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Meet the Unfundamentalist Christians

May 4th, 2015 No comments
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Awhile back, I published a post entitled, It’s Time We Take Back The Internet. It was a post about encouraging people to share more good news and positivity online. Its intent was to champion a new era of Internet content, one that drowns out the negativity and hate that is so pervasive online, particularly in the comment sections of many top social media networks.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook

It’s no surprise that I actively seek out online religious groups who promote acceptance, tolerance, and inter-faith dialogue. It is something I am deeply passionate about, despite the fact that I self-identify as non-religious. I just believe simply: to each their own. I also believe that it makes us a much more interesting species when we — you know — aren’t all the same.  So, I was delighted when I was introduced to Unfundamentalist Christians through one of their popular social media channels, Facebook. They were a very refreshing Christian group who seemed to be very open, progressive, and downright good. It didn’t take long for them to become one of my favourite Facebook pages. Yes, they do share a lot of Christian-centric messages, but these message resonate with anyone who cares about love and equality. They share not only thought-provoking messages, but also cleverly funny ones too. They aren’t afraid to challenge the ideas they oppose, and sometimes they do so with a little sarcastic humour.  The good folks over at Unfundamentalist Christians are awesome and a refreshing change from some of the more negative chatter online emanating from some religious (and to be fair, some irreligious) communities.

What makes them so awesome in my opinion? They are open, inclusive, and, I would argue, free-thinking Christians. Indeed, they are Christians that I believe are truly living the word of Christ through their actions and beliefs. They champion causes for the marginalized in our communities, and are very vocal about extending love and equality to all human beings. It’s not uncommon to see posts challenging fundamental religious ideas about LGBT rights, women’s rights, economic disadvantage and various other social issues. Indeed, this group of Christians has a fan-base comprising many secular, non-religious folks and people from other faiths.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook.

Image courtesy of Unfundamentalist Christians via Facebook.

I’ve really enjoyed interacting with this group on social media over that last year, and since I’m keen to flood the Internet with as much goodness and positivity as I can, I thought I’d reach out to this awesome group of religious folks to see if they might allow a spunky agnostic religion blogger (me!) to interview them.

It was no surprise that I received a quick and friendly response from the team at UC, but what did surprise me was that the founder, John Shore, replied to me personally. How cool is that? It just goes to show how down-to-earth these folks are. John connected me with, Dan Wilkinson who was kind enough to let me send him a list of questions to answer. Who better to tell you about their work and who they are then Unfundamentalist Christians, themselves?  Be sure to pay them a visit over at their blog and Facebook page.

I also highly recommend taking some time to read their “What we Believe” document. It is, in my opinion, awesome. It challenges some long held ideas about the faith that are poignantly relevant to people’s all over the world. It is refreshing. We need more good guys on the Internet, and these are some of them. Meet the Unfundamentalist Christians:

  1. What is your role with Unfundamentalist Christians?

Technically my title is Design Director and Managing Editor, but I do pretty much anything that needs doing to keep UC running smoothly, from making memes for the UC Facebook page, to moderating comments on the UC blog, to writing blog posts. We also have a great administrative team who help in myriad ways–especially our Social Media Director, Christy Caine, who basically runs the FB page. And our founder and intrepid leader, John Shore, keeps the ship sailing in the right direction.

  1. What led you to become involved with Unfundamentalist Christians?

Around the beginning of 2012 I ran across a mini-manifesto written by John Shore that outlined a set of beliefs about Christianity. They’re now posted on the What We Believe page on our blog. While I was in generally agreement with most of those tenets, it was the first one, regarding the divinity, death and resurrection of Christ that, to me, set these beliefs apart from a standard progressive/liberal approach to Christianity and convinced me that this was a group I wanted to be part of.

  1. Who are your members/audience?

Anyone one who appreciates a Christianity that is more about love, grace and acceptance rather than hate, judgement and exclusion.

  1. Is Unfundamentalist Christians a church or not-for-profit?

Neither. We’re simply a group of like-minded people who more-or-less agree on a set of tenets about Christianity (and we don’t even agree on all of those!)

