Religion in New Zealand
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In New Zealand, just under half of the population at the 2013 New Zealand Census declared an allegiance to Christianity. However, regular church attendance is probably closer to 15%. Before European colonisation the religion of the indigenous Māori population was animistic, but the subsequent efforts of missionaries such as Samuel Marsden resulted in most Māori converting to Christianity.
More recently the number of adherents of non-Christian religions has increased dramatically due to immigration and dispersal of culture, to around 5% in 2006. Roughly one-third of New Zealanders claim no religious affiliation.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Christianity
- 4 Other religions
- 5 Religion in culture and the arts
- 6 Religion in politics
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
New Zealand's religious history after the arrival of the Europeans was characterised by substantial missionary activities (with Māori conversions to Christian faith generally being voluntarily, unlike some missionary work in previous centuries in other parts of the world) as well as by the new immigrants bringing their particular Christian faiths with them.
The religious climate of early New Zealand was influenced by 'voluntarism'. Whereas in Britain, the Anglican Church was an established state church, by the middle of the 19th century even the Anglicans themselves sometimes doubted this arrangement, while the other major denominations of the new colony (Presbyterians, Methodist and Catholics) obviously preferred that the local set up allowed for all their groups.
Initial religious distribution was heavily influenced by the fact that local communities were still small and often came from comparatively small regions in the origin countries in Great Britain. As a result, by the time of the 1921 census, no uniform distribution existed amongst the Non-Māori Christian, with Presbyterians being the dominant group in Otago and Southland, Anglicans in the Far North, the East Cape and various other areas including the Banks Peninsula, while Methodists flourished mainly in the Taranaki and Manawatu. Catholicism meanwhile was the dominant religion on the West Coast with its many mining concerns, and in Central Otago. The Catholic Church, while not being particularly dominant in terms of pure numbers, became especially known throughout the country in the early and middle 20th century for its strong stance on education, establishing large numbers of schools.
Religious affiliation is a variable of strong interest to religious organisations, social scientists, and can be used as an explanatory variable in studies on topics such as marriage formation and dissolution, fertility and income.
One of the many complications in interpreting religious affiliation data in New Zealand is the large proportion who object to answering the question, roughly 240,000 in 2006. Most reporting of percentages is based on the total number of responses, rather than the total population.
In the early 20th century New Zealand census data indicates that the vast majority of New Zealanders affiliated with Christianity. The total percentages in the 1921 non-Māori census were 45% Anglicans, 19.9% Presbyterians, 13.6% Catholics, 9.5% Methodists and 11.2% Others. Statistics for Māori were only available from 1936, with 35.8% Anglicans, 19.9% Ratana, 13.9% Catholics, 7.2% Ringatu, 7.1% Methodists, 6.5% Latter Day Saints, 1.3% Methodists and 8.3% Others recorded at this census.
The population increased 7.8% between the 2006 and 2001 census. The most notable trend in religion over that time is the 26.2% increase in the number of people indicating no religion.
Religious affiliation statistics
From census data released by Statistics New Zealand.[n 1]
|Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed||330,903||7.6||400,839||10.6||431,139||12.3||470,442||14.0|
|Christian (not further defined)||216,177||5.0||186,234||4.9||192,165||5.5||186,891||5.6|
|Ratana (Maori Christian)||40,353||0.9||50,565||1.3||48,975||1.4||36,450||1.1|
|Ringatu (Maori Christian)||13,272||0.3||16,419||0.4||15,291||0.4||8,271||0.2|
|Other Maori Christian||555||0.0||579||0.0||660||0.0||729||0.0|
|Spiritualism and New Age religions||18,423||0.4||19,800||0.5||16,062||0.5||9,786||0.3|
|Non-Christian religions total||245,208||5.6||203,934||5.4||146,544||4.2||91,998||2.7|
|Not stated/inadequately described||346,131||8.0||292,974||7.7||287,376||8.2||212,997||6.3|
|No religion/Not stated total||1,981,479||45.6||1,832,688||42.0||1,554,669||37.6||1,336,854||32.1|
|Object to answering||173,034||4.0||242,610||6.4||239,244||6.8||256,593||7.6|
- Note: All figures are for the census usually resident population. Percentages are based on number of responses, rather than total population. In the 1996 Census only one response to religious affiliation was collected. In the 2001, 2006, and 2013 Censuses up to four responses were collected.
