TORONTO (RNS) “Hell is a half-filled auditorium,” wrote the poet Robert Frost.
In Canada, it’s slightly less full.
According to new poll, a bit more than half of Canadians believe in heaven, but less than a third believe in hell.
About 53 percent said they believe in life after death; about 27 percent said they believe in reincarnation and half expressed belief in religious miracles.
In the United States, according to a 2004 Gallup poll, 81 percent of Americans believe in heaven and 70 percent in hell. An earlier Gallup survey found that 77 percent of Americans were optimistic about making it to heaven.
The Canadian poll, which surveyed 420 people earlier this year, found that about 30 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I know God really exists and I have no doubts.”
Another 20 percent conceded that they “have doubts” but “feel that I do believe in God.”
Ten percent said they believe in God “sometimes” and a further 20 percent said they don’t believe in a “personal God” but “do believe in a higher power.”
About 12 percent of those polled adopted the classic agnostic position, saying they “don’t know whether there is a God and don’t believe there is a way to find out.”
It is “worth noting that most of the `nonbelievers’ admit to belief in a higher power,” stated Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, which conducted the study with Carleton University in Ottawa.
Only seven percent of respondents denied the existence of God outright.
Eastern Canada had the largest percentage of respondents who conveyed a strong belief in the existence of God (36.4 percent), while such faith was less firm in Western Canada (34 percent), Ontario (27.3 percent) and Quebec, where the Catholic Church once reigned supreme (24 percent).
The survey also found that belief in God changes over time. Sixteen percent of those polled said they don’t believe in God now, “but used to,” while nearly eight percent said they believe in God but “didn’t used to.”
Canada is “not, by and large, a God-denying country,” Jedwab told the CanWest news chain. “We tend to believe in a higher power.”