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Credo quia absurdum
Four interesting findings you may not have heard about from that Ipsos religion poll [press release]:

There's nothing particularly Christian about Alberta. It's obvious from the study that age is a much more important determiner of religious faith than geographic location; the most firmly religious parts of Canada are the ones that young people are fleeing as fast as their feet and their educations can carry them. Overall, 62% of Canadians said they believed that their sins had been forgiven by means of Christ's sacrifice. The figure in Alberta was basically the same, 63%--which is markedly lower than the 72% rate reported in the Atlantic provinces and the 84% (!!) in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

There seems to be a persistent gender gap in Christian belief. More women than men (66%-58%) professed belief in the Resurrection, which is not surprising, since religious belief is stronger in the older, demographically female-dominated age groups. But by a similar margin, more women than men (23%-16%) also professed the hardcore evangelical belief that "the world will end in the Battle of Armageddon between Jesus and the Antichrist." It's hard to explain this by means of age, because the study confirmed that this belief is more common amongst younger people.

Self-described "agnostics" have some distinctly puzzling opinions. Of the 814 Canadians polled by Ipsos, 30 described themselves as agnostic. Four of these agnostics, however, professed a positive belief in the Resurrection as described above, and three actually agreed with the statement "I feel it is very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians." It's possible that the four didn't know what "agnostic" meant but liked the sound of it, and that the three were Straussians. Or maybe all seven were just having a little joke, like the one self-described atheist who expressed agreement with "the world will end in the Battle of Armageddon." (That might actually have been me, but I don't remember taking such a phone call.)

Christians don't have a monopoly on mysticism. Indeed, they may not even be the market leaders. All respondents were asked "Would you say that you have ever had a religious or mystical experience--that is, a moment of sudden religious insight and awakening?" 30% of agnostics, and 28% of those who belong to no religion in particular, answered "yes" to this question. The figure for Roman Catholics was 22%; for Anglicans, just 15%.

- 10:15 pm, April 15 (link)
QUIT BUYING OIL!!!!!!!! Tim Blair unearths the very stupidest person in Alberta. -2:50 pm, April 14
Free at last: here's the text of that National Post column about murder rates in Edmonton. Rarely has something I've written inspired so much speculation and so many questions. I half-expected one of the federal party leaders to inject these surprising figures into the campaign, for it is easy to see how either Liberal or Conservative could incorporate them into a nifty little piece of spin. Is this your Alberta Advantage, Premier Klein? As usual my delusions of controlling events from afar have been cruelly thwarted.

EDMONTON - There is no question about it anymore: the City of Toronto has a problem with violence. And when Toronto has a problem, Canada has a problem. The whole country was shocked by the Boxing Day murder of Jane Creba, a 15-year-old who was checking out bargains on Yonge Street when she was caught in a gang firefight. The Prime Minister, whose political existence may never have been in greater jeopardy, was forced to spend the weekend on the telephone with Toronto's Mayor and Ontario's Premier. He seems to have made impromptu promises to overthrow major principles of criminal law, and amidst the panic no one seems to have entertained the possibility that someone else might be in office after the Jan. 23 election. But that's Toronto for you -- it turns instinctively for help to the Liberals even when the Liberals are arguably the authors of its troubles.

It's customary at the end of the year for cities to look back on their homicide counts as an index of peace and order, and nowhere is this being done more intensely than in Toronto. The city had 78 murders in 2005, a figure that has already been the subject of a gruesome online cyber-exhibit by the Toronto Star and the cause of a minor international scuffle about handgun smuggling between Canada and the U.S. In most other major Canadian centres, the dead are not stacked quite so high even when you adjust for population. There were just 16 murders amongst the half-million or so residents of the City of Vancouver, who have outsourced much of their criminal mayhem to the fringes of the Lower Mainland. Ottawa proper, with three-quarters of a million people, lost only 11 to violence.

But Toronto's 78 murders are not the most shocking Canadian crime statistic of the year, and the city cannot reasonably claim the title of Canada's murder capital. The icy, impassive City of Edmonton, which is a little more than one-quarter the size of Toronto, had 37 homicides in 2005. Calgary and Ottawa, each of which is more populous than Edmonton, reported only 34 murders between them. Even Winnipeg, a traditionally bloody municipality roughly Edmonton's size, did away with only 24 of its citizens. It would appear that according to the year-end murder counts, Edmonton's homicide rate exceeds Toronto's by about 75%.

The national press has not paid much heed to the fact that Edmonton is plagued with fatal violence worse than Toronto's. You won't see this Prime Minister shredding his agenda book to confront the problem. Our supposed ambassador to Ottawa, Anne McLellan, is too busy seeing National Rifle Association "operatives" around every corner to take public note of the numbers. Yet one must admit that neither Edmonton politicians nor provincial ones are ringing Martin's or McLellan's phones off the hook to whimper for help. Perhaps we are ashamed to call attention to the grim statistical truth.

Without doubt, most of us regard the anomalous violence as an unfortunate by-product of our oilpatch-driven prosperity. The sense I get -- living in one of the city's riskier neighbourhoods -- is that the inflated death toll isn't gang-driven; if anything, 2005 seemed like a quiet year for organized crime. The heavy lifting is being done by lunatics, party-crashing hooligans, booze-fuelled deadbeats and probably at least one serial killer of prostitutes. In the late '70s and early '80s, the time of Ralph Klein's still-remembered quip about "Eastern creeps and bums," prosperity brought drug traffic and rowdy transients to Edmonton. It's doing so again, and maybe we think it's inevitable. Maybe we even think it's an acceptable price.

But there are other social considerations here, too. As violent as Edmonton may be, it has not yet produced a Jane Creba. Gun deaths are bound to get more attention from a gun-obsessed government, and while 52 of Toronto's 78 murders were committed with firearms in 2005, only 13 of Edmonton's 37 were. And legitimately or not, we are helpless to resist making a distinction between the random slaughter of a teenaged girl browsing for shoes and the quiet disappearance of a teenaged street hooker peddling her wares. Few of us would like to say out loud that Jane Creba's life was worth more than, say, that of a drug addict who loses an argument in a crack den. We profess a belief in universal human dignity, and it's important that we do so. But the measures of the marketplace -- the column-inches in a newspaper, or the precious space in a politician's day-planner -- suggest unsettlingly that we are not all really created equal.

This piece attracted one intriguing letter to the Post denouncing my heartlessness. I won't reprint it here, but the upshot of the letter was that it was cruel--and somehow distinctively Western--to even consider comparing the lives and souls of the merely stabbed or beaten to those of the victims of gun crime.

- 3:50 am, January 10 (link)
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