Sports, Stories and Secularization: Canadian Protestantism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Kimberly Campbell


What is secularization? Is Canada a secular society? If so, when did the shift from Christianity to secularization occur? If not, how do we account for the removal of prayer from schools and fluctuating numbers of practicing Christians according to census figures? These questions address the contentious issue of secularization within Canadian historiography. Historians examining the role of religion in Canadian society are forced to confront these issues as the impact of non-religion is central to the understanding of religious adherence. In the early part of the twentieth century, new secular activities created ever increasing competition for the time and attention of Canadians. Because of this, mainstream Protestant religious leaders in English Canada undertook a series of projects to draw the population back into church involvement. Many historians have argued that Canadian religious institutions promoted the increasingly secular Canadian society they were trying to prevent from developing by aligning the church with sports and changing sermon styles. However, based on census data and the continuing influence of mainstream Protestantism in Canadian society until well into the 1930s, the same evidence indicates that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Christian churches skilfully adapted to challenging social and economic times in order to remain relevant in Canadian society.


Canada; Religion; Secularization; Muscular Christianity

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