Youth Survey: Teens lose faith in droves -

Youth Survey: Teens lose faith in droves

Islam and atheism are on the rise while Christianity fades


Teens lose faith in drovesEvery day, Mohamed Hadi wakes up before sunrise for morning prayer. The 19-year-old then boards a bus for the 90-minute ride from his home in Richmond, B.C., to the campus of Simon Fraser University, where he’s studying to become a physiotherapist. He’s involved in the Muslim Students’ Association, and with Rich in Faith, a Muslim youth group he founded that offers tutoring and mentoring services. Hadi’s a busy guy, yet he always finds time for his religion, including prayer five times a day. “It helps me stay composed,” he says, “and to maintain balance in my life.”

Such devotion is rare among teens these days—or at least, among those from Protestant and Catholic households. Just as the younger generation is abandoning the Christian faith, though, non-Western religions, such as Islam and Buddhism, are growing in Canada at a surprising speed. According to new data from Project Teen Canada, more teens now identify as Muslim than Anglican, United Church of Canada and Baptist combined. As a group, the percentage who adhere to so-called “other faiths”—including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism—has grown fivefold since Project Teen began its surveys in 1984, while the percentage of teens who identify as Roman Catholic has declined by one third, and the percentage who identify as Protestant is down by almost two-thirds.

Youth SurveyA side effect of this trend is a hollowing-out of the religious middle ground in Canada. Reginald Bibby, the University of Lethbridge sociologist who heads up Project Teen, says the grey zone of those who believe in God, but don’t regularly practise an established religion, is rapidly emptying out, leaving behind two distinct camps: teens who are very religious and actively practise their religion, and those who don’t believe in God at all. “For years I have been saying that, for all the problems of organized religion in Canada, God has continued to do well in the polls,” Bibby writes in The Emerging Millennials, a new book based on Project Teen’s latest findings. “That’s no longer the case.”

THE YOUTH SURVEY AT MACLEANS.CA: 1. Generation Tame 2. City vs. Country Kids 3. Teens lose faith in droves 4. The surprising optimism of Aboriginal teens 5. When it comes to sex, teen girls are acting more like boys 6. Immigrant teens find that tolerance goes both ways in Canada

The growth in popularity of faiths such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism can largely be attributed to immigration, Bibby says. Indeed, there are more new Canadians than ever—immigrants made up 20 per cent of the population in 2006, according to Statistics Canada, up from 16 per cent in 1981. And the majority of new Canadians now hail from the Middle East and Asia, whereas most came from Europe a decade before.

Youth surveyForeign-born teens are more likely to be religious when they arrive, but whether that faith will persist over the coming generations remains to be seen. “Because these faith groups are so small, they often can’t hang on to their kids,” Bibby explains. “They have this maddening tendency to socialize with Protestant, Catholic, and ‘no religion’ friends, and marry out of their parents’ groups.” But immigration will continue to supply fresh believers, so it’s likely that their community support will grow too. That’s been Hadi’s experience. Amongst his friends, many of whom are Muslim, “we all know when it’s time to pray. If we forget, we’ll remind each other,” he says. “Community is an integral part of the equation.”

For Canada’s Christian teens, meanwhile, the community is shrinking like never before. Since 1984, the percentage of teens who call themselves Christian has almost been cut in half while the number who call themselves atheist has grown to 16 per cent, up from just six per cent in the mid-1980s. Just as the boomers shifted toward agnosticism, teens are now going a step further and rejecting religion entirely. “Belief is learned, pretty much like the multiplication table,” Bibby writes. “So is non-belief.”

It’s a huge shift, and Bibby says it may be a worrying one. While it’s true that today’s teens seem to be more responsible and mature than previous generations, the surveys still find that teens who belong to an organized religion—including Christianity, Islam and other faiths—tend to put a higher value on trust, honesty and concern for others. Religion has long been a “source of stability,” he says, not to mention a moral compass of sorts. For instance, 95 per cent of young people who “definitely” believe in God or a higher power also think this entity “expects us to be good to each other,” while just three per cent of atheists agree. As the percentage of religious teens falls, Bibby wonders just how that will affect our ethics and behaviour. “We may well find Canadian society doesn’t need belief in God to hold onto our values. But right now, it appears to be a source,” he says. “The question is, do we have any functional alternatives in place?”

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Youth Survey: Teens lose faith in droves

  1. The last paragraph is slightly misleading– giving the impression that only 3% of atheists basically have morals. Whereas what it actually says is there is an astoundingly high 3% of self-identified atheists who agree that a higher power “expects us to be good to each other.” If you polled atheists on whether “we should be good to each other, regardless of the existence of a higher power”, you’d get a similar 95% agreement.

    • I agree. This article is totally misleading and doesn’t include perspective from a rational person’s point of view. I don’t believe in the Easter bunny, and also care about other people. Imagine!

      • There is no Easter Bunny???….What about Santa Claus?…my world is in turmoil, I must go up to the mountain and seek the truth – anyone got a light for my hash pipe…

    • I read this in the actual magazine and hoped that someone else noticed. Terribly, terribly worded. Very misleading. Also, contradictory, because I can’t (and shouldn’t be able to) find even 3 atheists who believe in a higher power.

