By Ken Perrott 27/09/2015

This was a bit of a surprise to me.

The 2013 census data show that a similar proportion of the European and Māori ethnic groups declared themselves as having no religion in the 2013 census – 46.9 percent of European and 46.3 percent of Māori (see 2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity).

The graph below illustrates the proportion of non-religious for the different NZ ethnic groups differentiated in the census.


Recent sociological research does show differences between European and Māori economic values and beliefs and I thought this might be reflected in different religious affiliations.

But apparently not.

I wonder if these non-religious Māori feel as offended as I do when a Christian prayer, disguised as a karakia, is imposed on them? I feel this is dishonest and takes advantage of the unwillingness of New Zealanders to complain as the complaint could be interpreted as racist. But it must also offend non-Christian Māori for their culture to be hijacked like this.

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Featured image credit: eobrazy – iStock by Getty Images

0 Responses to “European and Māori major non-believers in NZ”

  • Thanks for this Ken, would certainly be interested to hear the answer to your question. I do not enjoy the fact that half the meetings I attended open with a Karakia and not because it is not nice having a bit of a traditional opening to the meeting formalities but because it is a Christian prayer. I always sit and look around the table and wonder how many of my colleagues have bowed their head in subjection to God’s authority and how many to simply hide their discomfort. So what is the total that are actually Christian?

    • Helen, I imagine that the proportion of Māori declaring themselves census Christians is similar to the totals (48.9 percent of all people who stated their religious affiliation in the 2013 census). However, the figure is a bit inflated as (I think) the Christian figures suffer from a bit of “double dipping” (Census 2013 – religious diversity).

      As for karakia – I have experienced a few really good ones – a bit like someone singing or citing a poem in other cultures. More to do with a respect for nature than “animistic” beliefs. I think they are great – but there is nothing worse than having a religious prayer imposed – especially when only being aware after a translation is offered. it feels like the wool is being pulled and shows a deep lack of respect.

      As a retiree, I don’t experience that so often these days – but do hear a lot of grumbles by it happening in workplaces. It is so difficult to deal with because of the cultural sensitivity issue. It would be good if more Māori could take a stand against this.

      John, I must admit I used the word “bleiver’ in the headline rather cynically – but it is often used that way.

      On the other hand, I have heard a few stories of atheists who love to attend church for the music. I am partial to classical requiems, and the orthodox chants, myself – but I do not enjoy the average church hymns at all.

  • Hi Helen, I’ve commented to Ken before that the census are probably not good indicators of the “believing” Christian population. Church attendance is the better indicator. There was a major survey in 2001. Dr Keven Ward of Otago Uni is probably the person with the best handle on this in NZ. An recent article of his is at:
    As an aside, are all karakia necessarily Christian (some may reflect ancient animistic beliefs) ? I’m not sure, but would be interesting to find out.