Australia census 2016 to downgrade 'Christianity' from top spot, replace with 'No religion'

A small change in the 2016 Census could contribute to the disappearance of religion and the decline of Christianity as the most popular religion in Australia.

This year, the Census has moved the "no religion" option to the top of the choices under the question "What is the person's religion?" Although the option was introduced in 1991, it has now displaced the "Catholic" option to the second spot, News.com.au details.

(Reuters/Chris Keane)Members of a local church hold a brief prayer service outside of the offices of WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, August 26, 2015.
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Based on overseas experience, moving the "no religion" option to the top spot pushes more people to identify with a certain faith. The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA), which supports the initiative for the August 9 Census, says the move could also affect the way the government structures budget for welfare and education.

AFA president Kylie Sturgess said the government uses census data to decide about funding and chaplain assignments for hospitals, schools, defense, prisons, hospice care, and other social services.

"Many of those services are run by religious-based organizations," said Sturgess. "Since the government relies on Census data to decide on funding and policy for these things, it's important the Census data is correct. Accurate Census data matters."

Looking at studies of countries all over the world, religion has been shown to be on a downward trend. The rise of secularization is partly to blame for this observable trend, and it is not only happening in Australia, The Huffington Post reports.

A recent National Geographic report has confirmed that 15 percent of the Australian population in Australia said they had no religion in 2001. At present, the number has increased to at least 22 percent. Similar trends can be seen in several other countries.

For the first time in history, the number of secular societies has overtaken the religious ones. Even Muslim countries are not exempted from secularism. Although Islam-dominated countries consider atheism a crime punishable by law, there are still signs that secularism is still thriving in Muslim nations.

The growth of secularism does not stop there. The Pew Research Center estimates that the number of nonreligious people in the world will grow to 1.2 billion in 2020 from 1.1 billion in 2010.

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