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Australian Media on Paganism

Bring out the broom, we're off to church

by Leonie Lamont 26/9/97 - SMH


What are the fastest-growing religions in Australia. Bud-dhism? Islam? Pentecostal Christian?

No. Think druids and pagans, witches, Scientology and spiritualism. An analysis of the Census, compiled by Professor Gary Bouma, from Monash Universi-ty's Centre for Population and Urban Studies, found more than 30,000 Australians identified with these New Age religions.

In one of the most urbanised nations on earth, nature-based religions are "by far" the fastest-growing religions in Australia.

Between 1991 and 1996, these alternative beliefs attracted 17,000 new adherents.

"Paganism tripled. Nature and Earth-based religions grew by 130 per cent. Satanism merely doubled its numbers, and Scientology grew by 50 per cent," Professor Bouma said.

More Australians professed to be spiritualists (8,141) than atheists (7,496). There were more Satanists (2,093) than Scientologists (1,489). And, no doubt reflecting the resurgence of Celtic identity, 556 people in Australia identify themselves as Druids.

The Census figures also showed that Sydney was more "Christian" than Melbourne (71.4 per cent compared with 66.1 per cent), even though Sydney has higher percentages of non-Christians (Hindus and Muslims).

About 600,000 Melburnians - but only 500,000 Sydneysiders - said they had no religion.

Members of the Anglican Church are literally dying off and it is challenged by a nation which no longer sees itself as British, the report says. There are now only 40,000 more Anglicans than there were in 1966 and it is predicted that by 2001, this once dominant reli-gion will represent less than 20 per cent of the population. Catholics "have an unbeatable lead", it says, with a growth of 550,000 from 1991-96.

Muslims and Buddhists are now among the 10 largest religious groups in Australia: Catholic (27%), Anglican (22%), Uniting (7.5%), Presbyteri-an/Reformed (3.8%), Orthodox (2.8%), Baptist (1.66%), Lutheran (1.41%), Muslim (1.13%), Buddhist (1.13%) and Pentecostal (0.98%).

Sydney Morning Herald, 26/9/97


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