“No Religion” on the rise in Myall Coast

Sister Libbey Byrne said there are a number of reasons for the increasing number of people selecting “No Religion”.
Sister Libbey Byrne said there are a number of reasons for the increasing number of people selecting “No Religion”.

 

LIKE most regions in Australia, the 2016 Census revealed a sharp rise in the number of Myall Coast residents with no religious affiliation.

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Myall Coast Catholic Parish Pastoral Coordinator, Sister Libbey Byrne, said there are a broad range of reasons for the increase.

“Australia is a deeply spiritual place, you’ll hear people saying I’m spiritual but not religious,” she said.

“People sometimes equate religion with going to church and believing a certain set of doctrines, they don’t see that religion is about a relationship with God.”

In Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest, the number of people who ticked ‘No Religion’ jumped from 14.7 percent in 2011 to 22.2 percent last year.

The figures, recently released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show similar trends in the rest of the region, with a five percent increase in those selecting ‘No Religion’ in Karuah and a seven percent rise in Bulahdelah.

For the first time, the 2016 Census had ‘No Religion’ listed as the lead option on the questionnaire, raising concerns that the ‘donkey vote’ could have inflated results.

Sr Byrne said others who “equate religion as going to church” may have selected ‘No Religion’ simply because they do not attend services.

“Some people are religious but don’t understand they are, it is about relationships, rather than just organised religion,” she said.

Historical Census data shows around one percent of the Australian population marked the ‘No Religion’ box in 1966.

Last year’s data revealed the number has now swelled to 29.6 percent, which is nearly double the 15.5 percent recorded in 2001.

Sr Byrne told News Of The Area, the Census figures show “the church has a lot of work to do”.

“I think the sexual abuse crisis has let people down badly, we present one front but then there are those who don’t practise what they preach,” she said.

“I think that’s part of why people have become disillusioned and don’t want to identify with those groups.”

Sr Byrne said, “Christian churches need to take a good look at people and see what their real needs are and how we can help.”

“We need to look outwards and not inwards,” she said.

 

By John SAHYOUN

 

Sister Libbey Byrne said religion is about relationships with God.
Sister Libbey Byrne said religion is about relationships with God.

 

Sister Libbey Byrne said religion is about relationships with God.
Sister Libbey Byrne said religion is about relationships with God.

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