Australia 'among world's least religious countries'

The Catholic Church has paid out more than $A660 million for child sex abuse cases (Getty Images)

Just weeks before the Pope - and thousands of Catholics - arrive in Sydney, a survey has found Australia is one of the world's least religious countries.

Just weeks before the Pope - and thousands of Catholics - arrive in Sydney for World Youth Day, a survey has found Australia is one of the world's least religious countries.

While the worldwide poll discovered that the majority of Aussies consider themselves religious, most say faith does not play a large part in their day-to-day lives, with few praying or visiting church regularly.

IN DEPTH: More on World Youth Day

The survey, by the German-based Bertelsmann Group, found 28 per cent of Australian respondents were not religious; 25 per cent said they were "deeply religious", and 44 per cent claimed to be religious but said faith did not play a central role in their lives.

Of the 21,000 people in 21 countries surveyed, Australia was placed 17th for religious adherence, with only Russia, France, Germany and the UK less 'godly'.

Family, career, politics 'more important'

Religion ranked as less important than family, partners, career, leisure time or politics for 50 per cent of Australian respondents, while 48 per cent said they did not pray, and 52 per cent never or very seldom visited a church.

The news comes less than a fortnight before Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the world's Catholics, comes to Australia to lead the church's World Youth Day celebrations.

"This is not to say that the Pope will be landing in a religious desert on his visit to the World Youth Day in Australia," research leader Martin Rieger said.

"On the eve of World Youth Day, it is interesting to note the strong religious vitality recorded amongst the nation's youth."

Some 72 per cent of Australian respondents aged under 30 said they believed in God or a divine power and/or life after death, the survey showed.

Catholics Australia's 'largest faith group'

Catholics are Australia's largest faith group and Christian denomination, but are not the most religious, according to the survey, which shows 37 per cent are "deeply religious" and 52 per cent are "religious".

Religion was found to be strongest among the small group of free-church and Pentecostal Protestants, including charismatic movements. Fifty per cent of that group were found to be "deeply religious".

"Christianity and Catholicism in Australia are not blossoming, but equally are not in danger of losing their core roots," Dr Rieger said. "The big polarity between religious and non-religious people is very defined here.

"Typical is the trend towards a loose, perhaps seeking, spirituality that no longer has any clear relationship to the different churches and denominations.

"This reveals a great potential for religions and all churches that has so far been neglected and perhaps overlooked."

Source SBS

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