Which religion do you follow? Buddhism? Christianity? Islam? or Taoism? Different people have different reasons for their chosen religion. Interestingly, some are non-believers.
Yet for some, religion is a way of life. In the following religion argumentative essay, the writer argued on whether the Australians are less spiritual than they used to be.
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Spirituality in Australia has changed significantly since 1945. The 1947 census noted that Australia hosted 88% Christians. However, this figure drastically changed when the 10 pound Assisted Passage Scheme (APS) was introduced. Approximately half a century later, the number of Australians affiliated with Christianity has plummeted to 64%. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2006, out of the 64% Australians who claimed to be Christians, 26% were Roman Catholic, 19% Anglican while other denominations scoped the remaining percentages (23). The same reports found that only 7.5% of Australians reported attending the Church regularly (1-3). Consequently, the APS was disturbed because of the low Australian's population which increased their vulnerability to domination by possible opposing enemies. This also resulted in an increase of Pluralism (Christian denominations) along with people migrating from Europe and the Middle East. Interestingly, the increase of religious diversity in the 1950s’ affected Australia’s spirituality because it was becoming socially acceptable to be secular. In light of this, it is worth answering the question of whether Australians are less spiritual than they used to be.
Australia has experienced a decline in the number of people who believe in the traditional faiths. This has resulted in a rise of new religious expressionism with the Census reporting an increase in religions that fall under the category of "others." Central to the new religious expressionism is the inconsistent understanding of the basic tenets of religion such as God's and Evil existence, the human identity as well as the reason for the existence of man, and the idea of life after death (Cowdel, 8-10). According to Vicki Grieves in the article; Aboriginal Spirituality: A Baseline for Indigenous Knowledge Development in Australia, indigenous spirituality is derived from the philosophy of the interconnectedness by all the elements of the universe, earth, inanimate and animate things. In other words, it is the belief in the interrelationship between human beings, animals, plants, celestial bodies, and landforms. Unlike other religions such as Christianity and Islam that support the existence of life after death, the Aboriginal spirituality disregards this. Grieves says that the lack of belief in “paradise” or heaven” among the aboriginals makes living or life on earth an essential aspect of religion; and therefore, people seek to live in peace (12). Ideally, every person understands their responsibility and the nature of their relationship with each other, the ancestor’s spirits and the environment.
Additionally, the article, ‘How Religious are Australians, Dr. Ruth Powel, a Director at the National Church Life Survey Research reports that much has changed in the three aspects of Christianity; belonging, believing and behaving, that she thinks are the foundation of any religion. Dr. Powell says that the sense of belonging is the tendency of people to identify themselves with a certain religion. She proceeds to says that although in 1947 88% of Australians identified themselves with Christianity, the number reduced to 61% by 2011 (3). However, unlike the first half of the 20th century when the decline was gradual, in the late part of the previous century the decline gained momentum. For instance, Dr. Powell says that between 1991 and 2011, Christianity has experienced a 13% decline in the number of those who identify themselves with the religion. Dr. Powel explores the other facets of Christianity that have recorded changes and those that make the few Australian Christians believe in God’s existence. When asked the question of whether they believe that God exists in 1941, only 78% of Australian answered yes to the question. However, when the same question was asked in 2011, the number decline to 69% (6-9). Changes have also been witnessed in some of the Christian behaviors especially when it comes to church attendances. Although 61% of Australians claim to be Christians, only 15% of them go to Church one or more times per month. Yet this is the group that Dr. Powell calls frequent attendants. However, only 10% of Australians go to Church on a weekly basis which questions the level of commitment to the Church among Australians.
Some of the reasons given by scholars for the plummeting number of Christians included the religion being unfashionable. According to Barney Zwartz in the article, Losing Our Religion, a group of people thinks that religion spoils their fun. Zwartz through Bishop Frame notes Christianity declines because it preaches transcendent truths while a relatively large group of people have doubts about the existence of God. This argument is supported by the finding of the 2011 Australian census where only 61% of Australians expressed their belief in the existence of God down from 78% in 1991 (192). Additionally, Bishop Frame adds declines across the world because it preaches forgiveness in a world where moral uprightness is not prioritized. Hence, even though religion preaches about ethical living, the current generation is seeking ways to minimize the pain to maximize the gain. Nonetheless, as the number of Christians decline in Australia, the number of the atheist or the militant non-believers continue to increase. According to Zwartz through Bishop Frame, Christianity is viewed as a failed religion and thus people are seeking their ethical and moral foundations from the ancient faiths. However, unlike the traditions that have been passed by the Western religion, people are now seeking answers to various issues in alternative belief systems which are in line with the needs of the modern day. For instance, Bishop Frames explains the desire to be in harmony with one's self as supported by science. Ideally, this is the basic reason behind the rapid growth of Buddhism in Australia. Buddhists believe in meditative spiritualities which is the search for inner peace an element that the modern people feel is absent in Christianity.
