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January 16, 2007 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Just how secular is the province of Québec after all?

In the 20th century, the province of Québec underwent deep social changes, communally known as the Quiet Revolution. The parents of the boomers were very religious, but the boomer themselves refused the message of Christianity, and their children almost entirely atheists. That's the official story, and it matches my social experience.

Depending on the actual numbers, this might make Québec the least religious nation in the Americas, and one of the least religious in the world. Except, I have never been able to find the actual numbers. How many Quebecers are: practicing Christian, baptized but not practicing, religious but not necessarily Christian, spiritual but not in an organized way, and atheists? How do these numbers compare with the rest of the world?

The only statistics I was able to find for Québec specifically (as opposed to Canada as an aggregate) said 83% were Christian, which just cannot be accurate. It is probably the percentage of people baptized, independently of whether they are actual believers. After all, I and my parents might be a staunch atheists, but I was still baptized to please my grandmother.

Thanks all.
posted by gmarceau to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm guessing you got the 83% from the 2001 Census. That Census found that 16% of Canadians cited "no religion". Although you might think that's low, that's 16 times as many as in 1971! The Census found that more young people said "no religion" than did older people.

Here are the Census stats for Quebec. In Montreal, 7% of people reported "no religion". According to Stats Can, "In Montreal, no religion was the second most frequent response reported, similar to the province as a whole." (my emphasis)

A lot of people report themselves as belonging to a religious group even when they do not believe in God. If the Census is being filled out for a household, some people would not want other family members to see their responses. Richard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion talks about some of this.
posted by acoutu at 10:13 PM on January 16, 2007


Obviously a somewhat simple question with a lot of different answers depending on definition of terms and one's interpretation of what you're asking. A few random thoughts:

First, look at regular attendance as a more reliable indicator than 'belongingness' poll results which typically will be larger because people generally lie, they tell pollsters they do more good things (like give to charity) and less bad things (like do drugs) than they really do. I think very roughly you'll see it go by halves. 80% say they belong. 40% will say they attend regularly. 20% will actually attend regularly. Probably 10% are 'believers' in any active meanful sense. On the other hand there are many people who believe in God or Something but don't like organized religion so, who knows. Depends what you're asking.

Regarding social change - yes, Quebec a couple generations back was very Catholic conservative, moreso than anywhere else in Canada was ever Protestant conservative, at least on the surface. I remember taking a drive through some years back and being struck by all the little rundown towns centered around large well-cared for churches. The Catholic church used to be much more a political and economic force to be rekoned with in Quebec than any of the Protestant denominations were in say, Ontario.
posted by scheptech at 10:47 PM on January 16, 2007


If you do a Google search for church attendance quebec you'll see links to a bunch of articles that cite various surveys. Depending on which source you prefer, church attendance rates in Quebec are between 10% and 20%, whereas in the 1950s they were about 90%.
posted by mikel at 3:27 AM on January 17, 2007


Quebeckers don't mash their religious lives and their outside lives together very much. This is the reason why Quebec is nominally the most Catholic of the provinces and at the same time the place where more unmarried couples live together (expressed as per capita) than anywhere else in Canada.

In Quebec, many who live there are more casual about their religion, to the point where it's no intellectual effort at all to identify as, say, Catholic, and simultaneously refuse to judge their own or others' lives against a standard that is unreachable anyway. Religion in Quebec isn't like religion in the US south - it's not a political force and it's not a public spectacle.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:15 AM on January 17, 2007


Additional thoughts :

I feel that the Quebeckers in general are still very spiritual. They just don’t like being associated to an organized religion or a doctrine. As the poster said : Catholic religion used to control almost everything here and this period is remembered as a very dark one, so people are being wary toward any religions. I believe Quebeckers likes to mix multiple beliefs from different religion (i.e. : believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the nirvana and the reincarnation at the same time) so they feel in control, instead of being subjected by a single doctrine.
posted by racingjs at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2007


Dipsomaniac has it right. Most Quebecers are still nominally Catholic, so the 83% is almost certainly pretty close to the percentage of people that would self-ID as Christian, but things like divorce rates, views on abortion, gay marriage, etc. are more indicative of their relative secularism.
posted by ewiar at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2007


Dipsomaniac: "Quebeckers don't mash their religious lives and their outside lives together very much. This is the reason why Quebec is nominally the most Catholic of the provinces and at the same time the place where more unmarried couples live together (expressed as per capita) than anywhere else in Canada.

In Quebec, many who live there are more casual about their religion, to the point where it's no intellectual effort at all to identify as, say, Catholic, and simultaneously refuse to judge their own or others' lives against a standard that is unreachable anyway. Religion in Quebec isn't like religion in the US south - it's not a political force and it's not a public spectacle.
"

This is my observation as well, from years living in Quebec. It's almost ritual without being emotional or irrational.

It's interesting to go down to Ste-Catherine on a Sunday for some shopping in the mall built underneath a cathedral.
posted by loiseau at 11:00 AM on January 17, 2007


It's interesting to go down to Ste-Catherine on a Sunday for some shopping in the mall built underneath a cathedral.

Yeah, Promenades da la Cathédrale has always struck me as a bit ironic too. The old facade of St. James used to as well, especially the neon sign. The renovations killed the irony, but made it much nicer.
posted by CKmtl at 11:23 AM on January 17, 2007


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