9 Apr 2009

Atheism on the Rise Among Canadian Teens

Project Teen Canada has been conducting surveys on the religious affiliations of teenagers since 1984. Its latest findings show that Canadians are becoming more polarised into believers and non-believers. The number of faithless has grown almost three-fold whereas Christians have dropped below 50% for the first time. There has also been a steep rise in believers of other faiths, although this is largely due to immigrants. One minor point is that the new data for 2008 only adds up to 93% rather than 100%.

One interesting trend is that the grey area of uncommitted believers and agnostics is emptying out leaving the two poles of practising believers on one side and atheists on the other. The article writer obviously thinks this is a "bad thing", but that just exposes her own beliefs. Indeed there is a huge statistical blunder near the end of the piece. "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."

It doesn't seem to enter the writer's mind that as atheists do not believe in God then they can hardly then agree that God "expects us to be good". Indeed, perhaps 3% of atheists didn't understand the question, or perhaps as is seen in other surveys the category of atheist hides a lot of different philosophical positions.

Sadly, the article seems to think this is a worrying trend and the road to moral corruption. A tired and boring argument that somehow a carrot-and-stick deity is the best humanity can do to live a civil life. As one commenter says, kids nowadays want to be smart, they want to know, they want to be rational and scientific - I hope the Canadian education system satisfies these desires. If at some point in the future these kids also need to look inside themselves for some esoteric knowledge, then that too can be done scientifically without recourse to a phantom in the skies.


  1. Human Rights > Belief

    Atheism is a belief in nothing! its still a belief, so don't think you get out scott free of the belief issue.

    To force "belief" on developing minds before they have the true ability to chose is just brain washing.

    But we must also have respect for each other's beliefs if they do not impair some ones human rights.

    This is all a very undefined area as most ppl are still arguing over the belief part, belief = barrier!....

  2. I'm actually an atheist living in Canada (I'm 19 now, became an atheist 4 years ago), I was born into a Christian family, although my parents were never strict, and are now also atheists.

    Maybe all of this is due to the fact that living in Canada teaches you to be more accepting and openminded about religious/non-religious beliefs. Therefore, you wouldn't have the normal exlusivity of one faith that you'd find elsewhere. I think this is the reason that Canadians don't take religion too seriously, otherwise conflict would arise everytime we went outside and saw someone who believed in something else.

  3. Adrian, I dounbt it. I've met too many closed minded Canadians, and too many closed minded Atheists. Canadian society is not really mro eopen minded than, say, the United States. In fact, culturlaly its very, very similar dispite how much Canadians tend to look down on the US.

    It shoudl also be noted that Atheists tend to argue agaisnt Religiou beleif, whilst remainign blind to the fact that their own beleifs are also religious. ( I didnt say Athiesm is a religion, but no oen is just an Athiest, and theism isnt a religion either.)

    All one has to do is look at Debunking Christianity or read Richard Dawkisn website and they'd see that Atjeits aren't really open minded and tolerant. At leats not nessisarily. SOme can be, but its not really something we'd expect to see a storng correlation in. Christians also arne't that closed minded.

    Whats happenign in Canada is mroe the result of socialisaiton than beign open minded and tolerant. Its what the Germans called a Zeitgiest, or the SPirit of he Age. (THis is not to be confused withthe online conspiracy theory movie.)

    Canada has gone the same route as Europe,. who have let its Acdeamy's be taken over by those who toted the ideology of the Enlightenment and the 19th century Humanist writers, who woudl insturct others who woudl go on to hold these views, and later take positions as Industry leaders, media figures, and politiicans.

    Graduclaly, as they wrote books, delivered speeches, and generlaly dsemenated their ideas and htinking, the rest of osciety woudl begin to cathc onto it.

    Since Canada did not see a strong resurgence in Christians forming a sort of resistance as happened in the 1980's in the United States withthe formaiton of the Moral Majority, Canadians tended to absord these ideas and they became the common cultural backdrop, which has been larlgey subconsiously accepted and which forms the basis for how we see the world. Few peopel in general tend to sto;p and really anymlise the conventional wisdom of their society, much less ask where it began or if its true, and so we see in Canada the general move toward a Humanistic society, because its just expected by the people because thats how they have been condiitoned thanks to their society.

    Since the Enlightenment and the Humanist movement where themselves virulently Anti-Christian, there is a tendancy to accept the critisisms of Christianity as common knowledge, just as we accept things like Democracy as good, or think that people shudl wear mroe casual clothing when steppign out for a night ont he town.

    Those may not seem related, bu they are. In the not too distant past, peopel dressed in frmal suits ot step out, and Democracy has not always been universlaly loved. The reason we see htem widely accepted today is the result of social conditioning. Today, its just somehting "Everyone knows".

    The same applies to Religion in Canada.

    Everyone knows CHristianity has had a lengthy brutal hisotry, for example. How many peopel have stoped and read that History? Have you?

    Its common knowledge iwhtout reading it.

    Just like the idea that CHristianity adopted pagan ideas to form a lot of its doctirnes is now a "Commonly known fact" even though modern scholarhsip rejects htis claim, even if the scholar is an Athiest.

    Sociology is more responcible for htis shift than Canadian Open mindedness.

    After all, you can be open minded and a Christian, and beign an Ahtiest isnt relaly the same thng as beign open minded.


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