Locals losing their religion: People without a faith overtake Catholics

MILDURA residents are increasingly turning their backs on religion, in what has been dubbed a “movement of honesty”.

Having no religion is now the number one option for people in the Mildura local government area, dominated by Catholics for at least the past decade, according to Census data.

At 24.29 per cent, those reporting “no religion” stole the top spot from Catholics by 0.04 per cent – or 20 people – in the 2011 Census.

The margin may be tiny, but it belies the 6.6 per cent jump in people with no religion since 2001.

Gary Bouma, an emeritus professor of sociology at Monash University, described the trend as a “movement of honesty”. 

“In the olden days, when you had to fill this form out, people would put ‘Christianity’ just to get people off their backs,” he said.

“That simply isn’t being picked up by young people.

“(And) the percentages saying ‘no religion’ are moving up through the age structure.

“So, I would see that figure increasing again next Census, without question.”

In fact, the proportion of people with no religion has increased for all age groups over the past decade, most markedly 25-34 year olds (26.7 per cent higher in 2011 than 2001).

However, Prof Bouma said that having no religion didn’t mean people lacked “faith” or were any less “spiritual, moral or ethical”.

“What it means is you’re turning your back on organised religions,” he said.

“They don’t form a group, but they view life and issues somewhat differently to people who are religious.

“And that’s going to show up in public policy debate, which will be a bit more contended along religion-no religion lines.”

Prof Bouma flagged education as one such contentious area, saying local schools need to promote “teaching that takes religion seriously … and just normalises the fact there is religious diversity”.

For more of this story, purchase your copy of Saturday's Sunraysia Daily 15/09/2012.

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