The cautious theism of Canadians

Canadian Press and Decima Research have released the results of a survey showing that 60% of Canadians are theists. The Globe and Mail reports:

Canadians divide in essentially three groups on the issue of creation: 34 per cent of those polled said humans developed over millions of years under a process guided by God; 26 per cent said God created humans alone within the last 10,000 years or so; and 29 per cent said they believe evolution occurred with no help from God.

“These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency,” said pollster Bruce Anderson. “We are pretty secular, but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism.” …

Among respondents without a high-school diploma, 37 per cent said they believed God alone created humans less than 10,000 years ago, whereas only 15 per cent of university-educated respondents were strict creationists.

Rural respondents also had a plurality who believed in strict creationism at 34 per cent, whereas only 22 per cent of urban dwellers said they believed God alone created humans.

Mr. Anderson said the findings suggest Canadians lack consensus on creation, but also don’t view the issue as polarizing.

“It’s more as though for many, these feelings are unresolved,” he said. “We believe in a higher being, we know what we don’t know, are comfortable not knowing, and choose not to press our views upon one another.” …

The Canadian Press-Decima Research survey [of 1,000 respondents] is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

How Canadian of us to refuse to be polarized over the issue!

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. juggling mother
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 15:21:21

    well, it’s hardly something that affects every day life is it?

    Still, 25% creationism is a bit depressing. Makes you wonder what kids learn at school nowadays;-) I don’t know what the UK results would be – probably slightly less creationists, but I expect those extra numbers would land in the theist pile. Obviously, it would be nice to know, and I’m glad there are some people somewhere working on the problem, but it’s not something of vital cultural signifiance imo.


  2. opit
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 17:32:42

    25% creationism is depressing ? I saw a poll the other day that said 49% of Americans think Iraq had something to do with 9/11 ! I think that consensus is astounding.
    There is another bit that segues into this for me. How does one ‘have faith’ in the wisdom of a Divine Intelligence and consider that the disposition of one’s self is not in good ‘hands’ ? It isn’t as if we can take any credit for having arrived here !


  3. Jamie
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 20:16:22

    That’s a higher number of strict creationists than I thought there’d be in Canada. Which makes me wonder whether it’s true to claim that creationism is just an American issue. Perhaps Canadians are less vocal about it, but nevertheless…you all still have a sizable minority who believe in a (relatively) recent creation. Interesting.


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  5. opit
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 21:10:12

    I was baited about evolution by a Biblical literalist in the 60’s !
    Thing is, hellfire and damnation are not mainstream : you’d find a higher percentage of conscientious objectors here than south of the border, I should expect. But literal belief in religion is honoured more in the breach than the observance, I would think – though many people claim people are ‘supposed to’ believe as some sort of moral duty ( snicker).
    We have rednecks in good supply – just not people who are convinced the world would be a better place if there was more bloodshed.


  6. Stephen
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 10:57:54

    • JM:
    It affects everyday life in the USA, where various battles (e.g., over including Intelligent Design in school curricula) are bitterly contested.

    • Jamie:
    You all still have a sizable minority who believe in a (relatively) recent creation.

    So it seems. I’m a little surprised at the percentage (26%). It doesn’t manifest itself in battles over school curricula, or even abortion, which is a settled issue here. Likewise with respect to same sex marriage: we’ve had that debate, it’s the law now, everybody move on. It’s all very civilized of us, to our credit.

    Personally, I continue to deplore where the abortion debate ended — with no law barring any abortion technique at any stage of gestation. That’s despite a Supreme Court ruling that left the door open for Parliament to introduce some restrictions. That is not to our credit, in my opinion.

    I digress … but the point is, the 26% who appear to be Bible literalists aren’t raising much of a stink over these issues.

    • Opit:
    I gather that you’re a Canadian, then? I don’t encounter many people to whom I would apply the label “redneck”. But that probably has to do with my personal situation: urban setting, working and living among well-educated professionals. I don’t doubt they’re out there.


  7. opit
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 16:29:15

    I’ve been playing in the hay in West Central Alberta for several years now – odd for an East Coast expatriate who has lived in Montreal and Winnipeg. The cowboys usually just call me a “hippie” if politics comes up – but this province has gone its own way since forever.


  8. Jamie
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 11:50:30

    JM: Actually, I’d say the issue affects daily life in a fair number of ways. There is, as Stephen mentioned, the issue of what to teach in schools.

    But also, a person’s particular set of beliefs about our origins significantly influences beliefs about homosexuality and sexual ethics in general. (It’s quite a bit harder to justify homosexuality if you believe that God actually designed men and women for each other.)

    Additionally, my creationist views are a major reason I’m vegan. I chose that lifestyle partly because I think it’s healthier and much kinder, but also because that’s how I think God designed us. A lot of my rationale would lose coherence if I thought that killing and eating other animals was normal and had been normal for millions of years.

    There are other significant ways that this issue affects daily life (at least for me), but I won’t go into them. Suffice it to say, though, that where one falls on this issue is likely to influence a whole lot of other issues.


  9. opit
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 11:18:34

    Frankly, I miss seeing how Creationism links to a Vegan lifestyle. Not that I have problems with a person making that choice – I think it will be the way society will end up going in the main. I just figure a frank appraisal of the animal which I am would conclude meat was an acceptable choice as part of an overall varied menu. Note I didn’t say that was all I thought myself to be : I just didn’t see any point in overlooking what seemed obvious.
    Schools and media have taken away a lot of the importance of parental opinion to the young compared to historical society – for a longer period. When adolescence strikes, it seems obvious that deliberate obliviousness to opinions of elders will be normal for many. Desperate attempts to enforce submission by church involvement may well have unfortunate long-term effects – at least that was the thought of my now outdated generation. Attempts to diminish the appeal of violence seem tough to frame effectively.


