated reasons for the decision, namely the statue can be considered a historical monument if people want to go that route, “and that no substantive concerns related to environmental conditions were found in about 95,000 comments received by the agency.”

Environmental concerns? It’s not hurting the land to have it there, so leave it there? That’s their answer? True, it’s just a statue on a ski hill and no doubt Whitefish and the Service have a good arrangement in place for keeping the land cared for while still letting skiers have at it, but there’s a bigger picture they’re ignoring as they check the grass for owies. I guess part of the problem here is a pick-your-battles kind of thing. Of all the issues out there for people who want to raise awareness, separation of church and state isn’t necessarily going to be a high priority for all listeners. There’s environment, there’s education, there’s this other thing and that one. Yes, there are other things that need attention but that doesn’t mean this issue should be swept under the rug and forgotten. It matters, and will matter so long as so many diverse groups believe different things and want different things but still all want to live in the same country. Which means, it’ll matter forever.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues the religious statue does not belong on public land, said it anticipated the agency’s reversal. It argues that the Forest Service was breaching separation of church and state rules by leasing the 25-by-25 foot patch of land for the Jesus statue.

“We have no objection to shrines like these on private property. That is where they belong,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “I think it will be very easy to show that this special permit is a sham.”

Gaylor said the public comments received by the Forest Service do not make its decision any more constitutional.

“We think we have a very strong case. There is just no question that the Knights of Columbus should not be given a special use permit,” she said

But for now the statue stays. Better luck next decade, I guess…


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