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Date of Award

9-1994

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Roy W. Homosty

Abstract

This thesis compares organized humanist organizations in Canada and the Netherlands. Using a grounded theoretical approach, three fundamental research questions are addressed: (1) Why has organized humanism been much more succssful in the Netherlands than in Canada?; (2) Why is Dutch humanism informed by an inclusive ideological orientation, while Canadian humanism is militantly anti-religious?; and (3) Is there a relationship between success and ideological orientation? Using a number of socio-historical and internal-organizational factors, the study suggests that the success of the Dutch movement is, in part, indebted to the long humanist tradition in the Netherlands stretching back to the sixteenth century. Secondarly, the pillarization of Dutch society along ideological lines during the late nineteenth century influenced the development of a distinct humanist pillar following the end of the Second World War. Along with the confessional pillars, humanists in the Netherlands were able to secure financial assistance from the state, encouraging an inclusive, non-confrontational ideological foundation for Dutch humanism. In comparison, Canada lacks a strong irreligious tradition and maintains a fair degree of neutrality between church and state. As a result, Canadian humanists have not received any form of subsidization from the state. Organized humanism in Canada was heavily influenced by the militantly anti-clerical British rationalist movement and developed largely around Dr. Henry Morgentaler's controversial fight for abortion rights during the late 1960s. As a consequence, Canadian humanism is anti-religious in its orientation. By developing humanism into a practical alternative to the church, Dutch humanists have enjoyed greater success than their Canadian counterparts. However, given the tremendous decrease in religious affiliation in both Canada and the Netherlands during recent decades, the comparatively small numbers joining the ranks of organized humanist movements suggests that this non-theistic worldview does not serve as an attractive alternative to traditional religious expressions.

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