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Religious Expression in Australia Post 1945

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Kyra Guzman

on 22 August 2013

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Transcript of Religious Expression in Australia Post 1945

Religious Expression in Australia Post 1945
Christianity as a Major Religious Tradition
Students learn about:
The religious landscape from 1945 to the present in relation to:
– changing patterns of religious adherence
– the current religious landscape
Students learn to:
Outline changing patterns of religious adherence from 1945 to the present using census data

Account for the present religious landscape in Australia in relation to:
– Christianity as the major religious tradition
– immigration
– denominational switching
– rise of New Age religions
– secularism
Looking at the religion data at the broadest level for 2011 shows that this is changing . In 2011, 61.1% of the population stated a Christian religion, down from 63.9% in 2006. This figure has shown a steady decline over a period of decades.

The proportion of the population with a non-Christian religion went up significantly from 5.6% in 2006, and 7.2% in 2011.
Changing Patterns of Religious Adherence
In 2011 the majority of Australians reported an affiliation with a Christian religion, resulting in 61.14% of the population identifying itself as Christian, 7.99% as belonging to a religion other than Christianity, and 22.30% as non-religious. (The census states that answering the question on religious affiliation is voluntary; this accounts for the relatively large 8.55% in the "Not stated/Inadequately described" category.)
Church of England (Anglican) went from 39% of population in 1947 to 17% in 2011.
Catholicism has risen from 20% in 1947 to 25% in 2011
Traditional Churches (Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist) experienced downturn losing 15% since 1996
The Presbyterian Church dropped from 9.8% in 1947 to 2.8% in 2011. This is due in part to many of its members taking part in the merger between Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists to form the Uniting Church in 1977.
The Uniting Church (formed in 1977) dropped from 7.6% in 1986 to 5.0% in 2011.
Historical Background
By 1947 Christianity had long been established as the major religious tradition in Australia. This was due to the European settlers of the 18th and 19th centuries who brought to Australia their traditional Christian churches - predominately the Church of England and the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Lutheran and Baptist churches.

Traditional Indigenous religions were not recognised or even banned and missionary efforts were made to convert the natives. Despite sectarianism between different denominations, the tradition of Christianity was dominant in Australia and to some extent shaped the nation's identity.

By allowing in only people from certain European countries the 'White Australia' Policy (enshrined in the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901) effectively also kept out religious traditions other than Christianity. Consequently in 1947: 88.0% of Australians considered themselves Christian, 0.4% Jewish, 0.2% had no religion, and less than 0.1% acknowledged belonging to another religious tradition.
Factors contributing to the decline of Christianity
The 2001 census figures reveal that Christianity is still the numerically largest religious tradition in Australia accounting for 68.0% of the population. The ongoing decline in most Christian groups as a percentage of the population is due to increasing secularisation, dissatisfaction with traditional religious movements, aging membership, and a lack of migrant intake.

Of all the Christian denominations, Anglican, Uniting and Presbyterian churches have been most acutely affected by this decline in the numbers of those regularly attending church.
Reasons for the increase in the Catholic figures
In contrast to the general trend of significant decreases in the number of people affiliated to Christian denominations, Catholicism has continued to increase both numerically and proportionally (from 20.9% in 1947 to 25.3% in 2011) making it the largest religious group in Australia. Catholicism has been insulated from the effect of the decline in religious affiliation because of its substantial migrant intake and slightly higher birth rate.

Also, people who are baptised Catholic tend to identify themselves as Catholic even if they do not practice the religion, whereas those brought up Protestant who no longer practice would more often no longer consider themselves affiliated with that denomination.
Reasons for the increase in the Pentecostal figures
The Pentecostal figures also display a resistance to the general trend of decline in religious affiliation, by continuing to show an increase both numerically and as a percentage of the population. The increase in the 2011 census was however below expectations rather than the steep increases of previous years.

One possible reason for this slow down is the so called "revolving door syndrome" which recognizes that large numbers of Pentecostals remain with the church for a relatively short period of time, often between eighteen months and two years.

Another reason for the apparent slowing in growth of the 2001 figures is because in 2000 Pentecostal leaders congregated together to form the Australian Christian Churches. These leaders then encouraged their members to write in Australian Christian Churches rather than Pentecostal in the 2001 census.
Immigration has changed Australia into a Multi-faith Society
Immigration has greatly increased the number of people affiliated with religious traditions other than Christianity. Two-thirds of Australia's Muslim community were born overseas, coming from over 70 different countries. The main sources of Islamic immigration are the Middle East (particularly Lebanon, Iraq and Iran), Europe ( Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Asia ( Malaysia and Indonesia).

