When it comes to belief in God, Canada’s young people are a lot like their elders, but they view religion as relatively unimportant, according to a federally sponsored study conducted by two experienced observers of Canadian social trends. The study also shows strong acceptance among Canadian youth for traditional family values.

Entitled Canad’s Youth: Ready for Today, the study was authored by Alberta sociologist Reginald Bibby and Ontario youth consultant Donald Posterski. Bibby recently wrote Fragmented Gods, a best-selling critique on the impact of “consumer-oriented” religion in Canada. Posterski is presently on sabbatical from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and will become associate director of IVCF-Canada later this year

The study was commissioned by Jean J. Charest, federal minister for youth, fitness, and amateur sport. Other topics covered in the survey included family, education, employment, government, media, relationships, and Canadian society.

Nominal Belief

The findings showed that 84 percent of the young people surveyed believe in God and 81 percent in the divinity of Jesus. Those figures are almost identical to previous Canadian statistics relating to the overall population.

Over 80 percent of those surveyed said they would want a religious funeral or wedding; about 75 percent would involve a minister, priest, or rabbi in a birth-related rite.

Only one in ten, however, indicated that God has “a great deal” of influence on how they live. Further, only one in 200 said they look to a religious leader for counsel or assistance. Significantly, almost 30 percent of the young people responded positively to a question about their own need to feel “accepted by God.” Posterski feels this tells the church that young people are more likely to be reached by individual informal contact than through religious institutions.

Love, Sex, And Marriage

The survey also found that Canadian young people are enthusiastic about marrying and having children. Over 90 percent of those living with their parents were essentially happy with their home life. Their families will not be larger than the current average; most of those surveyed indicated an interest in having two to three children.

Those surveyed overwhelmingly accepted the idea of premarital sex, but rejected marital infidelity by similar margins. Among those who had left home, twice as many did so to get married rather than to live with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Posterski says religion in Canada has suffered a social demotion much more extensively than in the United States. He says evangelicals, particularly, are a tiny minority, subject to psychological intimidation that sometimes leads to a fortress mentality.

He hopes the Canadian youth study will enable Christian leaders to resist the fortress mentality. If they reach out rather than isolate themselves, he maintains, they will be able to touch base with those young people who have nothing against God, but little in common with his institutional representatives.

By Lloyd Mackey in Toronto

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