RELIGIOUS SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AMERICANS AND CANADIANS
Americans and Canadians are quite similar in many ways. We are both largely
of European origin. We both stole the land from the Natives by conquest,
extermination and assimilation. Most of us speak English. We share a single
entertainment colossus. We had the longest undefended border in the world, until
recently. We can drive for miles in each other's
country without any obvious signs that we are in a foreign country, until we
come upon a Tim Horton's Donuts store, an Arco service station, or a national flag.
But there are differences. Canadians have been described as "Americans
without guns but with universal health care." This hints at some
of our distinctions. On gun control, it has been suggested that many Americans value freedom over social
stability. Many Canadians value the reverse. Canadians view universal access to
health care as a moral issue for which they are willing to pay additional
taxes in order to make certain that nobody goes without health care
because they are too poor to pay for it. Many Americans would probably
agree, but that country still lacks a universal health care system.
Some specific similarities and differences:
In some ways, religious expression in the two countries are very
different; in others they are quite similar:
The rate of decline of Christianity is equal to about 0.9 percentage
points per year in both countries.
24.5% of Americans and 43% of Canadians identified themselves as
52% of Americans and 31% of Canadians said that they were
Protestants or Eastern Orthodox.
The fastest growing religion, in percentage terms, in both
countries is Wicca.
The percentage of the public who consider religion important
differed greatly: 59% in the U.S. and 30% in Canada.
The largest religions in both countries are not that much different:
Atheism, Agnosticism, no religious affiliation
* Estimates vary widely; some are as high as 7% in the U.S..
Within Christianity, there are major differences between the two countries,
particularly over the ratio of Protestants to Roman Catholics:
Among the Protestant churches, the most popular denomination is:
In the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention -- a very conservative group.
In Canada, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada
-- two relatively liberal groups
Although these data are generally accepted and often reported in the media,
their accuracy is open to question. Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch (TNS)
conducted a Millennium Study comparing people's religious beliefs in different
countries, and found a totally different distribution of religious affiliation: 5
less than 1%
less than 1%
One wonders what exact affiliation are of:
the 16% of American Christians who are neither Roman Catholic nor
Protestant. (8% in Canada)
the 28% of Americans who say they follow "other" religions. (18%
The Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch (TNS) Millennium Study
polled over 50,000 participants in 60 countries, including 1,000 Americans and
1,000 Canadians. Results were announced on 1999-DEC-9. 5 On
their web site, they list a great deal of additional data, including breakdowns
by age, marital status, and educational attainments.
Where is religious truth found?
There is only one true religion
There are many true religions
There is no true religion
Importance of God in one's life (1..10)
5 or less (low importance)
6 to 8
9 or 10 (high
Nature of God
Personal God exists
A spirit or life force exists
End of the world expectations 6
Events mentioned in Revelation will occur
Some subjects might have defined "religion" as referring to
various denominations -- e.g. Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, etc. Others
might have defined "religion" as referring a world religion --
e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Results are difficult to interpret.
Americans' religious beliefs appear to be far more traditional than those
Back in the mid-1950s, "60 per cent of Canadians told pollsters that they
went to church each Sunday; the proportion in the U.S. at that time was only 50
percent." 8 Attendance
figures have definitely reversed between the two countries since that time. In
less than a generation, Canadians have changed from being much more religious
than Americans, to being less so.
From the TNS study: 5
Attendance at religious services
once a week or more
once a month
less often than once a month
never, practically never
Engage in prayer or meditation
* "Nose-counting" surveys in some counties of the U.S. and Canada
has shown that the actual attendance is about half of that shown. People don't answer
pollsters' questions accurately on some topics. They seem to answer what they feel that
they should be
The high level of religious liberalism and secularism in Canada may well
contribute to their rejection of patriarchal authority in the family.
Between 1992 and 2000. the percentage of Canadian adults who agreed that "[t]he
father of the family must be master in his own home" dropped from 26 to
18%. However, the gradual shifting towards conservative religious beliefs in
the U.S. may be responsible for an increase in acceptance of patriarchal
authority. The corresponding figures for the U.S. rose from 42% to 49% over
the same interval. 9
Author Michael Adams states that only 18% of Canadian women of
child-bearing age practice their religion on a weekly basis. 7 This is about half the
corresponding rate found in the U.S. (34%). Perhaps influenced by this
high level of secularism among Canadian women, the fertility rate there is
much lower than in the U.S.: 1.49 children per Canadian woman in 2001. This
compares 2.01 children in the U.S., which is close to the replacement level
needed to maintain the population at a constant value. To maintain the
present growth of the Canadian population, at about 1% a year, Canada is
forced to rely heavily on immigration. This in turn will assure that the
membership of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religious minorities in
the country will grow at an accelerated rate.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1999, World Almanac
Books, Mahwah NJ
"Religion (95A), Age Groups (7A) and Sex (3) for Population, for
Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas 1 and Census
Agglomerations, 1991 and 2001 Censuses - 20% Sample Data," Statistics
This list also gives membership breakdowns by age groups.
The Religious Landscape of the United States", United States
Information Agency, US Society and Values magazine, 1997-MAR.
Statistics Canada information is used with the permission of Statistics
Canada. Users are forbidden to copy the data and redisseminate them, in an
original or modified form, for commercial purposes, without the expressed
permission of Statistics Canada. Information on the availability of the
wide range of data from Statistics Canada can be obtained from Statistics
Canada's Regional Offices, its World Wide Web site at http://www.statcan.ca,
and its toll-free access number 1-800-263-1136.