Story: Atheism and secularism

Religious affiliation

The census collects information on religious affiliation. Christianity is on the decline and other religions are slowly rising. Secularism is rising faster which in part probably reflects the inclusion of 'no religion' as an official census category from 1986. If these trends continue at current rates then those stating no religion will outnumber those who state a religious affiliation by the 2026 census.

There are problems with using religious affiliation as a measure of belief as for many people religion is an inherited family tradition rather than a belief. Some who ticked a Christian affiliation do not believe in God and some who ticked no religion do believe in God. While religious affiliation is not the most accurate measure of religious belief it is the only measure for which there is a long time series of data concerning New Zealanders and belief. Clearly there is a large and growing body of New Zealanders who have no religion.

About this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Source: New Zealand census, 1867–2006

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Atheism and secularism - Who is secular?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 December 2017)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 5 May 2011, updated 10 Feb 2017