Is This Canadian Politician Slamming Atheists in an Informal Holiday Greeting?

Brian Pallister is the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba — kind of like a Canadian version of John Boehner.

He recently offered some holiday greetings to interviewer Natalie Pollock, and his comments took a strange turn when he began to talk about atheists:

… I wanted to wish everyone a really really Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, all the holiday… all you infidel atheists out there, I want to wish you the very best, also. I don’t know what you celebrate during the holiday season — I myself celebrate the birth of Christ — but it’s your choice, and I respect your choice. If you wish to celebrate nothing and just get together with friends, that’s good, too. All the best.

I watched that clip several times and it strikes me as a sincere-though-somewhat-sarcastic greeting to atheists. I wasn’t offended by his use of “infidel” even though it probably one of those words *we* can call ourselves but *you* shouldn’t use. And I don’t take offense at his ignorance of what we do around this time of year — he just doesn’t know that we celebrate the holidays pretty much the same way everyone else does, minus the Jesus bit.

But I don’t know Canadian politics and I may be missing the subtext here.

For what it’s worth, the commenters on YouTube and other websites found reason to criticize him.

Canadians, feel free to set me straight here.

(Thanks to Dorothy and Kevin for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • BlakThundar

    For what it’s worth, he seemed sincere and not sarcastic to me.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com/ VeritasTruthseeker

    He’s not really like John Boehner at all, in a Canadian politics respective. This is a guy who is the leader of an opposition party at a provincial level. So, let’s look at Illinois – the state you’re likely to be most familiar with. He’s more like Tom Cross (R-IL) if, you know, Tom Cross was currently not serving in the Illinois House of Representatives.

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    There are a couple of reasons why I don’t love what he has to say here, none of which really have to do with Canadian politics.

    1) Maybe in Manitoba you can get away with not knowing this, but there are actually more options than just “Christian, Jewish, and infidel atheist”.
    2) What you said about ‘infidel’, plus the way it undermines his assertion that he really wishes us the best.
    3) There’s something about that whole “I myself celebrate the birth of Christ” thing that really leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It seems disingenuous to say he doesn’t know what non-believers celebrate and that aside about celebrating the birth of Christ sort of comes across to me like a weird remark, like he thinks maybe we just haven’t heard of this whole ‘Christ’ thing and if he mentions it maybe it will encourage us to get educated and become Christians.

    But I acknowledge that I might possibly be reading too much into it and assuming the worst of Pallister because I spend too much time on Twitter. And I know very little about the provincial politics of Manitoba, since I live in Toronto and everyone here is pretty darn sure the sun rises and sets on the CN Tower. ;)

    • WillThor

      Manitoba has a strong conservative Christian voting bloc. Much of the provincial progressive conservative party’s base draws from this. To get an idea: The PCs opposed the NDP’s anti-bullying legislation vigourously on the basis that it was too vague, without proposing any solutions or rewrites; that legislation, of course, includes provisions forcing schools to allow creation of gay-straight alliance clubs, and had the religious conservatives frothing at the mouths.

  • Pat Cassano

    Well, I myself celebrate the birth of Santa.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I prefer to celebrate the immaculate conception of Rudolf. Santa would be nothing without Rudolf, after all.

      • RegularJoe

        Deer Rudolph wasn’t part of the original canon. The scroll of Rudolph was added in many years later by the scribe Robertus Mayus at the behest of King Montgomery of Ward in the early-mid Twentieth Century.
        He is considered by many to be a blaspheme against Claus Santa (Jolly Be His Name), while others believe Him to be a manifestation of Claus Santa (JBHN) in Deer form so that His light may guide His journey.
        There is much we mere mortals have yet to learn about the Claus (JBHN).
        Ho Ho Ho!

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Having grown up with the Canon of Saint Burl of Ives, I naturally find those with other interpretations to be infidels.

        • SAPilgrim

          I think you win an internet for this.

    • J.W. Browning

      You have a point. At least Nikolaos of Myra was a real person with historical documentation.

    • Crash Override

      Hail Santa!

  • L.Long

    He is being the typical Ahole xtian that we are all use to dealing with.

    He is smiling and sounding nice but the words used show that he thinks we are crazy.

    “If you wish to celebrate nothing and just get together with friends, that’s good, too.”
    NOTHING??? Please- you condescending twit!
    He is no better then the dimwits who get all pissy about not saying merry xmas!

    • The Starship Maxima

      “Typical Ahole xtian that we are all used to dealing with,” eh?

      • Murray Garrison

        Yes…absolutely typical!!!

        • The Starship Maxima

          As a general rule of thumb, the minute you apply such broadbrushing statements as “typical”……you’ve generally lost the right to mock anyone.

          • L.Long

            Yes ‘typical’ meaning most of the xtians I’ve met are just like this twit. So Most would be in the ‘typical’ range since I have only met 3 in 40yrs that said ‘I do jesus, you do your thing, lets all be happy and friends.’