Impact of Immigration on Christian Membership in Australia
As a result of immigration there has been a significant change to the previously predominantly Anglo-Celtic membership of the Christian tradition. Many migrants from Eastern Europe have brought their Orthodox denomination of Christianity to Australia and this is particularly evident in Sydney and Melbourne.

Roman Catholic figures have increased as a result of immigration from Asia ( Vietnam and the Philippines), Latin America and Africa. In addition to the Roman Catholic population, Eastern Catholics (Maronite, Melkite and Ukrainian rite Catholics) have also immigrated. There is a significant population of Maronite Catholics who have mostly come from Lebanon in the Middle East.
Reasons for immigration following World War II
The most significant reason for the increase in the diversity of the religious character in Australia is immigration. The large number of immigrants since the Second World War can be attributed to various factors:

In the aftermath of the war many Europeans (and some non-European refugees) whose families and homes had been devastated sought to start a new life in a safer and more secure environment.
The decline of the 'White Australia' policy up to its final demise in 1973 meant that the migration of people from a greater variety of ethnic groups became easier.
Reasons for Denominational Switching
Denominational switching refers to the transfer of followers from one Christian denomination to another. This phenomenon is far more common in Protestant denominations than in Catholic or Orthodox groups. Catholic and Orthodox Christians tend to have a higher level of denominational loyalty based on their appreciation of their own distinctive histories, traditions and liturgies.

In contemporary society loyalty to a particular community has to be earned. With the contemporary ethos of individualism people focus on their personal needs rather than the needs of their traditional communities. People are looking around for the 'right' congregation in which to get involved - one that meets their needs, expresses their faith in culturally appropriate ways and addresses their concerns in meaningful ways.

Characteristics of Pentecostalism
The ongoing growth of Pentecostalism is largely based on denominational switching from other non-Pentecostal Protestant churches. The 1996 census reported a massive increase of 60% in the Pentecostal figures over the past 10 years. This is partly due to the fact that Pentecostal groups attract many people who have been disaffected by other Christian communities.
Pentecostalism is well known for its emphasis on music (e.g. Hillsong), especially contemporary music with sophisticated production and presentation.

However, research indicates that many people leave Pentecostalism after about two years - indicating that for many it is exciting and involving in the short term but unfulfilling in the long run. This phenomenon is known as the 'revolving door syndrome'.
Rise of New Age Religions
Characteristics of a New Age Religion
Despite the diversity there are some characteristics that are common across many new age religions. New age religions tend to be individualistic and search oriented rather than focused on an established tradition that has an established community, official doctrine and structures of authority.

They often involve a focus upon the development of the self and the exploration of individual spirituality, and the notion that the divine exists within each person. Mystical experiences or higher states of consciousness are often important.

Many new age religions are attracted by indigenous spirituality and may chose to pick out elements of the belief systems of indigenous religions including Celtic, Native American, African and Australian Aboriginal. Consequently, new age religions generally favour a creation centred spirituality - the belief that the transcendent is found through the natural world.
Various Forms of New Age Religions
New age religions come in many forms. Some new age religions include beliefs about the power of certain physical designs and objects. Other new age movements centre on animals or other parts of creation as being the key to harmony and wellbeing. Examples of new age spiritualities include:

1. Numerology
2. Astrology
3. Yoga and tai chi
4. Feng shui
5. Transcendental meditation
6. Paganism

Students learn about:
Religious dialogue in multi-faith Australia
– ecumenical movements within Christianity
– Interfaith dialogue
– The relationship between Aboriginal spiritualities and religious traditions in the process of Reconciliation
Students Learn to:
Describe the impact of Christian ecumenical movements in Australia
– The National Council of Churches
– NSW Ecumenical Council

Evaluate the importance of interfaith dialogue in multifaith Australia

Examine the relationship between Aboriginal spiritualities and religious traditions in the process of Reconciliation
Denominational Switching
Reasons for the Popularity of New Age Religions
The popularity of new age religions can be attributed to various factors. One significant reason for their popularity is that new age religions are individualistic and liberal in the sense that it is the type of spirituality in which a person can pick and choose which beliefs and practices to follow and hence tailor a 'religion' to suit their individual preferences.

The idea of straying away from one's own cultural and spiritual traditions to find personal fulfilment and discover one's own spirituality can be traced back to the social revolution which took place in the 1960s.

A final reason as to why some new age religions are so popular is some of their practices claim to be a supernatural means of curing sickness, predicting the future, or gaining personal wealth.

Significant increase in the number of people writing "No religion"
The most telling evidence of this trend of secularisation is the significant increase in the number of people responding "No Religion" in the census. In 1947 there were only 0.3% of the population that stated they followed "No Religion".

