How the nonreligious live Christmas

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In this Christmas blog special, NSRN editors Timothy Stacey and Fernande Pool share and reflect upon the narratives of how six nonreligious people navigate through the festive period.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: ardent secularists voice their outrage at the continuing dominance of Christian celebrations in increasingly nonreligious societies. Their Christian counterparts paint themselves as a minority under attack: their symbols mocked, repressed or castigated in the name of nonchalance, diversity, commercialisation. This has reached the point that many of us get anxious even discussing the holiday with colleagues: “what are you doing for…Christmas? Winter break? Help!”

But what are the thoughts of the silent majority? For the first time in history, religious “nones” are now the dominant group in the UK and Australia, and a close second in the US and Canada. How do they feel about Christmas? How do they navigate the complex mesh of Christian, secular and commercial symbols?

For the last six months, the Lived Religion Project has been tracing the complex and beautiful ways in which religious and nonreligious people alike carry their beliefs in everyday life. Its aim is to challenge religious illiteracy and prejudice in politics, the media and amongst the public. We do so by asking simple questions like: What do you believe? Can you tell us the story of how you came to believe that? Is there anything about the way you live your life that might surprise an outsider? The majority of the work thus far has been carried out in Vancouver, Canada, which has one of the highest proportions of religious nones in the Western world. This has given us unique insight into the diversity of nonreligious ways of engaging with the world in the everyday.

On the build-up to Christmas, we decided to give the project a fun twist: we hosted a roundtable Christmas(?!) dinner discussion with a range of nonreligious guests. Each person took a turn to explain what Christmas means to them.

Sam

For my family Christmas is about giving gifts to each other, thinking about what people care about: a gift that means something to them, even if only in the brief moment they open a present. It’s also about the politics of gift-giving: a marker of where you are as a person. So I have one brother who used to be the best at giving presents, and who now is the worst. And I feel that the process of thinking about the gift is a way of demonstrating love through demonstrating knowledge of someone.

Growing up in the UK, I don’t think we were raised Christian. We were probably raised to be aware of the absence of Christianity in our lives. I went to a Church of England school and then as now the message always seems to be: “okay you’re having fun, opening gifts, but really you’ve forgotten about Jesus”. And I’m like “oh yeah, I did forget that guy.” Because even in Christian circles there was this reluctant acceptance of our forgetfulness, I never really felt the need for a clean break from the Christian aspects.

Eva

Christmas has nothing to do with gifts. I am kind of proud of the fact that it wasn’t about gifts. Having grown up in the Netherlands, we used to exchange gifts on Sinterklaas, the 5th of December. Whereas it would feel corrupting to make Christmas about presents. Instead, we’d all get aluminum foil bags of chocolate, raisins, nuts, mandarin. And we’d snack on that the whole day. We grew up in a very Christian area where nobody really received presents. I was very happy with my mandarin and it breaks my heart to think that you could have a child who wouldn’t be happy unless they received some expensive gift.

My primary school was rather strictly Protestant, and although for most of the time that felt oppressive if anything, I did like the build up to Christmas: the lighting of the Advent candles, the singing of Christmas songs, reading the story of Jesus’ birth, all culminating in the annual Christmas performance, when all the school children would sing songs and family would come watch. We’d get an orange and a Bible afterwards. The performance was never quite as exciting as anticipated, but I do still attach a feeling of warmth and light to it.

Christmas is quiet time. I’m from a farm and my parents worked very hard. So, Christmas was a time to be together and rest. For the last ten years, Christmas has been an emotionally distressing time; I didn’t always feel comfortably to spend time around my family during those years and during Christmas I felt forced to. But having grown up, I have become softer, and now I see that no matter how estranged we have become as a family, I will make an effort to see them on that day. Because in the end, they’re your people.