  1. What kind of work/activism does Unfundamentalist Christians engage in?

We’re not an activist organization — we don’t lobby politicians or mobilize our followers to boycott businesses. Occasionally we’ll promote a cause we like: for example, we have a Kiva Lending Team. We also devoted a great deal of effort to the Not All Like That Christians Project, which involves videos of Christians proclaiming their belief in full LGBT equality. But, more than any single project, we simply seek to encourage and inform, and hopefully have a little fun along the way.

  1. I became acquainted with Unfundamentalist Christians through Facebook. I’ve noticed that there are many non-Christians and non-religious fans of the page. Why do you think Unfundamentalist Christians appeals to these groups?

We do have many non-Christians who are involved with us. I think it’s because they recognize that what we’re doing isn’t about building walls with religion, it’s about love and tolerance. Though we profess some explicitly Christian beliefs, we welcome anyone of any faith (or lack thereof) to participate with us in any way they feel comfortable.

  1. Do you ever encounter negativity and criticism about your beliefs and how do you generally respond?

Regularly! A day doesn’t go by when we don’t receive some sort of message or comment in opposition to what we’re doing. Thoughtful and coherent rebuttals to our positions are few and far between; most of the dissent we get takes the form of long lists of verses from the King James Bible followed by semi-coherent all-caps screeds about how we’re all destined to burn in Hell for being false teachers.

How to respond? If it seems like there’s room for productive dialogue, one of our team members with too much time on their hands will often seek to engender some degree of understanding.

  1. Unfundamentalist Christians appears to speak out regarding many social justice issues. Do you see this as an integral part of Christianity to take up such causes?

I think that, as Christians, we have no greater call than to do our best to address the pain, suffering and injustice in the world around us. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God on Earth and to exhibit Christ’s love to all people.

  1. What do you feel is the single most important issue facing the Christian community? Follow up: What do you feel is the single most important issue facing humanity?

The important issues facing Christians ARE the important issues facing humanity. At the forefront is how to negotiate a world that is both increasingly diverse and increasingly connected. Never before have so many beliefs and so many cultures been so intertwined. How do we remain true [to] our personal beliefs, cultures and traditions while still being part of a diverse global community? How do we learn to live with others whose views may be drastically different than our own? How do we relate our often overwhelming social and economic privilege with a world in which such benefits are in such scarce supply? These are the challenges and explorations that UC really helps us face and process every day.

  1. How can communities of different faiths, and the non-religious community, work together toward tolerance?

We can listen to each other. So much strife is caused be refusing to really listen. Listening doesn’t just mean hearing; it means seeking to understand. It takes patience and humility. And when we truly listen, we often find that we have more in common with one another than we first assumed.

  1. What does the future hold for Unfundamentalist Christians?

I hope we will continue to grow, both in numbers and influence, but honestly, if even one person finds their faith and life enriched by what we’re seeking to do, then it’s been worthwhile. That said, I do think that what John Shore wrote as the tenets of the group–our What We Believe document–is where the future of Christianity lies. I think that’s why the group continues to grow. John was, I believe, the first to articulate a Christianity that keeps Christ and rationally, point by point, jettisons everything in Christianity that is clearly antithetical to the message and purpose of Christ. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a groundbreaking document.

  1. How can people contact you or become involved with your work?

The best way to stay in touch with what we’re doing is to Like our Facebook Page, engage in the comments and dialogues that happen on our group blog, share posts from that blog, submit guest posts for it, let your like-minded friends know we’re out here—and write us to say hi every once in a while!=

A special thanks to John, Dan and the entire team over at Unfundamentalist Christians for this interview and for the amazing work they do!

M. xo

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[VIDEO] Learn About World Religions Via Free Screencasts

June 27th, 2014 No comments
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I was delighted to come across philosophy and religious studies professor, Dale Tuggy’s Youtube account. As a religion blogger and scholar, I often find it difficult to locate quality and informative videos that are free from theological/philosophical biases to share with my flock.  It’s a somewhat arduous task, but thankfully Dr. Tuggy has just made it a whole lot easier.  Here, you can learn about the five major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism).  You can also learn about various theories of religion put forth by such scholars as Freud, Durkheim, Weber, and Marx.

