TODD, Douglas

Author Tags: Religion

An multiple award-winning Vancouver Sun columnist on religion and ethics, Doug Todd received his journalist degree in 1980. In 1993 he received the first of his two Templeton Reporter of the Year Awards as the best religion writer for any secular newspaper or magazine in North America. In 2006, Todd became the first recipient of the Jack and Doris Shadbolt fellowship in the humanities at Simon Fraser University "to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy." From the fellowship he organized a conference to explore the spirit of the Pacific Northwest, resulting in an anthology with 15 contributors, Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia.

Todd has said, "Some people rebel in adolescence by turning their backs on religion. Instead, I turned my back on my family's atheism, which I found lacking in hope. I found I was increasingly drawn to the hopefulness of some religious people."

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia - Exploring the Spirit of the Pacific Northwest


The Soul-Searcher's Guide to the Galaxy (Self-Counsel Press, 1994)
Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle With God, Love, Death and the Things that Matter.
Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia (Ronsdale 2008). Editor.

PHOTO: Laura Sawchuk

[BCBW 2008] "Religion"

Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia—Exploring the Spirit of the Pacific Northwest

Douglas Todd is an award-winning spirituality and ethics writer for The Vancouver Sun and Canwest News, as well as the author of Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle with God, Love, Death and the Things That Matter.

In 2006, Todd served as Simon Fraser University’s first Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow in the Humanities, an adventure that gave rise to his new book on Cascadia.

Todd has cited “gratitude and curiosity about coming into existence in this remarkable corner of the continent” as the main reasons for gathering some of the thinkers he most admires from B.C., Washington and Oregon to create the book, Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia—Exploring the Spirit of the Pacific Northwest (Ronsdale $21.95).
He also wanted to explore the relationship between spirituality and our impossible-to-ignore shared geography of mountains, ocean and evergreens.

We asked Doug Todd to comment on the origins of his project.

Douglas Coupland, author of Life After God, and I once decided we liked each other because we had both played as teenagers in North Vancouver’s jagged canyons. We were also raised in thoroughly non-religious families, which is much more common in the Pacific Northwest than elsewhere.

We agree there’s something special going on in Cascadia (a name virtually synonymous with the Pacific Northwest). It has to do with the lack of institutional history, dearth of clear codes to live by and soaring potential—as well as an emerging nature-rooted spirituality.

Cascadians are, in many ways, at the forefront of figuring out what it means to make sense of “life after God.” It is not well known that Cascadia is home to the least institutionally religious people on the continent; orthodox understandings of “God” face constant challenges here. Despite this, the contributors to Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia maintain most of the region’s 14 million residents feel “spiritual.” Their approach to the sacred often includes an unusually strong devotion to personal freedom, do-it-yourself optimism, physical health, “secular-but-spiritual” nature reverence and a vision of a brand new future: an elusive utopia. 

Even though I feel privileged to have been raised here, I also lived in Los Angeles and Toronto and recognize the Pacific Northwest has a way to go to become great. One of the purposes of Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia is to help us reach our potential.

That’s why I asked 15 original thinkers to contribute essays that explore how the Pacific Northwest may be nurturing a unique “spirituality of place,” which, despite possible pitfalls, could become a model for the planet. 

Perhaps the final reason to put together Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia was simply to build stronger connections among leading thinkers and visionaries throughout the region.

Due to the often-annoying international border, most Canadians and Americans in Cascadia remain largely ignorant of what they offer each other. And this strikes me as a waste of our collective potential as a region.

Tom Harpur, Canada’s dean of spiritual authors, has endorsed Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia, as “sheer magic,” praising “the amazing sweep and depth of its collective vision.”

Some of the contributors from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia are political philosopher Philip Resnick, eco-theologian Sallie McFague, ethicist Mark Wexler and religion scholar Patricia O’Connell Killen.


[BCBW 2008] "Spirituality"