I have been curious for a while about other Canadian atheists experience with simply being an atheist in Canada.

I have commented to others that where I live now and where I grew up it was remarkably easy to be an atheist in many ways.

I had several friends growing up who where theists and still are to this day probably, but my lack of religion was never an issue with them. Even today it isn't an issue within my current circle. Though I am among my friends the only out and admitted atheist and I have always been surprised by that. I have been curious for a while if my experiences in some ways were typical Canadian or if I escaped religion because of my upbringing.

So what say you?

Where you raised in a religious or non-religious house hold?

Was religion predominant in the community you grew up in?

Did it cause any issues growing up, if you were raised non-religious among your religious friends?

Have you ever been called out by someone about your stance on religion and belief?

Do you find it difficult to be an out atheist in Canada?

If you are not an out atheist, how come?

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Replies to This Discussion

Raised in a religious household, however very liberal Christians so my rebellious instinct told me to be the biggest fundy in my household and my parents got concerned with my anti gay and anti evolution talk and such.

Came out as an atheist, nothing changed. A couple assholes here and there but for the most part nothing's changed, very easy to be an atheist in Canada. For the most part no one cares.
I was raised in a religious home. My 3 sisters are still xian; occasionally they drive me/us up the wall. My partner and kids are varying degrees of nontheist. That's degrees of vehemence . . I'm not an out atheist among my family, mostly. One of my nieces is a member of AN :) she suggested it to me. I rarely see my cousins, but would love to know how many of them are nontheists.

I was the weird religious one in my small hometown, although not a proseletyzer (spelling?). I remmeber summer activities in the area being limited to swimming lessons and vacation bible school!!

My coworkers are a mix. One of them is a theist, who tried to tell me there's no such thing as a real atheist, because you can't probve that there is no god!! He comes out with really interesting ideas, and we debate sometimes. He's fun, at least he puts some thought into things, and listens to what I have to say.

I guess my stance on faith hasn't really been tested outside my sisters, and the one coworker.
I'm a Brit but am now a Canadian citizen too working in small town maritimes

I haven't had many problems, but then I don't give a damn what people think and am quite vocal and openly critical. I know many of my co-workers are uncomfortable with my Atheism but are too "passive aggressive" to deal with my "aggressive aggressive" attitude whenever issues of faith or belief are raised. (I mean I work with some new-earth creationists.. how can one not challenge them when the subject comes up! its too much fun!)

I know quite a few non-immigrant Canadian Atheists who are quite nervous about how they are percieved and while not in fear for thier jobs, they are careful to not draw attention to themselves.

For the most part its really not an issue save for having to put up with the ingrained assumptions of religion that most Canadians I've met seem to have
Graham
I know many of my co-workers are uncomfortable with my Atheism but are too "passive aggressive" to deal with my "aggressive aggressive" attitude whenever issues of faith or belief are raised.

Ha haa, yes we are a spineless bunch aren't we.

I know quite a few non-immigrant Canadian Atheists who are quite nervous about how they are percieved and while not in fear for thier jobs, they are careful to not draw attention to themselves.

I can understand that attitude, I used to be the same way. There is such an ingrained idea in Canada about not talking about religion, it isn't conversation for polite company, a protected status.
I think people (in general) should be careful not to use their own personal experience to generalize for an entire group. Is it difficult to be an out atheist in Canada? I'd say that entirely depends on you as a person, the place you live in, and the people who surround you.

I've heard many people say it's easy to be an atheist in Canada (not just on this thread), but for me that does not jive with my experience. Perhaps I'm more sensitive than others. Perhaps I just grew up in the wrong community. I don't know what the difference was, but for me it was not easy.

First off, I will say that it was nowhere near as difficult as some of the horror stories I've heard from mainstream America. Compared to them, we do have it easy. But compared to, say, Scandinavia, we have a ways to go yet.

My main negative experience was being ostracized as a kid for expressing disbelief at religion at age 11. At first I just thought it was weird that many of my classmates actually believed in the Bible stories. I had assumed that belief in God was like belief in Santa, and you would just grow out of it. So I told them I was an atheist and thought the stories were silly and obviously false, like any other mythology. And that would have been the end of it. We had had lots of similar discussions and disagreements in the past, and this one was no different, from my point of view.

