As defined in Wikipedia, “Apatheism, also known as pragmatic atheism or practical atheism, is acting with apathy, disregard, or lack of interest towards belief or disbelief in a deity.”
In Chris Silvers’ academic work on atheism, this falls under the non-theist type, which is one of six sub-types that he describes.
Contrary to the popular cultural image of the average atheist being Dawkinseque, in others words the caricature of this academic, strident, ‘fundamentalist’ atheist, many atheists are indifferent. You don’t ever hear about them because they have no real interest in being heard. Religion? They don’t give a shit.
I live in Canada. I live in Ontario. No one is burning witches. You can get through your average day without being preached to. So why bother with the god botherers if they are not bothering you? Live and let live. It’s very – well – Canadian.
As reported in The Oxford Handbook Of Atheism, atheists make up 4% of North America as a whole, with Canada leading the way with 10.8%. What strengthens this impressive number further is the Gallop Report that put the number of non-religious (atheists as well as agnostics etc.) at almost 20 million Canucks, or 57%. To add to this embarrassment of riches, the trend is that these numbers will continue to rise.
So we’ve got it good. Many fellow atheist activists I know say that we don’t have the same kind of problems that Americans have with religion, and that breeds apathy. Maybe apatheism is understandable then, if not the right position to take?
Ontario is anachronistic with its fully funded Catholic school system. We spend about 22 billion dollars a year on public school in this province and a major chunk goes to the Catholic Church – I mean, Catholic school system. A third of Canadians live in Ontario and the 6.66 million non-believers here are largely unwittingly funding an institution that we not only do not agree with, but probably have actively left. Except we haven’t really left it.
Also, we currently allow doctors and other public health care providers, to use their religious beliefs and privilege, to essentially impose their sexual morality on their patients. There is even talk that there should be no obligation, for the doctor denying your care, to refer you to another physician that will provide needed care, because that would compromise their ethics!
These two issues alone should raise the ire of practically every Ontarian, and certainly every atheist. Being silent on these and other issues should not be an option. I realize we are not all wired to take to the streets or publicly speak out, but each and every one of us can be part of groups that do. And we can attempt to do that most of un-Canadian of things. We can talk about religion, and it’s effects, in our day-to-day life. It can be done politely. What’s not polite is to be quietly complicit with injustice and irrationality.
At the same time that I will publish this piece, just down the street from me, Sufi Muslims will be protesting the logo used in a perfume ad, with claims that it is close enough to a symbol that they consider sacred that others should not use it. This is not as important an issue as the two mentioned earlier, but it is symbolic. The symbolism that is offensive to me, and that I’m trying to make a case should be offensive to you too, is both a sense of religious privilege, the idea that others should acquiesce to another’s beliefs, and that we still hold things sacred in 2014 and thus protect them without appeal to reason or logic. To say anything, no matter how mildly, on this issue will seem to be insulting and likely be perceived as intentionally offensive. The opposite is true.
Atheists aren’t big on converting people, but I’d like to suggest to my active atheist friends to convert our apathetic comrades. Even just a little. Politely like good Canadians.
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The Toronto Star’s article on the Sufi protest.