Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


2 Comments

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.

Advertisements


1 Comment

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.


7 Comments

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!


Leave a comment

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?


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Spring has sprung

Apparently.

Yesterday (Sunday 1st of September) marked two (insignificant) milestones in the yearly calendar of Aotearoa New Zealand:

  1. The first day of spring
  2. Fathers day

I hardly noticed either.

What I have noticed is a sudden dearth of ads recommending  everything from male grooming products through to luxury cars as suitable gifts for one’s father.


Leave a comment

Herd immunity: we have lost it!

Countries around the globe are beginning to loose their elimination status with regards to measles. Aotearoa New Zealand has not lost its elimination status – yet. But according to the director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, we have lost our herd immunity. For measles, a 95% immunisation rate is required to maintain herd immunity. We are no longer have the rate of immunisation. This doesn’t bode well when it comes to eliminating the current outbreak, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

So far this year, around 850 cases have been reported, most occurring in Auckland. In the last fortnight, there have been 10 new cases reported outside of Auckland, but within the city there have been 230 new cases.

Child immunisation is free in this country, so why are fewer parents immunising their children than in the past? Complacency is possibly a major reason. We have been officially measles free for such a long time that some parents simply don’t see the need to make an effort. These parents simply ignore or fail to understand the herd immunity concept.

I wonder how the anti-vax movement has formed opinion in this country? A Pew research poll in the US indicated that anti-vaxxers were almost evenly distributed between conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, rich and poor. I don’t think there’s as many conspiracy theorists here as in America, but if there is, they hide themselves better.  Has there been any research into identifying what sections of the community have lower rates of immunisation, and have there been any programs targeting those sections, particularly where immunisation rates are lower than that required for herd immunity?

While there have been no deaths attributed to the current measles outbreak, health officials have stated it’s only a matter of time, before someone succumbs – probably where age or a medical condition that prevents him/her from being vaccinated and who must rely on herd immunity for protection.

What really makes me angry is those parents who avoid vaccinating their children because they believe there’s a link between vaccinations and autism. For goodness sake, even if there was a link, which there isn’t, is the death of your child (or someone else’s due to that lack of herd immunity) or a life time of problems resulting from a serious infection a better option than your child being autistic?

What is so terrible about being autistic? While it’s true that we experience the world differently, that in itself does not make our life a burden nor should it be one for a parent with proper resources. Our struggles as autistics are due to society being unwilling to accommodate our needs. If the tide was turned and non-autistic people were a tiny minority in an autistic world, they too would find life very difficult at times.

If you believe we are facing an autism epidemic, you’re wrong. I’m not convinced that autism is anymore prevalent today than it was a century ago or even a millennium ago. I did not become autistic when I turned 60. I have been the same all my life. I was not misdiagnosed as not being autistic when I was a child. The thought never occurred to those who loved me. If I had been presented for an autism diagnosis I would not have got one when I was a child. The reality is that the clinical definition of autism has changed. Turn it back to what it was in the 1950s and bingo! The “epidemic” will disappear overnight. Would that be wise? Hell no! It would be turning the clock back to the bad old days. We’d still be the same, but our difficulties would be ignored, punished, or hidden away in institutions

On the other hand, the measles epidemic is real. It’s not something that has been created with smoke and mirrors. Isolation wards are real. Herd immunity is a real phenomenon. It relies on everyone who is able to play their part. That means being immunised. If you or your children haven’t been immunised, do it! Now!


5 Comments

Secular education

Following on from yesterday’s snippet on Pastafarian rights, I note the US state department comment on religion in NZ schools:

The law provides that “teaching in every state [public] primary school must, while the school is open, be entirely of a secular character.”  A public primary school may close, including during normal school hours, for up to one hour per week, up to a total of 20 hours per year, to devote to religious instruction or religious observance, to be conducted in a manner approved by the school’s board of trustees.  If a public primary school provides religious instruction or observes religious customs, it must allow students to opt out.  Religious instruction or observance, if provided, usually takes place outside normal school hours.

This has been the rule since the 1870s. It’s a pity that a few boards of trustees seem not to understand what closed means in this regards.


8 Comments

Pastafarian rights

That’s not a spelling mistake. I really do mean Pastafarian. For want of something better to do (my concentration has been off recently), I was wandering about on the internet and stumbled upon the U.S. State Department web site, and out of curiosity, looked up what that esteemed department had to say about Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most was kind of boring but some snippets did stand out. This one into their 2018 report on religious freedom in NZ made me smile:

In March an Auckland secondary school student stated that his school did not allow him to wear a spaghetti colander for his school identity photograph, contrary to his religious beliefs.  The student is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, otherwise known as Pastafarianism, which is a legally recognized religion in the country.  The student stated that he contacted the HRC over the incident but had accepted the school’s decision for the time being.

HRC is an abbreviation for Human Rights Commission, an independent authority that reports to Parliament, not the government. So all you Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipers, if you are looking for somewhere where your religion is recognised (one school excepted) then this is possibly an ideal spot.

By the way, did you realise that in 2001, approximately 1.5% of the New Zealand population claimed their religion as Jedi? That’s the highest per capita population of Jedi in the world. It’s been falling steadily ever since. Which is a shame. I much prefer “May the force be with you” than “God bless”. It has a more dramatic ring to it, don’t you think?


Leave a comment

All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup

The Bledisloe Cup is a rugby union competition between the All Blacks (New Zealand national team) and the Wallabies (Australian national team). The All Blacks have held the cup since 2002, but in the first game in the series last week, the Wallabies soundly beat the All Blacks The competition became a hot topic of conversation in Australia, in the hopeful belief that they might be able to take the cup for the first time in 17 years.

Such was not to be. Perhaps it was the passion in the haka that fired up the All Blacks (or intimidated the Aussies):

No matter. We won 36 – 0