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:
What religions are out there?
- 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.
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:
How do I know this?
- 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.
Adherents.com, 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