Canadians may be vacating the pews but they are keeping the faith: poll

Interesting poll that gives some sense of “religiosity,” in terms of beliefs, compared to general religious affiliation:

Beneath Canadians’ widespread abandonment of places of worship and their negative view of even the word “religion,” a new poll has found a solid core of faith that continues to shape the country.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, grouped respondents into four categories according to their answers on a range of questions gauging their beliefs and religious practices.

“We have a society that has a secular government and there is a general assumption of faith being very private,” said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of think tank Cardus. “On the other hand, when you actually take a look at everyday society, the majority of people are people of faith to one degree or another, and faith informs and influences many of the ways we deal with each other on a day-to-day basis.”

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

The poll classifies 21 per cent of Canadians as religiously committed, meaning they hold a strong belief in God or a higher power and regularly attend religious services. At the other end of the spectrum, 19 per cent of Canadians are pure non-believers.

It is the swath in between, equally divided between what the pollster terms “privately faithful” and “spiritually uncertain,” that offers the greatest insight into Canadians’ evolving beliefs and practices.

The privately faithful, 30 per cent of respondents, “are people who actually believe in God, believe in heaven, believe in an afterlife,” said Angus Reid, the institute’s founder and chairman. “They have largely not been involved in organized religion. They will go to funerals and weddings and that sort of thing, but their faith is largely a private matter, and it’s really driven by their prayer. They pray on a regular basis.”

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

Mike Faille/National Post//Angus Reid

The spiritually uncertain, also representing 30 per cent, “seem to be a bit confused about where they want to be,” Reid said. “On some issues they kind of side with the non-believers, but they haven’t given up totally on everything.

“They continue to believe that there’s a God, but they’re uncertain about the role of God.”

The poll is part of a multi-faith effort initiated by Cardus called Faith in Canada 150, which aims to highlight the role religion has played historically and continues to play in Canada. The initiative, which has a budget of roughly $1-million, was denied federal funding as part of official 150th anniversary celebrations.

Source: Canadians may be vacating the pews but they are keeping the faith: poll | National Post

And the accompanying op-ed by Ray Pennings of Cardus:

Despite this religious openness, the same polling indicates a significant disconnect between the perception and reality of faith’s role in today’s Canada.

Simply put, religion has an image problem in Canada. In fact, the word “religion” is more likely to be seen negatively than positively, according to this new poll. Moreover, just over half of Canadians say they disagree with the claim that religion’s overall impact on the world is positive.

About half of Canadians polled say they’re uncomfortable around those who are religiously devout. Throw in terms like born-again, theology and evangelism, and just 15 per cent of respondents associate those words with a positive meaning.

But how well do Canadians actually understand the role faith plays in everyday life? Asked what’s most important in life, the 21 per cent of Canadians who are religiously committed are most likely to prioritize family life, honesty and concern for others.

Conversely, concern for others was a lower priority for non-believers. Instead, they are more likely to select a comfortable life, self-reliance and good times with friends as important. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those who are most likely to pray to God, attend religious services regularly and read the Bible or another sacred text seem most oriented toward others and their welfare.

What about Canadians’ emotional lives? The religiously committed are the happiest amongst us. Fully 47 per cent of them say they’re very happy or extremely happy overall, compared with 35 per cent of non-believers. They also report the highest levels of happiness among friends and in their communities. None of that is terribly surprising. If anything, it simply confirms what other research has shown. It makes sense, then, that the religiously committed are also more likely to be “very optimistic” about the future.

When it comes to community engagement and charitable giving, once again it’s the religiously committed who report the strongest involvement. Slightly more than half of non-believers say they are uninvolved in community groups or activities. That percentage drops to 17 per cent of the religiously committed. In fact, 41 per cent of the religiously committed have at least some involvement in their community, with another 42 per cent reporting heavy involvement.

Almost a third of the religiously committed say they regularly volunteer compared with 13 per cent of non-believers. Dare we ask about charitable giving?  Only 12 per cent of non-believers say they try to donate to whatever charities they can. That jumps to 43 per cent among the religiously committed. These are not selfish people.

The numbers present a clear picture: Religiously committed Canadians tend to be the most concerned about others, the happiest and most generous. So, why do Canadians have a negative view of religion? Arguably, the story of faith in Canada is not being well told. The narrative around faith is often negative. Religion is frequently presented as something that divides rather than unites people within communities.

That is part of the reason why Faith in Canada 150 exists, to showcase the role of faith in making Canada the country that it is. That legacy is a story worth telling.

Source: It is time to change the narrative around religion in Canada

 

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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