Movie Friday: The Christian Right in Canada

We can no longer afford to believe the lie that Canada is immune from the religious fervour that is ruining the United States.

It’s happening here too.

What can we expect when the Christian Right takes over? Goodbye free speech when it comes to discussion of religion. Goodbye freedom of religion (obviously). Goodbye personal freedoms of many kinds, as well as gay rights and abortion rights. Hello religious tests for political office, creationism in schools, and probably finding a way to throw God into the national anthem a couple more times.

Anyone who says that religion is harmless and is a personal choice that nobody is trying to force on anyone else, I say that you are talking out of your arse sir, and I would like you to teach me to do that trick.


  1. says

    Seeing as the majority of my family is Christian, I myself am a former Christian, and I don’t have cable, I think your guess is a little inaccurate.

  2. says

    Okay, I stand corrected. Most Christians I know are decidedly libertarian and want nothing to do with the type of state control that you’re talking about, much less the forced conversions that you fear-monger. The truth is the opposite – they’re fearful of too much state intervention in their lives and are making their voices heard.

  3. says

    Are those the kind of Christians I am talking about in this article? Unless there’s invisible text that I wrote while asleep, I am talking about a concentrated effort of evangelical Christians attempting to hijack the political system to push their social agenda under the guise of religion.

    Out of curiosity, does attempting to roll back abortion rights for all Canadians count as “making their voices heard” against “too much state intervention”? How about protesting funding of the gay pride parades, but not ANY OTHER kind of parade? What does any of that have to do with smaller government?

    No, if they’re acting to reduce government intervention, then they’re not acting as an advocacy group for Christianity. Religion being completely separate from politics is the libertarian position, not forcing a social agenda the restricts rights and access to services. There is nothing exclusively Christian about free-market capitalism or civil rights.

    It’s great that you know Christians whose religion has nothing to do with their politics. I wish more people were like that. But when you attempt to pass legislation that pushes a specific religious view, you abandon the libertarian position and become authoritarian.

  4. says

    That’s exactly what Marci McDonald is doing – lumping a small minority of theocrats in with the vast majority of the Christian Right who want a smaller government that doesn’t intrude on their religious freedom. The same strategy is used against the Tea Parties, most of which are severely normal people.

    In response to your curiosity:
    1) Attempting to roll back abortion “rights” is actually a conflict between two perceived rights – Pro-lifers defend the human right to life for the unborn while pro-choice defend the civil right to have an abortion. Note that libertarians rightly place basic human rights – life, liberty, property (in that order for a reason) – above civil rights such as abortion access.
    2) I don’t see Christians asking for money for overt displays of religiosity. If they did, you’d find me one of the first to condemn it.

    The separation between church and state is a Protestant Christian position. One needn’t go far into Martin Luther’s writings to figure that out. However, I challenge you to tell me the justification for your concept of the separation of religion and politics. How can one’s personal worldview (religion) ever be truly separate from his or her politics? Or is it only certain worldviews that you want barred from politics?

  5. says

    I like the phrase “severely normal”. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds fantastic 😛

    You say in your own writing that the right to life is a negative one – that I am not required to act to save your life, but neither am I permitted to deprive you of it. Legislation against abortion violates the primacy of a woman’s right to control her own body. It is REQUIRING women to bring a life to term when they have other options. It is the very definition of intrusion into the life liberty and happiness of an individual. It is the same as compelling someone who drinks to have a FORCED abortion. The libertarian position is to say that the individual has rights to self-determination, and the laws should reflect that. There’s no way to twist banning abortion into a libertarian stance – it’s just untenable.

    As far as Martin Luther goes
    : “Martin Luther explained: “In a country there must be one preaching only allowed.” Other forms of preaching were considered rebellion and Luther spoke of how to deal with such matters: “Let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly and openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel.””

    The separation of Church and state is about as Christian as Hannukah.

    To speak to your second point, what you DO see is Christian groups establishing schools to get people into politics to enact laws that funnel tax dollars into religiously-based belief systems.

