Australia is the largest country in Oceania and it holds sixth position in the world as per the area is concerned with a rich and diversified control on Religion .In Australia there is no specific state religion .In Section 116 of the Australian Consttitution there is a prohibition for the federal Government to frame any law to establish or impose any religion on the citizen and to give them enough freedom to practice any religion .Though Christianity has always been on limelight as the main religion that is practiced in Australia but that doesn’t ignore the fact that Australia is one of the countries in the world that has a very low level of adherence or commitment towards religion .To add up the facts, in the year 1971 the choice of “if no religion, write none” was made acquainted with the citizens .
Religious Composition of Australia
Though a large number of atheist and agnostic are seen to reside in Australia, Christianity still remains as the largest and most practiced religion in Australia .There is a huge role of Christian church in the development of education, health and welfare services .As per 2016 census, Sikhism is the fastest growing religion in Australia. The vast majority of population (61%) identifies with one of the branch of Christianity .This is due to the reason that when the British settlers established a permanent settlement in Australia in the year 1787, they brought with them Christianity .The governor of that time gave the responsibility of development of citizen in the prospect of education, health to the cleric of Church .Since then there has been a lot of involvement of Christian leaders in schools, hospitals etc. which in turn led to a successful missionary movement of converting aboriginal people .
As per the latest census report today 25.3 % of the population are Roman catholic ,18.7 % are Christians and 17 % are Angelic Christians .The second biggest group of religious identity are Atheist and Agnostics who doesn’t identify themselves into any religious beliefs and makes up 23% of the population .This count makes Australia as one of the least religious country in the whole world .This group of Non-religious people are generally urban dwellers whose count is significantly increasing over the last 100 years .Other religion that includes the belief system of Taoism, Rastafarianism, Scientology, and Unitarian Universalism etc. constitute of around 10% of the population .This is followed by Buddhism (2.5%), Islam (2.2%), Hinduism (1.3%), and Judaism (.5%).
Religious Affiliations in Australia
|Religion||Year 2006||Year 2001||Year 2006||Year 2001|
|Presbyterian and Reformed||3.00%||3.40%||5,96,668||6,37,530|
|Uniting Church in Australia||5.70%||6.69%||11,35,423||12,48,674|
Future Trends of the Religion in Australia
The rate of citizens identifying themselves as Christians is reducing .The atheist ,agnostic and non-religious group is increasing in large part among the youth and highly educated mass of the population .Other religion are also continuing to increase .Prediction says that with passing time Australian Religion will take a more secular form .
Intergenerational transfer related research predicts that parents who have no religion are certain to have children with no religion, whereas there are least chances of the religious parents to have children who are religious themselves .Also a noteworthy point is there are lot of immigrants from China to Australia and this section of people prefer themselves in the “no religion “category.
To state in simple line “no religion” has become the new “normal” in Australia .There will be a considerable variation among towns and suburbs, both in terms of the percentage of Christian and various religion. Most of the people who identify themselves as Christians do not participate in the religious practices which further reduces the strength and presence of religion in Australia. The second major implication of these changes could probable be the “plausibility structure “of the religious belief. Plausibility structures are the sociocultural contexts for systems of meaning within which these meanings make sense, or are made plausible.
The Sense of belonging
It’s clear that Australians still believe that two third of the population ticks a religious identity box on the census report .They don’t deny to it that they are imbued with non-institutional beliefs: like the fairgo, the mate ship, the dream to have own land and home.
Australians engage in a wide range of ritual behaviors as well. It is the category of belonging that is most difficult to assess in Australia. The membership of many churches has declined, and where power and influence is overtly exerted, it is viewed with suspicion. Yet community clubs and workers’ unions have also lost members, perhaps at a faster rate than the church.
