An Atheist in Canada

I can’t tell you at what specific age I was when I lost faith.

During my childhood, my parents were very involved with the church. I went to church every Sunday and helped clean the church during the week. I went to Sunday school, and this is where the trouble began as far as my faith is concerned.

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My father loved to read and he often bought National Geographic magazines and I would read them after he was finished. These magazines clashed with a lot of what my Sunday school teachers were feeding me.

I remember them telling me that believing in Jesus was the most important factor when it came to being saved. The problem for me was geography and time periods – how could the Native Americans know of Jesus, for example, when Europeans hadn’t yet discovered North America? How could isolated tribes, which I’d read about in my dad’s beloved magazines, be expected to know about Jesus when they had no opportunity until recently to have heard about this savior?

Noah’s Ark was another big one for me. I knew there were millions of species, and I couldn’t imagine a ship large enough to house them all. How did Noah keep the carnivores from eating the other animals?

When I asked questions I was usually met with either condescension or anger. Eventually, the Sunday school teacher didn’t want me attending any more. They told my parent’s that I might corrupt the other children with my strange ideas.

However, I still believed because my parent’s told me that Jesus existed and so it must be true.

It wasn’t till my late teens and early twenties that I really began to examine my beliefs. I began to devour books on the subject and watch debates between theists and atheists. It was around that time that I began to write about religion and I embraced my atheism as well as my skeptical nature in general.

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Where I live in Canada, faith doesn’t play a super-important factor in my day-to-day living. As far as disadvantages go, I don’t think there are many. Sometimes I feel a bit uncomfortable when everyone decides to pray at a special event, social gathering or at work etc. It’s not that big a deal though.

I’ve had a few uncomfortable moments with family members over my lack of faith. A few of them (and one in particular) told my mother that I had strange ideas about religion and faith after I challenged him for saying that he could prove Jesus existed and had godly powers.

I’ve been called many names by religious people online, but I don’t mind that much and I actually think such treatment has its advantages because it helps me hone my arguments and learn how to shrug insults off.

I recently went to a Catholic funeral and had a hard time not laughing when the priest began swinging incense around and chanting in a melodic voice. I couldn’t believe people thought watching a grown man do that was normal. I could also feel the congregation’s eyes on me when I refused to close my eyes or bow my head when they wanted to pray.

However, that last part might have been my imagination at work.

The advantages are immense in my opinion. It has allowed me to shrug of the guilt that comes with Christianity, such as the blood guilt of Jesus’ death, the idea that I deserve eternal torment and so forth.

I find atheism liberating. I can face death on truthful terms and I don’t have to rely on magical thinking to explain things I don’t understand.

Plus I get to sleep in on Sundays. Win, win in my books.

Where I live, religion is sort of in the background and while some people still look at me funny if I say I don’t believe in God, I don’t really suffer any extremely difficult to manage repercussions because of my lack of faith.

I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful to have been born in a country that affords me the luxury of being able to criticize religion or bad ideas in general without worrying about being beheaded or thrown in jail.

______________________________________

Thank you to Godless Cranium for this weeks Insight into atheism were you live.

This is my second of the INSIGHT guest posts, which will provide a glimpse into the lives of atheists around the world and an opportunity to connect with bloggers of a similar nature.

Follow for more and thank you GC for the perspective!

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40 thoughts on “An Atheist in Canada

  • Reblogged this on Godless Cranium and commented:
    I wrote this post after the blog owner asked me what sorts of disadvantages (if any) there were to being an atheist in Canada and at what age did I lose my faith.

    I hope you’ll check it out. I’ll disable comments here but please leave your thoughts over at ‘Living With Atheism’.

  • I resonate a lot with this, especially the sleeping in on Sunday morning…I guess I was more of a passive, accepting what the Catholic Church taught totally, but never seeing any dichotomy between what they taught and what I read in science magazines or National Geographic. And possibly because I was never a questioner, the subject of evolution, the flood, and all the rest, just never came up.

    We were also taught by a very stern priest, to never question our faith, never watch stage magicians (that one puzzled me for years, but now I understand why), or listen to Billy Graham. So of course we did…

    My own disaffection started personally in college, and accelerated after I was married when we tried to wake the parish priest on christmas eve and he was quite clear there WAS no midnight mass, good night, slam. wow. By then I had become a lazy catholic, and now I was a disappointed one. From there it was a slide, long and slow, into not believing in anything.

