Canadian Census Reports 24% of Citizens Have No Religious Affiliation

Yesterday, Canada’s National Household Survey (similar to the U.S. Census) released analysis of the demographics in 2011 [Insert joke about how long that took] and it turns out Nones are on the rise (PDF) up north, too:

(via Canadian Atheist)

Roughly 7,850,600 people, or nearly one-quarter of Canada’s population (23.9%), had no religious affiliation. This was up from 16.5% a decade earlier, as recorded in the 2001 Census.

Part of the upswing is explained by the influx of immigrants, many of whom have no religious affiliation.

Keep in mind these numbers may also be artificially low. The Centre For Inquiry wasn’t happy with the wording of the religion question and explained why years ago:

22. What is this person’s religion?

Indicate a specific denomination or religion even if this person is not currently a practising member of that group.

For example, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, United Church, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, etc.

Specify one denomination or religion only __________

No religion __________

The wording of this question is biased towards artificially inflating the number or religious Canadians. It prompts “non-practising” members to write down the religion of their parents or community, even if they themselves no longer believe. Basically, it measures religion as something that is “affiliation-based” rather than “belief-based”.

Mark Gibbs at Canadian Atheist offers a takeaway message focusing on the immigrant Nones:

… 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!

Indeed they are. And who knows how much higher the numbers would be if the question was phrased a little better.

(Thanks to Derek for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.