            • The Starship Maxima

              That is……horrific. Where do find these, alleged, Christians?

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      I think you’re reacting to poor wording. I think he meant “not celebrate [something].”

    • Murray Garrison

      Agreed. The holidays for me has always been about getting together with friends/family and enjoying a good meal in good company. Holidays are about family/friends…that’s it!

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I’m sure that some of his best friends are atheists.

  • dsmith

    I think Brian would fit right in talking about the baby Jesus. For a little holiday cheer watch this clip.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6AlEYreD6k

  • Cato

    “I wasn’t offended by his use of “infidel” even though it probably one of
    those words *we* can call ourselves but *you* shouldn’t use.”
    Seriously? You want to turn ‘infidel’ into the atheist ‘nigger’? That’s retarded.

    Claiming an insult for yourself, like gays did with ‘gay’, is totally fine. Let’s call ourselves infidels. Show our opponents that we’re not put off by name calling. But don’t reserve the rights to a certain epithet for ourselves. Because then, two things will happen:
    1) Infidel will become a much graver insult, one that is clearly meant to insult atheists to their core. In other words, we will give opponents a much stronger weapon not only to foment anger in atheist ranks, but also to denounce us in their own ranks.
    2) The debate will focus on our anger. You often ridicule Christians for being angered by some perceived slight, and rightly so. If atheists start getting really angry over the use of ‘infidel’, Christians will claim we’re doing the same thing and worse, they will have a point. Soon, we’ll only be having discussions about the usage of ‘infidel’, not about the merits of atheism over Christianity or vice versa.

    That last part goes for this article as a whole. Why the indignant tone? You seem to want to be insulted, so you can point at another Christian boogeyman. Insults are a sign of weakness, why not present them as such? Just point out that ‘infidel’ isn’t a critique of anything atheists stand for, it’s just a cheap shot. Point out that instead of a substantive critique, he just chose to hit us below the belt. Showing the dirty tricks of someone who not only claims to have truth but also morality behind him, will be much more effective than derailing the already precocious debate by introducing a taboo word.

    Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

    • Orion Silvertree

      Are you aware that your choice to use the word “retarded” as an insult in the very first paragraph sharply degrades your credibility as an analyst of identity epithets?

      [UPDATE]

      I see that there’s a revised version of your comment on the board now which foregoes the use of that slur and engages the issue in a more nuanced manner. Thank you.

  • Susan_G1

    “Infidel” sounded kind of derogatory to me, so I looked it up. It’s not very offensive; it is a term used in certain religions, especially Christianity and Islam, for one who has no religious beliefs, or who doubts or rejects the central tenets of the particular religion. So it’s probably redundant, but not derogatory. But, I wouldn’t have used it because my initial reaction was that it wasn’t kind.

    Having addressed that, why the anger about celebrating “nothing” at Christmas?

    • Neko

      Did he seem angry to you? More like bemused.

      • Susan_G1

        No. If I had to guess at why he said all that, I think it was a case of,”Oops, that was stupid, now I’ll talk too much trying to make up for it.” Not angry or insulting, just bumbling after having realized maybe he committed a faux pas. I dunno. But he didn’t seem malevolent.

      • Susan_G1

        No. If I had to guess at why he said all that, I think it was a case of,”Oops, that was stupid, now I’ll talk too much trying to make up for it.” Not angry or insulting, just bumbling after having realized maybe he committed a faux pas. I dunno. But he didn’t seem malevolent.

    • UWIR

      When the same word is used for people who don’t have their faith, and for people who cheat on their partners, it’s difficult to not take offense.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I think he was trying to be an asshole, but the chip that Canada’s socialist health care system implants in all Canadians turned on his Canadian-niceness gene.

    • JP

      An implant that turns on niceness? What are you, an idio … bzzzzzzz ….. Hahaha that sure was a funny joke friend. You’re just like Rick Mercer! We should go snowmobiling sometime. Stay warm out there friend!

  • Cato

    Well, apparently posts with the N-word get deleted, so here we go again:

    “I wasn’t offended by his use of “infidel” even though it probably one of
    those words *we* can call ourselves but *you* shouldn’t use.”
    Do you really want to make ‘infidel’ the atheist N-word? That’s idiotic.

    It’s good to claim insults as sobriquets, just to show we’re not but off by them. You can call us all you want, we won’t back down.
    But to claim we’re the only ones who can use a certain word, that’s not only idiotic it’s also counter-productive. Two things will happen:
    1) Opponents will get a much bigger stick to hit us with. Infidel, which at the moment is fairly neutral, will become a full-blown curse word. It doesn’t conjure negative images of atheist stereotypes, but it will if we keep it for ourselves.
    2) The debate will get sidetracked. If we will let ourselves be provoked into anger, opponents will have much easier ways out of the debate. First off, now they have to ragequit themselves, which makes them look bad. If they get us to be angered by the use of infidel, they can get us to look bad. Secondly, the debate will quickly be brought to the topic of ‘infidel’, and opponents will play the victim because they can’t use it. Then, instead of discussing the merits of atheism over theism and vice versa, we’ll be arguing word usage.

