Thursday, May 09, 2013

Religious Affiliation in Canada

The results of the 2011 Canadian census are beginning to appear. Indi at Canadian Atheist has prepared a nifty pie chart showing that 63.7% of the population identifies themselves as Christians [2011 National Household Survey religion results].

In second place, at 23.9%, are those who say they have no religion. We know that many of the "nones" will not call themselves "atheists" but they might as well be.

The take-home lesson is that almost 24% of Canadians are not religious. That's up from 16.5% in 2001. Times they are a -changin.

The question on the census was ...
22. What is this person’s religion?

Indicate a specific denomination or religion even if this person is
not currently a practising member of that group.

For example, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, United Church,
Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist,
Hindu, Sikh, etc.

Specify one denomination or religion only __________

No religion __________
I think you can see why nonbelievers may be somewhat higher than the numbers indicate.


  1. I continue to suspect "None" includes a lot of unaffiliated theists and "spiritual but not religious" types. Of course, given the wording of the question, the "Christian" slice could well include a fair bunch of atheists who just never formally de-affiliated.

    1. Also, some portion of those identifying as religious are religious in name only. In other words, it is not an issue that matters to them on an intellectual level so they rarely think about church or god or the lack thereof. But when asked what their religion is they default to the only thing they know - the denomination in which they were raised. That doesnt make them atheist or even agnostic but it sure is a watered-down religiosity.

  2. Does No Religion mean non-belief in a Creator?
    I count myself in No Religion but I believe I am NOT the result of blind chance.

    1. I know that I am not the result of "blind chance." But I think we are not talking about the same thing in opposition to "blind chance."

    2. "Does No Religion mean non-belief in a Creator?"

      Yes. If you believe in a creator even though you're not part of any particular religious group than that is still a religion. For example, Deism.

      How can you believe in a creator god but claim to have no religion?

    3. But you are the result of blind chance Pepe. The absolute chance interaction between a certain egg and certain sperm cell. You could just as well be someone else, or no one at all. In fact you are the "someone else" with respect to the person you might have been. Isn't that neat? But I doubt god had time to arrange for your specific existence, what with managing the universe and all.

  3. This explains why Canada has a higher rate of violent crime than the US.

    Oh, wait...

  4. Unfortunately the results of the latest census have been made nearly useless by the diktat of Harper, our anti-science prime minister. He abolished the compulsory long form census making any direct comparison to previous censuses impossible.

    This arises ostensibly from his right wing libertarian principles, but in practice it is part of an anti-science campaign designed to destroy the possibility of evidence based public policy decisions and replace this by right wing conviction politics. The head of Statistics Canada resigned in protest.

    1. Hopefully the census will be reinstated, my only concern is that the data should be anonymised at source.

      For an informative description on how census data has been abused in the past I recommend the book "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation" by Edwin Black.

      For an example closer to home, the United States Census Bureau assisted the internment efforts by providing confidential neighbourhood information on Japanese Americans during WW2.

      Which is why I thought the commercial that David Suzuki did urging Canadians to participate in the census was ironic given that In June 1942, the government sold the Suzuki family's dry-cleaning business, then interned Suzuki, his mother, and two sisters in a camp at Slocan in the British Columbia Interior and there is a good chance that the Canadian government used census data in this endeavour.

  5. Over the long haul, religion continues to lose its grip, thank god.

    But to bring in a pessimistic note, this is likely only the result of affluence and education, both products of societal stability. I'm of the mind that we are always only one human-made or natural calamity away from the brutal tribalism that one might recognize in the old testament and in certain regions of the earth to this day.

    On that note, have a nice day :-)

  6. Well the survey also says:

    "Indicate a specific denomination or religion even if this person is
    not currently a practising member of that group."

    Unless a person may say "Well I used to be Christian and then I used my thinking parts and realized that was dumb" they may obligate themselves to still write Christian as per the rules of the census...

    So they're basically being misclassified due to the survey's instructions