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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, Nov 2013  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/11/2013   
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Picture shows a survey list of religions including Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Other and No religion. The no religion box is ticked.

LOSING MY RELIGION?



PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE(a) REPORTING NO RELIGION(b), 1911-2011
Graph shows rates of reporting no religion from 1911 to 2011. Rates prior to 1971 were all lower than 1%, and from 1971 they rise rapidly from around 7% up to 22% in 2011
(a) Prior to 1971, people describing themselves as as more than 50% Aboriginal were excluded from counts of the population
(b) Includes (variously over time) atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, socialists, rationalists, humanists and people who stated 'No denomination' and 'No religion'
(c) In the 1933 Census the public was specifically informed there was no legal obligation to answer the question on religion. 'Not stated' responses increased at this point.
(d) In 1971, the instruction 'If no religion, write none' was introduced to the Census
Sources: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 1911 - 2011



Related terms
no religion, non religious, religious ceremonies, different religious beliefs, religious views, losing my religion, Atheist, Agnostic, Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, Anglican



INTRODUCTION

Australia has been a religious place for many thousands of years, home to the spiritual beings and forces observed by the Aboriginal people, as well as to the Torres Strait Islander religion. The First Fleet brought Christianity and Judaism, and over the last two centuries we have seen the arrival and growth of Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, Sikh and Taoist traditions, among others.1, 2

Equally present from colonial times, however, was the scientific spirit of the Enlightenment, with its goal of human improvement and progress, and a willingness to break with tradition.3 Enlightenment principles promoted a secular government, detached from the church, that encouraged tolerance and supported religious pluralism,2 including the right to practice no religion. By Federation, this diversity was enshrined in the Australian Constitution, which says that 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.4

No religion is an option increasingly reported by Australians in the Census of Population and Housing.

This article looks at the change over time in numbers of people reporting no religion, and explores the characteristics of those who reported no religion in 2011.

REPORTING NO RELIGION

The number of people reporting no religion in Australia has increased substantially over the past hundred years, from one in 250 people to one in five. In 1911 there were 10,000 people (0.4%) who chose the option 'No religion' on their Census form; in 2011 there were just under 4.8 million (22% of Australians). As a single response to the question on religion, only Catholic was higher at 25% of the population, with Anglican third highest at 17%.

Although numbers of people reporting no religion were relatively low in the first half of the century, the specific instruction 'if no religion, write none' included in the 1971 Census saw an increase in this response from 0.8% in the previous Census to 6.7%.5 From this time, reporting no religion has increased at an average of 3.9 percentage points per decade, with the sharpest increase (6.8 percentage points) between 2001 and 2011.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION, 1971 - 2011

Line graph shows rates of reporting no religion from 1971 to 2011, showing a steady rise over the years with the sharpest rise between 2001 and 2011
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 1971- 2011

Most people who reported no religion selected the 'No religion' box on the Census form (98%), however some provided additional information about their views, including the belief that a god or gods do not exist (Atheism), or cannot be proven to exist (Agnosticism). Other responses included Humanism, which rejects religious beliefs and centres on humans and their values, capacities, and worth; and Rationalism, which states that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or an emotional response.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION IN THE 2011 CENSUS, BY TYPE OF VIEW HELD

No.
%

Atheist
58 899
1.2
Agnostic
34 632
0.7
Humanist
7 663
0.2
Rationalist
2 435
0.1
No religion, not further defined
4 693 162
97.8

Total
4 796 791
100.0

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Leading up to the 2011 Census, there was a campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia which encouraged people to report 'No Religion' on their Census form6 (a campaign that was also carried out in New Zealand and the United Kingdom). The number of people who reported being an Atheist almost doubled between 2006 and 2011, from 31,300 to 58,900 people.

International rise

Australia is not alone in having rising rates of people reporting no religion. New Zealand's latest Census data showed a rise from 30% in 2001 to 35% in 2006,7 while rates in England and Wales went from 15% in 2001 to 25% in 2011,8 and Canadian rates rose from 16% to 24% over the same time.9 While the United States do not have a question on religion in their Census, the General Social Survey showed the rate of American adults reporting no religion to be 20% in 2012 compared with 14% in 2000.10 The 2011 Census in Ireland showed that people who report no religion are now the second largest grouping in the country behind Catholics, with the number increasing more than four-fold since 1991 to 6%.11

What religions are decreasing?