But then, later on, I started hearing strange rumours being spread about me that I worshiped the Devil, that I was a Satanist, that I was evil, etc. Thinking back on it years later, I imagine what happened was that one of the more religious kids told his/her parents, and the parents regurgitated their anti-atheist stereotypes to the kid, and the kid regurgitated them to other kids, and the rumours were born. I had never been that great on the social side of things in the first place, but I could get along. Not anymore. Suddenly I was an outcast. At that age, such mindless and undeserved ostracism is quite hurtful. It got so bad I had to switch schools.

I quickly 'learned' that being an out atheist is not really safe. The best bet for social survival was just to keep quiet about religion. Maybe roll your eyes at the more blatant silliness, but don't challenge it, no sir!

And this implicit attitude toward religion has permeated Canadian culture. It's not just in the schoolyards, it's in the mainstream public's Canadian identity. (For example, I am constantly surprised by how much of an anti-outspoken-atheist attitude is expressed by several major news and opinion sources, even ones you would expect to be more neutral. It's not all the time, and it's not as bad as in America, but I've seen/heard it even on CBC and in the Globe and Mail, which I guess I was naive enough to believe would be very unlikely.) The attitude seems to be: We Canadians consider ourselves open to all people of all races, ethnicities, and religions, and so *of course* it is unconscionable to criticize someone's beliefs, and certainly you don't ridicule their religion. We are 'multicultural' after all, a cultural mosaic, not a melting pot. We must be 'tolerant' of others.

And I bought into that for most of my life. I still buy into it for the most part, but I've modified my stance. In my view, 'tolerance' is not tolerant if it's not tolerant of everyone. And that includes atheists, critics, and those who challenge the status quo. And if you're going to tolerate everyone, it obviously cannot be toleration without limits! Should we be so tolerant as to tolerate *real* intolerance, such as ostracism, or racism, or the oppression of groups of people such as the oppression of women in many varieties of Islam?

In Canada, we've taken this attitude too far. We have been lucky so far, that we have been able to assimilate new citizens to take on popularly 'Canadian' values, if not for themselves, then for their children, or their children's children. But we pay a price for that, and the price is that we must suppress our strongest critics. Sooner or later this is going to bite us in the ass, and there is a good argument to be made that it has already begun to bite us in the ass, and a perfect example is our ridiculous political situation. The fact that so few Canadians (of course, there are some, but not nearly enough) have the courage to call a spade a spade, and kick these morons out of power (and I don't mean only the Conservative party) is a testament to how badly we've crippled ourselves in our ability to think and act rationally and with purpose.

I like that Canada accepts people of all different varieties. I would never want to endanger that. But at the same time, accepting different people does not require us to throw out our reasoning abilities or to zip our mouths shut for fear of 'offending' ridiculousness. And religion is a prime example of such ridiculousness. Certainly not the only example, but I *do* think the taboo against criticizing religion is the primary barrier to being openly critical of so much other nonsense as well. If being Canadian means I must keep critical thinking in a locked box while stupidity runs rampant and unchallenged, then I want to change what it means to be Canadian.

So, if someone doesn't see religion as a major problem, and doesn't care to rock the boat, and is happy enough with the status quo, sure, maybe for that person it's really easy to be an atheist. Don't ask don't tell, I guess. But if you're serious about challenging religion, and you seriously want to express your critical opinions, you will find many barriers in your way, some obvious, some quite subtle.

For me, I fall in the latter category, and I don't feel it's easy to be myself, and express my full opinions in Canada. There is too much political correctness, too much uncritical deference to religion and other irrational beliefs, and not enough emphasis on the importance of free speech and especially free thought. We try to make nice with everyone and end up doing the greater public a disservice in the process. When someone *does* stand up to point out the obvious, too often there are a hundred people shushing them and telling them to sit down. Canadians, for the most part, are afraid of intellectual conflict.

And that's why, for me, I do not find it easy to be an out atheist in Canada, even if I ignore the experiences of my youth, now that I'm able to stand up for myself and my opinions more effectively. It is still incredibly frustrating to face opposition from the very public that should be supporting rigourous critical discourse.
But if you're serious about challenging religion, and you seriously want to express your critical opinions, you will find many barriers in your way, some obvious, some quite subtle.

There is too much political correctness, too much uncritical deference to religion and other irrational beliefs, and not enough emphasis on the importance of free speech and especially free thought. We try to make nice with everyone and end up doing the greater public a disservice in the process. When someone *does* stand up to point out the obvious, too often there are a hundred people shushing them and telling them to sit down. Canadians, for the most part, are afraid of intellectual conflict.

