Welcome to Post-Christian New Zealand

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 17, 2013 — 24 Comments

The island country of New Zealand has just released data about religion from its 2013 Census, and the figures point to a nation where the religiously unaffiliated (the “nones”) are the largest grouping, with Catholicism trailing in the distance.

Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay on Lake Taupō, over 10 metres high and are only accessible by boat or kayak. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay on Lake Taupō, over 10 metres high and are only accessible by boat or kayak. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“According to Census 2013, 4 of 10 Kiwis have said they follow no religion which makes New Zealand one of the most secular countries in the world. The data revealed that a Christian majority in New Zealand is uncertain with less than 1.9 million Kiwis affiliated with a church compared to more than 2 million in 2006. Paul Morris, a religious studies professor at Victoria University, said New Zealand was moving into “new territory” with Christianity no longer a prominent part of society. Mr Morris said Christianity is not the clear majority when it comes to religion since 1901.”

Anglican Ink notes that the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in New Zealand have both been shedding numbers, and another Anglican site points out that the Christian population is getting older and older.

“Last census there were 41,000 Anglicans over the age of 80, only slightly less than those under 10. But this still means that many Anglicans in 2006 have changed their affiliation since then – probably to “none”. Meanwhile, for the first time in New Zealand history Roman Catholics outnumber Anglicans. Catholics now number 492,324, although they too have declined slightly from the last census. The big growth has been in those of “no religion,” up from 32.2% last census to 38.6% this census. And when we add in those who objected to state their religion or who didn’t answer the question, a majority of New Zealanders (50.82%) now have no religious profession.”

So, a country that’s probably most famous (in American minds at any rate) for being the place where the Lords of the Rings films were made (among other blockbuster fantasy pictures), is now also famous for being a country that’s part of a slowly encroaching post-Christian West. So, now that Christianity is definitively on the wane (outside of a small number of Protestant denominations), are religious minorities growing? What about modern Paganism? Are there many Pagans in New Zealand? Yes, yes there are. If you tally up the Wiccans, Animists, Druids, Pantheists, and self-declared Earth/Nature Based religionists, they number over 5000.

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Now, around 5000 Pagans doesn’t sound like a lot, but you have to remember that New Zealand isn’t only about Christians and “nones,” it’s one of the most ethnically diverse nations on Earth. Thanks to where New Zealand is positioned, there’s a large Hindu community, a small Shinto community and, of course, Māori traditional beliefs, and Māori new religious movements like Ringatū and Rātana. The cumulative effect is that New Zealand must govern a nation where no single sect or religion holds absolute sway. Post-Christianity doesn’t mean the absence of Christianity, merely that it must co-exist with other faiths within a culture.

“A post-Christian world is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but that has gradually assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion’s standpoint, or may represent a combination of either several religions or none). Generally, therefore, post-Christian tends to refer to the loss of Christianity’s monopoly, if not its followers, in historically Christian societies.”

So, in short, New Zealand is a more diverse, and less traditionally religious place. It can be seen as a bellwether for larger nations that are undergoing the same process, and hopefully, we can all learn from how the island nation moves forward in serving their diverse land. For more on Paganism in New Zealand, see the website for the New Zealand chapter of the Pagan Federation International.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • David Pollard

    The report also shows 339 Unitarians in New Zealand. Recently (like a couple weeks ago) an American UU minister serving their church in Aukland had to return to the US, because NZ officials would not grant an extension on his visa. He’s now looking for work in the Austin, TX area.

    • Marama

      As someone who lives, and was born here in NZ and knows a lot of UU’s – I’m pretty sure that had little to nothing to do with his religious affiliations.

  • Jonathan Carfax

    Probably worth mentioning the entire population of NZ is only 4.5 million roughly – which then makes those pagan figures look a hell of a lot bigger in % terms at 0.1% of the population.

    Also, NZ was a time capsule of surviving spiritual traditions transplanted from pre-20th century Britain and other places, hence the operation of a (semi-original) Golden Dawn lodge until the early 1970’s with an architecturally designed temple which is a national heritage building (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whare_Ra)

    Dated now, but a good book to investigate is Ellwood, Robert S. (1993). Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New Zealand. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1487-8.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    It will be interesting to watch, that much is for sure.

