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Controversial Young Canadians Increasingly Shunning Religious Institutions

Jan 7, 2005
3,450
3,760
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Future of Faith
Young Canadians increasingly
shunning religious institutions

MICHAEL VALPY
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 9:00PM EST

If the future for institutional religion in Canada lies in the hearts and minds of the young, a dark night is sweeping down on the country's churches, synagogues and temples.

Young Canadians, who religious leaders once hoped would find their way back to faith, are instead doing the opposite: leading the country's march toward secularism. And with the exception of evangelical Christians, they are doing it at an accelerated pace.

More than half of Canadians in the 15-to-29 age cohort either have no religion or never attend a service of worship, says Statistics Canada. Only 22 per cent say religion is very important to them, down from 34 per cent in 2002. And in a recent poll done by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail, just one in five of the under-30 age group say they are the generation of their family that attends weekly religious services.

The cause, on the one hand, is a product of a progression that began with the crash of religious attendance 50 years ago, with each succeeding generation becoming further removed from – and ignorant of – religious beliefs and practices. Religious scholars see perhaps the majority of today's young Canadian adults as disappearing down a black hole of spiritual illiteracy from which institutional religion cannot retrieve them. The cause is also a product of young adults increasingly seeing organized religion as illogical and out of touch with reality.

At first blush, changing demographics would seem to help offset the decline. But while the stream of devout immigrants from South and Southeast Asia – nearly a million every four years – has helped increase religiosity in the short term, the evidence suggests that this lasts only one generation, at best two.

Manveen Puri, 24, a second-year medical student from Mississauga, Ont., decided to discontinue wearing his turban and maintaining an uncut beard, both hallmarks of the Sikh identity, shortly after becoming an undergraduate student. His younger brother followed him shortly afterward.

Their close-knit family survived their decision. But Mr. Puri says his father, whose religion remains strong, wants to believe it's just a phase his sons are going through.

Initially, Mr. Puri stopped wearing his kara – the bracelet that is one of the five articles of his faith and that is worn to remind Sikhs of the morals of their religious teaching – but later put it back on because it's a symbol of his culture. For much the same reason, he still goes to the gurdwara with his family. But he adds: "I won't necessarily pray."

Mr. Puri, who was born in Singapore and moved to Canada with his family when he was 18, said he considered the elements of the Sikh faith one by one over what he called "a six-month struggle" and at the end concluded that he could not reconcile faith with his new rationalist beliefs. It was, he said, "sort of like waking up" and, afterwards, he felt relieved. He termed it a common experience among his Sikh friends, a number who hide their faith-alienation from their parents and others who have been angrily told to leave their family homes.

Ethicists like McGill University's Margaret Somerville lament the vanishing of religious morality from the public sphere on key public-policy issues involving life and death. Some sociologists cite the bowling-alone syndrome given celebrated currency by U.S. scholar Robert Putnam – the continuing fragmentation of collective life and its resulting individual unhappiness.

Jessica Page, a medical student from Victoria who labels herself a religious illiterate, admits to qualms about the cultural loss of religion. And other young Canadian adults interviewed for The Globe and Mail's series considered the meaning of cities and towns with empty churches and temples – architecturally beautiful but ever more marginal to society.

The conflict of religious faith and rational thought became no longer containable for Jonathan Bright, a 23-year-old law student at University of Toronto. Six months ago, he quit the Roman Catholic Church. He had kept his mother, a regular churchgoer, informed of the decision taking shape in his mind. Still, he acknowledges, "she was a little upset," as was his former girlfriend, a devout Catholic.

The final impetus for his decision was both a fresh series of priestly sex scandals and cover-ups in Europe and the force of logic. The constraints imposed by the church no longer made sense to him – on matters such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception. He saw ways to follow an ethical life through the teachings of the law that didn't require some necessary hierarchy.

For Chinese-born Janet Li, 22, a master's student in mathematics at U of T, culture, religion and identity have come together in her life through the spiritual practice of her parents, both software engineers.

The practice, known to sociologists of religion as Chinese familialism – it's not tracked by the census, likely a contributing factor to why British Columbia, with a large ethnic Chinese population, shows the lowest level of religious adherence outside Quebec – combines Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism in a holistic mind-body spirituality with prayers to forebears.

