Left-of-field faiths have had a spiritual awakening with the religion question on the nation's census throwing a spanner in the works for data collectors.
While 137 religions are recognised by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the 2011 census there were still 132,598 answers thrown on the scrapheap, marked "not defined". Who knows how many were serious spiritual extremists or Australians playing around with authority? Jedi followers and Rastafarians got the thumbs down.
Religion is the only optional question on the census form; there is no requirement to give any answer. But in the last census 16,849 were happy to declare themselves as pagans, 8413 Wiccan witches, 2454 Satanists, 1046 said they were druids, 1395 pantheists, 2542 Zoroastrians, 2921 follow Jainism, 2161 Scientologists, 1485 are into theosophy and 1391 are Rastafarian. The cloak of secrecy has dropped.
"We live in an era in which there is a religious supermarket and punters pick and choose the religion that corresponds best to their line of thinking," said expert in religion, Associate Professor Pradip Thomas from the University of Queensland.
"There has been a worldwide increase in new religious or anti-religious communities. The internet has, of course, played an important role in providing the space for the growth of many of these communities. The interesting question for us really is one of why there has been such growth. One reason is popular disenchantment with mainstream religion," said the professor.
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