      • true; atheist’s “higher” power is tied to a more material type of religion–anti-religion is after all a religion in its own right.

        • No, it isn’t.

          • Yes, it is.

          • Funny how so many thiests are so quick to call atheism a religion, but aren’t bright enough that doing so merely acknowledges that they are dragging one thing down with another; and that the thing which is higher, that is, which is being dragged down, is atheism. You think they’d recognise that as a weakness in their position, but no, they keep on doing it.

    • EXACTLY. I was going to write this myself, glad other people noticed too.

      • This study was done by Reginald Bibby, the guy who writes like “Evangelicals helping to beat back secularism” (as if that is a good thing!) in religious publications. This is propaganda and not sure why Macleans is pushing it.

    • “95 per cent of young people who ‘definitely’ believe in God or a higher power also think this entity ‘expects us to be good to each other,’ while just three per cent of atheists agree.”

      Anyone who uses this statment to support the claim that atheists lack a moral compass is either very confused, or is deliberately being misleading. Without seeing the actual survey results it is impossible to tell if the fault lies with a poorly worded paragraph in the magazine article, or in a surprisingly odd survey interpretation by Reginald Bibby, the Board of Governors Research Chair in sociology at the University of Lethbridge.

      Some clarification from staff reporter Kate Lunau would be great!

      • Reg Bibby is intentionally misleading. Look at the titles of the articles he has attached, linked, and posted at his web site. Talk about denial of reality, he is the last person in “western” academia to finally admit that atheism is growing, and that religion is declining. All the religious people I know figured this out decades ago.

  2. What a surprise when the media, on both sides of the border, have put Christianity in a negative light for years now. The zealots are gong to rule and those who are more into ‘if it feels good, do it’ are going to look around one day and crap their pants at what has happened to their country.

    • I don’t think this is exactly true – I think you have increasing polarization. People that are religious tend to be members of fiercely religious evangelical sects (among the few that are growing – and those guys make lots of babies). There are fewer religious people, but those that are, are pretty religious. I mean it is still the case that you can’t get elected in America if you are not at least somewhat religious. There is only one open atheist in congress (and he has a safe seat).

      On the other hand, you have more atheists, and more passionate atheists. These are people for whom SCIENCE! is a religion (very few are actual scientists, or have much knowledge of the dominant scientific debates – none of which have much bearing on the afterlife). Atheism isn’t just a non-belief, it is a cultural badge. In Gen Y it is often vigorously asserted, because Gen Y’ers believe that the most valuable personal trait is to be smart, and scientists are smart, therefore one must be as sciencey as possible.

      What is going by the wayside is the middle ground of lapsed Catholics, Anglicans, agnostics, Deists, Unitarians, cafeteria Christians, and cultural Jews. 50 years ago a lot more people went to church, but they generally went to Catholic or more liberal protestant churches. Religion was more of a social thing than a political/ideological thing (good works and the social gospel have been trumped by moral absolutism, as the church tries to wrestle with the world brought on by the 60’s). That decline is a bad thing because it means there are fewer people who can relate to both sides, without discussions devolving into…”You babykilling hedonistic harlot” vs. “You ignorant woman-hating hypocrite!”

      I am a contrarian by nature. In the mid-90’s I liked to argue with my teachers, defending Mike Harris’ policies. When 9/11 happened, I argued that the US had it coming, and that retaliation abroad would have negative consequences. In 2007 I argued for the surge. Increasingly, however, I am finding myself taking a position as a moderate in debates, though being no less a contrarian, and that really scares me.

      • Please stop committing the fallacy of equivication – in this case, stating that science is a religion. It clearly is not. If you don’t understand what words mean, then don’t use them in intelligent discussion.

    • The proportion of believers in Christ was much higher in 1930s Germany than it is today. Draw your own conclusions… Believers have this notion that believing in an imaginary divine friend is a conduit to morality, whereas a rational evidence-based negotiation of reality means amorality. This is nonsense. Morality is not founded on religious stories. It is hard-wired into our cooperating nature as herd animals. Altruism was generated by evolution, as was the habit of mutual aid. It was not generated by the stories of priests, which are merely a tool for priest-led tribal solidarification. Moreover, priests are a sort of politician, nothing more. We have a serviceable secular political and legal system, which codifies our ethical expectations of each other, so we don’t need theocrats to tell us the social conventions of what is considered right from wrong. We have the common law.

      • I think you should read some Icelandic Sagas to understand how flexible notions of morality and social organization can be.

  3. any particular reason why the first three years add up to 100, but the last only adds up to 93?

    • they didn’t include the monster-transformationism that just exploded after the 9/11 attacks. Thankfully, it’s been put under control.

    • Rounding + “Prefer Not To Say” responses would be my guess.

    • Andrew, they probably refused to answer. And therefore they are almost certainly the atheist children of theist parents, stigmatised about atheism by being taught from birth that it is “bad” to doubt the existence of gods. So, add them to the 16% who are agnostic atheist, and the 16% who are gnostic atheist, and a third to 40% of Cdn youth are atheist.

