Australian Census Reports Increase in Percentage of Non-Believers

The 2011 Australian census was released today and there’s good news when it comes to religion:

While Catholicism has remained the most common religion with a quarter of the population, Anglicans have lost ground to those identifying themselves with no religion. The non-believers are now the second largest group with 22.3 per cent of the population, up from 18.7 per cent in 2006.

To which I say:

Efrique made this helpful chart (take note of the increasing number of black figures):

The Atheist Foundation of Australia is thrilled:

David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia said, “Today’s results released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that Australians with no religion is climbing quite rapidly while the religious and particularly the Christian portion of society is in decline.

Nicholls stated, “The loaded question of ‘What is your religion’, with the no religion box at the bottom of the list of choices on the Census form, and people marking their religion of baptism out of habit, one would expect the figures not to represent reality.”

In other words, there are probably more non-believers than just the 22.3%. We just have to get them to admit that out loud and on the census.

Keep it up, Australia!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

    This throws new light on the recent somewhat hollow victory regarding chaplains in schools. It might take a few more decades, but eventually there won’t enough community or political support for overt Christian interference in Australian schools. Additionally, and admittedly, there is time needed for humanist groups to get organised, get funded, and provide some school counselling options of their own.

    Related to one’s lifespan 20-30 years is a long time, but related to world history it’s not so long. As an atheist, I often get impatient with what appears to be slow progress, however I try and remind myself – it’s a couple of thousand years of indoctrination we are up against here, and such a well-established structure can only be taken apart by chipping away at it one small piece at a time.

  • Sindigo

    Great news! Fingers crossed the UK census has similar (dare I hope for better?) results in September.

    • Servaas
      • Thorny264

        Just going by general things, I don’t know a single person who goes to church and I only actually know 1 semi serious religious person who turns to be a mormon of all things.

        But it’s not a case of not knowing the people I know religion,  Everyone I know is pretty much an Atheist who god is on par with santa, and a few agnostics.

        Maybe I’m just lucky or Bristol has a high Atheist population.

  • MegaZeusThor

    In Canada, it seems that 2001 is the last time they had it on the census. (Does the current government just not want to know?)

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/92-125-g/html/4064716-eng.htm 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Canada 

    • dorothy30

       it was on our census last year and worded very poorly. i complained about it and wrote to the local paper. the question asked what is your religion of birth, with no reference to what your religion is now, so the results, when they are published, will be woefully inaccurate

    • Ibis3

      Yes. The current government doesn’t want to know. They also stopped asking about work done in the house and commuting time because they don’t want to employ evidence-based policy on women’s equality and public transit for example. Moreover, they made the census optional so it’s really just about as reliable as a self-selected web poll. The head of Statistics Canada resigned when they tried to imply that he, as a scientist, supported the changes.

  • Stev84

    In the meantime the government is extremely busy sucking up to the religious

  • dorothy30

    one report i read of this result, stated that the non-religious are still under-represented. the reason is that there was an implied threat to some people to declare themselves as christian so it won’t look like the numbers of muslims are ‘catching up’. most people in australia are at least culturally christian but no longer religious, so if they bought into this fear it will skew the results. i have many cousins there and we are all ex-anglicans who have great-grandparents originally from england

  • advancedatheist

    I’ve read generally good things about Australia. In some ways it sounds like the prototype for an advanced, futuristic civilization out of science fiction. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

      Unfortunately in Australia we have an atheist prime minister who is against gay marriage (!!!) and who seems to feel compelled to court the Christian hardliners, and the opposition leader Tony Abbot is a conservative Catholic who is pro-life, anti-euthanasia and anti-stem cell research.
      Christianity has a strong foot-hold here, but things are changing – slowly – most notably as a result of immigrants who are not Christian. Also, the aussie Atheist groups are to be commended for focusing the attention and efforts of non-believers.

      • ptiderman

        I’ve never heard of this Abbot fellow, but I like him already!

    • ptiderman

      Billions of years from now…after time has stopped, Jesus Christ will be reigning and ruling with the born again believers and the Jews!

  • advancedatheist

    So does the Australian population suffer from a mental health epidemic of anomie and despair because more and more Aussies have abandoned belief in the gods?

    I have to laugh at all the stereotypes about atheists promoted by theologians and even by some secular philosophers who didn’t have populations of real atheists to observe and form generalizations about. These people have constructed a kind of fantasy atheist who apparently wakes up one morning and perversely decides to have a meaningless life from then on by disavowing belief in god. In the real world it just doesn’t work that way at all.

    These theologians and clergymen have also inadvertently created a kind of false advertising campaign for atheism by preaching that atheists indulge in “the works of the flesh,” specifically fornication. How many young men in christian homes hear this propaganda about atheists’ swinging sex lives from the pulpit, and decide to become atheists for that reason? Imagine their disappointment when these new atheists go to atheist conferences looking to cash in on the promise of godless sex, and discover that the atheist chicks won’t put out for them. Indeed these women have lately complained about sexual harassment from male atheists at these conferences. It just goes to show that religious people promote nonsensical beliefs about atheists even if they unintentionally make atheism sound desirable.

    • ptiderman

      That’s a pretty good point…and it’s presented well. However, I think you might be confused about 1 thing. A person who’s “religious” is not the same as a person of faith.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

    i love how the graph uses the color black for the godless. what, we don’t rate a happy, shiny color like purple or blue? i guess we’re ominous or something. heh. 

    • Penn

      Aw, I like it. Black’s not a colour, atheism’s not a religion…

    • allein

      I was thinking the same thing, but then I like Penn’s angle, too :)

    • ptiderman

      Or doomed!

  • vexorian

    please avoid imageshack , it … bans people in countries like mine from looking at images embedded at “unregistered” domains.

  • Olivier Bruchez

    Mmmh, “non-religious” doesn’t mean “non-believer”, does it?

  • ptiderman

    All this is telling me is that Satan is ruling more hearts and minds than he used to. Gee…I wonder if some people that really do believe don’t want to admit it out of fear of being ridiculed? Also, if just Catholics make up 25%…I think believers vastly outnumber atheists. After all, 25% is greater than 23%. So, I imagine that believers in Jesus Christ outnumber the atheists at least 2 to 1….Maybe 3 to 1, even.


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