Title: The Census and the Fate of the Christian Right Credit: Craig Young Comment Saturday 24th January 2004 - 12:00pm1074898800 Article: 143 Rights
Wellington researcher and writer Craig Young casts an eye over census data and sees a less-than-rosy future for ultra-conservative Christian groups. If I were the Christian Right, I would be deeply worried about their movement's future prospects. What does the New Zealand census tell us about the demographic aspects of religious observance and its impact on public policy debate within this country? At present, the largest 'faith-based' religious demographic category is those that espouse no religious observance, whose numbers have doubled over the decade. At present, they outnumber Anglicans two to one, at over one million adherents, compared to five hundred thousand or so. As an aggregate, these post-Christians represent over one third of the New Zealand population. Furthermore, post-Christians dominate all of the early age cohorts until one reaches the fortysomethings. It is significant that traditional large evangelical or fundamentalist denominations have declined as much as their mainline Protestant counterparts. In the early nineties, Baptists lost over twenty thousand adherents! While Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy haven't declined in adherents, Catholicism is a diverse domination and it hasn't translated into a revitalised anti-abortion/euthanasia movement, or increased any conservative Catholic profile within the Christian Right as a consequence. I suspect that Balkan and Eastern European refugees and migrants have contributed to the rise of Orthodoxy as a denominational option. However, the overall momentum of Christian religious adherence is downward. Late adolescents lose credulity and fundamentalist faith when they leave school and attain economic independence, according to religious/age data crossmatches. Thereafter, religious observance doesn't revive until the mid-thirties, and peaks at the late fifties. The census indicates that there are no signs of late adolescent or twentysomething fundamentalist religious upsurge and associated social conservatism. Many late adolescents and twentysomethings are irreligious, although anti-authoritarian neopagan religious beliefs are winning increased numbers of adherents amongst New Zealand youth! The Christian Right is in deep trouble. Given that irreligion dominates early age cohorts, there is every prospect of a cascade effect that will erase any shared Christian reference points within popular culture and everyday life. With this demographic outlook, the Maxim Institute should be scared. If these trends continue, then it will face a New Zealand that can only become more unsympathetic to its sectarian agenda as time goes on. Source: Statistics New Zealand: New Zealand Census of Populations and Dwellings 2001: National Summary: SNZ: Wellington: 2002 Craig Young - 24th January 2004    
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