Patterns in religious adherence have been steadily changing since the 1947 Australian census. The most noticeable difference is in the constant drop in the number of people that identify themselves as belonging to the Anglican church- an average of 2% every 5 years. In 1947 39% of the entire population claimed to be Anglican and by 2011 that number declined to 17.1%.
Although Christianity is still the most popular religion in Australia the overall number of adherents has dropped from 88% to 63%. After World war 2, Australia saw an increase in many denominations in Christianity. More traditional churches such as the uniting church and the Presbyterian and reformed churches all experienced a downturn, losing 14.9% and 11.7%. The newer Pentecostal movement gained momentum with a 25.7% increase since 1996. Catholic, Baptist and orthodox churches also saw significant increase and gained 6.8%, 7.3% and 9.5% respectively.
In Australia, 1947, 0.5% claimed to belong to a religion other than Christianity, but in 2006 increased to 5.6%. Buddhism 2.1% Hinduism 0.7%, Islam 1.7% Judaism 0.4% and other religions 0.5%. Hinduism was the fastest growing religion with a rate of 120.2% Buddhism and Islam also grew quickly. The other religions category rose 58.8% (includes spiritualism, wicca and Swedenborg) Judaism gained 11.3% which is smaller than the other religion but still significant and Australian aboriginal traditional religion had a decrease losing 29% between 1996 and 2001.
Immigration has been the most dramatic effect leading to an increase in some groups and the decline of other. Other reasons are the movement from one denomination to another, seeking answers in new religious or spiritual movements and an increase in those who acknowledge that they have no religion. Besides Israel Australia has taken in more immigrants (relative existing population) than any other country in the world. Because of this there are now 14 orthodox denominations in Australia and more Eastern Catholic churches to cater for a wider range of ethnic communities.
The national church life survey (surveys conducted in major churches in Australia) shows some of the reasons for the increases and decreases in Christian denominations, these being attenders switching from other denominations, decreasing their attendance or stopping attending completely, people attending for the first time or after an absence of a number of years, the birth of children often encourages them to come back and death.
Pentecostal churches have the most amount of people switching into their denomination as well as the most amount of people drifting away or switching again.
New age religions were also among the fastest growing faiths in the 2001 census increasing by 140% in the 5 years since 1996. Hinduism was not noted in 1947 but in the 1996 census Hinduism had taken 0.4% of adherents from a religion other than Christianity, by 2001 it had grown to 0.5%, 2006- 0.7% and 2011- 1.3%. The decline of the “White Australia” policy in the 1970’s meant it became easier for migration from a greater range of ethnic groups. Immigration from Asia (India, Malaysia and Indonesia) and the Middle East (particularly Lebanon, Iraq and Iran) has extended Hinduism.
Overseas wars and persecution have led to waves of immigration from affected areas for example Lebanon in the 1980’s, which led to an increase in Hinduism in Australia. Many Hindus where also brought to Australia from India by the British to work on cotton and sugar plantations. Hinduism is the fastest growing religion and the fastest since 2006, increasing from 148,130 to 275,534 accounting for 1.3% of religions other than Christianity. This may not be only from immigration from countries where Hinduism is prominent but also because of Australians curiosity and need to experience different things.
Hinduism focuses on polytheism meaning they worship many deities, but some Hindu’s describe it as one god in many different forms, some people may have been beginning to search for something other than Christianity and the basics of it, so Hinduism became more popular as a way for people to experience a wider array on how to live life in accordance to religion. Hinduism accepts the existence of all religions; it allowed people to express their spirituality. It may have also been the diversity of the Hindu beliefs that interested Australians, and played a part in its rapid growth.
Courtney from Study Moose
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