Christianity waning but majority still religious - The Centre for Independent Studies
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Christianity waning but majority still religious

Pastafarians around Australia — who belong to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — are among the 39 per cent of us who ticked the ‘No religion’ box in the 2021 census.

Results released yesterday show that the number of Australians reporting no religious affiliation has risen by 9 per cent since 2016, and by 30 per cent since 1996.

Patterns of religious affiliation have changed a lot in the past 26 years, and not just in Australia. Throughout the West, traditional religions are losing their attraction for many.

Of course, last year’s census was accompanied by a vigorous campaign to get those who might otherwise have identified as nominally religious to turn their back on God altogether.

The push against God was intended to demonstrate not only that fewer of us actually believe in a supreme being but also that religious leaders are losing their influence over us.

Following debates about same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and transgender students at religious schools, ‘No religion’ activists wanted to show religious faith to be irrelevant.

And once we could safely ignore the opinions of bishops and other faith leaders, it would surely be that much easier to pass new laws to suit the cultural fashions of the day.

These census results should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following patterns of religious affiliation over the last half century. The West appears to be giving up on God.

And while Christianity remains the most common religion in Australia — with more than 40 per cent of us identifying as Christian — support has dropped by over 8 per cent since 2016.

But while ‘No religion’ activists have been keen to give the Christian churches a kicking, they appear not to have noticed that support for some religions is growing at a fast pace.

Although their followers still form only a small proportion of the total population, those affiliated with Hinduism — the fastest growing religion in Australia — and Islam are increasing.

And over time, secular activists will have to take into account the views of Australian Hindus and Muslims who are deeply rooted in their faith and less likely to be separated from it.

We know that the religious profile of Australia is changing. But although we may dismiss what bishops have to say about things, religion will remain an important part of our society.

After all, many of us still turn to faith-based organisations, such as schools, aged care facilities, and hospitals — many of them Christian — to meet our social needs.

And with 2021 census showing that over 54 per cent of Australians have a religious affiliation, we can be confident that God is not yet dead in this great country of ours.

Peter Kurti is Director of the Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program at the Centre for Independent Studies, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia