Atheist Freethinkers

Louise Mailloux


Louise Mailloux


Professor of philosophy at the Collège du Vieux Montréal, intellectual atheist and feminist secularist, Louise Mailloux cofounded in 2009 the Collectif Citoyen pour l’Égalité et la Laïcité (CCIEL: Citizens' Coalition for Equality and Secularism). She is also editor of the Cciel ( website. A dedicated polemicist, Louise Mailloux has since 2008 written regularly for l’Aut’Journal ( and occasionally for the Quebec feminist website Sisyphe (

The focus of her interest is the philosophy of secularism, or the political dimension of religions: more precisely, criticism of religious fundamentalism in connection with the rights of women. Besides her participation as speaker at several debates and colloquia, she is the author of numerous articles defending a universal and republican secularism. Her opposition to so-called "open secularism" (i.e., open to religions) remains a constant in her interventions and make her one of the most incisive Quebec intellectuals on this issue.

Synopsis of Presentation

Has Secularism Killed Atheism?

Louise Mailloux at the podium, 2010-10-01
Louise Mailloux at the podium, 2010-10-01, 2010-10-XX
Photograph : J. Jarry

The Enlightenment was, without a doubt, the golden age of antireligious criticism. But it also left us with a curious mix of ideas. On the one hand, a materialist and radically atheist left, led by d'Holbach and Diderot, precipitated the death of God and predicted that of all religion. On the other hand, a right-wing tendency, anticlerical but deist, led by Locke and Voltaire, gave us secularism, the condemnation of atheism, and respect for religions.

Could it be that this secularism, which put an end to religious wars and contributed greatly to the pacification of Europe, also defused the bracing sting of atheism to the point of undermining its critical function? And what to make of that other product of the Enlightenment: the Christian Kant who, by separating faith and reason, succeeded in protecting the idea of God from the onslaught of science? Have all these factors weakened atheism so much that even today we are uncomfortable and timid in criticizing religions?

Can the origin of this excessive respect for religion be attributed to the secular deist thinkers of the Enlightenment, who skillfully muzzled atheists and placed them quietly beside believers? And has secularism become just an imposed compromise, a sad admission of atheists' inability to eradicate religion?

But atheism is not a religion. We must regain our assurance, our intelligence and our assertiveness, abandon our polite reserve and make ourselves visible politically and intellectually. In doing so, secularism, the rights of women and science -- the marvellous results of modernity -- can only be better protected.