After an unsucessful campaign by CFI against the misleading question on religion – which was mentioned here, too – you have to wonder how many Canadians actually answered “no religion”. We more or less expected the numbers of the “nones” to grow, but it was hardly a slam dunk. One of the interesting findings was that 20.6% of Canadians were born elsewhere, the highest among the G8 by quite a bit (Germany comes in second at around 13%).
Most of the new Canadians hark from the Philippines, China and India – none of which are hotbeds of irreligious thought, with the possible exception of China. On the other hand, as Irving Hexham, professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary, puts it: “The Chinese seem to automatically assume they’re Christian as soon as they get off the plane. That’s a very common phenomenon.” (In fact, it is the shambling zombie that is keeping the creaking dinosaur that is the Catholic Church fed with new blood, though the Christian population in general is declining.) So while we expected the “nones” to grow, it was hardly going to be a slam dunk.
Happily, it turns out, we did grow.
We are now 23.9% of Canada, up from around 16.5% in the 2001 census. We’re especially present among non-immigrants, at almost a quarter (24.8%) and non-permanent residents at 27.9%.
Christians, of course, are still the oppressed minority they always were, at over 2/3 of the population (67.3%). Snark aside, it seems they do have something to be worried about. Because while they make up 71% of non-immigrants, they only make up 54.2% of new Canadians – and even worse, only 50.4% of non-permanent residents.
Pretty much every other religion is seeing lots of growth fuelled by immigrants – except Aboriginal religions, of course – led by huge numbers of Muslim (10.6%), Hindu (5.2%), Sikh (4.2%) and Buddhist (3.7%) adherents.
Muslims unsurprisingly grew the most since 2001 at +60.4%, with Sikhs second at +53.9%, Hindus third at +51.6%, and “nones” coming in fourth at +44.8%. Both Jews and Christians declined (−8.8% and −12.6%).
Here is the raw data I used in my analysis:
If this is hard to read, I have a nicely formatted version up in my webspace.
Bear in mind, of course, that while I am familiar with mathematics and statistics academically, I am not actually familiar with the ways StatsCan does its thing. So, take all this with a grain of salt.
So what is the takeaway for Canadian atheists? Well, the first thing that leaps to my attention is that we need to give more focus to new Canadians. We need to focus more particularly on reaching Muslims, as well as Hindus and Sikhs. We don’t seem to be having as much success reaching people from the Middle East and South Asia, and that appears to be where much of future of Canada will find its roots. But other than that, we seem to be doing alright!
There are some concerns about the data because of the Conservatives’ decision to scrap the mandatory long form census with a voluntary survey. For example, the response rate was 68%, compared with 94% previously, and, technically, you can’t really compare the results of a survey with the results of a census – that would be comparing apples and oranges. But generally, for big picture numbers, this should do the job for now.