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B.C. has Canada's largest proportion of non-religious residents, poll finds

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The importance of religion in the lives of Canadians is declining, according to the polling firm Research Co.

The firm's latest poll shows 41 per cent of people in B.C. say they have no religious affiliations.

That number is higher than the national average of slightly more than one-third who say they have no religious ties.

“That definitely raises questions about the future of some of these institutions when you have a younger generation who are not in tune with something like this,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co.

His research shows the largest drop in religious beliefs among younger people.

“What we’re seeing with the 18-to-34 demographic is more activism and more spiritualism in a way that is very different from organized religion,” he said.

That’s a reflection of what Rev. Rhian Walker sees at St. Andrew's Wesley United Church.

"I think that Gen Z and Millennials are looking at religion very differently,” said Walker, who is the co-minister of the downtown church.

“I think religion, organized religion, has been on the decline in the western world.”

She says critiques of religion – particularly related to its role in capitalism, colonialism and imperialism – contribute to people's abandonment of organized practice.

However, she says she’s seen a shift in how people, especially younger people, are viewing what faith means to them.

“When people say they’re spiritual and not religious, they’re worried that religion won’t address the things they’re concerned about,” she said. “It’s, ‘What is the purpose of life? How can I be a good person? How do I address the suffering of the world?'”

The data from Research Co. shows more than half of Canadians say they’re spiritual.

The British Columbia Humanist Association says it has seen a growth of interest in its work.

“We’re seeing across the world and across British Columbia, people are finding values in different ways,” said Ian Bushfield, the association's executive director.

Bushfield says his group provides a community and voice for Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and non-religious people of British Columbia.

“People are still striving for that meaning and purpose, but we can derive meaning and purpose through an understanding of one another and through science,” he said. 

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