More Census Data, More Pagan Growth

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 28, 2013 — 6 Comments

For the last year and a half, 2011 census data has been trickling out from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations, each giving a picture of the growth of modern Pagan religions and related belief systems. First out of the gate was Australia, where Pagan faiths grew, though modestly. Still, that growth was enough to underline the expanding religious diversity of the island nation.

ABS Queensland census figures. Picture: Megan Slade Source: CourierMail

ABS Queensland census figures. Picture: Megan Slade Source: CourierMail

“Religion is the only optional question on the census form; there is no requirement to give any answer. But in the last census 16,849 were happy to declare themselves as pagans, 8413 Wiccan witches, 2454 Satanists, 1046 said they were druids, 1395 pantheists, 2542 Zoroastrians, 2921 follow Jainism, 2161 Scientologists, 1485 are into theosophy and 1391 are Rastafarian. The cloak of secrecy has dropped. ‘We live in an era in which there is a religious supermarket and punters pick and choose the religion that corresponds best to their line of thinking,’ said expert in religion, Associate Professor Pradip Thomas from the University of Queensland.”

After Australia, came England and Wales, where the number of modern Pagans nearly doubled since the last census.

“Now, initial 2011 religion figures for England and Wales have been released, and while the numbers haven’t exploded into the hundreds of thousands, adherents to some form of modern Paganism has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Depending on how forgiving you want to be as to which groups are “Pagan” in some form, they now number over 80,000. In addition, the base number of people identifying as “Pagan” shot up to nearly 60,000.”

Now, Scotland has released its 2011 census data, including how many Scottish Pagans there are.

other_religions

Putting it all together, it means we have over 5000 adherents of Pagan-related faiths in Scotland. Meanwhile, the number of people claiming “no religion” continues to rise in all of these countries. As James R. Lewis might put it, Pagan faiths have continued to mature and grow at normal (and sustainable) rates after the 1990s “Teen Witch” boom. Plus, looking at new data from the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), which looks at the religious beliefs of American college students, it seems clear that steady growth will continue for the foreseeable future, and may even expand in the next couple decades.

Worldview by Religious Identification

Worldview by Religious Identification

“Overall, the Spirituals are closer to the Religious when it comes to the supernatural but closer to the Seculars when it comes to the social and political. Most claim an institutional religious identity. They are closest to the tradition that the American religious historian Catherine Albanese calls Metaphysical in her magisterial volume, A Republic of Mind and Spirit. While Kosmin and Keysar’s survey is not a random sample of college students in a statistically strict sense, the range and size of their sample is more than sufficient to make a strong provisional claim. A dozen years ago, they transformed the world of American religious demography when they discovered that the proportion of Nones had doubled in the 1990s. The rise of the Spirituals may be next.”

As you can see “spiritual but not religious” students are far more inclined toward “other religions” than their secular or religious peers, and there’s growing evidence that this category is on the rise. In short, modern Paganism is growing, will continue to grow, and shows no signs of slowing down in the years to come.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://ourpantheons.org/ Troy Young

    Good news all around! Welcome home new seekers. :-)

  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    I find it fascinating that, at least in Scotland, there are (roughly) 3.5 times as many identifying simply as Pagan than Wiccan! My guess would have been the opposite, that the more specific would outweigh the general but that’s based on a non-statistical sample of people I know or have talked with online (mostly Americans). Very, very interesting numbers :)

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Not too surprising, for me. Over here, the major organisation of the Pagan Federation which, whilst having a definite ‘Wiccan bias’, does like to keep generic.

      Also, there was the big push prior to the census in the UK for as many people to identify as ‘Pagan’ (regardless of a more accurate term existing for them) simply to play the numbers game.

      Also, I think a lot of people start out in the Pagan milieu before ‘specialising’ into a more narrowly defined tradition.

      • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

        “Also, there was the big push prior to the census in the UK for as many
        people to identify as ‘Pagan’ (regardless of a more accurate term
        existing for them) simply to play the numbers game”

        That was the Pagan-DASH project, right?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I believe so, yes.

  • wasp ish

    Interesting times for Paganism