CAIRO – In the first in-depth look at the country’s census data on religion, the number of Australian people reporting “no religion” has hit all-time record, exceeding 22 percent of the country’s population.
"Rates of reporting no religion have been steadily rising, and Australia is not alone in this,” Fiona Dowsley, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) director of Social and Progress Reporting, told the Herald Sun on Sunday, December 29.
“Rates are also rising for countries like New Zealand, England and Wales, Canada, the United States and Ireland," she added.
Having a deeper look into 2011 census data, ABS has found that about 22% or 4.8 million Australians has 'no religion', while 25% were reported to be Catholic and about 17% were Anglicans.
The census has reflected that atheism was dominant among young Australians, with about half of those reporting no religious belief less than 30 years old.
Almost a third of 22 to 24- year-olds reported no religion, and about one in five children under 15 live in a home where one or both parents reported no religion.
The census has found that atheism also increases among people with higher education.
Nearly 35% of postgraduates above 19 are non-believers, in contrast with 20% of school students.
The average increase of non-believers is 4% per decade, after adding 'none' in 1971 census to mark people with no religion in.
Over the past decade the rates of non-believers have stretched by 6.8%.
ABS attributes the tendency of the respondents to report 'no religion' to the Atheists Foundations of Australia which encourages Aussies to do so.
While reflecting a stable shrinking in the number of Christians in Australia, the report has also showed a boost for other religion like Islam and Hinduism among Australians.
Commenting on ABS's report, Father Kevin Dillon, parish priest at St Mary's Basilica in Geelong, said that the results mirror Australia's secular society.
"It's a huge jump, it's something which the churches have really got to take note of in terms of how they operate," Dillon told ABC on Monday, December 30.
Losing its grip on the Australian society, Aussies has been abandoning religious marriage in church, preferring the 'civil marriage'.
Father Dilllon argues that the church needs to review its practices to restore its position in the Australian society.
"They are all major challenges to the Catholic church in terms of its whole attitude, not only to sexuality and its practice, but just the way in which people look at the institution of the church and see it as any sort of a teaching authority," Dilllon stated.
Dillon also stressed that that the church needs to rejuvenate itself in a bid to woo believers.
"Redemption is needed that's seeking the forgiveness of those of who have been offended against, and to do that in the most practical, humble and upfront way," Dillon said.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
Catholics are estimated at 5.4 million, making up around a quarter of the country’s population by an increase of 6.1 percent from the last census.
Anglicans make up around 3.7 million, less than the number of non-believers in Australia.
The latest census also showed that the number of Buddhists grew to 528,978, by a 26 percent rise to make up nearly 2.5 percent of the population.
Hindus also grew to 275,534 from only 148,123 in 2006.
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