23 September 2023

Down one third in one decade: Fewer choosing ‘Christian’ on census

Australians are less religious according to census 2021. Picture: iStock

Stephen Cauchi 

28 June 2022

The number of Australians identifying as Christians has fallen by a third in the past 10 years, according to new census figures.  

One 43 per cent of Australians identify as Christians, according to the 2021 census data. In 2011 61 per cent of Australians identified as Christian, in 2016 the figure was 52 per cent. 

This decline closely tallied with an increase in the number of people reporting “no religion”. 

Christianity remained Australia’s most popular belief system at 43 per cent. The number of people reporting “no religion” was 38 per cent, an increase from 22 per cent in 2011. 

According to the ABS, religious affiliation is one of the few topics that has featured in every one of Australia’s 18 censuses. It is also the only question that is voluntary. A total of 93 per cent of respondents answered the question in 2021. 

Statistician David Gruen said the religion data showed a characteristic of Australia that had changed significantly during the past two decades. 

He said knowledge about religious affiliation supported planning facilities, goods, and services for Australians who identified as religious, and helped them to live according to their beliefs. 

As in earlier censuses, the largest Christian denominations were Catholic – at 20 per cent of respondents – and Anglican –  at 9.8 per cent of respondents. 

A total 2.7 per cent of respondents gave no denomination, 2.6 per cent said they were Uniting Church members, 2.1 Eastern Orthodox, 1.6 Presbyterian/reformed, 1.3 Baptist, 1 Pentecostal, 0.5 per cent Lutheran and 0.4 per cent other Protestant.  

Other denominations mentioned in the census were all smaller than 0.4 per cent, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventist, Oriental Orthodox, Mormon, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, “other Christian”, Assyrian Apostolic and Brethren.  

The ABS said other religions were growing but continued to make up a small proportion of the population. 

The number of people identifying as Hindu had grown by 55.3 per cent, to make up 2.6 per cent of the population – or 684,002 people. A total 813,392 people identified as Muslims, a total of 3.2 per cent of the Australian population. 

2.4 per cent of the population identified as Buddhist, 0.8 per cent as Sikh, and 0.3 with Judaism. 

Other non-Christian religions mentioned in the census were practised by less than 1 per cent of the Australian population. 

These included Australian Aboriginal traditional religions, the Baha’i faith, Chinese and Japanese religions, nature religions and spiritualism. 

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