The rate of people reporting Christian religions has shown a steady decline over the past hundred years (down from 95% in 1911, shown here for the past decade). The proportion of Australians in non-Christian religions continues to rise.

SELECTED RELIGIOUS STATUS, 2001, 2006 AND 2011

Graph shows decline in Christian religions over three Censuses (2001, 2006 and 2011), as well as a rise in reporting no religion and a rise in non-Christian religions
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 2001, 2006 and 2011

MALES AND YOUNGER PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE NO RELIGION

Until 1961, males were more than twice as likely to report no religion as females, but the overall numbers of people reporting no religion were very small (less than 1% of the population). From 1971, as reporting of no religion increased, the gap between the sexes lessened and steadied. In 2011, 24% of males and 21% of females said they had no religion.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE(a)
REPORTING NO RELIGION(b) BY SEX,
1911 - 1961
PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE
REPORTING NO RELIGION(b) BY SEX,
1971 - 2011
Graph shows reporting of no religion between 1911 and 1961 by sex. All rates for males are under 0.8%, and those for females are all under 0.2%
Graph shows reporting of no religion by sex for the Census years from 1971 to 2011. Rates for males and females show a steady rise, with rates for males generally about 4% higher than rates for females.
(a) Prior to 1971, people describing themselves as more than 50% Aboriginal were excluded from counts of the population
(b) Includes (variously) atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, socialists, rationalists, humanists and people who stated 'No religion'
(c) In 1971, the instruction 'If no religion, write none' was introduced to the Census, which showed a large increase in such responses
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing,1911 - 2011

Before the age of 20, however, the gender gap is non-existent, with females just as likely as males to report no religion, or have no religion reported on their behalf. From the age of 20, the gap between men and women widens, then remains fairly steady from the age of 35, with men generally around 4% more likely to report no religion. This pattern is similar to that of previous decades, so it is not a cohort effect particular to 2011.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BY AGE AND SEX, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion by single years of age. Rates start at around 34% for babies aged 0, drop to a low of 23% at age 13, increase to 32% by age 23 then decrease steadily to the age of 100 years and over. Rates are by sex.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Younger people make up a high proportion of those reporting no religion (around half who did so being less than 30 years old). Older people in Australia are considerably more likely than younger Australians to report a religion: only 10% of people aged 65 years and over reported no religion in 2011.12

Religion of children and parents

Patterns by age show that rates of having no religion are highest for babies, but drop substantially for children aged 5 to 14. It is quite likely that children under 15 do not answer the question on religion for themselves, so these rates may reflect their parents' views. The pattern of high rates of reporting no religion for children younger than five and lower rates of reporting no religion for those aged 5 to 14 is similar to previous Censuses.

Around 12% of children living in couple families had both parents reporting no religion. Just under 11% had one parent reporting no religion and one who did not, and the remaining 77% had both parents either reporting a religion or not stating their religion. Lone parents were even less likely to report no religion: only 5% of children in these families lived with a parent who reported no religion.

In 2011, 79% of children had the same no religion response as did at least one of their parents. Under the age of 5, this proportion was 81%, reducing to 77% in the 5 to 14 year age group. If both parents reported no religion, 97% of children had a no religion response.

When there was a difference between what was reported for children and their parents, it was more evident in families where a child reported no religion but neither of their parents did. In couple families where both parents either reported a religion or did not state their religious status, around 14% of children aged 0-4 and 12% of children aged 5-14 had no religion reported. Looking at the most common Christian and non-Christian religions, the likelihood of a child reporting no religion decreased where both parents had the same religion (down to 2% where both parents were Catholic, 6% where both were Anglican, 9% where both were Buddhist, 0.7% where both were Hindi and 0.2% where both were Muslim).

Only around 2% of children aged 0-14 had a religion reported if neither parent reported a religion (9,000 children).

