Radio Freethinker

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Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’

RFT Ep 226 – Free Thinkers Club Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on September 24, 2013


Don’s Rant about Pope Francis…based on recent comments, could the pope be a closeted atheist? Or maybe the first communist pope?

“Let me start off with a rant Pope Francis. This is a pope that really confuses me. As the follow up act to the former Nazi former Pope Benedict, who also did some time as Darth Vader’s boss, anyone would seem to be an improvement.

That said, some recent comments by the pope has lead me to start to think that he is a closet atheist…or worse…a communist!

When the pope took office people were expecting a very humble papacy. No more the Prada shoes of his predecessor. He is famous, as a cardinal, for living in a shared apartment…taking the bus to work and just being a quote man of the common people.

He has renounced or at least redefined Papal infallibility as being ‘consensus’ or communal infallibility. That, as he put it “All the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief”. He avoid the accusation of popularize by adding that this group-think is influence by the holy spirit…making it gods will or something. Thus the whole church and not just the pope or the priestly class are infallible.

Well recently he came out and in commenting on Jesus said that some in the church say “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good”. He then commented that the church was “were a little intolerant”. Then capped it with “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone!” exclamation point.

And followed that up with “if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge” and just a few days ago he said “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently…the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods”.

So, I was beginning to think that maybe the pope is a closeted atheist. He has said many times that to quote on instance “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner”. What if his sin is apostasy?

Well, the pope let me down this Saturday when he came out stating that “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord” and sees abortion as a symptom of our, to quote, our throw away society.

So then I was thinking, he also said…”Money sickens our minds, poisons our thoughts…[it] leading us down the path of jealousy, and conflict. It drives to idle words and pointless discussions… We can never serve God and money at the same time”

So maybe not an atheist but a communist…well lefty socialist at least. So, I am expecting anytime soon that the Vatican Bank and the Catholic Church in general to be writing everyone who is poor a nice big check.”


Find out more:


We also have an interview with Pratyush Dhawan and Darren Bell from the UBC Free Thinkers Club. We discuss atheism, skepticism, humanism, and just what is “free thinking”.

We also discuss ‘natural spiritualism’, humanity becoming an inter-stellar species, and the moral landscape.


Find out more:

Download the episode here! 

Next week, host emeritus Ethan Clow will join me to discuss…well, its going to be a surprise, tune in and find out!


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Radio Freethinker Episode 204 – Panda Politics Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 26, 2013


This week:
– New Pope old problems,
– Creationist’s $10,000 challenge,

– Librarians and loyalties, and
– Panda Politics

Download the episode here!


New Pope old problems

76228_600We originally thought the new pope, although having his own baggage, was not tainted by the ‘hiding pedophile priest’ scandal. Well, new report shows that even this humble friar had his role in covering up and moving around disgraced clergy.

Find out more:

Creationist’s $10,000 challenge

edgeDr. Joseph Mastropaolo is offering $10,000 to any individual (who is willing to put up their own $10,000)  who can “prove that science contradicts the literal reading of Genesis”. If you win, you get the $20,000. If on the other hand, they prove “proves that science indicates the literal reading of Genesis” they win.

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Librarians and loyalties

Fullscreen capture 02072012 25803 PM-001Don reviews changes to the Code of Conduct for Library and Archives of Canada. The insistence of a ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government as opposed to the nation of Canada strikes as tones of totalitarianism. In the light of many other policies, decisions and legislation  one can not help but get the feeling Harper things HE is the nation, civil servants can’t be trusted and the less the people know the better for the government.

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Panda Politics

DEA3795sq-1024x1024Pandas has been an intricate part of Chinese diplomacy for centuries. Since the 1970’s the People Republic has used them to open the doors to the non-communist world.

Two of the bi-coloured fur balls are not in Canada; what does it mean, why did we get them and what did we give up? Could our Prime Minster spend his time doing something more important than pimping Pandas?

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Skeptical Highlights:

Medicines from the Ivory Tower


The Istituto teams up once again with ARPICO, the Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals of Western Canada, to present a fascinating talk celebrating the 50th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Italian scientist Giulio Natta. Organic chemistry, the branch of chemical science that focuses on carbon-based materials, permits the conversion of basic resources, such as petroleum and coal, into valuable end-products that are the hallmark of technologically advanced societies. Organic chemistry enabled Giulio Natta to usher in the era of advanced plastics. Today, researchers rely on organic chemistry to create the medicines of the future. This talk by UBC’s Prof. Marco Ciufolini will briefly highlight the work of Giulio Natta, before illustrating how advances in organic chemistry are spawning the therapies of the 21st Century.


Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – 500W. Hastings, Vancover


Wednesday, MAR 27, 2013, 6:15 PM



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Radio Freethinker Episode 203 – Who Killed JC Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on March 19, 2013


This week:
– Who killed JC?,
– What are the Ides and are they only in March?,
– Faith and Crime,

– New Pope with baggageand
– Atheist Discrimination vs Religious Freedom

Download the episode here!


Who killed JC?

hre0009lWe all probably have heard the quote “BE WARE THE IDES OF MARCH” and the ensuing assassination of Julius Caesar (JC). Was Brutus the real killer or was he a patsy for a deeper conspiracy…listen and find out.

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What are the Ides and are they only in March?

enan337lWe have heard about the Ides….but what the heck are they? Don gives a history lesson about who the Romans tell time during the month.

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Faith and Crime

rcln381lDon reviews new research that shows how active criminals use theology to enable/excuse/validate their criminal activities

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New Pope with baggage

dewar cartoon march 17 2013 col.jpgThe Catholic Church has a new Pope, who is he? Does he come with come darker baggage? Is he the right person to rescue the church form its current troubles. Poster Pope or A Pope on a Poster?

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Atheist Discrimination vs Religious Freedom

religious-freedom-cartoonThe UN so far has resisted appeals from atheist and non-believers to be identified in the UN charter of rights as a group that is specifically targeted for discrimination and persecuted because of their non-belief.

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Skeptical Highlights:

Priorities for the Second Obama Administration

U.S. consul general Anne Callaghan gives the next lecture in the Diplomatic Circle series where she gives the unfiltered (but always slanted) position of Obama and the USA administration. Take with a grain of salt, but straight for the horses as…er, mouth.

When: March 20, 2013 @ 4:30

Where: Fairleigh Dickinson University, 842 Cambie, Vancouver

Cost: Free

Harper Monologue: The Politics of Hate and Fear

Rage Resist Rebel presents a dramatic performance linking a fierce artistic critique of Harper’s policies to a clear reminder of the power of resistance. Cosponsored by the SFU Women’s Centre and SFU’s Out on Campus.

When: March 21, 2013 @ 7:30

Where: SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver

Cost: by donation

International Socialist Conference: Ideas to Change the World

Discuss alternatives to the current system, the ongoing Egyptian revolution, and Canada’s Idle No More movement.

When: March 23, 2013 @ 11:30

Where: Langara College, Vancouver

Cost: Free

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Radio Freethinker Episode 201 – Magdalene Laundry Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 26, 2013


This week:
– The Oscars,

– Praise and criticism of Seth MacFarlane,
– Argo rewriting history,

– The Magdalene Laundry
, and
– Listener Feedback: Free-will clarification

Download the episode here!


The Oscars

mgtn111lEthan’s PVR’s plot to prevent him from watching the Oscars and why he didn’t miss much

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Praise and criticism of Seth MacFarlane

imagesSeth MacFarlane is an active and powerful supporter of skepticism and atheism  We take every opportunity to forward our communities view-point and poke-fun at the religious and anti-science types. However, he is not a perfect and many have criticized and tried to distance themselves from him after the off-colour jokes he presented at the Oscars…well he’s one of use but not all of us.

Find out more:

Argo rewriting history

127771_600Argo won the best-picture Oscar…Don though worries that in its success history is being re-written and Canada looses yet another historical highlight to it’s more aggressive southern neighbor.

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The Magdalene Laundry

rnin660lRecently the Irish government gave heart-felt meacopa about its involvement in the force labour asylums known as the Magdalene Laundries. The laundries were operated by catholic nuns until the last laundry closed in 1996. Catholic Church-run laundries made money for the church by exploiting this female slave labour while subjecting them physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Find out more:

Listener Feedback:  Free-will clarification

KNHOcrJWe got a some of feedback about of show on free will. We take some time to address the issues raised and clarify our view on the issue.

Find out more:


Skeptical Highlights:

Listener Feedback:

Next weeks show will be broadcast live from the “Study and Go Abroad”  fair. If you have any questions, queries or quandaries you would like us to discuss or ask over a hundred academic institution desperate for foreign students, let us know at

Also, a note to our loyal fan-base, we have received a number of great email questions/pushback on a number of our episodes…we love feedback. But please, make these comments on our webpage. I promise we WILL response. A number of your comments has inspired brand-new segments, so please share your wisdom or ire with our online community.

