That quote, part of a headline in Maclean’s magazine about religion in
either faint praise or a cause for alarm—depending on your point of view. Canada, is
It was used to introduce the results of a new Angus Reid survey that found that 30 percent of Canadians say they embrace religion, compared to 26 percent who say they reject it.
Forty-four percent are somewhere in between—they could go either way.
If you are in the camp that is alarmed, then you can worry about how the number of people who say they are religious is down 15 percent from 30 years ago, and about how the number of people who say they reject has has increased 22 percent since 1971.
On the other hand, there is cause for hope since many people in the middle—the so-called ambivalents—haven’t abandoned religion.
Eighty-seven percent of Canadians continue to identify with a religious tradition, 64 percent believe in God, 40 percent say they pray, and over 40 percent say they are open to greater involvement with religious groups—if it was worthwhile.
As for those who reject religion, the pollster notes they are not hostile toward it; it would be better to say they are “bypassing faith.”
Overall, the survey also found that over 70 percent of Canadians believe in a “Supreme Being” and 66 percent believe in life after death—figures that haven’t changed much since the 1970s.
Summarizing the findings, the pollster observes that increasing secularization is occurring in
against a backdrop of
persistent spirituality. Canada
What’s behind the slower than assumed decline in support for religion in
Immigration, says the pollster. Canada
“One of the keys to understanding the current state of organized religion in Canada is to look at immigration patterns,” the study states.
It goes on to note that the reason groups such as the United, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran denominations are declining is because they no longer get immigrants from Britain and Europe.
As immigration patterns have shifted, so too has growth in different religions.
With greater immigration from Asian countries, the main beneficiaries are Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants, and other faith groups. This has the affect of offsetting decreasing interest and participation from native-born Canadians.
As Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge put it: “The reality is that groups depending on natural increase are dead in the water. There’s just not enough people being born to offset the number who are dying.”
But even immigration won’t keep up the numbers forever.
Said John Stackhouse, a professor at
Vancouver’s : “There aren’t enough immigrant
Christians to make up for the vast majority of Canadians who have become less
enthusiastic, indifferent, or even hostile to Christianity.”
For Joel Thiessen, associate professor of sociology at
Ambrose University in Calgary, the survey results aren't a surprise.
Secularization in Canada, he said, is “the overarching trend,” coupled with “less affinity by Canadians with religious groups.”
Added Paul Bramadat, Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the
the statistical patterns continue, and that seems fairly likely, historians will
look back on the period in which we now live and characterize it as one of
massive upheavals in the ways individuals and the broader public think about and
involve themselves in religion.” University of Victoria:
What does this mean for religous groups? For Thiessen, it means thatpeople of faith “need a new way of being religious in society.”
They also need to change the perceptions of religion by Canadians.
“Many people have negative perception of religion,” he said. “It is seen as being against things. We need to talk more about the things that are good and beneficial about religion to counter the negative stories.”
For Bramadat, religious groups also need to find new ways to engage their communities, do more interdenominational collaboration, and address social justice issues.
So the good news is that religion in
isn’t declining as fast as
some might think. The challenging news is that faith groups need to re-think
their place in this increasingly secular landscape, and prepare themselves for
greater challenges in the future. Canada
As Bramadat put it: “Religion in
is in the
midst of a truly massive, categorical shift. We can’t underestimate the
consequences of these changes. The next five to ten years could be significant ones for Canadian
religious groups.” Canada