    The first time i said it at all was into the computer, I started a mission statement, and the first line was, “I am an atheist” — took me 52 years to get there. And it is totally liberating.

    You had a relatively easy time of it, for sure. Some people are disowned, banished, treated like monsters. I truly find that disturbing, but not necessarily a surprise. We have become the chicken with the red spot, and some people deal with that much differently than others.

    • It is totally liberating. I was lucky that people generally accepted my atheism. It certainly could have been worse, but I’m not the kind of person who would likely care too much unless it was my immediate family who were doing the disowning. I’m also lucky to live in a country that allows me to dissent and speak my mind about religious issues.

      Like your story, Judy, I think losing faith is often a slow process. It doesn’t often happen all at once. Thanks for your thoughts!

      • I feel the UK is similar to Canada regarding tolerance, however I know of people in the States that have been disowned. The difference between the UK and USA regarding Christianity is fascinating! As your nation is so vast, does Canadian beliefs or opinions vary depending on location or State as much as it does in the USA?

      • Fortunately in the UK there are only pockets of hardline religion, but US Bethel-style churches are the ones growing rather than declining, so I don’t take for granted that things can change. At least here the conservative evangelicals by and large believe in the poverty alleviation and environmental side of Jesus’s teachings; can’t say that’s as true in the States.

      • And church attendances are growing due to migration, with people leaving (and fleeing) very religious nations to live and work here. I wonder how religious we will become…

      • Well, so long as people mix respectfully, perhaps there may be progress in the other direction too? One can only hope! Best to be positive, ask questions, remain polite, work on areas of mutual gain (e.g. homelessness) and make well-informed points where possible. At least that’s the approach I am taking with my life and my fledgling blog.

      • Thank you! Please do leave a comment – I am keen to gain feedback so I can improve my writing style, or propose a question / topic you would like for a future post. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your input, it’s certainly a weird feeling when you say I am an atheist for the first time, even to yourself!

      I’m hoping to hear from people all over the world about their experiences as like you said, the western world has it relatively easy compared to other regions. The beauty of social media is that we can hear from those people even if they have to remain anonymous. Thanks for reading GC’s post!

      • Amen to that! Sadly the internet’s anonymity also allows for trolling and really poor levels of respect or even just poor debate logic. I much prefer face to face debates where I buy the person coffee beforehand, so they can’t just assume I have no morals or poop like that! 😆

    • The section about the priest also reminds me of an old newspaper article I found in the house dating back decades, it was a local story of a drunk man that knocked on a vicars door and asked him to teach his dog about Christmas. The vicar punched him in the face. I’m fast learning that I shouldn’t knock on anyone’s door for religious advice!

  • [ Smiles ] For starters, I am not an Atheist. However, I believe that a person has every right to be an Atheist in the same way that I have every right to be spiritual.

    Unfortunately, we live in a highly judgmental society and people who do not believe in God are frowned upon.

    What matters most is, that we love each other and treat each other in a respectful manner.

  • An excellent insight, GC. Sam, what a great way to celebrate our friends and give readers a glimpse into who they are.

    GC,

    I’m not sure if you and I ever talked about atheism in our exchanges. I may have commented, I can’t remember. My closest friend, of 23 years or so, is atheist and he (like you) has one of the most honorable characters I’ve known in my life.

    As a “backsliding” Christian, myself, I can say that religion confuses me. I do believe in Christ, I do pray, and I do believe in eternal life. But….I do not go to church.

    As a full-blooded, Native American Indian, my confusion over being introduced to faith was similar to yours. I questioned it. But because my adoptive parents told me it was true, I believed it. I’ve relied on my faith through some of my past struggles. But in my post-secondary education, I’ve HAD to question it. My classes in forensic anthropology made me question every bit of faith I have in me.

    I gotta say, you might be an atheist, GC, but you’ve never questioned or made me feel ostracized for being “different” from you. I’ve always thought you’ve accepted those differences and I accept your atheism completely free of judgment and condescension. I never feel like I need to save you, judge you, or preach to you.

