People like Abe could overtake Christians as the dominant religious group in Australia

Abe Middleton grew up in an Anglican family and went to an Anglican school, but in the 2021 census the 35-year-old construction worker said he had no religion.
And non-believers like Mr Middleton could replace Christians as the biggest ‘religious’ cohort in Australia.
“It all came from childhood, with the pressure of religion imposed at school and by parents,” he said.
“Being forced to do something didn’t seem like the right way to go about it, along with other things I’ve seen over the years.
“So there still hasn’t been any religion in the census for me.”

The number of people declaring no religion continues its upward trend, now reaching 38.9% of the population.

“Since the Bible was written, so much science and facts seem to prove that it’s not right,” Mr Middleton said. “And I think that’s the growing belief among the people I talk to, at least.”

Christianity however has many followers in Australia and remains the most widespread religion, but for the first time less than half of the population – 43.9% – identified as Christian.

Australians identifying as having no religion surged in this year’s census. Source: SBS News

“I think what it says in particular is that people who might have said in the past ‘I’m a Christian’ because of a family tradition no longer do that,” the diocese’s assistant bishop said. Anglican of Melbourne, Bishop Genieve Blackwell.

“I think that’s where we’re seeing a lot of the decrease.”
While she is reassured by the National Christian Life Survey, which she says shows the number of active members remains stable, she acknowledges that the denomination is aging.
The church strives to grow its congregations by connecting with the varied interests of the community. He has established community gardens and claims to have been active in the field of climate change.

An art installation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne called Gaia is another example of the church’s efforts to connect with more people.

Globe art installation inside a cathedral.

The Gaia exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne has so far attracted 100,000 visitors. Source: SBS News

The seven-meter-wide rotating 3D artwork of the world has so far attracted 100,000 visitors.

“A lot of people are coming through Gaia. And the opportunity is for people to have conversations about spirituality and faith,” Ms Blackwell said.

“[We are] often trying to determine what the needs of a community are and how the church can be a blessing.

Hinduism on the rise

Hinduism is Australia’s fastest growing religion. In the census, over 684,002 people identified as Hindu, an increase of 55.3%.
This is due to the arrival of more migrants from India and Nepal.

From his first day in Melbourne, Indian migrant Vinit Sharma sought out a Hindu temple. The 33-year-old says worship is essential to him.

Two people kneel in prayer inside a Hindu temple.

Hindu devotees at the Sri Durga Temple in Melbourne’s northwest. Source: Provided

“I can’t live without coming [to pray]because I feel very high vibrations in the temple and full of energy,” Mr. Sharma said.

“Every time I come home [temple]I feel like I feel the same positive energy with me and I feel really relaxed.

The computer trainer visits the temple at least once a week, accompanied by his wife Rashi Sharma.

A woman and a man standing inside a Hindu temple.

Rashi (left) and Vinit Sharma say worship is essential Source: SBS News

“It’s very important because it’s part of our culture,” Ms Sharma said. “It’s something we’re born with. It’s in our DNA.”

The couple welcomed the census findings that their community was growing.

“It is a very great pride for our community that we are growing. This is really very good news,” Mr Sharma said.

A changing demographic

At the Sri Durga Temple in Melbourne’s northwest, expansion work is underway as it awaits a new influx of devotees.
“[Australia] has just signed a trade agreement with India. It’s a huge push factor for migrants to come to Australia,” said temple vice-president Gurpreet Verma. “To feel safe, as well as practice their faith.”
A new cultural center is being built where weddings and other community events can be held.

“We are trying to establish the infrastructure for the growth of Hinduism and the temple,” he said.

Two men standing in front of a Hindu temple in Melbourne.

Kulwant Joshi and Gurpreet Verma in front of the Sri Durga Temple in Melbourne. Source: SBS News

The temple management also foresees a need for Hindu schools and care for the elderly.

“We are getting old now, that’s why we need this elderly care center,” said chairman Kulwant Joshi. “[It is] very important for us to take care of the elderly.
“We need the help of the government to develop in this region… The government has a responsibility to take care of our communities.”
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