WHEN Prof. Reginald Bibby read the results of his most-recent survey of religious trends in Canada, he couldn't believe his eyes. He checked and re-checked his figures before admitting to himself, and then to the world in his latest book, that his previous forecasts of the demise of the Christian religion in Canada were dead wrong.
Mr. Bibby, who has conducted what he calls a sociological survey of religion every five years since the 1970s, acknowledged that he was caught by surprise. Those surprises are reflected in his latest book, Restless Gods: the Renaissance of Religion in Canada (2002).
"I checked and re-checked the figures and the sample, to make sure not too many conservative Protestants were in it, (to skew the results)" he said in an interview.
Mr. Bibby hold the board of governors research chair in sociology at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, and is author of eight books, including Fragmented Gods, Unknown Gods, The Emerging Generation, Teen Trends and Canada's Teens.
He is also well known for his television appearances and presentations. In 1993 in Unknown Gods, he predicted a drop in attendance of 50 per cent among Anglicans alone by the year 2015 and forecast that Canadian society would soon have little patience for organized religion
"Everyone including myself was buying in to a secularized notion that we would be close to England at between five and ten percent in church attendance before long," Mr. Bibby said. The first tip-off that things were not as bleak as his first survey results indicated came with the National Youth Survey. A change from the "dominant secularization pattern" showed with the evangelicals. By the year 2000, 70 per cent of the kids are attending church weekly," said Mr. Bibby, who was raised in the Baptist church.
The startling results came from what Mr. Bibby calls the mainliners -- the Uniteds, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Lutherans. In 1984 his survey showed 17 per cent attendance by teenagers, in 1992, 16 per cent, and then in 2000, it went up to 23 per cent. …