RELIGIOUS STATUS OF CHILDREN BY RELIGION OF PARENTS(a), 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion for children aged 0-4 and 5-14 by the religion of couple parents. Rates of no religion rise where one or more parents report no religion.
(a) Parents in couple families, living in the same household as the child.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

In lone parent families, 92% of children aged 0-14 reported no religion where their parent also reported no religion, while 25% reported no religion where their parent did report one. Around 6% of children reported a religion when their parent did not.

Young adults driving the increase

Around the age of 15, rates of reporting no religion start rising, reaching their highest point between the ages of 22 and 24.

PERCENTAGE OF YOUNG PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION, BY AGE AND SEX, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion for people aged 15 to 29 years, in single years of age, to show the increase and decline of reporting no religion for this age group and the gender split that starts occurring around the age of 23.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Young adults are a major source of the increase in reporting of no religion in 2011. The proportion of people reporting no religion can be compared to the proportion five years earlier in the corresponding age cohort. The most significant increase in reporting no religion was for people aged 15 to 34 in 2011 (who were 10 to 29 in 2006). The proportion of 20-24 year olds with no religion in 2011, for example, was nearly 11 percentage points higher than the proportion of 15-19 year olds in 2006.

CHANGE IN PROPORTION OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BETWEEN 2006 AND 2011(a)(b) BY AGE GROUP IN 2011

Graph shows the change in proportion of people reporting no religion by age cohort in 2006 and 2011. Rates decrease for children aged 5-9 in 2001 by just under 1%, and show a 10.8% increase for those aged 15-24 before steadying at around 2.5% for 35+
(a) Percentage of people that reported no religion in 2006 compared with percentage of people with no religion in the age cohort they would be part of in 2011.
Negative numbers mean a decrease of reporting no religion between 2006 and 2011, positive numbers mean an increase.
(b) Excludes people who were not resident in Australia in 2006
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 2006 and 2011

Religious affiliation is more stable in older age groups. Cohort analysis shows that as each age cohort begins at and maintains a progressively lower level of religious affiliation (except for young children, and the slight rise in reporting no religion that occurs for those aged 85 and over), the increase in rates of having no religion can be seen to reflect more of a change over time rather than over life cycles.12

DOES EDUCATION MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Rates of reporting no religion increase with higher educational qualifications. In 2011, almost a third of people aged 20 years and over with a postgraduate degree reported no religion (31%), compared with a fifth (20%) of those with a school education only.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE(a) REPORTING NO RELIGION BY LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion by highest educational qualification, with a steady rise from those with a school education only at 20% to those with a postgraduate degree at 31%
(a) Aged 20 years and over
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Education levels were not as related to rates of reporting no religion for younger people as they were for older people. There was no difference between people aged 20-34 with postgraduate or school-only qualifications (both 32%), however people aged 50 to 64 years with a postgraduate degree were twice as likely to report no religion (32%) as those with a school education only (16%). This difference was even greater for people aged 65 years and over (31% and 9% respectively).

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BY LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND AGE, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion by highest education level and age groups 20-34, 35-49, 50-64 and 65 years and over.  Rates for the youngest group are high regardless of education but change from very low to high for older people by education
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Field of study

People who studied creative arts (37%) and sciences (36%) were the most likely to report no religion, while those who had studied education (21%) or health (22%) were the least likely to do so.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WITH A BACHELOR DEGREE OR HIGHER REPORTING NO RELIGION BY FIELD OF HIGHEST QUALIFICATION, 2011

Graph shows no religion by field of highest qualification, from Creative arts, then sciences, IT, Agriculture, Environmental studies, Society and Culture, Architecture and Building, Engineering, Management and Commerce, Hospitality, Health and Education
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Looking at specific subject fields, people who had studied Physics and Astronomy had the highest rates of reporting no religion (46%), and people who had studied Philosophy and Religious Studies had the lowest rates (9%).

