Competition, innovation and entrepreneurialism, all qualities normally associated with business, may explain why the United States is more religious than Canada, and determine the future of organized religions in our country, says a leading sociologist.
The article summarizes an upcoming book by Reginald Bibby called Beyond the Gods and Back, in which he presents some interesting statistics:
The United States is considered one of the most religious countries in the world while Canada has become more secular. Studies have shown that 43% of Americans go to a religious service at least once a week while in Canada it is about 20%. In America, 50% of teens go once a week; in Canada, it is 21%.
The difference in the “religiosity” between Canada and the United States is interesting. Both countries enshrine the rights to freedom of religion, and yet Canada is said to be more secular, and so much so that there is a growing polarization between the religious and non-religious.
Bibby proposes that the evangelical nature of US Christianity (in particular) instigates constant recruitment activity to identify people who would be more open to switching religious affiliation, and as such this results in higher rates of worship attendance. People are more often “sold” on religion in the United States instead of Canada.
We see this often on the street, where religious groups in the United States provide their services using languages and customs particular to a targeted culture or ethnicity, or those that market their faiths door-to-door in missionary activities. However, while this may fill the seats in the building, does it truly advance the fundamental goals of that religion?
This competitive nature of missionary activity is, at its core, based on a basic assumption of ownership of absolute truth: my religion is the true way, yours is false. It focuses on the differences of others from your own group. However, many of these differences are man-made, and to focus on these injects a prejudice to disregard the significant commonalities among people.
Does this really lay the seeds of a harmonious society?
One of the major themes within Sikhism is that there is only one God – and this is not a “Sikh” God but one for all humanity regardless of religious affliation. Religions are nothing more than different paths to the same end, and therefore no one should be persecuted for their religious beliefs. This is why there is no missionary activity nor proselytism in Sikhism.
Using church attendance may be a measure of the religiousness of a society, but perhaps other factors need to be considered as well – especially those that a given society seems to exhibit as a whole. For example, how much do people within a country “live and let live”? How much charity is reflected in the actions of its population? Does the population help its poor? Does it stand up for those less fortunate around the world?
These are some of the universal truths that are espoused by many faiths, and adherence to these might be a more accurate measure of religiousness of a population than simply church attendance.