I should point out, as a disclaimer, all email response may be included in a future (and often repository) segment or blog-post. If you wish anonymity, let us know and we will “respond: anonymously…you know what I mean; that said, if you wish private conversation, let us know…we will then maintain your confidence.

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire

Over the last decade more and more people have started questioning the policies and actions of the State of Israel. In response, some of Israel’s supporters have increasingly tried to suppress open political debate of Palestine/Israel. This campaign to vilify, intimidate and harass Israel’s critics has intensified since December 2009 when live video showed Israel’s treatment of Palestinians during its military assault on Gaza.

Join author and Rutgers University prof Deepa Kumar speaks about how Islamophobia has been created and fostered from the Crusades to the present, debunking the myth that these can be understood in terms of a clash of civilizations.

When: MAR 02, 2013, 7-9 PM

Where: SFU Harbour Centre, Room 1700 (, 604-254-1803)


Self-Publishing Fair

Learn about the ever-changing world of self-publishing in a day of presentations and panel discussions with B.C. authors. Topics include editing skills and services, the how-to of marketing, and the business of self-publishing

When: March 3, 2013 from 10:00 to 4:30

Where: Alice MacKay Room – Vancouver Public Library on Georgia

Cost: Free

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The Proud Tradition of Popes Resigning

Posted by Ethan Clow on February 11, 2013

News broke that Pope Benedict “I look like Emperor Palpatine” the XVI aka Joseph Ratzinger has resigned as Pope. Ratzinger sighted advanced age as one of the reasons for his resignation,

“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”

So no worries. The Pope didn’t suddenly get an attack of the conscience for the decades of child abuse he covered up or the horrible polices the Vatican has been promoting in Africa like condoms spreading HIV.

In fact, Ratzinger is joining a proud tradition of Popes throughout history who have quit. Five Pope’s have resigned over history and an additional four more are “said” to have resigned but the history books are less clear on them. Let’s take a look at the quitters now.



First we have Pope Pontian who wore the hat from July 230 to September 235 CE. Little is known of this fellow, and we have only a few sources of his life to go by, however in a nut shell, this Pope found himself in the ire of Roman Emperor Maximinus Thrax who decided to have Pontian and his rival Hippolytus of Rome sent to the “unhealthy island of Sardinia.” Pontain resigned to prevent a power struggle in the papacy during his captivity. He died in the mines of Sardinia.


Next comes Pope Marcellinus who also was Pope during the reign of an Roman Emperor who wasn’t a fan of Christianity. It is believed that his papacy was from June 296 to April 304. There is some debate as to what happened to Marcellinus, did he resign? Was he martyred? Did he renounce his faith to save himself? What we can say for sure is that at some point during Emperor Diocletian’s reign, Marcellinus said “bugger this…I’m out.”Marcellinus

Next in our list is Pope Liberius, (May of 352 to September of 366 CE) who is only postulated to have resigned. Since digging through pages of obscure Catholic pseudo history is boring. I’m going to just agree.

The last of the historically mysterious Popes is John XVIII. The story for this guy is that he was basically installed as Pope by powerful Crescentii family, who ruled Rome from about 950 to 1012 CE. John actually poped from Pisa and apparently got tired to being bossed around and died as a monk in 1009. Way to keep your dignity dude.


BenedictusIXPope Benedict IX. Boy was this guy fun. He was Pope multiple times from October 1032 to July 1048. Installed by his dad who was super rich and well connected, Benedict IX was known for being the youngest Pope at 18 years old (maybe younger) and for his wild and crazy times. He was called “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest…” and “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter” and that he “feast[ed] on immorality” Oh and he might have been gay. So when he finally got bored of having orgies in the Vatican and potentially being a murdering rapist, his grandfather bribed/bought the Papacy from him. His grandfather became Pope Gregory VI but after resigning and the money never arrived, Benedict had a not so surprising change of heart and returned to Rome with an army. He retook the throne but was no longer recognized by organized Catholicism as being Pope.

Benedict IX leads us directly to next quitter-pope. That is, his grandpa Gregory the VI. Catholicism breathed a sigh of relief when Benedict was bought out. But as I said, that quickly didn’t last. There were actually three Popes at this time. Benedict, Gregory and this jerk Pope Sylvester III. By this time, Holy Roman Emperor Henry III had had enough of this Pope-musical chairs and came down and drove Benedict from Rome. Henry favored Gregory and Sylvester was declared “you were never Pope in the first place” and sent home. However, Gregory also was slapped on the wrist for buying the Papacy. He resigned while spluttering “what? what? but…but…but…I’m a hero!”




