Five census facts they didn’t tell you

This week the census story many journos have been itching to write.

Christianity is dropping 'dramatically' and its influence is waning. Commentators seized on the stats to kick churches and religion in general.

John Bellamy, the Senior Research Officer at Anglicare's Social Policy & Research Unit has been crunching the numbers and I'm indebted to him for this national overview of the statistics. 

There are five facts that show things are not as bad as has been painted.

1.       'Christians' as a combined grouping has reduced from 63.9% in 2006 to 61.1% in 2011. However the actual number of Christians has increased from 12,686,000 in 2006 to 13,151,000 in 2011.

2.       Anglicans nationally have declined both in terms of numbers and as a percentage of the population. In 2006 there were 3,718,000 Anglicans (or 18.7% of the population) compared with 3,680,000 (or 17.1%) in 2011.

3.       Of the major non-Christian religions, Islam has increased (from 1.7% to 2.2% of the population), as has Hinduism (0.7% to 1.3%) and Buddhism (2.1% to 2.5%). Judaism saw a slight increase (0.4% to 0.5%).

4.       The Census is seen by some as providing an indication of the progress of secularisation. If that is the case, combining all religious groups together reveals that 70.1% identified with a religion of some kind in 2006, reducing slightly to 69.1% of the population in 2011.

5.       ‘No religion’ grew from 18.7% of the population in 2006 to 22.3% in 2011. This has been offset by a fall in the ‘Not stated’ category from 11.2% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2011. 

I'm not saying that it's a rosy picture, but it is hardly the end of Christianity in Australia. 

Russell Powell has more than 30 years experience across all forms of media, with a long career as one of Australian radio's most prominent journalists and presenters. He was one of the pioneers of the ABC's NewsRadio network. As well as his on-air work, he has taught at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School. He is now the CEO of Anglican Media Sydney and the Archbishop of Sydney's Media Adviser.

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