The godless North

Greetings from chilly Vancouver, where I’ve been visiting the University of British Columbia for the last few days. Besides breathtaking topography and amazing Pacific cuisine, a big advantage of the region is that you can’t swing a cat without hitting an atheist around here. That’s right: no religion was the largest reported “denomination” among B.C. residents, with more than twice the number of Roman Catholics, the second-biggest group. Thanks to Scott Oser for pointing this out.

(There don’t seem to be many Jewish people in B.C. I suspect that Moshe is the only one, and he was traveling during my visit.)

I have to admit, though, that I’m confused. People here seem relatively friendly, and there is quite an effective social safety net, including universal health care. Where did all this niceness and compassion come from, without God to tell them how to behave? I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard that godlessness leads to a selfish, cutthroat, me-first attitude, so much unlike the selfless regard for the less fortunate that characterizes our religious culture in the States. These Canadians are probably a bunch of backstabbing Enlightenment hedonists under their smiling facades.

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32 Responses to The godless North

  1. Moshe says:

    Wow, the Jewish religion is not even mentioned! of course if my experience generalizes, we are all accounted for in the “no religion” category…

    And speaking of friendly, try the following experiment: while walking on a busy street pause and move towards the road, as if intending to cross the streeet. Many times you will find that all drivers have stopped for you…the flip side is that driving in Vancouver is pure hell, another unfortunate consequence is that every time I travel I almost get run over sometime during the first 24 hours..

    Sorry I missed your visit, hope you will come back.

  2. Doug says:

    Adtually from the article Roman Catholics weren’t the second largest group, they were the third.

    Here’s the breakdown
    35% – No religion
    31% – Protestant (all denominations)
    17% – Roman Catholic
    1.5% – Muslim
    2% – Buddhist
    0.8% – Hindu
    3.4% – Sikkh

    No word what the remaining ~10% are….

    Doug

  3. Plato says:

    You see Sean, it actually breaks down into the capitatists, and the “negative left.” This struggle for dominance is a very well lead from, those who felt from a religious perspective(hmework here?), that medicare, should be available to all people and not just those with preferred status holding money, while bypassing the system of equality.

    So instead of making the system better, on one that currently exists, the capitalists say, why not open it up for business?

    But again the evil is being fought :), where profiteering raises it’s ugly head in the issues of healthcare, that we might now adopt your principals in the US?

    Those of us on the negative left are fighting hard. You did not know how the healthcare system came into effect and even now, those who are capitatists say, get out with the ole, and on with the new, but it still has a basis and thought inherent in dealing on a equality level.

    This is drowned out by those who own media and those who would open it up for debate. The Fact of the matter is, we didn’t need capitalists to push the agenda, we just knew to make the current healthtcare system work better.

    Unfortunately it is a uphill battle and one can become tired very quickly, without support. Maybe the seeds of design can be carrried into your country? It might had seem it began with a religious overtone, over look it, as ethics applies everywhere, even for an atheist like yourself?

    If one stands on “equality,” then ones know what I am saying.

  4. loren says:

    Sean: “Where did all this niceness and compassion come from, without God to tell them how to behave?”

    I think high-quality, hydroponic-grown weed may be a factor.

  5. Ruth Ellen says:

    “(There don’t seem to be many Jewish people in B.C. I suspect that Moshe is the only one, and he was traveling during my visit.)”

    Nah – I know of one more. And here’s the history of the two of them:
    http://collections.ic.gc.ca/jhs/Pages/main.html

  6. Dick Thompson says:

    Be happy in your delusion that “No Religion” on a survey equals “atheist”. Many in the US will happily chack the “No Religion” box, meaning they don’t go to church and think crib sets and crosses at Christmas are tacky, but then they will just as happily insist to the pollster that yes, they do believe in God. My father was of this persuasion; after he left home he never went back to church except for weddings, etc, or when required to in the armed forces. But he told me he couldn’t survive in life without believing in God.

    Dick

  7. Tommy says:

    Mouseland

    Its seems some Canadians are “shy” in offering their opinion?

  8. Tommy says:

    oops I forgot following…

    The Moral of the Story

    “Mouseland” is a political fable, originally told by Clare Gillis, a friend of Tommy Douglas. Tommy has used this story many times to show in a humorous way how Canadians fail to recognize that neither the Liberals or Conservatives are truly interested in what matters to ordinary citizens; yet Canadians continue to vote for them.

    The story cleverly deals with the false assumption by some people that CCF’ers (NDP’ers) are Communists. The ending shows Tommy Douglas has faith that someday socialism, which recognizes human rights and dignity, will win over capitalism and the mere pursuit of wealth and power.

    Taken from link above on mouseland.

    We Canadians get confused sometimes by voting one fat cat, or the other, but never the mouse?

