Canadians apathetic rather than hostile to organized religion, survey reveals

(Photo: REUTERS / Mathieu Belanger)Archbishop of Sherbrooke Luc Cyr (C) speaks during a memorial mass at the Sainte-Agnes church in Lac-Megantic, July 6, 2014. The mass was held to commemorate the first anniversary of the crude-oil train explosion that killed 47 people on the morning of July 6, 2013.

Fifty years ago Canadians were in the pews each Sunday but now they are generally indifferent to religion, a survey carried out by the United Church Observer magazine has revealed.

The independent Canadian magazine contacted a research firm to know the reasons behind the diminishing role of organized religion in Canada.

"Anecdotally, we know our country has become less religious over time, and we wanted to develop a comprehensive set of statistics to explain what we were seeing," Observer editor David Wilson told the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.

He noted that 50 years ago, the baby boom produced a generation of church goers. Today, many of the churches in Canada are nearly empty.

In the survey done between February and March 2014 with 3,000 English-speaking Canadians, 66 percent revealed that they believe in the existence of God while 17 percent do not.

Seven percent of Canadians see themselves as devoutly religious, 37 percent as a person of faith, while 10 percent are against religion.

Still, 40 percent of the respondents believe that religion is good for society while 10 percent say it is bad.

On Christianity, 90 percent say they are familiar with this belief. This rate of awareness is high compared to Judaism with 61 percent people familiar with it, and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism with less than 50 percent awareness.

With organized religions' involvement in politics, 36 percent say it would be right for leaders of organized religions to try to influence government policy on issues such as assisted suicide or same-sex marriage.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents disagree.

Jane Armstrong of Jane Armstrong Research Associates, the firm that designed and conducted the online survey, said that the survey shows that it would be wrong to characterize Canadians as anti-religion.

She said there's more of an indifference and lack of knowledge about religion in Canada than opposition or disdain for organized religion.

Sociologist Joel Thiessen said that the growing group of Canadians who say that they have no religion are apathetic as opposed to Americans who are perceived as often being hostile to religion.

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