Monthly Archives: September 2009

Radio Time Again!

I will once more be appearing on the John Oakley morning show on AM640 radio in Toronto this coming Monday (Sept28)  at 9:00 a..m. This time the debate will be on whether human-made climate change is a real phenomenon.climate-change

I’ll be taking the position that, in fact, there really is no debate here. There is an overwhelming consensus amongst scientists who are qualified to speak on this issue (i.e., those who have studied climatology) that human-made climate change (global warming) is real and that the window of opportunity to do something about it is closing quickly.

I hope you can join me and listen (and maybe even call) in.



Filed under Athesim

Ray Comfort Strikes (Out) Again!

Back in February of this year, I had the opportunity to debate Ray Comfort on one of our local Toronto radio stations. The occasion was the anniversary of Darwin’s 200th birthday. You can listen to that debate here.

Comfort has no understanding of evolution, biology, cosmology, or seemingly much else when it comes to science. He is most famous amongst atheists and skeptics for the (unintentionally) hilarious “Atheists worst nightmare” video, in which he and Kirk Cameron attempt to demonstrate how the modern banana is an unassailable proof of God’s love and special concern for humans.

Well, Comfort and Cameron are teaming up once more.

This November 24th will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s best known work, On Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection. Universities, science agencies, museums, skeptic, atheist, and secular humanist groups around the world will be celebrating the publication of this hugely influential book.

Comfort is going to celebrate in his own unique way. He has been able to get financial backing to publish 50,000 copies of the Origin of Species that will include a 50 page introduction he has written that will supposedly demonstrate the fallacies of Darwin’s theory and the evil impact it has had on the world. Cameron is serving as his front man, appearing in a video promoting this event. The plan is to distribute these copies on numerous university campuses in the U.S.

A Facebook friend of mine posted a youtube video done by a young Romanian woman named Cristina that is absolutely wonderful in dissecting and lampooning Cameron’s video and the fraudulent claims it makes about Darwin and his theory. I’m re-posting it here. I hope you enjoy it.

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Filed under Athesim, humanism, politics, religion, science, skepticism, social commentary

Vegans Are NOT Wimps!

Here’s a reprint of an article from Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper about Montreal Canadiens’ tough guy, Georges Laraque.

Sean Gordon

MONTREAL — From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Last updated on Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009 12:45AM EDT

First, the eyebrows arch quizzically, then the legend’s nose crinkles in disapproval.

“Ferguson never would have accepted it,” huffs Henri Richard,

George Laraque

George Laraque

11-time Stanley Cup champion, uber-competitor, the Pocket Rocket himself, speaking of John Ferguson, the former Montreal Canadiens tough guy.

It’s a natural enough reaction from a man whose off-season preparations used to consist of switching from golf to tennis in early August.

He has just been informed that Canadiens forward Georges Laraque, boulevardier, animal-rights activist and perhaps the most feared pugilist in the NHL, is a vegan (“a what?” Richard said), a militant one.

No dairy, no poultry, no fish, no more leather shoes or animal byproducts, Laraque has been on a strict diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes since June 1.

While he says he was partly motivated to improve his health for the hockey season, Laraque insists the decision was made primarily for political, rather than nutritional, reasons.

Everything changed, Laraque said, after he saw Earthlings, a 2006 documentary that is widely celebrated in animal-rights circles.

“It’s unconscionable what’s happening to animals in this country and the way we treat animals we eat. … I realized I had to make some big changes,” Laraque said.

Though Laraque said he will no longer buy leather of any kind, he hasn’t rid his closet or hockey bag of previously purchased leather products because, “that would be a further waste. And this way I don’t forget.”

Laraque, who also does yoga daily, an activity he picked up as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, said he’s never felt better and reported for training camp at a comparatively svelte 245 pounds.

“I’ve lost some weight, but I’ve been working with a really great nutritionist and I’ve never had this much energy,” he said.

“I think it’s also important to break the stereotype that all vegans are skinny people with long hair,” added Laraque, as unlikely a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as the NHL has ever seen. (This summer he sent a letter on the group’s behalf to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, protesting the Canadian seal hunt.)

Laraque couldn’t think of any other vegan NHLers off the top of his head.

But the burly winger finds himself among a vanguard of current and former pro athletes who are eschewing most meats.

Laraque cites Major League Baseball player Prince Fielder, former Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez and retired NBA player John Salley as vegetarians who inspired him.

Richard, who readily admits that he’s often astonished at the lengths to which today’s hockey players go to train, hails from an era when Guy Lafleur prepared for the season by cutting back from three packs of cigarettes a day to two, or so the legend goes. (“It didn’t matter, he was always faster than everyone,” Richard joked.)

And though Laraque is undoubtedly an outlier in the Canadiens dressing room and in the league, he’s not alone in his approach.

Mike Cammalleri, who joined the Habs as a free agent in the summer, strives to eat organic, fresh and local foods.

“I find it helps my energy levels stay high throughout the season,” he said.

Cammalleri also regularly practises Pilates and occasionally will throw in a few yoga exercises, “but I don’t really have the patience for yoga.”

Not all the Habs are in tune with the new ethos. Fourth-year forward Guillaume Latendresse, who has overhauled his off-season regimen in each of the past two seasons, says he switched to a high-protein diet, but that he’s not willing to renounce meat altogether.

“[Laraque] has invited us all out to a vegan restaurant … but if I go, I’m bringing a steak in my jacket pocket,” he joked.

So in a tough-guy, famously hidebound culture like pro hockey, Laraque remains a curiosity, but he’s resolved to carry on spreading the word.

“People still think it’s kind of funny, but I’m not doing this to be funny,” he said. “There are more puppy mills in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada, and no laws to shut them down. People get slapped with a fine and six months later they reopen. Do you think that’s funny?”


