Australians are experiencing a spiritual awakening with 30 per cent praying more since the pandemic, a new report has revealed.
Long-regarded as a largely secular society, religion has been on the front line as Aussies cope with COVID, with latest research revealing renewed numbers engaging with their faith.
The McCrindle Research, called Australia’s Changing Spiritual Climate, found that about a third of Australians experienced a renewed appreciation of religion due to the latest lockdown, with a third more thinking about God (33 per cent) and praying more (28 per cent) while almost half of Australians having thought more about the meaning of life (47 per cent) or their own mortality (47 per cent).
COVID has also resulted in a return to a focus on community, with more than 50 per cent of Australians valuing it more than they did three years ago, and a key element of the community is the local church, with 76 per cent agreeing the church makes a positive difference.
The study of 1000 Australians also found that 65 per cent are likely to attend a church service either online or in-person if personally invited by a friend or family member.
“Times of uncertainty and anxiety get people thinking about their own mortality and to be more open to looking at issues of faith.”
Interestingly, religion is far from being only for older Australians, Gen Z (45 per cent) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers (21 per cent) to be extremely or very likely to attend an online church service if personally invited by a friend or family member.
Mark McCrindle, Founder and Principal of McCrindle Research, said the findings showed Australians are without doubt seeking deeper spiritual meaning due to COVID.
“This data is worth reflecting on a little longer: in this seemingly secular era, where the church is perceived by many commentators to be on the decline and culturally outdated, almost half of all young adults invited to a church service by a friend or family member would very likely attend,” he said.
“Times of uncertainty and anxiety get people thinking about their own mortality and to be more open to looking at issues of faith.
“In this case we saw quite clearly that our own money, expertise and skills couldn’t save us from this little virus.”
Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation Daniel Ang said the latest research affirms the continuing currency of religion as an integral dimension of Australian life and highlights the opportunity for parishes to use this time as a springboard for renewal.
“The COVID pandemic and associated lockdowns have shifted people’s priorities and lifestyles, forced this quest for deeper sources of the self to which the churches have something to offer,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“In a climate when people are reassessing what is important to them, and felt in perhaps a unique way their own subjectivity and vulnerability, it can be a critical time for Christians to share the reason for their hope and even invite them into shared prayer and the spiritual companionship that community brings.”
The detailed report also found we are accepting of others’ religious views, with nine in ten (90 per cent) agree that in Australia people should have the freedom to share their religious beliefs, if done in a peaceful way, even if those beliefs are different to mainstream community views.
There is, however, wavering support for religious symbolism in public life.
“In a climate when people are reassessing what is important to them … it can be a critical time for Christians to share the reason for their hope and even invite them into shared prayer …”
Almost two in five Australians (39 per cent) agree that Christian practices such as parliament opening in prayer, oaths in court being taken on the Bible, or Christian chaplains in hospitals or jails should be stopped.
Three in five (61 per cent), however, disagree and are therefore open to Christian practices in public life continuing.
Interestingly, religious discrimination is a genuine issue in Australia with almost three in ten (29 per cent) having experienced it. Australians who identify with a non-Christian religion are more likely to have experienced discrimination (54 per cent) than Catholics (32 per cent) or Protestants (27 per cent).
Religious discrimination is also more likely to be experienced by younger Australians who are four times as likely as their older counterparts to have experienced religious discrimination (51 per cent Gen Z and 13 per cent Baby Boomers).