(Gregory’s successor was Pope Clement II who poped until his death in 1047 when Benedict became Pope again. Ha.)

Next comes probably the most sensible Pope ever. Pope Celestine V. (July 1294 to December 13 1294) Known as a hermit and solitary guy, he sent the cardinals (who were trying and failing to elect a new pope) a letter warning them of dire consequences if they don’t elect someone soon. Mistaking this letter as a poorly worded resume they elected Celestine. To his credit, Celestine refused and according to Petrarch, tried to flee. One of his most important degrees as Pope was that any Pope could resign from the papacy, which he did five months into his reign as Pope. For some reason, his successor, Pope Boniface VIII (aka the pope that Dante put in hell in his Divine Comedy) had him imprisoned and may have murdered him.

And now the (previously) last Pope to resign. Pope Gregory XII. Gregory XII was elected pope during the Western Schism. In a nut shell, this schism was mostly about location. Prior to Gregory XII, Gregory the XI was a Pope at Avignon in France, however he moved the papacy back to Rome. This created a kerfuffle. Remember that guy Boniface the VIII? Well because of his wars with European monarchs, the cardinals elected a French Pope, who refused to move to Rome, choosing to stay at Avignon. This allowed France to essentially control the papacy for about 68 years. Anyway, along comes Gregory XI who wants to head back to Rome. So another Pope was declared in Avignon. So when Gregory the XI dies, his successor Gregory the XII has the following conditions, he must resign if the Avignon Pope also resigns; thus ending the schism.

Gregory XII

Gregory XII

Eventually, that’s what happened. Once both rival popes had resigned and any other upstart popes had been declared anti-popes, the church unified, elected Pope Martin V.

Bonus “almost” resignations include Pope Pius VII who before traveling to Paris to crown Napoleon emperor, left instruction that if he was held prisoner he was to be considered ‘resigned.’  It’s also claimed that Pope Pius XII had a similar condition that if he was captured by the Nazis, he was also defacto resigned. And apparently Pope John Paul II also had left instructions that if he had an incurable disease “that would prevent him from exercising the apostolic ministry” or in case of a “severe and prolonged impairment” that would have kept him from being the pope.

So. Fear not, Ratzinger. Your legacy as a quitter, while not as spectacular as some of your predecessors, is secured in a time honed tradition of disgraceful people quitting a disgraceful position.

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The Catholic Church is Afraid of Girls

Posted by Ethan Clow on June 28, 2012

Here is another story that makes me wonder if the Vatican and its vicar are aware that half of the world’s population are women. Why would I wonder that? Well, the church wants members, they want to grow and expand, you’d think they would relish any opportunity to add to their ranks. But apparently they don’t. Not when it comes to women.

My confusion probably stems from the same skepticism I have when I hear about corporations putting out poisoned products or drug companies trying to kill people – “why would they harm the people who buy their products? They want to make money, right?” I guess this kind of logic doesn’t apply to the religious.

The Vatican has recently claimed ordination of women is as bad as child molestation and will be punished the same way. So does that mean they’ll just cover it up and move these women to different locations? Okay that’s not funny. Well, actually what the Vatican is suggesting is now they have new rules for what will happen to priests who molest anyone within the church, they will face excommunication (the imaginary punishment that only means anything if you’ve already drunk the koolaid) and a defrocking, which is more tangible but hardly serious enough for a crime like rape.

EVIL!! (Calgary’s only female priest Monica Kilburn Smith)

What will the punishments be for ordination of a woman? Excommunication and defrocking of course. One might consider this ludicrously insulting to treat these two situations as equal, but perhaps you don’t realize just how horrified the Catholic church is by girls. Recently the Vatican remarked that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (a organization that represents about 80% of the nuns in America) was promoting “radical feminist themes” and was not supporting church teachings on the male-only priesthood and homosexuality.

But fear not! The Vatican has learned the error of their ways! No, they aren’t reversing their stance on women, or child rape…or homosexuality…or… well anything really. I’ve learned they need new PR people! To that end, they’ve hired a Fox News journalist to be their communications adviser.

Oh and he’s also a member of Opus Dei, a conservative wing of hardcore Catholics who like to support far right governments and oppress women.

So yes, let the face palming commence.

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The Top 10 Skeptical Events and Newsmakers of 2011

Posted by Ethan Clow on January 4, 2012

(Update: I added a new link to the CBC Marketplace episode that’s in high quality and not split into parts! Thanks Mavaddat!)

