Globalization, Social Capital and the Challenge to Harmony of Recent Changes in Australia's Religious and Spiritual Demography: 1947-2001

Gary D Bouma


Religious organizations have been one of the primary engines of social capital in Western societies. Globalization, demographic change, the events of September 11 2001 and the Bali bombing have combined to raise concerns about the role of religion in promoting social harmony in Australia. Changes in Australia's religious profile since 1947, the last census before the effects of post-war migration, and 2002 include a major decline in identifications with mainline protestant groups, the rise of Catholics, the Orthodox, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. Much of the change can be attributed to various forms of globalization - the migration of religious persons, groups and ideas. The rise and recent decline in those declaring 'no religion', the increased presence of pentecostal Christian groups, and the rise of Pagan and New Age spiritualities is largely attributable to changes in religious identity in response to the globalization of ideas about religion and of new and refreshed religious beliefs and practices. The impact of these changes on the way religion and spirituality contribute to or threaten Australia social capital is explored.

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