The University of Ottawa, Institute of
Canadian and Aboriginal Studies, put on what they called a conference and
public event in May of this year entitled Restorying Canada: Reconsidering
Religion and Public Memory in 2017. They invited several participants to
present papers and/or speak at the event. The focus of the conference was religion
and memory, with an emphasis on Canada’s Indigenous People. Topics included
such subjects as Indigenous Schooling, Indigenous History, Restorying Islam and
Judaism in Canada, and Canadian Atheists and Religious Nones. Margaret Atwood
(CC OOnt FRSC), a respected Canadian author with many awards, was one of the invited
speakers. As a humanist who writes about women oppressed by patriarchy and/or
fundamentalist religion, one might expect her to be exceedingly negative toward
religion in Canada. However, here is an excerpt from her speech entitled, “The
Future of Religion in Canada: Utopia or Dystopia?”
“I sometimes hear the view that the world’s ills are due to
religions. Some people have that view. I do not agree with that view because
atheist regimes have done a good job of oppressing and murdering people too. It
is true that Christianity has got some dark moments. And it’s had some dark
moments in Canada. Dark moments of various kinds. But I don’t think you can put
that down to a religion. I think you can put that down to human beings behaving
the way they unfortunately sometimes do – whatever religion or non-religion
they may happen to have.”
– Margaret Atwood, “Restorying Canada,” May 2017.
Now, Atwood is still a humanist and so we
understand those words within that context, and it is refreshing to hear this statement
from her. Contrary to some of her humanist and atheist contemporaries, she does
not blame religion for all of the world’s ills and recognizes that human beings
of all philosophical and theological varieties have a propensity for evil. Is
that not what the Bible clearly says: “all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God” (Romans 3:23). These are important words for all people to hear.
We are all quite capable of “behaving the way humans unfortunately do.”
Yes, Christians and the Christian religion
must take responsibility for the residential school system that was so
devastating to the Indigenous People of that time. Humanity in general must
also take responsibility for the system. This is what makes government and
religious apologies a necessary but difficult thing to do. The actual
perpetrators of the system may or may not be available for the apologies; those
who allowed the devastation to occur may or may not be available for the
apology. Yet, the apology needs to be made to begin the reconciliation process.

I am encouraged by these humble words of Ms.
Atwood. I pray that I may be humble as I consider my place in the big
issues of public apologies.

Dive in!

Join The Great Journey with subscribers, and see new posts as they happen.

We promise we’ll never spam.