There are 90 videos to choose from, ranging from just a few minutes long to over 15 minutes – meaning you can complete a ‘lecture’ in about the time it takes to make a cup of tea.  Don’t let the duration of these lectures deceive you – they are packed full of useful information which Tuggy presents in an ‘easy-listening’ voice.

Soar on over and subscribe to Dr. Tuggy’s YouTube channel or start watching now:

World Religions (Screencast lectures by Dr. Dale Tuggy)

M. xo

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The National Church of Bey: Official Commercial and Indiegogo Campaign

May 28th, 2014 No comments
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A few weeks ago I posted about an Atlanta area church purportedly worshipping music superstar Beyonce Knowles. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and this appears to be one of those times. Or is it? This morning I followed up with the Church’s activities on social media feeds and was delighted to find some new video additions to their portfolio.

Firstly, the official commercial:

I’m still at a loss to explain how the Church is able to use her likeness and brand.  By all accounts Beyonce hasn’t endorsed the Church. The next video, however, has me questioning whether this isn’t some sort of publicity stunt.

At the very least, it’s made the Church of Bey lose any shred of legitimacy it had as a religion, IMO anyway.

Yeah, I know. You’re probably asking yourself ‘how could she even consider The Church of Bey a religious organization?!’ Truth is, I am rather liberal in what I can reasonably accept as a legitimate religion.  Religion is far too complex for rigid definitions. I didn’t feel comfortable suggesting that they shouldn’t be considered a legitimate religion, particularly with the scant information I had available to me. Who am I to judge what another person deems sacred and worthy of worship?

Having said that, the fact that they have managed to start an Indiegogo Campaign to raise funds for a ‘Goddess’ clothing line suggests, to me, that their intentions fall far from divine. I’m not sure how buying t-shirts and bags emblazoned with a giant ‘B’ is going to ‘make a difference.’ There is the idea of religion as commodity, but this seems almost the reverse phenomenon: commodity as religion, perhaps? At any rate, I’m still waiting for the Beyble to be offered to the public.  Now THAT I would be interested in buying. Something tells me though, that it’s going to be full of copyrighted material, and hence will probably never get off the ground.

Bottom line is that I’ve crossed The Church of Bey off as a legitimate religious organization. I’m still not sure if this is a publicity stunt, satirical commentary, or a money-making scheme. I honestly don’t know, but if they are receiving taxpayer funding as a not-for-profit/religious organization, I hope some good citizen takes up the investigation to determine whether that really is a good use of public funds.

M. xo

 

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The 32 Marks of the Buddha

May 12th, 2014 No comments
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Have you ever noticed the many variations of Buddhas depicted in different pieces of artwork? Some of these differences can be attributed to tradition or cultural influences, while others are simply artistic liberty. Many artistic renditions  incorporate primary ‘Buddha’ traits described in the Pali Canon. Some Buddhist streams of thought believe another 80 secondary characteristics also exist. The 32 marks of the Buddha, also known as “The 32 Marks of a Great Man,” are physical characteristics believed to have been endowed by the Buddha.

What are the 32 marks of the Buddha and how have some of them been represented in artwork? 

THE 32 MARKS OF A GREAT MAN (OR THE BUDDHA):

  1. The soles of his feet are level.
  2. The soles of his feet (and palms of his hands) display discus or wheel patterns.
  3. His fingers are long and slender.
  4. His hands and feet are soft.
  5. He has finely netted (or webbed) hands and feet.
  6. He has projecting heels…
  7. … and arched insteps…
  8. … and thighs like a royal stag or antelope.
  9. When standing, the palms of his hands reach his knees
  10. His sexual organ is well-retracted/concealed (usually in a sheath).
  11. His body height equals that of his arm span.
  12. Every strand of hair grows from a single pore…
  13. and turns upward to the right forming small curls that never grey.
  14. His skin shimmers like gold…
  15. … and there is an subtle aura radiating from his skin so that dust and dirt never cling.
  16. His skin is soft and smooth.
  17. The soles, palms, shoulders, and crown of his head are well-rounded.
  18. The area below his armpits is well-filled or there is no hollow space between his shoulders.
  19. He has the body of a lion.
  20. He stands erect and upright…
  21. … with full, round shoulders.
  22. His forty teeth…
  23. …are white and spaced evenly .
  24. He has four pure white canine teeth…
  25. … and a jaw like a lion.
  26. His saliva improves the taste of all food he eats.
  27. His tongue is long and broad…
  28. … and his voice deep and resonant.
  29. He has eyes that are deep blue…
  30. … and eyelashes like a royal bull.
  31. ūrṇā curl releases light between his eyebrows.
  32. He has a fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head.

