Religion in Australia

Religions in Australia, 1996 Census

The table below is based on self-identification, i.e., what respondents indicated their religion was in the 1996 Australian census. This was the only optional question on the census. Respondents were asked to mark one of the seven specified religions (Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, or Lutheran) or to specify a particular religion. Persons with no religion were asked to mark the no religion box.

Many of the "religions" here are not single organizations but are classifications or categories of related faith groups. A wider variety of responses (including dozens of distinct Christian denominations) have been summarized in this table, based on the "major religions" defined in the "Major Religions of the World" list. (The one exception to this is that Australian Aboriginal traditional religion has been left as is, rather than being grouped with "Animism" into the "primal-indigenous" category. It is quite possible that the 727 people who listed their religion as "Animism" are, in fact, adherents of Australian aboriginal religion.) Because the Christianity category includes so many different groups, the "Top 15 Christian Denominations" are provided in a separate table. [The "Levels of Classification of Faith Groups" provides further information on the definition of "religion" and "denominational family" as used here.]

Interestingly enough, of the 22 "major religions of the world" listed by's summary page, all but three (Juche, Jainism and Yoruba religion) are found in Australia, according to this census. Of the 12 "classical world religions," all but Jainism are present in Australia. Nevertheless, there are small organized Jain groups in Australia, but they are not listed in the census data we obtained. Perhaps they are grouped among Hindus.

RankReligionAdherents% of
1Christianity 12,575,675 70.28%Includes all Christians, as classified by Australian census bureau for statistical purposes using the self-identification standard: Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Eastern/Orthodox, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witnesses, Churches of Christ, Seventh-day Adventists, Brethren, Apostolic, etc., as well as self-identified Christians and Protestants who didn't further define denominational affiliation.
2Nonreligious/Agnostic/etc. 2,948,891 16.48 No Religion, not further defined (2,927,139); Agnosticism (8801); Atheism (7496); Humanism (4075); Rationalism (1380). About 1 in ever 2,000 Australians described themselves as an atheist in this census.
-Unknown 1,749,363 9.78Not stated (1,550,585); Overseas visitor (139,594); Religious belief not further defined (35,790); Inadequately Described (18,374); Religions Groups not elewhere classified (3,063); Theism not elsewhere classified (1,957)
3Islam 202,925 1.12includes "Islam" (200,885) and "Druse" (2,040)
4Buddhism 199,812 1.12
5Judaism 79,805 0.45
6Hinduism 67,278 0.38
7Sikhism 12,017 0.07
8Baha'i 8,947 0.05
9Spiritualism 8,140 0.05
10Australian Aboriginal Traditional Religions 7,356 0.04
11Neo-Paganism/Paganism 5,524 0.03Paganism (4,353); Wicca/Witchcraft (1,849)
12Chinese Traditional Religion 3,815 0.02Taoism (2,981); Ancestor Veneration (653); Confucianism (578); Chinese Religions not further defined (257)
13Ratana 2,348 0.01
14Satanism 2,091 0.01
15Nature Religions 1,734 0.01Nature Religions not elsewhere classified (1617); Nature Religions not further defined (117); This does not include a few religions which are often strongly nature-oriented, but are specifically dilineated separately: Wicca/Witchcraft, Paganism, Animism, Australian Aboriginal Traditional Religion.
16Zoroastrianism 1,522 0.01
17Scientology 1,488 0.01
18Theosophy 1,423 0.01
19Rastafarianism 1,023 0.01
20Caodaism 964 0.01
21Pantheism 835-
22Eckankar 829-
23Animism 727-Animism is a label frequently applied incorrectly to all primal-indigenous religions. These respondents may or may not, in fact, be adherents of Australian aboriginal religion.
24Unitarian 719-
25Sukyo Mahikari 668-
26Religious Science 634-
27Shinto 541-Shinto (524); Japanese Religions not further defined (17)
28New Churches (Swedenborgian) 504-
29Faith Churches 52-
30Tenrikyo 46-

Top 15 Christian Denominational Families
in Australia, 1996 Census

Once again, these figures are for self-identification, not affiliation or participation. The largest religious groups, those which were specified by name on the census form (Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, or Lutheran) have more total adherents, but also have higher proportions of non-participating and nominal-only adherents. The proportion of self-reported adherents of smaller, "sectarian" groups (such as Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Latter-day Saints, Brethren, etc.) who have sociological meaningful participation with the named religious group is naturally higher.

Denominational FamilyAdherents % of


Catholic 4,799,543 26.82%including all Latin-rite Catholic, Maronite, Melikite, Liberal Catholic
Anglican 3,903,324 21.82
Uniting Church in Australia 1,334,917 7.46
Presbyterian/Reformed 675,534 3.78Presbyterian, Reformed, Free Reformed
Orthodox/Eastern Christian 528,345 2.95Greek Orthodox, Macedonian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Orthodox not further defined, Russian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, Antiochian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Orthodox not elsewhere classified, Albanian Orthodox, Syrian (Jacobite) Church; Oriental Christian not further defined, Oriental Christian not elsewhere classified
Baptist 295,178 1.65includes all Baptist religious bodies and non-affiliated Baptists
Lutheran 249,989 1.40
Pentecostal 144,208 0.81Pentecostal not further defined, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal not elsewhere classified, United Pentecostal
Jehovah's Witnesses 83,414 0.47Includes all self-identified JWs, including those not officially counted as active "publishers" by the organization.
Churches of Christ 74,300 0.42Churches of Christ (Conference); Churches of Christ not further defined
Salvation Army 74,145 0.41
Seventh-day Adventist 52,656 0.29
Latter Day Saints 45,113 0.25Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (42,159); Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1550); Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not further defined (1404)
Brethren 22,063 0.12
Apostolic 13,680 0.08Apostolic Church (so described); Apostolic Church of Queensland; Apostolic Church (Australia); New Apostolic Church

Links wishes to thank Rev. Robert Humphreys for some feedback and corrections he provided to this web page. Rev. Humphreys is the co-author, along with Rev. Rowland Ward, of Religious Bodies in Australia (3rd edition), 1995 ($20Aust), the most comprehensive guide to religious bodies in Australia.


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This document is copyright © 2000 by Created 16 December 1999. Last modified 9 March 2006.

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