Identity and Religion in Contemporary Australia


  • Philip Hughes
  • Alan Black
  • John Bellamy
  • Peter Kaldor


This paper draws on data from two national surveys conducted by Edith Cowan University and NCLS Research to examine the nature of religious identification in Australia. It finds that the importance of religion to people's sense of identity is closely related to church attendance, religious beliefs, and the importance of ethnic identity. Some people describe themselves as 'spiritual' rather than 'religious', although most people opt to describe themselves using both terms or neither. The lower levels of importance of religion to identity among younger people are associated with lower levels of involvement in religious organizations. The importance attributed to spirituality has been largely retained through the generations, but is now expressed somewhat differently. For many younger people, spirituality is being explored quite apart from involvement in, or identification with, religious communities.