  4. Secular Canadians are also shrinking in terms of member share of the overall population. The secular fertility rate is close to 1.0 per female over the lifetime of her reproductive years. This means the secular population is being reduced by 50% every generation. The same dismal rate of reproduction doesn’t apply to Islamic groups or first nations groups who are experiencing a healthy rate in fertility. The writing’s on the wall for those who care to read it.

    • I think people can learn to be secular. And the children of religious people certainly do become secular. It’s not genetic, and it’s not always completely ingrained into someone.

      I have heard that Harvey Danger song, however.

    • Hey.. here’s another interesting stat.. the gay fertility rate is close to 0.

      Of course, if your eduction consists of reading off of walls, I understand your confusion.

  5. Survey’s also are very general. I expect myself to be good to others, but I realize that there are those that don’t do that in everyday life. They may believe in God.

    • who gets to define who G-d is? Shouldn’t G-d do this? (maybe It already has but none of us are listening) Christianity is an offshoot of a much older way of living as are Judaism and Islam.

  6. Teens lose faith in droves? Hallelujah.

    • I never had faith in droves of any kind when I was a teen. DOWN WITH DROVES!!

  7. I wonder how many youths from the “no faith at all” category are from parents of the “other” category

  8. We’ve been placing excessive reliance on droves for a long time now. Maybe teens are just the first ones to realise that droves are not a magic solution to all our problems.

    • LOL. In fact, it was the celeb-obsessed droves who drove Di to be driven to her death in 1997. I’d say droves are highly overrated.

  9. The survey had a very interesting finding.

    People with views not based on any evidence, but loudly asserted: 100%

    From my experience, Mormons are far less self-righteous than atheists.

    • From my experience, Mormons are far less self-righteous than atheists.

      I couldn’t agree more.

      • That’s not a very fair comparison. Mormons are, like, the nicest people in the world.

        • Mormon chicks are knda hot…

    • Huh?

      Atheists are just impatient with stupid beliefs and the people who believe them. Just like you’d be impatient with someone who knocks on your door and tries earnestly to sell you on the idea that the invisible Easter Bunny is watching us all. Here’s your homework for the day: Go read for a few hours. Then report back.

      • See? That’s not self-righteous at all.

  10. I’m willing to lose 5 passive believers to gain 1 convert who actually understands and practices the faith.

    But really, if your liturgy and parish life are run by, and only appeal to, middle aged ladies, you shouldn’t be surprised if that’s the only people you have left. When the dross is cut, and religion is a lifestyle that people embrace because they have studied the philosophy and theology of the faith, it will be a smaller but more intellectually rich tradition.

    Of course, Canada’s social safety net is screwed without donors and volunteers in the pews to support what the government cannot or will not do. The new atheists don’t really volunteer much.

    • “When the dross is cut, and religion is a lifestyle that people embrace because they have studied the philosophy and theology of the faith, it will be a smaller but more intellectually rich tradition.”

      But where will renewal come from? It seems to me you need both droves in the pews and eager young people who are interested in philosophy and theology.

      • Then religion is doomed….

      • There is an old benedictine saying, “First you cut, then comes the growth”.

        It was an observation that a monastic community can lose its essential vitality and begin to die because they couldn’t attract new believers. The solution was to dissolve the community, redistribute its membership among healthier monasteries, and bring in those who were more enthusiastic about monastic life. It is no surprise that communities and businesses both can gain an unhealthy culture, and faith communities can be the same way.

        Likewise, when you have a parish community that just goes through the motions and doesn’t have an active parish life outside of the weekly service, then that is a vine that will bear little fruit. You can’t have kids dropped off at Sunday School by non-attending/non-participating parents and expect a faith community to grow. Especially when you cease their religious education at 12, just at the point where they can actually start forming abstract concepts. We stop educating children in the faith just when we are starting to teach them algebra, which is pretty much why those children assume that there is nothing to learn. It was traditional to confirm children at that age because you were just entering young adulthood and it was assumed you would learn what you needed to know of the faith by following the story of the liturgical year. However, it wasn’t changed to match a better educated and more individualistic congregation because of inertia, and because it was assumed by the baby boomers that all you need is your gut to understand God, and the Nicene Creed, scriptures, and the doctrines of the church aren’t important.

        Their children largely said “Well, if all I need to know is what I can intuit, then I don’t need to go to Church”. That is an absolutely correct assumption to make. As any atheist can tell you, you don’t need the church to live a moral life, nor should you necessarily trust intuitive feelings as any measure of truth. So the only people who convert to the church or remain in the church, are the traditionalists. I don’t need the church to live a moral life, but I do need the church to live a sacramental life. I don’t need the church to experience warm fuzzy spiritual feelings, but I do need the church for education in metaphysical logic and the doctrines of the faith.

        There is actually a generational struggle going on in the church, between the young (and few) traditionalists and the rapidly graying parishioners who are more agnostic and/or non-traditional. So I definitely see a future with fewer churches but more Latin masses, better music, and better parish libraries. I forsee that many Catholic schools will become so in name only, and gradually not even that, but the few Catholic schools that remain will actually begin teaching their pupils about the faith again.