Mirroring the recent immigration trends to New Zealand, immigrant religions increased fastest between the census, Sikh by 83% to 9,507, Hindu by 61.9% to 64,392, Islam by 53% to 36,072 and Buddhist by 25.8% to 52,392. Others that increased faster than the general population include Pentecostal Christianity (Assemblies of God, Elim), Baptist, Evangelical Christianity, Latter-day Saints and New Age.
Mainstream Christian denominations, while still representing the largest categories of census religious affiliation, are not keeping pace with population increase. Anglicans fell by 29,868 to 554,925 and Presbyterians decreased by 30,102 to 401,445. While Roman Catholic numbers increased by 22,797 to 508,437 (4.7%), this was less than the total population increase. The only other religious group above 100,000 members is Methodist. Compare this with numbers in 1901, where 42% of people identified with the Anglican denomination, 23% with Presbyterian, and only 14% with Catholic. At this time 1 in 30 people did not identify with any religion compared with 1 in 3 today. If the current trends continue, Christianity will no longer be the majority religion at the 2011 census.
The International Social Survey Programme was conducted in New Zealand by Massey University in 2008. It received mail-responses from around one thousand New Zealanders above the age of 18, surveying issues of religious belief and practice. The results of this survey indicated that 72% of the population believe in God or a higher power, 15% are agnostic, and 13% are atheist (with a 3% margin of error).
Jedi census phenomenon
Encouraged by an informal email campaign, over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census (over 1.5% of responses). If the Jedi response had been accepted as valid it would have been the second largest religion in New Zealand. However, Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as "Answer understood, but will not be counted". The city of Dunedin (a university town) had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita. In the 2006 census only 20,000 people gave Jedi as their religion.
After the arrival of large numbers of European immigrants (most of whom were British) Māori enthusiastically adopted Christianity in the early 19th century, and to this day, Christian prayer (karakia) is the expected way to begin and end Māori public gatherings of many kinds. Christianity became the major religion of the country, with the Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches all establishing themselves strongly. The arrival of other groups of immigrants did little to change this, as Pacific Islanders and other primarily Christian ethnic groups dominated immigration until the 1970s.
In the following decades, Christianity declined somewhat in percentage terms, mostly due to people declaring themselves as having no religion as well as by the growth of non-Christian religions. The five largest Christian denominations in 2001 remained the largest in 2006. The Catholic and Methodist denominations increased, while Anglican denomination, the Presbyterian, Congregation and Reformed denomination, and undefined Christian denominations decreased. While smaller groups, there were larger percentage increases in affiliations with other Christian denominations between 2001 and 2006: Orthodox Christian religions increased by 37.8 percent, affiliation with Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist religions increased by 25.6 percent, and affiliation with Pentecostal religions increased by 17.8 percent.
Despite strong affiliation to Christianity throughout its history, church attendance in New Zealand has never been high compared to other Western nations. Estimates of church attendance today range from 10–20%, while research by the Bible Society of New Zealand in 2008 indicated that 15% of New Zealanders attend church at least once a week, and 20% attend at least once a month.
At the 2006 census around 5% of the New Zealand population affiliated to a non-Christian religion. Statistics New Zealand report that about 80% of the largest non-Christian religious groups are composed of immigrants, almost half of whom have arrived in New Zealand since 2000. The exceptions to this are traditional Maori religion, Judaism (24% immigrant) and Bahá'í (20% immigrant).
