Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Words and actions have ‘immeasurable consequences’

Below are the UN general assembly Speeches by the president of the United States of America, and the Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand. Do they even live on the same planet?

Jacinda’s speech in English starts at 1m 5s if you wish to skip her formal greeting in te Reo Māori, but out of respect for our culture, please don’t.

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Statistics and religion in Aotearoa

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a census is taken every five years. Finally, we’re seeing results from the 2018 census. This has taken much longer than in previous surveys due to some glitches related to going from a paper based system to being fully online. This resulted in a low participation rate. It’s taken Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa (New Zealand’s official data agency) longer than usual to compile reliable data sets.

The statistics on religion have been released, and it makes interesting reading and shows that trends that became evident at the beginning of the century are continuing.

One problem with the statistics is that they report affiliation and not actual beliefs. It’s known that within many affiliations in this country, religious belief ranges from extremely conservative to extremely liberal, especially within the mainline Christian churches, where belief in the traditional concept of God as a deity is waning.

Also within New Zealand, religious thought is not very high. If I could receive a dollar for every time someone on census day shouted “Hey Honey, What’s our religion?” or phoned with “Hello Dad. I’m just filling out the census and don’t know what to put down for our religion. Can you ask Mum please?” I’d be rather wealthy.

With that in mind, here’s some interesting facts that will either be pleasing or alarming or neither, depending on one’s perspective.

The number of Christians continue to decline. They now make up approximately 36% of the population. Keep in mind that non-theism is common within many Christian denominations, and within a few the most prevalent viewpoint. For example within Quakers, I doubt if there are any “true” theists left.

The number who claim no religious affiliation continues to climb. I admit that I’m somewhat surprised that it’s not as high as I expected, which was a little over 50%. The figure published is 48%, but there are two points to keep in mind. Of the 162 affiliations listed, some are not religious in the traditional sense, although they may well fall within Sir Lloyd Geering’s definition of “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life”. I’ll touch on some of these affiliations a little tater in this post. Those who claim any affiliation, are not included in the no affiliation category.

The second point is that according to several opinion surveys, somewhere between a quarter and a third of those with no religious affiliation do hold some idea of “something greater than themselves”, be it a force, energy, spirit, or “something” that is manifest within humanity, nature or the universe. So to assume all those who have no religious affiliation have no religious belief would be incorrect.

The Object to answering group is the next largest grouping after the Christian and no affiliation groups. They make up almost 7% of the population. It’s difficult to know what this group is composed of, and why they chose this option. But given that it is one of the listed options, I suppose some will take advantage of it. What is significant is that their percentage does not markedly change from census to census.

No doubt, fundamentalist Christians and their ilk will rejoice that only 0.15% affiliate with atheism and 0.14% with agnosticism, ignoring the fact that the majority of atheists and agnostics will have identified as having no affiliation.

Religions and denominations with more than 1% of the population are:

  • Anglican: 6.7%
  • Christian (not further defined): 6.55%
  • Roman Catholic: 6.29%
  • Presbyterian: 4.71%
  • Catholicism (not further defined): 3.68%
  • Hinduism (not further defined): 2.59%
  • Islam (not further defined): 1.22%
  • Latter-day Saints: 1.15%
  • Methodist (not further defined): 1.12%

Some other irrelevant but interesting information:

  • There are 348 more Jedi affiliates than there are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each make up 0.43% of the population. Jedi has seen a sharp decline since the 2011 census when 1.5% of the population claimed affiliation.
  • There are 306 more (Christian?) Evangelicals (0.10%) than there are Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster affiliates (0.09%).
  • Our spaghetti loving friends outnumber Lutherans (0.08%)
  • My own faith tradition, Quakerism makes up 0.02% of the population and is outnumbered by Zoroastrian (0.02%), Taoism (0.02%), Satanism (0.02%) and Wiccan (0.03%). A few Quakers are also Wiccan (or should it be “a few Wiccans are also Quakers”?), but I’m not sure how Stats NZ has handles multiple affiliations.
  • The smallest religious affiliations are Libertarianism and Rationalism (with 9 members each, Cao Dai and Maoism (with 6 members each), and Commonwealth Covenant Church (with 3 members).

When I look at some of the religious affiliations listed, I think Stats NZ has taken Lloyd Geering’s definition to heart. How else could the following be otherwise identified as a religion (in increasing affiliation order):

  • Maoism
  • Rationalism
  • Libertarianism
  • Marxism
  • Socialism
  • Yoga
  • Humanism
  • Agnosticism
  • Atheism

While I hold Sir Lloyd’s concept of religion as “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life” as being accurate, I’m struggling when it comes to atheism, which as I understand it, is a lack of belief in a deity. I could understand anti-theism being a cause that could qualify as a religion, as could a belief in the need to weaken the influence of supernatural beliefs. Many atheists do hold such beliefs, but such beliefs are not what atheism is about. Can a lack of belief in a deity be any more a religion than my lack of belief in pink flying elephants or little green men in flying saucers? If they do qualify as religion, then absolutely everyone on this planet has a religion, as everyone on the planet will lack a belief in something. I don’t believe that is what Sir Lloyd had in mind.


