Here's an example:
Is Australian society in danger of losing its soul? Or are we just wising up and leaving behind the myths and fables of outdated religious beliefs and practices? The answer, of course, depends on your point of view. But whatever that view is, the latest census figures appear to show an increasing disconnect between religion and society which could have a profound effect on how our community functions.
If you want to be optimistic about the state of religious belief you can point to the fact that the census revealed that almost two-thirds of Australians still declare they are Christian. Not bad for a country that is so secular and for a time when religious faith is under such challenge.
And if you are a Catholic you have even more reason to be pleased — one quarter of Australians share your faith. Compare that with the Anglicans, whose numbers have dropped from 26 per cent of the population in 1981 to 17 per cent last year.
If you are on the pessimistic side, you might note that although 61 per cent of Australians call themselves Christian, that’s down from 68 per cent a decade ago. And for the first time, most Australians aged 25 to 34 are no longer Christians. Only 49 per cent identified with any Christian denomination in the census.
But most disappointing of all for the pessimists might be the number of people saying they had no religion at all. That increased significantly, from 19 per cent of the population in 2006 to 22 per cent last year, with another 9 per cent giving no answer to the question of what religion they were.
Meanwhile, they could mull over the fact that the most common non-Christian religions in 2011 were Buddhism (accounting for 2.5 per cent of the population), Islam (2.2 per cent) and Hinduism (1.3 per cent). Of these, Hinduism had the fastest growth since 2006, increasing from 148,130 to 275,534, followed by Islam from 340,394 to 476,291 and Buddhism from 418,749 to 528,977.
Those lamenting the decline of traditional values would not take much comfort from the fact that fewer than half of Australians over the age of 15 are married and almost 10 per cent of the adult population live in de facto relationships. And in the past decade the number of children living with de facto families has increased almost 50 per cent to one in 10.