Our country was founded on religion and spirituality, that started with Aboriginals’ dream time stories and deep connection to the land, and continued to grow with settlements. As other cultures began to emigrate to Australia, they also brought their religions. Many of us have been brought up with deeply religious families and we attended church, Sunday School and other religious occasions. Fast forward to today and the religious landscape has completely changed.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1911, 10,000 people (0.4 per cent of the population) said they had no religion. 100 years later in 2011, 4.8 million people said they had no religion – that is 22 per cent of Australians. Then there’s those who say they are Catholic, Christian or Jedi (and so on) but don’t practice their beliefs, so realistically there could be more people who don’t truly have any religion at all. Surprisingly, the response ‘Catholic’ was only slightly higher than ‘no religion’, with 25 per cent of the population selecting it on the 2011 census.
It is fair to say that we are turning into a population of non-believers, with more and more younger people avoiding churches and deciding to announce themselves as agnostic or atheist. Roy Morgan research went as far to say that Christians are becoming a minority in Australia…so is it sad to see them go or is it just the way of the world?
There has been plenty of debate over the years about the necessity of religion in modern times, particularly with the rising popularity of public figures such as Richard Dawkins, who defies that God exists at all, and calls it the “God Delusion” in his book of the same name. Sales of The God Delusion are now upwards of 3 million, and it is a New York Times best seller.
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In a recent article for TIME, Professor Dawkins said that teaching children about religion from a young age is wrong, and pushing beliefs on them is not right. This a stark contrast to everything we knew growing up – I was told about Jesus from the age of 3 and went to Catholic primary and secondary schools, as did many of our readers.
Professor Dawkins said, “Unlike national labels, religious labels carry a baggage of personal opinion. Catholics believe Jesus was born of a virgin mother who never died but was “assumed” bodily into heaven…It is high-handed and presumptuous to tie a metaphorical label around a tiny child’s neck stating, in effect, “this child believes Jesus rose from the dead”, as calmly as you might write “Blood Group AB.” At very least it negates the ideal, held dear by all decent educationists, that children should be taught to think for themselves”. Do you agree?
Does religion start at a young age and then peter out as we get older, or is it something we should hold on to? Is religion fundamental in our lives or is it the faith that is most important when you take everything else away? Some experts have shared their views on the rapid decrease of religion in Australia’s youth, with Monash University Professor Emeritus Gary Bouma saying “This is a matter of no longer it being culturally necessary to have a religion…These things are about saying you don’t have a religion, a lot of it is a rejection of institutions, a rejection of conformity. [Those who said they had no religion] might be very spiritual”.
Roy Morgan Industry Communications Director Norman Morris said that by Easter this year, it may be the first time that the majority of Australians don’t affiliate with Christianity. He said, “The decline…could reflect a growing level of genuine atheism or agnosticism, or instead simply a shift away from identifying with organised Christianity, despite ongoing theistic faith”. He also suggested that factors that contribute to the fall of Christians in Australia could be because of conservativeness of religions that conflict with progressive attitudes towards abortion, same sex marriage and the use of condoms, among other things.
So what do you think? Are you religious? How long have you been affiliated with your religion? What is the cause of lack of faith? Should religion exist in 2015? Tell us below.