Restless Gods shares the results of extensive research into the spiritual practices of Canadians over the last 50 years. Trends relating to church attendance, cultural secularization, and renewed interest in spirituality among emerging generations are examined alongside future prospectives for religion. Reginald Bibby masterfully articulates the extensive survey findings and brings the reader along in interpreting the data. In doing so, Restless Gods offers a valuable insight into the religious desires, frustrations and aspirations of the over thirty million people that call Canada home.
The portrait of religious life in Canada is an intriguing one…
…What once could have been considered a rather homogeneous spiritual
culture is now peppered with diversity. Denominationally, Christian
expressions of faith are flourishing among new movements and in some
revitalized segments of traditional practices. But there has also been
a very considerable influx of world religious influence in most regions
One trend that is pointedly obvious according to the research
is that where the church has failed to adapt or address the change of
years and culture, those congregations have stagnated and/or fallen in
attendance. Bibby writes:
"By the mid-90s, the collective picture was not a good one for
Canada's religious groups. In most instances, their participants were disproportionately old. This meant that, unless their sizable elderly
age cohorts were replaced with aging Baby Boomers in the next decade or
so, most groups were going to be looking at a considerable reduction in
the number of active participants… This downward spiral of
intergenerational religious socialization meant that fewer and fewer
young people were coming from so-called 'religious homes.'" (25)
Most revealing, perhaps is this particular survey data: 40% of
those aged 55 and over suggested they were weekly attenders of an
organized religion in Canada while only 15% of adults under the age of
35 attend weekly (25). As a result, many traditional denominations
find themselves today with fewer adherants than in preceding
generations… especially among youth and young adults.
"At a personal level," Bibby concludes, "individuals are not as
inclined as their predecessors to participate in organized religion.
They live highly compartmentalized lives that are not significantly
informed by the gods. How one works and how one plays increasingly
become matters of personal discretion" (9). And yet, religious
interest among young Canadians is as high as ever… and those churches
that engage that interest are experiencing a renaissance of
involvement. Youth involvement in churches has actually increased
significantly in conservative Christian circles (e.g. Baptist and
Pentecostal) and in the mainline expressions of Presbyterianism over
the last 20 years.
The generation gap is extremely evident when the issue of "how"
religion is expressed in Canada. 71% of those who are aged fifty-five
and older use conventional (traditional-religious) responses to define
their belief practices. Interestingly, 52% of those who are aged 18-34
us non-conventional responses (197).
Restless Gods is a valuable resource that demands introspection
for those wanting to minister to emerging generations in Canada. Bibby
concludes that "the groups that thrive will be groups that are in touch
with the spiritual, personal, and social needs and interests of