Religion in the 2006 Census

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just released the first results from the 2006 census. Here’s a continuation of my previous back-of-the-envelope analysis of the 1996 and 2001 religious data.

I’ll try to avoid gratuitous schadenfreude, but there does seem to be a trend, and my own opinions are no secret, so… draw your own conclusions.

First of all, 18.7% specified “No religion” (which “Comprises ‘No Religion, nfd’, ‘Agnosticism’, ‘Atheism’, ‘Humanism’ and ‘Rationalism’”). This is up from 15.5% in 2001, and 16.6% in 1996. Throw in “Religious affiliation not stated” (also up to 11.2% – the religion question was optional), and nearly 30% of respondents did not associate themselves with a religion.

Christianity dropped to 63.9%, from 68.0% in ‘01 and 70.9% in ‘96. This is pretty consistent as an absolute number of people (a bit either side of 12.7 million), which means that about as many Aussies have left Christianity as have joined it in the last ten years, including children born into Christian families (that’s a flame war for another day, Professor Dawkins).

Looking at Christian denominations… Catholicism is still the biggest at 5.1 million, up from 4.8 million in ‘96 but down as a percentage of the population. The Anglican church has lost nearly 200,000 members in that time, from 3.9 to 3.7 million. Similar numbers for the Uniting Church, from 1.3 to 1.1 million. Those are the only three categories over a million.

Among the denominations that have grown, “Pentecostal” has gone from 175,000 to 220,000 since ‘96. That’s slightly worrying. Mormons have grown from 45,000 to 53,000. (I’m making up the number of significant digits as I go along. If you need the real numbers, go and look them up.)

Interestingly, “Christian nfd” (not further defined) has gone up from 186,000 to 313,000. My theory is that a lot of people still have Christian beliefs, but are giving up on actual churches. That’s just a guess.

Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are all up, to 2.11%, 0.75% and 1.71%. The number of Hindus and Buddhists have more than doubled in those ten years. I don’t think it’d be too controversial to guess that this is partially due to immigration.

Something else that’s interesting… Here’s a graph that shows the breakdown by age bracket.

Religion by age - Australian Census 2006

For the record, I’m 26.

11 comments

11 Comments so far

  1. casey July 1st, 2007 10:14 am

    The problem I have with the census is that it includes ALL people in Australia on the day the census was done – so it includes all temporary residents including the 300,000 international students, backpackers and tourists. Therefore, as Australia has lots of temporary residents it is hard trying to get a “real” picture on the demograhics of Australians. I would think that whilst Buddhism and Hinduism went up from more migrants, I would be interested to see whether this was by “Australians” – that is permanent residents and citizens, or just by temporary residents (students), as lots of them would come from India were Hinduism is a common religion.

  2. Shishberg July 2nd, 2007 8:14 am

    Good point… and that would be supported by the fact that the biggest chunk of Hinduism is in the 25-34 bracket. It’d be good if the ABS had a breakdown of religion by country of birth or something.

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