There’s an old saying that warns us not to discuss three things in polite conversation: politics, money and religion.
Unless you’re the sort of person who thrives on combative argument and confrontation, that is probably still good advice. But not discussing it does not prevent us from having our own opinions and beliefs when it comes to these topics.
And even if you are reluctant to raise the topics, human nature suggests you probably at least wonder in your own mind what friends and colleagues would have to say on certain subjects if they could speak without fear of pushback.
One of the ‘taboo’ questions you might ask is: “Do you think Jesus was a real person?” Well it turns out that an organisation known as NCLS (National Church Life Survey) has done that, so you don’t have to.
In the latest Australian Community Survey, released by NCLS, the numbers indicate that half of all Australians believe Jesus was a real person who lived at a time and place in history.
Twenty per cent of Australians believe Jesus to be a mythical or fictional character, while 30 per cent said they didn’t know.
The 50 per cent who believe Jesus was real accords with the Census figures released this month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The Census, conducted last August, found the most common religions were:
- Christianity (43.9%)
- No religion (38.9%)
- Islam (3.2%)
- Hinduism (2.7%)
- Buddhism (2.4%).
The difference of roughly 6 per cent between those who claim to be Christian and those who believe Jesus was a real person could be explained by some of the non-Christian respondents believing Jesus was a real person, but not God or the son of God.
Interestingly, the NCLS found that only two in 10 of those surveyed accept Jesus was divine or God in human form, but 44 per cent believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in some way.
NCLS research director Ruth Powell said the numbers indicated two things: “First, there is a knowledge gap about Jesus and the Christian faith, especially among young Australians. Second, there’s a low acceptance of orthodox Christian beliefs.”
The Australian Community Survey also questioned respondents about church attendance, and found that 21 per cent attend a religious service regularly (defined as once a month).
Perhaps surprisingly, the 50 to 64-year age group recorded the lowest numbers in this area, with just 11 per cent reporting regular attendance, compared to 19 per cent of those aged 65 and older.
The surprising part is that the figure rises for age groups younger than 50. Those aged 35 to 49 reported a 19 per cent attendance, but the figure was as high as 32 per cent in the 18 to 34 range.
These results appear to contradict the ABS report, which states: “Over the past 50 years, there has been a steady decline in the proportion of Australians who reported an affiliation with Christianity.”
The Census is, of course, a much broader survey, taking in the vast majority of Australians, with the NCLS relying on the responses of 1300 online participants.
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