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Talk: that’s what people do at the Café Apostate. They talk about ideas and religion and family and whatnot. And they’re not alone. Since the early 2000s, there’s been a wide and vocal wave called New Atheism gaining momentum. Propelled by the scientific theories and stone-cold logic of writers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens (who died last year), New Atheism is a more in-your-face

religion,” says Bennetch. “They’re saying, ‘we’re out here, we’re a part of society and we’re going to ask questions — uncomfortable questions you might have to answer.’” And it seems as though this new strain of atheism is catching on.

In 2001, Statistics Canada released a report on religion that said around 4.9 million people had no religious affiliation whatsoever in

For a long time it was a cultural thing, you didn’t talk ill about religion. REBEKAH BENNETCH

atheism than people have historically been used to. See, in the past most atheists were content to sit back. But these new atheists are different: they’re more visible, more vocal. More willing to counter, criticize and question religion at every turn. “The benefit I see in what these guys do is they’re very vocal. They’re not afraid. For a long time it was a cultural thing, you didn’t talk ill about

this country. That number climbed to nearly 5.7 million in 2006, and is projected to break the 8-million mark by 2031. So is this a direct result of the rising tide of New Atheism? Nobody can say for sure. What we can say, however, is this: province by province — from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan and beyond —our country is becoming increasingly secular.

Does this mean atheism is, in a sense, becoming a religion in and of itself? A new religion sweeping the nation? “There are certain strains out there [where] if you ask them ‘is atheism your religion,’ they’d say ‘yes,’” explains Bennetch. “But that’s not me. Yes, I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t dictate my philosophy or ideology.” And Bennetch will continue being an atheist. She’ll continue to meet with the Café Apostate on the first Sunday of every second month. She’ll continue to talk and discuss ideas. But she won’t treat it like a religion. Instead, her group will remain what it’s always been — a safe place where people who have lost religion can go without fear of being rejected. A place to find the support they’ve lost through coming out. Or maybe just a safe place for like-minded people to sit around and shoot the breeze.

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Verb Issue S217 (Nov. 23-29, 2012)  
Verb Issue S217 (Nov. 23-29, 2012)  

Verb Issue S217 (Nov. 23-29, 2012)