The census in Australia caused a lot of stirring in the nonreligious community, not least because the authorities agreed to move “no religion” to the top of the list on the Census. This is in accord with international practice.
The religion question was controversial this year, with Australians warned not to mark “no religion” on the Census survey by those afraid the nation would become a “Muslim country”.
An email was circulated that asked Australians to avoid the “no religion” option as this would give prominence to Muslims.
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.
But it was Hinduism that had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.
No religion is an interesting answer because it can include all sorts, not just the typical atheist, agnostic and secular. As Atheist Republic states:
The first full results from the census show that for the first time in Australia’s history the number of people who claim “no religion” has overtaken Catholics. The “no religion” category includes atheist, secularists, and those who are agnostic. Since 1966, when the proportion of the population who marked “no religion” on their census was just 0.8%, the number that now mark “no religion” has swelled to 29.6%, nearly doubles the 16% recorded in 2001. On the other hand, those identifying as Catholic dropped from 25.3 per cent to 22.6 per cent.
Christians still make up 52% of population but that number is much lower than the 88% in 1966 and 74% in 1991. Islam and Buddhism were the next most common religion reported with 2.6 and 2.4 per cent respectively. Islam grew from 2.2 per cent in 2011, overtaking Buddhism (which dropped from 2.5 per cent) to become the most popular non-Christian religion. The religion question was controversial this year, with Australians warned not to mark “no religion” on the Census survey by those afraid the nation would become a “Muslim country”.
The results show Australia remains a predominantly religious country, with 60 per cent of people reporting a religious affiliation but the trend towards “no religion” has some calling for changes.
The Atheist Foundation of Australia said it was time to stop pandering to religious minorities and to take religion out of politics.
AFA president Kylie Sturgess said political, business and cultural leaders needed to listen to the non-religious when it came to public policy that’s based on evidence, not religious beliefs.
“This includes policy on abortion, marriage equality, voluntary euthanasia, religious education in state schools and anything else where religious beliefs hold undue influence,” she said.
She said certain religious groups seemed to get automatic consideration in the public policy sphere and to enjoy a privileged position that wasn’t afforded to other large groups, such as the non-religious.
“That has to stop. Politicians, business leaders and influencers take heed: this is an important milestone in Australia’s history. Those who marked down ‘No religion’ deserve much more recognition. We will be making our opinions known, and there’s power in numbers.”
Developed nations seem to be moving in the right direction. The problem remains with the Islamic theocracies of the world that appear to disallow the nonreligious, and have high birthrates.