It seems that many Australians are turning away from organised religion. But to think that we’re a nation of atheists is an easy assumption. The gospel truth is far more nuanced.
What is our Religion? Who or what do we have Faith in? If we don’t have a particular conviction, what would we identify as our Passion?
According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of Religion is: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” Faith is: “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something” Passion is: “Strong and barely controllable emotion”.
These definitions, although reasonable, are in fact, incomplete.
In 2017, can one’s passion be their religion? If someone has fulfilment and meaning in their lives from what holds importance or significance, should we then let them identify it as their religion? Does religion have the same definition in 2017 that it did in 1960?
Religion is a word I am not sure I like anymore. As a society, we have made little progress in maintaining respect for and acceptance toward those who possess a different one to ours. A sad example of this intolerance was recently on display in the Australia Senate. And who received the applause? The one who made a stance against this mockery.
Religion is a word I am not sure I like anymore. As a society, we have made little progress in maintaining respect for and acceptance toward those who possess a different one to ours.
How can I believe my path is the right one, and believe my Buddhist, Muslim or Athiest neighbour has taken the wrong one?
The 2016 Australian Census revealed that 30.1 % of the population has ‘No religion’. That figure has recently been celebrated by atheist groups proclaiming they represent the highest percentage of the Australian population. According to the ABS, that percentage includes secular and other religious beliefs. If someone has a belief system which they consider non-religious, it still may be to them very spiritual, such as meditation, nature, philosophy, or the religion-cultural world view of Indigenous Australians.
It can, therefore, be reasoned that this majority is not a true reflection of Australians who identify themselves as being an Atheist. If I understand correctly, being an atheist means you wouldn’t identify yourself with secular and other religious beliefs. This way we will get a true reflection of the percentage of Australians who are proud atheists.
Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone.
The ABS Operational definition of Religion is: “Operationally, Religious Affiliation is defined as the religion to which a person nominates they have an affiliation to. This may include other spiritual beliefs or no religious or spiritual beliefs”.
Could it then be argued, that anyone who is a member of the Atheist Foundation of Australia actively has a religion, even if that it stands against religion? If you go to the trouble to join an organisation you have faith in, the work they are doing, and what they stand for, does that passion and faith then become your religion?
If not, why not?
When the census arrived, I ticked the ‘other religion’ box, even though I’m a baptized Catholic. I no longer wish to identify myself with the Catholic denomination. Despite that fact, I still consider myself a Christian. It would also be appropriate to see a box to tick just for Christianity and not have the boxes for Catholic, Anglican, Uniting and Presbyterian. They in themselves are not religions, but denominations of the Christian Religion. That being said, the current census form only has one box for Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, not separate boxes for each of their separate denominations.
Alain de Botton, the British philosopher, author and committed non-believer noted in his book Religion for Atheists: “The premise of this book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm…Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone.”
Whatever our religion, whatever spiritual belief system we possess, let us accept each other. Let us break bread together and we may find, that not only are our bodies fed, but our inner selves are fed also. No matter who we are and what our beliefs may be, or if we have none at all, it is what we do in aid of the moral code is what truly matters.