        I hope this will lead to a revival of the faith and a new evangelism, but I really have no choice in the direction the trends are going. You can’t teach that the traditions, authority and teachings of the church are unimportant and expect people to carry them on to the next generation.

        • Everything you say is eminently reasonable, Terry (well, at least on this thread :>), but consider the issues that the Catholic church has decided to go down swinging for: contraception, abortion, gay marriage, etc. These totally non-theological issues are worth ditching 90% of the congregation for? We’re not talking Christology, we’re not talking about the Tridentine Mass — these are lifestyle issues (even when framed as theology, which always gets awkward). I find it hard to believe that the Church itself believes in its redemptive mission, not to mention in the sacrament of baptism, if it is willing to eviscerate itself for that. “First the cut, then the growth” is all very well when there are a dozen other Benedictine monasteries in the province, but we are talking about the whole Catholic church in the Western world. To me (atheist admirer of Catholicism) that’s more like hacking down the trunk to cure an aphid infestation. It’s tragic. Contraception is not worth a 2000-year-old institution.

          • Abortion is totally worth going down swinging for, along with so called “euthanasia”, since it is a rejection of the idea that human life has value only according to how close someone is to physical and mental perfection. Once the church stops speaking for the powerless and the vulnerable, there will be no one left. I also agree with the church’s position on gay marriage, though I would be annoyed rather than disaffected if that change were to happen. My own personal heresy is that I approve of women’s ordination, though the wholesale abandonment of the Nicene Creed by denominations who have adopted women’s ordination have left me (and many others) wondering if orthodoxy is something that can only be trusted to men in a strict hierarchy to ensure compliance. As for contraception, many Catholics dissent from the church and have no problems going to mass, as I’m sure you know. After all, it isn’t like the Church does blood tests among its followers or searches through the drawer in your nightstand.

            In fact, on each of these issues there are dissenters in the pews but people still go back to the church. Why? It is solely because they feel a need for the sacramental life of the church. You can go to any church to hear your particular interpretation of God and Jesus, but only those educated in theology of the church feel a need to come back and take the Eucharist. It is this, more than political issues, that keeps people in the church. It isn’t like you can’t find practicing homosexuals, users of birth control, or those who feel that ordination should be extended to the married men or women among the upcoming generation of traditionalists either.

            Besides, in 1960 when the culture wars were just beginning, our current Pope was only 4 years older than I am now. If politics were the only issue of why people don’t bother to go to mass, people could have spent the last 50 years pushing for the reforms they wanted in the church by encouraging their children to pursue the religious life and priesthood and participating in lay movements that pay for and organize the church at the local level. It isn’t as if they didn’t start from a position of strength either, since most of the hierarchy was left of center in 1960. They started out strong, countless works of art were destroyed, liturgical music rewritten to be tortuously banal, and other innovations to “modernize” the Church. All of the cultural expressions of our faith were covered over with sky-blue paint, bland and meaningless. I have no problem with mass in the vernacular, I just think the implementation led a lot to be desired and a lot of the ideology behind the iconoclasm was suspect.

            The converts have continued to come to Catholicism the way they always have, through universities and scholars of classical christian literature and through marriage. Even through marriage however, if you don’t believe in the faith when you get married, you aren’t going to try and convert your partner or raise your children as Catholics.

            If you go down to your local community public library or your local Chapters book store and look at your philosophy and religion section, you will find the selection of books on Christian spirituality that would be of interest to the spiritual left. There is no Augustine or Aquinas, no St. John of the Cross, no Ignatius of Loyola, no catechism, no Desert Fathers, or any other Christian figures of note. There are also no books on the history of the church that would pass muster by any accredited professor of History. Instead what you have is vapid, anti-intellectual new age garbage, and conspiracy laden pseudo-historical crap.

            However, there is nothing of substance to the agnostic spirituality of the left that suited itself to communal worship, so everyone on the left gradually drifted away. If “all religions are the same”, what is important is “how you believe, not what you believe” there is no reason to seek the sacraments. You are just going to consume your faith according to your tastes, rather than seek mentorship or participate in a community of believers.

            You can see why I would want to trade 5 of those, for 1 convert who is genuinely interested in studying the faith. Oh, and as for losing the 2,000 year old church over contraception, I’m not especially worried. The church is still slowly growing, and even if it is shrinking in the western world, there have been times in the church’s history where it has been out of favour more than it is now. If I have to hide my priest in a secret room behind my refrigerator or behind my fireplace, then I’ll worry.

            I also don’t think that your solution of embracing left wing social causes though is the solution to declining church attendance. If it was, the Anglican Church would be flowering instead of a wilting. As it is though, the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches gained a huge intellectual boost from scholars and intellectuals who swam the Tiber and the Bosphorus, and both of our churches look young and vibrant in comparison to our English cousins.

    • I wonder where the statement “atheists don’t really volunteer that much” came from. As a teenager most of the atheists I know are the intelligent, highly motivated part of the student population that are actively involved in their community.