Sarah

When I was young it was all about presents. I think my parents also really enjoyed the idea of exchanging gifts. My sister would go around the house wrapping up stuff that we already had. So, for her it was just the process of unwrapping things. But now it’s evolved. We don’t really give gifts that much and it’s distilled down to: time with family. But for us it doesn’t have to be that day; the day itself doesn’t necessarily contain anything. It’s grown to be that time period where you get together and give each other cards. My Dad will always write beautiful cards that have everyone in the room crying and meanwhile he’ll walk away and get himself a drink. And you can’t do that through an email from overseas. So it’s just become a time to remind people you love them.

You have to remember too that our Christmas, in New Zealand, falls in the middle of the summer so a lot of people are taking time off work; everyone’s very relaxed; people are on the beach having beer, having barbecues. There’s a sense of freedom in the summer that Christmas has become bound up with. But that said, the northern hemisphere stuff still trickles down: There are songs about snow and pictures of snowmen. That could be made more relevant!

Hoon

I was born in the northern hemisphere so Christmas is what I grew up with. In Korea it’s all about kids getting presents. There’s no sharing of presents as such. It’s just for children. And then it’s also a time for couples to go out. It’s not really a family occasion. You go to church and to mass I guess – I’d say 70-80% of people do. It’s other holidays that are about family: autumn harvest festival and New Year. So, for example on New Year we get together as a family with up to forty relatives and pay respect to the ancestors. You know how Muslims pray? It’s a bit like that: for each ancestor, you pour rice wine and you bow three times. As a kid, I found that really annoying: 3 hours bowing nonstop. But growing up I also felt kind of connected to it because I appreciate the idea that family is important.

From my family’s perspective, when we moved from Korea to New Zealand, we lost most of our traditions and holidays. So, we didn’t really celebrate the harvest or New Year. So now I primarily associate Christmas with my wife’s family and being at the beach.

Adam

It was an annual tradition for my family to go up and visit my grandmother on my Mum’s side. My Mum’s side’s the Christian side, and my Dad’s is the Jewish, European postwar exile side. My Mum’s side was Anglican but not devout by any means. For me it was about materialism, when I look back. But now it’s about the family memories. Especially after my grandmother and grandfather are gone and we don’t see each other much as a family. Christmas was always the main family event: we’d gather and sleep over at my grandmother’s, in a cabin that my grandfather built in the woods beside a lake. At that time of year, the lake would be frozen and my uncle would plough an ice rink on the lake. My seven cousins would be there and there’d be a turkey on the table and all the kids running around. So yeah: pretty idyllic Canadian.

Looking back on it I’m closer to my cousins on my mother’s side partially because of that annual event. When I look at my personal memories, a lot of it was selfish commercialism. But in a kind of magical way. Not being able to sleep. Wondering what kind of lavish gifts would be bestowed on me. I was pretty sneaky too. I used to secretly open my presents early.

But anyway, there was never much by way of religious or cultural rituals. It was just family-focused. We never went to church. The first time I went to church was my grandfather’s funeral.

Laura

That so-called Canadian ideal that never existed here, out West; it’s a very Ontario-centered idea of what Canada is. We don’t have frozen lakes. But Adam got to live it!

I grew up in a very Christian household. So, Jesus was the “reason for the season”. My family is super-evangelical, fundamentalist Christian. My parents aren’t, but they were raised that way and it comes out at Christmas because they want to lock down that tradition. So recently I had a chat with my Mum and suggested we might go to a church service that recognizes gay folks as legit. Because my brother is gay and so forcing him to go to a service where they don’t recognize his humanity might be really horrible for him. But my Mum was like: “don’t you respect your elders?” But I do and I think a lot about how to translate legacy to the future, and what it means to inherit certain ideas and to fully embody those ideas as a living creature now and what it means to pass them forward. We think we have to choose what we inherit and so I’ve started trying to influence the process.

Interestingly, two years ago my mum didn’t make us go to church. But this year our whole family is coming so she is accountable to a wider network. Christmas isn’t just about what we think personally, or what our immediate family thinks but also what our wider culture expects of us. So, her personal identity is wrapped up in how she performs Christmas.

