A godless lot, just don't tell the Jedis
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A godless lot, just don't tell the Jedis

Canberrans are the most godless people in the country.

Not only did atheism top the list of ''religious affiliation'' in the ACT, but at 28.9 per cent, the territory had the highest proportion of people in the country who said they had no religion.

Lama Choedak Rinpoche, of the Buddhist Society of Canberra.

Lama Choedak Rinpoche, of the Buddhist Society of Canberra.Credit:Rohan Thomson

This is up more than 5 percentage points from the 23.4 per cent five years ago, and means it takes over the top spot from Catholicism. Catholicism - which remains the main affiliation for Australians at 25.3 per cent, compared with 22.3 per cent for atheism - dropped from 28 per cent to 26.1 per cent in Canberra.

The proportion of Anglicans in the ACT also dropped, from 16.7 per cent to 14.7 per cent, and people affiliated with the Uniting Church fell from 4 per cent to 3.3 per cent, but the proportion of Buddhists more than doubled, from 1.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

Lama Choedak Rinpoche is one of the 9335 Buddhists in Canberra, but wasn't part of the big increase. The spiritual director of the Tibetan Buddhist Society of Canberra has lived in the ACT for 27 years, after leaving Tibet in 1959.

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He said that instead of preparing for death, people hoarded possessions and put off many things which remained unsettled.

''They leave it to the last minute if at all. The whole Buddhist idea is if you start thinking of dying you start pinning down important things you must do. This includes healing of old wounds and dispersing of some material possessions,'' he said.

The census showed Hinduism and Islam were also big risers. Numbers of Hindus almost doubled nationally - to 276,000, and from 0.7 per cent in 2006 to 1.3 per cent - and in the ACT, where they were up from 3271 to 6044 (1.7 per cent) last year. There was also a big increase in the number of Muslims, from 4366 to 7432 (2.1 per cent) in Canberra.

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And Canberrans are more likely than most other Australians to be Jedis - or at least to describe themselves that way on the census form.

There were 1500 Jedis in Canberra (0.4 per cent) and while there were no state-based figures available yesterday for the previous census, the number to declare the Star Wars based religion nationally increased from 57,000 to 65,000 (0.3 per cent).