Ms. Li values her family rituals around a fireplace shrine. She likes the tradition. "They make you remember family. They bring the family together." But asked if she will continue them in her own adult life, she says, "I guess I only do them with my family, so I'll retain it as long as I gather with my family. Maybe my sister and I will continue together? I am not sure, that is very far down the road."

source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/young-canadians-increasingly-shunning-religious-institutions/article1837678/
 

Navdeep88

Writer
SPNer
Dec 23, 2009
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655
Im not sure if this article fully describes the future of faith in Canada etc. (the west)... it only looks at the very short period immediately after a decision is made... maybe they should also look at a slightly older demographic as well. It would be interesting to read something about how, once these people are settled in the lives (they're all students at this point)... if there are any differences in their lifestyles vs those who never grew up in religious or traditional families.

And the bias is quite apparent as the "force of logic" is propelling these decisions.
 

Caspian

SPNer
Mar 8, 2008
234
154
Well we all have our biases. As a religious person ur are inclined to question such articles. But the stats over the past (i unno... 20 years) supports the notion that canada is headed towards secularism—and thank the "big-G" for that :p

In all seriousness though. I'm wondering why there was no mention of islam either. As far as I know, islam is also increasing (along with evangelical christianity). I will look into that. But i suspect that when the article mentioned:

At first blush, changing demographics would seem to help offset the decline. But while the stream of devout immigrants from South and Southeast Asia – nearly a million every four years – has helped increase religiosity in the short term, the evidence suggests that this lasts only one generation, at best two.


They might be talking about some islam there? Sounds more like sikhism/hinduism etc. But Im curious as to the state of islam in canada. On a more anecdotal level, most of my "liberal" muslim friends have become increasingly religious throughout my past 4 years in university
 

Caspian

SPNer
Mar 8, 2008
234
154
well from 2001 - 2006 the muslim population in canada increased from 2 - 2.5 percent . can anyone find info about more recent figures?
 

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
SPNer
Jun 17, 2004
14,500
19,180
. But Im curious as to the state of islam in canada. On a more anecdotal level, most of my "liberal" muslim friends have become increasingly religious throughout my past 4 years in university
[/COLOR]
I am also wondering if attendance at mosques drops off after the first and second generation?
 
Jan 7, 2005
3,450
3,760
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
According to Canada's 2001 census, there were 579,640 Muslims in Canada, just under 2% of the population. In 2006, Muslim population is estimated to be 783,700 or about 2.5%.

<TABLE dir=ltr border=1 cellSpacing=1 cellPadding=1 width=652><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Muslim Population
</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">2001
</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">2017

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Canada

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">579,700

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">1,421,400

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Atlantic Provinces

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">5,300

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">14,500

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Alberta

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">49,300

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">100,300

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Quebec

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">103,900

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">247,600

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Manitoba

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">4,900

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">12,100

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Saskatchewan

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">2,000

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">4,700

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">British Columbia

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">57,200

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">131,100

</TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=center width="53%">Ontario

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="21%">356,700

</TD><TD vAlign=center width="26%">910,600

</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>​

source: http://www.islamicpopulation.com/America/Canada/Islam%20in%20Canada.html
 

Caspian

SPNer
Mar 8, 2008
234
154
Yeah thats where i got my stat from. But im curious to see where they are in 2010. If they have grown by ~.5 percent to 3% (in conjunction with the trend). Or if they have grown less/more then ~.5 percent since 2006
 

spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
SPNer
Jun 17, 2004
14,500
19,180
Sou._jyot ji

Thank you as it was very kind of you to labor over a statistical table, and then to upload it. You are one of our most veteran SPN members, and have never let SPN down. Once again, you have provided interesting a valuable information.
 
Either the institution will adapt to accomadate the shift in interpretations of Morality or challenge the the shift itself, or it will downsize...proof of this is the noticeable evolution of the catholic church. The religious institution is a product on a marketplace like anything else...influenced by other cultural shifts and inflicting its own cultural shifts (tug of war)

Suppose the the institution does fail entirely or is significantly downsized, what then?
What is going to be the substitute, primary or secondary, mobilizing and organizing institution behind those Canadians who have suffered the loss of such a 'once powerful'/encompassing institution that explored morality?

The State is an obvious first, with its laws and teachings of civic rights through school infrastructure.

but what about
Family? Corporations? Hockey Leagues? Facebook Groups? etc.

can these be entrusted to fill the void to prevent anomie.
 

