- Published on Monday, 12 October 2009 01:37
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 3855
The Churches in Canada continue to lose members. An article in the National Post on October 10, 2009, highlights the closing of Catholic churches in particular but it is happening to all with the possible exception of evangelical and Pentecostal Churches which have a strong appeal to emotional factors - they are not really about theology or doctrine.
In fact the Catholic Church has mostly survived in the last 100 years because of tradition and cultural values. In Canada, Quebec has been the stronghold of the Catholic church but according to the Post, experts say Quebec stands to lose about half of its 2,000 churches by 2016.
And in the area around Ottawa and Gatineau, about 20 churches of various denominations have closed or are slated to close during the past two years.
Father Daniel Berniquez, episcopal vicar of the French sector of the Ottawa archdiocese, says churches that once drew 400 to 500 people now attract about 40.
"Fifty years ago, most people went to church," says Mr. Berniquez. "But that reality has changed. There's less people going to church. It is true for the Catholic church, but it is also true of other denominations."
And in a British report published two years ago, an independent organization called Christian Research said thousands of churches are closing for lack of practising Christians. It said more churches are closing than opening. In a warning to church leaders, it predicted that by 2040, 18,000 churches in England will close.
Catholics are saying that the Church must change - but it's a bit hard to see how they can overcome the new rational thinking that rejects religion altogether. Maybe they can increase the emotional content - have more hallelujahs and singing - or as Pentecostals describe it: "...spiritual fervour, a kind of zeal and passion for God that is expressed in a very charismatic and spontaneous manner".
But the numbers show that Canadians have been fleeing the church for decades. In the mid-1940s, about 67% of adult Canadians attended church weekly.
By 1985, the number had plunged to 30%. In 2005, the number hit 20%. In 2006, a Canwest News Service poll found that 17% of Canadians attend church at least once a week, even though about half of those surveyed said they believe in God.
And the future looks dim for institutional Churches. In a study last year by Canadian sociologist Reg Bibby, 47% of the teenagers surveyed said they never go to church. Another 20% said they "hardly ever go," while 21% said they go weekly.
Mr. Tardis agrees, but says underlying it all, is a seismic shift in mentality, spirit and values. "People now will say, 'I am spiritual but not religious.' They will say, 'I have my own relationship with God and that's it. They have no need or desire to live the religious experience with others, as was the case before."
And immigrants don't help, a majority of new arrivals are from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and they practise Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism -- religions that have grown exponentially.
But if the Catholic Church and other "main-stream" churches close, their place will be taken by emotional religions who appeal to the irrational side of people. And people are taken in by these and can then start to shape the way the world works (or doesn't) - witness Muslim countries and the U.S. Southern Baptists and other U.S. fundamentalists.
If we have to have religions, I think I'd choose United Church or even Catholic over Islam or fundamentalists.