The first round of data from the 2011 census has been released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The data on religious growth reveals a small percentage drop in the total number of Australians identifying as Christian, from 63.9 per cent in 2006 to 61.1 per cent in 2011.

Overall, out of 21.5 million Australians, more than 13 million identify as Christian, up nearly half a million from 2006.

A vigorous campaign from the Atheist Foundation of Australia asking people to tick “no religion” on the census led to an increase of more than a million people choosing that option. Still, less than 1 in 4 people do not associate with any religion – 22.3 per cent, up from 18.7 per cent in 2006. By comparison, 25.3 per cent identify as Catholic.

There was significant growth in a number of Christian denominations. The biggest growth occured amongst those classified by the ABS as having “no formal denomination” - up by 50 per cent from 2006, to just under half a million people. Since 2006 there has also been strong growth among Orthodox denominations as well as Baptists (11 per cent growth), Seventh-Day Adventists (14 per cent), and Pentecostals (8 per cent).

Far from being an insignificant or dying part of our society, Christianity continues to be vibrant and important to the majority of Australians, with most people identifying as followers of Christ.

The three biggest non-Christian religions are Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, which together account for about 6 per cent of Australians.