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The Observer

Canadians claim Religion more Harmful than Helpful

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

It's Tuesday, April 19 2022. I'm Joshua Claycamp. And this is the observer a Kamloops Christians reflection upon the news. from a biblical perspective in order to help other Christians understand how we need to think and feel about current events this past weekend was the Christian celebration of the Easter holiday.

It wasn't only the celebration of the Easter holiday, but we what we saw the convergence of three major religious holidays, from the Christian Easter holiday to the Jewish celebration of Passover, as well as the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. With the convergence of these three holidays happening in such close proximity to each other. There was no shortage of articles and news stories, opinion pieces being published regarding the nature of faith and religion within Canada. We're going to look at that today. And we're also going to look at another article in the Jerusalem Post. Both of these look at opinions as expressed in the form of surveys amongst religious adherence, and we're going to be discussing today exactly what it is that we can take away from that.

First, we begin with an article out of global, detailing the demise of religion within Canada. The article begins by expressing that there are now more Canadians who believe that Catholicism, evangelical Christianity and Islam are more damaging to society than beneficial that is, they do more harm than good. A new Angus Reed survey, which was released just yesterday, has shone a light on perceptions of certain religions in post pandemic Canada at a time when religiosity in the country is already at an all time low. The article goes on to quote Abdi quasiment pure EU sociologist from the University of Calgary who went on to say, quote, broader society still is not fully comfortable and fully clear about what to do with religion. And therefore, this survey is showing some signs of discomfort and quote, the survey reveals that all religious groups viewed evangelical Christianity as more damaging to society than beneficial, while Islam was also perceived in a largely negative light. Respondents from both religions were also more likely to feel that candidate doesn't make room for their religious beliefs within society, and Islamic activist by the name of Renea lo Wendy, who is the CEO of action for humanity, and the former Muslim Association of Canada spokesperson went on to say that the issue for why Islam is viewed negatively is the result of Islamophobia at large amongst the Canadian population. She said, and I quote, you only feel others when others make you feel like the others. The survey comes after data was released by again Stats Canada in late 2021, which showed that only 68% of Canadians aged 15 and older had report having any religious affiliation. It's the first time that this particular number has dipped below 70% Since stat can began tracking the data in 1985. The new Angus Reed data is the culmination of two different 2022 surveys and that little detail in the article ought to catch your attention. Anytime you put two surveys together, you're looking at a lot of interpretation.

Nevertheless, this Angus Reed data is the culmination of two surveys conducted in 2022, one which was conducted between January 21 And February 3, and it included a group of over 1200 Canadians from the four largest non Christian faith groups which were Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish. And it was also combined with another survey, which was conducted from April 5, to April 7, leading up to the Easter holiday leading up to the Jewish Passover and Islamic Ramadan. And this involved over 1700 partners, participants just from the general population. When these two surveys were tabulated and compiled. The interpreted data shows that 1/5 of Canadians 19% and 20% now classify themselves first of all, as non believers, but perhaps more interestingly, went on to look at religion in Canada as a whole as being more harmful to society than beneficial. Now, what's going on here? And can we even trust this poll in the first place? Under the best of circumstances? The answer when it comes to can we trust this poll is well not necessarily and certainly not without a fair amount of detailed information. about how the poll was conducted. When it comes to polls, there should always be a general note of caution. And this applies to anyone, whether you're a consumer of polls or whether you're a respondent to the surveys which are used to make up these polls. Today, with polls proliferating in the media and with methodological concerns increasing within the polling industry as a whole caution is warranted. This isn't to suggest that the general quality of polling data is client is declining. No one is saying that respondents to polls are generally becoming more and more deceptive or more and more misleading with their answers are their responses. But one needs only look at the past two American presidential elections. Excuse me, one needs only look at the past two American presidential elections to see that when it comes to polling data, well, the data itself is open to a bit of interpretation. And oftentimes pollsters see what they want to see when they are reviewing the data.

