There was a good article posted this morning on Humans In Design about the validity of the religious affiliation question in the Australian Census. They raise some very valid concerns about how the way the census asks the question regarding religion, pointing out that it’s highly likely that the census underestimates the numbers of irreligious people.
I had the following exchange on twitter with Tristan Cooke of Humans In Design;
This prompted me, when I got home this evening, to go back to my figures from yesterday’s post, and plot out the “not stated/inadequately described” trendline.
Well, there you go Tristan – a slow but steady rise from just under 10% to around about 11% in ten years, based on the 1961-2011 fifty-year linear trend.
I decided then to embark on a bit of a thought exercise. Assume, for the sake of this, that the people falling under “not stated” would be captured by the “no religion” figure; have a look at what happens if we combine “not stated/inadequately described” with “no religion”…
If the contention being made over at Humans in Design is correct, that people are skipping the question because they have no religion and the structure of the question is adversely impacting upon their answering this properly, then the irreligious became the largest affiliation in Australia at the dawn of the millennium (and no, writing in a real minor religion such as the Baha’i faith doesn’t put you into that category; you fall into the category of “Other religions”).
Here’s the ten-year projection, based off the 50-year linear trendline;
…and based on the 20-year linear trendline:
For the sake of the exercise, I projected both linear trendlines out to 2101 – should the 50-year trend hold, then there will be more Australians without a religion than with one in under forty years. The 20-year trendline flattens this rise out a little – to forty-five years. Either way, by 2060, a full forty years sooner than yesterday’s projections anticipated, the irreligious will outnumber the religious.