Self-Reporting of Religion and Personal Practice

Census 2011

A lot of attention has been paid to the low reporting of religion in the 2011 Census of all household dwellings in Australia. The Bureau of Census reports that there is a high frequency of nones - that is, no religion reported. This raises a number of questions about the Census and what is actually practiced in Australia.

The Census had an optional religion question. In this response box, people reported their affiliation with a religious body, or their belief. Some reported their religion as Jedi. Others reported their belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Some persons indicated "none". Others did not respond to this optional question.

We have strong anecdotal evidence that many people - who do not attend services in any existing religious institution, personally regarded themselves as spiritual and following an inner directed personal spiritual practice in everyday life. The Census failed to cater to such persons. There was nowhere on the Census form to self-report as "spiritual", and of no particular practice, no Sunday obligation to attend any services.

Is visible attendance at services the only measure of religious practice, adherence and faith? Soul searching questions indeed, but are there other matters behind the bald statistics presented to us by the Australian Bureau of Statistics? Why is there such intense interest and attention paid to religion first, when the census figures are announced? What is really changing in the Australian landscape? Is visible adherence to religious practice any real evidence of a personal spirituality? These, along with cross-cultural considerations of religiosity, are questions that must be explored and responded to.

Self Reporting of Religious Belief, Australia, 2011

Map of Religious Belief, Australia, taken from the 2011 Census

Map of Religious Belief, Australia, taken from the 2011 Census (Source)

Are people changing religion? Or are people following a personal spirituality and not identifying with mainstream religion? Do we live in a time when hybridity, syncretism, and "multiple religious belonging" are becoming increasingly popular? In addition, the percentage of "nones" (i.e., unaffiliated people and those who claim to be "spiritual but not religious") is rising exponentially.

Profession of no or none in religious affliation, Australia

2011 Census, Australia - Reporting of "no religion" or "none" in religious affliation

This map, produced by the Bureau of Statistics from the 2011 Census, by ABS labelling, allegedly shows the proliferation of atheism (and those who reported "none" where religion was concerned) in Australia. It clearly appears that Victoria has the greatest number of "nones" (or atheists) in Australia!

Religion in the Goulburn Valley

You may read an article which shows a broad spectrum of religious practice - and lack thereof - in the Goulburn Valley. The coverage extends from Kyabram to Rushworth, to Seymour, to Euroa, to Shepparton and surrounds. You may read about Religion in the Goulburn Valley here.


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