    ~JM

    • Thanks Just Me. I’m glad you feel that way. A Rabbi friend of mine once said to me, ‘we have more in common than we do differences’. I think that’s true. I like exploring beliefs, ideas and ideologies but I try not to do it from a mean place if that makes sense.

    • Thank you for your comment. I am pleased to hear that you haven’t received any kind of judgement from GC. (I know this comment is aimed at GC) However I have been much more hostile to religion in the past and those that have questioned my opinions. I guess as atheists we need to be tolerant and accepting if we want to set a good example and have our voices heard… and I am trying to do just that. Cheers!

  • That was a good article Godless Cranium. I agree that we are blessed to live in countries where we can believe what we feel is right without being thrown into prison. Now if we could just get people to accept each other and respect each other even with our different views.

  • “As your nation is so vast, does Canadian beliefs or opinions vary depending on location or State as much as it does in the USA?”

    We have our more Conservative areas, which I would think are likely more religious. Particularly some of the Western provinces.

  • My early experience with religion was a bit different. It’s on my blog. I’m a native of Portland Oregon USofA. Religion is in your face everywhere. It is a never ending battle to keep it in it’s own lane. And now, well we’re in deep so good luck cause we got this new guy who has the most potent military in da world.

    • I’ll take a little look, thanks for commenting. How was yesterday over in Portland? Even here in Newcastle, UK there were protests during his Inauguration.

      • Yes, ten thousand marched to protest. Tomorrow is the women’s march. Thirty to forty thousand are expected. My oldest daughter will be marching here. My wife and daughter will march in DC. with two hundred thousand of their close friends.

      • I wish I had 200,000 close friends! Haha. That’s an incredible amount of people, I love when I hear of people coming together like that for a good cause.

      • Cause I know you care. Estimates were way off. There are maybe half a million in DC. Places like Chicago were expecting 20k had 150k. Same thing everywhere. We’ll see if a movement has been born.

      • The UK Parliament won’t allow him to speak there. It’s the least we can do; sadly we are now constrained by needing trade from the US – at a time of “America First” no less – because we voted to leave the EU. Oh well! Love from the UK, H 😊

  • I so totally agree with all of this. I am a proud atheist, and though my family really wonders what’s wrong with me, I find it liberating as well. Most of my reasons were political. I am bisexual, and I felt like the Bible made me uncomfortable. I’m
    pro-choice, and I felt like the Bible didn’t agree with that. It was also because science and religion disagree on so many levels that I eventually had to pick a side and I went with the more logical choice, in my opinion.

    • That’s the freedom you get with being an atheist, you don’t have to change your life to fit the script. Instead, you can live life how you want and it’s liberating. As long as that life is moral, who is to judge? Thankfully, not God!

  • Hey! i’m aayush, and I just wanted to say that this post was quite good. I’ve never been to Canada, so I was curious about a couple of things. Like, in US they have ‘in God we trust’ on their currency. Does Canada follow a similar suit? And what sort of atheist population is there?

    • Thanks for the input Aayush 🙂 All I can answer with is that we do not have such wording on currency in UK, but we do have Charles Darwin on our £5 notes! You will have to check out Godless Cranium’s blog, however I feel Canada has a similar tolerance to the UK regarding atheism and atheists. Looking at some quick figures, Canada has an atheist population of around 23%, with the UK around 48%, although I am happy to be corrected on this.

  • I just posted two different posts that relate somewhat in some ways to a few things you talked about here. I have noticed that atheist vs non atheist online is just horrible, the way that people are treating one another. I had read where you said people have been rude to you online and that’s seriously unfortunate. We all have brains and questions and our own opinions, if we didn’t, the world would be a very boring place. Also, that’s just flat out horrible that the Sunday school teacher didn’t allow you to attend. I don’t want to get too in depth in the comment section lol but if you read my recent post “if i overdose, will I go to heaven?” I touched on the wrong in reacting with anger and judgement when people are struggling with religious questions or just wanting to discuss religious differences. I myself have experienced that exact thing when asking tough questions. I believe it’s usually a defense mechanism when they do not know what to say or how to handle a difficult question. It’s unfortunate. Anyways, just wanted to leave a comment here.

    • Thank you for the time and thoughts on this. I think we all can react in the wrong manner when speaking to people of other beliefs, it’s all about fighting the urge to do so and trying to keep conversation. Conversation is healthy!

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