Statistically I suppose bear attacks are rare compared to other things that are likely to harm you outdoors. But it does seem that their frequency is increasing. Due to a total ban on hunting of Grizzlies in the lower 48 it does seem that perhaps they're less afraid of humans that they used to be. Living in Idaho I can also attest that there are more bear attacks or at least aggressive bears than the media portrays. The owner of Buffalo Bore has written that in bear country when confronted by a dangerous bear the natives will simply shoot it and keep quiet, avoiding issues with authorities. Without condemning or condoning this practice I do know that it's true based on conversations with some trusted friends in Idaho and Montana.

Perhaps this topic is overdebated but it's fun! grin Maybe the odds are relatively slim of being confronted by a bear but many would say the same thing about all the other things we prep for. Isn't it prudent to prepare for any risk that you reasonably can prepare for, especially if the preparations aren't that difficult? Bear spray is inexpensive and pretty simple to use. A training can (same stuff but without the pepper part) is fairly cheap and nice to practice with. Bear spray is pretty simple but I feel the $12 spent on the training cannister was money well spent.

As for firearms, I suppose they're broadly controversial and not just in the context of bears. FWIW I'll flatly state that I never go into the woods without a firearm, but then I rarely go anywhere without one (that I am legally able to CCW in, natch). Sadly, two legged predators are probably a bigger danger than bears, at least in the lower 48. Just as it's hard to go anywhere that you won't find a discarded can it's pretty hard to get deep enough into the woods to avoid miscreants and criminals. IMO the general risk might relatively low but the consequences of being unarmed could be quite high. Just as with airbags in my car, the fact that I have not yet needed them does not mean I will disconnect them!
“I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” —Richard Feynman