Weekly Update: 30-Oct-2021 to 5-Nov-2021

by | November 6, 2021

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

This week’s items

[] Religiosity in Canada and its evolution from 1985 to 2019

This is an article from Statistics Canada, using one of the over 350 surveys that StatCan regularly does on Canadians; in this case, the General Social Survey (which is actually an American survey, but we do it too, which is great for comparative purposes). It summarizes 32 cycles of the GSS from 1985 to 2019.

The reason the GSS was used, and not the census, is that the census only asks about affiliation, and even then, only once every 10 years. (And the 2011 data is suspect, because that was when the Conservatives had removed the long-form census.) The GSS asks about affiliation, how important religion is, and how often one does religious activities, among other things. So there’s a lot more information.

As always, take this “non-affiliation” data with a grain of salt. “Unaffiliated” does not mean “nonreligious”; a lot of extremely religious people will insist they are “unaffiliated”, because they can’t find an affiliation that fits their very specific, idiosyncratic, personal set of beliefs. Actual, self-identifying atheists make up a roughly constant 10% of the “unaffiliated”; other nonreligious atheists who refuse to identify as “atheist” (preferring “agnostic”, “secular”, “humanist”, or whatever else) make up another ~10–15% chunk.

The GSS findings don’t really surprise. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in “unaffiliated” in the census, too; it’s the largest growing “religious” demographic by far, both in percentage and absolute terms. Only 12.6% were unaffiliated in the 1991 census; 16.5% in 2001; and 23.9% in 2011. So, roughly, 76% of Canadians were affiliated with a religion in 2011.

This data suggests that number was only 68% in 2019, (in the 1985 GSS, it was 90%). That’s in line with upper-end projections one can make with the census data. It also suggests that this decline in affiliation comes hand-in-hand with declining interest in feeling religious and being religious (as in, going to church and stuff).

We’re only a few months away from getting the actual 2021 census data, so it will be interesting to see how accurate the affiliation estimates are. If they are accurate, that would be remarkable. Right now, Canada is roughly 22nd in the world for “unaffiliated” (roughly 25th in the world for actual nonbelievers); this would bump us into the top 15 (at roughly 12th or 13th).

[Infographic from StatCan showing data from article]

[] “Wirecutter” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)

Wow, xkcd is always good, but this is far more risky and subversive than its usual far. I don’t think it’s even really touched on religion before.

For those who don’t know, Wirecutter is a product review feature of The New York Times that reviews categories of products, and then pronounces the best of the category. It’s kinda like the venerable Consumer Reports, except that Consumer Reports doesn’t actually select a “winner” when it reviews a group of products. Currently, Wirecutter is featuring “The 3 Best Removable Wallpapers”.

It’s the fact that Wirecutter chooses “the best” that really makes the joke here, though there is a second angle to the joke, about contemporary consumer culture profaning the sacred. But the icing on the cake is the tooltip (go to the comic, and hover your mouse over the actual comic image).

[] The case for removing gender from official documents

I mean…yeah. I can’t see any sensible argument to Morrison’s proposal. There’s just never been a need to specify gender on official documents.

Seriously, what purpose does it serve? Identification? Hardly. If there is a photo on the document, the “M” or “F” adds zero functionally useful information beyond the photo. And if there isn’t a photo… according to the 2016 census, there were 11,800,400 women between the ages of 15 to 64 in Canada, so… what… you gonna look at the “F” and say, “oh, yeah, you’re that one”?

The alternative “solutions” coming from centrists and right-wingers are just making things worse. Obviously the Québec law is just objectively horrible and disgusting, but as Morrison explains in detail, the “X” solution doesn’t help either.

There is, unfortunately, still a lot of transphobia in the atheist community (though, as always, atheists are by far the most progressive group, in this case specifically for non-binary and transgender acceptance). But I defy anyone to provide a sensible, rational argument for why the government should be interested in the gender or sex of private individuals, and why that information should be displayed on official documents.

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