Aussies spiritual but not religious

There’s an opinion piece in the SMH – Souls are not shaken, just stirred – about Australian religious trends. Interesting reading, if a bit vague.

A lot of the article seems to be an interpretation of the religion numbers from the 1996 and 2001 Australian censuses (censi? censes?), which are available from the Bureau of Statistics site. Some random observations, most of which agree with the article:

  • The only categories that dropped in absolute numbers were “No religion” and a handful of Christian denominations. Judaism basically stayed the same as a percentage of the population. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and “Other Religions” all jumped significantly – the number of Buddhists nearly doubled from a hair under 200,000 to over 350,000.
  • The “Inadequately described” category, which includes “Religious belief, nfd” (not further defined), jumped from 0.3% to 1.9%. This might be what Bouma was referring to when he said that “Nearly 2 per cent of Australians… took the time to write in a ’spiritual’ response”. (Either that, or Aussies’ ability to fill out forms is in decline. I’d believe that.) I’d be interested to know how many of those moved from “No religion”, which dropped from 16.5% to 15.3%. Not that I’m biased or anything.
  • Of the 17 Christian categories, 12 dropped as a percentage of the population, including the big three, Catholic, Anglican and Uniting. Overall, the Christian chunk of Australia dropped from 70.3% to 67.3%.

It’ll be interesting to see how this changes in the 2006 census data, due to be released in mid 2007.

I have to express a bit of annoyance at Bouma’s comment that “Australia leads the world in providing opportunities for funding for faith-based education in schools.” That may be true, but as far as I’m concerned it’s about on par with leading the world in funding opportunities to club baby seals. I’ll probably write about this in more detail one day.

Also, I’m not sure that he knows exactly what “postmodern” means. But then, I’m not sure that anyone knows exactly what “postmodern” means.

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