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Autumn already?

Apparently. My phone popped up a little diary message this morning telling me that today is the Autumn Equinox. I snorted coffee out of my nose when I read that bit of information (that’ll teach me to not use the phone during breakfast). Autumn already? And here I was looking forward to the warm weather of summer.

While I appreciate that the creators of Google Calendar believe that today is the Autumn Equinox, they are very much mistaken, and I will be writing to them to point out their error. Today is the Spring Equinox. If you think otherwise, you are wrong!


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There’s nothing more I need add:

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace has been celebrated on September 21 each year (since 1981)to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace. This year many people’s and nations marked the day with nationwide appeals to governments to see climate change as a major existential […]

via Quaker Contributions to building a Culture of Peace in an Unpeaceful world — Kevin’s Peace Musings


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Auckland to be renamed Orcland

Just Kidding.

But Auckland will be the home of  orcs, hobbits and many more LOTR (Lord of the Rings) races over the coming months, and perhaps years. Amazon Studios has chosen Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand to be the production location for its multi-billion dollar Television series based on the Lord of the Rings.

The series is anticipated to be the most expensive TV series ever produced and will explore new story lines that precede The Fellowship of the Ring. It will bring thousands of jobs to the local film and entertainment sector. Although this country has been home to a number of major film productions, the small size of the local industry means that making a living in the film and television sector can be somewhat precarious – a boom and bust scenario. If the first year proves successful, it could make the lives of those in the film industry here just a little more secure than it has been.

Pre-production has been under way for a number of months and filming is expected to begin next year. Like all major screen productions it will be eligible for the standard NZ tax breaks available here. That means somewhere around NZ$100 of the hard earned taxes I pay, and every other Kiwi pays will go to Google so that the world can see this country in all its fantastic beauty.

Unless an Internet provider includes a free subscription to Amazon Prime Video (my current provider includes Netflix as part of its Internet package), it’s unlikely that I’ll get to see the series. Which is a shame, as I am a fan of fantasy and sci-fi stories.

As an aside, Kiwis pronounce Auckland and Orcland the same. Does the same apply in your part of the world?


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Unlike the writer of the post below, I am verbal, although somewhat clumsy at times, especially prior, during, and after a migraine attack. Sometimes during an attack, I’m unable to comprehend the speech of others as well as being limited in my ability to express myself. At such times my cognitive skills are limited and I have no idea whether or not I find such situations distressing.

However, there are times where I am fully aware of my surroundings and can fully understand those around me, but due to migraine induced ataxia, my ability to communicate is compromised. Fortunately these occurrences are infrequent and short lived – typically no more than a few hours, but they are extremely frustrating.

At such times, I know what it’s like to be talked about, to be treated as though you have limited mental capacity. In my case, this may be understandable, as outwardly I guess I appear that same as when my cognitive skills are limited.

However for many people who are non-verbal, and in particular autistic people who are nonverbal, their mental capacity is not compromised, only the ability to express their thoughts in a way neurotypical people demand. To make matters worse, their very attempts at communicating are written off as non-consequential.

Ido in Autismland challenges neurotypical people to “experience”, even for a short while what people who have communication difficulties must face every day. After reading through the terms of the challenge, do you think you could do it?

You work with autistic people. You have an autistic relative. You are adventurous and into new experiences. If you fall into any of these groups, my… 912 more words

via The Autism Experience Challenge — Ido in Autismland


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Is Jonathan Franzen wrong?

Having observed neurotypical (non-autistic) behaviour for than more than half a century, as much as I hope Jonathan Franzen is wrong, it’s an option we should discuss. I feel that while we can probably develop the technology to avert a Mad Max like apocalyptic world, I’m yet to be convinced the the combined will of humanity will form in time to effect real change. By the same token, it’s unlikely that we can work together to effectively manage a transition to “the inevitable”, especially when many of the climate change deniers are in positions of power.

Quakers, social justice and revolution

There has been a lot of criticism of Jonathan Franzen’s recent article in the New Yorker, “What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped? The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it”. Some of that criticism relates to choosing, specifically, a 2 degree Centigrade rise in atmospheric temperature as a limit we should not cross if runaway heating of the planet is to be avoided. No one seems to argue, though, that there is a threshold of warming beyond which runaway heating will occur.

Another interesting criticism relates to Franzen being an old white male, who is privileged to have his work published when people of color and/or women’s writings are not selected.

Then there is the criticism that he is not a scientist.

Not everyone thought Frazen’s arguments were completely off base. In an article…

View original post 555 more words


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The beginning of history

Why is it that so many people believe their understanding of history to be accurate and fixed for all time, rather than being an interpretation of events based on social attitudes that are in a constant state of flux. Even when the “facts” aren’t in dispute, one’s understanding of history will vary depending on many factors.