More importantly, individuals who do not identify with any religion have increased in Australia. Yet the aboriginal people have been practicing traditional religion characterized by beliefs in spiritual forces and beings. After the many years of the Aboriginal’s religion in Australia, Judaism and Christianity joined. Besides, the country has seen a proliferation of other religions such as Islamic, Taoist traditions, Confucian and Buddhist in the last two centuries. According to Stetzer in the article, How Religious are Australians?, the onset of the declining religion in Australia was the Enlightenment Era which began during the colonial era. The era was characterized by beliefs about human progress and improvement as well as the rejection of the traditions (12- 17). Above and beyond, some of the ideas that characterized the Enlightenment era included the government separating itself from the church. This separation of church and government led to the secular form of government which accommodated pluralism and religious tolerance even for people who had no religion. The right to religion was promulgated in the Constitution, which forbade the government from making laws that interfered with the free religious exercise. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over a period of one hundred years, the ratio of people who do not subscribe to any religion has moved from 1:250 to 1:50. For instance, during the 1911 census 0.4% of Australians said they had no religion but in 2011, the number rose to 22%. The rate of people claiming no religion was growing at a low rate in the first half of the previous century. Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that the number of people choosing the no religion option has been growing by 3.9% every year for the last decade. However, within the previous decades, the rate of those who claim that they do not have a religion grew by 6.8% which demonstrates that Australians are increasingly becoming non-religious. The high rate of mortality among the older adults explains this trend of increased non-religious people. According to the Bureau of Statistics, although the number of children identifying themselves with a particular religion is high for children below the age of 15, the number starts to decline from age 15 and reaches its peak for individuals at age 24. The reason for this trend is that the response of children below the age of 15 was influenced by their parents’ response. For instance, the 2011 census noted that 79% of children below the age of 15 identified with the same religion as did their parents. However, as children get to age 15 and start to have their views on different issues, their choices on religion change and the number of those who report having no religion start to increase.
However, one notable difference that has contributed to the decline of Christianity in Australia is the increasing migration. According to Stoyan Zaimov in the article, Christianity on the Decline in Australia: Eastern Faiths Increasing, Australia has been experiencing an undeniable cultural shift brought about by the increased immigration. For instance, the number of Indians immigrating to Australia has increased to 13.1 percent of the total immigrants. This has affected the religious composition of the country. For example, it has seen an increase in individuals who subscribe to Buddhist in Australia which has grown fivefold. The immigration has also led to a sevenfold growth of Hindus in Australia. During the 2011 census, Buddhism ranked the highest in terms of the religion with the highest growth rate of 89% in Australia. Besides Christianity and Buddhism, Islam had the highest number of believers. According to Jason Thomas in the article, What is the Fastest Growing in Australia, the population of the Australian Muslims is increasing by the day. For instance, in 2006-2011, the population of the Muslims increased by 39.9 %. This increase in the Muslim population has been attributed to immigration and the rise in childbirths. Additionally, there is a group of people who subscribe to Neo-Paganism, which is a form of atheism where people seek to be connected with the environment as a way of addressing their modern-day problems.
In short, Australia has experienced a change in predominant religious groups with Christianity losing its popularity as new ways of religious expressionism continue to be embraced. The period after 1941 has seen a systematic decline in the number of people who claim to be Christians with the number of those who claim to have no religion rising. Some of the factors that contributed to this trend is the level of education. For instance, the period after the Enlightenment Era saw people acquire knowledge that placed them in a position where they can challenge the traditional beliefs such as the creation story, existence of evil and God, among other issues. Besides, people consider the Predominant religion as inadequate in providing solutions to the modern day problems. The decline in Christianity can also be attributed to the high rate of immigration from countries where other religious systems such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam are dominant. Nonetheless, the number of those who claim to have no religion is increasing in Australia. This leaves one to presume that in spite of the new forms of religious expressionisms, Australians are no longer religious as they used to be.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. “Australian Social Trends.” 2013.
Cowdel, Scott. Understanding Religious Decline.” 2013
Grieves, Vick. Aboriginal Spirituality: A Baseline for Indigenous Knowledge Development In Australia. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 10(2), 2008.
Stetzer, Ed. How Religious are Australians?” 2013.
Thomas, Jason. What’s the Fastest Growing in Australia? 2015..
Zaimov, Stoyan. “Christianity on the Decline in Australia; Eastern Faiths Increasing.” 2012.
Zwartz, Barney. Losing Our Religion.” 2009.