Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Living in the Corner Penthouse of Spook Central


The residents of a upscale British Columbia highrise condominium building are pissed. The University of British Columbia is building something in their backyard and they won’t have it.  So what is UBC constructing that has them spitting nails?

Is it a prison?

A casino?

A noisy nightclub?

A factory belching out black smoke?

A toxic waste dump?

No, it’s a hospice facility for the terminally ill.

Really. What gives? Well, it seems that the plan has been opposed for months by Asian residents of the condo tower for fear that “ghosts of the dead will invade and harass the living” because of the close proximity to dying patients.

Yes, that’s right. The University’s work to secure a place where people can spend their last days in some comfort and dignity was being threatened because some old biddy is afraid she’s going to see Zuul in her refrigerator.

Thankfully, reason has prevailed and the University’s board has approved the plans and will go ahead with construction of the hospice. After an investigation where the University concluded that the hospice will not impact property values, the challenge to the project on paranormal grounds has been overruled, but not silenced:

In reaction, residents and “Chinese Community Leaders” announced a press conference Friday morning in Richmond, to convey that “UBC ignores cultural sensitivities [and] brushed aside [resident] concerns relating to [the] UBC proposed Hospice.”

In January after learning of the proposed 15-bed St. John Hospice to be built beside the Promontory, at 2688 West Mall, dozens of residents staged a protest. About 200 mostly Chinese-Canadian area residents signed a petition against the plan.

As when Beth wrote about the Hasidic newspaper that edited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out of a photograph and then played the victim when people called them on it, I’m calling foul on this reaction.  “Cultural sensitivity” isn’t a catch-all excuse to exempt your beliefs from any and all criticism, nor to enforce them on people who don’t share them. Nor are your religious or spiritual beliefs inherently worthy of respect simply because you believe them strongly.

You have every right to believe whatever you wish, but you don’t have the right to demand that I treat a bad idea with respect just because it’s your religion.

Imagine that this condominium building was populated by evangelical Christians and that they were objecting to an LGBT Community Center being built in their neighborhood. Now envision that same crowd of Christians trotting out the same old canards and lies equating gays and lesbians to pedophiles and the usual malarkey about the threat to souls to stop that Center’s construction.

Do we feel at all compelled to accommodate and respect the religious feelings of people whose terror at the thought of two boys kissing is no less palpable? Do we feel the need to be culturally sensitive to their bigotry? Of course not!

Clearly when we live in a free society, the price of admission is that occasionally we’ll see something that offends or bothers us. I may not like the lunacy that Pat Robertson vomits up on his television show every day, but I don’t have the right to silence him. Nor does he have the right to my silence about the things he says.

While you may have the right to believe and even express belief in magical nonsense, it doesn’t mean you get to hold those beliefs and opinions in a vacuum or that anyone is under any pressure to treat them as seriously as you do.

While you’re free to limit your own behavior – be it sexual, dietary or otherwise – because of your religious beliefs, you have no right to demand that everyone else follows those limitations.  To limit the actions of anyone else, you’re going to have to provide some tangible evidence that demonstrable harm is being done or a law is being broken. Can these residents prove that they’ll be subject to attacks from beyond the grave if this hospice is built?

No? Then case closed.


About the Author: Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis is co-creator, and co-host of Ask an Atheist. He hosts the Radio vs. the Martians! and Mike and Pól Save the Universe! podcasts. He also enjoys comic books, the Planet of the Apes, and the band Queen.

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More mild in effects but illogically prevalent in the Chinese community is the disappearance of floors 4 and 14 (sometimes in addition to 13) in Chinese-centric buildings here in Canada.

As new condos are being built, you can see the construction workers’ numbering of the storeys omit the “unlucky” numbers before the building is even finished.

This sort of superstitious nonsense needs to be challenged, not accommodated.


If renumbering floors helps sell condos then the practice will not stop. The bottom line is financial.

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