Growing numbers of young Australians record no religion in census

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Lauren Keim was raised a Catholic and regularly went to church as a teenager. But she never believed in God and realised at 12 she had always been an atheist. It was easier for her as a child to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

''I had good evidence for those things and no evidence for good of any sort of higher power,'' she said. ''Santa came every year and delivered me presents; it was pretty hard to argue with that concrete evidence.''

Ms Keim, 34, of East Brunswick, who has a number of university degrees, is not unusual for her generation. As a Social Trends report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights, the young and those with degrees are more likely to eschew any religious identification.

Just under 4.8 million Australians, or 22 per cent of the population, stated they had no religion on census forms two years ago. The fastest growth was in those aged 15 to 34.

Written By: Ben Schneiders
continue to source article at theage.com.au

17 COMMENTS

  1. Ms Keim, who has an honours degree in science, said she had a ”real distrust of the concept of faith”.

    That makes sense, when comparing the two thinking processes!

    ** Just under 4.8 million Australians, or 22 per cent of the population, stated they had no religion** on census forms two years ago. The fastest growth was in those aged 15 to 34.

    Here is a comparison from England and Wales.

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/sty-religion.html
    In the 2011 Census for England and Wales, 59.3% of the usual resident population (33.2 million people) identified as Christian. Muslims made up the second largest religious group with 4.8% of the population (2.7 million people). A quarter of the population (14.1 million people) reported they had no religion.

    The Other main religious groups people identified with were: Hindu (1.5% of population); Sikh (0.8%); Jewish (0.5%) and Buddhist (0.4%). Some religions people identified with do not fall into any of the main religious groups1 (0.4%), such as Pagan and Spiritualist. Overall, 7.2% of people did not answer the question on religious affiliation, the only voluntary question in the 2011 Census.

    Between 2001 and 2011 there was a decrease in the proportion of people who identify as Christian (from 71.7% to 59.3%) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8% to 25.1%). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0% to 4.8%).

    There were some issues raised about biased wording in the English 2011 census questions.

    Earlier polls suggested a higher percentage with no religion.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/24/religion-respecting-the-minority

    Today, a quarter of a century on, there has been a steady and remarkable turnaround. In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option.

    • In reply to #1 by Alan4discussion:

      I don’t think the number of actual Christians in the UK is anywhere near 60%, that’s just what people wrote on their census forms.
      Lots of people will have done this because they were exposed to the religion as children and think of themselves as “cultural Christians” even if they never go to church and don’t believe in god (I know my parents both did this)

      Given the recent announcement from the ex-Archbishop of Canterbury that Christianity may become extinct within a generation, and that weekly church attendance is 807,000

      The Daily Telegraph article didn’t make it clear if this figure is Church of England attendance or all Christian factions, but even if we multiply this by 10 to get the total number of Christians its still less than 13% of the population

  2. Even those who identify with a specific Christian brand, are not very vocal regarding their beliefs. It would be extremely unlikely for such a person to finish a sentence with “thank The Lord ” or “praise be to god” etc, though there are throwaway phrases like the ubiquitous “oh my god!”. All in all, it’s considered to be more private than in other parts of the world.

  3. When do people finally settle on their religious/non-religious beliefs? I think in is early 20s. This means those 15 to 34 year olds are telling us what 80 year olds will be thinking in 2060.

    Canada’s prime minister made very disparaging remarks about citizens who had ever smoked pot or who wanted it legalised for various reasons. I don’t think he realises that the old-age pensioners now were the second wave of the flower power generation.

    • In reply to #4 by Roedy:

      Canada’s prime minister made very disparaging remarks about citizens who had ever smoked pot or who wanted it legalised for various reasons.

      Hi Roedy.

      So our readers understand, our Albertan PM is an evangelical born-again Christian and a strong supporter of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. Their Protestant sect is exposed in the link below and it describes Harper’s creationist, error-free Bible, homophobic, anti-science, climate change denying, anti-stem cell research, anti-same sex marriage, anti-divorcee remarriage, anti-pot – - but pro-free market, pro-dirty tar sands, pro-proselytizing, Jesus will return soon, conservative beliefs….

      http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=80f6fdff-cc0e-4a08-9b96-76f3db32808e

      All we can hope is that the long-term decline in his support will prevent him getting another shot at ruining our Canadian future, and how the world sees us, since this is like having another Bush at the wheel…. Mac.

