Religious Identity Construction among Young Adults in Canada: the Religious, the Spiritual, and the Non-Religious

In: Youth, Religion, and Identity in a Globalizing Context

Basing itself on about 800 responses to a 2014–2016 survey and about 100 interviews with a broad section of young adults in Canada, the chapter examines how 18–30 year-olds in this country are constructing both their religious or non-religious identities in global context. Results support the conclusions of other research, namely that there is a great variation in the construction of such identities. Three categories of identity construction dominate. A large group does not have a religious identity (the non-religious/non-spiritual) at all. These are often express atheists, but need not be. They engage in no religious or spiritual practice and subscribe to very few common religious beliefs. An equally sizeable group exhibits standard religious identities lived and performed according to the orthodox/orthoprax criteria of the usually recognized global religions. These almost always belong to only one such religion. A third group, much more diverse, reveals a variety of eclectic, marginal, and spiritual-but-not-religious identities in between the first two. In this group one finds the highest proportion of people who profess to belong to more than one religion, who practice their religion(s) à la carte, or in the form a bricolage of items drawn from a variety of sources and traditions. This group also generally engages in relatively few religious or spiritual practices of any kind. The vast majority of all the young people have still experienced some degree of socialization into religion, even though many no longer belong or identify.


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