Is It Easier to be a Religious 'None' in Canada?

Canadians are are more accepting of diverse views

The authors of the report None of the Above: Having No Religion in Canada and the U.S. claim that although both Canada and the United States have a sizeable population of nones -referring to individuals with no religious affiliation –it is easier to be a none in Canada . The authors, Joel Thiessen, a sociology professor at Ambrose University and Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, a sociology professor at the University of Waterloo, said that Canadians are more inclined to say they are not affiliated to any religion. The country harbors a more accepting environment when it comes to exiting religion. The social stigma of leaving a belief system is much less.

The two researchers put Canadian nones on their scanner when they found that most of the information on the subject are sourced from the United States. According to Wilkins-Laflamme, they wanted to see both the similarities and the differences. The big difference, they found out, is that the religious affiliation decline began much earlier in Canada. The numbers say it all. Only four percent of Canadians claimed to have no religious affiliation in 1971. This number went up to 12 percent in 1991 and 17 percent in 2001. In the United States, the number of nones began to increase only later in 1972. It was five percent in that year and jumped to eight percent in 1990. In 2000, 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as nones.

The two researchers surmised that since the notion of being unaffiliated saw quicker traction in Canada, the presence of nones was normalized much more sooner. It did not help that the U.S. saw a rise in evangelicalism at the same time. Blended with a strong sense of Americans thinking of their nation as a Christian nation made it harder for nones Americans to come out. The researchers noted some parts of the United States continue to stigmatize people identifying themselves as nones. Since religion plays an insignificant role in the public life of Canada, the people of that country do not consider themselves to be living in a Christian nation. This further makes it much easier for Canadians to claim they are not included in any religious group. The Canadian government’s policy of fostering multiculturalism makes it much easier for the Canadians to identify as non-religious. Wilkins-Laflamme said it succinctly: since Canadians are exposed to multiple worldviews, they realize that their worldview is one among many others.

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