Friday, September 10, 2004

Canadians 'Giving Up' on Religion?

Canadians giving up on religion, poll finds
By MICHAEL VALPY
UPDATED AT 11:56 AM EDT

Canada is bounding along the road toward a secular society, with half the adult population now of the opinion that more regular attendance at religious services by people would be of no benefit to Canadian society, says a survey published yesterday by the Centre for Research and Information on Canada.
The CRIC poll shows that 61 per cent of Canadians believe religious practice is an important factor in the moral and ethical life of the nation -- which is a drop from 79 per cent in 1980.
And when CRIC asked Canadians how important religion is to their personal lives, their responses placed Canada in the ranks of the world's most secular countries -- less churchy than Britain, on a par with Italy, and not a great deal more inclined to institutional faith and worship than Germany, France, Russia or Bulgaria.
Only 29 per cent of Canadians say religion is a very important part of their lives, in contrast to 59 per cent of Americans who give it high personal importance.
Another 37 per cent say religion is somewhat important -- for a total of 66 per cent. But 20 years ago, 76 per cent of the population said it was either very or somewhat important.
As for the question of whether society would be better off if people attended religious services more regularly, 50 per cent agreed, but a surprising 48 per cent disagreed -- a disagreement rising to 60 per cent in British Columbia and Quebec. (In Atlantic Canada, on the other hand, 67 per cent of respondents said more regular religious attendance would be of social value.)
Age is a significant determining factor in the religious values of Canadians, the CRIC survey found. Young Canadians were least likely to feel -- only 35 per cent in the 18-to-29 age group -- that Canadian society would be better off if more people regularly attended religious services. And barely 50 per cent of Canada's youngest adults said religion was either very or somewhat important in their lives.
The figure rose to 64 per cent for Canadians aged 30-to-44, to 68 per cent for those aged 45-to-59 and 76 per cent for Canadians over the age of 60. Religion also was personally important more to women (72 per cent) than men (59 per cent).
Interestingly, a majority of Canadians -- 56 per cent -- felt that public schools should teach children about all the major religions of the world.
Support for the notion was lowest in Ontario, perhaps because of the province's culturally diverse society -- the most diverse in the country -- combined with the growing debate over why only Roman Catholics are the only faith community entitled to a publicly funded school system.
Eleven per cent of respondents said the public schools should teach children only about the Christian religion because it is the faith espoused by the country's majority. But perhaps ironically, support for this view was highest in one of the country's two most secular provinces -- Quebec (19 per cent) -- but lowest in the other -- B.C. (6 per cent).
The telephone survey of 1,500 adults was done by Environics Research Group in June.
The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.