Young Canadians reinvent spirituality and religion

friends praying

Young adults in Canada are increasingly likely to identify with more than one religious or spiritual tradition. One in five college and university students who responded to a recent Student Health 101 survey considered themselves multifaith, meaning they embrace a blend of religious and spiritual influences.

In most cases, the students complemented Christianity with Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, First Nations practices, or another tradition “I was raised Christian but was introduced to Buddhism in high school. I think no matter what religion you are, you should try to live a good life and make choices that please you, so that is what I do. I accept all other religious views and enjoy learning about them,” says Renee B., a third-year student at Trent University in Ontario.

  • Nearly 1 in 4 Canadians reported that they identified with no specific religion in 2011, up from a mere four percent in 1971, according to the 2011 General Social Survey.
  • However, 1 in 3 of those indicated that some kind of spiritual or religious beliefs were influential in their lives.
  • About 1 in 5 religiously unaffiliated Canadians practice individual prayer, meditation, or worship in other ways at least once a month.

Canadians’ increasing familiarity with minority religions is due partly to the rise of interfaith relationships: Nearly 1 in 5 unions, defined as marriages or common-law unions, involve a couple of different religious backgrounds, according to an analysis of the 2002 Ethnic Diversity Survey.

The three most common blendings in our student survey:

  • Judaism-Christianity: The Hebrew Bible shares many sources with the Christian Bible. The two religions have similar theology on some points, including the legitimacy of Biblical prophets, belief in angels and demons, and worship of the God of Abraham.
  • Buddhism-Christianity: Buddhism’s meditation practices can help Christians find greater satisfaction in prayer. Buddhism allows flexibility of belief, so
    Buddhists can draw from Christian moral teachings.
  • Muslim-Christianity: Christianity and Islam have different scriptures, with Islam following the teachings of the Quar’an and Christianity those of the Bible, but both texts offer an account of the life and works of Jesus.
Brandy Reeves is a health educator at the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. She received her undergraduate degree from Miami University, a master of public health from Ohio State University, and a master of higher education from the University of Kentucky.