      • If you were a theist you’d have the honesty with self and others to not make self-serving anecdotal arguments. In theist culture, you’d be considered somewhat dim-witted for such poor argumentation.

        • This isn’t a case of dishonesty. It is the people that are able to think for themselves and think citically that are giving up on faith (hence the reference to the intelligent and highly motivated). It is these people that are looking at the religion and seeing the holes in logic that it brings and then seeing the answers provided by science. As scientific progress moves forward these are fewer gaps in our knowledge to be filled by religion and god.

          • Your reference to “god” tips you off as anti-Christian; most of the world is polytheistic or at least not monotheistic. We adults have visited these countries and our views are informed by them, you seem unable to grasp a reality outside Christendom.

            Science also says boys are smarter than girls, whites are smarter than blacks, gays get AIDS far more than hets, having children out of wedlock or from divorced families does harm children, gays are more pedophilic than hets, that men pay far more taxes than women, that multiculturalism fails on every conceivable level, and that every single atheist society – Lenin, Stalin, Kun, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung to name a few – has been a batsh!t crazy tyranny featuring famine, gulags, persecution of the intelligentsia, mass jailing and execution, forced marches to the countryside, economic disaster, and persecution of anything that moves.

            That’s what science says, all of the preceding is factually accurate science, do you agree with it? I do, you, as a politically correct lamb, do not. Much of lib-left public policy is based on junk science, such as the belief we can throw money at schools in ghettos and they will produce geniuses. Ergo, we own science.

      • statistics.

        • Are you able to cite these statistics. Hopefully one’s less skewed then those presented in the article.

      • the trouble is with the labels and what ppl ascribe to them. e.g., just cuz you don’t believe in one G-d or how ppl describe that G-d doesn’t mean you have no belief or other g-d. w/o a god (source/parent/et alii) there is no meaning/purpose or point to life. it’s why i think Atheists have a religion that worships the material; it’s just not necessarily a monotheistic Abrahamic belief or any of the other polytheistic spiritual options out there.

    • all religion (spiritual, psychological, material) is lifestyle/the fruit/evidence of what you believe in action; i think most religions have that Darwinian “doctrine of selfishness” bent anyway; i bet that’s what ppl are really rejecting.

    • How can believing crazy dogmas that are obviously not true, and subjecting yourself to the will of the con-men who sell the dogmas, lead to “intellectually rich” traditions and some kind of desirable outcomes? Perhaps you’re a priest, and you’re saying that you prefer earnest, zealous suckers to regular passive twits who only come to Sunday services for the free doughnuts and chitchat with Marge and Harv? You may have a point. You’re more likely to get your dick sucked by an altar boy who really does believe you’re some kind of emanation of the Godhead. More likely to get them begging or stealing for you, too. Have a nice day, you sociopath.

      • Oop, Oop.. I think you got a nibble. You’re reeling him in…

        Oh, no he got away. Oh well, maybe another couple hours of virulent insults will get you what you want.

    • Typical religious bigotry. The non-religious donate more to real charities than the religious do. Donating to your church is NOT charity. The reason the non-religious donate more is because on average they are better educated and more intelligent, and these factors lead to higher paying jobs. More wealth is the single most important determinant

      The world’s two largest philanthropists, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are atheists. Heck, the biggest atheist of the last century, Andrew Carnegie, was also an atheist in a time where atheists were even more discriminated against than today. And all the major Canadian charities are non-religious – United Way, The Cdn Cancer Society, The Heart & Stroke Foundation, etc, etc. Unlike religious “charities”, the point of these charities is to help people, not (a) advertise a religion, (b) try to lend legitimacy to some religion, (c) help religionists score brownie points with their deity and buy their way into an afterlife, or (d) peddle religion to people who are emotionally vulnerable.

      Between my voluntary military reserve service, the coaching of sports teams for my three children, helping at their school, and teaching children music for free, I really don’t have any other hobbies.

      When atheists do charity, they do it out of a genuine desire to help and for the good feeling it gives to the donor, not for the combination of reasons above that religionists run charities. We aren’t looking for some sort of reward after we die. Take your “morality requires belief in fairies” bigotry and stick it up your arse.

  11. I doubt that the views espoused by teenagers are much of a guide to anything. A lot of teenagers I know would deny their parentage if they could. If this is not a time to question traditional beliefs, then when is? I expect that a good proportion will give very different answers when they are 10, 20 years older.

    The biggest change may be that they will no longer look to any particular institution when they do feel the need for religion, since they were not brought up with a connection to one.

    • That’s called “wishful thinking”, Bill. Look into how religious views solidify around age 20-25, and then don’t really change, and you’ll re-think your wishful thinking.

      If you know that Yahweh is bogus, what need is there to “re-think” about him later? Do you do so about Zeus or Thor? Having been raised without religion in an atheist family, it is very easy for me to see religion for what it is. Every atheist creates a social network without need of a church, and inded most people who claim to be religious do the same thing. Religion is a purely social experience, but this is not understood by those who think their god is real, and who have been conditioned to think they have a “soul” and an afterlife that they will “lose” if they leave their religion.

