(ORDO NEWS) — Over the past decade, Australia has become startlingly godless, with the latest census showing that the percentage of Christians who identify themselves as Christians has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, while the number of people who call themselves “non-religious” has skyrocketed.
The first batch of 2021 census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday shows that just 44 per cent of Australians identify as Christian, up from 52 per cent five years earlier and 61 per cent in 2011.
When the first census was taken in 1911, 96 per cent of Australians reported a form of Christianity as their religion.
Over the past five years, the proportion of Australians identifying as Catholic has fallen from 23 percent to 20 percent, and the proportion of Anglicans identifying as Anglicans has dropped from 13 percent to 10 percent.
In contrast, the proportion of Australians who identify themselves as “non-religious” has risen sharply.
Thirty-nine per cent of Australians now identify as non-religious, up from 30 per cent in 2016 and nearly double the 22 per cent of Australians who ticked the box for “no religion” a decade ago.
In the mid-1960s, less than 1 percent of Australians considered themselves to be of no religion.
Based on current trends, non-believers could overtake Christians as the largest religious bloc in Australia by the time of the next census in 2026.
The move away from Christianity has accelerated rapidly in the last decade, after previously seeing a steady long-term decline.
Sydney student Alexandra Wright, 24, is an example of a national turn away from Christianity.
As a child, Wright grew up in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and was brought up in a devout Irish Catholic family, whose members attended church every Sunday.
Wright felt so connected to her faith that she insisted on attending a Catholic high school, St. Vincent’s College in Potts Point.
However, by the age of 15, she had a “premonition” that religion was no longer for her; after a few years, she ceased to consider herself a Catholic.
When filling out last year’s census, she chose “no religion” without hesitation.
Wright said that religion certainly has a “beautiful” side, like the comfort her grandfather took in the promise of an afterlife before he died. But she also saw a more negative side.
“Corruption reigns in the church, the priests have seized power,” she said.
Wright said that her siblings, as well as many friends, have moved away from religion as adults.
“It’s about this generation,” she said. “We all grew up in religion, but when you start living your life, you realize that you do not identify yourself with it.”
The church’s socially conservative teachings on same-sex marriage and extramarital sex seem outdated to most young people today, she said.
The census results show that some non-Christian religions are gaining strength – despite the fact that they still make up a small proportion of the country’s population.
The number of people who identify themselves as Hindus has risen by 55% over the past five years, reflecting an influx of migrants from countries such as India and Nepal.
About 684,000 people in Australia, or 2.7 percent of the population, identify themselves as Hindus.
The share of Islam in the country’s population rose to 3.2 percent, up from 2.6 percent in 2016. About 813,000 people in Australia identify with Islam.
Australian statistician David Gruen said the question of religion has a “special place” in the census as it is one of the few topics to appear in all 18 censuses and the only question that is voluntary.
Despite being voluntary, the proportion of people answering this question has risen from 91 percent in 2016 to 93 percent in 2021.
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