    Lastly, and this pertains not only to the usage of ‘infidel’ but to the entire article, we shouldn’t be angered by what this Canadian bozo says. The writers of this blog keep calling Christians out on their anger over every perceived slight, and rightly so. Why then does this article appear on here, being angry over some Canadian nitwit who may or may not have insulted atheists? If we stoop to their level, we’re no better than them.

    And we even have a much better point to make when some idiot decides to deride atheists: insults are a last resort, a sign of weakness. Why not point that out? Point out that this person hasn’t made one single substantive critique of atheism. I reckon pointing out the dirty tricks of someone who claims to have a monopoly on not only the truth but also on morality will be much more beneficial to the ‘atheist cause’ than being mad about him using a certain word.

    • The Starship Maxima

      Fantastic points all around.
      I find it strange how atheists can mock Christians left and right, but a Canadian politician maybe, perhaps, kinda-sorta mocks atheists and it’s this big to-do.

      • Daniel Brown

        This is a Christian politician attacking his atheist constituents. That’s bad.

        This is not atheists mocking a Christian politician or fellow constituents which are both not bad.

        • John Conolley

          Yeah, there’s a big difference between civilians mocking civilians, and agents of the state mocking citizens.

      • WallofSleep

        “… but a Canadian politician maybe, perhaps, kinda-sorta mocks atheists and it’s this big to-do.”

        I know! I’m so furious right now I could… wait, what were we talking about?

        • CanuckAmuck

          We’re Canadians – we were probably talking about the weather.

          • The Starship Maxima

            :)))))))) LMAO!

            CanuckAmuck, I like you.

      • Jeff See

        Not sure how big or small your world is, but one blog in the atheist corner of the internet, in my mind, isn’t that big of a ‘to-do’.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Not sure how big or small
          your world is, but one blog in the atheist corner of the internet, in my mind, isn’t that big of a ‘to-do’.

          (mutters to self under breath) Goddamn atheists and their logic and really good counterpoints!

        • guest

          It’s actually on Pharyngula too. This politician has probably got more publicity today than he’s ever had outside his native land. I’ve never seen his face before, for example.

          • Jeff See

            um, “it’s all, relative”?

      • Carmelita Spats

        I don’t mock Christians left and right. I just quote their Bible left to right, down and up. The morality contained within its pages is upside down. No need for satire. It is hilarious.

      • UWIR

        Mocking someone for not believing in your religion is quite different from mocking someone for having silly beliefs.

    • RegularJoe

      Was it “nigger” or “retarded” which caused it to be dumped? To my mind, the use of the word “nigger” – in quotes – was as an example. In such cases, it’s no different than using “the N-word”, because we all know what that means, and as a direct substitute it has equal value and power.

      I think it’s more likely the use of the word “retarded”…it was used derogatorily…and some find it offensive. Funny thing, a word gets ‘banned’, another pops up in its stead. ‘Derp’ is my go-to where ‘retarded’ used to apply.

      (personally, I’m offended by the use of “the N-word”, as it’s simply the coward’s way of saying “nigger”. Say the word or don’t say the word…dancing around it is lame at best)

      • paulalovescats

        Because I don’t want to get deleted. Plus I refuse to use that particular bad, nasty word, even if the blacks can use it. I am NOT a coward. I have standards. >:(

        • RegularJoe

          Sure. So don’t use “nigger” and don’t use “N-word”…they’re direct substitutions for each other.
          I don’t use ‘em, except as I did here…quoting or example of what not to do.
          Words don’t frighten me. There are no “bad”‘ words. Just bad ideas. ;-)

          • Murray Garrison

            Refreshing to see RegularJoe. I agree whole-heartedly. Words are just that….words. People are so sensitive these days. Using a word in a statement without using it derogatorily towards someone is not offensive and should not offend anyone.

            • The Captain

              As someone else pointed out context is everything. There is a huge difference in hearing “nigger” said by white northern europeans who are singing rap lyrics over the Playstaion network, and having “nigger” shouted at you from a pickup truck at an Alabama truck stop.

              Too many people have become Alphabet police. Communication involves decoding what someone is saying, and too many people lately no longer take that responsibility on themselves and instead of taking the brief time to analyze the meaning of how a word was used, they just get upset at the alphabetical arrangements used to convey the idea or meaning of that word.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Oi! You stole that from Saint George of Carlin!

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          When you refuse to use a word in a simple discussion about words, you just enable those who choose to use that word offensively.