WHERE YOU LIVE AND WHERE YOU COME FROM

State/Territory

Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest rates of people reporting no religion (both 29%), just ahead of South Australia (28%). New South Wales had by far the lowest rate (18%).
The high levels of reporting no religion in Tasmania appear inconsistent with national trends, as Tasmania has both an older age structure (a median age of 40 compared with 38 for NSW and 34 for the ACT) and lower average education levels (16% of Tasmanians aged 25 years or more having a bachelor degree or higher, compared with 22% of people from NSW and 39% of people from the ACT). Twenty years ago, Tasmania was one of the states with the lowest levels of reporting no religion (12%).

The increase of reporting no religion in Tasmania may be connected to the overall decrease in rates of Anglicanism, a religion that has been traditionally practiced more in Tasmania than in other states. Over the past twenty years, rates of reporting Anglicanism in Tasmania dropped from 37% to 26%.

Over the same time, the Northern Territory has gone from reporting the highest rates of no religion to the third lowest.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BY STATE AND TERRITORY, 1991 AND 2011

Graph shows no religion by state or territory and the change between 1991 and 2011. Highest difference is for Tas, then Qld, then ACT. 2011 rates from highest to lowest are Tas, ACT, SA, WA, Vic, NT, Qld, NSW.
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 1991 and 2011

Remoteness

Rates of reporting no religion were not particularly affected by whether someone lived in a major city or regional or remote Australia, however people living in very remote areas were less likely to report no religion (19% compared with 22% on average for the rest of Australia).

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BY REMOTENESS AREA, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion by remoteness area, with major cities, inner and outer regional and remote Australia all around the 22-23% mark and people in very remote areas of Australia at around 19%
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Country of birth

Australians born in China had the highest rates of reporting no religion (63%), followed by those born in Japan (53%) and Macau (45%). Just over 23% of people born in Australia reported no religion.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE REPORTING NO RELIGION BY COUNTRY OF BIRTH(a):
COUNTRIES OF BIRTH WITH HIGHEST RATES OF REPORTING OF NO RELIGION, 2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion by highest top ten countries of birth, with rates highest for China, Japan, Macau, Hong Kong, Sweden, Norway,
(a) Countries of birth with more than 250 representatives in Australia
(b) Excluding Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

RELIGION AND LIFE EVENTS

Couple relationships

Of people aged 15 years and over in couple relationships, those with no religion were more likely to be in a de facto relationship (29%) than those who reported a religion (12%).

People in same sex-couples were just as likely to report a religion as not (47% reporting a religion, and 48% reporting no religion).

Marriage ceremonies

With the appointment of the first civil celebrants in 197313 there has been a growing move away from religious marriage ceremonies in Australia. In fact, civil marriages have outnumbered religious ceremonies since 1999.

In 2011, 70% of all marriages were performed by civil celebrants.14 Among the reasons suggested by commentators and civil celebrants for the trend towards civil ceremonies was that despite moving away from formal religion, people still seem to need rituals to mark major life events, and that part of the appeal of civil celebrants is that they cater for people excluded by the church.15

NUMBER OF MARRIAGES BY TYPE OF CELEBRANT, 1991-2011

Graph shows numbers of marriages perfomed by ministers and civil celebrants. The two lines cross each other in 1998, after which time more marriages are performed in Australia by civil celebrants and that number is steadily rising.
Source: Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2011 (cat. no. 3310.0)

Having children

Women aged 15 years and over who reported no religion had less children than those who reported a religion. They were half as likely to have had four or more children as women who reported a religion (6% compared with 12%), and much more likely to have had no children at all (44% compared with 29%).

Younger women with no religion were slightly more likely to have had children than younger women with one, until they reached their early twenties, where rates for women who reported a religion started overtaking those for women who reported no religion. This pattern remained steady for all ages after 23 years.

WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ONE OR MORE CHILDREN BY RELIGIOUS STATUS BY AGE, 2011

Graph shows whether children ever had for women with and without a religion reported. Slightly more women aged 15 to 22 with no religion had ever had a child, but rates were higher for women with a religion after the age of 23.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY

Active or passive?

Reporting a religious affiliation is not the same as actively participating in religious activities. In the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS), 15% of men and 22% of women aged 18 years and over said they had actively participated in a religious or spiritual group. Even fewer reported doing voluntary work for their church or organisation: 7.2% of men, and 9% of women.