When we look at the past performance of the Republican presidential candidate in particular, in the previous two American presidential political cycles, we see that the data showed overwhelming majorities for both democratic or both Democratic presidential nominees, and in particular, in 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidency, well, frankly, that was a result that no pollster saw coming anywhere we in a blue moon. Nevertheless, it happened. And this isn't, again to say that individuals are necessarily being dishonest with pollsters. But it is to say that there is some concern, and rightfully so, when it comes to the methods that are used in conducting the polls conducting the surveys, as well as the way that those surveys once conducted are then interpreted. So when we look at polls, we have to understand that there are an increasingly increasingly large number of companies that are conducting polls, we live in an age of rapidly advancing technology. And there is a falling cost for things like computers, long distance telephone service, and statistical tabulation software. And as a result of all of this, it's very easy easier than ever, for startup companies to get into the polling business. Because most polling now takes place on the telephone. It's cheap, and it's easy for someone who wants to get into the polling business to buy a sample, write a short questionnaire for a computer assisted telephone interviewing application by interviewing services from a field house. That is you hire and retain a bunch of individuals willing to make phone calls late at night or in the evening time, and you can receive a report based on the tabulation of all of this data. And then you are free to interpret that data for whichever consumer hires your company and retains your business for providing them with the information that they want to know. As a consequence of this, the opportunity to see the results of a poorly conducted poll has become greater than ever. Even if we can't assess exactly whether the probability of seeing one has changed, we see that there is nonetheless an obvious downward trend within the quality and the accuracy of polls. This problem is exacerbated because journalists and others who report on public opinion are generally not well trained in assessing poll results. And thus, they cannot always weed out bad poll results before they simply write their report or offer their common commentary and pump out into the news stream, some article or some opinion piece, which then becomes fact I think that's what we're seeing. As a result with this new study released by Angus Reed.

Now, Angus Reed is fairly well known. They have credibility, they are a reputable polling industry, a reputable polling Professor of Business beg your pardon business. And they also partnered with cartus Research Institute, which is a think tank based right here in Canada. And as we look at this polling data, one of the things that becomes clear as we work our way through the article is that while the respondents to this survey claimed that, that religion in general is becoming more harmful that evangelical Christianity specifically is becoming more harmful than beneficial to society, we see that the individuals who are making this claim have themselves a particular religious bent. When we look at the data, the survey results showed that atheists in particular were overwhelmingly critical of the influence of evangelical Christians on society, but they were largely positive about the perceived impacts of Sikhs and Hindus.

Now, why might that be? Well, when we are talking about atheists responding to survey questions One of the things we understand about atheists is that well, atheists support relativism. They don't want to understand that the universe is having any kind of an absolute morality or any kind of a deity or a god for that matter, who would prescribe a certain kind of morality. And as a result, they're going to filter their assessment of various competing religious claims, through their desire to have no absolute standards when it comes to morality. When we look at Sikhism, in particular, Sikhism claims that all religions are equal, which is just an oxymoron on the face of it. Christianity for one claims that it is exclusive How can Christianity which claims for itself, exclusive the exclusivity of truth be equal with something like say Hinduism, which claims on nearly infinite number of deities, at least 200 or so million deities within Hinduism, and you have one deity versus 200 deities both are considered legitimate, both are considered accurate and correct within Sikhism, all that to say that Sikhs don't have any absolute claim of truth, nothing exclusive. And as a result, if you're an atheist, not wanting anything exclusive or authoritative, laying any kind of a claim to your life or your morality, how it is you ought to live. Well, you'd be more inclined to favor Sikhism over something like evangelical Christianity. But as we look at this, one of the other things that we begin to see is that within the respondents there are a wide range of individuals theologically, who are criticizing each other within the survey. For example, Roman Catholics are asked to comment on evangelicals, evangelicals are asked to comment on Roman Catholics. And we have atheists as well who were asked to comment on all of the above.

Well, all of these different individuals have different theological commitments. And that includes as well, the atheist, as we consider atheists, we understand that atheists opera operate out of what we would refer to as a secular, humanistic worldview. They are not non religious. In fact, there's no such thing. When it comes to atheists, we understand that they operate according to a principle that mankind is the measure of all things, they are humanists. And they're also committed to the project of secularism, which is a project that is intended to divide a hard wedge between those which between those things in society which are considered religious, and those things which are considered mundane or secular. That is, it fills up our nine to five. And they want to understand that largely life only happens on this lower level of the mundane. And they want to try to squeeze out and push out anything that has to do with the sacred so they're committed to the project of secularism. And they are, as we said, previously, humanists and when it comes to humanists, they have religious commitments. For example, humanists, secular humanists believe that the universe is self existent and not created. This is a religious claim. There is simply not enough data out there to show there is no data. In fact, that shows conclusively anything of the sort. It is apparent from the various laws of physics, particularly the second law of thermodynamics, that the amount of energy in the universe is fixed, and decreasing it is the principle of entropy. And so most physicists will tell you that at some point, there was something that sparked this universe into existence that gave it the amount of energy that it has. And within this universe, this closed system, it is limited, it is finite. And therefore within this closed system, all energy is slowly slowly gradually decaying, to less usable forms of energy, which is to say quite clearly that there is an expiration date on our universe. Now, don't be alarmed. This is still millions and millions of years down the road billions in fact, some estimate, nevertheless, it's clear that there is energy running out the clock is slowly winding down.