          No word has meaning beyond that which the speaker gives it. Like any word, “nigger” can be used offensively, or it can be used inoffensively (as here). When you substitute a word for something else all you do is emphasize the offensive meaning. That’s something comedy writers have long recognized- when you bleep a word, the result is both funnier and more offensive than leaving the line intact.

      • John Conolley

        I think you’re all out of proportion. As a West Virginian, I can call myself a hillbilly, but if you call me a hillbilly, we’ll have words. Gay guys can call themselves fags, but you can’t. Lesbians can call themselves dykes, but you best not. All kinds of people have words like that.

        • Jeff See

          I’m just glad to see another hillbilly. I’m also glad we can call each other hillbilly, and not be deleted. I don’t care if someone else calls me a hillbilly, or infidel, or even nigger, for that matter. What pisses me off, is the context it’s used in. If you mean to be derogatory, then simply saying ‘hello’ in a smart-assed way will piss me off.

          • John Conolley

            I’m old school on “hillbilly.” I remember when it was _always_ an insult.

            • Jeff See

              I still get mad when I see someone comment about ‘stupid rednecks’ on the internet. Not everyone who would define themselves in the class of those red in the neck, would consider themselves stupid.

              For me to get mad, it has to be used with an adjective (dumb hillbilly, stupid redneck, etc.,) for it to generate enough ire to piss me off.

              • John Conolley

                “Redneck” wasn’t used where I grew up, though my neck sometimes got downright black. It’s an easy word to grab when you need an insult.

            • Guest

              Not sure what’s going on with Disqus today, but in case the other post really did disappear: I only get really upset when there is a negative adjective used in conjunction with it, (i.e. dumb hillbilly, stupid redneck, etc.).

              • Jeff See

                Hello me, it’s me again.

                I knew Disqus was broken. I thought I had deleted you!

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Your response seems a little extreme.

      The reality is there are words that in-group people can get away with using that out-group people can’t. That’s kind of silly and unfortunate, but it’s how things work.

      I don’t read anything more into Hemant’s comment on the matter than I expect he intended. I very much doubt he’s comparing “infidel” to any other insults in any serious way. He’s just offering some casual social commentary. And he’s right- in the context provided, the word does come across as a bit insulting, precisely because it’s being delivered by a Christian politician. Context is everything.

      Is there some movement among atheists or anti-religionists to resist being called “infidels”, or to make it an in-group word? If so, I’m not familiar with it. I’m not really concerned about that happening.

      We are infidels. The funny thing, which I’ve pointed out once or twice to Christians using that word, is that they are, as well. As long as humans maintain more than just one religion, everyone will be an infidel.

      • Sven2547

        We are infidels.

        I’m going to be a bit pedantic here.

        I reject the label of “infidel”. “Infidel” doesn’t mean “non-believer”, it means “untrustworthy” (derived from the Latin fid-, fidel, trust). Same root as the stereotypical dog name “Fido”.

        Yes, various religious people use it interchangeably with “non-believer”, but that doesn’t make it mean “non-believer”, it just an insult.

        We’re heathens, not infidels.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          I’ll see your pedantry and raise it. I checked a couple of dictionaries (MW, OED), and both give: one who is not a Christian, an unbeliever with respect to a particular religion, one who acknowledges no religious belief. So I’d say that “infidel” is reasonably applied to atheists. So is “heathen”. Neither dictionary gives “untrustworthy” in the definition of “infidel”; that’s merely a component of the etymology. The OED also gives the origin as Latin infidelis, unfaithful, evolving to Late Latin infidelis, unbelieving.

          • Ateu, e dai?

            Infidel does mean “untrustworthy”.

            In any latin derived language if you call someone an infidèle (french), infedele (italian), infiel (portuguese and spanish) or infidel (romain), that usually means he´s cheating his spouse.

        • UWIR

          Technically, we’re not heathen, either. A heathen is someone who follows a religion other than a Christo-Judeo one, not one who follows no religion at all. We’re atheists, not heathens, pagans, infidels, heretics, or Satanists.

          • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            All atheists are infidels. All atheists are heathens. All atheists are heretics. Some (but not many) atheists are pagans. No atheists are satanists.

            Except for the last, none of these things is exclusively related to Abrahamic religions. All have conventional definitions that can be applied to atheists.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              LaVeyan Satanists do tend, largely, to be atheists. Luciferian Satanists, on the other paw…

    • UWIR

      “But to claim we’re the only ones who can use a certain word, that’s not only idiotic it’s also counter-productive.”

      It’s not idiotic to recognize the context when interpreting a word.

      “1) Opponents will get a much bigger stick to hit us with.”

      It’s not giving them a stick, it’s recognizing the stick that they already have.

      “If we will let ourselves be provoked into anger, opponents will have much easier ways out of the debate.”

      Calling people on their insensitivity isn’t being “provoked into anger”.

