9 Year Old Girl Replaces “God” with “Please” in O Canada & Festival Pulls Plug on Her Performance

Screenshot 2014-07-03 21.12.24On July 1st, I wrote a quick note about how PM Harper asked God to keep our true north strong and free in a Canada Day tweet. I find the PM’s repeated invocations of a deity that at least 25% of Canadians do not recognize divisive in a country that recognizes multi-culturalism as a core value affirmed in the constitution and enshrined as an ideal in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So, when the leader of all the people of Canada invokes his god in a message to all Canadians on Canada Day, I am disappointed.

However, the PM wasn’t the only Canadian to exclude a large minority of fellow Canadians on Canada Day. Adults took offence when a 9 year old girl replaced “God” in O Canada with “please”. After 9 year old Selaena sang a beautiful rendition of O Canada at a Canada Day celebration in Dutton Ontario, her father, Austen, posted a video of her performance on Facebook and his timeline quickly filled up with glowing praise for his daughter’s talent. Here are some of the comments:

Awesome!! She has a gift! Keep encouraging her to use it ! It could turn into her career some day, she is that talented! 

 

Wow very awesome. Great job Selaena . Wonderful voice. 

 

WOW!!!!!!!! Incredible voice!!!! You must be very proud! Sign her up for the Arts School….!!!!!

Check out Seleana’s rendition of O Canada for yourself. Her father explains Selaena’s reasoning to sing “please” as follows:

She wanted to be inclusive, given that her and a lot of her friends don’t even know what ‘god’ is. My children are secular and neutral – free to make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.

First of all – good job raising your daughter, Austen! It is clear Selaena shows compassion and sensitivity beyond her years and it is refreshing to encounter kids unburdened by dogma.

Now to the ugly stuff. Selaena was scheduled to sing O Canada at the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival in Rodney on July 12 but because she replaced “god” with “please”, the people who run the festival pulled the plug. Selaena’s dad, Austen explains:

Apparently the committee has spoken and the people that run the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival in Rodney no longer want Selaena to sing the National Anthem on July 12th, because she replaced the word ‘god’ with ‘please’ – which was her choice. Thank you religion for being close-minded and bigoted towards those that don’t share your ignorance. Yes, I said that.

That is pretty bad. It’s not like she said something obscene, it’s not like she replaced god with something offensive. But wait, it gets worse! Austen’s Facebook friend politely expressed his dismay at the festival’s decision by posting the following on the festival’s Facebook site:

I just wanted to voice my opinion. I will NOT be attending the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys Festival, after the decision to replace Selaena to sing the National Anthem on July 12th, because she replaced the word ‘god’ with ‘please’..

There were many supportive comments to this post and this gives me hope but let’s review some of the misguided arguments one responder put forth:

Screenshot 2014-07-03 20.09.28

Screenshot 2014-07-03 20.11.42 Screenshot 2014-07-03 20.11.10

Screenshot 2014-07-03 20.18.33

These arguments boil down to:

Comment 1&2: People who died in WWII and various other wars believed in God and they died for your freedom, so God should be in the anthem. I don’t know how the responder would know the personal beliefs of all servicemen and women in WWII and since we know there ARE atheists in foxholes, I’m sure there were atheists not only fighting for the allies in WWII but also the various conflicts Canada has been involved in. I suppose this responder has never heard of Gott mit Uns (God is with us), the motto emblazoned on SS belt buckles. If God was with the Nazis, well, with friends like those…..

Comment 3: The Queen is head of the Anglican Church and the Head of State in Canada therefore Canada is a Christian nation. Yeah, it doesn’t work that way, (and special shout out to America because I’m sure the responder got that money comment from the inaccurate Christian statement that America is a Christian nation because “god” is on the money). Canada is a secular democracy.

Comment 4: There are more Christians in Canada than atheists so you should just put up with it. Now, there are more Christians than atheists in Canada, but just because there are more of one kind of person than another doesn’t mean that the majority person is more valid than the minority person. Moreover, we believe certain things not because most people believe them but because they are true. That’s how progress is made. That’s why we no longer accept the once majority belief that discrimination based on gender, race or sexual orientation is okay.

