Minnesota Atheists participate in May Day Parade.
Secular vs. religious: more conflicts may be on horizon
It makes some interesting conclusions about a future increase of tension between the religious and non-religious in Quebec. This is given the apparently dramatic increase of secularism within what has inarguably already been the most secular province in the country for decades.
The article takes its cue off the recently released 2011 National Household Survey.
Newly released data from Statistics Canada show that in 2011, 937,545 Quebecers had no religious affiliation, up from 413,190 in 2001 — a 126-per-cent increase.
It seems that the gist here is that the number of secularists is on the rise in Quebec (mostly at the expense of a ever fading religious Catholic population). While the number of recently arrived non-Christians (read: Muslims) is also on a dramatic rise. This, apparently will lead to a great deal of conflict moving forward according to experts like Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.
“Going forward, we can expect more debates about accommodation; they will be on the radar,” said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.
“In Quebec, you will see polarization between those who say they have no religion and those who identify with non-Christian faiths.”
The issue of Reasonable Accommodation came to the forefront in secular Quebec and culminated in highly publicized hearings across the province. I can remember hearing a fair bit of what could be considered religious bigotry coming out of it occasionally, but it was a discussion that I believe was worth having.
Wikipedia on Reasonable Accommodation:
There was extensive coverage of related issues in Quebec's news media in 2006 and 2007, which some analysts attributed more to the pressure of competition than to citizen concern. The media play reached such an extent that the premier of the province stated several non-negotiable values, such as "the equality of women and men; the primacy of French; the separation between the state and religion".
This idea played out to the tee recently in a Côte-des-Neiges sports center, where they had time assigned to gender-segregated swimming during the day: "Drainville said the segregated hours sends a wrong message about Quebec, all the while using taxpayer money."
So anyway yes, I believe Jedwab has a fairly valid point. It does seem that Reasonable Accommodation often forces one to consider a conflict between a secular state and a religious group or coalition of religious groups that are, to be frank, asking for special privilege or consideration.
Take for example the religious public school system in Ontario that has been under some fire in the past few years and which a majority of Ontarians have even expressed favour of eliminating altogether (in order to establish a single secular public system in its stead). It is an example of Constitutionally-granted religious privilege. In Quebec, which has been largely secular for decades, publicly funded religious-run school boards were replaced wholesale with a single secular system. In Ontario, I believe it's only a matter of time.
I digress. Back to the article. Although the scene seems to be set for a conflict between (mostly ex-Catholic or culturally Catholic) secularists and newly immigrated Muslims, Jedwab points out that many Muslims may actually be less fundamentalist than the media often portrays or even not religious at all.
Jedwab suggested that not everyone who identified themselves as Muslim practices the religion.
“They vary in their degree of practice and their engagement,” he said. “Look at the number of people in Quebec who identify themselves as Catholic yet we live in one of the least religious parts of North America.”
I can only hope. And when it comes to Catholics, I cannot agree more. I proposed this hypothesis of cultural Catholics in my last post. I think that to some degree countries like France may have already entered this stage and the apparent conflicts between Islam and their secular government may be a sign of future times for Quebec. (Or it could just be right wing governments trying to stir a pot of fear of existential threat to the French culture in the name of votes, I don't know).
The article ends with sociology profession Morton Weinfeld commenting that the amount of future conflict also depends on the involvement of Quebec secularists.
“It remains to be seen whether the non-religious group are militantly secular or not at all interested (in religion),” said Morton Weinfeld, a sociology professor at McGill University.
The changing religious landscape means that in the future, religious tensions will not be between Christians and non-Christians, but between the religious and the non-religious, he said.
On the whole, I agree. I wish they would not use that word militant though. Can we get over this, please?
Please, must we jump to this word militant when people are merely pointing out their difference of opinion and trying to make the state as neutral as possible to any and all religions?
Unless militant secularist is shorthand for someone who will attempt to dismantle any sort of privileged status religious people and institutions have - like being able to accept public money and indoctrinate children to your religious belief, or be a church that doesn't pay its taxes, or shelter pedophile priests and not get completely shut down as a criminal organization. You know, standing up for what's right and fair. If that's what militant means then I happily take on the title.