National Day of Reason: Canadian Edition
May 3, 2013
The National Day of Reason, which took place on May 2nd (yesterday), offers a chance to reflect on secularism. Admittedly, this day doesn't have the same impact up here in America's hat (also known as
Mooseland Canada). Tensions between those who want a more secular society and those who want a society based on religious law aren't as strong in Canada as compared to the U.S.
Here in Canada, secular activism doesn't seem to have the same fervour that you find in the U.S. A lot of this may owe to the fact that we don't have politicians constantly making cringe-worthy statements about what Jesus would or not want us to do, particularly when it comes to women's bodies or what rights same-sex partners should have. It's not that such politicians don't exist here in Canada, but they tend to be relegated to the back bench of Parliament where the laws they attempt to put forward are voted down by their own party. Our current Prime Minister comes from an evangelical Christian background, yet debates around same-sex marriage and abortion have more or less been shutdown. The debate still exists in some forms, and there are figures that would like to see abortion and same-sex marriage outlawed, but the debate doesn't exist here in the same way it does in the U.S.
An issue which could use support from Canadian secularists is the current government's attack on science. The government has cut funding to some key science programs in Canada, has been tightly controlling what government scientists can say to the media, and recently made a comment about how now is not the time to "commit sociology" in response to people who wanted to ask why a group of suspected terrorists were plotting to bomb a train (Source). Though secularism isn't exactly about science, those who want to see "reason" in government decision-making would prefer leaders that want to explore the roots of problems.
Secularism is something I support. However, I differ from what I'd say is the typical—though not supported by all—American atheist view that we should be secular for constitutional reasons. Here in Canada, there is no clear constitutional separation of Church and State meaning there is little room to make arguments for secularism on legal grounds. The principles of secularism are what need to be promoted. I support secularism because I do not want to see the laws of one religion favoured over another. I'm not opposed to an individual stating their religious views in public. However, laws shouldn't be based on religious scripture.
My general support for secularism and the National Day of Reason does come with a caveat. Solving the problems faced in society extends far beyond pushing for leaders that base their decision-making on evidence. People can still contribute to actions that create the conditions that lead to oppression. Getting rid of politicians who think the Earth is only 6000 years old, while a good thing to do, won't end problems such as the exploitation of natural resources in the pursuit of profit and endless growth. There are some advocating for "reason" that can hold views harmful to society. Finally, as I've said in the past, I see no problem in allying with people of faith if it means working towards a goal that creates a better world for us all.
About the Author: Chris BurkeChris Burke holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies: Honours Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. Next he will be working towards a Masters of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. He's an active member of the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo student group. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing music.
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