Friday, July 08, 2005

Religious belief in New Zealand

A friend pointed me at an article in Massey News about the religious beliefs of New Zealanders. While not directly comparable to the Associated Press international survey which showed that America was unmatched in the west for its religiousity, it still provides some useful data.

According to the article,

  • 67% of New Zealanders say they believe in god
  • 61% believe in an afterlife
  • 32.5% never pray
  • 30% go to church on a regular basis
  • 15% go to church at every week

This compares reasonably well with census data, in which almost 4 in 10 did not specifiy a religion (either choosing "no religion" or "refuse to state").

A lack of definitions makes comparison with the above-mentioned survey fuzzy at best. According to the internals, the international survey had six possible answers for the "belief in god" question, with the combined total of the bottom two ("believe with doubts" and "absolute belief") being reported as definite belief. I suspect the New Zealand figure goes quite a bit further up the scale than this, possibly into the lower realsm of fuzzy "higher power" ness. Taking this into account, we're probably comparable with Australia - though probably not as atheistic as the UK (and nowhere near France). The Church attendance figure seems low (half the rate in the US), but it was never very high to start with. Reportedly, the 1881 census showed that only 20% of New Zealanders attended every week even back then, when pretty much everyone nominally professed some religious denomination and only 7% did not specify a religion. The

There was also an interesting qualitative point:

Twenty is the critical age for making decisions on going to church. While teens may have gone to church primarily for social reasons, at 20 it seems they begin to question the religious value.

This is rather interesting in light of some responses to the Seatoun School affair.


Depressing news. 61% surrender utterly to unjustified optimism about an afterlife, showing themselves no more capable than small children of understanding what death is.

I blame the climate of anti-intellectualism in NZ for that and for the high number believing in God but not going to church. If they believe in a god, don't they also spare a thought for what that god might expect of them, or do they believe in some kind of Almighty Slacker? If they believe in the Christian God, doesn't the prospect said God frying their asses for eternity worry them in the slightest? Wake up, God-believers! Both the Christian and Moslem versions declare that if you believe in him you'd better do something about it, or your ass is Satan's!

Posted by Psycho Milt : 7/08/2005 08:27:00 PM

Did they include those that stated Jedi as their religion on their census form? They should, believing in cinematic fantasies is as bad as adhering to a 2,000 year old text.

Posted by Uroskin : 7/09/2005 12:31:00 PM

Come on guys, lumping believers of all sorts in as anti-intellectual is as bigotted in its own way as the right wing bible-belters are in theirs. It's just not the case.
Give the educated, intellectual (in many cases academic) and left wing (because our politics are one of the ways we strongly state our belief in being Christ-like) a break, and don't belittle it as a matter of course. There's no reason why faith and intellectualism need be mutually exclusive, it just requires a more considered understanding of the texts and their relevance.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/09/2005 04:18:00 PM

"Come on guys, lumping believers of all sorts in as anti-intellectual is as bigotted in its own way as the right wing bible-belters are in theirs."
I don't think I am. There are plenty of Christians etc way smarter than me. But look at the survey - large numbers believe in God and an afterlife without belonging to any kind of religious group. Some bozo who believes in some kind of god but makes no effort to find out what that might mean for them, that's good old NZ anti-intellectualism at work.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 7/09/2005 05:12:00 PM

It displays an interesting unconscious bias. Both Buddhism and some pagan religions are religions, without requiring a belief in god, or praying, or church attendance. It ignores a growing trend towards spirituality, without organised religion.

Posted by Ghet : 7/09/2005 07:01:00 PM

Well as a person who holds essentially christian beliefs, but does not belong to any particular christian 'sect', I believe psycho milt is generalising a bit much. If he/she can tell me which of the ostensibly christian groups (and I have investigated the beliefs of several groups so far, with interest - hardly 'making no effort') has the right ear of God (the Catholics? Anglicans? Destiny Church? Any one of them will wave their hands saying 'Me, me!') I am happy to listen to their argument. But because I don't buy in to any one group means I can't believe in a spiritual creator and an afterlife? It's an old cliche but still true, going to church no more makes you a christian than standing in your garage makes you a car. Graeme Capill's hypocrisy surely illustrates that. Not going doesn't make you any less Christian either.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/09/2005 09:40:00 PM

In other words, Ghet and Anonymous, you feel a desire to be superstitious but don't like any of the currently popular superstitions. Just invent your own - yours are as likely to be true as anyone else's.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 7/10/2005 04:50:00 AM

Psycho Milt:

superstition: an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear

I don't think that my ponderings about the universe and the possibility of a god is a superstition in the above WordNet 2.0 definition. Spend enough time researching cosmology and quantum physics knows there is a lot of unknown that we are not sure about. Even if I don't go to church and don't really believe in an afterlife (I'm doing everything I can to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle) that doesn't preclude the afterlife being a possibility. None of the Gods of traditional religions appeal to me (well, at least the way they portray their Gods and then make hypocritical statements about them) - so I don't go to church.

Posted by Ferrouswheel : 7/11/2005 01:36:00 PM