"No religion" is now Australia's most popular religious affiliation
Australia's latest census data, released on Tuesday, revealed that for the first time ever "no religion" was the country's most popular single religious affiliation. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the percentage of Australians identifying as "no religion" rose from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016.
The ABS said that the percentage of the population identifying as "no religion" has been rising for decades — and the trend is accelerating, driven by young people.
Australians aged 18 to 34 were the most likely age group to identify as "no religion," with 39% percent of them saying they didn't have a religious affiliation.
Overall however, 52% of Australians identified within a denomination of Christianity, making it the most common religion. Catholicism was the most popular Christian denomination, the census found.
In the U.S., the census doesn't ask Americans about their religious affiliations, but according to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who don't identify with an organized religion is also growing. The percentage of Americans who identified as "atheist," "agnostic" or "nothing in particular" jumped from 16.1% in 2007 to 22.8% in 2014, according to Pew, citing information from the Religious Landscape Study.
In Australia, one of the groups behind the changing religious demographics is the Atheist Foundation of Australia, which ran an awareness campaign about choosing "no religion" in the recent census.
In a statement released on Tuesday, AFA president Kylie Sturgess said that the organization is hopeful that Australian politicians will see the population that marked "no religion" as a serious force in the country's political landscape.
"It seems to us that certain religious groups get automatic consideration in the public policy sphere ... That has to stop." Surgess said.
"Politicians, business leaders and influencers take heed: this is an important milestone in Australia’s history," Surgess said. "Those who marked down 'No religion' deserve much more recognition. We will be making our opinions known, and there’s power in numbers."