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Survey released on religious belief

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — A new Angus Reid Institute survey released March 25 shows even religious believers embrace euthanasia, abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, by solid majorities.

The survey shows a rise in the number of Canadians who reject religion (26 per cent), and a marked decrease in the number of those who say they embrace religion (now 30 per cent), down from 45 per cent in 1985.

The largest group is the “ambivalent” middle (44 per cent) that neither embraces religion nor rejects it.

On moral and social attitudes, that 30 per cent who embrace religion are less likely than the “ambivalent middle” or those who reject religion to support abortion, same-sex marriage, sexual activity of those under 18, or abortion.

However, even among those who embrace religion, 69 per cent accept “people having sex when they are under 18”; and “same sex couples marrying.” Ninety-one per cent of them support legal abortion if the ‘mother’s health is seriously endangered.’ ”

Among this group who embrace religion, a whopping 59 per cent support “a woman being able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.”

While 91 per cent of those who embrace religion say the “Ten Commandments still apply today,” 40 per cent of them also agreed that “what’s right or wrong is a matter of personal opinion.”

Fifty-five per cent of those who reject religion take this subjective moral view, and only 53 per cent agree the Ten Commandments still apply. Among the ambivalent middle 57 per cent say morality is “a matter of personal opinion” while their support for the Ten Commandments comes in at 73 per cent.

Among the ambivalent, 87 per cent still identify with a religious tradition. “They comprise half of Catholics, mainline Protestants, and other major world faith adherents,” the survey says.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” said Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) director Michele Boulva in response to the survey’s results. “No wonder Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have been calling Catholics to a new evangelization.”

“Without blaming anyone, it’s obvious the baptized need more formation to help them understand the church’s teachings on life issues are teachings that come from Christ — God made man,” she said. “These teachings are meant to bring us to true, enduring happiness and the flourishing of the common good.”

“Evangelization is more than formation,” she said. “People need a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Christ’s disciples need to be more credible and active witnesses in the midst of Canadian society.

“All these numbers show how individualism and a false notion of freedom have made inroads among Catholics as well as among Canadians in general,” Boulva said.

Only 21 per cent of this “ambivalent middle” expresses high levels of confidence in religious leaders, but, according to the pollster “a rather astonishing 78 per cent think that ‘Pope Francis is having a positive impact on the world.’ ”

Most Canadians (73 per cent) say they believe God or a higher power exists but the number has slipped from 81 per cent in 2000 and 87 per cent in 1975.

“Canadians may not be as inclined as they once were to adopt religion as a total package, complete with conventional beliefs, practices, and teachings,” the survey says. “That said, the Angus Reid Institute poll reveals the majority of people across the country nonetheless continue to hold on to religious bits and pieces, picking and choosing from a wide range of items that are available in a lively spiritual and religious marketplace.”

While taking an a la carte approach to religion, Canadians still ponder many of life’s ultimate questions at similar levels found in previous surveys, this latest poll shows.

“There has been little change dating back to at least the 1970s in the inclination of Canadians to raise deep questions about life’s purpose, how can we experience happiness, why is there suffering in the world and what happens after we die,” the pollster says. “More than nine-in-10 say that they have raised such questions, with some three-in-four Canadians indicating that they continue to be issues that they reflect on ‘sometimes’ or ‘often.’ ”

The survey shows the ambivalent middle is also open to beliefs in psychic phenomena and astrology.

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