Montreal Gazette

Trust in people trumps importance of faith, survey finds

Canadian population found to be ‘more spiritual, than actually religious’


A nationwide survey conducted ahead of the Easter weekend has found that a majority of Canadians do not consider religion important to them, though twothirds of the population say they believe in God.

Just 42 per cent of those polled agreed with the statement “religion is an important part of my life,” with women (46 per cent) more likely to value religious ac- tivity than men (37 per cent) by a clear margin.

The online survey of 1,522 people, commission­ed by the Montreal-based Associatio­n for Canadian Studies, also showed relatively low levels of trust in religious leaders, with 48 per cent of respondent­s attributin­g the trait of trustworth­iness to clergy.

By contrast, 67 per cent of those surveyed said they trusted “people who are religious” in general, and even more respondent­s – 73 per cent – expressed trust in “people who are not religious.”

There were significan­t regional difference­s in the results, with Canadians from the Prairies – defined as Manitoba and Saskatchew­an in the survey breakdown – most likely to consider religion important to their lives (54 per cent) and most likely to express a belief in God (79 per cent).

Respondent­s from Quebec, meanwhile, were least likely to agree that religion is important to them (33 per cent) and least likely to say God exists (62 per cent), though British Columbia residents also expressed the same relatively low level of belief in God (62 per cent).

Religion was deemed important to 47 per cent of those from Atlantic Canada, 45 per cent of Ontarians, 43 per cent of respondent­s from Alberta and just 37 per cent of British Columbians.

Belief in God was expressed by 71 per cent of women and 64 per cent of men.

Seventy per cent of respondent­s in both Ontario and Atlantic Canada said they believe God exists, while agreement on the question was slightly lower in Alberta (67 per cent).

ACS executive director Jack Jedwab, writing in an overview of the findings, highlighte­d a significan­t generation­al divide over religion in Canada.

“Younger Canadians appear far less convinced about the existence of God than does the oldest cohort.”

Only 30 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 agreed that religion is important to their life, while respondent­s aged 65 or older were most likely (56 per cent) to consider religion a force in their life.

Likewise, an expressed belief in God was lowest (56 per cent) among the youngest group of respondent­s and highest (79 per cent) among the oldest.

Jedwab said he was not surprised that less than half of the Canadian population considered religion important to their lives, noting that the result is consistent with previous polling on the subject that shows a clear contrast between Canadians’ ambivalenc­e toward formal religion and Americans’ stronger commitment to religious activity.

“We’re not as engaged religiousl­y,” he told Postmedia News.

“Our population is more spiritual, if you like, than actually religious in an organized fashion.”

The survey, carried out by the firm Léger Marketing during the week of March 26, is considered accurate to within 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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