      “The writers of this blog keep calling Christians out on their anger over every perceived slight, and rightly so. Why then does this article appear on here, being angry over some Canadian nitwit who may or may not have insulted atheists?”

      So, you’re just going to completely ignore the relevant facts, and instead pick some superficial attribute that is shared by both cases, and pretend that different responses are unjustified because they have that attribute in common?

      “If we stoop to their level, we’re no better than them.”

      Sure we are. We don’t believe in a magic sky pixie. This is a silly argument.

      “I reckon pointing out the dirty tricks of someone who claims to have a monopoly on not only the truth but also on morality will be much more beneficial to the ‘atheist cause’ than being mad about him using a certain word.”

      How is accusing someone of “dirty tricks” for using a particular word different from being mad at them for using a different word?

  • mikedave

    talk about over-sensitive to perceived insult! The man just wished us the best and that we respects our choice. What it to get upset about?

  • atom the atheist

    I dont mind infidel, but the way he said it is like, atheist atheist? I am an Infidel not a Heathen……..

    • Jeff

      Ok, gonna stray off topic a little, what is the difference between Infidel and heathen?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Typically, Heathens are polytheistic.

        • Jeff

          Oh. I just thought they were atheist that didn’t eat babies, but raped, pillaged, and plundered. Or, per Mel Brooks, raped, raped, pillaged, and plundered.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Technically, heathens and infidels are just people who don’t believe in your god. They’re pretty synonymous. So Christians are infidels to Muslims, while Muslims are heathens to Christians, and both Christians and Muslims view Wiccans and atheists as heathens/infidels.

            • Jeff

              So, being a heathen is sort of like being able to curse in multiple languages? Meaning I can piss off more than one religion at a time? I like this heathen….

  • Rick McCrae

    When I was younger, this was referred to as ‘making a mountain out of a mole hill’. I think if he was intentionally trying to be rude, he would have done a better job of it. There are bigger issues. And for the record, I’m one of the Canadians to whom he would be referring.

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    He’s just playing to his constituents. Obviously he knows we celebrate family and friends like anyone else during the holidays. His sarcasm is annoying but really, this is good for us. It won’t win him any votes, but may put off secular conservatives. Not really a story worth getting worked up over.

  • Jeff

    Well, FWIW, that is weird, and it qualifies as the rudest comment ever made to me by a Canadian. Compared to what I have heard from our wonderful ‘Murikan Evilgelicals, that’s still infinitely better, so, Mr. Pallister, Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • paulalovescats

    A word we can call ourselves but no one else can? Kind of like the N word? I think if a group can use it, then everyone else can.

  • Stev84

    As if there is anything original about Christmas. Most Christmas traditions come from various other holidays.

  • Shawn Hubbard

    Ha! I sense some bitterness about losing the family farm to his brother. I hear the sarcasm about atheists, but I think it ties in with his being obviously pissed about getting the watch, and the season is just getting him down. Poor guy. ;)

  • Radiance

    He sounds more upset that his brother got the farm for graduation while he got a watch then any differing view points about religion. Also, he genuinely sounds confused about what atheists celebrate.

  • Laurent Lambert

    Just what I expect from a member of the PC party. They are the Canadian equivalent of the Republican Party. I’m not sure why he went out of his way to try to insult atheists, although her is right according to his beliefs, we are infidels. He is just rude and mean spirited to others that do not believe.

  • Mick

    Just for the record, I am one of those atheists who doesn’t celebrate Christmas in any way at all. No cards, no gifts, no celebratory dinner; none of that stuff. Sometimes I don’t even realise it is Christmas Day until I go outside and notice that there is no traffic on the road.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    It seemed like he was trying to include everyone in his holiday well-wishing. I got the impression that he realized, in the middle, that some people don’t celebrate anything. It’s like he panicked because of the near-omission, and stammered along trying to include atheists too.

    In my opinion, there was no slamming, sarcasm, or offense.

  • Alfreda

    In this case, I think the “i” word has the same connotation as the “n” word.

  • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

    Whatchu talkin’ aboot, Brian, eh?

  • Dorothy

    well he’s a Conservative party member (similar to Republican), and he represents a rural area in Manitoba with a lot of the Bible belt towns in his area, and he’s a Harper supporter. He would fit right in with most of the Republican politicians i usually read about on this page

    • Emilia

      I wouldn’t exactly equate the Conservatives with the Republicans. For instance, I don’t think the Republican Party would appoint an openly gay man to a high position in government, which the Conservative federal government has done with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

      I think because Canada is in general a more liberal country than the US, the Conservative Party really isn’t that much more small-c conservative than the Democrats. Even a poll taken at the time of the US federal elections showed that more than half of all self-identified conservatives in Canada would have voted for Obama rather than Romney.

