I actually wrote this a while ago but some recent Canadian news – led by Elizabeth May – made me go back and find it.
What does it mean to be a Canadian?
What does it mean to be an Atheist?
What does it mean to be a Canadian Atheist?
I can answer the first two questions with ease but the third question…well, it baffles me.
If I were an American, an Iranian, an Israelite, an Iraqi, an Indian, or even if I were Irish then I wouldn’t have trouble defining what it would mean to me to be an Atheist from my home country. But I’m none of those nationalities – I’m Canadian.
I live in a country where conflict seems unnecessary; where ‘live and let live’ really does seem to be a way of life for most. We have built a true melting pot society where we invite everyone in and we adapt to them instead of making them fit into our predetermined mold. So why get so worked up about religion?
I really don’t know. At least I don’t know when I think of myself as a Canadian.
I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to be a Canadian Atheist if we had MP’s akin to US Senator Rick Santorum or if we had radio personalities modeled after Rush Limbaugh. When I hear their latest Christian based rants of pure hate against some group of people just trying to live their lives I get very worked up. They make it easy to be an Atheist – but they’re American.
Sure, up here in the great white north we have plenty of conservatives. And it’s likely that many of them have religious beliefs along the lines of the Limbaughs and Santorums that mindlessly rant down south. But in our grand (both size and style) country our conservatives seem to be able to reel it in and leave the politics political and not ideological.
No doubt I am being somewhat naïve here. Perhaps our politicians are simply better at sneaking their ideology into their politics than their American counterparts. Maybe they find ways to work legislation so their conservative (Christian) views are hidden in small ways that are having some grand effect on all of us. But honestly, if they’re that ninja-like then I’d be more inclined to give them credit than to attack them.
So what does it mean to be a Canadian Atheist then?
For my answer I’m forced to think more global.
It means being an example to the rest of our planet.
To much of the world Canada is a model country, especially where it counts – with human rights. We treat each other well; we have free, albeit slow, universal health care; and we are always among the first nations step in when human rights violations and atrocities are occurring outside of our own borders.
And many of those watching us may be quite surprised to find that our great country is growing increasingly secular. As a recent Ipsos Reid poll shows, 47% of Canadians think religion does more harm than good. So obviously we are not so kind and generous because we believe an imaginary presence will give us good things when we die but because we believe that being good, compassionate, and philanthropic is the most fulfilling way of living.
No doubt while pondering what that means people will look at the countries around the world which are most notorious for human rights violations and see that they are consistently among the most ideologically run countries. To me this is no coincidence.
Thus, to me being a Canadian Atheist goes beyond my own borders. I can see that my fellow Canadians are slowly but surely coming around to a more secular way of living. As Canadian Atheists were are proof positive that people (and nations) can be amazing, kind, generous, moral, and nonbelievers. So we need to get out there, be vocal, be active, and make sure that the world sees our nation for the example it truly is – a secular one.