Canada’s Dataless Debate About Religion

The Pre-carious Role of Research in Identifying Implicit and Explicit Religion


  • Reginald W. Bibby University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada



Canada, religion


Scholars interested in the study of implicit religion often appear to work from the assumption that traditional forms of organized religion have become less pervasive, but that less visible and important religious expressions nonetheless persist. The argument has been particularly pertinent when observers have tried to understand what happens to religion in settings where secularization seems apparent. However, a somewhat different pattern also warrants examination—where fairly overt or explicit expressions of religion are minimized by individuals and institutions, and defined as “implicit” even though the facts suggest otherwise. In this paper, the author shows how organized religion in Canada has known relative health since at the least the mid-1980s, complete with significant public participation. Yet, despite the data at hand, the media and most academics have held unwaveringly to a secularization framework, depicting participation in organized religion as being in an ongoing free-fall, with the prevalent message one of decline and insignificance. A considerable gap has consequently come to exist between public perception and reality. The result is that objectively explicit religion has been relegated by meaning-makers to implicit religion— where it is depicted as being embraced by diminishing numbers and largely irrelevant to public life and discourse. The author concludes with a discussion of the implications of this “Canadian case study” of perception and deception for an understanding of religious developments elsewhere.

Author Biography

Reginald W. Bibby, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada


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How to Cite

Bibby, R. W. (2010). Canada’s Dataless Debate About Religion: The Pre-carious Role of Research in Identifying Implicit and Explicit Religion. Implicit Religion, 12(3), 251–269.




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