      That is not to say there are no reactionary elements in the Conservative Party. I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper is having a bit of a hard time reining them in. For example, he seems to want to make the abortion issue go away and maintain the status quo, but some party members want to bring it up again. Sometimes I think the Conservative Party has decide whether it’s going to be the party of small government and low taxes or the doyen of so-called family values. On the other hand, I give the Conservatives credit for having the courage to address issues like honour killing (girl killed by family for anything from not wearing a veil to marrying the wrong man), which many left-wingers don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole for fear of being called racist.

      • AxeGrrl

        Since when is Baird “openly gay”? I mean, it seems to be something that everyone knows, but when has he (or Harper or anyone else) broached the subject publicly?

        • Emilia

          I am not sure that John Baird made a public statement to that effect (nor do I think he should feel obligated to do so; after all, heterosexual politicians aren’t expected to publicly announce their heterosexuality). Also, even though I didn’t vote for the Conservatives in the last elections, I think in the end they might be doing more for gay men experiencing oppression in places like Iran than are some ‘multiculturalists’ who don’t want to admit that homophobia exists in non-Western countries.

  • David_Evans

    Let Google autocomplete “Christians should” and you get “Christians should not eat pork” and similar things. Do the same with “Infidels should” and you get variants of “Infidels should be killed”. There are no exceptions.

  • bananafaced

    If he didn’t want to offend us ‘infidel atheists’ then he shouldn’t have spent so much word usage on what we do and how we celebrate the holidays. Seems like he is trying ‘too hard’.

    • Kaelin

      Ya, he did spend too much time on it. But it’s probably because he actually is confused about us. Like most Christians, he can probably get behind Jews and Muslims because they “actually believe in something”, while atheists “believe in nothing”.

      • Bec

        It just seemed awkward for the poor guy, here he is, typical masculine Christian bloke trying to be politically correct as the job demands and he mangles it. I am positive he would be shocked to meet an atheist and maybe it would be someone he knows… Double whammy!

  • Mario Veras

    I like what he said. We have to understand this comes from someone who is not all knowledgeable about atheism, but he is just trying to be a good sport about it. He is not trying to insult anyone.

  • Kaelin

    This doesn’t sound all that offensive. It seems to take most Christians a lot to understand what we could possibly celebrate during the holidays. While some of his word choices aren’t the best, I think he’s at least making an effort to include us in his holiday wishes. Most politicians wouldn’t mention atheists at all! My advice to this guy would be to actually learn about atheism next time. But thanks for trying.

  • Gregory Devney

    I celebrate the birth of Christ like the Christians. I’m pretty sure that there was a Jewish philosopher, that we call Jesus, that lived approximately 2,000 years ago and started the Christian movement. I also believe that he had parents just like you and I.. I don’t believe he was born on December twenty-fifth. That was just the Christians turning a pagan holiday into one of their own. I’m not overly thrilled with the word “infidel” in that it has taken on negative connotations in recent years but to each his own. The great thing about atheism is that I don’t have any negative feelings towards any religion based on their underlying philosophy. I do want to wish Mr. Pallister and his family all the best during this holiday season.

  • TheUnknownPundit

    The fact that he includes atheists in his statement in wishing everyone a happy holiday season just shows how much the social landscape has changed and continues to change. Back five or six years ago, I doubt he would have said a word to atheists at all.
    As for the use of the word “infidels”, it did seem clumsy but perhaps he’d heard atheists refer to themselves as “infidels” and he was using it in that light. After all, he appeared to be speaking off the cuff. It seems to me that he realized using that word didn’t sound right, so he quickly recovered and moved on to wishing atheists a happy holiday season, IMO.
    Lastly, it’s not uncommon for many in our culture to wonder how atheists celebrate the holiday season. After all, for many believers, the only reason the Christmas holiday exists is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In that light, it’s not surprising that they question how a non-believer views and acts toward what they view as their holiday.

  • godisafairytale

    What an arrogant prick. Then again, he’s conservative, so big surprise.

  • Tobias 27772

    Listen, we poke fun at christians all the time here and often rightfully so. So I don’t think we can get all huffy if a christian pokes a bit of fun at us. I don’t think this guy is being sincere, but he’s not being hateful either. I’m sure he really does wonder what us heathen atheists celebrate at this time of the year. After all jesus is the reason (that it gets colder and darker) for the season. All you guys that are calling this guy an asshole should get one of your christain friends to give you a sense of humor for xmas. L U F Lighten up Francis

    • Bec

      I don’t see anyone here being grossly offended and angry? Maybe he meant to be condescending, maybe not but either way I am not upset by the comments he made.

      • Tobias 27772

        Bec,
        Me either, but a number of people here have felt the need to call this guy an asshole. Maybe its just me but that sounds a bit upset.

  • J.W. Browning

    “I wasn’t offended by his use of “infidel” even though it probably one of
    those words *we* can call ourselves but *you* shouldn’t use.”

