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If you think the force is the explanation for everything around you, you’re not alone. In 2001, over 70,000 Australians officially declared themselves Jedi Knights and their religion the Jedi faith (yes, just like the Star Wars movies).

Submitted 11/11/2005 By doreen Views 92791 Comments 21 Updated 5/3/2006

Photographer : Jannes Pockele

Not so long ago, it seemed that religion had been around so long it had stopped being an issue. However in recent years, religion has been increasingly talked about.

This was sadly true after the September 11 attacks; it was most obvious following the worldwide reaction to the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005; and it has also been observed in the last decade with the celebrity status of the Dalai Lama and the increase of followers of the Buddhist faith.

In any case, it is likely that religion will, at the very least, come up in your conversations at some point. This makes it essential to know the basic facts.

What is religion

Religion is different things to different people, making it difficult to define. However, the Justices of the High Court of Australia have made an attempt:
  • Some defined religion as the belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle and the acceptance of the rules of behaviour which are in line with that belief.
  • Others added that followers of a religion should be an identifiable group and actually see the ideas and practices as a religion.
  • Another justice’s definition was simply that any group which claimed to be religious and tried to find meaning and purpose in life, was religious.

Some people have religious beliefs from birth. Others adopt religions later. There are also, of course, a great many people who do not hold religious beliefs. There are two types of people in this category:
  • agnostics, who believe it is impossible to know whether there is or isn’t a higher power, and
  • atheists, who do not believe in a higher power.

What religions are out there?

There are a large number of religions in the world. Based on the number of followers, the five largest religions are:
1. Christianity (about 2.1 billion people)
2. Islam (about 1.3 billion people)
3. Atheist/Agnostic beliefs (about 1.1 billion people)
4. Hinduism (about 900 million people), and
5. Chinese traditional religion (about 390 million people).

Other well known or significantly large religions include Buddhism, Judaism and indigenous beliefs.

What about religion in Australia?

Australia is a secular country, which means the country has no official religion. That said religion does have a strong presence in Australia. Here are the fast facts:
  • Largest religion: about 60% of Australians hold Christian beliefs (evenly split between Catholic, Anglican and all other Christian beliefs).
  • Other religions in Australia: about 5% of Australians are members of non-Christian religions. These include (in order of significance) Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism.
  • Fastest growing religion in Australia: Islam.
  • Non-religious Australians: over a quarter of Australians don’t have a religion or haven’t officially stated one. This number is growing consistently.

How do I know this?, Major religions of the world ranked by number of adherents,

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Year book Australia: culture and recreation: religion,

High Court of Australia, Church of the New Faith v Commissioner of Pay-roll Tax (Vict) (1983) 154 CLR 120,

BBC News World Edition, Jedi ‘religion’ grows in Australia,

Discuss Now

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starcrossed 17-Sep-2008

The article claims Islam to be the fastest growing religion in Australia. I had a look through the links provided as references and could not find any support for this statement or any other evidence elsewhere online....Not sure where this idea came from?



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Fuller 27-Feb-2008

joker - humanist.

ippy - it is also impossible to disprove the tooth fairy, but are you agnostic about that? Agnosticism is simply the method, the end result is atheism. Consider the word. A-theism is simply the lack of belief in a god or gods, for the easily demonstrable reason that there is no credible evidence for such a thing.

In my opinion, agnostics are atheists who don't want to admit it. It only stands to reason that the absence of evidence equals the evidence of absence.

hobart - pick up a science book, you have a lot to learn.



joker 18-Feb-2008

I don't follow a religion, but I believe in being a compassionate, loving and good human being - what does that make me?



Hobart 17-Feb-2008

I Believe in a god because of the holes in darwinism, ok think about it.

on the first day there were trilobytes.
on the second there were dinosaurs.

that seems like a major hole right there. and all of you atheists that think a self replicating organism can randomly occure obviously dont know the complexity of a cell