  10. Knotwurth Mentioning
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 13:04:28

    Hehehe, I like the comment, opit. Although from a purely Biblical standpoint, I believe it’s said to Noah that the animals are there for him and his descendants to munch on, so going with literal translations still defends it! 🙂

    I think it’s funny that it’s seen as such a problem that creationism is mainstream. The key here is found in the fact that there’s not a huge amount of intolerance going on between the different factions. I think it’s a good sign that all three are fully present, since it means that Canadians are willing to ask questions. And yes, creationism requires asking questions such as how it is that evolutionists believe in something that has little or no hard-core evidence and yet declare that it is solid fact. The truth is that each different point of view requires faith and analysis, and the fact that each different take can co-exist in a society is by me more important than people adopting a “scientific” point of view. Oh, and as for what the kids are learning in school — isn’t it more important to learn to question everything (including evolution) rather than simply being inundated with any one point of view?

    One thought: Would the statistics in Canada be slightly skewed towards the creationist viewpoint because of a higher percentage of Islamic residents? I have no idea what the percentages of the populations are, but I suspect that there is a significantly higher portion in Canada than in the States, and I also am fairly certain they are more liable to believe in an absolute creationist philosophy. Correct me if I’m running down a completely unrelated track, but I’m pretty sure we can say that “creationist Christians” are less predominant than in the States by a pretty large margin.


  11. Jamie
    Jul 07, 2007 @ 14:46:12

    Opit: I know it is not exactly the norm for creationists (or conservative Christians in general) to be vegan; a plant-based lifestyle is usually more associated with liberals, new agers, etc. Still, my PERSONAL rationale for being vegan is thoroughly grounded in my theological views. If I believed in evolution, then my rationale would lose coherence.

    But since you said you don’t get how creationism is linked to my plant-based choices, I will explain again. IF violence and death in the animal world are natural and have been normal for millennia, then what’s the big deal about eating meat? We’re all just part of the food chain. IF, on the other hand, God created a perfect world where there was no animal death, then it follows that eating meat was not part of God’s plan and is not ideal.

    Now, it is true that God told Noah and his descendants they could eat meat. But only after the flood (possibly because so much vegetation had been destroyed? I don’t know). But eating meat wasn’t part of the original plan, if you take Genesis literally.

    My point, though, wasn’t to hijack this thread and steer it way off topic. My point was that how you read Genesis significantly affects other theological issues (more than just the ones I’ve mentioned). It’s not accurate to assume that the issue of creation/evolution is a small matter or that it doesn’t impact daily life.


  12. opit
    Jul 10, 2007 @ 03:02:28

    I have a terribly irresponsible personal take on a lot of this. It seems obvious that even the Apostles in daily contact with Jesus had a lot of the same problem the Hindus describe in the story of the blind men trying to understand the physical construction of an elephant.
    Consequently I have much more respect for the philosophical outlook revealed in the children’s stories – which is what I take the Parables to be. That in turn suggests, among other things, that my personal beliefs in what the Creator is up to has two proper reactions on my part: respect for the world as a system which deserves and requires my participation as an active element : and a recognition that my opinions of what is going on have limited influence. That means also I need not worry overmuch about other peoples’ opinions and subservience to them either – they aren’t ‘behind the wheel’.


  13. Stephen
    Jul 10, 2007 @ 06:57:12

    I think there’s merit to your remark about the Hindu story of blind people describing an elephant. In my view, the various New Testament authors do not present a cookie-cutter message. Each author has his own way of interpreting the historical facts of the crucifixion and resurrection.

    They all regarded those two events as historical. But what was their significance, exactly? How best to express it? There we encounter pluriform answers: Matthew isn’t presenting Jesus quite the same way as Mark; Paul isn’t saying quite the same thing as John or the author of Hebrews; and certainly not the same thing as James.

    But there is general agreement (overlap) between the various explanations. Namely, that God had acted, in the crucifixion and resurrection, to effect the salvation of the world; and that Jesus stood in a unique relationship to God (again, variously described: Son of Man, Christ, Lord, Son of God, occasionally even God).

    I believe the overlapping presentations sometimes contradict one another (e.g. Paul and James on the relationship of faith and works). But I also maintain that the broad agreement gives content to the word, “Christianity”: content that ought to produce unity in the various splinter groups of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, evangelical, liberal, etc.).

    As for the parables: I think they were directed to an adult audience. Jesus was fond of speaking in riddles. One might compare his approach to Buddhist koans: the meaning is deliberately obscure, so that the hearer has to work to achieve understanding; and then, when understanding comes, it comes as a flash of sudden insight (enlightenment).

    I’m afraid their effect is now mostly lost. We can learn something significant from the parables, but to receive that flash of insight you probably had to be present for the original, oral presentation.


  14. opit
    Jul 10, 2007 @ 11:00:06

    Jesus would have been well aware of how, when Moses went to receive the tablets, people quickly reverted to idolatry and left the rather more difficult concepts on an undefined God to flash and ceremony.
    The only reliable long term cultural medium is the legends of the people. Consequently I look at the attitudes promoted in those stories as being a more reliable indicator of the mores being promoted. TV and stories today are used in the media today the same way to mould thoughts.


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