'No Religion' is the New Religion in Australia, Despite Growing Muslim Community

More Australians are opting for 'no religion' at all
A Muslim man reads the Koran during Eid al-Fitr at Lakemba mosque in Sydney on August 8, 2013. Despite fears of becoming a Muslim country, more Australians say they have no religion, according to census data released on June 27, 2017. Daniel Munoz/REUTERS

Although religious groups last year were campaigning against the idea of Australia becoming a Muslim majority country, Australians are actually becoming less religious overall in recent years. In a survey released Monday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census found the number of people who practiced "no religion" had increased exponentially in 2016.

The survey found people claiming "no religion" increased to 29.6 percent in 2016, compared with 22.6 percent the last time the poll was conducted, in 2011. Before that, in 2006, only 19 percent of Australians indicated "no religion" in the survey.

Despite some religious groups fearing Islam is becoming the predominant religion of the country, the survey found the number of people practicing only grew to 2.5 percent from 2.2 percent in 2011.

Following the department's decision to move the "no religion" category to the top of the survey in 2016, Australia's Christian ethics action group, Salt Shakers, sent a countrywide email requesting that individuals not mark the "no religion" option, warning that it could lead the growing Islamic population to declare Australia a Muslim country, according to News Australia. The group advised people participating in the survey to instead identify themselves as whatever religion they were raised or born into, regardless of whether they were no longer actively practicing.

Although Islam is still the most popular non-Christian religion in Australia—followed by Buddhism, which represented 2.4 percent of the country—it was Hinduism that saw the most significant spike. Only 1.3 percent of people in Australia said they were Hindu in 2011, but in 2016 the figure rose to 2 percent. The department said the increase was most likely caused by a rising number of immigrants moving from South Asian countries that practice Hinduism.

Christianity still represented the majority of the country—some 51 percent—while the number of people identified as Catholic dropped to 22.6 percent in 2016 from 25.3 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the number of people deciding on no religion at all is also seeing an uptick. In Pew Research Center's Landscape Study, which was released in 2015, the number of adults who said they believed in God had dropped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007.

Americans were also seen to be less inclined to be "absolutely certain" that God exists, with the percentage of people sharing that specific view dropping to 63 percent in 2014 from 71 percent in 2007. Overall, the number of Americans who were decidedly not members of any religion grew to 23 percent in 2014 from 16 percent in 2007.