M. xo

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Pro Sports and Religion

May 6th, 2014 No comments
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I admit to being rather ignorant when it comes to the world of professional sports.  Unlike the millions of die-hard fans out there, any kind of engagement in professional sports for me is little more than a novelty.  So, it’s little wonder that I have minimal knowledge about the ways in which professional sports franchises address the issue of religion.

Some might ask, what has religion got to do with sports?  Well, apparently a lot more than just the shout-outs to God imparted on the podium.  A recent article in USA Today examines how religion unites and divides teams in the NBA.  One particularly revealing bit of information (for me, at least) was the mention of pregame chapel rooms which are provided at every NBA arena.  It’s a room where players can come together for a bit of pregame spiritual inspiration.

The sport of football even has its own ‘faith and football’ movement that boasts such events as family-oriented concerts and Super Bowl Gospel celebrations.  Of course, if you’re familiar with American football and the fierce loyalty of its fandom, then it probably isn’t all that surprising that faith (another area of fierce devotion for some Americans) and football seem to coalesce. Heck, there’s even been entire books written about the subject.

Early on in this blog, I wrote a piece called, ” Fore… the love of G-d,” that discussed sports as a metaphor for religion.  Whether mere metaphor, or real-life circumstance, the domain of sports and the realm of religion are more akin than one might imagine.

Check out the Youtube playlist below, dubbed:  Athletes Playing for God.  It’s a compilation of athletes speaking about faith – and what it means for the world of sports.

M. xo

Looking for more game day inspiration?  Check out these offerings:


 

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The National Church of Bey (That’s Beyonce, For the Unindoctrinated)

May 4th, 2014 No comments
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Whether serious or satire, this is certainly a curious piece of news circulating the religion feeds. It also highlights the complexities of defining religion (and perhaps, how not-for-profit religious organizations are granted such status).

Sometime last year, a group of about a dozen Beyonce Knowles fans in Atlanta (GA) formed a church dedicated to Her worship. Practicing what adherents dub, ‘Beyism,’ worshippers meet weekly; sing Her songs; seek spiritual meaning from Her lyrics; and generally worship Her (purportedly also seeking out transcendent assistance with the use of certain herbal aids, cleverly named: ‘Beyha’).

The Church is led by self-titled ‘Minister Diva,’ Pauline John Andrews and is reportedly a registered non-profit organization. A note posted to The National Church of Bey website last month responded to public criticism:

“We are very disappointed in the failure of the public to recognize the existence of a divine Deity walking among them. Deity’s often walk the Earth in their flesh form. Beyonce will transcend back to the spirit once her work here on Mother Earth has been completed.”

The statement goes on to address some misconceptions about the beliefs of ‘Beyists':

“As our congregation continues to swell, we ask that you consider what is more real; an invisible spirit on high, or a walking, talking, breathing Goddess who shows you her true form daily. Beyonce’s spirit is entrancing. We know that she was sent to this place to spread love, peace, and joy. While we do not believe Beyonce to be the Creator, we recognize that she still sits among the throne of Gods. There is a lot of false information being spread about our beliefs, but we will correct all of the vicious lie-tellers. As Beyonce spreads her gospel through song and dance, her message provides uplifting, loving, and many times real-life happenings. We humbly ask you to respect our beliefs, just as you want those to respect yours. Open your mind to new possibilities and you will see, just as we did, that Bey is a true higher power.”

