New survey suggests Canadians’ opinions of non-Christian religions are deteriorating

We in Canada — outside of Quebec — sometimes like to thumb our noses at other jurisdictions around the world while believing that we are bastion of religious acceptance.

A new survey, however, suggests that maybe we're not as open to different beliefs as we like to think we are.

The survey, conducted by Angus Reid and released on Thursday, claims that the majority of Canadians view non-Christian religions with uncertainty and dislike.

What's more surprising is that Canadians' opinions of religions like Islam, Sikhism, and Hinduism have actually worsened since the last time Angus Reid conducted this survey in 2009.

It's interesting to compare these numbers to similar polls conducted in the United States.

In 2010, CBS Polling found that 53 per cent of Americans had an unfavourable view of Islam. A 2009 Gallup survey indicated that 35 per cent of Americans had an unfavourable opinion of Buddhism while 56 per cent were uncertain of Judaism.

[ Related: New poll suggests divisions, softening support for Quebec values charter ]

So what does this all say about us?

Angus Reid's Vice President Shachi Kurl says that she was surprised with the results of the survey.

"I wonder if this a little more about how much do we really know about these religions and how much of this related of the unknown or uncertainty about the unknown," she told Yahoo Canada News in a telephone interview.

She noted that demographics were clear determinants in the survey: younger and university educated Canadians had more favourable opinions of non-Judeo-Christian religions.

[ Related: Former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau slams Values Charter, Quebec politicians react ]

Kurl also commented on the stark differences between opinions in Quebec and the rest of Canada numbers.

"If you look at Quebec's history and Quebec's relationship with religion in general, this is a province that has increasingly turned away from organized religion and the Catholic church after the Quiet Revolution," she said.

"I think that definitely speaks to why there are lower favourability numbers towards Christianity in Quebec and really why there are lower numbers towards all religions in Quebec. And you see that in Quebecers support for the secular charter there."

Religious populations in Canada (Source: Statistics Canada):

Christian: 22,102,745

No religious affiliation: 7,850,605

Islam/Muslim: 1,053,945

Hindu: 497,960

Sikh: 454,965

Buddhist: 366,830

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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