From the Vancouver Sun:
Wednesday, March 25: Secularism aids dialogue
Some of the most “secular” countries in the world continue to have religious symbols on their flags, according to the Pew Research Center.
Re: We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada, March 18
I was pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science, and free thought. Unfortunately, they seem interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism. The dangers they choose are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism.
Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. These dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems.
Despite their claim, the role of religion continues to diminish in Canadian’s lives. Just before the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey, (which asked for your religion, even if no longer practising), the B.C. Humanist Association poll asked British Columbians directly if they practise a religion. Only one in three said yes and only 15 per cent attend church on a weekly basis.
Despite claims of collaboration with secular organizations, none appear on the program for the Our Whole Society conference. The conversation about religion and secularism requires secular communities at the table.
DR. SUE HUGHSON
President B.C. Humanist Association
Here is the complete text of the original letter from Sue Hughson to the Vancouver Sun before it was trimmed to the obligatory 200 word limit:
We were pleased to see Geoffrey Cameron and Karen Hamilton note the benefits of secularism in promoting tolerance, respect, science and freethought (“We need a new conversation on religion and secularism in Canada”, March 18, 2015). Unfortunately, they seem more interested in perpetuating imagined dangers of a “harsh” and “strict” secularism than engaging with organizations like ours that are actively trying to promote progressive secular values.Despite their claim, religion is in fact playing a smaller role in Canadian’s lives. Just prior to the release of the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey (which asked what is your religion, even if you’re no longer practicing), we asked British Columbians directly if they practice a religion. Only 1 in 3 said yes and only 15% attend church on a weekly basis. Cameron and Hamilton present no evidence that young people are “exploring spiritual matters in new ways” or that secularism in Canada isn’t working.Instead, the dangers they choose to warn us of are not the results of overzealous secularism but more symptomatic of religious sectarianism. Canada’s Residential Schools, which actively attempted to stamp out indigenous people’s cultures, were operated by the Catholic and Anglican Churches. And the continued biggest threats to world peace are ideologies that claim to have sole authority over the truth.Pluralistic and multicultural dialogue is an absolute necessity for Canada to continue to grow and welcome immigrants from all cultures. But these dialogues can only take place against a backdrop of shared secular values that transcend narrow belief systems. These values come from the secular and humanist thinkers of the enlightenment who critically examined established doctrines and instead placed importance on the one life we know we have.Finally, despite claims of collaborating with secular organizations, none appear on the program list for the Our Whole Society conference. I only received an invite to buy a ticket to attend three days prior to the event. Apparently it’s much easier to talk about having a different conversation about secularism when secularists aren’t invited to the table.
Dr Susan HughsonPresident, BC Humanist Association.Here is the original article to which the letter to the editor above refers:
The last link in this article is particularly important for everyone who favors and open society with equal rights for all regardless or ethnicity, religion, or gender.
The head of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, will speak in Vancouver during a major conference on religion, spirituality and secularism from March 22 to 24.
The event at Robson Square is titled Our Whole Society Conference 2015: Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide.
I attended the first highly engaging conference in this series at McGill University in Montreal in 2013.
The wide-ranging interfaith Vancouver conference will look at the purpose of secularism and its limits around the world and in Canada. In an era when many people see religion as a source of conflict and as a threat to free speech, many speakers will explore the role of religion and spirituality in cultural reconciliation.
Other speakers include Karen Hamilton, of the Canadian Council of Churches,; John G. Stackhouse, Regent College; Vancouver Rabbi Yosef Wosk; Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commission; B.C.-educated East Asian cultural geographer Justin Tse, Harry Maier of Vancouver School of Theology, Rev. Dr. James Christie, University of Winnipeg; Imam Dr. Zijad Delic, author of Canadian Islam: Belonging and Loyalty; Paul Bramadat of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and Farid Rohani, The Laurier Institution.
Here is the full line-up of speakers.
I’ll also be on two panels on Tuesday morning. The first deals with the question, “Freedom of Religion, or Freedom from Religion?” Others on the panel include Alia Hogben, Executive Director, Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
The second panel I’m taking part in is about religion and the Canadian media. It’s moderated by Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president, Association for Canadian Studies. Another panelist is columnist Suresh Kurl.