2011 turned out to be quite the year for skepticism. Last week on the show we came up with a top ten list counting down the big stories that influenced skeptical water cooler discussion and made our pub nights run late into the evening with lively debate.

I wanted to try to put together, if I could, a piece of some of the important wins and losses, pivotal events and even try to pigeon-hole some of the important on-going discussion in the skeptical community into such an article. Here is my attempt. Let me know what you think.

Proceeding from 10 to 1 (number 1 being the number 1 story for skeptics and skepticism)

10: Steve Novella on Dr. Oz

Why? Dr. Oz, for those that don’t know, was a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey program. While appearing, Oz would often promote some medical or health related issue. However he soon started promoting pseudoscience and spiritual woo-woo more in line with Oprah’s brand of magical thinking. He rubber stamped homeopathy, faith healing, acupuncture, and many other forms of dubious health products. He was eventually given his own show, backed by Oprah’s media empire, where on a daily basis he deals out medical nonsense. He’s been written about by science based medical proponents like Steve Novella and others. It was quite a surprise when Steven Novella, host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe was invited on to talk about alternative medicine. Novella handled himself very well and provided a (limited) but important bastion of skepticism in a den of woo.

You can read about his appearance on the show here. At that link you can also watch all three clips from his segment on the show.

9.  Death of Hitchens

I wrote a blog piece on Hitchens which summed up my feelings on the man, Don and Jenna also talked about him last week. To say he was provocateur is an understatement. Hitchens was apologetically upfront with his views. He was a masterful debater and journalist. He will be remembered for his writing, and among skeptical circles, his scathing condemnation of religion. He’s legacy will also be marred with controversy for his position of support for the Iraq war and his occasional misogynistic comments.

8. American Cancer society rejects/refuses to recognizes donation of $500,000 courtesy of Foundation Beyond Belief

This story hasn’t got the attention I felt it should have. It’s actually quite remarkable in how audacious it is. The Foundation Beyond Belief wanted to sponsor groups for the ACS Relay for Life. Todd Stiefel a philanthropist and free-thought activist wanted to provide a $250,000 matching offer for atheists groups around the world to raise money for the relay for life. For those that don’t know, a matching offer is basically saying “I’ll double what anyone donates up to…” So it’s perfectly feasible they could have raised 500K. However the ACS stonewalled them. They made contradictory statements about why they turned down the offer. They made vaguely hostile remarks about the organizations and put restrictions on who could donate (restrictions that seemed only to apply to atheists organizations) I recommend listeners check out the Friendly Atheist and Greta Christina’s blog for more information on this story.

7. WiFi Hysteria

This appears to be the trendy hysteria for non-scientists parents with nothing better to do except fret about in 2011. The name is pretty self explanatory. Some people believe that wi-fi, the wireless signals for Internet and such, are harmful and cause cancer and are generally the scourge of society. This story has been followed closely by bloggers at Skeptic North and have tracked its development in Canada. Despite the dubious history and background of the “wifi is dangerous” proponents, they’ve been granted national stages to preach their hysteria and have been held to no accountability to mainstream media in this country. Their pseudo-science has found its way into school board meetings, town hall meetings and even court rooms.

6. TAM 9 controversies – what should skeptics talk about?

This is a constant on-going debate every year. At some point in the year, every year it seem. The debate over atheism and skepticism comes up and folks on both sides of the debate accuse the other of “doing it wrong” This year, the TAM 9 (the Amazing Meeting) panel on what skeptics should talk about focused not only on issues of tone (the whole be a dick/don’t be a dick) but also what should we focus our outreach on. The conversation actually went beyond the atheism vs skepticism dirge and finally started to bring other topics into the fold. What about feminism, race, sociology, crime and poverty? What about the social sciences? The debate continued after TAM with popular bloggers like PZ Myers and Barbara Drescher arguing online.

For something of a timeline on the online debate:

July 22nd The Surprising Twists of TAM9’s Diversity Panel  by Daniel Loxton

August 4th Atheism is an essential part of skepticism by PZ Myers

August 6th Take Back Skepticism, Part I: The Elephant in the Room, Take Back Skepticism, Part II: The Overkill Window, and Take Back Skepticism, Part III: The Dunning-Kruger Effect by Barbara Drescher

August 8th Skeptical dogmatism by PZ Myers

There could be more…

5. Diversity in the skeptical movement

Related to another skeptical news item about elevators and the diversity panel at TAM9. How do skeptics address the gender, age, income, race -gap seen in our skeptical communities? This on-going debate has presented many questions and few answers. What makes this debate so long running and so important is that it not only touches on the less than pleasant aspects of organized skepticism (like the notion that most groups are run by middle age, middle class, white men) but also how skeptical organizations bring in new people. One of the reasons that some skeptics are suggesting we broaden our list of topics is that new topics might bring in new people and help foster a more skeptical society.

