Melbourne Catholics top a million

Melbourne now has more than one million Catholics and numbers are up 7 percent over the last decade according to Christian Research Association findings, but other faiths have experienced much greater rises with Hindus and Buddhists up over 100 percent and Muslims by 62 percent.

The Age reports Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are Melbourne's fastest growing religions, but Catholicism remains the city's dominant faith.

The CRA analysis of the 2006 census prepared for the city's church leaders also found that fewer people identify as Christians, down from 66% in 1996 to 59% a decade later.

Analysis author Dr Philip Hughes says 32% identified as non-religious or did not say, while 13% declared they were atheists.

The fastest growing faiths over the decade have been Hinduism (up 157% to 41,000), Buddhism (up 107% to 126,000) and Islam (up 62% to 103,000). There are 40,000 Jews, up 12.6%.

Melbourne has more than a million Catholics, up 7% over the decade to 2006. Pentecostals grew 36% to 30,000 and Baptists 10% to 51,000.

Dr Hughes found there was a move away from identifying with particular churches, but this was not always a movement to no religion. The "Christian, not further defined" category rose 79%.

A key finding of Dr Hughes' analysis, which draws on several other surveys as well as the census, is that agnostics tend to cope less well with personal crises than either religious people or atheists, and that the rise of individualism means people want to work out answers for themselves rather than accept an authority, religious or atheist.

"We are finding … that people who don't know what to believe about life and the world tend to have lower levels of resilience. They don't cope as well when the crises of life come, they have a weaker sense of purpose."

Monash University demographer Bob Birrell said the figures reflected the changing nature of Australia's migration program.


The changing face of faith in Melbourne (The Age, 7/6/08)


Christian Research Association


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