Religion in decline in Dunedin

Dunedin and Otago's once dominant Presbyterian tradition is slipping further into the past.

More people hold no religious belief in Dunedin than those who do, 2013 census data released yesterday shows.

The number of those with a religious affiliation dropped to 53,376 from 61,608 in 2006, while those who had no religion increased to 55,233 from 45,111.

Of the major religious groups, Presbyterianism had the greatest drop as people who affiliated with the denomination fell to 17,455 from 22,290 in 2006.

However, it remains easily the largest denomination in Dunedin and Otago.

While Dunedin mirrored the trend of decreasing religiosity throughout New Zealand, it and Queenstown Lakes district were two of only five territorial authorities where the irreligious outnumbered the religious.

Of those, Dunedin City had the largest population and was the least religious of New Zealand's major centres.

In New Zealand there were 2.146 million people with a religious affiliation (down from 2.271 million in 2006) and 1.635 million people with no religion (up from 1.297 million in 2006).

University of Otago associate professor of philosophy and religion Greg Dawes said it was difficult to know what caused the trend towards lower religiosity, but he believed Dunedin being a ''university town'' might be a factor.

''There's no simple correlation between education and non-belief, but ... because Dunedin is a university town there may be more people that associate as being non-believers,'' he said.

While the number of those who were religious would probably continue to decline, those who remained religious could become more galvanised in their belief.

''When the overall rate of participation in religion declines there's a tendency for those who are involved to become more committed and even more extreme in their views,'' Dr Dawes said.

Debates about issues such as teaching religion in schools and creationism could become ''lively'' as the religious population continued to decline, he said.

Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism had moderate increases in believers, most of which could be attributed to demographic change, but the increase in Judaism was interesting, as ''Dunedin ... once had quite a significant Jewish population'', he said.

The data released yesterday also showed more people in Otago affiliated themselves with an iwi, drove more cars and earned more.

The number of people who affiliated themselves with an iwi grew to 17,838 from 16,122 in 2006. Most of that increase was as a result of 627 more people affiliating themselves with Ngai Tahu.

There was an increase in the number of people who owned one vehicle, two vehicles and three or more vehicles and a decrease in the number who did not own a vehicle.

The data also showed median household income in Otago had risen to $56,400 from $44,400 in 2006, but it was still short of the national median average of $63,800.

The number of households earning $100,001 or more was up to 14,343 from 8286.

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

They are all just cults!

There is a simple answer to why it is in decline and that is because people are no longer killed for questioning their beliefs! That has always been Christianity's (or any other religion for that matter) Achilles heel, the second you question the rubbish that they have been trying to force down our necks that is when it is all exposed as nothing more than man made cults used to control people with impossible promises and the threat of eternal damnation! Religion now has zero impact on our morals and ethics and with any luck will soon be totally ignored and will become no more than the myth it all is.

Sodom and Gloca morra

It is accepted that fundamentalism captured liberal and mainstream Churches around ten years ago. I suggest fantastical belief in the book of Revelation is putting people off. After all, they are trying to convince us that the End of The World is really something to look forward to. Religion aside, interest in the numinous is strong. There is no box in the census for New Ager, Goddess Worshipper or Pagan, all religious movements. Belief is a frequent topic in letters to the ODT. Dunedin has a fine tradition of Argy Bargy. We even had a medievalist type heresy trial as recently as 1968.

Participation in religion

"'When the overall rate of participation in religion declines there's a tendency for those who are involved to become more committed and even more extreme in their views,'' Dr Dawes said."  Really, or is it that those who were lukewarm feel free to admit they affiliate to no church, are "spiritual" but not religious, or are agnostic or atheist?  

In my youth all these would have been unthinkable in most of NZ.  You were born and christened and that was that. sent off to Sunday School whether your parents were regular of Christmas, Easter, funerals'n'weddings church attenders.  Bible class, depending on the popularity of the minister, was the only youth group in town.

At school, in hospital, any- and every-where, you could be asked what your religion was and it was unthinkable that you wouldn't have a straight answer to give, not "Christian" but a Christian denomination.

Children and teens now have far more options for their spare time.  Parents can get peace and quiet on Sunday mornings by providing a collection of DVDs and games.

Sunday activities include shopping - Sunday is no longer special in the week, there is nothing you could do on on Sundays that the neighbours would tut-tut about, that would be OK if you did it on any other day.

So who is left?  Only those for whom their religion, their church, is truly important.  In the past the strident ones were diluted by the masses of moderates and those who belonged because while it didn't mean much to them personally, it was socially expected behaviour and besides, they kept in touch with acquaintances they would have seldom seen otherwise.

[Abridged]

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