Religious Affiliation in Australia
The following information is garnered from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ page on Religious Affiliation in Australia based on the 2021 Census.
The Australian population increased to 25,422,788 in 2021 from 23,401,892 in 2016, an increase of 2.02 million (8.6%).
The number of people who answered the religious question in 2021 increased to 93.1% from 90.9% in 2016.
Religious Affiliation in Australia
- Those affiliated with Christianity decreased by 1.053 million (8.29%) — falling to 11.148 million (43.85% of the population) in 2021 from 12.201 million (52.14%) in 2016.
- Those affiliated with No Religion increased by 2.845 million (8.8%) — rising to 9.889 million (38.9%) in 2021 from 7.043 million (30.1%) in 2016.
- Migration increased those affiliated with Other Religion by 623,000 (1.8%) — rising to 2.542 million (10%) in 2021 from 1.918 million (8.2%) in 2016. However, migration was not a factor in the decline in Christian affiliation.
Religious Affiliation of Migrants (2017-2021)
Christianity 28.4% (290,200 migrants)
No Religion 28.5% (290,700 migrants)
Other Religion 40.7% (414,900 migrants)
Not Stated 2% (20,700 migrants)
Roughly speaking, an equal number of those affiliating with Christianity and No Religion migrated to Australia during 2017-2021.
- All Christian denominations declined except those common to people with Greek, Lebanese, Serbian, Middle Eastern and African ancestries, which saw a slight increase due to continued migration patterns.
- Catholicism and Anglican are the largest denominations in Australia but both declined between 2016 and 2021, a decrease that accounted for 78% of the decline in those affiliated to Christianity.
Those affiliated with Anglican decreased by 605,000 (3.5%) — falling to 2.49 million (9.8% of the population) in 2021 from 3.09 million (13.3%) in 2016.
Those affiliated with Catholicism decreased by 216,000 (2.6%) — falling to 5.076 million (20%) in 2021 from 5.29 million (22.6%) in 2016. The decrease in Catholicism would have been higher but for the large number of migrants who reported an affiliation with Catholicism: 191,000 of the 290,200 Christian-affiliated migrants (65.8%), over one-quarter of which were born in the Philippines.
- Those affiliating with non-denominational Christianity increased by 76,100 (12.4%) — rising to 688,400 in 2021 from 612,300 in 2016.
While still small, this emerging category is now equal in size to the population affiliated with Hinduism (2.7%).
The reason for the rising numbers affiliated with non-denominational Christianity is open to speculation. In part, it may represent a growing number of people who still associate with the Christian faith, but are disillusioned with denominationalism and “church as we know it”.
Christian Affiliation By Denomination
[By percentage of those affiliated to Christianity]
Christian Affiliation By Generation
Along with the growing detachment from traditional Christianity, we now come to the biggest factor for the decline in the numbers affiliated with Christianity: age.
More specifically, Christendom in Australia is losing the hearts of those under the age of 39 years.
Millennials (25-39 years) and their children (0-9 years) have the highest proportion of No Religion (46.5%).
Gen Z (10-24 years) follows closely behind (44%).
In contrast, the average age of a person affiliated with Christianity is 47 years of age.
Statistics can only provide one snapshot of a complex and nuanced subject. The critic will also point out that they can be used to back up just about any point you want to make. There’s certainly some merit in the adage, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
That said, the data above is not particularly ground-breaking or deeply insightful. It simply confirms what we generally observe—but confirming our hunch is a good thing; acting on assumptions alone isn’t smart.
Moreover, I’ve always enjoyed the practical wisdom of Proverbs 15:22, “Get all the advice you can, and you will succeed; without it you will fail” (GNT). Statistics is just a tool, but it helps us draw on all the advice available.
[Interestingly, the rise of No Religion versus the fall of Christianity is similar to what’s happening in the U.S. As of 2021, the religiously unaffiliated in the USA rose to 29%, a 6% increase over the previous five years. While the Catholic share of the population has held relatively steady at 21% of the population (helped by migration patterns), the Protestant share of the population is down 4% over the past five years.]