Australian Youth Follow The Secular Trend

Less than half Australia’s young people say they believe in a god, and many believe there is little truth in religion, a new study has found. The three-year national study, a joint project between Monash University, the Australian Catholic University and the Christian Research Association, found many young people live an entirely secular life.

The study, The Spirit of Generation Y, found just 48 per cent of those born between 1976 and 1990, believed in a god. Dr Andrew Singleton, of Monash University, a co-author of the study, said they were surprised by the findings. “It’s well known that there has been a turn away from church attendance and participation in young people,” he said. “But we thought there was going to be a move towards alternative spiritualities. There are still a number turning towards it, but not as big as you would have thought.”

Religious identity will be among the questions contained in this year’s Australian census, which took place on Tuesday night. We see the same effect in this census as in the UK census, when 72% of people said they were Christian, even though every other survey and poll showed this to be vastly over-stated. This was because of poor wording of the question.

The Australian survey found 20 per cent of young people did not believe in a god and 32 per cent were unsure. It also found just 19 per cent of those who identify themselves as Christian were actively involved in a church, attending services at least once a month. More than 30 per cent of Generation Y were classified as ‘humanists’, rejecting the idea of a god, although some believed in a “higher being”.

Dr Singleton said it was a trend that was likely to continue. “We live in a very individualistic and self-orientated society and I don't see a lot of things challenging that,” he said. “One of the many predictors of whether we become religious is our parents, and unless there is a massive cultural shift, I see that the trajectory will continue as it is.”

The researchers said many young Australians were “humanists”, which they defined as rejecting belief in a god and replacing that with a belief in human experience, human reason and scientific explanations. Robert Forsyth, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, said the results were expected. “This is the first generation to have nothing to do with Sunday school,” he said. “This is the first generation who probably know nothing about Christ, except those who go to Christian schools.”

A University of NSW emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology, Clive Kessler, said the results reflected the secular and sceptical nature of Australian society.

See also: Christianity must be revived, says Australian MP