One simple and obvious example would be the Crusades, long thought of by the Christian West as a noble and honourable campaign and by the Muslim East as  being a murderous and barbaric one. The recognition in the West that the crusades were neither noble nor honourable is not because the “facts” have changed but because we have a different understanding of the significance of those facts.

During my primary school education in the 1950s I was fortunate in that for two years I was taught by a teacher who had a keen interest in North Taranaki history (the region where I lived at the time), and especially in the period of its early European settlement through to what are now know as the New Zealand wars, but in the 1950s were known as the Māori wars (you can smell the colonial bias from the very name).

Unlike the prevailing attitude of the time, which was that colonialisation brought civilisation and enlightenment to the indigenous Māori, by force if necessary, the teacher presented us with a Māori perspective. Although I now realise that the presentation of that perspective was highly idealised, especially when it came to the motives and morality of the Māori on one hand and the Pākehā settlers on the other, what he taught us was more in line with the prevailing understanding held by historians today than that of  (Pākehā) historians and public opinion in the 1950s.

The reason for bringing up the topic at all is because the government has decided that the teaching of New Zealand history is to be made a core part of the primary and secondary school curriculum – long overdue in my opinion. Up until now the teaching of New Zealand history has been entirely optional, usually not covered at all, and when it was, it was from a colonial perspective, and the teaching of pre-European history was conspicuous by its absence.

Of course, the decision to teach NZ history brings up the question of what to teach. Already arguments have begun, some of it rather acrimonious. I’m quite confident that we’re unlikely to reach a consensus. My take is similar to the one taken by Matthew  Wright in his article Why history must be taught in New Zealand schools:

[I]f we’re to understand New Zealand’s history, we also need to teach how history works – how we think about it, and why it’s always going to be a discussion, broadly shifting with the generations.

I think this is true of all history, not just that of Aotearoa New Zealand.


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The Debate over an Autism Cure (7 min read)

Autism is not the problem. Hate, ignorance, and stubborn resistance to reflection, education, and self-improvement are the problems

I see the debate over a cure for autism similar to that with regards to a cure for homosexuality in the mid to late 20th century. Personally, I see no reason why I need to be “cured”. Sure autism does cause some difficulties for me – my hyper sensitivity to external stimuli and my hypo-awareness of nuances of language and non-verbal forms of communication. But I am who I am because of the way I process and interpret the world around me.

The following article is by patrickmagpie published over at THE ASPERGIAN. Unlike Autism Speaks, which does not speak for me, the article does speak for me, and is well worth the read…

Few things cause more feverish reactions in the autism community than talk of a cure. While the majority of autistic people hate the C word, some cling to the idea of a cure as if it’s their only hope. Meanwhile, parents of autistic children are often the most vocal about finding a cure for autism.…

Source: The Debate over an Autism Cure7 min read


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Multilteralism: Time for a Revamp?

The Rt Hon Helen Clark was the keynote speaker at this year’s Peter Fraser Lecture where she posed the question that is the title of this post: Multilteralism: Time for a Revamp? It’s not a quick read (approximately 3,500 words) but I feel it’s worth the effort. The link to the lecture is at the end of this post.

For small nations such as Aotearoa New Zealand, A working system of international multilateral agreements is necessary for survival, as it is for all smaller countries and for most of the world’s population. A handful of large nations can bully their way to wealth and “success”, and I would class Trump’s MAGA one such example, but at what cost to the rest of the world? If a powerful nation unilaterally decides to pull out of an agreement it freely entered into and then attempts to punish others for continuing to honour said agreement, the consequences for international cooperation can be profound.

Here, for example, is what Helen Clark had to say about the US withdrawal from international nuclear agreements:

The UN is also a bystander as key parts of the nuclear weapons control architecture is dismantled. The most egregious example is that of the Iran nuclear deal which was endorsed by the Security Council. The US withdrawal from the agreement was a direct challenge to the authority of the Council which all Member States are bound to uphold. The expiry of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and what is now Russia is a major threat to peace and security, but one the multilateral system in its current state is not equipped to address.

The hypothesis presented by the former Prime Minister’s talk is that the multilateral system is struggling for relevance, that the world it seeks to function in is not that of 1945, and that its core institutions, like the UN Security Council, have been unable to adapt.

Her talk covers:

  • the successes the multilateral system has had
  • the pressures it is now under
  • the importance of continuing to engage constructively with it
  • examples of the development of more inclusive forms of multilateralism

I appreciate, that many Americans have little concern for what goes on outside their borders, and the US has practiced isolationism in the past, and is fast retreating into a new form of it, but for the sake of the whole world, it’s the wrong choice in my view.

While the US isn’t the only player causing a breakdown in international cooperation, it’s clearly a significant, if not the most significant, player. I know most thinking Americans already understand this, whereas Trump supporters will blame the rest of the world, so perhaps this post and Helen’s talk might be a case of preaching to the converted.

Helen Clark’s talk can be viewed in its entirety at Rt Hon Helen Clark: “Multilteralism: Time for a Revamp?”. Annual Peter Fraser Lecture, Wellington, 12 August 2019.