Opinion

GRANT RANT

Canadians losing interest in God? 0

By Grant LaFleche, The Standard

Trinity Anglican Church in Colborne.

Trinity Anglican Church in Colborne.

There's a political slogan, usually adopted by those on the far right, and usually in America, that inevitably arises when it comes time for an election. 

"Canada is a Christian nation."

On some nominal level, it's been true enough, even if the idea that the nation was founded as some kind of quasi-theocracy is laughably wrong. The majority of Canadians are self-identifed as Christian of one stripe or another. And although surveys over the years show some shifts in Canada's religious makeup -- the number of non-believers grows each time -- that fact seemed unlikely to change in any significant way, at least not for a long time.

Turns out that may not be the case at all. A recent Ipsos Reid poll shows what may well be a seismic shift in how Canadians regard religion and themselves.

The first bit that caught my eye was how Canadians are basically split on whether organized religion is a good thing at all. A full 47% said it causes more harm than good. The same amount report they don't even believe in a god. That alone might get political strategists, particularly in conservative circles, to think a bit about how they approach voters.

Then there are the really bizarre findings. You'd figure most people who to go church regularly would believe in a big boss in the sky, right?

Turns out that isn't exactly the case. The poll found that 28% Protestants, 33% of Catholics, and 23% of those go to church weekly don't.

So why are they going to church at all? I don't have a degree in churchology, but I'd guess they go to church out of habit and for social reasons more than anything else. It could be that many of our fellow citizens derive something out of churchin' up other than being told what the cosmic boss wants.

It's probably not for morals or ethics, though. The same poll found that 71% of Canadians don't think religion makes you a better a citizen. So while our neighbours to the south can twist themselves into knots about whether one needs god to be good, Canucks appear to look at the question, shrug and go "meh."

In fact "meh" might sum up our collective view of religious differences too. Some 89% of us say we are totally at ease around people with difference religious views than ours which, if you think about it, makes Canada an awesome place doesn't it? It means we are judging people on the strength of their character, and not what afterlife they appear to prefer.

All of this suggests that we are, as a nation, becoming increasingly less religious and less interested in the supernatural claims of religions.

All of which should cause an atheist to dance with joy. But it's worth noting the poll is but a snapshot, with little in the way of explanatory information. And sometimes polling data about Canadians' beliefs can muddy the waters more than clear them.

Back in 2007 an Angus Ried poll found that most Canadians accepted evolution as a fact but a full 42% of Canadians believed dinosaurs and humans co-existed. These are mutually exclusive ideas and the numbers suggest that just shy of half of us think the Flintstones is a documentary.

If nothing else, though, maybe the time has come for a serious discussion about what exactly it is Canadians believe, or don't, and why. 

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