Despite the limited amount of information available on the website regarding the Church’s beliefs, a recent posting suggests that Her divine word will be made available to the public shortly. The Church is organizing the production of a ‘Beyble’ (get it?).

One final note, it’s important to point out that Beyonce Knowles herself has not endorsed this newly minted Church. She may not even be aware of its existence. That doesn’t dissuade Church members from hoping that Queen ‘Bey’ herself might someday preach at one of their sermons.

Want more information on The National Church of Bey?  Check out their website and view their promotional video below.

M. xo

P.S. Please note, that I took liberties in capitalizing the word ‘Her’ when referencing the divine.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the ‘Beyble’ for sale online.  If you’re looking for other ‘Bey’ inspired items, check out:

 

 

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How a Christian and an Atheist Shaped the First Moon Walk

March 31st, 2014 No comments
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I couldn’t resist blogging about this interesting bit of trivia when I accidentally stumbled upon it this morning.  Despite being too young to have been able to actually experience the excitement of human’s first walk on the moon in 1969, I’ve seen the grainy footage an untold number of times.  If you happen to be one of the few in the industrialised world who hasn’t, well, here’s your chance.

Seriously, don’t let the lack of high definition video dissuade you.  This video is EPIC!

Most of us can recite Neil Armstrong’s word’s by heart, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind,” but what many of us may not be aware of, are the actions of co-astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, just prior to stepping onto the surface of the moon.

In this article, originally published in 1970 by Guideposts, Aldrin describes how he performed the Christian rite of Communion on the Moon.  This clip from the 1998 HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon re-imagines the circumstances.

So, why were Aldrin’s actions kept secretive for so long?  Well, it turns out that on Christmas Eve the previous year, astronauts of Apollo 8 (the first to orbit the moon) sent greetings back to Earth, and included readings from The Book of Genesis.  This ignited lawsuit threats by the founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hare.  Subsequently, NASA officials refused to live broadcast the Communion rite.

Years later, Aldrin discussed in his memoirthat despite the ritual being of personal significance to himself, he should have chosen something more representative of all mankind humankind.

Watch the Apollo 8 crew read from the Book of Genesis, Christmas Eve, 1968

 

M. xo

Related products:

 

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St. Patrick’s Day: History & Myths [VIDEO]

March 17th, 2014 2 comments
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Every year, on March 17th, people around the world participate in a tradition of donning green clothing, parading in the streets, and partaking in eats and beverages inspired by the Emerald Isle.  Considering the pious origins of St. Paddy’s Day, the celebrations are rather bodacious.

Like other holidays, St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious holiday to celebrate the patron Saint of Ireland.  Over the years, it has been embraced as a cultural holiday, celebrated by the religious and the non-religious alike – and much like other holidays, myths reign supreme.

You know that colour we associate with today?  Yeah, turns out we should all be wearing blue.  And what about the famous shamrock, considered by many as the symbol of Ireland?  It, too, has an interesting history of becoming part of popular culture.  Originally, identified with Saint Patrick who used the plant as a way to demonstrate the Holy Trinity, it later became a national symbol when adopted by an Irish militia group.

Yep, much like other holidays, fact and myth get all jumbled up until the holiday of yesteryear has transformed into something different, perhaps more audacious… or maybe not.  At any rate, before you head out to happy hour featuring green-tinted beer, brush up on your St. Paddy’s Day history with these short, fun, and informative videos.

M. xo

P.S. For a glimpse at what drunk people think St. Patrick’s Day is all about, check out this satirical report.

St. Patrick’s Day | Bet You Didn’t Know (2:23)

St. Patrick’s Day Myths; John Kosich WKBW-TV (1:58)

The History of Saint Patrick – a Short Story (3:15)

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Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

The Lev Tahor Controversy in Canada

March 13th, 2014 No comments
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I couldn’t let an opportunity pass to comment on yet another religious controversy making headlines in my home country.  If you’ve been paying attention to the news out of Canada lately, then you may have heard about a small ultra-Orthodox Jewish group, Lev Tahor, creating quite the controversy here in the Great White North.  Now, Canada tends to be known for its multiculturalism, and as a champion of individual rights and freedoms, including religious freedom.  Although admirable, at times this tolerance creates a firestorm of controversy.

