Exclusive: Young people are turning their back on religion in droves despite A-list celebrities like Justin Bieber spruiking churches such as Hillsong.

New research from Victoria's Deakin University obtained exclusively by News Corp Australia has revealed belief in God has fallen among the nation's youths, with many never attending services of worship.

It found 52 per cent did not identify with a religion and 58 per cent never attended church services.

And when it came to faith in a higher power, just 37 per cent believed in God, only marginally more than ghosts at 31 per cent.

 

Justin Bieber during an interview at the annual Sydney Hillsong Church Convention at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: YouTube / Hillsong Channel
Justin Bieber during an interview at the annual Sydney Hillsong Church Convention at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: YouTube / Hillsong Channel

 

 

Deakin University associate professor Andrew Singleton said religion plays less of a role in society nowadays. Picture: Supplied
Deakin University associate professor Andrew Singleton said religion plays less of a role in society nowadays. Picture: Supplied

The Australian Generation Z Study (AGZ Study) was completed in partnership with Australian National University and Monash University professors, and involved more than 1000 people aged 13 to 18.

Deakin University associate professor Andrew Singleton who also worked the 2005 Spirit of Generation Y Study said attitudes had shifted.

Back then, 49 per cent indicated they believed in God, with the number of young people attending church weekly dropping from 15 per cent, to 12 per cent.

"Churches used to bank on Christmas as being the main time when people would feel obligated to come along but that tradition is in grave danger, especially in traditional denominations like the Anglican, Uniting and Catholic churches," Prof Singleton said.

Despite the dire warning, he said it was a normal for religious affiliation to decline through each generation.

"Society has become much more complex, more multicultural, materialistic and rich. So there less of a need for religions place in society," he said.

"If you wanted to meet someone in the 1950s or 60s, you really had to go to church. And now there's so many more things to do on the weekend, why would you go to church?"

Just 37 per cent of those surveyed aged 13-18 indicated they believed in god. Picture: Supplied
Just 37 per cent of those surveyed aged 13-18 indicated they believed in god. Picture: Supplied

But the decline doesn't mean youths are heralding in a wave of atheism.

"Ideas like karma and reincarnation are more palatable than heaven and hell, and judgment," he said.

Along with ghosts, the study found 25 per cent of Gen Z-ers were open to communicating the dead, while 25 per cent held astrological beliefs. Another 20 per cent believed in UFOs.

Social analyst Mark McCrindle told News Corp said his company's own research had noted Gen-Z was gravitating towards spiritual ideas.

"They're a few clicks away from any piece of content on the planet, they're very global in their connections and they're the most culturally diverse generation ever," he said.

"They question organisations, political parties, and that's true when it comes to religion as well."

He added that religious scandals such sexual abuse within the Catholic Church had lead them to distrust the clergy but didn't believe the transition affect traditional churches.

"Because times are so secular and materialistic and technologically driven... some are seeking the traditional aesthetic of a religion, like sacred spaces," he said.

"You definitely have a trend where people are moving to more relaxed, experiential Hillsong-type churches, but the traditional churches are doing well with some of this younger generation."

Inside a Hillsong conference in Sydney at the Qudos Bank Arena, Homebush. Picture Jenny Evans
Inside a Hillsong conference in Sydney at the Qudos Bank Arena, Homebush. Picture Jenny Evans

Hillsong senior Pastor Brian Houston told News Corp that 43,000 people attend Hillsong church across Australia each week, and young people are well represented.

"We've always seen young people at church because they want purpose in their lives and are looking for answers," he said.

"We attract this age group because we've always lived by the philosophy that while the Christian message doesn't change, the methods we use to present it do.

"We have a saying that church is to be enjoyed not endured and unfortunately the experience many young people have at church is not always positive."

 

HOW RELIGIOUS ATTITUDES HAVE SHIFTED

 

Religious beliefs and practices in those aged 13-18 in 2005 compared to 2017. Source: SGV Survey 2005, AGZ Survey 2017
Religious beliefs and practices in those aged 13-18 in 2005 compared to 2017. Source: SGV Survey 2005, AGZ Survey 2017

 

Spiritual beliefs and practices in those aged 13-18 in 2005 compared to 2017 Source: SGV Survey 2005, AGZ Survey 2017
Spiritual beliefs and practices in those aged 13-18 in 2005 compared to 2017 Source: SGV Survey 2005, AGZ Survey 2017


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