And so religious humanists as a principle of their faith, as a faith commitment, a religious commitment, they hold to the fact that the universe is self existent and not created. And they believe as humanists, that man is a part of nature, and that he has emerged as as the result of a continuous process of evolution. Now, this is additionally a religious commitment. But they also believe perhaps most significantly, of all, that man's religious culture and the civilization that he lives in are the product of a gradual development that takes place over time. The individual Therefore, according to the secular humanist is born into a particular culture, and is largely molded by that culture in order to fit within that culture. And this is really the basis of the secular humanist project for the last 100 years. It is an attempt to change culture and as a result of changing culture and changing society around us through that gradual transformation of culture to contribute To the transformation of individuals, and people who are living within that society, and I think that's really what this poll shows us.

We see here that there is a religious commitment on the part of atheists, which the legacy media reporting on this Angus Reed report, this Angus Reed survey, simply don't take into account and simply choose not to acknowledge and not to look at. We have here a large group of Canadians over 1700, who were phoned and surveyed in the week leading up to the weeks leading up to Easter and Passover and Ramadan. And they were asked a series of questions. These questions were undoubtedly leading questions. Do you think that religion is bad? Well, how bad do you think it is? And of course, these types of questions basically beg answers that are going to confirm the bias of the questioner. And so Angus Reid is asking these questions, and especially as individuals identify as being unreligious, or atheistic or humanists, they are going to look at religion through that filter that worldview. And of course, they're going to look at it negatively. And we as Christians need to step back. And we need to understand all of this just to be part and parcel of the world in which we're living. Indeed, Canada is becoming more and more secular, and it is operating increasingly out of a humanistic worldview. The lie is that this worldview is any less religious than a Christian worldview. No, no, dear, dear friend, the commitments that humanists make religiously, are every bit as much dependent upon faith as the religious commitments that Christians make. And journalists would be wise to take note of this and ask that question itself. For example, why were there no survey questions included in this survey posed to the evangelical Christian or posed to the Roman Catholic or post to the Sikh or the Hindu saying, Do you believe that secular humanism does more harm to society than good? Why were none of these survey questions asked one wonders.

But all of this leads us to another question. Is it true? Is it true that evangelical Christianity or religion in general, does more harm to society than good? This Angus Reid survey was conducted in conjunction with cartus Think Tank. And what I find interesting is that cartus has done quite a bit of research in recent years on the church and the nature of religion within Canada, and one of their previous research projects included what is known as the halo effect, that is the amount of economic benefit that a church brings to the community when it operates within that community. The University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice partnered together with cartus in order to conduct a study of the economic impact of local congregations within the city of Philadelphia, this in this report released in June of 2016. And I'll just go ahead and get to the headline here the major point of this article, for every $1 that a religious congregation, a church a synagogue, for every dollar that a congregation spends on its own programs, its own ministries, the city in which that congregation operates, receives an estimated $4.77 of economic benefit. Let me say that again. For every dollar a church spends, the city in which that church operates gets an estimated $4.77 of benefits. How in the world did they arrive at this conclusion?

By exploring almost 50 Different factors in 12 distinct congregations, the research group tested a new quantitative approach to how congregations influence local economies. The study explored seven broad areas including open space direct spending, educational programs, magnet effects, individual impacts community development, and social capital and care, namely philanthropic interest and volunteering. Relying on a variety of different evaluation methods. The study offered an estimated annual economic contribution of almost $52 million from these 12 congregations to the city of Fela, Philadelphia, leading the authors of the study to conclude that local congregations should be viewed as critical economic catalysts for the broader community in which they reside.

In Canada, the social spiritual and communal value of local congregations is slowly losing acceptance and certainly if we are to believe this recent report from Angus Reed, their economic value, however, to their surrounding neighborhoods, is a different matter entirely and this needs to be widely proclaimed by churches everywhere. While the economic valuation of quote unquote soft assets has gained increasing traction in recent years in a number of social and service sectors. No contemporary analysis of the Canadian religious landscape exists. Their social and spiritual values have long been understood and denigrated, but local faith congregations churches are also and should be understood as being economic engines that contribute to the common good of all for the fall of 2015. In the spring of 2016, an initial study of 10 local congregations in the city of Toronto was conducted in order to test the viability of the Philadelphia methodology within the Canadian context. With minor revisions intended to reflect Canadian culture, society and economy as well as certain methodological changes which were suggested by certain flaws that were detected within the Philadelphia project. The project in Toronto studied the economic impact in the same over all seven broad areas. data was collected through interviews and self reporting, and various other metrics that were made available by senior clergy, lead administrators and key lay leaders. When the modified value matrix was applied to the data accumulative, estimated economic impact of approximately $45 million was revealed. Now, when we look at what is actually happening, one of the things that we begin to discover is that whenever a church congregation spends a certain amount of money on its own programs, there is money that inevitably flows back out to the rest of the community.

