Book Review: Leaving Christianity – Changing Allegiances in Canada since 1945;

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.


  • The call to do justice is described by Joe as his life’s “vocation.” Joe grew up in Toronto, where he received his BA in Political Science, followed by an MA from the University of Regina. For seven years, Joe worked in Latin American refugee camps and served as a Country Director for Canadian Save the Children in Nicaragua. For over ten years, he worked with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he developed policy and coordinated work in areas of social justice, missions, and Aboriginal peoples. He served as the founding vice-chair of KAIROS-Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives and has been active in the Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission for Justice and Peace. He coordinated the Make Poverty History campaign, and engaged in research, public speaking and advocacy on national and international issues. After engaging Canadian faith communities in speaking out on climate justice, in 2012 Joe was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for "exemplary service and commitment to the betterment of the community." In June 2013, Joe was awarded a "Certificate of Honour" from Development and Peace for "commitment to the cause of social justice and efforts to improve living conditions for the poorest of the poor in the Global South." Saint Paul University granted Joe the Eugène de Mazenod Medal in April, 2017. The Medal “honours individuals who have made a significant contribution to the development of human capital in their community.” Joe served as Executive Director at CPJ from 2008 to 2019.

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