Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, November 24, 2006

Irreligaussies

An article in the NYT on religious politics in Australia. Not obviously crazy -
While polls show that Australians are generally quite divided on “values” issues - like abortion, which is legal, and same-sex marriage, which is not - political debates on the topics do not degenerate into personal attacks, perhaps a reflection of the country’s secular nature. The evangelical right, though growing, is politically insignificant.

but it does say that
"For the most part, religion is a private matter here, not a political one. And while it would be glib to say that Australians worship the sun, the surf and the laid-back life, it is not wrong to note that although Australians go to church - predominately Catholic or Anglican - candidates are generally not concerned with playing to religious groups. The evangelical right, though growing, is politically insignificant."

Aussies go to church? No, we don’t. Not even the rightwing nutjob evangelicals. Young people even less (http://www.youthfacts.com.au) -
Percentage of church attendees in Australia, aged 15-29, 2001:
Pentecostal: ~30%
Baptist: 23%
Church of Christ: 22%
Catholic: 12%
Anglican: 11%
Uniting: 8%

Percentage of young church attendees who stated they were ‘very satisfied’ with their church:
15-18-year-olds: 23%
19-25-year-olds: 18%


The ABS shows the general picture -
“The proportion of all Australians stating an affiliation to some type of religion remained relatively stable from 1933 until 1971, at slightly less than 90%. This proportion dropped to 80% in 1976, then slowly declined to 73% in 2001. This gradual fall occurred against a backdrop of change in social values and attitudes, particularly since the late 1960s, and an increased secularisation of society in the last three decades of the 20th century. It was accompanied by a rising tendency among all Australians to state that they did not affiliate with any religion - particularly evident since the 1970s (7% in 1971 and 16% in 2001)”.

73% is ‘believers’(it’s also mildly interesting to note that Australia has more buddhists than Moslems and more hindus than jews, neither of which I expected); getting closer, 23% of Australian adults participated in church or religious activities during the three months prior to interview. And while I can’t find the figure on the ABS site, other sites claim that the ABS records something like 7-13% of the population as being regular churchgoers. That would be slightly odd, because it would imply that young people go to church at the average rate despite being less likely to believe in god, but as an order of magnitude figure it’s a good start.
As opposed to American stats of about 40% claiming regular churchgoing - three times as high, well over any number of tipping points. Australians are as near as dammit totally areligious, which is fine by me.
To complicate the issue slightly, Wikipedia says that in America “Church attendance data in the U.S. has been checked against actual values using two different techniques. The true figures show that only about 21% of Americans and 10% of Canadians actually go to church one or more times a week.” As Australia is a less religious environment, attendance figures here may be less inflated. However, the basic point remains, though we should also admit that the poms have us beat handily - “41%[2] of American citizens report they regularly attend religious services, compared to 15% of French citizens, 7% of UK citizens, and 25% of Israeli citizens”.
Indeed, Australia is, irritatingly, so irreligious that nobody can be buggered cleaning up the fragments of religious belief that are still embedded in the system, but they have about as much connection with the life of the people as the fact that the days of the week are named after norse gods.

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