We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Religion Declines in New Zealand

As widely reported in New Zealand and elsewhere, recent census data confirms the continuing decline of organized religion.  In a news posting entitled, "Census points to non-religious NZ," Ben Heather summarizes some of the findings of the 2013 Census:

  • 40% of New Zealanders report themselves to be "non-religious"
  • Those who reported themselves as Christians declined by over 100,000 compared to 2006
  • Anglicans alone lost nearly 100,000 in that period
  • Catholicism, although declining as well, has become the largest single religious group in New Zealand
  • Some smaller Christian groups and several other minority religions have grown to varying degrees
New Zealand has become, thus, the most secular nation in the English-speaking world.  One other finding that is noted is that religious decline there has become generational, that is parents who were raised in nominally Christian homes but didn't go to church much themselves don't go to church at all, and their children are not going to church either.  If these trends continue, eventually the church in New Zealand will find itself returning to the state of the early church, that is composed of small groups of followers of Jesus worshipping in house churches.  In our time, alternative forms of being the church will also emerge.  The question is whether these house churches and other kinds of churches, if it comes to that, can regain the sense of being a movement that attracts others by its faith and love is the central one, of course.