As a child, I was fully wrapped up in it. Christmas and Easter felt very connected and imaging where Jesus would end up 30 years later was sort of magical. Knowing that this person was super radical for people. My parents are quite radical in their generosity. They recognize Jesus as a hero of how to live in a countercultural way.

Now I have no personal connection to Christmas at all. We partake in very pagan rituals now and my own personal belief is a much more earth-centered spirituality. And when I think of Christmas now I think it comes with the solstice. We physically witness the earth shutting down for the year. In the northern hemisphere, that is. I like to think about what it means to close the year. So, Christmas is about what you want to nurture for the year ahead. We place each ornament on the tree as the wish we plant for the new year, that we want to germinate when the light returns.

Reflections

We are in a period of rapid transition. As Laura stressed, we have to be intentional about choosing the traditions we inherit and how to do so. While some advocate for the wholesale abandonment of a Christian past, and others from a Christian lens lament what Christmas has become, the majority quietly navigates between these two positions, holding onto the aspects they most cherish, and quietly but resolutely letting go of the aspects that do not resonate.

Of the most cherished aspects amongst our guests appeared to be spending intentional time with family and childhood memories of excitement and expectation. Although nonreligious, they choose not to radically reject Christmas because they are capable of putting to one side Christian symbols while welcoming a designated period of reflection and togetherness. But they also recognize that Christmas was an important aspect of their childhood. In this sense, perhaps it is worth keeping in mind that Christmas is not merely a reflection of our own beliefs but a deliberate performance of togetherness.

Follow the stories at:

WEBLivedReligionProject.com,

FACEBOOK: @livedreligionproject, facebook.com/livedreligionproject

INSTAGRAM: @livedreligionproject


Timothy Stacey is a Postdoctoral Fellow at both the Religion and Diversity Project, University of Ottawa, Canada and the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. Tim explores the role ‘myth’, or stories of great events and characters, in developing solidarity and combatting populism and extremism. Myth and Solidarity in the Modern World: Beyond Religious and Political Division, has just been released by Routledge. 

Fernande Pool is a Visiting Scholar at the School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Canada. Her PhD thesis, titled The ethical life of Muslims in secular India: Islamic Reformism in West Bengal, (March 2016, London School of Economics, UK)critically explores the nature of ethics and alternative experiences and meanings of secularism and religion. Fernande has been named a Marie Skłodowska-Curie LEaDing Fellow at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, starting April 2018.


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7 thoughts on “How the nonreligious live Christmas

  1. It is extremely interesting to read about these differing views of Christmas across the world and throughout different religions, particularly how they compare to Canadians, as the post begins with the fact that Vancouver, Canada has one of the highest amounts of religious “nones” in the Western world. What interests me the most about this article, however, is how each of the guests described their encounters with Christmas as children, and then how this view has changed since. Many of the contributors describe their experiences in relation to familial traditions, highlighting how these particular rituals have been passed down through the generations. Through looking at the accounts of each guest and how they ascribe Christmas religious traditions to older generations, I am curious to know what the relationship is between specific generations and nonreligion or indifference towards religion. Therefore, a question can be raised, is there a correlation between millennials or younger generations and nonreligion?

    Christmas is a traditionally Christian holiday, but has become increasingly secular, concerning material objects rather than the birth of Christ. This notion is echoed throughout much of the post, as the guests describe their traditions mostly in terms of the social activities and not the religious ones. Klug (2017) discusses this and claims that the social aspect of building a community in religion is generally the most attractive to followers, even nonreligious individuals (232). This is where Christmas fits in, as it is an extremely celebrated holiday, but not just by Christians. Nonreligious individuals are able to find that “warmth and light” that Eva describes, and though she claims that her Protestant school felt mostly oppressive, she was able to attach positive feelings to her memory of Christmas. This aligns with Klug’s (2017) statement that “one can be nonreligious but still have a positive view of religion and its role in society” (221). Adam’s section echoes this when he introduces his mixed religious family; Anglican and Jewish, as he claims that Christmas was never about religious rituals, but rather a family-focused event. In these cases, it is the feeling of belonging to a community that brought about positive feelings toward this traditionally religious holiday.