      Atheists have no such fear, and as belief erodes, it will lose the ability to coerce people into belief through social pressure.

  12. Any “religion” with compels the “believer” to be afraid of, or even to believe that there exists an “invisible omnipotent deity” is obviously one which promotes belief without proof over evidence, common sense and critical thinking.

    For those who honestly believe that some mythical fairy from the skies create the entire universe, sent down TEN COMMANDMENTS for us all to follow under penalty of eternal damnation, must also believe that he (and it HAS to be a he, given the amount he steps in to fix things that have gone to hell already) has created these infinite tortures because “god loves you.”

    Critical thinkers would be able to immediately see the contraduiction between “eternal suffering” and “love”, but those who believe in any religion are not thus bound to the contraints of normal thought processes.

    After approximately 3.7 billion years of evolution, have we not finally had quite enough of organized brainwashing techniques? I certainly hope that people will be able to understand that the plagiarized religions of today bear no net good to society any longer, and it’s time we got over our irrational “beliefs” and started to look at the world around us with a little less idiocy…there is far more than enough in the universe to awe us all…we don’t need to picture fairies under all the invisible toadstools to make it more impressive.

    • (love the handle)

      More and more I’ve come to believe that religion fills a hole in people. If we don’t have a religion like Islam or Christianity we generally find something else.

      Atheism itself becomes a religion (we devoutly believe in no God, preach to anyone who will listen, and those who don’t convert are damned), or perhaps we become environmentalists, socialists, or something even worse.

      Me, I’m undecided, but if I had to pick the least worst, I’d pick Christianity.

      • i’m looking at what Abraham chose; i think Christianity and its cousins are bastardizations of a more ancient belief.

      • “Environmentalism, socialism, or something even worse”?

        You think environmentalism and social democracy are bad, but believing in an imaginary friend and getting told stories about miracle births and the sinfulness of using condoms by pedophiles in black robes is all good?

        You probably voted for the Con-Servative party, didn’t you, you clever thing.

        • Having fun trolling?

      • Saying that atheism is a religion is either ignorant, stupid, or dishonest. Pick one. If it’s just ignorant, then you can fixt that by learning. So do so.

    • I am so tired of fundamentalist atheists who are trying to evangelize the world with their tired and dangerous beliefs. I mean trying to assert that theists are all irrational or illogical? Get off it.

  13. Kind of like politics, we have beliefs but won’t be tied to the leaders or organizations associated with them. Also the article is basing findings on percentages; if members of others faiths have increased then the percentages are altered to reflect that growth and lowering the protestant and catholic numbers even if the core size is steady.

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    • Hey Brian Wolf,

      This thread seemed to be going in a very respectful common sense kind of way, each side bringing logical arguments, then you came along and let your emotions take over your reasoning. Are you Canadian? Christian?


      • My first act as CEO of the People’s Republic of Canada will be to round up oppressive Marxists like Carter who were responsible for the failure of the old Canadian Dominion.

        We need more plainspoken if blunt people like Wolf in this country, you precious and fragile little crybaby, and fewer people like you. You’re actually a bit of a national security hazard; because of race hustlers like you the police are afraid to arrest terrorists who shut down major cities for 3 days. We the people need to be protected from predators like you, and in my republic you and your kind will learn that there are meaningful consequences for your actions.

        • tsk tsk. ever the dreamer LF.
          you mean a synchronized (manipulated) failure of the old Canadian Dominion don’t you.

        • Ah, the paranoid-totalitarian streak in North American political fantasy rears its head… Thanks for reminding me why the sort of people who vote for the Cons must be kept well away from the levers of power – and why we must change the electoral system so that the 30% of Canadians who are off on that tangent don’t get to rule the 70% who are in more-or-less normal space.

  15. This Reginald Bibby is clearly an apologist for religion rather than an unbiased researcher. Saying that non-belief is learned is completely absurd. What beliefs are babies born with?

    Then we see the howling irony of a religious person trying to claim that atheists have no morals…by twisting statistics and attempting to deceive his readers.

    Christian teens put higher values on trust, honesty and concern for others, huh? I bet they are also more likely to think it is OK to discriminate against gays, women and atheists. I bet they are more likely to support capital punishment and less likely to support freedom of speech. I bet more of them support the Pope’s efforts to prevent condom use in Africa. Tell me again who is more moral?

    Religion a source of stability? When almost every single war in history has had religious differences as a major component? When political processes all over the world have been hamstrung for decades by fights over abortion, immigration of different religious groups, the rights of minorities that are opposed by certain religions and so on and so on? Religion is the single greatest source of violent conflict in human society and always has been.

    As others here have posted, the 95 percent line is the biggest laugher. Um, maybe, just maybe, the reason the atheist teens didn’t respond that a higher power wants them to be good to others is because THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN A HIGHER POWER. Nothing in that statistic suggests that atheists don’t think people should be good to each other.

