Is religion in Canada on the way out?By John Longhurst
Fifty years ago, 60 percent of Canadians went to weekly worship. Today? Fewer than 20 percent say they attend worship services on a weekly basis.
At the same time, the major Protestant mainline denominations are dramatically declining, while the number of Canadians who say they have no religion has grown from one percent to 25 percent since 1965.
There seems to be only one conclusion: Religion in Canada is on the way out.
Or is it?
Reg Bibby, a University of Lethbridge sociologist who has been studying religion in Canada for more than 30 years, says conventional thinking about religion in Canada — that it is on the wane and going away — is wrong.
“Many observers have focused their attention on the decline of a few of the previously prominent groups, and assumed their plight is the plight of religion as a whole,” he says.
That assumption is wrong. “Religion in Canada is not going to go away,” he says.
For evidence, Bibby points to Statistics Canada surveys showing that a majority of Canadians engage in personal religious and spiritual practices, and that they say religion and spirituality are important to the way they live.
Immigration also has an effect. Between 2001 and 2006, 1.1 million immigrants arrived in Canada, with about five out of 10 saying they were Catholic or Protestant, and three out of 10 identifying with another faith. Only about 15 percent said they had no religion.
Since immigrants tend to attend worship services more than native-born Canadians, faith groups in Canada are benefiting from their arrival.
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