Friday, July 8, 2011

British Columbia's Godless frontier

Does the natural splendor of the West Coast encourage a "post-religious" culture?
Nancy Greene Lake: it's okay, I guess

Vancouver Sun contributor Douglas Todd recently wrote an article on how faith communities in B.C. can reach out to non-believers in a "post-religious" society.

According to Todd, 35 per cent of British Columbians state they have "no religion," the highest proportion in North America. He added that there are also many who say they are "spiritual, but not religious."

In the article, Gonzaga University historian of religion professor Patricia O'Connell Killen, said that this is not a new trend. She said the West Coast has had a "post-religious" culture since settlers arrived in the 19th Century.

Despite this ambivalence, organized religions have had "an impact disproportionate to their numbers" in providing social welfare, health care, and education in B.C.

Killen said one factor for tough time organized religion has is the high mobility of people in B.C., making communities difficult to build. Another factor is the natural beauty, as "the grandeur of our surroundings de-centres the human and feeds the post-religious character of this place."

She also suggests how to court the spiritual-not-religious community by adapting some of their practices, such as contemplation or reverence for the natural world. Other suggestions for religious groups to bring in B.C.'s non-believers include:
  • becoming places where people are reminded "that all that exists is relational;" that "we can survive on our own, but we do not become human on our own."
  • being "carriers of memory;" healthy communities that offer "the virtue of stability," as well as a sense of history and a shared story.
  • being "crucibles of commitment;" where people can "learn to live joyfully and extend themselves on behalf of others."
Click here to read the full article.
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1 comment:

  1. Reginald Bibby, Canada's best known religion sociologist, says something similar in his new book Beyond the Gods & Back.

    Not only is B.C. the most secularized province, it's also the most polarized...with people abandoning the ambivalent middle ground to declare themselves either religious or not religious.

    While it's tempting to see the down side of this trend -- increased secularization -- the flip side is that there's something of a "renaissance" and "revitalization" going on, says Bibby, particularly among Conservative Protestants, Catholics outside Quebec, mainline Protestants, Catholic teens in Quebec, and young Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus.

    Bibby concludes that most people don't live "beyond the gods," and when they do it's often not a life-long decision.

    The basic reason is that the gods speak to life and death, something most people -- religious or not -- believe is important at least some time in their life.


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