Although Christianity is still the dominate religion in Australia, the number of Australians who mark “Christian” on the census has dropped significantly, from 96% in 1911 to just 61% in 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion of Australians marking “no-religion” on the census has risen, from 19% in 2006 to 22% in 2011. This comes on top of a greater diversity of religions as a result of multiculturalism, and the rise of “religions” and “movements” like Pastafarianism.
But while atheism no longer carries as much of a stigma as it once did, and Christianity is losing ground, religion still plays a remarkable role in Australian politics and public discourse. There are very few atheist or non-Christian politicians (Julia Gillard being a notable exception), the debate over Same Sex Marriage is often portrayed as a religious debate, secular ethics classes have only recently been offered as an alternative to religious studies in schools (and only in some areas), and explicitly religious activities still enjoy tax exemptions.
There are a number of groups and parties pursuing the agenda of greater Secularism in Australia -including the Australian Sex Party, but it is the central focus of the Secular Party. As part of my minor parties series I spoke with John Perkins from the Secular Party: