Through the kindness of my Baylor University colleague Bernard Doherty, I have been looking at the findings of the latest Australian census on religion. Even if you have no specialist interest in that part of the world, it’s a fascinating document, because it shows how a traditionally Christian country (divided fairly equally on Protestant-Catholic lines) has diversified massively, and developed a significant community who frankly deny any faith tradition whatever.
Out of a population of 21.5 million, Christianity claims the allegiance of just 61 percent of Australians, a figure that has declined rapidly in recent years. The largest single group of all is the 5.4 million Catholic Christians, but the runner-up, remarkably, is the 4.8 million of “no religion.” This group alone accounts for 22 percent of all Australians. By the way, those Christian numbers only refer to self-description, and make no claim at all about attendance or participation.
The real story here, in my view, is Australia’s very marked movement to a strongly European pattern of secularization. In its religious coloring at least, the United States looks ever more isolated in the traditional Western Christian world.