Two of the most striking takeaways from Australia’s 2021 census results are the rise in single parents families and the decline of religious adherence. Both findings highlight the pressing need for parties such as Australian Christians to represent faith values in the political sphere.
Over 1.06 million Australian families—or 16%—have just one parent. This is a steady increase from 1996 when the figure was just 14.5%.
The statistic that has received the most attention since census results came out last month, however, is the number of people apparently turning away from religion.
Christianity remains the nation’s most widely-practiced faith, with 44% of the population identifying as followers of Jesus. This figure has seen a significant drop over five years, down from 52%.
By contrast, those ticking the ‘no religion’ box have increased from 30% to 39% of the population since 2016. The results in Western Australia were even more pronounced, with 42.5% of Sandgropers reporting no religion, compared with 32.5% at the last census.
It is notable that females (46%) are more likely than males (41%) to identify as Christians. The reverse is true when it comes to ‘no religion’: only 37% of females claim no religious faith, while 41% of males own that label.
In the national media, some of Australia’s loud and proud secularists have been doing victory laps over this news. But their celebrations may be unwarranted.
Decades of data reveals that religious faith—and Christianity in particular—tends to act as a preventative against a vast range of social pathologies. Indeed, there is likely a direct connection between family breakdown in Australia and a decline in Christian faith.
Though he writes in an American context, sociologist Rodney Stark highlights trends that are just as relevant for Australians, and that should get our attention in a time of spiritual decline.
According to Stark’s research, religious people of all ages are much less likely to commit crimes; and far more likely to contribute to charities (even secular ones), volunteer for socially beneficial programs, and be active in civic affairs.
Religious people are more likely to marry and have children and less likely to have an affair or get a divorce, and they express higher degrees of satisfaction with their spouses. Religious husbands are far less likely to abuse their wives or children.
Stark has likewise found that religious Americans enjoy superior mental health, reporting greater levels of happiness, less anxiety and less likelihood to commit suicide. Their physical health is also better, with an average life expectancy more than seven years longer than the non-religious.
Given the tremendous benefits that Christianity brings to society, Australians should be concerned to see its prominence fade.
But it’s not all bad news. According to the recently-released National Church Life Survey, church attendance has been growing steadily over the past three years, from 2019 to 2021. Around one in five Australians attend a religious service once a month or more.
Amazingly, that figure is much higher for young adults, with one in three attending church monthly or more frequently.
So while nominal Christianity is fading, true adherence may in fact be growing in Australia, even among younger generations.
Australian Christians exists to represent the concerns of Aussie believers. The need for us to stand for Christian values has never been greater—and we welcome your prayers and support!
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