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The percentage of Australians who have no religious affiliation has jumped from 30.1% in 2016 to an astonishing 38.9% in 2021, marking a rapid shift away from organized religion. That’s one of the major results released by Australia’s Bureau of Statistics, which conducts a census every five years and began releasing 2021 Census data today.

The ABS found that the number of people professing “No religion” is nearly the same as the number professing Christianity (43.9%). It’s a far cry from a decade ago in 2011, when the “No religion” crowd represented a mere 22.3% of the country.

To put the results another way, while Christianity is still the most popular religion in Australia, for the first time ever, it no longer represents the majority of Australians.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/NX40V/2/?abcnewsembedheight=359
Chart via ABC.net.au

Christianity was the stated religion of about 90 per cent of Australians until 1966, when its dominance began to wane.

The ABS says migration has affected the trends since, though much of the change is due to the growth of atheist and secular beliefs.

The fastest-growing religions, according to the latest census, are Hinduism (2.7 per cent of the population) and Islam (3.2 per cent), though these worshippers remain small minorities.

Want specific numbers? There are 11,148,814 Christians in the country, followed by 9,886,957 who claim “No religion.”

The difference is even more stark for younger Australians. 46% of Millennials have no religion, compared to 30% of Baby Boomers.

It should be noted that there was a major shift beginning five years ago in terms of the way the religion question was asked. The old census placed “No religion” in No Man’s Land, at the bottom of a long list of options including “Other”:

Since 2016, the census has placed “No religion” at the top of the list, making it much more likely that people who have left organized religion will see it and mark it.

We’ve also seen campaigns by groups like the Atheist Foundation of Australia urging people to mark “No religion” as opposed to the more frivolous “Jedi.” They’ve even put up billboards in the past telling people to mark the census honestly if they’re not religious anymore rather than filling in the religion in which they were raised or one that they only call themselves for cultural reasons.

That alone wouldn’t account for the tremendous jump in the “No religion” group, though—and it obviously wouldn’t have made a difference between 2016 and 2021 when the options were given the same way. Australia is witnessing a massive shift in religious identity. Just last month, voters chose not to keep the party of overly religious Prime Minister Scott Morrison in power.

Also, since the 2016 census, marriage equality was legalized, creating yet another reason for people to run the hell away from traditional faith as more Australians realized their sense of moral decency was incompatible with the bigoted views of the most powerful religious groups in the country. The nation has also seen similar controversies play out regarding euthanasia and abortion, with the conservative religious views losing in every instance. And there have been plenty of scandals involving the most prominent Christian preachers, including Brian Houston of Hillsong.

With all that in mind, you have to wonder how many of those 43.9% of Christians are really people who don’t subscribe to conservative religious ideology at all and are simply “Nones” who haven’t embraced that new label yet.

Whatever the case, it’s good news for the nation. As sociologist Phil Zuckerman has said so eloquently, more secular countries tend to be healthier, happier, more peaceful, and more prosperous.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.