Dangerous Dreaming

Religion doesn’t matter.

At least, it doesn’t seem to matter much in Canada.

Canada’s cultural magazine, The Walrus, devoted its June issue to The Future and covered all sorts of interesting subjects: nature, diversity, travel, cities, food, exploration, journalism, TV, and, of course, sex.

What it didn’t cover, however, was religion. Religion apparently is now merely part of Canada’s past: a hugely important issue at Confederation and in controversy after controversy since then. But it’s apparently not in Canada’s future.

Two recent books—sociologist Joel Thiessen’s analysis of people who rarely or never go to church (The Meaning of Sunday) and historians Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald’s survey of recent religious polls (Leaving Christianity)—also suggest that religion doesn’t matter to the majority of Canadians. Many may still profess belief in God and call themselves Christians (or by the name of some other religion), but there is no evidence that religion affects daily life for them.

Thiessen’s book also concludes that it’s unlikely that the people of low or no religious motivation are going to show up at church anytime soon. And why should they? Life in Canada for most Canadians is demanding, sure, but also pretty good—compared with that of most people in the world today and in every century of the past. Secure, comfortable, clean, entertaining: Why worry? Be happy!

If religion is, in fact, no more than a social club or a social agency, and if few Canadians are looking for anything more than social clubs (fun) and social agencies (service) for their precious non-work hours, and if churches don’t compete well as social clubs and social agencies versus the wide range of other options available, then…low religious interest is to be expected.

Christians, however, believe that quite a lot is at stake here.

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