Australians steadily losing their religion:
The Courier-Mail of 30th December 2013 noted:
“We love Christmas and spend billions to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ but according to a report Australians are losing their religion.
The number of Australians reporting themselves as having “no religion” on the census has jumped from one in 250 in 2011 to more than one in five at the most recent census in 2011.
And many of those who nominate a religious affiliation do not participate in religious activities.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics social trends report provides the first in-depth look at the 2011 census data on religion.
Rates of reporting “no religion” have been steadily rising, and Australia is not alone in this – rates are also rising for countries like New Zealand, England and Wales, Canada, the US and Ireland…On current trends “no religion” will be the most popular response in the next census.”
Comment: This report is only telling us what we already know. Opinions will vary as to whether the falling away of declared religion (in the Australian context probably “denomination” rather than religion in its more esoteric sense) is a good thing or a bad thing. For those of us who, especially from a Christian perspective, believe there is “life yet in the old story” the confirmation of this trend can lead us to ponder where the future leads for institutional Christian religion. John Spong may well be right in his prophecy that “Christianity must change or die!”
We in the Lay Forum would seek to do our bit. We might say that a sub-theme of the Lay Forum is supporting the Uniting Church in adapting to change. People will have different ideas of what that change might comprise. For some it means becoming more “Christ-centred”. For others it means “getting back to the Bible”. I fear that retreating in this fashion may make Christian faith less and less accessible to the growing secular community
Statistical projections suggest that Western mainline Protestant denominations may be a thing of the past within 30 years. My own view is that the prospect of surviving, albeit at a smaller numerical level, could come from exposing the current religious constituency to the revelations of modern Bible scholarship and through integrating the general community into participation and initiation of religious activity. An example of this latter process may be seen in the way Christmas is as big as ever but much of the initiation of the celebration is now coming from outside the churches.*
The report by the ABS may be found through this link:
*Rex Hunt in “Cards, Carols and Claus” describes how this has happened in relation to the Carols by Candlelight concerts in the major Australian cities. Another example might be the growing “religionisation” of ANZAC Day by young people.