  9. Scott O says:

    The exact phrasing on the census questionnaire is:

    “For persons who have no connection or affiliation with any religious group or denomination, mark No religion. Report ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ if applicable.”

    The survey also instructed respondents to indicate a specific denomination even if not a regularly practicing member—so non-churchgoers were being asked to choose a specific option, even if they are inactive.

    Are all of the 35% of BC residents who claim “no religion” atheists? No, probably not. But on the other hand, the language of the survey specifically identified this box as the appropriate one for atheist and agnostics, and at the same time discouraged theists (even non-churchgoing ones) from checking that box. Furthermore, the largest growth in the “no religion” category came from immigration from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China—countries not known for theistic belief. These probably are truly non-religious.

    I note as well that some provinces had very, very small fractions who stated “no religion”, which doesn’t accord with the idea that many religious believers would be tempted to identify as “no religion”. Taken in balance, it’s probably a safe bet that a very large fraction of that 35% who stated that they have “no religion” probably are secularists. My anecdotal experience from living in Vancouver backs that up.

  10. Kea says:

    Similar to here: in 2001 we had (for example)

    No Religion 30%
    Anglican 17% (the largest Christian group)
    Muslim 1%
    Refused to answer 7%

    but if you look carefully, the total number of Christians of some sort or another was a whopping 59%.

  11. Count Iblis says:

    A typical observer in the universe should expect to find him/her/itself to be living in a backward civilization where (scientific) progress is severely hindered by religion/superstition. See here why.

  12. Which is the percentage of Native American there?

  13. PhilipJ says:

    Hi Sean, welcome to the we(s)t coast. In a rare display of freak weather, you’re even getting to see some snow today! 🙂

  14. Pyracantha says:

    I don’t think that having religion or not determines whether people are well-behaved or not. I think it has much more to do with cultural and possibly even geographical factors which may be independent of religion. Just because you or someone else is an atheist doesn’t automatically mean that they are going to be moral, well-behaved, considerate people. They were just raised to be that way. The next question is, what is it that really causes human beings to act with consideration and peacefulness. If your culture values “honor,” male supremacy, violence, and revenge, then no amount of atheism will stop you from following that culture. (Not all religions, or even not all types of a single religion, insist on these qualities or foster them in followers.) Whereas if your culture (or family) brought you up to be kind, peaceful, and considerate, they might even be devoutly religious and still have the same qualities! It’s a task for the social engineer to find out what elicits good behavior in people, and then try to implement it.

  15. Science says:

    Sean, religions don’t lead to genuine decency as they mostly encourage morality using the bribe of future riches in heaven, and the threat of hell. Bribes/threats always lead to insincere decency, even with kids! Orthodoxy which absolves sins in return for giving alms and attending an hour on Sundays, can be corrupting (I’m Catholic). I don’t believe people who claim to have no religion at all, because they usually believe in themselves, their job, politics, football teams, or “strings” as a kind of religion or God symbol…

  16. Plato says:

    Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

    Why?

    Assume Population at Approx. 36 Million in Canada

  17. Remarkably enough, despite have only two Jews, Vancouver BC seems to support some 13 synagogues.

  18. Kea says:

    “I don’t believe people who claim to have no religion at all, because they usually believe in themselves, their job, politics, football teams, or “strings” as a kind of religion or God symbol…”

    That’s all very well, but let’s face it: that’s not what the census question is asking.

  19. CanuckRob says:

    Welcome to BC Sean, maybe a fit chilly but afterall it is the middle of winter. I actually live out ine fraser Valley and this is known as the bible belt of BC. (hundreds of churches and just seven pubs) however overall I would agree that Canadians are far less religuos than Americans. Part of may be a reactionagaisnt thereligous excesses we see south of the border but I think we just tend to be more European in our outlook (although this may change with the rapid Asian immigration). Many of us consider that what makes us Canadian is that we share much of the entrpreneurial spirit of the US coupled with the liberal social attitudes of Europe.

  20. Alejandro Rivero says:

    #16, note #2 was asking about the extant 10%. I was offering a conjecture: Native american religions.

  21. Plato says:

    Ah, I see. Thanks

  22. Ruth Ellen says:

    “For persons who have no connection or affiliation with any religious group or denomination, mark No religion. Report ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ if applicable.”

    This is tricky. What about those of us who are Jewish AND atheist?

  23. Ruth Ellen says:

    “Remarkably enough, despite have only two Jews, Vancouver BC seems to support some 13 synagogues.”

    As well as two secularist organizations/schools: http://csjo.org/pages/affiliates.htm#canada

  24. Count Iblis says:

    Hmmm, only 2 secular schools????

  25. Re #23 we have a say, “I do not believe even in the Catholic religion, which is the only true one”.