For example, churches have to maintain rather large sanctuaries, there is roofing work that generally needs to be done from time to time, there is gardening work that needs to be done from time to time. And as a result of all the maintenance and all the upkeep that is inherent to those facilities. Every time there is a community that needs to maintain this facility that needs to engage in repairs, they have to contract that out to surrounding businesses. But it goes beyond this. Whenever there is any kind of a ministry program that happens at a church building. For example, say there's Alcoholics Anonymous, or perhaps there's marriage counseling that is taking place at that facility. Individuals are trying are traveling to that facility in order to receive that ministry or to lead that ministry to serve in that ministry. And in the travel back and forth, these individuals invariably stop at gas stations purchase soft drinks, engage in various other economic interests within that neighborhood. And so churches are actually drawing individuals into the particular neighborhoods in which they operate. All of this can be measured and quantified. But additionally, when it comes to the actual benefits of the programs, when you have things like Alcoholics Anonymous, or when you have drug addiction and recovery centers operating, you have these 12 Step programs that are working with individuals who are motivated to change, they actually provide the social fabric necessary for those individuals to achieve the change which they are seeking. When as a result of that there is and it is measurable, it is quantifiable, there is a net downturn in terms of local crime, vandalism, theft, petty crime, these types of things, and all of that saves the city lots and lots of money.

But in addition, all of this churches generally encourage neighborly behavior, that is church congregants are encouraged to go out and clean up the city streets, plant trees, and generally be good neighbors seeking ways that they can bless and be of help and service to their nearby neighbors. All of this has a knock on effect in terms of the economy. If you have a neighbor who needs their grass mowed, well, you're going to drag your lawnmower over to your neighbor's house and you're going to help mow your neighbor's grass, you're going to spend money on things like gasoline, you're going to spend time and energy, you're going to have to buy a mower if you don't have one. And all of these have additional knock on effects. The church goer says I will utilize this tool or I will utilize this piece of equipment in order to bring blessing to my neighbor. And of course the church goer thinks to themselves I can use this same tool in order to bring blessing to others or to serve my own household in some way. And this encourages additional spending.

One of the fascinating things about this project that I was really surprised to read myself is that the average churchgoer not only gives more to charitable causes, but spends more generally within the economy as they seek to serve and volunteer for the benefit and the blessing of their neighbors. Now as Christians, we hear all of this and we think to ourselves Why, yes, that sounds wonderful. Why isn't this considered more so then then it is why is it that we are always caring about the negative or the harmful effects that churches do to society? And why aren't the questions being asked in terms of what are the positive contributions? Indeed, we can look at this headline. And we can come to the conclusion that for every dollar that is given into the tithing played at a church, there was a knock on halo effect of economic benefit to the tune of $4.77 to the surrounding community. But we really have to ask a deeper and more fundamental question, it goes all the way back to what Jesus asked in Mark chapter eight, where he says, What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Churches may indeed bring $4.77 of economic benefit to the cities in which they operate for every $1 that's put into the offering plate. But what kind of a price would you put on a marriage that was rescued from imminent divorce as a result of pastoral counseling? What kind of a price would you put on children who no longer have to split time between mom and dad's house? What kind of a price do you put on a family that is held together? What would the economic benefit of that be?

I am fearful that all too often city councilors and policymakers always look at things in terms of the bottom dollar? Well, indeed a family staying together, it has a certain positive economic benefit to the community. But there is a far greater spiritual benefit to that home to that husband, that wife and especially to those children who continue to live in that home with that husband, and that wife, their mother and their father. And these types of things don't easily have price tags assigned to them. There is no doubt there is a positive economic benefit as a result of a family sticking together. But there's a far greater spiritual benefit. And this benefit far surpasses anything we might assign to it in terms of dollar value.

Thanks for listening to the observer. This has been a busy week here at First Baptist Church of Kamloops. I didn't anticipate last Monday when I released my last episode of the observer on Monday, April the 11th that a full week would go by before I got back to you. But indeed, that was what happened. I want to say thank you for your patience. And we will be getting back to a normal schedule as we go from here. I'm Joshua Claycamp. Once again, you can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com forward slash Joshua Claycamp. The observer is a ministry of First Baptist Church where Christians seek to discern the news differently. For more information on First Baptist Church of Kamloops just go to first Baptist Kamloops dot o RG or for more information on first Baptist classical Academy, a private school where students are educated according to a Christian worldview. Just go to first Baptist classical dot o RG I'll see you again tomorrow on Wednesday for more of the observer.

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