In Canada, Secularism Is Morphing into Anti-Religious Hatred

In Canada, Secularism Is Morphing into Anti-Religious Hatred January 31, 2024


Mathew [one “t”] Block is the communications manager for the International Lutheran Council, the world-wide organization of confessional Lutherans.  He has written a disturbing article for Religion & Liberty Online entitled Religious Canadians Are Hated in Their Own Country.  Here is the deck:

Repeated acts of terror and violence have been perpetrated against Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Canadians and their houses of worship over the past few years. People who take their faith seriously are denounced as “haters,” while the hate aimed at them is excused as understandable “protest.” A secular state is quickly becoming an intolerant one.

Canada has become an increasingly secularized society, with only 15% of Canadians attending a religious service in a month.  Some 22% of Canadians believe that religion “does more harm than good.” And even among those who acknowledge that religion has some positive effects, many believe that specific religions–namely, Islam, Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity–are damaging to Canadian society.

This manifests itself in a government that is hostile to religion.  Graduates of evangelical law schools are not allowed to practice law.  Physicians and other health care workers who are religious must participate in procedures that violate their religious and moral beliefs, such as abortion and euthanasia (which Canada is pushing to monstrous extremes), by referring patients to colleagues without such qualms.

Now the anti-religious climate is manifesting itself in acts of overt violence.  Says Block,

The slow erosion of religious freedom in Canada has been mirrored by the demonization of religious Canadians as intolerant and hateful—a problem to be shut up or shut out. And now we are seeing the effects of that dehumanization, as religious groups increasingly become the victims of violence and hate crimes.

Some 33 churches have been burned to the ground, with many more damaged by arsonists.  Another source says 85 Catholic churches were set afire or vandalized.  These incidents have shot up since reports emerged about unmarked graves at church schools for native children.  (Excavations, though, have found no bodies.)  According to Block,

Downplaying such crimes has become common. Burning churches may be wrong but it is “understandable,” or so we were initially told by the prime minister and one of his former political advisers. Several years on, the same sentiment remains: CBC’s most recent story includes comment from a professor who, while acknowledging that arson isn’t justified, nevertheless goes on to minimize the violence by saying it has given people “a voice.”

This normalization of violent crime against religious people has dire consequences for society. In this model, “protest” becomes conflated with justifiable violence—and indiscriminate violence at that. Churches from Christian traditions with no connection to the residential schools have been attacked. And First Nation Christians are likewise victimized as churches on reserves are destroyed.

Block tells of Lutheran churches, which were not involved in the residential schools scandal, being attacked, including his own congregation.

About 10 years ago, I recall arriving slightly late to church in Winnipeg on a Sunday morning. I was shocked to find the exterior walls adorned with graffiti invoking Satan and praising the Islamic State (who were then in the news for the mass extermination of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East). Slipping into the pew, I tried to focus on the service—the liturgy and hymns, the scripture readings, and the sermon—but a sense of unease remained. Might not someone with such a strong anti-Christian animus return to do violence in person?

He concludes,

Hate led too many people in Canada to celebrate publicly the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians on October 7. Hate motivates continued acts of antisemitism across the country. Hate has led to violent attacks on Muslims in the wake of war between Israel and Palestine.

It’s the same hate that declares today’s Christians deserving of having their churches burned to the ground en masse.

If we do not find a way to rein in that hate—to learn anew what it means to tolerate those who believe and think differently than we do, and to do so with respect—then I’m very much afraid we’ll see the horrors of the Quebec City attack repeated in churches and synagogues and mosques and other places of worship across our country.

Secularism is supposed to mean indifference to religion.  But does secularism inevitably morph into hostility to religion, and then to suppression of religion?


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