New Zealand is nominally Christian, and three-fifths of the population adhere to the Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Methodist denominations. Minor Protestant sects, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish congregations and Maori adaptations of Christianity make up the rest. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of the population does not claim any religious affiliation.
The Maoris originally followed a polytheistic religion with the main focus being the tapu. Belief in tapu, or the sacred, without a doubt was the most important of all aspects of Maori life and thought, affecting man directly from birth to death. It was a religious belief and condition, and the force which governed the whole of life, taking the place of law as well as religion.
Christianity not only attacked war and cannibalism, it inevitably weakened the hold of the laws of tapu and of Maori domestic life, and sapped the basis of Maori art and self-expression. In particular, its preaching of the worth and importance of the individual struck at the root of the Maori communal system.
Last Modified: 15 March, 2002