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John Grady: Canadians spiritually uncertain

As many people across the country continue to turn their backs on religion, a new survey shows that many Canadians now believe Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, and Islam are more damaging to society than beneficial.
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John Grady: "The decline in church attendance has been accelerated by the pandemic, with many of their churches losing 20% of their participants."

As many people across the country continue to turn their backs on religion, a new survey shows that many Canadians now believe Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, and Islam are more damaging to society than beneficial.

A new Angus Reid survey, (follow up to Statistics Canada data produced in 2021) has shone a light on perceptions of certain religions in post-pandemic Canada, at a time when religiosity in the country is already at an all-time low. The new Angus Reid data is based on two 2022 surveys with the data showing that one-fifth of Canadians, 19%, now classify themselves as “non-believers.” It is important to note that not all of us have total faith in the accuracy of surveys as noted during election campaigns. However, let’s examine a couple highlights.

The largest group of Canadians are the “spiritually uncertain” representing 46% of the population. One-third, 34%, definitely believe in God or a higher power, while 31% think a higher power exists but are less certain. Survey results showed that atheists were overwhelmingly critical of the influence of Evangelical Christians on society. Evangelical Christianity, which encompasses several denominations such as Baptists, Pentecostal, and Mennonite, are characterized by its piety, was the only religion seen as more damaging than beneficial by every other self-identified religious group.

The director of research at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada stated that one of the reasons for the decline in attendance is that many churches have sought to distance themselves from evangelicalism due to its negative connotations as it is often portrayed negatively in the media or popular culture. He further added that there was once a “social benefit” of being considered religious but is now a “social cost" to it. He further stated the decline in church attendance has been accelerated by the pandemic, with many of their churches losing 20% of their participants.

I witnessed in Vancouver the three largest denomination churches changing their names to be more appealing: Broadway Pentecostal Church to Broadway Church; Willingdon Mennonite Brethren Church to Willingdon Church; and the 10th Ave Alliance church to the 10th Church, and all enjoying growth.

Interestingly, Coastal Church a non-denomination church in Vancouver, which moved into a heritage building in the heart of Vancouver about 20 years ago, has now satellite campuses in Squamish, Richmond, Burnaby, Yaletown, Pitt Meadows, North Vancouver, Commercial, which certainly shows incredible church growth in spite of the negativism in this survey and as they honoured the protocols of the government regulations during the pandemic.

In spite of the negative surveys and reports may we be found faithful in our part of building His kingdom.


John Grady lives and writes in Fort St. John.

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