2018 Canadian Atheist Awards – Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year

by | January 29, 2018

The first award in the 2018 Canadian Atheist Awards is “Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year”. This award goes to any work of art, entertainment, or culture – film, music, that stood out to Canadian atheists in 2017.

[Canadian Atheist 2018 Awards]

If you’d like to review the list of nominees before finding out the results, check out the nominations announcement.

Before we begin, I’d like to offer congratulations to all our nominees. Although there can only be one final winner, every nominee earned their spot by being a high-quality work of art, entertainment, or culture that positively expresses atheistic ideas. Every one of them is worth checking out in its own right.

The creators and producers of all works nominated have earned the right to use the following images or any other method they prefer to declare themselves nominees for the 2018 Canadian Atheist Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year:

[2018 Canadian Atheist Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year nominee award]

The award nominee image

And so, with no further ado, let us get to the awarding of the 2018 Canadian Atheist Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year.


And the runners-up are:

Runner-up: Is My Family Odd About Gods? – Atheist Ireland

[Cover of “Is My Family Odd About Gods?”.]

Is My Family Odd About Gods?

From Atheist Ireland comes this children’s book introducing the ideas of religious diversity and religious freedom to school-age children.

You can check out the first chapter online, and it’s very nicely written. The writing is frank, the tone non-patronizing, and the idea of a diverse multiplicity of beliefs and viewpoints is celebrated. The illustrations, done by Canadian Eiynah, are colourful and fun.

It’s just unfortunate – for our purposes – that the focus is entirely on Ireland. Still, if you can mentally replace “Ireland” with “Canada” in the text, it should work fairly well for Canadian kids, too. The Canadian connection – Eiynah, the illustrator – wasn’t quite enough to win the day for Is My Family Odd About Gods?.

Runner-up: “Stardust” – Behind Crimson Eyes

Behind Crimson Eyes is an Australian post-hardcore band that’s been around for around a decade-and-a-half. They found success early on, but for almost a decade they’ve been creatively quiet. They’ve been playing shows the whole time, but their last release was in 2009.

But early this year, they were struck with the creative muse again. Thing is, it wasn’t 2009 anymore; the band had grown up quite a bit – some were recently married, some were recently parents – and the direction they wanted to go in, and the message they wanted their art to be about, was something much more adult… and humanist.

The result:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQGNHttvQX0]

“Stardust” is not just the first new track from the band in almost a decade, it’s the first sign of a new direction for the band, one based on the idea of using rational, humanist principles to make the world a better place via their art.

“Stardust” and Behind Crimson Eyes were a strong contender for the winner, hindered only by the fact that they’re not a Canadian band.

Runner-up: “Blasphemyth” – John Sheehan

Out of Newfoundland comes comedian John Sheehan, who has found success at comedy festivals and opening for big name comics since at least 2008. You might know him best for his “Mike… listen…” bit.

This year, Sheehan debuted a new act based on religion and its absurdities: Blasphemyth.

[Promotional image for "Blasphemyth" show.]


Sheehan previewed a part of Blasphemyth at Imagine No Religion 7 in June. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from any of the attendees about it, and Sheehan’s GoFundMe didn’t reach its target, so I don’t know if it’s possible to see the show now.


< < < drum roll > > >

WINNER: Unholy – Diane Flacks

[Canadian Atheist 2018 award - Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year]

Diane Flacks is an acclaimed playwright with a string of hits to her name. At the beginning of this year, she debuted her newest work: Unholy.

Unholy takes the form of a fictional YouTube talk show featuring four women as guests discussing the question of whether women should walk away from religion. The discussion is witty, fast-paced, and at times heated. Two women – a feminist Muslim and an Orthodox Jewish spiritual leader – take the position that women should stick with religion, while two other women – an excommunicated nun and a lesbian atheist pundit – argue women should abandon religion. At times throughout the discussion, the play shows us vignettes of the women’s lives, giving us insight into the ways that religion impacted them.

The play was a success in its initial run, and even earned a Dora nomination for Outstanding New Play. But in December, the show got a second run thanks to popular demand. From what I’ve heard unofficially, the show was just as much a success on its second run.

Unholy is also remarkably timely – so much so that in between its first run in January and its second run in December, it was able to have some of the dialogue slightly tweaked to take into account some of the biggest news stories in Canada in 2017.

For boldly tackling a topic that needs more discussion – the relationship between women and religion – and for making sure that discussion is carried out by the people who need most to be leading it – women who have been impacted by religion – and for being so timely and topical, Diane Flacks’s Unholy unquestionably deserves to be Canadian Atheist’s 2018 Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year.

The creators and producers of Unholy and its performances have earned the right to use the following images or any other method they prefer to declare themselves winner of the 2018 Canadian Atheist Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year:

[2018 Canadian Atheist Art, entertainment, or culture story of the year winner award]

The award winner image

Congratulations to Diane Flacks, Nightwood Theatre, and everyone involved in Unholy!

Honourable mentions

Works that didn’t meet the nomination requirements for one reason or another, or which were crowded out because there were simply too many high quality nominees, but which captured our attention nonetheless, are given honourable mentions.

[Poster for Gustavo Coletti's film "Gods".]

Gustavo Coletti’s Gods

Dioses (Gods) – Gustavo Coletti: An independent film that has God – the god of the Bible – hanging out in a divine brothel with other mythical figures while awaiting the judgment of a cabal of gods for his behaviour. (Trailer here.)

It would have been awesome to include Dioses in the nominations, because that would have given us even more diversity in the types of work nominated. Unfortunately, Dioses was released in 2016… not 2017. Still, it’s worth a watch if you can find it playing at a theatre or festival near you!


Although it was entirely unintentional, I was quite pleased at how the nominations for this category turned out. We had a book, a song, a comedy show, and a play nominated… and a film almost nominated as an honourable mention. That’s quite a diversity in art form!

There was also quite a diversity in tone. We had a children’s book, to start with – gentle and open-minded, but frank. We had the wry, sardonic, Newfoundland comedy styling of John Sheehan. We had the bold, cathartic roar of Behind Crimson Eyes. We had the sparkling, incisive wit of Diane Flacks’s writing. And if you include the honourable mention, we even had the romantic, subversive whimsy of Gustavo Coletti.

It is my hope that 2018 will bring us even more high-quality works of art, entertainment, and culture that might vie for the 2019 award. Here’s looking forward to a great year!

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