  • Charles Cosimano

    What religion are the sheep?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Christian, one would guess. That is the religion obsessed with a shepherd, after all.

  • Note to Self

    So to put this in perspective, and actually show the statistical data in a more reprehensive and accurate way, because obviously Jason Pitzl-Waters and his cohorts in crime won’t do that, as they engage in their typical attention seeking internet behavior. But what can you expect,that’s typical of those who converse with and follow the pied piper.

    The estimated over
    all population of New Zealand, as of June 2013, is 4,468,200 people.

    Nature Based Religion
    699/4,468,200=0.0002 or .02% of the population.

    243/4,468,200=0.0001 or .01% of the population

    165/4,468,200=0.00003 or .003% of the population

    375/4,468,200=0.0001or .01% of the population

    1452/4,468,200=0.0003 or .03% of the population

    Natural & Earth Based Religions.
    3099/4,468,200=0.0007 or .07% of the population

    7776/4,468,200=0.0017 or .17% of the population

    1917/4,468,200=0.0004 or .04% of the population

    Other New Age Religions.
    1098/4,468,200=0.0002 or .02% of the population.

    Other Religions.
    5206/4,468,200=0.0012 or .12% of the population.

    Not even 1% of the estimated over all population, So pathetic Jason, So pathetic. I’m sure Christians are shaking in their boots, in this so called post Christian world. So if we live in a post Christian world, what kind of world do we live in then? Islamic? Well, I’ll say it’s certainly “NOT” going to be the world that pretenders , like Aleister Crowley envisioned.

    So, got any more people you want to harass, in your self aggrandizing campaign against Christianity?

    You know what mean!

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter


      • Looks like I’ve hurt Christianity’s feelings!

        • Hecate_Demetersdatter

          I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.

      • Wyrd Wiles

        Right? Glad somebody else caught that! LoL

    • I suppose I’m supposed to be insulted? Chastised? But really, I’m merely baffled by this obtuse and aggressive comment, one that clearly needs a good editor.

      If you think I’m the face of anti-Christianity, pal, you live an incredibly small and sheltered life.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      So, what we can see from this is that, in a post-Christian country,

      The various “alternative” religions are still a minor minority.

      Oh well, so long as Abrahamic monotheism is on the decline, it’s all good.

    • The statistics speak volumes to the effect that Christianity has on people. When someone leaves the Christian religion, they tend to want to avoid all religions altogether. Also, other than Christianity and Islam, other religions tend to place little or no emphasis on recruitment. It takes a while for most people to get over the violent, traumatizing effect that Christianity has on the soul. The exception are those who consciously decide to leave Christianity and “join” another religion. That’s all that is going on here. The real story is the continued precipitous decline of Christianity in the West, and that is all to the good.

    • kenofken

      “So if we live in a post Christian world, what kind of world do we live in then?”……………..
      A better one.

      • Wyrd Wiles

        All hale the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

    • TadhgMor

      Wow. I didn’t know we got whiny Christian trolls.

      • Wyrd Wiles

        I’m curious if he really is a Christian, or just a Troll who knows what buttons to push…

        • TadhgMor

          This blog doesn’t seem like a good venue for trolling. There’s no upside to it, if we’re talking about “lulz seeking trolls” in the traditional sense of the term. But you could be right.

          Then again it seems like it’d be pretty rare for a random Christian to come here as well. It’s not like this is going to pop up on Google news or something.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            You’d be surprised. I get stuff from here and Patheos on my Google News feed.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Yes, we get it. We’re very small. Trust me, we know.
      However, if you want to play numbers, the “Religious Nones” make up the largest portion of the population at 48.6% V.S. the Christian population of 44.5%. That was the real point being made here, so just calm down and take your meds before you start screaming about conspiracies and Anti-Christian campaigns again…

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Lovely picture, Jason. I’d never seen that. Thanks for sharing.

  • Luxuria

    As a pagan myself, I have often thought of leaving the US and going to another place. NZ seems to up on my list now.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I have a simple philosophy – always make the destination more important than the point of origin. “Never run away, always run to.”