In 2011, Australians who reported no religion were slightly less likely to volunteer for an organisation or group (17%) than people in Christian religions (20%), but slightly more likely to volunteer than people reporting non-Christian religions (14%).

LOOKING AHEAD

As the rising trend of reporting no religion is driven by younger people, and the tendency is for religious affiliation to remain stable in cohorts, it is possible that we will see Australia become increasingly more secular in the future.
The Census will continue to monitor this trend over time.

ADDITIONAL TOPICS

RELIGION AND SCHOOL

Although religious schools dominate the non-government school sector, religion is usually not the most important factor for parents in choice of school, outweighed by discipline, educational quality, and the school's capacity to develop their child's potential.16 While some children reporting no religion did attend Catholic and other non-government schools, they were more likely to go to government schools (81% or four in five children). This number was higher for those in primary school (86%) than it was for those in high school (74%).

Just over half the children who did report a religion or did not state their religion went to government schools (56%, with 59% for primary and 52% for secondary schools).

Catholic and other non-government schools had lower proportions of children reporting no religion than government schools. Around 7% of children in Catholic primary schools reported no religion, compared with 18% in other non-government primary schools, and 33% in government primary schools. There were similar patterns for high schools, although slightly more children reported no religion in non-government high schools (9% in Catholic and 22% in other non-government high schools), and slightly less reported no religion in government high schools (31%).

Household income also had an effect on parents' choice of schooling for their child, although this was mostly a factor for non-Catholic schools. On average, 21% of children who lived in couple families with an income of less than $1,500 a week and 23% who lived in couple families with an income over $2,000 a week went to Catholic schools, while 12% and 33% respectively went to other non-government schools. Where neither parent reported no religion there was a slight increase in the proportion of children attending non-government schools, to 24% and 28% respectively for Catholic schools, and 13% and 34% respectively for other non-government schools. However when both parents reported no religion, 6% of children in families with an income less than $1,500 per week and 5% of children in families with over $2,000 per week went to Catholic schools, while 10% and 31% respectively went to other non-government schools.

Rates of attending government schools decreased as level of income increased and were also lower where parents reported a religion or did not state their religious status. The lowest rates of attending government schools were for children in households with an income of $2,000 or more per week where neither parent reported no religion.

SCHOOL ATTENDED BY RELIGIOUS STATUS OF COUPLE PARENTS AND INCOME(a), 2011
Graph shows schools attended by children of couple parents with and without a religion, by income brackets less than $1500 per week, $1500 to less than $2000 per week and $2000 or more per week. Rates of attending non-govt schools increase by income.
(a) Equivalised total weekly household income. Household may include more than the couple family and their children.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Children of lone parents with no religion were slightly more likely on average to go to Catholic schools than children of couple parents with no religion (8% compared with 6%), but were also the most likely to go to government schools (86%).
NO RELIGION OR NOT TELLING? THE AUSTRALIAN STORY

In 1911, the first national Census in Australia asked a question on religion. This was unusual at the time, with Britain considering it to be too intrusive, but the Australian people were used to providing their religious status because it had been included in state Censuses,17 as well as in the Federation Census of 1901. The Census question was voluntary, and from the outset there was an option to answer 'no religion'.

The 'no religion' response does not tell the whole story, however. It is not possible to work out the actual number of Australians with no religion, as there are people who may or may not be religious who choose not to answer the question, or give an indefinite answer.

In 1911, the responses of 2% of Australians (83,000 people) were classified as 'objected to state'. In 2011, 'not stated' responses accounted for 9% of the population (1.8 million people).

Reasons for not answering the question may include a belief that religion is a private matter, or because people are answering for someone else and do not know their religious affiliation. Those filling out Census forms for older people in nursing homes, for example, may choose the 'not stated' response if the person is not able to communicate ('not stated' responses rise steeply from 8% of people aged 75 to 79 years to 16% of people aged 95 years and over).