Filed under animal rights, Athesim, environment, health, humanism, politics, science, social commentary, veganism

Should I go ask Alice?

On Sunday, October 18, I will be giving my first sermon in years. It’s entitled, “Goodbye God, Hello Life.”

Okay, technically it’s a keynote address, not a sermon. And the venue is a hotel, not a church. But it will be delivered on a Sunday morning to those attending the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity’s third conference, entitled, Exploring the Elements. Organizers are anticipating about 300 attendees. Screen shot 2009-09-06 at 9.48.26 AM

The Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity (CCPC) is a network of individuals and churches who focus more on values-based living than on particular beliefs. It is theologically as far from fundamentalism as you can get and still in any way call yourself Christian. (In fact, I often wonder why they continue to use the name “Christian” at all.) It was founded by Gretta Vosper, the minister at West Hill United Church and author of the best-selling, With or Without God. Gretta is a visionary woman who is intent on transforming Christianity from a source of dogma to a well-spring of free-thinking, compassionate-living, justice-seeking communities. CCPC currently draws most of its constituents from the United Church of Canada, although participants are increasingly coming from other denominations. It is a testament to the truly progressive nature of this group that they are including three atheists on their program (other speakers from the Canadian freethought community include Justin Trottier and Christopher DiCarlo). How many other religious groups would do that?

The upcoming conference is now being advertised in a variety of sources, including the United Church Observer, the monthly magazine of the United Church of Canada. I have not yet seen it, but apparently the ad appears in the September issue.

Last night, I received an email from Gerry, one of the conference organizers going over some of the logistics of the event. Gerry also included a copy of the following letter which had been sent to the conference website, but was addressed to me. It reads:

Dear Scott, I have seen you “advertised” in The United Church Observer as a speaker at this conference. It was a great shock and it is with genuine sorrow that I write this. Obviously you went through some traumatic experience in the ‘90‘s that caused you to abandon your belief in God.
I went through a traumatic experience as a teenager when I also questioned the existence of God. It, and a number of subsequent experiences led me to a firm belief in Him.
I see your mom’s sweet face in your smiling face. How sad she must /would be for you. Maybe, Scott, it’s time to leave the lure of the city for a bit and go home and walk the paths of the cows in the cow pasture and renew your acquaintance with God Who still loves you and would love for you to “come home”. Can’t do that? Why not go and see Dr. Ravi Zacharias on Sept. 18th at Convocation Hall, U of T. Tickets $5. Tickets call: 2893383864
I’ll be praying for you.
A fellow student at Mrs. McKelvy’s DVBS
(Rev.) Alice (Fraser) McAlpine

(For those of you not up on evangelical-speak, DVBS = Daily Vacation Bible School, a standard method for trying to convert neighbourhood children during the summer months.)

Alice is a few years older than I, so I remember her by name, but not by face. She is currently the minister at a (conservative) United church in Montreal.

When I read her letter, I experienced a mix of emotions. The first was surprise; the second, bemusement; the third, nostalgia; and the fourth, irritation.

The surprise was simply a matter of hearing from someone out of the blue from the area where I grew up.

Bemusement emerged from the apparent assumption that big, bad city life has seduced my thinking and blocked my channel to God and that somehow, the cow paths on our former family farm (as far I can remember, we had no such paths), would be a natural place for recommitment to the divine. As far as I can recall, the Bible does not suggest that God has a particular affinity for cow paths.

The nostalgia came with the mention of Mrs. McKelvy. She truly was an amazing woman. She was the wife of the minister at the Brodie Reformed Presbyterian Church. She was full of love for kids and strict as all get out in how she ran her Daily Vacation Bible School. I remembered the rides home we would get with Mr. McNaughton and the roller coaster-stomach-lurch we would get as he sped over the hills on the gravel roads back home. I have fond memories of “Sword Drills,” competitions to see who could find a Bible verse the fastest. Yes, Vacation Bible School had its appeal.

But the primary emotion I experienced last night was irritation. I know that Alice was well intentioned. Her letter was written out of concern for me and my supposedly eternal soul (now threatened with eternal punishment). Nonetheless, I was irritated by her letter.

I was irritated by the implicit arrogance of evangelicals who think they can prescribe exactly what I need and who think they have a corner on the truth (an arrogance I once shared and of which I am now ashamed).

I was irritated by Alice’s use of the memory of my mom as an attempt to guilt me back into the faith.

I was irritated at the assumption that somehow I was just mad at God, I hadn’t really reasoned my way into disbelief.

I was irritated at the idea that Ravi Zacharias (a Christian evangelist/apologist) would provide the answers that I – either in willful disobedience, woeful ignorance, or devilish delusion – could not see myself.

What Alice doesn’t know is that the very faith that was supposed to bring my mom comfort in her last days on earth, caused her immense grief as she pleaded with me to believe in Jesus, ravaged by the fearful belief that I was facing an eternity of torture in Hell (you can read more of this event with my mom in a previous blog post here).

What Alice doesn’t know is that I bent over backwards for God for years, giving him chance after chance after chance to prove himself real, to show me that the promises of the Bible were true and trustworthy, to provide answers to the questions my heart and mind were seeking — all to no avail.

What Alice doesn’t know is that I have spent hours, days and weeks, reading and researching answers to my great philosophical and theological questions and that they have led me to the considered conclusion that, almost certainly, there is no God.

What Alice doesn’t know is that my life is infinitely more satisfying, happy, and contented without God in it than when he was. Life with God was miserable. Life without God is immensely more pleasurable.

So, should I write back to Alice? Should I invite her to come hear me speak and consider what I have to say?

What do you think?


Filed under Athesim, humanism, religion, social commentary