Ian is the "Honest to God" columnist in the Dom Post (and perhaps elsewhere). His take on Christianity seems to be a thoughtful and interesting one. The latest column (a few snippets below) is worth a read:
New Zealand is still a Christian country by majority, but only just. In this year's census, 53 per cent of the population still considered themselves Christian. But if the biggest single grouping determines our religious character, we are a God-shaped blank. Nearly one in three of us, a total of 1,297,104, ticked the "no religion" box.
That figure has risen by 269,052, or 26 per cent, in the past five years. Any denomination would eat its heart out to net an increase like that. Instead, Catholics nudged up 22,800 to 508,812, Anglicans shed 29,868 to 554,925, and the Presbyterian/Reformed grouping lost 30,102 to 401,445. Methodists were fourth biggest at 122,073, a gain of 1368. Those churches can take some comfort that they account for three in every four of the 2.1 million people who identified themselves as Christian. They will take less from the fact that since 2001 their share of the total population has fallen from 47 to 39 per cent. The trend, evident since the 1920s, continues ever downward.
Christians should meanwhile be asking themselves the hard questions about their dwindling numbers. It is the Christian West, after all, that gave birth to the secular society, yet so often the churches see the secular as negative rather than something they can find synergy with. The sooner that changes, the better.
One factor working against the churches might in time turn in their favour. The great majority of the "no religionists" are under 40. They know little about either traditional Christianity or what a Christianity re-imagined for our secular society might be like. If they ever get around to inquiring about that, at least they should be more open than their elders to new ways of thinking about God, without a lot of unlearning to do first.
But the churches seem largely unaware of the opportunities presented by secular society. Also, with new faiths growing strongly around them, they must learn to shed their ingrained attitude of superiority toward other religions, as, too, must the other religions. No religion has a monopoly on truth.
The evolving multi-faith reality also poses a challenge to those who are indifferent or hostile to religion. For the census confirms that even in our secular society, religion has a firm place. Secular tolerance demands that it be respected and safeguarded, not the butt of dismissive sneers.