A survey conducted in 2009 found that only 47 per cent of Australians believe in a god.
Only 16 per cent were sure there is no god, leaving about a third slouching on the fence (a common Australian habit, by the way!), or hedging their bets, depending on your preferred metaphor.
Yes, in the antipodes we are quite blessed - not by any gods, but blessed in many ways that Americans aren't. Our lack of faith, and our casualness about it is definitely someone of which I am grateful.
Even our politicians would risk ridicule if they publicly and profusely thanked god for anything, let alone if they raised their eyes heavenwards and asked god to bless our great brown land. Twenty two million people would roll their eyes and look embarrassed (inclusive of the believers).
It's fitting then, that Melbourne, Australia, is host to the annual Global Atheist Convention - A Celebration of Reason, which is hugely popular here and always a sold out event.
A few links, for those of you who might be interested in how other first world countries, with supposedly close cultural ties to America. We actually "do" religion and secularism rather differently to our friends in the US.
Here, an editorial in our major daily newspaper, being a little bit boastful of our open minded society (in a good way) and our status as the host to the Atheist Convention:
Also a small piece about former clergy attending the convention, which is quite moving, when you think about it. What DO you do if you lose faith, but your identity, your job, your livelihood is believing in god, and supporting others to do the same?
The site referenced in the above article, the "safe haven" for former clergy - those who left a church because they no longer believe - is here, for those interested in reading more.
There are, much to my bafflement, apparently many church leaders who do not believe; who have long ago (thanks to close study of religion), determined that there is no god, but they continue in their church jobs, for want of a way out. Astonishing really, but also understandable. How difficult it must be to tend to their flocks when they believe nothing of their own sermons.
Why hold the conference in Melbourne ?
The first video reminded me that it has little compared to Sydney.
Bad move Atheism Australia.
Oh dear. That's your take out, really?
Sydney has a big bridge, an opera house, and a magnificent harbour, but for anything else, you really wouldn't go there - ever.
In 2011, Melbourne was, again, determined (by various complex criteria, and by an independent bunch of experts) to be the most livable city in the world, so it has quite a lot going for it, thus its appeal for many large conferences, and no end of cultural events (although the Grand Prix, which is also held in Melbourne, doesn't count in the latter).
Sydney is number six most livable. Indeed, five Australian cities are in the top ten, which I suppose makes us an especially "livable" country all over!
I'm with you Carolyn even though I live in Sydney we love to visit friends in Melbourne and see very alternative theatre, Federation Square, lots of bars and eateries etc.
I agree entirely with your observations on religion in Australia it's not something which dominates politics (although Tony Abbott may disagree, Abbott is the leader of the Conservative Liberal Party) the fact we have an openly Atheist Prime Minister, Julia Guillard is an indicator of the way things are here.
Very rarely would you hear any mention of devotion to Jesus or God from anyone in public life except for ultra conservative members of parliament, even abortion which seems to dominate US politics is not a make or break issue here.
Fed Square? Definitely one of the ugliest buildings in the world, John, but people flock to it. Go figure!
Sydney is a beautiful city, of course, but difficult to live in, I think. Alas, with the population of Melbourne growing by the second (damn our great reputation!), I fear our "livability" is going downhill. Does make me appreciate it more, and wonder what other major cities are like - that is, must be pretty bad ...
Rudd also quietly paraded his Christian credentials, door stop interviews nearly every Sunday at church; subtle! Not in your face like other countries.
Church leaders often jump into the political fray here, too, but again, they stick to the script, mostly within the confines of charity, social equality, and yes, their objections to abortion rates, but that's to be expected, that's their domain. They're entitled to participate in social and political discourse. Here, however, they're on equal footing with everyone else, they don't get special treatment, nor are their views accepted uncritically.
And yes, women here are both cursed and blessed - cursed, as we still don't have many women in parliament or as executives (the figures keep dropping, unbelievably); the US and other first world countries have done much better. Blessed, because we do not have that heavy vein of extremist Christianity, bolstered by a closely aligned conservative party, perpetually threatening to over turn abortion rights, health care for women, and so on. Nor are women publicly vilified in the extraordinarily ugly manner that happens in American (some recent debates were unbelievably vile - all relating to insurance cover for a simple matter of contraceptives, of all things; here, contraceptives are a private matter).
Much of that discourse, from the Republican Party - and their official policies - is the dog whistle to the fundamentalist Christians, who are, unfortunately, the natural electoral base for the Republicans. It will be a very, very long time before that changes.
I have often thought that American religiosity was or would change, but sheesh, it's so rusted on; a barnacle that, much to my surprise, grows and festers - despite us being well into the 21st century.
It's in stark contrast to Oz, or France, for example, and defies logic.
Fed Square yes it's a folly we have them as well, Darling Harbour would top my list, really just a kids playground with overpriced shops thrown in.
Rudd and his faith does concern me but not as much as Abbott and his Catholicism he's far too close to Pell who has an agenda I find very disturbing.
We visit the US every couple of years or so to see family in South Carolina and I'm always astounded at the influence of the Southern Baptists there especially in the northern part of SC. I never hesitate to say I'm an Atheist but only if the discussion drifts into religion, always interesting to see the reaction when the "A" word is mentioned seeing as Atheists are held in such low regard.
The views and opinions of many americans would have to influenced by media bias the constant demonisation of teachers,and union members as Socialists, there is rarely any mention in the mainstream media of the priviledges given to religion.
The fact that the US has God all over it's currency,it's in the oath of allegiance,is evidence of that priviledge, the good news is that many religious inscriptions in public buildings ie schools are being challenged by some brave people, I'm thinking of Jessica Ahlquist in Rhode Island.
I suppose we can only hope that as the next generation are better educated and have the opportunity to travel more, things may change and the grip religion has on some parts of the US may one day be history.
My City of Sydney & Advance Australia Fair
I want to move to Australia! :)
You'd be most welcome, we have lots of space, and lots of non-theists!
Even most of the believers are either pretty casual about their beliefs, or treat them as a private, not a public, matter.
Thanks! :) How refreshing that must be! I have a lot of people that would want to come with me. Actually I would love to visit there some day!
clergy project makes sense...
careful w/the moles n spies though
RR - it sounds as though the clergy project are protective of their community, understandably, and are cautious about to whom they provide support and a safe harbor. They have methods for validating clergy who contact them, and given they have some serious inside knowledge, I'd guess they have quite robust methods. I imagine not all of their community are former clergy, some are probably still in the church, no longer believing, and needing support just as much as those who have taken the leap to escape.