New Zealand Census Says Church is Doing Okay

January 22, 2007

Author: John McNeil

Source: Journal Chretien

CHRISTCHURCH, NZ — A closer look at figures from the latest Census shows that over the past two decades the Christian faith has not been haemorrhaging adherents to the extent commonly believed.

It is true that Christians represent a smaller proportion of the total population, but rather than being caused by flight from the churches it has largely come about by immigration bringing increasing numbers of people of other faiths, and an almost doubling since 1991 of people now saying they have no religion.

Despite the increasing secularisation of society, nearly six out of 10 people filling out the Census forms listed adherence to Christianity. While this was a drop of 8 per cent since 1991, surprisingly the number showed a slight increase from the 2001 Census.

Just over 5 per cent nominated allegiance to a non-Christian religion in 2006, while 36 per cent per cent said they had no religion. (Figures add up to more than 100 per cent because some people put themselves in more than one category.)

While the rise in those claiming no religion in the Census might be considered disturbing, it would be too simplistic to say this proves New Zealand is becoming less religious. A better explanation might be that nominal adherence is falling away.