However, let’s understand this non-Christian minority. The “nones” are a BIG minority. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 23.9% of Canadians do not identify with a religion. Further, the survey shows that 3.2% of Canadians identify as Muslim, 1.5% as Hindu, 1.4% as Sikh, 1.1% as Buddhist and 1.0% as Jewish. That’s well over a quarter of the Canadian population that is not Christian. Even if you subtract the Muslims and Jews who worship the same god as the Christians, that is still over 25% of non Yahweh believers in Canada. You can see how irreligion breaks down in Canada on this site.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the vitriol around Selaena’s version of O Canada but I want to end with thanking Selaena for her performance and for including all her fellow Canadians in her Canada Day celebration! Feel free to visit the Cactus, Cattle and Cowboys festival Facebook page and weigh in if you wish.

h/t Rob

29 thoughts on “9 Year Old Girl Replaces “God” with “Please” in O Canada & Festival Pulls Plug on Her Performance

  1. We as atheist tend to get caught up and a bit myopic in the mockery of fairy tales, forgetting that there are some very real fears that underpin a great deal of people’s anxiety at dropping religion.

    It’s not just that people want to believe in some really nice guy in the sky who makes everything cotton candy. Or even necessarily a good judge who will punish the wrongdoers for all of us.

    These people have a real fear of the still unresolved problem of very real and earthly horrors that mainly man can inflict on man, and are scared that some sort of break with what they might also consider as a traditional guard against such horrors, might be the catalyst to conjuring up those very real and earthly horrors that still lay deep in the hearts of men.

    That’s why I say that Atheism needs to show that it is at the forefront of addressing those horrors, be it from eugenics to war.

    • That’s why I say that Atheism needs to show that it is at the forefront of addressing those horrors, be it from eugenics to war.

      That’s absurd. It is not the responsibility of atheism, humanism, or anything to address every concern people have with anything.

      And it is particularly ridiculous to insist that atheism “explain itself” for things like war when the ideologies its looking to replace are far more obviously responsible for those things than atheism ever was or ever could be.

      But hey, i’ll tell you what. Just to alleviate some concerns, here are some problems atheism can address: intolerance and persecution of LGBT people, systemic and institutionalized misogyny, and priestly pederasty. You’re welcome.

      • Bullshit. You’re gonna have an awfully tough time explaining how religion is far more responsible for most of the wars, atrocities, and scientific barbarities younger than around 200 years ago.

        And if atheism can’t at least begin to address those in an intelligent way other than simply pointing the finger, then what’s the point of adopting, if all it does for you is allow you to say, “Hey look at me, i’m so smart and mature, I don’t believe in fairytales,” and nothing else.

        I hate to break the news to you, but I hear many more scientists flirting with the idea of human population culling, than I do religious figures (outside of war).
        And intolerant, mysogynistic, dirtbag atheists are some of the most dangerous people I know because they can be convincing to both sides.

        • Reminds me of a quasi-famous saying about people purpotedly “liberated” by war or some such thing, first attributed possibly to some chinese context, not sure,

          “Yes I’m free now. Free to starve.”

          • Forgive me if I misinterpret Bubba, but I think what you were really trying to say was that many people look to religion as a moral crutch and see human nature as selfish and destructive. They believe that humans are naturally corrupt and that religion has “elevated” them with a definition of “good.”

            I think Chris Hitchens addressed this many times and most eloquently. You don’t need an external definition of good to know that causing pain and destruction is evil while alleviating those things is good. Charity is not limited to the Godly. Anyone can do good regardless of their religious inclinations. Just like anyone can do evil regardless of their religious inclinations.

            I have to agree with Indi when he suggests that it is not up to the Athiest to explain his position in relation to the community. It is up to all of us, all the time to act appropriate and thus trivialize the issue of religion being an indicator of morality altogether.

          • Yes I know.

            I’m not even sure it has to be that refined.

            I think more of just a visceral fear from what existentially they have seen can/does occur.

            I think people instinctively know that there is a great huge enormous possibility that in fact there is no god/gods. Life just seems to introduce the notion of that no-god possibility automatically.

            But when a bunch of snooty people come along and say, “Hey, we would just like you to stop your whole traditional belief system, not because we are claiming any other reason than it is scientifically implausible,” people tend to think, “great, now fuck off, I need better reasons that that.”