    Returning to the question of why Vancouver seems to have the highest amount of religious nones, I wonder if this relates to the generational question I posed earlier. Laura’s section seems to echo this high statistic of religious nones in the West, as she explains her own experiences of Christmas growing up in a very Christian household. This section provides some of the most significant insight towards the relationship between generations and religiosity. It seems here that Laura is suggesting the idea that older generations are more religious, as she explains how her parents aren’t even very religious but that’s how they were raised by their parents.

    In many of these accounts, the guests are questioning what their parents didn’t seem to; that is, why do I have to celebrate Christmas this way? As well, it seems that millennials are more inclined to be more accepting of nonreligious or indifferent individuals. As Laura proposes “Christmas isn’t just about what we think personally, or what our immediate family thinks but also what our wider culture expects of us.” In this sense, I think it can be said that millennials, for example, are now questioning and making their own choices about how to spend Christmas and realizing that you can participate in a traditionally religious holiday without necessarily being religious. It relies heavily on the social aspect and who you surround yourself with, rather than what you do or how you do it.

    -Natalie Gallant, posted March 6, 4:42pm

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I found it quite fascinating that Josh begins his article by pointing out that “ardent secularists” as he calls them voice their outrage at the continuing dominance of Christian celebrations in increasingly nonreligious societies. A few religious studies courses that I have taken have discussed whether or not continuing Christian dominated traditions is relevant within the increasingly secular, and diverse country of Canada. Should a secular country be able to nationally celebrate a religious “holiday”? Because the rise of religious nones and the rise such a diverse country, should civic holidays be imposed on those who do not partake in the Christian religions? These are questions I constantly ponder.

    Being that Canada was predominantly formed around Christian traditions, rituals and practices would we be able to eradicate the civic holidays such as Christmas that have been in place for over one hundred years? Christmas is so fundamentally rooted within Canadian society that the school systems revolve around the tradition, ritual and practices of Christmas. Even those who are not Christian “bank” on the “Christmas holidays” to go on vacation or simply take time off from work. Could those who are “outraged” about the continuing dominance of Christian celebrations in increasingly nonreligious societies be considered hypocritical for partaking in the holiday’s provided by the Christian tradition? Is it right for those to criticize the continuation of Christian celebrations when they themselves benefit from the civic holidays?

    In addition, I can’t help but think about the constant media attention that surrounds “Christmas”. However recently Christmas has been morphed into the “holidays” or “winter break”. Furthermore, I can’t help but think about cultural appropriation when I see advertisements or media campaigns promoting the “holidays” instead of Christmas. Why are we taking a religious tradition, ritual and practice and making it secular? An argument could be that by making the Christmas traditions, rituals and practices “secular” it is being more inclusive to those who are not Christian. Unfortunately I do not see it as so. Although I am an advocate for inclusivity and that people are able to celebrate their own religious traditions without ridicule or subordination I am upset with the fact that companies and the media can use the idea of Christmas as a marketing scheme.

    I found it very interesting to read about what Christmas means to other people from around the world. One reoccurring theme was that most people talked about their childhood experiences in comparison to their current experiences in regards to how they celebrate Christmas. People discuss that most of their traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. Although some talked about how Christmas was more about the presents, I found it interesting to note that most people spent “Christmas” with their loved ones and being with family. Perhaps within such diverse communities Christmas can become a secular holiday that means spending quality time with family and enjoying each other’s company? Is it possible that one day the meaning of “Christmas” as in the birth of Jesus will be completely dismissed?

