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Relevant Syllabus dot point:

the religious landscape from 1945 to the present in relation to:

changing patterns of religious adherence
the current religious landscape

Students learn to: outline changing patterns of religious adherence from 1945 to the
present using census data

Australia's Pattern of Religious Adherence

What were the trends with Religious observance shown in the 2011 Census:

The Australian Social Trends, Nov 2013 stated:

The number of people reporting no religion in Australia has increased substantially over the
past hundred years, from one in 250 people to one in five. In 1911 there were 10,000 people
(0.4%) who chose the option 'No religion' on their Census form; in 2011 there were just under
4.8 million (22% of Australians). As a single response to the question on religion,
only Catholic was higher at 25% of the population, with Anglican third highest at 17%.

These figures are demonstrated in the graph below:

Go to the following website and complete the following activities:


(1) What are the international statistics in relation to people losing their religion?
(2) Outline the reasons provided in the article as to why the number of people identifying as
Christian are decreasing?
(3) What religions are recording an increase in adherents? What reasons are presented for

Read through the following newspaper article extract and in your workbook make some dot point notes
on why there has been changes in religious observance in recent times.

Census 2016: Why Australians are Losing their Religion

Malcolm Forbes ABC Religion and Ethics 9 Aug 2016

The 2016 Census is expected to show a larger number of Australians are non-religious. Why this is

In addition to privacy and data security concerns, the 2016 Census has been marred by controversy
following a concerted campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia for those born into religion but
no longer practising to select "no religion" on their Census form.

There is a trend in Australia of increasing religious disbelief. Since the 1971 Census, when the specific
instruction of "if no religion write none" was included, reporting of no religion has steadily increased. In
2011, close to 4.8 million (24% of males and 21% of females) reported no religion.

A 2013 Roy Morgan poll indicated that non-religious Australians comprised approximately 37% of the
population. The 2016 Census is anticipated to report an increase in the prevalence of religious disbelief
over the 2011 Census, due to two main factors.

The first is a change in survey design. The option "no religion" will be the first of eleven options under
the religion question. Survey respondents have a tendency to select the first option that is reasonably
acceptable when completing a survey according to a theory called "statistical survey satisficing." This has
been confirmed in a number of experimental studies, and is especially the case when survey options are
presented in vertical order.

When New Zealand and the UK moved "no religion" to the top of the options, there was a significant
increase in people choosing this option (a 7% rise in NZ and 23.5% rise in the UK).

The second factor is the steady rise of religious disbelief in Australia and a majority of more
economically developed countries, including Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, France, Canada,
New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

A Win-Gallup International poll in 2012 of 59,927 individuals in 57 countries found an average decline of
9% in religious belief over seven years, with the most notable declines seen in developed countries. This
study suggested a general trend where the poorer the country, the higher the rate of religious belief. To
account for this relationship, it has been suggested that organised religion serves as a psychological
response to alleviate the stress and anxiety of a dysfunctional socio-economic environment.

The Win-Gallup study also found that, generally speaking, a higher level of educational attainment was
associated with a lower the rate of religious belief. This association is reflected in the 2011 Australia
Census data, where 31% of those with a postgraduate degree reported "no religion," compared to just
20% of those with a school education only.

A study examining the relationship between intelligence and religious belief offers a series of possible
explanations for this. One theory that has been posited is that individuals with a high level of
intelligence may intrinsically possess some of the functions that religion provides - self-regulation, self-
enhancement, secure attachment - and thus have a diminished psychological need for religious belief.

The polymath Jared Diamond, in his book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From
Traditional Societies, outlines several societal functions of religion - explaining inexplicable events;
reducing anxiety through ritual; providing comfort about pain and death; fostering organisation;
promoting political obedience; providing moral codes of behaviour towards strangers; and justifying

These have been important functions at different times throughout human history. However, as
scientific inquiry provides advances in living standards and explanations for natural phenomena, there is
reduced reliance on these societal functions of religion.

In contemporary Australia, religious institutions continue to play a significant role in the provision of
education, health and welfare services to Australians. If religious belief continues to decline as
anticipated, there will be ramifications for the privileged financial position of these institutions and the
broader role they have within society.