    Funny, I feel just the opposite. Infidel is a word that belongs to religion and religious people. It’s their label for me. Infidelity is something I associate with one who cheats in marriage. I have no other use for the word.

  • atoswald

    I see a classic passive-aggressive getting a dig in. As I am sure you are mostly aware, “infidel” and “atheist” do not carry the same meanings with Christians as they do with us. For us, these words are empowerment, in the mouth of a Christian, they are venom.

  • Ray

    I don’t think that should be taken too seriously. Faux Pas for sure, but it has a tone of trying, and failing to be funny for a Manitoba Politician. I don’t take offense, and I’m a heathen, though I don’t claim to speak for the rest of us.

  • Kim Willette

    I wouldn’t read too much into what he says about atheists.

    TBH he seemed more bitter about the fact that his brother got the farm and he got a watch on graduating ;)

  • WillThor

    Manitoba is one of those places that’s still pretty strongly Christian, to the point that it affects local politics noticeably. Winnipeg is mostly secular, but it has enclaves of heavy religiosity and one of its MPs is even a pro-life religious nut. Rural Manitoba on the other hand is quite religious; in some areas, farmers have pro-life billboards by the side of the road. There are schools with blatantly anti-gay administrations. That’s the type of quagmire you’re stepping into here.

    • Richard Thomas

      What?! They have one entire pro-life religious nut? We here in the States are SHOCKED.

  • A3Kr0n

    What a strangely ignorant man.

    Doesn’t he know it’s Feastivus for the rest of us?!

  • WillThor

    I think the main problem here isn’t the use of “infidel” (I kind of like the term), it’s the awkward way he used it to specifically call out atheists. He didn’t call anyone else out, didn’t refer to anyone else as infidels, he just up and gave an insincere shout out to atheists, out of nowhere, and used a word often used by religious extremists to “other” people who don’t share their beliefs.

    In the context of Manitoba politics, it looks like he’s trying to get points with the Christian conservative base that makes up many of his voters, while just being sneaky enough to deflect criticism as atheists being “oversensitive.”

  • Dan Weeks

    I actually took it as a joke at first, and wasn’t really offended….until he kept going…and going… and going.

    Ah well, I’m willing to chalk it up to a joke that stretched a bit too far. Religious zealots aren’t really known for their biting wit.

  • JT Rager

    1. He does seem sincere.
    2. He is acknowledging us.

    No problem for me here.

  • LutherW

    I wanted to wish everyone a really really happy Solstice, Happy winter wonderland, all the holiday time with friends and family… all
    you self proclaimed sinners out there, I want to wish you the very best, also.
    I don’t know what you make up to celebrate during the holiday season — I myself
    celebrate humanity and this precious life — but it’s your choice, and I respect your
    choice. If you wish to celebrate mythical being(s) and just get together with others living in fear, that’s good, too. All the best.

    • Alierias

      And a Merrie Olde Yule to Ye All ! (don’t forget your Yule Log!)

      • Crash Override

        And remember there’s Festivus for the rest of us! Let the Airing of Grievances commence!!

  • Brian T Hall

    calling our selves infidel is kind of like black people in the USA calling them selves the N-word.. That being said… I would like to add something that I have noticed and trying to explain to all types of non-believers,(I my self is a style of non belief that is not quiet atheistic style of believing but that is for another time.) and that is you know there something called the slave trade were black people treat each other like slaves, well I believe we have something called a Christian trade, that is were our minds are kind of stuck in the church even though, were not Christian and never want to go back to church. like slave trade, not everybody has that Christian trade.. OK I have once put this Idea up, and a funny thing happened all the black atheist understand what I was talking about and all the white atheist were insulted by the concept… so understand I’m not trying to piss people off, I’m trying to understand a common problem.. ok… sigh….

    • Richard Thomas

      I like my word salads with ranch dressing…

  • Gofa

    I feel like given what we deal with with American politicians, if this is an attack, it’s the most polite one I’ve ever seen.

  • EdmondWherever

    International politics are difficult to understand. “Progressive Conservative” would be an oxymoron here in the states.

    • AxeGrrl

      Sadly, the current government ISN’T Progressive Conservative, they’re more ‘Reform’ (which is a more conservative version of the Conservatives).

      Stephen Harper has made me (of an NDP/Green stripe) nostalgic for the Progressive Conservatives!

  • Rain

    For what it’s worth, the commenters on YouTube and other websites found reason to criticize him.

    I find it very shocking that commenters on YouTube would find reason to criticize something.

  • fmfalcao

    I’m not sure why being a politician means that you are allowed to use your position as a soapbox to show the public how really retarded you are. If he is conservative, why doesn’t he just conserve his words and STFU?

    FM – former Manitoba resident

  • AramMcLean

    As a Canadian I think he just sounds kind of stupid. No offense taken.