    Religious belief is about different interpretations of the will of God. Since there can be no way to establish WHICH interpretation is the “correct” one (it’s none of them), the only way to enact fair laws is to ignore religion altogether and allow religious belief to be a private matter. Both the U.S. and Canadian constitutions recognize this. There are terrible consequences when religions rule politics, and the ones that have managed to do it without ruining the whole country (or abusing the human rights of their citizens) have done so by passing secular laws that do not promote one specific religious interpretation.

    I don’t think religious views can be separated from politics – you’re the one who said that you know Christians who don’t want religious political power.

  6. says

    I’d rather not get into an abortion discussion, but you err when you say a woman is “required” to bring the unborn to term. What pro-lifers object to is the act of causing the death of the unborn – it’s biology that holds women in that supposed slavery, not pro-lifers. Just as my right to life prevents you from killing me, even in the realization of some civil right, so a pro-lifer can reason that the unborn’s right to life precludes a woman from exercising her liberty to kill it.

    “…funnel tax dollars into religiously-based belief systems” I know a few of these organizations and none of them do such a thing. Do you have any examples? Some of them may advocate for equal treatment, i.e. equal funding for religious schools, but I’d hardly call that “funneling”.

    Without time to research the Luther quotes, I’d speculate they’re taken out of context considering Luther himself was a “rebel”. Luther was the father of the “two kingdoms” approach – church and state – from which the American founding fathers (virtually all Protestant) derived their concept.

    My final point is that you cannot divorce one’s belief system, whether formally religious or not, from one’s politics. This includes you, me, everyone. A feminist’s beliefs will guide her politics; so will a utilitarian’s, a secular humanist’s, a deist’s, and a communist’s. This is moot, of course, if you believe that only some belief systems are valid in politics and others should be barred from public life.

  7. says

    Your right to life protects me from killing YOU. It does not permit you to say “you are not allowed to do this to HIM.” You have no right to speak on behalf of someone else unless they’ve specifically asked you to. The legal system, donning the authoritarian mantle, says that I am not allowed to kill ANYBODY. That’s all well and good. However, when the law permits me to terminate a pregnancy, and you move to pass a law that would refuse me that access, you are acting in an authoritarian manner, not a libertarian one. You might be perfectly fine with that, but don’t call it libertarianism, because it isn’t.

    I suggest you read the rest of the CLS article about the roots of free speech in the U.S. It had NOTHING to do with church doctrine; it in fact was because they all had DIFFERENT beliefs and religions and they didn’t want any single one dominating. A good chunk of them were deists and non-theists as well. I don’t know the context in which calling for the murder of non-believers could be seen as an endorsement of separation of church and state.

    I realize you’d very much like me to take the bait and say that religion specifically belongs out of politics. I’m not afraid to say it – all religions are equally wrong, and since their sole source of justification comes from magic sky faeries, no religious group has any business making public policy. The solution to making sound policy is to consider the greatest benefit for society at large, while simultaneously respecting individual freedoms. It’s a counter-intuitive position I realize, but it’s the only way to make it work.

  8. says

    Also from the same article:

    “Luther is a good example of Protestant intolerance. In 1525 he said Catholic mass should be forcibly suppressed as blasphemy. In 1530, he said Anabaptists should be put to death. In 1536, he said Jews should be forced out of the country. His view was that the State should enforce Christian teaching, more particularly Luther’s teachings, by force. “The public authority is bound to repress blasphemy, false doctrine and heresy, and to inflict corporal punishment on those that support such things.””

  9. says

    Re: Abortion – you’re expanding libertarianism to include anarchism, which is something else entirely. Libertarians by and large agree that a state is needed to protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens, including life. Passing a law to prevent murder is authoritarian, no doubt, but it’s one that a Libertarian would agree to as a necessary evil.

    “The solution to making sound policy is to consider the greatest benefit for society at large, while simultaneously respecting individual freedoms.” (contradictory statement, but I digress)

    Are you claiming that a person’s theistic beliefs make them incapable of doing this? Is your position that “I think they’re all wrong, so they should be barred from public participation” not just as authoritarian as the quotes you’re ascribing to Luther?