        • “And intolerant, mysogynistic, dirtbag atheists are some of the most dangerous people I know because they can be convincing to both sides.”

          Can you explain this further?

          • What is there to explain? Unless you believe that being atheist somehow magically immunizes people from being intolerant, misogynistic dirtbags?

        • Bullshit. You’re gonna have an awfully tough time explaining how religion is far more responsible for most of the wars, atrocities, and scientific barbarities younger than around 200 years ago.

          You’re going to have a much harder time explaining how atheism is responsible, either for causing the problems, or for taking direct responsibility for fixing them.

          And if atheism can’t at least begin to address those in an intelligent way other than simply pointing the finger, then what’s the point of adopting, if all it does for you is allow you to say, “Hey look at me, i’m so smart and mature, I don’t believe in fairytales,” and nothing else.

          Because that itself is a step forward. It may not be a giant step forward, but every step forward is a step forward.

          What you are suggesting is that we should stand still and go nowhere until we figure out a way to make atheism fix everything (or at least everything you think is important). That’s idiotic. Even if we only fix one problem, that’s one problem that we’ve fixed. That’s progress. So long as we’re fixing more problems that we’re causing, we’re moving forward.

          You, on the other hand, want to hold us back. If we sit on our duffs and twiddle our thumbs until we come up with an ideology that fixes everything you are concerned about, we may never make progress.

          I hate to break the news to you, but I hear many more scientists flirting with the idea of human population culling, than I do religious figures (outside of war).

          Troll.

          • There there Indie. I think you had better go back and read my original post a little more carefully, jerkoff.

      • Ah, I think I see where our wires may have got crossed. It seems you tend to address things from the philosophically idealised grand “what Atheism is”, resulting in you missing points like I was obviously making about what atheism can do to convince more people to abandon their comfort blankets to feel like they are doing something more than just following what some esoteric intelligentsia assert is the more scientifically plausible narrative, while assuring them that everything will turn out rosy if they do so and that there is no need to explain just how or why it will all work out, but just to accept on faith that the scientifically plausible explanation results in beds of roses.

        • “what atheism can do to convince more people to abandon their comfort blankets”

          I think that what Indi is saying is that Atheists have to first focus on working together and bringing ourselves up first. We’re still a young movement. And really it’s a question of what can secularism can do. But what are your ideas?

          “while assuring them that everything will turn out rosy if they do so and that there is no need to explain just how or why it will all work out, but just to accept on faith that the scientifically plausible explanation results in beds of roses.”

          But as an Atheist, I accept that the explanation doesn’t result in a “bed of roses” it results in nothing and that can be very peaceful. I understand that there is an underlying fear, but I only know how to tell the beautiful story of reality.

  2. The specific God versus the idea of god is one of the final conversations we must go through.
    Any God depicted in some Roman or Palestinian literature can be easily disposed of by literary analysis.
    The idea of some benevolent creator-god, with a sardonic fascination of creatures like alligators will always be with us as allegory or as satire.
    Perhaps Stephen Harper will one day compare the genocidal god of David to the creator-god of serial-killer creatures.

  3. Baring the arguments to and fro a particular religion, for me it comes down to a matter of secularism. In Canada, we shouldn’t care what you worship so long as it 1) does not cause another physical or mental harm and 2) when a person leaves home they leave their religion at home. A truly secular society can only fairly represent all religions by not representing any of them – the alternative is what we see here where some believe their religion is just that much [more] important than all others beliefs, (or non-beliefs for us atheists). I support(ed) her right to sing the National Anthem how it was originally written for this reason, no religion or religious iconography should be represented, that or we represent all of them. And yes, the original words of the Canadian National Anthem did NOT include god, that was added later, (in the 60’s I believe), obviously out of the mistaken religious arrogance that “their” beliefs were more important than anyone or anything else.

  4. Canada is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.
    the Canadian Charter of rights and freedom recognizes the supremacy of God and the rule of Law.
    Our country was built on the principles of morality and character with respect for God.
    Canada established the standard by which they expected the country to operate-and that standard was founded on Christian values-those who do not want to share those principles have the right to find another country to practice their convictions. leave our God, who has blessed our nation with greatness, alone.