The 2016 Census report
The 2016 Census of Population and Housing reveals that three fifth of the population in Australia are affiliated to some or the other religious beliefs .Christianity is once again the most dominant of the all with account of seventy two percent being identified as Christian. Australia is home to diverse collection of people and there is wide variety of religion recorded in the Census report .Followed by Christianity is Islam ,Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism ad Judaism It has also been noticed that other spiritual beliefs practiced by Australians include Middle Eastern Religion namely Baha’i, Mandaean, Druse, Zoroastrianism and Yezidi), Nature religions (Paganism, Wiccan, Animism and Druidism), East Asian beliefs (Taoism, Confucianism, Ancestor Veneration and Shinto), and Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs. Although Australia remains a predominantly religious country, about one third of all Australians (30 per cent, or 7 million people) indicated either ‘No Religion’ or a secular belief such as Atheism, Humanism or Agnosticism. The number of people indicating they had ‘No Religion’ has increased by almost 50 per cent from 2011 to 2016
Other Relevant findings from 2016 Census report are as follows:
- Islam and Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs were the religions with the youngest median age (27 years), while Christianity and Judaism both have a median age of 44 years.
- The religion with the highest proportion of females to males is Wiccan, with 26 males per 100 females, compared to the national ratio of 97 males per 100 females. The religion with the highest proportion of males to females is Rastafari, with 346 males per 100 females
- Hindus and Jains are most likely to be born overseas, with over four-fifths (81 per cent) emigrating from other countries – predominantly India
- Although not a recognized religion in Australia, close to 48,000 people reported themselves as Jedi.
- The most urbanized religions are Mandaean, Druse and Jainism – with 99 per cent of Mandaeans, 98 per cent of Druse and 96 per cent of Jains living in a capital city. The least urbanized religion is Australian Aboriginal traditional beliefs (20 per cent), ahead of Paganism and Wicca (56 per cent and 57 per cent respectively).
Is Australia a secular country?
There are three forms of secularism :
First ,Secularism can mean complete removal of beliefs in God and religion from public .For example ,France has this form of secularism in practice
The other form of Secularism does not necessarily means decrease in religious belief by population. Instead, religion is simply removed to the private sphere. The state can be secular while its population is religious.
The third form of secularism states that religious belief is just an option for both state and people. Religion is not removed from the public sphere; rather it is just once voice among many, include those with no religion.
As a result, a state may have a relatively high level of interaction with religion and still be considered secular so long as the state does not endorse one religion to the exclusion of other points of view.
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states :
“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”
The state does interact with religion.
Islam in Australia
Islam is identified as the minority in the Australian population and regional belief .The majority of Islam belong to two major categories : the Sunni and Shia and again their followers are split into different schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence for the interpretation and practice of Islamic law. The first mosque in Australia was built in 1861 at Maree, South Australia. Lebanese Muslims are still the largest and highest-profile Muslim group in Australia.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils was founded in 1964 to provide shelter to various small groups of Sunni Islamic group and councils. Trade and educational links have been developed between Australia and several Muslim countries. Students who belong to Muslim religion from various countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, are studying in Australian universities like other thousands of international students. Australian Islamic Community in Australia manages to maintain various organizations and associations such as mosque, private schools, charities etc… There are some organizations that are solely working to provide their services for the development of the women and children. In addition, The Australian Muslim community has also been working strictly to take up various steps like Islamic schools, building a number of mosque, and a number of Imams as a gesture and gratitude towards their religious belief.
Irreligion in Australia
Religion doesn’t really play a vital role in the lives of the people in Australia. Atheism, free thought , secular humanism are increasing in Australia with every passing day .The importance Australians gives to religious belief in their life is easily predicted by the attendance percentage in the church which is among the least in the world and in the continuous declining phase . Australians also do tend to be very suspicious of religion being intertwined with politics .Any Australian leader if referred to as “God “would be laughed off at the podium as a wows-er. When asked about their religious standpoints in 2016 census, around 31% of the population selected as “no religion “.This percentage of population have shown a sharp increase of 8 percent from 2011 Census .Addition to this in 2016 there was seem that 0.5% of the population denied to disclose their religious belief and have preferred to make themselves marked under “other category “.A further 10 %of the population was to give a grave and a very unclear response when asked about their beliefs.