Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do Religious Groups Compete in Canada?

Canadian sociologist of religion Reginald Bibby says that they do not, at least not as much as their American counterparts. See this National Post article.

His soon-to-be-released book (mentioned in the article) must surely elaborate on this claim, but the article does provides a glimpse of his reasoning. According to Bibby, Canadians are less inclined than Americans to make bold truth claims, and this hampers competition between groups. I think the implication we are supposed to infer is that if the groups are not distinguishing themselves according to their truth claims, then there is less product differentiation or less enthusiasm for religious services.

By my own application of the economic approach to religion, I find this logic incomplete. If all that is needed for religious competition is to have more religious entrepreneurs offering bold truth claims, then why are those entrepreneurs not entering the religious market? The article mentions the possibly that demand for religion is low in Canada. This is possible to be sure, but it is not clear why Canada would be so different in this regard from the United States. Is there another explanation?

Another place to look would be the supply side of Canadian religious markets. A quick visit to the ARDA reveals that the Canadian religious markets have a degree of unbalanced religious favoritism. Perhaps this favoritism hinders religious competition to some degree. (We will discuss the impact of religious regulations on religiosity in a couple lectures later in the course.) Can you think of a better explanation?


  1. My guess to the explanation would be that since religious affiliation and frequency of attendance at religious services has been in decline since the 1980's, there is less demand for religion, thus deterring people from entering the religious market. The amount of people attending church has been declining, but coincidentally, people are starting to practice religion privately ( This might be the factor that dissuades different religions from entering the market. People are not attending the churches that are already in place and instead prefer to practice it privately, so why should entrepreneurs enter the religious markets?

  2. William Kwak
    Econ 17 (52215193)
    TA: Kip Jackson

  3. It's possible that Canada just doesn't have the religious foundation that the US has. America became a sort of haven for religious groups seeking refuge from countries that had heavy religious intolerance and was eventually established with principles of religious tolerance and an open religious market. Maybe the difference between religious markets in Canada and the US is simply a matter of national history.

    Rochelle Ballecer

  4. I think that religions groups compete everywhere, even when there is a potential imbalance in the supply/demand side. One cannot be sure why the rates are so low, maybe its the weather. All jokes set aside, I think religious entrepreneurs will set up shop anywhere that an opportunity exists. For example, in China where Christians face heavy regulation, they are still able to hold services. Similarly, this could happen in Canada. Perhaps there just isn't enough incentive for entrepreneurs in Canada.

    Patel, Anush
    ID# 58908771


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