More have no faith
More have no faith

A quarter of West Australians declared themselves as having no religious faith in the 2011 census as Australia's dominant Christian churches continued to lose proportional support to non- believers and other religions.

For the first time, the percentage of people who said they had no religion, which includes atheists, agnostics, humanists and rationalists, overtook those who nominated as Anglicans and Catholics in WA.

But some religions have shown massive growth in WA since the 2006 census. WA's Hindu population mushroomed to 21,063, up from 8172 six years ago.

The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, said the Church had an image problem as an authoritarian institution and Australians, particularly West Australians, had always been suspicious of religious authority.

"I think we have always been more secular in WA, unlike the Eastern States where in history there has been a much stronger sense of Christian attachment," he said.

"We have always lived with a love-hate relationship with Christianity.

"Some people seem to see the Church as a negative moral policeman. That's not the God that I believe in."

In 2001, just under one in five West Australians said they had no religious faith. Ten years later this has increased to one in four.

Teacher Kylie Sturgess decided to become an atheist when she was studying philosophy at WA's Notre Dame University in the mid-1990s.

"I realised that without faith, I was doing good. Without God, I was still going to be a great citizen and teacher," she said.

Ms Sturgess, who has taught philosophy in high schools and is studying psychology at Edith Cowan University, said she believed the increase in those who affiliated themselves with no religion was driven by increased publicity and awareness of atheism.

The State's growing Hindu population was reflected in a big jump in those in WA who were born in India, which doubled in the 2011 census to 29,950 from 15,152 in 2006.

WA's Islamic population also increased significantly to 39,160 from 24,273 in the last census.

The West Australian

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