2021 Census: Bishop Coleridge and humanists note Christian decline
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The Church is ‘no longer the power in the earth that we once were’, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has said in response to 2021 census results, which saw Christian identification fall below 50% of the Australian population.
The Catholic Church remained the largest Christian denomination, with 20% of all Australians identifying as Catholic.
“It has been clear for some time that the Church is no longer the power in the land where we once were,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“But we remain a large minority committed to community service”, including in education, social services, health and care for the elderly – as well as parish life.
“Almost half the population still identify as Christian, which means that Jesus is an integral part of the Australian soul.
“That means he will stay [sic] a key voice as we work together to shape the life of the nation into the future.
Bishop Coleridge’s remarks, published on the Australian Conference of Catholic Bishops‘ media blog, also included praise for migrant Catholics who have “tremendously enriched” the Church in Australia.
Humanists and Atheists Celebrate Declining Christian Population
Reactions to the census data in Australian media largely echoed Archbishop Coleridge’s thoughts, with secular humanist organizations celebrating the shrinking Christian share of the population.
“Put simply, society has changed,” Neidi Nicholl, CEO of Humanists Australia, wrote in an op-ed for age and Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s time we recognized that it’s perfectly possible to be ethical, compassionate, and live a meaningful life without any supernatural beliefs.
“It is also clear that it is time to rethink and reconsider all the many ways in which the Australian state privileges religious institutions, such as the Religious Discrimination Bill proposed by the former Morrison government, which would have allowed religious to exclude secular people in certain settings, including schools.
ABC journalist and atheist Phillip Adams tweeted“Coming to our sensus in the census…religion continues to destroy religion”.
Organizers of the “Census No Religion” umbrella campaign of secular and atheist organizations have released a statement calling for the removal of Christian traditions from Australian public institutions.
“At the opening of each day in all state and federal parliaments, all present are invited to stand for a ritual of Christian prayer. It’s also happening in hundreds of local governments across the country,” said campaign organizer Michael Dove.
“Obviously, with a large and growing number of Australians saying they have no religion, it is untenable and wrong for our parliaments and local governments to mandate prayer rituals as part of their official procedures.
“The same goes for some of our most important national commemorations, such as Anzac Day. Instead of dawn services resembling Christian church services, they should be secular and welcoming to all, religious and non-religious. religious.
“The ABC is another example of where non-religious voices are marginalized. The ABC has a large stable of religious and spiritual programs, but not one that focuses on the secular or non-religious viewpoint.
Census data hides a more complex story
NCLS Research, the leading religious research company which runs the National Church Life Survey and the Australian Community Survey, said that while religious affiliation may be down, the story is more complex.
“We are fooling ourselves if we confuse this statement of identity with how ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ people are,” said Dr. Ruth Powell, director of NCLS Research.
More nuanced results from the 2021 Australian Community Survey show that more than half of Australians (55%) say they believe in God, six in ten pray or meditate and two in ten (21%) attend at least religious services. once a month.
Dr Powell said: “We were able to conclude that people who identified as having no religious affiliation still had a spiritual or religious life.”
Conservative lobby group FamilyVoice Australia claimed the census results were wrong because the ‘religion’ option was voluntary.
“The census released by the ABS failed to reflect true religiosity in Australia,” spokesman Greg Bondar said.
“If you have a census that does not require you to tick “Religion”, you will end up with ia [sic] biased result that does not reflect faith in Australia.
“The ABS must make compulsory in the next census the obligatory ‘ticking’ of ‘religion’ if a faithful and correct view of the faith is to be reflected.
“Religion data is needed for planning the future infrastructure of churches, denominational schools, denominational hospitals and denominational aged care centers.
“Now is the time to counter the anti-religion campaign that has argued against ticking the religion option in the census.”
Dr David Gruen AO, the Australian statistician, said 93% of Australians answered the question on religion, an increase from 2021.