    Belief in God does NOT appear to be a source of the values that people hold to be distinctly Canadian. Think of the most un-Canadian values that any group of people in history has ever held. Guess what? Most of those people were believers. It doesn’t matter who you thought of there because every population of every country has always been mostly theists. The fact is that belief in God can be made to work with almost any set of ethical values, both the most barbaric and the most civilized. Canadian values are a result of our unique history, geography, demographics and politics. Secular government is an important component of those values. Religion has never been a primary creator of any Canadian value, and has opposed at least as many Canadian values as it upholds.

    We don’t need something to replace religion as the moral compass of the nation’s youth because religion is already not the moral compass of the nation’s youth, or anyone else. Nor has it ever been. Religion and morality are two different things, no matter how shrilly the preachers scream otherwise. We pick and choose what parts of a religion to follow based on a pre-existing set of values and moral positions. Religions that disagree with the moral preferences of their followers are swiftly ditched. The dire warnings of moral decline and civil anarchy that theists love to throw around in discussions of atheism are boogeymen. Which shouldn’t surprise us, since various churches have been practicing morality-by-boogeyman for many centuries.

    • Yes, as I posted above, if you look through some of Reginald Bibby publications you see that he writes in religious journals praising evangelicals for helping to fight back secularism. This study and the discussion around it which suggests religion is tied to having a “moral compass” is just propaganda.

      • Yep. I appears that the theists have decided that their best defence of their belief in supernatural boogeymen is the suggestion that, without such belief, people are going to be bad to each other. This fails on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.

        In the first place, this is an argument from consequences that does not address, at all, the actual question of whether such a boogeyman actually exists. It may very well be that there is no boogeyman demanding our good behaviour and that, if people become aware of this, they will indeed start behaving badly. Should we then all sign on to a lie and start burning anyone who threatens to tell the truth at the stake?

        Next, the boogeyman, real or fake, has never seemed to be very effective at keeping people from being bad. Indeed, some of his most ardent believers are among some of his most egregious offenders. If we are supposed to cling to the lie because it will make us better people, then why has it failed to do so, so far?

        Even given that the boogeyman exists, and given that he can be a guide to right behaviour if followed properly, how are we to choose amongst the conflicting messages he has apparently sent to us? Should we rest and pray on Friday, Saturday or Sunday? Pork: in or out? Just how many wives are we allowed to have? etc etc.

        • an atheist is also a theist.

          • No he isn’t. I don’t think theist means what you think it means. It is true that he is making a declaration that he won’t believe in God until he sees direct empirical evidence to the contrary, but that is not the same as claiming the true existence of God.

            It is especially not the same thing as saying a Jew from backwards Galilee who was crucified by Roman authorities is capable of raising himself from the dead because he is the messianic son of God. It was just incredulous to say such a thing 2000 years ago as it is today. The burden of proof is indeed on us to prove it to the skeptical mind, and here is the kicker: we have to draw upon revelation, imagination, trust and hope rather than a logical argument to make our case.

            So no, an atheist is not the same as a theist.

          • Terry, Jesus is a mythological construct, a story based on much older stories. The Jesus (Iesous Christus) story Paul went around telling people is a Jewish version of some ideas that came from Egypt. Jesus is Horus. Mary is Isis. Do some reading. Start with the Jesus Puzzle (you can find it online). Or bite the sardonic bullet, if you are not easily offended, and go to

            And don’t worry. The sky does not fall if you stop believing in the Easter Bunny, and it doesn’t fall when you realize “Jesus” is a figure of myth, either.

          • Wow, I guess I shouldn’t have bothered to get that classics degree, when your big box books store education and internet browsing obviously has information I have not been able to figure out on my own. How shocking and controversial, my world is rocked to the core!

            Oh, unless you’re just full of it, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that there was a historical Jesus. Many people spend their whole lives devoted to the study of a historical Jesus. Also, even the ancients realized that paganism influenced the development of the Church and its customs, especially in terms of philosophy. It was quite fine with it, rationalizing it in terms of granting to pagan gentiles the capacity of divine revelation.

            I could talk about the influence various mystery cults have had on the development of Christianity and how Christianity influenced the development of various pagan mystery cults and other Hellenistic sects in many different ways. I will indulge you, because I find such a subject deeply pleasurable, if you calm down and stop being such a jerk. I will tell you that your theory is Jungian and Joseph Campbell inspired crap, whose methodology has been debunked for about 20 years in respectable historical departments but still finds an audience among the ignorant in popular culture.

  16. Morality only exists through Natural Selection. Without it we wouldn’t have survived. Therefore Morality existed long before religion. Religion is a dangerous expression of Morality, being interspersed indiscriminately with religious dogma. There is no reason to use religion to teach Morality. You risk zealotry. And in a macro sense, that’s what you get when you consider the number of people involved. That’s when the towers start to fall…

    • selection implies an intelligence or information deciding what is natural. where did that information come from? religion is expressed as against theism (or material), spiritual, psychological. take your pick. much of it is man-devised tamperings. it suggests to me there is a natural religion. and there must be an originator or there is no reason to exist; or else we’d be our own parent, e.g.