Late last year, media stories began percolating about a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews living in a secluded and tight-knit community in Quebec.  They were clashing with the province over the education of their children, and fled to Ontario in order to privately educate their children (read about issues surrounding private and public education in my post on Creationism in Canada).  What began as an increasingly common story, religious rights versus the public education system, has turned into a media frenzy with accusations circulating of child endangerment, suspicious charitable donations, and religious discrimination.

I won’t bother rehashing all the details that have been steadfastly published in the media.  You can do that for yourself, here, here, and here.  You should also consider watching two investigative reports available on YouTube, one by Global’s 16×9, and the other by CBC’s Fifth Estate.  Both provide some interesting insight into this group, particularly during the interview segments.  Regardless of how sensationally the information has been portrayed in the media, it’s pretty clear that something isn’t quite right.  So, should Lev Tahor be considered a legitimate religious group simply trying to live in accordance with their beliefs, or are they a dangerous cult?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  I hesitate to label minority religious groups, fringe religious groups, or new religious groups as a cult, because the word is far too often misused and abused.  That said, after researching Lev Tahor, something is terrible amiss with the leaders of this group.

It’s no secret that I champion religious tolerance and freedom; however, it’s important to clarify that there are exceptions.  For example, religious rights should never trump basic human rights.  If there is even the suspicion that Lev Tahor children are not being properly cared for, then a full investigation is warranted.  Lev Tahor claims they have nothing to hide, then open your doors and let social service workers have unfettered access to your way of life.

There are also questions surrounding how Lev Tahor generates income, particularly when so few members work outside the community.  According to community leaders, generous donors help sustain the community.  It was reported that at least one charity run by Lev Tahor had their charitable status revoked.  As a taxpayer, I’d like to ensure that tax exemptions are indeed being given to real charities. Further, it was reported that some Lev Tahor members receive thousands of dollars in child tax benefits.  This causes me concern too.  Child tax benefits are intended to ensure that children are being adequately taken care of, but clearly there are numerous accusations that suggest otherwise.  This must be investigated fully.

I don’t wish to see Lev Tahor members persecuted, but there are too many unanswered questions that need to be addressed.  I hope that officials and the media can do so in a responsible and unbiased manner, so that religious freedoms and basic human rights are appropriately balanced and equally championed.  Anything less would be ‘un-Canadian’.

Do you have thoughts or questions about this story?  I’d like to hear from you!

M. xo

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Meet Canada’s First Elected Wiccan Member of Parliament?!?

February 13th, 2014 No comments
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Religion & PoliticsNope, it hasn’t happened – not that I know of anyway.  You see that’s how it is in Canada.  I couldn’t tell you which member of parliament is a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or Pastafarian – that is assuming that they have forgone wearing any religious garbs.  Canadians seem rather unassuming when it comes to religion.

Hop on over the border and we see a far louder and prouder religious presence.  Perhaps for this reason, our American friends are often viewed as more religious than we see ourselves.  Is this an accurate assessment though?  If census data is to be considered, it appears that both countries have a similar religious makeup and are shaped by similar trends/movements (such as the religious, but not spiritual groups).

Unlike the United States, Canada’s politicians are relatively shy about publicly proclaiming religious affiliation.  During election time, the subject of a candidate’s religion is rarely addressed. I even had a casual look at MPs’ websites to see if I could gauge their religious affiliation.  Nope.  The matter was entirely different, however, when looking at various websites for members of the United States Congress.  In almost all instances, the member’s religious affiliation was clearly identified.

So, what gives?  Why don’t Canadians care to know the religious affiliation of politicians?  Does it matter?  Does apathy to religious disclosure make it easier or harder for religion to influence politics?

And the big question – would knowing the religious affiliation of a candidate influence your voting decision?   What if you discovered that your candidate was an Atheist, a Wiccan, or even a member of the Order of the Jedi?  

I’d love to hear what my readers have to say.  And don’t forget you can do so completely anonymous.  As always, please keep it respectful.

M. xo

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