The latest Australian census data reveals that the number of Australians identifying their religion as Jedi has risen from 58,000 in 2006, to 65,000 in 2011. The Force is strong in them.
The Australian census figures reveal some other interesting religious trends. Gary Bouma identifies ten of them.
- "No religion" is up: Those declaring no religion rose by 29% to become 22.3% of the population.
- No joy for atheists: The ‘no religion’ types are certainly not all atheists. In the last census there were only 31,000 who wrote in atheist in the census.
- Christians still a majority: Self declared Christians are at 61% [ed. down from 96% in 1911].
- Catholics are the largest denomination — growing but not fast enough: The biggest Christian denomination is and has been the Catholics at 25.3%. Even though Catholicism has shrunk as a percentage of the population, they’ve found 300,000 new adherents. They grew by 6.1%. But the whole population grew by 8.3%.
- Bad news and good news on Anglican decline: Anglicans are now at 17.1% of the population, down from 18.7% but they only declined by 1% which is amazing because they declined by 4.2% between 2001 and 2006 so something is happening to slow that decline.
- Anglicans in Sydney declined by the same rate as Anglicans in Melbourne. So, according to Bouma, the declines appear to be endemic to the system and not reflective of particular styles of Anglicanism. [ed What Gary Bouma doesn't mention is that Census figures do not tell the whole story. Sydney Anglicans are younger and more vibrant than their progressive Anglican brethren in other dioceses. Sydney Anglicans will do considerably better in holding their own in the face of the decline and collapse of mainline Christianity in Australia.]
- Bad news and good news on Presbyterian, Reformed and Uniting decline: The Presbyterians, Reformed and Uniting decline was 4%, but that was half of what they declined between 2001 and 2006. [ed That's not really good news. The bad news is not as bad as we expected.]
- Hinduism is Australia’s fastest growing religion: Hindus grew by 86% to become 1.3% of the population. Hindus are more numerous than Lutherans, Pentecostals or Jews.
- Islam and Buddhism overtaking Presbyterians: Islam has grown to become 2.2% of the population and Buddhism, 2.5%. There are more Muslims, and almost as many Buddhists, in Australia as Presbyterians.
- Long term decline of Christianity will continue: A lot of those who identify as Christian in Australia are nominal, cultural Christians.They are now elderly and dying out. Anglicans, Presbyterians and Uniting have a vast pile of non-attending people who identify culturally with these strands but do not attend. Those identifying with Christianity is very likely to fall below 50% in ten years. [ed. unless there is a game-changer.]
I take a lot of comfort that there are twice as many Jedi roaming our land as atheists. I also take comfort from this observation by GK Chesterton — five times in history, the church has gone to the dogs. But on every occasion, it was the dogs that died.