    • I found this article quite interesting as during my university studies the topic of Christmas has come up numerous times. Furthermore, the personal anecdotes and experiences shared within the post helped me connect more to the article and moreover think more critically of my own relationship with Christmas. The statement in the article that especially resonated with me was when Sam said “We were probably raised to be aware of the absence of Christianity in our lives”. This statement echoes exactly how I feel my experience with Christmas has been. I was not raised religious and my mom explicitly discusses how she does not practice Christianity, but my siblings and I still grew up celebrating not only Christmas but Easter as well. Looking back, this is most likely why I never thought of Christmas as a “Christian” holiday but rather “a holiday everyone celebrated”. This was further reinforced by the annual Christmas concerts in elementary school and Christmas break.

      One point that my group member Kathleen pointed out that made me reflect was the “marketing” of Christmas. However, I was a bit unsure as to what Kathleen meant by the “cultural appropriation” of Christmas. I would instead call it the commercialization of Christmas. This is because cultural appropriation is defined as “The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society” (Oxford Dictionary). With this definition in mind, the shift in popularity in Christmas and use of the holiday for marketing is in my opinion not cultural appropriation as Christianity is much more dominant in society. Moreover, as discussed in class most settlers came from Christian/Catholic origin and imposed their religion onto aboriginals meaning that Christmas was imposed onto the society we live in rather than the other way around. Returning to my original point, I would argue that it is not cultural appropriation of Christmas but rather companies noting the popularity of Christmas and commercializing it. I believe the idea of commercial Christmas highlights the secularization of society as people celebrate Christmas without partaking in the “Christian elements” and/or without identifying as Christian. So to partly answer Kathleen’s question, I do believe many people celebrate Christmas without thinking of the story of Jesus. However, this question is not a simple yes or no question as although an individual may not personally celebrate it due to their religion, the religious connotations still remain.

      Another viewpoint that my group members Kathleen and Kimberley seemed to agree on is that they were both surprised that people were angry about Christmas being a national holiday. Although I understand their viewpoint, I believe the connotations and history behind Christmas must be remembered. As Professor Jason Kelly mentioned during his special lecture, religion is a word with heavy baggage. I believe this approach should also be applied to Christmas. A recent example of this is the Canada Day 150 celebration, where many Indigenous peoples did not believe this was a time to celebrate (CTV News). While the argument of not being forced to celebrate it can be applied, the constant barrage of advertisements and stores being closed must be a painful reminder that are virtually unavoidable for those who do not want to celebrate.

      With this in mind I wonder, could society ever actual shift to have all religious celebrations to an “equal playing field”? Furthermore with secularization on the rise, can these connotations ever truly be changed?

      Oxford Dictionary. 2018. Cultural Appropriation. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cultural_appropriation

      CTV News. June 2017. Resistance 150: Why Canada’s birthday celebrations aren’t for everyone.
      https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/resistance-150-why-canada-s-birthday-celebrations-aren-t-for-everyone-1.3478004

  3. The commentaries given by those as part of the Lived Religion Project were quite enlightening. I was able to further understand the perspectives of those who are non-religious, but nonetheless celebrate Christian holidays such as Christmas. I am particularly interested in two aspects of the post. First, I am interested in discussing the demographic used for this short piece, as I find the area of Canada used intriguing. Second, I am interested in an individuals’ appreciation for the holidays in relation to non-religiosity.

    The Lived Religion Project is a rather interesting project as it seeks to clarify the “grey area” associated with religion – for religious and non-religious people alike. However, the demographic used for the project stood out to me. The project is localized to Vancouver, British Columbia which led me to various inquiries. First, what is British Columbia’s non-religious population in comparison to Ontario’s? After consulting Statistics Canada (2013), I determined that 28% of Ontario’s total population identifies as non-religious, while 48% of British Columbia’s total population identifies as non-religious. I find this to be important as I believe the perspectives used for the Lived Religion Project would differ depending on the province used. It is possible that British Columbia’s non-religious population is much more tolerant towards religion given that they are the majority group. In contrast, Ontario might be much more critical of religion as they are in the minority. Thus, I pose the following question – is an individual more inclined to be critical of religion if they are in the minority, or vice-versa?

