Loosening our Bible Belt

Courtesy: Alberta Views
The Changing Faith of Alberta
Fifty years ago, Sunday morning faces would have been no different from Saturday’s. In 1951, 92 per cent of Albertans proudly stated they belonged to one of the Catholic or Protestant faiths. By 1991, that figure had dropped to 74 per cent. In fact, official figures from the last full census in Canada show that 19.7 per cent of Albertans now claim no religious affiliation at all, a figure fully 58 per cent higher than the 12.
From creation to cremation, Albertans are rethinking their religions. Ask any Canadian where the Bible belt of Canada is, and the common reply will be “that’s easy: Alberta.”
There’s no record of Albertans being any more evangelical than anywhere else in the country, especially in B.C.’s Okanagan and lower mainland—or even in urban Toronto! Arguably, the Bible belt of Canada is to be found in the Atlantic provinces. But not until premiers Aberhart and Manning hit the political stage was there any special reason why Alberta should have been painted religious. Says Marshall, “It’s our political tradition that fed the Bible belt label.”
William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, founder of the Social Credit party, was Alberta’s premier from 1935 to 1943, and Ernest Manning, his successor, until 1968. Before taking the torch, Manning studied at Aberhart’s Prophetic Bible Institute in Calgary and served as a member of his cabinet. Phipps believes the churches face similar problems all across the country, if not much of the world. “The whole world is in a post-Christian state,” he says. “And Alberta is much younger and more secular, so you could say we have less of a religious tradition to hold on to. we will be looking at a drastically revised Canadian religious landscape. Roman Catholics will remain prominent nationally. Mainliners will be on the sidelines. The formerly marginalized conservative Protestants will form the new mainline. Whatever it will be, it won’t be lacking in spirit. Albertans always rally to a cause; it’s part of that entrepreneurial spirit of ours.

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