Insights from the 2021 Australian Community Survey
Age differences are apparent in Australians' views of Jesus and their belief in his divinity and resurrection from the dead.
NCLS Research has discovered that while half of Australians acknowledge Christ’s existence as a human in history, even less see him as divine. And there are some curious differences between the generations.
The age group with the lowest belief in Jesus as a real person in history are those aged 18 to 34, while the group with the highest belief in Jesus’ existence are those aged 65 and over. Middle aged Australians, aged 50 to 64, are least likely to believe in Jesus' divinity or resurrection.
In the 2021 Australian Community Survey (2021 ACS), NCLS Research asked a nationally representative group of Australians about their views of Jesus.
Findings from the 2021 ACS reveal that only half of all Australians view Jesus as a real person who actually lived. Around two in 10 people say he is a mythical or fictional character and around three in 10 are unsure.
Age differences in views of Jesus are also apparent. Younger people are less likely to view Jesus as a real person who actually lived (40%) in comparison with older Australians (50-57%).
However, believing Jesus existed doesn’t necessarily mean you believe he is God.
Only two in 10 Australians affirm that Jesus was divine (God in human form). Similar sized groups believe he was a normal human or prophet/leader. More than a quarter do not know what they believe.
Views on the divinity of Jesus vary, with 20 to 28% of all age groups believing he was divine, except the 50 to 64 year old age group which had the lowest level of belief at just 15%.
Some 44% of Australians believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in some way. Three in 10 (31%) do not believe in the resurrection. More than a quarter do not know what they believe.
Results show that the 50 to 64 age group are the least likely to believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (39%).
Meanwhile, the generation above them, the 65+ group, has the most people who believe in the resurrection from the dead in some way.
What can we conclude? Views and attitudes are appearing within the 50-64 age group, middle aged Australians, showing a markedly stronger unbelief about Jesus compared to other age groups.
Interestingly, the 50 to 64 age group are least likely to believe in the divinity of Jesus (15%) or the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (39%). Meanwhile, the generation above them, the 65+ group, has the most people who believe Jesus was both a real person and divine, and who believe in the resurrection from the dead in some way.
Also from these figures we can see a disconnect between the number of people who understand Jesus to have been a real person who lived (49%) and just 2 in 10 who accept Jesus was God in human form.
As shifts are occurring in attitudes, views and beliefs between generations, perhaps this is an opportunity for churches to stay abreast of the current trends amongst Australians.
2021 Australian Community Survey, by NCLS Research.
Tracking Australians' social attitudes, spirituality, religion and wellbeing