Traditional Māori religion, that is, the pre-European belief system of the Māori, was little modified in its essentials from that of their tropical Eastern Polynesian homeland, conceiving of everything, including natural elements and all living things as connected by common descent through whakapapa or genealogy. Accordingly, all things were thought of as possessing a life force or "mauri". Very few Māori still identify themselves as adhering to traditional Māori beliefs (2,412 people at the 2006 Census).
||This section needs attention from an expert in Hinduism. (May 2010)|
The 1st New Zealand Hindu Youth Conference was organised on 2 May 2009. More than 130 delegates participated in the conference. Several parliamentarians including Pansy Wong, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and the Minister of Women’s Affairs addressed the delegates. At the last census, Hindus made up 1.6 percent of the population.
Buddhism is the third largest religion in New Zealand, at 1.3% of the population. In 2007 the NZ$20 million Fo Guang Shan Temple was opened in Auckland for the promotion of Humanistic Buddhism. It is the largest Buddhist temple in New Zealand.
Islam in New Zealand began with the arrival of Muslim Chinese gold prospectors in the 1870s. The first Islamic organisation in New Zealand, the New Zealand Muslim Association, was established in Auckland in 1950. 1960 saw the arrival of the first imam, Maulana Said Musa Patel, from Gujarat, India. Large-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s with the arrival of Fiji Indians, followed in the 1990s by refugees from various war-torn countries. In April 1979 the three regional Muslim organisations of Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland, to create the only national Islamic body – the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand. Early in the 1990s many migrants were admitted under New Zealand's refugee quota, from war zones in Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. Since the 11 September attacks there was a spike in conversions to Islam among Maori prisoners in jail. At the 2006 census 0.9% of the population, or 36,072 people, identified themselves as Muslim.
Sikhs have been in New Zealand for more than a century now with the first Sikhs arriving in Hamilton in the 1880s. The Sikhs have grown 83.0% between 2001 and 2006 and compose 0.4% of the population as of 2006. Today they have a strong presence in Auckland especially in South Auckland and Manukau with the current National Party's member of Parliament from Manukau also being a Sikh. The Sikhs were the first minority community to have built a place of worship in New Zealand much before the Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. There are thirteen gurdwaras (the Sikh place of worship) in New Zealand. The largest Sikh Gurdwara, the NZ$10million Kalgidhar Sahib, is situated in Auckland at Takanini.
The history of the Jews here begins in the 1830s including noted early settler Joel Samuel Polack and continued to grow from immigration. Prominent New Zealand Jews in history include 19th-century Premier Julius Vogel and at least five Auckland mayors, including Dove-Myer Robinson. The current Prime Minister, John Key of the National Party is of part Ashkenazi Jewish descent, although he does not practice Judaism.
The majority of New Zealand Jews reside in Auckland and Wellington, though there is also a significant Jewish community in Dunedin which is believed to have the world's southernmost permanent synagogue. In 2006, 0.2% of the population identified as Jewish/Judaism.
Spiritualism and New Age religions
This collection of religious beliefs is represented by around 0.5% of the New Zealand population.
The first Bahá'í in the Antipodes was Englander Dorothea Spinney who had just arrived from New York in Auckland in 1912. About 1913 there were two converts – Robert Felkin who had met `Abdu'l-Bahá in London in 1911 and moved to New Zealand in 1912 and is considered a Bahá'í by 1914 and Margaret Stevenson who first heard of the religion in 1911 and by her own testimony was a Bahá'í in 1913. The first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1926 and their first independent National Spiritual Assembly in 1957. By 1963 there were four Assemblies. At the 2006 census 0.07% of the population, or 2,772 people, identified themselves as Bahá'í. There are some 45 local assemblies and smaller registered groups.
Religion in culture and the arts
|This section requires expansion. (May 2010)|
Although New Zealand is a largely secular country, religion finds a place in many cultural traditions. Major Christian events like Christmas and Easter are official public holidays and are celebrated by religious and non-religious alike, as in many countries around the world. The country's national anthem, God Defend New Zealand, mentions God in both its name and its lyrics. There has been occasional controversy over the degree of separation of church and state, for example the practice of prayer and religious instruction at school assemblies.