4. The Catholic Church’s problems

For skeptics, we didn’t need to be convinced that the Catholic church was a corrupt organization, but after this year’s list of shocking revelations on just how corrupt it is, we are starting to see non-skeptics realize just how corrupt it is. This year, more allegations of child sexual abuse have come to light (too many to list) massive protests in different countries over visits by the Pope have occurred (notably in Spain) and the most recent and horrifying allegations are the decades of baby theft by the Catholic church in Spain. This year has really shown the world just what sort of organization the Catholic church is.

3. CBC Marketplace does homeopathy

Perhaps my personal skeptical highlight this year, the consumer protection show CBC Marketplace feature Vancouver skeptics, including yours truly, overdosing on homeopathy in an effort to show that there’s nothing in it. What followed was an amazing episode where CBC Marketplace confronted homeopathic manufacturer Boiron, had homeopathy analyzed in medical laboratories, and basically blew the lid off this story. The episode became the most popular and watched episode in the history of CBC Marketplace and caused a massive headache for the proponents of homeopathy in Canada. They did everything they could to get revenge on Marketplace, including complaining to the CBC ombudsman who later ruled that no wrong-doing was done by the producers of Marketplace. As for the skeptics, they were accused of being nazi-communists and a right wing hate group. The host of Marketplace, Erica Johnson was also a guest on Radio Freethinker, you can hear her interview here.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, its online

2. CFI Canada’s problems

Of major concern for Canadian skeptics has been the shocking implosion of CFI Canada. We’ve chronicled much of the problems for this organization in the past few weeks, so I won’t re-summarize it. But with the local Reasonable Women’s group being removed from CFI Vancouver to the removal of Justin Trottier from the leadership of CFI and the strange and secretive going-on’s on the board of directors (ultimately resulting in 3 board members resigning) it looked like CFI Canada was on the verge of collapsing. Fortunately things seem to have quieted down a bit and it appears that cooler heads are prevailing. Hopefully this means that CFI will get back to what it does best, however this fiasco has cast serious doubt on the structure of CFI Canada and potentially alienated a number of donors and supporters. Time will tell how this plays out.

1. Elevator-gate

I actually made some effort to not talk about Elevator-gate on the show. Not because I thought it wasn’t important, I think it’s very important, but I was skeptical that those of us on the show could really add anything of substance to the debate. After all, with the exception of Jenna, we are all white dudes and if Elevator-gate taught us anything, sometimes the white dudes need to just shut up and listen for a bit.

Meanwhile, Elevator-gate, for those of you who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, can be summed up here in a post by Rebecca Watson.

The short story is that while at a conference in Ireland, Watson gave a talk on not pushing women away from skepticism by doing sexist things and making women uncomfortable. Later that night, a man asked her to his room at 3am in an elevator. She declined and innocently asked men not to do that in a youtube video.

A fire storm of controversy erupted for her “audacity.”

It became even more intense when other skeptics started telling Watson she was being too sensitive and soon there was a war of words going on between Watson and others. Then Richard Dawkins decided to weigh in.

Like I said, read the posts about it and try to figure it out.

Why would I suggest that Elevator-gate is the number one news maker for skeptics and skepticism? Not only was it the biggest controversy of the year for our community, but it pretty much highlighted every other issue dealing with inclusion, tone and subject for which skeptics have been debating for decades.

Watson blew the lid off of organized skepticism’s dirty little secret: we are not rational people. And further, we non-rational people have a major problem with latent and subversive sexism and a systemic issue of excluding people, topics and more importantly – a knee jerk allergic reaction to internal criticism.

Watson, in my opinion, has not only been at the center of some major skeptical controversies, she earns the title of skeptic of the year.

Rebecca Watson. Photo by Brian Engler

One of the things I’ve noticed from members of our community is that skeptics like to and are willing to confront dogmatism and pseudo-science in the world, but are hesitant to turn that skeptic eye inward. We have a tendency to blame the messenger, punish the person who dares to speak up and rock the boat.

There’s quite a difference between seeking to cause conflict and disruption (we have a fair number of people like that in our community) and those seeking to improve our movement and running into stubborn opposition. What I’m saying is that it’s fairly easy to tell the people who want to make things better apart from the people who either want organized skepticism to remain the same or who simply want to be on the front page of the news.

