Canadians now find God in most ‘unlikely’ places

Published January 1, 2004

The majority of Canadians no longer take part in regular church services and other traditional forms of worship but they continue to believe in God and manifest their faith in unconventional ways, according to two different surveys conducted in 2003.

” Canada is no longer a nation of churchgoers,” wrote Susan Catto, in a recent Time magazine article which reported on the poll, conducted by the magazine and the national religious television channel Vision TV. “Attendance at religious institutions ? the old-fashioned kind, with altars and steeples ? is in decline, even as many church organizations launch outreach efforts to win back former members,” Yet, added the article, “Canada is still a nation of believers.”

“Religiously affiliated or not, most Canadians don’t attend regular worship services,” said a November Reader’s Digest article, reporting on a poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid for the magazine. The survey of more than 1,000 Canadians nationwide showed that only 23 per cent take part in religious services “once a week or so.” But when asked whether they think God exists, 64 per cent said yes, definitely. [pullquote]

The Vision TV/ Time nationwide poll, conducted by Environics, shared a similar result with 81 per cent saying they strongly (66 per cent) or somewhat (15 per cent) agree that they believe in God. The highest percentage of Canadians who expressed belief in God was from Saskatchewan (92 per cent) and the lowest, in B.C. (75 per cent).

Both studies echo the results of the General Social Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2001, which showed that “attendance at religious services has fallen dramatically across the country over the past 15 years.” Only one-fifth of Canadians aged 15 and older said they attended religious services weekly in 2001, compared with 28 per cent in 1986.

Reasons for abandoning organized religion can range from feeling out of touch with church practices to busier lives, said the Vision TV/ Time poll.

Both studies also suggest that while Canadians are shying away from religious practices they were raised in or acquired on their own, they are actively seeking other ways of practising their faith.

“Religion in Canada is finding a home in unlikely places, whether it’s a pub, a New Age retreat on British Columbia’s Bowen Island, the room set aside for Muslim prayers at the University of Manitoba or a rocky stretch of Newfoundland coastline where a lone walker admires the crashing waves,” said the Time article.

Indeed, as the Vision TV/ Time poll showed, 90 per cent of Canadians think that doing good deeds is a manifestation of one’s faith and spirituality, while 55 per cent said going to a place of worship was key. Eighty-one per cent said silent reflection was also another means of expressing belief in God.

The Reader’s Digest poll also found that Canada is “a nation of spiritual seekers” who choose from a wide variety of beliefs. “From angels to astrology to out-of-body experiences, a remarkable 95 per cent of respondents expressed belief in at least one spiritual or supernatural phenomenon,” said Reader’s Digest in a news release about the poll.


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