  10. says

    I am not suggesting that people who hold religious beliefs should be barred from public office. What I am suggesting is that no laws should be passed that have an inherently religious justification. We can have secular debate over the moment that life begins or whether or not marriage precludes homosexuals until the cows come home, but once you start saying that your position is right because God says so, you have to wait outside in the hallway while the grown-ups talk. This is not a straw man argument – evangelical groups use Biblical passages as their justification and their appeal to their voter base.

    It is a contradictory statement, which is why it’s hard to implement. That’s what ethics and political theory are for though. If it was easy, we’d probably have figured it out by now.

    I would argue that the death of an embryo or a fetus (to be pedantic, these are not citizens) can also be a ‘necessary evil’ in the service of the liberty of an unwilling mother, although I suppose that makes me a serial murderer of babies.

  11. says

    “What I am suggesting is that no laws should be passed that have an inherently religious justification.” – Every law should meet your two criteria, but in this order: is the means consistent with a society of free people, and does the end serve the public good. Whether religion is involved or not is irrelevant. For example, say I have religious reasons why I refrain from killing my neighbor. Does that preclude me from participating in the passage of laws governing murder?

    You need to understand that every person’s moral makeup is a product of their personal beliefs. Your belief that a grown woman has liberty over an embryo/fetus is no more or less religious than my belief that the pre-born are persons deserving of rights.

  12. says

    I would not argue with the vast majority of your statement, and I suspect we’re arriving at a convergence. My exception with your statement is the conflation of ‘moral’ and ‘religious’ beliefs. It is not necessarily true that religion is required to inform morals – in fact, most of our contemporary morality is formed despite religious instruction as opposed to because of it (as an example, we do not execute our daughters if they are raped, despite what the Bible instructs in Deutoronomy 22 – an extreme example, but if you would care to watch Brian Lynchehaun’s presentation about this topic, you will get a better explanation).

    Let me try to make this as clear as possible: I object to any laws passed that have an explicitly religious justification; i.e., it says so in the Bible, therefore the law is justified. I completely agree that people’s morality is a part of their upbringing, but the only way to enact fair laws is to have them rooted in non-religious justification, since not everyone ascribes to one cult’s version of universal truth.

    Bringing this back to the topic of the post, there is a movement afoot to ingrain a particular interpretation of Christian teaching, based on Biblical interpretation, into the laws of the country at large. They have access to politicians and are making a concerted effort to install themselves not for secular social reasons, but for religious reasons. I would object to this being done by Jews or Hindus or Muslims equally – the wrong lies in passing laws because YahwAlladdha says so, and not because they make sense.

    While we are of course free to differ about where life begins or who has the rights to do what, the conversation is meaningless if your position is “God says it is this way, and therefore I am right.”

  13. says

    I agree that we are converging – I would also oppose a law that is inconsistent with liberty or the public good, but is brought forward only for the sake of being a (mis)interpretation of scripture. I would also assume that you’d oppose a scientist, an artist, a feminist, and a socialist, to name a few, who would try to do the same: the scientist who wants to ban SUV’s because of climate change, the artist who wants to prop up Canadian artists with tax dollars, the feminist who wants mandated gender ratios in all businesses, and the socialist who wants most private enterprise nationalized – all are based upon beliefs and all interfere with liberty. I think each of these have lobbyists in Ottawa too…

  14. says

    I would oppose any special-interest group that advocated the passage of a law that was not reflected by evidence or at least logical thought, but instead by hand-waving and invocation of an imaginary friend. None of the things you’ve listed there (except the socialist, I guess, although there’s precious few of us who want government-owned everything; that’s fascism) are really good examples of that principle.

    You’re also confusing “beliefs” with “convictions.” It’s an unfortunate accident of English that they share the same word. Beliefs are generated in absence of evidence, while convictions are generated because of it.

  15. says

    Maybe try “Faith” and “Belief”. Regardless, I don’t think our government has the ability or the moral authority to start distinguishing between the two. Usually democracy will do the job reasonably well.

    I also challenge your gullibility on the ulterior motives of most other ideological camps, including the scientists (of which I am one). They often begin with their own position (via faith or self-interest) and then look for evidence to support it.

  16. says

    That’s a fair criticism. I’ve seen it happen, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself.

