On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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65% of Canadians tell us they believe in God, while 49% consider their religious beliefs to be important to them (And St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-10-17 at 6:25 p.m.

Religious beliefs in continuous decline for almost 20 years!

For this Holy Week, I have decided to examine our data on the religious beliefs of Canadians. A substantial percentage of the public-49%, one in two Canadians-say that their religious beliefs are important to them. There are some interesting regional variations: the least religious reside in Québec and British Columbia (43%); the most religious, in Alberta and the Atlantic provinces (56%).

Nevertheless, the churches are empty. Religious belief seems more a case of cultural heritage than the expression of a sustained practice of worship. As such, the difference between believing God and religious beliefs is telling: people feel less need of a Church to "connect" with God.

The trends are telling, too. While 65% of Canadians say they believe in God, this percentage has been in continuous decline, down from 81% in 2005. A similar trend obtains for religious beliefs. The numbers who tell us that religion is important to them have dropped from 70% of the population in 2000 to 49% in 2017.

The future of religious beliefs in Canada

Despite the media attention given to religion as it relates to the influx of immigrants, in the population as a whole, religious beliefs have been steadily waning for nearly 20 years. Religious people are gradually disappearing from our lives. Whether we are talking about Protestants in English Canada or Catholics in Québec, the trend is the same. At this rate, "if trends continue," within a generation (25 years), religious beliefs could become a completely marginal phenomenon.

Of course, such a scenario is based on the current trend and doesn't account for the growing role of immigration in the coming years. Even so, the acculturation of immigrant children by the school system might still help maintain the trend. Even if immigration helps religious people maintain their weight in society, they will not be Christian. They will be Taoist, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslims, etc. And it will likely be a question of cultural heritage, a set of myths that give meaning to life without necessarily requiring ecclesiastical rites.

I admit that this scenario is based on the projection of current trends and that one must be cautious when attempting to predict the future. But we have been observing these trends for almost 20 years, and the younger people are in age, the less prevalent their religious beliefs (which surely offers some predictive value). Will immigration change the situation? We'll see.

Our relationship to the sacred

People tend to construct their own image of God, and he is more like a guardian angel than an "old man with a long white beard." A plurality of almost two out of five Canadians (37%), and the same percentage in Québec, believe in their own constructed image of God. Only 22% of Canadians believe in the God depicted by their church (14% in Québec).

On the other hand, a belief in a "force" that connects us to nature, the cosmos, the universe, is one of the strongest rising trends. We are witnessing a depersonalization of the divine, a kind of postmodern Buddhism that makes people feel that they are participating in the divine, that they are a part of it, just as nature is ("May the force be with you!"). Adherence to this pantheist vision has grown from 11% of the Canadian population in 1998 to 21% in 2016 (up from 14% to 28% in Québec).

Finally, atheism-a vision of life as merely a biological phenomenon-rose from 7% in 1998 to 20% in 2016 in Canada (from 8% to 21% in Québec).

Personal values and hot buttons as they relate to the divine

Examining people's values helps us better understand why the God of our churches is taking such a beating in popular beliefs. Those who believe in a traditional deity have very traditional and very conservative values. They respect the authority of institutions; they are fatalistic, have little control over their lives-and turn to God for leadership!

Those who construct their own personal God have difficulty living with the complexity and uncertainties of today's world. They feel potentially excluded from society, and threatened by it. Therefore, their God becomes a kind of guardian angel who watches over them.

The believers in a divine force and atheists, the two groups in continuous growth mode over the past 20 years, are in total ideological opposition to the Church (whether Catholic or Protestant). They reproach the Church for basing its role on prohibitions, submission, sin and punishment. They insist, to paraphrase Mr. Trudeau (the elder), that the Church has no place in people's bedrooms. They feel in full control of their lives, and aspire to independence and self-fulfillment.

A challenge for organized religion (especially the Christian, Catholic and Protestant Churches)

If they want to stay socially relevant, these institutions have some serious catching up to do to get back in sync with people's values. The gap between the tenets of organized religion and the reality of most people's lives has widened to an abyss! Only a tiny minority of Canadians believe in a Church-sanctioned God. Over the years, the notion of God has exploded into a myriad of different forms, culturally better adapted to the times.

This is an ironic situation if we consider Christ's message-to bring the subject back to Holy Week. Christ preached compassion, openness to others, kindness, generosity, selflessness and love, virtues that the Church does not represent for those who oppose the Church vision of God. But these virtues are precisely the ones so desperately needed in our times. Despite the marginalization of the Christian churches, perhaps these holy weeks can reconcile us to Christ's wisdom.