Interestingly, while Australians appear to be moving away from organised religion, there are a growing
number of individuals identifying as "spiritual but not religious." The Australian social researcher Hugh
Mackay examined this in his recent book Beyond Belief. He found that despite rates of religious service
attendance dropping, there is a growing number of Australians expressing a desire to embrace
spirituality in pursuit of a meaningful existence.

This phenomenon - the need to believe in something greater than us - is considered to relate to
cognitive tendencies that bias us toward religious belief, and may have neurological underpinnings.

What a decline in religious belief means for civil society and moral progress in Australia is open to
speculation. If many other countries with higher levels of disbelief are anything to go by, there appears
to be little to be concerned about. Most Australians live their lives with a view of morality inspired by
Judeo-Christian traditions. One does not need to be religious to continue to live by these values.

The actions of Thomas Jefferson, one of the American Founding Fathers, demonstrate this. In 1820,
Jefferson took a razor to a Bible, removing mentions of the supernatural and miracles, calling these
"superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications." He titled what remained The Life and Morals of Jesus of
Nazareth - commonly referred to as "The Jefferson Bible." He described this 84 page text containing the
teachings of Jesus "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to

The 2016 Census is expected to show a larger number of Australians are non-religious. Why this is the
case requires further investigation, but such a trend is not a cause for alarm.

Results of the 2016 Census

Statistics from the Census:

Source: The Australian 27 June 2017

What did the Census say about patterns of Religious adherence?

The results of the latest national Census reveal were a religiously diverse nation, with
Christianity remaining the most common religion (52 per cent of the population).

Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent) were the next most common religions
reported. Nearly a third of Australians (30 per cent) reported in the Census that they had no
religion in 2016.

The religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 50 years. In 1966,
Christianity (88 per cent) was the main religion. By 1991, this figure had fallen to 74 per cent,
and further to the 2016 figure. Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping in Australia,
accounting for almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of the Australian population.

Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and
Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth
between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.

The growing percentage of Australias population reporting no religion has been a trend for
decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent
in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016,
when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion.

How likely a person was to identify as religious in 2016 had a lot to do with their age. Young
adults aged 18-34 were more likely to be affiliated with religions other than Christianity (12 per
cent) and to report not having a religion (39 per cent) than other adult age groups. Older age
groups, particularly those aged 65 years and over, were more likely to report Christianity.

In terms of states, New South Wales had the highest religious affiliation (66 per cent of people
reporting a religious affiliation), while Tasmania (53 per cent) was the lowest.

Religion Top 20 Australia
2016 2011
No religion 30.1% Catholic 25.3%
Catholic 22.6% No religion 22.3%
Anglican 13.3% Anglican 17.1%
Uniting Church 3.7% Uniting Church 5.0%
Christian, (Not further Presbyterian and Reformed 2.8%
defined) 2.6%
Islam 2.6% Eastern Orthodox 2.6%
Buddhism 2.4% Buddhism 2.5%
Presbyterian and Reformed Islam 2.2%
Eastern Orthodox 2.1% Christian (Not further defined) 2.2%
Hinduism 1.9% Baptist 1.6%
Baptist 1.5% Hinduism 1.3%
Pentecostal 1.1% Lutheran 1.2%
Lutheran 0.7% Pentecostal 1.1%
Sikhism 0.5% Judaism 0.5%
Other Protestant 0.5% Jehovahs Witnesses 0.4%
Judaism 0.4% Sikhism 0.3%
Jehovahs Witnesses 0.4% Seventhday Adventist 0.3%
Seventh-day Adventist 0.3% Other Protestant 0.3%
Latter-day Saints 0.3% Salvation Army 0.3%
Oriental Orthodox 0.2% Latter-day Saints 0.3%


Activity: In your notes write a dot point summary on how Australias patterns of religious adherence
have changed between the 2011 and 2016.

Media Coverage of the Census

Visit the following websites and read through the media coverage of the 2016 census:

- http://theconversation.com/census-2016-shows-australias-changing-religious-profile-with-
- It shows diversity
- More number of people are coming
- Now it is more free
- http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/census-2016-fifty-years-on-australia-its-

Write a paragraph describing what these articles say about changes in Australias patterns of Religious