    I don’t see it as an issue of ‘moral authority’. Democracy is best served when people can make informed choices based on evidence, not catering to whatever superstitious whims the masses can be convinced of. There are a great many democratic countries in which religious laws are used to infringe on and abuse individual liberties.

  17. says

    You’re making an excellent case for a strong and restrictive constitution based on personal liberties, a la the US. I couldn’t agree more.

    As for superstitious whims, feminists can whip their masses into a frenzy by invoking sexism, Marxists can get their followers to march by saying the word “bourgeois”, Christians will nod uncontrollably when scripture is quoted, Muslims will spring to action by a fatwa, and scientists will go faint at the mention of “peer-review”. Each of these is an abdication of reason that can fit under the category of “superstitious whim”, and all can be used to abuse individual liberties in the absence of a constitution. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on the people, not the government, to rise above these superstitions, else the power to define beliefs invalid would be too tempting for abuse.

  18. says

    Sexism isn’t a superstition though, it’s a measurable phenomenon. The extent to which it has an effect on business practices or law is certainly up for debate, but it’s something that can be explicitly measured and observed.

    Peer review is neither a measurable entity nor is it a superstition – it’s a process. I’m not sure you meant to say that. Besides, we can see peer review in action, and can test its effectiveness.

    I also think you’re not quite clear on the meaning of the word ‘valid’. If it’s borne out by evidence, it’s valid. If it’s not, then it isn’t. Religious belief is inherently based on no evidence and the core justification of any laws or practices is based on an inherently unmeasurable, untestable, and non-observable entity who we must simply assume is there and has the properties ascribed to it.

  19. says

    Here’s the point I’m trying to get through – you may believe that this and that theory/phenomenon/entity is borne out by evidence. Suppose I disagree. Who decides between us? Who is the arbiter of such evidence? Should this power be assumed by government or should it remain with the people?

    I’d say let’s remain consistent to liberal principles. Leave this power with the masses where it belongs. Giving the government the power to exclude paradigms is a dangerous precedent and, I’d argue, contravenes individual liberty.

  20. says

    If we disagree, we look at the evidence itself. If we still can’t decide, then it may become a legal fight. This issue is entirely tangential, however, since we’re not talking about disagreements over the evidence, we’re talking about a situation in which one side is arguing from belief and attempting to impose one particular interpretation on the rest of the country. Such laws should only be possible in cases where there is an explicit, evidence-based reason for doing so. There is no evidence that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, or that the particular interpretation advocated by the Christian Right is the “correct” one.

    Reality is not subject to the will of the masses. You don’t vote on what’s real and what isn’t. I’m perfectly happy to leave interpretations of evidence in the hands of people who actually understand what they’re talking about, rather than the precocious whims of the people.

  21. says

    Careful, you are arguing on many levels for a dictatorship. Can’t have these precocious whims of the people getting in the way of progress, can we? Let’s make a government agency that distinguishes between belief and evidence – let’s call it the Ministry of Truth or something.

    Government doesn’t derive its authority from reality, it derives it from the consent and the will of the masses. Unfortunately, until democracy is abolished, reality is still up for interpretation by the poor slobs who still have the right to vote.

  22. says

    I’m arguing for a dictatorship to the same extent that you are advocating a plutocracy. We know that votes can be swayed by whichever side spends the most money. It’s a nicely-constructed straw man argument, but it’s a straw man just the same.

    Reality is reality. It’s not subject to democracy. Saying otherwise is a nice flight of fancy, but it makes the fundamental mistake of conflating perception with fact. There is room for alternative interpretations of things, but only in the absence of well-established fact.

    Again, we seem to be straying from the subject matter of the post and into a debate on political science. This post was about a group that is subverting political power to service and agenda that is explicitly based on the authority of an entity for which there is absolutely no evidence, and never can be.

  23. says

    I ought not to stray – but where the rabbit-hole leads…

    I do believe that the subject matter of your post (calling for the exclusion of opinions that are not based upon one person’s criteria for evidence) is predicated on an epistemological position that is inconsistent with a liberal democracy. Just sayin’

    It’s been a real pleasure discussing. See you on some future post.

  24. says

    Indeed, I have enjoyed this exchange too. It’s always refreshing to meet intelligent people who disagree with me. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.

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