UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Ross Woolford

Observer Survey 2014

What do Canadians think about organized religion?

By Observer Staff

Welcome to secular Canada

Half a century ago, you didn’t need to be a social scientist to answer the question, “What do Canadians think of organized religion?” The answer was in the pews every Sunday, and in spanking-new Christian education wings built to accommodate a tidal wave of baby boomers who would grow up to carry the Christian torch into the future.

Or so it seemed. Shuttered churches, empty pews and defunct Sunday schools now proclaim a new, secular reality. Congregations wonder what the future holds — or even if there is a future. The institutional church is hobbled by structures and processes that made sense when the sky seemed the limit but today cost too much money and stifle creativity. It would be perfectly reasonable for embattled churches in 2014 to ask what Canadians think of organized religion and conclude, “Not much.”

But would that be the right conclusion? Enter the 2014 Observer Survey. To help bring some clarity to the conversation about the future of religion in Canada, we contracted the Toronto firm of Jane Armstrong Research Associates to poll 3,000 English-speaking Canadians on how they view organized religion in general and the United Church in particular. In the first part of the survey, respondents were asked to complete an extensive list of questions designed to reveal how much they know about churches, how they perceive churches and what they think about the people who attend churches. Then they were asked to answer a similar list of questions pertaining specifically to the United Church.

The results are a treasure trove of insights for anyone who cares about the present and future of churches — so rich, in fact, that we’re portioning our report on the survey over two consecutive issues of the magazine. In this issue, we’re focusing on the general results; in September, we’ll focus on what respondents said about the United Church.

It’s impossible to summarize the results here. But I will say this: if you’re trying to understand what secularism really means for churches in Canada today, you will find much to nourish you in the pages that follow. Some of the results may dismay you, some may confirm what you already suspected and other parts may surprise you — pleasantly. At the very least, this survey will help you and others put a face on secularism. And you just might find that the more you get to know it, the less daunting it seems.

What do Canadians think of church?

How do Canadians describe their religious orientation?

What do Canadians think churches should do?

What do Canadians think of churchgoers?

ObserverDocs: Observer Survey 2014 (Animated video)

Observer Survey 2014 Results (Tables)


* Jane Armstrong Research Associates was commissioned by The United Church Observer to design and conduct an online survey approximately 15 minutes in length among a sample of 3,000 English-speaking Canadians from Feb. 21 to March 4, 2014. Armstrong Research is a full-service, Canadian research company that has conducted and analyzed numerous studies on faith and religion in Canada. For more information about Armstrong Research, please visit www.armstrongresearch.com.

* The 2014 Observer Survey was made possible with a grant from the Hugh and Helen Mogensen Fund, through the Victoria Foundation and The United Church of Canada Foundation.




Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Faith

July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.

Culture

July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.

Interviews

July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image