  • Orson

    I’d be worried if this guy was muslim while calling me an infidel (cause that’d mean his religion calls for my death), but in view of the fact that he’s a Manitobian rural yokel I have to congratulate his uncomfortable effort at Canadian inclusion. He’s miles ahead of comparable American politicians!

  • DianaMac

    As others have noted, it is surprising that he actually mentioned atheists at all. For one, it’s interesting that he mentioned religion as this is a rather new thing for Canadians that I’ve seen brought in with the current prime minister (who has said weird things to Canadian ears like “god bless Canada”). I suspect his party doing things like instituting the new Office of Religious Freedom stirred up a lot of us non believers enough to show them that we are a minority but a large one and they aren’t sure what to do with that….clearly they don’t like us but we also vote.

    At least I made sure to point out our numbers and how such an office does not represent a large constituency of Canadians when I wrote my MP and anyone else in government who was responsible for this office, including the PM.

  • guest

    I think he meant it kindly, even if he phrased it a little awkwardly. I’d like to wish him a merry Christmas in return.

    And does it really matter? If this was all atheists had to worry about, we’d be laughing.

    • Camorris

      As a Canadian, I too think he meant well but stumbled on the delivery. At least he is acknowledging that we “heathens” (I took that as a friendly poke) are too numerous to ignore. I think we are making progress.

  • slappywpg

    He is not quite like John Boehner. He’s not in government. He’s in opposition.

  • guest

    Not sure if anyone else has said this (I”m not into reading too many comments) but a provincial leader of a party is hardly a “John Boehner”. He would be more equivalent to a state level politician, not a federal one.

    • guest

      And just for the record, nobody really pays any attention to Manitoba anyway.

  • Jennifer Lakewood

    He said that other politicians understand what it is like to not get to spend that much time with family. In my opinion, If he is a true family man, he should think about getting out of politics.

  • Aspieguy

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think Canada has separation of state and religion in their constitution. Many European countries don’t, either.

  • Timothy McLean

    Personally? I celebrate Christmas with my family, who are all Christian. So Christmas is basically the previous evening spent celebrating Christ, with the buildup and payoff being more focused on family and gifts.

  • Normand Bertrand

    Thank God i am an athiest (actually an atheist with agnostic tendencies)

  • NLazarus

    What’s really funny about this is that, unlike the US, Canada has a very large atheist population; roughly 1/4 of Canadians claim no faith, which is more than any religious group except Christians.

    We have no state religion and are far more strict about the separation of Church and State than the US, particularly when it comes to our public education system. However, all major religions are taught in schools as culture, as part of the social studies programs in elementary school. But Canada prefers the metaphor of a mosaic to a melting pot, and there’s far less push for a centralized “Canadian” culture. We like to celebrate our diversity.

    Pallister is an ignorant tool.

  • Joseph Lupo

    i myself put all my eggs in the easter bunnys basket, cause you know dam well the easter bunny works 24-365

  • http://wpgragreview.blogspot.ca/ The Analyst

    The context is that Brian Pallister is viewed as an out-of-touch, socially conservative goof (by Canadian standards) who’ll have trouble winning in the socially moderate suburbs of Winnipeg. He fought against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples tooth and nail in 2004 – 2005, opposed Bill 18 (a provincial anti-bullying bill that defends Gay-Straight Alliances) and has a history of making gafes (such as comparing a “fickle” answer he gave to a question to a “woman answer”).

    While Pallister is obviously trying to be inclusive and nice here, the video just further cements his image as being out of touch with the midsize city of Winnipeg (where over half of the province’s population and electoral districts reside).

    The standards for “too socially conservative” are gnerally much stricter in Canada, btw.

  • http://vn.linkedin.com/in/wilbur101 Steve Wilson

    Meh – it’s pretty harmless and certainly not offensive. “Infidel” is simply the
    English translation of the Arabic word Kafir, which means non-believer (although I’m sure you know that). I think it was a sincere seasonal greeting. Even loony tunes Christians can just be nice sometimes. To read anything else into it would be looking for something that isn’t there.

    • TheBlackCat13

      infidel
      Origin:
      1425–75; late Middle English < Late Latin infidēlis unbelieving, Latin: unfaithful, treacherous. See in-3 , feal

      (emphasis added)

  • Fallulah

    As a Canadian I will say it is almost as dangerous to “come out” as in the states. You can lose your job, your friends…religion isn’t discussed a lot so you might think it’s safe to come out with your views but BE CAREFUL. Lots of damn conservatives hiding in the shadows, ready to go for blood! Anyways knowing the Conservative views as I do, he was most certainly trying to belittle us. Not a sincere greeting at all.

  • Ateu, e dai?

    “I don’t know what you celebrate during the holiday season — I myself celebrate the birth of Christ”

    Which is funny, considering that Jesus probably wasn´t born in december…


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