The increase in "No Religion" is particularly pronounced in the younger age categories. The increases in the number of people responded "No Religion" should be read along with the decreasing proportions of Australians claiming religious affiliation and the decline in church attendance
Reasons for Secularisation
Secularisation can be seen in the diminishing relevance of religious values for the integration and legitimation of everyday life in society. The declines in religious affiliation, church attendance, prayer, numbers of clergy and religious orders are all signs of secularisation.
Ecumenical Movements within Christianity
National Council of Churches
The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) is an ecumenical body that aims to deepen the relationship of member churches "in order to express more visibly the unity willed by Christ" and strengthen the cause of Christian unity in Australia by leading different denominations to work, pray and grow together.

The ecumenical movement in Australia was initially an Anglican and Protestant affair with the Australian Council of Churches formed after World War II. Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches joined during the 1960s and 70s.

The existing structure of the Australian Council of Churches was found to be unsuitable to include the Catholic Church because its sheer size would have overwhelmed the other churches which had smaller memberships.
Ecumenical Initiative

There are various levels of ecumenical developments. At the highest level there are joint commissions: formal ecumenical bodies that work to find official agreement on issues that have often divided denominations.

The Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches have signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1998), now finding theological agreement on 'faith and works, which was one of the key reasons for the Reformation split between the two.
NSW Ecumenical Council
The NSW Ecumenical Council, which was formed in 1982, consists of 16 churches throughout NSW and the Australian Capital Territory. The NSW Ecumenical Council is one of seven state/territory ecumenical councils in Australia, and all of which are affiliated to the National Council of Churches.

The NSW Ecumenical Council seeks to promote ecumenism through four major types of initiatives.
Interfaith Dialogue in Multifaith Australia
Range of Interfaith Initiatives
Interfaith dialogue occurs across a range of different levels. In 1996 Pope John Paul II held an interfaith prayer service in the Domain in Sydney.

In 2001 churches, synagogues and mosques in Sydney held reciprocal visits to pray for peace and express unity. Other examples of coming together include interfaith prayer services commemorating the Bali bombing and the Boxing Day Tsunami.
Similarly, different religious traditions work together on a range of social issues as a testament to many of the shared values underlying major religious traditions.

Interfaith dialogue also takes place regularly on a local or grass roots level.
Importance of Interfaith Dialogue
Australia is an increasingly pluralistic society in the sense that it is multi-cultural and multi-faith. Interfaith dialogue creates respect and appreciation for religious diversity which is essential for harmony and peace.

Interfaith dialogue has been an important method of working to break down the stereotypes and prejudice towards Muslims.

Interfaith dialogue is also important to build relationships between different religions so they can more often and more effectively speak out on common issues and uphold shared values such as the dignity of the person, the sanctity of human life, care for those in need, justice and peace. In an increasingly secularised society interfaith dialogue can help different religions to stand together in proclaiming the importance of faith, spirituality and the transcendent aspects of life.

Interfaith dialogue is also important in helping religions support one another, for when the rights of one religious group are challenged all others are ultimately in danger as well.

Examples of Interfaith Dialogue
Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations

NSW Council of Christians and Jews

Historical role of Christian groups in the reconciliation process
A wide variety of Christian groups are a part of the reconciliation movement and in support of issues such as land rights, native title and a formal apology to the Stolen Generation. In fact many Christian denominations have designated committees to ensure that they maintain a close working relationship with Aboriginal people.

In 1975 various church groups supported and applauded the passing of the first land rights legislation by the Whitlam Government. In 1992 the Mabo decision was publicly welcomed by many church groups. When conservative political factions and various media groups began a fear campaign, churches made strong statements affirming that the Mabo decision was just.

Interfaith Support for Reconciliation
Reconciliation is an issue for which there is interfaith support from different religious traditions. Jewish groups for example hold a week of prayer for reconciliation every year. In 1998 the Australian and New Zealand Union for Progressive Judaism voiced their support for the Wik decision and opposed the Ten Point Plan.

In 2000 the Executive Council of the Australian Jewry also urged the Australian Government to implement the recommendations made by the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Their Families.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship have also made statements in support of indigenous rights and reconciliation.
Formal Apology to the Stolen Generation
Whilst the campaign for native title and land rights is a central platform for church groups advocating Aboriginal rights, church groups are also involved in a range of issues to assist the ongoing process of reconciliation.

For example, in 1997 following the publication of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission's (HREOC) report Bringing Them Home church groups offered formal apologies regarding the role of missionaries in the abuse of Aboriginal people.
During this time ANTaR, which stands for
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation
, was formed. This church supported community based organisation is one of the most prominent community groups advocating indigenous rights and organised the Sea of Hands display promoting reconciliation and justice. Phil Glendenning, the director of the Christian Brother's Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, is also the national president of ANTaR.
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