The architectural landscape of New Zealand has been affected by religion and the prominence of churches in cities, towns and the countryside attests to its historical importance of Christianity in New Zealand. Notable Cathedrals include the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, Christchurch Cathedral, Christchurch and St Paul's Cathedral, Wellington and the Catholic St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, St. Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin. The iconic Futuna Chapel was built as a Wellington retreat center for the Catholic Marist order in 1961. The design by Maori architect John Scott, fuses Modernist and indigenous design principles.
Christian and Maori choral traditions have been blended in New Zealand to produce a distinct contribution to Christian music, including the popular hymns Whakaria Mai and Tama Ngakau Marie New Zealand hosts one of the largest Christian music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, the Parachute Music Festival.
Religion in politics
Religion has played and continues to play a 'significant and sometimes controversial role' in the politics of New Zealand. Although most New Zealanders today consider politicians' religious beliefs to be a private matter, a large number of New Zealand Prime Ministers have been professing Christians, including Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger, Geoffrey Palmer, David Lange, Robert Muldoon, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and Michael Joseph Savage. However both the current Prime Minister John Key and his predecessor Helen Clark are agnostic. The current Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is Roman Catholic and has acknowledged that religious groups should contribute to political discourse. Sir Paul Reeves, Anglican Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand from 1980–85, was appointed Governor General from 1985–1990.
Christian political parties have never gained significant support, and have often been characterised by controversy and public disgrace. Many of these are now defunct, such as the Christian Democrat Party, the Christian Heritage Party which collapsed after leader Graham Capill was convicted as a child sex offender, Destiny New Zealand, The Family Party and the New Zealand Pacific Party whose leader Taito Phillip Field was convicted on bribery and corruption charges. United Future has been more successful, which although not a Christian party has had significant Christian backing. The two main political parties, Labour and National, are not religious, although religious groups have at times played a significant role (e.g. the Ratana Movement). Politicians are often involved in public dialogue with religious groups. The Exclusive Brethren gained public notoriety during the 2005 election for distributing anti-Labour pamphlets, which former National Party leader Don Brash later admitted to knowledge of.
Murray Smith was a member of the New Zealand Parliament from 1972 to 1975. His interest in governance continued when he later enrolled in the Bahá’í Faith and contributed in national and international roles within the Bahá'í Community.
New Zealand has no established religion, although this is not stated formally in its constitution. The Treaty of Waitangi, which itself has a complicated status within New Zealand law, contains a last-minute addition concerning freedom of religion (sometimes called the 'fourth' article). In 2007, the government issued a National Statement on Religious Diversity containing in its first clause "New Zealand has no official or established religion." The statement caused controversy in some quarters, opponents arguing that New Zealand's head of state Queen Elizabeth II is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. However, the Queen does not act in that capacity as the Queen of New Zealand; although she retains the styling of Defender of the Faith within her official title in that role. A poll of 501 New Zealanders in June 2007 found that 58% of respondents did not think Christianity should be New Zealand's official religion.
However, there has been increasing recognition of Māori spirituality in political discourse and even in certain government legislation. In July 2001 MP Rodney Hide alerted parliament to a state funded hikitapu (tapu-lifting) ceremony at the opening of the foreign embassy in Bangkok. It was revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had a standard policy of employing Māori ritual experts for the opening of official offices around the world. The Resource Management Act 1991 recognises the role of Māori spiritual beliefs in planning and environmental management. In 2002 local Māori expressed concerns that the development of the Auckland-Waikato expressway would disturb the taniwha, or guardian spirit, of the Waikato River, leading to delays and alterations to the project.
In New Zealand blasphemous libel is a crime, but cases can only be prosecuted with the approval of the Attorney-General and the defence of opinion is allowed: "It is not an offence against this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever on any religious subject." The only prosecution, in 1922, was unsuccessful.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Religion in New Zealand.|
- Statistics New Zealand – religion affiliation summary.
- Statistics New Zealand – full religious affiliation tables.