  17. i’m just wondering who they asked. i bet most ppl would decline to answer regardless of what they believe. it’s also possible that the poll findings were simply biased in favour of a certain belief and to serve a certain purpose. and the birth rate is dropping isn’t it?

    “Reginald Bibby, the University of Lethbridge sociologist who heads up Project Teen, says the grey zone of those who believe in God, but don’t regularly practise an established religion, is rapidly emptying out,”
    how does he know? which is more important; direct communication with G-d or falling prey to a certain man-devised doctrine/circle of belief, whose “Christian” purpose and validity has been tampered with according to the “Christian” version of Hebrew scripture? real belief has no denomination or building.

  18. “While it’s true that today’s teens seem to be more responsible and mature than previous generations”…

    This is true? I work with youth on a regular basis and I have NEVER heard ANYONE describe this generation of young people as “more responsible and mature”. I have heard this generation described as the “most entertained and under-challenged” generation of all time. That’s true.

  19. Look at Reg Bibby’s personal web site. He is a very biased religious apologist. He cuts the number of atheists in half, for starters. He separates gnostic and agnostic atheists in the article, and claims atheists are only 16%; yet his stats show they are 32% because he refuses to add the agnostic and gnostic atheists together. Yet he adds the gnostic and agnostic believers together. I wonder why? And where are the 7% of “missing” respondents? Do you think they were afraid to tell a pollster they were Christian? Doubt it. Do you think they are deists who believe in a god, just not a religion? Maybe, though I think those people actually outnumber in theists in Canada today. No, it’s most likely those 7% are atheists of theist parents, scared to admit their atheism to a pollster because they have been raised to believe that atheism is “evil”.

    The good news is that within another generation, god-belief will probably be the minority belief, and that can only be good for Canadian society.


  21. Unfortunatly, the posters on this blog are sadly mistaken. I am a Christian teen and I can honestly say that the only reason all of these people feel it necessary to write several paragraphs slamming the Christians, is because they do not have anything better to do.

    I'd rather be out changing the world for Christ.
    Can you all say that?

    And newsflash: if you actually looked at objective facts, they point to the TRUTH, which is Christ. The only reason people feel compelled to slam Christians (and not Islam followers, Buddists etc) is because we are a threat. We know the TRUTH. I'll be praying that you'll come to know Him too. Because until then, you will remain cynical and unhappy.

    Somebody had to stick up for the Christian teens on this forum.
    I'm glad God put me here in a position to do so.

    • The only reason many people are more keen to slam Christianity than other faiths is that there are (less so now, but certainly have been) many highly Christian people that are viciously against anything non-Christian. Not all Christians, obviously, but enough (or simply a vocal enough few) that being anything other than their religion is almost Taboo. Although this is true of other religions too, in western society Christianity has been the prevalent religion, and thus the prevalent basher of non-religious beliefs. Those of another faith moving into the western world often accept other beliefs without bashing them, if only because they are moving somewhere that their faith is not dominant and thus have to accept other religions in order to get on in society. I’m not justifying bashing Chrisitianity, I personally am against any religious bashing (unless it’s merely a joke amongst people that are comfortable with such a joke, and you can take one about your own beliefs). I’m simply pointing out that it’s not due to a belief that Christians know a ‘truth’. The entire point of scientific enquiry is to find a solid, provable truth (or at least a theory strongly backed by evidence.)

      Also, out of curiosity, what objective facts are you talking about?

  22. “Belief is learned, pretty much like the multiplication table,” Bibby writes. “So is non-belief.”

    This guy is high, right? The absence of something is learned? So my non-belief in Jesus was taught to me? Not just instantaniously obviously wrong from the very beginning? Cause when you’re taught that magic exists, miracles, bla bla, when you’re a kid you go “Ooh, cooool” but then you never ever EEEEVER witness magic in real life and you go “well, that’s odd then..” Unless you just blindly follow whatever people tell you…

    The bible is RIDICULOUS, no one in their right mind would believe that if there weren’t other people believing it and pushing it as fact. Just as the disbelief in the Koran wasn’t taught to me, the disbelief in Jesus, Thor or Vishnu were not taught to me either.. I also figured out Santa Claus by myself.. As have countless others.. Do you really think we are this stupid? Stupid enough that we can’t figure out for ourselves that a ton of old geezers have been brainwashed into believing in silly fairytales and is passing that nonsense on to their kids?

    We have the internet, now.. We have super easy access to information.. Science has FAR more answers now than when our parents grew up, and due to the internet, all that science is at our disposal at ANY TIME. The question shouldn’t be why are people losing faith, it should be “How in the hell are people this isolated? Who is keeping knowledge from these people, and why?” Answers are too obvious for me to waste time explaining, cause everyone knows.

    Also, in this article it feels like someone is afraid a religion will take over, that is, Islam will be more common than Christianity, so that Islamic people get to control the religious babble of the nation.. This won’t be the case, cause Atheists and agnostics will outnumber religious people in a very short amount of time. Atheism is going to EXPLODE within 10 years and completely absorb moderates. The only remaining faction will be fanatics, and they will be shamed into silence by the rest of us. Just like the KKK, neo nazis and other extremist groups who now operate in the fringes.