Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Atheism - Winning in Australia

Census 2021 results: Christianity plummets as ‘non-religious’ surges

Figures released today show that, like elsewhere in the civilised, advanced world, Australians are abandoning religion in droves. The percentage of Australians who described themselves as 'Christian' in the 2021 census fell below 50% to 44% for the first time in Australia's history.

This figure has fallen from 52% in just 5 years. In 2011 it stood at 61%. When a census was first conducted in Australia in 1911, 96% of Australians identified themselves as Christian.

These figures are revealed in the first tranche of data to be released from last years census. The percentage who ticked the 'no religion' box stood at 39%, up from 30% just 5 years ago, and almost double what it was in 2011. Those who identified as Catholic fell 3 percentage points to 20% and Anglican fell 3 percentage points to 10%. Falls in other minor Christian denominations brought the total figure for Christians as a whole down to 44% from the 52% recorded just 5 years ago.

The percentage of Australians self-identifying as 'non-religious' is highly significant because it shows the extent to which 'non-religious' has become acceptable in Australia. In the mid-1960s only 1% of Australians so self-identified. What we are seeing in Australia is what we saw in the UK, where the social stigma of having no religion, so being perceived wrongly as immoral and untrustworthy, has gone, to be replaced by a more realistic perception of intelligence, compassion and integrity, so more and more people are coming out of the closet.

These figures are even more scary for the churches and those who earn a living pushing religion in Australia. Crudely projected forward they show an accelerating trend away from religion, so the percentage of Australians identifying as Christian will be approaching zero within 3-4 years while those admitting to having no religion will exceed 80% over the same timescale. No-one would seriously expect these figures to be realised in practice, because religions tend to lose a percentage of their members each year so the number leaving in any one year tends to get smaller and the number remaining in the faith never reaches zero, but this shows how Christianity at least will be functionally extinct in Australia within the next 10 years.

As more people openly identify as Atheist, so Atheism loses its stigma as more and more people come to see that not only do you not need God to be good, but that Atheists lack the hypocrisy, sanctimonious judgementalism and a tendency to abuse, now closely associated with religiosity. In the UK, a poll a few years ago showed that people now find Atheists to be more honest and trustworthy than devout Christians, with even some devout Christians now trusting atheists more than their fellow Christians.

Completing the census form on the designated census day is compulsory in Australia but the question about religion was voluntary. It may be significant that the percentage of Australians who volunteered this information rose from 91% to 93%. This is probably not enough to account for the jump in 'no religion' but it could be partly the result of people being more inclined to declare it publicly, albeit on a confidential form, the personal details of which will not be released for 100 years.

An animated representation of the first tranche of Australian Census 2021 data can be seen here.

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