St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastien Bach

Of all the musical pieces appropriate for Holy Week, Bach's St. Mathew Passion is probably the most moving. This work oozes pain, tears and contrition. The excerpt I have chosen is in fact "the contrition aria": the mezzo-soprano sings the pain of the apostle Peter when he realizes that, as Christ predicted, before the cock crowed, he denied Christ three times ("I do not know this man"). Sublime!

J. S. Bach, St Matthew Passion, BWV244: Mark Padmore (Evangelist), Christian Gerhaher (Jesus), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Magdalena Kozena (mezzo-soprano), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass), Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Knaben des Staats- und Domchors Berlin, Sir Simon Rattle, conducting; staging by Peter Sellars

The 2017 Panorama of Canadian consumers and citizens is beginning to emerge …

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 04-05-17 at 11 a.m.

Consumption, innovation, gaming, escape ... people's craving for them is unrelenting.

All this while an apocalyptic vision of today's world and a crisis of trust in our elites continue to advance!

The 2017 vintage of our Panorama program is gradually appearing on our tables. And what a superb vintage it is: fruity and full-bodied, with notes of citrus and tannin!

But seriously ...

An apocalyptic vision of today's world is on the rise. The environment, the economy, society-everything is changing too fast, making people feel that the end times are near, or at least the end of an era and the beginning of generalized chaos. Cynicism and a crisis of trust in the elites in our society continue to advance.

Yet, on a personal level, people are displaying a new vitality. They are adapting. They are learning to live with our times. People want to learn, continuously improve, develop their capabilities.

Also, they seek escape, amusement, new experiences, be they sensual or highly intense.

And everything is culminating in a record-breaking desire to consume. High debt loads may be curbing consumers' ability to spend but their need for escape is stoking their desire to consume!

However, they do not want to pay! Price has become consumers' No. 1 purchasing criterion.

Great opportunities for the brands and organizations positioned on these trends.

Let us help you get there!

Learn more ...

Celebrating Easter in Quebec!

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 04-05-17 at 10:44 a.m.

With Easter just a few weeks away, CROP wanted to know exactly why, how and by whom this ancestral tradition was celebrated in Quebec today, and we learned that the motivation to celebrate this holy day is not always what we might think.

Easter is most certainly a day of celebration for many Quebecers, but…

… for a majority of our compatriots, Easter is not exactly a day that is charged with religious meaning or Christian fervor, unless one counts among the little over 40% of the 55+ years-old cohort who do imbue it with a spiritual significance.

Chocolate is the way to go!

Two thirds of the Quebecers who intend to celebrate Easter this year plan to offer chocolate to their loved ones. This is a golden opportunity for retailers, particularly those operating chain stores (77% say they will buy their chocolates at a big box store vs. 23% in a specialized chocolate shop).

Some are thinking of other types of presents to mark Easter day, 14% told us that they plan to offer flowers/plants, 11% favor many types of sweets –besides chocolate, of course, while 5% came up with other kinds of gifts. In all, nearly 80% of Quebecers will be exchanging presents on Easter Sunday.

Do you intend to celebrate Easter this year?

(click on the image to enlarge)

Originally, Easter is a Christian religious holiday. When celebrating it this year, would you do so for its religious and spiritual meaning or for other reasons?

(click on the image to enlarge)

A special Easter menu to be concocted at home

A great majority (83%) of Quebecers will be doing their Easter feasting right at home or at their friends’ home (73%) rather than in a restaurant (10%).

Our wishes for many happy memories with your loved ones and bon appétit!

Happy Easter!

One out of ten fantasize about joining the holy war in the Middle East! (And the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-03-17 at 5:14 p.m.

A Fantasy: Going to war!

At least that's what 12% of Canadians are telling us!

The idea of probing such a topic came to us because of all the media attention given to radicalization lately.

I don't blame the media, but just the fact that they have been discussing this issue, giving it first-page prominence, may have given the public the impression that the phenomenon is much more significant than it actually is (in terms of numbers of mobilized individuals). For example, although Muslims represent 3% of the population, our surveys have shown that people believe their numbers to be much higher. The media coverage has undoubtedly played a role here.