    Similarly, I was interested in the question posed by Natalie – “is there a correlation between millennial or younger generations and non-religion”? After consulting Statistics Canada (2011), data demonstrates that there is indeed a strong correlation between non-religion and the millennial demographic. In other words, the data acquired from Statistics Canada suggests that age is a strong indicator for non-religious affiliation. This affiliation decreased as the age brackets grew older.

    Natalie additionally notes that the individuals in the blog post show a clear transition in terms of appreciation for religious holidays. I agree with much of Natalie’s commentaries. Klug’s (2017) insight into the community aspects of religion is something that particularly speaks to me (232). Growing up a devote Catholic myself, I often times enjoyed the community aspects of religion while attending mass or social events. Therefore, I can understand why these individuals value the community aspects of religion while still identifying as non-religious. There is a certain personal satisfaction one receives from such aspects, irrespective of personal religious affiliation or lack thereof. The respective individuals surprised me with their opinions. Klug points out that non-religion does not guarantee hostility (2017, 221). I expected someone to have some form of hostility towards religion, but it seems as though everyone came to understand the purpose of religion and religious holidays. I would have enjoyed reading a much more critical opinion, but it is possible that this does not exist for the previously mentioned point of majority and minority populations.

    It will be interesting to note the overall progression of indifference, rejection, and hostility towards religion. It appears as though non-religious affiliation will become common place in Canada in the near future. This blog post reminds scholars of religion that a dynamic shift is fast-approaching.

    Klug, Petra. “Varieties of Nonreligion: Why Some People Criticize Religion, While Others Just Don’t Care.” Religious Indifference, 2017, 219-37.

    Statistics Canada. 2011. National Household Survery: Data tables by age. Catalogue number 99-010-X2011032 in Statistics Canada [database online]. Available from: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/dt-td/Rp-eng.cfm?LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=0&GK=0&GRP=0&PID=105399&PRID=0&PTYPE=105277&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2013&THEME=95&VID=0&VNAMEE=&VNAMEF=

    Statistics Canada. 2013. National Household Survey: Data tables by province. Catalouge number 99-004-XWE in Statistics Canada [database online]. Available from: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/prof/index.cfm?Lang=E

  4. Notions of indifference, rejection, and hostility to religion are becoming more and more common in the public discussion, and major Christian celebrations like Christmas and Easter are appearing at the forefront. Klug (2017, 232) found that personal experiences of religion are most often the reason why people distance themselves from religion and perhaps why they begin to secularize traditionally-religious holidays such as Christmas. This original post and its comments brings up three points I would like to analyze further: the ‘new’ phenomenon of indifference/rejection/hostility to religion found in younger generations, the rationality of non-religious people taking part in Christian celebrations, and examples of the navigation between devout observance of Christmas and seemingly secular interpretations.
    Josh, the article author, clearly outlines the phenomenon of “increasingly nonreligious societies.” I believe that in order to fully understand the reasons why (Canadian) society is becoming more and more secular, we must first understand what made Canadian society ‘religious’. The settlement of European colonizers brought Christian religions to North America and inherently forced and imposed these ideas of religion onto Indigenous populations in Canada. Could the enforced imposition of Christian religions have caused the basis of resentment and hostility to affiliated religions?
    In previous comments, both Natalie and Joshua commented on the attention drawn to indifference of religion in younger generations. A Statistics Canada survey completed between 1985 and 2004 has shown the increase in numbers of young adults who are most likely to have no religious affiliation (2004). What has caused this increase? Perhaps for young adults who grew up in religious households, critical questioning of religious regulations and beliefs (for example, the treatment and opinions of LGBTQ+ individuals in Christianity) has caused a disconnection with religious or spiritual identification. Burchardt argues that political discourses regarding religion play an important role in shaping indifference to religion (2017, lines 26-27).
    Also like Joshua, I was interested in learning more about the Lived Religion Project and how opinions portrayed within the Project provide insight into how non-religious people celebrate religious holidays. I found that the Lived Religions Project brings important attention to the individuality of what spirituality means, hopefully allowing for further understanding of how one identify as spiritual, but not necessarily religious. In Canadian society that is ever-striving to be progressive and PC while continuing to highlight its multicultural mosaic, where do non-observers- yet celebratory participants – fit in?
    Something worth noting that this article brings up is how people all over the religious-identification-spectrum navigate between the strictly religious observance of Christmas and Christmas celebrations based more around consumerism and family traditions. Despite mixed opinions from devout Christians and religious nones, people today celebrate Christmas in ways that appeal to them, whether that involves a Church service celebrating Christ or a family dinner with a gift exchange, or anything inbetween. Is it possible that the shift from religious celebration to secular tradition(s) will lead to the secularization of Christmas in society as a whole? As a whole, the individuals interviewed in this article connect Christmas more so with familial celebrations than with the Christian connotations that come with the holiday.