Watson clearly falls into the “wanting to make things better” category. She rocked the boat and forced people to ask uncomfortable questions about themselves. She did us all a great service.

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Saturday Stub: More Crimes for the Catholic Church to Answer

Posted by Ethan Clow on December 17, 2011

It’s becoming an obscene statement to publicly hope that the Catholic Church won’t be found mired in some sexual abuse scandal, given the recent revelations from victims all over the world. What is rapidly becoming clear, is that the institution of the Catholic Church is like some hideous onion, each layer you remove, you find some new hideous example of abuse.

Such is the case in the Netherlands. The BBC has the story that after a commission set up in August of 2010, it has been revealed that there was widespread abuse taking place in religious institutions. The report estimates that 10,000-20,000 minors’ were abused in the care of Catholic institutions between 1945 and 1981.

The commission looked into eighteen hundred cases of abuse and identified nearly eight-hundred abusers, of which, nearly one-hundred are still alive today.

A few key points are asserted by this commission:

  • The abuse was known in the Catholic hierarchy and appropriate actions were not taken.
  • 1 in 10 Dutch children were said to be abused, and that number rises to 1 in 5 if those children attended a religious institution.
  • The abuse was not limited to Catholic organizations either, other religious groups had abuse scandals as well.

To quote from the article:

Bert Smeets, an abuse victim who attended the presentation of the report, said it did not go far enough in detailing precisely exactly what happened.

“What was happening was sexual abuse, violence, spiritual terror, and that should have been investigated,” Mr Smeets told the Associated Press news agency. “It remains vague. All sorts of things happened but nobody knows exactly what or by whom. This way, they avoid responsibility.” – source

Some day the Pope, Ratzinger, will find himself in the Netherlands, but not to apologize to victims, which is appears to be the Catholic way of dealing with the problem; but rather to face the criminal charges for crimes against humanity at The Hague. I hope.

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The Catholic Church/Fascists Steal Spain’s Babies

Posted by Ethan Clow on November 4, 2011

In the category of news to enrage you,  very recently the news story broke that the Catholic Church has been stealing babies from families in Spain, often telling them that their baby has died, and then giving or selling the baby to a catholic or conservative family.

This shocking news, which sounds almost cartoonish evil, was a practice that began in Spain under the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, as a way of controlling his political enemies, their children would be taken at birth and raised by fascists.

This was generally well known, apparently even publicized by the Spanish government, children were taken from political enemies, re-educated i.e told their biological parents were “murderers” and horrible people, the children were allowed to change their names and were inducted into the fascist ideology of the time.

How was the Catholic Church involved? Franco, like several other fascist leaders, made alliances with the Catholic Church, his conservative values synced with the Church’s own oppressive leanings. Franco would often put the church in charge of various institutions like schools and hospitals.

At first this action was considered ideological, a way for Franco to solidify his political power, but soon after that changed. The baby stealing seemed to take on a more sinister tone. Families that were deemed morally – or economically – deficient.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

The BBC recently produced a shocking documentary where the trafficking of babies is described. At times the scale of the baby stealing seems to grand and farfetched to believe. Yet DNA evidence is proving the case, babies were taken from their biological parents, often told they had died, sometimes doctors would give the mother a cold dead baby that the hospital had been keeping in a fridge, but other times the mother wasn’t even allowed to see the body of her baby.

(See part 2, part 3, and part 4 of the BBC documentary Spain’s Stolen Babies)

Many of the victims have death certificates that have clearly been falsified or cemetery documents that contradict what parents were told at the supposed time of death. (Or in some cases, empty coffins.)

One doctor,  Eduardo Vela is accused of telling women their babies had died when they had not and handing over those newborn children to other couples for cash.

A BBC reported who had recently given birth booked an appointment with him (since he wasn’t doing media requests) when he found out she was a reported he picked up a cross off the wall and shoved it in her face saying “Do you know what this is,” and “I have always acted in his name. Always for the good of the children and to protect the mothers.”

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men – Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno – discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren’t their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

As if the stealing of babies for political or economic reasons wasn’t bad enough, many have been particularly offended by the idea that babies were stolen on ideological grounds, that the mother wasn’t Catholic enough so her baby was given to a proper family. Many of the victims were unmarried mothers and this was a rather big social taboo until recently.

Now estimations are that over 300,000 babies may have been stolen. This baby theft didn’t stop until the 1990’s. The scale of this crime is staggering. Reports of doctors and nuns keeping a stash of frozen, long-dead babies in the morgue to be wheeled out to convince parents that their child, who had been in good health only a few hours earlier had died, leaves one feeling sick at the corruption. And all over Spain there are countless children’s graves in which coffins containing nothing more than a few stones lie buried.