Since we obviously can't interview the people who have already left to fight, to get an idea of the scope of the phenomenon, we wanted to hypothesize a similar phenomenon to stand in for radicalization. Consequently, we have turned our attention to those who "fantasize" about joining the holy war. It is clear that before freshly converted disciples leave the country for such an "adventure," they undergo a kind of psychological "ripening" process in their minds. Before heading off to war, these radicalized individuals probably spend a great deal of time coming to terms with the idea, imaging their prospective "mission," imbuing with it meaning. They idealize and romanticize their commitment, which gives them a motivation previously lacking in their lives before embarking on this path.

The question then became: How many Canadians entertain this kind of holy-war fantasy?

In our last survey of the values of Canadians (a survey reflecting Canadian society as a whole), we therefore asked people if they agreed with the following statement: "I feel envious sometimes of young people who go to Syria or the Middle East to join the holy war or sacrifice their lives for a cause they believe in."

The results obtained were a source of "radical" astonishment for us: 12% of Canadians said they agreed with such a statement (4% "totally" and 9% "somewhat" agreed). Interestingly, there is no regional variation on this question, with the exception of Québec, which stands out as the province least in agreement with the statement (9%), even though the media there has given the subject a great deal of coverage.

Youth searching for meaning

Not surprisingly, young people are the most in agreement with this statement. But what's amazing is their level of agreement: 29% of 18-24 year olds and 20% of those 25-34. Note, too, that even though the percentage of people in agreement declines proportionally and significantly with age, it is still 3% among people 65 and older. (There is something surreal about imagining a 70-year-old fantasizing about holding a Kalashnikov. An aging Baby Boomer!)

We also find the highest percentages of people who fantasize about fighting in a holy war among immigrants, labourers, individuals with lower incomes and education, and men.

Therefore, it appears that challenging economic circumstances can produce conditions favourable to radicalization-or at least for fantasizing about it. These types of social conditions provide fertile ground for indoctrination. Ardent young people who struggle constantly with major social and economic barriers might easily end up fantasizing about jihad as an "exciting project"!

The values and mentalities associated with jihad fantasies

Which brings us to the value profile of these "aspiring jihadists." They express a complex kaleidoscope of motivations and mentalities. They feel excluded from society; they believe that they have no place, purpose or meaning in society; they feel powerless, with no control over their lives.

Consequently, they feel a keen need to boost their social identity, for their own feelings of self-worth and in the eyes of others. They want to become someone in society, to boost their low self-esteem.

Unlike the people who normally feel excluded from society, these jihad fantasists display a unique combination of traits: they see themselves as full of promise, as able to meet challenges, but feel that society is preventing them from achieving their potential.

Therefore, in their fantasies, a "holy war" seems like a wonderful project. It would give their life meaning, let them achieve their full potential, enhance their status and social identity, and help them become someone important on the social scene.

Obviously, only a tiny minority of those who periodically indulge in this kind of fantasy ever end up radicalized, but the psychological/sociological portrait described here suggests an entryway to the radicalization process.

A societal project for brands and organizations

In my opinion, radicalization is an issue offering a great opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to a social cause. Of course, there are a lot of intervenors working actively to prevent radicalization. But if, in addition to these initiatives, brands and companies also tackled it as a community-engagement project, we might see some significant progress. Jobs, integration, community support-whatever the initiatives-the social problem is certainly important enough to warrant devoting the necessary resources to it.

Benjamin Britten's War Requiem

Britten's War Requiem is the ideal classical musical piece to accompany such a problematic issue. This requiem, beyond its liturgical associations, constitutes a fervid condemnation of the abominations of war. Britten composed this work in 1962, for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in Britain, which had been destroyed during the Second World War.

The clip suggested here is "Agnus Dei." The text is a poem that makes various connections between the butchery on the battlefields of the First World War and the crucifixion du Christ.

Ian Bostridge, tenor, Antonio Pappano conducting, and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, in rehearsal:

La Presse is Publishing My Blog!

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 03-28-17 at 1:54 p.m.

A few weeks ago, I launched a weekly blog on societal and market trends, which I associate with pieces of opera or classical music. Many of you have been following my blog, and I thank you for that. Your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated.

Following the launch of my new blog, I reached an agreement with La Presse, which has kindly agreed to publish my blog every two weeks, starting on April 4. Therefore, I will synchronise with La Presse's schedule and publish my blog posts on the same dates (and on the same topics). The La Presse version will be slightly shorter than the one appearing on the CROP website, which will have more detail, including statistical tables as well as a summary of the values and hot buttons that explain the blog topic-and, of course, the opera or classical music clips.

Looking forward to reconnecting on April 4!

Alain Giguère
President of CROP
March 28, 2017