We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, May 24, 2013

Church Decline North of the Border

Religious Affiliation in Canada 2011
Organized religion is generally in decline throughout most of the English-language speaking world, though evidently least so in the American South.  One of the most recent indications of this decline is contained in the data collected by the Canadian 2011 National Household Survey and reported in a recent Religious News Service article entitled, "Canadians turning away from organized religion."  The article states, "Observers noted that among the survey’s most striking findings is that one in four Canadians, or 7.8 million people, reported they had no religious affiliation at all. That was up sharply from 16.5 percent from the 2001 census, and 12 percent in 1991."  Islam continues to be the fastest growing religion in Canada.

Canadian officials have been quick to point out that the 2011 survey was voluntary and so may not reflect current trends in a reliable way, but at the same time the general turn away from organized religion has already been documented in Canada.  These figures reflect a known trend although the change from 2001 to 2011 may or may not be as sharp as they suggest.

So much has been written on this subject that all we really need to say here is, first, that the decline in organized religion does not seem to point to a decline in religious sensibilities as such.  Even in quiet and conservative places like Lowville, NY, it is not unusual to have friends who are openly religious but attend no church.  Second, this decline is being seen more and more in some ecclesiastical circles as offering an exciting opportunity to discover new, less institutional ways to be the church.