Towards a Godless Dominion: Unbelief in Interwar Canada
Published by: McGill-Queen's University Press
Imprint: McGill-Queen's University Press
Sales Date: 2023-10-15
Published: October 2023
352 Pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.82 in, 8 photos, 5 diagrams
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In recent surveys, one in four Canadians say they have no religion. A century ago Canada was widely considered to be a Christian nation, and the vast majority of Canadians claimed they were devoutly religious. But some were determined to resist. In the 1920s and ’30s, groups of militant unbelievers formed across Canada to push back against the dominance of religion.
Towards a Godless Dominion explores both anti-religious activism and the organized opposition unbelievers faced from Christian Canada during the interwar period. Despite Christianity’s prominence, anti-religious ideas were propagated by lectures in theatres, through newspapers, and out on the streets. Secularist groups in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver actively tried to win people away from religious belief. In the first two cities, they were met with stiff repression by the state, which convicted unbelievers of blasphemous libel, broke up their meetings, and banned atheistic literature from circulating. In the latter two cities unbelievers met social disapproval rather than official persecution. Looking at interwar controversies around religion, such as arguments about faith healing and fundamentalist campaigns against teaching evolution, Elliot Hanowski shows how unbelievers were able to use these conflicts to get their skeptical message across to the public.
Challenging the stereotype of Canada as a tolerant, secular nation, Towards a Godless Dominion returns to a time when intolerant forms of Christianity ruled a country that was considered more religious than the United States.
“Engaging, insightful, well-written, and solidly researched. Elliot Hanowski adds a new dimension to our understanding of religion and irreligion in twentieth-century Canada. The book further expands our knowledge of the religious spectrum in Canadian society, importantly deflecting attention away from the historic mainstream churches and beliefs.” David B. Marshall, University of Calgary and author of Secularizing the Faith: Canadian Protestant Clergy and the Crisis of Belief, 1850–1940