Update (Aug 22, 2016): You can download the full results here.
Seven in ten British Columbians are non-religious and over a quarter don’t believe in a higher power according to a new poll by Insights West commissioned by the BC Humanist Association.
This is an increase from the 64% of people who said they did not practice a religion or faith in the BC Humanist's previous survey in 2013. The number of people who believe in a higher power has dropped by 14% to 56%.
When asked "Do you practice or participate in a particular religion or faith?" 27% said yes, 69% said no and 4% were not sure.
When asked "Regardless of whether you participate in a particular religion or faith, do you believe in a higher power?" 56% said yes, 26% said no and 18% were not sure.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
Religion is on the wane in British Columbia. In its place is an increasingly secular and non-religious constituency that politicians and policymakers will need to pay attention to.
The poll also looked at different attitudes to government support for religious organizations.
On private schools: There is strong opposition to funding private schools, particularly those run by religious groups. 63% oppose private secular schools compared to 70% who oppose funding for private religious schools.
The message is clear: Public funds should go to public schools. Sectarian schools only serve to divide our multicultural society into religious enclaves.
On tax exemptions for religious groups: 60% of people support religious groups receiving charitable status. 51% oppose property tax exemptions for houses of worship and 68% oppose exemptions for other properties. 58% oppose the income tax credit granted by the federal government for clergy residences.
As BC becomes increasingly irreligious, it's up to religious groups to justify the entitlements they continue to enjoy at the taxpayer's expense. There's no reason many of their services couldn't be provided by secular and inclusive alternatives. The state doesn't need to continue to privilege religious worldviews over secular ones.
On funding religious groups to provide social programs: 51% support government funding going to religious organizations to help them run social programs. However, 75% are opposed (56% are strongly opposed) to public funding going to organizations that make human resources based on the religious beliefs of its employees.
On funding religious groups to run hospitals: While 60% of people support government funding for religious hospitals, 71% do not support funding going to hospitals that refuse to provide services like abortion or physician-assisted dying based on religious grounds, as reported by the BC Humanist Association last week.
When religious groups do good work, the support is there. But when those groups discriminate against their employees or clients or in the services they're willing to provide, that support evaporates.
On granting non-religious groups the right to perform marriages: 65% of people support non-religious groups being allowed to appoint representatives to perform marriages.
The BC Humanist Association trained its first Humanist Officiants last month who are able to perform meaningful secular ceremonies for the non-religious. The Government of BC rejected its application to recognize marriages performed by Humanist Officiants in 2013. Humanist weddings are recognized in Ontario, several US states and Scotland.
Couples are spontaneously coming to us asking if we can help them celebrate their marriage and we’ve had to say no. Our only option is to have a marriage commissioner sit in the corner to legitimize the affair. It’s patent anti-atheist discrimination and the public recognizes that.
On a number of fronts, I think the people of BC are ready to question the privileged status that religious groups continue to hold in our society. Whether that’s funding independent religious schools, granting special tax exemptions or even the exclusive right to perform marriages.
The BC Humanist Association is in the process of analyzing the data and plans to release a detailed report with the full data tables later this month.
This survey was conducted by Insights West and results are based on online interviews with a representative sample of 802 British Columbia adults from May 31 to June 3, 2016. The margin of error is ± 3.5%.
On August 21, 2016, Ian Bushfield presented these results at the BCHA's Sunday meeting in Vancouver. You can view his slides and listen to his presentation on our podcast below.