Canada, a relatively irreligious place

Like comedian and pundit Rick Mercer, I follow politics like many people follow sports. I follow scandals, read polls, and try to come up with projections. I will even go to the pub to watch and debate political conventions.

But this is a non-partisan blog, and I generally want to keep my political rants to my personal blog. Every once-in-a-while though, my political sphere of interest will collide with my secular humanist interests.

Such is the case with the latest poll from Leger Marketing [pdf], which asked the standard “who will you vote for” type questions, but then dug deeper to try to expose a difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada. One question in particular sparked my interest.

They asked “Do you personally consider yourself as a person who is religious?” and showed that a mere 22% of Quebeckers agreed versus 36% of Canadians. I transcribed their data to a graph to better illustrate the regional breakdown of religiosity in this country.


There’s a few interesting things to note here (at least for me).

First, no where in Canada do people consider themselves to be predominantly religious. Although we (unfortunately) do not have the corresponding response for the number of self-professed secularists (many will consider themselves neither religious or secular, just as in the poll many do not consider themselves right or left-leaning). Even supposedly religious bastions of Alberta and the prairies only slightly tug the rest-of-Canada average up. In general, only 1-in-3 Canadians actually identify as religious.

Next, we can see that BC nicely fits the national average, actually coming in second only to Quebec for the title of least religious province. This shouldn’t be a surprise from census data which puts the number of non-religious in BC at 35%, a number that is nearly a decade old. Note that between 1991 and 2001 the percentage of non-religious in BC grew by 5%.

Finally, Quebec has long been considered the Catholic province but in reality the province has shifted to a more nuanced Secular Catholicism, where they retain the culture of their history but adopt a more humanistic ethics toward human rights.

All-in-all I think this is a hidden gem of data for those who want to see a more secular Canada.

Comments on: "Canada, a relatively irreligious place" (3)

  1. heather mcdonald said:

    Interesting data, although I not sure I completely agree. When I have had the opportunity to ask “Do you believe in god?” All respondents said “yes”. Now what their idea of god is, is up for debate. When I asked what that is, the answers get fairly vague. Everything from a man in the sky who takes care of us, to a fuzzy feeling inside????
    How many people do you get to ask that too, you may wonder, well not as many as I would like. Thanks for the info.

  2. Heather may have a point there… It appears that a great number of people would not claim to be religious, as that word seems to have a dirty ring to it, with the stench of pious obedience. However, many people do adamantly declare they are “spiritual”, believing in all sorts of supernatural things like ghosts, faith healing, crystals, earth spirits etc. So perhaps the phrasing of the question may have skewed the results. I’m hopeful that in the future fantasy-based delusions will be replaced by equally inspiring admiration for art and inspiration, compassion for all life, rational wisdom and the wonders of science.

  3. I agree with both of you, but given the choice I’d rather live in a wishy-washy liberal spiritual-not-religious society than a theocracy (which tends to happen when the religious voices get loud enough).

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