Some people may not answer solely because the question is voluntary. In 1933, when the question was explicitly stated to be so, there was a six fold increase in people choosing not to answer, from less than 2% in 1921 to 13% - the highest proportion of such responses to date.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE(a) REPORTING NO RELIGION(b) OR PROVIDING NO RESPONSE TO THE CENSUS QUESTION ON RELIGION, 1901-2011

Graph shows rates of reporting no religion and 'not stated' responses for the decades 1901 to 2011. Milestones such as the 1933 and 1971 instructions regarding reporting are noticeable in the data.
(a) Prior to 1971, people describing themselves as as more than 50% Aboriginal were excluded from counts of the population
(b) Includes (variously over time) atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, socialists, rationalists, humanists and people who stated 'No denomination' and 'No religion'
(c) In the 1933 Census the public was specifically informed there was no legal obligation to answer the question on religion
(d) In 1971, the instruction 'If no religion, write none' was introduced to the Census
Sources: Federation Census 1901, ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 1911 - 2011

Others choose to answer in such a way that the question is not really answered (like an informal vote in an election). A hundred years ago, as now, there were responses to the question on religion that may or may not have been intended to be taken seriously, and as now, they were classified as 'not defined'. With such responses as 'cosmopolitan', 'infidel', 'single taxer', 'calathumpian', 'idolater' and 'wowser', were these people the Jedis of 1911? There was even one person who put their religion as 'scientist', and may have seen (with some satisfaction?) their single response published in the list of religions. By 1921 individual responses to 'indefinite religions' were no longer published, so even had our scientist paid their two shillings and sixpence for a copy of the Census results*, they would not have seen themselves again.

Overall, in 1911, responses from 5,600 people were classified as 'other indefinite' (0.1%), compared with 132,600 in 2011 (0.6%).

*(Census results are now freely available at www.abs.gov.au)
RETURN OF THE JEDI?

When answering the question on religion in the 2001 Census, 70,509 Australians (0.37%) wrote 'Jedi' or a variant, in response to an email campaign claiming (mistakenly) that if 8,000 people said they followed the Jedi religion in the forthcoming Census, the country would have to recognise it officially.18, 19 While number of followers is considered in the criteria for categorising religions in the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, it is not generally used in defining them for inclusion. More detail on this can be found in the publication (cat. no. 1266.0).

Whether or not people took the claim seriously, it was the start of a reporting phenomenon that gained speed internationally and has continued into the next decade. In 2011, England and Wales had a sizeable Jedi contingent (176,632),20 and recent data showed there were 20,262 in New Zealand21 and around 9,000 in Canada.22

Numbers in Australia dropped in the 2006 Census to 58,053 people but bounced back in 2011 to 64,390.

PEOPLE REPORTING JEDI OR A VARIANT AS THEIR RELIGION IN THE CENSUS, 2001-2011
Graph shows rates of reporting Jedi for census years 2001, 2006 and 2011. Rates drop in 2006 and rise again in 2011, but not as high as they were in 2001.
Source: ABS Censuses of Population and Housing, 2001 to 2011

The ABS released a statement in 2001 that said 'if your belief system is 'Jedi' then answer as such on the Census form', and went on to explain the purpose of the question in enabling representative services to be provided where they are needed. The statement noted that answers which had not as yet been identified as a religion in the classification would be coded as 'not defined'.

EXPLANATORY INFORMATION

DATA SOURCES AND DEFINITIONS

Data presented in this article have been mainly sourced from the ABS Census of Population and Housing. Data from the ABS General Social Survey 2010, and Marriages registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each Australian State and Territory, 2011 is also included.

The Census question on religion asks "What is the person’s religion?" and provides a list of common religions to choose from. People are advised that answering this question is optional. They are also guided with examples on how to answer if their religion does not appear on the list, and asked to mark the ‘No religion’ box if they do not have a religion.

The category 'No religion' is made up of people who select the 'No religion' box on the Census form, or write 'None' or 'No religion' or a variant. The question is voluntary, so people can also choose not to answer, in which case their religious status is recorded as 'Not stated' (see below). The actual number of Australians with no religion is unclear because people who choose not to answer the question may or may not be religious. Parents of young children are quite likely to be answering this question on behalf of their children.

