Canada
4 min

Canada: less religious and less prejudicial

The future looks brighter for queer youth

A recent poll shows that only 72 percent of Canadians believe in a god. Twenty-three percent don’t believe in a deity and six percent had no opinion.

Now 72 percent may still sound like a lot, but in the US the number of non-believers — or independents, as I prefer to label them — is only eight percent. What that means is that Canada — Stephen Harper and his evangelical acolytes to the contrary — is much less in thrall to dogma-spouting religious zealots than our southern neighbours.

And the news from the poll — conducted by Canadian Press/Harris-Decima — gets better. It shows that 36 percent of those under the age of 25 said they did not believe in any god. For those over the age of 50, 82 percent said they believed in a god. Rural Canadians were also far more likely to believe in a god than urban residents — 76 percent to 69 percent.

What that means is that the future of Canada looks increasingly less likely to be dominated by religion and the prejudices that come with it. The country is becoming increasingly urbanized and, of course, eventually those now under 25 will be running Canada. And since polls have increasingly shown that younger and urban Canadians are more likely to be accepting of same-sex marriage and gay rights, the future is looking brighter for Canada’s queer youth.

Maybe at some point we’ll be able to stop pleading with God to “keep our land glorious and free.”

***

The debate over polygamy in Canada is heating up. So should Canada legalize polygamy?

My opinion is yes, we should. If three, or more, people love each other and want to be able to legally share their lives, bodies and rights, then they should be allowed to. And nobody should have the right to stop them.

But this is also one of those rare cases where my opposition to religious dogma cuts both ways. I want to say fuck you to those Christian evangelicals who opposed same-sex marriage because they claimed it would lead to legalizing polygamy and marriage was a sacred bond between a man and a woman. But I also worry that legalizing polygamy will lead to abuse of young women by religious fundamentalists who believe that men — and men only — should be able to marry multiple women, no matter their age.

There are already cases, reportedly, where Muslim imams are blessing polygamous marriages and where Mormon fundamentalists in BC are doing the same thing. In some cases, in both religions, the marriages have supposedly involved pressuring young women into the marriages.

Would legalizing polygamy worsen that sort of abuse? Or would it provide some sort of framework to regulate coerced religious marriages that are now performed under the radar with no official notice?

Well, those marriages are almost certainly going to continue regardless of their legality. Women, even in monogamous marriages, are often forced into it because of religious, community or financial pressures. The legal status of monogamous marriages hasn’t prevented abuse, just as the illegal nature of polygamous marriages hasn’t prevented abuse there. The answer requires actually taking action against the abuse of women and children, instead of governments and society continuing to maintain a handsoff approach to religious communities. It does not require depriving consenting, loving adults of the right to live in a legally recognized relationship.

***

Along the same lines, a furor has erupted in France over a court agreeing to annul the marriage of a Muslim couple because the bride turned out not to be a virgin, despite promising that she was.

The French justice minister, who originally ignored the ruling, has decided, under media uproar, to appeal the ruling. Critics are complaining, not about ending the marriage, but that the court treated it as a breach of contract, thus — they say — reducing marriage to a commercial transaction. So the question is should the government be intervening in this case?

I instinctively want to side with the bride. The idea of a religion insisting that a woman — but not a man — be a virgin before marriage seems ridiculously archaic to me. The religious proscriptions make no sense to me, and I certainly don’t understand why anybody would prefer to marry a virgin. The insistence on virginity seems to be merely a way for men to control a woman’s sexuality, first her father, then her husband. In today’s society, we should have grown beyond that.

On the other hand, the fact is marriage is a contract of sorts. A couple agrees to marry because — apart from love, of course — each is convinced the other fulfills a set of individual characteristics they require in a partner. If one leaves the religion out of it, and a secular — if peculiar — husband insists on a wife’s virginity, and she proclaims herself to still be a virgin when she isn’t, would he be justified in annuling the marriage?

I would still say no, because wanting to deflower a virgin on her wedding night strikes me as more of a fetish, and an exceptionally fleeting one, than a permanent requirement. Similarly, even with religion factored in, virginity seems a minor spiritual flaw to me. The bride, I must say, would be stupid to claim virginity when her lie is likely to be so quickly exposed, but it hardly seems a disqualifying condition, even on religious grounds.

Seriously, would any of you want to marry a virgin?

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A letter by Albert Einstein, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954, has sold for $404,000 at auction.

In the letter, Einstein writes, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

The buyer was not identified, nor is it clear whether the attraction was a letter from Einstein or the specific views expressed in this one.

Regardless, who am I to argue with Einstein?