There's been a massive change to New Zealand's religious landscape.
New census data shows Catholics outnumber Anglicans for the first time in New Zealand history.
At the March census, just over 490,000 people identified themselves as being Catholic, compared with 460,000 Anglicans.
Unfortunately, last census in 2006, there were 508,437 Catholics in New Zealand, so the top position is not really that much of a newly attained status to celebrate.
After the figures were publicised, I was amazed at the number of people who phoned into NewsTalkZB the other day, and believed in God and Jesus and quite a bit of the whole Christian landscape, yet did not want to identify themselves as religious and therefore picked the "No religion" option in the census. As my son says, they're hippies, against authority and human structures, yet people need both in order to flourish.
Identifying as religious has now declined overall in New Zealand to below 50%. This will give the de-Christianisers an intense amount of ammunition in order to remove Christian symbols, holidays and eventually Christianity from public life. Already the Wellington City Council is not putting up Christmas decorations this year, though I doubt that was inspired by the drop in Christians in NZ, and more by the fact that the mayor is a rabid Greenie (who tend to be Marxists and therefore atheists).
I think Catholics need to take advantage of being the largest religious denomination by becoming more obviously Catholic, and therefore attractive to all the lost souls out there. Otherwise, converts to Islam such as Muhammad Grant Morgan, might become the norm:
Christmas is tricky time for Muhammad Grant Morgan, juggling the traditions of the past and present.
Mr Morgan, of Titahi Bay, was raised in a loosely Anglican household in Berhampore, Wellington, but never really took to the church.
"My parents are Anglican but I don't really remember going to church."
He grew up without any religious convictions but, coming into his 20s, became increasingly dissatisfied with his life. "I was looking for something . . . I went through a whole process of searching for three or four years."
While living in Malaysia in 1996, he converted to Islam. Ten years later he returned to New Zealand, with his Malay wife and four children.
He does not drink, prays regularly and last year went on a 28-day pilgrimage to Mecca. He said his faith had given him the clear direction he felt he needed.
Catholicism gives very clear directions, except that many people choose to ignore them. Just look at this thread on Being Frank, a NZ Catholic blog site and read the comments by PaulineM. She is very much representative of what a significant number of Catholics in NZ believe. That type of Catholicism is not attractive because it doesn't lead to Christ.
Related links: Census figures show change in religious landscape ~ NewsTalkZB
Census points to non-religious New Zealand ~ Stuff
Council takes the cheer out of Christmas ~ Dominion Post