      • In reply to #8 by CdnMacAtheist:

        In reply to #4 by Roedy:

        “Harper’s creationist, error-free Bible, homophobic, anti-science, climate change denying, anti-stem cell research, anti-same sex marriage, anti-divorcee remarriage, anti-pot – - but pro-free market, pro-dirty tar sands, pro-proselytizing, Jesus will return soon, conservative beliefs….”

        He sounds a lot like our new PM in Australia, a conservative Catholic who trained for the paedophile team, excuse me, priesthood.

        • In reply to #9 by MarcusA1971:

          In reply to #8 by CdnMacAtheist:

          In reply to #4 by Roedy:

          “Harper’s creationist, error-free Bible, homophobic, anti-science, climate change denying, anti-stem cell research, anti-same sex marriage, anti-divorcee remarriage, anti-pot – - but pro-free market, pro-dirty tar sands, pro-proselytizing,…

          Sounds like Tony “We don’t do God” (in public) Blair…

      • In reply to #8 by CdnMacAtheist:

        http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=80f6fdff-cc0e-4a08-9b96-76f3db32808e

        In the USA, every day some whacko politician says some ridiculous anti-science statement.

        In Canada, If you listened to the PM, you would never guess he was a fundamentalist or a climate change denier. His speeches are filled with the milk of reason. It is just when you have a look at what he does is his lunacy revealed. He knows he has to masquerade as sane to be reelected. To his base he sounds reasonable when he explains censoring government scientists through the PM’s office is a valuable service he offers them.

        I suspect in the USA it may be the opposite. Sane politicians have to masquerade as nuts to appeal to the Christian voters.

        • In reply to #10 by Roedy:

          In Canada, If you listened to the PM, you would never guess he was a fundamentalist or a climate change denier. His speeches are filled with the milk of reason. It is just when you have a look at what he does is his lunacy revealed. He knows he has to masquerade as sane to be reelected.

          Propagandist script writers?????

          To his base he sounds reasonable when he explains censoring government scientists through the PM’s office is a valuable service he offers them.

          Flattering dummies by pooh-poohing expert opinion, is a well known ploy of the dishonest media and dishonest ideology driven politicians!

  4. When I, a New Zealander, lived a year in Australia (mostly Sydney), I was surprised to find how much more prominent religion was there than in my homeland. This was of course the result of the immigration policy that Australia pursued during parts of the twentieth century, especially for immigrants from the Mediterranean. It is then good to see that the descendants of those immigrants, along with their fellow Australians of more bread-and-butter ancestry, are benefiting by the education they have received and the pluralistic society they now live in; and of course Australia as a whole can only benefit from this gradual laying-aside of religious superstition. Their current prime minister, however, is a reminder that religionists still have access to power in Australia.

  5. Australia is often a heartbreaking country for me, so much potential, so much apathy. But sometimes like this our cultural apathy pays off. I think, due to our convict heritage (‘The convict stain’ as it was seen by some elements of society) we have a kind of anti-establishment ethos which can come up and be useful in these situations. So some priest tells us what to do and we’ll tolerate it to a point but if its too much we tend to just think ‘wanker’ We tend not to like to be seen to told what to do.

    However I often think we vote for people who will tell us off or take a hard simplistic line. The world isn’t simple and the moment you try to point it out with most Australians you see a blank stare in which you can picture a thought bubble above their head ‘wanker’. Still this gives this wanker some hope.

  6. I recall some concern with the lack of church attendance when I was younger (I’m now 50.) I think the true test of lack of belief would be the number of 38 to 42 year olds. The twenties are years know for ditching one’s religion, but when the kids come into the picture……..

  7. Back in the days when I first received a drivers license (shortly after Capt. Cook arrived) one had to write in a religion on the form. I was awake to this rubbish even then, and I used to write “Pedestrian” wherever I had to complete the box.

    I mentioned this to a friend of mine many years later, and she started to giggle, and progressed to uncontrollable laughter. When she finally calmed down, I said “Come on now, it’s funny, but not that funny.” She relied “Yes it is, I always used to put down “Theodolite.”

    I can only wonder what a deep mining of the old records would reveal about the religious propensities of Australia in the ’60′s.

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