The nation has undergone a ­seismic shift away from religion with the number of people describing themselves as Christian falling to 52 per cent, the lowest share on record.

In 1966, 88 per cent of the country identified as being Christian. In the same year about 0.7 per cent of Australians practised a religion other than Christianity but the figure today is 8.2 per cent.

The census shows 29.6 per cent, or about seven million people, now identify as having no religion at all. Those who claim to be Catholic represent 22.6 per cent of the population or 5,291,834 people.

An extra 2.2 million godless have been recorded in the five years since the 2011 census.

However, one of the smaller ­belief systems in Australia, Hinduism, has jumped 60 per cent to 440,000 people in the five years to 2016.

While Hindus are the fastest growing, the largest share of the non-Christian group goes to Islam, which represents 2.6 per cent of the Australian population. The number of Muslims climbed 27 per cent to 604,240.

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Last year’s census was the first to put a checkbox for “no religion” at the top of the list of other religious options but experts agree this would have had little impact on the overall result as atheism and other secular beliefs have been on an upward trend for years.

“Some might say we are losing our religion, some may say we’ve lost our values, that we are on a downward spiral to hell but what I would say to that is we have a ­diverse population,” Australian National University demographer Liz Allen told The Australian.

“The responses on the religion and language questions reflect that diversity and we should be proud of that, of all the countries in the world we should stand proud.”

As ever, it is the young adults who believe the least.

An age breakdown of the faith data shows pre-teens have a relatively high rate of religious belief which mirrors that of 35 to 49-year-olds: their parents.

Statisticians put this down to “cultural” practice and parents ­answering the voluntary question on their behalf.

However, more than 40 per cent of people aged from 22 to 28 report no religion at all, the highest of any age group. This number ­tapers off with age.

The acceleration of Christianity’s fall from grace, so to speak, is in large part explained by the middle-age spread that has developed in Australia with a population that is growing older.

For example, 44 per cent of ­Catholics are aged under 35, which might seem high but the share is greater still in Islam and Hinduism where 66 and 64 per cent respectively are aged under 35.

More than 25 per cent of Muslims in Australia who were born overseas have come from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The No 1 source country for those with no religious beliefs born overseas is China at 22.4 per cent followed by England on almost 20 per cent.

Tasmania, of all the states and territories, is the least religious, while only NSW and Queensland have populations where more than 50 per cent count themselves as Christians. Queensland records the highest showing of Christianity at 56 per cent of the population.

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