Infidels and the Damn Churches

Irreligion and Religion in Settler British Columbia

Lynne Marks

  • Published: 2016. Paperback November 2017
  • Subject Listing: History / Canadian History
  • Bibliographic information: 336 pp., 30 illus., 3 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

British Columbia is at the forefront of a secularizing movement in the English-speaking world. Nearly half its residents claim no religious affiliation, and the province has the highest unbelief or religious indifference in Canada. Infidels and the Damn Churches explores the historical roots of this phenomenon. Lynne Marks reveals that class and racial tensions fueled irreligion in frontier BC, a world populated by embattled ministers, militant atheists, turn-of-the-century New Agers, rough-living miners, Asian immigrants, and church-going settlers. This nuanced study of mobility, masculinity, and family in settler BC offers new insights into the beginnings of what has become an increasingly dominant secular worldview across Canada.
Lynne Marks is associate professor of history at the University of Victoria.

"This is the finest historical study yet done on the culture of atheism and non-religionism in the late modern Western world. It explores the origins of modern secularity in the most secular part of North America. Marks excels in moving from the micro study of individual families and small communities up to cities and the nation. This is a path-breaking work."
-Callum G. Brown, author of Religion and the Demographic Revolution: Women and Secularisation in Canada, Ireland, UK and USA since the 1960s

"Infidels and the Damn Churches addresses a glaring omission in the history of Canada's West - the role of religion and religiosity (and, in this case, irreligion and irreligiosity) in the formation of a settler society."
-Alison Marshall, author of Cultivating Connections: The Making of Chinese Prairie Canada

Introduction: Leaving God Behind?

1. A Godless Province? Counting the Infidels and the Indifferent
2. Pie in the Sky When You Die: Political and Cultural Challenges to Religion
3. Manly White Men, Fuzzy Fidelity, and Practical Christians: Blurred Boundaries of Belief and Chasms of Racialized Difference
4. Sundays Are So Different Here: Communities in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia
5. Could Sodom Be Worse? Christianity, Moral Reform, and the Godless of Vancouver and Victoria
6. Under Siege: Non-Christians, Racialized Groups, and White Women's Rights
7. Subtler and More Dangerous Forms of Error: Metaphysical Religions

Conclusion: Godless Past and Present

Appendix: Tables