You articulated quite well something I have been thinking about for a while. It is part of the reason I started this thread. When I say it is easy to be an atheist in Canada this is what I fear. That we might have gone to far down the Laissez-faire (let it be) Canadian ideal. I worry about Canada's complacency when it comes such things.
Bingo. You said in a paragraph what it took me an entire post to express. I think this is Canada's #1 problem right now. Call it complacency, apathy, short-sightedness, what have you. I keep wanting to shout: "Wake UP, people!!!" I know that doesn't work, but I can't deny the urge exists.

I've recently expressed to a few acquaintances the idea that we/someone should start a Critical Party, whose sole mission is to point out all the bullshit going on in Canada which nobody (or too few, and too quiet) is pointing out. Its main, populist platform would be to introduce critical thinking skills (*actual* critical thinking skills like logic and reason, not the 'critical thinking' pablum endorsed by the education system) into elementary school curricula. But its secondary, strategic platform would be basic, common sense reforms to Canadian politics and government. It would basically be a party of people saying, "Hey you morons, do your f'ing jobs already, or we'll do them for you. Cut the bullshit or we'll form a voting block to oust you." Maybe it's a pipe dream, but it's how I feel about our situation.
Agreed. Easy enought to be atheist in Canada - provided you shut up about it...
Quite right! And look where that's getting us, religious politicians gaining more and more power!

That's exactly why I plan to be very open.
I was in school between 71-83 in a very changing Quebec. It used to be a very catholic, church-province, but the seventies saw a population that more and more would spit on the church and religion. However the school system, was still catholic, and the people in the country far from the cities, were still quite religious.

Tho I'm a third generation atheist, it was not easy in school, we had weekly class confessionals, lots of cathechism classes and catholic hymns, not too much praying tho. I was clueless as to confession. I always used to say: my only sin is lying! but I didn't even think of myself as sinning. Just didn't relate to the concept. My grade 11, after years of letter writing, I was set free of cathechism, but instead had "morality" classes, which were interesting, because it made you question all values and value systems, showed them as very relative; and tho I don't remember details, I think those were very formative self-taught courses.

My brother and sister came through the system 5 and 7 years after me. Quebec's school system became secular in the early 80s, so my siblings had it much easier than myself.

Oddly Quebec still scores on polls as the place in North America where religion is the least relevant in day-to-day decision-making, but still ranks very high in belief in "god" per se. This may be skewed by the way the census is done. Since we are ALL baptised, people tend to simply state catholic in any poll, without reflecting on the actual nature of their spiritualism is... Which completely baffles me. I think maybe France is that way, people have a very personal and internal sense of a gawd but religion just plays almost no role in society other than formal events.

My hometown was completely French speaking but for my family, we spoke english at home. I was BF with some anglos from neighbouring villages, but when they spent two months trying to convert me, I ditched them. And that was that!

I was "out" then, then hid my atheism for the next 20 years, especially when living in ROC (as we say in Quebec). Now I'm "out" again, with a vengeance! I thank Bush for that :)
I am not Canadian but my in-laws are Québécois. My wife is atheist but not overtly so. I've had a few interesting discussions about tradition with her parents which invariably skirt around the subject of religiosity (i.e., how religious they are). Just a few days ago her mother noticed a book I had with me, 'In Defense of Atheism' by Michel Onfray, and I was quite shocked when she essentially asked me what atheism is. We had a little conversation in which she admitted that she did religion when she was in school, just before the 'Révolution tranquille', but hasn't questioned or thought about it since and she doesn't know or apparently care what she believes today. I should note that both her and her husband are university educated professionals so this apparent laissez faire attitude seems unusual to me.

I was quite excited about this turn of events but I will be treading slowly and cautiously forward.
Well depending how old they are... I can see that.

Canada as a whole has not "talked" about religion for very many years. It is considered a conversational taboo on the anglo side, and not even worth talking about (cuz religion is so ridiculous) on the Quebec franco side. God seems to exist for Quebecers, but in a very "belittled" sense. If that makes any sense at all? I think most Quebecers "live" like atheists but don't "think" like atheists, which may be similar to France.

"laissez faire attitude seems unusual to me"
It is very common here, and I think quite dangerous for Canada. We are going through a phase of massive immigration, cuz so many of us aren't reproducing, so the gov is bringing in cheap religious labour. These people aren't "laissez-faire" about religion, and have already begun a religious renewal of the public life as politicians cater to their growing entitlements. Cuz you know how we Canadians looooooove to "accommodate" immigrants lifestyles and values... sheesh!

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