'Not stated' responses are not included in the 'No religion' count. From 1981, 'not stated' responses also contain imputed responses. Where a Census collector has identified that a private dwelling was occupied on Census Night but a Census form was not returned, the number of people normally in the dwelling and their key demographic variables may require imputation. In these cases, non-demographic variables (such as religious status) are set to 'Not stated' or 'Not applicable'.

The classification structure for religions, and inclusions for 'Christianity', 'Catholic' and 'Anglican' can be found in the Census Data Dictionary. In this article, 'Catholic' includes all Catholic variations, and 'Anglican' includes the Anglican Church of Australia and the Anglican Catholic Church.

Income data is drawn from equivalised total weekly household income, which is household income adjusted by an equivalence scale to compare income levels between households of differing size and composition. A larger household would normally need more income than a smaller household to achieve the same standard of living. Equivalised total household income can be seen as an indicator of the economic resources available to a standardised household. For a lone person household it is equal to household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the household income that would be needed by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing.

Calathumpian - often used to indicate a lack of adherence to any religion; a member of an unspecified nonconformist religious sect; a holder of any unspecified belief (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary).

For more information on religion in Australia in 2011, see Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012–2013 (cat. no. 2071.0).

ENDNOTES
  1. Freedom of religion and belief in 21st century Australia, Australian Human Rights Commission, 2011, p 5, viewed 30/10/13 <www.humanrights.gov.au>
  2. Jupp, J., (Ed),The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-86407-7, pp 2-8
  3. Gascoigne, J., The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp 3-10
  4. Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act - Section 116, <www.austlii.edu.au>. For additional reading on the development of Section 116, see Conviction with Compassion: A Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief , Parliamentary Committee report presented to Parliament 27 November 2000, <www.aph.gov.au>
  5. Special Feature: Trends in religious affiliation, Australian Social Trends, 1994, (cat no. 4102.0), <www.abs.gov.au>
  6. Censusnoreligion.org; Census-campaign.org.au; Facebook event 'I will be marking No Religion on the 2011 Australian Census', viewed 24/9/13
  7. NZ statistics, <www.stats.govt.nz>
  8. UK statistics, <www.ons.gov.uk>
  9. Canadian statistics <www.statcan.gc.ca>; 2001 Census: analysis series: Religions in Canada, <www12.statcan.gc.ca>
  10. US General Social Survey data in 'More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Key Finding from the 2012 General Social Survey', viewed 24/9/13, <http://sociology.berkeley.edu/>
  11. Central Statistics Office, Ireland, Press Release Census 2011 Profile 7 Religion, Ethnicity and Irish Travellers, viewed 24/9/13, and Statistical tables, <www.cso.ie>
  12. 2071.0 - Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012–2013 , 'Who are Australia's Older People?', <www.abs.gov.au>
  13. Attorney-General's Department: Discussion Paper, Civil Marriage Celebrants Program, October 1997, viewed 4/11/13, <www.archive.is/rW3rT>
  14. Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2011, (cat. no. 3310.0), <www.abs.gov.au>
  15. Secular Soul, Part 2: Ceremonies, ABC Compass Program, 30 June 2002, viewed October 2013, <www.abc.net.au>
  16. Buckingham, J., 'The Rise of Religious Schools', 2010, The Centre for Independent Studies (Australia), <www.cis.org.au>
  17. Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, July 2011 'A History of the Australian Census of Population and Housing' (cat. no. 2071.0), <www.abs.gov.au>
  18. About.com, Urban legends, 'Star Wars Religion Doesn't Make Census', <www.urbanlegends.about.com>; Article in 'Wired' magazine, 2001, <www.wired.com>, both viewed 16/10/2013;
  19. 'May the Farce be with you', Sydney Morning Herald, August 27, 2002, viewed 16/10/2013, <www.smh.com.au>
  20. Office of National Statistics, UK, viewed 17/9/13, <www.ons.gov.uk>
  21. Te Ara, Encyclopedia of New Zealand, viewed 17/9/13, <www.teara.govt.nz>
  22. Interview with Statistics Canada in CBC news, viewed 17/9/13, <www.cbc.ca>












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