Why has nothing been done about this?  It’s been kept mostly secret by the government and church. I gather that there have been rumours and such for years but this is the first time there’s been proof and admission from the government. Other factors have played a role in this secrecy, after Franco’s death in 1975, the major political parties agreed an amnesty to help smooth the transition to democracy. Attempts to investigate Spain’s baby trafficking as a national crime against humanity have been rejected by the country’s judiciary and resisted by its politicians.

As this story is really just starting to get out, we will likely be returning to it as more information comes out.


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Protests in Spain over Pope’s visit and Abortion Forgiveness Week

Posted by Ethan Clow on August 18, 2011

The Pope just can’t get a break. You’d think that when visiting a predominantly Catholic country like Spain (the Catholic population of Spain is 94%), he would be greeted with cheers and adulation. Not protests and snarky atheists.

But protesting is what a large group of Spaniards are doing.

The Pope is in Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD), which is a Catholic festival for youth, which is August 16th to the 21st. Organizers of the event expect up to a million people will join in the celebration which will culminate in an open air mass by the Pope on Sunday.

However, large numbers of people in Spain aren’t too happy about this. A large percent of the dissatisfaction comes from the huge cost of the event. The 15-M Group in Spain, an anti-austerity spending group which takes issue with spending cuts so social welfare and anti-democratic actions.

“We are not angry about the Pope’s visit, which some will agree with and others won’t, but rather over the financing of it with public money, especially at a time when many services are being cut because it’s necessary to curb government spending,” 15-M said in a statement. – source

Event organizers are stating that most of the money for the event is being funded by the pilgrims themselves, nevertheless, in a Spain that is facing serious economic hurdles, a visit by the Pope is not what people consider prudent economic planning. Apparently people have been carrying banners that read “The pope travels, the pope pays”. Critics of the visit have put the cost of the whole event around 100m euros ($144m) but that hasn’t been confirmed by the government.

In addition, there are a number of the other groups protesting the Pope’s visit, including large groups of Gay Rights activists who oppose Catholic ideology.

According to this BBC article reports how protesters have been clashing with the pilgrims in Madrid’s Sol Square, there were also reports of protesters clashing with police, although I haven’t heard too much in terms of violence.

Protesters fill much of Madrid's landmark Puerta del Sol square/Susana Vera

The Police in Spain did arrest a young man from Mexico who was allegedly planning to gas the anti-Pope protesters.  The man was a chemist student and had made several threatening remarks online and was found in possession of “two notebooks with chemical equations not related to his studies and a computer “allegedly used to recruit on the internet”, police said.” –source

Whether the threat was real or not remains to be seen. However, it does point to the extreme tension the Pope’s visit is provoking.

Along those lines, there is another issue I’m sure many are upset with. The Pope has offered a six-day abortion forgiveness option. In the divine wisdom that only the Vatican could come up with, over 200 confessional booths are being set up in Madrid for women who have had abortions. Of course, one must thank the Catholic Church for this, after all, abortion is a sin worthy of excommunication and you know what that means. Hell. Forever.

You really have to hand it to the Catholics. For a religion that’s leadership is exclusively male, they sure know how to respond to a situation that they lack the necessary organs to even experience.

In an article on Slate Magazine by Amanda Marcotte, a very good point is made. This is a very expensive abortion get-out-of-hell-card. For Catholics in America, Canada or elsewhere, to get your forgiveness you need a last minute ticket to Madrid, find accommodations, food, and not to mention, forget about whatever was going on in your life right now, because you have to go to Madrid to be forgiven! Of course an less expensive option would be to stop being Catholic. That doesn’t cost anything.

I shouldn’t need to point out the huge hypocrisy of the Catholic Church holding women to some higher standard about what they do with their bodies when they can’t even control the pedophilia within their own organization. Maybe that’s why the Catholic Church hasn’t been able to stop these sexual predators, a few moments in a confessional booth appears to be the perfect cure for anything bad. “Are you sorry that you raped that child?” “yes” “Are you going to do it again?” “No” “Good, I’ll send you to another parish.”

I wonder if the Catholic Church has a special dispensation for women who were raped by clergy or those within the church? Surely they don’t have to be forgiven for having an abortion? Surely these poor women wouldn’t have to fly all the way to Madrid to be “forgiven” for removing the off spring of a rapist?

I’m sure any moment now the Catholic Church will make such an announcement.

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