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New Zealanders Are Becoming Less Religious, Survey Shows

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

2 April 2009 - There has been a sharp rise in the number of New Zealanders with no religious affiliation, new research shows.

In a study by the University, 40 per cent of respondents say they have no religious affiliation compared to 29 per cent 17 years ago. Just over a third of New Zealanders describe themselves as religious.

Fifty-three per cent say they believe in God (although half of those say they have doubts), 20 per cent believe in some form of higher power and about third say they don't believe or don't know.

However, 60 per cent say they would prefer children to have religious education in state primary schools with strongest support for teaching about all faiths.

Researchers from the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing received responses from 1000 people as part of the International Social Survey Programme.

Professor Philip Gendall, who led the research team, says the view that New Zealand is a very secular country, is supported by the relatively low levels of active involvement in religion. "The survey shows that God is not dead, but religion may be dying," Professor Gendall says.

"There is evidence that New Zealanders have become less religious over the last 17 years; however, most New Zealanders believe in God and there has been no change in the proportion of those who say they believe in a higher power."

"So perhaps the apparent decline in religiosity reflects a decline in traditional religious loyalties - rather than a decline in spirituality as such."

The study found that significant numbers of New Zealanders believe in the supernatural with 57 per cent believing in life after death, 51 per cent believing in heaven and 36 per cent believing in hell.

A quarter of those surveyed think star signs affect people's futures, 28 per cent say good luck charms work and 39 per cent believe fortune-tellers can foresee the future.

The survey also asked questions about euthanasia and 70 per cent of respondents supported assisted suicide for someone with a painful incurable disease, provided a doctor gives assistance.

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