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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Faith without focus : neighbourhood transition and religious change in inner-city Vancouver Martin, Ronald Bruce


Communities are constantly changing, physically, socially and in terms of the values and ideologies of their residents. This research examines the linkages between neighbourhood transition and religious change both theoretically and empirically in an attempt to discover possible connections between social transition and changes in religious values. Initially, literature discussing both neighbourhood transition and religious change and secularization are discussed. This is followed by an attempt to integrate these two bodies of theory, making reference to studies which have attempted to link religious changes to demographic variables. This literature review provides the framework for an examination of social and religious changes in the three inner-city Vancouver neighbourhoods of Fairview, Kitsilano and West Point Grey. Information on these neighbourhoods is derived from census and denominational statistics, city directories and other sources including newspapers, local fiction and interviews with residents. Emerging from the study are indications of linkages between neighbourhood transition and religious change. Although the case studies emphasize that the interaction is very complex, general demographic variables including age, sex, ethnicity, education, occupation, mobility and family status, plus less well-defined cultural values related to post-industrial emphases on aestheticism appear to be related to both traditional religious involvement and the prevalence of new religious movements and other less formalized ideologies. Traditional religions appear to be particularly weak in neighbourhoods with many university-educated, professional young singles and childless couples who are very mobile and whose values include the enjoyment of social and cultural amenities and self-actualization. However these are the same communities where new religious movements and alternative ideologies appear to flourish. More stable, family-oriented neighbourhoods seem to have stronger traditional churches and fewer alternative belief systems. In conclusion, while a theoretical literature on neighbourhood transition frequently ignores religious changes and writing on religion frequently ignores spatial differences, this thesis attempts to combine these two bodies of theory and empirically examine interactions between social and religious changes. What emerges is a complex picture, supporting secularization theory by documenting the decline of traditional churches in some contexts, yet recognizing that while traditional churches decline, other belief systems frequently emerge.

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