Intermarriage by religion in Australia.

Author:Heard, Genevieve
 
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Intermarriage between adherents of different religious affiliations is increasing in Australia. However, most intermarriage occurs between the various Christian denominations. Intermarriage between different faiths remains negligible, but is likely to increase over time as successive generations of migrant descent are exposed to the religious diversity and the forces of secularization at play in Australia.

INTRODUCTION

Religion can be a strong determinant of partner choice. Most religious groups have traditionally proscribed marriage outside the group boundaries--known as 'exogamy', in the language of sociology--and, conversely, have encouraged or prescribed marriage within the group ('endogamy'). Yet, particularly in a culturally diverse nation such as Australia, religious intermarriage may also be viewed as a measure of harmony between different communities and as evidence of a tolerant society.

At the most basic level, intermarriage is considered to be the outcome of close social interactions between members of different religions, (1) and implies that the social barriers separating these groups are weak. (2) Intermarriage across religious boundaries may also mean that people of different religious affiliations are becoming more similar with regard to other social and demographic characteristics. People tend to look for partners with similar educational and class backgrounds to themselves. (3) Where minority religious groups are socially or economically disadvantaged relative to the rest of society, exogamy is less likely, since prospective marriage partners are unlikely to bridge this gulf. Conversely, the sociological literature suggests that intermarriage between members of religious minorities will be relatively high where the members of a community achieve upward social mobility. Relatively high levels of education, in particular, are often found to facilitate intermarriage. (4)

Using data from the 2006 census, this paper assesses the extent of intermarriage (defined here as including both formal and de facto marriage) by religion in Australian society. Where possible, trend data are used to assess the direction of change. The paper is part of a larger study of intermarriage in Australia that also examines intermarriage by birthplace, ancestry and indigenous status. (5)

The question on religion in the Australian census is optional; that is, people can choose not to answer it. Eleven per cent of the population did not state their religion in the 2006 census. The analysis that follows is based on the 89 percent of the population that responded to the question, and relates to partnered persons only. (6) It should also be noted that some religions require that spouses of another religious affiliation convert to that religion on marriage to a person of that religion. People can also change their religion at any time after their marriage. The census data refer to respondents' religious affiliations at the time of the census, which may be different from their affiliations before or at the time of their marriage.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION IN AUSTRALIA

The census of 1933 showed that Australians overwhelmingly affiliated with the various denominations of Christianity at that time. Owing to the settlement of the country mostly by people from Britain and Ireland, Protestants and Catholics dominated, albeit with sharp social divisions between the two groups.

Only in the later decades of the 20th century was this dominance challenged. In 1971, the proportion of the population affiliating with Christian denominations was 86 per cent. However, by the 2001 census, this proportion was 68 percent. (7) Greater religious diversity has come about through growth in the numbers of Australians, many of them migrants, practising Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other non-western faiths. By 2006, over a million Australians (six per cent) identified with religions other than Christianity (see Table 1). Simultaneously, organised religion of any kind has lost some of its monopoly over Australian spirituality. (8) Those claiming no religious affiliation increased in number to 3.7 million, or 19 per cent of those answering the question on religion, in 2006 (Table 1).

Table 1: Religious affiliation, Australia, 1996, 2001 and 2006 1996 2001 2006 number Buddhism 199,812 355,732 418,756 Christianity Anglican 3,903,324 3,845,537 3,718,252 Assyrian Apostolic 6,236 7,096 8,189 Baptist 295,178 306,709 316,738 Brethren 22,063 19,245 24,232 Catholic 4,798,950 4,967,200 5,126,880 Churches of Christ 75,023 60,769 54,822 Eastern Orthodox 497,015 528,133 544,160 Jehovah's Witnesses 83,414 80,474 80,919 Latter Day Saints 45,112 49,386 53,199 Lutheran 249,989 247,635 251,107 Oriental Orthodox 25,106 29,147 32,711 Other Protestant 50,216 52,102 56,106 Pentecostal 174,720 193,124 219,689 Presbyterian & Reformed 675,534 631,188 596,671 Salvation Army 74,145 70,748 64,200 Seventh-day Adventist 52,655 53,238 55,251 Uniting Church 1,334,917 1,236,104 1,135,427 Christian, no further detail (a) 186,109 250,730 313,190 Other Christian 33,058 32,403 34,093 Total 12,582,764 12,660,968 12,685,836 Hinduism 67,279 95,128 148,119 Islam 200,885 280,435 340,392 Judaism 79,805 83,709 88,831 Other religions: Aust Aboriginal Trad. Religions 7,357 5,101 5,377 Other religious groups 59,333 83,657 103,645 Total 66,690 88,758 109,022 No religion (b) 2,948,888 2,877,299 3,706,555 Other religious affiliation (c) 56,121 349,981 133,820 Religious affiliation not stated 1,550,585 1,796,298 2,223,957 Total 17,752,829 18,588,308 19,855,288 1996 2001 2006 percent Buddhism 1.1 1.9 2.1 Christianity Anglican 22.0 20.7 18.7 Assyrian Apostolic 0.0 0.0 0.0 Baptist 1.7 1.7 1.6 Brethren 0.1 0.1 0.1 Catholic 27.0 26.7 25.8 Churches of Christ 0.4 0.3 0.3 Eastern Orthodox 2.8 2.8 2.7 Jehovah's Witnesses 0.5 0.4 0.4 Latter Day Saints 0.3 0.3 0.3 Lutheran 1.4 1.3 1.3 Oriental Orthodox 0.1 0.2 0.2 Other Protestant 0.3 0.3 0.3 Pentecostal 1.0 1.0 1.1 Presbyterian & Reformed 3.8 3.4 3.0 Salvation Army 0.4 0.4 0.3 Seventh-day Adventist 0.3 0.3 0.3 Uniting Church 7.5 6.6 5.7 Christian, no further detail (a) 1.0 1.3 1.6 Other Christian 0.2 0.2 0.2 Total 70.9 68.1 63.9 Hinduism 0.4 0.5 0.7 Islam 1.1 1.5 1.7 Judaism 0.4 0.5 0.4 Other religions: Aust Aboriginal Trad. Religions 0.0 0.0 0.0 Other religious groups 0.3 0.5 0.5 Total 0.4 0.5 0.5 No religion (b) 16.6 15.5 18.7 Other religious affiliation (c) 0.3 1.9 0.7 Religious affiliation not stated 8.7 9.7 11.2 Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 Source: ABS...

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