Caspian

SPNer
Mar 8, 2008
234
154
Either the institution will adapt to accomadate the shift in interpretations of Morality or challenge the the shift itself, or it will downsize...proof of this is the noticeable evolution of the catholic church. The religious institution is a product on a marketplace like anything else...influenced by other cultural shifts and inflicting its own cultural shifts (tug of war)
Im wondering "how" these institution will opt to change though. The statistics seem to support the notion that evangelical christianity and islam are the two religions growing the most in the west. That seems to me, at least, that "leanin left" (like the catholic church is doing and has been doing for a good while) is not as effective as becoming increasingly conservative and—for lack of a better word—fanatic. (like catholic evangelism and arguably many followers of islam).

I'm worried about that, really from a secular point of view, because I view some religions as being more of a detriment then other religions. It seems like the people wanting to go right, fall into conservative ideologies. And people wanting to go left—drop religions all together instead of joining a more liberal religion.

How does this bode for Sikhism? Cuz, unlike Catholicism that allows a huge amount of flexibility on a wide range of issues (the pope recently "okay'd" the use of condoms as a preventive measure). I see Sikhism essentially remaining the same religion 300 years from now as it was 300 years ago—if it can last that long.

but what about
Family? Corporations? Hockey Leagues? Facebook Groups? etc.

can these be entrusted to fill the void to prevent anomie.
I would say so, Yup. I would say that the "social norms and values" have long shifted towards more inclusive/secular institutions like the ones you mentioned. If we lost our families, corporations, hockey leagues (ESPECIALLY our hockey leagues here in canada) and facebook groups. The general public would be more devastated with that then the loss of the neighborhood church.
 
Im wondering "how" these institution will opt to change though. The statistics seem to support the notion that evangelical christianity and islam are the two religions growing the most in the west. That seems to me, at least, that "leanin left" (like the catholic church is doing and has been doing for a good while) is not as effective as becoming increasingly conservative and—for lack of a better word—fanatic. (like catholic evangelism and arguably many followers of islam).

I am not sure, but I think to naturally see if the Islamic "institutions" are truly gaining momentum compared to other religions a person has to study an overwhelmingly Islamic country, state by state (similiar to how canada is or was an overwhelmingly christian nation).

Because I think the increase in Islam in Canada has more to do with increased immigration policies from troubled areas. People identifying with a stronger interpretation of Islam could just be the result of their dependency on its institution as an avenue for an ethnic enclave, considering most Muslims in Canada are visible ethnic minorities.

which would make the growth of Evangelism a sort of religio-political response to Immigration/demographics more than anything else.

I would say so, Yup. I would say that the "social norms and values" have long shifted towards more inclusive/secular institutions like the ones you mentioned. If we lost our families, corporations, hockey leagues (ESPECIALLY our hockey leagues here in canada) and facebook groups. The general public would be more devastated with that then the loss of the neighborhood church.
that is interesting. should be done carefully, there is always possibility that something else can step in? suppose something really naughty...something along the lines of an evolved social fascism? but i think canadians are too nice for that :)
but then again people can do alot of crazy stuff when they are uniform or think they are in uniform...two examples are the Japanese and Germans. Japanese did things in eastern Asia that do not bear thinkin about. The GERMANS! let them loose with a gray helmet and they would think up stuff for their jewish neighbours that would make the most harden anti semitic Imam's ashamed.
 

Caspian

SPNer
Mar 8, 2008
234
154
That is interesting. should be done carefully, there is always possibility that something else can step in? suppose something really naughty...something along the lines of an evolved social fascism? but i think canadians are too nice for that :)
but then again people can do alot of crazy stuff when they are uniform or think they are in uniform...two examples are the Japanese and Germans. Japanese did things in eastern Asia that do not bear thinkin about. The GERMANS! let them loose with a gray helmet and they would think up stuff for their jewish neighbours that would make the most harden anti semitic Imam's ashamed.
There is always a "possibility" but I doubt their is a "risk" of something "real naughty" taking the place of religion in Canada. I recently read a book entitled "World War Z" (Its a book about the hypothetical scenario in which a Zombie apocalypse occurs—so by no means is my following point meant to be taken too seriously :p) in which Russia, when plagued with the threat of zombies, turned to a super-orthodox form of christianity. Then the powers-that-be hi-jacked that new found, strong religious sense amongst the Russian people to unite them under a facsist/theocratic regime. My point is, that the "risk" we speak of right now, is more likely in countries like Russia—or under the right conditions. Canada has never really had a history for anything remotely facsist, theocratic, etc. Hockey is religion up here—thats probably as naughty as we can get :p
 

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