    https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2006001/c-g/4097582-eng.htm

    Klug, Petra. “Varieties of Nonreligion: Why Some People Criticize Religion, While Others Just Don’t Care.” Religious Indifference, 2017, 219-37.

    Burchardt, Marian. “Is Religious Indifference Bad for Secularism? Lessons from Canada.” Research Gate, 2017. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-48476-1_5

  5. New attitudes towards religion are on the horizon, with the population of religious “nones” on the rise in the west- this article focusing on the case in Canada’s west coast. The perspectives provided by the author sheds light on the evolution that religious holidays have undergone in today’s secular society, shifting celebrations such as Christmas and Easter into traditions more cemented in family and friends rather than religiosity. As Joshua and Kali have pointed out, this trend of non-religion is gaining notoriety and popularity with young adults as depicted in a Statistics Canada survey, however a study conducted by the Pew Research Center has demonstrated a corresponding erosion in the population of Catholic and Protestant identifying Canadians (2011). These statistics have drawn my attention to the importance of religion and childhood, specifically the correlation between strict religious upbringing and future identification as non-religious or a developed hostility towards religion.

    The perspective presented by Laura was incredibly interesting to engage with utilizing the lens of Petra Klug (2017). Laura describes her parents’ upbringing to be based in a fundamentalist Christian household, and thus, by default, this upbringing translated into her own childhood, though her parents didn’t subscribe to the same extreme religious viewpoints they grew up with. She goes on to depict her struggle with attending a Christmas service in a religious institution that does not recognize her brother, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as a legitimate member of society. This perspective informs my idea of an evolution of non-religion throughout generations, as Laura’s parents went through the motions to please their elders and respect the pillar of strict and fundamental approach to religion that they were brought up on, this extremism translated to a form of indifference to religion. Specifically, Laura’s parents grew to not subscribe to the form of strict religion they were raised on, and this prompted a domino effect on Laura’s disposition towards religion, resulting in the final stage of the evolution of non-religion through generations, identification as a religious “none”.

    Klug (2017) identifies that “infringement” by religious entities into personal spheres of those who are indifferent to religion can cause hostility (232). Laura’s identification as indifferent to religion may have very well have stemmed from the “othering” her brother may have felt when attending services in churches that do not recognize the LGBTQ+ community, directly opposing her own values. I myself have been discovering that aspects of Hinduism, the religion I have strictly been raised on, do not subscribe to my feminist and liberal ideologies, and my linear association with the religion has wavered as I have explored other religions and have become associating and engaging with various aspects of multiple religions to fit my spiritual needs.

    As the world shifts to a more secular stance, Klug (2017, 232) has identified that the grey area that encompasses the world of non-religion and indifference must be explored as it develops in our societies and interacts with religious bodies and communities. Our religious spheres are evolving to encapsulate these indifferent dispositions, constructing religious holidays to be founded on ideas of family and love in place of religion.

    Klug, Petra. “Varieties of Nonreligion: Why Some People Criticize Religion, While Others Just Don’t Care.” Religious Indifference, 2017, 219-37.

    Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Center, 2013.
    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/06/27/canadas-changing-religious-landscape/

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