    • Spoken like the true theocratic tyrant we are always referring to when using statements like, “where some believe their religion is just that much [more] important than all others beliefs”
      Hate to burst that bubble, but this is NOT a Christian nation, but a Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Satanic, and yes, Atheist nation. Canada has always and always will support whatever beliefs one wants … no matter how silly they may be, and most importantly, (and I say this strongly), your right to believe or NOT-believe as you want – [that] is my Canada!

      • Probably we should all strive to make Canada an exclusively secular nation. Because there are cultural claims to knowledge that are logically unsupportable is no reason to acquiesce. Intellectual respect for inherited culture should be seen as more of a vice than a virtue.

    • Interesting about the Charter. The “god” part was put in with pressure from Christians in the government. Pierre Trudeau, a Catholic through and through thought it was silly and said something to the effect of “I don’t think God cares if he’s in the preamble to the Charter or not”. Trudeau recognized the importance of neutrality of the state with regard to religion but I think he also recognized that his god would find this behaviour ridiculous. Imagine a supreme being really giving a crap about being mentioned! It’s more important that we are inclusive and kind to one another.

  5. You’d think the festival organisers could just have asked Selaena to please stick to the official lyrics, if keeping Yahweh in there was so important to them, rather than cancelling her appearance because she sung the anthem in a way they didn’t like at another venue. Cowboys aren’t supposed to throw pointless hissy fits. If they did ask, and she refused, I find the cancellation a lot more understandable.

    • Well some of the hissy-fitting is tied up into race-bating xenophobia, which likely stems from some sort of fear of want from sharing wealth.

      In that way the cowboy’s might argue with you that they are responding to an existential threat, nipping it in the bud so to speak, rather than throwing mere hiss-fits.

  6. As a female athiest I am shocked when these “Christian’s” say athiests are misogynistic?! What are “christian” morals? I find that combination of words completely ironic. I’m just happy to know that more and more people are thinking for themselves and religion is dying. Athiests find it very disconcerting when theists say athiests have no morals. It makes us think that the only reason they haven’t become monsters is because somwonw is watching them and they may be rewarded for doing what they are told. “The lord is my shepard, for I am a mindless sheep”

    • Yes, anyone who needs to have religion tell them what is moral is probably a sociopath. As Rust says, If the only thing keeping a person decent, is the expectation of divine reward, then, brother, that person is a piece of shit

  7. Seleana’s version of ‘O Canada’ does make more sense. I just played the video again.

    In response to Juliusz’s appeal about military sacrifice being of the Christian variety I know this is just hogwash. From my grandparents and my wife’s grandparents up to the present, including myself, we three generations providing military service to Canada couldn’t care less about superstitious support for Canada’s security. The request of those who serve to “please” keep us safe is perfect.
    If Canada had supported, exclusively, the young secular people in Afghanistan there would be some hope for the future in that totally superstitious dystopia.
    Comparing Seleana’s guiding principles to that of Stephen Harper’s: it is obvious that Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan could have been much more significant than that of having just burned a few bales of very green hemp with several barrels of expensive aviation fuel.

    • Thanks for saying that Tim. Nothing like a bit of honest truth, or at least statements that seem to match the apparent situation more closely, to disperse the fog right out.

  8. Pingback: Update to O Canada Story | Canadian Atheist

  9. There are no athiests in foxholes

  10. I am an atheist. I was lucky to have been raised in a home without religion. However, I was also raised to allow others to have their own beliefs. I was raised to understand another person’s beliefs before casting any judgement. I have read the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran. Mind you, I think they are just stories to scare little children to do right. But I read them to understand the people around me and what they believe in.

    However, the song is Canada’s national anthem. It has been written as such in 1908, revised in 1914, again in 1926. They have also reviewed requests to revise in the early 2000’s and again in 2010. However they were official revisions. To deviate from the actual song is not the national anthem. And on Canada Day, that is not the time to make it.

    I have a great deal of respect for this country, and am proud of the anthem… If you want a change, ask your MP to look into revising it. That would be the right way, and that would show your daughter the respectful way to make a change.

  11. The National Anthem is for everyone, individually, all citizens to do freely as they wish with it. It belongs to all of us individually because that’s what a free country is.

    Since the national anthem belongs to this girl, it’s hers to do as she wishes with it. And if you or anybody else doesn’t like it, she is free to call you a goddamned intolerant moron.

    The individual above the state.

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