By Brian Clarke and Stuart MacDonald
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017
Review by Joe Gunn
“Canada is no longer a Christian society and its culture has become de-Christianized.”
According to these two Protestant professors at the Toronto School of Theology, the collapse of the vitality of Christian religion in Canada is “very recent.” This fact has serious ramifications for all Canadians, whether religious or not.
Through an abundance of demographic detail, using census data for each Christian denomination, the authors show that: i) Canada’s mainstream Protestant churches are in decline, and ii) while some other Protestant churches are growing, not all are, and that growth has slowed; iii) The number of Catholics in Canada is now stagnant (in spite of immigration); but iv) the number of Canadians with no religion is “exploding” (to over 25 per cent in 2011). “The religious story of the last decades” in Canada is the growth in members of world religions other than Christianity, while religious “nones” are now the second largest category (after Roman Catholics.)
Some may ask, so what?
Leaving Christianity explains that belonging to a church community is strongly associated with volunteering and charitable giving. Church-goers vote more often than non-attenders. And participation in church activities has long been a launching pad for various forms of further civic engagement – faith communities have been key developers of what academics call “social capital.” So, when church membership declines, alternative forms of societal participation falter, and then we all lose – as the bonds knitting Canadian society together are weakened.